Mother’s Day Gifts For The Mother Of Dragons

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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.

Angry Toddler Reviews Breakfast

Previously angry toddler has reviewed a trip to Target and Sesame Street Live!

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This day was already going horribly wrong. For starters, I was told pacifiers only belong in bed. So, I was made to part with my pink pony pacifier just minutes after waking up. What a hypocrite. How would my mom feel if I told her yoga pants were just for working out? Where would she be then? She certainly wouldn’t be marching her butt to the elliptical, amirite? Baby weight. I’m no fool. I sneak out of bed and peek down the stairs. That’s definitely bourbon and ice cream weight. But here I was, taking my pink pony pacifier back up to bed all before the hour of 7am, while Mrs. Baby Weight waddled around in her yoga pants sucking down coffee like it was her last meal.

That mewling child was already awake, getting his drool and spit all over my sparkle shoes. Good god, that kid starts his reign of terror early. Based on how many coffee stains were on my mother’s shirt, I’d say he’d begun screaming sometime around five in the morning. I don’t approve of him or his drooly ways, but I do admire his dedication to killing our mother. We could be allies if he didn’t insist on crying every time I tried to put a toy on his head. Baby, I’m doing it for science! He knows nothing. But admiration aside, someone had to rescue that sparkle shoe. I reached out and grabbed it from him. He screamed like a stuck pig. Like we couldn’t just settle this mano y mano over a good wand jousting session, but no. He screamed. And mother came hustling in from the kitchen, where she was no doubt making another cup of her brown, life-sustaining swill.

“Be nice to your brother!” She said.

“He had my ‘parkle shoe!”

The baby screamed again. Please, he can’t even talk properly.  What my parents see in him, I’ll never know.

“Be nice to him,” my mother lectured. To be honest, she probably said more things. But at this point I had zoned out and begun begging for PBS Kids. My mother relented. She didn’t even hesitate. I suppose I should thank the baby for breaking down her resolve to parent. But my sparkle shoe was damp with his spit. I clutched it in my hand while I watched TV. There passed a good twenty minutes. The baby had been whisked away to the bowls of our home to be fed, no doubt. And I was left blissfully alone with “Peg+Cat.” Look, I’m not saying it’s good television, but it’s much better than doing one of those sticker crafts mother plans for me. A sticker craft is a craft for the lazy mother. I can’t be insulted by her pathetic attempts at parenting. “Peg+Cat” it was, until mother walked over and turned the TV off.

I responded the only way one can under such circumstances, I screamed and crumpled to the floor. Don’t hate the player, hate the game, my friends.

My mother tried to convince me that I was hungry.  I screamed louder, my body crumpled in a heap. How could she not know? I was hungry for learning. Hungry for experience. Hungry for adventure. Hungry for a day of wearing a princess dress with no pants. But her brown glop of oatmeal? How could she even claim to make such a dish? Unless opening a package and pouring hot water is cooking now. Please, even the starving toddlers of North Korea would reject such insulting swill.

Through the din of my anguish, I heard one word uttered: “Sprinkles.” Yes, sprinkles. Sprinkles would turn this all around. Nothing gives my heart more joy than the multi-colored nonpareils in shades of pink, red and white. No one can say this toddler wasn’t willing to come together with the ruling, yoga pants-clad parties and work out a truce. I accepted her offer of oatmeal with sprinkles graciously and took my seat at the head of the table in my rightful role as ruler of the household. I occasionally let my father sit there during dinner, it appeases his man ego. I enjoy it in the way people enjoy tossing crumbs to pigeons.

The baby was there sitting in his highchair a cheerio was stuck to his cheek. Had he no shame? No sense of dignity? I ignored him the best I could and ate my sprinkle oatmeal. When the bowl was empty, I asked for more.

“How about your yogurt from yesterday?” She was really pressing her luck, wasn’t she? Fine. I accepted her offer. No one could say, I wasn’t being more than fair. She brought out the yogurt and I peered into the cup and what I saw made my stomach turn.

My mother had put sprinkles in the yogurt. The yogurt. Can you believe that? Sprinkles don’t belong on yogurt. How could she insult me like that? How could she insult yogurt like that. I shouted at her to right this injustice, this affront to breakfast everywhere. And do you know what she did? SHE. ROLLED. HER. EYES.

“Listen to me,”  I said. “Sprinkles don’t go here! This is nuts! Nuts!” But the woman wouldn’t listen to reason. She walked away. In the face of this gross abuse of sprinkles, she walked away. How could she turn such a blind eye to my suffering? HOW? I screamed. I rent my clothing. The baby began to wail too. He is really co-dependent. But oh well, I appreciated the solidarity.

Finally, mother walked back into the dining room. “Eat the yogurt or go to time out,” she growled. What recourse did I have? I didn’t have the manual dexterity or the passcode to her phone to call child services. I had to bow to her cruel whims. Her cruel disgusting whims.

Okay, it wasn’t bad.

Fine. It wasn’t that bad.

And then it was gone. I asked for more yogurt with sprinkles, obviously. She shook her head, looking like someone had tipped her over the edge of sanity. God, they really have to get that baby under control. Then she said, “You ate the last yogurt.”

There was no demon in hell who could have matched my fury and rage. Inexplicably, I spent the next 20 minutes in my room. I chalk that severe punishment up to the baby. I mean, he did spill all his cheerios. Someone needs to get him under control.

 

 

Pants-Free Parenting: A Philosophy-ish Thing

No Pants

The lie of modern life is that we have control. There are studies, statistics, philosophies, advice, books, experts and countless websites. They all tell us how to raise our children perfectly. Breastfeed and your baby will be smart and skinny.  Don’t use your iPhone while you parent and your kid won’t resent you. Don’t yell. Give them organic food. Make everything magic. Make everything special. Don’t spank. Don’t leave them in the car alone for a second, even on a 45 degree day, while you run inside to get your purse. No Tylenol. No GMOs. No vaccines, no wait, vaccinate you parasite! Make your baby food. Send them to Montessori. No screen time. No wine (for you, ever). No looking away. No freaking breaks.

And we cling to this advice. I know I do. I seek it out. I gorge on it. I’m like a hippo wallowing in the muck and mud of all the words and advice to parents, for parents and about parents. I know I need to stop, but I can’t.

Parenting is so isolating. It’s enervating to think that everything you do, everything you say, every moment shapes the life of that little person you love so dearly. If you don’t hold that baby and even briefly think, “Ohmygod I’m doing everything wrong and I’m going to mess this little pooping machine up,” you are probably the college-age aunt.

So, of course, we immerse ourselves in advice and opinions and forums. We glut and glean and worry.

But it is a lie, isn’t it? My friend recently lost her 11-month-old son for no reason. His babysitter put him down for a nap and he didn’t wake up. It’s simple and confounding. She’s been sharing her son’s legacy and her grief on her own site, I won’t try to co-opt her grief or her story. But she shared something with me last month that left me deeply shaken. “You do everything you can as a parent,” she said. “But in the end, the thing that happens, wasn’t the thing you’d prepared or protected for. It never is.”

I think about my own family. My parents spent years protecting us from the outside world–homeschooling, raising us in Conservative Evangelical churches, no TV, no popular radio. They buffeted us in from all sides. But in the end, what destroyed us came not from the outside, but from the inside.

I’ve been thinking a lot about her words. I see the truth in them. Recently, a friend tried to tell me how she wasn’t letting her kids play at a certain park anymore because a suspicious van had been allegedly trolling for children near there. I wanted to tell her that statistically if your kid is kidnapped it’s because a family member took them. If your kid is abused there is only a 10% chance that the person is a stranger. But I kept my mouth shut. Statistics aren’t the point. Our anxiety is the point.

….

I hate pants. I truly do. I hate how they constrict me at the waist. How they leave that mark on my very soft underbelly. I hate how they slide down my grandpa-like butt. Pants make me feel every inch of my physical insecurities, which settle around near my waist.  They confine. They barely let me breathe. Pants are a metaphor for all my anxieties. That what I take on won’t fit, won’t be right. That the thing that works so well for others? I’m deeply afraid it won’t work for me. So, both literally and metaphorically, I’ve done my very best to make my wardrobe a mix of leggings, dresses, skirts and the occasional stretchy denim pant. But I can’t escape pants. In the Midwest where at some point it will be -30 before windchill, pants are a necessary evil.

My hatred of pants has become a running joke. To the extent that at the beginning of the year, when I was asked to write a column for the local paper, a friend suggested I title the column “Pants-Free Parenting.” I loved it.  Not only because I do find myself parenting sans pants, a lot. But also because, when it comes to raising children, I often oscillate between anxiety and fear and just ripping off those pants, throwing on a skirt and saying, “Now it’s time to run through the sprinklers naked! Every body in!”

….

Right now, my children are little.  So much of what I do and what I say matters. It has influence and control. But it won’t be many more days before that is no longer true, when my job is not to be the general but merely the safe harbor. But in these martial days, I’m trying to balance my duties to my children and raising them to rule themselves. I’m trying to find out how to do what is right and responsible, how to protect and shield, and how to say, “Sure you can play swords with sticks, but you’ll suffer the consequences when someone gets scratched.” I’m trying to figure out how to be okay with those scratches, those tears, those minor wounds, that teach children how to bind and mend their own wounds. To teach them that wounds happen.

….

My baby son sleeps with a security blanket. We gave it to him recently. He loves it. It helps soothe him at night and he has such long fussy nights. Right after I learned about my friend’s son, I ran into my baby’s room and watched him sleep. I kept running in. Every five to ten minutes. When my husband came home, he too checked on our child. He saw the blanket and he instinctively ripped it away. “No more,” he said. “No more of this.”

My son woke up screaming. We could only calm him by giving the blanket back.

It was a completely ridiculous moment. We had selfishly appropriated someone else’s sorrow into our own. We thought we could solve a problem by protecting him from everything. Sanitize the environment. No blankets. No processed food. No GMOs. No Katy Perry or Miley Cyrus. This was our gut reaction.

But it’s foolish. No life is perfect. No place is completely sanitized from all harm. We do our best to mitigate the worst. But we have to let the anxiety go. Give the blanket back.

….

In 2012, I stopped buying clothes. I called it my “No Pants Challenge” the goals were to rid my closet of excess, learn to wear what I had and control my spending and shopping, two things that were motivated by my anxieties about how I looked. A ban, I thought, would mean freedom. So, I spent the entire year, not buying anything. By the end of the year, I had saved a lot of money, learned some valuable lessons about appreciating what I had. But there was no big insight. No sense of peace about how I looked. In fact, after XO Jane ran an article about my challenge, commenters came in droves to tell me that what I had was awful. I shouldn’t ever dress how I dressed. They pitied me. Good old, internet.

But it’s not their job to mitigate my problems. That’s my job.

When it comes to parenting, I think so often about throwing off everything that constricts us. Being free always. No pants. No parenting. TV all the time. Ice cream forever. But I know that won’t solve the problem, just like insulating, constricting and binding my children won’t fix anything either.

There has to be something else besides total abandonment and complete confinement. We have to built our closets with a mixture of what feels comfortable to us and the necessary evils. And then, somehow, the wisdom to know when to rip those evils off at the tail-end of the day, or to shove our legs in, suck it in, button it up. Which gods do we serve? Which crazy do we lean into? What do we give up? What do we embrace? That mixture is different for everyone. Our closets don’t all look the same. We all have to find our best fit.

All I can say is, I hate pants.

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

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

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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.

10 Observations About Human Anatomy According To My 3 Year Old

I try to be completely up front and honest with my kid about bodies and anatomy and how things work. When she asks why her body makes hair, I tell her. When she asks where poop comes from, I tell her. She wants to know how babies get inside mommies? I say, “Beer.” But now that she is three, she has decided she’s smarter than me, wiser than me and the definitive source for all information on everything. Especially health, wellness and anatomy.  Here is another post we can all view as Exhibit 35359938 of reasons not to teach your child to talk.

1.

“Mom, you feeding the baby with your milk bellies?”

“They are called breasts.”

“No, dey milk bellies. I have some. They have rainbow milk.”

2.

“Mom, you milk bellies hanging down, down.”

3.

“Mom, guess what! My ‘testines making my chocolate milk into poo poo! Dat so exciting.”

4.

“Baby Jude sometimes he spritz like a whale.”

5.

“You have large ‘testines. I have large ‘testines. Princesses have large ‘testines. Daddy has large ‘testines. We all da same.”

6.

“Sometimes my booty just want to shake itself.”

7.

“I hab baby Jesus in my belly. He comin’ out! Wet’s go to da hospigal!”

8.

“How do babies get out?”

“Your vagina.”

“No, silly. You poop them out!”

9.

Me: “Miss Tara had her baby!”

“Did she poop it out? Is it named poop?”

10.

“Hey mom, let me smell you bum bum. Phew. Dat so stinky. You need to change you diaper.”

What SAHMs Say v. What They Mean

SAHM2A recent Pew survey shows that there has been an increase in the number of stay at home moms (SAHM for the uninitiated) in America. Specifically, 29% of moms with children under 18 are classified as SAHM. That’s up 6% from 1999. This means something else is on the rise and no, I don’t mean etsy shops or invitations to essential oil informational sessions. Although, I’m sure those are increasing 20-fold. What I want to talk about is the increase in SAHM talk.  Words like “cherish” and “so blessed” roll off the tongues of stay-at-home moms and you might be tempted to take them at face value, but pay closer attention to the way that mom’s eye twitches and the impossibly perky way that other mom talks about potty training. My friend, this is the coded language of a super secret world of women–a world I have been a part of for the past year and a half and I’m here to translate what those moms are saying v. what they actually mean.

What a SAHM says: I cherish this time.

What she means: I cry myself to sleep at night.

*

What a SAHM says: I’m so lucky to have this opportunity to spend time with my kids.

What she means: The economy blows and it’s nigh on impossible to use this English major in the middle of Iowa where eight years ago we didn’t even have a free-standing Starbucks. There were places in Africa more developed than this town. Dear God, someone find me a job!

*

What a SAHM says: I am so blessed.

What she means: Drezdyn pooped on the floor five times today.

*

What a SAHM says: The days are slow, but the years go by so fast.

What she means: It’s only 10am and I’ve been puked on five times. Now, I’m binge eating chocolate in the closet while small hands claw at my feet from under the door.

*

What a SAHM says: I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What she means: SOMEONE SEND HELP! PLEASE, GOD, HELP US!

*

What a SAHM says: It’s such a short time.

What she means: Do you know of anyone who is looking to hire a slightly, disheveled middle-aged woman who is really good at catching puke with her hands?

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.

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