I’ll Never Show My Face There Again

I respect and love my husband, which is why I would never, ever purposefully embarrass him at his place of employment.

Accidentally (like this day)? Perhaps. But definitely never on purpose. No. We need his job.

I had a good streak going for the first 13 years of our relationship; I never bothered him at work, and I never showed up looking crazy, homicidal, or inappropriately dressed. We never made out in the parking lot. We kept it professional, even when we worked together.

However, this year, things have taken somewhat of a downhill turn. 2016 has been the worst. It started with me getting a major concussion and is apparently ending with me making a complete ass of myself every time I venture out into public.

The kids are on Thanksgiving Break, which means that I have all three of them at home all day, every day, until November 28. No, I’m not counting down the days until they go back to school, why do you ask? Is it the crazy look in my eyes, or the increasingly-high pitch of my voice?

Yesterday I had to take my 5-year-old to the dentist, which required a lot of arranging and re-arranging of childcare because the first rule of motherhood is that you don’t bring more than one kid at at time to the dentist. I was rushed and short on patience and time and after we were done, I went to Robbie’s office to pick up my oldest, who was there waiting.

I decided to leave my purse in the van, because frankly, I was sick of lugging it around. I helped Asher out and locked the doors. We made the long journey inside the building — and as a side note, today was their Thanksgiving feast, so all of the employees were milling around, because OF COURSE THEY WERE — and we walked to Robbie’s office where Maverick was sitting alone, playing on his Nintendo.

“Where’s your Daddy?”

No response.

“Maverick? Where’s Daddy?”

“Oh, hi. Uhhh … I don’t know where he is.”

“What do you mean?”

I looked around the office. Robbie’s sunglasses and keys were on his desk. It looked like he’d just been there, so where did he go? I stepped into the main part of the building to see if he was out talking to someone, but he was nowhere in sight. After waiting a few more minutes, I picked up the receiver of the phone on his desk and called his cell. It went to voicemail.

Briefly, I considered walking back to the van to get my phone to text him, but when I looked over at the boys — one who didn’t even notice we were there, and another who was busy stamping every single important document on the desk with a rubber signature stamp — I realized that I didn’t want to leave them together, alone, in the office. I also really didn’t want to bring them with me. After a few more moments, I decided that I didn’t have time for this shit and I asked his co-worker where he was. The co-worker, with a plateful of food in one hand and a fork in the other, shrugged.

I’d been there for 10 minutes and I was over it. I scrawled a note on an envelope telling him that I was taking Maverick and asking him to call me, and we headed out. As we walked by the men’s restroom, it dawned on me.

He was in the bathroom.

Now, I know it’s not entirely rational, but that made me irate. Who poops for 15 minutes? Who poops for 15 minutes at work? Clearly, he does this at home — but the fact that he gets to do it at work too?! THAT BULLSHIT SENT ME OVER THE EDGE.

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After he walked us out to the parking lot and helped load the kids into the car, and after I made sure the doors were closed so they couldn’t hear me, I turned to him and said the following in my big, strong, outside voice:

“What were you doing in there?”

“Pooping.”

“THAT WHOLE TIME?”

“Yes.”

“What else do you do?”

“I read and I poop.”

“That’s just not normal. Do you do that every day? If I worked with a man who disappeared into the bathroom for that long every day, I’d think he had a problem. I’D THINK HE WAS JERKING OFF OR SOMETHING. WHAT IF PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE IN THERE LOOKING AT PORN ON YOUR PHONE? WHAT IF YOUR CO-WORKERS THINK YOU’RE THE KIND OF MAN WHO WOULD JERK OFF AT WORK?”

I stopped talking when I noticed the stricken look on his face. He took a step toward me and said, very quietly, “There’s someone right behind you.”

And when I turned around, there was one of his co-workers, pretending not to hear me shouting about masturbation.

I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be showing my face there again anytime soon. I think it’s also safe to say that I won’t be invited to.

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Girl Power

People who have known me a long time know that my views have changed pretty drastically over the past few years. I think that is a healthy thing. Being open to growth is, in my opinion, a vital part of being a functional adult.

So, things were already shifting for me before I had my third child.

A girl.

Before I actually understood what it meant to be a feminist, I didn’t think I was one. I mistakenly assumed that feminists ruined things for the rest of us by burning their bras and telling men not to open doors for them. I thought feminists were angry women who loved to hate on men.

I LIKE having doors opened for me. I LIKE my bras. I LIKE men.

I enjoy being a girl.

I’ll tell you a secret: once upon a time, long, long ago, I told some friends that I didn’t think a woman could ever be capable of running the United States of America. I know. I said that. I actually believed that. It’s mortifying.

“Men are better at that stuff,” I actually said, WTF. I cringe every time I think about this, but I’m trying to set the stage for my story.

Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate enough to have very patient, smart friends who didn’t ditch me when I said women aren’t capable of running a nation, who taught me that feminism does not mean that you don’t want to be a girl, or be treated like a woman worthy of respect. Being a feminist means that you embrace your gender and celebrate it. Feminists believe that girls can be and do anything, that they deserve equal pay and opportunities, and most of all, they encourage each other to be brave and bold because feminists believe in the power of women.

Some feminists, like myself, choose to quit their soul-sucking corporate career to stay home and raise a family. Other feminists choose to skip marriage and children and sail the world’s oceans instead. Feminism means that we do what we want, because women are capable of making their own decisions. Period.

So. Not only did I realize that I am a feminist, but I also realized that I’m also in charge of raising 3 other humans to recognize and believe in the power of women. That’s a tall order, but one that I’ve embraced with pride. Teaching my daughter to be brave and bold has been one of my greatest joys as a mother. Seeing her stand up for herself, rather than shrinking away in fear, fills my heart with warm, cuddly fuzzies.

People don’t expect her to be fearless, because she’s pretty. Still, in 2016, this surprises people.

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Feminists in training.

On Halloween, we took the kids trick-or-treating in a friend’s neighborhood. A little boy (his father later said he was 5 years old) dressed as a policeman was driving down the sidewalk in a ginormous, battery-powered, child-sized cop car.

Pepper walked over to the boy and pulled on the passenger door.

“I want a ride,” she said.

All of the adults oohed and ahhed. Look how cute this is! The little ladybug wants a ride in the cop car! THIS IS SO ADORABLE, GET YOUR CAMERA OUT.

“Give her a ride, Jimmy!”

Jimmy’s mom leaned over and removed the bucket of Halloween candy from the passenger seat. Pepper pulled the door open and climbed in before turning to the boy and saying in her loud, clear, voice:

“You’re in my seat.”

The boy just looked at her, so she said it again, louder this time, and with conviction:

“You’re in my seat.”

Thus began an epic stare down between Jimmy and Pepper. He looked at her like he was unsure of what to do, and frankly a little scared, and she looked at him like he best get his ass out from behind that steering wheel.

I stifled my laughter as I watched his parents silently freak out that their son was being bossed around by a girl, in front of other people. After a few moments, Jimmy gave in and let Pepper have the driver’s seat.

She assumed her position and immediately gunned it, and I thought to myself that I’ve literally never been prouder.

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Grief Is A Thief

Grief is a thief. It steals my moments, creeping in when I least expect it, removing joy from experiences because it might be the last time I do this thing and how can I enjoy something if I’m not sure if I’ll ever have this moment again, like it is right now?

I remember the last time I went shopping at the mall with my mom. It was on Mother’s Day two years ago and we got caught in the rain. She giggled so hard at me walking through Dillard’s with wet hair and soaked clothes, and took photos with her (obsolete) cell phone. That was the last time we walked around the mall, and I don’t know if we will ever do it again.

We used to go shopping all the time when I was younger. We both have an eye for decorating, and we love a bargain. I inherited her creativity, the ability to make something out of nothing on a very tight budget. We share a deep love of color and strategically-placed throw pillows. But then I got married, and we moved away.

7 years. I missed 7 years with my mom. Just typing that makes me incredibly sad.

I also know that moving away was good for my marriage. We were able to solidify ourselves as a unit without interference. We were free to make terribly stupid financial decisions with no one around to tell us so, and that independence turns out to be serving us well as we walk through the trenches of parenthood with ailing parents.

Most of my friends don’t know what that’s like — their mothers are still vibrantly making passive aggressive comments, baking quiche, and cruising around town as they always have. They are enthusiastic babysitters, reveling in the “golden age” of their lives. I have young parents, just 58.

They’re fantastic.

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My parents in April. They’re going to be mad that I put a photo of them on the internet.

Having a sick parent when I’m also a parent is lonely and hard and there’s a lot of cursing and a lot of wine and a lot of pretending nothing is wrong and a lot of crying in the middle of the produce section. Mostly there is a lot of Robbie having no idea what to do to make it better, because he can’t fix this one. He can’t make my mom not have cancer. All he can do is hold my hand while I deal with it, and all I can do is thank God I married the aimless drifter with the scruffy face, the one who wanted to someday own a bar — a BAR!

That man is the one who rubs my feet while I cry because he doesn’t know what to say to make it better.

He is my anchor.

Grief is a darkness. It’s a black blanket that coats me, criss-crossing my face and down my abdomen, squeezing out my breath. Sometimes, if I lie down, it is a weight that makes sitting up an impossibility. So I lie there, and I wait; eventually, I can stand up again.

Grief is so damn heavy.

Grief is a liar. It tells me I’m too weak to survive the circumstances that brought it about. Sometimes I believe it.

Grief is a truth-teller. It exposes every raw edge of my character in the middle of the grocery store on a Monday. It grabs me by the throat in the bookstore and sometimes I have to cancel plans or turn back home to repair the eye makeup that I just cried off in the car.

Grief is a prioritizer. It shows you what is actually important, and what isn’t.

Spoiler alert: a lot isn’t important.

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Fan Club

One afternoon last year, my eldest child bounded off the school bus, burst into the house, and announced that he was in a club.

“I was invited in today,” he said.

“Oh really?” I said. “That’s exciting! Who else is in it?”

“A bunch of girls who like me.”

“That’s what is known as a FAN CLUB,” I told him.

The reason why it’s okay for me to laugh at the expense of my children and share these stories with the entire internet is because I spend about 75% of my time as a mother feeling like I’m right on the verge of coming unhinged. Not because I don’t love motherhood — I do — but my 5-year-old put his hand through a window the other day and my 3-year-old really, really likes to eat hand soap.

I used to blog almost daily about the shenanigans of my kids, but suddenly I found myself in way over my head. It was all simply too much to type. I found this jumbled-up mess in my drafts folder, a snippet of a random day from a few months ago:

Pepper is in a tantrum phase and all three of them got muddy so I brought her inside (much to her dismay) to give her a bath and while she was in the tub the neighbor’s grandson came over to play and I found Maverick trying to destroy our carport ceiling with a fence slat — a fence slat!!! — and the neighbor just had a stroke and his caretaker was rolling him up our driveway and Maverick is so fucking loud — why is he so loud?! — and Asher came running inside, muddy, because he wanted to change shirts.

While that was happening, I heard splashing. But I really didn’t have the strength to investigate. But then I worried she was drowning. I go look. She’s fine, but there’s a roll of toilet paper in the toilet and all of the shampoo had been squeezed out.

It’s just an endless rant, really. However, there has been a slow shift over the course of this year: with so much going wrong in the world, it’s become easier for me to find the joy in motherhood. Maybe it’s because I have perspective that I didn’t have before, or maybe it’s because I’m medicated. There’s really no way to know for sure, and frankly it doesn’t matter.

Our kindergartner has been saying “Freakin’ Einstein” for months and I just recently realized he is talking about FRANKENSTEIN. I kept wondering why he kept tacking “freakin'” in front of Einstein — what was that about? — until finally, I heard him say “Freakin’ Einstein has bolts in his neck.”

OH. Yes. Frankenstein does have bolts in his neck. It all makes so much sense now.

See? Joy.

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Other sources of joy: finding things like this.

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How To Help Louisiana Flood Victims

Right now I feel like I feel when I haven’t seen one of my best friends in a very long time, when we finally sit down for coffee, there is so much to say that I’m not sure where to start.

So, I’ll just start.

We had a terrible flood here, the kind they call a “500-year flood,” meaning that it basically has never and was never expected to happen. Our home was spared, but our city and surrounding areas are devastated.

One thing I don’t mind telling people about myself is that I’m a person of action, and with schools out of session until God knows when, I felt like I HAD to do something to help. Thousands and thousands of children literally don’t have backpacks for school. They don’t have shoes. They don’t have anything. It’s one of those situations where you can’t fully understand unless you see it; photos do not come close to doing any of it justice.

My friend Audrey and I have pooled our resources (You can read more about about that here!) and are concentrating our efforts on getting kids the uniforms and school supplies they need to get back in the classroom and back in a routine. This flood has affected over 42,000 students. Children thrive on routine, and these kids have been through hell. They need some normalcy.

When children are in school, parents can focus on rebuilding, getting necessary paperwork, and doing work that is not necessarily safe for children. If children are in school, parents whose homes were not flooded can focus their efforts on helping those who did flood without the worry of childcare. In addition, people are scrambling to find childcare because the camps and childcare available are at capacity — and I can’t really speak for other parents, but I am having a hard time holding it together in front of my kids. I can’t even wrap my mind around what it would feel like to lose everything and have to keep it together 24/7.

People kept asking us what they could do to help Louisiana, so Audrey and I came up with a strategy. We decided that the first thing that needed to happen was to get these kids back in school, so we (really, she) created Amazon wish lists for heavily-impacted schools. All you have to do is click the link, pick a few things, and Amazon delivers them directly to the school.

It’s only been a few days, and the things that are happening are absolutely amazing. And because there’s no way to explain it fully, I’m just going to SHOW YOU.

Boxes started arriving.

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Image source: Audrey Hayworth

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Image source: Audrey Hayworth

Teachers and staff, some of whom lost their homes, showed up to work when they didn’t have to, to hand out uniforms and school supplies to students who needed them.

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Image source: Audrey Hayworth

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Image source: Audrey Hayworth

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Image source: Audrey Hayworth

The level of gratitude we feel is what keeps us moving forward. Louisiana needs help. WE NEED HELP.

If you would like to donate, here are the links to three different schools in the area that need supplies. I will update this blog post as additional school wish lists are created and sent to me.

Audubon Elementary
http://amzn.to/2dd0rCe

Park Forest Middle School:
http://amzn.to/2cuyTLW

St. Martin Parish School:
http://amzn.to/2bHbzde

St. Amant Middle School:
http://amzn.to/2bAH2xu

Sherwood Middle Academic Magnet School:
http://amzn.to/2bGqUtF

Woodlawn Elementary:
http://amzn.to/2boFx3Q

Thank you for your support, and please share this information with everyone you know!

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I Don’t Want To Go Back In Time

I cannot tell you how deep I had to dig to keep my emotions in check this summer and how deeply I will fall into a cocktail (or five) when school starts again.

But today, I snapped out of survival mode and realized that I made it. I MADE IT!

My oldest starts 3rd grade tomorrow. “I don’t need you to drive me to school on the first day,” he said. “I can take the bus.” He looked at me and grinned and all the sudden I could see what he’s going to look like when I send him off the college, and I felt momentarily sad.

His little brother is starting Kindergarten at the same elementary school this year, and my long time dream of putting both boys on the school bus and waving goodbye will finally be realized. Can I be honest? I’m not sad, or weepy, or wistful for when they were smaller. I’m proud. I’m elated, actually. I’m happy to have made it to this point in one piece, and I don’t want to go back in time. I want to revel in this.

No one wears diapers anymore.

Everyone talks in coherent sentences.

I’ve taught 3 human beings how to use the toilet and how to stay with me in the store; things can only continue to improve from here.

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Summer, 2016

I see photos of myself from 8 years ago when I first became a mom and I feel a little sorry for that version of me. I don’t want to go back in time and be her again. I don’t want to hold my babies or rock them or see them in their infancy or wish for time to go backwards. I MADE IT, which means I have overcome obstacles, which means I have hope to continue overcoming obstacles, which requires me to continue moving forward.

This summer, I got soaked with water by the boys, who thought it would be funny to spray me after I asked them repeatedly to turn off the water. My kids kept me so busy that I never got around to changing clothes, until hours later, I realized that they were dry again.

This summer, we were lazy. I let them have unlimited screen time and we all ate junk food and laid around the house like total couch potatoes. It was amazing. Now I understand why people make this a full-time thing.

This summer, I didn’t work out. I didn’t weigh myself. I put on the same, falling-apart, ill-fitting bathing suit day after day and got in the pool with my kids. I’m 10 pounds heavier than I was last summer, and caring a lot less about how fat my thighs look.

This summer, I really enjoyed my kids. I did. But now, I’m ready for them to go to school, because I need to shake off the experience of having people with me 24/7 for three straight months, and that can only be done by using expletives and bargain shopping alone. By myself. Without anyone hiding in the clothes racks.

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Where To Go From Here

Last night, I sat in a beautiful church in downtown Baton Rouge and listened to local officials, activists, and citizens start a conversation about what is happening in our community.

Stay with me.

I have no idea how many local readers I have, so more than likely you’re not from Baton Rouge, so you probably don’t care what’s happening here. And I get it. I wouldn’t, either, except that I am a mother … and because I am a mother, I know that I — we — have the power to change things.

Sometimes, parenthood can feel like it’s consuming my spirit and slowly choking off what makes me, me. Sometimes everything feels fruitless, pointless, and repetitious. I find myself ranting to my friends via text, WHAT IS THE POINT OF WASHING TOWELS WHEN EVERYONE USES 8 OF THEM EVERY TIME THEY SHOWER?! OMG, I AM GOING TO DIE WASHING TOWELS, MARK MY WORDS.

The thing is, though, that the difficulty of motherhood is tempered by the inherent power to make the world better. The act of bringing new life into this world, shaping human beings into citizens, and teaching them what is important — this is our greatest gift and responsibility.

Last night I watched a boy who couldn’t have been older than 12 approach the microphone to stand in front of a panel of important people, including Martin Luther King III — yes, the son of the Martin Luther King, Jr. —  in the front of the room. Everyone was silent, wondering what this kid was going to say.

“First, I just want to ask the Lord to forgive us.”

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THAT is how he began his question.

THAT did something to my heart, seeing that boy, who is not so different from my own sons, standing bravely in front of a bunch of important adults to voice a legitimate concern. I wonder who his mother is, and I hope she is proud of herself, because she’s doing an amazing job.

I saw the widow of one of the fallen officers walk by with her 10-month-old son. I saw people who would normally never cross paths, talking to each other.

I ran smack into Colonel Edmonson, Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, and I was so struck by the look in his eyes that I couldn’t speak. He looked like he was in actual, physical pain. He looked like he needed a hug, but I was too afraid to give him one.

This is yet another example of how fear stops us from moving forward.

Last night it was said that we need an honest dialogue, and I couldn’t agree more. I have always wished that more people would just be honest. Hurts need to be recognized. Truths need to be said. People need to feel heard in order to bridge gaps, but more than that, we all need hope. Without hope, nothing can be accomplished, and I can honestly say that after what I saw and heard last night, I am full of hope.

As we were leaving, I heard a young girl’s voice coming up behind me yelling “MOMS!! HEY, MOMS!” I turned around, and she was literally running up the church aisle.

“Are you a mom?” she gasped, out of breath.

“I sure am.”

She introduced herself to me as one of the leaders of an active youth group in the city, and said they are looking to partner with local moms because they know that mothers have a unique power to change our community in a big way.

“Mothers DO have a lot of power,” I said, as I handed her my card.

Mamas are a force to be reckoned with. Get ready.

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I Was That Mom

Yesterday, a terrible thing happened.

Let me preface this by saying that I am struggling to adjust to summer break. Struggling. Like … it’s good? But also horrible? Can something be good and horrible all at once? Because I’m pretty sure that is exactly what parenthood is.

Making the transition from having all three kids in school for 6+ hours per day (and working during those hours), to having them home all the time and trying to get my work done in addition to mothering in a loving fashion, is not going great. As I have already established in multiple blog posts from previous years, summer is effing relentless.

Pepper

Pepper is obsessed with two things: outlets and babies. Here she is showing her baby doll the outlet in her bedroom. #multitasking

Thankfully, this year is somewhat easier than previous years simply because my children are getting older and more independent. Pepper will be 3 next week, so I think we’re finally on the upswing after a very dark time in the Valley of Motherhood.

Yesterday afternoon, we got home from playing at the park. The boys jumped out of the van, heard some kids next door playing, and asked if they could go over to play. I granted them permission and took Pepper inside. Her clothes were filthy — covered in layers of peanut butter and dirt — so I stripped her down to a diaper.

I ran to the bathroom with her trailing behind me, always my little shadow. And then, my mom called. She’s not feeling well and I can barely hear her on the phone. I was straining to understand what she was saying — did she just say she needed to go to the hospital?! — and naturally, my toddler got really loud at exactly that moment. As her shouting drowned out my mother, my stress level started to rise.

I went to my bedroom and closed the door. My daughter cried from the hall, and when she stopped, I was thankful. When I emerged only a few minutes later, the house was quiet. A panicky feeling started to rise in my chest, and then it felt like my heart stopped.

Just.

Stopped.

Beating.

Our back door was standing wide open.

Screaming her name, I ran outside. She was gone. Or hiding. Or missing.

I heard a woman’s voice — our across the street neighbor — yelling at me that she just saw a little girl cut through the fences in the backyard.

“She went that way, sweetheart! I was standing here watching her!”

I was barefoot and it did not matter. I ran. I ran until I found her. I couldn’t feel my feet. I couldn’t feel my body. All I could hear was my own voice screaming her name, and my heartbeat deafening my ears. That is what blind panic feels like.

My 2-year-old was wandering one street over from ours, wearing nothing but her diaper. She was holding a toy pet carrier with a little stuffed dog inside. I will never forget the way her face looked when she saw the horror on mine.

“NEVER AGAIN,” I said to her.

“Not with my dog?” she said.

“NEVER, EVER. Do not ever leave this house without a grown up,” I said, as I wiped away my tears.

I’m sharing this story to demonstrate how quickly children can disappear. How many times have I heard stories of toddlers wandering the streets and thought to myself, WHERE WAS THE MOTHER?

That mother is me. I was right there. It happened anyway.

I’m a damn good mom. I am capable. I am aware. I am not negligent. But children are fast. And sometimes quiet. And things happen. So today I’m hugging my babies tight, grateful for their safety, knowing that sometimes other mamas aren’t so lucky.

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How Things Change

I remember a very long time ago when we had a baby and I was worried that Robbie was going to say inappropriate words in front of it. I was also concerned about food additives and a whole host of other things that I no longer have the time or energy to care about, like whether or not it was okay for my child to breathe in the fumes from Clorox Wipes and what was actually in baby formula.

Fast-forward to 5:00 this morning when our third child climbed into our bed, alerting me by repeated bludgeoning to the head and face, and I flung my arm over to hit my sleeping husband.

“Pepper’s in our bed,” I mumbled, as her knee dug into my gut.

Nothing.

“PEPPER’S IN HERE,” I repeated. Now she was pulling on the sheets, attempting to smother me to death with her battered sheep lovey.

Nothing.

He wouldn’t take his CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) mask off, which is pretty much a passive aggressive way of saying fuck you, I’m not dealing with it. I’m basically blind and deaf at night; I have terrible eyesight without my contacts or glasses, and I’ve been wearing earplugs for over a decade, so I’m familiar with passive aggressive ways to pretend to not know something is going on. I am well versed in it. Also, I have sleep issues, and that makes me difficult to deal with.

Okay, fine. It makes me a raging bitch.

Once someone shakes me from deep, precious slumber, it can take me literally an hour to fall back asleep, and even once I do finally konk out again, the quality always sucks from that point forward.

What was that? Did you just ask why?

Because I lie there and my mind starts racing thinking of all the things I need to remember to do in three hours when my alarm goes off, and then I start wondering what I forgot to put on my mental to-do list, becoming angry at myself for not setting the coffeemaker to turn on by itself at 6 a.m. because I AM NOT GOING TO FEEL LIKE MAKING IT AFTER MISSING THIS MUCH SLEEP, and the anxieties just spiral off from there like tiny insomniac tornadoes.

So, back to the child that was poking me in the face: once I realized that I was going to have to put her back in her bed, I yelled, “FUCK, FINE, I’LL DO IT.” So much for worrying about my husband’s mouth in front of our kids.

And that is how much things change between the first and third-born child.

Bedtime

I can’t be mad at this cutie pie.

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Impacted Poop: The Anthem of Motherhood

This is a post about kindness. We need more of it. And you want to know what we need less of? Stupid motherfuckers.

I took my middle child to an urgent care clinic today for impacted poop. That’s right: poop.

Now, I have been a mom for 8 years and feel like I have a pretty good handle on what is urgent care-worthy. I tried everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) to help him get it out, but after 2 hours of misery I rushed him to a doctor. It is Saturday and my husband is at work, so I ran my other two kids to my parent’s house and went to the closest urgent care that was open.

I paid $100 –they made me, before we could be seen — and we waited. And we waited. And he was crying and sweating. And it was terrible. Finally, they brought us back. I was so relieved. The nurses were two kind, older women. I felt like maybe it was going to be okay, until the doctor came in. He proceeded to look me up and down and after tossing a cursory glance at my son and said, “We don’t deal with that here. There’s really nothing we can do.”

That was before he began flirting with me.

“So … are you from around here?”

“Yes. What do you mean, there’s nothing you can do?”

“Where did you go to high school?”

“Not here. Why can’t you try to manually remove the poop?”

(More mindless chatter until I interrupted him to ask again why he was refusing to even look at my son’s situation.)

“Well, constipation is common in children his age, and he just needs some magnesium citrate. But he could also see a pediatric G.I.”

“The reason why I’m here is because there is literally poop lodged in his anus that I have not been able to get out. I tried. It needs to be removed. He can’t even walk.”

The doctor proceeded to look down my four-year-old’s throat and say, “Your mommy is pretty.”

THAT IS WHAT HE DID.

FUCK YOU, MOTHERFUCKER.

Let me tell you something, idiots of the modern world: moms don’t want to be flirted with when their child is writhing in pain. We also do not enjoy being talked down to like we are nothing but walking, talking vaginas. If I wanted to pay $100 to be objectified, I would have gone to another part of town.

Because I didn’t know what else to do to cope with my rage, I posted a rant about what was happening on my Modern Mommy Madness Facebook page, and a wonderful woman named Jennifer contacted me. She married into a family I’ve known my whole life, but until today I’d never had the privilege of talking to her beyond a brief hello. And now I think we might be best friends.

Jennifer is a mom and a nurse at a local E.R. and she told me if I brought my son to her, she would do whatever was necessary to help him. I almost started crying right then and there. I know it’s only poop, but when your kid is in pain and you are out of ideas and someone tosses you a lifeline, it’s a game-changer. I needed a lifeline. We immediately went to the hospital where she works.

Asher

Medical professionals who are actually good at their job and don’t spend their time hitting on women instead of treating patients are amazing creatures and I love them. I love them like I love the teachers who so painstakingly teach my children how to write their names. Just as I don’t have the skill set to teach my children how to read or write without screaming into a pillow, it turns out that I also don’t know how to properly extract impacted shit from an anus that does not belong to me.

Truth be told, I didn’t think I would make it through the experience of holding my son’s legs as Jennifer carefully and professionally pulled poop out of my child. The doctor came in to shake my hand and all I could think (or say) was, “HOW DO YOU PEOPLE DO THIS EVERY DAY?!”

The hospital bill is astronomical. For shit. An astronomical bill because of literal shit.

However, the point of me writing this is not to bitch about money or medical bills. It’s to say that when you see an opportunity to help another woman and you do it, you can SAVE HER. Literally and figuratively, save her.

I hope I can pay it forward and throw someone else a lifeline. I think that we women often shrug things off and think we can’t make a difference in this world, really. Well, I’m here to tell you that  WE CAN.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some wine to drink.

Wine

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Motherhood Is Hard On Control Freaks

I performed yesterday for Baton Rouge’s production of Listen To Your Mother, and it was amazing. If you are interested in seeing a video of the performance, there will be an official copy uploaded to YouTube soon and I will be sure to post about it here (unless I look like a damn fool, in which case I will never mention it again).

Here we go.

I … am a control freak.

Therefore, motherhood has always been a struggle for me. I lie awake at night mentally preparing for the next day, scheduling and planning and strategizing, and without fail, something always goes wrong. Papers are forgotten, shoes and keys are misplaced, and someone always has to poop at the worst possible time.

Yet day after day, I continue to try to control the chaos. It’s like I just can’t learn how to let go. But, as well all know, life has a funny way of teaching us lessons that we really don’t want to learn.

It was the day before school was scheduled to start back after Winter Break, and the kids and I were having the best day we’d had in weeks. I’m fairly certain it was because I was giddy with excitement to send them back to school, and they were equally as giddy at the thought of returning. Either way, we were having fun.

I was standing in the middle of the living room minding my own business when one of my children jumped onto my back, throwing his arms around my neck. I fell backwards, hitting my head on a piece of furniture.

The emergency room doctor diagnosed me with a concussion: a traumatic brain injury that altered the way my brain functions, because that is the kind of thing that happens when you grow up and decide to become a mom.

I don’t remember much of the weeks that followed except that I kept trying to do laundry and my husband kept telling me he would take care of it, but he didn’t display the same sense of urgency that I have, so the cycle continued. I kept trying to do it, and he kept trying to stop me.

He insisted that he would feed the children breakfast and ordered me to stay in bed. I laid there obsessing over what he might be feeding them. Did he rip open a box of Cheez-Its and let them go to town? Or worse — Oreos? Were they getting enough fiber? Were they hydrated? Would he remember to pack their lunch boxes?

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Robbie takes good care of me.

I tiptoed down the hall to listen, and every single time, I was caught and put back to bed.

This was hard.

I was put on “brain rest.” Do you know how impossible it is for a mother of three to rest her brain? I pushed earplugs into my ears and stared at the white walls in the dark for many more hours than I was comfortable with, and realized as the minutes ticked by just how much of a control freak I really am.

People kept telling me not to do things. “Don’t look at screens,” they said. “Don’t read. Don’t think too much. Don’t drive. Don’t write. Basically sit in a dark room by yourself and stare at the window until you feel like jumping out of it.”

I got tired of being told to relax. Sitting on the beach with champagne is relaxing. Massages are relaxing. Going to Target alone is relaxing.

Recovering from a concussion is not.

At my follow-up visit, my doctor said, “You seem a little on edge.” Well, maybe I’m on edge because every time I let my guard down a child jumps on my back and concusses me. Maybe THAT’S why.

Mom

Me and my amazing mother.

There are 5 stages of grief when a mother is sidelined due to injury or illness.

Stage one is denial. I was in that stage for a solid 2 weeks, trying and failing to continue mothering as if nothing was out of the ordinary, all the while doing things like squirting ketchup into my toddler’s sippy cup.

Ketchup and juice are totally the same thing.

We acquired a pet during this stage. My family tells me that a stray cat showed up one day, and I am the one who suggested that we buy cat food to properly feed her.

I have no recollection of this.

Stage two is anger. This was when I realized that I was not going to be able to power through a head injury like I did with, say, a common cold. Moms don’t take sick days, and I did not have time for this. I. Was. Pissed.

I put a mug of water in the kitchen cabinet and waited for it to heat up so I could make some tea. I drummed my fingers on the counter, waiting impatiently for the timer to ding. When it didn’t, and I realized what I’d done, I was angry.

When I forgot our yard man’s name, I was angry.

When I went into the house to write him a check and couldn’t find the checkbook that was in my purse, I got angry. And then I forgot what I was supposed to be doing, and never returned outside to pay him.

Stage three is bargaining. If only we hadn’t had all of these children. If only I hadn’t turned my back to my child that day. If only my husband hadn’t taught them how to wrestle. Someone should have stressed that we NEVER TRY TO WRESTLE MOMMY.

I should have never let my guard down. But now it was too late, and I still could not recall our street address, and I was positive that I was going to have the dumb until the day I died.

Stage four is depression. I OWNED that stage. I really rocked depression. At one point, my hair smelled like old socks and I didn’t even care. During this stage, I actually enjoyed staring at the ceiling and walls.

My family members, who fancy themselves comedians, tried to help me see the bright side of things.

“You’ve been different ever since the accident,” they said. “You keep insisting that we call you Harmony.”

They called me Tina for a full week.

Stage five, the final stage, is acceptance. I accepted that my memory may never be quite the same. I accepted that we have a cat now, and her name is Magnolia, and every time I load our kids into the minivan I have to keep her from jumping in.

I accepted that this is the new, quirkier me.

I accepted that I will always be a control freak, and life will always find a way to put me in my place, because I chose to become a mother.

And motherhood is really hard on control freaks.

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Photo credit: Whitney Andrus

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What Is Small

Everything is chaos until I tuck my daughter into bed. She is so calm, so sweet, so complacent, as she snuggles down in her big bed under fluffy covers. I smooth her hair, hand her the two tattered lovies that she sleeps with every night, and lie down next to her.

Every other night I pray and sing, but tonight there is a lump in my throat and it’s too big to let anything out. I just lie there in the dark and listen to her sweet toddler voice as she says take a bath, go to bed over and over and I think to myself maybe this is all I need to be well.

Maybe when life feels too big I need to focus on what is small.

Bed

Pure joy.

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How Raising A Strong-Willed Boy Forced Me To Grow Up

I’m a late bloomer and rehabbed people-pleaser, and it wasn’t until I gave birth to our first child that I finally grew the hell up.

4 months old

This photo was taken on my first day back to work after a 4-month maternity leave, January 2009.

He broke my tailbone entering the world. I was bucked off a mule at age 8, which broke my tailbone and left it pointing inward. I was never aware of this until 20 years later when, after two hours of pushing, the doctors determined my baby boy was stuck behind it.

With the threat of a C-section looming, my son and I furrowed our brows, rolled up our metaphorical sleeves and did what we had to do. I pushed with all my might and he re-broke the bone, forcing his way out. It sounds awful, but really, what’s a broken bone when you’re pushing a human being out of your vagina? It was just another source of discomfort in an already uncomfortable area (and it makes a pretty fantastic story).

I was so unsure of myself when I became a mom. When I think about that person—so nervous about changing her baby’s diaper that she had to have “help” doing it for much longer than I’m comfortable admitting—I can’t be mad at her. She had no idea what she was doing. I give her grace. But also, she really needed to grow the hell up.

And so, because the universe knew I needed it, I was given a very challenging first child. I was forced out of my comfort zone in every way, having no other choice but to learn to ignore what everyone else said and go with my gut.

I grew up.

I learned that my mother does not always know what is best. She knew what was best when she was raising me, because she is my mother, but she does not by default know what is best for me now or what is best for my children. There comes a time when things change, and it can be disorienting. But it’s also necessary.

I realized that it doesn’t matter what other people think about my parenting or my children, because they are mine. Mine to screw up. Mine to encourage. Mine to raise into functional human beings. Mine. No one else’s.

I stopped apologizing, for the state of my house, for the food that I did or did not cook, for my appearance, for my child’s personality. One day, I simply ran out of fucks to give. I don’t owe the world apologies for being who I am, and I certainly don’t want my children to grow up under that assumption. Part of growing the hell up is realizing how fantastic you are and owning it.

Cat and boys

A typical scene at my house. Poor kitty.

I found inner strength. Parenting my strong-willed oldest child broke down every wall I’d ever built. It caused me to question every belief I’ve ever had. I had to throw out everything I’d read in every single parenting book and start from scratch. I am no longer a delicate flower—I can throw a 60-pound child over my shoulder and haul him out of Target if I have to, and he knows it. It took time, but eventually I discovered a durability in myself that I didn’t know existed.

I realized that I am a damn good mom. It was a slow progression, but one day I realized that I haven’t completely screwed up this complicated child. In fact, I’ve done an amazing job with him. He is still challenging, and there are still days that I struggle, but because I have grown the hell up I don’t question every choice I make anymore. I am confident in what I say and do because of everything listed above.

That boy who has given me so many gray hairs in just seven short years has also shaped my spirit in countless ways. He helped me grow up.

And thanks to him, I also always know when it’s going to rain, because my aching tailbone tells me.

© 2015 Harmony Hobbs, as first published on Scary Mommy.

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The Day My Pride Died

Last week I made an enormous ass of myself at my husband’s place of employment.

He’s a manager at a car dealership, and I don’t know what kind of people the other managers have coming to visit them at work, but I highly doubt Robbie will ask me to stop by and visit him again anytime soon.

I could offer up a thousand reasons why I was so stressed out, but the summarized version is that I was out running errands with two of my children, trying to beat the rain. We were right across the street from where he works, and I thought, you know what, I should call Robbie and ask him to come meet us for lunch. That would be a nice thing to do. So I did.

I’m a good wife. A thoughtful wife.

He said he could not meet us, but would we like to stop by the dealership instead? He just moved to a new store, and I have not met any of his new co-workers yet or seen his fancy new office.

I looked at the sky, which was black. I looked at our two youngest children, who were both covered in cinnamon sugar. I looked at myself, and quickly looked away. This was NOT a good time to make a first impression.

“Of course,” I said. “We’ll be there in a few minutes.”

The dealership was very busy, and because I was distracted by all of the activity, I pulled in the wrong way and a mail truck was blocking my path. Robbie emerged from the building and watched as I tried and failed to maneuver our gigantic van into a parking spot as our over-excited children shrieked and screamed “DADDDDDDDY! DAAAAAAAAADDY!” from the backseat.

My 4-year-old unbuckled himself and slammed into the back of the front passenger seat as I rolled over a curb. “WHY ARE YOU UNBUCKLED?!” I screeched as I threw it into reverse. By now a crowd was gathering. Robbie visibly cringed as I tried once more to squeeze our vehicle into a too-small spot. And that is when it happened.

I snapped.

Maybe it was all the errand-running. Maybe my nerves were shot, and my blood sugar was low and I was over caffeinated. Maybe I should have declined his offer to come visit and maybe I should have worn a more flattering outfit and MAYBE I HAVE NO BUSINESS DRIVING THIS MOTHER FUCKER OF A VAN.

Muttering unrepeatable phrases under my breath, I squealed off, again in the wrong direction, trying to turn around. By now everyone was definitely staring, and I was furious — with myself, with my husband, with the screeching children, and with life in general.

I drove directly into a dead end portion of the Hyundai lot and screamed. Then I realized that my window was rolled down.

pRIDE

This is the actual dealership where my pride passed away.

Two salesmen were watching me, and I imagined the following conversation taking place:

Salesman #1: Hey man, do you see the new finance guy’s batshit crazy wife attempting a 3-point turn in that tiny area surrounded by brand new cars?

Salesman #2: DUDE.

Salesman #1: I hope she hits one. That would be AMAZING.

Salesman #2: It’s looking like she might.

Salesman #1: Damn, she made it out.

I finally made it back around to the appropriate parking space. My husband unloaded our stunned children and I sat in the car, too mortified to exit the vehicle. “We can sneak in through the courtyard,” Robbie said. “There’s a back door. No one will see you.”

I got a baseball cap out of my bag and pulled it low over my face. I avoided eye contact as we sneaked in through the back door. Because that’s what my life has become.

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Standing In The Fire

Last night I had the most terrifying dream that I was in the kitchen cooking and a fire started, and it just kept spreading and spreading until I was entirely surrounded. I was YELLING for help, but my family didn’t hear me. They were all in the next room.

That is what grief feels like.

There have been times in my life when a friend confided something shocking to me that I didn’t know how to deal with, and I handled it poorly. When I was 15 and away at boarding school, my best friend back home got pregnant. She informed me via a handwritten letter that was delivered under my dorm room door, because it was 1995 and that’s how things were done before the internet.

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do or how to process the thought of becoming a mother when we didn’t even have a license to drive. I’m pretty sure whatever my response was, it sucked. Just like when my high school friend called one day in July to tell me that he was gay. GAY?! I didn’t know anyone who was gay. I stammered and mumbled and got off the phone as fast as I could, because I didn’t know how to be with him in his fire.

I sucked.

These are the things I think of as I grapple with grief over the fact that we don’t know how much time my mother has left. It could be years. It could be days. No one can tell us for sure, because cancer is fucked up and unpredictable and incurable. And I am here, in this fire, burning. Seeing people fidget and stammer because they don’t know what to say because grief is uncomfortable. Death is uncomfortable. Dealing with loss when no one has died is a strange thing that isn’t easily explained.

fire

My sons, November 2014

Yesterday I ran into someone I haven’t seen in a long time. You know how sometimes you meet someone and you just really love them and you don’t even know why? Well, there is a lady named Virginia that I feel that way about. I LOVE VIRGINIA.

She asked me a question — “How is your mom doing?” — and really asked it. She wanted me to tell her the truth. Most people might think they want to know the truth, until you start to tell them and they realize how horrible the truth is and they get weird and then you feel even worse because not only are you carrying around this emotional weight, but now you’ve gone and made someone else uncomfortable with it, too.

When Virginia asks a question, she expects an answer. And when I tried to glaze it over, she stopped me. She wouldn’t let me glaze it over. She stood with me, in my anger and in my grief. Do you know how rare that is, for us to stop our lives momentarily to really connect with another human, and stand with them in their mess?

I needed that.

The world needs more Virginias.

What I didn’t know in 1995, but certainly realize now, is that all people really need is for others to genuinely acknowledge their suffering … even if it’s impossible to extinguish the fire that’s causing it.

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Pick Up The Phone: Being Responsible For Your Own Happiness

My platform is rooted in honesty.

Lately I’ve felt like a liar because I used to be a humor writer, I think. But then a lot of bad things happened in my life, and I couldn’t find humor as much anymore. But you guys stick with me anyway, even when I write about things like my mom having cancer and about my need for anxiety medication and my uncle getting murdered in my childhood home, and my head injury which, let’s face it, COMPLETELY KNOCKED ME OFF MY GAME.

Here is the truth: I got very depressed in February. Maybe I was depressed in January, and December, and November, and October. I don’t know because I’m in the thick of life right now. I’m swallowed up. I’m in the weeds, you guys. It’s disorienting and I have claustrophobia and I hate how this feels. I hate how it makes me anxious, and my anxiety manifests in anger, so I find myself yelling at my family a lot when they are just doing normal family things like smearing toothpaste on clean hand towels and leaving crumbs all over the floor.

They deserve a better me. I deserve a better me.

So I started therapy — for myself and for my oldest child. It turns out that I am not crazy, it’s just that the anxiety medication I was on was making me depressed and also I have a lot on my plate and my brain was bruised.

Maybe the knock to the head changed my brain chemistry, or maybe I just didn’t need that particular medication anymore, but either way I flushed all those tiny white pills down the toilet and breathed a sigh of relief.

I breathed another sigh of relief when we were told that our child isn’t crazy — in fact, he is quite the opposite. Extremely bright and polite to everyone except for his parents, so we can rule out Oppositional Defiant Disorder (thank God).

Maverick has ADHD. And I’ve long suspected it and I knew it, deep in my soul, but I just didn’t want it to be so. I knew he was hard to parent. So, so hard. He never has been much of a sleeper; he stopped napping at 18 months old. He’s extremely defiant and stubborn and loud and messy, more so than other boys. But he’s also brilliant and charming, just like his Daddy.

OMG … his Daddy.

His Daddy has ADHD, too.

THAT MUST BE WHY I FELL IN LOVE WITH HIM, BECAUSE HE WAS SO QUIRKY AND BRILLIANT AND UNPREDICTABLE AND NOW WE HAVE BEEN TOGETHER FOR 13 YEARS AND SOMETIMES HE MAKES ME WANT TO SMOTHER HIM WITH A PILLOW BUT I DON’T BECAUSE I REALLY DO LOVE HIM.

I married the right man for me, but it doesn’t mean that we are without our struggles. When we come out on the other side of this difficult phase, I’d maybe like to just forget it ever happened. It’s hard. Marriage is hard. But would I want to tough it out with anyone else?

No.

Mommy and Mav

Back to Maverick, all of the parenting tactics that work for other people? None of them were working for us. We have very low lows and very high highs and as much as I struggled, I fought for my son because I believe in him.

But then I reached a point where I was out of ideas. I needed help.

The day I sat in that dark gray chair decorated with silver studs and the counselor said, “You have done a fantastic job for the past 7 years, but you must be emotionally exhausted,” I burst into tears.

Yes. I am emotionally exhausted.

“Parenting is supposed to be exhausting,” she said. “In fact, if you aren’t exhausted, you probably aren’t doing it right.” She went on to say a whole bunch of other validating, complimentary things that gave me hope and let me know that I did a good thing by seeking help.

People say all the time that it takes a village to raise our children, and lament the modern loss of the village. I say that we have to make our own damn village. My village consists of a therapist for myself, a therapist for my child, teachers for all three of my children, and a handful of extraordinary friends.

Extraordinary friends get a phone call halfway through getting hair extensions put in and head over right away to drive you to the hospital because you’re feeling weird 6 weeks after a concussion and need to have your head scanned again.

Extraordinary friends learn your actual weight — which is not the weight on your driver’s license — because you have to say it out loud in the E.R. triage.

They also understand that they are never speak of it. Ever.

Part of being a grown up is knowing what you need and then going out and getting it, because grown ups are responsible for their own happiness and well-being. So today, my friends, I ask you to take stock of your own lives and make sure you have what you need.

And if you don’t, then WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING READING THIS?! Pick up the phone and make shit happen.

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Mom Moments

Groceries

Sometimes I wonder if other people find themselves angry, only to realize that the thing that upset them so much is something that they did. I feel like this happens to me a lot. I’ll find myself standing in the bathroom saying half-aloud, WHO LEFT THE TOILET PAPER ROLL EMP …. oh.

Me. I did. I am the one who failed to refill the toilet paper roll.

I have a feeling that the transition into dementia in about 30 or so years won’t be that difficult.

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The Unexpected Is The Best Part

“I’m your Venus, I’m your fire. At your desire…”

I was singing “Venus” by Bananarama at the top of my lungs in the car (don’t judge—you know you do it too) when my son piped up from the backseat.

“Why are you singing a song about penises?”

I stopped singing.

“‘I’m your penis, I’m your fire. At your desire,’ is that what the song is saying, Mommy? Because that does not seem appropriate.”

Children: They wreak havoc on our lives, turning what used to be normal upside down and shaking it with their grimy little hands. Sometimes it feels like they are literally trying to kill us—or at the very least, commit us—and then they make up for all of it at once by saying or doing something absolutely unexpected.

Motherhood is chock-full of the unexpected. I now tell my friends who are new mothers to throw out every baby book they acquired during pregnancy. Burn them. They are of no use to you now. There is no way to know what to expect, because children, and people in general, are full of surprises.

There is simply no way to prepare.

The first time I gave birth, someone handed me a baby. It took a while for it to sink in that he was mine. I stared down at a tiny human who was somehow completely like me and also nothing like me, and realized that everything I thought I knew was wrong and none of the knowledge I had worked so hard to amass during pregnancy applied anymore.

This actually worked out perfectly since I was too tired to remember it anyway. I threw it all out and started over.

That’s parenthood in a nutshell.

MJ.jpg

Practicing his Michael Jackson dance moves.

Parenting is a job so complex that experts have been trying to guide us in it for decades, and yet still none of us have it figured out—including the experts. They waffle back and forth on co-sleeping and breastfeeding and what is safe to eat and drink during pregnancy. If you can imagine it, there’s been an “expert” study done on it.

Throw it out.

We are to love our children, provide for their basic needs, and follow our instincts. Those things look vastly different for each family, because we are all different. Trying to force your situation into a neatly labeled box because someone else told you that’s what is best is only asking for disappointment and guilt.

It’s hard to set aside your own expectations and allow yourself to be fluid enough to bend, to be open to seeing your child for the unique person that he is, and to adjust accordingly. But motherhood is as much about refining yourself as it is about refining your children.

There comes a point when you realize that you are the expert.

After explaining to my son that the song was about Venus, the goddess of love, and NOT about penises, I realized once again how lucky I am to have the kind of kid who yells unexpectedly from the backseat. Not once was that topic addressed in any of my parenting books.

“I don’t want my penis to catch fire!” he shouted.

“That would be terrible!” I yelled back.

There is really no guide for moments like this. And that’s OK. The best part about being a parent is not knowing what’s next.

© 2016 Harmony Hobbs, as first published on Scary Mommy.

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Hot Mom Trends

When my friend Deva at My Life Suckers invited me to participate in her latest video, I had to say yes. Everything she does is amazing!

Check it out!

 

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Toddlers: Making Fools of Parents Since The Beginning of Time

Toddlers love to make fools of us.

Have you noticed? They wait until you’re in a busy parking lot unloading a month’s worth of groceries to melt down and act demon-possessed. They scream for waffles and you finally break down and make waffles and then they scream “NO WAFFLE! YUCKY WAFFLE!” and throw it on the floor.

You are so hungry from all of the intense parenting that you dust it off and eat it yourself. But then they cry because they are hungry.

They cry because you ate their waffle.

Cry car

A toddler will proudly recite her full name and phone number over and over, yet when asked to repeat it for an audience (after you have bragged about it incessantly) she remains silent because she’s too busy pooping her pants to be bothered.

Last week, our city was shut down due to severe weather. All of the kids were home, but Robbie was at work because car dealerships never, ever close, even in the face of imminent tornadoes and hail. After all, someone somewhere might still trek out in the middle of destruction to buy a brand-new car, because obviously the best time to make an investment is when you have to drive it home in a hailstorm.

I was already having a hard day because between weather warnings, Asher, the 4-year-old, got super sick and threw up everywhere. I asked Maverick to take his little sister somewhere else in the house to play while I cleaned up the mess. It took me a good 30 minutes to get myself, Asher, and the house back under control, and by the time I was done, the other two were done playing.

Maverick pulled me aside and said, “I think Pepper has one of my marbles.”

I looked at her. She stared back silently.

She had a marble in her mouth.

After I freaked out and removed it, I made a huge production of telling her that only food goes in our mouths. She just laughed.

A few minutes later, I was standing in the play room when she walked up to me with a AA battery in her hand. I took it from her and asked, “Where did you get this?” I discovered that she had removed the bottom of an LED candle that requires two AA batteries to work. I had one of them, and the other one was missing.

I forced myself to remain calm as I searched for the missing battery. It was nowhere to be found.

“Pepper, where is the other battery?”

She looked straight at me and said, “I ate it. It’s in my tummy.”

That is when I panicked.

I made Maverick help me look — his little brother was still sitting exactly where I’d left him, with a mixing bowl in his lap in case he needed to throw up again — and we couldn’t find it anywhere. I asked her again where the battery was and she said, this time more emphatically, “IT’S IN MY TUMMY.”

I called 911.

The nice lady on the other end of the line said yes, my child definitely needed to go to the E.R. I told her to send an ambulance, because I didn’t know which one of my family members I would be able to get in touch with, and I was home alone with the kids … one of whom was projectile vomiting.

The next 20 minutes were a blur of frantic phone calls and adults arriving to help — first, my dad, followed by my in-laws, and finally, the ambulance.

The EMT’s acted like they had ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD, meandering slowly up to my house and into my kitchen. I mean, I understand that a child swallowing a battery is not as emergent, as, say, a child who fell in glass. Because that has also happened in our house, a few years ago. But still — to me, this was emergent.

They slowly nodded their heads and said yes, she needed to go to the hospital to get checked out, but they couldn’t take her. Not because taking her would leave us with an astronomical ambulance bill. Not because they needed to leave and assist someone who was about to bleed to death. Nope. They couldn’t take her to the hospital because they didn’t have a car seat.

I’m going to let that sink in for a moment.

“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE, I’M TAKING HER,” I said. And we left.

The emergency room was packed. Cell phones were blaring with severe weather warnings and they had us all crammed in the interior of the hospital, away from windows and doors, so there was nowhere to sit and there is no telling what kind of illness we picked up there.

Pepper ER

Once we were in a room, the nurse was incredulous: “You think this kid ate a AA battery?” And I said, “THAT’S RIGHT” and tried not to snicker as he had this ridiculous line of questioning with her wherein she repeated everything he said and made him look like a absolute moron.

***

Nurse: “Hi, there.”

Pepper: (Silent stare.)

Nurse: “What did you do with the battery?”

Pepper: “What did you do with the battery?”

Nurse: “Did you throw the battery away?”

Pepper: “Did you throw the battery away?”

Nurse: “Did you put the battery in your tummy?”

Pepper: “Did you put the battery in your tummy?”

***

We got an X-ray.

Our toddler did not eat a battery. She was also growing increasingly annoyed with us and with the entire situation. I was past my breaking point and started feeding her half-wrapped candy from the bottom of my purse just to keep her happy until we could get the hell out of there.

We paid $150 to the hospital for their services, marking the THIRD TIME WE HAVE DONE THIS SINCE 2016 BEGAN, and went home.

The tornadoes headed East.

Robbie went back to work.

And I mustered, from the very bottom of the deepest reserves, the energy to uncork a bottle of wine.

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Toddlers Who Can’t Even

Ceci can't even

Cannot.

I love it when my friends send me pictures of their hilarious children and allow me to meme them. Also, I do this EXACT thing at least 5 times a day.

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The Concussion Diaries

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mother of three, recovering from a brain injury, then I’m your gal.

What’s that? It’s never crossed your mind?

WELL. Maybe it’s time your eyes were opened, my friend, because it’s dangerous out there.

On January 4, 2016, the day before school was scheduled to resume after the longest holiday break ever, I was standing in the living room with my back to the couch. My oldest child, age 7, leaped onto my back in a crazy ninja move normally reserved for daddies. I fell and hit the back of my head, and the rest has been … let’s see, how can I put this? FUCKING TERRIBLE.

*I won’t allow myself to wallow in despair and whine about the struggle of not being able to drive for almost 3 weeks, or go on and on about how embarrassing it is to wear sunglasses in the grocery store because the lights are too bright. I’ll skip the part where Target mailed me a new Red Card and I lost it (in my own home), ordered a new one, then found the old one, and couldn’t figure out which one to activate.

These are not real problems. These are First World Problems. I try not to feel too sorry for myself, even though I totally feel sorry for myself. My life — and my freelancing career — were finally sort of on track. I had plans. Goals. Things happening. The holidays were finally over, my kids were going back to school, and I had projects to work on.

I don’t know if you know this, but Type A people typically struggle in the role of stay-at-home mom. I can’t just cuddle with my kids all day, as nice as it may sound. I have too much shit to do. Not that I don’t love to cuddle, I guess, it’s just … it’s hard for me. My personality doesn’t mesh with all-day cuddling. I AM NOT A LAID BACK PERSON.

It felt good to see my “hobby” turn into an actual part-time job. I need to work to feel sane. And then I got concussed, and all of that stopped. In addition, I’ve had to scale back to zero on everything. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

Watching my life grind to a halt has been a lesson in patience that I have absolutely zero interest in learning, which likely means that I will continue floundering like a fish out of water until I learn it.

Since the accident almost two months ago, so many things have happened. Just this week, I forgot my oldest was getting out of school early. When he arrived home, no one was there to greet him. He was alone and afraid AND a candle was burning, because I lit it and totally forgot about it BECAUSE I WAS TOO BUSY FORGETTING ABOUT MY SON.

Concusser

My concusser and I.

On a different day, a Saturday, I took a shower and emerged to find a very quiet house. The kids were wandering the neighborhood, shoeless. We’re those people now. The ones with barefoot, aimless children and a not-quite-right mother who yells a lot. A lot.

I waxed off half an eyebrow with a Sally Hansen at-home waxing kit.

I saw a neurologist, lost the paperwork from the visit, and had to ask a friend who my neurologist is, because I certainly could not remember. This is the same friend (Audrey Hayworth, say hello) who was getting extensions put in her hair when she got a call from my husband asking her please to take me to the Emergency Room for yet another brain scan, because something was wrong with me.

She literally got out of the extension-installer’s chair and hauled my ass to the hospital, and now apparently she’s the person I have to call when I can’t remember my doctor’s name.

Everyone needs an Audrey. People with concussions really need one.

We have a pet cat now. Her name is Magnolia. I have no idea when she showed up or when she became ours.

Cat

I’m afraid if I don’t write these things down, they’ll be lost forever … kind of like the last 2 months of my life. I’ve been living, of course, but nothing is right. The edges are still blurry. My emotions aren’t the same.

Also, I know I’m still healing because I have begun to rely on my husband, the man who loses everything, to help me find things. My, how the tide has turned. I now take back everything I’ve ever said about Robbie misplacing things, because just the other day I spent 30 minutes looking for a receipt in my purse. I was nearly in tears by the time I handed him my purse, because I knew he would be able to find it.

He produced the missing receipt within seconds.

I’m sure there are plenty of life lessons to be learned in all of this, but there one thing I know for certain: many years from now, after I have fully healed and life is normal again, I’ll look back on this time and think to myself, “Huh … I don’t remember any of that.”

*I definitely allow myself to whine about everything. I have been absolutely horrid to live with lately and my family deserves a medal but WAIT A MINUTE, THEY DON’T, BECAUSE I AM THE ONE WHO WAS NEARLY KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY SO GIMME MY MEDAL AND 15 POUNDS OF CHOCOLATE.

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In Praise Of The Awkward Phase

My awkward phase was brutal. When I see throwback pictures of myself at age 13, I cringe so hard that it basically tricks my body into vomiting.

Okay, not really. But almost.

It was during my peak of awkwardness that I had a bad perm, glasses and the wardrobe of a 40-year-old. Not much has changed since then.

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I was 17 in this photo and trying to kick a terrible case of mononucleosis.

I remember what it felt like to have crushes on boys who thought I was unappealing. I recall the sinking feeling of being shut out of the cool crowd and how heavy a lunch tray can feel while navigating an unfamiliar cafeteria.

I remember the dread and the agony, the frizzy hair and the acne. It sucked.

BUT.

The awkward phase, while excruciating, fortified my character. It was uncomfortable as hell, but I had no choice but to dig deep and find the qualities that now sustain me through the difficulties of life. I think we all know people who never had to dig deep in their earlier years. More than likely, they now struggle as adults with life’s difficulties. Let’s be real: It’s difficult to cope effectively with adversity if you’ve never had to face it.

During this low point in my life, I learned empathy because I knew what it felt like to suffer. I discovered my sense of humor, because laughing is preferable to crying. I honed my instincts and refined my bullshit-o-meter. I discovered hidden talents which didn’t involve my looks—obviously.

Despite the tragedy of it all, I do not intend to shelter my children from experiencing their own version of the awkward phase. Honestly, I welcome it. I hope it’s epic. I want them to see what they’re made of. Winston Churchill famously stated, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

I eventually emerged on the other side of hell and went on to discover important things like tweezers and contact lenses.

Now I have a daughter, and she has the kind of cherubic face that makes people stop what they’re doing and stare. We recently walked through our gym hand-in-hand as a water aerobics class was being held, and a literal hush fell over the room. The instructor stopped instructing. Arms drifted down into the water and heads turned as they watched my child toddle by in her Hello Kitty swimsuit and baseball cap.

I can’t blame them. She’s adorable.

The instructor stopped me later and said, “Your little girl is so beautiful. I forgot what I was doing because I was so busy admiring her!”

“Thank you,” I said, as we continued on our way.

My daughter is oblivious to her beauty. She’s a happy, charismatic child, intelligent and charming. She knows her colors and shapes and recognizes numbers and letters, but because she’s beautiful, all people want to talk about is how pretty she is. “But she’s also smart,” I insist. “And funny.”

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No one hears, or maybe they don’t care, because they’re far too busy staring at her wide eyes and dimpled cheeks—and I understand, because I do it too. But I want all three of my children to have strength of character. I want them to know that they have so much more to offer this world than what is visible on the surface.

I want them to be confident in the knowledge that because they survived pimples and name-calling and brutal body odor as an awkward teen, they can also survive rejection and adversity as an adult.

I want them to be kind because they know what it feels like to be on the other side of cruelty. I want them to understand what it’s like to be on top of the world, and then have it all come crashing down in homeroom.

The awkward phase is where life lessons are thrown at you from all directions. It’s painful, but worth it in the end.

Bring on the headgear.

© 2016 Harmony Hobbs, as first published on Scary Mommy.

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Silhouettes.

I wonder if mothers in the 1950’s ever admitted that the stress of having their children’s silhouettes done was the real reason that they abused barbiturates.

Silhouette.jpg

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Bedtime Prayers: A Tale Of An Ugly Cry

We don’t attend church.

We should. I’d like to. But first, we’d have to find a religion that Robbie and I both feel comfortable with, and then we’d have to physically go to a building. Dressed presentably. All 5 of us.

Big hurdles.

However, I do pray with my kids. We pray before meals and before school, when I remember. My favorite thing, though, is praying with them at night before bed. It makes me feel better, like no matter what kind of shit day we’ve had, if I can end it all on a decent note then we’re all going to be alright.

Tonight I was so tired. I just wanted them to put themselves to bed and let me lie down, but that isn’t how life works. Robbie works all the time now, and I have a lot on my plate and … blah, blah, blah.

By 7 p.m. I am just done.

Homework

Homework time.

I tuck Pepper in first, followed by Asher half an hour later, and then finally Maverick. By the time I get around to Maverick I’m spent, which is unfortunate because he asks the most difficult questions of the three and he likes to wait until bedtime to ask them.

A few examples:

“Mommy? Is ‘bitch’ a bad word?”

“What does it mean when I raise my middle finger?”

“What countries have you visited outside of the U.S., and why did you choose them?”

“How do you say ‘it’s hot in here’ in Spanish?”

“Can two boys marry each other?”

Tonight, I was spared the difficult questions. I think he could sense that I was exhausted. I tucked him in, feeling sad that I was too tired to talk more, thinking of his little brother and how I wished I’d given in and read him a second book — but he wanted to read that book about cats that takes half a lifetime to read, and I just could not do it.

I thought about my two-year-old and how she kept asking “What’s this?” and pointing to her wrist and then my wrist, and I maybe should have spent more time talking to her about our wrists and how they magically connect our hands to our arms.

Maverick chattered to himself as he settled into bed and I thought the aforementioned thoughts. I smoothed back his hair as I started praying, but I was too tired to make it a good one. I basically said, Thank you God for giving me Maverick. Please help me be the best mother I can be for him. And please, please help him to be a good boy.

My son looked straight at me and laughed.

“That was silly,” he said.

“I know. I’m just so tired.”

“No, you don’t understand what I mean.” His eyes bored into me.

I sat up straighter. “What?”

“Of course I’m going to be a good boy,” he said. “You’re a good mother. Why WOULDN’T I be good?” He patted me. “Silly Mommy.”

I was thankful for the darkness that hid my ugly cry.

Is there ever a time when your child reaches a point where you can finally sit back and think to yourself DAMN, I DID A GOOD JOB? Because I look forward to that.

Maybe my kid is right, you know. Maybe I am already the best mother I can humanly, possibly be, and that is enough.

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The Krewe of Survival

My writing is, for the most part, unedited truth.

I take pride in putting myself out there so that other women will hopefully read my words and say, “ME, TOO!”

I’m here to remind you that you are never the only one.

There is always someone else experiencing the exact same frustration that you are experiencing as you snap on a pair of rubber gloves and extract yet another toy from the poop-filled toilet, wondering aloud how the hell you keep finding yourself in this situation.

I am here to assure you that your child is not the only child who screams “I WANT TO LET THE WATER OUT OF THE BATH TUB!” followed immediately by, “I DON’T WANT TO LET THE WATER OUT OF THE BATH TUB!” followed immediately by, “I WANT TO SLEEP WITH MY KITTIES!” followed immediately by, “I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP WITH MY KITTIES!”

You are not crazy. You are not alone.

There have been times when I felt so overwhelmed by the constant demands of motherhood that I just laid in the middle of the living room floor like a cartoon character and let my children stare at me until my lower lumbar started to ache.

I never had lumbar problems until I had children.

You are not the only mom who forgot to be at a thing or failed to send that paper or complete that form before the deadline. I’ve done it. ALL OF IT. I had high hopes for what kind of mother I would be and I’ve continually fallen short.

Today I yelled at my sons.

Yesterday I was struggling to put the third row back up in our van and the back hatch slammed down on me just before the third row somehow landed on my shin. I threw an epic, adult-sized tantrum in broad daylight, right there in my driveway. I threw things and said things and I’m pretty sure my neighbors either think I’m crazy or a terrible mom.

Maybe they think I’m home with my kids because I’m too much of a lunatic to hold down a regular job. That was certainly not the case when I started this stay-at-home-mom gig, but after yesterday … I’m beginning to wonder.

God, motherhood is hard.

And I feel sorry for myself.

But I do have good news, and that’s that children are resilient creatures and they seem to have the ability to see past the exterior and deep into the depths of our soul. Children know if you are good or bad and if you truly, deeply, love them.

I love my kids. I love them so much that I keep getting up, yes, every single day, to try to do better than I did yesterday. Except when it’s PMS week. During PMS week, I don’t give a damn about trying harder or doing better.

During PMS week, I just try not to kill people.

Yesterday, my middle child had a Mardi Gras parade and we (the parents) were supposed to decorate a float for them to ride in. Everyone else’s were totally tricked out, because of course they were, and my kid and my friend’s kid were literally thrown together into a white wagon with no decorations.

We drank our coffee and applauded ourselves for being there.

sURVIVAL

My oldest child came home from school upset because a kid in his class, a little girl, keeps making fun of him for being “too hairy.” I told him to tell her that little girls who make fun of other kids for being too hairy turn into gorillas when they hit puberty.

He just stared at me.

We’re surviving.

That’s allowed.

If I am a truth-teller, and I believe that I am, then this is my message: it’s hard to be a mom and no one gets it right.

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Progress Report

Backing away from writing even though I didn’t want or expect to (because of my concussion) has forced me to focus on the little things in life that bring me so much joy. I miss working SO MUCH and I will eventually get back to normal, but I am trying really hard to choose joy in the meantime.

It’s hard not to when she’s staring right at me.

Pepper

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Everything Ends

Almost 8 years ago, I became a mother and kind of lost my shit. That is when I rediscovered my love of writing. Some people use knitting or cooking or Cross Fit to keep their shit intact. I write.

Eight years feels like nothing. Eight years feels like a million.

When was the last time my mom and I went shopping and she didn’t look so tired by the time we were done? When was the last time my youngest let me rock her to sleep? When did my 4-year-old start pronouncing “birthday” correctly?

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When did I begin to get wrinkles around my eyes?

My husband and I have been married for over a decade. He has wrinkles around his eyes, too. I wonder when I first saw them.

Ten years feels like nothing. Ten years feels like a million.

I’ve written before about being in a season that seems never-endingly, suffocatingly difficult. But all things come to an end, right? They must, because my children are changing right in front of me, so quickly that I can’t pinpoint when it happened.

Everything ends.

That is the saddest, and yet most hopeful, phrase a mother can hear.

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When Mindfulness Sucks

My child accidentally concussed me on January 4. It’s an interesting story that I am saving for my Listen To Your Mother audition next month, so I won’t go into it here just yet.

For some reason, even though I couldn’t remember my own birthday, I totally thought I was fine. “You don’t need to take me to the hospital,” I said to my mother-in-law (who is a saint). “I’ll be …”

Then I trailed off. And I was slurring.

“Did I already tell you that you don’t need to take me to the hospital?”

She steered me into the car.

For a full two weeks after my injury, I insisted on trying to carry on with my normal activities as though nothing had happened. I remember almost none of it. It was almost exactly like that time I had about five too many mimosas at brunch and thought I was still okay to drive, and then I backed into another car trying to get out of my parking space. Everyone who was dining on the patio turned around and stared. I was mortified.

BAD, TERRIBLE, AWFUL LIFE CHOICES.

Clearly, I was not fine after suffering a head injury. I was saying things I normally would not say, and doing things I would not normally do, and after embarrassing myself all over town it eventually it sunk in that I really was not going to be able to “power through” this.

And then I got really angry.

The anger phase sucked. I couldn’t exercise, I could barely drive — I say “barely” because I could manage to putt 10 mph for two blocks to get my smaller two to preschool every day, but anything faster than that triggered my vertigo — I wasn’t supposed to look at screens. I did anyway, until I ended up in the emergency room a second time (pictured below).

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Brain injuries make you do stupid things like smile when you’re in the hospital.

I missed writing. I missed my online communities. I missed feeling connected to the world outside of my home.

I was alone, with nothing to do, a lot.

I had time to think. SO MUCH TIME TO THINK. At first I was like, maybe this is a gift. Maybe I can learn from this. Maybe I need to work on becoming more mindful.

And then I realized … mindfulness sucks. Mindfulness blows. Mindfulness is the worst possible thing when you are a writer who is unable to write. I had the most amazing, deeply profound thoughts.

And then I forgot them.

Because I had a concussion.

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Taking Medication Does Not Make Me Weak

I’ve been on anti-anxiety medication at three different points in my life. The first time was after the birth of our first child. The second was after the birth of our second child. And the third time, is now.

I’ve always been an anxious person. As a child, I remember feeling stressed by my parent’s spontaneity. I wanted to know where we were going every time we left the house — my mind raced ahead, planning and preparing. I didn’t like surprises, which was ironic considering I was the only child of two people who have always enjoyed “winging it.”

When I was 6, I began chewing my fingernails. At 9, I started pulling out my hair. I marveled at the strands, each one a different color. Blonde, brown, red—all of them glinted in the sun. One day, I stepped out of the shower and noticed the wide, bald strip running all the way down the middle of my head.

I remember my mom telling me it was okay, that she could cover it up with a side part. I was home-schooled that year, which fortunately spared me from whatever happens to kids who bald themselves in the 3rd grade. It took the remainder of the year for my hair to grow back.

I switched to chewing my cuticles.

At 12, I turned to food. During one particularly stressful Christmas break, I spent all day, every day, at my Grandma’s house eating cheese sandwiches and homemade fudge. I ate until I felt sick. I ate to feel better.

It didn’t work.

I have never been a medicine taker. My mom used to make poultices and tinctures out of tea bags to cure whatever ailed me; we avoided the doctor unless it was absolutely necessary. In fact, until I had my first child and experienced the kind of irrational desperation that made me want to drive my car into a building just to make the pain stop, I was judgmental of people who turned to medication to help them cope. I thought they were weak.

I was wrong.

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The funny thing about people with anxiety is that the mere idea of obtaining a prescription for medication is anxiety-inducing. What if the doctor thinks I’m lying? What if she thinks I’m one of those people who fill the prescription and then sell the meds on the black market? I better dress nicely for my appointment, so I don’t look like the kind of person who engages in criminal activity…but not too nice, because I don’t want to look like I run the crime ring.

Other worries included a paralyzing fear that the apocalypse would arrive and I would not only be unable to see (because I wouldn’t be able to obtain new contact lenses), but I would also lose my fucking mind because I wouldn’t be able to get the anti-anxiety medication that I WOULD CLEARLY NEED TO TAKE IF THE WORLD WAS COMING TO AN END.

I worried about one of my kids getting their hands on my pills and eating them. I worried about turning into a unemotional shell of a person. I worried about which was worse: slowly slipping into alcoholism, or taking medication for stress. Which one would I be judged more harshly for if people found out? Why did it matter?

For a long time, I fought it: I exercised and coped as best I could, but the day finally came when too many things were stacked too high, and they all came crashing down in one fell swoop.

It was time to get help.

My doctor didn’t treat me like a liar. She didn’t judge me. She affirmed, validated and assured me that my emotions were warranted. She patted my arm kindly, a gesture that I assume meant that she didn’t think I was there to con her.

She told me I wasn’t weak. To my surprise, I believed her.

I still read the entire warning label that accompanied the drug prescribed to me, and worried that I would be one of the 1% to experience numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in the hands or feet. I was still concerned that I was losing my mind, but decided that I no longer cared because the tightness in my chest was finally gone.

Medication freed me. I can breathe again, big gulps of air.

People say that it takes courage to ask for help, but I believe that it takes courage to admit that you needed it in the first place.

© 2015 Harmony Hobbs, as first published on Scary Mommy.

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Parenthood Is A Planner’s Worst Nightmare

Hi.

I am still supposed to be on “brain rest,” and I put that term in quotation marks because I have three small kids. On Monday, I was on the phone with a neurologist’s office trying to make an appointment as the two boys threw ashes at each other from the barbecue pit outside.

By the time I was done making my appointment — which, by the way, isn’t until February — they were covered in ashes from head to toe. So yeah. Brain rest.

Sometime last week I had a really good day and I wrote an essay, which I submitted to Babble and it was published. I have little recollection of any of it, but I have to say … I’m pretty proud of my work. Check it out by clicking here!

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Epic Humiliation Post-Concussion

I got a concussion last week, but this blog post is not about that. Don’t worry, I’ll tell the story eventually — but right now I want to talk about how I managed to epically humiliate myself as a result of said concussion.

Are you ready? Okay.

The guy who cuts our grass is Robbie’s childhood best friend’s brother. I would really prefer for Robbie to cut our grass himself, because nothing is more of a turn on for me than a man doing physical labor, but he works a lot now that he’s back in the car business. So we pay his friend’s brother to do it.

I can’t ever seem to recall the guy’s real name, because everyone calls him Wolfie, and I’m not sure if I am allowed to call him that or not, so I don’t call him anything. I just smile and wave.

Yesterday morning I took the little kids to preschool and I was quite proud of myself for doing so, because it was the first time I’ve been able to operate a motor vehicle since getting concussed without feeling like I was completely and utterly drunk. When I returned home, Wolfie was at our house. I was not thinking clearly begin with, and his presence caught me off guard.

Let me go ahead and explain that I normally think quite clearly. It’s not typical for me to be fuzzy-brained, even with three kids, but I was in the E.R. with a concussion 9 days prior to this occurrence and I am still not myself. So I rolled down my window and said good morning, the whole time thinking, “OH SHIT, WHAT IS THIS DUDE’S NAME AND WHY CAN’T I REMEMBER IT EVEN THOUGH I NEVER SAY IT ALOUD BECAUSE I’M NOT SURE IF I AM ALLOWED TO CALL HIM THAT NAME.”

A few minutes into our conversation, I realized he was looking at me funny. Maybe it was because I was acting funny. So I then felt compelled to explain to him that I got a concussion last Monday and his expression turned from slight confusion to mild horror, so I followed up with an explanation of how it happened and watched his horror turn to utter shock.

Then I told him I was going to go inside to write him a check and that I would be right back.

“You don’t have to worry about that,” he said. “I can just bill you.”

But no, I had to go on and on about how I hate letting bills pile up and I definitely wanted to pay him today, so he shrugged and said okay. He stood in my driveway with his weed eater turned off, waiting for me to return.

Except that when I got inside I couldn’t find the checkbook.

And then I couldn’t remember his real name — first OR last — and how much we pay him to cut our grass. So then I just sort of pretended that I forgot.

He eventually turned the weed eater back on and proceeded to spend the next hour mowing our grass. But then he was done, and he knocked on the back door, because I was supposed to have returned with a check over an hour ago.

I was too mortified about my lapse in memory and series of bad choices to do what I should have done, which was to hand him a blank check and ask him to fill it out for me.

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Truth be told, I was afraid if he knew how bad my mental situation really was 9 days post-concussion, he would refuse to leave me alone, and after almost 2 weeks of having other adults up my ass telling me what NOT to do I just couldn’t handle it.

So I laid on the floor.

He continued to knock.

I called Robbie.

“I’m in a weird situation and I need your help.”

“What KIND of weird situation?”

“Ummm … what the guy’s name who mows our grass?”

“Wolfie.”

“He’s here, and I’m pretty sure he thinks I died.”

WHAT?!

Basically, Wolfie is the nicest guy ever and when I did not come to the door, he called his brother, who called my husband and asked if he needed to KICK THE DOOR IN TO CHECK ON ME.

Robbie thankfully explained that I was fine. A tad off, obviously, but fine.

I cannot put into words how mortified I would have been if he had kicked in the door. But also? I totally deserved it.

So the next time I see Wolfie, I’m going to hug him and apologize.

Or I might lie on the floor and play dead.

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An Open Letter To My Children

Dear Children,

I hope that by the time you read this letter you know how much your father and I love you and how we want nothing more than to give you the world. But one day you will come to understand that if we gave you the world, you wouldn’t appreciate it. You wouldn’t live in it with the same pizzazz and gusto as you will if you have to work for it.

We want you to work hard to earn what you have.

It is hard to watch you struggle to learn things on your own, and sometimes I have to fight the urge to swoop in and do things for you, but I try really hard to stand back. I watch and I wait. Usually you can figure it out on your own.

That’s what life is like as a grown up.

Don’t rush to adulthood. It’s hard here. But also, we don’t want you dragging your feet when you’re old enough to be responsible for your own laundry and bills. My job is to put myself out of a job. Don’t expect me to treat you like you’re 7 when you’re 17.

We want you to follow your dreams, live your life to the fullest, and become who you are meant to be, but following your dreams is really hard. No one talks about that part. There will be times when you have no money. Your pride will take a beating. You’ll wonder why you’re putting yourself through this torture. You will feel like you have nothing new to offer. You’ll want to give up, because everything is terrible.

You might come back home and sit on the couch and stay there for several days. It’s okay. We’re here.

But one day out of nowhere, doors will start opening and they will keep opening if you keep working hard and treating other people with respect, and all of the sudden you’ll realize that you are LIVING the dream you once had.

To push through the hard stuff, you have to be persistent. You have to be fueled by something.

What fuels me is the fear of being forced back into a mauve cubicle. I also fear failure. I’m not sure what will fuel you, but it’s usually a terrible experience. That’s why when bad things happen to you, I’ll encourage you to press on. Better things are coming.

They really are.

Halloween

“If you are lucky enough to find a weirdo, never let them go.” — Unknown

I hope that you fall in love with a person who makes you feel like the best version of yourself. I hope you find someone who makes you laugh and who inspires you. If you can’t find someone like that, get a dog.

I insisted on having the three of you because I know what it feels like to be the only child. You are each other’s people, and I hope that you all stick together when weird family stuff happens. If you start acting crazy when I am on my deathbed, I will come back and haunt you.

Motherhood is my greatest joy. It is my greatest achievement, producing the three of you. But I am many other things in addition to being your mother. I have to be, to hold onto who I am. Never allow yourself to be absorbed into anyone else, even your own children.

Whatever you are, be that.

And whatever that is, I will always love you.

Love,

Your Mother

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Believe In Your Kid

I’m bottoming out over here.

Parenting is so hard. People like to talk about the warm and fuzzy stuff and leave out the hard as shit part, probably out of fear of being judged for their honesty.

Well, I don’t mind being honest. Figuring out how to manage other humans who don’t know how to do anything until you teach them is a ridiculously complicated, difficult job. Throw in some external stressors and a genetic tendency towards attention disorders and motherhood goes from “complicated” to “I REALLY DON’T KNOW IF I CAN DO THIS WITHOUT DYING BECAUSE I ACTUALLY FEEL LIKE I MIGHT NOT MAKE IT OMG I’M DEAD I DIED.”

Today, I hit a new low in parenting where I found myself alone with my kids — well, actually, they were all inside of the car and I was standing outside of the car trying to pull myself together — in the driveway of my parent’s house. All the other adults were safely inside, probably talking about me and wondering how I was going to discipline my oldest son for the events that had just taken place. My husband was at work, and I was alone, staring up at the sky, desperately trying to come up with something to say to my kid that wouldn’t scar him for life.

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Sometimes it feels like I am screwing everything up. Like … I’m positive of it. Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with my child, and other times I wonder what is wrong with me. I worry about what kind of man he will become, whether or not he will choose to use his talents for good or for evil. He’s got so much potential, but like all children, there’s no way of knowing how he will turn out.

That’s what makes parenting the hardest, I think. The not knowing. If I knew what was going to happen in the end, like what kind of adult he’s going to turn into, maybe I wouldn’t care so much about screen time and carbonated beverages. Maybe I would be able to let more shit go. But because there’s always a nagging question in my mind of whether or not I’m truly giving my children my best, I do care. I try and it’s hard and I struggle and I fail a lot and it’s literally the most humbling experience of my life.

So today when I hit bottom, feeling empty like there was absolutely nothing left, a thought entered my mind.

Believe in your kid.

My mother would tell me that was God. Maybe it was, but that sounds crazy, so let’s say it wasn’t. I don’t know where it came from, but it was clear as day.

Believe in your kid.

I can do that,” I literally said out loud, like a crazy person.

I mustered up some courage and made the decision to believe; to believe he is good, believe he is trainable, believe he has love and good things in him, and most of all, believe that I am the best mother to guide him. Believing in my kid means that I have to also believe in myself.

So, I do.

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