“But, Mine Don’t Look Like That!” Responding to My Daughter’s Body Image Questions

“Whats that?”

She reaches out and touches my bare breast. She grabs my nipple.

I’m not a Naked Person but I haven’t made an effort to cover myself in front of my daughter. Bodies are bodies and there’s nothing shameful about them and there is value in her seeing a normal woman’s human form, even if she only remembers it subconsciously.  She’s only two.  I don’t go out of my way to cover up when I step out of the shower or to hide myself from her when I’m getting dressed.

This time, I was leaning over her toddler bed in my pajamas, wearing an oversized pair of flannel pants and a loose-fitting tank top that sagged open as I bent over to tuck her in.

“Those are mom’s boobs. Her breasts”.

She squeezed. Then she looked down at her own chest before turning her face towards mine, “But, I don’t have that”.

She doesn’t ask a question with her mouth, but she is searching me for answers with her eyes.

Different responses went through my head, each immediately followed up with reasons why the response would make me the worst mom ever, causing my child to develop body image issues at the age of two.

Dont worry, someday you will.  No, no, no.  That makes it seem like something to aspire to.  

Someday yours will be bigger.  No, no, no.  That emphasizes that bigger is better and implies that what she has now isn’t good enough.  

When you’re older yours will be like Mama’s.  No, no, no, I have no clue what hers will be like.  My family and Mr. Grouch’s family have VERY different body types.  Very different boobs.  I cannot even begin to imagine what kind of boobs my girls will have.

Women have bigger boobs, kids have smaller ones. No, no, no, that implies bigger boobs make one more womanly.  There are a million ways to be “womanly”.

Finally something hit me.  Something true.

“That’s because everyone’s are different. Yours are yours”.

And it’s true, isn’t it?  I marveled at the truthful simplicity of the words that came out of my mouth.  We are who we are and those of us who are happiest with ourselves are the ones who accept this.

Whether taught or innate, we compare ourselves to others.  How many times have we women looked at another and had the feeling that we weren’t pretty enough, sexy enough, strong enough, good enough?  How many times have we doubted our worth or our woman-ness, shrugging off compliments or praise with a “But, mine don’t look like that!”.  What a waste of energy that is.  Comparison about bodies serves no purpose. It doesn’t do us any good to wish to be someone we’re not, in any way, especially physically.

The fact of the matter is, we are who we are and we aren’t going to become anybody else.  To be happy with ourselves we must be grateful for what we have, embrace it, and treat it right.  

Having this conversation with my daughter made me reflect on why women tend to become so much happier in their thirties. Their bodies have finally stopped wildly changing.  There’s been some time to become acclimated with who they are, physically and emotionally.  The ones who are taught from the beginning that bodies are nothing more than the physical housing of our being, and that beauty is more than skin deep, begin the path of self-acceptance and self-appreciation.  Those who are not fight a losing battle against other women, against time and gravity, and ultimately against themselves.

My daughter smiled and wrapped her arms around herself, giving her chest a split-second hug before reaching for a book and asking me to read her a bedtime story.  She was satisfied with the answer.  As we all should be.

booobs

The Two Phrases That Keep Me Moving In The Right Direction

Yoga is a place for me to get a little therapy, in a bit of an incognito way.  A good yoga instructor doesn’t just teach the physical postures, the asanas, but also garnishes insights and poses questions that inspire reflection on important principles of healthy being.  It is hard to focus when our brains are abuzz with anxieties, and to-do lists constantly swirl around in our heads.  The asanas exist to wring out the body and clear the mind, so we are able to focus on what is important.  There are two simple ideas that are consistently returned to by the yogis at the studio, that have really stuck with me, off the mat.

Be Compassionate.

How do I apply it? I try to ask myself questions, or think of statements like these, especially when I find myself feeling frustrated or annoyed:

Are they doing okay?
What’s the root of the behavior I’m so annoyed with?
Are they acting that way because they are stressed or tired?
Are they having an off day/week/month/year?
Am I focusing only on the negative?
Do they need some help?
Do they need a smile? A hug?
Do they need me to back off?
What can I do to help?
Nobody is perfect.  Not even me.  And that’s okay.
Everyone has their “thing”.  Even me.  And that’s okay.
Everyone does what they can, at the time.  Sometimes it’s a lot, sometimes it’s very little.
Are you recognizing all the good they do?  Am I recognizing all the good I am doing?
Are you beating them up because they aren’t doing everything perfectly?  Are you beating yourself up?
Are you being gentle with them?  With yourself?

There are millions of questions that all boil down to the same thing.  Am I being compassionate with myself and others?  Being compassionate doesn’t mean needing to set yourself on fire to keep others warm, which is why, for me, compassion is balanced with honesty.

Be Honest.

How do I apply it? I ask myself questions like these:

Am I working hard enough?
Am I doing what I can?
Do I need a break?
Do they need a break?
Am I giving him/her a chance?
Am I being too harsh?
Am I being too lenient?
Have I done all I can?
Am I taking things too personally?
Do I have enough information to make any kind of judgment?
Am I reading too much between the lines?
Am I giving enough attention to those around me? Am I giving enough attention to me?
Can I keep jogging another mile or am I too tired?  Do I need to slow down? Can I speed up?
Do I really want to eat that donut?

There are millions of questions that all ask the same thing, Am I being honest?

It’s a funny thing how being truthful helps balance out the never-ending-giving that compassion warrants, however it also usually results in more compassion in the end.

I am by no means empathetic and honest at all times, especially right in the heat of the moment. But I won’t beat myself up about it.  I’ll just keep working to be better and these two little phrases will help get me there.

This post is part of 1000 Voices for Compassion – A thousand (plus!) bloggers have decided to clog the newsfeeds with COMPASSION today to help counter the doom and gloom we so often scroll through.  There’s a lot of good out there, people.  Click on the image below to read the post from Finding Ninee, (one of my fave bloggers and one of the hosts of this blogging event) as well as links to many other uplifting posts.

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Search #1000speak on Twitter for more uplifting posts!

14 Life Lessons Running Teaches You

Jogging isn’t just a workout.  This is one of the big keys to understanding why runners always talk about running, even to those who couldn’t care less about running.  For most of us, the trot itself is a life coach.  It paves the path for processing and understanding our existence. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

1.  Plans are needed to reach big goals.  Anyone who has trained for a race can tell you that you can’t just expect to show up on race day and nail it.  For big mileage goals, I plan my weekly runs out for about six months in advance.  This has reminded me that if I want to see positive changes in my career, within my family, or in myself, it will take time, and some sort of medication therapy strategy.

2.  Plans are never followed through to a T.  Something always happens.  Injuries creep up, plans interfere with training, the weather doesn’t cooperate, illness strikes. There are usually glitches in the perfect system I mapped out on paper.  I count on needing to make adjustments to what I’ve planned out as a best case scenario.  One of the top rules I live by is to always write plans out in pencil (another one is to always keep the pantry well-stocked with red wine for drowning sorrows and/or celebrating gains).

3.  Scaring yourself every now and again is a good thing.  I have a quote in my classroom that says, “Do one thing each day that scares you”.  This confused one of my students, who asked me if it meant he should jump off a bridge, because that would be scary.  NO, son, that is not what it means.  That’s stupid, not scary.  (Screw standardized testing, it’s examples like these that show us what we REALLY need to teach some of these kids). The quote, of course, is a reminder to take positive risks – even somewhat tiny ones, like at the end of my eight mile run, deciding at the last minute to do ten, or maybe signing up for that race I’ve been fantasizing about, but never had the guts to go for.  Pushing myself out of my comfort zone is the only way I’ll grow, and the only way to keep life interesting.

4.  You never know what you can do if you don’t ever try.  After running my first marathon, it really struck me that even a year before I had not considered myself to be a “real” runner, and had definitely said out loud, on multiple occasions, that I would NEVER be a marathoner.  I really never thought I could do something like that.  I remember a pal of mine talking about her fifteen mile runs, and thinking she was absolutely crazy.  Now, a few years later, I run at least a ten mile run almost every weekend.  I’m often reminded how shockingly out of shape I can be, and still be able to do this.  Running that marathon made me realize there are probably a lot of other things I could do that I’ve been too chicken to even consider.

5.  Stubbornness pays off.  If it really matters, find a way, find a way, find a way. Excuses are the easy way out and actions, not hopeful wishes or pretty Pinterest quotes, define what truly matters to us.

7.  You don’t lose that many friends attending social functions smelling and looking like crap.  And the ones you might lose aren’t worth keeping.  It’s a good litmus test, really. Running eats up a decent amount of time and there are only so many hours in the day, so as my mileage increases, so do the chances of me showing up to happy hour events or informal social gatherings in my ridiculously clingy and sweat-soaked garb.  If I’m feeling especially self-conscious I may change into jeans in my car before I arrive, however this always results in me giving myself a mini heart-attack as I try to peel the skin-tight material off my sweaty legs and I panic about getting arrested for indecent exposure.  It’s usually not worth the anxiety attack and I just show up in the ugly tights, thighs right out there in the open for all to witness.  The people I really want to spend time with don’t care about such superficiality.

8.  No one is going to do the work for you.  I can join running groups, and download running apps and buy expensive running shoes and a million fancy shirts with the thumb-holes built in, but at the end of the day, I’ve got to run my own miles.

9. Being alone with your thoughts can be scary.  But, it’s important.  I can’t process all the jumbled thoughts racing through my brain without a little time alone.  And, let’s be honest, I’ve got a lot of shit to work through in that skull of mine – it’s about as big of a mess in there as the back storage area of my grandmother’s basement, and while I love her zesty personality and her golden heart, she’s borderline hoarder material with more than a twinge of ADHD.  That basement is a mess.

10.  Good socks are one of the most important things in life.  Seriously.  Happy feet = heavenly life.  Cold/wet feet = horribly icy, frozen hellish existence.  All bow to the SmartWool Gods.

11.   Bladder and bowel control should never be taken for granted.  Never. Never ever. There is nothing worse than feeling gravity’s pull on a full bladder or a heaviness with each step that causes you to pray your ass doesn’t betray you by turning into an anal volcano. It is unfortunate that most running routes have a noticeable lack of access to public restrooms.  Dear Starbucks workers four miles from my house, please don’t mind my sweaty Saturday morning pit stops.  Trust me, I buy enough coffee from you during the work week to pay for all the toilet paper I use up on the weekend.

12.  If you do something for the wrong reasons you’re going to hate it. Continuous pressure to increase mileage or increase pace, or feeling guilty about not taking break, is just a big huge set-up for burn-out (and probably injury).  All runners know that, for the most part, the only person that really cares about their running is THEMSELVES. Running, like most life endeavors, is highly personal, and if I’m going to do it, I’m going to be damned sure I’m doing it to make myself a happier, stronger, and better me. Every once in awhile I get that feeling of needing to keep up with the Joneses, but I am constantly kicking myself in my own ass to remind myself that my real goal is to keep moving towards finding as much inner peace as possible.  My life goal is not to beat Joe Schmo in a 5k.  So, every now and again, I need to skip the trot and eat half a Margherita pizza washed down with a Two Hearted Ale.  There are times when feeding the soul is more important than pounding the pavement.

13.  Never judge the strength of someone from the few encounters you witness.  Sure, there are plenty of runs that I’m feeling strong and I look like I know what I’m doing but just as in life, there are days that just utterly suck.  There may or may not have been runs where I was the freak show with tears pouring out my eyes, holding a Ziploc baggie full of raisins that my frozen fingers only somewhat successfully managed to get to my mouth without spilling.  The person who gave me a raised eyebrow as she saw me hobbling along, leaving a trail of raisins and tears, had no idea that I ran twenty miles that day.  At certain points we’re all that person and it’s humbling to remember that.

14.  You don’t have as much control as you think.  A sore tendon here, an achy joint there, all and my running days can come to a crashing halt.  I know that at some point I may have to find another way to get where I need to go.

 

14 Life Lessons Taught to Me by Running

14 Life Lessons Taught to Me by Running

 

 

Practical Tips For All You Wine-Loving Mamas

1.  Make sure your diaper bag is big enough to pack all of the essentials. Opt for the satchel with plenty of extra room, just in case you need to hold a few of your favorite things.

wine in diaper bag

2.  Use Your Role as Grocery-Getter to Your Advantage: Remember that there is really no need to begrudge your spouse for never setting foot in the bread aisle because the wine aisle is usually right next to it.  When you want to make a wine run, but don’t want to hear any grief from your spouse about how you can’t make it a day without wine, you can use the old, I-need-to-go-to-the-grocery-because-the-baby-needs-diapers excuse.

wine groceries

3.  Take a Special Treat to Sip As You Stroll:  Endorphins plus wine = happiest of mamas.  Just be sure to put your mommy juice in a cup with a well-sealed lid (do as I say, not as as I do) and take care to dodge the potholes.

wine cup spill

4. Of course, don’t overindulge. A little nip to take the edge off is well and good, but there is no repercussion worse than having to parent with a hangover. You only need enough wine to counter the whine. Proportion wisely.

Today I Did Good.

There are a lot of days I screw up. But today was not one of them, even though it could have been.  After work I had a doctor appointment, and then I picked up the kids from daycare and we went straight to the grocery store.  I knew I was pushing it, but my kids are pretty good and I brought diapers and snacks.  I am ready, I thought.  Immediately upon entering the store my 2-year-old told me she had to go potty.  SHIT.  We’re just starting this whole potty business so we’re at the point that if she ASKS to go, we have to take her. Nevermind that the clock was ticking until meltdown mode for both her and Infant Grouch, or that the public restrooms are bacterial infected cesspools or that I’d be precariously holding both her and the infant, or that she probably wouldn’t go to the bathroom anyway until she was back in the cart (spoiler alert, she later shit in the cart).

So I took a deep breath.

I said, “Okay, let’s go” and we entered the bathroom and to my surprise, she peed!  So I wrangled her diaper back on and said, “Don’t touch anything!” a million times and we washed our hands and we hoped Infant Grouch wouldn’t start screaming (and she didn’t, whew).  Fifteen minutes after we arrived we finally started our grocery shopping.

Toddler Grouch was sitting in the big part of the cart and Infant Grouch was in the small upper seat.  Toddler Grouch kept standing up and grabbing things off of the shelves and shouting cliches like, “I want that!” while knocking over rows of shampoo.  I found myself repeatting, to her, “Sit down. Sit down. Sit down”, and, “Do you need a snack?” and to myself, “Take a deep breath. An ujayi breath.  Fuck it, ANY BREATH”.

I breathed.

The first item on my list was dry shampoo.  Because God forbid I have to wash my hair every day.  (Seriously, who has time for that?)  I was completely out so I needed it and I walked back and forth and back and forth, scouring the aisles.  I walked back and forth as many times as they say “back and forth” in Love You Forever.  Where the hell is it?  I was getting pissed.  The Meltdown Clock was ticking.   After the amount of time it could have taken me to write a graduate thesis, I finally found it.  Why the hell do they have to always change the packaging?  I resisted the urge to ask this question out loud, since little ears were within the listening range.

The next item on my list was saline rinse for the two stuffy little noses that alternate between mimicking spewing volcanoes and crusty manhole covers.  Our household is plagued with sinuses as delicate and narrow as human hairs, so none of us can survive without this stuff.  We were out, so it had to be found immediately. Where the fuck is it?  For the love of God, it’s been thirty-five minutes and so far all we’ve done is pee on a potty (but, Potty Dance!) and make it down one aisle.  The Meltdown Clock is ticking! I finally found it. “God damned fucking packaging changers!” I yelled.  In my head.  I actually held it in. And again….

I breathed.

While Toddler Grouch was screaming, “I wannnnt it” and, “Go away!” and “Poooooooopy Poop!” I could not be the mom who loses her shit because the saline drops now came in a purple package instead of a white one.  I didn’t even yell when Toddler Grouch started screaming in a sort of horribly mean tone, “Go away!”  or as she crushed groceries with her boots and kept stacking items up next to the infant carrier until they almost toppled over.

Instead, I breathed again and made myself smile at Infant Grouch, even though it may have been a bit too toothy, looking perhaps like the smile the Wolf gave to Little Red Riding Hood.

I bought four different types of dark chocolate and a bottle of Cabernet.  But I did not yell.

We got home and I had two tired and hungry kids to feed, and I opened the fridge to get the leftover chicken tenders and fries for Toddler Grouch…..and I realized Mr. Grouch had eaten them.  He was on a plane heading to an out of town business event so I could not give him an evil glare.  I threw together some leftover black beans and roasted vegetables and told Toddler Grouch she could watch a Little Einsteins episode if she ate her food. And after she tried to pull down the kitchen blinds, she did. Somehow after all that she ate beans and vegetables for dinner.  Score.

It was time for her to head to bed and she started complaining.  I started singing the Goodnight Song to her but improvised the words, changing, “It’s time to go to sleep” to, “It’s time brush your teeth” which she somehow found hilarious, so we laughed and laughed about that as we walked upstairs and she brushed her teeth.  Then when we were getting her pajamas on, she said she wanted to wear the coconut tree poop pajamas so I repeated back to her what she said and we laughed and laughed as we joked that, “A told B and B told C, I’ll beat you to the top of the coconut poop pajama tree!”  After we laughed about that we read I Love You, Stinky Face. On the page with the swamp monster on it I always blow a kiss and touch her face with my finger when the kiss lands on her cheek.  Tonight she giggled and told me she was wiping it off, so I gave a million or so kisses to my little slimy swamp monster and she laughed so loud she could hardly breathe as she wiped them off (even though she asked for more on every inhale) but my kisses were no match for her. Before we knew it, we had been laughing for over half an hour.

A day like this I consider a win, and worth recording.

And I still have dark chocolates and Cabernet to top it off.

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!