My 12-Year-Old Self

Recently I had the pleasure of talking to Allison Tate, a widely respected editor and writer who, at 40, seems wise beyond her years. Her writing has gone viral over and over again not only because it’s beautifully written, but also because she knows things.

I soak up everything she says like a big nerdy sponge.

We were talking about goals and being happy with where you are in life. She suggested thinking about how your 12-year-old self would feel about where you are right now. Would she be happy with what you’ve achieved? Would she be proud?

I have spent the past week reflecting on this. If someone threw out the question “Are you happy?” I would say yes without thinking. Of course I’m happy! I’ve always been happy. It would be weird to have a name like Harmony and be a sullen bitch.

But in the day-to-day grind, I’m not sure that I am happy, not really. I feel frustrated and dissatisfied for reasons I’m unable to pinpoint. I’m tired of being broke. I’m tired of cleaning up puddles of pee. I’m anxious to get all of my kids in school so I can devote more time to freelancing, which will hopefully translate into money. Or maybe I need to find a real job where I can do real things without little people following behind me, immediately undoing them.

One afternoon this week, my three-year-old accidentally peed all over the bathroom floor. Thankful he at least made it to the bathroom, I mopped it all up while he changed into clean clothes.  Approximately 20 minutes later, he asked for some lemonade.

By this point in the day, I was desperate for peace and I didn’t care that the baby was playing with plastic sandwich bags in the kitchen; I stepped over them and poured him a cup full of lemonade.

I was just turning around to remind him to be careful when he stepped in the pile of bags and slipped, slinging lemonade into the air and landing on his arm, which I was sure was broken. Blood poured out of his mouth as he screamed. Lemonade dripped into my cabinets and drawers.

His little sister ignored it all and kept playing.

20150430_170626The arm was not broken, and the blood was coming from his tongue. He was fine. Approximately 20 minutes later, he had another accident in the bathroom. This time, he carefully covered the enormous puddle with thin layers of toilet paper.

“I trying to clean it up, Mommy,” he explained when I walked in. A valiant effort, which I thanked him for as I gathered wads of pee-soaked tissue off the floor.

Maybe the real issue is that I am done with childbearing and now I just want to move on to the next phase of my life, where afternoons like the one I just described don’t happen anymore. Don’t say it — I know these challenges will be replaced with bigger ones. I like to believe that I am better-equipped to cope with older kid problems than potty training problems. I am so over potty training problems.

So why can’t I just settle into to life as it is, right now, and be satisfied with it?

I did what Allison suggested, and thought about what my 12-year-old self would think. I can barely remember being 12, so I pulled out some pictures to jog my memory.

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In all my 12-year-old glory.

I had a perm and glasses that covered my whole face. I was embarrassed of my changing body and wore the biggest clothes I could find to cover it up. I was awkward, smart, and a voracious reader. I still played with dolls and I didn’t want my friends to know. I loved music. I looked to be about 40 years old.

So basically, not a lot has changed.

Then I found this picture of me opening a typewriter. I had forgotten that my parents gave me a typewriter the Christmas that I was 12.

20150502_085202~2I was a writer then and I am a writer now. Also, try not to be jealous of my air-brushed sweatshirt.

My 12-year-old self would not only be happy with where I am, she would be in AWE OF IT. I am happily married with three beautiful children, I sometimes write things that get published, and I have discovered contact lenses.

My 12-year-old self would eye roll me for being dissatisfied with where I am. I deserve to be eye rolled.

Amy Poehler wrote in her memoir Yes Please, “Success is filled with MSG,” meaning that no matter how much of it you get, you’re left wanting more. This is the root of my dissatisfaction, in addition to the fact that no matter how many times I clean up pee, more seems to appear.

Maybe my 12-year-old self wouldn’t have minded cleaning up pee. Her knees certainly weren’t as creaky.

(If you liked this post, then you will LOVE I Still Just Want To Pee Alone! Click here to find out more!)

Making Bitterness My Bitch.

Today I took my 3-year-old and my 1-year-old into a public bathroom, not because I wanted to, but because I weighed the options and public bathroom won out over let’s roll the dice and see if we can make it home.

Ironically, because I was so valiant in my effort to keep them from touching every surface within reach, my little girl tripped over my foot and belly-flopped onto the floor of the bathroom stall. Her face may have actually made contact with the tile … it’s unclear because I have already stricken the details from memory.

While I worked to lift her upright and mentally checked into my safe place, my son busied himself with touching every single part of the toilet. Apparently he saw the opportunity to send me over the edge and ran with it.

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After almost four years of being a full-time stay-at-home-mom, I’m tired. My nerves are raw. I feel frayed, just like the green blanket that my child has rubbed and loved on until there is nothing left but a mangled, nubby wad of material. A friend told me when I first quit working that there would be a honeymoon period, followed by an adjustment period and settling in. And then, I would either love it or I would hate it.

I feel like maybe I’m in a transitional time where I’m not sure how I feel about it. I do know that I need to do a better job of being grateful for the privilege of being home. At the beginning of all this, I told Robbie on a daily basis how grateful I was to him for working so hard and allowing me to focus solely on raising our children. Somehow, over time, that has shifted to bitterness. Four years of cooking, shopping, and cleaning — all things that I used to enjoy — changed me.

What happened?

I have allowed myself to get bogged down in responsibilities, and I have lost sight of the reasons why I wanted to do this job in the first place. And remembering WHY I AM DOING THIS is where I find my peace and my joy.

So, you know what? Screw bitterness. I’m going to make bitterness my bitch.

I am grateful that I am the one who gets to wrangle my children in bathrooms outside of our home … because no one else could scrub their little hands as thoroughly, and with as much love.

I am grateful that I am the one who wipes their noses a million times a day, because someone else might not notice, or worse — let it run freely (shudder).

I am grateful that I oversee everything that happens in this house, because while that may be an exhausting endeavor, I know things are done well here. No one will get Salmonella on my watch.

I am grateful. I am grateful. I am grateful.

When I take the time to think those words, roll them over in my mind, and write them, I realize they are true. I really am grateful. I just don’t take the time to say it enough.

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I’ll Drink To That.

It’s Friday night again — how did that happen already?! — and time for what I will henceforth refer to as Virtual Happy Hour. This is when I crash in my jammies, drink wine, and pretend that I’m hanging out with my best girlfriends.

There is no primping. No squeezing myself into real pants. There is no scene to been seen in. The scene is me, gripping a bottle of wine, hiding in a quiet room … because Daddy is getting up with the kids in the morning, and it’s been one helluva week.

Tonight I am in a celebratory mood. Who’s up for shots?!!

Nobody?!

COME ON.

This week, I was minding my own business in Target when a reader approached me … which was a first. I mean, I run into people periodically, but she recognized me from my blog and made a point to speak to me. I, of course, turned around to see who she was talking to. When I realized she was talking to ME, I started laughing and couldn’t stop, because I am not socially awkward or weird in the least.

Let’s all take a moment and be grateful that I’m a writer and not a person who, say, talks on the radio or sits in front of a camera, because wow. I will now take another shot, because just thinking about that stresses me out.

I potty-trained a human this week. And all the mothers everywhere said, “I’LL DRINK TO THAT.”

Modern Mommy Madness was included in this list on Today.com and I am so amazed and elated and also feel like maybe there was a mistake somewhere because how did that even happen?! My kids need to recognize. From now on, my discipline plan will be yelling “HEY! I was on the 11 Funniest Facebook Posts From Parents This Week list, so stop your whining and eat your dinner!” (Sidenote: that doesn’t work. At all.)

Robbie has a sugar ant colony in his car. They’ve been there for 8 months, since he gained ownership of the vehicle. I took it to the grocery store this week and totally freaked when I discovered that the ANTS are STILL IN THERE BECAUSE HE HAS NOT ADDRESSED The ISSUE, and this is the face I made.

20150208_163652I love that man. I really, really do. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and we have no plans and no gifts and my expectations are very low which works for us right now … but … he has an ant colony in his car. That’s really tripping me up. I’ll have to find a way to move past it.

That’s true love, bitch.

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The Phases.

Parenting seems to come in waves of holy shit I think I may die and holy shit I totally have this.

Right now I’m in a holy shit I think I may die phase. I don’t want to bore you with the details … like how my youngest child wants nothing more in this world than to run into the street in front of our house, or how, at the playground, she doesn’t want to play on the equipment because she would much rather wander into the woods.

I just found myself on my knees in the bathroom, trying to talk my middle child through his first poop on the toilet. We did yoga-type breathing. We sang songs. I gave him lots of encouragement. Finally, in an act of desperation, I asked Jesus to help my son poop so I could move on with my day. I was on my knees anyway … I figured it couldn’t hurt.

Now more than ever, I find myself exasperated with my children and my life in general. Nothing is easy. Everything is hard. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

My days aren’t about me. They’re about them. And as much as I love being a mother, I still struggle with the part where my entire life revolves around these other human beings we’ve created. It’s not easy for me to set my own needs aside for another, 24 hours a day. But I do, because I am a mom.

I saw these two hug for the first time the other day, and that moment made my heart swell and my eyes fill with tears. All of the energy I pour out isn’t for nothing. It’s for everything.

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Virtual Happy Hour.

It’s Friday night, and if I had the wherewithal to put some real pants on and meet a girlfriend for a drink, I WOULD. Unfortunately, I’ve had the same toothpaste on my zits since this morning and the mere thought of brushing my hair makes me exhausted.

It’s been that kinda week.

If we were to meet for drinks, I’d have a lot to say. First of all, this week of motherhood sucked. If you were silly enough to ask, “How come?” I wouldn’t even feel like rehashing it all. I would just silently pour myself another glass of wine. I would then mention the fact that there is only one of me and there needs to be like, three.

I’m potty-training my middle child again. Hopefully it will stick for real this time, cross your fingers, girlfriend. NOW. Cross them.

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The reason my pants are tight.

The potty trainee gets M&M’s every time he uses the toilet, which is working out well except for the fact that I hand him one or two, and then immediately eat a fistful because potty-training is hell and I loathe it with every fiber of my being.

Then there is the matter of my writing. Excuse me while I pour myself another glass.

This week I hit a low point and found myself wondering if writing is a stupid waste of time. I could spend my time doing a million other, more constructive, things that would better my family … like cooking organically, clipping coupons, or remembering to pay the water bill. I don’t know. Shit like that.

If I didn’t write, I would actually have time to be a decent Room Mom, instead of a total slacker who throws random baked goods and hastily-written checks at the school and swears to herself she will do better next time.

I’m not even making any real money.

I already have so much on my plate.

My extended family is mortified by some of the things that I write. My use of profanity embarrasses them.

I AM AN EMBARRASSMENT TO MY FAMILY.

That’s a hard thing to know. I never set out to be an embarrassment. If I didn’t have this compulsive need to write words and share them with people, maybe everything would be easier. No one would know that I do things like eat my kid’s candy and then lie about it, or drink and swear on occasion. They wouldn’t know how much I struggle to parent my children.

No one would know anything about me at all.

But the problem is, my life would be impossible for me to live healthfully if I couldn’t write about it. I’m not writing for my family. I’m writing for me.

For my sanity.

So I can breathe.

As scary as it can be to put myself out there, I continue to show up and write words because I don’t want to cut my own ear off or whatever happens when a creative person isn’t allowed to create. And honestly, I feel it is my duty to announce to women everywhere that sometimes being a wife and a mother is so hard and insanely frustrating that you just want to take the damn hand mixer and throw it through a window.

You aren’t a failure for feeling that way. You’re normal. That’s my message.

And then two nights ago, as I was dumping the third basket of clean clothes on my bed to fold while I waited for Robbie to come home from work and rescue me from our terrible children, my phone beeped.

I had an e-mail.

I’m going to be in another book.

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I’M GOING TO BE IN A REAL BOOK WITH PAGES!!!!!!!!

A friend shared this in a writing group I’m in today, and I love it. “A blessed unrest.” That is what it’s like to constantly want to write and share your thoughts, profane as they may be.

There is a vitality,
a life force,
a quickening
that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique.

And If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.
The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine
how good it is
nor how valuable it is
nor how it compares with other expressions.

It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly
to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU.

Keep the channel open…
No artist is pleased…

There is no satisfaction whatever at anytime
There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes “us” MORE alive than the others.

Martha Graham
( – a letter to Agnes De Mille-)