I’m 37 and I have purple hair

It’s that time again, folks.

It’s birthday time!

This is going to be another stream-of-consciousness post, which often tend to be rambly; you’ve now been properly warned.

This particular birthday brings up a bit more of the feels than usual, because this year the days of the week and the dates of the month are the same as they were in 2003, when I had my cancer surgery 17 freaking years ago.

I had to start prepping for surgery on Sunday the 9th, which meant no solid food after noon that day. My family took me out for brunch and I ordered my usual Belgian waffle with fruit and whipped cream. Normally, I’d never finish it, but that day, knowing solid food wouldn’t pass my lips again for at least a few days (it would turn out to be 4 full days), I said challenge accepted and I forced myself to eat every. last. bite.

Monday was my birthday. I only remember dinner that day, where I sat at the head of the table and ate chicken broth and jello while my family had pizza. God that sucked. I opened some gifts, but mostly just wanted to go to bed so I could get the surgery over with as soon as possible.

Surgery was on a Tuesday. They took me in over an hour late, and if you know me, you know I operate based on strict, rigid expectations. I couldn’t handle waiting any longer and had my last (of many that had preceded this horrible process) waiting room meltdown. By the time they took me in to get me prepped, I was a complete wreck. I was under so much stress that they couldn’t get a vein for my IV (juuuust this year I finally stumbled across the name for the reason my veins close up under stress and my fingers go white when it’s cold – Raynaud’s Syndrome) and allllll I wanted was to be fucking unconscious.

That Tuesday was the worst day of my life.

Wednesday was the day I was told my mass was cancerous.

Thursday was the day I was allowed to eat solid food once more – my reward for the anticlimatic post-surgery fart.

Friday was Valentine’s Day, of course, and I finally got to go home.

All that hell was 17 years ago! It was a lifetime and yesterday all at once. A lot has changed in that time. The experience has most definitely shaped the person I am now.

I’m using change as a rather rough segue theme, here, but that’s how my brain works. My birthday will forever cause me to simultaneously think of the past and the future and how they affect each other in my life.

In general, I don’t like change. It’s jarring to me. Even positive change. Which means that being the mom of two young kids is almost constantly jarring. These little creatures are constantly changing, wtf!! Having to keep up with them and everything that comes with them is exhausting. And by everything, I mean everything. Schedules, routines, schools, teachers, homework, clothes sizes, equipment (meaning, you need bottles until you don’t. you need diapers until you don’t. highchairs, packnplays, all of it), language, skills (my kid can SPELL! F-U-C-K.), attitude, their preferences in everything (food, TV, toys, clothes), their phases and habits (one kid finally eats! the other currently does not.)

On an average day, keeping up with all of this isn’t so bad. I get the feels here and there when I need to give away all the rest of the 2T clothes, or sell the cloth diapers, but then there’s the time my kid wrote me the sweetest letter in school. Or when I covertly spelled S-N-A-C-K to my husband in front of the kids and my son GOT IT.

But the bigger changes give me varying levels of anxiety.

My mom friends going back to work (don’t leave me!). Seriously, our lives are so busy that simple life changes might as well mean that one has moved to the moon. I’ve worked hard to build friendships here in Oregon and to maintain friendships far and wide, but if I’m being honest, I feel like they are stunted because of the season of life we’re all in (parenting young kids). Building friendships in fragmented in-person playdate conversations and random text messages is super hard, y’all. What’s scarier still is that I only see the seasons getting busier and situations getting trickier, and it sucks. (Another piece for me is that some of my mom friends will read this, so this is me being vulnerable in putting it out there.)

Kids getting busier with school and sports and activities and not knowing what or how much to put my kids in and worrying how this will affect my energy level and mental health. It’s hard to know what my kids will like or be good at or will want to stick with. I don’t want to do too much, but I do want them to do something. And do we do what everyone else is doing? My comparison monster gets the best of me sometimes, and it’s especially strong on the extracurricular activities rat race front of modern parenting. Pair that comparison monster with a moderate case of parenting-related FOMO, and there’s a great recipe for rumination-fueled anxiety. Tell me I’m not alone in this!

Me going back to work. My biggest concern here is about dramatically increasing my workload and thus having a huge negative impact on my energy level and mental health. By dramatically increasing my workload, I mean that I’ll add all the stress and responsibility and time away from home/kids/husband while still needing to get done everything I already do now, most notably all the invisible, logistical work. Will I be scheduling doctors appointments at 1am because that’s when it needs to happen after work and dinner and cleaning and making lunches and maybe some TV? This is majorly why I’m dragging my feet in starting this process. I’m finally getting some breathing room within this parenting life, and I’m more than a little hesitant to give up that extra time.

I can feel the changes looming, you guys. They are there, just there, on the horizon. They won’t be all bad, I know, but right now, it’s all unknown.

I suppose, in some clumsy attempt to tie everything in this post together, the lesson is that I’ve handled some pretty dramatic changes in the past, and so I will again, with as much awkward grace (oxymoron?) as I can muster.

So I sit here, in this Starbucks, on this sunny(!) Monday just having had a pretty great massage. I’m 37 and I have purple hair. Right here, right now, life is pretty good.

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2020: There will be multiple abs

Happy New Year, y’alls!

I felt the urge to mark this milestone, the passage of time by writing. An attempt to reflect a little more deliberately.

It’s the end of another year, and I felt like this year was on the upswing, which is saying a lot. I’ve had a very tumultuous several years lately. My daughter just turned frickin THREE, started preschool, and folks, we’re finally out of the tiny human slash baby phase, and oh man, it feels so good. We’re getting rid of diapers and some strollers and the high chair and baby toys…and making room for Frozen dolls, Legos, big feelings, and books.

Speaking of books, my oldest turned FIVE and he’s starting to effing r-e-a-d. The other day, I spelled s-n-a-c-k-s to my husband in front of the kids and my son PUT THE LETTERS TOGETHER AND SAID THE WORD. I’ve never been so simultaneously proud and horrified. I’m now going to have to learn French (or work on my Dutch, ja?) because my kids already know too much sign language and Spanish (seriously). Also, my son’s entry into kindergarten sparked this huge turnaround in terms of his behavior and maturity level. Finally, he’s not melting down during every little transition. And finally, he’s decided to EAT FOOD TO LIVE (not every day, but it’s progress!)

Because both my kids are in school now, this fall I got 6 glorious hours a week to myself. I joined a gym, and you guys, I am the proud owner of an ab. It’s real and it’s spectacular.

It’s been a big year and we’ve all gotten some breathing room; it’s been a life-saver. Right now I’m in the middle of winter break where both kids are home with me full time again and I seriously can’t remember how or why I got through having them in my hair and watching me poop and screaming in the house every. single. frickin. day.

I can feel the days, weeks, months getting more crammed and hectic as the kids get older and more active. As I continue to try and keep a lid on that, I’ve been enjoying having more intelligent interactions with them and watching them turn into little humans. Dare I say it, parenting has gotten easier, for the moment. I plan to enjoy it as much as I can, for as long as I can.

As for me, well…eventually the plan is to go back to work, hopefully part time. I’m dying to do therapy again. But, as soon as I start thinking about all the logistics, I feel incredibly overwhelmed. First, I have to reinstate my license which means spending lots of time and money getting my continuing education credits. That also means finding and paying for childcare while I do that. Then comes the job search, cover letters, interviews (all of which I loathe with the fire of a thousand suns). Any job would have to feel worth it (a privilege I recognize that I have). It’d have to pay enough and be close enough to home. It would either have to be super flexible OR I’d have to magically find childcare to pick up my kids and then there’s early release days and teacher work days and breaks and holy crap. Without family here, or a professional network, all this put together sounds like Mount Everest.

I know, I know, one step at a time. And I’ll do that. At some point.

As for now, I’m enjoying the small bits of time I’ve gotten to do what makes me happy. In the past year, I took two painting classes! And one was a bucket lister because I got to work with oils for the first time – LOVED it. I Marie Kondoed my entire house this year, more or less. It’s a work in progress, as I love to shop for just the right storage containers. We took our first major family road trip! I completed NaBloPoMo for the second time ever. I became secretary on the board of my local MOMS Club chapter. I was able to volunteer in both my kids’ classes. I made it to my first Women’s March (hopefully there won’t be a need for too many more of those). I saw NKOTB, and, more importantly, THE BACKSTREET BOYS! Dear lord that was fun! I ran my second 5k ever, through downtown Portland where we got to stop for donuts and beer mid-run. It was all about moderation, my friends. We went tent camping and went to an airshow, both of which were much better experiences (read: no kid breakdowns) than the first time we attempted them. I’ve also read 21 and a half books this year, whereas in previous recent years, I’ve only gotten to read about one a month.

Also this year, I am happy to report that anxiety was way down, and I got considerably more sleep and exercise. I can’t emphasize enough how amazing this part has felt.

WHAT A GREAT YEAR!

I’m so glad I took the time to actually list all that, because that does feel like a full life, doesn’t it? I’m grateful.

I’m confident that 2020 will be even better.

There will be multiple abs, just you wait and see.

 

Did you know that boys can wear pink if they want to?

We were having dinner the other day as a family. My kids were talking about what they were gonna do when they grew up.

My son said, “When I’m a daddy, I’m going to go to work!”

My daughter chimed in, “YEAH! When I’m a daddy TOO, I’m gonna work!”

My son corrected, “NO! You can only be a mommy, cuz you’re a GIRL! And mommies stay home, they don’t go to work!”

My stomach gave a lurch.

I interrupted them – both my husband and I did – and we together explained that some daddies stay home and some mommies go to work. And that me, this Mommy, used to work, and that someday soon, I will again. And that we know mommies who work!

I totally understand that kids his age are very concrete, very black/white, right/wrong, what have you. They need to categorize in order to understand the world, and all those shades of gray can be confusing. Girls do this, boys do that! Easy-peasy. Plus, my kids have never seen me work. Why would they think any differently? To them, whatever our family does is familiar, natural, expected, normal.

I’m just very quick to point out that gender stereotypes don’t have to be followed if we don’t want to. I don’t want my kids feeling like they have to be put in a box, act a certain way, be a certain way, in order to be liked, accepted…whole.

One time, I took my son to get some rain boots. I was going to pick them out myself, but I figured I’d let him choose because then he’d be more likely to actually wear them. I was going to pick out some dark-colored ones from the “boy” section, but when I led him to the kid rain boot aisle, I made sure to motion to ALL the rain boots, the “boy” ones and “girl” ones. He looked at some pink ones, put them down and then mumbled that oh, those are girl ones.

How do you know that? I asked

Because they’re pink. He replied

Did you know that boys can wear pink if they want to?

(Pause.)

And you can choose whatever color you’d like.

Okay.

He still chose some “boy” ones, and that’s fine (they were freaking awesome, actually. they were green alligators with fucking sunglasses on, that’s how cool they were). I just want him to know that 1) there actually are boys who choose pink and mommies who choose to work, that there are many shades of gray and they are all okay, 2) he has the choice, for real, it’s not just lip service, and lastly, 3) he has my support whatever his choice.

I just hope that, if I say it enough, my kids will hear and understand. But it’s so hard when they’re mostly seeing family and friends and a world that strongly encourages and rewards adherence to gender norms. Because if they can’t see it, they can’t be it.

Hopefully I can help them see it.


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Bow to the napping gods

I don’t have much time to write this so we’ll see how far I get. I may have to post this less polished than I’d like, but that’s what today is like, I guess…

So, my youngest is pretty ready to kick naps. And I’m fucking not. That’s the gist of it.

I’ve been a SAHM and have known naps for 5 years now. I’ve planned my life around them. When I had two active nappers, my whole day revolved around getting the naps to happen simultaneously.

Especially as an Introvert Mama, I’ve worshiped them. NAPS ARE EVERYTHING. I BOW TO THE NAPPING GODS! I need downtime planned into almost each and every day in order to feel sane. If I don’t get enough sleep, to which I’m particularly sensitive, I often nap right along with my kids. I find myself getting suuuuper irritable and snippy if I don’t get some kind of break during the day. In those cases, I end up locking myself in the bathroom or going, yet again, on Facebook and let the scrolling numb all the feels.

Today, both of those things happened because my Little Miss didn’t nap. Guys, I’m frazzled.

I totally get and readily admit that these transitions are harder for me than they are for my kids. My kids are growing fast and when she’s ready, she’s ready. It’s just that, the difference between one sleeping child/one TV watching child versus two awake children is very different. When these two get together with any kind of energy, they’re madness. They are loud, and they rip the house apart, and they are just starting to become independent, but not enough to do all the things they want to on their own. Aaaand I really don’t want them watching TV for hours on end as the only way for me to manufacture a mommy break into my day.

Like now, I’m trying to write this with two awake kids. The TV is on, I got out markers and paper and stuff, but they are still asking me for shit every few minutes, or they are fighting, or they are going to break something, or they are making a huge mess and I am freaking gonna lose it. No amount of telling (or screaming) that mama is BUSY and that this needs to be QUIET TIME means anything. And trust me, the irony of that last sentence is not lost on me.

Another layer of why naps are so incredibly important to my daily mental health is that I have no family around to help. I don’t get regularly scheduled breaks. It’s all me. Thank freaking goodness for school because I need breaks from these kids and these kids need breaks from me.

I feel like there’s more to say, somehow, but if I keep typing it’ll probably just circle back around to the points I’ve already made and eventually devolve into some ALL-CAPS delirium along the lines of WHERE ALL THE SAHMs AT?! YOU ALL KNOW WHAT I MEAN, RIGHT?! FEEL MY PAIN!!!!

And yes, the upside of no naps means more freedom in our daily schedules. For sure. We won’t have to hurry home after lunch to avoid a meltdown and we can stay out all day and join friends for fun afternoon activities. The kids are getting older and they are entering a really fun stage. All of this is true. Absolutely. But with every new stage of parenthood comes with that bittersweet feeling of loss, of grief.

My husband asked me why I’m fighting this so much, and I said BECAUSE SHES MY BABY AND I NEED NAPS AND IM NOT READY.

My babies are growing up, and that’s hard. It’s all hard.

Just tell me I’m going to be okay without naps. I know my kids are going to be fine. It’s me I’m worried about.

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Proverbial Sanity

I remember when federal holidays were super fun. Do you remember, dear Psychos?

I would get off of school or work and get to sleep in, and oh the bank is closed, so I can’t do that errand, might as well stay home in my pjs and drink tequila milkshakes. And then maybe, if I feel like putting on pants later, I’ll go out for a late lunchy dinner. Linner, if you will.

Remember that?! I don’t, mainly because of those damn milkshakes, but you get the idea.

Before the invasion of my sweet, beautiful children, holidays were fun. Relaxing. Looked forward to. But not anymore.

Now, it’s kinda the complete opposite. Now that I’ve gotten used to having my 5 year old in school 5 days a week, and my 2 year old in school 2 days a week (Ha! I didn’t notice how the numbers matched up like that until now. I think that means that because I’m 36, I should get that many paid vacation days per quarter.), having them both home on the same day is kinda painful. The cherry on top is that my go-to backup place to bring my kids in this small-town-with-nothing-to-do is the library, and on days like today, that’s also closed. It’s the proverbial final nail in the proverbial coffin of my proverbial sanity.

Sensing that the storm was coming, I called in reinforcements (aka MOMS Club) and set up an outdoor playdate for the kids. I’m suuuuper thankful that the weather more than cooperated (it was sunny and downright warm for this time of year!) and also suuuper thankful that moms and kids showed up, not only to entertain my kids, but also to say words to my face and allow me to say words back. A conversation! How delightful.

Now we’re well into the afternoon, and there’s been a minimal amount of yelling on my end. We might just get through the day without any major incidents, folks.

Now if only the small child would just stop kicking and fussing around in her crib and freaking nap already…


Check out the fun, y’all:   https://cheerpeppers.wordpress.com/

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Guess what.

Gentle, please. Remember to be gentle.

Chew and swallow.

We’re late, we gotta hurry!

SWALLOW. IT!

Sock and shoes! Pee in the potty! JACKET!

Ok, get in the car. Quick like a bunny!

GET IN YOUR CARSEAT. WE. ARE. LATE.

Guess what?! I LOVE YOU!!

I am busy, you will have to wait.

Lean over please!

Good job leaning over!

Remember to chew!

CHEW YOUR FOOD.

Nope, sorry, you gotta wait.

Sit down. We do not stand on the couch.

Please be patient! I am BUSY. You will have to WAIT.

YOU JUST HAD A SNACK!!!!!!!

SIT DOWN! FOR THE LOVE.

Gen-tle, please. I want you to be kind.

Lie down please. It is time for a rest.

Guess what?! (whispered) i love you.

Hand! Hold my hand please.

We are LATE!

Quick like a bunny!

HAND.

No, we don’t have time for that.

I said NO!

GENTLE!

Leanoverchewandswallow. Please just EAT.

Take off your clothes! I said TAKE THEM OFF!

Pee in the potty please! For the love, please watch your aim!

Goodnight, my loves.

Guess what.

I love you.

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Once Upon a Luncheon

Today I attended a MOMS Club Luncheon, and I’m still out and about, trying to soak up some moments without being needed constantly by my kids.

The theme of the luncheon was Once Upon a Mom…where we’re gonna live our fairy tales today. Not waiting for happily ever after.

The guest speaker was Kitty McKay, who apparently did a Ted Talk one time. Her talk was very timely, in that she spoke mainly to being present, enjoying WHAT IS, and flushing your shoulds down the toilet where they belong.

A life long process for me, the perfectionist, who eats shoulds for breakfast.

So now I’m stopping so I can actually live in the moment and enjoy this break with my hot mom friends!

Mama out.

The Sweet Spot

For the moment, this parenting gig is getting easier.

I can feel it.

When the kids were really little, even littler than now, I used to carry around baseline level anxiety that only quieted down once the kids were in bed for the night. It was this wired feeling, a hypervigilance of always having to dart my eyes around during adult conversation to make sure my kids were still in the room/not hitting anyone/weren’t peeing their pants/still breathing/what have you and I could never fully relax. Not really.

Lately though, I’ve been noticing that I don’t have to be quite so “on” all the time. I can go to the park with both my kids and know they aren’t going to run off. Or, if they do, chances are they’ll come back. If they want snacks they’ll always come back.

A more specific example that marks how my kids and I are changing with the times: we recently went to a pumpkin patch we go to every year. Usually, I have to bring and carry a load of stuff (water, snacks, diapers, wipes, extra clothes, the kitchen sink), I’m chasing the kids around, trying to keep them out of the mud, trying to get some pictures, making sure they don’t get hurt, or lost. But this year…this year was different. It was the chillest time, you guys. I even lost track of my kids from time to time and my oldest actually came to find and and tell me where he was going. My heart melted and my mind exploded.  I didn’t even know what to do with myself! My kids were fine! I was fine! I went and got a coffee and a pastry and sat my ass down!

It goes without saying that I’m enjoying this subtle and slow creep into the sweet spot of parenting that’s known as the primary school years. Dear goodness, my kids can be fucking adorable when they have reason to be. And for the life of me, I plan to enjoy the hell outta this phase before it gets to the hell on earth preteen and teen ones.

So bring on all the questions about bugs and spelling and life! Let’s tackle long division! Let’s start watching all the Disney movies and have spirited discussions about racism, sexism, and magic!!

Because y’all, for right now, I’m good. My kids aren’t as whiney as they once were. They’re less needy. They aren’t in mortal peril at all times. And they aren’t yet shooting heroin into their eyeballs. Not yet.

Right now, life is good.

Kinder Krazy

Starting kindergarten is no joke, you guys.

Because the start time for our school is so ungodly early, we’ve had to shove our whole schedule about an hour earlier in every respect: bedtime, waking up, getting to school, pick up, snack, dinner, rinse, repeat. In theory, this shouldn’t be so hard, one might think. Surely everything would fall into place after a few days, one might think.

One might think wrong.

Because then there’s all them special activities that go along with the start of another school year, like the PTA welcome schmoozy guilt trip, orientation nightmare, back to school gang bang, etc.

And THEN there’s all the early release days that I have to remember and holidays and teacher work days that I can’t for the life of me remember what day it is or what calendar it’s on (school calendar? district? PTA?) or which way is up or which part of my life is on fire.

Also, take all of this junk and double it, because my little one just started preschool (#hallelujah), so now I’ve got twice the pick up times, teacher work days, and gang bangs…at two different schools…in two different cities…in two different districts.

The kids haven’t even really gotten started in extracurricular activities, and already I don’t know how to fit everything in (that’s what she said). The biggest issue is dinner. See, my husband is the chef in this house (thankyouthankyou), because if it were up to me we’d have an alternating menu of gourmet PB&Js with a side of shutthehellup or five star ramen topped with idon’tcarewhatyouthink-eatit. Before the start of kinder, my husband would usually breeze home from work around 4:45pm and have about an hour to cook a pretty kickass meal that I’d love and my kids would tolerate. My kids are the slowest and whiniest eaters on this green earth, so sometimes they’d take an hour to put a minimally accepted amount of frickin nutrition in their bodies, but that was mostly ok. If dinner was on time, even if they took an hour to eat, they’d still have 15 minutes to play before it was upstairs for bed and lights out at 8pm.

But now…Now, there’s almost no time for my husband to scrape something edible together so we can start the screaming eating process by 5:30pm, so we can start the bedtime nightmare at 6:15, for zero extra playtime and lights out at 7pm.

It’s weird, but I find myself looking forward to a time when my kids don’t need 12 hours of downtime in a day in order to not be complete miscreants.

And that’s just the evening junk. On the days my little one goes to school, I have an hour wait time between one drop off and the next. What the heck am I supposed to do with that, besides get a refill on my vehicle’s built-in vodka cooler?

I’m also looking forward to the time when I’m more aware of what day it is.

Perhaps ignorance is bliss in this case, as one might think.

 

Preschool Must Think I’m a Hobo

My family, we’re not morning people.

Mornings are filled with grumbling and swearing and yelling and coffee and more yelling and sometimes tears. Eventually, we get pants on our asses and food in our tummies and we get strapped into the car to get to preschool about 5-10 minutes late every goddamn day.

I’ve tried different shortcuts, different mom hacks along the way to try and make it to preschool on time. I’ve tried setting my alarm earlier – didn’t work out really well because I’m in an abusive relationship with my snooze button. Long ago I stopped trying to put on makeup or do anything beyond getting dressed, washing face, and brushing hair. I get breakfast ready with machine-like efficiency. Cereal, milk, pouches, DONE. For a while I tried running out the door without brushing my teeth or doing mouthwash, convincing myself that I’d just do it when I got back home…and that rarely happened. I realized I was getting to the end of the day and there was fuzz growing in my mouth. Yuck. Plus, we were still arriving late.

The solution? I started bringing my mouth hygiene items along with me in the car! We’d rush out the door, drop off my son, and then I’d spend the 3.5 minutes in the parking lot brushing my teeth and mouth-washing. This, ladies and maybe two gentlemen who read this, was brilliant. Finally, I could do it all! I became evermore the Supermom, and my car the invisible jet.

…Except, we weren’t invisible. While I felt like a strapping, young backpacker going on an adventure through the wilderness of motherhood, I realized what I must have looked like to the other moms rolling up late with their kids, and to the preschool teachers who could clearly see me spitting into the parking lot bushes.

That’s right. I was barely dressed, still showing up late, standing in a parking lot and hunched over the shrubbery with white foam coming out of my mouth. I looked like a hobo. A hobo with great dental hygiene (or maybe a mild case of rabies), but still.

Over time, as my kids became more and more able to put their pants on by themselves, I was able to carve out time to brush my teeth at home again, and I figured this was it. Life was on the upswing, you guys. Everything’s coming up Milhouse!

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And then my youngest started potty training. If you remember from previous episodes, she rocked it, but having her diaper-free meant that I had to cart around her little potty to avoid accidents. We brought the potty to the park. The potty comes with us on beach trips. And oh yes, you bet your mama wine sippy cup that it comes with us to preschool drop off and pick up.

So now I’m also the mom in the school parking lot whose kid is dropping trou and I’m discreetly pouring out the liquid waste if we don’t have time to make it to a real potty. (I also added another hairbrush to the center console because I can never manage to brush my daughter’s rat nest hair before we get out the door. Sigh.)

With all the teeth/hair brushes, potty, and wipes, my car is basically a rolling bathroom, you guys. It already smells like shit, might as well lean in to the stink (can I trademark that phrase?). I don’t know how other moms do it, but, all outside judgement aside, this seems to be working for us moderately well. Basically, I’ve lost all sense of shame. At this point, I might as well set up my own tent.

Who wants s’mores, y’all?