I Went to the Beach…Alone

Twenty something years ago, long before I had kids, and even before I got married, I remember my best friend at the time telling me she had gone to the beach one afternoon by herself. I stared at her—a mixture of being appalled that she had gone by herself and hurt that she hadn’t asked me to go with her.

“Why would you do that?” I asked, hoping she would tell me she didn’t know I was available to go along. Instead, she told me she went by herself because she didn’t want to be with anyone else that day—she just wanted quiet.

I spent the rest of that night completely miffed. To me, going to the beach solo was on par with going to the movies by yourself or going to a restaurant by yourself. Wasn’t she embarrassed that she was at the beach alone? Would she rather be at the beach alone than with me…her best friend???

If I’m honest, that lone beach trip was actually the beginning of our friendship unraveling. I was hurt and confused by her actions. But now, twenty-something years, two kids, and a husband later…well now, I get it.

Now I am the one who goes to the beach alone. I’m the one who doesn’t want anyone to accompany me. I’m the one who goes for the peace and quiet.

I went to the beach alone this week and it was glorious. I drove down the way I wanted to drive, no one making faces at my inability to set the cruise control, my terrible habit of changing lanes with impatience, and my speeds ranging from snail to The Fast and the Furious. No one to complain that my radio was blasting at a volume of 25 (Yup…it does go up that high). No one to mock my ridiculous posthumous crush on Kurt Cobain and my sudden fondness for flannel whenever Nirvana comes on the radio. No one to change the radio station when I put on the 60s station and sang off key. No one to roll their eyes when I have to stop to use the bathroom before I even get to the beach. No one to make me STOP to use the bathroom before I get to the beach because they can’t hold it. No one to throw up as we exit the Parkway (EVERY. DAMN. TIME.). There was no one to complain when I turned off the air conditioner and rolled down the windows so I could smell the salty air. There was no one to complain that I went to the beach without bathrooms, the beach that’s never crowded. And there wasn’t anyone to complain that the beach I picked was too crowded. Nobody ran off as I was trying to put sunblock on them either.

There was no one to tell me that 10:45 was too early to eat lunch (so I ate my sandwich because I wanted to) and no one to complain to me that they were hungry the whole damn time. There was no one rummaging through the bag for snacks, dropping my keys and phone in the sand. Nobody begged me to go in the rough water and get knocked down by waves. Nobody told me they had to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW and refused to go in the ocean instead. Nobody got sand on my blanket or dripped water on my towel. No one begged me to make a sand castle and then lost interest. I sat there and read my book, took a nap, and stared at the waves on MY time.

It was absolute bliss—heaven on Earth. That is…until a family of five (with four kids under the age of ten) parked down next to me on the nearly deserted beach. They could have gone anywhere on the beach but no, they picked me to torture. The kids proceeded to do EVERY LAST THING my own kids did when they would come to the beach with me…including getting way too close to my blanket and kicking sand on it.

I shot daggers at the harried mother…couldn’t she see this was MY time that her kids were interrupting? Couldn’t she see I’ve done this before? The crying, the screaming, the begging…the miserable beach trips? Couldn’t she see those days were over for me and I had no desire to partake in her miserable beach day? I scooted my beach chair farther away from them.

Then I felt bad. It wasn’t this poor mother’s fault that kids are just miserable beach-fellows. I wanted to tell her it was going to be okay…I wanted to tell her that one day, she would be me…she would be by herself on the beach, enjoying the sun on her face and the blessed quiet. I mean…that is until someone else’s kids showed up. So I didn’t tell her anything. I just packed it in for the day and headed home. After all, if anyone’s kids are gonna drive me nuts, it might as well be my own.

Call Me Uber

The picture above could be a picture of me this summer. I feel like I haven’t gotten out of the car all summer; a permanent imprint matching my butt can be found on the driver’s seat. Uber is my new name. My husband’s too…we share this awesome moniker. At least that’s what my sixteen year-old son believes. Apparently his father and I are running a car service for him. For free.

I drop him off at the baseball camp that he’s helping out at the other morning and he frowns as he glances around the parking lot.

“I’m the first one here,” he tells me.

“There’s people here, ” I point out. There are girls on the soccer field and boys on the football field.

“Not for baseball camp though. I’m the first one for baseball camp.”

“Yeah, okay, that’s good, right?” I say, really confused. Usually he is rushing me out of the house because he’s paranoid about being late. Even though he’s never been late in his entire life. Okay, maybe once he was late when his sister threw herself on the floor and refused to move unless we gave her a cookie or something, but generally, he is never late.

“No. I don’t want to be this early.”

I look at the clock and see that it’s 8:15. He needs to be at the field by 8:30. He’s not ridiculously early. And I have a doctor’s appointment 20 miles away at 9:00. An appointment I may not make it to if I allow him to stay in the car for another minute. “Oh well. Sorry,” I said, practically shoving him out of the car. The coach is there and besides, he’s sixteen, not six. He has a cell phone and the campus is crawling with students from other camps and sports teams. He’s not getting abducted—he just has to spend 15 minutes alone…the horror.

He grudgingly gets out of the car, but not before mentioning for the bazillionth time that the camp is over at 2:00 and there’s no need to wait for him to call to say the camp is over and I should be there at 2:00 because he was the last one picked up yesterday. I grip the steering wheel because I’m contemplating “bumping” him with the car and that would be bad. Beyond Bad Mommy Diaries bad. I drive away muttering under my breath, cursing him and his ungrateful teenage ‘tude.

It absolutely amazes me that not only are we bending over backwards to get him to where he needs to go (and ON TIME), he’s got the nerve to tell us how were supposed to be doing it. Instead of thanking us, he’s critiquing us. I remember walking home from track practice in high school or walking to work…MANY TIMES. Not once would I have berated my parents for not giving me a ride if it wasn’t convenient. I would be missing teeth right now if I had complained.

But not my spoiled boy…he seems to think rides to wherever he wants to go is his God given right as our offspring. In fact, for someone with no license or car, he makes an awful lot of plans, plans he expects us to partake in. He doesn’t seem to get that there are 3 other people in the house—3 other people that often have to change their schedules or not go out in order to accommodate his schedule.

“I’m hanging out with my friends tonight,” he says to me in the car as I pick him up from his umpiring job later on. I glance at the dashboard clock. It’s after 8:00 in the evening.

“Um, you are, are you?” This doesn’t bode well for me. Not one of his friends live in walking distance. In fact, his circle of friends literally extends the entire width of our township. It takes a good hour to collect or drop off the entire lot of them anywhere. Not that that stops them from actually walking here there and everywhere once they’re together. In fact, once when he was at one friend’s house (who lives 3 miles away), they walked as far as the McDonald’s that is a half a mile from our house—and then turned back to walk to the friend’s house to ask me to come pick him up!

“Yeah, we’re gonna go to the fair,” he tells me. I groan. The fair is on the other side of the world. Or at least, the other side of the township.

“How are you getting there?” I ask with a sinking feeling that I already know the answer to this question. This is the fourth night he’s been to the fair—I’m pretty sure this is going to go down a lot like the other nights.

“Can you take us?”

I sigh. I have no desire to play chauffeur tonight. I’m tired and cranky and there’s a glass of sangria in the fridge screaming out my name. A glass that I will have to neglect if I’m the uber of the evening. I’ve juggled multiple schedules to get him everywhere he needs to go several times this week already. I’m going to follow Nancy Reagan’s advice and just say no, I decide. After all, who’s the parent?

“Nope,” I tell him with conviction that I don’t feel at all. I really have no reason to refuse to let him go other than the fact that I am feeling lazy and I would like to have an adult beverage. So yeah, worst bad mommy ever.

“What?!?!” he is appalled at my selfishness.

“No,” I repeat.

He then proceeds to confirm the fact that I am the worst mom ever by telling me so. I then tell him that he’s grounded and he can kiss my butt if he thinks I’m ever going to take him anywhere again. There are tears and threats and pissed off faces when we pull into the driveway.

“What’s his problem?” my twelve year old asks as her brother storms past her to throw himself down on his bed, face in his disgusting-probably-hasn’t-been-washed-since-I-stopped-doing-his-laundry-two-years-ago pillow. This is her signature sulking method and she wants to know if he’s justified in ripping off her practically trademarked move.

I explain to her that he expects me to be his servant and shuttle him all over God’s creation at the drop of the hat. I mutter that I am counting down the days till his seventeenth birthday (367…) My daughter shrugs as she watches me angrily pour my drink and then says, “Why don’t you just get him an uber?”

I stare at her for a second, considering her suggestion. She may actually be on to something. His birthday is coming up…does uber have gift cards?

 

 

The Bad Mommy Cooks Again

As you all must know by know, I’m a crap cook. I once had to be taught how to make Ramen noddles by my eleven year old daughter (in my defense, I lived at home in college and never had to have a Ramen noddle/hotdog dinner). But still, I keep trying. Mostly because we have to eat or we will die. We eat out a lot. I’ve gotten a lot of flak from friends and family for that. Not that they come over to help plan a meal and shop for a meal and clean up from a meal after it catches fire and the damn picky kids refuse to eat it…but I digress. It’s very difficult for me (as I’m sure it is for many of us) to execute a decent dinner without a hitch. So what to do?

I’ve become a Pinterest whore, pinning nearly every recipe that makes me drool and rarely making them. And when I do…well, you’ve seen “Pinterest fails”, haven’t you? I’ve signed up for every meal delivery service known to man, hoping that somehow, someway, the boxes that come to the house will magically transform me into Chef Mommy (or include an actual chef to cook me dinner) (See Cooking for Dum(me)). I’ve invested in an idiot proof crock pot that guarantees fantastic meals and still…I manage to mess it up. It’s depressing screwing up so much. I’ve lost the will to go on. Cooking wise, that is.

UNLESS…there’s a challenge involved. I do love challenges almost as much as I despise cooking. Whenever our family has faced a “food challenge”, we’ve overcome it…like the month I forbade us to eat out at restaurants (See The Great Cooking Experiment ). Last week as I was scrolling through the endless emails that those meal delivery service companies still send me (gotta give them points for trying—they don’t realize I’m hopeless at cooking), my mouth began to water at the pictures of food. It was around lunchtime and that’s when I’m particularly vulnerable to food pictures and the notion that I can cook. It must have something to do with a drop in blood sugar. Anyway…the menu was already there. One of the biggest challenges for me when planning meals is figuring out WHAT to cook (and who has practice and when will we be able to all sit down at the same time…), and with this menu, it was already figured out for me. Along with that week’s menu was an article from a news outlet stating that this particular meal delivery service was “cheaper and easier than the grocery store”. I eyeballed those words and said “Challenge accepted”. Already it was Heather 1, Meal Plan Company (MPC) 0, how could I go wrong?

For some reason, the meal delivery service companies actually allow you to download the recipe and print it out…even if you don’t purchase food that week. Suckers. So I did just that and headed to the grocery store to purchase everything I needed. Going to the grocery store was no big deal—even when we had the meals delivered, I still had to go to the grocery store for other meals. After all, we didn’t just eat three meals a week. Anyone who says it saved them from going to the store is either lying or doesn’t live with Walking Metabolism Man and Son. Heather 2, Meal Plan Company 0.

At the grocery store, I realized the pitfall to picking up your own ingredients was the fact that the meal plan company slips one IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND ingredient in each recipe. Like Chihuahua cheese. Which I am happy to report, does NOT come from actual Chihuahuas (long story…). No matter, I’m up for the challenge. I have Google and I’m not afraid to use it. Almost every ingredient can be replaced with something similar. Not like my kids’ palates are so refined that they’re going to notice the difference between red chiles and jalepenos anyway. And by going to the store I got to get MORE of the ingredients. Instead of the sliver of steak that the meal plan company sent last time (and the kids tried to stab each other with steak knives over it), I got three times as much. That’s now Heather 4, MPC 0. Yup…bonus points.

I got everything home and discovered that it was all just as stupid and confusing to cook as it was when they sent me the ingredients. I nearly set the stove on fire countless times and actually burnt the corn for one recipe. Oh, but I did learn that we HAVE a broiler on the oven. My husband looked at me like I was mental. How was I supposed to know it was a broiler? We’ve only had that oven for twelve years. While cook, though, I realized that the only thing that MIGHT have been helpful was the pre-measured ingredients. That would have saved me some agonizing over how much milk I needed if I couldn’t actually find a measuring cup. And chopping stuff. I do hate chopping stuff. So now it was Heather 4, MPC 1.

The first recipe was a Mexican street corn flatbread. Hubby and I really liked it, although I did end up putting too much milk in it. The homemade guacamole (not included in MP) and sangria (DEFINTELY not included) certainly helped. Kids balked at the sight of the flatbreads and each took bird-like bites and then threw themselves on the floor like I had fed them dog poop fresh from the backyard. Pretty sure they would have done that if the MPC delivered the food as well. So no score change on that one. Food1

Meal two was even tougher. Steak with Robert sauce. It was essentially flank steak with sides of sautéed green beans and blue cheese mashed cauliflowers. Sounds fancy, but it was rated “easy”.  (I love how the recipe cards rate them all as “easy”. Easy for who? Gordon Ramsey???). Hubby had to help or I really would have had to call the fire department since the recipe called for me to saute green beans and flank steak at the same time in separate pans. I can’t even reach for the salt and stir a pot at the same time. Here’s a pic of the finished product:

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The steak was really good, but that was all hubby’s doing. Although I did pick some nice pieces. And everyone was definitely happier with portion sizes this time. All steak knives were used appropriately. The wine was delightful, but once again…not included in the meal plan company’s version. The green beans were okay and the mashed cauliflower…well, that’s my third time attempting mashed cauliflower. Three strikes you’re out, right? At least the dog liked it. I’m giving myself a point for this one. Heather 5, MPC 1.

The last recipe was Carolina BBQ pork medallions. It had a coleslaw side, but nothing else. I love BBQ pork so I figured this would be a great one despite the lack of sustenance.

Well, it wasn’t. I forgot to season the pork before browning it. And I didn’t have the right “Dijon mustard dressing”. And my daughter ate all the peanuts for the coleslaw before I could make it. And I put too much of the jalepenos in the coleslaw. Oh and “ewwww why does this coleslaw have vinegar in it? I only like coleslaw with mayo in it.” Yeah. Pretty much a disaster. I think we all had ice cream for dinner that night. At least it looked pretty. Heather 5, MPC 2.

food3

Total cost of all meals? About $47. (Not including wine and guacamole ingredients). It would have cost me $119 if I went with the meal plan company for almost the exact same meals. Verdict? It’s NOT cheaper than the grocery store…not by a long shot. Especially not if you end up chucking one whole meal. Final score: Heather 6, MPC 2. However, the meal plans aren’t without merit. It was good to go out of our comfort zone and try new things…things I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. Don’t take my word for it though. Check out one of the sites and try the challenge yourself.

Disney Freaks on a Leash

With the dawn of Social media, we’ve really gotten to know our neighbors. Well, maybe not completely since people pick and chose what they WANT us to know about them, but often, even as people try to curb their reality, we discover a lot about them. what I’ve discovered about many of my Facebook friends and acquaintances is that they’re Disney Freaks. They go to Disney, eat, sleep and breathe Disney and when they’re not doing that…they’re thinking about Disney.

Now, I love Tinkerbell as much as the next girl. I’ve been to Disney World a few times. I even have a Tinkerbell hat. And a couple of mugs. But that’s where it ends for me. If Disney World goes belly up tomorrow, I’ll just shrug and wonder how it’ll affect the stock market (well, no, I probably won’t even wonder that). But many people around me would be devastated. They would probably crawl into an underground Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole and die.

With all the Disney craze around me, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps I wasn’t missing out on some vital piece of my existence, something that would complete me in the way only a margarita on the shores of Turks and Caicos has in the past. So on a trip to the west coast, I decided to suck it up and visit Disneyland—mini Disney World for those who aren’t ready for the big time yet, those who haven’t immersed themselves completely in the Disney culture. I expected to be wowed, I expected to be dazzled, I expected to stumble home at the end of the day, wondering what hit me and how I had gone this long without falling in love with Disney.

And indeed I did. I was wowed by the prices (over $300 for me and my daughter to spend six hours at the park and go on a grand total of THREE rides). I was dazzled by the heat and the fact that I felt like I was going to melt while waiting for aforementioned rides. And I didn’t have to wonder what hit me…it was anti-Disney mania at its finest. I am confidently stating that I never need to go to Disney again. Yes, Disney Freaks, you heard me correctly. I. Am. Not. Going. To. Disney. Again.

But Heather, you are saying, you can’t MEAN that! The reason you didn’t have a good experience is because you didn’t do Disney right! You went in the summer at the height of tourist season! You didn’t get your fast pass and you didn’t go at the right time and you didn’t plan your rides and attractions for maximum benefit. You can’t expect to have fun like that!

You’re right. I didn’t. You want to know why??? I went to Disney with three other adults and SEVEN children. That’s roughly two kids per adult. Oh, and did I mention that the kids ages ranged from 22 months to 13 years??? Yeah, let me know how you would maximize that experience, Disney Freak. You would need a lot of kiddie leashes. We only had one leash and seven that needed to be on a leash. We had seven kids who were all hungry but couldn’t decide what they wanted to eat. We had seven kids whose reactions to the characters ranged from “Get that %^&$ character away from me!” to “Please can we wait on line for nine hours to hug Mickey?”. We had one kid have an allergic reaction to apples of all things and got to see the inside of the first aid building as an added bonus. We had one kid (mine) have a giant anxiety attack when she got to the front of the Matterhorn line after waiting for well over an hour. We had the same kid walk away from her cousin who had the only cell phone. We had the cousin with the cell phone frantically calling me on MY cell phone just as I was being pushed away from the dock on “It’s a Small World”, helpless to do anything for my child, causing me to spend the entire ride absolutely frantic that she was going to get lost in Disneyland. (She didn’t, thank God). We (literally) bumped into people with “Just Married” shirts on and ran over childless couples with our strollers. We had four adults looking at each other in misery, marveling at the idea that people COME HERE VOLUNTARILY!!! We had seven kids who wanted to “just go home” but couldn’t because we were trapped on Main Street while the Oh My God Could It Be Any Louder parade went by. We had six kids who couldn’t have cared less about the parade (and one that was happy that Mickey waved to him—the same one who didn’t want Mickey anywhere near him before). We had seven kids that were overjoyed to be let loose in the Souvenir Shoppe while the adults tried to catch their breath and scrape together our change to buy stuffed animals that cost as much as a steak dinner. We had one kid cry when his balloon blew away. We had another kid cry when she couldn’t get everything she wanted in the shop. We had four exhausted adults drag themselves to the cars, dreaming of a cold shower and colder beer, only to be meet by choruses of “Can we go in the pool when we get home instead?”

So yes, Disney Freak, I’m not kidding when I say I. Hope. I. Never. Have. To. Go. To. Disney. Again. I’ll be at the pool relaxing instead. That shouldn’t upset you, though…it’s more Disney for you.

kids in misery

The kids in Disneyland…don’t they look thrilled?!?!?!?

Top 11 Ways I Sounded Like My Mother Today

I swore up and down when I was a kid that I wasn’t going to be like my mother. I wasn’t going to yell at my kids all the time and I wasn’t going to say the things she said and do the things she did. Sixteen years into my own motherhood I’m coming to the scary conclusion that I sound like her on a daily basis. Just observing the things I’ve said in the past week alone leads me to the conclusion that somehow I’ve morphed into her without my knowledge or my permission.

#11. “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” What does this even mean? Obviously she’s crying about something, even if it’s something stupid and trivial. But she’s ALWAYS crying (or so it seems), so to me, she’s crying about NOTHING.

#10. (With sarcasm) “Don’t worry about turning off the TV! It’s good! We own stock in the electric company!” How many of us were surprised to discover that our parents in fact did not own stock in the electric company because we constantly heard this statement?

#9. “Are you listening or do I talk to hear myself talk?” I have come to the conclusion that I do indeed, talk to hear myself talk. Nobody’s listening. Not even the dog. They all have their headphones in…except the dog.

#8. “Don’t make me turn this car around!” Yup…I’ve uttered this doozy. So much, in fact, they don’t even listen anymore. They just shove in their headphones.

#7. “If you don’t eat your dinner, nothing else is coming down the pike!” What “pike” is this, exactly? Now in my defense, I grew up sort of deaf…my mother could have been saying “pipe”, but that doesn’t make much sense either. Anyway, this statement is usually followed by—

#6. “The kitchen is closed for the night.” Really? It doesn’t matter to my kids if I say that though—they help themselves to the kitchen at all hours. It’s like a freaking 24 hour diner in there. And apparently the diner’s dishwasher is permanently on strike.

#5. “Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part.” Actually, this one’s mine. It totally sounds like something my mother would have said (in response to one of my siblings….never me…I was not a procrastinator). It’s usually uttered in complete frustration when one of my darling children have realized they have a project due like TOMORROW and they have no poster board and they need glitter and oh, it’s 10:00 at night so all the stores are closed. And they expect me to somehow fix the situation.

#4. “Are your legs (hands, arms, feet) broken?” I usually mutter this one when they ask me to get something for them because they’re too damn lazy to get it themselves.

#3. “The table is not a catch-all.” I’m not sure what a “Catch-all” is either, but my mother said this pretty much every day of my life. We dumped stuff all over the dining room table and it drove her crazy. No one ever cleaned it up, but miraculously, it was never a mess (probably why we thought it was perfectly okay to dump stuff there). Now that my own family does this (hubby included), I’ve figured out who cleaned it up and it wasn’t the fairies.

#2. “Don’t pet me.” I know this one sounds weird, but my mother hated when we patted her or petted her hair. I never understood why she rebuffed the obvious affection until I had my own child who constantly wants to sit on my lap and pet my head and kiss my hand and pretty much invade my personal space ALL THE TIME. And she’s almost as big as me. Like, back off kid—you’re crushing my kidney.

And the #1 way I sounded like my mother today was due to this exchange: Kid #2: “What are you eating, Mommy?” Me: (shoving the ice cream in my mouth and practically choking on it): “Poison.” Yup, my mom told us she was eating poison all the time. I remember crying in my room once cuz I thought she was gonna die from all the poison she ate.

I’m sure my kids are rolling their eyes, just like I rolled my eyes. It’s inevitable…I guess we can’t help but turn into our parents at some point in time, but geez, I was hoping I’d be a little cooler as a mom. Maybe I’ll just be the cool grandma instead…

My Child’s Anxious, How About Yours?

Parenting doesn’t come with a handbook. For most jobs, you get a handbook on the first day. For the most difficult job we get in life, that’s some pretty crappy orientation. Sure you get nine months to read books and ask questions and figure out what you think you will do, but once that baby’s born and you strap him or her into their car seat and drive away from the hospital, it seems like your life becomes a series of “shit, what do we do?” conversations with your significant other. (And once you’re a seasoned parent you’ll feel free to have that conversation with yourself. Daily. Out loud. In the grocery store.) Things have a way of not working out even slightly like you imagined. And every single day you question your ability to parent. You feel like you’re failing so badly that you begin to question your ability to do something as basic as pick out your own clothes in the morning.

On my blog and in my Facebook posts, I try to make people laugh. I want people to understand that they’re not alone—we’re all floundering. But sometimes in my desire to get people to relate, I feel completely alone. As much as most of you can relate to having a child that makes you pull your hair out by the roots, not everyone can understand or relate to the level of stress that parenting puts on me and my husband on a regular basis. You see, we have a child who has been labeled with a half a dozen diagnoses from the health care professionals that she has seen; anxiety, depression, ADHD, ODD, OCD, PTSD, and school phobia, to name a few. Some days she shows signs of all of these, some days she has none. I don’t like labels for this very reason. Putting a label on her doesn’t make anything easier. A label doesn’t cure a kid. The only thing a label does is have people claim to “understand” your life. As in “what’s wrong with Johnny? Why does he act that way?” “Oh well he has XYZ.” “Oh, that explains it. But, hush, let’s not talk about it.”

Anxiety, depression, those all fall under the umbrella of “mental health”. Nearly 1 in 5 people are suffering from a mental health disorder. And yet, talking about mental health is still taboo. You can’t physically see something wrong. There’s no lab test, no scan, no real way to know for sure what’s going on in someone’s brain. A lot of people don’t think it’s real and won’t acknowledge it. Because people don’t want to fully acknowledge mental health, most people still don’t understand. They don’t relate to what is going on in your life and they look at you different—like, why can’t that kid’s parents get it together? Why is their kid lying on the floor of the classroom curled up in the fetal position? They must have terrible parenting skills. why is she fine one day and a blubbering mess the next? They real should discipline her better.

I used to think like that…back when I had one kid and he was easy. Back when I had one kid who went to school without a problem. Back when I had one kid whose biggest fear was going in the basement. Back when I had one kid without crippling anxiety, I knew what everyone else was doing wrong. Now these days, I don’t even know what I’m doing right.

Parenting any child is difficult—like riding a unicycle—practice makes perfect, but you still fall off from time to time. Parenting a child with a mental health issue is really challenging—like riding a unicycle blindfolded with one leg while a rat nibbles your arm kind of challenging. Not only are you wracking your brain on how to get through a day in the most “normal” way you can manage, you never know when the day is going to implode. From the moment you wake up to the moment they go to sleep, you’re walking on eggshells. You never know when your happy child is suddenly going to be paralyzed with fear of a fire drill and refuse to go to school for three days. You never can plan out a day and expect any of it to go according to plan—you might have to have to stop in the ER because your child thinks she’s dying from anxiety induced stomach pains. You can’t go to your other child’s baseball game and leave her alone because she says she hates her life and wants to die. You can’t go to the gym because your child is hysterically crying because she can’t calm herself down because she’s stressed out because she thinks everyone’s talking about her even though they’re totally NOT. Or you can’t even go to work without her clinging to you because she’s terrified of something happening to you. Or her. And what’s worse—you don’t know how to help her. You can’t even assure her she’s safe.

With a child with anxiety, you run the gamut of emotions similar to grieving, because in a way, it is a grieving process. You’re grieving the loss of your child’s normal childhood. You’re grieving the fact that you are just as helpless as she is. First you’re in denial—-there’s nothing wrong, your kid is just being a brat. You need to tighten the reigns, take away her phone, be stricter about bedtime. No more sugar! No more TV!

Then comes anger. Why the hell can’t she get it together? Okay, maybe she’s depressed, maybe she’s anxious, but holy crap not every day of my life is rainbows. Does she think I want to get out of bed every morning? No, I don’t! But damn it, I get my ass up and do it. Does she think I don’t worry about things? I suck it up and deal! She’s making me furious! And that anger gets projected onto your kid. Why does she hate us so much? Why does she do this to us? And you’re screaming and yelling and there’s tears. Every. Single. Time.

After that comes bargaining—with your kid. If you get ten stickers you can go to the movies. If you get fifteen, you can have a sleepover. She tries for a few days—she’s determined. But she never makes it. It’s not potty training or a chore chart—she doesn’t have control all the time. She can’t help herself from becoming anxious about a school project or getting nervous about a basketball game.

And this is what sends you spiraling into the next stage—depression. It breaks your heart that you can’t do this on your own. You can’t make your child better as much as you want too. You are going to have to make some pretty difficult choices. It breaks your heart that you may have no other choice but to medicate your child, maybe put your child in an inpatient mental health facility, or home-school her. You’re devastated to think your child may never know a “normal” life. You have failed in your mind.

Finally, you get to a stage that we haven’t gotten to quite yet—acceptance. Being able to say “This is not my fault. This is not her fault. This is something we have to tackle together. And conquer together.” Because if she had any other disease, diabetes, cancer, sickle cell anemia—people would see it that way—YOU would see it that way.

People don’t talk about mental health, especially when kids are involved. They don’t talk about kids being depressed and anxious and fearful because in a lot of people’s minds, it doesn’t happen. What do kids have to worry about? Kids are resilient—kids don’t get traumatized and have it affect their whole lives, right? I can’t talk about this with too many people—they don’t understand, and that’s good for them. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but that doesn’t help me feel less alone, less helpless.

I think it would be lovely if everyone would just be honest about how parenting scares them. I think it would be great if people didn’t get caught up in what other people were posting about their oh-so-perfect lives and worry that they don’t stack up, that they’re failing. Maybe we could go around with stickers on our chests. “Hello, my name is John—I’m afraid my kid is an asshole because he likes to burn bugs.” “Hello, my name is Chris—my child bites stray dogs, I think he may have rabies.” “Hello, my name is Heather—my child’s anxious, how about yours?”

Skinny Mom in a Not-So-Skinny Mom’s Body Speaks Out

img_4280Full disclosure: I am about to vent. If you don’t want to read a venting post, move along.

I am 139 pounds. I am also 4 foot 11 and 3/4 inches tall. According to the math, my BMI (Body mass index—the not-so-nice measurement doctors use to flat out tell you that you’re fat) is 27. Therefore, I am considered overweight. However, I am not the little butterball that those dimensions may indicate. BMI and weight don’t take a lot of factors into account. I work out regularly, cardio and weights. I am pretty muscular and strong (my husband would prefer me helping him lift and carry in a dryer over my 15 year old son who benches 130—probably because he bangs shit into the walls and drops stuff on his father’s foot, but I digress). Could I stand to lose a couple of pounds? Absolutely. But I’ve spent the better part of my adult life either trying to lose weight or trying to accept that I am never going to be skinny.

Yes, I know…I will never be 105 pounds again. I will never even be 110 pounds. But I’m okay with that. I would have to literally starve myself to death to get there and what fun is that? I can think of a million more exciting ways to untimely demise. Hell, I was down to 115 a few years ago and that required me to work out FIFTEEN hours a week and eat about 1000 calories a day. I shook when I tried to bring my fat free, calorie free, taste free food to my mouth. I obsessed about everything that passed my lips and every drop of sweat. I was skinny as hell, but I was MISERABLE. All I thought about was food and that I wasn’t working hard enough. When that scale stopped moving despite my best efforts, I realized I was beat. And I felt horrible.

That was quite a few years (and pounds ago). It’s taken me a lot of maturity to get to a place in my mind where I realize that pesky number on the scale is not the measure of my fitness and health. I’ve stopped letting the scale dictate my life. I enjoy my food (and my cocktails), I work out moderately, but I don’t go crazy with either. I try new things and I’m not obsessed with how many calories I burn. I don’t eat ice cream every day, but I certainly won’t say no to it on a special occasion (Like a Monday.) My days of fad dieting and yo-yo weight loss are hopefully behind me. I’m confidant enough to post a make-up-less, messy hair, post work-out picture of myself on a blog. Don’t get me wrong…I still cry on days my underwear is too tight. I’m not totally Zen…just content. 

So if I’m in such a good place with accepting my body, why am I venting? Well, obviously accepting yourself is hard. And it’s a constant internal war especially when it comes to comparing yourself to other people. Not so easy to ignore the issue of weight you HAVE A SCALE IN YOUR OFFICE THAT PEOPLE WEIGHT THEMSELVES ON ALL THE TIME AND FEEL THE NEED TO SHARE THEIR WEIGHT WITH YOU!!!! When the people weigh more than me, it’s okay. It may be sick, but it validates me. It’s when people are at LEAST 6 inches taller than me and get off the scale (after taking their earrings and pants off to weigh themselves…yes that actually happened) and announce their weight and it’s the exact same weight you are and they lament about how fat they are….well, that takes a toll on my self esteem. If this was just one person, I wouldn’t be bothered. I would chalk it up to mental illness on that person’s part and pity her. But it’s not just one person…oh no. There are several skinny beotches that I come in contact with on a daily basis. Not only are they skinny, I’m pretty sure their goal is to make anyone who isn’t skinny feel crappy by talking about the dreaded numbers on the scale. I mean, if they’re 5’7″ and 139 and feel like a cow, I must be a freaking heifer right? It aggravates me after I’ve worked so hard just to be happy with myself and ignore that stupid number on the scale. I get it—they’re not on that happy little cloud in oblivion that I’m on. But that damn cloud is hard to reach and easy to fall off. I don’t need their negativity about themselves bringing me down. So if you read about me on MSN or CNN it’s probably going to be because I hauled off and choked one of the skinny bitches that think they’re fat. That and the fact that I’m planning a massive “toss your scales out the window” day pretty soon. If I hit someone with that big old office scale, I’ll probably take out an arm or a leg. But, hell, they’ll weigh less, won’t they?