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Parenting FAIL Friday: Too many cooks in the kitchen.

I love to cook. Usually. It gets old with minions whining about the little green things (herbs) or how the pasta tastes funny (because it isn’t elbow macaroni), but I generally like cooking. I love being adventurous. And not to brag or anything, but I’ve gotten pretty good over the years. This year’s culinary adventure was into the world of Asian food, and I’m now obsessed with Thai coconut curry.

That is irrelevant to this post, I just super love curry. Anyway. Yesterday was like New England summer (read: 50 degrees) so the girls felt that riding bikes in sun dresses and flip-flops was appropriate. Though I made them wear actual clothes, I DID wholeheartedly shoo them out the door. This left me with a rare window to prepare dinner without chaos. No one shoving me into the hot stove because it’s their turn to stir. No one sliding their finger  under my chef’s knife to steal a piece of pepper. Because that’s happened. Just uninterrupted cooking. Glorious.

The whole house was clean, and I REALLY didn’t want to make a mess, so the Nerd offered to help me in the kitchen because he loves me. This could be fun, I thought.

Side note: The night before, Make-A-Wish volunteers delivered our wish package, along with pizza for dinner. You’ll see why that’s important in a bit.

We started prepping the ingredients. I asked him to chop the garlic. I use LOTS of garlic. I pulled out other things, only to look over and see that he was individually peeling each clove – with his fingers. I do the smack down – literally. I smack the garlic with the flat side of my chef’s knife, and the peel virtually falls off. It’s fast. I need everything to be fast at dinner time. But he didn’t want to try that technique, so I let it go and let him peel.

Next was the onion. I showed him how to dice an onion while I prepped a pot of water on the other burner for the pasta. He did pretty well, for a first timer. Thinking he had the onions under control, I turned on the oven to pre-heat and got out the rest of the ingredients from the fridge. A few minutes later, I realize he hasn’t stirred the onions. I give them a toss just in time – caramelized, but not burned. Thank heaven. He’s now asking about slicing green onions. I give him instructions. Smush walks in and asks what’s burning.

Wait, what? Cue this scene:

Smush: Uh, what’s burning?

Nerd: Nothing.

Smush: Yes it is. I see smoke.

Me: Oh my gosh. There is smoke. Where is it coming from?

Nerd: What?

Me: The oven! The oven is on fire!

Nerd: But there’s nothing in there yet!

Me: I know! Oh God, wait. I left the pizza box in there. The pizza box is on fire! *rapidly turns off oven*

Nerd: Okay, I’m gonna open the door to let it cool off.

Me: NO!! You’ll feed it by giving the flames oxygen. It’s better to let the flames die out first, THEN open the door.

Nerd: Oh, right. Okay.

Me: *grabs fire extinguisher*

Nerd: What are you doing?

Me: Getting ready.

Nerd: Don’t use that. You won’t be able to use the oven if you spray that stuff in there.

Me: Okay, fine. But I’m ready. Just in case.

Nerd: *cracks oven door open when flames die out*

FUN FACT: The amount of smoke produced by a burning pizza box is UNREAL. Instantly the kitchen is full of smoke, and it is spreading through other rooms. The girls ran in to see the commotion.

Nerd and I: *coughing* Get out of the room! The fire is out but the smoke is dangerous! Get out of the room!

*Girls exit*

Nerd and I: *frantically opening every door and window we can find. Running around blindly because my eyes feel like someone poured acid on them and my lungs are crying.*

Nerd: I can’t see!

Me: Me either!

Nerd: Okay, I’m gonna grab the box and get it out of here. Clear a path.

Me: *moves things out of the way* Done!

Me: Thank God.

Both of us are still rubbing our eyes. I’m still coughing sporadically. We get outside to deeply inhale some fresh air. The house begins to clear up. Fans are on, windows are open, and most importantly, nothing is on fire.

Me: Where are the girls?

Nerd: Outside?

Me: They ran all the way to the church parking lot. *giggle*

In the beginning of the school year, Goo did a packet on fire safety. Part of that packet was making a fire escape plan and practicing with the family. Our plan was to meet in the church parking lot next door if, for some reason, we got separated. So at the sight of smoke, Goo made everybody run to the parking lot. At least we know she’s got a clear head in the face of emergency.

The house almost went up in flames. Again. But dinner wasn’t ruined. And I found out my kids actually remember the fire escape plan. So, umm, yay for being prepared?

You know, minus leaving the cardboard pizza box in the oven.

 

 

Why won’t they let me sleep?

I have a friend who did the family bed/co-sleeping thing. It worked out beautifully for them. I’m of the mindset that if you want to try out some parenting “technique” and it works out, you should do it. By the way, all those parenting techniques? The short-term for them is…parenting.

Anyway, I never did it. I was all, “Welcome to the world, baby. Two things: I love you more than anything else in the universe. Also, I really like to sleep, so we’re gonna work on that, k?”

I just like sleep. And I’m a terrible sleeper. I wake up anywhere from 5-dozens of times a night. I need to get to bed early if I actually want to rest enough to function the next day, because laying down and sleeping 6 straight hours will never happen.

Notice I said 6, because the idea of 8 is one held only by the science community and people without children. Or sleep disorders. Or insomnia. Actually, I’m pretty sure the only people getting 8 hours are college kids who can sleep until noon. Jerks.

That being said, I’m a sucker for night-time snuggles. Especially Smush. The Nerd and I are both hopelessly in love with her, and it’s a rare treat when she’ll actually just cuddle. Because of this, we were totally okay with her early morning snuggle routine that developed over the past couple months. She wakes up around 6:00, and then sneaks into our bed for snuggle time.

And by sneaks, I mean climbs over me with the enthusiasm and dedication of a climber conquering Everest for the first time.

First it was 6:00 AM. Then it was 5:30. We were still okay with that, because she fell back asleep between us and babies sleeping between you is wonderful for very brief periods of time.

Then it was 5:00 AM. Now you’re pushing it, kid.

Last night she crawled into bed with me before the Nerd had even made it to bed. It was probably 11:00. I make really bad decisions when I’m sleep-deprived, so I let her.

She proceeded to spend the remainder of the night kicking, pushing, and generally flailing with such force that I’m surprised I don’t have any contusions. By 4:30 AM, my pillow was hanging off the edge of the bed, along with most of me, as she assumed what I will lovingly refer to as, “the starfish,”  in the middle of the bed.

The Starfish.

The Starfish.

I put up with this for a while. By the time I bothered to check the time, it was 4:30 AM. I was rapidly running out of time for my sweet, sweet sleep. No matter, I could still get in a good hour before the day kicked off.

I focused. Yes, I have to focus to fall asleep because intently listening to the sound of my own breathing is the only way I can turn off Mom Brain. I relaxed. I pulled the covers up, and settled in. One hour, I can still get one good hour.

And as I slowly drifted off to sleep, Smush jolted and struck me with a force so powerful, I can only liken it to the strength of Thor’s hammer. In the face. With her hand clenched like a fist.

Needless to say, I did not sleep. Also needless to say, ninja snuggles are not going to be a thing. Nice try, Smush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scanxiety.

On the blog’s Facebook page, I put up a little blurb about our less-than-ideal scan appointment with Goo on Saturday. It was the nurse. She was kind. She was patient. Those are wonderful qualities in a nurse. You know what else is a wonderful quality? Not having to restick my baby over and over because you can’t tap a port that is sticking straight out of her bony body. Or getting an IV placement that doesn’t kink and cause constant pain. Those are SUPER qualities in a nurse. Ours didn’t have them. By the end of it, I was on the verge of making sure she didn’t have a job, either.

Side note: I did not actually try to get her fired. I mean, I did in my head, but that doesn’t count.

Goo has absolutely hated having her port accessed since day one. For non-cancer readers, a brief explanation: chemotherapy patients have surgery to place a small port in their chest. The port is accessed with a (rather large) needle and is used to deliver medication. Some nurses say it doesn’t hurt because it’s so close to the skin. The ones who said that never had a port. They never had cancer. I could punch you in the face and talk all day about how it doesn’t hurt. At least not me. It hurts Goo. And she hates it.

Our oncology nurses are fabulous. They are always one and done – one hit, and that port is accessed and the pain is over. It’s what they do all day, every day. Nurses in diagnostic radiology, or the ER, or other areas, aren’t as used to it. And that’s where we’ve had problems. I am a mama bear when it comes to my babies, especially the one who has suffered through more than any child should have to, in my opinion. She dreads scans because she has to have her port accessed for contrast dye during the MRI.

I dread them because it’s waiting. Waiting to see if it’s gone. Waiting to see if it’s back. Waiting and remembering, well, everything. A reader told me that her friends coined the term, “scanxiety.” It’s perfect. Scans are needles, hours of laying in a giant tube, and floods of memories of the past year.

My scanxiety was totally under control. It always is, because I cry in the shower when no one is looking. But when the nurse missed, and that giant needle had to come out, and go back in, Goo sobbed. She looked at me, tears streaming down her face, and said, “Mama, I hate this. I wish I never had a bump. I wish I never had it because it always makes me have to get needles. And it hurts.”

Everything in me wants to trade places. I would take a thousand needles to save her from one. I wanted to tell her that we didn’t have to do any more, that it’s all over.

But it’s not. So many people, when she finished treatment, shared how excited they were that we were done. And we are – with chemo and radiation. But “remission” is not “done.” It’s needles every month. It’s scans every 3 months. It’s making my sweet girl feel pain that I wish she never had to feel. It’s me checking her facial motion when her mouth makes a weird shape, because I worry that the paralysis is returning. Stupid cancer.

A couple of people have told me that worrying about the scans, or the way her face is moving, or that headache she had two weeks ago, is living in fear. Those people can shut it. I caught her cancer the first time because I was “afraid” when her “ear infection” didn’t get better. I rushed her to the ER when her face stopped moving because I was “afraid” that something was very wrong. Oh, that’s because it WAS very wrong.

Scans, worry, being on top of every change in health – that’s not living in fear. That is the reality of being a cancer parent. That is how we found it the first time – it’s how we do our absolute best to keep it from coming back.

Anyway. We got her on the table for the MRI, and her arm hurt. We had given up on the port and done a traditional IV, and it was painful. She cried, she told me she was scared, and that it hurt. I held her. I fought back my own tears, and told her it would be over soon. Everything will be done and we’ll go home and snuggle. Also, there would be ice cream. I was able to calm her down. We set her up with super cool goggles that let her watch a movie during her scans. And then I spent the next 90 minutes of her MRI trying to hide my face and hold back the tears. I’m due for a good cry anyway. During treatment, every 2-3 weeks I’d have a total tear fest in the van on the way to the hospital while Goo slept in the back seat and nobody else was around. Now I go 3 months without needing a tear fest.

I’m basically the poster child for emotional stability. I blame scanxiety.

 

 

Parenting FAIL Friday: I blame myself.

A lot of people would say I’m a bit of a health nut when it comes to how I feed my kids. I cook almost everything from scratch. We buy as many organic foods as I can squeeze into the grocery budget, and my girls regularly devour things like kale chips and almond meal muffins.

That being said, I am no stranger to “the treat.” Birthday, holidays, mommy-daughter dates – we splurge. I once read a post from a mom who was crazy strict about eating only whole foods for the whole family. They were allowed ONE TREAT PER YEAR. As in, you can have a donut, and then nothing else until next year. I would lose my mind, because chocolate. Anyway, she found out one of her daughter’s lunch accounts had been depleted, and upon asking for an itemized purchase history, found that her little organic angel had been buying cheese puffs and ring dings at lunch time. She was livid. I laughed. Because of course she’s gonna sneak stuff if her big birthday treat is literally one, solitary donut.

My approach to parenting is generally about balance: 90 % of the time, this is the rule. The other 10 % is for totally ignoring the rules and loving the moment. It’s the same way with what we eat.

Except that I may have undone my years of healthy-foods training.

Remember how yesterday I mentioned that I am a secret eater of dark chocolate? I think Smush may have caught on. And I think she may have thought that deep within the darkest recesses of our bedrooms is where we eat treats.

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See that? Smush sleeps on the bottom bunk. Those are the slats that are over her head that support the top bunk. When I was making their beds, I felt something. Something soft, but lumpy, stuck in the covers between the bunk slats.

And there I found, stuffed inside, a cupcake wrapper. A cupcake wrapper that had gone missing and once held a vanilla cupcake with strawberry buttercream. I have no one to blame but myself.

Am I worried that she’s hiding sugary treats in her bed? No. Am I worried that something might start growing if said treats are left there too long? Not really.

Am I worried that she might know about my secret dark chocolate? Terrified is more like it.

Time to move my stash.

 

 

Things I don’t feel guilty about.

Every now and then I peruse the mommy blog scene to see if there are any new finds. This morning I followed a link on “How to feed your children cereal for dinner, without the guilt.” I fully anticipated a mediocre-mom style post, laced with humor about not always cooking real meals, and not feeling bad about it. I was highly disappointed.

It was an actual article on how, if you absolutely MUST feed your child cereal for dinner, to look for labels with less than 250 mg of sodium, making sure you measure out the correct portion size according to the label information, etc.

First of all, I don’t really worry about aggravating my kids’ hypertension with sodium intake, since they don’t have high blood pressure. Secondly, if my growing toddler wants two bowls of cereal, she’s getting two bowls of cereal, no matter what the label says.

And let’s just talk about what qualifies as “MUST feed my child cereal.” You know when I MUST feed them cereal? When I didn’t go grocery shopping. When I’m sick of fighting at dinner and I know that Kashi’s Island Vanilla will keep everyone fed and happy.

Also, when the idea of cooking and cleaning another set of dishes in the same day makes me curl in a ball in the corner of the kitchen, trying to eat my own fingers.

I have never felt guilty about that. Because I’m pretty sure I just fed my kids. So there’s that.

In case you haven’t noticed, I kind of hate the notion that we’re supposed to do it all, and do it all well, all the time. Children, by definition, make that impossible. So for your weekly dose of, “Feel better about your parenting,” here is a list of things I’ve done as a parent that I don’t feel guilty about at all.

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These make your cookies healthy. Don’t argue. You’re welcome.

  1. Breakfast for dinner. At least a few times per month. I’m sorry, do scrambled eggs lose their nutrition after 12 pm? No? Then shut it.
  2. Mismatched, well, everything. They’re covered. Head to toe, they’re covered. Please explain how having 12 patterns and 2 different socks in any way affects their health or safety.
  3. Dress up clothes to the grocery store. If my little girl wants to embrace the fact that it’s FINALLY warm again by wearing a princess ballerina fairy outfit to get bread and milk, then by golly, she’s wearing it.
  4. Forgoing chores in favor of play time. Last night, I had every intention of having the girls clean their rooms. But then something miraculous happened: They played without fighting. Listen to me: You NEVER, EVER, interrupt play without fighting if you can help it. It was nothing short of a miracle. Their rooms will still be there – and messy – tomorrow.
  5. Frozen yogurt for dinner. Punkin had two teeth pulled. In our house, dental work is a free pass to frozen treats. She added raspberries. That makes it healthy.
  6. Put off laundry until someone is actually out of clean underwear. I’m not proud of it, but it’s happened. And I didn’t buy more underwear, I just actually did all the laundry. So, winning.
  7. Served 5 different meal concoctions at dinner out of whatever was left in the fridge and pantry because I could. not. bear. the thought of the grocery store with children.
  8. McDonald’s. We eat pretty freakin’ healthy most of the time. It’s getting harder and harder for me to feed the kids drive-through food, even when we’re desperate, but it still happens once in a blue moon. I like to think that one batch of chicken nuggets will not offset batch, after batch, after batch, of kale chips.
  9. Sister sleepovers. Sometimes I know that I can fully avoid bedtime meltdowns by saying the girls can have a sister sleepover. Sometimes, when Friday rolls around, I am so done with bedtime battles all week long that I just cave. They’ll be up later. They’ll need naps the next day. Whatever. We get a night without time-outs and tears.
  10. Taught Punkin how to make eggs for purely selfish reasons: I don’t want to cook first thing in the morning. I want coffee. Just coffee.
  11. “Healthy” cookies. When I make chocolate chip cookies, I almost always use combinations of coconut flour/quinoa flour/flax meal, etc. and cut back on sugar a bit. It adds protein, cuts carbs, and makes me feel so much better about feeding them cookies for breakfast. Because I do that sometimes.
  12. Sweep up all the little toys and immediately throw them away. I knew this mom who literally kept every tiny Barbie shoe/fork/hair accessory/etc. that ever entered their home. Ain’t nobody got time for that. And by nobody, I mean me. And by time, I mean patience. I am not even picking up 20 Barbie shoes every time I sweep. Which is twice a day, usually. If there are small things that are left out, they get thrown out. Also I hate clutter, and the idea of hundreds of little toys makes me twitch.

    I like the really dark, boost-your-seratonin-levels chocolate for secret snacking. But these will work in an emergency.

    I like the really dark, boost-your-seratonin-levels chocolate for secret snacking. But these will work in an emergency.

  13. Forgot about dusting the ceiling fan. For like a year. One day I looked up and realized the ceiling fan in our bedroom was furry. That’s not normal. I do not recommend the once/year method of cleaning.
  14. Ate chocolate in secret. I can’t even count how many times I’ve done that, and I don’t care. I gave my kids life. I’m not giving them my dark chocolate.

I recently read another blog post by a mom who never lets her house or kids get messy. Everything, and everyone, is always neat and tidy. In my defense, she has one kid. In everyone else’s defense, even if you have one kid, I have no idea how you could possibly never have a mess, unless you follow your child around with some sort of vacuum/bleaching/laundering apparatus and never give them art supplies.

I’m not that mom. And I’m okay with that.

 

I don’t do laundry for your protection.

I hate laundry. The Nerd tells the girls not to say, “hate,” because it’s unnecessary and untrue – we may dislike something, but we don’t “hate” it.

This is false. I hate laundry.

I hate it because it is the perfect representation of my life: endless, repetitive work with no real progress. Dishes. Sweeping. Cooking. Mopping. And laundry. All day, every day, but not done. Never, ever, done.

I can motivate myself, at times, to do unpleasant tasks – like childbirth, by the “just get it over with,” mentality. Except that doesn’t apply here. That NEVER applies to laundry, because it will never be done.

So I may or may not put it off always sometimes.

I used to use army bags to carry my laundry to the laundromat before we had our own washer/dryer. This is *literally* how much laundry I do. Image via wikimedia commons.

I have marathon laundry days. Laundry gets tossed down the basement stairs in a pile all week because then company can’t see it it’s close to my laundry area. When it needs to be done, because I’m not buying more socks, I just accept the fact that my entire day will be spent sorting, washing, drying, folding, and sorting again. I could just do 2 loads/day, every day. But in my defense, Goo is the only one who does her part and brings her clean clothes up and puts them away. Everyone has their own laundry basket here. Do you know what they do? That grab what they need out of the basket and never actually put it away. Then clothes fall out, and rather than, you know, pick them up, they just throw them back downstairs to get washed again. BECAUSE MOMMY ONLY DOES 15 LOADS PER WEEK SO WHAT’S A FEW MORE?

There is virtually always a pile of laundry at the bottom of my basement stairs. I do this for your protection.

I was talking with a friend of mine about how, despite our best efforts, our children have slipped down our basement steps. They were completely unscathed. Why? Because we put safety first and keep a giant pile of cottony softness at the bottom of the steps, rather than the cold, concrete floor.

Imagine if I was one of those moms who’s always on top of things. Then what? My poor, innocent baby might have been scraped, bruised, or even worse. 

Every day that I don’t do laundry, I do it with my children’s safety in mind.

You’re welcome, family.

Parenting FAIL Friday: I give up.

There are days when you nail the parenting thing. And by nail I mean you avoid physical injuries and everyone is fed and loved. They may not be clean. If they were fed and loved, there’s a REALLY good chance your house won’t be clean. But whatevs. We nailed it.

The day I am writing about was not one of those days.

There is an unwritten, but deeply understood, law of parenting that says you may have any two of the following, but never all at the same time:

  • Sleep
  • A clean house
  • Happy children who aren’t whining
  • Three balanced, healthy meals
  • Children who are generally free from filth and other messiness
  • Your sanity

You may only pick two.

Then there are days where you get none. Just none. This was one of those days.

My house was (almost) clean, and I was feeling good about the whole place looking nice. Smush decides to “play a game” in her room, and I’m all, “Yes! Finish all the cleaning!”

Smush played happily for a little while.

I AM SO DUMB. Smush does not play quietly. Not unless she’s plotting how to dismantle my bedroom furniture when I’m not looking.

That game she was playing? This:

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HOW HAVE I NOT LEARNED YET?

Anyway. I cleaned her up.

Side note: That hot mess was made with play makeup. Do you know what’s interesting about play makeup? IT WAS MADE BY THE DEVIL HIMSELF. It doesn’t come off. With anything. Ever. I full-on bathed her and scrubbed her face with 4 different types of soap/cream/cleanser, and she still looked like she got punched in the face. Sigh.

I dried her off, got her dressed, and told her to get ready for nap time and hop into bed while I got her a drink.

I came back to find a small, sticky puddle on her dresser. And then I saw the children’s Benadryl bottle, opened, next to the medicine cup, lined with pink residue.

Oh.Dear.God.

“Smush, did you drink that?”

“Umm, no?”

“You need to tell me the truth. Now. DID. YOU. DRINK. THIS?”

“Well, yeah, a little.”

“Can you show me how much? Did you pour it into the cup before you drank it?”

“Yeah. It was a little bit. Like you give Goo.”

(Benadryl is given to cancer patients as an anti-nausea medicine.)

I immediately called Poison Control, estimating that she probably didn’t swallow more than a tablespoon because she used the cup it came with for measuring out the right dosage. Thank God in heaven.

Just in case, I had to monitor her. Her heart rate could be affected, and since I’m good at finding pulses on little people thanks to Goo’s heart condition at birth, I monitor her heart rate.

Every ten minutes.

For two hours.

Oh, and the whole time I’m checking the pulse of my precocious and slightly rainbow-colored child? She’s sleeping peacefully. Because Benadryl.

I am now juggling a myriad of emotions:

I am irritated that she smeared play makeup all over herself and I can’t get it off. But she’s super cute.

I am LIVID that she got into the medicine cabinet and opened a “child-proof” cap. Oh, and “child-proof?” HA! Both my littles figured out how to open them by the time they were 3.

I am terrified that she swallowed too much and praying that she’ll be okay.

I am SUPER HAPPY that the side effect of Benadryl is drowsiness. Let’s just be honest. It was a day. And my little terror was napping. Once I knew she was safe, I was all, “Well, if you’re going to take a medicine you’re not supposed to, it might as well be the one that lets me get a few minutes of peace and quiet after you NEARLY MADE ME LOSE MY MIND.”

But really. Rainbow skin and a potential overdose in the same afternoon?

I give up.

And then I remembered – my mom was the most beautiful woman in the world.

Motherhood changes our bodies. At least for most. There are some who shrink right back, but I was not one of them. Not my weight, but my size. My feet are, and always will be, a full size larger and full width wider. You know, like a hobbit. There is no diet on the planet that will fix that. My hips are wider, too. They’re the definition of “birthing hips.” Smush’s delivery – from the first contraction to “Hi baby!” lasted 1 hr 20 min, and that’s because I had to wait for the midwife to get in the room. Birthing hips.

Before I had kids, I was a flat-stomached, hourglass figure, kinda cute 20-year-old. My pregnancy with Punkin expanded my hips – literally. My body went a little overkill on the relaxin hormone, and my hips actually got wider – and then they stayed that way as the ligaments firmed up, and I was left with hips for days. Let’s just say that low-rise jeans were not made for most women, and I’m one of them.

Most days I’m okay with all that. I mean, it’s a mass of tissue, really, so whatevs. And we’re mothers – we’re basically nature’s superheroes. But for a while I had been feeling unattractive. Having more “fat days” than usual.

(If you aren’t familiar with that term, a “fat day” is where you wake up feeling like none of your clothes fit and your husband walks in to find that he can’t see the bedroom floor because you’ve somehow tried on every article of clothing you own. And you’re still in your pajamas.)

I had been feeling flat-out ugly.

I hated my jaw line. My eyes are too close together. My eyebrows are crooked and uneven, and because of scar tissue in one from a childhood injury, there’s not much I can do about it. My nose is too big, my skin is too pale, and I’m just too squishy all over.

But getting ready for church one Sunday morning, I came out of the bedroom in a long dress and high heels. I hadn’t done my hair. I hadn’t done my make-up. I looked like the bride of Frankenstein, if she went to church. And each of my girls looked up and, eyes wide and smiles big, told me how pretty I was.

I didn’t get it. I mean, I know we shelter them from a LOT of media. We don’t have cable. We laugh at how silly magazine covers look because they’re so fake. We talk about store window displays and billboards and how utterly absurd it would be to dress in clothes that look like underwear. But c’mon, they must know I’m no supermodel, right?

And then I remembered – my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. Growing up, even after she died, I literally could not find another woman as beautiful as she was. Julia Roberts was pretty and all, but she wasn’t my mom. Nobody was my mom, and she had them all beat.

And I remembered something else. I remembered standing in the bathroom one day while she got ready for church, just like I had. I remember her touching the scar that marked her thyroid surgery, and looking at her one discolored tooth. And I remember her adding a little more mascara, and a little more eyeliner, and asking if that made her droopy eyelid any better. The surgeon who tried to remove her tumor had hit a nerve, and that left her with one droopy eye.

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I also remember being so very perplexed. “Mommy, you’re beautiful. You look perfect. There’s nothing wrong with your eye.” That’s what I told her, and I meant it. I had absolutely no understanding of how a tiny scar, a darker tooth, and an eyelid made her any less beautiful. Grown ups were so weird.

A few weeks ago, Smush had her very own sleepover at Grandma’s house. She was so excited. A long-standing tradition at Grandma sleepovers is french toast – it happens every time, and it only happens with Grandma and Dodie (my aunt). Smush was dutifully helping with the french toast when she spotted a picture of me and Goo on the fridge. She paused and said, “I really love my mama. She’s pretty.”

I know the picture she saw. It’s sweet. It’s loving. And the first thing I noticed was my double chin and nonexistent jaw line.

The first thing she noticed was her mama that loves her so much.

I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that many of you have probably had those same days. The ones where you stand in front of the mirror and know that you just can’t fix it all. At least not without Photoshop. The ones where the makeup just isn’t cutting it. The dress just isn’t fitting right. And you can’t figure out for the life of you how women on magazines don’t have pores.

Here is an invaluable truth: None of that matters. You are beautiful because you’re you. No one else will ever be as beautiful as you are, because they will never have your heart. And if anyone tells you differently, kick them in the shins.

But don’t tell them I told you to do that.

The mirror tells you that your beauty is tied to your skin tone and your bone structure.

I have known some physically beautiful people who were downright ugly underneath, and I have seen burn victims and quadriplegics that radiated beauty from the inside out.

The mirror lies. The truth is that we were created in the image and likeness of God Himself. The arrangement of molecules that create our physical bodies is NOT who we are. It is a shadow of our true selves.

I know that I’m beautiful. Smush says so. You can’t argue with that.

Parenting FAIL Friday: I’m moving to Australia.

I hate today and I’m moving to Australia.

I texted that to the Nerd the other day. It’s a reference to the (fantastic) children’s book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.”

There is a conspiracy in the world to prevent me from sleeping. I am sure of this. After night, after night, after night, of broken, horrific sleep, I decided to hit the hay early and try to actually wake up rested.

Silly me.

I was awakened by the sound of the most obnoxious pounding I have ever heard in my life. I’m surprised we still have a door. The police were here, notifying us that the church’s alarm had been tripped when the wind blew the door open.

Super. Dead sleep, the loud pounding of police officers outside my door. I picked my heart up off the floor, and waited for the adrenaline to subside.

That took a while. I watched stupid videos of people lip syncing to songs from Frozen on YouTube.

The dog woke me up (we’re dog sitting – which has confirmed that I do, in fact, hate dogs). He barked and whined. The Nerd walked him (at 2 AM). He did nothing. He woke us up again. The Nerd walked  him (3 AM). He did nothing.

He barked and whined at the girls and woke them up at 5 AM. He then immediately peed on their floor.

SUCH A GOOD WAY TO START THE DAY. 

After not a lot of sleep, I hit the coffee hard and prepared to rush everyone out the door early, to drop Punkin off at a school on the opposite side of town, for a special field trip. It is a universal fact that the more important an early departure time is, the slower your children will move.

After incessant nagging, running around with three sleepy children (THANKS DOG), and not even finishing my coffee, we walk out to the van. We need to leave 5 minutes ago to get to the bus on time for the field trip.

My van doors are frozen shut. I can’t open them.

After begging and pleading, and maybe punching and cursing the winter, I get the driver’s door open. The girls climb through to the back. I cannot reach Smush to buckle her, and because her door won’t open, Punkin has to do it. Smush is super cooperative about getting buckled.

That was a bold-faced lie.

Anyway. Everyone is finally buckled. I throw it in reverse, and as soon as I move, things are beeping. Lights are flashing inside, and I’m immediately assaulted by frigid air as my door flies open, BECAUSE NOW THE HANDLE IS FROZEN IN THE OPEN POSITION AND THE DOOR WON’T SHUT.

I’m moving to Australia.

I give the old, “C’mon!” and smack the handle, breaking the icy grip and finally getting everyone in the van, the doors closed, and the vehicle in motion. Amen. We are now 10 minutes late.

My GPS lies. The school is not 10  minutes away. It is more like 20 minutes away because it’s snowing and EVEN THOUGH WE LIVE IN NEW ENGLAND WHERE IT SNOWS 6 MONTHS OUT OF THE YEAR, people freak out and can’t drive more than 10 mph. I’m not bitter.

I find the school and pull in as the field trip bus is leaving the parking lot. Punkin tears up. I smile and wave like I just escaped the psych ward, and the teacher recognizes me. The bus pulls over, and they let Punkin get on. I LOVE THAT TEACHER.

OK, Punkin made it. This day sucks, I hate dogs, but Punkin made it. I can drop Goo off, and this day will be fine. The van is warming up and I can feel my fingers again. See? It’s not so bad.

“DING. DING. DING. DING. DING.”

Lights flashing on and off. My van is tripping on LSD.

Now that the van warmed up, the doors have thawed enough to trip the sensor and send the car into panic mode BECAUSE OMG YOU’RE DRIVING WITH THE DOORS OPEN.

But because it’s me, the doors haven’t thawed enough to actually open. So I can’t budge them enough to shut them. So now I’m driving around a minivan that is perpetually beeping and flashing interior lights like a freaking rave on wheels.

We made it home. I surrendered to the chaos and opted to finish my coffee and snuggle Smush by the fire.

But I’m still moving to Australia.

I am doing something, whether you like it or not.

I’ve been relatively silent, I know. Life. Craziness. Finding it more frustrating than enjoyable to try to write a coherent post. Excuses excuses.

A question I received a while ago has been ruminating, and I decided the most productive way to wrap my head around it would be to whine about it online get a little written therapy going.

Towards the end of Goo’s treatment, I was asked a question. The kind of question that makes you reexamine your whole life and evaluate every decision you’ve ever made. Not the small ones, but the big ones: Do you marry this guy? Have kids? Work there? Stay home? Are you a Dunkin’ girl or a Starbucks girl? You know, the ones that define who you are.

“When are you going to…you know…do something with your life?”

Ho.ly.crap.

At that moment, my heart actually ached. Was I really that big of a disappointment? How did that happen? I mean, I’m not winning the Nobel prize or anything, but I’m pretty okay. I definitely didn’t think I was a total failure.

At least, not until I was asked that question. And then, for weeks, I pondered it. I looked at my life in a completely new light. Dean’s List student with a degree in Biology? Yeah, but all you did was teach high school for a few years. For a teeny tiny paycheck. So not worth bragging about.

Loving marriage that survived a really rocky period, because we stood by the commitment we made to each other and sacrificed until we found ourselves madly in love again? Sure. But financially we’re nowhere. We don’t even own a home. So really, what do we have to show for it?

And then there’s that mom thing. Staying home with the kids all day. DOING NOTHING. I mean, it totally worked out when my kid got cancer and I had to quit my job working from home to care for Goo, but again, no paycheck, no career boost, and if there’s one thing cancer doesn’t do, it’s make you rich. Or successful. Such a bummer.

And then, every so often, for months after, it would pop up again. I’m 31. I haven’t done anything. My life is at least 1/3 over and I have nothing to show for it.

And then I hit the brakes.

Because what a load of nonsense.

I’m sure that question came from a place of love, from someone trying to inspire me? Maybe?

Side note: I recently helped with a class that focuses on finding truth, and gaining freedom from all the hurts of the past. One of the things I told the women in my group was that for every lie you hear in your head, speak three truths. (Not my original idea, but I thought it was a great one.) “You’re ugly.” Umm, no. I’m a daughter of the King. I’m created in the image and likeness of God. I am beautiful because I was created with a purpose, and it extends far beyond fine lines and numbers on a scale. Boom.

I then had the crazy thought to take my own advice. So for every negative thought that stemmed from that question, I decided to make a list of things I’ve done that I’m proud of, that are important to me, and that I wouldn’t change for the fanciest career or the biggest paycheck in the world.

I have a gut feeling that if you’re a stay at home mom, or a working mom, or a human being, you’ve struggled with feelings of failure, and inadequacy, and irrelevance.

Punch those thoughts in the throat. And then make a list like this one. IT FELT SO GOOD. Like drinking coffee with full fat milk. And not even feeling bad about it.

What I’ve done while I was busy doing nothing.

  • Overcame suicidal tendencies as a teen by clinging to a faith in a God who was bigger than my sorrow (boy has that been helpful over the years)
  • Despite watching my mother die of cancer, being left by my father, and having a healthy dose of emotional scarring in the first 20 years of my life, I kept a level head on my shoulders – no drugs, no drinking (prior to children. Blame them), no crazy boy stuff – other than marrying a guy who once shaved “DUM” in the back of his head. But hey, nobody’s perfect.
  • Worked my tail off – through 4 months of all day/every day “morning” sickness – going to school full-time, doing research part-time, and working 30 hrs/wk – to earn my degree.
  • Volunteered my time, love, and life experience through various ministries through the churches I’ve attended. I’ve done that since I was 15. For 16 years I’ve volunteered with children’s, teen, and adult ministries, ranging from changing diapers to providing counseling. I hope that wasn’t nothing. Because it really felt like something kind of awesome.
  • I put on my big girl pants and made life choices that totally contradicted what everyone else thought was best – and I’m kind of crazy happy about that, because those choices made me crazy happy. So there.
  • I know you’ve heard it all before, but I have to say it here – I, alongside my family, saw my little girl through cancer. I cleaned up her vomit too many times to count. I advocated for her. I spent every 3 weeks, for a year, totally reworking everything we ate to promote her health and changing taste that resulted from chemotherapy. I shaved her head, and cried with her when she thought she was ugly. I told her she was beautiful until she believed it. I held her through every needle. I gave her injection, after injection, after injection – because I knew that making her cry would save her life. I made time for my other girls, all the while juggling guilt for not having three of me to share. THAT was not nothing.
  • I ran into the ocean in the dead of winter to raise money for an organization that helps families of children with cancer.
  • I trained for, and successfully completed, a 5k. I trained all summer, then ran the actual race during a freak cold front that dropped the temp to 34 degrees. My lungs burned, I produced far more snot than any human being should produce, and I was slower than a turtle in quicksand, BUT I DID IT.
  • I perfected the art of homemade mac and cheese. That absolutely counts as a lifetime achievement.

This post is totally my way of sticking my tongue out at the people who have made me feel bad about my life. It took me a long time to fight the overwhelming sense that I had failed because no matter what we’ve done, we can’t buy fancy houses and remodel them. We don’t own brand new cars. We can’t even sign our kids up for dance/sports/whatever because we don’t have the money. My sense of self-worth and success was only measured by the things I could own or the money I could earn. So lame.

But you know what? My husband knows he is loved. My kids know they are loved. Punkin walked out of her room wearing 14 different colors and patterns in the same outfit the other day. It’s been her thing since forever. She asked what I thought, and when I said, “Well, it’s definitely you,” she put a  hand on her hip, and with a big smile and a little sass proudly announced, “And there’s nothing wrong with that!”

She is confident in who she is, and that who God has created her to be is more than enough. I’m trying to be more like her.

The only thing I can figure is that those who have viewed me as a disappointment or a failure, see me that way because I don’t “work.” But I know who I am in Christ. I know that I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37). I know that His grace has always been enough. I know that my value is in no way tied to my bank account.

So there.

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