Saturday, September 27, 2014

Day 270

How to take your children to the zoo (adult partner not included) in 16 easy steps.

1.  Obtain a concussion in the manner of your choice and decide that a visit to the zoo with your darling babies (preferably all under 5 years of age, so that there is a great deal of autonomy that enables you to believe you don't need assistance in this undertaking, yet the children are still dependent enough upon you to make you feel as though you will be imparting great wisdom and benevolence upon them by granting them this outing) is, in fact, a good idea.  Bonus points if you have no zoos within 100 miles of you and the trip will include at least two hours strapped into a moving vehicle together.

2.  Prepare!  Zoo food costs the GNP of a small European nation, so packing a lunch and some snacks is a great way to make sure you return home without having to sell yourself into prostitution.  Of course, because you planned the trip in the first place, you are A Good Mom and pack healthy yet desirable foods which your children have eaten before 9,000 times and you're sure will be a hit.  You even remember the cooler and ice pack for refreshing drinks and yogurt!  Make sure, however, to forget to pack any food for yourself.  This is important.  It triples your martyrdom points and, also, low blood sugar is a fantastic thing when dealing with small children.

3.  Pack it all up!  Load the diaper bag (because, of course, this trip is best made if at least one of your children is not yet potty trained) with an extra set of clothes for each child, all food and drinks, diapers, wipes, toys for the car, some first aid necessities, bags for trash, wallet, keys, camera (DO NOT FORGET THE CAMERA FOR THE LOVE OF GOD; super bonus points if it's not a point-and-shoot, the heavier the better), tissues, and a couple pens and paper just in case you need to write a "rescue me" note.  Now remove one crucially important thing for a Very Good Reason that you will never remember later.  (My item of choice is the wipes, because it lends an extra air of thrill and excitement when you don't realize it until you absolutely effing need the wipes right effing now.)

4.  Get in the car and go!  Things to do in the car:
  • Realize the stroller you have on hand is the one without any "holders" of any kind, so not only is your child extremely likely to drop anything of great importance he might be holding at any given time while sitting in it, but you cannot store the diaper bag in the undercarriage and will be carrying approximately 75 pounds of crap in a crippling manner for five hours.  Make a mental note to stop at a big box store (because that's never a bad idea) to pick up a more ergonomically correct backpack.
  • Give your children something to eat that creates an unholy mess.  MAKE SURE you've left out the wipes if you make this decision.  This helps you justify the watered down unsweetened tea you left in the cup holder from the day (or two) before, which makes a perfect rinsing agent.
  • Allow the children to bring along devices that play loud, yet conflicting, music.
  • Engage your children in bright, excited conversation that touches on their interests to let them know this day is about them!  My personal choice this time was to try and relate a quote about road trips from one of my 5-year-old son's favorite movies (Blues Brothers), except I couldn't quite remember how it went.

    Me:  Hey, what is it that Elwood says about going to Chicago and having a tank of gas?
    Him:  Shit, we're out of gas?

    (While that is a quote related to gas from the movie, no, that is not the one I was looking for.)
  • Count how many times the children hit/poke/almostbutdon'tquite touch one another after you have given the "keep your hands to yourself" edict.  Super bonus points if you then take this number and subtract the corresponding amount of dollars off their allowances.  It is highly likely they will become your new source of income and you can quit working.
5.  Make the stop previously mentioned to purchase a new backpack.  Be sure to forget to buy wipes.

6.  Make a second stop to buy wipes.  Best if you can do this at another big box store because you cannot locate a gas station or small pharmacy, despite the fact that you typically can't go four steps without tripping on one.  Also best if you enter the store with purpose and determination in the entirely wrong direction and have to circle the entire building.

7.  Arrive three hours after your intended ETA.  Bonus points if this means you miss out on the brief window of pleasant, happy behavior from the children and have now moved into "this is my usual nap time and I need to make sure the ENTIRE WORLD knows I'm missing it right now" territory.

8.  See one exhibit.

9.  Realize you left something crucial in the vehicle while transferring the diaper bag contents into your oh-so-smart new backpack.

10.  Return to car to fetch said item.  Bonus points if you make a questionable parenting decision like allowing your children to sit at the top of the hill (fully in your view and within 30 feet of your destination) because there is no paved path and getting the stroller up it once was a complete cardiovascular workout that you would prefer not to repeat.  Race down and try to get your stuff out of the car before CPS arrives and removes them from your custody.

11.  Reenter zoo.  Immediately stop for lunch because one child is hungry.  But only one.  Do not concern yourself overly much with the nutritional well being of the other child, however, because he will demand food approximately 5-10 minutes after you've completed your lunch break and have neatly stored everything back into your bag.  Don't worry about that, either, because he will not want one single thing you packed despite the fact that he has never before rejected these items and has, in fact, previously gone on a hunger strike until these items were obtained.

12.  Plow through viewing all the animals like a semi truck on nitrous.  Why?  Child A would like to stop and read all the educational information, locate each animal in its habitat, play with the learning centers, and essentially experience the zoo as it was intended.  Child B is incapable of remaining in one place for more than a microsecond without emitting a sound the military could utilize to directly pierce the enemy's brain and kill everyone within a 500 yard radius without expending a single bullet.  Child B, sadly, wins.  (Take lots of pictures to be viewed with Child A while Child B is comatose and locked behind a door somewhere later -- the actual reason for bringing the camera -- and plan to buy Child A a consolation milkshake.)

13.  One item of significant emotional value must be lost and/or destroyed before exiting the park.  The item of choice during our most recent trip was the 2-year-old's sippy cup, which he kicked into the fishing cats' habitat from the viewing platform above them.  Both he and the 5-year-old lost their actual minds.  So did the fishing cats.  Bonus points if you can escape the situation without being tsked by another zoo patron.  Super bonus points if you refrain from physical violence if you are tsked.

14.  Make sure to run out of all food and drink before loading your children back into the car.  Bonus points if the batteries are also dead in their extremely noisy toys.  Don't worry; the noise your children will make up for this loss.

15.  In the event that your commute home is clear and fast-moving, directly reroute yourself into the heaviest traffic you can locate.  If all else fails, only visit the Smithsonian Zoo in D.C. and depart during rush hour when large sections of your return home have been closed for "emergency repaving" without any prior warning.  This guarantees you will maximize your bonding time with your children.  Be prepared for tears, but do not despair.  They will help with the dehydration issue.

16.  Whatever else happens, be sure your children DO NOT sleep on the drive home (which, with any luck, will have been extended by an hour due to traffic and construction).  Bonus points if you continue to forget to feed yourself in your desperation to get the *&@% home.  Think how much weight you're losing!

If you do not follow each of these steps (all of which can be easily personalized to fit any type of outing you plan to take as the sole adult chaperoning your children in a public place), you may never truly be able to appreciate things such as silence and food and the glory of your empty home after the last one has departed for the workforce or college or prison.


We had only been there 5 minutes.  Charlie had already tried to upturn the buggy twice.  GOOD TIMES.
If you're really lucky and love your children enough, some day they will look at you like this.


The mama lion feels me.  I love that she's feeding one cub to the other here.  YOU GO, GIRL.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Day 202

To Myself On My 35th Birthday:

That is one seriously narcissistic opening.  But I have some stuff I want to say that I want you to know when you're in That Place.  The ugly one, with the crying and the snipping and the unattractive outlook on life in general.  I like to write letters to my kids on their birthdays, because I love them and I want them to know that.  Well, I want you to know that, too.

The other day I was driving through the city where Henry and I were in the hospital for, lo, those nine thousand years.  Or six weeks.  Whatever.  It was hard.  The part when I was in the hospital was hard enough, but at least then I had a staff of people taking care of my physical needs (and even sometimes the emotional ones).  When I got out, my family very graciously helped me to stay in a hotel about four blocks from the hospital so I could remain near Henry until he was released. 

I would walk those four blocks eight times a day, four there, four back.  I would cross the street in the same place, see the same cars parked in the same spots, watch the sidewalk go from the same uneven bricks to the same wide blocks of concrete.  I put one foot in front of the other for three weeks in a row and vaguely noticed how normal that seemed, just taking a walk.  And inside, every day, eight times a day, I would think how much I hated myself.  

I couldn't carry my baby the right way, my body rejected him, and because of that now I couldn't take care of either of my sons.  I didn't want to be at the hospital.  I didn't want to be at home.  I didn't want to speak to anyone.  I didn't want anyone to abandon me.  I didn't want to ask for help.  I didn't deserve the help I got.  I went over and over and over all the choices I'd made during my pregnancy that I thought I shouldn't have made, convinced that I brought it all on myself.

Super long story short, I was pretty broken.  It wasn't the first time.  It wasn't really the last, either.  It was just a pretty tangible time that I happened to stumble across yesterday.  For so, so long I've been thinking it's my broken parts that define me.  Every day I think bad thoughts, I make bad choices, I don't do something when I should, I do something when I shouldn't, I don't do enough, I don't try enough.  I tell myself that because this is how I am, my friends and family will eventually catch on and stop liking me.  Or loving me.

So here's the actual truth.  ALL of that is a lie.  You are not defined by your broken times.  That sidewalk between that hospital and that hotel is four blocks long.  And that's it.  That is not the road you will walk forever.  It is not the one you have to walk, and it's not the one you deserve to walk.  You had trouble in college.  And then you graduated.  You hate your day job.  You're working on changing that, still, even though you've fallen flat on your face twice now. 
You are not a bad mom because your body failed.  You aren't bad because you had to leave one child to care for another.  You aren't even bad for wishing you hadn't decided to have a second kid.  You've had hard thoughts.  You have been depressed.  A lot.  Many times.  And then you got help.  You don't own the copyright on broken.  It's a human condition.  

You are defined by the part where you just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  You kept walking.  You're still walking.  You haven't stopped so far, and that's the only thing that matters.

I know myself enough to know that I'm not always going to remember this, so I'm telling it to you (me?) to remind myself that I knew it once.  And that it's important enough to remember again.  Let other people love you and accept it for what it is.  Remember that you'd love someone else in your shoes.  And, please, know on the days that you don't know, I love you.  You're not so bad at all.



Because writing a super hard letter to myself isn't self important enough, HERE IS A PICTURE OF ME.  Apparently that's how I roll now. 

So I really kind of hate pictures of me.  I'm sharing today because: 

(1) I don't want my kids to hate pictures of themselves.  They're gorgeous because they exist and they should always think so. 

(2) I always, always, look back on old pictures and think, "Why did I hate myself?  I look so happy and healthy and great!"  I never, never, look at contemporary pictures that way.  So here, me, ask yourself why today.

(3) Henry wanted to take my picture.  He has learned how to push the shutter button on the camera phone and he thinks capturing a moment is awesome.  And it is.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Day 93

These two days, man.  I was wholly prepared for them to suck.  When my husband told me he was going out of the country again so soon after the last trip (which wore on me like whoa), and for longer this time, I just felt...heavy.  And, no lie, there were tears.  I've got issues for sure.

And he left and it started out with a bang, me feeling beyond crappy yesterday morning but having to go to story time anyway because I owed 30 kids a bunch of muffins, and then the boys begging to play outside even though we're hip deep in mud (I let them), and then Henry's flat refusal to take a nap, and then all the energy I had left being devoted to making dinner, which got phoned in because I decided, screw it, I'm making pancakes.  But I wasn't sad, and that was good enough.

I thought today would be like yesterday, just kind of pushing through until the next part, but it wasn't.  I let the boys watch a movie this morning when it was cold and drizzly.  They snuggled up together on the couch with their blankets and ate snacks and actually watched.  Quietly.  Later, we had to run errands (the boys picked books to take in the car instead of toys; I will fully admit to being all puffed up over that) and it had warmed up enough to have the sunroof open while I drove.  We played the radio too loud and pretended it was closer to summer than winter and just plain enjoyed hanging out together.  Later, I realized we needed to return our movies to the store but we were already in our PJs (...all of us, and, no, you don't need to know how early it was, shut up), so I loaded us up and we just went.  In our PJs, acting like we belonged there just like that.

I mean, the day wasn't without moments that weren't warm and fuzzy.  Henry's nap was too short, Charlie had to be reminded half a dozen times not to yell in the house, bath was full of bubbles in the eyes (note to self:  NO MORE BUBBLE BATH).  But.  Sometimes when you're eyeball deep in babyhood, it seems like these days when you actually communicate and connect and joke and reason with and enjoy each other mutually are a long, long way off.  And then one day they aren't and it's beautiful.

I say a lot of words about how hard it is to deal with kids, and it isn't a cakewalk.  But I love my kids.  They're good and special and I fully recognize that this is a magic time I'm not ever getting back.  Doesn't mean they won't give me days when I wish they'd go faster, or days I wish I could drop them off with someone else and take off for about a week.  But I love them and it's good to be reminded just how strong that is sometimes.


When we were loading up into the car today, I asked Charlie to close the gate while I got Henry in the car.  He did, then very carefully got the latch to lock it and spent a long time getting it hooked just so.  I asked him why he was locking it, we weren't even going to be home.  He turned to me and gave me a look like I was a simpleton.

"Bad guys."

Man of the house is taking his job seriously while Daddy is gone.


He's even taking care of Cotton.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Day 68

As pretty much anyone reading this knows, my little family lives out in the middle of everloving nowhere.  We have a small town (and I do mean small -- 1,200 is our population and that includes all the surrounding farms) about 10 minutes from the house so we can hit the grocery story or the library, but our closest friends are about 45 minutes and our closest family members are two to two and a half hours.

I love living in the country.  Mostly.  There's a lot about it I wouldn't like to give up, but as we've had kids it's felt more like isolation and a burden (emotional and physical).  Very recently, when I was in a pretty crappy head space, I let that get to me and convinced myself that I really was alone, that the work it takes to care about me at these distances was too much and that I had no friends, no one to turn to if I needed it.  Which, frankly, is a pretty crappy way to think about my friends (I'm sorry!  My brain, it's broken!  I do know y'all are great!), not to mention a crappy way to think about myself.

This past week while my husband was gone for work, so many people that I love were there.  Random phone calls to see how I was holding up.  Sympathetic (and empathetic) comments.  Discussions about knitting to take my mind off kid stuff.  Virtual hugs and heartfelt messages.  A friend offered to drive two hours just to hang out and keep me company this weekend, not realizing Mike would be home.  When I told her I wouldn't be alone anymore, she still came.  I'm somewhat ashamed to say that every time someone reached out to me, I was surprised.  Pleasantly, no doubt, but I just didn't realize how down I had gotten, that I honestly thought people outside my head felt the same way about me that I felt inside.   

ANYWAY.  All that to say this.  I'm sorry I put my own crappy stuff onto y'all (even if you didn't know I was doing it).  And I appreciate so incredibly much the way y'all always end up reminding me that friendship is magic (YES, I LIKE MY LITTLE PONIES, SHUT UP) and how the one thing that always seems to fix me the best when I get like this is when I have outside help.  So.  Thank you.  I'd ship you all incredibly fattening pudding if it was legal.


Henry turned 2 last weekend, but we had his party this weekend (something about one of his parents who shall not be named but is the one that isn't me wanting to be there or some crap, blah blah blah).  He wasn't in top form and actually threw himself down on his face for an epic tantrum in a standoff with Baby Drake, but at least there was no physical violence.  And there was cake AND cupcakes.  So maybe it balanced out.  


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Day 61

Dear Henry,

Today, you are 2.  These two years, kid.  They've been something.  The first words that come to mind are challenging, short, hard, tears, demanding, crazy, angry.  Really angry.

But then.  I think determined, resilient, brave, smart, charming.  Taking over the world.

I'm sure in years to come you'll hear me talk about your brother using different words than I use for you.  Know that I appreciate those differences.  They are what make each of you who you are and I love who you are.  You are a force to be reckoned with.  That is not a bad thing.

I love your imagination.  I love your obsession with grapes and apples.  And cool cars.  And your brother.  I love your total lack of fear.  I don't always love your stubbornness and defiance, but I love knowing it means you will be unstoppable once you're grown.  I love your enthusiasm (mostly) and the way you have two speeds: turbo and full stop.  I love you.

Because it is appropriate on so many, many levels, I want to leave you with this Dr. Seuss quote from his Happy Birthday to You book.  I sort of imagine it is already your internal voice.  I rather hope so.

"I AM ME! 
I am I! 
And I may not know why
But I know that I like it. 
Three cheers!
  I AM I!"
 Happy birthday, Short Round.



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Day 57

So, shocker, I have low self confidence.  Like, so low me and that last layer of earth before the molten core, we're best buds.  I still have miles to go, but I'm actively working on it.  Part of that is taking a look at all the things in my life that made me who I am today (you know what's super fun about micro-analyzing yourself when you don't like yourself?  NOT A LOT), but part of it is also recognizing the things I do or think or say because of those feelings.   

I am a comparer.  (Spellcheck tells me that's not a word.  That's okay, Spellcheck, YOU'RE NOT A WORD, EITHER.)  I am constantly checking myself against others, not to see if they're better or worse, but to see if I'm normal.  It's unhealthy.  It's not how a happy life is lived.  It's so insane, it's not even funny, but it's become an automatic thing.  It has, however, given me something I actually like about myself.  When someone else is feeling bad about themselves, I'm a friggin' platinum card holding member of that there club and I can help, yo.  It fills me right up to the brim to be able to say or do something that brings someone I care about back from places I know are ugly and bad and aren't any place they should ever, ever be. 

So anyway, I say all that to say this (it's about to get deep, y'all; get the waders). 

I have, like, thirty people or something that read this.  That means I know all of you.  And that means I can safely say:  if you are reading this, there is nothing about you that is so bad that I don't think you're beautiful.  Not anything.  I don't care what ugly thoughts you have, what crappy things you do when you're home alone, what stupid mistakes you made.  None of it negates your good parts, and you do have good parts.  They outnumber the bejeezus out of the bad.  There is no one that I have in my life that isn't worth loving, no one

When I'm in my super dark place, these are things I don't know about myself and I don't know how much I need to know them until someone says them to me.  This never-ending winter (along with other things, but I'm happy to lay it ALL on snow) has stomped me down into that place pretty hard this year.  And I know I'm not alone.  So on the off chance you're hanging out here in the dark with me, I just wanted you to know.  
Also, f*** February.  (This is me not swearing in front of my kid now that he can read.  I hope you're proud.)



So after the library today, I made a grocery run with the kids.  I have an exceptionally low bar when I take them out in public by myself and neither of them maimed any other children or barfed on any books, so I let them pick out one doughnut each from the bakery.  We get home, do lunch and have our doughnuts for dessert.  Except Henry only ate half his, so I put the other half in Cotton's bowl as a treat.

Fast-forward, like, five hours.  Charlie earned enough stickers to play his game, which makes Henry delirious.  He gets all excited and yells, "COOL CAR!  EIGHTH PLACE!  YAY!" (which, yes, is commentary on how good a race car driver Charlie is -- there are only eight cars per race) and runs to His Spot on the couch to watch.  When he heard Charlie was going to play, he did his happy ritual...and as he's climbing up onto the couch, I see something in his hand.

Yeah.  The previously-half-eaten-now-more-like-three-quarters-eaten doughnut.  From the dog's bowl.  You know what?  Harm was already done, so I totally let him finish it.  THAT'S RIGHT.  No regrets.  His immune system will be like cast iron

(I probably should have told my husband this story before he, like, kissed him or anything.  Oops.)


If you made it past that last part and are still here, I'm rewarding you with a cute picture.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Day 49

Last week was not all love and sunshine.  My paternal grandmother and my friend's mother both passed away, I hit a major "ability to deal with things" speed bump, and then there was the snow.  That we can measure in feet.  Things were just a little (sometimes a lot) darker for a bit there.

And then last night I got a phone call from a girl I love, who I have known for nearly 15 years, and who I have never met.  Our geographic distance doesn't dim my love of her at all, because nothing could.  She is kind and silly and beautiful and fragile and brave and smart and wonderful.  She's marrying a girl she loves and they're allowing me the honor of photographing this moment in their lives. 

I understand there are a lot of people I know and care about who wouldn't agree with or approve of their wedding.  I'm not trying to make this a discussion about those beliefs, or about hers.  I'm simply celebrating the warmth that her love, all her love in every way she gives it, has brought me in an ugly time.  Liz, I am so filled up with happiness for you, and I can't wait to be there to share my love, too.


The wind's been blowing hard enough to rattle the windows lately.  All winter, that's meant more cold and more ice and more miserable, bitter darkness.  But today when I stepped outside, the wind was warm (...well, warmer; when you've been hanging out in the mid-20's, the mid-40's feels downright tropical).  Spring is thisclose.  It's my least favorite season, at least in the beginning, and I'm sure I'll have rude feelings toward it again this year (the thaw this year is going to be ridiculous), but this year I'm upgrading it to second least favorite.  Right behind this @&%#ing winter.


Charlie "chose" doctors and health for the theme this week (I use the term loosely; they're doing doctor-themed story time at the library this week, so he may have had a wee nudge, ahem).  Part of that has included us making charts for each other with things to examine and check off; i.e., I drew a picture of a heart, and when he got to that on the chart he'd check my heart with his stethoscope, etc. 

My exam went something like this:

Charlie checks my eyes.  "Hm.  They're green.  That's not good."  X on the chart.

Charlie checks my nose.  "Hm.  There's a lot of hair.  Not good."  X on the chart.
Charlie checks my stomach.  "Hm.  Sounds like a car engine.  Not too good."  X.
Charlie checks my reflexes.  BY BASHING MY KNEECAP IN WITH A WOODEN HAMMER.  "Too much kicking.  Not good."  X

Charlie checks my ears.  "Oh, good.  They're empty."  Checkmark.

My expression during my exam went something like this:
Speaking of the doctor, here he is in all his lab-coated glory.  Aside from the questionable bedside manner, he'll do.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Day 43

Today is the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birthday (205th, I believe).  It's sort of fitting that Charlie picked "heroes" as the theme this week, and we have Brad Meltzer's I am Abraham Lincoln (OF COURSE) and have read it multiple times.  Nothing quite prepares you for having to explain slavery to someone who has zero awareness of it.  I am, at least, pleased that Charlie's response was, "That's not nice."  No, no, it's not.

Along those lines, we've been discussing race and racism (because we've also been reading the book Heroes for My Son, which is admittedly for a slightly older child and discusses people like Miep Gies and Rosa Parks and Gandhi, but Charlie is fascinated by it and asks me to tell him about the people constantly).  It's been like navigating a minefield for me, because I want this to be a positive lesson and sometimes I feel like all the kids hear are the parts you point out as what's not right to do or say, but I felt like it went well.

And then the boys were watching a cartoon that apparently featured a commercial for Doc McStuffins after lunch while I was doing laundry, and I hear from the living room, full volume, "THERE!  THERE ARE BLACK PEOPLE!"

Epic facepalm.  Epic.


We live in a tiny, tiny town.  We have a tiny, tiny library.  They have a children's story time every Wednesday morning.  Up until now, the boys have been at daycare on Wednesday mornings, so we never went.  This week, what with the snow and Charlie choosing his hero activity as going into a dark room to get things (because he doesn't like the dark), we weren't looking at getting out of the house much, so I figured what the hell.  Henry will be a nightmare and I'm willing to lay money that Charlie will interrupt 156 times, but OKAY.  Let's do story time.

On the way, I try to prep the kids.  Be still and quiet and calm.  Charlie already knows the library rules and always starts whispering automatically when we enter the building anyway, so I at least had high hopes about that.  We get to the kids' room and there's one other woman there with one little girl.  It's nearly silent.  The librarian, a darling older lady, came over and introduced herself and talked to the kids and explained to Charlie how things worked.  I listened vaguely, as most of my attention was on Henry, who was trying very hard to decide which 600 books he was going to rip from the shelves by walking along them with his eyeball about 2 microns from the book spines.  Either way, I'm figuring we hear the story, maybe we talk about it, she mentioned something about a circle, maybe 30 minutes tops and we're out with no kills under anyone's belt.

And then THIRTY OTHER CHILDREN arrive.  I didn't know there were that many kids in our town, let alone that would be attending story time.  It's total chaos.  There are babies moving chairs, the big kids are doing some kind of song or chanting or something, there is dancing, at one point there was a musical instrument parade, complete with stomping and cymbals and jingle bells and maracas.  (Henry got a maraca.  He tried to use it as a drum stick.  It was bad.)  They did some kind of dinosaur song and story and there was shouting and I DID NOT KNOW WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON.  

Y'all.  I sat in my tiny, tiny chair and just sort of stared at them for the next hour and a half.  (Well, in between the times I was chasing Henry down because he was trying to steal things from everyone's bags and climb their faces.)  And this woman, the librarian, handled it all with way more grace than I knew could possibly exist in a single person.  She was patient and kind and (appeared to be) joyful.  Afterward, there was a Valentine's party (I felt like a shmuck, because all the other moms brought goodies to share and I thought we were coming to read a book so I was 100% goodieless) and when it was over, Charlie went to the librarian to thank her and she gave him a huge hug like he was a beloved grandkid and promised to have his name on the chart for next week so he could start earning stickers.

Charlie practically floated out of the library, totally ecstatic about the whole thing.  I walked out with tiny, whirling spirals for pupils, not quite fathoming what just happened.  What I do know?  Is we are totally doing that again next week (and every week after) because for an hour and a half that whole experience threw me for a giant loop, but in the end that librarian saved my parental sanity.  Sign me up.

My children are hams.  That is all.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Day 38

This week was my first complete week of having the kids back home with me full time.  I tried everything I could think of to plan for this, because pre-daycare days with them home full time before?  Were not good.  There was so much crying, y'all.  SO MUCH.  And, really, it was about a 50/50 split between them and me.  It's not that I don't love my children -- I adore them.  It's that I am not a "natural" mom.

I'm not built for this crap.  I do not have the patience of a saint.  I can't pop out of bed early and be happy to see their shining faces (mostly Henry's cranky for the first 20 minutes after waking up anyway) and make them a well-rounded, healthy breakfast and feel only love when they say, "Mommy, MOMMY!" for the 2,478,827,346th time.  In a row.  At top volume.  I can't go to my zen place and channel my inner Donna Reed, because my zen place is fulled to the brim with toys that do not have volume control and food that they've eaten approximately 100 times before with no problem but SUDDENLY, for NO REASON AT ALL, they are offended I would even suggest that putrid filth touches their dainty lips.

My zen place has been obliterated.  It is a smoky, ash-filled heap of nothingness.

SO.  With all that in mind, I prepared.  I made up a poster with themes for each week.  Charlie gets to pick a theme (this week was "zoo animals") and we do things that are tied in -- go rent books from the library on Monday (I LOVED A Sick Day for Amos McGee), crafts (this week was making zoo animal masks from paper plates and making construction paper animals), preschool things (writing the letter M for monkey, etc.), a movie (I tried to get them to watch "Madagascar", but Charlie would apparently rather light himself on fire than watch it; he seriously nearly broke down in tears, he was so adamant in his refusal), and a field trip (we went to the Smithsonian Zoo).  I made myself a loose daily plan so we'd have a little focus to our days, simple things like, "(1) breakfast, (2) story, (3) craft, (4) snack, (5) free play, (6) lunch", etc.  Charlie has phased out of naps entirely, so I've experimented with different options this week to allow me to retain my sanity and have a quiet break and not have him up in his room, banging down the walls or whisper-yelling, "MOM.  I'M NOT SLEEPING," the entire time.

Very long story short, I did everything I possibly could to make this as easy on all of us as possible.  It worked.  It was a great week.  And I was still on the verge of tears by the end of it.

My first inclination was to say, "Wow.  You are a crappy mother.  You can't even deal with your own kids.  You need your license revoked."  But then I talked it out a little and took a step back and have come to realize that this crap?  Is totally normal.  And it is hard.  And it being normal doesn't make it less hard.  And it being hard doesn't make me bad (or them, either).  This is just the way life is right now and rather than assigning "good" or "bad" labels to it, a better use of my energy is to figure out my best way of dealing with it, and the best way to help my kids deal.

The theme week with the schedule actually worked really well for them.  They had whiny moments and squabbles and dug in their heels a few times because they're kids and that's apparently their job.  They're stir crazy to the max because of the weather (WHY IS IT NOT WARM YET, SWEET MOTHER OF GOD) and we're settling into the new routine and I'm sure staying home with me is not as fun and exciting as being off at daycare.  But they also loved the crafts and the books and the field trip, and having a schedule helped them actually play during their free play time rather than climbing up my face and weeping about how they were so bored they might die.  So "check" as far as finding the best way to help them deal.

As for me?  I'm having my own adjustment period and fully acknowledge that I'm someone who just plain needs space to be alone to be able to recharge, and I haven't provided that for myself this week.  I thought my being shut away to work in the evenings after they've gone to bed would work, but it doesn't.  Because it's not for me.  It's just a different version of someone else demanding my attention and there is zero decompression going on.  So rather than waiting for it to build up for weeks until I was ready to get in the car and drive until I ran out of gas, I actually talked to my husband about it and we're working on a plan to make sure I get a little air each week. 

This whole being nicer to myself thing this year?  I think it's working and that makes me wish I'd done it sooner.  Like, decades ago.


And because y'all made it through that wall of blah blah blah words, I give you the gift of pictures.  Of my kids.  Because I haven't shared 18,278,276 of them already.

I'm not sure anyone loves snow more than this kid.

Henry WILL NOT be left out of craft time.  Even though he thinks "craft" means "eating crayons".

They are crazy in their pants.

We made zoo animal masks (Charlie's is the tiger on the left, and I made Henry a panda).

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Days 10 + 11

So.  This is going to be a little rough.  I'm going to try super hard not to be all maudlin; some of what I'm going to say is ugly, but isn't the point.  So here we go.

Some of y'all know (and some don't, so surprise?) that eons ago, back in college, I was sexually assaulted.  I had a lot of trouble getting my crap together afterwards.  I was exceptionally lucky to have someone eventually step in and help in a way that I was able to accept.  I got it together enough to seek help from a counselor once, but didn't follow through with it.  I thought I was okay enough not to need it.

ANYWAY.  Fast forward to present day.  For years there were always issues hanging around, but I think something must have gotten re-triggered after I had kids or something (I don't know exactly, I'm not a pro) and I'd been having a lot of bigger problems recently.  It took a super massive effort, but I have started seeing someone regularly to actually deal with it all.  Blah blah blah, crappy stuff.

ALSO ANYWAY, I've been reading a lot of books relating to the subject recently as part of my therapy.  Do you know who else can read these days?  (Hint:  it's not Mike.)  (Well...okay, yes, he can read, too.) 

Charlie was sitting at the table with his lunch and one of my books was sitting there.  There are very few things more ice-water-directly-to-the-heart-inducing than hearing your 4-year-old say "rape".  There is no way for me to explain it to him.  None at all.  I honestly have no idea what I said, nothing that a quick-thinking, intelligent person would say to deal with the situation in a healthy, positive way for damn sure, but he didn't seem traumatized by the incident and he didn't seem to pick up any of my...I don't even know what to call it.  Not anxiety.  Just...I don't know, it was just a gut reaction that I don't ever want my kid to be connected in any way to what happened.

ANYWAY-the-third, I've been thinking about it all afternoon.  Charlie can read now.  He asks questions about new words all the time, about what they mean, about complex ideas.  He's not a baby anymore by a huge long shot, and he's going to be going off to school next year.  This bubble we've been existing in, with our total lack of evil or harm or threats to innocence, is thisclose to bursting.  It's pretty likely kids are going to say mean things to him at school.  It's possible there will be kids there who've been harmed by others, maybe by grown ups, and he'll see that.  We're going to have to teach him about "stranger danger" and being cautious and aware, but somehow balance it so that he's not afraid of his world, just attentive.

And some day, years off at this point, but years that will pass fast enough, I'm going to have to talk to him about what happened to me.  It's not fair, because right now a world where it could happen isn't a world that exists for him.  He just knows heroes and Legos and macaroni and cheese and the worst thing that could possibly happen is having a sticker taken away for bad behavior.  I have never wanted anything more in my entire life than for him to hold onto that world.

I'm not stupid, though.  Today, his reading that one awful word put a pinprick in our bubble world.  His time in it is running out fast and it's not going to my job anymore to maintain the bubble.  It's going to be my job to make sure he is safe but aware, that he neither suffers abuse by someone else nor commits abuse himself.  And to ensure that when he comes across the word "rape" again, he is fully informed.    

But not today.


I'm too wiped out to think about funny stuff the kids said today.  So here are some pictures instead.