New Dish Towels Are Like New Underwear

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The baby turned one last weekend with all the hurrah and fanfare that could be mustered up when your baby is sick, but you have invited 30 of your closest family and friends over for a party.

Birthdays are exciting! They are fun and festive, always involving awesome munchies and copious amounts of alcohol; At least in my house. Entertaining is always a bit stressful, having a house full of children adds to that stress, but with my youngest child being under the weather I think that was the part that had me the most on edge. I threw myself into the theory that having 20 sets of adult hands to help out would be the best idea possible. I mean, all he really wanted was cuddles and who better to serve that purpose than the grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles?

I immersed myself in the kitchen, glass of wine in hand, as our extended family began to trickle in. My heart swelled with happiness as I allowed myself to really absorb my good fortune. So many people don’t have the luxury of living near their family, being close to their family, having so many relatives in good health. While life with so many little ones is really difficult at times, we are truly blessed.

As my parents arrived with birthday presents for the baby my mother handed me a large bag. “Here’s your hostess gift!” she giggled as she walked off to give the birthday boy some one-year-old kisses.

“A hostess gift? How strange… unless it’s booze, then it’s completely appropriate,” I thought, as I opened the bag. Imagine my surprise when I found a slew of dish towels. Dish towels? Um, why? I put my present to the side as I continued to make appetizers.

Cooking gives my mind time to wander. As I chopped and diced, I started thinking about what my mother was thinking when she decided to buy me 30 dish towels… what did that even mean?

The epiphany hit me like a ton of bricks… Mom thinks my house is dirty.

Now, I wasn’t even offended. My house is dirty. Well, not like, call the Department of Children and Family Services dirty, but cluttered and messy. Shit, five people live here; Two of which still don’t wipe their own ass… Better Homes and Gardens this place isn’t. But dish towels? That’s a bit of a stretch.

Later on at the party my mom approached me, “How did you like your hostess gift?” she smiled.

“Umm, yeah, dish towels… Thanks?” I answered. “Mom, I know my house isn’t clean. It probably won’t be clean for many years.”

“That’s not why I gave them to you!” she retorted. She looked a bit offended by my twisted insight. “When we babysat last week, we couldn’t find extra dish towels… and Boy Wonder (who is 9) said he didn’t think you had any others.”

“Well, I do,” I replied. “Right under the sink. Like BW knows where anything is around here if it isn’t his iPad?” I mean seriously, the kid can’t find the toilet paper if the roll is empty. I wonder how he’ll ever survive the real world.

“New dish towels are like new underwear,” mom insisted.

WHAT? Wait… WHAT?

As I stood there, in my dirty-ass kitchen, mushroom cap in one hand, crabmeat stuffing in the other, surrounded by my children, with nieces and nephews all running and playing, screaming and yelling, and laughing, lots of laughing… I examined my mother for obvious signs of mental illness. Her hair was still perfectly in place, her attire matched, while also matching her jewelry. She looked very much sane. Hmm, maybe I’m the crazy one? Have they started to sell dish towels at Victoria Secret while I’ve been stuck in the land of mom?

“Mom,” I questioned… “what, are you talking about?”

She continued, “They just dress everything up. You know, like new underwear.”

OMG… now it all made sense! It’s been over 35 years since my mom stood here; In the trenches. Her body and her kitchen have recovered. There are no Nutella handprints on her refrigerator door. No mud tracked onto her tile floor from a pair of cleats. She exercises, she eats smart, she has the time and energy to do those things. New underwear, or new dish towels can make the body or the room, feel better, prettier, dressier.

THERE IS HOPE!

It won’t always be like this.

I won’t always be like this.

I hung my new dish towels on the handrail of my grimy, loved stove.

And made a promise to myself to buy some new underwear for my very neglected body.

 

 

I Didn’t Breastfeed, And the Sky Didn’t Fall

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While pregnant with my first child, my husband and I read all the books: we watched all the reality shows about labor and delivery, we readied ourselves with every morsel of information we could absorb into our already clogged brains. We. Were. Ready. Kinda.

As we sat in the parenting class offered by our local hospital, surrounded by other expectant people, the “Parenting Guide” stood in front of the group and asked the question, “How many of you, are planning on breastfeeding?” All the other couples raised their hands; Except for us. The teacher nodded encouragingly at them, then turned her unimpressed gaze at me…

“Is there any reason you aren’t making the choice to feed your children with the greatest gift you can give them?” (you really gotta love the moxy on these boob wardens. They are on a mission, and you’d better accept it) but I stared directly into her eyes and stated the exact sentiments I felt about my decision to not breastfeed,

“I don’t want to.”

Maybe, just maybe, I sounded like a petulant child. That is possible… but in my head, that was all I needed to say. The pro-milker was unimpressed, “You don’t want to?” she staggered it out… as if I sounded like a petulant child. I reworded, “The idea doesn’t appeal to me.” Yes, that was better, much more grown up. She continued, “Well, you know, you’ll save $2,500 in the first year of your child’s life if you feed them with that liquid gold.” Everyone chuckled; Except for my husband and I. “This isn’t about the money, it’s about my own breasts and my own decision,” and it was.

I’ve heard breastfeeding moms talk about stigma, about the idea that they aren’t allowed to openly feed their baby wherever they need to. And that sucks, it’s freaking ridiculous. Whatever method you use to feed your child should be allowed and accepted everywhere, no judgments, no bullshit. But I’ve dealt with stigma too, because I didn’t choose that route for the nutrition of my children.

While breastfeeding might make other people uncomfortable, it can’t been near as uncomfortable as the way people look at you when you tell them you chose not to breastfeed. That you (in their minds) knowingly withheld the “liquid gold” from the child you claim to care about. I heard that exact quote from the hospital lactation counselor after the birth of my second child. I’m kinda glad for her actually, with that visit of shame, I developed my list. The reasons I chose not to breastfeed; All of my bottle fed children are perfect. Which just reinforces my list farther.

1. I like my boobs: There. I said it. I LIKE MY BOOBS. The rest of me looks like I was part of the German invasion into Poland; marked with scars and stretch marks and cellulite, but my boobs are real, and they are spectacular.

2. It didn’t sound appealing to me: The idea of being someone’s only food source on top of being their reason for everything didn’t jive with my life. The whole latching on, switching boobs, leaking, pain. No thanks, I’m all good.

3. I wanted my husband to help, especially at night: For my middle and youngest son, my husband did all the feeding from midnight to 6 am. He knows what a problem I have trying to sleep, and actually falling asleep, where he is the exact opposite. He loved that time with his boys, and he can fall asleep anywhere at anytime. I loved 6 hours of sleep to get up the next day and take care of everything else. It was the best parenting decision we ever made.

4. I wanted as much freedom you can have, while still having a baby: Yup, I said that too. I wanted to drink a glass of wine without having to pump and dump. I wanted to eat whatever food I wanted to eat without having to pump and dump. Did I mention I might want to leave the baby with my mom, or my mother-in-law for an hour without pumping? No? I didn’t want to pump.

6. I just didn’t want to: Call me selfish. I know, when it comes to the health and welfare of my beloved children, I’m anything but.

7. I didn’t want the additional pressure: Being a new mom is hard enough, and the idea that breastfeeding could complicate that scared the shit out of me.

8. I didn’t want to whip my boobs out everywhere: I’m not a modest person, but I would feel uncomfortable trying to nurse in public. It’s difficult to give a baby a bottle on a bench in front of Target, there is no way I could do that with my boob.

9. I wanted to see and regulate how much my child was eating: This was the biggest one. I wanted to be sure, I mean, really sure, that my kid was getting the right nutrition. I needed to see volume and numbers.

Breastfeeding was not for me.

Feeding my children was still a wonderful and beautiful time. With every bottle I held them in my arms and snuggled their adorable bodies. We never prop bottles, or leave them to drink on the floor or in their crib. With every feeding we still have human contact. And when each of my children was finished with their bottle, I missed it. Just like a breastfeeding mother would miss it when their baby weans.

Just because I chose not to breastfeed doesn’t make me a bad mom.

It makes me a human being.

The Baby Oath

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When you become a doctor you take the Hippocratic Oath. When becoming an American citizen you take the Naturalization Oath. Babies have their own Oath. If they could speak, I’m sure this is what they’d say:

I hereby declare, I will be equal parts completely adorable and utterly disgusting.

I will respect nothing; All your worldly processions are fair game.

I will always have a full diaper when you are walking out the door; If I  am dressed for a special occasion there is sure to be an explosive surprise.

I will spit up on you while you are swathed in your only clean shirt.

I will refuse all nutrients you present to me, while I attempt to digest everything else which may cause me great bodily harm.

I will not be ashamed to cry: in public, without warning, and for no apparent reason.

I will never be tired when it’s naptime, but I will be completely exhausted when you have something to do.

There will be moments of snuggling bliss, followed by flailing and headbutts without warning.

I will sense your complete exhaustion like sonar and insist on those times to be held, rocked, and sung to.

I will defy all the laws of physics and baby proofing, rendering your mortal chains worthless.

I will remember my favorite tune, book, or show and insist on your repetition of these things until you crack.

I will prevent sleep, showers and meals. I will start this trend the minute you take me home from the hospital.

I will crawl before you want me to, I will walk before you’re ready, I will run, fast and far.

I promise to grow up in the blink of an eye, turning a year old before you can say, “When did you get so big?”

I will be worth it, at least until I am a toddler.

 

I Will Turn This Car Around!

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“If you don’t stop _____, I will turn this car around!”

Every parent has said it.

My parents said it.

My husband’s parents said it.

I’m pretty sure my Great-Great-Great-Grandparents said it, but back then it sounded more like, “If you keep sassin’ your pa, I’ll turn this buggy around, an whoop your ass down by the crick.” Wish I could have said it like that; getting to say it in that manner screams you mean fucking business. You won’t have fresh eggs from the Oleson store and a butt whoopin’? That would make most people shut up real fast. But my kids aren’t most people, and I don’t think I could pull it off.

Yeah… yesterday, I said it. We were heading to the local seafood festival, a day of family fun that only comes to town once a year. It’s a 45 minute drive from home and we were 9 miles into that drive, on the interstate. My older sons are in the stages of their love/hate relationship. They love to hate each other, and there was no end in sight to the bullshit. “Mom, he’s touching me. Dad, he won’t stop swallowing. Mom, make his stop swallowing. Dad, get him to stop touching me.”

I took a deep breath as I watched a vein pulse in the forehead of my husband. “If you don’t cut this crap out, RIGHT NOW, we will turn this car around.”

Beautiful silence…

For 5 freaking minutes…

It didn’t work.

“MOM!!!!”

Hubby and I nodded to each other and got off at the next exit. The middle one started to cry, which made the baby cry and then the oldest cried when he discovered there would be no usage of electronics when we got home.

I wanted to cry. It was a beautiful, Florida day outside. The sun was hanging in the sky, clouds moved with a heavenly breeze, and all I wanted was to eat a plate of deep-fried seafood washed down with a cold draft beer… or 6. To enjoy my family enjoying each other. But the gauntlet had been thrown… to back out now would be stupid. So we stuck to our guns. The kids played with Dad outside, we went on a bike ride; It was a normal Sunday. It wasn’t extraordinary, and that was kind of sad.

After the kids were in bed I wondered if they’d learned their lesson. The lesson that Mommy and Daddy mean business and we will turn the car around even if it means missing out on something fun we’d like to do.

A small part of me hopes they still have this lesson to learn. Fingers crossed I get out of the next birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s.

 

 

 

The Almond Butter Incident

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Motherhood has rendered my life into four places on the daily: Home, the car, the preschool, and the grocery store. I should probably call Flo from Progressive and get that little computer chip thingy installed in my car because I travel the same 4 miles everyday. There, back. There, back. There, back. At this point I’m pretty sure the car could independently do it if I happened to fall asleep at the sheer monotony of my life.

At times, the snoozefest is so mundane, that when the smallest variation occurs, my ears perk up. My head turns. Something different? Something new? Something… interesting? Please, please, please, let something interesting happen. I must remind myself; I asked for it.

The baby and I were heading to pick up the Monkey. We stopped at a red light and waited. That’s when I noticed the young and cute guy, checking me out in the car next to me. “He can’t be checking me out,” my inner monologue snickered. I looked around… no cars to my left, and still this cutie patootie to my right with the stare. Shocked, I gave myself a little mental fist bump, “Gurl, you still got it!” Fist bump? More like I did the fucking running man in my head. “See, you’re not old, you’re not past your prime. Even with unwashed hair, a face without makeup, and only from the waist up… strangers still find you attractive.” That’s when I noticed the hottie gesture to me, as he rolled down his window??? What? He wanted to engage in conversation? “Maybe he needs directions,” thought the sensible part of my brain, “Maybe he wants to tell you you’re gorgeous and drive off into the sunset,” wondered the dreamer in me.

I rolled down the window.

“Yes…” as I waited to hear his husky voice utter something random or profound.

“You have something on your face,” explained the handsome stranger, and the light turned green and he drove away.

One quick glance at my crimson face in the rearview was all I needed to asses the situation. A huge smear of almond butter adorned my right cheek, compliments of my baby.

“Well,” I said to myself out loud, “at least it wasn’t poop.”

I hope next time it’s not poop.