Delaying Kindergarten Until Your Kid Can Read Steinbeck, Grow Mustache

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It’s enrollment season for those of us with kids in school, and we’ve just signed our oldest up for another round of preschool. We could have sent him to kindergarten this coming fall — just after his fifth birthday — but he would represent the youngest in the ever-aging kindergarten set. So, like many of his peers, he’ll be enjoying one more year of play-based preschool before heading to the big leagues when he turns six.

Amid growing rumors of diminishing recess, increased state-sanctioned testing, and a more challenging curriculum in kindergarten, the choice to hold kids back before enrolling in the big K seems to be growing in popularity among parents — mostly in the hopes of ensuring our kids’ academic and emotional readiness.

I’m over at MockMom this week with some satire to poke fun of the issue, but it does speak to a darker concern creeping into the American education system. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the changing face of kindergarten, which seems to be transitioning from an emphasis on play to an emphasis on test results — including long stretches at a desk and curriculum previously reserved for first grade.

Head over to MockMom and let me know what you think. Are they pushing too much on kids today or are we parents just getting a little crazier? How old were your kids when they went to kindergarten? If they were the oldest in their class, are they now CEOs or pro-ballers? If they were the youngest, are they still in therapy for crumbling under the pressure?

How to Survive the Apocalypse with Kids

A few nights ago as I began to drift to sleep, my husband sat up in bed and turned to me. “Do we have a meeting place?” he asked. “You know, like if there’s an apocalypse.”

While I made a mental note to cancel the alien show from our DVR, I began to wonder what an apocalypse would really look like for our family — mostly, what my chances of survival would be should I ever have to traverse a post-apocalyptic terrain on foot with three small children.

Could I bring the double stroller? Would there be diapers? What if my two-year-old started doing that thing where she throws herself on the floor and screams for 15 minutes and an alien/zombie/violent looter was nearby? So many questions…

Are there still Cheerios in the apocalypse? Here’s the thing: one of my kids is allergic to almost everything edible, one is a baby with four teeth, and the other will not touch any kind of meat with a 3-foot foam sword. My children have proven they would rather eat dryer lint than a steak dinner, so if we have to start hunting bunnies that aren’t made of cheddar, we’ll be moving into hangry-mode before you can say, “You don’t have to eat ALL the squirrel! Just try one bite!” We’ll have to at least get some kind of sharp cutting implement — for protection, for hunting, and for halving grapes. I feel confident no one will want to eat my children if times get tough, since they probably taste like plain noodles and obstinacy, but we’ll have to figure out how to smuggle crackers or something because the attitudes that flare when they haven’t eaten in more than two hours? WATCH. OUT. My son could catch an entire plague of locusts on his outstretched bottom lip.

How will we carry all our stuff? The meeting place suggested by my husband is about three miles from our house and in the middle of the woods. With the baby in a carrier on my chest and an overstuffed diaper bag slung around my shoulder, I’ll have to bank on the adrenaline rush triggered by the fear of face-eating zombies to rally through the pain of my collarbone caving under the weight. If my four-year-old is walking, he’ll make it ten minutes before his pockets are weighted down by all the rocks and garbage — I mean, treasure — he picks up along the way, at which point he’ll sit down in the grass and stare at the sky until Jesus waves to him from a cloud (or until we bribe him with cookies). If my two-year-old is on foot, she will run for as long as I can convince her she’s an airplane and then cry until I “hold her like a baby” the rest of the way. We’ll also have to bring the stuffed monkey, so many cuppies of water, and approximately 7,000 diapers. I can at least count on not having to carry wipes because I swear I forget the freaking wipes every time.

Where will we go? The meeting place is presumably only the first step along our road to survival — the place we meet my husband. On a standard day, I’d have already made several frantic calls to his office to say the sky is falling and he should hurry home, so if it really happens I’ll have to up my ante so he knows I’m serious. By the time he arrives, then takes his usual sweet time peeing and changing out of his work clothes, I’ll have had time to finalize a plan. My first instinct would be to get out of the suburbs, ’cause you know the entire city is heading this way to fill their packs with our bottled fizzy water and to convert our Pottery Barn cribs into makeshift guerilla zombie blinds. We can’t go to the country because most of them have been mastering their shotgun aim since they were knee-high to an alien predator. Can’t go too far south because every time we go to a Mexican restaurant, my kids accidentally offend 8 percent of the world’s population by saying “Olaf!” as a greeting. The answer? Head for the nearest Target. We always blend in there.

How will we stay alive? My husband is a brilliant man, but his idea of “working with his hands” is mastering three monitors with a single keyboard, so he’d probably be the first to die. My kids and I would be useless in building a shack without popsicles. Moreover, if there is any type of killer virus floating around, we’d be among the first to start oozing eyeball blood — we catch EVERYTHING. My kids are afraid of strangers, spraying water, and that cat in Cinderella, so if someone (or something) attacked us, our best chance would be to play dead. Then again, asking my children to lay down and be quiet is like asking the four horsemen of the apocalypse to live-Tweet their ride into town, so perhaps we’ll just hope for a divinely-inspired early exit — like in that Kirk Cameron rapture movie where some people get to ditch their clothes and skip straight to heaven. Am I the only one who’s seen that?

“So in the event of an apocalypse, we don’t even really need a plan,” I sighed to my husband, my head falling back on the pillow. “Our family might as well bend over and kiss our needy, suburban asses goodbye.”

We turned off the lights, but my mind wouldn’t quiet. Who are we, after all? We already live off everyone else’s discarded food scraps, function on minimal sleep, and never shy from getting our hands dirty. I carry basic living essentials like hand sanitizer, scissors, and Barbie Band-Aids in my bag every day. Plus, just ask my baby-toting biceps how strong I’ve gotten these past few years.

We’ve survived colic, for crying out loud!

The light flicked back on as I shot up in bed, pointed a determined finger at my husband, and kissed him square on his needy, suburban mouth. “See you in the woods!”

When Your Child Hides Your Keys

“You rifle through the junk drawer, the baby purses, the refrigerator, and that little hole on the side of the TV speakers – to no avail. Even the pantry, where you found a tiny Baby Jesus last spring, is full of only food and an errant container of Play-Doh.

Frustration builds as you begin to suspect these keys were not simply misplaced but hidden. Looking the children in the eyes and menacingly reminding them that this search is wasting their play time, you interrogate them under the searing light of Snowglobe Elsa. ‘WHERE ARE THE KEYS?’ Your furrowed brow is met with a shoulder shrug and … was that a smile? A SMILE?”

Inspired by maddeningly true events, I’m over on Scary Mommy tonight with a new post about that time I lost my keys for two hours.

This is why we drink, people. Happy Sunday, and remember: sharing is caring!

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5 Reasons House-Hunting Is Not For the Faint of Heart

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From the first time I toured the hot pink mansion with Barbie and Skipper, I’ve fantasized about what my own dream house would one day look like. Granted, I don’t expect to have an in-home elevator and my husband doesn’t (usually) wear teal mesh tank tops, but like Barbie, I long for a beautiful home for my family.

We’ve had our share of starter situations, some dumpier than others, and are now in a position to find what we hope will be our forever home, a concept both idyllic and fraught with dangerously high expectations. And though we’re still in the trenches of this agonizing pursuit, I have learned a thing or two along the path to our dream home — mostly, that it’s not easy:

1. Attention to detail is critical. The first apartment my husband and I shared didn’t have working drawers in the kitchen — just faux drawer fronts. It wasn’t something we thought we needed to check when touring for new digs, and it somehow slipped the realtor’s mind to mention. Want to test the strength of your marriage? Infuse the newlywed phase with pregnancy cravings that must be sated in a kitchen whose storage capacity rivals that of a Tic-Tac dispenser. (Shout-out to the restaurant next to our apartment building!) Now we know: try to imagine the weirdest and most inconvenient quirk they could be hiding from you before handing over your money. And always check the drawers.

2. There’s a reason you never see small children on HGTV. It’s not easy paying attention to detail when you’re chasing little ones off other peoples’ furniture and convincing them not to pee in all the potties. I feel compelled to bring them, thinking of course they should have a say in this monumental family decision. The problem is my kids base their opinions of a house on the quality of its bath toys and on the depth of its staircases when tumbling down them. Does the house have a sandbox? If so, they are ready to sign and will not want to leave for several hours. Our family even had to adopt a new rule: any toys left in someone else’s pantry are GONE FOREVER. Seriously. We mean it this time. Not turning around. Nope. Not doing it. Okay, last time.

3. You must do your homework. When I was pregnant with our third, we found a big, beautiful home for rent in an affluent suburb, at the end of a lovely cul-de-sac. It had been recently renovated, and to our surprise, was well within our budget. What luck — it didn’t even seem haunted! And then a simple Google search yielded an alarming result: The house was, and apparently had been for years, the headquarters for an adult escort service. It was an actual, illegal whore house, which (thankfully!) had several Yelp reviews — because God forbid you unwittingly hire a two-star suburban hooker. At the thought of my children running through the halls, tripping on sequins and broken dreams while sleazy websites continued to direct oblivious, ehr, clients to our home, we decided to stay put for another year.

4. It’s okay to get emotional. We’re house-hunting in a highly competitive seller’s market, with a wisp of savings and lots of big dreams. Houses sell in a day here, and we’ve lost bidding wars to people crazy enough to pay cash for one.  (Sidenote: Who ARE these people? And if they have so much cash laying around, why aren’t they using it to buy an even better house? Oooh, I have more dollars in my pocket than a suburban prostitute; I’m gonna go live DEBT-FREE. Whatever.) I’ve had my heart broken a few times over the loss of what I thought was our family’s forever home. I’ve cried into my fair share of cheesecakes after seeing house after house that we can’t afford or won’t fit us or smells like old people breath. It’s a big decision that will have a lasting impact on a family, and the most amount of money a person can reasonably expect to ever spend on anything. Go ahead and feel the feelings. Bring cheesecake.

5. The dream might not exist. This is a tough one for sentimental romantics like myself, especially when we place so much pressure on ourselves to find a house that will suit us until we’re old and gross. We hope that in the short window of time we have, our perfect home will become available and we can buy it and live happily ever after. What I’m chasing is a feeling, more than a bedroom count or proximity to a blue-ribbon school. Just like the cosmic click you’re supposed to feel when you meet your soul mate or first catch a glimpse of yourself in THE wedding dress,  I want to walk into a house and have it feel like home, feel like us. As our window of opportunity closes, though, we have to accept reality: that we may have to settle for walking down the aisle in polyester shoulder pads toward the smelly groom with a receding hairline. I think this happened to Barbie’s friend, Midge.

Maybe we’ll find it. Maybe we’ll create it in whatever space we find. Maybe a dream home only becomes just that when you fill it with your family’s love. The dream lives on in all of us who know we are lucky to be able to house-hunt at all.

To all the other first-time home-buyers out there, I wish you good luck in your searches. But know this, as the most important piece of advice I can bestow upon you: If you show up to my dream house with a mesh tank top and a wad of cash to buy it out from under me, I will cut you.

Happy house hunting!

10 Things Grosser Than Nursing In Your Own Bathroom

An image of a woman breastfeeding her 11-month old while sitting on a toilet has gone viral, causing an uproar this week after the image was uploaded to her Instagram and Facebook pages. (To view the photo in question, see her public response to the Huffington Post.)

Though some people have praised her bold candor, the photo has also brought an onslaught of criticism for Elisha Wilson Beach, wife of actor Michael Beach, for her lack of concern over the seemingly unhygienic practice, for bolstering the message that mothers never get a moment to themselves, and for oversharing. Plus, if her husband took the picture, he probably could have just helped her instead. Fair points.

Beach has publicly responded to the criticism, saying all mothers do things behind closed doors but are afraid to talk about them for fear of judgment, and that a sense of humor has gotten her through many of motherhood’s challenges. Sounds reasonable.

The Internet responded to her statement with a resounding, “Ew, but poop.”

So here are my two cents, because the world needs one more opinion about this photo: The moment you lay spread-eagle in a room full of strangers to deliver a child is the moment your sense of shame goes out the window. There is very little that can embarrass us or gross us out after having several strangers elbow-deep in our birth canals while interns clean up the spills and discuss their plans for sewing our taints back together.

And the attempt to normalize and find humor in the often-repulsive struggles we all face is the mission statement of 99.79% of parenting blogs in existence. This isn’t new.

I can’t say I’ve nursed a baby on the toilet, but I’ve certainly held a baby while I’m there (and have also wiped another kid’s butt with a baby in my arms) because you do what you have to when you’re in survival mode. For what it’s worth, the concern is usually less focused on baby’s proximity to turds and more focused on pulling pants back up one-handed. Not easy — I’ll wait while you try it.

*humming the diarrhea song to myself*

So in support of this woman and her argument that motherhood is gross and we should all just embrace it rather than judge each other for it, I present to you my personal list of 10 Things Grosser than Nursing On Your Own Toilet:

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Achieving Unflappable Mom Status

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I was the stereotypical mom walking through Target with a screaming two-year-old this morning.

Unlike our typical public outburst, though, which is usually followed by shame-fueled sobbing in the parking lot, today I have RISEN ABOVE and believe I have reached a higher level of motherhood. Whether I’ve become desensitized to the cries of my offspring or have just developed a newfound ability to cut through the ruckus to get a job done, I realized I am no longer fazed by the antics of hellion children in public.

At the height of this morning’s pandemonium, my blood pressure remained steady. My voice was calm and still, knowing nobody was sick or hurt. I was deliberate and level-headed, never wavering or giving in to demands. And then, when it became clear there would be no redirecting or coming back from the edge of tantrum, I walked out — baby strapped to my chest, three-year-old’s hand in mine, and a raging two-year-old on my hip, flailing backwards and screaming. My expression was stoic, Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” blaring in the background (or possibly just in my head?), and there was a swagger in my gait as I strut through the parking lot. Shades down. LIKE A BOSS.

I think this liberating phenomenon is one that must be reached after dealing with a certain amount of child-centric BS and public humiliation. If there are any moms out there who were able to maintain this level of cool with their first, my hat is off to you. For me, I felt like I had finally just gotten my black belt in motherhood.

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How to Win at Motherhood

Have you read all the books and blogs and pediatric brochures? Are you interested in having a child who is better looking/smarter/richer/taller than all other children? Do you want your friends to know you’re making great parenting choices while theirs are stupid?

If you dream of being the quintessential mother, head over to Sammiches & Psych Meds tonight for my easy-to-follow tutorial about elbowing past the competition and winning at motherhood.

Have a great weekend all!

XO, Catherine

Today’s Mothers Will Spend A Lifetime Letting It Go

The year is 2076.

A woman, frail and old, lies dying in her bed. A well-loved woman, she is surrounded by her children, her children’s children, and even a few great-grandbabies. The blinds are drawn and the mood is somber.

Her grandson, now a strapping man with his own children, leaves her bedside to meet with some other relatives and friends who have gathered outside her room.

“It can’t be long now,” he tells them. “She’s really starting to lose it. She just said something about 8,000 salad plates when we offered her a sip of water, and she’s making up words. I could swear I heard her talking about ‘fractals.'”

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Eating For One-ish

A few weeks ago, long after the kids were in bed, my husband found me basking in the glowing light of the refrigerator. The door slowly closed, exposing me and my late-night snack in full glory: a milkshake in one hand and some homemade guacamole in the other.

His eyes widened, a sudden surge of panic rising in his throat. He choked it down and with a solemn whisper asked: “Are you…?”

“Am I WHAT?” I asked impatiently, as I shoved some tortilla chips in my face and walked past him. Adorable, I know.

“You’re not… no. No, you can’t be.” He managed a hard swallow and grasped the countertop for support. “Pregnant again?”

My jaw fell right into the chocolate ice cream rimming the frosted glass. “PREGNANT? Who said I was PREGNANT? Have you been drinking?”

As his expression softened with relief, I saw him stifle a laugh. His eyes drew down to my hands, which were now dipping tortilla chips straight into the milkshake.

“You have got to be joking right now,” I said to him, ready to launch into a rant about how a woman can eat 3 avocados worth of guacamole if she damn well wants to. He snorted behind his grin, raised his hands in surrender, and retreated to the living room.

My husband is not a judgy man, and if anything, laments about how my pregnancies have affected his own weight. Our mutual foodiness is something that has brought us closer in many ways over the years, so his observation struck a momentary chord.

It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but I am ready to talk about it.

My name is Catherine. My baby has been on the outside for five months, and I still eat like I’m pregnant.

In my earlier years, I was never a big eater, and certainly not a passionate one. Some may have even called me picky, uninterested in all things gourmet. But similar to the phenomenon that occurs after a few bottles of wine, being pregnant makes food so much better to me. It tastes better, smells better, feels better, and a considerable amount of my gestational period is spent inventing new recipes or trying new food combinations to quell my cravings. I love it. LOVE IT.

Is there anything more comforting than being surrounded by the smoky, piggy goodness that is chipotle pulled pork roasting in your oven all day? Have you felt the full-body satisfaction that comes with painting a pie shell with molten chocolate before filling it with strawberries and cream? Do you know what it feels like to bite into a spicy chicken sandwich and achieve nirvana?

These things come naturally for a pregnant lady, and everyone understands it. They welcome it, even. But the minute that baby pops out, suddenly it’s weird for me to be considering a kielbasa taco? (Okay, that one was weird. You win, judgers.)

I began to question myself. Am I eating my feelings? Am I so busy feeding the kids that I forget to eat and then shove as many calories into my pie-hole as I can to make up for it later? Do I have any leftover pee sticks to be sure?

The next day, I attended a CPR-certification class with a few friends. And as I hovered over the snack table with them, one of whom is actually pregnant, I timidly recounted how embarrassing it was that my husband thought I, too, might be eating for two again based on my snack intake the night before.

They stepped back and looked at me. “But… you’re nursing. Right?”

RIGHT! How could I forget about nature’s grace period? I learned three things that day:

1. There are few things more important in life than some lady friends to remind you exactly how normal you are, even as you’re trying to smuggle caprese salad in your napkin for the ride home after a class about choking hazards.

2. An extra 500 calories a day to support a breastfeeding baby can look like anything I want, damnit. In fact, I think the recommended guidelines specify, “500 calories, plus or minus a cobbler.”

3. They say breast is best* for a multitude of reasons, including but not limited to its ability to shamelessly extend a mother’s pregnant eating habits.

*Unless we’re grilling, in which case I really prefer thighs. Charred with some brown sugar and spices. Remind me to pick up some more avocados. And tortillas. And ice cream.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! But Please Don’t Touch Me

I woke up this morning with my sleeping two-year-old’s finger up my nose, her skull resting squarely on top of mine, and I’m pretty sure her hot mouth-breath was steaming the lines out of my forehead.

I have spent hours upon hours today with many small children — whom I love dearly! — climbing on my body, pulling at my clothes, wiping their fluids on me. They poke me, squeeze me, sneeze on me, rub their faces into me, curl up on me, and wrap their limbs around me so tightly I have nightmares of being squeezed to death by squids when I finally close my eyes at night.

And although I love you too and always strive to make us a priority, I’m going to ask that you keep your sexy man hands to yourself for a hot minute. Mama needs some PERSONAL SPACE before I can mentally switch gears from mom to wife.

So please keep the following in mind before you turn up the slow jamz:

It may be Valentine’s Day, but our kids spent a solid three minutes today pinching my stretched-out bellybutton before I felt the baby’s diaper thundering in my bare hand. So I’m going to need you to hold your horses.

It may be Valentine’s Day, but I haven’t even peed since I woke up this morning. And during that solitary trip to the bathroom, our newly potty trained child followed me in… and offered to wipe me. So let’s just pause a moment while I try to burn that endearing hypothetical out of my immediate chain of thoughts.

It may be Valentine’s Day, but I’m wearing the same bra I wore yesterday and then fell asleep in last night. And then the baby spit up into my cleavage and it pooled there for awhile until this bra soaked it up and I forgot about it. So I’m going to need some time to regroup, and maybe to torch the Victoria’s Secret catalogue that’s sitting on the kitchen counter under the spatter of orange macaroni powder.

It may be Valentine’s Day, but our daughter wiped her nose on my arm today, then examined it and told me it was mashed bananas. (It was not.) So why don’t you just keep your distance until I can scrub both the arm and the memory?

It may be Valentine’s Day, but I just spent 85 percent of the day on my knees. Let me beat you to the punch line of that joke by telling you it was spent scraping dried spaghetti sauce off the floor, rounding up approximately a billion sensory beans, and scrubbing pee-pee out of the carpet. So as sexy as my hole-in-the-knees mom pants are, I’m going to go ahead and take a breather.

It may be Valentine’s Day, but that crazed look in my eye is the result of repeated exposure to toys that light up, honk, or sing “Let It Go” in Spanish. So please don’t be offended when you find me huddled in a dark corner rambling incoherently to myself instead of waxing poetic about romance tonight.

It may be Valentine’s Day, but I cooked three meals today with the big kid wrapped around my leg, the little one on my hip sucking my ponytail, and the middle one sprawled on the floor crying to be held. Or danced with. Or guided through “the biggest jump ever.” So for dessert, I think I’ll have an order of silent meditation — make it a double!

It may be Valentine’s Day, but I just (finally!) got the baby down, and I have already bartered with God about letting her stay asleep this time. If we wake her, I will likely have to nurse her for another twenty minutes, and to say my ta-tas are experiencing an identity crisis in moments like these is the understatement of the year. So let’s just be quiet for, I dunno, six more hours.

I love you, you are super hot, and I swear I will make us my priority again soon (maybe next Valentine’s Day?). But today, our kids were so ON me they might as well have still been INSIDE me, and I desperately need to recharge before I can look into your dreamboat eyes and think of anything but how good it would feel to shut mine and pass out.

So for now, let’s just enjoy some champagne and strawberries that haven’t been cut into quarters. Let’s sit by the fire and remember why we fell in love a lifetime ago. Hold me close throughout the night, shielding me from the toddler who tries to jump on my face at 3 a.m. Thanks for understanding — your ability to love me through this season of marriage (and willingness to wipe up all the spills while I recharge) boosts our prospects for tomorrow. Happy Valentine’s Day!