First of all I would like to thank the girl scouts of America for finally taking a fucking credit card. Who the hell still carries around cash? Let alone a checkbook. All I have lingering in the bottom of my purse overnight bag is some stale goldfish and a few hot wheels and those tiny green vested ladies don’t take trades. I tried.
Anywho, it’s no secret eating your feelings is a thing. But eating girl scout cookies when tiny humans make you wanna rage against the machine is an even bigger thing. Here’s why:
For starters those things are basically ninja cookies. Picky eaters don’t even know they have sugar in them so an entire box of 1,000 calories energy units are yours to eat freely out in the wild. No hiding in closets required. Fa real though, my kid won’t touch a caramel delite because the anti-Christ sprinkled coconut on those bitches. Do you know what a…
Long before our girl Oprah was doing yoga in a black spandex onesie on her lawn, I was on Weight Watchers. I loved it because I was on a diet but I could still have junk food. I was like a CIA operative when it came to finding sweet, guilt-free treats that I could fit into my daily points. Until one day when my skills backfired. Literally. Like, fire came out of my backside.
It was a gorgeous, sunny, summer Friday and I was scheduled to head home from my publishing job in Manhattan at 1:00. I’d been good on my diet all week so I decided to hit up Duane Reade on the way to work to do some WW friendly intel in the candy aisle. I spotted a small bag of Jelly Belly Sugar-Free SOURS and flipped over the bag to check out the calories. It was 200 calories for the bag, which came to 3 or 4 points at the time. “Sweet!” I thought, “and sour.” CHA-CHING.
I got to the office, settled in and immediately inhaled my bag of jelly beans. (Yes, at 9:30 am. Take your judgement elsewhere.) They were awesome. I felt like I really had my you-know-what together. A little while later, I grabbed the empty bag to take a closer look at the nutrition info so I could enter it into my WW account. That’s when I noticed it. This very small (IMO) red box on the back of the bag.
“WARNING: CONSUMPTION MAY CAUSE STOMACH DISCOMFORT AND/OR LAXATIVE EFFECT. INDIVIDUAL TOLERANCE WILL VARY; WE SUGGEST STARTING WITH 8 BEANS OR LESS.”
Uhhhhhhhhh, I’m sorry. What was that? Was that 8 beans or less? I ask you, have you ever eaten 8 jelly beans? OR LESS? In fact, turn to the person next to you and ask them the same. If you’re on a train or a public bus or an airplane reading this, stand up and ask everyone around you. Has anyone in the history of humankind EVER eaten 8 jelly beans as a single serving? Because I ate 70 jelly beans. Yes, that’s right. 70. Roughly ten times their suggested serving.
I should’ve read the package more thoroughly, but a WARNING on the back of a bag of candy was not something I thought to look for. And quite frankly, if they’re being honest, they should call the candy ASS BULLETS and the disclaimer should read “PACK A BAG FOR YOUR INTENSTINES BECAUSE THEY’LL BE LEAVING YOU SHORTLY”. And laxative effect?? I googled the jelly beans and read, to my horror, account after account of people who, like me, had mistakenly eaten the whole bag. The sugar alcohol they use in place of real sugar is no bueno on the old insides. I looked at the empty bag. OMG. WHAT HAD I DONE?
I looked at the clock. 11:00 am. I was taking a 1:30 train home and would be safely at home by 3:00 p.m. I hated going #2 at work. The thought of taking a smash (<- my husband’s term) next to a co-worker and then pulling up a chair next to them at a meeting was too much for me. I briefly considered trying to throw up the jelly beans to save myself a nail biter situation, but that’s not my style. I love food too much to part with it in that manner. And my husband and I eat Taco Bell regularly, so I figured if my insides could handle their refried beans, some sugar-free jelly frijoles wouldn’t be too much of an issue. Right?
One o’clock rolled around and there’d been no action. I finished at the office and peaced out, optimistic that I was going to survive this shitstorm. I hopped on the Long Island Railroad and texted my husband (teacher, off for the summer) to pick me up about 10 minutes from our house. As the train pulled out of Penn Station, I felt my first gurgle. My plan was to take deep breaths, focus on the music in my headphones and not dwell on the fact that Rosemary’s Baby was brewing inside me. This worked for the first 30 minutes and then, about halfway home my stomach started cramping and making pop & whoosh sounds. With 40 minutes to go, I sat very still and accepted the fact that it had begun. I had to elevate my poop status to the emergency level – CODE BROWN.
I tried to remain calm but as the minutes passed it began to sound like an airplane toilet was flushing in my stomach. And then it happened. I downloaded, if you will. The brown hellhound had climbed the steps and was at my back door. I WAS TOUCHING CLOTH. This is when the feverish, desperate, soul-igniting, buttcheek clenching began. I clamped those babies shut so tight, the jaws of life couldn’t have pried them open. It was my only hope. All I could think was, “I’M GOING TO EXPLODE POOP THE TRAIN.” The LIRR bathrooms are no place for an episode like this. NO PLACE. I would need to be able to sit and grip and touch and maybe sob as the demon exited my body, so I wiggled and shifted in my seat with each new snap & swirl I felt. I was sweating jelly bullets.
I don’t remember the last 15 minutes of that train ride. I think I left my body. My husband was getting the play by play via text so he was prepped. All I remember after I hit the danger zone was pulling into the station and very gingerly doing a waddle down the stairs where I saw him revving the engine of our Jeep like we’d just robbed a diarrhea bank and he was waiting for me to make our getaway. He knew what was at stake here and basically pulled away as I opened the car door and fell in. I was at CODE BROWN DEF CON. There was no time for safety. There was only speed. We were like Shitsky & Hutch.
We got home, I ran inside and, you guys…I made it. I made it in time. I will spare you the particulars but you should know that I expelled things from my body that day that had probably been there since junior high, maybe even elementary school. I was sweaty and light-headed and I felt like I would pass out, but I didn’t. I made it. I believe that’s the closest I’ve ever been to meeting God. I leaned against the cold bathroom wall and I talked to Him. “OMG THANK YOU GOD. THANK YOU GOD IF YOU’RE REAL. THANK YOU FOR NOT LETTING ME BLOW OUT MY JEANS ON THE LONG ISLAND RAILROAD. THANK YOU FOR NOT LETTING ME DIARRHEA GREG’S JEEP. THANK YOU FOR THE EXQUISITE SPHINCTER AND BUTTCHEEK STRENGTH WHICH I PROBABLY GET FROM MY DAD’S SIDE. AMEN.”
I still love me some sweets, but since that day, I keep my eye out for warning labels. I tell any of my friends who are getting colonoscopies that they should eat these jelly beans instead of drinking that awful stuff the doctors make you drink to cleanse your colon. These taste a lot better and I can guarantee they’ll leave your colon sparkling clean.
Remember when your mother used to say “OH MY GOD! If you say MOM again, I’m changing my name!” Well, now you know why and you feel awful about it too, don’t you? That whole, One Day I Hope You Have A Kid Who Acts Like You curse must be the real deal because the barrage of “MOMs” I get hit with each morning before 9:20 a.m. is enough to put any sane person into a mental institution.
My husband leaves for work around 6:40 each morning. He comes over to give me a kiss or pat me on the butt before he takes off. Sometimes we have this conversation:
Him: “Bye, babe”
Me: “NO. Where are you going?!”
Me: “DON’T LEAVE ME HERE ALONE WITH THEM!”
My 9 year old daughter (sometimes known as The Girl One) is an early riser. She’s always up before my husband leaves. ALWAYS. My son (The Boy One) would sleep in a little if she’d let him but she likes everyone to partake in the splendour that is morn. When I hear their dad close the front door, it’s GAME ON.
The Girl One calls up from downstairs: “Mom. Mom. MOM! Mom come cook breakfast!” She can reach the bananas and I’ve seen her pour cereal and milk into a bowl before. She’s even used the toaster. Swear to God. But still, she wants MOM to do it. Fine.
Me: “BLERGGG. I’m coming!”
I head downstairs and into the fray. The breakfast bustle gets underway and I begin the morning countdown to bus time like Ted Allen on an episode of CHOPPED. “27 minutes left on the clock, guys! Don’t forget to pack your backpack! Homework, lunch, flute, permission slip! Let’s do this, people!”
So now, because I’ve prompted her (anywhere from 5-25 times), The Girl One is headed to the shower. This is only after she begs me to come into the bathroom to stay with her for the duration of her cleanse. I guess she becomes hysterically blind after she eats her waffle and can’t see me cleaning up breakfast, making lunches, packing up homework, feeding the cat and letting the dog in & out the back door every 48 seconds. I say I’ll be in when I’m finished doing X, Y and Z but as soon as the water turns on…
The Girl One: “Mom, come on. Mom. Mom come on. Mom, are you coming? Are you done yet? I can hear you outside the door. Mom. Mom?”
I KNOW YOU’RE ANNOYED JUST READING THIS AND SHE’S NOT EVEN YOUR KID.
I’m like the Muhammad Ali of moms when it comes to shower time. Somehow, I bob and weave my way out of this hornet’s nest each morning and I make my way to the basement to begin “selecting the children’s outfits”.
Let’s all stop for a moment and have a hearty chuckle at the concept of “selecting the children’s outfits”. It sounds so civilized when in fact, picking out clothes in my house each morning is like trying to disarm an explosive with the clock ticking down from 60 seconds. The pants that make too much noise? ARE YOU INSANE? The socks that feel weird? WHY TEMPT FATE? The shirt with the owl on it? HAVE WE FORGOTTEN LAST THURSDAY? One wrong move and your morning detonates. SHRAPNEL EVERYWHERE. No survivors.
While I’m in The Laundry Room Hurt Locker, The Boy One starts calling down from the living room. He hasn’t looked away from the TV in 30 minutes so he has no idea where I am and no intention of trying to find me. Why do that when he can just scream his goddamn head off for 10 minutes?
The Boy One: “Mom!”
The Boy One: “Maaaahhhh-aaaahhhmmmm!”
Me: “YEA! I’m downst-”
The Boy One: “MMMOOMMMM!”
Me: “OMG WHAT!?!?!?! I’M IN THE FREAKING BASEMENT!!!!!”
This is when I snap. The rapid-fire-without-a-chance-to-answer-“MOM” makes me levitate, and not in a cute Mary Poppins type way. I’m like Mary Poppins’ bitchy cousin who dropped out of high school to follow her boyfriend’s band across the country and then he slept with her best friend and now she has to work at the home for wayward children instead of working for a nice family and singing songs about sugar and crap.
We do this pretty much every day. By the time I get both of those animals to the bus I feel like a bull rider who couldn’t hold on for 8 seconds. But the crazy part is that even when I feel like a wild-eyed Mommy Dearest on the inside, I kiss those kids on their faces and look them in their beautiful eyes and tell them I love them. And I mean it. The morning’s transgressions already forgiven and forgotten. My kids must’ve pumped unconditional love to me through the umbilical cord because they’re the only ones who love me even remotely the same way. I don’t think I had that ability before they were born. It allows me to block out whatever ridiculous things they do so the love can bubble up and I can do the only job I really have to do, which is to love them.
After last week’s post, I received this text from a friend:
Apart from making me a little emotional, it reminded me of a conversation my sister-in-law and mother-in-law had once. My SIL was saying that her kids just make her nuts all the time and she was always feeling wound up and that she never remembered my MIL being like that when she was young. My MIL laughed and assured us that there were MANY times like that, but MY SIL didn’t remember them because overall, she had a happy childhood.
The loving, the laughing, the yelling, the kisses, the fighting, the worry, the hugs, the chaos, the parenting wins and losses. Those are the ingredients that make a family and every family has its’ own recipe. There are no hard and fast rules. A cake batter may have a few lumps in it, but even with a few lumps, a well-made cake is still pretty delicious. My kids may yell my name 74 times a morning but I just have to remember, that’s the exact number of “MOMs” it takes to make a morning in our house. Some mornings I may not handle it like Princess Diana, but if I end each morning and each night with a hug, a kiss and an “I Love You”, we might just get this cake baked after all.
Last Monday morning, a 6-year-old girl roasted me at the bus stop.
It was 8:15 a.m and I repeat, ON A MONDAY. My kids and I crossed the street from our house and waited at the end of our neighbor’s driveway for her crew to meet us for the trip to the corner. My neighbor came out with 3 little girls, my attacker (let’s call her Elizabeth) included. I smiled and said “Hey guys!” as they joined us on the street.
Elizabeth isn’t from the neighborhood. My neighbor babysits her little sister (whom we’ll call Elizabeth’s sister) and every now and then she comes along for the walk. This made her sick burn even more ruthless, a scud missile to the heart.
Elizabeth’s outfit stood out to me on this crisp, autumn morning. I’m not one to judge a kid’s clothes because, let’s be honest, reasoning with a 6-year-old about their outfit is as useful as a feather fork, but I was kind of digging her look. She had on a royal blue shirt, a pair of navy retro style gym shorts (you know the ones, with the white piping), a pair of white tube socks pulled up to just below her knee and sneakers. I thought, “You go girl! It’s not 100% working but you’re rocking it and I like that about you.” I was happy for her, and convinced she was a free-thinker, I gave her a mental high-five. On we walked.
The bus stop crowd made our normal early a.m. small talk. The bus came, we blew kisses to the older kids as they rode away and we turned to walk back to our homes. It was me, my son (also 6), my neighbor, Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s sister. I looked down to my right to see Elizabeth smiling up at me, a face like a jack-o-lantern with 3 or 4 teeth missing. So cute. “Hey you!” I said. She made direct eye contact with me, grinned sweetly and then…she daggered me.
“You have a sleepy face, ” she said. I’D BEEN UP FOR 2 HOURS. I politely laughed, in my head thinking “SHOTS FIRED! WE HAVE SHOTS FIRED!”
What I would’ve said if it was one of MY kids was something along the lines of, “UUUHH, YA THINK? Well, maybe if you weren’t wedged up my buttcrack last night and if your sister hadn’t decided to hold a U.N. Sleep Summit in her underwear at 2:30 a.m., lecturing me on how UNJUST it is that you get to sleep between Daddy and I and how her brother gets WHATEVER he wants, YEA, maybe I’d have more of a Brooke Shields Blue Lagoon thing going on right now.”
Of course, I couldn’t say THAT. She was someone else’s baby. What I WANTED to say to her was, “Listen, kid-dressed-up-like-a-Harlem-Globetrotter-from-1982, it’s Monday morning. I MAY or MAY NOT HAVE had way too much wine to drink on Saturday and I MAY or MAY NOT still be hung over. You want to ask questions? Halloween’s not for another 2 weeks, so how come you’re dressed like a hipster on her way to a kickball game in a Williamsburg park? Does Tootie from The Facts of Life know you stole her gym clothes? How about you lay off the judgement and stick to eating your own boogers? OKAY, PAW PATROL?!”
Of course, I couldn’t say THAT either. I probably had Cheez-it crumbs in my hair and (most likely) no bra on and in my fragile state, I was NOT taking a chance on her launching another bomb at me. So I just mustered up the 1/2 ounce of dignity I had left, giggled and looked down at her cute, toothless face and said, “Yea, that’s just my normal face.” She just kept smiling and globe trotted her way down the street.
It’s fine. Elizabeth’s right. I’m exhausted. In her defense, I’m sure I looked like a Nick Nolte mugshot. Sleeping soundly is a thing of the past. It’s an occupational hazard of motherhood. It’s like musical beds in our house every night. We give in to our kids’ nocturnal demands because, at this point, we just want everyone to sleep. Still, no woman nearing 40 likes to be told she looks tired, even if it’s from a toothless kid in Danny Zuko’s track outfit from Grease.
When my daughter was born in 2007, I remember boasting to one of the men I worked with, a father to two teenage girls at the time, that there was NO WAY MY KID would EVER sleep in our bed. He’s a lovable, no BS Italian guy from Brooklyn. He looked at me and said, “What the f&ck is the matter with you? Don’t you know that kid’s not going to give a crap about you in about 15 years? LET HER SLEEP IN YOUR BED IF SHE WANTS.”
As new moms, we think we’ll stick to all of the pre-conceived parenting plans we made BEFORE SHIT GOT REAL. No red dye 40. ORGANIC EVERYTHING. No high fructose corn syrup. And 10 minutes later we’re like:
I guess it’s hard to admit we want to give up on some of the things we swore by once the rubber really hits the road. But this is one new mom promise I’m going back on. I’ll play along in a round of midnight musical beds or scooch over to make room for a beautiful little monster if I need to. So what if it means a crappy night’s sleep? A kid’s size 11 foot up my butt at 2:30 a.m. will just be a sweet memory someday, even though now it makes me look like a swamp creature at the bus stop.
When I was 12, I wanted to be a marine biologist. I had Jacques Cousteau quotes on my bedroom wall next to my New Kids on the Block posters. I didn’t know who I wanted to marry more – Jon Knight (yea, I was a Jon girl, there were probably 4 of us on earth) or Jacques. There wasn’t any real explanation for my love of the ocean. We lived near Lake Ontario in Northern New York, 30 miles from Canada. There were snow banks, not sand dunes. My best guess is that it had to do with the time my mother took my brother and I to the Museum of Natural History when I was 5 and I was captivated by the hanging blue whale in the Hall of Ocean Life.
A few years after our trip to Manhattan when I saw the whale, my brother and I watched the Robin Williams – Shelley Duval version of POPEYE on HBO. The octopus scene became my new obsession. Yes it was yellow with giant menacing eyes, but I was immediately fascinated. My Jacques Cousteau love affair started soon after.
I graduated from high school and moved to South Carolina where I began the Marine Biology program at Coastal Carolina University, however, one semester in I knew science wasn’t going to be my thing. You’ll learn later why, but I’d begun writing in high school. That was my second love and that would be my GO TO. The beginning of my sophomore year, I transferred to a school in Northern NY and began working on my writing degree.
Fast forward 20 years. I’m a mother of two with an ex-career in magazine publishing and I wish I still wrote and I wish I’d stayed in school to be a marine biologist. This means I make my kids watch all kinds of YouTube videos and documentaries about things relating to the sea. Most of you will think, like the octopus in my logo, that this blog is named The Mother Octopus because every mom is a supreme juggler who needs 8 hands. True, but no.
In the last couple years I began feeling the tug of the octopus again, pinning artwork and dreaming of cephalopod tattoos. And just recently, in my musings, I came across this:
“After mating, it’s game over for octopuses.Mating and parenthood are brief affairs for octopuses, who die shortly after. The species practices external fertilization. Multiple males either insert their spermatophores directly into a tubular funnel that the female uses to breathe, or else literally hand her the sperm, which she always accepts with one of her right arm (researchers do not know why). Afterwards, males wander off to die. As for the females, they can lay up to 400,000 eggs, which they obsessively guard and tend to. Prioritizing their motherly duties, females stop eating. But she doesn’t starve to death–rather,when the eggs hatch, the female’s body turns on her. Her body undertakes a cascade of cellular suicide, starting from the optic glands and rippling outward through her tissues and organs until she dies.” – Rachel Nuwer, Smithsonian.com
A buzzkill, to say the least, and it struck a chord with me.
I am a mother octopus that kept on living. Some of you probably are too, but afraid to say it out loud.
Please don’t get me wrong. I count my blesssings daily, and like any mom, I’d step in front of a bus for my kids. They make me crazy when they’re with me and the second I’m away from them I worry about them. But when I became a mom, something else in me changed. Accepting the sacrifice was no surprise. Yes, I knew it would be hard work. Something just got lost. My identity became so cloudy that I lost who I was before. I certainly never write anymore (because frankly, this shit is super scary) and in the last few years, working alone, making frames in my basement, I started to feel like so many of the things I was before I was a mom were gone.
To me, the saddest thing about the female octopus is that she doesn’t get to mother her babies. I’m starting to realize that in order to really mother mine, I need to crawl out from under the clutter of our lives and reclaim what’s been lost in the last few years I’ve spent clinging to the rock of my basement business. Feeding my babies, being class mom, making scrapbooks and classroom party snacks, trading in a 6 figure salary to cut craft store coupons. In some ways, I’ve never been happier, and in some ways I’m lost in the deep. Trust me, I belong down here, but I need a fresh perspective to be the mom my kids deserve.
This blog is my attempt to come up for air. To poke my head up like a periscope, get a new view, and take a deep cleansing breath before heading back to work. I hope you’ll stick around for my ascent.