Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Remembering Childhood and Letting Go of the "Mom Guilt"

I was allowed to watch more than 30 minutes of television every day.

There were days that I played hours upon hours of Nintendo.

I was expected to eat what was presented to me and was not offered alternatives.

Sometimes we ate dinner on TV trays instead of around a dinner table so we could watch our favorite family sitcoms.

I was expected to entertain myself when my parents worked around the house or in the yard or if they just needed a break.

Expectations were set for my behavior and when I fell short, there were consequences.

Sometimes I was yelled at and sometimes I was spanked.

We did not make homemade organic finger paints or edible Play-Doh and not once did I wake up amidst an explosion of "fairy dust" when I lost a tooth.

I did not take bento boxes for school lunch and neither were my sandwiches/fruit/vegetables fashioned into tiny forest animals or cartoon characters.

Valentine's Day was not another Christmas and Easter did not mimic my birthday.

I have not spent one single day lamenting any of the above.

Because these are the things that made my childhood special...

I always got to lick the batter spoon (and sometimes the bowl!) when my Mom made a cake.

My favorite part of Christmas was decorating the tree with my family the day after Thanksgiving while listening to holiday music. "The Christmas Song" (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) by Nat King Cole has always been one of my favorites.

When I was sick and unable to sleep at night, I would lay on the couch in the living room and watch television while my Mom ironed. I think that may be why I love the sound and smell of steam.

Getting to plan my birthday menu was a treat I looked forward to weeks in advance.

A note scribbled in ballpoint pen on a paper napkin was just the right pick-me-up halfway through a school day.

"Entertain yourselves" meant my sister and I got to use our imaginations to build a giant Barbie town for the afternoon.

Sometimes a family vacation meant going to an amusement park in a town an hour away and swimming in the hotel pool. 

Despite it's simplicy, I think I turned out...dare I say it...alright. And most importantly? I was happy

Whenever I find myself feeling guilty that I'm not a "Pinteresting" mom, or that I haven't logged enough hours crafting with my kids, or that perhaps I let them watch a little too much "Phineas and Ferb" this week, I give myself a mental slap upside the head. And then I exhale.

 Because in spite of all those things, so far I think I might be doing okay at this "Mom" gig. 

 And chance are...so are you.

Monday, August 26, 2013


I don't know that I've ever wished for amnesia. Until last night. I don't want a complete erasure of all things past, but if I could just delete like the last 24 hours, or more specifically - approximately seven minutes of the last 24 hours - that would be perfect.

My eyes have been assaulted. 

My cognizance has been compromised. 

I can never unsee what has been seen. 

Will I never learn???

No good ever comes from morbid curiosity. Yet I continue to allow myself to be lured in. I simply cannot say no. 

Although I did not watch the VMA's, I did check Facebook (and Twitter and the rest of the world wide web), so it was virtually impossible not to catch wind of the train wreck that was Miley Cyrus' performance (pornoformance?). 

I made it almost all night without giving in to my curiosities. Then I got in bed. As I picked up my phone to recharge it for the night, I lost my good senses and could no longer help myself. I clicked on the YouTube app and started typing in the search bar. I got as far as "M-i-l-e..." when the internet automatically filled in the rest - "Miley Cyrus VMA's 2013". With a deep inhale, I pushed play.

About 4 seconds into the video, I covered both eyes with an audible slap.

My husband leaned over to ask what I was watching.

"Apparently Miley Cyrus outdid herself at the VMA's this evening. So far I'd say I have to agree."

He rolled his eyes and asked what all the hype was about. Since I am a good wife, I powered through the remainder of the performance and gave him a play-by-play.

"Well, there are teddy bears. A lot of them. They're mildly terrifying, actually.

Is she wearing a leotard? I think she's wearing granny panties under her leotard.

OH MY GOD what is she doing with her tongue? Stop it, Miley.

Don't put the microphone there. Oh, for God's sake.

Is that someone's real ass? She just put her face in some woman's ass. And then she smacked it.

Ohhhhh....is that what twerking is? I've been wondering. I don't think I can do that. I'd pull a hammy.

Ohmigod she grabbed her crotch and pelvic thrusted the audience. Jesus, Miley.

Aaaaaand she just ripped off her leotard. And now she's wearing just a bra and...I WAS RIGHT! She's wearing granny panties! Wait a minute. What the fuuu...is that...Beetlejuice?

Nevermind. It's Robin Thicke. Dressed like Beetlejuice. They're singing "Blurred Lines".

What's with the foam finger?

Oh. That's what's with the foam finger. No. Nonononono. That is wildly inappropriate, Miley.
Now she is twerking Mr. Thicke. And I'm pretty sure she just licked the side of his face.

Okay, now there's a different artist. I can't tell who it is because my eyes are bleeding. Maybe she's done. PLEASE God, let her be done."

Nope. There she is again. Somebody take that finger away from her. Do we have any foam fingers? I'm going to need to burn them."

And then it was over. It took a few minutes for my heart rate to return to normal and my blood pressure to go down, but I managed to recover.

Except for my eyes. That job is going to require some bleach.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Mommy Wars: STFU.

As soon as my first baby was strong enough to turn her head, she was ready to see the world. She wanted to look OUT.  Well, that was a virtual impossibility while nursing since I didn't have detachable breasts. My milk production suffered due to her disinterest, and feedings ultimately turned into two-hour-long nightmares. So, I switched to formula. She was happier. I was happier.

My second child nursed like a champ. If there were milking competitions for lactating mothers, I would have taken the blue ribbon - hands down. Feedings were a piece of cake. I could have nursed him with my eyes closed (as a matter of fact, sometimes I did). He was done in 15 minutes flat and his squeezable cheeks and meaty thighs confirmed he was well-nourished.

One mother. Two babies. Two parenting methods.

This is not a debate over breast-feeding. The point I'm trying to make is that you do what works. I have two children with two very different personalities, and I utilize whichever parenting methods get me through the day [mostly] sane. Sometimes they are different for each kid.

A few days ago Ilana Wiles of Mommy Shorts, a very popular mom-blogger, began sleep-training her children. She advertised this was happening on her Facebook page, along with a start time, so other parents who were doing the same could join the discussion in support of each other. I don't have infants or toddlers, so the topic didn't apply to me, but I sporadically followed the post throughout the night anyway.

I personally am not very familiar with sleep-training, seeing as I don't think I've "trained" my kids to do jack shit outside of recognize the change of inflection in my voice from, "I'm not terribly upset about this just yet," to "I'M ONE SECOND AWAY FROM LOSING MY SHIT!" Which, in my defense, is helpful in its own right. But, I digress.

My understanding is that sleep-training is an extensively researched, very popular technique that basically reinforces self-soothing at bedtime. You put the baby to bed and, if they cry (which they will), you check on them in 10 minute intervals. Sometimes the crying stops after a few check-ins, sometimes it goes on for hours. It's generally a couple of really challenging nights, but the desired (and usually successful) outcome is that the baby gets on a regular sleep schedule without waking during the night. Hooray! Right?

Well don't get too excited just yet. In her post (because she is a smart and insightful woman) she "respectfully requested" that anyone who didn't agree with sleep-training please refrain from commenting negatively on the thread. Was there really a need to make that plea? Do you think everyone honored her request? Of course there was and hell no they didn't! After all, isn't it our job as mothers to tell other mothers when they are doing something we don't happen to agree with?

No. It's not.

Why is it so hard for moms to just support each other? To give advice when it is solicited and to cheer each other on when we're struggling? I don't get it.

Throughout the comments thread, some women actually had the audacity to respond, "Shame on you."

Shame on you? 

For letting a baby cry in 10 minute intervals until she fell asleep? All the while being monitored from another room? All in hopes of a happier, better-rested baby, pre-schooler, Mom, and Dad?

That deserves a "Shame on you"?

How about we reserve the "Shame on you's" for the parents whose children are legitimately neglected. The ones that turn a blind eye when their babies are being beaten and abused by family members. The ones that tell their children that they are worthless. The ones that don't show an ounce of love or compassion to their son or daughter, leaving that poor little soul wandering through life feeling like they don't matter.

That's when a parent deserves a "Shame on you".

Not when they employ a parenting technique that's just not your cup of tea.

I am not writing this in a rally of defense to Mommy Shorts. She's got a huge following and as a result I'm sure she's learned to grow a thick skin. So, I don't doubt that she let all the negative comments roll off her back.

Neither am I writing this in support of sleep-training. I get my 8 hours, so whatever you and your kids do after dark is your business.

I'm writing this because I'm so incredibly sick of the mommy wars. Parenting is hard enough without constantly having to be on the defensive about the choices we make. The majority of us are just trying to do what we think is right for our family. That doesn't mean it's right for yours.  

And that's okay.

If you don't agree with the way someone parents, DON'T DO IT THAT WAY! But, unless they are doing something undoubtedly harmful to their child, shut the fuck up.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Letter to My Daughter as She Starts Junior High

Today you start junior high. Whoa. That's big. And it doesn't seem possible, as it feels like only yesterday you were telling me you did NOT need me to walk you into your kindergarten classroom - that I could just drop you off at the door. Your independence is one of the things I've always admired most about you (regardless of the frequent disagreements it may cause).

Lots of things are going to change for you in the upcoming months. You are growing up and not all of it is going to be pleasant. But if you can just try to put aside the idea that I am the stupidest person on the planet for the next few minutes, I feel like I have some advice that can be of some use to you. Remember - to get where I am now, I had to be your age once. Even if it was a million years ago.

Activities you are involved in are going to get a lot more competitive than what you are used to. I can say with 100% honesty that I don't care if you come in first or last. It doesn't matter if you are THE best, as long as you are YOUR best. In school, in sports, and in life, chances are good that there is going to be someone who is a little smarter, a little faster, or a little more talented. That's okay! Those people inspire you to work harder. And when you find that you ARE the best at something, be humble enough to appreciate your gift and use it to help others.

Friendships can get weird during the teenage years. Hormones and emotions literally erupt and can result in hurt feelings and wounded egos. Try to keep this in mind if you find yourself on the receiving end. And, unfortunately, "mean girls" do exist. Steer clear and resist any temptation you might have to become one just to be part of the "in" crowd. That is NOT a title to hold proudly. You don't have to be everyone's best friend, but you will never regret making someone feel like they matter. Even if it just means smiling and saying "hello" as you pass in the hallway.

Up until now you've been pretty private about...well, just about everything. I was the same way so you came by it honestly. I don't, however, think it's a great trait so I'd like for us to work on communicating a little better. Nothing you tell me will make me stop loving you. I may get really, really pissed if you tell me you've done something undeniably stupid, but I'm in this for the long haul, kiddo. And my door is always open.

I know the time is drawing near where it's not so cool to hang out with me, and my intelligence level suddenly seems to be about the same as the tree stump in our backyard. It's as normal for you to feel like that as it is for me to embarrass you in retaliation with as much frequency and enthusiasm as I can muster. Keep that in mind when it seems like a good idea to talk back or roll your eyes at me in front of your friends. Consider this your warning.

You're growing up. I actually feel like I'm handling it quite well thus far. While I miss your tiny hands and itty bitty feet, and the smell of lavender baby shampoo under my nose as I rocked you to sleep at night all those years ago, I look forward to the many, many things we have yet to share. Things we'll both remember. This milestone is just the beginning.

Have a great year, sweetie.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

We Shouldn't Be Alive: A Paddle Boat Story

Some other titles that would work for this post:

"I Forgot to Pack the Sunscreen and it Costs $15 in the General Store"

"The Snack Shack Only Takes Cash but All I Have is $2.63 and a Debit Card"

"Who Needs Flip Flops at the Lake? Socks and Tennis Shoes Are The Obvious Choice When Sand and Water are Involved."

"Only Braggers Remember to Pack Towels"

"Cell Service is a 10 Mile Drive Back Into Town or You Can Hike Up That Direction about 4.5 Miles. Here's a Map."

"Year Round History Lessons: The Summer I Showed My Kids How To Use a Pay Phone"

My favorite thing about living in California is its variation of landscapes. A couple of weeks ago we drove 90 miles west to spend some time at the ocean, and yesterday we decided to go the other direction and spend a day in the mountains. 

I'd heard from some friends about a lake nestled in a forest in the middle of the Sierra Nevadas, so I decided that's where we would go. Since it was a weekday, the kids and I headed off on this adventure by ourselves, with little expectation other than a day spent out of the confines of our house.

During the in-depth 5 minutes of planning I did prior to departure, I learned there was a marina where visitors could rent a variety of boats. Since I am in no way qualified to operate any aquatic vehicle equipped with a motor, I told the kids we could try out the paddle boats.

Did you read that last sentence? I SUGGESTED TO MY CHILDREN WITHOUT THEIR PROMPTING that we would rent a paddle boat.

So we get to the lake and it's beautiful and picturesque and, while I am perfectly content hanging out with my feet in the cool, clear mountain water, the kids are all paddleboatspaddleboatspaddleboats. So, we head over to the marina to rent a paddle boat. They offer the option of a one or two hour rental, and I almost went with two, but thankfully common sense finally set in and I thought, "You're already being an idiot - try to reign it in," so I changed my mind at the last minute and said, "You know, I think one hour will be plenty of time."

They hand me my rental receipt, our bright orange life vests, and direct us to the dock. The girl working the paddle boats pulls a bright yellow one over to the edge and points at us to get in. We oblige, expecting some sort of direction, but instead she shoves us out into the lake with her foot, and waves.

Me: "Uhhh...how does this work?"

Girl: "You paddle. With your feet."

Me: "I know that much. I mean, does it steer?"

Girl: "Oh, yeah. That metal circle thing in the middle is meant for steering. Have it back in an hour. Have fun!" I can't be sure, but I think she may have laughed maniacally when she said that last bit.

I also should have tuned into the word "meant" when she described the steering situation.

We manage to get out of the docking area and into the open lake relatively easy, meaning we didn't hit any other boats. It was sunny and breezy and beautiful. We enjoy the scenery and the company of one another and wave at other watercraft passerby's.

We spend a few minutes just sitting in the boat, rocking on the gentle waves, when I look at my watch and decide we better turn around and head back. 

My plan was to spend the first half hour paddling out into the lake, so we could spend the last half getting back to the marina. Makes sense, yes? Like hell it does.

It would have been helpful had I taken into consideration some basic physics before we took off on our little outing. Like which way the wind was blowing, hence the direction the current was flowing, hence the ease at which we reached the other side of the lake. Things that are important considerations when taking a boat all Flintstone-style out into a large body of water.

We turn the boat around and start pedaling. It is now that I realize that things seem to be slower going than they were coming, so I decided to find a point of reference. That way we could tell if we were making progress. I pick a cabin with a green roof on the side of the lake.

I'm like, "Okay, kids. We've got 20 minutes to get back to the dock. Let's get after it." So we start pedaling. And pedaling. And pedaling. We were really giving it hell for like 10 minutes. I look to the side of the lake and what do I see?


We're in the same. exact. spot. We're never going to get back. We are going to die in the middle of this lake on a paddle boat. And I won't even be able to call and tell my husband goodbye because we are 10 miles away from a cell signal. Stupid great outdoors.

I try to contain my urge to freak the freak out. Plus my legs were seriously burning and I needed a break. Only 2 people could pedal at a time and I had been pedaling the entire trip with the kids taking turns. So, I did the only logical thing I could think of.

I made my two kids pedal while I sat in the back and gathered my thoughts and wondered if someone would come save us if I jumped up and down on the back of the boat waving and screaming. However, that seemed a little extreme at this point so after a few minutes of resting, I reclaimed my position as captain and got serious.

"Okay, kids. This time I'm for real. We gotta get this boat back or they are going to charge me for another hour and I will not have that. I will not. Pedal!"

So again we pedal. We are focused and determined. We are sweating. We are gutting it out. We are athletes. And we finally make it back to the dock. I almost fell backwards into the lake while getting out of the boat because of the jelly legs, but I threw my balance forward and landed on deck. They also didn't charge me for the 7 extra minutes late it took us to return the boat, so that was good.

As I was checking to make sure we had gathered all our things from the boat, I noticed someone had etched a classy remark on the center of the boat.

Okay, it's not really visible in this picture so I'll help you out. It starts with 'F' and ends with 'You'.

Well you know what, little yellow paddle boat? Right back atcha.