My favorite food in the entire world is ice cream. Ice cream sounds good on a full stomach. Ice cream sounds better on an empty stomach. My death row final meal – ice cream. My pat-on-the-back treat every night for not killing anyone? Ice cream. Who screams for ice cream? That would be me if one of my piglet family members eats the last of my ice cream in the freezer.
I once chased an ice cream truck for two blocks in my old neighborhood. This probably sounds slightly psychotic for a grown woman to chase an ice cream truck but to top it off, I also carried a 2-year-old on my hip and I was 9 months pregnant with Kate. I damn near went into labor. Baby Kate enjoyed her chocolate Sundae Crunch Bar that day. She didn’t arrive until a week later when she was finally ready to meet the mother that built her bones via a solid stream of ice cream.
She later broke her tibia bone at age one but that’s besides the point.
It was just this January, almost eight years later, when Kate gave me a lesson in motherhood. It’s a lesson I won’t forget, mainly because it involves ice cream.
This particular January night’s excuse for ice cream was because the night fell on one of the coldest nights of the season. That means the ice cream won’t melt.
Kate: Can we get some ice cream?
Scott: I’m not taking you. Ask your mother.
Me: Yes! Let’s try that new Freezing Moo place. They roll the ice cream from liquid in front of you. I heard it’s good. Go put some pants on over your leotard.
Kate: Why do I need pants?
Me: Because I’ll look like a terrible mother if I brought you inside an ice cream store with no pants on. It’s 13 degrees out.
Kate: But you ARE a terrible mother.
Kate: Your reason should be because I’ll get cold, not what others think of you.
And that’s how Kate became a better mom than me over a shared cup of ice cream.
Yeah! I picked a flower for you. I got it from the playground. It’s for Mother’s Day.
Mother’s Day is on Sunday but thank you! A dandelion! I love it!
I threw the dandelion on the passenger seat.
No. Put it in your hair!
I tucked the weed behind my ear.
I drove to a nearby restaurant. Kate and I ate lunch on the patio because that is her favorite. Strangers smiled at Kate as she declared she LOVED sour cream. Oh my gosh, Mom. LOVE it.
Then I drove to the grocery store. We made our regular rounds. The employee at the deli gave Kate a free piece of cheese. I like cheese, but not melted cheese. The employee at the bakery asked Kate if she would like a cookie. Kate smiled and took it. We checked out with a cart full of groceries. Kate punched my pin number in. I know my mommy’s password. It’s ….. NO KATE. Our last stop was customer service to get Kate a free balloon. Kate asked for two. I need one more for my sister. She’s in school.
I drove home. Kate helped unload groceries.
I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of the kitchen window. The weed was still in my hair. I calculated how many people we talked to. And how many people we passed. No one asked me why I had a weed in my hair. No one gave me a weird look.
Ah, Kate! I forgot I had your flower in my hair!
You look like the most beautifulest mommy in the whole world!
And that was my favorite thing I got for Mother’s Day.
I hope every mom out there had a beautiful Mother’s Day! What did you do to celebrate?
Listen To Your Mother is a live show where women (and sometimes men) come together to read their stories about motherhood. More than 32 cities host these shows in honor of Mother’s Day. In February, I got an email congratulating me for earning a spot to try out in Kansas City.
I did not make the cut to be in the show.
This is because I have two voices.
My writing voice is what you are reading. It’s the voice in my head. It’s confident. I have 506 posts on this blog. That’s getting up in front of a growing audience 506 times. This audience – you – doesn’t make me nervous. To be honest, I’m sitting with you on my couch in my PJs, sipping a glass of wine. We’re all friends here.
It’s my speaking voice that screws everything up.
Three people. All it took were three pairs of judging eyes to send my speaking voice back to my car muttering “you’re such a screwup.” My body went haywire in the tryout room. My face was trembling. Hand sweat. Boob sweat. Everything was sweating. I couldn’t hear anything but the thud-thud, thud-thud of my heart echoing in my ears. I knew a rejection email was floating in the air, following me home.
I wrote this for an audience. I need the audience that doesn’t scare me to listen.
Don’t talk to a stranger.
Hi, my name is Julie!
Did you hear that? That’s me going out of my box.
And I’m sorta freaking out standing here in front of you. Can you hear my heart beating too?
Hi, my name Julie – those are the words I kept repeating in my head while I stood behind a group of parents at the school pick up. I had to give myself a mental pep talk to speak those words.
Just say it. Just say it. You can say it.
Your kids go to the same school.
You live in the same neighborhood.
The worst that could happen is that they won’t say hi back because they won’t hear your mouse voice.
Clear your throat.
What if they think ‘Oh, there’s that mom with the open windowed house. I wonder if she knows her fighting kids keep the neighborhood awake. I mean – surely they can’t hear that.
Wait, what am I supposed to talk about if they do say hi back?
You need friends. You’re sinking. SPEAK UP.
Ugh, who cares. Just say it. Do it.
Hi, my name is Julie.
One of the moms returned my smile. “Hi, I’m Heather,” she said. “Did you hear about that big tornado in Oklahoma?”
I later found out Heather and the group of parents wondered if the shy mom would ever talk to them.
It was one of the hardest moments of my life. I should have done it years ago.
Don’t talk to a stranger.
Your parents told you not to do it. “Don’t tell anyone your name or where you live. Don’t talk. Run!” they said. “They’re all out to get you.”
I never stopped listening to my parents. I never stopped telling myself don’t talk to strangers. It’s easy when you’re born an introvert. One or two good friends is all I’ve ever needed.
Then I had a child.
I went from introvert to loner. A baby gave me a free pass to hide out in my home. I was happy. I didn’t need friends. My daughter became my new little friend. And sleep was my best friend. I would take Emma on walks around the neighborhood. I would take her to the park. I found courage to join a playdate group. The hot topic with the moms was always our kids. It was not my intention of comparing my kid to their kids but I did. I came home disappointed with myself as a mother. I didn’t puree my own baby food and now I fed my kid cancer from a baby food jar. Great. As our kids grew to school age, the playdates faded and our friendships faded as well.
I screwed up. My kids were in school and I had no friends. I wasn’t happy anymore. I didn’t have one person to talk to about life. I needed people. Friends. Other parents to compare notes to. I needed someone to lean on and tell me I’m fine. Is anyone else terrified for the day when we drop our kids off at middle school? Are my shorts too short or have I been a mom for too long? How do I keep the spark going in a marriage? How do I talk to my girls about periods? Should I keep my hair short or let it grow?
Emma and Kate are growing up. Playdates turned into “mom, I’m going down the street to play. Bye!” My daughters are making their own friends. They taught themselves how to talk to a stranger. And I am doing the same.
By the time Monday rolls around, I will not have a new blog post ready. But I will have a tan. I realize I won’t be able to show off this tan once I’m back in Kansas but just know under my 3 layers of clothing there is a tan. An 82 degree, sun-kissed, right off the coast of Miami, tan.
“Come on, shake your body baby, do the conga…”
You hate me. I know. Get outta here, Gloria Estefan.
So I’m taking off to South Florida for the weekend. It was a last minute trip, really. Believe me – I’m not some rich, snob that flees 20 degree Kansas in January. No. Between work trips and flyer miles, this trip is free for us. Scott grew up in South Florida then moved to Kansas. I would not encourage this type of move but hey, he did meet me. And now we have friends that have never seen snow. These South Florida friends own houses we can crash at. And boats. And they are also world record breaking fishermen. Hi Brett and Kitt! I’m waving! Get my reel ready!
80 degrees in January. Poor Julie. I hear ya. I’d hate me too.
Life has a way of balancing out. Karma. Ying and yang. I’ve been on a high all week in preparation for my big fishing trip. I gloated a tiny bit.
BUT THEN KATE PULLED ME DOWN INTO THE THRESHOLD OF FIREY HELL.
She’s going to kill me in my sleep. She’s going to kill me. I’m scared to even go to bed. I’m going to miss my flight because I overslept. Or I’ll be dead.
Oh wait, where’s Scott? I’ll give you one guess. Hint: he’s under a palm tree.
Right now Kate is in a deep sleep brought on by a crying, throwing-her-body-at-me meltdown. There’s a baby knife hidden in the elastic of her PJ pants.
My last real conversation with her went something like this:
Kate, lets get ready for bed.
Yes. It’s nighttime. You have school tomorrow.
I’m going to have to call your dad if you don’t listen to me.
DO IT. (stomps her foot and glares at me)
A glimpse of the day running errands with Kate:
Hallmark – It was drama at its finest. Kate was in screaming, body on ground, kicking, chocolate throwing, card dumping mode. All because I wouldn’t get her a toy.
PetSmart – I was the creepy car in the parking lot with the rabid animal screaming and kicking the seats for 20 minutes. The animal also peed her pants on purpose. She hasn’t pulled that stunt in years. Geez, she could have asked me to use the pee spot the dogs use. All because Kate didn’t want to wear a seatbelt.
Chipolte – This isn’t Kate’s fault. But Kate left my phone on the table when she decided to stand in line with me. Someone tried to steal my phone. Well, if that doesn’t give me a heart attack right there I don’t know what will. Luckily, a kind man saw this and stopped the phone stealer before he took off. Thank you, sir.
You can assume the rest of my day with Kate went along these lines. I just wanted to write an official apology to the public.
I ended my day picking up the girls’ playroom. I found a note. It was the final push into mom depression.
I’m going to Florida but I feel like a terrible mother. I’m trying my best. The ying and yang will get me every time.
I went to the store today with Emma. Emma was on a mission to get some doughnuts. She was begging me in the car. Begging me at the store. I told her if she is good, I will get her a doughnut.
She was very good for me and I bought a few doughnuts at the bakery. She insisted on holding to them after we paid for them.
In the car, I ask her for one. She says no. So I ask for half of one. She says no. Then I say “One bite, it will make my tummy feel better” and she says “ohhh kayyy. Here.”
I’m always bargaining.
Eat dinner and you can have one piece of candy after.
Go to bed and we’ll see Makayla tomorrow.
I feel like I own my own company. I am the boss and expect
good employees. And by good, I mean no meltdowns.
Or maybe she is starting to realize she can be the boss of me.
A few days ago, I had the Halloween candy out on the countertop. She asked for a piece of candy. I told her no. Ten minutes later, I go feed Kate in her room and Emma walks in. She has a Milky Way in her hand and a Starburst.
Mommy, here is your favorite. Milky Way. You eat this, ok?
Egh…fine Emma…if you insist.
Ok, and I eat my favorite. Starburst. Ok, mommy?
She got me when I was weak. Waving a freakin’ Milky Way in my face.
I officially hid the candy. She is getting too smart and driving hard bargains.
I will try not to use posts as a form of complaining.
This is an exception, damnit.
Kate will turn 6 weeks this week. You know what that means – I got slammed headfirst into the 6 week wall.
I desperately tried to get her to go to sleep last night but she refused. I nursed. She’d fall asleep. I pat her back to burp her. She never burped. I laid her down in the crib. 10 min later – burp. Spit up. Cry. Nurse her again….
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
I broke down and started crying. I begged Scott to her to sleep so I wouldn’t have to nurse her. Like that worked. Kate was so mad, she threw punches at Scott’s face with her baby fists.
Kate’s crying woke up Emma. I took Kate. Scott took Emma. I cried myself to sleep.
I remember telling Emma at 6 weeks, “I can’t wait until you’re 1”. Now I find myself telling Kate the same thing.