depression

On Less (and More)

 

To have, or not to have. That should have really been the question.

With the holiday season in full swing, and packages showing up at the door on a nearly daily basis, it seems the answer to that would be To Have.

But boy, does that not sit right.

Today, after finding myself staring longingly at a brand new giant shiny suburban who was pumping gas in front of my considerably smaller and less shiny car, I couldn’t help but notice the pang of desire coursing through my veins.

It was so big. And so shiny. “Think of all the things we could put in there!” my inner hoarder squealed, as my outer being took notice of the countless bar wrappers, receipts, sippy cups and assorted toys littering the floor of our perfectly functional, if not much smaller (and cheaper) mini-SUV.

Normally, this tendency to want the bigger, newer, faster thing doesn’t generally appeal to me, and I sincerely find myself being happy with what I already have. In fact, most of the time, rather than desiring to have more, I am scheming ways to have less. Less clothes! Less shoes! Less glassware (am I the only one who swears glasses multiply up there in those cabinets?)!

But if I’m being completely honest, I am really struggling maintaining this policy of less-is-more with the kids.

And not only because they are hoarders. (And hot damn, are they hoarders!)

Really the struggle is born from (admittedly perceived) necessity, and a desire to give them the very best. Not the very best, shiny, newest toy, but the very best chances to develop into the fullest, most well-rounded people they can be.

We have art supplies up the wazoo to help spark our kids’ inner artists. We have books coming out our ears to help develop good readers. We have blocks spilling out of baskets, and Magna-tiles scattered around the floor to encourage whatever part of your brain develops when you build shit, and then deliver a bitchin’ karate chop to knock it down. We have letters on the fridge, and number flash cards, and animal stickers and play-doh, and dolls and a kitchen set and musical instruments and and and…

Every single day I think “This is too much shit. Today I will get rid of half of this shit.” But then the other part of me thinks “This is a totally normal amount of shit. I will not touch this shit.”

And that part keeps winning, because sadly, I think that part is right.

I am certain there are ways to encourage your child to participate in an assortment of activities that would help booster all the different parts of their brains that are waiting to be tapped. You could take them to concerts and museums, and only get books from the library. You could let them use rocks and sticks to practice their building, and mud to do their painting. You could involve them in the kitchen instead of letting them play cook in their tiny kid-sized kitchen that has no less than 100 separate pieces of plastic and wooden food that end up spread all over your house (aaaaaaaaaaaah!).

All of that would work. But it would come at a cost, in every sense of the word.

As appealing as it seems at times, to live in a nearly empty house that isn’t ALWAYS littered with toys and books and broken crayons (by result of making a conscious decision to live this way), ultimately it isn’t for me.

And so I fill my house with books, and blocks, and paint, and dolls, all of which teach different lessons, and all of which are beloved.

Less certainly can be more, and some day we will pare down. But at this stage in the game, stressing less about having more (and being thankful this is even something that I think about) is what I’ll be focusing on this holiday season.

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Except this toy. Less of this is definitely more.

 

 

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What We Mean When We Say Enjoy Every Second

If one were ever inclined to purposefully turn a barely sane mother-on-the-verge into a tornado of rage, they must only utter the words, “Enjoy every second.”

This message is treasured by experienced mothers as if it were a cure-all salve made from unicorn tears. When delivered, it often comes with a knowing smile, and gentle pat on the arm. “Enjoy every second, dear,” says the Grandma at Target while your kid is standing in the checkout isle, pants around their ankles, screaming because you won’t buy them a bottle of rainbow vodka, and the Richard Simmons workout DVD they are white-knuckle clutching in their angry little fist.

Having someone tell me to enjoy every second used to make me want to Hulk-out. It is literally impossible to enjoy every second, and on that merit alone, it’s a dumb thing to say. So much of parenting is tedious and tiring and frustrating and NOT enjoyable in any way shape or form, and anyone who puts that kind of unrealistic pressure on me is obviously clinically insane, and is instantly discredited.

Or at least, that’s how I used to feel.

And then I had a second kid.

Holy time warp, Batman.

Getting my daughter from birth to two and a half, when her brother was born, felt like an eternity. Actually it felt like five or six eternities, because every step was foreign. Every move was questioned, every decision scruitinized. Every cry she let out (and there were a whole metric shit ton of them), was agonized over because I never knew how to handle them, nor could I ever pin point the cause of them.

Having someone casually suggest I enjoy ANY second of that made me want to throat punch them.

But since the birth of her brother, it’s all I can do to NOT focus on these fleeting seconds.

Since his birth almost 10 months ago, not only has he nearly turned into a toddler, but my daughter is now a little girl. Her body is long and lean, and capable of carrying her own things. Her brain is quick and sharp, constantly suprising me with how much she knows. There is not one ounce of baby left in her, and only the teeniest bit of toddler lingering in her graceful movements and wild laughter.

Seeing this makes me acutely aware of how quickly these 10 months have gone. It makes it easier to sit and stare, while my son naps in my lap, trying to etch every lash, every wrinkle, every puff of tiny baby breath into my brain, because I know in another blink of an eye, he will be a boy.

Knowing this, and watching it all happen with lightening speed, I now understand why strangers tell you to enjoy every second.

Parenting is hard, and parenting tiny humans, especially in the beginning, is dock-a-spaceship-on-a-satellite hard (that’s probably a thing, right?). Even if your focus isn’t on “perfection” merely surviving early parenthood is hard enough. Babies, it turns out, are assholes a lot of the time! Spouses can be super freaking annoying about alllllll kinds of things when you’re learning how to parent together. Parents and in laws can cross every boundary you can think of (well, maybe not every one), and make you want to rip out whatever hair hasn’t already fallen out. Work! Pets! That rabbit turd of a man Trump!

All of this is normal (except Trump), and all of this is hard. But all of this serves as a distraction from the magic that is seeing your baby turn into a human in just a few short months.

Of course if the old woman in the checkout line could corner you for 15 minutes, and your half-naked toddler would stop screaming about the Richard Simmons workout DVD so that you could actually hear her quiet wisdom, she’d tell you all of this. But she only has one second of your attention, which is why she condenses it down to three words.

Enjoy every second. Because damn, does it go by fast.

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frodo

Dear Husband, Before I Leave You To The Wolves Otherwise Known As Our Children

Dear Husband,

Much like Frodo, and his band of miniature misfits, you’re about to embark on a journey of great danger, confusing situations, and lots o’ poop ‘n screamin’. Okay, I don’t remember any poop in LOTR or The Hobbit, but as we all know, everybody poops. Even hobbits. Even Gandalf. Probably even orcs.

But(t), I digress.

In 8 short weeks, I will be jetting off to Vegas, and leaving you and our beloved children for four whole days. Having never left the children under your exclusive care for this long before, I think it’s fair to say we are both a solid level orange on the Holy Shit meter.

What will happen? How will you do it? What about bedtime? What about nap time? What about vegetables? How will you ever find the super secret parking spot at the park, or remember to pack an extra onesie in the diaper bag for the inevitable zoo poo that happens somewhere between the Tigers and the Komodo dragons? HOW WILL YOU DO IT?!?!?! AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!

Before you pull the emergency exit handle, and pop out of this seemingly doomed airship in hopes of parachuting down to greener pastures, let me remind you of something: You have been a dad for exactly as long as I’ve been a mom. Exactly.

Every second of every minute, every hour, every day, every month, and every year, you’ve been a dad to our kids.

You know every freckle on our daughter’s face, every squeal and squeak she’s ever made. You could trace the cowlick on our son’s head with your eyes closed, and get him to smile even in the midst of his worst moods. You know what they need, when they need it, and (theoretically) how to get it to them.

Now of course it’s not so simple as knowing what they need, and them then accepting it. There will be battles. Oooooh will there be battles. But that’s not unique to you being there, and me being gone. I battle with them all day, every day over all the things they will battle you over. Shoes, pants, not eating cat hair… You will see.

But you will also survive, and they will survive, largely in part because you are not an Orc. You will have to get creative. You will have to be okay with an 8000% temporary increase in screen time, and a 9000% decrease in dishes involving eggplant, zucchini, and mushrooms. But you will figure it out, and in the end, we will all be better for it.

So when the going gets tough, and the boy is screaming like a Dingo is sizing him up for dinner, and the girl is running around the couch naked with a spatula covered in grape jelly, just remember that we live in North America and there are no Dingos. But grape jelly is going to be a bitch to get out of the sofa, so maybe address that before tending to the littlest member of our tribe.

The only difference between us is my milk ducts are lactating, and yours are shriveled and useless. But you aren’t useless. You’re amazing and capable and old enough to buy beer to calm your frazzled nerves at the end of the day.

If you need me, I’ll be by the pool, probably without my phone. If it’s really serious and someone has been bleeding for a while, call the front desk and have them come get me.

xoxo


Image credit: Frodo

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Cat vs Toddler

Before I had kids, I had cats. Cats who I treated as kids. In my tenure as a vet tech, I bottle-fed many a litter of kittens, as well as a few puppies, a squirrel, a chipmunk, and three glorious raccoons. Once they were old enough to feed and clean themselves, I’d find homes for them, or make arrangements for them to be rehabbed into the wild.

Or at least, that’s what I’d try to do.

The thing about raising kittens, and not being a cat, is it’s really hard to teach them how to be a cat. Without a furry mama, they don’t always learn about bite inhibition, or appropriate times to use maximum claw force, especially in relation to human skin and couches. But kittens have a saving grace, and that’s being cuter than most human babies.

This brings me to Enzo Bear.

About 5 years ago, I was at working at a vet hospital in Rhode Island when a flustered woman walked in carrying a shoe box. She explained she’d found the box while taking out her own trash, and when she picked it up to throw it away, she’d felt the weight shift and peeked inside. She lifted the cover, and revealed a tiny tuxedo kitten, scarcely bigger than a Twinkie. His eyes were crusted shut, his breathing was raspy, and he was dehydrated.

The woman was understandably upset, as she didn’t want a kitten, nor did she have the finances to attempt a rescue, but her kind heart forced her to bring him in. We agreed to take him, and, in an effort to at least provide him a warm, safe space to die (if he didn’t respond to treatment), I volunteered to take over his care.

Fastforward to now.

Enzo Bear didn’t die, though he did give us a few scares in the beginning, nor did he ever find a new home, possibly because he is mucho naughty, possibly because I fell in love with his adorable kitten face and silly antics.

He is now a thriving, handsome, wild, daring monkey-cat, who thinks he’s a real boy. He gives high-fives, and has his own “place” (a trick often taught to dogs). He loves his girl, and is warming to the newest edition of our family, the boy. He cuddles with us every night, and follows me around the house every day.

But of all of Enzo B’s defining features, the one thing that stands out (besides his proclivity to bite strangers) is his stubbornness. Now there is a chance this has less to do with being hand-raised, and more to do with just being a cat, but compared to the other cats in my life, of which there have been many, none quite compare to The Bear.

Recently that stubbornness has manifested in the form of regular stand-offs with the girl. Cat vs Toddler, round after round they go. He sits on her things, and gets in her way. She hoots and hollers at him, and he just stares her down with his his signature squint. It honestly feels like he is her older sibling, intentionally pushing her buttons and establishing his place. He was first. She must honor him.

Our family wouldn’t be complete without our first born fur kid. But sometimes I wonder if there’d be just a titch less drama.

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(This hilarious comic was created by the oh-so-talented, Adrienne Hedger, of Hedger Humor. Be sure to stop by, and check out her musings on modern day parenting and life.)

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Do Good

There sure seems to be a whole lot of badness out there.

Too much hate. Too much violence. Too many innocent lives lost at the hands of a few evil people. With large-scale global tragedies occurring on a near weekly basis, it’s easy to feel as though bad outweighs the good.

But every day 353,000 little people are born full of goodness.

It is naïve to think every single one of these babies will be raised by people who will nurture the good. But, for the sake of not losing my faith in humanity, I’d like to think most will.

I’d like to think that every day, we are given the chance, or 353,000 chances, to do right. To raise children who will grow up and treat others kindly. To teach our children to be accepting and open minded. To show our children that love will always accomplish more than hate.

I’d like to think that every day, 353,000 more people are added to our army of kindness. That 353,000 more drops are added to the bucket of good that grossly outweighs the few bad seeds causing all this heartache.

There is bad out there. But there is an absolute monsoon of good. Do good. Be good. Teach good. Good will prevail.

tantrum

In Defense of Beautiful Pictures

 

Without a backstory, the pictures seem to be happy enough.

In one, our little girl lays stretched out in the summer grass, a freshly picked flower in her dirt-stained hand, an easy smile spreading across her lips. In the other, our grinning baby snuggles on a soft blanket, his dark eyes shining while his little hands fidget, fingers knotted together.

They are beautiful pictures captured at very precise moments of what was otherwise a difficult and abbreviated vacation where both kids were sick, and I spent nearly the entire time ping-ponging between whoever needed me more. When recalling the last five days, the adjective insufferable comes to mind, as does the vivid memory of my son throwing up inside my bra.

But my photo stream would beg to differ.

In it, a photo of my daughter at dusk, reaching through the dark leaves of a shadowy tree toward a glowing bulb on a string of lights. In another, she and I laugh while the wind whips our hair around wildly, a vibrant blue sky behind us. In perhaps the most ironic of all, a shot of my sleeping son, who, for all intents and purposes, didn’t sleep while we were gone (and continues to not sleep as I attempt to write this).

To someone who didn’t know better, these pictures make it seem like a pretty idyllic vacation, though I can assure you it was not. Now this isn’t to say it was all terrible. Far from either extreme end of the spectrum, the last five days were actually just pretty standard when living with two small children who are the human equivalent of heatseeking missiles for germs. It was busy and chaotic, and bookended by visits to separate pediatricians. We lost things, and found things, and got our fair share of new bumps and bruises. There were tantrums and tears, just as there was laughter and play.

It was just the latter of which I chose to capture and share with the world.

My reasoning behind this isn’t to broadcast my perfect life, with my well-behaved and always lovely children (sarcasm font). Far from attempting to fake anything, the purpose behind taking (and sharing) beautiful pictures is borne out of a desire to be more positive, and focus on remembering (and acknowledging) all of the tiny little moments that could otherwise be buried in bra barf and massive, back-arching, floor-thumping, red-faced screaming banshee-type tantrums.

Of course, for the sake of being “real”, as if these moments didn’t really exist, I could post a grainy photo of me laying on top of my daughter, pinning all of her flailing limbs to her bed, while I hum to her and beg (and plead, and pray) for her to stop moving and pleasefortheloveofallthatisholygotosleep. I could caption a blurry action shot of me bouncing my baby for the second straight hour in an 86 degree room “I have butt sweat and my armpits smell like the inside of a moccasin worn to Woodstock…and every day since!”

But I don’t. Because we all know how hard it is. And sometimes it’s really nice to remember how it can be easy too, even if it’s just for a second.

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All photos belong to HMDHM, except the cover photo, which I got online a long time ago, but can’t find the original source so if you know it, give a shout-out.

 

 

nightmare

10 Thoughts of A Mom Trapped Under A Sleeping Baby

Oh, you sweet little snoodle, you woke up! That wasn’t a long enough nap, I’ll hold you and you can go back to sleep.

Look at your sweet little sleeping face. Your puffy little lips, your dark eyelashes. OOOH I could just SMUSH you! I could smush you with kisses. One tiny little kiss on your tiny little lips won’t… GEESH! It was a tiny kiss, it’s not like I bit you. Easy now, easy, just go back to sleep.IMG_4427

Holy crap, you have a lot of earwax. Like, a ton of it. How have I never noticed this before? How embarrassing! I’m just going to gently wipe it… NEVER MIND! Okay, okay, shush shush, I won’t touch you again. Just go back to sleep.

Oh little poodle pie, such sweet little breaths. In and out, in and out. I can almost smell your baby breath. But I can’t. And now I want to. Maybe if I just lift you a tiny bit… OKAY, okay, okay, I won’t move. Just go back to sleep.

My tiny baby, your hard little head nestled into my elbow. Your head is sweaty. My elbow is sweaty. That can’t be comfortable for you. You are probably going to get sweat in your eye. Let me just adjust my arm… ALRIIIIIIIIIIGHT, I won’t. Just quit squirming and go back to sleep.

Oh my love of loves, look at your little fat feet. Tiny toes, with even tinier nails… tiny nails that are jagged and horrible. You look like a baby Ogre. A cute baby Ogre, but still, I should cut those. I wonder if they are sharp? I’m just going to feel… HEY NOW! I’m just looking! I barely even touched them. Close your eyes, just go to sleep.

Sweet baby, your little body is so round. It’s so round and so heavy for 13 pounds. Like, maybe you’re actually 33 pounds, because I’m starting to lose feeling in my arm. Scratch that, my arm is numb, and is limply hanging from the left side of my body. I can’t feel my hand, and I’m starting to panic. Let me just scoot…. SIMMER DOWN NOW, I’m just scooting. A girl has needs, like oxygenated blood flow to her non-dominate, but equally as important, limb! Now try to relax, and go to sleep.

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Little turkey, with your downy baby hair, like a head covered in tiny black feathers. You look like a bird. Like a turkey. Like a baby turkey, except bigger, like a turkey that is socially acceptable to eat. Oh man, I’m hungry. I want Thanksgiving to be here again. I could eat a whole turkey. Maybe I could just slide you into your bed, and make a turkey sandwich to hold me over. I’m just going to slowly… OH FOR THE LOVE, okay, I get it. I can’t move. I won’t move. You just go back to sleep.
Oh you wee little monster, you are so warm. It’s funny that we are the same species, because you feel at least 10 degrees hotter than me. Especially on my stomach, which, now that I’m thinking about it, feels weirdly hot. And wet. Because you peed on me. You peed in your sleep, and now we are both covered in urine. Fantastic. Let me just tuck this rag between… GIVE ME A BREAK, WILL YA?! You peed on me! Okay, alright, okay, shush shush, it’s okay, you just close your eyes.

My snuggly little muffin maker. Sitting here with you makes me so tired. Maybe I’ll just close my eyes and catch a few zzz’s myself. Yes, I’m so drowsy. This feels good. It’s so dark, and quiet, yes, sleep. I will… And now you’re awake. Naturally


image credits: Simmer meme, sleeping baby belongs to HMDHM, nightmare