Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Traditions

It's coming!  Christmas is almost here.

A few years ago, I don't think I would have believed you if you had told me that I would be as excited for Christmas as I currently am.  Now that I have a 4 year old and a 2 year old, I am as excited as they are-- maybe even more.

Disclaimer:  If you are the mother of a newborn, please do not feel the need to create a million new traditions or elaborate Christmastime cheer.  Surviving the holidays with a new baby and enjoying as much as you can is all you should expect from yourself.

Now that my kids are just a bit older, and I'm not as deliriously exhausted and overwhelmed as I was when they were infants, I find myself livening up the house with some Christmas spirit.  Nothing groundbreaking, mind you, but it's fun nonetheless.

Beyond the annual Christmas tree, lights, and stockings, here are a few of my favorite Frantic Mama family traditions:

1.  Christmas cookies:  Of course!   I like to make simple ones (store-bought mixes are far from forbidden in my home), and I give them as gifts to friends and neighbors.

2.  Elf on the Shelf.  I know the elf gets a pretty bad rap these days, and it's cool to belittle him.  However, this is the first year that he has, well, worked his magic on my son.  A little extra motivation-- and an extra pair of eyes-- watching my son be nice to his little sister is appreciated in my house.  I can use all the help I can get.  Plus, elves are cute.

This is our elf, perched atop a t.v. speaker so he can keep an eye on those below!

3.  The Festive Little Houses:  It seems like a chore to get these out of the basement every year, but I am always glad I do.  They aren't produced anymore, but my thoughtful husband found them on Ebay a couple of years ago because he knew how much I liked them.  I especially like the Old Curiosity Shoppe.

4.  Christmas Jammies:  I owe my sister for this inspiration.  I buy a new pair of pajamas for my kids to wear on Christmas Eve.  I don't like opening gifts on Christmas Eve, but giving my kids some cuddly jammies is an exception.

What are some special things you like to do around the holidays?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Need more laughs?  Check out the humor anthology I contributed to, Clash of the Couples!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Catching up on our Dreams (What DOES happen to a Dream Deferred?)

Think back to when you were little.  You were hopefully told you could do anything.  You spun a globe and put your finger on a country, and thought, Yes! Madagascar really could be the place I end up living as a grown up! Why not?!  

One day, you learned about marine biologists-- that's what you would be!  Then you learned about baby doctors, and then that was the ticket!  Maybe you would draw illustrations for children's books.  Or, if you were like me, you would for sure write books.

Now look at your life today.  Not in a judgmental way.   Don't be hard on yourself.  Circumstances, maturity, finances, health... LIFE, plays into what our lives as grown-ups look like.

Did you become what you hoped?  Do you have a farm filled with shetland ponies?  Do you live in a tiny cottage in England?  Do you have a handsome husband and beautiful children?  Are you a dolphin trainer in Miami?

I remember when I was 20 years old, on my first date with my now-husband (an MBA student at the time) I told him my major, English Literature, and that I was especially interested in modern poetry; he asked, in all bemused seriousness: "So, you want to be...a poet?"  Even then, I thought his MBA-self was hilarious.  No, I didn't necessarily want to be a poet.  Not necessarily.  My realistic side wanted to teach others about the beauty of poetry (and perhaps write a bit on the side).

(My son and me; I didn't know what the ins-and-outs of motherhood would involve, 
but he is a dream-come-true nonetheless)

In many ways, I did get to do that.  I found a unique job teaching high school students with disabilities English literature and writing.  I did find ways to expose them to some of my favorites, and though challenging, I was happy I was doing something I had "planned" on.

When we were dating, I also told my husband of course I wanted kids.  I love kids!  I want a ton of kids!  And I meant it.

But here's the thing, and I can hardly believe my naiveté now:  I had no concept of what raising kids would MEAN in day-to-day life.  How does one teach English AND have a 1 year old?  The reality of it never crossed my mind.  I knew nothing of daycare or this newfangled "SAHM" term.  I babysat in middle school.  That was about it.  I think I must have pictured having kids in kindergarten and up, when they would be in school and I would be working somewhere.

Currently, I have a 2 year-old and a 4.5 year-old.  They have completely consumed my life for the past 5 years.  5 years that I had never pictured back in my dreaming days.  AND YET-- they are exactly what I wanted.  I wanted a career AND a husband AND children.  In some ways, my life looks different from what I expected (I am not living in a quaint cottage in rural England, writing novels while rehabilitating owls and lemurs (no matter that lemurs don't live in England)), and in others, it looks like what I hoped for.

While I am not currently teaching, I am really happy to write that I AM working on two of my dreams I had as a child.  Dreams that were nagging at me for years in the back of my head.  Things I couldn't really do when I was pregnant, or nursing a newborn while caring for a 2 year old, etc.

Something inside me, when my son was almost 2-- and caring for him was my main focus-- made me start the first dream:  Writing.  Even if only one or two people ever read my blog (and I'm astounded that more people do), at least I was putting words down, just like 7 year-old me, scribbling misspelled words into a diary, had hoped.

(Believe it or not, I'm still gobsmacked every single time someone publishes my work).

My second dream as a child was to have a horse.  I know, I know.  Every little girl wants a pony.  That's all fine and good.  However, I wasn't a girly girl.  I didn't just want one because they are pretty.  Also, I am not a billionaire with access to stables in my own yard.  I have just always, always loved them.

As a kid, I loved taking care of them, and I loved riding them.  One thing I am SO excited about is that I recently found an affordable stable that actually teaches old people like me :).  I'm not that old, but I'm also not 11 anymore.  If you have ever picked up something new as an adult, you know that it can be nerve-wracking and scary.  You don't want to look like a fool.  You don't want to look stupid.  BUT I also didn't want to regret not getting back in the saddle (catch that?).  Never doing it was scarier than anything else.

I had my first group lesson last week, and I was shocked when I heard myself tell the trainer it had been almost TWENTY YEARS since I had taken lessons.  I let this part of myself go for 20 YEARS!  I wasn't great at it, and I'm pretty sure the trainer thought I was a bit of a mess, but it made me feel so good that I had taken the first steps towards something I had always wanted.

Now I am doing something about it-- for my current self, for my childhood self, my future self, and hopefully for my daughter, as I would love to get her involved when she is older so we could ride together.

This dream-- and most others-- does not come without sacrifices, though, I want to add (and will delve into that in a later post).

What does happen to a dream deferred?

What dreams have you reached?  What have you given up on?  Is there any way you could go back to ones that you thought had passed you by?  How?  Volunteering at an animal shelter?  Dusting off your old pastels?  Saving up for a keyboard?  I encourage you to act in a small way on just one of those nagging 'what if' dreams that still haunt you.

*I'm dedicating this post to two supportive friends who are also working hard to make dreams come true:  Natalie of Beautiful Booze and Dakota of Dakota Midnyght.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

P.S.  I couldn't resist adding a little poetry to this post.  See below.


What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

Friday, December 5, 2014

If They Made a Reality Show About My Life...

If they made a reality show about my life, it would be called...

Frantic Mama?  Too obvious.  How about A Day in the Life of an Ordinary Mom?  Too boring.  Or maybe not.

Unlike the Duggars, the Honey Boo Boo people, or the Duck Dynasty folks, there is nothing too unusual that sets my family apart from thousands of others around the country.  We don't have 19 kids and counting.  None of us are in pageants with Boo Boo in our nicknames.  Nor are we millionaires with long beards living in the country.  I don't mean this as a negative to my family-- or to the ones I'm mentioning-- it is just the truth.

My family is simply this: a two-parent household with two young children, trying to make it through each day with love and as much enjoyment as we can muster.

(See that photo?  Just a few extraordinary minutes of my ordinary life)

If there were to be a reality show featuring us, I suppose I could concoct all kinds of crazy staged scenarios to get the ratings up.  We live in a Look-at-Me culture, after all.  I'm sure my 4-year-old would have a blast spraying shaving cream around Target for an episode.  My 2-year-old would adore getting to run wild at an amusement park.  Both would get laughs and judgement from a t.v. audience.

But if there were a world where ratings didn't matter to networks, and people could just watch what they wanted, perhaps an ordinary life would be surprisingly interesting.

Think about TLC's show "Bringing Home Baby."  I haven't watched it in years, but I was glued to shows like it when I was pregnant with my first baby.  They document real-life families about to bring home a new baby.  There was usually nothing unusual about these mothers-- maybe that's why I was so drawn to them.  The families generously offered a glimpse into what was then unknown to me: life as a new mother.

My show wouldn't break new ground.  It wouldn't be very glamorous.  It wouldn't be salacious or juicy.  But maybe it would be simply nice.  Sometimes funny.  Other times sad.  Occasionally joyful. How life actually IS.

What would the name of your reality t.v. show be (not that you would ever do one, of course)?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

*This is a Finish the Sentence Friday Blog Hop Post!  See other participants here.

Find more frantic fun:  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, & Pinterest
Need more laughs?  Check out the humor anthology I contributed to, Clash of the Couples!

This post is part of Finish the Sentence Friday hosted by 
Kristi at Finding Ninee
Stephanie at Mommy, For Real

This week's co-hosts are:
Michelle at Crumpets and Bollocks

Monday, December 1, 2014

Not According to Plan

Sometimes as a mother, what you want most in the whole world is to get out of the house.  Anywhere.  For even just 30 minutes.  Of course, it is best if you get to exit ALONE, but that is much trickier to come by.

Yesterday was one of those times for me.  It was a balmy 34 degrees here, and I couldn't wander the house with the kids trailing me for one more minute.  It wasn't an option to leave by myself, so I exclaimed, with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, let's go on a walk!

Easy, right?  Just pop them in the double stroller.  Done.

NO!  I think I might have PTSD from the ins-and-outs of the whole ordeal.

My husband stayed inside with my son (because of all the kids in the world who would LOVE to be outside in the snow all day, mine is one who does not.  We live in Minnesota, by the way).

So it was my 2 year old daughter and me.

Let's do this, I thought.  We bundled up.

Putting on the following items took about 10 minutes:

snow pants

Then I remembered I had to pee.  I hurried to the bathroom.  My daughter started fussing and taking her boots off.

WAIT!!!! I cried, sitting there willing the pee to hurry up.  We are still going out there!

She [kind of] let me put her boots back on, and muttering under my breath, I heaved her in the stroller, which was located behind my husband's car in our garage.  Once she was in there, I realized there was no room to push it outside.

I had to remove my daughter from the stroller and lift the entire bulky thing through the garage, cursing the inanimate object under my breath the whole time: why would this friggin' thing be behind the car anyway?!

We made it into the driveway.  I put my daughter back in, much to her dismay.  Clearly, by this time, she had forgotten that she initially wanted to join me on a walk.

We crossed the street to a beautiful trail near us.  I exhaled.  This still might turn out well.

My daughter started yelling "Out!  I want  out!"  Jesus.  Fine.

I got her out.

She started jumping over footprints in the snow.  She was having so much fun, and it was really cute, so I tried to enjoy the moment, even though it wasn't what I was originally expecting from our walk.  I love it when no one is crying in my world!  So rare, but so so priceless.  It must be savored.

Eventually, I tried to put her back in the stroller so we could go more than 5 feet an hour.  She was having none of it.  I gave in to her surprisingly formidable powers and let her loose [again].

We eventually wandered down by the tiny section of the lake that is still unfrozen.  She was eager to run onto the ice to holler, "Hi swans!"  I don't really blame her; they are amazingly beautiful.  However, it is my duty to keep her alive:  Cue me pulling her back while she tried with all her might to get onto the very thin ice to join the swans.

I'll just stop there.  The walk back home was much the same.  It was frustrating but hilarious and a little fun nonetheless.

And, oddly, the entire ordeal was totally worth it.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Like this post?  You might also enjoy one I wrote about attempting to get BOTH kids out of the house last winter:  Getting out of the House (with Kids).

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Clash of the Couples is available now!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Home Inventions: Frantic Mama-style

Do you have inventions around your house that you created since having children?  A tool, you might call it, or a problem-solving gadget?

Here's ours.  We call it, simply, "The Tool:"

Yep.  That's it:  Wooden Train Tracks + Duct Tape = The Tool.

It measures about 4 feet long and is flat enough to fit in tight spots.

As with most inventions, The Tool was borne out of frustration with losing small, precious Hot Wheels and other sundries under our heavy coffee table and couch.  My son would be happily ensconced in a rapid-fire round of "sending," when one of his cars would get stuck under the table.  BHA!!!  Cue the frustrated yells and cries.

If I was right next to him (as I usually am), I would push the table aside so we could grab the car and resume playtime.  Even though I'm not too ancient, all that pushing and pulling was taking its toll on my back.  Same with my husband's.  My son certainly wasn't strong enough.  And so the glorious tool was created.

Credit where credit is due: The Tool is the brainchild of FranticMamaHubby.  I may have laughed at the time of initial creation, but I think the fact it still exists-- and is useful-- 2 years later speaks for itself.

The Tool:  It reaches places you can't.  TM.  (Just kidding.).

What have you "invented" around the house?  Should we take them all to Shark Tank?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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You can purchase Clash of the Couples on Amazon and Apple!  It makes a perfect holiday gift for anyone ever with a sense of humor.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Frantic Mama's 5 Friday Faves: Winter Edition

What's that?  Winter hasn't officially started yet?  Tell that to Minnesota.  Where we live, it's been winter since November 10th, when the first several inches of snow filled our yards, driveways, and streets.

Despite the cold, there are things I like about winter.  Here are five things to help you enjoy it too!

Here are five of my favorite things:

Tarte Cheek Stain.  Perfect to perk up a pale reflection this winter.  You just dab this sheer color on your cheekbones and rub it in with your fingers.  You look a million times better in seconds.  Expensive, but it lasts forever.  (Similar to Nars The Multiple, which I also love).

Clash of the Couples  (of course!):  I can't miss an opportunity to promote this book [and not just because I'm in it].  I think many of the essays in this anthology are laugh-out-loud funny, and everyone with a sense of humor should read it.  Especially those Smug Marrieds Bridget Jones was always talking about.

San Francisco Bay French Roast K-Cups:  This coffee (available to order online) will keep you warm and toasty.  My brother gave me a huge box of these for my birthday (he asked me what I wanted, and I said something along the lines of "one of the only things I really like is coffee.")  These are biodegradable (they come from San Francisco after all) and they are SO good.

The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game by Educational Insights:  This cute, well-made game is perfect for young kids just learning how board games work.  I actually enjoy playing it with my son (age 4), so it will come in handy for long hours spent indoors over the next few months.

90 Day Fiance on TLC:  You cannot understand the true meaning of 'guilty pleasure' until you watch this show. O.M.G. doesn't even cover it.  My husband (poor guy) and I cannot keep our mouths from dropping open every other minute while watching.  I tell everyone I see about it even though it makes me look pretty dumb.  The show is ridiculous yet endearing and completely addictive (perfect for winter nights!).

I want to hear from you!  What are you loving this winter?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hooray for 4 Year Olds!

There's the God-forsaken, sleep-deprived newborn stage, followed by the blood-curdling teething stage, which leads to much-feared Terrible Twos, topped off with what is now often considered the hardest stage of all-- the Terrible Threes.  Dear Lord, we wonder at each age, when does it get easier?!

Many naysayers with older children love to answer a new mother's despairing when does it get easier pleas with a downtrodden, "it never gets easier.  Just different."  As a mother of a 4 year-old kid, I'm calling B.S. on that!

Of course it is never easy to have children.  Nothing totally awesome and worth it in life is easy.  Marriage.  Career.  Artistic endeavors.  Whatever you devote yourself to is going to be hard.  Being a mother is no different.  However, that doesn't mean things can't get just a teeny weeny bit more bearable easier.  While there is beauty and joy at each age-- no matter how challenging-- here are 5 reasons why four is a GREAT age.

1.  Cold Medicine.  You know how there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING you can do for your 1 year-old's nasty green snot or your 2 year-old's hacking cough?  Sure, sure you can "buy a humidifier" and "use a nasal aspirator."  Oh, and have you heard?  "Honey is the best cure for a cough."  To heck with that!  None of it works.  But finally, at age 4, you can buy effective, legitimate cold medicine guilt-free because-- get ready-- it is for ages FOUR and up!

2.  Errands.  You know how getting babies and toddlers in the car to go on an errand can take longer than the errand itself?  How you are already in a sweat by the time you arrive at the big box store (to spend all of your money on diapers, baby food, and coffee)?  When your kid is four, it doesn't [always] suck anymore to get them ready!  They might even throw you a bone and put on their own shoes and socks, and get in their car seats by themselves.  Praise. The. Lord.

3.  Preschool.  It's so sad to say goodbye for 2.5 hours, three mornings a week.  NOT.  It's freaking awesome, and it's your right as a parent of a 4 year-old to give both of you the gift of preschool.

4.  Bathroom Time.  Potty training is pretty much wrapped up at 4.  Sure, treats and rewards are still bartered (let's own that one, folks), but now you can let the days of gigantic diaper bags and poop all over your hands slowly fade into the deep dark recesses of your consciousness.

5.  T.V.  There's a new kid in town I want you to meet, and his name is Nick Jr.  We've been warned to never show t.v. of any kind ever to kids under age 2 (God help us!), and your 3 year-old will only sit in the same spot for 30 seconds anyway.  But when they're 4?  Meet Nick Jr., featuring adorable shows your 4 year-old will actually sit and watch.  With Nick Jr. on your side, you, my friend, will occasionally be able to check your email in piece, fold the laundry, or....wait for it...take a shower without a baby screaming at you the entire time.

(Something tells me this image was created by a mom of a 4 year old.  Just look how happy they are!)

Conclusion:  Parenthood will never be a piece of cake, which is all well and good, but it really does get easier and more enjoyable-- not just "different."  So BOOYAH!  Bring it on, four!
~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Did I mention that Clash of the Couples is available on Amazon, Apple, and more?  Get your copy today and get ready to laugh with 40+ brave, hilarious writers.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Clash of the Couples Deal for November 13th!

Still haven't ordered your copy of the hilarious anthology Clash of the Couples?  You are in luck!  Today, and only today, November 13, 2014, the Kindle version is available on Amazon for 99 cents!
Check it out right here.

If you read it, please share your thoughts with me.  I'd love to hear about your favorite essay(s) (even if it isn't my own!).

Thank you for supporting Frantic Mama!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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