Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
Since my older son’s fifth birthday party was held last weekend, I find it appropriate to discuss exactly what goes into planning, and ultimately executing a child’s birthday party. Now, I know plenty of parents who will scoff at this and ask, “Why bother stressing over a kid’s birthday?” Well, the short answer is because stress is in my blood. The remainder of this blog is the long answer.
Planning a birthday celebration for an adult is fairly simple. You pick a date, you pick a place, you send a mass text, and whoever is around shows up for a drink. And generally speaking, there’s very little stress (if any at all) and plenty of alcohol involved.
So, about that kid’s party…
The very first thing to consider is theme. As in, which animated character makes your child cry the hardest when pried out of his or her hands? For my son, this was undoubtedly superheroes. Batman, Incredible Hulk, Spiderman, Iron Man. You name it. He’s obsessed with it. Sure, he’s never actually seen any of them on television (or even the comics). But why should that insignificant detail deter him from infatuation? Regardless of what you choose, though, the inevitable theme ends up being “parents spend an obscene amount of money that their child will never fully appreciate.”
So for my son’s party, my overly driven wife decided to make HOMEMADE SUPERHERO CAPES AND MASKS as party favors. In a way, I was impressed by her determination. In another way, it felt like going swimming with cinderblocks tied to each ankle. Ambitious, yet not entirely desirable if you’re already having trouble keeping your head above water.
I wish I’d put half the effort into college that my wife puts into party favors.
The next thing to consider, naturally, is the date the party will take place. Choosing the date closest to the actual birthday of your child is ideal, but not always feasible. What if your child’s birthday coincides with Labor Day weekend, or the birthday of another child in your kid’s class, or the anniversary of Titanic’s sinking? Ultimately, you’re either the type of person who says “screw it” and books your party the date you want it, or the type to play nice and make sure you’re not stepping on feet. No matter how hard I resist, I typically fall into the latter category. I just refuse to touch anyone’s feet.
Choosing the location and party package (assuming this isn’t happening in your backyard) quickly turns into a game of “Which business owner is trying to screw me the hardest?” There will be the basic party package, which they’ll actually title “Basic Party Package” to make you feel like a heartless cretin selecting it. This package typically includes six party guests, 30 minutes of jump-rope, and maybe use of paper goods and plasticware. The basic package is the party equivalent of ordering the 8 GB iPhone. So, ultimately, because you’re having more than six kids at the party, you’re ordering the Jumbo Kid Orgasm Package that costs roughly the same amount as your mortgage payment. But that includes cleanup, saving you the trouble of taking paper plates and napkins and tossing them into a trash bin. So, there’s that.
Then, reluctantly, comes the creation of the invite list. And make no mistake; no adult wants their kid to be on that list. There’s no alcohol, there’s little refuge from their kids, and there’s a strong likelihood that they’ll have that party hat elastic band snapped onto their face. This may explain why we invited 32 kids to my son’s party and a whopping seven replied by the RSVP date. You would think we were asking them to sign up to be a foster family for a homeless groundhog with the hollowness that encompassed our phones and email inboxes. Add on the fact that we mistakenly invited his entire class, and we were met with a whole sh*tload of indifference. For potential ideas on how to quell this RSVP issue, check out this recent article.
Once the date, location, invite list, theme, and alcohol to be consumed afterwards is all laid out, it’s time to “execute the party.” So you cart the balloons, cake, party favors, and every stimulant imaginable to the party place. And you start to realize that holding a child’s birthday party is not unlike having a wedding. First of all, there is virtually no socialization (for you) at all. You’ll greet people as they walk in the door, mindlessly shout “thanks!” as they’re leaving, and practically nothing in between. You’re too busy taking and posing for pictures. You’re too busy documenting who gave which gift so you can mention it in the “thank you” card later. You’re too busy ensuring every soul in the building is happy, eating and hydrated…except for you. And that’s when you decide that your child’s next birthday will be at the Outback.
My task the night before the party was turning Poland Spring into “Super Water”
But there’s something intrinsically important that happens during your child’s party. There’s a moment when the music is colliding with your relentless thoughts, when your spouse is anxiously asking you where you left the camera and you feel the sweat start to bleed through your shirt fabric, when you see your child absorbing every stimulating element surrounding him. And he’s so incredibly happy that you can’t help but smile through the chaos. Because you know, despite the price tag, your sweat is worth his joy.
Another thing that was actually worth it? This cooler than cool superhero cake.
Yes, the fist is edible. Yes, I ate the fingernails.
Alternatively, if in that moment you don’t see your child exuberantly smiling, at the very least you’ve brushed up on your project management skills.
Thanks for reading, and please join the conversation by adding a comment below, checking out my Facebook, or following me on Twitter. And if anyone in the New Jersey area wants the number of the cake creator, drop me a line.
* Balloon photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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We left off yesterday with my friend Jennifer’s saga to sleep train her daughter. Eleanor is 2 1/2-years old and Cece is 4-years old. Both have been good sleepers. They share a room. But a few months ago Eleanor began to fuss. And Jennifer began to go in. Before she knew it, they were playing musical beds in the night, no one was sleeping, she and her husband were fighting, and everyone was miserable. Something had to give.
So they hired a sleep consultant, Renee Wasserman, from SleepHeadSolutions, to give them a plan that would work. For more on all this, and all the drama it entailed to reach this point, you can refer to Part 1.
Now it’s the second night and Jennifer is hoping it will be better than last night’s fiasco. So here she is again, with the play-by-play:
We get a late start to bedtime.
As usual, Cece falls asleep right away.
As usual, Eleanor starts screaming under the door immediately.
I realize we forgot to give Eleanor her antibiotics. Yes – we’re sleep training this poor child while she’s on antibiotics for an ear infection. In our defense, we’re halfway through the prescription and she hasn’t complained about her ear in a week. And we’ve found that there’s always, always a good reason to put off sleep training…
I bring in the pink medicine (this kid loves taking it) and then since I’m in there, I give in to her screaming potty request. She pees in the big potty in the bathroom, which is probably one less pee I’ll have to clean up off the floor in the morning.
We return to the girls’ bedroom and Eleanor wants to get into her sister’s bed. I let her sleep with Cece since I figure she’ll most likely end up there during the night anyway. Night two is around the same as night one but Eleanor cries for shorter periods of time. And she keeps her pajamas and diaper on all night. Huge progress!
We celebrate in the morning.
Eleanor is up twice during the night but not for long. Again she keeps her pajamas and diaper on. She sleeps in her big sister’s bed all night. It feels like we’ve moved a mountain! I know it’s not ideal for the girls to be sleeping together in a twin bed. Cece complains about Eleanor sleeping on her hair and rolling on top of her, and, as our sleep consultant points out, she might just be replacing me with her sister.
In a perfect world Eleanor would be capable of sleeping through the night in her own bed but I gave up on a perfect world a long time ago. And I know we’re headed in the right direction.
Eleanor sleeps through the night without waking up! She snuggles with her sister but now they both seem pretty comfortable together.
Eleanor has another successful night. This is changing our life. We realize we didn’t have evenings before this – I used to tip toe out of the girls’ room at 11pm, trying not to wake them and then it would be musical beds all night. Having kids that sleep feels amazing! The next day after school/work we go for a celebratory dinner and then to Pinkberry for dessert.
We have a bit of a relapse tonight. Maybe from the Pinkberry sugar? Eleanor is up a few times crying in the night. It’s still a whole new world though. I just look at her on the monitor and don’t go in. Now I can say with confidence she will figure it out. And sure enough, just a few tired tears and then right back to sleep.
Now the question is: do we allow them to keep sleeping together in one twin bed or do we try to nip that in the bud too?
Per our sleep consultant’s advice we talk to the girls about having more space for their bodies to stretch and grow if they stay in their own beds. Eleanor is going to try to sleep on her own tonight. Their snuggling is so damn cute though. And I’m very proud of Eleanor’s progress and I feel bad enforcing another difficult challenge so quickly.
In an effort to get Eleanor to stay in her own bed, we decide to push the girls’ two twin beds together. This way the girls can be in their own beds and also beside each other. So far so good - 10pm and not a peep. Maybe pushing the beds together is the answer? Nope – Eleanor ends up in her sister’s bed again. We think about it and decide we’re ok with this arrangement for now. Hopefully they’ll outgrow sleeping together when they’re ready and if they don’t, we now have the tools to make another change when we’re ready.
It’s been less than a week of sleep training and life has already changed so much! The improved sleeping has made a huge impact on all of our lives. The girls seem more rested, we’re all happier people, my marriage feels easier, I’m more productive at work… I can’t believe It took us this long to finally fix the problem. We should have done this many, many months ago. Getting outside help was key for us – we were too tired to think straight and our repeated attempts weren’t working. I realize now that Eleanor’s job was to test us and she was doing great. We just needed to set the limits for her. When I think about it, Renee really sleep trained us.
If anyone wants to contact Renee her info is:
Renee Wasserman, P.T., M.P.H.
Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant
Pic of girl sleeping via Shutterstock
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read
I’m not talking about myself in the title, but rather my friend Jennifer and her husband Matt, whose battle to sleep train their daughter reached dramatic heights that involved urine, feces threats, and lots of screams. This 2-part blog post follows the story of how this family went to battle for one of the most crucial elements in life: sleep.
Here is some background: The girls both slept in cribs, then their own beds. But when the nighttime fussing began out of nowhere, both parents found themselves too bleary-eyed to be consistent with sleep rules. Jennifer began getting in bed with Eleanor or vice versa and everyone was waking up multiple times. There were tears, thrashing of limbs and feet in mouth (literally). They tried Ferber, various techniques, but nothing was changing. The whole family became walking zombie’s, unable to function during the day. I watched them all disintegrate into madness.
Eleanor is the cutest little girl, full of spunk. She’s also incredibly strong-willed. This is a girl who is either going to be President or the world’s best criminal (kidding of course–at least on the criminal part). She doesn’t back down. Even if it means sleeping in her own pee. Or worse.
Remember the best-selling book, Go The F-ck To Sleep? Well, here is Jen’s own version of her sleep training hell.
After many months of not sleeping (it’s been such a blur that I don’t even know how long it’s been since we’ve slept through the night) and many attempts at sleep training, we finally cave and hire an experienced sleep consultant to help us figure out what to do.
For an all-inclusive fee, Renee Wasserman, P.T., M.P.H. from Sleepyheadsolutions talked to us on the phone for over an hour and e-mailed us a detailed plan to follow. She will be checking in with us every morning by phone for two weeks to advise us, encourage us to stay on course, and listen to my boring and very detailed sleep stories.
After a few weeks of procrastinating (we have friends in town, Eleanor is sick, we’re traveling…) my husband and I finally force ourselves to buckle up and start the sleep training process. Per our sleep consultant’s advice, we have a family meeting after dinner on the first night. We try to make it fun and pass around a toy microphone while we discuss the importance of sleep for our bodies, how we feel when we don’t get enough sleep, and the new sleep rules for everyone in the house.
We talk about how we all need to stay in our rooms and sleep in our own beds until morning. We tell the girls that we love them very much but won’t be coming into their (shared) room if they cry.
Our older daughter Cece (4 years) gets it and is up for the challenge but she’s a great sleeper and has been sleeping through the night since she was six months old.
Eleanor hears the plan and says, “Not Yet. How about tomorrow?”
Unfortunately they’re in this together. If we want them to successfully share a room, we have to sleep train them both. In other words, Eleanor’s problem is Cece’s problem too.
We tell Eleanor that we know she can do this. We’re all going to try our best.
Per Renee’s instructions:
- We hung up the blackout shades
- We set up our new light-up sleep clock and explain to the girls that the cow goes to sleep at bedtime and when she wakes up (at 7am) they can get up too.
- We unscrew the light bulb from the ceiling so Eleanor can’t switch the light on and off in the middle of the night (which she has been tormenting us with).
- We set up a potty and a roll of toilet paper on a towel on the floor so Eleanor can’t use the potty excuse all night long. If she has to go, she goes in her room, in the potty. (We hope.)
- We read our new books about sleep.
- We go through the sleep rules again: “We will sleep in our own beds all night. We will stay in our beds until the clock changes color. You can hug your bear and talk to each other but we won’t be coming in if you cry…”
We kiss them good night and close the door. There’s a child lock on the inside so they can’t get out.
It’s 7:00 pm. I’m scared of what the night will bring. I hate the thought of Eleanor screaming for us all night. And taking her clothes off and being cold. And peeing on the ground or in her bed. And waking up her sister who would otherwise be sleeping soundly through the night. But we all need more sleep and I feel like we’ve hit rock bottom. We need to do this.
Cece is asleep in her bed and Eleanor gets out of bed and is crying at the door. She gets down on her belly and screams at the small crack above the floor. It sounds like she’s yelling through a megaphone. “I need to make a pee pee!” I stare at her on the monitor. “I need to go in the big toilet in the bathroom! Not the little potty in here!” I watch her expertly remove her pajamas and her diaper. “I need a new diaper!” She pees on the new wood floor. It’s going to be a long night. As hard as it is, we don’t go in.
Eleanor screams like crazy and tries to wake up her sister.
“Cece, you need to wake up and open the door for me!”
When that doesn’t work she yells, “I need to make a poop!” “The poop is coming out!”
This is when I would normally rush in. I would put Eleanor on the potty and move Cece into our bed so she can sleep. This time we stay strong.
Next she resorts to calling me by my name: “Jennifer! Jennifer!” she screams at the gap under the door. If I wasn’t so nervous, this name-calling would be kind of hilarious.
We watch the monitor. We don’t budge.
She leaves the frame and comes back holding a summer dress. We watch her pull it over her naked body – inside out and backwards. After more crying she goes to get pajama bottoms from her dresser, sits on Cece’s bed, and carefully puts them on. She climbs into bed with Cece and goes to bed. I know that since she is diaper-less she will pee in the bed tonight but I’m very relieved she stopped crying. It lasted around 45 minutes and now she’s asleep. Wearing a dress – but asleep!
I get into my own bed, holding my breath. I have no idea what the night will bring.
In the wee hours:
The screaming begins at 12am. It starts again at 2am, then 4am. Each bout lasts about 15 minutes. In between crying fits she’s in her sister’s bed. She stands up on top of Cece’s back to reach the light switch – click click. Nothing happens since we removed the bulb. She tries a few more times before giving up.
Cece wakes up and they scream at us together in harmony. We’re awake all night staring at the monitor but we don’t break and go into their room. At one point Eleanor rolls off the bed onto the carpet. Minutes later Cece gets poked in the eye. Everyone is yelling “Owwwiiieeee.” It’s impossibly hard but we stick to the plan and don’t go in…
I continue watching the monitor so I know they’re ok. And I know that if we walk in because Eleanor rolled off the bed, she’ll pretend to roll off the bed again. And if the eye poke gets us into the bedroom, she’ll fake-poke her sister in the eye next time. She’s that good.
We’re all exhausted in the morning but we (try to) celebrate that we stayed in our rooms. There’s plenty of pee on the floor and in the bed and lots of laundry to do before school/work. I find out later that an exhausted Cece falls asleep at her preschool while eating her lunch. Oy. I feel terrible.
–Tomorrow is Part 2 of Sleep Training Hell. Tune in to see if it gets better. Or worse.
Pic of family bed via Shutterstock
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Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
As the great Jerry Stiller once said (while portraying the unforgettably bombastic Frank Costanza on Seinfeld), “I feel the need to unburden myself.” I’ve been carrying around some heavy secrets. Some of them kind of shocking. But I’m willing to bet that, if you’re a parent, you’ll relate to more of these than you’d like to admit.
So, in no particular order, since it’s Lent and I’m Catholic and we’re encouraged to make confession during this time of year…
Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned…
I pretend to be asleep in the middle of the night when my kids wake up crying. I think my wife is onto me, as she’s started to do the same. She learned from the best. I admire that.
When I deem it necessary, I let my younger son exact revenge on my older son. Trust me, he absolutely deserves it. And it teaches the older one a valuable lesson: Being a jerk = pain
When my son asks me a question I don’t know the answer to, I pretend I can’t hear him and walk away. An example is, “Daddy, why do you have nipples?” Why do I have nipples, Father?
I listen to the Frozen soundtrack when neither of my kids are in the car. I’ve also started pricing tinted windows.
I know all the words to at least six Fresh Beat Band songs….including Twists’ raps. Again, tinted windows.
I’ve been legitimately confused by instructions on my 4-year-old’s homework assignments.
I laughed at my kid after he walked directly into a wall and started crying. I mean, it was pretty hilarious.
I still don’t remember either of my sons’ shoe sizes. When I do, it changes two weeks later, anyway. I’ve stopped trying.
I genuinely enjoy Sesame Street more than 90% of primetime cable programming. Then again, “Sextuplets Take New York” isn’t exactly stiff competition.
I’ve smelled my son’s dirty diaper and then hid in the next room to avoid changing it.
I lied by more than two years to get my son into a theme park for free. I insisted he remain seated in the stroller sucking a pacifier to sell the lie to the cashier. I even said, “Act young.”
I’ve blamed my kids for being late to work, when it was actually my own fault. I mean, most of the time it’s their fault, so it’s not entirely a lie. Right?
When I’m putting my kids to bed, I stay in the room at least half an hour after they’re asleep, playing Words with Friends to avoid being responsible and putting laundry away.
I legitimately cannot defeat my 4-year-old in the Memory Game. He’s beaten me like 18 straight times, with me actually trying to win. It’s pretty embarrassing. I’m either getting old or I’m just a moron.
I peed on the toilet seat and blamed it on my 2-year-old’s failure to potty train himself.
I’ve accidentally answered a toy phone when a real one was ringing.
I skipped 13 pages in a 16-page book while reading a bedtime story just to see if I could get away with it. I could.
While playing basketball with my kids, I occasionally reject the living hell out of them ala Dikembe Mutombo. It’s my way of convincing myself I have so much as a shred of athletic ability left.
Nothing makes me laugh more genuinely than when my younger son mispronounces words. Most recently, he’s been talking about this “really big clock” he has in his room. Only he’s having noticeable trouble pronouncing the “L.”
I think that covers me until the next time. And if you see me in church next Sunday, this conversation never happened.
Feel free to add your own confessions by adding a comment below, or by tweeting me with the hashtag #confessions so we can all be guilty together!
* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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I met Jordan Reid on a TV shoot about moms, called MomTales. This is how we bonded:
Me: You know, when I’m not with my kids, I miss them terribly and I just want to be with them. Then as soon as I’m with them, I want them back in preschool.
Jordan [nodding]: There are only so many hours in the day you can spend playing Triceratops Versus T-Rex. At some point, you really just need a good trashy magazine and a margarita.
From there, we never stopped talking, except when the director told us to pay attention to the shoot.
This is a woman who runs a million miles and hours with a smile on her face, high heels (though she disputes that in her new book), and a wit about her that makes you instantly relax and laugh.
She has a 2-year-old boy, 2 dogs, a husband, and a full-time career as a style blogger on her site, Ramshackle Glam. Which means she also does TV appearances, goes to conferences, meets with advertisers, and somehow manages to post numerous times a day. With pictures. I’m lucky to get 2 posts out a week. Now she just came out with a book, also titled Ramshackle Glam. Where she gets the time to juggle all this is beyond me. Oh, and did I mention she’s pregnant with her second child?
People like her both inspire me and give me a much-needed dose of mom energy. But what I really like about Jordan (and her book) is that she keeps it real. She’s so relatable; she’s the kind of mom friend you picture having a glass of wine with and talking about how you may have accidentally-on-purpose thrown a remote at your husband last night because he forgot to tape The Bachelorette. Or how all your hair — no, but seriously: all of it — fell out six months after you gave birth. (Except for the hair on your legs; that’s holding on just fine, and you know that for a fact because you cannot for the life of you remember to shave it.) [This is a true excerpt from her book, fyi.]
I tore through it in just 3 nights. Then passed it on to a friend who is expecting her first child. It’s a super fun, entertaining read that also gets to the core of why motherhood can be so damn hard, heartbreaking, heartwrenching, and heartwarming at the same time.
Mother’s Day is around the corner. Know anyone expecting? Or a new mom? This is the gift to get them.
Here is my interview with Jordan about her book:
What inspired you to write a book?
I’ve wanted to write a book for as long as I can remember — since I was about four years old — but after I had my son in 2011 I realized that I had a lot to say about motherhood, and especially about the judgment that can so often color a new parent’s experience. Before I had my son, I would not have called myself a “maternal person” at all (and honestly, I still don’t know that I would; I mean, I adore my son, but I’m not one of those people who’s just awesome and natural and amazing around kids), and I was very, very nervous going into motherhood.
I was frightened that having a baby would take away some fundamental part of me, that I wouldn’t be able to recognize myself anymore once I was a Mom. But what I discovered is that having a baby changes a lot, but it doesn’t change everything. You can still do all those things — from wearing the clothing that makes you feel good to connecting with your partner to having a house that feels like a home instead of a Baby Zoo — all that you used to do “before”…but you just might have to be a little more creative, that’s all.
How would you sum up your book? Is it for expecting parents, new parents, old parents?
The advice in the book is tailored towards new moms, but really, the fashion, beauty, home decor, and entertaining tips are only a small part of the book. What Ramshackle Glam really is, is a memoir of motherhood, and I think that the stories about marital struggles, guilt over your parenting choices, and the challenges of making friends as a mom are things that every parent — young and old — can relate to.
What has been the hardest part of motherhood for you?
For me, the hardest part of motherhood has been figuring out how to live in the moment, and to not worry too much about “how fast it goes.” I can’t tell you how much that stressed me out, hearing from everyone on the street, “Oh, it goes so quickly, they’ll be grown and gone before you know it!” But over time I’ve discovered that while of course you miss every stage when it passes…the stage that you’re in right this very moment is almost always the most fun and exciting of all.
What about pregnancy? Have the challenges changed from your first to second pregnancy?
With pregnancy, I’d say the hardest thing for me the first time around was just wrapping my mind around what day-to-day life would look like a few months down the road…because I had no idea. I couldn’t fathom how I’d get my stroller up the stairs to my walk-up apartment, let alone how I’d actually, you know, raise a human being. And that’s part of why I wanted to write Ramshackle Glam, to let people who may feel similarly get a peek into what’s-to-come, and to know that yes, it’ll be hard…but it’ll also be okay. The best ever, actually.
With this pregnancy, the hardest thing has been the fact that there’s really no “chilling out and enjoying the experience.” There’s no downtime to rub oils on my skin or meditate on the life we’re bringing into the world or play classical music to my stomach or whatever it is that we did when we were expecting our son — I can’t even remember; it feels like a lifetime ago. So honestly, when this baby arrives it’s going to be a bit of a shock. Fortunately, we’re also a little more prepared this time around, so hopefully that will balance it out.
You are a woman who is all about how to funk up your style, your “glam”…how do you feel in this regard about having a daughter?
You know, I actually wrote about this the other day because I had a few friends say to me something along the lines of, “you must be so excited to be having a girl!” And what they meant was that I must be excited about the girly stuff that comes with having a daughter…dresses and such. And of course I am excited about those things — I’ve certainly spent my share of time in Baby Gap over the past couple of months buying little cheetah-print outfits — but the truth is that while I certainly am looking forward to all the things that come along with having a daughter…what I’m most excited about doesn’t have anything to do with her gender at all.
She may be into dresses or she may be into board shorts or she may be into things I can’t even imagine, and all of that is just part of what makes having a child so exciting. I know that who I’m raising is not a “little girl,” but a person, and our experience as parent and child will be as individual as she is. The style stuff is fun, of course, but when it comes down to it the most important thing I can do — the only thing I can do, really — is to support my daughter and be there for her whoever she may be and wherever she may go.
How the hell do you have time to do your life? You seem like superwoman. Tell me your secret.
Ha! Thank you. Does “constant, massive anxiety that propels you into action” count as a secret? That, and the fact that I keep obsessively detailed lists of every single thing in my life in my iPhone — that helps.
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips