Baby Chickies

babychickies

A few weeks after my daughter turned two, she told me I was squishing her baby chickies. Well, more like wailed, she wailed that I was squishing her baby chickies. I was six months pregnant and had heaved myself onto the couch in order to read her a book. “Oh no!” she screamed. “You crushed my baby chickies! You killeded them!”

It took some moving of my significant girth and some talking before I came to understand that my daughter had three to five small baby chickies who followed her wherever she went.  At any time in the past two years these baby chickies have been named Princess, Princess Chickie, Naughty Pants, Bad Guy, Window and Shrelalala.  For almost a year, I had to set a spot for them at the breakfast table along with a small bowl for their own oatmeal. I’ve accidentally squished them with the back door and had to jerry-rig a special place for them to ride in the car because I refused to buy them their own car seat.

Once, after she heard me call them “imaginary” my daughter threw a fit and wouldn’t stop screaming until I told her they were real. There have been times, when she’s woken us up in the middle of the night because the baby chickies thought there was a lion on the wall and could they all come snuggle in bed? Of course.

Recently, I let my daughter play with an old digital camera. As I flipped through the pictures she had taken, I came across several of just the floor. For a four-year-old, this isn’t that odd. But there were a lot. Almost 30 pictures of nothing but floor. When I asked my daughter about them she rolled her eyes, “Oh mom, those are the baby chickies, can’t you see them? They are so cute!

A couple weeks ago, my daughter stopped talking about her baby chickies and I began to worry. Had they died? Had they run away? They had done all of these things before and I even had to mount a search party for them, just to stop my daughter from crying. (We found them under a pine tree, thank goodness.)

So, I asked my daughter where they were. “Oh they grew up and moved away,” she said casually.

I have spent the past two years caring for these imaginary (or excuse me “real”) chickens, they’ve become as much a part of the family as the beloved blankies and the iPad. And now, I was being told they had left us, grown up and flown the coop.

I sat down. “Oh no,” I said to my daughter. “They didn’t even say goodbye.”

My daughter came and sat by me. “It okay, mom. They love you and they will come visit soon.” She patted my leg.

I wanted to cry. So much of these early days of parenthood are defined by the ridiculous—bouts of screaming over the sun being too sunny or tantrums thrown over oranges being offered as a snack, right after a tantrum about oranges being wanted for a snack. Some days, parenting feels like walking through a fever dream. I feed stuffed animals crackers. I make up stories about monsters. Underwear is worn on heads. Mittens become socks.

These baby chickies are so much a part of who my daughter is right now. Her silliness, her imagination, her big, big heart for all creatures even those that walk the line between imaginary and real. I love them, because I love her and now they are gone.

“I want them back,” I told my daughter. “They are too little too leave.”

She just laughed. “Mom, everybody grows up.” Then, she walked away.

By the time you read this, my daughter will be four. Four is old. Four is zipping-your-own-coat-and-preschool old. Four is getting-your-own-snack-and-playing-Candyland-and-Go-Fish old.  But four is so little too. She still comes to our bed at night when aliens climb on the walls. She still needs pink band-aids to make things better. And she still has the baby chickies. They came back after being gone a week and they are still here. This morning, I had to make them pretend pancakes with magic beans, which I was more than happy to do. I know that they will be leaving me forever soon and I will be so sad to see them go.

This article originally appeared in The Cedar Rapids Gazette.

The Bad Days Don’t Need To Have Meaning

kitsch

The Monday’s after holidays are sugar-crash-the-baby-is-a-candy-addict-and-will-knife-me-if-I-don’t-hand-over-another-M&M kind of days. My daughter lay on the couch today begging for chocolate Easter bunny for breakfast.

“No,” I said.

“Please.”

“No.”

“Can you just put some frosting on my tongue?”

I finally relented and gave both kids candy because my daughter eloquently argued that when she sleeps in her bed the whole night she does get a treat. And the baby eloquently argued, “AHHHH! CANNN-YYYY!” Well put, baby.

I figured it was like giving them a bit of the hair of the dog for their sugar hangover.

It sated them for a bit. But then they both started begging to go to the library, but SOMEONE had left the dome light on the car on and it wouldn’t start. This is what we have AAA for. Plus, then they’d get to see a big truck, which is always a good day. I called and was told an hour. So we played outside and played. And one hour turned to two. So we ate lunch and folded clothes and the baby kicked over the towers of clothes. My daughter sobbed and called him “your naughty son!” Then it was nap time and I told the AAA lady to forget it. But I didn’t use a nice voice. Honestly, I don’t think I was using a nice voice since I woke up at 5am.

(That’s right, I willingly start most of my days between 5-5:30, because that is the only time I have to work out. I told this to a group of Starbucks baristas once and effectively delayed their reproduction for another decade. I deserve some sort of award.)

So, I hauled both kids upstairs and was reminded that they were both missing key members of their stuffed animal entourage. I went downstairs, then upstairs, then downstairs. When all members of the group were accounted for, I walked into the baby’s room and saw my son and daughter snuggling on the chair reading a book together.

This is where I am supposed to tell you about how my heart warmed. About how it’s all worth it. About how love is great and parenting is hard and something, something, small things and joy. But screw that.

Of course, my heart filled with all those happy cliches as I watched them snuggle and read. I love those two. And they love one another until the moment where they start beating one another with pool noodles and wands. But then they love each other again. But really, love isn’t the point.

So much of these little tiny things, like dirty chubby fingers and jelly bean drool on dimpled chins, I will forget them. So will they. They are the little nooks in the sheer rock cliff of our days. They help us get from one place to the next. We bless them. Then we forget about them as we reach for another.

Kundera called life a struggle of memory against forgetting. He meant the big things–war, human, atrocities–I mean the small things, the holes in the hard rock of our days. But I’m okay with forgetting. I’m okay with time washing over these rocks and smoothing out the stone. I’m okay with things seeming better in hindsight than they are right now.

I don’t think it’s dishonest. I think its about perspective.

Kundera also wrote that kitsch is an ideal with no room for objection. “Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass! The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass! It is the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch.” There is no room for the shit in the grass with kitsch.” So much of talk about parenting is either the kistch or the shit. No in between. But in reality, it’s all in between.

I’m not grateful for the bad moments. I don’t want them. But they are here. I don’t have to pretend there is some greater point to them. Or justify them with high minded ideas. Here they are. Here is the baby beating me with the Elsa wand. Here is my daughter telling me that I have ruined everything because I can’t find the play-doh. And here in the next moment is a snuggle a kiss. A clamor for me to sing “You are My Sunshine” and I do.Because that moment is here too.

In hindsight, these colors will wash into one another. But I’m here now, reaching for that next spot in the rock, making room for tears, shit, and kids in the lawn. Letting my memory and my forgetting bleed together and binging on jellybeans during nap time. I need my hair of the dog too.

Junkies

EandJMy daughter is stealing toilet paper. It started innocently at first. A roll here and there. I barely noticed. I’m absent minded. Thinking that I replaced the toilet paper in the bathroom and then discovering that I actually did not is something that is so common in my life that I don’t even question it.

This is how she was able to ferret away seven rolls of toilet paper under her bed without detection, until one day, Dave, stranded on the toilet yelled, “WHO KEEPS TAKING THE TOILET PAPER AND CAN SOMEONE BRING ME SOME?”

I stood up to go rescue him, but E was already up the stairs. “Oh dad, I have some under my bed.”

I followed her upstairs and watched her reach under her bed, grab a roll and hand it to Dave through the bathroom door. “Here you go dad.”

I crouched down next to her. “Honey, why are you taking the toilet paper?”

She smiled. “My baby chickies need it for their butts.”

The baby chickies in question are three to five imaginary chickens that follow my daughter around. She has had them as constant companions since she was two. Yesterday, I gave her an old digital camera to play with and she took a picture of the empty floor. “Look mom, all my baby chickies look so cute in dis picture!”

“Baby chickies poop on the potty,” I told her. “So leave the toilet paper there.”

I thought this would be the end of it, but the thievery only continued. The next time I caught her she wailed, “The monsters need it for there butts! THEY DO! THEY DO!”

The third time I caught her, she snarled her little lips, “I take it because you never buy me any toilet paper ever!”

So, that next Sunday, I took her grocery shopping and bought her a four-pack of one-ply toilet paper. She hugged it like it was the toddler Holy Grail. “OH FANK YOU! IT’S MY DREAM!”

She carried the toilet paper with her in her backpack to school, in my bag to dance class and in a plastic Target bag to ride bikes at a gym. One of my friends, a mother of three, asked E what was in her bag. E held out a little ball of paper. “Oh, it’s toilet paper, you need some for your nose?”

For the next two hours, she rode her bike and passed out little bits of toilet paper to the kids. When JQ spilled his drink she sped over and waved her toilet paper like a one-ply superhero. “Mom, I will wipe it up!”

And she did.

Part of me was seriously worried about her love for toilet paper. But then I remembered how when I was about the same age, I thought my baby doll’s bloomers were Cinderella’s cleaning cap. There are multiple pictures of me at four and five, asleep in only my underwear wearing baby bloomers on my head. Maybe she comes by this crazy honestly.  I told Dave this story of my childhood and martyred myself on the cross of genetic weirdness and that’s where we were, until a few days ago.

A light burnt out in the kitchen and I had to venture into the basement where Dave keeps his stash of bulbs. Out of protest against the new compact florescent light bulbs, Dave has been accumulating a vast horde of incandescents. There is a whole shelf of them in the basement, where he has stacked them. He often tells people how to score incandescents and he once scolded me for wasting them. “The next bulbs I buy will have to be from the internet,” he huffed. “This pile won’t last forever.”

I thought of his protests when that night, I heard E beg him for “Just a widdle more toilet paper, please? Just a widdle more?”

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.

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