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No, That Man Is Not Your Daddy

My kids like to play a game when we are in public. Unfortunately the game is not called, “Let’s see how well-behaved we can be so that Mommy is extremely proud of us.”

Instead, they like to pick on unsuspecting men within earshot. The game usually goes something like this:

Child #1 sees a man nearby and yells, “Daddy!” in his direction.

I casually look in the man’s direction to see if he has heard my child while simultaneously trying to encourage my kids to keep moving away from the man.

Child #2 is now on board and yells a bit louder, “DADDY!”

Child #3, not wanting to be left out, shouts at the top of his/her lungs “DADDY!”

Child #1 then usually says something like “Mommy, he’s not answering us.”

There is now no question as to if the man has heard them. He looks at us, gives a polite smile and tries to go back to his business. Please keep in mind, sometimes this is in a grocery store so even when I think we’ve lost him, one wrong turn down an aisle brings us back to the poor guy. Upon seeing the man again, they begin the name calling again, this time changing it up to make it more interesting.

“I love you Daddy!”

“Daddy, where are you going?”

“Daddy, are those bananas for us?”

I try not to think about what this poor man is thinking. Best-case scenario is that he has kids of his own, understands the embarrassing things they say in public and thinks nothing of my children and their claims of paternity. Worst-case scenario is that he thinks I’ve planned this little routine as a way to meet men in the grocery store. Upon considering this scenario, I make sure my wedding ring is extremely visible and say something like, ‘Silly kids, Daddy — my husband who I love very much — is at work.”

I’ve learned to try to minimize my reaction during this game. The more I panic, the funnier this game becomes to my kids. If I can remain calm, they usually give it a rest after an agonizing 3-5 minutes.

Because it happens so frequently, I try to avoid potentially awkward situations by steering clear of men, though I’ve yet to find a women and children only grocery store to completely eliminate the problem. I’m sure even if I did, they would come up with something else to embarrass me with.

At least the Daddy game has a level of absurdity that most men can recognize. It’s when the comments are genuine questions they want answers for that things get complicated.

“Mommy, is that person a boy or a girl?”

“Why does that man have a ponytail? Ponytails are for girls!”

“What are those bumps all over that girls face?”

“Why does that man have no hair? Why don’t you let me have no hair like him?”

“Mom look! She looks like Grandma!”

“How come that woman isn’t smiling? She didn’t say ‘hi’ to me.”

Thank goodness they are so cute, otherwise, I’m not sure how we’d ever survive in public.

What’s the craziest thing your kid has ever said in public?

Shirts: To Tuck or Not To Tuck?

Last week I did something I haven’t done in 20 years.

I tucked in my shirt.

It was odd. Unnatural even. I stood in front of a mirror questioning my decision for at least 5 minutes. I would have stood longer but I was at the gym and I worried the other ladies would think I was vain if I looked much longer.

I knew that it was the right thing to do. I was wearing a pencil skirt and I’ve seen plenty of women in pencil skirts with shirts tucked in. While I had worn this skirt before, I had always worn it with a cardigan which did not require tucking. Clearly when I packed my gym bag that morning with the outfit, I didn’t realize how major the fashion choice I was making.

Because even though I knew it was okay to tuck in my shirt, you must understand what my mind sees when consider such a move. I cannot help but look in the mirror and have flashbacks to 1992 when I tucked in everything. No matter that it was a t-shirt into sweatpants, I tucked in every shirt to every pair of pants. In my defense, I think my mother made me. I was also ten. A ten-year-old cannot be held to the same fashion standards as an adult.

I don't even want to get into the other fashion statements I am making in this picture. I can count at least 5.
I don't even want to get into the other fashion statements I am making in this picture. I can count at least 5.


This was pretty much every picture of me taken between 1988 and 1996. Don’t believe me? Here is another one:

And another one:

Pretty sure this was my first day of middle school. I know this because I am in my "too cool for this picture" pose and holding my glasses. Side note: This was the first day of school, which means I was wearing the best outfit in my wardrobe. It's amazing I had friends.
Pretty sure this was my first day of middle school. I know this because I am in my "too cool for this picture" pose and holding my glasses. Side note: This was the first day of school, which means I was wearing the best outfit in my wardrobe. It's amazing I had friends.

So you can see why I hesitate so much to go back to tucked-in shirts. I can’t get that girl out of my head.

In college you could say I rebelled. Not only did I not tuck in my shirt, I didn’t even let me shirt touch my pants. These were my middrift years. I am not exaggerating when I say that almost every picture of me in college looked something like this:

I would like to point out that my roommate's middrift is also showing. Clearly I was just trying to fit in. I have blurred her face in case she is as embarrassed as I am about this picture.
I would like to point out that my roommate's middrift is also showing. Clearly I was just trying to fit in. I have blurred her face in case she is as embarrassed as I am about this picture.

Looking back, I wish someone had told me that I would someday want pictures of myself without my belly button showing.  Judging by my album full of middrift shots, this thought never occurred to me.

I don’t claim to be fashionable. What little fashion sense I had was put on hold six years ago when I became pregnant with my first child. After that, most outfits were chosen because I could answer yes to the following three questions:

1. Does it fit?
2. Is it clean? (or let’s be honest, mostly clean?)
3. Will this outfit survive an attack from three runny noses and thirty dirty fingers?

Not that I’m completely in the clear from messy children, but these days they are much better at wiping their noses and washing their hands. I am slowly transitioning into a wardrobe that doesn’t scream “Mom with Small Children.” This will be a little difficult though. It’s been awhile. Trends have changed. I had kids young. I was barely out of my middrift stage when I had my first child. I must learn how to dress like an adult and not a college coed.

Which means I’m going to need to tuck in my shirt.

The Mom with Stickers in Her Hair

At what point do I no longer have the excuse to leave the house looking like a complete disaster?

A few weeks ago I noticed that I had a camel sticker in my hair. To my knowledge I had not been around stickers all day, so I was unable to put a time stamp on the arrival of the sticker in my hair. I’m pretty sure that I had been to the grocery store and Target that day. There is a very high probability that the camel sticker came with us.

The shocking part about it was that I was not that embarrassed. My reaction was more like “Huh, a camel sticker in my hair. How odd.”

About a week ago, I noticed another sticker on my shirt. It was one of the reward stickers I give to my kids when they’ve done something good. It was a round smiley face sticker with “Great Attitude” written around it. This time, instead of taking it off, I thought to myself “You know what? I have had a good attitude today.  I’m going to keep this sticker.”

I wore it for the rest of the day. Errands and all.

I don’t think I’ve completely let myself go. I get dressed every morning. I shower daily. I even blow-dry my hair at least 50% of the time. But after 9 AM, it’s all downhill. The truth is I’m so busy chasing three kids around all day; I have no time to redo my hair or change my clothes. At no point before I leave the house do I think, “I’m about to leave the house. There is a good chance I have applesauce on my shirt and half of my ponytail has fallen out. Maybe I should grab a quick look in the mirror. It couldn’t hurt.”

Nope, that’s not how I think.

This is okay when you are the mom of a baby. People expect that. They know you haven’t slept in weeks. But I sleep through the night. I don’t change diapers all day. At some point people stop making excuses for you. At some point you just become the mom that always seems to have stickers in her hair.

I am trying to get better. I am doing my best to look decent in public.

But I can’t make any promises. We have a lot of stickers in our house.


A Letter to the Class of 2013

Dear Class of 2013,

No, that’s not a typo. I realize that it’s 2012. I know you are still juniors. But I have some things to tell you and if I wait until next year, these things won’t be relevant anymore. If I wait until next year, this letter will be filled with statements that begin with “you should have” and “I hope you didn’t.” Next year, you will have plenty of people giving you advice. Next year, you’ll be sick of people telling you what they think.

So I’m writing you a message this year, before you are sick of hearing advice and while you still have one more year of high school ahead of you. While you still have a year to act on the things, I’m going to tell you.

Here it is:

Attend a School Event. 
Some of you have probably already done this. A million times. But some of you haven’t. Some of you are too cool to go to a football game because your school isn’t good at football. It doesn’t have to be a football game. Go to a chorus concert or a school play. Having trouble deciding what to go to? Go to something one of your friends is participating in. If you have a friend that devotes six out of seven days during the season to an activity, the least you could do is go watch her once. Years from now, your days in high school will be a blur. You probably won’t remember the ordinary everyday moments. But you will remember the time you saw your friend score the winning goal at his soccer game.

Thank a Teacher.
Chances are, by now, you’ve had one teacher that has made an impact on your life or at least your academic life. Let your teacher know. Write him a letter. Stop by her classroom and tell her in person. It’s different in college. You might have a professor that you really like, but there might be 80 other students in the class with you. There is a chance you’ll go four years without ever connecting to a professor like you connect with a high school teacher. High school teachers know your name–they know what sport or instrument you play. They had your older brother and will someday teach your younger sister. It’s different in college. High School teachers put in way more time than they are paid for and are often overlooked when it comes to praise. Go ahead and thank one. Thank them all. They will appreciate it far more than you realize.

Enjoy Your Weird Family Traditions.
Okay, so maybe it’s a little embarrassing that your dad makes everyone in the family listen to Jingle Dogs while decorating the Christmas tree. Maybe you hate the fact that every Super Bowl your mom insists you dress in the team colors of the team you are routing for. Do you want to know a sad truth? This is the last year you will have to do it. I know that doesn’t sound sad–it probably sounds awesome. When you graduate though, there is a good chance your parents will have to decorate the family tree without you. If you’re lucky, your roommate and you will agree on a small 2-foot fake tree that can fit on your dresser. When you are sharing two bags of chips with 20 other freshmen at your first college Super Bowl party, you’ll miss your mom’s homemade buffalo wings. Here’s another secret: there are weird family traditions in your house that you don’t even know about. Like the fact that your mom makes you say the high and low point of your day every night at dinner. No one is going to ask you that in college. So humor your mom for one more year. Answer with something more than “High point was hanging out with Chris” and ” Low point was taking my history test.”

Make Amends With That Friend.
I remember tensions were running high my senior year between my friends and I. Maybe we were stressed with college admissions and final grades, but I seem to remember a lot of bickering between us. I’m thankful that we never let that bickering get the best of us. I graduated with amazing friends. Though today most of them are merely Facebook friends, I don’t harbor any resentment for things said in high school. Apologize. Forgive. Do a little of both. Don’t let friendships go bad over a few harsh words said in the heat of the moment.

Don’t Stress Too Much.
This next year is going to be stressful at times. There will be college applications that will keep you up at night. There will be days of waiting for an email from your top choice school. You might receive great news. You might be accepted into your dream university. You might be offered a big scholarship. But you might receive bad news. The school you’ve been dreaming about since you were 7-years-old might reject you. You might have to attend your safety school. It’s going to be okay. No matter what life throws at you, you will survive. Lift that chin up. You have come too far to let this get you down. Despite the pressure you are feeling from your parents, they will still love you if you tried your best. I bet they’ll even love you if you didn’t try your best. They are your parents.  It’s their job to love you.

Celebrate Your Birthday With Your Family.
I get that you want to go out to dinner with your boyfriend for your birthday. I’m sure he’s awesome. He’ll probably even take you somewhere extra nice. But you need to tell him no. Go out another night and celebrate your birthday. Celebrate with your family this year. Depending on when your birthday falls, this could very well be the last time you celebrate your birthday with your family on your actual birthday. Family dinners will be replaced with a phone call and a card sent in the mail. If you’re lucky, your parents will figure out a way to deliver a cake to you in college, but it won’t be the same. You’ll miss the look on your parents’ face when they marvel how you’ve grown another year older. So this year, celebrate with them. They are the reason you have a birthday to begin with.

I don’t know what the future holds for you. But I do know this is your last year living at home. (Okay let’s be honest, we know that’s not true. In this economy, you’ll be right back under your parents’ roof when you graduate college. But it will be different.) This next year marks the final chapter of your childhood. Do me a favor, enjoy it. You’ll spend the rest of your life buying your own groceries, paying your own bills and making adult decisions.

People will tell you that these are the best years of your life. I think they are wrong. I think the year I married my soul mate was pretty awesome. The year I held my first child for the first time was pretty great too. The year I gave birth to twins was crazy, but still amazing.

But there is something about your childhood that you will always reflect on. Good or bad, your childhood is what has made you the person you are today. You don’t forget the moments that define you.

You have one more year. Make it a good one.

No pressure.

I’m Okay With My Pale Self

It’s taken me almost thirty years but I think I’ve finally accepted something about myself. I’m not tan. For years I pretended that I could compete with tan people, but the fact of the matter is, I come from an ancestry that consists mostly of northern European blood. We are not tan people. We have pale skin that turns pink when we are cold or embarrassed. We do not have bronze skin that glows after being in the sun. We have pale white skin that radiates bright pink at the mere mention of the sun.

Oddly, I haven’t always known this about my skin. As a child, spending most of my summer outdoors, I thought perhaps I had beaten the odds. While my brother acquired more and more freckles each summer, I somehow was able to avoid the freckles and gain some color. I burned a little but I also tanned. I wasn’t the tannest person in the crowd, but I held my own.

And of course, there was the summer of 2000. That summer will forever be referred to as “My Tan Summer.” It was the summer between high school and college and I was doing a whole lot of nothing. I spent one week at the beach with friends, another week at the beach with family and another week on a Caribbean cruise. By the time I left for college, I was the tannest I’d ever been. Or will ever be again, for that matter. I remember my first week in college someone asked me if I was a lifeguard because I was so tan. After she said that, I made a mental note to make sure she became my best friend. It never hurts to have someone like that around for the ego.

But the summer of 2000 was an anomaly. The summers that followed were spent indoors at internships and later, full-time jobs. When I had my first child, I was so careful to keep him out of the sun, which meant keeping myself out of the sun.

And so, these days, summers come and go and I barely have a farmer’s tan. I stay pale year round. I’m okay with that. I’ve read enough articles stating the fact that people who burn easily are at an increased risk for skin cancer. I’m not going to force a look I was never meant to have. Whenever I begin to doubt, I remind myself that in the long run, I’m making a healthy choice for my body. I’m also doing my future self a favor by keeping unnecessary wrinkles away.

I’m not tan. I’m never going to be tan. And I’m okay with that.

Good-bye Nap Time

We don’t take naps in my house anymore.

Realizing your kids are not going to take naps anymore is kind of like when kids realize there is no Santa Claus. It stinks. It’s not a huge surprise, in your mind you know that it’s too good to be true, but you hope against hope that you are wrong. You want this magical time to last forever, but once it’s gone, you know it’s never going to come back.

I didn’t let it go with out a struggle. For months I tried to deny it was happening. But when my children were still awake at 9:30 PM each night, I knew something had to change.

And so we gave up naps.

And that night my twins were asleep at 7:05 PM.

Okay maybe no naps weren’t such a bad thing.

But there is one issue with no naps. The hours between 2 and 6 become a very critical time. In a house as chaotic as mine, it’s easy for a child to slip away and lay down on a couch. That is why I must be on high alert. No down time. My goal is to schedule the afternoon full of activities, leaving no opportunity to sneak in a quick nap.

The extra activity keeps them busy and awake but it also makes them cranky. I’m going to be honest, if you were to stop by my house between the hours of 4 and 6, most afternoons you would be in for a wonderful treat. You would be able to witness three children on the verge of a meltdown at the slightest drop of a hat. What’s that? Your sister picked up the toy Grandpa gave you that you haven’t played with in 8 months? Did you really think launching a shoe at her head was the best way to solve your problem?

No naps also makes it difficult to go anywhere far in the car. One 20 minute nap in the car completely ruins the 7 PM bed time. I’m not ashamed to admit that I use bribery to keep them awake. Today in the car, I promised each child a lollipop if they made it home without falling asleep. I’m not proud of it, but it worked. They were all awake when we arrived home.

I still miss nap times. In my mind they lasted a million times longer each day than they actually did. I kick myself for not enjoying the break in the middle of the day when I had it. But all good things must come to an end.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s 8:20 and the house is quiet. Time to rest.