Breaking Mommish

Only a few months after I married my husband back in 2006, I peed on a stick, there was a plus sign, another plus sign, and two lines a couple of times (this was kind of a shock, so I needed lots of confirmation), and I became a mom.

I had always wanted to be a mom, and while marrying Prince Charming made the picture even more clear, it was a bit startling to have this go down about 15 minutes after we returned from our honeymoon.

When our daughter was born, I became a working mom… I was a high school English teacher in and around Nashville, TN for 11 years, but two years ago, we moved to Arkansas and I decided to try staying at home with our three kids.

And I became Mommish (Mom + Amish = Mommish…see what I did there?)

My life is much simpler now, and in embracing my mommish lifestyle, I want to point out a few ways that motherhood is like being Amish (even though I have only the vaguest concept of Amish lifestyle, learned primarily from three episodes of the very *documentary-esque* TLC hit show Breaking Amish).

1. Unflattering Clothes. So no one is burning up the runways here. And my SAHM clothes aren’t as bad as the mom jeans from SNL. I still try to revive moments of fashion greatness because it’s fun, but I am so old, so cheap, so larger-than-I-used-to-be, so not-fooling-anyone. And I think all my clothes have permanent kid-food-stains. So yep, not a fashion icon.

Sweet family, but not strutting the catwalks anytime soon, amiright?

2. No Make-Up. Neither the Amish nor I go for make-up. Yes, I donned the requisite bit of make-up when I was working, but now that I stay at home? Well…let’s just say mornings are a lot easier. Even though I look like I haven’t slept in days (no eyeliner), I did enjoy those extra 10 minutes of sleep this morning when I wasn’t applying make-up, thank you very much. #sorrynotsorry

3. Hair Back. Here’s another difference in Working Carrie vs. SAHM Carrie. The Hair. Dear me, the hair. I used to make an effort, y’all, but ponytails, messy buns, pinning my newly-cut  bangs (I have NO CLUE why I did bangs to myself except for a sordid haircutting history) back with bobby pins…that is my hair these days. The Amish girls understand, and maybe they might lend me a bonnet on particularly bad hair days.

4. Limited Technology. I barely watch TV anymore. I get my news not from actual news channels or even our local news…I subscribe to the Facebook school of very-important-news. I assume that if anything is cutting-edge (TV shows, music, etc.), then I will eventually hear about it on FB. Many people wrongly assume that the Amish reject all technology, but that isn’t the case. They just choose technology more carefully and make sure it’s for the greater good. On the “greater good” note, I have close and loving relationships with my dishwasher, my washer and dryer, and my iPhone…because motherhood.

5. You Would Think I Drove a Horse and Buggy. Y’all, I love my car. It’s a paid-for GMC Acadia, and while still an SUV, it has the soul of a minivan. And though I’ve only been on maybe three carriage rides in my life, I know that it’s sometimes smelly to ride behind a horse. I can easily commiserate with the Amish about smelly vehicles, seeing as how my kids eat 85% of their meals in the back of my car. While I send food to the back seat and no matter how much I threaten them to neatly dispose of detritus, leftovers and trash inevitably go on the floor. Our dog loves to ride in my car for the free buffet when she gets in. I know…ew. At least my buggy goes faster than a horse because we’re always late, y’all. Always.

6. Simple Food. I.Love.Food. From a fairly early age, I became an adventurous eater, and I’ve been rewarded with fantastic meals and happy taste buds because of it. However, since I became Mommish, not so much. I eat like my kids because kids are picky and who wants to cook even more? Not this girl. So now it’s endless chickennuggetsmacandcheesehotdogsfruitgoldfishveggiesifIgetatreatlater… I will keep trying to give the kids more adventurous, healthier food. But I will also not be purveyor of the three-times-per-day meal fight because…ugh.

This weekend, for the first time in two years, I will be Breaking Mommish. I’m heading to Baltimore for my very first BlogU Conference, a place where I will learn the science and art of blogging, as well as learning how to reach more readers and perhaps make a little spending cash. I am BEYONDEXCITED. I get to meet writers I admire already and those who are new-ish like me. I want to soak it all in and my inner nerd is dying to pull a Hermione Granger and be in every class they offer all at once.

And here are a few ways I’ll be Breaking Mommish this weekend:

  • Cutest clothes I’ve got (except for when I dress like a middle-schooler on Saturday night at the Nickelodeon #MiddleSchoolAwkward party)
  • Make-up…don’t want to scare anyone (AND I won’t be getting anyone else ready except myself! Score!)
  • Hair: making.the.attempt. You’re welcome, BlogU folks!
  • Technology: bring it. Even when I’m clueless about blogging terms, I will soldier on.
  • Transportation: teeny rental car, baby!
  • Food: as adventurous as I can find. Sushi in the airport? Yes, please. Seafood since I’ll be right by the ocean? Yum.

And y’all, as I’m Breaking Mommish, please forgive me for any stories and blog posts that begin with, “This one time at blog camp…”  Until next time!

 

 

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Bartending for Moms Everywhere…You’re Welcome

One of my favorite movies from childhood was the 1991 blockbuster hit City Slickers. You’ve probably seen it, so I won’t bore you with the plot summary, but the screenplay’s writers were definitely onto something with the Barry and Ira Shalowitz characters, a pair of adventure-seeking brothers who owned an ice cream empire and one of whom, purportedly, could name the “perfect” ice cream flavor to pair with any possible meal.

The whole idea is ridiculous, of course, as the perfectly-paired ice cream flavor is a 1,000% subjective talent, but actor Josh Mostel’s Barry Shalowitz bravely soldiered on in the face of such adverse conditions as being asked to name the perfect ice cream flavor for sautéed sea bass.

As I’m familiar with both parenting and drinking, I propose, a la Barry Shalowitz, to name the perfect cocktail to go with any parenting situation. I dare you to contradict me. Enjoy.

Bringing Home the Newborn Baby…The White Russian. It’s practically milk, so that’s good, right? With a little Kahlua and vodka thrown in?

Letting Junior Cry It Out for the First Time…Bourbon and Coke. You will NOT, under any circumstances, give in on this. You have to sleep, for goodness’ sake. There is a camera’d/wired-for-sound baby monitor…right…there. Junior will be fine. Will it suck to listen to his heart-wrenching screams for 45 minutes? Sure. Will a glass of Jim Beam and Coke perhaps take you back to college football games and make you believe the screaming is for a first down or tackle for a loss? Sure.

Teething…Whiskey. This is pretty self-explanatory. If you ask Granny, it’s for the baby. If you ask the parents, well, be prepared to wrestle the half-empty bottle from their nerve-fried shaking hands. I grew up right down the road from the Jack Daniels’ distillery, so I’m a bit partial to JD. But the main thing is that you don’t want kids (in pain from/screaming about) teething longer than necessary…that would be the real tragedy.

A Huge Pile of Laundry…Red Wine. Ever noticed that huge pile of laundry looming in the laundry room at the end of the day? It’s the job that’s never finished. Have some vino while you sort, fold, and pair the socks. But be careful about spills. Red wine stains on freshly clean laundry would be unholy punishment.

Post-Target Tantrum…Beer. Any beer, your choice. You may need three. One for each judgmental old lady who gave you the stink eye while your kid lost it in the home goods section. In fact, have an extra for that mom who had four kids who were pretty good considering they outnumbered their mom 4-1 and only one melted down briefly. You can drink one for her, too.

My Kid Is Hosting a Birthday Slumber Party…Sleeping Pill. This is happening later in the summer for me. I’m pretty sure that swallowing a Tylenol PM with a chaser of just about anything will ensure that I sleep, even if the girls don’t. Right? (I’m so nerdy-rated-PG that I can’t even fathom figuring out how or whom to ask for a stronger sleep med. Feel free to make fun.)

Any Girls’ Night Out During Motherhood...White Wine.You know that night out you’ve been dreaming about? The one where you and your girls have on your new cutest post-kid-married-mom-on-a-wild-night clothes, have a sophisticated meal that doesn’t involve chicken nuggets, get hyped up to dance all night, and end up with two awkward girl-jams on the floor before you’re all yawning? White wine is the answer. I recently saw a shirt that I need that said: “Trust me, you can dance. –wine.” Yes, ma’am. I’ll have another.

I’m happily open for suggestions on any parenting situation cocktails. And I have a few situations that I just can’t quite match. If you have the right Barry-Shalowitz-esque cocktail for “my kid flooded the toilet three times today,” “I’m not judging the who-can-scream-louder contest,” or “why do my kids only quote me when I have road rage,” please let me know. Thanks, y’all.

 

Carrie On Parenting: The (New) “Would You Rather” Game

Our friends laugh out loud when they see my husband Jeff and me play Rock-Paper-Scissors in parenting situations. The rules are time-honored: we play the best of three rounds, the winner may not gloat, and the loser must do the assigned task without too much griping. After all, he/she lost it fair and square. We have been settling dirty tasks this way for years.

When we were dating and before kids, these decisions and tasks were more of the “I-want-pizza-you-want-Mexican-which-is-it” vintage, the “who-has-to-grab-the next-round-from-the-fridge” debate, and of course, ever-important decisions about movies and TV shows.

And of course as it does with every aspect of our previously-cool lives, parenthood forever changed how we structured Rock-Paper-Scissors. After having our first baby, we would use RPS for diaper changes, retrieving objects from the car (usually the diaper bag we were too lazy to bring in), which of us would heat up the bottle/baby food/chicken nuggets, and who had to put the baby to bed while we had friends over.

And then we had more kids, and RPS, while it could still work in some situations, evolved rapidly into the “Would You Rather” game, parenting style. Do you remember this game from junior high? We would ask each other inane questions of which horrible or awesome thing we would rather do? For example, would you rather slide down a razor blade into a bucket of lemon juice or remove your fingernails with pliers? Would you rather kiss Screech from Saved by the Bell or Steve Urkel from Family Matters? Clearly earth-shattering revelations came from tweens’ creative imaginations in the Would You Rather game on afternoon bus rides.

So now, in our mid-thirties and the parents of three young children, Jeff and I still play the Would You Rather game, albeit in parenting form. Imagine a game show host/over-enthusiastic narrator asking us these questions.

Congratulations, Jeff and Carrie, you’re the next contestants on Would You Rather, the Parenting Edition! Come on down!  Since you have three young kids, no task will ever be easy again. We’re going to ask you a series of questions. You will each take turns answering the questions first, rendering your spouse to do the less-appealing task you didn’t choose. Maybe you’ll even be nice, and take the crappier task for yourself? Let’s play!

  • Jeff, would you rather clean ketchup off every available surface in the kitchen or give three kids a bath?
  • Carrie, would you rather cook dinner at home and clean it all up or risk going out to eat, knowing that you are going to spend money and be the exiled-to-the-car parent if any kid melts down? (Trick question: your youngest skipped his nap today!)
  • Jeff, would you rather mop your stupid white tile floor or sort, fold, and put away four loads of laundry?
  • Carrie, would you rather bathe and groom your dog and cat or organize your kids’ playroom, making sure all small pieces of every toy, game, and puzzle are returned to their proper bins?
  • Jeff, would you rather mow the yard or take all the kids shopping for shoes?
  • Carrie, would you rather go grocery shopping with all the kids or stay at home with the kids while Jeff gets to go out in public by himself and goes grocery shopping?
  • Bonus question: Would you rather take a nap yourself or allow your spouse to take a nap? Napping together is impossible, as the kids will most likely break something or put a hole in the wall.

Does this sound familiar to anyone else? Do you play this game with your partners, too? I think there’s the real possibility of a successful game show in here somewhere.

Making the Case for On-Site, Cost-Competitive Daycare in Corporate America

I’m lucky enough to have experienced motherhood both as a working mom and one who now stays at home with my children. I was a high school English teacher for 11 years, the last 6 of those years in a Nashville, TN suburb.

What drew my husband and me to that particular suburb was that the school system offered on-site daycare for teachers’ children in the school where I would be working. We were expecting our first child. We were new to parenting, but we also needed the money I would be making. And of course, as a 21st century mother, I knew I could do it all.

So I secured the teaching job, and my children, for the next six years, were right down the hall from me. I saw their classes walking in the hallways, their classmates were my colleagues’ children, and their teachers were Early Childhood specialists, trained, degreed, and hired by the same school system I worked in.

What’s more, the daycare’s tuition was subsidized by the school system, so we paid exponentially less for better, on-site daycare.

And I thought, “This is a perfect situation for me and my kids.” And then I thought, “This is a perfect situation for every company. Why isn’t everywhere like this?”

In 21st century America, we ask women to do it all. Be the doting wife, the perfect mother, the corporate executive, the ace housekeeper, the PTO volunteer, all while making organic meals, exercising constantly, and maintaining sanity. Sound about right? While women are expected to juggle all those balls in the air (and look good doing it), there are ways that corporate America can make it easier for women to have a reasonable balance of their families, homes, and careers.

Admittedly, more and more companies are allowing flexible work hours and work-from-home scenarios, but there are still jobs where people just have to be present to win.

To that end, the system of on-site, cost-competitive daycare could and should become the standard in all large corporations and, frankly, in any place who can afford it. Why? I’ll give you a few reasons.

  1. The Female Element. Modern corporations know that having bright women on their teams is the smartest form of business, and in order to hire women, especially those young women who are starting careers and families (often simultaneously), those corporations need to find ways to make those women-who-want-it-all happy. Therefore, businesses should give them a place where they can have it all, a place where they can work hard and yet still have their children nearby. And of course, any employee (from the CEO to the custodial staff, dads, grandparents, and guardians) should be able to take advantage of this deal, too.
  2. The Financial Element. Many women choose to stay at home or postpone their careers for financial reasons, often because of the prohibitive costs of daycare. Bringing in subsidized daycare allows women to realize that they aren’t just working to pay the babysitter. They are earning a salary, contributing to the family’s financial bottom line, furthering their careers, and ensuring their children are well cared for all in one. On the corporate side, encouraging well-trained, hardworking women to work while their children are at an on-site daycare ensures a better, more-focused workforce.
  3. The Time Element. Providing on-site daycare allows women to be at work longer. Eliminating drive time to drop off and pick up children brings corporations more working hours from their staff. Period.
  4. The Teacher Element. Now more than ever, colleges are turning out Early Childhood Education specialists, people who have acquired associates or bachelors degrees and who specialize in teaching young children the basics, not just letters, numbers and colors, but also socialization, creativity, and fun. Kids with working mothers are in better hands than ever before, and corporations can regulate their daycare operations just as they regulate their own employees.
  5. The Human Happiness Element. Juggling family and career is an ever-teetering balancing act. Guilt goes hand in hand with being a parent, and most working parents I know wish they could just have more… More hours in the day to keep the ship afloat, more time with their children, more ways to focus in the workplace and not be so torn. And this, this is a viable solution. Speaking from personal experience, having my children on-site made me a happy employee, increased my hours and productivity, and made me a more effective working mother knowing that I could be with my kids almost instantly if I needed or wanted to be.

The results, I believe, would increase the quality of corporations’ employees (those reliable parents who need to feed their kids) and a happier, more productive workforce.

Similarly for businesses, hiring daycare (and even after-school-care) staff for employees is much less expensive than hiring, training, and accounting for the learning curve of countless employees who decide leave a position because they’ve had children and quality daycare is so prohibitively expensive.

I would also argue that working mothers would be less likely to leave positions for another company if their current positions offer good, on-site childcare options. That, friends, is a benefit for both the business and the employee that is worth its weight in gold.

On-site daycare isn’t a viable option for every employer or employee in America, I realize, but it also doesn’t have to be a minority solution for a select few. On-site, cost-competitive daycare is a smart way to lure women back into the workforce and to retain those female employees who are already working.

 

 

The Bro-Mantic Mom-edy: An Analysis of the Two-Couple Friendship Dichotomy (and yes, I’m a weirdo)

The Bro-Mantic Mom-Edy: (n) Two couples hanging out together, trying to decide if this four-person-friendship thing is gonna work.

Please forgive the combining of words, but this is a thing that needed a name. It’s like dating, only harder in some ways, as there are now two couples and four personalities making sure they can co-exist in a fun, social environment…not just two people awkwardly getting to know one another. I give you…the BRO-MANTIC MOM-EDY. (Here’s a tissue if you just threw up in your mouth a bit.)

One of the things the Hubs and I worried about when we moved to Arkansas was having to make new couple friends. I talk to walls, but the Hubs is quieter until you get to know him. And then he is a hoot. Anyway, we were leaving a fun crew of people, and we feared never finding the same balance of tolerable husband-wife combos again. (We needn’t have worried…our new town is chock-full of awesome people.)

But you have to know what I’m talking about. Sometimes, the BC can go horribly wrong. For example,

  • The husbands love each other, but their wives have a competitive, love/hate, out-Pinteresting each other “frenemy” thing going? Might work, but probably the boys are better off as drinking buddies.
  • What if the wives are BFF’s, but the boys have nothing to talk about and cheer for completely different sports teams? Might be time for the boys to babysit and a GNO.
  • And then there’s the awkwardness of Husband A/Wife B and Wife A/Husband B…do they like each other (but not too much, obviously, *yeesh*) or can they not stand to be in the same room because she’s a PETA member and he’s a deer hunter or they disagree politically or blah, blah, blah? Can the A/B members of the opposite sex co-exist in a friendly manner before everyone retreats to the kitchen or man cave or wherever?

Other factors, too, contribute to the successful Bro-Mantic Mom-edy. Obviously, successful BC couples most likely have similar value systems and senses of humor. Most of the people we hang out with are in a similar life stage ( 30s/40s parenthood) and can feel (or have felt, or will feel) the parental pain we all go through with our, ahem,…perfect progeny.

And I’m not gonna lie, I tend to get uncomfortable around people who, after a certain time of day (noon)…(okay, 3pm), won’t indulge in a drink or two with me. Is she judging me? Is she a better mom because she isn’t holding a wine glass? Why do they not drink? Am I going to be the object of a vague “pray for my friend, she’s battling some things” Facebook post on their way home? Yes, I worry about this. But not enough not to indulge, ya know?

And let’s talk quickly about BC and kids. I love kids…we have a girl and two boys, ages 7, 4, and almost 2. They are fairly well-behaved. To my knowledge, they haven’t rolled up in someone’s house and put a hole in the wall or anything, so I consider that a win. But, in a BC relationship where kids are also invited and involved, I won’t sign my kids up for being terrorized by other kids, even if their parents are our perfect BC match made in heaven (but they probably wouldn’t be if I freak out about their kids, right?). Similarly, in our house, we don’t negotiate with terrorists. So if a BC-pal wants to correct my kids if they are behaving heinously, I’m okay with that.

Good couple friends are (sometimes) hard to find, so hang onto the good ones. The possibilities are so fun…play dates, double dates, backyard grill-outs with the kiddos, and vacations to the beach. I’m grateful for the people in my BC club, and we are always looking for new members….

 

Carrie: Giving Crappy Home Haircuts Since 1988

bangs

This is a picture of me when I turned 10. I’m looking down at my birthday cake, and I have terrible bangs. This was a running theme throughout my childhood. When my bangs got too long for my taste, I would sneak into my parents’ bathroom, find the scissors, and work my magic.

This photo doesn’t show the worst example of Carrie’s Home Haircuts, but it’s certainly representative, and I can’t find the other school picture that is way better (read: my bangs are approximately half an inch long after the “gotta even it out” school of home haircutting disaster the night before 3rd grade school pics). It may have been burned during a particularly ugly teenage years moment. Who knows.

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This handsome guy is my husband Jeff. In a move that I support and commend, the Hubs decided that he would no longer spend money getting his hair cut at a real place because, well, it’s only a quarter inch long and because we are cheap. He does just fine at cutting his own hair at home. I can’t say the same for his attempt at cutting our 4yo’s hair…it required an emergency Great Clips appearance the next day.

We are no strangers to home haircut disasters, but the SAHM cheapskate in me has made this a hard lesson to learn.

Exhibit A: The Dog Grooming Debacle of 2014

LexiThis is my dog Lexi, the only being on earth who loves me without judgment or reserve. I am her person, and she is MY dog, a golden retriever we rescued 4.5 years ago. If I were half the person Lexi thinks I am, I would probably be walking on water by now. She’s a rock star, and I can even forgive her muddy paws on my hideous white kitchen floor because she’s such a sweetie.

Last spring, she was smelling a bit ripe, so I decided to give her a bath on a Friday afternoon in the front yard while I was watching the cul de sac critters (my kids and neighbors’ kids) run around. They all wanted to help, of course.

As Lexi is a golden, she sometimes gets that pretty long curly hair behind her ears matted together, and I wanted to free her of this during the bath. I got her all bathed up and ran to get the scissors to cut out the knots. As I was cutting, a child distracted Lexi, and she jerked just as I snipped the scissors. (*This is the point where you can freely cringe and shed a small tear.)

I cut her ear with the scissors. I cut her ear…with the scissors. I…cut my dog’s ear…with.the.scissors. I put Lexi in the car and left the children to fend for themselves.

Long story short, this household accident which could’ve been avoided if I hadn’t been too cheap to take her to a $35 groomer or too impatient just let nature do its thing…put six stitches into Lexi’s ear and cost me $250 at the vet. Yep. The Hubs was thrilled, as you can imagine. I am happy to report that Lexi has only had about 2 baths since then, neither of which included grooming her ears.

So you would think I’ve learned my lesson, right? WRONG. I now give you…

Exhibit B: The Cat Grooming Shenanigans of April 14, 2015

Georgia

This is our cat Georgia, our oldest child whom we adopted as a junior-sized kitten in 2004 when we were still dating. As you can see, she is fluffy, and each spring, she sheds her winter coat all over the house, constantly grooming, picking at her coat with her teeth, and occasionally throwing it up on our floors. Several years ago, she was sprayed by a skunk, and our vet recommended shaving her coat to help alleviate the God-awful smell. So we did.

And then we got the bright idea to shave her every spring to avoid 97,000 tufts of cat fur and barf all over our house. It was a genius move.

Our vet Jason in Tennessee is also a good friend, and he confided that Georgia is one of the roughly 25% of cats who need to be, um, sedated in order for all parties to have a pleasant grooming experience (Georgia mauled his nose once while we were getting her shots). Yep, we were all for riding that friend discount, slipping her a mickey, and having her come home skinny, svelte, and groomed into her lion’s cut, ready to take on back yard birds, etc.

But now we’ve moved to Arkansas, the land of full-priced veterinarians, and there are tell-tale tufts of fur popping up all over the house. So, having learned nothing at all from previous home grooming disasters of myself, my children, and our dog, I sent this text to my vet friend Jason.

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I have totally got this, I thought. My cat loves me. This can be over in no time and I will have saved our family, like, $125. Totally worth it. Surely it can’t be that hard, right?

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My inner monologue was so, so, SO wrong.

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And Georgia never scratched me, bless her precious, kind, still-loves-mom-even-though-she-did-this-to-me heart.

This is as far as I got. It looks like she got in a fight with the business end of a weed-eater. I think she’s embarrassed…she’s done a lot of hiding and meowing at me. A neighbor kid actually saw her yesterday and asked, “What happened to your cat, Ms. Carrie?”

Ugh. I’m the worst mother ever. I’m probably going to start a GoFundMe account to fix Georgia’s jacked up fur because Jeff is in “I told you so” mode.

And yes, y’all. I’ve learned my lesson. Be they for child or pet, NO MORE HOME HAIRCUTS.