Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

First of all, I just wanted to welcome all the new readers. I’ve had a spike in traffic over the past few months — so I figured it was about time to say hi to all of you who’re so kind to read my little blog.

I’ve noticed that my most popular posts on marriage (found here and here) and breastfeeding (found here and here) have hit a real nerve — in a positive way — with many of you. I’m trying to catch up on all the comments and some of the emails.

As for the reason for my absence — I had my fourth baby in January. He came four weeks early so things were chaotic for a while — and still are! I needed an extended break from the stress of blogging. Because it IS stressful. Even though it shouldn’t be. Blogging should be something that I enjoy, and I want to get back to the enjoyable aspect of it.

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Our newest edition

As for the four kids — well — it’s a lot. I knew what we were getting into when we decided to take the plunge for the fourth (and last!) baby, but the newborn baby stage is never easy no matter how much experience you have.

And I’ve come to realize that being a parent of four children has set me apart from other parents.

I officially belong to The Four Kids Club. I say this because I get looks of awe mixed with horror when people find out I have four children. I’ve even heard a few audible gasps from strangers. In the DC area, a family of six is considered an anomaly — weird – maybe even a bit psycho. But that’s okay.

We ARE crazy. Crazy in an awesome, fabulous way. In my opinion, that is.

So thanks to all of you newcomers for stopping by. I hope to give you more posts to read and enjoy. Right now I can only post on a weekly basis due to my membership to The Four Kids Club or TFKC. But even then I can’t make any promises due to the crazy life that I lead. In the meantime, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter (although I don’t tweet much ) or follow me on instagram.

– Sonja

Parenting Forums Are Full Of Insane People

Parenting forums.

They’re nuts.

If you live in the DC area and you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ve heard of DC Urban Moms and Dads. It’s an anonymous forum that at times can be incredibly helpful and informative. But because of the anonymity of the posters, DCUM can be fucking unreal. People have no fear of going crazy — and the lack of a screen name makes it easy for posters to be ultra snarky and just plain mean.

Because of this, it’s fun to read and scoff at.

For example. In the General Parenting Discussion board, there’s a thread called, “I hate it when moms two and more complain.” As you can see, basic grammar is not a strong suit of some of these posters. Anyhow, so the anonymous poster’s rant goes like this:

There, I said it.
I am not talking about those who had twins as their first children.
I am talking about moms who have two or more, who say how hard it is to deal with a toddler or preschooler while pregnant, how difficult it is to juggle kids for play dates and appointments, how hard it is to not have coinciding naps.
Didn’t you know how hard it is after having just one? Wasn’t this knowledge enough to either be prepared or not have any more children? 
Of course I cannot say anything in their face. But this is always my first thought. You made this bed, so deal with it.
. I feel guilty thinking this but I just can’t keep it inside if me anymore.
Flame away.

I love it. Parents of single children telling parents of multiple children not to complain. This response said it best:

OP I can understand where you’re coming from, but I think your logic is faulty. By your logic no one should be allowed to complain about the difficulty of raising any child who was “planned”, or really anything that the person chose to do. So no one should complain about their job because they chose that job? No one should complain about cleaning their house because they chose to live in a house? What are people allowed to complain about exactly? Only things that they had no say in whatsoever?

But then the snarkiness continues:

I’ll one-up you, OP, and say it’s annoying when any parent says they had no idea raising children would be so HARD, and how they’re so TIRED. As if they’d never seen a kid before.

And.

I hate when they bitch about money. You never know how easy or difficult your kids are going to be, but you sure as hell should have known how much they would cost the second and third time around.

And another.

I get it, OP. I’m always stunned when people complain about the work of having children. (I have one.) I was the last of my friends to have a child, so I heard all their stories. I knew it was going to be hard, and expensive. And I knew that second child sunk a lot of marriages, because the work, as other people said, was exponentially harder, not twice as hard.

While I get that you can’t know exactly what it’s like until you are in the middle of it, what is shocking to me is that women refuse to take a look around them and listen to other people’s stories, and learn from them. (Also why I didn’t get knocked up as a teen or marry a “bad boy.”)

And it continues.

PP here. Take responsibility for yourself! If you want to do something, you should have thoroughly vetted it and worked through all of the variables of what might be. Even if your friends haven’t been through it, there are books, newspapers, your mother’s stories and those of her friends.

I don’t do any big life choice without thinking through all of the ramifications it might have. It’s just common sense.

Ha ha! If you made a choice in life, then you’re not allowed to complain about it. You should’ve thought about all of life’s challenges, worked through all the possible variables, and accepted them ahead of time without complaint!

Because I’m sure moms of single children have never complained.

Now go and have a Merry Christmas! And stop your bitching about your squabbling children.

What Do You Think of Pantene’s New “Feminist” Ad?

So I came across Pantene’s new commercial for the Philippines. On the surface, it comes off as a powerful statement — one that shows how powerful men are revered in the business world versus how powerful women are looked at as “pushy,” and “bossy.”

Watch it for yourself:

But that’s just on the surface. And it’s so fucking easy to see right through the message.

After all, Pantene’s goal is to sell shampoo to women — to make them look better.

As Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post so aptly put it, “Jane is ‘bossy’, but her mane is glossy!”

Pantene, while boasting its worldly, “modern” views of women in the workplace, wants women to look beautiful while shattering the glass ceiling.

And doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of breaking through the gender demarcation in the workplace? It’s an ugly thing — this never ending expectation that women are supposed to look beautiful while we demolish gender stereotypes.

Praise and accolades abound for the new ad — and Sheryl Sandburg is giving it a standing ovation.

What do you think? Does the ad deserve applause, or does it deserve a raised eyebrow and a head shake?

In Their Own Words: Victims of Verbal Abuse

The following are the words of women who have responded to my posts about verbal abuse. You can read the posts here and here. Some of these responses were comments in my blog posts and some of them were emails. The desperation, helplessness, and self-blame are quite evident in these women’s responses.

Their words reveal the simple fact that you never know what goes on behind closed doors. What may seem like a happy marriage may in fact be an abusive one. I speak from personal experience.

Remember, just because women don’t talk about verbal abuse, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. There is a level of shame involved that prevents most women from speaking up about it — the idea that the husband is a reflection of herself — of her poor life choices — that she should just accept this as her fate. After all, didn’t she make the decision to marry him? She made her bed, now she needs to lie in it. But these are lies that we tell ourselves — and these lies are steeped in self-doubt and the absence of self-worth.

We need more stories like these to offer solace and support to fellow women who are suffering at the cruel words and actions of their husbands and partners.

These situations are far, far too common.

And you are not alone.

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This is just a taste of comments/emails I’ve received.

The more women talk about it, the more we can help and encourage one another.

If you have any insights or words of encouragement for these women, please don’t hesitate to leave a message in the comments.

Let’s Play Uterus!

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Beckett LOVES it when we play uterus. It’s like his new thing.

It all started when he FINALLY let me read him the book called What to Expect When Mommy’s Having a Baby, by Heidi Murkoff, the co-author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

For some reason, Becks didn’t want anything to do with the book — perhaps it’s jealousy? I don’t know. He just didn’t want me to read a book about the baby.

But yesterday he let me!

And when we got to the part about the baby being inside the uterus — he got all wide-eyed and intrigued. I showed him other illustrations on google images of the baby inside the uterus, and he kept exclaiming, “Baby inside uterus!

For the rest of the day, Becks would climb inside the empty laundry basket with a red blanket wrapped around himself and say, “I’m in a uterus!”

Fer realz.

All day yesterday he was asking everybody to play uterus with him.

“Kiera! Let’s play uterus!”

“Mommy, can we play uterus now?”

Yeah, he may be a little weird (he likes to lick the couch), but he’s a cool kinda weird. And he may not be excited about the baby yet — but at least he’s excited about my uterus!

Tide Thinks It’s Cute And Sexy When Men Clean The House

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What the fuck, Tide.

Really? What is this, the 1950s? Get yer shit together.

It’s not sexy when men do housework. It’s not hot. It’s not a turn-on.

It’s what they’re supposed to be doing to help their partner maintain a home.

Your attempt at being cute and funny was a total FAIL.

Check out Buzzfeed to see what I’m talkin’ ’bout.

Flylady Helps Me Clean and Vomit Simultaneously

vintage-cleaningAs Thanksgiving approaches, I can’t help but obsess about a clean house.

I don’t care about the food. Food is easy.

But cleanliness is always an issue in my house. We have three kids and a dog — plus I’m pregnant and have no energy right now. So yes, my house is in constant disaster mode. We keep on top of it the best we can, but some things just have to slide while I’m pregnant. It’s frustrating, but I just have to deal.

Anyway, so all this thinking about cleaning made me think about that incredibly annoying website — Flylady.net. No really. Go there and check it out. Then come back and tell me how many times you threw up in your mouth.

If you’ve heard of Flylady, then I’m sure you know what I mean.

If you haven’t heard of Flylady, then well, you’re in for a treat.

Flylady is a website aimed at giving guidance to those poor, disorganized homemakers who live in filth — usually women — because did you see her website? It’s purple! Because women like purple!

She’s a big believer in “baby steps” — like say focusing on shining your sink everyday for a week, then moving onto doing a daily “swish and swipe” of your bathroom. After you get used to doing certain steps, you start building your cleaning routine. Also during this introductory phase, you’re called a “Flybaby.” Because that’s a cute name or something.

But first, she recommends that you sign up for her email group. So you can get daily reminders of what you need to do to maintain your house. Sounds helpful, right?

No. It’s really annoying. Most of the emails you’ll get are testimonials (probably written by Flylady herself) about how awesome the site is. You’ll get one or two emails a day reminding you to clean your sink and put on your shoes. And get this — make your bed. Which is just really dumb. I don’t need a reminder to do my dishes. My dirty sink is already staring me right in the fucking face. Oh and as for the shoes — well, she insists that you can’t do a good, thorough job cleaning your home unless you have shoes on. And not just shoes. Lace up sneakers!

And secondly. The name. Flylady. That’s really just NOT a good name.

Another issue is her trademarked logo — or mascot — or whatever you want to call it.

It’s a fucking lady. Dressed in purple. With purple hair. Dressed as a fly.

And need I say that flies are gross? Or maybe she’s not supposed to be a fly — just some purple lady with wings.

But yeah.

Oddly enough, as annoying as the site is — I did glean some good tips from it. Here’s what I learned after trudging through her purple, disorganized content.

1. Setting a timer while cleaning is helpful — usually for fifteen minutes — to help you focus.

2. Having a morning and nighttime routine is a good thing — but I don’t really abide by that. Cuz I’m a spontaneous kinda person, ya know?

3. Doing little things daily —  like doing a quick wipe-down of your bathrooms, and doing a load of laundry a day (for me it’s usually two loads) are actually good ideas.

4. And then she has something called the — ahem — “Weekly Home Blessing Hour.” I know. I know. I can’t wrap my mind around her fluffy, mid-western vocabulary. But whatevs. I call the Weekly Home Blessing Hour, the Day of Monotonous Cleaning That Sucks My Soul to the Pit of Despair. It goes something like this:

  • Choose a day of the week (Flylady likes Mondays but choose whatever the fuck you want.)
  • Do the following in 10 minute increments: vacuum, dust, quick mop, polish mirrors and doors, purge magazines and newspapers, change sheets, empty all trash cans. And you’re supposed to be done in an hour. Ha ha.
  • The point of the Day of Monotonous Cleaning That Sucks My Soul to the Pit of Despair is not to do a deep cleaning per say. But to do a weekly maintenance of your house/apartment. The problem with this is that my house is big. I have three bedrooms, and two bathrooms on the top floor (plus all the living areas), and three bedrooms, a bathroom, a playroom and a laundry room on the bottom floor. So this particular routine takes way longer than an hour. So now I just split up the tasks throughout the week. For example, Monday is sheet day, Tuesday is purge papers and empty trashcans day, on Wednesday I dust and polish mirrors, etc. You get the point.

So then, on top of this, Flylady posts a weekly zone. I think she has something like six zones or some shit. Anyway. The deep cleaning that you’re supposed to do is in that zone for the week. For example, zone one is the entrance, front porch and dining room. So you’re supposed to spend that particular week decluttering/cleaning your zone for at least fifteen minutes a day. And yes, you’re supposed to use your timer (which, by the way, you can buy an overpriced, cheap timer in her Flylady shop) and wear your sneakers.

And speaking of her overpriced Flylady shop, you can purchase the Swish and Swipe Package, and the Rubba Scrubba to assist in your cleaning endeavors (she also has a Rubba Swisha and a Rubba Sweepa!) I mean, fer realz — Rubba Scrubba? I can’t even… just… whatever.

It’s a bummer, because there are some good ideas buried in the site. And yes, these are all common sense ideas — but for a disorganized person like myself — it’s good to have some cleaning guidelines to help me. But for somebody who boasts about cleanliness and organization — Flylady’s site is ugly and disorganized. And her kitschiness is polarizing. I’m sorry, Flylady — but please don’t call me a Flybaby. Just stop that.

With a sleeker site minus the campy mid-western purple shit, and minus that weird Flylady mascot thingy — I really think her site could go really far. It’s garnered plenty of success and many followers — but mostly of the bless your heart, country kitsch variety.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Love By A Different Name

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Me and Ryan

I really believe that the first born child has it harder than the rest. I guess that doesn’t sound fair to the middle children or the babies — but it’s true.

Oldest babies are the test babies. The ones who have to live through their inept first-time parents’ mistakes. The ones who have to live a life recovering from their parents’ neuroses and anxieties about raising a human being for the first time — a foreign, precious, and terrifying experience. The responsibility of being a parent doesn’t really hit you until you’re holding that helpless creature in your arms and looking into those newborn eyes that encompass endless possibilities.

My boy. My oldest. I made mistakes with him. I had him too young. I wasn’t ready for his amazing, life-altering presence. But I did the best I could.

Now he’s approaching thirteen. He smiles less. He rolls his eyes at me. But he’s still Ryan. Funny. Helpful. Neurotic. Imaginative.

He has a learning disability that makes school a challenge for him. Some nights, his homework is almost unbearable for him. Tears well up in his eyes. “What’s wrong with me?” he says, as he rests his head in his hands in utter defeat.

It breaks my fucking heart. I want him to be happy. To know that my love for him is vaster than a billion universes combined. When I give him hugs, he puts his head on my shoulder — and I know he’s slipping away. Away to that tumultuous, angst-ridden place called teenagerdom. And I don’t want him to leave. Because he’ll see me with new eyes. He’ll see the mistakes I made.

And as he stands on that cusp, I’m about to give birth to my last baby. My last boy. A baby I’m ready for. A baby who’ll have more than Ryan. A baby who (god willing) won’t have to go through some of the difficulties that Ryan went through.

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As I’ve grown older, I’ve become a better parent — more patient and better able to enjoy the moment. I didn’t have that joy and unceasing devotion when I was young. I wasn’t a bad parent; I just wasn’t ready. I was in a perpetual state of impatience, waiting for that next developmental stage, because — god. It sounds awful, but I just wanted Ryan to grow up already. I loved him with ceaseless intensity, but I didn’t know how to enjoy motherhood. And he had to have felt that. I know he felt that.

So now I’m in my thirties. I have a three-year-old and a new little one waiting to make his entrance into this world. And I’m ready and able to give them boundless patience and tenderness. I’m ready to enjoy every moment of their little lives. It’s not fair to Ryan, but as Ryan has grown I’ve become a better mother to him. And that’s something, right?

Damn it. Here I am, not even a week after writing a post on mom guilt, and it’s here staring me in the face. Fucking guilt. But I’m human, and the best I can do is forge forward as a better mother, giving all my children the love they deserve; love by a different name.

I Let A Third Grade Snob Get To Me

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Kiera being her fabulous Kiera self.

My nine year old daughter, Kiera, frequently comes home with a host of tales about a particular girl in her class.

I’ll call her Claire.

Claire is, like, uber fashionable. “So in style,” gushes Kiera.

Kiera was enamored with her at first. Claire is new to the school and just exudes coolness. Apparently. “She’s already soooo popular, mom,” says Kiera. To make things even more interesting, Claire gives Kiera all kinds of fashion and style tips.

“Claire says I have to flip my hair behind behind my shoulders because it looks better that way.”

“Oh my god. Claire has soooo many lip glosses. She showed me. She brought them to school in her backpack.”

“Claire is so into make-up and style, mom. She ALWAYS looks fashionable. That’s ALL she talks about.”

“Claire taught me how to walk like a model today. We sway our hips like this. See?”

Oh my sweet nine year old girl. I told her that Claire focuses too much on looks and that perhaps she (Kiera) should redirect the conversation to other interesting topics. Not that fashion and beauty isn’t fun. I loved that stuff when I was nine. But the focus is a bit excessive. In addition, Kiera started asking for particular clothes because “that’s what Claire’s wearing.”

But then Kiera’s stories started changing.

“Claire told me she wouldn’t be my friend anymore if I didn’t wear my hair up.” She said this as tears filled her big blue eyes.

“Claire was telling me that I look funny today. I don’t think she likes me anymore, mom.”

Then the stories started turning into tear-filled tales of Claire’s dictatorship. Kiera couldn’t even draw something in class without Claire telling her she was doing it wrong. Kiera couldn’t play during recess without Claire pointing out Kiera’s failures. Claire would frequently get in Kiera’s face, boss her around, and declare that Kiera was not a good friend if she didn’t wear her shirt just so.

In short, Kiera was beginning to feel pretty damn inadequate. And Kiera feeling inadequate is a HUGE deal. She is the most enthusiastic, positive-thinking, go-getter that I know. She rarely lets anything get her down. She truly is a happy child — one that typically doesn’t care what people think.

I didn’t feel that these Claire episodes were happening often enough that it required me to get involved. Sometimes you have to sit back and let children navigate friendship struggles. I wanted to encourage Kiera to stand-up for herself. So I continued to encourage her:

“If she gets in your face again, tell her to back off. You can tell her she’s being mean and that you don’t want to play with her.”

“But that’s so hard, mom,” Kiera would say, “If I tell her to go away, she says she doesn’t want to be my friend. And then I start crying!”

“Well, you don’t WANT her to be your friend, Kiera! You’re a good person and you don’t need a mean-spirited person making you sad. By crying, you’re giving her all the power.”

Kiera would stand there silently and nod her head. I could tell she was taking my words in but didn’t quite know what to do with them.

And then.

One morning, Kiera came out of her room wearing an eclectic, colorful outfit — mismatched and odd looking but it somehow fit her personality.

Kiera announced:

I’m tired of all this fashion stuff. I’m just gonna be ME. I’m back to my hippy self. I’m gonna dress how I used to dress. This is me, mom.

With Kiera’s change of heart, the tales of Claire began to diminish. Usually a few weeks go by now before Claire is even mentioned. When Claire IS mentioned, however, it’s still not in a nice way.

This morning Kiera told me the following:

“I told Claire that you used to smoke cigarettes and she says that means you’re a bad parent.”

Ok. No. Uh uh. I don’t think so, CLAIRE.

In my extreme annoyance at this Claire tidbit I said, “Tell Claire she’s talking out of her butt.”

Kiera just stared at me wide-eyed.

Shit. I let a third grader get to me.

“You want me to tell her she’s talking out of her butt?”

“Yes, Kiera. You have my permission.”

She shook her head and smiled in disbelief.

What can I say? Sometimes you need a little third grade mentality to tell a third grade snob to back off.

So there, Claire. I said it. You’re talking out of your butt. 

Now go away.