Why your mom-friends might be the most important you’ll ever have.

You’ll never forget the friends you make in Kindergarten. 

Middle school? You need those girls, and you need them HARD.

In high school, you discover it’s fun to hang out with people who share your interests and hopes and dreams.

By college, you start to become who you’re meant to be, and you realize what real friends really look like.

As a young professional, your best mates are often your office mates. 

But GIRL, when you become a mother. 

My mother was diagnosed with cancer shortly after my first child was born. So I spent my days with my brand new best friend and my original best friend, nursing her back to health while coming up with silly ways to make both of them laugh. I was a single mom – I felt cast aside, I didn’t fit anywhere. But it didn’t matter much because I knew where I needed to be.

After I got married and that baby turned four and his grandmother turned a corner and a little sister was born, we moved to a new neighborhood where he would start Kindergarten and make his own first friends.

It never occurred to me, in crossing that bridge, that the parents of his friends would become my friends. Suddenly, as we enrolled in summer camps and after-school activities, our friend group grew.

I started something called Happy Hour Play Dates. (You’re welcome.) This was basically because I don’t like to be out past 9 p.m. and I really like being home. It’s also a lot easier to stay in with 17 kids. 

For a season, we hosted five families on a rotating basis – to share laughs and food and mommy drinks while the kids, ranging in age from fresh-out-the-womb to five, ran around us in a sugar-induced, sticky-fingered blur. 

As time went by, we made more friends in rom-com, meet-cute ways – like the morning on the street corner at the Santa parade – and the Happy Hour Play Dates got bigger. 

I love the way new people come into our lives in the weirdest ways, like when a lovely human whose husband I didn’t kiss in high school showed up in my inbox like an early Christmas present, then told me she was going away for year. (Not to prison, but to travel the world. We’re gonna be pen pals.)

We’ve all had more babies, and lost some. We’ve gotten new jobs. We’ve gone back to school. We’ve moved into new houses. We’re doing life together. 

These are the friends who bring lasagna when you’re pregnant and your husband has to hold you upside down in a headstand at four in the morning because you can’t pee and you come home from the E.R. with a catheter just in time for your older son’s birthday weekend. They’re the friends who secretly drop things in your mailbox or at your front door, whether it’s wine or diapers or a personalized ornament with everybody’s name on it every Christmas. The ones who host New Year’s at the last minute because you just had a miscarriage and they know it’s your favorite holiday.

These are the friends who come over if you tell them something’s wrong, and know that you need them even when you don’t. The ones who take your kid to jiujitsu because your husband’s away and you can’t do it all by yourself. The ones who cry with you on the carpet when you feel like the world is falling apart, and pull you up off the floor with pizza and good advice. The friends who sit with you on the roof like schoolgirls – one foot out the window, but all the way in your life – and tell you their secrets as the sun goes down.

These friends are stars, twinkling in the night sky and shining like the golden sun even when they’re as exhausted as you are. You can tell them anything, because they’re walking this journey right beside you, and they’ve been there, too. 

So hold on to your mom-friends, because, as far as I can tell, we’re gonna be moms long after our kids stop climbing into our beds all hours of the night and can finally use the toilet on their own.

And it’s nice to feel needed … but it’s even nicer to be there for a friend who needs you. 

You made me a mother, and you make me better every day.

To the child who made me a mother –

You are so much bigger now than that magical night I first held you in my arms, crying in chorus with you because I didn’t know how to make you happy. 

I hope I make you happy now, even just a little bit each day, because you have made me happier than I ever thought possible. 

Whenever I am down, you lift me up as high as we could swing from the rope in our back yard. (Unless Dad pushes.) When I’m frustrated with the noise and the mess and the chaos, you bring me peace – straight from your kind and loving heart.

You help me be a better Mommy to your little brother and sister … but am I a good enough Mom to you?

I still remember when you called me “mama.” You all do, before you grow up and make friends and we mamas fade a little more into the background every day. 

Even though you don’t need to hold my hand anymore, I hope I’m still your best friend. Because you’ll always be mine. 

I don’t know what I did to deserve a kid like you. Up with the sun before the rest of us, I find you finishing your homework at the kitchen table, ready to greet another day with your sweet smile and a song you made up in your head. 

You are my favorite song, the rhythm in my heart, the melody that gets me through. 

Thank you for all the times you pull me out of the background and down onto the floor to laugh or dance or build or play. Thank you for noticing when I need you, just as much as you used to need me. 

You’re so strong now and so wise – but your mama’s still here for you.

So tell me what happened at recess. Ask me questions about the world as you see it. Share your dreams for the future and walk into it with me – if not hand-in-hand, then heart-in-heart.

For as you told me many moons ago, not far away at all, you had something big to say, but in a voice so small – 

“I love you to my heart.” 

We are the Griswolds, and I love every minute. (Okay, *almost* every minute.)

Some people do Disney. Some people cruise to the islands. Some people jet off to fabulous resorts in far-off cities.

We are not those people.

We are the Griswolds – just swap out the station wagon for a minivan, and stick us on the highway headed north. 

My husband is a mountain man, and MAN, I wish he could sport the beard to prove it. But flying for the airline and the military, the only time I see him with some stubble is during our annual vacation to the high country.

Where we live is FLAT. I never had a problem with it. We’re minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but when the hills are calling, we answer. If Jared and the kids could be outside all day, they would. But much of the year, it’s really-really-really hot at home, so heading to the mountains is our favorite escape. 

And it truly is a lovely change of scenery (and pace).

Getting there is another story. 

Over the past three years, we’ve driven twice and flown once. The drive is long, so we split it up over two days, each time picking a different halfway point on the way up and spending time with family on the way home. 

The first year, the baby broke his nose according to Dad (I think it was just a bruise) and we had to buy snow chains for the truck because of a sudden impending blizzard. It turns out, there was no snow and we couldn’t even go sledding, let alone use the expensive chains.

The second year, we started out with a stomach bug, gave it to my mother-in-law who had already suffered a migraine (sorry, Nina), came home and bought a van because we liked the one we rented so much, and decided to cap off our trip by heading to a nearby theme park where we promptly lost the keys to said van on an upside-down roller coaster.

This year, as we hit the highway, Jared said:

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have a vacation where no one got s— ”

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!! DON’T SAY THAT OUT LOUD!*&@*#!”

Two days later, my daughter started coughing. Five days after that, the baby woke at midnight, shaking with a fever, and threw up every 30 minutes until dawn. 

We had family photos the next day with sweet photographer friends from back home. They, too, had driven 10 hours to get there. I was afraid I was going to have to cancel. But the baby was feeling okay, so we carried on. 

When we had arrived a week earlier, the leaves were at their peak – golden and red and orange and magical. 

A few days of rain and one very windy night later, they were all but gone when we drove down the parkway for pictures. Cell service was spotty, so we got to the trailhead a while before our friends. The sign at the bottom said 2.5 miles up. It was wet from the rain, and muddy. We knew we couldn’t make a 5-mile round trek without a sick baby, so we waited until they arrived and made a last-minute swap. 

On a previous drive, we had spotted a pretty pond. So we got back in the van and met near the water. The light through the leaves was perfect, and there were even a few red and gold ones hanging on. 

None of us were feeling our finest, and I looked like I had been awake for a solid week, but we laughed our way through the woods, throwing piles of crunchy leaves into the air and capturing our time together in one of our favorite places. 

The drive there was hard, and the drive home was brutal. A friend texted and told me to put diapers on everyone (including adults) and to be sure to blog about the experience to save others from making the same mistake. I chose to do only one of those things.

So maybe next time we’ll fly – Daddy is a pilot, after all – but we won’t stop being the Griswolds. That’s just our thing. Nothing fancy. Nothing fussy. Just a messy, sneezy, sleepy, happy week of hiking and gem mining and leaf watching and shuffleboard playing, cabin-staying good old fashioned family fun.

Holy sh*t. Where’s the Tylenol?!*#%$!

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*For those who don’t watch it 15 times per holiday season, and occasionally in July, that’s the end of Clark’s rant in Christmas Vacation, and generally how I feel after getting home from ours.

We’re all in a giant ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ story.

I was reading to the big kids at bedtime. They had chosen a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book called The Lost Jewels of Nabooti – so, true to form, I emphasized the “booti” for a laugh.

As if that wasn’t enough, when we came to the last page of the adventure they had created, it read:

“You have fallen into a hole. It is pitch black. There is no food, no water. 

You are doomed. 

THE END.”

For some reason, this was just about the funniest thing we had ever heard. Their Dad came downstairs from putting the baby to bed, and we all took turns coming up with our own dooming endings, which went a little something like this:

Eli: “Mom has farted and pulled up the sheets. You can’t breathe. You are doomed. THE END.”

Addy: “There are no more cookies in the entire world. You are doomed. THE END.”

Mom: “Peppa Pig has been cancelled. You will never watch them fall on their backs laughing again. You are doomed. THE END.”

Dad: “It is bedtime. You have to be quiet now. You are doomed. THE END.”

It got me thinking about life and the choices we make, and how we’re all really one wrong turn from being doomed. (The end.)

Lucky for us, our lives aren’t made up of spy adventures and mountain climbing and gun fights and speeding trains. We aren’t super likely to wind up at the bottom of a pitch-black pit in the middle of Morocco after being chased by bad guys searching for mystical jewels. 

We do have choices, though. There are broken hearts and broken homes and missed deadlines and lost jobs. We don’t always say the right thing or turn the right page, and sometimes it’s too late to go back.

But we can always go forward. 

You and me and my kids and everyone in the whole world is right in the middle of their own story, and while it may not feel like a story worth writing about, it’s one worth living to the fullest, for sure.

So the next time you have a hard decision to make, think about what might happen if you “Turn to page 54.”

Will there be an exciting opportunity, or will you fall into a pit? If you do, will you be able to climb back out?

The scenarios in the books are sensational and glamorous. In our simpler, routine, day-to-day lives, we’re more likely to encounter literal and figurative doo-doo than doom. 

What you do with the doo-doo is up to you. 

Wash your hands, and turn the page.

I’m not the mom I thought I would be.

Last weekend, we had one of those nights where you cry and you curse and you wonder if you’re ever going to sleep again.

The kids had a cold. So naturally, because they spend so much time spitting in my eyes, I caught it, too. 

I thought they were better – but as I lay me down to sleep, prideful I had put them all to bed by eight – I heard my daughter coughing. 

My eyes blinked open. I laid there and listened, I tossed and I turned, for an hour. Then two. I administered medicine, and a spoonful of honey. I went back to bed. Another hour went by. I laid with her and rubbed her back. Still no sleep. I went back to bed. For another hour, I stared at the ceiling.

When finally I heard the telltale sound she was about to be sick, I ran from my bed to hers, just in time to watch her throw up on the white duvet. 

And I was angry. Not at her, but at not being able to sleep when I was sick. 

I didn’t want to be angry. I wanted to be kind and sweet. I wanted to be what she needed. Instead, I asked “Why?” out loud. Why tonight, when your dad isn’t here to help me? Why tonight, when I need to sleep so I can get better? (And be a better mom.) 

I pulled her hair out of her face as she threw up some more, mostly into the toilet. I cleaned her up, put her in a different bed, and woke her older brother to tell him where she was and not to wake me if he woke up wondering. I bleached the bathroom and threw the duvet into the wash.

Now it was midnight. I could finally sleep.

But at one o’clock, he did wake up wondering. And he wondered as he wandered to the foot of my bed, where you feel a child’s presence like a bad dream. I sat up, screaming. I marched him back to bed and made him feel bad and made myself feel bad, too. 

Now it was two in the morning, and I was still angry. But I was also sad. I was sad I wasn’t sweeter and stronger and more in control of my emotions. And I was tired. I’m always tired. 

I laid there and worried, anxious to know what lesson this terrible night was trying to teach me. In that moment, I realized my kids weren’t keeping me awake to torment me. They were sick and sad and scared, just like me.

Instead of being a source of comfort to them, I made it about me. But when you become a parent, it’s not about you anymore. 

It’s about taking care of the little people you get lucky enough to love, and tending to their needs at the expense of all the things you need. (Like a shower, a nap, or an extended stay at an oceanfront hotel in a fuzzy bathrobe with breakfast in bed.) 

It can be really easy to yell. Easy to get angry. Easy, especially when you’re exhausted, to believe they are keeping you up all hours of the night on purpose. 

But it’s also easy to forget they won’t always need you. They won’t need you to pull the hair out of their face or push them higher on the swing. They won’t need to hold your hand, but they will always hold onto your heart – and if you’re lucky, the memories of all the happy days will shine brighter than the darkest, sniffliest nights.

I’m not the mom I thought I would be.

My van is full of crumbled crackers and littered art projects and fast food receipts. My house is full of mismatched shoes and unfolded laundry and Peppa Pigs in the tub. But my heart is full of love for my little family, even when I’m sick and tired of being tired and sick.

I am not always good and I’m not always kind. I can’t control my temper any better than I ask of these little ones who lose theirs – but they forgive me, again and again. And I’d be lost without them. 

Lose yourself in the everyday glittery, sticky, outside-the-lines art of being a mom, and forgive yourself when you fall short of who you thought you would be.

Because your kids think you’re lovely, just the way you are. 

Dear mamas, don’t forget to take care of YOU.

Recently I made a joke about making all my neglected doctor visits now that my youngest is in school three days a week. The schedulers call and I’m all proud, like:

“Do you have anything Monday, Wednesday or Friday?”

Turns out, turning 35 is no joke.

I’ve been to the dermatologist, the gynecologist and the general practitioner, who noted my family history and declared it was time to get a baseline mammogram. 

Two weeks later, the hospital called and asked me to come back for additional imaging. I was assured this was pretty common.

But my mind, as the minds of mothers do, started spiraling. 

“If it’s bad, I’ll get my breasts removed,” I thought.

“If I die, maybe someone can still get my books published.”

“I’ll write letters and make videos for the kids, so they know how much I love them.”

THE KIDS. 

I prayed to God, just please let me stay here and be their mommy.

Over the next two days until my appointment, I went back and forth between trying to carry on like something might not be wrong and imagining all the crazy scenarios in which things could go really wrong – like if my mammogram, pap and skin biopsies ALL CAME BACK CANCEROUS AT THE SAME TIME.

(These were the thoughts I was actually thinking.)

It made me realize how lucky we are to live in a place and time where we can even know about these things and take the necessary steps to fight them. Maybe there’s a reason people used to have babies at 14 and only lived to be 40 years old because there were no machines to tell them they were sick and no medicine to make them better. 

It also made me stop and appreciate the mundane tasks of mothering that aren’t really so bad, after all. I almost cried making PB&J and picking up the million LEGOS and putting tiny white socks on the tiny baby feet because every one of these tedious little things we do is an act of the biggest love there is.

And it’s gonna take a lot more than a repeat mammogram to tell me I don’t get to do them anymore. 

On the day of my ultrasound, tears fell heavy down my cheeks onto the crisp hospital pillow. All I could think about was the incredible responsibility and joy of being a mother, and how the pictures on that screen could change all of our lives, in an instant.

My results were good this time, but it could just as easily have gone the other way. Having a healthy awareness of my health and wellbeing is a privilege I won’t take for granted. 

So ladies (and gentlemen), don’t put off the tests because you still have little people at home with you. Find someone to watch your kids and GO TO ALL THE APPOINTMENTS.

Let us not forget, in the everyday madness of all the little things – we only get to be here to take care of them if first we take care of ourselves.  

Remember when you wanted to be older?

Life has a funny way of putting things in perspective – harsh, like those magnifying mirrors no one wants to look in unless they’re, like, five years old.

From 12 to 18, we spend our days desperate to be older, putting on makeup to make ourselves look “grown up.” We dream about the glamorous life we’ll lead when we have our own husbands and houses and Honda minivans. 

Then, between the ages of 19 and 25, we flat-iron our hair that looks better the way it grows out of our heads and suck in our stomachs that haven’t birthed children and look for flaws that don’t exist because we have no idea what actually growing up is going to do to us. 

Now we’re 26 or 30, and maybe we’re getting married or buying a house or having a baby. We’ve got our big job and we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves but we start to realize, “Hey, now we have a mortgage and a mid-size SUV and maybe being a kid who didn’t need makeup to feel beautiful wasn’t so bad after all.”

Next thing you know you’re pushing 40, and everyone’s getting Botox and you wonder if you should be getting it, too, and honestly … does anything ever change? 

When you were 12 with perfect skin you wanted to look older. Now you’re older, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with your skin except it’s aging, as is the natural order of things – and all you want to do is look younger. You buy all the serums and take all the supplements. 

If you wanted a fake ID that said you were 21 when you were actually 17, now all you want is for people to ask for your ID because they think you’re not old enough to buy all this wine. 

But here’s the thing – if we spend all this time, all our lives, wanting to be something we’re not, how are we supposed to enjoy any of it? I don’t want to wish my life away by wishing to be anything other than happy and healthy.

I don’t feel as old as I am. I don’t care if I look as old as I am, because guess what? I AM ACTUALLY THIS OLD. I have a cool life, a happy home, and I made three awesome people with this sucked-in stomach. 

You don’t have to get Botox, but get the Botox if it makes you feel good. Eat healthy, but have a treat when you need one. Take a long walk, or take a long nap. Love yourself just the way you are.

Life is good today. Just the way it is. 

But don’t forget to moisturize.