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.

To My Little Boy

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To My Little Boy:

Today you said goodbye, without a worry or a care. You waved and walked away, while your baby sister tried to keep up with you.

Three years. We have been safe and cozy in the nurturing arms of your preschool for three years. Three wonderful years, when I watched you transform from a needy toddler, who cried out for me from behind the window of your classroom, into a confident five-year old, who is so happy to see his friends that he barely acknowledges my existence when I leave the room.

Even though it is forever etched into my memory, your toddlerhood is gone. Those pinchable chubby cheeks have hollowed out into boyhood. The soft pastel colors and gentle farm animals on your clothes have been replaced by graphic tee-shirts and neon superheroes. I already wonder if I should invest in a farm, because even at five-years old, your appetite occasionally surpasses your father’s.

My mother’s heart is breaking, but I am so proud of you. I marvel at the ferocity of your spirit. The path you are paving for your younger sister is strong and true. She already watches you, soaking up every word and gesture like a sponge. You don’t realize what a wonderful teacher you are, but I do.

She will follow your preschool footsteps this fall, as you begin your own new adventures in a new school. As always, I will be there for you. I will be there when you take your first steps into your kindergarten classroom in September. I will be there to cheer you when you fly high on success. I will be there to comfort you when you stumble in defeat. I will be there as we both travel into uncharted territory. No matter what, we will do this together.

Little boy, little boy, little boy. My little boy. I am so proud of you. I love you.

A Midlife Crisis Moment: When Chico’s Finds You

 

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Over the weekend, my family went out of town to visit the in-laws.  (That’s a subject for an entirely separate post.)  When we returned, my husband sorted through the mail and handed me a coupon that triggered emotional distress.  It was from Chico’s.

CHICO’S.  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For those of you who don’t understand what my problem is, I will take you back to an experience from my twenties.  One day at the mall, after buying a collection of cassette singles and Ally McBeal scarves, I glanced to my right and saw a septuagenarian shuffling out of a store called Chico’s.  This woman wore a floral print moo moo the reached her knees, orthopedic white sneakers, and bright pink lipstick that covered more of her teeth than her lips.  Right then and there, my impression was set for life.  LITTLE OLD LADIES SHOP AT CHICO’S.

Fast forward to today.  I’m forty-two years old.  And while I’m not trying to be messy-bun-yoga-pants cool, I’m also not ready to sip prune juice-Geritol tonic mixers and slip on a pair of Depends.

SO WHY IS CHICO’S SENDING ME A COUPON?

I’m scared that it may be related to a recent moment of insanity.  Two weeks ago, I had a wedding to attend, a closet full of clothes, and nothing to wear.  Naturally, I hit the mall and was excited when the first window display I passed showed promise.  The outfit wasn’t please-poke-me-in-the-eyes-with-a-cigarette horrible.  Eager to know the name of the store that possessed this prize, I glanced up.

Son of a bitch.  Chico’s.  CHICO’S?????  WHAT THE HELL??????

Certain that the world was ending, I wept.  (Just kidding.)  I didn’t cry, but I DID groan (not from arthritis), and hover in front of the store for a few moments.  The voices in my head argued.

Emotional Taara:  I’m not old, dammit!!  There’s no way in hell I’m going in there.

Practical Taara:  The wedding is on Saturday and it’s already Thursday evening.

Emotional Taara (pouts):  I don’t care.  This store is for old people.  I’m not doing it.

Practical Taara:  They may have changed.  Isn’t there some gorgeous brunette in those Chico’s ads?  SHE doesn’t look geriatric.  Plus, she’s always throwing her head back and laughing about something.  Maybe Chico’s is a happy place now.

Emotional Taara (sulks):  Oh, please.  That’s just bait and switch.  No one who looks like her actually wears anything from Chico’s.

Practical Taara (sighs):  Okay, maybe you’re right and she’s just laughing at the people who fall for this marketing scheme.  But we’re running out of time and it doesn’t hurt you to just look.  You don’t have to buy anything.

Emotional Taara (weakening):  I don’t have to buy anything?

Practical Taara (sensing victory – goes in for the kill):  Of course not!  And if you go inside, we can even stop at Starbucks on the way home.

Emotional Taara (puppy-with-a-chewy-toy happy):  Yay!  Starbucks!  Okay – I’ll go inside and just look.

Propelled by the thought of a nonfat, no foam, caramel macchiato, I stepped into Chico’s.  My eyes were immediately assaulted by a psychedelic print on a poncho.  (That’s right.  A PONCHO.)  Too stunned to move, I stared into the hypnotic neon swirls.  There had to be a dolphin amid the graphic waves.  There just had to be.

A sales lady of the senior citizen persuasion approached me in my moment of weakness. “Hello, dear.  Can I help you?”

I wanted to run, but it was too late.  “Uh, yes, please.  I’m looking for a dress for a wedding.”

“Hmmmm….”  She looked me up and down.  Her brow furrowed.  “Well, we have some dresses in the back.  I’d be happy to show them to you.”  She led me past more racks of ponchos, to a display at the back of the store.  “What about these?  They’d be cute on you.”

Her definition of cute was very different from my definition of cute.  There was color.  And patterns.  Lots and lots of bright, geometric patterns.  Like something you’d see in a Lego movie or a fever-induced hallucination.  “Those dresses seem a little long for me.”

“Well, you could wear a nice pair of high heels.”  Her voice was encouraging

I barely eclipse five feet tall.  These dresses looked as if they were designed for the WNBA.  If WNBA players draped themselves in floral wall paper from 1983.  “I don’t think this is going to work for me.”

“Well, what about this?”  She walked over one aisle and pulled something from the rack.  It was a FREAKING PONCHO.  WITH FRINGE.  “If you pair it with this, it would work for a wedding.”  She leaned over the jewelry display and held up something chunky and gold.

Why was the universe pushing ponchos on me?  Was I sending out signs that I wanted to dress like a gypsy for the wedding?  I shook my head.  “That isn’t what I had in mind.”

Her lips pursed.  She obviously liked her ponchos.  “Then I don’t think we have what you’re looking for.  You’d have better luck at White House Black Market.”

OH.  THANK.  GOD.  After thanking her for her help, I stumbled past the cast of Cocoon, out into the sunlight, and headed towards Starbucks.  Maybe in another decade or two, I’ll return.  But not today, Chico’s.  Not today.

Writing And The Meme-Ing of Life

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Over the past year, I traveled into the bowels of the internet.  (Like, seriously, I’ve seen stuff about bowels and I can’t un-see it.)  During these forays within the interweb, I discovered “MEMES.”

What’s a meme?  According to the Urban Dictionary, it is:

“an idea, belief or belief system, or pattern of behavior that spreads throughout a culture either vertically by cultural inheritance (as by parents to children) or horizontally by cultural acquisition (as by peers, information media, and entertainment media)

Blah, blah, blah.  In my middle-aged, formerly project management mind, a meme is just a few sentences on a PowerPoint slide.  The best memes contain funny or provocative thoughts or images.

Who cares?  Why should this matter to a writer?

Because these days, every opportunity to market yourself matters.  And memes are a fantastic way to market your writing.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been studying other parenting websites for the past two years.  Memes generate A LOT of traffic on these blogs.  In fact, most of the memes I’ve seen generate tens of thousands of “Likes,” as opposed to hundreds of “Likes” from their 900-word articles on these sites.

That’s right.  TENS OF THOUSANDS versus HUNDREDS of “Likes” on the site.  As writers, we’d be crazy NOT to harness this meme power for our blogs.

I don’t claim to be a meme expert, but I’m learning how to use them.  Here are my initial thoughts on meme marketing:

BREVITY:  My eyes glaze over on long-winded memes.  Especially with teeny, tiny font.  (Okay, this may also be because I need new glasses.  But I still think this point is valid.)  If you want to write an article, then write an article.  But don’t shove a paragraph from your article onto a meme.  No one will read it.

IMAGES:  There are plenty of great memes with just words on it.  But life and my Facebook newsfeed move fast, so memes with funny images are better at catching my attention when I’m scrolling through Facebook.  The greatest challenge is finding images without copyright restrictions.  Right now, I’m taking pictures in my house.  But I’d rather find a good site with free images for public use.  If I find one, I will share it on another blog post.  With a lot of new memes.

BRANDING:  This takes some thought.  If you want to use memes to market your blog, there should be something like a logo that ties all of them together and leads people back to your site.  At a minimum, your name or site name should be on the meme.  Applying the same font size and type to all of your memes is another way to create a consistent brand.  If your meme is branded properly, someone will be able to just glance at it and know that it comes from your site.

BENEFITS:  Why even bother with memes?  Because people have limited attention spans.  (Look!  A cat just walked by!  I’m sorry, what were we talking about?)  A 2-3 sentence meme with a funny image is an efficient way to deliver a customized message about your writing to your readers.  For example, try Googling David Hasselhoff memes…….  I laughed until I cried the first time I saw these.  (NOTE:  For copyright reasons, I don’t recommend loading them on your blog.  Unless you received The Hoff’s permission to use them, of course.)

TO ANYONE READING THIS:  So, what do you guys think?  Have any of you tapped into your meme potential?  Please let me know!  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the art of MEME-ING.    

Random Thoughts On Writing, Social Media and Cadence

There’s an ebb and flow to writing that I never really thought about until recently.  This applies to the frequency with which a bloggers posts, as well as the rhythm of the piece of writing itself.

I’ve been studying other popular websites to understand how this works.  For example, I’ve written a few pieces for a popular parenting website called Scary Mommy.  This site just crossed the 2 million followers threshold this past week.  It is staffed by a group of writers and posts new content once an hour.  I’m just one person on this blog (A Writing Mama’s Journal) who can barely stay ahead of the two tiny tyrants who rule my house.  There’s no way I can match that pace on my blog.  But loyal Scary Mommy readers expect fresh content at the start of each hour.

So, how frequently should newbie bloggers post on their blogs?  Everything I’ve read suggests as often as possible.  At a minimum of three times a week.  That’s a hard pace to maintain when you’re drowning in small children.  It gets even more challenging if you’re trying to maintain other social media outlets to support the (WordPress) website.

Let me qualify this statement.  Three times a week is hard to maintain if you want to post something GOOD.  (And you want to sleep.)  I could easily throw garbage on this blog every day.  And while I don’t want to get bogged down by perfectionism AGAIN, I don’t want to gravitate to the other extreme of posting crap.

How do I personally define “GOOD” content?  Based on what I read, choosing topics aimed at a specific target audience.  The content should pull at emotions or at a minimum, spark a discussion.  I’m still trying to figure out how to apply this lesson to this blog.  Am I a mom?  A writer?  What is this blog supposed to be?  Is it a parenting site?  A writing site?  A fiction site?  WHAT?????  Although parenting is a large part of my life, I don’t want that to be the only focus of this blog.

It has been far easier for me to maintain a Facebook “blog” (or site) than it has been to maintain this WordPress blog.  In my opinion, Facebook has a superior format for comments.  I’m always making sarcastic comments about the pictures (MEMES!) or articles that I share with my FB friends.  I do the same thing on Scary Mommy.

Comments are the lifeblood of blog engagement.  Without comments, you can kiss your blog growth goodbye.

So, what to do, what to do…….  These are the things that keep me up at night.  It may be time to open my tight fist and fork over some money for a decent website that makes it easier to post comments.  We shall see……

 

Back To Journaling (I’m Not Ready)

I miss writing for fun.  Earlier this year, after reading a social media marketing book, I started an “official” author’s blog under my real name.  I moved a bunch of content around and made it look more polished than this site does.  It still isn’t where I want it to be, but I’m not ready to actually pay money for a site that I’ll just ignore.  As for writing any NEW content?

I have NOTHING.  Absolutely nothing.

Every time I start writing something to post on the “official” site, I don’t think it’s good enough and then I freak out and stop writing.  Kind of defeats the purpose of being a writer if you stop writing, doesn’t it?

And so, I’m back here.  Just writing off the cuff.  Whatever pops into my head is going on the screen now.

So, what’s going on in my head right now?  This feels like writing in my journal.  Very casual.  Very easy.  I think that’s what I’ll use this site for.  Just my random, frequent musings about life and writing.

If you read this, that’s great.  If you don’t, I’m okay with that too.  I just want to write for the sake of writing in the immediate term.

So, what’s going on in my head right now?  A lot of life changes.  My 5-year old is going to finish his time at the preschool that has been our sanctuary for the past three years.  This fall, he starts Kindergarten.

I’m not ready for this.

It’s bad enough that he doesn’t fit into toddler clothing anymore.  I came to that realization earlier this year, when he couldn’t fit into a bunch of relatively new shirts anymore.  I think the kid literally grew overnight.  Like, one week, the 5T shirts slipped easily over his head and the next day, they didn’t.  I spent a few days trying to convince myself that the dryer must have caused the shrinkage.  Until I actually went to the store and held up a brand new 5T shirt.

Nope.  This kid has grown.

When you’re a stay at home parent to two small children, you live in a swirl of activity that leaves you feeling as if you stepped off of a high speed hamster wheel at the end of the night.  There’s a lot of activity, but no visible progress.  There are some weeks when you have no idea what day it is, or even the time.  All you have in your sight is the next time your kids go to sleep.  Sometimes, if you’re fortunate, it’s nap time.  Other not-so-great days, it isn’t until bedtime.  Those days are LONG.

And then, something like a trip to the store shocks you with the reality of how much time has passed.  And you regret not paying more attention, in the midst of the chaos.  How could I have missed it?  I was there and I still feel like I missed it.

My little guy isn’t so little anymore, and it’s breaking my heart.  Because if I can barely remember where the past five years have gone, how will I remember the upcoming years if they fly as fast or faster?

That’s where my mind and heart are right now.  I’m not ready for my son to go to Kindergarten this fall.  I’m not ready for him to leave toddlerhood behind.  I’m not ready to turn my back on the Toddler section and walk across the aisle towards the Boys section. I’m not ready to leave the pastel colors and sleepy farm animals behind for graphic t-shirts and superheroes.

I’m not ready to leave the preschool that has been our safe sanctuary for the past three years.  I’m not ready for my son to step onto the faster elementary school track and begin Kindergarten in the fall.  I’m not ready for him to be a member of the “Class of 2029.”

I’m not ready for his feet to be bigger than mine are.  I’m not ready for him to stop holding my hand when we cross the street.  I’m not ready to have to tilt my head up to look into his eyes.

I’m not ready, not ready, not ready.  But I don’t have a choice.

So, I’ll continue to struggle and come to terms with this.  But I’m not ready.