Three.

Three.

Three years since you were born.  A quiet, beautiful, surprisingly easy birth after a raucous, petrifying, shockingly difficult conception.

Three years since I couldn’t focus on anything else if you were in the room.  Not because you are demanding (even though sometimes you are), but because I can’t keep my eyes off of you.

Three years since I have found the greatest of joys in doing the simplest of things. Singing, reading, coloring, dancing, joking, playing.  But mostly, observing.

Three years since laughter has erupted from me so often, so loudly, so purely.

Three years since I have learned to take better care of myself, so I could take better care of you.

Three years since I remembered that kids know what is fair, what is funny, what is right, while adults often do not.

Three years since sleeping in has been an option.

Three years since I’ve tried (and so far, failed) to stop involuntarily emitting the “guhhhhh” sound when I encounter a frustration. Three years since you soaked this up like a sponge and picked up my bad habit.

Three years since touching someone else’s poop, pee, puke, snot, and other things I used to think were disgusting, have disgusted me.

Three years since I have understood why other people like their small children.

Three years since going on “vacation” meant going to the grocery store by myself, or sitting in silence for an hour.

Three years since I could listen to news stories or movies of violence, accidents, or death without holding my breath and holding back tears because in every scenario I pictured your face.

Three years since I could listen to success stories, happy-ending stories, everyday stories, without holding my breath and holding back tears, because in every scenario I pictured your face.

Three years since my body is no longer mine.  And three years since I’m okay embracing every imperfection the new me possesses. Even the torn hip labrum, and separated pelvic joint.

Three years since your struggles are difficult for me and your triumphs elate me.

Three years since your eyes, your nose, your mouth, your mannerisms, your voice, has been branded into my brain.  Three years since I can’t stop looking, zooming in as close as you will let me. Every day I notice a slight change, and I am astounded by it, excited by it, delighted by it, ridiculously surprised by it, and I don’t want to forget it.  I picture every bit of you vividly in my mind while my eyes are squeezed shut, but I want to study you even more with my eyes wide open to make sure I don’t miss anything new.

Three years since I have felt like I am the luckiest lady on the planet.

Happiest of birthdays, Toddler Grouch.  Three years!

A lifetime for you.  A life-changer for me.

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A Sad Reality: Trying to Schedule Time to See Your Mom-Friends

We all know how once we become parents, it’s hard to connect with our old circles. Oh, we don’t think it’s going to happen.  We’re going to get a babysitter once a week, we say to ourselves.  But, reality sets in and we quickly grasp that trying to find time to hang out with our non-parent friends is about as easy as trying to spear a salmon swimming upstream, without having any experience hunting or fishing, and without any sort of understanding of refraction.  They stay up later than us, they watch current television shows, they don’t have to work around nap times and those periodic babysitters are used so we can clean out the boxes in our basements or clean out the gutters, or put in a new water heater ourselves when the old one dies.

But we want to be friendly, we want to have friends, so we like to think we can at least find company with other parents, because they get it!  We list all of the reasons in our head why these new mom-relationships are going to be so. awesome. It’ll be so much easier than spearing fish. It’ll be like attracting ants with candy.

  • They are going through what we are!
  • Our kids can play together.  We won’t even care if they fight or hit each other with spoons.  We will laugh and nod at one another knowingly and consider it all to be social skills training.
  • They won’t get offended that when it comes to listening to them we only have the attention spans of goldfish, because of the constant I want water! Can I have a snack? Kiss my elbow, it’s bleeeeeding! (when it’s not bleeding), I peed on the carpet!  Watch THIS!  Watch THIS!  Look at meeeeeee…..
  • They don’t care that we come over wearing puke on our sweatshirts.
  • Or that we wear the same puked-on outfit day, after day….after day.

In some sort of cruel cosmic joke, realization sets in through a series of scenarios that are reminiscent of Twillight-Zone story lines, and parents soon face the facts.  When it comes to remaining highly social beings after having kids, the odds are never in our favor.

This is what text messages to your mom-friends look like

This is what text messages to your mom-friends look like

HER:   Doing anything fun today?  Are you able to walk to the park at all?

ME:  What the eff.  I’m sick.  I’ve randomly got a 103 temp.  Dying.

HER:  Stay away.  Don’t even text me back.  You sound too contagious.

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ME:  I’m feeling better!  Play date at the park?

HER:  Can’t.  Baby has pinkeye and toddler has hand, foot, and mouth.

ME:  Gag.  At least you don’t have super lice.

HER:  What the heck are super lice??? Do you have super lice??

ME: No!  I asked you to go to the park, remember?? And let’s hope you never find out what super lice are.

ME:  (Although, then you’d get that haircut you’ve been complaining you can squeeze in).

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ME:  Hey!  Up for going for a walk with the kiddos tonight?

HER:  Sure!  We’re almost home.  What time were you thinking?

ME:  5:00? Or earlier?

HER:  Have to run to the store, then make dinner and feed the fam.  5:45?

ME:  Ugh. Baby’s been going to sleep at 6:00.  :(

HER:  Our schedules are so off!

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HER:  Are you guys around today?  Thought I’d try to blow up the pool and can let you know when it is open for business?  Not sure if the kiddo will love it or not, first time trying it out.

ME:  Ohhh, nice.  We are on our way to Potter Park now.  Maybe after nap time?

HER:  Check in later.  We can let you know how it goes this morning.  Have fun at the zoo.  You’re brave.  It’s so hot!

ME:  I’m a warrior mama, armed with sunscreen and wads of cash to buy a copious amount of popsicles.  Text you later, let’s try to connect!

HER:  Hope nap times work so you guys can come over!

ME:  Okay, we are leaving the zoo, napping when we get home.

ME (hours later):  Still sleeping, but probably up any minute. what are you guys up to?

HER:  Kiddo JUST went down, so will probably sleep another hour and a half.  Is this not going to work again?   I can text when he gets up.

ME:  Good lord.

HER: I know.

HER (hours later):  This isn’t happening again, is it?   Are you staring your nighttime routine?  My guess is yes.

ME:  The family is heading to the cottage Thursday to Saturday.  Coffee Sunday morning?

HER: Yes!  Please!

ME (Monday):  Don’t kill me. I think we’re now staying until Sunday afternoon…

HER:  I can’t kill you if I never see you again :(

I miss you, pal (In mom-speak)

I miss you, pal (In mom-speak)

ME:  Coffee tomorrow evening?  I’m free!

HER:  Yes! Yay!

ME (next day):  I guess hubs is coming home early so can’t do coffee today.  Maybe tomorrow though.

HER:  No problem.  I still haven’t taken a shower and really need to.  Will try tomorrow.

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ME:  Stopping over today after work?

HER:  For sure!  Stopping at the house briefly then we’ll pop over.

HER:  Sooooo baby is in my lap and hopefully falling asleep very soon. I could still come in a bit Or… For SURE come straight from work tomorrow. Sorry. I know my track record sucks.

HER (next day):  I’m agoraphobic. I’ll be by tomorrow. I really will :)

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ME:  We are around we are having some friends over tonight. Join? Maybe we will do a fire pit? If you can stay up that late.

HER: As usual, will see how things pan out. I’ll text. And if I have enough energy, although I can’t imagine being out past 9.

HER: (No text later)

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Since you can’t ever actually connect in person, sometimes you just chat via text:

ME:  I’m a train wreck. Eat. Eat. Drink. Gah.  I do NOT want to go back to work yet but I might need the structure.

Bark thins. Supposedly dark chocolate, but I think they are composed of something more addictive, and possibly illegal. SO. GOOD.

Bark thins. Supposedly dark chocolate, but I think they are laced with something more addictive. SO. GOOD.

HER: I remember you telling me about those chocolate bark things… My picture should be my fat stomach hanging out from my camisole but I just can’t bring myself to do it..

ME: Haha! Omg.  SHOW ME.

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HER:  You’re pinching like the tiniest little layer of SKIN. That ain’t nothing. And no, no picture here.

ME: I need a picture. I’m worried I might not recognize you if I walk by you at the supermarket.

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HER:  So I’m planning on swinging by on my way home! 5ish??

ME:  Sure!

HER:  Be there in 3 minutes.

We’ll see if it works out this time.

This is Parenting (A Picture Speaks A Thousand Words)

Parenting.  It’s so hard to describe.

It is witnessing the most beautiful sights in the world.wpid-20150809_084311.jpg

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P and dad snuggling

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It is seeing nothing else but your children, no matter what else surrounds you.wpid-20150801_083415.jpg

It is a million gray hairs that appear instantly, overnight, the second you start trying to conceive.20150324_111227

It is giving up glamour and adopting Hello Kitty Couture.wpid-20150730_194513.jpg

It is really, really, gross.puke2

It is perpetual cleaning, without ever a clean house to show for it.wpid-20150810_082732.jpg

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It is silly and hilarious and fun.wpid-20150815_191528.jpg

And full of dinosaurs.wpid-20150819_222538.jpg

It is absolutely, terrifyingly, loud, panic-inducing, and oh-my-goodness-i-don’t-know-what-i’m-doing-ing.20140703_115208

It is sometimes seeing yourself in it’s ugliest, strangest form, almost unrecognizable. wpid-20150809_162806.jpg

It is an endless stream of dirty dishes.  Real ones and pretend ones.  Who knew pretend picnics required so much cleaning?wpid-20150729_100130.jpg

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It is backpain, current or impending, but completely unavoidable.20150626_071958

It is using a doll highchair as a table to conveniently hold your wine.20150519_195944

It is drinking coffee.  A LOT of coffee.20150317_055707

It is your child serving herself pretend juice, water, milk, or tea, but only serving you pretend coffee.  She is an attentive waitress.wpid-20150819_192604.jpg

It is never having enough bananas.  “I need more bananas! A LOT more bananas! (Even though she already has bananas).
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It is saying, “Just one more picture, please!” and hearing “stop taking pictures, Mom!”  A phase that starts so much earlier than you are ready for.image

It is managing an attitude, a force that both awes and scares you, that begins from day 0.5.image

It is seeing yourself in your children.

?

?

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It is a million trips to the grocery store for items like this (all of which are worth every penny).wpid-20150810_190840.jpg

It is simultaneously horrifically ugly and absolutely beautiful.cuddles

It is wanting to look like this:wpid-20150819_121454.jpg

But really looking like this:image

But, it is looking like this to them.  Which reminds you that it doesn’t really matter what you look like.image

Soak it Up

I heard her footsteps and with my eyes still shut, still drooping heavily with fatigue, I smiled.

She peered over the side of the bed, the top of the mattress reaching her nose, and she grabbed hold of the sheet, shifted her weight forward and grunted as she heaved herself up.  I slid my head over as far as I could to the edge of my pillow, making room for her own head to settle on the pillow case covered with flowers.  She plopped her head down and handed me her favorite blankie, the thin one covered with purple monkeys.  “Cover me up, Mama”, she said.  I wordlessly acquiesced, and then leaned over, kissed her forehead and snuggled in as close to her as I dared.  I leaned my chest into her back and pushed my nose into her hair.  She pulled the edge of her blanket up and pressed it to her mouth, as she does to self-sooth. I put my arm around her waist.

She picked up my hand and moved it.

I respected her wishes.  I respected her body.  I was reminded that even though every cell in my body screams She is MINE! and her limbs feel like appendages of my own, truly a part of me, she is not mine.  Her body is not mine, she is her own self.  It is a humbling, scary, sad, happy, invigorating, motivating, every-emotionful-mushy-feeling feeling every time I remember or recognize that she is her own self.  It is amazing to witness, her becoming a person. Her modeling a large chunk of who she wants to be based on my behavior, is what makes me be the best self I can be.  She makes me so much better than I would ever be without her. She gives me more than she takes, even though she requires a lot.  There is no such thing as energy wasted, no such things as ridiculous demands, because everything she requires, no matter how big or how small, forces me to improve in some way.

I can not afford to not be a better person.

It took a bit of will power, but I kept my arm at my side and focused on the warmth on my chest.  I soaked her heat in.  I willed my pores to open up wider.

Before she came into the room, I was drowning, fatigued, holding my breath underwater, not sure if I was going to make it, the pre-coffee, oh-my-god-it’s-too-early, my-head-is-pounding, a gasping-for-breath kind of morning despair.  But her presence buoyed me up and her nearness was like air at the surface. Her scent was luscious banana-scented-Minion-bubble-bath air. Intoxicating-gulp-it-down-drink-it-up air.  Her touch was life-sustaining-inhale-exhale air. Fueling-fill-me-up, wholly satisfying air.  I greedily gulped it down as fast as I could, while staying stock still. I did not want to risk losing my life-saver any earlier than I had to.

We have this summer routine, where each morning she crawls in my bed and we lay, sometimes looking into each other’s eyes, sometimes laying next to one another with eyes half-shut, sometimes singing, sometimes my hand turning into a puppet, she and Mr. Hand chatting.  Today we sat in silence together.  Beautiful, warm, cozy, silence.

Every once in a while she’d reach her arm and place it on my hand, moving it slowly up my wrist, my forearm, back down again.  I’d delight in it.  I’d hold my breath and feel her fingers tracing.  A bonus touch.  Enjoying it while it lasted, before she’d tuck it back under her own chest, gripping her beloved blankie once again.  How many more of these moments do I have left?  No matter the number, not nearly enough.  Soak it up, I thought to myself.  Become infused with her touch, her love.  Soak her up, convert her energy to gratitude, let it permeate your cells, mutate your DNA, making a more superior you. Soak. It. Up.

I knew I could have been more firm when I asked her if she needed to use the toilet.  I knew I was pushing my luck. I knew that every moment we cuddled was one moment closer to when she couldn’t hold it anymore and peed in her diaper, even though she was working on not.  But I didn’t push it.  I waited for her to ask to get up for some breakfast.  To tell me, “Wake up, Mama”.  The toilet just didn’t seem all that important, right then. It was like her diaper was telling me, Don’t worry.  I can soak it up too.

Her touch.  That innocent, pure, calming, healing touch.  That was more important than anything in the world.

I am pretty sure it always will be.

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When a Runner Can’t Run

When a runner can’t run, she is not her best self.

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When a runner can’t run, her body is restless. Her legs are restless. Her mind is restless.  Nothing quells the restless like running does.

When a runner can’t run, she sometimes gets pissy about people posting about running. Braggy braggarts! But, this only lasts a minute, until she remembers that not being happy for them will not get her any closer to pounding the pavement.

When a runner can’t run, she lives vicariously through her running friends. She is happy for them. She’s proud of their pace and she wants to know if they got a PR, and what food they craved at mile 7, and if they walked or not, how many times they said they hated running, and if they managed to achieve negative splits.  She wants to know it all.

When a runner can’t run, she does not give up.  She tries cross-training. Like she should have been doing all along.  She thinks, this is actually kind of great! I can do this!

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When a runner can’t run, she pedals and pedals, hoping to achieve the same endorphin rush she gets when she is able to support her body weight.  She sometimes sweats, and screams and cries all over the stupid effing bike when this doesn’t happen, not ever.  Even after four hours of straight spinning.

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When a runner can’t run, she gives up. She’s defeated. She drowns her sorrows in wine.

When a runner can’t run, no matter what she does to try to stay in shape, her pants are always a little more snug than they used to be.

When a runner can’t run, the intense hunger she has for a long run is equal and opposite to the intense hunger running induces.  Right now, food lacks its luster. Life lacks its luster. Breakfast nachos taste a million times better after a 10 mile jog.  She knows things are bad, when she doesn’t even care about breakfast nachos anymore.

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Spiked coffee, however, still tastes just as good.

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When a runner can’t run, she abandons her pal that she convinced to sign up for a marathon. She leaves her to run 26.2 by herself.  She feels badly about that.

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When a runner can’t run, sometimes she runs anyway.

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And she just pays for it later.

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When a runner can’t run, she misses her running friends.  Friends she doesn’t see much in normal clothes.  In makeup. Not sweaty.  But good friends, nonetheless.

When a runner can’t run, she wonders if she is still a runner.

When a runner can’t run, she knows this isn’t really the end of her running days.  At least, she hopes.

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5 Reasons to Change Your Major and Stay in College For a Few More Years

It’s the college advice I give to everyone.  Take classes you’re interested in.  Wait a couple of years to declare a major and then Junior or Senior year change that sucker up and start afresh.  What’s the rush, anyway?  Seriously.  Here’s why:

1. Earning an adult paycheck is overrated.  You might be sick of doing group projects “for free” with people who annoy you, so you fantasize that it will all be much better when you’re getting paid “the big bucks”, but know that what you have to look forward to a cramming the same amount of work, much of it something you’re way less interested in than what you’re studying now, with a lot less time to do it in.  And you’ll be stuck with the same annoying people.  The huge paycheck that you think might make it all worth it?  It’s going to go to ridiculously boring things like new windows and furnaces and washing machines and your overpriced medical bills. Don’t complain about being so broke you are forced to eat $2.00 burgers at Burgerama, just enjoy the fact that you are able to get some chow with your pals.  Once you’re an adult you might eat more angus beef, but you’ll still feel broke and on top it if you usually have to make the patties yourself.  You’ll miss those greasy burgers and everything they represent.

2. Meeting new people will never be easier than it is now.  Right now if you strike up a conversation with someone sitting next to you at the coffee shop, or the library, it’s normal.  It’s expected. In the university setting there are endless opportunities for networking and forming friendships because everyone is new, so everyone introduces themselves.  Make as many connections as you can now, when you’re older there aren’t as many clubs or groups to join unless you already know people.  After college, there’s a point at which when you attempt to strike up a convo at the coffee shop it does not make you look friendly or interesting anymore, it just makes you look a bit creepy.

3. Your physical health is at its peak from all of those intramural sports and biking to class. And walking to the bar.  Yes, your weekend (or weekday) jaunts to the bar are keeping you more fit than you’re likely be able to maintain when you’re in the work world.  Okay, your collagen levels might play a teeny factor here too, but even taking into account the Freshman Fifteen, trust me, that is nothing compared to the adult obesity that awaits later.  Parental potbelly.  The Adult abdomen. The stretched-out stomach. It’s coming for you.

4. Two words: Study Abroad.  Drink a Guinness in Dublin, drink a Tusker in Nairobi, drink a cappucini in Rome.  Hit up a few museums and classes while you’re there, extend your return flight home and go backpacking.  I took a six-credit month-long wildlife management course in Kenya (of which only 3 of those credits actually applied to my major) and the ten hours worth of safari each day was worth every penny.  I will never forget crawling into the dung huts built by the Masai Mara, the way a lioness looks when she is protecting her three baby cubs, or how to say elephant in Swahili. Take out the freaking loan, you can pay those bitches off for the rest of your life and the experience you’ll gain is worth every penny.  Students loans are considered the good kind of debt anyway, right?

5. 40 hour work weeks really suck.  And, newsflash! They are usually longer than 40 hours.  No matter what kind of job you have, and how passionate you are about what you do, it is still WORK, which often means boatloads of meetings and never-ending piles of forms.  You might not love writing college papers, but know that those don’t suck your soul out through your fingers with as much voracity as work papers will.

So, what will your next major be?

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Photo credit: Wikipedia

People Detox

Humans are generally social creatures.  Evolutionarily this must have once served us quite well, since to this day we crave togetherness so much that we make up ways to do things as a community.  We create dances.  We synchronize swim. We pledge allegiance to the Spartans or the Wolverines or the Bears and we all wear the same color and paint our faces and howl and sing and taunt those not in our tribe.  We created a whole new form of media just so we could socialize when we were unable to socialize. Socializing is so great!

Except sometimes, you know, when it’s not.

Like, when you’re around your family too much.  They can REALLY get on your nerves. They can be loud and obnoxious and annoying as hell. They can never make plans, or they make plans and show up late, or they make plans and show up on time, but then they act like…themselves.  Isn’t it weird how those you love the most can drive you absolutely freaking bonkers?

You know who else can drive you crazy?  Strangers.  Absolute strangers that you have no fucking clue who they are but they do one thing and you instantly HATE THEM.  You can wish a cancerous growth to sprout from an anus, or a colony of flesh-eating bacteria to set up camp in their eyelids, all because they were driving 5 miles per hour too slow in your lane, or because they didn’t hold the door open for you, even though you know they saw you holding lattes in both hands.  Disgusting.  It might as well have been them who scalded your hands.  They basically assaulted you.

You know what else can be exhausting and overwhelming and sort of assaulty feeling? Fun. That’s right, fucking fun. All the parties and events and play dates you set up with your friends sound great until you actually have to get dressed and slap makeup on your face and then, after all that energy has been exerted, you have to expend even more energy to interact with those people you just got out of the pajamas you’ve been wearing for three days all dressed up for.  Companionship can be taxing.

Sometimes togetherness is like that little Downy bear – all snuggly and soft and warm and fuzzy. But other times it can be quite the opposite. It can be sharp as daggers. Pokey. Irritating.  Like an evil little porcupine that you thought was cute until you tripped and fell on got impaled by its … pines.  Quills.  Whatever.  Fuck you.

Anyway, sometimes you just need SILENCE.  And ALONENESS.  Sometimes you just need a PEOPLE DETOX.  A god-damned communication cleanse to regroup so you don’t lose your shit and actually burn a bridge you might want to cross over again someday.

Sometimes you need the 3 Day Communication Cleanse.  

3 Day Cleanse.  A People Detox.  For your sanity and the safety of those around you.

3 Day Cleanse. A People Detox. For your sanity and the safety of those around you.

10 Ways Depressives and Drunks are Similar

1.They tend to have a genetic predisposition.  Something in the brain is a little haywire, slightly imbalanced.  Both are examples of invisible diseases.

2. They get a boatload of judgment.  Both get the, “Aren’t you over that yet?”  Both get unsolicited tips.  “Just stop after one”.  “Just get outside”.  “Just appreciate what you have”.  “Just get over it”.  Rarely does any good advice begin with, “Just”.  One of the most ridiculous is, “Stop being so selfish”.

3. They don’t want to be this way.  As beautiful as a good drink feels, no one wants to be hooked. As needed as a good cry is, no one wants to be unable to fathom happiness. These are not pleas for attention, the behavior is a result of the disease, uncontrolled.

4. They relapse.  Even when the disease is managed, there are still ups and downs. There are depressive dives and days (weeks/months/years) when long-sober alcoholics might contemplate a drink. Or take one. Or more.

5. They take things day by day.  Forever.  It’s not over, not ever.  There is no, “I’m done with that now”.  There is a split-second moment in almost every single day in which the person isn’t sure if they will make it.

6. They push people they love away. They act like assholes, highly emotional and illogical while in the thick of it.  They’re unpredictable.  They say things they do not mean. They are too intoxicated, or too tired to be nice.

7. Sometimes they smell.  Or otherwise don’t take care of themselves. Stress has an odor.  Alcohol has an odor.  Sweat has an odor.  Both are gangrenous, eating a person alive from the inside out, emitting the stench of decay in the process.

8.  They can be a drag to be around.   They can be wildly out of control or barely-breathing, impossible to move from the bed.  It can be exhausting to stay positive and uplifting when the person you are with is neither of those things.

9. Left unchecked both result in a slow, toxic death.  Unpleasant to think about, but all too true.  The alcoholics know it.  The depressives know it.  For some reason the friends and family don’t always know it.

10. They tend to benefit from support groups and networks.  Alcoholics Anonymous, church groups, online groups.  It’s usually helpful to talk to others who understand a situation.  If you fall into either category, you are not alone.  Not even close.

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Need some help getting some help?  Here are a few relevant links:

Alcoholics Anonymous

Al-Anon (For friends and families of alcoholics)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

Reddit: Depression Online Support Group

Supporting a Family Member or Friend With Depression

My Hands Are Full

Full of a stroller handle in one and a small palm in the other when I walk into a store. Full of an infant that I balance on one knee as I squat in the stall, and toddler arms wrapped around me to keep from falling into the toilet that she needs to use five minutes after we walk in.

Full of dishes that I put in the dishwasher and then dishes I take out.  Full of clothing put in the washer and taken out of the dryer.  Full of many, many diapers.  Full of blankies and books and bags full of responsibility.

Full of flailing toddler or thrashing infant, or a sobbing, collapsing heap of both.  Full of tears and snot and deep breaths and deep hugs.

Full of twenty pounds of clinger who cries when I put her down, and who gives me a knowing smirk when I pick her up. Full of child with eyes so dark I can feel the weighty pull of their stare before I turn my head to see them, the little jewels shining in her tiny head, which she tilts sideways as she waits for our eyes to connect, and erupts in laughter when they do.

Full of skinny legs that wrap around my waist, but only partway.  Full of arms that rest upon mine and a very small forehead that leans in towards my own and pauses for a moment when my head touches hers.  Full of giggles when we pull apart before we lean towards each other again.

Full of tiny toddler booty and squashy baby booty that I pat. Pat. Pat. Squeeze. Pat. Full of little hands that pat me back.

Full of twenty pounds of infant, but always available for thirty more of toddler.  “Uppy, Mama”.  I do not hesitate to add more to the load.  The weight feels good pressed against me.

Full of hand weights I use during a quick workout, which are often replaced mid-rep with a tissue to wipe a nose, or a snack to feed a hungry mouth, or an entire child whose whining can not be quelled any other way.

Full of dancing babies who had favorite songs at a very early age and who spin with me in circles and who do not care that the tune we sing along to is sung off-key.  They are full of exuberant giggling.

Full of a toddler old enough to say, “Carry me like a baby, Mama”, who then quietly fake-cries and, if I haven’t started doing it yet, instructs me to, “Say, ‘shhhh'”.

Full of numerous dolls, all of them named Ruby, who have tea parties and who have conversations and who sometimes are naughty and drink mom’s coffee without asking permission. Ruby! No!

Sometimes they are full of puke, caught midair, midstream.  At least on those days there are many more hours that they are filled with enveloping child than with sickly fluids.

They are full of challenging comfort.  Full of exhausting luxury.  They are brimming with rigorous joy.

Parents have their hands full.

Parents have their hands full.

The Adventure That is Camping With Young Children

So you decide to go camping this weekend with the kids. It’ll be fun, you think. It’ll be relaxing, you dare to dream.

Nevermind that you and the toddler have been suffering debilitating allergies. You just started your second steroid of the month, which hasn’t fully kicked in yet and, so your head has been pounding for eight days straight so hard that you feel the pain in your teeth every time you take a step. Nevermind that the toddler sneezed approximately five hundred times that day, spraying fountains of snot with every achoo. That, combined with her leaky red-rimmed eyes, convinced you to start her on some children’s Claritin, which honest-to-goodness stopped the sneezing by about ninety percent within the hour.  If she’s fine, you’re fine, so you take yourself to urgent care and get yourself Flonase and Prednisone to add to your Singular and Claritin and Sudafed cocktail you already are on. When you text your husband a picture of you and your now-less-sneezy kiddo from the urgent care office, and he asks, “Are we still going camping’, you confidently state, “Of course we are”.  Because you can be miserable at home or you can be miserable camping, so why waste the opportunity for the trip.

urgent care

The night before you leave, the toddler gives you a hard time about going to sleep.  She grabs her baby doll and dragging it up the stairs is whining, “I want to give my baby a bath!! I waa-annn-tttt-oo-oogi-iiiv-eeee-myba-aa-bbb-yyyy-ya-ba-th!”  She must not think you’re really getting her point so she tries a louder tactic, a high-pitched shriek, “I!want!to!give!my!baby!a!bath!”  Maybe it was her being so worked up about the hygiene of her baby doll (was she suddenly not okay with the mashed ground Cheerios on baby’s clothes or the orange marker scribbled all over her face?), or maybe she choked on a large amount of drainage running down the back of her throat that the Claritin couldn’t quite get rid of.  Whatever it was, it caused her to vomit all over the bathroom stool and floor.

As a mother, the first thought you have is, damn, she ate two whole carrots and now they’re on the bathroom floor, and you hope some vitamin K was retained.  You start mopping up the floor and while you’re doing that she seizes the opportunity to take her baby doll to the bathtub and start washing her in the bucket full of water left over from her bath earlier that day.  You find the situation ironic, and slightly annoying, that she is getting what she was originally whining about when you said it was time for bed, but at this point, screw it.  Her puke-splattered baby actually now does need a bath so she might as well be the one to clean it.

You text your husband a picture of the puke, so he can appreciate your current parental situation.

puke2

He asks again, “Are we still going?”

“Yes, damn it”. We will have a fun family vacation.  You’re starting to sound slightly Clark Griswold.

The next day you leave and it takes three times longer than it should to get to the campsite, but that’s okay, you left early. On the way there your toddler tells you her butt hurts, and you realize all of the diapers are trapped in the pop-up, so you stop at the grocery store and buy more diapers and change her in the car, thinking she must have pooped, but she’s just wet. You change her anyway and head to lunch. Somehow in the fifteen-minute span between the diaper change and lunch she pees more than she’s ever peed in her entire life, enough to drench the diaper and cause a urine overflow all over her pants.  But, like the diapers, clean pants are in the pop-up so you just change the diaper and know that even though she has Pee Pants on, the new diaper will at least prevent a urinary tract infection.

Despite leaving three hours ahead for the “hour drive” to the campground, after lunch there are only seven minutes until you can check in, and holy mackerel, the GPS says you are seven minutes from the campground!  This must be a sure sign of an upswing in your luck, you are convinced.

You unpack and head to the beach and pay the nine bucks to park for your hour-long stay, but damn your kid has fun,  and the beach is all she has been talking about doing for a week. She did everything she wanted, she dug holes and made castles and put her toes in the water, and scooped and stacked and to top it all off, the infant didn’t even choke on any sand.  You head back to the campground and ate dinner at the picnic table and the toddler, in camping-loving glory exclaims, “I love picnics! And she makes a rainbow out of her blueberries and then eats them all. The mama in you is thrilled because, antioxidants consumed!  

After dinner you make a fire and put together s’mores, which you’re sure she’ll love, though it turns out she doesn’t even want to try it.  You try to convince her to just try one bite, but after a minute you realize, Why am I trying to force her to eat a sugar-laden sugar sandwich?  So you forget trying to force-feed the s’mores.  You don’t even like them much anyway, as you prefer your sugar in a fermented form.

It’s time for bed and you read the toddler Goldilocks and the Three Bears four times, because that’s what she wants, and all seems well until about five minutes into sleep time and the toddler pukes.  She pukes purple from her blueberry rainbow picnic.  There is puke in her hair and on her pillow and all over her special blankie.  You clean up what you can and hand her a spare blanket that you brought and another ten minutes pass before she pukes AGAIN.  You strip her down and you add a few more items to the soaked-with-regurgitated-blueberry pile and AHA! You have a THIRD blankie.

puke

You smugly think to yourself, This is why we “overpack”, Husband, and mentally note that you were so one-hundred-percent on the correct side of the argument you two had earlier about how you “always pack too much”. Clearly you needed to pack even more, since you gave her your pillow to stack on top of hers so she wouldn’t choke on her own phlegm and puke again, and you don’t have another blanket to wrap around yourself, so you have no choice but to suck it up and let the now-cold blueberry-puke-patch touch your thigh.  You read Goldilocks two more times once you’re resettled.

And even though you are covered in puke and the infant has been screaming this whole time, you laugh.

Because once you’ve accepted the fact that you’re sleeping in regurgitated blueberry and pukey hair, you just let go. You have no choice.  You accept it and say, fuck it, and you can’t believe that for a split-second earlier that day you worried about a few tablespoons of sand in the bed. Now, that sand is just a beautifully sprinkled reminder of that glorious time at the beach.  You feel liberated.  Once you’ve freed yourself from the expectation that all (or most. or some) will be pleasant, all is suddenly wholly good. You squeeze in a little closer to your pint-sized puke-head and share her double pillow, and when you realize that the pillow is also wet with puke, so don’t even flinch as you tuck the end of your blanket under your head and nod off for a few minutes until morning.

The next day you get a bit of retribution. You start the day with a deliciously steamy cup of french-pressed coffee, your spouse wore the infant in the baby carrier while you walked through town and got ice cream, you visited the salt-water pool at the campsite twice, and you read Goldilocks five times before nap, and best of all, there is no puking. And is it just you, or your jeans feeling a little loose, like maybe, just maybe, you magically didn’t gain an ounce from all of those s’mores you washed down with that six-pack of seasonal IPA?

camping

In your delirium you book the next camping outing.

On the way home you stop for a night at your parent’s cottage and you wake up to find that the toddler shit her pants in bed and the infant peed through her onesie and sleep sack.  Since you didn’t “overpack”, your entire family has officially ran out of clean clothes, because they have all been puked on, or shit on, or peed on, and as you should have guessed, you find out your parent’s washing machine is on the fritz.  Your husband hand-washes the shit-covered dress and hangs it outside to dry.  You clean up the kids and let them run around in nothing but diapers and go take a shower, and put your pee-soaked shirt back on as you pour yourself a cup of coffee.

It’s a good thing you drank that coffee because throughout the day you change approximately thirty-five shit-filled diapers between the two kids, many of which are liquid runs.  At once point when you try to get the toddler to sit on the potty, the contents of the diaper leak out into a brown puddle on the bathroom floor.  Since you didn’t “overpack” you ran out of diapers and wipes and have to get more.

You somehow manage to make it out for a pontoon ride and for a lovely half an hour, both kids nap and you enjoy the breeze and you think contentedly, Ahhh, life at the lake.  There is still hope left.  You get back to the cottage and the toddler eats some cheese and crackers and immediately proceeds to puke all over the carpet.  Enough puke for you to suggest taking the carpet out of the house and hosing it off.  Enough puke for your dad to say, “Maybe it’s time for us to get rid of this carpet”.

carpet

You read the toddler Goldilocks another five times in a row while your spouse packs up the car, and you head home a day early.

You gave it a valiant effort.