How To Use Photoshop

Last weekend we had a mini reunion with Z’s side of the family. One of Z’s sisters is a professional photographer so a photo shoot is always part of our gatherings.

Before we had kids I really dreaded the photo shoots. My anxiety disorder comes with a side of self loathing that is so obsessive it is its own type of narcissism. I am sure everyone who sees me is overwhelmed with pity and disgust. As I’ve learned to manage the disorder I’ve come to the realization that most people are not wasting their time thinking about me at all. Score one for therapy.

Anxiety disorder aside, I don’t think my discomfort is unusual when it comes to having my photo taken. For 37 years I’ve been bombarded with images of female beauty heavy with subtext that both says I must strive to achieve perfection and implies that I never will. For 37 or 27 or 17 or 57 years you have received the same message. If you have enough self confidence to ignore popular culture and advertising, I admire you. I also think you are very much in the minority.

Since I started running a year ago I’ve been Instagraming post-run selfies using no filter. I’m proud of my running, I feel strong and more comfortable in my body. I also think we don’t see enough pictures of real women. Women who are careening towards middle age, who have forehead wrinkles and freckles that are fast becoming age spots, who are sweaty and red faced after working hard, who are not wearing a lick of makeup. So I post those pictures myself. I post pictures of the woman my boys see every day to combat the images of perfect women who do not exist.

sweaty run

I try to be satisfied with who I am. I try to not focus on who I’m not. Do I succeed? Well, not very often. But I try, and that is what matters.

And having my boys has changed everything. I want pictures of our family. I’m grateful that my sister-in-law is such a talent and that she shares her gift so generously. Her nature shots are lovely, but I prefer her work with people. I don’t know much about photography, but it stuns me how she can photograph humans with such compassion. She brings out the best in her subjects. Joy and humor and beauty radiate from her shots.

She edits her work like any photographer who shoots digitally. What she doesn’t do is use photoshop to achieve perfection. As an avid mommy blog reader, I’ve seen a lot of tutorials on how to photograph your kids over the years. So many of them are primers on how to airbrush the hell out of your children. How to remove the baby acne or uneven skin tone or even scrapes and bruises.

Why do we do this to our kids? Why do we show them that they aren’t good enough from the day that they are born? Why do we need to fix them rather than enjoy who they are? Perfection is not only impossible to achieve, it is flat out boring.

Looking at photoshopped images of models is bad enough for our collective self esteem. What will photoshopping our kids to look like a J Crew kids catalogue lead to?

That photo shoot this weekend? My sister-in-law was able to execute an idea she’d seen online that would have been impossible without the magic of photo manipulation. But she fooled around with a cardboard box, rather than the faces of the kids inside that box. And the picture captures exactly who the five cousins in our family are. She created a picture our family will always love.

boxed up cousins

Photoshop used for good rather than evil.

Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith Photography.

Who Is the Real Butthead?

“I offered him a Hershey’s Kiss and he said he couldn’t have one because he lost his treat.” my friend J told me.

“Man, I love that T is incapable of lying.”

“I asked him why he lost his treat and he told me he called you a fool.”

“Yup. Last night when I was putting him to bed. He was mad at Z. I don’t think he understood exactly what it meant. Or that he would be in so much trouble.”

This conversation happened moments before J’s husband discovered that C was evacuating his bladder and bowels hidden by my car’s driver side door.

While we were chatting I could smell myself. I didn’t get the chance to shower today and my year-old flip flops reek with an odor that can only be described as evil.

It has not been a banner day.

Z’s sister E and our niece G left this morning. We had a great visit with them, and the good news is we will see them again next month. But the thing about sharing a living space with guests is you start to see how you and your kids are acting with fresh eyes.

My fresh eyes are pretty embarrassed by what they saw. All I do is yell at the boys. All they do is give me the metaphorical finger. Thank god they haven’t learned how to give me the literal finger yet, but I’m sure it is coming.

Back when I was a fantastic mother (you know, before I actually had children) I knew I would not stand for disrespect from my kids. Man, I knew so much back then, so very much. I was so self righteous, so smart, so incredibly full of shit.

At nearly five and nearly three my boys are raging buttheads.

Nearly five years into parenting there are still days when I don’t get around to bathing.

For the life of my I cannot figure out how to potty train my nearly three year old. Today included one pee in the potty, two pees on the floor, countless trips to the bathroom in which nothing happened, and as mentioned, my friend C finding him leaning against my car with one hand as he pissed, a gigantic turd dangling between his legs like a tail. Thankfully grown up C convinced three year old C to squat on the ground until the poop broke away and fell to the driveway where it was immediately swarmed by flies. But then T ran behind the car and stepped right in the shit.

Some days parenting feels like I’ve crested the top of a roller coaster, like my stomach has fallen through my feet as the tiny car that holds me plummets back to the ground. But I never level out, I just keep falling and falling while feeling more and more out of control.

My boys are not quite five and three. If they are buttheads it isn’t their fault. Which leads me to some pretty uncomfortable conclusions about my job performance.

T and turbo

See this adorable photo? Taken moments after T kissed the damn snail and hours before he’d call me a fool.

t pic of c pic of t

See this adorable photo? Taken by T of C taking a photo of T. Very meta. Taken moments before an epic physical altercation between the boys over who got to play with the playmobil dude wearing the black outfit.

leonard cousins goodbye

See this adorable photo? Cousins saying goodbye? In the next photo I snapped it looked like T was trying to pull off a chunk of C’s flesh.

Last Days of School

A year ago I watched the mother of one of T’s classmates struggle with the reality that her child was leaving the comfort of our extraordinary preschool and moving on to kindergarten. The transition proved painful for both mother and child. I sympathized with my friend, but I did not understand her sadness. In fact, I told her it simply wouldn’t be a big deal for T and me. She had the grace not to tell me I was full of shit.

Five years into this parenting gig and I still feel a twinge of annoyance when a more experienced parent tells me how my family will feel or act during an upcoming phase of development. “We are different” I think, “They don’t know us. We are special.” At the same time I cannot resist breaking it down for parents with kids younger than mine. I hear myself explaining what is coming and I hate myself for being that person. Especially as I see the look on the face of whatever friend I’m speaking to. I can see what is running through their head, “We are different. She doesn’t know us. We are special.”

At the beginning of last week I dropped the boys off at school and on my way out found this in T’s mailbox:

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Last fall we were asked to fill the paper with words that described who we hoped T would be as an adult.

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That hair. I miss that crazy hair so much.

Friday was the final day of school. During the week laminated photos that decorated the boys’ classrooms trickled home with them. But the little poster of our hopes for T was the first. I lifted it out of the mailbox and suddenly my throat was burning and tears flooded my eyes. I made it to the car before the ugly crying began.

That friend of mine? I emailed her and confessed I was wrong last year. Both T and I were struggling with his upcoming transition to kindergarten. I asked for advice on how she got through it.

A year ago I was so excited for the following fall I couldn’t see straight. T would have the same teachers that he adored. C would be going to school as well. He threw a fit every single day of spring semester when we dropped T off because he wanted to stay. And the fact that I was going to have a couple of hours a day to myself helped tremendously. Our small transition included the loved and familiar for T, exactly what C needed developmentally, and a fucking break for me. Life was great. Transitions were great. Why would kindergarten be any different?

Oh, pompous, naive, foolish Karen. When will you get over yourself and start actually listening to the more experienced parents?

The unknown is hard for both T and me. Watching his anxiety rise as he realized he wouldn’t be able to bring his much loved teachers with him to elementary school was heartbreaking. His fear is real and I ache for him. I’m also kind of furious that he is growing up. His delicious little boy body is getting harder and harder to lift. His limbs dangle everywhere when he crawls into my lap. The last five years have been the fastest of my life and I know time will only continue to fly by with more speed. Even if I didn’t believe it the first time a well meaning, experienced parent told me.

walking away from preschool

T walking away from preschool for the last time on Friday. Again, I was able to save the ugly crying for the car. Victory.

preschool T

The boys attend (Um, I mean C attends and T attended…sniffle) a laboratory school on the SU campus. Undergrads and grad students work with the children each semester. The assignments include these lovely bound books made for each child that tracks development over the semester. Here are the covers of T’s 6 books.

toddler room C

And C’s first two.

Four Years and Ten Months

Four years and ten months ago we moved to Syracuse. Our sweet little house just became the dwelling I have lived in longer than any other in my life.

Before I left home for college I lived in 9 places. I attended 8 schools before graduating from high school. I did live in the NYC area from 95-06. In 99 I moved to Brooklyn and we stayed, albeit in 3 apartments, for 7 years. Over three stints from 1981-1995, I lived in Farifax County, VA for a little more than 8 years cumulatively.

But Syracuse now holds my personal record for longest stretch at one address.

The funny thing is it feels like we moved here just last year. It also feels like we’ve been here forever. There are so many firsts tied to this place. We closed on our house a week before T was born. Z truly loved his job for the first time here. I became a stay at home mom. We weathered a heartbreaking miscarriage. I got pregnant with C and we welcomed him into our family. T started preschool. C started preschool. We navigated early intervention and speech therapy. I started taking graduate classes. I started running. In a few short months T will go to kindergarten.

Syracuse was supposed to be a pit stop of sorts, a resume builder as we looked for teaching opportunities for Z closer to family.  At some point along the way it has become home.

We love it here. We are happy. We have a wonderful circle of friends. We imagine our boys growing up with this built in peer group. The kids they hang with have become important to us, we really care about them and love watching them grow.

There is so much to do in the summer that we can’t make it to every event we want to attend. Z plays music in three bands. He makes amazing stringed instruments from cigar boxes or cans or pie plates or salvaged wood from old pianos. He loves teaching. He’s involved with community outreach. He is too busy and always behind on projects and that is exactly how he is happiest.

This is not some perfect life. We struggle to pay the bills. C is entering the evil 3s and T is anxious about his transition to kindergarten. My anxiety colors everything, often rearing her ugly head to interrupt plans. The winters are brutal, there isn’t any way around it, they suck. And we do hate being so far from family. That is the hardest part. We miss our parents and our siblings.

But we have made a life here. More than that, we have made a home. One with continuity and comfort.

My upbringing was unusual and it provided me with fantastic opportunities to see so much of America and the world. I wouldn’t change it for anything. Hell, I became a teenager while we were in Phuket, Thailand. We spent New Year’s Eve of ’99 into ’00 in Doha, Qatar. I learned to ski on the South Island of New Zealand. Between all the exotic stuff I went to suburban public schools outside DC and Boston and St. Louis. My sister and I are lucky as hell, beyond privileged to have had such an odd and interesting childhood.

But it turns out that the life Z and I are intentionally building for our family is in a small city in Central New York. It turns out we love being part of a community. We love relaxing in our backyard with a bunch of friends and a pork shoulder that hung out in the smoker for a long time. Also margaritas. If you come visit us request Z’s deadly margaritas. You won’t remember the evening, you’ll feel it the next morning, but you’ll have a really good time.

Who knows what will happen or where we will be in another 4 years and 10 months from now. My hope is that we will be here. Hanging out with the same folks. The kids playing in the backyard. The margaritas flowing.

our family

Here we are putting down roots.

t runs to base

T running to first base during his last T-Ball game of the season.

c wants to play

C was ready to play. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he needs to wait two more years.

rockers

It seems to be the summer of salvaged broken rockers for our backyard. Because we are classy like that.

backyard piano

Our life involves having a trailer with a piano take up residence in our driveway. Z is making a bunch of instruments out of it in collaboration with local artists. They will create graphics to silkscreen on the face of the instruments Z builds.

summer in syracuse

Our crew of kids living it up at the Funky Flea this morning.

z at the funky flea

Z making music at the Funky Flea.

 

A Horror Story

Friends, I cannot sugar coat this. Just need to come out and say it. C took a dump on my pillow this evening.

While I’m sure he was just looking for a soft place for his shit to land, I can’t help but take it a little personally.

C spends much of his time naked from the waist down these days. We are potty training. Or he is potty training. He doesn’t really want Z and me involved. He pees on the floor. Panics. Cries. Runs to the bathroom. When he is wearing a pull up he pees. Shouts, “I poop! I poop!” while standing there bow-legged. Cries. Takes off his pants and pull ups and runs to the bathroom. We have hardwood floors throughout the entire house. Peeing on them isn’t a huge deal to clean up. It is part of potty training. We are cool with it.

Bottom line: progress is being made. He has only actually peed on the pot a handful of times, but he willingly goes to the bathroom himself about a dozen times a day. He sits there. Shouts, “I peed!” Wipes his balls with a square of toilet paper (yeah, not sure what that is about). Flushes the toilet. Except for the fact that we are wasting a horrifying amount of water, and he is completely delusional about actually peeing, things are going well.

Cut to tonight. The fam got home from a stroll to our friends’ house to drop off a food container. C ran inside. I started weeding. T and Z collected helicopter seeds from our maple tree into Z’s hat and took turns climbing into the treehouse and throwing them on each other’s heads.

C really likes to do his own thing. T ran towards the house and told us C was watching TV. Not ideal while the rest of us were enjoying being outside, but whatever.

And here is why you never “whatever” when a two and a half year old is involved. We came inside and the TV was off. C wasn’t on the first floor. Ominously his pull up and pants were on the floor of the downstairs bathroom. We headed upstairs as C sauntered out of Z and my bedroom. “I pooped!” he crowed.

Being he confuses poop and pee on the regular I wasn’t alarmed. Just annoyed that I’d be cleaning pee in my bedroom. Z was ahead of me and I heard, “Oh man. Charlie! Oh no.” I picked up the pace. Two turds. Two. Glistening on my pillowcase. C with some unnecessary bravado, “I pooped!”

After bathing the boys I noticed some shit on my pants and on my hands. Still not sure where and when the point of transfer was. Just washed my hands throughly, threw the jeans in the washing machine, and felt thoroughly defeated by life. And by poop.

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This is the face of a woman who has spent too much time cleaning poop.

tiny hiney

Moments later he peed all over the porch.

happy t

One of his teachers sent this to Z. He was proud of the magnet bundle he made. I’m proud because he didn’t poop on any of my belongings today.

 

Fun Run

Years ago a friend who was moving back to her small hometown from Brooklyn said to us, “I’m a city mouse or a country mouse, not a suburb mouse.” For some reason it really stuck with me.

The suburbs were where I was raised and my childhood was pretty great. But as an adult I’ve found I’m a city mouse. Period. In fact, since moving to Manhattan in 1998 I’ve only lived in cities – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Providence, Syracuse. When we moved to Syracuse Z wanted to live on a big piece of land with a barn in the middle of nowhere. I had visions of being snowbound with a newborn and no chance of making friends. I mean, it is hard enough for someone with an anxiety disorder and a side of agoraphobic tendencies to meet people without throwing a remote location into the mix. If there wasn’t a small business district I could walk to it would be all over for me.

Every place has its pro and cons, city living is no different. But Syracuse has been pretty ideal for our family. We have the privacy of a single family home with a lovely yard, there are close parks, a library just 2 blocks away, several restaurants and coffee shops nearby, hell there is a live music venue. And we are surrounded by friends. If Z and I sit on the porch after putting the boys to bed within a couple of minutes someone we know will walk by.

It’s idyllic (right, Jeff?), but not perfect. There is crime — folks in the neighborhood have had break ins and cars stolen. We have had several alarming run ins with drunk college students that made me feel pretty unsafe. We get tons of folks trying to sell stuff — religion, natural gas, politics, floor cleaners, knocking on our door. For the snowiest city in America the street plowing sucks compared to the ‘burbs. Alternate side of the street parking is a pain in the ass to begin with, ours bizarrely switches over at 6pm.

It’s not perfect. The bottom line is the pros heavily outweigh the cons. We love it here.

There is a University Neighborhood Preservation Association that arranged a neighborhood kids fun run at a local park this morning. They plan on doing it annually, this year was the maiden run. The small kids (mostly with parent accompaniment) did half a mile and older kids did a 3K. T has been making noises about going running with me, when I saw the email last week this seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

We got to the park in time to snag a t-shirt and number for T. He told me he didn’t want to run with me so I let him stand up front and moved back and to the side a bit. He took off like a bat out of hell. I caught up to him about a 10th of a mile in. And we ran together. He started to slow just as we reached the half way point but I told him it would be awesome to say he’d run a quarter of a mile so he kept on going. He did walk a few steps several times on the back quarter, but dude ran most of it. He even seemed to be trying to keep pace with a family a bit ahead of us. He ran across the finish line and got his medal. I was absolutely bursting with joy and pride.

We found Z and C and were chatting with friends when T turned to me, “Mom? I need to talk to the lady with the medals again!” “Oh, ok.” We set off to find her. I was a bit distracted and didn’t ask him why he needed to speak to her. I was assuming he was unhappy with the color of the ribbon that the medal was on.

He approached her and said, “Excuse me. Can I have a medal for my little brother?” All that joy and pride I felt when he finished a few minutes earlier? It was nothing compared to how I felt at that moment. I do not think I have ever been more proud of my son.

I explained to him that we only paid for him to race and we couldn’t take another medal. The lady fished around in her jacket pocket and pulled out a bag full of toy medals, probably from Party City. She said they got them for younger siblings and she handed one to C who had wandered over.

This morning was wonderful. It was the exact reason this whole exhausting, frustrating roller coaster of a ride called parenthood is worth it.

pre race

Pre race. All the kiddos got number 1.

http://web.stagram.com/p/723443296559264241_28315859

Race action! YouTube won’t upload my video and though I have been called a computer savant (lies) I can’t figure out to embed a video from instagram. Or why the video restarts weirdly at the end. Sorry to make seeing the video one more step. These dang computer boxes scare the hell out of me with their high falutin’ ways and their…what do ya call it? Technology.

post race

We facetimed with my folks while the boys were in the tub tonight. My father asked T how far the race was. “50 miles!” he shouted. I laughed so hard. It probably did feel like 50 miles to him.

Who You Are

“So how do you feel?”

“Better. Good. I mean, I still cry a half dozen times a day…”

“What makes you cry?”

“Oh, you know. News stories. Stuff I read on the web. Every single time I watch Frozen.”

“But that is just who you are.”

It was a throwaway comment on the part of my therapist. At the moment I didn’t realize how much it would affect me. “That is just who you are.” The new medication is going well. And yet I am still who I am. What a tremendous relief.

One of the reasons the mentally ill are loathe to try drugs is because they don’t want to become someone else. They don’t avoid drugs because they think that their crazy defines them, or makes them unique, or gets them attention which are the reasons a lot of people assume are behind drug reticence. It is because they don’t want to lose who they have been at their core for their entire lives. I don’t want to lose who I am. It’s not like I’m so fabulous. But I’ve been me for 37 years. I’m used to myself.

With the right drug/s (and yes, finding the right drug/s can be a mighty struggle) you are still yourself. Just a functioning version of yourself.

Yesterday this post about a mother’s internal struggle with medicating her 10 year old who needed help showed up in my facebook feed. My heart ached for the anonymous author and for her son. As someone who needs drugs to function and sometimes to survive, as someone who worries I have passed my anxiety along to one of my sweet sons, I viscerally empathize with her.

At the same time I felt sick to my stomach by the time I finished the piece. I felt embarrassed and defensive and angry and hurt.

How do you give your child a controlled substance, addictive drugs, and act like it’s a normal thing to do?” she asks. She writes with brutal honesty about her struggle and I admire the hell out of her for it. But that question made me feel small and broken. I take an addictive controlled substance. I have every day for over a year. It is normal for me. I mean, what the fuck is normal anyway?

This mother. She is thoughtful, she is doing whatever needs to be done. “But on the other hand, how do you not try everything in your power to help your child who struggles every day of his life with demons you cannot beat down through sheer force of will and all the therapy money can buy?

Part of what hurts so deeply about the piece is she nailed it. All of it. How frightening and awful mental disorders can be. The fact that resorting to drugs makes you feel like a failure.

Psychotropic medication is a land mine of a topic. Controversy surrounding the over medication and diagnosis of kids with ADHD or adults with depression is well documented. And anecdotally who among those of us who went to college in the 90s or 00s didn’t know a dozen people who were given prozac at health services? The issue is real and a concern, but that isn’t what I’m talking about here.

I have mild asthma. When I occasionally have an asthma attack I use my inhaler and my attack stops. Every night I take a pill for my asthma/allergies. It effectively prevents attacks from happening the vast majority of the time. In fact, it is so effective that I started to believe I was taking it unnecessarily and let my prescription lapse. Two nights later I woke gasping for breath in the middle of an attack.

Brain drugs don’t work that way. Each brain responds differently to the type of drug, the amount, the time of day taken. And many drugs are prescribed off label, which means not for the use they were approved for originally. We just don’t know as much about the brain as we know about asthma.

Beyond the clusterfuck of finding the right drug is the fact that even if you have struggled with mental illness for years you have the nagging thought that you aren’t really unwell. You are just lazy and a coward. Progress is being made, but the idea that you should pull yourself up by your bootstraps and simply stop being sad or anxious or manic is prevalent in our society. Self loathing goes right along with many mental illnesses and it is hard not to buy into that, hard not to believe that you are making it all up.

And then there is the “what did I do wrong?” or “this is my fault” component.

During my lifetime I hope we get to the point where being treated with drugs for a mental illness is destigmatized and perceived as “normal” as using an inhaler for asthma. I hope it for the mother who wrote about her son, I hope it for that boy who is struggling, I hope it for myself.

mothers day

My sweet T and me on Mother’s Day.

c cow

Z took the boys to a big truck event at a local park yesterday.

t truck

T looks like a different kid with his short hair.

2 and 4

Two and Four for a little while longer. 2 wouldn’t look at the camera and 4 is doing all sorts of poses for the camera these days.

 

When Motherhood Can Bite Me

C is nearing 3. The age when T actually grew horns. T’s 4th year has been so great it has sort of erased some of the horror of his 3rd year from our memory. But the fog is lifting and we are starting to remember how rough T was. Um, yeah, we actually decided that we weren’t going to have a third kid when T was three.

The whole terrible twos thing is a joke. At least for our kids. Three is a fucking beast of an age. I get it that sucks for the kid as well. Three year olds are desperately trying to assert their independence while scrabbling for a modicum of control over their lives. They are told no all day long. They are expected to start behaving themselves at preschool and in public. So they rebel.

C was exhausted after school. So he refused to nap. Therefore he was an absolute delight at Wegmans. By which I mean he was a raging asshole to the woman who checked us out and was trying really hard to be nice to him. T had a T-ball game tonight. Z is in Baltimore overnight so I was flying solo. Naturally I got us lost on the way to the game. Naturally C screamed, “NO! NO! NO!” every time I asked him to do something or tried to prevent him from doing stuff he shouldn’t have been doing. Let me tell you, that kid can scream. If I picked him up he’d scratch at my face or hit me.

We are doing a fantastic job raising our little gentlemen.

Actually, it’s pretty humiliating. I feel like everyone must think I’m the shittiest mom in the world when he throws tantrums in public. Sometimes I am scared to take him places he is such a loose cannon.

The game mercifully ended and we headed home. C was drinking a juice box, his newest fascination. T doesn’t like juice boxes so we don’t have them hanging around. Now, let’s be real. I shouldn’t have trusted him to have the box in the car. Sure enough and with T’s encouragement I caught him spraying juice everywhere.

Finally we were back home, the juice got cleaned up, I called Z so he could say goodnight to the boys. I sank into the sofa, not really paying attention to what C was doing.

I felt an explosion of pain on the side of my face.

C climbed on the arm of the sofa, turned around, and basically trust falled the back of his skull into my cheekbone.

So here is what I learned about motherhood today. Sometimes you are so mad at your kid you have trouble looking them in the face. Sometimes you are embarrassed because you know tomorrow morning you are going to have a prominent shiner that you will have to explain to the world. Sometimes you are fed up and exhausted and want to scream, “FUCK YOU CHILDREN! FUCK YOU! PUT YOURSELVES TO BED GOD DAMN IT! I’M GOING TO THE BAR FOR A DRINK OR SIX!”

And I’m a little ashamed to admit how hard this was for me. With difficulty I didn’t scream at him. Instead I bathed him, read to him, sang to him, and cuddled with him. I wanted to just dump C in his room and walk away. But I explained why I was upset that he hurt me (and I understand he was not actively trying to bust up my face, he probably thought he’d fall in my lap). Then we did stories and songs and cuddles like usual. Did I have to fake it? Um, yes. Did I want to be vindictive and deny him his routine? Um, yes. My face really hurt and the day was really shitty.

What I learned tonight is when you are alone with the kids it doesn’t matter what happens. You have to keep it together and be a mom. Now, you wise folks probably figured that out ages ago. I’m slow. And selfish. But I did it tonight. I didn’t do it gracefully. There might have been some serious muttering under my breath.

But I did it. Maybe I don’t get a gold star today. At least I didn’t fail.

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My cheekbone doesn’t usually look like you could use it to cut glass.

IMG_1963

This is what T was doing in Baltimore. Pretty fucking amazing.

IMG_1962

Process shot. And Pain shot. I’d never have enough courage to do ribs. My dude is hard core.

Mother’s Day

Special occasions delight me. I love celebrating. I relish picking out the perfect present for a loved one, love making an elaborate cake for the birthdays of people in my life, and let’s be honest–I love getting presents myself.

Mother’s Day is difficult for many people and for many reasons. Like all holidays in our society of excess it is shoved down our throats, placing demands on us rather than fostering sincere appreciation.

If we avoided celebrating everything that caused sadness and hurt in others there would be nothing left to celebrate. I feel for my friends and family who dread this holiday. I want to be able to take their pain away. But I’ve decided not to feel guilty about enjoying it myself.

On this day I’m not looking for flowers and jewelry and a meal at a fancy restaurant. If that stuff is your jam, I hope you got it! To each his own.

But Mother’s Day reminds me to think about my own Mom. My appreciation for her has exploded since I’ve become a Mom myself. I understand her so much better. She has been more than I could have imagined as a Grandma. I love watching her with my boys. Mother’s Day reminds me to look at my big boy who will be headed to kindergarten in the fall and remember the tiny peanut he was, how he gave me the gift of motherhood, one of the most extraordinary gifts I will ever receive. Mother’s Day reminds me that Z decided he wanted to have kids with me, even after it became clear that I was a crazy person. Mother’s Day reminds me of the joy mothering a second baby because you know you can do it. My love for C has a confidence in it because I’ve been to this rodeo before. Mother’s Day reminds me of the twins I miscarried, they will always be a part of me and they will always be loved. It isn’t that I don’t think about those things all the time, but a day set aside to really give them attention is a gift.

Let’s get real, Z also makes sure I get to sleep in.

This year Z asked what I wanted to do with the day and I told him the only thing I really wanted to do was get a long run in.

The other thing I do on all holidays is reflect on the last year. I think about how different we all were just 365 days ago. And on last Mother’s Day if you told me that I’d ask for the time to complete a 5 mile run in exactly one year I would have said, “You. Are. Fucking. Insane.”

And yet, here we are.

Today’s run was a mess. I haven’t done 5 miles for a few months. I haven’t made it out 5 times a week for about that long. The winter was so frigid and snowy, I got a sinus infection and the flu, schoolwork was overwhelming. These are simply excuses, but they are the truth. This week I did 4 runs and really listened to my body. Ramping up milage too fast can cause injury and I do not want to mess up and get hurt before the half marathon this October. I was sore and hurting so on the 5th day I did yoga. Today marks the start of a new week and I’d had two days of rest. I was doing 5 miles, damn it.

I did them. The slowest 5 I’ve ever done. It was sunny and in the 60s and I didn’t bring water. The new shorts with the built in bicycle pant thingies road up and I got fierce chafe on my thigh chub. I wanted to walk half way into the second mile. But I told myself I’d fix those problems next time. I told myself to keep on going. I told myself I can do hard things. And I did them.

The fact that they were ugly miles made them even more valuable to me. Because they perfectly illustrate what I’ve learned this year. I’ve learned I actually can to hard things. I’ve learned endurance. I’ve learned I’m stronger than I thought. I’ve learned to make impossible goals. And then figure out how to reach them.

Next Sunday T and I are going to do a 1/2 mile fun run at a local park. I’m proud that he is interested in running and excited we can do it together.

I couldn’t have run 1/2 a mile last mothers day. This year I can do it with ease. Day to day it is hard to see the changes we make in our lives. But what a difference a year makes.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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A shaky, dehydrated mess. But a PROUD shaky, dehydrated mess.

mother day presents

My Mother’s Day presents. By which I mean T & C’s Mother’s Day presents.  Now I know why T was so excited to give them to me.

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My Mama loving her girls on the boardwalk down the shore.

Brothers and Individuals

This morning T informed me that he holds his breath when he throws something in the trash. I wanted to cry and laugh and squeeze him tight and tell him I understand. Instead I said, “That’s ok.” Someday I’ll let him know that I can’t step off a staircase or into a room unless it’s on my left foot. Or that if I perform the order of tasks in the shower wrong something terrible will happen. Or if I step on a crack with one foot I have to step on the next crack with another foot. Watching T move through this world is heartbreaking and achingly intimate. I don’t want my kid to deal with anxiety. Hell, it is the reason I was ambivalent about becoming a mom.  How dare I pass my illness on to another human?

My hope, my non-denominational and desperate howl-at-the-moon prayer is that I will be able to help him because I understand him. Parenting him is hard because I don’t want him to hurt. Parenting him is easy because I understand him instinctively.

This morning I heard C shut himself in the bathroom when my hands were full in the kitchen. I hustled over to him as soon as I could. He was seated on the toilet surrounded by wet droplets all over the floor, “Mama! Hand!” he yelled as he held it dripping up in the air. “You peed in the potty!” I cried. “Yes!” “Fantastic! You rock! Next time remember not to put your hand in the pee, though!” “Okay!” Last weekend he pooped in the toilet for the first time. He had wandered away from Z and eventually Z found him hanging out on the toilet. C casually informed his dad that he’d pooped. He gets ornery when we suggest he tries to use the facilities. But several times a day he disappears and does it himself. The potty training is happening. He’d just prefer that his parents not be involved in the process at all.

C is fiercely independent. Everything must be his idea, even daily routines. At nap time we go into his room and I tell him it is time for songs. “No songs! NO SONGS!” he yells. “Okay” I tell him “I’m going to leave and I’ll see you when the nap is done.” I close his door behind me and wait for several seconds until he cries, “Songs! SONGS!” I enter the room and sing him his songs.

For a long time he frustrated the shit out of me. “Why can’t you just fucking cooperate?” I’d think. A couple of months ago my friend E was explaining that everything her daughter did needed to be her own idea. E explained when her gal rejected an idea E just waited until her daughter suggested the exact same thing a minute later. It was obvious to me that I needed to do the same thing with C. I felt relieved and ashamed at the same time. Why is it so hard for me to figure out what my son needs?

I love my boys. I love them so much that the intensity of my joy is painful, wonderful, indescribable. When I’m cuddling them and they have bad breath I actually love the way their bad breath smells. I mean, I love them so much it is weird.

I love them equally. But I love them differently. I love T with understanding. I love C with wonder. Did I really create someone so fearless? Someone who doesn’t give a single shit about what anyone thinks? Someone with supreme confidence? Someone with the ability to comfort himself? Someone who might be independent, but who also loves to hug and kiss and cuddle his family? The kid is two and a half. And I admire the hell out of him even if I don’t understand him in my bones. He has already taught me so much.

c on potty

The old college try. He won’t sit on the duck potty anymore. Wants the big porcelain bowl the rest of the family uses.

peed in the potty

This morning after his triumphant pee.

may the fourth be with you

May the Fourth Be With You.

more may the fourth be with you

Free Comic Book Day. When Vader offered to let T hold his light saber I thought T was going to explode with happiness. He talked about it all weekend.