Five–Year-Old Blog Birthday Parrrrtay!

Welcome to the Momsicle blog birthday party! It’s a family affair, and you’re invited.

Blog Birthday. MomsicleBlog

We’re frosting a couple of cakes and sucking down the extra icing. Unless you want some hand-to-hand combat, we’re going to let K-Pants blow out the candles.

Blog Birthday. MomsicleBlog

The Pants is six. The blog is five. Boy Woww is four. And the Fairy Pig is, well, her soul is a thousand years old, but she’s zero.  That’s right. I have four kids six and under. None of them tell me I’m good at what I do, and they all variously keep me up at night. But the blog. The blog only does what I tell it to, and that’s nice sometimes.

Five years ago K-Pants was one and an only child, and I was newly a stay-at-home parent, with the freedom of my own schedule and the tyranny of a toddler, trying to figure out how to keep my adult self intact.

[VINTAGE POST: “Water Off My Back.” I was that annoying white person at our Bronx public pool.]

I started sending out sarcastic and revealing stories to my friends Marisa, Gretchen, Suna, Theresa, Brianna, and Kathleen–women whose loyalty was forged in the crucible of Teach For America. Gretchen encouraged me to start a blog. (To thank her, she just sent me money to take my family out to dinner. Hmmm… that worked out well for me.)

I love this place.

Momsicle is where I fight the cult of parenting perfection. This is where I connect with my tribe. Bloggers I started out with have become famous and their reaches increased, but Momsicle is still small. I would say it’s because I’m not a sellout, but that’s not true. I would rather be taking a nap than marketing myself. Still, Momsicle rocks some stats I’m proud of: 172,000 page visits, 291 Facebook besties, 255 blog posts, and 2,166 comments.

[VINTAGE POST: “Dear Social Media, I Hate You, Now Let’s Make Out.”]

Comments and likes on the blog are tied for awesomeness in my book with happy hour mixologists, Blue Star Donuts, and getting the next episodes of Mad Men in the mail from Netflix. (Maybe the fact that I still get Netflix in the mail is related to why the blog hasn’t conquered the Internet. Technology. It comes in the mail.)

And I love that so many people read the blog even if they don’t comment. To you guys: Thanks for hanging around and looking creepy. I can see you.

[VINTAGE POST: “How to Make New Parent Friends.Probably not by telling them you can see them when they’d rather be invisible.]

Blog Birthday. MomsicleBlog

So thanks for coming to the party, people. And here’s to the next five! Arrrghgh, who am I kidding? I can’t think that far in advance. So here’s to happy hour and donuts and finding the time to write another post.

Want more party? Join me on Facebook or Twitter or grab an email subscription  so I can fill your inbox with tales of the zombie apocalypse.

Guest Post: Alcoholism Lives at Our House

A good friend reached out to ask if I would post a reflection she wrote anonymously. I’d understand why, she said, in the first line. “My husband is an alcoholic,” it read.

Ahhh, Alcoholism. You vicious beast.

Alcoholism is isolating. It’s buried under the weight of stigma. But when we talk about the terrible things, the burden gets lighter. My deepest gratitude goes to my friend for sharing something that will cut to the soul of any reader who has been touched by addiction.

MomsicleBlog

Alcoholism Lives At Our House

My husband is an alcoholic.

My husband is an alcoholic, and I am conflicted. I am resentful. I am angry. I am hateful. I am distrustful. I am mean-spirited. I am short-tempered. I am exhausted. I am terrified. I am guilty. I am drained. I am depressed. I am neurotic. I am spent. I am alone. I am powerless. I hurt.

His disease has become my disease. It has made me into a person I would not recognize. I am a pill-counter. I am a cupboard-searcher. I search hiding spaces. I smell his breath. I am a liar. I yell often. I hide knives. I have considered cutting down my laundry line. I have a heart that is constantly racing. I cannot think straight. I am in constant flight or fight mode. I don’t know how he’ll be when I get home. I don’t know if he will still be when I get home.

He struggles now with becoming sober. I’ve struggled and am still struggling to keep him going, our family going, work going, the house going, and sometimes, to keep myself going.

This is my life.

I’ve been coming to terms with this “new normal.” This disease will always color my life, my choices, my thoughts, and my fears. Everyone’s experience with alcoholism is different. Here is my story in the hopes that it helps even one person not feel so alone.

“My husband is seeking treatment for alcoholism,” I told my friend through tears. “I’m so sorry,” she replied, embracing me, “I didn’t know.” “Neither did I.”

And that, though surprising, is true. I thought he might drink too much, but he assured me he didn’t, and I really believed that he was sick when he laid in bed every weekend and evening. I googled lots of symptoms when he was having stomach pains, and dutifully took him to have his stomach scoped. Finally I just thought he might have leisure sickness since he was sick on the weekends and vacations. But, one day after a particularly bad case of illness complete with nighttime moaning, explosive vomiting, and hallucinations, he told me, “It’s alcohol withdrawal syndrome.” And so, I googled again, and found that he was what is commonly called a “high-functioning alcoholic.” He went to work and was successful. He did what was required, and still drank enough to give him daily withdrawal symptoms.

How is it that I didn’t know? My husband is a lone drinker. He drinks at night when I’m asleep. He drinks vodka so it can’t be smelt on his breath. From dinner time to 2 am, he’d manage to drink more than 6 shots. Then he’d head off to work in the morning and do it again the next day. Weekends were hard because he didn’t have work to keep his mind off the withdrawals. I just thought it was stress or some other illness.

Now I know better.

Now I know that for years I stayed up with kids, woke up early with kids, got all their meals, and kept them quiet because “Daddy is sick” because alcoholism lives at our house. Now I know that I made my own birthday cake and led the kids in singing to me while he slept because alcoholism lives at our house. Now I know that I cooked my own Mother’s Day meals and shared a bed with a Thomas the Tank Engine tent because alcoholism lives at our house. Now I am able to say, “Hey, yesterday when we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to the baby you were passed out, and with two boys jumping on you, you still wouldn’t wake up. Oh, and by the way, she started walking last night. You were drunk,” because now I know that alcoholism lives at our house.

Now that I know this, it all makes sense. Despite the understanding, it hurts. It hurts everywhere. I wonder if the last year or years were all a lie. When did I start buying the lie? When did it start?

As this all sinks in, I am learning that I need help. My recovery will take time, just as his will. He will get all the accolades for staying sober, and I will just continue on, stewing. I will stew because I hurt and I worked for years to keep it together without help, and am still trying to keep it together while he gets to take his time and get better. I am trapped in this silent cave, digging my way out, alone—alone because to take this trouble to my dearest friends can hurt the reputation of my husband in this small community, alone because alcoholism carries a horrible stigma, alone because it is easy to forget that alcoholism is a disease that wreaks havoc on a family, not just the alcoholic.

And so, I’m trying to hold it together—for the kids, for my husband who has decided that he’s going to get better at home, and for what is left of myself. I’ve gone to Al-Anon and committed myself to the recommended six meetings before I decide to stay. I’ve gotten a counselor, and I am working through the 12 Steps myself. Yes, those of us who love alcoholics need to go through them too.

My husband is an alcoholic. My husband is an alcoholic and I am conflicted. I am hopeful. I am praying. I am taking steps forward. I am exhausted, terrified, spent, resentful, distrustful, and hurt, so, so, so hurt. But, I will not let alcoholism rule my house anymore. I am taking it back, one small step at a time.

Announcing the Fairy Pig!

The Fairy Pig was born June 18, 2015, weighing 6 pounds, 8 ounces. She is our miracle! I’ve been posting reflections on adjusting to parenthood with three gremlins on the Momsicle Facebook page (join us!), but it’s time to make it official and put the Fairy Pig on the blog.

Here are the best shots from her ongoing newborn photo shoot, an endeavor where I use a smartphone and props such as unmade beds, laundry bins, and Duplo blocks to display beauty amidst total chaos.

Welcome to the blog, Fairy Piggie!

We haven't made this bed in 10 days. MomsicleBlog

This laundry needs to be put away but won't be. MomsicleBlog

Boy Woww presented the piggie with a gift. MomsicleBlog

This looks posed but it's her naked time in the bathroom while I take a shower. MomsicleBlog

They have been remarkably sweet to her, but they still don't make beds. MomsicleBlog

No secrets, just adorable baby slippers. MomsicleBlog

 

Hello Pregnancy Anxiety, My New Friend

Prenatal anxiety is a thing. It’s a thing that’s common and often goes undiagnosed. Many of you out there may be nodding.

It hit me around 34 weeks.

Somewhere along the gestational way I lost my confidence. This third pregnancy has been wild and jarring. But I imagined that once I settled in to the routine, my body’s institutional knowledge of pregnancy and childbirth would take over.

I mean, I’ve done this before. I got this.

Sure enough, in the second trimester I found a groove… but I couldn’t rely on it. I seemed to be trying to cross a creek, jumping from one off-balance and awkwardly shaped rock to the next. And around 34 weeks I fell in.

Prenatal anxiety can be about all kinds of things—how you’ll adjust to having a newborn, fear from previous pregnancy loss, medical complications, life stress.

My anxiety centered around actually giving birth. I’ve had two uneventful vaginal births, and somewhere deep down I know I can do it again, but I just don’t want to. I didn’t sign up for this one, and I don’t want to do it. Birth is exhausting and overwhelming and unpredictable. The technicolor feelings of fear and stress about the health of the baby from the first trimester came flooding back, but in new shades of worry: I’m not strong enough. There’s no good way out. How will I survive the weeks of waiting? How will my husband cope as I demand more and more support?

As the third trimester began, I was also diligently listening to the Hypnobabies self-study course I had ordered to prepare for this birth. Everything started out great and I drank every drop of the reassuring Hypnobabies Kool-Aid, but things started to fall apart when I was supposed to imagine my perfect birth. If you can imagine your perfect birth, your mind and body can make it happen for you.

I have spent the last four years eliminating perfect from my vocabulary. It’s a bully word. Perfect sets up high expectations that often aren’t tied to reality, and it’s not flexible. It doesn’t move and change: It just beats you up for being less than.

At the same time, I was becoming increasingly unwieldy, with eczema, heartburn, nosebleeds, and discomfort sleeping. Exhaustion was setting in and I was unable to manage the daily logistics of our life. Holding on to the crumbling façade of my Hypnobabies adventure amidst mounting physical challenges had me thinking: How in the world am I going to manage childbirth?

Then the insomnia started for real. Lack of sleep is always good fuel for anxiety.

Luckily, I kept bringing up my fears and symptoms to my midwife.

Note: If you have anxiety or worries during pregnancy that seem to take over, keep talking to your provider about them. Don’t let your provider make you feel like pregnancy is simply an emotional time. Even though your worries may be on the spectrum of normal, your concerns shouldn’t be minimized: There are so many tools out there to help you manage what you’re going through, and you should be pointed toward them instead of having them brushed aside.

I’m lucky because after the second visit of me bringing up my anxieties over the birth, things clicked with my midwife. “We have a behavioral therapist on staff. Would you like to see her?” Yes!

I have a great therapist I see on a pretty regular basis, but the behavioral therapist connected with my clinic was conveniently located and specifically oriented to tackle issues around birth. She helped my husband and I think about pacing, outside resources, and creating an action plan leading up to the birth (by the way, if you can go to a session with your partner, do it!).

My anxiety subsided by 38 weeks. I’m still dealing with insomnia and lingering worries, but life feels calm and manageable. When I wake at night I’m able to relax instead of spinning the stress wheels in my mind. Now I’m 39 weeks pregnant and in a much better mindspace—enjoying a bit of vacation from the real world as I wait for baby to arrive.

I think there are a number of factors that really helped me:

  • An action-oriented behavioral therapist who gave me tools to use specifically leading up to the birth, including a daily pacing guide and a format for my husband and I to check in with each other at the end of the day.
  • Meal delivery from friends. Normally this starts after baby, but my friend Sara put together a MealBaby registry and I requested to have it start before the birth rather than after, since I was so overwhelmed. (Thank you Sara, Hannah, and Libby for pre-birth meals!)
  • Extra babysitting hours for the boys. (Thank you, Carmen Rose!)
  • Readjusting my expectations around 1) what I can accomplish while pregnant with two young kids, and 2) what the third birth needs to be like (anything goes as long as we’re healthy).
  • Lowering my level of activity so that I wasn’t feeling defeated by all the things left undone.
  • The knowledge that outside resources such as Baby Blues Connection can help deal with prenatal anxiety, even though they’re typically thought of for postpartum depression.

I wanted to make sure to write this post, before the Fairy Pig arrives and I’m in a fog for months, for those of you who have experienced prenatal anxiety, are dealing with it now, or who may know someone who is having a tough time. You’re not alone.

Happy Birthday K-Pants, You Wild, Wonderful Thing

This guy is six.

K-Pants Six, Voodoo Doughnuts. MomsicleBlog

He’s intense. I’m exhausted by and incredibly grateful for his wild and creative personality… and his pink shoes.

For his birthday, K-Pants was adamant about the cake: It needed to be chocolate cake, with white and dark chocolate chips and Voodoo donuts baked in, white frosting on top, with a rainbow, and Star Wars figures.

Sure. I’m along for the ride.

So we got in line with the tourists behind the pink prison bars…

K-Pants Six, Voodoo Doughnuts. MomsicleBlog

And we carefully selected the sugar bombs we needed for the cake.

K-Pants Six, Voodoo Doughnuts. MomsicleBlog

And K-Pants was ready to get to work when we got home.

K-Pants Six Voodoo Doughnuts Cake. MomsicleBlog

This guy, man.

I never would have concocted a plan like this, and that’s a huge part of his gift to us. Six years ago he unlocked the box to my writing muses; he painted our rainbow in much brighter colors; and he took our lives like taffy and stretched them out.

Happy birthday, Mr. Pants.

The Third Pregnancy: Almost Done, Almost Done

You reach a point in pregnancy when you start to lose your mind and are willing to sacrifice things to the gods in order to get the damn show on the road. At least I do. It’s supposed to be that every day is joyous and filled with magic and the amazing prenatal bond of mother and baby that can never be broken.

But what really happens is that I eye the squirrels thinking, “Deities, if I sacrificed this tree rodent family for you, would you let me go into labor tonight? I’ll add in the robin on my back porch. Do we have a deal?”

There was a point in my pregnancy with Baby Woww that I was just DONE. And my friend Jamie’s preschooler grabbed my phone and took a great picture that captured it all. I love that post.

This time, our friends’ six-year-old took a wonderful shot for me. It’s more poetic, probably because he was truly tender behind the lens, wanting to capture the baby. Although I have a photo that’s more accurate–with a tampon up my nostril to stop a nosebleed and my pregnancy eczema raging–I really love this one. Thanks, Noah.

Third pregnancy. MomsicleBlog.

The Awesome Part About Having a Super-Intense First Child

K-Pants, Angry Reindeer. MomsicleBlog

If you hang out around us, I’m sure K-Pants has insulted you, refused to say goodbye to you, screamed and grimaced in a menacing Joker face at you or your kid.

I’ve dragged my five-year-old back from the park so many times while he’s yelled, “You’re a BAD MOM!” that I’ve crossed parks off my list of kid activities. If you come over, you’ll probably be tempted to “help” me parent him, coaxing him to be polite or talk to his parents or his brother in a nicer way.

It comes from a loving place. And these are issues that you’ve probably managed to work out with your child. You’re wondering why I’m not just a little bit stricter, or more consistent, or better researched with my own parenting.

I stopped to reflect on this the other day.

I would have assumed from the outside looking in that I would be developing an inferiority complex given that, for all my efforts, I haven’t turned the wildling into a compliant subject of the realm. I would guess that the incessant application of the outside judgment chisel would be hurting my mojo.

Strangely not.

Here’s what I figure: The awesome part about having a super-intense kid is that I don’t have time to notice much judgment or dwell on it. I’m too myopic about getting through the day, feeding people, and trying not to turn into a screaming banshee lady as I’m put down over and over.

Also, I have a nose like a hound dog for finding other parents whose mental energy is constantly drained by kid insults and miniscule negotiations for social acceptability, and who may have household items thrown at them with regularity.

Plenty of people have thoughts or advice for me, but I’m very good at avoiding conversations with them. I only talk about parenting with about five people who have suffered the kind of total debasement that has left them hollow and humble.

Had K-Pants succumb to my parenting strategery, I would post way more cute pictures of us pretending to drink cappuccinos at Starbucks and talk about how blessed we are. We are blessed, undeservedly so, but all the time I would spend posting these adorable, wonderful things for you to see is spent finishing up lessons including:

  • When you hide under the covers before bedtime you can’t punch me to let me know you’re there and then tell me, “I never have fun at this game.”
  • When we say prayers we don’t say “amen” in a hissing, clawing, feral cat voice.
  • This day is not “the worst day ever” because your brother won the race to the car and then you shoved him onto the concrete and got a time out—it’s just another day.

Had Boy Woww been the first child, I would have thought I was the sh*t at parenting, and you and I would have shared knowing superiority glances as we watched another parent take a beating and then drag a screaming child to the car while the kid shouted, “I HATE YOU, MOM!” We would whisper to each other, She should read 1-2-3 Magic or How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, it would save her so much energy and embarrassment!

If K-Pants would have been the second-born, he would have stolen all of my imaginary gold parenting stars that I’d plastered all over myself. And my skin would have been itchy and red, with no reward in sight.

So even though you might think, rightfully so, that K-Pants can be rude and sullen and hurt everyone’s feelings around him with reckless abandon—I have a long-term strategy to win the war. Endurance. And because endurance takes all of my energy, I’ve been generally unaware of both outside awesomeness and outside judgment for years—and I’m left thinking my kid is pretty cool.