Mama Forgets. Twice.

Cub began third grade this year and one of the special ways his teacher celebrates each student is to send home Corduroy, the Adventure Bear for a weekend.  Each student takes a turn to welcome Corduroy into their home, to take him on an adventure.  This weekend, it was Cub’s turn.  And we forgot him.  I know what you’re thinking: Winning.

When Cub ran off the bus on Friday afternoon, he was wearing a Christmas-morning-grin.  Lunging to the porch with a large bear.  This is Corduroy!  I got him for the weekend and he’s going to do everything with us!  Joy.  Dear God, just don’t let us lose him- better yet, please don’t let Zook rip his leg off…  We take out the bear.  There is an instruction page and journal for Cub to record his adventures with us.  Most importantly, Cub needs to read aloud to Corduroy.  Okay, here we go.

Saturday, Cub had a soccer tournament.  Four hours of watching, waiting and playing.  Husband lucked out had to work and was only able to make to the last game of the day.  Getting out the door was quite a cluster…  Packing lunches, finding shin guards- why the hell are they not together?!  Then the socks have to go on.  But what?  You can’t do it alone?  As I am packing Cub’s leg into his sock, my spine is beaten by Zook’s boot.  It’s unseasonably warm this weekend- 75 today- and no, child, you can’t wear your boots.  Finally out the door.  I have sandwiches for everyone, snacks and a couple hidden treats to serve as Tangible Rewards– certainly NOT bribes, what kind of Mama bribes her children?  I do however, recommend the Tangible Reward system.  You won’t be disappointed.  Promise.  It was a little ride to get to the tournament and we picked up a couple friends on the way (one for me and one for Cub) but by the time we got to the game, Cub realized we had forgotten someone.  Corduroy.  Shit.

I’m so sorry buddy.  We completely forgot him.  I bet you’re bummed.  We will bring him tomorrow when we go apple picking.  Okay…?  Fine.  Whew.  Dodged that melt-down bullet.  One down, forty-three to go.  The day was hot, long and by the last game, I was ready to be the one to have the melt-down but we survived with only twenty-two minutes of crying and one horrible port-o-potty visit.  Which I won’t elaborate on but I will say this: They are not suitable for young children.  And two people cannot fit.  Well.  Two people cannot fit well.  And then there’s the smell.  And the— Okay, I’ll just stop there for tonight.  But there could be an entire future post focused on visiting a port-o-potty with a two year old.  Just an FYI.

Sunday.  Gor-ge-ous day.  Amazing- even for Autumn in Vermont Standards.  Beautiful drive to the orchard with zero complaining- pretty impressive because it’s about a twenty minute drive from home.  As we walk through the first row of apple trees… Mom!  We did it again!  We forgot Corduroy!  Crap, that fucking bear is ruining everything.  We sit down for a minute- because now, I am pretty sure we are all trying not to hyperventilate.  We have to get him!  Husband tries first: The day’s not over.  We could play chase in the yard when we get home…  Cub doesn’t even humor him with a response.  We have to get him.  Mama looks at Daddy.  Go.  Please.  I say this with my eyes.  But he gets it.  Husband stands up.  Cub smiles.  He’ll be back (in approximately fifty minutes) with the damn bear.  With Corduroy.

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While I can say that dragging (or forgetting) the bear around this weekend was a pain in the ass, it was also a wonderful opportunity for me to listen to Cub read aloud.  He’s a wonderful reader- better than I know I was at his age- but he often reads to himself before bed, outgrown the evening ritual of being read to.  We still read plenty to him but it wasn’t until this weekend that I heard him read aloud.  It was amazing- like tears to your eyes amazing.  Thanks to Corduroy, I was able to witness my child read, hear him form the words, hear his inflection of tone, hear him enjoy a journey.  I asked Cub if he would read to me sometimes before bed after Corduroy was gone.  He obliged with much more optimism than I had anticipated.  I am beyond proud to report that this is a pastime that will not end when the bear is returned to school tomorrow.  Thanks Corduroy.

Peace, Mamas.

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Back on the Wagon… Again

My name is Sarah Russell.  I am a yell-aholic.  I have been yell-free for eight days.

So here we are.  Day Eight.  Many, many events have taken place in the past month or so.  Mainly summer vacation hit me like a ton of bricks.  The first couple weeks were quite euphoric.  I was craving the lax of no school, no obligations, no pressure… Until that’s just what I got.  Sure, the relaxed nature of our days is easier in some ways but I am not sure the pros have outweighed the cons because something happens when you don’t have to answer to school, sports practices, preschool pick-up and bus schedules: You get lazy.  And I am not just talking about lazy like Oh I’m just going to lay around— no, no.  Lazy like, I’m going to take a little break from parenting.  Lazy like, I’m going to ignore the bickering for just a little bit too long.  Lazy like, I’m going to say sure to that (store bought) cookie because you can get it for yourself and I don’t have to get up from Pinteresting to cut you up a goddamn piece of fruit.  You want to watch TV for an extra hour?  Sure.  You want to play video games past the 20 minute limit?  Go for it.  Your brother kicked you because you– oh nevermind.  Get another cookie.

And as I am sure you can imagine, the cart plummeted off the cliff at the intersection of lazy parenting and children gone wild.  Ugh.  Something had to change.  I was unhappy.  I felt like shit.  The summer was passing us by and I was like an indifferent, stinky high school student on summer vacation.  And then it hit me.  This isn’t my summer vacation.  It’s theirs.   What was my problem?  I was so looking forward to slacking off and then I realized I was wasting their vacation by being self-absorbed and lame.  Mama Fail.

So we went on a trip and spent a week at the ocean.  It was amazing.  On our last day, we had a very stressful travel itinerary and I knew that to keep us from living in a constant state of chaos while one humiliating meltdown blends into another, it was gong to take everything I had in me– which was not a whole hell of a lot considering the steady BAC I was able to maintain for six straight days (impressive, I know).  The night before, I panicked and fell back on the No Yell Challenge.  It was the only tool in my cloudy, liquor-saturated box.  I needed the No Yell Challenge.  And I needed to get Husband on board.  We needed to work as a team- not as ring leaders of t this dysfunctional circus we had operated for  the last couple months.

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Despite the whining, crying and annoying complaining of the next 24 hours, I managed to remain in control.  I did not lose my temper.  And when I was close, Husband became quite adept at identifying the bulging vein in my forehead and stepped in as needed.  We even high-fived each other.  Twice.  As I sat, crammed in between a sweet child and a fat, crabby Canadian (both snoring with drool hanging from their lips), I realized that I can do this.  And I owe it to these amazing little humans I brought into this world to be better.  Better at playing with them.  Better at listening to them.  Better at  guiding them.  

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So here we are.  Day Eight.  I’m doing it.  I have not yelled.  I have taken deep breaths.  I work so hard every day to be patient, kind and attentive.  It’s tough, I won’t lie.  But I feel so much better at the end of the day.  Instead of the guilt-stricken recap, I wrack my mind thinking of little things I can do to make them smile the next day.  And then I do them.   I have left tasks unfinished to read to them.  I have forgone errands to take them to the beach.  I have put my phone down to play with them.  Relishing the feelings which swell as they grab for my hand, turn to smile at me or as I catch them pretending.  This is their summer vacation.  My summer vacation is over.  Or maybe it’s just now beginning.

Peace, Mamas.

Whoppers

Mama: What happened to your legs?

Zook: Fell me.  (Little man speaks in Yoda-ish format most of the time.)

Mama: How did those marks get all over your legs?

Zook: Boo-boos.  Fell me.

Mama (Yoda Decoder):   Those are boo-boos from when you fell?

Zook: Yeah…

Mama: It looks like pen to me…

Zook: Yeah…

Mama: Did you drawn on your legs with pen?

Zook: Um… Fell me.  On pen me.

Mama: You fell on the pen and that’s how it got on your legs?

Zook (Beaming Yoda): Yup!

Okay, 1. I need some kind of a trophy for mastery of this new language and 2. We need to have a chat about fibbing… As soon as I stop giggling.

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Peace, Mamas.

Mama’s Little Helper

My littlest dude loves to help his Mama.  With. Everything.  While I adore the way he looks up at me with those big innocent eyes, Help Mama!  Help you?  Pease?  Seriously how can I say no to that.  So we pull up a stool.  And he helps.  Whether it’s cooking, weeding the garden or putting away silverware from the dishwasher.  Including him in the process makes it take about twice as long (if I am lucky), tests my patience, forces me to take deep breaths and slow down.  But since when are exercising patience, deep breathing and taking my time bad things…?

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We move through life so quickly and barely take the chance to appreciate the interactions we have with our kids.  It was quite apparent to me when we sat down for dinner one night and began our evening ritual of sharing the favorite events of the day.  We got to Zook, who usually makes something up to feel like he’s contributing although at two and a half, he’s barely able to sift through the day’s events to find a favorite- or so I thought.  Zook, what was your favorite part of the day?  Cook Mama.  Cook [with] Mama.  It was my most tedious and frustrating task of the day.  The part of my day that caused the most amount of frustration because I had to slow down, take my time and breathe.  Sounds pretty ridiculous now, huh?  Yup.  Really, so much about life can be learned from retrospect.

I am reminded of a previous post where I talked about Committing to No and realized I really need to go back to that.  I need to breathe.  This high strung Mama needs to relax a bit because her kiddos are becoming high strung offspring.  Breathe Mama.  Soak in the moments.

I love my little helper.

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Peace, Mamas.

The First Breakfast of Summer

Wanting to make the first day of Summer Vacation special for my monsters, I dove into a little recipe pioneering.  And came up with these: Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes.  Um, yum!  They were light and fluffy and pair perfectly with Vermont Maple Syrup.  The kids love them- even more so that they were silver dollar-sized.  Usually we have a strict Double Stack Rule but with these little buggers, we stacked ’em sky-high!

So many of the recipes I have for pancakes, include modified sugar  and enriched white flour.  A common misconception is that using whole wheat flour will produce dense, dry confections.  On the contrary, using whole wheat flour, actually adds depth to the flavor and generally makes baked goods more moist and delicious.  If you haven’t used whole wheat flour before, my suggestion would be to ease into it by mixing half and half.  It does change the flavor- I love it but I have also been using it for years.  Now my recipe does call for a couple tablespoons of brown sugar.  In hind sight, I would have used a more natural sweetener like honey– or depending on the ripeness of your banana, you could just omit the sweetener completely.

Of course you will need some assistance from your helpers…

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I had the heat set to about medium and it seemed to cook the pancakes evenly and uniformly.

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Now for the towering stacks…

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The smiling, sticky-sweet faces of my boys made my day- and I think this breakfast treat set the stage for what I hope our summer will be: fun, healthy and a little sticky!

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Whole Wheat, Banana Pancakes

  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar*
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Medium Banana
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • Dash of Cinnamon

*Swap out for honey or omit entirely

Preheat griddle to med heat.  Combine flour, baking powder and brown sugar (if using honey, add to the banana mixture instead).  In separate bowl, mash banana and whisk in egg and milk.  Add all at once to the four mixture and mix until just combined.  Using a tablespoon, drop batter into heated pan (spray with a little cooking spray before the first batch and then you should be good to go after that).  Once bubbles begin to form and the edges aren’t shiny, flip ’em over.  There you go!  Of course you could make regular-sized pancakes, but how fun is that?!

Clean pates in this house equal a meal well enjoyed!

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Celebrate summer!  Peace, Mamas!

A Kid-friendly Meal?! Oh Hell Yeah!

Yes, it’s true…  My entire family ate this meal.  It was amazing!

The main idea with any meal is fresh, natural and local.  We make every effort to consume foods which are grown withing 100 miles of our home.  In addition, I steer away from corn and legumes unless they are organic and non-GMO (genetically modified organisms).  In fact, I try to entirely stay away from foods containing GMOs.  Why would I want to feed my family man-made food?!  Recently, I came across a wonderful site which maintains a registry of non-GMO foods. The Non-GMO Project, website here, lists foods and brands which are registered as non-GMO.  I was very surprised that many of the items in the natural foods section contain GMOs.  Kashi?!  Yes, Kashi.  Why are these foods not labeled, you ask?  Well, here in Vermont, we are working very hard to make that happen.  Stay tuned!  Quality food is something I’m rather obsessed with and there are worse things to obsess over.  The fuel we ingest determines the efficiency of our bodily functions- which is essential to life.  Off the soap box for now and on with the show.

Brace yourself… Here comes dinner!  Who likes what, who won’t eat what and who throws a fit.  Not tonight…  Oh hel-lo Chicken Won-Ton Cups!  Using delicious, free-range, local chicken breasts, non-GMO won ton wraps, organic cabbage and carrots, I pulled off a winning meal that everyone loved.  I deconstructed it a little for the kiddos- they prefer raw veggies and weren’t super into the cabbage but since I planned for this ahead of time, we were golden!

Here’s the low-down:

  • 1lb. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • Half head of cabbage, shredded or sliced very thinly
  • 4 Carrots, julienned (cut into matchsticks)
  • 24 Won ton wraps
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • Cooking Spray
  • 2 tablespoons Soy sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray two 12-cup muffin tins with cooking spray.  Gently push one won ton wrap into each muffin cup, bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges just begin to brown.  Spray non-stick skillet with a little cooking spray, add chicken. Once the chicken is cooked through, add the soy sauce and cook down for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the EVOO on med-high heat and add the cabbage and carrots.  Saute until the cabbage begins to brown slightly and the carrots are tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Assemble, using the won ton as a cup for the cabbage, carrots and chicken.  Voila!

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I think the kids were quite intrigued with the idea of eating dinner from an edible cup.  They did not eat the carrot-cabbage mixture so instead used raw carrots and tomatoes along with the chicken.  The idea of using the cups got me to thinking about different food combos that could be subbed.  There will surely be some experimenting!  Enjoy these with additional soy sauce if you desire but we didn’t need any- the flavor was delicious and perfect!

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Lastly, I decided on Sunday that I would renew my commitment to the No Yell Challenge.  And I am happy to report that it’s been a success!  A huge success, actually.  I have stayed true to not yelling.  Exhausted my patience, been empathetic and all that nice warm and fuzzy shit.  And it’s working.  I have also been really diligent about telling my children how much they mean to me.   At a few points during the day, I have tried to quantify my love for them in a way that might make sense.  By committing to this, it’s really forced me to think positively about how I parent.  Inadvertently, I have changed up my vocabulary and tone of voice because I need to make my actions reflect my feelings.  Tough but not impossible.  I feel great and I really think they do as well.  Win-win!

And I leave for my trip on Monday…  This has been on my mind for the last week and I can feel my anxiety mounting as the date gets closer.  Instead of dwelling on leaving my little guys (and my big guy), I have poured myself into making these last days with them count.  So far, my avoidance and denial have worked out nicely…

Peace Mamas!

 

Sunday Reset: Vomit Talk

End of another week.  My posts haven’t been as frequent due to round 411 of this fucking stomach bug.  Seriously.  My middle dude seems to pick it up more than anyone else.  So he’s had it twice in the last week.  Just when I start to think we are getting through this…  Mama…?  It’s coming.  Racing up the stairs, clutching his body, turning to head back down the stairs and…  Yup.  All over me.  In my hair.  Dripping down the stairs.  Oh my God.  What the hell just happened?  While husband is showering Mooch, Mama has now stripped and is cleaning up some of the vilest vomit with diluted vinegar –because some idiot (ugh, me) decided it would be a good idea to break up with the Clorox.  Idiot.  While I am cursing myself out for that stupid decision, near-naked, I realize I have quite a night ahead of me.  My prediction was dead-on.

So I think we are in the clear and three days over again: Hello, Vomit!  Missed you so!  This time the stairs were safe however, the carpet and sheets took a hit.  Not in my hair- but in his and just on the shoulder of my shirt.  Only for the rest of the day, I can smell throw up.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  Where you know you catch a whiff and then you start sniffing like a lunatic trying to locate some shred of evidence to support the stench?  I’m not the only one who does this, right?  Right…?  But then you don’t smell it anymore.  Life goes on.  And all of a sudden, while playing the 506th game of Connect Four, I get the whiff again.  Pulling out my own shirt, I locate the source: a dime-sized chunk of vomit stuck to the inside of my sports bra (yes, I’m still wearing the same one from last night, no I have not showered and no you can’t  judge me).  What the fuck.   This is my life.

Now this may all seem very gross to you- even if you have kids.  But I bet you can relate.  And if you don’t have children, well, I should apologize because after reading that you may not ever want them.  But if you have stuck with me thus far, keep reading.

All of this throw up and lost sleep, carpet cleaner, laundry and scrubbing also brings some good stuff too.  Like watching them sleep.  (Okay, I’ll admit it, I am obsessed.)  In addition to swearing slow and painful torture on the culprit who wakes said child, I get the privilege to witness their peace- the steady rise and fall of their chest, those soft pink lips, the sweaty little palms holding tight to your own.  The gentle flicks of their eyelids.  Staring, searching their faces for hints of change or age; memorizing every contour of that plump chin and those fleshy, warm cheeks.  It’s bliss.  And then comes the upchuck of bile and the acidic remnants of last nights dinner.  Instant replay.

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It’s in these moments of bliss that I realize two things (1) They are fleeting and (2) I’m actually really patient and kind when helping my children through incredibly stressful, terrible situations (getting barfed on is about as bad as it gets…) yet in those times of normal stress, I kind of suck.  The annoyances of every day life seem to, well, annoy me the most.  Those ridiculous noises, the random yells, repetition of song lyrics, whining, not listening and sluggishness when it’s time to get out the door.  If I can deal with vomit in my hair (and in my fricken bra for half the day) why can’t I deal with the little shit?  Good question.

I need to be more patient.  I need to dig deep.  This week, I shall.  One week from tomorrow, I leave my children for four days.  Leaving on a jet plane to Denver for work.  I’m going to miss them terribly.  And I know they will miss me.  This week, before I go, I am making it count.  I am going to give them my ultimate patience.  And I’m sure you’ll hear about it.  How hard it is, how I may fail but how hard I am going to to try.  As I was reminded recently by a friend, I need to rediscover the No Yell Challenge.  It is really hard.  But it’s really important.  Join me.  It will be far less repulsive then vomit in your bra.

Peace, Mamas.

Lunch Love Notes

Do your children miss you?  I didn’t realize quite how much mine did until this week.

When I was little, my Mama often sent love notes along with my lunch.  The notes wouldn’t be long lists of the ways I pleased her or why she loved me better than my sisters (sorry, girls), the notes were more an indication that she thought and cared about me when I was not with her.  And even though my mom hasn’t been packing my lunch for over two decades, she still let’s me know she’s thinking of me.  Be it texts, emails or dropping a quick dime, she let’s me know I have been on her mind.  And it still feels good.

I write notes to my kids along with their lunches.  Usually quick things like, Hope you have a super day!  or I can’t wait to see you this afternoon!  But they always end with I love you, Mama.  Always.  Sometimes, I try to hide the note in with their lunch and make them search it out.  Sometimes, I toss it in at the last minute.  And sometimes, I forget.  Earlier this week, Mooch asked me if I would sign his Lunch Love Note from our entire family so he would be reminded of all of us during the day.  I asked Cub if he read the notes I sent.  He said yes and that his friends always tried to snatch the note from him to read it.  Timidly, I asked if it embarrassed him that I sent the notes…  (Say no, say no, say no…)  Yes, he said.  Do you want me to stop sending them with you?  No, he grinned.  [One of those Mama Moments]

Cub and I decided that I could try to write his Lunch Love Notes in code using a Lord of the Rings Lego decoder…  Well, I am truly a Mama of three boys.  So we are going to work on the decoder so I can tell him I Love You without anyone knowing.  But for now (until I learn to be a better Mama of three boys), we are going with this:

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The next morning, just as he had asked, I included a note with Mooch’s lunch which read: Dear Mooch, I hope you have a wonderful day and I can’t wait to hear about all the new things you learned and friends you played with!  We love you, Mama, Daddy, Cub and Zook.  XOXO.  I hid it inside his cloth sandwich bag and Velcroed it shut.  At dinner that night, I asked him if he had gotten the note.  He said he had found it and asked his teacher to read it to him.  Then I snuggled it when I had my nap time so I wouldn’t miss you as much.  [Mama Moment]  Sure enough, I found the Lunch Love Note crumpled up in his slipper.  Have I mentioned lately that I adore these children?  Maybe not enough.  Read on.

It’s reminding me that all too often, we Mamas spend hours per day critiquing our children.  Helping them get something right, giving out pointers, requests, advice.  We instruct, we make demands, we provide feedback.  These are all important things for sure but I wonder if the times per day we tell them we love them or miss them match these critiques.  Should it?  Now that I spend some time thinking about it, we do spend a great deal of energy on correcting our children and pointing out (kindly, of course) when they have made a mistake.  I am confident I tell them I love them at least… Twice… Shit.  It’s a simple thing.  It’s just that there are many other things that I need to say.  But what could be more important than I Love You…?  I think we all know the answer to that.

Now I am not talking about just saying it for the sake of saying it.  I love you I love you I love you.  See?  Meaningless.  But what about, The smile you had when you got off the bus today made my whole day better.  Or, I love your hugs.  Or better still, Can I have an extra hug so when I am missing you later today I remember how it feels to hold you?  These deeper, more meaningful expressions of love are just that: Deeper and more meaningful.  Which is exactly what I think kids need.  We need to quantify love for them- otherwise they may get lost in the vastness of it.  One of my favorite things to say to my kids is I love you more than all the leaves on all the trees in the whole entire world.  Then I point out a tree and ask him to try to count all the leaves.  I can’t- there’s too many, Mama.  Yup.  That’s right kiddo.  That’s right.

Peace, Mamas.

Sunday Reset: Mother’s Day Do-Over

One of the most wonderful parts of beginning this blog was finding out I am not the only totally dysfunctional Mama out there- there are so many more crazy women out in the world who are flailing through life, feeling like miserable failures and powerful gladiators at the same moment.  This was never more apparent to me than last week.  Mother’s Day not only a let-down (and not in the awkwardly-wet-booby-spot-on-your-shirt- way) for me- but many of you also had Mother’s Days that sucked!  That’s awesome!  Well, not really awesome but it made me feel like I wasn’t the only one who didn’t get breakfast in bed, only to open the silver dome over my perfectly cooked eggs (which we don’t even have, but I picture it with the dome) to find some exquisite piece of  sparkle.  Now if you were one of the ones who got the dome, good for you.  But instead of the dome, I awoke to fighting, yelling and three little pains in the ass… And a big one in the neck.  On the heels of my last post, we decided this weekend would be a Mother’s Day Do-Over.

I enjoyed tee-ball, Big Truck Day with the kiddos (with no fights or whining- shocker!), a fire in the yard, marshmallows- and plenty of chocolate- wine spritzers and a very special date with my man.  Sunday was filled with gardening, rolling in the grass with the three wonders who made me a Mama, a great workout and impromptu dinner with neighbors (which of course included more wine).  It was a wonderful Do-Over Weekend!

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I hope that all you Mamas who had a rough Mother’s Day got your Do-Over.  It felt beyond necessary to be appreciated and my ability to not have crazy expectations enabled me to feel the joy of playing with my children.  The comfort of spending time with my husband.  To feel the love of Mamahood.  That’s what Mother’s Day is about.  I didn’t need flowers (or the fricken silver dome) to have a meaningful day.  I just needed my children.  And the handsome guy who gave these wonderful little souls to me.

But a pedicure would have been nice too…

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Mama Gets Real… Toes are a wreck.

Peace, Mamas!