A Mother's Worth

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Would your children love you any more if you:

  • Weighed less?
  • Cooked and cleaned more?
  • Made more money?
  • Wore more makeup or better clothes?
  • Baked like Martha Stewart?
  • Had fewer stretch marks?
  • Got a promotion?
  • Made better food choices?
  • Drove a nicer car?
  • Had perfect hair and eyebrows?
"Of course not!"you say. "Preposterous!"you think. Kids don't love their moms because of the way they look, the car they drive, how few dust bunnies are under their couch or how quickly they climb the corporate ladder. 

So why do WE spend so much time and effort worrying about things like these?

Your children love you because you are their mother. You are the irreplaceable center of their universe. You give them life, love, hope and a future. They rise and fall on your mood, and your perfectly timed smile can change their tiny faces from despair to pure joy in an instant. You are their first teacher. A true friend. Their rock in good times and bad. 

I read in a book this week that no mother can ever truly teach her children to value themselves if she doesn't understand HER true worth. Deeper words have never been said.

So, here's your assignment. The next time you measure yourself against the never-ending-list of ways you're not good enough, remember that you are EVERYTHING to your child.

And that's enough. 

Magic Mirror

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The love of a good man is a marvel.
But the love of good women can save you.
*******
This weekend, I am quite certain that six truly phenomenal women certainly saved my life.

Let me explain.

Once upon a time, when The BadAssMama was not quite BadAss and nowhere close to being a Mama, I met a group of women who would change my world in ways unimaginable and unfathomable at the time. It began innocently, almost silly really. Lan decided that the rigors of business school and our increasingly grown-up-resembling-lives were eating away at our collective souls (or something like that), and decided that the cure was pretty shoes, prom dresses, good wine and chocolate cake. So began our quarterly tradition of The Girly Girl Prom.

As our two years at Stanford came and went (way too quickly, if you ask me), we gained confidence and lost inhibitions; gained soul mates in the process of losing unworthy husbands and lovers; gained wisdom and lost some of our childish ways. Through thick and thin, we had each other. Through tears and triumph, heart break and earth shattering victory, The Girly Girls were there for each other.

As the years go by, we've kept in touch. Each reunion brings the joy of reconciliation, but also the tug of sorrow as the days are filled with mixers and functions and the attempt to re-connect with well over 200 classmates. All close, but none quite like our sisterhood.

Fast forward to February 2011. Over 10 years since graduation and a year shy of our last hurried connection at reunion, an unexpected email arrives from the loving husband of one of my loves. A reunion is needed. Life has intervened and only the love of The Girly Girls will do.

Arrangements were made, plans settled. Desks cleared and back up childcare put into place as seven women boarded seven planes from 6 different corners of the country. One by one, we arrived with breathless anticipation. Tears and margaritas flowing within the first hour. Laughter throughout. And for each and every one of us, something that we feared lost forever was once again re-claimed.

Over the course of that long weekend in Vegas, each of us began to find ourselves.

The love of your true girlfriends can best be compared to a magic mirror. In the light of their eyes, you can see your true self - your best self. There is no pretense, no judgment. No need to impress or amuse. Your girlfriends bring out the best in you and remind you that you are fabulous.

Just the way you are.

I dedicate this post, and my love, to The Girly Girls: Thao, Rebecca, Eileen, Susan, Terra, Lan. I love you. With all of my heart. Thank you for being my true friends.

Showdown at the OK Corral

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It was like a scene from Gunsmoke.

When I walked in the door from work, all seemed right with the world. Victor heard the front door close, and the gleeful chorus of "Mommy's home!" emanated from the kitchen table. I dropped my bag, changed my shoes and began to dance for my little lunatics. First, I was a robot chicken. Then a puppy. Then a puppy/bunny/robot hybrid - whatever it was, it made sense at the time.

Dinner time (or what remained, since I came in a little late...what else is new?) was picture perfect. We played a game of "What's Different?" from the DVD extras of whatever their latest movie obsession is, and then little Angel asked for popcorn. Feeling confident that the night would continue to proceed swimmingly, I suggested that we eat popcorn as soon as we finished our homework from Miss Tammy (the speech therapist).

Then all hell broke loose.

Angel: I don't want to do that homework! I want to do the other page!!

Mommy: Angel - you don't get what you want when you yell. Now please sit down and let's do this homework so we can have popcorn.

Angel (while running away at top speed): NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! WAAAAAHHHH!!!!!!!!

Mommy (under my breath): Oh, shit.

We do not negotiate with terrorists

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I can't remember which president made this proclamation. I'm pretty certain that, at the time, I did not agree with the philosophy (being more of a rose-colored-glasses-leave-no-American-behind type in my youth). Now that I am dealing with tiny terrorists on the front lines of Casa de BadAssMama, I think I understand.

Let me explain.

Little A is clearly going through a phase. While many may say he is testing boundaries and asserting his independence/free will, I say that this is yet another front in he and Victor's on-going campaign to make me lose my f-ing mind. The pattern began to heat up this weekend. Rather than the occasional crying jag when he doesn't get his way, Angel is now actively seeking to make his opinion and preferences known - most often at high decibels in a disturbingly aggressive tone for a four-year-old. I don't mean aggressive as in I think he's going to punch me in the face, but aggressive as in he's talking to me like I'm shorter than he is (which will mostly likely be the case in the next 7-10 years, but NOT TODAY).

Today we decided that enough was enough. This kid was going to have to learn eventually that, while he is welcome to his opinion and desires, he is not the king of the castle. Most importantly, he needs to learn that you don't get what you want by screaming (despite the fact that whenever he and Victor are not listening I invariably result to screaming at the top of my lungs, but I digress...).

Where was I? Oh yes - we do not negotiate with terrorists. At bedtime, Angel declared in no uncertain terms that he wanted Mommy to put him in the bed. I told him that I would be right back as soon as I put Victor in the crib.

Cue the rampage.

Angel: "I want Mommy to put me in the bed! I want MOMMY to put me in the BED!! I WANT MOMMY TO PUT ME IN THE BED!!!!!!!"

Mommy: Angel, you don't get what you want when you yell. You don't get what you want when you cry.

Angel: AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!! (foot stomping, wall kicking, crossed arms in a huff)

Mommy: I'm not going to put up with this. You let me know when you calm down.

My husband, ever the pacifist, does his best to mediate the situation and reason with the little lunatic. But, alas, one cannot negotiate with an irrational counterpart, so after a few minutes of non-stop screaming (by Little, not Big A), he comes back downstairs and leaves Angel to rage in the hallway. We calmly applaud our united front and agree that he has to learn, so we leave him to his tantrum. Then Victor gets pissed that Angel woke him up, so now we have TWO screaming lunatics upstairs.

After about 10 minutes of sheer insanity, Angel calms down and Big A goes back upstairs to rub his back and put him to bed.

I'm not sure if he'll learn a lesson from this, but it sure did feel good to act like a parent...

Mama needs a drink

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I used to think that the Terrible Two's were a beast. I would tell myself night after night, if I can JUST make it through the next 18 months, everything will be fine.

Well, let me tell you. I've been through the Terrible Two's, and they've got NOTHING on a crazy four-year-old. And if that weren't enough, I now have a crazy four-year-old combined with the Terrible Two's - the remix.

I really thought that it was just a phase. Situational insanity brought on by the hustle-and-bustle of the holidays. Out-of-town guests, Christmas parties, too much sugar, too many late nights and missed naptimes. The holidays came and went, yet the crazies remained. Angel continues to fight bedtime, sometimes for hours on end (we have completely given up on naps). Victor is holding fast to the belief that 4:30am is the new black PLUS taking on several of his brother's less-than-desirable tantrum habits (including throwing himself on the couch, screaming out NO and running away when I ask him to do something that he would rather not).

On their own, each individual set of crazy is relatively manageable. The real challenge comes when they feed off of each other's energy. They're like two insane little Energizer bunnies bouncing back and forth, each one trying to out-do the other with their own particular brand of lunacy.

I have never been a heavy drinker. Even in my college glory days, I was more interested in dancing (or quite honestly watching Letterman and going to bed) than drinking. Given the sheer and utter chaos that has over-taken my house in the past several months, I gotta tell ya, that bottle of wine is looking REALLY good right now...

In no way do I intend to make light of alcoholism or alcohol abuse. I've read research citing that alcoholism can disproportionately affect mothers of small children - as a way to deal with the daily stresses of parenthood. I'm not saying that it's a good thing. But right about now, I understand.

I am not a robot

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Sometimes I have to repeat this to myself over and over to remember that it is true.

Let me explain.

Maybe it's just me, but ever since I became a mom I have picked up the nasty habit of thinking that I can be all things to all people, all the time. I am under the illusion that I have no need to eat, sleep or relax on a regular basis. Exercise has become a luxury. Free time is non-existent. Scheduling, preparation, marathon hours at home and in the office? That I can do.

Remembering that I'm only human? Not so much.

Take this week for example. I had an AMAZING week at the office. Checked items off of my to-do list. Extremely efficient with my time. Closed a major deal that has been 5-months-circa-15-years in the making. Worked a few late nights. Had dinner with a great girlfriend who surprised me with the fact that she's moving to the tri-state in a few weeks (YEAH!!).

But each and every day this week, Victor decided that 4:30am was the new black - meaning that The BadAssMama got less that 5 hours of sleep each night. Truly remarkable that I was able to accomplish anything, given the late nights and early mornings.

So - I MUST be a robot, right?

Then Thursday night came along and the matching set of heavy under-eye bags accompanied by lower back pain and the distinct feeling that a boatload of sand was been fed into my tear ducts at regular intervals reminded me that, no - I am not a robot. I am a human. Beautifully, tragically, thoroughly human. Rather than fight the feeling, I decided to go with it and vowed to hit the sack immediately after my kids.

And then all hell broke loose.

4am Blues

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It is 4:38 in the morning.

And, while I do enjoy writing to you all on a regular basis and my crazy work schedule has prevented me from posting since Monday, I am not here out of a sense of duty or longing-to-connect. I am writing to you at 4:38 in the morning because my 2-year-old is crying out at 4:38 in the morning.

Again.

This has been the routine for the past 3 weeks. Chech that - it has actually been happening on-and-off since Christmas Eve (no, your calendar is not wrong. It is March 17...). While I have every intention of getting in the bed at around 7:15pm out of sheer exhaustion not to mention the need to get some semblance of a decent night's sleep, the need to manage the feeding-and-caring of both a household and a demanding career have kept my head from hitting the pillow until roughly 11: 42pm on any given night.

And then my 2-year-old cries out at 4:38am.

I'm not sure why he has chosen this time to express his displeasure with life in general. It's not a plaintive cry, one out of pain or necessity. It's more of an annoyed, irritated and generally cranky call (likely because it's 4:38 in the morning and he's just as exhausted as I am). Some days, the cry is followed by a drill-sergeant-like barking command for his "game" (translation: iPad) or his "ba-ba"(read: sippy-cup-of-milk-that-he-still-identifies-as-bottle). After 15 or 55 minutes, he generally goes back to sleep. We don't go in to soothe him or bring him to our bed, out of the sheer horror that the 4:38am wake up call will become a pattern.

And yet, here we are.

I'm really not sure what to do at this point. If you recall from the hazy days of infancy, while my husband has the uncanny-and-utterly infuriating ability to fall asleep 3.5 seconds after his head hits the pillow, The BadAssMama invariably needs an hour or more to settle back down post-child-induced-wake-up. And since the 7:32am train is calling and there is cellulite to fight and children to prep in advance of the morning rush, 4:38am has once again become the new 6:15.

God help me...

Happy Mommy

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Apparently I was a real bitch last week.

True, the odds were somewhat stacked against me. I was having a bad week, taking a last minute 10 hour business trip for a 60 minute meeting and fighting a cold while putting the finishing touches on a surprise birthday party for The Hubs. You might say that I was tired, short-tempered and generally cranky.

I knew that I was cracking at the seams when my husband actually saved a segment on how to be a happy mom from the Today Show on our DVR, and called me at work to tell me about it. The call when something like this:

Angel: Babe - do you have a TV in your office?

Me (in a harried, hurried and ever-so-slightly-annoyed voice): Yeah. What?

Angel: They're talking about some habits of happy moms book. You should turn it on.

Voice in my head: Oh, really? I should turn it on? Because I need some privileged heifer with 2 nannies, a baby nurse, a personal trainer and way too much time on her hands to tell ME how to be a happy mom? Do YOU want to see a happy mom? Leave me the hell alone and let me get back to this spreadsheet. As a matter of fact, why don't you buy me a solo ticket to The Bahamas with an unlimited supply of drink tickets? Then you'll see a happy mom...

What I actually said: Um...I'm a little busy right now. Can you just watch it and tell me what they said?

Keeping secrets

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Little kids stink at keeping secrets.

I think it has a lot to do with the complex series of deception, half-truths and distraction required to keep a secret actually secret. Little kids just aren't wired to do that. They represent the ultimate in immediate-gratification-living-like-there-is-no-tomorrow-I-want-it-now-dom. So, with a severely impaired ability to delay gratification and no grasp of the subtleties of harmless little-white-lies vs. life-changing-relationship-destroying malfeasance, they pretty much blurt out just about every secret (or bad word) that you've ever accidentally shared. Often at inopportune moments - like in front of the surprisee. Or a nun.

In many ways, The BadAssMama is very much like a little kid. While it is true that I have a grown-up job, grown-up car, grown-up mortgage and an ever-growing list of grown-up responsibilities, I too have great difficulty with delayed gratification and am the WORST secret-keeper in the known universe.

This is why I am incredibly proud to say that I managed to pull off the ultimate SURPRISE birthday party for my husband yesterday!

This is also why I have been MIA for the past 2 weeks. It has taken EVERYTHING in me not to spill the beans - particularly in the past few days. And since this blog is my primary form of release, I was mortified that I would accidentally reference the party or somehow inadvertently blow it. So I kept a strict order-of-protection-type distance between myself, this blog and any other form of social media.

I would tell you which birthday it was for The Hubs, but then you might actually infer just exactly how old I am. And while I admit that I am squarely in the realm of grown-up-dom, I have absolutely no interest in shouting my exact age to the entirety of cyberspace (although, once you figure out my name I'm pretty certain that you could find out everything short of my social security number with a general search - damn you, world wide web!)

But, I digress. Well, not really. I think the theme of the day (and last night) is being grown up. I used to think that being grown up meant leaving behind childish things. Taking on the responsibilities of daily life - both pedestrian and profound. It meant losing some of the joy of discovery, as you came to learn more and more of what day-to-day life really means in the real world. Dampening the spark of youth with bills to pay, mouths to feed, diapers to change and politics to play.

Gold Star for Mommy

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My kids love to read.

Well, given the fact that they are 2 and 4, I guess that technically they don't love to read (since neither of them knows how to read yet - but if they did, it sure would make that $100+ dollar donation to "Your Baby Can Read" feel a little less foolish...). But, they do enjoy being read to.

And this makes the inner geek in me shout "Hallelujah!" to the rafters.

It all started from my obsessive need to educate my children in utero. Well, at least I'd like to THINK that it did, lest all those hours hovered over my ever-expanding belly be nothing more than a massive waste of time and chiropractor appointments. I read books to my belly from the first day that I learned that I was pregnant with Little Angel. A little less so with Victor (given Little Angel was, and continues to be, quite a handful), but he got some good-old-fashioned-OCD-belly-book-reading time too. I remember reading "Guess How Much I Love You" to Angel in his incubator in the NICU, holding back the tears (as much from the content of the book as the contents of our NICU-centric life). I held baby Angel, then baby Victor, in my arms to read at the end of every day. As they grew they shared my lap, then spilled out of my lap as they became bigger and my lap became progressively smaller with all the small-boy-chasing-around the house/mall/Gymboree/museum/library/park/living room floor of life.

Their favorite toys changed. Their favorite PJs changed. Their favorite movies changed. But their love of books remained the same.

No - it grew stronger. So strong, in fact, that the greatest threat for bad behavior at the end of the day is going to bed without books. It's the virtual Avada Kedavra of bedtime curses at BadAssMama Central.

And I love it.

I've screwed up a lot of things in my four short years as a mom. But my kids love reading. And I worked REALLY hard to make that happen.

Score one for The BadAssMama...

Life goes on...

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March is not my favorite month.

There are a few reasons - some big, some small. In my head, it should be spring by now. Yet, the cold wind continues to blow and the threat of rain/sleet/snow seem ever imminent. Tax season is in full swing. Daylight savings time comes to bite me in the ass (never a fun thing with two small kids), and the anniversary of the single most defining tragedy of my life always manages to sneak up on me.

It happens the same way every year. I get mildly irritable the week after Valentine's Day. Then, the general crankiness progresses to an overall malaise, followed by borderline depression around the first week of March. I never realize that it's coming until it's here, and even after all these years it surprises me how hard it hits every single time.

Most years, I find solace in pints of ice cream and rows of Oreo cookies. This year (in my odd-yet-silver-lining-like loss of appetite), the grocery store shelves are safe, yet the funk remains. I didn't realize the root cause this week until yesterday morning, slightly before soccer practice, when I struggled to understand why every-single-thing that my kids and/or husband and/or the general population of the greater New York metropolitan area did seemed to work my very last nerve. When it hit me, as it seems to happen every year, I felt the uniquely twisted emotion of relief flavored with overwhelming sadness. I had a root cause for my pain, and as such I had to find a way to face it.

Balance

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I have a new definition of balance. Rather than continuing to chase the ever-elusive-dream of miraculously managing to balance all work, family and personal obligations on any given day, I am learning to cut my losses and go for 2 out of 3.

Let me explain.

After 4+ years of banging my head against the wall, trying to do it all everyday, I'm beginning to realize that there actually IS time to do everything that you want to accomplish as a busy working mom.

You just can't do it all, everyday.

I am finally learning to pace myself, and aim to focus each day on a combination of a) work and personal or b) family and personal. While a few family things may creep into work-focused days, or vice-versa, I am making a concerted effort to compartmentalize my time and truly focus on one-and-only-one on any given work day - and family/personal ONLY every weekend.

It goes a little something like this: