Fight Club and Yoga Pants

The other day:

Brian: You look like such a mom right now.

Me: Excuse me?!

Brian, sensing danger:  You know, very…motherly.

Me: What makes me look like a mom?

I look down at myself.

Brian: Well, you’re wearing your hot yoga pants and-

Me:  THESE ARE YOGA KNICKERS!  THEY STOP JUST BELOW THE KNEE! And I just came from yoga, so I’m not lazy.  And these aren’t even stained.  NEXT!

Brian:  And, and you can see that black fabric just by your neckline…

Me:  You mean my sports bra?  Being able to see my bra makes me look like a mom?  I think you have me confused with a hooker.  A very sporty hooker.

Brian:  Well, you look great carrying Dylan around.  I love you.  You’re pretty.

Me:  Look.  If you ever see me trying to buy a pair of mom jeans, tear them out of my hands and burn them on the spot.  You got me?

Brian:  But what if you tell me how comfortable they are?  And that they’re on sale?  What then?!

Me:  Distract me with chocolate and then burn them.  And if I say those things, just remind me that I said I would say those things.  You know, like in Fight Club.

Brian:  But I thought the first rule of Fight Club was-

Me: -to never let me buy mom jeans, yes.

Brian: And to not let your stuff end up owning you?

Me: That too.  Now tell me I’m pretty.

Brian:  You’re pretty.  Here’s a muffin.

From Blogtown to PDX

There’s now been three times I have met someone in person after first getting to know her over the internet, and all three have been fabulous experiences.

The first I met in high school via a Hanson website (!) and we’ve since traveled across the country to visit each other, including being bridesmaids in each other’s weddings.  We are a match made in Hanson history.  Mmmbop, girl.

The second was Dawn from Tales From the Motherland; I wrote about it here.  I hope Dawn and I will be seeing more of each other!

The third happened a few weeks ago now.  You guys, I got to meet Jen from Sips of Jen and Tonic!

Since moving to the Portland (OR) area, I asked Jen if she maybe wanted to meet up.  This was a step for me, since it’s hard for me to put myself out there, but I am so glad I did.

Our little meeting was superfun, and I think my blog-crush turned into a real life one.  Jen’s writing has entertained me for several years now; her blog is so good that, when she posts, I read.  It’s made me laugh so hard in the past that the milk I drank came out my nose as butter.  Seriously, I still need to pick her brain about her writing process because it’s so off the wall and hilariously punchy that I wonder if she just thinks like that all day or if she hires lab mice to feed her speed pills every few minutes.  (You know, the mice would run up her arms and shoulders and then reach her mouth from there.  Speed comes in pill form, right?)

I’m pretty sure Jen and I talked about all the things that ever were.  Awkward stages of making friends in your 20s and 30s, jobs, Portlandia, blogging, reality TV.  She even laughed at my Zoolander reference!  I felt like she really got where I was coming from, especially because she is also a Californian who moved to Oregon.  OMG.  Thank you, Jen, for letting me rant about all the things wrong about Oregon that make me feel like a fish out of water.  I remember reading your blog in the not so distant past and thinking these elitist Californian thoughts whenever you made reference to Oregonian things…and now I’m right there with you.  …Go Ducks?

So.  If you hadn’t had the pleasure of imbibing, I implore you to partake in some Sips of Jen and TonicThis post of hers stood out in my memory as a particularly hilarious one, probably because, like me, she is not shy when it comes to blogging about the important things (poop).  But she has many other good ones.  Like this one.  (And then I re-read it and realized it has a similar theme…so apparently my taste is very narrow-minded.  Go find your own favorite post because I give up because they are all good.)

And now for the obligatory picture:

Bonus - If you look closely, you can see the gentle curve of my butt in the background.  You're welcome.

Bonus – If you look closely, you can see the gentle curve of my butt in the background. You’re welcome.

Thanks for the fun time, Jen!

Hope you see you again soon, fellow CA—>OR.

Relax Says Frankie

Before becoming a mom, I used to know how to relax.

I was good at it.

I could curl up with a book for hours on the weekends.  I could go to Starbucks and lose myself in sugary caffeinated heaven.  We took vacations and unplugged and were carefree.  At work, when things got particularly stressful or when I was getting a headache, I would carve out 10 minutes, set the alarm on my phone, shut my office door, and I’d lay on my therapy couch (and even on the floor before I had a couch) and just focus on my breath.  It did wonders for me, some days, or at the very least it allowed me to get through the day.

And now…

Even when I get a break, it doesn’t feel like a break.  My kid takes one nap a day now, maaaaaybe two.  Maybe.  And I don’t know when the nap is coming.  Today, it came early.  Tomorrow will be different.  I also never know how long it’s going to last.  19.5 minutes?  30 minutes?  Once in a blue moon, it’s been 1.5 hours.  And each time he goes down, I ask myself, How do I want to spend this time?

Sometimes I clean, do laundry, or otherwise get stuff done.  Other times I try to relax – watch TV, drink iced coffee, read my book, write a blog post, garden, etc.  Note the word try in that last sentence.

I’ve noticed that even when I try to relax, I just can’t.  My posture is rigid, my breathing is shallow, my ears are perked.  My son might wake up at any moment.  Right now, my son is doubled over in the most uncomfortable yoga sleeping position not 10 feet away and I am trying to type as quietly and as quickly as I can and I am trying to pull words out of me even though I don’t feel totally motivated to write in this moment.  But right now, this moment is all I have.

Let me be clear that, for me, this is not a guilt thing.  I do not feel guilty for wanting to relax or for trying.  And when I am successful at shutting the world out for a bit (including my son) I give myself a little pat on the back.  Because everyone needs that, especially moms.  And as an introvert mom, I need quiet shut-out time to recharge my batteries so I can be a better mom to my little snot machine when he wakes up, whenever he wakes up.  At least I know guilt isn’t getting in my way.

It’s very tempting to use things to induce relaxation.  I know it’s cool for moms to joke about wine and coffee, but I can totally see the dangerously slippery slope that is self-medicating when one is no longer in charge of one’s daily schedule.  Ugh, I have to wake up now?!  Better use some coffee.  Poopsticks, today was tough and I only have two hours before I crash in bed, so if I want to relax RIGHT NOW, I’d better use some wine, because wine.  Amirite?!

Sometimes I do this.  Sometimes it’s TV or food.  But I try not to.  And I am also trying to feel okay knowing that I can’t just magically make myself feel relaxed when I want to feel that way, especially when someone else is calling the shots.

I want to remind myself that, sometimes, I end up feeling relaxed when I hadn’t planned on it, and wasn’t even trying.  Which means…I don’t want to keep feeling like I am chasing relaxation, some feeling of peace that I may or may not get from a barista or a bottle of pinot.  Chasing things always takes me out of the present, where I’m more likely able to create peace for myself.  And that it’s okay when I can’t hurry up and settle down RIGHT NOW and for exactly 19.5 minutes.

With that said, he’s awake and screaming.  This time I was given about 45 minutes.

Time’s up.

Love Me, Pet Me, Feed Me

Sometimes I feel like a rockstar mom and sometimes I feel like a shitty mom.

Actually, I feel like a rockstar mom some days.  Or maybe some hours.  Some moments, really.

And I feel like, too often, I am trying to push away the shitty mom feelings.

On the bad days, I’m not able to step back and gain perspective on the day until Brian gets home and I can separate myself from the kid, breathe, and take a break.  When I finally do get that perspective, often times I realize that the D-man is just having a rough day and it has nothing to do with me.  Just because I can’t calm him, just because he won’t nap, just because he follows me around the house screaming and begging to be carried doesn’t mean that I am a shitty mom.  But man, it sure feels shitty.

Today was one of those days where I didn’t get a break.  Dylan only naps once a day now, but that’s because he sleeps like a champ at night so I’m good with that.  But today he did the thing where he chose to nap during a car ride and not while I could actually relax and take some time for myself.  This means I am literally watching the kid for the entire day, including while pooping.

I chose to go get some pictures framed today so we can actually start decorating this house we’ve lived in for…10 months now.  These days I have to force myself to get out of the house and run errands because I have this mental block on doing things like that with a baby.  They seem so hard.  I always feel rushed.  There’s so much stuff to pack.  Often, it hardly seems worth it.  But today, I went.

He was cranky, even after the car nap.  The saleslady was being super helpful, which I appreciated.  We finished just as Dylan was reaching his limit (his diaper was also reaching its limit) and so we headed to the bathroom.  Here’s the thing: Dylan hates public bathrooms.  He’s scared of the sound of the industrial flushing of the toilets.  Imagine being in Powell’s bookstore, which is a crowded madhouse on any normal day.  Try doing this with an infant in a stroller.  Try doing this when there’s a line out the door for the women’s bathroom and only one changing table…that’s currently in use.  With several stalls (meaning several toilets) and the 10 minutes it took for the woman in front of me to change her baby, that equals roughly 183556738 flushes.  Dylan was screeching and is forever traumatized.  So today, upon entering the bathroom, despite us being the only ones in there, he started whimpering.  He was screaming by the time we were done.

And then, by the time we got home, the outing had taken long enough that it was time for him to eat again.  (Eating has become a whole other ordeal, since he now grabs the spoon and flings puree everywhere in an effort to feed himself.  And finger food goes everywhere but his mouth.  But, I digress.)  And even after eating he was still clingy and fussy.  Around this time of day, the cat also starts screaming at me for food, and today was no exception.  Picture me standing in the kitchen, looking down at my two monsters – one furry, one fleshy, both on all fours – crying up at me.  Love me, pet me, feed me.

I’m not really sure where this post is going or how to end it.  And, honestly, I have mixed feelings about how today went.  On one hand, we got a lot done.  On the other, it was stressful.

I did my best

I did my best

I did my best.

Strike Three

I just had a lovely phone conversation that I’d like to share with y’all.  Details may have been embellished because funny.

The setup:  After unsuccessfully trying to update my profile info on the pet microchip website (strike one), I looked for an email address to seek help.  There was none (strike two).  I was forced to make a phone call and wait on hold for several minutes.  The following conversation was the strike three.

Lady:  Hello, how may I help you?

Me: Hi, I tried to update my profile info on your website but couldn’t.  Can you please help?

Lady:  Sure, just let me get some info from you. (She gets it from me.) Ok, so for this you’ll have to fax in a copy of your change-of-name document and we’ll get that changed for you.

Me: Fax?!  Really?  What year is this?

Lady: 2015, ma’am.

Me:  Exactly.  Fax machines should have all self-destructed by now.  Can’t I just email you a picture of it?

Lady:  Oh…sure, I guess you could do that.  Send it to: wereidiots@stoopidville.com

Me:  Why couldn’t you have just put this information on your website instead of making me call and wait on hold?

Lady:  Oh that would be too easy.  See, we need to be sure that our customers are worthy of our services and love their pets enough to call and wait on hold.

Me:  —-

Lady:  Also, I see here that you owe a balance on your account.  The first year of this service was free, but every year after that there’s a fee.  You could either pay $20 to secure your membership for the next year or just pay $283655673 for a lifetime membership.  Since your precious little kitty is so young, I recommend the lifetime membership.  Would you like to take care of that today?

Me:  Uh, what?  We’ve never paid membership fees.

Lady:  Oh, well we don’t send out bills.

Me:  Then how do you collect fees?  Via carrier pigeon?  Telepathically?  Or maybe the lost animals do it!!!

Lady: We send you a reminder email, or when you call us we remind you.

Me:  Wow, so you do try to use email?  Why wouldn’t you try and fax me first?  I never once got an email or fax from you.  Or a carrier pigeon.

Lady:  Maybe it went to your spam folder or you deleted it since you hate the animals.

Me: Yeah, no.  Unlike you, I actually understand how emailing works.  And billing, for that matter.  So why isn’t my online account closed since we’ve never paid you a dime?

Lady:  I can’t answer that question because I am incompetent.

Me:  Ok, so…if my cat had gone missing one year ago and someone found her, would you still have called me even though we’ve never paid?

Lady:  Oh yes.  We would never not reunite you with your animal.  We love an-

Me: You love animals, yes.  I get it.  So what you’re telling me is that this is a free service.

Lady:  No, it’s not.  You have a balance due.  Would you like to take care of this today?

Me:  No.  No, I would not.  You just go take care of those animals while I go all Office Space on my fax machine.  Oh wait.  That’s right.

Don’t Tell My Kid Not To Cry

Parents are supposed to work super hard to keep their kids happy, like, all the time.  If your kid is crying in the grocery store, then something’s wrong.  If your teenager is depressed, then you’ve failed as a parent.  If your child is angry and frustrated, you’d better punish fe because that’s just unacceptable.

Okay, so I exaggerated to make a point, but I think all the above is complete crap.

Popular rhetoric often says “I just want my kid to be happy,” and I think that’s a horrible goal – because you’ll fail.  We all will.  It’s also just not the point of life.

Unfortunately, I hear this (or read it) all the time.  What’s even worse is that I hear the negative side of this message (“Don’t worry!”  “Don’t feel sad!” and “Ooh, don’t you cry!”) to which most of us don’t give a second thought.  I suppose it makes sense to me that we would wish someone happiness, but I hate it that in the process, we too often demonize sadness and the expression of more so-called vulnerable feelings.

Like everyone else, I want the best for my kid.  I want him to have it all (whatever that means).  I want my kid to have a normal, rich life and that means experiencing the full range of emotions on a regular basis.

All this essentially boils down to: Don’t tell my kid not to cry.

You may think this message [being told not to cry] is harmless, but I assure you, it’s not.  By telling my kid not to cry, you’re telling him that his feelings are invalid.  You’re telling him that sadness is bad…or weak…or embarrassing.  If he internalizes the message as he gets older, he may interpret that he is bad or weak for feeling such things.

As for right now, he’s a baby.  Crying is normal.  (It’s also normal for humans of all ages, for that matter.)  Crying is how he communicates that he needs to be cared for.  As a parent, it is not my job to stop my baby from crying; it is my job to develop a tolerance for it.  And I suggest you do, too.

There’s a diaper commercial that I saw recently that promises that if you use their product, your baby will “always be comfortable.”  And I was like, “Are you kidding?!  Babies are hardly ever comfortable!  They sit in their own pee and poop and they get horrible gas and colic and they have huge teeth shoving their way through their hard gums…no one would be comfortable with all that going on!”  But the implication is that, as parents, it is our job to make sure that our kids are always comfortable.

The Princess Bride had it right: “Life is pain, Highness.  Anyone who says differently is selling something.”  Like diapers.

But back to that commercial.  What crazy high standards!  Nye, impossible standards!  And dare I say it – unhealthy.  As humans, we are meant to feel emotions – all of them – so we can bond with each other and learn from our mistakes and protect ourselves and live full lives.  I desperately don’t want my kid to feel self-conscious about living an authentic life just because other people may be squeamish around tears.

The other layer that plays into this issue is gender.  Although my son can’t express his gender yet, chances are he’ll identify as male, and little boys get the “don’t cry” message far more than girls.  This double standard scares me, and I hope to give my son the much more powerful message that he should be able to feel sad for any reason and express his sadness at any time.

I also want my son to know that whenever someone tells him not to cry (or whenever someone invalidates any of his feelings) that it says more about that person’s discomfort around authentic displays of emotion than it does about him.  Because as long as he’s being authentic, and as long as the way he chooses to express himself doesn’t hurt someone else, then he’s one brave little man.

When Worlds Collide

Something exciting happened, you guys.  And it was something I’ve never done before.

At long last, I was finally able to meet a fellow blogger in the real world!

Thank you so much, Dawn from Tales From The Motherland, for driving all the way to my home to meet me and my baby boy!!

Meeting someone in person whose writing I’ve consumed for quite some time is a very odd, exciting experience.  There was this collision of worlds as I tried to piece together Dawn’s voice and mannerisms with her presence on the page.  There was a mixture of intimacy and understanding along with this semi-awkward (for me) getting-to-know-you-phase.

It’s hard for me to meet new people, and that’s why blogging is extra special to me.  Through my blog, I get to “meet” people and delve into meaningful conversations right away; I get to skip the meaningless (for me), anxiety-ridden chit-chat and get right to the point.  Plus, there’s the added bonus of being able to take extra time and compose and edit exactly what I want to say.

Finally meeting Dawn in person was pretty awesome.  Because we dig each others’ writing, we already knew each other on a deeper level, and getting to see each other face-to-face added another layer to our relationship.

Dawn and I talked about a bunch of things in our too short visit (which means we’ll have to do this again sometime): blogging, family, living in the Pacific Northwest, raising kids, blogging, both of us being mental health providers at times in our lives, blogging.  I got to pick Dawn’s brain about moving forward with blogging (however that may look for me) and about her recent success on The Huffington Post (go read one of my favorites here!), which is much deserved.

At one point, Dawn commented (and I’m paraphrasing) on how we all present a certain self in our blogging, and that she appreciates it when that self lines up with the self we present in person.  I’m glad that she thought that my writing matches how I present myself in person – I really appreciate that feedback.  It also got me thinking about how rapidly my self is evolving, especially since becoming a mom, and how that is reflected in my writing.  Basically, my visit with Dawn gave me the kind of feedback I’d never had before, and really got me thinking about my writing and inspired me to keep on working at it, even if it’s only in 20 minute increments while my little man sleeps.

Dylan's still not sure about our redheaded visitor...

Dylan’s still not sure about our redheaded visitor…

So thanks again, Dawn!  I’m so glad we finally got to meet and I am happy to call you a friend – both online and in person.  If y’all haven’t read her stuff yet, I highly recommend you check her out.  You won’t regret it.

(Here’s Dawn’s post on our meeting, in case you missed it.)

End of the Boob Train

My little boyman is now 6 months old.  Someone please tell me how the frick that happened.

In many ways, I feel like we won the baby lottery.  I got exactly the features I had hoped for (dad’s blue eyes, my strawberry blonde hair, overall cuteness). He’s always been a champion sleeper.  He’s never been picky about bottles, formula, or pacis.  Most of all, I am amazed at how happy his default disposition is.  He’s usually making eye contact, smiling, cooing, laughing, but what amazes me the most is that even when he’s crying or whining or just generally upset, we can usually still make him smile or laugh, even if it’s just for a moment.  He wants to be happy even when he’s so hungry or tired that he’s cranky.  I love this guy and he amazes me every day.

That said, our hardest struggle by far has been breastfeeding.

Dylan didn’t latch with any consistency until day 8, and up until then he would only latch in front of the lactation consultant.  She manhandled my boob and smashed Dylan’s face into it, and for some reason it worked…but the second we got home and I tried the same rough technique, he’d push and struggle and kick and scream at my boob for 20 minutes until I was crying and gave up.

My milk came in rather late, and even then I wasn’t making very much.  All this created a yucky feedback loop/catch 22: Dylan wasn’t latching, and so my production wouldn’t increase, but my production was already late and low, and so Dylan didn’t want to latch cuz he knew he wouldn’t get much.  Talk about frustrating.

I did everything I could to increase my supply and nothing helped very much.  Nevertheless, I kept at it and Dylan and I slowly worked our way into a routine that worked for us that included breastfeeding, pumping, and formula.

After 6 months of hard work, I think we’re at the end of breastfeeding.  My supply recently dipped even more, and lately Dylan’s been getting frustrated.  The experience isn’t fun or cuddly anymore and I have done all I could to get him this far.

I’m pretty sad about stopping.  Before giving birth, I had assumed that I’d be breastfeeding as long as I was at home with Dylan during the day.  I’m currently fighting guilt and telling it to take a hike.  I’m frustrated with my body, for not doing what I expected or wanted.

There’s a part of me that feels some relief about the decision to stop.  Breastfeeding and pumping has been hard work and very time consuming, and I am looking forward to daily life being that much simpler.  But, I’m gonna miss the cuddles, the oxytocin rush, and the feeling of motherly pride that came with it.

I keep reminding myself that Dylan’s gonna be just fine.  Like I said above – he’s crazy happy.  He’s such a good kid.  We also just started solids and so far there isn’t a food he hasn’t not liked – that’s my boy.

And…now that I think about it, I’m gonna be just fine, too.  Just like everything else, we’re getting through this together, my little boy and I.

Was breastfeeding hard for you, too?  I’d love to hear your stories.  Thanks for reading!

A Day Not Entirely My Own

Today is my birthday, and this birthday feels different.

I have realized how giving birth has changed my entire perspective on birthdays in general, but especially mine.

Up until now, I’ve always thought of my birthday as belonging to me; it’s my day.  The anniversary of the day I was brought into the world.

But really, the passive voice of that last sentence is misplaced.  In actuality, my birthday is the anniversary of the day my mom brought me into the world.  My mom worried and labored and felt pain and sweated and cried and felt crazy beautiful joy and relief.

I guess I couldn’t really get it until I had done the same thing for someone else.

My mom was in labor with me for 24 hours.  My dad drove her to the hospital, which was about 30 minutes away from home.  My mom remembers being pissed that my dad’s breath smelled like potato chips as he led her in the Lamaze breathing in which they had taken classes.  My parents talked about a very insensitive nurse who couldn’t get some medical reading because my mom was writhing in pain during a contraction.  I would like to be able to track down that nurse and punch her in the ear, exactly 32 years late.

At some point during the labor, my mom announced she wanted an epidural.  Apparently, someone informed my dad that it was too late in the process for an epidural to do any good, and so my dad ended up lovingly lying to my mom, telling her the pain meds would be coming any minute now.  I can only imagine how much of a champ my mom was for getting through the remainder of the laboring process completely unmedicated.

And so I came into the world at about 2:15am on February 10th, a Thursday, head first but facing up.  At that time, few parents knew the sex of their baby before birth, and my parents were no exception.  My mom wrote in my baby book that I was alert and had strawberry blonde hair, which are the exact same phrases I ended up writing in my son’s baby book.

So today, I celebrate my first birthday as a mom even though it’s not entirely my day.  And in six months, my son will get to smash his face into sweet, damp cake for the first time, but it won’t really be his day.  Not all the way, at least.  That will be a day when I’ll be telling anyone who will listen how I brought this perfect creature into the world.

…maybe that will be a day when I should make myself my own smash cake.

And by smash cake I mean celebratory booze.

Violence, Sex, and Football

I watched the Super Bowl like most Americans (Is it most? It sure seems that way…), only a few hours delayed because I wanted to go grocery shopping without the crowds.  I wish every Sunday all the people stayed home from the grocery store so I could shop in peace.

And I watched it half-heartedly because my team is the Packers, but that’s for another day.

It was a fun show- a really exciting game that came down to the wire.  I enjoyed watching it…except for one part.  And I was sadly surprised that there wasn’t more outrage about this one part the next day on social media or daytime TV.

I’m talking about the horribly immature fist-fight that broke out during the last minute of play.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t too surprised to see grown men hitting each other at the culmination of months of playing a pretty violent game.  It reminded me about studies I read during college about how aggression levels in pro football players increases as the football season progresses (which points to the “catharsis effect” for getting rid of aggression as completely bunk).

I remember there being a good amount of outrage after Beyonce’s halftime show – how she had been too sexy, shown too much skin and/or done too many sexy moves.  “Little kids are watching this!  Cover up!  Be a role model!”  I remembered parents saying.

…so why not outrage at the fighting?

In my opinion, there should be far more outrage around the inappropriate display of aggression than around any display of sexiness.

The way I see it is this: most people will have sex in their lifetime, and even if they don’t have sex, they will be aware of their sexuality and will express their sexuality in some way.  It’s innate, it’s normal, and it’s healthy.  I draw the line at harmful, destructive behavior.  Yes, aggression is also innate (to a point), but most people do not go around hurting others.  It’s not healthy, and I don’t want my kid seeing it.  I am not advocating an all-or-nothing or good/bad approach – of course, kids’ exposure to both sex and violence should be both age appropriate (interpret how you will) and in context.

I find it really interesting that, when it comes to what we allow our kids to see in the media, we seem to be so much more permissive of violence and aggression than sexuality.  What makes sex – even healthy, consensual sex – so shameful?  And what makes violence so acceptable?

Eve Ensler once said something to the effect of (I’m paraphrasing from memory): people are more afraid to love than they are to kill.  I think she has a point, and it saddens me.

Shame on you, NFL players who took part in that fight.  It’s a frickin football game and everyone is watching.