Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Discipline and the lack thereof

I recently went to dinner with my parents and brother as well as some relatives on my mom's side who I either hadn't seen in over a decade or had never met at all. We met at a restaurant and unless your children could be understudies for the Von Trapp brood, restaurants tend to bring out the worst and loudest of the wee ones. My kids are no exception. Ben could hardly stay seated and preferred to hop from empty booth to empty booth. I suppose I should be glad he chose empty booths rather than occupied ones. Ethan, as usual, could only stand his high chair for so long before he decided that he needed to be in my lap instead. Toys were repeatedly dropped, bits of bread were thrown, tantrums were had, and the kids misbehaved as well. Honestly, it occurred to me when I was home and processing the evening that I was probably the bigger embarrassment through it all.

The thing about kids is that they are, you know, kids. It's a known fact that children can be loud and hard to contain. Anyone who has children knows and accepts this while those without children tend to look on with horror while silently promising themselves that their kids will be different. The fact remains that we were at a family restaurant with family surrounded by other families. It was a whole building full of people who "get it". So why was I such a mess? I spent more time bellowing at Benjamin to stay seated than I did amiably chatting with my relatives. I insisted on keeping Ethan contained and squalling rather than allowing him to move about for a bit and let him "get his wiggles out" as "Yo Gabba Gabba" would put it. By the end of the evening I was a jittery, stressed-out, harpy who was too consumed by the behavior of my children to realize that I was no picnic, either. I had been just as loud and just as an unruly only without the excuse of childhood to hide behind. I know better.

I'm not saying that I should have just allowed my children to run amok, but I need to calm down. These past few months since I've entered the world of stay-at-home parenthood, I've been repeating as much in my head. Flying into a fury over what is basically a normal part of childhood (and therefore parenthood) just doesn't make sense. It doesn't make the kids behave and it certainly doesn't do me the tiniest bit of good. Calm has been hard to come by, though. It's gotten better, but I'm still not where I'd like to be. In my mind, every other mom and/or dad is better qualified, more patient, more creative, and a far more effective disciplinarian. The itty bitty rational voice in my head tells me often that this is a heap of lies but the tremendous blob monster of inner shame and self-admonition has gotten its hands on a megaphone and just won't shut up. I have to get the blob monster under control, especially now that Ethan is exhibiting the truth to the phrase "terrible twos." If I don't, I'm afraid I'm going to end up in a padded cell somewhere while my kids terrorize the populace as adorable thieving arsonists.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Toy Overload

We are drowning in toys. It was bad before Christmas but now it's just absurd. The floor of our living room is cluttered with Duplos, toy cars, tiny plastic figures from "How to Tame Your Dragon", rubber snakes and lizards, stuffed animals, foam swords, and more. I have no idea where to put all of these things so I've just left them where the boys dropped them. Each one is a little promise of a badly bruised foot but unless I can get my hands on Hermione's magic bag I don't know how to remedy this predicament.

You would think, too, that the boys would be deliriously happy with all of these fantastic new toys to play with but I think their little minds are blown. They're happy enough at first, but then they begin to realize just how many toys there are. Playing with the dinosaur means not playing with the car but playing with the car would mean the foam battle ax is neglected and so on and so forth. However, it's impossible to play with all of them all at once. As soon as child A puts a toy down to reach for another, child B moves in to claim the recently discarded item which suddenly inspires within child A the fierce conviction that that toy which he had dropped on the floor is the only toy out of the hundreds that will make him happy. To not have that toy means desolation and despair. Violence erupts. I generally end up taking the toy away from both of them which works for only a short time before they have to fight over another magical plastic talisman of childhood joy.

Thankfully, the noise-making toys were to a minimum this year. They each have one of those tubes that, when flipped over, sounds like the calls of a robot cat in heat and then Ethan has a little dog flashlight that barks. Clyde bought Ben a harmonica. I can only hope he purchased the thing in a fugue moment of pure ignorance rather than out of a previously hidden sadistic streak. Still, it's not so bad. I even enjoy one of the noise-makers. Specifically, I'm a fan of Ben's "Big Roarin' Rex"* that could easily function as a duck call. Now, when we ask Ben what sound dinosaurs make he says "quack!" I can only hope that it's somehow factually accurate. I love the idea of the fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex sending shivers of terror through the spines of its intended victims with a mighty quack.

Considering the growing mountain of toys that is slowly but surely taking over every bit of livable space in our home, I think the only remedy is a purge of epic proportions. I'd have to get the kids out of the house, of course, because they'd no doubt kick up a mighty fuss over every scrap of plastic even if they haven't seen it for months. Clyde and I have done this before but they toys never really made it any further than our garage. This time, I plan to donate as much as I can. We have plenty of discarded toys that are in good condition and still function as the manufacturer intended. If we don't get them well and truly out of our space, we run the risk of the kids glimpsing some long-forgotten treasure and I'll be damned if I have to listen to the "Sing and Go Choo Choo" one more time.

*I created a meta moment of narcissism by linking to a YouTube video of myself in this blog. So very shameless.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Surviving disillusionment

I was watching a video on Youtube in which someone recounted how he learned that Santa isn't real and how that moment shattered him. It made me think of my own personal Santa death. This memory seems particularly relevant to my life at this moment because I think I was about 4 years old which is the current age of my oldest son. However, I have no idea how Ben feels about Santa Claus. I don't even know if he knows what a Santa Claus is. Furthermore, I'm not convinced its necessary to perpetuate that cycle of belief and disillusionment. I want to state for the record that I'm not scarred from learning that there is no Santa nor do I feel any resentment toward my parents for the part they played in encouraging my belief. We do odd things for the sake of tradition.

This happened when my family still lived in Baker, OR. The fact that this is a very early memory means that I'm a little fuzzy on the details but I remember the basic gist. I decided that I was going to see Santa Claus. We had made a big to-do of leaving milk and cookies out for the big guy and it never occurred to me that all that fuss would be had over something fictional. Of course Santa was coming. I waited until I was certain that everyone in the house was in bed and I crept downstairs, no doubt anxiously clutching my pink nightgown with the white bunny rabbits all over it, to catch Santa in the act of leaving our Christmas loot beneath our tree. I heard the crinkle of wrapping paper and the tinkling of the little bells and various other ornaments on our tree and, holding my breath, I peeked around the corner...to find my mom and dad placing the gifts instead of Santa. I could have written this off as some sort of fluke except my dad was clearly eating the cookies we had left out and drinking the milk as well. I couldn't believe that my dad would be mean enough to steal cookies from Mr. Claus so I was forced to conclude that it was all a hoax. In the mind of a 4-year old, cookie theft is worse than lying. Just as quietly as I had been going down the stairs, I made my way back up and went to my room to crawl into my bed. We carried on the charade for several years afterwards because I never let on to my parents that I had discovered the truth. It seemed important to them that I believe, so I pretended to.

I had a similar incident with the Tooth Fairy. Actually, I'm not 100% sure if I ever believed in the Tooth Fairy to begin with and any belief I had would have surely evaporated with the Santa myth revealed. Even so, I made sure to place my newly liberated baby tooth under my pillow each time one wriggled free. The Tooth Fairy may not be real, but the money I found the next day certainly was. One night, though, I woke up from the sensation of my pillow being jostled and I blearily opened my eyes enough just in time to catch my dad retreating from my room wearing a multi-colored robe and a floppy straw hat decorated with a rainbow ribbon. That image is better than any tooth fairy. I might not perpetuate the Santa myth, but I'm partial to the idea of dressing like a crazy person to bewilder my sleepy children. I can get behind that tradition.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Elephant Seals

Elephant seals are my Vietnam. And by that, I mean that I have been traumatized by elephant seals and suffer flashbacks of the trauma from time to time. I don't mean to belittle the gravity and horror of the Vietnam War. I'm just saying that were we to create a trauma graph from "Zero" to "Apocalypse Now" based on my life, my elephant seal experience represents the spike on that graph.

Approximately 6 or 7 years ago, Clyde and I went to California to visit his family as well as to attend a wedding. I do have pleasant memories about this trip; the hotel we stayed at that was right on the coast, the wedding itself which was lovely and had the bride walking down the aisle to "Storybook Love", and the equal parts endearing and frustrating fact that Clyde stuffed his pockets with Hershey's kisses at the wedding reception and then forgot about them until we had done a load of laundry and found all of our clothes covered in chocolate stains. However, those memories merely huddle in the greater shadow of the Elephant Seal Experience.

There was a beach off of Highway One at a place a little north of Cambria which elephant seals are known to frequent. Clyde and his family had visited this beach before and thought it would be fun to take me there. I was excited. I had never seen elephant seals before, not even in a zoo. I'd get to see them in a natural habitat, just hanging out and doing elephant seal things! It would be awesome! We parked the car and made our way to the beach where there was already a throng of people, pointing and taking pictures and chattering animatedly about the seals. I practically skipped to a gap in the crowd where we could get our own look at these no doubt majestic creatures.

At first, I was pretty amazed by it all. The beach was cluttered with these great, whiskered mounds of seals. For the most part, they just lounged on the sand but there were a few more active blokes who heaved their bodies around the beach like tremendous mobile Hefty bags full of thick pudding. Clyde and I pointed in shock and awe at these creatures with their bulbous, floppy noses and bodies covered in battle scars. The females stayed mostly huddled together and some of them even had pups. It could have been a moving and inspiring scene except everything turned awful.

A big nasty brute of a male came flopping and heavily undulating up the beach toward the clustered females, grunting in either anticipation or the effort of hauling his great carcass... or both. Not sure. The one he was after was a mother with a pup. The female tried to shield her baby which actually seemed to do more harm than good because when the brute mounted her, the poor pup was semi-pinned beneath the weight of both his mother and the violently amorous suitor. It was terrible. I remember noises - the big male's grunts that sounded like a giant attempting to suck up the last of a huge milkshake with a straw, the resounding slap as he smacked one flipper repeatedly against the female's side, and the pup's plaintive squeals as it struggled beneath the weight. And then it ended and the male began to slide away, allowing the mother to roll off the poor screaming pup who was only too happy to shuffle to safety. But that's not the end of the horror. Not for me, anyway. As I looked on, I saw a puzzling reddish-orange froth on the sand.

Me: What is that?
Clyde: I don't know... is that blood?
Me: Good lord, did he hurt her!?
Clyde: Wait... there's a trail of it leading to the male... and what's that pink.......oh.
Me: What? I don't get it... I... ohmygod... is that... is that it's PENIS?!?!?!

The image of that screamingly pink organ, covered in frothy orange goop has been seared into my mind perhaps for the rest of my life. I cannot think of elephant seals without shuddering in revulsion and terror. I fear that when I'm lying on my death bed, THAT is going to be the image that pops into my head with my last breath and it will be accompanied by the horrified screams of an infant seal.

I will not leave you with the image that haunts me years later. Instead, I just want you to imagine that you are a female elephant seal basking in the sun on a sandy beach with your sisters and your children and your nieces and nephews. All of the sudden, that peace is broken by the guttural grunts of a horny male elephant seal that has you in its sights.

Monday, December 6, 2010

True story

During the first few weeks after I gave birth to my first son, it seemed that any time I listened to the radio I would hear "Can't Help Falling in Love". Mostly, it was UB40 but a couple of times it was Elvis. I know that the song is mainly associated with romantic love - what you would feel for a boyfriend/girlfriend kind of thing. However, to me, this song is very much about how I came to love my first born child. That statement would probably raise some eyebrows, I guess. Didn't I love my son immediately? Didn't I adore him from the moment I first saw him? From the moment I first knew I was pregnant? Honestly and still a little shamefully, my answer is no.

I daydreamed about the baby that I would soon hold in my arms. I was petrified of any possibility of losing him. Any twinge I felt, any little pain, had me frantically dialing my OBGYN for advice and reassurance. I impatiently counted the days until my due date and often couldn't sleep due to the anticipation of it all. My husband seemed to be amazed by how quickly it was all happening while I was losing patience. I wanted my baby! I wanted my baby right now, damnit!

My memories of the immediate aftermath of Benjamin's birth are a blur. I remember seeing him for the first time and the sensation of having every word I could speak and emotion that I could feel ripped from my mind. I was overwhelmed and overawed. Suddenly, I was holding this little person in my arms and I was struck with the realization that I was responsible for him. After the months of waiting, all of the discomfort, the indescribable feeling of having a tiny being inside of me, here he was. He was crying and utterly confounded and hungry. And, actually, so was I.

It wasn't until we were all home and away from nurses and blood tests and distractions that I felt the ton of bricks hit me. Ben didn't sleep for longer than an hour and a half before waking and shrieking. We would exhaust all of the reasons - is he wet? dirty? gassy? hungry? cold? too warm? - and then sit dazedly with him in shifts through the very long nights. Making things worse was the fact that my husband didn't get much paternity leave. Before I knew it, it was just me and Ben left with nothing to do but figure each other out. It wasn't easy and it certainly wasn't immediate.

During the day, I was just able to keep it together. I dressed Ben up in the seemingly endless amount of adorable outfits that came flooding in from friends and relatives. I took an insane amount of pictures and nursed Ben while I uploaded them onto my computer and sent them out in emails. Everyone told me that I needed to nap while he napped but I began to believe that my new baby did not want me to sleep. Ever. He would seem peaceful and completely asleep and I would try to lay down and make up for the lost sleep during the night. The moment my head touched a pillow, however, the screaming would start. This also happened whenever I tried to eat anything. I would either gulp my food down quickly enough to guarantee heartburn or just go without.

The nights, however, were the worst. As the sun went down, I felt a separate darkness start to enfold me. It was a darkness full of fear and desperation and loneliness. It was claustrophobic and unrelenting. I would huddle on the couch, panicky and sobbing, while Ben would cry from the other room. I had heard of people "snapping" or "losing their minds" but I had never understood it or felt so close to it than during those horrific night-time hours. Later, during a conversation with a new OBGYN in Vancouver, I would learn that I had been going through postpartum depression. At the time, I was too ashamed and horrified to really let anyone know what I was going through. I was supposed to be in bliss, after all.

Through it all, I kept hearing "Can't Help Falling in Love". At first, I felt like I was being mocked or admonished in some way. I resented it while at the same time forcing myself to listen to it to really try to feel the way the song told me to feel. I wanted so badly to fall in love with this small, helpless stranger that had completely taken over my life. I wanted the contented sighs and feelings of wholeness that I had read so much about. However, wanting it only reminded me that I didn't have it. Wanting it reminded me that the stupid creeping darkness was on its way in a matter of hours. I hated myself and I hated Hallmark and I hated Gerber and I hated Kodak and I hated every freaking thing in my life that took hold of me and shook me and told me that I was an awful mother, an awful human being. I thought I would drown in all of it.

But during all that madness and all that self-hate and frustration and terror, there were moments that couldn't have been more perfect. There were little pockets of peace when Ben was in my arms and nothing had ever felt better. Moments when I would look at him and he'd look at me and it was the profoundest discovery that could be made. And little by little, those small moments began to happen more frequently. Being a mother started to feel less like an obligation and more like a privilege. I didn't want to go to work because it hurt to be separated from Ben. I'd think of him and smile without trying. Eventually, one day, I realized that the darkness wasn't there anymore. At least, not in the gigantic way that it had been before. I had fallen in love with my child.

I didn't go through all of that the second time around. My OBGYN at that point was apprised of what I had gone through and was determined to keep me from going through it again, as was I. Everything was a little easier. I don't attribute it all to the difference in temperament between my boys or the fact that I was proactive. I think that knowing what I had gone through, all the pain and terror and exhaustion, made me realize that the pay off - the deepest and most complete love I've ever felt - was worth it all and I could face it if I had to. So this is my cheesy blog about my first born and how he made me helplessly fall in love with him and how that opened me up to let myself fall in love with his little brother.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Head fluff

The thing about me is that 90% of the time that I'm being quiet, I generally have an internal monologue going on in my head. The topics vary depending on the mood I'm in/how tired I am/how hungry I am/etc. Also, sometimes I'm interviewing myself in my head which is disturbingly narcissistic and also lots of pathetic. I think I mainly do this to figure out if I'm worth talking to, after all. If I bore the crap out of me, I can't expect others to remain riveted. I try to catalog the things that amuse me to use for future conversations with other human beings but I usually forget by the time that happens so I really shouldn't bother, I guess. And I still have friends so I suppose I'm not completely boring or horrible. Unless all my friends are pity friends.

I just took a break to go get myself some eggnog and the whole time I was preparing it, I was talking to myself (in my head) about the nog. I call it "nog" in my head. I'm too gangsta to bother with "egg", yo. See? That crap is what slips into my head on a regular basis. So now I'm sitting here, with my nog, and thinking about how I spend my time when I have time. I have started to stay up really stupidly late because I enjoy "me time" once my kids have gone to bed. Basically, it just means that I get to watch crappy TV and dink around on the internet without feeling guilty. I also color in my kids' coloring books. It relaxes me. I get all uptight when my kids break out their coloring books and crayons because they never stay in the lines, they break all the crayons, and they don't know crap about shading. I'll watch them and offer encouragement until I can't take it anymore and I snatch up the least broken crayon I can find and try to instruct them on the proper way to color. I'm probably stifling their creative impulses but I want to leave a legacy and part of that legacy includes coloring within the lines. It usually just ends with Ben telling me to color everything while Ethan takes advantage of my diverted attention to decorate our fireplace hearth.

I also draw non-elephants. I have a drawing of a non-elephant sitting next to me at this very moment. It's my friend Jonathan's* fault and I should probably say no more about it.

My dinking around on the internet has pretty much boiled down to YouTube, Hulu, and the blog "Hyperbole and a Half". I both love and hate that blog. I love it because it is hilarious and creative and snarky and wonderful and I hate it because, well, that's what I wanna dooooo (I'm whining, flopping my arms around uselessly, and stomping my feet. At least, that's what you should picture). Imagine that you have figured out what you want to do with your life only to discover that someone else is doing the exact same thing, they started before you did, and they are infinitely better at it. Son of a bitch. Anyway, my blogs have been less about being funny and sarcastic and more about being whiny and defeatist in a not-funny way. Not what I was going for, mind you.

The truth is, if you haven't figured out yet which I doubt, I have no idea what the heck I'm doing. I read some pointers on how to create a successful blog and they included things like "be about a specific topic", "know your ideal demographic", "be capable of forming complete sentences", "lay off on the constant whining because it just makes people feel embarrassed for you". Clearly, I'm doing it wrong.

* You won't find anything about non-elephants in Jonathan's blog so don't go there if you'll be disappointed by that fact. However, Jonathan's funny and stuff and he does yoga. That's cool.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Have I mentioned that I hate shopping?

I should have taken it as a sign when my car refused to continue up the small hill leading out to the street after I had stopped to wait for traffic. I had to pop it into reverse and then floor my break as I slid backward into the parking lot before coming to a very slow and reluctant stop. That should have told me right there to go no further. Park the car, get the kids back inside, lock the door, and don't even think of venturing out until the light of day. But I'm stupid stubborn. So I made it out of the parking lot after getting a running start up the hill and after minimal slipping and sliding, ventured into the night for groceries. (No, I don't know why I waited until dark.)

This isn't a post about a car accident. I made it to Safeway without incident or injury. Once in the store, however, I received a psychological thrashing courtesy of my wee angels. (Shrek is playing in the background right now, hence my use of the word "wee".) Honestly, it started off okay. I got through about a third of my shopping without drama and I think that might be a record. Things went all pear-shaped once Ethan figured out how to kick his boots off. At first, I thought they had simply slid off his feet. They're rain boots that actually belong to Ben so they have nothing by way of fasteners and they are a little big on Ethan. So, I picked the boots up and placed them back on his feet and continued shopping until I heard a couple of tell-tale thumps and discovered that the boots were once again on the floor. I eyed Ethan suspiciously and the little imp giggled and pointed at his boots while extending his feet. Okay. I picked up the boots, put them back on his feet, and slowly continued down the aisle. This time, I caught him kicking his boots off and he knew I caught him and he thought it was hilarious. He stuck his feet out once again but I wasn't going to play his game, damn it. I stuffed his boots on the lower shelf of the shopping cart, gave him my best "that'll learn ya" look, and resumed my shopping.

That's when the screaming started. Ethan's scream is legendary among those of us who have had the great misfortune to experience it. He wails at such an offensive pitch that you can feel all the tiny bones of your ears shuddering in agony. I have literally placed my hands to my ears to check for blood during these screams. I imagine that parts of my brain liquefy from the assault, precious memories and bits of knowledge that I will never recover thanks to the superhuman vocal abilities of my baby boy. If we were home alone, maybe I would have handled things differently but I had to consider the innocent bystanders. I did what parents are told never to do. I relented and gave him his boots back. At first, I tried just placing them next to him in the cart but that only enraged him further. He threw his boots down the aisle and inhaled deeply for another auditory attack. Given that he threw his boots, which is extra bad, I really shouldn't have put them back on his feet. Lord help me, though, I did. And that act signaled to Ethan that mommy would play his game and we played it for the rest of time we were there. He was so delighted.

I shopped. Thankfully, the checkout line wasn't the hell that I was fearing. Ben, maybe sensing that at least one of them needed to consider my sanity, helped me place the items on the belt and didn't even whine for candy. He did, however, grab a giant handful of plastic bags that he proceeded to crumple and scatter while attempting to "assist" the girl who did the bagging. He was being polite about it, though, so I let it slide. The girl would have to fend for herself.

The drive back was a smidge harrowing because the brakes in my Buick aren't being completely reliable right now. I was driving slowly and very defensively but really didn't encounter any angry drivers until right when I was about to turn left into the parking lot. The guy in the truck behind me lost patience and then illegally passed me, nearly causing me to run into him. Jerk.

Getting everyone back inside our home turned out to be kind of interesting as well. I grabbed all the bags and headed for our place while Ben and Ethan wandered off in the opposite direction, apparently intent on disappearing into the night. I called to them repeatedly as I hurried as fast as I could on the slippery sidewalk to deposit my groceries at my front door so I could go retrieve my kids. Ben was making very slow progress to our home on his own but Ethan ended up being rescued by one of my neighbors. He was holding Ethan's hand and guiding him to the sidewalk while Ethan slid all over the place, whining in protest. What do you say to your neighbor who has just discovered that you will, in fact, abandon your child to the elements (albeit briefly) to set down some groceries?

I just reread all of this and realized I should have just written "I went shopping and it sucked" and left it at that. Oh well.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mom flew over the cuckoo's nest.

Have you ever gone crazy and then come out the other side? I think I might be there. We have reached a level of absurdity in our home that no longer warrants anger or discipline, just helpless laughter and hyperbolic threats of decapitations and trips to the black market to look for potential new parents for our heathens. Want to know what happened last night to round out our lovely Thanksgiving?

That's Ethan, covered in Cetaphil. Granted, something like this happened months ago but it was not quite to this scale and I was certain we had put it all behind us. However, I ventured upstairs to check on the kids last night and saw Ben crouching behind the rocking chair, squishing the lotion in his hands and attempting to hide the fact that he had an ample amount of the stuff worked into his hair. Silly me, I thought that was the extent of it. And then I stepped further into the room and got a glimpse of Ethan. I was at a loss. I mutely took the jar of Cetaphil out of his hands and went downstairs to 1) grab the camera and 2) inform Clyde that his kids needed him. Drama ensued along with a hose-down and a load of laundry.

Grabbing the camera speaks to the fact that I just might have given up. I am aware that swift discipline was the appropriate response but I don't think I see the point anymore. This is just going to keep happening and it's going to keep escalating as my kids get more and more creative. Not all that long ago, this is what awaited me one seemingly quiet evening when I allowed the boys to play together before going to sleep:

They don't get to play together unsupervised in their room anymore. I know, I know... I brought this on myself. And then there's what happened to our new keyboard when I was making the kids their dinner.

There's also the crayon drawings on various surfaces, the big hole in our living room wall (yes, the kids did it but I doubt they would have accomplished it if our walls weren't actually made from a material as crumbly as shortbread), the Sharpie tiger stripes that Ben drew on himself and the incident that continues to live in my nightmares although it happened over a year ago. Ben "decorated" the walls in their room with his own feces. Yeah. I had to call some friends over to supervise the kids while I cleaned the horrifying mess. Actually, I believe my exact words on the phone to them were "please come over and keep me from killing my oldest son".

Time has passed. Both kids are alive and healthy. Something has happened to me, though. I have entered a state of bemused hopelessness. I will keep my children from killing themselves and each other but the rest is just so much extraneous fluff. I briefly considered cleaning the house today but that can wait til the kids move out. If I've gotten them to that point, I haven't completely failed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holy freaking crap, it's snowing!

It has snowed for the past three days. I have awoken each of those mornings to a landscape increasing in white-fluffiness and winter wonderlandishness. At first, a mere skiff. A light dusting, if you will. The next day, a larger blanket of glittering whiteness. And today, possible blizzard conditions and enough snow to sneak into your shoes if you're not smart enough to wear boots. I have encountered a few people in these past three days and most of them have made remarks about the "ridiculous" amount of snow and how it's "crazy" and how the cold is just "insane." And each time I have heard these remarks I have had to restrain myself from gripping the speaker by the shoulders in order to shake him/her vigorously and exclaim "THIS IS MONTANA! MONTANA! IN WINTER! WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?!?!?!" Instead, I just nod and mumble something vaguely resembling agreement while I slowly back away from these clearly unstable individuals.

Thankfully, though, I haven't encountered the full-fledged panic-induced nuttiness that we encountered in Washington when snow dared to fall from the sky. Admittedly, though, snow in Washington is a little scarier than Montana snow because it's wetter and has a tendency to immediately become black ice upon meeting the ground. However, there are ways to deal with this without checking your sanity at the door before you head out to work. It seemed like the prevailing opinion was that the snow would be less scary if you made your way through as quickly as possible. My trips to and from work on those few snowy occasions were harrowing, white-knuckle adventure rides as I made my way through and among the speeding metal wheeled death projectiles. It was nearly enough to make me find religion. Nearly.

I'm not afraid of the snow here nor do I find it "crazy", "ridiculous", or "insane". During my family's first winter in Montana (when I moved here as a kid), we had FOUR FEET of the stuff keeping the town from functioning at full capacity. Every winter since has seen wimpier and wimpier snow falls. Last winter was barely deserving of the name. When you live in Montana, snow in winter is not scary. NO snow in winter, however, is a problem. It pretty much guarantees that the state will burst into flames during the summer. My only complaint is that our stupid fireplace chose this week to stop working. Stupid effing fireplace...

Something else that I find kind of amusing is Benjamin's insistence that he loves snow even though evidence suggests otherwise. Every morning he has gasped wide-eyed at the snow and announced that we have to go outside to play in it. All through breakfast he babbles excitedly about going out to play in the snow. When I haul out the boots and coats, he squeals with delight and claps his hands and sings about going to play in the snow. He eagerly allows me to stuff his feet into his boots and bundle him up in his coat, hat, and gloves. He stomps his feet in barely restrained glee by the door. Then, we go outside and he's so happy! He kicks the snow around! He picks it up and hurls it at my face! He delights in his footprints.

For 15 minutes.

At that point, he switches gears entirely. He crams his hands into his pockets and looks completely stricken once he realizes that it is cold outside. I begin to see the first traces of panic as he notices that the snow is melting on his pants and getting them all, gasp, wet! He is not having fun anymore. Snow is not his friend. Snow is ruining his life. He tells me that we have to go back inside now. Ethan, meanwhile, has thrown himself spread-eagle into a snow drift and is quite pleased. So I gather up my snow-covered youngest son and we head back to our home. And all the while Ben is whimpering and Ethan is thrashing for all he's worth. Once inside, all Ben can think of is how to get warm rightnow and he starts stripping off his wet clothes while demanding "new pants, mama! New ones!!!" What really gets me is that he manages to completely forget his misery and we go through this again the next day. And the next. And the next.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mommy, dearest

I have dropped the ball. I have dropped it and it has rolled into the gutter and on down the street into traffic. I have lost the ball. I have lost it so completely that I'm not even sure that I had it in the first place.

I don't know what I've been doing with myself. Actually, I do know but I'm terribly ashamed. I have been wasting time. Lots and lots of time. I have not been doing anything of any value or meaning. I stay up way too late, I get up way too late, I feed the kids, I break up fights, I feed 'em again, I break up more fights, I feed 'em some more, I break up the last fights I'm willing to put up with and then the kids go to bed. Of course, there are some smatterings of happy times in there. I play with cars, I color with the boys, I tickle them, I read stories but I know deep in my heart that I am falling drastically short of being the mother they deserve. Ben needs to see a speech therapist and I'm positive it's my fault that he's not speaking at an age-appropriate level. I have tried on several occasions to sit down with him and teach him sight words and how to write the alphabet but he gets frustrated and I get frustrated and then we give up. I shouldn't give up.

We are all terribly tired of each other. I know that it is completely horrible for me to say that I grow tired of my kids, but it happens. It's very difficult to converse with them.

Ethan: Mama!!!
Me: Ethan?
Ethan: Thomas!
Me: Yes! That's your Thomas train.
Ben: Mama! Mama look at me!
Me: Ben, please don't jump on the couch.
Ethan: Mama!
Ben: Look at me!
Ethan: Mama!!
Ben: Look at me!
Ethan: MAMA!!!!!!!!!
Me: Ben, please stop climbing on the back of the couch!
Ethan: MAMAMAMAMAMAMAMAMAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Me: What, Ethan?!
Ethan: Thomas!

And so on and so forth. Ben tells me on a fairly regular basis that he wants me to go away and prefers to be with daddy. He also told me that he'd like a new mommy. Ethan tries to hit me in the face when I refuse to connect his trains together after I've already done so about two dozen times in the last five minutes. Having kids has taught me that I'm not as patient as I thought I was. It's a pretty nasty revelation. I'm basically a jerk. I love my kids so much but I'm having a lot of trouble with putting my own ego and my own needs away so that I can focus on my boys as much as I should. I have read so many quotes regarding how children are supposed to bring the best qualities out of their parents but Ben and Ethan pretty often get the worst of me. As I am losing my cool with them, there's a voice in my head that tries to get me to take deep breaths and calm down but the giant flailing octopus of anger gets its way most of the time.

To make matters worse, Ben is turning into a master when it comes to guilt trips. I will be at the end of my admittedly short rope and both boys will be climbing all over me, screaming in my ear, pulling on my clothes, and anything else they can think of to clamor for my attention. I'll be trying to read or hold a thought in my head while Ben calls "mama" with increasing volume and intensity. "What?!?!" I'll snap. And then Ben will look at me with wide blue eyes and his lower lip will tremble and he'll say "I just wanted to say I love you."

I can't escape the feeling that I need therapy and/or more medication to deal with this side of myself that I can't stand but takes the reigns so very often. And I also can't escape the feeling that I'm the world's biggest moron being this surprised that parenting is, you know, hard and stuff.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Boys will be boys?

I have been told by many and I have said the same on occasion, myself; my kids are all boy. They get into everything, they love to hit things with other things, they build towers just to knock them down, they rough-house like nobody's business, and they think fart noises are hilarious. However, I doubt this is all exclusively male behavior. Maybe just because they are boys and are therefore expected to have these behaviors, their actions are more accepted and reinforced. A friend of mine who works in a daycare said that the difference between taking care of boys and taking care of girls is that with boys, you spend a lot of time telling them what not to do whereas with girls, you have to continually encourage them to do things. I really have no basis for comparison. I think I blocked most of my experiences from the brief time I spent working in a daycare myself (note: the kids were okay, my coworkers on the other hand were mostly bitchy jerkfaces) so I can't call upon those memories to serve me.

My husband and I try not to limit our boys in terms of their interests and the way they choose to play. I don't mean that we let them run amok and stick their fingers in light sockets; I mean that if one or both of the boys wants to play with a pink bunny, he can go ahead and play with a pink bunny. If he wants to try on my friend's high-heeled shoes, he can go ahead an do it (with the friend's consent, of course). We have never told either of them that they can't do or play with something on the grounds that it would be "girly". However, these time-honored preconceptions creep in. Last night, Ben told me adamantly that "boys can make pie, too!" I said of course and then wondered why on earth he felt he had to be defensive about it. Where did that come from? Who told him that boys can't make pie? To my knowledge, Ben has really limited experience with pie in general. Ben has also started designating his crayons as "boy colors" or "girl colors". Again, where did this come from?

I take a look around the toy-strewn floor of our living room and see that there's a noticeable lack of pink anything and not a curly-haired dolly to be found. Would we have those those things if we had a girl? Probably yes, if only because friends and relatives would go crazy buying "girl" stuff. Honestly, though, "girl" toys are usually astoundingly boring. Boys are encouraged to build and create, to make obstacle courses for their cars and spaceships for their spacemen toys. Girls are taught to change outfits and apply makeup, to brush hair and paint nails. Is that really okay? Should we really reinforce that?

I can recall from my own childhood that I had Barbie dolls a-plenty, but I also played with Micromachines and Hotwheels. I put on dresses and then went out to play in the mud. I built Lego cities with my brother and then brushed my favorite doll's hair. I can't deny that it seems to be far easier for a girl to cross these gender boundaries than it is for a boy, though. A girl is a tomboy when she crosses gender boundaries, a boy gets his sexuality questioned if he does the same. I was at a baby shower once where the soon-to-be older brother put on some flowery lotion that was given to his mom as a present. He was immediately scolded and told that he'd smell like a girl and "everyone would make fun of him". He was crestfallen as a relative ushered him off to the bathroom to wash the lotion off. I can't help but wonder what he'd face if he was caught playing with a Barbie.

I'm going to make an effort to stop thinking in terms of boyish behavior vs. girlish behavior. Ben and Ethan need to be all kid rather than all boy, meaning I want the world to be full of possibilities instead of superfluous limitations. I want to keep them healthy, keep them safe, keep them thinking, and keep their minds open. I think that's the best thing I could do for them.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Rejection is like getting smacked in the face with a cast iron frying pan. I write this as I am reeling from such a blow. I do not handle rejection well by any stretch of the imagination. I handle it so poorly, in fact, that I generally tend to avoid placing myself in situations where rejection is a possible outcome. Despite every indication that this tactic has not served me well thus far in life, I have continued to stick to it. Up until a short while ago, that is. And wouldn't you know it, but that cast iron frying pan just came out of nowhere and whomped me a good one. After having myself a teensy meltdown, a bit of a cry, and a big ol' whiny bitchfest with some buddies, I'm picking myself up and rearranging myself in a less whomped-looking configuration. I'm trying to nurture a wee little bubble of "I'll show you" bravado before it pops and I go back to cowering in the corner. Because, seriously, I feel like I was robbed. ROBBED, I tells ya!

Truth is, I need this. As much as it hurts, I need to experience this. I don't think I've heard a success story that didn't start out with a long prelude of rejection and failure before that one break. I have now gotten my first failure out of the way. It's time to go fail some more.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Can I have a melt-down, too?

It's been an interesting heap of days. And I mean "interesting" in the slightly dubious sense of the word as its used in the "Chinese curse", May you live in interesting times. As I type this, Ethan is in a corner, playing with three trains from the Thomas franchise and screaming himself hoarse. Actually, he is no longer doing so as I have returned to my blog after a lengthy hiatus due to my computer being a piece of junk. Lately, it likes to shut off at random and then it won't turn on again for several hours. It adds to the "interesting" part of recent goings on.

Note: Another 3 hours has passed since that last sentence because we had to go to Rattlesnake Creek and throw rocks and then go to Big Dipper to get some ice cream. I'm doubtful that I will be able to complete this blog before another distraction/the computer shuts off randomly.

Where on Earth was I? What was the point? Oh, yeah. I want to throw a hissy fit. Both of the boys have done so on numerous occasions in the past few days over things like not being able to get the Thomas trains to link up (the reason for the Ethan melt-down mentioned in the first paragraph) and not being allowed to yank your brother off the couch and onto the floor, face-first. (Ben bloodied Ethan's nose this way.) Little things. It has gotten to the point now where Ben pretty much only likes me for a few hours spaced out over the day. The rest of the time it's "I don't like you anymore, mama"/"You're not my friend anymore"/"I don't want you here, anymore", etc. I've tried to take it lightly because he's 4 and he's going through a phase and blah blah blah, but the most recent time he informed me that he wants me to go away forever I nearly burst into tears. What happened to my sweet baby? And if you're thinking "Ethan's still your sweet baby", that's only partially true. My little melon-headed munchkin has been hitting, punching, pinching, biting, and head-butting me during his little fits of rage.

He's screaming again, by the way. About the Thomas train.

I'm trying to keep the peace. I'm trying to keep order or restore it once it's fled in the face my boys' shaky grasp on the concept of sharing. Time outs are given, scoldings are administered, the occasional slap on the hand or behind is implemented. I take a breather. I read a couple sentences in my book. I remind myself that the kids are really cute when they're not red in the face and shrieking. In my head, though, I'm breaking dishes. I'm screaming at the top of my lungs. I'm throwing myself on the floor and beating the ground with my fists. I'm jumping into kiddie programs and popping the heads off The Backyardigans. I'm using Muno to bludgeon the rest of the cast of Yo Gabba Gabba. I'm popping every balloon in the world. I'm crying and gibbering and rocking back and forth in the corner. I'm setting fire to all the Thomas trains.

I haven't been to yoga in about two weeks and I'm realizing through its absence in my life just how beneficial it was to me. In that space, all I was worried about was getting through the postures and breathing. I wasn't coming up with a day plan to keep the kids happy and occupied. I wasn't thinking of the groceries I need to buy. I wasn't thinking of which room in the house I should clean first. I had peace for a couple of hours. So THAT'S why my mom was always dragging my brother and I to the Y.

In the meantime, Ethan is screaming again. It's bath time, then bed time. In the morning, we'll do it all again.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ranty Ranty Rant-Rant or I Freaking Hate Eminem

I got into a wee lil' flame war on Youtube about the Eminem/Rihanna collaboration "Love the Way You Lie". Specifically, it started over a comment that I left on the parody video "Love the Way You Like" by The Key of Awesome. I stated that I was glad the original video was parodied because I'm pretty sick of violence/manipulation/controlling behavior being glorified as just parts of any deeply romantic relationship (I love you so much, baby, I can't stop my fist from flying). The argument that I was countered with was that Eminem/Rihanna aren't glorifying it at all but are rather providing a cautionary tale. Bullshit. Just look at the video. Who are the key players? Dominic Monaghan and Megan Fox. In the case of Dominic, he lives in our hearts primarily as either the hobbit Merry from "Lord of the Rings" or the flawed but lovable (and ultimately self-sacrificing) Charlie from "Lost". Megan, for her part, is best known for stuff like "Jennifer's Body" (where she kills boys) and the "Transformers" movie franchise (where she holds her own against a bunch of alien robots) as well as being the current sex symbol for a generation. Basically, it's hard to get behind the idea of our hobbit friend pounding the crap out of his girlfriend and we kind of feel like Ms. Fox could handle herself in a physical confrontation. In other words, we're presented with a pretty level playing field. One of the things about domestic violence is that the playing field is never level.

Domestic violence is about dominance and control - not about being so passionately in love that you just can't stop yourself from blackening your lover's eye/punching a hole in the dry wall. The scenes in the original video show the acts of violence as being sexually charged. The couple fights, screams, throws things, and then ultimately they wind up doing lots of REALLY OPEN MOUTH kissing against a wall. Right. The violence is also completely mutual and, according to the bit Rihanna sings, the woman in question believes "that's alright because I love the way it hurts." Again, WTF?!

I don't doubt that Eminem/Rihanna want us all to believe that they are presenting a warning, I completely doubt their sincerity, though. Em is no stranger to misogynistic tirades about beating and/or killing some woman who is driving him crazy. Worse, his most notorious rant-to-a-beat is "Kim" where he explains to his very young daughter (he's talking to her all through it) why he just had to murder her mother. Guess what? She asked for it. This is also a theme in "Love the Way You Lie" - "It's the rage that took over/it controls you both", "but your temper's just as bad as mine is/you're the same as me". See? It's mutual! I don't doubt that there are ridiculously screwed up relationships wherein both parties are guilty of raging, screaming, and throwing punches at one another. However, this is the exception and not the rule when it comes to domestic violence. The one on the receiving end of the violence isn't likely to be a little spit-fire in boots like Megan Fox. Instead, he/she feels so trapped and scared that it's paralyzing. It's not a sexy picture AT ALL. It is NOT romantic. It does not warrant some dude in a field showing off his muscles and tats while a woman in her short-shorts and bikini top/jacket combo bites her lip suggestively at the camera and the two of them wail about how all of this is ok because deep down, they enjoy it.

The reason why I am so fond of the parody, aside from the fact that it's hilarious, is that it also points out that the whole "I'm treating you like crap because I like you so much" thing really shouldn't be humored after the 6th grade. Once it gets beyond that point, it's just sick.

So, sorry Em. Sorry Rihanna. I don't buy it. Not for a second. And I'm extremely disappointed that so many people seem to.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Parenting Fail

My brain fell out over the past couple of weeks. I haven't had a good thought in my head for a while and I still don't, actually. I moaned and whined on my Facebook page that no one was following my blog so I thought I ought to, you know, post something or whatever. Over the last few days I've been chastising myself for being a lazy lump. I've managed a yoga session, a trip to a pond, and a trip to the Children's Museum but that's about it - definitely not enough to keep myself and my kids happy. It's starting to show, too. Ethan was ridiculously crabby all freaking day today. Ben, though, has been handling it like a champ which kind of makes me feel worse. The kid is four, he should be throwing a fit that mom has been keeping him house-bound. Is he getting used to it? I truly hope not. If you've been reading my blog, you know that I have a tremendous fear of being that mom. Fortunately, I still don't own a muumuu (note: some perfectly great moms wear muumuus) and I haven't yet sent Ben off to the market with some cash and instructions to pick mama up a six pack but I fear I may have set my feet down on that path. I'm still technically working part-time so I haven't even been fully immersed in this stay-at-home-mom thing, yet. How can I be running out of ideas already?

A typical daily schedule runs along these lines:

10AM: Breakfast (yes, I sleep in. Sue me.)
11:30 AM: Rush around trying to get the kids dressed, the backpack packed (snacks, changes of clothing, toys, water, etc.), and groom myself into a state fit for public appearance.
12 or 12:30PM: Children's Museum. I love this place with one exception - the arts and crafts room kind of gives me a headache. There's scissors, glue, paint, scraps of paper, and play dough that smells like candy. Why would they make play dough that smells like candy??? Do they want kids to eat it???? Gah.
2:30PM: Picnic in the park.
3PM: Drive home to deposit Ethan in his crib for a nap. During this time, I typically attempt to take a nap but tend to fail miserably.
5PM: Retrieve Ethan, change him, and then give the kids their dinner.
6PM: Head out once more to either A) Take a walk by the river, B) Go to Greenough Park and let the kids chuck rocks in Rattlesnake Creek for an hour or two, or C) Get ice cream.
7PM-ish or 8PM-ish: Take the kids home, bathe them, brush their teeth, read them a story or two, and then retreat downstairs with a book to have a little "me" time.
And then here we go again.

I know that it's good to have a schedule when dealing with children but I'm going a little crazy here. The reason why I have continued with the hellish yoga sessions has a lot to do with the fact that it gives me some time when I'm not required to look after children and keep everyone happy and entertained. I can concern myself with more immediate matters like not throwing up. It is oddly refreshing.

It is 12:12AM and both kids are still awake. We did not follow the typical schedule today. Ethan actually took an earlier nap which might lead some people to believe that he'd want to be asleep long before now. I was lead to believe that, actually. Silly me. Ben generally tries to stay awake long enough to be able to get a glimpse of Clyde before going to bed. If he doesn't, I believe he has trained himself to wake up in the even more wee hours of the morning to finagle a way into our bed. He has even, on occasion, taken off his pull-up in order to wet his bed so that he can come sleep with us. It is sad and pitiful and also very, very frustrating. I know that these things will change in a few years but even though I am nearly tearing my hair out right now, I'm not in a hurry for them to grow up. I just need some guidance. What can I do that I'm not doing? How do I make this work?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Holy crap, I didn't barf!

Last night, after some deliberation and pleas for guidance from my Psych homies, I went for Round 2 of Sarah vs. Bikram. It was a close match, people. There were a couple of times there when I was nearly out for the count but I held on. I held on and emerged from the room - after the entire 90 minute session - sweaty, exhausted, shaky, but semi-victorious! I say "semi-victorious" because I spent a fair amount of time lying on my mat in the "Corpse Pose" (my favorite) rather than participating in "Balancing Stick Pose" and "Camel Pose" and "Contort Your Body in Such a Way That You Can No Longer Breathe and You're In Imminent Danger of Collapsing in a Soppy Heap Pose". Actually, that last pose pretty much covers all of 'em. 'Cept for "Corpse Pose". I'm really good at that one. Did I mention that?

What made this second session much like the first is the fact that I spent nearly all that time berating myself in my head for hauling myself back into that pit of Hell yoga studio. It really didn't take much time at all before the running internal monologue started - "What the hell am I doing here? This is awful. This is stupid. I hate this. I mean I really really hate this. I'm never doing this again." And so on and so forth. What made this second session different than the first is how quickly that feeling evaporated once it was over. As I sat in the "cold room" (probably a mere 85 degrees) and enjoyed my hard-earned popsicle, the endorphins must've finally breached the gate and began to flood my brain. I felt awesome! And giddy! I babbled like an idiot! I started to kind of understand what runners mean when they talk about their post-run "high". (Note: I might understand runners now, but I still want to trip 'em.) I honestly did a little victory dance on the top floor of the parking garage as I made my way back to my car. Fortunately, there were no witnesses. I think.

I have officially gotten my money's worth of yoga sessions. But.......I think.......I might.....go back. I really like the idea of achieving that yoga physique and being all lean and bendy. And it really really does feel so good when it's over. I realize how stupid that sounds. I'm not going to pay someone to punch me in the face repeatedly so I can revel in how good feels once I'm no longer being punched in the face. However, in that scenario the aftermath involves heavy bruising, possible fractures, and missing teeth. The aftermath of yoga involves some muscle soreness, a popsicle, and the best shower of your life.

For now, at least, my mind remains open.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I hate grocery shopping. There's a huge gulf between what I ought to buy and what I want to buy. I know that to be a proper Missoula mom, my grocery cart should be full of tofu, carob, fiber-filled soy snacks, and every vegetable known to man. However, I kind of just want to run through the frozen food aisle and load up on pizza rolls and ice cream. I get terribly self-conscious when I shop for groceries. I can't escape the feeling that I'm being judged. I end up buying things that just rot in the fridge because I want people to think that I'm really healthy. Good lord, that's neurotic. I try to avoid the organic section primarily because I don't want to run into all the dreadlocked Earth Mother types who glare at me with disdain because I bought some ground beef instead of the rubbery seitan "chicken" that I would buy if I was actually a good mother, oh my god.

Another reason why I hate grocery shopping is because I almost always have to drag the boys along. In Ben's mind, grocery store = balloons. I hate balloons. I hate them so much. They are just big, stupid drama bubbles. The moment Benjamin sees one, he's got to have it. He will die if he doesn't get it. I am the worst mom in the world if I do not purchase that stupid Sponge Bob balloon or the Thomas balloon or EVERY BALLOON IN THE STORE. I have all but outlawed balloons in our home. We still have one stuck in the corner of our living room ceiling that's been there for about a month. It has to be out of helium by now so I think it's being held up by static electricity alone. In the past, I have had to come up with some clever and sometimes dangerous ways to retrieve our ceiling balloons but it is never, ever worth it. Not two minutes after the balloon is retrieved, it ends up floating back up to the ceiling, serenaded by the ear-piercing shriek of one or both of the boys. There are also those fun-filled occasions when a balloon pops. Somehow, Ethan's balloons always end up popping. Weird. Now, every shopping trip with the boys is preceded by the threat to sell them to gypsies if the word "balloon" is even mentioned.

Grocery shopping with kids also means that I need to be extra attentive of their ninja-like grabbing skills. If I'm not careful, I'll end up with a cart full of scented candles, water balloons, lollipops, cat food, dog food, gardening implements, and who knows what else all because the stuff is shiny and colorful and it happened to be in their reach. Kids are sort of like magpies in that respect. One of Ben's favorite things to do when we're around company is to collect everyone's bracelets, rings, and watches. People will willingly give up their sparklies because he's just so darn cute but I can't help but think they're enabling a future kleptomaniac. So, I have to keep checking in on the contents of my cart to make certain that everything in there is something that I want in there.

Checking out is usually the biggest pain in the ass out of the entire shopping excursion. What's always right next to the check out counters? CANDY! Lots and lots of candy. And, more often than not, balloons. It's a double-threat. Once the candy is in sight, the chorus of whining and begging begins. Ethan just makes super high-pitched noises while stabbing his index fingers at the shiny wrappers. Ben begins by demanding the candy. Then, he moves directly onto the whinging and sobbing. When that doesn't work, he puts Operation Floppy Uncooperative Toddler into effect. He goes limp, leaving me to either let him drop to the filthy floor or attempt to keep him upright by hanging on to his wrist with one hand (while I swipe my card with the other and enter all the pertinent information) and draping him over one of my legs. The whole time this is happening, I'm getting the stink eye from everyone around me and no doubt they are all thinking to themselves about how their kids would never act like that. Or, they're secretly thanking whatever deity they believe in that it's not their kid who is acting up this time. By this point, I'm usually considering purchasing a couple of canvas bags to place over the boys' heads in the off chance they might act like parakeets and go to sleep.

This drama doesn't happen every time I go grocery shopping, but it happens often enough that I tend to wait until our fridge has nothing in it but a pitcher of water and jar of mayonnaise before I relent and make the trip. That being said, it's about that time again.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How Bikram Yoga Handed My Ass To Me, or, Holy Crap I'm Gonna Barf

At the very enthusiastic urging of a friend of mine, I decided to try Bikram Yoga. What singles Bikram Yoga out from other types of Yoga is the fact that it's held in a really horribly, terribly, miserably hot room. The room is kept at a temperature between 95 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40% humidity to ensure the most amount of suffering possible within the 90 minutes of class time. Or, you know, to encourage muscle flexibility and profuse sweating which, along with making you look super sexy and smell AWESOME, has something or other to do with eliminating toxins from the body, blah blah blah. I kind of forgot all of that once the postures began and I was hit in the face with the startling revelation that I'm a big ol' pansy. And I wanted to throw up.

Looking back, I did everything wrong. My friend let me know that I'd need a towel, lots of water, and that nothing was expected of me beyond just staying in the room. He DIDN'T mention the whole "eat only a light meal about 3 hours prior to the class" thing. Maybe he thought it was common sense but I strive to be uncommon in my life so I reject banal things like that. Dude should have told me. So, yeah, I ate a fairly heavy meal about an hour and a half prior to the class because I'm dumb like that. Also, I failed to keep myself properly hydrated throughout the day so I was already in need of some fluids before any of the physical fitness shenanigans began. To top it off, I removed my glasses because I knew they'd just be sliding off my nose the whole time. However, it left me with super fuzzy, unfocused vision which exacerbated the nausea. I was doomed. DOOOOOOOMED.

So less than halfway through, I had me a lil' panic attack and left the room. I tried to just sit down and focus on my breathing but with each breath there was a little voice in my head that went something like, "omg it's so damn hot in here I'm gonna die in this stupid hot room but not before I puke all over myself and omg did I mention it's hot where are the damn windows I'm gonna puke and die!!!!!" Once I got out of the stiflingly hot room, I went and had myself a good shame-filled cry. The instructor came out to make sure that I wasn't actually dead and offered some words of encouragement. It was enough to get my pathetic, pansy-ass back in the room for the floor exercise portion of it. I did NOT make it through all the floor postures but I DID stay in the room after that point, all the while checking with my friend to find out how many more postures we had to do before I could get the hell out of there for good and have my damn popsicle. I liked my popsicle.

Will I be going back? Well, I spent $30 for the Newbie 30-Day Trial Special (not what it's actually called) so I should go back at least one more time to make it worth the money (regular sessions are $15 a pop). But I remember thinking at the time that there was no way in hell I was ever going to do it again. I can kind of liken the experience to childbirth, however, in that the more time that passes, the less you remember of how painful it all was. Hell, I went through THAT twice so why not do the same with Bikram Yoga? Plus, it just feels so good when I stop. Or maybe I'm just happy that I no longer want to barf.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How to Shave Your Cat

We used to be good pet-owners. We paid lots of attention to our cats, brushed them often, gave lots of scritchies, and played with them all the time. It is deeply shaming to admit that we kind of suck now. We had kids and they ended up occupying the majority of our thoughts and time. We kept our cats fed and still doled out scritchies, but a lot of other things fell by the wayside. Brushing them is definitely one of them. I'm referring to our cats, plural, but we only have one cat now. Our big fluffy Olaf had a thyroid tumor that was causing him to waste away and we put him down shortly before moving back to Montana. We have Mia. Mia is also referred to as "Princess Prissy Pants" due to her overall personality. Despite the prissiness, however, our Mia is absolute crap when it comes to self-grooming. She's even too high-maintenance for herself. Because we stopped brushing her as often as we once did (and because she turns into a furry cyclone of teeth and claws whenever we tried to), she turned into a mass of matted fur - an absolute mess. For a couple of years now we have tossed around the idea of taking her to a groomer to get her shaved. The other night, though, I decided enough was enough. I declared that Clyde and I were going to shave her and it was going to happen IMMEDIATELY. I grabbed our old pair of clippers and mentally prepared myself for the task at hand.

Cat-shaving is definitely a two-person job. One person needs to hold the cat still and ensure that teeth and claws are not able to be implemented while the second person does the shaving. A third person would be preferable, I think - one person to confine the front end, one for the back. We didn't have a third person. The kids, by the way, were put to bed so as to ensure the fewest number of possible casualties. Clyde restrained our unsuspecting beast. The sound of the clippers sent a tremor of terror through her and I approached with extreme caution. I located the first clot to be removed and fully expected an explosion of furry death when I touched the clippers to Mia's fur. No explosion - just a discontented grumbly noise and a deeply incredulous look. Cats are so good at that look. The clot, though, put up one hell of a fight.

The above image shows how much fur was removed upon the first shaving. I like to think of it as the most raggedy Tribble, ever.

Mia was far more stoic than I ever would have anticipated but that's not to say that there weren't a few moments when I thought I just might end up with a bloody stump where I once had a hand. Clyde's Kung Fu grip proved very effective. We shaved off most of her fur on her back and sides but decided we all needed a reprieve. I put the clippers out of sight and pet Mia to show that there were no hard feelings. "See Mia? It's okay that you were restrained, shaved, and humiliated. Who's a pretty girl? You are!" Shaving would commence on Day 2.

This is Pretty Prissy Princess Mia shortly before Round 2. She knows something's up.

Once again, on Day 2, the children were put safely to bed before all the shenanigans. Mia was located and brought downstairs to the scene of the previous day's torment. She knew that something was fishy, though, and made a couple of bids for escape. Poor baby. This was the round of shaving that Clyde and I were dreading most - her belly. Any cat owner will tell you that Touching Of The Belly is a pretty capricious thing. Some cats love belly rubs while others will swiftly end you should you even try. And then there are cats like Mia who vacillate between those two extremes willy nilly. While belly rubs may be sometimes welcome, clippers on the belly is a clear act of trespass.

Belly shaving involves a more creative restraining method. During the first shaving day, Clyde just held her to the ground, belly down, while holding her head and neck still. It was relatively easy. Do you know why cats usually land on their feet? Because they can twist like a corkscrew in seconds. Cats want their feet on the ground. They need their feet on the ground. So putting Mia in a belly-up position was no easy task. We burrito-wrapped her hind legs so she couldn't strafe us with her claws while Clyde tried to hold her in a way that kept her as still as possible and minimized the bite risk. I imagine that attempting to snuggle a badger would be a wildly similar experience. Mia had a lot more flexibility of movement so the shaving happened in short bursts. The burrito wrapping was, I guess, more effective than nothing at all but only just. We both had quite a few more near-teeth experiences than Day 1.

It's worth noting that the belly is not the only area that inspires The Rage when it is touched. The base of the tail and the area around the legs is also pretty dangerous. Mia was like a fuzzy minefield.

The shame!

"God, I hate you"

Raggedy Tribble #2. My hands are in the Tribble pics to give you some scale.

It was not an immaculate shaving job. Her fur is uneven in a lot of places and she looks pretty ridiculous but the important thing is that she is now CLOT-FREE! I have resolved to keep this from happening ever again. We're starting over. I will groom Mia regularly and she will be soft and lovely again. And in case you're wondering, she doesn't seem to be harboring any resentment. She was back to her usual self this morning - meowing at me insistently as I scurried about to get ready for work. Her need for attention has outweighed her pride. That's my girl!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I want to go home because everything is different.

Ok, not really. I AM home and everything is startlingly the same. I took the little monkeys to a local park to play on a splash deck, then to ice cream, and now home again (home again, jiggety-jig) for dinner and Ni Hao Kai Lan. The tiny monkey named Ho Ho said "I want to go home because everything is different" and Kai Lan turned earnestly to the viewers and said "Do you think Ho Ho wants to go home because everything is different?" I don't know what to tell you, Kai Lan. I really don't. But this brings me to why I'm blogging this evening in the first place.

I made the very difficult decision to quit my job and stay home with Ben and Ethan. The decision was validated rather quickly when my already horrendously expensive daycare provider went and upped their prices again to the point where I wouldn't be making enough for even a week's worth of groceries PER MONTH. It's not just the money, though. Ben is going to be 5 next year and starting Kindergarten and Ethan is rapidly on his way to full-fledged toddlerhood. I don't know when the hell this all happened. The last 4 years have been a blur and I just know that I'm going to blink and Ben will be picking colleges and Ethan will be asking to borrow the car and they'll both be surly and angst-ridden. Right now, Ethan still squeals with delight when he sees me and Benjamin has no problem with hugging me and holding my hand in public. I must horde these moments while I can so I can store them in my brain and pull them out and admire them when a bedroom door is being slammed in my face.

Another reason for quitting is that I'll finally be able to spend time with my husband or, as I have come to think of him, That Guy Who is Sometimes in My Bed When I Wake Up. I'm looking forward to figuring out who he is. It'll be good for the boys, too, to spend time with both of us. Holy crap, we could go camping! Clyde can teach the boys to fly fish! We could actually experience the things about Montana that drew us back here in the first place! My mind is just all a-dither with the possibilities!

However, I'm drawn back to Ni Hao Kai Lan. You see, I'm a terrible person. Or maybe just a lazy person and therefore a terrible mom. I'm beyond frightened that I don't have the imagination and energy that is required to keep two small children and myself entertained day in and day out. I'm afraid my kids will be glued to the TV while I sit on my ever-expanding ass as my eyes glaze over and the children turn into zombies. I can't let this happen! I can't be That Mom - you know her. You've seen her. She wears a mumu and Crocs for every occasion. She can be seen crossing the street - troupe of children in tow - as she heads to the gas station to pick up some more beer and Sunny D. Her voice is hoarse from screaming at her unruly children all day to "sit down", "shut up", "stop runnin' with scissors", "get mama a pop from the fridge", "hand mama the phone book so's we can order a pizza", etc. Her kids are filthy, half-clothed, rude, embarrassed, and lost.


I need a routine. I need to have a few places lined up for entertainment, sanity preservation, and education. They must be cheap, family-friendly, and not a tremendous hassle for a mom with two energetic and small children. I am asking you, Missoula, to help me with this. Where do we go? What do we do? How will I make this work?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Some honesty.

At some point in my life, I knew I was going to be an artist. In high school, I loved my art classes. I signed up for as many as I could and relished the time that I spent molding clay, "throwing" pottery, drawing, painting, etc. I felt free and happy and alive and I thought that I was doing something that was built for me. Then I went to college with no clear idea of what the hell I was doing. I wanted, at first, to go to Portland State University and see if I could hack it as a starving artist, dedicated to the trade. I was convinced through logic, loyalty, and good ol' common sense to apply at the University of Montana. Apparently, I had a Fine Arts scholarship but I'll be damned if I ever saw a cent of the money that I was supposedly awarded. No matter... I applied and was accepted. Seriously, it's no biggie to be accepted as an undergrad to the U of M. They'll take you as long as you have a pulse, funds for your education, and a social security number. I started out as Liberal Arts and was then convinced that Fine Arts was where it's at. Good, good. I'll fulfill my romantic adolescent dream of being a starving artist, struggling against the fearsome Dominant Paradigm to showcase my soul in the form of pencil sketches, oil paint masterpieces, and symbolic shouts in charcoal or conte' crayon my rebellion and unbridled talent. Oh yes, I was going to purge all of my angst and the years I spent silent yet angry onto a canvas or any medium that could stand up against my fierce passion.

Except... Only... If not for... Etcetera.

I'm a pretty good artist. At least, I was back in the day. I remember drawing a self-portrait back in 6th grade that drew the attention of my classmates who hated me as a matter of principal. Even they had to admit that I just might have some talent beneath my shy, awkward, grandma's-hand-me-downs-wearing exterior. That had to have been a big step for them. In high school, I wasn't the most talented but I'll be damned if I wasn't passionate. I had ideas and dreams and I was going to exhibit them for the world if it killed me. I took the "advanced" classes and attended a workshop for those who were supposedly the most gifted. It was at that point that I discovered that I wasn't the bee's knees. I was in a room with 3 to 4 more people vastly more talented and passionate than myself. Damn, these people could draw/paint/pastel circles around me. Well, fuck you! I'll keep at it! Through sheer will I will surpass you. You will be saying "I knew Sarah when..." I'll be brilliant and beautiful and my creations will be coveted the world over...

... only... not.

At some point in college, I learned the earth-shattering truth that to be an artist, I would either have to be mind-bogglingly talented or a great bullshitter. I was neither. Don't get me wrong, I can B.S. pretty well but that's not what I wanted to be. If I was going to Make It, I wanted it to happen because I possessed something beautiful and undeniable. I wanted to be able to show people their own naked and vulnerable souls staring back at them through my work. I wanted to be able to cause inspiration, create life-altering moments, uncover truths. I couldn't do this, no matter how much I tried. I had to do a ridiculous performance art piece for one of my first art classes in college and I freaking poured myself into it. I threw out all the ideas I had and was determined that it was going to be actually meaningful instead of pretentious and ridiculous like so many performance art pieces before me. Yes, I was going to turn something absurd into something important. Only, I didn't. I never did. I sketched and I painted and I sculpted but it wasn't breaking the ground I wanted it to. I wasn't shining. I wasn't special and important. I was just one more [fill in the blank] in a long line of [fill in the blank]. I experienced a soul-shattering moment at 19.

Enter Creative Writing. I remember back in the day when friends and even enemies (or those I perceived as such) said in one way or another that I was a good writer. A girl that I had always thought of as "one of those girls who hates me/doesn't know I exist" said to me "I wish I could write like you.". I remember when she said it, I remember her name, I remember how it felt to hear those words. A friend once told my mother that I was a far better writer than she was. My mom told me this out of the blue and indicated that this was information that wasn't supposed to be passed on to me. I could have flown. This was important. This was, maybe, what I was meant to do. All of this came back to me when I decided to switch my major to English. Mind you, I had done poorly in grade school English classes. I couldn't diagram a sentence to save my life nor identify the participial phrase. It wasn't until my English classes became focused on stories and novels that I was able to pick up on just what the hell was going on here. Thanks to the transition, I earned the award of "English Student of the Year" in 8th grade. That's right.

So I spoke with my Art advisor and tried to make clear that this relationship just wasn't fulfilling my needs, blah blah blah. I don't think anyone was sorry to see me go. English was going to provide me with everything my soul needed to thrive. I took a fiction workshop that I think I must have mentally blocked for my wellbeing. My stories were utter crap. At one point, I animated a bowl of tomato soup. It was that bad. Switch, quickly, to poetry. My goodness, how it fed me. I felt like this was everything that I needed and everything that I was missing. It challenged me and nurtured me. I could do this. I was meant to do this. If I couldn't create art with paint and pencil then I could do it with words, god damnit. I was nowhere near the best in my classes, I struggled all the time, sometimes I just couldn't do it. But I always tried. I wanted this. Somehow, I was going to make it work. And I did and I graduated.

And that's it. I haven't written a single line of a poem since 2005.

I'm not sure what did it. At some point, I must've convinced myself I was being silly or unrealistic. I was fooling myself if I thought I could do anything with this. I got married and had babies. That's really no excuse at all and it's horrible to even think of my life at this point as an excuse. If poetry exists in anything, it exists in the struggles of my husband and myself to reconcile our love for each other with our daily compromises. It exists in every musical note of laughter that sings out of the throats of my children. It exists in every single second of my trying to rediscover just what the hell I'm doing with my one and only life. I don't want my kids to see me as a cautionary tale. I don't want them to grow up, thinking "don't be like mom". I still believe I have something in me, else I wouldn't bother with this fucking blog. I wouldn't even try. I just don't know how to find that part of myself again. I see glimpses from time to time but the image always fades quickly and I'm back to sitting at a desk, doodling on MS Paint. I'm back to doubting. I'm back to sitting at my home computer at 11:19 PM on a Thursday night, tipsy off some Riesling, listening to a song that I never thought I would love, typing away into the chasm of the internet, relying on the one or two readers that I might have picked up along the way. There is more than this and I will find it. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Spewing some existential crap

I am irritated by the widely-held demand that we all must either believe in something or entirely disbelieve something. I have been told on many occasions throughout my life that I either need to admit to myself that I believe in God (of the Christian variety) or admit that I believe in nothing at all. However, there's a tremendous gulf of gray area in between those two options. In my Quote of the Day email that I received this morning (yep, I'm that lame) I read this gem:
"Confusion is always the most honest response" - Marty Indik. I have no idea who Marty is but I agree with the guy on this point.

The Universe has conspired this morning to present my sleepy brain with all kinds of nifty little articles about the vastness of itself. The first five websites that I Stumble(d) Upon were all related to Space and Time and Quantum-y goodness. Basically I'm an infinitesimally tiny little speck, living on another infinitesimally tiny little speck of a planet, which is part of an infinitesimally tiny little speck of a galaxy that is part of a universe that is so vast that if I had any inkling of the actual vastness of it, I would probably either implode or explode. Either way, there would be 'ploding. How can I NOT be confused? How can I possibly imagine that I know anything about anything? Maybe there is a big bearded man up in the sky, shaking up this little ant farm of his and doling out reward and punishment as he sees fit. Maybe we are all possessed by alien spirits and subject to a false reality created by a meanie-head dude who controlled our solar system billions of years ago. Maybe my cat is actually a benevolent unicorn demigod in disguise. I DON'T KNOW! And I don't think there's anything that is fundamentally wrong with not knowing.

I personally believe that there is something that is truly beautiful and yes HONEST about not knowing - about admitting that we're part of a universe of strangeness that we can't comprehend but, damnit, we're going to try. So I do have beliefs but they are vague and ever-changing and I like it that way.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

When does "the awkward phase" end?

I am not a graceful person. I took ballet lessons when I was very young but quit when I had to do an exercise in which I had to lie on my stomach and touch my toes to my forehead. I accomplished it, but couldn't move the next day. Also, I felt like an awkward loser in the class and couldn't take the pressure. That statement could actually sum up my K-7th grade experience. But I digress...

I was out with my kids yesterday and we were socializing with our neighbors. That's actually an awkward experience in itself because when other kids are involved, I never know what I can and can't say/do. Can I scold another child for being mean to my 18 month old or should I let the parent(s) handle it? I don't know! What is the etiquette?? However, that is neither here nor there when it comes to my original intention for this post. Back to me being considerably less than graceful. I was jauntily skipping up the steps to my porch when I tripped and skinned my knee and both hands. Instantly, I was transported back to when I was six years old and I tangled my feet in the bike racks and crashed horribly. Then, I zipped to 6th grade when I did the same damn thing and was actually carried to the nurse's office by my teacher. Then, it was 8th grade and I ran directly into a pole while playing tag with some friends after band practice. My most recent epic crash happened before I was pregnant with Ethan and I was running to answer the phone. I tripped on one of Ben's toys, ricocheted into the dining table, smacked my head on the marble phone table, plummeted to the ground, and then had a series of precariously perched objects fall on me. It goes on and on, really. I can't tell you how many times I have broken my toes just from walking around my home. I try to blame it on the fact that I have "finger toes" (or abnormally long toes in case you're wondering what the hell I mean) but I've had them all my life so surely I should know how to maneuver with them, right? Not a good excuse.

I often feel like the proverbial bull in a china shop. I fear for the safety of other people and breakable objects that happen to be anywhere near me. My fear is particularly enhanced when I'm around anyone smaller than myself - this includes children and more slender and/or shorter adults. No lie, I believe I would honestly feel like a spastic giant if I ever went to Japan. As a result of this, I tend to try to take up as little space as possible and remain still - fewer casualties that way. I'm an introverted person with an extroverted sense of balance, if that makes any sense.

If I am ever at your home and I break something/spill something/injure you/injure a loved one, I am very, very sorry.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Existentialism + stick figures

This is what I do at work.

And here's one I just did at home:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My whorish-ness explained.

What does it mean that "I'm spreading myself across the internets at a whorish pace"?

We've all heard the phrase "attention whore", right? A blog, for instance, designates the blogger as something of an attention whore because said blogger is somehow convinced that her head full of half-cooked ideas and vague notions are important enough to be plastered 'pon the internet. Compound that with an account on Facebook, accounts on several other forum-based/networking sites, a (long abandoned) account on Myspace, and voila! You have yourself an attention whore. The more of these things I subscribe to, the more of a floozy I am.

I justify the blog by pointing out my dusty ol' English degree. I took a lot of classes to learn how to write, think critically, analyze, and theorize and the big pay off is a hastily typed blog or two about made-up words, warm fuzzies, and self mockery. It was all worth it, right?

Thank you, oh commenter, for the question. I still kind of hate you for beating me at Oregon, though.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Echo! (Echo...echo...echo...)

I think I work best when I have assignments.


If I have any readers out there (I'm looking at YOU... you know who you are... all two of you), leave a comment and tell me what you'd like me to blog about.

Do it.

No, really. Do it.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Truth About Squeetles

WARNING: I'm angry so there will be swearing.

I failed to mention in my previous post that Squeetles originally made their appearance in reference to what I thought was a rash on Ben's backside. This rash had gone from a patch of red, dry skin to a patch of nasty raised bumps. I thought it was eczema and Ben thought it was Squeetle bites.

Ben was closer to the mark.

Over the weekend, the once isolated patch of bumps spread over Ben's entire body. My beautiful, sweet, precious little boy has scabies. Fucking mange. MY KID HAS MANGE. These horrid little mites have found their way onto Ben's skin, burrowed into his skin, and laid their hate-filled, putrescent eggs IN HIS SKIN. Don't Google "scabies". You'll find horrific pictures of penises. If you're curious, here's what a scabies mite looks like:

They are evil.

And now I'm the mom who has that kid with scabies. I bathe my kids on a regular basis. I do not allow them to wallow in filth and snuggle dirty, stray animals. I don't know what to tell you, my dear two readers. Their daycare had to contact the health department over this. I had already taken Ben out for the day for the doctor's appointment that has forever cast a pall over my parenting skills but I had to retrieve Ethan as well. The little guy was quarantined in the baby room with no one for company except one employee who was keeping her distance. I had to go to Walmart (I hate Walmart, mind you... HATE IT) to get the Rx cream to clear up this infestation because no one else in town carried this crap. I have had to douse both kids and myself in this goop. You know what the doctor didn't tell me? He didn't tell me that Ben would scream in fucking agony upon application of this ointment. He stood there, sobbing "mommy, you hurt me!" as I slathered him head to toe.

The worst part? The doctor told me that we'd have to wash all of our bedding and clothing in scalding water because these blood-sucking, egg-laying, little demons would "jump ship" as a result of the cream. I don't want them to jump ship. I want them to fucking die. Not just die, but FUCKING DIE. I want to hear agonized shrieks from their tiny mouths as they die. I want to be lulled to sleep by their throat-shredding wails of pain. I want these microscopic beasts to pay for every single welt they produced on my son's body. I want to enlarge them to the size of throw pillows so I can punch each and every one in its grotesque approximation of a face and then set them on fucking fire.

I think my eye is twitching...