Dining Out

Last night my parents took us out to a very nice restaurant for dinner. Going out to a fast food joint with the boys makes me anxious. So as much as I was looking forward to a really delicious meal, I was a wee bit worried (by which I mean my stomach was clenched in fear) about the behavior of the two young men in my life.

Sometimes those boys surprise me. Ok, so Z took C for a quick walk outside before the meal came, and Z and I tag teamed the two mid-meal trips to the bathroom. But other than that it was smooth sailing. Star Wars stickers worked their magic yet again.

Near the end of the meal a friend of my parent’s walked by the table. She has young grandchildren, so she bent down to chat with T. He is a bit of a rambler when he gets going and dude was on a tear. “Do you know what? Well, tomorrow is going to be me and Charlie’s birthday. But, but, but…tomorrow isn’t really me and Charlie’s birthday. But we get our birthday with Grandma and Grandpa tomorrow. And we are, um, we are, uhhh, we are going to have presents. And a cake. I want a….Star Wars Angry Bird cake. And we are getting presents! I want Star Wars legos. I want a Chewbacca figure. I saw it at the Lego store. The Chewbacca figure, well, it has a slot, not a put on head. Like the Gamorrean guard. They are the only two with a slot, not a put on head. But we already have the Gamorrean guard. And I want a big Star Wars Angry Birds play set. A big one.”

This lovely woman was a total sport. She just let him talk and murmured little hmmms and yeses at all the right places.

T paused for a second, took a deep breath, and looked her square in the face.

“I just farted.”

He is totally my child.

T in the pool

Loving the pool with Daddy. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith Photography.

popsicle love at floyd fest

T and Z went to Floyd Fest. First music festival for T.

playing at Floyd fest

He had a really good time.

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Blue Baby

“He was scared when he met me.”

T and I were cuddled in his bed, preparing to read the wonderful Eric Carle book “Friends”. He was holding his blue baby. It was a present from me on his very first Christmas. It was the first stuffed toy to go in his crib. He has slept with it on and off since he was about 9 months old (I know, I know, nothing is supposed to be with babes until they are one). We are currently very much in an “on” phase.

He rather makes a meal of arranging the baby in his peanut home with both little hands sticking out just so. Anything to stretch the bedtime routine out for another 90 seconds. Then he tucks bear shirt around the baby. Bear shirt is his number one comfort, the item he simply cannot sleep without. It’s a red t-shirt I got in the third grade from my elementary school. Decades ago I put it on a big stuffed panda that was my mother’s when she was a girl. The panda was among the menagerie of stuffed animals placed on T’s first big boy bed. T slipped off the shirt and cuddles it every night.

Earlier today he watched me wrap another blue baby purchased for the newest baby in our life, a little boy who was born almost two weeks ago. “Stop!” he cried as I started to apply the first piece of tape. He thundered up the stairs and back down a moment later, blue baby in hand. He introduced the two babies to each other and gently lowered his down to the new one for a sweet little kiss. Then he told me I could continue wrapping.

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“He was scared when he met me.” T told me tonight.

“Really?” I replied, putting the book down and cuddling closer. “How did you make him not scared?”

He draped bear shirt over the baby. “I showed him bear shirt. And then he wasn’t afraid.”

“He loves you.”

“Yes. He sucks on my finger. That’s where he gets the milk.”

My eyes filled up with tears.

The near month long radio silence here on the blog was because life sort of took over. Nothing dramatic happened. There was just a shit-ton going on at the end of the semester. I had a paper due, a 25 pager that stretched to 27 plus endnotes plus a bibliography: The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes: History, Attitudes, and Implementation in the United States. Just did my final presentation yesterday, emailed the paper in Tuesday night.

Breastfeeding has been on my mind for the last month. How to advocate for increased breastfeeding rates while respecting the right of all women to choose how to feed their babies. Educating does not equal pressuring. If a woman wants to formula feed she should be provided the support to do so. But many women who do want to nurse struggle. The institutional and societal road blocks that prevent women from nursing successfully while telling those same women that “breast is best” must be addressed. The fact that cultural knowledge of breastfeeding has eroded almost completely in our society must change. I knew nothing about nursing when T was born. It was overwhelming and terrifying and it certainly didn’t feel natural.

But T and C will have some cultural knowledge of breastfeeding. They know it is how I fed them. C might actually remember nursing as he gets older. They are surrounded by women in our social circle who casually breastfeed as we hang out. They know some boobs make milk. I’m hoping they remember it and are comfortable with it even after they discover boobs are delightful for other reasons.

So yes. Breastfeeding has been on my mind. And watching my little man mother his doll and explain how he provides milk for his baby? Well, damn. It made me perfectly happy.

freckles

Can you see the constellation of freckles scattered under his eye and reaching across his face? They are my current favorite part of him. I can’t resist covering them in kisses every time they catch my eye.

field trip

Best part of a field trip? For a 4 year old it is always the bus ride.

 

Boobies

Five months ago today I nursed C for the last time. I miss it. I miss it almost every day.

For the first while I was careful to not be topless around C. Listen, we are a cool-with-nudity family. It is important to Z and me to teach the boys that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to their bodies. That nudity does not always equal sexuality. Not to say we aren’t realistic. We teach boundaries. There was a frightening situation in which the child of an acquaintance was seemingly being groomed for sexual abuse by a childcare provider. Since that time we have quizzed T every month or so, “Who may touch your penis?” we ask. “Me, you guys when you are washing me, Doctor M when she is examining me.” he answers. We remind him that is it. He needs to tell us if anyone else tries, if anyone is making him uncomfortable when they touch his body. It sickens me that we have to have the conversation with him, that people who would prey on children exist, but better face the ugliness in this world than ignore it and not equip him to identify dangerous situations.

More than a month after C was weaned I was stepping into the shower when I heard a great crash, a moment of silence, a wail of pain. I pelted to the sound, dripping water everywhere and found C in a heap on the floor of his room. I swept him into my arms, checking for bumps and blood. He immediately tried to latch on. “No, no, no!” I told him as I laughed and cried and struggled to finish the check to make sure he wasn’t hurt. Dude was scared and looking for comfort and my boobs were right there. Old habits die hard. He was fine, I got him calm and headed back to the shower. That is the last time I remember him trying to nurse.

In the ensuing months my no toplessness rule relaxed. He didn’t have a reaction to seeing my boobs anymore.

Mom left for home early this morning. It is the first day I’m up and about. Still feel like shit, but definitely feel way better than I did just a few days ago. I do not recommend the flu, it really sucks ass.

Z and I were in the basement futzing with a load of laundry. I’d changed pants when I got out of bed, but was still in gross sweaty flu clothes from the waist up so throwing that crap in the wash seemed like a good plan. I grabbed the empty laundry basket and braced my weak legs for the walk from the basement to the second floor. C met me on the staircase coming down from his brother’s room engulfed in a cloud of poop stink. He’s been sneaking off to hide behind the curtain in that room to take a crap these days. I opened with the obvious “Did you poop?” “I pooped!” he crowed. And then he started pointing at my boob. I turned to look at Z. When I turned back his little face was upturned and he was working his mouth, suckling the air. “Mama! Mama!” he cried, pointing at my boobs again. “Baby. There is no more milk in them. No more. All gone.” He was still pointing and on the verge of tears. “Mine!” he shouted in frustration.

I burst out laughing. Had been near tears myself, but seriously? Mine? “Um, no.” I told him. “They are mine” I walked past him and his poop stink (worry not, his Daddo changed him) and got into the shower.

Old habits really do die hard. For both of us. I miss it too, C.

Mom C T

Last Sunday the family went to the Zoo. C ran up to this display and pointed to the skulls shouting, “Mama! Charlie! Thomas!” I get his confusion, those skulls look just like us.

treehouse breastfeeding

Reposting this one. C nursing in our treehouse last summer. When T was tiny Z took photos while I was nursing. I made him delete them. It is such a huge regret. My ideas about nursing and the importance of normalization have evolved so much since then. I regret not documenting that time.

Empire Half

When it comes to doing things that scare the living shit out of me I often need to sneak up on myself. Otherwise I wouldn’t take the plunge. Signing up for a half marathon was not on this morning’s agenda. One of the other Moms in C’s classroom at school is a runner. She’s relatively new to the sport, but she’s already done a marathon and a bunch of halves. A few weeks ago she suggested I do a half near Albany for my first try. Today I told her I was considering signing up for it. “Oh, that’s already full.” she told me. “You should sign up for the Empire State Half Marathon. It’s in Syracuse in October.” “Is it pretty flat?” I asked. I mean, let’s get real. I’m slow and 13.1 miles is going to be a mighty struggle for me. Hills and 13.1 miles would be an impossibility. She assured me there was only one big hill.

So I told myself not to think about it. I drove home on autopilot, pulled out my wallet, got on the website and signed up. I’m excited. I’m terrified. Thankfully October feels really far away.

When it comes to doing things that scare the living shit out of me I need to announce them as soon as I commit. That way I can’t talk myself out of whatever I’m doing without looking like a quitter. Shortly after writing a FB status update stating that October 19th is the day I do my first half marathon my wonderful friend A signed up as well. I’d been bugging her to visit this year, and now we are going to have an insane adventure together. Knowing she is going to be there makes the idea of the race less scary.

This past weekend my friend did her first 25K race. She has been a big inspiration for me when it comes to this whole running deal. The last time I saw her in person was less than I year ago and I told her I admired the hell out of her and simply couldn’t imagine ever doing what she did. A few weeks later I bought my first pair of running shoes and somehow made myself do it. A year ago I wouldn’t have believed I could get up on a Monday morning and jog more than three miles without stopping. It wouldn’t occur to me that a goal of 13.1 miles was a possibility. Somehow my friend’s support from a couple of hundred miles away has been a huge factor in helping me realize I can do this. She gleefully commented that she can’t wait for how much more I’m going to talk about poop when I start running longer distances. I responded that I didn’t think it was possible for me to talk about poop more than I already do.

A couple of hours later T and I had the following conversation. It might not be about running, but Kelly this one is for you:

The boys are on antibiotics. Which means the boys have diarrhea. In the middle of the day they get yogurt and applesauce doctored with probiotic powder, but even still the meds upset their bellies. Both of their parents have wicked IBS, they never had a chance in terms of tummy troubles.

This afternoon T was giving me a particularly satisfying hug when I asked him if he pooped at school today. He nodded his head. “Diarrhea or solid?” I asked. “Solid!” he gleefully replied. “Really?” He could hear the excitement in my voice. “Well….it was solid in the middle. Kind of liquid at the beginning and end. It was poop-arrhea.”

It is certain that poop-arrhea will become part of our family’s vocabulary. I mean, it is a magnificent word.

So brace yourself for more jogging talk. More poop talk. And please wish me luck!

C poops

Caught this guy behind the curtain. He hides when nature calls. I asked if he was pooping. “Noooooo!” he shouted. He was lying.

me and my boys

Me and my boys.

Boy In A Drawer

The boys ran up to T’s room and seemed to be occupying themselves without threat of imminent injury so Z and I took advantage, sipping our coffee and chatting in the family room. Z sat on the sofa, I crouched on a heating register that never quite gets hot enough to burn my butt. Not nearly as satisfying as the one next to the fireplace. Eventually Z hollered for the boys to come down for Super Hugs, part of our silly family routine when Z leaves for work. I quickly ran to the bathroom as Z gathered his things. T thundered down the stairs, but C did not. I heard him calling out and after finishing I ran upstairs to grab him. I threw open T’s bedroom door and saw this:

crazy c

“Help! Help! I’m stuck!” he cried. The huge grin on his face assured me he wasn’t in actual distress, so I yelled for Z to come upstairs-this was too good to miss-and I snapped a picture.

How did he even get in there? How did he not pull the whole dresser on top of himself? Why have we not attached every piece of furniture we own to the walls? How long is it before these wild boys actually give me a heart attack?

After Super Hugs were successfully executed and the goodbye wave happened at the window over the sofa (seriously, we are people of involved ritual) I called my parents to tell them the story. Since I’ve become a parent they are who I call nine times out of ten. I call when one of the boys has done something wonderful or hilarious or insane or awful, I call when I’m struggling, or when I’m worried I am a terrible Mother. I sincerely don’t know what I’d do without them. I get to laugh with them, they listen to me cry. And when I feel like I’m in over my head they believe in me. This different closeness with them is one of the biggest and best surprises of becoming a Mom.

Dad checked out the photo I’d posted on instagram on his phone as we chatted and he and Mom got a major chuckle from it. “There was a very tall dresser in my room when I was little.” Dad started. “It was about six feet. I would climb to the top of it and jump off onto my bed. My Mom told me that if I kept on doing it I would catch polio.”

“What?”

“She said I’d catch polio.”

“Um. Why didn’t she say that it could fall over and kill you?”

“Because polio was a really big deal then. There wasn’t a cure.”

“Dad. There isn’t a cure for death either.”

These little glimpses into my father’s childhood are another bonus of our evolving relationship. My Grandmother sounded like a real character. I never knew her. She died shortly after my parents got engaged. My Grandfather died when I was two, there are pictures of the two of us, but I don’t have any memories of him.

My Mom’s Mom will be 93 this June. She is one hell of a lady, my sister and I have always adored her. She is a great storyteller, and we eat those stories up. How she and her siblings used to stoke the stove though they promised not to when her parents went to church in the evening so they could make taffy. How the chickens and garden in their backyard kept the family from starving during the depression. How Grandpa saw her outside of church when they were teens and told his friends he would marry her, the ensuing secret courtship of an Irish Protestant girl and an Irish Catholic boy. These stories are part of my family’s DNA. We’ve heard them a million times and would happily listen to her tell them a million more.

Throughout our lives my sister and I have nagged our Dad for stories of his childhood. His parents and his upbringing are largely a mystery to us. But since I’ve had the boys I’ve noticed he lets stories like this one slip. Is it because we aren’t actively pestering him? He only had girls. Are his wild grandsons making him remember his own boyhood?

Who knows?

I simply am grateful. For the stories and for my parents.

doorway climber

He got up there himself. As Z was taking the picture T said, “Will you send it to Grandma?”

T first communion

Big T’s first communion. It is crazy how much the boys look like my Dad.

Fred and Helen Cordano

Fred and Helen Cordano. So many holes in our knowledge of them. We don’t know if my Grandfather’s given name was Alfredo or Frederico-one name was my Grandfather’s one was my Great-Grandfather’s both anglicized to Fred. The pictures give the date of their marriage as November 28th, but the year is missing. Sometime in the 1930s I believe.

Butt Burn

We are in the middle of a late season cold snap. Temps fell well below freezing on Monday and according to the 7 day forecast we have at least another week before we reach that magic 32F. It’s winter, it’s Syracuse, it’s cold. This isn’t a shocker. But our resistance is worn down. We aren’t asking for much, we know where we live. We don’t expect 60F in late February. We would be happy with 32F. You wouldn’t hear a peep from us till April.

On top of the cold it seems I’ve developed a bit ‘o the minor depression. It’s been a decade since the void and nothingness of major depression nearly smothered the life out of me. I pray to any and every god that I will never experience anything near to it again. These days I still feel. I feel everything. The feeling hurts. Even the love for my wonderful little boys is the kind that pierces me with pain. Some days joy is mixed in as well. Some days I can’t get there. But I’m grateful for the feeling, for the frequent tears that are constantly threatening. Feeling is infinitely better than nothing.

It’s cold and I’m sad. Which means I spend the majority of my time hunkered down on the heat register next to our fireplace. After a while of sitting directly on the heat it becomes too much and I move around giving my butt a break and warming my legs and hands. I also like to see how much I can bear. It’s a relief to feel too hot. Who cares if my butt hurts a bit?

Our thermostat is set to drop down for the night at 10pm. The register grows cold and I head to our bedroom which holds onto the heat much longer. Last night I was grabbing some water in the kitchen when I noticed my butt felt weird. I grabbed my cheek and felt a rather large bump.

“Z?” I called. “Can you come and look at this?”

He joined me in the kitchen and I pulled down my drawers.

There was a long pause.

“Oh Karen…….Your ass…….oh man.”

“What?” I shrilly demanded, panic rising in my throat. “What’s wrong?”

He started laughing. “It is red. I mean bright red. And the pattern of the register is deeply imprinted. Here, give me your phone. I’ll take a picture and show you.”

I handed it over as body shaking and uncontrollable giggles erupted out of me. I could barely hold still for the picture.

Sweet Mary. The picture. Suddenly my laughter was so out of control I was crying. My ass was scary red. And the rather art deco-ish pattern was ridiculous. I was branding myself with a heat register.

Listen, being I do still posses a small shred of decency the picture was immediately deleted. See? There are lines that I won’t cross. But I’m a little bummed not to share it with you. It really was fucking hysterical.

This morning Z told me if I got cold I should sit on the sofa with a blanket. “Oh yes,” I told him. “Absolutely.”

Guess where I am as I write this post.

The red butt is worth it. Haven’t laughed like that in a while. And man, it felt good. Really good.

heat register

If you need me I’ll be here.

boys do it too

They are only allowed to have brief sits.

bathroom window

Outside our bathroom window last week.

Flip Side

It was cold out there during my jog this morning. In the high 20s, but the wind was cutting and brutal. Since I wrote the post about jogging last week I’ve struggled. Don’t get me wrong, I go. I do it. But it has been harder.

Writing a post that declared I’m sticking with this exercise thing nudged my anxiety. And she informed me that I was a fraud. A non-jogger. That after my fancy proclamation I would fall on my proverbial face and never lace up my sneakers again.

Oh my god, she is such a fucking bitch.

Wednesday was a rest day, so last Thursday was my first jog after the post last week. Man, the anxiety dogged me for the whole 3.12 miles. It was scary hard. At the end I wanted to cry.

That’s the flip side to this whole thing. It’s important to acknowledge. Exercise is as much of a head game as it is a physical activity. You have to convince yourself to go. You have to convince yourself that you can do it, that you are worth the time it takes, that you are doing good work even when you aren’t PRing all the time. Sometimes you give it your all and you still don’t achieve your goals. Sometimes you phone it in and hate yourself a little. I’m guessing that the struggle is just a part of the game long term.

If it is hard for you, if you get discouraged, well, I do too. Let’s just keep on keeping on.

photo (28)

Sometimes there aren’t ecstatic pride selfies. Sometimes there are exhausted and pissed and frustrated selfies. But it is part of the process.

If you guys love blogs and FB as much as I do you’ve come across that Fit Mom “What’s Your Excuse” meme. I don’t want to link to it because I think it is incredibly harmful, but a quick google search will locate it if you are interested. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the picture. While she is wearing workout gear, she also is in full hair and makeup. It is great for her that her hard work has paid off and that she has earned her conventionally attractive figure. She didn’t earn her conventionally beautiful face, she was born with it. But she is beautiful and if I looked like her I’d feel pretty great about myself as well.

A lot of conversation has happened in the media and online about her message. The fat shaming (which she insists is not fat shaming) is obviously problematic. But putting all that aside I find the image, the implied goal, to be rather boring. Instead it is extremely plastic, completely unattainable, and frankly I feel sorry for her because she is missing the point.

No matter how hard they work out 99% of women are not going to look like her. Especially without hair and makeup done and a professional photographer lighting the session. She has achieved what society and the patriarchy has dictated is the female standard of beauty. But that standard is bullshit. It is unrealistic. It is designed to keep us striving for a goal most of us will never achieve as a way to undermine us and keep us less than.

I don’t jog five times a week so I can look like her. No matter how hard I exercise the stretch marks from my second pregnancy aren’t going anywhere. My boobs will never be perky again. The lines will never disappear from my forehead or from around my eyes. In fact, they are going to be joined by a shitload more wrinkles as time marches on.

I do this because it makes me feel good. I have more energy. It is probably keeping my anxiety a bit in check. Last week my father asked me how I’ve felt since starting the jogging. “Lighter in my body.” I told him. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean I weigh less. I just mean it is easier to maneuver my body around in the world. I have more control, feel capable of more.” That is more of a reward than trying to look like Gisele.

If Fit Mom really wants to inspire people why is she advertising physical beauty as the outcome? Isn’t it more helpful and more honest to cop to how hard it is to regularly exercise? To admit that some workouts suck. You let yourself down, but you dust yourself off and try again the next day? Because cumulatively you feel pretty terrific in your body even if a group of frat boys wouldn’t deem it fuckable? No frat boy would want to get with this middle aged lady. And guess what? I don’t give a crap because I can’t imagine wanting to get with a frat boy either.

On her website she has a bunch of tips for her “healthy lifestyle” including putting post its in her kitchen that say “Food is Fuel”. It actually made me cry when I read it. I feel sorry for her. Food is joy, food is celebration, food is delicious, food is family, food is pleasure. Moderation is certainly key, but denying yourself the richness of experience that eating provides? Making food the enemy? Major red flag. And to be clear, this is pure speculation, but it is moving towards a disordered relationship with food.

I want to encourage my friends to exercise because I can’t believe how wonderful and proud it has made me feel. Just a month or two ago I would have told you that I could not jog for 5 miles. I simply couldn’t do it. And now I’ve done it three times. I am amazed that my body is doing hard things. If a lifelong couch potato can do this you can, too.

So keep posting selfies. Even if you don’t look like Fit Mom (I sure as fuck don’t). Even if the workout sucked ass. Every time out there isn’t going to be a win.

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Back to this morning. After my jog I was chilled to the bone. Z had to split for work, so I settled the boys in front of a movie and ran for a quick shower. The hot water felt amazing everywhere but my belly, ass, and thighs. Fat concentration means less blood flow to the surface. The cold was intense in those areas. The water burned as it hit the red patches, still icy to the touch.

I was trying to rub life back into my thighs when I heard C pad into the bathroom. “Hey kiddo, what’s up?” I called. He sidled over to the corner of the shower curtain and pulled it back with a huge shit eating grin on his face. This kid. He really does have the shit eating grin to end all shit eating grins.

He grinned at me. And then he triumphantly held up a deli bag of ham.

Motherhood. God damned Motherhood. When I imagined it years ago I never thought it would involve a toddler interrupting my shower time holding a contraband bag of deli meat that he scored. Let me tell you, the shaved ham in the bathroom was way more hilarious than anything I came up with when dreaming of future children. Man, these kids keep me laughing. Even if I was pissed as hell when we went downstairs 20 minutes later only to discover the fridge door had been left wide open.

lion t

We went to the zoo today. When we walked by this display T insisted I take his picture. With his crazy hair he makes a perfect lion.

safari c

And here is my intrepid explorer. He’s probably hunting for some ham.