Traci's Blog

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

Start Strong, Stay Strong

Summer is starting, and moms all over the 1980whatever are all “I printed out a weekly activity chart” and “my kids have to do at least 6 chores to earn a trip to the snack bar” and “workbooks AND the library summer reading program, totally.”
I’m here to tell you, if you can start this strong and stay this strong you are a much stronger woman than I. I’ve also started the summer this way. Creative centers in the playroom, art time in the driveway, nature walks. I’ve printed out the summer schedule of $1 movies and circled activities at the library, the other library, and even that other library. We’d do day trips and try new foods and the babysitter would always help clean up the kitchen and keep the laundry moving along so mommy could enjoy some of the good old fashioned fun of summer.
Here are the rules for this summer:
1. Nothing blue. That means blue raspberry Planet Ice, blue Rita’s, blue slushies, or blue freezer pops at the pool. Blue food dye does not agree with my kids and it’s important to have boundaries.
2. No screen before swim team.
3. The tween is learning how to do her own laundry since she’s heading to Middle School in the fall and she already hates me so why not?
That’s it. The blue food dye thing which gives my kids belly aches and the no screen before swim team thing because then I don’t have to fight with them to leave the house for swim team at 9:50 am and the laundry thing because I can. The rest? We’re just going to take it day by day, hour by hour. Will they read? Of course, they always do. But no charts to complete or incentives. Will they help around the house? They damn well better. Will they be a little creative? A little bored? A little over sugared and under slept? Probably. Will we survive? I suspect we will.
It’s Summer 17. Stay strong.

Climbing A Mountain

At any given time, on top of work deadlines and homework supervision and keeping the mental calendar of who is where and when, I also need to keep mental track of where each piece of laundry that belongs to each person is at any given time.
Wednesday evening I scrambled around looking for the baseball uniform for Thursday’s game. I folded 1282 pieces of clothing, matched 42 dozen socks and emptied basket after basket. Husband thinks it’s in the washer or dryer, but I *knew* I hadn’t seen it. An hour later, I’m pulling sheets out of the closet to change the linens and I see it: jammed in a small cardboard box under the desk.
WHY? For the love of all things holy, why why why would a 9 year old put several pieces of dirty laundry in a BOX under his DESK? WHYYYYY?
On the plus side, having the uniform located is half the battle – it means we will probably still be late for the game, but you won’t be nearly as late as if I hadn’t already found the uniform.
I never knew how much of parenting would be locating things. Like, ALL THE THINGS.

Occam’s Razor

If you didn’t study philosophy, you might not be familiar with the principle of Occam’s Razor, which boils down to “the simplest solution is usually the right one.” There are other platitudes that say essentially the same thing: when you hear hoofbeats, think horses – not zebras.
I couldn’t help but think of this when I saw a post in a local mommy Facebook group this week. The mom asked the group how to help with eye rolling from an ornery 8 year old. This too-kind mom was getting the eyeroll treatment when she helped her son do his hair. There were scores of helpful responses – ask the pediatrician! Read this book and implement the concepts! Try taking away screen time! Try adding chores!
My response: ignore it. Also, let him do his own hair.
Why? I’m sure the other responses would work too – but ultimately, as moms, we need to take a collective deep breath and not constantly be consumed with worry. The simple solutions are okay too. We don’t need a crowd-sourced answer and an hour on google and the stress that comes with too much information to balance the previous stressor of not enough – when all we really need is to allow ourselves to trust our own instincts.
This is especially true now in The Month of May, which is officially The Worst. If one more sign up genius comes through my inbox, I might actually cry. And worry or not, the school year will end as abruptly as if we didn’t know it was happening 100 days ago and we’ll be in it – the summer of 17 – faster than you can sign up for paper plates and juice pouches. Trust your gut, moms. And if your gut is telling you to skip the sign up genius and get your nails done instead of being there for all three hours of the end of year picnic, then go for it.

The Finish Line

Twin third graders’ field trip to the Philadelphia Zoo this week – the goal, on paper, was to choose an animal on which to do the end of year research project. The goal for chaperones was to tire out these excited monkeys and get them back on the bus safely and at the appointed time. In order to manage both goals, my co-chaperone WingMom and I raced our six boys all the way to the back, figuring it would be easier to get to the bus on time if we ended up close to the exit.
We managed to navigate six very busy boys to the back of the zoo without too many stops and we were rewarded amply – it was empty and we could easily get up close and personal with all of the exhibits, and (pro tip) it was easy to keep track of our charges because there were very few other people around. Moments later, we were in the otter/red panda area when a zoo official asked us to leave the area because THE RED PANDA HAD ESCAPED ITS ENCLOSURE. Zoo personnel were rapidly arriving on the scene – yellow jackets on bicycles, in golf carts, and on foot, with walkie-talkies and badges.
It was literally the most exciting thing to happen at a zoo since April the Giraffe finally gave birth. It was like Jurassic Park and Madagascar all in one, and our boys were … not nearly as excited as the other moms and I were. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM? This was a BIG DEAL. Why were they not out of their minds?
It hit me a few days later. For me, with my days filled with work, pack the lunches, check the backpacks, meet the bus, wash the baseball uniform, pack the bags, unpack the groceries, move the clothes from floor to basket to washer to dryer to bedrooms and repeat x infinity, this was a big freaking deal. I was at the zoo with my kids on a work day and there was a wild animal on the loose. For my kids, every day is filled with wonder and excitement and discovery and different experiences and so this was just another in a long line of “guess what happened today” events. And there will be dozens more of them as we wrap up the 2016-17 school year and embark on the summer of 17. My goal at the zoo was to bring the kids back alive and on-time, and I think that’s my end-of-year school goal as well: race to the finish, survive the myriad pitfalls of field days, tag days, dress up and dress down and dress spirit and dress whatever days, end of year party days, last minute project days, field trip days, and last days – and get there alive and on-time.
See you at the finish line!

Circus Act

It’s fitting that I just bought myself tickets Hetty Feather at the Delaware Theatre Company for the 2 pm performance on Mother’s Day. It’s a show about a little kid with a big imagination that runs away with the circus on her journey to find her birth mom. Fun for the whole family!
A show about moms and kids and a circus? Yep, that sounds about right. After all, this *is* my circus and these *are* my monkeys. And I’m pretty sure I’m the ringmaster, adding events to the calendar with the push of a button and magically making meals appear on the regular while juggling work, health, family, sports calendars, drama club, endless laundry, and the mountains of paperwork coming out of the backpacks as the end of the year approaches.
This time of year is a circus act for everyone involved – jumping through the proverbial hoops of the year end madness (international day for twin 3rd graders this week had me preparing meatballs for one class and corned beef for the other) and walking across the tightrope (checking the forecast for field day, the grades for the 5th grader, the season finales schedule) and climbing up up up on the high dive to springboard right into summer.
We are almost there – and the circus goes on a slight hiatus for a little while, as the school madness takes a backseat to the no less maddening summer break schedule of swim team, camps, babysitters, beach vacations, and household projects (the twins getting their own rooms) that need to get done this summer if they’re ever getting done at all.
Hang in there, Ringmasters. The Show Must Go On!

Baby Giraffe

Tween daughter was tottering around the Florida rental on spring break in my wedge espadrilles, looking like a cross between a runway model and that baby giraffe. All long legs and knees and adorable. I could hardly take it. I blinked and she went from learning to walk to trying on my shoes as a pre-schooler, pretending to be the mom. Now when she tries on my shoes, she means business. Ditto for “borrowing” my mascara. I blinked, and she’s not a little girl anymore.
Same for the twins – who are each sporting floods as I really can’t bring myself to buy pants when it feels like spring and summer weather is here to stay. Sorry boys, anymore cold days and you can either wear shorts with your socks pulled all the way up (kidding! they do that every day!) or you can wear the too-short pants from fall. Sorry about your toes scrunching up in your sneakers, too, but I was sort of hoping the sneakers I bought in MARCH would fit you for at least another month or so.
They grow fast this time of year, like the weeds already popping up through the freshly laid mulch. Everything happens fast this time of year. The season finales are almost here, and then the end-of-year parties. And then summer.
Where’s the pause button???

The Top of the Coaster

We’re almost there, to the top of the coaster where you sit back in the seat and it click-click-click-clicks up and up and if you didn’t know what was coming it would be a slow, enjoyable ride and you could look around and see the the sky and the tops of the trees and for miles in every direction but instead because you do know what’s coming all you can do is look ahead and think when? When? Now? When?
THAT’S what the end of the school year is like. Right now, we are clicking up to the apex. We know what’s coming and we are about to take that deep breath that will help us remain calm and somewhat in control during the series of plummets and twists and turns and rocket starts that are about to happen.
Projects hinted about in March and outlined in April are now almost due. Field trips and brown bag lunches and field day celebrations are all on the calendar THIS MONTH. In the immediate future, you will make 42 trips to Walgreens to get posterboard (oaktag) and a snack to send in for the class picnic and something appropriate for the teacher appreciation luncheon and three different kinds of paper plates for the end of year class parties and a box of envelopes because every other day you have to send in a check for a tee shirt or a yearbook or a field trip.
It is during this same time that your children will outgrow that they own and you will be faced with the choice of either sending them to school in seriously short pants or else squeezing in a trip to Target or Marshall’s in between baseball practice and play rehearsal and your afternoon coffee.
Know this: as you are buckling up for what could be a very bumpy ride ahead, just know that you’re not riding this coaster alone.

The Way We Were

Those damn Facebook memories. That damn TimeHop app. All it does is give me a daily reminder, complete with notification on my phone screen, of how fast it all goes. This week, it was a glimpse back to the Easters of yesteryear, complete with My Little Pony toys and footie pajamas and twins with binkies and blankies. Now, there’s deodorant and iTunes gift cards in the Easter baskets. I can’t even remember the last time we had a binky in this house (we do still have the blankies).
I spent Friday morning at my children’s old preschool, also our church, where there was a pre-Easter event. The preschool classrooms were the stations that we visited on our “Walk to Easter” excursion, and seeing the artwork and the cubbies and even the teacher’s handwriting brought up the most poignant memories. Outside of one room, there was the weekly “Eating the Alphabet” list, where the letter of the week food was listed at the top. Yams. On the Liked It list were the two teachers and child called Taryn. On the Did Not Like It list were all the other kids. When my boys were in that class, they insisted on a third column: Would Not Try It. That’s where their names were, every week. #truestory And I had completely forgotten about that, until today. What else have I forgotten about?
And what am I forgetting now?

Small Victories

So I’m volunteering at Book Fair this week – fully absorbed in my forever fantasy of owning a small book shop, where I spend my days chatting with customers and reading – and a mom there volunteering is apologizing for being in sweats, she hadn’t planned to stay, just getting her daughter to school on time felt like a huge accomplishment that day. Wingmom says “it’s the small victories.”
YES. It is the small victories. In some jobs, the victories are nearly globally celebrated: a ball player hits a home run and a stadium literally cheers for him doing his job. A big case closes or a big deal is signed and the champagne corks pop. In our jobs – whether we are SAHMs (ha!) or FTWMs or PTWMs or whatever – in our mom jobs, the small victories come and go so quickly that we really need to pause to give them the kudos they deserve.
Here are few: a 3rd grader at book fair put back a book she really wanted so she could instead buy one from the teacher wish list, all on her own. VICTORY! Laundry went from floor to washer to dryer to baseball bag in time for the Friday night game that subsequently got cancelled. VICTORY! The gift for the Sunday birthday party AND the carpool was arranged a full 48 hours before the party start time. VICTORY! A little boy fell on the playground and 9 kids race over to make sure he’s okay. A brother and sister have a knock-down drag-out fight and work it out all on their own. Report cards come home and the envelopes get signed and back in the backpacks. Meals are prepared and cleaned up and sleepy children are put to bed clean and tired from playing outdoors and growing so fast. Permission slips are signed and baked goods for teacher appreciation week are baked.
Our days are filled with hundreds of small victories. Celebrate each and every one, however and whenever you can.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

True confession: baseball bores the living HECK out of me. I’ve been to about 4 MLB games in my life and once I run through the beer line a few times, I’m ready to call it a day and head on home. I have less than zero interest in any of the things that the sportsy types tell me is what makes baseball fun. To me, if it’s less interesting than whatever I’m currently bingeing on Netflix, then no. Even the monkeys riding on sheepdogs don’t hold my attention. Again, a cold beer or two and I’m all “let’s go kids, let’s beat the traffic out of here.”
My husband can take or leave baseball and he’s not the family signer-upper, so it was always up to me to enroll the kids in tee-ball, baseball, softball. And so our family has been blissfully baseball free. Until now.
Twin A decided he really wanted to try baseball this spring. After weeks of unsuccessful attempts to dissuade him, I asked around, pulled a string, got him on a team with some people I trust and enjoy, and we’re off to the races. First practice cancelled due to ice blizzard. Most subsequent practices cancelled due to endless spring rain. Not so bad so far. But the games start next week and I hear that they can last a very.long.time.
On the plus side, this will give me ample time to chat with the other families on the team, who I really enjoy. I am looking forward to enjoying the great outdoors from the comfort of a tailgate chair and letting my other two explore the joys of living in a small town, where the Wawa, the playground, the library, the pizza place, and the ball field all share the same corner. I am looking forward to the structure that a team sport offers. I am already loving how this sport is helping my boy with patience and responsibility. As a twin, he is really enjoying having something that is “just his.” As a mom, I can’t help but enjoy his enjoyment.
And, about halfway through the season, I’ll begin to look forward to the very best part of spring sports: summer!