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trashcan muffin — family. marriage. kids. other dumb stuff.

Why I'm NOT done making my kids' childhoods magical

 

 

If you are a parent or have many Facebook friends who are parents, you’ve more than likely seen an article in your newsfeed titled, “I’m Done Making My Kid’s Childhood Magical”.  It was probably sandwiched between all the other parenting articles like “Top 5 Reasons Why Your Kid Will Need Therapy One Day” and “Top 5 Reasons Why You Suck in General”.

While I respect this author (Bunmi Laditan) and her belief that the pressure put on parents these days have reached an obscene level of ridiculous (I agree), this article also left me feeling a different pressure that she probably didn’t realize she’d created. I actually felt guilty that I engage in a lot of what she implied was ridiculous and unnecessary. So ironically, I felt pressure to STOP what comes natural and easy to me.  To stop making my own decorations for my kids’ bday parties, to stop taking them to Disney, to stop doing crafts with my kids, and to essentially stop being a rainbow for a second (such is Mango!). SNL? Chris Kattan? Anyway, the point is, and I think I’m going to make one eventually, is that parenting is not a one size fits all gig.

The author states in her article that she didn’t have one memory of doing crafts with her parents along with the subtle argument that the real magic of childhood should be discovered and not created.  But what about those of us who do have those memories? My mom was a crafter. She made things. She was the 80’s queen of puffy picture albums and decorative baskets (yes, that was a thing). I used to sit with her and watch her spin a web of magic with the trigger of her glue gun. MAGIC. She crafted for me, my teachers, random people she’d meet and with whom she felt a connection (really).  That was her. The magic was how she created something that brought enjoyment for someone, and in turn, enjoyment for her. Birthday parties? Please. Nobody makes a balloon and curly ribbon cluster quite like my mom. It’s her trademark and it’s still magical to me.  These, along so many others, are memories that I cherish. Were they contrived to make my childhood magical? No, they just are. They will always just be. I don’t analyze them. I’m just happy I have them.

As for me, I have this often insatiable need for a creative outlet as I would suspect many right brainers do. I can’t sew, I am not a musician, I don’t write poetry, nor do I have any artistic talent whatsoever (tear). My creative appetite is more of the childish and pointless nature. Before my temporary job as a stay at home mom, I was all in as an elementary school teacher- ’nuff said.  Confession: I LIKE Pinterest. I often use Pinterest for inspiration when it comes to teaching, my kids’ birthday parties, and for everything decorative that doesn’t NEED to be decorative. Don’t believe me? I just spent 30 minutes constructing a miniature birthday hat for a toy dinosaur (that I spray painted gold) for my daughter’s upcoming 3rd birthday party that only my family will see.  Here’s the kicker: I didn’t feel one SMIDGEN of pressure from anyone to do this nor do I think it makes me or anyone else a good mom. The reason is simple:  I like this shit.  It’s fun.

I wasn’t lying.

Pinterest is not the devil. It did not make me this way, I was already like this.  I was the girl who decorated her brown paper textbook covers with puffy paint and glitter and then sprinkled some on my face for good measure (glitter not puffy paint).  It’s what I did. It’s what I do. And now, it’s what I do with (and for) my kids.

Parenting for me has become a delicate balance of doing what comes natural and doing what random articles tell to do when I Google things like, “Why does my 2year old hate me”.  I take all articles I read with a grain of salt. I realize that everyone is coming from a different place when it comes to their parenting philosophies (big and small). I do not feel the need to keep up with the Joneses and I don’t feel the need to be magazine perfect.  Although I do love me some Pottery Barn magazines, but they go straight in the trash after I spend a significant amount of time drooling over the stuff I cannot financially justify.  Everyone has their thing. I haven’t showered in three days but I’ve already finished the adorable Valentines my kid will be taking to school next MONTH, but please know that my choice is not a criticism of yours (don’t quote me on that- I think I stole it from something).

As far as theme parks are concerned, I can relate to Laditan. My parents didn’t take me to “the happiest place on earth” either, which, I may add, is total BS considering I grew up in ORLANDO, FLORIDA and is also the reason I take my kids just about every other weekend.  In addition to “manufactured contrived magic”, my kids also make plenty of sparkling magic the good old fashioned way: through books, story telling, imagination, games, playing in the backyard, you name it.  I mean what do you think they do while I spend hours writing blog posts that only 15 people will read?! It’s all a balance. We ALL want our kids’ childhoods to be magical don’t we? We all want to be awesome for our kids. We all find our own niche and work with what make us tick. Whether you hand paint dinosaurs that nobody will care about for a bday party or slap a piece of Papa Johns on a plate and call it a day, it has no bearing on your parenting whatsoever. However, what makes your kids’ childhoods *magical* is something you won’t know until they’re not children anymore and they are able to tell you all about the memories that remain magical to them as adults. I bet that feels pretty sweet.

thank you, cancer.

 

Don’t let the title fool you. F-ck cancer.

No seriously, I HATE YOU. You stole someone very important to me when I was younger and I’ve seen you devastate my friends. I’ve seen you devastate friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends. I wish you didn’t exist, but in a unbelievable twist of fate, I do believe you saved my husband’s life.

I think everyone experiences moments when they’re struck with the realization that life is short.  It’s an oft-used cliche that slaps us across the face here and there when we are trying hard to mind our own business. For me, a giant slap came last summer after a run of remarkable circumstances assured me that we somehow lucked out into being in the right place at precisely the right time.

It was 10 months ago; we had just made a huge cross country move back to Florida from Chicago and were temporarily staying with my parents (another story- with a lot more comedic undertone).  My husband told me one night as I was fretting about registering my son for Kindergarten, that he found something strange………”down there”……….a lump.  “What? How did you find that?” I asked with a naive quizzical look on my face.  “Babe, let’s just say that I’m very well acquainted with that part of my body.”

One ultrasound later and yes, there was something strange there and it needed to come out along with his testicle.  After almost ten years of marriage, I was officially going to have his balls in a jar, HA!  Or… ball…whatever.  After a loooooong, long, like REALLY LONG weekend filled with anxiety, our minds were put at ease as the blood work came back negative for cancer, but the mass still needed to be removed and an outpatient appointment was made.

Fast forward to the day of the procedure: literally moments before he was wheeled back to the operating room, the anesthesiologist cancelled the operation because Matt’s heart rate was abnormally high.  He wasn’t nervous. He wasn’t dehydrated. He wasn’t a cocaine user (yes, they asked several times).  What was supposed to be a quick in and out procedure had now turned into a six day hospital stint for heart failure.

Heart failure.  Unbeknownst to my 36 year old husband, his heart had been in an arrhythmia for quite a while, probably months. The irregularity had weakened his heart muscle so much, he was left with an ejection fraction of only 10%. I wouldn’t expect anyone to know what that means unless you have a medical background or have been in a similar situation, but it was bad. Really really bad. After failed medication attempts and exercises, they were finally able to shock his heart back into rhythm with those thingies they use when someone flat lines on TV.   After a week, he was well enough to leave, but not without wearing a life vest 24 hours a day that would promptly shock his heart if he suddenly went into cardiac arrest.  In typical fashion, Matt was insanely annoyed over the fact that he had to carry around a battery pack that was the “same size and weight as Zach Morris’s cell phone.”  Oh, did I mention we moved during this time?  My husband, who was so weak he couldn’t pick up or hold his own children. It was quite the time.

Fast forward. As soon as Matt’s heart recovered (and miraculously it did) and the vest was removed, we had to take care of that pesky mass “down there” once and for all. Despite the clean blood workup months prior, we were hit with another bombshell that the mass was, indeed, cancer. Testicular cancer, Stage 1b.

But we were lucky. One big ol’ blast of chemo and he was done. SO lucky. I remember sitting at the cancer center and was overcome with a heavy sense of guilt because somehow we were walking out of that place without too much disruption from our life. I sat there for what seemed like days among people who were fighting for just another day. I saw a child…

Matt was receiving his treatment and enjoying a few peanut butter cookies that a volunteer had baked. I sat across from him and that’s when the slap came.  The cancerous lump that brought us to the hospital that fateful day three months ago saved my husband from, at the very least, a stroke, at worst, sudden death from cardiac arrest by heart failure we didn’t even know was happening. I truly believe this.

Why am I blogging about it? A wise friend encouraged me to share this crazy story believing that “ball jokes can go a long way”.  I would be lying if I said I haven’t yelled, “YOU ONE BALLED BASTARD!”  at Matt a time or two (a nod to one of my favorite Sandra Bullock movies, “While You Were Sleeping”). My beautiful friends sent a care package that included a pack of “UniBall” pens.  Swedish meatballs at family gatherings would never be looked at the same. Humor is necessary and the jokes are plentiful as is my gratitude for everything going down the way it did starting with the moment we decided to make the move closer to family.

If anything I’ve reaffirmed my belief that things happen for a reason- sometimes crazy things, don’t let the sting from life’s slaps fade, and never, ever, underestimate the value of a good testicle joke.

 

 

 

helicopter kids

1. Do you roll over in the morning and peel one eyelid open only to see a wide eyed child staring back at you at 6:45 am? He or she might be complaining of boredom, hunger, or that her dinosaur fell off her bed.

2. Do you take your kids to the playground and dream of sitting on the bench with all the other parents not paying attention? Hoping to give your kids a chance to play on their own, but instead they insist that you order imaginary ice cream from them 1,235 times in one hour?

3. Do you go to the bathroom and before you are able to lock the door (if you even get that far) hear tiny voices calling your name as if the house is ablaze?

4. Does your child say “watch this”  800 times before noon?

5. Does your child demand that YOU and YOU alone read her bedtime stories, brush her teeth, help her to bed, get her water, pull over her covers, and shut the door despite having another parent to help do these things?

 

If you have answered yes to at least two of these questions, I fear you may be the parents of HELICOPTER KIDS.

Helicopter kids are resistant to your wishes of being left alone for 15 minutes so that you may maintain sanity. Helicopter kids may often block your ability to have thoughts that are completely your own. It is unclear whether helicopter kids are found mostly in scenarios where a parent is home all day.  If you suspect you may be suffering from helicopter kids, sorry ’bout that.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for these type of children… unless you aim to slowly chip away at their personalities and/or crush their inner spirit during the early formative years.  In an attempt to curb this epidemic, know-it-all parents are taking to social media shaming in which they post and like countless articles pertaining to helicopter children and how they are single-handedly ruining society and mankind in general.

This public service announcement aims to bring awareness to some of us who could be mistaken for helicopter parents.  We are lost in the struggle, fighting the silent battle everyday with children who won’t leave us the f**k alone for two seconds.

 

The more you know - YouTube

**** my 5yo says

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ME: So, what do you think we should name her?

5yo:  Mom, it’s a BOY.

ME: Really? How can you tell? Boy and girl dinos can sound and look the same.

5yo: I just know.

ME: OK.

5yo:  :::pausing and thinking:::  His name is horny.

ME:  :::side-eyeing my husband:::

5yo:  …because of his three horns.

ME: Ah! You were right.

4am

 

My oldest kid is 4 1/2.  I know my level of “expertise” only spans so far.  After last night (this morning?) I feel the need to talk about the dirty little secret of parenthood that nobody fully explains. No, not the fact that you will inevitably go broke buying batteries in bulk.  Not the fact that you will be forced to change your lifestyle and adapt to baby even though you SWORE that nothing about your lifestyle would have to change because baby would adapt to YOU (yea… my moronic husband and I actually said that).  I’m talking S-L-E-E-P.  From the moment you announce pregnancy, the jokes about “never sleeping again” start flooding in from all directions. So much so that you eventually give an automatic smile as you internally eye roll because YOU KNOW ALREADY. GOSH!

But you don’t. Hell no you don’t!

You don’t know what it means to not sleep when you WANT/NEED to sleep the most (stay out of this, insomniacs).  I know I didn’t.  “You’ll never sleep again” means one thing during the newborn/infancy age and something completely different during toddler/preschool age.  I’m sure it will also mean something different as they are school age, and so on, but I haven’t gotten that far yet. All I know is that once, long ago,  I used to sleep… like ALL NIGHT.  Once, long ago,  I never considered the possibility of being jarred awake by a living breathing mini human (who might as well be wearing a Michael Myers mask) staring at me- two inches from my face- while I slept. Once, long ago, I slept uninterrupted- in my bed-until the sun came up.  For me, the dirty little secret of parenting is becoming intimately acquainted with hour of 4am.

Why didn’t anyone explain to me that toddlers enjoy singing their version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star mixed with Jingle Bells at 4 am?  That preschoolers scream for their sleep walking parents to save them from a bug on the floor- that turns out to be lint. LINT.  4 am.  Because they heard a fire truck outside. 4 am.  Because they cannot reach something on their dresser… from their bed. 4 am. Because somehow the leg “fell off” their stuffed leopard. 4 am.  Because they are awake for some ungodly reason and you just might as well be too. 4 am.  Me writing this pointless, one-sided blog post. 4 am.

Do the mommy-to-be a favor and skip the soft blankets and adorable onesies at your next baby shower. Instead, keep it real with coffee and batteries. She’ll reeeeeaaaaallllly appreciate the gesture…

Oh, and I did manage to fix LuLu the leopard. He’s a little “different” now.

tweet tweet

You know how when you grow up with an older sibling who hates your guts, and then one day she does something nice for you and you’re all like “She likes me… OMG SHE LIKES ME!”   Kinda like that.  So tickled to have been mentioned by Huffington Post Parents on their weekly “Funniest Tweets From Parents” list.  Thanks!photo (2)

a girl named Bea

 

 

When I was as a graduate student,  I had a favorite professor who I will refer to as SW.  He was a paraplegic. That fact is not at all relevant to this story, but I always feel the urge to mention that when I speak of him.  I was working toward my Master’s Degree in Childhood Education when I was assigned as a second grade student teacher in Brooklyn.  I remember an assignment SW gave in which we were to choose a “difficult” student to observe for a few weeks – keeping notes on all interactions and behaviors of the “problem” child of our own choosing and then using that information to write up a narrative case study.  When first given the outline of the assignment, I knew immediately who I would choose. It was a girl named Bea.  She was the only child of “older parents” (please dear God don’t ask me how old they were. I don’t know. I was in my twenties- forgive me).  Again, that has no bearing whatsoever on the purpose of this post, but rather just a piece of the family history component of the Bea “puzzle” I was assigned to study. Bea wore glasses and had short, thick, messy hair- always. She wore mismatched clothes and was adorable. Her behavior not so much. At least not to the 20-something single girl w/ no kids who had never before been in a classroom in such a capacity. She was smart. She kept to herself for the most part, but was almost always off task. One day she was on all fours crawling and barking like a dog, and I particularly remember telling her that dogs weren’t allowed in school. She looked at me, smiled, then starting meowing. Day after day, I furiously wrote in my journal. Some days she never said a word. Some days she was overflowing with silly.  While the other kids seemed to sit without moving at circle time, she was she laying down doing the alligator death roll on the floor.  I was baffled. Why was she acting so different?! Was she unable to control herself? Did she care? At the end of the observational period, I wrote my paper outlining all that I had witnessed and some unofficial hypotheses as to why she may have been acting the way she did at school.  I was actually quite happy with my paper and felt like this when I turned it in:

After a few days SW handed back our studies and explained that he was going to choose one so that we may, as a class, analyze it further.  Aaaaand you know where this is headed. YES, he chose mine. MINE. The introverted girl’s paper. The girl who had to slink out of her seat and slither to the front of the room in order to read it out loud in front of a room full of aliens. I managed the read aloud with a half grin on my face. I even got a few chuckles because damn, it was GOOD ok!?  I was on point- direct, observant, and analytical with just the right touch of humor.  After I finished, SW turned to me and started asking me questions. It wasn’t until he was four or five questions deep that I realized these were not questions regarding my study. These were questions about my childhood, family dynamic, interests, relationships, and lastly, observations he’d made about me (mainly that he couldn’t remember me ever saying a word in his class until now). And then I realized the jig was up. This was not an assignment about a girl named Bea. This was an assignment about a girl named Shannon (ahem, me).  Why was I quick to choose Bea? Why did her behavior trouble me? Why did I think she was acting inappropriate? Why did I perceive her behavior as I did- all around problematic?

Bottom line? Because she was nothing like me and because of that, it made her a target of sorts.

I wish I could adequately express in words (I’m trying!) the mind blowing enlightenment I felt at that single moment and how it resonated with me… how it still resonates with me ten years later.  I had not begun teaching yet, but I already knew the kind of teacher I wanted to be in that instant.  I didn’t know at the time that I would often reflect on this lesson when faced with a student who I felt at odds with.  I didn’t realize at the time that I would reflect on this lesson when dealing with my own flesh and blood children- mainly my son because he’s four and has been a force to be reckoned with since the moment he was placed in my arms.  I believe the perceptions we have of others (even our kids) are often created from our unique messy twisted concoction of upbringing, bias, hard wiring, influence, and experience. It’s present with us every single moment of our life and it does its best to alter our judgment and control our actions (for better or for worse).  At least that’s true for me.  That little psychology lesson ten years ago reminds me on a daily basis. The other day I pleaded with my son to STOP MAKING THIS HORRIBLE SOUND AT TARGET. It was highly annoying. It was embarrassing me. It chipped away at my soul each time he did it.  He wasn’t making it to be “naughty”.  He wasn’t even being THAT loud. I don’t think anyone heard him.  To me, it was like nails on a chalkboard and unacceptable.  Also, why does he freak if we dare to rinse his toothbrush before he does?  Why does he refuse to eat carrots because they are orange?  Why is he so loud?  Why must he follow an internal set of rules that, if screwed with, will most often result in the world catching on fire?  Why does he insist on hating Sesame Street? What kid hates Sesame Street??  I know a lot of this speaks to his young age, but there are many many other glaring, deeper examples that my son who, as much as he is like me, is nothing like me.  It’s equal parts maddening and relieving. As he enters Kindergarten this Fall, I wonder if he will be the kid who is alligator death rolling on the rug during circle time… or worse.

In closing, thanks SW for giving me such invaluable insight and for reaffirming my love of psychology. Thanks also to Bea for being that girl. That adorable silly unique little girl who didn’t give a damn how I perceived her. I hope she’s still the same way. I think that she’ll be graduating high school next year and suddenly I just aged 800 years. Lastly, I’d like to thank another girl named Bea, my (almost) two year old daughter, who took a two hour nap allowing me to finish this post.

 

she touched my feet

It’s been a stressful couple of weeks for my family.

In a moment of weakness, I accepted an invitation to a yoga class. I say weakness, but was secretly looking for something. The universe decided to hand me yoga.

I’ve never taken yoga. I know nothing about yoga, but my sister does and she convinced me to try it, but not without a lot of prep and warnings first:

 I’m not flexible nor in shape. It’s been years since I was inside a gym let alone a small room full of people with their faces in my butt. But you know what? The one thing I was most concerned about (warning: first world problem) was my feet. It’s been ages since I had a pedicure (the horror!) coupled with the simple fact that I HATE FEET. No, like I HATE THEM, ok. Mine included. It’s a problem. Some people have fetishes and then some people have what I have- the psychotic opposite. Non-fetish? My husband says it’s not normal?  Anyway.  I do not have a sixth toe or any weirdness going on, so the anxiety is completely unjustified.  The thought alone of being barefoot next to people who are eye level with my feet is just REALLY unsettling to me.

I pushed through.

My sister picked me up at 5:30 am and welcomed me with two packs of orange tic tacs.  She gets me. The twisted knot of anxiety that permanently lives within my gut was slightly loosening.

The class got started, and I quickly forgot about my feet. It was dark, hooray! Now I’m just focusing on the fact that I don’t know ANYTHING and in the front row.  But again, I pushed through and actually began to somewhat enjoy myself. Relaxation, zen, calmness, inner peace, all that stuff. At one point, we rolled onto our backs with our feet flexed toward the ceiling, and before I realized what was happening…

SHE

TOUCHED

MY

FEET.

You know when that Gestapo agent’s face melts off at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark? That was me, because she both touched AND massaged them. MASSAGED!! “She” of course being the extremely nice instructor who had no idea that a psychopath had just joined her class.

The point is. I did it.

I looked fear in the FACE. Then I punched it!

 Then I ate an entire pack of orange tic tacs for breakfast.

Tomorrow may be a different story, but if all you have to conquer today is someone touching your feet when you’d rather be lying on a bed of broken glass, I’d say you are pretty lucky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

soap box

My husband and I engage in several silent battles.

Not to worry. We have vocal ones, too.

But this one- THIS ONE is one that we’ve been dancing around since 2004.  I’ve referenced it before, but it bares repeating because it’s a battle that doesn’t have a winner. It just IS. It will always just BE. Hashgtag MARRIAGE.

This is a rant about the longevity of bar soap.  Yep.

It is my opinion that (most) intelligent users of bar soap clearly understand that every bar has a turning point at which it changes from ‘usable’ to ‘needs to be replaced’ (aka THROWN AWAY). It is not an exact science, but generally one can judge with the naked eye when the bar of soap becomes too small to manage.  Glaring clues are (but not limited to) the bar slipping through your fingers every few seconds. Not being able to unstick the bar of soap from the soap dish without digging your nails into it. Losing or almost losing the soap as it makes its decent down the drain… you know, after you’ve dropped it (reference glaring clue #1).  I mean, I SUPPOSE it’s a judgement call or whatever- a call that I can easily make just by looking because I have a brain, but this post isn’t about me. It’s about my husband who we shall call “Scarecrow”.  Scarecrow, who might have twice the body circumference that I do, insists on neglecting the bar soap rules, resulting in total abuse of common sense mixed with borderline cruelty as he shares said bar of soap with one female (me).

This is how I found our soap this morning.

 This would indicate that at some point within the last 48 hours, this bar of soap went through “the change”.  Since I did not shower yesterday (SAHM remember), that would place the soap in the presence of Scarecrow at the time of “change” as he is able to shower on a daily basis. The rules of the bar soap here have clearly been abused. The questions I’m left asking myself as I dig my nails into the remaining scrap of soap are 1) Is he cheap? 2) Is he just lazy? 3) Could he possibly be blind? 4) Is he devoid of human understanding ? 5) Is he roaming through life in an absent minded fog every day of his life?  I have a friend whose husband takes his remaining sliver of soap and adheres it to the new bar. That is obviously a cut and dry case of frugality. Scarecrow, unfortunately, doesn’t it make it that simple.

I may never know. Like I said, this is a silent battle. My only response will be:

  And that’s today’s lesson in passive aggressiveness. Thanks for reading.

Lessons from Good Housekeeping

 

So I’m having one of those days…ok weeks where I want to just go in my room, play sad music, and stay under the covers. Sadly, I cannot since I am not a teenager anymore and the whole responsible parent gig.  Instead, I did the next best thing. I started looking through my favorite cookbook, duh. It’s a Good Housekeeping cookbook from 1963. I hold many of the recipes in this book near and dear to my heart. I thank my older sister for introducing me to it (and scoring me my own copy) over 15 years ago. There was this time she made the pecan pie- even making the effort to cut little hearts in the crust before baking. She dropped it when she pulled it out of the oven, and it splattered all over the kitchen floor. I did what any normal person would have done, grabbed a fork and ate straight off the linoleum because it was THAT good.

I never thought browsing a cookbook could be so entertaining. It was like they knew that in 50 years some chick would be taking pictures of its excerpts with her pocket computer and giggling at the ridiculousness because that’s what I spent an hour doing today. Here’s what I learned.

Lessons from Good Housekeeping #1:  Know the occasion

Ugh, don’t you know that what you cook your new beau is most certainly NOT what you would cook following an afternoon of boat racing?? You silly, silly bitch.

 

Lessons from Good Housekeeping #2: Know gender.

If it’s a woman you aim to please by way of culinary delight, she’ll be tickled to eat the cheapest melon at the grocery store. Just spritz with some lime to give it a lil’ class.  But honey, if you think you will please a man with that crap, you might as well get to steppin’ because he will have NONE of that.

 

Lessons from Good Housekeeping #3:  Know your teens

Teenage girls:  Keep your head forward and your eyes on the prize: marriage and motherhood. Maybe with a little hard work and dedication, you might actually accomplish something in life. Teenage boys: Relax. You’ll never have to prepare food for yourself. Ever.

 

Lessons from Good Housekeeping #4: Know your place

Soooo… by older couples whose “children are away” you mean muzzled and in their respective cages for the night, of course. Consider yourself lucky should you happen to fall into any of these delightful twosome categories. Chances are likely you will enjoy a nice thoughtful meal. If you don’t, well, then you probably don’t deserve to live.

 

Lastly:

This is really a no brainer.

 

1963: Oh, you!