Today’s Morning Cuppa Jo brought to you by: An Un-Holy Experience

As the Dos Equis man might say, “We don’t go to church every Sunday, but when we do, it is an Un-Holy Experience getting there.” I grew up going to a Baptist church. We went most Sundays, and we went to Wednesday night church as well. I can remember some occasions when my sister and I had “spend-the-night-parties” with each other on Saturday nights. She’d always tell me to sleep with my bum facing the outside of the bed in case I tooted. The next morning we of course were awake and already talking, but when we heard our parents coming, we’d pretend we were still asleep so that maybe we wouldn’t have to go to church this time – and it worked more than once!

Now I have two girls of my own and it is a very different perspective. I know that if we need to leave the house at 9:15 a.m., there’s a lot to do on the front end to make sitting in the car, clothed, fed, and ready for departure a possibility.

Sunday is Saturday’s evil cousin. I’m a sucker for Saturday morning cartoons. Even though it’s not the same lineup – no PacMan, Smurfs, Muppet Babies – I still love the idea of snuggling on the sofa to start the day. And so do my kids. And if you haven’t seen it yet, the new Alviiiiiiiin! And the Chimpmunks is close to the same as our old Alvin and the Chipmunks. But on Sunday, there is less time to lull around enjoying sofa time.

By 8:30 it’s time to press pause (somehow this is less painful than telling them to turn off the TV) on their show and go get dressed. I myself am only half-dressed and still have not had breakfast. So with my own empty stomach already irritating my brain, I brace myself for the moaning as I repeat myself, “press pause on your show and go get dressed. You can watch your show when you are dressed and have eaten breakfast.” My husband and I are the only ones wise enough to know that they will not get back to their beloved TV/sofa time this morning.

We also are the only ones that know how a clock works. Or what a clock is for. At the beginning of the school year, I set four separate alarms for our children: 1) wake up 2) be dressed and go downstairs by now 3) be done eating breakfast by now 4) be putting on shoes by now. My husband started making fun of me for all of the incessant alarm ringing, so eventually I turned them off. Now the problem is that Mom is telling people what to do instead of the iPhone dictating what needs to be done. It was much easier with the alarms. If I say, “we have to leave in five minutes, so put your shoes on” to my kids it must sound like, “I like making up things to tell you because I am the mom and I am the one who bosses you around all the time. So I’m going to say some random time and call out some amount of minutes and tell you seventeen things to do which you have no interest in doing. Get, ready; get set: ignore!”

As much as men are known for needing very little prep time, I look around during this “get dressed” time period and can’t seem to find Chris anywhere. After negotiating three outfit possibilities with my seven year old, I walk into Ellie’s room and see her in a new outfit – new pajamas. (?!?) Luckily it only takes one negotiation with her to get her into an appropriate church dress. Then I head downstairs for backup because my stomach is still hungry, my brain is out of ideas with Sammy, and my patience is thinning. Chris passes me on the stairs, with a take-charge pep in his step, while I mutter under my breath, “I’m quitting church. I’m quitting everything,” thinking of herding the kids out the door for the next dance class/playdate/trip to playground/piano lesson, or anything at all that involves Mom knowing what time it is while kids ignore the scientific fact that time is linear. It’s 9:03 a.m. and I’m already exasperated and beat down.

The twenty minute car ride to church was no picnic either. One kid wants to sing, the other kid wants her sister to “shut up.” We remind our kids that we don’t use that phrase. Somehow they forget all about the singing and start coloring. Coloring butts. And poop. Lots of laughter from the backseats. My husband and I cringe at the obnoxious giggling over potty humor, but we manage to hold a loose conversation for a few miles. Until someone gets marker on her hand.

Fast-forward about twenty more minutes and we are all pretty happy to be in our destination. Donut holes upon arrival, friends to see, teachers to hug, a favorite “church grandma” that Ellie has claimed as her BFF, and now I can finally exhale. It wasn’t pretty getting here. But we made it. Now just wish me luck with book character costumes before school tomorrow at 7:00 a.m.!

 

 

Today’s Morning Cuppa Jo brought to you by: Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

Two days ago I sat on a lounge chair gazing at the crystal clear blue water of the Bahamas. Wow, that is a blue you can stare at for a lifetime. I snorkeled, napped on the beach, had a cocktail or six, danced under the stars, and dined on amazing food while being waited on hand and foot. It was amazing! Today I returned home, excited to see my family.

It’s kinda funny that you don’t always notice how relaxed you feel until you start feeling un-relaxed. Um, yeah, a bit stressed. I just took my first cruise ever over the past weekend but after four nights away from my kids I was ready to get back to them and my husband. I arrived at the airport with more than two hours to kill which delighted me – more time to sit quietly doing only whatever I chose to do for myself – pee, get a coffee, eat a bagel without sharing it or putting it down to go fetch for someone else’s needs and desires. It was fantastic. And I knew that my vacation hours were fleeting.

My husband called as I was trying to grab my luggage off of the baggage carousel. That was when I felt my first twinge of stress. Since I still had a charged battery, I brushed it aside, continued my multitasking, and enjoyed hearing everyone’s voices again.

As I was driving on I-85 North my husband called again to ask if I’d like to join him and the girls for dinner. Since I was currently sitting in traffic with no idea of how much “go” was in this stop-and-go ride, the next wave of stress came over me. Excuse me, but I find it difficult to formulate a plan with unknown variables out of my control. But I powered through and estimated roughly an hour for my return trip and we figured out our restaurant choice.

Now that I had gotten gas and my Empty light was no longer on and I was past the thick of the traffic, it was smooth sailing. Ah, relaxing. I finally parked and put money in the meter and two minutes later I spied my family on the sidewalk. It felt good to hug those girls of mine! In the midst of two conversations about Halloween decorations and thoughts of dinner orders I nearly forgot to hug the hubs hello. Ok, I forgot and he said, “how about a hug for me?”

We sit down and let out an “old person relaxation sigh,” happy to be at our destination with drinks in hand at the only beer garden-ish restaurant in town. Which happens to have a bocce ball court. Converted (via plastic buckets and shovels) into a giant sandbox. It is fantastic. We come here because the kids dig and build while we sip on a beer and converse.

The food came fast, luring Sammy back to the table for some garlic knots. My husband had asked how the trip was and I was in the middle of filling him in. “The water was so blue you couldn’t-“

“Did you see the giant spider outside? And what about that thing we were going to tell Mommy? Daddy, did you tell her yet?”

“No, not yet.” my husband replies, “We can do that later.”

My train of thought took off without me, so I prodded for someone to fill me in on this spider and the other mystery.

“We went to Lowe’s and almost bought a ten foot tall skeleton eating a rat!” Sammy exclaimed.

“But I behaved badly and we had to leave,” chimed in Ellie from the sandbox while Sammy was still talking.

“Heeeey! You interrupted me!” whined Sammy, with big, gaping big-kid teeth clinched and eyes rolling.

The pizza came which hushed their bickering for a few minutes, the only interruption a quick grab to steady the glass of water as Ellie set it haphazardly on the table with a thunk.

Then a little girl came to the spot where Ellie was playing in the sand and I braced myself for a showdown over the shovel and sandcastle. Instead, Ellie said, “awe, she’s helping my castle.”

Shew! As we were quietly chatting and happily eating our food the little sandbox girl suddenly popped up and exclaimed, “did I hear seven? Are you seven?” she asks, looking at Sammy. Chris and I spin our brains wondering if we will have to take in this lurker and play Twenty Questions. To our relief she continues, “maybe you can play with me when you are done with dinner?” Another shew! I’m pretty grateful that my first post-vacation meal is succeeding – you know, actually swallowing food and all. Then little sandbox girl excitedly throws a big shovel-full of sand into the air, landing partly in the sandbox and partly on Ellie’s back, Ellie’s napkin, and the edge of our table. Yup, vacation was super fun. And it was suddenly crystal-clear that vacation was over. At least I can still close my eyes and picture that lounge chair facing the water and pretend I’m still there when life gets life-y.

Today’s Morning Cuppa Jo brought to you by: the Indoor/Outdoor Cat

When I was little we had an indoor/outdoor cat named Caramel. He was an orange tabby who drooled and was in and out of the house fifty-two times per day. That line in the musical “Cats” that goes something like “when I’m out I’d rather be in and when I’m in I’d rather be out” sums up his indecision so perfectly. And I’m afraid I’m a lot like my old cat.

On Saturdays when my daughter Sammy was a baby my husband would take her with him to Panera to get his bagel. My blood would rush faster as they slowly prepped to leave the house, in anticipation of my upcoming free time. My muscles would tense, too, knowing that if they could just get their act together and leave already, then my free time could start immediately! Oh, how would I spend my forty-five minutes of alone time? Sip a coffee and finish it while it is still hot? Watch some Golden Girls? Stare into space and enjoy the sheer luxury of silence? My husband interrupts my planning and asks, “you sure you don’t want to come?” Then I spend the first ten of my Alone Minutes second guessing myself if I should have joined them to “enjoy breakfast together.”

I swear, I simultaneously wanted to be with them and alone all at once. I knew if I joined them I’d be tending to the baby, with muscles on edge ensuring her excited arms did not reach too close to my hot coffee. I’d lean way under the table (averting my eyes of what lurks beneath) to pick up a paci (or, with luck, catch it mid-air) no less than a dozen times. And if I was lucky, I’d actually get to eat my meal. Was that better than savoring a quiet, empty house for nearly an hour?! Like my old cat, I could not decide.

Not too long ago my friend informed me that there is in fact a diagnosis for this issue that plagues me as it did Caramel. It’s called FOMO disease: Fear Of Missing Out. She mentioned it because she diagnosed her brother with it when he missed a family football get-together. Now everything makes sense.

For instance, when I’m asked what I’d like for Mother’s Day, now that I have my diagnosis of Fear Of Missing Out, it makes perfect sense that I can’t find the words to answer my husband’s question. I want to celebrate my day with my girls and yet on the other hand I’d love half a day all to myself to do whatever I want in my empty house as my reward for all the hours picking up legos, finding “lost” shoes, refereeing sibling squabbles, and demanding hand-holding as safety patrol officer in parking lots. But if my family gifted me with hours of alone time by going out to eat pancakes and play at the park without me, I’d be sad that I was missing out on a good time!

This FOMO stuff pops up everywhere for me. If I’m tailgating on a Saturday enjoying my comfortable chair with my friends all around me and then suddenly I hear music playing loudly nearby I feel like I have to go check it out. Because someone may be having a better party than ours and I don’t want to miss out!

It also pops up on vacation. I just went on my first cruise and it was amazing. It was like summer camp for adults. There were activities non-stop throughout the day which led to my old familiar problem. Did I want to go do Zumba with the cruise director or watch the men’s belly flop competition? It was physically difficult to leave the pool deck knowing that I’d miss out on spectating big belly splashes. (But for the record, Zumba was so fun.)

I suppose knowing my “condition” is half the battle. It won’t be long till I’m faced with two fun choices and I’m paralyzed with the fear that I’ll miss out on something great. For the moment though, I’m focused and content to be heading back home to my family after a thoroughly fantastic vacation. The only thing I’m missing out on right now is their hugs, and I plan to steal lots of those tonight!

 

Today’s Morning Cuppa Jo brought to you by: two little bits of heaven on Earth

I’m lying in my bed with my five year old snuggled next to me. I stroke her soft, copper hair. She rolls over and I see her cute button nose and twelve or so freckles. When she talks, her mouth makes exaggerated movements (admittedly somewhat Trump-like) and her slight lisp is also exaggerated when she gets excited. It’s like lying next to a little piece of heaven here on Earth.

But I’m tired and I really wanted to watch twenty-five minutes of Netflix from the comfort of my pillow before I roll over to go to sleep. Oh, she will not be still. Swoosh, swoosh go her legs on the sheets at 10:57 p.m. Sweet girl had a bad dream so I was happy to let her climb into my bed. After three “settle downs,” a back scratch, and “are you ok?” the legs continue to swoosh and I snap, “be still and go to sleep or go back to your own bed!”

How fleeting the moments of heavenly sweetness last in a day! But I’ll take them! I take those sweet moments because our day is like a roller coaster – a dark, indoor roller coaster in which you can’t see or predict the twists and turns that lie ahead.

The “simple” act of taking the girls to dance class can entail multiple bursts of sweetness and hell-raising attitude. As I helped Ellie get her shoes on, Sammy snapped, sassed, and complained about everything from ponytail holders to needing a toy for the five minute car ride. But at the dance studio, I stare mesmerized at the window, peeking at my pink ballerina and her sleek sister in jazz class, sass-free and intently practicing her pirouette. It makes the ten sweaty minutes of shoving feet into stubborn tights while enduring an onslaught of complaints melt away.

The seven year old blew me away with her heavenly sweetness the other night. After tucking her in, I turn around to say goodnight one last time when I notice a tear in her eye and she says, “why am I here?”

“On Earth?” I ask, sensing the upcoming existential conversation. She shrugs her shoulders and gives a slight nod of the head. I gave a vague answer and tried not to ramble too much. We talked about how people have different talents that fill up others’ hearts. She followed up with, “does life go on forever?” I gave her the cold, hard truth as seen from her Baptist-turned-Presbyterian momma. I told her our loved ones will one day die but that we will all meet up again in Heaven. When the tears started pouring out, I managed a well-timed witty comment along with a tickle that got her back to smiling. The thoughts that swim in this girl’s mind. Oh my.

This morning, with my girls’ trip to the Bahamas on my mind, I went upstairs to wake Sammy who greeted me with morning loveliness such as “noooooo, I don’t wanna get up.” And, “why are you using MY hairbrush?! You are going to get your brown hair stuck in it!”

Thankfully my husband eventually reminded both girls of my trip and they came running to give me hugs. Glad I got two squeezes of sweetness before my trip. Like I said, I’ll take those moments (or nanoseconds) when I can get them because it’s a Space Mountain of emotion around this house every day.

Today’s Morning Cuppa Jo brought to you by: Time Mis-Management

Working part-time is a blessing and a curse. For unorganized people like me, it means that I have to carefully plan the other hours of my day or else the next thing you know its 2:45 and the kids are hopping of the school bus with sticky syrup and stray dishes still lingering on the breakfast table.

When August arrives and I hear other moms swap their back-to-school schedules I feel like I’m lingering in the dust because I have not yet written out my plan for accomplishments to achieve between the precious hours of 7:45-2:45. And as a preschool teacher, we start our Fall schedules a couple weeks after the “big kids” begin school- a nice cushion of getting ahead to some people – but a cushion of procrastination for me.

I kicked off the beginning of this school year with a mimosa gathering at the pool. What better way to take advantage of an hour or so of girl talk without the need for babysitters or husband coordination?! The following week I had a leisurely hour and a half breakfast with my father-in-law. What we have here is basically a “social interaction” trumps “doing the laundry” situation. The only problem is that at the end of the day, I’m going to have to slide a mountain of laundry off my bed in order to get into it and go to sleep, and that might happen multiple times during the week.

My husband, the Economics Ph.D, would call this opportunity cost. And he might throw in a snide comment as he does every so often (maybe it’s just a factual statement) such as, “well the laundry has been sitting there for three days.” And it is indeed opportunity cost. The opportunity for me to have a social gathering is worth so much more to me than the “opportunity” to run around the house putting away T-shirts, leggings, and bath towels.

Even right this second I’m choosing to do something that is not on my To Do List. I’d much rather piddle around with my blog than start packing my suitcase. But I’m conscious of what I’m doing and clear that it is a choice. Later tonight I’ll beat myself up a little bit when I look around the house at all the unfinished business. And this is pretty much the pattern of my life. So the other night, I wrote out my week and blocked out my hours for teaching, prepping, exercise, and chores. It is interesting to see on paper how the hours of all the things I want to do exceed the actual hours of a given day!

If you ever catch me glimpsing at a small note in my pocket, it is the outline of my day to try to keep me on track. For instance, today’s read:

Teach 9-11

Golf 11:00

Pack

Replace batteries and lightbulbs

Kids’ dance class 4:30

I knew that I would end up writing today, too, even though it wasn’t on the list. Funny enough, in school, I made A’s and stayed on task. Pretty much the only way to keep me on task nowadays as a Stay at Home Mom is by having a deadline – poker night or a birthday party works great to get the house in shape in a hurry.

In a little while, I’ll glance at the clock and know that my time is running out before the bus arrives with wild kids ready to demand snacks and attention. That will give me the deadline needed to whip me into action. I’ll haul up and down the stairs and put away half a basket of laundry, set out snacks, toss recycling, and refill the cat litter in a flash. Later tonight I’ll climb into bed (without that mountain to first clear off,) and I’ll make a new list – all the things that I did NOT accomplish today. I’ll beat myself up a little, but then I’ll give myself a B+ for getting more than one of my To Dos completed. Because the only way to get an F in time management is to pretend there are are 27 hours in a day.

Today’s Morning Cuppa Jo brought to you by: A Shout Out to My Peeps

I’m a thirty-eight year old mom of two kids. But I have friends of all ages. Some are moms, some are not, some are working moms and some are fur-baby moms who work. And today I’d like to give a shout out to my friends who understand, appreciate, and tolerate me as a thirty-eight year old mom with a part time job no matter what criteria define their own lives.

First of all, as a mom of young children, I savor my friendships with the older moms whose children are grown. They listen sweetly to my frustrations of the day and offer damn good advice. And they are basically always, always right. (Yes, mom, this includes you!)

I also appreciate my working mom friends (and Sis!) We may not have the same routines, but swapping stories, photos, and small victories with our Littles breathes fresh energy into my life.

Then there are the peeps who are not moms. One of them was Alec from Target who befriended me and Sammy when I couldn’t figure out the photo machine to print her birth announcements. Back in the diaper days I frequented Target at least every other week and Alec would always stop to chat or ask how the new car was doing. He probably had no idea, but as a new mom of a non-verbal newborn, that was some much-needed adult interaction!

One of my best friends also lifts my spirits simply from bringing her vivacious energy with her wherever she goes. Just last week I met my friend Katarina for lunch since she was in town for work. Lunch is no big deal; happens every day in some shape or form. But, since she is a working woman, lunch with her is like a stay-at-home-mom’s glimpse into the working world.

With two smart phones in hand, Katarina sits down and glances at the menu even though we both know what she’s going to order. But as the waitress comes over, we have to confer with Katarina’s colleague since he has never eaten at DePalma’s before. Kat steals a glance at her phone while the waitress mentions the specials and then, with a smile and laugh in her voice, scolds, “no phones til lunch is ordered!”

I’m already having a good time in the company of “grown ups” (even though Kat and her work friend, Dale, act like six year olds) and despite my casual uniform of shorts and a T-shirt in sharp contrast to Kat’s chic pantsuit. (Do people use the term pant-suit? I have no idea; I have donated any remnants of any suit-type garment I may have previously owned.)

Talk bounces between acronyms of the Auto Industry which I cannot decipher and kid stories. No apologies are needed for talking too long on any subject but acknowledgements are given for the understanding we have for each other and our various backgrounds. I mean, Kat deserves some major respect after she sat in a car with me and let me pump my breastmilk for twenty minutes before shopping for a Kindle at Best Buy back when Ellie was a baby. And that is what I mean by giving a shout out to my peeps. I’ve got lots and lots of good ones in my life and we are all on our own paths, and I’ve got much respect for the ones like Kat who endure breast pump sessions in exchange for good talks and laughs over a pizza lunch.

 

 

Today’s Morning Cuppa Jo brought to you by: Guilt-Free Coffee

Ever since I became a mom I have been very protective of my coffee time. There is something sacred about a chunk of minutes set aside to sip liquid warmth and take in something of your choice – a newspaper, the weather, Facebook … or as in my case back in 2009, Frasier.

When Sammy was a baby she usually woke up around 7:15 a.m. and then was settling into her morning nap around 9:00 a.m., which happened to be the exact time that reruns of Frasier began. My coffee was slurped down by 9:10 which gave me a solid twenty minutes to lie horizontally sprawled out on my welcoming sofa. It was so quiet, so luxurious, and all for me!

As Sammy got older, naps shifted to the afternoon. That meant longer hours chasing the one year old, dishing up bottles, spoon-feeding, entertaining, and whatever else happened back then that made my feet hurt by early afternoon.

And during that time period my husband was coaching a high school basketball team in the afternoons and evenings – which meant he arrived home to change from teaching clothes to coaching clothes during my coffee time. Ugh! I tried to lovingly chat while hoping to coax him more quickly out of the house, reminding him that I still had a long night ahead of me as soon as toddler Sammy woke up.

Even though our conversations didn’t always go smoothly (I’m sure there were some hurt feelings as I shooed my poor husband away,) I felt satisfied in defending my sacred coffee minutes. Not to mention I had probably circled through all ten seasons of Frasier by then and had to get my fix of Season One with that warm mug in my hand.

But guess what happened recently over the summer? I found myself short-changing myself out of my Me Time.

Chris came through the door around 5:00 or so and we did our usual attempt of catching up with each other over the roar, clank, thud, and yelps of the kids. (Don’t ask me why on date night words don’t even come to mind, but when the kids are around I constantly feel like I have something to say and constipation of the mouth due to the perpetual interruptions.) But somehow in the midst of the chaos I arranged to go running at the park after dinner.

At the time, I had been crazily talked in to registering for a half marathon, so I was slowly working on increasing my distance. It was a beautiful evening at the Veterans Park, not too busy, but with several runners and walkers on the path to wave or nod hello to when passing.

We had just seen Finding Dory, and I was using her mantra as a method to“just keep running.” While singing those three words over and over again in my head I was making deals with myself about how far I’d run tonight. Maybe I could shoot for four miles today, I urged myself. No sooner had I given myself a new goal then I glanced at my watch and the thought burst into my brain that I ought to get home to help with bedtime. Maybe half of me only wanted to run two miles that night. Or maybe the “should” and “ought to” guilt crept its sneaky way into my mind to sabotage my Me goals.

Wasn’t it only a few short years ago that I defended my me time to a fault? The endorphins might have kicked in just then because my better self came to the rescue and made it clear that I had indeed organized my run with my husband and he was perfectly happy to put both children to bed. So four miles it was.

With the windows down and the wind blowing across my face I felt completely satisfied that I defended my Me Time from myself. It’s not always a cup of coffee a woman needs, but that sacred chunk of minutes to yourself is always worth protecting!