A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Life as Pictures

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Needs Met

I received an unexpected call from a good friend. We haven’t caught up in ages. I think it’s the mark of middle-aged friendships that there is a basic understanding you will not speak for excessive amounts of time, but the conversations begin as though no time elapsed. It was a brief call; in transit. I gave her the thumbnails of events in the last six months, and found myself apologizing for their depressing, edged nature. I like telling jokes; I don’t like complaining…I suppose with humor it can be one of the same.

But, the morning was a reprieve from the draining monotony of my dreary, racing thoughts at times. Overall my life is a good one, but I’m definitively nursing some internal wounds at the moment. The week like the last one push me to concur the healthful benefits of community. I have a collection of wonderful people in my life; I’d certainly be lost without them. This morning, however, was a different sort of reprieve that gave me respite from the diverse waves of bombarding negative thoughts.

It was a beautiful morning, simultaneously cool and warm. My husband and I took the children to a local park. Mr. Man used a regular swing for the first time. It took some prodding, but he was giddy with excitement as I pushed him as high as I could muster. Warrior Queen has a death wish rooted in daring oblivion; Little Man almost punted his sister across the wood chipped enclosure as he swooped forward. I snatched the chain, jerking my son off the seat. He clung onto the swing drifting back toward me.

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(That’s actually the expression he gave me, and it was probably wrong for me to laugh.)

Warrior Queen wandered off in her typical drunken gorilla posture to interfere in the amusing activities of another unsuspecting child.

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(How did Daily Mail get a picture of Warrior Queen noticing that I opened the pantry door?!?)

Little Man is of the age where a parent realizes he can climb up…things…tall things, yet fears the windy swoop down. Eventually he determines he will not be owned by a staticy expanse of smooth green plastic, and takes the risk. I admire his bravery in all things. For Warrior Queen’s part, she enjoyed the softer slope of her own slide, even as fatigue began to take over. On her belly and smiling, she would lay her head upstream momentarily before requesting that I boost her up once again.

My husband and I had the rare moment to sit on a bench in the enclosure; both children momentarily independent. There were no great disclosures or profound remarks, it was just peaceful and comfortably warm for my soul to sit with him and laugh about absolutely nothing worth remembering. I suppose those are the most nurturing moments after almost a decade-and-a-half commitment.

I’d like to say this simple trip to a playground on a perfect autumn day is enough to compensate for the entirety of my struggles, but fortunately I encounter enough quantity to make a dent.

Life as Pictures

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Loss

This is an odd post…a situation I’d had a low lingering inkling that I didn’t want to accept. I have…had a close friend. He was an amazing and very tortured soul; most of his life. Out of respect for his privacy, I’ll leave the details for the winds to whisper as part of his memory. But, he touched so many lives…people forgotten…left behind. His strength and power always inspired me to be my best self. He embraced his frailties; I’d always admired that about him. Tragically, however, he spent most of his life lonely. I’m not sure how he passed; I’ll never know, but I have notions within the realm of possibility, and it breaks my heart.

I’ve lost like this before; someone terribly close. I was an adolescent at the time, and my greatest regret was never expressing my love for him, and the depth to which his friendship shaped me. As much as a piece of me had been expecting to find my friend’s obituary online after two weeks of a quiet phone, I worry his last days were spent feeling unloved. I’d been especially neglectful for a couple of weeks, not checking-in as regularly as I’d practiced over the last several years because of his circumstances. Whatever happened I couldn’t have prevented it, but I hope from the center of my existence he knew on some level what he meant to me. I doubt he ever accepted his value, but in pleading ardent hope I pray I communicated it nonetheless. I think I did. I can’t bear to think I didn’t.

He will forever live on in my thoughts, and inspire my actions…to selflessly embrace the big, seemingly unsolvable problems…because that was his life. Furthermore, I’ll try to laugh more, worry less because barriers are never as insurmountable as they seem. That was his life as well.

I hope my children live a life knowing how to laugh with their whole beings…to seek humor in the most unlikely places. It’s one of the things I remember most about my friend; his endless humor at the most random, odd things. I hope to be as steady a presence during the most terrifying of moments. I hope to level opposition with a pointed, intimidating stare. I hope to have the flair for colorful language that kept us rapt and peculiarly joyful during meetings. I hope I’m brave enough to feel life as he did…to experience humanity in all of its remarkable and horrifying facets, and seek to make it better.

But, most of all I hope he finally has peace.

Trepidation

The cusp of three-and-a-half-year-old Mr. Man had his first dentist appointment the other day. My husband and I have a standard protocol introducing new and possibly unpleasant things to him, and its efficacy is magical…Like a unicorn spontaneously appearing in my family room shitting cookies and telling me MPOTUS and his dream team are in prison.

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(allposters.com read my mind; can’t you FEEL the magic…totally worth a house coated in glitter, right?)

Little Man has always struggled with transitions, even for small changes in activities. As a little wee man, if he were enjoying swings, good luck getting him off…out of a bathtub…out the door. It never mattered. Announcing anything requiring him to shift gears almost always led to a refusal and meltdown.

For the longest time it was enough to countdown minutes; I still do. It’s a bit absurd. We call them “Mommy Minutes” because they have no actual relationship to real time. A Mommy Minute is probably more like a minute-and-a-half in real time…because I have shit to do. The process begins with me announcing five minutes remaining of an activity, then I periodically announce one minute less in intervals suiting me. The last announcement will be thirty seconds before I ask my son to count from ten. Once he accomplishes his part, I almost never have an issue ushering him to the next task. Occasionally, I have to follow-up with a mild redirection or limit, but I can’t remember the last time there has been a full-out heel digging and head spinning.

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(Linda Blair pictures were freaking me out, but Anthony Hopkins is hot and beats the hell out of the Mitch McConnell look alike that kept popping up…You’re welcome.)

It doesn’t have to be minutes either. I’ve counted pushes…bites…taps…anything. The point is that he needs time to shift gears. He probably inherited this rigidity from me. It’s interesting because he’s pretty easy going and laid back. I would have expected him to be a worrier or a generally anxious kid; he isn’t.

That said, for a bit around when Warrior Queen was born we were having trouble getting Mr. Man to sit for a hair-cut, and few things make a Mommy feel like more of a humiliated failure than when she and her offspring are bounced from a bargain hair salon amongst a crowd of bystanders. That was our family’s hair-cut bottom, and Little Man was in desperate need of trimmed locks.

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(You got me Flickr, this guy’s situation might have been worse, but only because my experience isn’t on the internet. And, really, I’m just one delicious chocolate cake away from an impressive pants split.)

My brilliant husband spent the following week talking about getting a hair-cut. General things: what happens…random details…how long it takes…why it’s time to get one…Mommy and Daddy have them. There was nothing poetic about the conversations, and some were quite clumsy. Often he passionately refused during these conversations. If he became weepy, we’d stop talking, and move on to other topics. But, the next weekend my Mr. Man sat on Daddy’s lap for a hair-cut without issue. When he was finished he skipped over to me screaming, “I did a good job!” We haven’t had a problem with hair-cuts since.

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(The hair-cut was miraculous! Thanks, The Wolf.)

Little Man abhors the doctor even more than a hair snipping…even if it isn’t an appointment for him. But, after a week of talking about it, my brave boy managed his most recent physical despite reddening eyes and a shaky voice as the visit progressed. Fortunately, no vaccinations that round, but I’ve used this approach for his last blood test checking his lead levels. Whenever we leave appointments that potentially throw his disposition askew, my husband and I tell Little Man how brave he was, and how proud we are of him. We often talk about bravery in our home…feeling fear, but pushing on anyway.

This leads us to the dental appointment. The tricky thing with this situation is that I wasn’t sure what would be happening. He’s three; how can they clean the teeth of a three-and-some-change-year-old kid? I don’t make promises I’m not sure I can keep, so I feared my responses would be ungratifying. Will it hurt? Probably not, but I’m not sure what they are doing exactly. It will probably just feel weird. I focused on their expertise working with kids his age. He asked if he could sit on my lap during the appointment. I’m not sure, but I could commit to before and after. Blessedly that was enough. My intermittently cautious kid was nervous the night before. He didn’t say, but we had trouble getting him to settle the night before, and he woke early.

It was a strange morning. Getting him ready we spoke more of the appointment…went over the same concerns…would it hurt…the lap situation. Mr. Man pauses at the end before saying with an intellectual, high pitched lilt in his voice, “I don’t know. It sounds suspicious to me…” That one prompted a cascade of tears blurring my vision for five minutes…and side cramps.

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(It’s a little known fact that Socrates was really a preschooler.)

We needed to be out of the house first thing, but my son climbed into my car forty-five minutes before it was time to manage our exit shuffle. I hadn’t even wrangled a shower yet. He gave me a bit of push back before allowing me to carry him back into the house.

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(Usually this is Warrior Queen’s spirit animal, but not on this occasion. Thanks for the token, Pinterest!)

Entering the house and left to his own devices while I prepared for our day, Little Man resumed business as usual. He tormented his sister for a bit…tormented me a bit less…all in a day’s morning ritual. I showered, finished making snacks for the day. Suddenly, the house was quiet. Little Man disappeared once again, finding his way into his car seat. I went ahead and buckled him in, but he didn’t want me to go. I squeezed myself on the edge of the car floor in front of him.

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(Looks comfy cozy, doesn’t it? Sick Chirpse knows I’d do just about anything for my children…)

He kissed and held my hand telling me how much he loves me. We laughed. I asked him if he was scared. He said he was. We talked about bravery some more. He said he is brave; I agreed. He asked to check my teeth; I complied. I’d managed to ignore the pain in my hips and tushie, but eventually the tingling jabs were intolerable. I smooched Mr. Man, and provided one more snuggle before leaving my precarious perch. My little man did not stop me.

There were no tears or tantrums as we entered the office…no apprehension. I didn’t know what to expect, but from the immediate first moments they were pros. Pediatric dentistry is no joke, but this crew had it down. My son was marvelous for the entire time…cleaning and all that included dental floss! I didn’t bring in my phone incorrectly assuming this first appointment was probably a meet and greet with a quick check to see if anything is rotting.

I couldn’t help but wear a smile so wide that my face became sore; quietly gazing at my little man as he sat on folded legs wearing the sun glasses they gave him because of the bright lights. The hygienist won him over by allowing him to fondle the various instruments. My son agreeably opened his mouth like a dinosaur, even though he didn’t seem exactly sure what that meant. He tried to answer questions about juice and gummy snacks, but was unable. Mr. Man has a bit of juice a couple of times a week, and I don’t think has ever eaten a gummy snack; this was one of the rare times I felt I kill it at this whole parenting thing. It isn’t as though I feel I’m terrible at it, but every once in a while something happens that makes me feel like I should be carried off by a team of smartly dressed athletes.

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(I can still hear the chants, “Mommy…Mommy…Mommy…”)

We left the appointment with my son holding my hand telling me how brave he is, beaming I whole heartedly agreed.

Less Than Perfect, but Close Enough

It wasn’t a perfect day, but it was a good one. The little lady woke earlier than she had been, so while I was unhappy to slog my unrested body out of bed, I was able to enjoy guaranteed Warrior Queen giggles as I speckled her neck with a light dusting of kisses. Even waking grumpily, she will laugh. She simply cannot help herself, and I absolutely love it. She does a couple of new things these days, like climbing…on EVERYTHING, particularly the kitchen table. She finally figured out how to move chairs to her liking to complete her table top cabaret. Her screams when I prevent her from pulling out a pushed in chair confirms that Mommy is the soul crushing dream killer I’d been hoping to become for years.

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(“I told Pinterest I didn’t need this gig to get through college, but I’m just SO good at it!”)

But, Warrior Queen also cuddles on my lap, leaning against me, arching her back periodically to look me in the eye smiling. She carries me books telling me, “READ!” My fierce girl also plays. Over her quiet breakfast she scowled at me, furrowed brow and all. I imitated the expression; we held it in mutual determination for a few seconds before Warrior Queen broke into her tell tale toothy smile that consumes her entire face. I absolutely loved it, and I loved her lifting her delicate toddler feet so I could rub her soles.

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(You’d ache to rub the feet belonging to this face too, right Homebrew Talk?)

I’m just on the other end of a rare minor cold that still prevented any iota of exercise completion for a little over a week. Consequently, I’m not able to particularly perk up in the morning. Even pursuing a steady dose of a caffeine elixir, I’ve been ready to sleep standing for a couple days now. Today was especially grueling despite eight hours of mediocre sleep. I’ve been opting for hot tea for the past week or so. I’m thankful I thought to buy a few cans of evaporated milk during our weekend’s grocery jaunt. A creamy tea makes things just a little more special, which is ideal when my body does not.

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(It isn’t a unicorn, but I bet you feel more special now too, thanks, Scary Mommy!)

Mr. Man slept until a bit after eight, and he wasn’t even sick…anymore. That was lovely. I decided to try for our frequented library music program. My parents joined, which allowed me to peruse their used books on sale for a steal. There’s no rhyme or reason to the pricing…I bought eight books for three dollars; sometimes it’s five dollars for a few stories less. But, whatever, I’m able to pick-up some tales I wouldn’t think of otherwise. Today there were two with amazing illustrations, and the stories weren’t horrible. I’m a sucker for beautiful artwork, especially in children’s books. I managed one or two with somewhat of a diversity component. Such things are horribly difficult to find. Little Man enjoyed the parachute, shaking the material at the border with the adults. He usually begs to leave early when my parents join, but not today. He asked, but was easily convinced to remain; he seemed glad he did.

Little Man mostly played well in the kid area after the program. He’s moderately obsessed with trains these days. For a beat or two explained to a younger boy how one might go about playing with a train set…the young toddler a fraction of my son’s tall expanse was rapt. Other children flocked to the table as his play progressed. Suddenly my son swishes the large procession of mismatched train cars into a bin. Other children were waiting to have their turn with them, but he was finished and cleaned after himself…I should note he doesn’t do such crazy things as picking up after himself at home.

Warrior Queen took a three hour nap…Mr. Man did not nap at all. Apparently, he can open the gate upstairs, preventing him from descending down to the lower level of our home. He kept leaving his room throughout the two hour span of “quiet time,” but never unlatched the gate to journey downstairs until it had been almost exactly two hours. I’m grateful quiet time was:

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(It still stinks, but there was no one around to pilfer my chocolate!)

rather than:

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 (Pinterest knows all about unobstructed children not napping.)

In between threats, I managed to accomplish some of what I hoped. I called my Senators and Representative about one obnoxiously almost infinitesimal fraction of the latest bit of horrible from our country’s “leadership.” I’ve also managed to find a couple of organizations that allow me to take part in this multi-pronged voter suppression issue from home. There is so, so, SO much stuff to focus on that I worry no attention is shining on hordes of people denied information and access about the election process at every level and their constitutional right to vote. Most of what I do isn’t particularly glamorous, but it’s important. Also important that I want my children to be socially and politically conscious, meaning I needed to step up my game…big time. Interestingly, it’s kinda addicting. Feeling like I’m part of my government…my country; taking action to make things better for those who’ve struggled for too long, in part, because of my complacency. But, my surge of participation and engagement gives me control…allows me feel another layer of purpose. I highly recommend it to others. Start small, call your state and federal congressional officials. You won’t regret it!

As I concluded the most recent of my frequent calls to my Representative, Mr. Man managed to appear downstairs without waking his sister, so we were able to spend some sweet time together. His latest thing is giving me kisses, and I love it. We shared my special popcorn, which consists of an olive oil spray coating with parmesan cheese sprinkled throughout. My son was doting on me, insisting that he periodically feed me pieces WITHOUT placing them on his tongue first. We read some of the new stories I purchased, built some towers. Little Man laughed and smiled in his glorious way. He snuggled the way he does best. I absolutely loved it. My growing boy helped me tidy, beaming as he uttered his desire to help me. He enjoys feeling helpful, and I adore watching the pride in his stature when I remember to assign him tasks. These days he itches to help me cook. I’ve started creating benign steps, so he can assist. A side note, I fantasize about the day when I can cook with my children.

Warrior Queen woke an hour after her brother. Retrieving her from upstairs, speckling her neck in whispered kisses…naturally she giggled. The remaining pieces of the afternoon and evening deteriorating slightly as the children grew tired, but I certainly won’t complain. After all, nothing is always perfect, but the good moments certainly are.

Orations of Consequence

Mr. Man had a speech delay, so didn’t utter his first word until about two-and-a-half-years-old, but given he is currently a bottomless fountain of chatter, no one would know. Warrior Queen was about five-months-old at the time, so perhaps not surprising that his first word was “baby.”

I began assuming my daughter would have a speech delay as well. She blew past fifteen-months in the rear view mirror and nothin’. True, she embraced language benchmarks her big brother did not…like movement and sound reciprocity games; but I assumed I misremembered or something even though I was quite positive I wasn’t.

A few weeks ago my increasingly toddling toddler said her first word, and she was quite confident about the assertion. “Down!” It isn’t as clearly articulated as an older being with a better developed language capability, but she is most definitely passionate about the word. Sometimes, but certainly not often, she’ll holler it within a snuggling embrace. Usually, however, it is a fun little game she plays with me…Well, she thinks it’s fun anyway. For me it’s cute within the first five minutes, but when her attention span continues as though she’s about to sprout pink ears and a drum and my arms become weary, I’m begrudged wishing each “down” will be my last for the duration.

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(“Modest Fashion Network, hear me roar!”)

The crux of the game is her pulling herself onto the sofa, and yelling “down,” so that I’ll sweep her up and lay her on a couple of pillows I use to brace a potential fall off said sofa. It’s a funny exchange. She presents me with a huge smile, sometimes laughing…trailing giggles as I have to raise myself partway off the sofa to catch her crawling away. Sometimes she reaches for me after her assertion, ever present beaming smile expecting my reaction. When I’m ready to quit umpteen lifts ago, I remind myself the game will become forevermore stale for her sooner than I am willing to let it go…It’s an effective motivation. The best part, however, is the way she leans into my crook or resting against me in some way, snuggled in deep. It’s the telltale she is finished playing, and she remains as I run my fingers though her soft, dark curls. Occasionally she’ll lean her head way back and look at me…always smiling presenting her eight glorious teeth.

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(Okay, Wikipedia got me…I’m a sucker for a Warrior Queen smile…)

And, then there was her second word shortly following the arrival of her first, uttered with equal passion and commitment. “Read!” There’s never a game, but for weeks she’s frequented our bookshelves housing almost our full collection of stories. The same four or five are selected on almost every occasion, but she will also venture into new tale territory after her fill of favorites. I’d worried she wouldn’t enjoy stories as much as her brother. I don’t read them to her the way I did to him at her age. Mr. Man preferred leg bouncing to the rhythm of the stories. My fierce girl likes to bounce and dance to my cadence on her own…laughing and smiling….She seems to know when each story indicates something funny. I’m sure it’s a coincidence, but I’m relieved the second child wasn’t on the receiving end of the limited time and patience disparity when compared to her brother’s experience as a young toddler.

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(Pinterest knows the delights of a barely toddler smiling and busting a move.)

Many of my posts are not exclusively reserved for Warrior Queen. She is so young that there isn’t much about her as an individual capable of consuming a post by her lonesome. But, I sense that is about to change because my little girl demands it.

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(Warrior Queen plans to take over the world with her ferocity, and Positively Scottish knows it!)

Quenching a Dynamic Burn

This is an older post put–off for more pleasant topics. Consequently, the tenses and timing are off, and perhaps a disjointed read in parts; but the message is important:

In social work there is specific discussion of work exhaustion. It’s essentially occupation burn-out, and rampant in human service fields like education. It’s different from simply having too many things to do for too long. In social work it is the extra emotional burden of heaviness…carrying another’s struggles on or as your own struggles. I’ve never been interested in clinical work, my work tangent to the field is more macro and policy oriented. Generally, I tend to shut-down the emotional toil reciprocity. I’m not quite sure how I do it, but it’s a specific advantage, especially in the professional area I gravitate toward.

I didn’t read the story, but recently there was some article in one of my social media feeds that mentioned parenting burn-out. Maybe it was specific to mothers…or stay-at-home mothers like me. I can’t really remember, but I recall accepting the plausibility. At the time I felt fortunate not really experiencing such a thing in my own parenting ramblings.

Periodically I feel overwhelmed, but usually it’s something separate from the continuous act of parenting itself. Recently, however, I felt the exhaustion that leaves a distinct impression beyond a tiring day. There has been so much on my mind for the last month, really. Several things not appropriate for mass consumption of this blog…it’s why I have friends. I weathered my mind’s chaos of that time, but this was different. I wasn’t inclined to create a post, but I wonder if having such sentiments public when the details are within the realm of my public persona comfort level is helpful…to someone.

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(Saatchi Art understands how to find the beauty amidst unforgiving turmoil.)

Perhaps surprising because of the nature of blogging, but I’m quite private with many aspects of my life. I’m selective with what I share and to whom. But, there are elements of unnecessary taboo within every stage of parenting…or trying to become a parent. It’s a shame because so much is so common, but often undiscussed unless a brave soul breaches the needless silence. I came to such a realization when I was told during my first Ob-Gyn appointment with Little Man that I would certainly lose his pregnancy. It’s impossible to effectively communicate the pain such news inflicts. I’ve felt it with every loss I’ve succumbed, regardless of how early in the pregnancy. Allowing the stories to breathe was the only way I managed. All of it…pregnancy…parenting…It isn’t a shame, and that’s the point. I’m still learning. I’m still private. Stigma is very real. Maybe one day I’ll be braver than I am, but for now my hope is someone reads these words and feels home within themselves. Even if I never know for sure, the possibility is worth the risk of possible backlash.

The past month there is an element of vacillating between stuck and drowning in endless stuff. I don’t like Little Man watching television, but he has been all summer…for various reasons. Two hours in the evening; one evening I’m listening to him giggling and talking to a hideously stupid cartoon that makes my skin crawl with its banality and sheer idiocy. It’s the price of accessing my outlets that hold their feeble wall against barreled waves colliding into me for months now. When one tidal recedes, something new and different hits, and I’m in the process or ruminations once again trying to understand events and process…things.

Some I won’t discuss in this forum, but the general struggle is ongoing. I’ve become better at managing specific predictable, consistent issues. This round I’ve been more proactive with what I can anticipate, and in many ways I’ve been successful alleviating emotional burden. There are many good things I do outside of childcare, but it’s almost always squirreled in stolen minutes. This summer I committed to a weekly activity away from home that I knew would breathe life into me in ways I forgot I missed. In many respects I’ve had to forget my pre-children identity as a coping mechanism to manage the unavoidable grief of how I’ve always understood myself to be.

When my son was first born it felt very much in a holding pattern. Professionally, even as a manager, I’d be lucky to break even with exceptionally awing childcare expenses…It’s fairly recently I’ve been able to accept that morsel. Perhaps because it seemed unsurmountable at the time that I wasn’t able to acknowledge the very real fact that me working doesn’t make sense at this parenting juncture. With such an issue are the challenges of resume gaps, personal stagnation, parenting penalties…It was an ongoing and reasonable fear of mine for a very long time. Strange to think at this point that I’ve mostly overcome the most glaring obstacles. I wish I were paid, but it’s a vanity. I am able to embrace more skills and fulfilling occupations than a token paycheck in itself would provide. It hasn’t escaped me that my personal success in self-preservation is in large part a benefit of privilege. Consequently, part of how I choose to spread my personal wings often focuses on combatting systemic barriers others face. Such things aren’t particularly new for me, but with such limited time I’ve become more focused in my efforts…weighing the things I believe have greater impact with the scant free moments I muster.

I have many personal/professional efforts occurring simultaneously aside from my writing pursuits. But, my actions are almost entirely keystrokes and electronic exchanges. Summers can be especially grueling for me, so at the beginning of bathing suit season I committed a specific prioritized effort to volunteer away from my computer. Summer is the rare consistent time I have a child care option because my parents visit for a good stretch. It isn’t a perfect situation. The setbacks become a struggle of adjusting and organizing additional routine involvements, as well as the effect such disruptions and perpetual excitement have on my children’s functioning. I’m oversimplifying the issue, but the specifics don’t really matter in the context of this blog. All of this isn’t a complaint, per se…although it sounds so. It’s a complication that is lunacy to ignore…I’ve tried, and the effect has a significantly more negative impact on all parties. In every arena I encountered, fairing better during challenging times has more to do with preparation and strategy than dismissal and denial. It’s funny how that works…

To circle back to this summer, among other things I’m skilled at writing curricula…developing programs. The programs I create or embellish for the Department of Corrections have earned me the seeds of a reputation that might help me further on if I nurture it. One such program is a creative writing workshop. It’s three units spanning nine sessions that primarily focus on literary devices as a tool for expanding personal expression for individuals, among other issues, lack background knowledge most society takes for granted, as well as a specific deficit of risk taking in a classroom setting. In order to have this program approved without a formal agency endorsement, I used my reputation as an in for a couple of administrators; one responded to my email in a timely manner…the one I expected, actually. I’ve been teaching my creative writing class at our maximum security prison since the onset of the summer. It’s a spectacular experience in a humbling way.

I have substantial experience working with at-risk and incarcerated adolescents, so I see the progression stepping into a virtually empty, sterile room with glass walls. There are dichotomies occurring in this experience; it’s overwhelming at times. I have no illusions as to what behaviors lead to my students’ incarcerations. I can see the intimidation etched in practiced perfection the first moment they sat before me. It’s a dazed glare, a drilled unreadable scowl; it’s truly terrifying. I’d forgotten that first moment from when I taught reading in one of our medium facilities almost ten years ago.

But, there is something truly remarkable witnessing the wave of interest in the class content shift. One by one surprising things poke, and hardened stares of aggression soften into a childlike vulnerability and innocence. It becomes the new landscape for the class, and I almost forget where I am…almost. Honestly, it’s tragic and I can’t help but consider all those missed opportunities because a maximum facility prison was not the first step, rather just another in a series of rocky freefalls where no one and everyone are to blame. I knew to expect this. I needed this experience, and I’m glad after many failures to reenter this path, I could feel the complexity of this…situation again.

As objectively successful this class has been, I feel insecure about my performance…always hoping to be better…It’s my shtick…or one of them. As much as vague displeasure or fault I find with this piece or another, taking up this teaching opportunity has grounded me in expected ways. I’m thankful for my one morning a week, and will miss this during my fall and winter hiatus.

That said, as much as I return to my children renewed in some ways, it’s challenging to return home. Little Man and Warrior Queen are mostly fine these days spending the time with Nana and Papa, but they aren’t particularly settled when I return. I frequently mention that I’m an exceptional disciplinarian…for better or worse; consequently, my children behave best when it’s only our roving threesome. There is a marked difference when I’m not around, so returning to the subtle…and sometimes not so subtle changes…is unpleasant for me to witness. Returning from the prison isn’t such an issue, as I’m not absent for too much of a span, but even with my brief space vacancy my children often cling to me as soon as I enter from the garage…requiring some part of their body to grab hold of me. Such things I find disturbing, and I wonder if I’ve done something wrong for my brief absence to have such an impact. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good, hard snugglefest as the next Mommy. Some day the experience will be a phantom in my life, and I will ache in profound ways. But, I perceive this behavior as a response to excessive displeasure that I’m away. That’s a challenge to endure, but not enough to miss my class…I recognize it’s not a novel challenge for parents, but novel to me.

I’m planning ahead. I require various classes for license renewal, and this summer was an opportune time to fulfill all of my social work continuing education for this cycle. It’s only three full days dispersed throughout the summer, but they’ve inexplicably been the most challenging for me, as so many routines are out of my hands. When I return home in time to prepare dinner, I step into the fall-out of askew naps and simply a different day for my children. There is nothing inherently horrible or wrong about such things. It’s good for my kids, but I feel endless guilt that my children are likely misbehaving under my parents’ care…as happens when routines and caregivers shift. Usually within a couple hours away from my typical childcare hustle and bustle, I feel my skin crawl and my mind begin to wander. Guilt begins its press, and I start planning my exit. It all has to be neurotic. I’m vaguely aware it’s typical speaking to my Mommy friends first returning to the work force.

Just as Little Man is sensitive to routine shifts, so am I. It took returning to a normal day to remember that I haven’t had “normal” for several weeks. Emotionally I’m not at my best at the moment. I’m in a constant state of worry overload; I should have stopped trying organize everyone else…appease everyone else with an agreeable schedule. I likely would have saved myself some of the grief in the past couple weeks and enjoyed some of my rare adult time if I prioritized the need to experience what has become a bland, yet fine tuned typical day for our threesome.

Several things had seeped into my consciousness draining my reserves, but the confirmation of the foreboding I felt for weeks…that a good friend was significantly hurt should have pushed me to simplify…not expand…everything. Two brain bleeds hindering his ability to communicate, but I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I’ve certainly had vivid dreams of his condition…waking to a jaw clenched for the duration of the night. I wish he was my only friend fallen on a hard stretch; he’s just the latest one. I haven’t adjusted to the feel of his situation yet…found a groove to support him and care for myself simultaneously. And, just when I find my balance, something wonderful happens that this one friend would particularly delight hearing, but I can’t share the news; I grieve it in unreachable places. The success laced with a slight bitter edge making celebration a challenge to fully embrace.

I’d dreaded a day with no formal plans…loose ends…too many things requiring attention, even if I had help with some of it. Abruptly I was forced into a forgotten typical day, and even though I woke exhausted and uneasy, afternoon I blossomed into a surprisingly invigorated state…or as refreshed as possible with so much weight…so much to consider and to push through. But, it was a better day…my children felt it too.

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(Amy Whitehouse Paintings knows no calm is ever perfect.)

I don’t like droning about hardships; this was a difficult post to write. I questioned publishing it. But, the lesson I take from this challenging time that certainly won’t be the last: simplify. I get lost with pleasing others…worrying for and feeling helpless about others until it consumes me; that likely won’t stop. It’s who I am, and I’ve developed strategies. But, sometimes I forget key interventions like my time with my children in its most basic and lackluster form. I think I forget from fear. I’m bombarded with the peanut gallery celebrating having help for the summer that I internalize the importance of help. But, forced to return to my way I’m reminded of precisely how powerful I am when I remember the basic things I need to feel like myself.

I don’t know if or when my friend who was a key, like minded voice in my life will be able to really talk to me again. There is a whole bunch more I can’t predict or control. I don’t know if my prison class attendance will drop-off even more, and I’m forced to cancel the remaining scant classes, having to wait almost an entire year to experience this specific avenue of my work again…for another chance to improve. My children are surrounded by so much love that they don’t know what to do with it at times; obviously that’s a good thing…even when it isn’t a good thing. We all reset when I provide the opportunity to do so, and I need to remember that very thing when I’m spinning off my axis. Because at the tail end of a typical day, I wasn’t spinning. I ate a wonderful cookie following an actual lunch not scarfed in between obligations. I consumed the iced caffeine I love so much, but more than the wakeful perk I enjoyed the drink for itself…sipped and savored over the course of a couple of hours. And, the next wave will inevitably rush forward attempting to sweep me off my balance. I’m sure I will let it, but there are always solid fixtures to grab. I only need to remember to open my eyes.

The Day After the Mosquito Died

The last post was a bad day. My best hope for terrible days often resignation that the day will end, and another will begin anew. It’s usually better, but there are no guarantees. Fifteen-month-old Warrior Queen has a nasty habit of waking by six-fifteen most days. Threenager is in the lovely cycle of sleeping until seven. My children early risers. I’m an earlier riser. I’ve learned to expect any time to my own devices past six-fifteen is borrowed bonus…I live for bonuses. The next morning was an unexpected one, as the bonuses usually don’t coincide.

Little Man woke first at a whopping seven-thirty. I was exercising. I slept in, so expected to maybe clear fifteen minutes, but managed a significant chunk of my routine reading a brilliant selection of smut that almost shifts the story out of the category altogether…but not quite. My son rumbled along down the stairs with his quiet chatter. He’s growing older, and achieved the capacity to actually whisper. His self awareness amuses me; chattering narration of his need to be quiet because his sister is sleeping…followed by his question if I’m exercising. I love it all. His morning greetings always melt me: Are you exercising, Mommy? I love you. Can I have a hug, kiss, snuggle smooch? Obviously I stop mid peddle to deliver such a request.

Once he reached the bottom of the stairs and scurried along out of my sight, I ceased hearing my delightfully boisterous little boy. Fear began to creep as a wrapped up my morning session.

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(MIRIADNA.com can delude themselves all they want; no good comes from quiet when cherubs are awake.)

I don’t see evidence of Mr. Man for a beat, but then I notice the bathroom door ajar and light spilling into an otherwise dark corridor. My shoulders immediately slump; what did he put in the toilet? How much water damage should I expect?

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(Obviously hermes-press knows what I can expect.)

Not quite reaching the door frame I see Little Man stand totally naked on the top of his stepping stool that he pushed in front of the toilet. Immediately he sees me and in all of his birthday body glory announces with arms raised that he went potty in the toilet.

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(Probably the only person who can claim experiencing more excitement than my little man at this particular moment.)

He shifts down the small plastic steps, flushes the toilet, moves the stool, and washes his hands spouting that he has to wash his hands after using the potty.

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(What a preschooler washing his hands entails…This image must be part of a Pinterest instruction manual.)

This type of event isn’t particularly new. He’s been on the cusp of full out potty training, but his willingness to use said toilet is still a bit erratic, and he hasn’t experienced the complete delights of porcelain bowl time occupations.

I diaper him while he washes his hands. Warrior Queen continued to sleep, so we cuddled and read. Little Man prefers to run around the house as naked as he can get away with. He’s grown so much that on such occasions I just stare at every inch of my first miracle…watching the movement of his limbs and his dancing prattles retrieving the random objects he’s pilfered from the recycling bin.

The remaining pieces of the day mostly unremarkable…could have done without his latest overtired expressions of impulsivity…biting his sister. He earned an early nap without a story for that one. But, it’s all…blessedly…just another day.

But, the Mosquito’s Dead

I often describe touching moments with my children…surprising events…cute, funny things I want to remember always once they are too old to touch me in these young ways.

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(Pinterest clearly understands gloating my precious family moments.)

Today, however, was not such a day, and I’m torn between wanting to deny this day’s very existence, or write about it hoping I won’t continue to be ripped once I’m finally able to sink into the oblivion I’ve been chasing for hours.

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(Why yes, Ranker, you captured the day’s family portrait perfectly!)

It’s a challenging time of year. My parents are here for the summer, making Little Man a perpetual buzz of excitement, and Warrior Queen intermittently disgruntled because someone else will be holding her, yet I have not compensated for the Mommy time deficit. Days that are only the three of us usually leave me craving some type of documentation that I seldom have time to produce these days.

The immediate morning was an omen, and frankly I knew I was in trouble when feeling an unwavering impulse to give Mr. Man to a circus if I thought they’d want him.

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(If everyone in Wikipedia’s picture was prancing around in a diaper, this would be our family room.)

I assumed the stars would align because I completed five minutes past my general morning exercise goal…It was a horrifyingly sad tease, and I’m still kind of bitter about it.

I figured if we managed to shuttle out to the library music program we regularly attend, things would be fine…per my usual experience with a hyper, silly preschooler. Warrior Queen was disgruntled from the get-go because, of course, she was. I’ve been giving her unending carrots and crackers because they are the only things that have made her disposition tolerable for days now. She might be teething…she might have to take a dump…or she might just be fucking with me in a twisted competition with her brother on who can behave like the biggest douche face in a single day…It’s a toss up, and I seriously considered efforts to convince both children that it’s time to go to sleep for the night…at ten in the morning.

My parents met us for the program. I receive copious comments on the wondrous nature of having help for the summer. I enjoy seeing my parents, but days like today as a prime example of the annoying difficulty containing the boisterosity I encounter leave feelings of nostalgia for when I go at things alone. Threenager was throwing hard, solid plastic egg shakers in the air…because nothing bad can happen with that decision.

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(Pinterest knew our attendance was a hit at the program.)

Fifteen-month-old Warrior Queen decides this is the one time she isn’t interested in a tether to my lap. She was on the perpetual move by any means necessary to achieve escape.

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(Dreamstime.com saw Warrior Queen’s reaction to any attempt at corralling the impulse of adventure.)

Thirty seconds transpired when both children nuzzled me in the most wonderfully snuggle infused touching way…It wasn’t enough. It’s almost time to go to sleep, and I still feel I need to beat my head against a wall to make the pain of this day evaporate into a good night’s sleep.

I invited a couple of friends over after the music program. One friend is a regular, so we both knew Little Man would likely make both boys cry throughout the visit…I still can’t believe they step into our home willingly. But, my other friend was new to the experience, and Mr. Man did not disappoint. There were moments seeing both boys play, her son with giddy smiles…until my husband’s demon spawn caused the little boy to clunk his head on our wood floor in some wincing way. The other two boys remained on their Mommy’s lap the entire span of the Thunderdome experience…their crying was minimal; a blessed paltry miracle perhaps?

Despite three removals upstairs for a good chunk of time, my son absolutely could not contain his excitement at having visitors.

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(“I. said. MOVE!”)

The most maddening aspect of what occurred today is that my son is mostly well behaved, sweet, and so considerate when we are out, at other people’s houses, whatever. When people come over, this type of thing happens every time. He simply cannot manage. It isn’t just the issue with sharing, which is also a problem. Little Man is entirely too rough. He thinks he’s playing, but the other children are usually overwhelmed. Unfortunately, most of the time I host at my house. My friends indicate their boys of similar age to Little Man have almost identical navigations with friends in their own domain. I continue to apologize well after awkwardness should set in…thank goodness for text. My first-timer friend texted me when she arrived home; her son said he had a great time. I commented that I think he hurt his head more than she thought.

My son continued to vibrate in jumping, clumsy giggles until I almost sprouted exploding snakes from my head, sending him to quiet time thirty minutes early.

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(Okay, Pinterest, your accuracy is getting a tad unsettling…)

He passed-out immediately…so did Warrior Queen who had mostly been fine with such a full house…probably because I’m phasing out her bottle. The only time she can partake is at noon until she goes down for the afternoon nap. Realizing today that it seems I’ve reached the threshold of her mostly losing interest in her bottle. Most the day I urge a sippy cup. Today she was actually receptive to the cup and dawdled with the bottle, not drinking from the bottle and continually dropping it. The only reason I maintain this narrow window is that she had been consuming sixteen ounces of milk in two hours. As of today that consumption sharply diminished. It seems that after this week there will be no more bottles for Warrior Queen. I’m relieved and a little sad about this transition for absolutely stupid reasons. But, I digress…

Kids asleep; the house was mine…MINE!

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(A situation so special I’d shave for it…possibly even above the knee!)

I finished my well earned remainder of my exercise routine while reading my smut. Improving sleep and concentration, I had been returning to my more high brow classical and impressive nonfiction selections, but not today, my friends. Today I’m lucky if my thoughts are coherent enough to use a more extensive vocabulary than “fuckity fuckface.”

Occasionally my son and daughter sleep three hours. It happens regularly enough that it isn’t a pipe dream…unless I’m having a craptastic day. In such cases I should rejoice they make it the reliable two hours without some random insect removal or lawn company ringing the doorbell, subsequently disturbing two pristinely napping children. I bitterly celebrated when Mr. Man lasted exactly two hours…Warrior Queen an additional fifteen minutes…because she actually loves her mother.

Mr. Man continued to behave like I dusted all of his food in PCP until well into the evening. Naturally this would be the very rare evening my husband needed to work late.

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(Channel the flowers…CHANNEL THE FUCKING FLOWERS, JUSTINSONMIA…woosah!)

I’m fairly certain my children had dinner. I’m also fairly certain that I did not…unless you count the glass I’d been chewing every time I attempted to take a sip of water. The entirety of the evening spent with my son head-butting, kicking, and tackling his sister; jamming his fingers in my face (I’m not entirely sure where his fingers have even been, but I’m trying to push that query aside.), and dismantling our sectional sofa by dislodging every conceivable pillow into a random pillow henge around our family room.

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(History.com knows what it looks like when you stop caring.)

Such an array of padding came in handy when he continually launched himself into impressive swan sprawls into the air.

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(You guessed it, Pinterest…I feel like I have my own Mommy-House photographer documenting my entire day…)

His sister delighted jumping on the sofa springs, which was fine by me because she’d been unpleasant unless she was on my lap ingesting a cracker…There had better be an arrival of a new tooth come morning…

I somehow managed to bathe both children. It goes without saying the bathroom flooded, but not as terribly as it could have been. I’ll go ahead and call that a win. My husband eventually making the grandest entrance any spouse could possibly conceive, which consisted of him just showing up.

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(Something like that, thanks, 98.5.)

Soon after my husband’s arrival home I shepherded Warrior Queen to her shut-eye. She was ready for the day to conclude as well.

I finally managed to eat dinner entirely too late, and hanger, my friends, is real; I’m becoming frightfully familiar with the such a state of being these days. While the omelet wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing as my random and absurd perfectionistic compulsion prefers, it was mighty tasty and contained cheese. But, the highlight of the day, hands down, was that damn mosquito I crushed with one artful hand clap before I was bitten. So, with my bloodlust quenched in a surprisingly gratifying way, I reflected on a day that, all things considered, wasn’t too bad.

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