Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Love Monster and Smirker's Fantasy Christmas

These aren’t their actual lists, but I know what they really want.

Love Monster’s Christmas List

- Smirker’s Pinky Pie train set
- The neighbors recycling bin (they drink lots of beer and use lots of toilet paper and    I have crafts to make!!!)
- The door to Narnia
- A puppy
- A penguin
- A train ticket to Ponyville (one for Smirker too)
- Smirker to listen to me (Doesn’t she know I’m in charge?) OR a robot version of Smirker. That will work too.
- An endless supply of ice cream
- An endless supply of boxes. All kinds. All sizes.
- A portal to get to Nama and Napa’s house in Chicago
- A megaphone
- For Smirker to not leave me to go into mama’s bed at night
- Scotch tape
- A classroom of my own.
- Fossils
- Snow
- All the nutcrackers
- For my clown show to go on tour
- For Girl X at school to smile at me
- Paper to write stories and comics

Smirker’s Christmas List

- Pinky Pie train set
- Candy
- To sleep in Mama’s bed every night gripped to her like a little baby koala
- A crayon that doesn’t scribble
- The God puppet from school to do shows at my house
- Candy
- Bubble bath
- For Love Monster to not drink my drinks “all gone”
- Toothpaste
- All the sparkle dresses
- For Mama to carry me around upside down
- A portal to Nama and Napa’s house in Chicago
- Candy
- To be able to sing without anyone hearing
- A car. Not a kid fake plastic car. Not a hot wheel. A real car. 
- Make up (Again not that fake stuff. The real deal.)
- Deodorant
- To Sleep in Love Monster's bed until I transfer to Mama's 
- Candy
- Every color nail polish
- For everyone to understand everything I say
- Candy

If they got everything on this list, their life would be complete. I watch them. I know them. It’s funny to know these little people almost as much as I know myself. And yet I know they have secret sides that only they know. I treasure this transparency I feel now, because I know there’s a good chance with half my genes that they will put a wall up in a few years. And a year will come I won’t know their imaginary Christmas lists. But for now… I know them pretty well. I treasure now. 

Merry Christmas, my lovelies.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Emulating the Mean Girl

“I’m glad I’m skinny,” Love Monster, my daughter, said to me. She stared at the mirror happily.

She’s six.

 My stomach dropped. Where did she get that?? Certainly not from me. Skinny was always an insulting word to me. And truthfully I wouldn’t call her skinny. She’s tall, but she’s not small. Athletically built. But the fact that she thinks she’s skinny and that that is a good thing to be worried me. It didn’t take long for me to figure out who she got this from. We’ll just call her GIRL X.

 “I hope GIRL X likes my outfit today,” She said still staring in the mirror, her happiness giving way to anxiety.

 I bit my tongue. I needed to think through what I was going to say. Saying “FUCK GIRL X!” was not appropriate or right in any way.

 GIRL X. The girl who made Love Monster think skinny is best body to have. GIRL X, the girl who Love Monster wanted to please, is also the girl who bullied her.

 I didn’t think I’d have to worry about any of this for years. But here we were in Kindergarten and the mean girl routine was starting on the playground.

 “I think GIRL X will like this dress.”

 “I thought you wanted to wear your favorite dress?” I asked her.

 “No. GIRL X thinks it looks like pajamas.”

 Again I was fuming, but calmed down. We needed to get to school.

 That day Love Monster had to bring in her 100 days of school project. And who did we see in the hallway as we walked into the school? GIRL X. Awesome. Love Monster ran up to her smiling in anticipation, poised for certain praise, angling her bright pink poster board covered in exactly 100 Cherrios in the shape of a heart just right. “Hi! Do you like my project?”

 I clutched LM’s shoulder wishing I could brace her for impact.

 GIRL X looked at it like it piece of shit smeared into the ground, shrugged and walked away. Love Monster was crushed.

 Mean girls. There’s no avoiding them. Maybe this type of Kindergarten bullying seems like nothing. The making fun of how someone is dressed, exclusion, the well used sentence “I won’t be your friend.” (If I hear a kid say that one more time.... ugh!)

 But I’m telling you at that age, it’s devastating. They don’t think it’s small. How others feel about you and how you feel about yourself is so easily intertwined. It starts so early. What scares me is the evolution of this bullying that is inevitable if we don’t stop it. Kindergartners don’t have Facebook. They don’t text horrible things about each other to the entire school. Yet. It’s the beginning. And it’s such a crucial time. They are making friends and learning their identity outside their family. And then they met the mean girl. And they want to be her. She is revered and feared. It seems safer maybe. It’s like Heathers all over again.

 I was bullied as a kid. Skinny. Glasses. A football helmet perm. I was an easy target. I brushed it off as teasing, but it sucked and hurt deeply. I also had awesome friends that made up for the enemies. And thank god it wasn’t the internet/cell phone age.. The thought makes me shudder. In 1988, yeah I might get teased at school, but when I got home, I was in the safety zone. It’s not the safety zone for kids anymore with computers and cell phones. Honestly because of those years it took a long time for me to get comfortable with my body. Not until just last year I think. I’m 37 years old.

 I don’t want that to be the case for my girls and I certainly don’t want worse. The stories in the news are heartbreaking. The only way out some of these kids see is death. It’s terrifying the power bullies seem to have. So the fear I have is not irrational.

 But then I had the most reassuring parent/teacher conference the other week.

 “Love Monster is a great self-advocate,” one of her teachers said. “If someone is being mean, she tells them she doesn’t like it. And if they apologize, she accepts, smiles and keeps on playing.”

She’s come a long way since last year and the GIRL X days of Kindergarten. I never really hated GIRL X. I think we all know the ones who hurt are probably hurting the most. I hope she’s not anymore.

I pray for Love Monster’s continued strength and confidence. The night of the “Skinny Incident,” I addressed it with LM. There’s something about bedtime, tucking them in, that is vulnerable. Love Monster put on her smile, but there was something anxious underneath it.

 “You know I’m so happy with how strong and healthy you are. Aren’t you?”

“Yes!” Love Monster said.

 “I’m strong too!” Smirker interjected showing us her muscles.

 “Yes you are! You know what matters most is how you feel about what you did today. Were you proud of you project?”

 “Yes,” she said tentatively, a “but” on the tip of her tongue.

 “That is what matters. She’s not your friend babe. Friends don’t make you feel that way.”

 “But I should still be nice to her?”

 “Yep. People are not always nice. And it probably has nothing to do with you. Be compassionate. Think of that person as you. How would you feel? Be kind.”

 “That’s easy.”

I laughed. Not always easy. But the concept sure is. I said quite a few clichĂ© things. I didn’t know if it would stick. But it must have. Because the next day she wore her favorite “PJ” dress to school with a huge smile on her face.
 11/21/2013 UPDATE:
I feel strongly compelled to add something to this blog post. Love Monster came home the other day from school with a scratch on her face that was bleeding. It took two days of her dad and I asking about it for her to tell us what happened. Finally she admitted a boy did it on purpose. She didn’t tell a teacher about it because she was “being brave.” A little part of me broke inside. She really thought that was the right thing to do. When people are bullied, they become afraid to speak up.

Speak up.

Please speak up. Ask for help.

“Love Monster, there is NO shame in that. No shame in telling someone.”

She nodded clutching Bees her favorite bear once again tucked into her covers, cloaking her in the safe vulnerability of bedtime.

“Promise?” I asked.


Monday, October 7, 2013

The Rush

I had a dream the other night.

I’m driving on the freeway. For some reason that’s faded away I have my seatbelt off. Suddenly I stop. I see a mess of cars behind me not stopping. There is an impact. I fly up, no glass breaking, just up. I know death is imminent. My cell phone appeared in my hand. I looked. No more phone contacts, it said. This somehow confirmed my death. Then I, in my now my soul form, am on the side of the road. I see three people carefully moving my body. It looks awkward and limp. Odd. Very weekend at Bernie without the sunglasses and without humor. My eyes won’t close. They look milky. “They won’t close because she wants to see them one last time,” one of them said. And I know she’s right. That’s why they won’t close. I need to see Love Monster and Smirker one last time, but I can’t.

I woke up feeling disturbed. But I also knew exactly what it meant.

“Hurry up!”

I am sick of saying this.

Hurry up. Be quick. Be faster. Faster. Faster!

I am sick of feeling this. In this constant state of hurry. I’m sick of seeing the anxiousness of my girls’ faces because they feel my urgency. Not a day goes by that don’t say “Hurry up” to my kids… numerous times.

I am of sick of this being my baseline.

For as long as I’ve remembered I’ve had a very fast internal clock. And sometimes that’s served me very well. You need somebody to get something done; I’m your gal. I get shit done. But I’ve finally realized it’s also a disservice. Because that clock still runs when I’m playing with the kids or giving them a bath or on a lazy Sunday morning. That “hurry up” voice stirs me. And I tense up. I have a short fuse. I feel like a bomb is going to go off if I don’t get the kids out the door by 7:25 on a school day. Backpacks on! Shoes on! Lunches! One last smell of your guys (Don’t ask. It just their thing.) and out the door! Faster! Faster! The intensity of the “hurry up” is as if I am living in a James Bond film.

But in reality, for the most part, two minutes makes no difference.

We live in a “hurry up” culture. Get out of my way. I don’t have time! Faster. Come on!!! And why? Yeah sometimes we actually have somewhere, but really why? We rush down freeways cursing anyone who is not driving as fast as we are. We rush strangers for not crossing the street fast enough. We rush our kids when they are taking a bath because it’s nearly their bedtime and God forbid they don’t make it exactly in time. I don’t want to wait for a wake up call; a car accident or finding years went by and realizing I rushed through moments with loved ones just to get to the next one.

Maybe not all of you deal with this. For those of you, I’m glad you don’t. But if you do the good news is, there is hope!

I did an experiment. I would not say the words “hurry up” or any variation of that for one month. I failed miserably the first few days. “Hurry up!” would fall out of my mouth before I could stop myself. But I became crazy aware of it. I took a tally one day. I thought or said some variation of “hurry up” 29 times.

When I started the experiment. I didn’t do it for me. I did for my girls. I didn’t like the stress I passed onto them when I rushed them. I could see it. And I didn’t like it. I wanted to break the cycle of impatience. “Do what I say not as I do” does not work as we all know. But when I started implementing my challenge I discovered something. Calm would wash over me when I made the decision in the moment to stop the rush and my short temper all but disappeared. I honestly hadn’t connected the two, the fast internal clock and my short fuse, but they are deeply connected. I am doing this for the girls. We have more quality moments and they feel less stressed. But I am doing it for me too. I feel like I discovered a secret. More often then not these moments I stop the rush, I find a little magic. Even if it’s for a moment. An extra second of connection with my girls. A smile from a stranger. Or even if it’s just a release of anxiety. It’s worth it. When you rush other people you pass your stress onto them like a virus. I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say you minimize their worth. The same goes for ourselves.

I know some of you might be thinking, YOU might be able to do that, but not me. I can’t do that. I don’t have time. (There’s that phrase again.) I work full time, write a blog, write kid’s books, I’m a mom, help at the kids school, I’m part of a fantastic women’s group and try to be a great fiancĂ©. I’m not bragging, I would actually like to have less to do. I’m just saying if I can do it, you can do it. You might say to yourself, I’ll do it. I’ll do it later, when I have time.

Do it now. (Yes I’m being bossy.)

I notoriously have ZERO patience. None. I ripped my sunglasses in half, hulk- style, when I got in a bad traffic jam on the way to work one day. That happened. People have laughed at my lack of composure at times. It’s a staple of my personality I’ve decided to ax. And I can. It’s not easy and I slip up. Often. But I’m much better then I was. The awareness is almost enough. Bottom line is that I thought my patience would bring others more happiness when it’s also brought me more of my own.

The dream. At first I thought it was about how I hurry while I’m driving. But it’s more then that. I’m more afraid of missing moments because of the usual everyday hurry. I refuse to do it anymore.

Hurry or you’ll miss it. I used to tell myself. When you hurry, you miss it anyway. You just trick yourself into thinking you didn’t.

Check out my That Girl Speaks Video: Slow down. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Holding Hands: Smirker's birth story

I never wrote down my girls’ birth stories. I thought it was about time I did. I’ll try to get as many details as I can right It’s been a while! It’s Smirker’s fourth birthday today (and also mine incidentally). Though she was second born, she gets her story out there first. Here’s to you, birthday buddy.

September 17, 2009- It was about a week before my due date. I was really happy I had gotten that far. Love Monster was born five weeks early and I did not want to go through that again. We knew it was a girl. Though nobody else did. We had a bit of a scare with the triple screen test and were advised to get an amnio. Everything ended up coming back fine, but at the time I needed some immediate good news. So I found out the sex. Everyone else thought we were waiting. It was our little secret. My brother and sister-in-law were in town visiting from Chicagoland. I was feeling good. I was soaking up the last days I’d have with Love Monster as an only child. Man she really was a wild child. (Still is, but, man, back then she really had no restraint.) We were hanging out in the backyard when I started feeling contractions. Now I had a lot Braxton Hicks going on so I thought it was nothing. But I had my sister in law time them anyway and they were coming pretty regularly. Still I thought nothing of it. Two and a half year old Love Monster was keeping me busy not staying still and knocking over everyone’s drinks. That night my sister-in-law met up with a friend and my bro, Smirker’s dad and I hung out at the house. I put Love Monster to sleep. I remember that kiss goodnight. I think I knew inside this would be the last goodnight song I’d sing just to her. (Good night… Good night… again I’d say good night I love my Mack I love her face, I want to kiss her all over the place…) About 10pm my brother headed back to the hotel. Smirk’s dad went to bed. I don’t know if it was the sudden quiet in the house (when Love Monster goes to bed the silence is deafening), but that’s when the contractions started feeling… real. I paged the doc. I called my brother who had just gotten back to the hotel and told them they had to come back and watch LM. It was time.

Between it being four years ago and my mind not feeling clear for obvious reasons, things get a little spotty here.

The car ride. I remember the song “Lighting Crashes” by Live was playing and I hastily changed the channel.

The hospital. We checked in and there was craploads of paperwork. And they kept saying. “What’s your birthdate?” September 18. “Oh wow! You guys are going to have the same birthday.” I remember not really realizing that until that moment. I never thought that would happen. Pretty cool. Me, the normally “I need a lot of attention on my birthday” person was not around. I felt pretty stoked to share.

Birthing room. I waited until 1 am to get an epidural. Sweet relief. It felt very smooth. I remember feeling on a different plane. I know that sounds hokey. But I felt that way. It was a good thing. I felt like my body knew exactly what it was doing. Working just as it should. No nervousness like with LM. It didn’t feel foreign. At 4:15am I pushed out Smirker. Perfect. Tiny. Adorable. A mess of dark hair. Beautiful, melty chocolate eyes. (And no episodemy. YEAH!)

She was here. My birthday sister.

Her dad went back to LM who would wake up not even knowing we had left since everything went so fast.

And then… I started to feel not so right. And I didn’t know how to articulate it to anyone. The pediatrician came in to check on Smirker and she gave me a concerned look, “Are you okay?” I didn’t know the pain was so clear on my face. Truthfully I don’t think I realized I was in pain until then. “No, I’m not,” I said. And she walked quickly to get the nurse. The nurse looked at me. I probably mumbled out something to her. I don’t really remember, but I do remember she said: You just had a baby. You’re going to feel a little pain.

But I had had a baby before. I knew I wouldn’t feel like running a marathon but this was different. Something was wrong. Here’s where things get very foggy. I remember bullet points.
·      I moved rooms. More of a group recovery room. Don’t have any idea why. But Smirker was there so I concentrated on her face.
·      Suppository shoved up the bootie. It felt like shards of glass.
·      I kept looking at Smirks to keep calm.
·      My belly hurt. A lot.
·       Back in my room.
·      Ultrasound


Then my doctor arrived. She said very kindly, “This is going to hurt. You have blood clots and I have to pull them out.” That’s exactly what it sounds like. I gripped the nurse’s hands. I was grateful that she was a petite Asian woman with small hands, but that was some serious pain. I do not recommend hands up the hoo ha. She pulled out 3 or 4 giant blood clots. I had been bleeding internally and no one knew it.

Everyone was glad that was over, especially me. I held and breast fed Smirker then tried to sleep.  When I woke, I still felt pretty hazy. To be expected I guess. Smirk’s dad brought me my favorite chicken parm dinner from Carmine’s, but I didn’t have the energy to eat it. I lay back in the bed. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t find my voice. I remember feeling like I was fading away. That is what it felt like, like I would just disappear in the bed. I kept my hand in Smirker’s bassinet. Sounds around me were muted. I was cold. Not the normal “Beth is annoyingly cold all the time” cold, but bone deep cold. I do remember thinking. Oh yeah, it’s my birthday. Yay. I know my girls’ dad grabbed the nurse and said things still weren’t right. He sounded far away. At 5am they finally took a blood count. They calmly told me, I had lost over a liter and a half of blood and I needed a transfusion. I had been hemorrhaging all day. The nurses told me later, when they saw the count they had panicked a little at the nurse’s station.

The transfusion. Well that was awesome. Like really awesome. I literally felt myself coming back to life. I totally get the vampire thing. I certainly felt reborn that day. And through this whole thing, little Smirker was there, waiting, perfectly calm. I was completely present with her and did as much as I could that first day until I couldn’t. I missed a few diaper changes and feedings that first 24 hours. But her eyes and soul got me through it. Thank you for holding my hand and continuing to hold it. I love you so much my girl. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, best birthday present ever (minus the whole blood loss thing). 

Love Monster meeting Smirker for the first time.  

 And perhaps my favorite picture of the two of them. I mean seriously!!! I call it "the accidental flip off."