Tag Archives: SAHM

How to Spot a Mom

I was naked when she asked me the question.  Maybe that was why it hurt my feelings.  “You have kids?” She was smiling, maybe in her late 70s.  There was no reason for me to find the question off putting, I suppose.  It was casual chit-chat.

In the locker room at the gym there are lots of different kinds of women.  I am envious of the older women that stroll nonchalantly from the shower to their locker.  They are free,  maybe even confident,  certainly at peace with the body they live in.  There are the younger women and the quiet gals that change in the “dressing rooms,” the awkward spaces with shower curtains that don’t quite close all the way.  I fall somewhere in the middle.  I have given birth twice.  I came of age in a theatrical dressing room. I can surely get my bathing suit off in a locker room without demonstrating something just short of a magic trick to get my bra and underwear on before my towel drops to the floor.

But I am not yet free.  I am not yet at peace with this body.  It still feels new.  I am not embarrassed, not really.  “You have kids?” she asked me.  Why?  Is it my stretch marks?  I thought they were fading, maybe there are some I don’t even know I have.  Maybe it’s my stomach.  But then I never really had much in the way of a flat stomach before I even had kids.

It took me by surprise, my reaction to such a simple question.  Immediately, I wondered if my body was telling a story that I could not even see.  Fresh from a long swim I was feeling long and lean and that three word question brought me  to a place where I begin to wonder if I need to just settle in to a new normal and accept that this body ain’t all that bad.

I smiled and said “I do.  Girls.  One and seven.  Lucky mama gets to shower today in peace.”  She smiled warmly, turning back to her locker, unaware the spiral her innocent question had started.

I pulled my jeans on and ran a brush through my too short hair.  I took a deep breath and put a smile on my face, knowing I was going to walk by a long mirror on my way out the door.  I would smile at the woman in the mirror, maybe take it easy on her.

And smile I did when I saw her.  Yes. This woman has kids.  This woman with the Cinderella towel. She keeps her goggles and her shampoo in a hot pink  Yo Gabba Gabba tote bag.  Perhaps it wasn’t my stretch marks that gave me away after all.

~

Day  95 of This Book Will Change Your Life has me on the look out for aliens.  It gives a helpful list of how to spot the extraterrestrials among us.  I wish it would tell me how to spot the moms at the gym.  Evidently Disney towels and Nickelodeon tote bags aren’t enough to make it obvious for me.

 

In my underwear, in the parking lot, 1993.  High school was weird.  I was not always uncomfortable in my underwear.

In my underwear, in the parking lot, May 8, 1993. I had turned 17 the day before. I was not always uncomfortable in my underwear.

 

Hermit Crab Love

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Sleeping in her chick and bunny pajamas my little girl looks so vulnerable.  Babies, by design, are fairly dependent little creatures.  But when they are asleep I think they look like hermit crabs without their shells.  Any moment she will rise up on to her knees and crawl in to a painted shell.  She will cling to the side of a cage in the hopes that a 9-year-old girl on vacation will pick her to take home.

I watch my hermit crab baby sleeping and I think about how lucky I am. I watch my big girl ride down the street on her bicycle and I think about how quickly the time goes by.   Almost 18 years ago I met a boy in a bar and then it turned out he was the cook at the restaurant where I got my first job as a bartender.  Ten years after that my wondrous Emily June came in to my life.  I moved to Chapel Hill and got reacquainted with some old friends who happened to meet a boy at a dog park.  A year after that I needed a smile and they sent me out to dinner with that boy from the dog park.  He became the man that would be by my side forever.  I dreamt of the little boy that would join our family.  And that little boy was Lucy Quinn. (!)

The world is so huge.  Today’s challenge reminds us that there is 1 chance in 89 billion that life would have involved into mankind. There is 1 chance in 6 billion that your parents would have met. The book reminds us that we are all lucky to be here and suggests we show “cosmic humility.”

I am surrounded by reminders of cosmic humility.  My three biggest reminders are walking, breathing, loving examples of luck.  I want to believe that my children chose me.  I want to believe that MQD is my soul mate.  But in my heart of hearts I know that it was chance.  In this great big, huge world these three are mine.  They flesh out the living, breathing organism that is my house, my family, me.

Today I am in awe.  Cosmic humility doesn’t even start to sum it up.

Do the Right Thing

I had one of those moments today where I was forced to make a choice in a split second.  I had one of those moments when neither option is really what I want but the confines of time and the number of arms I have forces me to choose.  I did the “right thing.”  But it didn’t feel good. It did not feel good at all.  And my heart still hurts.

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I have told the story here before of how I fell in love with Fisher.  I have admitted that he sleeps in my bed with me. But I have never spoken of the way he tears my heart out of my chest every so often, mostly because I like to try and forget.

He will hop down from the bed and then be unable to move.  Or he will be in the midde of jumping up on to the couch and he will collapse.  A seizure, says the vet.  They do not happen often enough to establish any kind of pattern.  Blood work comes back fine.  No known cause.

His legs crumble beneath him.  He begins to pant and drool.  His eyes look deep in to mine as if he is frightened.  He doesn’t move.  It lasts for a minute, maybe two.  If I am alone with him I hold him in my arms and tell him that I love him and that he is okay, that he is safe.  If I am with MQD or my ex-husband I bawl and sob and say “Is he okay? Do you think he is okay?” repeatedly until I am kicked out of the room.  (I will wait here while you make a mental note – Kelly in a crisis, bad idea unless she is the only adult present.)

This afternoon marked the first time that Fish had an episode while I was alone with him.  Alone with him and Lucy.

Fish and Lucy like to look out the window in the afternoon and wait for the school bus. When it is warm they stand at the door.  When it is cold they stand and look over the back of the couch.  Today we were all snuggled on the couch, Fish with his feet over the back of the couch, Lucy Goose right next to him.  They were watching, waiting for the school bus.  They might have stayed just like that for the thirty minutes it would take for Emily to get home.  I considered reaching back behind me to grab my phone and take a picture of these two but I feared my movement would disrupt this quiet calm.  So, I just watched them.

And then his legs folded under him and he curled in to himself.  Lucy was quick to take advantage of this chance to climb on to his back.  And this was my moment.  My split-second “what the hell should I do now?” moment.  I wanted to take my sweet ten-year-old boy in my arms and hold him, shh-shh him and tell it was going to be okay.  He was scared, he is just an animal.

In that moment, though, we were all animals.  All three of us.  And I chose Lucy. I don’t think I should get a medal for having the presence of mind to grab Lucy and hold her away from my ailing dog.  Anyone with a pet knows that a good dog, even a great dog can be squirrelly when they are frightened.  I could pet his head.  I could shh-shh him but I could not hold him in my lap.  I could not hold him because I had this wild thing of a 13 month-old in my lap instead.  And my heart broke in to a million pieces.

20130304-194359.jpgThose big brown eyes.  The same eyes I fell so hard and fast for long before I became a mother they tore a hole straight through me.  “It’s okay, big boy.  I am right here.  I am just keeping Lucy Goosey safe, baby boy, keeping her from bugging you, okay?  But I am right here, I promise, I am right here.”

I must have told him in a thousand different ways that I wasn’t going anywhere and that I was just holding on to Lucy to keep her from bothering him.  But I knew even as the words were falling from my mouth that it was not completely true.  My big boy was hurting.  And I was protecting my baby.

It was the “right thing.”  But it did not feel good.  It did not feel good at all.

Minutes went by and his breathing steadied.  I sobbed the ugly tears on the phone and Fish calmed down.  So, eventually, did I. The school bus came at 2:37 and Fisher jumped off the couch like nothing was wrong.  Cautiously, I opened the door.  He’d either take a few steps and slow down and I would know that this time, this time was different, or he’d leap off the porch to cover his big girl with kisses.

He leapt off the porch.  I leaned against the door frame and watched those two run up the front hill, all zig-zag across the flower beds.  Lucy pressed her face against the storm door waiting for them to come up the front steps.  And just like that today was exactly the same as every other afternoon.

So help me, if these kids are not the death of me, this dog will be.

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Transition

20130223-233341.jpgThe final stage of active labor is transition. It is the most painful. I wept and moaned and cried during labor. But during transition? In transition I got quiet. I was scared. Scared and excited about what was surely going to happen next.

Transition is hard. Even when I am not preparing my body to deliver a baby I have been known to get quiet as I move my mind and body in to a new stage of life.

I have been quiet. And reflective. I think I am in transition.

I have been reading about the idea that we all reinvent ourselves every seven years. According to a lot of medical research all of the cells in your body are replaced every seven years. Granted, you do not wake up to a brand new body overnight. One cell at a time your body rejuvenates itself. And who I am today may actually be a different physical person than I was seven years ago. It stands to reason that I would feel different emotionally, spiritually.

Seven years ago I felt it happening. I was a new mother. My marriage was dissolving. I didn’t know what my future would look like but I could see small stretches of the path to get there. There were tears and glasses of wine and friendships forged and promises made. I moved my body hundreds of miles from my home. I got a new job. I made new friends. The change was slow and painful. I fought against it even though I knew my smile would be brighter when it was over. I held on to bitter moments because I thought they defined me. And perhaps because I wasn’t sure who I was going to be if I let them go.

It’s happening again. The quiet. The quiet that precipitates evolution.

Change is hard when you aren’t running from anything.

And so I run in place. Or around and around my neighborhood. But I still don’t know where I am going.

I have been home with the kids for a year. I don’t want to leave them.

I have been married for three years in April. I am still over the moon for my man.

I am putting down roots in my community. I don’t want to move.

I have been writing here for almost four years. I don’t want to stop.

I have a dozen drafts in my files. Half-written essays abut the girls and motherhood and fitness and my velour sweatsuits. But none of it speaks to me. If it doesn’t hold my attention it won’t hold yours.

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Change is paralyzing. Odd that growth makes me feel so frozen solid. As my mind races and my cells replace themselves I can’t seem to make a complete thought.

My big girl is reading chapter books and Tiger Beat magazine and painting her nails with her friends. My baby girl is eating a sandwich and chasing the dog in a itty bitty track suit. They are growing so fast. Days are moving so quickly and I can’t hold on tight enough. I am running short on the time needed to sit at the keyboard and write it all down. As soon as I sit down to finish a thought I no longer really feel that way anymore.

My girls are growing fast all of a sudden. And so am I.

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I don’t know what will become of my girls. But I know that no matter who they turn out to be they will be fine. Because they are loved. And I know that someday we will look back at pictures of their childhood and laugh and say “Of course! They couldn’t have become anyone else!”

And I know that days, weeks, months from now – when my transition is over – I will laugh and say “Of course, this is the path I have always been on.” But today? Today I am not really sure where I am going. But I know I will be fine. Because I am loved.

Hey you guys!!!

It’s not my best look. I call it “just rolled out of bed not even wearing my cute glasses wearing my favorite sweater and only two sips in to a cup of coffee” chic.

Photo on 1-26-13 at 8.09 AM #2

I just wanted to sit down this morning and say Hey you guys! Yesterday afternoon yours truly was Freshly Pressed and with that comes scads (gobs? hordes? what shall I call you?)  of new readers that deserve a little shout out.

It didn’t seem right to get all fancied up and try and be something I am not and dazzle you.  So. Here I am.  This is where I usually am.  In my chair with the kiddo on the boob.  This morning is cold so I am enjoying one of the four (four!) cowl neck scarves I have recently crocheted.  Yeah.  I am a woman that crochets, guys.  I don’t know how it happened.  Sometime this winter when I realized I had watched everything on my DVR and every single series on Hulu I decided I needed to find something else to do while Lucy slept in my lap.  So, yeah, I crochet.  And I am impatient.  Cowl neck scarf – the four hour project – we are pals.  Stick around and maybe I will send you one if your neck looks particularly cold.

I wish I had more time this morning but I am trying to get out the door.

You know when you do something that you kind of think is awesome but you aren’t sure if it is totally absurd.  You’re not embarrassed exactly, but you’re not sure if people that know you would think “Oh, that is strange.  You don’t really do that, do you?”  When I was fourteen I bought a hot pink swing dress and purple polka-dotted tights to wear to my boyfriend’s graduation.  (It was 1991, it was a hot look.) Previously I had been seen in my overalls.  Pretty much every day.  I thought the dress was cute.  I thought it was kind of adorably Molly Ringwald-ish, actually. But I wondered if it was “me.”

I don’t work hard to stay in my “me” box.  But I think we all have a type.  Not long ago I was horrified when I realized I had Mom-hair but I owned it.  In fact, I declared myself to be the Samue L. Jackson of Motherhood and decided that in spite of my hair I was a bad motherfucker.

So, I am yammering on because I am not sure I can admit this.  I like to work out.  It keeps me from being totally mental.  I run.  I actually love p90x.  I am not afraid of the weight room and I don’t really wear “cute outfits” to the gym.  I like to get sweaty.  But this morning I am going to do something I have been talking about doing forever.  And I might get hysterical and get kicked out but I am going for it.  I am going to Zumba, guys.   Zumba bills itself as a sexy Jazzercise.  Take a minute to chew on that.  Sexy.  Jazzercise.  I hope they serve margaritas.  I am going to need one.  Or four.

So, a big fat “hello” and “happy to meet you” and “what took you so long let’s be best friends!” to the new readers.  I gotta jet.  Get my sweat on.  Oh, and shake my moneymaker. Because apparently when I am not busy being a bad motherfucker or crocheting I go to Zumba.  Sigh.  The latter half of my third decade is going to be weird.  I can feel it.

Lucy Goose is ONE!

Dear Lucy,

20130120-133802.jpgLast year I wasn’t sure if it would be possible to love a baby as much as I loved your big sister. Lucky for you – you turned out to be a Lucy, not just a baby. And in one short year my heart has tripled in size.

I am crazy about you, little girl. And the bonus that I never saw coming? I love your sister twice as much as I used to and your dad, too. You are the icing on my cake, sweet girl. Life was sweet before you arrived, but now that you are here – I just can’t imagine our family without you.

 

So. You’re one. We made it.

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I keep writing and writing and deleting. I don’t have words for you, Lucy Goose. You are sleeping in my lap right now. And I can’t wait for you to wake up. I have spent nearly every minute of the last year with you. And all I want is more.

You are a funny little thing. You make me laugh all of the time.

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One year ago we left the birthing center in the dark hours of the morning and we came home, the four of us. I’ve never looked back. You have been a sweet and smushy little baby. You nurse like a champ and you hold my hand while you sleep. You are a cuddler. But you are also so independent in your own little way. You have been just a perfect little baby.

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In the last few weeks I have started to see the little girl you are going to be. And Lucy Goose, you are trouble. You are funny. Your sister and I are funny, but you? You are a nut. Your squinchy little smile. Your gonna give me a run for my money, I am afraid. There is a reason you didn’t come to me until I had figured this mothering stuff out a little bit.

Happy birthday, Lucy Goosey.  I love you so much I can’t stand it.

Love,

Mom

The Book of Truth?

Emily brings home a book every day.

On Tuesday afternoon I was fit to be tied midway through homework time. I was in a mood.  Stomping.  A little light swearing.  She handed me the book she had chosen from her “Book in a Bag” selection and I grimaced.  “Did you pick this book for me?  It is NOT funny.”20130117-162252.jpg

 

On Wednesday she selected another book.  We were in a hurry to get homework finished because I had an appointment.  To get my hair cut.

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Last night we joked that we should look at the books she had selected for the rest of the week so we could take a look in to the future.

Now it is Thursday.  It has been raining since about 6 o’clock this morning.  She handed me her book as we sat down to read this afternoon.  To my credit I did not say “You have got to be kidding me?  Get away from me with your crazy voodoo future predicting book picking skills?!”

I hope it stops raining soon.  I really do.  While I was typing this just now Lucy dumped the dog’s bowl of water on the floor in the kitchen.  I hope that is flood enough to satisfy the “Book in a Bag” Gods.

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I’m so complicated. Really. I am.

I can’t recall who started it. It was trending not just in my twitter feed and on facebook. It was in my house, too. Em didn’t want to go back to school after her long break. MQD was not particularly interested in going back to work. It seemed like no one wanted to “go back.”

I have adopted a silence when people start hemming and hawing on Sunday in the late afternoon about “going back to work.” When you stay home you don’t have much to add to that conversation. Either you crack a joke at your own expense quickly or you start pointing out that you don’t get days off at all.

I usually just fall quiet. I am not trying to get pelted with bon bons from the stay at home mom crowd for saying this out loud. But staying home with my kids is so far the best job I have ever had. I make my own hours. I love the people that I work for. And I wear whatever I want. The same things that make it awful are the things that make it wonderful. I spend all my time with my co-workers. All of it.

This particular Monday I had a tougher time falling back in to the swing of things. My house is clean. My refrigerator is full of left overs. My laundry is done. A long weekend with family and  I had plenty of extra hands on deck. Christmas is more than a month away. I am not ready to start that. So, what exactly am I to do?

Lucy and I had a lazy morning. We stayed in our pajamas. We did some yoga. We chatted with a friend when she stopped by with our eggs. Late morning became afternoon and before I knew it Emily’s bus was going to be home and we weren’t even dressed. For all intents and purposes I did not “go to work” today. Sure, I kept the kiddo alive and happy all day. And on a good day that is enough for me. She is my “primary job.” But on the days when I sit back and watch her and I disengage and I wonder if “this” is “enough” – it makes my heart hurt.

Sitting on the floor in our bedroom by the window I could feel the lonely settling down in to my bones. I was trying to be light hearted when I called him. “Every one is back to work and school and I am just here. It’s so quiet. It’s like I don’t know what to do.”

He was joking.    “You should clean something.”

I wanted to hang up.  I wanted to not cry.  I wanted to not make mountains out of molehills and rail against the Universe that cleaning things is a waste of time when it will all be a mess again tomorrow.  He was kidding.

But damn that man of mine.  Even his jokes can see through me.  Surely he could hear the blue.  I don’t wear it well.

 

Not even ten minutes had passed before I ripped the covers off of the couch and put them in the washing machine.  He might have been joking, but I feel pretty fantastic. Sometimes I do need to feel like I “did” something.  And by sometimes I mean all of the time.  The washing machine will be done in four minutes.  In a little over an hour I will pull clean cushion covers out of my dryer and wrestle them back on to the couch.  And I will feel like I conquered the world.  Or at the very least I will feel like I beat back the blue for yet another day.

But it is not just because I cleaned something.  I can’t have you or MQD thinking my life is really that simple.

I also put on lipstick.  And in the spirit of giving credit where credit is due I must thank my mother (presumably) for losing a lipstick in my couch.  Because apparently it takes more than just a shower and a completed chore to make my heart sing.  It takes lipstick, y’all.

 

In my kitchen, again.

No matter how happy you are, no matter how much you live the life you believe in your heart that you want, there are moments that you look at the door and think “I could just walk out. Right now I would like to just walk right out the door.”

Not forever.  Just for the morning.  And not because you aren’t happy, just because occasionally it feels like you live in the movie Groundhog Day  –  “Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.” I walked in to the kitchen this morning wearing my winter uniform (velour jogging suit and a tank top) just as I did the day before.  And likely just as I will tomorrow.

“I am not making breakfast.  I feel like all I ever do is cook food and clean it up.  All day.”

If you live across the street from your best friend than you can put on a baseball hat, grab a cup of coffee and walk out the door.  Thirty seconds later I was standing in a different kitchen with only one of my children, drinking coffee and bullshitting about absolutely  nothing in the way that only women can.

Sitting at her kitchen table I can just sit.  I don’t have to fold her laundry, though I have. I don’t have to let her dogs in and out ten times, though I can yell at them for barking.   Somehow her kids and their incredible loudness is funny to me, almost entertaining.  It’s a change of scenery and sometimes that is all I need.  I don’t long for a new life, I just want to live it in a different kitchen for an hour.

I walked back in the house feeling good.  “I emptied the dishwasher and I washed out the casserole pan from last night,” sad MQD.  A good man picks up your slack.  I could have thanked him.  Or given him shit for reporting to me like he was a kid deserving of a gold star.

Instead I just smiled and said “That’s it?”

There is a changing of the guard that takes place between parents.  I had been “off duty” and I was clocking back in, I could feel it.  I was getting the full report of the status of things and he was checking out.  When you take away a man’s man cave and make it in to a guest room/baby room you can expect him to lock himself in the bathroom for an hour on Saturday morning.

We listen to Spotify all day from the desktop in the kitchen.  There is always music in our house.  Always.  I was on the couch in the living room, laptop perched on my knees, coffee just out of reach of the little one.  “I found a new artist you might like.  You should listen to them.  When you get your ass back in to the kitchen,” he said.  That smirk of his is going to save his ass a thousand times over.

This morning I had a moment when I thought it was hell on earth to relive the same day over and over again. Two hours later and I am smiling ear to ear.  Bring it on, Winter.  I am going to wear this velour sweatsuit every day.  I am going to wear this hat every day.  I am going to stand in my kitchen and think about what we are going to eat next only moments after cleaning up from the previous meal.  And I am digging the ever-loving shit out of it, yes, I am.

Life isn’t that complicated. Living the same day over and over again gives you the chance to get it right, eventually.  It’s not even 11 o’clock in the morning and I feel like I have this day by the balls.  What’s up, Saturday? Wanna feel my sweat suit? This is what Happy feels like.  Sorry about the coffee breath, you’ll get used to it.

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Keep: This grey hat that will henceforth be known as The Hat I Wore All Winter While I Grew Out That Shitty Haircut

Trash: A handful of stretched out rubber bands and nasty bobby pins from the bottom of the hair accoutrements  catch all drawer in the bathroom.

Donate: A pile of headbands to Emily June, because this Winter is the Winter of the Hat not the Headband.  I have decided.

 

Mommy dates

All month I have looked around my house with my What can I get rid of and declutter lens. This morning I am looking at my house with my Holy Shit, I have a Mommy Date microscope.

When I was very young and dating and someone would stop by my dorm room or I would try and look at my place from a young man’s point of view. This was pretty easy. I didn’t have to clean anything. I made sure there was beer in my refrigerator and that there wasn’t a pair of men’s boxers on my bedside table or a proverbial pair of boots under my bed. I had beer and I wasn’t taken. We were good to go.

When I was older and a single mom dating it was more confusing. MQD came to pick me up for our first date and I can remember looking around my place and hoping that the mini-kitchen in my living room wouldn’t freak him out. I had Pottery Barn curtains. What if I was too far gone in to the land of Grown Up to interest him? I hoped that my futon would make it clear that my 20’s weren;t too far behind me.

This morning I have a Mom Date. We met at a local children’s museum. She blew my mind when she asked me for my number. And then she won my heart with a late night call freaking out about an email she thought she had sent to the wrong person. We email. We text. I even called her the day I got a shitty haircut and slugged back way too many glasses of wine on my front porch. She’s funny. I think she might even like-like me.

But now she is coming to my house. To let her child crawl around on my floor. I have to vacuum. Like Vacuum with a capital V. What if her kid finds that leaf I missed and he chokes? My bathroom is clean. But it doesn’t smell like bleach.

Donate: this frog. Please ignore the dog hair on my couch!!! Please!

Should I offer to make her lunch? Oh man. That’s too complicated. Coffee? Should I apologize for my oh so not green and environment-friendly love of the Keurig cups? Hopefully my offer of real sugar or Truvia made from stevia and not cancer-causing Equal will win me favor.

I suggested we take a walk if it isn’t freezing. Does that make me sound like a fitness freakazoid? I am obsessed. A little. But I don’t care if she is. I should probably not drop a line like “Hey, some of my best friends are totally lazy!”

I’m guessing I should probably not say “So, I guess you read my post…” even though she has read here in the past. I mean it is asinine to assume that she checks back every hour on the hour and she is coming over practically any minute… Gah.

Keep. The viking helmet on our bookshelf in the kitchen because it was a wedding gift and it makes me happy. Who would not want to be friends with a gal with a viking helmet?

Donate. A metal polka dot frog because while it matched the beach-y decor of my downstairs bathroom ten years ago it has no place in my life now. And there is no reason for it to hang out in my living room junk drawer.

Trash. A handful of receipts I had stashed in the catch-all tray in my living room. No one ever returns peanut M&Ms or Diet Coke and let’s face it, that’s what I buy on the regular.

Wish me luck. I brushed my teeth. I am wearing yoga pants. But I might change. Jeans? Oh man, this is so confusing. How do you make sure you look like a good Mom friend but not too Mom-ish?

Maybe we should have mimosas….