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.

A Fading Heart

Baby Grouch is still small but she isn’t really a baby anymore. She pretends she is a waitress and asks, “What would you like today?” and she says, “This is my coffee.” as she takes a swig of milk from her sippy cup. She “reads” her favorite books – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Baby Giggles and Brown Bear, Brown Bear. She’s heard them so many times she’s memorized every word.

Currently, one of her favorite movies is Tarzan. Her favorite part is when Tarzan presses his hand against Jane’s and notices that their fingers align perfectly. She holds her own hand up, palm facing out and fingers pointing to the sky and says, “Go like this.” I press my hand into hers and I hold it there until she pulls away. It always surprises me how long this sustains her attention and how her tiny hand is able to push against mine with a firmness many adult-sized hands don’t possess. Tarzan leans his head into Jane’s chest and his eyes widen as he listens to her heartbeat. Baby Grouch puts her head against me and smiles when she hears mine. She pulls me close to her and I hear her rapid whumpa-whumpa-whumpa in return.

I get transported to the 12-week appointment where we waited anxiously to hear that sound. Just a week before, we stopped hearing the rapid beating from Baby A and Baby B so we were very nervous about whether or not we’d still hear Baby C. It took forever for the nurse to find that sound and when she finally did I pretty much lost it in the office.

She’s always been the fighter.

When she’s not playing Tarzan, she sings at the top of her lungs and she bangs loudly on her drum set. She presses so hard when she colors that waxy smears of crayon obliterate the image printed on the page. She deftly snips with tiny scissors and cuts a single sheet of paper into a million pieces that litter the art room floor. She screams when she’s happy. She screams when she’s not. She screams so loudly it hurts my eardrums. She demands that I pick her up and then put her down. She yells “Help!” and when I ask her to try again and “I can do it!” when I offer assistance. She tears off her shirts and her pants so they don’t encumber her as she leaps off of the sofa. She giggles when she lands on the floor with a thud.

She is tough.

When she takes off her shirt and tosses it aside, I can’t help but notice that the heart-shaped birthmark on her back – once blood-red – is almost imperceptible now. The doctors told me it would probably fade away but I wasn’t so sure. It was so bold before. For me, it’s always been a stark reminder that there were others with her for a brief time.

Sometimes I watch her with amazement and feel the odd sensation of deeply missing something I never really had in the first place. Sometimes I stare at her in awe and think that what I’m missing is what allows me to retain a small shred of sanity.

Lately, one of her favorite songs is a Phil Collins number from the Tarzan soundtrack. Like her favorite books and videos, she likes to hear it over and over and over again. I sing it with her, I sing it to her, I catch myself singing it even when I’m by myself.

“You’ll be in my heart. You’ll be in my heart….allllllwaaaaays.”

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How Parenting and Being in a Gang Are Basically the Same

They sport their affiliation with their clothing or jewelry. Is their necklace hand-crafted from organic seed beads? Does it boast a little silver Tiffany tag? Or is it made from the macaroni noodles a toddler strung together? It’s a little more subtle, but it’s similar to spying a colored bandana or a tattooed area code on a forearm.

They’ve got territory that’s theirs and territory that isn’t. Elite preschools vs. in-home daycares vs.baby-wearing to work through the toddler years. Janie and Jack vs. Old Navy vs.Thrift Stores. Twistars vs. swim class at the Y vs. catching frogs and jumping in mud puddles on nature preserves. Whole foods vs. fast foods vs. Neighborhood Sustainability Gardens. There is not much crossing paths between groups.

They’re part of a family. Not a family they came from, but a family they chose. They count on their crew for survival – to keep them sane, to keep them grounded, to keep them feeling like they’re doing things right. They’re following the rules of the group, even if the rules are stupid. It feels good to pretend they know what they’re doing.

They’ve got intimidation tactics. They’re posting photos of their homemade baby food and organic veggies. They’re writing angry forum posts about how your child is going to have life-long hip injuries from that baby carrier you’re using or listing all the reasons their child is safer than yours in the car. Or, they walk past you in in the store flaunting their children’s goldfish, chicken nugget, and oreo cookie diet.

They fight over stupid shit that feels worthy of a life or death altercation. Things like breastfeeding and sleep training and when to introduce what kind of solids. Things like time-outs, t.v. time and, and the best way to throw a birthday party. Their “family” honor is at stake.

Someone’s bound to get hurt – whether it’s gang wars or mom wars –  if someone messes with one of their family members. Parents might not always walk down the street in packs, but they most definitely appear in swarms online.

Rat-a-tat-tat.

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Parenting cliques. Which tribe are you a part of?

 

Here are some common gangs in your area and tips about how they can be identified:

 

GANG: hippie.jpg

MOTTO: “Feed them farro”.

GANG SIGN: The Gyan Mudra.  Alternate: Connecting fingers with thumb to form a circle, which symbolizes a multitude of things such as, the Sun and Moon, a whole (as in Whole 30) and a “zero” (as in zero preservatives or artificial ingredients).

TERRITORY: Yoga studios, local natural food stores, baby-wearing meetings, the great outdoors (particularly in non-landscaped settings).

ATTIRE:  Rainbow colored (as found naturally in the real rainbow, not as in artificially colored rainbows), earthy green, tans and ochre colors required.  Paisley pattern allowed. Second-hand preferred. Beaded bracelets and crystal amulets as accessories.

PRIZE ITEMS: Organic, all-natural, baby carrier (the kind that doesn’t ruin delicate baby hips), crystal body deodorant, nutritional yeast, essential oils (especially frankincense), heirloom tomatoes, any book by Dr. Sears, crocheted teacup coozies.

QUESTIONABLE ACTIVITIES: Eating chocolate that is not at least 60% cacao or that is not fair trade. Letting their child cry it out.

KEY LINGO: Sustainable, Free-range, Antioxidant, Breath, Spiritual, Attachment.

DIALECTIC USAGE OF THE PHRASE “IN SEASON”: Used in reference to crops.

 

GANG:

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MOTTO: Go Get ‘Em!

GANG SIGN: A loose hug where no one actually touches accompanied with a fake smile and a slow, subtlety judgmental sweep of the eyes down, then back up.

TERRITORY: The pool at the high-priced gym, the benches in the high school football stadium, all-inclusive resorts on the right beaches in Mexico.

ATTIRE: Color coordinated outfits showcasing this year’s name-brand fashions.  Preferably fashions not available in stores but purchased from an in-home hosted party.  Perfectly coiffed hair, well-applied makeup, groomed brows.

PRIZE ITEMS: Ceramic Starbucks thermos, Current Books Focusing on Achievement and Success (such as The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or The 80/20 Principle), Beta Brand Yoga Pants.

QUESTIONABLE ACTIVITIES: Pinteresting incorrectly, not enrolling children in a minimum of 37 activities per year, kids attending less than elite preschools, overall not being good enough at everything.

KEY LINGO: Cost, Achievement, Production, Accomplish, Meta-cognition.

DIALECTIC USAGE OF THE PHRASE “IN SEASON”: Used in reference to clothing.

 

GANG:

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MOTTO: Cheers!

GANG SIGN: A straight up middle finger accompanied with a wry grin. Because this crew does not give a fuck.

TERRITORY: At the bar (with kids in tow), or at home (formula feeding, or kids running amok since they are not enrolled in activities).

ATTIRE: The same jeans you saw them in last year and a t-shirt from a 5k they ran in 2008. Most likely also wearing the resting bitchface expression.

PRIZE ITEMS: Books (any kind), Beer, Coffee, Large bags of popcorn, Ball jar filled with ice and moonshine.

QUESTIONABLE ACTIVITIES:  Formula feeding.  Oversharing.  Going out in public after not bathing kids for over 7 days, and/or not showering self for over 3 days.

KEY LINGO: Damn, Shit, Ass.

DIALECTIC USAGE OF THE PHRASE “IN SEASON”: Used in reference to seasonal brews on tap.

 

 

Which gang do you affiliate with? Share if you dare, just watch out for the rat-a-tat-tats that might come in response.

 

Insides

There was no horrific event, no jarring trauma.  But one day during her teenage years she woke up and discovered she was a totally different her.  The new her was no longer full of light, or love. She no longer housed any cheer or warmth or joy. For a while, she thought her old self had been replaced and she had been filled with hate and gloom and darkness but eventually she realized that her old self had just disappeared and now she was actually just full of nothing.  Her insides were empty.  She was a void occupying the skin that the old her used to live in.

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No one knew she wasn’t in there anymore.  For a long time, she couldn’t believe nobody noticed.  After all, almost all of her volume, her substance, was gone.  She was hollow in the places where she used to be solid.  I suppose she can’t blame them for not noticing. After all, people typically only notice each other’s outlines.  Our innards beneath the surface are pretty well hidden.

She certainly noticed, even if no one else did.  It’s pretty worrisome when your insides have disappeared.  She kept patting herself, pressing gently to see if there was some resistance underneath.  Some sign that herself had miraculously returned.  But every time she pressed, her fingers just sank in.  There was nothing of substance that pushed back. She was an empty shell.  Every once in a while, she worried about someone poking her too hard, or tripping and tumbling onto something sharp, either of which could have ruptured her completely.  

For the most part, though, she stopped caring if she ruptured completely since she knew there was nothing inside to save anyway.  She wasn’t even in there.  She was gone.

Sometimes she thought of just gashing her skin to bits, allowing any minuscule flecks of herself that were left inside to escape.  Maybe there’d be a bit of release in that feeling, or if not release at least a reduction of strain.  It was exhausting to stand up straight and walk and talk and give the general impression that she was still a whole person, when she didn’t even have any bones or muscles or thoughts or feelings.

Somehow, she existed like this for twenty years.

Every single day, for twenty years in a row, she thought about ending it all.  And she used the word “all” lightly, because she knew she was nothing more than a sack of skin.  It would mean nothing to this world to lose the nothing that she was.

Sometimes the Horrible Thought was a fleeting one that came after a thought about what to eat for dinner or before a thought about what was on her calendar the next day. Sometimes the thought was lengthier, and she contemplated the Horrible Thought as she sat in the garage with the car on, but the door still open.

Once she became a mother she knew she couldn’t be a good one with no insides.  A good mama needs working parts.  Or at least needs parts.  Vacuous sacks of skin cannot raise children. Even though she hadn’t ever given up on finding the internal her that used to exist, she now searched for it harder than ever.  She was able to locate a small fraction of herself through yoga and running and diet changes, but that still left mostly emptiness inside where her old self used to be.

Sometimes she felt confused and frustrated about this.  To herself she asked, Why am I so empty?  Where the hell did the rest of me go?  Why can’t I find me? Am I gone forever?  Mostly though, she figured that her confusion and frustrations weren’t really valid. She figured, I’m just being dramatic. I’m sure everyone feels like this, they just don’t admit it.  I just need to suck it up.

Finally.  Begrudgingly.  She told a doctor how she felt. She didn’t think it would help, but she knew she owed it to her children to at least give it a shot. She initially resisted filling herself up with the meds that she had been prescribed.  She wanted to fill herself up with her, after all, She belonged inside her skin, not some pharmaceutically manufactured impostor.

Truth be told, she was a bit afraid of taking the meds. She was afraid they’d turn her into more of a zombie than she already was, afraid they’d make her feel dizzy or sick. That’s what she told the doctor, anyway.  Way deep down, she was afraid that they wouldn’t work. That maybe everything really was fine and she just really did just need to suck it up.  She was also afraid that they would work, but then someday stop working.  She’d read somewhere that meds for depression can lose their effect after taking them for a while. Then what would she do?  After all of these years of lacking a substantive center, the thought of finding her core and then having it go missing again was almost too much to contemplate dealing with.

In the end, she decided that she had already been missing for quite a long time, so even if she only found herself for a short amount of time, it would be wise to take what she could get. She started filling herself up with her meds.

The other day she leaned over the kitchen counter to reach something and she noticed that the counter didn’t threaten to push through her skin and out the other side.  She felt something inside her push back.  She leaned back and then slowly leaned forward again, paying attention to the way the counter felt as she applied more pressure.  She felt it again. Resistance.  

She thought about it and realized that she hadn’t had the Horrible Thought in a long time. Long enough ago that she couldn’t remember when.

She thinks, after all this time, she might be back inside her old skin again.  

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

Housekeeping After Having Kids

Before having kids I understood the vague notion that becoming a parent involved taking care of and cleaning up after my offspring. What I didn’t realize before having children was just how much cleaning I would have to do, and on top of that, how disgustingly filthy my household would become despite all of the continuous energy being directed towards scrubbing and sanitizing.

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It all begins with the bodily fluids.

Anyone who has had an infant with a smidge of reflux can confirm that while you can valiantly combat the infant puke that threatens to cover every square inch of carpet, couch and human being nearby, you will lose every one of those battles. Trying to contain infant projectile vomit is like trying to stop an avalanche – there is really nothing to be done other than to stare in awe as the alabaster releases, blanketing everything in its path. There was a significant number of months during my life where I would regularly evaluate whether the quantity or location of the spit-up on my clothing warranted a wardrobe change or if I could get away with just rubbing it in.

Even past the baby stage, I’m on full-time puke patrol. Digestive tracts remain immature far longer than I imagined.  I’ve learned that a sudden cough, a bout of jumping, or eating too many french fries can result in immediate intestinal emission. There’s not usually much of a warning, there’s just vomit flowing out of faces. I once caught my daughter’s vomit in my hands before any of it hit the floor. I was ridiculously proud of that feat. I got a little cocky though and tried it again at a later point but it didn’t work out as well and I just ended up covered in puke along with the floor. A few weeks ago, my daughter threw up all over herself, and her car seat, in the church parking lot a moment before we were about to go in. When adults puke, we puke maybe a cup or two into the toilet. When a child pukes, they puke up enough liquid to cover the approximate volume of an African elephant, and it goes everywhere.

My husband is one of those people who pukes when he smells puke so for the entire hour plus car ride home after church he held a cup of coffee near his nose in an effort to block out the stench.  He pulled through the McDonald’s drive-thru to get a coffee, not to drink, but to sniff.

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The car seat was so fully covered with puke, every inch of fabric strap and every crevice soaked completely,  that he seriously contemplated stopping at the store to get a new one and just throwing the old one away.  He mentioned this to me, and I just looked at the seat and shrugged my shoulders, because we can probably afford one, plus I knew I’d be the one who would have to clean up that puke and I loathe anything resembling manual labor.

Nothing can compare to what I did as a kid, though. I got sick while sleeping and leaned over the side of the bed and threw up straight into the heat vent (during winter, of course). I still remember the sound of my mom dry-heaving while cleaning up the stinking, steaming magma, equivalent in bulk to that of an enormous safari animal.

What puts us over the edge is the dirty dishes and the laundry.

I didn’t even talk about poop or pee but even without going there I think you are starting to understand why my laundry baskets fill up so quickly. While I consider the laundry to be a somewhat taxing chore, it’s the dishes that really kill me. From day one the bottles and baby food bowls caused the sink to overflow. In our household, we started cooking at home quite a bit more after having kids, which meant our own pots and pans were added to the already growing number of items getting thrown in the dishwasher each day. I take clean dishes out and put clean dishes into that damn dishwasher at least two or three times each day. And the dishes still pile up.  I try to alleviate the stress and make one-pot recipes or quick fix type meals. I sort of hate it when my husband cooks because even though his food creations are restaurant quality, the clean up also requires a full-time dishwasher, and guess who that is?  I love him when I eat his food, and curse him when I clean up later.

In my relentless pursuit to provide my family with clean sippy cups, I find myself abandoning the scrubbing of the actual sink itself. In my eternal exertion lugging loads of puke-soaked laundry up and down the stairs I find myself ignoring the spider webs that hang from the ceilings and that somehow manage to invade the window of the oven door. Ensuring that my family at least begins each day using sanitary utensils and wearing unsoiled clothing means I have no choice but to dismiss the dust bunnies in the corners of the rooms and forget about wiping down the baseboards.

Oh yeah.  Then there are the cracker crumbs.

I distinctly remember a moment when I hopped into my friend’s car to head to lunch.  Pre-Kid Me was appalled and disgusted by the amount of cracker crumbs that littered her vehicle.  It looked like someone had crushed up a bag of Goldfish into minuscule pieces and then opened the bag and just sprayed the bits everywhere.  I wondered what could actually have happened to cause such a mess. I swore that no matter what, my car would never look like that when I became a parent.

Hahahahahahaha.

That’s all I can really say about that. I don’t have time to elaborate. I have to go do the dishes.

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This is Why Car Seats Are So Panic-Inducing

I distinctly remember the first time I was forced to interact with a car seat.  I’ve teamed up with Tesco this week to share what it is about car seats that I find so harrowing.  My nephew was an infant and I was pregnant with my first child.  My sister-in-law, a seasoned mother of two, was getting out of her car, deftly juggling her iced tea, a couple of diaper bags, her purse and her toddler, and I asked if there was anything I could do to help.  She quickly responded that I could, “Get Leo out of his car seat” and then smiled as she added, “It’ll be good practice”.  I quickly regretted offering my assistance.

I panicked.  

Then I remembered that I would soon become a mother and have to do hard things like this so I took a deep breath and opened his door, determined that I, a woman who had successfully four-pointed her Master’s program, could retrieve him out of the car.  I ogled the harnesses and clamps and straps and I (remembered) realized I had no clue what I was doing.  I had no clue how to begin to unbuckle  this car seat and no clue how I would ever survive the demands associated with being a parent.  I could blame my terror on hormones, but I’m pretty sure I felt this way pre-pregnancy as well.

I backed away from the car seat and told her I would just carry her bags into the house instead.

Now, two children later, I’m a car seat pro.  Sort of. Okay, maybe I’m not a pro, but I at least buckle in, tighten straps, unbuckle straps, loosen straps, heave a kid in, and heave a kid out what feels like a thousand times each day.  I’m at least car seat experienced and car seat comfortable.

I still panic.  Car seats are intimidating, yo.  

I panic about whether or not I buckled the car seat straps together (even if I know I already buckled the car seat straps together).  I panic about when I should move my children from rear-facing to front-facing.  I panic about the financial costs related to ensuring my children are in the correct type of car seat during each growth stage, about whether the fabric of their coats protects them from the climate while preventing them from being too puffy.  I panic about whether or not the straps are tight enough and sometimes I worry about whether or not the car seat has reached it’s expiration date.

I worry about whether or not I’m worrying enough about whether or not the car seats are expired.   

I panic about keeping my children safe in the car, even if I did manage to worry enough to do all of those things correctly.

Sometimes I just panic about the amount of energy I need to expend in order to get my kids in and out of the car, regardless of where it is I even need to take them.  There are many days that I do not take a trip to the store because the thought of taking my kids in and out of the car sounds like too much effort.  Because it IS too much effort.  Carrying, lifting, pulling, strapping, unstrapping, lifting, carrying.  Those are the steps of taking my toddler in and out of the car, and sometimes those steps seem insurmountable.  At the very least, inconvenient.

Sometimes in a moment of clarity, I reflect on the fact that our kids are so much safer than they were back in the day.  It wasn’t too long ago when kids literally swung from seatbelts in the backseat or played with their dolls on the floor of the car, their parents up front, unbelted.  In these moments, I attempt, again, to take a deep breath and let go of the fears.  
As it turns out, letting go of the fears is one of the most difficult demands associated with parenting.  Even harder than pulling that car seat strap tight.

carseat

Don’t Worry, Second Child. I Love You, Too.

Dear Second Child,

Yes, the first child has so many photos.  So many intricate descriptions in the baby book. So many mementos.  So many journal and blog posts oohing and awwing over them.

As the second, you might feel a little neglected.  Where are my eight million photos categorized by month? Where’s my blog post about the first coo or the first “Mama!” or the first taste of a lemon?

My first inclination is to apologize.  However, that would imply we had some sort of choice in the matter.  You want the truth?  Well, kid.  We were just busier after having you.   It’s as simple as that.  And some of the things we wrote about the first time are the same with you.  So, we already wrote about it.  What about all the comparing?  The second is nothing like the first, you might have heard. In some ways that is true, and in some ways it isn’t. We don’t usually feel the need to discuss the ways it isn’t.  We already discussed the parts that are the same the first time.

But, don’t think about it too much.  Don’t over-analyze.  Don’t worry. We love you.  Just as much as your older sibling.  You might think I have to say that to you, but guess what?  I DON’T.  I don’t have to say anything to you. There are trillions of choices of word combinations I could put together and shoot your way every day.

Everything I say to you, I mean.

Remember that.

And you might think, “How is it possible?  How can you love me the same?”

And my answer is, “I have no idea.  It is a biological mystery, how it works, but I swear to you, it just IS”. One moment we look at our oldest and we think, she might be the most beautiful person on the entire planet.  And then we blink and look at you and think, she might be the most beautiful person on the entire planet, even if the two of you physically look absolutely nothing alike and, at least at times, act nothing alike. These thoughts may not always come to us within seconds of each other, or even hours of each other, but believe me, they happen.  In equal amounts.

We don’t always love you in all the same WAYS but we love you the EXACT SAME AMOUNT.

Here are a few examples of how that makes sense in our heads:

Sibling One Sibling Two Our Thoughts
She’s so calm. She’s so energetic. That trait will REALLY benefit her in the future.  (And, wouldn’t you know it, when she wants to be, she’s damn good at being energetic/calm too. Impressive!)
She’s so serious. She’s so goofy. She’s so great.
She hardly complains. She complains loudly! What strength she has!  It’s so hard to not complain/speak your mind. She will use this to her advantage in life.
She giggles. She guffaws. She has a good sense of humor.  She is happy.
She has an innie. She has an outie. She has the cutest belly button.  Poke!
She observes by looking. She observes by touching. She is such a good observer.
She likes to be held. She likes her back rubbed. She’s able to connect with others.
She pauses. She dives right in. She’s wise.
She whispers. She yells. She communicates.
She paddles. She splashes. She swims.
She loves her sister. She loves her sister. May they work together and complement their strengths and create the greatest force ever to be reckoned with.
She knows how to push my buttons. She knows how to push my buttons. She is not a lightweight.  She will be able to hold her own.
She is my first. She is my second. She is my only her. She awakens me, livens me, fills me up.  She is my child.
She surprises me. She surprises me. She is who she makes herself, not who I think she is or will be.  She consistently proves to be a better person than I could ever imagine anyone could possibly be.

Love you, Second Child.  Love you forever.

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Here’s Why You Need to Apologize to Your Kids

The other day I lost it.

My daughter refused to walk down the stairs, to sit on the toilet, to wear pants, to put on her shoes.  She complained about not being allowed to eat a donut for lunch, about having to wash her hands after using the toilet, and about having wet hair (after her long tresses dipped into the toilet water as she leaned in to watch her poop swirl into the abyss).  When I tried to help her put on her shoes, she bucked and thrashed and managed to headbutt me in the face.  I’m in that stage of parenting where it seems like I’m always getting headbutted in the face.

I remember reading somewhere that the supraorbital ridge, that bone beneath your eyebrows, evolved to counter the load put on the facial bones during chewing, and that eyebrows, located above that bone, evolved to stop sweat from pouring into the eyes, directing it down the sides of the face instead.  While I imagine both would be useful for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, I propose a counter-hypothesis, that perhaps both structures evolved because children often headbutt us parents, and without the protruding bony bit they would punch out our eyes with their thick skulls, and without the thick brows, blood would pour into our eyes, preventing us from seeing the next blow coming.  It’s plausible.

I might have been okay if it had ended with the headbutting, but then there was her refusal to stay in her bed, or even in her bedroom for that matter, during nap time.  There was more, but my brain blocked it out to save my own sanity.

I snapped.  I yelled.  LOUDLY.  I was exhausted and hormonal and at my wits’ end.  It was a very ugly sight and it left both of us in tears.  I was a bad mama that day.

So, I apologized.

While it might seem silly for a grown woman to confess to a two-year-old, that’s exactly what I did.  After all was said and done, we ended the day with books, cuddles and kisses, and while I was glad we had smoothed everything over, I was still a bit gutted with guilt, playing over her words in my mind, “It’s okay, Mama.  It was an accident”.  Because it wasn’t an accident.  I should have had more control. There are zero reasons to be a jerk to a two-year-old.

I’m a firm believer that if you have a lapse in judgement you acknowledge the mistake and do your best to prevent it from happening again.  While it’s hard to apologize to anyone, and counter-intuitive to some to apologize to a small child, here’s why I think it’s important to do so:

Sometimes we screw up.  And that’s okay, we’re only human. Learning the hard way that something doesn’t work is generally a precursor to eventually figuring out what does.  Like when I used to look down at my phone every once in a while when my kids were running around the living room like wild bulls.  I quickly learned to check my social media some other time, to keep my head up and my eyes on my little toros,  so I would not get caught looking down as they charged towards me and CRASH! split open my brow.  Again. Live and learn and Ole!

As parents, we strive to become better teachers, better negotiators, and better role models, but that doesn’t mean we achieve perfection on every attempt.   If we acknowledge that we that we make mistakes, we show our children that it is okay for them to make them, too.  Eliminating the myth that people are supposed to be perfect is probably good for all of us.

Providing structure and consequences doesn’t mean we need to resort to authoritarian (read: assholertarian) discipline.  There are many ways to get the attention of your child, to make them comprehend the messages you are trying to get across.  Some are founded upon the principle of routine, some are rooted in consistency, some are just plain old silly  (I know I cannot be the only parent that has a rap routine called “We Brush our Teeth”, complete with horrible beat boxing and “spinning the discs” hand motions). Shock value works too.  Sometimes, the only way we feel heard is if we yell. But there’s a definite distinction between needing to raise a voice every now and again and completely losing your cool. Trust me, even a two-year-old knows the difference.

Kids become who they are because of who we are.  If we want them to become self-aware individuals who take accountability for their actions then we sure as hell better model what that looks like.  Our children will only become bullish adults if we teach them to do so by example, leading only with our horns instead of also with our hearts.

Here's Why You Need to Apologize to Your Kids

Here’s Why You Need to Apologize to Your Kids

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.