The Pink Shoes Stand Alone, At Home

Earlier this year I wrote about how I struggled to let K-Pants—then five—pick pink, bedazzled light-up shoes.

Pink Shoes. MomsicleBlog

I was worried about the world making fun of him for wearing girl shoes, but we decided that was not a good reason to say no. And those pink shoes have been worn everywhere.

K-Pants Six, Voodoo Doughnuts. MomsicleBlog

Pink Shoes on the Road. MomsicleBlog

The pink shoes post inspired my good friend Kelly to let her preschool son pick out a My Little Ponies sweatshirt he craved. This picture is of him and his sister blissed out with their new shirts.

MyLittlePonies. MomsicleBlog. Photo Credit: Kelly

I was so proud to see this—to know that we can walk these paths together.

But this past weekend I found myself back in the shoe aisle with K-Pants, looking for a pair of bright sparkly shoes that weren’t girl shoes. It only took one day at his new, big elementary school for K-Pants to be made fun of. I was heartbroken.

I watched him get on the bus for school wearing the most awesome rock-star shoes, and I picked him up embarrassed, having been pointed at by other kids, telling me he didn’t want to wear the pink shoes again. He wanted “bright, light-up shoes that they would think were boy shoes.” But he still wanted them to be pink. I was crushed. These shoes don’t exist.

I wanted to report back to Kelly that K-Pants was paving the way. That making the decision to wear the thing that’s not normal emboldened and armored him, and that her son, too, would be fine. I wanted K-Pants to say to those kids, “I’m a boy and I can wear pink shoes because I love pink things. And shiny things. And if mostly girls like pink things that’s fine, but I can like them, too. And I love football and baseball and Iron Man, and girls can like those things, too.” And then I wanted him to keep wearing his pink shoes, and to have tons of friends, and be the champion of all the other kids who don’t fit the mold.

I didn’t want him to give in.

I didn’t want to buy new shoes just so he could fit with everyone who teased him. They won, I thought. They’re shaming him and he’s changing who he is.

We talked to the teacher and kids at Boy Woww’s Montessori school, where they feel like kids can wear anything they want and there are no “girl” and “boy” colors. They have the power to enforce this in their magical, forested bubble.

We talked to our neighbor who taught K-Pants martial arts two summers ago. “Do you like your shoes?” he asked. “Yes,” K-Pants said. “That’s what matters. Now you have to decide if what other people say is important to you.”

We saw the elementary school principal the next day and told her what happened. “You should be able to wear whatever color of sparkly shoes you want!” she said; and she promised to talk to K-Pants’ teacher and the school counselor, who likes to talk to classes about inclusiveness.

We looked at pictures of boys wearing pink shoes that our friend Mana found. I’ve never been so grateful to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for getting athletes to wear pink.

Every day I casually bring up something related to the pink shoes. But they still sit at home.

And so I am reminded: nothing is simple. Allowing your son to choose bedazzled pink shoes does not magically arm him to deal with criticism and feeling singled out. Even the nicest kid might ask, “Are you wearing girl shoes?” They’re not trying to bully. K-Pants would say the same thing about something else to another kid. I thought the hard part was making the initial decision to let him get the pink shoes. But I wasn’t thinking about the bigger context: How do I raise this kid to be resilient and tenacious? How do I teach him to notice and be kind to others in similar situations? It’s an advanced emotional intelligence course, and the kid is six.

I don’t think he’ll ever wear the pink shoes to school again.

My friend Ali had this wonderful message for K-Pants when I asked about the pink shoe problem on the Momsicle Facebook page:

I’m sorry those boys laughed at you on the bus. The bus is hard. Maybe you will want to wear your awesome shoes to church or to the playground with your family. It’s okay to choose different things for certain situations. I’m traveling for work right now and wearing some shoes that I only wear for work things when I have to show a certain side of me. But at other times I choose to let it all out.

And my friend Anne gave me this advice:

He may be strong enough to just shrug and say “Whatever” if he gets teased, or he may decide to have different shoes for different moods. For sure his shoes are a twinkly sparkly announcement that he is his on his way to being his own man. This will not be the last time he will have to decide whether to run with the pack versus howl at the moon.

So the pink shoes may not be the fight he chooses to live and die by.

But he has still worn them to church. And he got off the bus a few days ago and said to me, “I saw a boy with a My Little Ponies backpack in another class.” “Did you tell him it was cool?” I asked. “No. He was older. But it was cool. It was shiny.” K-Pants is evolving, and beginning to put situations like this into a file in his mind. He may not have been paying attention if it weren’t for the pink shoes. If it weren’t for the pink shoes, he may have thought, “Why’s that kid wearing a girl backpack?” So even though the pink shoes are shelved for school, they still have some magic in them.

Useful Summaries of Popular Parenting Books

Yesterday I was at Powell’s Books, the independent bookstore and my first true love, browsing the staff picks section. I go in sometimes to scan the back covers of books and pretend I’ve read them. Amidst the curated menagerie was NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children.


I picked it up, though this is where I normally keep my parenting books:

fire. MomsicleBlog

(It’s warm and cozy.)

I stupidly read the back cover of NurtureShock and the familiar nauseous anxiety took over: I’ve been doing it all wrong and it will take a lot of my sleep-deprived time to read this book and figure out what all the good parents are up to.

Are you exhausted, too? Would you rather watch American Ninja Warrior than pick up Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids after working and parenting your kids all day?

Perhaps you are sleep-deprived because you have a baby–your first–and you’ve got a lot of books on your wish list to read, but not enough caffeine in your system to read them at the pace that your type-A personality would like.

Well I’m here for you.

Before I sent NurtureShock‘s friends to the ashy inferno, I compiled these convenient summaries so that you can feel like you’ve gleaned the core messages from some of today’s most revolutionary titles.

Useful Summaries of Popular Parenting Books

What to Expect the First Year   Everything will go terribly wrong.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother   Stupid people are nice to their entitled children.

The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind   Your child’s mind is a puzzle, and good parents have all the pieces.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children   It’s too bad you parents spend all your time doing everything wrong.


You told your kid ‘Good Job’?! YOU. MONSTER.*

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk   Kids are just as sh*tty now as they were when we first wrote this book in 1982.

Bringing up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting   She has coffee and breast milk with well-mannered future diplomats at midnight.

The Attachment Parenting Book   The children are you.

On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep   Everyone else has more balls than you and they’re getting more sleep.

The No-Cry Sleep Solution   We have a miracle anti-balding tonic, too, if you’re interested.

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood   Your married, childless friends heard a story on NPR about this. They’ll know what its deal is.

1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12   If you can’t be consistent, it’s your fault.

Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason   You and your adult desires. Eye roll.

If you’ve read some books I haven’t gotten to, please share.

*Submitted by my friend Brita, who actually read the whole thing. Thank you, Brita.

“She Smiled Because She Likes Us Fighting” #brolife (Wordless Wednesday)

Bro Life. MomsicleBlog

Bro Life. MomsicleBlog

Bro Life. MomsicleBlog

Bro Life. MomsicleBlog

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.


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.