Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hold My Hand, Mama

"Mama?  I thought about it all day.  I want to go to Full House with you tonight and skip gymnastics."

"You sure?"

"Yes, because gymnastics is one day a WEEK and Full House is one day a YEAR.  It's important."

"Sold.  Go get your happy clothes on, little mama, let's roll."

And off we go.  To Abby's Full House or Open House as those administrators like to call it.  We arrive a bit late on purpose to miss the general meeting.  Neither of us are interested in joining the PTA or sitting in cafeteria seats.

Full House is no misnomer as the halls are pulsing with parents in khaki pants, belted dresses, and scrubs.  (I miss wearing scrubs to places where nobody knows if you are just getting home from your residency, the ER, the OR, or the kennel.  Oh, the mystery.)  Immediately, I withdraw from the crowd in front of us.  Abby pulls me onward, her tiny hand in mine.

"Mama, C'MON!  We'll be late!"

Her confident presence fuels me to motor not only into the throng of people, but through it.  We come out the other side a smiling semi-circle, attached at the palms.

As we enter the classroom, Abby's teacher points to her, winks, then kneels down to hug a little boy showing off his herringbone jelly necklace.  She makes a big fuss and all I can see are her eyes, blue as daytime, and her pink painted toes.  She is a magnet for the children.  Before we make it to Abby's desk, I count four kindergartners tugging at the teacher's blouse, excited to see her after-hours and to show them something from their very own home.

Abby's major modus operandi is strictly to stick with the program.  She has an agenda and follow it we must, leaving no cubby unturned and no folded paper house untouched.

Proudly and reverently, she walks me to each corner of her classroom.  "This is where we nap, Mama.  But I don't really nap.  I might close my eyes but I don't really nap, I don't think, please and thank you."

Abby's nervous "please and thank you" started a few months back.  It's her go-to filler phrase when she doesn't know what else to say.  There are others that have come and gone like, "I think" or "Maybe I just dreamed that" or "I don't know" but "please and thank you" has stuck around the longest.  It's what I will remember when I think back to Little Abby.  That and her love of bubbles.

Moms and Dads are holding Chicka Chicka Boom Boom charts.  Some are pointing to cut-out pictures of their own children on the wall.  Most are making the exaggerated, "Oh my!" face so their children will know their art is not going under-appreciated.  We are all walking slowly.  But I notice something.  The other children are running around the classroom, to each other and to their beloved teacher.

All the children are untethered from their parents except mine.

Worried, I'm holding on too tightly and of course, ruining my daugther's chances at a successful future and marriage, I give slack in our hand and let my Abby go.

"Mama, I have to show you the HALLWAY!!"  She is already moving as she gobbles up my palm in hers once again.  Like a silent wish being answered, it is her doing, not mine.

Again, we weave in and out of people clusters like two coils of one busy DNA.

This tiny hand of hers in mine is everything in the world right now.  I can't make small talk, parent-teacher niceties, bend down to admire a little friend.  My girl has my hand in hers almost on accident  as though it's the most natural thing in the world, to connect herself to me -voluntarily- because she wants to.  Not because she needs to.

It's more than wanting to show me the hallway.  (The HALLWAY.)  It's more than attending her very first Full House.

It's a connection.  A connection that will be paraded through crowds, schools, projects, arguments, boyfriends, girlfriends, sleepovers, dances, graduations, and time.  A connection that will sometimes disconnet, momentarily, but always find its way back again.   A connection that I believed was one-sided:  me holding on to her for dear life.  

All these years, I've been so worried about what happens when I let go.  

Until I did.

Hive Update:  Didn't mean to leave you all hanging about Abby's hives.  After she finished the cocktail of medicine her doctor put her on, she is all better.  No hives, no fever, no more mystery virus that caused them in the first place.  The ER doctor (yes, Dr. McSteamy) warned me that it will come back when I least expect it.  He's a realist, after all, just like an imaginary boyfriend should be.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Zen of Ducks

Plump, steady, funny clowns
Ripple through their circles
Shifting weight like canoes
with a tipsy Captain

South to crane a tired neck
North to hunt for brighter fish
East, then west on pine needles
A hammock for an hour.

I look to them
when I feel gone
At ducks?
When I feel gone?

They remind me how to be here.

One gray, two black, 
two white, I count
Their feathers curl against the wind
They are made of layers, too

So very much like talking

Is that your smile, Astro Duck?
Is this where you sleep at night?

I'm not here to hurt you.

They trust this moment,
Not the last
Give no credence to
a past

Inside his circle
Wonder filled

I really hope he's smiling.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Doctor, Doctor

When you wake up in the morning, you don't get dressed based on whether or not you're going to be in the ER hours later.  (Or maybe you do.  Do you?  Can we be real life friends, we have so much in common already.)

You get dressed based on what's happening that day.  Walking the dog?  Tank top and Wal-Mart shorts.  Meeting at your kid's school in the afternoon?  Capri pants with that cute tangerine shirt that buttons up the front. 

So on a regular Tuesday, I wake up and pull on my favorite sleeveless peasant dress.  It's blue, kind of oddly tiered in segments like those dresses you find at candle shops.  The ones that reek of frankincense and perhaps a skoshe of myrrh.  

I have errands to run, dogs to walk, and dinner to make.  One too many things in public to get away with neon shorts all day.

By 6pm, I am in the ER with Abby. 

Abby who comes off the bus with hives.  If you have children, you know this is not a rare or special thing.  Kids come down with the craziest symptoms that have you googling with one hand and stirring taco meat with the other.  

My parenting alarm doesn't sound until her upper lip swells up.  She is suddenly and drastically a tiny Marge Simpson.  Yes, it is adorable but logically speaking, I worry it will be her tongue to poof next.  In my way of thinking, we have seconds to get her to a doctor before her airway is completely closed in.  I ask Andy to drive Abby and me to the ER.  Because, you know, I need my hands free to perform CPR or flail wildly at will.  Either, or.

It's crucial to let you know I pull back my hair and mop it down reeeeallly well on my head when I'm nervous.  So, by this hour, every oily molecule living near or on my hands is now ground deeply into my skull.  I'm shiny from tip to (pony)tail.  Now I am donning the kind of thing that is neither attractive or particularly successful.  My bangs are dangling in my eyes like spider legs. Something on me smells like tacos.  

We all make it to the door, register, and are seen within minutes.  Nobody's freaking out.  Abby's lip is stable albeit very Aflac like.  Things are going so well, Andy and Grayson take off to make the rest of his baseball practice.  That's when things happen.  And man, it could've been great.  If only I had showered.

Scene 1 - Nurse Enters Room
Nurse:  I'm going to ask you to drink this, Honey.  It will help with the itching and the swelling.
Me:  Steroid?
Nurse:  Yes.
Me:  Are we ok?
Nurse:  The doctor will be in shortly.  Yes, I think so.
Abby:  Can we go now?  We've been here FOREVER.
Me:  Hang on, Baby.  The doctor needs to look at you first.

Scene 2 - Doctor, Doctor
Doctor:  Well, Hello.  Abigail is it, or do you prefer to be called something else?
Inside my Head Me:  Oh No.  You're beautiful.  

Abby:  Abby.  I like. To be called. Abby. 
Inside My Head Me:  Be nice to my future boyfriend, Honey.  He's only trying to get to know you before we ride into the sunset on his yacht.
Doctor:  Then I shall call you Abigail.

Real Me, finally making eye contact:  She really doesn't like the name Abigail.  I can't help you there.
Doctor, taking a dramatic stage pause, looking directly at me:  You're not from around here, are you?
Inside my Head Me:  Holy crap.  Is this happening?

Real Me:  No, I'm not.  How could you tell?  My accent?
Doctor:  No, it's more like your lack of any accent from anywhere, it's fascinating.  I've never heard anyone with a non-accent like yours.
Inside My Head Me:  He just called me fascinating. - rifling through purse like a drug addict - Where are my cough drops?  Dammit, Grayson ate my last piece of gum, didn't he?  That little...
Doctor:  Where are you from?
Inside My Head Me:  I am from Roma, Italia.  It is the city of love.
Real Me:  Oh, me?  I'm from the suburbs of DC.
Abby:  Mom, seriously.  I'm missing Teen Titans.  
Real Me:  I only let them watch an hour of TV per day, tops.
Inside My Head Me:  I should've said we don't even HAVE a TV.
Doctor:  Them?  You have other children?
Inside My Head Me:  Yes, but I can farm them out.  Would you prefer we just start anew?
Abby: G-R-A-Y-S-O-N
Doctor:  Well, I think you're going to be ok, Abigail.  I have an Abigail too and she's four.  She doesn't like to be called Abigail either.  
Inside My Head Me:  Oh thank you Lord for letting him have children, too.  Now I can keep mine.
Abby:  Does she like Hello Kitty?
Doctor:  Yes.  Very much.  Do you want a Hello Kitty band-aid?  I'll see what I can do.  I'll be right back with your discharge papers.  
Me:  Ok, I'll be waiting.  Umm, WE'll be waiting.  We'll be here.  Ok.  

Scene 3 - The Breakup
Doctor:  So, I couldn't find Miss Abigail a Hello Kitty band-aid but my nurse will be in with a pink one, ok?  You two take good care and come back if anything else comes up.
Inside My Head Me:  I am feeling a little faint.  See you in fifteen.
Abby:  Ok, we can go now?
Doctor:  Yes, you can go after the nurse gives you your prescriptions and your pink band-aid.
Abby:  And a purple one?
Inside My Head Me:  Oh my, I'm wearing flip-flops, this just keeps getting better.
Doctor:  AND a purple one.
Inside My Head:   I will always love you.
Real Me:  Thanks, Doc, take care!

Married Me:  HONEY, you should've SEEN this doctor.  No joke, he was from freaking Grey's Anatomy.  It was so annoying because I am just not in the mood for all of that tonight. 
Andy:  You're just saying that because you're mad at me for being late.
Me:  Heh.  No, I'm really not.  Believe me, I wish none of this happened.  Do I smell like tacos?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Not the Summit

Last night I watched my five year old daughter exhaust herself during gymnastics.  Abby was working on a drill by herself without any instructor to please or frustrate, yet she pushed herself to utter muscle fatigue.

The tears escaped the second our eyes met after practice.  "Mommy, I'm so, so tired."

"I bet you are, Baby.  You know something?  I'm so proud of how hard you are working out there.  I can see how great you're doing and so can your instructor.  And you know what?  You can rest at times.  I think maybe go slower sometimes.  You don't need to work so hard."

"Let's go home, Mommy."

Then I felt the zing.  The parenting boomerang that headbutts us when we've rallied against the machine.

You don't need to work so hard.

Those are the words I choose to usher my girl into her formative years?  Don't work so hard?  Will her teachers pummel me with spitballs for saying that?  Will her future employers write me a pink slip for teaching her the virtue of slacking off?  Will her future spouse forget my birthday every year because I've raised an entitled child?

I don't think so.

I don't think we live in a day and age where hard work necessarily always wins the good fight.  I think smart work does.  There is a distinction.  And I believe it's unrealistic to expect hard work to result in success every single time.  It won't.  And I don't really want my children falling into that antiquated trap.  Hard work will end in exhaustion every single time.  Which will lead to unfulfilled dreams, slighted passions, and built-up resentment as a result of punching in 12 hour days, plus a cruel hour commute in traffic away from the city.

I'm going to teach my children that hard work is a virtue, yes.  But it is not the most virtuous virtue.  Hard work to be married to intelligent shortcuts and updated thinking is what I believe brings happiness.  What good will your calloused hands do you they are reaching for the bottle of Motrin for your stress-induced migraine or worse, the bottle of gin to numb your pain?

With things moving so quickly online and kids needing to know how to interface well with websites, it seems the natural trend will continue to move toward technology.  I'm not advocating daily marathons of Mindcraft and Lego Batman but I'm also not entirely against it.  Those computer skills, after all, are the real-life skillset our children will need to have in their adult world.  No?  You don't think so?  Ask any new graduate from any college.  Even performance-based schools.  Entire musical scores are recorded, engineered, tweaked, and graded on computer programs that require more hours staring into a screen than practicing bar chords.

Hard work plus a dose of worldly perspective is what I'm after.

Of course I want my children to pursue their interests and their passions.  I want my children to know that you can't skip a practice from a bruised foot and expect to make it regionals.   But you know what else?  I want them to love it.  I want them to look forward to it each and every day, be fueled by it.  I hope when they wake up, they will be itchy underneath their skin for the thing that brings them inner joy, not outward recognition.  I hope Grayson will reach for the piano keys when he can't figure out how to ask someone he's been pining for to prom.  I hope Abby will turn to her art table when she's sorting something out about her crazy moody mother.

I think there is too much to lose from pushing our children to be better, faster, smarter, stronger all the damn time.  If they show Olympic promise?  Ok, go ahead and push.  But for the 97% rest of us, it's a push and a pull.

The push alone gets hard-wired into our children at an early age and before long, their natural curiosity dissolves into ashes on their Gifted & Talented diplomas.  We don't need more "perfect" adults in this world.  We need more imperfect adults who know true personal fulfillment.

We need more imperfect people who glean enlightenment in the doing and not the victory.

Ask any mountain climber why she climbs.  Not many will say the summit.

A taxed, frantic, relentless young mind becomes a neurotic, chaotic, unhealthy adult mind later on.  It's about learning balance early on.  Yes, please do practice your soccer drills.  But also please completely f*ck around in the backyard for an hour afterward without any catalyst or blue ribbon in sight.  That is where your happiness hides.  And sometimes it hides well.  I always want for you to find it.

Life just becomes hard work for hard workers, I'm afraid.  

But life is mysterious, rewarding, and delicious for smart workers.  People who have their finger on the pulse of what makes their generation tick.  People who understand what the hell Bill O'Reilly is saying and why we should dig harder than the sensationalized news channels.  People who aren't so booked every second of the day that they can't take a walk with their grandmother around the parking lot of Applebee's on a regular Thursday.  People who know the importance of following through but also understand regular vacations will keep their fuses soft and their mental health sharp.

People who know how to push themselves and also know how to pull back.

And parents who will let them.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Anna's Rare Bird

Typically, I never would've left a comment.  There were already hundreds.  Anna had so much love pouring in on her blog already after the accident.  What difference could one more "I'm so, so sorry" possibly make?

A world of difference, actually.

To me, to their family, to the wall of grief threatening to swallow them whole.

When a twelve-year old boy is swept away in a neighborhood creek, never to return home again, all bets are off.  Everything is wrong.  The world is no longer playing by the rules.

Adding my voice to the many hearts opened and hurting that day led me to care and awkwardly pray for a family I've never met, for a boy I couldn't fathom was gone, to a God I wasn't sure was listening.

The Donaldsons haven't left my heart since.  They haven't left the heart of millions.  I believe our voices mattered to a family needing to see miracles.  To feel unearthly love.  To know compassion on a larger scale than they have ever known before.

And we need them in return.

After Anna's book, Rare Bird, comes out that circle of hearts will widen and more people will be forever moved by their story and their boy named Jack.  More people will learn how to bring comfort when the worst thing imaginable happens to a family.  More people will understand how to keep waking up when the act of living does not feel like an option.  More people will have hope.

Anna's grief unfolds real time in Rare Bird, just as it does on her blog.  Her shock is delicately transparent as she tries to process the incredible trauma it is to lose a child.  Anna does not hide how she and her family suffer, fight, and struggle to be the cohesive unit they just were.  She allows us to see how every little detail of her life, even the privacy of her own driveway, is brutally unrecognizable.  There is no point in pretending.  Anna doesn't need dramatic words to help us understand her pain.  She simply describes her days, layer by layer, while we walk with her and force ourselves to breathe.

I rest a bible underneath my copy of Rare Bird while I read.  As if doing so will negate the outcome, somehow bring Jack back to her.  It's an unread powder blue-of-the-softest-leather-bible I bought at a thrift store.  I know Anna would give that purchase a thumb's up and coupling it with the story of a mother's greatest pain seems right to me.  It is my crutch when I want to deny the details of that terrifying afternoon.  Anna's words gently lead up to that indescribable moment when she feels in her soul that "...Jack is gone forever." A moment that riddles your arms with goosebumps that flush through to your toes.  Anna's honest disclosure is both horrifying and divine all wrapped in one. That glimmer of knowing without understanding how you know.

One of the first impossibles.

Anna goes on to reveal many more inexplicable moments.  Signs of Jack where there should only be trees.  An unexpected visitor who brings her peace when she only knows anguish.  Premonitions that would typically be cast aside as coincidence.  A deep connection that escapes reason yet somehow brings comfort.  Despite crippling heartache and constant longing for Jack, there is a connection.

Things that should be impossible but are not.  Because once you get to know Jack, you understand his life verse in new and fascinating ways. "Nothing is Impossible with God" is more than a collection of prophetic words.  It's a glimpse into a vast inter-connected place with the kind of beauty you only get from a boy with such soulful eyes.

You will fall in love with the entire family.  Anna has such gift with words that allowing you in to her world feels like a visit over tea.  Add to that her refreshing funny bone and you just want to ask The Donaldsons to wait up for you for their next camping trip.  They are each unforgettable.

But it is Anna's daughter, Margaret, who shines like a comet for me in this book.  She is a witty, real life broken-hearted warrior who inadvertently inspires her parents to keep going.  As you would imagine, Margaret tends to her own overwhelming loss in private ways, right for a 10 year old girl.  Her natural charm springs off the page, intimating at the humor she shares with her brother, the one that forever glues four people together, not three.

Living without Jack is not something Anna, Tim, Margaret, or anyone who loves him ever planned on having to do.  Nobody ever dreamed it would be a reality.  But now, after reading Rare Bird, I can see it is a daily reality they each must make on many different levels.  A choice that will never feel easy or right.

But one that is somehow, beyond all understanding, beginning to feel possible.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Five Scenes in Driving Over a Bridge

When we first moved to Louisiana, I knew I'd have to drive across the causeway bridge.  I've read that it is the "World's Longest Bridge."  At 23.8 miles long, the entire thing is over a body of gator lovin', fish havin', snake dwellin', shark inhabitin' water, Lake Pontchartrain.  If my mom is reading this, she has officially unfollowed.  She doesn't do bridges.

That little Lego looking bridge in the distance is the causeway.  It's not so cute up close. 

The first time I drove across the bridge, the kids were with me.  Which was good because you're less prone to pass out when you have trusting passengers willing you to remain upright.

"Just bweathe, Mommy," little Abigail offers with her lollipop mouth.
"Look at that PELICAN!" suggests Grayson as if I can see anything but the narrowing of my life before me.

But fear be damned.  Before long we are hitting the metal grid of the halfway mark and heading down toward the city.  Four more trips just like this and I am a pro.

Until I don't have my cheerleaders with me.

Last Friday, I took the trip solo.  As would be the norm with me, panic set in before hitting the toll.  Radio off, windows cracked (you know, in case I need to push them down manually - I saw that on Oprah), and heart in my throat, I remind myself to "bweathe."

Not only am I able to breathe, I am also able to have an entire Round-House theater musical on that 23.8 mile bridge.  Set to various numbers on the radio.  I am the Meryl Streep of The Causeway with nobody but pelicans to see me sweat.

Scene One:  Christian singer Matthew West's Hello, My Name is..
"Hello, my name is regret.  I'm pretty sure that we've met.  
Oh Yeah, we've met alright.  And I just kept on walkin!  Ain't nobody got time for you, regret!

"Every single day of your life, I'm the whisper inside that won't let you forget."
You might be a whisper, but I'm a ROAR!!  RAWR!  R o a r.  Meow.  Aww, I miss my kitty.

"Hello, my name is defeat.  I know you recognize me.  Just when you think you can win, I'll drag you right back down again, til you've lost all belief."
Ok, yes, I do recognize you too, defeat.  And you are one sneaky little son-of-a-gun. BUT I haven't lost all belief so YOU LOSE DEFEAT.  YOU LOSE AGAIN HAHAHAHahahahah.  Ha!  Ha.  Hmmm, this song is making me hate myself.  NEXT.

Scene Two:  Country Boy Dustin Lynch's Where It's At
"It's at 2am when she's reaching over, faded T-shirt hanging off her shoulder.  Dressed up, hair down, in a ball cap."
Hey, I do wear a faded T-shirt....although it's not a sexy shoulder hang one.  Maybe I should stretch one of my old shirts out for Andy.  "Hi Honey.  Here's my shoulder.  Am I sexy with my Flashdance shirt"  HahahAHAHAhhaha.  Ha!  Ha.  I'm hungry.

Scene Three:  Rocker Lady Pat Benetar's Heartbreaker  
"You're the right kind of sinner, to release my inner fantasy, the invincible winner and you know you were born to be....
be...a what?  Born to be a what, Pat?  A writer?  A vet tech?  A teacher?  I need to know, Patty...I'd love some direction and advice.   What was I born to be?!?

"You're a heartbreaker, dream maker, love taker, don't you mess around, no no NO!"'
I love you, PB.  You're more to me than roller skating at Wheel-a-While with Bobby.  Who, incidentally, turned out to be a real jerk.  And he wasn't that cute.  I should've had higher standards.  DON'T YOU MESS AROUND WITH ME BOBBY, NO NO NO! [throws one-handed rock and roll horns to the pelicans]

Scene Four:  Soulful Sam Smith's Stay with Me 
"Oh, won't you stay with me.  Cause you're all I need.  This is ain't love, it's clear to seee...but darlin' stay with me."
Man, this guy's voice is amazing.  Even his breathing is kind of hot.   Poor guy, he doesn't need to beg with a voice like that.

"Why am I so emotional?  No, it's not a good look gain some self control.  Deep down I know this never works.  But you can lay with me so it doesn't hurt."
Who wouldn't lay with you if you sang to them?  Sweetheart, it's ok to be emotional.  But I'd recommend finding someone else.  This one night stand has already texted someone to meet her for breakfast at Waffle House.  You can do better.

"Won't you stay with me.  Cause you're all I need.  This ain't love, it's clear to see but darlin' stay with me."
Just sing, baby.  You'll find someone at the studio, at the rock climbing gym or maybe Walgreen's.  That's how it happens in the real world.  You'll be ok.  Do you like to hot yoga?   

Scene Five:  Radio Off To Enjoy Some Silence
Whoah.  End of bridge already?  That was fast.  

Where's Wendy's?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Order Room Service

Parenting small children did not come easy for me.

As a hormonal, highly sensitive to the universe, I love me some quiet, Erin person, it was almost more than I could handle.  There were times I thought I'd check myself into a little room governed by psychiatrists, nurses, and lots of hand sanitizer but that never came to pass.  Believe me, there was this one day I tried.  But I wasn't needy sounding enough.  That's the thing about moms.  We know how to sound very put together when everything in us is falling apart.  Such a gift.

Before I go on, I have good news.  No, AMAZING news.  I made it.  Yes, my children still need me and I'm barely at the finish line but I made it through the hardest stay-at-home years of my life, raising my smalls.  Again, I wasn't sure I'd still be here to see the light at the end of this tunnel, but I'm here.  And you guys, it's the prettiest light I've ever seen.  It's worth it.

If you're wondering a few things, I'll try to pre-answer them for you:
Did I have postpartum depression?  Nope.  I took the survey, all checked out fine.  Was my husband deployed?  Yes, one time for 10 months.  Didn't I have any family nearby to help?  Nearby is a misnomer when you're talking Virginia mixing bowl and DC traffic.  Even those who tried to get to me got stuck in hours (4 hrs on a Saturday one day!) of traffic going one way.  Didn't I have any friends to talk to?  Tons.  Didn't any offer to help?  Yes, many did but I couldn't articulate what I needed myself.  And when I realized I needed help raising my children, I didn't know how to word that without sounding like I was 12.  People can drop in and lend a hand for a few hours but I knew I had to figure this out for the long haul.  Couldn't I hire people?  I did.  Sometimes it went well, other times not at all.  When you are already at your lowest point, hiring a babysitter feels as hard as building a car out of spoons.  Plus, all of your spoons are dirty.

You see, when you're someone like me you're very independent, stubborn head-strong, determined, and mostly positive.  You view yourself as capable and are bewildered that raising children is suddenly so hard.  How can little kids make you this depleted when you've gone to graduate school, got a teaching job, learned to SCUBA dive, and run a marathon all in the course of one year?  How is a nap schedule and Play-Doh kicking your ass after all of this?

Because it is, that's why.  Who cares about the details, it just is.

I know the details now.  Eight years later, I'm a scientist about the details.  I know that I need ridiculous amounts of quietude and space to feel normal.  I know that I cannot stomach sitting on a floor to play dolls but love kicking a soccer ball in the backyard for days.  I know I need music, not just lullabys.  I know I have to eat well or my brain goes haywire.  I know that structure, sleep, and removing myself from the noise of social media - especially the sensationalized news channels - is not optional for my psyche.  I know that I love to sing my babies to sleep in my arms when they're sick.  I'm a virtual expert on me, eight years later.

So, for anyone who's been confused as to why the job of raising young children is such a huge one.  Stop wondering.  You'll figure it out eventually.  Right now you have to survive.  Right now you have to get through it.  Right now your job is to do the hard work, cry sometimes, and laugh so much more.

Here's a quick guide that might help.  I'm calling it The Simple Guide to Living with Smalls.

  1. Go to bed by 9pm.  Stop laughing, just do it.  Don't scroll Facebook.  It'll be there tomorrow.  And the same stories will burn on your timeline for days so you're not missing anything.    
  2. Wake up before your children.  Yes, even the little effer  lovebug who gets up at 5:30 giggling in his crib just because he just can.
  3. Sit upright in a chair drinking your favorite drink.  Not rum.  Trust me. 
  4. Brush your teeth.  If you don't do this you will find a dry toothbrush next to your sink at 8pm, which incidentally, is the next time you get to think about yourself.  Floss, too.  Duh.  Always floss or else all the cute people in your life will stop wanting to kiss you.  You're welcome.
  5. Get dressed while listening to music, NOT the TV.  Pick something uplifting that you like even if it's from the 80s.  Especially if it's from the 80s.  May I recommend this one?   Rock that tune in your grannie undies all around your room until you find the outfit you can feel comfortable in yet still maybe stop at the grocery store for emergency chocolate.  We've all been there.  Aisle 5.
  6.  Make yourself a smoothie filled with all the veggies, fruit, and water you'll need for the next 6 hours.  This will be the best meal of your day.  The younger your children are, the more good sh*t you need to put in that smoothie.  P.S.  Spend the car payment and buy the Ninja Food System.  Add avocado to everything.
  7. Make eye contact with your kid(s).  It's hard because those dishes, that laundry, those dogs, your hair, The Twitter...but look at them.  They're here because you worked hard to get them here.  They're here and they love you the most.
  8. Answer their questions.  Even the one about babies.  My kids recently saw a cartoon of a woman getting ready to give birth and both of them couldn't figure out why her legs were up.  They couldn't imagine popping a baby out of her bellybutton that way.
  9. Love your partner.  He/she's freaking tired too.  Like more tired than you.  Not really but what the hell does it matter?  It's not a Tired Competition.  Nobody gets a night at the Hilton with oversized body pillows as a prize if they win.  By the way, don't're totally more tired.
  10. No seriously, love your partner.  This is worth repeating.  Text them funny texts.  Flirty ones.  Emoji ones.  Communicate throughout the day but about Date Night, not your jobs.  Your jobs both suck right now, talk about something fun.  Hug them when you see them at night.  Kiss too if you took my advice about flossing.  Thank them for running the bath, sorting the mail, making the appointment for the AC guy to come, not show up, come, and not show up again.  He/she is working two jobs at least, just like you.  But don't worry, you're still totally more tired.  Way.  If there is no partner and you're going this completely solo?  Please be extra kind to yourself and reward yourself with positive friends, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle that allows you little glimpses of what keeps you feeling like yourself.
  11. Pamper yourself like you would your best friend.  You bring your bestie Gatorade when she's got the flu, right?  Well, you're worth it, too.  Stop and get yourself Airborne pills when your little snotbuckets cherubs bring home all the germs.  Paint your toes that funky robin egg blue.  That color looks cute on you.  Take your kid(s) to a store just for you and make them suck it up for 20 minutes while you enjoy your life.  They already enjoy theirs because you're an awesome mom, remember?  Buy that uplifting card you see... for yourself.  You need Maya Angelou quotes.  You need the pretty lady made of hemp seeds and butterfly magic that says Spirit Warrior.  Get them.  For yourself.  Then, buy the cup of coffee/tea/flavored water to enjoy on your drive home.  When the kid(s) fall asleep?  Drive around to get yourself another one.  You'd do it for your sisterfriend when she's sick, right?  Do it for you because parenting smalls is very much like being sick all the time.  You feel like crap while you're making everyone else forget you exist, see?  Same thing.
  12. Play with your kid(s) as much as YOU want.  They just got here, they have no idea what's appropriate.  If that means 20 minutes a day, then rock that sistermom.  Seriously, do you remember your parents playing with you every waking second of the day?  I remember a whole lot of meandering aimlessly and happily in my neighborhood and in the woods behind our house.  Can't do that today, I realize, but my gawd, the children can still learn to entertain themselves safely within your decided parameters.  Plus, I tried playing with Abby all day long one time, not even getting up to get myself another cup of tea, and we were both in tears before 3pm.  Nobody was happy because nobody had a mom.  I became a 3 year old along with her and we both desperately needed a nap. 
  13. Haha, here's the catch:  Play with your kid(s) without a technical distraction.  Yes, I know, I love my phone and my camera too.  So. Much.  But those two will still be here when they turn 18.  Our kid(s) won't.  This time of raising smalls feels like forever but it couldn't be more of a trick The days are long but the years are short.  By the time your kid(s) reaches school age, you will have more time to devote to your distractions.  And that's when you're going to need them.  Let your children be with you while they're little.  More importantly, let yourself be with them.  They're your memories too.
  14. Give yourself a mid-day dance break.  Or several.  Freestyle is great but hip hop is better.  Because how precious is your little one trying to do the running man?   It's ok to bust out the camera too.  Fine, go get your phone.
  15. Messes do not make you a horrible person.  They are a byproduct of all the fun in life.  Take out the paints!  Bring out the colored bubbles!  Be the master of a Play-Doh Universe!  If you just hived out reading this one then do it all outside.  But make the messes.  It's how your children learn to do things and how you learn to not do things for them.  
  16. Clean up is for everyone.  Good heavens, please don't do what I did.  Please do not become the only person in your house who knows where everything goes.  Ask your kid(s) to help you put things away.  Ask them to sort laundry, then put away folded laundry, then help you do the laundry.  Your shoulder blades and your spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend will thank you for it.  Anyone raising children and trying to keep a clean house is already insane.  They need help and your children won't know how to help if you don't make show them.  Pretty soon, it'll become a habit for all.  
  17. Give yourself a Time Out.  I'm not talking an hour or two at Barnes & Noble on a Saturday.  Not even three hours with your friends for Happy Hour.  I'm talking two full beautiful wonderful so very necessary days of rest at a hotel when nobody can find you will need you.  You need nobody to need you for a couple of days.  If you don't do this, none of 1-17 will help you one bit.  Trust and believe, if you're like me at all, you need time to defrag and reconstitute yourself for the hard week of doing it solo ahead.  P.S.  Order room service.  Turn off the TV.  Bring a book you've been dying to read.                                          You guys, I was so tired in this pic.  I can remember this day.  Abby was sick with a upper respiratory stuff.  I threw her a B-Day party where many family members came.  Andy was deployed and I wouldn't ask anyone for help because I wanted everyone to know I had it all together.  
  18. Stop yelling.  It's not them you're mad at.  You're mad because you're sad.  You're sad because you feel like a monster when you're this low, I get it.   So you yell because it feels like all you have left to gain control.  We all do it from time to time because you're so tired you just need everyone to do exactly as you say or you'll drop.   But do your guilty little self a favor and stop yelling at your kids.  You're a big girl, close your mouth or yell into a pillow if it has to go somewhere.  Kickboxing classes are good too, just a suggestion.  Personally, I prefer Tae Bo but that's because I'm 40.  Your kids don't understand how tired you are.  They're new on the scene of life and haven't been that tired yet.  Let them live that innocently for as long as they can.  You can handle this.  
  19. Let go of guilt.  It isn't serving you at all.  It's depleting you even more of anything good living inside your tired bones.  We all make parenting mistakes.  We all expect too much.  We all think we have to be perfect at this.  We all think they should be able to wash their little bodies by now because your head pounds with the despair of knowing you're not going to sleep tonight...again.  Forgive yourself of your mistakes after your kids forgive you.  Because guess what?  They forgive you right away.  They love you the most.  Now, you need to love you half as much. 
  20. Write down their sweet words.  Draw with them.  Wrestle on the floor.  Play the board games you like.  Who cares if all the marbles fly off the Hungry Hungry Hippo board?  We all know it's not about keeping our marbles.  It's way more fun when you let some of your marbles go.

There's a light, you guys and it's the prettiest light I've ever seen.  I'm here now and I've found my voice.  Please don't let yourself think it doesn't get better.  It does.  Yes, you'll miss them while teachers/administrators/their friends spend their days with them but you need this time apart.  You will find yourself again and the best news is that the old you is happy you're back.  She's so happy you didn't give up on her.  She's so happy she's singing so that others like her will hear her and know it really does get sweet again.  Do the hard work, know this season of your life does not last forever, and definitely order room service when you have no more left to give.  Having no more left to give is a sign you need to give to yourself.  Guilt-free.  You deserve it too, sisterfriend.