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The Power Of One

Over the past few weeks, friends and neighbors embarked on a journey to help relocated Syrian families get back on their feet. This effort, led by my friend Rana, is intended to go the extra mile, with a  holistic approach to help. It’s not just about providing immediate necessities, but also teaching the families tools that will enable them to rebuild their lives. Last week, Rana decided to introduce the families to the public library, a place that not only has books, but tons of other resources to serve the community they now belong to.

A couple of days before the library meeting, our kids prepared some Hallothumb_DSCN2290_1024ween bags to give to each of the children. We made an enormous mess cutting stickers, gluing stuff to the floor, and drawing on about everything that came in sight. But none of that mattered, nobody got mad. We felt good about what we were doing and we knew that we were sharing a special moment. Even we, grumpy moms agreed!

On the day, of the library visit,  we had assigned ourselves the mission to help the families register to, and navigate the place. Our kids were tasked with giving candy bags and distribute books to the children.

We all had a job to do, but we didn’t work. Not one of us. Because none of it fell like a task, an assignment. It was sheer pleasure and pure reward. We connected, we made friends, we hugged, we laughed. And more importantly, we learnt many life lessons from the very people we came to help. At the end of the afternoon, it wasn’t clear who was helping whom. I think it’s fair to say we were all helping one another.

This is what the Power Of One is about. We all have the ability to bring life changing moments. We don’t have to be powerful, rich or grown-ups to make a difference. We are not expected to cure the world of all its illnesses, to find big scale solutions. But we can help our neighbors. With our individual talent, we can give without counting, comparing or expecting something back. The Power Of One doesn’t move a mountain. The Power Of One picks up a person who stumbled, gives the encouragement that one needs to move forward.  That afternoon, at the library, I witnessed many examples of The Power Of One:

The librarian, Miss Amy welcomed the families, showed them the resources they can use to learn English, get books to their kids. She even set up classes with special softwares to help them learn faster and more efficiently.

Syrian moms and dads taught us that real strength comes form resilience. They showed us that humility and dignity are pillars, and they don’t come with money or status.

Friends volunteered to tutor adults, because they saw successful people, just needing a little hand.

Kids hugged one another and whispered, “You are my friend”, even though they had just met. They can’t wait to meet again, next week.

Are we going to solve any crisis with hugs, English lessons and a few candies? No, of course not. Will our action be like a drop in the ocean? Probably even less than that. But not to our forty seven friends. To them, and to us, we are empowering one another to believe, move forward and take positive strides. The power of one.

When it was time to leave, everybody had to go somewhere, but nobody could extract themselves from this surreal atmosphere. No doubt it won’t always be so nice and cute and there will be bumps. But it’s okay, because we are connected, and we are there for the long haul. Not because we have to. But because it’s meant to be.

 

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Elsa Ruined My Life

If I ever have to answer the question, “What changed your life in the past few years, I definitely know what to say, “Elsa!” Followed by, “change is the understatement of the year”. Elsa and her gang have turned my life upside down. When I share my frustrated comment with other moms, some go, “Oh, yes, I know. My daughter likes Frozen too”

Likes? LIKES! No, ladies, this has nothing to do with liking, or loving. It has to do with complete, utter obsession.

So if your daughter gets addicted, recognize the signs, and get help before it’s too late, like it is for us. The advanced warnings of a HyperFrozenmadmaniatis (not even dramatic enough)  are:

1.  You’ve seen the movie so many times that you know all the lines by heart.

2. Point 1. in at least one foreign language.

3. You’ve seen Frozen on ice, on fire, under water and in space.

4. Your daughter owns three Elsa dresses, the shoes, the jewelry, the wig, the crown, and just put an offer on a castle.

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5. Your house is full of plastic Elsas of all sizes.

6. You’ve decorated your queen’s bedroom with Elsa’s posters, Elsa’s bed sheets, Elsa’s cushions, and a big, giant Olaf guarding the bedroom. And just so you know, Olaf looks very creepy in the middle of the night with his scary grin, like he’s going to swallow you. If I meet him in a dark alley, I won’t be giving him warm hugs.

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Olaf at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Your dog has been renamed Kristoff – must have to do with the smell.

8. You’ve intentionally scratched the CD, totally by accident! Because if you hear someone telling you to “Let It Go” once more, you’re gonna give them what they’re asking for.

9. You own more Elsa books than you can possibly imagine. Even Disney doesn’t know there are that many.

10. You’ve heard a rumor that there’s a sequel coming out, so you need to remortgage the house to get the new outfits, toys and houses.

Finally, if every single conversation in your house has turned into an excerpt of Frozen, you’re cursed. Like whenever there’s an argument brewing between two people, and your daughter mumbles, “Let the storm rage on”. Or if you ask her to put a jacket on to go to school and she blurts out, “The cold never bothered me anyway”, you’re doomed. The only option is to move to another planet. I’m seriously considering that plan.

 

 

 

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Parenting 101: Sarcasm Is A Bad Idea

Sarcasm is one of these things that divide the planet: is it useful? Efficient? Or should it simply not exist? Some people say that sarcasm is the lowest form of intelligence, while others think it’s the best tool ever to put a point across.

I, for one can see both sides of the argument. We don’t use sarcasm to convey something nice. Ever. So that speaks volume about its usage. However, sometimes, when you have exhausted all other options, there might genuinely be nothing left to do.

I don’t have a strong opinion on sarcasm. Sometimes I ditch it, sometimes I take it, and that’s fine. However, moms, be aware,  don’t ever be tempted to use it as a parenting tool. Because you might be in for a tough ride. One might say I’ve learned by experience and what an experience it has been! Here’s what happened.

My little girl is living on a planet of her own. She’s the absolute ruler of her universe. At home, she rarely bothers with “please” and “thank you”. You might be judging me as a bad parent for not teaching polite behavior to my kids. And I’ll be the first one to admit that I am no mother of the year. But as far as being polite goes, I am pretty firm. My daughter is just a tough nut to crack. So after repeating stuff a gazillion times, punishing, reasoning, and generally making zero progress on the topic, I resorted to sarcasm. If little miss rude doesn’t want to understand and play by the rules, then let’s turn the table a little and see if that gets me anywhere. And just so you know, it got me nowhere . . .

Before I was a sarcastic mom, when my daughter asked for something without being polite I would prompt her, “Haven’t you forgotten something?” and she would look straight at me, “No, what?”

“Well, what’s the magic word?”

“Abracadabra?” Smart butt. . . “No, the other magic word, the one that gets you things”

“I don’t want to do magic, I just want water”

So, yeah, I don’t think the lesson is sinking in. I need a new strategy. Now, when I give something to my little princess and she doesn’t say “Thank you”, I just go, “You’re welcome”, in the hope that it will remind her she forgot something important. Everybody in the house has adopted this behavior. It’s become the norm: we say “You’re welcome” and my daughter says “Thank you” It’s a little topsy turvy, but it works.

Except, the other day, my son was helping his sister to some water, but he wasn’t in a mood for sarcasm. Instead, he snapped,

“Hey, I don’t know why you’re so rude here. But I hope you say “Thank you” at school when the lunch lady gives you your food”

To which my daughter replied, “No, I don’t say “Thank you”, because they’re supposed to say “you’re welcome” first, but they never do. So that means I don’t have to say anything”

As we all picked up our jaws from the floor, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, she added, “Anyway, you’re not my father, so butt out” and went on to rule the rest of the world.

So beware, you can’t outsmart a six year old. Never. Don’t even bother trying.

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What’s The Universe Trying To Tell You?

The universe talks to you. Listen carefully. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious. And if you don’t get the message, you’ll be sorry.

Like when you are planning a road trip to visit friends for the holidays.  The day before you leave, your car breaks down. But you’re not listening and you get it fixed. No worries, the universe can be really loud when it wants to. So the car breaks down again as you drive back from the garage. Are you reading the writings on the wall? No! You go and rent a car instead. The universe is not done trying to give you clues, so next thing you know, your three kids get sick. Too bad the universe doesn’t know that you’re not quite the mother of the year type so you decide to travel anyway. Still it throws a last scream at your deaf ear. While you’re packing your bags, an alert comes on your phone about an impending snow storm. But you’re not listening to anything. You jump in your rental car, with your sick kids and off you go.

Well, don’t complain that the four hour trip took fifteen, that you got sick when you arrived there, and that your dog peed on your friend’s carpet who are since then, not your friends anymore . The universe tried to warn you loud and clear to not go, but you couldn’t be bothered listening, could you?

Sometimes, the universe just whispers. It gives you some indication that you should be mindful, but it’s not exactly clear what the message is. So you have to rack your brains and try to understand what’s gonna hit you around the corner.

This is what I’m going through right now. I hear the warnings, but I can’t put everything together.

Last week, my iron kinda exploded. I plugged it in, there was a “boom”, a spark, and then nothing. Okay, not good, but whatever. I don’t have time to over analyze this so I got another iron and thought I was done with this. Then, a few days later, this happened.

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As incredibly as it looks, my fridge door fell off. Just like that. Not your typical day for a stay-at-home mom. I mean a leak, a power outage, even a tree falling on the car, I get it. But that!

So now I’m walking around the house with a helmet, wondering what’s next. I know the universe is trying to tell me something. I receive the message, it’s just not very clear. But I’ve narrowed it down to a few possibilities:

 

 

 

  1. My house is haunted. I don’t mind that explanation as long as the ghosts aren’t gonna make a bigger mess in the house and don’t expect to be fed or driven to after ghost school activities.
  2. I shouldn’t be cooking, ironing, or doing anything along the lines of house cleaning. Mmmm, definitely like that message.
  3. I need a new iron and a new fridge. Okay, I get that. No need to be so dramatic about it.

Although, to be fair to the universe, it tried to tell me a few months back through the voice of my husband, “Hun. maybe I should buy you a new fridge for your birthday, what do you think?”

“Sure! Don’t forget to change identity and move to a remote secret location where I can never find you, right after you do that” was my answer. Maybe I’m just being punished for being a bad wife . . . yeeeaaaah . . . No, I’ve been a bad wife for twelve years so it’s like the saying, “possession is nine tenth of the law”. With all my experience and knowledge, I am entitled to be a bad wife. In fact, I own bad-wifeism. Hear that, universe?

 

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Lessons Learnt From The Summer

I don’t get tired of writing posts about summer. For starters, it makes me feel like it’s not over yet. Obviously, I’m gonna reach a point where reminiscing about summer while it’s snowing mountain-high outside will seem ridiculous. But my daughter has been reading Christmas books for the past two months and singing “Jingle Bells” every morning, so our house standards are pretty low when it comes to being sensible.

Secondly, you have to admit: summer is a great learning time. During the year, you’re expected to learn stuff. You either go to school, or work, you meet people, you get all these experiences and for sure, some of them make you grow as a person. But in the summer, none of that nonsense applies. There’s no homework, no routine, no nothing. And yet, the learning never stops. It’s a different kind of learning. It feels more practical, more hands-on type of stuff that will stick with you for the rest of your life.

Take camp for example. What have you learnt this summer? That your kids need to go to camp! And how did you learn it? By not sending them. Will you make that mistake again? Nonononononono! In fact, we’re only in September and you’ve already booked a full ten weeks of fun for next year. Who said you were not organized? You finally understand  why parents don’t spend the summer “relaxing” with their kids. After spending three months hoping to make at least one of them semi-happy and failing miserably, you get it. There’s nothing relaxing about trying to entertain trolls whose sole ambition is to wind one another up, or gang together against you to obtain as much screen time as humanely possible. The thing is, you got that after day three, but you still had to suffer for three months. I guess you can say the lesson really sank in well. That’ll teach you.

Another thing you’ve learnt is that camping is rubbish. To be fair, you knew that already. But you were kinda hoping that with all the technology progress that the world is making, camping’s gonna follow the movement and soon, you’ll be sitting in your remotely operated indestructible and fully air-conditioned electronic tent, with your fully equipped kitchen, your five star bed, covered with fresh silk sheets, luxury bathroom with a hot tub, surfing the internet on your wifi, and watching all the sports channels. Honestly, if that’s really what you’re hoping for, why bother going camping in the first place?

Anyway, don’t answer that, because camping is still the same miserable, horrible experience. You still can’t pitch this insanely complicated tent, dinner is cold and consists of uncooked can food – provided you remembered the can opener. Otherwise, dinner is just looking at the bloody cans. You stink because you can’t shower. Speaking of things you can’t do, you can’t sleep either, the air mattress has a hole, it’s cold and nature is so noisy at night.

But why are you so surprised? Any activity that requires you to fit such a huge sleeping bag into such a tiny space, has got to be bad news . . .

camping

So yeah, camping is definitely off the list. As Dave Barry says, “Camping is nature’s way of promoting the motel business. ”

Armed with what you’ve learnt this summer, I suppose you won’t be trying camping with kids next year. If you are, please keep a diary and send me a daily mail. That would be my blog posts covered for a while . . .

 

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The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life

Yesterday, when I went to bed, I told my husband, “Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life”. To which he answered, “Whatever you say, hun”

I get why he is skeptical. Other than being English, he’s also heard me say this on many occasions, and it turned out that the rest of my life was no different from the day before the first day of the rest of my life.

But this year, he should give me more credit. I have a plan. From now on, I will get up early, do 20 minutes of gym, get the kids ready for school with no drama, no late arrival, and no shoe missing. School drop off will no longer be dramatic, or chaotic and once I am done, I will be poised and relaxed. I meant what I wrote a few weeks ago: fall resolutions are here to stay.

That was the theory anyway. Here is what really happened on the first day of school.

I woke up super early. So far, so good. Then my husband hit the snooze button so I went back to sleep for 10 minutes. Which was okay, really, because if I’m going to exercise everyday, 20 minutes is an overkill. I’m sure 10 is plenty. When I eventually got up, 20 minutes later, there was no time for exercising. But I read somewhere that you need to give your muscles a rest so it’s not such a bad thing. Mine have been resting for a few weeks months now, so what’s one more day?

I got kid 1 up and dragged him down the stairs for breakfast. We made it to the bus stop in time, with no drama, all necessary clothes on, and I think he even had his own backpack. Then we waited for the bus. And waited. And waited. Eventually, when it showed up, it was 20 minutes late. So I had to run back to the house, screaming hysterically at kid 2 and kid 3 to get up, GET UP, GET UP!! while I put the oven on to prepare kid 3’s lunch. With 20 minutes stolen from the morning routine, we had to make sacrifices and decided that luxurious things like showers and breakfast needed to be postponed by 24 hours. I hurried both kids in  the car and drop kid 2 a little late. But nothing happens on the first day, right? So no big deal. When I drove back home to finish kid 3’s lunch, my fire alarm was screaming because I had forgotten the chicken nuggets inside the oven. Oops. . .

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Thankfully, I had a couple of donuts left from yesterday. Donuts are great. They make a perfect breakfast AND lunch. At least, that’s what I told my daughter when she looked at me funny. We finally showed up at her school just when the bell was ringing. By then I was sweating like mad from all the dashing and running, stressed up like crazy, and really, really upset with the way this day had started.

So I did the only sensible thing there is to do in such a situation: I went on the internet and surfed for like-minded people wit crazy mornings. And I found this gem! So today really IS the beginning of the rest of my life, because I am not alone anymore . . .

https://www.scarymommy.com/morning-routines-four-regular-women/

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Ten Reasons Why A Mom’s Birthday Is Unique?

Nothing beats a birthday. Nothing. The excitement, the surprises, the Feeling-Like-A-Queen experience that comes with being the Birthday Girl, do you remember?

Of course you don’t. You’re a mom. And a mom’s birthday is out of this world, but for very different reasons. Here are ten unique features:

  1. You don’t want it to be your birthday. In fact, you’re pretty sure there must be a mistake. Because your last birthday was less than a year ago, so how come there’s another one already?
  2. You’ve asked everybody to stop wishing you your birthday. It reminds you of getting older, kids growing up, and that’s just plain depressing. Of course, nobody listens to you and they all go, “Happy Birthday!” on your Facebook wall, so the people who didn’t know it was your birthday (and that might include you) can rub it in your face.
  3. The only person who does as you wish and forgets about your birthday is your husband. He is also the only one who isn’t supposed to. You’re not trying to be difficult or anything, but you were kinda hoping that as you grew older, the presents would get bigger. You’re not shallow and materialistic, but it’s your birthday for crying out loud!
  4. Hubby forgetting is bad enough in itself, but it also means that if you want a birthday cake to blow JUST A COUPLE of candles with your kids, you’ll have to go and buy it yourself. Mmmm, you wonder what you’re going to surprise yourself with this year – maybe chocolate cake?
  5. The only people who seem genuinely excited about your birthday are your kids. They want to throw a big party and shower you with presents. You have to drive them to the mall, so they can buy you a surprise gift that you must pay for. Then you go home, wrap your surprise present, because they insist that even though you know what it is, it wouldn’t be a birthday present if it wasn’t wrapped. They don’t care that you have to drive back to the mall (by yourself this time, as they can’t be bothered) and buy wrapping paper. Twice, because the first one you brought back didn’t say, “Happy Birthday” on it. Once you have wrapped your own present, you need to hide it so you can’t find it – some family rituals are really stupid . . .
  6. You also need to remind your kids to write their surprise cards to you before they go to bed. Let’s hope that you remembered to buy the surprise cards when you went out to get the wrapping paper.
  7. On the day, the kids wake you up at 5am because they can’t wait to give you your surprise cards, and surprise present, and look at the surprise on your face – did I mention it was a surprise?
  8. After a lot of “Wow” and “Greaatttt!!”, they insist that you put the exact amount of candles on the cake. Otherwise, it’s not like a birthday cake. You need to keep them focussed on the task as they lose count – it’s that many candles! Except for your littlest one, who proceeds on counting up to one hundred. You’re not quite sure whether she’s just showing off her math skills, or she genuinely thinks you’re that old.
  9. Everybody sings “Happy Birthday”, the one where you live in a zoo. Then your husband thinks he is being funny and goes, “Are you one? Are you two?” and all the kids join in. You cringe but say nothing. Everybody loses interest after “Are you twenty five?” because it takes so bloody long. But don’t fool yourself, nobody thinks you’re twenty five.
  10. Finally, after you cleared up the mess in the kitchen because the Birthday Fairy didn’t show up yet again, its time for bed. You won’t have to go through that for another 364 days.

Happy Birthday Moms, wherever you are!

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My September Resolutions

I make New Year’s resolutions that I don’t keep, summer ones that don’t do any better. But I’m feeling good about September resolutions. It’s that time of the year where things get organized, routines come alive, so surely, it is the perfect season to make resolutions that will last!

This time, the difference is that I am not just making resolutions, I have also done a serious amount of research about why I need to make them, and how to stick with them? Kinda like a business case to convince myself that I’m not just wasting my time with my ridiculous ideas.

So what am I gonna do in September that’s gonna change my life? Well, first of all, I’m gonna get up early every morning. I know what you’re thinking, and you are not wrong, given that this has been on my New Year’s resolution list since 1984. But this time I’ve worked on a plan:

– Instead of depriving myself of 2 hours of sleep, I am going to go to bed 2 hours before my regular time. Which might be an issue because that would mean that my kids go to bed later than me. Obviously, I haven’t got all the final details sorted out yet . . .

– In case of extreme tiredness during the day, nap is always an option. An hour here, an hour there. This could affect my efficiency but thankfully, I am not making any resolutions about that, so now I am set for success.

I am also going to exercise four times a week. Are you done laughing? Things are very different now: we have a full length mirror in the house. I have become painfully aware of certain things that I don’t care to list here because this could take a while. So no more dragging my feet, using excuses and not finding the time.

OR, I could just get rid of the mirror, which means I won’t need to exercise, which means I can probably stay an extra hour in bed.

Yes, I like that better, so let me summarize my fall resolutions: I will go to bed two hours earlier, let the kids fend for themselves while I snore my head off, do zero work during the day and nap once or twice. It won’t be easy, but I think I can make that work . . .

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Not That Kind Of Mother

Tomorrow will be my eighth back to school mom-day. Eight! Wow, not getting any younger, are we? But unlike the last seven years, tomorrow is gonna be new, exciting and full of promises. Why? Because this year, I made a list of no-nos. With all my experience, tomorrow I will not let the following happen:

– Let my child be overwhelmed and disoriented, resulting in a screaming tantrum, hanging on to my pants, and accidentally pulling them down.

– Be embarrassed by my child’s behavior. There will be no such thing, because I am a no-nonsense-mother, totally, totally in control, with no room for misbehaving kids. I got this, I got it all, and shame is NOT the game.

– Take any disrespect from my off-spring. Nonononono! Gone are the days where you corner me outside of school, demanding a playdate, or an hour on the playground and ignoring my protest. None of that shenanigan!

This year, I’m gonna make all these issues disappear with one simple trick: I’m gonna go to school the day before, show my child her new environment, and establish very clearly, in front of the teacher, that mom’s in charge.

So I did exactly that today. And let me tell you, it kinda works. Not exactly how I planned it though, but does it matter? I met with the teacher and showed my daughter her new classroom so she won’t feel overwhelmed tomorrow. I can tick that box. In fact, I can even say that this went better than expected. Dare I say, almost too well? My daughter was so much at ease by the end of the meeting that she decided to share some personal information with her new teacher. So she piped,

“When I get up in the morning, my mom stays in bed because she is lazy” Okay, so I probably won’t be embarrassed this year because my daughter took care of that before school even started.

I was mortified so I looked straight at my darling angel, with eyes screaming, “Would you shut up already?”. Obviously, she didn’t sense the tone I was trying to convey and went on,

“Whatteeeuuu? Argh, mom, you are so boring. . . ” And that takes care of the disrespect point. So there you go, twelve hours before school starts and I’ve already hit rock bottom. Surely, from now on, the only way possible is up?

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Back To School: Time To Get Organized

In a week, it is back to school. YAY!!! I don’t mean to sound too happy, I love having the kids around and all that, but seriously, I need time to do stuff. Important things like blogging and. . . yeah, other. . . stuff.

So in seven days, the world belongs to me!! With all this free time in my hands, I should be able to come up with an awesome invention by the end of the week, realign the continents on Earth come October, and conquer a few planets before Thanksgiving. I am getting dizzy thinking about all the possibilities…

I’ll have a full six hours, all to myself. Six hours. That’s 360 minutes.  I don’t mean to brag, but with all the multi-tasking I do, 6 hours probably equates  to 30 hours of freedom IN ONE day. At least!

Like the good mom that I am, the first day of school, I intend to drop my kids at school a little early so that the trip back home doesn’t eat any of my 360 minutes – Parent of the year crown, here I come!!! But I don’t care, it’s MY TIME! All 360 minutes of it, and I will do WHATEVER I PLEASE!!!

I’m just hoping that I’m off to a better start this year than  last year. Because last “Back to school” did not live up to its promise. Not one bit…

Firstly, everybody started and ended their schedule at very different times. That day should not have been called “Back to school”, but “Kinda Back to some little tiny bits of school”. By the time I had finished dropping off the third kid, it was almost time to pick up the first one! These few round trips cost me 120 minutes of my precious, precious time.

Then, I don’t know what happened, but time got sucked into another dimension and pouf!! The remaining 240 minutes disappeared. Just like that! No time for anything! Not even the essentials, like filling the fridge, getting dressed. Nothing! So another name for “kinda back to school” day should be, “PJ” day as far as I am concerned…

When my husband came home, he found our kitchen table like this…

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YES! These are breakfast bowls, honey!!!!

He knew better than to say anything to me, especially when I looked like I did not inject, swallow or breathe any caffeine (I did not have time for coffee…) but he did not need to. His eyes said it for him. Something along the lines of, “Really? You did not even pick up the breakfast bowls?”

Pfff…. Men are unbelievable! I mean, what did he think I did while he was sitting comfortably at his desk, chatting on the phone! I had been running around, ALL DAY, doing… you know… Stuff! A lot of them.  It’s not like I was wasting my energy, or being inefficient and disorganized. No, that was the OLD me! The new me is on top of things! If only I just had two more hours in the day…

To get ideas on what to do on “Back To School” day, check out this hilarious video from WhatsUpMoms.