Traci's Blog

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

Between Something and Nothing

Your typical weekend morning. Hot coffee, kids goofing off, washing machine running, TV on. I’m looking at the pile of clean dishes ready to be put away, the mountain range of laundry – some to be folded and sorted, some to be washed, all to be managed. I’m looking at the to-do list – get soccer snacks, finish out book fair paperwork, finalize Halloween costumes, call the guy about the thing, email about this and text about that … and husband wonders “what should we *do* today?”
Me: Umm, there’s plenty to do around here.
Him: No, I mean do something. Like go somewhere. Like do something.
Me: …. okay ….
but with little or no enthusiasm because while it sounds super fun to do something, what actually sounds so much better is doing absolutely nothing – or my version of nothing, which is piddling around the house putting away this and that, moving things from point A to point B, and repeatedly cleaning the kitchen all day long after every snack and meal. So that at 7 pm, when I’m ready to really do nothing, my feet are up and my kitchen is clean.
But then the guilt: will my children’s childhood memories be filled with watching a movie on the couch with mom, who is falling asleep with her readers on from the sheer exhaustion of having done all.the.things day in and day out? Or will we make memories on a twilight hike and a plate of chicken fingers from a nearby dining establishment? Let’s wait and see.

To Do

Somewhere on the to-do list, between “feed family daily” and “make photo books from 2009” is allllll the other stuff – the daily things that never really make it on to the list because they just have to happen day in, day out and then the major long term projects that you will likely never get to. College friends were over the other night and we were as casual as you can only be with the friends you’ve had for decades – sweatpants, unwashed hair in ponytails, pile of unfolded laundry, plenty of vino. As the night was wrapping up and the husbands were collected kids and shoes, I scribbled out a quick to do list for myself for the morning. One friend commented that she never makes a to do list – she figures if it’s important, she’ll remember and if not, oh well. She said if she writes it all down, she feels like she’ll just implode from the pressure of knowing how little of it will really happen.
I get it. You just can’t do it all – but if you don’t, who will? This week’s list includes – but is certainly not limited to – four extracurriculars to chauffeur, picture day forms to complete, character parade at school and the napkins and plates I have to buy and bring for the after-party, two evening meetings and one evening fundraiser, and flu shots. Add it on to the work, the laundry, it’s no wonder that at the end of the night with college friends, the kids were all raring to go for hours more and the parents were yawning, with moms rubbing their eyes in the kitchen and dads “resting their eyes” while they watched college football on TV.
First on the to do list should be “get more sleep” but somehow that’s the hardest one of all … when the kitchen is cleaned up and closed until breakfast, the children are nestled all snug in their beds, the remote is in my hand and the DVR is on, it’s so tempting to stay up later and later and just enjoy the peaceful end of a crazy day.

Connected Community

In Delaware – especially in Wilmington and the surrounding towns – we are all connected somehow. You can’t grab a gallon of milk at Walgreens without running into someone from your high school; you can’t take your kids for their flu shots without seeing the mom you chaperoned that field trip with. A visit to the orthodontist may as well be happy hour – in the waiting room, you’ll see a Girl Scout mom, two other moms from school, and a teenager who is a lifeguard at your pool who gives you the look because he’s pretty sure he’s only ever seen you in your bathing suit. If you have more than one kid in braces, forget it. You see the orthodontist more than you see your parents.
A generation of smiles in our community have been perfected by Dr. Penna and his wonderful staff.
Our hearts are hurting for him and his family. When a community loses a child, especially a community like Wilmington, it feels so personal – it *is* so personal. It feels like, but for the grace of whomever receives your thoughts and prayers, go all of us. We are all hugging our kids a little closer this week.
To the Penna family and the Archmere community, your strength and faith is an example to us all. Anthony must be as proud of you as you are of him. Our hearts are with you.

Must Be Nice

I have spent every spare minute this week volunteering to chair the bookfair at my kids’ school which is valuable and important and makes a difference to the school that has made every difference to my kids. After the inital set-up and before the final close-out, the primary responsibilities of the Book Fair Chair are greeting students and volunteers and teachers, operating the clunky register provided by Scholastic, and helping kids do the math. “Oh, you want 19 books and 42 smelly erasers? And you have $15 in one ten-dollar-bill and a baggie of coins? We’re going to need a volunteer over here.” Luckily, the volunteers get paid in genuine delight and sincere thanks from the little kids who get to bring home a brand new book – most purchased by money sent in from home, and a few by funds provided by our school and our school district to ensure that books are in the homes of every child.
 
Since I own my own business, I’ve kept my laptop and phone handy so I could work-work in between classes and sales.
And then someone says “oh, you’re so lucky to have a flexible job so you can volunteer.”
LUCKY? Okay, sure. But let’s not diminish the degree I earned, the skills I’ve honed, the relationships I’ve nurtured and the sleep I’ve lost by chalking it all up to luck. Let’s not do that to anyone. I chose to volunteer, sure, but in doing so I committed myself to long nights with the laptop and pretty much a full week of leftovers and take out. (Thank goodness for Spotluck – have you tried this new app (http://www.spotluck.com/)? – so I don’t go broke feeding my family. Use the promo code GETBUZZED when you download it for extra incentives!)
People – women in particular – work super super hard for every bit of flexibility that is included in their compensation package, and they feel every ounce of flexibility they don’t have when it’s not included. We are not lucky, we are savvy. There’s a difference.

Fun for the Whole Family

Bonfires, hayrides, apple picking, tailgates. We are fall ready with our new fall sweaters, cute fall boots, and abundant ideas for family fun for the whole family. Except the tween wants to bring a friend, the soccer schedule means we can’t leave until around 3, and it’s so freaking HOT that none of this fall fun actually sounds like fun and we’d all rather be watching football in the air conditioning or reading our book club books on the screened porch.
Sometimes the thing that’s the most fun for the whole family is calling an audible. To that end, this mom amazon primed a new puzzle this week. It’s the perfect zen anecdote to the crazy of fall … we leave it set up on a puzzle board and anyone can drop by for a minute, an hour, an afternoon and work on the puzzle for a while. You can enjoy your glass of wine and find a piece or two, your morning coffee and find a piece or two, your afternoon cold diet coke and find a piece or two. The puzzle is a mini-vacation right in the middle of the daily hurricane.

Under Pressure

Dashed away from our desks for a quick lunch and, because we are moms with kids and it is September, talk turned to the pressure cooker – both literal and metaphorical.
LITERALLY: A pressure cooker works by cooking food using water or other cooking liquid in a sealed vessel (aka pressure cooker). As pressure cooking cooks food faster than conventional cooking methods, it saves energy. The trapped steam increases the internal pressure and allows the temperature to rise.
There are Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members dedicated to pressure cooker discussions (true confession: a quick perusal of one of these groups was mostly people named Joan, Marsha, or Carol thanking people for letting them join the group.) You can buy a pressure cooker from amazon for like $90. A google search for pressure cooker recipes yielded 3.5million results in .64 seconds.
The recipes mostly call for regular ingredients and then weird instructions like “let the pressure come down” and then add wine, which is funny because I add wine to myself to bring the pressure down. Who knew I was pretty much Julia Child.
So yes, the pressure cooker is a literal thing. I think it’s for busy people who want to get healthy food into their families in less time than it might take otherwise, or who want to set it and forget it, or for people that don’t have time for the crockpot because all the recipes say cook on low for 6 hours and everyone’s day is like 8-10 hours and so you come home to a pot full of too dry chicken and what you’re having for dinner that night is complaints with side of green beans and tears.
METAPHORICALLY: I’ve got your pressure cooker right here. It’s called any given night in September. Work meeting, meet two teachers at the same time at Meet The Teacher Night, chorus rehearsal, carpool, and need a babysitter. ALL IN ONE NIGHT. 2 hours of homework plus getting two kids to soccer plus trying to make dinner plus oh look there’s laundry to do and the uniforms don’t fit and also since in 40s now I need to get a cortisone injection from the podiatrist and stress out about paying for college in 7 years.
Personally, I’m still waiting for Rosie from the Jetsons to come on up in here and make us a futuristic dinner while my husband jet propels the kids to soccer and I enjoy a cosmic martini. My car knows when I’m standing near it and I carry a device with me at all times that can tell me the future (weather) and also read to me. Why is the robot making dinner thing taking so long?

Hurricane du Jour

Social media and digital communications have made it so easy to stay in touch with the high school friends that moved away, the college roommate in her new neighborhood, the kids you grew up with who live afar. And that means that even if we’ve never been to Houston or Miami or coastal Carolina, all know someone that lives in southeastern Texas, or Florida, or somewhere where the water is rising faster than they can bail it and the wind is blowing stronger than they can outrun it. When we see it on the news or our Facebook feeds, we are reminded of Mr. Rogers: when disaster strikes, look for the helpers.
I have three kids though, so I feel like I have a metaphorical hurricane blowing through my house pretty much every day. Like the weather people, we can’t really predict what the path of destruction might look like. We don’t know how long the clean up will take or how much damage will be inflicted each day. Like Mr. Rogers said, when disaster strikes, look for the helpers – and so as the new school year whirls around us and we tackle the carpool conundrums and after school activities, we look to our wingmoms and momrades who take the kids to the bus stop on the morning you have an early meeting, or scoop them up from soccer when you have two other places to be at the exact same time.
In all seriousness, our hearts are in the coastal communities that are recovering from devastation that we can’t really imagine. We’re humbled by the stories we’ve read: strangers helping strangers. We looked for the helpers and we find them, every.single.time. We know we will continue to do so.

Five Ways You Can Tell It’s Back To School Season

1. Hand cramps. No matter how digital your school claims it is, no matter how high tech with the remind app and the email blasts, you will fill out 4200 forms for each kid during the first weeks of school. The forms will have been emailed to you and you will have printed them out, and then you will send them in and the teachers will have already distributed blank ones. Why email it at all? Because the school is so high tech.
2. Tissues. It’s allergy season, plus all the crying. Them crying because they are just.so.tired after a whole week of school. You crying for the first day because your tiny infant just went off to middle school, and then crying the rest of the time because you realize their homework is beyond your general recollection and you can’t actually help any longer.
3. Ankles. All the snacking your kids did all summer long will pay off in the second week of school, when they will have a massive growth spurt and all the new jeans and pants you picked up at the outlets while you were at the beach will no longer fit. There ankles will be seen until the before-holiday sales when you can buy another round of pants.
4. Traffic. Yeah. Time to resurrect your shortcuts to soccer and ballet, because the school busses are back on the road. Also, look right and you might see your newly minted 12 year old grinning like an idiot in the seat next to you, so excited she can finally legit sit in the front seat and no longer willing to sit anywhere else without a fairly extensive objection.
5. Costumes. There are costumes in the stores, candy corn by the register, and football on TV. Fall is finally here.

How I spent my Summer Vacation

I can only HOPE that my children’s teachers don’t ask them to write a theme on how they spent their summer vacation, lest they rat me out for my extremely sub-par parenting all summer. Maybe they can find a way to interpret their actual summer experiences with an academic bent:
  • We did science experiments (slime and safe eclipse viewing)
  • We worked hard on improving our fine motor skills (xbox)
  • We participated in rigorous debating (fighting with siblings)
  • We studied geography (road trip) and social studies (getting along with 3 other families in a vacation rental in OBX)
  • We did plenty of reading (graphic novels and the Netflix interface) and writing (four thank you notes)
  • We used problem solving skills (escape room)
  • We practiced time management (how long until we can leave the pool?) and geometry (fit all that stuff back in the beach wagon!)
  • We did math (there are 9 kids and only 7 menus. How many menus do you need from the waiter?) (It’s a six hour drive and we’ve been driving for 22 minutes. How long do *you* think we have left?)
  • We got a lot of exercise (swim team, wave jumping, ropes course, helping carry the groceries and pool bags)
  • We studied different cultures through culinary exploration (taco night, italian night, sushi)
You know, when I look at it this way, I basically ran a summer school what with the different academic experiences I exposed them to, along with future real world skills like meeting new people, looking people in the eye when you talk to them, and helping to keep their environment (micro and macro) clean.
Now, with the bus coming and the backpacks filled and ready – this mom will squeeze three months of R&R into one pool afternoon this week. Who’s in???

The Long and Short of It

The signs are everywhere. NFL preseason. School supplies. Candy Corn in Aisle 2. A few leaves floating in the pool or blowing through the backyard. Fall is coming. Sunset tonight is 7:51 pm. Yesterday is was 7:52. The days are getting shorter every day.
But the days are long too. Boy are they, when you are trying to squeeze in a few hours of work (volunteer or otherwise) and the laundry is piling up and the kids are squabbling and the texts are flying in about who got which teacher and you don’t know what’s for dinner and you are just certain you have no stamps and the kids have *got* to get to those thank you notes before next week when it’s back to backpacks and homework.
The long and the short of it is that the days are the same. The same 24 hours allotted each of us – one rotation of the earth’s axis – and each of us with a To-Do List we can’t possibly complete in one 24 hour stretch. So some items get crossed off and some items get added on and the To-Do List, like the laundry, never seems to be finished. It’s okay. Just keep chipping away at it, one errand / thank you note / grocery trip / marinade / stain removal / shin guard locator / towel fold / goodnight kiss at a time. You’ll never be finished. It’s okay. It’s time to start again anyway, with a new school year and a new chance to get it done faster / better / differently than last time. It’s time to start one more trip around the sun.
(Speaking of sun – holy eclipse, Batman! Libraries in our area are hosting viewing parties and our pool club has 100 sets of glasses on order so the kids can take a brief peek, and then immediately go back to four square or dibble or sharks and minnows and the moms will all say things like “remember that summer with the eclipse” and the kids will just look at us with blank stares because kids don’t remember anything except the time you yelled at them outside of Panera which after four straight hours of *not* yelling was pretty benign, considering.)