Guest Post From Parker: In my room, I make the rules

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Rules of Parker’s Room: 1st Edition

1. We read stories till I say we’re done. I don’t care if you are tired. When a kid asks you to read to him, you READ!

2. I don’t share my stuff with girls. I don’t care if she “yikes” my Buzz Lightyear figure. It’s mine, sweetie.

3. Food and drink should always be distributed immediately after bedtime is announced. I do, in fact, get pangs of hunger starting at about 7:59 pm.

4. I should be able to stay in my pajamas for an infinite amount of time. They are the most comfortable things I have. Who wants to wear adjustable waist jeans? Embarrassing.

5. I am allowed to take sweets from my sister if she is not able to eat them as rapidly as I can. It’s a toddler-eat- cupcake world out there, the little sweetie has to learn.

6. Let’s face it. I’m freaking adorable. Hair this red and hipster glasses this cute only accentuate the cuteness. Let’s help me stay cute by keeping the scrubbing and cleaning to a minimum. Washing hair should be done once a week and my nails don’t need to be cut quite so often. Throw me a bone!

7. I like weapons or anything that resembles a weapon. Please allow me to bring bats, brooms, sticks and swords to bed. You’ll feel real bad if I have nothing to protect me from the monsters.

That’s all I can think of for now. Stay tuned though, more rules are drafting by the minute.

 

The Sweet Spot: A Parenting Surprise

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Here was my life when I was 24:

I liked being in my pajamas.

I talked a lot to my friends on the phone (like I called them—my phone didn’t have texting back then)

I liked eating chicken nuggets.

I needed naps and frequently took them.

I watched a lot of movies.

I drank a lot of coffee.

 

….And that’s kind of like my life now. I have a four year old that cheers with gusto over wearing pajamas all day. A 2 year old that sleeps in like a teenager and two little people that leave the hours of 1-4 quiet in the house.

Kelly Corrigan called the place in life when you are just a parent but not yet ready to be not-a-child, the middle place. I call this part of parenting— where you are out of the woods as far as potty training, baby food making and jolly jumper review reading—- the sweet spot. My life is as normal as anyone else’s, I just have two little people along for the ride. I find a way to scam a Saturday afternoon of movie watching by handing over the Ipad to said 4 year old and giving him a Netflix free pass. I find a way to make it quiet at night so I can watch the news and have a conversation with my husband by offering up new library books and Legos.

I nibble on Dino nuggets cause often they tempt me from the countertop. “Eat me! Dip me in ketchup!” And I often look forward to reading a new book while the kids are lost in morning cartoons. Trips out of the house are not as daunting— as long as hats, mittens and boots are put back in the right place at the end of the day. Restaurants are not scary places where we rush through meals with watchful eyes on other guests. Trips to other people’s  houses do not require an overnight bag worth of “what ifs”— diapers, passies and butt cream, oh my!

Life is just….life.

The Legos are packed away at the end of each day and that piece of play-doh may never come out of the rug, but I am beginning to feel like this spot— this sweet spot is fleeting. Other sweet spots will come– high school, college, post-college. But this sweet spot seems every bit as sweet as it does sad.

I won’t always see my daughter do a Frankenstein-esque, squinty eyed walk out of her room in the morning, going in for a hug and kiss. I won’t always get my son to say, “Tap, tap, have a good nap” each afternoon when I lay him in bed with a stack of books. I won’t always be begging them to quiet down, begging them to listen to me, begging them to “make good decisions.” This time of life– post baby and pre-school age has a beauty all of it’s own. It’s free (no homework), it’s easy (for the moment at least) and it’s sweet. Sweet as the boy saying, “There’s nothing like the Gallagher family, right Mama?” And sweet as the little girl who pronounces her sp’s as f’s. (Spooky Spider= Fookie Fighter).

And I have friends (some Moms, some not) who text me once or twice a week— with a television show synopsis or a book recommendation. Friends who read my blog and comment on the insane amount of pictures I take of myself and my children.

So, what I am saying is this. The sweet spot is 24 but better. It’s sweet, it’s fleeting and it’s a whole lot more than life was for me when I was 24. I have two extra people around to teach me and re-teach me who I am and who I want to continue to be. I have a man I share these children with who continually reminds me what decisions are the most important in parenting. And I have two little bodies that run into the living room each night and hop under a blanket with me for our five minute “cuddle time” before bed.

There are brief moments in life when we find these spots. I think in the mess and stress and morass of all that is marriage, love, friendship, work and parenting, it’s important to acknowledge this.

Find your own sweet spot. And when you do, make sure you tell someone. Write it down, text it, Facebook it, Instagram it. Make sure you notice. Because we move quickly into— and out of the sweet spots. And it will be easy to forget you were once there.

 

 

 

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17 Reasons I Haven’t Been Blogging (as if you care)

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1. I wanted you to miss me. (If you didn’t, just skip this one)

2. I threw a surprise-but-not-really-a- surprise-because-I-put-it-on-Facebook amazing 40th birthday party for my husband. (Yes, he is almost six years older than me)

3. I convinced myself I could write a novel– and gave it a shot. I’m now on the third version but if have now set a serious goal before MY 40th.

4. I fell into a seasonal affective funk that involved Oreos, pita chips and diet Pepsi. Oh, and Real Housewives.

5. I started my annual Oscar hunt to watch every nominated movie. So far, I have 5/9 I think. Did I have to go to a theater by myself and stay up until 1 am to do it? Well, yes.

6. I started twitter stalking my new favorite YA author Rainbow Rowell. If you want to know, she favorited two of my tweets but then sort of Twitter broke up with me by not responding to any tweets following #stalkingfail

7. My four year old turned into something that resembled a normal child. He calmed down completely and gave me virtually no material for good posts. I mean no one wants to read a post about how awesome my four year old is??? Unless you do, cause then I’ll get right on that.

8. I wrote a bad poem about Moms needing Mom friends. (Will come in a post following-brace yourself. Fun fact: not a lot of things rhyme with “coffee.”)

9. I read a couple books. (I know, I was surprised too!)

10. I took 49 selfies.

11. I got sick of the polar vortex (is that really a thing) and planned a trip to Myrtle Beach. In February. (It fit the bill of “somewhere where it’s not 12 degrees”)

12. I folded a lot of laundry. Okay, well I guess I always do that.

13. I figured out it’s only a year and a half till Parker goes to kindergarten.

14. I made a Cake shaped like a Guinness and somehow didn’t go crazy.

15. I took a lot of naps.

16. I got REALLY excited about denim
shirts being back in style and bought 3 in each shade of denim.

17. I realized if Celia keeps going at her current attitude rate, teenage years are going to require her own apartment. With a lock on the outside.

Missed you!

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13 Pieces of Advice for the New Parent

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Yesterday my husband I sat, glowing, at a lunch without our children. We were excited to discuss the movie we just saw, chat about Christmas and— laugh about the cute things our kids say.

In walks new parents of their first child, baby girl nestled into the Bjorne, looks on their faces like they were the easy breezy new parents who had this whole baby thing in the bag. I mean they were out to lunch, their baby was sleeping, they were obviously living the good life.

They were at lunch with another couple who were obviously childless, and discussing the sleeping schedule, the new Mom’s departure from work and new television shows they had taken to watching on HBO.

I was a little giddy, feeling a little smug and wanted so much to exclaim, “ENJOY THIS WHILE YOU CAN! SHIT’s ABOUT TO GET REAL!”

But I thought that might be out of line in the middle of an Indian Restaurant.

So, here’s my list of things I wish people told me about parenting. So I could have avoided looking like the smug new parents (who we most definitely were at some point) and possibly not have to say, “I didn’t get it then, I totally get it now,” quite so much in my adult life.

1. Going out to dinner will feel like a luxury like you have never experienced once you are with children– whether it be a family dinner, a luxurious no child dinner, a Panera dinner or a McDonalds dinner– any dinner you don’t spend time scrubbing dried yogurt off the floor will feel like a win. Enjoy. Every. Second.

2. Never, ever, ever give the lady with the screaming child a dirty look in the grocery store. It’s not her fault. And even when it is her fault, there’s some kind of Mom code that says, “If it’s not your kid, just keep walking, nothing to see here.” (Wal-Mart at 9 pm is the only store where you can consider not abiding this rule!)

3. Sleep is a extravagance not a guarantee. Be gracious when you receive it and try not to make everyone else miserable when you don’t.

4. Have a 911 text Mom friend. Someone you can text when you feel like you’ve just sentenced your kid to 10 years of therapy. Someone who will reply, “Bringing coffee over now. Hot or iced?”

5. There are people you want to complain about as you ride the wave of parenting woes but you really should never. Your mother, your mother-in-law and your husband. They are all allies in their own right and you will have a special relationship as a parent with each of them. Don’t be so hard on them because you won’t want them to be too hard on you.

6. Some things are worth the time, some aren’t. Artwork out of your child’s handprints is. Artwork out of popsicle sticks is not. Choose your battles, your crafts and your messes– wisely.

7. Stickers might be the solution to almost everything.

8. Don’t Google ailments in the middle of the night no matter how worried you are. Call the doctor in the morning.

9. Don’t ever compare your infant, toddler or child to ANYONE, including his/ her sibling. Each child is unique and special and needs you to be patient with that.

10. Say I love you often. Kiss more often and listen, listen, listen.

11. Keep track of things like traditions, things they said, places you go and books you read. Even if they never look at it again, you will and will get to remember those years of parenting word by word.

12. Be yourself. The person you were before _______’s Mom. Because that’s who you want them to know you as too.

13. Date night, date night, date night. As often as you can and as needed.

See Shortcut Girl on Momma Be Thy Name!

Check out my post today on Momma Be Thy Name!

Last year, I was lucky enough to be a part of Momma’s 12 Days of Christmas. This is a group of lovely women blogging about the holidays and spreading Christmas cheer. PLEASE read mine posted today and keep reading all week! Even better than reading is COMMENTING. Just by leaving a comment on the 12 days posts (up to 13 comments will get you up to 13 entries…or maybe it’s up to 14 now. Anyway, one comment/post), you’ll have a chance to win an Elf Pack FULL of goodies including a Kindle Fire and a copy of Monster’s University!

Hallmark 2013 Snowflake Keepsake Ornament http://www.hallmark.com/products/general/keepsake-ornaments/2013-snowflake-1495QXG1375_DK/?searchTerm=keepsake+ornament+2013

Godiva Gold Ballotin http://www.godiva.com/8pc-holiday-ballotin-stocking-stuffer/78218.html?cgid=All-Holiday-Gifts#start=11&sz=24&srule=priceLowToHigh&cgid=All-Holiday-Gifts

Monsters University on Blu Ray or DVD (Winners’ choice)

Kindle Fire HD 7″

$25 Target Gift Card

Two Elf Packs are awarded–one for a reader, one for an author!!!

The posts have been hilarious and touching in the past, so look for more this week! Comment on them, enjoy the 12+ Days Of Christmas, and keep your fingers and toes crossed that you win!

Please leave a comment for a chance to win an Elf Pack full of fantastic prizes!! A winner will be drawn at random at the conclusion of Momma’s 12 Days. Valid email address required to be eligible.

She is also doing a great donation for a cause of the author’s choice (I chose Special Olympics) which will get you an extra entry into the raffle. You can go through Paypal to send $1 to mommabethyname@gmail.com and indicate Bridgette Gallagher and Special Olympics to give!!

I have enjoyed reading and posting with Stephanie at Momma Be Thy Name and am really excited to have this opportunity!

A Baby and Some Mistletoe Help to Make the Season Bright

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If I were going to pick two days of the year that I love they would be Christmas and birthdays. Birthdays are something that allow you to see and hear from all the special people that make up your world. Birthdays, in that way, are not unlike Christmas. Right now, I have about three or four Christmas cards that grace my kitchen counter each day. We will see and hear from friends and family near and far at Christmas. And that is what the holidays (and birthdays!) are all about.

Last weekend, we had Parker’s Superhero 4th birthday party. It was chaos, it was tiring, and it was…so much fun to put on. There’s a high you get when you throw a good party for your kids. Like a “NAILED IT!” kind of feeling. Like you want to high five yourself and have a beer. Like you want to celebrate the success of your own celebration.

…So we did! That night we got a baby sitter and went out to dinner to pat ourselves on the back. We went to our favorite place and had a waitress who was pregnant. She was due in a couple days and said she was nervous about having the baby so close to Christmas. I was nostalgic. I had that smile on my face that I used to hate to get from “experienced” mothers when I was pregnant. “Don’t worry,” I said. “Having a baby at Christmas time is one of the most wonderful memories I have.” She seemed comforted, even teary upon being told this. “You’re right, I guess. It’s nice to get a baby for Christmas!” I was warm at the memory of a newborn baby at Christmas time. I have successfully forgotten all the sleeplessness, all the nervousness. I was now the smug, nostalgic Mama giving advice to pregnant mothers in a restaurant.

But it’s true.  I have more vivid memories of that Christmas than I have of any before or since.

Four years ago, on December 15th, I walked into the high school where I teach 37 weeks pregnant. My water broke as I walked in. I called my husband, who works in the same building and was soon wheeled out by the school nurse in a frenzy of wild anticipation, slight disbelief and (okay, I’ll say it) pure fear.

With the January 5th due date, I often agonized over the idea of a Christmas/not Christmas baby. Would my child be jilted his/her entire life from a “normal” birthday? Would he/she feel like they had to share the sacred day with the baby Jesus? Would he get cheated out of presents, special parties and (gasp) have Christmas cookies instead of cake? The pregnant not-yet-a-mother is a neurotic mother. The pregnant-and-not-yet-a mother is nothing short of crazy. The pregnant-and-not-yet-a mother can sure add a whole lot of melodrama to something as simple as a birthday.

But having a Christmas baby was something I was terrified of. Being a pretty big fan of the birthday shenanigans, especially the new ones that I could take part of as a parent, I was nervous that the hurricane that was Christmas-time would envelop my little one’s birthday into a non-holiday, an add on occasion, a “celebration” of something at the wrong time.

When Parker turned one, I was shocked to find the onset of the holiday season was coupled with my thrill to celebrate my little one’s first year of life with all the fanfare and treats and gifts that you would any other time of year. In fact, this time of year had a feeling all its own.

Every memory of him as a new person in my life revolves around the first Christmas we had him. The holiday season now brings me a joy that is unique to our family. While I went into “labor” on December 15th, I was not a mother to little Parker Michael until the afternoon of December 16th. That was when I walked into an operating room for a C-section and minutes later heard my husband shout, “It’s a boy!” into my ear (we didn’t know the gender ahead of time). My whole world had changed. I had a son. And it was Christmas. And it’s not just my nostalgic side that is adding the detail of there being a fresh, white blanket of snow over everything the next day. Much like the beautiful blanket that covered the ground on the morning of Parker’s superhero birthday. “Mommy! It snowed for my birthday!!!”

“I know buddy, it did.”

This is the holiday story I never pictured I would tell. The part where I tell you that I can’t think of Christmas now without thinking of my first Christmas with him. The part where I tell you that now the idea of my child’s birthday around Christmas time seems so  normal, so appropriate, and maybe even more fun than a birthday at any other time.

This is the part where I tell you that it makes me happy, I mean really really happy, to think that he came three weeks early so that we could share our first Christmas with him even sooner.

Yesterday Parker asked me, “Mommy, in the activity scene, what other gifts did the Frankensteins bring besides gold?”

And that, is why, I love having a Christmas baby. Well, why I love having any child, I guess, at Christmastime.

Happy Birthday, my sweet boy. And Merry Christmas, too.

Love, Mom

 

 

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My December Social Media Diet: Week One

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The topic of this post is surprising even to me. And yes, I do realize the irony of what I am posting here.  I am prepared to be criticized and scoffed at. Ready to be called a hypocrite at any moment. Because in many ways I am.

About a month ago, my husband expressed his distaste for my Iphone use. I would check Facebook or Instagram casually as we watched TV, sometimes in the car when I was a passenger. In bed before going to sleep.  I mean, doesn’t everybody? I was defensive. Pointed out his laptop use, his addiction to podcasts, his love for amazon.

But deep down, I knew he was right.

When he sent me this video Monday morning, I had come to the realization that wherever there is defensiveness, there is truth. I was angry about the truth he presented to me about myself. I was mad that he thought the amount of likes on a blog post was measureable to my self-esteem. But I was mostly mad because I realized that I had become addicted to something that well, really, didn’t mean anything at all.

Scanning online garage sale sites for Christmas gifts, Pinteresting the upcoming holiday and looking for recipes were all things that I thought I needed to do right then, at the very second I had the opportunity to do them. These are things that Iphones were made for! Things that everyone does. Right?

But why does it make me feel icky that I am trying to justify my overuse of technology as “just a sign of the times?” Well, probably because I realized I have become one of these people. And I hated it.

I have chalked up my love for social media, blogging and snapping insta-pics  as “just the way I am.” A selfie taker from way back in ’93, no one would argue that I all of a sudden became obsessed with pictures and picture taking and filling those I love in about myself in 140 characters or less. I was the girl who sent a group email about my entire engagement story to everyone I knew. I was lucky to get pregnant just on the cusp of “My Baby Belly- Month by Month” being socially appropriate. I was someone who has always loved the written word and the captioned photo. Be they in an email, card, scrapbook, letter or on your Facebook wall.

But at age thirty-four, “it’s just they way I am” becomes kind of a lame excuse. It becomes sad that you are defending a life on social media against— a life not on social media (GASP!)—meaning the life you live in your own home, in your own living room, on your own couch with your husband. Undistracted, uninterrupted, life.

So on Monday, I deleted the apps of Facebook and Instagram off my phone (okay, so one HAS been reinstalled— I’m not COMPLETELY off the grid here people) and I decided to take a December Social Media Fast. Why? Because it’s the holidays and holidays are about family, not status messages. Because I wanted to show myself that I am more than just a status or a post or a cutely captioned and hashtagged photo. But also, I’ll admit it, because I had to prove my husband wrong.

And, almost immediately, I felt a click that can only be described as relief. No longer was I looking in envy at everyone’s perfectly placed and lit Christmas trees thinking, “Oh my goodness, I need to get our tree up TODAY!” and no longer was I tapping my way through dozens of perfectly posed Elf on the Shelf ideas that I will never, ever, have the time or energy to set up. I felt a click of — Wow, my mind is quiet. I felt a click of— Hey, we have a lot to talk about! I felt a click of Wow, I totally should have done this sooner.

Last night we observed one of my favorite holiday traditions, the Victorian Streetwalk. It was the most beautiful night and we walked along the decorated downtown with our two kids in tow. Saw friends, colleagues, families from preschool. It was a beautiful night of treats, hot cocoa, caroling and saxophone Santa. And I didn’t document not a word, not a photo of any of it. Not before. Not after. Not in the middle. Not in the bathroom (my classic hiding-posting spot), not before I went to bed. Not anywhere.

Because, as this poetry slam so eloquently illustrates we are becoming connected to machines more than we are becoming connected to each other. We are more concerned about the status we blasted to 250 friends than saying hi to the person on the sidewalk.

And yes, I have thought about the fact that I have a birthday party this weekend that I will want to capture and caption in real time as my soon-to-be four year old has the most amazing Superhero birthday party ever. But I am feeling less and less that this will mean anything about me and my Pinterest-worthy party throwing skills and feeling more than it will mean that an almost four year old little boy [and 15 guests J] will have my undivided attention for the only fourth birthday party he will ever have.