Small Victories: Sometimes We’re All Stupid

Sometimes we’re stupid. Sometimes we’re brilliant. Sometimes this is a victory in and of itself.

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You see this cup of coffee? It was hard won. After a week of shoddy sleep — thanks to a wakeful, nursing toddler — and a morning of wack-a-mole style kid meltdowns, I was running of fumes by noon. Mama. Needed. Coffee.

I put my toddler down for a nap while my older two played on the deck. Then, I began to ready the coffee maker. My sleep-deprived mind filled with all of the glorious possibilities ahead of me — the boundless energy and amplified patience, the miraculously well-behaved brood and angelic giggles — that this cup of coffee would provide.

First, I poured the grounds into the water tank. Damn! Next, while cleaning the machine, I turned the entire device upside down over the sink just to have all of the unsecured parts fall directly onto my bare feet. Ouch! Then, machine cleansed and grounds ready to be properly inserted, I fumbled the cup of coffee grounds and poured the entire mound of caffeination granules all over the kitchen counter. GAH! After extracting coffee grounds from underneath every counter-dwelling appliance, I carefully — carefully — prepared my cup of coffee. Taking excess caution not to mangle my own efforts this time.

I did it! I was not stupid.  (This time.)

I loaded the dishwasher, listening to the coffee drip into my mug, feeling quite accomplished in my remedial coffee brewing success. I collected my mug of sweet liquid energy and grinned. I sat down on the sofa to take a much-needed break, stretching my stumpy legs and bare feet out onto the cushions, and sinking back into the pillows. Then: “WAH!!!!”

My 4-year-old tried to close the deck door behind himself while holding the interior door handle. Yes, he closed the door on his own hand. Like mother like son.

Maybe tomorrow we’ll be smarter. But for now, I’ll take my luke-warm coffee as my participation award.

When Mommy is caffeinated, everyone wins. Small victories.

Moments It’s All Worth It

Every day contains moments of laughter, frustration, disbelief, relaxation, anxiety, disgust, and happiness. Some days contain more memorably good — or not-so-good — moments than others, but that’s life. Moments like this, though, make it all worth it.

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It’s the quiet, unexpected moments that snatch your breath and make your eyes well. It’s the little things that spur you to press the mental “save” button with frenzied intensity, like an impatient elevator rider battering an elevator call button. As if you think the more you tell yourself, “Remember this! Remember THIS! REMEMBER THIS!” The more likely you will be to ensure the recollection is stored away safely in your mental files. And not have it instantaneously forgotten, like the fellow mom’s name you’ve re-asked too many times already to possibly question again without seeming senile.

Seeing the people you love most love one another is unlike anything else. It’s one of the biggest rewards of having multiple kids.

For that moment all of the tantrums and boundary-pushing, the intentionally soiled clothing and mealtime drama is forgotten. For that breath in time everything is blissful and magical. Parenthood is the most rewarding endeavor ever undertaken. You are the best parent on earth blessed with the most angelic cherubs ever dreamt.

Then someone wipes a booger on you, and you’re back to reality.

Savor those moments. During the rough times, remember they’re there… those glimmering mementos of beauty, those cherubs you see shine through the crusted snot and marker-streaked faces. Those moments of joy, they’ll carry you through. Treasure them. You earned it.

Surviving the “F’ing 4s”

“I love my middle son but he’s driving me NUTS!” I recently vented to a dear mom friend. “F’ing 4s,” my friend said, “that’s what we call them.” So aptly named!

Between dropping his nap — I know, we had a great run so I can’t complain –, finally ditching sleep time pacifiers, and turning 4-years old all in the same day, the last couple months have been rough with my middle son. I love him, he’s a sweet kid, but O…M…G! There are some moments in the day when I understand why animals eat their young. (I kid… sort of.)

Not listening, pushing boundaries, acting out, (poorly) lying, acting hyper then crashing into tiredness… each afternoon is a whirlwind of frustration. Fortunately, I survived my daughter’s 4s, so I can handle this.

“Their body is ready to stop napping but their brain isn’t there yet,” a friend once advised me when I asked how to safely pull my daughter and myself through the nasty nap-dropping phase and my friend responded, “Once their brain catches up, things get easier.” I asked how long that’d take, expecting the standard two-week phase timeline.”One month,” my friend replied as I choked on my own mortality, “but more like six months until you’re really out of the woods.” I think I blacked out for a bit there. Six freaking months??? Of demonic tantrums and mood swings, swirling energy plummeting into raging exhaustion. The stuff they don’t — but really should — detail in sex-ed. Forget VD and UTIs, talk real deal potty-training and the “F’ing 4s”, that’ll tame the teen libido.

My middle son doesn’t have the stamina or ferocity to maintain a meltdown anywhere close to my first child’s, but he is still checking that “F’ing 4s” box with a heavy-handed tick mark in his own slightly less mind-melting way.

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How can you tell how bad the day has been? Simply look up on top of the armoire in our entryway. If there’s a rainbow wig up there: it’s been dicey. If there’s a rainbow wig and a dress-up crown: there was major suckage. If there’s a rainbow wig, a dress-up crown, and a mermaid doll up there: buy me wine and run.

And so we survive this unglamorous, wholly exhausting phase trying to savor the scattered good bits amidst the mayhem. We’ll come out stronger for the struggle, but right now we’re just trudging through.

We’re imperfectly parenting our imperfect children because we’re human, and that’s what we do. Surviving and savoring parenthood one day at a time.

Saying “F Off” to the Mommy Groups

Social media mom groups. Useful, right? Of course. Until they’re not.

Open groups, closed groups, secret groups… there is an assortment of mom groups available on Facebook. Everyone from crunchy homesteaders to tattooed moms have their dedicated social cluster on Facebook. These groups are support systems and connection points for moms who are often isolated by motherhood. They enable mothers to come together across state and country lines. They provide a place where moms can ask about baby-lead weaning, funky rashes, weird poop colors, postpartum healing, breastmilk storage, formula recommendations, in-law dilemmas, annoying phases, nursing-friendly swimsuits, and pregnancy test results. Perfect, right? Such a sanctuary. Or maybe not.

I originally joined these groups as a source of fellowship and information, as well as to help other moms, especially first-time-moms. As my littlest grew beyond babyhood, I found myself simply there to answer questions. I felt compelled to help these worried moms.

Friends kindly suggested groups so that I could help spread milk-sharing awareness and aid others with pumping and/or breastfeeding queries. I loved it. I got involved and felt rewarded when I helped a formerly unknown mom navigate a troublesome parenting patch. Then things turned.

There were already heated topics that you knew to either avoid entirely or sit back and watch the explosion. Circumcision, infant ear piercing, vaccinations, breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, nursing in public, sleep training, introduction of solid foods, etc. They were time bombs.

Then there was the hoot-and-holler component. “I can’t believe my MIL…”, “I couldn’t believe this parent at the playground…”, “Ugh, my daycare provider…”, “How could anyone…”, “I can’t stand moms who…” If you ever saw a post begin with, “Am I right to be upset about this?” You knew the comments would be rife with hyperbolic reaction. “That’d set me off!” “How dare she!” “I’d throw down if that happened to me!” “You should’ve made a scene!” Based on the comments, you’d think every playdate was like an episode of the Maury Povich Show.

Who were these people? These were  my fellow moms???

The venting. The misinformation. The more often than not overly emotional reactions to trivial matters that became commonplace. All of this garbage was clogging my Facebook feed with melodrama instead of my friends’ vacation photos and kid stories.

Eventually, almost every time I opened social media — my window to the outside world during the emotionally isolated stay-at-home-mom days and my source of entertainment while nursing or pumping — I would get a rush of frustration. The same dilemmas, the same complaints, the same drama. Every time. I began to feel isolated and taxed by the very outlet that was supposed to free me from those sensations.

Social media is supposed to be fun… frivolous. I should enjoy logging on and scrolling past posts and photos, memes and videos. Instead, I got agitated. I’d log off more unhappy than I’d felt prior to logging on.

So, I decided to say “F off” to all of the mom groups. I left every mom group in my feed. I immediately felt better, lighter, relieved.

I could’ve simply “unfollowed” them, but why? I didn’t want to be associated with the negativity anymore. I wanted a positive, fun space to dip my mind into occasionally throughout the day. I wanted connection, not agitation.

I took the transition a step further and created the group “Positive Charge.” A tranquil, uplifting group where we share positivity, happiness, and inspiration. From beautiful photos to funny memes, happy experiences to inspirational quotes, we provide positive energy for one another. Or, at least that’s the goal.

It may grow, it may not. It may succeed, it may not. Who knows? All that matters to me is that I took a step to solve the problem, to plug and replenish the social media energy drain.

I’m happy.

 

Scared for My Supergirl Boy

I’m scared. I meditate and it hums in my mind. I sleep and it arises in my dreams. I do yoga and feel the tension festering in my hamstrings, the anxiety sizzling in my chest. I am terrified for my son.

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Supergirl and Batgirl

Recently, I read about a local transgender high school girl being stalked and attacked because her trans identity had been discovered. My brain has rattled and my heart has shuttered since then.

Two days later, still shaken from the story, I read a response in a mommy group claiming that “gender bending” was categorically wrong, that everything from toys to hygiene products should be entirely gender-specific. The mom said anything less than complete adherence to strict gender norms was wrong and that she taught her children to never accept anything different, because skewing gender stereotypes was immoral. I read that and imagined how her children would respond to my gender-bending middle child. I feared for my son’s safety and well-being.

Then, on Mother’s Day, we had yet another playground incident. My middle son was dressed in a red cape and a blue shirt with the iconic read “S” on the front. “I’m Supergirl!” He proclaimed. (Superman and Supergirl wear the same emblem, so this and my son’s outward appearance leads to some understandable confusion.) Most incidents fizzle quickly and everyone goes about scaling playground equipment. No harm, no foul.

This run-in was different though. Two pre-K boys arrived to the relatively uninhabited playground. “Why don’t you play with these new friends here?” I prompted my 4-year-old son. “I’m Supergirl!” He said, striking his proudest superhero pose. The smaller of the two boys pointed to the red “S” on my son’s shirt, “You’re SuperMAN.” “No, I’m SuperGIRL.” My son retorted. “Go play!” I tell my son, trying to end the dispute.

No one moved. The taller boy chimed in, “No. You’re a boy. You’re Superman.” My daughter stepped between the boys and her brother, hands on her hips, and a couple of inches taller than her male counterparts, she looked in their eyes and matter-of-factly said, “He says he’s Supergirl. He’s Supergirl.” “Go play!” I tell them, shoo’ing them with my hands.

“No he’s not! He’s a boy. He’s Superman. He’s not a girl.” The boy argued. My son leaned in, defiant: “I. Am. SuperGIRL.” “Are you here to play?” The boys’ caretaker asked her charges, “If you’re here to play, go play. Otherwise, we’re leaving.” No one moves.

Desperate to end the exchange, I turn to my son, “Do you think you can climb up that twisty slide?” He looked at the slide and bolted towards it. “I can!” Exclaimed the two boys. Not the outcome I was intending, but at least they weren’t debating gender-appropriate superhero play.

A few minutes later, I was helping my daughter on the monkey bars as my son waited his turn. One of the boys sidled up to him and said, “You’re Superman.” Then ran off. Later, my son climbed the curved ladder and, as if they were crows attacking a flying hawk over scraps, the boys pecked at him: “You’re a boy.” “You’re SuperMAN.” My son would simply reply, “I’m Supergirl.” And continue on.

Not one scream. No red face. Not a single tear. My son handled the interaction better than I could. I stayed back letting him fend for himself under my watch in the controlled environment. I looked on as he held his own. He did not kowtow, never once physically fought back, and never cried for my involvement. He simply clarified his purpose and kept on.

I am proud of my son. He is who he is without question, without shame, without fear. I am the one who is afraid.

I am afraid of a world that refuses to let him be himself, refuses to accept him for him, refuses to keep him safe. All I can do is love him, support him, and hope against hope that he will remain unscathed… whoever it is he becomes.

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day! That’s a loaded sentiment, no? The statment implies a hope of celebration for females who parent one or more living children. I’d like to nix that notion.

Instead, I’d like to wish a happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms, step-moms, moms-to-be, adoptive moms, foster moms, surrogate moms, biological moms, hopeful moms, loss moms, aunts, godmothers, grandmothers, step-grandmothers, cousins, great-aunts, childcare providers and teachers (“weekday moms”), milk moms, female mentors, and any woman who has cherished a child. You needn’t have physically birthed a child to be celebrated today. You simply need to have made a positive impact on a child’s life.

I know this day can be challenging for those who have lost — a mother, a child, a dream — or are trying to conceive (if you’re a returning reader, you know I’ve walked that path), but I hope you find a way to smile, to focus on all you have, the beauty of life, the fond memories, and positive possibilities. All who are hurting today, I wish you more smiles than tears, more warm recollections than pained mantras. I hope you can find the stamina to will yourself to feel comfort, if not happiness, today.

I wish for you to choose joy. I wish for you pleasant moments of a quiet mind and a full heart. I wish you a beautiful day. You deserve it.

“Before and After” Bull: Set Off by Weightloss Schemes

“Drink this to lose weight!” “Eat this to get lean!” “Take this to be bikini ready!” Those taglines are irksome enough for someone who believes in body acceptance, especially postpartum. Then the kicker: “before and after” photos featuring a very recently postpartum mom (or worse yet, pregnant woman) in contrast with a months later svelte version of that same participant. Good for her for finding self-confidence but, I’m sorry, holy unethical advertising!

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I wasn’t a “before”… I was PREGNANT!

I’m all for moms finding career success. I love when moms help one another. I adore that getting fit and strong is a war-cry for some: “I am more than just a uterus!” I appreciate that some of those same fitness-loving moms want to help others find that same empowerment. Yes, do that! Let’s be cautious not to cannibalize one another for the sake of a buck, though.

OF COURSE the weightloss results are going to be most drastic at the markedly transitional postpartum point. That “before” model just created, grew, and expelled a human from her body. She may even be trying to nourish that same human by way of her body. So why imply her — or any other woman’s — primary agenda should be muscle gain and fat loss? Can’t she just be without being a “before”?

How can you truthfully even slightly imply in good conscience that the results experienced by a woman who is days pre- or post-delivery will be accessible to others? She will lose at least 10lb of fluid and blood right off the bat postpartum. That’s a ludicrous comparison to those not at the same life stage. And if a product does do that, steer clear!

Get fit if you’d like, or don’t if it’s not the right time for you. But certainly don’t categorize a pregnant or immediately postpartum woman as a “before”. Doing so reinforces the ridiculous pressure on moms to bounce back immediately postpartum. It feigns that pregnancy and childbirth are easy and glamorous. It indicates we moms are not enough — that we are “befores” to be improved upon — if we are not lean and trim. Don’t get sucked in.

Get healthy. Eat a cupcake. Drink the shake. Do that cleanse. Or don’t. Workout. Take naps. Do yoga. Do CrossFit. Do brunch. Do what works for you.

Don’t let scheming advertisers make you think less of yourself because you didn’t or don’t want to down their secret potion, wrap yourself in their human shrink wrap, or take their mystical pill to make you a leaner version of the already amazing you. Remember: they don’t care about YOU… they care about profits.

You’re worth more than that. You’re gorgeous. Do you.

What I Look for in Mom Friends

For as long as I can remember, I have chosen quality over quantity when it comes to friends. I categorized people as “acquaintance” with much greater frequency than “friend.” I could be an acquaintance with most anyone, but a friend was a rare treasure.

As a mom — especially as a stay-at-home mom — of three young children, I have learned the value of mom friends. Not only are they your kid activities advisors, your mystery rash gurus, your go-to for recommendations from gynos to plumbers, and your how-do-I-survive-this-stage parenting counselors, but they’re your sanity savers.

On the days when you think your kids are plotting a coup, on the mornings you are tempted to shove your husband’s yet-again haphazardly flung jacket down the garbage disposal, on the nights when you’re drowning in a tsunami of mom guilt, on the afternoons when you found yet another dehydrated kid poop in the dryer and you just have to laugh-vent to someone who will double over in giggles instead of vomit in her own mouth, you turn to your mom friends. Because, as much as you love your kid-free friends, there are some things only fellow moms really understand.

So, what do I look for in mom friends? These are my basic top 5 must-have qualities:

1) Non-asshole. I mean, sometimes we’re all assholes, that’s just reality. I’m talking general life approach here though. I look for someone who doesn’t litter, doesn’t intentionally park or drive like a self-centered jackass, doesn’t treat waitstaff or nail technicians like peasants, isn’t homophobic/xenophobic/racist… you know, someone who acts like a decent human. Someone I would be happy to have around my kids.

2) Trustworthy. If someone gossips to me about someone we both know, I could only expect that person to gossip about me to someone else. I understand venting — that’s reasonable, and as much as I’d like to think everyone is completely happy with me at all times, I know that’s absolutely not the case — but intentionally bashing, demeaning, or spreading rumors is inexcusable. We’re not just adults but MOMS for goodness sakes. I don’t need or want the negativity and duplicity of gossip in my life. Some people enjoy it; I don’t. I need to trust my friends.

3) Genuine. Just as I trust my friends to act like decent humans who won’t gossip about or to me, I need to trust that they are who they say they are. No facades, no weak egos hiding behind bravado, no lying by intention or omission, no befriending me as a means to an end, no competitive drama, no judging. Cop to your bad days, your flaws, your struggles. Life is beautiful but it isn’t perfect and sunny all the time, so own that. Just be you… the real you.

4) Amiable. The ability to laugh at life and yourself is huge! Sure, sometimes things go wrong and we cry, but choosing to laugh more often than mourn is awesome. Because, why not laugh? Laughing is more fun than crying anyway, right? The heartier the laugh, the more I like you. ‘Cause what’s the point of a good belly laugh if you’re stifling it into a demure giggle? Let it out and laugh proud. I’ll snort and cackle right along with you.

5) Inspirational. I admire something about all of my friends. Whether it’s pursuing a dream, parenting a rugged crew with overflowing love, having a wicked sense of humor, overcoming life struggles without becoming bitter, being a beacon of zen tranquility, honing a talent, or being the most honest, true, and best version of herself possible, each of my mom friends has a facet that I honor. Surrounding myself with people who inspire me to do and be better, I am enriching my own life and those of my children.

I carefully select my true mom friends. My life is better and more fun because of them. We all deserve to choose friends who better us, who sync with our worldview, our values, and our lifestyle. I wish you the fortune and self-confidence to find a mom friend perfectly suited to you.

What do you look for in mom friends?

 

 

 

 

 

Infertility Awareness Week

I was infertile. My battle (detailed here) was longer than some and shorter than others, but it was no less painful, humbling, terrifying, lonely, and life-changing for me.

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I was immensely fortunate to put the battle behind me. To move forward. To get pregnant. Others are not presented that path. I am immensely grateful for all my struggle taught me, how it shaped me, and that it is over.

If you have faced or are presently fighting infertility, know you are not alone. My heart, my love, and my thoughts are with you.

The Tough Days, The Precious Years

I love the “Memories” portion of Facebook, don’t you? Photos and posts from 1, 2, 3… 5 years ago pop up to remind you where you were — who you were — on that exact day years ago. It really gives you a heightened awareness of your journey. It also highlights just how fast times passes.

Recently, these photos appeared in my Facebook “Memories” feed. At first, I looked at my 3-years-younger children’s cherubic faces, my daughter’s shorter ringlets, my son’s toddler stature. Then, I remembered.

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I remembered this trip vividly. It was my turning point. It was when I finally began to feel my head cresting above water. I was moving beyond survival mode.

The months and long days prior were tough but precious. I remembered them with a visceral clarity. The sleeplessness, the tantrums, the constant needs, the perpetual demands (external and internal), the feeling as if everyone else had their shit together but me.

Prior to that day, I had a constant sense of being overwhelmed, underprepared, inept, but engulfed in love. I adored my children, but I struggled to wrangle my 1-year-old and 2.5-year-old. I strained to work part-time with a hellish commute while simultaneously striving to be the hands-on, involved mother I wanted to be.

I demanded of myself to be everything. To do everything. I refused to admit defeat. Other women could have, do, and be it all, so why couldn’t I? Wait… but could they? Could I?

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As I look back now with 3 years of experience, distance, and perspective, I can appreciate how adorable those little faces were. I can forget the tantrums over the granola bar being broken, the fits over a sippy cup being purple instead of blue, the frenzy over a pink tutu not being pink enough. I can forget the fatigued fog of lacking REM sleep. I can forget feigning that I was a career-minded woman in the office, attempting to hide my tears over missing my children’s first trip to a pumpkin patch or not being the one to kiss their scraped knees because I was managing spreadsheets. I can forget the hazardous work-home-life balancing act that never included myself. I can forget the public meltdowns, the car seat battles, the unexpected toddler bolt in public as I chased behind my pint-sized fugitive maneuvering the Snap-N-Go stroller through crowds.

Now, I can simply remember the good, the precious, the sweet. I hold onto memories of the cuddles, the sticky kisses, the chubby hands and dimpled knees, the adoration and clinging need that accompanies being someone else’s everything. I can mute the struggles and amplify the beauty. I can laugh at where I’ve been, even craving a momentary return to the madness. Those days were tough, the years were precious. The memories are priceless.