Pride

A beautiful Pride Month is waning. I didn’t think I’d get to do much this year, but two small things are sticking with me.

Nancy Podcast

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Have you heard it? “From WNYC Studios, this is Nancy…” I freakin’ love this podcast. It’s new. You should binge. The Orlando episode for Pride Month, “Everything Changed,” is particularly poignant and Tobin and Kathy talk with an Evangelical preacher in Orlando. Find it here.

Trans/Portraits

Trans/Portraits

I realized a couple of years ago that if one of my kids were gay, nothing in my world would really change. They would simply be gay. But if one of them were trans, I would have a tough time. I got really fixated on “What if my child changed names and I needed to call them a new name, different from the beloved one we gave them?” and “What if we looked back on childhood photos and they all felt tainted by things we did lovingly, but were all wrong-gendered, or wrongly interpreted, or just plain wrong?” I felt sad. And overhwhelmed.

Honestly, I don’t know many trans people as friends, and not hearing authentic stories and experiences pushes things into a place of ideology and speculation rather than authenticity and understanding. The roadmap I invented in my head was riddled with barbed wire.

So the library kindly intervened and I came upon Trans/Portraits by Jackson Wright Shultz as I was headed to the kids’ section with the boys. I love it. Snapshots of all kinds of gender nonconforming lives–different ages, races, genders, sexualities. I love hearing stories. And these stories are worth hearing.

Find it at your library or buy it at my local, independent bookseller, here. 🙂

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The Pants Is 8

This guy turned 8 this month with characteristic passion and intensity.

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The waters are rough.

K-Pants 2017

But worth sailing.

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On his birthday he said to me,

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“For two years it was only me.”

Me and K-Pants Hiking 2017. MomsicleBlog

“Do you wish you were an only child?” I asked.

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“Of course no,” he said.

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And that made me happy. Summer awaits.

 

And We All Fall Down

 

I checked in with K-Pants recently, about the love thing. You might remember that last year he was feeling like there wasn’t enough love for him.

We’ve had a lot of discussions about what kinds of things feel like love, and how I can make sure to show him love in a way that soaks in. I like to be intentional and specific with K-Pants, because what seems like a few hungry hours without food to me, is scurvy to him.

With K-Pants I think, Maybe if I fill an underground well full of love, then when storms rip branches from the trees above, we’ll still have that cool, protected reservoir for our relationship to drink from.

So…

I volunteer in his classroom. I walk him to school. Sometimes I meet him for lunch. I take him on adventures—to ride horses and climb K-Pants-sized mountains—because that’s where I shine, and that’s where he shines.

And a few weeks ago I checked in with him. I said, “K-Pants. Remember the love problem? Where you weren’t feeling enough love. How is that now?” “Good,” he said. “What about me getting mad?” I asked. “You don’t get mad anymore,” he said.

That’s not true.

I get mad on a regular basis. Some days I yell. But thinking about it, I yell less frequently and less like a wild banshee.

But then right after this, I ruined it. I’m not sure exactly what made me crack. I think it was weeks of afternoon exhaustion. Parenting K-Pants after school is a tension-filled dance.

  • Me: How was school? Did you do any Pokémon trades on the bus?
  • K-Pants: (aggravated) Why are you asking me that?
  • Boy Woww: Did you get a new Aloha Pokémon?
  • K-Pants: I’m not telling you, and you can’t see it.
  • Me: I think you’re hungry. There are a bunch of snacks in the bag back there.
  • K-Pants: I’m not hungry. And I don’t like these snacks.
  • Boy Woww: I made an artwork at school.
  • K-Pants: That’s so weird. It’s so totally weird.
  • Me: Let’s ignore K-Pants. He’s grumpy.
  • Boy Woww: [crying]

Even if you’re patient, watching one member of the family try to destroy the rest by sucking out the joy and the kindness leaves you ragged and overwhelmed. And you start to think maybe this kid is malicious.

I know he doesn’t want to be, but his habits are powerful, and his habits are destroying us. Really our habits—our collective interactions—are destroying us.

Later that night I screamed at him. And he said, “I HATE YOU!” And I said, “I DON’T CARE IF YOU HATE ME. I CARE IF YOU ARE RESPECTFUL AND KIND.” And he went downstairs. And then he yelled up, “I’M HUNGRY!” And I yelled, “THEN MAKE SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF!” And then I made him help me unpack the groceries (because after school I had taken Boy Woww to speech therapy, then K-Pants to baseball, then did the grocery shopping during practice, then arrived back to cheer him on during the scrimmage, then had K-Pants ask me for a fancy baseball backpack like the other kids have [answer: no]).

Then we went home, where I yelled at him like a crazy banshee. It had been building up for weeks, cracking the seams of the pressure cooker.

Then Boy Woww, the middle child, came upstairs and said, “Mom, what can I do to help?” It made me feel even worse, because he’s living into his role as the quiet peacemaker. And K-Pants is living into his role as the difficult one. And together we’re in this entangled Groundhog’s Day mess.

All this to say that this is how, on a beautiful Mother’s Day afternoon, when blue sky seemed to be momentarily winning the battle with the rain clouds, I found myself sitting in the car outside our parent coach’s house as K-Pants met with her. He loves her. We’ve just started this process.

Soon she’s going to be coming to our house to observe. Before that my husband and I will talk with her via Skype a few times, and do the homework she assigns, and try out new strategies (or try to be consistent with strategies we’ve tried in the past).

I really like the fact that we’re working on this problem as a whole family, because it’s not just a K-Pants problem. Our whole family seizes and constricts in predictable and not always productive ways when K-Pants melts down.

We’re all exhausted from it, and we’re looking for a change. Wish us luck.

15 Minutes of Hedonism with the Little Surrealist

You know Stefon, from SNL, Bill Hader’s anemic and weirdly lovable club rat? He would come on to the set of Weekend Update to make suggestions for tourists visiting New York… “New York’s hottest club is Scampi, illegally parked behind the Statue of Liberty.”

This is what I had in mind when I was jotting down the rules for a series of new tag games Boy Woww has invented for outside time at preschool. I got to participate in “Butterfly Tag” when I visited for lunch one day.

And then that evening as we hid out from the rain in our car while K-Pants was at baseball practice, Boy Woww told me the rules for the rest. At the time we were just finishing playing hide-and-seek, which, in a four-door sedan was pretty amusing. “You’re too big to move around in here, so I’ll hide,” he said. He tried to hide under my legs on the driver’s side. “Stop laughing,” he said as he crawled all over me to decide whether the spot would work. He decided against it.

Boy Woww sedan hide-and-seek age 5

Sedan hide-and-seek, to be followed by the dictation of preschool tag

So here are the rules for preschool’s hottest new tag games:

Candy Tag

The tagger is the butterfly. If you get tagged, then you turn into a candy, and then if somebody touches you, you get freed.

Cookie Tag

If somebody tags you, you turn into a cookie. You fall down. The mouse eats you. Then you become the mouse.

Butterfly Tag

Everyone is a caterpillar. The tagger is a bird. If the tagger touches you, you get caught. If you’re touched one time, you turn into a cocoon. After 11 seconds, you turn into a butterfly.

There Is No Other Choice but to Dive into the Fire

It’s been a long time. I have so many posts to write. They roll around in my head like balls on the pool table, rarely meeting a pocket, careening around in a chaotic dance. My best friend (who is a writer) and I joke that writer’s block is not a problem we have. At this phase of life, with a thousand demands on our time from work and family, there’s barely a second to spare for purely personal writing.

But I gave myself permission this year not to meet my internal expectations. It’s working, but I miss the blog. And I miss you, my tribe.

During this quiet time I’ve been writing for clients and working on articles, and I’m going to start sharing some smaller blog-like posts and photos on the Momsicle Facebook page, much like after the Fairy Pig was born.

But part of the reason I’ve been absent is because after the election I’ve been consumed by thinking about and advocating for reproductive justice. I haven’t given myself permission to be real about that on the blog, and it’s effectively silenced everything. Any of you creative souls will know that self-silencing–not letting yourself be whole and real–creates a large internal disturbance that will not be contained for long.

So here I am. There’s still so much to write about the complexities of raising children behind the veneer of social media, and I don’t want that to go away. But I think that reproductive rights and equity has to become part of Momsicle, because even while I was pregnant with the Fairy Pig, my need to advocate for women got knit into the fabric of my makeup in a way that leaves it impossible for me to let it go.

And if you would like to join the conversation, I would love to have you. I would love to hear your stories. I would love to engage with you in thoughtful discussion. I would love to avoid towing the party line, and I am not interested in you towing the party line either—for whichever side you may be on. If you’re still game, and you haven’t signed up to get posts via email, I encourage you to do so (it’s on the top right in widescreen).

Here’s to 2017… in April. Expectations… I’m still lowering them.

Why I’m Lowering Expectations for Myself in 2017

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I did put on ski goggles for a night walk this year, so maybe this post is more about “creatively reworking” my action items. Photo courtesy of BC.

You know what? I did it. That thing where you meet the new year with renewed hope and a few semi-ambitious expectations. Okay, they were ambitious—and fueled by reading inspirational Medium posts laced with grit.

Medium is where the socially conscious, go-getters share their stuff:

The twentysomething software engineer who’s going to break through the barriers of low self-esteem, build her following to more than the thousands it already is, and master advanced pole-dancing moves.

The best-selling Amazon writer who decluttered his life, minimized social media, and quadrupled his writing output. He said it helped to move to Colombia, where persistent advertising wasn’t such a distraction.

Then there’s the dad of four who’s getting his Ph.D. in organizational psychology and promising to be more open about his writing process—sharing the tips for how one of his more recent posts got 150,000 views.

It’s all very “Hey friend with lots of potential, let me help you along your road to awesomeness.” It feels attainable.

I have my own friends who are getting after it, digging down deep into the creative waters and weaving a web of connections, inspiration, and collaboration that are amazing.

I’m jealous.

But I’m also exhausted.

It’s hard to see whether my imposter syndrome is holding me back, or the full-contact fatigue that hits at 7 p.m.

I thought I could start the race with the rest of you. I was there in my race attire at the starting line, and I kept up the pace for the first 50 meters. But I went anaerobic real fast and now my body is wasted.

So I’m rearranging the priorities and lowering the expectations.

First, I’m taking off the “nothing will stop me” glasses and looking realistically at the picture in front of me. I have three young kids. My oldest is intense and this Friday when I’d like to finish some freelance work and write an article pitch, my husband and I will be seeing a parenting coach to get new strategies.

I’m looking at the tattered patchwork of school days we’ve had over the past two months, and wondering if routine is simply a memory. But I can shovel twelve inches of snow off the driveway and throw chains on the car by myself in a jiffy and then drive to the pediatrician.

After weeks of haphazard childcare due to slow and slush and pressing freelance deadlines, I’m spent, but I can cook three family-sized meals at once, in case we can’t leave the house for days.

I did sign up for a political organizing class that seems really interesting, and I’ve done the reading and most of the homework, but I missed the first class, and I’m about to miss the second because K-Pants has the flu (the real-deal one where the pediatrician comes back into the room wearing a mask). I had babysitting set up for my class since my husband will be out of town, but what babysitter is going to come to a flu-infected house? Maybe it’s a gift. I’ll wait on the class.

My creative brain aches to write and keep working, sharing and collaborating and putting my pitches out there to be rejected and reworked until they are polished and accepted.

But I’d also really like to focus on sleep. I want to get in bed early after a hot bath. I want to lower my cortisol levels. I want to have restful dreams that give me enough energy to take Boy Woww to the naturopath about those persistent fungal infections. Plus I’m going to have to lug the whole crew to his 12-week “burst” of speech pathology appointments.

It’s not like I’ve got him in reading tutoring and Suzuki violin and mini-soccer. I want my kid to have fungus-free skin and say his Rs properly.

That’s it. I don’t even have a well-worked conclusion. I’ve gotta go wake up my kids to give them inordinately expensive Tamiflu, siphon-off some for myself, and then take the bath I wished I’d drawn an hour ago.