I loathe gossip. It makes people get nasty, and it hurts feelings. It always falls into one of two categories: 1) completely, categorically false or 2) none of anyone’s damn business anyway.

Recently a mom on SocialMoms.com posed the question, how do you avoid getting involved in neighborhood gossip? This can be really difficult, because sometimes gossip comes packaged as if it were real, actual news that we should care about, and even I have gotten caught up in it once in a while.

The main thing I do is give everyone the benefit of the doubt. If someone says something to me like, “I heard Susie Jo is a bit of a drinker,” or something in that ballpark, I generally don’t respond, but give a shrug and a face that says, “Oh, ok,” and I change the subject. Because, more often than not, I barely even know the gossip target well enough to speculate on any part of their life. And this statement is textbook gossip, because it’s common enough to be true, but there are no real qualifiers aside from “a bit of a”, so it’s unclear what the statement really even means. Even if I have personally seen Susie Jo tipping back a handful of margaritas at a barbecue, I don’t say this. I stay quiet and I give Susie Jo the benefit of the doubt.

And I’m not saying you need to confront Susie Jo. If she’s kind of a good friend, and you feel like bringing it up, then do. But if you’d rather just let the rumor fade into the background, that’s good too. That’s actually my other tip: stay out of it. Confronting Susie Jo will only make her feel self-conscious (whether it’s true or not) knowing the whole neighborhood is talking about her, and she will likely resent you for it, even if you are only the messenger. It’s a tough call though. If you are good friends and you don’t say anything, she may also be upset. It’s up to you to decide. The point is if you do say anything at all, it should only be to her.

If you find that you have a chronic gossiper in your circle, it’s best to either call them out for it, letting them know you want no part of it, or you limit the time you spend with them, maybe even cutting them out altogether. Surrounding yourself with that kind of person can make you more and more like them every day. Not to mention Guilty by Association: people will know that they are a gossiper, and that you are one of their friends, and will therefore assume you gossip too.

The most important thing is learning how to recognize gossip for what it is. Which is difficult, I know. Like I said, I’ve gotten swept up in gossip before. Make it a rule to never speak about someone unless it is in a positive light (and even be careful with that) or if they are in the same room. Regard the people in your life as actual humans with actual feelings, instead of characters in a juicy novel. Their habits, their lifestyles, their choices are not yours to judge or to speculate on. Imagine how you would feel if people began gossiping about you.

Stuff They Don’t Tell You About Being a Mom

I’m going to lay it all out there. Because I love you.

1. Your kiddo will poop in the bathtub. More than once. Put a bottle of bleach on that baby registry, just so you’re all set.

2. You will cough/sneeze/laugh/bend over in public and, WHOOPS a little pee will sneak out. It sucks. Try to remind yourself that other women go through this too. Though, that never seems to help me.

3. Just because your baby has started sleeping through the night doesn’t mean you have endless nights of peaceful slumber ahead of you. Every new stage of development seems to bring its fair share of kiddo sleeping difficulties. You’ll get a good night’s sleep when they ship off to college. Oh, wait…

4. There WILL be a picky eating phase. Ok, some women do get to bypass this. But they are the LUCKY MINORITY.

5. Get the washable crayons, and thank me later.

6. Television is not the devil (in moderation, of course). I swear, that’s how my son knows his alphabet at age 2 1/2. Keep it educational, keep it to just a few shows a day, and let yourself off the hook.

7. Travel when they are 0-6 months, and travel after they are 4 (this is a full assumption, as my son is only going on 3). Between these ages is PURE TRAVEL HELL, be it car, airplane or even walking a few blocks. This is where bribery with candy suddenly becomes a perfectly acceptable modern parenting method.

8. If you will be a SAHM, get a hobby. And some mom friends. For your sanity. No, seriously.

9. In the first few years of life, it is completely unnecessary to purchase anything for birthdays or holidays. The grandparents will take care of that.

1o. Every other mom you meet will judge your parenting methods in some way, shape or form. It’s the ones that verbosely call you out on it that you want to give the finger to. The other ones are just human. And you will judge other moms too, trust me. Just remember: they are a mom, just like you are a mom, and (almost) all of us love our little ones to bits and are doing everything we think is right.

11. Keep the fridge stocked with wine. Or beer. Or vodka, whatever your poison. There WILL be days that you WILL be thankful for this. Especially between the ages of 2 and 4. And it’s no coincidence that potty training happens during these years.

12. Be prepared to clean food and/or juice off of every surface of your home. EVERY surface. I don’t know how they do it, I don’t know why they do it, but yes, you may just find a pile of dried up/moldy applesauce inside of your living room subwoofer. Just sayin’.

13. On that note, put all disc slots and video game systems out of reach. They learn REALLY quickly how to insert just about anything (except the discs or games themselves) into those slots. Once we pulled not only a game, but a coaster and a rock from our Wii. At the same time.

14. Set aside a good amount of money to repair the small electronics that your child destroys. We’ve had to fix cameras and cell phones and computer screens and computer mice and there’s no telling what’s to come.

15. If your little boy loves Dora, you will go to the store and realize that everything Dora-related comes in girl colors. Get it for him anyway. Life is too short.

16. Don’t watch the news. It will overwhelm you with the urge to squeeze your children back into the womb, where they are safe.

17. Don’t swear in front of children older than 18 months. We are big swearers. And don’t really care when our son swears. But, when they say, “Stupid F@#$ing car!” at preschool, trust me, you will care.

18. Develop your patience level. “I want to put on my sweater by myself!” and “I want to go down the stairs by myself!” can take up a full hour of your day, easy.

19. You’re going to have that moment where you say something that your mom or dad said that you always hated, and you’re going to be all, “Damn, I’m just like them.” But, then you will have that moment where you you will think, “they had do go through this crap with me” and you will realize that they were amazing parents, and you will be an amazing parent too.

20. Just because you’ve done a ton of research, and have a ton of parenting books on your shelf, and have raised X number of kids already and you write a parenting blog…well, none of that means that you will have all the answers all the time. We raise and nurture and teach and form and create HUMAN BEINGS. It’s tough work. Seriously, give yourself a break.

Exciting Bloggy News

I’m so excited to let you know I’m working with SocialMoms (formerly known as TwitterMoms), helping them to moderate their discussion forums for online selling tips and promotion of handmade goods by moms! I’m also working with them to choose items for their new “Shop” tab!

This is my formal invitation to all of you SocialMoms out there to join the fun on Facebook and promote your products or ask questions about online selling, or really just to hang out and connect with other online moms, there are tons of different discussions and ways to get involved.

Click here to check it out!

Turning Off the White Noise

My brain decided it was time to be awake at about 4:30 a.m. this morning. I often wake up one or two times during the night, so it wasn’t a big surprise. What really surprised me though, was how awake I was.

I tried and tried to fall back asleep, because I was still very tired physically. But I could not turn off my brain! My mind was bouncing around like a ping pong ball.

Part of this is from my famous excessive worrying problem, and it’s not the first time I haven’t been able to fall asleep because I was worried about something. But this IS the first time I couldn’t fall back asleep at 4:30 a.m. and I didn’t have a specific worry item keeping me up. Just basic worry.

I wasn’t worried about a biggie like a job interview or paying a bill or a sick kid or anything worthy of staying awake at that ungodly hour. I was worried I’d forget to thaw meat for tonight’s dinner. And had I forgotten to sweep the living room? And I wonder how I should dress Bowie for preschool today. THIS is what my mind wanted to do at 4:30 this morning.

What strategies do you use to calm the worries, shut off your brain for the night, and fall asleep (or back to sleep)?

Photo credit: mconnors from morguefile.com

10 tips for smarter holiday shopping and gifting

This time of year, it’s very easy to get sucked into the drama and the stress of holiday shopping. I’ve been there! Here are my ten tips on making things a little easier.

1. Shop year-round. You heard me. Have those feelers out 364 days a year. Watch for sales, clearance racks and other deals, and just keep an eye out for gifts that you knew a certain someone would love, or just gifts you know just about anyone would love and store them away in your closet. I’m not talking Hoarders-style here, just a few things you see that are perfect. You can always fill in the gaps come November and December.

2. If you get gift cards, be absolutely certain that the recipient enjoys regularly shopping or eating at the establishment that you choose. There are some striking statistics out there on how many gift cards go completely unused (i.e. wasted). If you’re at all unsure, skip it. A small gift you know they will enjoy goes a lot further.

3. Clothing isn’t a great gift option, so just skip it if you can. Unless you are privy to someone’s sizes (and most of us are not, not even our spouses) it can be awkward for them if it doesn’t fit, and difficult to exchange or return. Save yourself the stress of “what size? WHAT SIZE?!” and opt for a handbag or a nice scarf instead.

4. If you’re a big giver, set aside a little money each month in a special account that you can use toward holiday purchases. It certainly helps to have that money in place when the time comes, and it’s SO much better than maxing out all your credit cards and trying to deal with it in January.

5. Handmade gifts are often the best gifts. Make some homemade cookies or jams, decorate a wooden picture frame, have children color pictures, make a simple sewing project or put together a scrapbook of a favorite memory. Not only are handmade gifts completely unique, but they come straight from the heart, and that’s what a recipient really wants.

6. With some people, I find it fun to have a gift-giving tradition. Each year, buy each other the same thing: an ornament, funky earrings, garden seeds, coffee mugs, whatever it is that you share an interest in. It takes the thinking out of a gift, and in the end you each will have a fun collection.

7. For children, if you find yourself in the toy aisle, head swirling, head to the games and puzzles. They are much more enjoyable and educational. Just find something age-appropriate.

8. Save yourself some money and only send holiday cards to close friends and family. Cut out friends you haven’t spoken to in forever, old bosses, obscure 5th cousins, anyone you wouldn’t mind not getting a card from yourself. You can save a bundle on cards and postage.

9. If you really don’t know what to get someone, just ask. Better you feel like a fool for a few minutes, not knowing what to get, than feel unsure forever that you’re getting the right gift. The recipient usually appreciates being asked rather than you doing some quick guess work.

10. Consider spending money to “adopt a family” instead of exchanging gifts. My mom’s family has been doing this recently, and it’s so great. For one, it completely eliminates the stress of buying gifts, and you’re also helping a family in need, which feels so great. Another great gift is making a charitable donation in your recipient’s name. They will feel honored, and you will have put your money to good use.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Office Depot blogging program, making me eligible to get a $40 Office Depot gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Where the Violent Things Are

I was reading a post on the popular and awesome Finslippy (and Alice’s subsequent Redbook article) a while back about kids who get a little physically violent when they throw a tantrum, or sometimes even if they are just playing or excited or whatever. The point is, they hit/kick/bite/punch/pinch/scratch. And IT HURTS.

At the time I read this, Bowie was doing a little bit of hitting, but nothing of note, really. I still could sympathize, though. It was annoying. And I was feeling like a bad parent, like I had done something to bring this behavior on. I was worried that he wouldn’t outgrow it before school, and that it was all my fault.

There was also a slew of comments in response (which I can’t seem to locate at the moment) about how other moms didn’t have this problem and “my son never hit me” and that kind of thing. No one said outright “You’ve brought this upon yourself!”, but it was there, between the lines, very passive-aggressive-like.

So, fast forward a few months to now, and the violent outbursts gradually increased until last month when I ended a 4 hour plane ride with bruises, scratches and a bite mark leaving people to wonder what I said to start that bar fight I was in.

Bowie hits. And bites. And pinches. And I am at my wit’s end trying to get him to stop. I have tried every parenting method from calmly explaining the consequences of his actions all the way to doing it back (in a manner that won’t physically maim of course). My frustration is two-fold. #1. I have no idea where he got these habits from and #2 IT HURTS. It really hurts. I have bruises and bite marks and scratches, and I flinch when he comes near me sometimes; it’s like being in an abusive relationship.

I know it’s a phase, and it will pass. But, will I make it to the other side? Will his playground friends? He is just so rough.

And I used to poo poo all over the theory that violent media have caused children to be more violent, but my one and only theory about where he got this from (aside from friends telling me ‘he’s a boy, it’s natural’) is that sometimes when he’s playing, we have some not so kosher television programs on in the background, such as The Wire, Weeds, Rescue Me, Sons of Anarchy, Dirty Harry movies, stuff like that. He’s not sitting there watching it with us, but I’m sure he’s seeing stuff he shouldn’t. So, we will curb that.

What do you think? Was your child like this? Will I survive? Is it the TV? Halp!

Ten things I want you to know about having a baby

  1. Childbirth isn’t that bad. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it hurts a lot. But, you get through it. Some simple breathing exercises, an epidural, squeezing the life out of your partner’s hand, there are ways to get through. Think of it this way: it’s what your body was made to do. So, don’t have a planned C-section just to avoid labor. As a friend has said, “You don’t know pain until you sneeze with a fresh C-section wound.”
  2. Breastfeeding is hands down the best thing for your baby. I know some of you will have trouble with it. It’s not easy for everyone, in fact it’s not easy for anyone. If you stick with it and your milk supply is ok, you’ll get the hang of it. I’m not saying you have to stick with it for very long, an amount is beneficial. But, just try it. If it doesn’t work, so be it. At least you tried. P.S. It’s not weird, not even with a son. I too thought it would be, but it was quite the opposite.
  3. You don’t have to go for days without showering. I used to read about this all the time and I was seriously freaking out. I loves me some showers. But, I have yet to go a full 24 hours without taking a shower. There are simple tricks to doing this: putting the baby in a swing or bassinet outside the bathroom door, showering while baby naps… just rest assured you don’t have to give up your regular morning shower to be a mother.
  4. You can have alcohol if you’re breastfeeding. Just one or two drinks has no affect on your baby. More than that, and you should not nurse for 2 hours, but you can pump and have milk on reserve for such occasions. I mean, abstain from alcohol if you want to, but it’s not necessary.
  5. Go to every mom-baby activity or new mom group in your area. You might not click with all the women, but you will find a few good go-to people, and maybe even make some new friends. Plus, you and baby both need that time away from the home to keep your sanity. Trust me.
  6. Rotate the toys. Keep a healthy stash of toys hidden away, and a handful of toys out in the regular play area. If one day the baby seems to not want to play with anything, swap the toys with some from the stash and it’s like a brand new set of toys to them. Works like a charm.
  7. Sleep when the baby sleeps. At least in the first 6 months. I know you’ve heard this a zillion times, I know I did. But, I’m telling you to take heed. It’s so important to keep yourself rested and healthy so you can take care of the little one. Let the housework go. Nothing will happen if the laundry or dishes sit for an extra day, believe me.
  8. Take me-time or have a date night only if you feel like it. I felt really pressured into taking a date night with my husband, about the time my baby was 5 months old. But, I wasn’t ready. And I sat and worried about the baby so much that I could barely participate in conversation with my husband. He and his sister (our babysitter for that evening) told me I was too much of a worry wart and needed to “cut the cord”. But, I was totally ready two months later, and relished in the time away from baby. Yes, getting away is important for your marriage and for your sanity. But don’t feel pressured into doing it before you’re ready.
  9. Travel early and travel often. In the first 6 months, your baby is so portable and travels so well, you have to get out and go places, even if it’s only a few states over to visit family. After 6 months, they become more mobile and are harder to transport. They don’t want to sit still, they don’t want to be quiet, and good luck trying to keep their nap schedule. It will be tough to travel for a few years, so try to get the travel bug out of your system while the little one is still really, uh, little.
  10. Sex is going to feel different. And I mean *different*. And you may not want to have it for a while. But, don’t fret. You WILL want to again. And you just have to acclimate yourself to your new body and learn a few new tricks.