About a week ago, Eric’s Biological Gadget Receptor¹, or possibly his New Project Induction Enzyme² alerted him to the fact that he hadn’t bought anything that requires electricity in several weeks and he decided that, after six years of Keurig ownership, we needed to stop cramming landfills with K-cups and go back to a good, old-fashioned coffee pot. I was promptly emailed a link to a good, old-fashioned coffee pot³ to purchase, and, through the magic of Amazon Prime, it arrived on our doorstep two days later. Continue reading “Is this just fantasy?”
It was sometime last night between 8, when we started trying to get Joanna to fall asleep in the Pack ‘n’ Play in her cousin Sophie’s room, and 10, when she finally fell asleep and I could get up off the floor and stop singing Disney and Nick Jr. songs, that I made my resolution. It just came over me in a wave, while I sat there with my phone in one hand, scrolling through all my different social media accounts and watching the old year roll over into the new. Watching the women I follow use the same words over and over: “goals,” “resolutions,” “action,” “fears,” “excitement,” “challenges.” I felt like a kid with her face pressed to the glass window of a candy shop. Their photos were so glossy. Their art was so beautiful. Their brands were so polished. They were so confident. In reality, I had my face pressed to the carpet and I was singing the same line of a Wallykazam! song over and over because I’d run through my retinue of showtunes and had nothing left. I have a blog I never blog on, a house I don’t decorate, clothes I don’t wear, plans I don’t plan. And at the same time, these women don’t have anything I don’t have. I am literally standing in my own way.
All the cliches washed over me at once. I had cliches about my cliches – a lightbulb moment about letting it go, an epiphany about staring fear in the face to do the thing I could not do. What would I do if I knew I could not fail? I finally feel ready to find out the answer.
I’ve done it before – been afraid, and pushed through it. Shed my insecurities and trusted myself. But it feels like a really, really long time since I was that brave. I miss that. I miss surprising myself instead of being so predictable. Which is why I never make resolutions. I know myself too well. I know I won’t keep them. I don’t even remember the last time I even thought about making a resolution. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies , setting yourself up to fail, and self-doubt. I must be fun at parties.
So this year, I’m making them. I’m making ALL THE RESOLUTIONS. Because why not? Go big or go home, right? The more I make, the more chances I have to keep them.
I was reading something today about not making grand resolutions and instead breaking them down into smaller action items. You know what? Screw that. I have grand plans. I want to write a book. I want to blog. I want a puppy. I want so many things for myself and my family. And if I read this one year from now and I’m no closer to any of those goals, I’m not going to be embarrassed. Because this year, I’m not going to not try because I’m afraid of what might happen, or what people might think. Because honestly, I don’t think I’m afraid of what people will think if I don’t try – I’m afraid of what they might think if I DO. Like my ambitions will somehow infringe on their personal space. I keep ruminating on my cousin Christina’s words at my Nana’s Irish wake, that Nana had high standards for herself and everyone else, and that was ok. I am just like her. I, too, have high standards – the difference is, I’m not holding myself to them. I’m letting myself get by on good enough. And I’m worth more than that.
So this post is going to be my vision board. My touchstone that I can come back to when I’m losing my way. Like so many of the women on my social media feed, I am choosing a word for 2016, a personal mantra. My word is fearful.
Being fearful does not make me weak. Without fear, we can’t be brave. I am fearful – I am full of fear. I am full of strength to overcome those fears. Google has two definitions for fearful, and the second is “very great.” When David said that he was “fearfully’ made, he was saying he was made by a person of whom he stood in awe. I am fearful, and I am awesome.
So where will I get my inspiration? From my social media feed, yes. From The Reset Girl and her goal-setters club, because it’s never too late to reset my life. From Lara Casey and her Power Sheets. From Ira Glass*, Ted Talks, and my daughter Klara, who stands in front of our full-length mirror and marvels with glee over how big her butt is getting, because she hasn’t yet learned that girls are supposed to be ashamed. From Elsa, who I hear every day reminding me: “I don’t care what they’re going to say. Let it go.” From Glennon Doyle Melton, a fellow warrior, and Jessica Kirkland, who taught me my new favorite phrase: “As for my girls, I’ll raise them to think they breathe fire.” From Dean Sanderson on “The Grinder,” who has given me a new way to answer every fear that pops unbidden into my brain: “You can’t write about that, no one’s going to care.” But what if they do? “You can’t do that” But what if I could? From the Disney songs I sing Joey to sleep with: because dammit, if I keep on believing, the dream that I wish will come true.
I’m tired of not writing on here because it doesn’t have a consistent tone, or theme, or message. I like writing, so I’m going to write. The rest will follow. I wrote this, and I’m posting it, and I’m proud of it, and now I’m going to bed, because my first resolution is to get more sleep.
*It’s worth hearing him say it in his own voice.
On the way into Nana’s funeral today a lady who knew her from church stopped me to say what a lovely woman she had been…and always so well dressed! What she closed with hit the nail on the head: They don’t make them like her anymore. Nana never wore pants a day in her life, and wore heels until she could no longer walk, despite crippling arthritis. Born a DeFransisco, no one had more Irish pride – or made a better spaghetti sauce. She liked her seltzer ice cold, her soup boiling hot – or it got sent back – and her French fries “cremated.” She tried to order medium-rare hamburgers at McDonald’s. Continue reading “My Nana”
Remember swim lessons at the Y? Of course you do. Everyone took swim lessons at the Y. Remember the smell when you walked in, the mix of chlorine and sweaty basketball pinnies? The echoey sound in the indoor pool area? The NO RUNNING and NO DIVING IN SHALLOW END signs everywhere? The kids who seemed like they lived there and were BFFs with all the instructors but you knew it was just because they were there all the time because their parents WORKED (i.e. didn’t love them) so they had to go to after school care or camp? Remember trying to find the newest looking bubble, or when you could finally swim without one? Sometimes if you whined enough your mom let you get something out of the vending machine in the lobby. Remember standing on a bench to dry your hair under the hand dryers?
Since we moved to our new house, our girls have started swim lessons at the same Y where their dad, uncles and grandfather learned to swim, which is kind of cool. This is the first time for Joey, and Klara’s first “big girl” lessons where she goes in the pool WITHOUT MOMMY. Since Daddy wants no part of this (why is it never the dads doing this stuff? OK I know there are more dads doing this now, but it was NEVER the dads growing up, and it’s never OUR husbands doing it. It’s always someone else’s husband) I had to schedule the lessons back to back and pray that Klara could be convinced to sit still long enough for me to take Joey in for her lesson and not get asked to leave for RUNNING or DIVING IN THE SHALLOW END or CRYING EXCESSIVELY.
This evening, Klara brought me her stuffed puppy and asked me to clip a hair bow to his ear. “Thanks!” she said. “He looks super cute. His name is Gratula Puppy!”
At first, I was just thrilled she’d given him an actual name. Most of her toys have names like “Bunny” or “Klara’s Dolly” or, for the doll whose eyes close when you lay her down, “Sleepy Baby.” Gratula was at least a name…of some sort. I was sure she’d gotten it from TV, mostly because she gets everything from TV. Curious, I asked, ‘Is Gratula from a TV show?”
“What show is Gratula from?”
“You know. The TV. Gratula. From the show.”
I started racking my brain the way parents always do when their child is saying something they can’t quite make out but which they’re sure will make perfect sense if they just think about it from a 3-year-old point of view. When I was pregnant with Joanna and had to go to the hospital for non-stress tests twice a week, Eric would stay home with Klara in the evening. I always got at least one text asking me to interpret what she was asking for by Eric’s phonetic spelling. “Nati” was Make Way for Noddy, some strange British animated show about some kind of toy elf or something – my kid likes weird stuff. Oya? Olaf – Frozen, of course. And my personal favorite:
Eric: She keeps asking for something…it sounds like Teamazoomi?
Me: Team Umizoomi. It’s on Nick Jr.
Eric: Oh. She was actually saying that pretty well, then.
So for those of you who don’t follow the Mommy Blogosphere (yes, it’s a thing) one common type of post is a recipe post, wherein the blogger posts details of a delicious recipe she’s recently whipped up, complete with stunning photography and detailed instructions on how you, too, can be a domestic goddess. (See: The Pioneer Woman, i heart nap time, Casey Leigh.)
In the spirit of expanding my own blog, I decided to jump on the bandwagon. Having promised dinner to a friend who recently gave birth to twins, I figured why not document my endeavor and share it with my loyal following?
Oh wait I forgot. I can’t cook. Continue reading “A pinch of this, a dash of whatever”
So after months and months of planning and talking and wishing, we finally bit the bullet and put our townhouse on the market. Which is really exciting and frustrating and nerve-wracking and exhausting all at the same time. And even though we do have the option of moving in with Eric’s parents temporarily, we decided it would be preferable if we could show our home while still living here.
Pros: We won’t have to pack up and move twice, we won’t be intruding on his parents, they won’t slowly start to resent us, question our parenting, question their parenting, question our marriage or question America’s future after seeing the state of kids television programming these days.
Cons: Trying to sell a house while living in it with an 8-month-old and a 3-year-old is like trying to sell a house while living in it with an 8-month-old and a 3-year-old. That’s it. That’s the analogy, because that’s the benchmark for craziness.
The only reason right now we are able to have our house an hour or two away from showing-worthy readiness is because about 80% of our worldly possessions are currently in boxes in our basement. I deal with at least six tantrums a day because Klara asked for something I can’t produce because Daddy shoved it in one of 67 boxes in the basement. This morning he whispered to me, “Do you think she’s even noticed her table and chairs are gone?” Yeah, you were at work for that tantrum. I think she noticed. She’s also been forbidden from going in the basement because 1. she likes to feed the cats five times a day and 2. she keeps “finding” things down there and bringing them up so I have to round them all back up at the end of the day and bring them back down like some kind of house-keeping Sisyphus.
Then there’s this: before our open house last weekend, Eric vacuumed every room in the house and ran the carpet shampooer carefully over the family room rug before forbidding any of us to eat, drink, play or breathe on it. Within 48 hours that rug had gotten the following things on it:
tomato soup (me)
poop (NOT me)
chocolate chips (Klara. Ok fine, me.)
I’m starting to think living with my in-laws sounds kind of nice. I wouldn’t have to leave the kids strapped in their carseats where they can’t touch anything while I do a final sweep of the house before a showing. Klara would stop asking me, “Is Daddy going to be so mad?” every time she spills something, like he’s Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, ready to erupt at the slightest provocation – a question that’s more indicative of my reaction to spills than his. I wouldn’t have to pretend I live a simple, minimalistic life with a reasonable amount of stuff and the real extent of my dysfunction isn’t crammed into old diaper boxes and stacked up to the basement ceiling.
So if you know anyone looking for a townhouse in South Carver, send them our way. Just maybe don’t mention the rug.
So if you’re on Facebook and you’re friends with any parents, you might be familiar with this article: You Just Broke Your Child. Congratulations. (TL;DR: Man in Costco sees father yelling at his innocent little boy.) I strongly dislike this article for any numbers of reasons, such as the author being a smug dillhole (“People see my relationship with Noah, and quite often put me up on a pedestal or sing my praises for loving him more than most dads love their own kids.” OMG so this is who really owns all those World’s Greatest Dad mugs?), but primarily because the article is so one sided. As a parent myself, I happen to know just how likely it is that what Dan “I’m a damn good dad” Pearce actually saw was carefully orchestrated by a devious mastermind, i.e. a toddler, to coerce/embarrass his dad until he bends to his will.
I’m not saying, ever, that parents should go around jamming their fingers into their children’s collarbones, but as the parent of a 2 1/2 year old, I know how easy it is for a child’s words and a parent’s reaction to be wildly misinterpreted by outsiders. I submit for you Exhibit A, an Oscar-worthy routine Klara has perfected which I like to call “I Need A Big Hug.”
“I Need A Big Hug” was born about a year ago, when Klara was still an only child, on a nighttime car trip home from somewhere, probably my parents’ house as I was alone with her in the car. She was crying about something – leaving her grandparents? wanting a snack? dropping a mitten? – and through her sobs she choked out, “I need a big hug.”
Well I’m not made of stone. How can I hear that from my baby and not want to encase her in my warm, loving mother’s embrace? You better believe I pulled off the road. I got off an exit and pulled into a gas station. I crawled into the back seat, unbuckled her, and cradled her in my arms.
I’m pretty sure it didn’t help, and then I had to fight with her to get her back in her car seat, and she probably cried the rest of the way home anyway. But the damage was done – she had found a powerful tool at her disposal, one that would make Mommy stop whatever she was doing and pay attention.
As a parent, we are often told to pick our battles, or save our most powerful tools (time outs? balloons? new episodes of Doc McStuffins?) for when they’re desperately needed. Toddlers never got that memo. If something works once, they’re going to play that ace every chance they get. Mommy won’t let you use her iPhone? “I need a big hug!!!” Mommy gets mad at you for not following directions? “Give me a big hug!!” Mommy tries to put you in time out? “I NEED A BIG HUG!!!” At first, I tried to comply when I could, if I wasn’t driving, or holding Joey, or peeing. But pretty soon it just became a standard part of each tantrum. Mommy won’t do what you want immediately? Play the hug card. It’s no longer a plea, it’s a shrieking demand. It doesn’t even mean “give me a hug” anymore, it means “DO WHAT I WANT AND DO IT NOW!!!” I’m about as likely to pull over when she says she needs a big hug as I am to pull over for a hitchhiker.
Of course, your average innocent bystander has no way of knowing the storied history of “I Need A Big Hug.” All they see is the tiny blonde person, tears running down her face, imploring her mother, in the middle of Shaw’s, to please give her a big hug. Who wouldn’t be appalled when said mother snaps back, “I am not giving you a hug!” or “No more hugs!!” or even, “Naughty girls don’t get hugs!!” I can see their blog posts now. “What kind of mother refuses her child’s impassioned plea for a bit of tenderness!?!” Tenderness my ass. She just wants me to buy her a box of Dora Fruit Snacks. She doesn’t want a hug any more than I want a romantic evening with Dan “Do you not realize the incredible and powerful bond that skin on skin contact with your daughter will give you?” Pearce.
I can’t possibly interpret every public interaction for you, so you’re going to have to check your scathing judgement and realize that what comes out of a two-year-old’s mouth is so often light years from what they really mean. Their parents know this; they are skilled interpreters of toddler bullshit. In case you happen to come across me out and about with Klara, here’s a cheat sheet:
“I eat a healthy lunch?” – Awww, she’s asking for some sustaining nourishment. Nope, not even close. She wants a treat. She knows if she asks for a treat, I’ll tell her she needs to eat something healthy first. She’s asking me if she ate a healthy lunch, i.e., “Can I have a treat?” Sometimes asked sweetly, sometimes screeched with an exclamation point instead of a question mark:
“I eat a healthy lunch?”
“No, you didn’t eat a healthy lunch. It’s 9 A.M. You had half a muffin and some cheddar bunnies for breakfast. You’re not having a treat.”
“I EAT A HEALTHY LUNCH!!!!”
“I’m going to take that ugly orange pumpkin-shaped bucket of treats and dump the whole thing in the trash if you keep screaming like that.”
“I’m ‘TARVIN'” – “I am trying to delay going to bed/delay putting my shoes on/keep you from accomplishing anything meaningful today.”
“It’s ok Mommy! It’s ok!” – “I have done something naughty; please don’t investigate further.”
“Who do you need to feed?” – “Are you going to nurse Joey now? Because I really want you to give me some food and turn the TV on and stand next to me while I use the potty even though I’m fully capable of doing it myself.”
“You need to tell me” – Said in response to a question. No, she’s not looking to me for parental guidance. She wants me to list every option available to her, as in:
“I’m ‘TARVIN’. I need some food.”
“OK, what do you want?”
“You need to tell me.”
“OK, how about an apple?’
“The kind you bite?***”
“Klara, that’s all we have. You need to pick something.”
“I eat a healthy lunch?”
“NO! NO HEALTHY LUNCH!”
“I NEED A BIG HUG!!!!”
So according to Sheryl Sandberg or someone we’re no longer supposed to refer to our daughters as “bossy;” we’re supposed to use more positive, self-esteem-building words like, I don’t know, “assertive.” Well, let me tell you, I am raising one “assertive” little lady. (Wait, that sounds sexist too. “Assertive young American”?) No one who knows me is surprised – I have a reputation for being “assertive” myself. It’s part of what makes me a good teacher.
Today I made the rookie parent mistake (is it still a rookie mistake if you make it over and over?) of telling Klara company was coming in the form of her friend Madeleine. Her face lit up with unbridled joy. “Mademine is coming?!?! To my house?!?” Just as quickly, it darkened into a glare, the full force of which was directed squarely at me. “You need to clean up.”
Yes, thank you, I do. I would love to clean up. If you could please let me know how to get your sister to stop screaming bloody murder every time I put her down I’d be happy to clean up. It would also help if you didn’t fling every clean pair of undies in the basket all over the family room every time you get a new pair, which is every time you go to the bathroom. Or if you didn’t leave half-eaten granola bars on every flat surface. Or if you didn’t interrupt me every 30 seconds asking me to do things like put a bib on Minnie Mouse, or hold your booger, or answers questions like “Where do bumps live?” She didn’t let up either. She continued to nag – excuse me, “remind” – me to clean up because Mademine was coming for the next two hours, until Mademine actually arrived.
Madeleine is probably the most agreeable, well-behaved little girl I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Seriously, this is a picture of Madeleine:
(Her mom told me today that when she wakes up in the morning she just rolls over and starts quietly playing with her stuffed animals and “would probably stay in there for two hours if we let her!” At that point I started seriously rethinking our friendship.)
This is Klara:
(Klara does not “wake up in the morning.” Klara wakes up at 2 a.m. screaming “I WANT MOMMY!!!”)
Klara and Madeleine get along famously; the dynamic of their relationship is best summed up by the late, great Shel Silverstein in his poem “Friendship”:
I’ve discovered a way to stay friends forever–
There’s really nothing to it.
I simply tell you what to do
And you do it!
Klara had decided long before Madeleine arrived that they were going to paint. When presented with this “option” Madeleine, characteristically, agreed. Klara is nothing if not a good hostess. She ordered up bowls of grapes for each of them – “We’re ‘TARVIN’. You like grapes, Mademine? Mademine needs a bowl of grapes.”
Madeleine also agreed when Klara decided it was time to move on to playing with the Little People princess castle and Klip Klop stable. True, she balked a bit when Klara decided that that was quite enough of that and it was time to clean up every last princess, whether Madeleine was playing with them or not, and sit on the couch and watch T.V. I pleaded with her that Madeleine was using the toys, but to no avail. “No. Mademine wants to watch somepin’. She wants to sit on the couch.” She determinedly shoveled the princesses into the box, slammed the cover on and jammed the box onto the shelf. (Why in the name of all that is holy can she not be that “assertive” about picking things up when I want her to pick up???) I patiently explained that Madeleine was our guest and she was still playing. But it was too late. Madeleine had agreeably decided that she really DID want to sit on the couch and watch somepin’. “You like Mickey, Mademine?” Of course she did.
In good time, snacks were ordered. “We’re ‘TARVIN’.”
“You’re not starving. You just had a snack and it’s almost dinner time.”
“Yes we are. Mademine is ‘TARVIN’. You ‘tarvin’ Mademine?”
“Yeah!” Madeline agreed.
“She doesn’t even know what ‘starving’ means,” her mother whispered. “Madeleine, what does starving mean?”
“I don’t know!” she chirped.
Anyway, it was time to go. Madeleine immediately threw herself to the ground and began hitting and kicking and screaming “I DON’T WANT TO GO HOME!!!!” Ha ha no just kidding. She cheerfully thanked both me and Klara for having her over to play, dutifully put on her coat and left with a wave. I seriously rethought my philosophy of life, the universe and everything.
“That was so fun!!!” Klara bounced around the room, flinging undies. “I like Mademine.” She turned to me with a glare. “You need to cook me some dinner. I’m ‘TARVIN.'”