Minimize THIS, Part 2: Red Dots of Shame

I am the “NO RED DOTS” kinda gal. I hate to see those pesky little things. When I look down at my phone and see a Red Dot of Shame, I instantly feel compelled to address it. I’m sure that says a lot about my personality, but for the purpose of minimizing, it was something that I knew I simply had to address as they represent clutter to me. A task undone or something that needs put behind me so I can relax.

So, I spent an hour or so cleaning up my phone. I deleted apps that I rarely or never use. I left unecessary group messages and Facebook groups. I even removed some people from my social media accounts (gasp!). It felt good to clear the virtual clutter. Probably the biggest source of the red dots that drives me nuts are the emails. I have three email accounts linked to my phone, and I truly do use all three of them. One gets maybe 2-3 emails a week (totally manageable). The other is for work, so those emails are necessary. The other account is my main “personal” account, and it is OUT OF CONTROL. Of course, it is the one I used to sign up for accounts to buy things or sign up for stuff or get on a mailing list. Basically, it is where marketing and promos come to die. It’s a black hole, and I’m constantly hitting delete, delete, delete.

I wonder how many of these emails are things I actually need? Which of them adds value to my day or life? Certainly not the multitudes of notifications about sales and discounts. The goal here is de-cluttering, right? Not buying more crap. Bottom line:  This inbox is a challenge.

Well, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. I decided to go one week without deleting the red dots in this particular inbox to see how many I received versus how many actually contained valuable info.

Challenge-Accepted

I made it one day. I just hate those dots so bad!

So in this first day of what was supposed to be a week of ignoring the Red Dots of Shame on my email, I had over 100 emails come in. Of those 100+ emails, ONE of them was worth my time in opening (it was from The Skimm, in case you’re curious).

The rest were notifications of notifications from Twitter and Facebook (who needs an email when you have the red dots staring you in the face on the app itself), sales from Zulily, Dick’s, Nordstrom, J.Crew, Gymboree, Pottery Barn, Oriental Trading, eBates, eBay, Shutterfly, Old Navy, Draper James (Dear Lord, I’m as basic as they come, aren’t I?)… and a couple other stupid things I have signed up for along the way in the hunt for retail therapy. I also get some political emails and such from “causes” or organizations wanting donations or support of some kind. I thought long and hard about getting rid of  those because I don’t just want to cease being involved, but these emails are not what makes me “give” to things that are important to me or wanting to be involved. I get these emails because I did make a donation or gave support in some shape or form at some point in time, and if I want to give or support them more in the future, I know where to find them. Therefore, they’re gone from the inbox.

Well… NO MORE! I saved these emails for another reason:  At the bottom of alllllll these emails is the option to Unsubscribe, which is what I will spend some time doing until my inbox is back under my control. I did the same for ads and groups on social media, getting rid of what isn’t contributing positively or adding distraction.

It is also worth noting that, sure, I could maybe try to change my thinking on the red dots. Maybe the emails/group messages/app notifications can wait and I don’t need to be so uptight about them. But that’s not my goal here. I am prioritizing, organizing, and minimizing. If it isn’t adding value to my life, then it is going away. I’m not going to change who I am or how I feel (can’t teach an old dog new tricks, amiright?), instead I am going to change the circumstances and conquer The Great Red Dot Reduction of 2018 with joy. I also know that you can disable notifications within apps, but that doesn’t help the amount of crap flowing into the app and therefore jumping into your face when you open said app or inbox. This is a reduction act, not a disabling act.

In my research and self-reflection for this piece, I came across an article about young folks/millennials who are using flip phones instead of smart phones. It’s a little bit about cost and durability, but it is also about their realization that life exists outside of their device. From a more “minimalistic” standpoint, that completely makes sense! (Remember…. I bought something with my FACE! Which means that the phone is quite often pointed at my face.) Much of this journey toward less means getting more out of life, and I don’t know that we can do that with a phone scanning our face all day long.

To be clear, and to avoid any accusations of hypocrisy or being preachy, I am not going to give up my phone, nor do I think that anyone should give up their phone. Like I have said before, I don’t think that I will ever be a true Minimalist in every sense of the word. This is more about the journey to realize what brings value to our lives, hence the removal of the DRD’s (Damn Red Dots), unnecessary apps, and people on social media who I wouldn’t say “hi” to if they passed me on the street.

That was my litmus test, by the way. As I went through Facebook for example, I asked myself,

“if this person were to pass you on the street, would you say hi?”

If the answer to that question was no, off they went. It’s a friends list, after all. Wouldn’t you say hi to a friend you passed? And would you want people who you don’t really feel comfortable saying “hi” to seeing pictures of you, your family, and things going on in your life? I’m a very social person; I always say hi (thanks for that life skill, Mom), so this was a pretty good test as I am not a shy person. More reserved folks might not find this a good way to weed out unnecessary floating heads on your page, but it sure worked like a charm for me!

Minimalism. It’s not just about tamping down the “stuff” in our houses or literal junk surrounding us. It’s about slowing down a little bit and realizing what is necessary and valuable to us in our lives. I, like many, feel as though I look at my phone too much. Part of that was because of those damn red dots. What an epiphany it was to realize that I have major control over these little phone pimples that draw me in and away from the real world.

Minimize THIS, Part 1: Important Papers & The Kitchen

We have plans to remodel many parts of our home. Yes, I realize this may sound counter-intuitive to my journey in minimizing, but hear me out.  Our home is where we spend much of our time. We bought this specific house because of its layout that we felt made it a place where our family could really maximize our time spent together. We also love to entertain (a more mature and professional way of saying we like to party I suppose) friends and family. It adds value to our lives. So, there are certain specific changes to our home that I do want to make because this is our “Forever Home” and we don’t have any plans to leave it. Therefore, we want it to be ours and exactly what we want and purchased it knowing there were changes we would be making.

It is actually the thought of remodeling that made me want to start sorting, organizing, and purging. Let’s take the kitchen, for example. If we want to renovate it, that is going to involve removing all the junk from within. SCARY! Wouldn’t it be nice if, come time to remodel, we only had the necessities in there that would require temporary relocation and then subsequent replacement back into the new space? Aha! See… It’s not about buying more stuff; this is about making our kitchen and family living space more functional and organizing it in such a way that makes the remodel process more efficient. Prioritize, minimize, organize! Plus, we all know what happens when you box up junk you don’t need or use:  It ends up staying in said box in the garage/attic/storage unit until Kingdom Come. I want to avoid that.

I digress.

Back to the “Important Papers.” Being an adult requires some semblance of having your s*** together, so a while back, we had purchased a fire-proof safe for our important documents such as birth and marriage certificates, deeds, passports when not in use, etc. It has been sitting in our family room for weeks and weeks. I think since Christmas to be exact, but who’s counting? (I am.)

file-cabinet1

I became overwhelmed as I sat in our family room (didn’t help that I surrounded by piles of laundry and watching that darn Joanna Gaines build a dream home) thinking about how in the heck I was even going to start getting this place into order. You know that saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”? The important papers were Bite #1. I went through the old file we used and sorted out old stuff that is now pointless, such as the papers on a car that I haven’t owned in five years, and filtered out the important documents, realizing that I am actually missing one of our social security cards! Yikes! I managed to get about eight “folders” of crap into two folders in the new box. It felt great, and I was instantly proud of what a responsible adult I am.

Then the kitchen knocked my ego down a peg or two.

I started with the infamous Junk Drawer. We all have one, right? Tell me you have one. I know you have one. It’s a drawer in your home (ours has always been in the kitchen) that you have to yank a few times before it actually opens because of all the eclectic items contained within that are blocking it from opening. Sometimes, you might actually be afraid to put your hand into it because nothing is off-limits in The Junk Drawer, and who knows what tetanus-inflicting sharp you might blindly encounter.  Full disclosure:  I found razor blades, lighters, crayons, glue, a Q-tip, $1.50 in change, five different kinds of tape, and allergy medicine in mine, just to name a few. In fact, go ahead and Google images of “junk drawer” and I guarantee you will see some images and think they sneaked into your house and took a picture of yours. All junk drawers were created equal, apparently.

junk drawer

Then that one drawer turned into the two next to it, then the cabinets above, and then a mini-meltdown later, my very sweet, supportive, patient, and tolerant husband was in on “the fun.” Off to the Dollar Store he went to (eeeeeek! Not buy more stuff, right?!? Well, yeah… read on) get some organizational supplies such as drawer organizers, gallon Zip-Lock bags, and large totes (which will be emptied by the end of all this minimizing and eventually ditched as well. After all, less stuff = no more totes).

Next thing you know, I realize that I own over 30 wine glasses, and that we have way more drinking vessels than a family of four should have. Hell, we have more drinking vessels than the Von Trapp family would need. Out they go! Tote #1 is filled, along with three very full trash bags of pure, undeniable JUNK.

So tell me, what’s in your junk drawer?

Now, go empty it.

Minimize THIS: Stuff = Stress

I bought something with my face. Yes, you read that right. I wanted to purchase something on my iPhone X, and all I had to do was look at the screen and POOF! Purchase confirmed. I have also purchased things with my thumbprint or a quick little password (which my devices all so very conveniently save for my own ease and comfort – how thoughtful!). It’s that easy.

It’s too easy. And now there is stuff everywhere and I’m drowning in it.

I’m the opposite of a procrastinator, more of a ruminator really – anything hanging over my head MUST get done before even a modicum of relaxation can flutter in. I dwell on things more than I should. I have also never been one who can relax in a mess or surrounded by clutter, so the combination of all our “stuff” (that’s putting it nicely) and the need I feel to sort and purge is becoming overwhelming to me lately. It’s not so much a need for “spring cleaning” as it is to feel like have regained control over my home and the things in it. I crave organization, and we are nearing max capacity.  We love to have fun and enjoy life, and often time that fun means acquiring the appropriate “stuff” with which to have specific said fun.  But in this life, especially with kids, we have accumulated SO MUCH STUFF that I almost cannot even stand it. It’s making this perpetual worrier even more uptight, and one weekend it came to a head…

jerry mcguire

Enter “Minimalism.” I have been reading a little bit about this concept lately and researching it just out of curiosity (and maybe a tad of desperation). I recently heard a story about a person who has one plate, one fork, one cup, etc, for each person in her family and that is it in the way of dishes. When you use your plate/cup/fork/whatever, you immediately wash it and put it away. I don’t know that I will ever achieve that level of minimal possessions, but I am very interested in the idea of filling our lives with things other than knick-knacks, plastic goodies, things we don’t really need, and plain old junk. I’m skeptical that I will ever pare down our belongings to the point that I can actually declare myself a true Minimalist, but I am sure as heck going to learn about this concept and take away things from it that I feel will benefit my family and the way we want to live on our little piece of this third rock from the sun. I want to feel like I can truly organize what we need versus just trying to find an unoccupied space for something. I want to evolve, explore, and experiment with maybe not buying that thing I want from Amazon just because I can buy it and think I need at that very second, only to have it soon forgotten and left to contribute to the mass of stuff. (Instant gratification, anyone?) I want to get real about the shame I sometimes feel about the massive collection of toys (for both adult and kids) that sometimes seem to have taken over our home. I am going to have the uncomfortable conversations with myself and my family about what it really means to feel fulfilled, and where that fulfillment comes from, and how we can start peeling back the layers to truly reveal our love-filled home. It’ll be a journey, for sure, and not something that will happen quickly at all. As I have heard from some friends of mine, “Experiences; not things.”

I’m thinking of this as “exfoliating” our house (and life), one section at a time. And I cannot wait to see the gunk that comes off her face!

So, I invite you to join me on this exploratory adventure to unburden ourselves from much of the truly unnecessary and excessive as we try to enrich our lives with the more meaningful. If anything, for entertainment value because I assure you, it will probably get ugly at times. At the same time, I’m also looking forward to the side effects of this and the things we learn as a family. I mean, there are obvious financial benefits to procuring “less,” and I am envisioning the yard sale to end all yard sales. It’s about a quality of life and living a lifestyle that is truly our “style,” not the one that we think we are supposed to have. It will truly be an adventure. There’s got to be a happy medium on the spectrum between drawers too full to close and tiny house dwellers. Please do not picture us living in our yard in tents with only a backpack to survive; that is not what this is about. I’ve never been one to rough it, but it’s gone too far.

TBH

PS – You should prepare yourself for Troop Beverly Hills references if you come along on this journey with me.

I had a small, but poignant, epiphany recently from our family vacation to Canada:  I cannot remember ever feeling so relaxed and my heart so full as I did during this entire vacation (not an easy task when trapped in a car for several hours with two young kids), and yet we did not come home with ONE. SINGLE. SOUVENIR. The thought of purchasing anything besides food, tickets to attractions, and cold drinks never really crossed my mind. We came home with two Christmas ornaments that our friends so graciously gifted to us to always remind us of this amazing trip and experience, but aside from that, nada. No stuffed animals (that would soon be forgotten), no shirts (that would fall to the back of the drawer causing a clothing clog), no tangible mementos of any kind. When I realized this had happen, I panicked at first. “Shouldn’t we have bought something for our parents?! What about something cute for the kids so they remember this trip? Oh my gosh we literally brought back nothing except dirty laundry!”

Ummmmm . . . we also brought back about gazillion lifetime memories with our kids and great friends, Holly. Geesh. Get a grip.

This is going to be one heck of a journey.

keep throw away

Honorary Aunt

When I was growing up, it was a “thing” for us to refer to certain special people in our lives as “Aunt” or “Uncle,” regardless of relation. I don’t know if this is a WV thing, a Smith-Family thing, or just our way of giving people titles of endearment, but I love it. I have several biological aunts and uncles, but I also have many, many other important people in my life who bear those titles.

One of these amazing “Aunts” in my life growing up – and still to this day – is my Aunt Carol. No, biologically not an aunt, but being my mom’s best friend and growing up with her kids and actually being taken care of by her own mother, my Grandma E (no, not my biological Grandma), she definitely earned the title.

Pause here for a moment to talk about my Grandma E. Holy moly the importance of that grammaEwoman in our lives and the love I have for her is still in my heart, though she is no longer with us. Grandma E was tasked with watching me, my little brother, and my Aunt Carol’s two kids while our parents worked as teachers during the day. Back in those days, in rural WV, there wasn’t a day care on every corner, and finding someone to watch kids often fell to family members. Grandma E did it with ease. (Side note, E = Eleanor; I love that name.) I could write a book about the adventures the four of us had with Grandma E, whom she called her “Four Mice.” The word ‘special’ cannot even begin to describe her, so I’ll stop there so I don’t cry.

Any time I get to see my Aunt Carol feels like, well, a big warm hug. She was a teacher like my mom, and an amazing one at that. They met as two young educators at a new elementary school, having both been recruited from out of town. My mom still remembers the day she met my Aunt Carol, and they have been best buds since, with neither time nor distance getting in their way.  She is a pioneer in her own way for attending college as a woman and then working while she raised kids…. Not too common then as it is now! She was raised by her parents and lived with her two siblings, who were much older than she is, and always knew she could count on her parents’ love.  Aunt Carol said she can sum up their parenting philosophy by a quote from John Wesley,

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can.”

Not a bad philosophy! I’m going to keep that handy…

College life was a memorable experience for my Aunt Carol as it exposed her for the first time in her life to very liberal and forward thinking views and ideas that were quite the opposite from her upbringing. She loved learning and reading, and even participated in a couple peaceful protests! (How cool were the 60’s?!?)  She chose teaching as her path, and eventually chose her specialty as Special Education. I actually remember from my elementary school days going into Aunt Carol’s special ed room. It was such a blessing for me to see kids who were different than I was and their learning environment; it was unique and special and filled with love, just like Aunt Carol!  She always kept a sign hanging in her room that said, “ALL CHILDREN CAN LEARN.” I remember when we were growing up, Grandma E would occasionally ask us kids what we wanted to be when we grew up. As with most kids, what we “wanted to be” certainly changed over the years, ranging from vet to banker to fortune teller to garbage man to doctor to teacher to lawyer (just to name a few), but regardless of what we said, Grandma E would tell us as long as we were happy, that’s all that mattered. (None of us turned out to be any of those listed, of course, but we eventually all found our way.) This philosophy was reinforced and passed down the generations, as Aunt Carol’s career advice to her kids growing up:

Be happy. Find an occupation that feeds your soul.

“Married… with Children”  Like my mom, she’s been married a looooooooong time (but how is that possible, Aunt Carol, when you are SO young?! Inside joke between me and Auntie C.) She has been married to my Uncle Carl for 40 years, and they have two awesome kids, a son and a daughter, close in age to my brother and me. My cousins are, like their parents, amazing adults with wonderful, loving spouses. Growing up, they enjoyed camping adventures (my family would tag along sometimes too!) and traveling.  Aunt Carol & Uncle Carl still love to travel, and now, Gumby goes with them! As you can see from the slideshow, Gumby gets around and is a pretty good time…

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Life Throws a Curve-ball  A few years back, my Uncle Carl was diagnosed with Behavior Variant Frontal Temporal Dementia (bvFTD), which is a type of dementia that causes major changes in social behavior and conduct, and poor impulse control. Basically, it turns a person into a version of his or herself that can anger quickly, act inappropriately in situations, and is apathetic to the feelings of those around them. Quite the test for any marriage, to have the person you have spent your life with change into someone you don’t recognize. aunt and uncleBecause of this diagnosis, my aunt and uncle packed up their 40+ years in the small town we grew up in and moved to Milwaukee, WI, to be closer to family and medical care. They went from a town of 800 and their large farmhouse in WV to a city of 600,000 and an urban condo! Her heart is still in WV where they will always have strong ties, but as my uncle’s symptoms worsened, the close proximity to my cousins and big-city medical care was a must. Making such a huge change at a point in life where people are usually strengthening roots is scary, but she followed Grandma E’s advice to “bloom where you are planted,” and she most certainly has! They even got rid of their car!! I cannot fathom it, but it piques my interest to think about just jumping on the bus at the corner and being dropped off wherever you need to go… no need for gas, parking, etc. I wish I could do that! #nocarpayment

Like me, Aunt Carol is an avid reader. We often exchange book ideas and talk about what we are reading. She has a friend with a book coming out soon called Is it Time to Freak Out Yet, and I can already tell from the title I will be adding it to my list! She loves to volunteer and work in her new community and has definitely “bloomed” there. She met a friend, Anita, whose husband suffers from the same bvFTD as my uncle, and knows this woman was placed in her life by God. On my aunt and uncle’s refrigerator is a bible verse.

1 Thessalonians 5:13:  In all things give thanks.

Gratitude   Days are hard, but life goes by fast. Along the way various obstacles and burdens and excitements and celebrations come your way, but the attitude with which you approach these things makes all the difference.  “Pick your battles,” Aunt Carol says. “Save your battles for the big things in life.”  Or maybe employ the “10-Second Rule” …

“Our family has employed the 10-Second Rule many times. When something dire/horrible happens, 10 seconds from now it will still be bad. 10 minutes from now, still bad. 10 hours, less so. Then 10 days… less. Days turn to 10 weeks, then 10 months, then 10 years…”

It’s all about attitude. When Aunt Carol met her friend Anita, she shared with Aunt Carol that, in her experience in dealing with a loved one with bvFTD, you just have to accept what is, let go of what was, have faith in what will be. Time will continue to march on, but how we choose to face obstacles and all the things that life can throw at us will impact us and the people around us. We have choices in these situations, but we have to keep moving forward. Choose a perspective and attitude that will help you gather the strength in any situation, just like my Aunt Carol. Life is SO good. Have faith.

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National Lampoon’s Trip to Backyard Pizza & Raw Bar

Setting: Early on a Friday evening. Planning to leave later that night for a weekend getaway. Must pick up kids and feed them. (*sigh* Fed them yesterday, but whatever.) Decide on Backyard Pizza & Raw Bar as dinner locale. Princess agrees that this is a winner. Head to pick up Little Man.

5:03pm:  Arrive at day care to get Little Man. He is curiously wearing the shirt I sent him in, but not the same pants. Hmmmmm.  Today’s “Day Care Potty Training Pants of Shame” are Mickey Mouse Clubhouse pajama pants that are too small for him and therefore look like capris and come nowhere near matching his shirt. #pottytrainingsucks

5:10pm:  After wrangling both kids into my Pimp Mom Van, I become wary of my decision to attempt a meal out alone with the two of them, realizing I have forgotten any kind of pee-barrier for Little Man (translation: no extra pull-ups). Should these pants become soiled, we are royally screwed. They are literally the Last Frontier tonight.  Question this dinner decision out loud; Princess will hear none of it. We are GOING to Backyard. I then ask myself how the heck this power shift between me and 6-year old occurred. Promise self to download book on parenting that will go unread.

5:18pm: Score a great parking spot, albeit across a busy street. Threaten kids within inches of life to hold my hands as we cross. (I’m talking clenched teeth threats in Batman mom voice.)

5:20pm:  Text Grandparents to see if they would like to join us at “backyard.” SURE! Comes the reply. Yay! Reinforcements.

5:23pm: Realize as we are walking to our table that my children look kind of like disasters. One has pool hair and the other, well, he’s his own man. I think people might be staring. Hipster host makes comment about Little Man’s cool wardrobe choice. Oh well. No turning back now.

5:30pm:  Have booth in back and message Grandparents our exact location. Response from Grammy? Ohhhhh, they thought we meant we were eating dinner in our actual backyard. My mistake was not capitalizing the “B” in backyard. Teachers are such sticklers.

text convo.png

5:31pm:  Lied to my mother. It’s actually not funny. Crap. Realize I’m on my own. Promptly order (small) beer.

5:32pm:  Order chips and cheese for kids, but “not the spicy cheese.” Where did these divas come from? Cheese is cheese. Maybe I will read that parenting book after all. 🤔

5:33pm:  Look at our young, carefree waitress with a touch of envy as I try to connect to restaurant WiFi so kids can watch something on my phone. (Don’t judge. You know you do it too. And did you not see that text from my mom?! They’re NOT coming.)

5:37pm: Beer arrives, and not a minute too soon. Chips and cheese also arrive. Little Man immediately spills cheese down his shirt, but quickly remedies that by simply scraping it off with a chip and shoveling it into his mouth. “Waste not, want not” is his motto.

5:40pm: Little man has to pee. Oh joy. I leave Princess to man the table, again employing the Batman mom voice regarding strangers and leaving the table for any reason at all. I’m such a good mom. I don’t need that parenting book.

5:41pm:  In the restroom, solidly plop a little pale butt onto the toilet seat. Distracted by his oohing and aahing over the trees in the bathroom (they are pretty cool), I fail to notice that he is not, ahem, appropriately “aimed” and pee squirts all over the back of the aforementioned Day Care Potty Training Pants of Shame. Luckily, I think I catch it in time to avoid too much damage. Doesn’t matter anyways. He has no other options besides total bottom-half nakedness, which is frowned upon in public places, even hipster joints like Backyard.

5:46pm: Hands washed and back at table, I quickly realize that the pee damage is a little more extensive than I thought as a wet trail is left behind Little Man as he scoots across the booth. No worries, we have lots of napkins. After years of mothering (six = Expert Level), I now know to ask for extras of these absorbent miracles. I smoothly wipe it up and throw the napkin aside on the table. Totally zero need for parenting book.

5:47pm:  Princess lets me know that, in my absence, she summoned our lovely, young, carefree server over to the table. Why? Just to let her know we didn’t need anything. Note to self: I shall tip server well.

5:50pm: We have food, we have wifi, all is right in the world! Parenting book be damned.

5:55pm: Little Man spills more of something all over the place. Again, I shall tip well.

6:10pm:  We are wrapping up, and Little Man crawls over to me. I grab the napkin that I had tossed aside earlier and dabbed it in my water to wipe off his shirt a little better. He goes back over to his seat. I gulp down some water as my beautiful and angelic children sit quietly side by side as we wait for our bill, silently gloating and congratulating myself on a job well done. We are on the home stretch. Perhaps I shall write my own book on parenting; I’m that good. 👏🏼

6:11pm:  Like a bolt of lightning, it hits me that the same napkin I previously used to mop up pee with is the one that I just dabbed into my water to clean off my son’s shirt, and then I proceeded to gulp down that same water. So, I guess I ingested some pee. Great. #pottytrainingsucks

6:15pm:  Bill paid. Server well-gratuitized for her patience and the phantom pee on the bench, etc, etc.

6:18pm:  Batman mom voice as we cross the street again back to the van with bellies full, and I  make peace with the fact that I definitely drank some pee. Will definitely need that parenting book. Will skip right to chapter on potty training.

“You got this, Mom!”

Last weekend we made a family trip to the Columbus Zoo, on what will forever be known as one of the hottest zoo trips EVER. Adding to that fun, 3-year-old little man is potty training, so we made multiple pit stops in the various “continents.” (I know for sure he peed in North America, pooped in Africa, and did a little bit of both along the “Shores” region, among others.)

Potty training sucks. Taking young kids to the bathroom also sucks. Taking both of them at the same time in 90+ degree heat in a large stall in a public bathroom…. “Off the charts” on the Suck-O-Meter.

sucks

So there I was, sitting on the pot myself (moms pee too; who knew?!) and trying to wrangle both kids to just hold still for one friggin’ minute and do not touch the door latch while I did my business.

I ask for so little.

It’s almost like, in their brains, they heard me say “definitely unlock the door and let it swing wide open for me to bare my mom-butt to the public.” 

Not only am I sweating from the heat, I’m also sweating in fear of what is inevitably going to happen:  One kid (can’t remember which, but does it really matter? They were both being hellions) undid the latch as the other leaned back against the door, forcing the outward-swinging partition to open to the bathroom crowd.

#momondisplay

WITHOUT. MISSING. A. BEAT. Some other mom – henceforth known as Super Hero Ninja Mom – turned with one swooping motion from her hand-washing position at the sink and pushed the door shut so I could latch it. #legendary #teamwork

Cherry on top:  On her way out the door, Super Hero Ninja Mom yelled,

“You got this, Mom!”

I think she was wearing a cape. Yeah, I definitely saw a cape. (Might have been hallucinating from the combo of heat & panic though.)

My daughter heard Super Hero Ninja Mom’s supportive solidarity and said, “Who was what?” That, my dear girl, is a legend.

Super Hero Ninja Mom, if you’re out there (and if you were in the bathroom adjacent to the food court in the Congo region this past weekend and caught a glimpse of something you’d rather not have), thanks for being you. Next drink is on me.

ninja mom

The Mothership

My Mom. Family matriarch and Mother of Dragons. She is the yin to my dad’s yang (though that sounds kinda icky), and gave birth to a daughter so amazing, you would have thought she would stop there, but nooooooo. They went on to have that stinky little brother of mine who wanted to take all my toys and doesn’t need sunscreen like his sister, Powder. (Kidding, Bro. Love ya.)

As promised, I am embracing my basic and looking around at all the amazing people who helped shaped me over these 30+ trips around the sun. First up, my amazing mother. Like me, she too had what would be considered a pretty traditional life, although, being born in the 50’s, having a working mom wasn’t quite the norm it is today. She was born in Pennsylvania to my grandparents, Lou & Grace. She was the middle child between two boys and is a self-described “Daddy’s Girl.” Everything they needed and much of what they wanted in life was provided to them by their two hard-working parents.

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but we always had what we needed and never went hungry.”

From a young age, my mom knew she wanted to be a teacher. She can recall a time when her great Aunt Beanie would let her pretend to be her teacher. (Fun fact:  My Great-Great Aunt Beanie lived to be 106 years old! At her funeral, the priest got choked up on something, and my pristine-mannered mother AND grandmother proceeded to laugh so hard about it that the entire pew shook during the service.) At one point, she had a college professor deign to tell her she wouldn’t make it through college, but that just lit her fire more to prove him wrong. [The women in our family are known for their stubbornness. My daughter can make you shudder in your shoes. The force is strong.] I can speak from years of being exposed to students of my mother that she was an amazing educator. She is one of the ones that you want your child to have every year of their schooling. She was dedicated to the profession, passionate about her kids, and truly put 100% into every day. I am always amazed at how teachers function and the heavy responsibility that falls on them each day. It has to be exhausting. And yet she still came home every day to me, my brother, and my dad and put 100% into us as well. My dad, also a fantastic educator, did the same. My brother and I were fortunate growing up that we had both parents home during the summer and during holidays since they were both teachers. If school was closed, we were all together. Almost always a blessing, except during the blizzard of 1993, when school was closed for a month and we were all snowed in together. Yikes. We could have been our own reality show that month.

As I’m raising my kids, I often beat myself up over the “am I doing enough” thing. Are they learning enough? Are they learning about different cultures and to be interested in other people who are different than them? Are they respectful and kind about differences and eager to gain knowledge about the world around them? Are they maintaining curiosity about this amazing and beautiful planet we inhabit? Momming is exhausting. I recently watched a video wherein these parents of 7 kids ended a video full of a chaotic recap of their daily routine with these words,

“Did they feel loved today? Because that’s all kids care about.”

As I recall my mom’s interview, I asked her about fond memories from her childhood, and what is awesome to hear from her is that she really does remember the little things as being special. She recalls family reunions where kids had to dig change out of a pile of sawdust. They did egg and balloon tosses and had races. She also had (and still has, I believe) a fascination with dry ice, which they would use at these reunions to keep the Popsicles cold. Brilliant! (Probably my Pap-Pap’s idea because he was a genius.)

My mom had two brothers; one older and one younger. They are no longer with us in this life, and that is sad because they were pretty amazing and talented men and I hate that my kids never knew them. My Uncle Bob, her older brother, was blinded at birth as a preemie (before it was known by medicine that too much oxygen could be damaging to preemies), and was a musical savant. He could play things by ear and just had a knack for anything musical. Mom recalled that at one particular family reunion, a young Bob was swinging pretty high on an old metal swing set and thought he could spit out his chewing gum on one swing forward, and then on the next swing forward tried to jump off the swing and catch it in his mouth. As you can imagine, the laws of physics prevented that, and he got the wind knocked out of him. Her younger brother, David, was the joker of the family. I obviously only knew him in his adult years, but I imagine he was an ornery kid. He also had musical talents and smarts. I remember as a kid that he took a trip to Florida with us once and he made it fun for us with his jokes and teasing; he had a fun soul.

Looking back, mom recalls some pretty cool and special events. She got to go to the Pittsburgh airport to watch The Beatles land! As a little girl, her aunt would take just her into the city to window shop and have a meal out “like ladies.” She remembers yummy pancakes her grandma made, cozy sleepovers in beds with way too many blankets, and family camping trips around the fire. One day, she found a doll hidden away and cried and cried because she thought that maybe her daddy had another little girl that he loved who lived somewhere else. “Oh, how I cried!” she said. Turns out, her father had bought that doll and put it away for the next time she was sick to cheer her up. Certain diseases were more common back then than today thanks to vaccinations. (Takeaway: VACCINATE your kids, people. That’s me talking now. It’s one of my soapboxes. I’ll step down now.)

Mom is most proud of her 40-year marriage to my dad, and my brother and I and the successes we have had in life. As her daughter, I hope she realizes that our successes are a direct result of her and dad’s stellar parenting. She is the proud grandma of four grandkids (2 boys; 2 girls), and they are the apple of her eye. She says that she hopes they know how much she loves them, and that they have fun making  memories with and learning from her. (I can assure you, they absolutely are. Mom gives 100% to her grandkids, too. Those kids are straight-up #blessed.) She has a volunteer’s heart; always willing to help and give the shirt off her back.  Family is her priority and making sure everyone feels and knows they are loved (sound familiar?).

Regrets in her life? Not really many. She wishes she had cared less about her weight through the years and says if she knew then what she knows now, she wouldn’t have obsessed about it so much. That’s a good takeaway for women my age, I think. In a time where images and perfection are everywhere, don’t sweat it so much.  Her final advice in this interview is poignant, and it’s something I strive to be more conscious about:

“I would like to tell all mothers (fathers, too) to pay attention to your children. Put your electronics down, look your children in their eyes and talk to them. Use complete sentences, carry on a conversation, ask them about their day, read to them, be interested in who their friends are, know where they are going and with whom. They are only young once and you don’t get a do-over!”

Mom, you are at the center of everything that is wonderful about our family.

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