Parent teacher conferences and my increasing anxiety

It’s that fabulous time of year again … the time when teacher’s send happy, pastel-colored papers home and ask you to check off what blocks of time are best for you to come in and talk about your precious offspring.

I always get a little excited for parent teacher conferences. It’s the perfect time to get that rare insight on who the heck my child is when she’s not with me — you know — when she’s out in the real world being her own little person.

And that excitement lasts for about three minutes because then I remember what happens during parent teacher conferences — you find out exactly who your little sugar muffin is when you’re not around — but sometimes, they’re not little sugar muffins, sometimes, they’re downright assholes, so then you spend the rest of the time leading up to these conferences trying to figure out if your kid is THAT kid.

So I basically spent the past week quizzing Pearyn on all the hot first grade gossip her classroom has, things like who gets the most «yellow» or «red» days (signs that they’ve been making trouble for the teacher), if any of her teachers have had to talk to her about anything and if she understands the different stuff they’re learning.

I, of course, get the typical sixTEEN year old response of «I dunno mom, yeah … and can I have my iPad?»

Thanks babe for all that deep reflection (said no parent ever).

My anxiety was in full-throttle for this year’s conference, as last year’s had a few surprises I wasn’t ready for. Our bright, inquisitive, never-shuts-up little girl was struggling with reading. And by struggling, I mean she had no desire to do it whatsoever and so she went through the literacy support program her school offers to catch her up.

I know, I know, she’s still so young, what’s the big deal. I think it just shocked me because if my kiddos get any part of my intelligence, I always assumed it’d be my love of books, words and writing. I mean that stuff is basically genetic, right? Not so much.

We did learn however, that even though she was in kindergarten (AND despite that she was learning common core, barf, yuck, yarf, did I mention BARF), she was actually excelling way past in her math comprehension.

So how’s that karma for ya folks? I, the book-obsessed,  math-loathing chubby vegan mom, managed to birth a tall, lean, not-as-interested-in-books but is a math-loving machine.

Cray cray, right?

So the good news is I went into last night’s conference ready for whatever that teacher had to throw at me. I was armed with all our knowledge from last year, all the books we read and read and read again this past summer, and her own little workbook we’ve been doing at home since school let out.

And are you ready for the big «thing» my daughter needs to see improvement on this year?

ORGANIZATION.

Much to my relief, our little sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice baby girl is doing gloriously in reading this year; her math skills are still ahead of where she should be; she’s a social butterfly and respectful little girl; but she may or may not have a tendency to lose her folder and leave her coat lying around for all to walk all over.

Gee, I wonder where she got that from.

Seriously though, I wish my Pear Bear had gotten some semblance of organization from her father, because if her room and my housekeeping skills are any indication of what her future holds for her, I have a feeling that little «well organized» box on her report card is NEVER going to be checked.

But ultimately, I’ll take it, as long as she doesn’t become the little asshole.

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4 things I learned when my husband was gone for two days

I’m back! I’m alive! We’re all alive!

Amazing, right?

So finally, I’ve set aside my work (which I sometimes spend far too much late night «me» time on), I’ve carved out a little niche of time so I can delight you all with my inner musings (and by delight you all, I mean so this stressed out mom can get some real life things off her chest.)

It’s almost October. I still don’t really know how that happened. It seems like just a few weeks ago the kids were dragging me to the pool we joined; I was sitting on my yellow softball bucket calling pitches; we were at Disneyworld living an adult hell.

And all the sudden — I blink — and it’s the end of September. And the end of September means it was time for my husband’s work to have their two-day convention. That means two days of full-blown only mommy parenting the kids, trying not to damage their fragile little psyches while hiding the fact that I’m basically losing my shit.

And so last night, at 10:11 p.m., when both my sweet bundles of joy closed their very heavy eyelids, rested their sugar-addled bodies on my legs and chest, I finally sighed in relief … well, that or sheer amazement that I didn’t pull all my hair out.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore my children. They’re blessings, they light up my life and honestly, they really are all that cliche crap people drone on about. But what they also are, which not many people are ready to admit, are soul-sucking tiny spawns who know every little button to push and rather than simply pushing it a dozen times over … they leap on it, stomp on it and dance a little jig until momma’s ears are bleeding from listening to the 300th video about Minecraft and my hands are ready to fall off from making 795 vegan cheese sandwiches as a bedtime snack.

Cause, I mean, who gets hungry at dinner time, right? That shit is for the birds (or adults, rational people and basically not any child ever).

The thing that makes this difficult is my husband. He’s a keeper that’s for sure. And because we don’t adhere to those gender stereotypes of what a mom and dad should do, when one of us is gone, the other one feels it. Like, a lot.

With that being said, here are the four things I’ve learned while my husband has been at his convention.

I am literally the messiest human being alive

I mean seriously, guys, by the time the night was over there were at least eight paper plates dotting the living room couch, floor, table, fireplace mantle (keep in mind only three of us ate one meal … so I’m not sure where the other five plates mysteriously came from), there were five juice boxes lining our living room table alone, toys here, toys there, toys everywhere, and don’t even get me started on the kitchen. I didn’t even COOK and there were vegan cheese wrappers decorating the counter like I just hosted a party for 20 small vegan children, 10 empty kids cups and to make matters worse, I’m pretty sure I fed our dog cat food.

So I think it’s safe to say my husband DID NOT marry me for my housekeeping or wife skills. Hell, he’s lucky if I remember to make the bed in the day.

Bath time with one parent means nakedness everywhere

So I’m normally in charge of bath time for the kiddos, which is totes fine with me because it gives me a chance to read some trashy teen vampire novels or play some Candy Crush. Usually I do all the cleaning and hair washing of said children and then when they get out it’s daddy’s problem to wrangle the wild beasts and attempt to clothe them. We don’t bother to dry them, that would take too much of their precious time away from picking their noses and making fart jokes, so instead we throw giant t-shirts on them, call it pajamas and let them air dry.

But when there’s only one parent for bath time, that means once I get one child out, they wander the house in total nakedness while I finish washing the other. Which would be fine, if I didn’t have to hear my daughter ask why the dog keeps trying to lick her bare ass all while comforting my son who is convinced I’m trying to poison him when I attempt to wash his hair. And then, once he’s out of the tub it’s basically a naked free for all, which includes blocking my son in a room so he can’t streak through the house and slip on the wood floors, while trying to put my daughters «favorite» pajamas on from when she was three, because you know, they still fit now that she’s SIX.

I lose my shit a lot less when my husband is home

And it’s not just because someone is there so I’m on my best behavior, oh no. I would lose my shit a lot less if Mary Sue Ellen from across the street was there with me, ya know why? Because someone else is in the trenches with me. I mean sure, I certainly prefer my husband to be the one waging toothbrushing and technology-restricting battles with me, but ultimately, I’ll take any semi-living, breathing human being at this point, just SOMEONE. Someone to see that I’m on the edge of losing my shit and give me that look, you know, the one that says «I’m going to lose mine too, so let’s not and we’ll be in this together.»

I could do it by myself, but I never, ever want to

It’s true, life is better when you’re together. Today marks my last day that I’ll be without my husband in our humble abode, and while it’s been secretly kind of nice to have them all to myself, I can’t wait for him to walk through the door late tonight and resume his role in our family bed as the heat source for my daughter and son.

And sure, it was fun to order pizza for dinner and give zero fucks about planning anything out, but I’m pretty sure I’d eventually get tired of vegan pizza and my children would revolt and fashion some sort of shooting device out of their pizza crusts with their leftover black olives.

At the end of the two days, I made it through my one-on-two time with my kiddos. I mean sure, the dogs may be dehydrated and the floors might be a lot stickier than when my husband left, but we’re all alive and unscathed as far as I can tell. Except for Silver, our cat. He’s seen far too much nakedness and I think we might have scarred his one working eye.

But ya know, that shit happens.

When daddy goes away, everybody gives up something … a small piece of their soul, the gift of eyesight … clothes …

It’s whatevs.

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Squashing unhealthy views on motherhood
Let’s stop the parent bashing

Squashing unhealthy views on motherhood

Here’s the thing about being a mom that people tell you, but you never really, really understand until you become one.

Motherhood, is seriously hard. In fact, it’s the hardest thing you will ever, ever, EVER do in your entire life.

Of course, it’s also the most rewarding, beautiful and amazing thing you’ll ever get to be.

One of the hardest things about motherhood are all the feelings you don’t expect to have — and I’m not talking about watching your child fail or have their heart broken for the first time — these feelings come with the territory.

I’m talking about all of the internal interrogation you subject yourself to, time and time again. Often, these feelings of self-doubt are completely unfounded, completely made up in your head and exacerbated by your own mind, by that constant feeling that you’re somehow not good enough.

I bet if you gathered a room full of mothers and asked them to raise their hands if they ever felt not good enough, felt like they were somehow failing their child, every.SINGLE.one of them would not only raise their hand, but stand up.

It’s not something we’re proud to admit, us moms, that maybe we’re not strong enough, not patient enough, not kind enough — in our weakest moments, some of us might even question if we love enough.

But we all have those feelings. And while it’s not fair to place blame on any particular thing for those feelings, I think it’s time we start calling out the things that make it a lot worse.

Facebook. The internet. Parenting magazines. Blogs. Friends. Twitter. Family. Other women. Other mothers. Instagram. Advice columns. Stupid memes. Pro-this-and-that groups. Doctors. Professionals. Television shows. Oh, and did I mention, SOCIAL MEDIA.

The other day I was perusing my Facebook timeline on my lunch break. I came across a motherhood meme from a new mother friend of mine. And I read it, and it made me mad. So I read it again, I tried to with softer eyes, less feminist, mother lion, hear-me-roar eyes, and it STILL made me mad. Because while the message seems all sweet and lovey dovey, there’s so much hatred the mother I was three years ago feels because of that meme. And I don’t like feeling that way.

«You can tell a baby is being well taken care of when they are full of joy.» 

Seriously? Whoever made this can go shove it. I have taken care of my babies for well over six years now, between growing them in my body and worrying about every drop of caffeine I put in it or if I had enough veggies while I was nourishing them. And once they made their ways into the world, I continued to care for them. My daughter was a «difficult» baby. She struggled to latch, I had to either wear a shield to nurse her without both of us ending in tears (although sometimes, we still did) or pump for days on end. She went 10 days without pooping once (with plenty of wet diapers), which was «unheard» of for breastfed babies. She cried a lot. Sure, she smiled too, but those first four or five months of motherhood, my baby wasn’t full of joy. She struggled with gastric issues, she couldn’t sleep unless on her tummy (which is a huge no-no) and she was stressed out. But you know what? I took care of my baby. I LOVED my baby. I smiled and cooed at her. I lived on her giggles, even if they were few and far between. She may not have always exuded joy, but she was loved. And cared for. And I’ll be damned if some stupid meme is going to make me feel like I didn’t take care of my baby, don’t take care of my baby, because she’s not a bundle of fucking sunshine.

I know, I know, I’m allowing myself to get all wound up because of some meme that meant well. But isn’t that how a lot of things we end up beating ourselves up over start out? As well meaning? Nowadays, the pressure is really, really heavy on mothers, suffocating at times, because it seems like no matter what we do, it’s not good enough.

You’re a stay-at-home mom? Awesome! You’re dedicating your life to your children, you gave up a career so you can be there for every little moment, that is a blessed and beautiful thing. Except now, you’re lazy. Now,  you’re an insult to women everywhere because you’re «just a mom,» «just a housewife.» You know, you’re just THE single most important person to your family, how dare you not want to work a 9-5 job in the name of women everywhere to raise your babies?

You’re a working mom? Awesome! You’re showing your children that women can have whatever they want — a family, a marriage, a career — ROCK on sister. Except, don’t you feel guilty that you’re not there to see your child pull themselves up for the first time? Take their first step? Are you even really a «full-time» mom if your children spend 40 hours a week in daycare? I mean seriously, you’re going to let OTHER people raise YOUR kids. What kind of monster are you?

See what I mean? The list goes on and on. And in this day and age, you can’t win, no matter what you do.

So here’s the truth. I don’t know what the answer is to all these stipulations, all this pressure we feel to be everything to everyone.

But I do know this. We need to build ourselves up, build each other up, embrace your decisions with confidence, because even if no one else in the world agrees with what you’re doing (co-sleeping, bottle-feeding, raising your kids vegan), if you make your choices based on what YOU think is best for your children, you’re going to start to feel a lot better about those decisions. So bottle feed if that’s what works. Let all 5 of your children sleep in your bed. Instead of looking at another mother and thinking «I would NEVER do that,» let’s look with loving, open eyes, «That might not work for me, but kudos to her.» Let’s accept that there isn’t one magical right way to do everything, and instead of offering critiques, let’s offer support.

Once you stop listening to all those other voices,  you’re going to be able to hear another one a lot better — your own.

And when you’re raising babies, your voice is the most important one to listen to.

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Summer kicked my butt and other tales of woe

You may notice things have been a bit quiet around our humble abode this summer.

Don’t worry, I didn’t go anywhere, I’m just a busy, busy bee!

Summer officially ended nearly a month ago, but we just finished up our family vacation last week, so as far as I’m concerned it just ended for us.

It’s kind of hard to believe I’ve had a kindergartner for almost ONE MONTH. Yeah, we start school crazy early here in the Buckeye State. I sent my first baby off on her school bus without shedding a tear (until a few hours later when I cried over something completely ridiculous). There is something so surreal about watching your first child head off to school.

About a week ago it hit me: she’s not my «baby» anymore. I mean sure, she’s always going to be my little girl, but she’s officially in school. And she’s going to be in school for at least a good 12 years now, and hopefully, once she’s discovered her passion, another four to eight years of college after that. My «baby» has homework, wants to hang out with friends and is already telling me what’s cool and what isn’t.

Seriously, can we say five going on 15?

She absolutely adores school. She came home with her first homework assignment squealing for joy. (Remind me to remind her of that feeling in another year or two when she’s totally over it and we have to twist her arm to sit down and do her homework). It’s amazing to watch her begin this journey. And it’s incredibly scary for me. I mean, I can handle kindergarten math, it’s counting and coloring and whatnot. But what happens in a few years when I don’t remember how to add fractions? Thankfully Chubby Vegan Dad has got quite the math sense about him, because legit folks, I struggle with that stuff.

When it’s time to do some book reports or diagram sentences, though, I’ve got that covered. Do they even diagram sentences anymore? We didn’t, so when I went off to college and had to take my fundamentals of English grammar my sophomore year, well, let’s just say I was stumped.

I love to hear about her day, and she’s already tired of telling me about it. She skips off the bus and I ask her about a zillion questions to figure out what she did. So far, her favorite things include: art class, math and checking out library books. And let’s not forget the 4,578 different things the school does on the weekends, from pep rallies to ice cream socials, our little girl is fully-engaged in her school lifestyle.

And did I mention Braeburn is walking around and talking like a little man now? He uses six, seven word sentences, knows all his letters and adores singing songs.

I’m not ready for my children to be growing up so quickly. Trust me, I was on no level a baby whisperer, but between my best friend having a sweet little baby boy in July and my children practically ready to move off and start college, well, it makes a momma start to come down with that baby fever all over again. I’m starting to understand how people end up with four, sometimes five kiddos.

In addition to raising tiny human beings, I also completed my first season of coaching select summer softball. It was a phenomenal experience, an emotional one for sure, but I’m ready and pumped to take on the challenge again with a crop of super talented 16U girls.

My career has been a wee bit volatile over the last few months, which was the cause of additional stress and time away. I was blessed to have to make an incredibly hard decision between two amazing companies and two amazing teams. Once emotion was removed I knew the right decision, but it didn’t really make it any easier to follow through with. I’m excited for what I have ahead of me in 2016, and trying to leave what I have in 2015 even better than before.

There’s so many twists and turns I didn’t plan for in adulthood, but I pray I continue to have the support of my husband and kiddos to continue along this path with enthusiasm.

Other than that, we’re just keeping on, keeping on. (A little Joe dirt humor for you there … and if you didn’t know, Crackle just released Joe Dirt 2, I highly recommend it).

So, I guess the real question now is, are you ready for fall as much as we are???

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Foo foos, pee pee and mommy guilt

His name is Braeburn and he has a problem.

He’s two and a half years old and he needs a foo foo (binky, paci) to go to sleep. 

And not only that. But he’s also … not potty trained. 

That’s right. My son is over the age of two and when he lays his sweet baby head down to sleep he wants a pacifier. And forget sitting him on one of those tiny toilets. He is completely and utterly freaked out about that entire concept and I just can’t bring myself to toilet traumatize his darling little baby bum yet. 

And it basically makes me a shameful, neglectful, irresponsible mother according all to the perfect internet Leave-it-to-Beaveresque mamas out there. Which are a lot, by the way.

I’m losing sleep, fingernails and probably growing some grey hairs over Braeburn’s paci habit. When it was time for Pear Bear to give up her binkies, it didn’t really phase her. She never really used them anyhow, she just liked to hold them in her tiny baby fists. So when we took her to Build-a-Bear and let her build her very own binky bunny, she went to sleep that night still clutching her precious foo foos — in the foot of her new stuffed accomplice. 

It was easy, breezy and happened long before she passed 24 months of age. 

Braeburn, however, isn’t the same. He adores his foo foos, he’s cutting all four of his two-year molars and the poor thing is just so damn angelic when he asks for it I would probably buy him 50 more if it were possible for him to use them. 

Do I know he needs to give up his paci habbit, yes. Do I know the long-term impacts of using a binky on a child? Yes. 

But I also know what my baby needs. And I know what our family doctor says. AND our pediatric dentist. And all are in agreement that by limiting his use of it to naps and nighttime and by weening him off of it by the age of three, will result in him speaking just fine and with no more damage to his mouth than if I pull them from him right.this.second. 

If you make the mistake of googling «when to get rid of the paci,» you’re going to pull up about a million results of crap. You’ll find a few legitimate sources (which still shouldn’t replace the opinion of your family doc and dentists), but ultimately, you’re going to find a zillion posts from all those momvice sites (see what I did there, I combined mom with advice, because that’s what those sites are). Well-intentioned mamas post their questions «my son is seven months old, when should I get rid of his pacifier?» And while there are a few heartfelt responses here and there, for the most part, this is the type of advice these women are getting:

«Never offer one. Then you won’t have to get rid of them.»

Gee, thanks for that piece of advice. That’s terribly helpful considering the mom already let her child use one. Thanks. Now I’m going to go beat myself up over the last seven months of usage. ASSHAT.

«Allowing children to use pacifiers and bottles past the age of 1 is ridiculous.»
 Wow, that’s quite a gem there, isn’t it. Thank you, internet dad, for calling me ridiculous and not actually using facts or anything else to back up your claim. Just straight up ridiculous. ASSHAT

«I don’t recall that any of my kids used a pacifier. It’s a substitute for good parenting.»
Oh, OK. Well I did carry this baby in MY uterus for 40 weeks and eight days, so naturally once I popped his giant ten-pound body out of mine I decided to be a shitty parent. ASSHAT.

«6 months. But there is a point where kids try to get rid of them on their own. It’s the parents most often that continue to plug them in.»
Yep, you caught me! I do continue to plug them in his mouth … after he shrieks for 20 minutes asking for his foo foo and chewing on his hands because his teeth are hurting him so damn bad. Thanks for the recommendation of six months, too. WITH NO FACTS. JUST SIX MONTHS. ASSHAT.

 

Look, here’s the thing about trying to «guilt» moms into feeling bad for their parenting decisions. The ones you really impact, the ones who really give your advice a second thought, are usually the ones who are already beating themselves up. So instead of being helpful, instead of offering them genuine advice for them to consider, you just find a way to make them question themselves more, beat themselves up more, and ultimately, what — make yourself feel better because you were able to belittle a mama 20 states away? That makes you an ASSHAT.

 


Heaven forbid we support each other. Heaven forbid we think about other mamas’ feelings. Heaven forbid we try to be helpful and not hurtful.

Of course I know not EVERY mother is looking to bully others. It just seems like they’re so much louder than the friendly ones, the ones who really want to lend an ear and offer help. 

So what did we decide about his foo foo and potty habbits? Well, we’re taking it day by day and giving him until the age of three. Right now, he has his foo foo during nap and nighttime. And while not every mama, doctor or dentist may agree with that, this one and ours do, so that’s good enough for me. Does that make me right? Of course not. But if I’ve done the research and asked the questions and found the answers, it’s right for me. It’s right for Braeburn. 

Am I worried about his speech? Not really. There have been OODLES of studies done and the results are very inconclusive when it comes to using a pacifier until the age of three and impact on speech. He already uses bigger words than some of Pearyn’s friends. I understand him. Strangers understand him. There have been no delays or inconsistencies found by the professionals at his school, so we’re going to keep on keeping on. 

And just like his sissy, we’re going to encourage him to like the potty, to sit on it, to get comfortable with it, but we’re not going to force it. I stressed and worried so much over Pearyn being potty trained (because she was a girl afterall and she was supposed to be potty trained much easier and earlier than boys, right!?) that I made us both miserable. So on her third birthday she decided she wanted big girl princess panties and she got them, and never looked back. 

So this time, I’m going to trust myself a lot more and all that googling a lot less. 

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Lets stop the parent bashing already

Time is an asshole

OK, so I’ll be honest. When my daughter was a baby, there may or may not have been several nights where I prayed to any and every God that she would hurry up and be like, five years old. At least then she could tell me what was causing her to shriek like someone was tweezing her tiny baby eyebrows; I wouldn’t be changing diapers 24/7; I wouldn’t be up rocking her all hours of the night simply because she felt like staring at my face for three-and-a-half hours.

Everything would get just a littttttle bit easier when she got just a litttttttle bit older, right?

Right?

Well, sort of.

I mean, she IS able to tell me what’s wrong with her, she’s been out of diapers for years and I don’t have to rock her anymore … but … I kind of wish she was a baby again.

Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t forgotten the long, miserable nights where sleep was something I fanaticized about.  I don’t actually miss changing her diapers and I get more than my fill of rocking babies while coaxing Braeburn to sleep.

However, it’s more than that. I don’t simply miss babies; I miss HER being my baby. It’s probably because she was my first. She’s the little doll who MADE me a mother. She’s the first person to prove to me love at first sight DOES exist and she’s continued to make every other tired cliché about motherhood true, time and time again.

And now, she’s five. She’s five and I’m sitting at her kindergarten screening and finally starting to absorb what this means for her, for our family.

Sure, it’s only five half-days a week; and sure, she still has a week of preschool left, but those things don’t matter. What matters is my daughter is about to REALLY start her education; my daughter is about to go to an entirely new school, make entirely new friends and have entirely new experiences – without me.

I know, I know, it’s important for her to spread her wings and all that fluffy, mature junk, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy to accept as a parent. It doesn’t mean I’m READY for her to, even if she’s COMPLETELY ready for this next step.

The more my children age, the more I start to empathize with all those annoying people who tell you to “soak up every minute” your children are tiny, whether they’re throwing tantrums or resisting sleep – one day, you’re going to miss this. Maybe where people make the mistake, however, is what they’re implying you’re going to miss. Of course you’re not going to miss the sleepless nights. You ARE going to miss your baby’s sweet little face as they stare at yours for the seventh hour (even if it means no sleep). You’re going to miss the wondrous way they drink in every aspect of your face, smiling, cooing and giggling at even the slightest flinch of your mouth. Of course you’re not going to miss the tantrums. You ARE going to miss them being so absolutely enthralled with you, so determined to get your attention, that they’ll do anything it takes – whether it’s a sweet, sneaky snuggle or an outright, body-stiff-as-a-board, red-faced, breakdown.

One day, you won’t be the center of their world and that’s OK. That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. But it doesn’t mean you won’t miss those days when you were. It doesn’t mean you won’t long for their neediness. And it doesn’t mean you don’t want your child to spread their wings.

Ultimately, it just means you want your past-self to appreciate all those things you found so damn annoying. It means you become nostalgic as you check AM or PM for your daughter’s kindergarten; it means you become defensive, mama-bear when you think of people “evaluating” her readiness for school; it means you’re REALLY grasping for the first time that your children won’t need you so much one day.

And that might be the absolute hardest thing to truly grasp.

 

Finding a balance between her dreams and mine

It’s after dinner and I’m sitting in the parlor of our church. In front of me is a large circle of children, from four years old to eight or nine. They’re rocking back and forth impatiently, waiting to be fit for their costumes for the musical “Noye’s Fludde.” There’s a group of girls, the “cats,” pretending to lick their hands and wash their ears, while another group of boys karate chops and kicks each other.

My daughter is sitting Indian-style, with her back straight and her eyes glued to the choir teacher. A little girl next to her asks her to thumb wrestle, Pearyn panics and looks at me.

Does she know how to thumb wrestle? Is she even allowed to? Will her Godly play teacher be upset if she does? Will mommy say no?

 

I’m raising a three-foot-version of myself – and some days – it absolutely breaks my heart.

I know the struggle she has ahead of her. I can see what mountains she has to tackle. I can feel the uncertainty she balances as she contemplates whether she should appease her peers or the adults. I remember those feelings. I remember that confusion. And I remember feeling left out.

Eventually, whether it was my mothers prodding or the confidence I developed from my athletic ability, I found my comfort zone amongst my peers. I flourished within my group of friends and by the time I went off to college, making new friends and being the loud, bold girl who could talk to the guys was a role I’d grown accustomed to. I knew my role and for the most part, I was good at it.

I can’t help but wonder how much easier my high school career would have been had I simply embraced who I was back then. Sure, at 14, 15, I didn’t really have an idea who I was, but I was so concerned with what my parents and friends were thinking I didn’t bother to wonder what the hell I wanted. College allotted me the experience to decide if I wanted purple hair, 15 piercings or a wardrobe consisting of crop tops and mini skirts (thankfully, it didn’t), imagine how much happier I might have been had I developed a comfort with myself earlier in life.

I want these things for Pearyn. I want her to feel comfortable in her own skin. I want her to be confident in herself (and to know her parents love her, no matter what, well, unless she becomes a serial killer, we might have some issues there). I want her to WANT to be her own person.

This is the hard part about parenting, I think. We have all these hopes and dreams for these tiny human creatures, things we think are good for them, but it doesn’t mean that’s what they’re going to want. It doesn’t mean it’s THEIR hopes and dreams. And I’m finding it difficult to find the right balance between hers, mine or if there even is one?

And if this balance even exists, how do we encourage it, employ it, without losing a little bit of Pearyn along the way?  


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A few ways parenthood is actually a lot like college

This past week our family came down with a respiratory virus, well, mainly Braeburn, but the rest of us got enough of it to feel extra whiny and needy as well.  At two years old, my little boy has been sleeping through the night like a champion. Actually, since about four or five months old he’s been sleeping a good 10-12 hours every night.

So it’s pretty safe to say we’ve gotten accustomed to our shut eye in the Chubby Vegan household.

But between my own chest congestion, his and having to get up with him, our family has not received an adequate amount of Zzz’s this week. I’m telling you folks, once your baby starts sleeping through the night, those long nights you stayed up breastfeeding or rocking slowly fade away, and you convince yourself that it really wasn’t that bad, right.

WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. Not getting sleep is TERRIBLE. It is that bad. It’s worse!

Needless to say, some of our daily chores may or may not have gotten pushed aside at the mere possibility of a nap, whether it be five seconds or five hours.

And so a couple mornings ago, I woke up, took one look at my living room and realized, “Wow, maybe being a mother with small children isn’t all that different from college me.”

Remember those crazy parties in college? The one’s you stayed up far too late at, passed out on a couch with 11 of your bffs and then woke up the next day surrounded by mountains of beer cans and almost-empty liquor bottles? An uneven, stale-smelling, coating of Natural Light waxed your table, while store-brand red plastic cups remained overturned and ping pong balls from your beer pong tournament have mysteriously vanished forever?

Yeah, my house isn’t really much different than that scenario right now. Only, instead of crappy beer cans, I’ve got juice boxes and flavored water bottles littering my living room. I mean, seriously, at one point, I counted four empty juice boxes, three half-full ones, two empty water bottles and two full ones, plus a coffee cup for good measure all dotting our living room floor, tables and couches.

And it may or may not have taken me a good five minutes to scrub the thin layer of fruit punch off our coffee room table. Our living room may not be missing ping pong balls this time, but there are several toys that were eaten by the couch and may never, ever be heard again. (I’m not that sad about those toys)

Remember my whole whiny rant up there about the no sleep treatment we’ve been getting? Well, friends, the last time I skipped this many nights of snooze was definitely in my college days. My roommate and I used to stay up until two, three in the morning playing cards, coming up with inappropriate names for new taco bell items based on slang for women’s genitalia or just rehashing something stupid so-and-so did. And when that 8:30 class rolled around, our butts got up and went to it, for fear our advisor, Sister Eileen (yeah, our college advisor was a nun), would call us inquiring about our absence. Of course we later skipped our afternoon communications or journalism class to – of course not nap – but instead, reward ourselves with a smoothie for actually attending history of the English language.

And have I mentioned the clothes? Clothing everywhere. You would think our dryer threw up and we all lost the ability to fold and put away laundry in the Chubby Vegan household. I’d like to blame this on our respiratory issues; however, this is a pretty regular occurrence in our home. I like clothes. My daughter likes clothes. Therefore, we have far too many between the two of us. My husband owns probably triple the amount of t-shirts I own and our son has quite a collection of pants himself. The culmination of these events has led to mounds of clothing – dirty mingling with clean – winter interaction with fall fashion – and it’s gotten to the point where I find searching for my clothing in actual dresser drawers to be arduous and unnecessary.

I can’t help but think back to college when my roommate and I were less than zealous about putting away our outfits, and instead threw them on the large chair and ottoman we had in our room for overnight guests. It’s probably a good thing we didn’t have many overnight guests, or they might have been swallowed whole by our laundry pile – that or we would have had to put our skanky club shirts and skirts away – ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ha.

And let’s talk about the cheap pizza and greasy Chinese takeout for a minute. Was there anything better in college than a pile of fried rice or lo-mein on a plate when you were sleep-starved and hung over? Absolutely not, well, except maybe for birthday cake ice cream. That stuff was pretty rad. The same taste holds true today when you’re sleep-deprived and feel hungover simply because you were up with a two year old screaming in your ear all night. You most certainly have no desire to heat food up yourself, which makes the crappy pizza crust and grease-coated noodles taste all the more refined. I’m serious folks, treat yourself to some take out on the giddy up. It’ll take you right back to your college days.

Ultimately, however, there’s one changed, but still interlinking connection between my mom life and my college days – and that’s the overwhelming sense of family. Whether it’s the one you birthed or the one you built for yourself while bonding over being away from home and starting a new adventure, few things feel stronger than the friendships you form during these pivotal years – the ones where you dream about having a family with your college best friends – and the ones where you actually start your family. You rarely feel alone, which might be the most important thing of all.

 

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I’m a crappy adult

Something hit me this month, folks.

2015 means I’m going to be 30. Like, in three months, I’m going to be entering my 30s. I’m not sure what age women are supposed to start lying, but suddenly 30 doesn’t feel so young anymore. I think it’s because when I was fresh, stupid college kid, I also pictured 30 as my «I’ll be a grown up then» year. Like somehow I’d magically feel old enough to handle all the responsibility that comes with being an adult into today’s world. But I wouldn’t just «handle» it, I’d own it, I’d rock it, with the grace and beauty of a 30-year-old woman (who still looked so young she got carded when ordering drinks).

Let’s go ahead and laugh about all that for a good minute.

Done, now? Awesome.

Turns out, growing older, aging — really are all relative — and your age is just a number.

Now I’m not saying this because I’m on the cusp of turning 30 and have a young, spry body and attitude full of vitality, no, I’m saying this because I’m going to be ushering in my 30s and I still don’t make my bed or clean up my room.

There, I said it. I’m a crappy adult.

Am I the only one who pictured adulthood much, much different than this? I’m not even talking about the mountain of bills and responsibility, I’m actually talking about me. Me as an adult. Am I the only one who pictured myself being good at being a grown up?

You might be asking yourself «what precisely makes a good adult?»

Well, friends, probably not me. I mean, I’ll say this, I’ve managed to keep not just myself and a small host of animals alive over the last few years, but two small children — so I think we can say I’m at least managing adulthood. I’m just not succeeding at.

When I was a teenager, I hated cleaning my room. I hated hanging my clothes up, making my bed, doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, essentially anything that involved effort that wasn’t my friends or boyfriend, I didn’t like doing it. Shocking, right?

Well, turns out, growing older does not make you enjoy those chores anymore than you did when you were 15. Who woulda thunk it?

I think I’ve been living in lalaland for the last 29 years. I mean, Im serious, folks. I kind of always thought I would get married, have some babies and then magically enjoy having a clean room. Or say, magically develop an interest in keeping the kitchen remotely crumb-free, but alas, I apparently missed the train to adulthood.

Turns out when you’re a messy teenager you simply grow into a messy adult — possibly messier, because I have far more shoes and dresses than I ever did when I was growing up.

And this probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal if my husband and I hadn’t decided to spawn two little human beings. Two additional bodies that are simply doubling the clutter and mess and sure as heck have no desire to clean up (geez, wonder who they got that from). It makes it even more difficult because our daughter is finally getting smart enough to realize we’re asking her to clean her room and put her boots where they go, but mommy can’t seem to remember how to use a hanger or put her boots under the bench like she should. In fact, sometimes mommy leaves her boots on the coffee tables because she’s apparently a 16-year-old girl trapped in an almost-30-year-old mother’s body.

She hasn’t said it yet. She hasn’t asked yet why we make her pick up her toys and put things back where they go, yet mommy can’t seem to even remotely follow the same guidelines, but it’s starting to formulate in her brain. I can see the wheels and gears turning. She’s close to discovering mommy is a very crappy adult and is utilizing double standards against her left and right.

And because she’s my daughter, she’s going to call me on it. And she’ll probably do it with one hand planted on her hip and the perfect I’m-sassy-and-you’re-going-to-listen-to-me tilt to her head (both of which she learned from mommy as well).

I may not be the most grown-up adult out there, but I’ve got the whole fiesty, hear-me-roar, I’m woman thing down.

So at least there’s that.

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Thoughts from a Saturday morning

It’s Saturday morning. I’m sitting in a terribly uncomfortable plastic chair, one of the futuristic-looking ones you know will inevitably be one of the worst things you ever sit down on, listening to a little boy cry and watching another color on a table.

Beside me an army of caffeine-addled mothers engrossed in their smartphone, texting and making arrangements for little Rebekah’s ballet class and Jimmy’s soccer game, all while scrambling to order last minute birthday gifts from Amazon.

There are a few fathers dotting the premises, click-clacking on their laptops, stalking their email, looking for tickets to the Monday night football game and occasionally peering up to give the thumbs up to their children behind the glass.

My daughter has been in gymnastics for two-and-a-half months and I still feel like I’m never going to fit in here.

I still feel like I’m living some weird, alternate reality of what I thought my life would be. And the truth is, my reality is far more beautiful and tragic than I ever could have imagined.

That’s the thing about parenthood. You decide you’re ready for this tiny human being and all the sudden, whether you really are or not, they’re here. And I mean they’re REALLY here. Like, you have 10 tiny fingers and 10 tiny toes with equally tiny nails you’ll be clipping for what feels like the rest of time. And did I mention the tiny teeth? Super small mouths with small teeth and even smaller gaps to brush and floss. When you decide to become a parent, you’re going to spend a lot of time grooming a very wiggly, sometimes-volatile, TINY human being.

When I was younger, I was convinced I’d never get married or have children. It wasn’t that I had anything against the concept; it was simply unappealing to me. I wanted to write novels – I wanted to impact people with my words, all while getting fancy drinks with my fabulous friends and then hopping on a plane and getting lost in Europe somewhere for a while.

But then in college I met my husband and my single-girl status changed. And when faced with the idea of leaving my beloved college town and man behind, I made the first decision that derailed my could-be reality. I stayed in Cleveland and fell in love. I still got some of the fancy drinks with my fabulous friends, but eventually, even that wasn’t enough to keep me there.

All the sudden my nephew was born and I was aching to be near my family. Something magical happens when your sibling has their first offspring. You’re drawn together in this weird way over this screaming little overlord. And so we moved – not to somewhere where I would start my successful authorship, but home. To my home.

And then everything kind of fell in line from there. Fall in love, get married, have a baby, take some family vacations, have another baby and buy a home. The life I once envisioned slowly faded behind me and a sort-of pre-destined rhythm fell into place. I was doing what grown-ups were supposed to do. I was starting a family, fostering a career and creating life.

Having children changed me in ways I’ll never fully encompass. Someone once said having children is like allowing your heart to walk completely outside of your body; truer words have never been spoken. You feel every emotion humanly possible at full volume for these little people and slowly, pieces of you start to wash away, things that seemed so important slowly erode.

And almost five years later, you find yourself sitting in a lime-green room, staring through the glass as your daughter spins around the uneven bars. You hold your breath as she tiptoes across the balance beam and you close your eyes as she tumbles headfirst onto the sproingy floor. Becoming a mother has made me beautifully in-tune with the emotions and thoughts of my children, however; it’s also made my own feel completely abstract.

My aunt passed away shortly before Christmas and suddenly I was flooded with a gush of unfamiliar emotions and thoughts – my own. I wasn’t focused on whether Braeburn was receiving the proper amount of socialization, whether Pearyn was being alienated by our vegan diet during her classroom holiday party – instead, I was feeling my own uncertain thoughts in the pit of my stomach.

What if I didn’t do things right? What if, in my attempt to follow the appropriate path of life, I stepped off somewhere and disrupted everything? What if in trying to live my life the right way, I had lived it wrong for me?

Isn’t it amazing what death does to a person? I’m certain I don’t mourn or process in the healthiest of ways, but then again, how many people do? Losing someone seems to bring out this itch in me, this urge to ensure I’m being true to myself, making the most out of the days I have left, however many there are, but I’m then consumed by overwhelming guilt for these thoughts.

Mothers shouldn’t question these things. Mothers are good and patient and gentle – they’re not confused and scared and jumbled.

Of course having children wasn’t “wrong.” My babies are the two things I’m certain I did right in my life. Just because I didn’t envision them when I was a wreckless 19-year-old college kid doesn’t mean they weren’t part of my destiny. Who says I’m tied to that destiny, anyhow?

Who says we have to be tied to any destiny; who says we have to fit into any mold? I’m a mom, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a kickass writer of some sort, it doesn’t mean I can’t still get lost in Europe one day – it just means I have to do a little extra planning, wait a little extra time.  And just because we’ve had children or gotten married or started our careers, doesn’t mean we’re solely those roles; being human means being a culmination of things. How asymmetric would life be if we only let one or two roles define us? I’m not simply a mother, not just a wife and not only an editor, I’m this wonderful mishmash of those things and so, so, so many more.

I just need to do a better job of reminding myself of this. I need to do a better job of being all the things I want to be. We all do, really.

 

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