Is Anyone Immune from Booger Eating?

Guest posting on Mommy Hot Spot today. Discussing a few of my favorite topics: social media (and how people react to it), parenting, and booger eating (yes, I said it!)

Read the post here or see below.

Lately I have seen a very unfortunate trend with my Mom friends. I’ve heard it at parties, seen it on Facebook, and even discussed it at book club. Moms are mad, frustrated and upset. And who is this rage directed at?

Mom Bloggers. Or Moggers as my friend likes to call them. People like me.

Apparently women are ticked at the perfect way Mommy bloggers are portraying their lives, and it’s too much pressure to live up to on a daily basis.

“No one’s cupcakes come out that way,” screamed my friend the day she lived out a Pinterest-fail of tie-dyed cupcakes for her daughter’s 7th birthday party. I actually thought they came out pretty good, but clearly not as perfect as the picture she showed me on her iPad.

Another friend vehemently exclaimed the other day: “It’s not like parenting three kids isn’t hard enough, but now all these ‘perfect’ Mom bloggers are out there talking about organic food, no screen time until they turn eighteen, keeping your kids in car seats backwards until they’re nine…enough is enough!”

I get it. I really do. I am one of those moms that is creatively challenged. My youngest out-paced me in the craft world at four years old when she took the glue gun out of my hands to put the feathers on the turkey we were creating for Thanksgiving. I would rather stick pins in my eyes than spend a day scrapbooking, crafting or baking cakes that involve words like fondant. If I judged what kind of mother I was based on this, I would get  a big fat F.

And sometimes when I read about the food a blogger creates from scratch every day to feed her nine children or the organic garden a New York City mom cultivated on the roof of her apartment, I feel pangs of guilt for the cheez-its I sent in for group snack (although they did have letters imprinted on them, you know, to make the kids smarter).

But a few years ago, I had a life-changing experience. I met a mom through my daughters’ My Gym classes. She also had twins, but that was where our similarities stopped. She had lost all of her baby weight, had no muffin top, and was constantly pulled together. She had her own successful business she started while breastfeeding her twins for 14 months and teaching them sign language. Because their father was from Montreal, they were already speaking two languages and had travelled extensively by the tender age of three. No joke.

Despite the fact that this mom made me feel like an utter failure, she was very friendly, so we decided to hit the local Chick-fil-A for lunch after class one day. As we chatted while the kids were eating, I looked over at her son who continuously picked his nose, and yes, ate it. Her daughter had a meltdown of epic proportions because she had white milk instead of chocolate. They had to leave early because her son threw his shoe at the back of a stranger’s head. It was not pretty, and she was mortified.

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Apparently perfect hair does not make you immune to booger-eating. Because I had lived this scenario myself (several times), I was relieved to see this mom also succumbed to the same issues that I had with my kids. Although the image she projected publicly was much different, at the end of the day, she was as frazzled as I was.

It is no different in the blogging world. As bloggers, we project the image we want our readers to see. We carefully choose our words, images and topics that we think our readers will embrace. And although there are the mommy bloggers that believe honesty in parenting is what they want to portray, most of these women are building a brand, and that brand is their carefully-crafted persona.

While it may be hard to believe, most of the moms writing blogs are not doing it to make other moms feel bad; but let’s be honest: how many of you would attempt to try a recipe if the cake looked lopsided? I always equate blogging (and in some cases social media) to publishing your own magazine — an opportunity to share what you are passionate about whether it is clean eating, fitness, crafts, make-up, decorating, or just your kids. They are trying to put their best foot forward to their audience, just as they would showcase their best products in their storefront.

I believe the rage against the mommy bloggers, Pinterest-ers, and perfect Facebook posters is symbolic of what has always been going since the dawn of mommy-hood. So many of us strive for perfection and use other parents as a benchmark for our own self-worth. When we look at others though the lens of resentment, there is no way we can support each other or encourage our kids to treat each other compassionately.

There is no way to parent perfectly, and having a child absolutely guarantees you will be imperfect. It doesn’t matter how many perfect cakes you bake, marathons you run, or crafts you create, your kid still may eat his own booger in front of somebody else.

What can you do to sublimate your rage? Instead of feeling guilt and resentment when going on social media, digest the information and decide what you want to do with it. You may want to embrace having your own chickens for free range eggs or you may go back to buying your egg McMuffin.

Because while some bloggers do try to shame us into thinking that their way is the only way — using fear and judgement — we often  forget that we, as readers, have the power in these situations. Bloggers are only as successful as their followers make them. Trust me, I know.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I think we all need to remind ourselves of this as parents in today’s digital age.

Or you can just start your own blog…

Six Traits of Happy Moms

I like to think I’m pretty happy. Well, most of the time.

But sometimes I get tired and stressed and frazzled and frustrated and resentful and tired (did I say that twice?). I know, I am entitled to feel these emotions. I mean I have three busy kids, a husband with a big career, and my own blogging empire I’m trying to build. Of course I should be stressed sometimes, right?

As women, we have more opportunities than ever before, so why are we so bummed? Why do we spend all our time complaining about how tough our lives are, while others go out and live it?

What about those moms that just seem happy and content — all of the time? What is their secret? How do they keep it together when the rest of us are moaning about car pools, ballet recitals and science fair projects? How do they not get sucked in to the vortex of complaints about just how hard it is to be a mom.

I started thinking about some of the happiest moms I know, and five came to mind. After assessing my list, I realized they were a diverse lot: a full-time executive in the financial industry, a teacher, a home-schooling military wife, a part-time pharmacist and a regular stay at home mother.

Despite the fact that their approach to their careers, parenting roles and family dynamics were all different (one mom has four kids, another two, etc.), they are all happy. Or dare I say happily satisfied with their lives.

What does this group have in common?

They are appreciative. On my recent girls trip I was discussing my good friend’s potential relocation due to her husband’s new military assignment. “That sucks that you have no control over where you are going,” I said sympathetically.

“That’s okay,” she said in her upbeat way. “I have three healthy kids and I don’t have cancer. Wherever we land, we land!”

She was not being glib or trite. She was recognizing that although her whole life was about to be uprooted, she knew she had a lot to be thankful for…what I often call an attitude of gratitude.

People often think happiness is about what you achieve or possess, but one of the keys to being happy is being satisfied and appreciative with what you already have.

They are confident. None of these moms live vicariously through their children, or get their self-worth because of their kids’ successes (or failures). They also don’t look to others — spouses, friends or co-workers — for affirmation. These content mothers are confident with who they are and how they parent.

And more importantly, they like themselves. When you are happy with yourself, you believe that others will like you as well. This eliminates a lot of the insecurities that breed with us moms, and what causes most of the drama.

The cherry on top of their happiness sundae: when you feel confident, you don’t feel guilt (or at least not as much.) And nothing is a happiness sucker like guilt.

Photo by Charles Henry

Photo by Charles Henry

They have their own passions. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, a sure path to unhappiness, bitterness and resentment is to lose who you are in your children (see my article on how I got my Stay at Home Happy.) Each of my happy friends have outside hobbies and interests that they pursue with zeal. Running, traveling, book clubs, music/concerts, faith groups and fundraising are just some of the things that occupy their time when they are not being great mommies. Sometimes they share their passions with their families, but sometimes they save it just for themselves. I think that is awesome.

They invest in their karma. I’m not sure if all my friends believe in karma, but they all certainly have a lot of it. I think it’s because they are all givers. For example, one of my best friends — who is among the happiest people I know — also likes to gamble (responsibly) sometimes. I can’t blame her, as she wins way more than she loses. One particular Tuesday she had some free time, so she hit the casino for a few hours to play some games that I don’t understand. After being up — nearly $600  — she decided to call it a day. What did she do? She bought the table a round of drinks, tipped the dealer, gave $400 to charity and put $100 away for a night out to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It was a great day for her and for everyone around her.

My other happy friends are also givers. They run charity events on behalf of loved ones, volunteer to teach Sunday school, lead Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts, etc. And here’s the catch: they do these things without complaint. I also think they know how to say no without guilt, which is equally important.

I know a mom who does so much for her family and community, but she is also constantly telling you how much she does for her family and community.

“There was no one to run the pre-school party so they begged me to do it. Now I have that, the book fair, the end of school party and our vacation to plan for. I am exhausted,” she told me. Over and over.

While I want to be appreciative of someone who gives so much of her time, it is hard when you see how negative and bitter she was about it. My happy friends don’t ruin their karma with complaints; instead, like Finding Nemo, they just keep on swimming, and having a good time while doing it.

+ They are optimistic — and accepting. As annoyingly overdone as Pharell’s song “Happy” is, the man has got a point.  “Bring me down, can’t nothing bring me down, my level’s too high!” This is so true for my content friends. They always handle adversity so much better than I do.

Once my friend with a full-time career told me her husband had to go in for surgery. He would be unable to do much for six weeks. She travels a bit, and has two active kids. “How are you going to do it?” I exclaimed, getting more and more stressed and trying to mentally figure out how I could help.

“It will all work out,” she said. “If we miss something, we miss it. I just need to make sure my husband gets better, and my kids stay healthy. The rest is gravy.”

Hmmm. I sat on that for a bit. I was way more freaked out about it than she was, and I had way less on my plate. And of course, she was right. Her daughters missed a few gymnastics classes and probably didn’t sell as many Girl Scout Cookies as they normally would, but they were no worse for the wear, and the family came out of that stressful situation in tact.

What I also notice about my happy friends is that they complain the least. And they have a lot to complain about. My one dear friend’s husband has been deployed for six months. No complaining. Another’s husband has to travel internationally for weeks at a time. No complaining. Sick kids — well, a little complaining, but instead of wallowing in self-pity like I do, they use it as an opportunity to do something constructive, like clean out the closets or do their holiday cards in July.

Most of my happy friends often choose to live in the moment. I rarely hear words such as “I will be happy when X is over” or “It will be better when school is out.” Since happiness is a conscious decision, they choose to be happy. Right now. This is something I’m always working on, but haven’t quite been able to grasp.

They are fun. Man, are they fun. My happy friends are the first ones to stay late on the dance floor or have the best costumes for a theme party. They don’t get embarrassed (see “they are confident” above) and are always willing to try something new, such as painting or Zumba or rock climbing. They take vacations with their families and girls weekends with their friends. They are committed to enjoying life, and don’t get rattled when things don’t go as planned.

Being happy is a full-time job for my friends. It is a way of life that they embrace fully. And I believe they work hard at it.

While sometimes trying to be positive and upbeat — especially when we are not naturally that way — can make us feel like a phony, gradually that “pretend” feeling subsides, and our feelings are no longer forced. We become the way we act.

I once heard a phrase: going through the motions can trigger the emotions. You know what I’m talking about….like when you are frustrated but you put on your happy face for your kids. Next thing you know you are in the middle of a tickle fight, and you forgot why you were so grumpy.

By embracing the moment, not the negative emotions, it can free us from our unhappiness. And who doesn’t want that?

Are you happy? What do you do to keep your happiness mojo on the upswing?

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A Love Letter to My Mama

Dear Mom:

Thank you.

Thank you for taking the time to turn me into a bale of hay so I could win the costume contest for Halloween. For letting me have pool parties, roller skate parties and slumber parties. For letting me chase my brother on my very own BMX bike before taking me to dance lessons. For letting me read in my closet when I should have been sleeping, and punishing me when I got caught taking money out of the neighbor’s mail box. For buying me the Barbie Dream Stage, new skis, a Coca Cola rugby shirt and two different LeSport Sac purses (one in beige and one in navy). And for not buying me the red one just because I saw someone else had it.

Thanks for loving me when I was awful to you, like when at age 13 I wrote that you embarrassed me. For taking me shopping just so we could talk. For always telling me I was beautiful, smart and could do anything. And for throwing my shoes at me when I didn’t clean up my room — again.

Thank you for being one of the only parents to enforce a curfew, but letting me sit outside in our driveway till all hours of the night with my friends. For ensuring I earned good grades, paid for my own car insurance and always spent some time with my older relatives. For grounding me when I did something stupid and standing by me when I had to make tough choices. For going back to school just so you could get a better job to pay for my extra curricular activities, like cheerleading and sorority dues.

My mom, me and four of her six granddaughters.

My mom, me and four of her six granddaughters.

Thank you for giving me more — more love, more grace, more things — than you were offered as a child. For showing me how to handle insurmountable losses with dignity and strength. For telling me that life can be hard, but someone else always has it harder. For always giving: a meal, a place to stay, a dollar. For being strong during our family’s darkest times and the light in all our childhood memories. For taking care of Dad, without a single complaint, as he slowly disintegrated into a shadow of the man you married. For giving up your life to take care of me and my family when we needed you most.

Thank you for always doing the dishes, the laundry and the floors when you visit. For getting teary at the girls’ Christmas performance and laughing at their jokes. For talking to me on the phone nearly every day — or sometimes multiple times — just so I can tell you about something funny the kids said. And for buying my husband tidy whiteys for Christmas.

Thank you for never forgetting a birthday and still making me wonder about Santa. For cooking my favorites, no matter what my age. For spoiling all your grandkids and constantly bragging about them to anyone who will listen. For encouraging me to follow my dreams, and rooting me on every step of the way.

Thank you for telling me I’m a good mom, which is the best compliment I have ever received.

And thank you for being an extraordinary mother, while teaching me what you do is actually quite ordinary. Ordinary for any mom who loves their children.

You have made the ordinary, extraordinary. Thank you, Mom.

All my love,

Whitney

Happy Mother’s Day to any woman who takes care of others. It is the most important sisterhood on the planet. Let’s celebrate it by being kind — to ourselves and each other. Raising my glass to the Moms on Sunday!

Why I Heart Teachers — Every Single One of Them

I have such an admiration for teachers. Not just because I believed the words that Whitney Houston belted out two decades ago that our children are the future, but because I believe they are above us mere mortals.

I feel like they have super powers. Like the way they can make 27 six-year olds quiet down with a simple clap or get a rowdy group of 10th graders to pass a state assessment test. And do I even need to mention the ones that put their own lives at risk to protect students from violent perpetrators?

 

Photo from www.audio-luci-store.it

Photo from www.audio-luci-store.it

Yes, I know that you always hear about how teachers are overpaid and that they get summers off. Yes, I know some still have a union mentality more focused on tenure than performance/achievement. Yes, I know we are all jealous of how ‘easy’ their job is (I hope you can sense the sarcasm). And let’s not forget how awesome it must be to interact with parents day in and day out.

Now, I get it. There are teachers and then there are teachers. There are the educators that inspire and teach us ways to think and do that stick with us our entire lives (my high school AP English teacher) and there are those we would like to forget (my fifth grade teacher who told my mom I was too social and that was why my penmanship was bad.)

But the way I see it, teachers should get hazard pay, and not just because our schools are no longer the safe havens of yore; but because I am now a mom and know what they have to deal with on a daily basis.

So, because it is Teacher Appreciation Week, I thought I would share a few of the reasons why I heart teachers:

They deal with germs that make the movie Outbreak look like the common cold.  I seriously have no idea how teachers’ life expectancies aren’t the same as coal miners with the amount of ick they are exposed to on a daily basis. Lice, mono, strep throat, pink eye, scabies and every communicable disease known to man. And the vomit. Oh, the vomit. When my kids entered first grade I was so excited to volunteer in the lunch room. Well, that was before I saw two kids hurl and heard that a stomach virus outbreak was erupting throughout the school. Guess who gets to deal with that before we pick up our little cherubs? There is no summer vacation in the world that would make me deal with that.

+ They care, even when that’s not part of the job description. I will never forget the teacher who texted me pictures of my daughter at an event that I couldn’t make due to a trip I was on, or the teacher that called me at home because she was so excited about the jump in my daughter’s reading level. Their excitement was contagious, for me, my kids, and I believe, for them.

I am constantly amazed at what my friends that are teachers do for their students. Sometimes it is spending more money on their classrooms than what they make, or giving up their Friday night to spend it at a student’s ballet recital or soccer game. I have seen teachers sneak food to kids that are hungry or buy clothing to help a family in need. And in my heart, I don’t believe that these are a select few educators. I believe this is the norm.

Their interaction with our kids is like an after-school special. A friend of mine is a teacher at a large high school, and what she deals with on a regular basis is heart wrenching. Pregnancies, date rape, parental neglect, violence, bullying, eating disorders, mental illness and the list goes on and on. This is not an inner city high school either. This is a typical secondary institution in middle America. In addition to supporting the needs of these kids, she also gets to deal with their parents. The ones who stick their fingers in her face because they don’t like the grades their kids have earned, or the ones who leave messages — on her personal cell phone — asking to extend a deadline for a school project that was given five weeks earlier. Lucky her.

They are like the U.N. Have you ever seen a male first grade teacher work out the dynamics of three little girls who are going through friendship drama? Or a middle school gym teacher that has to deal with all the hormones raging in the locker room? At the end of the day, teachers are constantly solving crises. Maybe not ones linked to world peace, but for our kids, they are pretty major.

They see what I see, but 24x. My daughter had a dangling tooth that was so disgusting it at times made me gag. I could not imagine seeing that about every day for 180 days. The burping, tooting, and nose picking. The hair twirling, knuckle cracking and eye rolling. Teachers get to see this all the time from a wide variety of participants. How they stay sane I have no idea.

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They change lives. My daughter would not be where she is today if not for some amazing teachers (and therapists) at her schools. They, literally, have changed the trajectory of her life. And who hasn’t had “that” teacher that inspires us to be better, to think bigger and achieve more? The teacher that believed in us more than we believed in ourselves? The teacher that made something insanely boring seem suddenly ridiculously cool? I’ve had several, ranging from my sixth grade social studies teacher to my comparative politics professor at the University of Florida. They all changed me…for the better.

Teachers today are faced with insurmountable obstacles. Curriculums that are constantly changing; standardized tests that can be biased and unfair; parents that have unrealistic expectations; apathetic students that want good grades to be handed to them instead of earned; and a culture of disobedience that puts them in harm’s way, regardless of what grade they teach.

Today, I’m standing up for the teachers. The ones that make sure my kid’s pants are always buttoned because she couldn’t do it herself. The ones that buy school supplies because they know their students can’t afford it. The ones who come in early and stay late just to help that one student who just doesn’t get it. The ones who know it’s not about them, and it’s always about somebody else. And even the ones who become apathetic after years of getting beaten down.

Today, I’m saying thank you . You are appreciated, and I hope you feel it!

Do you have a special teacher in your life? Tell me about it.

Do You Need to “Look Up”

Just got back from a Girls Weekend that was amaze-balls (more blogging about that later), but wanted to share this video named “Look Up”. It is an extremely poignant take on the effect social media is having on our lives and what we miss when we have our heads down in our phones and iPads.

I have mixed emotions about this. I have a mild social media addiction, but I have also lived in 14 different cities and have friends and family scattered throughout the globe. I love seeing pictures of my friends’ children, vacations and yes, even the great meals they are eating at fancy restaurants. I crack up at Memes (by the way, did you know it was pronounced meam like cream?), my friends’ hilarious Facebook posts about what their kids did last night and some fantastic Instagram shots. I even use it to gather information about topics such as parenting, traveling, food, etc. The big joke for me is everything I’ve ever learned about anything has been from Facebook.

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Social media brings me joy with people who I normally wouldn’t have time to engage with on a regular basis. But I’m a pretty social person, so I do not think I have ever let it get in the way of forming real friendships (or maintaining those relationships that are most important to me.) Or I like to think so.

I have noticed lately that some of my friends get angry when on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Angry at “VagueBooking” (when people seek attention about something going on in their life without letting you know what’s going on), recipe posting, or airing out your dirty laundry. Mad at how people portray their perfect lives or post too much about mundane things. Frustrated with the negativity, political rants or even the football rivalries.

I wonder about the voyeurism we are obsessed with and why we find it difficult to disengage on social media. I am fascinated by the fact that it is so difficult to disconnect. And I am concerned with the effect it sometimes has on relationships.

I think social media is here to stay, but I am interested to see how people use it and the emotions it brings out in them. I will be addressing this in some of my blogs in the future, but for now, take a look at “Look Up.”

I would love to know what you think.

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