Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Church of the Holy Toddler of Terror

Church is at 1:00.  I have a toddler.  Combining these two things is basically like taking a jar of highly unstable anti-matter out for a game of kickball and hoping it won't break open and destroy the known universe.

LDS (Mormon) congregations are divided by geographical boundaries, and are assigned a meeting time that rotates yearly.  In our meetinghouse, one year you have meetings at 9:00, the next at 11:00, and the next at 1:00.  In our case, due to our large size (which necessitates the use of every single classroom in the building), we are stuck on a permanent hell-cycle of 1:00 church for the foreseeable future. 


Okay, I love church.  I really do.  It's where I need to be every Sunday, and it's where my kids need to be -- even the one who has to miss his nap.  I have no doubts about this, which is why I go.  The blessings of church attendance are real, and the gospel is true, even if you don't get to hear a word that is said.  But have you been to church with a toddler in the middle of his regular nap time?  Because it's about the only thing that makes me consider taking up drinking.

Every week is mostly the same.  The only thing that really varies is how much Excedrin I need after the meetings are over.  Every once in awhile I find myself hearing one sentence of what must be a really good lesson and thinking, "Wow, no one is bothering me.... INCOMING!" and then I have to duck as my toddler tries to whack me in the head with his sippy cup.

Last Sunday I pulled a book out of The Church Bag (what goes in The Church Bag stays in The Church Bag until the following Sunday), opened it, and my oldest son looked at it quizzically and then slowly peeled back what appeared to be a perfectly preserved specimen of a fruit snack from the cenozoic era.  Approximate quiet time afforded by said book:  30 seconds.

Each week is a variation on how long The Church Bag can ensure quietness.  You pull out another book or quiet toy, but the toddler rejects it by throwing it at the person in front of him.  You apologize.  Then three seconds later you apologize for the fact that he just pulled that person's hair. He tries to escape down the aisle and you block his exit only to have him crumble to the ground and shriek like he is being devoured by piranhas.  You hand him a piece of cheese to shut him up, but remember too late that breaking a whole food item into pieces causes the food to undergo a chemical change that makes it taste like cat pee.  Your toddler reacts accordingly.  Your other kids pick this moment to renew their fight over who gets to sit on Mom's lap.

Just before the passing of the sacrament, your toddler develops a strange sensation behind his eyelids that causes him to whine and claw at his eyeballs like someone filled them with flesh-eating sand.  He wipes a combo of snot and graham cracker crumbs up the entire length of your navy blue sleeve.  Gah, why did you wear navy blue?  That's a rookie mistake.  He squawks like a dying parrot.  Your husband takes him out in the hall.  Your other kids dive onto your now-vacant lap like it's the gold medal in an Olympic sport.

Your husband returns ten minutes later with a sleeping toddler drooling down the arm of his suit coat.  You think, "I should really get that suit coat dry cleaned."  You touch it up with a wipie instead.  Your toddler snoozes till the closing hymn and then wakes up with a disease I like to call Angry Waking Syndrome.

You hand him a toy, he yells.  You hand him some food, he tries to slap it out of your hand.  You open a book, he throws it.  You take him out in the hall and he falls to the floor and wails.  Even if a miracle occurs and he decides he's happy, he's happy at too loud of a level.  Minus the short sleeping period on Dad's shoulder, you repeat this scenario for the next two hours.  You consider it a win if nobody hauls you out in a straitjacket by the end.  You mark another survival X on your calendar -- THREE MORE MONTHS TILL HE IS OLD ENOUGH FOR NURSERY CLASS.

It's hard.  And it's flat-out awful sometimes.  I mean, the highlight of my meetings this past Sunday was when Jonathan gagged himself on a piece of cheese stick and I had to run him out of Relief Society just in time to catch the first heave of his stomach in my hands as he threw up all over the floor.  Bless those beautiful ladies who came running out after me and used their powers of helpfulness to grab my diaper bag and paper towels, offer support, and help me CLEAN VOMIT OUT OF THE CARPET.  (I think this act alone assures someone a place in the Celestial Kingdom.  Bless you, Kim!)  But I'll keep going.  And I'll keep doing it.  Because church on Sunday is where I need to be.

Straitjacket and all.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Me, Myself, and Whine

Meghann Foye, author of Meternity has something to say:

"I want all the perks of maternity leave -- without having any kids."

She is advocating a "meternity" leave ("meternity" as in "me me me") to balance out the apparent unfairness of women leaving the office to take advantage of that "socially mandated time and space for self-reflection" we call "maternity leave."

Hahahahaha!  This is a joke, right?  Really, it must be.  Because, let's clear up a few things.  The "perks" of maternity leave are as follows:

*Not having the extra burden of clocking in at the office added to the ten thousand other responsibilities you now have

Now for the non-perks:

*A human being making an excruciating exit of your body in one of two graceful ways: bulldozing its way out of your nether regions with all the tenderness of a mack truck, or being yanked unceremoniously through your sliced-in-half abdominal muscles.  Take your pick.
*The painful aftermath and recovery from said excruciating childbirth
*A squalling, helpless infant who is completely dependent on you for EVERYTHING at every hour of the day
*Minimal and constantly interrupted sleep
*Bodily fluids everywhere (yours and the baby's)

Honestly, time for self-reflection is pretty hard to come by when you have a human piranha attached to your nipples 20 hours a day and when you are dealing with what looks and feels like the aftermath of Shark Week in your hospital-issue mesh panties.

You want this to be fair, do you, Ms. Foye?  In that case you are going to need to set aside a significant amount of time in your "meternity" leave to get intimately acquainted with the following: Bleeding, swelling, stitches, hemorrhoids, stool softeners, bleeding, cracked nipples, hormonal upheaval, night sweats, more bleeding, mastitis, poop, vomit, and colic.  You are not allowed to sleep more than two hours at a time, you still have to manage basic household tasks, and you must host family members and friends who want to see the Cute Little Sabbatical, even if you are not up for it.

Sounds like a vacation to me.

Look, I have no problem with Ms. Foye's argument that everyone can use an extended break from work now and then.  What I have a problem with is her assumption that she is owed this break because women who have just grown and delivered new human beings to Planet Earth are getting an unfair perk by having time off to adjust and recover.  Growing, birthing, and caring for a newborn is not the same as sitting by a pool enjoying introspective chill time as you contemplate your place in the universe.  If you want a sabbatical, fine, but no one owes you one.

Least of all new mothers who already have enough to do.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


A month or so ago I read this article on Scary Mommy.  I felt every word of it.  Though I am not facing a hysterectomy, my husband and I consider our family of three sons and one daughter to be complete.  And yet... it isn't complete.  At least not for me.

You see, I have three sisters who are the most hilarious, fun, faithful, and kind women you could ever hope to meet.  We share our lives with each other in one continuous text conversation that regularly causes me to cry with hilarity.  I wish everyone could have sisters like them.  Including my daughter.

But, she is the only girl.  And she'll be the only girl.  I know this, and I accept this, and yet, it's still hard.

So when I read through the dozens of comments trailing Scary Mommy's Facebook post, many of them searing and judgmental, I felt their impact deeply.  "What are you complaining about?  You have three sons!" said one woman.  "You should be more grateful for what you have!" said another.

And I thought, how have we come to this?  How can someone share the vulnerability of their deepest longings only to have their grief brushed aside as if it belongs in the trash bin?  The fact is, the loss of a dream is still a loss.  And no sadness is correctly judged by someone else's Pain Assessment Scale.

The Book of Mormon prophet, Alma, taught that those who desired to join the church of Christ must be willing to bear each other's burdens, mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort.  No qualifiers.  No exceptions.  He didn't say to mourn only with those who, in your personal estimation, have good reason to mourn, or to comfort only those whose personal decisions you agree with or whom you consider deserving of your charity.  Mourn with those who mourn.  Comfort those who need comfort.  Even if -- especially if -- you don't understand why they feel the way they do.

If years of infertility and grueling treatments taught me anything, it's that buried grief can turn in on itself and cause a person to grow bitter and cold.  But grief that is allowed the sunlight of a listening ear can blossom into something beautiful, because grief that is allowed to be can become.  It can transform into love and understanding.  It can change into empathy and compassion.  It can grow tall as a noble tree whose branches can provide shelter for the broken and aching hearts of others.

So be that listening ear.  Be that kind word.  Be that diamond of compassion glistening in the landfill of harsh internet judgment.  Reach out to serve and love and support.  We are all children of God, and we all deserve to feel His love.

No qualifiers, no exceptions.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Only the Thin Shall Pass

It's swimsuit prep season.  If you aren't hitting the gym hard, you're not going to be ready for summer!

Did you hear me?  YOU WON'T BE READY!  You'll look less-than-perfect in a swimsuit!  LESS THAN PERFECT!  IN A SWIMSUIT!

What greater embarrassment could there be??

Well, my name is Bonnie. My body has grown four human beings, I have stretch marks that could double as a topographical map of the Grand Canyon, and I currently wear a size 12.  

I have a summer body.

Yep, you heard me.  A summer body.  A swimsuit-worthy, frolic-in-the-pool body.  Would the internet agree?  Of course not, but here's the thing:


In my day, I've seen too many beautiful women of all shapes and sizes sitting poolside in a full length cover-up because they think they are "too fat" to be seen in a swimsuit.  As if the only woman worthy of a swimsuit is one who could grace the cover of Sports Illustrated in her spare time.  As if a lack of bodily perfection cancels out the right to have fun. 

That. Is. Madness!

Ladies, you already have a summer body.  You already are swimsuit ready.  Because putting on a swimsuit is not some kind of test where the only passing grade is between size 0 and 2.  It's wearing a swimsuit.  That's it.  That's all.  And if anyone tries to make you feel bad about that (yourself included) they are wrong.  You hear me?  WRONG.

A swimsuit is not a medal that you only get to wear once you've dedicated the proper amount of time to burpees and weight training.  It's not a Certificate of Achievement you are granted once you've achieved the modern ideal for fitness.  It's clothing to wear in the pool.  The end. 

You are more than numbers on a scale.  You are more than inches around a waist.  You are more than the sum of your workouts and you are more than a reflection in a mirror.

You already have a summer body.

So get up and make a splash!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Last week we went to Disneyland!  And by "went" I mean "spent a significant amount of time sitting on benches" at Disneyland.

It was kind of a disaster.  But what's that they say?  It isn't a family vacation unless you come home with a laundry bag marked "biohazard"?

Seriously, the stomach flu is the worst!  And that's not even taking into consideration the horrible sore throat illness that left Leah sobbing for more medicine every hour for nights on end and hammered Matthew into a fevered and wheezing mess for three days, or the cold that required me to use half a box of Puffs and gave my baby a fountain-nose and a fever of 103.

Basically our trip to Disneyland was Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, complete with extended Hell sequence.  But, we learned a few things:

--  When your husband has a two-bucket stomach flu that is so bad it overwhelms the poor toilet (who did nothing to deserve this), don't fret.  If you saunter down to the front desk at 1 AM and ask for a plunger using the words "husband" and "violently ill", they won't ask any more questions.

-- If you are afflicted with the above-mentioned double decker flu, always take your barf bowl to the bathroom with you or you might end up vomiting into a towel, which you'll then have to wash out the best you can in the tub.  And then you'll have to leave the maids a really big tip.  And an Ebola suit for clean-up.

-- It turns out I can only handle one kid at a time if one of them is under the age of one and can't stop puking for five hours.  That means the kid whose bad sore throat doesn't involve expelling any bodily fluids has to sit next to me and wail about me not loving her as much as I love the baby.  Which brings me to some good news --

-- You can even get your baby to puke in a bowl by the 8th or 9th time it happens.  Sure, there will be some casualties of blankies and jammies along the way, but a not-quite-one-year-old heaving into a bowl is quite a feat, people.  *takes a bow*

-- Yelled prayers work.  By the third sleepless night of a whole bunch of sick children and a baby who wouldn't stop crying, I yell-prayed that we were all exhausted and MY BABY HAD TO SLEEP!  It totally worked!  Jonathan stopped crying instantly and slept for a couple hours.  Apparently my angry voice works better on God than it does on my children...

Thankfully Jonathan and David were the only ones to get smitten down by the Puking Illness of Doom, and even though I felt like I spent the next four days with my neck stretched out under the dangling blade of a guillotine, no one else barfed.  Except for that kid whose mother moved my stroller from its guardianship spot for the parade and let him puke right behind it.  (Normally I'm a pretty sympathetic person, but if you want to see my angry face, this situation will do it).

We did manage to have fun as well thanks to the makers of ibuprofen, immodium, and albuterol, a rented extra stroller, and the security of a full-body change of clothes for everyone and a ziploc bag in every pocket.  (If you think Snow White's Scary Adventure was frightening before, just wait until you have a kid say, "Mom, my stomach hurts!" while you're waiting in line...)

Peace out, Mr. Toad.  It's been real.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Do I Really Have to Say This?

Yesterday morning I was cleaning my bathroom.  Matthew and Leah were helping by wiping down the mirrors and Jonathan was wandering around sucking on various bath toys and hair clips and whatever else he could find.  Everyone seemed decently occupied, so I slipped out for approximately 15 seconds to grab the broom and dustpan out of the kitchen pantry.  When I returned, Matthew was sitting on the floor next to Jonathan, spraying Windex over his entire body.


And there it is.  The sum of all parenting: Spending your entire life saying things that really shouldn't need saying.

I mean, Matthew is nearly six.  He's been working with glass cleaner for awhile now and we've had plenty of discussions about cleaning products and how to use them safely, but apparently they haven't been sinking in.  Or maybe it's just that you hand a kid a spray bottle and his brain turns off.  (Even my very intelligent nine-year-old is like, ooooh, spray bottle! and immediately regresses to about age three.)

I put Jonathan in the tub and washed him off.  He didn't seem bothered by the experience (he hadn't even been crying when I walked in the bathroom) and he loves any excuse for a bath, so I wasn't too concerned.  Fast forward to dinner time when I was telling David what happened and Leah piped up, "Matthew sprayed it in Jonathan's mouth, too!"  Well, that would have been good to know eight hours ago...  But, on the plus side, Jonathan is still alive and happy, and besides, maybe it will cure his cold.  (I watched "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and know that Windex cures almost everything).

Yesterday also gave me an opportunity to share other important concepts with my kids, like "Stop using my arm as a kleenex!"  "Don't play in the garbage can!" and "Don't put your hand in the toilet!"  I also made breadsticks to go with our dinner of chef salad using this container of salt:

If that seems like a strange thing to have written on your salt container, you must not have a son who gets bored and starts sticking random things in little holes.  When it originally happened I asked him why he'd done it.  "I don't know," he said.  "It was just there."  Which is the same thing he said a few years ago when I discovered he'd been peeing in the bathroom garbage can.  Apparently some things never change...

So now every time I make dinner I get excited wondering if this will be the time I win the salt lottery and get rewarded with a clear pushpin.  It's practically like being on a gameshow!  And the grand prize is not having to go on an agonizing trip to the emergency room with a pushpin stuck somewhere in your lower intestine.

Yeah, I could throw the salt away but I paid like $1.79 for it!  That's two or three candy bars I can stash under the sink for when I'm "going to the bathroom."  "Sorry kids, I'm going potty!  I'll be out as soon as I'm done with this Snickers bar!"

"Don't spray the baby with Windex while I'm gone!"

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wife Swap

My husband posted the most hilarious meme on Facebook today:

All of his friends were like, "Hahahaha!  I know, right?!" which made me feel really great about myself.  I mean, there's no self-esteem boost like having the man you married -- the man who is supposed to love and honor and care for you -- mock you in front of his friends.

Then it snowballed and his friends started posting their favorite memes, and everyone was laughing and giving each other virtual slaps on the back like "Yeah man, women are RIDICULOUS!"  See for yourself:

What, you don't believe this actually happened?  (Good, because my husband is the kindest man I know and would never do such a thing!)  But, switch the word "wife" to "husband" (or "women" to "men") and you have yourself a regular day on Facebook.  

All of these memes (which my sister helpfully modified for me) are real male-bashing memes that have been posted by my female friends and acquaintances.  Memes that were laughed at and shared and snickered over by women who supposedly love their husbands.

"Oh, come on Bonnie," you say.  "Can't you take a joke?"  Well, when it comes to husband bashing, no, I can't.  Because, as a wife, the number one person I should be defending is my husband.  The number one person I should be loving is my husband.  No one should show him more kindness than I do, and that includes when I talk about him on social media.

Is my husband perfect?  Of course not, but neither am I!  And he is an amazing person who does so many wonderful things!  Why, when I love him so much, would I reduce him to some kind of male-buffoon caricature and mock him in front of my friends?

We all have faults and quirks and idiosyncrasies, and it's okay to see the humor in that.  But, to paraphrase my sister, sometimes women focus so much on the fact that their husbands can't get their dirty clothes in the hamper that they forget to be grateful for the work their husbands do in providing clothes for the entire family.

It's time to move past the dirty laundry, ladies.

And it's time to stop hanging our husbands out to dry.