Find Me at Type-A Mom Today

I’m excited to tell you that I’ve been hired as an editor for the “Mom Stages” section of the Type-A Mom Web site! My first article is about the hidden dangers of toys, which is especially timely with Christmas being only FOUR DAYS AWAY! (As you may have gathered from my lack of posting this past week, I am NOT READY!) So hop on over to and leave a comment. Can’t tell you how excited it would make me!

“It Wasn’t Me” Strikes Again

If you’ve been a mom for long, you’ve likely had a run-in with the notoriously naughty, yet curiously elusive child who manages to fly under the radar by maintaining several aliases, such as “Not Me,” “Nobody,” or “The Dog.” In my house he goes by “It Wasn’t Me.” But don’t get bogged down in the pseudonymous details. Whatever his name, his M.O. is the same: to wreak havoc on a household and try to shift the blame to sweet, innocent children. Make no mistake: he’s a wily and crafty kid, and he’s capable of almost anything.

Lately he’s been targeting my house, preying on my three angelic boys. And although we’ve gotten close to catching him, he always manages to slip away just in the nick of time, leaving us in the wake of his destruction. Take a look at what “It Wasn’t Me” has managed to pull off at our house just this week:

  • Left a cereal bowl on the living room floor.
  • Threw an apple core in the bathtub.
  • Stuck his toe in Boy #2’s eye.
  • Misplaced the universal remote 37 times.
  • Cut little slits in my sheets and pillowcase.
  • Left poop in the toilet and didn’t flush.
  • Left pee in the toilet and didn’t flush.
  • Left pee ON the toilet and didn’t flush (or wipe it off).
  • Began disassembling a rubber band ball and shooting about 30 rubber bands throughout the house.
  • Farted. Repeatedly.
  • Left the garage door open.
  • Discarded an empty GoGurt wrapper on my bedroom floor.
  • Ate an entire box of Triscuits within 30 minutes of my returning from the grocery store.
  • Squirted globs of ketchup on the kitchen table and then left them to congeal and harden.
  • Left cupboard doors open.
  • Left the front door open.
  • Left the refrigerator door open.

If you suspect you’ve been a victim of “It Wasn’t Me,” do not attempt to apprehend this troublemaker on your own. He is said to be armed with a permanent marker and will likely start scribbling on your leather couch if cornered.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Photo courtesy of ebarrera on flickr

"I’m a Writer": Saying It with Confidence (and a Shout-Out to Copyblogger for Making This Post Possible)

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~Sylvia Plath

Hi. My name is Paula, and I . . . am a writer.

You know how long it’s taken me to muster up the courage to use that sacred word to describe myself, what I do, what I love?

Try 37 years.

I’ve always loved words. Big words, little words, common nouns and proper nouns. Diagram sentences? Why yes, thank you, don’t mind if I do!

And books . . . I love everything about books. The beauty of the cover, the feel of the paper between my fingers, the foreplay-like anticipation of moving from back cover to front cover to preface and finally breathing in that pivotal first sentence. I mean, why is it that I can remember my public library card number from more than three decades ago (2838), but I can’t remember to put money in my son’s lunch account?

But despite studying writing, teaching writing, and actually writing and editing in my “real job,” I still hesitate to call myself a writer. And I know I’m not alone. For some reason we don’t feel worthy to bestow that title upon ourselves until we’ve gotten a “book deal” or 2000 hits a day to our blog or until someone else says, “So, I hear you’re a writer…” Writers seem to be the antithesis of actors. Ask any waitress in L.A. what she does for a living and she’ll likely tell you she’s an actress. Ask any writer what she does for a living and she’ll likely tell you she’s a mom, or a teacher, or a marketing consultant, or a waitress . . . oh, and I do a little writing too.

A friend and I were just talking about this last night. She has been blogging for a year or so but has yet to publish a post. Why? She’s afraid that she’s not good enough. She’s afraid of misspelling “their” or placing a comma in the wrong place. She’s afraid of what people will think.

But the truth is, she’s a writer. Being a writer isn’t about being able to quote Gregg’s Style Manual from memory (although I probably could) or making sure you have a 1-inch indent all the way around your paper. It’s about saying what you want to say the way you want to say it. It’s about voice and passion and resonating with your audience, whether your audience is all 130 gazillion of Oprah’s fans or just your mom. It’s about letting go of fears and owning it with a little attitude: Yeah, that’s right, I’m a writer.

I thought of my friend today as I read this fantastic post from Copyblogger called “7 Bad Writing Habits You Learned in School.” Genius, really. Whether you consider yourself a writer (or are considering considering yourself a writer) or just write the occasional email, you’ll benefit from this post. And Friend ( you know who you are), forget about whether you should use “who” or “whom” and just click the “publish” button! You ARE a writer!

Image from stock.xchng

If a Boy Gives You Lemonade . . .

If I have learned only one thing from being a mom of boys for 11+ years, it’s this:

If a boy brings you a cup of something and asks you to drink it—don’t.

It doesn’t matter how sweetly he looks at you or what tender words he uses to try to convince you: “But I made it just for you, Mommy!” Don’t buy it. You’ll soon regret it. (Most likely after rinsing your mouth out with the strongest mouthwash you can find.)

Let me give you an example.

We spent a lazy Saturday doing laundry and just hanging around the house. The boys (well, the two youngest) spent most of the day in their underwear playing Pokemon and fashioning kitchen tongs into claws.

Sometime midafternoon, I heard them in the bathroom running water and giggling. Then they came into the living room, carrying a cup and ready to proudly announce their latest invention: toothpaste water that you can swish around in your mouth so you don’t have to brush your teeth. They then described the complicated and very scientific method they used to create this new household staple (Squirt some toothpaste in a cup. Fill the cup up with water. Mix it up.) and demonstrated for me. I applauded their ingenuity and they disappeared back into the bathroom.

A few minutes later they came out with yet another invention: soapy water. They explained that the soap is already in the water so you don’t have to take the time to squirt soap on your hands and then rinse it off. All you have to do is pour the soapy water on your hands. I wasn’t sure how the soap actually got rinsed off using their invention, but I kept my reservations to myself and again applauded their creativity.

The third time they came into the living room, this is what I heard:

“Mom, I made you some lemonade! Have a drink!”

Now, you may be thinking, “Oh, that’s sweet. They took the time to mix up some Country Time Lemonade for their mom. What good boys.”

Remember, however, that they had not come from the kitchen but from the bathroom.

I looked at the four inches of yellow liquid in the bottom of the cup and then at the smirk on my 7-year-old’s face. And I looked at Husband, eyes wide in horror, as I shrieked, “Is that PEE?!”

Boy #2 looked at me with guilt written all over his face and said, “No.”

Boy #3 piped up with, “Teddy did it!” This may have been believable if 1) I thought there was any way the dog would pee on command into a cup (he doesn’t do anything on command), and 2) the dog hadn’t been outside the entire afternoon.

It was one of those moments where you’re frozen, not sure what to say or what to do. All that came out was “Aaahhh!” as Husband and I stared at each other and tried not to laugh while figuring out what the heck to do next.

This is my life, people. This is my life.

Thriftilicious Thursday—Cheap (or FREE) Halloween Costumes

Halloween is right around the corner. Do you know what your children will be dressing up as yet? If you don’t know yet, just walk through Target or WalMart, and I bet your kids will provide you with about 10 ideas of costumes that they really, really want! It’s hard not to get caught up in the hype. I mean, how cute would your 3-year-old look in that Dora the Explorer costume, complete with Backpack?! However, if you’re like me, you must take a deep breath and remember that Halloween is one day, and most of the time your child will wear that $30 costume for only about two hours. And if you’re in the Midwest like me, it will probably be covered up with a winter coat, hat, and gloves. I’ve collected some great ideas from around the Interweb about how to help your kids have a fun Halloween without blowing your clothing budget for three months in the process. (After all, you’ll be spending enough on the candy to hand out to other trick-or-treaters!)

I remember Halloweens growing up when we wouldn’t decide what we were going to wear until we got off the bus after school, usually about 1 hour before we had to leave to trick-or-treat. (We lived in the country, so our mom drove us all over the county to visit friends. Because of that, though, we were usually gone for about an hour and a half and probably visited only 10 houses. Much different than the dense neighborhood we live in today!) The last-minute Halloween scramble usually left us with about three options: 1) wearing our mom’s bath robe and curlers in our hair; 2) wearing our dad’s coveralls and farm cap; or 3) wearing one of our mom’s old wacky dresses and lots of jewelry and going as a gypsy (pretty sure that’s not PC today). But no matter what hodge-podge of clothing and accessories we threw on, we always had fun and got enough candy to successfully rot our teeth.

Before I link to some great lists of alternatives to store-bought costumes, I just want to say that I’m not anti-costume at all. In fact, my kids have always been big into dressing up. We have a huge tub full of costumes that they wear all year long, year after year, as well as silly hats, my husband’s old coaching shirts, and other random clothes and accessories we’ve collected over the years. For a few years I stalked Target and Toys R Us after Halloween and picked up great costumes for 75% and 90% off. The boys wore them throughout the rest of the year for play and then could choose to wear it for Halloween the next fall. If it’s something your child will have a lot of fun wearing time after time (and it’s fairly comfortable), go for it! Just make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

Right now you can win a costume for year-round play from 5 Minutes for Mom.
Boys #2 and #3 would love this Jr. Knight costume.

And I think it would be so fun to play “post office” with this Jr. Mail Courier costume.

Family Education has a great list of Cheap Halloween Costume Ideas, including an e-mail and a pile of laundry (We could DEFINITELY pull off this costume!).

Want 57 Ideas Using Recycled Cardboard Boxes, Junk and Found Stuff? You’re in luck. And just think, you won’t only be saving money but you’ll be the envy of the neighborhood. Your neighbors will be whispering, “She thinks she’s soooo green, doesn’t she?” No one needs to know whether you did it out of your love for the environment or your love for your bank account.

Here are some great ideas for Costumes From the Closet or Second-Hand Store. I’m all about the Goodwill, and I’ve put together an old man costume, a Captain Cook costume for a biography presentation, and an unfortunate ghost costume that will forevermore be known as the “white trash ghost.” Poor Boy #2. I’m not sure he’ll ever live it down.

This article from WalletPop describes how to look at your local Dollar Store with a Halloween-costume state of mind.

How about dressing up little Junior as a Junk Drawer or a Sticky Note? Find out how to put together some creative costumes without spending a dime here.

My final piece of advice is to just let your kids have fun putting together their own costume. You might have to stick your pride in your back pocket for a while because you’re not going to win the prize for having the “best-dressed child” if he’s wearing an old Power Rangers mask, a baseball jersey, football pants, a superhero cape, a cowboy hat, and snowboots. But one of his best memories someday may just be the year he trick-or-treated as “Super Sports Cowboy Guy.” And after all, that’s what it’s all about, right?

If you’re a Gen-Xer like me, you have to check out these photos from Halloweens past at Are You There God, It’s Me Generation X. I guarantee they’ll take you right back!

Do you have a thriftilicious costume idea? Share, why don’t you?

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Wordless Wednesday—Not Your Typical "Lost & Found" Flyer

I love this sign that Jody, Andi, and I spotted while exploring Asheville at the Type-A Mom Conference . . . You can tell a lot about a city by its public bulletin boards!

See many more Wordless Wednesday pics at 5 Minutes for Mom!

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Forget "Super Mom" . . . I’d Be Happy with "Mediocre Mom"

After Boys #1 and #2 were born, I went back to working full-time. For a year and a half, I even left my house at 5:00 am so I could drive an hour and start working at 6:00. That way I could get off at 3:00 and be home by a little after 4:00. Whew!

My middle sister watched the boys for me until they were old enough to go to school, and even then she would help me take and/or pick up her nephews. It wasn’t easy, but I did it.

Was my house always clean at the time? Definitely not. Did we always have the laundry caught up? Heck no! But at least I had an excuse (or so I thought): I work full-time away from home.

After getting pregnant with Boy #3, I had a bit of what we’ll refer to as a “freak-out” as the thought of working full-time seemed a bit too much for this mom to handle. I knew other moms did it all the time, and did it well. But I also knew I was not “that mom.”

So I worked at a more flexible job as a freelance writer for a marketing agency. I went in to the office most days, and some weeks I worked more than 40 hours, but at least I could go in the evenings or work at home if I needed to. It was better, most of the time.

Fast-forward two years and the agency I was working for decided to close up shop. Fortunately, the company I previously worked for full-time was looking to hire for the same position I had held, only part-time. Perfect. I started out committing to 32 hours a week. Less than 40 but enough to make it worth my while to drive there four days a week. I could do it, I reasoned. After all, my kids were all older now. I had officially been a parent for nearly a decade. I had it under control, right?

Uh, right . . .

I started finding it harder and harder to make 32 hours a week . . . then 20 hours . . . and now I’m struggling to show my face in the office 15 hours each week. Between sick kids, inservice days, and staggered elementary and middle school schedules, it seems that I’m always having to juggle my work schedule to be there for my kids.

Take this week, for instance. I’m on Day 2 of Operation Home With Kids after Boys #1 and #2 both sustained injuries at baseball on Sunday. (If you haven’t already, read why I feel guilty about this.)

Okay, so I’ve been home for two days, and the kids aren’t sick enough to be needing constant attention. I should be able to handle my mom duties, right? I should be able to do everything those “Super Moms” I envy do every day when they’re home with their kids.

But, alas. Weigh, if you will, the evidence: laundry is still stacked halfway to the ceiling in our bathroom, two of the boys have been in their underwear for two days (yep, the same pair), and Boy #3’s main food groups today have been “chocolate” and “peanut butter.”

I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I will never be “Super Mom,” but at this point I’m thinking that “Mediocre Mom” or “Hasn’t-Gotten-Her-Children-Taken-Away-Yet Mom” is looking like a lofty goal.

So, is it me? Is it just my personality, or is it something more? Can I blame it on the fact that I’m closer to 40 than 30? Can I blame it on my dilapidated thyroid, or my self-diagnosed ADD? Or should I just quit looking for excuses, suck it up, and try harder? Does everyone else find parenting this hard, or I am just too darn tired?

And if you are one of those “Super Moms,” could you tell me how you do it? (In an effort to be nondiscriminatory, this blog will accept advice both of the legal and illegal kind.) Thank you.

Cute image courtesy of mommytrack’d