Picture Day is a P.I.T.A.

Picture Day is a Pain. In. The. Ass. Seriously. A royal and irrefutable pain in the ass.

You know who it’s not a pain in the ass for? No one. It’s a pain in the ass for everyone. Especially the recipients of those adorable 3 x 1 “wallets” of your kid. For the love, please don’t feel obligated to give one to everyone you know. They’ll be stuck with them forever because, while there is nothing anyone can actually do with these microscopic photos, they also can’t throw them away. I have a desk drawer full of adorable smiling little faces that I can’t recognize without a magnifying glass, and yet I still can’t chuck them.

Go ahead and disagree with me. If you think Picture Day is not a pain in the ass, congratulations and good for you. Maybe you are raising child models.

Tax formPicture Day anxiety starts with the order forms (that are usually crumpled and barely legible by the time I find them in the bottom of the black hole that is my kid’s backpack). The goddamn forms. I’ve never done a tax return, but I imagine tax returns are easier to complete than a school picture order form. First, you have to choose a background.  Each background choice is supposed to look like some extravagant and wildly unbelievable landscape but, when all is said and done, they actually look like the set of an indy soap opera. Like, are people supposed to believe that my kid had his Kindergarten photo shoot at the base of Niagara Falls when it actually looks like he’s an extra on a Tellemundo soap?

Once you decide whether you want your kid’s picture set on the beach under swaying palm trees or in the Oval Office, you have to pick which “pose” you want, and specify the quantity and size of the photo for each. How about this: I’ll take ninety 3 x 5’s of the “pose” that shows my kid’s eyes open and his fingers somewhere other than in his nostril (ok, or down his pants). Shit you not, I’ve gotten pictures back of “Pose #3” that show my son picking his nose. With his eyes closed.

As if all the planning and preparation are not enough, Picture Day comes along and now you have to execute. You have to actually clean and dress your kids and convince them to hold it together for just a few hours until pictures are done. It’s a daily struggle for me to convince my Big One to wear clothes at all and we usually settle on “fast” shorts and a tie-dye t-shirt, even in January. There is so much riding on this that I can hardly handle the pressure. Getting kids dressed for Picture Day sounds so simple. It’s not, and particularly for a mom of two nudists.

I had these dreams and aspirations of my two boys getting adorable photos together, in front of a (desperately fake) apple orchard background, each holding a book and an apple and wearing matching white button-downs and khakis. I was so focused on this I even stayed home the morning of Picture Day so that I could make sure the kids were dressed properly. n.b., not saying my husband is not capable of dressing them, but he’s (in no particular order) Alaskan, color-blind, and pattern-blind if one can be such a thing. He does not have an appreciation for the big deal that is Picture Day, nor does he care to.

I got Little One dressed by bribing him with Eggo waffles and “salsa” (ketchup) (so my kid). He won’t let me brush his hair but I pick my battles. Plus, I mistakenly assumed the teachers or photographer would handle this during the shoot. They did not. His photos look like Billy Ray Cyrus and Joe Dirt had a love child, albeit a smiling, happy one (with dried ketchup on his face and most of his body).

Big one was having none of it. Not the clothes, not the hair, and certainly not the underwear. He would prefer to be naked but settled on going commando as long as he did not have to wear the khakis and white button-down. We fought. He cried. He threatened to not leave the house.

IMG_8855Then I stopped. I stopped and asked him what he wanted to wear (as long as it involved clothing). He said the “shirt like Daddy’s. You know, the one the Hawaii people wear.” I cringed. He was talking about a multicolored Hawaiian shirt – though to his credit it’s a button down – that makes him look like an old creeper in a strip bar. The buttons stop just below his rib cage and the top falls open so that he gets Flash Dance shoulders. BUT.

But.

He loves wearing this shirt. It makes him happy. He feels confident and good about himself. He smiles. Oh, God, does he smile. And his pictures – all eighty-seven of the 5×7’s I caved and ordered – are pretty great. If you can get past the one-dimensional plastic-looking apple orchard in the background.

 

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Elves on Shelves…And The Lies We Tell To Protect Them

Christmas time means me waking up every morning in December and thinking “Crap! I didn’t move the damn Elf!!” Or, “Crap! Where the eff did I hide that little bugger last night!?”

Our Elf has been in our family for five Christmases if you count this one. His name is Otto Goose Cookie. He’s been found at the bottom of a very large glass of wine, eating ice cream in the freezer, and pooping chocolate chips into a martini glass. Are you getting the symbolism here? Yes, Otto is an extension of his Maker, and I am not talking about Santa Claus.image1-3

I have a very perceptive 4-year-old that questions Otto’s every move. We’ve gotten pretty adept at making up on the fly excuses (lies) for Otto’s …erm…’extracurriculars.’ But, the truth is often much funnier:

ELF IS EXACTLY WHERE HE WAS THE DAY BEFORE

LIE: “Ooooooh. Elf did not go to see Santa at the North Pole last night. You must have been very very bad. Better luck tonight, Ralphie!”

TRUTH: Big One got slightly out of order at bedtime. My husband and I high-five each other once he’s asleep – Hall Pass!!!

ELF IS IN BARBIE’S BED

LIE: “Silly Elf! He must have been exhausted after all that travel  to the North Pole and back that he didn’t realize he fell asleep there!”

TRUTH: Honestly, the details of how and why are fuzzy, but Daddy’s doing Dirty Girl Scout shots at a holiday party *might* have something to do with it.

ELF IS MISSING

LIE: “Oh  that Elf! He must have had a lot to report to Santa last night so maybe he just stayed over night!”

TRUTH: Mommy has absolutely no recollection of what brilliant hiding spot she chose for Elf… after she opened that second bottle of Vouvray.

ELF’S EYES CHANGED COLOR

LIE: “Ooooh! Elf is magical” [sprinkles air glitter with hands]

TRUTH: The dog used Elf as a chew toy and the only Elf left at WalMart at 3am was Asian. Our Elf was not Asian.

image2-2ELF IS IN A POT ON THE STOVE. WITH TWO BARBIE DOLLS

LIE: “Elf must have been really cold after his trip to the North Pole!”

TRUTH: Daddy thinks he’s real funny.  And may possibly have a thing for Barbie.

ELF DIDN’T MOVE . . . AGAIN

LIE: “That Elf is so sneaky! He’s tricking you because he knows you wouldn’t look there again!”

TRUTH: Shit.

ELF HASN’T MOVED IN A WEEK

LIE: “Poor Elf! He got Lymes Disease from one of the reindeer and he’s been too tired to move. I am sure he’s communicating with Santa telepathically, though!”

TRUTH: Double Shit! Christ, I have a car that can park itself and a phone that can tell me how to get to Alaska and back. Is it too much to ask to make a damned stuffed toy that can relocate itself?

ELF IS IN THE FREEZER NEXT TO THE ICE CREAM

LIE: “It feels like home to him!”

TRUTH: Look, Mommy’s got two hands. That’s about one hand too few to eat ice cream out of the carton and hide the Elf.

ELF IS IN THE WINE FRIDGE

LIE: “Maybe Elf was looking for a present for Mommy. Mommy needs presents too!”

TRUTH: Replace the “Elf” above with “Mommy” and this one is not so far from the truth.

ELF IS LYING NEXT TO A MARTINI GLASS

image1-2LIE: “He was using it as a telescope to check in on you while you were sleeping.”

TRUTH: Mommy should really pay more attention to the Elf’s whereabouts. Might help to piece together my December…

 

 

 

Halloween (Because My Creativity Is Spent)

It’s Halloween Eve (yes, apparently that’s a thing, although I always knew tonight as Mischief Night) and I am sitting here wondering who was the crackhead that came up with Halloween.  Like, ‘Hey, here’s a great idea – let’s have a (mostly) non-secular holiday that involves pulling apart over-sized cotton balls to make fake cobwebs that are actually more annoying to walk into than real cobwebs. And let’s make everyone wear complicated costumes that never look like Pinterest suggests they will!’ Add a shit ton of chocolate for the kids, administered over the course of several hours – or even days – and one late night of wandering the neighborhood like feral cats, and voila! Halloween! A single day for which the level of excitement may be eclipsed only by that for Disneyland or Christmas.

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 Pinterest says he’s a donut.

Halloween is fun. I get it. But it’s gotten a little over-the-top. Maybe it’s the ‘it’s everybody’s holiday’ thing, but I feel like Halloween has gotten disproportionately huge. There are Halloween freaks like there are Disney freaks and Christmas freaks – always happy to take it to the next level.  And retail answers – Halloween decorations start popping up in every storefront sometime around the 4th of July, rivaling only Christmas in the prematurity race. Self-proclaimed Costume Contest Moms are the new Pageant Moms: It’s Honey Boo Boo meets Paranormal Activity.

When I was a kid, you had to ransack your closet, your parents’ closets, your basement and attic to make your costume.  Costumes were original, yet there were few that could not be created without some duct tape, a trash bag, and face paint (sold in an $8 package of five gold-wrapped colored face paint crayons). Now, there are goddamn Halloween stores.  Like, stores that sell nothing but Halloween crap. Spirit Halloween: “For $180, you, too, can dress your 6-month-old like a chicken!” (yeah, I was tempted). And, “Hey kids – wanna be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle? Here’s a strap-on green and yellow pillow and a red bandanna for only $150. Don’t forget you need the nun chucks to complete the look! On sale for $80 if you buy with the strap-on!” Then there are the home decorations and displays. $2 grand for a fake fucking straw bale with a skeleton and fake mums on it. No, that’s not a typo: Two. Thousand. A 2 with 3 zeros.

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THIS is how you do Halloween like a boss.

I am not as anti-Halloween as I sound. But, for the last three Halloweens, I’ve been “drunk,” “haggard,” and “pregnant,” respectively. As in, someone asks “What are you for Halloween?” and I respond “drunk.” I don’t even have to dress up. If I was feeling really ambitious, a $10 dollar investment at Spencers would have me set. (Note to self: Spencers has little in the way of costumes that are appropriate for kids. Who knew?!). As an adult and a parent, though, Halloween just can’t be taken so lightly.

I have learned this: Making any kind of decision on a kid’s Halloween costume before October 30 is like betting on the Super Bowl in June. My 4-year old usually starts telling me sometime in August exactly what he is going to be for Halloween.  A “Doctor Dinosaur.” No, not a doctor that’s a dinosaur and not a doctor for dinosaurs, but a Doctor Dinosaur. It has to have beady red eyes and a green stethoscope and a spiky long tail. I never did figure out what the fuck a Doctor Dinosaur was, and it didn’t matter because by the time Halloween rolled around, he’d gone through 18 more costume prospects before settling on being . . . a cop (pre-packaged and purchased in one of those clear plastic bags from – you guessed it – Spirit Halloween).img_5029

This year, my 4-year old wants to be a “Skeleton with drippy hands and a broken head and an oozing brain that carries an orange gun.” W. T. F????? I have less than 24 hours to figure it out, in which time he will almost certainly change his mind. I can only hope Plan B involves some part of the skeleton leotard and orange gun we already bought.

Just like every female 21 and under prefaces their Halloween costume with “sexy,” a the 4-and-under set prefaces every Halloween costume with “dead” or “oozing.” Which is all well and good until we are talking mainstream loveable characters like Doc McStuffins or Mickey Mouse. It’s at least mildly disturbing to see Doc with a bloody knife through her head. I am confident that neighbors have suspicions about my son’s future as a homicidal maniac.

halloween-candy-1014629_640We have learned which neighborhoods – and which houses in those neighborhoods – to hit up for candy. The houses with real hearses on their lawns (as decoration, of course), fog machines, and a Wes Craven soundtrack (playing on their outdoor Bose surround speakers) are most likely to have King Size somethings. When I was a kid, my neighbors gave shit like raisins and pennies.  One used to tell us to “pick five pennies” out of her damned plastic orange pumpkin (that smelled like an old milk carton), and if we were “lucky” we might “get a shiny penny from this year!” No, lady, if I’m lucky the next house will understand that Halloween is not an acceptable substitute for a trip to Coinstar. If I’m really lucky, next year I’ll remember to skip yours.

Also, in 2016, trolling the neighborhoods for one night apparently is not enough. Now we have “trunk or treats” everywhere, too. Because, after finally deciding on and wrestling my kid into a costume that offends as few members of the general population as possible, and selecting a completely allergen-free candy (maybe the penny people were on to something), I definitely have time to decorate the trunk of my car. (n.b., most days my trunk could pass for a scene from an early 80’s horror film, no decorating required. Throw a bag of Tootsie Pops in and I effing rule the preschool parking lot).

Despite all the complaining, I am actually looking forward to Halloween. We do it right and take a hay wagon with friends through a rich neighborhood that gives lots of King Size somethings. No pennies; no raisins. Just a bunch of parents sitting and pretending to ration kids’ candy (some for you; some for me) while the kids jump off every few hundred yards like passengers from the Titanic. Make no mistake, the hay wagon is fully stocked with adult refreshments. And if history tells, our kids will pass out before the end of the night and we can pilfer their KitKats. Or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  Oh, those tiny little chocolate cups of peanut-buttery deliciousness . . . OK, Halloween. Bring it!

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This is how we go door-to-door trick-or-treating on Halloween. 

What To Expect When You’re Not Expecting

It’s taken me two years and a successful pregnancy to put pen to paper on this issue, but it’s consumed my mind every day since. I have a lot to say about it, and it’s time.

I had a miscarriage.

I recently heard “People will never truly understand something until it happens to them.” This could not be more true when it comes to the loss of a pregnancy. When I had my miscarriage, the best piece of advice I got was from someone who knows the pain of loss all too well. She told me that people will offer advice, but to ignore the comments that don’t make sense. Over time, I learned this meant listening to people who had been through it, and ignoring the (well-meaning) people who had not. It is for this reason that I offer the following: If you’ve been through or are going through a miscarriage, talk to someone that truly knows what you’re going through. Listen to someone  who’s lost a baby and let them listen to you. Ignore the insensitive people and comments that don’t make sense.

The one person in the world that you want to understand – that you need to share your pain – can’t.

A miscarriage is a heavy and lonely experience. The one person in the world (husband, partner, father of your child, etc.) that you want to understand – that you need to share your pain – can’t. It’s not for lack of caring or trying – men just cannot physically or emotionally understand the loss of a pregnancy in the same way – or to the same depth -the mother does. This is science; this is fact.

Your Hormones

Quick chemistry lesson, and an explanation of what happens to your hormones when you get pregnant. Women have hormones called LH and FSH.  These trigger your period, and ovulation, so they are NOT present after a woman gets pregnant (think about it – you don’t get your period while pregnant). During your period, estrogen and progesterone set up camp. These are like the Feminazis of female hormones, and can be credited for all of the delightful symptoms of PMS. When you get pregnant, your body starts producing hCG (this is the hormone that at-home pregnancy tests test for, and is only present in a woman’s body while she is pregnant – this is why a positive PT almost always guarantees pregnancy). hCG levels hit the accelerator on estrogen and progesterone, and the hCG levels themselves double every 48 hours early on in a pregnancy, until about the end of the first trimester. hCG is the ultimate mommy hormone – it prepares you for carrying a baby, labor and delivery, and even breastfeeding.

Having a miscarriage is the hormonal equivalent of bungee jumping onto a concrete slab.

After a miscarriage, your hCG levels not only stop increasing, but they come crashing down. Within a very short time after a miscarriage, hCG levels return to about zero. Having a miscarriage is the hormonal equivalent of bungee jumping onto a concrete slab. So, a person that has never experienced a miscarriage – and men in particular – can’t possibly understand the physical and emotional fire drill.

Your Partner

In addition to the scientific facts, further proof that men do not understand:  During my recent (and fortunately successful) pregnancy, every time a doctor asked “what number pregnancy is this?” I would respond that it was my third, even though I only had one child at home. The first time I was asked was in my OB’s office, and at the same time I said “third” my husband said “second.” He looked at me like I was out of my mind and she looked at us like maybe she should leave the room. I’ve talked to a number of women that have lost pregnancies and they had similar experiences. My second – and failed – pregnancy just did not have as significant an impact on my husband as it did on me.

Your Emotions

Ladies, we need to talk with one another about this  because we’re the only ones that can understand.

For all of the same reasons that a miscarriage is lonely, it can also feel shameful.  This is a big part of the reason so many women don’t – and indeed won’t – talk about it.  You and you alone are pregnant.  You are solely responsible for growing and nurturing a baby to delivery (and for a significant time after). And then you lose that baby. You feel as though you have failed the baby, failed your family… You feel as though you’ve failed, period. Doctors, psychiatrists, friends – hell, everyone – will tell you it’s not your fault, but your human and hormonal brain needs reasons. Needs answers.  Needs something or someone to blame. But there’s only you, so it has to be your fault, right? Nothing can make a woman feel inadequate and lonely the way infertility can.

Pain hits in pieces, and grieving is like peeling away layers to get to a core you may never reach.

While I talked pretty openly about my miscarriage, I don’t think I ever really fully grieved. Pain hit in pieces, and grieving is like peeling away layers to get to a core I still have not reached. I may never reach it. Loss leaves a space in your heart and in your life that can never be filled.

When It Happens

My own miscarriage made me feel powerless. Guilty. Confused. And I was delusional. I’d been bleeding for more than 24 hours when I went to the ER. I refused to believe it was anything serious. I still didn’t understand what was happening when I was wheeled away in a bed to an X-Ray room for the trans-vag exam, but I do remember feeling that never in my life – not before and not since – have I felt that vulnerable and exposed. I cried and screamed at the technician that she was hurting my baby.

She looked at me like I was crazy. What baby?

Even as the on-call doctor waited until my husband was in the room and the door was closed to deliver my diagnosis, I still couldn’t comprehend – and refused to believe – what was happening to me. To my baby. To us.

I left the ER that Saturday with a printout that said I’d been treated for “abnormal bleeding” and a “threatened miscarriage.” They told me there was nothing I could do. Nothing they could do. But I mentally refused to accept that. I prayed. As if by sheer will I could stop the inevitable from happening. I begged, I pleaded. Demanded my body to make this right. I willed my baby to hang on. Just hang on. We’ll get through this, just hang on for me.

On Monday morning, while discussing my hCG levels with my OB, she said she was pleased to see them going down so quickly, and that I would probably not need a D&C (Dilation and Curettage). Going DOWN. When I know – I KNOW – they’re supposed to be going up. Doubling every 48 hours. I nodded like I understood – like this was good news – but I felt like my head was sinking into wet cement while the rest of the world spun around me. I finally realized I was not pregnant anymore. That there would be no baby in September. That the Chinese gender chart was meaningless and the baby – that next week would be the size of a raspberry – was no more.

My OB called this a “miss.” Yes, a “miss.” She had a goddamn nickname for it. You miss a party. You miss a train. You don’t fucking MISS a pregnancy. But in her world, this was as typical as a confirmed pregnancy. She even reminded me that miscarriages are very common. As if that somehow made it OK.

I’m not a big fan of statistics, but the statistics on miscarriages tell us that one half of all pregnant women miscarry.  One half. Indeed, among myself and my immediate group of 5 close girlfriends, three of us have miscarried. But, of the women I know well, I would not say that one half have told me they’ve miscarried. I was shocked by how many “me too’s” I heard when I shared my own experience. Someone close to me told me, “I wish I could take your pain away.”Now I fully understand what she meant. For my girlfriend that miscarried after me, it just seemed so unfair. Like, didn’t I already take the bullet? Why should she have to go through this, too?

My pregnancy ended in a level of obsession and paranoia that turned me into a person my husband probably would never have married.

I will not share my whole story because the details don’t matter. And everyone’s story is different. What matters is that each story ends in a common denominator – loss and pain. Confusion and tears. Anger even. Mine ended in a level of obsession and paranoia that turned me into a person my husband probably would never have married.

Ignore The Things That Don’t Make Sense

People say some really stupid and insensitive things when they learn you’ve miscarried. I know, because before I had my miscarriage, I was one of those people. I said stuff like “At least it was early,” and “It wasn’t meant to be,” or “This was just God’s way.” “You can always try again,” “At least you already have a perfectly healthy 2-year-old.” I asked “Do they know why?” and assured friends it wasn’t their fault. I thought these things made sense; would make someone feel better. The first thing I did after my miscarriage was call my friends that I had “consoled” before, and apologize for all of the insensitive comments that I thought were helpful.

I bit my lip to hold back tears of pain that I only pretended were from the needle.

People that don’t understand will be uncomfortable around you. I remember having to go to the lab a couple of times a week following my ER visit, to ensure my hGC levels got back down in the zero range. No longer did the phlebotomist chat with me about nursery colors, names, or Chinese gender charts. Now we sat in uncomfortable silence as I bit my lip to hold back tears of pain that I only pretended were from the needle. I could hear the women in the booths next to and across from me talking about due dates. Complaining about morning sickness.  Complaining when really they were wearing some badge of honor I was no longer entitled to. They were having the conversations I was supposed to be having. I felt torn between wanting to slap them and wanting to be them.

There is also the inescapable observation that suddenly, everyone is pregnant. Everywhere you look, there are shower invitations, sonogram pictures proudly plastered all over Facebook, birth announcements in the mail. In the block between my train stop and my office it seemed every woman was  waddling in her Pea in the Pod dress to show off a barely-there bump,and exhausted-looking new moms walking their infants in strollers, instinctively peaking in at them every 2 seconds. God, I hated pregnant women and new moms. Didn’t they know how lucky they were? Didn’t they know how hard it was?

There is also the inescapable observation that suddenly, everywhere you look, everyone is pregnant.

Recovering

You have to grieve. Because a miscarriage is a loss and one that you cannot escape or get over quickly. Grief is a process that takes time. Months after my miscarriage, I opened my Hotmail to see that The Bump and Babycenter were still sending me updates and, according to them, my baby was now the size of a coconut and I should be busy preparing the nursery and packing my bag for the hospital. All of the “if only’s” I’d tortured myself with over the past few months were right there in front of me. Staring me down in the form of fucking e-mails.

Even after you’ve accepted you’re no longer pregnant, the “what if?” and “could’ve been” thoughts still invade your conscience and your better judgment. 

The truth is, unless and until you successfully get pregnant after a miscarriage, there are so many moments in time when the “what if” thoughts creep in. They invade your conscience and your better judgment. You stop and think: “I’d be showing,”  “This was supposed to be my due date,” “She’d be three months now…”

Over time, the pain will lessen. The empty space will narrow. The pain and emptiness will never go away altogether, but it will get better. Tolerable. While I would never compare one woman’s loss to another’s, I do recognize that I am very fortunate.I know there are so many women for whom fertility issues are a barrier and not just an obstacle. I know there are women that miscarry many times, and others that carry babies they never get to hold, or hold only for a short time.

But, if my sharing can help even one person feel less lonely – and less hopeless – then it’s worth it.

 

The Most Important Lessons In Business Can Be Learned Waiting Tables

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My childhood dream was to become a waitress. Every Career Day from 1st until 5th grade, I went to school with a tray and apron. I should mention, this was because I saw an Arrid Extra Dry commercial featuring a waitress whose outfit I liked. Yes, my early career ambitions were based solely on a 1980’s deodorant commercial.

My dream came true when I was 19.

It’s been more than 10 years since I last clipped on a pager and apron or carried a Guest Check, but I still have recurring nightmares that I forgot to deliver drinks to table 31 or that I forgot to fire table 22’s filets. I still harbor a fear of the number 86 and fight the temptation to run to the kitchen every time my phone vibrates.guest check

Waiting tables is not easy and if you think it is, you’re either not doing it right or you’ve never done it…

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9 Daily Struggles Only People That Work From Home Can Understand

Working from home. Some view it as a luxury, others view it as a sentence. Whatever side of the debate you’re on, if you’ve ever worked from home, you know it can challenge your willpower, your productivity, and your waistline. Here are 9 struggles work-from-homers face every day:

1. Getting Dressed.

There’s just no good reason to do this. Besides, pajama pants. The more time you work from home, the greater the likelihood that you’ve grown out of your dress pants and into your pajama pants. Yoga pants equals overdressed. Working from home also makes it less likely that you shower with any sort of regularity.

2. People That Do Not Work From Home Do. Not. Get it.

This drives me crazy. I work from home on Fridays, I am not “off” on Fridays. I constantly hear “You are off on Friday, so can you …[insert time-consuming errands here]…?” NO. Just, NO. I don’t have the day off, I just take my job to a different zip code on Fridays, so that I can also do my Mommy jobs and housekeeper jobs without a three plus hour commute. So, think of it more like I am too busy on Fridays to go into the office, because I am working three jobs.

3. Cleaning.

Nothing can induce the urge to do housework quite like reviewing a 192-page license agreement with 37 schedules. Dishes, changing light bulbs, laundry . . .You can do a TON of laundry when you’re home all day. However, to “do laundry” means to spend the 2 minutes it takes to throw in an extra-large load of mixed whites and colors. It necessarily excludes anything that involves folding or putting away. We live out of our clean wash basket. And fuck ironing. That’s what the “fluff” cycle on the dryer is for.

4. Food.cereal-1444496_640

There’s no breakfast. There’s no lunch. There’s a free,  all-day, all-you-can-eat carb buffet right there in your fridge. If you’re like me and sometimes work from the kitchen counter, your home office is right there in the buffet line. “Meals” blur the lines, but can be defined as follows: Too Early For Tostitos and Too Late For Cereal. Of course, when you’re working from home, it’s really never too late for cereal. Especially Fruit Loops. Fruit Loops are like the unsung hero of superfoods.

5. Human Interaction.

There are two types of people in this world: Those that admit to talking to themselves, and liars. I fit squarely in the former camp, and there is a window of time between morning radio shows and Ellen that I find myself asking and answering my own questions, just to avoid feeling like Will Smith in I Am Legend. I’ve cross-examined myself and even taken my own deposition. Look, it can get pretty lonely. Not lonely enough to join a video conference, though. . . that would be crazy. And also dangerous, in light of the pajama pants and all.

6. Getting Out Of The House.

You will find ways to validate trips to CVS, the grocery store, the dry cleaner, etc. This is as much to get out of the house as it is to create some semblance of structure. Like, “I have an 11.” (aka you’re going to CVS to get toilet paper, gum, and body wash because, you know, you’ll need them at some point.) You inevitably delay your departure in half hour increments until you finally walk out the door at 2. And while nobody needed anything from you all day, they suddenly need you at 2, and for the entire hour of time you spend lost in the store’s magazine aisle.

7. Guilt.

Working from home necessarily takes “work” and “life” and forces them to co-exist in a confined, cluttered space. There’s no balance – you have to choose one or the other and will inevitably feel guilty about your choice. If it’s nice outside you feel like you’re wasting a day sitting in front of a laptop. If you go outside you feel like you should at least bring your laptop with you. Multiply this emotional tug-of-war by a bazillion if you have kids at home.

8. You Get N-O-T-H-I-N-G Done. Because, Kids.children-593313_640

I am convinced that kids are the sole reason for one of the most seemingly asinine inventions ever: the mute function on a phone. Unless you take calls from the engine room of a cruise ship, what other reason would you have to mute a device that is at least 50% for talking into? I once had opposing counsel ask me if I was taking our call from a shooting range. I was about to explain that it was just my 4-year-old playing Hungry Hippos – with TNT Pop-Its instead of marbles – when I realized his theory made me sound much more bad ass.

9. Moral Dilemmas.

It’s 3 o’clock. Answer e-mails or watch Ellen?

E-mails; Ellen? E-mails; Ellen?

E-mails put up a pretty good fight, but Ellen wins. Every damned time.

 

If you’ve ever worked from home, you get it. If you have not, you probably are one of those that thinks a day working from home is a day off.  And clearly, you’ve never had to battle your own conscience just to put on your pants.

The Most Important Lessons In Business Can Be Learned Waiting Tables

My childhood dream was to become a waitress. Every Career Day from 1st until 5th grade, I went to school with a tray and apron. I should mention, this was because I saw an Arrid Extra Dry commercial featuring a waitress whose outfit I liked. Yes, my early career ambitions were based solely on a 1980’s deodorant commercial.

My dream came true when I was 19.

It’s been more than 10 years since I last clipped on a pager and apron or carried a Guest Check, but I still have recurring nightmares that I forgot to deliver drinks to table 31 or that I forgot to fire table 22’s filets. I still harbor a fear of the number 86 and fight the temptation to run to the kitchen every time my phone vibrates.guest check

Waiting tables is not easy and if you think it is, you’re either not doing it right or you’ve never done it at all. If you are doing it right, you’ll learn some really important lessons about customer service that you can carry with you through business and life.

  1. The Customer Is Always Right. Clichéd, I know, but so true. Lady wants the chef’s sushi grade Ahi done medium well? Let her know – as diplomatically as possible – that the chef recommends rare. At the end of the day, she’s going to order it how she wants to eat it. You can arm customers with all the facts and advice – and even warnings – in the world,  but you can’t make their business decisions for them.drink-1543251_640
  2. You Have To Take A Certain Amount Of Shit And Give A Certain Amount Of Fucks. Listen up, Millennials. I know it’s super trendy to not give a fuck about anything and to not put up with any shit. But guess what? That’s not how business – or life – works. I am not saying take everything personally, but at least take some responsibility and hold yourself accountable for mistakes. Sometimes a customer wants a Grey Goose up with olives, but you (or the bartender) screw up and order him grape juice in a cup with olives (true story). Own up to your mistakes. Don’t take it personally if you hear some static for them. But, for God’s sake, swallow your pride and care enough to fix them and make it right.
  3. Fake It Till You Make It. Maybe you don’t eat red meat, but your customers do. So put on a smile and work those Calcutta nights until you can sell a 64 oz. Porterhouse to an 84-year-old vegan wearing dentures. Approach the sale of a steak with the same level of enthusiasm as you would coconut-battered tofu (and vice versa if you’re a carnivore). This may come as a surprise to some, but your clients’ and customers’ ideals will often deviate from your own. Tough shit. Suck it up. Customer service is about the customer… Not you.steak-1138563_640
  4. Every Table Is Your Only Table. News flash: people like to feel important. They like to feel like you care enough to make them a priority. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 2-top that asked you for a bottle of ketchup or a 10-top dinner party that wants you to prepare table-side Caesar salads. Customers are needy and sometimes downright demanding. Meeting their needs and keeping them happy is your effing job. 
  5. You Have To Keep A Lot of Fires Going, Balls In The Air,  Etc. If you did not pick up on the sarcasm in no. 4 above, let me spell it out: you’re rarely going to be waiting on only one table. And every table is going to have different needs, and be at different stages in their meal. The same is true for cases, projects, portfolios, etc. You need to come up with a system to organize and stay aware of what your customers’ goals are, and where they are with respect to meeting them.kitchen-731351_640
  6. Know What You’re Selling. You’re not going to sell a single Veal Saltimbocca if you can’t answer whether the chef made it with Prosciutto or Chorizo. You lose credibility and trust when you try to sell a customer something you know nothing about. Sometimes clients or customers will ask questions for which you have no answer, and it’s OK to say “I don’t know.” But for the love of God, do your homework and get an answer. And if you’re selling products or services, you had better get your head around them and anticipate your customers’ questions and know how best to answer them.
  7. Know What Your Customers Like and Do It. We had one customer, Mr. Mariano*, that needed his filet still mooing in the center but medium well around the outside. It was so particular that we added an extra temp button to Micros with his last name on it: Mariano Rare (for real, can’t make this shit up). We never asked him how he wanted his steak done – we just had him confirm he wanted it Mariano Rare. No two customers are alike and none fit any particular mold. They all have their quirks; they all have their preferences. Learn your clients’ rhythms and dance to them.
  8.  Know What Your Customers Don’t Like. And Don’t Do It. Hell hath no fury like a lady that gets dressing on her salad when she asked for it on the side. If you serve her with a plate of lettuce drenched in Peppercorn Ranch, when you know she wanted the Ranch on the side, not only will you be taking that shit back, but it’s likely she won’t want to pay for it. If your customers hate itemized bills, it doesn’t really make sense to send them a 20-page detailed invoice. Don’t piss people off by ignoring their preferences. This is such a basic concept but so many struggle with it.hello-1502386_640
  9. Learn Your Customers’ Names And Use Them. Often. My waitressing experience was unique in that, at a country club you are seeing the same people over and over, and you are expected to know their names. But this concept applies anywhere and goes hand-in-hand with making customers feel like they are important. Learning and using their names shows that you care. Where appropriate, learn more than just their names. Pay attention. People want to do business with people they like – showing interest makes you likable.cups-961430_640
  10. Know How To Delegate When You’re In The Weeds. You can’t clone yourself (yet). I’ve tried. I had some nights where my entire section filled up at the same time. I was always terrible at delegating and would try to be everything to everyone, which meant I inevitably sacrificed attentiveness and my own sanity. Serenity came when I allowed another server to deliver drinks I’d ordered, or asked our M.O.D. to drop entrées. No one likes a frazzled server and no one likes to be ignored. It’s totally OK to let go and delegate tasks you simply can’t get to. In fact, it makes you a better, more efficient manager, and keeps your customers happy.

One of the greatest compliments I ever received as a lawyer was from a client that said they “always feel like [my] highest priority.” Providing standout customer service is a skill, and one I learned and honed entirely waiting tables.

To the managers, chefs, staff, and club members that taught me, thank you. I am eternally grateful.

*Name changed to protect the nutty

15 Times Going To Work Is Easier Than Staying At Home With Kids

As I reach the of the end of maternity leave, and begin my return to work, I’ve started thinking of all the ways going to work is easier than being home with kids every day. So far, I’m at about 853 million. Here are 15 of them (15? Only 15? I know – right?):

  1. When you’re working, you might wake up to about 497 (albeit demanding) e-mails. These can be addressed at some point during the day. When you’re home with kids, you awaken to a 3-foot-tall creeper in Spiderman pajamas, poking you 497 times. Because he needs a bowl of Honey Kix. Now.
  2. Conference call participants talk over one another and then apologize and stop talking. When you’re on the phone at home, at least one “participant” is hanging on your leg yelling at you so loudly that you can’t even effectively communicate to the pizza delivery man that your screams of “get DOWN!” and “be QUIET!” are not intended for him.

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    Our local Domino’s thinks I call from The Little Gym. Or an asylum.

  3. Watching webinars can be painful and occasionally make you feel narcoleptic. Watching Paw Patrol can make you borderline suicidal.

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    I would rather sit through a tutorial on filing tax returns than watch Chase on the goddamn case!

  4. Once in a while a coworker might ask for help working the coffee maker. But at least they don’t start yelling your name every time they need the refrigerator opened, or a straw stuck into their frigging Capri Sun . . .

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    I’m adult enough to admit that, from time to time, I unleash frustrations on these annoying little aluminum bags. 

  5. When work colleagues get tired they’ll get themselves a coffee or a 5 Hour Energy. When preschool-aged “colleagues” at home get tired, there is an epic meltdown that inevitably precedes a WWF match to get them down for a nap.
  6. Clients will rely on you (read: pay you) to clean up their messes. At home, you’re literally wiping asses and cleaning up vomit, poop, and Legos all damn day. And no one is paying you. Like, ever.

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    Legos, Legos, Legos. All over the damned place.

  7. When your computer flashes a blue screen of death,  you can call IT and 9 times out of 10 they can figure out and fix the problem. When a baby unleashes screams of death, you are “tech support” and yet you have no effing clue what the screams are about.  baby-84627_640
  8. If you lose changes you made to a Word document, (it sucks but) it’s not the end of the world. You can typically get it back. If you lose a pacifier or beloved stuffed critter at Gymboree, you’re fucked. There’s no getting that shit back.

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    I don’t know where all the pacifiers go, but I hope they’re happy. 

  9. For the most part, associates at work do what you tell them. “Associates” at home, on the other hand, need to be asked no fewer than 89 times to perform simple tasks like brushing their teeth or putting on clean underwear.

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    This is how we roll. No, really. Even down the stairs.

  10. Coworkers bathe, groom, and dress themselves without needing you to remind them to do so. At home you are solely responsible for the hygiene of naked little mongrels that smell like feet (and like it that way).
  11. With limited exception (like, holiday party after parties), colleagues don’t vomit on you. And when they do, it’s jell-O shots or Jameson. Not curdled milk.

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    Better than curdled milk.

  12. Work days can be scheduled so that you know about when you might have to deal with a client/ coworker/ supervisor throwing fits. Outlook cannot, however, tell you with one shred of reliability when you will have to deal with an “ohmigod the world is over” tantrum.

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    We can build cars that parallel park themselves but can’t build software that can predict (or avert) tantrums.

  13. Clients can be challenging. Sometimes they even whine and scream. But it’s usually because they have a legitimate crisis. Not because Demi Lovato is singing “Let it Go” instead of Elsa.
  14. Coworkers will pull “crazy” pranks, like occasionally (as in, once) switching out your ID badge with their own. At home, kids will “switch out” your ID badge with toilet paper and flush it down the toilet. With your keys and phone.

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    At least fishing my keys out of toilet is an equally entertaining activity.

  15. Clients will sometimes want you to – figuratively – wipe their asses. With kids, you are literally wiping asses . . . All. The. Damn. Time.

Oh, this list could go on and on forever. Every morning as I am shuffling my most challenging clients out the door, I am reminded of more ways that work is a break. Of course, now that I am back to work, I know there are some really tough days ahead of me. Like, Saturdays and Sundays. And Fridays when I work from home. And Monday through Thursday before 6AM and after 6PM . . .

 

 

Getting Kids Out The Door In The Morning (And Other High Impact Cardio Activities)

FullSizeRender (4)The alarm goes off at 6:20 AM. I just watched my  61st sunrise in a row (not that I’m counting) so the fact that I even set an alarm is ridiculous.  Really, I think I only do it to separate night from day in my delirious, sleep-deprived mind. Of course, now that I’ve got less than one hour to get my kids dressed, fed, packed up, and out the door, my infant and 4-year-old are in peaceful, happy comas, in my bed (when did they even get here??).

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Dressing this for school is like dressing a dead octopus.

I can’t get more than half an eye open from the Big One so I dress him in his sleep. I imagine this is what it’s like to dress a dead octopus.  He wakes up and realizes I’ve put him in the blue dinosaur shirt instead of the red one he’s worn every day for nearly a week. Apparently this is tragic. I pick my battles and I’m willing to sacrifice hygiene to just get out of the house.  I trip over four clean loads of laundry (that still need to be folded and put away) and at least 6 dirty loads of laundry (one that includes a baseball uniform needed for tonight) to find the red dinosaur shirt – completely covered in Elmer’s and Nutella. I start another load and wonder what the  actual maximum capacity  is for a washing machine.  And also how necessary it really is to separate  lights and colors.

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I’ve accumulated almost as many piles of clean laundry as dirty.

Little One starts fussing.  He goes from zero to full on blood curdling screams in the 2 seconds it takes me to get to him.  He eats for 5 minutes and stops because he’s peed his diaper and he can’t possibly continue to eat with a soggy butt.  Thanks for the blue line, Pampers, because surely I am not competent enough to know my baby peed without it.  Big One wants to help with the diaper change, and of course the baby pees again – on my bed – the instant the dirty diaper comes off. Make that 7 dirty loads of laundry.

Big One “needs” oatmeal for breakfast. No, not instant oatmeal but steel-cut oats oatmeal. The kind that requires 45 minutes of hands-on stove time to prepare.  I’m no chef but I figure I can cut that time into a third if I use half the required amount of water and ignore the “bring to a slow boil” instruction. I put the stove on extra high, look at the still shirtless Big One, and remember he has not yet peed or brushed his teeth. Or put shoes on.

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“Mommy set our house on fire!”

I help Big One into his shirt which apparently leaves the stove unattended just long enough to erupt into an oatmeal inferno.The smoke alarm goes off and Big One asks “Mommy, did you set the house on fire?” There’s no answer that will change what he tells everyone at school: Mommy’s an arsonist.

I dump the burnt, half-cooked steel-cut-effing-oats into a to-go mug and send Big One to get his shoes on and pee while I make his lunch. Little one smiles up at me and then I hear it:  the unmistakable rumble of a fully loaded fart. Yup, it’s a double blow out – up the front and the back. I take him up for a wardrobe change and diaper-wipe bath and hear Big one yelling for help because he can’t turn on the light in the bathroom. I can’t get there in time and he tried to pee in the dark. No pee has made it into the toilet. The walls and floor, yes- but not a drop in the toilet. He’s trying to clean it up with toilet paper so my bathroom now looks like someone toilet-papered it. On Mischief Night, in the rain.  Whatever – I’ll Swiffer it later. I tell him (for the 10th time now) to go put shoes on.  We’re down to 5 minutes before we have to get out the door.

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One common theme: Every pair is caked with mud. 

This is about when I turn into crazy-drill-sergeant-mean-coach-mom.  “Shoes! Shoes! Shoes! Put. Your. SHOES. On!” I am clapping my hands and chanting (OK, screaming) to Big One while he calmly flies his Lego helicopter in and out of the room – barefoot.  “WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES?!?! YOU CAN’T GO TO SCHOOL WITHOUT SHOES!!!” Mind you, he’s landed his helicopter in a closet with roughly 9 thousand pairs of his shoes and yet there are only two pairs he’ll actually wear: One is a candidate for Sneaker Savers and the other is in such bad shape it’s likely to invite the attention of Child Services. Screw it – today we’re going with Child Services pair.

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I’ve actually found things growing in this seat.

I get Little One into his car seat just in time for a loud burp and then . . . projectile vomiting. He spits up all over himself and his car seat. I pick him up and he spits up on me. Fabulous.  I’ve now been peed on, pooped on, and vomited on.  It’s the maternity leave trifecta. Another wardrobe change (for him), another diaper-wipe bath (for both of us), and now a car seat disassembly. If you’ve ever wondered how stuff gets lost in a car seat, disassemble one (vomit optional). They’ve got more cracks and crevices than Grand Canyon National Park. And thank God we have two for just these occasions because reassembly takes for-ev-ver.

When we finally head out the door my sweater is turned inside out and my hair is in a bun to hide all of my infant’s bodily fluids. I get the kids buckled in and hear a quiet “uh, Mommy?”

Here’s Murphy’s Law applied to kids: If you are trying to get somewhere on time, they will inevitably have to poop, and it will be an event.  One that can’t wait but that will take 20 minutes to get started.  We run back in the house and get to the toilet just in time . . . to sit and wait.  25 minutes (and another diaper change) later, we’re running back out to the car when I remember I am “Snack Mom” and I left the class snack on the kitchen counter. I leave the kids in the car so I can run in and grab the strawberries, and by the time I get back to the car – not 30 seconds later – Big One is screaming at the top of his lungs that I left him alone, locked in the car for hours. Great. Now school will hear I am not only an arsonist but that I am an arsonist who abandons my children.

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10,000 steps before 8 AM, and most of them stairs.

We’re finally back in the car, ready to go (for real this time), and my wrist starts buzzing. Thanks, Fitbit. 10,000 steps and it’s not even 8 AM.

 

 

An Open Apology To All The Moms I Judged … Before I Was One

I judged moms.  The childless twenty-something me shot them the stink eye in the grocery store when their kids talked back to them.  I rolled my eyes and made comments under my breath when I pulled up next to a minivan of kids watching DVD players.  But now I am a mom and I totally get why moms do some of the things they do.  So, I am sorry my clueless self judged you.  Guilty as charged, OK? Mea culpa and all that.

I’m Sorry I Judged Moms That Use Bribes

money-163502_640I thought moms that use bribes were creating monsters.  Spoiled, entitled brats that would never function in the real world.  Call bribes what you will: allowance, rewards, treats. Hell, call them compensation.  Which is fitting because I wouldn’t go to work and do half the shit I do if someone wasn’t rewarding me with a paycheck.  But really, what other incentive is there for my kid to eat his peas or change his underwear?  The simple fact is, bribes work. And there’s simply no persuasive argument against them. I’m not saying buy your kid a BMW every time he does what he’s supposed to, but a POPSICLE® for finishing a meal is completely appropriate incentive.

I’m Sorry I Judged Moms That “Use” Television

FullSizeRender (3)Sometimes you just need to accomplish something (e.g., making dinner, folding laundry, peeing) with some semblance of order and speed.  Order and speed go out the window when you add kids to the equation.  I know “good moms” include their kids in housework and the kids get some valuable life lesson out of it.  Well, maybe I’m not a “good mom” but it’s 8.30 PM and I want my kids to eat before 11.  And if I have my 4-year old help cut peppers for dinner, we’ll be eating peppers tomorrow morning. I’m all for including my kids, but there’s a time and a place for that and sometimes tonight ain’t it.  Now, if I put on one Dinotrux episode, I get 22 uninterrupted minutes (yes, I’ve counted) during which I can try to get a meal on the table.  And maybe flip the laundry.  And pee.  Two episodes and I may be able to make something other than Ellio’s in the microwave. No, I don’t “use television as a babysitter.” I simply rely on it to keep my kid’s attention when his Mandarin flashcards are not doing he trick.

I’m Sorry I Judged Moms That Let Their Kids Watch DVDs In The Car

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Photo cred to a very special Bestie and her kids.  

I know you don’t need a DVD player in the car to occupy your kids.  You also don’t need Novocaine to get a root canal, but it sure as hell helps. I get the whole “WE didn’t need movies to get through car trips” argument, but WE also sat in “the way way back” without seat belts. I even remember playing Twister in the back of my parents’ Station Wagon on long trips down the shore.  Watching DVDs is arguably more entertaining and a hell of a lot safer.  Look, there’s no harm in a little Finding Nemo if it gets you through a three-hour drive to the beach.  Or a 5-minute trip to the grocery store.

 

 

I’m Sorry I Judged Moms That Used Daycare When They Didn’t “Need” To

I could never understand the line of yoga-pants-clad stay-at-home moms leaving Daycare drop-off each morning. Now I do. Yes, some of it has to do with socialization, structure, and education, but a big part of it has to do with getting a flipping break.  Devoting an entire day to caring for an infant and/or entertaining a toddler and/or preschooler is exhausting.  And hard.  It’s sometimes best left in the hands of professionals.  Hats off to the women that do it all, but for those that enlist help, I’m with you.  I do believe I am able to be more patient with my son when I am not with him every waking hour.  Plus, I imagine the other 4-year olds at daycare are far better than I at playing the “doctor dinosaur” game.

I’m Sorry I Judged Moms Whose Kids Had Public Meltdowns

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A S’Mores display. Complete with explosives.

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Whoever did this store’s layout TOTALLY knew what they were doing. And clearly doesn’t have small children. 

I used to think kids’ tantrums were a sign of bad parenting and a lack of discipline.  Now I know that even Perfect Parents have Perfect Kids that test boundaries, get tired, act human, etc.  I also know this is 90% more likely to happen in a public place, like the grocery store.  And a grocery store meltdown almost inevitably involves Pirate’s Booty or some other completely unnecessary item with zero nutritional value, that your kid suddenly can’t live without.  I blame the grocery store. I don’t know about yours, but our grocery store puts a “summertime” S’Mores and firecracker display next to the deli counter, and a candy rack at the check-out counter.  So, the only two times I need my kid to behave, he’s face-to-face with a campfire diorama and an all-you-can-eat sugar, Tic-Tac, and chocolate buffet.

I’m Sorry I Judged Moms Who Let Kids Sleep With Them

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At least only one is a cover hog.

I don’t care what side of the whole “co-sleeping” debate you’re on.  If a 3-foot tall ninja wearing Paw Patrol pajamas shows up in your bed at 3 AM, then in the interest of sleep, it makes more sense to let him stay than to spend two hours  getting him water / going to the bathroom / turning on every light in the house to show him there are no monsters waiting to eat him.  This has nothing to do with the psychology of co-sleeping.  It is purely about self-preservation.

I’m Sorry I Judged Moms That Imitate Their Kids’ Voices 

Just kidding.  I’m not sorry about this one.  It annoys the living bejesus out of me even though I am also frequently tempted to do it.  Save it for your spouse or someone else that knows your kid’s voice.  Because if you have to imitate your kid for the story to be funny, then that’s probably what made it funny in the first place and hearing you retell it is the ultimate “I guess you had to be there” story.  If you’re a 34-year-old woman imitating your 22-month-old’s voice, trust me – you’re doing it wrong and it’s not funny.

If it sounds like I’m an incredibly narrow-minded and judgmental person, I’m not.  I just didn’t get it.  And now I do.   So, to all my mom friends that were moms before me (i.e., all my mom friends), I’m sorry.