12 Days: 8 Things to Say to a Mom

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We spend a lot of time talking about the crazy-stupid-insensitive-mean things people say/do/imply/think/intend when they deal with Moms. Like I have said before, you can read a million lists of things not to say or do or think about “this particular person.” These articles and blog posts help draw attention to a terrible disease: diarrhea of the mouth (DOM). Every Mom hears it and every Mom does it every once in a while. Sometimes it’s our attempt to connect/sympathize and/or identify with a bosom buddy and sometimes it’s just our way of saying, “Wow, I don’t know what to say so I’m going to share an inappropriate story that involves forceps and my husband fainting.” You know the ailment, you’ve seen it before. In line at the post office, the bank, the nail salon- people attempt to make conversation and end up making–everyone uncomfortable.

So, once I had my first go at the whole “my belly and my babies are a conversation piece,” I made a promise to myself. Tell any pregnant woman you see how great she looks. That’s it. Don’t tell her how many kids you have or how much you gained or how she better “get sleep while she can.” Just tell her she looks great, end of comment. Someone else will tell her that day that she’s carrying high/low/gonna pop/ has dropped. Stick to: She. Looks. Great.

And I have stuck to that– well, sometimes. We all have out DOM moments now and again.

But something that got me thinking was how come we have so many posts of what NOT to say to _____ group of people. What about what you should say to them? Isn’t it better to look at the bright side? Look for the positive ways we can affect each other’s lives?

Don’t worry girls, I’ve got you covered. Today I bring you:

8 Things to Say to a a Mom, ANY Mom:

1. You’re 33? GET OUT!!!!

2. I don’t know how you find the time to do all you do while also being so interesting and capable of such titillating conversation.

3. Clearly, your children should be baby Gap models.

4. How do you manage to stay so stylish and youthful?

5. Why don’t you eat more, you skinny thing!

6. Does your husband know how lucky he is?

7. What a clean house! Your home is beautiful!

8. Your butt looks ah-maze-ing in those jeans.

Mommy Guilt: Tis the Season

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This post is a huge shout out to my Mom who made every Christmas magic for me. It’s also a culmination to three different blog posts (and one TV show) I read this week that shared a common thread. It brought back some things I wrote in these two posts of my own as well. The underlying message is consistent: Take time for yourself, be kind to yourself and Gosh Darnit, don’t let your egg nog curdle while you are sick in bed with classic case of Guilt-itis, the Mommy strain.

Christmas time is when we relive all our greatest holiday memories, evoke intense emotional nostalgia and hyper-focus on our family. Christmas can bring on powerful feelings ranging anywhere from psychotic happiness to “I think I am going to eat my feelings in peanut blossoms and hibernate.” Full on raging holiday hormones. Wrapped, ever so perfectly, with tight tight tight ribbons of Mommy guilt.

My parents separated when I was eight, making most of the Christmases I remember being with a single Mom. And, every Christmas was full, not just of presents and cookies and a great dinner— but of that je ne sais quoi of holiday time— the gushy squishy lovey-ness of yule.

That being said, I cannot imagine the Mom guilt my Mom endured in her years raising me. I saw a lot of it firsthand– the presents born out of being at work late, the fast food dinners, the extra hugs and kisses. She must have been shrink wrapped in Mommy guilt. Right down to her nylon wearing, pink high heeled peep toes.

You see, the disease of Mommy guilt exists because of this: Moms thinking about what they should be doing as Moms versus what they are actually able to do. They measure themselves against “Fun Kid Kraft” pinboards they see on Pinterest rather than the content of their very own amazing talents and sparkling personality. Whether it’s more time, more money, more hugs, more kisses, more listening, more loving or just more talking to your kids. We all agree that we need to probably do more of it. And any stolen time we are not doing something Mommyish leaves us feeling somewhat selfish and also simultaneously panic stricken— what should I do? There’s too many options!

And no matter how much we acknowledge it to ourselves, our friends and even our spouses, there it is glaring at us while we sit eating Halloween candy alone in the bathroom. You? You call yourself a mother? It says. Pfft. Do you know the Festivus is at preschool tomorrow? Did you know you’re signed up for “snookies”? (That’s snowman cookies, it’s a thing).

And we sit, like children in the principal’s office and think, A good Mom would ______. A REALLY good Mom would _______. And we leave ourselves out of the sentence, because the things we do that are good are never glaring at us so authoritatively.

Here’s the conundrum: Parenthood, like childhood is fleeting. We are only actively parenting for a limited amount of time. There will be days when we will long for our children to call us, visit us and spend time with us. So, shouldn’t we squeeze in all the time with THEM before it’s too late?

(I don’t really have the answer to this question but I am going to pretend to for a minute).

Yes and no. You ideally want to give your kids the best you— the most financially, mentally and emotionally stable you as possible. Sometime that requires more sleep, more time at work, more candy by yourself or even more time with your girlfriends or other family members. There are things that make us into a more well-rounded person. And (gasp!) many of those things are separate from motherhood. While we take our work hats off at a certain time every day (and I know for some of you this is hard too), our Mom hat is always on. And man, it’s on tight. With a childproof cap. And a double knotted bow.

So when you hand over your Mom self, make sure you pay attention to what she needs too. Yes, you should get a babysitter so you can boogie down at the office Christmas party. Yes, you should get the doll house because you never had one. Yes, you should buy a couple extra things for yourself and act surprised by the magic of Santa when you find them in your stocking (this ritual of mine is a personal favorite ). And yes, you should get a holiday themed manicure. Sparkle it up, girl, you deserve it.

But…no, you should not feel guilty for “not having that much this year” (something my mother would say to me annually). You should not feel silly for not having perfected your Christmas crack recipe for the pre-school party. And please don’t stress about how much to spend on the teacher gift, or the mailman gift, or the hairdresser gift. And no, don’t regift those earrings. They’re heinous.

Because, really, all those bad thoughts just makes you a less confident, less content, less carefree Mom. And I know you are more than that. So, take this holiday to celebrate the Mom you are and the family, however big or small, you have to celebrate with. Sans snookies, sans kid krafts, sans guilt.

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Shortcut Girl’s Guide to the Holidays

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Whether it’s a shortcut or just a friendly reminder to take a breath and enjoy the holly-jolly-yes-by-golly holiday time, I thought I’d put together a post of things to remember from Thanksgiving through New Years. I pretend to have a lot of wisdom and advice in this post– but like most things, I’m still figuring this all out myself- holiday after holiday.

1. Free shipping is your friend

Online shopping can be convenient, but the shipping costs make the trip to the store a lot cheaper. So, going for the free shipping is always a good idea. On Amazon, place your orders in $25 incrememnts in order to get super saving shipping (free). For Target, order an extra item to make $50 for free shipping and return it later. Wal-Mart has something just as good as free shipping— in store and site to store pickup. You can ship items from orders online to the store for free and can also have items pulled from their inventory to pick up that day. All you do is show up to the layaway section to get your items. Best thing is— items are boxed up from their shipping to hide from little eyes you might have shopping with you.

2. These are a few of my favorite things

Sometimes it’s not the little kids we have to worry about having meltdowns, it’s the big kids (er, adults) too. We all have those things we perceive as dealbreakers. Holiday time is no different. Whether it is the grandmother breakfast you have arranged or the great Victorian stroll in your town, make your kids and spouse/siginificant other aware that these things are your favorite things. No one wants to see you crying in your hot apple cider because your Christmas decorating soirée went awry.

3. Wrap Party

I love to wrap and look upon the task with great anticipation. When we were young and childless, my friend Stephanie and I used to go shopping and then wrap everything that night over wine and snacks. It’s still one of my favorite things, but now I have to be much more selective when I do it. I try not to do it too early but I also like to “wrap as I go” so it’s not too much of a job at the end. I have never done this but have always fantasized about having friends and family over one day (during nap time) to wrap their Christmas items. I like it so much and find it pretty relaxing. There is nothing, to me, like listening to Christmas music or watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation during a big wrap fest. That’s the holiday to me. Feeling wrapping overwhelmed? Enlist your girlfriends, sister in laws, husbands, brothers, sisters, children. Break out the bubbly and listen to some Mariah Carey. Celebrate every part of Christmas, even the chore-y parts of it.

4. Holiday Journaling

When I open the Christmas decorations every year, my new favorite thing to discover is the Christmas journal I created three years ago. I keep family Christmas cards, favorite memories, special gifts and special traditions in the journal. It’s nice because you rediscover and relive your holidays each year and it also helps me remember the little things we have created since becoming a family. It’s a great place for reflection and will help us to clue the kids in on all the crazy things we did around the holidays before they could remember. I hope to let the kids write their own memories in there someday.

5. Don’t be afraid of new traditions

Being a kid who didn’t grow up with a ton of traditions, I am always excited to make them with my family. Excited may be an understatement. I get giddy for tradition like that Target lady gets about, well, Target. One thing my family always did Christmas morn was have bagels and cream cheese during a present “break” (This was the hardest part of Christmas morning for me as a kid, but I relished in the “we’re not done yet!” part of the ritual). We still keep this tradition at each Christmas only Michael has placed his own twist on it with incorporating lox (much to my Mom’s disgust:) Whatever tradition you are honoring or trying to honor, don’t limit yourself. New traditions can be invented every year, and even if you never repeat them- you can always give them a good shutout in your holiday journal:)

6. Give
Starting Black Friday, you and every other American are going to be swamped with advertisements asking you to buy, gift, wrap and surprise your loved ones with tons of stuff. Take the time this holiday to show each other and especially your children, nieces, nephews, neighbors the value of giving to those who are less fortunate. Whether its making a personal goal not to pass a Salvation Army kettle without digging in your pockets, or adopting an unfortunate family, I guarantee the feeling you get from that will trump your disgust in the Black Friday craziness.

7. Little Miss Homemade
You might not be able to sew a stitch or find Pinterest something like a gallery d’arts de overwhelming. But doing a homemade gift or treat for any event of the Christmas season will make you feel good right down to your toes. Take a picture of it, repin the crap out of it, brag to all your co-workers. It’s The holiday, after all. You’re an old fashioned kind of girl, and dammit, you deserve recognition.

8. Find the magic
Find your favorite little person and drive around looking at Christmas lights. Visit Santa at the mall, take a ride on the Polar Express, do a sled ride through your backyard. Read: do everything you did when you were a kid and then some. Not the things that cost money or were about gifts- the things that made you get butterflies in your stomach. That’s what the holidays are for.

9. Don’t get the blues

With the economy, the loss of loved ones or just missing your brother in Texas, it’s easy to get the holiday blues. Combat the blues with acting in that person’s memory, sending a card or video to someone who you think might need it or placing a phone call/ Face time Christmas morn. This time of year is emotionally charged and sometimes can make us get a little melancholy. One good idea is emailing someone “the 12 days of you” and give them something each day in the proper numeration that tells them you are thinking of them. It’s sure to lift your spirits and theirs too.

10. Celebrate your mate

One thing I know I can be guilty of three years into having children is forgetting that Michael is a big part of Christmas too. He really showed me up last year and had a video slideshow ready to go Christmas morning. It made me cry happy, happy tears. One of my favorite memories for the memory book. Make a special date or set aside a time to celebrate and chat with your special someone without the troop of in laws surrounding. Sometimes it’s just sipping egg nog and looking at the pretty lights, sometimes it’s wrapping gifts together (see #3). Whatever it is, just make sure you remember and appreciate each other. No gazing in each other’s eyes required.

11. Recycle

We’re not talking about your fruitcake boxes here people, we’re talking toys for the kiddos. The thing I have really gotten excited about the past couple years is using old hand me down toys or used toys as gifts for the holidays. It’s thrifty, it’s a great shortcut (no staying up until midnight putting things together!) and it’s just a great relief to you when it comes to the question, “Will they even play with it?” They may not, but based on the awesome price and the fact that you didn’t have to trample anyone at Black Friday for the deal, haven’t you already cut some corners? Plus, you can just put it on Craigslist or another local swap site next year! Gently loved toys are better if recycled, haven’t you seen Toy Story?

12. Music and Food

If nothing else, there are certain treats and tunes you MUST indulge in at holiday time. My Mom’s peanut butter chocolate candies are one and All I Want for Christmas is You is another. It’s just the holiday law.

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Thirty Three: A Post About Me

 

Lake Placid shortcut girl

Me at our hotel in Lake Placid, NY

Anyone who knows me (and pretty much everyone who reads this blog knows me), knows I am very into my birthday. I blame my semi-only child upbringing and two great parents. Parents who celebrated everything. Every. Single. Thing. Let’s put it this way. We went out to dinner to celebrate my cross over the threshold of womanhood. My Mom grew up poor and liked to celebrate and reward good behavior, good grades, milestones, awards. My father was proud as a peacock to have a daughter who did anything well and was never really known for his modesty. “That’s my girl!” he would say. I lost my Dad in 2009. And I think it’s at my birthday when I really, really miss him.

So the product of all this: me. A big girl with a desperate, little girl trapped inside who wants me, me, me and more me. (You do know that’s why I have a blog, don’t you?). God help my poor husband at Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas and, of course, the only day that is about me all day long: my birthday.

So yesterday I turned 33 and have to say I was very lucky to be so spoiled by my husband and children. Mike took me away for a night and it was Just What the Doctor Ordered. Couple time, me time, quiet time and relaxing time. Much needed and much appreciated. Nine years with me, Michael has learned my affinity for my birthday. And although he doesn’t go all out every year (to keep me guessing, I suppose), he really made this year top-notch.

While we were away, I played the “question game” with Mike. A chance for us to talk about things we never get to talk about. With questions like, what have you learned most about marriage? and what have you learned most about yourself as a parent?, we ended up talking about things we never get to talk about—how we are both feeling about this whole “marriage and family” thing that we have been a part of. A time for genuine reflection and analysis.

It made me think of a list I started in July. I was doing a writing prompt activity with a local author who I follow on Facebook. She challenged everyone to complete one writing prompt a day for August. In this prompt, she asked you to write down things you’ve learned over the years. As I wrote, it kind of took the shape of advice I would give my children, but more evidently my daughter. Once I started the list, I could not stop. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Forgive and forgive often.
  • When you have a negative thought, don’t feel compelled to share it.
  • “Knowing who you are” is not always an accomplishment. Keep finding out more about yourself. Never be content. Keep changing.
  • Don’t mistake your husband as a best girlfriend. He can be your best friend but only a girlfriend can be a girlfriend.
  • Say thank you. For everything.
  • Be careful with your words.
  • Listen. Don’t just hear what you want to hear.
  • Apologize for your moments of weakness in life. Recognize them.
  • Pay close attention to regret. It’s a powerful feeling. It tells you when to be more kind, more gentle, more adventurous, most dutiful, more direct, more loving, more loyal. It’s those regrets that help program your future behaviors.
  • Be available. Even when you are busy, don’t tell everyone how busy you are. People who are too busy all the time end up very, very lonely.
  • Your sibling is the only person in the world you have shared your parents with. Value this relationship and its ebb and flow. It’s a rich and powerful one.
  • Take care of your money. No one else will.
  • Always drive slow in your own neighborhood.
  • In the tough times, take a 15 walk or a 15 minute shower and see how things look afterwards.
  • Travel. At every age. Not just when you are young.
  • A friend is not someone you want to be like. They are someone you like because of how they bring out the things you like in yourself.
  • Trust your gut- always.
  • Bake cookies from scratch. It’s what your Nana would want you to do.

As I write these down, I can pinpoint which ones came from my mother, my father, my friends, my own unique experiences and even my own children. Even at 33, I feel young. I have learned a lot, seen a little but know that the best is still yet to come. So, I thank my Mom and Dad for instilling a sense of excitement and need for celebration for silly things like birthdays. Because, without them, there might not be a chance to reflect upon how far you have come and how much further you have yet to go.

At last year’s birthday, I never would have thought I would start a blog that would be my primary artistic outlet and recreation. At Shortcut Girl’s inception, I was skeptical, even of myself and wasn’t sure it I would keep it up. But here I am, about to publish post # 87, and feeling really, really excited to have a new frame for my life. I always wanted to be a writer. And look at that. Here I am. “That’s my girl!”

 

What I’m Voting For

Well, this is my third election since I have been in what one might call a “mixed relationship.” Although we both may call ourselves independent, we both kind of hang a little left and right of the independent line. Some people can’t understand it. I don’t have enough political savviness to give you an explanation of how we get along when it comes to an election, but I can tell you that having a partner that does not share all the exact same beliefs you have in everything is a wonderful thing for a relationship. Sharing (and listening to each other’s) point of view, debating and (above all) agreeing to disagree about things is a valuable skill in any relationship—romantic or not. Another thing, both of my siblings also are in mixed marriages— we are all so welcoming and diverse. Go us.

I’ll be rocking the vote as a part of my special interest organizations.

Back to my unsavviness. Here’s a list of Special Interest Groups that I am thinking about most for this election. All are groups I belong to and really believe in. If you are interested in joining, please comment below.

Napping American Parents (NAP)

This hard working group of Moms and Dads put their foot down when it comes to sleep. They are in full support of couch time, free right to snoring and on rare occasions, the sound machine to drown out the sound of whiny kids. Pillows and blankets are not provided at meetings, you must bring your own.

Hot Moms Anonymous

Sometimes it’s embarrassing to be a Hot Mom. It’s not something you want to talk about with you co-workers or Mom friends. It’s something that you can only really discuss within the walls of the HMA program. There you are safe to talk about the way the man looked at you while you pumped gas the other day or the fact that you have started shopping exclusively at Forever 21. Either way, you are surrounded by other Hot Moms who know the difficulty with all that attention you get. You poor thing.

Teachers for a More Caffeinated Workplace

It’s really just common sense. Everyone is happier the more caffeinated they are. And each person should consume one beverage per child who could have possibly woken up during the night. Productivity and attitude are always improved. Students appreciate the wide eyes and the jittery gestures. And it’s always nice to share some collegial laughter over a trip through the drive thru at your local coffeehouse. Organization’s motto: “It’s never too latte to latte.”

Date Nights for Peace

Sometimes you just go to Home Depot. Sometimes you go to a movie you didn’t even want to see. But you do it in the name of peace. Peace of mind, peace of heart, peace of marriage.

National Federation of Reality TV Connoisseurs

No longer do you slink into the shadows to discuss Teen Mom or speak in code to your friend at work about the Real Housewives Reunion. Here at NFRTVC (Nuh-fur-tuh-vick), we praise you for your prowess with all things reality. We are psyched when you confess about your new love for Couples Therapy on VH-1, we understand why you can’t stop watching Sister Wives on demand. We know because we acknowledge and recognize you as a professor of documentary television. Please watch the entire season of Honey Boo Boo before joining as a new member.

Muffin Tops for Education

Don’t be embarrassed about that post baby curve over your jeans, just know that for each muffin top spotted in your child’s school (children not included), we will donate $1000.00 to a scholarship fund!

Please note: If your children show some psychological damage and embarrassment for this, they can join another club Moms with Muffins (MWM) for support and just someone to talk to.

So, as you cast your vote tomorrow (you better DO IT!), don’t forget about these life changing organizations that could benefit!

 

 

 

A costume I am not wearing this Halloween

“I can’t stand to fly

I’m not that naive

I’m just out to find

The better part of me

I’m more than a bird

I’m more than a plane

More than some pretty face

 beside a train

It’s not easy to be me.”

-“Superman” by Five for Fighting

So tomorrow is Halloween. And obviously I will be wearing my perma-costume ever since I became a Working-Mother-of-Two: Superwoman. Because well, anyone who can pull off Halloween costuming, ghost-shaped-cookie-baking, pumpkin carving, hurricane prepping, trick or treating and behavior chart making all in the same 48 hours deserves to be called Queen of Damn Near Everyting Superwoman, right?

Superwoman is an understood allusion in Mommy Land to a “woman who does it all.” This has had positive and negative connotations. Some women will claim they never would want to be a Superwoman, while some would revere other Moms as being just that. We throw the Super-word around like it’s either a Super-compliment or Super-insult. It’s another word we use that makes us feel either superior or inferior in the ever growing field of Mom-spectations. Not expectations by Moms but expectations of Moms.

(But before I continue, let me digress for a second)

Interesting Facts About Superwoman via Extensive Internet Research:

1. She is a villain to Wonder Woman. Pfft. These chicks never stick together.

2. Lois Lane was the first Superwoman.

3. Superwoman was referred to in the comics as Queen Bitch. Interesting.

4. Superwoman was part Amazon. Obviously. Amazon women are bad ass.

5. SHE DIDN’T EVEN HAVE KIDS!

Here she is. Do you even see a diaper bag ANYwhere!!?

So why do we describe a woman who “does it all” as Superwoman? (what is the “all” part anyway? Does it involve cake and eating it too? Does Superwoman even eat cake?) Do we assume that only super powers can handle what women have to do in life? Do we sell ourselves short in what we are capable of as just regular women?

This question first came up for me in something a co-worker said last week. It’s not something new to the vernacular of mommy-talk. We all utter some version of this statement at one time or another.

“I’ve figured out I can’t be a good teacher and a good Mom in the same day.” You can substitute the word teacher for wife, sister, daughter, friend or ANY other title you try to maintain AND be a Mom.

It’s sort of bothered me in it’s poignancy and truth. We often look at the choices we make as we go through the day as definitions of how we are doing as Superwomen– Get up early or rush my kids out the door? Go grocery shopping today or just feed them Spaghettios? Turn off the TV or enjoy the peace and quiet while I make dinner? Stay home with the sick little guy or get a grandparent to stand in?

In every choice we make as parents, we see a reflection of who we are. Often we look to our friends (who are usually mothers we admire) to help us make our way through the choices before us. We think that our choices mean something about our moral code of motherhood.

But the thing is, it doesn’t. We’re just making cookies, throwing together costumes and buying flashlights with the rest of the world. We are using the best judgement we have (and sometimes the best judgment our friend has) and we are hoping that at the end of the day, we produce a person or two, or three, or four (God help me!) that other people want to hang out with.

Superwoman had superpowers, Amazonian strength and the respect of all the citizens of Earth-two. You, my friend, are more than that. You have twice the powers, twice the strength and the respect of your significant other, your friends, your co-workers and (the most coveted) your own mother. You are a woman, no super prefix needed, who does great things every single day.

You make ghost shape cookies, you stock up on library picture books in preparation for a hurricane, you create a “healthy eating chart” to cure your toddler’s dislike of all things vegetable. You read to your kids at night. You make sure they have their favorite book for “sharing day” in their backpack in the morning.

Random Ghost Cookies— perfect for the Mom with no cut outs in the house!

 

You are just you. An (extra)ordinary Mom just trying to do good work in all facets of life. Just hoping to be able to say-someday, “I made these people and look at how wonderful they are.” And as stated in the cheesy pop song I used as an epigraph,we are all fumbling through motherhood to “find the better part of [you].”

No cape. No flying, No knee high red boots (well, maybe….), no big red S on your chest.

Just an M. M for Mommy. M for Mama. M for Mom.

 

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Superpower Words

End of Summer

Judgy- Moms

The Summer She Lost Her Mind