When Will There Be Cupcakes Again?

When I was in grade school I read Number The Stars by Lois Lowry about little girls living in Denmark during the Holocaust. Since the Nazi occupation, resources are scarce but the little sister, Kirsti, longs for a “big yellow cupcake, with pink frosting.” For some reason, I have never forgotten this detail.

My daughters both have summer birthdays so they miss out on the fanfare of having a school day birthday. Instead, we celebrate their half-birthdays. Today we celebrated my sweet Savannah sunshine’s four and a half birthday. I sat in a tiny purple chair and read a few of her favorite books to a bunch of wide-eyed, pink frosting-covered, grinning little faces.

Milestones always make me sentimental, even arbitrary ones, like a fifteen-minute preschool half-birthday party, but I genuinely believe in celebrating as much as we can, while we can.

When I was in first grade, I remember the exact moment I heard my teacher say the word “war” as it related to the Gulf War. As a Senior in high school, I remember silently watching Mrs. Goldberg scrawl the name “Osama Bin Laden” across the chalk board on September 11th. My own first grade daughter overhears words in the media like “protest” and “gender inequality” and “racism.” Though I grew up hearing about military conflicts, my own children are growing up amidst wars between all kinds of people, and it’s nearly impossible to tell if anyone is winning.

But my little four and a half year old is still blissfully unaware of such topics. She thinks the President’s name is Donald Trumpet and once asked me to help her fill out a postcard to send to the White House because she overheard concerns of people losing their rights, but she heard “writes” and surmised he was stealing crayons and various other items. For real, we actually sent a postcard we tore out of a Highlights magazine to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue asking the President to please stop taking things from people and also give Savannah her fictitious stuff back. She doesn’t worry that someday someone could come into her school with intention to hurt people for no reason. She thinks skin tones come in colors called “brown” and “blonde.” She doesn’t live in fear of friends or family being deported. She doesn’t worry that she’ll be denied an education because she’s female.

And she loves cupcakes.

So as silly as it may sound, I made these symbolic cupcakes to mark an arbitrary milestone with a bunch of preschoolers today. Because I can.

And that’s something to celebrate.

Cupcake

“Mama, is there anything to eat?”  Annemarie asked, hoping to take her mother’s mind away from the soldiers.
“Take some bread.  And give a piece to your sister.”
“With butter?” Kirsti asked hopefully.
“No butter,” her mother replied.  “You know that.”
Kirsti sighed as Annemarie went to the breadbox in the kitchen.  “I wish I could have a cupcake,” she said.  “A big yellow cupcake, with pink frosting.”
Her mother laughed.  “For a little girl, you have a long memory,” she told Kirsti.  “There hasn’t been any butter, or sugar for cupcakes, for a long time.  A year, at least.”
“When will there be cupcakes again?”
“When the war ends,” Mrs. Johansen said. 
She glanced through the window, down to the street corner where the soldiers stood, their faces impassive beneath the metal helmets.  “When the soldiers leave.”

-Lois Lowry, Number The Stars

 

Take No Preschoolers

Savvy 1 month

This morning my four-year-old Savannah (pictured above when she was blisfully unable to make biting, hurtful remarks) asked me if she could have a “healthy breffast, with no sugar.” I happily agreed to make her some eggs. About two minutes into me cooking, she took one look at the eggs and said, “NOT LIKE THAT! OH MY GOSH I WANTED THE KIND THAT ARE ROUND AND YOU CRACK THEM!”

“I don’t have any hard-boiled eggs cooked though.”

“NO, YOU DON’T EVEN UNDERSTAND ME! YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO COOK THEM YOU GET THEM OUT OF THE ‘FRIGERATOR!”

“I do understand you, but I’m telling you that I have to cook those kind of eggs FIRST before you can get them out of the refrigerator.”

She then let out some sort of primal scream of frustration and flung herself onto the staircase crying, “NO ONE UNDERSTANDS ME IN THIS HOUSE! YOU DON’T EVEN LOVE ME!”

From his chair where he was enjoying his hot coffee and reading the news, my husband muttered, “Jesus, what is she, on her period?”

In this moment, I realized two things. 1. My husband is 100 percent going to infuriate my daughters when they are teenagers and I’m going to sit smugly in the corner with my hot coffee and watch him try to figure out what he said/did wrong. 2. My four year old is just a small version of me when I’m PMSing, hangry, drunk, or some combination therein.

We recently watched the Judd Apatow stand up special on Netflix and in talking about his wife and two daughters he hilariously said something to the effect of, “I don’t just live with three women. I live with three ages of the same woman.” So if that’s true, my husband is in for hell on heels.

Since Savannah’s been having these outbursts, I’ve been looking up a lot of parenting resources on discipline and how to curb anxiety in your children before it gets out of control. But probably the most useful article I came across is not a parenting article at all, but it should be. It’s called, Hostage Negotiation Techniques That Will Get You What You Want. It includes this chart and points out that the reason most people aren’t great negotiators is that they skip the first three steps and move straight to Influence, when the step that actually weakens someone’s defense the most, is actively listening while they talk.

hostage-negotiation-techniques

Via

So the moral of the story is Savannah ate Lucky Charms and I’m turning to the FBI for parenting tips.

Happy Friday, Y’all.

#MommyBombing

I got the idea for this post when I was volunteering at my daughter’s school and a fellow mom acquaintance dropped a snide comment on me that had me like,

The Audacity

Lucille Bluth

So I posted a call on my social media for what I’m referring to as “mommy-bombing” stories, meaning those verbal grenades lobbed by fellow parents during an otherwise friendly conversation that leave you like:

Excuse me what just happened

And you guys did not disappoint! So here, edited for brevity, is a gold mine of your experiences with Mommy-bombing:

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Am I Doing This Right?  

DSC_2414

Being a borderline millennial and having two daughters has made me a devoted Taylor Swift fan. Since her new album dropped it’s all I listen to with my girls, which gets dicey because it’s got some “grown up words” in the lyrics, but damn that girl writes catchy tunes.

There’s a line on her new album that says, “And I know I make the same mistakes every time, bridges burn, I never learn, at least I did one thing right.”

Obviously Tay’s not writing about parenting, but when I heard this line it was like she unwittingly summed up everything I feel about my identity and how it’s tied to motherhood. Continue reading

Breastfeeding: A Confession.

One of most useful things anyone ever said to me about parenting came from my husband’s mother. I was a new mom feeling guilty about having to supplement breast milk with formula and she said, “Honey, the ‘right way’ to do things is however you want to do them.”

I’m going on KC Live today to talk about helpful accessories for breastfeeding mothers, and while I don’t normally post about what I’ll be talking about before a segment, I’m going to share something with you here: breastfeeding is wonderful…for women who are not me. It was one of my worst experiences in motherhood. I felt like an engorged, leaky cow tethered to a fence post just waiting for some screaming, unappreciative blob-human to come along and give my life purpose.

When Savvy was an infant our little family went to Indianapolis for my sorority sister’s baby shower. The baby shower turned into a girls’ night out ending with me leaning over a hotel bathroom sink, squeezing tequila out of my boobs in hopes that I wouldn’t get my baby drunk when she inevitably woke up at 6am. If you’ve never tried to wring your own breast out like a wet washcloth, let me be the first to tell you, it’s as painful as it sounds. And don’t even get me started on the time I got a clogged milk duct (I shuddered even as I typed it.)

For people who love the experience of breastfeeding or didn’t love it at first, but worked like hell at it for the sake of their child; I respect and commend you. Breastfeeding is a beautiful bonding experience to some people, just not to me. To me, it was awkward, painful and gross. There I said it. So freaking gross. There was no technique, support group, or product that could have made me love nursing the way some mothers do, but there are things that can make it more bearable. And that’s what I’ll be talking about today on KCL.

So if you’re a new mom reading this, I want you to know, the “right way” to do things is however you want. You don’t owe anyone an apology or explanation. To paraphrase my mother-in-law, you do you, Boo Boo.

Savvy 1 month

Let’s Be Alone Together.

Overall, it’s been a good week. But I detected the fumes of Mommy burnout yesterday.  I’m tired.  I’m tired of riding the waves of feeling suffocated and having the craziest biggest love wash over me when I see my girls’ little teeth as they giggle at something I say. Avery has already lost so many of her baby teeth and each one feels like a kick in the gut. Like all those nights we spent together walking around the living room in the glow of the TV because she was teething and only wanted to be rocked have come full circle. I felt so desperate and alone just doing whatever I could to coax her to sleep.

The first week we brought her home from the hospital I laid awake in terror picturing this giant digital clock counting down the 18 years until she leaves us. I still find myself exasperated with each little sign of my kids growing up. All of a sudden their legs are so long. Their oh-so-kissable cheek meat is disappearing. I’m so grateful that I get to watch them grow, but I have this gnawing feeling that it’s all going too fast. Like I’m one of those Russian nesting dolls and the smallest one is constantly in the middle of a crazy desperate meltdown, but the dolls in between us are chill and keep the little panic-stricken one mostly medicated, er,  insulated so my outer self can function.

Sometimes little voices calling “Mom!” sound like nails on a chalkboard. Sometimes I get tired of carrying around all of the dandelions they pick for me. And I feel so guilty. I know that time is flying by and I will long to hear their tiny voices, have them fall asleep on top of me, and I’ll look at dandelions and wish someone cared enough about me to pick them for me. A friend recently sent me an article that said “we’re not meant to parent for this many hours a day,” and some days it feels so true. It’s so much pressure being the person they love and hate the most. The one they treat the best and the worst.

Years ago I attended a Junior League luncheon where Hoda Kotbe told a story about when she had just been diagnosed with cancer and didn’t want anyone to know, and someone said to her, “Don’t hog your journey. It’s not just for you.” It resonated. We all have different challenges in parenting and different degrees of tragedy we have to endure, but each of our journeys are valuable to one-another and should be shared, considered and appreciated.

Now it’s Friday night. I bathed my kids, picked up toys and dog poop in the playroom, sprayed some cleaner on the carpet, then sprayed some self tanner on my ghostly white skin. Here I sit in bed, typing around the sleeping child draped across me. The glow of Octonauts on TV and the computer screen are the only light in the room. Avery is off in her dreams and I am off in my thoughts, but we are alone together.

Avery and Mommy

“GEORGE WASHINGTON DIED IN HIS OWN BED!”

I spend most hours of my life with my kids. And they like to run their mouths gab. Whenever they say something worth remembering, I use Facebook as a lazy-ass modern alternative to a traditional baby book so I can capture the moment, well, in the moment.

Emily Kuhlman and Daughters

Here are some actual conversations I’ve captured with my children Avery (5) and Savvy (3) lately:

*Picking up the girls from school*
Me:”How was Teddy Bear day at preschool?”
Savvy: “Good. I saw a wiener.”
Me: “Excuse me?”
Savvy: “I just kidding!”
Me: “Why would you even tell Mommy that?!”
Savvy: “Wieners are so funny!”
*a beat of silence as I debate whether or not to admit I agree*
Avery *flinging the car door open whilst shouting like a doomsday prophet on a street corner): “GEORGE WASHINGTON DIED IN HIS OWN BED!”

Naturally the members of my family now enjoy shouting this out at random.

__

*Overheard*
Avery: “Savvy, if you don’t behave we’re going to sell you to the market for pork.”

__

Avery: “Do bunnies smell good?”
Me: “I don’t know, I’ve never smelled a bunny.”
Avery: “No. Like, do they have a good sense of smell? Why would you smell a bunny?”
Me: “I don’t know. I thought it was a strange question.”

__

*Savvy and I at McDonald’s, both wearing Ugg boots.*
Old lady with white hair (talking to Savvy): “What happened to your forehead??”

Savvy: “It’s a birthmark.”

Old lady with white hair (to Savvy): “I knew a little boy with one of those and they had to cut it off his face! Well you’re a pretty little girl anyway. I like your boots!” *looks at me* “Those Ugg boots only look good on children. And they are way too expensive.”

Savvy: “I had a grandma with white hair but she’s dead.”

Normally I call her out on all of her egregious lies, but I let this one slide.

__

*Our pomeranian Mr. Biffles nips Avery on the ankle.*
Avery (*shouting down at the puppy and gesticulating wildly): “I DON’T WANT TO BE COVERED IN BLOOD FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!”
Me: “He’s six pounds and his teeth are smaller than grains of rice. Settle down.”
Avery (completely calm): “I know. I was just warning him to make a point.”

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Savvy: “Guess what my skin is made out of…”
Me: “What?”
Savvy: “Glorious meat.”

This has prompted me to start proclaiming things like, “THE GLORIOUS MEAT HAS RISEN. THE GLORIOUS MEAT DEMANDS WAFFLES.” My new goal in life is to write her wedding announcement for the newspaper with the line, “…and the bride wore glorious meat.”

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Me: “Where’s your little sister?”
Avery *casually*: “Oh, you know.”
Me: “No. I don’t know.”
Avery: “She’s in the family room relaxing in a giant turtle shell I made out of toys and trash.”

I took one fifteen minute shower, people

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My parents’ dog Annie died last year and since they live on a ranch in the country, they buried her in a corner of the yard and planted some lovely flowers. My mom walked the girls over to show them that they could come visit Annie’s grave whenever they missed her.

Avery: “So Annie’s actually in there?”

Mom (*delicately tiptoeing around discussion of the afterlife): “Well, yes, but her spirit isn’t there, it’s only her body.”

Avery: “Just her body?”

Mom: “Yes.”

Avery: “No head?”

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And last but not least, probably one of the darkest days in dog-shaming history:

Dog Shaming

 

 

Help Me Help You

Help Me Help You
Yesterday my kids made a horrendous, sticky mess in the kitchen. I yelled at them while I stormed around cleaning up. Seeing how upset I was, Avery grabbed the broom,  spreading the mess even further. I could see she was trying to make it right, but I was too inconvenienced to acknowledge it.
Help me help you, Momma.
I put them in the tub, took a deep breath, and apologized for yelling. I was feeling like a really bad mom. I helped them wash their hair, carefully guiding their reluctant heads back so I could rinse them without getting water in their little furrowed brows or eyelashes.
Help me help you, babies.

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