Tuesday, July 7, 2015

An Ode To The Beginning, And The Journey

At 1:22 a.m. on July 7th, 2006, I started my parenting journey. Hearing my baby's first cry made my face crumble and is imprinted on my soul. Frankly, I never wanted kids. Then I had my baby boy and two more baby boys and while I 100% admit that there have been days where I felt like I was clinging to life and sanity by my last fingernail, ultimately it is an incredible honor to be tasked with raising these boys into courageous, honorable men. I will take every single failure, success, trial by fire, sorrow, and gut-punch heartbreak that has brought me to my knees if it gives me the lessons that I need to teach these boys how to navigate life successfully, proudly, and with honor in who they are and how they treat others. Happy birthday, Ethan. You are such an intricate, intelligent, dorkily weird, affectionate goober and loved so very deeply.

P.S. Happy birthday, Leif. Gone but never forgotten. Your daughter is beautiful, and still, the ocean speaks to us of you.

From 2012. An oldie, and one of my favorites.
This is something I snagged from my personal Facebook page and tossed on here. Because I like it!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I'm Trying To Inspire You

I know it's been quite, quite, some time since I've written on here. Maybe someday I will go into why, but in the meantime, I decided to stop shriveling in horror every time I walked past the utter disaster that was my sons' toy/game room, and I put on my diamond armor (we're colon-deep into the Minecraft world here) and attacked that room with the viciousness of a rabid dog in heat. 

I jotted down some thoughts about the process with the hope that I can inspire you to de-clutter as well. It feels so good, you guys. I practically skip down the hall past the toy room now, pigtails fluttering in the breeze.

**This is a tough love approach so don't be all sensitive.**

First, create ambiance. No seriously. You can't do this without some attempt at making your environment pleasant. My suggestions:

  • Drink one or two drinks beforehand, then take a shot then pour yourself a large drink to take with you when you enter your personal seventh circle. It really loosens you up and helps with the "I don't give a shit, TOSS IT" mindset you're going to need.

  • Put on some music. Or if TV is your thing, put it on or bring your laptop or whatever. I put an 80s station on Pandora and it was like a painkiller/happy pill combo. 

  • Make sure the kids are nowhere in sight. Not only do you need to concentrate, they don't need to see you throwing out their coveted plastic piece of shit that they haven't seen in four years but is suddenly the toy they will die without. I spent my valuable kids-are-in-bed-FUCK-YEAH time to do this and it was time well spent.

  • Be prepared to dedicate a minimum of two hours to this life-changing project.

Second, bring multiple bags. One for recycling, one for trash, one for donation, one more for recycling, then two more for trash, then one more for the what the hell is this but I'm not sure I should throw it out pile (eventually, you'll just throw it all out, FYI), and one for the crap that belongs elsewhere in the house. 

And maybe one more for trash, and one for the stuff you find that belongs to other people not residing with you (I'm NOT kidding, you'll see).

P.S., Nina, I have a big surprise for you...

Okay, now you're ready. But I get it, you take one look at the sandstorm that's in front of you and you immediately want to give up. Don't do that. You suck if you quit, you quitter. 

Here's a big tip: To start, zero in on the one thing on the floor that just pisses you right off. Pick it up and throw it the fuck away. Just throw it in the trash. You can do it. It's so liberating. 

For me, it was these math flash cards. There are at least 400 of them I swear to Christ, and they never use them for the intended purpose. Apparently, they are math wizards (they're not) so they don't need them and every day is someone's birthday somewhere in the world so let's throw those fuckers around like confetti to celebrate! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, STRANGERS!

I pick them up every month. Or tell them to. No more.

I felt guilty at first because it's like, those cards are educational, but wake-up call... When they're not being used as their intended purpose, and never will be, let that shit GO.

Once you've started with anger, you're good to go. Anger is a great kickstarter. Just dig in and start tossing, sorting, tossing, separating, tossing, organizing, and tossing some more. You got this. Just keep tossing. And you'll realize how good it feels to purge, purge, purge, and then you'll purge even more. It's like a cleaning orgasm that builds and builds upon itself.

Some tips for along the way:

1. You will doubt whether or not you should throw something away. Every other toy. Be realistic. You KNOW what they really play with. Trust yourself.

The second you find yourself thinking, well, maaaybe one day they'll play with it... just slap yourself. Slap yourself right in the fucking face and throw that damn toy away. Be reasonable. No they are not going to play with that toy, ever again. They won't even notice it's missing. 

They are probably so overwhelmed with the sheer amount of "options" they have to play with that they likely have mini-seizures every time they walk into the room. It has taken me eight years to realize this. Do them the favor and throw that shit away.

2. Know the toy's value.

Just because they played with it for 12 seconds last week, that is no reason to hang on to it. If it doesn't command at least 10-30 or more minutes of their attention (read between the lines there) then it is garbage and therefore belongs there. 

Example: This amazing thing. 

I held onto not one but three of them for as many years. Because I suck. Because they're BIG. And they came from a Happy Meal. And I had that, well maybe one day... bullshit thought. I finally really looked at it and realized that its sole purpose is to turn the yellow crank/tree penis and OHMIGAWD, the monkeys and elephant will totter up and down!

That wouldn't entertain a six-month-old for longer than ten seconds, much less a four- or six-year-old. They are all in the garbage and my soul weighs 18 less ounces.

3. You will triple their Lego collection. It's a total win-lose situation. They win, you lose.

I mean, where else do you think those tiny evil bastards go when you're not being brought to your knees by stepping on them? To every crevice in your house's existence. And you will find them. And find more. And find even more. Pretty sure they are having orgies in those dark corners and multiplying like motherfuckers.

4. While it's tempting to bulk-toss the massive amounts of paper/schoolwork/"art" you come across, take the time to go through each piece. I found some true gems that I never knew existed, like this:

That sweet boy adores his Mama and it will never get old. At least until he's 16, then it'll be a bit creepy and weird. 

But also have some sense about what you keep. Again, know the value. Trust your eye, and you'll know what to keep. 

I mean, I kept this?

But this: 

Was definitely worth keeping. It's no Monet but it's a pretty good piece done by my then-six-year-old. Just remember that you are going to be buried in your child's schoolwork and artwork, enough to craft yourself paper wardrobes for the rest of your life, so you can afford to be choosy.

Tip: Artwork with glitter or other shedding things on them are to immediately be put in the garbage pile. No regrets. Think about it... has ANY van Gogh, Picasso, Chagall, Munch, etc. painting ever featured glitter or yarn or beads?


For a fucking reason.

5. Figure out the mess and annoyance factor. Be tough. Be honest with yourself. Do you cower in horror every time they play with it? TOSS IT.

Things with more than, say, ten pieces? With few exceptions (see #2), TOSS IT.

Does it make the noise of a thousand screaming banshees in the throes of menopausal rage? TOSS IT.

Just think of the peace your whole house will experience. Think of their hearing. You're saving their ears' lives.

More tips: Take an allergy pill, wear a dust mask (and probably gloves, or better yet, a full-body condom), and close your mind to the disturbing shit you find. Oh, and carry wet and dry rags and clean while you're deep in that dark hole. Might as well. I miraculously didn't find anything too disturbing (don't know how), but a couple of weeks ago I pulled out their bunk bed and found dried puke on the wall and carpet edge. I'd given up on wondering why their bedroom smelled like fermented juice and old shrimp. Figured it was par for the course with boys.

Once you've purged (and I mean more than the contents of your guts), organize like a motherfucker. I genuinely wish I could provide organizing tips for you but I swear to Christ, if I had the golden ticket answer to organizing kids' precious objects in some sensible, practical, real-life way that actually was maintainable on a daily basis, not only would I share it with you but I'd be a multi-millionaire. I've ripped my already-hormonally-thinning hair out trying to figure out a way to make those cute little fuckers understand how to consistently put the balls back in the fucking BALL BUCKET but I've finally realized:

They're kids.

And kids don't give a fuck about the balls being in the fucking ball bucket. 

They won't until they're close to being adults and the state of their living quarters directly reflects on them personally. And even then... questionable.

And, I'm an adult who has better things to do than Type-A supervise my kids' every playing moment and subsequent clean-up, (although I'm seriously getting really close) so in the meantime- many years later- I've finally realized: 

The less they have to throw around, the less they will throw around. Less stuff is bliss. It's so much more manageable. 

And they are really not bored. They actually play and use their imaginations instead of stroke out from over-stimulation every time they walk into the toy room. Kids are beautifully simple and do not require much. 

I wish I had some before and after pictures for the post but inspiration to write about it didn't strike until I was like 70% finished. Hindsight is 20/20, but I'm legally blind so I was pretty much screwed all around. I do, however, have this after picture of my face. Look at the peace and bliss. AAAAHHHHHH. 

You too, could have peace and bliss. Go throw some crap out!

If you have some tips to add, especially ones based on organization, help out and throw them down in the comments.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Failed Tubal Ligation

My tubal ligation failed.

Yep, I got pregnant again.

I should be surprised, but I am not. After my perfectly placed and still-present IUD failed, and I was taken to the depths of shock and surprise, I guess my ability to have faith and be shocked in the birth control arena has been eradicated. I certainly did not have any faith in my tubal ligation. 

I wanted to. I hoped that I was wrong not to believe in it, but ultimately, I knew.

I even made jokes about it. "Well, if a tubal is going to fail, it's going to be mine!" I told Nate that I didn't trust it and he should back it up with a vasectomy. He didn't. Why would he? Why listen to your crazy wife?

This month, two weeks after missing my period, I was looking at this positive pregnancy test. I felt hollow, I wanted to laugh because it was just so fucking ridiculous, I felt numb.

The next day, I was looking at another positive pregnancy test, and two days after that, I was looking at two more positive pregnancy tests at my OB/GYN's office.

Concerned about an ectopic pregnancy, my OB/GYN (who was in complete denial that I could possibly be pregnant) inspected my fallopian tubes via ultrasound and found nothing. In my uterus, he found what was not a 6-week pregnancy, if we were to go by the date of my last period, but what could be a roughly three-week pregnancy, indicating that I either ovulated very late and was only three weeks pregnant, or the not-viable pregnancy stopped progressing after three weeks and I just hadn't miscarried it yet.

He ordered a blood draw to check my hCG (the pregnancy hormone) level, and that night, I started bleeding. The next day, the results came back with a level of 89, which is pretty low. 

I kept bleeding and knew without a doubt that I was losing the pregnancy. Yet, I was also nauseous with morning sickness. I was having weird starchy cravings and gaining weight. My boobs looked like I had turned into a zombie; veins pregnant with excessive blood protruding across them like a road map.

The blood draw done two days later showed that the hCG level had dropped to 48, which given the amount of bleeding that I was having, was what we expected.

The pregnancy was not viable and I appear to have lost it, and given that I never wanted it in the first place, I am fine. I know those words are harsh, but they are 100% honest.

I am also angry. Not because I lost it; because it even happened in the first place. Not that the world needs more examples of "unfair" but here's a glaring one: There are people all over this world, today, in this moment, who would give anything to have even one child, and I have done everything short of resorting to abstinence within my marriage and I still cannot keep from getting pregnant. What cruel, unfair distribution to those who want to be pregnant and have children and are struggling to or never will. I know some of those people. I have seen the tears and bottomless pain in their eyes, and it does not land on me lightly.

Nate and I were that couple that said, if we never have kids, we'll be fine. We will not take drastic measures to become pregnant, or even find out who has the problem that is preventing us from having children. We will accept our fate. 

And here we have three, with a fourth lost. We never expected three, we never tried for even one of our beautiful boys. I don't understand it, and I never will. It is what it is.

But the world is not fair, and I need to step off of my soapbox.

I now have no idea what to do with myself. I'm thinking of making a cape for me, emblazoned with "Super Uterus," and a cape for Nate emblazoned with "Super Sperm" and we could be some kind of super heroes. We could fight crime! Or better yet, we could spread our excessive fertility to others. The Super Fertiles!

Maybe we could perfect some kind of magical touch. Or a special cape move. "We now pass on our super fertility to you." And then we'd vanish into the night and the recipients will become pregnant over and over and have many babies.

On a more realistic level, I could have the entire length of my fallopian tubes removed, effectively (ha.ha.ha.) cutting off my ability to get pregnant. Nate could get a vasectomy that probably wouldn't take, given our luck. My original tubal ligation was a "cut and burn" kind; the doctor removed a roughly half-inch section of each tube and cauterized the open ends, from what I recall.

In the meantime, the OB/GYN wants to see my hCG level drop to zero before he does anything. The last draw, done a week ago, showed that it's still at 37. I will get another draw tomorrow and hopefully it'll be much lower so we can get on with things. So I don't have to be afraid that if Nate breathes on me, I'll get pregnant.

I guess that's it for now. For once, I don't know how to end a blog post. All I can do is shake my head and say, "holy shit."

Actually, I do have one more thing to say. I took that picture of the test so I could text it to a friend to ask her if she read it as "positive" like I was reading it. (Talk about denial.) And now I am really glad I did, because it's something tangible for me to have of #4 that wasn't to be.

You happened. You couldn't stay, but you happened.

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Ready To Retire From This Phase of Parenting

Now that my last kid is out of diapers, and I have a mostly self-sufficient seven-year-old and somewhat self-sufficient five-year-old, I'm so over all this care-taking stuff, you guys.

I mean, I've been over it for a long time, but now that I can see that light at the end of the tunnel, it's like, YOU'RE NOT BRUSHING YOUR TEETH YET? I still have to get you dressed? Wipe your butt? Watch you in the street? What is this shit? Get it together, kid!

Poor Brandon. He's such a sweetheart, especially for a three-year-old, but for Christ's sake, I cannot wait until he's like, five, and way more capable of doing things for himself. I'm so ready to retire from this "parenting young kids" phase for good and move onto the next one; one that I think will be a "much better and more fun for everyone!" phase.

I have major short-timer's syndrome.

Those first couple of years after Brandon was born were no joke. For those who aren't familiar, when he came along, Ethan had just turned four and Connor, two. It was hard-core insane, intense, a fucking soul-suck of drudgery and frustration, constant care-taking, crying (them and me), and man alive, I am so glad that is ending.

So as Brandon moves- with agonizing slowness- closer to the dream ages that Ethan and Connor are at, I'm having trouble with my patience and am finding myself trying to skip out on all the care-taking stuff I have hated since basically day one, like baths... I hate that job so much that it's like Oh I can let him go another day! and I do and then he'll smell like a goat and it's like, nope, not a good idea! Can't be that lazy! So I'll throw him in the shower with me to avoid baths at all costs (even though he's now making the observation that I "have hair on my penis." Yes, I am a woman.)

Making sure my impatience doesn't cross over into neglect is a bit of trial and error...

I'm (mostly) kidding, no need to dial up CPS.

Another AMAZING thing I see on the horizon is it's getting easier to take the boys out in public. It's still not ideal and I try to avoid it all costs, but we're moving away from times like this and this and I could not be happier. 

Last Saturday, we met a friend at a jumpy-house place, and not only did I not even take a diaper bag (a risky venture- what if Brandon pissed himself out of excitement at ALL THE JUMPY HOUSES?) I also didn't have to watch them like a hawk. I got to sit at a table and actually talk to my friend while the kids played! I kind of felt... like an adult human person type thing.

Nothing like the time I took them to Chuck E. Cheese's (when the boys were five and under) by myself for a birthday party, only to realize within five minutes of arriving that I was in completely over my head and there was no way I could possibly keep my eye on all three of them at once.

While I was pulling Connor off of the skee ball lane that he was trying to crawl up to better get his ball in the holes, Brandon sat down at a complete stranger's table (out of my sight) and started eating some of their pizza. At that exact moment, Ethan got too far up in one of those blind tunnels and I couldn't see him, so when I actually had a moment to look for him and couldn't find him, I thought he had been kidnapped or was being molested in the bathroom.

We've never been back.

But there is hope that soon, I'll be able to take them to the cold shitty pizza and mostly broken games wonderland by myself and not have shit like that happen. 

Hope, people. It springs eternal.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The $268 Banana

I'd been waiting for this day with my asshole puckered tight since my firstborn was about 4 months old, knowing it's going to happen. We've all heard the stories about the balls through the neighbors windows and other shit kids do to break something expensive that the parents have to pay to fix or replace, and we wait with terrified, baited breath for our turn. 

I am less than thrilled to announce: Our time has come.

Frankly, three boys later, I'm surprised it hasn't come sooner than this.

A couple of weeks ago, the toilet in our downstairs bathroom clogged. No amount of plunging (which I HATE to do because of a toilet in our former house that clogged daily) would unclog it. We were at a loss until it started dawning on Nate and I that perhaps one of the boys had flushed something they weren't supposed to- another thing I'm surprised hasn't happened sooner.

I asked the boys if one of them flushed something other than poop or pee down the toilet. I knew without a doubt that it would have been Connor (5) or Brandon (3), so I was floored when Ethan (7) fessed up.

Just when you think you know your kids...

Story goes: Ethan was sitting on the pot while eating a banana (gross) and when he was done with it and "didn't want to hold it anymore" he flushed the peel down the fucking toilet.

He didn't throw it in the GARBAGE CAN that is less than a foot away from the toilet, he flushed it.

Just when you think your kids are really smart, you realize: They are still kids. 

I called a plumber, he arrived, heard the story, and we talked over our options. For $125, he could snake the toilet and try to fish the peel out, but in doing that he could also inadvertently shove the peel into our whole plumbing system, it could get trapped, then all the toilet paper and whatever else we put into our system (MORE BANANA PEELS?) could clog up behind the peel and cause a whole house plumbing problem, potentially causing us hundreds or maybe even thousands of dollars in damage.

OR, he could do the more-expensive-than-snaking option of taking the toilet off the floor and fish the peel out that way, and we wouldn't have to wait with baited breath for our plumbing system to die and flood our house with shit.

I asked him how much that would cost. Answer: $368.

My mouth dropped open and I just blankly stared at him while I processed what I heard, which was not "Three hundred and sixty-eight dollars." What I heard was, "A week and a half worth of groceries" or "Christmas present money" or "Partly the cost of the washing machine that we'll need to replace soon" and "What a complete waste of money for such a stupid fucking mistake."

My blank, horrified look unexpectedly convinced him to say that he could take $100 off the price because our toilet didn't look all that hard to take off and put back on because it's new, bringing the price to $268.

Still a big ball of suck, but when I weighed it against the gamble of a potential future- and more expensive- problem, I told him to do it.

I opened our garage door so the plumber could bring in his equipment, and left the door from the garage leading into the house open halfway. I went into the house while he stood in the garage processing the work order on his iPad. Not one minute later, Brandon (the three-year-old), who was eating at our kitchen counter about 15 feet away from the open door to the garage innocently asked me, "Mama, is that fat guy in the garage?"

Because we needed this to get worse. As I cringed and hoped that the plumber had already gone to his truck and didn't hear what Brandon said, I heard his truck door shut and thanked God that he hadn't heard while I quickly lectured Brandon that it isn't okay to call people fat.

The plumber got the peel out, I numbly handed him our credit card, and off he went.

Since I can't sell Ethan to depraved pedophiles to pay the bill, he is now my slave. Anything he is capable of doing that I don't want to do myself, he's the man. His ass is working this off, and he really thinks it sucks. But every time he complains, I remind him that it sucks even more that he flushed a banana peel down the toilet and cost mom and dad a bunch of money.

He's starting to complain less and less. Frankly, I think it's good for him. He's of the age that he needs to be a bigger contributor to the chores and workload of this household and I grudgingly guess that this is a good- but expensive- segue.

The scene of the crime. Note that cylindrical, silver thing RIGHT NEXT TO the toilet? Mmmm hmmm.

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