Extra, Extra

The clocks “turned back” last night – which is something I really hate. Okay, so it’ll be nice to be able to run in the morning without needing a flashlight, and it’s cool that the girls won’t have to wait for the bus in total darkness – but in a month, it’ll be dark again – because, you know, seasons… and sunset at 4:30pm is pure nonsense. Time change = dumb.

Still… for a few days until we’ve fully adjusted to the new time, we’ll all awaken a little early – which will be super helpful, given that the girls’ wake-up time is much earlier than they’d like it to be. And today? I actually have time to write this post because of the extra hour. SWEET FANCY MOSES.

During this spare hour, I’ve also had time to peruse Facebook (something I do sparingly these days), and I’ve noticed many of my friends with young children lamenting the fact that this “extra” hour is really an hour of torture – because their offspring do not get the time change memo, nor can they, like, get themselves up and dressed and fed without parental supervision. So not only are their ‘rents up super early, they have to entertain their children for an additional 60 “bonus” minutes.

I know that I’ve written about this before, but it’s important so I want to reiterate it: for all you parents out there whose kiddos’ bodily clocks get them up at an ungodly time for the first few days of “falling back” — HANG IN THERE.

It gets better.

I’ve been there, I swear. I vividly remember meticulously putting the girls to bed 15 minutes earlier every day for a week prior to the time change, hoping to reset their bodily clocks, because I knew damned well they were accustomed to a VERY SPECIFIC amount of sleep and waking at a VERY SPECIFIC time.

“Extra” hour, my ass.

So, yes. I remember.
But today? Today, my 11 and 13 year-olds, who normally have to awaken at 6 a.m. and pry themselves out of bed to be at the bus stop before 7:00am (and whose bodies desperately need more sleep because of growing and whatever), slept in until I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHEN, because they were sleeping and quiet. I, on the other hand, woke up at 6:10am (which felt like 7:10 aka heaven) and had HOURS TO MYSELF to run and breathe and walk the dogs. (And check Facebook.)
This has nothing to do with anything because I don’t have End of Daylight Savings photos, but anyway. 

The time change debacle was one of those annoying things about parenthood that seemed like it would never end, as though we’d always be stuck in those trenches. But then? Amazingly? It did.

Likewise with other areas of parenting. You know how, when your kids were young and no one else was available to watch them, you needed to weigh the pros and cons of every single out-of-the house activity based on how emotionally exhausting it would be to drag your kids with you? How your 6 year-old could’ve been in the middle of dropping a deuce and you’d practically have pulled them off the throne because your 10 year-old needed to get to dance practice? Or how you’d have to take your 4 year-old with you to the dentist and prayed they wouldn’t find the sample drawer? Or how a dinner with friends could be cancelled after you’d put on your heels because the sitter was having car trouble and you had no one else to watch the baby?

Well, one day, your cherubs will likely be able to stay home. Alone. Without maiming one another or burning the house to the ground (fingers crossed). And, suddenly, worlds will open up that you didn’t even know existed – worlds where you can grocery shop all by yourself. DREAM BIG, Y’ALL.

Okay, truth be told, by the time they’re able to stay home alone, they’re likely into myriad other activities that take place well into the evening – often at opposite ends of town – and you’ll have to clone yourself or find carpool magic mamas to get your offspring where they need to be. And while they’re home alone, they might forget to feed the dogs or accidentally leave the garage doors open. So it’s not perfect.

What I’m saying is: parenthood goes through stages – and many of the difficult ones do, mercifully, come to an end. The worrying stage? The self-doubt stage? The stage where you wonder how the humans you created or raised can be so different from you? Alas, those seem permanent.

But, at some point, your not-so-littles will probably be able to stay home alone. And go trick-or-treating without a chaperone. And attend movies and wander the mall and walk from practice into town without adult accompaniment. They’ll be able to make dinner, do their laundry, prep their lunches, and contact their teachers. (I’m not saying they will do these things, HAHAHA, but they’ll be able to*.)

And, someday, the clocks will fall back and they’ll just keep sleeping.
Yes, my girls now spend 90% of their time in the rooms and are ridiculously tall and there are days when I’m lucky to understand the grunts that pass for “conversation”… But the time change DOES GET BETTER.
You will get that extra hour back, for real.

Unless you have pets who also don’t get the End Of Daylight Savings memo.
Then, all bets are off.

(*I do understand that these statements are written from the perspective of a parent of neurotypical children – that, for some families, these “milestones” may never occur… Thanks for understanding this, too, and knowing that there are no absolutes, and that there’s awesomeness in all kinds of families.) 



The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s has never exactly been what I’d call “relaxing.” Not only are a bunch of holidays thrown in there with all of their trappings, but also Ella and Annie’s birthdays (see again: I’m terrible with The Math).

Still, the month of December is, for us, the perfect bookend to the year – because the girls and I so love the traditions that that come with it. Cookie decorating, RACKing, Advent crafts, Santa meet-n-greets, watching movies, driving to see the lights, and the bazillion other things that make up our Christmas season aren’t chores we dread but the framework within which our month is built.
This Santa remembers everything and is absolute magic, I tell you.

Most years, although the weeks go by at a breakneck pace, the mere presence of these traditions ensures order and stability. On Tuesday*, the decoration bins shall come out. By noon on the 8th*, the homemade wrapping paper shall be complete. Sixteen hours before the winter solstice*, we make our holiday donations.
*exaggerations. Mostly.

It’s a little like our own, special holiday “Camelot” – where the rain can never fall till after sundown and the moonlight appears by 9 p.m. – except without the grandiose costumes or singing.

Actually, we wear some crazy things in December and always have music playing, so scratch that.

I’ve liked it that way, having the checkpoints and guideposts to provide much-needed scaffolding in an otherwise chaotic month. This year, with Thanksgiving occurring so early (and, thus, nearly an extra week between it and Christmas), I’d assumed that I would be well on top of things and actually be able to let go, float away, and appreciate our traditions, rather than breathlessly going through the motions.

Instead of providing a jump-start to the fervor, though, those extra days seemed to slow everything down. Why start prepping the Advent calendar when there’s still so much time? Who needs wrapping paper if we’ll ship direct from Amazon? Do we really have to choose the birthday cake theme when there are still 10 days to go? It felt like wading, not floating, but that was okay.

Then, as December unfolded and I barely managed to squeak in the Advent calendars and dust off the Elf on the Shelf, a dear friend suffered a terrible tragedy. While the community rallied together to support her and her children, I left wading behind and began to tread to keep my head above water. I missed deadlines for mailing packages without forking over the mortgage-payment-esque rush shipping fee. Ingredients that I’d planned to procure for holiday treat-making were forgotten. One afternoon, I literally drove right by the location for Ella’s swim practice until I heard her concerned voice from the back of the car, “Uh… Mom? Isn’t practice at the Y?”

Why, yes it is. Let me show you how to pull a U-Turn.

By then, I was no longer even treading. Instead, it felt like I was underwater, everything a rushing blur, popping my head up only long enough to take in a breath and get my bearings before dipping back beneath.

I began prioritizing the things with hard deadlines; everything else waited. New games? Saved for later. RACKs for our postal workers? Another time. Gingerbread houses? Christmas cookies? Setting out the Christmas village? Not today.

And I hated it. It wasn’t struggling to get things done that bothered me as much as the disappointment over what was falling by the wayside. It wasn’t necessary to send out holiday cards on time but I wanted to, damn it, and each day they were put off added more stress to what was already overwhelming.

By mid-month, I had to face reality: the scaffolding wasn’t there this time around and it wouldn’t be, period. Barring some kind of true Christmas miracle, there was simply no way I could “catch up” and put the guideposts back in place. Instead, I had to just be where we were, taking every day as it came rather than following a plan. What would happen would happen.

So we put things off. We waited. Our annual holiday movies stayed in their DVD cases. The Christmas village remained boxed. The cookies were baked but not iced. Rush, blur, beneath the surface.

I learned that being underwater has its advantages, though. See, when you’re working so hard just to keep from sinking, there is little time for anything beyond what’s necessary in the moment. This meant relinquishing control and asking for help (*gasp*), which were major ego-busters but turned out to be soul-savers. For the first time in 23 years, I asked Nick to take charge of finishing up shopping for our extended family. I asked for help with cleaning and said screw it about everything else. The girls decided on the design for our cards.
They did turn out pretty cute…

Spending so much time beneath the surface made the moments when I did pop my head up to breathe all the sweeter. Since I was no longer relying on guideposts and was, instead, trying to get my bearings, I really noticed what was happening around me – and when I paused in those moments, it was ridiculously delicious. Somehow, Annie and I made reading our daily holiday books a priority; it became my nightly salvation. When the girls and I finally – less than a week before The Big Day – put up the Christmas village, everything else melted away for that hour.

And so it went – remaining just barely underwater as the holiday crush sped by, reveling in the brief moments when I’d pop my head above the surface long enough to be sure of my surroundings – until three days before Christmas, when the girls’ school break began and my dad and stepmom arrived. Every instant until December 22nd had been spent assuring that What Needed To Be Done Was Done… meaning, amazingly, that – sweet fancy Moses – nothing essential remained. No bills to pay. No presents to buy. No groceries to stockpile. Instead, on December 22nd, I realized there were two entire, empty days between then and Christmas to focus on everything we’d ignored for three weeks: movies, cookies, gingerbread houses, games…

Basically, everything that I’d wanted to be doing all along.

I cleared the surface, stopped treading, and let go of the overwrought water metaphor I’d been indulging all month. Let the traditions begin! We made tray after tray of cookies. We played enough games to buy stock in Milton Bradley. We watched all of our favorite movies and went to see new ones in the theater. When the girls didn’t complete their gingerbread houses right away, I finished them myself on New Year’s Eve – because I love me some gingerbread houses, by gosh.

Sequence was our new favorite game this year; highly recommend.

This relaxing revelry did not occur only on December 23rd and 24th, but for the remainder of 2018 and a good ten days into January, as absurdly cold weather caused school closures and we were blanked with snow. We wore pajamas. We ignored bedtimes. Heck, even now, as February dawns, there is still a stack of games six deep on the living room ottoman.

Basically, Christmas lasted for a month and I loved every minute of it.

I had assumed that we needed our “usual” structure to create the scaffolding that enables us to honor our holiday traditions. Turns out, the traditions create the scaffolding, timetable be damned, however rickety and below code it may be.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is now that I know that Nick is pretty swell at selecting gifts for our siblings and that watching Home Alone on Christmas day is actually more fun than fitting it in beforehand, I will work at enlisting help and ditching the timetable a bit. LET THIS BE A LESSON TO US ALL. Maybe the structure isn’t so important as just doing what’s important.

But the holiday cards still need to be ordered earlier. Some things just need to happen on schedule, y’all.

Concussed… and Changed

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, I fell down the stairs and got a concussion. There’s no sugarcoating it: getting a concussion sucks. I hate pretty much everything about it.

Except I think having the concussion has changed my entire approach to life, parenting, and how I treat myself. And I think this approach is better than my old one.

But everything else I hate.

One of my favorite refrains is, “I got this.” It’s a source of encouragement when I’m overwhelmed; a battle cry when I’m underestimated. A 12-hour work day on five hours sleep? I got this. Boot camp, despite a knee injury? I got this. Installing a dishwasher by myself? I GOT THIS.

Most of the time, perseverance is a really good thing. But sometimes, this insistent independence can be a problem. See, I’m super awful at asking for – or accepting – help. I usually try to go it alone because I don’t want to bug anyone. I got this.

Likewise, I am terrible at giving myself the chance to rest. Days after my c-section with Annie, I defied my OB-GYN’s orders, lifted up two year-old Ella, and tore my stitches. Years ago, after pulling a hamstring, I eschewed rest and began to run again almost immediately… which, brilliantly, resulted in my inability to run for a full 12 months.

Resting is anathema to my ADHD self. Even when I follow the experts’ advice and “rest,” it’s a modified version – like when you tell kids not to draw on the walls and they draw on the door instead and are all, “WHAT? I’M NOT DRAWING ON THE WALL!”

Then, I fell down the damned stairs. And everything changed.
Langston was very concerned about me…

Not that instant, though. Even as I huddled on the floor, bruised and bleeding, I brushed off Nick’s concerns. “I’m fine! Nothing’s broken!” I showered and got the kids off to school as though everything were normal. And then my head really began to hurt.

After posting a self-deprecating story on Facebook , several friends said they were available to offer assistance, so you’d think I’d have taken them up on the offer.
Nah. I got this.
Totally drove myself to urgent care because I didn’t want to be a bother.

Lemme tell you what would have been an even bigger bother: asking a friend to post bail if I’d hit a tree  because my concussed brain couldn’t think straight. SUPER AWFUL AT ASKING FOR HELP.

Honestly, I figured I’d be back to mostly-normal pretty quick – modified, Emily-style “rest.” I told Nick, “People get concussions all the time. It’s no big deal.” “No,” he countered, “People get concussions all the time and they think it’s no big deal, which is why they’re not taken seriously.”

It became apparent really fast that a concussion can, indeed, be a big deal, and that I couldn’t “rest” my way out.

No matter what I did (or didn’t do), exhaustion would overtake me. I hated that.
I hated being tired. I hated napping. I hated that this one little fall, this seemingly innocuous event, had turned me into a version of myself that I didn’t recognize and didn’t want to be.
Flying + Concussion = VERY SPECIAL

I couldn’t drive. For a week. Not even home from urgent care (Nick got me).
I hated it.

I hated not being responsible for my own self. I hated Nick leaving work to take me places. I hated feeling like I was burdening him.

Nick never once complained. NOT ONCE. Not even when he drove – after a full work day – to the wrong place to pick up the printout of my CT because I neglected to tell him it was at urgent care and he drove to the radiology office instead. This is a man who lays on his horn at least twice daily, and not once did he so much as raise an eyebrow at being my taxi. Which was more than a little humbling.

People like to help. I know this, because I like to help. One of my biggest parenting priorities is showing the girls how amazing it feels to help others.
But receiving help was a whole different ballgame.

The “cure” for a concussion? Lie down, I’d been told. Minimal screen use. Don’t read. Dim light. Limited exercise. Most important: rest. Let your brain rest. It’s been banged up. It needs to heal. REST YOUR BRAIN.

Well, let me be the first to tell you that resting your brain is REALLY FREAKIN’ BORING. “Boredom” is not something I typically experience. I am Energizer Mom, Super-Emily. Even in my so-called down time, I’m multitasking – folding the laundry while listening to the girls read; sorting recipes while watching a movie; painting nails while drinking wine (#fail).

Heck, at least when I’m sick, I get to dive into a good book or watch a Star Wars marathon. I hated not even being able to read a magazine or scroll through Instagram. I hated being unproductive. I hated feeling like I was wasting time.

Still, just this once, I listened. I took it easy. I was tremendously fortunate that last week was spring break because it allowed me the opportunity to rest and withdraw without missing out on work or the girls’ activities.
Lying on a beach chair is good for a concussion

We headed down to Kiawah and visited my dad and stepmom. I think I now understand what nursing home patients feel like, with their caretakers all up in their business, not allowed to do even the simplest of tasks. My dad would not let me be. “How do you feel? No, you may not ride a bike today. How’re you doing? How’s your head? Lie down. No, you’re not doing that. Yes, you are doing this. How do you feel? Let me help.” 

I hated it.
I hated feeling trapped. I hated being hovered over.
I also hated that I really needed it to happen. 

I’m still annoyed with the whole nursing home treatment, but I know he was right. I’m lucky my dad was there.

Before we left, he admonished me to continue to take it easy and not immediately return to “Supermom Emily-who-does-everything.” At that, Annie piped up, “She really does do everything. She helps with our homework, she listens to stories, she fixes things around the house, she teaches, she exercises, she cooks dinner…” She looked at me, eyes narrowing, and finished with, “You know mom, you really do do everything.” (Well, duh.)

That’s the way that it is for so many of us moms/primary caregivers, isn’t it? We do everything. We got this. It’s an image and a role that I’ve not only assumed, but cultivated – even reveled in. Moreover, I like it. I like showing Ella and Annie that we as women are capable of doing whatever we set our minds to, from designing websites to lifting weights, repairing washing machines to running corporations. I’ve never wanted my girls to think that being female is a detriment, and I’ve done everything I can to lead by example.

Except… in doing everything, in always soldiering ahead, in perpetual “I got this” mode, I’ve forgotten to show them that part of being a badass, confident, capable and healthy woman is treating your body with respect when it needs to heal – and that accepting help from others is not weak, but strong.

At first, I was embarrassed for the girls to see me couch-bound. Pre-concussion, this would have been unthinkable. I was sad and worried they’d see my incapacity and view it – view me – negatively. I’m the Energizer Mom, damnit; I keep going. Instead, they were confused… but then kind of awed. “Whoa. You’re napping. You must really be tired… And you didn’t try to stay up late doing laundry.

Mom. That’s pretty awesome.”

Also awesome: the sweet shades Annie helped create to help me use the computer.

Rather than see my doing less and giving myself a break as a bad thing, they’ve become my biggest cheerleaders – and leaders, period. Three days ago, I became exhausted attending Annie’s soccer team dinner. Ella told me to sit down. “But I’ve never met these parents! I should be polite!” She physically took my arm. “Mom. You need to sit. No one will care – and if they do? That’s their problem.”

She was right, of course. So I sat. I accepted her advice, her assistance. This is uncharted territory for me – requesting, and taking, help. But since the concussion, I’ve had no choice. I’ve needed help. I don’t got this. It’s difficult and humbling. I mean, I know it’s true that being willing to admit vulnerability and ask for help is not weak; it’s brave.

I know that.
I suck at doing it.
But I’m learning.

I’m proud of the strong, independent, kickass example I’ve been setting for Annie and Ella. But there are different kinds of strong, and sometimes “independence” goes too far. By neglecting to take breaks when my body needed them, by pushing myself too hard, by trying to go things alone and always trying to “got it,” I’ve done us all a disservice.

How can I expect my daughters to respect their bodies and themselves if I don’t do it, myself?

For the past 18 days, I’ve been trying.
It’s a slow process. I’m not myself yet. I still hate it.

But this *%&$ concussion has caused me to change my approach to nearly everything… which is one of the best things that ever happened to me – and to my girls.

(Plus also I’ve discovered podcasts. HOW DID I LIVE BEFORE PODCASTS??)

Osmosis Love

We’re in South Carolina again, visiting Papa and Grand Meg on Kiawah Island, as we do every spring. This time, we deliberately scheduled our trip for later in the season (even pulling the girls out of school for a couple of days), hoping that we’d encounter weather that was warm enough for us enjoy being outside. (See also: swimming, the girls’ kryptonite.)

Although it’s been cloudy since our arrival, we were pleased to discover that it is, indeed, warm enough to swim. Yesterday, the girls hit up the pool. Today, we ventured over to the ocean. It was super low tide, leaving us with a vast expanse of beach in which to search for shells, play in tide pools, and collect hermit crabs. When we’d had our fill of exploring the sand, we took to the water.

To be more precise: Nick, Ella, and Annie took to the water.
No sun… Low tide… Warm air… Empty beach… Happy kids.

As I’ve documented before, I’m not an ocean person. It’s not the ocean itself that’s a problem; I love the tides that are – fascinatingly – both ever-changing and constant; the rise and fall of the waves; the rush of the water as the swells crash upon the shore; the birds that fly just along the waterline, skimming the surface in beautiful unison; the soft, squishy bottom beneath your feet; the rainbow colors of the oceanic landscape; the endless horizon.

It’s just the sand and the salt that are a problem.
I like neither all up in my eyes or my lady parts.
If we could get rid of those, the ocean would be perfect.
Having the water to themselves (and some blue sky).

Nick and the girls, on the other hand, love the ocean. Whereas I can’t get enough of the lake, Nick vastly prefers the sea. He can almost always be counted on to join the girls, swimming beside them, shaking the water from their hair, looking for waves. Although I will occasionally swim, snorkel, and bodysurf, when given the choice, I would almost always rather wait on the beach or wade in to my ankles (and then wash off the sand and the salt asap).

Today, I stood for a solid hour on the shore while Nick, Annie, and Ella were in the water. For some of that, my dad joined me and we engaged in lovely conversation. For the rest, it was just me – watching… listening… as they splashed, jumped the waves, called to one another, and scouted which frothy peaks would make for the best bodysurfing. They were pure joy and ebullience; their happiness radiated in all directions. Watching them, it was all but impossible to not feel that happiness, myself.

When anyone loves something that much, their love is bound to rub off on everyone around them. Or something like that.

Either way, it was a truly magnificent sixty minutes.

I may never fully enjoy frolicking in the briny deep, but today? I absolutely loved the ocean. (Bonus points: my lady parts were sand-free. SWEET FANCY MOSES.)
No “fancy” camera today; just blurry iPhone closeups and crazy-happy family.


Nope. Nothing to do with basketball. Sorry.

I’ve had an idea about a Pinterest post percolating for a good couple of months now, but haven’t found the time to write about it. Today, I was going to post a quick St. Patrick’s Day recap when I happened to read this article that was shared by a friend on Facebook… and suddenly, my percolating idea and my St. Pat’s post ran into one another full-speed (it was a real pile-up; not pretty), and I so now I’m going to attempt to do write both posts simultaneously.

A mom-guilt/ Pinterest/ St. Patrick’s Day mash-up, if you will.
I do love me a good mash-up. Until Glee got lame last year. But I digress.

I’ll cut to the chase: I did a whole bunch of stuff with the girls for St. Patrick’s Day, even though we’re not Irish! I got a lot of my ideas off Pinterest! I did it because it made me happy, and I loved every minute of it!

st pat's lunch
All green lunch, complete with neon cream cheese bagels. Annie’s my pickle girl while All’s the celery with blue cheese kid. I’m more of a mint chocolate kind of gal myself.

Some people hate Pinterest. They feel guilty because they’re not doing the stuff they see on Pinterest. They feel bad because they’re not doing the stuff their neighbors are doing.

That sucks.
But just because we’re not doing what “everyone else” seems to be doing doesn’t doesn’t mean any of us is doing it wrong or that we should stop. Unless we’re water-boarding our kids and eating a diet consisting of only Easy Cheese. Then maybe we should reconsider.

So, here’s the gist of Kristen Howerton’s above article: celebrating the holidays (especially with kids) has gone overboard. Each one brings about crazy activities (An elf will come to our house and be all funny and cute at Christmas time! Cards aren’t enough on Valentine’s Day – you need bags of loot! Is the Easter Bunny leaving footprints at your house, too?) that can be difficult – or all but impossible – to complete. Kids are then left disappointed and parents feel like crap.

The article was well-written and funny, and I hear Kristen. I really do. To wit: Annie came home yesterday informing us that her teacher had told them all about leprechauns and their magic. She then set about decorating several plastic cups which she left on the dining room table so that the “leprechauns can visit, make the cups tiny, and leave a prize behind!” I looked at Nick like, The ever-loving hell they are, and might have contemplated sending her teacher’s future children a drum set in retaliation.

So, I get Kristen’s point. Annie had high expectations that something super-awesome was going to happen, and she was bound to be disappointed if the “leprechauns” didn’t follow through. But to do so meant a lot of… work… on the other side, and frankly, I was too damn exhausted last night (after having put in a full day’s worth of my own St. Pat’s celebrations, thanks very much) to even consider pulling this off. And so I did the only thing I could think of: I threw the cups in the garbage.

Yep. Just tossed ’em right out.

When Annie came downstairs this morning excitedly looking for the goodies that the leprechauns had left behind, I told her matter-of-factly that I’d thrown away the cups, so there were no goodies. That went over well. I mean, I wasn’t a total monster about it – I said it sweetly and all that (“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry, but while I was cleaning up last night, I threw away the cups!”). She was bummed, yes, but I then explained that I didn’t want her to be disappointed – maybe the leprechauns only work their cup-shrinking magic at school, and I didn’t want her to come down to un-shrunken cups – so, to avoid that possibility, I just got rid of them. She perked up immediately and agreed that, yes, the magic was probably a school thing, and she was on her merry way. Thank God, too, because turning myself into a leprechaun last night was just not in the cards.
Not. Happening.

Kristen (I’m back on the article now; bear with me) expressed the same sentiment, saying, “I don’t like the feeling of disappointing my kids. But I refuse to give into this holiday madness.” Amen, sista. Preach it! But she then goes on to request the following:

Fellow parents… teachers… sunday school workers… I beseech you. BRING IT DOWN A NOTCH.  Ya’ll are setting up expectations that I just can’t maintain. Wouldn’t we all be just a little happier if we returned to the slacker days of store-bought valentines and kit-dyed eggs and JUST WEARING A GREEN SHIRT AND CALLING IT A DAY?

For the sake of overwhelmed parents like me, I beg you. Stop the madness.

And here’s where we might just have to agree to disagree because, well, quite frankly… No. I won’t. Might it be easier in some ways if we returned to the “slacker days” and skipped the extras that so many people seem to engage in today? Sure. But would we be happier? Would I be happier? Nope. I wouldn’t.

Because, as simple as it sounds, I’ll say it again: I do this because it makes me happy.

It’s not entirely logical, I’ll give you that. I am still only getting about five-and-a-half hours of sleep a night, I’m way behind on emails, and I’ve stopped attending church because something has to give, for the love of God (see what I did there?). But when I remembered on Friday night that St. Patrick’s Day was to occur three days later, I panicked because I had done absolutely nothing to get ready for it.

Which, yes, is ironic anyway, because there is less than no Irish in us, so “celebrating” St. Patrick’s Day is wholly unnecessary. That’s not why I do it, though. I do it because it makes me happy. Looking online for ideas makes me feel really, really good; it’s simultaneously cathartic and energizing. I was practically giddy shopping for little goodies for the girls’ scavenger hunt. I absolutely loved composing limerick clues (even if they were some of the most pathetic rhymes ever written), and browsing for Irish-themed dinner recipes made me all kinds of cheerful.

st pat's napkin
What’s a lunch without a (bad) joke?

Is that madness? Perhaps. But it brings enormous joy into my life. That it also brings joy into my daughters’ lives is a bonus, but that’s not why I do it. My motive is purely selfish: (say it with me) it makes me happy.

This is not a new phenomenon, this “madness.” I’ve been doing some form of it since forever; it’s how I’m hardwired. I’ve always had a thing for collecting quotes; now, they’re pinned to my Pinterest wall, but I’ve still got my “nothing books” from my middle-school camp days, filled with colored-marker quotes, cartoons, and oodles of photographs. Today, I might send a friend a video montage for her birthday; back when, I plotted out how to get her locker code to sneak in and decorate so that streamers and balloons exploded on her between first and second period.

In my current life, I spend days planning the events my daughters’ birthday parties. In my former life, my college friends and I staged an elaborate “Jeopardy” skit in the middle of the student center – complete with costumes that we purchased from a local thrift shop – to celebrate a buddy’s 19th birthday. This year, I’m browsing Pinterest for ideas on bento lunches; in my first years as a teacher, I made heart-shaped Rice Krispie Treats and put them on sticks to make heart-pops for my students on Valentine’s Day. In 2014, I spend time in Photoshop designing our holiday cards. Back then, I took pictures of Nick and me with our dogs (or even me with my students – a practice that would, um, definitely be frowned upon now), printed out actual photos at the one-hour developer, and inserted them into Christmas cards with pithy themes like “Where The Wild Things Are” for when I taught preschool.

I have always been like this.
Because it has always made me happy.

st pat's breakfast
Don’t worry, fruit made it into breakfast, too. But really, all the girls cared about were the marshmallows. 

I’m not (completely) stupid. I understand that there are differences between then and now, most notably that technology – especially social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr – makes it much easier to see what other people are doing. And, in turn, what you’re not doing. The whole Keeping Up With The Joneses thing has been around for forever – what the Joneses are doing is just much more in-your-face than it’s been before.

And that can lead to feeling inadequate, which can lead to feeling guilty, and we all know that there’s a whole Mom/Parent Guilt thing going on. (Type “mom guilt” into Google if you really want to kill an afternoon.) And, again, I get it. There are so many expectations on moms – hell, on parents – these days, with seemingly contradictory messages: spend time with your kids because it all goes by too fast, but don’t smother them because helicopter parenting is the devil and your children will be living in your basement until you die. Make sure to find time for yourself, but for God’s sake, don’t let that time be spent on a smartphone because those things are evil and are probably destroying humanity. Offer your children a variety of organic, gluten-free foods, but, my goodness, don’t spend so much time worrying about it – a cupcake now and again won’t hurt. Foster independence but always be there for them no matter what, except when you’re allowing them to fail in order to succeed. Breast is best, except that that makes bottle-feeding moms feel bad, and so it’s perfectly fine to bottle-feed, except breast is really best – but only nutritionally, because really it’s just love that matters, so a bottle is fine. Except you should try to breastfeed. Probably. Unless you’re miserable, because everyone knows that if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Much of this “advice” has been around since probably forever, but again, technology and the media make it so much more available and prevalent that it can feel as though you’re surrounded by a roomful of angry people all shouting at you that you’re doing it wrong.

Which is undoubtedly why there has been such a backlash against it – and, in many cases, rightfully so. The so-called “standards” are unattainable, and we all know that Keeping Up With The Joneses was never a good idea to begin with (grass always being greener and all that). But then there’s this sub-culture of anti-Pinterest, anti-SuperMom, pro-slacker parenting that seems to have taken root — Screw the cutesy sandwiches, my kid’s lucky if she gets a Lunchable! Our Elf on the Shelf hasn’t moved in eight days!! Fuck the fondant-covered cake; that’s why Betty Crocker was invented! — and suddenly the “solution” to the problem seems to be, yet again, telling people that they’re doing it wrong.

I’ll absolutely admit it – I’ve been completely fed-up with today’s “standards” on a gazillion occasions. And, as a result, I’ve taken the slacker root many, many times (see above: leprechaun cups in garbage). But I don’t ask other parents to “tone it down a notch” so that I can feel better about myself. Because, let’s admit it, that’s what this is: our own feelings of inadequacy. Pinterest isn’t making you feel guilty; that’s on you. No one is “doing” this to us; we’re doing it to ourselves.

Put another way: my doing St. Patrick’s Day activities with my kids isn’t setting up expectations for you that you can’t maintain. I shouldn’t have to stop doing what I’m doing so that you can feel better about yourself. Not to go all Stuart Smalley or Dr. Phil on you, but the only person who can make you not feel inadequate is… wait for it… you.

Home run!

No one is good at everything, and no two of us enjoy the same things. This may seem really obvious, but apparently it’s not, because we continue to measure ourselves up against what other people are doing. It’s like trying to squeeze a hippopotamus into one of those little sweaters that’s been woven for a dachshund; it may seem like a swell idea at first, but in the end, you’re going to wind up with a pissed-off dachshund with stretched-out sweater and a hippo with a self-esteem issue. Or something like that.

In case you’d like to hear it directly from me, I will be the first to tell you that, while I have loads of good qualities, I suck a a lot of things, too. I may have made a cute green lunch for my kids on St. Patrick’s Day, but, yesterday afternoon, I also discovered a layer of dust on my living room bookshelf that was so thick, I could have removed with a shovel (that is, if I actually got around to dusting). Sure, the girls handed out themed, homemade Valentines, but Ella wore duct-taped boots to school for a few days, too – yay, arts and crafts! My clothes keep coming out of the dryer with oil stains on them and I don’t know why. Whenever I wear a dress to work, the girls ask me what the special occasion is. I have fallen so far behind on my family’s photo editing that, in about two weeks, I will officially be one year behind. I will have lapped myself with editing. Last week, I fell off a treadmill, and I still have the scar to prove it.

I could go on (and on… and on…), but I think (I hope?) you get my point.

If you head over to my Pinterest page, you’ll see ideas for hairstyles, crafts to do with the kids, teaching activities, and loads of recipes. Some, I’ll actually get around to doing. Others are just there because they seemed neat to me at the moment and I thought, why the hell not pin this? What you will not find is: anything having to do with knitting or crocheting or sewing. Anything about scrapbooking. Any pages devoted to “beautiful spaces” or really lovely fashion photos, or pages about makeup or fancy nails.

st pat's hunt1
Knowing I wouldn’t be home when Annie and Ella arrived from school (and I wouldn’t see them at all until 5:00), I created a St. Pat’s scavenger hunt for them to do with our babysitter.

st pat's hunt5
Each clue was a limerick (man, those took some time. Phew), and at the end, they giddily won $3 off of the scratch cards. That’s almost as good as a pot of gold!

Why not? Because I’m not interested in those things. There’s nothing wrong with them; they’re just not for me, so I move on by. I pin the stuff that makes me happy or inspires me or makes me laugh or makes me shake my head or makes me wish I had a glass of wine. The rest of it, though? I just don’t care… and I also don’t give two hoots about what you have on your Pinterest page (unless it’s only about Easy Cheese; then, maybe we need to talk).

Why can’t the same go for real life? If one of your daughter’s classmates just got a puppy, and you’d like to get a puppy, then go get a puppy. If you’d rather eat a handful of sand, then don’t get a damn puppy. If someone at work starts bringing awesome leftovers for lunch and you want awesome leftovers for lunch, then cook something awesome and bring the leftovers in. Or ask your coworker for extras. But if the thought of having to actually cook and reheat makes you break out in hives, then skip it and buy a sandwich instead… but don’t tell your office mate to leave the coq au vin at home.

I’m never going to be a good housekeeper, but I don’t want you to let your dust bunnies start mating because your level of cleanliness is one that I can’t attain. I’m not going to ask you to please start spilling your beverage on your shirt because I can’t seem to keep my clothes coffee-free. And I won’t request that you please refrain from posting photos from your incredible trip to Europe because it makes me feel shitty that I’ve never been to Europe. If I feel shitty about it, that’s on me.

This is not to say that I’m not jealous or envious of other people, or that I don’t think snarky things about them from time to time (or, okay, a lot). “Well, look who had the time to go and see a movie in the theater, while the rest of us actually had to work and pay bills and run errands and spend time with our kids. Must be nice.” ‘Cause I do. But I don’t want you to stop seeing movies because I’m bummed that I don’t see more of them. That’s just weird.

st pat's hunt2
Found these little grow-your-own clovers in the Target dollar bins and was like, score! So I put them downstairs in the playroom, making sure to leave dog-appealing items – like gum and lip balm – well out of reach…

st pat's text
… annnnd then I received this text from Annie while between my piano lessons.
Yeah. Fail. 😐

So, to get back to the request made by Kristen (from a blog post that I recognize was written a year ago and totally not aimed at me in any way but that resonated strongly today when I read it)… No, I’m sorry. I will not bring it down a notch because you’re feeling overwhelmed. It sucks that you’re feeling that way, truly – I’ve been there oh-so-many, many, many times (in fact, that’s pretty much were I live) – but I’m not responsible for you feeling like you need to live up to (what you imagine are my) expectations, and then feeling bad when you can’t maintain those (imagined) expectations. That’s madness.

See, I like what I’m doing. I don’t want to return to store-bought Valentines and just wearing a green shirt for St. Patrick’s Day. (We do still kit-dye most of our eggs, though; the PAAS “extra bright” pack yields really rad eggs.) I enjoy thinking up Elf on the Shelf poses, and we attended our first actual “Pie Party” last Friday (where everyone, you know, brought a pie to share…) and it was not only fun, but delicious. And it meant I didn’t have to cook dinner. So I’m going to keep doing those things.

st pat's hunt3
Bathroom loot.

st pat's hunt4
Yeah, it’s all cute and WTF, you wrote a million limericks! until you actually READ the limericks… like this one.
I don’t have any explanation other than that it was really, really late. And I suck at limericks?

I don’t really care so much about the 100 days of school, so when those things come home, we tend to throw something in a bag and call it a day. Although I’ll dye a bazillion eggs (using the store-bought kits) and we do host an egg hunt for our neighbors, Easter is a pretty easy affair in these here parts; last year, our “official” Easter dinner came from Five Guys (I am not making this up). We’ll probably wear red, white, and blue on the Fourth of July, but beyond that, our “patriotism” will likely be limited to the American pastimes of eating hamburgers and hotdogs and drinking beverages from red Solo cups.

In short: if it works for you, great. If not, don’t worry about it. Or, to bastardize Nike, just don’t do it, simple as that.
Neither is better than another, and there’s really no reason to feel that you’re not living up to expectations… because the expectations are imaginary to begin with.

My kids’ only knowledge of New Orleans comes from The Princess and the Frog, but by golly, we have beignets and gumbo on Mardi Gras each year. We will absolutely eat Mexican food on Cinco de Mayo… because it makes me happy. For me, life is too short not to celebrate as often as we can (especially if it involves chocolate). When it stops being fun, and when I stop getting joy from it, then it’s time to call it quits – but so far, so good.

st. pat's ice cream
Making mint chocolate-chip ice cream (because it’s green, duh) seemed like a good idea… until I neglected to correctly calculate the proportions and my cup ranneth… over… 

I know it’s not always so easy, the just-let-it-go part. I am hardly immune from self-doubt or feelings of guilt or worries that I’m not measuring up, that I’m doing it wrong. In fact, the reason I’m absolutely certain that I do these things simply because they make me happy – and not because I’m, I don’t know, unfulfilled in other ways or trying to make up for a childhood slight or some other crap – is because I’ve been so concerned that maybe there was a nefarious motive at play, I’ve discussed it with my therapist.
Turns out, nope. No motive; just happy. Go, therapy!

I still struggle with feeling like I don’t measure up, but it’s been a huge weight off my shoulders to realize that the bar I’m rising to was set by me. I think we all do ourselves an enormous disservice if we outsource our happiness instead of taking charge of it ourselves, and if we don’t acknowledge that the source of our feelings of inadequacy and guilt is… us. There is no International Committee of Expectations reigning over us, telling us what standards we have to maintain. Yes, of course there are societal pressures, but in the end, the only ones who hold us to those pressures are ourselves. (Maybe I’ll try to pin that idea.)

So I’m going to keep on making green-themed lunches and setting out Lucky Charms on St. Paddy’s morning. On the last day of school, the girls will come home to some kind of celebration because that’s how I roll. That doesn’t mean I think I’m better than you, and you certainly don’t need to feel overwhelmed because of it. If you don’t want to turn holidays into madness-inducing fiestas, then don’t. No biggie. No one expects you to. Really. (I know, when your kids expect things because they see “everyone else” doing it, it can make for some crappy parenting moments. I’m not saying that’s fun. But still… the neighbors shouldn’t have to tone down their Arbor Day festivities because your kids feel left out.)

st pats ice cream2
Despite my technical difficulties, the ice cream tasted damn delicious.

To those of you who make sure your kids are all decked out on crazy hair day, I salute you. To those of you who have crock pot meals ready to go for the rest of the month, that’s awesome. To those who’ve made it home just in time to read to your kids every night this week, good on you. If you’ve found a new pattern and are knitting socks in just two days, congratulations. If the only cookies you’ve ever made come from the Pillsbury tube, that sounds great to me – I love me some cookies. To you who’ve taken to hiding in the bathroom just to read an email because it’s the only peace and quiet you’ll get all day, I sympathize; go ahead and lock that door.

Whatever you’re doing – and not doing – is fine. It’s all good. And if you’re content and your family is content and everyone is still alive at the end of the day, I’d declare it a success. The lawn over at the Joneses may be green, but their water bill is crazy. Plus also, if you look closely, you’ll see that some of that grass is technically weeds, anyway.

So, let’s make a deal: I won’t expect you to make first-day-of school welcome-home brownies. As long as you don’t expect my floors to be clean (or my pants to be stain-free or my cupboards to be organized…), we’ll get along just fine.