Monday, December 31, 2012

My 2012 wrap up, as it is.

At the beginning of 2012, I declared that my one word for the year was going to be kindness.

I can't begin to tell you how such a simple thing could pay me back so much.

Sometimes, it's so easy to focus on the big things, to think of accomplishments and achievements in such a macro sense.  I see people make big life lists and check things off, and I wonder what I've really done in a year.  When I look for big steps or changes, it seems like I haven't moved forward at all, like all I really did this year was to tread water and survive.

But that's not the truth.  I'm not who I am last year, and my world isn't what it was last year, and it's not because of any grand gestures.  It's because of the little everyday things that I do and that I am.  It's because of the deliberate way I choose to live.  It's because of kindness.

My relationship with BG is so amazing, and truly she is so amazing, not because of any activities I do with her but because I listen to her.  I see the person that she is, big feelings and all, and I do my best to give her what I understand she needs.

I have friends, true friends, in both my local and blogging communities because I stop and take an extra second to show kindness to everyone I  come across and particularly to people who need it.    Stepping up to make sure other people's needs were met made me braver, made me clearer and stronger, and made me part of something bigger than myself, something that I would never have believed I even deserved.

And, miracle of miracles, I've been kind to myself.  I learned to stop fighting with my feelings no matter how overwhelming and to just accept them.  I learned to stop trying to fix myself because I'm not broken.  I was so afraid  of how I would handle having two kids, but I let myself be afraid.  I decided it was okay to be afraid, okay to not know what I was doing.  It was okay to write and okay not to write.  It was okay to not be excited, to not love every second of everything.

And right now?  Sleep deprived, overwhelmed, milk drenched and cranky?  I'm okay.

And all  because of a little kindness.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On good babies

So, umm, in case I didn't mention it?  I had a baby last week.

I can't begin to explain all the ways this time is different.  But the most noticeable way is how different my baby is.

Little sister is calm.  And quiet. (Who knew they made them quiet?)  She doesn't care who's holding her, doesn't mind being put down.  At night, she sleeps in her bassinet and only wakes up to eat.  She only cries when she's hungry, and when she is awake and not nursing, she is calm and alert - although to me her expression always says "what's with you crazy people?"  Which?  Fair enough.

She is pleasant and agreeable, and in every way an easy baby.

But please don't call her a good baby, or I'll want to scream.

Because as much as I'm enjoying the quiet, as much of a relief it is not to be pacing the floor all night with an(other) inconsolable child, as great as she is to be around, when you call her a good baby, all I hear is that BG wasn't.

And that's so not fair.

Never once, whatever we went through together, did I think my sweet eldest girl was a bad baby.

And I worry too about my little one, being in the shadow of her charming, demanding, endearing, crazy-making big sister.  Is it really in her best interest to be so calm?  On Christmas Eve I forgot where she was, while I was nursing her.

The truth is I am absolutely crazy about both of my girls, and all  I want is for them both to be happy and loved.  And if it is possible to have a "good" baby, well then I have two.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The words

Lately, the words just don't come.

I feel like my heart has so much to say, but at the same time like my brain has absolutely nothing to say.  Like everything I have to say is the same, like I've said it all before.

I'm scared.

I'm tired.

I'm frustrated and disappointed and anxious and I don't even know what else.

Right now, I am sitting on my couch with my feet up, the advice everyone seems to be giving me these days. I am anxious that nothing "meaningful" is getting done.  It is quiet in my house because my sweet big girl is napping, easily for once, after a long playdate this morning which we both sorely needed.

I am waiting.

There is not much else to my life right now.

Soon, there will be a tiny, squishy newborn in my life and a jealous big sister.  And I won't be sleeping at night, and I will be trying to remember how to survive.  I will be busy and yet not busy.  I will feel that nothing is ever getting accomplished and the best I can hope for is that I won't care.

But right now I am just waiting.  Waiting and wondering and completely unsure of what to expect.  There is an emptiness to the waiting, which most of the time is neither eager anticipation nor dread but simply this space before, this quiet.

And I want to fill that space with words, to let them all pour out of me and through me, to use this moment to create something full of beauty and meaning and worthiness.

But it feels like there isn't time, even though time is all I seem to have.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

So, this is happening

So, it's becoming pretty clear that I'm going to have a baby.

Yeah, I've always been a little bit slow.

Last time I did this, I had no idea what this meant. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know what it truly meant to be a mom, to have a little person who could simultaneously make you happy and insane, who was both you and not you, who both overwhelmed you and made you feel complete in a way you didn't know you weren't. I didn't know what it would be like to lose myself, to find myself, to recreate myself, and to do it all again. I didn't know how long it would be until I'd sleep, until I'd have my body to myself again (well, I'm still waiting for that one), until I'd find a way to make peace with all the things that had changed and all the things that didn't have to.

 This time? I'm terrified.

 Who is she going to be? Who am I going to be? These weren't even questions that came into my mind the first time around. What's going to happen to my sweet, crazy making eldest daughter? Is this going to change her? Is that a good thing?

 Are we all going to be okay?

 No amount of planning and calculating, of freezing dinners, of arranging help is going to make all these questions go away. There's nothing I can do to fix this, nothing I can do to make any of this less real. I feel envious of people who are excited, I feel angry that I'm so overcome by fear and uncertainty, I feel guilty for not feeling gushy and happy about my coming bundle of joy.

 But it is what it is, and where I am, and who I am. It's real and it's valid and it's okay.

 At least that's what I'm telling myself.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

BHBC: My Life Map

I was recently given the opportunity to review My Life Map for Blogher. Unlike most of the books I've reviewed, this was more of a journal, designed to help you map out your life for the next ten years.

The book begins by walking you through a series of questions about your past and your present designed to help you flesh out what was important to you during various stages of your life. You are then encouraged to fill in these time periods on the "whole life map" provided at the end of the book, visually representing your life up until this point. The map is divided into sections where you can write whatever you felt to be important during each "chapter" of your life in the areas of family, friends, work, learning, service, and playing.

After mapping out your past and present, you are then encouraged to begin to plan the next 10 years of your life. There is a chapter on each of the subjects containing more insightful questions about what you want and value, and a map at the end of each chapter where you can plan out that aspect of your life before adding it to the whole life map.

I found these exercises very interesting. I'm not much of a long term planner, but to begin to think about my hopes and dreams for the next several years (and even moreso maybe for the past 31) was a very useful task. The maps themselves were less helpful to me because I've never been a very visual person, but the questions posed in each chapter really helped to flesh out what is important to me and what I'm hoping to accomplish. I really liked the way it was organized too, and sometimes the very subjects made me think. Having to map out a plan for myself over the next 10 years in terms of service, playing, and learning reminded me how much I have sometimes neglected those aspects of my life lately even though they were very important to me in the past.

Overall, I enjoyed this book (even though I was a little skeptical at first), and really was glad to sit down and feed my reflective side a little bit. The specific questions helped keep even my cluttered and distracted brain focused. That's quite the task these days.

Disclosure: This is a paid review for Blogher. All opinions are my own.

Monday, November 5, 2012

It's not her, it's me

I've been saying for a while that I'm not good at playing with my kid, that I'm not good at crafts or projects or making busy bags or anything like that.  I always get the sweetest responses about how that stuff isn't necessary, about how it's okay to let her play by herself, about how I don't always have to have a project for her to do.

And what I have trouble explaining is, the problem is: well then what am I supposed to do?

Sometimes I feel guilty for not entertaining BG more, for not providing more meaningful educational experiences, for not encouraging her sensory and motor development (say what?), for letting her veg out in front of the TV.  Sometimes I see things that other people are doing and I wonder if I am doing her a disservice, wonder if somehow I am letting her down.

But mostly?  I'm bored.

I'm understimulated.  I'm frustrated.  I'm disappointed.  Two years in, and I still sometimes feel like I was sold a false promise of what being a mom was supposed to be.

Sometimes we play.  Sometimes we have lovely tea parties.  We do puzzles and I grit my teeth while she dumps the puzzle out after being 70% done.  (Why does this drive me crazy?  I have no idea.)   Once in a while I let her finger paint, and then 5 minutes later I spend 20 minutes cleaning up. 

Sometimes I do housework (shocker) and she follows me around making herself perfectly happy sitting on the sheet I'm trying to fold or pulling out all my Tupperware and stacking it.  And I'm okay with that.

But there's still something missing.  It's like, when I went to the English major table in college and asked them what I could do with an English major and they said "Whatever you want!" and I said "But what does that have to do with English?  I want to be an English major because I like books, not so that I can go to business school."

I became a SAHM because I wanted to be a mom.  And it doesn't seem like there's nearly as much momming to be done as I thought there would be.  I mean there're meals and diaper changes, and there are snuggles.  And we talk, although she needs to work a little more on filling up her end of the conversation. 

But it's all so tedious.  I feel like most of it is about just being a warm body.   And a lot of times I feel like that must mean I'm missing something, like there's part of my job description that people just forgot to tell me about and I haven't been doing it.  And some days (mostly the days when the sads start to overcome me) I wonder if she wouldn't be better off with someone else, someone who knows what to do with a toddler.

Except I don't think there really is anything in particular to do with a toddler.

And even though most days I don't want to be anywhere in the world except with her, I can't shake this feeling that it just isn't enough.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Finding my way back

I don't know if it's the change of seasons.

Or the storm, and the news, and the worrying (with apologies for my very ill timed Ocean City poem - although I'm glad to see Mack and Mankos pizza looking intact).

Or the fact that BG and I haven't been out of the house for four days.

Or that I thought that was a good reason to go completely off caffeine all week.

Or "just" the fact that I'm 32 weeks pregnant.

But I haven't been doing so well.

I haven't wanted to get out of bed.  Or off my couch.  Or off my computer.  I've been staring at my twitter stream even though I haven't really wanted to talk or write anything.

Yesterday, we watched five hours of PBS Kids. I'm going to come right out and tell you I don't think there are 5 different hours of PBS Kids broadcast every day.  I'm pretty sure we watched the same shows twice.

And I broke down, while cuddling my sweet girl in my bed, at 1 in the afternoon when she was supposed to be napping, and watching Caillou - yes, Caillou, I couldn't even turn him off - and cried, apologizing to her for not being a better mom.

Then I got up and made a cup of half caf and folded my laundry.

Today is a little better.  I was dressed before 9.  We went out, to CVS and to a free Gymboree class, and BG looked at me like I was the mom of the year, climbing into her carseat afterwards without a single argument, prattling away incoherently, and falling so fast asleep that she transferred effortlessly to her bed.  (Or as effortlessly as one can carry a 30 pound toddler up two flights of stairs when one is 32 weeks pregnant.)


It's hard in the quiet now to feel like I deserve the better.

But I do.

I know it's not my fault that I'm struggling.  I know it doesn't mean I'm weak or bad or anything else.  But I also know that if I want to be better, and I do, I need to do better.  I've been a little lost lately.  I've been forgetting who I am, what I need.  I need purpose, I need quiet, I need structure, I need creative and social outlets, I need caffeine, I need food, I need sleep.  It took so long to figure out how to be me, I can't expect myself to find it again right away.  It's a long path.  It always will be.

But I need to start walking.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Before I was a mom: My bad teenage poetry

A long time ago, my dear friend and fellow Jersey girl Jaime and I were talking about our bad teenage poems, and she asked me if I'd ever think of posting some on my blog.  At the time, the answer in my head was a resounding NO, but I seem to have lost some of my self consciousness because today I was going through my backup files and found this poem from college and just had to post it.  Why?  I have no idea.  But this is for you Jaime ;)

Ocean City

I like it when the boardwalk
isn’t mine. Pavilions full of locals sit
in the same place every night. Better to be
moving through crowds of mostly strangers
always seeing someone I know, always someone different.
Smells of sand and salt and buttered popcorn
and the faint hope that some perfect summer guy will
approach me with a pick-up line fresher than the popcorn.

Somehow,I tell myself, dragged by friends into the deafening arcade,
It’s still exotic. Iconsent to one game of air hockey
and slide past the “Please No Smoking” sign on
the cigarette machine to change my five dollar bill. I play distracted and the buzzards
who might have gone to high school with me
see me losing and start circling the table.
I yield it to them, and leaving my friends to their shooting games
I slip outside to watch the Shoobies in their
tank tops and black socks moving through the crowds.

Someone drives me home and I sit up for a while.
The smell of boardwalk sticks to my skin
and my hair and my high school sweatshirt and I feel dirty
and alone. The house is quiet but
the arcade rings in my ears. I try to calm myself with
fudge or taffy, and when that fails
I take an hour long cool shower
to wash away the grime and tears
before I sleep.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

In which I get all ranty and bring the hammer down

Okay, it's possible that I'm getting feisty and angry in my old age, but I have a rant in me and it's coming out.

 Bear in mind, what I'm about to say does not apply to situations of outright abuse, or of moms or families who are in acute crisis.

 Moms of the Internet: Stop trying to save other people's kids.

I get it. You had a great breastfeeding experience. You read a fantastic discipline book. You figured out a sleep training method that worked perfectly for your family. And you feel SO GREAT about this that you want to share it with all of those less fortunate moms who have not yet been enlightened by your wisdom. You owe it to their poor children, who are suffering at the hands of someone less talented than you.

 You don't know better. You aren't more right. You were struggling once too. You will be again. And we'll still love you when you are.

Unless it's your child, your bed, your boob, your opinion is just an opinion. And unless you are asked for it, keep it to yourself.

What moms, what all of us, need is support and encouragement not advice. We need to hear as we're muddling through and searching for what's best, that that's what you did too. That we're all just kind of a mess. And that once in a while, we all have a win that makes us feel like the greatest mom in the world.

But we need to have those wins ourselves. You can't give them to us. And our kids are going to be just fine.

Because we are, all of us, good enough parents. So thanks for your advice. But no thanks. I'll take a shoulder if you have one though.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How am I supposed to do this?

In 3 months I'm going to be a mom of two.  I feel like I haven't even gotten the hang of one yet.

In my head, I know that's not fair.  My sweet, precious big girl is doing great.  She is developmentally right on track, she is kind, she is funny.  I know that I must be getting it right, that I am not failing her, that we are doing just fine.

But that's not how it feels in my heart.

Almost every day lately, I feel overwhelmed.  I feel like I can't handle her.  Everything seems Big and Important.  Everything is a crisis.

We watch a lot of TV.  A really lot.  We still take swim lessons, we still go to playgroups, we still read books.  But I don't know how to play with her.  When I'm alone with her and there's nothing planned to do, I panic a little.  I don't know how to possibly fill the time.  I lose my patience quickly.  I cry more than I'd like to.

And in the back of my head, there's always a voice that says, "If you can't even handle this, how are you ever going to survive with two?"

When there are two small people I don't know what to do with.  When I haven't had any sleep and still have to chase BG around and stop her from scaling everything.  When the three of us are stuck in the house all winter staring at each other, and I'm the one who's expected to know what to do.

People say that once you have two, you should expect to be in survival mode for a while.  But I kind of feel like I'm already in survival mode, so where do I go from here?

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I can't believe we're here already.  And yet, I feel like this is the place we've been forever.

My sweet Baby Girl, if I can even still call you that, you are going to be two tomorrow.  Two years ago, I was putting my hand to my stomach and asking you to please come meet me, wondering who you were going to be.

Now I know.

Today, you call me mommy.  You say "Oh yeah!" when I make you dinner and "Oh noooo!" when you drop something on the floor. You say letters by name when you see them, and you know that lions roar.  You can climb on anything in the whole house, and you have no fear of the tallest slide at the playground.  You give the best hugs, and you give them generously, just like mama.

Sometimes I look at you and I see a caricature of myself.  I mean, I know I'm a hugger, but I don't go so far as to hug the coffee table . . . do I?  You put your sunglasses in your purse before climbing on your ride-on car and saying "byebye!" and I shake my head, wondering if that's what I look like to you.  You feel your feelings so strongly, both the highs and the lows.

But you aren't me.  You are you, your own brave, social, goofy self.  You know what you want and how to get it.  You love to be around other people, and you know how to make all of them love you.

There are days when I'm not sure what do do with you in all your spiritedness, but there are no days when I know what I'd do without you.

Happy birthday, my sweetest big girl.  Thank you for coming into our lives, and thank you for being exactly who you are.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My ramblings on breastfeeding.

A few weeks ago, at my MOMs Club meeting, one of the new second time moms was talking about breastfeeding.  She was agitated, flustered, exhausted - everything I would expect from a mom of a newborn.  But this was more than that.  When she talked about breastfeeding, she said "I have to do it for a year.  Because that's what I did with my oldest.  It wouldn't be fair to her if I don't.  I have to."

That makes me so sad.

Sometimes, when I read about breastfeeding - even and especially from breastfeeding advocates - it feels like they're talking about an obligation.  You owe it to your baby.  You owe it to the national health debate.  It's the right thing to do, and you should should should.


I breastfed.  For 19 months.  And I intend to again with #2.  Truthfully, I will be very sad and disappointed if something prevents me from doing it.

But not because it's the "right" thing to do.  Not because I have to or because I owe it to anyone else.  Because I really, really want to.

So, here's my breastfeeding manifesto.  Consider this my letter of advice to my best friend (ahem, are you reading, ET? ;)):

In my heart, I want you to breastfeed.  I want you to try.

Because I don't want you to have to pay for formula.  It's exorbitant, and I know there are things you'd rather do with that money - time and experiences and security you would rather buy.

Because I want your baby to have all possible health benefits.  It really is the best source of nutrition and improves immunity.  Formula is fine, really, but there's nothing that can compare to liquid gold.

Because in truth once you get the hang of it, it's so EASY.  Because you don't have to carry formula.  You don't have to warm bottles at 2 AM.  You have an almost foolproof tantrum stopper.

And mostly because there is no other experience in the world like it, in terms of bonding and connection.  I know you can bond with your baby without doing it.  I have no doubt that you can raise a happy, brilliant, securely attached child on formula.  I've seen it, many times.  But for me, breastfeeding was such a moment of joy and peace.  I want you to have that.  For your baby, yes, but for you mostly.

But here's the thing.

I don't want you to ever feel bullied.  By anyone on either side.  Bullied into supplementing when you don't want to, bullied into breastfeeding when you don't want to.

I don't want you to feel guilty, or think there's something wrong with you, if for some reason you can't.  If it's really hard.  If it doesn't work out the way I'm describing, or the way other people tell you it "should."

I don't want you to feel like you HAVE TO love it.  Like there's something wrong with you if it doesn't make you happy.

And if, for any reason, you start to resent it, to hate it, to feel like you're only doing it because you owe it to someone, that you're doing it for any reason other than you're own, like it is doing more harm than good to you or your relationships, then I want you to consider stopping.  I'm not telling you what to do.  You have to make that choice yourself.  But I want you to know that it's okay.

Because what you and your family deserve most is love and happiness.

And I will fight until I'm bloody to protect your right to that, whatever choices that means you have to make.

Friday, August 10, 2012

On blogging and belonging

When I first discovered blogs and blogging I was all alone.  I didn't know a lot of moms in real life, and I was sure I didn't know anyone who felt like I did.  And then suddenly I did.

I read these blogs - mid level blogs, I guess you'd call them, not tiny like me but I never once read Dooce or the Blogesss - and I fell in love.  I wanted to read all their words, leave them meaningful comments, join their lively conversations on twitter.

I wanted to be their friends.

The Internet is a strange place.  It makes you think you know people when you really don't.

Some of them were extremely sweet and patiently answered my emails and tweets.  But not all of them.  And even the ones who did, I quickly realized, were being polite and didn't really care that much what I had to say.

I was crushed.  I was humiliated. I was angry.  I was heart broken that they didn't like me as much as I liked them.  I thought for sure it was because I wasn't good enough, wasn't big enough, was a crazy annoying stalker, didn't deserve their friendship.

But I see now that isn't what it was at all.

You never really know what's going on with someone.  You don't know how busy or overwhelmed she is, how much pain she is, what her limitations are when it comes to socializing and communicating.

And people flock to who and what they know, especially when they're struggling.  You can't fault a person for talking to her best friend instead of to a stranger.

And over time I built up my own community on twitter.  People who I consider some of my best friends in the world.  And I still follow and read and admire some of those bigger bloggers.  But they aren't the first place I look anymore.

But I worry.  I still remember that feeling, of just wanting a place to belong.  I see people who think I'm "big,"  who leave me comments and tweets because there's something they're looking for too.  And I wonder how it is that I come across, whether I make anyone feel more alone than when they started.

I dont' want to let everyone down.  I want to spread kindness to everyone.  And I'm trying, even when I'm struggling, even when I'm overwhelmed.

But the Internet, it really is a tricky thing, isn't it?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Right now

Right now I am writing this with a 28 pound toddler snuggled against my chest and sleeping.

She fell asleep in the car on the way home from the grocery store, and when she woke up in her crib an hour later, she wasn't happy about it.  She stood up and screamed "MoMMEEEEEEE" at the top of her lungs until I came.

I had things to do.  Paperwork to take care of.  Laundry to wash.  Writing to do.  I wanted to have a cup of tea in quiet.

But I went.

I walked into her room and her face lit up.  "Hii Mommyy!!"

I picked her up.  She nestled her head into my shoulder.  Five minutes late we were on the couch and she was asleep.

And that's okay.

It doesn't seem like that long ago that I would have been breaking dishes over this.  I would have been inconsolable that my plans were ruined.  I would have been frustrated and angry and disappointed, and no one could gave convinced me that it was okay.

She won't be standing in a crib waiting for me much longer.  I don't know when she'll stop wanting to curl up on my chest to sleep.  I don't know how much longer her hair will smell like baby shampoo.

And it won't be just me and her for much longer.

So today I can sit here.  I can wrap her in my arms and kiss her head and she can sleep here as long as she wants.

And today, I know I'm okay.  At least for now.  I know I won't be again.  I know I'll get angry, anxious, devastated even.  I know there's at least as much hard ahead of me as behind me.

But I know I can make it through and I know why.

And I can even type about it with one hand.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Building a cathedral

I'm not sure where I heard this story, probably at a teacher inservice at some point, but it has stuck with me especially as I have been on my quest for a purpose.  In case you haven't heard it before, here's my best rendition.
A traveler came upon three men working on a hill, each of them smashing rocks with a hammer.  He approached the first man and said, "what are you doing?" 
"What does it look like?" said the first man, "I'm smashing rocks."
The traveler then approached the second worker and asked the same question.
"I'm working to earn a living for my family, so we can afford to have a better life."
The third man, when asked the same question, lit up with a smile.  "Can't you see?  I'm building a cathedral."
It's a little preachy, I know. I'm inclined to learn best through parables and narratives, so I'm not surprised it stuck with me.  But today it seems to be sticking in my brain a little extra.

So many days of this mom gig, I feel like I'm just smashing rocks.  It's discouraging.  It's disheartening.  I want to do something big, something that matters.  And the truth is, I feel this way even though I know that by raising a child I am doing some of the most worthwhile work in the world, that I am doing something at least as meaningful as building a cathedral.

I'm not going to "should" myself and say that I need to think like that third man all the time, that I need to see the big picture and take pride in my achievements.  Because sometimes I can't.  Sometimes that's just not where I am, and smashing the rocks is the best I can do to get through the day.  And that's okay.

But I also know that everyone needs to feel, at least once in a while, like they're building something that matters.

Some dear friends of mine are stepping out of their comfort zones today, and they're doing it because their families need them to.  They're doing it without any expectation of being able to find purpose or meaning in it.  They're doing it simply because they must, however much they really don't wanna, they're going out to smash rocks and they're doing it to make sure their families have better lives.

And I think that's amazing.  I think that's more than enough.

But I hope that somewhere along the line, they can find cathedrals.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Getting it right

It's been 22 months since Baby Girl was born.  22 hard and exhausting and beautiful and life changing months.

Sometimes I wonder if I did it right.

I'm not talking about what I did for her.  I'm not talking about her sleep or her eating or her mental development and play.  I'm not talking about the magnitude of my love.  Because somehow, whatever mistakes and missteps I may have made, she's doing great.  She's beautiful and smart and funny and PERFECT and she loves me like nothing else.  I know that I am lucky, but I also know that I am doing something right.

But I'm talking about me.

I had a really hard time.  Especially in the beginning, but even still now, I've struggled.  I cried.  I worried.  I got lost.  I forgot how to be me, and had to start from scratch instead of remembering.

I still sometimes get twitchy when someone else is playing with or holding my toddler.  I still sometimes want to scream "Give her to me, she's MINE."

And I know I've come a long way.  I know I'm better.  I know that I've created something for myself in the world, that I've spread the kindness that was so important to me, that I have purpose in a way I never expected.  I started to write and created something here that truly is beautiful and made me proud. I made myself go out into the world, social anxiety be damned, and I'm a better person for it.  I made a lot of choices that really healed me, and they were hard.

But sometimes I still wonder if I did it right.

Maybe it didn't have to be so hard.

I never talked to my doctor.  I never took medicine or went to therapy.  I did make heavy use of online support groups, change my social life, change the way I took care of my body and mind.  And all that is important work, but maybe I didn't have to work so hard.  At least, maybe I didn't have to do it on my own.

I cringe a little when people call me a PPD mom or survivor, not because I'm ashamed of the title but because I don't feel like I earned it.  I don't have a diagnosis.  And if I got so much better on my own, maybe it never really was truly depression.  Maybe becoming a mom is just hard, and I needed to grieve and adjust and learn how to do this totally new thing.

But maybe not.

I don't want to beat myself up.  I don't want to think that any of the trouble I had was because I did anything wrong.  I just want to make sure I do everything right next time.

Because next time is coming in December.

Sorry.  I may have buried the lead on that one a little.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Blog Her Book Club: The Artist's Toolkit

Recently I was given the opportunity to review TheArtist’s Toolkit.  Especially because I’ve been in such a writing slump lately, I jumped at the chance to try out this subscription service in the hopes that it would help me get my creative mojo back.

The website is based on Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way and is essentially an online private journal meant to accompany the book. The basic method it proposes is that every morning you write 3 longhand pages of brain dump, which she calls “Morning Pages.”  Once a week you also go on what she refers to as a “Writer’s Date,” where you go out into the world and experience something new, to invite your creativity to flourish.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed.  The basic method, particularly the idea of morning pages, is great.  I’ve used similar techniques at various times in my life and when I write longhand in my journal, without worrying about whether it is “good” or “real writing,” I always feel better.  But as for the rest of the website, I found it to be a little lacking.  I suppose I was hoping for a little more direct instruction or guidance, and instead for the most part the site offered only the most basic of affirmations and prompts.  The weekly dates and exercises suggested seemed to offer promise, but somehow they never really meshed with the way I think and write.

I suppose the real value in the website is the accountability it includes; anything that will keep me honest about writing in my journal is definitely helpful.  The site offers space to complete all the writing exercises, as well as space for a daily journal and notes.  However, Cameron is insistent that your morning pages still be done longhand, and I agree with this.  There is something about writing longhand that makes my writing more concrete and real.  Because of this, though, I really couldn’t find a practical use for me for the online journal space.

For people who frequently journal on a computer or a smart phone, I guess this website could be helpful.  I did appreciate the slight kick in the pants to start writing again, but for me I could have used a little more handholding. 

Disclosure:  This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club.  I received a free subscription to the Artist’s Way and was compensated for my review.  All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On weaning

My 20 month old Baby Girl and I have been done breastfeeding for a few weeks now.

I haven't really wanted to talk about it.

I'm not sure why exactly.  I really do feel okay about the decision and about the way it happened.  I really don't think my beautiful readers friends will judge me or criticize me for weaning her. I just haven't been ready to put myself out there about this because I am afraid it will draw controversy, and for me nothing about this was political.  Every ounce of it was personal, and it was between me and my daughter and no one else.

I want to say I'm proud for making it to 19 months, for going as long as I did, but honestly I think that's going a little far. I don't think my choices are any more admirable or honorable than anyone else's, and if I get to this point again I can't say I'll necessarily do things the same way again.  The best I can say is that it is what I did, and I have no regrets, and Baby Girl and I turned out just fine.

In truth, I never really intended to nurse as long as I did.  Everyone told me to nurse on demand for the first year, and so I did.  And then we hit a year, and I said "Okay, now what do I do?"

And everyone kind of looked at me and said "Well, whatever do you mean?"

You either keep going, or you stop.


BG loved breastfeeding. It was pretty much her favorite activity. And well into her second year, she was tugging at my shirt at least 10 times a day.  When she learned to sign, her little cupped hand was asking for milk almost every time I looked at her.  Dang it, whose idea was it to teach her that sign anyway?

If I'm being honest, which is my intention, there were times I couldn't stand it. I resented it a little.  If I have any regrets at all, it's that I let myself continue to nurse in a way that made me annoyed at my baby for longer than I should have.  Because when they say "for as long as it's working for both mom and baby," well, the mom is an important part of that.

But at the same time, I still did love nursing her.  Maybe not quite  as often as she enjoyed it, but it was something that for me was worth continuing.

And then, when I was ready to night wean, I did.  It wasn't easy.  Several times I tried, and declared that I couldn't.  Looking back, I just don't think I was really ready or interested because boy, when I was ready, I just did it.

And then, when I couldn't stand being mommy on demand, I started telling her "not right now."  For a while, that was met with tantrums.  Then not.  She still asked from time to time, and you can't blame a girl for trying, but I'd just tell her no, and she'd move on.

And then one day she woke up in the morning and when she said "milk," I said "neh, let's just cuddle."  And she seemed okay with that, so we did.

And then one night at bedtime, I said "let's not do that tonight."  And we read an extra book.  And she didn't cry.  And then we were done.

Am I sad about it?  A little.  But at the same time, I was ready.  Really ready.  Is she sad about it?  Not so much that I can tell.  She still nestles her head in my chest.  She still gropes me when we're out sometimes. (Umm, does anyone know how to get her to stop doing that?)  She's a little clingier than she was.  

But she's still my little girl, and she's still her sweet happy charming self.  No one has been damaged, nothing has been lost.  Every moment we've had together still exists and is still as perfect as it was.

It's just time for the next thing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I've been quiet around here lately.  In fact, Saturday was my blogiversary and I celebrated it by not writing.

That's disappointing.

I don't have an easy answer to why.  There are things in my head that I don't know how to put into words, and there are things that I don't necessarily want to put out into the world, but I don't think that's the whole problem.

I'm an introvert, a serious introvert, and I'm having to remind myself more and more that that isn't a fault.  That not wearing my feelings on my sleeve doesn't make me any less brave than the women and men who do.

But it does make me wonder a little bit what I'm doing here.

There is a way in which writing comes naturally to me, in which writing is what makes me feel like me, heals whatever it is that is wrong in my head.

And there's a way in which this isn't that.

I don't know if that makes any sense.

There's a whole part of blogging that isn't about writing at all, the part that's social and interactive, the part that's about going out into the world and trying to convince people that what you have to say is worth saying.

And I'm not really interested in that.  And I think it's important to me to say that.  Because sometimes I feel like I'm failing, like I'm not where I thought I'd be after a year, like I must not be doing it right.

But it's not that I can't do it.  It's that I'm not interested in doing it.

But at the same time, when I do write something I'm really proud of, I sometimes think, well what's the point?  I mean, I know my friends are reading, and maybe that should be enough.  But sometimes it isn't.

So, I don't know.  This little piece of the web matters.  I know this.  And it isn't going to go viral.  And it's never going to make me a bunch of money.  And it probably isn't going to get me a book deal.  And it probably isn't going to change the world.

But I do want to write. And I do want what I write to be good.  And I want it to be real and true, and I want it to matter.

But lately my head is either too loud or too quiet,

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Time out

During our seven hour drive home on Sunday, I threw an epic tantrum.

 I mean, I have an 18 month old, so I throw the term epic tantrum around a lot. But Baby Girl's got nothing on mama.

 I had been sitting in the back of the car with her for the past two hours of the trip attempting to entertain her. In return, she had whined, whimpered, and thrown her shoes at me.

 Finally, she looked like she might be ready to go to sleep. We were just about coming up on a rest stop so DH pulled in, so that I could get out and come sit in the front. Like a grown up.

 I had just gotten into the front seat of the car when DH said, "She's playing with her sock back there. She seems to have a string. You should probably take them off of her so she doesn't pull them apart." And, grown up that I am, I stomped to the back of the car, ripped the socks off her feet, and slammed the door. And she started to cry.

 DH looked at me. "Wow. You didn't handle that very well. I'm not sure I want to be around you right now." (Remember, people, he'd been driving for 5 hours by then with the same whiny toddler I'd been with. If these seems harsh, cut him a little slack. And read on.)

 "Yeah?!? Well I don't want to be around you! Or her!" "Umm, well then...?" And at that I got out of the car, stormed into the rest stop, and sat down at a table. And was immediately embarrassed.

  So, umm, what do I now? Do I just ... sit here? Are people going to wonder why I'm sitting here and not getting any food?

I sat there for about 5 minutes anyway, tears starting to well up in my eyes, then slowly trudged back to the car, sure that there would be a grumpy and nasty response waiting for me there.

 DH was sitting in the back with BG, and they were both laughing. "Mamamamamama!" she proclaimed. 

"Yes!" said DH, "Now say it all together. I .... love .... mama."

 "Eye," she pronounced wisely, pointing at her own.

 I turned around in my seat and tears were running down my face as I kissed her, "Thank you baby." 

DH got back in the front seat. "Are you done your time out, mommy?" he said, grinning at me. "Yeah. I am." And I kissed him. And rode the rest of the way home in the car like a grown up.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


I am lying in the middle of a king bed in a hotel room, waiting for my husband to get back from his training, with my 18 month old's head on my stomach. Her knees tuck under her in the child's pose, her curls scrunch against my shirt, and her back moves up and down as she finally naps.

I want to lie here forever. I want to breathe her entirely in, to drink up the precious calm, to be as engulfed by her as she is by me.

I want to write about moments with her. About her giggle, about the way she looks up at me from the jogging stroller, about the way her eyes are fading from blue to brown after all this time.

I want to write about how crazy I am about her, about how she is my everything, about how nothing else in my life has ever made me feel so complete, so in love, so full of everything.

But it feels like a lie.

Even though it isn't.

Some days, most days, I feel touched out. I want to be left alone. I want to be a grown up for a while and be able to think straight for a minute. I want to do things that feel big, that make me feel competent and smart, that make me feel like a rational human being.

Today was bad. I felt angry. I couldn't look at her. I thought someone else needed to come and take over because I couldn't possibly continue to parent.

I thought worse things too.

But those things don't tell the story of who I am as a mom.

When she wakes up, there will be a moment when she rolls over and gazes directly into my face. She will position herself like an infant cradled in my arms. She will touch my nose, her nose, my eyes, her eyes. Neither of us will speak. In that moment, I will feel more connected to another human being than I ever thought possible. I will be completely consumed by love and I will know that she is too, and I won't question why.

And then she will want a cracker, or to watch TV, or to play with her ball, and we will both go about our day as if neither moment, the good or the bad, happened.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Things I thought

Before I got pregnant

Everything in moderation.
I'll have a glass of wine once in a while.
A little TV isnt' bad for kids.
It's okay to let babies cry a little.
I might supplement with formula, and will definitely express bottles, so someone else can help.
I'll find a great sitter.
My child will be predominately accelerated.
I'm going to have time to read and write.
I am going to be a genius at mothering.

When BG was a newborn
Must follow all the rules.
Letting a baby cry is torture for everyone.
I can't drink any coffee or wine until I wean.
I will never ever leave her with anyone until she goes to college.
I would never let a child under two watch TV.
She's never going to sleep.
She's never going to meet her milestones.
She's going to be permanently attached to my boob.
I am never going to think about anything except my child again.
I am totally incompetent at this.

This morning

I'll just turn on Sesame Street and go back to sleep.
More coffee? Please and thank you.
Okay, just one more nursing session and then we're done for the day. Really.
When did my kid get so smart?
Oh really? Another tantrum? I'll just be over there.
Everything I do is in the context of everything else that I do.
Oh, maybe I'll blog about this.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Back to the books

A few weeks ago, I started checking out parenting books from the library again.

I know. Don't say anything. I know.

Toddler momming is hard, yo.

Since Baby Girl was born, everyone's been telling me to trust my instincts. It's supposed to be comforting, but it isn't. I always end up thinking "wait, am I supposed to have instincts about this?"

I don't know what I'm doing. At all.

My sweet, adorable, brilliant, willful, manipulative little girl is running the show around here. I don't have any instincts that tell me what to do about that. Even when I taught high school, discipline wasn't exactly my thing. I had a pretty good raised eyebrow, and I worked the guilt a little more than I should have. But those were pretty much my only moves.

And BG's not buying it.

So this week I read a book called Parent Talk, by Chick Moorman. I like it, I think? It's not what I was hoping for. It focuses on encouraging choice and responsibility, which I think is fantastic. A lot of it I already do.

And then I got to the list of things to never say to your kid, and one of them was "My patience is running thin."

Hold. the. freaking. show.

I read that section. It said that patience means putting up with things. That you shouldn't lose your patience because you shouldn't need patience. That if you understand your child, you should recognize her behavior as age appropriate and therefore it should be easy for you.

Have you ever wanted to punch a book? Wait, is that not a normal reaction?

I cried a little.

I know that her behavior is age appropriate. I know that toddlers test boundaries. I know that all she's doing is what is her job to do.

But I lose my patience.

A lot.

And you know what? How could I not? I can fully understand why she does what she does and still be totally thrown over the edge when she does it.

And when I am losing my patience? I think I'm going to go ahead and tell her. Because I'm a human being, and she deserves to know.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

On doubt

So did anyone else notice that I proclaimed I wanted to be a writer and promptly ... stopped writing altogether?


I'm not really sure what to say. My words feel all bound up in my head, and whenever I see a prompt or a topic or a writing opportunity, the three year old who resides in my brain says "I don't wanna."

I get my feelings hurt easily. I don't take rejection well. So I have trained myself so very carefully over the years to just no try too hard at anything because that will make it so much more crushing when I fail.

Because, ultimately, I will fail. I'm sure of it.

But I don't even know what that means. I don't know what it means to fail because I don't even know what it would look like to succeed.

I have these vague platitudes in my head. I want to write something that matters. I want to create something beautiful. I want to be a real writer.

But I don't know what they mean. In reality.

I hate reality.

I sound like a broken record but I need this because I need a purpose. I have needs for meaning and for productivity and for intellectual stimulation that aren't being met by changing diapers and washing dishes. Sometimes that feels like a failure, like I'm wrong to not be fulfilled by my home and family.

But it's not. I know.

I think that to get where my heart wants me to be, I will probably have to do things that are uncomfortable. And I really don't wanna. And I don't know if I'm asking for a shove or for permission not to. And I don't even really know where it is I'm trying to go. I just know that something is missing and that I think it starts here.

And that scares the crap out of me.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Not that kind of mom

A few weeks ago, I was at a playgroup and all the moms started talking about the Easter baskets they'd already put together for their toddlers. They were so excited and giddy as they discussed and compared notes.

I? Hadn't even thought to make one for Baby Girl.

When it comes to teaching kindness and empathy? I'm a rockstar. Sign language and language development? I own that. And as for my love? Well, nothing is greater.

But birthday parties, scrapbooks, art projects? Not so much.

Which isn't to say I don't try.

In the past two weeks, I've bought finger paint. I made window painting bags. I made homemade playdough. I made a freaking sensory bin, even though I still don't really get the point.

And every time, her response was the same. "Mmm, no thanks." Or at least that's what I imagine she's saying as she wanders off to scrub my windows with a baby wipe.

I really want these projects to work, for a lot of reasons. The day at home is really long, and I need ways to fill the time. I love the idea of teaching her to be artistic, of helping her develop multiple intelligences. But most of all? It's because they look fun.

You know, in theory.

In reality? I just don't get it. I hate doing it. I resent it. And then when she doesn't even like it, I get angry. I'm just not the right kind of mom for those things.

And that's okay.

But it doesn't always feel okay. Sometimes I feel like I must be missing a gene. Other stay at home moms do such great things with their kids, and I just can't. And it's not so much an issue of my baby missing out. She's fine. Happy as a clam.

It's me. I want to get excited about things the way the Pinterest mamas do. I want to enjoy being with my daughter. And when I don't, it makes me sad.

But I know in my heart that more projects I hate aren't the answer. I know that all I can do is be the mom I am, no matter how much I wish I could be that kind of mom. Does that mean I won't ever look again? No, I'm not that fast a learner.


This morning in her high chair, my Baby Girl signed "bunny."

"Where's the bunny?"

She pointed at the window, so I walked over and looked out. And she started laughing hysterically.

I turned around slowly, with one hand on my hip. With a twinkle in her eye, my tiny comedienne patted her leg, said "Do(g)!" and pointed at the window again, busting a gut as I turned to look again.

This game? I could play all day.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The mirror

One day, you look in the mirror and you don't even recognize the person you see there.

Vaguely you remember being a woman who looked kind of like her. Only not like her.

The world was bigger then.

And somewhere in the distance, a stadium full of people tell you to make time for you, to do things you enjoy, to set stricter boundaries. That, they tell you, is the answer.

Only you aren't quite sure who they could be talking to.

And this woman in the mirror, who looks so much older than you think she should, doesn't tell you what she wants.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I want to talk about how I don't want to talk about it

I'm sad today.

And I don't want to talk about it.


Well that makes this an awfully strange blog post doesn't it.

People I admire talk about writing dangerously. About writing for yourself. About putting yourself out there and writing the truth, raw as it is.

But I don't wanna.

People tell me I'm wise. They praise me for being self aware. They ask me how I always know the right thing to say.

And I always think, well the answer to that is stupidly simple. I just don't say anything at all until I know.

Do you want to know how I compose a blog post? I walk around my house talking to myself about it. I go over and over it in my head until the words sound right. Until I hear the point. Until I get what it is I really want to say.

Well, maybe not *this* post.

My writing isn't raw. It's cooked. It's burnt to a crisp in fact.

And I don't want to apologize for that. I don't want to write just for me. I want my writing to have a message, to have a purpose, to do something for other people. And I think that's a good thing.

But sometimes maybe I sound like I'm more finished than I am. Like I'm at the end of it all looking back. Like everything makes sense to me.

Like I don't need a hug.

And I do. I so do.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Teaching kindness

I have a teacher's heart, and there's so much I want to teach my precious little girl. I want to teach her to sign. I want to teach her to read. Sometimes I want to teach her to say "Mike Wazowski" like Boo from Monsters inc.

But mostly? I want to teach her to be kind.

I want to raise a tiny human who knows how to treat everyone around her with love and respect. Who takes care of other people. Who helps. Who knows that right and wrong are about more than just following the rules.

And you know what?

I'm doing it.

My 18 month old shares.

She helps me clean the house (you should see her with a broom).

She gives her stuffed animals to daddy when he's sitting on the couch by himself.

She comforts people who look sad.

She hugs everyone and everything.

She is the sweetest person I have ever met.

And I know why. I want to say that I'm lucky, but the truth is, I know that no matter how many things I get wrong, I am getting the right things right. She knows how to love and how to be loved, how to help, and how to give because it's what she's seen. Because it's how I live my life.

I used to worry about how I would teach her empathy, how I would make sure she never became a bully. I don't worry as much anymore.

In my life, I've been a good student, a good teacher, a good friend. I've done a lot of work that I'm really proud of. But my life's work now? This small person who looks like me? Makes me prouder than any of it.

I'm linking up with Charity for the Mother's Pride Carnival. What are you proudest of as a mother?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Guest post: She

Today's guest post is from a dear friend of mine who wants to remain somewhat anonymous to protect the identity of her subject. It's about a topic that is near and dear to my heart, our tendency to compare and the fundamental need for empathy and compassion. (I've written about it a few times, if you were wondering.) But this intro is already too long, this beautiful post stands on its own.

She lives her life to the minute. Plans.every.second. Her babies were molded to fit the recommendations of Dr. so-and-so. Every morning, her alarm goes off at 3:50. Snooze buttons are for sissies.

Gym from 4:15-4:50. Tag husband for his gym slot. Shower. Hair. Makeup. Coffee, paper, news. Husband returns. Kiss him. Leave for work at 6:15. Husband readies the children and takes them to school. Work. Get everything done. Prove she’s superwoman. Polite lunch talk. Talk with friends about how perfect life is going. About the vacation that's planned and paid for in cash, how awful it was that the toddler had the nerve to throw his food on the floor and act out in church. Talk about the luxury car and how it needs to be detailed. Go to the grocery store for exactly 1/2 hour one day a week to get the week's groceries. Stress that she buys generic because she’s a penny pincher. Handle everything with grace, and then some. Head home at 3:15. Grab children. Activity for an hour. Make home cooked meal. Baths at 6:30. Two stories and bed by 7:20. Clean the house. In bed by 8:45. Do it again.

Did I mention she's tall, thin, and beautiful, her husband is good looking, and her kids are the perfect mix of all of their good features?

Of course they are.

This girl has dirty secrets. But she doesn't like to tell people that she suffers from a debilitating disease. That she grew up poor in a tiny rural community. That she's the classic psychological profile for middle child syndrome: must be better than my older sister, must care for myself because my parents have to care for my special needs sister who's (now) in a group home. That she lost her mom to cancer 2 weeks before the birth of her first child. That she lost that child's twin at 12 weeks gestation.

No one saw her grieve for her mother because her 12 week maternity leave coincided with mourning.

She manages her life in order to hide the disease.

She closes her door when things are out of place.

She works overtime to make sure that no one sees anything but the perfect.

She has worked hard in school and in her profession to get herself as far as she can as fast as she can. She deserves the success she's brought upon herself.


She doesn't realize that her words about her perfect life hurt others who are not as fortunate.

She doesn't realize that planning for the future isn't a possibility for some. She forgets what it's like to rob Peter the electric bill to pay Paul the grocer.

She forgets that the emergency fund for some is the $100 stashed in an underwear drawer, not six months worth of a six figure salary.

Some see her as a robot, moving through the motions. Some as a spoiled diva with no grip on real life.

Someone not-so-gently informed me last week that she’s not well liked.

That she’s the mean girl in the office.

But this is how I see it:

She's just a mom, doing it the best way she knows how. She's my friend. The one that organized my office baby shower, babysat my son for free, and let me take a nap under my desk when I was exhausted from working overtime in my first trimester but couldn't tell anyone else I was pregnant. She's the one that convinced her husband to do our wills pro-bono, because every time we had the spare money, our 1993 hand-me-down houpti would eat it. She's the one that buys my office birthday cake and remembers my favorite things. She loves her children more fiercely than I've ever seen. She brings me my favorite coffee on special days and understands that some days my depression forces me to close my door and do my work with tears streaming down my face.

Lest I forget? She knew I was pregnant before I did. She urged me to take that test before I even believed it was a possibility. That's how well she knows me. That’s how dedicated a friend she is.

Yes, she's hurt my feelings with her words about others many a time. She forgets that I can't pay cash for car repairs and the last "vacation" I had was to see my in-laws. I usually don't tell her when I take offense, because she's not trying to be malicious. The times I've tried, it turns out that her feelings have been hurt by people telling her that her life is a fairy tale. In her mind, her friends do just as well as she does. We make smart choices and we dot our I's and cross our T's, just like she does.

She doesn't see why everyone can't live the life she leads. Her memories of the hard parts are either pushed so far back in her memory, or she skipped over those parts because she married a man who worked his tail off to make sure he'd never have to live those hard parts.

I’m learning that you never know a person’s whole story. But if they DO let you in to those deep, dark places? It might be that you’re trusted with secrets dark enough that a person is willing to accept negative views from others in exchange for a few genuine, fierce friendships.

Ignorance is bliss. Perfection is a myth. Sticks and stones may break my bones, and words will never hurt me.

Sometimes, they do. But mean girls need love, too.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

You aren't broken

Yesterday was a bad day.

We haven't been sleeping around here, and it's bothering me more and more. I woke up yesterday angry and resentful, and all I could think was "How am I supposed to parent all day if I'm already this angry?"

I threw my toddler in the jogging stroller, mid tantrum, in her pajamas, and went out running to keep from exploding. I got home, changed my clothes and went straight to a playgroup. Keeping busy was the only way I could keep us from making each other crazy.

In the car, I started to feel better. She'd run herself silly at the playgroup. She'd take an early and long nap after. I could rest and recover, then we'd run some more in the afternoon. Maybe, just maybe, we'd finally sleep at night.

Then she woke from her nap in less than an hour and all my hope dropped through the floor. I couldn't keep going. I couldn't run all afternoon. I couldn't make her sleep at the right times. I couldn't fix it.

I was so angry, and I couldn't fix it.

Oh. So that's what I was upset about.

I need to run, I need to write, I need to sleep more. I need to eat right, I need to drink more water.

But I need to do all these things because I am a human being with basic needs. I don't need to do them to fix me.

Because I'm not broken.

And you? You don't need to be fixed either. Because YOU AREN'T BROKEN.

We need things because we are human beings. You need nourishment, you need love, you need purpose. Sometimes you need more than that; sometimes you are sick and you need treatment or you are struggling and you need help.

But there is nothing fundamentally wrong with you. You are already perfect, just like your baby is already perfect even when she isn't sleeping.

One more time, now, in case you didn't hear.

It's okay to need things. It makes you human. You aren't broken. You are already perfect.

If you don't hear it yet, come back and read it again later. And again and again. I'll be here.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Life's lessons: Being 18 months old

  1. Being 18 months old is hard.
  2. Even if you know sign language? You suddenly realize how many things are that you want to say but can't.
  3. And then you say things like "A bababa da da squa squa daaaaat."
  4. And throw a temper tantrum when your mom doesn't give you what you want.
  5. While mom cries in a corner or says "JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT."
  6. Even though, duh, mom. You're trying.
  7. I know.
  8. And when you're 18 months old, it's also hard to wait for things.
  9. And hard to reason out why on earth mom would think you would want to start nursing less.
  10. Or, you know, sleep through the night.
  11. Or stay inside when it's raining out.
  12. I know.
  13. It's hard to be 18 months old.
  14. You only have to do it for one month, though, kiddo, so hang on.
  15. But it's hard to wait.
  16. I know.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

In which I talk about bullying, but I do it somewhere else

I'm guest posting for the lovely Rach at Life Ever Since today, talking about mean girls and my experience with bullying when I was teaching.

It was a hard post for me to write and not just because it's hard for me to remember anything that happened more than a year ago. Bullying is a big deal, and a cause that's near and dear to my heart. I don't have the answers, but - and call me a cheese ball if you must - I'm pretty sure the solution is love and understanding. And kindness.

Or course it is.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Twitter, I love you, but you're bringing me down.

There is so much I love about twitter. The immediacy, the intimacy, the reach. How quickly I can get an answer to a question. How I can always find at least 8 people who agree with my philosophies on both parenting and punctuation.

But lately, it feels so small.

You can fit a lot of snark into 140 characters. But you can't fit a life.

I want to be seen. I want to be known. I want to be understand. And everything in my life can only be understood in the context of everything else in my life.

It's so tempting. It's so tempting to just get on twitter in the middle of the afternoon and say "Oh hello world, I'm so witty, look at meeeeeeeee!" And when it works it is so reinforcing. Which makes it so hard to stop.

But I'm not saying what I need to say. I'm simplifying things I should be expanding. And I'm waiting like an eager, well trained puppy for someone to hand me something I'm supposed to be looking for myself.

And more and more instead of the thrill, I'm feeling a twitter let down. "Why did no one answer that tweet? It was brilliant! Why does no one know I'm sitting here waiting for an entry into conversation? Why does no one understand what I'm really trying to say?"

And more and more I feel like Prufrock.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
That is not it, at all.”

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I know that twitter is a tool. I just don't think I'm using it right.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Okay, universe, I get it already

Last weekend, we went to a birthday party and I saw some high school friends of ours. There was a time when the husband was one of my closest friends in the world, and I adore the wife also. They are sweet, funny, goofy, and some of the most generous hearted people I know.

The jerks.

Kidding. Of course.

We've kept loosely in touch over the years, and I know they've had more than their fair share of struggles. The week before their wedding, she lost her dad to cancer. A few years later, when their two year old was in infant, he lost his dad to suicide. Six months ago, they had a miscarriage.

Even though we're not that close now, I've done my best to love on them through it all, and they've let me know they appreciate it. So, I know how hard it has been for them. It's not a secret.

And yet. They have this amazing resilience, both as a couple and as individuals. They are open and positive. They are still goofy. She is an amazing, creative mom. They post on facebook and get dozens of responses from people who truly love them. And I admire them so for this, especially her, for the ability to overcome tragedy and for the ease with which she adjusted to full time motherhood and most of all for her ability to walk into a room and draw people to her.

I truly admire her. Okay, let's just be honest here. I'm jealous.

Yes, beneath my loving, empathetic, self-aware self there is someone dark and petty too. And no matter how many times I say we need to stop comparing, I can't help but compare.

So, imagine my surprise when hugging our goodbyes last Saturday, she turned to me and said, "I wish you guys lived closer. I get lonely sometimes. I haven't had the easiest time making mom friends."


Ahem. Okay, universe. Score one for you. I'm listening.

Monday, February 27, 2012

More things I like about me

Six months ago, I got pressured by my sweetest bloggy friends into writing a post of Things I like about me for a link up with the lovely Ciao Mom. It was the hardest post I'd ever written.

That link up led to the creation of Elena's project Just Be Enough, a group blog that I love and admire very much. I've followed their posts and participated in their link ups. Then last week I got an email saying that they were bringing back Things I like about me.

Seriously? I have to do this again?!?

So, here we go.

  • I have a gift for listening. I really hear what people say.
  • I am very self aware. That's not always the easiest gift to carry, but it has made my life richer.
  • I'm a fast learner.
  • I am full of stories, and I see stories everywhee.
  • I know how to make people smile.
  • In the past year, I have been braver than I've been in my whole life.
  • I'm a good teacher. Even when I'm not teaching.
  • I'm a good mom. A really good mom.

Thanks Elena and the rest of the Just Be Enough Me team. Thanks for helping me learn how to be this person.

Friday, February 24, 2012

You can't go home again

When DH and I got engaged, we were 23 years old and lived in different states. He was starting his master's degree and I was in my first year of teaching at a fantastic public high school. I put in my resignation, finished the year, cried like a baby at the end of year faculty party, and moved halfway across the country.

My whole life, I have always done everything right. It was the first right thing I had ever done.

We were broke, really broke. We lived in a tiny apartment. I subbed as much as I could, getting long term positions in and out, always getting enough work when I needed it. I went to the library. I read The Tightwad Gazette cover to cover. I baked our own bread, made our own ketchup. I planned my wedding there. Life was simple if not easy.

We were supposed to be there for 3 years, to have a life there, but it didn't happen that way. I cried when I heard we were moving, then I packed up and started again somewhere else.

This week, my husband had to go back to that college town for work, so BG and I went with him. I wanted to show my daughter where we'd lived, what we'd done, what our lives had been like back then.

But I didn't remember.

I mean, I recognized our old apartment building, but I didn't know which apartment had been ours. DH would point things out to me, "Oh, remember? That's the other Walmart. That's the Applebees where the Korean grad students used to drink all night." I nodded vaguely. I remembered the story, but not the restaurant.

While he was in meetings on Wednesday, I drove her out by the schools where I taught, not sure what I intended to do there, just hoping that when I saw them I would feel something.

But I didn't.

Nothing in the whole town had any meaning for me. The schools were just schools, the parks were just parks. There was no one there who would remember my name.

DH took us to dinner that night at the pizza place next to campus, where we'd only eaten once because we had gotten a giftcard for opening a bank account. The food was delicious, and it really wasn't that expensive. BG giggled all through dinner and ate half of my pasta. We bought her too many clothes at the campus book store, and we all went out for ice cream.

On the way out of town Thursday morning, our beautiful baby girl asleep in the back of our car, I lean my head on DH's shoulder. Without taking his eyes off the road, he puts a hand on my knee.

"When did we grow up?"

He raises his eyebrows. "A long time ago."

Somehow, I think, I'd been too busy to notice that until now.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Blog Her Book Club: The Rules of Inheritance

I'm not sure how to begin to write about Claire Bidwell Smith's memoir The Rules of Inheritance. My first thought is how absolutely stunning the writing is. My second thought is how hard it was to read, especially for someone to whom empathy is so automatic as it is to me.

And yet, and yet. And yet, I adored this book.

The Rules of Inheritance is a memoir of loss. It tells the story of a woman who lost her mother at 18 and her father at 25, who finds herself "unmoored" by grief, who loses herself in alcohol and relationships. It tells the story of a woman who doesn't know how to continue her life after such a tragic and inescapable loss. And yet she does.

The story is told in a non-linear manner, not progressing chronologically, but with vignettes organized according to Kubler-Ross's stages of grief. What is so fascinating about this to me is that they are in fact not chronological, that she moves through all these stages recursively, from acceptance back to bargaining to anger to depression, returning to each again and again.

This is a story of tragedy, but it is not a tragic story. It is about loss, but so much more it is about growth, about self awareness and self acceptance. This was a book which, for me, showed a path through grief. It isn't an easy path, but it is a path which leads somewhere beautiful.

And for me, above all, this is a book which reminds me what I love about language, reminds me of the power of words, of the way that the darkest moments of our lives can contain the utmost beauty. It's a book that reminds me why I love to read.

And why I love to write.

Disclosure: This is a paid review for Blog Her book Club. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Guest Post: When Kids are Sick

Do you all know Jenny? If not, you should go follow her on twitter immediately because she is one of the sweetest and most supportive people I know. She guest posted for me back in October, and I'm thrilled to have her here again talking about one of the hardest things in motherhood. Give her lots of love for me okay?

With my second daughter, I was much more prepared or so I thought. I was about to return to work after my full twelve weeks of maternity leave. We had a wonderful New Year’s Eve weekend with family and friends. Late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, my youngest Skeeter woke up moaning and groaning. My husband took her temperature under her arm, and it was 102.1. We retook her temperature rectally, and it was 102.7. We called the on call pediatrician, and we were advised to take her to the emergency room at our local Children’s Hospital. We are so blessed to have this world class facility in our area.

I don’t remember much of the drive except my mind numbing anxiety. I could not see Skeeter since she was in the car seat facing backwards. She had fallen asleep, but I was terrified that something would happen to her. I kept reaching my right arm back to touch her head and feel her breath. We were able to be seen by the doctor immediately. They thought that it could possibly be a urinary tract infection.

We had both a urinalysis and a urine culture done. The initial test came back as negative, so we went home Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. We contacted our pediatrician to set up a follow up visit with her on Monday afternoon.

We received confirmation from the test results that Skeeter did have a urinary tract infection. The hospital called in a prescription which the girls and I picked up on our way to the pediatrician. She examined Skeeter and then advised me that she wanted to have some lab work done to see if we
needed to pursue more aggressive treatment. Her white blood cell was extremely elevated, so our pediatrician decided to admit us to the hospital. Skeeter needed intravenous antibiotics to combat the infection. I remember just staring at her in disbelief and shock. She advised me to go home and pack what I needed. Our pediatrician took care of all the pre admission paperwork for us.

I dropped Munch off at my husband’s work, and Skeeter and I continued to the hospital. The care that we received was outstanding. The nurses were so compassionate and understanding. The young residents were so respectful of me as a nursing mom. They would wait outside Skeeter’s room until
she was done nursing so that they could have my full attention. Skeeter was admitted on Monday afternoon, and she went home on Thursday afternoon. It was the most terrifying experience for me as a parent. I know that we were incredibly lucky, and our hospital treats children who are critically
ill every day. I spent the majority of those days at the hospital with Skeeter; I only left once for a few hours. I felt guilty and ashamed for being so upset because so many other children were much sicker than Skeeter. I felt guilty for leaving Munch behind; we had prepared Munch for Skeeter starting at her school with her that week. I felt guilty that my mom had to come up to help me out. I felt guilty that I could not return to work as planned. Skeeter’s hospitalization was a major factor in the development of my postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.

Due to Skeeter’s hospitalization, I have become very sensitive and anxious when either one of my girls are sick. Exactly a year to the day that Skeeter was hospitalized, we were back at the pediatrician’s office. We met with one of the more senior members of the practice, not our regular pediatrician. He reassured me that Skeeter was not suffering from a urinary tract infection, and he explained what he would look for in that type of infection. She was suffering from sinusitis and viral pneumonia. I was incredibly anxious, but I was able to keep my anxiety at bay by focusing on my little girl. I relied on my #ppdchat mamas to support me, and I relied on my family. I have realized that it is inevitable that my
girls will get sick. I work through my anxiety by using positive self-talk to help me work through the situation.

***Author’s Note: Skeeter suffers from VUR (vesicouretal reflux) which causes bladder reflux. She has only suffered one urinary tract infection - the one that led to her hospitalization. We continue to be monitored by the Urology clinic and go for visits every six months to monitor her progress. Her case is pretty mild so it should resolve itself by the time she is potty trained.***

Thursday, February 16, 2012


My daughter is asleep right now. She is going on three hours of nap. Which means at any second she is going to wake up.

I miss her. I am acutely and completely full of a longing to have her in my arms, curled up against my chest, my head in her hair.

And I am at the exact same moment completely full of gratitude for this time by myself, of a sense of relief for the quiet provided by this nap, and a slight but perceivable sense of dread of that moment when she is about to wake up.

I am consumed by this contradiction. I am full of the complete nonsense of it. Of the longing and the dread, of the need to both be with her and not be with her.

I dream of date nights with my husband, of nights out with friends, of long chunks of time in which to take classes, go to writing workshops, sit in silence and stare at a wall.

And I start to hyperventilate a little at the thought of being away from her.

I am shaken to my core by the wanting, by the cognitive dissonance of my desires, by my inability to reconcile the different needs. Because I want both the separateness and the togetherness, and I want them both ALL THE TIME.

There isn't a solution. There is only the saying out loud of it. And in the moment of a nap not-quite-over, all I can do is sit with the contradictions and believe that knowing this is enough.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Letting go

This morning I woke up angry. Spitting fire. Without words to describe what was going through my mind. Coffee didn't help.

BG and I had an appointment downtown to do another experiment at 9:30, and at 8:30 I realized that we weren't dressed and BG hadn't eaten. There was no way in the world to not be late. And I hate being late.

I threw clothes on us both, put her in her car seat with some Cheerios (mom of the year, right here), and booked it to the city.

The pretty young grad student met us at the gate, the same one that did our study last time. And BG sat quietly in my lap and cheerfully watched the video she was shown, only looking away a few times. A physics genius, my one year old. She grabbed the "Where's Pooh" book off the thank you gift shelf before she was even offered something. She babbled and giggled all the way to my car.

I pulled out of the parking lot. My gas light went on. BG started saying "mamamamamamama" and signing for food, both with increasing intensity. I looked at the clock and thought of how long it would take us to get home, of how much I had to do to get there. I turned corners, apologizing to my baby, listening to the petulant woman on my GPS tell me she was "recalculating" every five seconds.

And that is how I found myself in front of the botanical gardens, a furious baby in my back seat, my gas needle below empty, at 10:00 on a Wednesday morning.

And I parked my car.

Climbed into the backseat.

BG giggled when she saw me. We sat in the car and I fed her an applesauce, nursed her, and talked to her a little. Then I scooped up my now-pleasant baby, grabbed my diaper bag, and went inside.

The ticket was $12, which is a lot of money for me (I'm well aware how lame that sounds), but I didn't even pause. I grabbed a map, paid the lady and in we went.

I immediately realized I hadn't brought my stroller and my hip was getting sore, so I set BG down on the ground and let her run. At first I tried to hold her hand and read the map, but I quickly realized I wasn't the one in charge.

So I let go.

We stared at the fish. We pointed at the banzai trees. We walked around the orchid room 5 times.

Then she reached out her hand for me to take it and we walked out.

This job, of being a mom? I'm not patient enough for it. I'm not brave enough for it. I'm not strong enough for it. But this job of being my kid? BG has that one down pat.

And maybe that's all we need.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

RemembeRED: My story

I am 16 years old, kneeling by a table in the high school cafeteria, cheerfully checking someone else's English homework. A friend of hers looks at me and says, "Are you ALWAYS happy?"

I tilt my head to the side, smile and shrug one shoulder before bouncing back to my own table. There, algebra homework instead of food is spread in front of my chair. I pick at a plate of french fries someone has thrust in front of me. A friend turns to me and says "Sweetie, are you ever happy?"

I lift my eyes slowly, smile the dark, gentle smile with which she is so familiar, and shrug the same half shrug.

My memoir is a story once removed. Of other people's moments and observations. Of grief that wasn't really mine to own. Of contradictions, half truths, and tales retold so many times I can't remember which version is the Truth. My story is the story of a girl on the inside looking out and the outside looking in.

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

This week's RemembeRED prompt was to pitch your memoir in 200 words or less. I'm not sure I followed the rules, but it is what it is.

Monday, February 13, 2012


If you haven't read my blog before? Let me sum it up for you:

My kid is cute.
We don't sleep.
I have trouble making friends.
Depression sucks.
You? As a mom? Are doing fine.

There, now you don't need to read any more of my posts. You're welcome.

There has to be something else to say.

This is not me fishing for compliments. If my blog isn't boring to you, I'm so glad. Really. If it's done you any good at all, my heart is singing right now. And I want to keep doing that. I want to keep saying things that matter.

But it's boring for me.

I know I "should" write about my kid more. I mean I'm a mommy blogger, right? When was the last time I wrote about something cute my kid did?

And I somehow found my way into being a mental health blogger. Except the "real" mental health bloggers, the people who fight this every day and who try to beat off the demons with every stick available in their arsenal, they're the ones who should be talking about that. If I'm being honest, I still struggle, but I'm mostly passed that. My struggle with my brain isn't about surviving anymore, it's about growing. And thriving.

And everything I write (including this!!) sounds so self absorbed and trite. I ramble and I whine. I can't stand to read it let alone write it.

So I'm stuck. I don't know where to go next or what to do.

And I don't know. I don't know, maybe this is just me running and hiding in a corner when it starts to get hard. Maybe this is just me getting in my own way, stomping my feet, and throwing a tantrum.

But it sure feels real to me.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Life's lessons: Big Dreams

  1. So that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I've had all week? Those tears I've been fighting? The running around in circles I've been doing?
  2. I want to be a writer.
  3. Saying that out loud scares the hell out of me.
  4. Which is probably why I need to say it.
  5. And if I'm being honest, I don't even know what it means.
  6. I don't know what I want to write. Or where. Or when. Or how. Or for who. Or even why.
  7. All I know is that there is this voice in the back of my head that says "I want to be a writer."
  8. And that when it does I suddenly become very interested in unloading my dishwasher. Or taking up running. Or catching up on my twitter stream.
  9. And I'm starting to realize that that resistance? Means I've hit on the right thing.
  10. The excuses and the ways out: not enough time, no money, can't take attention away from my baby, my husband needs me, my friends need me, there're other things I should be doing, it's a stupid goal, it doesn't mean anything, I don't have anything to write about, no one wants to read what I have to say, I don't know how to do it...
  11. All of that is just my mind trying to protect me.
  12. Because what if I try and I fail? What if my whole life I've had this idea in my head that if I just found the right moment and the right thing to write about I could be great, and then I try it and I find out that I'm totally wrong? That I'm no good, that I can't do it.
  13. But what if I don't?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

11 questions

The beautiful Robin from Farewell Stranger tagged me with these 11 questions, and to be honest it scared the crap out of me. I mean, I felt beyond honored that she'd think of me, but she made it pretty hard to crawl into a hole and hide, which is kind of my MO. But, she asked wonderful questions. Important questions. And, so, here it is.

What’s your superpower?

My superpower is kindness.

Is that a lame answer? There was also this time in high school when I was convinced I could read people's minds because I always knew who was going to date before they knew themselves. But I guess that's not reading people's minds as much as it is reading their reactions and responses. So I guess my superpower is being aware of people's needs and emotions. Does that count?

What blog do you never miss? (And you can’t say mine because (a) that would be BS and (b) this is not me fishing for compliments.)

If I had to pick one, it would be Rach's blog, Life Ever Since. I love her to pieces, and I make sure to read everything she writes even when I'm not as great a commenter as she is.

If I got to pick two, I would include Farewell stranger. And that's not BS, so there. :-P

If you could change your name, what would you change it to?

Actually, I kind of like my name. I suppose if I had to pick another name, I like Emily. Which you all now know is not my name.

Do you consider yourself a “blogger” or a “writer”?

It's hard for me to think of myself as either. Most days, I just think of myself as someone who has a blog. My whole life I have wanted to be a writer. I think all the time about how much I "want to be" a writer.

What was your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?

This one was really hard for me. I haven't really failed a lot. But I haven't failed a lot because I don't do things I'm not good at. I don't take risks.

So, I guess that's my biggest failure. That I've never tried. And I guess I'm still learning from that one.

What’s the most embarrassing song in your collection?

I'm honestly not that into music. But I guess if we dig back far enough, does Alanis Morisette's "You oughta know" count?

Are you shy?

Painfully, breathtakingly shy.

How do you prioritize yourself in your own life?

Somewhere below my family and friends, but somewhere above vacuuming my carpets. This is a work in progress.

Where do you stand on chocolate?

Chocolate, in all its forms, is essential.

What’s your biggest source of inspiration (other than your family, etc.)?

I draw a lot of my inspiration from things I read or hear. Often, I'll just hear a certain phrase or offhand comment and I get a bug in my ear about it and start walking around hashing it out with myself for a day or so until I have a blog post in my head.

But I'm always looking for new sources of inspiration.

What do you hope to do this year that you’re really excited about?

Well. I don't know. And I think that's okay. I guess I am just hoping to find a direction. That's pretty darn exciting.

The rules:
You must post these rules.
Each person must post 11 things about herself on his/her blog.
Answer the questions the “tagger” listed for you in her post, and create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
You must choose 11 people to tag and link to them in the post.
Go to each blogger’s page and mention that you have tagged him/her.

So, here are my 11 questions:

1. Why do you blog? What inspired you to start?
2. What are you proudest of in your life right now?
3. What trait do you admire most in others? Why?
4. If you could meet one "big" or "famous" blogger in real life, who would it be?
5. How do you balance blogging and social media with the rest of your life?
6. What is the biggest source of support in your life? How did you find it?
7. When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
8. What would you do for fun or self care, if you could do anything you wanted?
9. If you could bring just one book with you to a desert island, what book would it be?
10. Do you prefer cake or pie?
11. What is your favorite word? Why?

And I am tagging (without any pressure) (much)

Becky at Just breathe
Jamie at James and Jax
Charity at Giggles and Grimaces
Lindsay at Lil Love and Luck
Susan at Learned Happiness
Jenn at Fox in the City
Jamie at Am I really a grownup?
Sandy at Not Just the Blues
Imperfect Momma at Really, I'm a Mom?
Jenn at So this is love

And I'm tagging Jenny. For whenever she gets her blog set up. ;)