I’ll Eat When The Cheer Is Complete

At the beginning of this long holiday weekend, I was all I’m gonna turn a corner in my life. We’re gonna bring in some Christmas cheer and I’m gonna stop watching scary movies that prevent me from sleeping and I’m gonna get gift shopping done early sos I can kick back and enjoy watching this yule log of a year burn, baby, burn. Or something like that.

To kick off the holiday season right, but also so I could move on with my life, my husband and I watched our last 3 hours of The Haunting of Hill House right after the kids went to bed on Thanksgiving. Tis the season!! This show scared us so badly that we were dragging out the time between watching each episode and I just needed to rip this bandaid off right quick. Overall, I did enjoy the season even though I felt like it stole a few days from my life and they are now residing in the Red Room with everyone else.

The next day I asked my husband if he wanted to watch this one random movie I got from the library and he said foolishly said sure. I picked it up and showed it to him, and I have a disease, you guys. True to form, I had chosen a zombie flick because it had the word pandemic on it. It was called Alone, and it came out this year – how did I manage to miss this?! The movie was just okay, and it involved an interesting take on the classic zombie genre. Because my nerves were still fried from Hill House, I jumped way more than I should have, but I persevered, my friends. I don’t expect my family and friends to associate with a quitter.

So today – today – was for sure the day. We were gonna create some motherfucking cheer, goddamnit. We got up and had pancakes, which never fail to make my kids happy. We attended a surprise birthday car parade which was lovely and joyful. To continue the cheerful momentum, I hesitantly asked my husband not to freak out, but that I wanted to decorate for Christmas aaaaaand – gasp – play Christmas music. This, this is simply not done in our house. My husband has this thing where he won’t celebrate a holiday until the first of the month of said holiday. Lately, I’ve been asking him ever so sweetly to stop CRUSHING MY JOY when we see Christmas lights go up in the neighborhood or hear sleighbells on the television. Today, he graciously allowed me to usher in some gaiety after I shouted at him that THIS WAS ALL THE HOPE WE HAD LEFT.

I started getting the bins out and my kids actually helped put up some decorations. I left the fake, lit garlands I usually wrap around the banisters until last. I was getting a little peckish but I was determined to finish the job and so I pranced over and decided to plug them in – just to make sure they worked, you know, as a formality – before I strung them up. First one lit up the room. Excellent. The second – crap. Suddenly, my empty stomach felt cavernous. The dull, annoying headache I’d had pounded up my brainstem and beat me behind the eyes. Oh yeah, was it that time of the month too? WHY THE FUCK NOT?!

Not to be deterred in the slightest, I proceeded to expertly wiggle and jiggle each and every bulb, all while muttering devil-words under my breath. My husband could sense a change in the atmosphere in the house, and gingerly suggested I take a break and get something to eat. I’LL EAT WHEN THE CHEER IS COMPLETE was my rabid response.

Knowing my limits as a rational human being, I screamed at allowed my husband to take over to troubleshoot the light issue. Then, for reasons still unknown to me, I decided that only fools eat food or take breaks, and I proceeded to organize the liquor cabinet. This only enraged me more when I: 1) couldn’t reach the back of the cabinet and had to ask for help, and 2) couldn’t open a jar of 10 year old homemade booze that we’d never drink and had to ask for help, and 3) banged my head so hard on the open cabinet door that I had to stand there for a good 30 seconds to let the pain pass. Sigh.

After I Marie Kondo-ed the booze (it all sparked joy, save for the 10 year old Baileys that had chunks floating in it, may you rest in peace), I had enough good sense to make and eat some noodles. By that time, my husband had exhausted all options with the lights and he promptly ordered some new ones on the internet because he loves me and he effectively saved Christmas!!


Day 28

Crafting Words Over the Years

I just remembered, a day late, that yesterday was my blogiversary.

That’s right, folks! I’ve been blogging with WordPress for 9 whole years. Whew, that seems like a lifetime ago now.

I started my first diary when I was 8 years old. It was in one of those Lisa Frank diaries with the scented pages and the metal lock on the side. My first entry was about the trip my family took to drive through the devastation of the Oakland Hills fire. I had never seen anything like this before. I remember seeing ash and debris and a bunch of brick fireplaces where houses should be. Like a budding journalist (or at the very least, a person who enjoys properly documenting everything), I drew pictures of what I saw next to my words. Clearly, it made an impact on me, even if I didn’t completely understand what I was seeing at the time.

Over the years, I continued to keep various diaries, albeit sporadically. I also wrote poetry and songs, and I tried my hand at fiction a few times. No joke- around 4th or 5th grade, my friend and I got together and wrote a full album’s worth of songs about pollution and how bad it was for the earth (spoiler alert- it’s really bad). We even recorded a few that we sang at her house with her family’s fancy equipment. I want to say that we even designed a t-shirt to be sold to help raise money for our cause. We were environmentally conscious and we were going places, you guys.

I kept handwritten diaries through my college and grad school years that were for my eyes only. In looking back through them, I noted that I usually only felt the need to write when I was either angry and frustrated or very, very sad. They made for a very lopsided view of my life, if considered all on their own.

I started my first public blog around 2003, as a way of coping after my cancer surgery. It was with LiveJournal – anyone remember that platform?! I’m pretty sure only my college roommates and a smattering of friends and creepy strangers actually read it, but that wasn’t really the point. While I wanted to get my feet wet writing for an audience that wasn’t an English teacher, the entries were mostly for me. After a year and a half of being independent in college, I was home again and briefly unable to do much at all for myself and I needed an outlet. I needed a way to process what had happened to me, how I felt about it, and how I was gonna deal with it. I made that happen from the comfort of my parents’ ginormous communal desktop computer.

At some point, my LiveJournal career peetered out (I’m guessing college and life got back to being normal and busy) and I didn’t do any online journaling for quite some time.

Fast forward to Fall 2011. I had been out of school for a few years, working as a therapist at my first Big Girl Job. My boyfriend (now husband) had just started his master’s degree while working full time. He was either at work, at class, in the car, or studying, which meant he had zero time to hang out with me. I desperately needed a hobby and didn’t have to think too long or too hard to know what I needed to do.

Fun fact: when I first signed up with WordPress, I named my blog Things My Cat Made Me Say. I suppose I decided that my cat didn’t deserve all that unearned attention. Either that, or the theme was a little too nebulous. Ideally, I wanted an overarching theme for this blog that wasn’t just look-at-me-look-at-me, but still reflected who I was and gave me a sense of direction. At the time, I was living and breathing therapy. I worked two jobs seeing clients, consulting with my colleagues, and working with supervisors. I spent my free time researching weird diagnoses and reading disturbing memoirs of fucked up people. I was in it to win it, and so my blog might as well reflect that.

I searched for the right name, crowdsourcing my Facebook friends and keeping a witty list of Freudian-inspired puns. During one supervision meeting at work, a coworker mentioned the term psychobabble in passing, and I quickly scribbled it down in my notes. That’s it! I thought. It was perfect- psychology themed with just the right amount of crazy.

And I’ve been blogging, more or less, ever since. It’s still, as it will always be, mostly for me. Will it ever lead to a more serious writing gig? We’ll see. For right now, I’m super proud of my growing body of work. I enjoy the community this blog assembles around me and I enjoy using my tiny corner of the internet to express myself, process my feelings, and maybe make people laugh along the way.

Thank you, thank you, to everyone who takes the time to read my posts!


Day 12

My Delicious Victory

It’s been a long week, dear Psychos.

Last night I really wanted some wine. I had been saving a bottle of Pino Grigio, which is my fave, and we were too exhausted/overwhelmed to open it on election day…or when the results were finally called…or anywhere in between.

At any rate, last night was the night. My mind was made up.

I’m not great at opening bottles of wine. And by not great I mean I suck at it and rarely attempt it. I’ve come to prefer boxed wine, quite frankly. I’m all about breaking down barriers.

Nevertheless, I am a modern, empowered woman and I wasn’t going to let a little plug of endangered tree bark wedge itself between me and my wildest dreams.

I got out the wine and a corkscrew and that little thingy you use to cut off the junk that covers up the opening. (Please allow me to amaze you with my knowledge of technical wine jargon!) I inspected the bottle to check if the top would simply screw off. I gave it a good yank (that’s what she said) and it didn’t budge. I proceeded with using the little cutting tool thingy. First, I couldn’t figure out how it fit onto the bottle. It kept slipping off as I tried to turn it (dear lord, she said that too), and I set everything down, frustrated.

Now Psychos, while I am a strong, independent woman, I am also not above asking for help. My husband was home, but he was upstairs giving baths to the kids. There was no way I was going upstairs and risk being asked to help or getting guilted into reading bedtime stories involving talking trains or various scratch-and-sniff Christmas items. That meant that if I wanted help, I had to wait. Temporarily defeated, I left all the tools sitting out and I went and sat down in front of the TV with a glass of water.

Water, y’all.

I lasted a few minutes before I got up and went back into the kitchen with a surge of I’m gonna fucking do this. I wrenched down hard on the cutting tool and cut through enough that I was able to pick it off the bottle. I looked in and there wasn’t any cork. Weird, I thought, but score! I poured myself a glass and was triumphant in my delicious victory.

Fast forward to this morning, when my husband saw the partial bottle in the fridge.

“You know this was a screw top, right? You cut right through the cap.” He pointed.

“Huh. That would explain why it didn’t have a cork.”

Nobody needs to worry about me. When I want something I’ll just claw at it until I get it.


Day 10

I’m just happy to be here

I have this bad habit of falling into negative thought patterns. Like, all the time.

I’m cynical. I’m sarcastic. It’s a defense mechanism. A maladaptive coping strategy. And it’s become a habit a loooong time ago, and old habits are hard to break, as they say.

Especially during a global pandemic, when the world is burning and my anxiety jumps out and says Yes! This is what I’ve been telling you about all along! Now it’s here; the end is near! BWAAHAHAAAA!

And while anxiety is my main squeeze, lately its cousin depression asked to come stay for a while, and I’m fresh out of room and energy and this is all too hard somebody make it stop.

(As an aside, I’m doing okay. I have good days and bad, and lately I am having more average-to-good days than bad, by far. It’s just that every once in a while I get slammed with a bad day and have trouble recalibrating. Rest assured, I am coping as well as can be expected.)

The point is that I am trying to break this bad habit, or at least learn to interrupt it so that it doesn’t take over and eat all my remaining sanity.

I like mantras. They are helpful reminders that not everything sucks. And language is so versatile that you can craft any mantra that speaks to you, at any time and for any reason.

Lately, when I find myself going down a negative spiral eleventy million times a day, and I actually remember to, I silently tell myself:

I’m just happy to be here.

This is the phrase I’ve used to describe my daughter’s personality. She was/is such a happy, easy-going baby, toddler, and now kid. While other kids would be whining or going into their dark places, she’d smile and ask me what we doing now, mama? She’s the kid in that story with the room filled with poop – the kid who gleefully starts digging through the shit and yells, THERE MUST BE A HORSE IN HERE SOMEWHERE! That’s her, and she certainly did not get her sunny disposition from me, but man I want what she’s selling.

As an aside, I want people who know me to know that I appreciate uplifting messages and I use them and think them…I just also have a knee-jerk reaction to want to make fun of them, too. Like, I remind myself to be extra kind and patient these days with people, but I’m more likely to wear a t-shirt with Pete the Cat on it saying I hate you all than one that says be kind. (Please know, friend of mine who wears these shirts, I like them, I like that you wear them, and please don’t take it personally when I make fun of them.)

At any rate, here I am striking a balance. I want to invite more positive energy into my life because goodness crap, we all need it now more than ever.

Readers, tell me – what are your favorite mantras?

Rage. fear. desperation.

My little girl was almost hit by a car today. Almost.

We were on our way home, crossing a busy street. My son was on his bike, my daughter on her scooter and I was on foot. We looked left, we looked right. No cars. We were in a crosswalk. We did everything right.

To the right of the crosswalk is a traffic circle, and I saw a car whip around and it wasn’t slowing down. By this time, I was halfway across, my son was behind me, and my daughter was ahead of me.

I screamed, STOP, [HER NAME], STOP!!!

My girl started to slow down and I lurched forward, groping for her, even though she was still out of reach. I later told my husband that we’d both have been hit if the driver hadn’t slammed on her brakes.

If there was ever a time when I felt like a crazed, full-blown Mama Bear, this was it.

JESUS CHRIST!! I screamed at the car.

SLOW DOWN!!! I bellowed as I threw my arms wide in rage, fear, and desperation. I’m sure my eyes were red and smoke puffed out of my ears. Certainly, adrenaline was pumping through my system.

The driver gave a gesture that I interpreted as apologetic, but it all happened so fast. I just wanted to get back home where we’re safe.

This is several hours later, and I’m still trying to shake the rage. fear. desperation.

A similar incident happened a few months ago, but I was able to shake that one off much sooner. The differences: we weren’t in a pandemic, and I didn’t feel so constantly vulnerable, thinking about health and loved ones and safety and loss. That time, I was close enough to her that I grabbed her hood and yanked her back. Even if the car had continued to run the stop sign, I had successfully pulled her out of the way. Lastly, everyone was moving slower: me, my daughter, the car. It was far less scary, in a far less scary time.

Also a contributing factor: I’m currently experimenting with different cold brew ratios/recipes/techniques and dear baby jesus, I think I made this last batch way too freaking strong. Today I’ve been jittery and strung out. My husband says I’ve been talking a mile a minute today, buthowisthatpossibleIdon’tknowwhatyou’retalkingabout.

Not to mention that I’ve had two nightmares in the past week, one of which was technically a nightmare within a fucking nightmare (so I guess that makes it three nightmares in all). I shit you not, I had a nightmare and in the dream I went to sleep, had yet another nightmare, “woke up,” BUT WAS STILL IN A NIGHTMARE. When I woke up for realsies, you’d better believe it took me a hot minute to be quite certain that I was conscious and the world before me was indeed real. I think it’s high time I made myself a totem, BECAUSE HOW DO I KNOW I’M NOT BEING INCEPTED?! Leo?! JGL???

As a surprise to absolutely no one, I’m also knee-deep in a violent dystopian novel. My choices amaze even myself.

Soooooooo there you have it. Too much, too often I feel like the world is burning and I have a front row seat. I can feel the warm glow on my face and I can see the ash falling from the sky.

Everyone, just please do me a favor and SLOW DOWN when you drive. Check the crosswalks. Then check them again. Thanks.

And go easy on the cold brew.

 

Asking For a Friend

I’m good at following directions, and the goals of shelter in place are straightforward: stay at home, don’t go near people, wash your hands, pee in jars. Pretty simple.

I visualize safety precautions on a spectrum. Way over here is pre-covid, when we went everywhere and my kids licked all the things. Way over on the other side is what we’re doing now. We aren’t going anywhere, we aren’t in direct contact with anyone, and all licking is kept to the bare minimum.

But as businesses and humans start to open up, we enter this super messy gray area where I already know I’m going to have a hard time, as a human and as a mother, deciding what is safe for us to be doing. How much contact is safe? How much risk is acceptable?

I’ve already felt this odd phenomenon where I don’t feel safe – I feel vulnerable. scared. hypervigilant. – but at the same time, I am safe. I have food, water, clothes, shelter, my family. In the same way, we’re all supposed to behave as if we are sick – staying away from people, wearing masks, washing hands – in an attempt to not get sick or get anyone else sick. Or, maybe we are sick and we don’t know it? It’s both. It’s Schrodinger’s sickness, in the same way that it’s Schrodinger’s safety. We’re both safe and unsafe, sick and well, all at the same time.

Now let’s spread a thick, bitter layer of anxiety over this delicious dumpster fire. Staying home makes me feel safe. Well…safer than I do out in the world. I can control my surroundings here and there’s a very limited amount of exposure we have to the outside world. As we open up, of course that gets much harder to control and, if I know myself, anxiety will increase henceforthwith. But, anxiety is a tricky devil, and there’s also the thing where tapping into my social support network – in person – decreases my anxiety. Dude, I miss hanging out with my friends. Like, a lot. So, again, as we open up, I’m going to have to constantly decide: how will this social engagement increase my anxiety due to my exposure to others’ germs? How will it decrease my anxiety because social interaction is healthy for humans? Where shall I hide all these jars of urine?

You see the constant, ever-present dilemma. I’m already exhausted.

Another factor that’s tough for me is not having an end date. All the uncertainty is difficult and I’m for sure gearing up for a marathon, but even the runners who sign up for a race know exactly how far they’ve gotta run. I have no idea how to pace myself. Shall I freak out all at once, or would it be better to space out those panic attacks? Asking for a friend.

One realistic (I hope) goal I have for this summer since all the things have been canceled is getting to the beach. Any beach. With the least amount of people possible. It’s the best place I can think of to go during a time like this: it’s low risk, high fun, outdoors, and free. I don’t care if it’s raining on a Wednesday morning, if that means we can go and be safe(r), then we’re fucking going. Get in the car. We’ll be like backpackers – we’ll carry in everything we need to survive and we’ll carry it all back out with us – food, water, plastic potty, and whatever waste is deposited therein. We won’t stop for nothing. You need to pee? Here’s a jar. You want ice cream? Fucking churn it yourself.

This is gonna be the best summer marathon ever.

 

I’m the One with the Pool

So I haven’t been inside a grocery store in weeks. Not since March 19, to be exact. Until today.

The two main reasons I wanted to go were for items that couldn’t be picked up curbside- for me that meant a giant plastic pool and garden items like flowers and tomato plants. You know, lovely things that make life feel worth living. I was determined to get another kiddie pool because our city announced they wouldn’t be turning on joy the water features this summer (at least for now), and that’s a devastating blow to the well being of my kids and thus my family. My son didn’t cry when school was canceled (and he likes school!) but you bet your ass he cried when I told him the splash pads weren’t going to be turned on. Sigh.

So I had this all planned out. I was gonna go an hour before closing so that it’d be as empty as possible (and freaking hell there were still way too many people in there for comfort!), because I drive by that parking lot every single Tuesday at 2pm for curbside pickup and the parking lot is chockfull like there’s an end of the world party and everyone’s invited.

My anxiety started spiking before I even got ready to go. Uuuuggghhh having chronic anxiety centered around health issues REALLY SUCKS during a pandemic. And trying to control my breathing so I don’t start hyperventilating in an N95 mask is difficult to say the least. Basically, I was using my cart as a battering ram and trying to strong-arm my way through the grocery store to get what I needed and get the hell out.

They keep the giant plastic pools outside of the store, and I grabbed one and brought it inside, only to realize…this is big. and awkward. How the hell am I supposed to shop with this? So the greeter man by the door was super helpful and had me just take a picture of the bar code and he held it at the door so I didn’t have to cart it around everywhere with me.

I did my shopping. I ran into someone I knew! How quaint! Just like the before-times. The staff were soooo nice. Like, not paid nearly enough for how nice they were during a pandemic. And what the nice employee lady told me was that THE GARDEN CENTER CLOSED OVER AN HOUR AGO. Fuuuuuuuuuuck. So much for planning ahead. This will mean that I’ll have to come back at some point and endure this drawn out panic attack again. Covid-19: keeping therapists and big pharma in business!

I wove around non-mask wearing teenagers (WTF) and paid for my stuff and retrieved my pool and got out to my car. My husband’s car, actually. Because while my car is bigger, it has the car seats and the backseat can’t be put down. So I brought his so I could put the seats down and have plllllllenty of room for the pool (I’m so smart!) right?

Yeah no.

My 5 foot diameter pool was clearly not going to fit in this Prius. Even though I tried like an idiot. Several times. Maybe this way? Nope. I hope no one’s watching me. FUCK. I had to take off my mask at this point because I needed to breathe. I was gonna have a panic attack right there in the parking lot.

I called my husband.

Uuuuuh, you’re gonna have to tie it to the car or drive home holding it out of the window.

Thanks. Who do we know with a huge car? OH WAIT! I saw husband-of-a-friend in the store just now! THEY HAVE A SUBURBAN!

I hung up and madly texted my friend. My phone autocorrected “fucking” to “tucking.” I hate that.

Her husband was still in the store, and he graciously responded that he’d be right there. I almost texted back with I’m the one with the pool but thought better of it.

We caravaned home, I got the pool into the yard, said a bunch of thank yous, and then bathed in disinfectant along with everything on my person and set my clothes on fire. I got over the hump with some Xanax-infused ice cream and didn’t end up needing a Xanax, but oh man the panic was real.

I think tonight took about two years off my life, but at least I got the goddamn pool.

 

Whole30: To the kind soul who finds this

Dear Diary, or to the kind soul who finds this,

It’s Day 15 in this dark place. I wonder when I’ll see the end? Sometimes I think my punishment will never end.

I feel pretty accomplished, surviving in this strange place, with a huge credit to my husband on the outside who has courageously smuggled in compliant dinners.

My captors allowed me to eat out a few times and but forced me to make substitutions and special requests. I longed to cry out for help to the waitress, but I was threatened with punishment upon our return. At one point I was brought to a bowling alley that sold fried foods as another twisted means of torture and I ended up begging to be put out of my misery, to no avail. I was present at a gathering where I was offered pizza. and. cake. but I knew of the unsaid consequences if I were to succumb to temptation in a moment of weakness. Only strength will get me through. And hope. One day at a time.

My time here has reminded me of being pregnant, oddly. My sense of smell has become superhuman. Halfway down the dungeon stairs I breathed in, and with my exhale I moaned, “THOSE MARSHMALLOWS HAD BETTER BE GONE BY THE TIME I GET DOWN.” Sometimes, the captive start to sound like the captors.

I’m still craving the sweet flavors of home, mainly in the dark of night. Some days are better than others, but I find being given permission to eat something -anything compliant- does the trick to distract my body from its woes and the craving passes.

I should be drinking more water. I’m being given my ration, but I long for something different.

My biggest concern for the second half of my sentence is the shackles of food boredom. I’m trying to keep my spirits up by finding ways to make my meager breakfast more interesting. Even the slightest new taste can do the trick; I plan to beg for fruits I don’t often have. With luck I’ll be shown some mercy.

Sometimes I sense that my time here is melting away my humanity. Have you seen that movie, Lord of the Rings? Do you remember when Bilbo saw the ring again after he hadn’t seen it, or held it, caressed it, in a long time? The greedy monster inside him contorted on his face for just a fraction of a second. That’s how I feel when I see my captors eating ice cream right in front of me. The preciousss.

Another day, gone.

If you should find this, please leave a message of hope in its place.

I’m going to need it.

Challenge Accepted, MFers

2020 is my year, bitches.

I’ve taken my extra time away from babies and I’ve surprisingly spent a good chunk of it exercising and shit. I know, I’ve surprised even myself. This morning, I was running around the house in my sports bra, getting the kids ready for school, and my husband first asked this weird half-naked lady with purple hair if she’d seen his wife, and then, upon remembering how hot I am, asked me if I knew where the gun show was. (spoiler alert, I do.)

That’s right. We know how to keep that spark alive.

Ever since my daughter was done breastfeeding and my body became my very own again, I’ve been working to really, truly take care of myself. I’ve had mental health stuff come up. I’ve had a bunch of seemingly random health stuff come up, too. Skin issues, GI issues, chronic acid reflux issues, my ongoing headaches and migraines. I’ve had a few tests done for the GI stuff and the short version is that they can’t find anything physically wrong with me. That leaves me with…my diet. The food-like things I put into my body.

About a year ago I cut out some dairy, but not all. I feel like that has helped some. Not all. I’ve also cut out or reduced a few things that trigger my reflux. So that helps. But not all the way.

Sooooooooo, my dear psychos, I’m taking the plunge. Starting tomorrow, I’m doing Whole 30. Wholey crap. For those of you unfamiliar, Whole 30 is an elimination diet to see how certain food groups affect your body – you eat whole foods for 30 days and then slowly add stuff back in to see what happens. It’s a good way to see if you have any allergies or aversions and junk. Basically, I can have meat, fish, eggs, fruits, veggies, nuts. Nothing else. No added sugar, no soy, no dairy, no legumes, no grains, no alcohol.

This is a big deal for me. I’ve always eaten everything. I don’t have any obvious allergies and I’m generally not a picky eater. I’ve also never been on a special diet before, ever. Unless you count my surgery prep and the stuff I couldn’t eat during pregnancies, I’ve never really restricted myself. And guys, my parents are from the midwest. Dairy is, like, THE most important food group. It’s like how Bubba is with shrimp: there are so many ways you can have cheese. There’s sliced cheese, grated cheese, powdered cheese, melted cheese, blocks of cheese, wheels of cheese. There’s cheese curds and cheesecake. Don’t forget cheesewhiz. I grew up having cows milk with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ice cream almost every night. Dear lord, my body is a temple and it’s never not been worshipped with dairy.

This is going to be interesting, y’all.

Luckily, I have a friend, whom I’ll call M, and she’s done this before and she offered to do it with me now and to be my emotional support animal. Honestly, I don’t think she’s aware of what she signed up for, because when I get hangry, all bets are off. I’ll be texting her in the middle of the night needing a peptalk so I don’t inhale my kids’ Valentines candy in my walk-in closet.

It goes without saying that I plan to blog about this experience as much as I need to and probably more than you all would like. Food is such an emotional thing. We have living, breathing relationships with it because it’s rooted in culture and family and it’s woven into every. single. social. gathering.

I’m treating this like one big experiment, and it’s my goal to remain determined and curious. Although I’m a rule follower to the core, M (dude, when I call you M, it reminds me of that kickass lady from the Bond movies played by Dame Judy Dench. You’re welcome.) kinda gave me permission to bend some small rules so I don’t go absolutely crazy. Like, I may still cook with real butter (I’m just kidding! I don’t cook, my husband does. A word on that later). And I’ll probably have some store-bought mayo (another midwestern food group – you can’t make a salad without it!), but I’m very interested to see how I feel without all that sugar and dairy and grain in my system. I’m looking forward to the poops! Oh, the BMs! I’ve heard the legends and I want to know what secrets lie within…and without.

Advanced thanks to M and to my husband, who has been amazingly supportive so far. He does all the cooking in the house, and he’s been planning meals for me and I know he’s gonna be there to cheer me on this whole way, even when I’ll be tackling him to the ground trying to eat the pasta hanging out of his mouth.

It all starts tomorrow, folks. What’s hilarious is that my mom friends are going out after we walk/jog/run tomorrow morning for coffee and donuts. FUCKING DONUTS ALREADY?!

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

The Jelly Bean Jar

At our wedding 6 and a half years ago, we had a cute little candy table set up.

Most of the candy was put in these mason jars I painstakingly decorated with lace, burlap, and ribbon. We had, among other things: mints, taffy, and jelly belly beans.

A lot of the candy was left over after the wedding, and I wanted to keep a few of the jars I had made, so we consolidated the candy in the jars I wanted to keep. Fast forward to when we moved to Oregon, and the jars now live on the windowsill in our kitchen.

We don’t eat candy very often. Well, let me be clear – we eat the good stuff quickly, and the rest just kinda…sits there. Plus, the wedding candy kinda became more decoration than treat.

Fast forward again to when we had kids, and to when my youngest kid decided that she’d rather start pooping in her pants than in the potty (the latter she had been doing for weeks already). Kids are wondrous, folks. Simply amazing little creatures.

Mama had had enough and, after much screaming and sanitizing and laundry, we decided to try rewards as a last resort. My first thought was that we’d have to go out and buy some M&Ms.

But wait!

We had three cute little jars full of (old) candy that wasn’t being eaten, right in front of me as I did the dishes at the end of every exhausting day! I promptly offered my daughter a jelly bean the next time she went poop on the potty, and pointed to the jar that was backlit by the spring sunlight coming in through the window, illuminating the sugary beans like they were sent straight from heaven.

It worked like a charm!

Now, because we were giving my youngest a magic poop bean every time she delivered the goods, my oldest saw an opportunity.

Hey, he said. (he didn’t really say that) I want one, too. (that he did say)

And so, for the past, I don’t know, 6 months or so (maybe 9? my brain is mush), we’ve been giving each kid a bean, when we’ve been home, for a deed that normally should be going on unrewarded.

After a short while, it was clear that my genius had paid off, and that my daughter’s skill mastery of potty training was here to stay. But, another problem was looming.

How do we stop the rewards?!

Surely, I’d created two monsters. Obviously, they’d go off to college thinking they deserved a godforsaken jelly belly after every empty colon produced. Clearly, I had failed as a parent. I had gone in without an exit strategy! Rookie mistake! Sorry, future roommates and partners.

But wait!

We had a finite number of jelly beans! Of course! Again, the answer had been staring me in the face as I stood at the sink, doing endless freaking dishes day in and day out. The jelly beans would, one day, just run out. There would be no more.

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The Last Jelly Bean

This problem solved itself, ladies and gentlemen. I made the announcement, and they accepted the news in stride. The countdown to the End of the Jelly Beans became somewhat of a thing, from then on. It was to be an exciting milestone for all involved.

So. I’m sure you know what recently happened. My baby girl produced so much poop so many times and ate her way through that jar. She no longer needs the jar. She no longer asks for the beans. The circle of life was complete in that the beans became the poop for which the reward was the beans. I propose that the chicken-or-the-egg phrase be officially replaced.

So thank you, Jelly Bean Jar. You served your purpose not only in looking cute at my wedding, and on my window sill, but you also saved me having to do a whole lot of laundry.

Now, let’s raise a glass to the Jelly Bean Jar. Here’s to stale candy doing what I could not- getting a stubborn little girl to do something that shouldn’t require rewarding in the first place.