Envy Squared.

If envy were a fever, all the world would be ill. ~Danish Proverb

The grass is always greener on the other side.

Green with envy.

I have envy.  Envy squared. Those perfect little squares that compile a feed on the ever popular time suck known as Instagram.  I love it. I loathe it.

I am a regular mom. I live in a regular city. I have two kids. I live in a small but well-appointed city house. We do not have a backyard but we do have a community playground across the street. I am a stay at home mom. Both of my kids are in school this year. No, I do not know what I will do with my "freedom" as so many people like to put it.  I love to read. I love art. I have a Masters degree in Contemporary Art History.

And yet, even writing this list out gives me anxiety.  

I look to the other moms and lovely, unique ladies and men that I follow on Instagram.  Some I know in real life, most I do not. I follow along because I love their humor, their aesthetic, the life they project from the small squares on the screen of my phone.  But it also gives me envy. How do they seem to have it all together? How do they get a smart dinner on the table each night? How do they have enough hours in the day to take their kids to school or even homeschool them and find time to pursue their creative outlets?  Or exercise? Or oh my goodness, do both?

I try to carve out time for myself. But more often than not my days are full of laundry and meal planning (no more than two days in advance, any further makes my brain hurt), grocery store runs, questing for comfortable pants ideally with no buttons but not sweats for my boys to wear to school (harder than it seems).  Some days by the time I pick up my boys from school I often wonder aloud, what did I do all day? But then I realize the day is not nearly over. We still have rock climbing and dance and swim classes. And then its home to cook dinner or sort out a takeaway option and survive the witching hour that still haunts our home even though my boys are 7 and 3.  Will they still be whining at 5 pm like clockwork when they are 17 and 13? Only time will tell.

I yearn to know the secret. Is there a secret? Is there a secret handshake that I did not learn? Where are these hidden hours in the day that other people seem to find?  I am on a quest. A quest to find my own pocket of time. Time to write. Time to sew. Time to find new artists. Time to create my own art.

As I quest to find my own bubble of time like the women that I follow on Instagram I also recognize that Instagram is not real, "real" life. I know that the perfectly clean and fluffed pictures of a couch may also have a pile of laundry hidden from view. I know that even the gorgeous knit sweaters and color-coordinated outfits children wear for pictures also get dirty at playgrounds.  I know that even the perfectly set table, serving a home cooked meal is also set with takeaway on a busy night. Logically I know all of these things but I still find it hard to navigate the ins and outs of the perfect little squares in front of me.

Another sticky point about those perfectly square boxes on my screen is that they also inspire me and I even look forward to checking in on my "friends".  As I said before I do not personally know that majority of these people stuck in my phone but dare I say, at times I feel like I do. I am curious to see what fellow humanity is doing. I want to see the latest painting, print, meal, outfit or random leaf that caught the light just right on the walk to school.  I'm curious. I'm interested. It's not called social media for anything, sometimes as a mom social media is one of my only social interactions of my day. There are days where I get up with my boys after my husband has left for work and I get everyone dressed, fed and off to school. Often times we are scurrying about trying to pack lunches and wear appropriate shoes and make sure everyone gets a hug before heading into class when I am back in my car and as I stick the key in the ignition I realize, huh I have not had any adult interaction yet.  So I check in on my Instagram friends. I look for another mom having a tough morning or a great morning. I look for dinner inspiration. I drool over a new fabric design or get sucked into browsing new light fixtures or pretend for a moment maybe I am in San Francisco or Spain or Australia. And then I turn the key in the ignition and start my own day.

Yes, I have envy, envy squared but I also know that a little envy can push me to try something new or to make sure I stop and say good morning to a fellow parent at school drop off, after all as said by Oscar Wilde “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.  I am going to do my best. I’m going to work on finding my niche. I’m going to use the social in social media to build my own lovely, curated experience that is full of color and mess because perfect may seem nice on Instagram but in real life, I need a little clutter to keep me honest.

teach your kid to pee. teach your kid to travel.

You may be thinking what the heck do those two statements have to do with each other?  A lot.

But first, let me start at the beginning. The day that you leave the hospital with that sweet, squawking bundle of joy.  Under the tutelage of the nurses, you feel like you have mastered the art of the burrito swaddle and you are able to feed this tiny person in some manner; breast, bottle, both.  You are yearning for your own pillow and the comforts of your home but wait, then you just get to leave. That's right you leave the hospital with little more than mesh undies and a pamphlet with your next doctor's appointment on it. No more nurses. No more on-demand help.  You and your partner and your new bitty baby (or in my case boys who are so big they look like three-month-olds) ride off into the sunset or sunrise, but let's be honest you will be seeing both in the coming months.

And you know what happens next, you survive.  You figure out your own schedule and dare I say it after the elusive fourth trimester you are thriving.  Master of the naptime. Master of the playground rules and tummy time. Master of feedings. You are the Master of your Mommy domain.  Yes, it is not always pretty or clean or even sane but you are doing it.

Here's the kicker in that statement, YOU are doing it. You are responsible for the planning and organizing, not your kid. Not yet. Then enter the toddler phase and boom! your kiddo has opinions and ideas and a willful, stubborn disposition.  Now you must flip gears and become a teacher, not the doer. You cannot expect your kids to figure out life on their own, right? They need a guide and that guide, my friend is you, Mama.

And you know what else you must teach your lovely child? How to use a toilet.  You may be thinking to yourself, but wait I have already taught them how to sit up, walk, sleep (most of the time), colors and animal sounds and now I must teach this small person how to pee and poop in a receptacle not affixed to their bodies? Yes, yes you do.  Ahhh the perils of potty training. You will never sweat so much as you do when you are potty training a three-year-old. Every time you leave the house in those first weeks you feel like you have a ticking time bomb in a car seat. You see and do things that you never thought you would do.  You watch as your naked child runs around the house as you wait for any pause, any shudder to announce the imminent arrival of a bowel movement. You unabashedly bring a plastic potty to dinner parties and to the playground and heck even designate a twist top Tupperware as a "car potty" for those highway pull off emergencies. It truly is one of the most heroic moments of motherhood.  But just like the swaddle and shooshing and naptime this too will become a memory and diapers will become a thing of the past.

After all of these gyrations of swaddling and first words and yes, even toilet training you still have one more big hurdle to tackle. You should teach them how to navigate another basic of life in 2018, how to travel.  The art of navigating an airplane is a learned skill. Just like with teaching your child how to use a potty you must teach them how to use an airplane. That self-contained fuselage of terror can become much less terrifying if more parents approach it with the same amount of gusto that they put into potty training or even learning how to put a baby to bed.  It's not easy and it's not always pretty but being prepared and better yet, preparing your kid for the adventure of flying makes it well much more of an adventure rather than a chore. Bring along that arsenal of snacks but don't forget to also explain an indoor voice. Yes! To all of the screens and shows on an airplane. My boys know that all home rules go out the window with screen time and they effectively turn into little boy zombies but along with that, they know that they still must use their manners when a flight attendant comes by to ask what they would like to drink. Please and thank you still goes a long way at 30,000 feet.    

And why should you teach your children to travel? Why go through the stress of the checked baggage and security and the hurry up and wait that goes along with airline travel? Because you get to show your kids new places and new experiences.  It truly is an astounding occurrence to see a new place or heck even a place you've been to before through the eyes of your children.

A couple of years ago my husband and I took our two children, then 5 and almost 2 on an epic adventure for 6 weeks all the way to New Zealand and Australia. We started our journey in Boston and flew to Los Angeles when after the mandatory dinner at In and Out burger and a romp at the beach to dip our toes in the Pacific Ocean, we boarded a plane that would be in the air for a mere 12 hours and 45 minutes. That's right over half a day (I take those last 45 minutes very seriously) in an airplane! We slept. We read. We sang. We watched movies and shows and tried to play those silly games on the screen attached to your seat. We ate a lot of snacks. We napped. And we got bored. Very bored. But then we walked the aisles some more and danced out our sillies and you know what? We made it. Now I am not suggesting your first flight be the gauntlet of flying across the world but what I am saying is travel. Take those trips. Get on the airplane with your kids. Do not be afraid. Do not fear the judgment of other passengers. Let them judge. You worry about your own kids, your own family.  

Get out there and see the world. Or another state. Go explore. You've taught your kid so much thus far. Do not miss out on the opportunity to teach them about traveling. Give them the joy of exploration. Yes, you will sweat and there may be tears involved sometimes but just remember, you potty trained your kid so gosh darn it you can handle anything. Dealing with a kid on an airplane will always pale in comparison to the look of terror on your face when your kid tells you that they have to go poop in the middle aisle of the grocery store. Because we all know that grocery store bathrooms are located at the perimeter and no amount of Supermarket Sweep tactics will get you there in time.  

You taught your kid to pee in the potty, now teach them to travel. You will not regret it.

Automatic yawns: the glory of a bedtime routine.

There are a good many things about parenting that I get wrong. My boys regularly go to school wearing pants with holes in the knees. I am not proud of my short fuse that at times erupts in anger. And try as I might sometimes I cannot get behind the 10th rendition of let's play trucks driving around the race track.  Of course there are plenty of other things both good and bad that I do as a parent, as a mom but let me tell you one thing that I've got down to a science 92% of the time.


Bedtime routine.

The time of night when you sweetly tuck your kiddos into bed and then happy dance your way downstairs. Sometimes to watch a show on the telly. Sometimes to eat a treat that you don't want to share (i'm looking at you peanut m&m's). Sometimes to read a good book or a crappy book, but to read more than 2 pages uninterrupted. Sometimes to just sit in silence and sometimes to have real, proper adult conversations with my husband.

My point being that this is a sacred time at the end of a long day.  Now I'm not here to proclaim that how other folks put their kids to bed is wrong. I'm just going to lay out what works for me. And for my family.

I have two boys. Oliver is 7 and Henry is 3.  They both head upstairs to bed at the same time. We do the standard brush teeth and get jams on. Then Oliver hangs out in his bedroom while I put Henry to bed. We read two books. One of his choosing. Mo Willem's Piggie and Gerald books are a fan favourite currently. And then here's the kicker, we end with the same book every night. We read a battered, taped together Goodnight Moon.

Every. Single. Night.

And you know what? My son yawns at the opening line..."in a great green room..." and by the time we are saying "goodnight comb and goodnight brush" his body has gotten heavy and relaxed. Then we say "goodnight noises everywhere" and on a good night I've know I done it. I've gotten my rambunctious toddler to relax and I can tuck him in and not hear from him until the morning. Under the glow of his nightlight I close Henry's door and walk down the hall to tuck my big boy into bed. Oliver no longer cares for Goodnight Moon but we still read a story together and I cherish the quiet time that I get to spend with him before bed.

So thank you to the pavlovian response for allowing me to in effect brainwash my kids at bedtime. They cannot help themselves. Goodnight Moon elicits a conditioned response of yawning. And I utilize that automatic response to pour my kids into bed and get out of the room before they realize the sorcery which I have cast upon them.

So there you have it. I have read or recited Goodnight Moon at our home, while flying on airplanes, in the car, in hotel rooms and rental houses. It is a constant. No matter where we are putting our heads down to bed as soon as we read Goodnight Moon, we are home.

back at it.

this space has been empty for so long that it almost seems silly to come back to it. but I have a growing list of thoughts and stories. so i'm booting it back up and i'm going to share.


my two valentines. 


Two boys in the snow! One would stay for hours (Oliver) and the other will stay just long enough to get cold toes (Huck).


Related? I think, yes! Two goofballs, keeping me on my toes. 

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