Monday, May 19, 2014

Insanity

You know you're in the throes of a diet when you're making ramen noodles for the kids and you're like, "Mmmm.... wish I could have some."

I mean, they're ramen noodles, people.  They're like little strips of sawdust flavored by chemicals. They're not even part of the food pyramid.    But man, do they smell good!  (Er, sorry, kids.  I think I may have drooled in your bowl a little bit).

I miss carbs.

Plus, I did a really insane thing the other day.  Costco was selling those giant bags of M&Ms for like $5 and I thought to myself, those will be perfect to pass around at the family reunion... in July. 

Yes, I bought two giant bags of chocolatey goodness and they are going to sit in my pantry for a month and a half.  Which means I have to look at them every time I open the door for a piece of oh-so-satisfying sugar-free gum.

On second thought, maybe I should just bury them.  In the Bermuda Triangle.  

Conveniently enough, I'm pretty sure the Bermuda Triangle is residing with Michael's wallet, my favorite charm bracelet, and the lost City of Atlantis just inside the door of my storage room.

Seriously, my kids got in there last week and thought it would be fun to play Tornado.  (I knew I should have been suspicious when I tripped over the Fischer Price baby Jesus on my way to the laundry room!)  So that is today's task -- disaster clean-up.  I'm hoping to find Matthew's black hole that he uses to transport our most prized possessions to a galaxy far far away.  Wish me luck!

But first, to plow the kitchen.  I made the mistake of mopping the floor on Friday, which was really stupid because my kids still live here.  (New task: send the kids to boarding school.  And pick up a snooty British accent for good measure).

It's true,  dahling, nothing attracts sticky messes like a freshly mopped floor.  You might as well put out a sign that says, "Spills wanted."   And never mind about the clean bathrooms.  (How is it that you can have the house totally spotless on Saturday and then by Monday morning it looks like a colony of Tasmanian devils whirled through?  Does no one know how to pick up their own underwear?  Or aim?)

As it is, it's 11:00, which means I have about eight hours to go until it's time for a Family Home Evening treat.  Eight hours with me, the pantry, and two giant bags of M&Ms.

It's going to be a long day.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Mother You Are

About two years ago, a friend of mine told me I wasn't doing a good enough job as a mother.

To say I was shattered is an understatement.  This is the sort of comment that you hold onto forever.  No matter how much you try to bury it and forget about it, it's like holding a beach ball under the water -- it always resurfaces, sometimes with such force that it blows out of the water and leaves you flailing as you try to regain control.

When our fifth IVF cycle failed about six months ago, it multiplied.  Suddenly it was like I was trying to hold a dozen beach balls under the water.  Every morning I would wake up and think, "The reason it failed is because I am not a good mother."  And every night I would go over the inventory of what made me a bad mother that day:  I spent too much time on the computer.  I yelled at my kids.  I didn't read any books.  I didn't help them practice their alphabet or their numbers.  I only glanced at my son's homework instead of truly checking it.  I refused to sit on the piano bench while he practiced.

And then I would start picking apart my mothering preferences, feeling guilty over the things I don't like to do.  I hate playing Candyland, for example.  I don't like cooking with my kids.  I never go on preschool field trips because it makes my stomach knot to think of giving up my two precious hours of kid-free time to help herd a group of wild four-year-olds through a quiet museum.  I hate bedtime routines and by the end of the day I'm so ready to check out that I often send my kids to bed with nothing more than a hug and a kiss.

But I realize, I need to stop focusing on the things I'm doing wrong and start focusing on the things I'm doing right.

Not someone else's "right."  My right.

Just because there are some moms out there who love going on field trips with a class full of Mexican jumping beans does not mean I'm a bad mother because it's not on my Fun List.  It's okay that I don't like playing Candyland.  It's okay that I don't get any warm fuzzies from my children dumping the entire salt shaker in the cookie dough when my back is turned.

One woman's idea of what it means to be a good mother is another woman's horror story.  There is no one-true-and-holy mothering style, and no perfect way to be a mother.

I'm not saying I have no room for improvement or that how I am is exactly how I should stay.  But improvement doesn't always mean changing into something new; sometimes it just means becoming something better.

Being better as the mother you are.

And forgetting about the mother you're not.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Breaking Camp

A vacation should consist of the following things:

- Meals I don't have to cook
- Dishes I don't have to clean
- Comfortable beds I don't have to make
- A shower every morning
- An indoor, flushable toilet that is clean and easily accessible
- Sleeping in as much as possible

Camping consists of the following things:

- Meals I have to cook.  Outside (which is 100 times more inconvenient than cooking at home).
- Dishes I have to wash.  Outside.  With cold water unless I want to heat it up.  (I don't).
- Beds that deflate while I'm trying to sleep
- No showers
- Toilets that are not easily accessible (particularly in the middle of the night), smell like a sewer, and are often splattered with evidence of someone's explosive intestinal issues.  If there are toilets at all.
- Sleeping as little as possible.

Add in extreme temperature changes, kids waking up at the crack of dawn after they've kept you up half the night, smelling like campfire and mosquito repellent and wallowing in alternating layers of dirt and grease, and I have to wonder why anyone ever wants to do this.

Does it really need saying?  A vacation is something that doesn't require you to pee in the bushes.

But since I'm headed on one or two camping trips this summer, I read this article with interest:  5 Ways to Make Camping With Children Easy.  (Wait, I know this one... Don't go!)

First suggestion?

Keep glow sticks on the kids at night.

I've done this before.  Fun for the kids, easy for the mom.  Good suggestion.

Be willing to go for drives.

There's the problem with camping right there.  Kids don't sleep.  You don't sleep.  You have to take your little darlings for an hour-long drive just to get them to shut their eyelids.  Fun fun fun.  We're all having fun.

Give your children plenty of light.

I think the glow stick or a flashlight is sufficient.  I don't need to spend time rigging up night lights.

And now the good stuff:

Use two tents.

"Designate one tent to be only for sleeping and changing clothes," the author says.  "The other tent then becomes only for toys and playing."

Say what?

I already had to bring my entire kitchen on this dumb camping trip and you want a separate tent for toys?  I'm supposed to bring toys?  So many of them that I need two tents?

She's actually serious.  Her last piece of advice is don't be afraid to overpack.

No really, she says that.  Don't be afraid to bring more stuff.  Your entire kitchen.  Your entire storage room.  Every blanket you own.  Your medicine cabinet.  Your toy room.

Am I the only one who thinks there is something wrong with camping if the only way to make it less miserable is to BRING EVERYTHING YOU HAVE AT HOME?

Can't we, you know, just stay home?  Or in a Marriott or something?  

Don't get me wrong, we can still go outside.  I'm not opposed to nature.

I'm just opposed to it getting on me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Moderation

This weekend I took a break from the calorie counting thing.  Partly because we were visiting my in-laws and it's nearly impossible to maintain a diet when you are away from home, and partly because EASTER CANDY.  Need I say more?

I keep clicking on these little internet headlines that say things like, "To Lose Weight, Never Eat These 7 Foods Again."  I've read about 10,000 of them, and they all say the same thing:  If you want to lose weight, don't put anything delicious in your mouth again.  Ever.

Seriously, these lists are like:

No sugar
No dairy
No gluten
No bacon
No happiness
No smiling
No reasons for living

What can you eat?

Tears.  Lots of salty tears.  (Wait... no.  Salt is out too).

The only things I can easily get behind are the prohibitions on coffee and alcohol.  But that's mostly because I've been doing that for 32 years with no problem.  Also because I'm convinced that alcohol drinkers are insane.  ("This is made out of rotten barley and smells like death.  I think I'll drink it!")

Yeah... no.

Other people who are insane?  Marathon runners.  I mean, I respect anyone who can run for 26 miles without stopping to have a heart attack, but you do know where this ridiculous tradition originated, don't you?  That Greek guy Phillipedes who spent days running back and forth as Battle Messenger Boy and then had to tack on an additional 26.2 miles to say "We won!"?  And he did.  Only it was more like "We wooooo...." because he keeled over dead.

So I'm not sure how it is that we got from "Guy runs 26 miles and dies" to "Ooohhh, good idea!  Let's try it!"  But seriously, I do not understand you people who like to run for hours.  Three miles on the treadmill is plenty for me.  And by "plenty" I mean "so much more than humanly necessary."  

But maybe that's because I believe in moderation and pithy phrases like "less is more."  Unless we're talking about candy.

When it comes to candy, less is never more.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Part of Motherhood

This viral video -- a tribute to mothers -- is bouncing around the internet so fast it's like Pong on amphetamines.  And I think I'm the only woman on the planet whose reaction wasn't to immediately embrace it as my cosmic thank you for doing what I do.


Being a mom is a hard job.  I get it.

No, really, I get it.  I've spent the last two nights with my fevered daughter wiggling around in my bed. I was awake so many times and handled so many requests that sleep started to feel like a mythical dandelion seed I was chasing in the wind.  And my daytime hours?  Here is a list of what I accomplished yesterday while I was holding my sick little girl:  Nothing.

But you know who had my sympathy yesterday?  My husband.

Know why?

He wasn't feeling well either, and yet he got up and headed off to work because he has too much on his plate to take a sick day.

Now, look, I've had plenty of days as a mother that are straight out of the dictionary definition of hell.  I've had a fever of 104 while I cleaned up someone else's barf.  I've endured migraines while handling endless requests from noisy toddlers.  I've dealt with more bodily fluids than a seasoned RN.  And I do it for months at a time without a single ounce of "help" from my husband.  (Not because he won't help, but because he is gone, working his butt off to support the family).

Yes, there are days when I don't get a single, isolated, teeny-tiny millisecond to myself.  There are days when I'm pretty sure my brains are going to start leaking out of my ears.  There are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days -- long ones that sometimes stretch painfully into weeks.  (I remember a time when my twins were infants and someone had a fever for 17 days in a row, for example).  I've had days when I was so tired I was literally walking into walls.  I've been barfed on and pooped on and used as a kleenex.  That's just how it is.  That's just part of motherhood.

Do I deserve a gold star for this?  Do I deserve the salary of a CEO?

Being a mother is noble and wonderful and incredibly, intensely important, yes.  I am irreplaceable.  But these little winks to the supposedly all-consuming nature of motherhood irritate me.  Why?  Because they are not honest!  Being "on-call" 24 hours a day is not the same thing as actually working 24 hours a day.  Yes, I have spent many days sacrificing every single one of my personal wants and desires, but that is not all the days of motherhood -- it's only a part, just as being a mother is only one part me. 

I've had dozens of days that were wonderful, days when there was nothing more fun than being a mom.  Days when everyone was happy and cheerful and we made good memories together, when we piled on the couch in a heap of books and giggles and ate cookies straight of the oven when we were done.  I've had days that were full of swimming and trips to the zoo and outings to the world's best museums.  And time to myself?  I've had hours of it.  Hours when the kids all miraculously napped at the same time and I took a relaxing bath, ate chocolate, and chatted on the phone with my best friend.  Hours when the kids were playing at a friend's house and I shopped by myself.  Hours when being at the park meant talking with a friend while we glanced at our kids occasionally and said things like, "I'm watching!" and "Good job, sweetie!"

You know how many hours my husband has had like that at his job?  Let me get out my pencil and add it up... carry the one... yep.  About zero.  None of his coworkers nap in the middle of the day, you see, and he can't send his boss to "quiet time" for an hour while he surfs the internet  A phone call to a friend while someone hovers over his desk waiting for a report?  Nope.  A movie in the middle of the day?  No way.  A nap?  Dream on.

And when he gets home from work, do you know what he does?  He helps me with the dishes.  He sweeps the floor.  He mows the grass and pulls the weeds.  He reads bedtime stories and kisses owies and tucks kids into bed.

And he does it all even though no one ever makes youtube videos about how amazing he is or how hard he works.  Even though no one writes articles for the express purpose of telling the world he deserves a hugely overestimated compensatory salary for his sacrifices.  He does it even though every television show, every movie tells him that fathers are stupid and clueless and unnecessary.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't honor motherhood -- we absolutely should!  But I grow tired of every tribute to mothers gobbling up the myth that they give up every second of their lives to their children -- for free!  Part of honor is truth, and that is not found in inflating duties or exaggerating difficulties.  Mothers "never get a break."  Really?  If that's true you need to put Junior down more often.  "You're on your feet all day."  Every single day?  Let your kids get their own dang drink.  "You work 24-7." You mean having a child means you don't get to sleep for two decades?  How are mothers even alive?

Yes, motherhood often means more than sacrifice; it is sacrifice.  It can be mind numbing and heart wrenching and leave you with a sort of bone deep tiredness that feels like it will never go away.  But there is also joy.  There are times when your daughter will bring you a bouquet of dandelions just because she loves you and when your son will hug you for no reason at all.  There will be kisses from stuffed animals and kisses from tiny lips that smell like strawberries.

That's the payment.  That's the "salary."

But it's not the reason we do it.  We do it because it is noble and good and because we love our children.  And we should thank our mothers because what they do is noble and good and because we love them.

But there's no reason to falsely inflate something that is good on its own.  There is no need to exaggerate the merits of something that is already entirely noble and worthy.  (I sure as heck do not "work" 135 hours a week, and I didn't clock in that many hours even when I had infant twins and a toddler!)  There's no need to place a monetary value on motherhood and what it's "worth" because it is already worth everything to the little people who come with the package.  What more justification do we need?  Mothers do not need to prove anything to anyone.

And they don't need to stretch the truth.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Throwback Thursday

A little blast from the past, in the form of an old post called The Privacy Clause.  I'm re-posting it because it's basically what my life is right now.  Except now I have two four-year-olds banging on the bathroom door.  (What is it with bathrooms and four-year-olds?)

I knew I should have read the fine print when I signed up for motherhood. I glossed over the "Lack of Privacy" section of the contract because I read it immediately following a gynecological exam where the only nod at modesty was in the form of a 2x2 piece of tissue paper that I think was supposed to cover my left elbow. Thus, worrying about privacy seemed pretty meaningless after I'd just been hanging out with my feet in the stirrups.

But seriously, Michael is 4 now, which means I WOULD JUST LIKE 5 MEASLY MINUTES TO USE THE BATHROOM BY MYSELF! Whew, sorry, was that me yelling?

We've had a dozen conversations in the past week about privacy and modesty, highlighting basics such as the fact that it isn't polite to barge in on someone who is in any degree of undress. For some reason he has taken this as some sort of quest to bring down the bathroom door. Man the battle stations! Mom is using the potty!

"Michael, I need my privacy while I use the toilet. Please stop banging on the door!"

"But mom, I need to be in there!"

"No you don't! Go away and I'll be out in a few minutes!"

"But I need to be with you!"

"Go find something else to do for a few minutes."

He tests the lock.

"I'll just stand right here and wait for you!" he says.

Ten little toes appear beneath the door.

"Are you done yet, Mom?"

"No, go away!"

"Because you need your privacy?"

"Yes, because I need my privacy."

"I don't know what privacy means, Mom."

You and Julian Assange.

"Are you pooping or peeing, Mom?"

Should I confess I'm holed up in the bathroom reading snatches of Harry Potter 7? Hmm, nope.

Now where is that candy bar I stashed under the sink?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

It's Not Personal

Today I woke up knowing that, before the day was through, somebody was going to take to Facebook to announce a "pregnancy."

How is that, you ask?

Why, it's April Fools' Day, of course!  What could possibly be funnier than waving a "positive" pregnancy test around in a little AFD game of Most Gullible Friends?

Hahahahaha.  It's so hilarious.  I mean, you not only get to see which friends actually care about you, you get to make fun of them for believing you would tell the truth about a huge, life-changing event like pregnancy...

But you know what?  Even though I personally consider this kind of thing to be thoughtless and tacky, and even though it's incredibly painful and upsetting to me as an individual, it is not personal.

And I don't need to make it become so.

I've been thinking about people taking things too personally for a few months now.  It started when I read a snarky comment in Dear Abby written by a reader who took offense to Abby's annual Christmas greeting to her Christian readers, because, as a non-Christian, she wasn't included in the warm wishes.  (And here I thought we were still in generic "Happy Holidays" mode after a bunch of non-believers felt miffed that other human beings would take the time to wish them well with the words, "Merry Christmas"...).

Not long after that I read an article on the Huffington Post written by a mother who used her public forum to pressure Nordstrom into stopping the sale of an offensive pillow.  What was so offensive about it?  Printed on the front were the words "To h*** with beauty sleep, I want skinny sleep."  An upsetting message, to be sure.  It upset me so much I laughed out loud at the sentiment.

And finally, in the news recently, a local company came under fire for their plumbing ad, which featured a toddler standing next to a toilet, holding a rubber ducky in his hand.  "No job too small, we fix it all" was the slogan.  Marketing perfection, in my opinion.  Anyone who knows a toddler knows that there is no siren song more compelling to him than the splish-splash of a toilet, and, as a mother who has spent many a day playing Go Fish in her bathroom, I can completely relate.  Not only would I remember this ad, I would use this company the next time Buzz Lightyear embarks on an exploratory mission of Planet U-Bend.

But one Utah mother was so upset about it she not only asked the company to change their advertising, she called a local news station to report their insensitivity when they didn't respond quickly enough.  You see, 20 years ago, when her toddler was 14 months old, he fell in a toilet and couldn't pull himself out.  He later died from the effects of his injuries.

I completely understand why seeing an ad with a toddler standing next to a toilet would upset her.  She experienced a tragedy, and she is totally justified in feeling the way she does.  However, she is not justified in demanding that no one -- no matter how unintentionally -- be allowed to remind her of her pain.  She is not justified in stopping a company from using a universally relatable image to market their business just because it dredges up bad memories for her.

We all have reasons for feeling the way we do.  We all have life experiences that are painful.  The writer of the Nordstrom letter, for example, had struggled with an eating disorder in her past -- of course she would see destructiveness in anything that appeared to present skinniness as the ultimate virtue!  Like her, we all have triggers that remind of us of tragic or difficult times in our lives, and like her, we all fail at times to see the humor in certain situations because they are heartbreaking and gut-wrenching and deeply personal to us.  But they are not personal to everyone.  Demanding that no one be allowed to do anything that reminds us of these experiences, demanding that no one be allowed to see humor in something we do not, is selfish and egotistical.

This does not mean we can never ask for greater sensitivity or more kindness.  Heaven knows we need more kindness.  We all need to be more sympathetic and make more and better efforts to be aware of what others are going through.  But more than anything, we need to stop taking things so personally.

Because, truly, it's almost never about us.