Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Confessions of a Cookie Mom

(Writer's note: this just ran in the Huffington Post's Parenting Blog, so I'm running it again here. Because I can.)
As much as I would love to tell you that I'm the kind of working mother who has her act together, it's simply not the case. I'm the mom who keeps a razor in her car because inevitably, I'll be driving to a meeting and realize I have one hairy knee, because I don't even have my act together enough to have a matching set of hairy knees. When a school party sign-up list goes up and all of the other parents work hours cutting fresh fruit into the shape of the school mascot, I sign up to bring napkins. That way, if I forget the napkins (and believe me, I will), the kids won't starve, and they can just wipe their messy little hands on their clean little pants.
It's not that I haven't tried to be the kind of mom who has her act together. When my now 18-year-old stepdaughter was in elementary school, I stepped up to be the Girl Scout Cookie Mom. Looking back, I'm pretty convinced that one of the other moms drugged me and got me to say yes, while all of the other moms laughed wickedly behind my back. After all, I was a fairly new stepparent. That alone automatically made me feel like a second class citizen, and at that point in my life, I didn't know The Secret to Being a Cookie Mom.
Now that I know the secret, I'm going to share it with you. Considering being a Cookie Mom? Grab a box of Do-Si-Dos and a glass of milk and sit down for a little lesson.
If you've been a Cookie Mom before, I will enjoy having a glass of wine with you in God's special spa retreat in heaven, because we deserve it. If you haven't been a Cookie Mom, let's start with the job description:
Wanted: Cheerful, naive sucker. Must pass a background check that rivals the FBI and CIA combined. Requirements include attending training sessions with instructors who wear Christmas sweaters in June and being willing to gain 10 pounds during Cookie Sale. Candidates must own a minivan and be proud of it. Should delight in outdated, inefficient business practices. Must have space in your home to house a minimum of 1,500 cases of cookies. Should own a dolly, a strong husband, or both. The ideal candidate will possess the physical and emotional strength to fight off their strong husband with a stick when he cracks open cases labeled for other kids and eats Thin Mints while laughing manically.
The candidate will graciously manage mothers who appear organized, but inevitably show up two hours late to pick up cookies at the same time you've stripped down to your bra and panties in the hopes of diving into a hot bath. Scheduling consideration during the Cookie Sale: Be prepared to call in sick to work at least once to cry uncontrollably while counting piles of loose change. 
I'm probably breaking some kind of Girl Scout code by revealing the truth, so to balance things out, here's a site devoted to helping new Cookie Moms get ready for the task. My favorite part: "Are you a new cookie mom? First, I want to tell you, don't panic!"
I'm telling you, the loose change alone should make you panic. I had so much money to handle I felt like Al Pacino in Scarface, minus the gritty, gangster glamour. While Pacino sat at a table with stacks of cash, I was slumped in an overstuffed Pottery Barn chair buried in nickels, dimes and quarters, shoving cookies down my gullet, scribbling illegible notes on post-its, trying to learn Accounting 101 while warding off an extended visit to our local mental health facility. But damn, I was a good stepmother! The other mothers were SO impressed by my Girl Scout spirit!
Don't get me wrong; I completely appreciate what the Girl Scouts do for our impressionable young girls. Both of my daughters had a blast doing it, and the mothers who volunteered to take on the meetings are getting extra complimentary spa treatments at God's spa retreat in heaven. The Girl Scouts teach sisterhood, female empowerment, and basic finance. During the cookie sale, girls learn about customer service (a lost art), door to door sales (that's a little scary), and how to handle rejection. Good lessons, all.
This weekend when you stroll past a cookie booth, please buy some cookies. Who cares if they're loaded with calories and ridiculously overpriced? You'll help a local troop keep a fraction of the profits, make a kid smile, but most of all, you'll make that Cookie Mom feel worthwhile. And if you're really feeling charitable, write a check for the exact amount, please. The Cookie Mom will thank you.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Week Four

This week, I'm thankful for my dear friend Candace. Our friendship is one of the most important things in my life.

I've known Candace since middle school, when we passed notes in Texas History class and often got in trouble for giggling. We haven't stopped laughing since. 

When we were 18, we each spent a year in Europe as exchange students. At the end of the year, we traveled through Europe by train with two other girlfriends, and together we laughed through every country. In Italy, while waiting to board a ferry, we watched young Italian sailors prank each other by holding lit cigarette lighters to each other's butts. We screamed and laughed when we checked into a hotel in Paris that had a hole in the floor that doubled as a toilet and a shower. In Greece, we cracked plates on each other's heads and took nasty shots of Ouzo, and possibly partially skinny-dipped in the Mediterranean. But don't tell our moms.

We reunited after college, randomly bumping into each other one night on 6th street, and we were attached at the hip from then on. We laughed our way through The Dating Years, especially the time we decided meeting guys in bars wasn't working, so we went to the First United Methodist Church in Austin and went to a single's Sunday School class, only to find the men there were old enough to be our grandfathers. At one point, I dated a guy who was so toxic it nearly ruined our friendship. Lucky for me, I dumped the guy and kept my friend, and she was with me through it all.

We briefly considered starting a business together, mixing up some of the most fabulous salsa on the planet. We were going to bottle it up and sell it as Blondie's Salsa. To this day, every year the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival happens, I wonder what would have happened if we'd gotten our act together and started a salsa empire. Then again, it's never too late!

Soon, life went into fast-forward. Through the years, we've celebrated graduations, birthdays and weddings. Together with our other girlfriends, we've spent many nights over glasses of wine, sitting on Candace's porch, talking through problems and working out life together. We've been there for each other as we lost loved ones. We've cried our fair share of tears together, but somehow, we always end up laughing.

As long as I've known her, I feel confident that I can speak for Candace when I say that we are both most proud of being mothers. Parenting-wise, I got a head start on Candace by falling in love with a man with children of his own, and I had the good fortune of learning about parenthood by being a stepmother. Less than a year after I had Emily Rose, Candace had Kendall, and the second generation of giggly girls entered our lives. Being mothers of girls so close in age has been one of life's biggest blessings, and the laughter has just gotten louder. 

Candace pushes me to challenge myself, reminds me to live in the moment, and is always there. When I'm being a worrywart, she sends me articles about whatever I'm worrying about. When Tim and I are being stupid married people and fighting over something ridiculous, she lends me the right book to work out our problems. Just this weekend, she took Emily Rose for a sleepover when I was too sick to get out of bed. And just a few moments ago, she sent a text that made me laugh so hard tears streamed down my face.

Candace, I'm doing this gratitude project because of course you inspired me to do it. Thank you for your friendship. Let's keep on laughing no matter what!