There comes a time in every young girl’s life when she must do something drastic. She needs to show her independence. Fight the power. Give a big ole middle finger to The Man.
Except when you’re three, and The Man is The Mom, and that Thing You Must Do is to take a pair of blunt tipped child safety scissors and cut off half of your luscious, golden brown, perfectly ringletted locks.
I’m going to preface this by saying that I wasn’t even here for this event. I was getting small chunks of back skin removed. Dad was in charge. Having come home from work early to relieve me, he went back to his desk to “check his email,” “just for a second,” and “had no idea she did this” until I came home and inquired about all the hair on the kitchen floor.
Now in his defense, all three girls were at the kitchen table playing with their homemade silly putty, and they always use scissors to cut it and then drape it over their hands and arms in some Silence of the Lambs type scenario that’s not at all creepy. I leave them alone-ish to do this all the time. Only when I’m here, no one dares cut their own hair. Dad being in charge must give off an air of freedom and fearlessness. The sky’s the limit! Or the back of the head where you can’t reach with your short little arms is, at least.
When I came home, everyone was watching a movie, so I started cleaning up the silly putty that was left out. That’s when I saw the hair on the floor. I knew it was Zoe’s right away. But it was only a few little locks.
“Zoe, did you cut your hair?”
“Oh yeah! I did!”
“Where?” It really wasn’t obvious, just looking at her.
“Right heah, and heah, and heah.” She pointed to the front, the side, the back. It looked a little off kilter, but nothing too obvious. I reached up to touch her hair and check the unevenness of it all…
And that’s when clumps of hair just came right out by the handful. And she was left with this.
Classic three-year-old move, the cutting of the hair. Timed perfectly with the fact that I was just looking at her hair earlier that day and thinking about how cute and perfect it was, always framing her face in perfect ringlets.
Take it from me, don’t ever think happy thoughts about your kids’ hair. They’ll plum go and chop it off.
So that weekend I took her to the haircut place to get it evened out. I winced as the lady showed me how short she was going to have to cut it, but we had to even it out. I’m not cool enough to tote around a child with a trendy asymmetrical cut.
After I unsuccessfully tried to convince her to only charge me half price because clearly half of the job had been done for her, we left with three DumDum lollipops and one very cute bob.
And seriously, I cannot stop staring at her. She’s so damn cute. She looks a full year older, is now talking in full paragraphs, and all of the sudden decided to give the big eff you to the little training potty in lieu of the big porcelian throne.
So what we’ve learned here:
Leaving kids unattended with scissors can lead to bad things.
Leaving your husband unattended with your children can also lead to bad things.
Short curly hair on 3-year-olds is to die for.
Cutting hair somehow leads to potty training success.
Your youngest child is now a grown up and you are sobbing in the corner.
Not too long ago I sat around a table of other moms at a coffee bar, chatting about this and that and so on and so forth. I joined in by telling them about a mom blogger I admire, who jaunts around town, experiencing and writing about her fabulous life in the city.
You know, with her ONE kid… And I emphasized the whole conversation with a big fat eye roll.
Which was awkward, because I was sitting at a table SURROUNDED by women who had only ONE CHILD. And that’s when I swallowed my gangly foot.
I make no secret that I’m often a little jealous of mothers with just one child. Scratch that — I can be down right resentful. It tends to happen when you come home from the hospital already able to claim multiple dependents on your taxes. Don’t take this to mean that I don’t realize how blessed and lucky I am to have three beautiful, healthy children. It’s just that I never got to experience the beauty of “one kid.”
See, I had a fantasy about motherhood that, like most fantasies, didn’t really pan out. I envisioned trips to Target and the coffee shop. I imagined lazy, sun filled days in my spotless house, just my baby and me. First we’d listen to classical Mozart so she would be all smart and stuff, then we’d cue up some old Radiohead so she would see how cool I was. And man, I would be cool. Also thin.
And then I brought two tiny babies home after a 5 week NICU stay. To say my fantasies were grotesquely shattered is an understatement. Immersed in the cycle of constant feeding, rocking, and staring blankly at them, wondering what to do next, I found myself mourning the version of motherhood that I never had the chance to experience. There were no trips to Target, no leisurely afternoons at the coffee shop. I couldn’t conjure up an appropriate kids’ song to save my life. They wouldn’t sleep (at the same time at least), they were always hungry, and someone was always crying.
Other twin moms, deep in the trenches of double infancy, always ask if it gets easier. Really, it really just gets different. Once out of the baby phase, I still had to deal with wrangling two children who instinctively knew to run in opposite directions. Library story times were a bust. The grocery store was overwhelming. My life in general was just going to crazy town. And when they multiplied into three? Most days I felt like I was wading through quicksand. Still do. And someone is still always crying.
My three girls are amazing and beautiful and sweet and awesome. But surely if I had had one kid, it would have all been easier, better, I would convince myself. My husband and I could switch off instead of the constant man on man defense. She’d get all the attention she needed from me. We could run errands together, nap together, watch reruns of LOST together and wonder what the deal was with Kate’s man arms. Hell, I could hold her all damn day if I needed to instead of crying from frustration and guilt that I had two babies and only one set of arms. There would be no double poops with only half my grocery list completed. No chance of double tantrums in a public place where people gape at you because how dare you leave the house with two babies? But by the way, are they identical? Did you use fertility drugs? Are you breastfeeding? Insert additional invasive and inappropriate questions here.
It’s interesting how five years later I still carry some of this burden. Life is getting easier, but with that ease I also trade age, and the aging is killing me. Why must they get older in order to start to act like actual human beings instead of monkeys on meth?
Of course now I know that it’s all relative. My hardships are my own, and your hardships are yours. I still jokingly wonder how couples can complain about the work involved in having A BABY, but I’ve never experienced just one. And they’ve never experienced two. When it’s all you know, it’s all you know, you know? (Although when we had Zoe, I was all THIS ONE BABY THING IS AWESOME.)
At times I’ve felt that I’ve done my kids a disservice in the fact that they all came so quickly. I feel like there’s so much they’ve missed out on, like getting their mom or dad all to themselves for an afternoon or leaving the house more than once a month because we are out of toilet paper and wipes and paper towels or anything that can remotely be used to wipe butts. But then again, they don’t know any different. And neither do I.
I guess ignorance is bliss. Now I know that my fears and insecurities about having two babies also sat in the minds of the mothers with only one baby. Basically, we all just want to know if we are doing this silly job right.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a reading post. Honestly, I haven’t been reading as much as I would like, but I just finished some fantastic books I want to share with you, and update you on what’s piling up on my nightstand.
I cleared a bunch of books from my overflowing bookshelves the other day. We have two massive bookcases, but I only have 2 shelves allotted for my books. Others are full of my art and art history books, framed photos, parenting books, kids’ toys, and my Harry Potter collection has a little section all its own.
The only books that make the cut are ones that I have either already read twice or that I can see myself reading again. I’ve always wanted to have a room full of books, but there’s no point in hanging on to ones I won’t even pull out again. Keeping it to two shelves forces me to maintain and weed out ones that can find good homes elsewhere. But I’m really hanging onto the day when I can maybe introduce a third shelf. Then I will feel unstoppable!
P.S. This posts is chock full of affiliate links. And now you know that. Don’t worry, I’m not getting rich. I can maybe buy 1 book a year off my affiliate earnings. But someday! Someday it will make me millions!
Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I was practically the last person on the planet to read this book, and WOW. It was incredible. Cheryl documents in astounding detail her hitting rock bottom after the death of her mother and her somewhat impulsive 1100+ mile solitary hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. She effortlessly weaves stories from her past into the tale of her journey. Not only did I feel like I was there, but I wanted to be there. Seriously, I really want to go hiking now. Maybe something a tad shorter.
Smile at Strangers and Other Lessons in the Art of Living Fearlessly by Susan Schorn. Susan is one of my former cast mates from Listen to Your Mother 2012, and we’ve become great friends since on Twitter. Her memoir on leading a fearful and anxious life and finding her strength and balance through martial arts is full of her dry wit and humor that I love so much. It’s very interesting to read about someone you know personally. Plus she can totally kick my ass.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. Loved it. I’ve been an on and off reader of her blog, but in her memoir, you really do get to see a different side of her. But that side is still hilarious. Also I have no idea why her title is in bold and the others aren’t. It means YOU MUST READ IT.
On my nightstand:
The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman. Yes, this one has been on my nightstand since last November. I can’t be expected to read about midwives when riveting memoirs keep falling into my lap. But I actually have started it, and it’s sucked me in. Looking forward to diving into some fiction again with some very compelling, if not slightly gross, drama in this novel.
Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard. I’m not gonna lie – I swiped this from my mom’s house at the last second because it was face down and the back of the jacket says “Praise for Killing Lincoln.” So I thought I had picked up an entirely different assassination. But I’m equally obsessed with this one, so I’ll give it a go.
The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr. I have no idea – NONE! – what this book is about really, other than it’s a memoir (again! What’s with me and the memoirs?). But apparently it’s about her God-awful childhood, and who doesn’t love to read about someone else’s terrible upbringing? The Glass Castle and Running With Scissors have two of my favorite abhorrent childhood memoirs.
You can see my previous reading list here. Now tell me…what’s on your nightstand?
I have this bad habit of always thinking things are going to be okay. Not really a terrible affliction to have, exactly, but it can easily look like I’m blowing things off. I’m not. I still worry. But I just…think things are going to work out for the best.
I headed back to the dermatologist on Thursday. After my last visit, they called me to say that the samples they took came back as “mildly abnormal.” The woman on the phone described that there’s a scale of abnormalities: mild means they keep an eye on it, moderate means they want to take more and do more tests, and severe means you are going to die. I’m just kidding. She didn’t say that, and that’s probably not very funny. But severe cases can mean skin cancer and minor surgery.
I was mild.
“So what does that mean, exactly?” I asked.
“Well,” said Girl on the Phone, “They range from mild to moderate, to severe…” Yes, yes, you already said that. It didn’t matter how many times I asked, she read me the same script, then told me that they wanted to go back in and take some more skin from me. To make sure they got it all.
At the dermatologist’s office, it was more of the same. No one seemed to be able to tell me exactly what “abnormal” meant. Was there a name for it? Abnormal-Not-Cancer? Slightly-Weird-Not-Terribly-Freaky?
The most information I could get was that since my samples came back mild-to-moderately abnormal, they don’t know how fast the cells are growing, so they wanted to grab a little more to make sure they got it all. I didn’t exactly describe the taking of the samples last time, but basically they numbed up my spots, then the dermatologist shaved them off with a razor. They weren’t raised, so it seems slightly less gross. But once the lidocaine wore off, it was pretty painful, and it totally gave Christian the heebie jeebies.
This time was a little more involved. Same process with the lidocaine, but they went wider and deeper. I tell you, there are few weirder feelings than being totally numb in an area, but being able to feel the motion of someone sawing at your back with a razor blade. Gross, I know.
I don’t know what it is that gives me this mentality, the inherent sureness that things will be okay. Or maybe it’s just the suppression of worriment that it won’t be. If my husband is late coming home, he’s just late. If my kids are sick, they just have a virus. Even when Rachel and Claire were in the NICU, I knew everything would be fine. We had one scary day, and then we sailed through the rest of our stay. That’s how my life has been so far. Everything has just always been fine.
Until it’s not. When Rachel was a baby, maybe a year, one of her blood tests from a regular well check came back with high platelet counts. Or was it low? I can’t remember. We took her in to be retested, and I tried to push out the thought that something could be wrong. I don’t even remember what the high/low platelets could have signified. All I remember thinking was that this was my daughter, named after her Aunt Rachel, who passed away from leukemia at age 17. And so began the squashing of the terrible thoughts.
Another blood test on Rachel came back normal. And she’s still normal today, or at least as normal as any kid in this house is going to get. What scares me is that thought that someday, I’ll be living in my “it’s fine” wonderland, and something won’t be. Something will go wrong. Someone will get really sick. Something will be “abnormal.” And it will hit me like two tons of bricks because I was totally unprepared. I never even allowed myself to think about it.
So again I play the waiting game. I’m still pretty sure that there’s nothing detrimental going on, but my “hey! it’ll be okay!” confidence has wavered a bit. I’ve never had a test come back weird, and this isn’t any time to start, you hear me, body? I’m just going through life with two gashes on my back that look like bullet wounds. Sounds much more hard core than “Oh, yeah, those are some spots I had removed by my skin doc.”
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to check your skin and keep track of it’s changes. A friend of mine asked me how I realized the spot (it’s a mole, but the word mole sounds gross to me? Molie molie molie!) had grown in size. Truth is, I look at my skin all the time. After a shower, when I’m changing…I check out my back in the mirror and make sure that there’s nothing glaring that I’ve never noticed before. In this case I had to have Christian double check it, because I couldn’t get a great view, and he was able to verify that it did look a little larger and misshapen. We’ve been together 14 years. Dude knows my skin better than I do. And even though it still gives him the willies, Christian’s the only one who can keep them bandaged for me, so…that’s marriage, folks.
This is where I was going to insert a picture of the skin samples they took from me the second time around, but after looking at the photo again, I think that’s a level of oversharing that even I can’t do. If you really want to see it, email me, and I’ll send it on over. Instead you get to see a photo of me, non showered, hiding behind my book because I had to wait foreverrrrrrrrr.
As the end of school neared in May, I held a fistful of dread for the coming summer. Summer means long days of intense heat, not going outside unless we’re in the water, and lots and lots of stir craziness. Summer meant stress.
Last summer we didn’t get out much. Outings were on a strict need basis. We need toilet paper. We need bandages for that gaping would that is spurting blood.
We joined the YMCA last year, on the promise that I could drop these kids in the day care and hit the gym for a little me time. But before long the YMCA became a great source of anxiety. Let’s just say my children got kicked out of the child care more than once. Eventually I couldn’t even enjoy or focus on my me time because I was constantly watching the clock, thinking Are they being good? Should I go get them? I should go get them.
Let’s not even talk about the pool. In the water I was nervous about making sure everyone’s heads were in sight and above water. I had to keep everyone within arm’s reach. My blood pressure was up the entire time and didn’t calm down until we were out of there.
So last summer was not exactly the most relaxing. I woke up angry every morning, had no patience, and yelled way too much. My goal was just to get through the day. By the time school was set to start again I realized I was actually depressed and suffering from anxiety. And although they only went to preschool two mornings a week, that was all it took to bring me back to normal. Well, as normal as I get, anyway.
My girls and I, we need our breaks from each other.
But this summer hasn’t met my stressful expectations. I dare say, this summer has been easy. And fun.
It hit me one day as we left the YMCA. No one had gotten kicked out. They put their toys away when I asked, thanked the day care ladies, and followed me out the door, chatting about their morning. As we crossed the street and made our way to the car, I thought, Wow. Look at me with my three little ducklings.
I am totally DOING THIS SHIT.
I bet this is how more competent moms feel all the time.
This summer marks a turning point in which I can say that things are getting noticeably easier. We’ve been to feed the ducks. To the splash pads. To the library. To the movies. To the art museum. We’ve had ice cream for lunch. More than once.
We are totally doing this shit.
We start every day with Where are we going today, Mom? And I leave almost every outing feeling fulfilled. And these fulfilling days fill me with emotion, because I know they will be short lived. Now that we’re in the dead heat of summer, I’m already looking forward to the cooler fall weather, when it’ll be more enjoyable to go outside and play and have adventures with my newly crowned human beings… but they won’t be here. They’ll be in school all day. Every day. And that makes me sad.
I look back at the past 5 years that I’ve been home with my children, and all of the times I avoided an adventure because it was just so difficult. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough, I tell myself. Maybe if you had just realized that this time would be a blip on the map, you would have grasped the reins and taken charge.
But I know I tried. I remember all too clearly the knot in my stomach every time I dropped them off at the child care, and the constant nagging feeling that I should hurry and finish my workout so I can relieve the employees of the burden that surely were my children.
I remember the sweaty struggle to get them the 20 feet from the day care to the exit, being pulled opposite directions between the child that was headed for the door, the one that was lagging behind, and the one that was in my arms.
I know I left the store more than once because we. were. done.
It’s with a bittersweet gusto that I embrace this summer. Before now summer was just summer – months of heat and boredom and sweat. Now summer is opportunity. It’s connection. I understand the need to make the most of these months. It’s like I blinked and the season is already half over. School starts in just over a month. The time is nearing to start selecting new backpacks, lunch bags, and school clothes. In just over a month, my big girls will start an adventure that will last them practically the rest of their lives, or at least the rest of their lives residing with me.
So here’s to summer and adventures and opportunities. May yours be as wonderful as ours has been so far.
We went to a little place I like to call “the art museum” the other day. I call it that because it was, in fact, an art museum. This post is really just an excuse for me to force on you a smattering of photos for proof that no one was kicked out.
Back in my day, the Blanton “museum” was a spacious gallery on the ground floor of the art building on the University of Texas campus. I spent many breaks between studio classes wandering the gallery. It had no permanent exhibits back then; everything rotated. My absolute favorites were the faculty and masters final portfolio exhibits. Now it has two buildings of its very own where there used to be parking lots, and look, now I’m just getting all off topic.
I have this inherent desire to give my kids some decent culture. My background in art means that I’ll take craft projects over science projects any day. I’d much rather talk about colors and shapes and what it is they think they are seeing. I want to take them to the theater, or rather, the theatuh! Insert grand flourish here (also, we did that, and it was fun, but they got restless)(luckily it was a children’s play and so did all the other kids)(okay, I’m done with the ellipses now).
I’ve been wanting to visit the Blanton Museum of Art forever with the kids, but it just hasn’t seemed possible. There’s three of them, one of me, and if we dive further into the counting game, there’s six of their hands to my two. Not to mention that high ceilings and spacious galleries are perfect for ALL THE LOUDNESS.
First stop: the installation piece known as Massive Staircase. Who knew stairs were so fun? My kids, that’s who.
The stairs led right to a little craft station that was set up on the landing, where kids could make collages. Or if you’re my kids, you just cut paper into miniscule pieces and then get pissed because you can’t glue them onto your card. Or you get pissed because you can’t work the scissors. Or the glue. Or there’s no “diamonds.” DeBeers – the ultimate craft supply.
This is an area that I admittedly still struggle. Going back and forth between three kids who can’t really cut yet and still need glue help is exhausting. Oh, the hunching. The covering of the neckline due to all the hunching so you don’t flash the nice volunteers and that 8-year-old. I’m constantly torn between YES! Create! and please, finish your collage already so we can move on.
After that it was a race through the upstairs galleries and DON’T RUN! and European biblical paintings and STOP SLIDING ALONG THE BENCH YOU ARE NOT A SEAL and ancient Greek battle cast replicas and TOUCH THAT STATUE AND I WILL END YOU.
We finally made it to the current exhibit, Lifelike, which for the most part was only enjoyable to me, with its photo realistic paintings, installations, and oh yes, TINY, WORKING ELEVATORS.
As I tried to lead the girls from one gallery to the next, a nice docent stopped us and asked the girls what they thought of the paintings. Claire said they were cool. Rachel was likely still trying to seal slide her way across a bench. He likened the contorted figures in the massive biblical painting to freeze tag. And I loved him for speaking to my kids like kids. Then he thanked me for bringing them in.
That’s what it’s all about, you know?
My girls have made their first neighbor friend, and it’s stressing me out.
We share a fence with the people behind us, and my three often hang out in the back of the yard chatting it up with an 8-year-old girl, Merry. Who knows what they talk about. It’s quite an age gap, so I doubt she’s interested in what happened on My Little Pony. But it’s fun and it’s cute, and as long as it stays at the fence I have no problem. We all need our boundaries, right?
But that boundary is wavering. On a walk the other day we caught up to Merry and her mom as they walked home from piano lessons, and the mom asked if we wanted to come inside. I gave my best “oh, no thank you,” but seeing as my kids were clambering at her front door like hungry dogs and were practically inside her house anyway, I gave in and said “It’s your funeral, lady!”
As soon as we walked in, my anxiety meter was through the vaulted ceilings. Two guitars on display, a violin on a bookcase, a camera on the glass top coffee table. I alternated between “Don’t touch!” and “Gentle!” and “OMFG are you kidding me with this?” On the bright side, I have hope that someday I will be able to have nice things within arm’s reach again.
20 minutes later and the use of all of my limbs, patience, and maybe even the power of prayer, we were out of there.
Merry and the girls all expressed interest in playing together again. Clearly their house was out of the question. My girls are a three man wrecking crew of tornado like proportions. If you have even ONE thing in your house that isn’t appropriate for play, my kids will find it and they will end it.
Our house, on the other hand, is pretty much a sealed institution with rubber walls and plenty of cushion provided by the laundry piled on the couch. De-shelve the books all you want and open up all the DVDs, but nothing’s getting broken up in here! [Except all of those things that I left out because really? I didn't even know you could break that.]
Still I hesitated. It’s the introvert in me. I can find any number of reasons not to host a play date. The house is a mess. I haven’t showered. Or I just don’t feel like having people over. Plus, I’m not much of a kid person; other kids make me awkward. I can barely converse with adults that I know well, much less this completely different species known as Childus Notyoursus.
“Invite her over,” advised a wise friend who has older children. “It’ll be good for your girls.”
Gah. I knew she was right. My girls love Merry with a gusto that can only be understood by the sudden gasp as Zoe flies out the back door and straight to the fence when she sees the ropes swinging on the other side, indicating Merry is on her trapeze, or by watching her stand at the fence and whimper “Merry not coming,” after repeatedly calling her name to come talk.
So we made a date for a drizzly Saturday afternoon. 45 minutes. She took in our dollhouse, conducted trains at the train table, and followed my girls from room to room as they showed her their most prized treasures, like their valuable collection of hair ties and the “baby octopus” that’re really a silicon basting brush. As we walked her home, she admitted that she had a “really really good time,” her head bobbing with excitement.
We need more play dates like this. Not because the attention was cast on someone else for once. Not because for 45 glorious minutes no one asked me for a damn thing.
Merry’s moving soon, to a new neighborhood that’s too far for play dates. At first part of me was a little relieved that the pressure to invite her over would be alleviated. Yes, I allowed myself to feel pressured by a good natured 8-year-old.
I like the fence divide; breaking the barrier pushes me out of my comfort zone. But I could also see the benefit of the older girl on my three. Merry is the maternal little girl I never was. She kneels down to 3-year-old Zoe’s level, totally at ease speaking her toddler language. She’s polite and kind, ever so gracious and funny. I know it’ll be hard on my girls when she leaves. How do I explain a friend having to move away?
Last week Zoe stood at the fence calling Merry’s name, her cries growing more and more desperate, until she hung her head and came inside, tears running down her splotchy cheeks.
“Merry not coming,” she sniffed.
I know, honey. She’ll come out later. She must be busy.
At least for now I know what to say.
Note: We said goodbye to Merry last Sunday. The girls colored her their best Tinkerbell and Cinderella Color Wonder pictures and carefully wrote her name and theirs. We’ll miss her.