Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Awkward Mom vs. Flu Guilt

Got your mask on?
OK, you may proceed. 

Now, when Flu shows up to battle, he doesn't come alone. This is hardly surprising, given Flu's immense street cred. He's powerful, ancient, been all over the world. Heck, he's even well known outside of the Parent-Superhero World. I mean, he's such a famous evildoer, they name epidemics after him. Dude has this super villain thing on lock. It isn't a shock that he has minions. But while you are expecting What-Day-Is-It, Kleenex-Debris, I-Think-My-Fever-Broke-The-Thermometer, even If-You-Drink-The-Last-Gatorade-I-Will-Cut-You, you are in no way ready for Flu to be keeping company with Guilt. But he does. In fact, Flu keeps so much company with Guilt that I think they are common law married at this point.

And I'm not talking about Cowlick Guilt either, this Guilt is a whole other level. What? Cowlick Guilt, you know. Oh, you don't know. OK, well, Cowlick Guilt is like your regular everyday guilt that you have by the sheer virtue of being a human being. It's like a nasty little by-product of being a sentient being capable of complex conscious thought. It's always lurking there at the back, or even front, of your head, ready to pop up and pester you. And you can throw as much water or product or positive self-talk on it as you want, pretending it isn't there, but, given adverse wind conditions or a truly awkward social situation, that cowlick guilt is gonna spring forward in all it's crazy glory. Now, I am Catholic, so I have a head full of Cowlick Guilt, but I'm wiling to bet you have at least one, regardless of creed. Cowlick Guilt is kinda ecumenical that way.

Anywho, Flu Guilt is a lot more powerful than Cowlick Guilt. Of course, Flu Guilt can ratchet up your normal Cowlick Guilt, and he will, but Flu Guilt has some special superpowers that utilize your weakened state and depleted common sense. He starts with a Who-Did-I-Infect-With-This-Death-Plague Gut Punch. How much this affects you relies on a complicated mathematical formula involving how long you wait to isolate yourself after realizing you are sick, how many individuals you are responsible for isolating during a Flu outbreak, and how much of a close-talker you are. Fortunately, I am not much of a close-talker, thanks to being raised in a family that likes its personal space and is said to "hug with their hands in their pockets," but, unfortunately, I am responsible for isolating 7 people during a Flu outbreak, 1 of whom can't talk, and therefore can't tell us she is feeling sick, and 4 of whom would rather experience the Spanish Inquisition than lie still on the couch for 4 days. Oh, and they also like to hug upon meeting new people, so Lord knows how many people they have touched during the Flu incubation period. No shock, I am very affected by this early Flu Guilt attack.

Now, once you isolate and are battling Flu solo in your home, Flu Guilt decides to try a different approach and concentrates on moving into your head. Yep, here come the Head Games; your brain is distracted fighting Fever, so Flu Guilt is gonna sneak up from behind, ruffling up your Cowlick Guilt as he goes, just to be extra mean. You now know and have accepted that you, and your household, are battling highly contagious Flu. Therefore, activities need to be cancelled. This is probably going to be work, a couple friend commitments, that knit-bomb you had planned for Saturday afternoon. This all sucks and, depending on your natural Cowlick Guilt, you are gonna feel like you are letting people down. People are gonna be nice about it for the most part, but you are in a weakened physical and emotional state, you aren't actually going to believe them. I mean, what kind of nonsense would that be?! Actually believe that people are kind and truly want you to feel better and heal?! Hardly! Better give into Paranoia and Low Self-Image, that's a way more realistic idea.

Now, take this battle and multiply it by how many people you are responsible for during this particular Flu Outbreak. That is the level of Head Games you are gonna be playing for the duration of your isolation. Alone. In your house. With nothing to distract you except a periodic search for another tissue box. My particular Flu Guilt Head Games gets multiplied by 7 (yes, you get to take on your partner's cancelling-commitments-guilt too, I think it's in the vows somewhere), which is a LOT of commitments to cancel and feel guilty about. Basically, it's like rolling max damage during a particularly intense D&D marathon in your buddy's basement. Or getting 3 doubles in a row in Monopoly, for those of you less nerdy. Guess that's still pretty nerdy. Whatever. It's a lot of guilt.

It's a total of 3 children missing a total of 5 different days of school to date, Awkward Dad missing 1 day of work, a Webelos Den Meeting, a Daisies Girl Scout Meeting that I was actually supposed to run and it's Cookie Season on top of that. It's going on 7 missed lunch duties at this present moment, a ballet class, a horse-riding lesson, 2 vet appointments, a church small group that I was also actually supposed to run, a ridiculous amount of playdates, a school mass that Super First Grader had a role in, 2 school play practices and a school play meeting that I was supposed to also attend, church on the Sunday that Super Oldest was supposed to hand out donuts and Awkward Dad was supposed to run the Children's Liturgy.

And it was this last one that had me in tears at 7 in the morning, while the rest of my family finally slept a hard-won sleep, the aftermath of Super First Grader's fever hitting 104 and him throwing up his tamiflu into my face. I was the lonely healthy one; stripping beds and cooling foreheads and fetching medicine and favorite stuffed animals and operating on very little sleep and no real food, which is, of course, Flu Guilt's favorite time to come a'calling. I had to text someone to let them know that my fevery husband was in no position to teach children about Jesus, and I was feeling really guilty about it. Could I do it instead? Maybe I could prop Awkward Dad up on the couch and hope that no one threw up in the hour I was gone? No, an hour and a half, given that it had also snowed. I was pacing. I was plotting. I was panicking. And I was feeling really really guilty, which is when the woman I had contacted wrote back the most cheerful text I have ever received that early in the morning, "absolutely no problem! I will take care of all of it." Well, Paranoia set in immediately, and I texted back some incoherent apology, that she cut off. I don't know how you cut someone off in text, but this angel did. And she said, "You have to take care of your own church before you can take care of the larger church. Take care of your people and stay healthy!"

What the what?

I stopped pacing. I stopped plotting. I just stared at her words. I was waiting for an eye roll; one of Paranoia's favorite moves. My eyes didn't move. Paranoia must have sensed this woman's power and crept out the back because he wasn't here anymore. I actually stopped panicking. I read her words again. I actually believed her. She actually meant that. Someone was actually concerned about my family getting better. Not so we could hurry up and get back to our commitments, but so we could feel better. It was unbelievable and yet I believed it; such is the magic of Grace.

Things moved very quickly at that point. Suddenly, I had an ally against Flu Guilt, and Flu Guilt isn't used to fighting more than one person at a time. The isolated attack; that's his move. His only move, as it turns out. He was running scared with just a slight narrowing of my eyes. I thanked this woman for her words and I set the phone down. Then, I smoothed my Guilt Cowlicks back into place, picked up a bottle of Tylenol, and went back to taking care of my church.

My Church has multiple services a day.  
Turns out, all I have to do it show up. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Awkward Mom vs. Jealousy

Jealousy isn't a huge or flashy villain; she's not Bane or Thanos or even Potty Training. This isn't a shoot your whole arsenal at her and walk away looking all cool while everything burns behind you kind of thing. No. Jealousy is a sneaky, low-level, consistent, street thug that you get to tangle with most nights and some days. Exhausting, constant work that may lure you to the dark side and  make you consider a life of crime if you aren't careful. Jealousy is a lot more powerful that she looks. And she looks like this:

Jealousy's side-eye game is hella strong. 

Picture it: I'm dorking around at some school thing, stifling my inner 13-year-old-panic-ball that wants to hide along the wall and think about Star Wars, and I'm actually engaging with semi-strangers. You know how it goes; they have kids in your daughter's class, so you nod to them at pick-up and the Christmas concert but they aren't real people. But they should be and they are and it's a new year so you are up in here trying hard as heck to be normal and talk about Math Splash and the weather but that's boring so your mind drifts and your gaze drops and you start watching this woman's mouth and holy cats she has movie-star-white teeth and knows how to wear lipstick without being gloppy about it and I bet she contours and look at that top it's the perfect neckline between prude and hello here are my boobs and matches her skinny jeans because well of course and how does she have no salt stains on her boots it's January in Iowa we basically live on Crait and I bet she doesn't like Star Wars because she's not a massive dork like you Erin and I guess I hate her.

And suddenly you are in a battle royale with Jealousy when all you wanted to do was think about Star Wars.

It's easy to get lured into a fight with Jealousy. Jealousy comes at you swinging, and you think you are only going to defend yourself; dodging the punches with "I can do this," "no one is perfect," and "OK, I'm good enough" But before you know it, you are in there, wailing on Jealousy's kidneys with "whatever, I just won't show up at this stuff anymore," "bet all that makeup is just hiding her patchy skin," and "she wouldn't like me anyway, she's too stuck up." And then, suddenly, Jealousy blinds you with a right hate-hook because that was her plan the whole time anyway. This analogy might be getting out of hand, the only boxing I know about is what I learned from watching a Mexican telenovela on the subject.

Point is, well, I'm not sure what my point is, except that Jealousy sucks. And I have a funny feeling (that I tend to ignore a lot of the time because it violates my naturally low opinion of myself and who likes actual growth because that -ish is hard and complicated) that other folks have battles with Jealousy while they are talking to me. I know, crazy, right?!

We all struggle with Jealousy; she's a sneaky morphing villain that can adapt to whoever she wants to battle and her favorite trick is the divide and conquer. Jealousy is over there thinking, "Let me convince Erin that she isn't as good as that woman, let me convince this woman that she isn't as good as Erin, then they will never become friends, combine their different yet complimentary skills, form a mighty crime-fighting duo, find more women that are amazing in various ways, grow into a world-saving force of nature, and fix absolutely everything, rendering me pointless and feeble. Can't have that now. Let's focus on how good that woman over there looks in those skinny jeans and sow some discontent."

Let's not. Let's just not. Let's not give in to Jealousy, Sisters. It's what she wants. Let's just ignore her for awhile and see what happens. I bet good things will happen. So, here's what we are gonna do. You wear your skinny jeans, I'll wear my Millennium Falcon tee, and we'll wear the heck out of jealousy, while saving the mother-loving world.

Deal? Deal.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Awkward Mom vs. Church with 5 children

We've lost track of what number battle this is. We stopped keeping track around the Children's Crusade. 

Stuff going to church with 5 children makes me say:

1. Stop asking me how many more songs.
2. Shush! Fine, 6 more songs.
3. No, your doll can not receive communion. Because she isn't real. Oh, please stop crying. OK, I'm sorry; your doll is totally real, but she still can't receive communion. Because she hasn't finished second grade.
4. 5 more songs.
5. What? Why do you need a bandaid? Tell him to stop messing with the kneeler.
6. Stop picking your nose.
7. Stop breathing like that.
8. Stop talking about pancakes.
9. Stop messing with my purse.
10. Just stop!
11. Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know that her spit-up could reach that far.
12. 4 more songs.
13. We give, it's just that I have the donation come directly out of our checking account. Stop worrying about it! Don't put that in there! The church doesn't need your drawing of a tank.
14. Well, if you weren't messing with the kneeler, it wouldn't have fallen on your feet, now would it?
15. Transubstantiation. What? No, that doesn't mean vampires! I don't care what Invisible Grandpa says! No, I can't spell it. Ask your teacher.
16. 3 more songs.
17.What?! No, there are no ghosts in the choir loft, who told you that? Super First Grader, stop freaking out your sister! They aren't ghosts, you just can't see them from here. I don't care what Invisible Grandpa says. I thought I told you not to bring him to church anyway. Because imaginary friends are only allowed if they behave and he never behaves!
18. Stop pinching her.
19. Could you please just pray?
20. In your head, please.
21. Yes, Super Baby looks like Baby Jesus. Fine, yes, baby Jesus was less white. Because people paint people that look like them so they can relate. And, well, racism was involved. Could we talk about this later?
22. Stop messing with that kneeler!
23. Because I want to hold your hand, not your doll's. OK, fine, give me her hand.
24. Not everyone wants a kiss at the Sign of Peace.
25. 2 more songs.
26. Because he is older than you and he's already made his first communion. No, that's not it. Don't cry. Jesus doesn't love him more. He might like his behavior a little more.....
27. Well, don't do it again. Because your Num-Nom doesn't need an extra blessing, that's why.
28. Stop pushing him.
29. Stop pushing her.
30. Stop messing with the kneeler!
31. Alleluia, it's the last song.

Joyous Advent, Friends! 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Awkward Mom and Girlhoods

My Daring Daughters-

I want to tell you that the world is no different for men and women and that you can forge forth in any direction you chose. I want to tell you that the college-attending of your great-grandmas, the bra-burning of your grandma, and the brave efforts of all your female ancestors to be given equal rights with men have provided you with a world that is your oyster. (I am using bra-burning as a colorful example, please don't ask your Grandma if she wears undergarments or not.) I want to tell you that you will always be viewed as complete and total persons when you leave this house and not as representatives of your gender or as objects to be ogled and used. I want to, but, sadly, my rockets, I can not.

The world has made incredible progress, and it will make more, even during your short childhoods. But the truth remains that men and women are treated differently in this world. So are people of other races, socio-economic statuses, and sexual orientations. You will learn (and change) all that with time. These are huge issues that even your mother will fail at explaining to you. (I know, crazy, right?!) Once free and out in the world, you will discover most of this injustice for yourself. Explaining it only gives you part of the picture. As I hope I have raised you right, you will hate it, rail against it, and work to change it for the rest of your lives. You will discover this in time, but not today. Today, I have smaller goals in mind.

Today, I want to talk to you about your girlhood. Because your girlhood isn't bad. It isn't anything to be ashamed off, wished away, hidden, or fought. (Nor is your brothers' boyhood, but I am writing them a different letter. Maybe they'll let you read it, but you have to stop stealing their stuff if you want them to trust you....)

Your girlhood is not now, and never will be, half of anything. YOU ARE NOT HALF OF ANYONE. Additionally, you aren't part of anyone, less than anyone, or 76 cents of anyone.

People are going to tell you, probably very soon, that girls are this way and girls are that way. People will tell you that you have to learn how to cook. People will tell you that you have to wear makeup. People will tell you that you have to be good at math. People will tell you that you can't be good at math. People will tell you that you can't play guitar. People will tell you that you have to play soccer. People will tell you tons of things. Some of it will be super crazy, like "girls have to like princesses and dresses and pretty things." And some of it will be subtly crazy, like "Girls are better than boys and should be able to hit them whenever they want." And some of it will just be flat-out crazy, like "You have to be this way or you aren't a girl" or "you are half of a man."

Basically, it's all crazy.

Your girlhood is deep in your hearts, and both of them are totally and completely unique. They look like no one else's girlhoods. They are solely yours; yours forever. They will grow and morph and change in unimaginable ways; taking you from Pippi Longstocking all the way to Miss Marple. They are not anyone else's to dictate. They have little to do with anyone else, but what they do is connect you to a wondrous lineage of women that goes back millenia and travels a road so varied and magical I could never truly describe this lineage to you. The invisible threads that tie you to your world sisters are unbreakable, and while there are some you will want to cut, someday you will be thrilled to have such a sisterhood at your back. And by your side.

For I am here, behind you. Ready to catch you. Ready to push you. Ready to hand you a sandwich, anytime you need. But I am not alone. Grandma is here with me. So is Babcia. And Great-Grandma. And all your aunts and great-aunts. And the Greats that you never met. And the Greats that I never met. And Maya Angelou. And Charlotte Bronte. And Jane Addams. And Elizabeth Blackwell. And Sonia Sotomayor. And Julia Child. And Margaret Mead. And the first mother who ever cradled her daughter to her chest, singing softly as she gazed at her adoringly. And the first daughter that took off running across the fields to her own destiny, but paused just for a minute to gaze back and wave. We are all here for you. Anytime you need us. Anytime you want a reassuring smile or supportive hug. Anytime you want some advice. Anytime you don't want some advice but need it anyway. Anytime. Sometimes finding your girlhood can be scary and lonely, and you might want to check in. Or you might be hungry. Believe me, we will want to feed you.

But you won't always have to look backwards. Right now, you have each other, but you will soon be joined by a sisterhood of your own choosing. Legions of girls as different as the rocks we've been collecting on our walks. Each one special. Each one tied to you with an invisible thread of sisterhood. An army of girls who aren't marching to war, but off to make a world that doesn't need war. I trust you. You are good sisters and you will pick good sisters. It is easy in this world of wonders.

You aren't half of anyone or anything, my beautiful daughters. But total and complete people who gets to decide who those total and complete people are and will become. You are already there, my iron irises, but if you fall and forget for any reason, the girls of the world are here to catch you. And we all love you.

But I love you the most-
Awkward Mom

Shine the world blind. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Awkward Mom vs. Soccer

It's a picturesque day; sunny, warm, the grass blowing gently in the breeze generated by a herd of little boys racing up and down the soccer field. I mean, except for Super 1st Grader, who is sauntering after them, hands in his pockets, watching a passing plane. The ball gets kicked this way and that way, and before you know it, it is heading straight for Super 1st Grader, luckily during a rare moment of attention. He narrows his eyes and pauses his amble to stand off with the ball. He even removes his hands from his pockets, and I lean forward, eager to memorize this sports-movie surprise. He holds his hands out on front of him, bends each finger in a different direction and tenses them like lightening is shooting out of each one, and waves them over the ball as it barrels past him towards his team's goal. Most of the surrounding parent-eyes appear to hone in on the sides of my face, but I will not turn to check. I bring my hands up to hide, but at the last moment, decide to be an adult, so I cupped my hands around my mouth, megaphone-style, and holler to my second born's unrepentant and beaming smile, "Super 1st Grader! Stop trying to use the Force!"

Super 1st Grader is not good at soccer. Will this improve in time, with practice and work? Perhaps. But probably not. He's really not good at it, and he does not care. Let's be super clear about that. This is not titled Super 1st Grader vs. Soccer. And it's probably slightly misleading to name it Awkward Mom vs. Soccer because (a) I'm not out there trying to play soccer, (b) I would totally be trying to use the Force if I were, and (c) a better name for this particular battle would be Awkward Mom vs. the judgment she is imagining the other parents are feeling about her because her child isn't paying any attention to the game and doesn't seem to care if he loses the game for his team and no amount of lectures, yelling, and incentives appear to be changing that and maybe she should give up and pull him off the team but then what does that say about follow-through and sportsmanship and why are children's sports so intense these days and were they always this intense and she just didn't notice and why can't we all just enjoy the game and learn some skills and how to be part of a team and how to lose and win gracefully or is that fragile snowflake talk and am I best preparing my children for the hard realities of life or is this whole thing really just about the fact that I don't want to look stupid in front of the other parents because I don't know what I am doing. But that's too long and won't fit in the title box.

Now, there's a lot to unpack regarding the nature of children's sports, or indeed sports in general, and I hope you will unpack it with me in the comments because I am by nature lazy and unpacking sounds like a lot of work. Time for that later. Right now, I'm mostly concerned with what to do about Super 1st Grader and his Force-approach to soccer. Bear in mind, this is Parks and Rec soccer; I haven't done anything dumb, like put him in a travel league or decide that he should play for Arsenal. So, part of me thinks it shouldn't matter. He's with his friends and he's having fun.  He says he likes soccer. He says he wants to play soccer. He clearly understands some of the rules; i.e. no touching the ball with hands, only Force-hand-extensions. But he's really really bad at it. Should that matter at age 7? No. But yes.

What about the other players? The ones who are good. The ones who do care. Shouldn't they be on teams with people who play well or at least pay attention. Super 1st Grader usually looks like an absent-minded stoner who took a wrong turn and wandered into a soccer game. And no amount of yelling at the field, or patient and sensible talks later, seem to change this. He is who he is, and he's my hippie child who finds the inner workings of his mind far more fascinating than a rolling ball. So, I should pull him off the field, right?

But he's not gonna be good at everything and maybe it's important to try new things. Maybe he'll pay attention eventually. He does take forever to warm up, as a general rule. But, then again, maybe a 6-8 week parks and rec soccer schedule isn't enough time for that, and is that fair to the other players? No. Not really, but life isn't fair and they are gonna encounter tons of people who aren't giving 110% out there in the adult world. Shouldn't childhood prepare for this? Yes, but why am I not raising someone who gives 110% and, anyway, why am I hiding from the real reason I care about any of this? The other parents.

Because that's always the shameful core of my public parenting problems, isn't it? What are these other people thinking of me? Me. Not even my child. I could give a flying fig what they think of my child, that's not gonna affect the fierce and endless love I have for that wild and defiant child out there. But what they think of me? Oh, yeah, that's gonna leave a mark. What is her problem? Why can't she make her child listen? What is their house like? He doesn't even care about losing. He's losing the game for us. They must be those everyone gets a trophy people. No ambition. No drive. Well, I mean, look at her clothes, of course she has no drive. No eyelashes either, hasn't she ever heard of Lash Boost? I should add her to my Rodan and Fields party list. But, no, she won't fit in with my actual friends. I mean, poor thing, but I don't need another project. And on and on and paranoid on.

No one is thinking this. I mean, maybe a couple of them are because, let's be real, I really do need to be using Lash Boost, but the majority of these parents are thinking the exact same thing I am thinking; Why is my child laying down in the goal?! Why can't he just behave until we get home? Why can't I go home? I hate this. I'm tired. So tired. Everyone is looking. Everyone is judging. Everyone. Is. Judging. 

And everyone is judging. Themselves. Like crazy-pants. Can we just stop? Can I just stop? Please? Can we please just stop already?

So, back to the soccer game. After the Force-attempt, there are like 5 more minutes of the game. Super 1st Grader laughs at my bellow to stop using the Force and shoves his hands back in his pockets. He wanders around the field for awhile, shouting some encouraging stuff to the goalie and then he asks him if he's gonna see the Ninjago movie. He watches a bird, makes some strange gestures that I imagine are to Invisible Grandpa about something important, and cheers when the whistle blows for the end of the 4th quarter. He rushes over to get his snack and water bottle, and, as he is making his way to me, happy and free and thoroughly enjoying this beautiful fall day, the best player on the team runs over to him and they have a brief and animated conversation about 7-year-old-boy stuff, while they do that shoving/side-hugging thing that males seem born knowing how to do. They laugh about a private joke that I really hope isn't dirty and then push off each other and, as Super 1st Grader walks backward toward me, Best Player yells, "Bye! See you at practice!" And Super 1st Grader yells back "OK!" while turning the full force of his bright Han Solo grin my direction, and suddenly I can't hear the crazy-pants judging anymore. I can hear something like bells or music or the sweet sound of doing my best for my child who might be very bad at soccer but is very good at humaning and anyway it's a picturesque day and I'm just gonna stop. Let's just stop.

Now, if soccer was about fabulous hair,
he'd be Lionel Messi.  

Friday, September 29, 2017

Awkward Mom vs. Bravery

Because bravery isn't not being scared. It's being scared and trying anyway. 

So, I'm standing around at school pick-up, talking to Experienced Mom, when this happens:

Experienced Mom: Guess what?
Me: What?
Experienced Mom: I'm gonna volunteer for the Book Fair!
Me: Great! I love the Book Fair!
Experienced Mom: Yes, I'm kinda nervous, it's totally out of my comfort zone, but I'm just gonna do it.
Me: Awesome!

I'm super excited for Experienced Mom, but I'm also super shocked. Experienced Mom isn't ill-named; her youngest is the age of my oldest and she's totally got it all together. For goodness sake, her oldest is in high school; she knows how to deal with high school moming! She's not remotely new to the moming game. The idea that anything is out of her comfort zone is simply something I had not considered.

Now, I could talk about a lot of things here; how we tend to see everyone else in relationship to us, the fact that you truly never know how someone else sees herself, the sheer terror that school events can cause, but instead I am gonna talk about being brave 12-year-olds.

You see, I have a theory that there are no actual extroverts and no real introverts. I think, deep inside, we are all terrified 12-year-olds at a middle school dance, standing along the wall, desperate to dance and equally desperate to not have anyone look at us. Not a one of us knows what we are doing, but we all think that everyone else does and we simply didn't get the memo. Does anyone send memos anymore? The group text? The Snapchat? Whatevers. Point is, we all feel nervous. Pretty much all the time. Everyone reacts to this differently: Some of us fake it until we make it, with loud laughs and plenty of jokes and sheer bravado. Some of us retreat into ourselves and our books. Some of us move to private islands and communicate exclusively through Snapchat, but I think those are just the millionaire millennials. And it's OK to be terrified 12-year-olds at a middle school dance. We all are. But, it's still a dance, and that means, someone has to actually start dancing. If not, we all just at a standing-around-while-music-plays, and we might be terrified, but we aren't immune to music. We might be scared, but, deep down, we all really want to dance. We need to dance.

This is life. Communication and commerce. Book Fairs need to happen. School pick-up needs to happen. Interaction needs to happen. Humans are social, for all our fear of rejection and humiliation, and we need to interact. This can be terrifying, and this will be terrifying. Especially if Perfect Mom shows up in skin-tight Lululemon and a tan from her recent work trip to Aruba. Terrifying. But, guess what? You CAN do it. If Experienced Mom can go outside her comfort zone and volunteer for the Book Fair, then you can be Room Mom. You can smile at the bank teller. You can decide to be on the PTA. You can wave to your neighbor. You can try a different book genre at the library this week. You can do it. You can go out there and be the first one on the dance floor. It's OK; take my hand, I'll come with you.

Because life is connection and life is caution. Don't be Elsa, angry-singing on a lonely mountaintop because no one understands you because you never told anyone anything and they never got a chance to try to understand you. And don't be Anna, trying to marry the first person who comes along because you are lonely and scared and it's easier to be part of the background of something than to actually figure out who you are and shine a little and have all the eyes on you.

You need to be an extrovert and an introvert; there's a time and a place for both. And, get this, you are both. Plus a terrified 12-year-old at a middle school dance who is about to be very brave.

Twelve and terrified. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Awkward Mom vs. the Church Directory Photo Shoot

In case anyone is curious about our previous awkward battles with Professional Photos, feel free to flashback here. And here. Over here. And there. Oh, and this one. It wasn't professional but there were attempts to coordinate outfits in a cornfield, so, you know, totally counts. Basically, professional(-ish) photo shoots seem to be our kryptonite. Throw in a healthy helping of church behavior and you've got a Royal Rumble type battle on your hands.

Bear in mind, I had the best intentions (and we all know what those pave), so, sometime in July, when the church announces that they are putting out a new directory and that we should go to this handy-dandy website to schedule a time, I am on it. Despite being a month post-partum, I am so on it. I schedule our session, put it on the calendar, and go back to being the lovely and loving embodiment of mother earth for my precious little Super Baby. I am so ill-named, I am grace itself. Except, I'm really not. Because Super 1st Grader is signed up to do fall soccer, and, for some strange reason, my mother earthy self forgets to put that on the calendar. So, a week before, when I finally remember to put soccer on the calendar, I am surprised, and why I still get surprised is a mystery for another time, but I am surprised to realize that soccer collides with our church directory photo shoot time. No matter, I naively say to myself, they have been announcing that there are plenty of times still available. I'll just pop on this here website and reschedule. For a Friday. At 8pm. Yeah, that'll be fine. There's nothing remotely problematic about taking 5 children, under the age of 10, into a space where they are supposed to be reverent, quiet, and still, after their first week of school, at 8:00 at night. That's totally gonna be fine.

And it might have been. You know, with normal children, but I wouldn't know about that. Because I am suddenly home, on Friday afternoon, recovering from the first week of the school drop-off/pick-up/was there a memo I missed because all these other moms are rocking lululemon and I am still wearing maternity pants and a VBS tshirt from 4 years ago. And I am sorta freaking out but I am yoga breathing and reminding myself that I have hours to bath people and comb out summer-damaged hair and select coordinating outfits, when Awkward Dad starts herding children into the van. It's not time, I yell, and he yells back, it totally is time. The toys went on display at midnight! And this is when I realized that Awkward Dad is operating from an entirely different calendar and the only thing on it is Force Friday. And before I have time to question if today is really the best day to go to Toys R Us to gawp at $1000 Lego sets of Hoth and  sentient imperial walkers, he has fast-and-furioused himself and 4 of my children out the driveway.

Suddenly robbed of my preparation hours, I have a good cry, remember that I am resilient, bathe Super Baby and put her in a beautiful lace dress that she promptly spits-up all over. So, I have another good cry, remember that I am resilient, let Super Baby hang out in her bassinet in a diaper, and set out nice church-photoy clothes for the other 4 children. Since they have been living in dirty shorts and Star Wars tees for the summer and all of their uniforms are now dirty after a solid week of school, pickins are slim. I come up with: (Super Oldest) a cleanish pair of shorts with a too big plaid button-up shirt that is missing 2 buttons that I hide with a sweater vest despite it being 87 degrees and August, (Super 1st Grader) the uniform shorts he is currently wearing while wandering around Toys R Us in Star Wars induced glee with a too small green buttonup shirt with ink stains on the sleeves that won't button all the way so I am hiding his belly with a tanish vest that sorta matches his shorts if you don't look too close, (Super Kindergartener) a verging on too small dress with a broken zipper that I fix with a safety pin and strict instructions that there be no cartwheels, (Super Toddler) a clean pair of shorts that are only clean because they are slightly too big and his one collared shirt that is wrinkly and definitely too small, and (Super Baby) her only other dress which is beautiful and slightly too big and some white pants that I intend to put her in the second before the photo is taken. I place all of this on the bed, remember that I am resilient, and wait. And wait. And wait. And wait some more.

They get home, full of ideas and waving Christmas wish lists at me, 15 minutes before we have to leave to get to the church on time. 15 minutes. 15. Minutes. I've blocked the next 15 minutes out so you'll just have to imagine it. Just picture this.

By some miracle and due to some speeding, we get to the church. On time. Sorta suitable dressed and not too sticky. To be told that they are running a tad bit over and there are 2 families in front of us. Should be about 15 minutes.

It is actually 30 and I have also blocked that out. There is no video scary enough on youtube to help you imagine trying to keep 5 children, quiet, wearing their nicest clothes, in the church vestibule, for 30 minutes. Frankly, I'm surprised we are all still alive.

We finally are ushered into the room with the backdrop and the lights and the camera and the little foam blocks that people are supposed to stand on and not start throwing at each other like my children are doing and the photographer stares at us like she has never seen children before and I feel really sorry for her because in motion it looks like there are 25 of them and I totally smell her fear but I am also really annoyed that we are taking photos 30 minutes later than anticipated so I stop them from throwing the foam blocks but I don't really do anything about the loud rock-paper-scissors fall-out about who gets to hold the baby for the picture and I think it made her ears bleed a little. It's not my proudest moment.

Nor is what happens next.

Sit still.
What the heck, stop licking things!
No, you can not take off your shirt.

I'm sorry it's itchy but you have to wear it.
Don't touch that!
Sit still.
I don't care if you're hungry, you should have eaten earlier!

Stop it.
Just stop it.
I don't care who started it!

Don't do that with your hands.
Don't do that with your face.
Don't do that at all.
Just don't.

The baby looks like a zombie.
No, obviously not a real one!

Stop making crazy eyes!
Sit still.
If you pinch her again, you will be in a timeout.
Oh,I'll find a place, don't you worry.

Sit still.
Sit still.
Sit still.
Oh, for the love of God!
Sit still.

This is what we went with for the church directory. 

Blessed are the awkward,
they shall inherit the inability to 
sit still!