No, Seriously, We Are Thankful

There is a french door of sorts that closes off the tiny wood paneled vestibule that is the entrance of our home. It was open when I came out of the powder room making it easy to notice that the second pane from the bottom on the right side was cracked. I hollered for Z who hollered for the boys. They were playing by the door in our hallway moments before while Z made the dough for rolls and I decorated gingerbread cookies.

broken glass

Z asked T what happened. T stood on the stairs taking stock of the situation–the cracked glass, the furious parents. “Well.” he started, “Well. You see, it was a squirrel…”

“NO!” Z spluttered. “Do not make up a story! Do not lie to us! TELL. US. WHAT. HAPPENED!” Z noticed I’d turned my back to T, unable to stop the shaking of silent laughter. “Go to the kitchen.” he hissed to me.

I fled, thankful to get out of T’s line of sight. T eventually told his father C’s head made the crack. T pushed him into the door.

I’ve never seen Z so angry at one of the boys. T is up in his room and he’ll be staying there for a very long while. He has lost his bedtime routine-no story, no songs, no cuddles until he goes back to school on Monday. It’s the biggest punishment we have doled out thus far. But dude, (and we did explain this to him) C could have been seriously hurt.

As Z pointed out we do have much to be thankful for–we could have spent the day in the emergency room.

piece of work

What a piece of work this kid is.

Rewind 33 years or so. I was T’s age. It was summertime and the screen door was letting a breeze into our kitchen. My folks had left me alone at the table to finish my meal, perhaps they were putting my sister to bed. The stick of margarine sat in front of me in the butter dish. It looked delicious. Yellow and soft and I just had to try it. I reached out my finger and skimmed it along the top. It was even better than I imagined. Five minutes later and there was an enormous divot in the middle of the stick. I was filled with dread, there was no way to hide what I’d done. Eventually Mom and Dad returned. My Mom, who notices everything, saw the margarine right away. “What happened?”

I panicked. “A bear came through the door and ate the butter. I was really scared.”

My punishment was no treats for a week. Both Mom and Dad were able to hold it together until I’d left the room before they burst out laughing.

Bear. Squirrel. This kid, man this kid is a carbon copy of me. Only vastly improved. I mean, a squirrel is a million times more believable.

thanksgivukkah

Thanksgivukkah cookies.

One more quick story and I’ll stop imposing on your holiday time…We had a Friendsgiving this weekend. More than 20 people at the house. A table made from an old hollow core door and sawhorses joined the beautiful dining table Z made back in grad school. The kids ate on a blanket spread in the living room, picnic style. It was a fucking awesome night. So awesome I didn’t take a single picture.

Everyone had gone home save our closest friends who were packing up their gear. T was holding on to the leg of one of us (I will not sell out which one) and that person let a lovely, loud, and resonating fart rip. We all laughed. T collapsed onto the floor and laid rigid on his stomach with his hands by his sides. “I’m a turd!” he proclaimed. I do believe it was the funniest thing he has ever done and it was definitely the most perfect end to Friendsgiving imaginable.

us

Told Z I needed one more picture for the post. He agreed, but then pulled this shit. Eh, it’s more honest than one of us smiling would have been. Happy Thanksgiving, folks. My wish for you: may none of your children slam their sibling’s head into glass today! Yup, that’s how much I love you.

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Shopping Cart Tantrums

C was the picture of reasonableness as we walked hand in hand from the car into Wegmans. I bent down to lift him into the grocery cart and a tantrum so sudden and violent erupted that he was suddenly horizontal in my arms. If I hadn’t have had a firm grip on the kid his head would have cracked into the cement floor at maximum velocity.

He was shrieking and wildly dog paddling through the air as I tried to stuff his legs into the front of the cart. Somehow he managed to stand up and dude was trying to take a dive right out of there.

My face was beet red.

Tantrums suck. You feel like an asshole. You bet that half the people are wondering why you can’t control your kid and the other half think you have given birth to Charles Manson.

Which is stupid. When I see a kid having a tantrum at a store I just want to hug the Mom. Tell her I KNOW HER PAIN. Hug her again. Buy her a beer.

But in the moment of my own kids’ tantrums I cannot remember all that. The anxiety takes over and whispers to me that I am failing as a Mom and human and that everyone is disgusted by me and pities my child.

Good times.

At this point I look up and a man is standing uncomfortably close to me. I’m confused. There are two rows of identical carts. I am off to the side blocking one row, but as the exact same cart is fully available to other customers I’m not concerned about the fact that hustling us out of the cart lane isn’t going, um, as smoothly as I’d envisioned. I always try to make sure I’m not inconveniencing other shoppers when I settle my kids into a cart, tantrum or no.

I look at the guy. I look at the other row of identical carts.

He looks at the row as well. “That one on the end looks dirty to me.”

Are you fucking kidding me? The one on the end looks dirty? THEY ARE ALL FILTHY! It is a grocery store. When do you think was the last time any of them were washed?

My kid is trying to swan dive out of the cart. I am swallowing a rising anxiety attack. At the best of times I worry about being in the way of other people. So although I cannot believe the balls on this dude I become a simpering apologist. “Oh. I’m so sorry.” I grab the cart and C and try to back up towards the entrance so this guy can get the cart behind the one I’m using.

And C falls over. He landed sideways in part of the cart he was already standing in. I had my hands on him the whole time. Clearly he wasn’t hurt. But he was furious enough to increase the volume, which I thought was an impossibility.

The guy looks over his shoulder at us. “Oh, I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to make the little guy fall down!”

I was so pissed at that point that I couldn’t even reply.

Listen, no one forced me to have kids. It is not humanity’s responsibility to cater to me and my offspring in public. No mother should get a free pass just because it sucks to go to the grocery store with a toddler. We are also contributing members of society and it is our responsibility to not use our kids as an excuse to justify rude behavior.

But what the fuck? What the fuck was with that dude? The kicker was he maneuvered the “clean” cart over to the sanitizer wipe dispenser and gave it a major wipe down anyway. I certainly don’t expect special treatment while shopping with a kid having a tantrum, but how about not being a ginormous dickweed? How about that?

Ok.  I feel a little better now that I’ve gotten that off my chest.

dancing C

Would you believe this adorable child who was dancing on a table just this morning would throw a tantrum at the store?

cat videos

Daddy, C, and T using the internet the way god intended-by watching cute cat videos.

Princess Leia

T, “Mommy? Is Princess Leia your favorite?”

Me with deadly seriousness that should have served as a warning, “Why would Princess Leia be my favorite?”

T blithely unaware that he was inserting a knife into my heart, “Because she’s a girl!” He twisted the knife, “And a princess!”

Jesus fucking christ, where, oh where did I go wrong with this child?

“No. Princess Leia is not my favorite. Listen, dude. I don’t like people because they are girls. That is ridiculous. Just like I hope you don’t like people because they are boys. You would be missing out on so much. I don’t even like princesses. I don’t want to be a princess. Honestly, Leia is really cool. But she isn’t cool because she is a girl. She is cool because she keeps a level head in really tough situations and she doesn’t need anyone to save her, she can save herself. Dude, she kills Jabba the Hutt.”

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For several years T’s favorite color has been purple. Suddenly he doesn’t like purple anymore. I asked him why. “Purple is a beautiful color. I don’t like beautiful colors. I like cool colors. Like black.” Yes, black is his new favorite color.

He doesn’t play with the girls in his class. He and his friends tell the girls that they are not allowed to play with them outside.

The gender role shit is coming from our culture fast and furious and there are not enough episodes of Doc McStuffins in the universe to stem the tide.

I’m frustrated and pissed off and really sad. But I’m not going to give up. I am going to question him every time he wants me to be the only girl when he plays Jake and the Neverland Pirates. I am going to push back when he assumes that the token girl in any piece of pop culture is my favorite. I am going to teach him about the Bechdel test. Both Z and I will show him it is fine to show emotion, to cry, to be affectionate. Just like it is fine to be strong and rough and tumble. We will teach him that everyone has all of those qualities inside them. That those qualities are not gender specific.

And we will be loud about it. We will be constant and unrelenting. We will have to be in order to compete with the messages he will get from school, from friends, from advertising and the media and pop culture. We will be fighting to teach him that women don’t need to fight amongst themselves to fill the single role of token female or girlfriend availible in a movie. Forget about in a movie, real life–in a workplace or group of friends. That women can actually take up more than 50% of those roles being they are more than 50% of the population.

I know that his exploration of gender norms is completely normal. I know a lot of people consider it to not be a big deal at all. But you know what? It shouldn’t be normal. It is a big deal to me, and I believe it should be a big deal to everyone. And normal or not it isn’t going to fly in our family.

boy with curl

This fetching curl hung out below his eye during dinner tonight. Man, I would kill for hair like his.

quiet C

C has been having a rough couple of days in the behavior department. This is the calm between the tantrums.

gray and white

Silhouette.

Under the Influence. Of Anxiety.

T shouting, “Mom! C is eating play doh!” Me shouting right back, “I. Am. Pooping! I cannot do anything about it right now!”

That moment perfectly captures the feel of the last two days.

My hormones are not in a happy place. Could be the first month on a new birth control pill. Could be the weaning. Could be freaking-out-about-my-class anxiety. Or we-are-broke anxiety. Or our-annual-Christmas-trip-to-see-family-is-going-to-involve-just-as-many-miles-in-under-two-weeks anxiety. Or I-have-an-anxiety-disorder anxiety.

My boobs. They still have milk. After some googling this morning I’ve learned that extended nursers can take up to a year to stop producing small amounts of milk. UP TO A YEAR! I’m certainly not engorged. Not in real pain. They just feel a little full, a little achey. Like they have a job to do.

I want to move on. Like C has moved on. I can actually sit on the nursing rocker with him in my arms and sing him to sleep at nap time. He doesn’t even ask to nurse anymore. As I hold him I’m grateful. One of my biggest fears in weaning him was I wouldn’t be able to cuddle with him because he would want to nurse.

How do I move on when my damn boobs are betraying me? Constantly reminding me that I want to be nursing him.

So I’ve been a crank. No patience for Z or the boys. Anxiety and anger bubbling close to the surface.

Last night Z and I decided that T needed to clean up the legos on the floor of his room before he went to bed. I told him that they should be put away by the time I got his cup of ice water or he’d lose his story. He grumpily got on the floor and started tossing them into the bin. He was still there and still working when I got back upstairs. So I didn’t take away his story. I sat and helped him.

Bedtime proceeded as usual. We got into bed and read a book. He turned off his light, took a sip of water, got into bed. I started singing to him. Halfway through Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer he put his hand over my mouth and said, “No more songs. Just cuddles.”

Ok. Pretty damn rude, but I don’t love the singing portion of events myself. We cuddled.

T, “After tonight I never want you to do my bedtime again. Never. Ever. You are never allowed to do my bedtime. Forever.”

Um, what the fuck?

Here’s the thing. He really hurt my feelings. And it isn’t like I haven’t admitted worse about myself here, but I’m deeply ashamed of how I felt. When someone hurts my feelings my initial impulse is to hurt them worse. I wanted to lash out at T. Make him feel like shit. I wanted him to lie awake after I left for the night, eaten up with guilt for being so nasty.

Dear god, I am an asshole.

Thankfully I was able to stop myself from being cruel to my four year old son. I was able pause and really think about how I wanted to deal with my hurt.

In the pause he told me he was upset that he didn’t get to hide under the bed.

Oh.

You see, when I get his ice water he hides. In his mind his hiding place is a mystery to me. But he always goes under his bed. I pretend to prowl around the room looking for him. And eventually I crouch down and yell, “BOO!” He screams with delight.

He loves it. What I should have known is he depends on it. Because he is as much a creature of habit as I am. Cleaning up the legos fucked with the program and he was furious.

I offered to let him hide. After a couple of minutes I whipped my head under the bed and yelled, “BOO!” On cue, he screamed with delight.

We cuddled again after he crawled back into bed. “T. Listen. When you say things like you never want me to put you to bed you really hurt my feelings. You need to apologize to me. Because I seriously felt terrible when you said that. But no matter what I love you very much. And I will always love you. If you are upset about something you need to explain that to me rather than being mean. Remember what Daddy and I said on our walk today? Just don’t be mean. That is the number one lesson we want you to learn in life. Don’t be mean.”

Sometimes it has been a shitty couple of days. But when it matters you rally and are not a despicable asshole to your young son. Yet another swift kick to the balls, Anxiety. I win.

heartbreaker

My heartbreaker. Kid needs routine. I need to remember that.

nose picker

Digging for treasure.

middle finger

Ah. Yes. This. Well, it is only fair to talk about the real crap jogging days if I’m going to celebrate the awesome days. I’ve broken 10 minutes doing a mile once well over a month ago. Tried to do it again on Thursday and today. Thursday my time was 10:01. Today? 10:00. When you try as hard as you can, when you push yourself and it just isn’t good enough, man, it fucking blows.

Double Date

On the phone this morning my Mom asked how yesterday’s date night was. Z and I went out to dinner with friends. We got a sitter and everything. I told her we had a terrific time. The food was yummy, which was a big deal. I do love living in Syracuse, but the food scene is pretty abysmal. No offense, Syracuse.

We’d been planning the evening with our friends for several weeks. We’ve been very tight with this couple for about three years now. They are our closest friends here in town. But in all that time the four of us haven’t gone out for a meal together. Most of our hang-out time takes place at Z and my home. With two young kids it is the easiest way to spend time with friends-have a meal and then put the kids to bed so we can drink and talk the night away. And J and C have been extremely accommodating about pretending our home is a awesome place to hang.

If I’m honest (and you know I will try to be) the kids aren’t the only reason we hang out here. If I can mangle an old James Carville quote–it’s the anxiety, stupid. Hanging out at home means I get to participate without a panic attack.

Back to that phone call this morning. Mom had me on speaker and Dad was there too. He piped up with “Hey, thought you couldn’t go out to a restaurant without an anxiety attack.” He was trying to point out that it was pretty great I hadn’t had one.

“Well about that….” I started.

C and I were texting about coordinating driving down to the restaurant in one car late yesterday afternoon when I let him know that I was anxious enough to need a pill. Although I was still really excited about going. He suggested we take different cars down so I’d feel like I had an escape plan. He knows me really well.

I avoid social situations outside my home for a ton of reasons. It’s fucking hard to do something that’ll make anxiety worse, even if I know that thing will be a ton of fun. It’s embarrassing to have a panic attack in front of an audience. And a big one is I worry my friends will think my anxiety is a reflection of how I feel about them. Which could not be further from the truth. On top of that stuff I fear it is a royal pain in the ass to deal with me and my problems. I’m not easy to be friends with. My anxiety is a perpetual third wheel.

All of that said, J and C knew that my anxiety didn’t have anything to do with them. They acted like it wasn’t a big deal. We did have a fantastic time. The food was great. My cocktail was a blueberry connection with the fetching name Veruca Salt. The conversation was the best part. The only miss was dessert. 

I feel lucky to have friends who really know me and still don’t go running for the hills. They make me feel safe and loved and like I’m worth it.

We won’t wait three more years to have another night out.

beautiful T

No pictures from last night. We were too busy having fun. When T isn’t paying attention I can sneak a quick shot of his heartbreakingly beautiful face WITHOUT his tongue sticking out or him grimacing.

how T watches tv

Watching TV. As one does.

5 miles

I know, I know. The post jog selfies are obnoxious. But yesterday I ran 5 miles. I am still in total disbelief. Took me almost an hour. The overall pace was a snail-like 11:48. But I jogged the whole time. In four and a half months I’ve gone from not being able to jog at all to 5 miles. This whole exercise situation is starting to make me believe that anything is possible.

13 Years A Little Late

Back at the end of August T managed to break the little table Z made for the boys.

 broken

“Is Daddy going to be mad?” was his reaction.

Daddy understands that a pair of boys is one of the most destructive forces in nature. So he wasn’t that mad. He was more resigned. And annoyed he’d have to remake the table. The semester was just gearing up so we both knew it would be a while before a new one was ready.

A couple of days later Z and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary with a dinner date. We’ve kind of kept to the traditional anniversary present schedule, although since we’ve become parents it’s been harder and harder to get those presents together by September 3rd. Lace is the gift for lucky year 13 and I left it to the last minute. Lace really isn’t Z’s thing and I couldn’t come up with a good idea. A day or two before the 3rd it hit me-some kind of plant with lace in the name. Enter the black lace elderberry bush. Do you know you can order plants through Amazon? It arrived a couple days late.

black lace elberberry

After hanging out on our counter for a while Z got around to planting it.

He told me he was making my present. The semester really got grooving and I forgot about the present. And the table.

Last night he brought this upstairs.

13 years table

A little bit bigger, a lot stronger, and with a lace doily that I love laser cut into the surface along with the number 13.

table in use

In use this morning.

The table was more than worth the wait.

Z and I don’t have some perfect marriage. When I write about us I worry people will think I’m trying to sell some idealized version of reality. Our marriage is flawed like any relationship. We hurt each other frequently. We drive each other crazy. We let each other down. But we also are committed to working hard on it (Yay therapy!). We don’t take it for granted. Marriage is fragile. We meant till death do us part when we said it. We mean it now. But there are no guarantees. Until we actually get to 10 years in the future we can’t really be sure what will happen then.

All of that said, I love him. I like him. I adore him. I am proud of him. He works so fucking hard, but nine times out of ten he is at home by 5:30pm to have dinner with the boys and me. He is talented and generous. He cares deeply about his professional life and his students. He makes beautiful things with his hands–furniture, instruments, music, treehouses, he sews. He is my friend. He supports and encourages me. Twice a week he leaves work in the middle of the day to pick up T from school so I can take a class. He has promised to figure out how to fit my jogging into our days as long as I can still get my ass in gear to go. He tattooed my image on his body not once but twice. He is hot as hell. He is a feminist. He is loyal. He got me help when I couldn’t help myself. He understands my crazy. He loves me anyway. He is a good man.

z barely putting up with me

I love this picture. The look on his face is priceless–thinly veiled annoyance with a side of “how long is this gonna take?”

Vignettes

We were on our way to Target to get T his reward for handling the pain of a flu shot. Yep, I bribe my kids in order to make a scary event more bearable. I’m not even going to apologize. Yes, I vaccinate my children. Because I believe in science and herd immunity and I’m really not going to apologize.

I let an old lady’s car in front of me as we inched towards the intersection and out of the business park. Old lady put on her left turn signal and I cursed inside my head. We were going to be stuck waiting for her to turn forever. Sure enough there wasn’t a break in the traffic for ages. Finally one came. She did not pull out. I was biting my tongue to hold in the string of expletives that were flashing through my head. Another break came. “Grandma! Come on!” I shouted. She went.

From the backseat T was furiously craning his neck to try to see the other driver. “Mom? Do you have two grandma’s?” Yup, little man thought my actual grandma was in the car in front of us.

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C was in the front of the shopping cart as I walked down an aisle at Target, concentrating on the task at hand rather than my children. He shouted, “Socks!” as he grabbed a pair from the hook. Might seem like nothing, but when you kid has a speech delay and only a dozen words at 26 months old it felt like the fucking most amazing thing that had happened in ages.

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The boys were nearly out of patience as I herded them into a dressing room with five bras in my fist. I got permission from the attendant for each boy to take something into the room to occupy themselves. Play doh for C and T’s little transformer figurine flue shot reward. I stripped down to my waist as I begged C not to scream and T to get out from under the bench. I stood there in an ill fitting leopard print bra, flesh spilling from the sides of the cups. I’m sure to make that extra flesh feel less lonely my muffin top poofed luxuriously from the top of my jeans. I started laughing hysterically. Leopard Print. LEOPARD PRINT! Fat spilling everywhere. Muffin top. What was I trying to do? I’ve never quite felt so much like a Mother in my entire life.

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We all were ready to go home, but we were 5 stores away from LL Bean. And T has started to tell his teacher that he didn’t bring a hat so he can wear the awesome one in the classroom. The one he deemed much cooler than his own. The one from LL Bean. I figured we could get him one of his own as he’s worn his current chapeau for two years. As we left LL Bean hat in hand we passed a Mom with two kids, each probably a year younger than my own. I was trying to wrangle C who was throwing the great tantrum of ’13 so I didn’t get a close look, but the very young toddler was in a stroller. “That little fella was excited to go to the store because he thought he was going to play with me!” T exclaimed. And suddenly I was laughing again.

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At some point we are going to have to face the music and potty train C. We’ve promised ourselves that we will put him on the toilet first thing in the morning, but we’ve been too lazy to actually do it. This morning I sat with him on the bathroom floor and gave him two choices-the little potty or the big potty. He wept and raged and shook his head and said, “uh-uh” which means no over and over. We sat quietly for a minute and he pointed at the big toilet, so I put him on. Nothing happened, but I told him he did a terrific job. T called me out of the bathroom. I shut the toilet lid and left. A moment later I returned to find C standing at the commode on tiptoes, lid and seat raised, desperately trying to hold his penis above the edge. Guess he’s been watching how Daddy and T do it. I held him off the ground so he could “aim” properly, laughing hysterically and telling him what a clever monkey he was. Looks like we are going to have to get a stool.

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Parenthood is frustrating and exhausting and just when you think you have figured out every way possible to screw it up you surprise yourself with creative new ways to make mistakes. Admittedly I bitch about it nonstop. But the small little moments above? They all happened in the last 18 hours. No matter how bad my days are there is always a counterpoint of hilarity and delight and wonder. You know what I’m talking about. The moments of silliness or absurdity or parental pride that might bore everyone else on the planet to tears. The moments that will either be a part of your family lore forever, or be forgotten the next day.  The moments that actually make it possible to slog through your day. They are the reasons I wouldn’t exchange my kids for a million mornings of sleeping in, or lazy weekends reading the Sunday Times cover to cover, or nights out at the bar with friends.

Ok.

Maybe I’d give them up for a million of those. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve read the Sunday Times? But surely not for a hundred thousand.

cream cheese mustache

His luxurious cream cheese mustache is rather fetching.

New Hat

New hat on this delightful creature.