To My Kids’ Bus Driver

I see you rollin’. 

While I am flipping the heck out.

I think it’s time for me to explain a few things to you.

Getting my children ready for school has turned out to be one of the most stressful events of my adult life. And it is something that I, and thousands of other parents, must do every.single.day.

It’s too much pressure. I can’t do this. I am only one woman.

My children hover between two extremes when getting ready for school in the morning: they’re either not in the mood to be particularly cooperative, and are eating their breakfast one leisurely bite of cereal at a time. Or they’re actually pretty cool about the whole being on time thing, and no one melts down because their socks feel funny in their shoes.

And even then it’s stressful. 

Because there is always this lingering fear that you are going to arrive early.

We moms know that even when we have everything seemingly under control, life likes to throw us curveballs. Like pink eye. Forgotten science projects. Caillou. Or the bus arriving four minutes earlier than planned. 

When you are ahead of schedule, you might be having an especially good day because for you, it’s a good thing to be early.

But for me? She who is always herding unenthusiastic children from one place to another?? It sends me into an emotional tailspin. It makes me question everything about myself. Like what I’m even doing with my life. 

I can see all of the parents telling their wee children now, “eat your vegetables, kids, or you’ll turn out like Ashley. Your future kids will miss the bus, and then you’ll be in the front yard, crying and ripping chunks of grass out of the ground with your bare hands.”

It’s actually the scariest story ever.

I have been the mom who had to run across her lawn, waving her arms psychotically at the bus, begging the driver to wait a minute, please, for the love of all that is holy, WAIT!!!

And I regretted every step I took.

While I know I should be embarrassed for myself, please know that deep down, my condition of having perpetual school bus related anxiety is hereditary.

Do you know who MY mother used to be?

When my sisters and I would miss the bus, my mother would have rather grown a third arm covered in boils than drive the two of us “all the way” into town for school.

Do you know what she did instead?

She drove like Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights behind the bus while honking her horn and flashing her headlights. My mother. Wearing the “I’m not crabby” nightgown with a giant blue crab on the front. A head full of wild bedhead.

(I don’t blame her for this. She was pushed to the brink. Because this is what managing a bus schedule for multiple children does to people. I see that. Now.)

Then my mother would stop the car and make us get out and run up to the bus to get on at the next stop. 

Sometimes, our frowning bus driver saw us, took pity and politely waited. Other times, she didn’t see us, or at least she pretended that she didn’t, and she’d start to drive off even though my sister and I were almost to the door.

And so, we did this majestic dance up and down the quiet backroads of my small town. Each time I wished a little bit harder than the last that I would just melt into the tar-chipped pavement, leaving only my Jansport backpack and Lisa Frank folders behind.

I’m still traumatized. 

I’m worried that I am going to be that parent.

I’m already showing symptoms.

I’ve already had to stick my head out the door and wave a finger at you, pleading and mouthing for you to wait just one minute, please.

There was another time when my dog darted between my legs and out the front door and got on the bus while I ran screaming after her.

I’ve considered just firing flares into the air to signal May Day, my daughter had to change her pants because then button felt funny.

I used to not be this person, bus driver. When I worked full-time, I was dressed by 7:45 a.m. This means I had on a bra before 8 a.m. I was showered. I was so many things. 

Now?

On a good day, my morning routine literally amounts to me opening the front door, kissing little foreheads and then shoving my kids out while hoping for the best. I silently pray to the Gods of transportation that nothing happens, that no kid takes a tumble or spills their lunchbox. 

Because then I would have to emerge wide-eyed and wild-haired from my house, wearing ratty fleece pajama pants that someone gave me for Christmas seven years ago to scrape peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and my dignity off the front lawn. 

And it wouldn’t be just you who saw me. There is always a line of cars stopped in front of and behind the bus, full of unsuspecting people. People who are my neighbors. People who have eyeballs and camera phones.

This is the parenting walk of shame.

I am so much more than this. And I know you just work here. And you want to go home because you deal with other people’s small children all.day.long.

But if you could just keep these things in the back of your mind when you’re blaring your horn because we aren’t outside yet, that would be great. In fact, please be extra sweet to my children, because the odds are stacked against them.

I’m baring my soul to you, bus driver, every morning.

Don’t be weird about it. 

I review something: What ‘Bad Moms’ really gets right.

I managed to have a mom’s night out last weekend. 

And I did what any self respecting mom does when she has time away from the house. I met my amazing sister-in-law for an scrumptious tex-mex dinner, where we laughed obnoxiously loud, stared at some cute babies at the table across the way from ours and went to a movie together.

No, we weren’t seeing the latest romantic comedy clearly marketed for the minivan majority starring Julia Roberts in a bad wig (at least, I hope that was a wig…).

We saw Bad Moms. Moms everywhere, meet the raunchy comedy you have been waiting for. 

After all, our children cough right into our mouths, or put soggy Rice Krispys into our hair when we aren’t looking. We scrape poop off of the backsides of tiny, and oftentimes slightly deranged people. 

We moms are some of the grossest people around. Isn’t it time our cinematic options reflected that truth?

So, yea, a few times, Bad Moms made me outright blush because of its sexual content. This movie definitely might not be for everyone.

The plot:

Bad Moms centers around three moms, the unbridled Carla, the meek Kiki and the grounded Amy, but mostly the story focuses on Amy.

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Amy is clearly a giver, both in her marriage and in her parenting. She is overworked, and under appreciated. After a particularly bad day, during which she finds out her husband is having an online affair, and after being bullied at the school PTA meeting by the resident Queen Mean Mom, Amy up and quits the PTA. She also quits being a constant doormat for her husband and children. She then befriends Carla and Kiki, and the moms all let their hair down for the first time since…ever.

Some Spoilery bits ahead:

The “bad” (no pun intended):

The three males in this movie are basically cardboard character cutouts, and two of them are of the worst stereotypical dads/husbands you could think of.

There is the perpetual man-child who refuses to grow up, and then there is the authoritative father and husband figure who lords over his family. The minimal humanization makes them both easy to loathe, which was probably intentional.

The other guy is the school’s resident hot dad, and he hardly does any talking, but that’s okay. His body is harder than Mount Rushmore. He isn’t really supposed to talk. 

Also, not once did I forget that Mila Kunis LOOKS LIKE MILA KUNIS. Yea, okay, you can throw a denim jacket on her and fling some spaghetti noodles in her hair, and try to imply that she is somehow dowdy. I still never forgot that she looks like Mila Kunis. Am I, the mom who currently has dried ramen noodles stuck to her elbow, supposed to relate physically to Mila Kunis? Even in the unsexy bra bit?

But whatever, Kunis’ Amy is still wonderfully relatable and grounded. 

Lastly, a lot of things in this film are highly exaggerated. 

For instance, Amy’s house looks pretty much like an upscale interior design catalog, and she drives the most tricked out minivan on the road. There was not one smudged chocolate pudding hand print on the walls of her home. When various moms open their purses, thirteen crayons and a pretzel rod didn’t fall out. This is definitely Hollywood’s take on parenting, and Hollywood is a town where the Kardashians are mindbogglingly famous for absolutely nothing. So take it with a grain of salt.

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The (at times, oh so very) good:

From a non-parent’s perspective, I can see why someone might think that nothing very significant actually happens in this movie. 

We see a few days in the life of Amy. Rushing from office meetings to school appointments to soccer practice and back to work. We see Amy making lunches and dropping her kids off at school. We see Amy doing all of the heavy lifting in her household and at the office as the sole over thirty employee in a sea of self-obsessed millennials.

We even see her crying alone in the parking lot when she feels like she’s failed everyone. And boy, does that ring true.

Nothing that seems supremely monumental or universal ever really happens, even after she catches her husband having an affair, and she decides to pretty much stop being the overachiever that she is. 

Amy quits the PTA. She stops going the extra mile at work to pick up the slack for her lazy coworkers. She goes out for brunch and to a movie by herself. She gets drunk a few times and refuses to make her kids breakfast. Still, not a super big deal, right?

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While these occurrences may not seem epic, these instances are where I feel like the movie really shines, even despite its flaws.

Bad Moms was written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore in honor of their wives, and this fact has drawn criticism from the mommy peanut gallery who couldn’t believe that two men (men responsible for giving us The Hangover trilogy no less) would dare to write about the trials motherhood.

And I can understand that. There are a lot of women out there who I think could write a very funny, and very poignant movie about motherhood that rings a little truer.

Still, I decided to be open minded when I watched this movie because sometimes, you have to remember that movies are about escapism, and not always about being politically correct. Amy, Kiki and Carla all have valid journeys that women around the world make every day. And I was happy to watch.

Despite what doesn’t always work, which is comparatively minor and no worse than the usual comedy fare we see on screen, what the film gets right it really nails. 

I read a review by a film critic, who is a mom herself, and who insists that while motherhood is tremendously hard, it is also the most basic job on the planet.

You do not need to be a rocket scientist to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You do not need a college degree to take someone’s temperature, change diapers or drop small people off at school.

She was asking the question of what in this film actually makes these mothers bad mothers?

Once I stopped being slightly offended by her review, I thought about it. And on the surface, we mothers can sit in the audience and say that nothing the characters did was really ever bad.

Only, we moms also know that we don’t always view ourselves in that single, objective way. 

We are infinitely harder on ourselves. 

How often do we feel guilty when we are late to something pertaining to our children?

How often do we feel guilty when we have to prioritize work over our children?

How often do we feel guilty when we just have to say no to volunteering for the bake sale or extracurricular activities?

How often do we feel guilty when we know we aren’t showing up for our kids the way that we want to?

How often do we feel guilty when our marriages are struggling, our finances are struggling, our work life is struggling, and it bleeds over into the way we parent our children?

How guilty do we feel when we go out for a well deserved night night on the town, some tex-mex and a movie, when our kids are crying as we leave?

We have all been Amy and Carla and Kiki and Vicky and Gwendolyn and so on. We have all wanted to rip our children’s heads off while also wanting to smother them because they are so perfect, so cute and so wonderful.

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We have sat in the car in a parking lot, huddled in the shower and hidden behind the bathroom door because we just couldn’t anymore. And we know that there are parts of parenting that should be really easy, like the pb&j sandwiches, the dishes and the wiping of noses, but that doesn’t really matter because we are at the end of our rope.

We know that it isn’t exactly what the task entails. It’s knowing that we don’t always know what we are doing. It’s knowing that our kids need more of us than we have to give. 

So, no, a mother going out for brunch entirely by herself doesn’t sound particularly scandalous. Neither does a mom who takes leftover nachos and coffee to bed with her while her children make their own damn breakfasts. Or a mom hands the reigns over to her husband for a night while she blows off some steam with a friend. 

It might not seem like much at first, but a mom who values herself and who values the worthy effort she puts in for her family is an immeasurable thing. And it takes some of us a little while to get there.

These are such seemingly small things, but they are the things that help us moms feel whole again. That help us feel like a person again.  That help us feel alive again. 

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So when Amy let her son finish his own school project, or slips into a black spaghetti strap dress, no, it might not have seemed as epic as the end of Saving Private Ryan or as mind blowing as The Matrix. 

But the moments when each of these moms realized that they could be good moms, while also being a complete person and even despite their flaws and shortcomings was a revelation for me. 

So go see Bad Moms. Ignore the reviews and decide for yourself. Go for the raunch, stay for the heartstrings and leave with a smile on your face. 

Tits up!!

4 Reasons winter makes everything worse for parents

If you live in the I-95 corridor of the USA, you’d have to be living with your head under a rock stuck in the oven to NOT know that it snowed this weekend. Like, a whole lot. With the winds and the snow and all of the blizzards and the gah!

People are losing their ever loving minds over Jonas, and it is (thankfully..I guess) not of the brothers variety. 

The snow started on Friday, which means that I was making my grocery list on Tuesday, and at the store by Wednesday to make sure that we got a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread and eggs before society as we know it collapsed in on itself. Because a fridge full of perishable groceries is what will see you through if you are ultimately stranded for many days.

Oh, and I also purchased cookie dough. Because I don’t do snowed in without having junk food. All of the junk food. 

Every snow storm causes an inner crisis for me. For example…I don’t usually crave Taco Bell…but what if I suddenly get a craving for a cheesy gordita crunch and a mountain dew?? And then I’m trapped at home and I can’t do anything about it??? 

Usually right before a snow storm, I eat like I’m a prisoner ordering their last meal before execution. I want mozzarella sticks, donuts, sushi and a Denny’s Grand Slam before I’m snowed in for the rest of forever.

I don’t like my options being limited. I take comfort in knowing that stuff is still out there. Like Sherwin Williams and all of its paint chip glory. Or Radio Shack doing…whatever it is that Radio Shack still does. 

If ever nature was to play a cruel joke on parents everywhere, winter would be up near the top as one of its best ever. Right there with colic, thrush and Dora the Explorer. 

You think things couldn’t get worse than late night feedings, engorged breasts or a singing backpack, and suddenly you find that you were oh so very wrong, and you’re sorry you ever asked. 

It’s the same way with nature. You think rainy days are bad??

Winter is the drunk friend that doesn’t know when to give it up and go home.

Here, look, I’ll show you.

1.) Dressing children – now with snow pants. 

Dressing small children is usually an easy and fun experience for the whole family. Don’t you wish you could spend more time doing it? Well, now you can. Introducing the winter wardrobe. Now, with many, many layers!  If the thought of trying to dress a twenty pound bag of live snakes in five layers of clothing appeals to you, you’re surely going to love trying put snow pants on a wriggling  toddler.

I almost had a meltdown the other day over a pair of Minnie Mouse gloves. Because this is what my life is like from late December through March, and because I don’t know an easier way to explain to a person to put on a pair of gloves besides, “just put your fingers into the holes, sweetie…???!!?@?#%?” 

 

2.) Loading up small children – now with more wind chill.

One of the worst parts of winter, for me, is the wind chill. I will rearrange plans so that I do not have to go out when the wind sounds any louder outside than Donald Trump. 

‘Cause when we are in the middle of the supermarket parking lot, the idea of getting frostbite while I load my children who are asking me if they can have a stick of gum, or go to Chick Fil A ,or where the M&M’s are into the car sounds thrilling.

You don’t want to live every day like you are stuck in a never-ending game of the Oregon Trail? Strange…

3.) Winter days stuck inside – now with more Pinterest projects!!

Snow soup. Snow cream. Cutting out snowflakes by hand. Snow puppets. Building forts. 

…I know that the internet means well, ’cause it always means well, doesn’t it?  </snark>

I don’t care how helpful you insist that your list of 3,459 activities to do with your kids on a snow day is -what is it about winter that makes Pinterest think I am supposed to turn into Martha Stewart??? I am not Buddy the elf, I do not desire to cut out snowflakes from construction paper. I do not want to be outside, trying to find a patch of snow that my dogs haven’t used, so that I can make snow soup. 

The only extra thing I want competing for attention in my life during winter is a hot tub. 

4.) Taking them outside – now with more frostbite.

If I ever complain about my children wanting me to go outside in the heat of the summer, you all have my permission to punch me in the neck. Just wham! right in the neck. Because around here, sure, it gets hot and humid. But I don’t live in the sweltering heat of southern Florida or Texas in the summertime. So, how bad could it be?

I now realize that I have zero excuses to be outside in the spring, bumblebees be darned.

Kids don’t really care if it’s cold or wet or gray or even raining. They just want to go outside because they are apparently miniature Bear Grylls’s, testing their survival.

And since you can’t just stick a GoPro on them and hope for the best, you need to be with them. Which is sometimes painful for those who have are Winter Intolerant. Yes, that’s a thing. I made it up. I have an aversion to air that hurts my face and freezes my pipes.

Before your littles head outside to play in the snow, make sure they are properly dressed with the following:

Two pairs of socks. Pants for underneath of the snow pants. T shirt. Long sleeve shirt. Sweater. More pants. Snow bib. Boots. Gloves. Then another set of water proof gloves. Hat. Probably more pants. Gloves. Then a tarp duct taped around them for good measure. Last pair of pants. 

Don’t worry. They will want to go back inside within 23 minutes

 

Seriously, though…I am not always the biggest fan of winter. I used to hook my dog up to a sled to make her pull me around the yard when I was growing up. Like, what happened to me? Where do my inner snowflake go?

Truth be told, I was loathing the idea of going outside with my children today. But after we all layered and bundled up and drug out the sled, we had a blast. 

So, the moral of the story is…

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Just get over it and get out there and have fun and make memories and do all of the things your inner cynic tells you not to do. 

It’ll be worth it.

Oh, and also, your kids think it’s super funny when you hit them with snowballs, even though we all kind of know that it lets out the tiniest bit of tension when you do. Your spouse on the other hand does know…just saying.