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Bad Parenting Moments: January 2013

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cabin Fever, A New England Transplant's Winter Manifesto

Four score and 20 days ago, I went outside.

By New England standards, this has been a fairly mild winter. However, I am still growing winter legs from the amphibious like stumps that were buried under my west coast DNA. Well into our fourth winter in Vermont and my favorite part of the season is its late-March or early-April death.

The children are a split. Two born in Los Angeles; two born in Vermont. Two who constantly ask when we are returning to Universal Studios; two who eat blocks of cheddar cheese and beat our fence with homemade clubs fashioned out of the branches of fallen tree limbs.

The closest to winter I ever experienced as a child was while briefly living in Virginia. I remember thinking that the best part of the season was that the stash of chocolate I hid in my coat never melted. As far as I can tell, this may still be the best part of this season. Cold chocolate and laundry that can sit and sit and sit in washing machines without mildewing. Winter "magic".

I'd like to say that moving to a state that wears winter like a bear wears its full coat in...well, winter would be just the toss into the deep end of the pool this seasonally challenged mother needed. Unfortunately, I'm stubborn when it comes to frostbite and buying a $22 pair of socks. Also, I am too short to pull off the snow bunny look. Snow Oompa Loompa? ON IT.

We have lived here since the eldest was 2. She is currently bounding toward 7, and despite my winter troll-like tendencies, has started to develop an appreciation for winter. She no longer cries when placed in the snow. Every snowman, woman and child on our property was made by her as I watched from the window with my coffee, occasionally tossing carrots, hats, gloves, scarves and thumbs up of praise out of the back door. She is ice skating, cross country skiing and participating in a Winter Survival course through our local Recreation and Parks Department. Through her, I've learned that, apparently, winter survival is not sitting at a ski lodge drinking hot toddies while watching snow people throw themselves down hills on metal shoe boats. Who knew?

She wears each new bump, lump and bruise as a badge of winter awesome and her rosy cheeks shine like a beacon of hope making me think that maybe this winter thing isn't so bad. Maybe, just maybe, I can learn to love this season. Then, I step outside to draw a deep breath of fresh air and my lungs crystallize and the eyelashes that I bothered putting mascara on, crack and break into a million pieces; falling like black snow toward my already frozen in place feet.

My snow boots say Joan of Arc, but, my heart says pink, lawn flamingos. In between my boots and heart, I have several, small people hanging from my limbs asking why I keep looking online at the condo market in Palm Springs.

One child's love of winter developing. 3 more to go. This may be more painful than potty training, but, with luck and lots of practice, the snow people I one day watch from the roar of the lodge lounge fire, throwing themselves down the mountain, just may be my own.

My yard. My Flamingos. Everyone's reminder that I'm classy and, "not from 'round these parts."

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pardon me, New York!/How My Shoes Tried To Kill Me.

Conductor, take me to the city! Please. I mean, if you don't mind.

As any former city dweller who goes suburban can tell you, you quickly forget your city-livin' skills. You get used to two-lane highways and knowing the names of your neighbors, the names of their children and the names of their children's children. Your rough city spots become soft and gracious. You begin allowing people to make ill-timed left hand turns realizing you aren't in any rush.

You forget how to navigate densely populated areas by foot. You encourage leisurely conversation. When you ask someone how they are, it's not a rhetorical question any longer. You talk about your city days as if reliving the walk on role you once had as a much hipper and younger version of yourself in your made for T.V. movie.

I went to the Big Apple on Thursday. Polka dotted bindle on my back. Green, hand-knit woolen mittens and orange wool hat complete with pom-pom and oversized knit flower. I dressed up by wearing a simple housedress and boots. I used a hair dryer. I USED A HAIR DRYER.

I went into the city alone, by commuter rail. I sat in silence with other passengers. I brought the biggest purse I could find because I hear that if you are in New York, you should make all bags as bulky and unmanageable as possible. I exited the train into Grand Central Station. The tiny, city heart trapped inside my now Vermont, suburban heart began to swell. It began to beat hard and fast. Was it love? Was it confusion? Was that a STARBUCKS?

I ordered my breve latte from a woman with a headset. "Venti Breve for BPM. That's a Venti Breve for BPM." I couldn't even see the barista from my place in line. Well, hot damn, I says as I slap my knee and bust out my banjo.

I had an appointment on Lexington. The city smelled like city. I deeply inhaled and then immediately regretted my decision as I was standing directly over a street grate. I began the trek. With each stride more confident, until the soles of my flat, new boots slid and I gracefully fell into a man walking in the opposite direction. No biggie. I'm a city girl today. City girls just keep going. "Thank you, sir! Sorry about that! New boots!" The look on his face was a mix of, "Lady, I don't give a shit!" and moderate amusement. He then said, "I like your hat." After a very genuine, "Thank you!" from me, I realized he was joking. City sarcasm! I forgot about you. Hi, old friend.

After a brisk mile point something, I saddled up to the breakfast bar and looked at my egg options. Poached, soft scrambled, over easy, over root vegetables, overwhelmingly expensive. "Yes. Hi there! Do you have a scramble yourself discount? Hello? Sir?"

Later, after lovely conversation, I headed toward my two hour and one-awkward-connection train back to Realityville. Walking swiftly. I was late. I was sure of myself. My city soul pounding the pavement with each click of my heel. My footsteps chanting, "I'm back. I'm back. I'm back. The city girl is back." and then, I fell; four times between Lexington and 21st and Lexington and 42nd.

I love New York. I didn't want to leave. The boots, however, I can't leave fast enough. They are going back to the store tomorrow. You can take the girl out of the city, but, if she returns for a visit, make sure she wears shoes with tread or, so the old saying goes.
My real, submitted Return to Amazon.com:
Title: Chinese Laundry Women's South Bay Leather Knee-High Boot,Cognac,7.5 M US
Quantity: 1
Reason: Defective/Does not work properly
Return Details: These shoes are dangerous! I wore them once and the soles were so slippery that I fell a total of 5 times in just over 4 hours. The soles are incredibly slick. These boots aren't made for walking.
Action Requested: Standard refund 

You didn't like this hat, Sir? Your loss.


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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ghost Stories

My grandmother's home was filled with ghosts. She had sand dollars that never stopped producing sand even after years on display. She had a statue of Saint Francis that shattered during an earthquake. Only Saint Francis was harmed. The animals remained intact. Ever protected by their loving guardian, even in white porcelain form. She heard lions roaring inside The Colosseum. She once smelled her grandfather's pipe tobacco in the dark hallway of a museum when walking alone.

She read palms at parties, but, one day after seeing the faded lines of a stranger's hand, she refused to proceed. She never agreed to serve as the palm reader at a function again. She didn't have to say more than, "Sometimes, there is too much darkness."

She had a set of Tarot cards that smelled of cedar. I would often look at the pictures on the cards. Fascinated by the colors. Fascinated with my young, tingling thoughts of beautiful pictures holding knowledge of a life not yet lived.

Right before her death, she called and asked to spend some time in our home with her great-grandchildren. She spent the day telling us stories, holding the children on her knee. She was creating memories. Not the memories of our childhood. She wanted them to be based in our adult present. Less of the childhood ghosts and more of our small children on her lap. That day, she gave me the Tarot cards. In a small, plastic Ziploc bag; still smelling of cedar.

When I am at a crossroads, I pull them off of the shelf where they sit tucked behind board games. I hold them in my hands and think of her. I stare at my palms searching for secrets. I count the cards wondering if I sit still enough, and for long enough, maybe I will find the scent of  my own grandfather's pipe tobacco.

I wait to hear the roars of lions while surrounded by the roars of children. I have none of her foresight. I can not see what may be.

But, she is here. In the strangest of times, I will smell the lilac in candles or on the rag of a mother cleaning her counters and think of her. When my daughter is painting, I see a look on her face that is so much my grandmother that it leaves me breathless. In her paintings hanging on my walls, I drink in the colors deeply, wondering how much of her is in the brushstrokes, peering over the breakfast table, watching the children eat scrambled eggs.

My grandmother's mother was a bird lover. My mother swears that when each of us was born, a beautiful, rare bird would come to visit the babies. Once, a crane. Once, a cardinal that inspected my sister with such care that my mother wept.

When we moved to Vermont, a blue jay came to my windowsill and stared in to our kitchen. For what seemed like a lifetime, I stood silent. Staring. Waiting for one of us to flinch. After watching my frozen body at the sink and inspecting the children with head tilted, the blue jay flew away. To this day, I wonder. Bouncing between acknowledging the ludicrous idea and wanting so desperately to embrace it as truth.

The magic in our ghosts. The ones that reside in only our memories. The ones that reside in stories, making them real. Tangible.

I tell these stories looking for belief. I've heard more often than not, "I don't believe in ghosts."  I'm not sure if I do either, but, I believe in telling ghost stories.

I tell them softly and often because when I do, lilac becomes my grandmother. Beautiful birds, my great-grandmother. Pipe tobacco, the smell of a loving father and grandfather. Tarot cards, the mark of a great decision. Stories, the memory of our ghosts.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

It Ain't Over Till the Fat Lady Sings

I recently joked about my daughter laying claim to my heels when I'm dead. Little does she know that by then my shoes will be terribly out of style. That's not funny, some may say. That's right, it's not funny. It's hysterical.

Lately, all of the children have been fascinated with my inevitable demise. Sneaking hard questions in between the incoherent ramblings and utterances of child-like innocence.

"Can we have a snack? Do you think Fiona is going to stay an Ogre forever? Do you wash your hair EVERY day? Are you going to die?"

*Insert audible throat kerfuffle*

I explain that death is just another part of being alive. That, everything that lives and breathes must also die and rest. After the one-thousandth questioning, I threw in that death was a mystery.

"What's a mystery?"
"Well, it's something you can't explain. It's like how the inside of a Hot Pocket can only be ice cold or surface of the sun hot. There is no explanation. There are only more questions."

The Hot Pocket analogy seemed to tide them over until the next day.

My son, in particular, has been enthralled with the idea of death. Head cocked, I see the wheels turning in his brain, picking apart the anatomy of death like a crow on prey. Leaving nothing but the bones after a swirl of questions that leaves him satiated and me, searching for wine.

"Mama, will you be VERY old when you die?"

"I hope so."

"Will I be very old?"

"I want nothing more than that."

"Will you die before me?"

"I hope so."

"I will miss you."

"I will miss you too."

"What's for dinner?"

And, like that, life returns and pizza must be made. Ok, pizza must be ordered and, the constant reminder that life moves swiftly and the living must eat hangs from my legs, swings from my arms and chews on my shoulder. Death may always be at our heels, but, at least I will still be wearing mine tomorrow with care not to scuff the toes so eldest has something snazzy, yet appropriate, to wear to my funeral.

Embracing my mortality one soft spoken question at a time. Hoping I'm helping them embrace it as well so that when it's time for me to jump off the carousel, they gleefully stay put on their ponies for several thousand more turns.

Round and round we go. Where we stop, nobody knows.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Find A Penny, Pick It Up, All Day Long, A Baby Will Try to Choke on It.

As we oh so graciously navigate the wobbly legs of toddlerhood the baby is trying on for size, the post traumatic stress disorder memories of toddlers who have come before are now flooding my brain. Jarring me awake at night and creating mild anxiety panic attacks in the grocery store aisles, salad dressing in one hand and penny I just found in her mouth in the other.

I am an old pro at failure so I seize each new opportunity to learn nothing from past mistakes.  After the second child was found chewing on doll stilettos, we initiated the "chokeable bucket". It is simply a vase where any and all items are thrown when stepped on, removed from a child's mouth or removed from the death grip of an almost three-year-old who knows that whatever precious object travels to the chokeable bucket is never. heard. from. again. This kind of trauma is the kind that shows up, unannounced, on you doorstep like a mother-in-law or that foundation you donated to that one time in college. Out of nowhere, like a 'Nam flashback, we will hear: "HEY, what happened to the Diver's scuba tank, world's smallest tea cup or that Lego you found in so-and-so's diaper?"

It's all fun and games until you find a Lego wheel in someone's diaper.

Aside from the crazed attention to detail you must have in order to safely defeat the perpetual Baby-To-Toddler-Hand-To-Mouth-Disease, you must also begin taking an active role in sweeping and vacuuming daily. Daily. If your house is anything like mine, the vacuum also doubles as a spaceship or track horse. Our horse, Death By Playmobil, is moving one step closer to the glue factory in the sky with every sweep over the house. A veritable toy graveyard lives inside its belly. "Sorry, Pa. She had a case of the belly-busters real bad. Me and Timmy had no choice but to end her sufferin' down by the waterin'-hole."

Just like participating in a conga line is not really dancing, the vacuum is no real substitute for getting on your hands and knees while canvassing the ground and under furniture like a blind wildcat waiting for another smaller, blind animal to kill.

But, like I said, it's all fun and games until you find a Lego wheel in someone's diaper.

So, here I am, canvassing the floors. Crawling along, stealth like, like that Victoria's Secret model who rolled her ankle on the runway and then lay trapped under the pressure of her gigantic angel wings. Think of me fondly as I turn a back brace into a saddle and burn Barbie's stripper shoes under the light of the full moon.

Until then, may your children's diapers be Lego free and may my next vacuum come with a lifetime membership to the Wine of the Month Club.

Dearest Friends, you are gone, but, never forgotten. Rest in pieces.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Old Timey Parenting in a New Age World.

I have a lovely neighbor who raised her four children in a home with a similar footprint to mine. I often think of her while in the throes of our day. I like to imagine her carrying children and laundry up and down her similar staircase. I wonder what stories the walls and floorboards hold. I'd like to run my hands over the nicks in the doorways and scratches on the floor. Touch the physical memories of raising a brood long gone. I wonder if she yelled as much as I do, if she was a more patient mother; a better mother.

Before I told anyone I was pregnant with our last child, she had the neighborhood convinced that I was. "I could just tell. I remember that look. Having three, tiny children and another on the way. You looked...well, you looked so tired." I could not argue. I was tired. Save Our Ship tired. Jack hanging off the edge of the raft watching The Titanic sink tired. I put snacks at toddler height level so you could feed yourself while I vomit into the 5 gallon bucket next to the couch tired.

I value her perspective. I value her stories. I value the ease, grace and sureness of her words. Plainly put, I'm in love with an era of parenting long gone.

She never fenced her yard. They didn't see the point. There was a giant field and children ran in it. Until, that is, the day she discovered she didn't just have a runner. She had a runner away-er. A son who would, once her back was turned, head for the hills. She did what any concerned parent would do. She found a solution. She took a belt and made a zip line on her laundry line. And, that was ok. In fact, it was genius. He was safe. She could fold laundry. They were both outside, sun on their faces. Done and done.

I can only imagine the shock and horror if this were done today. It would be a simple as her taking a photo of her smiling child happily attached to the makeshift line. She would place it on a Pinterest board under, say, "Creative solutions for runaways!" and a society of parents who believe it is their job to not only raise their own children, but, also critique how you are raising yours would be hot to point out the possible emotional damage her "fence" could inflict. I would be quick to jump to her defense, noting that it is far more damaging to be hit by a car or eaten by hill animals.

Old Timey parenting is what I want. An authentic village instead of an implied one. Confidence in your ability to make real world decisions that benefit your family without considering the righteous indignation of others. Finding creative solutions that work without the constant, dull roar of the parenting masses. Showing up with a pitcher of martinis instead of a pitchfork, while dirty faced, barefoot children run wild and mildly to barely supervised in yards. And, this was ok.

When being a kid wasn't your only job around the house. And, this was ok. When people weren't quick on the draw, spouting tales of ruination and claiming that you're spoiling their childhood by having expectations that your children make contributions to their home and family.

Maybe there has always been an element of parenting while peering over our shoulders. Maybe, but, was it ever so pronounced? Because of our new age world of community boards, Facebook, Pinterest,  Twitter, new genres of parenting with labels splitting us into smaller and even still smaller segregated groups, we have begun wiping our feet on the doormats of our virtual parenting worlds, entering each others' living rooms, and, with little thought, pointing out the choices and parenting decision we don't care for. Perhaps we should take a cue from the days of Old Timey Parenting. The days when you would walk out on your back porch, see the children barefoot and muddy, wave to the mother next to the clothesline and just meander back inside to your own world of individualized chaos. Showing support through friendly gestures and by keeping our opinions to ourselves. And, that was ok.

One day, in this very home, I hope another young mother runs her hands over the cracks in our floor, the divots in our walls and thinks, a mother like me was here raising her brood. Failing, succeeding and all the grey in between. I hope she finds the sureness of her own voice. Like my neighbor has found. Like I hope to one day find. That, as sisters, we can all leave an imprint on surfaces explored by mothers yet to come.

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Monday, January 7, 2013


It is a well known and documented fact that I love my wine. It is also a well known fact that I am crazy. Sometimes, those two facts blend together and a brain baby is born. A beautiful, bouncy nugget of wine splashed insanity that I show off at dinner parties and during my visits to the therapist. Just kidding, I can't afford a therapist.

Generally, my crazy is well contained in my home. A gift I give to my family over and over and over and over. And over again. To know me is to love me, some say. When they say that, however, they are talking about someone else.

So, what happens when I birth my brain babies? Well, I find it's crucial to surround myself with a tribe of hilarious doulas to make the birthing experience a joyous one. It's helpful to have support because, as with any birthing process, there is very little sleep and plenty of second guessing your ability to actually deliver. After the birth, there is ample joy and celebratory drinking as we embrace the miracle of creating life. Even if, in this case, it was a birth that more closely resembles the rise of Frankenstein. That's Doctor Frankenstein to you.

So, please grab your beverage of choice and enjoy this first brain baby of 2013; an advertisement for the newest and most sensational parenting product to EVER hit the marketplace.

Feeling overtired? Underappreciated? Overworked? Don't fret. Help is on the way!

Wine-Not? GUARANTEED to ease your troubles.

Love and thanks to my fantastic doulas who helped bring Wine-Not? to life. With friends like this, it's best to invest in Poise Pads. (in order of appearance)

Ninja Mom
Suburban Snapshots
Hollow Tree Ventures
Toulouse and Tonic
Motherhood, WTF
Let Me Start By Saying

And, a huge thank you to my husband, "Mr. BPM". When I told him it was my dream to create a fake infomercial (an infauxmercial, if you will), he not only wielded the camera, piano, and co-edited, but, also agreed to remain married to me. 

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

And We Shall Call Her Scarlett

Today is my youngest daughter's first birthday. I am not a romantic. I am not overly sentimental. I have carefully sharpened, life-long thorns that often get in the way of weepy, mothering moments. At summer's end, I crack champagne. However, just under the skin of my brassiness, I am soft and worn. Always over thinking. Overabundantly overzealous with overtures of overwhelming emotion. Over and out.

Even while pregnant with baby number four, the signs of completion were evident. My body was not tolerating the pain as well as the former pregnancies. I was tired. I had several back issues that would, sporadically, leave me functionally useless while the three younger children escaped into a world of unending television and couch jumping with a side of fruit snack induced coma.

It wasn't just physical doneness, although my body made its distress known. I knew I was emotionally on the edge of a reservoir of patience, ability and strength. Bless the mothers who can successfully tackle anything, but, I knew I had reached my limit. Being aware of this cliff of consciousness made every "first" the inevitable "last".

I went into labor on the evening of January 2nd while immersed in True Grit. There is the pivotal scene in which our heroine is being carried by horse and then human to receive care for a snake bite. If she does not receive medical attention, she will die. The horse has already died. Every other character had died. She, herself, is on the edge of death. Appropriate dramatic theme for any labor. In the delivery room, death seems near to you, any medical professional who touches you and nearer even still to your partner.

We arrived at the hospital. It was a beautiful, clear night.

The labor was long and intense due to her persistent posterior position. I lay in the hospital bed wearing only a bra and remnants of 2 day old mascara, feeling paralyzed by her position on my spine. With each contraction, I would silently chant off-the-cuff, pain induced mantras of power and strength that I can not remember. I do remember thinking that I had lost my mind. During transition, I looked over to find my husband asleep in a chair. He's still alive to confirm this.

After 14 hours of drug-free labor, our beautiful girl was born. 8 1/2 pounds of pure, healthy wonder. As soon as they placed her in my arms, drunk on gratitude, my next thought was:

This is the last time I will ever hold one of my children for the first time.

From that moment on, we have continued our beautifully pained series of last firsts.

The beauty is in the details. Small moments that I struggle to remember. The smell of her newborn head. The recovery from birth. The tragic and magical sleep deprivation. The push-pull of embracing the new, family dynamic. The guilt of the further divide of your time and attention. The joy of a newborn sleeping on your chest. The sweet and sour.

This morning, I woke up to her sweet, smiling face; round and defined. Six teeth poking out through her crooked smile. Lighter hair and eyes than her parents, but, features so familiar. Our last first birthday.

January 3, 2012

"Old" baby meets "NEW" baby for the first time. Tissues, please.

Happy Birthday, Scarlett Lee.

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