The Pangs

“Mommy?”

“Yeah, Bud, what’s up?”

“Um…I think I know the answer, and if it’s no I understand, but…do you think you might be able to come to my Halloween parade tomorrow?…..Maybe?”

“Bud, I’m really sorry but I can’t. I don’t have much sick time left at work so I can’t leave early. But we’ll be on vacation next week and we’ll spend a ton of time together!”

“Oh….yeah, ok. I understand. It’s just…you took a day off to go to Gracie’s field trip to the pumpkin picking place, so I hoped maybe you could do something with me too.”

Pang.

“Vince….I’m so sorry. But I did go to your walk-a-thon last year! And I collected all that money for your walk this year, and I’m selling those spice packets for your fundraiser…I’m doing everything I can, Bud.”

“I know, Mommy. And I love you so much, you’re the best Mommy. And I understand…I just wish you could be there.”

Pang.

“Well…we’re going to get your haircut tonight, maybe we can do something fun after that!”

Because grabbing a donut on the way home from a haircut is exactly the same as being there for his Halloween parade.

Lately I’ve been living in a constant state of pang.

Does anyone else go through this? I can’t be alone here.

But I was alone in the dining room while Vince was burning a hole through me with his sad blue eyes this morning. I had no one to swoop in and tell me what a great mom I am, that I’m doing the best I can, that it isn’t a tragedy to miss a 20-minute Halloween parade.

Nope, it was just me, staring into those huge pools of 6 year-old sorrow, feeling the pang.

You know the pang- I’m sure you’ve had it. That quick, aching feeling that tugs at your chest whenever your kids unwittingly break a tiny piece of your heart- that’s the pang.

I’ve been plagued by them lately.

Saturday, while I was lying in bed trying to recover from a particularly persistent bout of my adrenal disorder, and Vince, who hadn’t left my side for 3 hours, said, “I really hope you feel better soon, Mommy. I don’t like seeing you like this. Weekends are for family time and family adventures.”

Pang.

Last week, when I walked through the door after a workday so long that Pat had to pick both kids up from school, and Grace came flying into my arms squealing, “I missed you! You said you’d pick me up and we’d go for the special cupcakes because I didn’t have any potty accidents last night, but you never came to get me. I was so sad, Mommy.”

Pang.

When Vince learned about martial arts summer camp and was so excited that he could barely get the words out…and I had to gently explain that we won’t be able to afford it this year, and watch his eyes turn down as he said, “Oh, it’s too much dollars? Ok, I understand. I’ll go to the other camp that we have enough dollars for.”

Pang Pang Pang Pang PANG.

This morning, as the pangs were raging, I wanted to tell him that I’m doing so much that most days I feel like I’m going to collapse. That I lovingly set out outfits next to their favorite seats on the couch each night before I go to bed. That I leave their protein bars and applesauce pouches on the table in case they wake up before me. That I make sure to always put Grace’s milk in her favorite Minnie Mouse cup, and warm Vince’s while he’s getting dressed because, “Cold milk makes me feel so freezy in the mornings!”

I wanted to tell him that I gladly took out a pension loan to pay for a martial arts after-care program this year so he could work on his confidence and anxiety issues. That I worked late every night for a week just to make up some of the time I had to take to chaperone Grace’s field trip. That I’ve given up most of my time with my husband to sit in each of their beds, sing songs, hear about their days, check their closets for the Sanderson Sisters (Hocus Pocus was not a smart movie pick last weekend), and read their favorite books for almost an hour each night.

But I’m not great at focusing on the positive. I’m much more skilled at beating the hell out of myself (as my bonus-mom, Marion, often points out, right before she exclaims in frustration, “You’ve gotta stop doing that to yourself!”- but hey, what can I say? Self-doubt is one of a mom’s greatest talents).

So all I said was, “I really am doing the best I can, Vince. I’m sorry I can’t be there more.”

I really was sorry. Sorry that I took a largely dead-end job so I could be there for the kids, but all I do is work and sit in traffic, and I missed Field Day last year, and I can’t go to the Halloween parade, and we can’t afford martial arts summer camp, and I’m not doing enough, and what if they start to feel neglected and all they remember of their childhoods were all the things I didn’t do?

And then something happened (because you knew this had to turn eventually)

Both dogs were walked, fed and snuggled in their beds with their treats. Bags were packed; teeth were brushed; shoes were on (not on the right feet, but I’ve learned to pick my battles); lights were off; stove was checked 3 times because I’m slightly neurotic; and we were shuffling out the door in our usual morning parade of lunch boxes and coats and “Guys, please walk a little faster, we’re really late!”….when the kids spotted frost on the ground.

“GRACIE! Look! Frost! Jack Frost came last night! MOM, he IS real!!”

I watched my kids drop their bags, run down the stairs and begin crunching their shoes on the frozen front lawn, dancing around together and squealing, “Jack Frost was here! Jack Frost was here!”

I watched them run to my truck and examine the swirls of ice on the doors and windows, wearing looks of wonder so great it was as though Santa Claus himself was standing in front of them.

I remembered our movie night a few weeks ago- it was about how Jack Frost came to be. I remembered baking Halloween-themed desserts for them, and snuggling under throw blankets while we watched Jack discover his origins and save the world from the Boogie Man. I remembered Vince holding Grace tightly during the “scary” parts.

And I guess they remembered too.

And I felt the pang in my heart…but it was the best kind of pang.

You can’t be everywhere, or give them everything. None of us can (nor should we, for that matter).

So when they look at you with that deflated expression when you have to say no, don’t let it undo you.

Don’t let the pangs get you down.

Because inevitably, just one of the things you DID do will stick with them, and fill them up, and keep them going. Even though it doesn’t seem like it, they see what you’re doing. They feel how much you’re loving them. Somewhere under the sad eyes and the “all my friends have this/went there/did this…” is a very real, very deep gratitude for you that they quietly carry with them.

And just when you feel like you can’t give another little piece of yourself, they’ll hand you some of that gratitude.

And it will fill you up. And hopefully, give you the best kind of pang.

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A Nice, Full Night’s Sleep

This week, Moldy Monday was followed by Soggy Tuesday.

*Warning to Parents: The following passage may elicit strange feelings of déjà vu (mostly because this is likely every godddamn night in your house too).

9:30pm

“I’m going to bed early so I can get a nice, full night’s sleep!”

10:30pm

Jolted awake by a panic attack

11:30pm

Jolted awake by a dog having a panic attack (or choking on the piece of toilet paper roll she tried to eat at 7:30pm- the jury’s out).

12:30am

Jolted awake by footsteps. Footsteps inch closer and closer.  Eyes are squeezed  as tightly as possible to prevent the owner of said footsteps from knowing I’m awake.

12:31am

Footsteps cease. Sniffles commence. Sniffles graduate to quiet sobs. Eyes reluctantly open to find a forlorn, wild-haired, very soggy 3 year-old standing next to my side of the bed. Soggy child points to her pants repeatedly.

“Did you have an accident?”  Pointing continues.

“So you had an accident?” Pointing becomes increasingly more frantic.

“DID YOU PEE YOUR PANTS?”

“Yes! Why are you yelling at me?!”

12:45am

Pee-soaked child is washed; bed is stripped; new, dry pajamas are on; child formerly known as soggy is gleefully bouncing up the stairs to my bedroom.  Dry, gleeful child climbs directly into the warm burrow of blankets and sheets that I’ve carefully constructed over the past few hours.

Whatever. At least I can finally get some sleep.

1:30am

“Mommy, is it time to get up?”

“No.”

2:00am

“Mommy, can we watch tv?”

“No.”

2:30am

Child commences restless shuffling, sighing, and kicking. I am now perched precariously at the edge of the bed. My head is inches from the corner of the nightstand. This could end poorly.

Whatever. If I get knocked unconscious at least I can finally get some sleep.

3:30am

Husband exits the bed. Child follows.

“Grace, it’s not time to get up. I’m taking a shower and going to work.”

Child collapses into a sorrowful heap on the floor.

“Grace, stop, get back in bed with Mommy. This is ridiculous.”

Child gets up, walks towards bed, and swiftly throws herself back to the floor.

“Grace, get back in the bed! It’s 3:30 in the morning!”

Child commences hysterical, body-wracking sobs and throws herself into my arms.

Husband throws up his hands and exits bedroom.

Child flashes red, fiery eyes in my general direction. “Why does he DO that?! He ALWAYS DOES this to me!”

“Does what?”

“He GETS up and I WANT to go downstairs JUST to get a baba milk and THEN come RIGHT back to bed but he ALWAYS says no and tells me to get back in bed! It’s not nice! It’s not FAIR!”

“Grace, this is literally the first time that has ever happened.”

My comment has reignited the red eyes of fire. Child pushes herself off the bed, retreats to a corner, sits on the floor; begins pushing the bedroom door open and slamming it shut with her panda sock-clad toes of fury.

Again. And again. And again.

Whatever. Maybe the creak of the hinges will lull me to sleep.

4:30am

 Mommy.”

Apparently the child has now returned from her self-imposed solitary confinement.

“What?”

“I can’t sleep.”

I internally rage scream Oh How Sad For You!!!

“Why?”

“Because I can’t sleep because I need to apologize for acting like that.”

“Ok.”

“I’m sorry. I love you.”

“I love you too, Gracie Girl. Can we please get some sleep now?”

“Yes.”

Child burrows into my carefully-crafted blanket burrow AGAIN.

Whatever. I can still get 1.5 hours of sleep if I fall asleep right this second.

4:35am-5:59am

Constant shuffling, snoring, kicking and disgusting amounts of blanket stealing by now soundly-sleeping  child. I seriously consider just getting out of bed and cooking all of our dinners for the week.

6:00am

Alarm makes cheery sound. I resist the urge to hurl it across the room into the laundry basket.

“Gracie, it’s time to get up.”

Child begins crying that she needs more sleep.

I resist the urge to hurl myself across the room into the laundry basket.

End scene.

*A Warning to Young, Carefree Coworkers:  If you should come into contact with any slightly puffy-faced, droopy-eyed, or otherwise not quite right-looking parents on this fine, sunny day, this is likely why.

Do not make snarky comments. Should you choose to make a snarky comment, exit the vicinity immediately and do not ask these coworkers for anything for at least 3-4 hours. Or days. Or ever.

Do not claim to understand or commiserate with us because you “had to get up at 7am to hit the gym after staying up to Netflix binge.” We long for those days.

Our bingeing involves 1800 renditions of Baby Shark and Baby Finger and other Baby-related earworms. Our gym time is now running up and down stairs with children covered in pee, peanut butter or the occasional peppermint gum that they swiped from our purses and smeared all over themselves.

Do not approach without a small gesture of understanding.

Hand us coffee, or chocolate, or just take all the work off our desks and offer to do it for us.

Just a small gesture.

But don’t pity us- we’ll sleep tonight. Or tomorrow night. Or when the kids move out.

You know, whatever.

 

Just Another Moldy Monday

My cousin Antonio approached me at a birthday party last weekend and asked, “Why do you call your blog Scrambled Eggs?”

I started talking about chaos and comfort and the hectic but warm element of our lives…it was all very profound.

But nothing makes a point like a real-life example. So here you go, Tony. A nice big helping of Scrambled Eggs. Extra scrambled.

Let’s begin.

Mondays are often long and exhausting, especially if your team had an action-packed, up to the last second game against the Kansas City Chiefs the night before. Double especially if your daughter then decided that 1:30am was a good time crawl into your bed and discuss the mysteries of the Universe. Triple especially if, after maybe 2 solid hours of sleep, you worked overtime and drove through a rainy traffic mess while said daughter belted out “Baby Shark” all the way home.

So I just ask that you keep my lack of mental agility in mind when you imagine my reaction as I walked through the front door and found my son sitting on the couch….with something growing on his face.

“Hi Baby, how was your OHMYGOD what is on your face?!”

Vince stopped mid-hug-stance and raised an eyebrow.

I morphed into Nancy Drew mode and looked him over. His hair was damp and he didn’t smell like old gym socks, so he had definitely just showered. So whatever it was had appeared post-cleansing. There, running down his left cheekbone, was a splattering of greenish…dots.

“There’s something….on your face!”

“What?”

“It’s a bunch of green dots….have you been playing with anything?”

“No but…actually Mommy, there’s something on my leg too.”

He lifted his pants to reveal 3 more clusters of dots on his leg, foot, and toes.

Initial assessment completed, I flipped my panic switch to “On.”

“Come into the kitchen,” I screeched as calmly as I could manage.

Pat, hearing my signature “I’ve gone to the bad place” tone, rubbed his eyes and followed.

I studied him from the left.

I studied him from the right.

I studied him in varying shades of kitchen lighting.

I turned him around slowly like a confused ballerina in Ninjago pajama pants.

I sniffed his face.

I asked Pat if he had seen any of these little clusters of doom on our sweet, innocent child’s skin pre-bath; he rubbed his eyes again and shook his head.

Then there was no denying it.

He was moldy.

He had the mold.

My child was covered in clusters of green mold.

I tried to breathe evenly as I asked him again and again, “Are you sure you weren’t playing with markers or stamps?”

“No Mommy, they just showed up out of nowhere just now! Am I ok? Do I need a hospital?”

(Saying he’s my twin is an understatement.)

I turned on Pat.

“You didn’t SEE any of these when he was in the shower? Are you sure? Are you SURE?”

Eye rub, head shake. “No. They weren’t there before. But Cath, look at them. That one almost looks like a pizza, and that one looks like a happy face.”

Too late.

My Nancy Drew senses were on overdrive.

I knew this house was too good to be true.

I knew we couldn’t actually be happy.

I KNEW it would all fall apart.

There was clearly so much mold in the air in this godforsaken house that hadn’t seen an update since 1952 that just being wet after a shower caused the spores to cling to him….or….oh God…or he had candida in his system and it was coming out in his skin!

We had to get him to a doctor.

We had to call a remediation company.

We had to foreclose.

We had to move into a van down by the river.

We had to BURN THE MOLD HAVEN HOUSE TO THE GROUND.

“Mommy, am I ok?”

“Of course, yes….let’s get a damp cloth and wipe these off of you and we may need to just call the doctor,” I said, trying to appear as reassuring as a woman with the crazy sleep-deprived eyes can look.

I’m guessing it was more “Mommy Dearest” than “Mother Goose.”

Once the mold infestation was wiped from his skin, I power-walked into his bedroom (I imagine Nancy Drew was a power-walker) to get his jacket….and there, on his bed, was a balloon.

Let’s stop here to review a few seemingly unrelated but crucial facts.

  1. Vince loves balloons.
  2. I think everything is mold.
  3. Vince loves to decorate all of his favorite things with washable marker.
  4. I tend to be…..excitable.

Ok now that we’re all caught up….

I stared at the balloon.

It was green. It was lying on his bed haphazardly.

It was covered in washable marker designs a la Vincent.

There was a smiley face….and a pizza….

Oh Lord.

I picked up Suspect #1 and carried it into the living room.

“Vince, this is a great balloon! Did you just decorate it?”

“Oh, yeah, that’s my new balloon. I drew all those pictures on it with my markers, and then I pulled up my pajama pants legs and kicked it around, and then I bounced it with my face….oh! Mommy! I WAS playing with markers! And I think I know what was all over me!!!!”

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and strolled into the kitchen with the tiny inflated plaything that had almost given me a stroke.

“You were right,” I mumbled to Pat, who somehow maintained a straight face as he handed me a plate of pasta.

To be fair, he’s had time to practice his responses- there was the time Vince threw tiny pieces of black “space putty” onto his ceiling and I thought we had a mold problem….and the time Gracie had a few spiders on her ceiling and I thought it was black mold….and the time-

Ok, you get the point.

And as we stood there, intently studying a pizza design on Vince’s little green balloon, Grace called out, “Guys, I Ate All My Chicken Nuggets! I LOVE KETCHUP!”

And we laughed.

And exhaled.

And laughed some more.

“Why are you laughing so much?” asked Grace, pointing a ketchup-covered finger in our direction.

“Because,” I explained, squeezing Pat’s arm, “because Gracie, it’s always chaos in this house. But I wouldn’t trade it.”

So what do we take away from this?

  1. Get more than 2 hours of sleep whenever possible.
  2. Never decorate a balloon with washable marker.
  3. Not everything is mold.
  4. Marry someone who has endless patience with your anxiety.
  5. Children are completely unreliable in an investigation.

And so that, Tony, is why we call it Scrambled Eggs.

“Normal”

Let’s talk about “normal.”

My daughter loves pink and my son loves ninjas.

Sounds normal? Ok.

My daughter also loves wrestling and my son loves fluffy robes.

My daughter wants to be Batman for Halloween, and my son asked if he could try mascara the other day.

Still sound normal?

Hopefully you nodded, but I know far too many people who would be feverishly shaking their heads, or at least raising an eyebrow.

If I hear one more time, “She should be a little princess!” or “He’ll learn to toughen up,” my head may actually pop off my body in a Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots-esque fashion.

For the record, people who keep saying these things- my son is a gentle soul who feels his emotions with a depth I wish more adults could tap into. And my daughter is NOBODY’S princess.

Why am I ranting about something I’ve already addressed? (Please see, “Peacefully & Beautifully Fierce” for the original rant) Because based on current events (globally, nationally, and in my own house), the first rant wasn’t enough.

I had a conversation with a friend this morning about what makes society believe that certain things are “normal” for one gender or the other. What makes us decide that princesses are ok for Grace, but not for Vince? That Vince can play football but Grace shouldn’t?

I’ve read a fair amount of literature that identifies the roots of the problem as gender reveal parties and baby showers. Are we conditioning them from birth?

I honestly don’t know.

At Vince’s baby shower I was gifted shades of blue that I didn’t even know existed. I was given onesies with every sport, dinosaur and fun-looking monster imaginable plastered across the front. I received a bunch of things that said “Tough Guy” and “Fighter.” Fast-forward 6 ½ years and Vince loves The Avengers, dinosaurs, and giant trucks with giant wheels. He also loves mud masks, his new glow-in-the-dark Halloween manicure, and bubble baths because, as he explains, “It’s like relaxing in a cup of warm cocoa.”

We bit into a few cupcakes when I was 12 weeks pregnant and pink frosting came out. Fast-forward 3 ½ years and Grace loves pink, princesses and pedicures…and superheroes, heavy metal, and pulling UFC-style moves on her brother until we have to literally peel her off of him because he’s about to pass out.

We visited a construction-themed amusement park this summer because Grace is obsessed with construction vehicles. A few weeks later, Vince and I did our nails, put on some paper moisturizing masks, and giggled until we cried while watching The Big Bang Theory (I fast-forwarded the adult situations, don’t worry).

At least in my case, I don’t think the baby shower or the gender reveal damaged their perceptions of who they want to be.

So why is some of this “normal” and some of it “wrong?”

Why, in 2018, are we still debating this? (Seriously, my blood pressure is ticking upward just typing this)

In the words of my friend, why can’t people just let them be?

Well, here’s my humble take on the whole thing.

I don’t think pink or blue is the whole root of the problem (but dear God, retailers, vary your advertising- girls like trucks; boys like pink. Explore it.)

I think “normal” is the problem.

“Normal” should be an individual attribute, not a universal measuring stick against which everyone is judged.

For Grace, normal is watching Fancy Nancy while wearing pink unicorn pajamas. Normal is head-banging in the back seat and singing along to the new Bullet for My Valentine song (I bleep the bad words, don’t worry). Normal is wearing her brother’s Captain America shield and racing his trucks (until he finds her and an epic sibling battle erupts).

And that’s all ok, and we honor it.

For Vince, normal is enjoying a few episodes of Elena of Avalor because he thinks it’s a great show (I agree- the way she keeps taking down Shuriki is the kind of badass we all wish we were). Normal is wearing his favorite Pokemon shirt and swinging his light-up sword all over my living room (and narrowly missing all the glass things). Normal is also trying on my shoes, jewelry, and lip gloss because he likes “being fancy.”

And that’s all ok, and we honor it.

We remind our children that they are loved; they are perfect just as they are; and they are free to choose their own normal.

We remind our children that everyone they encounter in life should also be free to choose their own normal, and that they need to respect that, and honor it.

We also remind our children that when they are not respected or honored, they have the choice to gently educate the other person, or respectfully walk away.

Vince has had to do both several times- he handles himself with a gentle confidence that I’m not sure I even possess yet.

Grace, at the wee age of 3, handles ridicule by announcing, “You are NOT my best friend right now,” flipping her head around, putting her hands on her hips, and marching in the other direction. I also don’t have that kind of confidence, and that’s ok because I’m not sure I’d look as adorable if I tried that. But she owns it.

We are not extraordinary parents who have created a perfect home.

HAHAHAHAHAAAAA…..not even close.

We don’t dance around them all day singing, “You sneeze rainbows and you are perfect in every wayyyy!” On the contrary, we constantly remind them that what comes out when they sneeze should never be treated as a snack or pre-meal appetizer (and then mouth “that is so f***ing gross” to each other as we gag).

We just try to promote expression and douse any little flame of intolerance or ignorance that they may unwillingly spark.

If a situation arises, we explain why you don’t make fun of someone for cheering for a different football team, having a certain kind of backpack, celebrating different holidays, or having religious beliefs that may not line up 100% with what we discuss when we take out our Bible at night. We tell them that whatever other people’s normal is, it is to be respected.

And if someone is not tolerant of their normal, we assure them that the actions of others do not ever mean they have to abandon any part of who they are.

Then we send them into the world to hopefully do the same for others.

We also never watch the news in front of them, because all of those things I just said? It doesn’t really seem like many people in charge (on either side) have a solid understanding of any of it right now.

I really think that’s it- ok, maybe not all of it, but a large part of it- give them respect, and remind them to give it to others. And when they forget, remind them again and again and again…and again…until they get it.

It seems so simple.

It seems like something that should be so…dare I say…normal.

Hopefully someday, it will be everyone’s normal.

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