Go, You

Iowa

Even though I usually run five times a week and it’s a big part of my life, I don’t write much about running. It’s hard to write about running without being annoying. Without bragging. Without saying, “Hey, I’m so awesome, I ran all these miles!”  Even if I told you about the time I peed myself during the last half mile of a race or the time I had to poop during a race, but I didn’t, and then I didn’t poop for five days and I thought I was going to die. Even then, those stories still involve talking about how I ran 13.1 miles willingly without zombies, or bears or White Walkers behind me. And all sports stories are the same–this thing was hard, I did it, go me. It’s cliche and I hate cliche.

For me, running is about the challenge, the endurance, it feeds the intensely competitive beast inside me by keeping me humble because I’m slow. But I can also compete against myself and I do. I love beating that smug Lyz of a few days ago. But in the end, running is really about justifying my deep craving for chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers.  Look, we all have our vices. Mine just happens to be fried and breaded chicken, also true crime. Also, pantslessness. Just be glad it’s not cocaine.

I also don’t write about inspiration. I am inspired a lot, by people and places and things. But I don’t write about it because again, it seems so cliche. This thing is hard. I was inspired to keep going. Go me.

I suppose in the end, it’s a matter of pride. I wish it was something esoteric that inspired me or kept me running. But it really is just cheeseburgers and someone telling me that Jane Smiley had four kids and still won a Pulitzer, so shut down Facebook and keep writing, loser.

On Sunday, I ran five miles and for the last two miles I did intervals, uphill. My legs burned and I thought I was going to puke. Part of me, thought I was really stupid. But the other part of me said keep going because nothing good ever came without pain and struggle and sometimes the worst pain is what you do to yourself.

As I was running up my last hill, Sara Bareilles’ song “Brave” came on. You know the pop song that’s been corporatized by Microsoft? It’s my own personal stance that no one should ever be judged by the contents of their workout playlist. Mine already has way more One Direction than is appropriate for a 31 year-old mother of two. That number, by the way, is two. Two songs. Also, some Britney, also a lot of Chris Brown, who I don’t like on principle, but “Drop it Low” is pretty amazing.  It’s hard to have principles when your last mile of a 10 mile run is uphill. At that point, the only principles that remain are “Don’t die. Don’t fall.”

I’ve been singing “Brave” to Ellis this year as a joke of sorts. She hates it when I sing, which isn’t different from the rest of the world. I’m pretty awful. But I sing her the song, because my little anxiety-ridden three-year-old sometimes needs that extra boost to climb a rock, slide down a slide or walk near a chicken. But when the song came on during my run, I started crying for all the stupid, cliche, reasons that I normally abhor on principle. But I was running, I couldn’t have principles. So, I gave in. And there I was–chubby white lady, tromping up a hill, with tears in her eyes because of a top 40 song.

Since February, I’ve seen some of my closest friends and family go through some deep pain–divorces, infertility, infidelity, separation, death. My friend Kristin has been writing about the death of her 11 month old son on her own blog. Someone told me that her blog was hard to read because of the pain that seeps through. And I agree. Her words are hard, but how much harder was it to write them? Did her fingers burn? Did she feel like she was going to puke?

Head down, legs burning. I think of all the people I know working so hard to crawl out of the spaces and cages they found themselves in. It’s not pretty, it’s not easy. It’s like clawing out of quicksand, pushing yourself to the light you see, which may not be daylight, but at this point it doesn’t matter. Just out. Just get out.

Maybe it’s because it’s all so complicated that easy cliche  finds meaning. And easy simple things–like saying, “I’m proud of you,” like telling your kid you are there for her as she faces  a chicken, like a silly Top 40 song that now means everything because of that moment when you heard it at the time you most needed to–sometimes those things are really important.

I tell Dave I hate sports movies because they are all the same–underdog tries hard, overcomes obstacles, wins. I think the thing that offends me so much about cliche is that it makes things seem easy–judgement, triumphs, it undercuts the specificity of what makes our lives individual and our pain so contextual. But sports movies are timeless for a reason, cliche sometimes happens because it’s true, because everyday we all feel like underdogs, trying hard, overcoming obstacles, and will we win? I don’t really know. I hope so.

After I came home from my run, I was pretty sure, I was going to have my period or that I needed to pee on a stick. I’m usually a rock and an island. Embracing cliche and crying from it? That’s what old ladies do! But maybe old ladies are soft because they realize that life is too hard, if you don’t cry every once in a while, you’ll never get it all out.

So, here is a song for you. I hope you ugly cry at your computer. At least then, I won’t be alone.

If The Red Woman Had A Mom Blog

Basically, if you watch Game of Thrones (and I do), you’ve realized it’s just one big giant lesson in parenting. Like if you don’t want to raise a sadistic killer, maybe don’t have him be the spoiled offspring of incest. My friend Tom noted that if Catelyn Stark had a parenting book it would be Battle Hymn of a Direwolf Mother.

I proposed that Cersi’s manifesto would be What to Expect When You’re Expecting Your Brother’s Baby and Lysa Aryn’s would be The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding Until He’s 15. At this point, Tom stopped talking to me and blocked me on Twitter.

But no one encompasses motherhood in the way that The Red Woman, Melisandre, does.

game-of-thrones-melisandre-releases-new-song-particle-of-light

I mean, she gave birth med-free in a tunnel. I bet she totally shops at Whole Foods too. Anyway, I figured she has a parenting blog titled Raising Ghost Demons, and here are some titles of her last few posts.

-The Night is Dark and Full of Terror: How I Sleep-Trained My Ghost Demon

-I Gave Birth Med-Free In a Tunnel and You Can Too

-How to Use Fire to Potty Train

-Breast is Best: Why I Breastfed My Ghost Demon Until the Age of 5

-Why is Everyone Stealing My Ghost Demon Name?

-What Do You Do When Your Ghost Demon Commits Regicide?

-Are Toy Swords Ever Okay?

-How to Apply Leaches in 10 Easy Steps

-How to Get Your Body Back After Birthing a Ghost Demon

-What Happened When I Let My Ghost Demon Wear a Pink Headband at Wal-Mart

-An Open Letter to the Mom Who Judged My Ghost Demon at the Grocery Store for Assassinating the Cashier

Mother’s Day Gifts For The Mother Of Dragons

daenerys-targaryen-and-her-dragon-45797_w650

The slow and painful death of her enemies.

An iron throne.

Some ships.

A coupon for free dragon sitting.

A Dyson.

Avenge the murder of her family.

Just for once, for people to free their ownselves.

A gift card to the salon for a root touch up.

A day without everyone breathing fire all over each other, is that too much to ask? Honestly.

Me Judging Fictional Moms

Mom

The Mom from the Cat in the Hat

Well, sure. Who can expect a cat wearing a hat and playing with his *grasps pearls* things to show up while you’re out running errands? But I would never leave my babies alone, even if I needed my polka dot dress tailored. Sure, the fish was there. But a fish is hardly responsible. They only have like a six second memory, which is three seconds longer than my own mother’s. But still. It’s the principle of the matter.  Also, I never knew a cat could have two things. What perversion is that? I hope she’s getting that boy and Sally the help they need.

The Mom From Where the Wild Things Are

I personally love my children and I would never send them to bed without supper. Especially if all they said was, “I’ll eat you up.” I mean, what does she expect from letting her kid run around and wear a wolf suit all day? Does she even wash it? Tammy saw her and Max at Target and she said he stunk like he hadn’t had a bath in and out of days and over a year.

Mom from I’ll Love You Forever

Cut the cord, Margery. Geez. I’m surprised your kid didn’t call the cops on you. That’s not love. That’s called stalking. And frankly we all feel a little weird about it.

The Mom From Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

Buy your kid some damn toys and maybe he won’t turn into a freaking rock.

The Mom from Good Night Moon

If my kid called me an “old lady” I’d choke him with that red balloon and show him who’s boss.

The Mom of the Caterpillar in The Hungry Caterpillar

Personally, I’d never let my kid gorge himself on snacks like that. In the real world, you don’t become a butterfly when you are obese, you become a reality show.

The Mom in Blueberries for Sal

It’s great she’s into canning, but it’s pretty irresponsible of her to let her kid just eat blueberries without washing them. Lord only knows what animal peed on them before Sal put them in her mouth. Also, why didn’t she teach that child proper procedure for meeting a bear. You are supposed to play dead. Although, with that skin tone maybe the bear thought Sal was already dead. And why did she name her kid Sal? You can’t be supreme court justice with that name. The best she’ll be able to do is play on a hockey team in Ontario with that name.

9 Questions I Have for the Creators of “Dinosaur Train”

Previously in this series: “Curious George: What The Hell?”

DinosaurTrain-300x273

 

1. Um, what the actual hell is going on in this show? You expect me to believe that there is a train that is supposedly built by an entire species with arms that are too short and a lack of opposable thumbs? And this train is then supposed to travel across the entire earth and through time for a pleasant little jaunt and then return the dinosaurs home by dinner? My train can’t even get me to Chicago at a reasonable time and I live four hours away. And we need to discuss the episode where they visit Giganotosaurus and they aren’t even harmed in any way. Like, one of the biggest carnivores isn’t going to pop Tiny Pteranodon like a fruit snack. Seriously. Do I need to be high to buy into the premise? Because I will be. I will move to Colorado and toke up every morning I decide to phone it in on parenting and I turn on PBS Kids. I mean, it’s not like I can put away the laundry any less at this point.

2. So, because the pre-historic era has a train, am I to believe that the British colonized the dinosaurs too? This show is Canadian. Are there colonial undercurrents? Is this a subliminal request to have Britian recolonize you?

3. So, how did Buddy the Tyrannosaurus get into the Pteranodon nest? Was he kidnapped? Is that why Mr Pteranodon has that creepy nervous laugh? Was Buddy abandoned outside a pre-historic Burger Rex? Was he adopted? Was he the result of an unfortunate affair between Mrs. Pteranodon and a T. Rex? Did Mr. Pteranodon have a bastard child? Will he be made to take up The Black? IS HIS LAST NAME SNOW?

4. When is Buddy going to eat their faces off?

TRex Eating Another Dinosaur

5.  Why do the dinosaurs only learn about themselves? I mean I guess it’s great they are learning and understanding new species, but can’t they actually read a book or try out some hands-on learning of fractions? Oh, I’m sorry. Did you just say, “Dinosaurs don’t do math? IT’S A SHOW WHERE THEY RIDE A MAGICAL TIME TRAVELING TRAIN, GIVE THEM SOME FREAKING FRACTIONS.

6.  Let me be real honest, from what I’ve read about Pteranodons on Wikipedia, they fed off the carcasses of other dinosaurs. When exactly are we going to get an episode where Buddy finds his family face-deep in the intestines of a Raptorex and they all have to go to family counseling?

7. Why can’t I quit you Dr. Scott the Paleontologist?

Creepy Dinosaur

 

 

8. If the series finale doesn’t include Buddy with a face full of blood and all the other dinosaurs bowing to him as meteors rain from the sky, I will quit you PBS Kids.

9.  Speaking of meteors? They should be picking off at least a few dinosaurs by now.

Belle Is Not The Problem, You Are

Two weeks ago, we threw a princess birthday party in honor of my daughter who specifically requested that everything be made pink. And it was. Pink tulle hung from the banisters, pink tissue paper flowers hung from the ceiling, pink balloons were taped to the archways. And the party was perfect. We had princess tattoos, crowns, jewels and at the end we cleared the floor for a big ball.

I’ve struggled with letting princesses into our home. I didn’t want them here. I thought they would be a bad influence. But at two-years-old, my daughter began refusing to wear pants and declared herself a princess.  Ever since then, it’s ballgowns and necklaces everyday. Once at the grocery store, as Ellis twirled in the aisle in a white Easter dress, a lady asked, “Oh are you going somewhere special?” My daughter just looked at her and said flatly. “I am ‘pecial.”

E and Bubs

Equal opportunity royalty in this house.

She is special. And white fluffy Easter dresses are just normal Tuesday attire in this house. Occasionally, I get her to wear something less formal for school or the park. But the moment she comes home she rips off her pants and slips into something a little more formal–A princess Belle dress with gloves, perhaps.

I suppose I could regulate princesses more carefully. I could return every Princess™ that entered our home from well meaning grandparents and doting aunts, but I am not going to. Because I don’t think princesses are the problem. I think we are the problem.

We still live in a country with a gender pay gap, but that’s not Rapunzel’s fault.  There are deep gender divides in this country about sex, division of labor and healthcare, but we can’t pin that on Snow White. The commercialization of everything pink and everything princess, becomes and easy scapegoat. It’s so much easier to say, “Blame Disney!” than take a long look in the mirror and examine our own biases.

In her essay in New York magazine, Yael Kohen wrote:

“And what’s wrong with girly, anyway?  Rolling our eyes at pink feels like another way of treating female culture on the whole as a niche interest, somehow secondary to male culture — a.k.a. the mainstream. And when it comes to our toys there’s an implicit message that the pink doodads are only second best to the tough dude versions in black, camouflage, and blue. (A boy dressing up like Iron Man, a narcissistic arms mogul turned superhero, won’t be seen as nearly as silly as a girl wearing a Queen Elsa costume, even though they play to the same fantasy impulses). If we’ve made pink the most visible representation of girl culture, and also treat it as a symbol of frivolity, then we’re unwittingly telling girls (and boys) that the girl world isn’t important.”

I believe the same thing about princesses. By denigrating princesses we are in fact telling our daughters that what interests them isn’t important. By foisting the world that is traditionally boy on them instead, aren’t we telling them that “boy things” are okay, but princesses aren’t. And since when is a toy gun less dangerous than a tiara? Lately, my daughter has been turning all her wands into guns and walking around saying, “SHOOT! I SHOOT YOU!” But I’m not going to stress about that either. For children, fantasy play is just that, pure fantasy. My blonde-haired, blue-eyed daughter identifies herself with Belle and Mulan more than Rapunzel or Aurora. Why? Maybe the dresses? The side-kicks? Who knows. But what I do know is that she understand the fantasy and the reality a lot more than I give her credit for.

It’s easy to make Belle and Cinderella culpable for our societal shortcomings, but the truth is, they aren’t the disease they are the symptom. Gender bias doesn’t begin with crowns and gowns, gender bias begins within us. A study done by New York University asked parents to guess the incline of a slope that their 11-month old babies could climb. The study showed that while both girls and boy babies had the same level of physical ability, parents vastly over estimated their sons’ abilities and underestimated their girls’ abilities. Think you are too smart for this inherent bias? Think again. A study done by Yale University had male and female scientists rate the competence of a job applicant. The scientists were given the same application, the only difference was half had an application with a female name the other half had an application with a male name. Overwhelmingly, both male and female scientists favored the male application.

Ultimately, gender bias begins long before you child sits down to watch “Sleeping Beauty” and yet, Sleeping Beauty is what we wring our collective hands over.

A whole generation of girls (myself included) were raised obsessed with princesses and somehow we came out okay. I remember spending hours trying to flip my hair up out of the pool water so I could be like the Ariel singing, “Part of Your World” to prince Eric. I know more Disney songs about love than I know Shakespearean sonnets. But that was just a phase. Much like my Nietzsche phase when I wore all black and took long walks with my journal contemplating how superior I was to all the other riff raff of High School. Or my Bronte phase when I wore tight buns and wanted to walk the windswept moors of England so bad I cried. It’s just a phase.  I didn’t become the Übermensch and stab anyone any more than I married an abusive man with a wife locked in an attic.

In her essay on Slate, Allison Benedikt wrote, “The pink phase will pass like anything else, and if it doesn’t, well, then, you have raised a human being who really likes pink. Which is the same as raising a human being who really likes green. The meaning of the color is what we make it mean. By steering our daughters away from the pink aisle to subvert dangerous gender norms, we’re reinforcing them.”

The truth is for children princesses and pink, they are just things. It’s we adults who imbue them with meaning. But instead of crucifying all things pink and princess on the cross of our collective feminist anxiety, maybe we ought to reexamine our own attitudes and deeply held beliefs about children long before they can even reach for that wand.

PS For more reading, I really liked this article. 

Three

Yesterday, I was emptying the dishwasher. Ellis sat at the kitchen table coloring and watching me. As I picked up a bowl and opened the cupboard door, Ellis shouted, “Two hands!”

“What?” I asked.

“Two hands, mom. Or else, you drop it.”

Last week, I had broken a bowl doing just that same thing. Game. Set. Three year old.

Princess Anna

This week she sobbed because a friend of hers mixed her paint colors. Also, every time she spills a little water on her gowns (she only wears gowns) she throws her head back and wails, “Oh no! It ruined! Everyfing ruined!” And then, she gets mad when you laugh at her and tell her it will dry. In this exchange, I see my future.

On a side note: Because of rampant illness this past month, like many American families, we’ve been watching “Frozen” almost on loop. It’s ridiculous. It’s consumed us. Ellis and I have a pretty good “Love is an Open Door” duo going. I can sing the song to the bonus feature and Dave and I have been discussing aspects of the movie, like the character development of Hans, instead of talking about real things like why the floor is sticky and where the hell is that plane? Three nights ago, Dave decided that he approved of the Midwestern values espoused by the movie: Conceal, don’t feel.  And he decided that we needed to teach our children a little bit more about good, old-fashioned Norwegian repression. Seeing as how getting cheeto dust on her fingers calls for full on tears of anguish, I agree.

Three is big. She is no longer a toddler. And we’ve been talking about how the pacifier fairy will come to take her pacifiers and leave, in their place, a big gown. The pacifier fairy hasn’t come quiet yet, because she heard that Ellis has been sick for almost a month straight and the pacifier fairy didn’t want Ellis’ mom to lose her ever-loving mind.  Good old, pacifier fairy.

She’s also been telling us that we need a bigger house, because she’s going to grow “bigger, bigger, up to da sky!” She needs a bigger cup because she’s big. She needs bigger clothes because she’s big. But at night, before bed, she insists, she’s still “wittle, still berry wittle.” Today, at breakfast she broke it down for me. “I a little bit big, but not totally big.”

Totally.

She is also the world’s best big sister.  We’ve been sleep training Jude (yes, again, for the fifth time, that kid) and last night, as he cried at three in the morning, I could hear Ellis calling from her room, “Bubby! I sing for you! TWINKLE TWINKLE WIDDLE STAR! Dat help bubby? TWINKLE! TWINKLE!”

It didn’t.  But it was sweet. And she is sweet to him. Today, while he was playing on her floor and I was putting away clothes, she dumped all her doll stuff in his lap, so he wouldn’t have to be alone. When he started chewing the hair of Pinkalicious, she said, “It okay, mom. I just sharing wif him.”

Yesterday, he was crying in the bathroom while I brushed my teeth. She ran in and said, “Bubs, you don’t need to cry. Your princess will aways be here and always protect you.”

He stared at her for a brief moment before he resumed wailing.

“Mom,” Ellis said, “I can’t handle dis crying. I’m leaving bubs.”

She calls him her “bubby” and likes to explain everything to him from how you eat Cheerios (“Just put dem in your mouf!”) to how babies come out (“Dey get pooped out! Is dat silly?”). She also get’s mad at him for not following the rules, like when he wiggles and kicks her, she shakes her finger and says, “Bubs, we don’t kick people in dis house!”

Then, he laughs. How he loves her. She can always make him ridiculously happy. Until she terrifies him. But usually, he’s happy just to see her in the same room as him. Just to have her hand him a toy.  And these are the things I’m going to cling to when they are randomly checking each other into walls.

E and Bubs2

She’s begun lugging notebooks around with her and scribbling in them with pens. She asks me how to spell Ellis, Daddy and Cinderella. I tell her and she repeats the letters back to me. Then, she says she’s writing things and I need to leave her alone. I think this is my revenge. It’s coming. I’m not afraid. Maybe I should be, but I’m not.

We often have the fight where, I’m telling her to set the table and she says she can’t because she set it “lasterday” and I say, “don’t fight with me.” And she says, “I’m not fighting!”

“Yes you are.”

“No, I not!”

“Yes!”

“I just telling you I did it lasterday!”

I lose. I lose every time.

And as I write that, it occurs to me that it’s getting close to time to start editing more what I share about her on the internet. In January, I started a journal for both Jude and Ellis and I fill it with the little things I notice about them during the day, things I want to remember. Things I want them to know. Their brilliant moments. Their intense sweetness and silliness. And sure, sometimes hilarious poop incidents. Things that probably shouldn’t go up on the internet, or many other places really.

I love the person she is becoming. I love how silly she is. How precocious. How determined and how law-abiding. During our 150th showing of “Frozen” she said, “Princess Anna jumping on da couch and dat not good. She need to go to time out.”

“Exactly right,” I said.  Speak truth to power, girlfriend.

I love her persnicketyness. Her insistence on ball gowns and high heels. And how she loves to cheer people up. “Don’t be sad,” she tells me when I’m frustrated, “I’ll feel you better!” And then she smiles and then it works.

Happy birthday, three year old.

Happy World Down Syndrome Day

In honor of World Down Syndrome Awareness Day I’m reprinting this post that I wrote about my brother Noah over on Squashed Mom a few years ago. I don’t write about Noah for many reasons, for one he is 17, he’s a grown up and the hero of his own stories. Also, writing about Noah is hard. It’s hard to explain the frustration of loving him. And I don’t want to be overly sentimental and gloss over the reality of what his life is. It’s too easy to put people with disabilities into a box where they are angels, perfect, misunderstood blessings from God. And while he is those things, he is more than that. And I don’t want to deny him the full power of his personality, of all he is, both good and bad and funny and sweet. He is my brother, he is human. He has flaws. But he is also special needs. But he is also, just Noah.

Do you see what I mean? It’s difficult.

Noah at Christmas. He is really cool and loves Minions. This picture was taken by my 6 year old nephew who is better at pictures (and most things) than me.

Noah at Christmas. He is really cool and loves Minions. This picture was taken by my 6 year old nephew who is better at pictures (and most things) than me.

I have seven siblings. One is perky with curly hair. One is hilarious and likes to play with legos. Two are good at art. One dedicates her life to serving others. Another dedicates her life to giving people great hairstyles. I have a brother who is in the Army and can run a mile in six minutes. I have a sister who is the best message therapist I’ve ever met. She’s also the most sarcastic person I know. And then there is my youngest brother, Noah.

Noah loves to snuggle. He loves to watch Toy Story and collect army men. He once got kicked out of school for dancing on a table. He also got kicked out of school for yelling at a teacher. Noah is sweet and a little spicy. And among the many things that he is, Noah is also Downs Syndrome.

But it’s a little more complicated than that. Noah also has other disabilities. He is 17 and he doesn’t talk much and still has a hard time going to the bathroom by himself. And as much as I hate it, those are the things that define him to most people.

To most people, Noah is not my brother who got kicked out of school. He’s not my brother who carries around a Sheriff Woody doll. Or the brother who gives the best hugs. To everyone I meet he is Noah my disabled brother.

But to me and my siblings he is so much more.

My brother Noah was born on June 12, 1997. He was three months early and was so small my dad could hold him in the palm of his hand. But my dad didn’t do that. He carried him with both hands, cradled against his chest, while all seven of us siblings circled around so happy that Noah was part of the family.

Two weeks after he was born were told he had Downs Syndrome and six years later, we would find out that he also suffered from additional complications that meant he’d never be able to hold down a job or live on his own.

I was thirteen when Noah was allowed to come home from the hospital and I would often sit by his crib, watching him breathe. Making sure he was okay. When he woke up, his blue eyes would watch the ceiling fan circle round-and-round his head.

Maybe he will make fans one day, I thought before remembering that the doctor had said he may never have a career. I ran downstairs and crawled into an old sleeping bag, hiding my tears and my horrible thoughts. It doesn’t matter how good he is, no one will give him the chance.

Before Noah was born, I had known a girl with Downs, her name was Janna, and every time I saw her she would tell me about her boyfriends. “I kissed them!” she would yell and I would sneak away. “Go play with Janna,” mom insisted. But I hated every minute of it.

I hated the way she smelled of mothballs and body odor. I hated the way she laughed at everything and hugged me. I hated that she was twenty and could barely read. Most of all I hated the way people looked at her as she loped along, oblivious to their scornful stares.

I didn’t want Noah to be like that, but most of all I didn’t want to think of him like that. I fell asleep in the sleeping bag and woke up to my mom kissing my forehead. “It’s okay to be mad,” she said. “I know you love him.”

And that’s what it is to be a sibling of someone with special needs—you exist simultaneously in a place of love and acceptance and frustration and guilt. But I wouldn’t ever choose anything different.

I’m older now and so is Noah. But I still get angry. I get angry when I don’t know how to talk to him, when I have a hard time understanding what he wants. I get angry when he comes for a visit and then leaves and I feel like I didn’t get a chance to tell him that I love him and what he means to me. And I know he gets frustrated too.

One by one, his brothers and sisters are leaving home and leaving him. He uses sign language to tell my mom to call us. And when he sees us, he just wants to sit and hug. And I do sit and hug him, but it’s never long enough and that makes me mad too.

Noah is so many other things. He’s the kid who tried to flush the dog down the toilet. He’s the kid who can eat his weight in Cheetos. He’s the brother who influenced one of my sisters to become a teacher and another to become a social worker. He’s the brother that taught me patience.

He’s also just Noah, my brother.

What Moms Do When They Are Alone

Disclaimer: Yes, this post is sponsored. And sure, I’m getting paid for it. But I honestly love my Cartwheel app and my dates to Target alone.

What moms do when they are alone in no particular order: 1. Sleep. 2. Clean up your crap. 3. Cry. 4. Eat all the candy. 5. Go to Target and stay there for a long time under the guise of running errands.

Target Photo

Breastfeeding sometimes makes me feel like I’m tethered to the wall. Want to have lunch? Sure let me ask my captors, the boobs.  Boobs, can I go out? What? Sure, you can leak every time we hear a baby cry as long as I can have two minutes without someone mauling me. Deal.

When I do get the chance to escape – when hungry babies have been satiated and the toddler is under adult supervision and I tear out of the house, shoving my coat on as I yell, “See you suckers!” and slam the door – when that happens, do I run to go frolic in a meadow? Get a massage? Do I grab some drinks with the ladies? Hell no. That would require pants and all I have are leggings and a sweater and shoes that might match.  I go to Target. Why? Coffee. Also, deals. Also, there is something so soothing about being able to browse aisles of attractive and affordable throw pillows that gives me an inner peace. Maybe the zombies will come. Maybe my kids will kick me in the shins when I get home, but I’ve got some coffee and a coupon for bras. Bring it on, Universe.

Basically, what I’m saying is I’m just one minivan and two soccer players away from suburban momdom. But, I’m okay with this. I’ve made peace with this aspect of my life one relaxing latte and Market Pantry box of brownie mix at a time. I remember my mom would go grocery shopping and be gone for hours. What took her so long? Why did a run for milk take two hours? Was she actually visiting her secret second family? What else could she possibly want to do away from us for so long? Now I am a mom. Now I understand. Now the chance to grocery shop alone feels like going to the beach after days of trench warfare. I’m covered in spit up, blood, and I smell faintly of fecal matter, but who cares? I’ve got coffee and coupons and no kids.

Yesterday, I went grocery shopping alone and while I was out at Target, I stood in line scanning my items with my phone in case the Cartwheel app had a deal and they almost always do. Even nursing bras, which almost never go on sale. And let me tell you about the time I was able to use a coupon for K-cups, plus they were on special, plus Cartwheel had 10% off. It was like the holy grail of momness. (Sidebar: Cartwheel  has more that 700 coupons to use on in-store purchases, and can be used on your desktop, tablet, mobile web or iPhone or Droid apps. You start with 10 spots to fill on your Cartwheel list, but you can get more spots by earning badges, which are awarded by reaching savings milestones–$10, $25, $50, I’m working on the $100–and interacting with Cartwheel (such as adding an offer from one of the app’s item collection to your list). I’m now addicted to getting badges because that’s how fun my life is.)

So, while I was scanning my app, a lady came up behind me with three items in her cart. “You can go ahead of me,” I said.

“Oh no,” she said. “I’m fine.”

“No, really. I’m out without my kids. I’ve got nothing but time.”

She laughed, “I have two-year-old twins at home. I’m staying here. Behind you. Because I’m on a date with myself.” She won.

 

What do you do when you somehow manage to leave the house alone? Leave a comment below and you will be entered in a drawing for a $1,000 Target GiftCard®. See the rules below.

 

Sweepstakes Rules:

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Flotsam

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Every night, I clean up the house. I start in the kitchen and pick bangles off the counter and fish a wand out of the sink. I use the broom and brush up a few extra cookie crumbs and bits of dried noodle that spilled out of the bowl of pasta I let Ellis play with while I cook. Then, into the dining room. Under the table are dried grapes that I missed from the night before, a Princess Anna doll and an Aladdin with a missing head. In the living room, I step on Sophie the Giraffe and I curse and hop over and step on a butterfly teething toy that vibrates and then I feel weird, because the vibration on my toes feels kind of nice. The living room has rings in the sofa, head bands under the couch, some days, in a rage of cleanliness, I take bikes and boxes (“ships” as we call them) and move them to the basement. They always meander on back up. In an old jewelry box is a bunch of chalk (“Wook, diamonds!”) and in a piggy bank are small cardboard books. In the box that holds the cardboard books are plastic coins for the piggy bank. I pick up each piece of wreckage from our day and return it to the box, the basket or the shelf where it belongs. Some nights, I venture into the playroom, but more often, I reach inside and turn out the lights without even bothering to look at the floor.

I am not a clean person. I live in a perpetual state of rubble. I have a habit of leaving mugs by the computer and CDs out of their cases. The clothes in my drawer aren’t often folded and there is a pile of hair bands behind the headboard. But having children has made me understand the need to pick up.

I try not to clean during the day. I have only so many hours. When the kids are quiet, I rush to the computer and write as fast as I can until I hear the first babbles of need and cries of “I need to poop a wittle!” Some days that time is only 15 minutes. Other days, it’s as long as two hours. But the clutter needs to be contained before it overwhelms me. So, I try to take 10 minutes before bed and clean up the mess.

Some days, I clean angrily. I’m upset that this is my job. Upset that I’m the picker upper of shit. Dave helps when reminded, but he need reminding. On the angry nights, I huff and puff and toss and grumble. I hate this part of parenting. The janitorial service. I have Ellis clean up her messes, but sometimes it’s not enough. Mickey is in the food basket and there is a ruby red slipper in the blocks.

Other nights, I like the ritual. I like to pick through the pieces of flotsam and jetsam and remember how the baby chewed the crown and made the 2 year old cry. I pick up some food of the carpet and remember how she tried to feed him milky Cheerios from her breakfast. Do NOT feed the baby! Keep your milk at the table! I find a cup stuffed with aluminum foil and remember that she made me coffee with it and I had to pretend to drink it. Then, when I told her it was delicious she scoffed, “But it’s just pretend coffee!” At the time I felt like I couldn’t win, but the act of picking up–foil in the trash, cup in the kitchen basket–makes me feel like maybe I really did win after all.

Some days the clutter consumes me. I cant sit until order has been restored and that plate full of rubber bands (“It noodles, mom!”) has been cleaned and the rubber bands returned to their proper resting place. Other days the clutter comforts me. It reminds me that we were here. These little moments happened.

I had a writing instructor who once told me that “Detail is devastating.”  So, I think about that every night as I get ready for bed. There is a piece of cracker in my bra, although no one has eaten a cracker all day. A sock on the floor. A Tinkerbell band-aid on the wall. All of these things make me want to laugh and curse, because I’m the one peeling a band-aid off the wall at 10:30 and because the person who put it there told me the wall got “a hurt” because she ” ‘frew a ball at it.”

In the Bible the Israelite on their journey out of Egypt set up monuments at places that had significance. Where the golden calf was sacrificed. Where the water flowed from the rocks. I sometimes think the mess in my house, each misplaced toy and lost object, is a monument to insignificance. The small little pockets of time that are the building blocks of my day. It’s all so small, so messy, so beautiful and overwhelming.

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