Thursday, December 17, 2015

I Am Not My Eating Disorder, but It Is a Part of Me

Recently, I’ve noticed a strong social media movement aimed at removing the stigma associated with mental health issues. Celebrities are coming out to talk about their struggles with postpartum depression, people are bringing awareness to the many different faces of eating disorders, and individuals turning to medication to treat their depression are finally viewed as heroic rather than weak.

As someone who’s struggled with some of these issues myself, I’m happy to see this push toward awareness and acceptance. I applaud the individuals who’ve had the courage to emerge from the shadows, sharing their stories and shedding light on the mental health problems that plague so many of us.  

I encourage them—and others—to keep these conversations going.

But. BUT. I’d also like to clarify—perhaps even challenge—one of the themes that’s emerging as a result of the push toward mental health disorder acceptance.

“You are not your disease.”

Think about it. How many times have you heard or read that in one form or another?

You are not your depression.

You are not your anxiety.

You are not your eating disorder.

It’s that last one that really strikes a chord with me, although I’ve struggled with my fair share of the other two as well.

Anyone who’s read my past work knows I have a long history with an eating disorder.

Scratch that. “History” is indicative of the past, and mental health issues—even those you “recover” from—are never completely in your past.

You see, sicknesses—like depression and eating disorders—change you. Permanently.

They mark you.  For life.

They leave scars: Some figurative, and some literal. Some physical, and some emotional. Some that still have a tendency to jolt you awake in the night, rousing you with a sharp, sudden twinge of pain; and some that leave you with a dull, lingering ache—like a torn muscle that’s repaired itself, but remains stiff and sore from the growth of new tissue.

Some that will never heal, and some that slowly numb with the passage of time.

Some that make you feel weak, and some that make you feel like a warrior.

Some visible, and some not.

But as someone who bears these kinds of scars, let me assure you of this: Even if you—or others—can’t see them, I know they’re there: carved into my mind, stitched into my heart, spanning my very soul.

So, no, as many others have affirmed, I am NOT my disease.

I am NOT my eating disorder.

But it is a part of me.

It’s the part that makes me push beyond my physical limitations. I’m a runner, and some days, it’s the broken part of my soul that motivates me to keep moving. It’s the brokenness that fuels my determination, that help me focus, that makes me feel strong.

Odd, I know, how the very thing that once starved my body now fuels my soul; but my eating disorder reminds me of weakness, and that drives me toward strength. I know what it is to live in a body so emaciated it can barely function, and because I remember that feeling, I now revel in its renowned power.

I take pride in the swell of my leg muscles as they continue to carry me forward. 

It’s the part that ensures my children are cared for, even when I’m exhausted. I am all too familiar with the abyss a person can fall into when not properly nourished—either physically or spiritually—and I refuse to watch my children fall into that black hole of self-destruction.

So even when I’m frustrated, or tired, or battling my own personal demons, I make sure my boys are well-fed. I make sure they know they are loved. I make sure they are aware that they are always, always ENOUGH.

It’s the part that inspires me to write, to connect to others through my words. I can’t stand the thought of others suffering the way I once did, the way I sometimes still do.

It’s the part that makes every laugh, every smile, every tiny personal victory, a little brighter. It’s a matter of perception: light always looks more radiant in the presence of darkness. 

It’s the part that gives me perspective. I can see now that memories, not calories, are what count.

It’s the part that makes every bite of cake, every spoonful of peanut butter, and every finger-lick of cream cheese taste SO FREAKING GOOD. How—HOW—did I ever live without this stuff?

It’s the part that reminds me to cherish every moment of this life (no matter how corny that sounds). Because it brought me so close to the brink of losing it.

It’s the part that makes me irrevocably, uniquely ME. It’s a part of my past, a part of my story, a part of who I’ve grown to be.

In an ironic way, my eating disorder has given me substance. Its scars fill my soul with joy by reminding me of the misery that accompanies emptiness (both literally and figuratively speaking).

Sometimes, I like to think of myself as an Easter egg. (My boys are obsessed with Easter eggs, even as we approach Christmas). A fresh egg is fragile. Its shell is prone to crack, and if it does, everything inside of it—what makes it an egg—leaks out.

But when you boil an egg—when you expose it to heat and stress, when you push it to its breaking point—you give it substance. You make it tough. Then, even if its shell cracks a bit, the inside remains unchanged. It is solid. It is resilient.

And it has the potential to be any color you choose it to be.

I am not a disease. I am no more a disease than I am a number on a scale (something it has taken me a long time to acknowledge and accept).

But I have been changed by one, and I am all the more beautiful for it.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Five Bullshit Ways to Get Your Toddlers to Sleep Longer

My boys have some sort of twisted, personal vendetta against the joy that is sleep, and I don’t know how to rid them of it.

It started a few weeks ago, when daylight savings time screwed all parents over took effect. Instead of reveling in that extra hour of sleep they’d theoretically gained (as any reasonable human being would), my apparently-part-vampire toddlers started waking up a full TWO HOURS earlier than usual.

I’ve tried everything to get them back on schedule, from suggestions I’ve found online, to ideas concocted by my own chronically sleep-deprived mind.

I even dedicated part of my weekly spiritual devotion to fixing the problem. You know you’ve hit a low point when you find yourself sitting in church on a Sunday morning, imploring the Lord to make your kids sleep through the 6 AM Saturday airing of Thomas and Friends just ONCE this month. (I hate those creepy-ass locomotives; trains should not have faces.)

The boys? Well, they passed our time in church tugging on my bra straps, poking the visible bags beneath my eyes, and running literal circles around the narthex (much to the annoyance of a particularly uptight-looking fellow toddler-mama, who was sitting on a bench with her own young boy, his hands folded neatly in his lap, not a peep escaping his perfectly-pursed-together lips)*.

*Side note: If loud, energetic kids annoy you, and your own kid is perfectly well-behaved during mass, SIT IN CHURCH WITH THE REST OF THE CONGREGATION. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me." And I'm no Bible expert, but I don't recall any mention of him mumbling, "BUT SHUT THEM THE HELL UP FIRST" under his breath.

Unfortunately—albeit, not surprisingly—my prayers for delayed morning-risings have gone unanswered.

If you’re like me, and you’re desperate to get your toddlers to sleep in longer, do yourself a favor: Stop trying. Toddlers are illogical by nature, and attempting to utilize any sort of rationality when dealing with their behavior will only drive you further down the road to Crazy Town.

Here are five logical (and, thus, ineffective) ways to get your toddlers to sleep longer:

1. Don’t allow them to nap during the day. 

It’s simple math. The less sleep kids get during the day, the more they’ll need at night, right? WRONG.

Allow me to illustrate my point. Think of your kids’ sleep requirements in terms of a modern story problem (since child sleeping patterns make about as much sense as that common core math bullshit anyway):

Question 1: Billy needs a total of 12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, or he becomes a cranky little A-hole. Suppose Mom allows him to nap for exactly ZERO hours during the day. If she puts him to bed at 8 PM, what time should he wake up in the morning so as NOT to be a cranky little A-hole?

Answer: 8 AM

Question 2: What time will he ACTUALLY wake up?

Answer: 5 AM


2. Keep your kids’ rooms dark. 

The idea here is that if it looks like nighttime, your kids will act like it’s nighttime, i.e., when their little peepers pop open at 5 AM to total blackness, they will reasonably determine that it’s not yet morning, and thus not time to get up yet.

HAHAHAHA. “Kids…reasonably determine”: I can’t even type that oxymoronic bullshit with a straight face.

If my kids thought darkness = sleepy time, they wouldn’t conk out in their car seats on the reg—sunlight beaming through the windows into their tiny, defiant faces—only to wake up kicking and screaming five minutes later when I try to move them to their dimly lit bedrooms.

3. Take them to the playground to tucker them out. 

Fresh air, exercise, the thrill of chasing other kids around an open area: What kid wouldn’t be tempted to sleep in after a long afternoon of monkey bar swinging, rock wall climbing, and random giant-bug-contraption bouncing (see photos, below)?

Your kid. Your kid wouldn’t. Neither would my kid. Or any kid, for that matter. Playgrounds only seem to invigorate children, and the only “tiring” that takes place involves the little pieces of rubber being plucked off the ground and chucked at one another.

Oh, Mama, you think this is going to wear me out?
You poor, naive, fool of a woman.
Giant ladybugs are to me what Starbucks is to you.


Yup, definitely "BUZZED."

Not only does this fail to make my kids sleep in, but I think it actually causes them to wake up earlier by giving them something to look forward to the next day. It’s not uncommon for me to wake up at 4 AM to tiny toddler fists pounding on my door, demanding to go back and bounce on the giant ladybug "RIGHT NOW."

4. Set an alarm/timer/nightlight/etc. to go off at the desired wake-up hour. 

In theory, this is supposed to serve as an indication to your kids that it is okay to get out of bed.

In practice, this gives your kids another loud toy to play with when they wake up at the ass crack o’ dawn.

5. If your kids wake up early, explain to them that it’s still “nighttime,” and gently tuck them back into bed. 

Okay, let’s be real: If you think that’s going to work, your own sleep deprivation is clearly beginning to affect your cognitive functioning.

You should probably just pour yourself a glass of wine cup of coffee, put on PBS, and pray those little monsters agree to put their clothes back on before you take them out in public, despite their insistence that “Daniel Tiger doesn’t have to wear pants.”

So far, the only way I’ve managed to successfully get my kids to sleep in longer in the morning involves exposing them to germs when their immune systems are compromised. This works, not because they sleep more when they’re sick (in fact, it seems their miniscule bodies go into defense mode, creating a surplus of energy that manifests as extra bed-bouncing), but because it gives me a justified excuse to pump them with Children’s Nyquil.*

And I’ll gladly take a little extra snottiness from my kids if it buys me a few more hours of shuteye in the morning.

*I don’t actually do this. I usually just take a cool washcloth and stuff it in their mouths lovingly drape it across their foreheads, like any good mom would. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Why I Can’t Write About What Happened in Paris

Our hearts are with Paris.

Prayers for Paris.


We’ve all heard about it by now, and still, I can’t write the words.

I can’t write them because I can’t find them. They’re lost, floating around somewhere in a sea of sorrow and disbelief.

Words are my currency, my vessels of expression. I’m a writer. It’s what I do. It’s what I know. It’s how I communicate.

But I can’t write about what happened in Paris.

I can’t write about it because I can’t understand it. I can’t write about it because it doesn’t compute. I can’t write about it because it’s unfathomable.

How do you put words to something so senseless? It’s like trying to write about an alien planet in a galaxy that’s just been discovered, where the creatures that inhabit its unfamiliar surface are surrounded by an atmosphere of toxicity, one that my human body doesn’t recognize. One I couldn’t survive in.

It’s like trying to write in a foreign language, one I’ve never learned to speak, one that doesn’t register when I hear it verbalized.

It’s like trying to write about something so immeasurably horrendous, that the mere effort of putting it into words is too painful, and my mind puts up a defense barrier that won’t allow me to go there.


Do you know what I was doing when the first news reports started coming in? Frosting cookies. I was frosting car-shaped gingerbread cookies for my twin boys’ third birthday party, while they bounced on the couch in their mismatched jammies as my husband read them bedtime stories.

It’s surreal, isn’t it?

As we began hearing more and more details, my husband set the storybook down on his lap and looked up at me.

“Isn’t it crazy?” he asked, my toddlers still bouncing on the couch cushions, blissfully ignorant of the evil that goes on in this world. “Isn’t it crazy to think that we’re sitting here, getting the boys ready for bedtime, reading them stories, and there are people out there who think we should die? That there are people out there who would come in here and rape you, and probably kill the boys? That there are people who actually think it’s right to do stuff like that?”

It’s not just crazy. It’s painful.


I can’t write about what happened in Paris.

I can’t write about it because its reality, once acknowledged, is incomprehensibly terrifying. Painfully terrifying.

I look at my sweet, perfect boys, and imagine someone wanting to hurt them. The mere thought leaves me breathless, leaves my body so paralyzed with fear and denial that I can’t even shed the tears I feel condensing in the depths of my soul.

They are everything beautiful about this world. They are uninhibited joy. They are unadulterated love.

They are life.

Life: A perplexing word, isn’t it? So small, so concise. So compact. Four little letters that encapsulate so much vibrancy, so many intricacies, so much love and energy.

But that’s my boys: enormous souls housed in tiny bodies.

They are life—souls and hearts manifested corporeally, with the ability to express and communicate and simply be.

They are life, just like I am. Like you are. Like every single victim in last night’s attack was.

Every single one. I can’t tell you how many: how many lives—mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and friends and sisters and brothers—were actually taken last night.

I can’t tell you because I can’t read, watch, or listen to any of the news reports about it.

It hurts too much.

And I still can’t write about it. I can’t write about the innocent lives that were lost, or the not-so-innocent lives that stole them.

I can’t write about the pain. I can’t write about the horror. I can’t write about the irrationality.

What I can do is pray. I can pray for the families of the victims. I can pray for the citizens of Paris. I can pray for the people in this world—those who hurt, and those who do the hurting.

I can pray for peace and change. 

And I can live.

I can be grateful for the life I have—the life I still have.

I can frost birthday cookies and read bedtime stories. I can kiss my husband and hold my boys close to me. I can honor the lives that were lost by celebrating and cherishing the ones that weren’t.

I can’t write about what happened in Paris.

But I can live. I can live with purpose, intention, and gratitude.

And I can let my life do the talking (or the writing) for me.

Friday, October 23, 2015

How to Take a Toddler Trick-or-Treating in 52 Easy Steps

Halloween is almost upon us, folks. As it gets increasingly closer, I've noticed a lot of fellow toddler mamas*  discussing the night's events in the telltale tones of trepidation and—occasionally—downright horror. 

*That is, mamas-of-toddlers, not toddler-aged mamas. Just to be clear. I'm not sure on proper terminology here. Although, these days, WHO FREAKING KNOWS, amirite? Maybe I just gave MTV an idea for their next hit reality show. 

I mean, these ladies sound exhausted just talking about tot-or-treating. Er...trick-or-treating. (Although, if you ask most toddler moms, "tot" and "trick" tend to be interchangeable most of the time. Little rascals always keep you guessing.)

Anyway, I guess I just can't relate to the stress and/or pressure these mamas are apparently under. TRICK-OR-TREATING WITH TODDLERS IS A PIECE OF CAKE! (Mmmm...cake. Why isn't Halloween cake a thing? Don't get me wrong, I love me some Snickers, but I could also really go for some devil's food cake this season. Ha...see what I did there?)

Worried about taking your tots out this October 31st? Worry no more! All you have to do is follow these 52 EASY steps, and you and your little monster will have a grand ol' time!

Part I: Preparation

1. Ask Toddler what he would like to be this year for Halloween.

2. Explain to Toddler that “Hungry” is a feeling, not something he can really dress up as.

3. Get Toddler a Nutri-Grain bar to stop consequent screaming before asking again.

4. Explain to Toddler that “More” isn’t a viable costume option either.

5. Give up on soliciting Toddler’s input.

6. Peruse Pinterest for a creative DIY costume. Little Zephyr Basil’s mom isn’t the only crafty parent on the block. You got this.

7. Click on costume that seems fairly straightforward, involves no sewing, and has the word “easy” in the title.

8. Check Facebook and see that little Zephyr Basil’s mom has already uploaded 124,842 photos of him in a homemade Gandhi costume (made from all natural materials, of course), meditating in his Feng Shui’d bedroom and munching on homemade granola.

9. Throw pack of fruit snacks toward couch, where Toddler is screaming in front of the TV, and compose list of materials required to make “easy” Pinterest costume.

10. Wrestle Toddler into car seat and drive to Walmart. Be sure to bring more fruit snacks for the ten minute drive, or there will be literal wailing and gnashing of teeth.

11. Locate and purchase costume materials*.

*Note: This is an “umbrella” step for the six trillion actual steps involved, which may include: saying “no” to every (toy, book, goldfish, random piece of crap) that Toddler sees at the store; taking multiple potty breaks, none of which will actually involve Toddler peeing or pooping on the toilet; picking up the contents of your purse after Toddler upturns it in Aisle Five; and scouring the parking lot for Blankie when it turns up missing (only to find it stuck in the back of Toddler's pants when you finally give up and return to your vehicle).

12. Don’t forget to grab a couple bags of Halloween candy for Trick-or-Treaters.

13. Drive home, put Toddler back in front of TV, and attempt to make “easy” costume.

14. Easy my flabby, postpartum ass.

15. When it turns out nothing like the picture, bury feelings of inadequacy in the jumbo bag of Snickers you just bought. Don’t let Toddler see you.

16. HAHAHA. Bitch, please: Toddler always knows. Throw a Snickers his way to stop the screaming. Be careful not to *accidentally* hit him in the head with it.

17. Return to Walmart. Bring suckers for the car this time. They last longer than fruit snacks.

18. Hit up the Halloween section and allow Toddler to select outrageously priced, cheaply-made costume.

19. Check out. And remember to get more candy to replace the stuff you inhaled at your costume-fail pity party.

Part II: The Main Event

20. On Halloween, dress Toddler in Walmart costume. When he starts crying because it’s too (hot, itchy, blue, not-Batman), remind him that HE’s the one who picked it out.

21. Attempt to take picture of Toddler.

22. Send pic of the back of Toddler’s head to everyone on your contact list on your way out the door.

23. When Toddler gets tired of walking after approximately two minutes, pick him up and carry him door-to-freaking-door like a haggard, overgrown Girl Scout hauling around a carton of Tagalongs.

24. Remove Toddler’s (cape, monkey ears, wig, eyepatch) because it’s too (hot, itchy, blue, not-a-Batman-mask).

25. Approach house and allow Toddler to ring doorbell.

26. Tell Toddler to stop ringing doorbell.

27. Tell Toddler to stop crying just because he can’t keep ringing doorbell.

28. Try to get Toddler to say “Trick-or-Treat” when masked stranger opens door.

29. Who the actual f**k dresses up like a demented clown while handing out candy to little kids?
Oh, right. Daddy. Daddy does.
Way to go, Daddy.

30. Say “Trick-or-Treat” for Toddler while he cries and screams into your shoulder.

31. When Bozo the Toddler-Traumatizer reaches into candy bowl for an Airhead, tell him that Toddler is allergic to red dye 40…

32. …but really loves Snickers.

33. Try to get Toddler to say “Thank you.”

34. When Toddler starts whining for the “big red candy,” say “Thank you” for him and walk away. Quickly.

35. Point out little Zephyr Basil across the street, in all his miniature Gandhi glory, and use Toddler’s momentary distraction to scarf down Snickers bar. You need the energy more than he does right now.

36. Continue to lug 35lbs of squirmy Toddler—plus awkwardly shaped pumpkin pail—past five houses with unlit porch lights.

37. Stingy bastards.

38. When you finally find a house giving out candy, haul Toddler up driveway resembling Olympic ski jump.

39. Repeat steps #25 – 38 for the next 90 minutes.

Part III: The Spoils of Victory

40. At home, dump Toddler’s candy on kitchen counter for inspection.

41. Repeatedly pull pants up while Toddler tugs at them, begging for candy.

42. Once you’ve deemed candy safe, allow Toddler just two pieces before bedtime.

43. *Incoherent wailing*

44. Attempt to brush caramel and cement-like taffy from Toddler’s gnashing teeth.

45. Wrangle Toddler into pajamas, shove tuck him into bed, and listen to screams of “More candy!” until he passes out.

46. Contemplate ways a serial-child-killer might open a candy wrapper, lace its contents with rat poison, and seamlessly repackage it.

47. Go check on Toddler.

48. Once assured that Toddler is indeed breathing, pour a glass of wine and raid pumpkin pail for any remaining Snickers bars.

49. Plop on couch, turn on TV, and try to relax.

50. Watch breaking story about poisoned Halloween candy.

51. Neurotically repeat step #47 for the rest of the night.

52. Wake up the next morning to Toddler’s screams for “more candy” and your hair glued to the couch upholstery with caramel.

Happy Halloween, from all of us at Between the Monkey Bars!

Also, if you like what you read, do a Mama blogger a solid and consider sharing!*

*Or I will intentionally deprive my toddlers of sugar, hunt you down, and tell them you have tons of chocolate in your pockets.**

**I won't really do this.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Call a Girl Pretty, and 15 Other Things Boys Shouldn’t Do

Raising boys isn’t as simple as it used to be. Look around you—online, at the playground, in the newly-neutralized toy aisles of Target—and you’ll notice that traditional gender lines are becoming blurrier by the second.

You’ll also notice people getting their panties (or jockstraps, since we’re all about equality now) in a wad about some pretty stupid shit.

Feminism is spreading, folks. It’s spreading faster than the legs of Cersei Lannister when her brother walks into the room.

(Was that offensive? It’s so hard to differentiate between humor and tactlessness these days).

I’m all for equal rights. I think women deserve equal pay. Because duh. I think all parents should be given paid maternity/paternity leave. I think athletes like Shalane Flanagan and Meb Keflezighi are EQUALLY freaking BADASS, because they're fast as f***, not because they're male or female. I think ladies can be scientists, and dudes can be homemakers.

But I also think people are getting a wee bit nuts when it comes to kids, gender roles, and the "sexual" implications of innocent childhood behaviors. Sometimes we need to just let kids be kids.

Now, if a toy is labeled a “boy” or a “girl” toy, it’s seen as regressive to the feminist movement. Disney movies are picked apart and scrutinized for being “sexist.” (I’m sorry, but what little kid watches Tangled and analyzes the relative hand sizes of Rapunzel and Flynn Rider? I think they’re probably more fascinated by the fact that Rapunzel has hair she could wipe her own butt with.) And is it just me, or does it seem like society is reading just a little too much into things, like calling your kid a “flirt”?

Now, if I offhandedly say that one of my kids is acting like "such a boy," the online gender role patrol is ready to get all up on me like white on rice (or brown on rice...I'd hate to be accused of racism in addition to sexism).

Now, if I buy my boys toy cars, I'm shoving them into a gender niche. And if I buy them dolls, I'm shoving my own feminist agenda down their throats. WHY CAN'T KIDS JUST PICK OUT THEIR OWN TOYS AND PLAY WITH WHATEVER THE HELL THEY WANT WITHOUT BEING PSYCHOANALYZED FOR IT?

I mean, when I found out I was pregnant with TWO PENISED CREATURES, my primary concern was potty training. Because obviously. How the hell was I going to teach them to use equipment I didn’t have?

Now I’ve got to worry about all this politically correct bullshit.

(Side note: Still not much progress on the potty training front, but they do know how to do burpees and utilize proper running form, because those are things I can actually demonstrate...without purchasing some really awkward items from an adult toy store.)

Seriously though, the gender thing: It’s hard to teach your sons to both respect and ignore gender lines, which seems to be what the world expects them to do: You should treat girls the same way you treat boys. BUT! Boys and girls are not the same, so while it might be okay to chest bump Billy Bob on the playground, it might be frowned upon if you rub up against Susie Q.

*Disclaimer: I am in no way implying that only boys can be named Billy or that only girls can be named Susie. I’d hate for the Target mom to read this and demand a retraction.*  

Mixed messages, people. It’s confusing for me, and I’m a grown-up (sort of...I did just picture Rapunzel flossing her butt crack with that golden mane of hers).

LUCKILY* FOR ME, I’ve read/heard/been offered a TON of advice on the subject, and I’ve managed to weed out the helpful stuff from the poppycock poppytwat. (See? I’m learning. YAY for equality!)

*Unfortunately and annoyingly

Anyway, here are 16 things you should NOT allow your son to do*, according to certain people on the internet, individuals who don't understand the real definition of "feminism," and random nitwits:

*Note: If you have no sense of sarcasm, please, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD (or GODDESS), STOP READING.

1. Play with dolls. WOMEN ARE NOT A MAN’S PLAY THINGS.

2. Think there’s anything wrong with playing with dolls. But wait, you also want your son to learn how to be a loving, nurturing father. Playing with dolls will facilitate that. This is the 21st century: Women aren’t responsible for all the child-rearing anymore.


4. Believe there is such a thing as “boy” and “girl” toys. Shit. I hope Target didn’t hear me.

5. Watch Disney movies. Those animated monstrosities are rife with degrading gender stereotypes. Way too many damsels in distress. You don’t want him thinking the right thing to do is help a girl out when she’s in trouble. Best to leave her passed out in a tower (like Sleeping Beauty) or at the mercy of a pedophiliacally-goateed maniac (like Jasmine).

I’d stick with A League of Their Own. Just be sure to stress that Tom Hanks has nothing to do with the team’s success.

6. Play tag (with girls). WHOA, INAPPROPRIATE TOUCHING. (Girls are not made to be manhandled.)

7. Play tag (with boys). WHOA, INAPPROPRIATE TOUCHING. (Neither are boys. But make sure he knows you’re okay with him being gay. But you probably shouldn’t use the word “gay,” because “gay” is a label, and LABELS ARE BAD.)

8. Play tag (period). It’s really kind of dangerous, and it reinforces the stereotype that men are always on the prowl and live for the thrill of the chase.

9. Play with water guns. *Sigh* Another male stereotype. Besides, playing with water guns will inevitably turn him into a psychotic serial killer. Might as well just buy him an AK47 for Christmas and let him use the cat for target practice.

*Note: If he has a sister, you can definitely let her play with toy guns. I mean, girls that play with toy guns are cute tomboys, fiercely expressing their burgeoning feminism. Boys who do it are just deranged sociopaths in the making.

10. Play video games. Yeeeeaaahhh…those will also turn him into a psychotic serial killer.

Yes, even the ones that don’t involve guns. Pac-Man is just too damn aggressive, the way he darts around, taking whatever he wants. Not a good male role model.

And don’t even get me STARTED on Mario. Psshh. Always there to “save” the “princess.” That anti-feminist asshole belongs in a Disney movie.

11. Climb up the slide at the playground. Again, this encourages aggressive behavior. And, seriously, are you TRYING to turn him into a psychoticserial killer?

12. Be chastised for climbing up the slide. I mean, after all, boys will be boys…

13. Hear you say things like, “Boys will be boys.” Shhh…Target shoppers might hear you.


15. Let him see you packing his (or Daddy’s) lunch. Holy shit, what do you think this is, 1950? Step away from the peanut butter jar, Mama! You should be spreading your feminist views in front of your impressionable son, not that PBJ.

Next thing you know, he’ll be waltzing up to little Susie at playgroup, yelling, “MAKE ME A SAMMICH, WOMAN!”

16. Just be a kid. From the moment he comes tearing through your vagina (or C-section incision), he needs to be aware of the possible political and social implications of everything he does.

In fact, if you nurse him, be sure to do it in public, show lots of boob, take a ton of pictures, and create a PowerPoint for him to use in any future 4H projects on women’s rights. Because what little boy wouldn’t be proud to show THAT to his peers?

For real though, you’d hate to see him actually enjoying his childhood.

Careful, boys. That "big stick" you're so sweetly playing with 
might be misconstrued as some sort of phallic symbol.

Monday, September 21, 2015

I’m Not Ready to Be “Mommy”

Since the day my boys were born, I have been “Mama.”

I never felt like a “Mommy,” which is actually a little ironic, since that’s what I called my own mother when I was young. My mom epitomizes everything I believe a mother should be. It seems natural that I’d be eager to take on her title.

But for some reason, the moment the doctor pulled my boys out of my open abdomen—10 weeks before their due date—it was the word “Mama” that popped into my head. As I kissed the delicate red skin of their cheeks, mere seconds before they were whisked away to the NICU, I knew that’s who I was meant to be.

In their absence, I whispered it to myself like a quiet prayer. The word on my lips felt much like their skin had: soft, comforting, natural, perfect.

I fell in love with the word “Mama” the same way I fell in love with my boys: immediately and irreversibly. I loved its simplicity and its symmetry. That one tiny syllable—whispered twice—was a perfect analogy for the two new loves that had entered my life.

The word “Mommy” just didn’t have the same effect. When I said it, I felt tension in my face as my lips stretched horizontally, their corners drooping slightly downward on the last syllable. It felt forced. It felt unnatural.

And it sounded unnatural, at least to me.

“Mama” sounded like a lullaby, and “Mommy,” more of a kitschy theme song to an animated kids’ show. Maybe it was that long “e” at the end of it. It sounded hard to me, and it didn’t match the new softness my boys had created in my heart.

And so, the day they were born, I was, too. As their “Mama.”

As their Mama, I watched them grow from scrawny preemies into chubby cherubs. When they smiled for the first time, it was their Mama who smiled back.

As their Mama, I laughed when they learned to crawl by chasing my untied shoelace around the kitchen floor. When they made it all the way to the refrigerator, it was their Mama who cheered for them.

As their Mama, I gazed upon their tiny hands when they reached out for one another, their little arms closing the gap between their Rock ’N Plays. When they interlocked their delicate baby fingers, it was their Mama’s heart that melted.

As their Mama, I marveled at the innovative way they walked around on their knees—their torsos upright—scooting around as though in animated prayer. When they transitioned to their feet and took their first steps, it was their Mama who clapped with pride.

And when I finally heard them call me “Mama,” each in his own time, I couldn’t imagine ever being anyone else.


Now here we are: My boys are on the cusp of Threenagehood. Instead of walking, they’re learning to use the potty. Instead of first words, we’re celebrating letter recognition. Instead of soft coos and simple words, I’m listening to full sentences and (frequent) demands.

Instead of rocking them to sleep in my arms at night, I’m tucking them into big boy beds. Instead of falling asleep to the sound of my voice, they’re drifting off in fits of giggles, while I sit in another room, listening to their private chatter (literally) behind closed doors.

And instead of “Mama,” I am “Mommy.”

The first time I heard one of them say it was over breakfast. They were forking sliced bananas at their Cars foldout table, and I was walking out of the kitchen to use the restroom. As I left, the voice of my youngest trilled after me:


At first I laughed. I’d never heard either of them use that word before, and its newness sounded off-kilter and unnatural, like a native English speaker saying “Hola” for the first time. Of course, toddlers believe anything that evokes laughter bears repeating, so it wasn’t long before my other son was saying it:

“Mommiieeee, more pancakes. Mommiiieee, more ’nanas. Marshmallow cereal, Mommiiiee!”

I thought the novelty would wear off once I stopped laughing, but it kept happening.

When one of them accidentally locked himself in a bathroom stall at the splash park: “MOMMY, help!”

At bedtime, as we were reading stories: “Sit on MOMMY’s lap.”

When they caught me “resting my eyes” for a moment: “MOMMY go night-night.”

When they walked out the front door for a boys-only playground trip with Daddy: “Bye, MOMMY!” (That one stung just a little more than the others.)

I have nothing against the word “Mommy;” I’ve just never identified with it. I don’t feel a connection to it. But I suppose one of the poignant inevitabilities of motherhood is that as your children grow older, your identity—and the role you play in their lives—changes right along with them.

I’m not ALWAYS “Mommy.” In fact (to my relief), the boys have—on their own—reverted back to using “Mama” as their primary way of addressing me. But sometimes (usually when they’re being silly, or acting particularly independent), I become, at least for the moment, “Mommy.” 

And I don't like it.

I know it sounds silly that I'm getting so hung up on such a minute linguistic change. It is—after all—just a word. One word. Not even one word. One syllable. One vowel sound.

An “ah” to an “e,” and—just like that—it feels like I'm losing a piece of myself, the piece that initially connected with them in that NICU, almost three years ago. 

Just like that, I can feel their babyhood slipping away, taking my Mamahood with it.

Far more than the flip of a calendar page, the shift to “Mommy” is making me realize how quickly they’re growing up, and how much we’re leaving behind.

I know we still have a lot of "firsts" to look forward to: The first day of kindergarten, first bike rides, first Little League games, first science fair projects, first dates and first kisses (oof...just typing that makes me cringe).

I plan to be there for all of it (minus, perhaps, those first kisses), whether it's as their "Mommy," or (eventually, I'm sure) their "Mom."

But as they—and the role I play in their lives—continue to grow and change, I hope they'll always remember that I was their "Mama" first.

Monday, September 7, 2015

How a Question About Cockroaches Got Me Writing About Mental Health

Greetings FROM INDIANA, blogolicious followers! That's right, we have officially exited the Gates of Hell (a.k.a. the gates of Fort Hood, TX) and have no intention of returning. EVER.

Apparently, Satan wasn't happy about our departure, so he sent some of his evil henchmen to see us off. After living under his tyranny for just over a year, I would expect nothing less.

So, on our last day in Texas, I discovered a dead roach clinging to one of my sports bras. Thank God I wasn't WEARING the sports bra at the time, or I probably wouldn't have lived to tell the tale, as I would have likely bludgeoned myself with my husband's kettlebell in order to squash the (already dead) bastard, just to be sure it really was dead.

This is just how badly living in the south has scarred me: All I had to do was scream incoherent gibberish (okay, and a few VERY COHERENT profanities), and little Ollie knew what was happening. He came running into the room, yelling, "EWWW! Bug!"

Eww indeed. Silver lining (or, pink lining, since that was the color of the sports bra in question): At least it was dead when I found it.

Which is more than I can say for the colony of fire ants that crawled up my shorts at the playground later that evening.

You see, poor Trystan had been having constipation issues for days, and it was making him miserable. We took him to the playground for some exercise to try to get know...MOVING along. It worked like a charm, and when he finally pooped, I was so caught up in my relief over his LITERAL relief, that I didn't pay attention to my surroundings when I plopped down to change his diaper.

Ladies, you have not known pain until you've been attacked by fire vaginAnts. Holy freaking shit.

By the time we made it to Indiana two days later, I had welts all over my ass and lady bits, so we spent our first evening home at Medpoint, where I was stabbed in my swollen butt with a needle full of steroids.

Hopefully, I'm not drug tested at my next marathon. Hardy har har.

Have I mentioned just how much I hate Texas? Seriously, if the United States of America were a bag of Halloween candy, Texas would be one of those nasty taffy pieces of shit that no one really likes, but that heartless cheapskates insist on buying and handing out anyway.
For real, does anybody actually enjoy these? I think I'd rather get a rock, like Charlie Brown in the Peanuts Halloween special. It would probably be easier on my teeth.

As emotionally scarring as my horror-movie-worthy-bug-infested departure from Texas was, there was some good that came of it (besides the obvious DEPARTURE part).

You see, these traumatic bug experiences led to some seriously deep thinking.

Before I get to that, allow me to provide a little background info: My husband has this odd habit of asking me really stupid hypothetical questions (since he's apparently a giant toddler, and having two normal sized ones pester me with senseless inquiries clearly doesn't meet my daily quirky question quota). Past examples include: Would you rather marry Gollum or Uncle Fester? If you had to have sex with Grima Wormtongue or Beldar Conehead, who would you do? (I have an irrational fear of Coneheads.)

For the record, I went with Grima, even though I'd really rather not think about Frenching someone named "Wormtongue."

BUUUUUT....I just honestly don't think there is anything more disgusting than a Conehead. 
(Besides cockroaches, of course.)
*Shudders at keyboard, causing several inadverte507nqt ty8po=s*

So, back to the "deep thinking." As we were driving away from the Hell known as Texas, Andy asked me what I would choose if I had to be trapped in a coffin and covered in either (A) FIRE ANTS or (B) COCKROACHES.

For the first time, I found myself stumped. You see, I'm pretty sure that being bit or stung or whatever by thousands of fire ants would kill me. Like, pretty much internally burn me alive. (I have horrific reactions to bug bites.) But I'm also pretty sure that being covered by thousands of cockroaches would make me wish I were dead. (I have horrific emotional reactions to tiny demons tickling me with their freakishly long antennae while their beady little eyes stare into my soul.)

Cockroaches are effing repulsive. I know I joke about them a lot, but the truth is that I'm legitimately terrified of them. I've lost sleep over them. I've cried over them. I've screamed over them, and refused to enter my own house over them. I know it's dumb and irrational. A cockroach can't really hurt you. (Although, I did have a huge-ass one land on my head in GA once in the middle of a spin bike workout, and it sort of felt like getting thwacked in the temple by a hot wheels car.)

So, even though I knew that fire ants might actually kill me, or, at the very least, make me feel (ironically) like an ant under a magnifying glass, I'm pretty sure I'd take them over the roaches.

Is this all sounding a little stupid to you? That's probably because it is. I mean, it was a STUPID question about STUPID bugs.

**Note to reader: If you were looking for a lighthearted, humorous post about my hatred of cockroaches, you can just stop reading here.**

But here's where things get all serious and weird. Before I knew it, this insipid hypothetical question had me thinking about the power of the human mind.

Here's the thing: Physical pain sucks. But mental anguish can suck just as much, if not more. And as someone who has a history of depression and anxiety, I can tell you that sometimes the latter is a thousand times worse.

I've endured my fair share of bodily pain. I've had my ovaries swell up to the size of my head, broken multiple bones, suffered internal bleeding into my abdomen, run a 50 mile trail race, and had two human beings cut out of me.

And yet, the thought of a bunch of (theoretically) harmless insects crawling over my skin is pretty much unbearable to me.

Have you ever wondered why people cut themselves? Here's a truth I've not yet shared with you, loyal followers: I used to be one of them.

At my worst, when the yarns of my depression, anxiety, and eating disorder wove themselves into a cloak of misery that hid who I was, that threatened to swallow me up in darkness...

...I cut myself.

I cut myself to feel a pain I could label. I cut myself to feel a pain I could explain, a pain that made sense.

I cut myself to feel anything besides the mental and emotional pain that was just too much to bear (like the thought of thousands of cockroaches crawling all over me).

This is the same reason I starved myself for years. I wanted control. I wanted distraction. I wanted an empty stomach, something that could be both a literal and figurative black hole, something that could suck up all my feelings of pain and inadequacy.

Fear, anxiety, depression: They are real, and they are terrifying. They are so terrifyingly real that most people who deal with them would gladly embrace physical torment if it meant a reprieve from the emotional pain inflicted on them by their own minds.

So, I know this post is a little hodgepodge, and I've gone from being funny to being painfully honest and vulnerable, and I know that fire ants are a poor analogy for self-harm, and that cockroaches are nowhere near as destructive as mental health issues like depression.

BUT. The mind is a funny thing. A powerful thing. A scattered thing, and a scary thing. And so are the thoughts and words it manufactures. (Hence, the nature of this post.)

So yes, readers, my husband's stupid question about bugs led me here, reflecting on mental health issues. And while I'm here (and you are too, if you're still reading), I'd like to make a request:

Please stop making light of mental health issues.

Sometimes I hear people make cavalier jokes about cutting themselves, or starving themselves, or making themselves throw up, or even killing themselves. And it makes me cringe.

Because those aren't things to joke about.

Because they're not funny.

Because there are REAL people having those REAL thoughts, everywhere, everyday.

And they're hurting.

So please, think before you speak.

And look before you sit.

(Unless you want to end up on a mound of fire ants, like myself.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Disney Chicks: They PMS Just Like Us!

The wonderful world of Disney is full of magic, imagination, and...women. We're talking all types of women: damsels in distress, heroines, animals, psychopaths, even creepy human-fish hybrids (I'm looking at YOU, Ariel!).

Disney's first animated short came out in 1928, and the company has made over 50 full-length feature films since then, most of which have included female characters in some capacity. 

That’s a lot of women. And wherever there are a lot of women, there are a lot of hormones: hormones that lead to periods, and all the fun pre-period moodiness that accompany them. 

That’s right, folks, Disney women may be living in fairy tales, but they’re not immune to the bitchy spell cast by Aunt Flo. In fact, it seems as though some of Disney’s leading ladies were actually on the rag—or about to be—during filming.

So, fellow Disney-oplhiliac women, next time you find yourself drowning under the weight of the crimson wave, you may want to consult this list and take solace in the fact that you’re in good (magical, even!) company.

Because, hey, Disney chicks: They PMS just like us! 

They have major mood swings.

They cry over stupid shit.

So, Ariel, let's get this straight: You're sad because Daddy blew up an old globe? You must really love geography.

PS: Where the hell does a mermaid put a tampon?

And they cry whenever they look in the mirror.

OMG, is that a pimple? 

They even cry over vaginas (like, literally).

She's dressed in rags, she's on the rag...maybe she thinks if she weeps into her fairy godmother's vagina, all her troubles will just magically disappear.

(Or maybe FG can find a really tiny pumpkin to transform into a super absorbent tampon.)

They often have resting bitch face.

Forget painting with all the colors of the wind. This chick's paintin' the town red with her vajayjay.

Or, they're just straight up bitches (with anger issues).

Get her some chocolate, STAT.

Or, they're straight up, cold bitches (with anger issues).

This is what happens when Elsa's vagina decides to "let it go."

And sometimes, they're just bitches. Like, literally.

Lolz. Homonymns.

They get bloated. I mean, really bloated...

I feel ya, Ursula. Gotta stick with sweats until Aunt Flo leaves town.

...probably because they stuff their faces with whatever they can get their hands on.

She tells the man of the house that she's not hungry and then sneaks off into the kitchen in the middle of the night to binge on dancing sweets. Makes total sense.

They get weird, uncontrollable cravings.

Mmmmm...poison apple (cue slobbering and poor judgment).

All they want to do is sleep.

Seriously, dude, I wouldn't do that if I were you. Someone's gonna get bitch-slapped.

And if you try to wake them up, they just ignore you.

Get the bloody hell away from me. (See what I did there?)

They have strange compulsions to clean stuff.

Chick's clearly suffering from menorrhagia. I mean, check out that complexion. Someone go get her some damn iron tablets.

Their boobs are extra sensitive during "that time of the month."

...I'll give you a hint: It's the same color as her hair. And it’s apparently making her boobs hurt so much that she has to wear an extra-supportive, hard-shell bra.

They get super defensiveand a little paranoidwhenever they see the men in their lives whispering behind their backs.

Back away slowly, dudes.

They can be standoffish...

...or super HORNy. (Get it?)

And sometimes, they're just downright cray-cray.

She must be on a Ben & Jerry's run.

They have a hard time controlling their behavior around other people.

That "little red dragon" that follows Mulan around everywhere, telling her what to do? Clearly an allegory for Aunt Flo.

And they often find themselves in desperate need of proper feminine hygiene products.

She's a frog, dammit. Someone go get her a freaking pad.

Disney menstruation: Remember, it all started with a mouse...

...who started her period.

(Talk about a maximum absorbency pad.)