jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

It’s a Give a Moose a Muffin Day… Again

moose.a.muffinTalking with a parking lot Mama friend outside of the pre-school, we watched as our kids threw sticks to fake the geese out (farm school… seriously.) It was the first day back from Thanksgiving “break” and we both looked and sounded a little stoned, but in a bad way.

“I’m just so tired because the only time anyone leaves me alone is when they’re all sleeping so after they’re all in bed I walk around the house and do whatever I want… like I own the place. And then I’m up, like, all night.”

“Yes! I do one-tenth of each of the thirty things I meant to get done that day! And then it’s midnight, and nothing is actually done…”

“My whole Thanksgiving was like that! I realized I needed a light bulb from the laundry room upstairs but then I saw there was laundry that needed to get washed. I needed to put vinegar on the stains so I went down to the kitchen but we didn’t have vinegar. I went to add vinegar to the grocery list on my phone and then I saw that there was a text that required me to look up the date of something on the computer. On my way there someone needed their butt wiped and on my way back from my bathroom to the kitchen sink I walked by the boys sewing something. They hollered that they needed another needle so I went up to the laundry room to get a sewing needle and realized I needed a light bulb. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.”

“If You Give a Moose a Muffin…”


Let me explain. In the book, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, there’s this moose bizarrely staring in the kitchen window. The kid gives voyeur moose a muffin. The moose eats all the rest of the muffins with blackberry jam. They decide to buy more muffin mix; he busts a button off a sweater. While sewing the moose decides to make a puppet, then a puppet show, which involves paint and sheets and the whole living room getting trashed like a rock star in the Ritz Carlton. He sort of cleans the mess, hangs the sheet outside, sees the blackberry bushes and (spoiler alert) remembers he wants more muffins.

I think it’s a cruel metaphor for the impenetrable and inexplicably haunting purposelessness of mothering small children. It’s a Sisyphus and Groundhog Day mash-up. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It is every day of trying very hard to please the moose, but really just trashing the house, and he’s still hungry in the end anyway!

I’ve always been a woman who overextended herself. I literally have assessments from both high school and my third teaching job that use the word “overextended”. And I am absolutely certain that I am not alone in this among my Mama friends. We are cooks, cleaners, doctors, drivers, artists, coaches, writers, teachers, volunteers, advisors, doing it ALL… but for zero pay. And for the ones who work outside the house, it’s their second full-time job, but again, zero pay! We’ve always done some or all of these things, but never under these circumstances, with the exhaustion and the small people following us around yelling at us, whining, hitting our kneecaps and undoing everything the second it’s done.

Then today, I was picking up the mud room that gets trashed every time anyone walks in the house. And I found the gift.

mud.roomRight under the plastic bag with the clothing that got peed on in school today there was a handmade book.




There it was, clear as a bell and better than gold. “My Mom. I like it when (something, something) reads to me.” And although the picture looked slightly pervy, I’m sure it’s the two of us snuggled in his bed with me reading to him, because that’s what we do almost every night. The rest of the book goes on equally as clear…




“I like when my Mom plans playdates.”




I have no idea. Seriously, none. Please share if you can translate. It does begin, “I like when my Mom…”

But my son used “choice time” at school when he could have been reading or working on a loom potholder to write this about me.

And although I could be hypercritical and note that there is in fact an arrow through my head on the cover, I must acknowledge, my head is in the shape of, wait for it… a heart. Tear.

book.coverOn Wednesday, during a freezing cold run with a besty, she gave me the hairy eyeball (or perhaps a frostbite eyeball? Hard to tell.) And through clenched jaws she asked why I’d taken “F-f-forever ” to answer her text the day before.

“Look,” I answered, with chattering teeth, “G-g-g-ive a M-m-m-moose a Muffin day.”

“Ugh. G-g-got it,” she replied. She totally understood.

We’re all in this parenting, mothering shitstorm together. We’re rolling our huge stone up the hill over and over while trying to make Andie MacDowell love us in a day. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. We are living those days where one thing requires another thing which needs another thing which leaves us with seemingly nothing but a weird hungry moose.

Until we find the handmade book, the crumpled valentine, the darling drawing and realize that they don’t in fact undo everything that we do. Just much of it. But hopefully not the parts that matter most.

13 comments on “It’s a Give a Moose a Muffin Day… Again

  1. Tim Johnson
    December 7, 2013

    Love it!

    (No mention of Dad in the book? Sigh.)

    Sent from my iPhone


    • jgroeber
      December 8, 2013

      I heard that if you line up the boots, stow the bags, hang the coats, empty and wipe out the lunch bags, and take the peed on clothing up to the laundry room for a soak and a wash, there’s treasure to be found in that there mudroom. 😉 I promise to leave the next one for you!! And it might just be the “I like it when Dad…” version of the little book. Enticing, right?

  2. dvb415
    December 9, 2013

    Wonderful…. I’m a saver, so whenever SVB gave me something priceless like the little book you have, I salted it away after reading it (and usually crying). I discover these artifacts from time to time, and I remember that little girl is still here, deep inside the heart of the tween I see every day. She comes out from time to time to visit me, and for that I am very grateful. Great writing, Jen. Thanks

    • jgroeber
      December 11, 2013

      We call it “the special box”, and each kid has one. It’s a huge plastic bin filled with drawings, first plastic plate, notes they write, first people they draw, favorite baby dress, preemie nightgowns, first paintings and so on. Hard to decide what stays and what goes, but it’s a relief to know there’s a place for it. And I think the kids love the idea that it’s there. So that when they’re all tweens (I think I just threw up in my mouth a little at the thought that I’ll have multiple tweens in my house at once), we can look back and remember that sometimes they thought I was great. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  3. Anna Spanos
    December 10, 2013

    This is my daughter’s current favorite book of all time, and it just took on a whole new beautiful meaning (that I hope will make me laugh when she’s banging me on the head with it at 5:30 in the morning tomorrow because we’ve only read it three times so far since getting out of bed). This post is awesome and so spot on, and so very much exactly what I needed at this very exact point that I’m at in my mothering and working and not sleeping but then waking up to do it all over again life. Thank you!

    • jgroeber
      December 11, 2013

      Thank YOU! Sometimes it feels crazy to point out to the not-crazy world that your life has become a children’s book, a lovely, redundant, ridiculous children’s book. Knowing that someone else gets it make me feel less crazy. (Please tell your daughter no more hitting Mama on the head with anything at 5:30 in the morning from me. Ha!)

  4. Sherry
    December 12, 2013

    Jen, I love following your blog! I think of you all often and can’t believe so many months have passed since we enjoyed our time with you and your amazing family. Every time you write you tug at my heart. Hoping our paths will cross again.

    • jgroeber
      December 22, 2013

      Just saw this comment! We talked about your beautiful family often this past summer. You all brought such magic to Back Beach. I love that at the very least, our paths cross in this bizarre, virtual world we live in. Thank you so much for reading!

  5. Jeff
    December 14, 2013

    Great stuff, I laughed out loud and thought about my wife and two rebellious boys. Thinking about you in Miami, Tim (and I) are very proud. Miss you mama Jen!

    • jgroeber
      December 15, 2013

      You read it! Ah, perfect bro-mantic thing to do. Thanks for commenting, too. I’d blame these Give a Moose a Muffin Days solely on my kids, but honestly, I think I always had them a bit. It’s just gotten way worse throughout this whole stay-at-home-Mom gig! We miss you, too!!

  6. Jeff
    December 14, 2013

    Oh, and I just bought the book…

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