Mom in the Middle: 5 Things to Do While On Maternity Leave

You guys! I have a column!

I’m super excited to be part of the PEPs community. For those you might be familiar with PEPs, they are an organization offering new parents support in a group setting as well as providing great resources. They pretty much saved Bart and I in those early months.

My essay, You’ll Figure it Out, was selected as the winner in the PEPsTalk annual storytelling contest.

The first installment of Mom in the Middle gives tips on what to do with your maternity/paternity leave. You know, simple things like LEAVE YOUR HOUSE. It’s too late for the newborn Quinn and I, but you can learn from my mistakes. SAVE YOURSELF!

Check it out here.

 

A Sad Dad

Dark days in our household.

Bart has been hoarding nerd toys for his one-day child pretty much since our first date. All those boxes that arrive from eBay and the Hasbro Toy Shop and the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club are all in the name of good parenting.

“One day,” Bart said, while raising the lid of an old wooden trunk in his office, “these will all be Quinn’s.”

toy chest

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure chest.

Holy action figures, Batdad! And they were two deep in there!

That’s just one of Bart’s hiding places. He also has a closet (a really good closet that would be great for my off-season clothes, mind you.) And let’s not forget the 11 storage bins in the garage.

Closet

A literal closet toy collector.

Dear lord, please let our son like action figures.

We’ve seen glimmers of hope that Quinn will follow in G.I. Joe’s formative combat boots. He LOVES Thomas the Train. Like, loves Thomas. Every day he wakes up in his Thomas PJs, grabs a handful of trains, guzzles down milk from his Thomas cup, watches a Thomas episode on TV, and demands MORE THOMAS because clearly we are withholding the good stuff. That’s true love.

He also loves his daddy’s AT-AT, whom he refers to as “Puppy.” That’s a good sign, right?

Sit, AT-AT!

Sit, AT-AT!

Just as we started to feel hopeful, just as Bart thought his years of toy collecting were not in vain, this horrible thing happened.

Grandma bought Quinn a new pair of Crocs (Nope. That’s not the horrible thing. The kid loves Crocs almost as much as he loves Thomas.) This is the pair she picked out:

Wear these shoes young jedi, you will.  Herh herh herh.

Wear these shoes young jedi, you will. Herh herh herh.

Perfect, right?

Now, Quinn loves opening boxes. This kid is very well-versed in the art and knows when a box arrives it’s usually for him.

“PRESENT!” He yelled when we saw the it, along with our monthly diaper delivery on the front porch.

So, let’s recap. We have a love of presents, a love of Crocs, and a developing love of AT-ATs. We’re aces! This kid is going to sleep in these shoes!

But you know what happens when you assume.

“YUCKY!” Quinn said when the box contents were revealed. And just so it was clear how he felt, he tossed the shoes aside and tore into the diapers.

Bart was crushed. Like Seahawks-losing-the-Super-Bowl-in-the-last-play crushed.

“Hey buddy, you love shoes,” I reminded him. “And your other Crocs are too small. Juju got you these cool new ones!”

Ill-fitting shoes seemed to sway him momentarily. He got a blister last week because of it. I removed the too small Crocs (yes, he’s still wearing them. Why, you ask? Because two-year olds. That’s why.) and put his mammoth foot inside the cool, new Crocs. I got one toe inside before he screamed.

“NO, MOMMY!” he shouted. “FEELS YUCKY!”

Yeah, okay, no need to clarify further. We get it.

Sad Dad. His dream of Father-Son Star Wars bonding time was flaming out quicker than Jar Jar’s hopes of starring in the new movie.

“You don’t like Yoda?” He asked, like he was a sixteen year old asking, You’re breaking up with me right before Prom? Then to me, “There’s got to be something wrong with the shoes, right? It’s not what’s on the shoes.”

“Yeah, I’m sure the shoes are faulty,” I said because I’m no dummy. Why kick a man when he’s down? Especially if you’re wearing yucky Yoda crocs?

So the shoes went back in the box and are headed back to whence they came. Later that night I got online to look for other Croc options. The kid really does need a new pair.

“I see it!” Quinn yelled as he does whenever I’m doing something he’d like to interrupt.

“Of course!” I said. Why not let him pick out his next pair of shoes.

Here’s what he picked out:

In a man cave far away, a dad was a little less sad.

In a man cave far away, a dad was a little less sad.

Seriously?

Perhaps he’s a bit more subtle in his taste. And let’s be honest, Yoda is a tad yucky.

Make your father happy, you will, young jedi.

And more importantly, now we don’t have to have another kid.

Born in the Wild

There are a lot of really good moms out there. I have one. I know quite a few others. I like to think I fall into that camp sometimes and other times I definitely don’t. (Whiffle ball to the face? Yeah. Thanks, Mom.) I don’t often get to say, let alone think, Hey, I’m rocking this mom thing more than someone else and come on— don’t we all just want to feel a bit superior once in a while?

Once again I’m grateful to the Lifetime Television for Women in Serious Need of a Confidence Boost network for giving me this very rare opportunity to say, “Hey! I’m definitely a better mom than someone!” In fact, I can say it to multiple women. And get this—you can too! The only criteria is that you either A. Had at least one maternal thought cross your mind at some point in your life or B. Never have been cast on the spectacular reality TV show, Born in the Wild.

What’s that, Timmy? You’ve never heard of this show? No problem. Can you guess what its about? Okay, here’s a hint: Innocent babies are BORN IN THE WILD. This is not by accident, people. Oh no. These children are being born to parents who make the conscious, asinine decision to forego modern medicine, technology, even midwives and freakin’ electricity to have their babies OUTSIDE. In THE WILD. Because everyone knows a newborn baby’s first breath should be tinged with silicon dioxide and pine needles.

As you may remember, it was my own awesome mom (who made the hasty, rash decision to birth me indoors in the presence of doctors, God forgive her) who introduced me to some of my most favorite quality television shows like this one and this one. Thanks, Mom! This past April I was visiting my parents in Florida and while my child (whom was also irresponsibly delivered by TRAINED MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS who use TECHNOLOGY and DRUGS and ROOM SERVICE to ensure a happy and safe birth for mother and child) napped in the next room, Judy turned to me and asked, “Want to watch something awful?”

How could I resist?

Enter Born in the Wild, a show I watched mostly through the slit between my middle and ring fingers and couldn’t hear much over the barfing noises my mom was making. So, what is this show? Here’s what I imagine the was the elevator pitch:

Potential Producer: So, we gather up some pregnant women who are either so hormonal, batshit crazy, or angry at their fetuses that they are determined to have their babies outdoors, forgoing any and all creature comforts like flushing toilets or well… toilets. It’s going to be fantastic! People will mock this show for eternity! Or at least until our next upfronts!

Lifetime TV Exec: YES! Fantastic! It’s like Naked and Afraid* except only the naked part. Sign us up for three seasons!”

Legend has it, if you dare give birth outside-- on purpose-- you will be confronted by the spooky pregnant lady ghost, who would surely steal your baby if she had arms.

Legend has it, if you dare give birth outside– on purpose– you will be confronted by the spooky pregnant lady ghost, who would surely steal your baby if only she had arms.

Right. We’ve all heard about the water births and the home births and those sad deluded moms-to-be who actually think one lick of their birth plan will actually be taken into consideration (sorry, ladies, but your uterus doesn’t care if the dulcet tones of Fiona Apple are wafting in the background. If you gotta push, you gotta push. Period.) Born in the Wild is not talking about incorporating some elements of outside into your birth experience like the aforementioned water or, say, keeping the window shades open. (The only outside I brought into the hospital with me was whatever was on the soles of my shoes, but what do I know? When casting opens for a show called Epidural: More Please call me.)

'Cause you know. This is totally normal.

‘Cause you know. This is totally normal.

First, a note on home births. I’ve only experienced one birth and it was pretty messy. Do you really want to be bothered with cleaning after having a baby? It’s been almost two years and I still don’t feel like cleaning. Also, you’re probably going to ruin every towel you have. Just saying.

Back to our regularly scheduled program.

The episode I watched chronicled Linda and Lance, as Lifetime describes them, a typical American couple. Umm… no, Lifetime. Typical American’s recognize the benefits of living in a first world country and take advantage of all the things we have to offer like indoors. But, do go on.

Linda and Lance live in Utah. Linda eases us into the idea of her birth plan by calling it a, “new adventure.” Whatever could she mean? Oh! Outside! IN THE WILD. They have two kids which makes this all the more strange. THEY HAVE TWO BIOLOGICAL KIDS. They already know how this shit goes down! Has anyone’s childbirth been so smooth and easy they’re left thinking, “Hey, next time, I’m going to save on co-pays and just put on my moisture wicking panties, fire up the ol’ Coleman stove, and hunker down on a sleeping pad in the woods. Doctor schmocter!” Even if you did have two easy births prior, there’s no guarantee three times is also charmed. There’s a litany of things that could go wrong. Did these women not see Downton Abbey? Skyrocketing blood pressure, cords around necks, amnio fluid goes dry, infections, ruptures, pushing so hard you poop. Sleeping bags are very expensive to dry clean, Linda. Whatever their reasons, they not only choose to deliver their babies IN THE WILD, they choose to have a camera crew follow them on their journey to Child Protective Services headquarters.

Back to Linda and Lance, or as I like to call them, Divorce Personified. Linda is 39 weeks pregnant and apparently has a “fast birth” history, which I can only surmise means her fetuses overhear her talking about some crazy idea to birth them outside and they rush to get the F out of her body before she can pack a cooler. Lance shows a modicum of sense when he expresses concern about his wife’s ridiculous birth plan. He’s worried about the wind, of course! It can get pretty blowy up in the mountains of Utah. Linda does what any sane, mom-to-be does when the man who knocked her up makes a semi-valid point about birthing a baby in the Utah foothills. She sends his ass to the camping store.

“Wow,” says the clerk. “Looks like you have a big trip coming up.”

“Nope. Just having a baby in the wild.”

“Well, that’s unique!”

After some quick location scouting, Linda and Lance decide on the spot for their birth site. It totally reminds me of when Bart and I were touring birth suites at local hospitals. Free WiFi and stocked fridge vs. jacuzzi tub 700 count Egyptian cotton sheets. The birth site is where they plan to camp until the baby comes. They’re not going to be totally alone for the birth— now that would be crazy—they do have a midwife. But how to direct the midwife where to meet them? There aren’t exactly street signs or obvious landmarks in the foothills.

“Look for the red rock next to the rattle snack. If you get lost ask the friendly skink who owns the hardware store. Might as well pick up some extra tarps while you’re there.”

So anyway, Linda and Lance leave their two children in the care of Child Protective Services a relative and set up camp. After a night of weird animal noises (and Linda wasn’t even in labor yet!) a fear of peeing in the dark, and a black-widow-in-the-tent scare, morning finally arrives. Lance makes a refreshing protein shake while Linda talks about how “kind of miserable” she is because camping isn’t really that much fun after all. How can that be, Linda? You’ve got your air mattress and barrels of water and portable toilet! There’s even a rocking chair! If you’re “kind of miserable” for the just sitting around part, just imagine how “kind of more miserable” you’ll be when you’re in labor. Linda chastises Lance for picking such a terrible spot and setting up such a shoddy camp. She decides to go home and take a bath “until the baby comes.” See ya!

You got white? After Labor Day? You idiot!

You got a white tent? After Labor Day? You idiot!

While Lance is sweating it out in the foothills, Linda’s bath gets cut short when—wait for it—she goes into labor! The scenes cut from a miserable, grunting, slithering-on-the-bathroom-floor-like-a-slug Linda to an equally miserable Lance trying to turn canvas, air, and propane into a soothing, relaxing day-spa-like environment. Linda’s “fast birth” history seems to be repeating itself. Lance needs to put the finishing touches on the birth site pronto and get the hell back to civilization so he can pick up his laboring wife, drive straight past the hospital, and bring her back to the wilds. My god! I need an epidural just to watch this!

Lance shoves Linda in the backseat of the minivan where she verbally berates him the whole drive to the mountains. He’s driving too slow, too fast, too many bumps. Where is the midwife? We need the midwife! It hurts. It’s dark. Is he lost? He’s lost. He’s clueless. When this baby is finally born she’s going to smack him upside the head with the umbilical cord. For the love of all things holy, Lance, drive straight to Child Protective Services the hospital. When he makes the mistake of mentioning her contractions he gets reprimanded again. Do not say “contractions!” They are BIRTH WAVES!

Naturally they make it back to camp in time, but the midwife is lost! How can THAT be? Hey, Midwife! That ain’t the Northern Lights over there. It’s a freakin’ camera crew in the middle of a desert! Go towards the light! Linda is butt-up in the tent, groaning like an old hyena. Lance is desperate to get the midwife on the phone. Linda is visualizing a protective shield. She feels anesthesia coursing through her body (as if she’d know what that felt like!) Finally the midwife appears! More grunting! More berating! Move the rocking chair so we can fit more camera operators into this tent!

After some forced drama, a pale, slithery humanoid slips out of Linda’s lady parts. It looks like a prop, but no, it’s a real baby! Another girl! The midwife wraps the baby in soon-to-be-ruined towels and hands her over to Child Protective Services her mother. Achievement unlocked! Linda had her baby outside! Now what? It’s the middle of the night in the Utah foothills. Umm, I guess we all go home now?

Lance has a major character arc. He’s happy–no, giddy– his wife convinced him to have this baby IN THE WILD. He didn’t know they were getting paid for this gig. It was quite the experience after all. Linda remains quite smug (no character arc for her.) The only one who appears shaken is the midwife. She has no freakin’ idea how to get home.

Thankfully the always-classy Lifetime TV producers took the care to blur out the newborn’s butt cheeks. Too bad we can see who her parents are.

 

*Also awesome

Sorry, Thomas the Train

You’re so yesterday.

As you know, I enjoy a blog post or two about wacky moms who choose to enter into parenthood by delivering their precious bundles squatting over a pile of pine needles. But I also really like recognizing those exceptional moms and dads who seem to be getting the job done. Here is a great example.

I love this mom almost as much as I love my own. I only wish my son would get obsessed with a personal injury attorney instead of some lame ol’, creepy-ass, personified trains.

What you won't find at Party City. Yet.

You Know You’ve Made It When…

Hey look! I’m internet famous. I’m like one degree away from that cat playing piano and Donald Trump insulting an entire country.

Chillin' in the window, drinking some wine. It's funny, okay?

Here we are candidly sitting in the window, drinking some wine. It’s funny, okay?

This photo is from the West Seattle Blog and if you live in West Seattle, you know how cool that is. The West Seattle Blog is pretty much the New Yorker to us residents.

It was a beautiful Friday afternoon and Casey and I were kicking back at a new Italian deli in our ‘hood. We saw a guy with a camera and notepad lurk about on the sidewalk and I immediately knew he was from the blog. Sure enough he asked us what we thought of this place and after a couple bottles of wine on a sunny day we had a lot to say. We then asked him if he wanted to take our picture.

“Umm, no, that’s okay.”

“You can,” we said.

“We don’t usually include photos with our articles.”

“Well, maybe you want to this time?”

I mean, it’s one thing to be quoted in the West Seattle Blog and completely another to have your photo in there. So yeah, we might have bullied him into taking our picture. So what?

The nice man acquiesced and then we insisted on looking at the pictures we encouraged him to take and deleting the ones we didn’t like. He was a really nice guy.

So here we are. Internet famous. And so very proud. My friend could be a hair model, no?

If you want to read the whole article, find it here. Thankfully he didn’t quote me and double thankfully he didn’t capture us on video.

 

I’m a Scary Mommy

That’s right. I am. And damn proud of it.

In this case, it’s a good thing as I’m talking about my favorite mommy/parenting blog. My essay, 7 Simple Truths about Life Post-Partum was recently published on Scarymommy.com. Pretty cool, no? This parenting thing is really great for coming up with new material. Who knew? Well, you all did apparently.

Anyway, if you’re not grossed out about after birth or teenage menstrual cycles, please check it out! Apologies in advance for the TMI.

 

You’ll Figure it Out

When Quinn was born, Bart and I signed up for PEPs— a Seattle-based support group that pairs new parents up by birth dates and neighborhood. It’s a pretty unique and much appreciated program and absolutely proves the old “misery loves company” cliche is true. Every week, we’d meet up in someone’s living room and compare our “highs and lows.”

High: Baby is still alive

Low: I haven’t slept in seventy-seven hours

That kind of thing.

PEPs solicits stories from the front lines of parenthood every year for their PEPs Talk storytelling competition. You want stories, I thought? I’ve got stories. I submitted six. And guess what? I won! Part of my prize was getting a chance to read my winning essay at the annual fundraising luncheon for over 500 people. Good times! (Seriously. I love that stuff.)

My essay, You’ll Figure it Out, was featured on the PEPs blog today. More good times!

Who knew parenthood was such a goldmine for content? Better get it all in before Quinn figures out how to sue me.

Tastes Like Chicken?

Sometimes I question people who make out with their cars or women who didn’t know they were pregnant until a baby dropped out of the leg of their sweatpants. Every now and again I stumble across something that makes me say, “WTF, Food Manufacturers?” Today’s discovery I’m really pondering.

A co-worker brought this product to my attention.

Where to begin?

First, with my kind co-worker. Nope. Not touching this stuff.

Second, it’s vegetarian ham. That’s not entirely weird. I eat all sorts of vegetarian “meat” products. I’ve even had vegetarian ham. But look closely. That’s chicken flavored vegetarian ham. Is it still vegetarian? Are they using vegetarian chicken to flavor it up? Is this a thing? Do carnivores like to flavor up their meats with other meat? What is going on, Food Manufacturers?!

My co-worker tried to explain it by saying it was like “bacon flavored chocolate.” But it’s not. Bacon and chocolate are two totally different food groups. While I don’t get why you’d want to mess up your chocolate with bacon, I understand and appreciate food pairings. But meat flavored meat for fake meat is just not working for me.

The other thing I find off-putting about this product is its packaging. It’s a tube which to me implies it’s contents are meant to be squeezed out. Toothpaste, check. Makes total sense. Ketchup? Yep, I’m all for squeezing. Chicken flavored ham? Please no. What are you meant to squeeze it onto? Or is this chicken flavored vegetarian ham also trying to pass for sausage? I’m so confused.

Again, as a vegetarian I’m not always up on the carnivorous trends, but if someone could explain this to me, I’d be very grateful. In the meantime I’ll be hugging a bunny and eating a bowl of kale chips.