Does Screaming the F-word in Wegmans Make Me a Bad Parent?

I blame my wife for what happened. She makes going out and getting things done with our children seem easy.

I blame my wife for what happened.
She makes going out and getting things done with our children – Emma, a 23-month-old-girl and Jake, a six-month-old-boy – seem easy. I needed her to know I could do everything she did with the kids – everything except for the breastfeeding and, you know, the birthing, that is.
That’s why I started taking both of my little gremlins out in public well before I was ready. If only something had gone terribly wrong during those early outings, then maybe, just maybe, I could’ve avoided the Wegmans incident that occurred on December 2, 2017.
But everything always went smoothly for me. So smoothly, in fact, that I started to believe carting around two children under two was no big deal – even for a dude who’s so absent-minded and disorganized he once sped off with the nozzle of the fuel pump still firmly embedded in his gas tank.
The comments didn’t help, either. I can’t tell you how many times people stopped me in the grocery store or Walgreen’s to comment on how impressive it was for me to handle both of my own children in a public setting by myself.
“Whoa, you certainly got your hands full today. I give you a lot of credit for what you’re doing right there,” random strangers would say to me, ignoring the countless moms around us who, to these strangers, warranted no credit for doing the exact same thing.
Between the lack of problems and the ego-inflating comments, I was downright cocky about my parenting skills when I set out to the local Wegmans on December 2, 2017, to pick up some wine for the evening.
I walked through the automatic doors into that beautiful utopia of overpriced food and booze with my daughter clinging to my left hand and my son in his car seat and safely stowed away inside the cart and thought, “Why does everybody think this is so hard?”
When I described the events of the day to a couple of friends ( both moms) they had the same reaction. “Your first mistake was getting a coffee. You can’t be strolling with two kids and enjoying a coffee. It doesn’t work like that.”
Indeed, it doesn’t. As I was waiting in line to pay and sipping on the coffee I’d purchased on a whim, Emma grabbed a bottle of wine from the display rack next to us. As I went to grab it from her, I spilled some coffee in front of me. Luckily, I had some napkins in my pocket, so I bent down to clean up my mess. While I was on my knees cleaning the spilled coffee, Emma screamed “Bye!!!!” and started booking it toward the end of the store in a full-out toddler sprint.
I thought briefly about leaving the cart (and my son) in line – the way you’d leave a chair next to a curb to claim a parking spot – while I went to get Emma, but decided against it and awkwardly backed out of the line with the cart to chase down my daughter.
Despite her head-start and the burden of the cart, I had no trouble catching up to Emma. After all, she’s not even two. A toddler’s run, much like the movements of Congress, is composed of wild, dramatic motions and gestures with little actual forward motion.
Convincing her to come back with me, however, was a bit trickier. Eventually, I just had to scoop up her inconsolable, flailing body in one hand and push the cart with the other. By this point, Jake had awoken and wasn’t happy there wasn’t a boob within striking distance. Together, in a cacophony of little people sorrow, Emma and Jake wailed from the soda aisle – where I’d caught up with Emma – past the take-out section and all the way through the line in the booze section, which had grown considerably since I’d been gone.
I managed to get the crying to stop simply by asking Emma if she wanted to pay. She started laughing when she handed the check-out woman my card, which caused Jake to start smiling and I thought the ordeal was over.
But on the way out, the bump of the cart on the automatic door strip was enough to jostle the wine I had placed in the spot normally used for seating children and a bottle of Cabernet slipped through a leg hole and shattered all over the little entranceway separating the freedom of the outside world from the cruel, hellish obstacle course inside Wegmans.
“F-U-C-K-K-K-K!” I screamed, really sticking the K, in a voice my daughter hadn’t heard before – at least not in such close proximity to me. Instantly, she started wailing again. A teenage worker who had been in the entranceway tried to defuse the situation. “Don’t worry about that sir, I’ll take care of it for you,” the kid said, rushing to kick the giant pieces of glass out of the way.
I mumbled thanks, and the kid must’ve noticed something alarming in my demeanor. “Umm, sir, are you, like, okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine but you know …” I shrugged and walked away without finishing the sentence.
“… but you know, this is a lot harder than I thought,” is how it would’ve ended.

I Miss My Husband

It seems silly for me to say I miss my husband because it is silly, because he’s right here next to me most of the time.

I miss my husband.
It seems silly for me to say that, because it is silly, because he’s right here next to me most of the time. In a development that has surprised at least 65 percent of the guests at our wedding all those years ago (including probably both of us), we are still very much married, with four kids, and all the chaos to show for it.
But I miss him still. It’s true, even as we move around each other through the kitchen and the bedrooms and the school concerts and the 500 grocery store trips we take per week, combined. I miss him the way you miss something you used to have and totally took for granted, like collagen or personal space or uninterrupted sleep.
We are good at what we do, tag-teaming our way through this working and parenting life like a well oiled machine on our good days, passing kids to each other like relay batons without even breaking our strides. It’s a thing of beauty, a master dance that took years to achieve and yet still is so tenuous that one string pulled could unravel it into a pile of children at our feet. Even so, I have the gall to miss him.
And I do.
I miss him.
I miss how, when we first started dating, he had this way of looking at me like I was something delicate and fragile that needed to be handled with care. It was the first time I had ever seen myself as anything other than hard edged and mostly broken.
I miss the way we could sit across a table in a dimly lit restaurant and talk for hours about everything and nothing at all, and it would feel like time had stopped and the universe had shrunk down to just us two and a candle and a bottle of cheap wine.
I miss being able to banter back and forth about how we wanted to spend the time that spread out before us, languid and easy and open – so arrogant, like it would always be that way, and we could make it into whatever we wanted.
And today?
Well, today, he looks at our children the way he used to look at me.
Today, we lie across a bed, a child or two tangled in between us, and it’s like the universe has expanded just enough to fit the whole six of us into it nice and snug.
Today, we don’t plan and plot and worry as much about the future, not because it’s not still laid out there – it is, I hope – but because what’s right in front of us right now is so miraculous that it’s hard to pull our gazes away for long enough to remember to dream.
So, yes, I miss my husband, the same way I miss my youth, or my pre-baby body, or who I was in high school. Fondly, sure. Nostalgically even. That guy I married all those years ago was incredible, no doubt.
But this one I have now is even better.
This post originally appeared on the author’s blog.

Boredom in Motherhood: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

A mother can be completely overwhelmed, anxious, busy doing all the right things for her family, and be bored.

It’s surprising, isn’t it, how there are times when boredom is good? It’s something we need to not just tolerate, but embrace. It can be the gateway to something amazing – like when your child tells you she’s bored and you sit with it, not trying to create something for her, and she comes up with a creative project, or an idea that she begins or even carries out to fruition. Or, you think a walk in the woods by yourself will be boring, you do it anyway, and you come alive with self-reflection, new ideas, and stillness.
The bad can be when you notice that your child is constantly bored. He complains that school is boring. She doesn’t seem engaged with friends. A constantly bored child can become depressed or turn to things that are both exciting and harmful.
One of the most fascinating things that I’ve discovered about motherhood is that a mother can be completely overwhelmed, anxious, busy doing all the right things for her family, and be bored. I find that to be a huge paradox, one that can lead to misunderstanding the why of her sometimes-hidden unhappiness.
A first step is recognizing boredom for what it is. When we’re out-of-our-mind busy, we’d never think “Oh, I’m so busy, I’m bored.” We’ll attribute our feelings of dissatisfaction to stress, “too busy,” and all the other emotions that we associate with too much to do and too much to handle.
Unpacking the “bored” feeling can be helpful. What’s the feeling about? Is it lack of intellectual stimulation? Or perhaps it’s a lack of certain kinds of connection – maybe sensual, maybe deeper friendships (the kind that needs more than a play date conversation). Where was I before becoming a mother, or before being pulled into the trauma years?
Boredom can become a huge negative for a parent, especially for the mother who’s taking care of the day-to-day of making sure a family is in working order. Here’s the bad recipe: You may be problem solving at every corner, dealing with intensities and sensitivities, helping your kids grow so they can one day be on their own. You’re not getting enough down-time alone, not making connections outside of your family, or both. Mix that with some overwhelm and tediousness (dishes, homework, laundry, bill paying – what’s tedious for some can be relaxing and enjoyable for others), then add some fatigue with a touch of lack-of-sleep. Now stir in a little self-talk and a pinch of self-judgement into the mix, such as, “I’m a failure as a mother and whatever else I hoped to be, while everyone else seems to be going off to Hawaii (or has a successful career, or has a great relationship with her significant other, or seems happier than me, or whatever).” You have a perfect mom’s recipe for The Ugly.
Many of us escape. And let’s face it, some escapes from constantly being there for the troops are healthy and necessary. Your escape might be shopping, if you have the money; a drink from time to time; a little gossip, cooking or food; time alone, time with friends – we all have something that is and, must be, our little escape. But, sometimes we might become a little dependent on a painkiller, or maybe indulge in too much wine at the end of the day, or the gossip or needing to fix everyone else’s problems becomes obsessive. Is your escape filling another need? Only we can know when something isn’t serving us anymore.
Just as we need to find healthy ways to help our kids out of boredom, we must also find our own way out. There are a variety of ways: supporting ourselves through friendships, jobs, projects, maybe even medication until we get on our feet, body-centered practices like yoga or running, finding a vocation or hobby that feeds our soul. Remember the kids who can go from boredom to depression or activities that are exciting and harmful? Well, us moms, may need to take stock to make sure that our escapes come in the form of life-affirming self-care.
Letting ourselves feel vulnerable enough to admit this to ourselves is our power. Only we can know what our special way out of the Ugly is, and only we can know when the time is right.
This article was originally published at HelpMyChildrenThrive.com.

What Debra Winger Taught Me About Motherhood

“Terms of Endearment” stayed with me as I grew up. It was one of the few movies I ever saw that portrayed the mother daughter bond as I knew it.

When I was a kid, my two favorite movies were “Terms of Endearment” and “Chariots of Fire.” I sympathized with the Jewish Harold Abrams as he ran fast in a society that shunned him for his religious background and his rather open ambition. But in my heart I knew I would never be an athlete, live in England, or hear the roar of an audience at my back at an Olympics.
There was one thing I was pretty certain that I wanted from life and that was motherhood. Maybe it was the incredible score or the way Winger and MacClaine fought but “Terms of Endearment” stayed with me as I grew up. It was one of the few movies I ever saw that portrayed the mother daughter bond as I knew it: painful, often loud, mostly at odds and yet with a deep longing for acceptance and love that ached in every single scene. It was a movie for girls and a movie for women.
While I am not from Texas and my mom was not a corseted blonde, the relationship I saw on screen was the one that would haunt me for many years as I thought slowly and carefully about becoming a mom. I wanted to be a parent but I was also afraid of motherhood. I was afraid that I would have a daughter and our relationship would be like that on the screen, a battleground in the middle of occasional moments of sheer joy. I was scared of losing myself in the process of becoming a parent.
It was one line in particular that I came kept coming to again and again. Debra Winger’s character, a mother who is being mothered, in “Terms of Endearment” says this of parenthood:
“As hard as you think it is, you wind up wishing it were that easy.”
As I would learn as I began my own journey into momhood, she’s right of course. We all go into parenting knowing deep inside of our skin that it will be hard. Oh it all starts with a sense of giddiness as the stick turns the right color and most of us think about who we’re going to tell, when we’re going to tell, and how we’ll decorate the nursery. In the first week or two, we all hold our breath and wait to see if sticks. I did not think it real until after I spent nearly a day’s pay on pregnancy tests.
And then about a month later, the hard part began in earnest. Morning sickness hit me like a solid wave at the shove for several weeks, dragging me under and nearly draining my strength. Then came varicose veins, back aches, ankles that looked like loose balloons on a string, and the e-cup. Like so many women, I was lucky. The pregnancy ended with the hardest work in the world: the work of giving birth. A part of me though that the hard work of all this parenting thing was over.
In the months of sleeplessness that settled over me like a lace veil, I would learn the real truth of the matter: that the hard work was going to last a while. Over the years, I would battle all the little wars of parenthood, from potty training to sibling rivalry to managing work, motherhood, and a semi-clean house on five hours of sleep and three cups of coffee. I would think of that quote again and again, realizing the truth of it that I had known even then at 12. And yet, as true as the quote is, the real truth of motherhood lies somewhere beyond it.
It is hard, this experience we dub parenthood. But it’s also easy too. It’s easy in ways that do not become apparent until you’re deeply in the middle of it as the movie ultimately demonstrates. You take a little tiny thing and you slowly mold it. You bring it along the long path is adulthood day by day, month by month, year by year and then watch as you have an actual person from a bassinet and something that once fit in the crook of your arm. It is maybe the world’s most difficult accomplishment but it is also possibly the most rewarding. You give up parts of yourself in the process because you have no other choice. You cannot go back. There’s a small dot in my back where they inserted the epi needle that aches when I turn a certain way. My feet are bigger and so are my ankles. My heart grew, too, so there’s that.
My eldest child is 15. I remember thinking as I looked at her in the tiny crib next to me wrapped up in a blanket like a loaf of freshly baked bread that I cannot possibly do this at all let alone do it well. Yet, somehow here we are together a decade and a half later, our journey almost completed as she chases the enticing trail of womanhood in front of her and it was almost just that easy.
She sits next to me quietly letting me hold her hand and stroke her hair and look at her solemn and merry face. I whisper I love you again and again, 15 times and realize with each breath that the hard journey – the difficult and winding path – was the best one I ever took.

Ten Things You Can Do Right Now to Make Next Holiday Season That Much Easier

The holidays can be totally exhausting and overwhelming. Take advantage of the tailwind and make next year a little easier.

It’s January. Someone, somewhere, just hung up a “348 Days Til Christmas Sign,” but you’re over it. Sure, the holidays can be wonderful; they can also be overwhelming. So what if you start planning now to avoid feeling like this a year from now? Here are some ideas to make next winter as easy as figgy pudding:

1 | Float the idea of changing the way you gift

If you’re feeling tapped out, emotionally and/or financially, jump on that feeling to start a conversation with your friends, family, and coworkers about how things can change next year.

On my husband’s side of the family, we draw names in November and are each responsible for one gift for one person. It’s so much cheaper and easier than the alternative. But if even a gift exchange is enough to give you hives, what about deciding on a charity together and donating?

Do a cookie exchange or, better yet, a soup/casserole/quiche exchange to relieve yourselves of cooking on some of those busy December evenings. You don’t have to decide now, but getting the ball rolling may get others thinking too.

2 | Talk to your kids about giving as well as getting

Our daughter has a November birthday, so the last three months of the year seem to be a festival of gifts and treats. Make January your month to divest. Give away the things your little ones have outgrown to smaller kids and those in need. You’ll have less stuff when the holidays roll around next year, and you’ll have started a tradition that’s good for the heart. Here are ten excellent ideas of who might benefit from your donations.

3 | Research some low-key traditions and pencil them in

In Holland, the feast of St. Nicholas (known to the Dutch as Sinterklaas) is celebrated on December 5 and 6 with people writing each other funny poems. I loved this holiday when I lived in Amsterdam and brought it back with me: I’ve invited the same group of friends over for almost the last decade and you can hear us laughing at our dumb poetry for miles.
It’s honestly my favorite December event, and it’s incredibly simple. More info on Sint here, including a nod to the controversial (read: racist) presence of Zwarte Pieten during the festivities.

4 | Make it your New Year’s resolution to learn a craft that you can turn into gifts next year

According to this informative article in the Atlantic, beginning in the late 1700s in New York, people made gifts for one another during the winter season. It was only in the early to mid-1800s that the dawn of the children’s toy, book, and magazine industries made it easy for parents to buy, not make, their Christmas gifts. How much fun would it be to go back to that tradition?

Knitting, woodwork, perfecting a chimmichurri recipe or your Nana’s famous caramels — if you spend the next 11 months working on a skill, you’ll be ready to go by December. So as not to overwhelm yourself, you might focus on one big project (a wooden dollhouse for your little one) or something manageable for a particular group of your usual gift recipients (habanero salsa for all your coworkers).

5 | Load up your holiday bin before you pack it up

This may seem obvious, but packing new candles with the menorah or kinara or Advent wreath (hey, look at that — we all use candles!) means you don’t have to worry about it next year. You have to put the box in the basement, garage, or dusty-corner-behind-the-bed anyway, it may as well be ready to go when you pull it back out next year.

There’s nothing worse than waiting until the last minute to decorate and then realizing your dog ate the garland last year. (Okay, so there are probably worse things, but it’s up there.)

6 | While you’re at it, tuck away “The Polar Express” with your ornaments

Putting those seasonal books and toys out of reach until next year will make them more special and give an added boost to the magic of the season. Of course, this isn’t hard and fast. There’s no reason your seven-year-old can’t play with a dreidel in July if he really wants to, but keeping it out of sight until it’s asked for is a good way to keep him from getting bored by it come February.

7 | Make your schedule and back it up as much as you need

Did your cards go out late this year? That box to your nephews a little thrown together? Plan ahead so you won’t run out of time again. If you’re responsible for the company holiday party, pick the date now and let the higher-ups know. If you think you might want a moms’ night out before people leave town, pencil it in.

You don’t have to tell everyone what’s going to be happening a year from now, but if you have it in your own calendar you can let them know in, say, late October and be sure they’ll get it in the books themselves. I’m a luddite and still like my paper day planner, but here’s a great resource for choosing a digital calendar if you’re slightly more hip than I am.

8 | Estimate your children’s sizes in a year, then hit the outlets

I bought my daughter a gorgeous Fair Isle sweater a couple of years ago for about eight bucks. It was two sizes too big, but by the time we gave it to her the next year it fit fine with the sleeves rolled up. This year, it’s perfect.

I live in a warm climate so our winter gear has a very short shelf life, but wherever you live, tartan-plaid and dreidel sweaters never get a long run. If you buy them now, you’ll probably save 75 percent, which means feeling slightly less bad when they’re underutilized.

9 | Speaking of sales, buy an artificial tree

If they haven’t run out, your local big box or hardware store will be having a big time sale on these bad boys. Sure, the pine smell is lovely, and picking out a tree with your family can be magical. You know what else is magical? Having one less thing to do next December, and not spending three weeks in January sweeping pine needles out of every crevice of your house.

10 | Start your shopping list now

Maybe it feels a little soon to tell Santa what you want in 11 months. Here’s the thing: by the time the holidays roll around, I usually can’t think of anything that I want, so I tell my husband not to get me anything. He doesn’t listen, he gets me things, and then in January I realize I’ve kind of been coveting my friend’s perfume and could really use some six-pound weights.

Much better to start keeping track of your wish list early. Bonus: you’ve got a birthday coming up at some point too. Sure, the holidays may have their downsides, but getting the perfect gift from someone you love? That’s always in season.

Carpe Diem, YOLO, and Balance

Here’s the deal that I’ve tried to strike with life: be both. Let the 80/20 rule follow you around and nestle into your everyday.

I grew up on “Dead Poets Society” and “The Breakfast Club.” Robin Williams was my teacher idol and Judd Nelson my idol crush. Give me poetry and Saturday school and see what happens. I majored in English and read “Leaves of Grass.” Of course I did. I am the bulls eye in the targeted audience for carpe diem in all its glory. I want magic and opportunity. I want the extraordinary life.
Except now I have three kids not yet in school and I work from home. I have hair that needs washing and meals that need making and bills for the fence that got knocked over in the storm. I am in the suburban sprawl, both in mind and manner most of the time. I’ve got an HOA, man. It takes a little more work than it once did to summon up my inner Whitman.
My kids though, they are YOLO extraordinaires. They don’t need reminders to seize the day. Their lives are a series of moment-by-moment snapshots, an old timey moving picture reel of footage that they have no desire to rewind or slow down because everything is a race to the finish. Dinnertime is years away and tomorrow is something for adults.
This is the duality we will always face: the necessity to plan ahead and lock everything in to the Google calendar and the pull to cut and run, move to Italy, create the feature film of our lives.
When patients with terminal illnesses were polled on their biggest regrets, answers centered around what it means to live a “true life,” things like “I wish I had the courage to express my feelings” and “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” There are so many regrets we do not want to have. We want to instill our lives with whimsy, but also substance. We want to give our children a future through all our hard work, but we don’t want that work to make us miss our children.
So, if we struggle to walk the line, how do we teach our kids to find the balance? Have fun, be fulfilled, and succeed at their goals?
I think they have to see us try. I think they need to see their parents strive for big things, and not just financially. They need to see us set goals for mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. And they also need to see us hit the pause button for something truly epic – the momentous opportunities worthy of playback in years to come. I am glad my parents worked hard so the college loan didn’t swallow me whole. I am also glad they let me skip school to go kayaking with my brother and made Baskin Robbins for dinner a summer ritual.
The stoic lives to walk calmly through the present for the hope of a shining tomorrow. Keep calm and carry on. The epicurean lives for today because for all we know, it’s all we’ve got.
Here’s the deal that I’ve tried to strike with life: be both. Let the 80/20 rule follow you around and nestle into your everyday. Use that fancy new planner in 2018 most of the time, and then cut and run when necessary to keep the FOMO at bay. Keep bedtime on schedule on those cold winter school nights and then take the random weekend trip to the nearest roadside attraction. Find that biggest ball of yarn or best hot chicken or Lego Expo or lake view hike. Do the things that make you wish you could live out of a VW van for a few weeks a year. It’s not all-or-nothing here. That’s the point. You can plan for the future and also live in the present. Be a stoic and an epicurean. Your kids with thank you.

Actually, I Don't Want to Breastfeed in Public

There are many people standing up for a woman’s right to breastfeed in public these days. That’s wonderful, but it’s left me a bit confused as a new mom.

If you have the confidence to lift your shirt (or pull it down) and expose your breast in the middle of a waiting room, a swimming pool, a playground, a Christmas party, or at your husband’s place of work, then I truly admire you.

I’ve tried it. Instead of feeling empowered and proud of my body’s ability to provide the perfect nutrition for my baby girls, what I felt most was, “Oh my gosh, I really don’t want to do this in public ever again.” Of course, I did. A few times, merely due to necessity, but I didn’t like it one bit.

I don’t like the feeling that everyone around you is trying not to look at you while they’re also blatantly trying to actually look at you. Not because they’re perverts but because your breast is exposed. Who wouldn’t want to look at that?

Breasts are gorgeous! I’ve had two of my own for most of my life and I still can’t help but look at  women’s breasts when they pop into my view via real life, magazine, internet, or television.

Breasts are perfect creations – perhaps more perfect than a tropical sunset or a supremely ripe strawberry. They’re multi-purpose, too. They lure our partners to us in an irresistibly seductive way and then, nine months later, they actually feed our children!

I must say, breasts are gorgeous, and mine are too, let me tell you. As much as I appreciate positive attention, I don’t want everyone on the airplane to see my breasts. I don’t even want my in-laws or my cousins or my very own sisters or my mother to see my breasts.

I’m a grown woman. I’ve put a great deal of effort into making sure these gorgeous puppies are only revealed to those most worthy (specifically, my husband, my hungry newborn children, and, as infrequently as possible, my doctor).

There are many people – women and men – standing up for a woman’s right to breastfeed in public these days. That’s a wonderful thing, but it’s left me feeling a bit confused as a new mom.

If I’m not comfortable with exposing my breasts in public to feed my child, what does that say about me? Does it mean I’m insecure? Does it mean I’m not a good mother? Not dedicated enough? Not “natural” enough? Does it mean I care more about my appearance than my child’s well-being?

Instead of baring the breast in public, I would gladly bring a bottle of formula (gasp!) to feed my child while we’re at the doctor’s office. Does this make me less of a mother?

Why would I feel ashamed for wanting to keep a part of my body private that I’ve been taught to keep private for the 28 years I’ve been alive prior to becoming a mother? For my entire life, my breasts have been something society has taught me to cover, and now, suddenly, I’m supposed to be completely okay with popping one out in the lobby of my husband’s office?

If I was at the grocery store without any nursing children of my own to feed, and I lifted up my shirt and unclipped one side of my bra, I would be on the local news and probably asked to leave the store for “indecent exposure.”

If I was in a toy store and I walked around the store with one breast exposed and my hand just barely covering the nipple (the part of my breast covered by a nursing baby’s head), it wouldn’t be surprising for the store to call the police and assess my mental health. However, once you become a mother, you’re supposed to be okay with this.

Again, I repeat: if you’re okay with exposing your own beautiful breast in public to feed your child, I think you’re one very awesome gal. When it comes to my own body and my own breasts, it’s just not for me, and that’s okay. Wanting to keep the most private parts of your body private – even as a breastfeeding mother – shouldn’t be a surprising thing. Hey, maybe it’s not, but I don’t see anybody else talking about it.

I want other new moms to know that it’s really okay if breastfeeding in public is something you’re not going to take part in. It’s okay to bring a bottle of pumped milk or even formula to the playground instead. Even if you’re in your own home and there are relatives visiting, it’s okay if you’ll only nurse in the confines of your bedroom.

I don’t want to breastfeed in public, and I don’t have to. That’s okay.

Keeping Faith in the Religion of Running

Seven years ago, I never walked. When I went for a run, I ran. I ran when I felt great and when I didn’t. But now I’m tired.

The sun casts long rays on crimson-tipped leaves. The September sky invites me out, but I’m tired.

I’m tired of nights spent ping-ponging between beds too small, in rooms deemed too dark or alternately too light. I’m tired of my heavy sneakers. I’m tired of rushing from home to work, to the bus stop, to the store, to the dinner table, to the bath. I’m tired of trying to start running again after too many years spent idle and too many false starts. Still, I tie my laces and start to run.

I start slow and decide to take the short route. It’s been a while. I wonder if my legs will remember the easy tempo that used to come naturally, if my lungs will remember how to adjust, if my mind will remember to unfold.

The first half mile is uncomfortable and unfamiliar. I want to stop. I’m already tired.

I’m tired of the relentless march of age and time and hormones. I’m tired of biting my nails, feeling soft, and caring what people think. I’m tired of judging, being judged, and making excuses. I’m tired of my mind running faster than my body. I’m tired of feeling like there’s not enough time.

I open my stride. My muscles tighten, my breath quickens, and my feet find the beat of the pavement. The streets are narrow and winding so I forego music. Instead, I set small goals: make it to the red mailbox; keep going until the black fence; stay strong until the middle of the hill. I give myself permission to walk.

Seven years ago, I never walked. When I went for a run, I ran. The road stretched long and lean ahead of me and my body responded in kind. I ran in rain and snow. I ran in the mornings or at night. I ran alone or with friends. I ran when I felt great and when I didn’t.

But now I’m tired.

I’m tired of my kids asking for another snack while I’m making dinner. I’m tired of needing to plan an extra 30 minutes to get out the door, of stepping on Legos, of the Paw Patrol. I’m tired of trying to follow the latest research on car seats, screen time, homework, and hugs. I’m tired of the mundane worry that’s settled into the space deep within — the space that first exploded open when I met my baby boy and then, impossibly, again when his brother joined our family.

I walk up the steep hill and, when I near the top, I start running again. The shift between walking and running is subtle, like a change of cadence. I concentrate on lifting my feet higher and moving them forward faster. Looking down makes me feel dizzy so I let the thoughts go with each exhale. I try to think about the satisfaction I’ll feel when I’m finished, but in this moment, I can’t help thinking, I am tired.

I’m tired of walking into my classroom and being greeted by bored teenagers waiting to be entertained. I’m tired of applying new technology like a band-aid, knowing it could never cure what’s ailing the American public education system. I’m tired of trying to fight the inertia of the pendulum swing I know is inevitable, test scores to creativity, standardization to individualized learning, content to skills. I’m tired of grades meaning everything and integrity meaning nothing.

I check my watch and immediately regret it. 10 minutes feels impossibly long and impossibly short. I crowd out thoughts of turning around with ones of blinding positivity. I try chanting: every step forward is another step closer, just keep running, you can do it. This starts to feel silly (and useless) so I think about my to-do list. My muscles awaken like my kids from a nap cut short: groggy, cranky, annoyed. I abandon my to-do list and start to craft this essay because I still can’t stop thinking about how tired I am.

I’m tired of watching the world burn and quake. I’m tired of waters rising, ice melting, and deniers denying. I’m tired of too much talking, too little listening, and misguided rage. I’m tired of seeing fear disguised as power, money guiding morals, and leaders not leading. I’m tired of sound bites and platitudes and bullshit. I’m tired of fake news and real news and celebrity news. I’m tired of guns and bombs and disease. I’m tired of seeing the world default to competition over cooperation. I’m tired of feeling helpless.

My feet are heavy against the pavement and I worry my body is too old for this kind of abuse.  Cars race by me with mechanical ease while my own gears grind. I know I’ll be sore tomorrow and I wonder if I’ve pushed too hard too soon. But I don’t stop.

I tuck my worries and exhaustion into the tiny pocket of my shorts and listen closely to the trees whisper into the expanse of blue above.

I keep running until I reach home. I don’t look at my watch, I don’t check my distance. My heart reminds me of its function. My face is fiery. My skin is wet. My feet hum. My tiny pocket is empty.

Later, I will watch my son’s chest rise and fall and wonder which thoughts run through his resting mind and which stay to lay with him. I will review my lesson plans for tomorrow, knowing that some kids will remember what I say, others will focus on how I say it, and others won’t hear a word. I will turn off my phone, the news, the world outside, and turn toward my husband, thankful for these things I can control.

When I finally lay down and close my eyes, I think about the days piling up like layers in an endless canyon of exhaustion. My legs are achy and sore, but I will run again, and again. I run to grow stronger against the weight of the days and to remember the whispers of the grass and trees and sky. They echo in the valleys of my body.

I’ll keep running towards the canyon. Running is a kind of religion. I have faith that when I reach the edge, I will fly.

This post was originally published on Dibouti Jones.

These Planners Will Help You Get It Together in 2018

With work, kids, and all of the other minutiae of daily life, how can you keep on top of your schedule? With one of these rad planners, that’s how.

With work, kids, and all of the other minutiae of daily life, how can you keep on top of your schedule? Although smartphones and google calendars are great for keeping track of appointments, there is something about writing by hand that helps with memory. Plus, there is the pleasure of striking through those items on your to-do list as you complete them!

Paper planners come in varied forms to suit different personalities. Some people enjoy lots of blank space for daily notes and tasks while others prefer a compact spread offering a bird’s eye view of an entire week. Some planners include worksheets for goal setting and challenges while others feature inspirational quotes and pretty artwork. We’ve rounded up seven great planners, each with its own unique features.

 

Panda Planner

Size: 5x 8.2 inches

Cost: $26.97

This 90-day, hardcover planner is undated, which saves pages if you miss a few days here and there, plus you can start any time of the year. The daily, weekly, and monthly layouts help prioritize your tasks while space for morning and end-of-day reviews help you boost your productivity.


Simple Elephant

Size: 8.3x 5.9 inches

Cost: $19.99

This hardcover, full-year planner offers a mind-map and vision board in the front to help you identify what you would like to accomplish in the upcoming 12 months. The Simple Elephant includes an accordion folder, pen holder, elastic strap closure, bookmarks, stickers, and 58 college-ruled pages in the back for notes. It’s undated so you can begin any time. The makers of this journal are so confident that you can return it at anytime! Happiness guaranteed!


Ban.do 17 month Classic Planner

Size: 5.125 x 8.125 inches

Cost: $20

This planner claims to be a cheerleader, art gallery, and personal assistant all in one. It features a back pocket to hold all of the super cute stickers you get, plus Ban.do features, color-coded month tabs, a bookmark, an elastic closure, and fun art throughout the planner. Be sure to check out all the coordinating accessories!


Erin Condren Lifeplanner

Size:7×9 inches

Cost: starts at $55

Can’t find a planner you like? With the Erin Condren Lifeplanner you can build your own. Choose your cover design; vertical, horizontal or hourly layouts; 12 or 18 months; even choose the color of the coils. It includes laminated monthly tabs, four pages of stickers, coloring pages, a pocket, inspirational quotes, and extra thick paper so that ink won’t bleed through. You can even personalize the words on your cover!


Ink and Volt 2018 Planner Signature Series

Size: 6×8.5 inches

Cost: $40.00

This goal-oriented planner helps you to set weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. Weekly journaling prompts, achievement trackers, and 30-day challenge pages keep you on track. This planner is eco-friendly too, with a cover made of vegan materials, soy-based ink, and ink-proof, bright white, rainforest-friendly paper.


Bullet Journal

The bullet journal, or BuJo, is a do-it-yourself planner method pioneered by a digital product designer named Ryder Caroll. This is a very simple method of planning that Caroll calls rapid logging. It consists of topics, page numbers, short sentences, and bullets. The idea is to have a planner that is easy to use and tailored to your way of thinking. A BuJo can be as simple or elaborate as you wish. All you need to get started is a notebook and pen.


XO Planner

Size: 6.5×8 inches (7.5x 8 inches with binding)

Cost: $50

If you like the idea of the bullet journal method but don’t want to create your own from scratch, try this XO Planner. It is laid out like a bullet journal with a daily habit tracker, and space for writing a gratitude list and personal mission statement. It even has a sticker club you can join to get new planner stickers monthly!

Whichever planner you choose, you are on your way to a more organized and productive year!

We’ve selected these items because we want these great products to be on your radar! Parent Co. is an Amazon Affiliate Partner and we will earn a small share of revenue if you decide to purchase a product using one of these links. By supporting us through this program you are helping to keep the lights on and the banner ads off.

The Making of a PTA Monster

Who were these selfless souls who found time to fulfill PTA duties again and again, year after year? I was about to find out.

“Every woman in her lifetime should be a lover, a wife, a mother, and a class mom,” a friend once remarked. Right or wrong as that friend was, I’d decided that three out of four was good enough, and tossed into the trash the PTA sign up form I’d been filing there since my daughter had entered kindergarten.
By the end of third grade, I was caught red-handed.
“Are you ever going to be Class Mom?”
“Why, you want me to be?”
My daughter crossed her arms and gave me one of my own looks.
“Fine, but I’m sure a lot of people sign up, so if they don’t pick me, I can’t help that.”
“It will work out,” she said, and skipped off, leaving me to chuckle at her borrowing of my phrases, too. Also, to stew in my own shame. She was a great kid, and she deserved my time, even if I had forfeited every second of it since her birth, and by default, come to question my own self-worth outside the home.
Stay-at-homers understand. Call yourself an artist all you want. Hell, start an Etsy shop. Ineptitude will still find a way to creep in. Banal times over the years when, say, the lentil loaf emerges from the oven not the “moist, protein-packed dinner” the recipe promised so much as a brick of inedible blandness. Times when the best shirts shrink in the dryer – or the Amex bill arrives, proving once again that no amount of shopping will fill the void in your soul. Times when it’s tough not to identify, microscopically and parasitically speaking, to one-celled Protozoa.
With middle school looming, then high school, then – good lord  – college, I’d begun to secretly worry if I didn’t get out there sooner than later, I’d wake up one day with a skillset as useful as a VCR.
Which is why I’d steered clear of the PTA.
Obligatorily, I’d gone to one meeting over the years, and after a 20-minute “talk” by the Fairy Lice Godmothers, and “a word about Box Top Sales,” I’d understood enough to know that convening in that cafeteria was the exact opposite activity one should pursue while trying to close the gap between stay-at-home and working-Mom.
It hadn’t helped the organization’s cause that I’d sat next to my Australian friend, recently transplanted to our middle class, New York, suburban school district, who couldn’t stop elbowing me. When we broke to refresh our coffee, she explained: growing up in the Outback, she’d watched American movies and always thought PTA’s were a Hollywood invention. “I can’t believe this really exists,” she said giddily. Then she left early to make the train for her high powered job in the city.
Needless to say, my application was accepted that fall.
My rising fourth grader snatched the notice from my hand and danced around the room as if we’d just received word of a free pony. “Now you get to come on every field trip with us!”
I danced with her, feeling that wonderful sense of purpose that had kept me going all these years, as I dedicated myself to raising a happy soul. Also I wondered, was it really every field trip?
That September, I attended the meeting for Class Moms, or Lead Room Parents as was the politically correct term, though notably not one man was in attendance. As my friends and acquaintances reintroduced themselves as Co-Presidents, Co-Vice Presidents, Secretaries and Treasurers, I stifled my giggles over the ceremoniousness of it all, but also found myself impressed. The lot of them were organized, poised and eloquent as they each said a few words –  thanking us for joining, talking about the great year ahead, and reminding us to hand in our fundraising cash facing up and in proper denominations.
“We are not your bank tellers,” I believe was the way one member put it. “Now if you’ll turn to your folders,” another added. I opened mine. An array of letters and announcements burst forth – so many that their colors extended into obscure tones of honey-mustard and periwinkle. It was here, as I perused my “duties” for the upcoming year, that giggles gave way to anxiety.
Seems there was a bit more to it than fun field trips. For starters, I was to “co-chair” two events “at minimum.” One of my two elections—upcoming in two weeks – was “The Back to School Night Bake Sale,” which I was not only to organize and run, but fill out reports for, as a way to pass the baton for the next year’s volunteers.
I was also to collect money for the Parent Directory that this organization published every year, organize and man class parties, spearhead, collect for and purchase teacher gifts, solicit donations from local businesses to create an annual raffle basket for the spring fundraiser, and arrange chaperones for various events.
I scanned the room and saw trepidation spread over fellow newbies’ faces, as they too, felt the hourglass sands of 10 and two slipping from their grasp. The expressions of the more seasoned members I couldn’t read as well.
Satisfaction? A sense of duty?
I knew most of these women from the supermarket and school parking lot – mostly stay-at-home mothers, many former career holders – but did I really know them?
I mean, who were these selfless souls who not only found time to do this, but did it again and again, year after year? Women who went above and beyond making their own kids happy, as they dedicated their time to others’ kids?
Even in my virgin naiveté, I knew that was the whole point of the PTA, right? One child all children, or something to that end. Eventually I’d realize that ours was not actually a PTA but a PTO – the first being a national association, the second a local organization – so arguably, these women weren’t contributing to the cause at large. Still, within our small district, there were kids who needed extra – field trip money, tuition for extracurricular activities, access to Chrome Books and resources – and these noble women, most of whom had kids who didn’t need the extra, were seeing to that, which in my mind, was as pure a form of altruism, if ever there was one.
The least I could do was run a little bake sale – even if I’d no idea where to begin. I scanned the report from last year’s event, looking for the words of wisdom former chairpeople had left behind. Scribbled under the heading “How to ensure the success of the event” was one, lone piece of advice:
“Advertise in the School District’s Email.”
“Psst.” I whispered to my “co-chair” and friend, Jen. “What else?”
Jen waved her hand, unperturbed by the lack of instruction. She was an ex marketing guru, turned stay-at-home mom of two kids. Also, she’d volunteered at last year’s bake sale, and assured me there seemed little to it. In addition to emails, we would send home flyers. Then the day of, people would show up and donate baked goods. All we had to do was ring them up and collect the money. Easy Peasy.
Perhaps I should have remembered my own garbage filing system when it came to receiving flyers, but honestly I was too swamped to think about it: meeting with my daughter’s teacher to strategize about parties and trips, emailing chaperones, sifting through my daughter’s backpack for crinkled envelopes and ten dollar bills for this and that event. What choice did I have but to start a spreadsheet, and a real filing drawer with correspondence and notices?
The phrase “at minimum” also came into play. Once you are in the system, so to speak, you are called upon to volunteer for other events. Could I bring water to Sports Night? Man the Book Sale? My daughter joined the school play, and somehow I became the regular Wednesday afternoon parent chaperone.
Before I knew it, the day of the Bake Sale arrived, and I entered the lobby to find our plastic, leaf-themed tablecloths virtually empty. Jen seemed mildly concerned, but hopeful that by 5:00 p.m. we’d receive more.
By 5:00 p.m., I was frantically dumping supermarket cupcakes and brownies into a cart. Our daughters rushed to unwrap the goods and took post behind the cash boxes, for the real excitement: cashiering.
We raised $300. Minus the $70 I spent on goods, minus the drawer, we netted $200. Was that good? Bad? I had no idea. It sure didn’t seem like a killing, but I supposed $200 more than the PTO had in their account before. And everyone had fun: Jen and I had chit-chatted with friends, our girls lived out their dream come true of making change and bagging goods, and we’d sold out. All was well.
Until I started getting the texts from veteran PTOs.
“Better than nothing.”
“At least you tried.”
I met Jen for coffee to fill out our report, and we both agreed we wouldn’t let a few rotten apple comments – or people – spoil the fun we’d had, and the greater good of the cause, when no sooner did this lovely zinger appear on my phone: “Lol, clearly, fundraising is not your calling.”
Excuse me?
“Let it roll off,” Jen suggested.
Easy for her to say when, with the help of good therapist, she’d “made her peace” with not working.
Her phone pinged – the text we’d been waiting for from the “president” to give us last year’s numbers as a comparison. “They grossed $572,” she said.
“Wow.” I sat back. “I guess we really were pathetic.”
We looked at the blank report awaiting our suggestions. We had none. The only thing we could do was try harder next time.
“You’re going to be class mom again?” My daughter watched me sign the dotted line, her eyes widening. “I thought … you didn’t like it?
Like had become irrelevant. Like was something for the first timers. “Why, you don’t want me to?” I tousled her hair.
She pulled back to observe me. “No … I do …”
The second meeting, I once again spotted the newbies’ worry – this time from a perch of experience. It was then that the look on the veterans’ faces, I’d such a hard time registering last year, became clearer. It wasn’t satisfaction, or a sense of duty.
It was competition – not unlike what went on in the work office, I supposed; only here, in the alternate universe of the PTO, it was more a work simulator, where we got to test our wings and make mistakes before taking flight into the real world.
“You ready to do this?” I asked Jen.
“Hell, freaking yeah.”
We printed the flyers and sent home the emails. But that was child’s play. We need something cleverer … Something out of the box … Something that had worked on me …
Some good old fashioned guilt.
We needed to text and call every single person we were quasi connected to in the district, individually. It’s easy to delete a mass email, or toss flyers in the trash, but to ignore a text, or, worse, a human voice on the other end of the phone? You gotta feel like a jerk not to at least bring in a box of Twinkies.
By 4:00 p.m., on the scheduled day, our tables overflowed with goods. We spent two hours with our daughters designing cute tags, arranging doilies, and setting up baskets and platters to merchandise multi-tiered displays of cupcakes, pound cakes, white chocolate lollipops, crumb cakes, brownies, cookies, ganache, mini pies, gluten-free granola bars, peanut-free blondies. We artfully arranged scores of bottled water and other snacks – what was the obsession with baked goods anyway? It made me recall the moment in “Good Will Hunting” when Skylar asks Will out for coffee and he tells her they might as well go for caramels, it’s just as random.
“You’re making us hungry,” the teachers said approving on their way out. “It looks beautiful.”
Beautiful and ready to be a money machine.
The doors opened and the clock ticked into position. We had three 25-minute shots to capture sales: when the third, fourth, and fifth grade parents passed through the lobby to and from back-to-school-night classrooms. But we really only had five minute segments each way of parents coming and going, as the rest of the time they would be in teachers’ presentations.
A few third grade parents trickled into the lobby. We made a sale or two, and then, like that, the halls emptied. Where was everyone else?
“Maybe they’ll come after they meet with the teachers?” Jen hoped.
After the teachers, three more people entered the lobby. The rest of the parents were nowhere to be seen. Worse, the fourth grade parents started to enter – and I could count the number of them on one hand.
“Start advertising,” I called to our girls as I headed down the hall to see if we missing something.
“Advertising?” My daughter looked confused.
I wheeled around, arms flailing. “Bake sale, bake sale! Help the PTO support your children!”
“C’mon, I think she’s losing it,” my daughter whispered to her friend. A hand landed on my shoulder.
“You’re in the wrong spot,” a fifth grade mother said. “The back door is open. People are going in and out through there …”
“But … it’s supposed to be in the lobby,” I stammered. “It’s always in the lobby. ‘Since the dawn of time,’ someone said at the meeting. ‘The Bake Sale Is Held In The Lobby.”
She rubbed my arm, as if consoling me for the loss of a pet. “I know.” She said. “It usually is. It’s not your fault. Maybe–”
I broke away, moving in slow motion toward the lobby, a dream in which I couldn’t run fast enough. “Theyyy’rree …” my voice warped. “… commming …” I grabbed Jen’s arm, pulled her from discounting chocolate fudge cookies. “… through the baaack.”
“Whhhaaaat?” Her mouth held open in slow motion. Therapy had been particularly rough the other day, she’d confided. She needed this as much as me today.
“Wee. Have. To. Locckkk the doorrrrrr.” We slow-dove past piles of baked goods, spotted the principal chatting with a parent “Principallll… The back doorrrr. No one knowsss we’re heeeerrre …” Her mouth moved, but I could not believe what she was saying: No, I’m sorry, we can’t do that … security issue.
Adrenaline broke the slow motion spell. “Make signs!” I sprinted back to our girls. ”Oh, forget it!” I snagged a sharpie and drew a semblance of a cupcake onto a blank piece of paper, thrust the sign to my kid, a platter of cookies to her friend. “Get down there!”
“But we want to–”
“Don’t you see!” I clapped my hands down on my daughter’s shoulders. “There will be NO CASHIERING if you don’t get people here to BUY BAKED GOODS!”
“GO, GO, GO!” Jen called, then turned to me, holding up her watch. “You’re not going to believe it but we have to go up to our class now.”
Our fifth grade teachers put on a great presentation, and if I’d been paying attention, I would have taken something away from their power point slideshow, as they talked about preparing the kids for middle school. Yada, yada, yada: I was too busy scanning the room for potential buyers.
“And now, a word from our lead parents …” Finally. I stood, holding my information on “coupon books for sale” – which would have to wait.
“If I may, there are two 10-year-olds downstairs who are at this very second hoping and praying that when this lets out they will get a mad rush for brownies …” A giggle rose up through the crowd. But I wasn’t here to entertain. “… So to that end,” I continued, “We’re offering a flash sale of five items for $10 …”
The fifth grade parents came through, buying up goods – we got another rush of 3rd grade parents. Turns out, they had all filed into an auditorium orientation meeting adjacent to the lobby. Once I found out about that, and that we only had 10 minutes left before closing, I morphed into a carnival worker. “One dollar, everything one dollar!” I called through my cupped hand mouthpiece. “Step right up …”
We netted $830. I counted up the cash, sealed the envelope, and dropped it off to the treasurer the next day.
Checking my reflection in the rear view mirror, I felt a surge of pride. Dare I say … confidence? Not only had I done it, I’d done it well. Maybe I wasn’t such a worthless blob of stay-at-home after all?
Chew on that burnt lentil loaf.
I didn’t attend the PTO Board Meeting that took place a week later, but Jen called to fill me in. Overjoyed at how well we’d done, The Board announced that we’d made bake sale history.
“Unfortunately, not everyone was happy,” Jen continued, explaining that our praise was interrupted by a six-year veteran PTO member who stood and said, “Can I just take a moment to thank So-and-So …?
So-and-So was not me or Jen, but someone else who’d apparently run an event a week before the bake sale.
“…So-and-So was very organized,” the veteran had continued. “She put her money together perfectly. All of her bills were in numerical order, and facing the right way. Unlike some other people.”
“Aka us,” Jen clarified.
I don’t know how the other board members reacted – I didn’t ask and didn’t care. I was too busy chuckling at my selfless souls notion. I was also understanding, that while it was okay to test one’s wings inside this simulator, the trick was to get out before it was too late. To fly the nest before I, too, fell prey to the inevitable trap of judging the up and comers. Clearly, fundraising is not your thing.
I pulled out the report, ready to scribble all my secrets onto the page, then stopped. What if my successor needed a chance to redeem herself, too?
“Advertise in the School’s District Email,” I wrote, passing the baton.