What’s That Smell? Oh, It’s Wal-Mart

I hate shopping. That’s actually a bold-face lie that needs clarification. I hate shopping with my kids and I hate shopping at Wal-Mart.

There is a Wal-Mart ten minutes away from my house and a Target twenty minutes away from my house in the opposite direction. Typically the ten minute difference is worth the trip to Target. If you’re a shopper who pays attention, you know there is a difference when shopping in those monstrous box stores.

There are days when I want to shop for my paper towels with a greasy pony tail and still be voted best dressed on the Wal-Mart red carpet.

I could outline all of the ways Target is awesome and Wal-Mart isn’t in an entire novel, but I’ll try to keep it brief.

Wal-Marts’ shelves are stocked like drunks broke in after hours and pranked everyone by moving all of the merchandise and putting the wrong price stickers on everything.

The Wal of Marts believes in blocking every aisle in the store with giant stacks of random shit you do not need. They haven’t figured out the sneakier methods of sale seduction like Target has. Target has masterminded ad campaigns to get you to buy things you don’t need when you’re not even in their store and bolstered that with simple product placement once you walk in the door.

Shopping at Wal-Mart feels dirtier. Like it’s the back-road, seedy strip joint of competitively priced department stores. I expect I’m being swindled when I step through the sliding doors into a dimly lit, disorganized shopping prison. If I take my kids there I can count on losing an entire day to tantrums for toys and leaving with a headache the size of the hole in my wallet.

I walk into Target and hit a united front of adorable handbags and sunglasses, it’s such a score for a mom to breeze by with a shopping cart full of screaming kids and do a one-handed bird of prey style swoop-in for a new pair of sunglasses, glance at the shoes and then hit a rack of yoga pants, all before I get to the cheap and good quality Up and Up diapers. That store knows their demographic, they know how I shop, they cater to it and I love them for it.

I walk into a Wal-Mart and slowly trudge behind thirty other people all bottle necking at the sliding doors because there’s a random bin of .99 cent movies happening in the flow of traffic. Then my kid screams at me because there’s a god damn Elmo movie in the bottom of that bin and he wants to look for it. Off to a great start, thanks Wal-Mart.

Moms pay attention to the price of the milk and the orange juice when they shop, because the kids we feed consume so much of it, and we watch our refrigerators empty every three days in quiet contempt, frustrated that we cannot spend a hundred bucks on sexy leather boots, or save up for the newer fridge with an ice maker because the kids drank all of the milk in one day, again.

The milk and the orange juice at Wal-Mart aren’t cheaper. There, I said it. I blew the lid off of the whole thing. Up here in New England our dairy and juice cost the same at a regular grocery store, or (gasp) at Target. Sure, you can convince yourself that the meat and produce at Wal-Mart is worth the deal. But I’m going to go all Tom Brokaw on this business and expose the truth; all of that produce and meat is going to go bad in record time. I have thrown away bananas that went from green to over-ripe in the twenty-four hour period that they sat on my counter. I bought a chicken once, and the next day it turned into a green and slimy sea-monster that smelled like a crime scene. And here I thought that GMO’s were supposed to make our food last longer? So exactly how long is that food sitting in a truck for before it hits those shelves? I’m going to leave it at that before I puke in my mouth at the thought of green, slimy chicken.

So why would I even bother going to a store that I loathe?

Because sometimes that extra ten minutes in the car with my kids is a safety hazard for other drivers, and my kids.

Because this time I had to take my grandmother to the Wal-Mart pharmacy so she could pick up her meds.

And sometimes, there’s no other way around it.

I brought my kids to Wal-Mart today and they drove me insane.

The checkout line was as backed up as a truck stop bathroom, true to Wal-Mart form and it took half an hour to cash out, my cashier left the desk to help another cashier, because apparently Wal-Mart also doesn’t know how to hire front end supervising staff to assist their cashiers. It was hot in front of those registers, (it’s hard to keep the machines cool while syphoning millions of dollars) and we had a charming view into the in-house super cuts salon while we waited.

Then, a couple in their matching hover-rounds rolled up in line next to us, smelling like my green, slimy Wal-Mart chicken and my preschooler could not stifle his curiosity.
“Hey mommy, what’s that disgusting smell?!” Was exactly what he yelled to me.

I managed not to die of humiliation and he managed not to puke by dramatically holding his nose closed and refusing to breathe.

I had a fun time explaining to my three year old in whispers the importance of bath time, and how sometimes people smell bad but we have to be polite and not talk about it.

The good news is Wal-Mart taught my three year old to appreciate the grooming rituals I force on him.

And that never happens at Target.

Either way, every time I leave my house it seems to cost me a Hundred and Fifty cold ones.

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A New School Year, Same Old Mom

“A new school! A new school year! You’re getting so big!”

I have been excitedly ramping up for tomorrow since June. We knew our current daycare/school situation was probably circling the drain and heavy budget cuts were coming, along with the potential for closings. We took an opportunity to jump with two feet out of uncertainty and find a new preschool program for our budding, um, genius, artist, athelete, sand-throwing, foot-stomping, hotdog-eating Chucky Doll.

We scored a spot in a little private school close to our house with a Preschool through Elementary program. It was going to cost more, we were not going to have a lunch program available, and I was going to have to do a noon pick up time. But it’s walking distance, it’s in the woods and the kids get to take advantage of lots of outdoor space and run out their energy while I get to start planning lunches and signing up for parent-teacher meetings, and figuring out what “the board” does and who they are. Also, lots of meeting other preschool parents and trying not to blush while I stumble over the names of little Zimbase, Zoeanna, Jeddiadiason and Quatashin.

“I love that name! It’s so beautiful. What is he/she the god/goddess of?”

Uh Oh. I don’t own any organic cotton or clogs and I don’t know if I’m going to fit in here. Lookout Amazon, mama’s ordering all of your reusable snack bags while she looks at woolen sweaters on Etsy and wonders if she can just lie and say she made them herself.

At this point I would send my child to the Martian School of Scientology for Tots of it got him out of my hair for three hours.

He’s been acting very Four lately. If your child is still three and you think it’s pretty awful, I won’t tell you it gets worse and I won’t tell you it gets better. I’ll just wait for your kids’ birthday and gift you lots of wine to replace all of the patience that a Four year old will suck from your soul.

He wants to have debates with me about which of his friends have seen bears. He wants to know who ran over that skunk in the road and what color house they live in. He has so many questions that I cannot answer, and he likes to ask them five times in a row. It doesn’t matter if I answer him or not, he either keeps asking or tells me I’m wrong, whoever ran over that skunk obviously lives in a blue house mom, not a white one. There’s no such thing as white houses mom, what are you thinking?

I need a break. I need this school. I’m clearly a terrible mother with no heart. So yes, I excitedly took my preschooler shopping for backpacks, lunchboxes and thermoses two weeks ago. Whatever it costs, let’s get you to school, because school is better than REDRUM.

I spent two hundred dollars on snacks, because I won’t be the mom who forgets to pack lunches this year, I swear. I’m still a newbie and there’s too much room for error. This whole school ordeal comes with a hefty sack of time and money commitments.

I signed up for the open house potluck and brought cheese tortellini’s that were not vegan, kosher, gluten-free or dairy-free. They weren’t even organic. I placed them in their plastic bowl that I bought at Wal-Mart eight years ago alongside the wooden, handcrafted and hand-thrown pottery bowls that belong to far fancier and earthier parents. I’m going to start this school year off right, and be myself. I’m not going to start off the school year foot by misrepresenting my family, which would only lead to added pressure for me and future disappointment for everyone who gets involved with me, seriously, I own one hand-made bowl and it’s not setting foot in a preschool. You can come visit it on the shelf in my house that it lives on.

We already have parent-teacher and all school meeting commitments lined up before the start of school. It’s a lot of prep work to get these three and four year olds to dig in the dirt. But I swore I would be the mom who cares about education, in a way that is authentic to who I am.

We show up forty-five minutes late, half of us are missing our shoes, and we generally forget we have committed to volunteer to make cupcakes, but we’ll burn rubber to the grocery store and buy some on our way to the bake sale, because we care. We are those people, but we’re not going to be ashamed because I have finally reached the point in my parenting where I do not have time to care about serving platters, and if nobody eats my full-sugar baked goods then there will be more for me to stuff in my face at bed time. I’m free from having to wonder if I bought the right Dansko clogs and I don’t genuinely care about homemade ghee. (What’s ghee? Maybe I do care.)

Hey, at least I have the reusable snack bags to hide the generic snacks so nobody has to know that I totally buy Spiderman cheeze it’s for my kids.

They will take me or they will leave me and I will silently sit at home and hope for the first two weeks that my child doesn’t become besties with the ambiguously organic child with a love of leeks and garlic and a genderless name that I cannot pronounce.  If he does, then I just hope his parents wear deodorant. Maybe I should start seeking out outdoor spaces to host play dates.

I digress.

There are no tears for drop off tomorrow; mostly I’m just concocting an exit strategy so I don’t get sucked into staying for the entire three hour school day. I think I’ve really nailed down the perfect plan; send DAD.

Cheers to tomorrow

 bumblebee backpack

 

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That Time My Kid Puked at The Beach

“Play monster! Do the monster!” The kids were squealing at me, absolutely delighted to be chased in the water. I was delighted to have a reason to fully submerge myself, escape the heat and hide my Orca shaped pregnant “glow” in the cool lake.

It was Labor Day, the unofficial last day of summer. Half of the kids are already in school by then but that one last long weekend before September sets in deep just begs to be used to its fullest. Before the crisp air blows the leaves off of the trees and the Pumpkin Spice takes over the store shelves, we soak up beach days and barbeques, camping (if you’re into that whole dirt and bugs thing) or just taking advantage of a reason to sit back and do anything but Labor.

Our beach toys have been bleached by the sun and blasted by the sand. The kids floaties are on their second year and last legs. We get one more day, the stakes are high and the toys don’t really matter anymore.

There are no lifeguards on duty anymore, most of them being college students who were sent off for higher learning in late August. The buoy markers that defined the swimmers from the boaters have been pulled back into storage and the people free float, with kayaks and motor boats skimming closer than usual to the imagined boarders I have grown dependent on and familiar with. All eyes are on the kids, it’s every man for himself in the water and nobody wants this holiday to be wasted on tragedy. The absence of trained and certified lifeguards is noticed by all.

It’s an everybody knows everybody on the beach kind of day, the excitement of the last hoorah hanging in the air amid conversations between parents about summer vacations, work and back to school. This last day is the happiest one I’ve seen on this beach since the first opening day of the season. Nobody has called each other to make plans, yet here we all are. On the same Bat-call to get the kids out of the house and save the summer.

The unmaintained beach has overflowing trash pails, no toilet paper in the bathrooms and a closed down concession stand. The only thing to do here today is head to the water and get the kids to swim until their arms and legs give out and they wear their energy stores down for a comfortable night of sleep.

The snacks in everyone’s coolers look exactly how you’d expect them to at the end of summer; half a bag of grapes, picked over snack mix and some cheese sticks buried under an ice pack. The kids will still inhale the snacks between swim breaks and sunscreen bastings.

We splash and play; we sip sodas and waters on the beach catching up with friends. We all laugh and talk about school, the teachers and packed lunches, the tuition costs and drop off times, we half-way chase our kids while we lounge on the beach, only making attempts at breaking off our conversations to entertain the kids.

The water feels cold in contrast to the early September sun, there’s only one way to go in, and that is to go all the way in. One swift swoosh under, being careful not to ingest any of that boat-kid-pee-lake water, and you are instantly refreshed, and possibly leaving with a little montezuma’s revenge.

The kids are ecstatic to be swimming together, having “look what I can do” contests and demanding to be chased. They are absolutely screaming at a volume that would have otherwise drawn the attention of the lifeguards and gotten us a reprimand. After all, you only get to scream like you’re being killed on the beach if you are actually being killed on the beach. Labor Day being the exception. So we let them shriek their heads off.

They want to be chased, because kids naturally like a little safe-fear. They want the thrill of being chased by someone they trust. And I always have to play the villain when the kids want me to play. I’m never the princess or the hero, I’m the monster.

If the shoe fits.

When in Rome?

So I give chase. I am the monster. They swim away from me at their painfully slow water-treading pace while I pretend I just can’t keep up, even though I am two lunges away from their backs.

I swoop in, over and over again, sometimes pretending to barely miss them and sometimes actually catching them by their waists, hauling them around in the water like weightless feathers.

They love me.

I swoop in again, this time to grab just one kid, my son. My three year old is treading water as fast as his tiny arms can go while he begs me to slow down. So I swoop in, grab him by his waist and hug him to me. As I’m yelling “GOTCHYA!” I feel it happening.

The warm fluid running down my neck and chest. I pull my son back to arm’s length and look squarely at him. He is covered in puke.

I am covered in puke.

So I yell. Of course I yell. I am pregnant and covered in stinky grape-juice vomit.

“EW! Babe, you PUKED! Everywhere!”

There’s puke in a lake full of swimming people. Part of me died of embarrassment right there on the spot. Thankfully another part of me reacted and stripped his little bathing suit off. My friends jumped in to tell me I had puke all over my neck, which I rinsed off in the lake. More puke for you, lake. You are welcome.

This beautiful day has been had. My friends, myself and our families got out of the water in a hurry. Of course I gave a warning yell to nearby swimmers.

“Hey everyone! Puke in the lake, careful!” and then I ducked out of dodge before anyone could punch me.

Thanks to summer being over, the lifeguards that would have been on duty were not there to berate me, or make me scoop the puke out, which in retrospect I would have done had it not almost entirely dissipated into fine-fish food.

He ingested the water, and puked as a result. We packed up and headed home immediately. The smell of grape juice-pretzel-dorito puke lingered on my bathing suit for hours until I was finally able to shower and change.

To this day, almost a week later, I still swear that I can faintly smell that biohazard left behind by Summer.

 

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Expect The Unexpected and All The Other Shit The Books Don’t Say About Toddlers

What to expect, the toddler years.

I’ll tell you what to expect that the book may or may not cover. I don’t actually know what is in that book since I haven’t read my copy, because nobody with a toddler has time to sit and read a reference book that is the size of a phone book. That’s what google is for.

Walking still presents challenges for your little one, but none that they can see. They’ll walk confidently off of a porch and fall directly into a rock garden if you aren’t pinned to the adorable zombie like the helicopter parents you’ve been hearing all about.

It’s not helicopter parenting if it’s life or death. And with toddlers, it’s always life or death. Giant dogs, running cars, raging rivers, swimming pools, and sharp objects inflict no fear into the hearts of toddlers, they are instinctively drawn to danger, like a fish to a piece of tin foil or mosquitoes to a zap light.

The communication barrier is the root of all frustration. Every hard day I have had with my toddler is a result of him talking to me in toddlerese and my adult English-speaking brain cannot reconcile with his gibberish.

Here’s a quick break down of what my toddler says that I can understand:

“Whashat?” That’s how he mumbles the words, “What’s that?” He even uses the correct intonation to inflect a question and usually he points with his finger. It’s probably the most adorable thing he does, unless he’s doing it when he’s supposed to be sleeping.

“Uh!” This usually means “up” and it’s easy to read because he’s typically reaching his arms toward me and yelling it. When I do not oblige, all holy war breaks loose.

“Oh wow!” That’s a random nugget he picked up from us and it’s the only thing he says as clear as day, besides:

“Dada”. That guy gets all the glory. Dada has sworn to me that he hears the toddler say “mama”, but that’s just a cold lie he tells me so that I don’t cry.

“Choo-choo” That one is fairly obvious and also super important.

“Ha”, that’s as close as you’re going to get to “hi” and he loves saying it, to everyone. Everyone.

“Hie” it’s just like he’s saying “hi” except he’s saying “bye”. Toddlers are a hot mess.

Now here’s a list of all of the things that I do not understand:

Everything else.

Thirsty? Hungry? Poopy? Hurt? All communicated through cries and tantrums. Luckily he can say, “oh wow!” to communicate his utter shock every time I peek out of the blanket during peek-a-boo. The other basic human needs are apparently much less important. The majority of our battles are settled over me waving a bottle of milk in his face and him either taking it or shoving it back at me, leaving me to keep guessing until he stops screaming and reigns in the Kraken.

If you are lucky like I am, you have an older child in addition to your toddler. Your older child is probably fond of things like crayons and Legos and your toddler is probably obsessed with stealing the choking hazards from the older child come hell or high water. You may have scribbles on your floors and walls from your toddler sneaking off with crayons, even though you swear you put them up on a table he can’t reach yet.

You may also have tri-colored poopy diaper changes if your older child likes play dough and your toddler enjoys salt licking it.

Which reminds me, toddlers find everything. Don’t bother trying to figure out how old the granola bar they just surfaced with is, just be happy for preservatives and a quiet moment without him begging for your food.

Teething is a worse beast now than it was when they were just drooling puddles of baby who couldn’t walk or mumble yet. Those pearly whites will cost you a few nights of sleep and more than a handful of crying fits that you won’t understand. If you cry too I won’t judge you.

Enjoy the head banging your toddler may develop. Nobody told me that some toddlers deal with pain by smashing their delicate heads into floor boards; needless to say I found it terrifying. Eventually you just feel grateful that he’s not doing that against your head. That shit hurts, and expletives are completely appropriate.

Going to Target suddenly becomes a horrible ordeal. You find yourself physically being outmatched by a twenty pound wiggle worm who has mastered the nose-dive out of the shopping cart seat.  Instead of picking up toothbrushes in peace, you are the mom chasing the baby down the aisles to the coos of adoring strangers who don’t suffer sciatica. You become the super-market sweep queen of buying all the things and just returning what you don’t need later. Like in two years when they finally go to preschool. (Heavy sigh, preschool is coming to save you.)

If you have a toddler you also probably have one really strong arm that holds the baby and one moderately under-developed arm that cooks weak dinners and burns grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s not your fault; the baby was dancing between your legs yelling “UH!” at you while you were melting American Cheese onto dinnerish food items. It’s not easy.

The bad news is that the toddler years are the hardest, you come off of babyhood finally feeling like you’re getting some sleep, the breastfeeding and expensive cans of formula are on their way out and you have some system worked out that allows you to shower and brush your hair. Then suddenly they’re walking, and they’re everywhere and for the luckiest few, baby gates and electrical outlet plugs aren’t enough to stop the wild animal. They’re climbing and falling before you could even get off the toilet.

They’re becoming picky and discerning. They don’t want the blueberry yogurt, they want the strawberry yogurt but they tell you that by screaming in your face and spitting the yogurt on you.

Your back is probably killing you from having to bend over to constantly save the day. You’re like Batman now, and that baby is a tiny Gotham city, always in grave trouble.

The good news is…

They make pretty good wine at affordable prices now. AND, your toddler can’t whine for cartoons yet, so you can still soak in your mornings with Al Roker until Dear Toddler turns Terrible Two and figures out who Doc Mcstuffins is.

Godspeed.

ROTTERDAM...Loaded epa00107.jpg from /m/load0/Wire/EPApix/ on 09052002

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The Social Media Intervention I Gave Myself

It’s not you, it’s me. Well, it’s probably a little bit you. You suck me in; pull me with all of the gravitational pull of a second moon. When you’re in a bad mood, I am in a bad mood. On your good days, you’re so good. I feed off of the good; the good makes my sprit come alive. It’s the bad, the bad has me checking in every five minutes and responding to negativity with more intense negativity.

You’re too finicky and consuming and let’s face it; my kids are already filling that role in my life.

So, social media, we need a break. Just a time-out. I’ll still call and check in, I still care about you and we can still be friends but our relationship is going to be different. There are going to be boundaries.

I didn’t start writing so that you would like me. I did start a blog with a huge, deep breath and the fast realization that I was in fact, blogging for attention, affirmation and validation. Those times when people would read me and visit and say “yes sister, me too. Me too.” 

I underestimated the ability that social media has to push buttons, to give you feelings of power and control and then rip them out from under you, leaving you wanting more. I would do anything for more.

Without realizing what was happening I was in the trenches, trolling the internet. My fan base was dwindling due to algorithms and I felt the desperation of an addict.

I was begging people to come back and like me, read my writing and give me more “me too’s”.  I was a validation junkie, and not having it was driving me to depths I vowed to never sink to.

I never wanted to take a negative comment on my fan page and turn it into an opportunity to increase the reach of my post, to use it as fishing line to lure more comments. I knew it was gross, it felt like falling into a sticky vat of syrup. Once I was there, I was stuck and I could not cleanse myself of the angsty taste in my mouth.

I spent weeks turning myself into someone I am not.

I submitted extremely personal pieces to websites that rejected me. And that rejection burned in my eyes and it turned my writing experience sour. I wanted to be liked, and being turned away was starting to feel like being left alone at the prom.

I don’t want to feel the jealous pangs every time a writer I admire receives a joyful acceptance. I don’t want to feel the sting of insecurity and allow it to drive me forward, propelling my writing with a broken motor. Writing form a place of “I can do that too” is not authentic and it degrades the quality of my work by seeping into my brain and affecting every word I chose to put down on a page. I edit tirelessly to be “good enough”. I spend my days thinking about the hottest topics that will drive traffic to my site and fan page.

Instead of writing posts that inspire me or help me heal, I write posts to sound topical with titles I am not proud of; “The Worst Parts of Pregnancy”, “Pregnant Sex Sucks” and other click-bait material that I ultimately don’t actually publish because the words block up inside of my brain, refusing to come to the forefront. When you aren’t writing from your own heart, when you start to change the integrity of your work to please someone else, you feel the joy seep out of the project and it starts to feel like draining work. The pressure is overwhelming and my creative process cannot flow in those conditions.

My husband sat beside me baffled one night while I sobbed on the edge of our bed. I had no words to write, I was struggling and I felt like a competitor in the jungle vying for a bite of the catch everyone around me was lapping up.

Writing is supposed to heal me, help me and possibly encourage a “yes, me too” moment, but the writing should not be built to please an audience or trick them into clicking a link so that I can look at a monthly statistic and feel popular.

I need to let go of you for my own good.

Just don’t go anywhere, I still like you, I still need you. I just need to find myself. I need to write with the words in my heart and not with the pulse of the internet and the ticker of Facebook and the top ten lists of buzzfeed.

I need to read a book. A real book that I can hold in my hand and smell the fresh pages of. I need to pull back from reading the blogs of other fantastic writers so that I can free my mind to think for itself. I need to be absorbed in fiction, in a little fantasy outside of blogs and parenting, and I need to have a moment with my husband that doesn’t involve a discussion about my SEO or the stray, invasive thoughts that interject when he’s speaking. The “oh, this would be a great post” voice needs to settle down so that I can really hear what is being said.

I love you, social media, but we’re broken.

So let’s fix it.

Love,

Me

 

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The Truth About Maternity Pants. The Panel Decoded

I have experimented with every type of waistband on the market to make my baby-bearing, hip-expanding, child-rearing experiences easier, and less itchy. I have found exactly zero pairs of maternity pants that I am not completely sick of wearing after an hour. 

Here I have broken down the name of each type of pant in real-world terms that they won’t tell you on the tag.

Full Panel- This extra-long and stretchy piece of spandex-lycra-poly mystery blend will hike up over your belly button and make you itch all day. You’ll have a pancake-shaped ass for days. This may be where “mom jeans” was invented. Good luck if you’re pregnant in the summer time, prepare to burn calories in your own private pants sauna.

The Demi Panel- It’s not as sexy as it sounds. This waistband will barely reach your belly button, hitting in the most awkward place on a womans’ stomach, it will either cut into your belly or slip off every time you move. Added bonus, your t-shirts will show every crease of extra flesh created by this unflattering fit.

The under belly panel- This is as close to low-rise maternity pants as you’re going to get. So get ready to never bend over for fear of exposing your butt crack. This waist band will rest on your bladder, right along with your babys’ head. Cozy. Luckily for you you already mapped out every public restroom within ten miles. 

The no-panel- This small wonder sounds like a dream, no panel to fuss with! Sign me up. Or don’t. Yes, you will get all of the bells and whistles, like a button and zipper to fumble with, along with all the appeal of the under belly panel, squishy bladder and all. Ever dream of buttoning a button you cannot see? Then this is the maternity pant for you. The stretchy parts are hidden in the sides and the back, so seriously, do not bend over because you may as well be auditioning for “Teen Mom” in these. 

Yoga pants have never looked so good. Actually, they always have.

PicMonkey Collage maternity pants

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When Enough is Enough. Accepting Limitations

On the twenty-third week of my third pregnancy it occurred to me that I am scared.

After a particularly long weekend of running errand after errand with errant kids in tow and wrapping up our weekly odds and ends, I found myself standing at the dining room table set for Sunday dinner, screaming.

Screaming in front of my mom, my grandma, my husband and my kids.

I was screaming at the scowling face of my three year old. He had spent a lot of long hours not-so-innocently ignoring my requests that he throw away his own garbage, pick up his toys and eat at least one thing that was not a popsicle. If I said “come here”, he would go the opposite direction and hide. Intentionally hide from his mother who had spent more patience than she ever thought she could muster to politely ask him time and time again to comply with the simple niceties that we regularly exercise in daily life. I think we commonly call them “manners”.

His baby brother, a thirteen month old whirling dervish who routinely climbs and falls face-first off of furniture has also been guilty of exhausting my physical and mental well-being.

Carrying both of them, snuggling both of them, healing both of their boo-boos, pushing them on swings, and taking the brunt of their flying fists has all amounted to back pain, headaches, dehydration and plain old fatigue for a huge and pregnant me.

It became scary when the contractions started coming on in spurts. I knew I was over exerting, pushing myself beyond the limits of stress that my body had ever experienced during either of my other pregnancies. I’m used to doing what I need to do; I’ve adjusted to carrying the kids to get through the day, regardless of how my back may feel. I’ve adapted to staying up late at night to catch up on mopping or dishes. The endless dishes. Oh, the dishes.

I’ve made the kids lunch while my belly grumbles audible reminders that I haven’t eaten since breakfast. I’ve gone thirsty, with a scratchy dry throat begging for water while I’ve rushed the kids into the car to get our next appointment.

I’ve bent over to pick up thirty-thousand toys off of the floor after the kids have wandered away even though my sciatica and sacrum throb in protest.

I’ve carried the duties of a family and met their demands. I’ve taken care of everyone else, because children are one of the rare things that will not wait while you take a break and put your feet up.

I’ve been putting the oxygen masks on everyone else before I put on my own. And I feel the shortness of breath creeping up on me.

Crawling out of the first trimester, clinging to a pregnancy that felt like it was doing more harm than good, I waited to feel the relief of the second trimester. What I ultimately feel is the fear that I will sacrifice a pregnancy because I am busy handling the unrelenting demands of the family that I already have here. The ones who need me, perhaps the most.

At the end of each day I wonder if all of my pushing will harm my unborn baby and if there is anything I can do to lessen that chance, short of ignoring my children who still very much need their mom and the normal activities that keep their world spinning.

And that fact that locking myself in a room with my kids only serves to drive us all insane and is not at all relaxing is not to be overlooked.

I wondered a little bit in the beginning, how I would fare with two kids and a third pregnancy.  I thought, I’m tough, and I’ll pull up my boot straps like a warrior and we will muck it through. If Forrest Gump can pull Lieutenant Dan out of the jungle in ‘Nam, then I can fireman-carry my kids through the jungle of daily life and we will survive.

As it turns out, I’m not that tough. I am not that mother-warrior that I claimed to be. Every pregnancy takes its own unique toll on a human body, and while one may be fine and well, another may tear you apart after you swell, and bloat and can no longer squeeze a wedding ring on your finger or wear your cute strappy summer shoes.

I have learned to accept my limitations. My body is going to make choices that my mind is not prepared to lay down and submit to.  I want to do things that my body is not physically ready to do, and that is absolutely draining and deflating to have to confess. Accepting it is harder than saying it.

This was the weekend that I made steady decisions to tell my husband “No, no more errands, no more trips and no more running after the kids. I need to sit, but could you get me some water?”

This was the weekend that I cancelled fun plans with great people because my body is making it clear to me through kicks, cramps and contractions that sometimes, putting on pajamas and putting your feet up really is the best you can manage.

This was the weekend that I let my mom wash the dishes after dinner and ignored her snide comments about my messy house. Those trespasses can be overlooked when you find yourself in need of help.

Because you take the help you can get and let go of the shame when you can’t do everything.

dirty

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Because She’s a Girl. A household Conversation About Gender Equality

“When your baby sister is born it’s your job as her biggest brother to protect her.”

My husband was having a boy-to-boy conversation with our three year old and one year old about our expected baby girl. I must have been out grocery shopping or pooping (read: hiding in the bathroom facebooking from my phone) when the conversation started. Regardless, when I walked into that sentence it hit my brain like a brick and I kicked into a hormone-fueled rage and let myself explode into verbal rhetoric about an underlying sexist agenda (which truthfully, doesn’t even exist in our home).

We operate a household where our boys can paint their nails or dress up in mommy’s shoes. We are so liberal with our boys, yet it’s so easy to apply a blind double standard to a girl.

 We’ve been ripping the boys off of each other like handlers in a zoo lately. They live to tear each other apart like two monkeys with one banana. Naturally safety is a concern when you’re planning on bringing an infant into a jungle. Still, I wasn’t seeing clearly in my hormone-haze and I pulled my husband aside and demanded to know what he had been telling the sensitive and easily-influenced ears of our boys.

He responded to me pretty calmly in the face of my wagging finger-arm flail, and explained that the conversation was about our kids needing to step up and look out for their baby sister, and ya know, be “helpers”.

But what I heard was, “she’s a girl, she’s weak and defenseless and deserves to be treated differently as though she’s inherently more spectacular than the boys are.”

So I responded to what I heard:

“You cannot tell young boys that girls are different than they are and therefore deserve to be treated differently, like a weaker person. She’s a girl; she’s not sick and helpless.”

This then stoked my husbands’ daughter-defense fire:

“How are we going to teach our sons to be kind and respectful to women, and to never lay a hand on one if we can’t tell them that women ARE special?!”

Me: “We can teach them to respect all people as equals, and nobody deserves to be hit or touched without consent.”

Him: “Right. We can tell them that, and then they’re going to walk onto a playground at school and some kid is going to make it his job to pick on our kid and he’s going to defend himself. Just like I did as kid. Because they are boys, they are going to settle their matters that way.”

Oh what now? He’s pulling the “trust me, I’m a man card”?

Me: “And then our boys are going to grow up seeing women as in need of defending, i.e. weaker, and then that will inevitably translate into the workplace, where they will rise into corporate power and make twice as much as a qualified woman, like their sister.”

Him: “Well I am not going to raise boys who think women can be hit and wrestled with like their brothers and friends.”

Me: “Well I’m pretty sure that a daughter raised with two older brothers is going to be a spit-fire who loves to jump in and wrestle. We don’t know that she won’t be as big of a boy as her bothers. We don’t know her yet, she’s going to be herself. It’s going to be up to us to teach our kids equality and starting a sentence with ‘because she’s a girl’ isn’t going to do that. It’s going to stir up resentment among them as siblings and create a gender based rivalry.”

And with that we came to somewhat of a compromise. He won’t tell the boys “because she’s a girl she’s special”, and I won’t stand in his way when the day comes to tell our boys that girls might actually deserve more respect than we think they are getting.  Like the day we get a call that my son pushes a girl on a playground. That’ll be the day I give my concession speech to my husband.

We are not an impasse on how to raise our children, although currently we do disagree. And there is a line, it’s not absolute and it’s not visible. Somewhere between my expectations and his there is an inevitable reality.

He is coming from a natural place of father-based fear, where girls are the unknown variable out there in a society riddled with rape-culture in colleges and bars. He sees men as potential enemies and threats to our daughters’ health and happiness. What I hope he learns from me is that coddling her and shielding her from her brothers, who are a natural safe-place, will not only set up her brothers for potential resentment, but could also backfire when it comes time for her to loudly and proudly say “NO”.

I don’t feel “lucky” that our daughter has big brothers to protect her like human shields, although in certain situations having a little back-up is a great thing, I mostly feel really happy and excited to foster a relationship between the genders that is mutually respectful, and that will involve the natural testing of boundaries, the inevitable fights and shoving matches of siblings and watching her gain independence and learn to not be afraid of standing up to the “big boys”.

I understand my husbands’ reactions and worries, and I share most of them with him. I admit, the internet is buzzing in my ears, and seeing twelve year olds dress for their twenties and seeing the men in their twenties oogle the twelve year olds has me gagging on my actual fucking spoon.

More commonly, girls are fighting upstream in a culture that labels them “adorable” and “daddy’s girls” on pink onesies the day they are born. I am not a feminist; I am just a modern day mother who is tasked with raising boys who respect women and a girl who respects herself.  “Because she’s a girl” is more than a sentence or special treatment. It sets the tone for her life.

Our girl remains embryonic, not one fresh breath inside her lungs, but here we are, discussing her future in the work-force, and wondering how we can provide her with tools without casting our shadow of fear.

 We have no idea what it’s like to raise a daughter, and we have our parenting ideals that more often than not fall by the wayside when it comes down to running out of diapers and sleeping one out of every five nights. We cannot affect the social and political changes for women in the future without taking into consideration the small things we teach our children that will create their fundamental building blocks of expectation and accepted behavior. 

It’s a stressful job, and exceptionally overwhelming.

But I am pretty proud of our ability to discuss, to disagree and to wait and see what happens, play the chips where they fall and progressively take a step towards rearing an entire family of open-minded children who will love each other despite their inherent differences.

rosie

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Great Expectations, a gender reveal

Off of the heels of a very successful sonogram appointment my husband kisses me goodbye with tears in his eyes. We both grin like idiots, still not totally sure what to say. He drives off for work, and I rock the baby to sleep, alone with my thoughts.

We’ve had two previous children, with two successful anatomy screens and both with the outcome of “It’s a boy!”

We experienced the reeling sadness of gender disappointment and the handbasket full of guilt associated with feeling disappointed in your remarkable baby of the “wrong” gender. We thought our second was a girl; we were so sure we would have the family we always imagined, a big brother and a little sister. Our future with two boys looked different and unexpected, but eventually we would realize, our future was no less bright.

The thing about the future is that it is full of untold surprises. Like third pregnancies, third chances, and higher hopes.

My husband felt confident in admitting outright that he wanted a girl. He would love our third son as surely as the other two, but he wanted and craved a girl. With his admission I felt pressure, as though I could control this outcome, when the cards were already in play and there was nothing either of us could do but hope and cope.

His gender preference reignited my hope for a female child, and a craving for a different adventure in parenting. I wanted a girl too, but I would not allow myself to absorb those feelings, choosing to shield myself from the inevitable hurt and disappointment of having a third boy. I needed to keep my thoughts balanced, to keep myself open to loving and welcoming any baby of any gender in all fairness.

An hour into our sonogram today, we expected to leave with no answers. The baby had crossed its legs at the knee and firmly insisted on having privacy. I slowly tried to accept that we may leave with no gender reveal, and tried to swallow my expectations.

With a final push of the wand and a firm jiggle of my jelly belly the baby loosened the grip of its knees and revealed its gender in all its pea sized glory. We swallowed hard, eyes gripped the screen and we silently willed the technician to say it aloud.

“Well I’ve got it alright!” she said with a smile.

She put arrows on the screen, and said, “are you ready?”

She quickly typed out the word on the screen in bold caps.

GIRL.

Without taking my eyes off of the screen I let the tension pour out of me. The tears were in a free-fall and I wasn’t going to feel embarrassed or stop. I was going to let myself cry my happy tears, and sure enough, my husband standing next to me was doing the same.

We weren’t going to feel guilty for wanting a girl and getting what we wanted. We were going to feel happy. We were going to make plans, we were going to donate boy clothes and start over. We were going to get another fresh start and a brand new adventure in raising our children.

We are going to find out that Barbie shoes are just as awful to step on as Legos. We are going to learn about the female attitude and our boys are finally going to have a little feminine balance in their home. My husband is going to learn the delicate nature of girls, he’s going to witness first-hand the nurturing that girls need, and we are going to get to nurture all of our children in all of their differences and interests.

Variety sounds good, and new, and I am so ready to take this challenge and blindly stumble through it.

 

girl profile

 She’s adorable.

 

 

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No More Happy Meals, EVER!

Have you ever had a “Mommy Dearest” moment, stopping just short of throwing cheeseburgers out of your car window as you drive down the freeway?

“No more happy meals! Pee in your cup, I am not stopping this car one more time!”
That’s me, being an awesome mom to my own kids and a care provider to my niece. We recently took a trip to a science museum, because we were having terrible weather and what else are you going to do with three kids? Also, science! It’ll be so cool, there’s dinosaur bones and water splash fountains and fish tanks, oh my!

It’s only an hour away, and I’m bringing my mom to help, how bad can this be? With three kids in one minivan who are acting like raccoons in a dumpster, and my pregnant raging hormones snapping like tension wires, it could be pretty bad.

I should blame myself, because the first thing I said after all three car seats were buckled up was; “who’s hungry? Should we get happy meals?!” Because I was going to be fun mom, and because kids love happy meals, I was going to win. Until we got lost trying to find an off-the-beaten-path Mickey D’s.

After a half hour of driving out of my way and giving up trying to google “Podunk McDonalds” we finally found the golden arches of joy, and whipped into the drive-thru for nuggets and cheap Chinese toys covered in lead and BPA’s.
I peeled away from the pick-up window without stopping to check our order, because it’s easy-peasy chicken nuggets and we’re in a hurry and the highway is about an hour through the woods.

Then it started up, the shrieking from the backseat:
“Hey! This isn’t nuggets! I got a cheeseburger!”
Pulling the clown-car over on the side of the road, I made everyone open their bags and check their food. It’s wrong, all wrong. There’s not a nugget in sight and all of the burgers that were ordered “no cheese” were covered in orange pretend cheese.
I thought it was weird when the lady inside the speaker box asked me if I wanted pickles on my nuggets.

My mom says; “Jesus Christ Chrissy, just DRIVE!” Clearly our Mcdon’t expedition has exhausted her endless pool of grandparent-patience and we are to promptly get back on the highway before she goes all REDRUM.
My mom spent the next thirty minutes sitting on her knees, facing her seat backwards, while opening up apples and milks, and convincing small children that their burgers are really delicious and better than nuggets. Also happening behind my headrest are fights over toys. Because this particular Mcdonalds obviously doesn’t get the hot new toy shipments, so they gave us the random crap they had from last year’s movies. And all the toys are different. And all the kids want the toys they don’t have.

I made a promise I should have never made.
“Ok guys, calm down, we will stop on our way home and get nuggets. Next time, I promise there will be nuggets.”
Well, they simmered down, but now I was in debt. And I hate being in debt. Especially to little dumpster raccoons.
Once the kids drank their milk they instantly needed to pee. Four times each.
The tiniest bladders in the world. How they had to stop four times after drinking one four ounce milk, I will never know.
Those kids got skilled at peeing on the side of the interstate that day. And by skilled, I mean they completely peed all over their feet.

An hour long car trip to the science museum was multiplied by three kids and four pee breaks, so it actually took two hours. We got there with an hour of play time before the museum closes.
We made that hour count. We saw all the things in record time, including the water fountain. Which the kids sat in, fully clothed.

We made way to the gift shop in hopes of finding dry souvenir t-shirts. That was where we spent the remainder of our visit. In the little gift shop, wrangling toys out of their hands and convincing them that they do not need more bouncy balls/tiny dinosaurs/stuffed bears. Alas, the gift shop was their favorite exhibit.

We bought three dry shirts, and spent a hundred dollars. Because apparently, gift shop t-shirts are made out of the finest and most exotic fibers on Earth. For the price per yard for the kids extra-small size shirts, I can only imagine that they have Rumplestiltskin himself spinning golden yarn in the basement.

The kids rode home in dry shirts and no underpants, because we know that kids are ridiculously uptight about wearing their wet clothes, but have zero problem with getting them soaked in the first place.
They held me to my chicken nugget promise, and I gave in, because I am a mom of my word, and also, kids are really, really damn persistent when it comes to happy meals.

Needless to say, we got lost finding another McDonalds. The kids had to stop and pee four more times and I made out-loud vows to make them wear diapers if they couldn’t hold their pee for another twenty minutes.
Four hours driving, two happy meals each, pee-soaked toes, and one short hour getting soaking wet in a glorified sprinkler.

Yay, Science!
Clearly I am not going to be chaperone material for any future school field trips, which is fine, because I don’t need the other moms hearing about the crazy-lady scraping orange cheese off on her car window anyway.

age-dinosaur-bones-1

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