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Strange+Pull

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Check out my latest post on my new website,  heidichandler.com!

 

Moving On Up

Hi, all!  While I’ve loved my little blog on WordPress, I’m moving.  Please visit me at heidichandler.com!

Mommy’s Day Off

blog1I’m tired of parenting.

There. I said it. Out loud.

And it feels so good.

I know that’s not something a “good” Mommy is supposed to admit.

Go ahead, call me a bad Mommy.

But I am flat-out tired of parenting.

I’m tired of the sleepless nights, the cooking, the cleaning, the constant battles for control….

Not long ago I dreamt of a time when my boys would be old enough to play together.  They would entertain each other and be the best of friends, while I sat back eating snickerdoodles and reading magazines all day long. Life would be easier then, right?

Well, that day has come. But instead of the glorious Leave It To Beaver-ish brotherly love I’d envisioned, my house is a lot more like Fight Club.

Every day is war.  If the boys aren’t fighting with each other over cars or PlayDoh or crayon colors or who can take their pants off the fastest, they are fighting with me.

They argue about everything, from what socks they wear to what flavor of ice cream they eat.

And I’m done with it. They’re on their own.

My kids are four and two.  They’re old enough to take care of themselves, right?  I’m sure their frontal lobes are at least halfway developed.

They’ll get along just fine on their own.

Nevermind the fact that neither one knows how to wipe their own ass.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little extreme in my decision to throw my kids to the wolves.  But in my exhaustion of playing constant personal chef and WWE referee, I decided to do a little experiment.

For one day, they were in charge.  They got to choose their food, their clothes, what they did with their time….

If they didn’t want to nap, I wasn’t going to argue.

If they didn’t want to brush their teeth, I wouldn’t make them.

And they were responsible for solving their own disputes.

I was a little concerned about the last one, considering my youngest has already lost his two front teeth thanks to his older brother, but hey.  It’s not like he can lose them again.

And my oldest?  He still has all of his teeth.

And I suppose payback is a bitch.

**

6:15 a.m.:  The boys wake up. Mommy puts pillow over her head and pretends she’s sleeping.

6:30 a.m.:  The boys chat with Daddy while he gets ready for work.  Mommy stays very still in bed to avoid detection.

6:45 a.m.:  Daddy leaves for work.  Boys climb in bed and jump all over Mommy.

6:50 a.m.: Two-year-old sits on 4-year-old’s head, resulting in screams and grunts of frustration.

6:55 a.m.: Four-year-old sits on 2-year-old’s head, resulting in screams and grunts of frustration.

7:00 a.m.:  Boys request milk.  Two-year-old climbs on kitchen counter and pulls out a sucker leftover from Christmas.  (Damn you Santa!)  Mommy bites her lip and walks away.

7:15 a.m.:  Four-year-old reprimands 2-year-old for eating suckers before sunrise.  Four-year-old demands donuts, creating a rousing duet of cheers.  (“Donuts, donuts, donuts!”)

7:30 a.m.:  Mommy asks children what they want to wear to get donuts.  “Pajamas and Crocs.”

7:35 a.m.: Mommy attempts to load children into car.  “We want to ride bikes!”

7:45 a.m.: Children are helmeted (I had to parent on that one) and riding down the street to the donut store, in pajamas and Crocs.

7:50 a.m.:  Children choose a dozen and a half donut holes, six slathered in chocolate and two that look like Hello Kitty.  (“Donuts, donuts, donuts….” The cheering continues.)

8:00 a.m.: Children are settled in at kitchen table eating donuts.  Oldest child requests blueberries with his donuts.  Mommy hides smile of delight.

8:15 a.m.:  Donuts are gone. All of them. Four-year-old requests stamping material.  Children are settled in at table with stamping supplies.  Mommy attempts to do 20 minute workout video.

8:18 a.m.: Four-year-old rips purple zebra stamp from 2-year-old’s pudgy little hand.  Two-year-old collapses on floor in hysterics.

8:20 a.m.: Mommy attempts to do scissor kicks with screaming 2-year-old attached to her leg.

8:25 a.m.:  Two-year-old is still screaming and turning a sickly reddish-purple.  Four-year-old throws stolen stamp at 2-year-old’s head.  (“Here.  I’m tired of your crying.”)

8:35 a.m.:  Two-year-old steals highly breakable snow globe out of 4-year-old’s grasp.  (“Mommmmmmmmy!”)  Mommy ignores yelling.  Yelling eventually stops.

8:38 a.m.:  Four-year-old requests trip to the park, then changes his mind. Four year-old sits on 2-year-old’s head, resulting in screams and grunts of frustration.

8:40 a.m.:  Two-year-old sits on Mommy’s head with dirty diaper as she does sit-ups, resulting in screams and grunts of frustration.

8:41 a.m.: Mommy changes poopy diaper.

8:45 a.m.: Two-year-old sits on 4-year-old’s head, resulting in screams and grunts of frustration. Mommy finishes 20-minute workout in 30 minutes, a new record.

9:00 a.m.:  Mommy puts in Cars 2 at request of 2-year-old.  Four-year-old protests.

“I want Planes!”
“Cars!”
Planes!”
“Cars!”
“Planes”

9:10 a.m.: Mommy ignores children and goes upstairs to hide in office. An eerie silence ensues as children play with train and watch TV.

9:15 am.: Overheard:

4-year-old:  “Stop messing with my train!”

2-year-old: “Ahhhhhhhhhhh!”

4-year-old:  “I mean it.  You’re ruining the track!”

2-year-old: “Ahhhhhhhhhhh!”

4-year-old: “Where’s Mommy.  Mommy!”

2-year-old: “Where’s Mommy.  Mommy!”

(One day I’m going to actually count how many times they yell “Mommy!” each day.  It has to be in the hundreds.)

4-year-old: “Stop touching my train!”

2-year-old:  “Ahhhhhhhhhhh!”

9:45 a.m.:  Mommy returns downstairs, amazed that children are not bleeding. Children play and watch TV, fighting sporadically.

10:00 a.m.:  “Can we go to the park?”

10:15 a.m.: Mommy takes shower.  Both boys strip down and climb into shower, “washing” shower windows with conditioner and shave gel for an hour. Mommy cringes at thought of water bill.

11:30 a.m.:  Kids fight furiously over yellow car at park while Mommy pretends not to care. Mommy picks up magazine and tries to ignore dirty looks from other parents.

blog2

Noon: Two-year-old decides to climb giant rock wall meant for big kids.  Against better judgment, Mommy puts magazine down to keep 2-year-old from falling to his death. (This cycle is repeated for the next 30 minutes.)

12:30 p.m.: “Can we get chicken and fries for lunch?”  This prompts a rousing duet of “Fries, fries, fries….!”

1:00 p.m.:  Mommy watches boys gorge on processed chicken tidbits, trans-fatty fries, and juice boxes, fighting back the urge to place a bowl of grapes in the middle of the table.

1:01 p.m.: “Do you guys want some grapes?”

Silence.

1:20 p.m.: Two-year-old sits on 4-year-old’s head, resulting in screams and grunts of frustration.

1:30 p.m.: Four-year-old sits on 2-year-old’s head, resulting in screams and grunts of frustration.

1:45 p.m.: Two-year-old collapses in crying heap on stairs, eventually crawling upstairs and passing out on floor next to bed. (Thank God.)

2:00 p.m.:  Four-year-old complains of bellyache. Decides to lie down. (Thank God again.)  Mommy is treated to a 30 minute loop of “Timber” and “Jesus Loves Me” until 4-year-old passes out.

2:35 p.m.:  Peace. (If you can ignore the fact that house is covered in Matchbox cars, building blocks, DVDs, and donut crumbs.)

3:45 p.m.:  Four-year-old is woken by 2-year-old sitting on his head, resulting in screams and grunts of frustration.  Wrestling match ensues where each child falls off bed at least twice.

4:00 p.m.:  Boys lock themselves in bathroom with glow sticks.  Mommy reads magazine while they scream for help.

4:02 p.m.:  Boys emerge from bathroom.

“Let’s go ride bikes!”

Mommy:  “Do you want a snack?  Maybe some grapes?”

Silence.

4:10 p.m.:  Boys play demolition derby on their bikes while Mommy hits tennis ball against the house.

4:30 p.m.:  Mommy loses tennis ball in roof gutter as demolition derby continues.

Four-year-old:  “This is your last chance, Mommy.  Do that again, and you have to go inside.”

4:45 p.m.: Boys wrestle in grass.  Two-year-old has asthma attack.  Mommy ignores wheezing and picks up magazine while two-year-old flails helplessly on lawn.

(Okay, I’m joking there.  I gave the kid his inhaler.  I’m not a monster.)

5:00 p.m.:  Boys drag garbage can outside and take turns sitting on each other’s heads on top of garbage can.

5:30 p.m.:  Boys go in house and get box of cheese sandwich crackers. Boys begin eating crackers out of the box.

With dirty hands.

At dinnertime.

Mommy:  “Do you guys want some grapes?”

Silence.

Mommy:  “I think you guys should eat some grapes.”

Crunch.  Crunch. Crunch.

Mommy:  “Give me that box of crackers and eat the *&^$#@$ grapes!”

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

5:45 p.m.: Experiment over.

**

This little experiment has taught me two things:

#1 – Unless you’re in a medically induced coma or strung out on street drugs, it’s impossible to stop parenting for a day.

#2 – My kids aren’t ready to make their own decisions.

But they are ready to make more decisions.

I’m far from a helicopter parent, but I will admit to some hovering tendencies.   I can’t help it – a parent’s job is to direct and protect. I’m simply wired to teach my boys to make good decisions and keep them from getting hurt.

But, if my hovering takes away their option to make a good choice or learn how to solve a dispute, my kids will start to rely on me for everything.

And that’s just exhausting.

And I’m exhausted.

Because my kids really do rely on me for everything.

So I’m going to take a step back and let them fall a little bit.  Every now and then I’m going to let them eat two-dozen donut holes and get a stomachache.  I’m going to let them fight over the green racecar and throw punches over the last cookie so they can figure out how to share and compromise on their own.  I’m going to let them sit on each other’s heads, day after day after day, and may the best man win.

If I retreat and let them figure these silly little things out now, I’m hopefully laying the framework for them to become young men that make halfway decent choices once they become teenagers.

(I can only imagine what I’ll be complaining about then.)

What it boils down to is that there is a fine line between letting your children make too many mistakes and raising kids that live in your basement until they’re 45.

And since we don’t have a basement, I see a lot of mistakes in our future.

Misery Loves Company

IMG_5758Hello there, Holidays.  You snuck up on me like an overzealous Girl Scout trying to unload her last box of Thin Mints.

It’s the time of year when people channel their inner Martha’s and spend their free time creating hilarious shenanigans for magical little elves with names like Tinsel McTinselson and Candycane Sparkles.  (Many of you are well versed in my hatred of elves.)

It’s also the time of year when my cynicism is in overdrive, and I curse every perfectly frosted cookie and immaculately tied bow.  It’s not so much because I feel the pressure to keep up with the divas of Hobby Lobby, but it all just makes me feel so very, very tired.

And it’s not just the Holidays – I’m actually fairly jaded year-round.

I’m not exactly sure when it started.  I suppose it’s a bit of genetics mixed in with an education that taught me to question and criticize everything I learned, to never accept “truth” as truth. Add to that the media, YouTube videos of Black Friday shoppers, daily interactions with sour people, and the sheer exhaustion of parenting two active little boys, and Ta-Dah!  I’m one Negative Nancy.

And I’m not alone.  I have something like 350 Facebook friends.  I decided to do my own little informal survey and really focus on what people post on a daily basis.

Sorry, guys. Y’all are a bunch of Debbie Downers.

This weather sucks.

My boss is an asshole.

Obama is a terrorist.

Aunt Marge did XYZ when I asked her to do ABC and now I’m really, really mad at the senile old bitty. 

My kid pooped on the floor again.

Okay, the last one was definitely me, but you get the idea. Politics, sports, the weather…. We certainly like to complain.  And don’t get me wrong; I’m one of the biggest offenders.

But it’s kind of depressing.

We live in what is supposed to be the greatest country in the world, but a lot of us seem pretty pissed off.

So why the heck are we all so negative? Are we as humans simply wired to find the bad in everything and ignore the good? Is it more fun to be callous and unkind than to be compassionate and caring?

I don’t know the answer, but I’m not quite ready to become a crotchety old woman who growls at babies and tries to run down terrified puppies with her little Scootabout.

So I’ve decided I’m going to make a conscious effort to be more positive on a daily basis.  Not just for the Holidays, not just for the start of the New Year, but forever.

Which is a long time.

But I think I can do it.

Like this morning, for instance.

After six icy days of being stuck in my house in sweatpants, I decided to wear real clothes.  Within ten minutes of donning my brand-spanking-new navy blue sweater, the left sleeve was drenched in a slimy trail of yellow snot.

But I didn’t get mad.

I wiped the snot off my arm (very ineffectively, I might add) and trudged on.

I’m going to embrace the boogers, and the cute little chronically runny nose that gave them to me.

Instead of only writing reviews when someone or something pisses me off, I’m going to take the time to publicly praise good service.

For example, I went to the dentist yesterday, and today I received an email asking me to “review my experience.”

I hate the dentist.

I hate the noise, the smell, and the way they ask you questions and expect you to answer when their hands are stuffed in your mouth.

But she didn’t pull my teeth out, and I didn’t bleed.

So I gave her a review.

And I was nice.

And I’m going to keep the love going.  I’m going to write reviews for my hairstylist, my OBGYN, the last book I couldn’t put down….

I’m going to complain less, both in private and on social media.

I’m going to tell strangers I like their shoes.

The next time someone treats me to mouthful of expletives and dancing middle fingers while driving, I’m going to smile and wave. I might even blow them a kiss or two.

I may be hindered a bit by my innate cynicism, but I’m going to do my very best to throw a big stinking heap of positivity out there into the universe and see what comes back my way.

It might not change the world, but it’s worth a try.

Gobble Gobble!

Gobble-Gobble-SignThanksgiving marks my four-year anniversary in the great state of Texas.  Since we’ve moved far away from family, Thanksgiving is usually just the four of us, and every year I tell my husband we’re just going to order pizza and watch football all day.

And then the day after I say that I come home from the grocery store with a 12-pound turkey.

And I really don’t even like turkey.

What can I say; I’m a sucker for tradition.

Not to mention a sucker for carbs.

But buying a turkey gives me an excuse to make my true vice, stuffing.  Which means I have to make gravy, which in turn means I have to make spatsula, which you’ve probably never heard of.  It’s a family tradition on my mom’s side – just imagine big, fat, noodle-like dumplings smothered in gravy.

And it is so good.

Excuse me, I have to unbutton my pants just thinking about it.

Ahhhhhh.

And then of course I have to make pumpkin pie and maybe an apple pie….

But I refuse to make green been casserole.  That’s just taking things too far.

Anyway, Thanksgiving also means it is time to sit down and ponder what I’m thankful for, so here goes.

Here are the ten things I’m thankful for in 2013.

  1. Wine.  (That doesn’t needs an explanation, right?)
  2. Good health.  I was coughing up pieces of Jabba the Hut for most of the month, so I’m extremely grateful to be feeling like a human being again. To quote the genius words of Cinderella, (the hair-band, not the princess), you really don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.
  3. Anti-bacterial wipes. With a 2 year-old who poops everywhere but his diaper, they are my new best friend.
  4. Lysol.  Also a wonderful combatant of poop germs.  Just in case the wipes didn’t get it all, of course.
  5. LASIK.  I’ve always thought that there was something extremely disturbing about paying someone to shoot a laser in your eye. And there is.  But this year I finally got fed up with my contacts and went for it, and I can’t believe how well I see.  I’m like a vampire!  Without the bloodlust, of course.
  6. Old friends.  There’s nothing like not seeing someone for a year or two and picking up right where you left off.  Old friends are few and far between, but they are magically special.
  7. New friends.  My husband and I have moved a lot. It’s very rare to find new friends that feel like old friends, but somehow with this last move it’s been done.   And that’s magically special, too.
  8. Luck.  I know people say that if you work hard, you will achieve your goals.  And that’s true.  But I also think there’s a little bit of luck involved there. This year I feel ridiculously thankful that, through a series of fortunate events stemming from an unfortunate event, I have been blessed with the opportunity to become a bonafide writer, with an actual book contract and a moderately cheesy author portrait.

    My pilgrim and my Indian.  (Who refuses to wear his feathers.)

    My pilgrim and my Indian. (Who refuses to wear his feathers.)

  9. Family.  Yeah, I know.  It’s an obvious one.  But I’m thankful to have loving parents who are always there for me, a wonderful brother who is by far the biggest sharer of my blog posts, and a supportive husband who allows me to chase my crazy dreams.  (He changes diapers, too!)  I also have two of the sweetest, silliest little boys on the planet.  They are absolutely insane, but they give the best hugs and kisses, and life would be empty without them.
  10. Thanksgiving.  Why not?  It’s a holiday designed around family.  It’s also a holiday designed around gluttony, where Americans are expected to gorge themselves on carbohydrates and pass out in a tryptophan-induced coma with or without their hands down their pants.  And no one will judge! Now that’s what I call a holiday.

Now y’all go ahead and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

I have a 12-pound turkey calling my name.

October 15

XhlbmGpVYsZL5K9rHrYjeSFuCoG1ATWk54sbgc3sb0_9407B1SBHAUq_GpROmcHQ6WGg=h900We Americans love our holidays. March 20 is Alien Abduction Day, June 5 is National Moonshine Day, and August 31 is National Bacon Day, just to name a few.

Today, October 15, is I Love Lucy Day, The International Day of Rural Women, National Cake Decorating Day, National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, and National Grouch Day.

Today is also National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.

While those other “Days” are no doubt important to a lot of people, today I’m just going to talk about the last one.

This “day” officially became a “Day” in the U.S. in 2002.  Canada joined in in 2004, and it has since spread to a number of other countries, including Australia, Italy, and the UK, and it’s marked by a slew of remembrance ceremonies and candle-lighting vigils around the world.

Now I’ll be completely honest. If my daughter Avery hadn’t been stillborn a little over five years ago, I wouldn’t think much of today.  Perhaps I’d read a newspaper article about a grieving family or see some kind of statistic on TV and think, “Wow. That sucks.” Then I would go about my business and probably wouldn’t spend much time thinking about what it really means.

So what does it really mean?

Well, for starters, it means that there are a whole lot of women (and men) out there whose entire worlds were unexpectedly shattered by the loss of a child.

I hate to get all statistical on you, but it means that 1 in 4 women will suffer a miscarriage at some point in her life, and 1 in 160 will, like me, lose a child to stillbirth, an estimated 26,000 babies each year.

And it means there are a lot of really heartbroken people out there.

Back in the olden days, it was quite common for babies to die, whether before, during, or after birth.  People talked about it.  They answered the question of “How many children do you have?” with things like “Four living and two with God.”

These days it is still surprisingly common to lose a baby, (especially given the miraculous advances in medicine over the past century), but for some reason people don’t talk about it.  It’s turned into a taboo subject, something that should remain “private” even though it affects a tremendous number of people worldwide.

But the great thing about today, October 15, is that it’s a day that people like me are “allowed” to talk about our dead children without feeling weird or worrying that we’re going to make other people feel sad or bad or hideously uncomfortable.

I personally don’t do anything special on this day, other than write a blog post and light a candle. I light a candle twice a year, for the entire day, once on Avery’s birthday in July and then again on October 15.  I don’t have a special candle I reserve specifically for this purpose – I just light whatever Glade candle I have on the kitchen counter and pray that it doesn’t burn down my house. (This year it’s Salted Caramel, and it smells divine.)

And I know there are other mothers out there that do a whole lot more, but I’m okay with my simple little ritual.

Because for me, today is a reminder that while years may pass, I will never, ever, forget my daughter. (And I never should.)

Today is a reminder that though a horrible thing happened to me, I am not alone.

And today is a reminder that when you hear terrible statistics, statistics about death and sickness and people being hurt, there are real people behind those numbers, real people that need support and love and lots of hugs.

Another big part of this “Day” is the International Wave of Light.  At 7 p.m., no matter what time zone we live in, we are supposed to light a candle for at least an hour, creating a continuous chain of light spanning the globe for a full 24 hours.

You may be one of those lucky people that will never have to endure this kind of loss, but chances are you know someone who has, whether or not he or she talks about it.

So tonight, light a candle, either to remember a baby gone too soon or to just count your blessings that you don’t have to.

And then get a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow is National Hagfish Day.

And I know you’re going to want to celebrate that one.