Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Velveteen and other rabbits

So, I'm nearly a quarter of the way through of my year-long anthropological experiment.  In some respects, the time has flown by at an unbelievably precipitous pace, and in others (particularly in those moments when I'm actually doing the heavy lifting), the time passes at a rate more commonly observed on treadmills.

This seems to be as good a time as any to reflect on what, if anything, I've actually learned.  I'd procrastinate and delay this introspection until tomorrow, but the penultimate episode of One Tree Hill is on tomorrow night, and I need to keep my priorities in order.   This also seems to be as good a time as any to casually mention that if anyone calls, texts or otherwise interrupts me on Wednesday, April 4th between the hours 8 and 10 PM,  they'd better be on fire.  I've invested 9 years in the fates of Nathan and Haley and Brooke---and I'm not above going Dan Scott on someone's ass (my fellow One Tree Hillers will know what I mean) if I am interrupted during the series finale.

Yes, I know that One Tree Hill might just be the worst written show in history.  Whenever you can honestly say that Steven Colletti (from Laguna Beach fame) is the best actor on any show, you know it's bad.  Mock me as you will, and it won't make even the slightest dent in my admiration.

So, what have I learned after 90 days?  In addition to the now-obvious facts that it's pretty hard to come up with new daily new experiences when you're an old dog (ok, let's face it, an old bitch) and it's even harder to come up with daily good deeds no matter how well-intentioned you are, I think I can boil it down to this:

My daughter.

My daughter is the reason.

My daughter is the root cause of the all of the new experiences and she's the reason why I want to do good deeds.

My daughter is the reason that I want to be better, braver, stronger, more accomplished.

I thought I was supposed to be the one teaching her, inspiring her, guiding her.  Fool.

Fool. Fool.  Fool.  Fool.  Fool.

My daughter is the teacher.   I'm just ridiculously fortunate that someone trusted me enough to loan her to me for a while.  As anyone who knows me can attest, I'm not a religious person (and I won't talk about religion here), but that doesn't mean and has never meant that I don't believe in anything.  In my esteemed tradition of quoting bad pop song lyrics, I bring you the lyrics to the Live song "Heaven", which pretty much nails it:

I don't need no one to tell me about heaven
I'll look at my daughter
and I'll believe.

It's that simple and it's that complicated.

My life is that simple and my life is that complicated.  That's probably the other big takeaway from the last 90 days.

Watching my complicated daughter makes me appreciate the life's complications and watching my daughter's simplicity makes me appreciate the simplicity in everyone else.  And don't even get me started on the contradictions.  If I'm a walking, talking anomaly, Little M is a running, screaming anomaly.

She's taught me that a good nature and a foul mouth can harmoniously co-exist.  How else can you possibly explain a child who is first to console a friend, wants to save sick kids and lonely stray bananas, and wants to give her toys to kids how need them more----and then follow that up with charming and ladylike phrases such "I smell like a french whore" (she totally did, btw, after a dousing with Eau de Sponge Bob) or "stop at the stop sign, you douche".

She's taught me that words are words, and actions are actions---and that actions trump words every time.

She's taught me to ask for what I want----directly, actively and clearly.  I'm proud to report that I am so much less bossy than she is.  I've never barked out orders for shamrock shakes at 1:30 am.  On a Tuesday.

She's taught me that if you love someone, you tell them.  Then and there.  In the moment.

She's taught me that if you're unhappy about something, SPEAK UP.  I'm also proud to report that I've not told anyone that their rules are stupid...but I've thought it.  And that's progress.  Who am I kidding?  I've selectively started to tell people that their rules were stupid.

She's taught me to forgive---quickly and without strings and without conditions.  Cookies help.

She's taught me that sometimes the wrong choices bring you to the right places.

She's taught me, in her glorious impatience and dogged stubbornness that I know is hereditary, that if you really want something, you fight for it.  (My apologies to everyone in Target who has witnessed these fights firsthand).

She's taught me that being real is more valuable than being perfect on the surface.

She's taught me that once you are real to someone, you can't revert back to being a shiny new toy. (yes, my favorite story as a child was The Velveteen Rabbit).

And most importantly, she's taught me that the most important good deed that I can accomplish is making other people feel important.  To validate them.  To show up when they need you.  That a busy calendar is a great thing to have, that trying to make the world a better place is a great goal to have, that working hard and accomplishment are honorable goals---but while you should respect those people who make time for you in their busy schedules, you should love those people who don't look at their schedules when you really need them.

I guess it's simple, but it's not easy.  That remembering details and birthdays and baby showers and art shows matters and favorite colors and names of children and pets and boats matter.  That showing people that they are important---that they matter---is the single greatest good deed.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mama's a Meathead

It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  It's also been said that you should be nice to your mother.

What I've learned is that when your mother is a photographer, you need to be extra-super-I.suck.helium nice.

Epic fail.

In my parents' house, there is one particular (and, might I add, prominently displayed) picture that set off about 20,000 words (most of them profane) and also makes me seriously question what I did that reallyreallyreallyreally pissed my mom off.

The picture, you ask?  That would be a family picture of Little M's first ever beach day.  This should have been a beautiful family milestone, captured forever on film.  Little M looks adorable, and her dad looks good.  And then there's me-- a ghostly pale, still +5lb postpartum mom in a bathing suit- shot from a not so flattering side angle.  I'm acutely aware that the camera can add 10 pounds, but I was unaware that it could also add cellulite. It's awful.  AWFUL- and it's on display for all the world to see.

Let it be known that I'm not a "let's display bathing suit pictures of me" kind of person.  I'm not a tight clothes person.  I've lived in a neighborhood with a pool for nearly four years, and I've been to the neighborhood pool no more than 6 times, and at least 2 of those times, I wore a floor length maxi-dress.  There are few places were I am comfortable wearing a bathing suit.  The time I was un-self-conscious in a bathing suit was, ironically enough, when I was pregnant---and that's primarily because I (a) knew that I looked like a beached whale, (b) didn't much care and (c) I was wearing said bathing suit to attend aquacize class with senior citizens and and even though I was a double-wide load, I was at least a double-wide load with relative youth on my side.

I'd say that I hate that picture, but the truth is that picture was a wake-up call and the catalyst for a major physical transformation.   For this very reason, I'll always have a special fondness for that picture.

Following is a brief list of my initial reactions to that picture:

1.  WTF!  What the $*(#$(*)$   $*($(*$(($*$  #@(**(@@(#@(  happened to you?  You used to be kinda cute.
2.  Oh, for shit's sake- what's next?  Elastic waistband pants?  
3.  I'm pretty sure that your ass did not have a baby, though this picture indicates otherwise.
3.  Maybe one of those 1920's style swimsuits would have been a better idea.
4.  JESUS!  Where is your pride, girl?  It's been 10 months since you had the kid.
5.  You had a child- that doesn't entitle you to go to complete crap.
6.  When exactly did you grow a second ass?
7.  This is Brigantine, not Sea World.  C'mon, Flipper, do something with yourself.

I'm not disputing that I am brutally self-critical.  I'm also not disputing that I, like many women, have my fair share of body-image issues.   I can never find my keys or my ID badge, but I can locate every flaw on my body----blindfolded.  It is what it is.  I'm just not a fan.

When I was in my twenties, I was told that you began to appreciate your body in your thirties.  Lie.  Before Little M was born, I was told that pregnancy and parenthood would lead to greater appreciation.  Bigger lie.    Suffice it to say, I wasn't a "I love being pregnant" kind of person and I wasn't the person who marveled over how my body could sustain life.   I was more of a "the end better justify the means" kind of pregnant person.  As far as I'm concerned, the only good thing about being pregnant was the part when it was over and I got to keep the best.little.girl.in.the.world.

That picture, though---that picture really got to me.  I hated that picture, and I hated that I hated that picture (make sense out of THAT one).  I didn't want to raise a daughter with the same body-image issues that  plagued with, but at the same time, I didn't want to be a hot mess, either.  I needed to do SOMETHING.

Here's the cool part- I actually followed through.

The credit actually goes to my husband, who was talking about a few coworkers who had drastically positive results after completing a program named Insanity.  After about a beat, I was sold.  How hard could a 60 day workout program be that was sold via infomercial and successfully completed by a small group of accountants?


I was the one who was insane.  I've worked out regularly since I was 18, and I thought I was going to have a heart attack during my first Insanity workout.  During the warm-up.

That first workout was 2 years and 5 months ago.  I have not looked back.

The first few weeks were absolutely brutal, but I pushed on.  6 days a week.  At godawful hours.  Through knee pain, and back pain, and a partially torn rotator cuff.   Nothing, and I do mean nothing, was going to stop me from completing that 60 day program.

At the end of the 60 days, I did what only a criminally insane person would do.  I went "Insane" again, then moved onto P90X (way easier than Insanity), Insanity Asylum, P90X2, Chalean Extreme.  I joined the Beachbody cult and became a workout junkie.

Basically, I became a meathead.   Who knew that I would love being a meathead?

Through the great meathead transformation, I began to make peace with my own body.  Not because of how much better I started to look- though it was a vast improvement from the zoo animal called "Squishy Mommy" that I once resembled---but because of what I was able to train my body to do through hard work, determination, and a whole lot of pain.  This body could now do push-ups (real "boy" pushups) and lots and lots of them.  The body that struggled with 8 pound weights could consistently workout with 20 pound dumbbells (and, in some cases, up to 30 pounds).   Squishy Mommy could now do an occasional "real" pull-up, and leap through agility ladders, and one-armed pushups.

I gleefully bid adieu to Squishy Mommy.  Squishy Mommy is no more.   May we never meet again.

These days, Mama's back to pre-baby weight, with an extra added bonus--this Mama has muscle and the pride of knowing that those muscles were hard-earned.  Little M will hopefully never remember Squishy Mommy, but I sincerely hope she remembers our workouts together.  The girl loves her 2 pound purple weights---and she has gorgeous form on her shoulder presses.

I remain a work in progress----but I'm loving the work, and I'm loving the progress.

It's great when it's earned,

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Above the clouds

In my lifetime, I’ve been reprimanded about 143,000 times for having my head stuck in the clouds  (let’s not discuss how many times I’ve been yelled at for having my head stuck up my ass).  It’s not completely unfounded- I do have a tendency to live in my head.   The beautiful thing about air travel is that for the duration of the flight, I am beyond reproach—at 37,000 feet, my head is literally in the clouds. 

Three coach tickets to Grand Cayman:  $2200
The ability to say:  So what if my head’s in the clouds? Yours is, too.  PRICELESS.

Another wonderful thing about travel is that it quenches some of my restlessness.   I am innately restless.  I am innately complicated.  I am off-the-charts intense.  These factors are either going to be the biggest contributors to my having a life less ordinary, or they’re going to give me a frigging ulcer. 

It’s a toss up.  Place your bets.

It would be one thing if my being…well, me….was a choice or a switch that I could periodically toggle between on and off- but, alas, it’s not.  That insatiable sense within me---to dig deeper, to reach higher, to maximize every minute, to experience more, to experience different---for better or worse, that is me.  I can’t turn off that itch any more than I can turn off being a girl, or being right handed or having the ugliest feet the world has ever seen.

I’m no rocket scientist, but I’m smart enough to know that this restlessness is the single most polarizing thing about me.  Others who are also (at least in part) restless generally appreciate the madness and understand what it’s like to be dissident.   The other 75% of the human population---you know, the normal people—wonder what the f is wrong with you that you just can’t sit still, be happy, follow the script.

Before I delve any further—please note that the restlessness has nothing at all to do with money and even less to do with the acquisition of material things.    Sure, I appreciate nice things (who doesn’t?) and have more than my fair share (I’m lucky!), but the things are not, and have never been, the point.   She who dies with the most toys is still dead.   It’s about the acquisition of experiences, some grand and some simple, and moments and people to meaningfully share in them.  It’s about cramming as much accomplishment, extraordinary, and uncommon into the undetermined amount of life I get.    I could die tomorrow- and I’d hate to think that I wasted an inordinate amount of that time observing life instead of participating in it. 

Imagine that.  I digress again.   I just may be one of the most circuitous storytellers of all time.  I love travel.  I love the thrill of experiencing new places.   I love adventuring.  I love having my head in the clouds.  I am a horrendous flier.   I am a white-knuckled mess at every little bump.  My 3 year old is better flier than I am.

I may come across as a pretty timid person, but the fact of the matter is that I’m generally pretty brave.  One of the few things that can reduce me to a worthless pile of mush is a flight attendant’s voice announcing “The pilot is turning on the fasten seatbelt sign.”  

Damn you, turbulence.  I am so not a fan.  Not in the air.  Not in life. 

I’ve received plenty of (great) guidance over the years to overcome my fear of flying.  I’ve gotten stupid drunk. I’ve pretended that turbulence is just a speed bump.  I’ve switched to the window seat so that I can see sources of turbulence before they hit.  I’ve tried to retrain my brain to ignore the bumps and just continue reading my book/listening to my music/starting off into space.  I guess I’ve made some small progress.  If there’s anything positive to say about being a 36 year old chicken, it’s that I’ve never once even considered allowing my fear to stop me from flying.

Little M loves to fly- absolutely loves it.  The poor kid has been some flights that are best categorized as hellacious (and I’m not being overdramatic- the flight attendant said that one particular flight was the worst she had been on in a decade) and she still loves it. I’m kind of disgusted with myself for allowing her to see me freak out on bad flights- the last thing my daughter needs to see is a scaredy-cat parent.

But then, I remember. 

I remember that life is bumpy and life is turbulent and life can scare the crap out of you and that your safe landing isn't always under your own direct control.  It would be so great if life were smooth sailing, but it just isn’t.  I remember that the only way to get to a destination that’s beautiful and worthwhile is buckling your seatbelt, squeezing the hell out of the armrests,  cursing under your breath, plastering a fake smile on your face, and riding out the turbulence.  Staying home and cowering down is just not an option.  To get anywhere worthwhile, you need to ignore your fear, take the risk, and to get on the damned plane.

This might not be the worst lesson I’ve ever shown my daughter.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Presently nursing a sunburn that is most aptly described as wicked.  I know, I know- and I'm not really whining.  I'm just cyber-whining.  I'd much rather be a puffy lobster-red ahole than living my everyday life, but still....ouch!

SPF 50 sunscreen is a lie.  LIE!  Once upon a time, I believed that most painful place to be sunburned was the top of my feet.  That's wrong.  The tops of my feet, much like the rest of me, are well-done at the moment, but the pain of toasted toes pales in comparison to the pain of two scorched wrists.   Wrists, I have never properly acknowledged how many times in a day that I use you, flex you, abuse you.  Sorry, wrists.  You are hardworking wrists.  I will take better care of you, wrists.   Only the best for you in the future, wrists- SPF 100 is coming your way!

You'd never be able to tell that Little M has seen the light of day, however.  Frankly, I am kind of stunned that the child hasn't drowned in sunblock by this point.  We'll deem this my one meaningful accomplishment in the realm of traditional motherhood.   Let's face it- these days, very few things more loudly articulate to the universe (and the mommy-verse tribunal of judgment) that you are a piece of crap, unfit parent than a child with a tan line.  Even I got the memo on that one.   I'm on the receiving end of enough (mostly-deserved) parental judgment- I don't need to add a rogue tan line to the mix.

(Not that I'm making light of skin cancer, but exactly when did kids with tans become a parental faux-pas on par with having your child build a meth lab in the basement?  Just wondering.  Actually, maybe the tan is more of a faux pas.  I'm pretty sure I know people who would praise the scientific acumen of their meth-lab building offspring.)

I'd venture to guess that my brain has rotted a bit from its general state of inactivity over the last few days.  If not for Facebook,  I would have entirely forgotten that today marks the kickoff of my most favorite season.   If not for Facebook, I would have entirely forgotten that the first day of spring is also the same day of a most baffling tradition- Free water ice day at Rita's.

I.Just.Don't. Get. It.

Now, I love water ice, and I like Rita's.  I'll go to Rita's, on average, twice a week during water ice season.   Where you won't see me....ever again.....is Rita's on free water ice day.   I'm serious.  If the apocalypse were upon us, and the only place I could reach safety was Rita's on free water ice day, I'd just have to die.

About ten years ago, I attempted the free water ice line.  I took one glance at the 100-person deep line, realized that water ice cost (at most) $3 and got out of dodge with my dignity intact- never to return.

It warrants repeating that I LIKE Rita's, and I certainly like things that are free.  The problem, in my mind, with free water ice day is that it combines free sweets with a bunch of things that I truly don't like, which include:

1.  Long lines-  the longer the line, the further the decline of general human behavior.
2.  Other people's children---Love my own kid to the moon and back.  Love her friends, my friends' kids, and very cute kids (I'm talking babygap-ad cute kids) belonging to strangers.   Average children belonging to strangers, in a long-line to boot----NO THANKS.  I'll pass.
3.  My own child in a long line---- because there's only so many times that you can hear the phrase "Mommmmmmmmmmmmmmy, is it our turn yet?" before you seriously consider selling your own kid.
4.  My own self in a long line----I'm convinced that the phrase "ye of little patience" was crafted with me in mind.

I also think in numbers and equations.  Call it an occupational hazard.   Sunshine math indicates that a 100 person line would probably take an hour to clear.  If I were to pay market rate for 3 water ices out-of-pocket, it would cost me no more than $10.  The last time an hour of my time was worth less than $10 was in 1992.  With this in mind, the decision is easy for me.  I can break my water-ice fast on the second day of spring, at the cost of approximately $10----and leave the place with my sanity and dignity mostly intact.

For the record, I am strictly a cherry water-ice kind of girl.

It ain't free if it costs you your sanity,

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ma'am is a four letter word

Greetings from paradise, everyone!

Since I am completely superstitious, I won't more fully comment on the vacation until we're firmly back into suburbia---but I will say that Little M has morphed into a tiny, brunette mermaid, both adults are having fun, and despite my moniker of "Little Miss Sunshine", it turns out that I am not so sun-friendly.  Fire-engine is a bit of an exaggeration, but I'm definitely beyond fuschia and brick on the sun damage scale.

Go ahead, judge away.  I do know better- I just chose to ignore my better judgment.

On another note, I had a brief encounter on the elevator that has me questioning what we are teaching our young people in terms of good manners.  Don't get me wrong---I'm all for manners and I'm all for respect.    With that in mind, I am pretty sure that good manners dictate that I should be insulted in public elevators.

Evaluate the facts and circumstances for yourself, please:

The scene:  LMS in elevator with a mid-to-late teenage boy wearing a Penn State shirt.

LMS:  Cool shirt.  Do you go to Penn State?
Misguided teenager:  No ma'am.  I'm still in high school, ma'am.
LMS:  (looking around for the ma'am in the elevator.  realizes that there are only two people in elevator)
LMS:  Lucky you.
Misguided teenager:  I want to go to Penn State, ma'am.
Misguided teenager exits elevator with "good night, ma'am."

You read correctly.  I was ma'am-ed 4 times in the span of a 30 second conversation.

Go ahead.  Laugh.  It's funny.

I'm not that old, dammit!   I've been using moisturizer that it supposed to take 10 years off of my face.  I don't have (many) fine lines and wrinkles.  Due to a freakish genetic gift that I've received from my dad, I don't have any gray hair.  (THANKS, DAD!)  No matter.  I got ma'am-ed anyway.

Before you bucket me as being a complete a-hole, I will give credit to the kid in the elevator for being polite and for properly using manners as currently defined.  I just think that the specific manners that dictate that we call women still in their 30s "ma'am" blow big................umm, balloons.  Blow big balloons.  Yes.  That's exactly what I wanted to say.

If manners are intended to be a reflection of respect, the flagrant use of ma'am misses the mark....big time.  I don't feel respected and wise.   I just feel freaking old.  Feeling freaking old blows big.....umm, bubbles.  Yes,  bubbles.  That's exactly what I wanted to say.

I'd like to rewrite that particular section of the etiquette rulebook, if I may.  If a woman looks like Mrs. Claus or any Golden Girl who wasn't Blanche (btw, Blanche totally rocked)---ma'am away.  If not, how about we just keep our mouths shut?

Feel free to make my day at any point and call me "Miss",

Monday, March 12, 2012

Real. Simple.

I joke about this blog being born out of a drunken state somewhere between the weaning hours of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, and I suppose that is mostly true.  I was inspired by Beyonce, of all people, to put my thoughts into words, my words into action, and launch both words and action into the public sphere.

The rest of the truth takes its roots in an essay contest---an essay contest, which incidentally, I never entered.

For reasons completely unknown, I have a subscription to Real Simple magazine.  I read it from cover-to-cover every month and, while my life never feels simpler after I've finished, I enjoy passing the time in its pages.   Last July, something very specific caught my eye-- the annual Real Simple Life Lessons Essay Contest.  1,500 words, predetermined topic.  Totally do-able...or, at least I thought.

I've written for as long as I can remember.  I've kept journal after journal.   I wrote a fake newspaper of my own before I was old enough to write for the middle school newspaper, and then the high school paper (as I am superdork, I was also the editor of that one).  I wrote through grad school.  Then, as my life picked up momentum, the words stopped.  I missed them, I swore I'd return to them, but I didn't.  Call it one of my larger regrets.

Enter the contest. I was in.  All I had to do (over the course of two months) was write 1,500 words describing the moment when I first truly understood the meaning of love.  Easy as pie, right?

Wrong.  In a word, wrong.

It wasn't for a lack of trying, either.  I tried to write the damned thing all frigging summer.  My laptop followed me wherever I went.  I tried to find inspiration overlooking the Rockies in Vail, on the beach at 7 AM, watching Little M sleep.  I had snippets of stories written on post-it notes, on napkins, on the back of junk mail.  Couldn't write the damned thing.  I could not put words around the moment that I truly understood the meaning of love.  Bottom line.  I never entered.  FAIL.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I also struggled with the very true fact that I've had a very nice life, and thus, no interesting story to tell.  At the outset, I knew I wasn't going to win- even if I turned in the most well written piece since the printing press, I didn't have a compelling story to tell.   Dammit.)

I couldn't write a 1,500 word piece describing when I understood the meaning of love, but I could easily put 1,500 words around a trip to the supermarket.  I'd deem it truly pathetic, but actually......but actually, I think it's pretty freaking great.  It means I'm extraordinarily lucky.  It may not give me a story that wins writing contests, but it certainly gives me a story that I carry with me wherever I go, and a story that's perfectly suited for whatever phase I'm presently occupying in my life.

I couldn't put the memory into words, because I knew what love was before I had words and before I had memory.

I've always known, and I always continue to know.

Go figure.  I'm a knucklehead, and I'm stubborn, and sometimes I sting with words, and I have a bevy of flaws too long to catalog- but there hasn't been one moment in my life that I didn't know what love was.  On balance, that's not too shabby.

With age, I can more fully appreciate what that means, and how remarkable it is.  On how lucky I am to have two parents who love me, to have a brother who has my back.  To have a legion of loyal friends who have stuck by me for two decades.  For the newer friends who have come along the way, but are no less meaningful.  To have a husband who knows everything that's wrong with me, and hasn't run away screaming in horror.  To have a beautiful daughter- for her, there are no words.

Maybe there's nothing unique about my experience.  That's never made it any less special.

With age, I also can more fully appreciate that love, real love,  isn't easy.  That real love isn't an emotion, but rather a verb and a choice.  Certainly, love is easy when it's new, or when we're shiny and well-groomed and putting our best foot forward.  Easy choice.  How often is it that easy?

I love it when it's that easy....but I value it more when it's not.

Love is between people- real, live, breathing people.  People who are three-dimensional and complex.  People come to the party as a composite of past experience that define who they are and frame how they define how the world should or should not operate.  People who have been injured and damaged (either intentionally or inadvertently) by others along the way.  People who are real.  Real people argue, and real people fight, and real people make mistakes.  Real people can sometimes appear unlovable to the outside eye.  It's in those moments--those moments when you're an irrational, emotional, probably unkind pain-in-the-ass, and someone chooses to love you anyway, in your current form--that define real love.   It's in those moments- when someone else is being an irrational, emotional, probably unkind pain-in-the-ass and you choose to love them anyway, in their current form- that define real love.

So, this isn't a story that will win an essay contest.  No matter.  I wouldn't change one word of it.

It's absolutely not simple, but it's completely real,

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Point of No Return

I snapped.
I lost my mind entirely.
I went medieval on Little M's playroom.

Of the three items I've listed above, the only thing that truly surprises me is that it didn't happen sooner.

Little M is not just an only child, but she is also the only grandchild on both sides of her family- thus, pretty much making her the Messiah.  Nary a day goes by when this child does NOT receive a gift/new toy/treat, and it's kind of gotten to the point where Little M expects to be given treats.  Obviously, the expectation factor isn't good, and as her mom, I need to nip this behavior in the bud.

There's only one problem, though-  the universe is conspiring against me.  The universe apparently wants Little M to be consistently showered in pink plastic shit.  It's a bit of a vicious cycle, and I'm pretty sure that I can't win.

Here's why.  I want Little M to have a happy childhood--to have everything she needs and most of what she wants.   I want her to experience the joy of receiving gifts and playing with new things.  By no means do I want to sound ungrateful (and I'm sure I'm about to), but this child receives so many very generous gifts from so many very generous sources and with such alarming frequency that it makes it extraordinarily difficult to NOT raise a spoiled brat unless I am consistently playing bad cop.

I get it.  I'm her mom. It's my job to make the hard choices, to make those decisions that prioritize long-term gains over short-term sanity, to be the bad cop.  I've read the job descriptions, and moms just aren't supposed to be as fun as dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends.  I'm the freaking drone in a kingdom that's otherwise built on fun.

That sucks.  I'm fun, dammit!  I'm funny, dammit! I want to be able to share that with Little M---but some things have spiraled so far out of control that I've become the "No" police- which also sucks.

Two important side notes here:

1.  I am unbelievably grateful that Little M has so many people who love her and shower her with gifts, and more importantly, love.  She's a lucky girl.  There are kids out there whose parents don't love them properly and whose supporting cast doesn't show up or is generally indifferent.  That's not my girl- she just might be the most loved girl on the planet.  Which rocks.

2.  I am not, in any way, encouraging being cheap.  Anyone who knows me at all knows that the three characteristics that I most despise are cheapness, stinginess, and joylessness.  To clarify, I truly appreciate and respect practicality, seeking value, frugality and personal responsibility.  I'm not, however, particularly fond of sucking the joy out of life and its experiences as an intended consequence of self-imposed self-deprivation.  What's the point?  We only get one go-around at this life thing.  We may as well make it enjoyable, within reasonable parameters.

As usual, I digress.  My war on toys began when I was ordered to find the mate of a missing Barbie shoe that I didn't realize we owned in the first place.

It went down something like this:

Little M:   MOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMY!  I can't find my Barbie butterfly shoe.  Find it!
LMS:  Go look in your playroom.
Little M:  It's a MESS in there.  I can't find anything in there.  You do it.

She's right- it is a mess in there, despite my best efforts.  The biggest problem is that she has SO MUCH stuff that I'd have difficulty finding a 40 inch child in that pit, let alone a inch-long plastic shoe.  Against my better judgment, I agreed to engage in a search-and-rescue mission for the missing plastic shoe.

The first step in Barbie shoe recon was learning what the missing shoe's mate looked like.  Imagine my shock when I discovered that the shoe was a "snake" strappy heel of sorts that went to Barbie's knee.  Okaaaaaaay- not only was I about to search for a needle in the proverbial haystack, but said needle was also more suitable for a stripper than a 3 year old little girl.

Who the hell bought my daughter a plastic dominatrix doll?

Add this to my already brewing fury regarding a Barbie DVD of unknown origin.  I arrived home from work Thursday night to find Little M watching a Barbie movie on DVD.  On first glance, that wasn't a necessarily a problem, until I realized that the Barbies spent virtually the entire movie in very tiny bathing suits.   I pretty much snapped at the scene where Barbie was doing a handstand, on a surfboard, in her tiny bikini and her F-cups didn't move.

I asked where the movie was sourced, and again, the answer was unclear.  I was, however, told that the movie contained a positive, girl-friendly message.  I'm assuming the message is that if you want your F-cup boobs to not bounce while doing a surfing handstand, those boobs should be made of plastic.  

(In all seriousness, I'm sure that movie is totally appropriate for an older child....but not for my 3 year old.)

At that point, I totally snapped.  I decided that I was going to do an organized inventory of every toy Little M owns-----all two billion of them.  In a mental state that can best be described as insane fury, I dumped all of the toys into the middle of the playroom floor, creating a 8" layer of toys that covered virtually every square inch of the playroom floor.

For the next 5 hours, I was Mommy, Warrior Princess in my battle against the toys, mumbling profanities the entire time.  I'm pleased to say that I didn't die in an avalanche of small plastic parts.  I'm pleased to say that all shoes have found their mates, all puzzles have found their missing parts, and order is joyfully restored.  Most importantly, I now know what the kids are playing with these days.

This morning, Little M is playing with a toy that was (1) uncovered at the bottom of the heap and (2) she had no idea that she actually owned.  We were trying to figure out how to operate it, unsuccessfully, when Little M had a brilliant idea.

"MOMMMMMMY, you need to find the destruction manual."

I was about to correct her, but I actually think destruction manual fits the bill just perfectly.

In Victory Over the Toys,

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Best Dressed Tomboy and Her Not-So-Best-Dressed Offspring

This blog is named "The Best Dressed Tomboy" and this blog's author has been obsessive about clothes since, well, birth.  Despite my Dorothy Hamill bowl cut, I was the best dressed kid in 1970's polyester at preschool. I was the kid who scoured Seventeen magazine in June to strategize my first day of school outfit.  I was the kid who wanted to wear a dress with my sneakers on elementary school gym day.  I could walk in heels (very well, mind you) by the time I was 5.  I couldn't tell you what I ate for breakfast yesterday or locate Turkey on a map, but I can tell you exactly when, where, and why I bought every single article of clothing in my closet. I'm not joking.  Every.Single.One.

You're not thinking anything I don't already know.  I know that I have issues.

Just imagine my excitement at my ultrasound (which, inexplicably was 4 years ago), when I learned that my firstborn was a girl.   A GIRL!  A shopping buddy!  My own dress-up doll!

I spent the second half of my pregnancy painstakingly curating a wardrobe that would make Suri Cruise tinge with envy.  The technical term for this affliction is "apeshit" and apeshit, I went---mostly out of excitement over outfitting the next generation, but also partially because  I was being frugal with my own clothing choices, mostly stemming from my avoidance of all reflective surfaces during my pregnancy as to not catch a glimpse of my own heft.  (It should be noted that I was the most miserable and quite possibly the most melodramatic pregnant person in the history of life).

And then, my Little M arrived.  For the first 18 months or so, my little buddy was perfectly frocked in all sorts of fashionable little girl wear.  My little peanut wore all sorts of adorable things, virtually all the time.  It was awesome.  I was in heaven.

Then one day...one terrible, awful, very bad day....Little M became (almost) just like her mother.  She became very opinionated about her clothes.  She demanded that she make all of the clothing purchasing selections.   She was ready to usurp me as creative director of costume design and wardrobe.  It should have been a very proud day.  I was ready to turn over the reigns to her, except for one very significant hiccup...

My girl has some pretty bad taste.

I'm stunned.  I'm horrified.    I am not sure how this happened.   On any given day, my daughter looks like she could be a candidate for "peopleofwalmart.com"...if only that site had a "kiddie" section.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm all for her expressing her individuality and I'm all for picking my battles wisely.  Most days, I don't care that she wants to go to Target dressed in a SpongeBob Halloween costume paired with her soccer cleats.  I don't normally care that she likes to wear her shirts backwards and her jackets so that they zip in the back.  I don't care if I grocery shop with Cinderella, and it doesn't  bother me if she wants to wear her plastic dress-up princess shoes with her soccer shorts and bumblebee wings.

What does drive me bonkers, though, are the "festive" wardrobe choices when the setting calls for her to be dressed nicely.  Let's just say that there have been many reasonably ugly clothing battles in these types of instances...and one of those battles happened this morning.  For the record, I lost this battle.

This morning, we had late morning reservations for brunch at a reasonably nice restaurant to celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday.  As is normally the case when we have weekend morning plans, we were scrambling to get out the door despite having been awake for 4 freaking hours before scheduled departure time.  Suffice it to say, weekend time management at Casa Sunshine leaves much to be desired.    In any case, with 8 minutes to spare, the Taming of the Shrew   Dressing of Little M portion of the show commenced.  I'm still recovering from those 8 minutes of unmitigated, torturous hell.

It should be mentioned that I was fully aware that most brunch patrons would be dressed in their Sunday best, and despite the fact that my daughter wouldn't know a house of worship from a skyscraper, I fully expected her to dress accordingly.  The little lass has a closet full of completely appropriate dresses for this occasion- dresses, for the record, that I bought her.

For her part, Her Majesty insisted that she wear her favorite flower jeans paired with her Optimus Prime tee-shirt and a pair of hot pink suede maryjanes that (a) i hate and (b) last fit her in 2010.  The fact that jeans and a tee-shirt are inappropriate for a non-redneck brunch notwithstanding, the real kicker was nothing on her body even FIT her.  Little M is a tall child, but at least 2 inches of hem drag along the floor when she wears them.  My best guess is that those flower jeans might actually fit her in 2 years, and God willing, they will have fallen apart by then.  I suppose I could hem them to fit now, but (a) I don't know how to  sew anything and that's why God made tailors and (b) I have no idea from whence they came, and I wish they'd go back to that place.  Permanently.   I did actually purchase the Optimus Prime shirt, and I did once love it- when it fit her 18 months ago.  Thanks to growth spurts, finger paint, and dryer shrinkage, the shirt now is now a stained, faded a midriff baring shirt, which JUST.IS.NOT.GOING.TO.HAPPEN.IN.PUBLIC.

Oh, and she's going through a phase where she doesn't want to button her pants, because it's so much more comfortable to "let it all hang out".  WRONG.   I'm not sure how any child of mine thinks that dressing for comfort is a reasonable notion.   I can't be entirely certain, but I'm pretty sure my response to that was "I'll dress for comfort when I've entirely given up on life."  :)

To me, the enforcement of the dress code is not about social conformity or about  how others regard my parenting.  It's about how I regard my own parenting.

The way I see it, my primary function is to teach her the life skills that she will later require to be a functional adult in this society.  For better or for worse, one of those life skills is the ability to appropriately clothe yourself for a variety of situations. To take pride in your appearance.  To put your best face and foot forward to the world.

By no means am I saying that clothes make the man (or the girl) or that clothes need to be designer/pricy/new to meet this goal---but I am saying that missing the boat on what is construed as "appropriate" becomes increasingly detrimental to adults.  I don't even want to talk about the number of times that I've wanted to say "This is an OFFICE, not a nightclub" to someone...or "if this is what you'd wear to an interview, I'm afraid to see what you'd wear to see a client."  It's not about style- it's about good judgment...the good judgment that I'm trying to instill in my daughter so that she can someday succeed in the real world.

Give a girl the right shoes, and she can rule the world....

Saturday, March 3, 2012


I've been on the quiet side again this week.  I cannot say that I can provide even one good reason for the peace and quiet; however, I have instead compiled the following list of (not-so-good) excuses:

  1. I've searched, in vain, for the self-help book entitled "Blog Damage Control for Dummies- What To Do After You've Live-Blogged a Meltdown."  Never found the book and needed the stinking thing to strategize my next move.
  2. The German in me banished the remainder  to a week-long time out for the major infraction of talking about feelings in a public setting.  A good German knows that "feelings talks" are something that are simply not done in civilized company.
  3. Reacquainted myself with my inner German and my Type A+++++++ personality and began making lists of all sorts of things for me to accomplish.  Thanks to my undiagnosed but completely obvious OCD, I believe I even compiled a list of lists to write.  At this point, I've partially transcribed my Bucket List from memory to paper (I'll share) and even crossed an item off the list (Iowa Writer's Workshop, here I come!)
  4. Learned that Little M has a boyfriend at school who has "brownish hair" and "brownish eyes", loves dinosaurs,mud and making Play-Doh eels especially for her that he shoves in her ears.  She blushes when she talks about him.  I was hoping that we'd be able to postpone the boyfriends until kindergarten, but no dice.    
  5. Mentally reconciled the concept of my 3 year old daughter having a boyfriend. Initially, I'd decided that Little Romeo would need to be eliminated, but then I had my EUREKA! moment.  I can use this preschool relationship as leverage.  I may not be able to convince Little M to (a) comb that rats-nest of hair, (b) scrub the crud off her face, (c) wear two matching shoes AT THE SAME TIME, (d) not hog all of the Doritos and (e) sleep past 5:30 AM,  but Little Romeo can.  Starting a sentence with "I heard that Little Romeo really likes it when...." has enabled me to reclaim parental power in levels not seen since I invented the concept of security system satellites that feed to the North Pole.  What?  You didn't know that 3 year old boys love shiny combed hair/sleeping in and eschew Doritos?  C'mon now, people.  Little M might have youth, beauty, and IQ points on her side, but I have life experience and a diabolical mind.  Score!!!!  And please excuse me while I help myself to more Doritos.
  6. Survived bathing suit shopping- for me, and for the very picky peanut.  That experience alone is enough to render anyone speechless for a few days.  
My list of excuses leads me to today.  I was hoping to again leverage the existence of Little Romeo and his associated list of interests to arrange a trip to the Franklin Institute to see the Dinosaurs exhibit that I've wanted to check out.  


Her exact words were "boys like some really stupid things."  I can't really argue with that one.  Honey, you have no idea....

We decided on a trip to the movies to see "The Lorax" instead.  Turns out, seeing "The Lorax" was one of the best decisions I didn't initially want to make. 

The Lorax holds a special place in our mother-daughter lore.  It was the first book I'd ever read to her, when she was all of a few days old, in one of those moments that she'll never remember and I'll never forget.  Walking into the theater, I briefly worried that she'd hate the movie and somehow tarnish that memory.

I needn't have worried.  She loved it.  She was absolutely captivated-transfixed from start to finish.  It was awesome.

The best part was that she got it.  She really, really got it.

Throughout the movie, we'd periodically whisper with each other.  I loved hearing her little voice in my ear whispering "if he cuts down all the trees, the animals won't have anywhere to live" and "if he cuts down all the trees, the world will be really, really ugly."  

The way I see it, every parent has their something---the one strength that they most hope their child exhibits.  Sometimes, it's academic success; sometimes, it's athletic success; sometimes, it's success in creative arts.  All are wonderful and all are so personal.

For me, that something is social consciousness.  It's so important to me that Little M realizes that she is so fortunate and has a responsibility to those who aren't as fortunate...that she has a responsibility to respect the delicate interdependence of humanity....that her pursuit of success shouldn't undermine another's basic right to thrive...that her quest to "get biggerer" shouldn't leave the world in a worse condition than the one she found it in.

Imagine my joy at the end of the movie when I got to experience my lifetime parental high.  For me, it doesn't get much better than hearing a little voice passionately whisper "I care....I care a lot" in response to the famous line "Unless someone like you...cares a whole awful lot...nothing is going to get better. ..It's not."  

I believe her...and I believe in her.

More often than not, I think that I'm not making the grade at this parenting thing, but today......today, I think I got it just right.