Stay With Me – Ignoring That Pile of Dishes In My Sink

Last week I felt like I was constantly rushing. Rushing downstairs when I woke up to make the coffee and get myself ready. Rushing to rouse the girls and help them get dressed and brush their hair. Rushing out the door and heading to daycare drop-off – making sure I pulled into the parking lot precisely at 7:15. I knew I had a one minute buffer but if I arrived at 7:17 I would pull out of the neighborhood later than I should and I would get stuck behind the bus  – which would make me panic throughout the rest of my drive about being late to work. After work, I rushed to get a quick workout in and then rushed to pick up the girls. I headed home to tidy the house a bit and make dinner and before I knew it the whole process started again. It wasn’t very pretty.

Thankfully, there were moments when my children reminded me I needed to slow down.

“Mama!” she called from upstairs.

I was unloading the dishwasher so I could load it again with the dirty dishes that were overflowing in the sink and I hadn’t yet started prepping dinner.

“Come down, babe!” I yelled up the steps. If she came down, I could talk to her while I got some work done.

She didn’t come down.

“Sweetie, come down!” I yelled again.

She still didn’t emerge.

Annoyed at being disrupted from my list of chores I wanted to check off my list, I went upstairs and saw her sitting on her blanket, leaning her head against a pillow in her “fort” (which is really her closet). She looked up at me and let out a muffled sigh.

I took a deep breath and ducked down beneath her hanging dresses and sat next to her. She leaned into me.

“What’s up, kiddo?” I asked.

“Sister doesn’t want to play with me.” she replied.

I put my arm around her little shoulders. “Sometimes sister wants to do other things. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you, it just means she wants to do her own thing right now.”

“I’m sad,” she said.

“I’m sorry you’re sad.” I sat with her for a couple of minutes and then kissed her on the head and started to get up to head back downstairs.To where my work was.

She put her hand on my shoulder. “Stay with me.” she insisted.

I looked at her small shoulders hunched over and the downturned corners of her mouth and I took a deep breath and sat back down. To where my work really was. We sat next to each other in silence. I tried not to count in my head how many minutes we were sitting, and how many dishes I could put away in that same timeframe. I reminded myself that I enjoyed sitting next to my child.and feeling her warmth and her weight pressed against me. I reminded myself that sometimes the dishes really can wait. I leaned my head against hers and rubbed her back.

After a few minutes of silence, she said, “Thanks for helping me. I feel better now,” and she popped up and walked out of the “fort” ready to head back downstairs.

The anxiety I had felt about taking the time to head upstairs had been totally unfounded. In reality, it had taken only five to seven minutes of total time, starting from when I yelled up the steps from the kitchen. Five to seven minutes to help my daughter to feel loved and secure and able to regroup. Five to seven minutes are so important when you think about it that way.

The pile of overflowing dishes will get done, eventually. They won’t sit there forever.  My kids won’t need me for that long.

I’m Ten Pounds Overweight and I Cannot Be Bothered to Even Try to Lose Those Stupid Extra Pounds

I used to care, you guys. I used to REALLY care about my thighs. And sometimes my arms. If they weren’t as toned or as thin as I thought they ought to be, it really ruined my mood. I wasted a lot of good years being moody about a lot of stupid things, one of the biggies being my body. I’ve reached the point where I am working actively on being happy and I’ve crossed off my stupid thighs from the list of things that determine my happiness. Here are some reasons why:

Stretchy work pants exist. Seriously, these things are the champion of all chaps. You know how clown cars can hold a ridiculous number of people in their teeny-tiny automotive space? These pants are kind of like the that – you can fit a ridiculous amount of your stout self into a seemingly tiny leg hole. I will forever own pants made of “super stretch” material, whatever the hell that is. They are comfy and cozy and don’t overly embellish my flaws with weird curves or creases. Plus, I can run, skip, hop, or do a reverse roundhouse kick if I ever needed to, without splitting a seam.

Some foods really do taste better than being skinny feels. Anyone who tells you otherwise has some sort of deep-seated psychological turmoil going on. I mean, come on. Bacon, pizza, nachos, chocolate…wine…need I say more? Every time I am on a restrictive diet I am CRANKY as hell. Or at least not nearly as pleasant and boisterous as I am when I’m eating what tastes good. And in case you didn’t realize, SO ARE THE REST OF YOU. Trust me. People who want to hang out with other fun people generally do not choose to surround themselves with the ones who refuse to eat anything other than kale and baked chicken breast. There’s a reason for that and it’s called being laid-back and happy. I’m quite sure there’s some research-based study waiting to happen out there that could prove this. (If you’re running the study and looking for participants, I want in as a control subject. Can I get paid to eat nachos and report my mood?)

Being overweight doesn’t equate to mushy and out of shape. Not only does skinny not equate to happy, it also doesn’t equate to healthy. Even though most of my pants are a bit snug these days, I actually am more fit than I’ve been in a while. I’ve been focusing on working out some previously neglected muscle groups and have been pleasantly surprised at the results. My hips are stronger, my ass is stronger, my arms are stronger, my core is stronger. I am physically more capable than I’ve been in a while. I’m so much stronger than I was in the past, though not nearly as svelte.

My body is just a shell. My extra ten pounds are not ME.They just give my passions, my ideas, my insights (and okay, yes, my organs and definitely my ass) a little extra cushion. When I’m doing something that gets me excited, makes me feel alive, makes me feel strong, or smart, or ridiculously silly, I forget to notice my body. I need to fill up my life with more of those things. No matter how big or small they seem, and no matter if anyone else around me understands why they make me feel so good, THOSE ARE THE THINGS.

I know I won’t give a shit about those ten pounds years from now. Years from now, I’ll look back and think how great I looked, because I will be old and wrinkled and lumpy. Do you ever notice how old people who are too skinny look kind of like gross crepey-skinned skeletons, but those who have a bit of chub look a lot healthier? So really I could just be giving myself a little boost for looking my best as a senior. That could be my prime, who the hell knows? Or maybe I’ll go just be a real disaster and I’ll have bunions and skin tags and a bladder that is sitting precariously perched, far too close to the outside of my body. I could have dementia, or cancer, or a degenerative disease that makes it difficult to open jars or go for a walk or maybe even to just comfortably sit. Or maybe I won’t even be here at all. It seems rather prudent to get over my physical self now and move on with more important things in my life.

I’m over caring about those last ten pounds. I Can. Not. Be. Bothered.

Hooray.

 

8 Ways I’m Aging That Totally Snuck Up On Me

I’m no longer young.
This awareness didn’t hit me all at once, it occurred gradually over an extended period of time. You know how old-school glass windows flow downward, but the flow happens so slowly you can’t see it happening, it just eventually becomes obvious that the bottom of the window is much thicker than the top? The accumulation of evidence that proved I am passed my prime happened sort of like that.These are the types of things that have been slowing increasing in frequency and intensity:
 
Explanations.Younger people have started explaining simple things to me because they assume I’m too old to have an understanding of them on my own. I’m a high school teacher so I’m surrounded by teenagers. The other day, one of my students looked at me and said, “Your haircut is fresh!” before sitting down at his desk and flipping through the pages of a book. After a moment, he paused, looked up and added, “That means it looks good”. If I overhear a group of students talking about something they saw on Instagram or Vine, inevitably one of them will turn to me and give me a simplified synopsis of what Instagram or Vine is. They’re shocked if they find out that I know how Group Me works, or that I use Snapchat. Similarly, I find myself explaining what it was like back in the day when we used encyclopedias and didn’t have Google.
Fears. Things I never thought twice about when I was younger I now have to purposefully push out of my mind to keep from losing it. Having an aneurysm. Getting murdered while out on a jog. Anything related to my children getting hurt. Most of my fears seem to be health-related. I now even view the equipment at the playground as dangerous. I often catch myself holding my breath when my kids go down the slide by themselves, even though my rational self understands that the damage would be minimal. Me, though? The last time I went down a slide I tweaked my hamstring badly enough to make me terrified of getting seriously wounded if I were to ever try that again. Which I won’t.
Wrinkles. I remember waking up in the morning several years ago and noticing a couple of deep horizontal creases across the entire width of my forehead. I thought it was because I had slept particularly poorly the night before. Now, the horizontal creases are in no way correlated to the quality of my sleep. That’s just how my forehead looks now. It’s not just my face, it’s my entire body. I work out regularly but no matter how fit I become I’ve got an undeniable sagging situation going on. Under my belly button. Above my knees. My skin’s elasticity used to be as snappy as a rubber band, but now its resiliency is more on par with silly putty.
Aging: WRINKLES and GRAYS! Oh my.

Aging: WRINKLES and GRAYS! Oh my.

Ouchies. I have a few bodily injuries that have been progressively getting worse. These afflictions can not be explained by any sort of trauma, they’re just happening because my body is starting to wear out. I can no longer sleep on my side in bed because my shoulders begin to ache. The joint on my right foot has been bugging me; I think I might be developing a bunion. I’m not even entirely sure what a bunion is, but I can’t deny that I am aging when I start using the word “bunion” in any sentence referencing myself.
I.D.s. I’ve stopped getting carded. If I am asked to remove my license from my wallet, it is due to a strict policy rather than a legitimate query. When this transition began, it shocked me more than it should have. I must’ve been in denial that others could see the gray hairs and crow’s-feet. I’ve crossed over into acceptance and now I’m comfortable being referred to as, “Ma’am” instead of, “Miss” by the bartender. I find myself getting annoyed on the rare occasions when I do get carded because it means I have to wait 30 seconds longer for my server to get my beer.
Hangovers. While I certainly still enjoy having a drink or two, I can’t drink all night long anymore. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. My stomach gets too full or I end up with a headache or I stay up way too late, and then I get pissed off because I end up wasting the next morning not feeling well or sleeping in. Two nights in a row of staying up late and drinking is pretty much out of the question. It’s a good thing I’m okay with that because my metabolism is no longer capable of keeping up with all of those extra calories.
Aging: Hangovers are the worst and metabolism is SLOOOWWWING DOWN.

Aging: Hangovers are the worst and metabolism is SLOOOWWWING DOWN.

Confidence. I’m comfortable in my own (saggy) skin. I do not care if other people think I’m good-looking. In fact, I hardly even care if I think I’m good-looking.  I haven’t dyed my hair in a decade and it is not uncommon for me to go an entire day without brushing it. I don’t have time to care that much about looks because I’m busy focusing on things that actually matter. Not being fixated on the mirror allows me to target what is truly invigorating and important to me. This is incredibly liberating.
Happiness. I’ve settled down. I have an occupation, a home, a family. I’m passed the stage of figuring out what I’m going to do with my life and I’m able to focus on how I’m going to live it. I’m beyond self-consciousness and self-doubt. I okay with who I am, flaws and all, and that allows me to focus on fostering happiness. As a result, I’ve never been more content than I am now.
It’s no longer a sneaking suspicion, it’s been confirmed that I’m no longer young.  And I’m okay with that

Happy Birthday, Mr. Grouch.

Happy birthday to you, and to many years more!
You say it’s just a day, no need for decor,
but I say let’s eat some cake (and then let’s eat some more!),
because why not celebrate the man I adore?

While we should never take for granted those we would die for,
we know those fairy tale scenarios are nothing but lore.
So when given then chance to do something more,
I say take it. Go crazy. Buy presents galore.

Today I celebrate you, a man kind in his core,
a man bearded and brawny, one I only have eyes for.
Cheers to a man who always opens my door,
who shows it’s our family that he looks out for.

Hip! Hip! to the man who works, and then works some more,
hammer, shovel, mow, plumb, wage dandelion war.
Bang, sand, lift, hold, surf the internet shore,
for another rental house you’re in the market for.

So just in case you’re not sure, I must really implore
you to notice there’s so much I give you credit for,
and when push comes to shove, it’s you I go to bat for.
It’s with you, and just you, this Earth I want to explore.

So today I celebrate. I shout, “You’re top drawer!”
Do you hear me? You listening? Hello? Ten four?
You’re stuck with me forever, until we’re at death’s door,
And each year on this day HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I’ll roar.

The amount you get on my nerves, I love you that much, times four,
You complement me, do things well, that I deplore.
You turn off lights, double-check that I locked the front door.
You calculate, and invest, to make sure we won’t end up too poor.

Even when you constantly tell me to shut the pantry drawer,
or make other such comments you know I abhor,
know that loving you still is never a chore,
and always remember, I love you more.

So Lucky To Have Known Him

There were so many people at my high school graduation party that June.  I remember feeling surprised by how many there were, family members, friends, neighbors.  I had the same feeling at my sixteenth birthday party. I didn’t understand why all those people were there to celebrate something I found so insignificant.  I understand, now, as a parent, that the people weren’t just celebrating ME, they were celebrating for my parents.  She made it this far.  She’s doing okay.

That’s a pretty big deal.

I get that, now.

Everyone came, even my grandfather, who was ill, dying of prostate cancer at the time, but he was still doing okay, a little tired, a little weak, but he still had his same good-natured self, his dry, slightly strange, sense of humor.  He was always a good looking man, and even then as an old grandpa, I admired (and patted) his buzzed-cut hair and his square jaw, that always held a smirk. He was a strong man, a sports-watching, billiard playing, beer drinking man.  He was sarcastic, silly, and usually quiet, though it might be because he just couldn’t get in a word edgewise, being married to my Grandma.  He was caring. He loved us all so much, and he was never afraid to show it.

That party was the last time he made it to our house.

By Thanksgiving, at his house, he was so thin that at one point when he stood up at the dinner table, his pants fell off, and his Depends undies, with his thin little thighs poking out, were exposed. Oh, how we LAUGHED, because that is what we do, and that is how he was. And it was so funny, even while it was so sad.

When he knew it was the end, he wanted all of his children around him. He could not speak, with his mouth, even though he could still speak with his eyes.  I love you, they said.  You crazy suckers, they added, with a wink, that could no longer physically occur, but that was still there, in a twinkling sort of sense.  And he waited, an extra day even, for one of his children to fly in from out of the country, and once we were all there, we circled him, hands held together, in prayer, and said goodbye together.  And then he was gone.  If a death can be beautiful, then this was that death.

And even though I didn’t totally get it at the time, a comment my aunt made at my graduation party always stuck with me.  “You’re lucky”, she said, “to have known him”. Teenage me slightly scoffed at the remark.  Of course I was lucky to know him.  Did she think I didn’t know that? Because teenagers know everything and everything is about them.

I wasn’t fully able to process the fact that my aunt’s daughter, my cousin, was only a few months old at the time, so she wouldn’t remember her grandpa at all, who was so witty and so loving and so kind.  And that she was really missing a lot.  She is still missing a lot, from not ever knowing him.

Now that I’m a Mama, I get it.  I see my daughters with my parents, my in-laws, my grandparents, their aunts and uncles, everyone, that they are so lucky to know, now.

None of us are promised tomorrow, and every day that my kids get to spend with a family member that loves them is a gift.

It’s sort of everything to know where you come from and know how you became you. We don’t emerge from isolation, we are products of our genetics and our familial environment and the interactions between the two.

I’m trying to wrap my brain around how important it is, or why it is, but I know that it JUST IS.  Maybe it’s that it is a good reminder that many of our traits aren’t solely ours, but are mostly a modified collection of characteristics and quirks and beliefs passed down from our relatives, most of whom we didn’t ever know but who have influenced us nonetheless. I think about my grandpa often, and how right my aunt was.

family

When Easter Means More Than Easter

In my head, I sometimes envision the relationship Mr. Grouch and I have to be like that of oil and vinegar.  While the two are capable of meshing beautifully, each one’s flavors and textures complementing the other’s, they also have the natural ability to fight one another, slowly separating until jolted back together. The two of us are more than capable of arguing about anything and everything, no matter how trivial.  In fact, there seems to be an inverse correlation between the importance of a topic and how vigorously the two of us will argue about it. Who should clean the cat’s litter box?  Five minute argument. Immediate follow-up argument about whether or not the cat should continue to reside in our house at all (same argument we’ve been having for eight years)?  Thirty minute bitchfest.  Where to go for dinner (and/or who should decide where to go)? Borderline homicidal rager.  Even if we agree, we are most certainly still capable of disagreeing, all it takes is one of us to simply rearrange the grammatical structure of a sentence to do so, and we can continue to argue our points, even if we are both really saying the same thing.

It is very rare that our arguments are about legitimately important differences in opinion, philosophy, or point of view, we tend to be consistent when it comes to our most important values.  But in a few rare instances, it has happened.  One of such times occurred within the first couple of years of dating.  My husband is a very religious man and I am a staunch atheist.  We used to squabble about the legitimacy of the church, the credibility of religion, whether or not man evolved through the rugged process of natural selection, or was divinely created, and whether or not a God even existed at all. They were fruitless controversies, with no potential for a winner.  No compromise existed.

Until one did.

In what may have been the first true act of conciliation as a couple, my now-husband decided to end the counterproductive religious debates.  He bought me a stuffed gorilla and gave me a card in which he wrote something along the lines of, “Maybe we evolved, maybe we were created, only God knows.  Or does he?”  And that was that.  We decided to agree to disagree, and it has worked, for the most part, which is somewhat astounding, really, when you consider we argue about the best method for breading chicken, whether chocolates should be stored in the pantry or in the freezer and whether or not the person we are yelling at from across the house can’t actually hear us or is purposefully ignoring us.

The only bumps in the road have occurred around the holidays, Easter in particular.  My husband always wants to attend religious service, at the Greek Orthodox church, with me by his side, robotically performing my stavro (cross), repeating lines such as Christos Anesti (Christ has risen) and Alithos Anesti (truly he has risen), words that I don’t believe to be true.  Easter services are so much longer than the typical Sunday service, and so much less conveniently timed. We usually arrive at church around ten p.m., and do not leave until well after two in the morning.  Much of the service requires standing, and in my uncomfortable pumps, I can be seen continuously shifting my weight from side to side. The saving grace of these services is the choir, the music eerie and mournful and beautifully calming, and, thankfully, sung in Greek, so I can focus on the melody rather than the meaning of the words.

The main point of contention hasn’t been the timing of the services, or the quality or quantity of the music being played.  It has been the issue of respecting identities and beliefs.  I worried that by attending the mass, or performing the rituals, that I would be giving in, letting my husband walk all over me, turning into the wife whose ideas and beliefs are not valued, respected or, possibly, even considered.  I worried that my husband’s motives for my compliance were oily, spiteful and untrustworthy, and my reaction, in return, was acidic.

Ironically, by worrying about those things, and actively lashing out because of those anxieties, I was not valuing, respecting or considering the belief my husband held so dear. His religious identity is a pure and innocent one. I remember him asking me one time, if I would ask for forgiveness before I died. I didn’t understand why he would ask me this, my defensive self initially thought he was trying to tell me I was living my life the wrong way, or that he was trying to control me, right up to the very bitter end.  But, he clarified his intentions when he explained that he simply wanted to be with me for eternity and he was concerned that might would happen if I didn’t ask. Not quite the vicious motive or judgmental request my skeptical and anxious mind had first leapt to. His religion is an important piece of who he is. Being malicious and oppressive is not.  It took me awhile to fully grasp this, but once I did, I stopped kicking and screaming every time it was suggested that we go to church.  I stopped rolling my eyes when he asked me to perform my cross, and stopped complaining about the sporadic late-night holy services.

I don’t need to prove, time and time again, that I don’t believe. He already knows this, and has accepted it.  What I DO need to prove is that I am supportive of HIS belief. I’ve chosen him to be my partner, and being a married pair does not mean we have to be identical in our thinking, it means we need to support and complement one another, no matter what. This is what successful partnerships work on for the entire duration of their union and the couples that make it are the ones who get better at this over time, while the ones that don’t are bound to fail.

Once we became parents, the aspect of religion rose to the forefront once again. He feels strongly that our daughter be raised with exposure to the knowledge and culture the Orthodox Church provides. Thankfully, my views have evolved since our early debates on the subject, so I fully support this as part of her well-rounded upbringing.  Not only is it successful partnerships that rely on advocating and augmenting each other, but strong and successful families as well.

In the long run, I want my daughters to find counterparts who enhance them, I want them to be engaged in balanced and harmonious relationships.  Marriage is akin to the back and forth readjustments of two individuals in motion on either side of a teeter-totter. One is strong, when the other becomes weak, one is a comfort, when the other is distraught, one steps up when the other falls down.  Every now and again the two weights on each end are exactly balanced, hovering equidistant from the ground, but usually that’s not the case, and that is ok, as long as there is an ebb and flow, and one person doesn’t jump off their seat, leaving the other stranded.

If kind of give-and-take relationship is what I want for my daughters, I had better be sure my spouse and I model it.

Awhile back I finally let my guard down and began the process of acting lilke the woman I wanted to be.  My husband brought up the fact that we had not yet had our house blessed since moving in.  I reminded him that he can have the house blessed if he wants, and to do it anytime.  It’s not something I would do, but I certainly am not going to stop him, if it is something he feels he needs to do.  Instead of calling, he decided to open up the church incense he keeps, and he set it aflame, causing its scent to permeate through the kitchen and living room.  The incense is strong, and I have a sensitive nose. In the past, this combination has sometimes resulted in me leaving the room soon after his religious flare is lit.  But, it had been awhile since I had been exposed to this spiritual scent, and this time, the bouquet really wasn’t so bad, in fact, it may have registered within my nares as sweetly pleasing.  Maybe it was because our new home is more spacious, or maybe it was because our years of teetering and tottering back and forth, balancing the ups and downs of our relationship, have stirred the two of us to the point where our separateness is not so clearly delineated, and we, like the oil and the vinegar, have created an evenly blended suspension, our relationship a healthy emotional emulsion.  Instead of coughing and gagging, I crossed myself three times with my right hand, placed my hand on my heart before wafting the fumes towards my nose, like I knew he wanted me to, for myself and for the child growing inside me at the time.

easter

Instead of fighting the holidays because of their inherent religiousness I have vowed to embrace them, for the good of our family. They are often centered around a religious aspect at their root, but most of the reality of the holidays is centered around family time, togetherness and bonding.

I find this to be true even while at church. My husband and his family sit packed near each other, taking up two or three full pews, so moments of laughter or the hushed exchange of words inevitably occurs throughout the service.  At at least one point during the service, husband finds my hand with his and squeezes it, and the two of us share a moment of calm reflection that reminds us we are grateful for one another, and the serene space provides a venue conducive to letting each other know.  At the midnight service this Easter, my one-and-a-half-year-old daughter found the choir to be as compelling as I often do.  Though this was the first time she heard the music, she attempted to sing along and she looked at me, my mouth not moving, and instructed me to, “Sing, mama.  Sing”. She wasn’t asking me to sing to prove my devotion to a higher being, she was asking me to share in the beauty and connect with her by singing together. We sing at home, in the park, in the car, why would I not sing with her at church? Well, okay, the fact that I don’t speak Greek does make it a little harder, since I dont know all of the words, but that didn’t stop me from humming along, singing the few words I could make out, while my face pressed close to hers, enjoying every precious note.

Am I worried my child will be brainwashed into believing something I do not?  Not really.  If we do our job right as parents, she’ll be brainwashed to love and care for others, to help those in need, to respect differing viewpoints, and to expect nothing less than love, encouragment and support from the person she chooses to spend her life with.  None of these are dependent on whether or not she is celebrating the religious aspect of a holiday or if she believes in Heaven or Hell.  She can decide for herself what the holidays mean, to her, and in the meantime, my husband and I will model what it means for us, our internal interpretations so very different, yet the outward expression so much the same.

As dissimilar as oil and vinegar may be, if they are passionately stirred, they meld and create a glorious pairing.  My spouse and I are on a joint mission to create a personified vinaigarette, one so vibrant and robust that it is easy to forget that the there are separate entities making up the whole.  And that’s the ultimate goal, for many of us, to create a household and a family that is harmonious and balanced, full of unconditional love and support.  It’s what so many of us incorporate into our view of what it means to be a good parent, on the holidays, and on all of the days in between.

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.

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!

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.

We're Full of Bull

My daughters come from a long line of strong-willed individuals.  Before they were born Mr. Grouch and I wondered what our kids would look like, or what they would be interested in, but one thing we knew for sure.  They’d be headstrong.  Our girls have aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents, and, lucky for them, great-grandparents too, who are full of strength, who say to themselves, “I will be brave, I will not give up, I will not be stopped”, and who say to others, “I will be heard, I will follow my dreams, I will not be knocked down”.  There is wicked strength within each individual and we, as a family, are a formidable force when our energy is corralled in the same direction. An unstoppable herd.

We are bulls.

Toddler Grouch is at the age where her bullheadedness can sometimes be frustrating.   Like when she won’t put on her shoes, or brush her teeth, even when I say to her, “C’mon girl, we’ve gotta go!  We can’t be late!”  When she digs her heels in, asserting her independence and demonstrating her strong will, sometimes I call her my Little Bull. I place my hands by my ears, point my fingers up like horns, while I huff and shuffle my feet on the floor.  She laughs and mimics the gestures, repeating the phrase, “C’mon, Little Bull!”   Even when she doesn’t listen right away or when she blatantly disobeys, and I have to pull out my discipliny-mama voice, I’m secretly proud that she’s hard-nosed. There’s a lot of positive attributes to being a bull.

Mr. Grouch and I are both bovine in nature, both of us capable of being bullish to the max.  Our individual ability to persist, to push on, to persevere has, for the most part, served us both well, and when we join forces, we are unstoppable.  But, with any strength, comes complementing weakness. Bulls can lack grace. Bulls sometimes charge into situations, with their eyes on the prize, not thinking about the damage they may be inflicting upon anything in their periphery, with their bucking and banging, incapable of slowing themselves down. They can have difficulty seeing something from someone else’s perspective, seeing only the path that leads them towards their own passions. Bulls can be ornery and selfish. When Mr. Grouch and I are heading in opposite directions, the results can be brutal. We charge and we crash and when we’re back on track again, we have to sort through the debris, putting together the pieces that we unceremoniously smashed to smithereens.

As a family unit, we can not all be bulls. At least, not all at the same time.  Four bulls in a house, all traveling down their own paths, means inevitable, even if inadvertent, trampling, wrecking emotional havoc and/or physical destruction.  At any given moment, one of us needs to balance some of that brute force with a bit of softness.

So, how do we do that?  How does a bull not act like a bull?  Neither one of us can dramatically change who we are, but sometimes we can temporarily morph.  We fill ourselves up, taking in all of the happiness and joy and light-heartedness that comes along with being happily married, and rearing young children.  We swell with parent-pride, and transform ourselves into beings that are a little more graceful, a little lighter on our feet, with a little more bounce in our steps.  Figurative bulloons, if you will. Kinder, stretched-out-smooth, versions of ourselves that make it easier to wipe off the shit-storms that emerge in marriage and parenthood, allowing us to more easily clear away unpleasantness and filth with a simple swipe, instead of allowing it to fester, stuck in our fur.  Our bulloon selves are gentle to the touch, are buoyant enough to rise above our usual space of constant clamor, and are highly unlikely to cause any damage, even if we are to ricochet around the room.  It works, for a while, until we deflate, landing on the ground with a thud, the floorboards creaking under our weight.  Back to our regular punchy selves, we charge into action in our typical fashion until we need to fill ourselves up once again.