Cocktails with the Cult: Lavender Lemonade

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! Do the holidays stress you out as much as me? Well then, you, my friend, are in luck because it’s time for another cocktail recipe! This one takes a little lead time, because you are going to learn about infusing vodka. Don’t worry, it’s way easier than it sounds, but it is totally gonna impress your friends. You’re gonna be all “Hey, I infused this vodka with lavender” and your friends are gonna be like “Wow, you must be an expert bartender!” And then if you’re like me, you’ll tell them how easy it is and they won’t be impressed with you anymore. I think maybe I’m doing it wrong…but anyway, infusing vodka is ridiculously simple.

I have gigantic lavender plants in my yard that grow a TON of lavender flowers. I am horrible at growing things, but for some reason, these plants just really love my yard, so they grow like crazy. When the flowers start to turn a little grey, I cut them off and hang them upside down over a big bowl to let them dry out, and then when they’re very dry I strip all the flowers off the stems. And voila, I have lovely dried lavender that smells amazing. Now, if you don’t have unkillable lavender in your yard, no worries, they sell dried lavender at fancy grocery stores, or possibly your local farmer’s market might have some too. Or, ask a friend with a lavender plant.

OK, so, infusing vodka. This sounds like a fancy thing, but what it means is, you soak something in vodka for a while, and then filter it through a paper coffee filter. That’s it. You thought I was kidding, but seriously, it is that simple. For lavender vodka, what I do is, I get a pint mason jar, I put in a tablespoon of dried lavender, and then I fill the jar to the top with vodka. Doesn’t have to be fancy vodka, mid-level vodka will do. And, I let it sit overnight at most, no longer than that or it’ll be crazy strong. Which would make a lovely lavender extract for baking, but not so much for mixing in cocktails. You could even let it sit less time than overnight, like probably a few hours would do. Then you pour it through a coffee filter, et voila! You have lavender vodka. It’s ridiculously easy.

Now, the drink itself. Get yourself some lemonade, whatever brand you like, or if you’re not lazy like me, you can make your own. Take a pint glass, add some ice, pour in a shot of lavender vodka, and then pour in your lemonade and stir.

And there you have it, a lavender lemonade! I hope you enjoy it!

Kid Birthday Parties

I’m just gonna come out and say it: I hate kid birthday parties. A couple years ago, we had The Boy’s 5th birthday party and I didn’t invite my local BFF, who had no kids at the time. And she was kind of taken aback, because, she’s my local BFF, and she was like, “You didn’t invite me to The Boy’s birthday party?” But honestly, it never occurred to me to invite her, because who the fuck wants to go to a kid birthday party unless they absolutely have to? Like, seriously, entertaining one or two kids is hard enough. Being in a room with 10 or 20 of them that are hopped up on sugar? Yeah, that is pretty much a nightmare.

One of the ways kid birthday parties can be less awful is if the other parents are cool. Over the years, we’ve had mostly awesome kids and parents going to the awesome daycare where The Boy used to go and The Girl still goes. The kids have one friend from there who I really hope one of them marries, because her parents would make kick-ass inlaws. Parties with them aren’t so bad. If you don’t really know the other parents, though, as is often the case now that The Boy is in elementary school, it’s just awkward. It’s like being on a first date, which I don’t ever want to have to do again, like, isn’t that why you get married? But with even more pressure than a first date, because what if the other parents are Judgy McJudgersons and won’t let their kid come over for a play date after they discover you’re not a perfect parent? And now you kid will never have a social life?

But the thing I hate most about birthday parties is the party favors. Jesus, the horrible crap that we all end up bringing home from other kids’ parties. Tiny tins of play dough, glow in the dark rings, a bouncy ball. My kids act like that stuff is the best toy they have ever seen in their lives and they don’t want to give it up, so we end up with bins full of the junk. I have to sneak them out of the house when the kids are in bed or we’d be buried alive under a pile of plastic crap that was made in China. And I am just as guilty as the other parents of giving out crap as party favors, because that’s the only way to make party favors affordable. I mean, after spending money on food and decorations and your own present for your kid, there isn’t a whole lot of money left for the party favors for the 20 kids that The Boy insisted we invite because they are all his very best friends in the whole world I really mean it mom I love them all so much please can I invite them all to the party don’t make me choose between Caden and Aidan and Hayden. Ugggghhhhh.

I am really looking forward to when my kids are old enough to just get dropped off at birthday parties. I know the teen years come with a whole host of other problems (if we get through high school without anyone getting pregnant, I will do a victory dance), but at least I won’t have to stand around chatting awkwardly with people I barely know while wondering how I will smuggle yet another 4-pack of crayons out of our house.

Children’s Television Survival Guide: Shaun the Sheep

It’s time once again for another in our Children’s Television Survival Guide. This time, we turn to Netflix and a gem of a show about a schizophrenic farmer and his livestock, called Shaun the Sheep. It’s yet another example of how a show can work both for kids, and for adults.

I’m sure the creators of Shaun the Sheep would like you to believe that their show is all about a bunch of sentient farm animals who spend their time having dance parties, playing soccer, and learning circus tricks. But I know what’s really happening on that farm: the farmer has gone round the bend. He is now only capable of mumbling–he never speaks actual words during any episode–and he frequently has glimpses of his sheep doing all these strange things, but when he does his double-take and comes back to his senses, the sheep are back to being ordinary sheep. Every episode, he has more breaks with reality. We are watching his descent into total madness, and it’s fascinating.

Of course, all the kids see is Shaun and his friends meeting aliens and dressing up as people to go order pizza in the village. They think it’s hilarious. They’re entertained, and we get to watch a brilliant study of a man’s struggle with mental illness.

The best thing about Shaun the Sheep is that it avoids the worst thing about a lot of children’s shows: horribly annoying characters’ voices. No whining like Caillou; no shouting like Dora. Just some bleating and some mumbling.

Another bonus about a show being available on Netflix is that if you’re playing it on a Playstation, it’ll just keep playing episode after episode. Which is handy on those days your kid is home sick and you’re working from home. (Are you being a Judgy McJudgersn and thinking I shouldn’t let my kid watch TV all day when he’s sick, or that I shouldn’t try to work from home when he’s sick because I should be smothering him with my love instead? If so, you really need to go back and review my deprogramming archives. Also, fuck you.)

Shaun the Sheep is produced by the folks who make Wallace and Gromit, and in fact Shaun made his screen debut in a Wallace and Gromit short. And in turn, the lamb from Shaun the Sheep, Timmy, has his own spin-off called Timmy Time. What I am saying is, the creators of this show really like sheep.

I am Judgy McJudgerson

Recently I had a conversation with a friend whose kids are grown. By that, I mean they are out of college, and working. But like many people of their generation, they are still financially dependent on their parents.

There’s been a lot written and said about the Millennial generation and how they just can’t seem to “grow up” and act like adults. Why are they living at home? Why aren’t they working harder? What is wrong with them?

I am going to confess something right now: I have been Judgy McJudgersoning the parents of Millennials. I have been “blaming” them for what is “wrong” with their children. But the more I think about it, the more I realize I am an asshole for that.

The story I had bought into about Millennials is this: their parents were a generation of helicopter parents, indulging them in everything they could possibly want, protecting them from the world, never giving them an opportunity to take risks, never making them work hard, helping them with everything along the way. So, now they are a bunch of entitled assholes who mooch off their parents instead of taking responsibility for their own lives. That is to say, Mommy fucked them up.

Just writing that out, I mean, what kind of a judgmental asshole am I for thinking that about someone? Let alone a whole generation?

Let’s start over. First off, as usual, when we talk about Millennials finishing college and not becoming self-supporting, let’s remember we’re talking about the ones who came from families who could afford to send them to college and then support them financially after they graduated. Is that what’s happening in poor communities? I think not. Poor Millennials are living a VERY different life than the ones we read about in the paper.

Then there’s the part where we don’t talk about the Great Recession killing off middle class jobs. It is not easy to work at Walmart (the job you can get these days when you have little work experience beyond whatever part time work you did to help pay for college) and pay off your student loans. Also, let’s remember that tuition costs have EXPLODED. When I graduated from a private college in 1998, tuition was around $20,000 a year. It’s more than twice that now, only 15 years later. Tuition at the public law school I graduated from in 2001 has TRIPLED, in just 12 years. It makes sense that middle class parents, who are much more likely to have good paying jobs than their children, are helping their adult children financially.

Also, is it so bad that the Millennial generation values things other than financial success? Like their relationships with others? And a sense of doing something good in the world? Why is any of that a bad thing?

See, The Cult of Perfect Motherhood tells you that you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Be completely dedicated to your children, read every study, apply every parenting tip, because if you don’t, you are going to ruin their lives. But if you DO apply every parenting tip, give them all your attention and meet all their needs, you are smothering them to death and they will never learn to stand on their own two feet.

Fuck that noise.

My friend is doing what she thinks is best for her kids. I am doing what I think is best for mine. We might make different choices, but we are living in different circumstances. And most importantly, we both love our children. She is not a bad parent and neither am I.

So, I am going to stop Judgy McJudgersoning the “helicopter parent” generation. I will keep talking about why I parent the way I do, and why I think parenting from a place of fear and guilt is not a good idea. But I will not put down other moms who made different choices than me, because just like me, they are doing what they think is best for their children.

And I will hope that the economy is less insane when it comes time for my kids to take flight.

World Prematurity Day

Today is World Prematurity Day, which is a day when people and organizations join together to raise awareness about premature birth. When I started this blog, I thought I would write more about prematurity and The Boy’s time in the NICU, but I haven’t. I think the reason why is, it’s hard. I mean, really fucking hard. I promise I WILL write it sometime, but I am just not in that headspace right now, and it may take something longer than a blog post, or even a series of them. I will say this: I hope it’s the worst thing that will ever happen to me in my life, because honestly, I don’t have any interest in finding out how much more shit I could handle.

What I want to write about today is about how to be helpful to a friend when they have a preemie. Because, I can’t even tell you how many times I get that question from people in my life. They come to me and say “Hey, my friend/cousin/coworker just had a preemie, what do I do?” Oh gosh, where to start? I guess I will start with this chart, which is just so amazingly brilliant. Go read it and internalize it and then come back. No, seriously, I’ll wait. Done? Good.

When you have a preemie, it’s like, you just had a baby, so you want to celebrate, right? I mean, that’s what we do when people have babies–it’s life renewing itself, they’re adorable, all that jazz. So, first things first, CELEBRATE that baby. Be excited for those parents. Ask if you can se a photo of the baby and say “Aw, so cute!” Help those parents be happy about the addition to their family.

But, also be aware, this isn’t a normal birth experience. This is a kid in the hospital. Your friend’s kid is in the HOSPITAL. Let that sink in for a minute–imagine if your kid was in the hospital, what would your life look like? Empathy is going to be really helpful in this situation.

It’s OK to ask questions about how the baby is doing, and the answers you get are going to tell you a lot about what that family is facing. A LOT about how that NICU experience plays out is going to depend on two things: how early the baby was born, and whether the baby has any complications during the NICU stay. In our case, The Boy was born pretty early–27 weeks instead of 40. Babies born at 23/24 weeks are about the youngest that can realistically survive. They are going to have very very long NICU stays, probably lasting past their due date, and will spend a lot of time on some kind of respiratory support. 25-32 weekers are hit or miss–some have very long NICU stays; others, like The Boy, come home a couple weeks before their due date. Babies born after 32 weeks tend to have short NICU stays unless there are complications.

And Jesus, the complications. This is one reason why I would never ever ever be dismissive to a parent whose baby was born less premature than The Boy. Because, The Boy didn’t have complications. He didn’t get any infections, which can kill preemies alarmingly easily. He didn’t have anything wrong with his heart or his digestive tract, both of which can extend a NICU stay and require surgery. He was what we in the NICU world call a feeder and grower. He ate and he grew until he was strong enough to come home. He had good days and bad ones, but his course towards discharge was pretty unremarkable. A 34 weeker with necrotizing enterocolitis? Yeah, they had it way worse than us, despite being born less early.

BUT! Gigantic huge BUT here…no matter how short a NICU stay is, it is too long. Five minutes in the NICU is too long. So, don’t belittle a parent’s trauma by saying things like “Oh, only 5 weeks early? That’s good, it’ll be a short NICU stay.” NO. It is not “good.” That it could be worse does not mean that it doesn’t suck. Go back and read my post on comparative pain. No seriously, go read it, I will wait here for you. You’re back? Good. Every minute in the NICU sucks. You are not asking questions in hopes of dismissing someone else’s trauma. You are asking so you know what kind of support is likely to be most useful.

Once you have a sense of whether this kid’s NICU stay is going to be a couple of days, a couple of weeks, a couple of months, or longer, then you’ll have a sense of what is helpful. If you’re in the weeks/months range? Buy them gift cards for whatever restaurant is near the hospital (I’m talking as close to the hospital as possible), or pack them a picnic to take to the hospital. You spend a lot of time at the hospital as a parent of a preemie, and cafeteria food gets old very fast. Also, hang in there with them–a long NICU stay is, well, long. And by a couple of months in, a lot of people have dropped out of being supportive.

For any length of stay, offer to do their laundry or clean their house, and when they say, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly impose on you to do that,” say “Please. Not imposing, I am offering, and it would be my pleasure.” Man, what I wouldn’t have given for someone to clean the house for me, so when we came home from a late night at the NICU, the bathroom was clean and the sheets were washed. But I was too uncomfortable to ask, and nobody knew to offer. And ask them if there are any supplies they may need that they hadn’t gotten around to buying yet, like diapers or bottles.

This is a huge thing: when the baby comes home, DO NOT BRING ANY GERMS ANYWHERE NEAR THE BABY. You want to be the one responsible for putting that kid back in the hospital? I didn’t think so. That preemie’s parent is not being paranoid when they say you can’t come over when you have the sniffles. They’re protecting their baby’s fragile lungs, which are way more fragile than a full-term baby’s lungs. The Boy came home from the NICU with bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), and he was one of the “healthier” preemies. Look, I have kids, I get it about the constant stream of boogers coming from their noses in winter. I get that if you wait for everyone in your household to be well, you might not visit that preemie until spring. And I am sorry for your disappointment, but is your disappointment worth risking that preemie’s life? If the preemie’s parents say stay away, please, don’t be a douche about it. It’s hard enough being a shut-in all flu season without a guilt trip from your friends and family.

Most of all, just listen. It makes a huge difference to NICU families to know that someone cares. When The Boy was in the NICU, I quickly learned who I could count on as a friend, and who I couldn’t. The ones who I couldn’t? They didn’t want to listen when I talked about the rough times. They didn’t want to hear the horrible empty feelings I was having, that despite having just given birth, I didn’t feel like I was a real mom. Don’t be that person who can’t be counted on, because I promise you, it will be very hard to fix that relationship afterward.

If you’re looking for other resources on prematurity and how to support NICU families, go check out the March of Dimes website. They have great info, including what little we know about preventing prematurity, and a great message board community for NICU families. I raise money for the March if Dimes every year, because they’re an awesome organization, and their volunteers kept me sane during our NICU stay.

And, I usually am shitty about answering comments here because I am the laziest person you know, but I promise if any of you post a question on this post, I will respond.

Now, go hug a NICU parent! Because, they could probably use one.

Grown-Up Movies for Kids: Rudy

You probably realized by now that I like writing series, like Cocktails with the Cult and my Children’s Television Survival Guide. Today I am starting a new occasional series I am calling Grown-Up Movies for Kids. These are movies that when you tell your friends that your kid loves them, they’ll look at you like you are insane. Because, everyone seems to think that kids can only watch movies with cartoon characters in them or, I don’t know, they’ll be bored into a coma and die or something. Bullshit. My kids like plenty of non-cartoon movies, you just have to know the right ones.

Now, I am not talking about movies that are too mature for kids–no exploding skulls, no porno, not even soft core. I am not an idiot, Judgy McJudgerson. I am talking about movies that grown-ups think of as grown-up movies, but that kids may very much love as well. They may have some swear words in them, but in our house, we don’t treat swear words as taboo. We teach our kids when it’s appropriate to use them (in the privacy of your own home, when Grandma isn’t visiting) and when it’s not (“you will get sent to the principal’s office for using that word at school”). So, you may want to watch a few of these movies, like today’s selection, only on basic cable, where the swears have been edited out.

Alright, let’s dive into our first selection: Rudy, from 1993, starring Sean Astin. Astin plays Rudy Rutiger, an actual Notre Dame football player, and the film is loosely based on the real Rudy’s life. Rudy is a tiny man (there is a reason Astin was cast as a Hobbit) who loves football, specifically Notre Dame football, and wants more than anything to play for the Irish. Alas, he did horrible in high school (turns out he had an undiagnosed learning disability), so rather than continuing onto college after graduation, he goes to work at the steel mill with his dad and brothers.

His life is plodding along until his friend Pete does in a fire–you might want to fast forward through that part–and Rudy realizes life is short and you gotta live your dreams. So, he gets on a bus to North Bend and talks to a priest, who helps him enroll at the junior college. Rudy studies hard and exercises and gets a part time job so he can afford food, and after several attempts, he is able to transfer to Notre Dame. (That scene makes me weepy every time.) He walks onto the football team, although he’s tiny and hasn’t got much skill, because he has so much heart. And because of that heart, the coach lets him play in the last game of his senior year, and the other players carry him off the field at the end of the game (like, in a triumphant way, not in a spinal injury stretcher sort of way).

Rudy also features a very young pre-Swingers John Favreau and Vince Vaughn, and a post-Mystic Pizza Lili Taylor. Honestly? It’s a super cheesy movie, but in a good way, because it’s about hard work and determination paying off. It’s about things that aren’t easy being worth the effort. And, it’s about believing in yourself even when everyone else says something is impossible. Which are really good lessons for kids.

The Boy went though a stretch when he was about 4 where this was literally his favorite movie, like, over Cars or Shrek or whatever. He’s probably seen it 20 times. And, you can buy it online for like $5, since it’s so old.

School Aged Parenting

I am suuuuper lucky to live next door to an awesome licensed daycare, run by a woman who has an enormous heart. We moved into our house almost a year before The Boy was born, so we had some time living next door to the daycare before The Boy started there, which meant we had time to observe how awesome our neighbor is with kids. She’s like the Toddler Whisperer. If I had to deal with 8 kids ages 18 months to 5 years old, I would shoot myself. This woman says it’s her calling, she’s amazing. If you live in Seattle and you need childcare, drop me an email and I’ll send you her info.

An awesome daycare means you don’t have to worry about your kids’ safety. It also means you don’t have to worry about making them a healthy breakfast or lunch. And if you need a babysitter on a Friday night, you know someone awesome. Your life as a parent is made immeasurably better by a quality child care provider.

The only problem with finding an awesome daycare is, when your kid starts elementary school, it’s like being thrown into a tornado. Holy cow, there is so much crap we have to deal with for The Boy from his school. There are events all the damn time. There’s picture day, there’s show and tell, there’s projects, there’s fundraisers…it’s just a lot. Last year, the last week of school, we as parents were invited to attend 4 different events on four different days during working hours. FOUR. I mean, I love The Boy’s school and the staff are amazing and he is happy and learning…but really, four events that working parents would need to skip work to attend? In one week?

Not to mention, now you’re making breakfast and lunch again (because, that school lunch is terrifying, have you seen it? Yikes). And because our daycare was next door, transportation to elementary school is way more complicated than it was for daycare. We also don’t get to check in with his teacher every day about how things are going, like we did with daycare. And, it’s not like we’re saving that much money, because we have to pay for before and after care, since school days are shorter than work days. Plus, there’s the whole summer thing, and winter break, and spring break, and the zillions of teacher in-service days and early dismissal days.

I feel like elementary school is still set up to work for families that have a stay at home parent who has time to come to school on a Wednesday at 3PM for some event, and volunteer in the classroom, and watch the kids during mid-winter break (why do we need one of these? The semester JUST started two weeks ago and we need a week off already?). And, 3/4 of families in America don’t have a stay at home parent now. I have a super flexible job, but I can’t always come to events that happen during the work day. Imagine if you’ve got a job that doesn’t offer the flexibility to take time off like mine does–like you’re a single low-income parent who doesn’t get vacation and sick days. It’s not really a feasible choice for that parent to miss work for a school event, is it? I wish schools would do a better job of thinking about what works for all families, and making it easier on us. Because, kids learn better when their families aren’t over-stressed.

I’m coping with being a parent of a school-aged kid by remembering that what makes me a good mom isn’t how much I volunteer at The Boy’s school. It’s that I love my kids and I am helping them grow up strong and smart and kind. And that I have also found them wonderful adults who love them and want the best for them and are willing to help out. Because, there is no way in hell I could do this alone.

Cocktails with the Cult: Raspberry Martini

It’s time once again for a Cocktail with the Caldwells! This time, The Hubs is sharing his recipe for a seriously killer raspberry martini. He invented his recipe because I fell in love with the raspberry martinis at an Italian restaurant we used to go to before we had kids. The bartender in those days was AMAZING and so was the chef. The place has gone downhill and we just don’t eat out at grown-up places that often anymore, let alone at ones that are just so-so, but luckily The Hubs has successfully reproduced that raspberry martini at home.

Before we begin, a warning. That dirty martini I taught you to make last time? You could tell from the ingredient list, which was mostly vodka, that it was gonna be a strong drink, and when you tasted it, you probably said, “Holy fuck, that is a strong drink!” Or maybe you don’t swear as much as I do, I don’t know, but I am gonna guess you said the part about it being strong. This raspberry martini is just as strong, but it won’t taste like it. It’s gonna go down smooth. So, watch yourself. Drink it at home, or have a designated driver, because you’re a goddamn adult.

So, let’s talk ingredients. You’re gonna need some raspberries. We have raspberry bushes in our yard, so summer is an awesome time for this drink, but hothouse raspberries will do in winter. If you use frozen, they need to be thawed, and you CAN do frozen, we don’t need to be raspberry snobs up in here. You’re also going to need some Chambord, which is a raspberry liqueur that comes in a globe-shaped bottle with a gold crown for a lid. Your friends will be impressed because it looks all fancy, and it also makes a really good slightly boozy fudge. You also need a bottle of sweetened lime juice (NOT regular lime juice–look for it near the grenadine), and of course, vodka. In fact, get yourself a bottle of raspberry vodka if you can. If you can’t, the vodka you bought for the dirty martinis will do.

Now, this cocktail takes a little bit of work, and you DO need a shaker. I know I was all “shakers are bad” when I wrote about my dirty martini, but here you’re gonna be smashing up some raspberries. Right tool for the right drink, OK? Put 4 or 5 raspberries in the bottom. Put in 3-4 ice cubes. Pour in like half a shot, or even just a quarter of a shot, of Chambord. Put in two splashes of sweetened lime juice. Now comes the vodka. You need multiple shots of it, like 2 or 3 shots. Cover, shake until the outside of the shaker is frosty.

Now to pour it: put a raspberry in the bottom of a martini glass (or whatever glass you have, a coffee mug works fine too). Pour the drink in the glass through the strainer–you may have to tap the shaker on your counter a couple times because the raspberry seeds can get stuck in the strainer’s holes.

And voila! You have a killer raspberry martini. Cheers!

They’re Lying

My favorite weekend of the year is the one after Mother’s Day, because that’s when MamaCon happens. What is MamaCon, you ask? It’s only the most awesome event ever. Imagine a Star Trek convention, but replace the Trekkies with moms, and instead of sessions with William Shatner, you get sessions on getting your kids to eat their vegetables, organizing your home, and keeping your sex life vibrant. Oh, and did I mention you get spa treatments too? Mark your calendars for May 17, 2014.

Let me be clear: I am not getting a kickback from the organizers, Kim and Amy, who by the way are FABULOUS people, to talk up their event. I buy my tickets, just like anybody else. I just love their event so much that I want to do everything I can to keep it going, so I tell everyone I know about it. And people I don’t know. If MamaCon stopped happening, I might show up at one of their houses, drunk and sobbing, begging them to make it happen again, desperate for a fix of that sweet sweet mama me time.

I discovered MamaCon because I am kind of a Nikki Knepper groupie (you probably already figured that out from my gushing about her book, which you should buy–no, she isn’t giving me a kickback either) and in 2012, I heard she was going to be at this event called MamaCon. I didn’t care what MamaCon was, I just knew if Nikki was going to be there, I had to go so I could meet her. And I did, and she was just as awesome in person as I imagined, AND I got to discover how awesome an event MamaCon is, so, win-win. The following year, Nikki came back to town for MamaCon 2013, and by this time I had convinced half my friends to come too. A few of us made a weekend out of it, staying at the conference hotel and drinking a lot of wine and talking about our vaginas and poopy diapers and kindergarten tantrums, and just generally having a fantastic time.

Nikki was the Friday night speaker for the event, and after she spoke, she took questions from the audience. There was a newer mom in the audience who started talking about how hard it is to meet other moms like her. She said she feels like the moms she comes across are either not at all interested in their kids–they just want to go out and party and ignore their kids all the time, and she feels uncomfortable around them–or they’re all uber perfect moms whose kids always look happy and they have all these perfect little crafts they do together and they put photos of them on Facebook and she feels inadequate around them, because sometimes her kids drive her batty and she feels like her kids are a mess compared to her friends. She said, “How come their lives seem so perfect in their Facebook pictures?”

And my friend Katie, who was in the audience with us, shouted “BECAUSE THEY’RE LYING!!!” And Nikki came down from the stage and hugged Katie and said “Thank you! Finally someone says it.”

See, here’s the thing. Most people don’t put a photo of the horrible tantrum on Pinterest. They don’t take a video of their 18 month old crying for an hour at 2AM, and even if they did, they wouldn’t put it on Facebook. Instead, they share the positive times. The smiling kid who just lost his first tooth. The adorable toddler with pigtails and a party dress. The teenager hugging his mom. But these are not the majority of the moments we spend with our kids. That’s the highlight reel. The day in, day out slog of parenting that makes those special moments so precious and so shareable? That part doesn’t usually get to the Internet.

Which is why an event like MamaCon is so important. Because, it gives us a chance to get together with other moms in person, without the shield of Facebook to protect us from showing what is really happening with us. It’s not just the speakers, which are awesome, but the sisterhood, and the feeling that you are not alone, and that it’s OK not to be perfect and happy all the time. It’s OK to be struggling and weird and unique, just like all the other moms. It’s some powerful stuff.

I hope to see you, with all your flaws that make you special, at MamaCon 2014 on May 17!