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?

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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