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Thursday, July 6, 2017

What Matters in a Messy House is Backstory & Detail

I live in a messy house. On my desk are two prints I haven’t framed or hung, ARC copies of my failing book, a gift bag that instead of holding wine, holds scissors from a lesson I taught, a balled up roll of rerolled paper towels, some photos I meant to hang but haven’t, a legal pad, a sticky note with an address of where I should send the ARC copies but probably won’t today. And that’s just my desk. At least I can see some of that. The rest of the house is worse.

My bed has rips in the fitted sheet. I can see them because it’s not made. I bought a replacement but in a week, haven’t bothered to pull off the ripped sheet and put the new sheet on. The end table by my side of the bed is balanced carefully with stacks of stuff piled high. Things like artwork from the kids’ school year that I mean to put into a keepsake box but haven’t since school let out and we’re fully into July now. The kitchen needs recaulking along the sink where I’ve partially washed the morning dishes. The dishwasher is broken so it operates as a glorified drying rack where there are dishes I rarely empty.

I want to like living in a messy house. I want living like this to be a deliberate choice I’ve made. But truly that’s not the case. Truthfully, I want to control it and make it better but I can’t. I’m not up for it. And my husband and kids definitely aren’t. So I need to find peace with the mess. I need to look at the items that lay strewn about and recall their evidence of a life well-lived, of a life lived in moments where we did things that mattered and or maybe didn't matter in their individual thingness but in their collective.

The mess on the counter. It’s the crumbs from the pizzas the small hands of my four and six year olds helped roll out and topped. We made it all together and it should remind me of the value of time where you slow down and patiently wait for small hands. The prints I haven’t hung should remind me of the young artist with fear in her eyes as I told her again and again how much I thought she’d succeed and how glad I was to get some of her work. A panda vomiting brightly-colored eyeballs and eight balls and rocket ships, graffiti-esque and cartoonish. Not art for a woman in her late thirties but still, cool in that ski-culture way I like to play with my age. The gift bag should make me think of being the kind of instructor who thinks about how to make writing a kinesthetic process. Don’t just cut & paste on a keyboard but do it in real life, with paper. Remember? That’s where cut & past came from, remember? We used scissors and cut apart paper and reordered.

To make peace with the mess, I have to think. Art is messy. Life is messy.

But the truth is I am not there. Without the deliberation of writing, I get frustrated at the disorder. Angry even. I look about and think “Oh my god! We’re pigs!” and I hate it and throw blame around. Glaring this way and that. “Why can’t they ____?” And “Who does this?” Daggers from my eyes. "Clean up this mess!"

Sometimes we work together on cleaning up. It's slower but nicer. Sometimes I don't bother with the clean up.

With time spent on detail and through writing, I recall the snorkel is on the floor because we swam and it was a trip where no one got mad and I didn’t yell even once, and then we rushed in and moved on to go ride bikes. I remember that the beds are never made because we crawl back into our beds so much to hold each other and tickle and giggle and talk.

We’re not happy all the time. Sometimes the beds are messy because the kids climbed on them with shoes on in timeout and I had to say nothing so they could finish calming down and timeout could work the way it is supposed to. I had to let footprints on my sheets happen so lessons could too.

My SLR camera is on my desk because I’m hoping to take pictures we took on hikes this summer and turn them into a coloring book for the kids at the end of summer. I was hoping the same thing last summer. But sometimes we’re living so hard. Without pause and without deliberate attention to the backstory of details. And I get distracted a lot and forget things and don’t follow through on every idea.

There are details and they have backstory. Sometimes it’s just time for us to clean up and begin new stories. But maybe it’s okay to let your mind meander and not be in such a rush to get the job done. After all that’s how the kids made dinner. That’s how they play while they “clean up.” My mind does the same when I write. Needs order and reminders. I have to jot an outline or it’s all over the place. I play with a toy car, figuratively of course, and forget all about the main point unless there’s a mom over me, an outline, gently reminding “you need to put the cars away. The cousins will be here soon. Remember? That’s why we were cleaning up?” 

Yes, I remember. And we will. We’ll live and fight with the tension of order and backstory and detail and organization. And maybe someday I consider balance a deliberate choice to live with a certain amount of mess.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Stop Licking That Author Reading in Denver on June 10!

Stop Licking That Author Reading in Denver on June 10!

Who: Parents, grandparents, readers, kids
There will be a separate simultaneous story time for kids so adults can enjoy the interactive reading
When: Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 10:30 AM.
What: Listen to excerpts from my new novel, Stop Licking that in a gorgeous, hip bookstore in Denver. I'll share tips like ways to use duct tape on your toddler's winter wear, and why to teach your kids to blow snot rockets. We'll play a game of telephone and maybe, just maybe, play SuperVALLEY Girl Says!
Signed copies available at the event.
  • 1 (303) 455-1527
  • 4353 Tennyson St.
    Denver, CO 80212

Monday, April 3, 2017

12 Musts to Make Your Kids Safer, starting when they're very young

Reposted with Permission From Maureen O'Connor. I made changes to her original post but the suggestions were hers and so I asked if I could share them.

There was a recent threat at our middle school and the district sent out communications and that was all good. The event itself was unsettling and likely shook up local moms. It's good that the district followed up. But it was the tip of the iceberg in terms of reminding ourselves ways we really can be smart about safety. There will be frightening things. Big, loud, red-buttons of fear like threats of guns, and then there are the more oft-forgotten ways we make sure our kids are safe. This post is about those.

This list covers lost child, wildfires and highway closures, tech break-downs, and even "school incidents". And I've had close calls with almost all of these.

Without further ado

12 Ways to Make Your Kids Safer, starting when they're very young.

1) As soon as they know numbers, have them memorize your cell phone#. Make it a sing-song. My kids sing the last four digits of my phone number all the time. To the point that if I hear Nine-Nine, I can hear them in my head.

2) Write contact on everything. Keep it hidden - inside backpacks, in the pocket chart inside coats, use initials and cell#. My kids' car seats came with a pocket for info like this and I filled out their names & doctor's names & numbers & my number in case we're ever in an accident. Here's a blank sticker you can buy and fill out to stick to a car seat.

3) Make sure your kids know where this info is, and to use it if they get lost. Oh, and make sure your young kids know their last name. I asked my babies what their mom's & dad's grown up names were and had them practice that too.

4) If you are going to a large event (street fair, sports complex), write your info on their arm with a sharpie (tell them it's a tattoo, but under the sleeve). Or use old business cards and hide those in shoes. 

5) Play the "chauffeur" game. "Today kids, I don't know where you live, or where the school is, or the store. You must tell me how to get there." If they forget a turn, go past the street. If they tell you to turn left instead of right, and it's not a driveway, turn left.

Make them look out the window once in a while. 

6) Quiz them on their street address. And if you hide a key, how to get in if the house is locked.

7) Have them describe a car that just drove by - what color, size, features like bumper stickers and dents.

8) Teach them what a license plate is and try to read those too.

9) Go over fire escape routes and meeting places in your own home. And how to dial 911, on the phone models you have.

10) For older kids, go over other kinds of meeting places out of your home - what if the road is blocked and they're at the other end of the county, or at school, where do you meet? What if something happens and you're not there when they get off the bus? Who do you know & where do you go?

11) The fire fighters do a nice job of this at the school but it bears repeating, teach your kids that if it's smoky and they are scared, they should hug the fire fighter. And if you...say...for exampleandit's just an example...drip bacon grease all over the inside of your oven and it's smoking so badly no one can eat breakfast, this is a good time to talk about smoke. Not that I've done this, mind you.

12) Teach your kids that if someone comes up and they have a weird feeling, to trust that feeling and get away. Teach them to scream if anyone grabs them. Worst case scenario? They scream when someone makes them feel uncomfortable like their older cousin who is just joking around. BUT, I'd rather have a conversation about that, than any of the alternatives. It's easy to get through a mere misunderstanding.

And lastly, if you think it through and make plans, maybe, just maybe, you won't freak out when something does happen.

Thank you for reading and now, because you're mostly straight women, here is a picture of hot firefighters hugging puppies. Hug a firefighter. Just be sure he's not your friend's husband. Or that your hug is polite and not sweaty and you're not panting or clinging (like those puppies... geeze, do you believe them?) These guys are in Australia so they're probably good to use for this.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

3 Parenting Wins This Week

Oh man, sometimes y'all...sometimes things go RIGHT. I think I forgot.

This week all kinds of things have gone right.

1. I had a morning where the kids were ready with enough time to spare that we took our time walking to the bus. I know, shocking, right? We stomped on ice and then it was snowing so we stopped and caught flakes on our mittens and examined them. It. was. magical.

2. I had an evening where the kids helped. I made a list of the chores we needed done and promised to play trouble with them if we got the list done and we all set to work. They actually helped. I don't mean I stalked their every move while they "helped." I mean, I asked them to do things like "take your boots to the mudroom," and they DID IT. We cleaned the house. Well, sorta. We made it significantly less gross. There are still four of us.

3. The last one has a longer explanation. Here goes.

My son painted his nails with his gramma. Then kids at school told him painting nails was for girls. He has been faking sick a lot and said it was because of this. I suspected there was a little more to it but since that was what I had to go on, I texted the moms of the kids he's friends with who supposedly said this.

I waited nervously. What if this was kids echoing the message they heard at home? I don't know these familie's values super clearly. Maybe they think painting nails IS for girls, I worried. I waited.

But then they started responding. The moms and I chatted back and forth and all of our boys have been faking sick and having trouble with their feelings about disagreements and fall-outs with each other. I contacted the teacher and she set up a friendship group for them with the counselor.

I suspected it was more than just the nails and we talked and handled the bigger piece of learning how to be friends and handle disagreements.

With regard to the fingernails, the moms each talked to their sons. One of the boys has longer hair and he understood how my son felt because kids have told him his hair is for girls in the past. He cried to think he'd caused my son hurt feelings about something he understood so well. He was confused about why my son didn't tell him how upset he was. The other mom talked with her son as well and then texted me a photo of his fingernails painted green last night.

They'll make great friends. I'm so happy for them. I'm also so happy for me that the moms in my community and I can communicate and find solutions and support each other. Finally, I'm glad we live in a digital age where it was easy for me to text my concerns to the teacher so she could respond quickly AND that she did respond quickly. I'm glad my son goes to a school where he has such a great teacher and support network.

Life is hard and worth the effort. Life is good.

P.S. I almost spilled my coffee by elbowing it off my standing desk station but then, I caught it in midair. I can't be stopped! (please don't let this jinx me.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

The real life game of: What's Worse Than ______?

This is like the game (if you're in your 30s or 40s you might remember this) What's Grosser Than Gross?

Except it's What's Worse Than _____

It's spring so... I need a swimsuit. I love to swim and still get in the water and swim with my kids at least once a week and obviously more during summer. I've been avoiding the task of buying a swimsuit for about 4 years now, so I was finally down to 2 mismatched pieces and now I can't find those either. So...hell is here. AKA swimsuit shopping.

Now let's play. What's Worse Than Swimsuit Shopping?

What's worse than swimsuit shopping as a woman?
Swim suit shopping when you've had 2 kids and your body's looks like a parenting battlefield.

What's worse than swimsuit shopping as a woman who has had children and has the giant stretch marks to prove it?
Bringing your children WITH you to shop for said swimsuit.

"Mom, will you buy a bikini?" Mars
"No." Me
"What's a bikini?" Gomez
"It's a swimsuit that looks like a bra and underwear" Me
Through snorts and chortles, "That's silly!" Gomez
He's right, that IS silly!
"That's right, you won't buy a bikini." Mars
"Why" Gomez
"Because of having me. I was a BIG baby." Mars

What's worse than swimsuit shopping as a woman who has children and has the marks to prove it AND has brought her children?
Her children discussing her underwear while trying on swimsuits.

Keep in mind, I'm now at the part of dealing with actually trying on swimsuits which is fucking terrible. We all know, no matter how your body looks, this part is fucking terrible.

Not only is it the kind of shopping where you have to take off almost all of your clothes (not your underpants,) but then you have to see how your body SHOULD look in a bunch of swimsuits. Because inevitably you choose some suits that were meant for a very different body type than the one you possess.

And this problem is further worsened by how they size women's clothing. How do they do it? The answer can only be: randomly. They randomly assign letters to women's clothing.  Like, they must just have a gun that shoots out SMLXL. Some ladies in the Target factory in China get these guns and their lunch hour is getting to set the American sizing. They all giggle and shoot at the clothes.  Some combination of letters hits the clothes and they're just like *giggle, giggle* American Ladies are HUGE!

So you can't actually tell which size you'll be until you either can or can't squeeze in. And then you're panting from not squeezing in and giving up. Smartly going "Fuck that suit. That's not a medium and I can tell at my thighs that shit's going to make me cry or stab someone."

And the kids are along so crying or stabbing are decidedly not options. So you try the next thing and it fits like my skin, all hanging and bones here but fat there and fuck that suit.

"But I liked that one." Mars
"Why do you have your underpants on? I thought you weren't getting a bikini?" Mars.
"I'm not. It's a rule with trying on swimsuits that you leave your underwear on." Me.
"Why" Mars.
Holy fuck, I've never wanted less to answer a question. Because of the vagina drippies is NOT coming out of my mouth. I am NOT having that conversation. Probably ever. I'm good with explaining sex and that it feels good, etc. But about the discharge of a vagina I will not tell. Fuck, fuckity, FUCK that.
"It's the rules." Me
"I want to read the comic on your underwear." Mars
"Me too. Mars, let's read the comic on mom's underwear." Gomez
"Can you hold still so I can read this?" Mars, while approaching my butt.
"No. Let's go." Me

And that's what's worse than swimsuit shopping as a woman who has children and has the marks to prove it AND has brought said-children and those children are discussing her underwear while she tries on swimsuits and announcing that there's a comic strip on them and then yelling at how she should hold still so they can READ her underwear.

And I thought we were done with this game until I typed in "Bad Swimsuit Fit" to try to find a picture for this post. And instead of remotely valid search results, up came every skinny, perfect bitch on who has found her PERFECT fit! If you modify the search and add male, man, and men, it still comes back with mostly women. Fuck, fuck, FUCK YOU, Google!

But you know what? I did get a swimsuit. And I wore it and I liked it. And my nieces complimented me on my swimsuit. You know who I actually want to have fun with and enjoy while swimming? Children. Not men. So that's officially the best demographic to get a compliment from and also I love my nieces.

So there, Google.

So there, ladies with the size gun in the target factory in China.

The photo is of Jenny McCarthy's ex-boyfriend in a swimsuit. It's the one image I found that made me happy. I like him.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Gomez's Kidneys

When Gomez was 4 months old, he spiked a very fever in the middle of the night with no other cause. I called my mom to come over so we didn't have to wake Mars & take him to the ER with us. She came right over and off we went.

Gomez had no other symptoms. Just a high fever. So they sent us home and we followed up in the next day and week with trips to see his doctor and then specialists to find out what was going on.

It would turn out he had a kidney malformation of the ureters that caused a reflux that meant he would have chronic bladder and kidney infections. They put him on daily prophylactic antibiotics and waited to see if it would get better.

It didn't. So at 11 months, he had major kidney surgery.

Now I know many people who have kids with really serious illnesses and this is not that. All along we were fortunate and knew that this was a highly fixable and routine abnormality. I knew he'd be okay in time and with help.

Still, it's a lot to see your baby have his entire abdomen cut open. It's painful to watch your baby try to stand up and walk with 9 tubes coming out of him including an epidural. I'd never even had an epidural. It was terrifying to watch him not eat or drink because of the pain.

For the last 4 years, we've had ultrasounds for Gomez, first at four months to see how bad the reflux was, and again later at 10 months, then surgery, then more ultrasounds since to make sure the surgery was successful and to monitor the amount of scar tissue in his belly.

Every follow up ultrasound has come back with the doctor asking us to follow up in 6 months or a year. He's wanted to keep an eye on it. He's had concerns about the scar tissue.

This was the first one that Rob took Gomez in for. They got up and left the house at 7 this morning to take him to Denver to see how the scar tissue is doing, to be sure the ureters aren't leaking, to be sure he's okay. Meanwhile, Magnus and I had a special breakfast together at our favorite local spot. Then I dropped him at school, and went to work.

20 minutes ago, I got a text from Rob saying that Gomez is cleared. It's finally over. Gomez is fine.
I had no idea how much that little bit of worry existed. I didn't realize how much I worried that he could need to have additional surgery. I knew it was there but didn't think much of it, back there gnawing away at my stability until I read the text.

I literally can't stop crying from gratitude and relief. I think I might be worse at handling good news than bad news because I literally bawled at this news.

I wrote about his surgery in my book but the story wasn't really over until today. It's over. It's over. It's over.

What freakin' awesome news.

Amid my crying and celebrations, I received 2 additional texts from Rob.
#1 was a picture of the upcoming shows at a theater in Denver. We've been having an ongoing disagreement about whether you can refer to "Bone: Thugs in Harmony" as "Bone Thugs" which I argue is not okay and he says is. And they're coming to DENVER! So there was that picture.
#2 Gomez says his birthday is on the Fourth Bewakens.

So let's all celebrate by listening to bad 90s rap and eating cake. THE FOURTH BEWAKENS & I miss my uncle Charles, ya'll...

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Kids are icky

We spent the last week in Steamboat skiing. Which is not that different than our normal week except we stayed in a condo and could take the bus to a slightly different mountain. Still, taking 2 kids skiing is insane.
At one point, I rewarded the kids by taking a gondola ride with them. My 4-year-old can't yet ski that far but really likes the gondola so up we went.

It was great. Until I looked over and realized he was chewing gum. And I didn't give him gum. He found it. Ewww....

Me: "Dude, that's gross! It's been in someone else's mouth!"
4-year-old: "But it's minty!"

Remember that scene in Elf when Santa tells him that if he finds gum on the ground it's not free candy? Yeah. He needs to have a talk with Santa. Twice. Because later at the condo, he again had some. Ewwww....

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