11/29/11

My inner tenth grader still pegs her jeans

As twentieth high school reunions go, I'm thinking mine was a little lame.  No major blowups, no tearful confessions, no hookups.

(That I saw anyway.)

My high school's reunion was on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so I'm assuming most of the people attending either have family who still live in the area or they themselves still live in the area.  Fifty some of us milled around our town community center for a somewhat stilted cocktail party.

There were people there I didn't talk to in high school.  And OH LOOK I STILL DIDN'T TALK TO THEM.  But it was so different this time.  When we didn't speak in high school, I was positive it was because there was something wrong with me.  Surely they were passing judgment on my spiral perm or finding me lacking in other major ways, perhaps my inability to correctly peg my jeans.  And while it's totally possible this was happening then, and - WHO KNOWS - now, I find the difference is this:  I don't care.

Like, I REALLY don't care.

I am surprised by how little I care.  I spoke with the people I really wanted to see,  met significant others, and even chatted with a few people who wandered past or joined conversations I was already in.  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the people I saw and catching up on their lives.  Everyone else was just there.

On the schadenfreude level, there is something refreshing about seeing that the popular kids have aged just like the rest of us.  We're all a little thicker, a little more wrinkled.  Intellectually I knew this, but seeing it person, and realizing on an emotional level that they are just people, feels like a balm on my inner tenth grade soul.  It retroactively changes my perception of high school.  They are people.  They WERE people.  They weren't gods.  They didn't lead perfect lives.

This reunion allowed for an integration that I didn't know I needed. I can integrate who these people were then with who they are now.  I can integrate who I was then with who I am now.  My inner tenth grader is soothed and calmed and feeling a whole lot better about herself.

Have you gone to a high school reunion?  How was it?

11/28/11

It's my birthday and I'll blog if I want to

It's my birthday and I am blogging instead of picking up the house, moving along the laundry, emptying the dishwasher, I BETTER STOP LISTING THINGS BEFORE I FEEL GUILTY.

Instead, I'm here to post a slightly lackluster video of my kids singing me happy birthday.  What is with the "cha cha cha HI-YA!" thing anyway?  Do your kids do this too?  Is Happy Birthday not happy enough without some strange karate/cheerleading add-on?



video

11/22/11

I am thankful for....

The powerful, healthy lungs that produce the ear-piercing noise.

The wealth and comfort that produces the towering laundry pile.

The budding intellects that inspire the endless maddening stream of questions.

The easy supply of food that produces the copious dishes in the sink.

The strength of spirit that produces the crazy-making misbehavior.

The imperfect family members that are here, now, that remind me of the imperfect family that I wish were here.  

The fullness of this life that produces the clutter and work and exhaustion.

Happy Thanksgiving from this Clueless But Hopeful Mama











11/21/11

A few of my favorite things

I am not a good shopper. I do not enjoy shopping. I get twitchy and impatient after about 20 minutes and immediately need to go lie down in a dark room with one of those soft, heavy lavender thingies over my eyes.

I wish I was a better shopper as there's nothing as impressive to me as the perfect present. It says: I love you and I know you and I care enough to find something that shows it.

I wish I could make presents for everyone: no shopping! Showing I care with my time and intention! Except I don't usually have the time or energy or -let's face it- SKILLS to make presents for most people.

So, I try to make it the few stores in town and I do a LOT of internet shopping. Basically, if it doesn't come from a local craft fair, Target or Amazon, I don't buy it.  I also steal people's ideas right and left. So I thought I would post a few of my favorite things that I use all the time in the hopes that some of you might post the same and if we all post these things, we'll have a nice large pool of fabulous things to buy for our friends and family, yes?

(To be extra clear, I have not been compensated in any way for suggesting these products. I just love them.  I am now an Amazon Affiliate so if you do buy something off these links, I suppose I'll make a penny or three.  I don't really know.  If they ever send me money from it, I'll do a giveaway.)

Okay, so I found all these on a tour of my house.  Some of my favorite things:

These flip top snack cups from oxox are awesome. My mom gave me some and we use them every day in lunch bags for hard boiled eggs, peeled oranges, cheese cubes, EVERYTHING. Both kids can easily open them AND close them. Shiny, happy colors! The lids don't get lost! Dishwasher safe! WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE?!?!


I drop my phone AT LEAST twice a day. My kids are known to grab it with sticky fingers and try desperately to get to the games and videos before mom notices that their fingers still have orange juice and maple syrup all over them. But because it's in this Otterbox phone case, I don't panic. I like not panicking.

With the onset of winter comes the most ridiculously cracked cuticles known to mother-kind. Further compounding this problem is that I don't like most hand creams, they're either greasy or overly scented or too wimpy for my cuticles. But this one, from Restoration Hardware, ROCKS. After two days of applying it at night, I indeed have no cracks. May I recommend the Meyer Lemon scent? It reminds me of our Meyer Lemon tree.  I miss that damned tree so much that I might be tempted to lick your hands if I meet you and you're wearing this cream.


These wedgets are one of the best loved toys in our house. I've found that most of my friends have never seen them/played with them. They are one of those rare toys that *I* enjoy playing with. So there.


My good friend K (Who just had twin boys!! SQUEEEE!!!!) got this for E last year. I.... have no idea what it is. But every single kid who sees it instantly knows what it is. So far it's been a stool, a turtle shell, a baby bed, an American Girl doll sled, a dog house, a doll rocker, a hat, a mouse house, a sand scooper, a pool for Barbies, etc. etc. etc. LOVE IT.

 
Our German friend, who was just visiting us for a few days, brought these gorgeous pencils for Z.  They are easily the nicest colored pencils I've ever seen.  And looky -  Amazon has them!

 
We're always trying to decrease our household waste and we were going through a lot of straws.  Enter:  stainless steel straws!  I bought these for the girls a few months ago and we all like them.  A good investment, dishwasher safe, etc.  Perfect stocking stuffer!


 
Have you ever gone to a new salon for a haircut and been conned into buying expensive shampoo? I haven't for a long time, but I liked the smell of the shampoo my new stylist used so much that I bought this Eufora shampoo (as well as the leave-in conditioner) and I'M SO GLAD I DID. You need very little. It makes my hair bouncier and shinier and it doesn't get greasy after a day of sweating. A treat for sure but worth it. 


 
I'm assuming if you like to bake, you already some of these silicone baking liners.  No?  Well.  Let's hope you have some of them under that Christmas tree.  No more need for parchment paper! Reusable!  Great to use on the counter top when rolling out dough! 

 
Okay I don't actually own this rad pasta spoon.  But I want to!  How cute is it?  VERY CUTE.  Stocking stuffer!  Rawr!!

That's it for now.  Off you go!  Write your own post on your favorite items around your house!  Bonus points if you got them from Amazon/Target/someplace with free shipping!  I need to do some shopping!

(Exclamation Points!)

11/18/11

"I HAVE FLEM IN MY MOUTH"

So said the note I wrote to my parents and slipped under their bedroom door, early one morning. I don't know how old I was when I wrote that note, but it's possible I was almost a teenager, as I'm not sure when, if ever, I really learned the correct spelling of phlegm. (As evidence, my fingers just twisted and jumbled as they tried to type it. P...h...l...? Huh?)

Sometime last year, on a visit to my parents, I found a whole cache of these notes that my mom had saved and filed along with other written bits from my childhood. There were a disconcerting number of these sick notes, which she had asked me to slip under her door rather than wake her up before dawn with my current tale of non-urgent physical woe.

I was a bit of a melodramatic hypochondriac as a kid. To my mind, every sensation, even the slightly uncomfortable ones, merited mention and an immediate fix or, at the very least, an extreme display of sympathy. The notes she saved included details of every possible bodily fluid and symptom: how much and what color and how uncomfortable.

I wanted my mom to know. To make me better. Or just to see and understand and hold it in her hand.

I now have a child much like this.

Anytime she feels a sensation in her stomach, she needs to lie down with a warm water bottle. Every bump requires a rest with an ice pack. If her throat is sore, the resulting frown is intense. I struggle to find the right response, as sympathy and exasperation rise in equal measure to her every complaint.

I am surprised by how I can rise to the occasion of caring for an ill child. I am someone with an overabundance of sensitivity myself, and a deep-seated fear of vomiting, but I sat with a two year old Z on my lap while she suffered a long night with rotovirus. Every 45 minutes, she awoke and lost the paltry contents of her stomach into towels on my lap, whimpering at the end and gazing at me with confusion and desperation. Why is this happening to me? Make it stop.

That my first instinct was not disgust and a desire to run but deep sympathy and a futile desire to take her pain away was shocking to me at the time. One of my biggest fears about parenting was that I wasn't sure I had the strength and selflessness to deal with a violently sick child. I was sure I would run at the first sound of retching.

There is something elemental, animalistic, about parenting a sick child. You cannot help but be intimately involved with the details of their illness; not only can you not walk away from the disgusting parts, you are often covered in them.

Even as my girls get older, I am surprised by how close I am to all the action. At five, Z still hands me balled tissues with the snot on the OUTSIDE rather than the inside and has to be reminded that even though she's sick, I believe she's capable of getting them to the trashcan two feet from me.

But I think I understand. She wants to hand it to me. She's saying: Here Mom. Here's my sickness. Please, please take it away.

And I still wish I could.

11/15/11

The lengths we will go to

I am about to turn 39. I'm also about to attend my 20th high school reunion.

I can't get too worked up about the birthday but the reunion fills me with a certain level of dread. I was invisible in high school, or felt that way anyway, until my senior year when I finally had a serious boyfriend and a coterie of friends. I was ignored and sometimes ridiculed because I was a straight-arrow, feminist geek, a liberal instead of the mandatory Republican, a quiet, pale, acne-prone dancer with a bad perm instead of the preferred tanned field hockey player with a sheet of straight blond hair.

I am not excited to relieve all those feelings again. But I'm going to be in town anyway, for Thanksgiving at my parents' house, and several friends are attending the reunion, people I really and truly liked then and now. So I will get dressed up and drag my husband for moral, and possibly literal physical, support while I nervously blab about my kids over cocktails. I imagine myself slyly assessing whether everyone looks about as wrinkled as me.

I'm almost 39 and I feel pretty good about how I look. Until I look at a recent photograph or in a mirror.

As a twenty something, I was totally mystified when an older client of mine told me, "When I look in the mirror, I have no idea who the old lady is who's looking back at me."

Now I totally understand what she means.

I can't decide if it's a good or bad sign that I feel so much better about myself before I look in the mirror. When I glance at my reflection, I always, immediately, grimace and pick and criticize.

Is this what we're taught to do as women? To pick our appearances apart into acceptable and unacceptable pieces? How can I teach my daughters NOT to do this?

I want to look in the mirror and feel simple acceptance. I want to feel the same way about myself after I look at a photograph as before. I want to see my lines and bumps as part of the whole, rather than pieces to be assessed and remedied.

Is this even possible?

-------------

I went to the dermatologist a month ago, to finally do something about the acne that's plagued me since E weaned herself over a year ago. It was the first time I'd seen one since before I got pregnant with Z and I was unprepared for the onslaught of suggestions. Botox for the wrinkles in my forehead, if I want to. Topicals for the acne AND the wrinkles, of course. Microdermabrasion, to kick it all off.

I guffawed self-consciously at the suggestion of Botox. But I accepted the prescription for a retinol to address the acne (and, ahem, the wrinkles). And I set up an appointment for microdermabrasion to "kick it all off".

My mom has long held a respectable limit on the lengths she will go to to look youthful. No injections, no surgeries. Topicals are fine. She looks fabulous, much younger than her years, and I've always thought I would emulate her in this way.

"Once you get started with all these procedures, where do you stop?" she rhetorically asks. "At some point, you just have to accept how old you are."

Indeed.

------------

I have a hernia, and an abdominal split, that could be surgically repaired. When I asked a doctor about it, he said it would be considered cosmetic surgery at this point, since it's not painful to me and doesn't yet involve my intestines. But it's possible that it could get bigger, become painful, and he suggested doing it before then, just in case.

"As part of a tummy tuck," he said lightly.

Um.

Did he just suggest this former Pilates instructor should get a tummy tuck? Oh my battered, aching pride.

Whatever you want to call the surgery, I'm not sure I would pay all that money, or undergo general anesthesia, for what is really, truly, essentially cosmetic at this point.

Some days, though, the thought of losing the loose skin around my mid section fills me with a undeniable longing. What would it mean to no longer feel that discomfort of skin folding over itself whenever I buckle my pants? Could I actually wear a two piece bathing suit again in this lifetime?

Would I ever consider undergoing cosmetic surgery, of any kind?

Would you? Where do you draw the line?

11/10/11

Just when you figure it out

When I was dancing in my twenties, it seemed every year I slowly got a little bit wiser and more skilled in every aspect of my dancing. I also got more injured, and therefore, closer and closer to not dancing any more.

By the time I stopped, I was dancing as well as I ever had. I was more comfortable, more confident, more present in every moment. I was also seeing more chiropractors and massage therapists and physical therapists every week to manage my injuries. And I was a married 31 year old who wanted to have babies, plural.

I was finally figuring out how to be comfortable on stage, how to bring my whole true self into the performance process, right as I was giving it up and moving on.

It was sad to me that I couldn't have used my hard earned wisdom for just a little longer. It seemed unfair that I should finally get through a performance without wanting to vomit from anxiety and have it be my very last one.

That last performance was an odd experience. To feel excitement before a show instead of dread. To stand backstage, bouncing on my toes to stay warm as I waited for the whisper yell: "Places!" and not feel the usual stomach lurch when it finally came. To wish, as the applause began, that it wasn't over, that we could do it just one more time.

There are, of course, parallels to mothering my girls.

Every time we go through a new stage with Z, I am fearful, anxious, clueless. I read, I experiment, I learn some things. Then I get to go through it again with E, who, while she's a different child, provides an opportunity to apply at least some of what I learned the first time around with Z. By the time E's moving on, I feel almost comfortable with that stage of motherhood. Almost confident and present and capable.

I feel this familiar swelling inside, a feeling of beginning to own myself in this process, of knowing myself as a mother just like I ever so slowly grew to know myself as a dancer.

This is yet another reason it is sad to not have another child. This is yet another reason I find myself all too happily offering my opinion about friends' babies. Even when they don't ask for it.

In each phase, I find myself wishing I could use this self-knowledge just a little longer. In each phase, I wish I wasn't so slow in becoming who I want to be.

In each phase, I wish I could do it again, just one more time.

Instead, I am attempting something new: to carry over some of that fledgling confidence into each new phase with Z or E. To quiet the anxious voices inside that tell me I'm no good at this, that I'll mess them up, these perfect beloved creatures. To remind myself that we'll figure it out together.

I remind myself that every day is a chance to apply all I've learned along the way. My growing wisdom and confidence isn't lost just because my children are getting older. It informs every moment I spend with them, even after they leave the phase I just figured out.

That has to be enough.

11/8/11

Halloween Candy: the evolution

Hmmm, they're selling Halloween candy already? Well. I'm too smart for that. I'm not buying any because I'll just eat it all before Halloween.

There's that Halloween Candy again, right at the end of the aisle, lying in wait. NOT BUYING YET, ye evil temptress.

I'll just buy a few bags. Of candy I don't particularly like. There. I'm early AND I won't be tempted.

There are the bags I bought. Just waiting there on the shelf in the dining room. NOT TEMPTING ME.

It's been a really rough day and I'm hungry and we have no cookies or chocolate in this whole entire house. OKAY FINE, I'LL EAT PEANUT M&Ms.

Hey, Peanut M&Ms are not that bad!

I think I need to try pretzel M&Ms to see how they are .... *scarf*SNARF*

Hmm. 9:40 am and I've already yelled at the girls? I'll just put a bag of Skittles in my pocket and dole it out whenever I feel grumpy.

I FORGOT SUGAR CRASHES MAKE ME MORE GRUMPY.

I'm so ill from eating all this Halloween Candy. I'm putting it up high so I won't eat any more.

I forgot there's a convenient stool right here....

Thank goodness Halloween is today. Finally, I'll get rid of all this candy.

Not only is there tons of candy left but the girls got another METRIC TON of candy. DAMN IT.

Okay, Z, if you insist, I'll sample a few other types of candy. *scarf*SNARF*

Last day of the candy. Tonight the Candy Fairy comes to take it all away. THANK GOD.

OH WAIT. I'M THE CANDY FAIRY.

(I'm going to send off that candy to the troops. Tomorrow. Now, if only I can get through tonight without eating it all....)

11/6/11

I am...

(Inspired by Alli Worthington's "I am... " Project)

I am a mess.

I have said or written or thought that phrase more times than I can count, usually with a tinge of self-hatred and often with the word "such" inserted in there for emphasis.

It is an admission. It is a request for sympathy, empathy, or even - I'LL TAKE IT - pity. It is a preemptive excuse.

It is a blanket with which to cover myself and hide.

But maybe it could be an acceptance. Maybe it could be a non-judgmental fact. Maybe it could be embraced. Maybe it could be a rallying cry.

In mess there is reality.

Honesty.

Children.

Dogs.

Love.

Life.


The truth: there is so much I value more than perfectly clean tidiness.

I AM A MESS!

11/3/11

Make Believe

"Dress up!" E yells after I give her some playtime options. I dutifully follow her to the basement, hoping I can play at least some of my parts lying down.

She pulls on her sister's Cinderella shoes and a bejewelled tiara and says "Me princess. You prince. Come marry me."

I laugh and ask what I wear as her prince. She finds me a black skirt and I rest it on my head like a veil which makes her giggle.

"No. Me doctor. You sick," E says, face serious, eyes focused. "You need shot."

When I open my eyes wide at this scary turn of events, she pats my arm. "Don't worry Mommy. I be very, very gentle. Pomise."

She rummages in the dress up bin, pushing aside layers of tulle and silk to find her stethoscope. She listens to my arm for a long time and returns to the bin.

Instead of finding her yellow plastic needle, she pulls out a glittery silver wand and taps my head, gently. "I'm Glenda. You Doroffy. You want to go home."

"Yes, I do," I say solemnly not missing a beat. "I miss Auntie Em and Uncle Henry."

"No worry, Mommy Doroffy. You can go home. Kick your heels."

I stand up, close my eyes and click my heels on the basement carpet.

"Dream of home, " she instructs.

I do. I imagine a place where I am myself, all parts, easy and hard, lovable and not so much. A place where I am safe, loved, surrounded by the warmth and flotsam of children and pets and a partner who gets me. I open my eyes and there she is, my E, waiting for me.

Here I am.

Home.

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