Traci's Blog

Traci Murphy, Buzz co-founder and editor, shares thoughts on working-mother-hood.

The Next Frontier

Because I’ve been at this parenting thing awhile, friends and friends of friends that have become friends, are starting to send their children away to college. I keep seeing it on Facebook … tearful moms, nervous dads, lots of hugs, cute dorm decor. They are sending their kids off to the next frontier, where they will have to solve their own problems and choose their own breakfasts and hopefully mom and dad won’t be tracking their iPhones. UD students move in later in August. Some schools have already started.
Incoming first year students at the University of Virginia move in to their dorms on Friday.
Our hearts are with the Charlottesville community and the people who – in Virginia and everywhere – stand up for what is right even in the face of those holding flaming torches and swastika flags. Our hearts are with the officers charged with keeping the peace. Our prayers are with their mothers. We are sending them the strength to tuck the extra long dorm sheets around the beds so very tightly in order to set their children loosely upon their new frontier, armed with love and history and family and not torches and fear.
Many of us will be sending our kids to school in the coming weeks … I’ve said before that Labor Day is the new New Year, when it makes much more sense to tackle resolutions (getting organized, anyone?) than in the middle of winter. We will maybe shed a tear or two of our own (depending on the kid, the milestone, the mom) and we’ll turn our attention to the nitty gritty of what’s next – setting up that homework stations, stocking the healthy snacks, finally getting rid of all the end of year stuff from *last* school year.
Two more weeks til mine start middle school and 4th grade. I’m ready and not ready all at the same time.

Road Trip Back in Time

As our family road tripped this week, I was reminded of the road trips of my youth – the station wagon, sitting in the “way back” sometimes, waist-only seat belts and paper maps, once a very long ride with no AC. No EZ Pass so we kids would always wake up at the tolls. John Denver and Simon & Garfunkel on the 8 Track.

Today? Two kindles, an iPod touch, two mini iPads, a laptop and two iPhones accompanied us over the river and through the woods. Podcasts for the grownups, head phones for the kids, and a navigation screen on the console and Waze should we want to try a different route. Quite a bit different than it was a generation ago. The kids can hardly believe it when we tell them about it.
I propose a 70s and 80s theme park, where we can take the kids for a long weekend – kind of like Colonial Williamsburg or the Historic Houses of Odessa – but less believable. We can stay at a Holiday Inn and watch MTV. If the kids want to watch something other than MTV, they can try that brown box that attaches to the TV with a long cord or just go up to the TV and change the channel by hand. There can be a cool hotel lounge where you can watch Falcon Crest and Hill Street Blues and have a whiskey sour with your cigarette. There will be a mom there, on the phone with the cord stretched alllll the way through the kitchen and out on to the porch, forcing the kids to play Red Rover until it gets pulled out of the wall.
We can tell them that kids used to ride bikes without helmets, and that soccer used to be just on Saturday mornings and you got a trophy only if you actually won. We can tell them that we used to keep score even in little league. We can tell them about dropping off film to get developed and how you used to be able to go right to the gate to meet your grandparents when they flew into town.
We can tell them about life before Google and Amazon Prime.
We will blow.their.minds.

The Ultimate Courtship Ritual

Have you seen those nature documentaries that show how a bird fluffs up its coat of many feathers and does some backwards crazy dance on a tree branch to attract a mate? Or the fish that creates beautiful artistic display on the ocean floor, timed perfectly between the tides, also to attract a mate?
I’m betting that if you’re reading this blog, you’ve already attracted a mate and likely have produced offspring, which is why you may need this guide to teach you one of the most fundamental of all courtship rituals: finding a new babysitter. That’s right, our Hannah is off to college and although we have tried many many times to bribe her to stay local or take a few gap years and stay on with us, she is moving on. While we are all hoping she will make special guest appearances during holidays and we may even get her back next summer (just say no to internships, babysitters!), it’s time for us to make eyes at the teenage girls at the pool and hope they will find us as appealing as we find them.
Top criteria: gotta have access to a car. And a license to drive it. I love the neighbor girl who will wander over if I I’m in a home-based crisis, but on the regular I need a sitter that can get herself AND MY KIDS from A to B. I’d prefer her to have parents that are better off than we are so she has a newish, highly safety rated, large scale SUV. Now that we are out of the carseat stage – a HUGE milestone that you should immediately put in the baby book: “Ashlyn’s carseat was removed today!” – it’s a lot easier to spontaneously have someone else do the run to soccer or theatre or football (flag, don’t judge me).
Second criteria: gotta be amused by kids. If you don’t get a kick out of these little humans, no regular schedule with a fairly generous hourly wage in the world can make it worth it. If you don’t think they’re cute, don’t bother taking our calls. We need you to swoop in and love them up while we are not at home, and you can’t do that if you find them annoying. Sometimes annoying, yes. Regularly? Nope. Next!
Final criteria, and this one’s big: you have to encourage the kids to do their (minimal) chores and you have to anticipate that when I come home after work or dinner or a board meeting or whatever, that I’m going to want the kitchen cleaned up. Let’s just assume that there may have been dishes in the sink and a full dishwasher when you arrived. If you go ahead and take care of that while I’m gone, I will keep you gainfully employed for the rest of your high school career. Now, keep in mind that my children can basically manage their own basic needs. When our kids were babies, the single requirement we had for sitters was to keep them alive until we got home.
So, teenagers at the pool: if you see me looking at you, watching who your friends are and if you spend all your time on your phone, watching if you are nice to the little kids, watching if you get into a safe car and buckle up before you pull out into the parking lot, please know I’m not creepy. I’m just a regular mom looking for someone to take the reins every once in a while.

Fast Times

This summer is literally FLYING by. Swim team season is over. School supplies and fall clothes are in every store. My children have misplaced several beach towels, at least 2/3 of the goggles we started the summer with, and our new favorite at-home activity is finding someone’s missing fidget spinner. What we need up in here is a change of scenery – and so we are headed to the Outer Banks for a vacation unlike one we’ve ever taken before. Four families (that’s 8 adults and 11 kids) in one big house with a pool, pool table, eight bedrooms, four decks, a short walk to the beach, and 42 trips to Costco to get ready. Who’s bringing what and how much it costs has been the driving conversation in a text chain that is spanning what feels like decades. One family is flying in, three families are renting beach stuff, no one has quite enough room in their car, and the big question on everyone’s mind is did we buy enough cereal (maybe) and booze (no). Still – just one more week and I get to dissolve in a week of grapefruit crushes and long lazy beach days with my college friends and their families. Just one night of revisiting old memories and making new ones with these people will make the insane amount of planning worthwhile.
When this blog gets published, it will be 5 weeks until the first school night of the 2017-18 school year. We have a lot of summer left … but we all know it will fly by in a haze of collecting towels and seashells, finding the goggles, and applying sunscreen. We’ll be buying school shoes and getting the back to school haircuts before you know it. Buckle up.

Family.

Families come in all shapes and sizes. This week my husband’s family said goodbye to their matriarch, my husband’s mother, the kids’ grandmother, the Aunt Joan to cousins and their children. As our family gathered in a private interment ceremony, I looked around at our bunch: our sweet cousin, adopted from Korea as an infant and now thriving in a Masters Program at Virginia Tech. My niece’s long term boyfriend, an immigrant from Mexico who left his family of origin behind as a child to come to America years ago. My nephew, with his man-bun and scraggly beard, taller than his father and uncles.
Together with their younger cousins (my kids), they are the future of our family. While we look at photo albums and sort through china cabinets and linen closets, they head back to their worlds in Washington DC and Portland Oregon. They will continue the ongoing conquering of their worlds, one armed with his grandmother’s engagement ring “just in case” and all reinforced by the love and resiliency that comes with being raised in a faithful and loving family environment that sacrificed to educate their children.
Not all kids get that chance. This week I sat in on a film screening of Resilience (http://kpjrfilms.co/resilience/) hosted by Nemours and the Rodel Foundation. It’s a documentary that focuses on Adverse Childhood Experiences and how they come to impact us in terms of behavior and physical health for the rest of our lives – and how we can engage in protective factors to change our own stories and the stories of those around us. SEE THIS FILM. Learn a little more about how social and emotional learning is critical and how these leading organizations are making it a priority locally – follow their hashtag #SELinDE. Learn your ACE score: https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/.
Families come in all shapes and sizes. We are so excited to honor the changing face of families by featuring a new guest blog series (scroll all the way down to see it) that shares the trials and triumphs of surrogacy, and the trials of triumphs of parenting with two daddies. We are so glad that Erik and Jonathan and Heather have chosen to share their story with us. We are so glad that they found each other to bring two new miracles in to this crazy and changing world.
Families come in all shapes and sizes.

Half-Time

On my dad’s 50th birthday, I remember him saying “well, the marching band is on the field. It’s halftime.”
Always a sports metaphor in my house (growing up, if we got in trouble we’d be sent to the Penalty Box) – but it’s a turn of phrase I haven’t forgotten in the twenty years hence. In so many ways, it suddenly feels like half-time … my husband and I are in our mid-forties … which feels a lot like the halfway point considering his parents both passed in their early 80s (one just this week). Our kids are rounding the bend or already in the tween years – college is coming up faster than we’d like or we can pay for. And with the 4th of July in the rearview mirror, even summer feels like it’s halfway over.
So how do we spend the time that’s left? In between making dinner and making money, we are pretty committed to making some solid memories. For the first time, we’re getting in on a big Outer Banks house with a few of my college friends and their families – 8 adults, 11 kids. We’re spending next weekend celebrating the life of my mother-in-law with family events at my husband’s family house – which will soon no longer be ours to visit. We’re enjoying all the big and small moments we have to enjoy before the new school year sets in, making memories as fast as we are braiding friendship bracelets and mixing cocktails. We’re hoping the Summer of 17 never really ends.

Parents Just Don’t Understand

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince knew it for sure: parents just don’t understand. For example, can anyone explain to me why my 9 y.o. twins want to spend so much time watching YouTubers play Minecraft? Or why this slime fad? I guess it’s our job as parents to question and wonder and it’s their job as kids to explore and push boundaries and we aren’t really supposed to understand each other. But here’s the thing … kids just don’t understand either. They wonder, among other things: why do we have to put away our laundry if we’re just going to wear it again and it’s going to end up in the hamper again?
It’s true. Parents and kids just don’t understand. We are caught up in an existential crisis of confusion that will hopefully resolve itself in the college years.
Here’s another thing: how in the world is it already 4th of July weekend? Two more months of Summer17 left to enjoy. We are trying to soak up every minute.

Twins Are The New Black

On behalf of all the MOMs (that’s Moms of Multiples for the uninitiated), welcome to the world to the Carter twins (proud parents Jay-Z and Beyoncé and Big Sister Blue Ivy) and the Clooney twins (George and Amal). It’s an exciting time for you, as your family just grew by twice the typical amount. It’s also a scary time, as the first weeks of parenting a newborn can remind you just how fragile life is and just how much you hate your spouse, the entire world, and all of its inhabitants.
Luckily – and we’re just making assumptions here – you can afford a night nurse and a quality lactation consultant and a hospital grade pump. Put these things to good use and don’t worry too much about the thank you notes for the (useless) Tiffany & Co. baby rattles and the very very useful double stroller that we assume your book group chipped in to buy.
Parenting twins can be a funny thing. No matter the genders of your twins or how well-educated your acquaintances, someone will invariably ask you if they are identical even when they are clearly not. All kinds of people will compliment your husband for doing a single dish or getting up overnight even once, no matter if you are literally Beyonce or an incredibly acclaimed international human rights lawyer and have kind of a big job to manage after your maternity leave is over. EVERYONE will ask you (or at least wonder) if they run in your family or if, you know, you did assisted fertility.
Let’s get this cleared up: no matter how you got the twins, via surrogate or stork or sauvignon blanc and a wild night of staying up past 9:30 while also having a toddler at home, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that twins is twice the amount of one baby. Twice the feedings, twice the diapers, twice the laundry, twice the pacifiers to lose and twice the bottles to wash, ounces to pump, pediatrician visits and teacher conferences.
What you don’t know now, Amal and Bey, is this: there comes a time in every twin parents’ life when you feel just the tiniest bit sorry for families that *don’t* have twins. It’s like your own nature vs. nurture study under your very own roof, day in and day out. There are a million times that you’ll be jealous of the moms with only one child to chase, change, and chastise … but there’s something pretty magical about the twin thing that only parents of twins – like us – truly understand.
Carters and Clooneys, welcome to the club.
And, to the parents of triplets and even higher order multiples, WE LITERALLY DON’T KNOW HOW YOU DO IT.

We Are All Summer Mom

It’s summertime, and moms need a break too. No homework and far fewer organized activities help. Encouraging kids to do just a bit more for themselves, now that the stress of the school year is at bay for a few months, also helps. Call it fostering their independence or protecting your own sanity, but if you follow along with this script, you can have the summer you’ve always dreamed of. My wingmom, who turns into SummerMom in June, swears by this regiment.
1. When the kids begin to approach at the summer BBQ or the pool, SummerMom’s immediate response is “Go ask Dad.” If Dad is not available, next response is “I think this is something you can figure out yourself.”
2. Munchkins are a perfectly acceptable breakfast.
3. And lunch. If you are still hungry, please see if we have any single serving fruit you can eat like a banana or an apple. If we don’t, check for applesauce.
4. There is always snack bar money but please just help yourself and don’t ask. SummerMom is trying to chat with my friends or close my weary eyes for five minutes or read my book and you can just go self-regulate your snack bar choices. If your belly hurts later, that’s a good way to figure out what not choose next time.
5. Sure, you can watch that. If it’s scary, then you can stop and if it has bad language please choose to not repeat that language to your friends whose mothers care more than yours does.
6. Just kidding! Of course SummerMom cares. That’s why I make sure you go to the mom that *has* the sunscreen to get sunscreened up. And to the mom that always has the snacks when you suddenly want a snack.
7. Too much screen time is not good for you, so when SummerMom is catching up on Orange Is The New Black, you can go ride your bike. If you happen to ride your bike to your friend’s house and he’s playing on his xbox, then you can do screen time there if his mom says it’s okay. I really only monitor the screen time going on at our house.
8. Too much sugar is also not good for you so if you have more than two water ices or packages of twizzlers at the pool, please don’t tell me about it. I don’t want to worry about you more than I already do.
9. No, honey, SummerMom can’t help you with that baking/glueing/slime/playdoh/glitter/sand art project. The sitter will be here in a few days and you can get her to help you with it. I pay her to do the things I really can’t stand, like camp pick up and crafts. If you want, we can do a puzzle or play Clue, or Scrabble. Or Boggle.
10. No, SummerMom is not sure where you left your goggles/pool towel/$5 bill. Sorry. Better luck keeping track of your own stuff next time.
See? SummerMom *is* more relaxed than school year mom, PTO Mom, volunteer mom, or juggling it all mom. Enjoy. Labor Day is 11 weeks away.

One Day At A Time

Note to fall sports deadlines and early bird registrations: Calm The F— Down. SERIOUSLY. Some of us haven’t even purchased the end of year teacher gifts yet and you’re all “hurry up and sign up for fall soccer you so don’t miss the early bird price” and I’m all “fall? NOOOOOOO.”
Can we just enjoy a teeny bit of summer first before we have to start planning for fall? Why in the world does rec soccer need my registration this week when soccer rosters won’t come out until the week before practices start?
Before my oldest even finishes 5th grade on Tuesday, I have the 6th grade supply list in hand. Will I use it before August? Nope. Will I lose it before August? Likely. Will the school be able to reach me in August? I’m assuming yes, since every time there is a snow day or a wear white to support whatever day I get three emails, three texts, and three calls to the home phone. I’m guessing they could track me down with a school supply list.
When did I stop being able to plan ahead? Was it the curveball of unexpected twins? Is it nearly 12 years of parenting in general? There was a time when I could happily plan for fall while simultaneously enjoying summer. Now, that feels as impossible as me getting up and running a marathon today. I couldn’t even plan for this weekend’s beach trip before I got through the 3rd grade picnic, the 5th grade picnic, the mud run, a work event, and a board meeting. One Day At A Time no longer feels like a needlepoint pillow or an old TV show or one of the 12 steps – it’s my every day mantra. And it’s not a bad thing. It’s perhaps the best reminder to stay present, stay focused, stay in the now, and don’t wish it away … because this is the only Summer17 we’re ever going to get. Enjoy it, one day at a time.
#ODAAT #HereComesSummer #Summer17