The Poop Trail

It was undeniable that my mom had a favorite story from my childhood. She called it, ‘THE POOP TRAIL.’
Of course, she had a few other anecdotes dear to her heart, but as I lost Mom when I was twenty-two, the only tale that left a lasting impression on me was the shocker. Now, as a thirty-something year old mother, I’d love to learn about her pregnancies, birth stories, the challenges of being a single mother, and so much more. But I couldn’t have known I would miss out on the chance. So, Mom’s legacy remains to be: THE POOP TRAIL.
It began like any other day in our new condominium, I presume. On this, let’s say, dreary September morning (Mom was never one for minor details, so pardon me while I embellish a bit), the three of us were sprawled out on our couch. My older brother Jesse and I were early risers, and as we had just begun sharing a bedroom for the first time, we were waking even earlier. After satiating us with some snacks and turning on the tube, Mom expected Jesse and I to settle in for a Saturday morning cartoon session, so she could take a hot shower. 
I imagine she wasn’t gone long because she was a careful woman, and as a parent I now know these two general rules to be universally true: 1) a child can move at either the speed of light or the speed of a snail, dependent entirely upon if you’re asking them to do something or not. And as Mom was in the shower, and no adult was applying any pressure to me whatsoever, I know I was working quickly. Also, rule number 2: parents never get long in the shower, especially when their kids are little. A single, working mother no less? She would have washed only the ‘essentials.’
So, when Mom came out of the shower, safe to assume no more than two and a half minutes later, I was nowhere to be found. Now, I’ve had those moments – those ‘HOLY SHIT WHERE DID MY KID DISAPPEAR TO CPS IS GOING TO FIND ME WHAT HAVE I DONE’ moments – And for me, those ‘moments’ have never lasted more than one minute and twenty-six seconds in total (true story, the panic setting on my alarm can attest to this). But, I have had technology, my husband, and a guardian angel or two on my side. Mom, on the other hand, was a new divorcee with no help and no clothes on. Still wrapped in her towel, dripping with beads of water, her large, maternal breasts threatening to break free from our new, cheap towels, Mom would have started calling my name mildly. 
I know this because when I lost my son for the first time (don’t judge, he’s wily) I first thought, ‘No, he’s not lost.’ Denial is almost always the instant reaction. ‘Adam. Adam? Adam!’ I called out optimistically, as if he would actually come on command. He did not (duh). Mom also had no luck, saw no sign of my tiny feet hiding behind a curtain, heard no telltale giggle from inside a closet. That’s when her fear set in, the same fear I tasted the day I learned my son could open our front door and release himself into the wild. 
At this point, Mom surely grabbed Jesse by the shoulders and shook him.
‘Where did your sister go?!’ she would have growled.
But Johnny Quest was probably on, and if my brother was anything like my zombie children, his head would have flopped back and forth, and his eyes would have stayed glued to the TV. Maaaaaybe an inaudible ‘I dunno,’ or a lackadaisical shrug would escape. Otherwise, Mom was on her own.
‘Amy! Aaaaaamy!’ she would have screamed then. A frantic scan of our small space ensued. Maybe she  tripped over her towel tail; she couldn’t be too nimble in such a state. And as she spun, gaining a full view of our new den and common area, Mom noticed our condo’s front door wide open. She launched herself towards the open portal and yelled her loudest, fiercest battle cry, “Heeeeeeeelll-“ but before she completed her S.O.S., a warmly punctuating squish between her bare toes cut it short. 
She drew her foot up slowly, and on the floor, now entangled with our hideous (but also coincidentally brown 1980’s shag carpet), was a piece of poop. It was misshapen and- well, nevermind, I’ll spare you the details. But, what I will tell you is that, as any mother would know (I understand this now), Mom knew in a heartbeat that poop was *mine*. She grimaced, maybe even gagged, noticing an abandoned diaper a few feet ahead, just outside the threshold of our home. Several other pieces of poop lay before and after it. Mom stopped screaming, wiped her foot on the carpet (I mean, at this point, what did it matter?) and took off down the hallway half naked.
It didn’t take her long to find me. I had left a trail of turds leading two flights and four doors down. Mom followed it to the door of a condo owned by an elderly woman. The woman would later tell Mom that she had opened her door to a soft thumping sound, only to find a diaperless almost-three-year-old rhythmically wiping her butt on the dingy hallway carpet right outside 1A, shit-eating grin plastered to my face. 
Our brand new neighbors, thankfully, were relatively understanding (albeit totally grossed out). The building manager was not that forgiving, however. Mom was forced to pay a pretty price for the building’s sanitation. I’m not sure how related the two incidents were, but our stay there was cut very short, and it wasn’t long before we moved out of our condo and into a small home across the Valley. 
Now, the reason I bring any of this very self-deprecating, disgusting talk up is to consider the most important lesson I ever drew from my mother: Things can only impact you as much as you allow them to. Because I’m not sure I could turn a story about losing my child and wading through poop into one of my favorites to tell. In fact, it sounds like an absolute nightmare to me. Thus, life has to be less about what you go through, and more about the way you look at your experiences. So, the next time you feel like you’re having a truly shitty day of Momming, think of Mom and me, and just know that you are not alone.

Mom’s the Word

“You’re way too into being a mom,” my childless girlfriend said.

“No, I’m not! I really don’t like it sometimes,” I rebuked.

But as soon as the comment fell out of my mouth, I felt stupid for saying it. It may be true that I want to pull out my hair more than half the time, but Im not sure I need to justify my writing, talking, or sharing about motherhood to anyone.

The next time a different person said the same thing to me I simply replied, “No, I’m not.”

Then I continued to listen to him regale me about his childhood & favorite movies for the next two hours.

Neither “You’re way too into movies,”

or

“You’re way into yourself,” came out of my mouth, although perhaps it should have (in a well-meaning way 😬😂).

Yet, this is the message women receive: motherhood is so important we should stop what we’re doing in our own lives to enter it. And how we handle these roles could potentially create the next DaVinci or Dahmer. But, we can’t talk about it too much.

It’s not something we can complain about.

It’s not even something we can even really celebrate.

It’s just what we are supposed to do.

Right?

Wrong. Mum is no longer the word – we will not go quietly. We will complain about bedtime whenever we please. We will celebrate in our potty training and IEP wins. We will make parody videos about how awesome moms are until we are blue in the face.

Because yes, I’m way into being a Mom. But it’s never too much when my kids and future generations are in my hands.

Love You Forever

“The tie which links mother and child is of such pure and immaculate strength as to be never violated.”

~Washington Irving

As seen in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven & Chicken Soup for the Soul: For Mom, With Love

No one is ever ready to say goodbye to a parent, and I was no exception. When my mother suddenly passed away at the age of fifty-five, it was devastating. The only way I knew how to cope was to write. When it came time to write her eulogy, I welcomed the chance to honor her.

After reading the eulogy at her funeral, I folded it neatly and tucked it between the pages of her favorite children’s book, Love You Forever. When it was time to pay final homage to her, I felt satisfied as I placed my only copy of the book in her arms and helped to lower her casket.

Shortly thereafter though, I broke down. I could think of nothing but my mother. I missed her with every cell in my body. But most overwhelmingly, I could no longer grasp the concept of where she had gone. I found it impossible to believe that she was watching over me. If she were, I thought, then she would surely make her presence known. I pleaded with the Heavens to show me she was there, that she was still sending her love, and keeping a watchful eye. No such luck.

Weeks went by. I became depressed and broken, unable to fulfill simple tasks and care for myself. I stayed home. People came in and out, checking on me at all hours of the day. Family and friends tried to coax me out of the house, but all I wanted to do was hide. I wanted to hide from my harsh reality: I would never see or hear from my mother again. Finally, those who cared about me had had enough.

One night, my best friend and her partner came over with a plan to get me out of the house. I debated with them for over an hour, pleading for them to leave me alone. Two hours and a million excuses later, we finally compromised and I allowed them to take me on a quick trip to Target.

As we walked through the aisles my feet dragged. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be anywhere. Nonetheless, we perused the make-up, electronics, and home goods aisles. They were there to offer me an outlet, and I was only there to placate them. After several more minutes of mindless meandering I was done. I told them I had to go back home, that I needed to get out of there.

“Alright, but first we have to stop by the candy section. A little sugar will give you a pick-me-up,” they reasoned.

I swallowed my pain and continued. I picked out a piece of candy just to avoid my friends’ concerned stares. At the checkout, we dropped our items on the conveyor belt and waited in line. I looked at the merchandise arrayed at the checkout. At the top of a shelf, on top of the candy, hair ties, and hand sanitizer, sat a book, a copy of Love You Forever! I snatched the copy and skimmed the pages, enjoying the pictures of a mother cradling her child. Tears welled in my eyes.

“Ma’am? Ma’am? How would you like to pay for this?” the cashier asked.

I snapped back to reality, but ignored her question. “Why is this book here?” I demanded to know.

“I’m not sure, ma’am. Maybe someone was planning to buy it but chose not to in the end? They were probably just too lazy to put it back… It happens all the time, unfortunately. Thanks for pointing it out.”

I felt compelled to know more, and am still not sure why I asked my next question.

“Where are the rest of the copies of this book?”

“Wow. You sure love that book. The rest are probably in our book section, but I’ll scan it just to make sure. Sometimes when a book is on promotion it is moved.”

She scanned it. The machine made a few loud, shrill beeps.

“Huh. That’s weird. It’s not scanning. Let me see…”

The few moments I waited felt like eternity. A ball of excitement mixed with anxiety formed in my stomach.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. This book isn’t scanning. In fact, I dont even think it’s from our store. I’m not really sure why it was sitting there… If you’d like to buy it ma’am, I apologize because I guess it’s not really available for purchase. But… I mean… I guess you can… Just take it? It’s not really ours to sell.”

My heart fluttered as I gingerly took back the book. I cradled it in my arms and as I did, I felt a sense of security envelop me. I knew this was a message from my mother. It was a message of love, support, and understanding.

It was her way of saying, “I will love you forever, no matter what.” And I’ve never doubted that since.

~A.B. Chesler

Kindergarten Bound, Smiles All Around

“How do you feel?”

“Are you sad?”

“Nervous at all?”

I’ve been asked the same question (or variations of it) umpteen times in the last couple weeks.

And my answer, for some reason, is always met with surprise.

“I’m excited!” I reply.

The responses containing the least amount of skepticism generally sound like, “Oh, really?”

“Yep, really.”

My question is, am I supposed to be sad? Surely, it’s OK to be sad; I understand where my friends and loved ones are coming from. I guess I’m just missing something.

Personally, the idea of my child officially embarking on her educational career is thrilling to me. I am the child of generations of school teachers. I love to learn. I see my daughter flourish when she is not stuck to my side and reliant on my help. I see her transform when she rises to life’s challenges.

But most importantly, I am being gifted the chance to be present to watch her struggles and triumphs. I am here for her entrance to school. We have each other as we embark on this transition, and for that I am thankful and excited and blessed.

So, no, we aren’t nervous. There are smiles all around over here (but let’s chat again when it’s time for college 🤐).

Best of luck to everyone going through a similar transition 💓

Splish Splash, We’re Having a Bash!

When little lady asked for a mermaid fifth birthday party I knew I had to go big. Not because I’m one of those moms who always has to go big, but because FIVE is big. In fact, it’s huge.

But you know what didn’t have to be? My budget. Yep, that’s right. All decor you see in this post arrived at a total of under $115. Photo booth, centerpieces, backdrops, and more, all for just over a hundred. Here’s a break down of all of the mermaid magic that I made from simple household items and inexpensive goodies from Amazon.

Bubble-riffic Photo Backdrop

img_0777-1
Photo courtesy of Life of Mom

Supplies:

– Green streamers (dark and light)

– Scotch tape or doubled-sided tape

– 5′ x 4″ cardboard slice (I used the top of a display board which I also used for all the signs at the party – see below)

clear balloons

-photo booth props

Instructions:

Tape randomized pieces of streamers in desired length all along the piece of cardboard, then drape over other side, and adhere with one more piece of tape. Blow up balloons in varying sizes and adhere to top of cardboard. Hang on the wall and viola, you’ve got a backdrop!

I even made a sign for it, which is optional, but only cost me about an extra two bucks. Supplies included glitter glue, glitter, and the same display board I bought for the backdrop.

Item cost: $35 (although some of these supplies will be used elsewhere)

Mermaid Tail ‘5’ Centerpiece

Supplies:

green foil cupcake liners

– cardboard

– pencils & ruler

hot glue & gun

Optional supplies:

pipe cleaners

coffee filters

– 1 marker (to be disposed eventually)

shells

Instructions:

Trace the desired number on cardboard, then cut it out. Also prepare a base to attach the number to. Cut each cupcake liner in half, then glue in a alternating pattern from the bottom to the top of the number. Glue the number onto the base and use fortification if necessary. Color the base blue, then cover with hot glue.

Optional instructions:

Coffee filter coral can be made from dyed coffee filters (open a marker and stick one end into water, allow all of the color to bleed in, then dip dye the filters). Other coral pieces can be made from pipe cleaners. Then glue them in!

Item cost: $5-$20 (depending on what you have at home already)

Fishnet Photo Display

Image via DeaVita

Supplies:

net

clothes pins

earthquake putty

– photographs of the birthday girl throughout the years

– shells

Instructions:

Hang, pin, and enjoy (this is a great way to add easy, themed decor!)

Item cost: ~ $15.00

Centerpieces

Supplies:

blue mason jarsblue mason jars

flameless tea lights

– sand

– shells

– flowers from Trader Joe’s (optional)

Instructions:

Place sand in jar, and flame less candle on sand. Close the jar to avoid spillage. Add flowers for more fun!

Item cost: ~ $25.00

Guppy Grub

Supplies:

– goldfish

blue sixlets (cheaper than M&M’s)

glass fish bowl

– serving spoon

Instructions:

Mix, pour, enjoy (this is a crowd favorite, for sure!)

Item Cost: ~ $15.00

Trendy Little Letterboard

I know, I know. It’s so trendy. Like, too trendy. But it’s little, cute, and it makes a statement, which is kind of my life mission. So, when I found this cheap one on Amazon I couldn’t resist.

Item cost: $16.95

Total Cost: <$115!

Relatedly, if you’re in the LA area and would like more information on the wonderful company we hired for our outdoor play, Pump and Splash, see their website.

Lessons From Mom

As performed in the live show Expressing Motherhood in May and June of 2018

There are things our parents choose to do that stay with us forever. These actions, good or bad, teach us the lessons we carry into adulthood and especially parenthood.

Like the time my older brother found a wallet filled to the brim with cash. I was four and he was seven, but as children of a single mother in the eighties, we already knew the value of a dollar; Mom was never one to shelter us from our reality. I remember my brother handing her the leather square in the narrow aisles of a pharmacy. Mom had just tearfully admitted to the clerk she had only enough money for one antibiotic regimen, but two sick children. After she grew a bit sharp with her tongue, as she sometimes did, she was given back the prescription slip and turned away. Only moments later the Universe delivered her a wallet full of money.

I remember Mom looking around, then stuffing it deep underneath her arm in one swift movement. When we arrived home, she unearthed it from her purse, then began counting out the bills onto our hand-me-down coffee table. When she finished at just over a thousand dollars, she pulled out the Driver’s License within the plastic protectant and picked up the phone beside her. We waited with baited breath, unsure of what her next move would be.

“Operator? Yes. Can I please be connected with a ———– from Studio City?”

Moments later she was chatting with a very worried man who wanted to know the whereabouts of his wallet and missing mortgage payment. She offered him her work address and told him to pick it up the next day, but not before confirming how much dough he expected to be returned to him.

When she had replaced the receiver in its plastic cradle, my brother asked, “Why didn’t you return the wallet to the pharmacy if you weren’t going to take any of the money yourself?” To which she replied, “I don’t know if they would have returned it with everything inside. But, I knew I would. I don’t take what’s not mine, because that would be assuming we need it more.”

And at a very young age of four, I learned what my mom’s credo was: honesty must come before anything, including my own needs.

Speaking of Mom’s honesty, I’ll admit it wasn’t always my favorite. She had little filter, and people were often made uncomfortable by her. For example, she once wrote a letter that would be read to my entire sorority at a graduation-related event, which she knew when set out to write it. Despite this, she described in the note how I matured early, as well as that by the age of five, was already concerned whether I’d “get my period by college or not.” See? You’re uncomfortable. So, yeah, I didn’t always enjoy her openness.

But if Mom’s actions taught me anything it’s that the world needs honesty, even if people have trouble digesting it. There was the time she beat me to picking up the phone, and Corey Feldman was on the other line. At the age of seventeen I began running his website, and over the next four years would help him a great deal with local appearances. But, in this moment, he was my boss, and Mom was my very uncool parent who I obviously still lived with.

When Mom realized the gruff voice on the other end belonged to Corey, she was thrilled. She cooed,”Hey Corey! We actually just finished watching one of your films.” She hit the speaker phone and winked at me playfully.

“Oh, yeah?” he replied. “Which one?”

“Amy? What was it called?” Meanwhile, I have turned a ripe shade of red and was silently begging for the phone. But I whisper my reply nonetheless, “Edge of Honor.” She repeats me, and for a moment things seem O.K. because, hey, she hasn’t embarrassed me. It’s a miracle! Then she concludes, “You looked really drugged out in it.”

My heart fell into my stomach, and I instantly tasted bile. I held my breath as my recently exciting social life flashed before my eyes.

Corey waited a few beats. Finally, he replied, “Well, that’s because I was.” And with that, the floodgate opened. He talked about his difficult childhood and former addictions, and Mom listened. Just before Mom finally disengaged the speaker and handed me the phone, Corey asked her to attend an anniversary screening of The Goonies as his date. Much of the cast would be there, and he was inviting her to sit with them.

And, in all my years as one of Corey’s assistants, this would be the most Corey ever opened up. Thus, driving home Mom’s point that transparency is the most healing policy.

Mom’s emphasis on honesty was the most recurring lesson I ever received from her, and I suppose it is what led me to this point. To being a mother that strives to create children who are fair and thoughtful. And to pursuing a career that is intended to inspire mental health and a more accepting world. But, every parent leaves their children with indelible memories that turn into life lessons.

Maybe my children will be up here in a few decades talking about me, and with any luck, it’ll be positive. Maybe your children will be up here narrating what you did with your time as a parent. What will our actions teach our children? I wonder what sort of world they will create together with these lessons.”

To listen to this via Podcast, click here, but please pardon my opening night jitters.

This is 5.

Today began like any other day. We spent far too much time looking for our shoes, even though I remind both kids to use the under-the-stairs cubbies each time they take them off. We argued over what shirt would be worn in order to be warm enough in this weather. And just when tension was rising, Charlotte turned to me and said, “Mommy, I’m going to make you a card.”

My face lit up, thinking perhaps my recent lessons about starting with kindness may be working. Then she continues, “How do I spell, ‘I don’t love you?’”

Edward Bulwer-Lytton was right. Words have the potential to do much greater harm than weapons. Such a simple sentence, yet it cut straight to the heart. My first inclination was to be hurt and sad. I told her so, and I saw her face drop even more, which was not my intention either. She had wanted to hurt me, sure, but she hadn’t really understood the levity of her chosen words.

And that soon became today’s biggest slap in the face. Not that she was hurt enough to say those words, because she really hadn’t been, but that I have a child old enough to even want to formulate a proverbial slap in the face.

I officially have a big girl on my hands, this I know now. Which, as my initial sense of feeling unloved is over, shocks me. And also saddens me in its own rite. I have been guilty of rushing this parenting thing along from the getgo.

“I can’t wait for them to sleep through the night.”

“I can’t wait for her to be potty trained.”

“Ugh, the moment the paci is gone is the moment I’m free!”

But the busier life remains, the hastier time seems to wane. And parenthood can make even an empty schedule full in an instant. So, there went five years and with that barb, “I don’t love you,” they feel incredibly distant.

I shed a few tears, I’ll admit. She saw me crying. What she didn’t understand that I was no longer really hurt, just grieving her babyhood.

So, I chose to be open with her. I told her she hurt me, and saying that sort of thing wasn’t OK. But, that wasn’t really why I was crying. I told her that she is my daughter forever and I am her mommy for just about double that. And that it was already going by in the blink of an eye.

She hugged me. We made up, and by the time I dropped her off at school we were belting an MJ duet at the top of our lungs. I realized that this snarkiness may be 5, but that 6 will be here before I know it. And although time does not discriminate the speed at which it seems to progress, it does give us the gift of retrospection and introspection. And a lot of make-up hugs.

What is Mom2Summit and Why Did I Go?

Over the last couple weeks my social media accounts may have made you ask “what the heck is #Mom2Summit and why does Amy care so much about it?”

And to be brutally frank, before this weekend, I’m not sure I could have answered that question with confidence. As a first-time attendee, I would have offered “it’s a convention designed for moms that blog. We attend classes that promote professional development, and amidst all of them, we also have parties and fun. Oh, and brands join us, too, so we can help spread the word of how great they are. Did I forget to mention I get to leave my familial duties for three days and I don’t have to make ONE DAMN MEAL that entire time?”

The lovely Lucy of Life of Mom & I arrive!

 

But, as soon as we arrived at the Langham Pasadena I knew it was so much more than that.

Before I get into how I knew, let me be real: as a native of LA, born, bred, and breeding only a mile or two from where I grew up, it’s hard to create a village. I am a relatively young mother for our area, which means my village has consisted of mostly childless friends. But motherhood, especially early motherhood, can be difficult and isolating. Even moreso when your circle doesn’t quite understand the stages of your struggle. Doubly so when you’ve no longer have your own mother for guidance or support.

However, when I arrived at Mom2, it became instantly apparent that it is much more than just a convention. It is that village I’ve been seeking.

The inclusiveness Mom 2.0 Summit promotes is what makes the difference. Upon entering the event space, you will be greeted with warm hellos,  whether you know people or not. And if you don’t, it won’t be long before you find your crew. See a Mom Blog celeb you adore? This is the place to introduce yourself.  I made friends in bathroom lines, in sessions, on the dance floor, and even within our hotel room. And it was in all of these places that I found a community filled with support, love, and understanding.

This may seem trivial, but in a world where success is so often viewed as finite, it is comforting to find a space filled with women that build each other up. It is clear that the people that attend Mom2Summit realize it is their arena to create lasting connections, and not just with the big brands that can further their mission.

People are at the heart of the convention. Its mission is to enrich the professional and personal lives of its participants, that much remains clear.

Of course the programming is helpful, to say the least. The keynotes were uplifting and inspiring. I now feel like an IG pro thanks to last year’s Iris Award winner of Instagram of the Year, (and this year’s Best Photographer), Lashawn Wiltz. I’m ready to pitch producers segments for television shows courtesy of Orly Shani and Home and Family. I am even prepared to pitch a TEDx Talk topic because of Lori Granito’s informative how-to session.

Also, yes, the events are over-the-top fabulous. I mean, how many times can you say you jumped into a ball pit supplied by Stitch Fix, got a makeover courtesy of Dove, took headshots courtesy of Best Buy, or schmoozed with Taye Diggs?


But, like I said, at the heart of this remains to be the Mom2Community. A community I am beyond proud to have joined this weekend, and will continue to attempt to enrich year after year. See ya in Austin next, Mamas! 💓💓