The Icing

On what was to be the coldest day in decades in our corner of Pennsylvania, I decided to keep Jude home from school so we could hang out and cuddle. I am still on holiday break, and though I want to ease him back into school, I also want to spend quality time together while we have it. I figured that single digit temperatures and whipping winds made for good enough reasons not to run across a parking lot from the car to the school building and back again.

Turns out, I was somewhat deluded naive about the fun involved in being confined indoors all day with an energetic two-and-a-half year old.

Oh, there were highs, like watching a little Mickey Mouse Clubhouse hand-in-hand:

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And making DIY, no-bake play dough:
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Top left: Food coloring hazard. Bottom left: A stegosaurus, by request (that color was supposed to be purple, but ended up, er, rainbow).

There was also homemade pasta sauce (with enough leftovers to freeze for a month’s worth of deliciousness), a good indoor run, and a pretty stellar nap for Mom and baby boy.

There were also some lows, including three time-outs, a frozen pipe in the upstairs bathroom, and way too much TV watching/staring at iPhone. 

Despite the continued chill, I’d planned on taking Jude back to school on Wednesday so I could have a little me-time, and it ended up being just the right counter to the previous day. Though I love being with my best little friend, I do find myself missing my solitude now and again. Before my son was born, the time I spent on my own was often my favorite. I loved coming home to an empty house and putting my feet up on the ottoman, enjoying a Diet Pepsi, a snack, and some mindless afternoon TV before a long, luxurious nap. I am the kind of person who likes going shopping and out to eat and to the movies by myself; it’s just rare that I get to do that sort of thing anymore.

So on Wednesday, after dropping Jude off at school, I headed to the beautiful Ambler Theater to see Inside Llewyn Davis, the newest release from the Coen Brothers. I am crazy about the Coen Brothers, and I thoroughly enjoyed their new movie, especially the beautiful music and the perfect performance by Oscar Isaac. Also, the popcorn was delicious, and the parking was free because the meter machine was out of order. Hooray! The afternoon was sublime and the company was good, too.

I am never able to accomplish everything I imagine I might over winter break, but spending time with my best buddy and still getting a chance to see the movie at the top of my must-see list has been some really sweet icing.

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Looking Stupid in My Backwards Time Machine

Like a lot of people, I spend too much time living in the past. Like maybe slightly less of those people, much of that rehashing is spent obsessing about things I can’t change and that probably don’t matter all that much anyway. I worry over the things I said or the choices I made (or didn’t make) or what other people might have thought about me along the way. It’s an exhausting waste of time and energy, and as far as I can tell, the only purpose it serves is to indulge myself in counterproductive, negative self-talk that is 100% foolish.

I have some definite goals for the new year: drink more water, use my mobile devices a lot less, write more, finish editing my novel, run more, keep taking improv courses, be happy, yadda, yadda, yadda. But, my biggest challenge for 2014 is to really start liking myself and to stop being so afraid all the time. And by all the time, I mean ALL THE TIME.

So, it’s kind of crucial for me to stop using my brain space for all that backwards time travel.

On Sunday night, I was watching and enjoying the Best of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon special, and I found myself laughing out loud for much of it.

Part of my reaction was in response to the clever writing and wit of the clips, but most of it was due to Fallon’s willingness to fully commit to such silliness. I have to say that I admire an comedian who, instead of just going for the joke, goes for the reality of the moment, and in making that choice, is funny. Jimmy Fallon always looks like he is open to try anything, and because of that, he seems genuinely delighted by just about everyone and everything, which is great fun for an audience to witness, or at least, that’s the case for this girl.

WATCH-Will-Ferrell-and-Jimmy-Fallons-tight-pants-battle

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Earlier in the semester, as I struggled with self-confidence in my improv course, I sent an email to my teacher to ask for help. Basically, I was crying on my way home every week, feeling totally inadequate and uncreative, and I just, you know, didn’t want to do that anymore.

She sent me a long, encouraging message in which she included the image below, and though her words were quite helpful, I could not stop thinking about this Amy Poehler quote, which has become a mantra of sorts for me:

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The fear of looking bad or looking not-good-enough that often plagues me is just the kind of thing a person shouldn’t focus on during an improv scene, or anywhere, really. If I keep worrying about the past or how the present will look in past-tense, I will never commit to anything, and I will never feel good about anything.  What kind of a life is that?

And that is why I’m going to work darn hard in 2014 to let go of so much of that fear.

I think it’s kind of time to seal the doors of my backwards time machine, anyway. It’s defective, always going back to all the worst parts and causing me to miss out on some of the best right-nows.

 

 

 

 

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Ready for Merry

It’s Christmas Eve! It’s Christmas Eve! Forget what I said yesterday. I AM psyched! So is Jude–he woke up at seven am after a night of little, interrupted sleep. When I told him he needed more rest, he said:

“I sorry. I excited about Santa.”

After two nights of wrapping and going to bed way too late, I was grateful that I didn’t have to stay up with him and could go back to bed for an hour or so.

And now, I am the only well-rested person in my family, and I am READY for the family/food/presents/superfun marathon to commence. The Eve has always been a big event for us, and I love passing it all on to Jude, even more so now that he’s aware of the festivities.

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Tonight at eight pm is also the start of another tradition: a twenty-four hour stream of A Christmas Story on TBS.

This part (like so many others) gets me every time. I think it’s what most of my students think when they submit a paper:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EEedFHxSVSI&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DEEedFHxSVSI

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone!! Hope it’s merry!!!

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Happy Festivus!

Today is FESTIVUS, one of my favorite holidays of the year. Have no idea what I’m talking about? Here you go:

I’m still a huge, ridiculous Seinfeld junkie, and “The Strike” remains one of my favorite episodes (in a long line of favorites, mind you). One thing I like in particular is the absurd lengths Frank Costanza goes to in order to strip Christmas of its over-commercialization. Though the metal pole, airing of grievances, and the feats of strength are both scarring to George and downright silly, the past couple of days have had me thinking a lot about the root message of Festivus.

And here is where I take a big sigh before I admit the truth:

I am a Christmas shopping addict. Okay, so I am an avid shopper all year round, but during the holiday season, it’s amped up to ludicrous speed. I love making a list complete with all the names of recipients and all the items I would like to purchase for each person. And then, as I make trek after trek to the mall, I alter the list, removing and adding things until I am satisfied and can write the word “DONE” next to every entry. I love thinking about the individual person and what s/he would like to open on Christmas morning, so much so that sometimes I keep shopping after items have been bought, just to be sure there isn’t something better. The whole process is quite satisfying.

But as much as I enjoy the act of gift buying, I feel a sense of sadness when it’s over. When all the gifts are wrapped and all the cookies delivered and the cards sent, I am still antsy to get out there and shop. I can’t help myself. I don’t like the crowds or the lines or the rudeness or the traffic, but yet, I do find the sales and the extended-hours and the over-stocked shelves very exciting. It’s an adrenaline rush to be out there, which means that eventually, I am going to crash, and that always coincides with Christmas morning.

As we sit amongst the rubble (read: discarded gift wrap and boxes) on December 25th, I can’t help but feel let down. All the frenzy culminates in a lazy day of overeating and movies and family togetherness, and it should be joyful and, well, merry–and it IS–but if I’m being honest, it’s also a little sad. I get major blues on Christmas, and I think maybe it’s because I get a little too into the game of shopping. 

It’s hard with the fifty-a-day emails from every store on my radar and reminders everywhere that Christmas is only XYZ days away.

A couple of weeks ago, I was wrestling Jude into his jacket so we could get him (late) to school and me (later) to work.

“What’s wrong?” I said to him.

“I no go to school,” he said.

“Why sweetheart?”

“I’m tired of school. I want to go shopping.”

And that is when I knew the torch had indeed been passed.

***

I have this fantasy where one year, instead of buying a massive load of presents, my family and I take a trip someplace warm and tropical for Christmas. There would still be presents–maybe one item for every person and a few more for Jude–but nothing crazy; they’d have to fit into our luggage after all. I feel like I do my best relaxing on vacation, and it seems like in order to get my mind cleared from all the baking, errand running, end-of-the-semester grading, indulgent shopping, a destination vacation would be just the place to hang out with the people I love and have no other distraction besides celebrating Christmas. The expectations would be low. The wrapping would take less than an hour. The merriment would be high.

I think that sounds like a better way to de-commercialize than Frank Costanza’s: telling my family all the ways in which they disappointed me over the year and/or wrestling them next the the metal pole, don’t you?

Happy Festivus, everyone!!

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Holiday Breakin’

In case you were wondering, this is what it feels like to submit final grades:

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Holiday break is officially here, and I am psyched–if not a little delirious.

May the stress-induced cookie eating stop and the all-night dance party begin. And by all-night dance party, I mean forty-five minutes or so of catching up on my Words/Hanging/Scramble/Dice/Whatever with Friends while I watch last night’s episode of The Daily Show.

It’s getting crazy in here, you guys.

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It’s the (Most Stressful) Time of the Year

It’s finals week!

I was feeling pretty good about myself until I realized that I am getting a whopping thirty-six short stories today at noon and that all grades are due by Friday (tomorrow) morning at ten am. Some of these stories will be twenty-plus pages long, so yeah, I’m not actually sure that it’s physically possible for me to read all that material in twenty-two hours (and also eat, sleep, take care of my son, run errands, breathe, etc. etc.).

I guess I’ll find out.

photo-282-smallI’m not saying this to complain, of course. Well, that’s not true. I AM saying this to complain because it feels kind of good to get it out. But I’m also saying it because it’s the last thing work-wise that I’ll have to do in what’s been a chaotic semester, where I found myself writing a lot less than I would have liked. I always like to make a re-commitment to my writing at the start of the new year, and the promise of a fresh break between semesters (and the bit of freedom that comes with it) might be just the thing I need to get motivate me through the crushing stack of work that lies ahead.

I’m not even thinking about all the gifts I haven’t wrapped or the presents I waited to long to mail or the gift cards I still have to buy or the cookies I have to package up and bring to friends and neighbors. Nope. That would send me into a tailspin of despair, and I don’t have time to wallow. (Do I? Maybe Friday AFTER ten am.)

I may need lots of caffeine and positive affirmations, but I’ll get there.

How are you all coping with the busyness this time of year? How do you keep yourself calm and together when your to-do lists seem insurmountable? 

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I’m a Damn Good Mom. So are You.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve come across quite a few blogs wherein the mom-authors fess up to their mediocre parenting skills. I’ve seen these on the Huffington Post and shared all over Facebook, and I admire the authors’ candid confessions, most of all because being average is not something about which any of us should be ashamed. Everybody can’t be excellent because then excellence would be the norm, and we’d all be striving for super-intense-craziness, and frankly I’m tired enough just thinking about Pinterest. If we could all agree that average is a-ok, then we could stop all the judging and insecurities and anxieties and just relax. Raising kids is tough for everyone, so why all the pretending like it isn’t?

But as much as I appreciate the I-still-have-my-baby-weight-and-sometimes-I-spend-too-much-time-on-my-phone-and-also-kind-of-lose-my-cool-in-public-when-my-kids-are-behaving-like-animals honesty, I also feel like the writers of those blog posts (and all other parents out there) need to give themselves a big, fat break. And here’s why:

You’re all damn good moms.

You might be wondering how I know this, so I’ll tell you:

I am a damn good mom.

That doesn’t mean I believe I’m perfect. No way. Let’s take Sunday night for example. We went out to dinner–something we do way too much, but whatever—-and Jude decided that all he’d like from his smorgasbord of fried food was a good, healthy helping of fries. That’s right. My two-and-a-half year old ate french fries for dinner because I was not going to fight with him and because he eats lots of fruits and yogurt and tomatoes and cucumbers and eggs and other pretty-darn-good-for you stuff all week long. I’m not going to say he eats great all the time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a human being love a chicken tender more than my son, BUT, despite what my mom and grandmother think, he does okay for a toddler.

And while we’re at it, here’s another:

As I’m typing this at eleven-forty-five pm, my little dear-heart is tossing and turning in the bed next to me because his room is “too scary.”

Also, we are never on time for anything.

And, last week, I forgot his hat at home on a blustery cold day and then spent the day fearing that he’d refuse to wear his hood and would get a rancid ear infection on the playground. (They didn’t go outside that day. Whew.)

If I thought harder and longer about it, I could find all sorts of examples that would illustrate the not-quite-gold-star moments of our lives. But I don’t think that doesn’t make me a bad mom or even a mediocre one.

It just makes me a mom.

IMG_5723So what makes me a damn good one? I’m pretty sure it’s the overwhelming, borderline-certifiable, all-consuming love I have for my Jude. It doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated when he throws his food on the floor or lose it when I’m running late for work, and he just won’t get in his carseat. It just means underneath all the muck and mire, there’s always deep, enduring, well-intentioned love, and I’m pretty sure that’s all that matters.

No matter what nutso things happen during the week, it’s those moments when I look at my smiling little boy who likes to sing and pretend he’s a dinosaur, and I think:

“I love our lives together.”

In almost every other part of my life, I struggle with feeling “not good enough,” but when it comes to my son, I insist on believing in myself. I realize that no matter how hard I try to be the-best-mom-that-ever-lived, Jude will still go through periods where he is embarrassed by me and maybe even hates me. I’ll love him through it any way. And maybe he won’t always remember to call me or visit me as often as I like when he goes on into his adult life. I’ll love him through it any way. And someday, he might be sitting on a therapist’s couch, recanting all the ways in which I ruined his life. I’ll love him any way.

I can’t imagine how life will turn out for him or for me, and I can’t say that there won’t be hardship or disappointment or even despair, but there will always be one constant:

I love him. I love him. I love him. And I always, always, always be his biggest fan.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the Panera (shock!), and I noticed a mom unbundling her infant son at one of the booths. I asked her if I could get her food for her when it was ready. I remembered those days of balancing my baby and my lunch and how much I appreciated it when someone offered to help, and I wanted to extend the same. In the span of our ten minute conversation, she told me that she was loving her time with her now six-month old son, but that nursing is exhausting and that her husband isn’t as big a help as she imagined and she’s worried about losing the baby weight and thinking about when she should have another one. She’s snug in that baby bubble that I also remember quite well. She’s feeling mediocre. So, I told her that the second baby (or not!) and the weight and all those other things would work themselves out (they will!) and that she should just keep on loving up every inch of that baby because that is what’s bringing her the most peace, and truly, that’s the thing that counts the most.

Basically, I wanted her to know that she’s a damn good mom, something we all need to remember. We may try hard and fail harder, but we keep getting up early and packing semi-healthy lunches and kissing bumped knees and cuddling after nightmares and just being there (or being vaguely distracted in the general vicinity). We don’t need to stop sharing our stories, but we need to stop labeling them as mediocre because we’re damn, damn good moms.

And it’s time we start owning that.

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