Don’t Be Fooled, This Is Not A Real Blog Post

You know when comic actors try out indie roles so people take them seriously? I feel like that is where I am right now. These past few weeks, I’ve been working on some very research heavy articles that I hope see the light of day (honestly, you can never be sure).

I’m really excited about the opportunities. But it’s also meant that I’ve spent every possible moment on work. Which means that E has taken to washing the windows with tissues as a fun game she likes to play called, “Mommy is neglecting the housekeeping and me.”

And I just changed a diaper from JQ that had an obscene amount of glitter in it, but I honestly don’t even care where it came from because he is happy and hasn’t tried to stab anyone in at least 20 minutes.

Also, we’ve all been sick and every night I soothe my guilty conscience with a serving of Nyquil and denial. “I’m fine. We can do this. My kids are okay.”

I also tried to do a week of no TV, because I hate myself. But that all went out the window on Thursday, when I had an interview for an article and everyone was sick. So, it was just like, please watch the “Octonauts” and don’t scream while mommy is a professional.

And then Dave came home and was like, “Have you heard about Yemen?” And I was like, “Have you heard about me not taking a shower in five days?!” And then, I became a stereotype.

I know. Whine. Whine. Whine. We all have kids (maybe, if not, you do you, no pressure). We all make choices, this is where our choices bring us. And that is right. It’s just that lately, my choices seem to bring me to the end of the night mainlining cake and Nyquil.

Also, Dave thinks “selfies” are pictures that other people take of you.  When he asked me if I wanted him to take a selfie on our date night, I was like, “Yes, I want to see you take a selfie.” Then he took a picture of me and I was all, “SON, DO YOU EVEN MILLENIAL!?” It’s clear Dave has been born in the wrong time. He also wants me to tell you to get off his lawn.

Also, my dear, dear neighbors are moving and I think I might be an emotional mess about this. BECAUSE IT’S ALL ABOUT ME.

LyzyLiberty

So in lieu of any intelligent thing being said on this site, I give you links to other things I’ve written lately that you may like.

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Here are a couple of my Mom.me posts: 5 Things I Didn’t Expect About Having Two Kids–Like enjoying their mutual pain and tandem time outs. Ranting about maternity leave v. paternity leave

And I have a kind of semi-regular thing on Jezebel, which I’m acting all casual about, but really I’ve pooped myself maybe five times. So here is a second installment about the lady who gave birth to 365 babies at once.

Also, the inestimable Jane Marie launched a new beauty site called Millihelen. I may be writing a kind of sciencey feature for her over there. Unless it gets cut, then forget I said anything. But the site launches Monday, so look forward to that.

I did not write this. But it’s a great look at the childcare problem in the US, which is relevant to all people with children or not.

Women and body hair. So fascinating.

This Was Your 2014 On Facebook

This was originally published in the Cedar Rapids Gazette in my column Pants-free Parenting.

meandkids

I opened up Facebook and saw, “This was your year!” I clicked on the picture of me, one I had posted in April. It was a picture of me at 10, with my giant purple, plastic framed glasses. A sundress with a lace Peter Pan collar and a hat, I had decorated myself with rosettes made of purple tulle. I’m bony, my teeth stick out at so many varying angles it would make Euclid cry.

That awkward picture of me is the most honest picture of the group. The rest that Facebook used to curate my year, were all pictures of my children smiling or engaged in charming activities like dancing, sleeping or “getting along.” The pictures of my husband and I show us smiling, no bags under our eyes. No exhausted elbow jabs. No you change the poopy diaper.

I appreciate Facebook’s attempt at giving me nostalgia. But it’s dishonest to call those pictures a summation of my year.  In fact, I’ve scrolled through a lot of those year in review photo collections and they are all just a bunch of hogwash. They are just the sunny, perfect pictures we share to hide the grim realities of the rest of the year. And we all curate, we are all complicit in this game of showcasing who we want to be, rather than who we are.  But I won’t do it. I won’t share those pictures. I won’t pretend that my year was just happy, smiling faces on vacation. Because, while I do love remembering the good times, I have a problem with forgetting everything else.

In art, the balance of dark and light is called chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro is used to give paintings a sense of volume and dimension. It’s what makes faces in paintings glow, even hundreds of years later. It’s what makes expressions come alive. Light and dark, together make a picture real. One without the other and what you get is something flat and abstract. So, with all due respect to the lighter pictures that are curated by social media, they are not an accurate reflection of anyone’s year.

For every smiling picture, there are a dozen more darker moments, unshared and unremembered. For example, this year, I didn’t get a good night’s sleep until August. This year, I learned how to disarm a baby welding a knife and that children can ingest nicotine and be fine. I scrubbed my friend’s refrigerator. I took hours cleaning the crumbs from the drawers, washing the shelves, sniffing pieces of cheese, listening to her sob in the other room—grieving the loss of her infant son. I stood for two hours in a church, feeling pain in my heart and in my knees, not knowing how I could possibly cry anymore and yet, still finding the tears. I’ve watched a dear friend leave a violent relationship. I’ve wallowed in abject failure at least a dozen times. My baby screamed at me and bit my leg. My daughter cried and called me stupid and said I hurt her feelings and she wasn’t wrong. More than once, I said things to my husband that I wish I could take back.  And I’ve had things said to me—passive aggressive remarks from disappointed family members and snide emails from people I’ve never met.

These too are not the totality of my year, but they are a part of it. And I want to remember them too, not because they are perfect, but because they are mine. They are part of me. I want to remember them because they balance the more joyful moments. They remind me why joy is joy, that life is complicated and that we are so much more than a handful of smiling, edited photos. And in our remembrance of our past, we do a disservice to ourselves in not remembering those moments too. Because it’s the dark that balances the light and dark is part of all of this too.

I hope you have a happy new year. But I also hope your year is wonderful and deep and complicated and above all, real.

I am THAT mom

The moment my infant son hit a girl in a wheelchair was the moment I knew, I am that mom. You know her, the woman who has no control over her kids. The one who is flying after a toddling little terrorist, mumbling apologies.

I was at a craft store, making some last-minute holiday purchases and made the mistake of letting my son out of the cart. By that point, he had wiggled out of the belt and was standing on the seat screaming, “All done! All done!” Frankly, I was all done as well. I don’t like craft stores and all their expectations. I always feel like a failure walking down the aisle. What do you do with 600 Popsicle sticks? I don’t know. But apparently there are a lot of people on earth who do.

My son was screaming and would rather jump head first from the cart than walk down another aisle of buttons. (Why so many buttons?) So, I let him down. He turned to run and his pathway was blocked by a really nice girl with two broken legs, being pushed by her father in a wheelchair. Frustrated by this impediment, my 17 month old baby yelled and smacked the girl in the leg. She didn’t flinch. So, I don’t think any nine-year-olds were harmed in the making of this story. Still, I was mortified. I went to grab my baby and he screamed and prostrated himself on the floor in a blind rage.

The-omen
This is not my kid. This is Damien from “The Omen.” Sometimes I think this is the look at least one or both of my children will have at my funeral. I don’t think I’m wrong.

I picked him up and he wailed louder. I apologized and tried to exit the store. Except, the lines at the registers were long.  So, I struggled to hold him while he screamed, “All done, mom! ALL DONE!” Finally, I set him down and he grabbed some candy and started shaking it like maracas. He seemed happy and since he wasn’t harming a child in a wheelchair (I know, a low bar) I let him be. The cashier stuck her head out to glare.

“Ma’am, did you know that your baby is playing with the candy?”

SO, nice of her to take time to judge me instead of, you know, hurrying up the line. This is another thing I don’t understand about craft stores: they sell a cornucopia of craft items for children, projects for children, items to give to children, and yet, they are the most child unfriendly place in the world.

“Oh wow,” I said flatly. “I had no idea. Thank you for telling me.”

I took the candy. He grabbed more. I took that. He grabbed more. I picked him up and he screamed. By now, the entire store was staring at me. It didn’t help that the father and daughter team were now in line two people behind us. I avoided eye contact. Finally, I slung my baby over my shoulder. His feet were waving in the air. He was laughing. A lady behind me said, “Oh, well now he seems happy.”

Thank you, lady.

That’s how I approached the check-out, dangling my giggling baby over my shoulder and pushing the cart with my hips.

The next day, this same child ripped a cabinet door off with his bare hands. To be fair, it was the door that accessed the garbage. So, it was his Mount Everest.

I’m beginning to realize that for the next couple of years, I should probably just never leave the house. And if I do, just know, I am that mom. No, I can’t control my child. And I really am sorry.

I Don’t Even Know

crazy

When I came to school to pick up my daughter, the teacher pulled me aside.

“Do you have a princess ring?” She asked glancing at my daughter.

I blinked. “Um no.”

“Well, she says you forgot her princess ring and she’s been upset about it all day.”

We have many princess apparel items and princess accessories, but my three-year-old owns no princess rings. Nor did she mention wanting a princess ring. Nor has she ever mentioned wanting a princess ring. I shrugged at the teacher. “Look, I have no idea what is going on.”

My daughter lives in her own world, with her own rules and her own requirements. On any given day, I am met with a list of demands and rules that constantly baffle me. No one wears black on Mondays. Princesses only drink milk at lunch. Dresses with foxes on them are only for the library. Syrup doesn’t belong on pancakes. Or on planet earth. We don’t have enough beans. Socks have to go inside out. And mom is not allowed to sing any songs that appear in the movie “Frozen.”

She declares these rules with a toss of her head and just the tiniest hint of an eyeroll. Like I should obviously know that spiders only play the tuba. DUH. How could I not know that?

I wasn’t kidding when I told the teacher I have no idea what is going on.  Because I don’t.

At school, when I fished my daughter out of a group of her friends, she smiled at me and told me that she didn’t miss me at all because she was too busy having fun. In the car, I asked her if she wanted a ring.

“What ring, mom?” She said, her eyes wide.

“Didn’t you ask your teachers for a ring?”

She shook her head and started singing a song about baby chickens who want to go to Wisconsin on vacation. Then, when we got home she asked me to pick up a giant, imaginary jewel off the ground. When I mimed picking it up, she frowned. “No, you got a baby chickie!” I went through this mimicry four times, before I gave up. “Get your own jewel,” I said.

She began sobbing. If she didn’t get the jewel she would get eaten by a Jaguar and it would be all my fault. I gave her a hug and put her down for a rest.

Sometimes, parenting feels like watching over someone who is just high on drugs all the time. Or being a nurse in a mental institution. After a while, I forget who is the sane one and who is the three year old wearing underwear on her head. Look, I don’t know much about life, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not a good idea to feed the baby dried macaroni and sequins. Rest time, is when I get to recalibrate. Remember that life is more than just chickens, jaguars and Wisconsin. So, while my daughter warbled a song from her room, I sat on the couch to try to get some reading done, but I made sure to make some room for all those baby chickies.

 

You Don’t Need To Make Christmas Magic

Gingerbreadhouse

Two weeks before Thanksgiving, it was snowing and my three-year-old turned to me and said. “It’s so beautiful! Can we make Christmas today?”

I’m usually a “No Christmas until after Thanksgiving” kind of person, but how can you turn down a three-year-old in a tutu who just thinks everything is magic? We put up the tree. The entire time, she was twirling and dancing and singing. “Oh it so beautiful!” she said every time I pulled out some cheap plastic ornament I bought from Target on clearance. “It so beautiful!”

I almost cried just because she was so happy. A scrappy, stringy little tinsel, that I bought from a garage sale seven years ago, was deemed “pixie, Christmas dust!” I let her toss it around and you would have thought that I had given her Christmas day itself.

I know things get more complicated as kids get older. There are more expectations. More pain. More hormones. More temperaments and tantrums. But right now, Christmas is so magic simply because it is. My daughter has been asking for a tuba. She’s been begging Santa and telling everyone who will listen, that all she wants is a tuba. I’ve been in the throes of anxiety about it because, well, kids tubas are hard to come by cheaply. I’m so worried I am going to disappoint her and ruin Christmas and ruing everything. But yesterday, I pulled out some dollar-store play-doh that I had hidden away for an emergency and it was an emergency. The baby was experiencing a lot of bowel pain, probably a result of sucking on the hand soap,  and I couldn’t put him down. My daughter kept saying, “Why don’t you hold me too?” So, because I couldn’t, I gave her play-doh. When she saw it, she clasped her hands over her mouth. “Is it today? Is Christmas today? OH FANK YOU! FANK YOU!”

I don’t know. Maybe this is because I don’t buy presents just because. This is not a value judgement. I just don’t usually. I am cheap. I have to budget out a new set of markers just to find the baby sucking on them two days later, so I don’t. The most I have on hand are stickers, new colored paper and maybe some watercolors. Maybe.

But just seeing how excited she was over that play-doh made me realize I was projecting on her. She will be happy with whatever. A tuba or a wooden flute. I am going to try and get a tuba-like apparatus. But I think us adults get into this trap of trying to make everything magical for our children, when it’s not necessary. The magic is already there. You just have to let it happen.

My best Christmas as a child was when I was about seven and my dad lost his job. We had no money. My parents were really struggling to keep us in our house. I’m sure they were wracked with all the worry and guilt most parents would face in that situation. What they did was they made us Pirates of Penzance marionettes and a marionette stage. It was amazing. We spent all day singing Gilbert and Sullivan and acting it out with our wooden puppets. My birthday is five days before Christmas and that year, all I got were paper dolls. And I don’t mean “All I got.” I loved paper dolls, I was estatic. Also, my dad spent the whole day with me cutting them out. As one of eight kids, that special attention was the best gift. And I remember those gifts and love them more than anything else I’ve ever been given.

I keep seeing articles about how to make Christmas special or tips and tricks for making holiday magic. But  I think that’s just us being adults. For us, the holidays are minefields of family tensions, pain, money worries and expectations. We work so hard at magic because we can’t find the magic ourselves. But to a kid, especially a little kid the Christmas magic is ubiquitous–the anticipation, the decorations, Santa–it is just there.

One of my favorite writers, Laurel Snyder, writes in Any Which Wall, “Common Magic exists in the very unmagical world you yourself inhabit. It’s full of regular-looking people, stop signs, and seemingly boring buildings. Common Magic happens to kids who have curious friends, busy parents, and vivid imaginations, and it frequently takes place during summer vacations or on rainy weekends when you aren’t allowed to leave the house. More important, it always starts with something that seems ordinary.”

Common magic, Snyder writes, only happens when you are noticing. And most people are too busy to notice. I suspect at this time of year, we are too busy making magic and stressing out about the cost of magic to just notice the magic that is already there.

I’m sure all of this gets harder the older your child gets. But right now, I’m just enjoying the beautiful little common magic singing a song about gingerbread house we made from a cheapo kit and the off-brand chocolate in the Advent calendar.

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Update: I have gotten some feedback about this post. A couple people emailed me to tell me they think it contradicts my post from last year about buying my kids all the presents. Which is a fair enough viewpoint. I (of course) don’t think they contradict. I am still buying my kids all the things they want this year. I’ll probably keep it up as long as I can, until they start asking for drones and real estate. Their wants right now are so simple. And I see getting them the things they want as part of how easy it is to make Christmas magic for them. I mean the baby wants cars and the 3yro wants drums and a play burrito. Boom. Done. I understand that the previous sentence about this being “easy” is a statement of privilege. It’s not always easy for every family. And part of Christmas for us is trying to help other families and kids have the Christmas magic that we have. We do this as a family and try our best to keep our giving private.  But as they are little, this magic of making their wishes appear is part of the magic for them and me. Bleh. I explain it better in this post. Ultimately, if you think they contradict, I respect that. I think I see this as multiple points on the curvy line of parenting.

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