Mommy Paws

Best Actress winner Julianne Moore was quoted at the 2015 Oscars for admitting, “My dogs are more work than my kids”.

Although I have been known to buy magazines just because this actress is on the cover, after she said this, it made me swoon over Julianne even Moore. (Have I mentioned that both Julianne and I have pale skin? Um, hello, we’re practically twins.)

OK, I get that kids are hard. But right now, aside from some emotional exhaustion, (mine and theirs), I have to say my children are at ideal ages right now. When your kids get older: They wipe their own boogers, bums and dishes (thankfully not in that order). When they’re past toddlerhood, take my advice: TRAVEL WITH THEM AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. Aside from being embarrassed by the fact that you’re singing Madonna’s “Holiday” while blocking the aisle, they still like you.

As Mommy Law has it, because motherhood has granted me a temporary pause from total (physical) mommy exhaustion, a new kind of paws has entered my life:

Two dogs.

Not just one. But two.

Both Goldens. After taking home a beautiful female English cream puppy, Maggie, a couple months ago, I have to say I’m in love.

And effing exhausted.

Yes, as a family, we get to snuggle two adorable dogs.

We love them very much.

I’m so proud …and pooped.

Did I mention that we now have two dogs?

Not just one, but two.

My oldest canine son, Marley, is a handsome (and he knows it) five-year-old Golden. If you come over, he will “greet” you by basically making out with your hand. He doesn’t bite. Just sucks on your palm, arm or sleeve. And when I’m on the phone, he barks at me.

So Maggie and Marley are buddies now. They nap together. Play together. Wrestle together (not like that!).

Buuuuutttt… I’m also dealing with two of everything now.

Twice the amount of pond-water drenched dog hair.

Twice the fur balls.

Twice the urine.

Twice the in-house bombs.

Twice the lawn poopsicles.

Twice the car trouble. As in, Maggie tends to cry in the car. Every time we drive somewhere. And she got a little nervous going to the groomers recently and I don’t think my car will ever be smell the same.

And twice the “incidents”. Let’s just say we used to have 23 ducks in our front “huge puddle pond,” but now it’s deserted.

I haven’t slept well in I don’t know how many weeks, my eyes have turned to slits. And I have cleaned up so many messes while trying to house-train this puppy during the WORST WINTER EVER, my hands look like they belong on the “before” shot in a Palmolive commercial.

Hmmmm. This feels very familiar. All of this exhaustion reminds me of something. A certain time in my life when I thought I was going a little wacky.

Out-of-my-mind.

Ah, yes.

Toddlerhood.

So, in case you’re thinking about getting a second dog, I’ve created this little list for you. Just give it a little glance over. Give it a little pause. And hopefully I’ll have this puppy house-trained by Labor Day!2015-02-14 19.11.57

Why puppies are like toddlers:

  • They whine.
  • They pee.
  • They poop.
  • They get into everything.
  • If they can’t reach, they FIND ways to get into everything.
  • They get noisy when you’re on the phone.
  • They make it impossible for you to leave the house.
  • They misbehave when they want attention.
  • They’re not afraid to test your patience.
  • They leave stains on your clothes, rugs, couch, etc.
  • They want to eat all the time.
  • They ruin your furniture, pants, shoes and rugs.
  • They drain every ounce of energy left in you.
  • They keep you up at night.
  • They help you justify cleaning up “doody” with your bare hands.
  • Same thing goes for eye-snot.
  • And runny noses too.
  • No matter how many times you light a candle, you can still tell smell when they last went.
  • They’re so cute, they make you forget what they just did.
  • When they nap, it’s as if everything they do is erased.
  • When they look up at you, and turn their little head to the side, you know you’re in big trouble.
  • As soon as they’re fast asleep, you’re in love again.
  • And ready to face another day of toddler mommy denial.

On Mommie Diarist, Hangers and a New Book of Essays

Does the phrase, “NO WIRE HANGERS!” ring a bell?

Ah, yes, Mommie Dearest. Only I’m not talking about the movie, I’m talking about a new book that Lane Buckman and Robyn Rasberry are releasing on April 7 from Robyn Lane Books called Mommie Diarist.

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Mommie Diarist is about the good, the bad, and the boldfaced.  It is a collection of honest essays about the hardest and best job in the world: Being a mother. And I’m honored to be a contributing author in this book of essays along with the talented Virginia WoodruffEmily ReeseDona Hightower PerkinsGina Curvin, Sheila Rosenberg, Susan Olson, Nanci RathbunSharon Laidlaw-AlmaguerKristin Vanderhey ShawRobyn Rasberry and Lane Buckman. Another talented contributing author that unintentionally was left off the list last week? Meredith McGee from http://unchartedwatersmom.com/.

You can find my essay “Mom Genes” in the book, which comes out April 7!

Here’s a classic clip from the movie Mommy Dearest in celebration of the release of the book, Mommie Diarist, edited by Robyn Lane Books: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOILKHmZBwc

Click here to order the book MOMMIE DIARIST from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

And in case you’re wondering, I’m working on my second book as well, to be released by Robyn Lane Books this fall!

A little side note: If you ever feel like you’re a bad mom, watch the movie Mommie Dearest again. If you ever feel like you’re getting a little soft in the parental disciplining area, watch this movie. No word of a lie, you will feel like the world’s most loving, giving mother. Faye Dunaway is so good at playing a crazy, obsessive and abusive mother, I spent the better part of my childhood thinking she actually was insane. (But I know now that she’s just one heck of an actress!) I would like to take this opportunity to say to my children that you can have all the wire, padded or wooden hangers you want. All the toys you want. I honestly don’t care how you hang your clothes. Nor do I ever want to see either of you scrub the bathroom floor until your knuckles burn. Because I love you unconditionally.

Snow More: 12 Things to like about this (effing) snow

Everywhere you look, there’s snow. Not just an inch or so. But piles.

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Even my dogs are tired of it.

It’s stacked so high, there’s practically nowhere else for them to go!

If you close your eyes for a minute, you’d swear you’re in Russia and not Rhode Island. (And no, I don’t mean, in a Chicken-of-the-Sea-Jessica-Simpson-way that I think Russia is actually geographically close to us. I simply mean this place is starting to look a lot like the set of Rocky IV.)

We went to Arizona a couple weeks ago, and I’m surprised we came back. Yeah yeah, so the kids had school and practice and we have work and other responsibilities. But it was so awesome to be in a warm climate during the winter. Especially THIS winter. I think the Vitamin D overload from all the Arizona sun made me delirious. That has to be the only reason I made it to the airport.

Growing up in Texas, I have to admit I appreciate having four separate seasons. Rather than Houston’s Summer-Spring-Summer-Spring we actually have Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring here in Rhode Island. But it has taken me YEARS to get used to winter. Every year, I’m still surprised at just how long the winter lasts. I think I stay in a perpetual state of Vitamin-D-deficiency-induced denial. When we first moved back to ‘lil Rhody 11 years ago, I’ll never forget showing up at work in sandals. It was after Easter, so I kind of had a Stacy-and-Clinton-what-to-wear Texas style obligation. (It was 45 degrees when I left the office.) Had it not been for my space-heater, I think I would have lost my toes.

In Texas, we’d go back-to-school shopping for fall clothes when it was 95 degrees outside. We shopped for cute long-sleeve Contempo Casual tops and Forenza sweaters because we got chilled from the blasted air conditioning.

God I miss those days.

Although it rained part of the time we were in Arizona, when the sun did finally make its debut, it stayed. For days. And as I lay poolside sipping a Heineken, that Arizona sun pumped me up with so much Vitamin D, I was on a natural high that made Kelly Ripa look depressed.

Unfortunately, it’s been a couple weeks since we’ve been home and my sunshine-buzz wore off about as fast as a mall manicure.

As February break comes to an end, (yahoooo!) I have to say, I’ve had it. This white stuff is pretty and all, but I’m kind of done. I’m happy it’s melting. Yes, it can go away now. And although I love my children dearly, they can go back to school now too. I’ve been shoveling and hosting so many play dates, I’ve been falling into my bed at night from exhaustion. I’m already rehearsing my morning “bu-byes”.

But as my husband always reminds me, you can find the positive in anything if you just put your mind to it.  (Dang it! Why is he always right?!) OK, OK, there are SOME things I LIKE about the snow.

12 Things to LIKE about the snow:

  1. If you forgot to do the leaves in November, no one will notice until March.
  2. You can wear the same pants for several days in a row and no one will ever know.
  3. If you have pale skin, you can hibernate like a vampire until the spring.
  4. You can go weeks, even months without a pedicure and I promise it will NOT matter.
  5. Got staticky hair? Just throw on a hat. Waah lah, you’re good to go.
  6. If you went a little overboard on Lindt truffles for four months straight, you have until May to become best friends with your treadmill.
  7. If you’ve missed a few work outs, pick up a shovel. You’ll be breaking a sweat in no time.
  8. If you’re not a fan of your outfit, you can cover it up with a huge winter coat.
  9. Got dry crackly hands? No worries! Just cover them with gloves.
  10. You can justify indulging in hot chocolate every day. If you’re not lactose intolerant, pile it high with whipped cream and add some shaved chocolate. It boosts your mood and builds character. (And might actually put a smile on your face.)
  11. You can tell the kids to go play outside and nine times out of 10 they will happily slide on their snow pants if it’s snowing out, (giving you just enough time to watch Netflix in peace).
  12. Go sledding with your kids. I promise it’ll make you smile…and pee a little.

Smotherly Love

I think the old saying may be true: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

As soon as I start feeling like I’m succeeding as a mother, reality takes a sip of my Seltzer and spits it back in my face.

And I become….a Smother. (Yes, like Mrs. Goldberg, pictured below from the very funny modern-day-80’s-comedy.) I can’t help it! I just love my kids so much!

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I may no longer be new to motherhood, but I’m still hard on myself and often oblivious of my smothering. (Please keep reading and you’ll understand what I mean). (I promise, after this long Jackie-tangent, to get to a point!) :)

When my kids were really young, I was very hard on myself. If my son didn’t succeed at potty training every week, I felt like a failure. I honestly felt like I had failed as a mother. I have to admit, I got a little Smotherly in my potty training rituals.

As soon as I woke up, my boy was on that little potty. He was on it before play time, Callou time, before swim, after swim, before book time, before bed time. You get the idea.

And if he didn’t go, I wasn’t much fun to be around. Just ask my husband.

I was OBSESSED.

With my daughter, I was a little more relaxed at first. She was 20 months and started going on the potty successfully and I felt like I had won the Lottery. Then we flew home from Disney and I could smell a foul odor the minute we landed at TF Green Airport. Before I even had a chance to put her dirty tights in a plastic bag, I felt that familiar feeling. She went back to her old, smelly ways for several months.

I felt like I was the worst mother in the world.

My kids were behind. I thought for sure they would end up going to second grade in pull-ups.

But you know what?

They didn’t.

Before their third birthdays, they each “got it”. Barely any accidents, boom, they were trained.

For good.

All my SMOTHERING hard work paid off.

So I guess I wasn’t the worst mother in the world after all.

Now, things have changed.

Or have they?

My kids are 10 and 13, and I’m proud of them. I try to back off and not smother them too much. (Well…sometimes.)

Now we have a new member of our family. 10978707_10153048220544061_7466960826078183455_n

Yes, we took home a new eight-week-old puppy this weekend. A beautiful, English cream Golden Retriever who stole my heart the moment I saw her. And our five year old Golden, Marley, has been taking to our Maggie really well. Like any envious big brother with a gentle heart. He may give her questionable looks and steal her toys, but he also drops them on the floor to share with her as well.

I can’t help it. Having these two new “kids” reminds me of those early years as a new mother.

The first night, despite my putting Maggie in her crate at 11 p.m. and getting up at 3:45 a.m. and again at 5:30 a.m. to let her out to do her business. Each time, she ate snow or bounced around, came inside and did her business…inside. On a towel.

I felt like once again, I had failed as a mother.

So I removed the towel. Sprayed some “No Go” on the floor and tried again. Several more times.

This time, I froze …and tried to let it go. I watched Marley run outside, and allowed her to follow her big brother. She jumped up and watched Marley as he sniffed around for the perfect place to do his doody. Then she copied Marley. When he was done, she tucked in her backside, sniffed around and then..all I could see was YELLOW SNOW. She did it! Maggie PEED! She peed outside! I was literally hooting and hollering like a giddy girl. She did it!

She peed outside! Maggie did it!

She did it again and again, all day long.

So yay, I hadn’t failed as a mother smother.

She needed to figure it out on her own. And the less I intervened…and relaxed a little, the better off she was.

I’m not going to lie, she woke up and had an accident on the floor today. Once. But I know it’s going to take time. She’s eight-and-a-half-weeks old for crying out loud.

True, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Once a mother smother, always a smother mother.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t try to be a little less hard on myself. And them.

And try to back off …and let nature take its course. 10487496_10153048189514061_4301573419064577921_n

Could you be turning into a High-Maintenance Sally?

I beg you to give this some thought.

Could you be turning into a High-Maintenance Sally?

Do you often find yourself, due to dietary restrictions, ordering things ON THE SIDE?

The older I get, the more I realize, to my utter dismay, I may be turning into High-Maintenance Sally.

If you’ve ever seen the movie, When Harry Met Sally, you know what I’m talking about.

There is a scene when Harry Burns, (played by Billy Crystal), says to Sally Albright, (played by Meg Ryan), “There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.”

Sally replies, “Which one am I?”

“You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.”

“I don’t see that.”

“You don’t see that? Waiter, I’ll begin with a house salad, but I don’t want the regular dressing. I’ll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side. And then the salmon with the mustard sauce, but I want the mustard sauce on the side. “On the side” is a very big thing for you.”

“Well, I just want it the way I want it.”

“I know; high maintenance.”

The older I get, the more I realize I’m starting to become high maintenance.

Maybe just a little.

I’m not trying to be a total pain in the rear.

I blame age. I just often find I need things a certain way, or the poop hits the fan.

Literally.

For example, I used to be fine with no-name-brand detergent.

Not I get a rash.

I used to be fine with no conditioner. (OK, if you’ve seen my high school portrait, I guess I really couldn’t get away with it – I just THOUGHT I could!)

I used to wake up, take a shower, get on my ten speed and go about my day. Three Rave perms a year, and I was set. I could eat ANYTHING on the menu and not worry about a thing.

Even in college, I’d go for a run, take a shower, slap on my jeans shorts and boom, I was set. I could let my hair air dry in the sun and never worry about a thing.

But after two kids and 19 years of marriage, things have started to change.

I NEED a hair dryer.

I get a headache if I order the wrong salad dressing.

I feel nauseous if I eat shellfish.

I skip conditioner for one day and I look like the lead singer of Quiet Riot.

You know you’re becoming High-Maintenance Sally when:

  • You order things ON THE SIDE because you know you’ll end up spending half the  day in bed if you don’t.
  • You try to drink a different beer than your “usual” and you end up with a hangover that lasts for days.
  • Boxed wine makes you gag.
  • Just the mention of the words, “Lemon shot” makes you cringe and want to run to the toilet.
  • You snack on ONE granola bar that happens to have artificial sweetener in it and you get a gnarly migraine.
  • You can’t pluck your eyebrows because they’re too thick and you can’t get them waxed because it causes an allergic reaction that makes you feel like the Elephant Man.
  • You have to drive 20 minutes out of the way, a few times a month, to get your eyebrows professionally THREADED.
  • Wearing cheap earrings actually does cause an ear infection.
  • You HAVE to get your hair colored professionally every 6 to 8 weeks or you look like a Golden Girl.
  • You buy a pair of jeans from the sales rack and the rear splits in half after one wash.
  • You try a new brand of yogurt, just for poops and giggles, and you end up sitting on the potty, not laughing… for
  • I’m really ashamed about this one: You get a horrible headache from the off-brand candle your daughter bought for you from her school store, so you secretly switch it out for a different scent that you can tolerate.
  • You get a rash from off-brand cosmetics.
  • You can’t skip a shower or else you look like Kramer during his bath binge.
  • You convince yourself you need a pair of boots for the rain, another for the snow, another for girls’ nights, another for carpooling and two more because you can’t just have them in black!

Style trends of 2015 (that you won’t see me embracing anytime soon)!

I have been fighting a cold for about a week now and when I’m really feeling sick, I can’t help myself. After loading my body with enough Green tea and Vitamin C to temporarily tranquilize a small rodent, I climb in bed and browse through Pinterest, Facebook, US Weekly and other “junkfood-for-Jackie’s-brain” places to catch up on the latest style trends. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with having a little fashion fest when you’re nursing a cold, right?

But during a recent Sunday online style search, I was disappointed. Very disappointed. Although the latest fashion trends for 2015 look fabulous on Kardashian and her kisters, they just aren’t for me.

I’ll throw out some examples:

1. CAPES. Some capes are really cute. I have tried to wear the “cape” look. But I look like I’m stepping off of the Scooby Mystery Mobile wearing one of my grandmother’s afghans around my shoulders. There are some people who can pull off this look. But I am not one of them. If you don’t believe me, I’ll snag my faux fur Restoration Hardware throw blanket off my couch, toss it around my neck and wait to see the kinds of looks I get at the grocery store.

  1. Mod 1960’s mini-dresses. Short mini dresses. So short, even my 10-year-old daughter calls them “inappropriate”. (I love that she says that. My only hope is that she keeps this up in high school.) OK, I love 1960’s dresses. My best friend and I practically STARTED our elementary school’s mini skirt trend in the fourth grade. Hello, have you not seen a bazillion FB pictures of me wearing my favorite Jackie O glasses (that sadly cracked in two during our recent move)? I also worship style icons from that era. My mother named me after Jackie Kennedy for crying out loud. But a dress so short that the hem line stops right past my panty line? Especially since my 43-year-old southern cheeks have been expanding from post-holiday Lindt truffle overload? Um, I think I’ll pass. No, thank you.
  2. Real fur coats. Long fur coats. I’m super happy with the new fluffy cashmere gloves my husband gave me for Christmas, but I’m not about to go out and buy a long and trendy real fur coat just because Kourtney Kardashian is wearing one. (Not a real fur coat, that’s cruel.) Mark my words, even if I did, it would go out of style the following week and someone would splash red paint on it.
  3. Military khaki. I’m OK with military jackets. But, does this mean I need to wear shoulder pads? Because, to quote Jimmy Fallon, “I can’t.” Plus, when I was 11 years old and I participated in a four-hour “Color Me Beautiful” program with my mom, I was shown that even a hint of khaki green fabric near my freckled face makes me look like I actually need to puke. I mean I can’t…I’m a spring! Not an autumn! 

5. Short sweater dresses. To quote my daughter, “Ew!” Some sweater dresses are cute. BUT…the last time I wore a sweater dress that looked good on me, I was a junior in high school. I’m sorry, but these short dresses are MEAN to a woman my age. They highlight everything. Not just my curves, but my bubbles, my flab and my back fat. No thank you.

Oh, dear, I guess this makes me officially unstylish this new year. That’s such a bummer. Being from Texas, I love to dress up and keep up with the latest fashions, but I can’t seem to EMBRACE new trends. But wait….one more search gives me hope. THANKS TO PRINCESS KATE, I’ve realized there’s a style trend I can follow! Black tights! Hello, black tights! Thank you, Kate Middleton, for bringing back simple black tights. You can drop $10 at your local drug store and look like a princess? AND tuck in muffin top without cutting off your blood circulation? And make your grandmother happy because it keeps you warm while wearing a dress? Hello, black thick tights, I love you! I guess I’m not as much of a fashion failure as I thought!

The holidays are over! The holidays are over!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Shut the front door, it’s January. How are you doing so far this NEW YEAR?

Me? I’m doing fan-fubbing-tastic.

I got my workout in this morning. I’ve had enough green tea to flood a basement. I’ve put away 85% of the Christmas decorations. I’m getting back to work. And I have a smile on my face as big as my expanding post-holiday waistline. I’m not going to lie. The cheesy grin has a lot to do with the fact that the holidays are over.

“Ba-hum-big, Jackie” you say?

Oh I said it.

I’m glad the holidays are over! I’m relieved! Yahhhoooo!

This, from http://www.annetaintor.com, says it all!

Don’t get me wrong – we had a nice Christmas break. We made great memories with our kids in our new home. With my parents. With my in-laws. With all of our relatives. We hosted and hosted and hosted until I practically bled twinkling lights and festive platters.

We had some relatives decide to stay not one week, but two. And others stay not just two weeks, but three. I love them all. I’m grateful for them all.

But as of 11:35 a.m. last Thursday? Like the Griswald holiday turkey, I was done. Dried to the bone, done. I’m not just RELIEVED the holidays are over. I’m fan-fubbing-ecstatic! OK, so it just so happens I experienced this ba-hum-bug revelation on my way home from the airport. Dropping my folks off at the airport, to be exact. Now, I love those two people who brought me into this world more than you could ever know. They are sweet people with big hearts. And I did everything possible to make sure their visit was awesome. From decorating a mini American Girl Doll-themed Christmas tree with my daughter to investing in a new Keurig, we did it all. And they appreciated it. (And mentioned anything I happened to forget. ;))

But there’s a rhetorical reason we should keep visits down to “Ten days tops,” as my husband says. “Ten days tops,” I always nod in agreement, cringing when I receive the actual reservations. I start to get a holiday facial twitch from all the stress of trying to make everyone happy. I try to control it by downing one Lindt truffle every 30 minutes.

My father will make any excuse possible to extend a trip to see his grandchildren. (Who he still thinks are 3 and 6. And me? In his eyes, I think I’m about 13.) I adore my parents dearly. But there is a point during a visit when you’re done. I’m not sure if it was Day 2 when my mom realized she forgot her prescription cough medication in Florida or Day 7 when I woke to the sound of my own snoring on the sofa at 7:30 p.m. (Or Day 10 when my dog ate an entire platter of assorted cheese, crackers and pepperoni.) Son of a…that’s another post for another time.

With the kids home for the break, relatives coming and going everyday, the dog humping the new sofa cushions, (one child home sick with flu-like symptoms an entire week before vacation), and house renovations going on during holiday prep time, I was done.

I could not wrap another gift, vacuum up another ball of Marley hair, clean another toilet, change another bed, or contemplate lunch, dinner or appetizers.

I had a migraine the size of Miami.

All day long on New Year’s Day, after forcing in a mini workout, I fought that gnarly headache. I sat in bed with my daughter watching crap TV for most of the day. And it felt like heaven.

Somewhere, in between over-dosing on Lindt truffles and forgetting to work out for several days in a row, I lost it.

And today, as I dropped my daughter off at school and proceeded to have a celebratory rock concert in my car, I realized it wasn’t all that bad.

We had a lot of fun.

We made great memories.

We had a nice time. I love my family and wouldn’t change them for the world.

I’ve come to the realization that the holidays are a lot like giving birth. You forget everything as soon as the next one comes around. You forget about all the stress, the pain (in the arse-ness) and the emotional exhaustion. You look forward to making more It’s-A-Wonderful-Life and Bing-Crosby-Christmas-Carol holiday memories with loved ones.

Life is short. Life is good. Life really is wonderful.

Here’s hoping you have a wonderful, fun-fubbing-tastic 2015!

Holiday-zilla

There’s a reason you might have seen cob webs on my blog lately. Aside from the fact that I need a new Swiffer, I’ve been caught up with a few things over the past few months. Like… oh I don’t know…moving to a new house (without professional movers). Unpacking everything with my husband and kids (and trying to understand how we have accumulated so much stuff over the years). Trying to organize and fill the house. Then repacking everything we originally unpacked on the second floor and moving it to the first floor while we have the hardwoods redone. Celebrating our new home with friends and family. Celebrating our anniversary. Finalizing a dream publishing agreement with Robyn Lane Books of Texas (woot-woot!). And…well…the obvious. The *&^%$###@ holidays.

Joy to my weekly Yahoo! calendar, the holidays are coming. How can it be the second week in December already??!

I can almost hear my parents on their way from Florida. (Which is a good thing….and a not-so-fabulous thing.)

I love them dearly, but, as my husband reminds me, I tend to get a little stressed prior to their visit, ESPECIALLY when they come during the holidays.

Why?

Because, like I said…I tend to get a little stressed this time of year.

Why?

Because no matter how hard I try, I have to admit I’m not Martha. Or Rachel. Or even my adorable 4-ft.-11 Italian mother-in-law who often finishes her Christmas shopping before Labor Day weekend. (Or my talented cousin who decorates five themed trees throughout her house that look like they belong in a New York City storefront.)

Rather than live in the present and all that other blah-blah-woof-woof I read in magazines and blogs this time of year, I tend to turn into a Gremlin. I start out all wide-eyed from rainbows-and-unicorns-expectations and morning jogs and then I gradually sneak a Lindt truffle every hour and skip enough workouts that I turn into someone who growls at the thought of another holiday deadline.

Oh yes, through the years, I have a tendency to turn into a Holiday-zilla. 

(I even have frizzy hair and stress zits from past Christmas photos to prove it.)

The days I forget to blow dry my hair, I actually LOOK like a gremlin that gets wet and snacks after midnight. It’s not a pretty sight.

Now I do appreciate the holidays. But…as soon as Black Friday arrives, I’m a goner.

After baking cookies and meat pies throughout November, rather than sing Christmas Carols, I actually feel myself tensing up just glancing at the Advent Calendar.

Now, I WANT to start Christmas shopping early.

But I never do.

I didn’t even START my list until a few days ago.

I want to order my holiday cards in November, thinking I will find that “picture perfect” picture where the four of us are captured together, smiling, without red eyes.

But I never do.

Even our dog is squinting in this year’s photo card, which I have ordered…but will probably receive two days before Christmas even though I paid extra for expedited shipping.

Through the years, my expectations tend to get so crazed, I end up screwing up something. Not everything, but something.

I also STINK when it comes to giving gifts. I do try…

I once gave a black patent leather purse for a family Yankee gift swap. I thought the “rule” was girls swap girly gifts with the women and boys swap boy-ish gifts with the men. I was born in Texas, I should have Googled Yankee swap before I participated. I ended up getting my own gift back because no one wanted it!

But my mother taught me to give gifts that YOU WOULD want to receive. (And I’m sorry, but who wouldn’t want a cute black patent leather clutch that goes with virtually every holiday ensemble?)

Last year, I gave something safe and non-gender-specific from Bed, Bath and Beyond. It was so safe and boring, I can’t even remember what it was. But I crossed it off my list, right? ;)

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves?

Why can’t we just enjoy this time of year? THEY’RE THE HOLIDAYS. I’M SORRY, BUT THEY SHOULD BE JOLLY, NOT STRESSFUL!

Why do so many women have to be so good at it, they make the rest of us look bad??! :)

This year, Christmas is going to be different.

I’m determined to NOT turn into a Holiday-zilla.

I KNOW I can do it!

I just took an Advil. I drank some green tea. 

That’s a good start, right?

The glass is half full, not drained to a puddle.

The tree is decorated. The wreaths are up.

ALMOST all the gift have been ordered. (Except the yawn-Yankee-non-gender-specific ones.)

I have a feeling everything is going to be OK… (even if you can’t really see the tree because it’s buried in a room with everything we own from the second floor).  

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

Finally, a Fairytale for Mothers!

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Have you ever noticed that in nearly every fairy tale, one parent passes away tragically?

Think of it. In Snow White, her father passes away.

Cinderella’s dad dies. 

We all know what happens to Bambie’s mom.

Even in modern-day fairy tales like Finding Nemo, the mom gets swallowed by a shark (along with, GULP, hundreds of brothers and sisters).

Goodness. That’s heavy stuff. Especially for a little kid!

I adore the classics…but can someone PLEASE throw us a bone in the form of a more uplifting fairy tale?

Enter fellow writer, Leslie Gibbons, author of A Fairytale for Mothers. When Leslie’s daughter was expecting her first baby, she was disappointed by the lack of mothers and mother-figures in fairy tales.  She begged Leslie to write a story with a living, loving mother that she could share with her family.  That’s how A Fairytale for Mothers was born.  Yeah! (Can you tell I’m excited?)

A Fairytale for Mothers cover illustration by Elese Morris

This full-color gift book illustrated by Elese Morris is perfect for moms because it’s a quick read with an inspiring message.  Mothers and children alike will appreciate this story about a mother bird’s love for her chicks, and the generous gift she shares with each one when it is their turn to leave the nest. It also shows how adult chicks don’t return to the nest after college return to share gifts of their own.  Beautifully illustrated in water color, A Fairytale for Mothers is available from Robyn Lane Books (a totally awesome publishing company) on November 18, 2014. Here’s a sneak peek at the beautiful cover! You can also find more details here.

fairytale

Ready? OK! Confessions of a Texas transplant-turned-Rhode Island cheerleader

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I have a confession to make. Although I was born and raised in Texas, I didn’t try out for cheerleading.

Of course, I always wanted to be a Derek Doll. 

But I never tried out.

Why, you ask?

Let’s see: I guess I was sort of cute when I was little, but then the hormones kicked in and I grew into a pale and gawky tween. Combine this with the fact that I was only allowed to buy things off the sales rack and I was not exactly “cheerleading” material. I was a polite kid with a lot of friends. I was on the dance team, the Sharkettes (Pop Warner) and took gymnastics, ballet and jazz. But I didn’t come out of the womb doing mid-air splits.

So I never bothered to try out for cheerleading.

I waited until I moved to Rhode Island my junior year of high school. I remember thinking, “What the heck do I have to lose?” as I rolled my Forenza jeans into my cowboy boots and coated my permed bangs with another layer of Aqua Net.

During tryouts, I did a cheer. A few kicks. Then another yell or two with moves like… Jackie. I smiled. Then my nerves got the best of me. After a few high kicks, I said something that would change my life forever.

I turned and announced to one of the judges, “I’m so nervous, I think I might pee in my pants.”

(In my defense, it was true.)

The next second was excruciating.

I remember hearing nothing in the auditorium but the squeak of my tennis shoes. It was like something out of a John Hughes movie.

Then I heard a few giggles. Followed by lots of laughing. Even a few snorts.

All the other girls were laughing. They were apparently laughing WITH ME. (OR so I hoped.). For a second, I felt like Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink.

I guess the judge appreciated my honest style because I made it.

You read that right – I made cheerleading!

When I found out I made the squad, it was as if the painful zit on my chin had finally popped, dried and flaked off. I felt free and clear. The stress that came with moving to a small town hundreds of miles away from everything I had known was lifted.

It was a dream come true. In my 16-year-old mind, I felt like I was Susan Lucci. (The up-teenth time she landed an Emmy nomination. Gooooo, Erica!)

But after a few weeks, I realized that in a small New England town, cheerleading was a lot different than it is in Texas. People don’t make as much of a big deal about it. I discovered a lot of things about cheerleading that I didn’t know before.

A few ways cheerleading is different in Rhode Island:

  • In East Greenwich, Rhode Island, there was no mandatory rule that cheerleaders permeate their locks with AquaNet.
  • The outfits don’t have to sparkle or look anything like NFL cheerleader outfits.
  • You HAVE to wear thermals or sweats under your cheerleading outfit in Rhode Island to keep from freezing your buns off.
  • There are no mothers plotting the murder of other moms so their daughters can get on the squad.
  • You don’t have to look like a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader to make the team.
  • Hair is much flatter in RI than in Texas, where they don’t condone “naked hair”. In Texas, “naked hair” is defined as hair that has not been permed, rolled, processed or curled and sprayed with enough hairspray to start a bonfire.
  • High school football stadiums in Rhode Island are like miniature Zoolander stadiums compared to the crowds that fill Texas Friday Night Lights’ games. The stadium we had in East Greenwich was a quarter of the size of the old stadium where I used to hang out with friends on fun Texas Friday nights.

Extra strength AquaNet or no AquaNet, I was still proud to be a cheerleader.

I spent some of the most memorable years of my life cheering, choreographing, and dancing with an awesome group of girls.

To this day, there are times when I will hear a Milli Vanilli song, lip synch and break into cheer, loud and clear for my kids to hear. The “beat” comes to me like the SNL Spartans squad led by Will Ferrell, as he and his female counterpart rooted on water polo matches with the “Perfect Cheer”. I can’t hold back. My hips start pumping. My head moves from side to side. Then I stop, look down, both arms to my side. “Ready? OK!” I yell out to my dog, who sits there, squinting back. (In shame.)

“Roll call boogie, check, check. Roll call boogie, check, check. So check. Us. Out.” I yell out to myself in the kitchen (the dog has walked away). “My name is Jackie, YEAH. I have a big grin. YEAH. I’ll tell you one thing, YEAH. This team is gonna win!”

Before I’m done dancing and pretending to remember the cheer, I realize my 10-year-old daughter is not only ignoring me, she is running from me, screaming, “Mom, please stop! My eyes are burning!”

You know you’ve reached Mid-life Mommyhood when…

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  • As soon as you spot a public Ladies Room, you go…just in case.
  • 9 p.m. used to be the time you’d go out with friends. Now it’s the time you head to bed.
  • When a friend has to cancel plans because her child is sick, you secretly look forward to putting on your PJ pants and watching Netflix.
  • You no longer work out so you can eat more, you work out so you will not feel like cow dung the next day.
  • When you don’t eat right, you pay for it. All. Week. Long.
  • You used to walk into a room of strangers and care what they thought of you, and now you wonder to yourself, “Do I really care about any of these people?”.
  • When you don’t get enough sleep, you wake up feeling like you’ve been hit by a frying pan, your eyes turn into slits and you secretly wish you could stay in bed. All. Day. Long.
  • About the time you finally get used to Facebook, you realize “kids these days” are using Twitter more often than FB.
  • You use the term “kids these days” without even realizing it.
  • Nursing a hangover takes more than a nap and a cheeseburger.
  • Your new mid-life hangover remedy: Multiply the number of drinks you have by .5 to find out how many days you need to feel normal again. (If tequila is involved, count on doubling that formula.)
  • You wake up in a pool of sweat almost every day.
  • Five hours of continuous sleep is like a God-send.
  • Your neck is sore not because you went hang-gliding but because you “slept on it wrong”.
  • Random injuries keep getting lamer and lamer, and more frequent than you care to admit.
  • You have come to terms with the fact that you can never do jumping jacks again without peeing a little.
  • You wear a panty liner just in case you sneeze.
  • And last but not least: You sneeze loudly just in case you pass gas simultaneously.

 

But, Dad…

Do you ever look back on your younger years and wonder, “Was I a good kid?”? Did my Dad think I was a good daughter?

I seem to do a lot of “looking back” since embracing my 40’s. I think I was a good daughter. OK, so my attitude as a teen left something to be desired. Especially after moving from Texas to Rhode Island. I mean, I was a good kid, almost too goody-goody before we moved.

But those daddy-daughter trips to the hardware store followed by a milkshake?Image

Or lunching at Chili’s after going to Target on Saturdays? (Oh, yes, they had Target in Texas way back when, and it was glorious.)

It wasn’t long before they turned into, “But, Dad, I can’t today.”

“But, Dad…I’m going to my friend’s house.”

“But, Dad, I can’t.”

“Dad, can I borrow the car?”

I was the only girl. The baby. My Dad and I always got along. We could walk outside, play catch and talk about…everything. Or nothing in particular. We’d run errands together and he let me bring a friend along while my mom cleaned and my brother was out doing whatever the cool kids did in the 80’s.

I’ve always adored my father, with his groomed beard and glasses. I’ve always admired his corny jokes, his math wizard-ness and everything he contributed to the Space Program. I remember skiing together in Colorado, flying down moguls, giggling. And crying into his chest after we lost dear friends on The Challenger. And after he lost his job.

But something happened after we moved away.

I turned into a 16-year-old.

I’d race through dinner so I could be with my boyfriend (my now husband! ;)). My friends.

I didn’t mean to say that.

Or have that party.

Or put off doing the leaves.

It just happened.

I turned into a teenager.

But this Father’s Day, as I look back (like the hormonal mid-life mother I am), I realize I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m so grateful that my Dad is still around. I have a lot of people in my life, my husband included, who have lost their fathers. That alone breaks my heart and makes me want every visit, every phone call, and every email with my dad to count from now on.

I recently visited my parents in Florida and it was one of the most memorable trips we’ve had together.

Did we go on a cruise?

No.

Did we go to Disney?

No.

Did we lay out at the beach?

No.

Did we tour his old stomping grounds at Kennedy Space Center?

Not this time. Although i would have loved that.

Actually, I just flew out there to support my parents while my mom had surgery.

We did a lot of…NOTHING. And my mom’s surgery went really well.

I have to say it was the most special time I’ve spent with my parents in a long time.

During that trip to a little town just outside of Cape Canaveral, Florida, to see my folks, I was happy to do nothing special.

Just visit.

Just chat.

Just shoot the “hey” on the patio with the two people who brought me into this world.

So, we giggled.

We cooked.

We hung out. We piled whipped cream on top of hot cocoa when the rain started pouring down.

We took pictures of birds hanging out in the backyard.

I jogged to the tennis court to watch my Dad play a few matches with his buddies.

The day my mom had her surgery, my Dad took me out to lunch at a diner right around the corner. It’s his favorite hole in the wall, with pleather booths and a big banner that hangs from the ceiling that shouts, “Best Pie in Florida”. Because it was Tuesday, we got a free slice of pie. It was honestly the best $12 meal I’ve had in my life. Because it was just me and my Dad again.

Did we do anything special?

No.

We sat there in that booth, sharing a slice of key lime pie, talking about everything…and nothing in particular.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Doll Heaven?

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There are some things I find necessary for little girls.

Things like bicycles, barrettes and summer dresses.

But bicycles, barrettes and summer dresses…for dolls?

Yes, I’m talking about A. Girl Dolls. I don’t know what it is. Part of me wants to hide in my room and play with these adorable dolls and their very cute and tiny accessories, while the other part of me can’t possible fathom paying for a miniature sofa with coordinating throw pillows so a doll can relax and unwind after a full day of pretend. (Yes, I know many of these dolls represent historical figures and teach great lessons, but when a play bedroom set costs as much as a designer hand bag, I can’t help but vent about it. And yes, in case you’re thinking I’m a total Scrooge…Santa has come through with some very cool American Girl Doll gifts that I sometimes find myself playing with on a rainy day.)

So, when I took my daughter and mother-in-law to the American Girl Doll flagship store in New York City, three full floors of what I can only describe as a doll-museum-meets-Macy’s-on-meds, I thought I’d died and went to doll heaven. Or doll purgatory, given some of the crazy females that surrounded us with spray-on tans, luggage-size European handbags and diamond rings that could give you a black eye if you stood too close. I didn’t know what to think, but I have to say, my daughter was excited. So we were too. 2013-11-30 10.34.46

We thought we’d simply play our part as good tourists, browse around, shop a bit and take some pictures. But as soon as we stepped off the escalator, we caught a glimpse of the second floor main attraction. Walking past aisles of fashionable outfits on mini hangers, we saw a pink sign that read, “Doll Hair Salon”. Walking closer, all I could say was “Oh my…GOODNESS” “Oh my GOODNESS”. There was a long row of stylists working at a mock spa, each standing behind mini salon chairs. And a crowd of little women (and their moms) waiting in line.

I felt like clicking my heels together because I KNEW we weren’t in reality Kansas anymore.

Within minutes, we were sucked into an American Girl Doll-in-Wonderland brain2013-11-30 10.34.40 wash.

A 20-something stylist approached us and asked, “Would you like to make an appointment?”

She wasn’t talking about an appointment for my daughter. Or me. Although,  I could have used a blow-out.

She was talking about my daughter’s doll. Or my daughter’s doll’s hair to be exact.

I never thought I’d live to see the day. My daughter was all smiles, and I was practically choking on my own vomit excitement. If you took one look at her doll, Isabella, from the dirty bare plastic feet on up to its tangly ‘do, you’d know it needed some TLC, Stacey and Clinton style.

After 10 excruciating minutes, the doll’s appointment finally came. Isabella was seated in a mini pleather parlor chair as a stylist brushed out her long dark brown hair. After struggling through a few snarls, the stylist looked directly at me and said, “You see this mini-braid, mom?”

“Yes.” I said, forcing a straight face, still staring at everything around me in disbelief.

“You have to watch out for this.”

“OK,” I said, admiring her combing technique.

“You can’t do mini braids like this anymore.”

“OK….. sorry,” (How could I be so irresponsible!?)

“It causes major damage.”

“OK. I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks.”

Months ago, one of my daughter’s friends made a small braid on one part of Isabella’s hair during a play date.   I was feeling that icky, guilty feeling you get at the dentist’s office when he cleans your teeth after you’ve devoured half a bag of mini-Reese’s peanut butter cups.

But then I reminded myself: This is a doll. You can’t possibly feel guilty for damaging DOLL HAIR.

After all, I didn’t braid it, her friend did.

Right?

And I digress.

I tried to stifle it, but when the stylist started massaging and polishing the doll’s face with a tiny wet spa towel, I couldn’t take it anymore. I started to giggle. Out loud. As I laughed out loud with my mother-in-law and other mothers watching their daughter’s dolls get a full beauty treatment, some cackled along with me, while others were as stone-faced as their five-year-old mini-me’s. Think of a PG version of Real Housewives of New Jersey. With dolls. The RHWONJ-look-alikes  were surrounding us. And none of them were laughing.

I was beginning to feel like Alice. Almost everyone was under 4 10, including my very sweet Italian mother-in-law.

And every display, every piece of furniture was made for a doll.

Everything about our visit was surreal. But fun at the same time. The look on my daughter’s face, as if we had entered a magical kingdom filled with unicorns, made it all worth it.

My daughter was disappointed that our visit didn’t last forever. Unfortunately, we couldn’t fit in an appointment at the faux café upstairs because we had to run to a Broadway show. It was too bad, because I really could have used a shot cup of pretend tea.

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