Happy 5th Birthday to the Guy with the Most Imaginary Friends

Boy Woww Turns 5. MomsicleBlogDo you remember Berry, Cherry, Pepper and his double-decker minivan, Pizza, Tootie Pig, and the bald-headed kids? Boy Woww is the ring leader of this rag-tag group of pretend friends.

Boy Woww Turns 5. MomsicleBlog

To them, he’s The Most Interesting Man in the World. And now this pajama-wearing, curly-headed dude is turning five.

Boy Woww Turns 5. MomsicleBlog

He still says, “MAHMMMM!” sometimes when I come into the room, like I’m a rockstar.

Boy Woww Turns 5. MomsicleBlog

He’s a fun little surrealist, who says that Pepper, when it’s your birthday, leaves your birthday number out in the world for you to find.

Boy Woww Turns 5. MomsicleBlog

Happy birthday, dude. Hope you find your “5.”

Boy Woww Turns 5. MomsicleBlog

The Minutia Behind Unstructured Summer Adventure Days

My friend Gretchen asked how exactly we make this get-to-the-beach-with-young-kids thing happen on a regular basis.

Beach With The Boys. MomsicleBlog

First, the backstory: I worry that K-Pants is going to be depressed or possibly is depressed. He says things like “I’m a terrible, stupid idiot,” or “I’m a terrible boy,” or that thing happened “because I’m so bad”—like when he can’t pick out sugar-cereal at the store, or a drawing doesn’t look just right.* And I keep reading everywhere that more nature equals less depression.

*I don’t want any advice about how to make this black-and-white thinking stop, but thank you for your very well-intentioned help I didn’t ask for. You might be thinking, “You say that, but I have to say something because the No Drama Discipline book changed everything for us.” I understand. I do the same thing to others. But I just don’t have the mental energy to take it in right now.

*

What sealed the deal on our no-camps, get-into-nature plan was that my friend Sara shared an article that suggested that the rise in depression in kids is partially due to the fact that they don’t have unstructured play time—time without an adult nearby who will intervene to make things fair or solve problems.** The argument went something like this: People feel depressed when they feel like they have no control over their lives, and modern kids always have an adult in control.

I don’t pay much attention to the newest research, but it happened that this study came into my life when I was feeling like my kid was going to be prone to some severe depression and anxiety, and that I didn’t want to add more appointments and activities to our life because the logistics of three kids was adding to my own postpartum depression.

Here we go talking about postpartum depression, again, and I am totally off track….

*What?!? You let this Sara chick share unsubstantiated research with you and you won’t let me transform your life with No Drama Discipline? You are totally right. I have double-standards, and Sara has privileges. I’m a mess.

*

….I’m stalling because it feels awkward to share strategy and tips. I try not to be a know-it-all on the blog. Momsicle’s tagline could be, I don’t know anything, but I’m still here.

Or Everything I’d planned went totally off-course.

Or Please don’t share your “expertise.”

{Segue here, or Segway, if you’d prefer a two-wheeled tour.}

Apocalypse Mobile. MomsicleBlog

In order to be ready for adventure, here’s what I keep in my car no matter the season (photo above):

  1. Plastic tub filled with extra clothes and shoes for me and the kids—some warm stuff like fleece jackets hats and scarves, and some lightweight stuff. I don’t check forecasts, so this is crucial.
  2. Plastic pull-out drawer filled with emergency supplies and snacks. This is the bin that gave our car the nickname, “the apocalypse mobile.” This bin may at any time include first aid, water bottles, twine, granola bars, extra tooth brushes, sunscreen, jerky, plastic forks and spoons, plastic bags large and small, extra cash. Who knows what we’ll run into?
  3. Giant sun umbrella. This was a $50 investment after we were at the beach with some cousins-of-cousins who owned the beach with a sun umbrella. Now I keep it with us all the time for sports events, fall-festival downpours, and the occasional snow picnic (below).
  4. Two picnic blankets—one that folds and zips up with a carry handle and is water-resistant, and one fleece one that also doubles as a kid-warmer.
  5. A pack of diapers and wipes.

Snow beach party. MomsicleBlog

Here’s what I prep the car with for summer:

  1. Swimsuits and beach towels and additional extra clothes, because we go through more changes of clothes when sand and water are involved.
  2. Beach toys. The usual stuff plus some old gardening equipment, yogurt containers, and a Neti pot. Weird stuff make good beach toys.
  3. A giant box of granola bars and extra water bottles. Making sure the gremlins are fed and watered at all times is critical—and let’s be real: I melt down from hanger just as much as they do. We like Nature Valley crunchy honey oat bars and whatever the cheapest box of Larabars is. I found the best prices this year from jet.com.
  4. Parks passes that allow us to have parking privileges for the season without stopping at a kiosk or waiting in a line.
  5. Sand sports games like koosh tennis and a giant soft Frisbee. These are new additions this year, and are mostly aspirational. I’m still trying to find the ideal sand-tennis partner.
  6. One or two fold-out camp chairs.

Here’s what I throw in the car the morning of:

  1. A squishable cooler with a bunch of cut-up fruit and protein (mango, blueberries, watermelon, sausage, pizza, chicken and rice, etc.).
  2. A bunch of water bottles (more than the number of people in the car).
  3. The biggest game-changer this year, with me being on my own with the baby and the boys (last year my husband had time off for paternity leave), is hiring a summer nanny to come with us each time we go. Below is Tris with the baby at Cape Lookout State Park. She took the Fairy Pig on a walk down the beach to get her to take a nap, but first she got excited about the rocks from Goonies. Without help, I would have been trying to figure out how to take the boys to the state-park bathroom while the baby screamed and crawled under the bathroom stalls and the boys freaked out about mosquitoes and I yelled, “GET OVER IT AND GO TO THE BATHROOM, NOWWWW!” No longer.

Here's Why We're Surviving. MomsicleBlog

Then we all get in the car.

I like to leave by 9 a.m., because every minute after 9 a.m. is like telling the entropy gods that we are easy bait they should destroy us. So I yell “GET IN THE CAR” a few times.

No He Doesn't Use This Seat. MomsicleBlog

I tell the boys they can have a granola bar when they’re buckled in. Boy Woww, the three-toed sloth, gets the phone for screen time until we start driving. Suddenly he’s very fast. I have no idea why K-Pants hasn’t figured out that this is wildly unfair, and I don’t care. Hopefully it will last.

We're There. MomsicleBlog

Here’s what happens when we get there:

  1. Everyone helps carry something (we do it all in one trip—that’s a must). [I just wanted to say “that’s a must,” because it sounds so blog-expert.]
  2. I get 15 minutes of set-up time when the kids can’t ask me questions or talk to me. I like to have the umbrella set up, the cooler under it, the picnic blankets out, and the bag with towels and clothes somewhere safe from getting splashed or sandy.

Then we chill out on the sand. The kids play and build stuff. They fight less at the beach. I shove food at them. When they do fight I tell them to figure it out—and it’s much easier for them to solve problems or get distracted at the beach than at home. I’m tired of solving their problems, and the beach is the place where they do it themselves, sort of.

Beach Problems. MomsicleBlog

Here’s what happens when we leave:

  1. An hour before we go I warn the boys, in the vain hope that they won’t melt down. But they always melt down when we leave. I don’t care anymore. Not caring has been a nice game-changer.
  2. I pack up our stuff while our nanny takes care of the baby and helps me if the baby isn’t too fussy. The boys don’t really have jobs at the end of the day. People look over and think, “Kids these days are so spoiled. Look at that mom! She’s picking up everything!” Once again, I don’t care. What do I have to prove? K-Pants and Boy Woww have been out in the sun all day without a rest or nap break and if you poke them just right they’ll turn into psychotic spawn of Satan. I would rather clean up and work on their entitlement issues another day.

Here’s what happens when we get home:

  1. The boys watch shows basically until bedtime. We stop to feed them leftovers. They do bedtime routine stuff. They melt down in blazing balls of fire.
  2. I unpack the cooler and refill it with clean cloth napkins, silverware, and plastic trash bags, so we’re ready.

It all sounds like a lot, I guess, but really all I need to do the day-of is pack the cooler and the water bottles. And I am so happy when we go to the water; and the boys are so happy; and the baby gets to explore instead of wandering the house looking for me like a forlorn puppy.

I will do anything to get to the beach.

And then all of the other days, when we’re not at the beach, I can look at the car and think “If we needed to have a beach party right now, we could.”

Beach Time. MomsicleBlog

 

 

This Will Not Be the Summer of Postpartum Depression*

*Every post these days has “postpartum depression” in the title. I don’t care. Some people have postpartum depression and don’t feel comfortable sharing about it. Some people think they may not survive another day. Hey you, with the brain meltdown and the life-sucking baby—it’s not okay. But you’re not alone. I have really great days and I have bad days with good moments and I have horrendous days with hard cider and 85% dark chocolate.

*

Summer with Postpartum Depression. MomsicleBlog

Summer is an interesting beast. Many things that I loved as a child I hate as an adult. Bath time. Birthday parties. Bubbles.

But summer. It has retained its exhausted, warm-skinned glow. If summer were my neighbor’s wife, I would covet it.

Summer with Postpartum Depression. MomsicleBlog

I started thinking about summer back in March, when I realized my amorphous plan of being outside for June, July, and August needed a backbone.

You know K-Pants—he’s intense like Roquefort with royal jelly. Nature is the Allen wrench that fits perfectly into the hexagonal hole of his soul.

Summer with Postpartum Depression. MomsicleBlog

People kept asking me what camps we were doing for the summer. “K-Pants doesn’t like camps, and he does really well out in nature, so we’re going on day trips.” As I filled my piggy bank with this sentence, I realized that the no-camps, out-in-nature plan was also for me. Maybe mostly for me.

Nature, adventure, exploration…these are my magic. Camp would destroy it all. Camp would tell us when to wake up and leave the house and when I should wake up the baby from her nap so we could get in the car to get the gremlins from f*cking camp.

NO CAMP.

So when K-Pants uttered the magic words, “I don’t want to go to any camps this summer,” I turned on the disco lamp and danced. All of our summer money would be allocated to nature, and hiring summer nannies to join us. God bless you, summer money.

Summer with Postpartum Depression. MomsicleBlog

I was tempted when K-Pants’s friends’ parents asked about a few camps that The Pants might have loved if he could have warmed up part-way through. But no. I want every week for me, and the beach.

Summer with Postpartum Depression. MomsicleBlog

And now when I’m home exhausted at the end of the day, I don’t feel like I’m waiting for anything. We’ve been out somewhere with sand and water. I feel like we’re here. 

Summer with Postpartum Depression. MomsicleBlog

A Postpartum Depression Love Letter in Photos to My Feisty, Old-Soul Daughter on Her First Birthday

This year has been too real to stop at “I love you to the moon and back,” so here’s a postpartum depression love letter in photos to my feisty, old-soul daughter on her first birthday.

Her birthday is a celebration that we’ve done it, we’ve made it, we’re here. Soon the toughest times won’t sting like they do now, and the beautiful photos I’ve taken over the year will remain bright and tender.

These photos, here, I’ll keep just for me.

Fairy Pig First Birthday. MomsicleBlog

Fairy Pig First Birthday. MomsicleBlog

Fairy Pig First Birthday. MomsicleBlog

Fairy Pig First Birthday. MomsicleBlog

Fairy Pig First Birthday. MomsicleBlog

Fairy Pig First Birthday. MomsicleBlog

Fairy Pig First Birthday. MomsicleBlog

Seven, OR I’m Tired of Trying to Positively Discipline My Way Out of Every Situation

K-Pants Turns 7. MomsicleBlog

K-Pants turned seven last week. He still loves pink, but he doesn’t wear his pink shoes to school. I was chatting with him before his birthday, and he told me that you don’t get teased before you start school or in college, “but the middle years are the teasing years.”

He’s smart and intuitive and thinks deeply about a lot of challenging things.

K-Pants is 7. MomsicleBlog

Parenting him is getting harder. I expect to say that every year on his birthday.

We fight every day. “You’re the meanest,” he says. And I counter, “It’s not my job to be nice. It’s my job to teach you to be independent and kind.”

The irony of teaching him to be kind while being the meanest person he knows does not escape me. But in his world, he would eat unlimited Twix bars and never sleep. And he would make sure everything about his life was better than his brother’s. So tough sh*t, dude.

It’s liberating to live into the title of Meanest Mom. I’m tired of trying to positive discipline and collaboratively problem-solve my way out of every situation. I have the love and the logic. But I can’t stay calm in the face of his rages and my exhaustion.

Last week we escaped to the Columbia River Gorge–the kids and me and my grandma (but remember, you don’t know she exists or gets in our car). At the beginning of our trip, we headed to Lyle, Washington. It has a rugged and stunning outcropping of rocks just above the Columbia River. I knew this spot would etch a hard line into K-Pants’s soul. When he’s in nature he sings and dances.

Lyle, Washington. MomsicleBlog

He had to use the bathroom when we got there, and there was no port-o-potty, which would have been a stretch for him anyhow because he likes to sit in a nice bathroom and take his time. So I taught him how to go outside.

He hated it. Then he was hot, and he didn’t want to pull his pants up. Or drink water. Or go to the river. When the rest of us started down the path, he dug in his heels.

We were there for him, and he preferred to stand next to the scorching hot car with his pants down. His brain was shutting down and he couldn’t access any executive functions. I should have kneeled down to his level and empathized.

But I was done.

It takes a lot of planning to take a seven-year-old, a four-year-old, and a baby on a magical outdoor adventure. After hours getting there, I didn’t have it in me to keep it together and empathize with him.

“Too bad: We’re going,” I said. “You can’t LEAVE ME!” he said. “YES, I CAN.”

I couldn’t see him down by the river, and I didn’t really look back. It was enough to deal with a whining four-year-old and a fussy baby, and to try to allow my eyes to take in the beauty around us rather than letting my anger at K-Pants ruin everything. But then he popped up on a hill nearby.

K-Pants at Lyle. MomsicleBlog

I left Boy Woww with my grandma (remember, she wasn’t there, but also God bless her), and I set off, with the baby in the carrier, to trail K-Pants. He would bob down into a small ravine, and then pop up again. I had to be careful not to be caught following, or he would add space. He knew that if I got too close he would lose his freedom–I would lunge him like a spirited horse, making him buck and run until he had nothing left and I could put a saddle on and guide him where I wanted him to go.

Finally, after he sat down looking out toward the river, he let me get within scratching distance.

K-Pants Meditating at Lyle. MomsicleBlog

“Do you know what I’m doing, Mama?” he said. “I’m meditating.”

***

On our way back home to Portland, we stopped at my sister’s tiny cabin near Mt. Hood. Our collective chaos can inflate one of those winter bubbles they put over tennis courts or pools, so shoving us into a tiny cabin with a steep staircase up to a miniscule loft with no railing—it felt like we were precariously everywhere and about to crash it all down.

My sister’s boyfriend is one of three boys.

“Did your mom survive raising you?” I asked him as I shoved people back into the car at the end of our visit. “And do you speak to her?”

“We have a great relationship–and she used to say to us, You’re sucking the life out of me!

***

So K-Pants is seven. As we head toward the summer and the shock of new routines, I’m feeling free. I’m going to lure my wild horse down to the river with all my meanest mom tricks. When he gets older, we’ll see if he’s independent and kind, but my goal right now is just that I survive it all.

Dubious Wildlife Outfitters Summer 2016 Lookbook

DubiousWildlifeOutfitters. MomsicleBlog

My friend Clare started a kick-ass tomboy fashion company in 2013. So why couldn’t I? Armed with no research, an iPhone, a dog, a baby, and a carefully curated collection of found and thrift-store items, my sister Chloë and I decided it was time.

In Cascadia, the summer is about to beckon with rainy, high-60s days. Are you ready? We are.

DUBIOUS WILDLIFE OUTFITTERS. Imagine yourself on the edge of a frigid mountain lake with someone’s finger in your face. 

Dubious Wildlife Outfitters. MomsicleBlog

Your loyal, mute Pacific Northwest hiking pitbull is all muscle and no warmth. She’ll love you for our toddler hoodie from Janie & Jack. Optional bedazzling upgrade.

Dubious Wildlife Outfitters. MomsicleBlog

Your soul wants to warm itself on the sun-drenched boulder of summer. But you live here, so you need to stay warm while you wait for your big trip to Tampa-Hawai’i-San Diego. In the meantime, cozy-up in summer’s favorite Scottie dog hiking footie fleece.

Dubious Wildlife Outfitters. MomsicleBlog

Sliding down a muddy hill to an off-trail stream is no big thang with our dollar store Muppet glove that hugs trees like a sloth. Comes in “northern moss” and “lichen.”

Dubious Wildlife Outfitters. MomsicleBlog

You can’t say “summer” and “scarf” in the same sentence. That’s why we dug in deep to the backseat to find this baby-blanket neck wrap with classic satin trim. It doubles as a picnic square and summer snot rag.

Dubious Wildlife Outfitters. MomsicleBlog

Don’t leave your ungloved hand naked. Give it our hiking pole and squirrel snare. Finish off your look with our late 90s summer snowflake hiking cap from Eddie Bauer, sure to warm your brain and drastically improve your outdoor intelligence.

Dubious Wildlife Outfitters. MomsicleBlog

Unconvinced? Now you’re not…

Dubious Wildlife Outfitters. MomsicleBlog

Prices available upon request out of the trunk of my SUV apocalypse-mobile.