Friday, July 29, 2011

Stream of consciousness analysis of the Justin Bieber singing toothbrush

So I was at Walgreen’s getting a card, and happened upon this display in the “impulse buy” area next to the check-out. I snapped this photo with my phone, uploading it to facebook while waiting to check-out, captioning it “You can’t make this stuff up.” I thought that would be it. I thought it would speak for itself, like the photo of this book I uploaded a few months ago.

But no.

I thought about that damn toothbrush the whole way home. Here is what I thought:

Why?! Why do they make a Justin Bieber singing toothbrush? How obsessed with Bieber ARE these little freaks? They have to look at and listen to him while they are grooming themselves? It’s utterly mystifying...

Oh wait. I get it. Eight- to ten-year-olds are not generally super-thorough about brushing their teeth. They’re old enough to do it themselves, but not old enough yet to be fastidious about it in preparation for makeout sessions. They are probably the world’s worst toothbrushers. So if they know they have to brush their teeth for the length of the Bieber song, that’s kind of really genius.

OMG, I just thought inside my head that a Justin Bieber singing toothbrush is genius. Someone please kill me. Wow, I’m so glad no one heard me think that.

But Bieber? Really? I hope my kids have better music taste than that. Like, an Adele toothbrush, or Jeff Buckley, or maybe they’ll be retro throwbacks and will like The Ramones or James Brown. I would even take Katy Perry or Miley Cyrus over Justin Bieber.

Adele. I love Adele. I kind of want an Adele singing toothbrush, because let’s be honest... moms of young kids are probably almost as bad as tweens in terms of doing a cursory, half-assed job of brushing their teeth. I mean, I brush them twice a day, but I’m often multi-tasking (if it’s morning) or dead on my feet and/or inebriated (if it’s evening). It would be nice to hear a little “Turning Tables” or “Someone Like You” and not be allowed to stop brushing until the song was done. It would be kind of zen. Like, I could focus on one thing. A lovely song, and cleaning my teeth. Well, OK, that’s two things. But still, it’s like five fewer things than I am usually focusing on.

You know, I would probably get really sick of those songs if I heard them twice a day. I might grow to hate Adele. I don’t want to hate Adele. I guess I don’t want an Adele singing toothbrush after all.

All of those Bieber fans. They're going to grow to hate Justin Bieber.

Hey wait. That’s friggin’ awesome. It’s like a Justin Bieber deprogramming device.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Memo to my husband

Hi honey,

You may or may not notice that I tidied up today. Not noticing would not reflect poorly on your powers of observation, because the kids have already created enough new clutter to mask my Sisyphean efforts. But I did tidy, so some stuff might not be where you might expect.

I know it’s weird, but Wingo and Snot Rod (the “naughty cars” from Cars the movie) are not under our son’s bed in a monkey bowl. They are in the car basket in the playroom. The baby dolls are not in the laundry basket pretending to nap. They are in the perfectly scaled bed we have for them in which they apparently never sleep. That cubby in the playroom is once more home to all of the Sunny Patch and Wonder Pets stuffed animals rather than serving as an echoing, empty cave for Mario characters.

When in doubt, for today only, if you can’t find something, try looking where it actually belongs. Weird, I know. I would never have looked there either.

Love and kisses,
Your wife

P.S. Your socks, if you need them, are in the hamper.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wiping butts and taking names

Let’s talk about wiping butts. For me, the term “wiping butts” has become a convenient shorthand for all of the disgusting, mind-numbing, ludicrously physical aspects of parenting. But today, I am not using it as shorthand. I want to talk about actually wiping butts.

First of all, I have a confession. My kids will be four in a few weeks, and I still wipe their butts. This doesn’t seem like that much of a confession, because pretty much every parent I know does the same. There are a handful of overachievers out there whose kids are completely self-sufficient in the bathroom, but most playgroups at this age involve at least one kid either wandering out bottomless in search of assistance or a yell from the throne on the theme of “Mom! I’m done! Come wipe my butt!”

So why does my preschool expect three-year-olds to be able to wipe their own butts? I know, I know, I know. I know that kids that age are learning “touch” rules and we want our kids to be safe. I know that preschool teachers are not paid nearly enough to deal with feces. I know that, at least at our preschool, teachers don’t even accompany kids to the bathroom. They send them in pairs. Two three-year-olds... holding hands... off to do their business, hopefully remembering to wash their hands afterwards.

I’m lucky. My kids have never dropped a deuce at preschool. I’m very lucky about this, because they have no earthly idea how to wipe their own butts. I don’t think they even know that it’s a possibility. I’m not alone either. A friend’s kid saw their dad finishing up his business and gasped to his mom, incredulous, “Mom, Daddy wipes his own butt!!”

Once, in a fit of “I do it myself,” my son decided to wipe his own butt. I walked into someone else’s bathroom to find thousands of tiny shreds of toilet paper on the floor, mounds of toilet paper in the toilet, poop smeared up my son’s back and onto his shirt, as well as somehow also down onto his pants and underpants and all over his hands, and a line of poop on the front of the toilet where he had slid off the seat. He had very effectively moved lots of poop around with lots of toilet paper, but still had plenty at the source as well. It was like a scene from a very bad dream in which you can’t find a clean toilet and you really have to pee. Except that this was real and I had to scrub crap off of someone else’s toilet and take my son’s clothes home in a knotted-off plastic grocery bag.

Nothing about that scene has encouraged me to try again any time soon.

I’m just gonna say it. Wiping your own butt is not easy. Apparently many grown men still can’t do it. There’s a reason that we had to make up the phrase “skid marks.” ‘Cause some fully grown dudes have yet to master this skill. We don’t expect our preschoolers to clip their own fingernails or wash their own hair, and both of those things are way easier to do than effectively wiping their own butts.

I see this butt-wiping thing as a sort of gentle harbinger. My kids are gonna make a mess of things. Right now, they’re not even four, and the consequences of letting them try and fail involve lots of Lysol wipes and a clean outfit borrowed from a friend. As they get older, they will have to learn skills like making friends, doing their homework, driving responsibly. Things for which the consequences of failure are not so easy for me to clean up. It’s terrifying. It makes me feel grateful that I get to practice letting go with something relatively simple to clean up, before the real item starts hitting the fan.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Screw Candyland, it’s Monster Soccer!

My kids, like many, have a room in our house devoted to their objects, oodles and oodles (and dollars and dollars) of mostly noisy plastic stuff. This room often seems to explode, depositing trippables all over the house. But it turns out, surprise surprise, that maybe they don’t need all of that stuff. Who knew? Here is the game my kids made up and played for a half hour on Friday when it was too hot to go outside:

It started simple. They take turns kicking a ball down the hallway, and then chase it, yelling, “Come back here!” They notice that I am watching, and stop to explain the rules to me.

“We kick it and then we run and say, ‘Come back here,’” my son explains. Yup, that’s pretty much what it looks like.

After a while, my son’s ball goes into the living room, and my daughter tells me, “His ball is in the mud. I hope it’s OK.” So an out-of-bounds has been introduced. Cool.

After watching for a while, I go into the other room to put away some laundry, and I hear my daughter’s voice, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of you. I’ll clean all of the mud off.” So incredibly sweet.

Too sweet. Clearly what this game needs is a monster. The monster proves to be a crucial element. One person “plays soccer” (i.e., kicks the ball). The monster waits. As soon as the ball is kicked, the soccer player runs to save it and the monster growls menacingly as they try to either grab the ball or attack the soccer player or both.

They notice that I am watching again, lured away from the laundry pile by the promise of violence that often accompanies the introduction of a monster into the proceedings. It is then decreed that both kids are monsters, and I am the soccer player. I briefly grieve the comfy seat on the floor from which I have been happily observing, but I haul my tired butt up to play Monster Soccer.

And it is the most. fun. game. ever. I kick the ball, take two steps towards it, and am attacked by two growling and gleeful monsters, their eyes shining with the joy of the hunt.

“Again again!” they chant, after vanquishing both me and my soccer ball. And again and again and again. In my mind, I take a photo of the moment. Beautiful. I am always so busy... cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, putzing on the internet. I’m glad I stopped for a moment to play a round or ten of Monster Soccer.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"The chicken wings"

In a few weeks, hubs and I are going away for the weekend for the first time since the kiddos were born. I know, I know. Our pediatrician suggested we go away overnight when they were two. But who was I gonna sic them on leave them with? My parents or my mother-in-law could handle them for a few hours, but when the babes were younger, they were A LOT of work. No one in their fifties, sixties, or seventies has that much energy. Hey wait, my husband is fifty-four. Huh, maybe I should cut him a little slack when he passes out on the couch in the middle of True Blood. Anyway, my sister could have maybe watched them, but she was pregnant and had a four-year-old too, and watching all three kids while also focusing on puking and napping seemed like a lot to ask. But now my kids are almost four, and they are a lot easier than they were, so my sis is going to watch them for our first weekend away.

So where are we going? A romantic B&B? Um, no. We're going to Atlantic City. We’re gonna play blackjack for hours, and see some comedy, and stay up all night drinking, and eat room service bacon and eggs with mimosas in bed in the morning (where morning might mean noon), and then go see Harry Potter, and then come home. That is so much more my speed than a B&B with roses on the wallpaper and pretty china teacups.

So, it's not the most romantic-sounding weekend plan ever, but it fits us very well, and includes many of the things we love to do, and it's perfect. I'm letting the hubs plan the whole thing, while retaining veto power. He has been researching restaurants (including one with an outdoor cigar patio overlooking the ocean — Yay!!) He suggested we get a late lunch so we could gamble later into the evening without losing our (cheap-o, low stakes) table. He suggested... wait for it... Hooters.

Let me give that its own line in case you're skimming. On our anniversary weekend, on our first trip away overnight since the kids were born, he wants to go to Hooters.

I didn't know my eyebrows went that high. He sees my face and just keeps going on and on defensively about the "chicken wings," and every time he does it, I make snarky air quotes. "The chicken wings, huh? Yeah. I'm sure they’re delicious" (eye roll). I actually believe him that this is about the chicken wings. I know his sexy aesthetic quite well after all of these years, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t include tube socks over opaque panty hose, but it's just so freakin' funny to give him a hard time about this. It's too easy and hilarious, and it wouldn't be any fun for me to let him off the hook. He actually said to me, "I don’t care if the servers were all guys and dressed like Mormons, I would still want to eat those chicken wings." That image makes my chicken wing air quotes much more disturbing, really.

So if he's that excited about the "chicken wings," I’m willing to concede. We'll go for sushi or seafood or something fantastic for our late-night post-gambling dinner. But for lunch on our anniversary weekend, on our first weekend away in four years, we will be dining at Hooters.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On opposites

Opposites attract, right? Because it’s a saying, and a song too, and Paula Abdul wouldn't lie to us about being attracted to an animated cat who steals the covers.

As I was cleaning up the piles of books purged from my husband’s book hoard, including travel guides from the 80’s and roughly 300 back-of-the-toilet books about cats, I found myself contemplating opposites. He hoards. I purge. It’s one of the realities of our relationship, one of the domains in which we used to clash, but a difference we have come simply to accept with humor and just a tinge of eye rolling. But this dichotomy between us, is it even really true? (Dichotomies rarely are, after all.) I mean, I have something like 100 pairs of shoes, many of which haven’t fit me properly since my pregnancy. I do love to purge stuff and get belongings out of my house and out of my life forever. And I can be truly ruthless about it. But I am not by any means the world’s best purger. I hold on to things for sentimental reasons as much as the next person, unless the next person is my husband. He’s not a true hoarder like on TV. He just has a sentimental attachment to objects at a level I find mystifying.

Here’s another example. Married to anyone else, I suspect I would be the ooey-gooey parent. I am a firm believer in the “choose your battles” approach to parenting, and I don’t choose a whole lot of battles. No biting or hitting. Absolutely no whining. No eating junk if you haven’t eaten something that looks like real food. And go to sleep so I can watch The Bachelorette in peace. That’s pretty much it. Not really, but pretty much. If they want to jump on the couch or dump out the matchbox car bin, whatever. I’ll make them separate meals from us if we’re eating something they don’t like or don’t know whether they like. I don’t care. They have to try a bite of what we’re eating, but I’d rather they eat some rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and a bunch of raw fruits and veggies than fight to make them eat a taco. I don’t threaten big punishments like “We won’t go to the birthday party,” because I don’t want to have to follow through on that, so things never get more serious than a time out around here.

We joke, when the kids won’t sleep, about which of us will go in to “beat them.” (We have never hit our kids, not even a little slap. The “beat them” is purely a joke between us, and we never say it in front of the kids.) “Pause Tivo, please, so I can go in and beat them,” I’ll say when the sounds of giggling and bed-jumping get loud enough to detract from DVR'd episodes of The Voice. Here’s what “beating them” looks like. I go in, use my stern-Mommy voice, and tell them it’s bedtime. I vaguely threaten to take toys out of their bed if I have to come in again. Then, if it’s before 10pm or so, I probably kiss or hug them before leaving. Yeah, I know, my kids have it rough.

And I’m the heavy.

My husband will go in to “beat them,” and I will come in 15 minutes later, bored of playing scrabble on my phone, to find him in the recliner with a kid or two gleefully snuggled in his lap.

So I’m the disciplinarian and he’s the softy. Opposites, I guess. Because someone has to be the disciplinarian. Someone has to be the purger or we would end up on an episode of Hoarders. Someone has to be the social director. Someone has to be responsible with the money. Oh wait, crap, neither of us has actually stepped up to that one. Well I’m not doing it. I have to be the disciplinarian, so I’m not being the purse string holder too. Both of those jobs suck.

So what was my point? (Clearly I am not the focused one). Oh right, my point was that I’m skeptical about the opposites attract thing. I’m starting to think that we drift into our opposite roles as a marriage goes on, finding our niches and then solidifying them in our self-concept. It’s how crap gets done. It’s how we don’t drown in a sea of outdated travel books. It’s how we don’t have kids who run wild like dingoes. Someone is the cook. Someone is the heavy. Someone is the neat-freak.

In the end, even though it’s a continuum and not a dichotomy, I’m kind of glad I’m the purger, because there’s no one to make me get rid of my shoes. Those things are totally gonna come back in style, I’m telling you. One day, they will be the height of retro-awesome.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I don’t have skin cancer: One hypochondriac’s story

I’m not a chronic hypochondriac. Most of the time, I am in pretty good health, and I know it, and I am deeply grateful for it. But every few years, I suffer an acute attack of “Oh my God, I am going to die.” The first one was in college. I was awakened out of sleep by a hammer to my brain, accompanied by lots of lovely puking. I went to the health center as soon as they opened, sure that I was dying. It was a migraine. My first and, thankfully, my worst by a very wide margin. But still, a stinkin’ headache. They told me, “You have a headache. Take Tylenol.” I didn’t die from it, although at some moments in the next few hours, I wished I would.

A few years later, I decided I had a thyroid condition. This acute bout of hypochondria was somewhat substantiated by every single doctor I have ever met, each of whom asked me whether I had ever had my thyroid checked, and when I told them I had, every single one felt the need to double-check for themselves anyway, because my symptoms fit so perfectly. After doing lots of research on the internet, repository of only completely 100% accurate medical information, I even convinced one doctor to put me on thyroid medication despite a “normal range” blood result. Sadly, it did not magically cure my weight gain, allergies, fatigue, dry skin, eczema, depression, and low blood pressure. It didn’t do a damn thing. Because despite my grocery list of vague amorphous thyroid-y symptoms, I do not have a thyroid condition.

Other than being terrified that I was carrying conjoined twins (before I even knew I was having twins), and a brief death-fear during my first gallbladder attack, I have been blissfully hypochondria-free for nearly a decade.

Until two months ago, when a large freckle that has been on my abdomen for years started to change. It wasn’t raised exactly, but I could find it with my fingertips without looking, something that was never true before. And was it darker? Maybe. Not sure. Does that edge count as “scalloped?” Bigger than a pencil eraser, check. Slightly asymmetric in color. Crap. I called my dermatologist, and was shocked at their nonchalance. Two months wait for an appointment, far shorter than the usual six month wait to have them check out my eczema, rosacea, and other non-scary skin maladies, but still far longer than a hypochondriac with cancer-fear wants to wait.

For two months, I became increasingly convinced that I had skin cancer. I felt like this thing on my body was changing by the week, which was quite possibly true or just as possibly my paranoid imagination. And if it could change that fast, maybe it was invading my entire body. But the dermie wasn’t worried enough to have me come in right away, so surely skin cancer can’t spread that fast. Except that it did with Izzie on Grey’s Anatomy, and of course that show is totally realistic. Suddenly every spot on my body (and I have a whole lot of them) was suspect. Is that freckle new? Is it darker than the other freckles? Is that an age spot, or a metastasis? You get the idea.

I finally went to the dermatologist this morning. The nurse, who had not yet seen the spot, was talking about biopsies and pathology and blah blah until I was ready to hurl. After a thankfully brief wait, the doc came in, took one look, and said, “Oh that’s a seborrheic keratosis. It’s benign. We can just freeze it off.”

She froze it off, checked the rest of my skin, and that was that. I was out in ten minutes. Gratitude.

I feel as if a weight has been lifted. I didn’t want to freak anyone out, so I haven’t talked about it much, but I was sure I had skin cancer. A very few people know how scared I have been about this, especially the friend I showed it to despite the fact that I was wearing a dress and had to show her my undies in order to show her my abdomen. But in general, I have tried to keep my fears to myself. But hypochondriacal or not, they were very real fears for me, and I am filled to the brim with gratitude today that I do not have skin cancer.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Clothing, pajamas, or workout-wear? A flow chart

Since becoming a stay-at-home mom, I have found that the distinction between clothing, workout-wear, and pajamas has blurred. And by blurred, I mean that it is pretty much completely gone. Ninety percent of the garments I own are made of stretch knit cotton, with the exception of a few cocktail and formal dresses, some jeans, and a very small number of “business casual” items. I have a few cashmere sweaters and some stretchy poly-Lycra items that I include in the “stretch knit” category. And that’s pretty much it. Most of my clothing is comfortable and breathable enough that it can serve as clothing, workout-wear, or pajamas.

I actually sleep au naturel, so I don’t own true pajamas. I own one Christmas PJ for Christmas morning photos—a pair of Old Navy flannel pants with ornaments on them and a top that says, “I’ve been naughty.” Other than that, on occasions that call for PJs, like late-night TV snuggles with the man, I wear the same garments I wear everywhere else. The same dress I wore out to a posh wine bar on a Saturday night will probably become the pajamas that I lounge around in all day on Sunday.

So how do you know? If you come to my door at, say, 2pm on a Sunday, how can you tell if I am dressed or still in my PJs? (Hint, if you come to my door without warning at 2pm on a Sunday and I am home, I am probably in my PJs.)

For all other times of the week, here is a helpful flow chart:

So basically if I am wearing a bra OR shoes OR jewelry OR any non-stretchy item, I consider myself dressed and good to go! Yoga pants and a tank top, no bra, but wearing shoes. Dressed! Yoga pants, tank top, no bra, barefoot, fabulous earrings? Totally effing dressed! Only when I have cast off the shackles of bra, shoes, jewelry, and all items of a non-stretchy nature do we call it PJs. And only when I am in a bra with no rings do we call it workout wear (because since the weight loss, when I sweat, my rings slip off).

If I am wearing a bra AND shoes AND jewelry AND something non-stretchy, I’m really trying to impress you. If my hair is styled too, I am pretty much ready for the red carpet.

Sad. So sad. But true.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Where do we go from here?

It’s been all bikini all the time around here. So what’s next? This bikini stuff has been so wonderfully transforming for me that it’s hard to imagine going back to posts like the top 10 annoying things about the suburbs or whatever. I am starting to realize that for me, while my more traditional “mommy blog” posts are fun and will probably never disappear completely, what gets me excited is thinking about finding a way to be an actual person, while also being a mommy. I think it’s no accident that my most popular posts are about looking for ways to reclaim my Self after giving birth to the small people.

The mommy role is a powerful one. It’s time consuming and all-encompassing and heart-filling. It’s incredibly easy to let the role take over, to be nothing else. If you’re a stay-at-home mom with young children, there’s often no money for travel or concerts. No job outside the home to help with self-definition. No time for hobbies. I say all the time that being a mom is way easier when I don’t try to do anything else. It’s when I try to do volunteer work, or write my blog, or clean the house, or (worst of the worst) talk on the phone that the kids become challenging. They want my constant attention, and are willing to trade a time-out to get it.

To the moms who work from home, or audition for local theater productions, or train for triathlons, I bow down to you. Truly. I can’t imagine trying to do those things. I just want to prove to myself that I am still a human being in addition to being a mom. As small as that sounds, it’s no small thing.

I feel like I get cut so much slack for the fact that my kids are young. And that’s right. If all we can do is get by and take care of the kids and not go completely batshit crazy, we’re succeeding. But I need more. My kids are almost 4. During the pregnancy, I spent so much effort just trying to get 100g of protein into my mouth every day and dealing with the screaming demands of my overtaxed body that I had no space to be a person. I was an incubator. And then I had two infants, and became a dairy. With two toddlers, I was a padded wall. And then with two preschoolers, I became a mediator. I am ready to be me again. I just wish I remembered who that was.

Or maybe I don’t wish that. I have been out of the game for almost five years now. I can re-enter the world of the actual people as someone new. Like college, a reset button from what came before. Bur with better alcohol and less casual sex.

I don’t know what comes next. But wearing a bikini is no longer loaded, and I love my body more than I have in more than a decade. On to the next challenge. Probably career. In the meantime, maybe I’ll post some stuff about kids again for a while.