Archive for the ‘ Moving to Los Angeles ’ Category

No Princess and Proud Of It

Monday, October 28th, 2013

 

I was never into the “princess thing” growing up. That’s not to say I was a total tomboy. Just partially. I loved running free outside. My mom owned a plant store and we’d get these giant shipments of plants in huge boxes. My siblings and I would use them to make forts in the yard, begging our parents to let us sleep in them. Back then, we lived in the country on an acre of land. Now that old house is surrounded by a subdivision. Whenever I’m in State College I avoid going to it. It’s too depressing.

But back to the doll thing: Fia prefers pets to princesses, bugs over Barbies. So far, I’m breathing a big sigh of relief. I hope it stays that way. Regardless, if she goes the princess route, it won’t be because I pushed it on her.  But I’m kind of hoping she doesn’t get into it. I don’t really want all that crap, err, clothes and wands all over the place. Plus the whole connotation of a princess is a damsel in distress; a girl who needs rescuing.  Granted there are more modern–and positive–takes on princesses now than when I grew up (thank god) but it’s just not something I want to embrace head-on. 

When it came time for Halloween, thankfully “princess” was never mentioned.  Instead, she wanted to be a pig. Specifically Olivia, who does have some princess outfits. But generally speaking, Olivia is a minimalist so even her princess get-up would be cool.  Fia wanted to look just like the stuffed animal version we have.

Now, I’m not saying anything is wrong with being a princess. She’s been Abby (from Sesame) and a butterfly in years past, both of which have princess elements. But what if when she gets older, I present her with an even better idea of what a girl could be? I wish I could pull these pictures and post them, but they are embedded in the link below.

Here’s the gist:

Photographer and mother Jaime Moore wanted something to find something creative and inspiring when taking pictures of her 5-year-old daughter. She searched around but only came up with things like how to be a Disney Princess. So she started thinking about what she could do on her own. Here is what she came up with.

Wait at the end to see the 6th picture…

Helen Keller and Laura Ingalls were my childhood heroes. Who were yours? Do you like the ideas from Jaime for costumes? I think when Fia is a little older and could understand what it meant, it could be really amazing to dress like women who changed the world. Who knows, maybe all our girls will change the world. Mine is a Sagittarius so she’s off to a good start.

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My Mommy Blogger Bully

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

I once joked that I wanted a stalker. It would symbolize that I really made it “big.” I made the joke during a hiatus from shooting my Food Network show, The Best Of. In the interim, a company hired me to host hundreds of syndicated TV segments about housekeeping and cooking tips. It was a boring studio job and we cranked them out like sausages. It wasn’t creative, but the crew and I really became tight over the years. My audio guy, Bob, became my pretend stalker. He’d lurk behind me on the set; sometimes even follow me to lunch, as only a good stalker should do.

But like most things I’ve done in television, the gig ended and I went back in the world of a has-been-that’s-really-never been. Until now.

I am no longer heavily immersed in the TV world. I am 80% mom, 17% wife, 3% blogger. I’m not even close to the top mommy bloggers in this world, and yet, yet, yet… I have a stalker. Either that or a desperately bored mommy blogger, whose literary gifts are questionable at best. Whatever her story and motive, she has chosen to take time–lots of it– to rip me (both as a human being and as a writer) to pieces. But this seems to be her MO:  bashing individuals. In other words, I don’t just have a stalker. I have a bully too.

What I’ve loved most about the mommy blogging world is the encouragement from other bloggers, whether or not you agree with the specifics of what they write.  At conferences like BlogHer and Mom2Summit, the big guns, like Liz Gumbinner (Mom-101) go out of their way to make us little people feel welcome, loved and supported. It’s not the competitive frenzy you would expect from a bunch of women. In fact, Mom2Summit’s message this year was about women supporting and empowering other women. The main focus from the sponsor, Dove, was on tween and teenage girls and how to make them feel less self-conscious about their looks. One of the saddest statistics presented was that 1 in 5 girls quit doing what they love because of self-esteem specifically related to beauty.

Clearly this woman wasn’t at the conference or if she was, she took the message and ran the other way with it. How do I know this? One of her main points was about my hair. She actually posted a picture of me and made fun of it. Can you imagine doing that? Seriously. Think about it: taking someone’s picture and publicly attacking it? Here is what she says:

7. Okay, but the hair. I can’t let it go. Homegirl has hella money and lives in Los Angeles. There is no reason for her to be using a Flowbee to cut her hair.

Perhaps more perplexing than her hair-bashing is that she is talking like a white suburban teenager who is trying to “be black.” An odd stylistic choice, especially because further down in her blog she accuses me of being a racist. (Don’t worry, you can read it in its entirety. I’ve cut and pasted the whole thing below.)

What’s ironic about the hair is that she is right. I do need a new picture up there. That one was taken on my first outing after having Emmett. It was a month after his birth and the first time I put on makeup. But is it that egregious? No. Her comments though are petty and mean-spirited.

She says she gets “sick schadenfreude” from my writing. In other words, she takes pleasure in my misery. Huh? What? I must have cut off her limbs in another life.

I have an adopted brother and sister. They are black. My mother was a crack addict at the end of her life. I describe them in a recent blog and refer to my family as a “motley crew.” Which we were, if there ever was one. For which she says the following:

Guys. Cornrows? Huge black afro? Are her step-siblings…black?! She was, like, clinically incapable of leaving that detail out or you know, refer to her siblings as siblings and not give the far more exotic title of ”adopted siblings.” See guys, she’s not all milquetoast. Also, let’s all take a sharp inhale for her describing her interracial family as a “motley crew.”

“…After all, I haven’t had such a wince-y read since I saw a student paper that referred to trans women as “shemales” and realized that everything this student knew about transexuals came from porn.”

I put myself out there and can expect people to poke away. But this seems almost like trolling. There’s a big difference between legitimate criticism/disagreement and personal attacks. I can take the former. The latter isn’t so fun.

She lists seven deadly sins of mine–all related to my bio. In it, she mocks my “Fearless” title. As those who read me know, I write about my life with absolute honesty. I’m not afraid to write about my anxiety, my struggle with depression, my upbringing and yes, people who attack me for no apparent reason. So how is ”Fearless” not accurate? I think homegirl needs a dictionary.

I would further argue that it is “Fearless” of me to admit how shitty her post made me feel. I felt demeaned, belittled, ugly and stupid. And I have a very thick skin. I am NOT asking for anyone’s sympathy here. At all. But for those few seconds that I felt shitty, it made me wonder how a 13-year old girl who gets made fun of for her bad haircut or for being fat feels like?  I don’t want to be melodramatic about this, but this woman illustrates perfectly the point we should teach our kids about bullies: they don’t matter. However, it is easier said than done.

Even though I want to, I’m not going to go through and defend every line and the flagrant assumptions she makes about me. I particularly refuse to defend the love of my children and when and why we had them.

I will say she is going to be an extremely disappointed stalker when she finds out I’m just a mommy blogger making less than the cost of 3 Starbucks latte’s for my posts. She assumes I have publicity people working with me and Parents to write my bio, take pictures, edit me, and publicize me. She calls me a rich, white woman. Does she know when I began my reporting career in Rapid City, SD that I qualified for food stamps? That I have become successful by working really hard? Does she have any clue how much I give back? No. She was on a mission to be hateful and hand-picked some of my specific posts to mold them–and me–into her cowardly genre.

Ironically, she actually asks for “donations” on her “ad-free” blog. Why not write about the Newtown parents and donate to the organization Sandy Hook Promise? Or to those who lost their homes in Hurricane Sandy? These are posts I have written about, donated to, and encouraged others to do the same. But asking for donations to her blog? Panhandling for her “wit”? Beyond tacky.

It would be easy to pick on and compare her to having 80s era porn star hair, or mock her bio for portraying herself as a cutting edge, too-cool-for-school writer but then bragging about an award from the Readers’ Digest, that radical, forward-thinking publication, in the next sentence–but that would be too easy. And too mean. So I won’t. Even though I just did. See how that happened? Clever, no? Anyway…

The thing is, in reading some of her posts that aren’t hate mongering, it seems we have the same take on some major parenting issues.  I think she just really wants to hate me. Bizarre, right?

As a sidenote: she lives in Hollywood. She knows enough about me and with all her “Los Angeles” references.  Why didn’t she reach out to go grab a coffee? I’m serious. If she’s that obsessed with me then at least attempt to get to know me before bashing me behind a computer screen. I think she would have been pleasantly surprised and perhaps dropped her diatribe mission.

She did learn something once from her computer screen. After bashing sorority girls in a post, a commenter wrote: “Indiscriminately bagging on sorority girls is lazy writing.”

I would add, “Indiscriminately bagging on individual bloggers is lazy writing.” It’s also mean-spirited, obnoxious and pointless.

One person did comment on her post about me and the general purpose of her blog. She wrote:

“I really liked your article about attachment parenting and came here via the bloggess, but now I’m wondering are a lot of your pieces about taking down other people? I’m not really into anti sites.”

That right there should tell her a lot. Sadly, it probably won’t. But on the off-chance any of this resonates with her, here’s a link to the National Bullying Prevention Center. If nothing else, her children might need it.

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Here is her blog folks, in all its glory:

I am a little bit in love with Jill Cordes, she of the “Fearless Feisty Mama” blog on Parents.com who made a“project” out of teaching her nanny about the world according to rich, white lady. It seems like I might not be the only one since I get a surprising amount of search traffic with her name, most notably with the search “jill cordes nipple.” I’d love to hear anyone’s theories of what that might be about.

There is so much that’s amazing about Jill Cordes. I mean, her bio:

Jill

Wow. Okay, so like, some things about that bio:

  1. How the hell does she think teenaged Fia and Emmet are going to feel when it first occurs to them to Google their mom and they learn that their mother never wanted them and she only became a mom because she got hammered on a little vacay with the mister?
  2. Is that bio supposed to make her sound wild and loosey-goosey? Because I’m all for wild and loosey-goosey and maybe I’m just grouchy about such things after being told my whole life that I was a “camping trip accident,” but I think it crosses the taste line.
  3. Why does she describe her children primarily in terms of their conception? Is this bio not an introduction? Would you ever in a million years introduce yourself to someone by saying where and under what degree of insobriety you conceived your children?
  4. Oh, hey. Kate Gosselin called and she wants her… No. I can’t go finish that joke. It’s too hacky. ZING! Ugh. Sorry.
  5. Can you imagine in a thousand million years if someone other than a rich white woman had that bio? Jill Cordes would have to make a “project” out of her.
  6. I would never just click around the internet and poke at moms’ bios on their blogs, but this is Jill Cordes’s bio on her parents.com blog. It’s written in third person, possibly by someone other than herself. The lady is surely getting paid by Parents and thus has an editor. Furthermore, she’s a “television personality” and must have PR people. This is not just some random “mommy blog” bio. People signed off on that. Admittedly, the whole bio is less…weird than this snippet, but someone okayed that as the bit to appear on her blog’s main page.
  7. Okay, but the hair. I can’t let it go. Homegirl has hella money and lives in Los Angeles. There is no reason for her to be using a Flowbee to cut her hair.

In her defense, there’s another fellow who blogs under her “Fearless Fesity Mama” banner and his bio includes the following sentence: “He has written the fiction book ‘The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt’ and is working on releasing a parenting humor book.” There’s a lot going on in that sentence, but let’s just stick with the phrase “fiction book.” Is that not a novel? Isn’t that what we call those things? Perhaps a novella?

There are a lot of mysterious things about “Fearless Feisty Mama.” Like, does Parents.com not have someone to install a spam filter? And does it ever bother Jill that she so often writes about her anxieties and fears but the word “fearless” is right there in the title? Or that about a quarter of the posts are written by a dude even though there’s “mama” in the title?

The reason I keep reading is the sick schadenfreude I enjoy when she reports that her hypnotist/healer tells her:

Would you rather be right…or be a mom? Because your kids are going to f-ck up a lot, and if you are wound this tight, you’re going to have some f-cked up kids.

She’s vulnerable enough to let us in on that moment and I credit her for that, but I think this one passage about going to church when she was a kid conveys what I find so frustrating about her:

My parents would pull up in a big cargo van that my mom used for her plant business. They’d open the side door and we four kids would come tumbling out. My adopted brother Carter would bounce in with his huge black Afro and my sister Tanya would follow with her neatly woven cornrows. Kelly, my biological brother, and I would lead the way.

“Come on you guys, we are going to be late!” I’d say, glad to be the older sibling/ring leader. We were a motley crew, no doubt.

Guys. Cornrows? Huge black afro? Are her step-siblings…black?! She was, like, clinically incapable of leaving that detail out or you know, refer to her siblings as siblings and not give the far more exotic title of ”adopted siblings.” See guys, she’s not all milquetoast. Also, let’s all take a sharp inhale for her describing her interracial family as a “motley crew.”

It’s this kind of tone deafness that keeps bringing me back to her blog. I kind of want to sneak into her house, kidnap her and then take her to a freshman social studies class. After all, I haven’t had such a wince-y read since I saw a student paper that referred to trans women as “shemales” and realized that everything this student knew about transexuals came from porn. Jill Cordes has an interesting background and could probably write a heckova memoir about her bipolar, crack-addicted now-deceased mother, but she just sorta fumbles right when I want her to…I don’t know how to complete a football metaphor…uh, run with the ball?

Also, there’s this troubling bit about changing her last name:

So why I am changing it? Because I feel like a partial outsider when we travel as a family. My kids and Phil all have the name Johnston. I am the odd-woman out. [...] However, I have to confess another hesitation in doing this. It’s the vain side of me. I don’t like the way “Jill Johnston” sounds. My initials would be JJ. It feels campy.

Fuck her. JJ sounds awesome.

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Photo of Nelson Muntz courtesy of simpsons.wikia.com 

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Mommy Mush Brain? Here’s An Idea.

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Sometimes I worry my brain is turning to mush. I also worry about early dementia. But then I ask other mom friends and all of them have the same tales as I do. i.e.:

  • Leaving the house with keys in hand while frantically looking for keys.
  • Looking for your baby only to realize you are holding him/her.
  • Looking for your cell phone while talking on it.

You know, those everyday occurrences. Not long ago as Fia and I were walking out the door she said, “But mom, what about Emmett?” He was upstairs napping. Totally forgot.

My other issue is I like to have a glass of wine at night (these thoughts of brain mush and wine will come together. I promise). Usually out of boredom and the fact that it takes the edge off.  At 5 pm my creativity is spent and my brain space is in rapid decline.  Not only that, but I’m blah. Blah at my lack of accomplishing anything other than keeping my two children alive (no small feat as seen by my examples above), blah at my lack of an exciting dinner plan (or any dinner plan), blah at the 3+ hours that stretch before me that entail:

  • Figuring out the unplanned dinner
  • Bathing toddlers against their will
  • The ongoing, never-ending bedtime protest

Wine just seems like the right thing to do. It gives me the energy to push forward. That’s why I started The Failure Hour. I am well overdue to have one at my house.

(And yes, I know this post will outrage the teetotalers who don’t always “get” my sense of humor.)

Which leads me to Sudoku. (I swear it’s all about to come together.) I decided that since I’m not going back for a degree or doing anything that is remotely intellectual right now, I would start doing Sudoku again. They say mind puzzles and crosswords keep your brain exercising. Lord knows my brain hasn’t broken a sweat in a long time. Crossword puzzles are out. I’m not that smart. So last week I bought a book of Sudoku and have been obsessed ever since. Guess what? I think it’s working. I do feel slightly sharper and a tad less scattered.

My big plan was to work on them during the 5 pm “blah” hour. I thought if I had a distraction I wouldn’t be bored. Maybe I would forego the glass of wine. I forgot a key element though: if I have my nose in a puzzle book and not on my kids, they will die. Especially Emmett, my little terrorist. So that idea quickly went out the window. Yes, I continue to have my glass of wine if need be. But because of Sudoku, I don’t feel as worthless at the end of the day. I think my brain is enjoying the exercise.

However, for fear of going off on another tangent or becoming sappy, I had a little bit of an epiphany the other night. Instead of constantly spinning in my head about my head, maybe I should just shut the f-ck up. Accept. Embrace.  Kids need you most the first 5 years. I can lack intellectual purpose, knowing this is a temporary time, right? As long as I keep my brain intact via puzzles who cares? I’m lucky that I can be as hands-on as I am.

So now I’m turning over a new leaf. I’m not saying I won’t feel blah or purposeless again. But I am going to stop hounding myself and practice gratitude. I mean, if I really think about it, in place of intellect I have found the deepest love humanly possible, the patience I never thought I had, and the gratitude and compassion that comes when you have two amazing souls to raise.

As this mom blogger put it: I Could Have Been Anything, But I Am A Mother First.

No doubt my kids have made me a better person even if my mind seems more mushy. I wouldn’t trade this time for anything. And I’m happy to toast to it, too.

Having said all that, if you have any other ideas on keeping your brain cells intact, please let me know. I’m thinking Sudoku can only take me so far…

 

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Why Do I Have Bad Barf Karma?

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

I must have really pissed off the vomit gods in my past life. I was a child puker because, like my daughter, I battled carsickness. I also threw up a decent amount in my college drinking days. But apparently that–and the many times Fia has barfed during the worst possible scenarios–are still not enough to give me a free pass. The gods continue to punish me.

We are still in our rental house while our new home is being renovated. The whole first floor here has no air-conditioning. It is 100+ degrees today. I have no sitter and a 3 1/2 year old and an 18-month old to entertain.

I decided to take them to the Natural History Museum, here in Los Angeles. It’s not too far, it’s a straight shot on the highway, and it has two super huge, dark, cold rooms. In this heat I have dreamt about these rooms. Specifically, I’ve dreamt about re-creating myself as a giant stuffed elephant.

We left early because I wanted to make sure I got them back in time to nap. The upstairs, where all the bedrooms are, is air-conditioned. At that time of day, it’s about the only place you can be in the sweltering heat.

We were cruising down the highway when Fia started complaining that her throat hurt. You know where this is going…. But, hear me out. Lately this has been her tactic to get a lollipop. She knows I usually have some on me. They are my crutch when I really do think she needs to barf. As we were leaving, she saw me put two in my pocket and wouldn’t stop talking about them. So I figured it was a ploy. I ignored.

Just as we exited off the highway and into the museum parking lot, the barf began to pour out. Copious amounts. It was awful. Especially because it stank so badly, I was forced to roll down the windows. It was that awful that I needed smog filled, 102-degree air to keep me from barfing too.

My hyper-but-laid-back-Emmett didn’t seem fazed. And honestly, at this point, I wasn’t really either. Except…except… I needed a Laundromat. I had no change of clothes for her and she was sitting in a bowl of barf. Problem was, we were in a neighborhood where crime rates are high.  In fact, there was an armed robbery a week ago at the Lavenderia that Yelp guided me to.  But doing a quick risk/benefit analysis, I decided that I’d rather be robbed than drive around smelling like vomit. 

I actually carried Fia in her huge car seat. (Thank god I do bootcamp.) I wanted to contain the barf as much as possible.  I stripped her down and threw my sweatshirt on her.  An hour later, dripping in sweat and exhausted from entertaining two kids by watching machines spin, and sucking on the lollipops I should have used in the first place, (at 103 degrees the vacant lot didn’t seem like a suitable play space anyway) I lugged my now-clean car seat back to the car. I really wanted to go home. It was nearly nap time at this point. I was a mess. You can trick an 18-month into thinking the Laundromat was the day’s adventure. It’s not so easy with a 3 1/2 year old. As I started the engine, Fia says:

“Mommy, are we going to the museum now?”

So you can guess how I spent the rest of my afternoon…

 

 

 

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The Mom Mystique

Friday, August 16th, 2013

I know that Betty Friedan brilliantly coined the term The Feminine Mystique. Her book came out at a time when women were voicing their dissatisfaction with simply being moms and housewives. Friedan’s book is often credited with starting the feminist movement.

I also know that Rosie the Riveter sparked an earlier feminist wave in which women worked the factories while the men went off to fight in World War II. It was the first time women in droves truly held jobs outside the home. And liked it.

No, this isn’t a book report.

My revelation is I never realized that being a stay-at-home mom, which I largely am, is a very recent phenomenon. Which is why parts of it feel unnatural to me.

Don’t get me wrong: I love being with my kids. I love the fact that I have such flexibility in my schedule. I had a successful TV career. I don’t want to be a desperate TV person, trying to hold onto a career that is so different now anyway. Good hosting jobs, which actually pay decent and cover interesting topics (i.e.: not reality TV crap) are few and far between. I’m not saying I will never go back to TV–and I do gigs here and there–but I refuse to be clawing to stay in the game. Not to mention the countless auditions it can entail. It’s all so exhausting and often fruitless, it makes me want to barf.

What doesn’t make me nauseous is writing. I picture myself as an author down the road. Or at least trying to be, once the kids are in school full time. That’s one of the reasons I keep doing this blog: to exercise that muscle in my brain. I don’t have the discipline to do it on my own.

But having said that, I can’t escape my type-A personality. Nor can I escape the blueprint of my life. I’ve always been a go-getter. So when I say I love being with my kids, what I mean, besides that blanket statement–is that I love “doing” things with them. Whether it’s adventures to our secret forest, watering the lawn, or baking with Fia, I like teaching them and accomplishing things at the same time. I actually love clean up. It is therapeutic for me to help sort the toys into different categories with them. Strange, I know. But remember, I had hypnotherapy to cure my cleaning compulsion.

What I don’t love is playing Legos. Or dolls. At least for an extended amount of time. Sure, 15 minutes here, 30 minutes (maybe) there…but all day? No way. I would lose my mind. (And thank god Fia doesnt’ like dolls yet. I never did. Maybe she will be like me.)

I went to a new therapist this week. I decided two years without someone to bounce ideas off in a neutral setting was long enough. We sold our Brooklyn apartment last month. We bought a house out here. It was time to put my roots down in California.

The woman I met with seemed, well, for lack of a better word: brilliant. In our first session I gave her a very condensed snapshot of my life. Manic depressive, drug and alcohol addicted mother (now deceased), narcissistic father who, with my step mom, labeled food in our house growing up so we wouldn’t eat the name brand stuff (No relationship with them anymore), two adopted siblings, blah blah blah.

Married, never wanted kids, cool career, traveled the world, then decided to have kids, then pow–best decision ever– and now–my life as a mom.

So here I am telling her how I yearn for my kids when I’m not with them but when I’m with them all day, every day, I realize why I need sitters. It is my paradox.

She then dropped this incredibly enlightening fact into my lap.

“You know that a mom alone with her kids is a new concept, right?”

Huh?

“No, I don’t. What do you mean?”

“Think about it,” she said. “Before WWII, families were mostly together all day. Moms were doing things with their kids. But not Legos. They were tilling the fields while the kids played nearby. They were cooking the meals with the grandmas and the aunts while the kids were in eyesight or earshot. This whole concept of a big house alone with your kids goes against all of our natural instincts that date back to caveman days/the beginning of time. ”

Well, holy shit. Please hit me over the head with a frying pan.  How did I never realize that?

She’s not saying it was easy. But I am guessing most of those moms didn’t feel guilty for their daily accomplishments while their kids played in the fields. Those accomplishments are what helped them literally survive each day.

In modern times it’s basically why the “play date” was invented. But instead of doing/accomplishing stuff, we are just chatting with our mom friends while chasing our kids around the playground. Which isn’t a bad happy medium, but it’s no wonder I don’t feel super accomplished at the end of each day.

She also pointed out that we live in a manic world. And what happens to manics? Having grown up with one, I got an A+.

“They crash,” I said.

“Exactly,” she replied. “Our mood swings are all over the place because we, as a society with technology, are all over the place.”

I’ve written about the Facebook Depression before and how I have largely broken my tech addiction (which has been damn cool). But if you put it all together–the frantic nature of our society, coupled with how we as humans, moms, communities, etc, evolved, it all makes total sense. Depression and anxiety rates have never been higher. It seems so obvious to me now. Not to mention I had kids late in life. It’s different when you’re procreating at 22 and haven’t “lived” yet.

All this to say, I have a new perspective on my mom guilt and the mystique of my emotions as a mom. My paradoxes make sense. They are still here, but with the help of this therapist and some new realizations, I’m hoping to alleviate a lot of it. Or at least comes to terms with why I sometimes feel the way I do. Because this guilt sh-t has got to go. It’s a waste of space in my already crowded brain.

At least for today I have accomplished a lot. I have partially cracked the mom mystique code. And took Fia to get a haircut. It may not be tilling a field, but I’m quite satisfied with myself.

Pic of We Can Do It via Shutterstock

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