Thursday, March 28, 2013

Super Baby vs. the Common Cold

Before we begin, we have to shout out to the Excellent Family, who welcomed their newest superhero team-member at 4 this morning. Excellent Baby will round out their super foursome quite nicely, and he has already developed some massive super powers; super adorableness, expert cuddling, and being combat ready in the middle of the night. He'll be defeating villains before you know it; he has already obliterated his so-called due date. Welcome Excellent Baby! 

Now, our resident baby isn't fairing as well, as she battles her current villain, the common Cold. Not much common about him, but I digress.

Dear Super Baby-

I wonder when you will read this. I wonder if you will ever read this or if the ramblings of your mother won't be interesting to you in your fabulous adult life. That it will be fabulous is a given. Your spunk and savvy will have matured but it will still glow within you. You will no longer walk into walls with such regularity. Your outfits will still reveal your imaginative flair; combining practicality with a dash of whimsy:

What you will do is totally you, whether it be law, sales, or surfing. But I know that you will do a lot more than work; you will change the world with the sheer power of your charm and enthusiasm for life. If 16-month you can blow through this house like a good-natured rocket, spreading smiles everywhere, just imagine what adult you will be capable of. Dreams just don't cover it.

But today, as you lie here in my arms, snoring through your nearly liquefied nostrils and dropping rivers of mucus down my back, you can take a break from phenom preparing. It's OK. Just rest. You put up a good fight against Cold; I know since I was awake during the midnight thick of the battle. You fought valiantly, and now, I would like you to just lean in and give in to that Tylenol. You are almost there; drifting in and out of sleep, as I shift to type around you. Go all the way, so I can put you down in your crib and attempt to clean up this house. Cold sent minions Sloth, Just-put-it-anywhere, and Why-is-this-Sticky in here while we weren't looking; he always fighting us on multiple fronts. But don't you worry about them, I'll take care of them. I'll take care of all of it and I'll take care of you. I know that you are independent and capable beyond your years, but today, just curl up and let me take care of you. Just for a little while.

Stop fighting my hugs, they are good for you. They will always be good for you. Today, in the throes of your battle. Tomorrow as you begin to heal. When the rest of those teeth come in. That first day of school. When that bully steals your crayons and pushes you on the playground. For each and every nightmare. The day you turn seven and have chicken-pox and can't have a party. That time your brothers won't let you in their clubhouse. When you eat too many cookies and have a stomach-ache. When that popular girl won't invite you to her party. When you get your first F. Several times while bra shopping. The day your period starts. Your first broken heart. And the next one. And the one after that. Randomly in the kitchen because things are moving too fast. Right before the big game and right after too. On opening night of the school musical. When you get your first job. When you lose your first job. The day you leave for college. Before your big trip around the world. When you get back from your big trip all changed and worldly and grown-up. In the magic stillness before you walk down that aisle. On rainy Tuesdays when you are lonely. For each and every loss you experience, and for each and every joy that I have the pleasure of sharing with you. And on those far far away days when you are crying and exhausted because your baby is sick and kept you up all night. On those days, and all the rest, climb into my arms. They may be thinner and more wrinkled than they once were, but they will be just as strong. Stronger even, tempered as they will have been, with a lifetime of hugs. Endless hugs, all for you.

Love ya,
Awkward Mom

OK, well, Super Baby, you may have to share some of those hugs with your brothers. 
Just a couple, don't worry, you won't even miss them. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Complaining

"The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects." Wow, Lord Jeffery. You must have been a hit at parties.

Well, workshopping my story went as I figured it would. There were tons of lovely comments about my great description, my funny tone, and my young-mother insight. The criticisms were mostly what I had expected. "Too long," takes no one by surprise, does it? "I don't really think you need all this superhero stuff, it's confusing," doesn't worry me, as the story I took wasn't very superpower heavy and I have decided that you really have to regularly read my blog to understand the whole Awkward Mom component. It doesn't read well out of it's element. This affects most comic characters, unless you happen to be Batman; he kinda fits in everywhere. Comments about my grotesquely excessive semi-colon use; totally expected that. What surprised me was this one; "So, you are complaining on and on about being hassled as a mom and the story doesn't really go anywhere." Now, that is true. The story doesn't really go anywhere; Plot and I are old writing foes. But was I complaining? Do I complain? Do I complain about being a mom? That one stopped me cold and, I think, warrants it's own blog post.

We all have phrases that run through out heads; little nuggets of wisdom gleaned from a childhood steeped in platitudes and pithy sayings. These run through my head with some regularity, guiding my daily actions. They are always in my mother's voice:

"If you are sick, drink a ton of fluids."
"Put on a coat!"
"It's just dirt. It'll wash off."
"Personality is much more important than looks, but sometimes it takes boys longer to figure that out."
"Get the big bowl, I'm making clam dip."
"Failure isn't the end of the world."
"No one likes a complainer."

Stoicism, in general, runs in my family. My mom always says that "the Awkwards hug with their hands in their pockets." This leads to incredibly hilarious ends when Awkward Dad (who was not raised in a stoic family) hugs family members upon greeting, leaving, and often several times within.  Other than awkward arm-less hugs, stoicism has many fun side effects, the main one being a utter and total fear of being outed as a complainer. In my mind, complainers are selfish and negative people who always ruin the party with long, depressing stories about their imagined ills. Now, expressing one's feelings or related a story which isn't all sunshine and roses are not necessarily complaining. If I am ever confused about whether or not I am complaining, I usually refer to the 3 Ls; length, legitimacy, and levity. I always thought that I was completely within this L window, especially when discussing my children. And especially especially here on Awkward Mom. Now I am not so sure.

You all know about my lack of interest in reading parenting books. Some of this stems from the Pollyannaness of many of these books. "Here, stick to my perfect parenting policies (available for $19.99), and your parenthood will be popular, poised, and perfect!" Phew. Life, especially parenting life, isn't all sunshine and roses, and to treat it as such reduces the actual sunshine and roses parts flat and boring. The valleys are necessary to appreciate the peaks. Looking at the bright side all the time burns your retinas and blinds you, making it impossible to see your way out when things actually do get bad.

Hence, Pollyanna, while a sweet girl, was wrong. However, that is no reason to turn her into Wednesday Addams. Constantly dwelling on the negative side of life only works for a few months in one's teens while going through a goth phase. Other than that, all it does is make one's life depressing and predictable. Sure, it is reassuring to always expect the worst to happen and be pleased when it actually doesn't, but a negative outlook reduces one's expectation of self as well, allowing a lazy and defeatist attitude to set up shop. Lazy, defeatist attitudes are notoriously difficult to evict and may cause one to waste precious years (usually one's 20s and 30s) in misconceptions that one's actions don't matter and there is no point to anything. Nietzsche quoting may make you popular in college but it is no way to really live a life.

Neither Pollyanna not Wednesday is gonna be fun to be around, and I wanna be fun to be around. Therefore, I seek a balance between the two; in my relationships, my actions, and my writing. It frightens me a little that my writing could be perceived as complainy. Not because there aren't things about parenting worth complaining about, but because that is never my intention here. My intention is to relay the funny sides of parenting, thus revealing the inherent joy in messy, regular parenting. It is joyous at the same time as it is painful; a catharsis of sorts. In telling you all of my painfully awkward forays into parenting, I come to understand the secret strengths and lessons hidden within.

But tragedy is much easier to play than comedy, even if all I am doing is ostensibly comedy. Confusing, I know, but I'll explain. Basically, it is pretty easy to see the funny in the outrageous encounters I have with Perfect Mom or the exhausting treks across the museum or the tripping mess I turn into at the doctor's office. It is less easy to me to relate to you the 1, 463, 300 beautiful parenting experiences that I am blessed to witness and participate in each and every day without sounding like a Hallmark card. I am a little embarrassed to tell you how impressed I am with Super Preschooler's wit and maturity. How much I love listening to Super Toddler talk. How I could seriously watch Super Baby walk for hours. Just walk. I am desperately in love with my children. But most of us shy away from these public expressions of pure, unadulterated joy. They seem too mushy, too sentimental, too much. Much much too exposed. Especially for someone who was raised to hug with her hands firmly in her pockets. Laughing at my failures as a mother is a lot easier than sharing my successes. Or maybe I am just as afraid of bragging as I am of complaining and have overcompensated in some strange ways.

Whatever the reason, someone reading my work found it complainy. Perhaps that post even was. That's OK. Stoic I may be, but perfect, I am not. I am gonna complain sometimes. Of course, I am also gonna gush sometimes too. Pollyanna and Wednesday Addams are both welcome at my parties and in my posts. I have a feeling that getting those two together might result in some legendary catharsis, and even if it doesn't, it is gonna be fun to watch them fight.

"If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes." Thanks, John Wooden. Come party with me, Polly, and Wednesday. We'll even let you bring Lord Jeffery if you don't think he'll eat all the clam dip.

In keeping with being cool with gushing, just watch Super Baby walk. 
Seriously, I could watch this for hours. How does she make something so basic, so adorable? 
Magic, that must be it. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Workshopping

We wish it was with wood or that she was welding something. But no, this is writing class workshop and workshopping words is the worst! Especially when you have an alliteration addiction.

OK, so, it is my turn to present in writing class on Monday and I am, naturally, in a panic. I queried my allies, and the Wondrous Woodworker gave me some stellar advice. He said, "Don't take your best work. If they rip that apart, it could be somewhat discouraging." And then he said, "Don't take your worst either. Same effect. And remember, chances are some of them won't have a clue what they are talking about." Totally sound advice. Although, I am still no further along because all my work is mediocre. What to choose, what to choose. Well, I found an old one that I think fits the bill. I have combined a two-part Natural History visit from 2 years ago and here it is. Advice on cuts would be welcome. I still need to lose about a page before it fits the class requirement. That is about 2 paragraphs in Awkward Mom writing. Let me know what you guys think!

Boldly going where many have gone before (except with more tripping and no fun spaceships): Awkward Mom! Let us join our heroine, as she and her Super Sons explore the wonders of the Natural History Museum. Well, actually, let’s just see if she can get there first.
Super Toddler has a thing for dinosaurs. He has about 200 play dinosaurs and I am rounding down on that one. He plays with them for hours, creating mini-Bedrocks all over the house. Tiny villages that are crushed in the wee hours of the morning by a rare and dreadful creature know as half-awake Dad, but Super Toddler doesn’t care. He will just rebuild bigger and better. These dinosaur cities are incorporated into every aspect of his play. The dinosaurs stalk along the railroads that snake toward the Sesame Street playhouse, where they shop at Hooper’s Store, side by side with Batman and his gang. The dinosaurs routinely save the princess from the tallest tower in all the land (aka the supply closet); that is, the ones that didn’t imprison her there in the first place. The dinosaurs were little hats and tiny coats to go to work. Super Toddler has yet to tell me exactly where they work, but they are quite official as they march through the hallway. Yes, he likes his dinosaurs, so much so that dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets are currently the only thing he will eat voluntarily. And speaking of eating, he quite enjoys stalking and pretending to eat his little brother. Of course, I am not altogether sure if that is related to his dinosaur interest or something else entirely.    
So, in an attempt to deepen and widen Super Toddler’s dinosaur world view, we are currently heading to the Natural History Museum. Now, I know that journeying into campus, just a few scant weeks after the students have returned, may be tempting fate, but that is where the museum is. Sometimes, you just have to grin, bear it, and deal with college students. Not often, if you can help it, but on occasion, it must be done. Happily, we have set out before noon, so not too many of them are about. Those that are must be tired or still drunk because they seem not too steady on their feet, weaving and darting into traffic like lemmings with a death wish. We avoid near collisions with about 6 of them before we find a parking place. OK, so it isn’t too close to the museum; I am pretty sure it is in the same time zone, so that is a plus. This is fine; a little walk never hurt anyone. Famous last words.
We arrive at the entrance to the museum; I am a little out of breath and we are all slightly damp. I line up to go inside, sandwiched between a field trip of 4th graders and a father with twin toddlers. I am amazed by the composure and dedication of the teachers herding the school group and am openly staring and taking notes, so I do not notice the lack of a ramp until I hit the front wheels against the first step and go careening into Super Toddler and his section of the stroller. Super Toddler, the font of compassion that he is, starts screaming at me to get off him, while he beats me with a stuffed bear. Which (you guessed it) wakes the Super Baby.
I assess the 4 steps in front of me; not a problem. (Have I told you that super stubbornness was in my arsenal? It is.) However, these are not ordinary steps. These are super steep, 1950s-built, rock solid steps; not for the weak of heart and certainly not for those hauling unwieldy double strollers with angry, shouting children. I wrestle the door open with the side of my arm and hold it with my hip. I then wedge the front wheels up on the 3rd step, forcing the stroller and its inhabitants into a 90 degree angle. I am not worried about Super Baby, who is shielded from potential harm in his bomb shelter of car seat, surround padding, 2 safety bars, and 2 sun shields. Super Toddler, thanks to the geniuses who designed this thing, is 1 strip of nylon away from plummeting to the certain death. He is, naturally, delighted. At least he isn’t hitting me anymore. I wiggle walk the front of the stroller up to the 4th step and pull the bottom half onto the 2nd step, which proceeds to get stuck. As I beat on the lower half of my stroller, the father with the twins, cooling monitoring the situation for behind me, tells me of a ramp at the service entrance around the block. How helpful. But he does awake my inner Hulk, which enables me to simply lift the stroller onto the landing. Success! As I am celebrating my victory against the scary steps, I look across the rotunda. What is that I spy? Beneath the exquisitely beautiful ceiling, to the left of the donation jar, and to the right of that bust of some important guy…2 more flights of stairs.
Stairs. Stroller. Stairs. Stroller. Shoot! Now what? OK, well, doesn’t matter right now anyway because if my super nose is correct, Super Baby is due for a diaper change. There has to be a bathroom on this floor, right? I mean, fate can’t be that cruel…And, for once, fate wasn’t. We find the bathroom and guess what? It is right next to an elevator! OK, so the elevator is about as old as some of the fossils in here, but at least I don’t have to hulk this stroller all the way upstairs. It does sorta sound like the elevator is being pulled upward by some very cranky ogres. However, the ogres are no match for the noise coming out of the second floor exhibit. It appears that we have found the 4th grade field trip.
The room is huge; filled with case after case of fossilized creatures, petrified wood, and colorful dioramas. I think time stopped around 1950 in here; it looks like an Indiana Jones movie. The back wall is covered in a dinosaur mural of epic proportions; I can’t tell from here if there is any dinosaur eating dinosaur action, but given the crowd of happy little boys near it, I am guessing yes. Two mammoths benignly reign in center of the room; their empty eye sockets gazing over the absolute chaos of what appears to be a hundred 8 year olds. Super Toddler starts clamoring to be freed about the same time Super Baby starts clamoring to be fed, so I find a sparsely populated bench and haul them out. I give strict instructions to the toddler to stay where I can see him. Then, I don’t see him for 15 minutes.
I am almost finished feeding Super Baby, catching glimpses of the toddler from time to time (or another little blond boy, I can’t be sure), when a little girl clutching a dingy sheet of paper plops down and asks me when the mammoths went extinct. I tell her I don’t know, but maybe the exhibit that is 5 feet away from us will tell her. She sighs, but she does wander over to the mammoths. She returns, secretively writes something on her paper, and asks to hold the baby. I hand him to her, and we are sitting there very nicely, when Super Toddler appears to jet in from space. He yells something completely unintelligible at the little girl, throws her paper to the ground, and begins to pull Super Baby out of her arms. She is holding Super Baby under his arms, while Super Toddler is holding his brother's feet, and, unsurprisingly, Super Baby is laughing his head off. I swoop in and rescue Super Baby, who then begins to cry. I try to apologize to the little girl, but she doesn’t seem upset. In fact, she takes Super Toddler’s hand and they go skipping off toward the dinosaur mural. I am left to trail behind them, awkwardly pushing the stroller with my chest, holding a slightly damp piece of paper in one hand and a baby desperate for that piece of paper in the other.
Yep, there is some serious dinosaur eating dinosaur action going on in this mural. There is also a full size replica of a T-Rex fossil, standing over a half eaten something, it is quite intense. The little girl and Super Toddler are now playing tag with some other kids. They are happily throwing the worksheets they are supposed to be filling out. The teachers don’t seem overly concerned, so I lean against a display and watch this living snow globe. As I turn to check on the baby, who is merrily chewing on the piece of paper, I look straight into a jar filled with snake heads. Thankfully, it is so noisy in here, no one hears my scream. Apparently, I am leaning against a good old fashioned curiosity cabinet. This one contains (in no particular order) 6 stuffed monkeys, an icon made completely from seeds, 3 stuffed owls, the aforementioned jar of snake heads, an alligator replica, some human hair, a dozen poison vials, a stuffed raccoon, a petrified wasp’s nest, and a glass beaker that looks like it contains the unholy offspring of a toad and Darth Vader. I move.
The field trip is being called to the next floor, so I wipe the paper mustache off Super Baby's face and tuck him into the stroller. Hunting down Super Toddler is a little harder, but I finally locate him, dancing on top of a petrified tree stump. I bribe him with fruit snacks and he climbs in the stroller. The groaning ogres take us to the next floor; the trip lasts the time it takes for Super Toddler to eat 7 fruit snacks and for the sugar to hit. He explodes out of the stroller the moment we step off the elevator. In retrospect, I suppose I should have buckled him in. 
The third floor appears to be designed from Ted Nugent’s dreams. It is case after case of stuffed animals. There have to be 500 birds at least. A whole wall of butterflies. Water displays with half the glass painted blue and enormous fish, swinging silently, their wires barely visible. There are cases of insects, which complete confuse me, can one stuff an ant? I am gonna assume they are fake or this museum employs some of the most talented taxidermists alive. But, the crown jewels of this floor have to be the lifelike replicas of natural habitats found in Michigan, inhabited by scores of stuffed squirrels, deer, weasels, bears, and a complete opossum family (with 10 baby opossums!). They all stare at me with their unblinking shiny eyes, sure to haunt my dreams for weeks to come. I find Super Toddler as fast as possible, hogtie him into the stroller, and book it to the fourth floor.
The fourth floor is blissful quiet; the field trip hasn’t worked its way up here yet. I allow Super Toddler to get out of the stroller and look around. It is an interesting mix of studies. There is a long hallway with ecological posters and glass cases of minerals, satellites, and pictures of rockets. The planetarium’s door is halfway down on the left. There is a show in process, so we tiptoe by to be confronted by three choices. There is a door on our right side, which contains a child’s birthday party. A large SpongeBob piƱata is hanging in the middle of the room, under which a host of kids wearing party hats are eating pizza and drinking orange pop. Two signs point in opposite directions at the end of the hallway; Science to the left and Anthropology to the right. I am contemplating this when I turn to see that Super Toddler has appeared next to me, wearing a party hat and clutching a slice of pizza.
We head toward Science. We examine the “cutting edge research into DNA” exhibit and Super Toddler attempts to climb the double helix. We move on to a display about river pollution, where Super Toddler examines river water through a microscope. I am feeling really proud of my skills as a mother, exposing my children to the wonders of science and raising such advanced, intelligent young men, until I realize that he is looking through the microscope with his closed eye. We breeze by displays about the communication techniques of bees, the breeding habits of grasshoppers, and the something about beetles. We wander over to a display about teaching sign language to Gorillas. A boy appears next to us and shows us his imitation of an ape. It seems the field trip has caught up with us.
We head into Anthropology and are met by displays regarding ancient tattooing practices, currency around the world, the burial traditions of ancient cultures, and a canoe overflowing with children. Super Toddler immediately wants in; I helplessly watch a horde of 4th grade girls abscond with my son. The teacher pats me on the shoulder, telling me not to worry; “the museum said it was ok.” Well, if the museum says it is ok for my son to be kidnapped by 6 girls in a canoe, I suppose I can’t argue with that. So, I don’t. Instead, I sit down on a bench and try really hard not to think about how on earth I am going to walk all the way back to our car.
Fear not, faithful readers! Awkward Mom made it back to her car…after a construction detour, a couple blisters, a run-in with a pothole, and completely exhausting her resources of patience, imagination, and snacks. I wanted to spare you the whole thing, you can thank me next week, when you join us for another episode of …Awkward Mom!
Super Toddler clearly approves this post, Super Preschooler seems less sure. Wonder what the writing class will make of it. Bets are good they are gonna have issues with my Ted Nugent reference.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Resentment

Return of the Jedi resentment, to be precise.

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the MET at the Movies encore of Parsifal, Richard Wagner's final opus: A 5 and a half hour redemption epic with immortal sirens, lakes of blood, and the Holy Grail. You know, just typical opera stuff. Seriously though, it really was a very moving and modern production, and I barely felt the 5 hours. Well, I felt them at the intermissions when our group of 20 whittled to 5 and the man in front of me started swearing. But during? Nothing but magic. To be honest, the fact that Jonas Kaufmann was shirtless for most of Act III might have tipped the scales of transcendence for me, but whatever the reason: pure magic. Now, I was flying solo for this outing. While I can take or leave Wagner and it really depends on the production, Awkward Dad would prefer to leave him, someone on a deserted beach, I think. His first words to me when I got back were, "And how were the Nazis this evening?" That I was prepared for. His second words? Not so much. Those were: "Oh, by the way, I showed the kids Return of the Jedi. Hope you don't mind."

I just stared at him. He did what? That is like throwing Super Preschooler's birthday party without me. Not taking any pictures of Super Toddler's first bike ride. Interviewing Super Baby's first date solo. We have been watching Star Wars as a family over the past couple months. Many long-term readers will remember my trilogy post about watching A New Hope. (If you want to relive it; here, here, and here.) About a month ago there was an Empire Strikes Back movie night that ended rather badly. Super Preschooler was not properly primed for limb-severing and he freaked out. The fact that his brother promptly wanted to act it out probably didn't help matters. I was so ready for Return of the Jedi. I was so sure that the final act of Lucas' magnificent space opera would heal Super Preschooler's wounds with a balm of Ewoks, Yoda ghosts, and Hutt antics. Awkward Dad seemed to think that all it would take to get Super Preschooler back in the fold was one look at Leia's slave girl outfit. I think he might have been talking about himself, but whatever. It was going to be the conclusion to our nerd indoctrination of the children. (They can discover the prequels in their own time) This was to be family bonding of epic proportions; the cherry on their awkward eduction. The thrilling third act, with all its satisfying sense of completion. And he showed it to them on a Wednesday while I was out. He did what?!?!?!

Oh well. I am not H.G. Wells and I can't time travel. (Oh come on, H.G. Wells can totally time travel; you think he made all that up? No one is that good a writer....) What's done is done and I am trying not to resent Awkward Dad too much. After all, he did let me go out for about 6 hours last night and handled bedtime on his own. Plus, he vacuumed up the popcorn that Super Baby got on every square inch of the living room. Oh wait, he didn't do that at all. I did. This morning, half-awake, in a panic, because I don't want the babysitter to think we are disgusting enough to leave popcorn all over the place overnight. OK, free license to resent Awkward Dad is back on the table.

What softened the blow slightly was how I woke up this morning:

Super Preschooler: Mom! Mom! We saw more Star Wars last night!

Super Toddler: Leia had a gun!

Super Preschooler: Did you know about Ewoks? Ewoks are the cutest thing ever! And there was a baby one. A baby one! It was so adorable. Can I have a baby Ewok?

Super Toddler: Yeah, yeah. Mommy, Jaba the Hutt is so gross!

Super Baby: Jaba. Jaba. Jaba.

Super Preschooler: And the walkers! The Ewoks got rid of them, but they were really scary. And Chewbacca was driving and it was so funny.

Super Toddler: This one is the funny Star Wars. The most funny one!

Super Preschooler: And Darth Vader isn't really bad. He is kinda good. But bad. And ugly. But good and bad, and I don't know about that.

Super Toddler: But Emperor is bad. So bad. I emperor! (He makes pretend lightening come out of his hands, complete with sound effects.)

Super Baby: Jaba. Jaba. Jaba. Jaba.

Super Preschooler: And Leia was almost naked, Mom!

Super Toddler:  Naked!

Super Preschooler: Her hair was pretty though. I liked it better when she was riding on that flying thingie with the helmet.

Super Toddler: And gun! Gun!

Super Preschooler: Oh my gosh, Mom, and then they had this party at the end! It was crazy!

Super Toddler: With ghosts!

Super Preschooler: Right, ghosts and they were playing drums with the bad guys heads.

Me: Pretty sure those where just helmets, Super P.

Super Toddler: No. They were heads.

Super Baby: Heads!

Me: Sigh, well, OK. I am glad you liked it.

Super Preschooler: Yes, it was great! But it will be better when we watch it with you.

Super Toddler: Mommy, can I have gun like Leia's? Daddy said I had to ask you.

Me: I bet he did. We'll talk about it later. Now get up, I have about 20 tons of popcorn to clean up.

No, I don't resent Awkward Dad. It sounds like it was magical. Not 5-hour-shirtless-tenors magic, but a much better kind and I don't want to begrudge him that. I have so many moments with the children that he doesn't get to share. First steps, first days of school, first words. Random afternoon snuggle fests because it's raining. Kitchen dance parties. The days we all wear pajamas and watch the garbage trucks rumble up and down the street all morning. Lawn picnics. Couch forts. The million triumphs and tragedies that fill up the days of toddlers that he misses because he is out making money so that they can have all those triumphs and tragedies. No, I don't resent him stealing a moment with them while they are still little and want to be with us. I don't resent him grabbing them to him any chance he gets. I don't resent him being the cool parent who let them stay up until 10pm watching a woman in a bikini strangle a huge slug while a hooded wizard electrocutes her brother. I don't resent him not wanting his fatherhood to turn into 70s folk song. I don't resent him swooping in to save the Star Wars day with some Ewoks and popcorn. I don't resent him, I really don't. But if he thinks that I am waiting for him to show them Indiana Jones, he has another thing coming.

Awkward Dad calls the Darth on the right Wagner-Darth
because he looks like he is giving the Nazi salute.
(Much love to Excellent Mom and Dad who passed these,
and numerous other 80s treasures, our way recently.
The Supers are in Star Wars heaven; thank you!)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Mini Battle #5

This morning I had the pleasure of driving Awesome Preschooler to school, as well as Super Preschooler. This is their conversation, verbatim and unedited:

Awesome P.: Hey, Super Preschooler, guess what is in my bag?

Super P.: I don't know, is it a book?

Awesome P.: Nope.

Super P.: Is it food?

Awesome P.: Nope.

Super P.: Is it a new stuffed animal?

Awesome P.: Yes! Were you peeking?

Super P.: Nope. What kind is it?

Awesome P.: It's a blue dog that used to belong to my grandma, but she got old so she gave it to me.

Super P.: How old is she? Is she 98?

Awesome P.: No, I am pretty sure that she is 99. 99 is really old.

Super P.: Yeah, that is old. My mom is 35, that is old but not the oldest you can get.

Awesome P.: Wow, your mom is old. My mom is 22 years old.

Super P.: Really? Are you sure she isn't 35, like my mom. My dad is 35 too.

Awesome P.: No, my mom is 22 and my dad is 25. But that is kinda old too.

Super P.: Yeah. Moms are always old. Dads sometimes too.

Awesome P.: Phenomenal Kid is old too, I think he is 22.

Super P.: Phenomenal Kid is 6! He isn't old, who told you that?

Awesome P.: But he goes to school.

Super P.: So do you, but you aren't old.

Awesome P.: I am 4.

Super P.: Which isn't old.

Awesome P.: I guess you are right. Only adults are old.

Super P.: Well, some aren't old. You know, the ones that run around and stuff.

Awesome P.: Yeah, but those aren't usually moms.

I am sure Awesome Mom is pleased to know that she is 22 years old; we should go have a drink to celebrate since she is old enough now.

Take your time getting old, little ones.
Make time to run around and stuff.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Envy

"Envy is an insult to oneself." Well, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, get ready to hear some insults.

Envy is an insidious villain, one of the worst. A lurking unseen monster that manifests only once he is already in, wrapping his wispy arms around my heart. Tightening his endless grip like so much choking fog. Such a deceptive villain; I think I have bested him, shooing him away to harmless remnants, only to breathe him in, moments later. He dissipates, then forms even bigger, like Megazord or one of the nastier Combiner Transformers. There is no denying it, Readers. I am losing a mega battle to Envy.

I write in an incredibly saturated market. What is more present in the blog-o-sphere then the Stay-at-Home-Mom Blog? We are perhaps only outnumbered by instagrammed photos of food and certain nerd subgroups. Oh, and porn. But Mom Blogs are definitely within the top 5 arenas on the internet, right behind cat videos. I have a plethora of peers. Peers I want them to stay. Competitors, they often seem.

I love to read about the adventures and antics of my fellow moms. I get into trouble when my eye drifts anywhere else; to the comments section, the followers list, the rare page-view counters that sometimes settle at the bottom of the screen, forgotten relics of a bygone era. Numbers all. Numbers that coldly calculate within my head: pushing my worth lower as they climb. I feel Envy ride in on  waves of these hundreds and thousands, so I tear my eyes back to the words and shake my head to clear his foggy breath, already hot on my brain. I return to the words, lovely words; my anchor, my thread to this writer. This sister who I want to love deeply, Perfect Mom or not. I want to stand with her at the threshold of her current battle; support her campaign against the countless arrows that can hurl themselves toward the modern mom. I want to hand her her shield, not lose myself admiring the coat of arms gracing it. Marvelling at the magnificent paint to distraction and sending her forth, defenseless into the fray.

It is an ugly truth, but I am envious of my sister bloggers. Not only the ones who seem to gracefully navigate the tricky marketing aspect of blogging, but also the ones who just write better. Whose words flow across the page like leaping dancers; thoughts resplendent in themselves and positively ravishing housed together. My mouth hangs open at the sight, but no words of my own follow. They have retreated into my mind with a few whispers of "Erin, you can't compete with that, we are going home. We'll catch ya later; why don't you catch up on your web surfing? After all, you are really good at that."

Envy is not a new villain, nor is he a villain limiting to my writing. Envy and I throw down often and everywhere. When I snap at my husband, when I lose it with the children. When the dust bunnies under my couch actually grow large enough to roam. When my meals resemble something they serve in prison. I gaze around and see much better wives, mothers, cooks, homemakers. No, Envy and I are old foes, but his invasion into my writing life is quite new. And I don't like it one bit.

When writing was secret scribbles in stickered composition notebooks that I hid under the bed, there was no envy. Books were books to be read and enjoyed, but hardly peers. Who competes with Dickens? Dumas? Who competes with Nancy Drew? No one really, and certainly not me. I was content to let their words wash over me, flashlight fondly caressing them under the blanket. Even as I grew, and grew in my desire to write, I was able to keep Envy at bay. He had no place in my expanding world of writing; frantic love poems, homesick letters, tumbling journal entries intersected with quotes from Rent. Ah, college. And then, came young adulthood; little time to capture so much change, but it is there; still shoeboxed, deep in a trunk, for my grandchildren to giggle over. Our big move to Ann Arbor brought my blog, a reaching into the void for some company, some help, a few laughs in the loneliness that seemed to permeate my days. And now we are here.

Where are we? I say we because I have included you in my journey now. These writings are no longer hidden under the bed. I share them with you. And what does that mean? And why do I suddenly feel like I am in a constant battle with Envy? It isn't only here on the blog. My writing class, while fun and challenging, has sent me into a tailspin of self-esteem drama that I thought I left behind at age 25. OK, maybe 29. 33. Whatever, I thought I was mature now; incapable of feeling that sickening feeling that creeps in while you are nine years old and playing house with a semi-friend, who is really more the daughter of your mom's friend, and she tells you that you are wrong about some aspect of house that you always thought you had down. Of course, you are not terribly confident in your house abilities to begin with because you wanted to play fairies in the glen, but she didn't and it is her house the playdate is at, so you are stuck playing house and being the Dad because she wants to be the more glamorous role of Mom. And you suddenly feel awkward when you always felt just fine.

That is how I feel in my writing class. They mean well. They want my writing to improve. They want me to hone and edit and clarify and perfect. Shouldn't I? But, Readers, they want to take away my adverbs. And my fragments. And my grotesquely bloated sentences that weave and dance everywhere before they land on something that I didn't even plan or intend. They want to take my jokes. Not all of them, but enough. They want it shorter, cleaner, better. They make solid points and they do it kindly. And after all, it is all the point. It is a writing class. So why do I feel like that nine year old me who just wanted to shout, "I know my Dad is kinda weak, but wait until you see my fairies in the glen! They are really good, you're gonna love them!"

This post is starting to resemble what they are talking about. What is my point? My point is this; why do I write? I write for many reasons, the largest one being that I can't stop. (Literally, my posts seem like books somedays) That is fine and good; I could do that in the notebooks under my bed. Why do I write here? Why do I share it? I started because I was alone and I wanted someone to talk to. I wanted to connect. I want to connect. I want to know other moms. I want other moms to know that if they sometimes feel alone that they aren't. If they sometime feel awkward, they are not the only ones. Even if you aren't a mom, you might sometimes feel awkward, and you are not alone. I am here. I am here, thinking that making my own granola bars takes too long. I am here, forgetting my child's birthday at the doctor's office. I am here, yelling when I get too tired. Letting children sleep in my bed because I can't fight at 2 in the morning. I am here, messing up. I am here, crying after some playdate because some Perfect Mom snubbed me. I am here, with some stain on my shirt that I can't explain. I am here, not having the slightest idea what is for dinner. Missing time with just my husband. Forgetting not to swear in the car. I am here, falling down. I am here, being awkward.

When you read this, I don't ever want you to feel like you are competing with me. Obviously, you would win in a landslide, but that isn't the point. We are a sisterhood. Moms or not, you are my sisters. (and the like 3 men who read this, you are cool too) I want to pull you to my heart and tell you that it is all gonna be OK. Whatever it is, it is all gonna be OK. We'll get through this together. I can't promise that I won't sometimes get envious of you, especially those of you who write such beautiful blogs or those of you who have cuter shoes, but I'll get over it. I have battled Envy for a long time, I know a few tricks. I may lose a few battles here and there, but I am gonna win the war, Readers. You can count on that! You can count on me.

"Envy comes from people's ignorance of, or lack of belief in, their own gifts." Thanks, Jean Vanier. I'm taking that one and running with it! And thanks for being a tad gentler than Yevtushenko.

I believe in you, Mommy.
I also believe that we need some more dress-ups, so you might wanna get on that.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Snowman

Awkward Dad is playing "Super Hero Squad" with the Supers and has a desire to bond and blow things up with the children all evening. Awkward Mom has the large Whitman's Sampler box and a new mystery to read. You all know what this means: Pictorial post! No one has time to read a ton of Awkward Mom when there are chocolates to be eaten.

So, the Supers made a snowman today. And, you are totally not gonna believe this, but it turned out kinda awkward. Imagine that....

 Along the way, there may have been a few design disagreements.

And some snowball fights.

But you can't argue with results like these. Awkward Perfection!

Stay warm, Readers! Catch ya on the flip side!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Super Toddler

Awkward Dad has made a complaint that Awkward Mom's past couple posts have been a little dreary, a tad mopey, and not a whole lot of fun. We are not sure that this one is much better, but at least it is short! OK...short for her.

I have dreaded this day. I knew that it would arrive at some point, but my addled brain urged me to forget about it. To focus on the here and now, or if not that, at least other worries, like Super Baby's imagined middle school woes or Super Preschooler's college prospects. So, like an ostrich sticking her head in the sand, I allowed myself to ignore the possibility that my dreaded fear may be inching closer and closer. Well, it nearly crept into my lap today.

Here's what happened: We had a lovely day at the Henry Ford Museum with Wonderful Mom, Wonderful Preschooler, and Wonderful Baby. (P.S. 3 Booster seats do fit in the back seat of a Toyota Sienna. Snugly, but they fit.) I had just dropped them off and was heading home; flying high on my own confidence. Look at me; playdating it up at a major museum with all three children. Didn't lose a one. OK, I might have misplaced Super Preschooler by the Rosa Parks' bus, but that was only for a minute. Doesn't count. I am exposing my children to culture and socializing them with other children. I am daring. I am adventurous. There were only like 15 awkward moments all day, that is a new record or something. I am amazing. I am invincible. Won't you agree, Super Toddler? He agrees with me, from his location standing in the aisle to my right. See, even my children agree with my amazingness. I am .... OH HOLY CATS.

That's right. Super Toddler has figured out how to undo his seat-belt. And he does so. While I am going 45 miles an hour down Packard Road, to the left of a bus.

I don't die. For a good 3 seconds, I think I am going to die. Then, I spend 3 seconds thinking that he is going to die. Then, I spend the remaining 5 seconds it takes to pull into a gas station, plotting ways to kill him. I grab him and bundle him back into his car-seat, yelling at him that it isn't safe to be out of his seat. He pouts and shouts at me that it is "more fun" to stand. I ramble a bunch of stuff about car safety, but a firetruck drives by and I have lost him. I get back in the front seat and resume driving, thinking all the while about why I should have foreseen this, what I am going to do about it, and that, clearly, I under-utilize my rearview mirror.

Super Preschooler never leaves his seat. Of course he doesn't; he is Mr. Safety. "Mom, is it safe? It doesn't look safe." "Mom, that isn't a healthy snack." "Mom, I would love a bike, but I need a helmet first." "Mom, is it safe? It doesn't look safe." "Mom, there aren't wars, are there? Like for real? Because that would be wrong, and totally not safe for any kids around." "Mom, maybe you should slow down." "Guns don't really exist, right?" "I think you should cut those grapes, Mom." "Mom, is it safe? It doesn't look safe."

I had to beg Super Preschooler to learn to unbuckle his own seat-belt. Beg and explain that Mommy is 9 months pregnant and doesn't want to climb into the backseat.  Plead and explain that Mommy is holding the baby and doesn't want to climb in the backseat. Bribe and explain that all big boys can undo their own seat-belt. Threaten and explain that Mom is too old for this. He finally got it about 2 weeks ago. So, I suppose it stands to reason that Super Toddler, who has been around for all this, would absorbed all this begging, pleading, and threatening too. But since he is not Mr. Safety, rather Mr. Daredevil, naturally, the result would not be the same.

I sigh. Oh well, they are so different in every other way. That has been the story of their childhood so far. This makes so much sense. He is only being himself; his wonderfully exuberant, life-lusty self. Maybe I was too hard on him; he's only three. It isn't like he knows better. He just wanted to be near me. I should be more understanding. I shouldn't have grabbed him. I should have talked to him in a calm, level voice. I'm such a powder keg, always yelling. Maybe if I wasn't, they wouldn't do stuff like this. Maybe he does stuff like this because I yell. Maybe I have messed him up so totally that he thinks this is the only way to get my attention. Oh, poor thing. I gaze into the rearview mirror to make peace with him and.......

"Super Toddler! I am dead serious! Get in your seat! You don't even want to know what is gonna happen if you do not get back in your seat. So help me........"

We don't really think it has anything to do with attention or Awkward Mom's powder-keg-ability. We are pretty sure Super Toddler just belongs in the circus and is upset that it is taking everyone so long to figure this out. Plus, come on, admit it, standing in the car is super fun! If anyone reports us to Baby Center for saying that, so help me..........

People, what's the big deal? I told you, I got this. Relax, I got this.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Middle School

Now, don't you all worry. There is no love child that we failed to tell you about. Awkward Mom is just worrying about the ones who aren't even in Kindergarten yet. You know, just her normal insanity.

It isn't that I don't think they can handle middle school. OK, that is a lie. I think that Super Toddler can. Honestly, I have half a mind to pick up some college applications for him. No, he can't read yet. What a strange question! Everyone knows that school isn't really about learning academics; school is about learning how to function in a group of people that you don't necessarily like. It prepares you for life that way. School is about learning some spelling, a little subtraction, and massive survival skills, and middle school is like school's boot camp. Now, Super Toddler, with his teflon ego, easy smile, and lightening-fast right hook, is off my worry list. That child was born ready to go to school:

Hey Dudes, am I in the right place to rush Phi Kappa Chi?
Super Preschooler does keep me up at night sometimes, worrying about his sensitive ways and significant lack of hand/eye coordination. Signing him up for Kindergarten in the fall about gave me palpatations, but I was brave and did it. He has more than proven himself in preschool; he can write his name. He has some rudimentary understanding of the days of the week. He can identify Michigan on a map. His sharing skills are off the charts, unless you want a particular Cinderella dress-up dress he likes. But since his left uppercut is getting there, this is not usually a problem. I mean, it is not Super Toddler's right hook, but it is adequate. His social skills are good and his self-defense is workable. I have high hopes that the drama geeks are gonna find him early and all will be well. That all will be strange interpretive dances to Les Miz for a couple years goes without saying, but I have a BFA and thus a fairly high show-tune tolerance. I can handle it. Now, if it carries on into high school, I may need to invest in some ear plugs and some Valium. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Mom! I have figured out my Halloween costume this year. I am gonna need a toga unless you think the neighbors are cool with a little nudity.
He'll be fine. Fabulous, but fine. No, my worry is decidedly sexist today. My worry is this one:
No, I have no excuse for the 4 diapers that she has in there.
Once upon a time, I was a middle school girl. It didn't end happily ever after. That isn't even understating it. To understate it would be to say that I was unpopular. I was beyond unpopular. I had 1 friend. Now, she was an amazing friend, so there was little need for more. My friend, Marvelous Mom, who is still my friend to this day, would bravely sit with me at our own little lunch table every day for about 3 years. Of course, she was going by Marvelous Pre-teen at the time and she was (and still is) the definition of a friend. She barely pointed out my awkwardness and seemed to love me in spite of it. She was funny and kind and liked to watch MTV with me, sprawled on my living room floor. She routinely defended me against my nemesis, Perfect Pre-teen, and even got me invited to Perfect Pre-teen's Christmas party. That Perfect Pre-teen made a point to not give me a gift and threw away the one I gave her wasn't the point. Marvelous Pre-teen was a true friend, through and through. They just don't make many friends like that.

She is in pretty much every middle school memory I have. We walked to school together with my brother, who liked to sing the Bumble Bee Tuna Jingle for our amusement. (Do NOT click on that unless you are prepared to have it in your head all year.) I was with her the day she pierced her ears herself in the kitchen with a tack and a potato. She was the Morticia to my Gomez when we went as the Addams family on Halloween 1990. We did our science fair project together and got a ribbon for our sophisticated analysis of bubble solutions. We ate together. Oh, we ate together. Legendary meals, but I think the blue-frosted cake was my favorite. I still have some notes that we illicitly passed during class; all 8th grade, her desk was one behind and one over, in perfect note-passing position. They are full of jokes and comfort and nasty comments about Perfect Pre-teen's new haircut. I would post a picture of us, circa early 90s, but it was circa early 90s and that would just be mean to all involved, especially those viewing such a picture. Picture or no, she is a treasure and she got me through that incredibly rough time in my life.
Incredibly rough time in any girl's life. And I have no guarantees that Super Baby is gonna find a marvelous friend. Now, Super Baby is amazing. There is no disputing that. But society is not always that good at spotting amazing. The fact that Jersey Shore existed at all is proof to my point. Super Baby is my daughter. Awkward Dad's genes are strong, but nothing short of a miracle is gonna get her to adulthood with no awkwardness at all. Plus, making it though years 9-17 without an awkward spell is hard enough for the normal ones; can you imagine what poor Super Baby has going against her? Sometimes I watch her toddle across the room with her John Wayne gait; her enormous belly sticking out, hair flying away in 18 directions, one hand deep in her left cheek, working on some molars, the other one clutching a tampon that she stole from my bathroom, and I sigh. I find her perfection, but I am awkward; what do I know?
Next to other children, she is a hilarious mess. We were in the church nursery on Sunday and Phenomenal Baby was there. Phenomenal Baby is so graceful that she floats. So, she is floating along, and here comes Super Baby; lumbering after her, round as the apple she is clutching and chewing, with cheeks red and shiny from drool. Even as she enthusiastically eats, her goofy grin is somehow beaming through and around her prize. And I sigh. Because she looks like the fat friend. You can glare at me all you want through the internet, but that is what she looks like. I should know; I was one.
Super Baby is passive and kind. She shares toys at age 1, which is next to unheard of. She laughs if Super Preschooler yells at her and she smiles when Super Toddler kicks her. She goes to sleep when we tell her to and is often forgotten at the door when we are packing the van in the morning. Yes, she has adorable cheeks that bloom red in cold or heat, but sadly, she also has a nose that blooms rummy red; combine that with her weaving walk and aimless smile, and she kinda looks drunk most of the time. Her impact on our household routine has been so slight that sometimes I forget I have three of them to haul around. But her impact on my heart has been immense.
Having a daughter is different. I want to say that it isn't. I want to be all modern and equatable and bra-burny and say that there is no difference between boy children and girl children. And mostly, I can say that there is no difference. Well, no difference based on gender; all children are delightfully different in interest, temperament, and appearance. The difference that I am talking about is with me. I have never been a boy; middle school or otherwise. I have natural worries about my sons fitting in, making friends, doing well academically, all of it. These are emotional, yes, but there is research behind them. Reading like one book and talking to Awkward Dad, but still, this research creates an intellectualizing that gives me distance and perspective. There is none of that with my daughter; my worries about Super Baby are based on actually living it. My worries about her are strong and visceral. There is no intellectualizing about it; I want to grab her to me and head for the hills. I want to banish all other girls, ages 9 to 17, from our house. I know what they are like, I have been a girl. That I have grown into a woman is merely a case of dumb luck; I have no idea how I got here in one piece. It is a battlefield out there, Readers. You can tell me that times have changed. You can tell me that things are different now. You can tell me whatever you want (please tell me you have something to eat over there), but I still have all those memories. Those painful, uncomfortable, awkward memories.
Now, before you start thinking that I spend all day moping about how Perfect Pre-teen done me wrong, relax. I am 35 now and, although it took way more of my 20s than I would like to admit, I am quite comfortable with awkward me and all the actions that it took to get me here. Even the bad, uncomfortable ones. I know that those early middle school experiences helped me grow as a person. I know that they gave me an empathy and compassion for other awkward folks that nothing else would have. I know that they honed my sass and wit. I know that they helped me identity as a nerd girl before it was all cool and hipster-like. I know that they were good for me. Great. Fine. Good for me. Not good for that helpless angel baby that clings to my leg and looks up at me with such trust and love. I can't send her into the battlefield, Readers. I just can't. I don't care how good it will be for her in the long run. Look at her:
Maybe you could send this princess into the battlefield of judgment, self-doubt, and self-esteem horror that middle school can be, but I can't. I just can't.
And I don't have to. At least, not for many more years. That is what Awesome Mom told me today when I went crying to her with all my woes. She said, with all the wisdom of one who is awesome, "there is a reason that they start out as babies. You grow with them, you learn how to parent them as they go. You don't have to know all of it today." Which is good because I know like 1% of parenting in general. I have a few years to catch up. Whew, well, that is a relief. OK, what's next on my worry list? Ah, potty training......
That Awkward Mom is gonna spend this reprieve eating chocolate and watching Netflix only to freak out all over again the day Super Baby starts school isn't the point. The point is that there are a million other things to worry about right now. is that better?! Guess we better get back over to Awesome Mom's house to some more words of wisdom!
Psst! Super Baby, that offer to head for the hills stands. Just say the word and we'll make a run for it!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Maternal Qualities

If there is one thing worse than writing-class-sharing Awkward Mom, it is pity-party Awkward Mom. Guess who got up today on the weepy side of the bed?

Once in awhile, I don’t like being awkward. Most days I embrace it with the passion of a teenage theater geek, but not today. Today I don’t want to be different. I want to be normal. I want to fit in. I want all the other moms to like me. Because today, all the insecurity of age 13 has bubbled to the surface in a hideous mess of tears and random Super-grabbing; holding them to me with bizarre entreaties to never grow up and leave me. They kiss me with patience and then squirm away to watch Sesame Street in peace, but at least they love me. At least they don’t think there is anything wrong with me. But then sometimes, they look at me and I can see it in their eyes. They know I am awkward. They know. They already know.

 My motherhood is in question today. My very existence. For what am I, if not a mother? Ugh. That isn’t the post I am ready to write. This one is about Mothers. Mommys. Mas. Moms. Today, I don’t feel like any of them.

Now, to be fair, I never feel like a mother. Mother is this mythical creature that lives in the pages of Dr. Sears or maybe on Pinterst. Mother is well beyond my limitations; she is massive in her skills, enormous in her powers. I think she might truly have eyes in the back of her head, hair perfectly parted to monitor all she reigns over. For she really is a queen. Mother isn't even my mother, who is a Mom: a Major General, to be exact. (Don't worry, I will get to it, I promise.) No, mother is something otherworldly in efficiency, perception, patience, and grace. Mother Mary. Mother Teresa. Mother Jones. Mother Nature. Mother Goose. Mother Hubbard. OK, she might not be a good example. In my initial writing I forgot to mention Mother Necessity and this was pointed out by Cousin Awkward. Can't forget her; won't get anything done around here without her. Mother Necessity or Awkward Cousin. There are actually very few Mothers, but the ones that exist cast huge shadows and loom over the rest of us like silent and slightly disapproving Easter Island heads. The only mother I have any chance of becoming is the one in Psycho; now which Super am I gonna Norman-Bates with my insane crying jags?
Mommy; I flirt with, but never quite land on. Mommys are warm, safe, cuddly, and reassuring. They look natural with a baby on one hip and the other hip propping open the fridge, as they make all natural baby food. The shameful fact that I didn't breast-feed counts me out here right away, and I always think I am over that one but it never really goes away. That bus advertisement I saw yesterday that proclaimed, "Breast-feed babies out perform formula-feed babies on every test in school!" brought it all back to fester in the back of my mind like spoiled formula left in a bottle under the couch. But that is all I am gonna say about that Infant Trifecta debate; you wanna go mess with the Hydra Head that the breast-feeding vs. formula-feeding truly is, then you go to Baby Center and follow one of their threads. Wear protective gear, they get really ugly. But, my real point is, I don't do the baby stuff so hot. My baby-wearing usually results in me calling Awkward Dad in a panic to come free us from the mess of knots I accidentally created. I am now forbidden to cut Super Preschooler's nails because I am "too rough." My lullabies end with my children gently placing their little pudgy hands over my mouth. Sometimes Super Toddler has to tell me that Super Baby needs a diaper change. My boo-boo kisses never work and the Supers have told me flatly that "Daddy is a doctor, he does it better." Basically, I am not warm, cuddly, or safe; unless it is the middle of the night, when Awkward Dad could sleep through an atomic attack and the poor Supers have no choice but to come to me with their nightmares. No, my Mommyness is relegated to the desperate dark.
I am not a Ma. Think about the Mas that you know. Ma Baker. Ma Kettle. Ma Clampett, although, technically, she was a Granny by the time they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly. And Grannys are a whole other level of awesome, but Mas come close. Mas can do it all; homestead, hunt, sew, run crime rings, fix the plumbing, do electrical work, roof the house, head the PTA. Mas are fierce protectors and amazing chefs. A Ma probably shot or grew every part of that dinner that she is urging you to eat more of. Tell a Ma that you need a Martha Washington costume by tomorrow and all she will say, as she reaches for her thread, is pre-Revolution or post? Mas are nurturing and masters of tough love; the children of Mas come out of their households with skills and bright futures. Mas raise snowball fight survivors, backyard engineers, and Girl Scouts. My career in the Girl Scouts lasted exactly one year of Brownies, before my Mom was told that "We think Erin has other skills; we don't quite know what they are, but we are fairly sure there is no badge for them." I am no Renaissance Woman. In fact, I am not entirely sure that I would have survived the Dark Ages. My lack of cooking skills is legendary. My sewing skills are rusty. I am scared of the bullies and their moms, and I am terrified of the PTA. My house skills consist of the ability to plunge the toilet and occasionally kicking the boiler. My tree house plans don't get off the ground, my snowballs are never perfectly round, and the only thing I can shoot off is my mouth. I am no Ma. My children are gonna have to acquire all their skills from the mean streets of Ann Arbor. Or, more likely, their father.
There are more Moms than in any of the other groups. Moms are who fill the ranks, Moms are the soldiers of the maternal army. There are subsets therein; my mom at the top with the Major Generals, myself on latrine-duty or something. Moms are part of a well-oiled machine, which isn't to say that they aren't special and unique and perfectly compatible of making me feel like crap in their own special, unique ways. Moms are in charge. They make schedules and sandwiches. They are up before everyone else. They know that the matching left sock to the favorite rainbow pair that you want to wear to school today is under the bed. It isn't clean, but they know it is there. Moms know CPR. Moms do the taxes. Moms aren't afraid of whatever that is growing in the right corner of the fridge. They can help with homework, mostly because they have Wikipedia on their smart phones, but those are merely tools in their arsenal. Moms have tools. Moms have arsenals. Moms have it together. And I am not merely talking about Perfect Moms, although there are plenty of them around. No, I am talking about Moms of every stripe and situation. Trendy moms, nerd moms, healthy moms, couch potato moms, hipster moms, crunchy moms, SUV moms, homeschooling moms, working moms, stay-at-home moms, cooking moms, ordering take-out moms, cleaning schedule moms, dusty moms, hoarder moms, the elusive likes-to-clean mom, no-tv moms, 2-hours-of-tv moms, here-is-the-remote-don't-kill-each-other-while-mom-takes-a-nap moms, which brings us to napping moms, no-napping mom, insomniac moms. There are as many types of mom as there are women who become moms, and, today, I can't compete with any of them.

Moms are my peers, but I very often feel left behind or like I am sitting alone at the lunch table. Even with my own mom or my friends, I seem to be the only one who didn't get a manual. Who doesn't have a master plan for my moming. Who can't read a parenting book without yawning and looking around for a good mystery instead. Who can't get it out of my head that I wasn't meant for this, that it is all some big accident, and that someday whoever is in charge of such things is gonna figure it out and show up to take my children away and give them to a real Mom. I feel like an impostor. I was driving the Awkward Mobile the other day when it hit me; "I am the only adult in here. I am actually in charge. Who the hell let this happen?!" I nearly drove off the road. When did I get put in charge of 3 little lives? Isn't someone going to fix this? Don't they know that I am really just 13-years-old inside and self-conscious about my freckles and the fact that my two front teeth are different lengths and afraid to talk to people and unable to spell and lonely a lot and interested in weird things like comic books and what life was like in the 1880s and writing but that I am secretly afraid of the nerds and historical reenactors and writers because I don't think they would like me or think I know enough, so I sit over here and I tell a lot of self-deprecating jokes because if I make fun of me first then you won't have a chance and then my feelings won't get hurt and that I use a lot of run-on sentences. Or run-on questions, which is what that actually started as.

That no one seems to know this boggles my mind. OK, well, I think my children have a pretty good idea, but everyone else seems to think that I am functioning fine and not freaking out because I have no idea what a kindergarten round-up is or don't have the slightest idea how long to sear meat or if bribing children to pee in the potty is ever a good idea. How do you guys not know this about me? I am not hiding this insecurity, like, at all. Could it be that you are all too busy worrying about your own insecurities and imagined shortcomings to pay any attention to mine? .....No, that couldn't possibly be it.

I know about your secret insecurities, Mom. I know everything. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Fairy Tales

Oh no, she is at it again! Previewing her writing class homework. Sigh, oh well, at least this one is mostly pictures. The assignment is to rework a fairy tale. Change the point of view, change the setting. Let your imagination run wild!
OK, not Hansel-and-Gretel-gatling-gun-wild; no one wants that,
with the exception of maybe Awesome Mom.
Now, for Awkward Mom, letting her imagination run wild meant stealing Super Preschooler's. Which is a solid plan anytime fairy tales are involved.

Once upon a time, an evil witch locked me in this tower. Now, that is all the once-upon-a-timing you are gonna get out of me; handsome princes don’t dwell on the past.

Now, first things first; I have got to get out of this tower. Due to my cunning, stealth, and razor-sharp reflexes, this proves to be quite simple.
And the ladder that someone left here doesn't hurt either.

I repel down in a wink. Other prisoners aren't so lucky.

Of course, getting out of the tower is only the beginning of the story. Now I have to fight my way across a battlefield of fallen heroes and dangerous debris. I barely make it out alive; there are quite a few nasty boulders.
Once across the vasty wasteland, I encounter the doorway to a vile looking cave. I sniff the air; yes, there is definitely something villainous just beyond. Filled with foreboding, I enter the cave. I am correct! This cave appears to be the lair of the dreadful wizard/pirate; Captain Monster Truck!

We do epic battle. We parry, we thrust. He is my equal in swordplay. As much as I loathe his evil ways, I must respect him as an opponent. He is that good. Words can not truly describe this fight; it is one for the ages.

I fear he may have the upper hand, given that his sword is enchanted and appears to glow from within, but I finally best him!

I sally forth. I seek a beautiful princess, but they say she is guarded by a deadly dragon who fiery breath has been known to level forests. Captain Monster Truck is a mere pawn in the larger plots of this horrible dragon of death. The harbinger of hate. This ghoulish giant, this terrible titan. This monstrous miscreation. This criminal colossus and devil demon. One's blood freezes at the mention of his name.
Ah, there he is!


He is even more ferocious than tales tell of! A true brutish behemoth of a beast.
But I am bravery itself, so I sneak up on this fearsome monster.

My heart is in my throat, as I approach this fiendish, somehow feline, foe. I bide my time; carefully creeping forward until I am in the perfect position. I crouch there, muscles taut with anticipation, and wait for just the right moment. Then, without warning, I strike!

My patience pays off, the beast is completely surprised and vanishes in a streak of black smoke. I approach the princess. Well, she is no sleeping beauty; in fact she looks a lot like the wicked witch who locked me in that tower! But I know my duty; I lean in and kiss her.

She awakens! Her first words are, "Not now, nap-time isn't over yet." I inform her that she must still be dreaming because she is supposed to say, "Oh, brave prince, thank you for awakening me." She eventually thanks me for rescuing her, but I have no time to bask in glory. I have heard tales of kitchen cabinets overrun with fairies (and fruit snacks) and must hasten to liberate them!
Life is never still for a brave and handsome prince!
And, of course, they all lived happily ever after! Duh.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Super Baby vs. a Donut

You see, Awkward Mom's track record is kinda loss-heavy and we thought you might like to read about a decided victory for once.

OK, well, I had to bribe Super Toddler in Target again, but this time he didn't want anything from the $1 section of glory. All he wanted was a Tim Horton's Donut. Well, that isn't a lot to ask and he did stay in the cart for the entire trip, even when I got lost looking for the toilet paper. So, I agree to get him one, even though it is Lent and my Catholic guilt is going into hyper-drive just driving into the Tim Horton parking lot. I query the rear-view mirror for his order. He wants a sprinkle one. Super Preschooler is, funnily enough, actually at preschool today, so I am not getting a lecture on how donuts are not healthy foods but if we are stopping anyway, he would like a jelly-filled one. The glance in the rear-view mirror does alert me to the presence of my third child. Sometimes I forget she is there. There are 3 cars ahead of us, so I have quite awhile to ponder Super Baby and if she is ready for donuts. If the line had been shorter, I might have not gotten her one, but since the man in front of us appears to be ordering for at least 18 people, I mentally review all her accomplishments (many), her food successes (all), and her goodness (absolute). Yes, she is donut ready. Although I do opt against the sprinkles, in favor of an old-fashioned glaze.

I toss Super Toddler's donut to him and he catches it mid-flight, like a seal. From then on, his side of the Awkward Mobile is a blur of pastel sprinkles and grunting. I tune it out and pull over to ceremoniously present Super Baby with her first donut. I twist around and hand it to her; I am rewarded with a toothy grin and eyes about the size of the donut hole they are peeking through. I turn back around and merge into traffic, only to stop at a red light. I glance in the rear-view mirror and become transfixed by the sight. The light turns green and cars start to beep, but I can't quite hear them. I am lost in Super Baby's amazing feat of awe-inspiring appetite.

She raises the donut to her face and just stares at it for awhile, her eyes barely peeking over the sugary landscape. Her ability to fully take in this wonder of pastries builds with each passing second until she finally appears to accept that yes, indeed, it is real, and yes, indeed, it is all hers. Meanwhile, this delicious life-preserver, that actually requires her two baby hands and all her strength just to hold aloft, seems to hover there while she ponders her first bite. She breaks her trance and starts to chew before she even makes contact with the surface; a delightful "nom-nom-nom" sound that sweetly soars over the grunting from Super Toddler. When her lips finally graze the donut, her eyes start to sparkle in a whole new way and her nom sounds shift ever so slightly to accommodate the pillowy goodness filling her mouth.

She nibbles around the entire donut surface before she figures out that she can break it in half. Her sense of pride at this feat of strength makes her whole face glow. She carefully places one donut half in her lap, while she proceeds to hold the other half over her head and dangle it toward her mouth, like a Roman princess reclining at some Bacchanal feast. She eats the entire half this way and then turns her attention to the half in her lap. She studies this half intently, there is no hurry in her moments. She ignores her brother's demands that she hand it over to him, while she squeezes a corner off and brings it up to her nose. She smells it like she is analysing a wine. Then, she crumbles it between her fingers, letting the donut dust rain down the front of her (just washed) winter coat. A giggle escapes her lips. She does it again. And again. She breaks the entire donut half into a fine powder that pools in her lap and overflows into her car seat. She buries her hands in it, only to pull them up and let the fine donut sand sift and pour through her fingers. She looks like she is panning for gold. She seems to do this forever and then, quite suddenly, she squeezes a handful of dust between her hands and molds a brand-new donut. She does this over and over until her lap is now full of what looks like about 10 donut holes.

She proceeds to eat these in exactly the same manner she ate the original donut. I am serious, she has a total loaves and fishes moment back there. I can't find any other explanation for how her donut morphs and re-morphs at least 10 times over on our way home. Or how there are so many crumbs left in her seat for me to clean up.....

We think donuts might be Super Baby's Stilt-Man; kinda silly, ridiculously easy to beat, and delicious. Of course, he is delicious; check out that suit! Yummo!

Well, if there are no more donuts, I will settle for my fingers. No biggie.