Eating mudpies

God made dirt. It won’t hurt.

I’m not sure there has ever been anything written about parenting multiple children more true than this ecard. Yes, it’s effing hilarious. But the truth often is, right? It also reminds me of the perceived ‘Curse of the Middle Child’, and the over-abundance of photographs I have of Sugar Bean and Butter Bean as infants and toddlers, but the lack of pictures of Sweet Pea during those stages. For awhile, I was worried she might think we stole her, and couldn’t take pictures because of it…lol. Anyway, I believe the photo ratio has finally evened out because THEY ALL LOVE THE CAMERA. And the feeling is mutual 🙂

But, I digress.  Back to eating dirt.

Personally, I was scared shitless when Sugar Bean came along, and I was a new mommy in Los Angeles. Because, y’all….I was raised in the South, by a mama who was 40 when I was born. Which, in itself was not cool for the 70’s. I mean, from what I understand, she was told there was a 50/50 chance I would either be of genius level intelligence or suffer from some sort of mental deficiency, simply based on her age, and the risks associated with having a baby during ‘THE CHANGE’. And I guess the jury might still be out on which one I grew up to be depending on whom you ask. My point is, because most of my childhood friends’ parents were the ages of my older siblings–I’m the youngest by 12 years in my family–which meant my mom’s friends had teenagers, not toddlers….I was a solitary child. Didn’t really have friends over to play, for this reason, and hardly remember going to others’ homes until I was well into elementary school.  Playing with other kids wasn’t referred to as a ‘play date’ when I was young and  ‘Mommy & Me’ groups/classes didn’t exist. In other words, the raising I got in the South, and the parenting I witnessed my siblings exercise upon my nieces and nephews, didn’t really jive with the world of motherhood in Los Angeles I was thrust into in 1999. To say I was clueless, is, well….an understatement. So I did the only thing I knew to do…try and fit in. Especially since the alternative, stereotypical (and often mocked) familiar traits of a Southern mama involved standing around barefoot in my front yard, with my baby girl propped on my hip wearing nothing but a diaper while  gossiping  with my neighbor about what ingredients she used to make her version of a 7-layer Surprise (it’s a dessert). No, I’ve never made one, and we lived off Melrose, so I never ventured over to meet the neighbors either.

OH. THE. HORROR.

At first, I attempted to do everything the other ‘hip moms’ did. I had a fancy diaper bag, and bought Sugar Bean’s clothes from trendy little boutiques I heard about, to wear on play-dates, or to our Mommy n’ Me classes. Hell, I even jumped on the bandwagon of ‘organic’ baby food, which was rumored to be an absolute must for my angel, despite the fact that all it’s really made of is vegetables grown in the dirt with only sunlight and water to help them along. In other words….just like the ones I helped my Papa tend to in his garden…my whole life. Once harvested, pureed, jarred, labeled and sold at inflated prices in stores like Whole Paycheck, Whole Foods, it’s then referred to as gourmet organic baby food.  Who knew? We went so far as to hire a nanny for a little while, to be an ‘extra pair of hands’, because I convinced myself I needed help…with ONE CHILD…even though I was a SAHM, without so much as a shred of a job beyond housewife/mother. My siblings were laughing, my girlfriends were laughing, my in-laws were laughing, and in hindsight, it’s rather embarrassing, I have to admit. Why, you ask? Because it was obvious to everyone but us, that The Man and I were clearly , trying to Keep Up with The Whoevers. It ended up biting us on the ass some years later, after Butter Bean was born, when said nanny went rogue on us and almost turned our fairytale into a “life imitates art” exhibit straight out of  “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle”. THANK GOD my sisters had some sense, and managed to stage an intervention.  But that, is a post for another day….and several bottles of good Pinot  🙂

Things moved merrily along, and we added Butter Bean to the mix, just when Sugar Bean started Kindergarten.  Given my over-achieving, type A nature, and obvious need to ‘win’ I even took part in the evil world of competitive birthday party throwing. If you know what I’m talking about, you’ve probably done it…at least once. If you don’t, it’s best not to even ask for details. Trust me on this one, and laugh at the notion…if it were in fact an Olympic sport, this village idiot would be decorated like Michael-freaking-Phelps.

I was doing everything right, or so I thought, until it came to discipline. That is the one area of “Parenting LA Style” that always baffled my mind, as it seemed to be entirely absent from the motherhood spectrum as exhibited by the moms I encountered, once Sugar Bean started school. You see, I was taught to obey when my mama or daddy said “No”. Not to ask why, and then be given an explanation, followed by a ‘choice’. If I didn’t behave as I was told, I faced consequences, sometimes involving wooden spoons, belts or switches I had to fetch from the yard myself. There was no talking back, or ‘using my words’, no timeouts and certainly no dedicated ‘cool down corner’, complete with burning candles and calming music, for me to go and chill out in, if I disobeyed. I can just imagine the place my Daddy would have put me in had I ‘used my words’…lol. Nonetheless, I did my best to conform, only reverting to REDNECK MAMA every now and then when I just didn’t have another feasible choice. At the end of the day, I’ve done what works for our family, and used a combination of methods that appear to be most effective. Punishment fits the crime so to speak, and it’s different for each Bean. I guess that’s all we can do, right? Sure, my way is different from the vast majority of moms in my circle, but nobody judges. Anymore…lol. But I have tried REALLY REALLY hard to make The Beans say ‘yes ma’am, no ma’am/yes sir, no sir’, in an effort to hold on to some shard of dignity when we visit the South. Not only is it ingrained in my personality, it’s just plain respectful. I’m 41, and I still say it when responding to those older than I by a span of years. It’s about 50-50 at this point with The Beans, and it does set them apart from the pack when they utter those words in mixed company. Also, I must give them props for their table manners and social graces, and for remembering never to call their friends’ parents by their first names. Not even when THEY give permission. Simply unacceptable.  Basically, I’m trying to raise open-minded, socially aware and tolerant, respectful, independent, strong women who have impeccable manners and behave like Southern Belles. Oh, and to know when to utter “Well, Bless your heart”  as opposed to “WELL. BLESS YOUR HEART!” 🙂

Right about now, you may be wondering how on Earth this is all going to come together at the end of the post, and why I chose to write about it today. It’s because Sugar Bean is 13 now. THIRTEEN. She thinks I’m over-protective, and admittedly, I am. All of her friends have a Facebook page and I am making her wait, under the ‘terms of service agreement’ that you must be at least 14. I flipped out when she signed up for Instragram, and gave this long spiel about NEVER posting pics of herself, or sisters, because I worry about cyber-geo-tagging of pictures. Again, I warned her of the threat of the people behind the profiles not being whom they say they are, and assured her it has nothing to do with my trust in her, but my distrust of others. So she made her account private, and posted pictures of her toenail polish, our dog, and our bearded dragons. That got old, so she deleted her account. All of her friends stay connected via some form of social media, and I am depriving her of that. I also feel like she doesn’t try and forge friendships as often because she is afraid of not being able to participate in activities that appear to be normal for the tween set. And I don’t want that.  Am I crazy for being so protective?  I mean, I did relax and relent on the issue of allowing her to walk down to a pick up spot with her friends after school each day. Of course, I’m there waiting when she arrives and there is no ‘hanging out’. Go ahead, call me a Helicopter Mom. No, wait…don’t. I’ve never been one to fight her battles, or forbid climbing on a jungle gym out of fear she might fall. So maybe I’m more of a Tent Mom. You know, attempting to shelter her from the possible storm that may be awaiting her in the world of social networking. Hmm.

I realize I am a big hypocrite, as I am baring my soul here, being public and posting pictures from time to time….of The Beans. And maybe I am being too paranoid. It’s been on my mind a lot lately, so I talked about it in a therapy session this morning. Turns out, my doc has a 13 year old daughter, and he talked me off the ledge. Reassuring me I am doing all the right things…staying involved, monitoring things, and explaining my concerns and hesitation due to my skepticism of others, not because I distrust her. Then he admitted his 13 year old daughter has a Facebook page. It’s the way EVERYONE connects, arranges outings, and communicates in general. He also said the chances of any of my valid, yet paranoid concerns, coming to light for Sugar Bean under my watchful eye, would be basically less than being struck by lightning. Twice.

So, after much deliberation, both through internal dialogue with myself, and discussion with The Man and The Doc…..Sugar Bean will be connecting to the social networking world this evening.

But she has no idea….yet 🙂 I imagine her reaction will be better than when she got her iPhone for Xmas.

Breathe in, breathe out….breathe in, breathe out…repeat.  Oh, screw it. Who am I kidding?

I’m gonna need a Xanax washed down with some Jack Daniels before sitting down to sign her up on Facebook.

The teenage years are going to put me in the dirt….eating mudpies.

 

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Hoops and hurdles

never be afraid to let your feelings flow

Confession time.

Last night, I did something unabashedly selfish, and I am not the slightest bit ashamed to admit it. After helping with homework (times 3), cooking dinner, feeding The Beans, washing tiny bodies with lots of long hair, and making sure all little people were situated on the couch with a bowl of their favorite ice cream…..I vanished.

For a whole 45 minutes.

This is how it went down…

I grabbed my yoga mat, headed into our guest room, and closed the door. Yes, I considered locking it, but figured there was no point, because as I suspected, everyone who even gave a shit about where I might be, was eating ice cream. Then I used $1.29 from an iTunes card that belongs to Sugar Bean, and downloaded “I’m Alive” by Kenny Chesney (with Dave Matthews) to my iPhone. Once it was done, I jammed some headphones into my ears, set the song to repeat and hit play. Instantly, the world stood still. I was whisked away, and dropped right into my idea of Heaven. Left with nothing but my thoughts and music as therapy. Finally, I sat down on the mat, closed my eyes, lost myself in the lyrics and just breathed. And stretched. My entire body, part by part. The reason I say ‘part by part’ is because I not only stretched my physical limbs, but also my emotional ones. The inner most muscles and particles that you can only reach in moments of desperation, despair or heartbreak. The ones you should stretch all the time, but you can’t. Because it’s too painful.

Yeah. Those ones. 

Of course,  I was brought to tears. Silent, soul-shaking sobs in fact. I realize  I’ve been doing a lot of crying lately, but I know it’s not because I am weak; but rather because I have been strong for too damn long. My life has been a series of hoops and hurdles. I jump through a few hoops, earn a brief water break, hang my head and catch my breath, only to look up and face a long track full of hurdles to jump over, one by one. Honestly, I’m convinced I’ve lived at least two past lives: one as a circus dog, and the other as an Olympic hurdler. The skills are coming in handy, as I’ve become quite adept at hooping and hurdling. Dare I say, mastered the technique. What else would you expect from a perfectionistic Capricorn though? Maybe that’s why this path has been chosen for me. It makes for a good show! Thanks, God. Really. I mean it. Being good at something is a blessing, after all, and I’m good at two things….TWO! Yay me!  God, I know you are laughing, and it’s okay. My life is tragically funny.

Anyway, I came to a couple of conclusions last night. One, is that I don’t know rabbit turds from jellybeans about the proper way to do yoga. However, if what I did is even close to the real thing…..I am soooo in. Sign me up, baby! Best 45 minutes I’ve ever stolen for myself. Second, I am done hooping and hurdling  for other people who have no interest in helping themselves. From now on, this is my 3 ring circus/course, and unless the obstacle has a positive impact on my life, or the small people I brought into the world, I’m not bothering with it. This doesn’t mean I will stop helping people when they need it. I am a nurturer by nature. But there will be a catch. They must help me help them. Period. Otherwise, they can jump inside their own hoop and shimmy ’til they drop. And their hurdles? I know how to walk around those. Why this change of heart, you ask? Because 34 years is a really long time to hoop and hurdle.

And I’m exhausted. Plus….it makes me feel like this, when I do it too much. 

Okay, I’ve rambled long enough, and was just reminded of a hoop I have to jump through in about an hour and a half, so I’ll wrap it up here. In case you aren’t familiar with the incredibly soulful and inspirational song I listened to at least 20 times last night while vanishing from my life for 45 minutes…..I’ll leave you with the lyrics. Here they are:

So damn easy to say that life’s so hard
Everybody’s got their share of battle scars
As for me, I’d like to thank my lucky stars
That I’m alive and well

It’d be easy to add up all the pain
And all the dreams you sat and watched go up in flames
Dwell on the wreckage as it smolders in the rain
But not me, I’m alive

And today you know that’s good enough for me
Breathin’ in and out’s a blessing, can’t you see?
Today’s the first day of the rest of my life
And I’m alive and well
I’m alive and well

Stars are dancin’ on the water here tonight
It’s good for the soul when there’s not a soul in sight
This boat has caught its wind and brought me back to life
Now I’m alive and well

And today you know that’s good enough for me
Breathing in and out’s a blessing, can’t you see?
Today’s the first day of the rest of my life
Now I’m alive and well
Yeah, I’m alive and well

~Kenny Chesney & Dave Matthews

Breathe in, breathe out. Be well.