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Here you go! We LOVE spending a couple days each summer in Pennsylvania. The first year, we went with my sister-in-law, brother-in-law and three nephews, and headed to Strasburg Railroad in Lancaster for the Day Out of With Thomas event, and then to Dutch Wonderland for some amusement park fun. It was a fabulously fun weekend, and perfect for our crew, ages 2-8 at the time. Since then, we've revisited Southeastern PA, but instead of Lancaster, we've headed straight to The Sweetest Place on Earth, aka Hersheypark! We haven't attempted Disney (finally taking the plunge this November!) or even boarding an airplane yet with our kiddos, but Hershey? We've got this one down! Hope these tips help you out and maybe even persuade you to visit this nearby gem.
Before your visit, be sure to download the Hersheypark app onto your iPhone or Android phone. This super app gives you an interactive map of the park, a list of nearby rides, show times, dining options and more. It is completely free and such a great tool.
WHERE TO STAY...
We are a HUGE fan of Country Inn and Suiteshotels (part of the hospitality group that owns Radisson Hotels). We usually stay at the Country Inn and Suites @Union Deposit Road in Harrisburg, which is about a 15 minute (EASY!) drive to Hersheypark. There are a few other Country Inns closer to Hershey, but they can also cost $50-100 more a night that the Union Deposit Road location. We've paid anywhere from $100-$125 a night, depending on the date, and I've found that no matter what website I use (hotels.com, Travelocity.com or the official website of Country Inn and Suites), the price is always the same. You can book either a standard room (we get one with 2 double beds) or a two-room suite, with a separate living room area. All of the rooms come with a flat screen television, refrigerator and microwave.
This hotel is super clean, very accessible to a grocery store, Target (especially helpful since I left our memory card and sunscreen at home!), gas stations, restaurants (Outback, Panera, etc.) and the highway. There is a great indoor pool/hot tub and a super complimentary breakfast that includes the usual cereal, muffins, bagels as well as Belgian waffles, eggs and other goodies. In the lobby, you will always find a selection of coffee, fresh fruit and warm Otis Spunkmeyer cookies- perfect for refueling those tired kiddies and even more tired parents!
Other Mommy Dashers have also suggested The Hotel Hershey, which looks ahh-MAAAZ-ing, but will cost a few more beans than some other places (a summer stay can cost $350 a night and above), BUT you also have the convenience of being on Hershey property, using the shuttle service to visit Hersheypark amusements, having access to the golf course, and some other cool perks. Hershey also has a campground, at which you can bring your own tents, trailer or rent one of their awesome cabins. Other hotel suggestions include Days Inn Hershey (less than a mile from Hersheypark and also offers free breakfast and a shuttle!) as well as Marriot Townplace Suites in Harrisburg, which offers the convenience of a 2 bedroom suite with a living room and pull out couch- perfect for larger families, or for those traveling with friends or grandparents.
**This year we mixed things up a bit, and were more economical by staying at the Travelodge, right on E. Chocolate Avenue. It was $84 for the night (we found a promo discount code on line through our union) and although the hotel was absolutely no frills and hasn't been remodeled since 1982, it was clean beyond belief, had an indoor pool (which we didn't get a chance to check out), and was a five minute drive to Hershey. We checked in at 3 pm, spent the whole afternoon out and got back to the hotel around 10:30 and crashed...and then woke up, checked out, grabbed some fruit, cereal and muffins from their free breakfast and went back to Hersheypark- for the amount of time we actually spent in our room, it was a fabulous deal.
HOW TO DO MORE,FOR LESS!
The standard "Gate" price for admittance into Hersheypark is $62.95 for ages 9-54, and $39.95 for kids ages 3-8 and adults ages 55 and up. Under 3 is free...which I totally took advantage for a couple of summers a few years ago, when I may or may not have instructed my then-3 1/2 year old to sit in the stroller, look short, and not say a word until we got though the admission gate...what this mama will do to save a few bucks! :)
There are MUCH cheaper ways of getting Hershey tickets without paying full price at the gate, or by making your children an accomplice in lying...Our preferred method is buying our tickets at a Giant Food Store once we are in PA (there is one right near our hotel). Tickets are $47.80 for adults- that's $15 less than at the gate, and $38.80 for kids. Go right to Customer Service and they will take care of you. Usually, if you go before 6/30, you will also get a free parking pass ($15 value!). Dunkin' Donuts and Burger King also offer coupons for discount tickets (usually about $10 off), but the Giant option is def the most cost effective. *Military families do receive a special discount...ask at the gate or check out hersheypark.com for details!
My next ticket saver tip is to visit the park during the "Preview" hours. Hershey allows you to enter the park 2 1/2 hours prior to closing...so for example, we were there on Monday evening, and the park was closing at 10 pm, so we were allowed to enter at 7:30...FOR FREE! (*Guests staying in Hotel Hershey, or other Hershey resort properties can enter 3 1/2 hours prior to closing!) You just show your ticket, and then hold on to it for the next day. We love the preview hours because most people are on their way out, after a long day of Hershey...by the time we get there, rides are emptying, and we have free reign over everything.
We usually get to the Hershey property around 6:00, and visit Chocolate World (found right at the front entrance of Hersheypark) first. There are lots of activities in Chocolate World (4D movie experience, make your own chocolate bar, etc) but in an effort to save $$$ and to maximize our time inside the park, we jump right onto the line for the chocolate tour, which is absolutely free! You hop right onto a motorized ride (stroller parking is conveniently located right there), and get taken through the chocolate making process- from the cocoa beans in the forest, to the store shelves. It's adorable,informative and totally kid-friendly. I will warn you though, the tour starts and ends INSIDE the Chocolate World store...which is heaven on Earth for chocolate lovers! We usually tell our kiddos that they can choose one treat- we escaped this haven of chocolate spending less than $10, and enough candy to last us a month (or maybe one really bad PMS week ;) ).
If you have older kids, I would suggest hitting up the more popular rollercoasters during the Preview hours. Those of us with little ones, you can probably have your kids go on each of the approximately 25 kiddie rides twice during the evening. Just make sure you hold off on the ice cream treats until AFTER the Tilt-a-Whirl...trust me, I know from experience.
We usually stay until 10:00 pm closing, and if we are lucky, our kiddos pass out on the way back to the hotel. The next morning, we head back to Hershey after a hearty hotel breakfast, and are amongst the first visitors at 10 am. The first half of the day is devoted to the Boardwalk- Hersheypark's own waterpark, which is totally included in the price of admission, and is found right within the Park! The Boardwalk is AWESOME, with over 16 water attractions including a MASSIVE wave pool and a family-friendly Lazy River. Get there early to grab some chairs in the shade, stake out your spot and you are set for the day! The water park is soooo clean and well maintained- it's really the highlight of our trip. When our kiddos were younger, after 4 or 5 hours of fun in the sun, they were usually ready for a nap, so we would head back to the hotel to rest, shower and change. We would usually grab dinner at one of the local restaurants, and then head back to Hersheypark around 7, to do some more kiddie rides and check out the animal attractions in ZooAmerica. If everyone was in a good mood and well rested, we shut it down again at 10 pm, bid our farewells to the Sweetest Place on Earth, and head back to Harrisburg for a very good night's rest! This year, since 2/3 of our crew is older (ages 7 and 9), we powered through the day- conquering the rides after the water park and going strong, until we were Hershey-ed out, and just headed home around 6:30 pm.
MOMMMMM, I'M HUNGRY!!!!!
Hersheypark, like any amusement park, has plenty of delicious and not-so-nutritious food, at pretty expensive prices. To be fair, their brochure and website does say that they offer menu choices for guests with food sensitivities and allergies, but we usually do not dine inside the park, so I can't comment from personal experience. I did notice an entire food stand that was just for Food Allergy sufferers, as well as many Gluten Free and Kosher options. There is a Dunkin Donuts inside the park, which could work wonders when you feel that 4:00 crash happening!
There are meal plans (think Disney, on a MUCH smaller scale) that you can purchase, as well as a souvenir cup which costs about $11, but refills are only 99 cents for the entire season once you have it.
The peeps at Hershey probably wouldn't love to hear this, but despite their "no outside food policy", I am guilty of sneaking PB&J sandwiches, pretzels, juice boxes and fruit into the park. You are allowed to bring in sealed water bottles, which we did as well. I am not usually a rule breaker, but in an effort not to go completely broke, and to provide my family with a filling lunch, it's my best option. We do indulge in some fun vacation treats while there...cotton candy, ice cream, kettle corn...but not purchasing entire meals for everyone really helps us to stay on track with our budget.
MISSION HERSHEY COMPLETE...NOW WHAT?
After our first two days spent livin' la vida Hershey, we do usually spend one more day in PA (this year we headed home after two days)...our last day is spent checking out some of the other local attractions, including:
-Bass Pro Shop in Harrisburg (Trust me, it is unbelievably awesome...even if you don't think you will think so!) :) They have activities in the store for the kids, a mini carousel and the biggest fish tank you will ever see in a store.
- Kitchen Kettle Village (authentic Pennsylvania Dutch shopping experience- also offers Amish buggy rides, a playground and a petting zoo)
- Gettysburg (if you're a history buff!) is only about 45 minutes away.
- Tanger Outlets- there are actually TWO fabulous shopping centers- one in Hershey and one in Lancaster.
- The back of my eyelids as I try to sneak a nap on the ride home :)
I do hope this information is helpful to y'all! :) Please feel free to comment with your own experiences or questions you may have.
"Honesty is the best policy." Generally, I would agree with this statement, but when it comes to my children, I probably lie more than Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, and any other creepy, power-abusing public figure you can think of.
I should start off by saying that I am an awful liar, and honest in every other aspect of my life. Besides the teeny-weeny white lie that may have been told to my husband about the actual cost of my brand new boots, (they were on sale, honey, I promise!), I always tell the truth. Even as a kid, guilt would set in as soon as a lie would pass through my lips, and I would usually fess up before being caught. But that all changed, when I became a mom.
Some of my little lies are really just exaggerations of the truth, like "If you don't stop eating so much candy, your teeth are going to fall out, and you will only be able to eat mushed up peas and cauliflower juice for the rest of your life." (This is one that I'm still trying to sell to my little ones on a daily basis.)
But out of all the untruths that come spewing out of my mouth on a daily basis, my all-time favorite lie spun story is our family's fairy, Penelope. What?! You don't have a fairy who lives in an empty tissue box on top of your refrigerator, only eats strawberries dipped in sea salt, and watches your every move? Well, get one NOW because that talented little hussy works nothing less than miracles.
Penelope was created about a month before my lovable little drama queen, B, turned four years old. It was the end of the summer, and I was getting a little tired of her daily campaign to be elected The World's Crankiest, Whiniest (not to mention LOUDEST) Kid. So one day, I placed a call to the President of Fairyland (located about 2 hours from Timbuktu) and I requested our very own "birthday fairy." A birthday fairy is basically Santa, but in the form of a 1-inch, red-headed, winged pixie. Think Tinkerbell, but sassier and a tad bit mean.
As soon as Penelope "arrived", we noticed a definite improvement in our curly girl's behavior. She was a better listener, more agreeable, less likely to slam doors...it was ah-MAAZ-ing. She would've jumped through hoops lined with fire and broccoli (two of her biggest fears), just to impress that demanding little nymph.
Not to mention, Penelope has better surveillance than Big Brother, and there's no place to hide. When my monkeys were on their best behavior, she would leave little gifts for everyone in the family- a Hershey Kiss, a new pack of crayons, a freshly blended frozen margarita (wishful thinking). When their listening skills weren't quite up to par, Penelope would get her point across by making certain favorite toys disappear, or magically removing Nick Jr from our TV. At first, I was a little taken aback by the fact that my darling child would be so willing to please an imaginary glorified flying BUG, meanwhile she thought nothing of constantly sparring with me- the one responsible for providing her with an endless supply of chocolate milk, rhinestone tiaras and new episodes of Dora...and oh yeah, life. But, my little plan was working sooo well, that I didn't care one. tiny. bit.
After Penelope (with a little help from Target) bestowed the birthday girl with a pink Power Wheels motorcycle for her 4th birthday, we were planning on kissing that little fairy farewell. Then, we started thinking...why mess with perfection? And so, Penelope has been a very welcome house guest ever since, and believe me, that chick works hard for her room and board.
I know that this shtick won't last forever, and I dread the day that I have to reveal the truth about Santa, Finn (our very entertaining Elf on a Shelf), http://youshouldneversaynever.blogspot.com/2011/12/he-sees-you-when-youre-sleeping.html, and all of the other fabulously helpful imaginary personalities we have invited into our home. Although I know I'm technically "lying", it's much more than that. It's an awesome exercise of our family's imagination, and my kiddos love every moment of it. One thing I know is true... my babies' innocence and unbridled willingness to believe everything I say won't last forever, so I plan on savoring every moment of it...even if my nose grows from here to California.
Editor's Note: I wrote this blog over two years ago...about three weeks before I found out that I was expecting my Meatball! Moral of the story? Don't stop believing...it's not just a Journey song- it's my motto!
Greedy Greedy. Spoiled. Ungrateful. These are the names I call myself sometimes when I start to get frustrated. Not my daily frustration over the lack of finding something that I actually want to wear in my closet, or my frustration over not being able to play an entire Wii game of Just Dance with my kids without pulling every muscle in my body.
This frustration has been constant for more than two years, and I hesitate to blog about it, for the fear that some of you may start to associate me with those names above as well. Since December 2010, we've been struggling with secondary (or third-onary, would be more appropriate) infertility. We are twice blessed, with two perfect, healthy, amazing (and totally exhausting) babies. A girl and a boy. Six and four years old. Smart, beautiful, funny...I could go on and on (as any mama could!) with lists if adjectives describing my pride and joy(s), and I can start to almost convince myself that we should stop while we're ahead, and to stop being, well, greedy.
But the thing is, I don't want to. Don't want to stop, don't want to give up my hopes of being a family of five, or my dreams of adding one more little clown to our three ring circus.
When Luca was just shy of two years old, I found out I was pregnant and we were over the moon excited...but at around seven weeks, I suffered a miscarriage a few days before Christmas. It was sad and horrible, and a dark few days, but we were able to come through to the other side with our faith, and the love and support of our family and friends. (You can read that story here...http://youshouldneversaynever.blogspot.com/2012_05_01_archive.html)
For the next year or so, we were TTC (take a guess...anyone? Bueller? Trying To Conceive), to no avail. Believe me, and I'm sure many of you ladies and gentlemen can agree, the TRYING part isn't nearly as fun as it sounds when it involves charts and body temperatures, 24 hour windows of opportunity and digital tests. It's stressful, especially when it's not working. When you are in full Operation Baby mode, there is nothing worse than dropping $20 on a pack of Clearblue Easy and seeing those dirty little words "Not Pregnant" pop up.
Finally, my doctor suggested that I have my tubes flushed- which has a big, long fancy name that I'm not going to bore you with, but basically it's like having Roto-Rooter for your Fallopian tubes. It wasn't exactly the most pleasant experience, but I went into the hospital well armed...aka I popped four Advil and two Vicodin an hour before the procedure, and wallah! It wasn't nearly as bad as Google made it out to be.
The best part? It was a success! A few weeks later, I finally got a BFP. We decided to keep it more hush-hush this time until we were certain that all was ok. Six week appointment went well...then the eight week ultrasound, not so much. There was an empty sac. Which basically means there was a fertilized egg, but no baby. I spent the next week crying, praying, and bargaining (I promise I'll never yell at my kids again...I promise I will go to church every week...I'll start watching more Duggars, and less Kardashians). A week later we went back to the doctor, and there on the screen, was an amazing, beautiful little heartbeat...beating at 140 bpm. The baby was still measuring smaller than he/she should have been, but my doctor was very optimistic, and so was I.
I sooooo needed that optimism. It was the first week of school, we were in the process of selling our house and moving into our new home, everything in my life was stressful during September 2012. I wanted more than anything for this to all to just. work. out.
And then, September 13th comes along. I am a total Triskaidekaphobe. If there is $13 in my wallet (highly unlikely...I usually have about 45 cents and my debit card), I will take a dollar out. My TV volume has to either be on level 12 or 14. So when I realized that I scheduled my next ultrasound on the dreaded 13th, I had a bad feeling. Unfortunately, my intuition was right...the baby's heartrate had dropped to 76 bpm, and hadn't grown since the week before. Crying on the phone on my way home, I got rear-ended, which was actually a blessing in disguise. The culprits were a lovely older Italian couple, on their way from grocery shopping, who offered me a Fudgsicle and distracted me with stories about their dogs and their arthritis for almost two hours while we waited for the police to come and do an accident report.
Needless to say, September was not my favorite month...but again, after grieving, and focusing on the positive, life did go on, as it should. And now? Well, I wish this post was my way of announcing to the world that we were expecting baby #3... but it's not. We are still on the baby train, and as much as I try not to make it a daily focus, it is always in the back of my mind. I could tell you what cycle day I'm on, faster than what the date is (36!). I think in days, weeks and due dates. Friends of ours asked if we wanted to do the Warrior Dash this summer, and my first thought was, if I got knocked up this month, how far along would I be? Turning 35 this past December was near tragic for me...all I kept thinking was that now if when I have another baby, I will be a geriatric pregnancy. You KNOW a man made up that term...a woman would never refer to herself as a geriatric. Unless she was like, 102.
What's in store for our future? We will have to wait and see. My doctors have prescribed Progesterone, since they think I am lacking enough of it to have a healthy pregnancy. My first two healthy, uneventful pregnancies? Either miracles (as all babies are...) or perhaps something in my body's chemistry has just changed, and I need to change along with it. Either way, we are rolling with the punches and hoping that our baby dreams come true. But however this story ends, I know in my heart, that we are already blessed beyond my wildest hopes and dreams.
OK. So I'm going to start by saying that this topic has been rolling around in my head for a while, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to put it out there...it's one of those taboos that most people don't like to talk about, much like Spring Break Cancun 1998, or the time you ate a petrified french fry that you found underneath your two year old's car seat. But, as more and more time settles between the past and the present, there is a little voice in my head telling me to write about it- the same voice that tells me to inhale spoonfuls of Nutella and almond butter at 2 am- which totally proves that this voice is very wise, and may even have a PhD from University of Awesome.
In the early morning hours on a November day in 2010, we got the exciting news that baby #3 was on board. Our little monkeys were four years old and almost two years old, and it seemed like a perfect time to add a third ring to our circus. We went to the doctor, confirmed that I was almost six weeks along, and got a due date in July. Since it was our third time around this block, we waited for about a week, and made our big announcement to our families on Thanksgiving. A few days later, I pretty much stood on top of Mt. Everest and shouted "WE'RE HAVING A BAAAABY!!" to the world...aka, I put it on Facebook.
Now, for those of you who know me, you know that I'm pretty much an open book, who only stops talking long enough to eat and breathe, and isn't really the best at locking up the vault and keeping things to myself. With my first two pregnancies, we waited until I was about eight weeks before announcing it to our families...there was no way I was ever going to make it to the twelve week mark, that is always held up as "the safe time" to let the cat outta the bag. Since we'd been down this road twice before, with two healthy, uneventful pregnancies, I saw no reason to keep this happy, happy news to ourselves.
And then, along came December 19th. Cue the dark and ominous overtones.
From the moment I opened my eyes that morning, the day sucked. First of all, I woke up with the stomach bug. We had our annual Girls Night Christmas Cookie Swap the night before at my house. Unfortunately, macaroons and fudge bars weren't the only thing being swapped that night. All seven of us girls, PLUS our husbands AND all of our kids were knocked down by Flu-palooza 2010. I called in sick to work, laid in bed all day, but powered through that afternoon to make it to a scheduled ultrasound.
I got to the doctor's office, feeling like I was run over by a speeding bus, and about five minutes into my appointment, I could tell by the silence from the ultrasound tech that something was not quite right. When I asked her what she saw, she said that she couldn't say, and that the doctor would want to talk to me in her office right away. Yeah. My world pretty much stopped spinning at that point. With a lump in my throat and a heart on the edge of breaking, I gathered my things and headed upstairs.
Because I didn't have a scheduled appointment to talk to my doctor, I had to wait. And wait. And wait. I waited for an hour. Which, if you are anxiously waiting for bad news, as well as throwing up Christmas cookies and antipasta every 25 minutes, feels like 17 hours.
To pass the time, I started texting. I sent out an SOS to my best friends, filling them in on the potentially bad situation. Knowing that my peeps were praying for me and was comforting. My poor husband was dead to the world, suffering from the stomach bug epidemic as well, and had no idea what was happening at this point. A parent of a student I had in my class many years ago, who happened to be waiting for her appointment, ended up being my guardian angel that afternoon. I ended up tearfully filling her in on why I was sitting there, and she spent a half hour, filling my head with positive thoughts and distracting me with stories about her kids. I truly believe she was sent by God to be there, to calm my nerves, and to stop me from leaping over the receptionist's desk and demanding that the doctor TALKED. TO. ME. NOW.
Finally I was called back. In my group, there are six different doctors, and to make the whole experience go from bad to worse, I happened to see the one doctor who was relatively new, and I had never met before. She also happened to be the one doctor in my practice that has zero bedside manner. I'm pretty sure that Kim Jong-il would've been kinder in his delivery. Dr. Mean started by showing me the film of my ultrasound and very matter-of-factly telling me that "there is no heartbeat, and that this pregnancy is no longer viable."
The next thing I knew, the Ice Queen handed me a box of tissues and excused herself from the room so I could "compose myself". I went into the bathroom, called my mom, and lost it. I sobbed my way through the entire, terrible story, and drove home, straight into the arms of my equally-as-heartbroken husband.
I'm not going to sugarcoat it...it was awful. I was almost ten weeks, and already completely in love. I spent the next two days, laying in bed, feeling like crapola, snuggling with my babies, and watching hours and hours of The Soprano's and Real Housewives of Everywhere and Anywhere.
Somewhere between one of Tony's therapy sessions with Dr. Melfi and an infomercial for Sham-Wow, I had a terrible realization. I had shared the big 'bun in the oven' news on Facebook, and now I had to undo it. AND I had to undo in 420 characters or less. Not being one for brevity, writing this status took me over an hour. I hit 'post' with a pit in my stomach, but within minutes, I started getting responses. The amount of messages and posts I received from family and friends was overwhelming and completely and totally amazing. So many of you shared your own stories of loss, and because of these stories, I closed up shop on my pity-party, threw on my Uggs and some lipgloss, and went out to breakfast with my little family. That night, Chris and I went Christmas shopping. We were still sadder than sad, but we also knew that life must go on. We each mourned in our own way...sharing the joy and complete insanity of Christmas with our babies helped tremendously. Like any loss, the weight of it would hit me when I least expected it, and even now, over two years later, I have my moments of achy sadness.
But through all of that sadness, an important lesson emerged. In the weeks following, I would run into co-workers,neighbors, old friends from high school, and sorority sisters I hadn't seen in years, and because they knew of what happened via my 'retraction statement' on Facebook, so many of them would share their own story of loss during pregnancy. I found healing power and courage in each of these conversations, cards and e-mails. And with each story, I started to realize that is not a type of loss that women generally talk about. In our country, there is such a negative stigma attached to miscarriage, almost as if you should be embarrassed or ashamed if it happens to you. With approximately one out of every five women experiencing this type of loss, it just seems ridiculous that people feel this way. There is no other loss that occurs that we feel pressured to keep a secret or speak about in whispers.
We are programmed to keep our expanding bellies hush-hush until that magical 12 week mark, when we enter our second trimester and the threat of miscarriage significantly decreases. I get that. Well, part of me gets it. The other part of me, thinks about how if no one knew that we were expecting in the first place, we would have missed out on sharing in the experiences of others, and the hundreds of healing prayers, that ultimately gave us strength. The simple act of others acknowledging that we were suffering a loss in our family was vital to making us feel whole again.
I don't regret sharing our news 'too soon' for one minute. There is power in numbers, and knowing that we weren't alone, was significant in our mourning and mending. I know everyone grieves in their own way, and not everyone wears their heart on their sleeve like I do, but talking about it, and not keeping your grief and emotions bottled up inside, can do a world of good.
Life goes on. I don't say that callously, forgetting what we went through, but it is the truth. Not a day goes by that I don't think of our littlest angel. But I do have faith that our hope of welcoming a new baby into our family will happen. This whole experience taught me that my friends and family were there for me not just in the good times, but also in the not-so-good-mascara-running-down-my-face-blubbering-through-a-box-of-Kleenex-and-a-bowl-of-wine-times.
I am one lucky mama.
Like millions of other 21st century mamas, I am both overjoyed and overwhelmed by the amount of parenting information available to us, 24/7/365. From the moment I saw the little plus sign on a pee stick, I researched motherhood like I was applying to be a Rhodes scholar of Mommyland. I was six weeks pregnant with a baby that was slightly smaller than one of the sesame seeds on my bagel, but I was already stressing out about whether or not to buy organic baby food, what the theme of her first birthday party should be, and what kind of college savings plan we should be starting.
One of the first things I did as a mommy-to-be, is sign up for Babycenter.com. Babycenter is a great resource when you are checking into the nervous hospital becoming a mother. They send you these handy little emails, each week, comparing your baby's size to a fruit (week 10, a kumquat!), and give you fun facts about your ever-expanding belly, butt and thighs . It all sounds innocent, until you venture onto the message boards, where ladies from all around the world are sharing (often OVERsharing) and comparing. Did I gain too much weight? Did I not gain enough? (haha, funny!!) Should I be using non-toxic, low VOC, strawberry-scented paint for the nursery, like Mary P. from San Diego? Is it too late to put the sesame seed on a waiting list for nursery school? Carrie from Topeka already paid for the first semester for her kiwi's Montessori school!
These emails don't stop there...they stalk you all the way through your child's 21st birthday. Just kidding...their 9th birthday. But that is nine loooong years of checklists and milestones that will drive you to drink (as if you didn't have enough of a reason already!). That being said, according to the emails I got yesterday, this week I should be teaching Bella the value of money, introducing her to the "birds and the bees" (yeah, I may need to be sedated for that one) and assessing Luca's phonological awareness, as well as his ability to count to 100 in Chinese.
Moving on to my favorite social media hot spot, and yours, Facebook. Now I will start with the disclaimer that I HEART FACEBOOK. Like, I wouldn't trade my login and password for a lifetime supply of bacon. It is an amazing place to keep in touch with friends and family, share stories, stalk ex-boyfriends from college and the hot blond they left you for (not from personal experience, of course, just generalizing...).
However, Facebook, much like my hair, is not always perfect.
Problem #1: Bragging rights. Many of us mommies use this platform to share our little one's latest and greatest skills and developments, which is perfectly fine. Shooting off a status about your little one learning to subtract, riding a bike without training wheels, scoring six touchdowns in a single game, or conjugating verbs in Swedish is totally acceptable, and a great way to share your exciting news with family and friends. The problem lies in your audience. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I have totally used other people's statuses about their kids' academic achievements, sports glories, and language acquisition, as a yard stick to measure what my kiddies should be doing.
Here's an example (may or may not be based on true events):
Me (nose buried in my iPad): "Honey, do you remember Suzy from college? The red head that lived on the floor above me, and was always passed out in the hallway? Her boyfriend cheated on her with the RA and then she dropped out of college and moved back home?"
My patient husband (trying to watch the Mets game): "Um, yeah. Why?"
Me: "Well, I'm on Facebook, and this morning she posted that her six-year old twins just signed a modeling contract AND are now being home-schooled by the same tutor that Brad and Angelina use! Her oldest daughter was just accepted to the American School of Ballet's intensive summer program!! I was looking through her pictures, and last year, she threw a environmentally friendly, 'green'-themed birthday party for her girls AND it was featured in Parents magazine. Instead of a cake, she made gluten-free, sugar-free cupcakes, frosted with mousse made from fair trade chocolate. All of the paper plates and cups were 100% compostable, and she used the compost to fertilize her garden. They're Fruitatarian Vegans, so they grow 90% of their own food themselves."
Me (anxiety level rising): "O. M. G.!! Look at this!!! She is on a strict kale, quinoa and water diet, and is not only training for the NYC Marathon, but ALSO for the Iron Man triatholon in Hawaii!" Look at her profile pic- it's just of her abs!! That's like a 12 pack. I don't even have a 2 pack! Do you think I'm fat?"
Hubby (staring at the tv): "Uh-huh..."
Me (hitting soon-to-be-ex-husband in the head with iPad): "WHAT??!!!"
OK. So apparently I was boring my beloved, and completely lost his attention the minute I mentioned Brangelina, but the ranting, raving and complete envying I was doing over this classmate that I hadn't seen since 1997 is not only embarrassing, but totally unhealthy. Then again, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem...
Speaking of 12-step programs, the newest addiction sweeping the mommy nation is Pinterest. I have to admit, I didn't really "get" Pinterest at first, but once I figured it out...woah. It is one spicy meatball. Basically, people (who are obviously not regular people, but crafty aliens from a parallel universe, where no one has to work or sleep) post recipes, crafts, fashion, hair styles, party themes, floral arrangements, original photography, etc.
Pinterest was making me second guess my life. Why aren't I scouring local garage sales to find chairs, circa 1912, that I can strip, sand and refinish? Should I be creating seasonal garlands for my fireplace mantel? Why didn't I make pancakes in the shape of Malibu Barbie for Bella's breakfast this morning? There were so many amazing pictures of wedding flowers, dresses and handmade invitations, that I was considering picking a fight with my husband, filing for divorce, just so we could reconcile and I could replan our wedding.
After gathering hundreds of pins, I was faced with a reality. Unless I kidnapped Martha Stewart, Giada Delaurentis and Nate Berkus and kept them as my crafting, cooking and decorating indentured servants, there was no way in heck that I was recreating half of what I saw. Pinterest account deleted and Xanax prescription avoided. Winning!
Although I truly appreciate living in the 'information age', I do sometimes wish for a simpler time. My laptop and iPhone are never more than 3 feet away from me and even though I feel very connected to "the world", I can sometimes feel disconnected from the ones who matter most, my babies. If I'm busy staring at my computer screen, finding the perfect recipe for the perfect cinnamon rolls, then I'm missing out on a great game of tag in the backyard. If I spend 15 minutes on Facebook, stalking researching my best friend's ex-boyfriend's new wife, I just lost 15 minutes that I could've spent reading a book with my girl.
My mommy accomplice, J, is so good at this. She is a computer savvy smart cookie, but her Facebook account hasn't been used in over two years, and she rather get a root canal than spend more than 10 minutes on Pinterest. She is much more likely to be found pitching to her girls in the backyard, or blowing bubbles with her little one in the driveway, rather than shopping online to find cardstock in the perfect shade of yellow for her daughter's 1st birthday party invitations.
From experience, she knows that being a part of the social media world can plunge you into a black hole of time suckage, and I admire her ability to go cold turkey.
Now, don't get nervous, I'm not buying a horse, buggy and bonnet, and moving to Pennsylvania any time this century. Technology is amazing, and it has enriched my life in so many ways. But unplugging for a day (well, let's start with an hour...) here and there, and not worrying about keeping up with the Joneses, or in my case, the Suzys, can do a world of good. Realizing that my family doesn't need handwoven Easter baskets, homemade organic fruit leather and a color-coded pantry is a game changer...all they really truly want is 100% of me
(and maybe some of those chocolate peanut butter cup cookies I found on Pinterest).