One of Those Beautiful People

I liked how they looked on her, those creases.  Wrinkles curved around her mouth when she smiled…and when she didn’t. You could see her former struggles etched across her face and you could see her former joys crisscrossed on top of those. Aging, for her, was like the kind of weathering a sailor experiences – skin externally leathered from the Sun, but innards robust and healthy from the heavy lifting and extended exposure to all that fresh air.

Her skin sagged, giving the superficial appearance of something limp, something quite possibly defunct.  But, if you looked closely you could see that the burlapped layer of weary flesh drooped atop bone made of granite. Despite her frail appearance, she had solid cheekbones, a firm jaw, and a steady gaze.  If you took the time to really see her, you could see her vitality shining through the outer casing.  Once you saw it, it was as though her flesh became transparent.  Her spirit blinded.

She was one of those Beautiful People.

I don’t mean the ones with the clearest complexions or the most toned thighs.
The most beautiful people are the ones who are comfortable in their own skin.

She didn’t need the spotlight on herself, she didn’t need to be the top performer in every show.
The most beautiful people are the ones who lift other people up.

She knew her whole self, and she loved all of her parts. Even the really ugly bits she treated with compassion and care.
The most beautiful people are those who always work to become better versions of themselves.

She was one of the ones who had been through hell, and who had always remained determined to come out on top.
The most beautiful people are the fighters.

She wasn’t afraid to expose her true self.  She never denied her flaws. She never hid her strengths.
The most beautiful people are the ones who are real.

I liked the way they looked on her because I could tell that it wasn’t that her skin was sagging and lifeless, but rather that her whole self was uplifting.  Her epidermis was the only piece of her that couldn’t keep up. She saw me admiring her and she returned my stare with a close-mouthed smile, one that only hinted at the kindness buried just beneath the surface.  She pulled me towards her with bird-like arms and squeezed and I was reminded, again, that she was stronger than she looked.  I leaned in and rested my head on her shoulder, eager to be held, if only for a few seconds.  I foolishly wished that some of her beauty would rub off on me, that like her perfume, some of it would linger after she let go.

How Being the Parent of Two Kids is Different Than Being the Parent of One

When I was pregnant with my second child I was pretty relaxed compared to being pregnant with my first.  I didn’t obsess over which porta-crib had the best mobile, or whether or not I needed a diaper genie, or even what childbirth would be like.  I knew that all that mattered was that the baby had onesies and diapers and I was ready. Or so I thought. Looking back, even though it was a bigger adjustment from no baby to one baby, going from one to two rocked my world more than I could have anticipated.

Before I could stare at my little baby and marvel at every little head nod and every sigh and every eye blink. “Aww…what a cute little blinker I have! Look how cute she is when she blinks”. I posted countless photos on Facebook of her cute little blinky eyes. Now, instead of staring at adorable baby eyeballs, I find myself staring at the ankle-deep puddles of milk that flood the living room carpet, or what appear to be ant hills made up from ground Cheerios filling up the space surrounding the tufted buttons on the couch cushions.  I marvel at how a four-minute toddler mini-spree can result in a three-and-a-half hour clean-up job. I’m constantly on guard trying to make sure the baby’s little peepers aren’t poked out by her older sibling’s fingers or erratically waved fairy wands.  I can not even imagine what will happen once the second one is able to walk. I know I’m living on borrowed time.  Will the Cheerio-dust ant hills morph into massive termite mounds? Anything seems possible.

Before I hoped my baby would grow to be a passionate lover of books.  Now I’m just crossing my fingers that Number Two will be semi-literate.  Not only does it seem improbably difficult to physically sit on the couch and read for more than three minutes at a stretch, when we do we are rarely alone.   Watch an infant try to garnish attention from an older sibling and you will quickly begin to question how accurate Maslow’s hierarchy of basic needs is.  Based on how Number Two responds to Number One, it would appear that feeling a sense of love and belonging with an older sibling far outweighs physiological needs such as eating or sleeping.  If eating or sleeping aren’t top priorities during these times, you can best your ass that sustaining attention to board books when her older sister in the room is damn near impossible.  It doesn’t matter how cute the little fuzzy bunny on the cover is.  Sibling > board books. My next point might also have something to do with her potential pending illiteracy .

Before it was quiet a lot.  Nowadays our household emits a ceaseless cacophony of child-rearing sounds. Between the Frozen soundtrack blaring from the T.V. (or from our smartphones, or our daughter’s Frozen watch, or her Frozen singing doll, or bursting from her own little Let it Go lips), the toddler stream-of-consciousness chatter that extends  for 20 minutes stretches   for 2 hour blocks of time to infinity and beyond, the periodic screams from me my husband my toddler of “Nooooo, I don’t wannnnnnt to”, the sanitizing swooshing from the dishwasher, the washing machine churning, the off-key singing of the Good Morning song and the Clean Up song and the Goodnight song and the endless shouts from one parent to another across the house of, “Will you throw me the wipes?” Or, “I need a burp cloth! Hurry!” or, “Why didn’t you replace the diapers down here?”  I fear we’re giving her ADHD by way of auditory assault. And how the eff are we always out of one size diaper or the other at the downstairs changing table?

Before my house was clean. At least sometimes.  Every parent knows that before and after kids there’s an inverse relationship between how much time you spend cleaning and how clean the house actually is.  As far as I can tell, our carpeting will forevermore be littered with toys and half-eaten peanut butter sandwiches and mystery crumbs of various size and shape that I hope the toddler isn’t snacking on while I am not looking. Even though she balks at eating a quesadilla or a slice of peach, I know she probably is stuffing her face with the hidden, hardened little gems, so my real hope is that there isn’t some antibiotic resistant strain of bacterial film coating the tops of them.  Even when the clutter is contained, an invisible infection-spreader remains. Children’s noses are basically miniature volcanoes that spew continuous secretions – gentle, fluid eruptions on some occasions, violent chunk-filled emissions on others.  I often wonder if mucus glows green under a UV light, and if we were to do a mucosal forensic sweep, would our living room resemble a murder scene straight out of Dexter?

Before I could stay up until 11 p.m. On a lot of nights, not just on the really special occasions. Like the nights when I drink Merlot, eat Doritos in my pajamas, and watch Netflix episodes that aired four years ago.

Before I didn’t need the Amazon Prime coffee subscription. And I definitely didn’t need to keep increasing the order size. I got a new debit card the other day and before I realized I needed to update my payment method, my subscription got delayed two days and I do not have that kind of leeway built in!  For two whole days I was in caffeination crisis mode, scouring the house for rogue coffee grounds while mentally swearing at the damn hackers who were responsible for me needing a new debit card in the first place. I even pulled out the rusted out coffee maker we use when we go camping in the pop-up. After that fiasco, I’m thinking it’s probably time to bump up that Amazon order again.

Before I thought that sometimes knew what I was doing. Number One we swaddled for four months, Number Two broke out of the sleep sack at two days old. Number One ate bottles out of the fridge, Number Two literally chokes and gags unless the bottle is freshly made with water at or around 99 degrees Fahrenheit.  Number One liked to be rocked to sleep, Number Two thrashes and headbutts and whines until we lay her down in the crib to settle herself.  I imagine the more children you have, and more you realize that none of us really control our children’s behavior as much as we would like to think.

Before I got my hair cut and dyed on a semi-regular basis.  Even if that meant every six months. It was also usually brushed. Now if you see me on a weekend know that definitely has not been brushed since I got ready for work on Friday morning. It’s only been slightly disconcerting that I don’t think most people have noticed the difference.

Before it was possible to make it to all those workout classes I wanted to go to each week.  All one of them. I manage to carve out some time for activities that don’t require a definitive time and place, like jogging or writing, but for some reason being able to attend one scheduled activity each week seems to require an alignment of Venus and Mars, that occurs seventeen days after the first full moon, that also coincides with a month containing an even number of days, as registered on the Julian calendar.

Before the last seven pounds just melted away. Okay, not really. But in comparison they came off faster than a crack whore’s panties. Now I have this permanent bulgey bit that I’m starting to think will hang slightly over the waistline of my jeans forever.

Before my heart was only half the size.  It’s cliché, but it’s true. Parenting is an adventure that can be as marvelously (and scarily) intense as the fiery inferno at the center of the Sun.  Just like atoms at the core of a star fuse and produce a larger entity, one with more heft, the addition of another child creates something different, something bigger.  A touchy-feely sort of nuclear fusion occurs in the hearts of parents that causes emissions of energy and light, even amongst the occassional volatile flares, and it is tremendously more substantial than even that bulge.

I can not imagine what three must be like.

How Being the Parent of Two Kids is Different Than Being the Parent of One

How Being the Parent of Two Kids is Different Than Being the Parent of One

Highly Sensitive: Not A New Year’s Resolution Resolution

Today I went to the dentist. I almost didn’t, but I knew I had to.  For several months I could feel impending dental doom.  With my tongue, I traced and retraced the already sensitive space between the top of my tooth and my gum line, feeling a widening gap that felt more zingy and twingy and oh-my-god-don’t-touch-me-y.  Lately my hot coffees and cold beers have been two necessary evils.  Pleasure mixed with pain.  I went in to the appointment worried that at this rate by the time I hit my sixties or seventies my teeth would be like those of a neglected pet guinea pig who has been unable to wear down their dentition, only my teeth would appear to be extending upwards, due to excessive gum erosion, instead of uninterrupted downward growth. As it turns out, I have a bit of recession, but nothing too out of the ordinary, and the real culprit is just that I’m highly sensitive.

Story of my life.

As I sat reclined on the chair, my hands were clenched and my glasses fogged up, and beams of light from the fluorescent bulb created little rainbows as they passed through beads of sweat that had collected on the dentist-appointed specs.  Even though the sensitivity paste had been slathered on and the numbing gel applied carefully on top of that, I still couldn’t help but anticipate the horrific scraping and zinging of impending nerve pain. As she was cleaning the wine and coffee stains from my soon-to-be pearly whites, Corrine, my favorite dental hygienist (and the only person on this planet I will let near my teeth) sensed my  non-verbal cues and asked me,

“Can you feel anything?”

“Nope. I just need to relax”.

Story of my life.

My anxieties are always high and I’m perpetually taking everything more personally than I probably should. The problem is that for many of us sensitive folks it probably looks like we don’t care. We get hurt and try to hide it and then at a certain point we feel we keep get beaten down and then we lash out. Act like an asshole. Leave the ones who inadvertently hurt us feeling a sting of their own.  They are confused and feel we’re being unreasonable and the cycle continues.

I used to be like this with my teeth. I avoided the dentist for a couple of years (horrible idea, I absolutely do not recommend this plan of action to anyone) because of my sensitivity pain and when I finally went back in I immediately demanded Novocaine, probably at a much higher volume, and octave, than was considered appropriate for speaking indoors. Thankfully, Corrine saw my pain through my assholery and as it turned out she came up with some much better alternatives than shots in the gums. But, most people aren’t as perceptive as Corrine.  It would be easy to misunderstand why I avoided going back, some might think I was a lazy schlob who didn’t give a shit about hygiene at all, or they might think I was a hypochondriac who just wants all the medical attention on me, or they might think I’m just an ass who likes to yell at people and make them feel bad. But that’s not the case.  I was just in pain and afraid of more pain and neither of those feelings tend to result in our best behavior.

So, while I’m not one for resolutions, I am one for continuously trying to improve oneself.  I’m resolving to work on my sensitivities.  As in, not avoiding them until the problem compounds, and not acting like an asshole because of them.

Today I got a special varnish application on my teeth to help with the dental sensitivity issue.  Wish me luck in dealing with my heightened reactivity in the other areas of my life.

teeth

Dream #17: Growing and Trafficking Miniscule Humans

DREAM:

A group of us were involved in a human trafficking scheme, but not your typical ABC news report kind – Miniature Human trafficking.  As in, people who were about three inches tall, perfectly sized to be placed on top of a Rubix Cube on a desk, or to be used as live coffee table art.  And, that’s basically what these mini-humans were for – but they weren’t intended as pets or creatures to be cared for and nurtured. They were throwaways.  Used for entertainment, recreating battles where the mini-humans destroyed one another in Gladiator fashion or as slave labor for very teeny-tiny tasks, and then discarded.  Disposable, since they weren’t real people.

New batches were constantly needed and I was one of the people involved in the growing process.  Our Miniature Humans started out as miniscule seeds, and in this respect they were like plants, they needed nourishment, a bit of attention and the right conditions.  The seeds needed to be hidden in “nutrient balls”, which in many cases meant scoops of tuna fish and mayo.  My crew and I would hide the balls of food, stuffed with human seeds, in the produce department of grocery stores, in open-ended bags of romaine, our secret cultures tucked beneath the leaves.

One day I was hiding the stash and I had just placed the last orb behind a lettuce leaf and was getting ready to leave when one of my partners came up and grabbed a pile of papers I had set down in the produce area while I was working.  The papers had my name on them and my partner was very concerned that I might have accidentally left them behind. If our illegal mini-humans were discovered, along with these papers, they might connect the illegal activity to us.

 

ANALYSIS:

 

TUNAFISH: DreamMoods tells me that seeing tuna in my dream symbolizes stamina and agility and that I will build character and become stronger. I have been working to regain my strength and stamina after giving birth to Baby Grouch six months ago. Running is one of the metrics I’m using to gauge my post baby progress. My long run distance is up to 17 miles and I have a personal goal jogging a 20-miler to reach. Should be there in a couple of weeks. Running keeps me sane(ish) and helps always tired me to feel (more) alert, but one of the biggest reasons I run is how delicious my bacon, eggs and coffee (spiked with kahlua) tastes when I’m done. Soooo much better than usual. It’s addictive. Chomp. Sip. Smile.

SEEDS: Dreamforth says that to dream of seeds represents productivity, tradition, and endless possibilities while Dream Moods informs me that seeing seeds symbolizes fertility, heritage, potential, and continuity of life. Now is the time to start a new venture. I feel like my psyche is just telling me to get involved in a human trafficking scheme. I am always wondering where my next career path will lead, perhaps I have subconsciously discovered an exciting new line of work ahead of me? Regular sized humans seem like they would be much more of a pain in the ass.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING:  This was definitely not in the dream dictionary, however DreamForth tells me that being cruel “may be pointing to the necessity of recognizing your dark side such as negative feelings, intentions, and emotions”. Not sure how much more I can recognize and embrace my bad side. I’ve written about my depression and other mental health issues, as well as our infertility struggles. I’ve got a whole blog named after my exhaustion. What else do I need to do for my dark passenger? Do I need to have a party for it? Give it a trophy? Put it on a pedestal and bow to my bitchiness within? Pretty sure Mr. Grouch would not be throwing confetti in the air or sipping a champagne toast to any of that.

As always, dream interpretation and analysis seems pointless. Yet I push on.

Marriage: It’s All About Teamwork (With a Dash of Competition)

There’s so much work involved in just pretending to look like being a functional adult, it’s common to feel over-worked and under-appreciated.   There’s a lot of aspects to adult life that really suck.  Taking care of the bills, the trash, the dirty dishes, the piles of laundry. Cleaning up messes, picking up toys, and wiping up spills.  Filling out the never-ending-Godforsaken work forms, the relentless (and often pointless) data collection sheets, the before-work and after-work and lunchtime meetings.  Dealing with the idiot co-workers and the idiot bosses and the idiot customers and doing all of these things without losing your shit.  Day. After. Day.

Being a successful grown-up person requires a crapload of work.  But, being a successful married individual requires even more.

Each person has their own way of doing things and their own viewpoints about what things are high priority and what is completely and utterly unimportant (generally there is an inverse relationship between Partner A’s List of All Things Important compared with Partner B’s).  Negotiating with each other, without compromising your values and sense of self, requires a delicate balance and a lot of alcohol patience.  It’s worth it, though, when we’ve found The One.  Having a companion who we cherish and admire, who loves and adores us right back, flaws and all, is one of the best things on the planet. Out of everyone on this Earth, the one person we most want to appreciate us, and all of our hard work, is our spouse.

Successful Marriage Formula = Love > Annoyance

Successful Marriage Formula = Love > Annoyance

 

Which often leads us to conversations like these:

 

SCENARIO 1: As I’m changing my daughter’s diaper I say to my spouse, “Oh my God, I just got poop on my hand! Quick, hand me a wipe!”

TEAMWORK: Spouse jumps up deftly and passes me a baby wipe faster than you can say, “Ew Ew Ew Ew Ew” five times fast.

COMPETITIVE EDGE:  After handing me the wipe, Spouse casually mentions, “I had WAY more poop on me yesterday morning.  She pooped on me, explosively, when I took off her diaper”.

 

SCENARIO 2: My spouse wakes up in the morning and complains, “I’m so tired”.

TEAMWORK:  I feel badly about the fact that Spouse’s day is already starting out so rough, so I go downstairs and make a protein shake for Spouse to take for breakfast.

COMPETITIVE EDGE:  …but not before I letting Spouse know how much more tired I am first, “I’m soooooo tired.  The kids got up three times and I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I’ve been up since 2:30 a.m.”.

 

SCENARIO 3:  After the birth of our second child (and nine solid months of reflux) I told my spouse, “I’m so glad I don’t have heartburn anymore!”

TEAMWORK:  “Yeah.  Heartburn really sucks,” spouse says, nodding in support.

COMPETITIVE EDGE:  Spouse then adds, “especially when it’s so bad you have to go to the E.R.” (spouse did). “By yourself” (spouse did).  “I know, I feel badly about that,” I concede.  It doesn’t stop there.  “You went out to coffee with your friends” (I did….ok maybe I really met them for a beer. But, shhh don’t tell him). (Spouse’s heart was just fine).

 

SCENARIO 4: A lot of things need to be taken care of in a household.  Yard work. Cleaning.  Finances.  Blah blah blah. Boring stuff that makes you sometimes wish you were a kid again, until you remember that as an adult you can purchase alcohol and no one can stop you from eating nothing but nacho cheese Doritos for dinner, if you really want to.  Adulthood means Freedom!  Unfortunately the road to freedom is paved with endless chores.

TEAMWORK: We each have “our” jobs we do around house.  We divide and conquer, and we do so quite well.  We each have our own things we care about – so that means that everything gets cared for.  For example, I care about the kitchen (dishes put away, counters clean, everything in its place) and the laundry (everything clean and folded and put away each week) and the family fun factor (fun, silly and engaging interactions).  My spouse cares about the finances (long term savings, how much we spend on the electric bill), safety of us and our possessions (doors locked, garage door shut) and the yard.

COMPETITIVE EDGE:  I’m quite sure we subconsciously sabotage each other’s efforts at times,  Spouse leaves 700 (give or take) dirty dishes on the counter directly above the dishwasher each week and always leaves the hand towel on the counter, instead of hanging it back up on the towel rack.  I leave the lights on, in every room, you can retrace my path by following the lit bulbs. Spouse insists (wrongly) that watching television is an interactive event.  I spend hundreds of dollars over budget on frivolous things, then complain that I don’t make enough money. He leaves his folded laundry piled up on the folding table until it reaches the ceiling.  I may or may not sometimes leave the front door unlocked (and possibly gaping open).  This type of subversive competition is the ultimate test of marriage strength: can we, as a couple, deal with the other’s laxity without cracking?

 

SCENARIO 5:  At a certain point in a marriage, there are no secrets left.  Personal grooming that used to happen behind closed doors becomes more of a shared experience.  Over time, people just get more comfortable with one another. And, at least for people like us, we also tend to get more hairy.

TEAMWORK:  One spouse shaves the other’s neck, and back, and fields the question, “Is my back getting really hairy?” with, “Oh, it doesn’t matter”.  One spouse plucks the other’s eyebrow(s).  One spouse gets pregnant and the other needs to help shave her legs ….and stuff…that can no longer be reached. One spouse clogs every drain with the constant shedding of Chewbacca-like tresses, while the other spouse cleans the clogs out on a regular basis.

COMPETITIVE EDGE:  No solid couple can resist letting the other know, “Your moustache needs to be waxed”, or “Your eyebrows are starting to connect to your back hair”.

 

The ultimate measure of a good marriage is whether or not you love the person you are united with more than you are annoyed by them.  If you happen to have that much affection for the one you spend almost all of your personal time with, you are really a lucky duck.  I’m one of those luckies.

 
“I love you”, my spouse always says.  So naturally my usual reply is, “I love you more”.

 

 

Marriage:  It takes teamwork. And, apparently, an underlying competitive edge.

Marriage: It takes teamwork. And, apparently, an underlying competitive edge.

 

You know I want to hear your marriage teamwork/competition scenarios. Let me hear ‘em!

5 Things Spouses of Runners Need to Know

1.  Yes, they really need all of that gear.  You don’t realize all of the places that chafe and rub until you’re starting to rack up the miles.  Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.  Rubbing that’s not even noticed at mile three can turn into a deep red burning patch of inflamed skin by mile eight.  Depending on the temperature, different weights and layers are needed to keep your spouse warm, but not over-heated.  As the runs get longer, water or gels need to be carried, along with GPS equipment for tracking location and pace, and reflective clothing and head lamps for running before the Sun wakes up. Compression gear and shoes are necessary splurges, as are socks, seemingly simple garments that can be appallingly expensive, yet shockingly effective (or ineffective, if you get the cheapies).  The accouterments make a significant impact when it comes to keeping your spouse’s body comfortable and healthy.

2.  Beware of their running gloves.  For spouses of cold-weather runners:  I advise utilizing pliers, disposable chopsticks or some other utensil if you need to pick up their running gloves. The gloves are used just as much for soaking up sweat and wiping off snot as they are for keeping hands warm.

5 Things Spouses of Runners Need to Know

5 Things Spouses of Runners Need to Know

3.  Just because your spouse is running out the door (maybe with a buddy) don’t think this means they are running away from you.   Your spouse might want to hang out with their running partner every Saturday morning instead of staying in bed and cuddling with you. Don’t take this as a personal affront. The running buddy is needed not only for companionship and stress-relieving purposes (we’ll concede that they might hear how annoying it is when you keep nagging about turning off the lights), but also to help keep them accountable, to keep them from walking, to keep them on track for meeting their running goals, and to keep them safer – running alone can be a dangerous act.  Oh, and don’t worry, the running buddy hears about your good qualities too, it’s not all negative talk, in fact the longer the run, the more those happy brain chemicals produced are likely to make your spouse feel like singing your praises. Don’t be jealous of the running buddy, and don’t be mad that your spouse is leaving your side – trust me it has nothing to do with your spouse not wanting to spend time with you and everything to do with them wanting to spend more quality time with you.  Running makes your spouse a better spouse.

4.  Pre-run and post-run rituals are all part of the long run.  You can’t expect your spouse to skip out on either one for the sake of time.. Fueling up with peanut butter on toast and a cup of coffee at least a half an hour before the run is essential for sustaining energy throughout the trot.  The pre-run shit is often not openly discussed, but is always needed. Post-run foam-rolling is another must-do, as well as possibly icing. And, of course, one of the most important post-run rituals is the consumption of eggs with crispy bacon, washed down with more coffee (but this cup should be spiked with Kahlua). BONUS:  You can join your spouse for this last bit.

5.  Their long run is truly in your best interest.  I’m sure you realize by now that if you are married to a runner you are married to someone who is at least slightly crazy.  Even though you might have to change extra diapers or cope with whining from the kids on your own while your spouse is off on a leisurely jaunt for hours at a time, trust me, they are doing this to be a better person, which equates to being a better parent and partner. Runners, as a whole, they have a deep-seated, primal aching, a visceral need to release pent-up energy.  The healthy manifestation of this exists in the form of a long run, but if that’s not an option, it could potentially transpire in a seemingly unprovoked raging incident that involves flying objects chucked across the room, aimed at your head.  It’s really better for you if they go for that jog. Look out for yourself.

 

Your spouse is a little bit crazy.  That's why he/she needs to run.

Your spouse is a little bit crazy. That’s why he/she needs to run.

 

 

 

Singing Off-Key (And Loving It): A Small Collection of Remixes For Parents of Toddlers

You know how when you sing, sometimes you can’t hear when you’re off-key? It seems like a lot of people tend to think they are better at singing than they actually are (especially after imbibing adult beverages) but, not me.  I can hear my off-key-ness LOUD and CLEAR and you know if YOU can hear it, it must be really bad.  Really really.

So, it was a surprise to me after Baby Grouch Numero Uno was born that I found myself singing to her, often.  As she has grown, she loves to sing, and we are constantly singing, all of the traditional nursery rhymes we hear on Pandora (Nursery Rhyme Radio) or YouTube (Have you checked out Super Simple Songs yet? If not, you MUST) or that she has learned at daycare, and of course the Michigan State Fight Song (gotta brainwash ‘em early).  But more often than not we are making up lyrics on the spot, using the same beat to sing different versions of songs, or making up lyrics to describe what we are doing at the moment, or to just have fun and be silly.

Case in point:

Happy and Sad ABC’s

We always sing the ABC’s while washing hands. Somehow Toddler Grouch started singing bits of the song in a frenetic and goofy tone, “aybeceedee eeeeffGEE!” while smiling and bobbing her head and rubbing her hands back and forth vigorously, and singing other bits super slowly, with a mournful tone, slowly swaying from side to side, the corners of her mouth turned down, faking a sad version of the tune, “ayyyyy beee ceeeee deeee eeeee eeefff geeeeeeeeeee”. If I don’t make my fake-frown frowny enough, she stops me, “Mom, sing it with your mouth!”  It’s hilarious. We giggle.

Case in point 2:

Silly Word Pattern ABC’s

I have no idea why, but ever since Toddler Grouch could speak “tunu” meant ABC’s.  I have no explanation for this, and it took us a looooong time to figure out what she wanted when she said, “tunu” but we eventually figured out that this meant the ABC song.  Every now and again we sing the ABC’s like this:

A-b-c-d-e-f tunu,

h-i-j-k-l-m-n-o tunu,

q-r-s-t-u tunu,

w-x-y and tunu.

Now I know my a-b tunus,

next time won’t you tunu with me?

 

One of our favorite Super Simple songs is the Good Morning, Mr. Rooster song, which I realize might seem ridiculous coming from the Morning Grouch, but maybe I sing it just as much for me as for her.  It’s really cute.

Good Morning Mr. Rooster Lyrics – by Super Simple Songs

Good morning.  Good morning.  Good morning to you.

Good morning, Mr. Rooster,

Cock-a-doodle-doo.

 

Sometimes we sing the original version, but we often remix it up a bit:

The Good Morning Song

Good Morning.  Good morning. Good morning to you.

Good morning, Little Grouchy,

Mama loves you.

 

(Repeat as needed)

Remix for two kids:  Replace “mama loves you” with “and (insert kid’s name here) too!”

 

Sometimes we use the same beat to get her moving towards the bathroom:

The Potty Song

Good morning. Good morning.  Good morning to you.

Let’s go pee on the potty.

And, maybe poo.

 

*Remix: replace poo with toot.  Farts are always funny.

 


Songs just make everything easier.  And happier.

Here are a few that are sung to the tune of Mary Had A Little Lamb:

The Nap Song

Now it’s time to
take a nap, take a nap, take a nap,
Now it’s time to take a nap,
It’s time to lay in bed.

Lay your head on
the pillow, the pillow, the pillow,
Lay your head on the pillow
It’s time to get some rest

Do you want to
read a book, read a book, read a book?
Do you want to read a book
Read a book with me?

 

The Let’s Change Your Poopy Diaper Song

It’s time to change your

diaper now, diaper now, diaper now,

It’s time to change your diaper now,

let’s clean up your pooooooooop.

* The longer you draw out the word poop, the louder the giggle

** Can easily be modified to accommodate a strictly pee diaper

 

Toddler Grouch’s favorite rendition of Mary Had a Little Lamb is the one I bust out when she’s acting all toddler-like.  “No! No! I don’t wannnnnt to!” You know what I’m talking about. This helps lighten almost any mood:

 The No Song

Toddler Grouch says no no no,
No no no,
No no no,
Toddler Grouch says no no no,
No no no no no!

Trust me, sounds too simple, but goes over very well with the target demographic.

 

The Brush Our Teeth Rap  

This must be performed in rap version, swaying from side to side, bouncing the knees a bit up and down, with a sassy scowl on the face.  Bonus points if you can do this dressed in a hoodie, or with a rasta hat on.

*Every “Ch ch ch ch ch chhhh chhh chhhh chhhh!” is accompanied with a hand gesture, mimicking brushing teeth.

 

We brush our teeth.

Ch ch ch ch ch chhhh chhh chhhh chhhh!

We brush our teeth

Ch ch ch ch ch chhhh chhh chhhh chhhh!

 

We get the bottom.

We get the top.

We go in circles.

We do not stop.

 

Ch ch ch ch ch chhhh chhh chhhh chhhh!

Ch ch ch ch ch chhhh chhh chhhh chhhh!

 

We get the front.

We get the back.

We keep them healthy.

We do not slack.

 

Ch ch ch ch ch chhhh chhh chhhh chhhh!

(Sung in theatrical high pitch): Do you have to spit in the siiiiiiink?

Eeeeee eeee eee ee ee eee eeeeeeeeeeeeee (spin the discs – don’t forget the hand motions)

We brush our teeth.

We brush our teeth.

We’re almost done.  (remix version = let’s have some fun)

(Sung in theatrical high pitch): Do you want to brush your tongue?

 

Eeeeee eeee eee ee ee eee eeeeeeeeeeeeee (spin the discs – don’t forget the hand motions)

Repeat.

Pro tip: Stop singing when the kid stops brushing.  Tell them you need them to keep the beat.

Songs for toddlers. Toddlers love to sing!

Songs for toddlers. Toddlers love to sing!

What are your favorite songs to sing with your toddler? Please, let me siphon your ideas.

The Gratitude Muscle

Building strength can be hard.

The first part is deciding to get stronger.  That’s really the hardest part, even though it doesn’t even involve a workout regime.  It’s just a mindset, at first, a determination to make improvements to who we are.

Until it becomes habit, reminders are needed.  Sticky notes that say, “go work out!” and a calendar on the fridge with the workout plan on display, demanding to be seen.  Smiley faces are drawn on the days the plan is followed through and frowny faces are drawn on the days that aren’t.  Until it is second nature, strict discipline and careful planning are needed.

Over time, the body starts to crave the good feeling it gets from the workouts on its own. There is less reliance on the sticky notes and the calendars and more just listening to the muscles, noticing when they need to rest and recoup, and when they ache to be used.

It doesn’t take long for changes in the body to be noticed.  At first by you, and then by those around you.  Energy pervades, even when the muscles are tired, or sore, because they are stronger.  Healthier.  Everyone has slumps, but those who are determined find motivators: workout buddies or personal trainers, or bigger calendars on the fridge.  Even with a downward slide here or there, a fit person generally keeps getting fitter.

There are 206 bones and several hundreds of muscles that make up the adult body, but one of the most important, yet overlooked, piece of human anatomy is the Gratitude Muscle.

Just as the heart must be strong enough to pump oxygen and nutrients, and our bones must to be strong enough to carry our weight, the Gratitude Muscle is on par with those anatomical necessities – it must also be strong, to keep our mental faculties at peace and to make our physical presence worthwhile.

Children have bodies with natural strength, they exercise daily, through exploration and play, but over time sedentary lifestyles and self-neglect can cause atrophy to all of the muscles, including the Gratitude Muscle.  Even though the importance of staying fit is always recognized, we can easily become set in our ways and make excuses for why we don’t have time to learn, to play, to be grateful.  People without healthy Gratitude Muscles, can technically survive, but they.tend to live horribly dreary, unhappy existences.

The good news is that even if we’ve neglected our Gratitude Muscle in the past, we can always start strengthening it now, no matter how weak it may be.  If we have the desire, we can bolster our thankfulness, even if it is currently grey and mushy from extended disuse.  It is worth penciling in Gratitude Workouts, forcing ourselves to focus on what we have, and what is good.  Working to find gratitude in everything and everyone means pushing ourselves to new limits, which might tire us out, might sometimes cause temporary strain.  It can be uncomfortable at times, practicing gratitude.  The end result is worth it , no pain, no gain, as they say, and a little bit of tenderness can feel good, in this case, loving what we have so much it hurts.

The Gratitude Muscle is an anatomical necessity that must also be strong, to keep our mental faculties at peace and to make our physical presence worthwhile. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The Gratitude Muscle is on par with those anatomical necessities – it must also be strong, to keep our mental faculties at peace and to make our physical presence worthwhile. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

 

Depression ≠ Sadness

Not too long ago, one of my friends, who reads many of my blog posts, said to me that she was always, “reading about how sad you always are”.  Her words rocked me back on my heels for a second, catching me off guard, for a number of reasons (it also made me think that all of those truly anonymous bloggers are really smart cookies). Even though I have a decent number of posts about depression and mental health, here’s the thing:  I’m not always sad.

Not even close.  

If you ask me how life is going or how I’m doing, I’d (honestly) say that life is AMAZING! WONDERFUL! and that I am SO GRATEFUL for all of the good things I’ve got going on. Life is so good, folks! I think I express this on the blog as evidenced here and here and here. But, that’s the misconception surrounding depression, that the term is synonymous with sadness.  I suppose the misunderstanding exists because everyone grasps sadness, but not very many seem to get what depression is all about.  Today I heard two people discussing a recent suicide, “I think she’d been depressed for a while”, one person said, and the other person responded with, “What did she have to be sad about anyway?  She had kids!” I wanted to jump in and clarify some terms for them: She wasn’t sad.  She was depressed.

There’s a big difference.

Chronic depression doesn’t go away like sadness does.  And it doesn’t necessarily feel like sadness does either, even if we are feeling “down”. That’s part of the issue – it’s hard to explain what it feels like. Even when life is at its best, and there is nothing to be sad about, and we’re on an upswing, we are never “cured”.  The depression is still there, a part of us, though it might be barely noticeable, or easy to forget about, temporarily.

I usually use the analogy of treading water, but another way to think of depression is like carrying an added weight around all the time.

For many of us functionally depressive people, who can maintain relationships and hold a job and engage in fun activities, depression can be thought of like a heavy backpack. Most of the time, the weight of the backpack is relatively stable, so we’re able to remain relatively even-keeled.  We can still do everything that everyone else does, backpacks are pretty ergonomic and carrying an extra twenty-five pounds isn’t too hard.  During the good times, the weight is easily managed, and a lot of us make it look effortless.  The bags are hardly noticed.

Sometimes, the backpack gets heavier. This could be due to some sad occurrence it could be due to increased stress or it could be due to nothing.  Either way, instead of twenty-five pounds, the bag weight multiplies, turns into forty.  Or more. And instead of just the backpack, sometimes we’ve also got ankle weights on and a million grocery bags on our arms. You know how you don’t want to make one more trip back to the car, so you load up six bags on the left arm and five bags on the right?  It’s sort of like that, except we are carrying them around constantly, not just from the car to the house. And of course, the bags are invisible, so no one else can see why the hell we are struggling to just walk from the car to the house.  We just look like weaklings.

During big dips, it’s like having to carry all those extra bags around when you have the flu. Same bags, but so much harder to manage.  We fumble over seemingly easy tasks and we can’t hold on to one more thing, so when we’re asked to do so, even if it is something we’ve held before, we might protest and it might look like we’re overreacting. “Just hold it. It isn’t even heavy,” you might think. And it’s not, by itself, but it is too much when you factor in our compromised immune systems and the combined weight of the invisible bags. We can’t just drop the bags, that isn’t possible, so when we’re at our weakest, we just can’t move.  We might not be able to talk to our friends or family, we might not be able to leave the house, or even to get out of bed.  We can’t. We’re too tired.  We don’t make very good load-bearing animals.  Since the bags are invisible, people really get pissy about this one.  “Just get up!” they say, wondering why the hell we are just laying there or why we are being so lazy.

Sometimes when we feel an impending depressive episode coming on, we try tactics to prevent getting pinned down, because we don’t want to be immobilized by the weight. Maybe it’s a med change. Maybe it’s meditation or therapy, maybe it’s drinking, maybe it’s exercise.  Maybe it’s continuously moving, doing All The Things!

Continuous movement is a strategy I employ from time to time.  Sometimes it’s easier to just keep moving because stopping to rest means that getting started again would require dead-lifting the invisible heavy load, and that would just be too much.

For a lot of us, this land of functional-depressiveness is where we live most of our lives. And, it’s where many of us hope to stay, knowing that with just a bit too much weight piled on we could lose the “functional” tag at the beginning.

But, remember this: if expressing the depressive part of ourselves makes you think we’re constantly morose, know that you’re still not getting it. Keep in mind that the other parts of ourselves laugh and enjoy and are grateful for all in our life that is amazingly good.  We’re not always sad.

Even when we’re depressed.

There’s a difference.

So for those of you who are sick of hearing the sad-sounding posts – stop reading them. They really aren’t for you, anyway.  But, for those of you carrying around invisible baggage of your own, they are for you. Because I know that just realizing you aren’t the only one with a heavy load can make your backpack feel a little bit lighter.

The Day We Caught Our Kids Looking At Their Butt Holes – A Guest Post by Clint Edwards

Today we are honored and privileged to have the distinguished Clint Edwards, author of No Idea What I’m Doing:  A Daddy Blog, sharing one of his gems with us.  I hope you enjoy hearing about his struggles dealing with the crazy-ass (pun intended) scenarios, that are an inevitable part of parenting, as much as I did.

clint

THE DAY WE CAUGHT OUR KIDS LOOKING AT THEIR BUTT HOLES

My wife, Mel, approached me in the kitchen and said, “I just caught the kids looking at their butt holes. We should talk to them about that.”

Mel was in jeans, and wearing a pink and white maternity top. In her right arm was our new baby, Aspen. It was Mel’s 32nd birthday, and it was a Friday evening. I’d just placed candles in Mel’s cake and was washing my hands at the sink.

It took me a moment to figure out what the hell she just said. I played a scene out in my head where Tristan (age 7) and Norah (age 4) were naked, bending over, and giggling. In my mind, it seemed innocent enough, but the more I thought about it, the stranger it became.

One of my duties as a father was to get the kids ready for bed, which really was a collection of other duties, one of them being herding the kids into the bath. Moments earlier, I’d started filling up the tub in the kids’ bathroom, and started the shower in the parents’ bathroom, and then stepped into the kitchen while Tristan and Norah got undressed. Somehow in the few moments it took me to walk down the hall to the kitchen, our children had decided to explore their butts.

Shit like this was the main reason they were bathing separately. About six months ago both kids were in the tub. Mel caught Tristan and Norah play fighting. Tristan was wielding his penis like a weapon, while Norah was holding a rubber ducky like a sword. The rest of the details are sketchy, but from what I understand the weapons collided. There were giggles. Then Mel made Tristan move into the other bathroom. When Mel broke up this ducky penis fight, Tristan and Norah acted like she was the strange one. Like she was the one who needed decency education.

It was then that Mel and I decided they were getting too old to bathe together.

I have to assume that actions like this are a natural part of childhood curiosity, but at the same time, I feel an obligation as a parent to help my kids understand social decency. It’s probably nothing to worry about. But then again, it’s down right strange, and I want it to stop. I don’t want to be the parent of that dude in Central Park showing strangers his penis. Nor do I want to get an email down the road from someone telling me that my daughter has been spotted on Girls Gone Wild showing strangers (the world) her butt hole. I’m all for unconditional love, but right now, at this moment, I like the idea of my kids growing up to be responsible adults who dress modestly. Adults with families, carriers, and a complete and well-worn wardrobe. Call me old-fashioned, but the last thing I’m going to do is encourage genital to bath toy play fights, or the examination of family butts.

Mel and I were both standing in the kitchen now.

“Hold on…” I said. “Say that again.”

Mel let out a breath, like what she was saying was an everyday thing, and easy to understand, and the fact that I asked her to repeat it made me the fool.

“I was in Norah’s room getting some PJ’s for Aspen when I overheard Norah say, ‘What’s that hole in your butt?’ Then Tristan said, ‘It’s my butt hole. Want to look at it?’ I heard laughter. Once I came into the bathroom, things had obviously progressed because Tristan was now looking at Norah’s butt hole.”

She paused for a moment. Then she said, “We should have a talk with them.”

Usually when Mel says, “we should talk with them” she means, “You should talk with them.” Normally I fight this assumption, but I did consider that fact that it was Mel’s birthday. I thought about how I’d like to spend my birthday, and I knew that it wasn’t handling some strange moment like the one we were discussing.

“How exactly do you suggest I handle this?” I said.

I honestly didn’t know how to approach this subject. What were the ramifications of it all? What were my kids experimenting with? Was this something that needed to be handled? I never examined any of my siblings’ butts. I thought about asking Mel if she ever examined any of hers’, but then decided I’d rather not know.

If they weren’t brother and sister, that would be one thing. But they were, and that was just strange. I assumed that both were too young for this to be a sexual thing, but at the same time, I didn’t really know. It felt like we were moving into some strange new territory as parents, a land filled with brothers and sisters looking at each other’s butts. A community I’d rather not be a part of.

“Just go tell them that it’s not appropriate, and that they shouldn’t do it anymore.”

Her explanation sounded simple enough, but I knew that it wouldn’t be that easy. I wondered if I should speak to them together, or separately. I knew that I needed to chat with them tonight, or they would forget about the whole thing. I wondered if I should chat with them while they were bathing, if I should wait until we were all at the table eating birthday cake. I imagined it. Mel blowing out her candles after we sang the happy birthday song. Then we’d all sit around the table, and as we munched on cake, I’d bring up an awkward conversation about butt holes.

For the sake of Mel, I decided to talk to them individually as they bathed.

Tristan was in the shower. I thought for a moment before I approached him. I ran a few heart-felt parenting speeches through my head. Ones that I thought would be appropriate to handle such a strange subject. All of them seemed to start with “When a young boy becomes a man…” or “When I was a boy…”, but nothing I could think of really fit the complicated subject matter that I was dealing with.

Once I got to my son, all of those long-winded, Tim Taylor style, life changing dad speeches went out the window.

“Hey,” I said. “Don’t look at your sister’s butt hole.”

“Why not?” Tristan said.  He was naked, in the shower. Water was running down his chest, his mouth in a half frown, hands clenched in fists at his sides. He looked offended, like he was a teenager and I’d told him not to smoke pot, or hang out with a group of troublemakers.

Then he started laughing.

Tristan is a complex little guy. When faced with a situation he doesn’t like, or doesn’t understand, he will get angry at first, and then try to make a joke to lighten the situation. I did the same thing when I was young, so I understand his logic. But what I didn’t understand as a boy was how infuriating it is to try to talk to someone about a serious subject, and have the person laugh in your face, or make jokes the whole time.

“It’s weird,” I said. “Do you ever see me or mom looking at our butt holes?”

Tristan thought about this for a moment, and then he laughed. “I don’t know, but that would be really funny if you did.”

My question obviously didn’t help with his defense mechanism of laughter and joke making.

Rather than linger on what was obviously a bad comparison, I kept talking.

“Do you have friends that do that? Please tell me that you don’t have friends that look at your butt hole.”

“No. I don’t,” he said.

Then he started laughing harder, and I got worried that I’d just given him an idea. Suddenly I imaged getting a call home from school on this subject, and realized that, right then, I was failing as a father.

We went back and forth for a while. I explained to him that what he was doing was inappropriate and strange, and I didn’t want him to do it anymore.

“Fine,” he said while rolling his eyes. “I won’t look at Norah’s butt hole anymore.”

I wasn’t sure if I could believe him, so I said, “Do you promise?”

Tristan let out a long breath, “Yes! Dad!”

I didn’t push it any further.

“Thank you,” I said.

I approached Norah on the subject. She was stretched out in the tub, her head half underwater.

I asked her if she’d looked at Tristan’s butt hole, and she giggled.

Then she loudly cried, “Yup!” in her four-year-old chipper little voice.

I’m not sure if I laughed because of her response, or because the conversation was absurd, but what I do know is that I had to step from the room and regain my composure. I stood in the hallway for a while, listening to her giggle. I was a mix of silly laughter and anxiety, trying to understand if I was handling this situation appropriately.

It is in moments like these that I fully realize what people mean why they say there is no instruction manual on raising children. Would there be a chapter titled, “How to Approach Your Children About Not Looking At Their Sibling’s Butt,  And Turn It Into A Rewarding Moment”? No! I don’t think so.  How on earth could someone come up with a text complex enough to tackle the unexpected situations that can arise when raising a family?

Once I came back, I told Norah, in my best serious voice, that what she did was inappropriate and strange, and I asked her to never do it again.

“Ok,” she said. “I won’t ever ever look at Tristan’s butt hole ever again.”

I didn’t believe her. Norah is at that age where she will say, “Ok” to just about anything she is confronted with. If I tell her not to steal cookies from the pantry, she will say, “Ok.” Then I know that there is a 75% chance that I will find her 20 minutes later trying to steal cookies from the pantry. But much like when I discussed this situation with Tristan, I just wanted it to be over.

“Thank you,” I said.

Once both kids were bathed and in bed, I sat in the living room and thought about what it meant to be a parent. I wondered if I’d handled this situation well, or I’d just made things worse. I hoped that something like this would never happen again, but I knew that it would.

I never had an awkward talk with a parent. I didn’t really know my father that well, and my grandmother half raised me. I was shuffled between homes a lot, and so I missed out on a lot of those Hallmark, cliché moments, like the birds and the bees talk. But I’d heard a lot from friends talk about their parents approaching them about awkward subjects like the one I faced. My friends always said how it felt like the whole situation was so awkward for them, like all they wanted was for the conversation to just end. But what I never realized was that those conversations are just as awkward for the parents.

Maybe even more so. Especially when I consider how I feel that my children are a reflection of myself.

There was no way I was going to get out of parenthood without having more awkward conversations with my kids. I just hoped that, with time, I’d get better at it.

 

 

 

Clint Edwards is the author of No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.