Snacks. Period.

I’d like to extend a big FUCK YOU to the women’s interest magazines and websites that try and advise me of what to eat and do when I have my period.

Oh my god, a handful of almonds? That’s groundbreaking stuff. Should I also go for a refreshing morning run and make a smoothie with skim milk and something something kale/berries/antioxidants? Should I avoid caffeine and alcohol and salt because things that make me happy might also make me (gasp) a little bit bloated and possibly even fat? Fat, the worst thing ever, the antithesis of a handful of almonds?

I don’t want to run. I don’t want to eat a handful of nuts and seeds like a goddamn chipmunk. I’d love to see an honest advice blurb that’s like: here’s what’s good on Netflix right now, here’s a recipe for some marshmallow brownie pretzel shit I just made up, and here’s the world’s permission to sit on the couch and fart in a Snuggie all day.

Fuck a string cheese and cherry tomato snack. Fuck ALLATHAT.

I Am Fine

The baby woke up from his nap. I am so bone tired and I expect to feel annoyed or indifferent when I peek over the crib railing at him, but instead I am warmed from the inside out just by looking. Even as he’s easing his way into a nasty cold, even as he’s sprouting some sharp little teeth, even when he only slept for thirty minutes of his typical two-hour nap, this little guy is smiling.

I mean- he is smiling. He’s all gums and dimples and looking straight at me with those big grey eyes. His eyes are gorgeous. Seriously, look at this kid.

IMG_20150319_184744711

So I pick him up and and kiss his cheeks and his forehead and set about changing his diaper, leaning over him while he kicks his legs and gurgles at me with such an earnest look on his face that it can only mean he’s gurgling about something pretty important. My lower back has moved past aching and now it feels like a deep burn whenever I bend over (which is often if you hadn’t guessed). Ben and Isla are home from preschool and have appeared in my bedroom as little bursts of construction paper and light-up sneakers and excited chattering about INSECTS MAMA WE LEARNED ABOUT INSECTS TODAY. Ben is still wearing his coat but his shoes are gone, probably on the stairs, and he’s hopping on one foot while peeling the sock off the other. He hops through a few of my short stacks, my careful piles of folded laundry that never seem to make it into dresser drawers. I’ve tried, for as many years as I’ve been a mother, to find a safe laundry spot where my short stacks won’t get squashed or kicked. Not the couch, because everyone will need to sit there the moment I sit down. Not the bedroom floor, because if I kneel down the dog will be all in my face and kicking through the clothes to get a good spot where he can sprawl out and demand belly rubs. Not the kitchen table because I’ll be interrupted so many times I’ll just give up and toss the clothes back in the basket. The kitchen is the control center and no mom is ever off duty when she’s standing in a kitchen.

So I’m taking in all this chaos- the two voices talking louder and louder over each other, the baby now shrieking happily and trying to compete, the heat in my lower back is flaring, now Rob is closing the garage door which shakes our bedroom like a freight train and I wince as Ben kicks over a pile of baby shirts that took forever to fold because of the stupid button snap closure between the legs and…and…it’s…I’m…actually I think I’m fine. This is fine. Not too long ago I would not have been at all fine with this kind of noise and urgency and demand for my attention. Maybe I would have started scolding and loudly telling them to pick up their crap, quit stomping through the laundry, maybe I would have hissed a “ssssshhhhh!!!” at them and worn the face of some twisted woman that took the place of their mother these past few months. Maybe I wouldn’t have said anything at all, maybe I’d have just left the room in fury and panic and cried in the bathroom with the door locked and lights turned off until it didn’t feel like my skin was made of bees.

Instead, I am fine.

Today they asked me for stories, and I easily launched into one of my long, drawn out tales about the way a young sailor fell in love with a girl named Ellen and all because of that you and me are here to have this conversation right now, and that’s why I tell you that love is the most important thing you can do. Because even though the magic in stories isn’t real, the magic in love is real. Every time you feel that sunny golden feeling in your belly and your chest when you think of someone you’re stirring up some magic in the world. They giggle and roll their eyes and ask for more stories, especially ones about when they were babies and especially ones that involve them hitting each other or eating things that aren’t food. Anything to do with pooping or peeing is a comedy goldmine. So I’m telling ridiculous stories and they’re rolling on the floor laughing and I catch this look that passes over Ben’s face. It disappears so quickly I barely have time to register it because he’s back to laughing now and my story is getting to the really good part where I do funny voices and imitations of them and the people we know. Later after they’ve had a snack and I plop them in front of the TV like a good mother, I find that I’m still bothered by the look he gave me. I still can’t quite figure out what he was feeling when he was looking at me.

Until I do.

It was apprehension.

Oh god it stung to realize it, and stings again to write it out. I told Rob about it that night and had to cover my face with my hands when I sputtered out “apprehension”.

There have been more than a few instances lately, since I’ve started taking antidepressants again, where I’m suddenly aware of how much better I’m doing. Sometimes it’s subtle, like with the kids when there’s too much noise and activity and needing me and I start to prepare myself for when I inevitably go to pieces, and then realize that I’m handling everything just fine. Or another time when I sat down and read when they wanted to read stories, even though the baby had just finally fallen asleep for his nap and I had so much laundry to do and the kitchen was a wreck and someone had pissed all over the downstairs bathroom. Again. Somehow, I wasn’t hyperventilating and sweating through my clothes and snapping at them, I was just a normal, boring person.

That look, though.

Had I disappeared so much into my illness that I made them unsure of me? Does it seem to them like I’m pretending to be happy now? Am I pretending?

I’ve never been so depressed and anxious as I was during my pregnancy, and so I’ve never been through this version of recovery. Each realization of how well I’m doing is bound to a memory of how bad it really was; relief and regret twisting into each other and forming some new feeling that I can’t recognize or name. It sits with me as I clumsily try and put the pieces of our lives where I think they should go, but I doubt myself and worry that I’m not better, that maybe I never will be. Maybe in a year I’ll look back at my journals and think of how grateful I am to not be that person anymore, the way I’m already looking back on whoever I was when I scrawled out HELP HELP HELP HELP HELP over a full page in my notebook last fall.

So.

I’m working on trust. If any of this is going to work, I have to learn how to trust myself. I am moving forward, and even though some of my memories are dark and scary I will drag them along with me. I will trip over them as I’m climbing out of this pit and throw them on the growing pile behind me. Maybe one day I will be able to rest enough to sit down and unpack each of them and decide what has enough value to stay, and what should be tossed for good. I don’t know how long I’ll take medication, or if I’ll start slipping and need to start up again once I’ve stopped. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I already know that I’m well enough to be looked at with apprehension and not drown in the shame of it.

I am about midway between miserable and the electric slide. I’m fine.

I am fine.

 

 

Everyone On the Internet Should Shut Up, Except for Me

Nearly everything I read on the internet drives me fucking crazy. Now that I’m a “stay at home mom”, in addition to being thousands of miles away from friends and family and being in a one-car family, I find that more and more often the internet is my only window into the outside world. I never prepared to be a stay at home mom, I have no idea what I’m doing and probably won’t for awhile. I don’t consider myself a SAHM as career choice or anything, it’s just how things worked out at this point in our lives. For a long time, I was a working mom. I did the 9-5 thing and my life was a bit like a commercial for some crappy frozen food product- harried woman in a business suit tripping over the dog while getting wrapped up in the phone cord (never mind the fact that people haven’t used corded phones in over a decade) and children running around with finger paint smeared on them. I don’t really claim membership to either group, the working moms or the house elves, I just consider myself to be a person that is existing in this family and doing whatever is necessary. I didn’t realize, until the internet told me I guess, that other people don’t really view it this way.

I feel rather silly taking offense to anything written about what moms should do or who they should be or how they should feel, because none of that has any actual bearing on my life. Still though, sometimes I read something so irritating that I would just like to get a megaphone and tell the rest of the world to PLEASE SHUT THE FUCK UP. This is one of those times.

http://www.xojane.com/issues/being-a-stay-at-home-mom-is-not-a-job

I came across this essay by way of Facebook promotion and even though I knew it would piss me off, I still read it. To summarize, the author has heard some people refer to stay at home parenting as a job. She has ignored the hyperbole in this statement and run with the idea that she needs to set the record straight about how whiny, entitled and privileged stay at home parents are. This is a really unique viewpoint, as most people in our society view stay at home parents, mothers in particular, with the utmost respect and admiration. This is author is very brave to come out and put stay at home moms in their place.

Listen, dumbass, nobody is claiming that being a parent that doesn’t work outside of the home is the same thing as a job. I, for example, am well fucking aware that my contributions do not earn a pay check. I am also well fucking aware that if I were to take advantage of any job opportunities in my current area, the cost of childcare would be far, far more that whatever money I’d bring home. At this point in our lives, this is the arrangement that makes sense for our family. You know what else? I can complain about it if I want to. I can complain about it A LOT even! And I don’t really give a shit if you had a wonderful, blissful experience as a SAHM and think nobody else should frown once they’ve had children. This opinion piece is made even more annoying by the fact that she peppers in some anecdotes about her struggles, as if to say “Well I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and so should you!” A white, college educated woman has a surprise pregnancy, oh dear! She did the responsible thing and worked part time, while her mother provided FREE CHILDCARE, and once her husband got a better paying position they were able to stop using WIC benefits. Hallelujah! You skimmed the surface of the cycle of poverty. All of you, Caucasian, able bodied and educated, just made it out by the skin of your teeth. Now you can write an essay on a click-bait heavy website about how you know all there is to know about parenting so the rest of us sad sacks can learn to stop complaining.

Bull fucking shit.

Life is hard. Period. I don’t need to clock a certain amount of billable hours to get permission to be able to feel a certain way about my own goddamn life. It’s attitudes like this that make it almost impossible to imagine things ever changing in this country. It’s as if we don’t care about people at all. The work of caregivers is extremely valuable and necessary, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Not so long as the elderly need caring for or families need raising. I’m not so naive to think that a few policy changes would solve everything, but universal health care, state run daycare and a generous maternity leave policy would go a long way. A society that is well cared for and supported will put that effort back into itself. Valuing families and our collective human experience is a beautiful and noble endeavor- and it gets chalked up to welfare or handouts whenever it’s discussed in the public sphere. Mothers that stay home out of necessity are called lazy and entitled when they dare to want something more for themselves. Mothers that work out of the home are criticized for abandoning their precious babies. Fathers are barely even mentioned, but that’s another can of worms that my little heart can’t bear to open right now. There is no such thing as having it all. There are just people working with whatever circumstances they’ve got. I think you have to be a special kind of insecure asshole to write an essay like that to basically reassure yourself that you’ve got it all figured out. “I don’t experience this problem, therefore it doesn’t exist.”

I can make blanket statements, too! Like this: everyone is fine and figuring it out on their own terms. Please shut the fuck up.

On Being a Witness

I’m living an introvert’s dream right now. I quit my job, moved a million miles from home, and interact with people mostly at predetermined times via video chat or text. In some ways it’s great, because all of my anxiety about getting kids out the door and to a place on time has disappeared overnight. Nobody needs to wear pants for Gchat, you know? One of my biggest flaws-of which there are many, trust me- is letting people down. I can’t let you down if you can’t find me! 

Of course, that’s a candy coated version of things. As annoying as unannounced visits are, I wouldn’t totally mind one right now from a familiar face. It was really nice to be able to go home and visit for a few weeks- definitely an unexpected vacation and exactly what I needed. I drive myself a little crazy if left to my own devices for too long., 

People kept remarking on my calmness when I was home- this is not something that’s ever happened to me. I’m never calm. I may be quiet, especially in larger groups, but I’m never actually calm. I think all this time away from my (former) everyday life, and the stressors that came with it, has done some good for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still raise my voice with my kids way more than I’d like to admit, but I’m no longer seconds away from imploding every waking moment. Thoughts like, “What will they think?” or “God this is so embarrassing” don’t really cross my mind anymore when my kids are, well, behaving like kids. This is mainly because there’s nobody around to “mold” my children for. When there are people around, like when we’re in the grocery store or if a relative of Rob’s is over our house (which to be honest has only happened three times total) I’ve found that I’m more able to roll with it and see these little moments in our day as part of something larger. 

When I was working full time I tried to squeeze as much as I could into the last hours of the day- all the bonding, parenting, disciplining, crafting, teaching and snuggling that I felt I was missing out on during the rest of the day. I was really only setting myself up to fail. Even while I was unemployed and still living in Massachusetts, before we moved, I was still a ball of stress- trying to figure out our days and plan everything in a way that would somehow make everything feel right. I looked at being a stay-at-home-mom as a job, with measurable results and a task list that I measured myself against. Once again, setting myself up to fail. We were constantly stressed about money, Rob was still working most of the day and late into the night. I had no idea what to do with myself and my kids and would waste so much time preparing activities and cleaning and cooking “for fun” and trying to force…something. 

We moved here to Texas just as summer was starting. I found out I was pregnant again. I was nauseated and groggy and homesick and trying to put a house together and get my bearings and something had to give. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to consciously hold your breath, your body will take over and force itself to breathe. Much in the same way, my mind took me over and forced me into stillness. I’ve always struggled with anxiety, and anyone with anxiety will tell you that depression lurks beneath that. With all the drastic changes in my life, both the chaos that comes with a cross country move and the hormonal roller coaster of pregnancy, I easily slipped into a bout of depression that I’m still working my way out of. It certainly didn’t help matters that I stopped taking my daily medication for depression and ADD- due in part to the pregnancy and in part to health insurance issues. It was the imperfect storm.

So I’ve spent these past months in near solitude, thinking, thinking, thinking. Sometimes wallowing, sometimes reflecting, sometimes raging. Sometimes nothing. It would be irresponsible to label mental illness as a good thing, but the perspective one can gain when one is slowly emerging from a rabbit hole can be beneficial. It has been in the past for me, and this time around it’s happened again. I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be, but I’m getting better. I’m gentler with myself, with my kids, with my life. I’m realizing that doing things doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve accomplished anything, and at the same time that by not doing things I can accomplish a whole lot. 

I’ve spent a good bit of time trolling around the internet during this quiet summer. There’s never any shortage of news or outrage or tragedy, lately it seems like the world is barreling toward something more awful than we can imagine at a breakneck pace. Have things always been this bad? Is it just that we know more now because of the internet? Isn’t it worse then, that we are so connected and aware and still totally incapable of saving humanity from itself? All summer I’ve been reading articles and commentary and “liking” things (as if that’s an action in itself?) and I’ve been doing the strangest thing- I’ll start writing a comment or response or even a blog post, paragraphs of text even, and then I just delete it and close my computer and walk away. There’s a voice inside inside of me that stops me in my Clever Internet Commentator tracks and just quiets my mind again. ‘Shush now’ I seem to be telling myself ‘You’re still observing. You’re still in hiding.’

Even if I were to just write whatever the hell on a random think piece on Ferguson, or respond to a fellow mom’s questions about breastfeeding in public, or craft some clever response to an article about climate change it wouldn’t actually do anything or mean anything. I knew that already, but it never stopped me before when I had something to say. I still have plenty to say, but I’m a weird new place where my only job is listening and learning. 

In one conversation, or maybe it was something she wrote down and I read once, a friend told me that there is something powerful in bearing witness. I heard what she said at the time, thinking she was being kind and letting me off the hook for some inaction or inability to speak, but I never really let it resonate with me until recently. There is something powerful in bearing witness. I have not escaped the feeling that I ought to be doing more, whether it’s more for social justice or more cooking from scratch or more to end (me, personally!) global warming and the crisis in Iraq and Gaza or more crafts and lesson plans for my kids who just want to play. No, I have not escaped that feeling, I don’t think I ever will. I don’t think that’s really a bad thing either. 

I’ve just made room for bearing witness. I’ve let myself see, and only see, the world unfolding around me. Instead of being paralyzed by my guilt and inaction, I’m just letting my role be that of a quiet observer. I’ve learned more about myself in these past few months than I ever have by reading self help books or parenting blogs or signing petitions or lending my voice to a cacophony of other voices with smarter and more eloquent things to say than I ever did. There is more to be accomplished by sitting still and listening, more forgiveness and compassion in that small action, both for myself and for everyone else, than I ever knew. 

If you have the time, I really recommend sitting on your couch and doing nothing for a few weeks. It might feel terrible at first but that gives way to some pretty OK feelings. And then magically your writer’s block might be lifted. I don’t want to scare it back into hiding by saying anything more, but you may have noticed that I’ve just written quite a few words and only deleted a quarter of what I wanted to say. 

 

What Texas Looks Like So Far Pt.2

Well, I’ll try and keep this one brief. Another picture post and a few updates are in order. It’s nearly midnight and my contacts are burning out of my face so please excuse me if this isn’t the most eloquent post. Let’s see, let’s see…what’s new?

1. We got another dog! Because I am crazy. Some part of me, some sinister, terrible part of me, was all It can’t be that hard to take care of two small children, a dog and a new puppy! Look at this cute puppy! And reader, I looked.

Lunababy

Oh my god. Stop it. I need her.

Lunaears

And so she came home with us. Each of her ears is exactly as big as her face and it’s hilarious. We got her Friday 13th, the night of the full moon, and naturally we named her Luna. She’s a Border Collie mix, with Blue Heeler I believe but it doesn’t really matter. She’s just a cutie. She’s totally insane, don’t get me wrong, but she is quite nice to look at and is a pro at cuddling. She eats dryer lint and roly poly bugs and together with Emmett has managed to destroy two inflatable pools, consecutively, and my shitty Walmart drying rack. Chew toys, the lot of them.

2. My mom and little sister came to visit! Up until this point I haven’t seen a single face that I know in nearly 3 months, so it was really nice to see them and even harder to say goodbye than it was the first time around. They were here for the destruction of one inflatable pool, but thankfully we had other cool things to do while they visited. We got an extra fancy air mattress and sheet set for our ‘guest bedroom’ (aka the playroom/landing between Ben and Isla’s rooms) so that made me feel like quite a grown up. We visited one of those drive-though ranches where the animals get right up in your grill and scare the crap out of you. We also went to the Austin Aquarium which was…I mean it was cool. But it was quite different from what I was expecting. I mean the New England Aquarium is what I’m used to, so I was sort of surprised to see that the Austin Aquarium is in a strip mall. Like I think it used to be a TJ Maxx? But they had some cool displays and a jungle gym at the end which the kids ran through happily for what seemed like hours. We also went to the Thinkery, which is the coolest children’s museum I’ve ever encountered and I can’t wait to go back all year long. My mom and Alannah were curious about the local food and I proudly introduced them to Chik Fil A which is the most magical place and I can’t believe I’ve been living 27 years without  ever having tried this stuff. The fast food situation in Texas is crazy good. We went to Whattaburger and they BRING YOUR FOOD TO THE TABLE. And they wear little condiment trays like Vegas cigarette girls and are all so nice and wonderful. Anyway. Picture time!

Islaranch lanaranch Benranch

Kids, ready to see some action. I had Isla up front with me in case the zebras tried any funny business and I needed to protect her tiny face. We were going 5mph and I am only a little nervous about putting this on the internet and somehow getting myself arrested for breaking car seat laws. No rules on safari!

goatKeep it moving, pal.

nopegoatsThey had us surrounded

nopecowThe dreaded Nope Cow. It’s horns (antlers? stabbers? murdery bits?) were as wide as the car we were in. It charged right after I snapped this and we all were screaming and sped up to get away.

BengoatBenny got to play with this baby goat. Outside the frame are roughly 60 other goats who are not very well mannered, to say the least.

BenLanaTh BenIslacrank kidspaint Benname

 

Water play and painting at the Thinkery. Super cool and lots of fun. They were all soaked within 5 minutes of us arriving and were all very happy.

Islacooking Islalitebrite

Isla playing in the kitchen/grocery store area, and again in the dark room with a gigantic light table.

lastday4 lastday lastday2 lastday3

OK Ben, you don’t have to smile.

3. Nothing really else is going on. We spend our days doing pretty much the same thing over and over, and having little adventures here and there. It is hot as balls here, pardon my American, so we have to make do with staying indoors a lot of the time (which is fine with me because I am really not a summer-loving kind of person SHOCKING I KNOW). Here are some random pictures that have nothing to do with each other:

IslasprinklesIsla found a jar of sprinkles in the cabinet and is seen here swallowing the evidence. I took a picture instead of taking the sprinkles because I’m a good mom.

dogbowlselfieBen’s dog-bowl selfie. He takes a lot of selfies. Like…too many. My whole photo library is made up of close up images of his face and 5 second videos of him loudly singing “Treasure” by Bruno Mars.

lavenderLavender on my front step! Whoever lived here before me also planted tons of roses in the back. I love that person, whoever they are.

kidsyard kidsyard2 kidsyard3

Here are my kids being cute in the back yard.

drivein

Here they are again being cute in the back of our car at the drive in. They have those down here! Some dude in a cowboy hat was pissy with us because his enormous Dodge Ram truck with a lift kit wasn’t tall enough, apparently, to see over our Ford Edge. Really. No, really. He drove a monster truck to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 and we just went and ruined it for him.

kidsbed

They climb into my bed every night while I’m sleeping and I wake up in a tangle of limbs and hot breath in my face. Somehow I was sleeping in that small white square before I woke up, looked around me, and decided to take a picture for proof. This morning Isla was sleeping on my face, on my actual face, and Ben was sideways with his feet flat against my back kicking as hard as he could.

Good thing I still have that blow up mattress in the guest room.

bikes It was 100 degrees so we got to ride bikes in the living room!

 

The end.

 

 

What Texas Looks Like So Far

We’ve made some major changes in the last few weeks, to put it mildly. We made the decision to move almost two thousand miles from Massachusetts to Texas, and from the moment we made the decision to the moment we actually got on the plane, we had a little less than a month to get it done. Now that we’ve been here for a bit and the dust is beginning to settle, I’m trying to set up this blog so family and friends can see pictures and read about what the kids are up to. Phone calls and video calls can only do so much- I think, after a time, trying to condense a relationship into a call (even a long one) just won’t work. The details of daily life get lost, and those are the ones you need to really feel connected. At the moment I’m a ‘stay at home mom’ with two small kids under 4 years old, living in a strange place essentially on my own, and I don’t have time or the energy honestly to even shower some days, let alone catalog all the crafts, homemade meals and life lessons that I am decidedly NOT managing to partake in with said children every day. But I will try! I think this one ought to be a picture post, since their faces are what people miss the most. You’ll have to tolerate my rambling for a bit before you get to the good stuff.

Things of note so far:

1. Isla tripped over a moving box and broke her fall with her face. Her front tooth is chipped but it’s OK and a pediatric dentist that was kind enough to call me back after I left frantic messages at offices all over the state (because it was a Saturday and dentists don’t do weekends) assured me that this happens in his practice several times a week. He told me what to look out for, how to care for it while we wait for offices to open up, and that she is in considerably less pain than an adult would be if they had broken their front tooth. This was a huge relief because I smashed my front tooth to bits when I tried to take a “sip” out of a glass bottle once-upon-a-party, and the pain was so intense that I’m nauseated even now just thinking about it. Isla, however, seems fine. Well, she did seem fine until this weekend when her other front tooth turned grey. Now she has one smashed tooth and one dark tooth and I am officially the worst parent in the world. Google assures me that this happens with baby teeth after a trauma, and it’s more like a bruise and baby teeth will lighten up in a few weeks. Unless it doesn’t, in which case we may have to have it pulled or get her a baby root canal, which sounds awesome, made Even More Awesome by the fact that she’d have to be sedated. But she’d have to be sedated to have her chipped tooth fixed anyway, so I’m squarely back in the worst parent in the world position.

2. We cut Ben’s mop of hair, then cut it again, then finally we buzzed it. It’s hot here. I don’t think I made myself clear. IT IS SO HOT HERE. I used clippers and what do you know, 4 year old boys don’t stay perfectly still while their amateur hairstylist moms wield buzzing razors of death next to their heads. Every time he ducked and shook and dodged I cut a little shorter, then shorter still, and finally his hair looked so stupid I called Rob into the bathroom to just fix it please for the love of god, and that’s how my kid ended up bald. With a “stripe”, which was Ben’s idea. He also had a nightmare about the clippers chopping his arm off and told me we can never cut any of his hairs ever again.

3. We got a dog! His name is Emmett and he’s 6 months old, which I believe to be shelter-speak for at least 1 year old but very skinny. He’s a Queensland Shepherd mix (we think with lab) and he’s a sweetie. Already housebroken and trained (somewhat) and totally, head over heels in love with Rob. Like he follows him from room to room, sleeps under the bed on Rob’s side, lays down at his feet whenever or wherever he sits down, and generally stares at him in doggy wonder. It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. He likes me too, and when Rob is at work Emmett follows me around instead. He’s sitting on the floor next to me as I type this, and I’m pretending not to see him eating one of the kids stuffed animals because…well whatever. He listens right away when we give him commands but he still gets a little sneaky sometimes. I caught him on the couch this morning and I said, “Emmett” in the dog-owner voice which I am now allowed to use, and his face was so guilty I could hardly contain my laughter. Another time I caught him with my slipper and he heard me walking behind him, jumped up like an embarassed little kid and trotted the slipper over to me with this look like, “Uh…I found this? Yes. Found this for you. Wasn’t eating it. Here you go BYE!” and then ran to the kitchen. I like to think he was just really well trained and not shouted at all the time, because he seems to know when he’s doing something “bad” and then gets really nervous and weird when he’s caught. Poor nugget. We haven’t heard him bark even once.

4. I have fixed and built so many things with tools I feel like Rosie the Riveter on steroids. Our washing machine broke after the first few days and we couldn’t figure out what the hell happened. So I took it apart like some kind of NASA scientist and inspected all the hoses and whatnot down there and I found an allen wrench lodged inside the drain pump. I guess it’s common for coins or baby socks or small stuff like that to get in there and it prevents your washer from draining, which then confuses the crap out of it the next time you go to wash something and it will just sit on the “sensing” stage of the wash cycle forever because your tiny load of clothes weighs 45 lbs when there’s a crap ton of water logged in there. Anyway, I fixed it with tools and I’m a goddamn genius. Only thing is, we can’t plug our dryer into the outlet here, and we can’t get an adapter without risking massive explosions and fires (my interpretation anyway) and we’d have to have an electrician rewire all that business back there. I’m not about to attempt that, and if Rob attempts it I will hit him with a frying pan before he kills us all, and so in compromise I’ve been ‘drying’ our clothes on a rack outside. Our backyard is a hill, so the rack doesn’t stand up at all, and the clothes just fall all over the place and the bugs get on them and my towels are SO FREAKING CRUNCHY that I don’t even want to bathe so I can avoid using them all together. I’m not all that great at being a pioneer woman, turns out.

And now, pictures.

Islaplane Benplane

Here are the kids on their first flight ever. They were both 100% fine and I was so relieved.

mamaplane

I was also nauseated, terrified, exhausted, and convinced we were about to die. Rob was kind enough to take a picture. I had a horrible sinus infection as well and when we started to descend my whole entire face started popping, instead of just my ears. I had no idea what was going on and thought my eyeballs were going to explode out of my head. It.hurt.so.much. Did I mention I hate flying?

rainbow

A double rainbow at our front door to greet us!

BenMD IslaMD

This is how I woke up on Mother’s Day

Islatarget

This is how my kid acted in Target on Mother’s Day

Islawindow

It was OK because she’s beautiful

kidsanddog kidsanddog2

We have a dog! Now I have another blurry subject to add to my photos.

Islayard

Isla and Emmett running in the yard

Benreading

Ben reading the bedtime stories. He’s starting to sound out simple words and I just cry and cry. C-A-T.

kidstable

Greetings from the Cookie Break room!

 

You Better Not Pout

Christmas 2013

I’ve got absolutely nothing to say. I think that’s why I haven’t been writing- a heavy combination of fear and shame is the main contributor, but then there is of course the boring realization that I don’t actually know anything. Or know enough of anything to warrant writing about it.

Must be why I used to write so much when I was younger, when I was smart and new.

Things look so much neater when you’re young and seeing them for the first time. The layers of life haven’t yet presented themselves to you. The way it’s supposed to go, you shed your childhood slowly and with great support and care. A well adjusted adult should emerge. What I never realized is that ‘well adjusted’ implies- requires- a common experience or understanding to which adults must adjust.

Raising children we are constantly reminded to care for the adult that our tiny person will one day become. We need to give them the tools to cope with disappointment, the self assurance to make their own decisions, the resilience to try again when they fail. The examples in the parenting books are usually about something stupid like a cookie. Stay firm if your kid wants a cookie after you’ve told him no. This will teach him…something. Or stay firm when your kid is grounded but wants to go out somewhere with his friends. This will teach him…something.

Is it the collection of these mini-lessons that are supposed to prepare children for being well-adjusted adults? Human beings well prepared in advance for the boring, monotonous, disappointing grind that is every day life? Give them a taste of how shitty things really are, but still protect them for the most part, and hopefully if you do your job right they’re going to be adults who are ready for the onslaught of HARD SHIT for the rest of their lives. “Surprise!” you’ll get to say once they reach maturity, “Life is terrible! Surprise! Welcome to adulthood!”

Christmas really knocked me on my ass this year. I’m twenty seven years old and this is the first Christmas I remember as entirely without magic. Maybe it was just the perfect combination of circumstances, but it wasn’t just a shitty Christmas. It wasn’t just that we have no money and our kids were driving us fucking crazy for the weeks and days and hours leading up to the big reveal. It wasn’t that we’re tired and stressed out and under/over medicated depending on the time of day, disconnected, unsure of our future, hiding secrets from each other. It wasn’t just that I’ve been unemployed for 6 months and have possibly started the decline into senility a little early. It wasn’t just that the shadow of depression feeds itself with the cold, blank days of the winter months and gets a little stronger each morning before I peel my eyes open.

I don’t know what it was, really. Maybe if I did I’d be able to find a way to prevent it from happening next year, but I think this was one of those shitty adult experiences where a layer of life reveals itself to you and you can’t ever go back no matter how hard your try. Every day it seems I learn a little bit more about how little I know of life.

The myth of Santa Claus feels empty and strange to me; I don’t like pretending for my kids. I don’t know how I’m going to get out of that lie when they get older and figure it out. I never believed in Santa when I was a kid so I don’t know about the great disappointment of finding out he doesn’t exist. I imagine its a lot like finding out god doesn’t exist. I don’t like the idea of threatening lumps of coal or reminding kids to behave because ‘Santa is watching’. How about you behave because your mother is watching? You better not cry, you better not pout… because I make your meals and sing you to sleep and decide whether you can have Berry Berry Kix so you better recognize my power here. FUCK SANTA. Let’s not forget the fact that your parents are the ones buying and wrapping all your gifts anyway. We’re the pupeteers. And we somehow orchestrated that shit so that we extend the most effort, get none of the recognition, and then abdicate our role as Decider of Who is Naughty and Nice to a MADE UP CHARACTER whose influence on our kids’ year lasts for ONE morning out of their entire year.

Does Santa stab himself with meat scissors trying to pry the zip tie labrynth off of a Spiderman toy? Does Santa have to pull idiot children with no understanding of physics out of a fake tree from Target before it topples on them? Does Santa have to ball up the wrapping paper and pop an Ativan to keep from having a panic attack about landfills after the bloodbath is over?

No, that’s the realm of the puppeteers. What a curious and noble task we have. We pretend everything for them, rush around throwing tinsel in their paths so they’ll be well adjusted when they reach adulthood. Well adjusted enough, at least, to continue pretending for their own children without having a mental breakdown over it.

 

I have no religious connection to the holiday, half my family doesn’t celebrate it, the other half is a family that I am barely a part of. I thought I already knew that but the gift of adulthood just keeps giving, and every year I gain a little more wisdom about my place in this world and my meaning to the people around me. I was so acutely aware of it this year. I wasn’t a child, so forget the magic. I wasn’t a teenager, so forget the eye-rolling and secret excitement over giftcards, I wasn’t a mother of a newborn so forget the singular focus of my attention and lack of awareness.

No, suddenly I was just a regular adult at the family holiday party, experiencing it as if for the frst time. My kids are big enough to only barely need me in a situation like this. I’m expected to talk and be friendly and ask thoughtful questions and all those things that ladies do. I found myself at the kitchen island and felt so much discomfort I nearly cried. I would have welcomed the burning awkwardness of being a teenager at that moment, I would have loved to be gawky and weird and coltish, for an aunt or uncle to put their arm around me and ask me about how school was doing, tell me how big I was getting. Anything but this…blankness.

A secret club I found myself in,standing around a platter of appetizers. Each of us sighing and smiling in the same forced way whenever a kid whizzed by. “So cute” someone would say, and we’d nod, and then get back to sort of staring at our hands. We don’t know each other. Or rather, I don’t know them. It’s ok when you’re a kid, you’re blameless for how often your see your family. But now that I’m an adult it’s my fault that I don’t know any of them? I’m like some kind of monster for not knowing what anyone does for a living and for never having visited my Grammie at her new apartment in the assisted living place.

I kind of don’t want to make it better. I kind of don’t care. I mean I care, of course, but I’m just being realistic about it- it’s too late to forge some lasting bond with all these aunts and uncles that I grew up having but not knowing- I can’t fabricate a history and closeness that was never there. It just…it is what it is.

And what it is is fucking sad. So I had to get the hell out of there.

And Christmas as a whole is just like that I realized. It’s not something real and tangible. It’s not that I’m too old now to feel the “Christmas magic”, it’s that there was never any magic to begin with, and now I’m expected to pretend along with all the other grown ups that we’re all so happy and excited and the kids should be, too.

Being unemployed, I first felt so disappointed and confused about what I was supposed to be doing. My main concern was figuring out what sort of career I should get myself into, since my first go at office life didn’t pan out. I was sort of enthusiastic about figuring it out, if I am remembering correctly, but that feels really embarassing so I don’t want to believe that I was. Sort of like remembering myself believing in Santa. The more time went by the more the layers fell away and the bleakness revealed itself. It doesn’t actually matter what ‘career’ I go with, or what I think is going to make me happy. There isn’t even really a ‘happy’ but more of an adequate distraction of sorts that we shoot for to keep ourselves from realizing how deep the nothingness of our minds can really stretch.

How there is no amount of small disappointments our well meaning parents can expose us to; no cold, dark lake they can carefully observe us dipping our excitedly wiggling toes into that will prepare us for the adjustment of being totally submerged in an instant. In the same instant we’re realizing that we now have to trick our own children along with us, smiling calmly and reassuring them that everything is going to be OK, beckoning for them to follow and trying our desperate best to swim without flailing or fumbling or getting winded so they don’t get scared. And if we fail it can never be undone- if we pull them in too fast they can’t ever go back, and if we desert them in their childhood while we drown it sets off a chain of mal-adjusted people falling off a cliff after us as if shackled by their own DNA. Like they’re following a trail of Christmas cookie crumbs and SAT scores and low interest rates while we cackle and weep from above trying to pull the strings just right so they only drown a little bit when they fall.