It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like F&ck This

Sorry for that whole censorship ‘o’ the title thing, but a lot of times blog posts won’t make it into email boxes if they have swear-y words in the title.

Fortunately that doesn’t apply to the content. So here we go.

It’s beginning to look at a lot like FUCK THIS. That has been going through my head over and over, AND OVER, again for about three or four weeks now.

I don’t know about you guys, but Christmastime is a combination of magical wonder and complete and utter bullshit for me. I have been screwed over, stressed out, raked over the coals, and that was just in the prep leading up to the *big day.*

Some of it didn’t even have to do with the holidays, either.

  1. Thankless Thanksgiving

I wanted to do that thing on Thanksgiving that yuppies do, where they go around the table and everyone says something for which they are appreciative. We don’t pray, and the other adults in our house have a hard time being grateful and complimentary; so I just thought it would be a good time to set a better example for the kids, you know?

I was too buried in mashed potatoes and mixed emotions to even remember to have everyone do it.

The thankful part of Thanksgiving – unfortunately – went largely unrecognized. This isn’t to disregard the sincere and kind comments made by our guests; I’m really just referring to the 25 times I had to ask the people that live here “is it good? Is the turkey moist? Do you guys like the sweet potatoes?” …only to receive grumbled “it’s fine”s, or to notice that many of the dishes I lovingly prepared went largely untouched.

Which was fine. We had enough leftovers for me to spend the day after Thanksgiving turning all of it into freezer meals that fed us for roughly 9 days.

2. Who has time for hurt feelings, though, when medical stress descends upon you?

We’ve had some medical situations that sort of pumped the brakes on the rest of life, anyway.

My oldest daughter – almost 16 years old – had been having weird pain symptoms for some time, and because she’s a woman, naturally, every doctor we had seen prior to the last two months has dismissed her as “just another chick complaining.” She’s had three, main things going on – simultaneously: migraine headaches, severe abdominal pain, frequent and unexplainable “sports injuries” (in bilateral joints). We’ve been blown off by doctor after doctor after doctor. “Just a chick with migraines.” “Oh obviously you are playing too much tennis and not resting enough!” “Cramps are normal.”

One doctor at UCLA Women’s Health – a woman, younger than me no less – had the audacity to look me blank in the face, say “believe it or not, pain is actually common in many women that experience periods.” Then she asked me to leave the room and asked my daughter what kind of birth control she was really there for.

So in the last couple of months, it’s all sort of gotten worse. My daughter has hardly played any tennis or worked out at all, and yet she’ll still feeling pain in her knees or her shoulders as if she’s been training 6 hours a day. Her migraine headaches have gone from once a week or two, to Imitrex every day. And a few weeks ago, she started having the abdominal pain she got intermittently, which she describes as barbed wire being wrapped and pulled around her waste and back (those of you familiar will immediately think endometriosis, I know…); well that’s been happening almost daily now, and so badly we’ve wound up in the urgent care, the emergency room, and a solid two weeks of one doctor’s visit after another.

What has made the situation all the worse is this: everyone is a fucking asshole.

Healthcare in this country is total garbage. And I’m not just talking about the expense of it.

I made an appointment with one specialist over 100 miles from our home. We got halfway there and were going to be a few minutes late for the paperwork check in time (but still on time for the appointment), so I called, only to find out that the person who made the appointment never actually scheduled it. We turned around, defeated.

In a startling turn of events, when it was time to figure out the migraine situation – in late November – I learned that there is exactly one neurologist in the entire county that sees children. And he isn’t taking any new patients right now. One. Apparently kids don’t have neurological problems where we live, this is just too perfect of a place, right?

Luckily I found a phenomenal physician in LA County, we just have to drive 57 miles each way to see. Every four weeks.

(But wait…the migraine maintenance medicine he prescribed makes her so groggy and sleepy she can’t even do her schoolwork.)

What else…

  • A kid in the ER one night threw up on me.
  • Over 6 different people have suggested that birth control will resolve everything (it won’t, in fact birth control makes migraines worse and if she really does have something like endometriosis, birth control or any hormones for that matter are not the answer).
  • We hit our out of pocket maximum, and yet everyone is still collecting the money up front, leading me to be owed over $4,000 now at this point in refunds, reimbursements, and “hey this is YOUR share of the medical expenses.”
  • For pain, someone gave her Naproxen, and even though she has no problem with Ibuprofen, with the Naproxen, she broke out in over 20 canker sores inside her throat and mouth.
  • I asked the nurse practitioner at our primary care physician’s office to send her for abdominal ultrasound, just to be sure…sure, sure, no one thinks her pain is anything legitimate, but can we just check? The ultrasound came back with her left ovary literally swarmed by ovarian cysts. (The nurse called to tell me the news and suggested I put her on birth control, even though one day prior we had discussed just how that was not a solution and would only worsen her migraine headaches.)
  • In response to the news that my teenage daughter, who has been experiencing pain in some way or another for at least six months now, to the point that she is unable to function in her normal life on many days, was going to have to start having tests and seeing specialists to get a handle on what is going on, my husband asked me when the budget would be freeing up for him to get some things preventatively done on his commuter car.

The good news is that we are – hopefully – finally getting to a point that we are going to be taken seriously. Why? Because finally the neurologist suggested I just take her to my OBGYN practice. They are old men and they don’t really deal with menstrual disorders, but they won’t blow her off and they will advocate on her behalf to get good care.

3. It’s beginning to look a lot like fuck this

And then there was Christmas. Because of everything going on, Christmas was a scurry in the last couple weeks to make magic. I think I slept about two hours a night, while the rest of the time baking like crazy, ordering gifts on Amazon, and – finally, in a moment of desperation – paying my 16 year old (who is too nonfunctional to do much else) to wrap the majority of the gifts.

I did manage to take the kids to a light show, like we do every year; although – lesson learned – my dad can’t go in the future because he just rushes everyone through it, complaining about how cold he is and ruining the evening with his griping.

When the real FUCK THIS came up, though, was about a week before Christmas, when I attempted to take my kids to the Polar Express train ride out of Fillmore and Western.

If you are in Southern California, you know that one of the priciest and – supposedly – magical Christmas experiences is actually to take a ride of the Fillmore and Western Polar Express. Everyone shows up in their Christmas pajamas, there’s lights and music and they act out the movie/book in front of you as you take a train ride and sip hot chocolate. Everyone gets a bell; it’s fun.

We had never been, and I decided with everything shitty going on, it would be a fun break one evening for my kids. So we attempted to go, and the bad news is that my 3 year old – who gets startled pretty easily – was getting on the train with me, and a man behind us started yelling to his kids who were ahead of us. It scared my little guy, and he started to cry.

Not like a screaming tantrum crying though. A basic cry. It was honestly so loud in there, my other two kids didn’t even know he was doing it.

Nonetheless, we were sitting in the front of that car, and had barely even sat down; he was still crying and I was starting to calm him down, when the train employee came over me and told me I should take him off the train to calm him down.

I understood, but I also didn’t. Like I know my kid, and I know that I can calm him down before the train leaves. We still had 30 minutes, and literally no one could have noticed what was going on. I also knew that if I did take him off the train, there was no way I would get him back on. When a toddler cries for a calmer situation and immediately gets what he wants, instead of learning to self soothe and adapt… well, come on…

Still, I understood that the lady was just doing her job. Right? And I don’t like the thought of being one of those people that ruins the experience for everyone else with drama; especially at an event for kids. So we got off the train, and I – obviously – couldn’t get my little guy to go back on. The train left, without us.

So I emailed customer service, and this is where it gets really annoying. I told them what happened and just asked if they could maybe send us the bells. At the end of the whole thing Santa gets on the train and gives everyone a bell. My kids just really wanted their fucking bells, and I paid for them, you know?

I got an email back from them not apologetic. Not saying I could have my bells.

I got an email back saying it didn’t happen. That what I said DID. NOT. FUCKING. HAPPEN.

At that point, I just gave up and gave in. Christmas became fuck this. I did the gifts, the day. All of it with as big of a smile as I could manage. I made Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning brunch, and we did all the things and I’m sure that it is a fact that my kids had fun.

But I was also just done.

The terrifying part is that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas is just the start of it for us. Now we have birthday after birthday after birthday, Easter…Moms have it hard you guys. We don’t just do it all, we bear the mental and emotional load of it. We are the figure it out-ers, we don’t just have to take our kids to the stuff, we have to figure out how to make it all work and advocate for them and make sure everything is where it needs to be so that things don’t get worse.

But also, we do it all because we want to. And that is where being a Mom is the weirdest and most emotionally conflicting job of them all.

So if you had happy holidays that resembled the most picture perfect scenario you could ever imagine in a Hallmark movie or quaint Christmas card hanging on someone’s mantle, I am genuinely happy for you. If you’ve had it rough this season, I feel you also. Or, if you are like me, and it’s a mixed bag of negatives and negatives, but also positives and unbelievably happy children – in spite of it all… well, I am right there with you in the trenches, my friend. This is a weird place in life to be. It’s beginning to look a lot like fuck this, but also fucking bring it.

Well, I Guess I’m Not the Cool Mom Anymore

 

Today was the last day of tennis camp.

I did not send treat bags for all the kids.

I did not bake cookies shaped and decorated as tennis balls.

I did not bring special activities to add to the camp fun, like bubbles or hula hoops.

I drove up in my SUV, and did not get out. I was in my pajamas and slippers. I pulled to the curb. I said goodbye for the day. That was pretty much the extent of my part.

I sat there – in my car and dressed in pajamas – and watched one of this year’s Cool Moms schlep 40 pool noodles in for the each of the kids. I thought it was sweet of her, as she then returned to her car to take out two crates of cupcakes. She took one out and gave it to another Cool Mom – who had brought treat bags for all the kids. The cupcake had a fondant tennis racket on the top of it.

I thanked my lucky stars I’m not the Cool Mom anymore.

I did not take photos. Individual photos, group photos – I did not take any.

I did not weep that another summer is already showing signs of coming to a close.

I just drove off, never having gotten out of my car.

After I got home, I watched a couple hours of Perry Mason.

I did not text the camp coach to see if I could bring anything to make the last day special.

I did not join the kids for their last camp lunch of the year.

I turned leftover taco meat and a couple slices of American cheese into nachos and watched another episode of Perry Mason, spilling half the contents of my nachos on my shirt.

755fe2f55807d554d84cd87ded3cfa54Somewhere around 1 o’clock in the afternoon, I came to.

I realized I only had two more hours until camp was over. I checked my cellphone. My daughter had texted me a photo of the pool noodle, cupcake, and treat bag the Cool Moms had given her.

I saw a huge tag hanging from the pool noodle: “last day of tennis camp gifts from Madison.” I remember putting a tag like that on some random Cool Mom bullshit in years past, myself; and I realized that Madison (six, bratty) could literally give zero shits about 95% of the kids there. Including mine.

I spent the last two hours of this year’s tennis camp taking a shower, putting on yoga pants and a tank top, and heading to the country club for pick up. The shower was extra long because I got sidetracked trying to see if I could make my voice sound the same as the Barbie singing in the shower of our new Barbie Dreamhouse.

I did not stop to get out of the car for the teary mom goodbye going on in the parking lot.

Again, no photos; in fact, my phone was dead.

And as I went to get out of the SUV to at least walk into the swimming pool area to collect and move on with our lives for another year, I realized I had no shoes on.

As in, I forgot to put on my shoes when I left the house.

So I honked the horn and within two minutes we were back on our way home.

The thing is: I have been the Cool Mom before.

I have baked the cookies and arranged the parties and rolled the fondant shapes to coincide with the theme; and I have schlepped the cupcakes and texted the teacher to see what I can do and come for the last day of lunch; I have hung up the streamers and made the tags on the sides of the pool noodles that say “last day gifts from…”

I have sat up late at night putting together treat bags for no occasion other than Friday.

It’s someone else’s turn now. I pass that torch, willingly.

I’m burned out. I’m tired. I’ve seen kids not appreciate what the Cool Mom does one too many times.

And given my inability to remember to even wear shoes when I leave the house, I’ve obviously got other things on my mind.

Or maybe it’s that I’ve entered a new era of parenthood. One that is less over-involved and more willing to let go.

One that does not spend all my time obsessing over my kids’ lives and activities and social functions, and finds a healthy balance between being there and being overbearing.

One that lets my “Me Time” (if there really is such a thing) actually be about me.

I’m OK with this, whatever it is. Of course a few weeks from now I’ll probably bake some crazy Pinterest-worthy cupcakes out of a sense of guilt that I opted for mediocrity, rather than stepping up to the plate at tennis camp this year.

But for now, I’m OK with just being Mom.

 

Today I Am 33. Or 133, Who’s Counting?

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Today is my birthday. I am, at my core, a Tax Baby. I’m not just saying that I was born on American Tax Day; I’m saying I’m high maintenance.

Kidding. (Not really kidding.)

There was a time when my birthday was a day-long party. Either I had a party, like when I was little with clowns and friends and Pizza Hut and bowling and sleepovers. Or the day was an entire celebration of me, like that one time my husband took me wine tasting and it had been a while since I’d had wine, so I got blitzed just a few tastes in and ended up joining a bunch of wineries I had no actual interest in.

(That was last year.)

Now that I’ve fully embraced my mom-ed-ness, and have accepted that I’m over the age of 15, my birthday seems to be just another day. Don’t get me wrong, we still had a cake (which I baked) and a nice dinner over the weekend; I still got presents and I was flabbergasted by the Facebooks, emails, and text messages I had received wishing me the happiest of days.

But in all seriousness, it was just another day. Mom’s got too much shit to do to take a day off.

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6:45 AM

Woke up to my husband breathing in my face. Annoyed beyond belief (I’ve got some pretty terrifying PMS right now).

“What the hell are you doing?” I quipped.

“Getting ready for work.”

“In my face? GAH!”

7:00 AM

Woke everyone in the house after my husband left for work screaming: “Arise everyone! Today is the day of my becoming!!”

No one arose without the typical mom bullshit of having to pull the covers off, threaten to take away the electronics, and so on. I even had to do this to my 72 year old father.

7:10 – 8:25 AM

Showered, dressed, had breakfast, hustled. Decided that I’d have to wear make up today, since I had a doctor’s appointment; but fuck him if he thinks I’m wearing anything but yoga pants on my birthday. Enough is enough.

Referred to it as “putting on my face.” Realized I am now old-slash-ghetto-slash-motherly enough to refer to putting on make up as “putting on my face.”

8:45 AM

Morning private tennis lessons. Which means I sat in the car reading my book, sneezing because I’m allergic to everything and made the mistake of opening the windows.

10:00 AM

Dropped the dog off at the groomer. Mentioned casually that today was my birthday in hopes this would garner me a discount.

Received no discount.

10:15 AM

Received my mother’s first annual birthday text, where she turns my birthday into being all about her. She does this by giving me a yearly play-by-play of what was going on around the time she was texting me.

10:15’s text message read: “I had lost my mucous plug and back labor pains had begun.”

10:30 – 11:30 AM

Made homemade, Hungarian goulash for lunch while helping with homeschool worksheets. On my birthday. As in I cooked for an hour, slaving over a hot stove on my birthday.

No one ate my homemade, Hungarian goulash. Instead, they complained that my meals are too fancy.

11:30 AM

Left for my doctor’s appointment.

11:40 AM

Picked up the dog on the way, reminded that I wasn’t given a birthday discount.

12:30 PM

Learned that the old man who manned the parking lot at the doctor’s office that dressed like a quaint, African American Santa Claus every year at Christmas time got fired last week for bringing his dog to work. Ducked my dog’s head down as I drove in. The man was replaced by a kid who looked to be about 15 years old, covered in acne, and so skinny I could break him in half with my pinky finger.

1:00 PM

Found out I have a sinus infection.

(Wasn’t surprised that I have a sinus infection.)

1:30 PM

Waited for the kid to get her allergy shot.

1:40 PM

While waiting, a woman walked into the waiting room carrying a can of beer. Briefly considered she may be there to celebrate my birthday, in spite of the fact that I had never met her. Resolved to quietly wonder how someone lives life literally giving not a single shit.

2:00 PM

Drove home with a large bag of antibiotics and other miscellaneous sinus drugs. The perfect cocktail for the evening of my birthday.

3:00 PM

Text from Mom: “contractions coming closer together now, began asking for and being denied a c-section.”

3:15 PM

Everyone in my family was, at this point, starving. Remember? They refused to eat my “fancy” Hungarian goulash.

So we went to Lazy Dog Cafe down the street from my house. Finding nothing certifiably gluten free on the menu, I ordered edamame. My dad ate half of it.

4:45 PM

Seated behind me right before we left, a group of people quite obviously a decade or so younger than me were seated. One of the women in the group was also a Tax Baby, and she ordered a strawberry margarita to celebrate her birthday, proclaiming loudly “I’m celebrating tonight woooooooooo!!!!!”

Decided to do my own celebrating tonight. In my pajamas. On my couch. With my Netflix and whatever remains of the wine from those wineries I joined last year but never intended on sticking with.

6:00 PM

Text from Mom: “your head had begun descending down the birth canal as the urge to bear down increased.”

And then, I was done.

Today I turned 33. Or 133, who’s counting? I’m too old for clowns, too young to give absolutely no fucks. I’ve embraced the concept of “putting on my face” and would much rather celebrate pretty much everything in my pajamas on my couch.

Tomorrow will be another day, just like the rest. And in truth, I regret nothing about these last 33 years.

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The Next Stage

10616161_791205745733_6681853197444697170_nI was at Barnes and Noble yesterday. I know what you’re all thinking – but wait, we thought you hated going anywhere during the holidays! Well, I do. But I had to go to Barnes and Noble to get what was apparently the last, mangled copy of the map of the world in all of Southern California. To finish a Christmas present I had been stalling since I finished all the rest of the shopping back in October.

So I was at Barnes and Noble and it was a mob scene. A mob scene at 1 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, which sort of makes me question whether or not anyone in my community works to be able to afford to spend so much money at the local Barnes and Noble. I mean, shouldn’t all of those people have been at work?

Nonetheless, I got my map and several other things I absolutely did not go to Barnes and Noble for, and headed to the check out line for the most miserable 45 minutes of my life. Towards the end, as I was close enough to the cash register to make eye contact with the employees as three of them aimlessly wandered around behind the register station, pretending to do something else, while one, lone cashier checked out the seven billion customers – when I was that close, I heard someone behind me approach people further back in the line. “Oh my God, we haven’t seen you guys in YEARS!” she shrieked as though they were – quite literally – separated still by miles, and then they started the old game of catch up that in a nutshell involved platitudes and niceties.

As if this experience could not have gotten any worse, these were the final moments of my time in line yesterday at my local, overcrowded Barnes and Noble.

Then it happened. Right as I was starting to walk up to the cashier, I heard one of the catcher-uppers say “and Joanie will be coming home from college for Christmas break tomorrow!” And in that little statement, made by a complete stranger and completely irrelevant to my life, I was hit with the striking realization that I probably should have made several years ago. Somewhere around the time I left graduate school five years ago, maybe earlier than that.

I will never go home from college for Christmas break again.

As I drove home – another 45 minute task, because every person with a car in Southern California apparently drives around and clogs up traffic on Tuesday afternoons as well – I realized just how many stages of my life are over. I’ve never really come to terms with this, or thought about it so seriously. Accepted it into my heart and soul that there are chapters of my life so fully completed that they have been burned up, never to be read again. At least by me.

Not only will I never go home from college for Christmas break again; I will never experience the butterflies of a first date. I will never have that “new mom” feel again, just as the thrills of skipping class to hang out at the local McDonalds with the other high school seniors are gone forever.

Admittedly, I have noticed signs of the ushering in of this next era of life. But have I never noticed before when one door closed and a new one opened? I don’t believe so. At least I don’t remember noticing the passing of time in the same way that I did yesterday.

The signs have been there, though.

A few weeks ago, I realized that I rarely wear make up anymore, unless of course we’re going somewhere. And even then I find a way to justify wearing none. Or just some mascara.

My outfits used to be coordinated perfectly – I’m not even sure why. I’ve never cared much for what people think of me, and yet my underpants always matched my belt. In this new stage of life, though, it’s all yoga pants, mom jeans, and stretchies. Tucked into slippers that could pass for moccasins. Paired with a tank top that has a bra in it.

I noticed this about a month ago when I was at the mall and realized that I can’t remember the last time I wore a Victoria’s Secret bra.

Someone at a family party a while back was talking about going to a bar and out to play pool, and actually planning to get home around 3 in the morning. I remember thinking – in earnest – to myself that nothing good ever happens after midnight, which is something my grandmother used to say.

I felt so disgusted at the idea of doing anything other than watching Netflix and reading a book, that I immediately looked for an excuse for us to go home and do just that.

More importantly, while I definitely have memories involving college and high school and growing up and going out, I still can’t remember what my life was like before becoming a mom. I actually have no idea what I was doing with my time.  And I don’t mean to sound diminishing to those that aren’t mothers, or to sound so cliche. But really in this new stage of my life, being a mom is not only my job but who I have become.

I’m a wife and mom. That’s about it.

I feel so ordinary, and there was a time in my life when to be ordinary would have been like spiritual death. But that time is over and I am fine with my new chapter in life. In fact, I have never been happier.

When I was younger, I wanted to make something of myself. Be something – be someone. But I think I had a very skewed idea of what it was to be someone. Rather than be known or famous or a published author or an accomplished painter, or someone everyone knows and writes about in history books and is remembered for generations to come… being someone really just meant being myself.

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In this new stage I am myself, and very few people know me. I’ve accomplished very little and have many talents. Not one of them results in a paycheck and that’s totally cool. I don’t wear make up often, and prefer comfortable moccasin-style slippers over high heels, even when high heels are the status quo.

And when it is my turn to run into people at the local Barnes and Noble that I haven’t seen in ages, my most exciting update on what I’m doing with myself and my life will be simply that I’m a wife and a mom. Some may find that meaningless or boring, but that’s what I’m doing, and it’s the most Me I’ve been in years.

Oh the perspective a lunch date with a dead cow can give…

 

Steak

I’m in Texas, and if there is one thing I have learned in my four days here, it’s that the Texans like their meats.

We don’t eat meat very often in California. That’s not entirely true, I serve a very meat-and-potatoes-with-vegetables kind of menu for most dinners; but we aren’t talking Texas meat. Red meat. Beef. Cattle. Blood on the plate and shit. That kind of meat is infrequent in our house.

So naturally while in Texas, I am trying to find as many Texas-style places to eat at as possible, which I am finding is very beef-centric. Today’s lunch date with the dead cow was at none other than the Texas Land and Cattle Steakhouse – a place I have heard of only in fables of the Lone Star State.

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Sitting in this place, with decor I hate to admit gave me all kinds of ideas for my own home (I’m a fan of taxidermy), I couldn’t help but notice a lunch meeting going on at the elongated table next to me. There were eight or so people there, and they all wore those weird things I can only remember vaguely from my days as a worker bee in the 9-5 business world: regular clothes. Suit pants. Collared shirts. It made me feel weird just to look in their direction.

And of course, because I am a self-professed misanthrope, they started to annoy me with their business mumbo-jumbo-jargon about 401(K) plans and cost analysis almost immediately. Puke. Puke in my pile of dead cow. What upsets me about these business meetings is that I was once one of those people: those self-important, arrogant bastards who takes themselves, and their meaningless bullshit that doesn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things, entirely too seriously. My husband talks like these people were sometimes – the pitch in his voice grows deeper and suddenly he’s talking in terms I do not understand, with acronyms and inside-jargon that makes bile form in the back of my throat. It isn’t that it’s contemptible (I mean, to me some of it is); it’s that some people so frequently get so wrapped up in this workaday world that they forget there is life beyond the numbers and the business of it all. That there is sometimes lunch which does not involve business, but rather personal growth. Or even just a pile of dead cow with a friend.

This certainly isn’t the first time I have observed one of these business lunch monstrosities. I’ll never forget the time I was eating at my local Macaroni Grill on a Wednesday only for the loudest and most obnoxious group of nurses to come in and loudly regale horror stories to each other of people’s bowels and boils, while they held a business lunch planning meeting for implementing a new computer system. Perhaps (though unlikely) to streamline the process of classifying the bowels and boils.

But it seems no coincidence that this always happens at the most opportune time. At times when I need to be reminded that I am no workaday, collared shirt-pant-suit-wearing kind of girl. Even when I worked full-time, I worked from home in yoga pants the majority of the days. I take very little in this world seriously, either, and feel that my time with my family and my soul take far greater precedence than some bullshit workaholic career that can go nowhere with me but to an early grave.

Years ago, I made the choice to become a Stay At Home Mom. Nothing more, nothing less. I do have hobbies. Like painting. Reading. Knitting. And writing. So I write my mom blog when I feel the itch; and am working on books only insofar as I have something I feel is important to say. (Not often.)

And while I would love for my writing to be seen as something with even a relatively small amount of redeeming quality to it, it is nothing more than something I do when I enjoy it. I am not a professional writer. I will not speak at conferences, nor will I teach classes on the subject. For me it is a craft and a love, not an occupation.

I veer off that track of certainty as to my station in life, though, quite frequently. I take on more technical writing projects than I’d like. I start thinking about more professional-looking business cards, and even apply for a job or two writing – vomit – SEO or ad copy. I veer off track for whatever reason, and am never happy in the process. Never.

So it is in times like today, when the most contemptible of things – the business lunch – plays out before me, that I am again grounded, and reminded of how happy I am to just be a mom. Oh the perspective a lunch date with a dead cow can give. Of course there is so much in that title (of mom, not dead cow): healer, nurse, chauffeur, chef, cleaning lady, kisser of boo boos, secretary, teacher…the list is endless. And while the workaday collared shirt-wearers of the world sit around the table at the Texas Land and Cattle Steakhouse; talking so seriously about their numbers and statistics and plans and retirement packages (should they all be so lucky to make it that far), it is in those endless list of tasks that encompass being a mom that the only truly serious jobs in this world are found for me.

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My Maternal Instinct Has No Kill Switch

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My mother used to tell me that “they say once you have kids, your maternal instinct never goes away.” I suppose this could help to explain why a lot of mothers experience that Empty Nest Syndrome after their kids grow up and move away from home, or why many women mother their husbands. But then there’s the problem that anything starting with “they say” is usually reducible to nothing but a pop and cocky Old Wive’s Tale. So when my mother told me this (and especially because we are talking about my mother here), I pretty well dismissed it.

Over the years I wondered if I should have taken it more seriously, though. Since the abrupt appearance of children in my life, I have learned that this Old Wive’s Tale may actually (against my very rational and empirical judgment) be the truest thing there is about being a mother. About human relationships on the whole.

My wonder started slowly. At first, I just worried a lot. About a lot of things. Things I never would have worried about before were suddenly a natural thing for me to be concerned about – like whether or not it’s safe to let a child walk down to the mailbox on her own, or what kind of plastic the drinking cups I’m buying are made of.

Then the feelings started. Some things didn’t feel right. Or – on the flip side – sometimes it felt like there was no other way. Suddenly I would know if something was wrong, even when no one was home. Twenty minutes later everyone would come clamoring in the house complaining – someone fell, a bruise, a scrape, can I please apply seventy-five Minnie Mouse Bandaids to make it better?

Around the second or third time this happened, I began to accept the irreversible bond between children and their mother (the woman who cares for them); the bond that has little to do with blood relation and everything to do with the metaphysical and spiritual connection that absolutely no one and nothing but each other can break.

I’ve blogged recently that my ten year old was being required to have a try-out visit with her biological father. She used to see him infrequently even though he lived close by, every other weekend when it was at its most. Then he moved to Houston – suddenly expecting to have tons of vacations per year where she would be uprooted from our home and taken to stay with him and his wife. Eat three square meals of Taco Bell a day. Get eaten by scorpions. Shoot guns. And so on.

Quite obviously these were unrealistic expectations, especially given the history of the situation and the precocious and sensitive nature of my ten year old. Rapidly his behavior became harassing and obsessive, though. Suddenly I was a terrible person who forced him to move away, of his own free will; and I was robbing him the rights God bestowed on him because he had no idea how to properly function a rubber, lo those many years ago.

That was too far, wasn’t it?

Needless to say, it stressed us all out, and my little Pookie – with the most delicate and fragile heart – broke into a million pieces at the thought of having to communicate with him regularly, and be taken from her home to a place she did not wish to go. Thousands of dollars were socked into therapy to help her get through the try-out visit, and right at the moment when she started to get better – to forget about him and the fact that she had to take the trip – she had her required birthday Skype with him. As the Skype came to a close, he finished with “OK, see you in a month” and she fell apart all over again.

Now that month – the most difficult month – has passed. We are there, in Texas. In Houston, having arrived roughly four hours before we scheduled to have him come pick her up from the hotel room. He didn’t show up, though. He sent his wife. The interaction was awkward, and immediately sent up a red flag that after all this time he could not even be bothered to come pick up my delicate, little angel himself. Nonetheless, I packed up her things and walked them to the elevator, where I said goodbye, reminded her where her cellphone was and to take her allergy pills every day; and as the elevator door closed she shouted “Mommy!” only for the door to close and whisk them to the parking garage.

Since she shouted that single word – “Mommy!” – I have tried to ignore the feeling that something terrible is happening. Surely they cannot be that stupid and ignorant – he and his wife. They are neglectful, manipulative, emotionally abusive, unrealistic about parenting, unhealthy, and flagrantly stupid – but even the worst of the worst people can keep a child alive and in one piece for 10 days. Right? RIGHT?!

They say once you have kids, your maternal instinct never goes away. 

This thing – this instinct that there is something wrong – has no kill switch, and so each moment that passes I am paralyzed by these fears that continue to creep slowly over me like spiders over a fly stuck in a web, threatening to consume me. I cannot just shut them off: these feelings that there is something wrong and that I need to get to her, all-the-while feeling as though I cannot because I have no real excuse to other than a feeling that will not go away.

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After Today, Someone Needs To Nominate Me For Mother of the Year

That’s a literary device we in the professional writing world call: sarcasm. Look it up, you will find it to be a delicious way to poke fun at others. Or (in this case) yourself. Myself. A delicious way to poke fun at me.

I’m starting to really wrack up the resume of Bad Mom days. Sometimes it’s just that I lose my temper and raise my voice a little bit more than I should. Other days it’s that I serve Top Ramen and a bowl of shredded cheese for dinner because – let’s face it – that’s all we have for food in the house, because I’m also vying for Bad Wife and never grocery shop anymore.

Seriously, though, I’ve had a lot of Bad Mom moments lately, owing in large part to just how crazy and insane our lives have been lately. We’re going on this unanticipated trip to Texas in a few weeks (to take my daughter to see her biological father, and basically sit in a hotel down the street for the duration of the trip in case she has a panic attack or meltdown). So I’ve basically been panicking myself for the last couple of weeks. And researching how to not get eaten by a scorpion, as well as the best ways to ward off being kidnapped by the Mexican cartel. (I have never been to Texas. Not sure if that’s obvious or not.)

Today may have taken the cake, as far as Bad Mom days go, though. Let us examine the evidence.

Oh We Don’t Have Milk? Why Not Play Puppies Eat Breakfast?

Translation:

We got up this morning and there was no milk. There actually hasn’t been any milk for like three days, because I haven’t had an opportunity to go to the grocery store and buy any. (And God forbid anyone else around here be asked to stop at the store for anything.) In the prior days, it was manageable because we had other food stuff around. But now we’re even out of that, so basically it was Cheerios or Starlight Mints.

But, like I said … no milk.

So I did as I always do when there is no milk. I gathered all the stuffed dogs in the house (of which we have many), poured dry Cheerios into bowls and said “no milk, no problem!!! Play puppies eat breakfast with the stuffed animals instead!”

You read that right. I encouraged eating out of a bowl on hands and knees. Like a dog.

Bath time

Okay. So I know that the pediatrician says that short baths are best, because eczema is irritated exponentially by prolonged sitting in hot water. I know. I know. I know.

But we also had a big bottle of medicated Eucerin that could be put on after said bath, and I really needed about an hour to finish writing an article for someone I do personal consulting for.

So rather than sit there and ensure a short bath, with no eczema problems to follow… I instead filled the tub and said the words: “you know what, go ahead and play with all the Smurf bubbles you want.” Then I opened a brand new, super sized bottle of Smurf body and hair wash, and sat down on my bed to finish the article.

The bath ended up being about an hour and a half long. The new bottle of Smurf body and hair wash is now empty.

Remember That Thing About Having No Food?

It got worse come lunchtime. And the scheduling of shit did too, because my daughter who has to go visit her biological father in Texas in a few weeks had to go to her court-appointed therapy appointment with the lady that is going to put a halt to those visitations after we do this test one, if things don’t go well.

So there was no food in the house. No time, on account of that whole hour and a half bath thing.

I’m making excuses, so I should really just say fuck it and stop beating around the bush and admit: I went to fucking McDonald’s.

I know, I know. I KNOW! McDonald’s is the devil. The Happy Meal ain’t going to be very happy when it ends in high cholesterol and diabetes. I KNOW!! But, keeping things in perspective: I can’t remember the last time we ate at McDonald’s. It’s probably something like once a year, maybe twice. And honestly, there are a lot of things on their menu that are perfectly acceptable when eaten in moderation, once in a great while anyway. And the toy was a LEGO movie cup with a coupon for free movie entrance. So whatever.

Fuck you. Stop judging me.

At this point I just completely gave up and let everyone in the house sit on their asses after we got home, watching movies I had no idea whether or not were age appropriate; basically from about 3 in the afternoon until now.

We watched Galaxy Quest. We watched Beetlejuice. And now we’re watching Curly Sue. My dad was there, and I told him to keep an eye on the content; mute things that should be muted. Of course I was in the kitchen cleaning for a while and came out to find him sawing logs on the easy chair in my living room while an alien made out with the guy that plays Monk, in Galaxy Quest.

But whatever.

I’m not entirely sure how much further down the tubes of motherhood I can go at this point. I know I’m probably being a little hard on myself; and also blowing things a little out of proportion. But at the same time, I can see how people let some of these behaviors become habits, which then become the norm. The next thing you know your kids are constantly sick, covered in snot, eating Skittles and hot dogs on a daily basis for breakfast and lunch, with Pepperoni Lunchables for dinner; and swearing and making jokes about balls and dicks because of what they’ve been allowed to see on TV.

That’s where we’re going, isn’t it?

So now that I’ve laid this all out there, I’m sure one or more of you is going to jump up and nominate me for Mother of the Year, for whatever publication or TV show or website does such a pretentious type of award. And I’m going to try better for tomorrow. Really, I promise.

Though, I still haven’t gone grocery shopping, so I am setting the stuffed dogs and bowls up right now before bed…

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I Need A Babysitter Who Will Work For Free and Not Be a Bad Influence

We used to have a mother’s helper. She came over two times a week, for three hours each time. She’d help with picking up around the house, dishes, lunch, homeschooling, and so on.

For the three months she worked for us, it was great. Sort of. I got to leave the house to run errands alone if I needed to. The extra help around the house meant I had more time to write. Twice I was even able to go get my nails done, alone and in peace.

There were a lot of problems, though, too. Like the fact that she lived about 15 miles away from us, and did not drive (meaning I always had to pick her up and drop her off). And there was the dress code issue – suddenly I was having to answer why I wouldn’t allow ass-cheek-showing shorts and half shirts when the mother’s helper wore them all the time. It also cost us $13 an hour, which was $39 a day, $78 a week, $312 a month…plus the extra gas money picking her up and dropping her off. …and of course there was that one time that she and her boyfriend came over around Halloween to my in-laws (she is actually a family friend, making it even more complex) and she basically “sat” on his lap the entire time…

What I’m saying is that it became not worth it pretty quickly.

So since then, I’ve had absolutely no help at all. Except from my husband, and occasionally my father – both of whom are often flakey, enforce very little rule, and have sometimes questionable understandings of what it means to properly care for a child (example: my husband thinks children can just learn to like exotic meals whether their little stomachs can tolerate them or not, and by contrast my father believes that Spaghetti-O’s count as a serving of vegetables).

So the other day we were at my in-law’s to have dinner (like we always do on Sundays) and to watch the Oscars. Those of you that have been around for a while know how much I just love the film industry (that’s sarcasm, actually…90% of the film industry makes me want to stab myself repeatedly in the eyeball with a No. 2 pencil). But in spite of the utter contempt I have for this industry of greed and workaholism, of course we always sit and watch the Oscars religiously while my film industry husband and his film industry-loving mother fantasize about him one day winning an Oscar for whatever run-of-the-mill reality TV program or McDonald’s commercial his company happens to get their hands on.

1891132_10152113348251704_2055584696_nI’m sure it goes without saying that we really only saw one movie nominated, and only because it was age appropriate for children.

As we were watching the Oscars the other night, I was standing in the kitchen pouring myself a drink and shoveling queso dip and tortilla chips down my throat at unprecedented speeds, when suddenly I heard my husband’s grandmother – literally – yelling at him. I walked closer to hear just what in the hell was going on. Apparently, she had asked him what movies that were nominated for awards he had seen, and he said “none.” She didn’t understand why this blasphemy could be the case, though – which is where the yelling came in. She yelled and yelled and yelled: “why don’t you guys ever go to the movies?” … “how are you two never going out?” … “you work in the film industry, why don’t you and Heather go see some of these?!”

Two words: no babysitter.

Even when we had the scantily-dressed mother’s helper coming over twice a week, she came during the day and my husband was always at work. Our family close by have their own lives and priorities; and even when they don’t, it’s hard for those babysitters to expect to babysit at their own homes when kids need to be in their own beds early (this has been a real difficult thing to get our families to understand). And finally, there is the stark reality that non-family babysitters can be pricey. $13 an hour is actually a lot of money when you live on one income.

All of that being said: everyone needs a break now and then from the hustle and bustle of motherhood, or parenthood. It can – at times – be overwhelming and isolating; and especially when you are a homeschooling mother, who has at least one child literally under foot every minute, of every day… well, it can be a little crazy-making.

And you all know how crazy I am already.

1939718_727765833934576_1210475743_oBut now I’m starting to realize just how much more crazy I’m becoming. And I don’t think it’s in a good way; more in a if-mom-doesn’t-get-a-break-she’s-going-to-flip-her-shit-and-be-taken-to-the-mental-ward-in-a-paddy-wagon kind of way.

We’ve been here before, and the signs are always the same. My hair looks more disheveled. I’m waking up more and more, and more, in the middle of the night with a flurry of things that need to be done going through my head. Worse: the nails on my toes look like something that belong on a gargoyle; and I haven’t shaved my legs in so long that I have no idea what shade of color the skin beneath them truly is anymore. And more than any of it all – more than the nails and hair and the visible signs that I need a little time to myself, I cannot remember the last time I did something with other adults. Like go to a movie, attend a book club meeting, or just have a drink with my husband outside of the house.

So I’m looking for a babysitter. One that will work for free, preferably. And one that won’t look like a whore in daisy dukes that her vagina hangs out of, and a bathing suit top – because that is totally what you wear on a cold day with no sun or nearby swimming pool. I thought about putting together a Mary Poppins-esque list to post on Craigslist, but then I realized that anyone who would respond to a Craigslist ad to babysit for free is probably not someone I want to babysit.

But were I to … it would go something like this (feel free to read it to the tune of the Perfect Nanny song from Mary Poppins).

Wanted:

an occasional babysitter who will work for free

and not dress like a slut

If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Rosy cheeks, no warts!
Especially ones of the genital sort

You must be kind, you must be witty
Very sweet but not too pretty
Work for free, bake us treats
Sing songs, bring sweets

Crack the whip but don’t be cruel
Turn my cooking into other than gruel
Love us as your family
And never say you’re charging me

If you sit around and text your boyfriend
Free or not, this arrangement will end
We won’t hide your spectacles
So you can’t see
But bitch I catch you in my bed
You’ll need to flee
Hurry, occasional babysitter who will work for free and not dress like a slut!
Many thanks.

Sincerely,

The crazy lady who can’t keep her mouth shut.

Today, I Wave My Surrender Flag

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We all have these days. Days that are so insurmountably horrible that it’s all we can do to curl up in our pajamas, head buried under the covers – hoping and praying that tomorrow will be even the slightest bit better.

If only one thing goes right tomorrow, I may survive.

It’s really rough being a parent sometimes. Most times. Everyone thinks that after the baby stages, things get easier – the sleeping normalizes; the feeding is regular and doesn’t always result in projective spit up all over your nice, new cashmere sweater. Suddenly being a parent is as simple as walking down the street to get the mail. Right?

Please say that’s right.

Unless there are a series of land mines and snipers between you and your mail box, I would argue that there is nothing more wrong to assume. Parenting post-baby years is still a war zone. Some days, I would argue it gets even more difficult as time goes on. Or, perhaps, things stay equally as difficult, the challenges just change. Infant sleeping patterns are replaced with school dramas; projectile spitting up is suddenly found in the form of a child that cannot – no matter what you do, and how old they grow – stop wetting the bed at night.

As parents, it is our job to navigate these challenges, carefully. To pay attention to them and to do everything within our limited humanity to develop superpowers and avoid difficulties for our children, at all cost. Lest temporary problems become lifelong debilitations.

For years, now, I have known – in the deepest, darkest depths of my soul – just how challenging motherhood can be at times. Of course it is all worth it. Of course there is – nine times out of ten – more good than bad, as the drum of days continues to beat on. But I have known. I have felt it: the simultaneous beating of the struggles and the pain and the hardships.

But either as a result of internal feelings of inadequacy, or external pressures from society and others mothers who just seem to do it so well, we bury the feelings of the battle cry that motherhood is, in fact, a war zone in which only the most astute and resilient survive.

To say the last few months in our home have been difficult is an understatement. Each day has brought a new set of challenges, a new series of emotional hardships that I find myself more and more incapable of understanding. It started with a move – of my ten year old’s biological father, halfway across the country, and out of our daily lives. Without going into all of the complexities involved in her relationship with him, I will say that we rejoiced; but only after she rejoiced. Which she did, even more than I ever could have imagined she would. Life was going to be normal, finally. She wouldn’t have to sit at his house every other weekend anymore, miserable and crying and fed donuts and Twinkies; returned sick and depressed. She could do sports like other kids, and love my husband as the father she always wanted him to be. And never have to worry again that after a weekend of “visiting,” her biological father would suddenly decide to not return her to Mommy and Daddy.

Within a week of his exit, though, suddenly we were reminded (by him) that life would not really be normal. With his move came a new set of obligations, most notably: a ten day trip at springtime or Christmas time (depending on the year), and a whopping five weeks in the summer. My daughter’s separation anxiety from me grew to heights it had never been before; suddenly she was depressed and had days where she was all-but-functional.

From there, life began to fall apart.

Most days suddenly had the potential to include some form of stomachache, crying, pouting, distraction, hyperventilating, fighting, and insomnia – if even the thought of her upcoming trips cropped up in her precocious, ten year old mind. And up until now, I have been fairly successful in squashing these down before they got out of control. On some days, before they even had a chance to occur. Life really was going to be normal, even if it cost me everything. And every, waking minute of my time was spent trying to be a superhero with my own human limitations – a superhero whose one and only strength is to prevent all the bad from entering her heart.

Now that we are within four weeks of the first trip, though, the war zone is more toxic; the tension can be cut with a knife; and on today I was slapped with the unfortunate fact that I am not a superhero, I am only a mom. And a flawed one, at that. No matter what I do, some days it really is not enough.

It will never be enough.

Under the covers, my head buried – I am hoping and praying that tomorrow will be a little easier. That it will have a little less crying; less hyperventilating. That my newfound understanding that I am not a superhero, and that I cannot prevent all of the bad feelings from rushing through the floodgates of my ten year old daughter who wants nothing more than to be a normal kid.

Today, I wave my surrender flag after the guerrilla warfare of motherhood has beaten me down in ways I never – not in a million years – thought being a mother would do. Hopefully tomorrow just one thing goes right. And maybe it will be that my surrender and retreat gives us all the strength to make that happen.