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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The messed up dreams of a pregnant woman

My friend tells me that my more heart wrenching posts should come with a “tissue warning.” Well, this post comes with a “seriously messed up sh*t warning” because that’s the only accurate description for what a pregnant woman dreams about at night.

Don’t you hate it when people just abandon shopping carts in parking spaces at grocery stores? I mean, how hard is it to take them to the cart return? Lazy jerks.

Yeah… um, I’m that jerk. But it’s not because I’m lazy. Here’s why.

After Quinn was born, I found myself paralyzed in the parking lot after our first grocery store outing together. I had just loaded all the bags into the car and snapped in Q’s infant seat. Seized with anxiety, I gripped the handle of the shopping car unsure of what to do next. The cart return was clear across the parking lot, and I didn’t want to leave my teeny tiny baby alone in the car for even a moment. Even though logic told me he would be fine in the car for 90 seconds, the knot in my stomach screamed otherwise. So I hooked the wheels of the shopping cart over the curb next to a nearby parking space and left. I’m that jerk.

This irrational fear of leaving Q alone in the car has been with me ever since, resulting in a horrifically eff-ed up dream when I was pregnant for Reid. In the dream, I left Q in the car to return the shopping cart, but when I came back, my car was gone. I started panicking. I couldn’t breathe. I grabbed the nearest stranger and tried to choke out the right words to tell her my baby was gone. Instantly, the parking lot was swarmed with cop cars and flashing lights. Then suddenly, it was dark outside and I knew a lot of time had passed and he’d been missing all day. Then someone said they found the car on the other side of the parking lot. (Wait, it took that long to find the car in the same parking lot??? Yes, to review, this is an eff-ed up dream.) Screaming Quinn’s name, I ran toward the car. I could see Q’s shape still strapped into his toddler seat… but I knew what happens when a child has been left in a hot car all day… and I knew what I was about to find…

And then I jolted awake before I saw what I can’t un-see. Just like in a movie, I sprang upright in bed, panicked, sweaty and gasping for air. One arm wrapped around my very pregnant belly, I lunged for the video monitor with the other arm. I needed to see him!

I watched Quinn sleep on the monitor for a few moments, just barely able to make out the steady rise and fall of his chest. I let the rhythmic sound of his noise machine come through the monitor and slowly soothe me until I could breathe normally again.

And then I let the tears fall.

But my hell was not over yet. The following night, I dreamt that Q and I were broadsided by another car. As our SUV spun in circles, I could feel Reid’s spirit leaving my body and I just knew I’d lost the baby. I yelled for Quinn, but I couldn’t hear him over the squeal of brakes and tires and the shattering of glass. The spinning motion kept my head bolted to the seat, and I couldn’t turn my neck to look back at him. I prayed to God to please let him be okay… but if He was going to take both of my babies, He had to take me, too.

This time I jolted awake – again, panicked and sweaty – before our car even stopped spinning, so I have no idea how the dream would have ended. But I don’t think I want to know.

Yo, pregnancy dreams are no joke, people. Most of my preggo dreams were just a bit weirder than normal, but a few, like these two, were downright morbid. But before you shove me onto a bus to Crazy Town, it’s not just me. Ask any mom, and she will tell you that she had some crazy-ass dreams when she was pregnant, too.

When my aunt was pregnant, she dreamt that she kept the baby in the toilet tank. Yes, you read that right. In her dream, the baby slept in the back of the toilet. Hmmm, maybe it’s because I had that story and this blog post on my mind when I went to sleep last night, but last night I dreamt that I put Reid to bed… in a fish tank. And he was fine, breathing normally and sleeping there under the water with the fish, totally cool. And I’m not even preggers anymore!

What’s the nuttiest, eff-ed up dream you had while preggers? Come on, make me feel less "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Man Up

I recently saw a video that warned against the three words you should never say to your son - “be a man.” The expectations of how men should behave that our society puts on even the youngest boys are absurd. As a mother to an especially sensitive little boy, I definitely have strong opinions on this topic.  

My sweet, sensitive Q, who likes to
"play yoga" and would never hurt a fly.
Quinn (who just turned three) instantly cries when another child takes his toy away, or won’t share a toy with him, or is in any way physically aggressive with him. Even if the other child doesn’t hurt him, Quinn’s feelings get hurt, and he cries as loud as he would if he were gushing blood.

I see the way some men look at Q when he gets emotional. There’s the eyebrow raise or the eye roll, maybe a knowing look shared with someone else who gives a slight nod as if I won’t notice. I try not to assume the worst about people – especially our friends and family – but I think I know what they’re thinking: “That kid needs to toughen up. He’s going to be a p**sy.”

Then the scruff on this Mama Bear’s neck stands up a little and my nostrils flare. I take a deep breath and try not to care what those men think. But I do care. And worse yet, I know Quinn cares, and he will easily pick up on their scorn within the next couple years.

If these men saw a little girl acting the same way Q does, they might think she’s a bit annoying, but they would never attack her character. Yet, when my little boy gets emotional, suddenly his future manhood is on the line?

I follow my cousin’s eleven-ish year-old son on Instagram, and I see the chest-thumping banter between him and his friends. They bust each other’s balls and call each other “gay.” They post pictures of Maxim models and leave disgusting comments, like that they want to take her to “condom city.” First of all? EW!! Second, ain’t nobody takin’ anybody anywhere. These middle school boys are all virgins and they all know it, but they already believe that’s how real men are supposed to talk. Hence, the rejection of homosexuality and the dehumanization of women begin at a young age.

I remember when my parents divorced, someone told my two year-old brother he was "the man of the house." Are you kidding me? What does that even mean? Don’t even get me started on how insulting that must have been to my mother – a perfectly competent adult who is assumed to be so weak just because she’s female that her two year-old son now has a duty to protect her? I was only thirteen at the time, and I was insulted. But all that aside, what kind of pressure does “man of the house” put on a little boy?

What exactly does it mean to “be a man,” anyway? Does it mean to never cry? To be physically aggressive? To intimidate? To show your anger but keep all other emotions well hidden? To watch porn, have lots of sex and disrespect women? To never let anyone disrespect you? To take what you want? To take control? To feed on power no matter who you have to take it from? I ask because it seems that when a male – regardless of age – acts counter to the above behaviors, he’s told to “be a man” or “man up,” or he’s at least laughed at by other males who think that’s what men do.  

When adults whom a young boy loves and respects negatively feminize crying, caring, etc., he quickly figures out that most of his emotions are not acceptable male behavior. And we wonder why we live in such a violent world. We’ve all met grown men who push their emotions down, deny their own pain and act tough, and those men are usually assholes. And I’m doing my damnedest not to raise a couple of assholes.

image credit
I love that Quinn is compassionate, empathetic and affectionate. I’m proud that he vocalizes his feelings and is learning to stand up for them. He rightly believes that his feelings matter! Yes, I know my son is emotional and sensitive, probably to a fault, but I can think of worse faults for a man to have than being “too sensitive.” In fact, I think this world could use a few more sensitive men. 

Pouring my heart out with Shell over at "Things I Can't Say."

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Girls Night!

I recently saw this post from the always hilarious Martinis and Minivans.

Totally relatable, right? Ah, memories. I totally had those body suits (a.k.a. grown-up onesies) in high school. The 90's were almost as weird fashion-wise as the 80's.  

Thursday night was always Bar Night in college. Most weeks, we went to this super ghetto “eighteen and up” club where we tried to scam drinks and tried not to get dry-humped by random drunk dudes. (Ewww. Remember, we talked about this.)

But occasionally, on super special Girls Nights, we Michigan gals would cross the border into Canada where the drinking age was only nineteen. (Did you know that a tiny portion of Ontario is actually south of most of Michigan? And that teeny tiny sliver of Canada is the only thing standing between Michigan and New York? Seriously, people, look at map.)

Yes, nights like these actually happened on occasion in my early college days. We would shimmy into our pleather pants (that’s where polyester and plastic come together to make a faux leather because that was considered hot in the 90’s) and skimpy tops and show our real I.D.’s to the bouncer to get into a bar that would actually serve us real alcoholic beverages. We thought we were the shiz. In fact, when my friend ordered our first shots ever at a bar, we were in Windsor, Ontario… and she ordered us Jägermeister shots because it was the only liquor she could think of on the spot. That's how young we were. So we downed the Jäger and pretended it was delicious when it really tasted awful. (Liquid black licorice? Really? Bleh.)

(I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to my parents – and possibly my grandmother – who may be the only people who read this blog and may have been unaware of these events until now. I promise my friends and I were always very careful and nothing bad ever happened. Girl Scout’s honor.)

But now, I’m thirty-five years old, and Girls Night isn’t what is used to be. No crossing the border into foreign countries. No pleather pants. No microscopic hoochie tops. No shots of nasty liquor. Yes, Girls Night is all grown up now. And sometimes Girls Night Out is actually just a Girls Night In (or G.N.I. as we call it), where my friends and I show up at one of our houses after the kids are asleep just to laugh and drink wine as quietly as possible. We’re not cheap or lazy or old (who am I kidding, yes we are), we just want to talk to each other without having to yell over screaming toddlers, crying babies, loud music or other drunk people.

Last Friday, we had a G.N.I., and I basically showed up in my pajamas. Seriously: yoga pants, t-shirt, hair in a sloppy bun and no make-up. I had to promise my friend I wasn’t there to spend the night at her house (unless she was willing to have me over because getting up in the middle of the night to feed the baby who won't go back to sleep super sucks).

It’s a long way to go from pleather pants to pajama pants, but I like our mature Girls Nights much better than our young, stupid Girls Nights. Wine is yummier than Jäger, and I’ll take some good girl talk over gross drunk dudes any day.

Holla if ya hear me. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Park Regulator Mom

At the park, you will see many different types of moms. You’ve read about Park Moms from other bloggers before. For example, there’s the “Snack Mom.” She’s got a bag the size of a small dog carrier full of Goldfish crackers, granola bars, gummies, you name it. This mom is prepared for any toddler meltdown… and the zombie apocalypse.

Then there’s “Cell Phone Mom.” She came to the park so her rambunctious crew could hopefully entertain themselves in the sand pit for five minutes. During this brief reprieve, she hopes to check her Facebook or play Candy Crush Saga for a just few moments before the barrage of “Mom! Mom! Mom!” comes at her again.

Then there are the “Mom Date Moms.” These mom friends stand in a tight circle talking at a rate of about 4,000 words per second trying to make the most of their thirty minutes of adult interaction. The only thing stopping them from hitting the bottle at 10am on a Thursday are these weekly Mom Dates.

I'm guilty of being all of these moms at one point or another (most frequently, the third one!), but I’m here to talk about another type of park mom. “Park Regulator Mom.”

“Park Regulator Mom” is not to be eff-ed with. If she sees any dangerous, risky or just plain mean behavior, she will Shut. That. Shit. DOWN. “Park Regulator Mom” is a title I bear at every park visit. (I’m thinking of having an arm band made, hall monitor style.)

If there’s a kid throwing sand or wood chips, I will shut it down.* If there’s a kid going up the slide while other kids are waiting at the top, I will shut it down. If kids are hitting, kicking or pushing, I will shut it down. (*Okay, there’s a chance I’ve been watching way too much Scandal. BTW, did you know that Scandal's Kerry Washington is speaking at BlogHer ‘14? And did I tell you I’m going to BlogHer ‘14??!! I didn’t? I know! We have so much catching up to do! Anyway, more on that later...)

I won’t even look to see if the errant kid’s mom is nearby before I start regulating. I probably need to tone it down more than shut it down, but when safety is at stake, this Mama Bear doesn’t eff around.

The role of Park Regulator Mom is deeply rooted in a condition that I like to call “Park Anxiety Disorder.” Those play structures are so big, and there are openings at the top where a small child could free fall with one little slip. Whenever Q gets to the top of one of those things, I have heart palpitations. I know. You think I’m over-reacting. And I probably am. But a while back, I stumbled upon the most heart breaking story on Facebook.

Healing Evan is about a three year-old boy who died after falling from the top of a park play structure. Click on the link of you want to read this family’s devastating story, but grab some tissues first. (And read her post from Jan. 27th. Gut-wrenching!) This has stuck with me, validating all of my so-called “irrational” park safety fears.

Last summer, two year-old Quinn and his friends were at a park (i.e., my mom friends and I were on a Mom Date) when I felt my worst park fears about to come true. Q was at the top of the slide, eight feet above the ground, when a five-ish year-old boy pushed him aside so he could go down the tube slide first. Quinn stumbled near the wide opening at the top… my friend and I ran to the other side to try and catch him… but Q didn’t fall. My son, who is rather clumsy and can suddenly fall just standing still, actually regained his balance and didn’t fall to his death. Yet my heart stayed firmly in my throat.

Three or four kids had started crowding behind Q on the small platform waiting their turn to go down the tube slide, but that same aggressive little boy wouldn’t go all the way down. He would go halfway and then stop himself and crawl back up to the top over and over again. So then the kids at the top started getting antsy and pushy. Quinn was still hovering near the opening on the platform and crying. My friend stayed at the bottom in case he fell while I climbed to the top. I yelled over the waiting children to the grinning boy clogging the slide. In my most menacing Mama Bear voice, I roared, “Get down the slide NOW!” His eyes widened and he instantly disappeared down the slide.

That’s right, punk. Park Regulator Mom in full effect, yo! Don’t eff with the arm band! (Just so you know, I don't often yell at other people's kids. Only when it's an urgent situation and immediate action is required.)

I could give several other examples of Q and his friends being harmed or almost harmed by other kids at the park. I think every park should have an official regulator. Until that happens, I will take my self-appointed role very seriously.

What type of Park Mom are you? What do you do when you see children exhibiting dangerous or hurtful behavior? What are your boundaries for correcting other people’s (even complete strangers’) children? 

Here are a couple of my favorite posts on park behavior from Katie at Practical Parenting

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dragon wrestling

What started out as Reid's four-month photo shoot, ended in a pretty serious dragon wrestling match. I don't know about you, but my money's on the baby. Puff's eyes look a little bloodshot, and Reid's at the top of his game. 

Oh, and Baby Dragon is five months old today. How that happened so fast, I'll never know. Time flies with the second one!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Word Hoarding

It's been over a month since I've written a blog post. Over five weeks, actually. Life has gotten away me again and I'm still learning how to manage being a mother of two. But amidst the late night feedings and temper tantrums and preschool pick-ups, I still think in blog posts. The running narrative in my head gets longer and longer with each passing day until the unwritten words pile up.

Instead of blogging, I've been chillin' with these
two adorable, hilarious little distractions.
I can't find my car keys or remember why I walked into the bedroom because the words fill every nook and cranny of my brain, crowding out other useful information. Sometimes I imagine the inside of my head looks like a hoarder’s living room – stacks and stacks of words piled up to the ceiling. I wade through the words, thick as sludge, until I'm out over my head. They're pulling me under. I’m drowning in the words I don’t have time to express. The word clutter is killing me.

I've never been able to function in clutter. Even in high school, I kept my room relatively neat. In college, I had to tidy my dorm room before I could sit down and focus on studying. At my Big Girl Corporate Job, my desk was rarely messy, which is weird for a creative person. When I am surrounded by physical clutter, it’s very difficult for me to focus.

Now with two children, not only is my physical environment cluttered with toys and laundry, but my brain is also littered with half-baked thoughts. Every toy car or truck on the floor represents a blog topic that is just sitting in my brain, waiting to be put away. For every pile of dirty laundry, there is a pile of words jumbled up in my head waiting to be sorted. I’m constantly tripping over it all.

I have no need for those writing prompts so many bloggers find helpful. “Writers block” is a foreign concept to me. I keep a long list of blog topic ideas that I want to get out of my head, although sometimes I don’t jot the idea down fast enough and it gets lost in the word clutter. Still, that I might sit in front of a blank document and not have any words come to mind is entirely unfathomable.

Instead, the problem I face (aside from finding the time to write, of course) when I open the laptop is simply a temporary paralysis as all the words fight with each other to get out. They see the light from my laptop screen and start to stampede toward the door of my brain. The words shove and claw their way through the narrow doorway, desperate to get out. With so many words to choose from, it’s sometimes hard to decide which ones to write first. But as soon as I make my decision, my fingers can barely keep up with the wave of words that come flooding out.

When I finally have time to write and rid myself of all these words, it’s a deeply cleansing feeling, like finally cleaning out that closet or junk drawer that’s been driving me crazy. I can breathe again, I can focus. With every blog post, the cobwebs of my brain are cleared away, and I’m actually… smarter.

So the fact that I have not had time to write the last several months has really taken its toll on my smarts. So much has happened! Did you know that I had my three-year blogiversary last October? The milestone passed without fanfare as I comforted a terribly ill toddler. As I stroked Quinn’s forehead, who was delirious with fever, I desperately willed my contractions to stop and silently begged the baby not to come that night. (Reid kindly obliged and joined us the very next day.)

Blogging just isn’t the priority for me that it once was. Something had to give. So in an effort to be kind to myself, I let go of the guilt for not blogging as often and promised myself that I would get back to it (and to me) soon. I admit I’m a little worried that you won’t wait for me, that when I finally come up for air from under this ocean of words, I will be staring at an empty shore. No readers. No fans. No followers.

I do hope all of you will still be here when the words finally come flooding out. I promise there are some treasures in my word hoard. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Enough Love? I have my answer.

Before my second child was born, I worried that I didn’t/wouldn’t love him as much as I love his brother. I asked myself (and all of you with the blog post “Enough Love” that was very difficult to write), how could I possibly love another child the way I love Quinn? Could I have enough love for both of them? Now that Reid is here, I have my answer.

Yes, of course, I do. My heart is on the verge of bursting every time I look at Reid as well as Quinn. My friend was right – I did grow another heart that belongs to just him. But I admit, it does feel different.

These hilarious, adorable boys... how could I love one more than the other?

While the intensity of my love and the amount of love I have for my boys is equal, it shows in different ways. I think it’s because they each need different things from me. Quinn still needs lots of snuggles, but not as much as the baby does, so Reid is in my arms more often. Quinn needs me to talk to him about anything and everything. He needs me to validate him and help him build his confidence. Reid just likes looking at my face while I make exaggerated expressions and narrate our life as it happens. My two boys are unique individuals with unique needs. 

My cousin’s wife, Amanda, wrote a beautiful comment on my previous post that describes it perfectly:

…I know you've been told everything will be fine and the love will come and it will, but honestly it's not the exact same love and truly can't be. But that's okay because it will still be an overwhelming love to protect and nurture a new individual person. Mommy mode kicks in on you and soon you won't be able to imagine your life without little Baby Dragon.

She’s a mother to four beautiful boys, so she knows what she’s talking about. If you haven’t yet, go back and read her entire comment. Wise words from a wise woman.

Also, I think I was equating love with guilt and worry. My overly empathetic tendency made me worry about and analyze every possible emotion Quinn had as a baby. Just because I don’t hover around Reid and bite my nails down to nubs over what he might be feeling, that doesn’t mean I don’t love him as much as I love Quinn. While I’m still very empathetic of my children and see them as real people with real feelings, three years of parenting experience has made it so I don’t project emotions onto them quite as much (although I still do – a lot). I know now that I can think about something else besides my children for a few minutes and doesn’t mean I love them any less. I can have a need of my own, and that doesn’t make me a bad mom.

My children were also born into different circumstances, and that impacts how I treat them. Being the second child, poor Reid has to cry more than Quinn had to. When there’s a toddler to take care of, I can’t hold Reid as much as I held Q as a baby. For example, I have to put Reid down so I can put Q’s shoes on or change Q’s diaper or brush Q’s teeth or make Q’s breakfast, and if Reid’s in one of his “I’m-not-happy-unless-you’re-holding-me-and-sometimes-not-even-then” moods, there will be some tears. It breaks my heart to hear him cry and I scoop him up as soon as I can, but a mom of two (or more!) does what she has to do to get the toddler to preschool on time and keep the household functioning.

No matter what your profession, there will be times you’re expected to keep everyone happy, and that’s an incredibly stressful, no-win situation. We all know that’s nearly impossible when it comes to adults, so it should be even less likely to keep multiple children happy all the time. The profession of a SAHM to more than one child is the same way. When there’s only one mommy and both kids need her, one child is just going to have to be unhappy for a few minutes. That’s life. Quinn didn’t have to share me when he was a baby, so he didn’t have to go through that, but it doesn’t mean I love Reid less because I allow him to cry more than Q had to. It’s just the reality of the situation.

So while my love for Reid might look different and feel different, I love him just as much. On this Valentine’s Day, now with a third heart bursting out of my chest, I have more than enough love for my amazing Hubs and two adorable sons. And my love grows more and more every day. 

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