Ode to “Mommy Monkey”

You were around when he was born, though mostly ignored ’til he was one.
You took the place of a pacifier,
and sacrificed your limbs to a teething crier.
Over the years, you’ve slid down slides, been dunked in a toilet and lost one eye.
You’ve been dragged through the dirt, taken to school, snuggled in bed, covered with drool.
You lost your red strings and almost all of your cotton.
One vacation too many, and you were forgotten.
Oh Mommy Monkey, he loved you so, but now you are gone, and he doesn’t yet know.
There may be tears ahead, but you’ve done your job well.
May you rest in peace at the hotel.

Everything About You

People warned me about this age. Beware the threenager, they said. But right now, I love you and everything about you.

I love that you climbed into bed at 6 a.m. and whispered, “God, please keep mommy safe.”

I love how you try to perform magic tricks and say “octa the zebra!” instead of abra cadabra.

Three is worse than two, they said, but right now, in this moment, I love you and everything about you.

I love how you created your own super hero called Super Ba-bam, “a good guy who drinks coffee in the car on his way to fight bad guys.”

I love to see you developing hero worship for your own dad, bragging to your pre-school friends how tall he is, and how high he can count.

Maybe I’m not in love with the daily teethbrushing battles, or our opposing views on naptime.

Some days your defiance is maddening.

But right now, I am living for the little moments, like when you sing a song about going camping and eating spaghetti, and I have no idea where you get this stuff.

I love your dance moves.

I love how you memorize your favorite books and are quick to correct me if I skip a word or two.

I even love how you somehow always have rocks in your pockets. 

Though I am holding on to the little moments, I don’t want them to last forever. I know there will come a day when I stand over the washing machine checking your pockets for rocks and there will be none. When that day comes, I may even shed a tear. But I don’t want time to stand still, because I can’t wait to see all the loveable moments that lie ahead.

Signs Your Toddler Might be Addicted to YouTube

It starts out simple enough. You pull up a clip of The Wiggles or maybe a little Elmo. It keeps your ever-moving toddler still for five whole minutes, so you can breathe.

Then those other videos start to creep in. Your child is suddenly mesmerized by a pair of hands opening a shiny new toy. The voice of a grown woman narrates all the wonderful attributes of said toy, as the hands creepily play along.

Before you know it, your YouTube recommendations include everything from Bad Babies to Spiderman and Elsa inexplicably playing pranks on each other. And your little one eats it all up.

Here are five signs it may be time to cut ties with the Tube:

1) He is disappointed every time you crack an egg.

2) He refers to all his toys as “surprises.”

3) He wants to change his name to Ryan.

4) He calls his thumb “daddy finger.”

5) At the end of every play date he tells his friends to “Subscribe, subscribe, subscribe!”

If this list makes no sense to you, consider yourself lucky. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m kind of starting to miss Caillou.

Forty Days Without Facebook (More or Less)

A couple months ago, I dreamed I was walking down a sidewalk, and a parade of vaguely familiar faces blurred past me. The faces shouted things like, “Look at my kids!” and “Hey, remember me from high school?” Some of the faces were attached to bodies, some not. Many were holding up photos. I tried to slow down and chat with these people, but they kept moving and kept shouting. “Look what I had for dinner!” … “It’s my birthday!”

I woke up and thought, OMG, I just dreamed in Facebook. This is not a hackneyed comedy sketch. This actually happened.

That’s when I realized I could use a break from this weird version of condensed reality.

When I first joined Facebook, it was a fun way to stay in touch with people, but over the years, I’ve simply become addicted to the scroll. I was looking at pictures of children I’ve never met, becoming angry at political opinions of people I haven’t seen in more than 10 years, and clicking on all my notifications just to see that little number outlined in red disappear.

Being the good Catholic that I pretend to be, I decided to give up Facebook for Lent. Surely I would accomplish something more important than reading about slut shaming, mom shaming, fat shaming, skinny shaming, snowflakes and sanctimommies.

So here is what I accomplished with all that extra time:

  • I watched five seasons of Blue Bloods on Netflix, so I now know how to order a bus forthwith before me and my partner get jammed up.
  • I read Nick Hornby’s Ten Years in the Tub, a book of book reviews, so I have now added approximately 324 books to my shopping list.
  • I started paying more attention to my son, which led me to discover that he may be addicted to YouTube. Relax, sanctimommies. I’m on it.
  • I obtained political news from C-SPAN instead of Internet memes.
  • This may just be coincidence, but I vacuumed my house twice in one week. I don’t think that’s ever happened before.

I did allow myself a sneak peak every now and then, only on Sundays, because as good Catholics know, Sundays don’t count as a day of Lent. But I must say, even most Sundays, I stayed strong, and I’m pretty proud of myself.

I’m guessing I didn’t miss much while I was away. Are there still a lot of people who love Donald Trump, and a lot of other people who don’t?

If not, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

A Southerner’s Guide to Snow

Having just survived my third snowfall* in Raleigh, I feel I’m now qualified to share some tips with my fellow southerners* who may be new to the experience.

1) Those sheets of cardboard you may have used to “sled” down grassy hills (or levees) do not make great sleds when there is actual snow on the ground, but a silver platter does. I suspect a crawfish tray might also work, but I have yet to try it.

2) You know all those cute and charming accessories like scarves, gloves, boots and earmuffs? They actually serve practical purposes. The most important accessory, however, is the one you’re already using: sunglasses. When the sun shines down on a fresh snowfall, do not look at the ground without protection unless you want to burn your corneas.

3) You don’t have to rush out and build a snowman right away. You can wait until the snow actually stops falling, because … get this … it sticks to the ground. It will even be there the next day, maybe even the day after that. In fact, second day snow is the best consitency for snowman building.

4) Speaking of snowmen, beach toys make great snowman building tools. Keep plastic rakes, hoes, buckets and shovels close by. If it can be used in the sand, it can be used in the snow.20170110_223416

5) Snow is crunchy. Ice is slippery. Invest in shoes with good traction, like hiking boots, or soccer cleats. To my Louisiana friends, this is not the time for your St. Bernard Reebocks. Save the shrimp boots for after the snow melts, as they might come in handy when your backyard goes from winter wonderland to wetland. Also, when people tell you to stay off the roads, for the love of God, please stay of the roads! Your car does not know how to ice skate.

 *In this context, the term snowfall means the kind of snow that falls in North Carolina, not necessarily the kind that falls in Ohio.
*In this context the term southerner means anyone who is from a state that has no other state below it, primarily the Gulf Coast states.

Loss and Christmas Music

The record player was kept in a wooden cupboard, which was adorned with family photos. It only came out for Christmas, not necessarily Christmas Day, but Christmas decorating.
Mario Lanza’s Christmas album was the perfect soundtrack to decorating my grandmother’s front room. I sat on the orange brown carpet and plugged in the ceramic light up Christmas tree, while Mario belted out, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.”
I opened the box that contained the nativity scene, and the tiny plastic Santa driving his sleigh with connected reindeer. That one was my favorite. Baba smiled as I placed the sleigh and reindeer on the roof of the manger so Santa could bring gifts to the baby Jesus.
She sat on the stiff floral couch and listened to her favorite crooner as she supervised the placement of painted pine cones around the nativity scene. I asked what she wanted for her upcoming birthday.
“Oh, you don’t have to get me anything, honey,” she said, and we both knew I would get her tealight candles.
“Are you going to make fruitcake cookies this year?” I asked.
“Well, if that’s what everybody wants,” she said, and we both knew that she would.
Whenever I think of Baba at this time of year, I think of those Christmas decorations. I think of tealight candles and fruitcake cookies, and all the while Mario Lanza is singing in the background.
There is such comfort in the familiar, and music will always take you back. So if you can’t be with your loved ones this holiday season, put on a record (or pull up a You Tube) and find something to enjoy.

My Christmas Wish for my Son

May you always give thanks as genuinly as you do now.

May you never hear the phrase “elf on the shelf.”

May you learn reverence for God and the Christmas story.

May you learn tolerance and acceptance of all faiths.

May you remain impressed by our four-foot tall, fake, Christmas tree.

May you never outgrow making holiday cookies with me.

May you never watch another internet video of strangers opening toys.

May you always find joy in looking at Christmas lights.

May you some day enjoy a Christmas movie that lasts more than 20 minutes.

May you always delight in gift-giving.

May you always make time for family even when they live far away.