Halloween Fun With A Three-Ager

It was supposed to be fun. Simple. My three-year old daughter talked about being Marshall from Paw Patrol all summer. Her big brother wanted to be Chase. How cute is that? I was giddy imagining my Paw Patrol crew sitting in a pumpkin patch. Maybe they would even sit still for a picture? And both smile at the same time with their eyes open?  Would this finally be the year that I have a Halloween picture worthy of a Facebook post?

Pffffft. Rookie mistake. This is my second time around with a three-ager. I should have known better.

When the costumes hit the stores one month ago, we were the first to arrive. I’ve never shopped for Halloween costumes in September before. After years of scavenging for scraps in sad piles of picked-over costumes at the last minute, it was amazing to go to the rack and see exactly what we wanted in exactly the right size.

The Chase costume was front and center, so I threw it in the cart. When I spotted the Marshall costume IN THE RIGHT SIZE immediately behind it, I gleefully pointed it out to my three-year old daughter. Instead of showering me with gratitude like she should have, this child crossed her arms and scowled at me.

“I DON’T WANNA BE MARSHALL. YOU CAN’T MAKE ME.”

Um, what? I stared at her. She couldn’t be serious. This kid’s been chattering about being Marshall ALL SUMMER LONG. Not a day went by without her asking, “Mommy, can I be Marshall for Halloween? Can I be Marshall? CAN I BE MARSHALL?  I WANNA BE MARSHALL!!! MOMMY, I WANNA BE MARSHALL FOR HALLOWEEN!!!”

Message received. Here’s your freaking Marshall costume, because your Mommy is awesome. So, where’s my thank you? Where’s my “I love you” and “You’re the best Mommy in the world????”

Nothing. There was nothing but an accusing stare. Like I screwed up. I couldn’t help feeling defensive. “But you’ve been talking about being Marshall all summer?”

She shook her head and frowned at me.  “No, I haven’t.”

WHAT? Her certainty made me question my sanity.  Had I imagined all those painful conversations about being Marshall?

Okay. Time to be practical. We’re at the store with all these choices. Just get her something else. “Then who do you want to be for Halloween?”

She pointed to the Mickey Mouse hat on her head. “I want to wear this.”

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? “You want to be Mickey Mouse?”

“No Mommy. I just want to be me.”

Okay, that’s cute and all, but Marshall was going into the cart in case she changed her mind. Unfortunately, she didn’t agree with my contingency plan. Her face turned red as her high-pitched shrieks hit the ceiling.

“I DON’T WANNA BE MARSHALL!! YOU. CAN’T. MAKE. ME!!!”

Then she burst into tears. People in the aisle gawked at the scene. I wilted under the gaze of a judgmental baby and put the Marshall costume back on the rack. I was obviously a shit parent for wanting to buy my child a costume that she wanted ALL SUMMER LONG.  We walked out of the store with one Chase costume and a pile of my shattered pumpkin patch dreams.

Two weeks later, my daughter spotted something else in the costume aisle at the store. “Mommy, look! A MINION! I wanna be a minion!  I WANNA BE A MINION! Can I be a minion??? PLEASE???”

It was the first time since Marshall that she expressed interest in something other than “just being me.” I pictured a Minion next to Chase in the pumpkin patch. That would still be cute. There was only one Minion costume left on the rack.  It was 3T-4T. Her size. This was obviously meant to be.

I bought it, but she refused to try it on until that weekend. The hat didn’t fit. And what should have been a 3T-4T costume looked like it was two sizes smaller. When I returned it, the store was out of Minion costumes.

Gritting my teeth, I accepted that my daughter would “just be her” for Halloween. Until she shrieked with delight and pointed. “Mommy, I want to be a pumpkin!”

There it was. Once again, at the front of the rack. A big, fluffy, orange pumpkin costume in just the right size.

This child HUGGED the pumpkin costume. She HUGGED it and SQUEEZED it and PETTED the orange fur all the way home like it was her long-lost kitten. And she chattered about being a pumpkin like she was excited about it.

Until today. It’s ten days before Halloween. I asked the kids to try on their costumes. The Chase costume fits my son perfectly. And he’s happy with it.

My three-ager took one look at the pumpkin costume and wrinkled her nose.  “Mommy, I don’t want to be a pumpkin. You can’t make me.” She crossed her arms and looked me in the eye.  “I WANNA BE MARSHALL. CAN I BE MARSHALL? PLEASE?????”

#SendVodka

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Six Years Later, I Can Finally Smile Again

Six years ago, my mom passed away. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, since she had been disappearing into her illness for over a decade. But it was still a shock when I received the call. My greatest fear finally materialized.

Every year since then, I post something sad about missing her. It’s still true. I still have moments where the pain knocks me to my knees. And while time hasn’t healed all wounds for me, it has offered the gift of distance and clarity. I am grateful that I can look back on memories of her and smile.

One memory in particular made me smile this year. I was close to my son’s age, maybe six or seven years old. My mother, the brave soul, took my toddler sister and me to India without my father, who kept working.

I barely go shopping for one hour and keep it together with my two kids, so I can only imagine the horrors of managing two little kids, plus enough luggage for two months, in the airports and plane bathroom for what feels like a two-day flight. By the time we reached my grandmother’s house, my mother must have reached the limits of her large reservoir of patience.

The day after we arrived in the middle of the night, I remember her sitting in the foyer, with a tired smile plastered across  her face.  She spoke with the flood of guests who “dropped in” to see my grandmother’s “American” daughter. And of course, like any other little kid, I kept interrupting her conversations because I needed my mother’s attention RIGHT NOW.

She lost her shit. My poor mother, who was always kind and patient, grabbed the colorful folds of her sari, jumped up from her chair, and chased me through my grandmother’s house in sandals. I was shocked, but amused. I had the same arrogance as my 6-year old son. “Mom will never catch me. I’m too fast.” So I sprinted down the long hall and she followed me. I ran by the kitchen. So did she. I ran through the dining room. So did she. I ran into our guest bedroom. So did she. I thought I would lose her by running across the bed. So imagine my surprise when she jumped on the bed and kept coming after me. I scurried out the door, into the yard, where I left my mother. I can still picture her, standing in the doorway, holding up her fist and shaking it at me, telling me what she’d do if she caught me interrupting her with a guest again. I hid from her for the rest of the day.

And so today, I’m smiling. For the first time since she died, on the anniversary of her passing, I’m finally smiling when I think of her. I love you, Mom. Thank you for the gift of that memory.

Stop Making Excuses And Write Every Day!

A friend of mine alerted me to the job posting.  I saw the message in my inbox several hours after she sent it.  “Hey! Did you apply for that staff writer position?”

I had no idea what she was talking about.  The Snow Day voice mail message consumed my thoughts.  Both of my kids home with me?  ALL DAY?  I was torn about it.  A part of me was thrilled to have both my daughter AND my son home with me.  But I know them.  Dreams of cuddling under the covers with cups of hot cocoa and singing kumbaya weren’t going to happen.  They’d be tearing up the house and trying to kill each other by noon if I didn’t figure out something for them to do.  It was going to be a long day.

“No! I didn’t know about it! How did you hear about it?”  I searched for the posting and scanned it.  The requirement was 2-3 pieces a week.

My response to her was prompt.  “I just saw the announcement. Thank you for letting me know!  I don’t think I’ll apply because right now, I won’t be able to write at that pace.  Maybe once the kids are in school full time.”

My husband walked into the room to get ready for work.  I held out the job posting for him.  “What do you think of this?”

He scanned it and nodded his head.  “Are you going to apply for it?”

“Oh, no,” I shook my head.  “I don’t think so.  Why?  Do you think I should?”

“Yeah,” he replied easily.  There was no hesitation.  “You should.”

“But I can’t write at this pace right now,” I protested.  “I can barely keep the house clean with the kids as it is.  How on earth would I produce 3 articles a week?  Plus, she wants 3 links for a submission.”  I pointed out the date of the post.  “This has been out since yesterday.  She wants to make a decision by tomorrow.  How will I come up with 3 articles that meet those content requirements by tomorrow?”

“You have three articles you could send,” he replied.  “Send those.”

“But they aren’t quite right,” I continued, staring at the job posting.  “And it’s so competitive.  There are hundreds of people applying for this, and all of them are way more experienced than I am.

I saw it on his face.  It was fleeting but present.  Disappointment.  “Okay.  If you don’t want to apply for it, then don’t do it.”  He continued to get dressed and then left for work.

When I heard the kids shrieking down the hall, I tried to put that position out of my mind.  Arguments why I shouldn’t apply filled my head intermittently for the rest of the day.

I’m too tired to do this.

I can’t produce content at that rate.

I wouldn’t have gotten the job anyway.

The kids are little.  Don’t worry about writing now.  Enjoy them, because the time passes so quickly.

The timing isn’t right.  In another two years, both kids will be in school full time.  Then I can write full time.

The list of excuses continued.  But they weren’t powerful enough to squash how disappointed in myself I felt.  In my twenties, I would have stayed up until I had 3 solid pieces to submit.  It didn’t matter how competitive the applicant pool was.  I would have at least thrown my hat in the ring.

What the hell happened to me?

Applications for this position are closed now.  I didn’t throw my hat in the ring, but it opened my eyes to a difficult truth.  Sometimes, we defeat ourselves with our excuses.

If I had been writing every day for the past year, like I said I would in 2016, I would have had plenty of material to choose from.  I wouldn’t have had to scramble to come up with material for a submission.  But I’ve been making excuses instead of making progress for the past year.  And I’ve had it.

I have a lot of writer friends now and I know many of them juggle writing and kids.  This past week, I saw one of them post at 10 P.M. how tired she was, but she had a deadline.  She was going to stay up until she wrote that piece.

That is the type of dedication required to be a successful writer.  So, I need to put up or shut up.

My Thoughts on Week 1 of NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month.  Day 6.  I wanted to write down a few things that have really helped me make progress on my book.

(1)  STORY OUTLINE

The last time I attempted NaNoWriMo, I followed the “pantser” method (a.k.a. wrote by the seat of my pants).  This is the reason I wrote with enthusiasm for 12 days and then struggled.  The story took aimless turns and I ended up with 50,000 words of rambling garbage that will never see the light of day.

This is the point of NaNoWriMo.  To release your inhibitions and just hit the word count.  But this time, I’m using this challenge as a springboard for my series.

Back in August, I outlined my NaNoWriMo story.  It’s bare bones, but wow!  My writing is way better this time around.

(2)  CHARACTER MAPS

Character is king.  I’ve heard this mantra for years, but kind of ignored it.  My focus has always been on the story.

But what is story without character?

A few weeks ago, I sat down and described each major character.  It forced me to really think about the stakes.  What does each character want?  Why is it important?  What is the theme in each scene?  I’m amazed at the sub-plots that have emerged from this exercise.  There’s a new layer of intrigue that I can add to the story.

(3)  WORLD BUILDING

Duh.  I’m writing a  fantasy novel, so you’d think this would be obvious.  But I’ve never actually sat down to think about the details of the world.  What is the political system?  How does the economy work?  What is the currency?  How do the beings sustain themselves?  What is the topography of the land and how does it drive this story?

Questions, questions, and even more questions.  Because the magical world definitely influences the story.  I’m kicking myself for not sitting down and doing this homework before.

(4)  DESCRIBE THE SCENE

I’ve written before about the evils of perfectionism.  It is my greatest nemesis.  I still want to write down and have perfect prose flow from my finger tips.  Perfect description.  Perfect dialogue.  Perfect cliff hangers.  Perfect tension.

Yeah, that hasn’t happened, so I stopped and tried something different.

I’m describing one scene at a time instead of writing it out like a book.  Yeah, I know that goes against what the experts tell you.  “Show, Don’t Tell.”  Blah, blah, blah.

Well, guess what?  I can’t SHOW anything, if I don’t HAVE anything.  And right now, TELLING my story is working.  So, I’m sticking with it.

BOTTOM LINE TO MYSELF:  Don’t take shortcuts.  Do your homework.  And do what works for you. 

 

 

 

Giddyup, pardners…. It’s National Novel Writing Month. Let’s Go.

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  That’s tomorrow.

TOMORROW.

NaNoWriMo participants have 30 days to write 50,000 words.  That’s roughly 1,667 words per day.  I actually achieved this goal a few years ago, but will not attempt it this year.

HOWEVER, I will commit to writing 500 words a day until the end of this year.  Or rather, 500 words a day for 60 days.  That will take me to 30,000 words in 2 months.

It’s better than nothing.

For the past month, I’ve been outlining the backstory to my “real” story and it has evolved into a story on its own.  I’m not sure if this should be my first novel, so I want to write it out and see where it goes.

It is based on Indian mythology, so I’m struggling with how much artistic liberty I can take with the story.  For this purpose, I think I will let my creative monsters fly.  (Or in my case, demons fly.)

So, for anyone else who is attempting this challenge, I wish you good luck!  Let the writing challenge begin!

 

Dear Trump Supporter, Thank You For Making My Decision Easy

My latest article on Scary Mommy.  I normally avoid discussing politics, but this election is too important.  Writers aren’t casual observers.  We notice things that other people may disregard.  It’s our duty to speak up when we witness society heading in a dangerous direction.

So, this is me speaking up.  I wish all of you well.  Be safe.

http://www.scarymommy.com/donald-trump-supporters-making-decision/

 

 

A Writer’s Prayer

I have been swirling on the responsibility that comes with being a writer.  It’s a blessing and a curse.  We see things that the casual observer misses and then it is up to us to capture that moment with our words.

There are moments that I am struggling with in the upcoming election.  I am scared to write about what I see, but feel compelled to do so.

I’m not a religious person, but I do believe that there is a higher power that guides all of us through life.  These words have been in my heart for the past few months and I will post them so that I can remember them and recite them when I feel weak.

Lord, Guide my pen.

Give me the courage to write my fears.

Give me the strength to combat cruelty with kindness.

Give me the insight to read the minds of men and women.

Give me the artistry to paint the story.

Give me the wisdom to choose words that will reach the hearts of humanity.

Give me the power to be a light in the darkness.

Amen.

To My Precious Snowflakes: Mommy Loves You

To My Precious Snowflakes,

Mommy loves you very much. You are the organic apples of my eye, the gluten-free sprinkles on my SAHM sundae. I cherish every cup and kick aimed at my head. It all goes so quickly, especially when I duck for cover. My heart swells each time I think of your delightful shenanigans. 

Bless your little hearts for cleaning those brand new books in the bathroom sink yesterday. Dirty Elmo board books have no place in our humble home. Your stealthy teamwork saved us from the scourge of bookstore filth. And siblings who wash books together, play together.   

Little Boy, I admire your curious mind. Not every child would remove a vent cover to drop his LeapPad down the heating duct. Of course you wanted to find out what would happen. Who wouldn’t? Mommy was honored to spend thirty minutes fishing it out of the duct in the name of science. 

Darling Son, your burgeoning artistic abilities amaze me. Especially when you showcase them with permanent markers on the canvas of your face. Unfortunately, I didn’t give you enough paper. So, why should you have to walk across the room to get more? Your baby sister was right there. It made perfect sense to continue your Jackson Pollack scrawls on her.     

Little Girl, your theatrical flair leaves me speechless. No one can knock food to the floor like you can. There is no better way to tell Mommy that you’re all done. And of course, fork color matters. Silver is bad, blue is good. I should have read your mind, but I failed. Poor little thing. You tired yourself out by shrieking bloody murder for forty-five minutes. I gave you the blue fork, but it was too late. That terrible silver fork touched your lunch. Of course you couldn’t eat it. The pasta was ruined.   

Sweet Angel, Mommy can be a monster. It’s cruel for me to give you a red cup when you ask for it. And all those times you asked me to drive you home and I did. What was I thinking? I don’t blame you for screaming during the entire car trip. Who does Mommy think she is, giving you exactly what you wanted?

Driving around town with both of you and listening to the soothing chorus of “WHY, MOMMY, WHY, WHY, WHY?” from the backseat is the highlight of my day. Especially just as I’m about to make a left turn. Why should a delivery truck traveling towards us at fifty miles per hour during rush hour traffic hold my attention? You need to know how to spell “milk” RIGHT NOW. I don’t blame you for yelling at me while I’m mid-turn. Mommy’s heart palpitations aside, nothing trumps the question of a curious child. Nothing. 

Each night, we wrap up our long days with a spirited two-hour discussion before bedtime. Your favorite book is “The Ten Little Monkeys.” We’ve read it SO MANY TIMES that Mommy sees it in her hallucinations. Oh, those crazy monkeys! Look at them jumping on the bed and getting hurt! And how creative of the two of you to act it out EVERY NIGHT RIGHT BEFORE BED! 

Thank goodness you didn’t pick up your toys from the floor like I asked you. You saved your strength. Using the couch like a trampoline takes a lot of energy. And how brilliant of you to add your own spin to the story. You literally spin yourselves dizzy before running towards the fireplace. And what makes running towards sharp edges even better? Doing it with your EYES CLOSED! And almost face-planting on the coffee table! You sure showed Mommy and Daddy how creative you can be! 

Thank you for sharing those howler monkey protests when Mommy and Daddy throw each of you over a shoulder to haul you upstairs. They would follow me into my dreams if I slept at night. But I don’t want to miss a moment with you. So I spend the rest of the night watching my snowflakes breathe.

I love you always,

Your Devoted Mommy

When “Co-Sleeping” Goes Wrong

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I always thought that someday, when I had children, co-sleeping would be one of the highlights of parenthood.  It’s the perfect way to spend quality family time together.  Who wouldn’t want to wake up with a small child nestled in the crook of your arm?  The image is intoxicating.  Dark butterfly lashes resting on chubby baby cheeks.  Little fingers and toes curling up beneath the covers.  Soft sweet breaths on shared fluffy pillows.  Oh, the cuddles!  Oh, the memories!

I was mistaken.

Co-sleeping with little children isn’t for the faint of heart.  I know, because we tried it this morning for ten minutes.  My pulse is still racing six hours later.  I’m not sure how other parents deal with this through an ENTIRE night, unless they drink heavily.  (The parents, not the children.)

Allow me to paint the picture from this morning.  The bedroom was dark.  My husband won my temporary gratitude by getting the kids and letting me lie down.  Both children popped awake at the crack of dawn because it’s the weekend and that’s what they do.  I was enjoying the peace and quiet, when the door cracked open.  A ray of light cut through the darkness and hit me squarely in the face.  There was a figure in the doorway.  It was my husband.  He carried my 2-year old daughter in his arms.  My five-year old son came bounding into the room right after him.

No.  NO.  NO!!!!!!!!!!!!  Panicked, I thought about hiding.  They hadn’t seen me yet.  The room was dark and their eyes were still adjusting.  Unfortunately, before I could slip off the mattress and belly-crawl under the bed, they spotted me.  A chorus of high-pitched “Mommy’s” ensued.

“Mommy, I want to lie down next to Daddy.  I want to lie down next to Daddy.”

“Mommy, I have Pooh!  I want Tigger!  Tigger!  Tigger!  I want Tigger!”

“Mommy, I don’t want to lie down in here.  I want to go downstairs.”

“Mommy, I want Mommy!  I want Mommy!”

Groaning, I rolled over and faced my family.  My son leapt onto the bed and flopped around like a tuna hitting the deck of a fisherman’s boat.  My husband deposited my daughter, AND POOH-BEAR, AND TIGGER, on the bed next to me.  Both of the stuffed animals are about her size, so it was almost like having four kids on the bed with us instead of just two.  Delightful.

My daughter refused to lay down until I moved over to make room for her stuffed friends on my pillow.  The spacious bed suddenly felt like a postage stamp.  I nearly slipped off the edge when she hit me on the head with Tigger and ordered me to wake up.  She had the nerve to look adorable, so I felt myself weaken.  Maybe this would be the morning when the “co-sleeping” magic happened?

Through some miracle, my husband and I coaxed the kids to actually lie down.  The room was silent.  I tightened my arm around my daughter and placed a kiss on her dark head.  Yay!  We were like the commercials on TV!  We were co-sleeping and it was bliss!  Well, maybe not technically co-sleeping, but we were all lying down in the same bed, and it was peaceful.  I reveled in the moment.

That moment lasted for 5.46 seconds.  My son slipped out of my husband’s grasp and did a flip that would make a ninja proud.  It placed him squarely in the opposite direction as the rest of us.  His head lay hear the foot of the bed and his feet were an inch from my husband’s face.

“Nifty Gilifty!”  My son pulled the sheets over his head.  I knew what was coming.  I’m no stranger to Daniel Tiger and his freaking little blue owl friend.  I grabbed my daughter and pulled her onto my pillow before the first scissor kick landed on her face.

While my son pretended to swim, my daughter sat up.  Completely unperturbed by the chaos on her left, she turned and shoved her dainty foot in my face.  “Piggies!  Mommy, I want piggies!”  I gently pulled her toe out of my nose before sneezing.

Suddenly, I smelled something.  Gagging, I gasped out.  “Who passed gas?”

My son laughed uproariously.  A glance at my husband told me that he was trying not to laugh.  “You’re welcome,” my tiny daughter replied, shoving Pooh bear in my face.  “Pooh pooped.”

My son sat up, craning his head from left to right, while doing raspberries.  “Look, Mommy!  I’m a water fountain.”  My daughter giggled and performed raspberries with less finesse.  A spray of saliva landed on my cheek.

“Well, you wanted family time,” my husband grinned at me, as I grabbed a tissue and wiped the moisture from my face.  “This is family time.”

I suppose it is.  Oh, the precious memories.

My Scheduled “Carefree” Mom Moment

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It’s summer time, and in the interest of keeping up with the FB Joneses, my husband and I took our children out of the basement for some fresh Midwestern air today. I scheduled a very “go with the flow” morning of activities. First, day camp for Evan. Next, an outdoor lunch with minimal exposure to the elements. And finally, a visit to a local water fountain (see photo below), with designated water-frolicking time.

After watching the kids shriek with delight at nearly getting splashed by the water jets on the splash pad, I had this crazy idea that I should be playful and carefree too. Shouldn’t my kids remember me as more than a housekeeper, fruit cutter, and Daniel Tiger DVD pusher? Laughing, I grabbed my son’s hand and we ran into the center of fountain. We narrowly missed getting nailed by a water jet. Evan was delighted. Mom is NEVER carefree. Look at all of the water jets that surround us! None of them can hit us in the middle of the splash pad! How exciting!

The fun lasted for all of thirty seconds. My son wanted to get out of the middle, but he didn’t want to get hit in the face by the water jet. I told him I would run with him.

“C’mon, Evan,” I tugged on his arm. “It’ll be fun. We made it to the middle without getting hit. We can make it to the other side too.”

Evan shook his head vigorously. “No.”

Laughing, I wrapped my arms around him. “You’re already wet. Let’s both try to run through the fountain. We’ll just do the same thing again. I’m right here with you.”

Eyes wide, he shivered. “No.”

Frowning because this wasn’t part of my schedule, I said, “Buddy, we can stay here for a little longer. But the only way to get out of the fountain is to run through it to the other side.”

“No.”

We stayed in the center of the fountain for a few minutes. I studied the pattern of the water jets. 4 jets, 3 jets, 5 jets, pause. 1 jet, 2 jets, 5 jets, stop. 5 seconds pass. Repeat pattern. Certain that I had broken the code, I grabbed Evan’s hand. “Okay, buddy, I have the pattern. Let’s count and run through it this time.”

What I failed to consider was one five-year old’s resistance. The pattern repeated itself, just like I expected. For a split second, there was no surge of water. All water jets were dormant.

“Now, Evan! Let’s run NOW!” I yelled and tugged his hand.

He ran two steps and stopped right over the water jet hole. In a few seconds, he was going to get reamed by the water jet.

“Evan, MOVE!!!” I yelled.

“No,” he shook his head, eyes wide.

Knowing my son’s intense dislike of getting water on his face and not wanting it to turn into a full-blown fear, I took two steps and pushed him off the hole. Right then, as I stood directly over the hole, a stream of water emerged.

“Son of a,” I shrieked, as the freezing cold water hit me in the groin like a bidet gone wild.

My husband and toddler daughter both stood safely twenty feet away from the fountain’s reach. I was soaking wet. They laughed at me. Once I made it to the other side, I laughed too.

Evan eventually made his way out of the center of the fountain, WITHOUT MY HELP. Vowing never to sacrifice myself to the fountain bidet gods again, I limped around campus and made it to the car with sopping wet pants.

Well, at least my kids now have one FB worthy moment of their “Carefree” mom. Someday, I may schedule another appearance.