Running Lessons

I recently bought new running shoes. I knew mine were old because I had no memory of buying shoes after we moved from North Carolina, and we did that in late 2003. But then I looked under the tongue and saw that my shoes had, in fact, been manufactured in October 2002.

CIMG8940

I had been wearing—and trying to run in—nearly thirteen-year-old running shoes.

As my daughter noted, “Those shoes are older than me, Mommy!”

So, I bought new running shoes from a very competent salesman who I suspect was closer in age to my shoes than he was to my own age.

These new running shoes feel like a miracle.

Oh, my! The cushioning! The support!

I love to run in them, and so I’ve been running in them two or three times a week just because I love to run in them and because running in them means that I’m not responsible to anyone else for a half-hour or more at a stretch (I’m mapping longer and longer runs every time I go out).

In all of this running, I’ve noticed a curious thing. Our neighborhood is hilly, and when I’m running on a flat stretch or a slight decline, I think, “Man! I could run forever! I am so fit!” And when I’m running on an incline, I think, “Oh, no! I am so out of shape! Why am I even running right now?”

It feels harder to run uphill, so I must be less fit. It feels easier to run a little downhill (although not a lot downhill), so I must be more fit.

Of course, whether the road goes uphill or down does not at all influence my level of fitness, but that’s the first place my brain goes: it judges me based on external circumstances.

I wonder when else I’ve judged myself based on external factors, and because it’s what I do 24 hours a day, my thoughts inevitably turn to parenting.

I think about the time I was leading a La Leche League meeting about Gentle Guidance, and my three-year-old simply would not mind me at all. She was a holy terror, in fact, and although I was hugely pregnant—which is the only way I know how to be pregnant—I cut myself no slack. If I couldn’t get her to mind, I was apparently not qualified to speak about Gentle Guidance.

I think about the multiple times—the most recent just this morning—when my homeschooling session with my son has involved him refusing to even try to subtract nine from any other number and then bursting into tears and my barely avoiding (and sometimes not at all avoiding) yelling at him, because for Pete’s sake, I know he knows this. Why isn’t he even trying? And because I’m nearly yelling or actually yelling I think, “I totally suck at this. Why am I homeschooling my kids? What made me think I was qualified to do this?”

But now I’m thinking that each of these instances—and many others like them—are the parenting equivalent to running uphill. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, I wonder if I’ll make it. But how difficult it feels at that moment has practically no relation to how fit I am to do it.

Because today at Trader Joe’s, two women went out of their way to tell me how delightful my children are and how clearly they love one another and what a great job I’m doing.

Because yesterday when we were having dinner, my son declared to all assembled that he LOVES math, and when we were doing his facts practice sheet today—subtracting nines—he said, “I’m flying through these like they’re nothing!”

Those are the downhill moments, and they say just as much about how fit I am as a parent as the uphill moments, but they’re a heck of a lot more encouraging.

Back in my La Leche League days, I had a co-leader whose mantra was, “Never quit on your worst day.” I’ve heard many criticisms of this idea, but it continues to work for me. If things aren’t working, they won’t work on our best day. But even if we have a horrible day, that doesn’t mean things aren’t working overall. It just means we’re having a horrible day. Things may well work just fine tomorrow, but I’ll never find that out if I quit on the worst day.

So, although I’m years past my La Leche League days, I still take this lesson to heart. It keeps me running up those hills, smiling all the way at that voice that tries to convince me that because it’s difficult, I shouldn’t be doing it.

When do you hear that voice that tells you to throw in the towel because you’re just not good enough? Do you listen to the voice, or do you laugh at it and keep on keeping on?

Gratitude for Imperfection

On the train home from Boston the other night, I referred to my friend’s son by the wrong name.

She was very nice about it when she corrected me. “Now that you mention it, he does look like a Josh,” she said. She was sweet, but I was mortified.

Five hours later, I found myself unable to sleep because I felt so embarrassed about my gaffe. My friend had laughed it off and given me a hug, and the other friend who was with us dismissed it as not a problem at all. “We don’t see each other’s kids much,” she comforted, but still I felt embarrassed, which made me feel even sillier because how silly is it to feel upset about this when no one else does?

While reading Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess with my kids, I was struck by Sara Crewe’s practice of letting an inner sense guide her actions and her attitudes despite her external circumstances. In her case, this meant acting as though she was a princess and treating people with grace and politeness despite the fact that she was being treated like a scullery maid and errand drudge.

I decided I wanted to do something similar, but since I don’t really go in for princess stuff, I cast about for a person or ideal that I could emulate in difficult moments. After rejecting the Dalai Lama because I couldn’t imagine what he would if his kids were yelling at each other, I settled on Dorothea Brooke from Middlemarch.

Dorothea’s not a perfect choice for me, but I like her all the more because she isn’t perfect. She has strong moral convictions and she acts upon those convictions even when it’s unpleasant or uncomfortable to do so. She makes mistakes, but she makes them for all the right reasons.

Acting like Dorothea this week has helped me to get out and do what had to be done—my morning walk, my ten minutes of meditation, getting to bed by 10:00, making dinner—even when I didn’t feel like it because those were the right things to do. Dorothea has even helped me to speak more gently to my children than I might otherwise. (Or at least, she’s helped me speak more gently some of the time. I did some very un-Dorothea-like yelling around mid-week.)

But after my mistake Sunday night I was at a loss. Would Dorothea Brooke have messed up her friend’s son’s name? I can’t really imagine it, but if she did, would she have stayed up half the night worrying about? (Actually, I think she just might have.)

My plan to emulate a fictional character had sort of broken down, but I wasn’t upset with myself for not acting like Dorothea; I was upset with myself for making a stupid mistake and then being upset about it even though no one else really cared.

I’m almost forty, and I’m still waiting to feel comfortable in my own skin.

Feeling comfortable in my skin is going to require either not making mistakes anymore (i.e. perfection) or learning to forgive myself when I do something silly. For decades I’ve tried for perfection because forgiveness just feels too difficult, but in reality both feel equally impossible to me.

My inclination is to tackle both the mistakes and the habit of feeling bad about them like I would any other bad habit—take them by the lapels and shake—but maybe that’s not the best approach.

Our minister gave a sermon that same morning about the challenge of feeling grateful for things that happen that we wouldn’t choose. She was thinking of accidents, life-threatening medical conditions, and chronic illness, but while “goofing up in public” and “overreacting to social gaffes” seem tiny in comparison, they might be a place to begin. Small as they are, they do fall into the category of something about me that I wouldn’t choose.

Maybe if I approached this relatively little thing as a spiritual practice of gratitude and sought out the positives about making mistakes, it would ease the discomfort a bit. And because it’s a spiritual practice, I wouldn’t have the goal of actually feeling grateful, just looking at it with a grateful frame of mind, which takes some of the pressure off.

Maybe by practicing feeling grateful for the small unpleasant things in my life—like persistent eczema and getting lost while driving—I’ll be more ready to feel grateful for the bigger things that I wouldn’t choose to happen (and would prefer not even to name) but that are sure to happen nonetheless.

It seems worth a try. If, that is, I can find something positive about making mistakes.

How do you tackle your mistakes and imperfections? Are you able to feel grateful for both the “good” and the “bad”?

Classic Imperfect Happiness: Mining Meaning

Lately I’ve been thinking even more than usual about what it is I’m passionate about. I’ve been thinking about writing a blog post about this, but it turns out I already did, way back in December 2010.

I’ve changed a bit since then; for example, with the help of one particularly understanding friend, I’ve made great progress sloughing off judgmental thoughts about other people’s birth choices. She helped me discover that, although we made essentially opposite choices about birth, we made our choices from a very similar emotional place. I thank her for opening up that empathy in me.

I also think I’ve gotten a little better at crafting a non-wandering blog post, and I no longer obsess about blog stats. But aside from these changes, I think I could have written this post today and had it turn out pretty much the same. (Note: I couldn’t resist editing the original post slightly, just for style, though, not content.)

Just last night, I sat on the sofa wondering what it is I’m passionate about. I don’t have cable, so while this isn’t an uncommon pastime for me, I usually distract myself with a novel before I get too involved in an ultimately frustrating thought process. Then this morning I read Tucker’s post, “Who Am I?” which, aside from the references to sailing, I think I could have written. Read More

Still More Grocery Store Lessons: Who Deserves Compassion?

I’ve written about my realization that feeling a sense of scarcity and like the world owes me something is a choice and that I can choose to feel differently. I’ve written about how much better showing compassion feels than feeling annoyed does. Now I come to the third thought that’s been percolating since my grocery store trip the other day:

Who deserves compassion? Read More

Escalade Escapades

2003-2006 Cadillac Escalade photographed in US...

Image via Wikipedia

Luckily, my resolution around judgmental thinking was simply to be aware of judgmental thoughts. Because if it was to not have judgmental thoughts, I would have had a much bigger challenge Wednesday than I did.

I took the children to Whole Foods Wednesday morning, a place just ripe for judgmental thinking on an ordinary day. On this particular morning, the woman parked next to us in her Cadillac Escalade upped the ante.

I pulled into the spot next to her in my VW Jetta. As I removed my children from the car, I noticed that her vehicle was idling, and she was talking on the phone in the driver’s seat.

“Huh,” I thought. “I wonder why she’s idling her 8-cylinder engine on a red air quality day? Perhaps she is waiting for someone in the store and has a sleeping baby in the back seat she’s trying to keep warm.” A quick look in the back seat while I lifted my son from his car seat showed this wasn’t the case. I started to take a deep breath but remembered I was standing next to an idling SUV on a red air quality day, so I waited until I was inside the store to breathe deeply and make a note of my judgments about her.

We did our shopping, which involved my daughter smelling all of the flowers in the floral area and my son throwing an eggplant on the floor (I ended up buying the bruised eggplant). And what trip to the grocery store would be complete without a trip to the bathroom? About 45 minutes after we’d walked in, we were headed back out the door.

As we approached the car, I was surprised to see the Cadillac still sitting there. As we drew closer I noticed that it was still idling. As I drew closer still I confirmed that the woman was still on her phone in the front seat.

I grew more agitated. I got the kids fastened in and the groceries stowed and pondered what course of action I could take. I really wanted to say something to her. I could see myself infusing my spirit and countenance with love and smiling gently as I knocked on the driver’s side window. When she rolled down the window I would say…what?

This is where I got stuck.

I wanted to let her know that it was a red air quality day and that turning her car off while she talked on the phone might be a responsible option. But I didn’t want to be yelled at. I wasn’t sure my diplomatic skills were up to the challenge.

In the end, I walked the cart back up to the entrance of the store then stood for a few more moments outside my driver’s side door looking at her on the phone before getting in my car.

Her face looked serious. Maybe she was on a stressful phone call. Maybe this wasn’t a good time to remind her about our shared responsibility to help keep our air clean and my children non-asthmatic.

Just yesterday I was thinking over what else I could do to help improve the air quality in the valley and slow the melting of the polar ice caps. We’ve already replaced all of our bulbs with compact fluorescents, we keep our thermostat under 65 degrees, we take short showers, we buy local meat, we put fewer than 6,000 miles on the car every year, we turn off lights, we use re-usable bags, my husband bikes to work year-round, we only own one car.

But I could bike more. Even in the winter, I could bundle the kids up in the bike trailer and take that instead of the car for our errands. Or we could take the bus and light rail. Granted, that always involves a few miles of walking, but I could put the baby in the stroller or the mei tai and my daughter could walk with me. It would be a good lesson, good exercise, and good for the environment. I wasn’t doing as much as I could to keep the air clear. How could I call this woman out on her behaviors? Let she who is without sin cast the first stone, I thought.

Disappointed with myself both for not doing as much as I could be doing and for not saying anything to the driver of the idling SUV, I slid behind the wheel and directed us towards home.

Week 20 Review: Love and Loss

This week has been filled with ups and downs. I gave in to manic energy baking popovers and shopping for charitable donations. I ran (for exercise) outdoors twice for the first time in months, once in the snow. My ears and fingers were numb with cold, but I felt wonderful. I wanted to smile but every time I did, my ear buds fell out, so I worked to keep my face as immobile as possible. I explored my passions and their attendant pitfalls. I also took my daughter to do a free craft and attended my husband’s boss’s Christmas party last night and actually enjoyed it.

On the way to the party, we passed a house with so many lights on every shrub, tree, and post in the yard, that we thought it must be a business of some sort despite its position in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The valet parking signs reinforced this idea. At the party, we learned that it was, in fact, a private residence at which a lavish party was taking place. The owner of the house spends what onlookers estimate at about $10,000 each year having lights put up in the yard. After the season is done, the company that installed the lights comes out and throws them all in the garbage. Apparently, it’s cheaper than storing them for the following year. The lights weren’t tacky or overdone. They were quite beautiful, and we admired them from our car. But it certainly raised the hackles of that self-righteous voice inside me.

While we were at the Christmas party last night, my husband’s grandfather, who has been ailing recently, died in his home with his family around him. We learned about his passing when we got home, although we’d suspected it when my husband saw he had missed a call from his dad on his cell. I sat on the couch and held my daughter while she cried after we’d told her what had happened. This morning, my husband bought a last-minute ticket to fly to Michigan for the funeral. The rest of us would have joined him if it weren’t for the expense and the discomforts of traveling just before Christmas.

So, right now I’m feeling sad, and trying not to feel too anxious about being on my own with the kids for three days. And I’m also trying not to feel too selfish about feeling anxious about being on my own with the kids for three days.

Last night was also my husband’s family’s annual Christmas party in Michigan. Between memories of the joy we felt the one time we were able to attend that party and our sadness at the loss of my husband’s grandpa, Michigan is feeling very, very far away today. While I’m sad that the kids and I can’t go along, I’m glad that my husband will be able to be with his family to experience the pleasure and pain of sharing love and loss and celebrating the life of a man we will all miss dearly.

Mining Meaning: Digging for Hidden Passion

My husband offering me support and connection as I birth our son.

Just last night, I sat on the sofa wondering what it is I’m passionate about. I don’t have cable, so while this isn’t an uncommon pastime for me, I usually distract myself with a novel before I get too involved in an ultimately frustrating thought process. Then this morning I read Tucker’s post, “Who Am I?” which, aside from the references to sailing, I think I could have written.

For me, there’s a sense of danger around searching for my passions. Before my first child was born, I was a doula. First I attended births as a volunteer. I would take an 8pm to 8am shift on the weekends while working full time during the week, and I would take the occasional paying client, although I never charged what I considered “full price,” which at that time in that location was about $350. Then we moved to California and I started attending births as part of a doula circle, a group of doulas who shared the on-call schedule and the clients. For a variety of reasons, the circle gradually became a triangle then a line and then a point (me). I then became pregnant myself. I attended one birth during my early pregnancy and that was the last of my doula work.

Being a doula necessitates having a passion for birth. I certainly had that, as anyone who conversed with me during this time period can attest. I also had a passion for empowering women, which was more difficult to realize than my passion for birth. Birth in a hospital is most often not empowering for the woman giving birth. She becomes an object ancillary to the process. More often than I care to admit, I found myself complicit in this objectification. I went into doula work with a desire to help women find their own voices. I’ve only recently recognized that what I really wanted was to get these women to adopt my voice. It’s uncomfortable to admit, but I wanted to show them where they were wrong, where they were being misled by their care providers. I subtly sought to undermine their faith in their physicians and in themselves and replace that with the truth as I saw it. I didn’t want them to find their own voice; I wanted them to find mine.

After my own harrowing birth experience in the hospital with my daughter, I became even more judgmental and polarized in my thinking about birth. Birth was still a passion for me, but it had begun to morph into an obsession. I felt a need to protect other women from the experience I had giving birth. Soon, I began to feel a need to protect women from myself and my negative view of birth.

When it comes to birth and mothering, I’m not very empathetic. I don’t make connections; I make judgments.

If you’ve known me while pregnant or as a mother, I’ve judged you. I’m not proud of it, and I’m working to change it. It’s not you, it’s me.

Yesterday I was helping my daughter get dressed after gymnastics, and I overheard the pregnant mother of another girl in the class telling another mom that she was scheduled for a cesarean that afternoon.

At the mention of the scheduled cesarean, I got very anxious. I felt jittery and tight, like a wire had been pulled taut inside my chest. My brain went into overdrive making all manner of assumptions about the woman. I breathed. I wondered how many weeks pregnant she was. I breathed. I wondered why it is her doctor said she couldn’t birth vaginally. I breathed. I decided to say nothing and just try to get out of there without judging this mother. I looked up and smiled at her. She spoke to me.

“Are you the person who gave me the coupon for the prenatal massage?” she asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Thank you so much! I’ve been going. She’s great! I’m scheduled to go next week after my c-section.”

“Oh?” I said, trying to sound merely curious. “How many weeks are you?”

“I’m 39 and a half,” she answered. I looked her in the eye. Can she tell I’m judging her? I’m trying so hard not to.

“I was just wondering when they schedule them now,” I said.

“Any time after 39 weeks is safe,” she said, almost cutting off the end of my comment. “I wanted a Friday because my husband would be off work for the other kids.”

“If you need to have a cesarean, that’s the nice thing about scheduling it. You can make it work with the other things you have going on.”

“I’d rather not have one, but since I need to, I’m making the most of it,” she said.

“I had a friend who was having her third cesarean. She really didn’t want one and talked with her doctor about it. He arranged to have the music she wanted playing during the surgery, and the anesthesiologist caressed her face with warm towels. She said it was very pleasant, like a spa treatment, almost.” The woman raised her eyebrows, interested.

“Oh? Wow. They did all that?” she asked.

“Well,” I conceded, “my friend was a doctor, too. I wonder if they get special treatment.”

We both smiled. My daughter pulled on my arm, anxious to leave.

“Well, congratulations, almost!” I said.

“Thanks!” And she was gone.

On the one hand, I’m grateful and proud that I was able to get a handle on my assumptions and judgments and talk with this woman in a gentle, mother-to-mother way. On the other hand, I wish I didn’t have those judgments to start with. I want to banish them from my mind and just…love.

Many of the things I think are passions of mine are because they’re hot issues for me, fraught with judgments as I try to craft a narrative that works for me around my own experiences. They’re the things I want or need to work through and so I fixate on them. It’s not fair to me or to the people I work with if I focus on these issues as part of a vocation or avocation.

When I finished my training at the rape crisis center to be a community educator, the director of the program met with me and said she wasn’t going to let me become an educator. She said I was too emotionally involved, and she had to think of the clients who come to the center for help. I was livid.

I talked with one of the support group facilitators there, and she told me how she’d ended up at the crisis center. Her mother had died of cancer. After going through that process with her mother, she felt driven to help cancer  patients and their families. She was really angry when the director of the program that had helped her told her she couldn’t participate as a volunteer because of her closeness to the issue. Once she got over her anger, though, she saw the wisdom of not staying in that particular sphere. At the rape crisis center, she was able to use the strength she’d acquired through her personal experiences to help people through issues that didn’t hold such personal significance for her. Her passion, it seems, wasn’t for the issue of cancer. It was for helping people through connection and giving them that same positive feeling she’d has as a participant in the program for families of cancer patients. Once she discovered this subtle but significant difference, she was able to apply her passion in a way that was healthy for her and more helpful for those she sought to help.

So, maybe birth and mothering aren’t my passions. Maybe it’s the connection underneath that’s my passion. Or maybe it’s something else I’ve not identified yet. It’s fairly clear to me that writing is one of my passions. And blogging, which is writing, but it’s kind of an instant-feedback sort of writing. There’s that connection piece again, buffered by a computer screen and the invisible network out there that has enveloped us all. Maybe this is why I’m so obsessed with my blog stats. This isn’t a journal. I have one of those (and I don’t share it with anyone). If my stats are high, I know I’ve connected with someone (or a lot of someones), at least to the point that what I’ve said has interested them enough to click on my blog. If they comment or share my posts: boy howdy.

GF/CF Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies (and Week 16 Review)

NaNoWriMo Day 21 Word Count: 37,869

I know that many of you eat raw cookie dough even if there are eggs in it. But I’m certain I’m not the only overly-cautious person who will not even entertain the idea of eating raw any kind of anything with eggs in it. My daughter has been programmed so well that when we cook together, she says, before I even have a chance to say anything, “This has eggs in it so it’s not safe and sound to taste it.”

When we made these cookies, we were both thrilled that I could say, “Guess what? There are no eggs in this recipe, so we can eat the dough!” I imagine trippy psychedelic colors undulating in my daughter’s brain with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida playing over it. I highly doubt that actually happened, but she was excited about eating raw cookie dough nonetheless. So was her brother.

Oh, and the cooked cookies were excellent, too. And since they’re sweetened with maple syrup and have rolled oats in them, they’re health food, so you can eat the whole batch, which is only one dozen. If you whip some up after the kids go to bed, you easily will have gotten rid of all of the evidence by the time they wake up. The perfect crime.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair

Reprinted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008) www.cookusinterruptus.com

I’ve put the modifications to make this GF and Vegan in parenthesis after the original amounts.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Makes 1 dozen 3-inch cookies

1 1/2 cups rolled oats (I used Gifts of Nature GF oats)

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (to make GF, sub 3/4 c brown rice flour, 3 T potato starch, 1 T tapioca starch, and 1/2 t xanthan gum, or 1 cup of your GF flour mix of choice + 1/2 t xanthan gum)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (I used coconut oil to make them dairy-free)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine oats, flour, and salt together in a large bowl; set aside.

In a separate bowl mix together maple syrup, butter (or coconut oil), and vanilla.

Add wet ingredients to dry mixture and mix well. Stir in nuts and chips.

With moist hands form dough into 3-inch cookies and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet or one lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until edges turn golden.

These cookies are delicious and soft right out of the oven and turn kind of crispy once they’re cool. The flavor reminds me of Russian Tea Balls, which I think are similar to Mexican Wedding Cookies. I would almost prefer raisins in them than chocolate chips. Almost.

Week 16 Review:

This week has been a little challenging. I’ve just been kind of low energy and irritable. I’ve been ignoring many of my resolutions from previous months as I focus all of my attention on NaNoWriMo. I’ve not been working out much because my knee has been bothering me and walking just doesn’t do it for me the way running does. Maybe if I don’t run until the beginning of December, my knee will be ready for action again. I’ve been going to bed late and not being as mindful as I was. I’m still aware of judgmental thoughts, which has been helpful, and I’ve started eating better again (namely, I’ve stopped drinking coffee again. I drink decaf, so I don’t think the caffeine was a problem, but I feel better without the coffee anyway).

I don’t think all of my malaise can been attributed to my self care or lack thereof, though. I think some of it is just a result of the psychological roller coaster that I’ve heard participants in NaNoWriMo ride as the month progresses. Here I am at nearly 38,000 words. I’m in the home stretch, and while I know that, if I keep this pace, I’ll finish in plenty of time, I find this fear creeping up that I won’t be able to do it. I’m doing my best to be gentle with myself and to recognize this naysayer for who she is (my inner critic trying to protect me from disappointment by keeping me from really trying to succeed at a goal I’ve set for myself. She seems to think it’s better to say, “I gave up,” than it is to say, “I tried as hard as I could and still didn’t finish.”)

A Year with Frog and Toad

Panther, a cat using toilet, photographed in S...

If my cats did this, we could have left the house on time this morning (Image via Wikipedia, Photographer: User:Reward.)

NaNoWriMo Day 19 word count: 33,208

We went to see A Year with Frog and Toad, put on by the University of Utah Youth Theater this morning. We were supposed to meet some homeschooling friends out front at 9:20, and against all odds, we were making wonderful time. I stopped to fill up some water bottles (I have a thing about having enough provisions for any outing). I heard my daughter yelling from the laundry room.

“No! Put that down! No! No!”

I set down the water pitcher and walked to the doorway of the laundry room. I saw my daughter standing about a foot away from my son as he reached into the litter box with his hands, grabbed cat poo, and then put it into the small covered garbage can we have next to the little box for that purpose.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” I yelled (or something of that nature).”Why didn’t you stop him?”

“I was putting on my jacket,” my daughter explained. Well, I guess I did only ask her to watch him, not to actually intervene if he was doing something that needed intervention.

I grabbed the baby and shook his hand to release his grip on the turd he held, then I took him in to the sink to wash his hands, saying over and over, “We’re gonna be late, we’re gonna be late.” I must have scrubbed his little hands for a good three minutes before I felt satisfied that they were clean enough.

I got our water bottles and stuffed them in the diaper bag.

“I’m thirsty!” my daughter said. I pulled out her water bottle and shoved it towards her.

“Here, take it!”

Then the baby signed “water” and I handed him his cup, which he promptly dropped on the floor.

“Please carry that water for your brother,” I directed my daughter.

“I can’t,” she said, “I need to open the door. Mommy, why are you wearing your brown shoes instead of your shiny black shoes?”

“Because we might need to park far away, and my shiny black shoes aren’t very comfortable to walk long distances in.”

“My shiny black shoes are comfortable. What does ‘walk long distances’ mean?”

I stammered trying to figure out which part of that statement she was having trouble with.

“Let’s just go to the car,” I said, propping the baby on my hip, shouldering the diaper bag, and opening the door.

“I want to be the first one out!” my daughter whined.

“Fine!” I yelled. “Just get out there! We’re going to be late!”

I locked the door to the house while my daughter stood at the car pulling on the door handle repeating over and over, “Mommy, unlock the door! Mommy, unlock the door!”

“Does that help unlock the door?” I asked her as I hit the button to unlock the car. “The yelling and whining. Does that work? Because if it does, maybe I’ll try that next time instead of using the key.”

My daughter laughed. I fastened the baby into his car seat as he grabbed a stuffed giraffe from beside him. My daughter screamed.

“Dear God, what is it now?” I asked.

“That’s my giraffe!” she said and yanked the toy from her brother’s grip. He began crying, but calmed again when I handed him his Doggies book (by Sandra Boynton).

“Fine,” I said. “Let’s just go. We’re going to be late.”

“Mommy, it’s OK if we’re…”

“No! It’s not OK if we’re late! Have you ever been to a play? Do you know if it’s OK to be late?”

I didn’t wait for an answer. I shut the baby’s door, then went around the car and got into the driver’s seat.

“Don’t go yet!” my daughter yelled. “I can’t buckle it! I can’t buckle it!”

“You have got to be kidding me!” I yelled as I got back out of the car, opened her door and fastened her buckle. She started to cry.

“Don’t talk in that voice!” she cried.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I just don’t like being late.” I hugged her and gave her a kiss, then slid back into the driver’s seat.

As we backed out, my daughter asked, “Mommy, does it really take a half an hour to get there?”

We ended up getting there just after our friends arrived. We found them right away, checked in, and got seats with no trouble. The play was lovely. It was a musical, which I didn’t expect, but which kept the kids’ attention better than a straight-up, non-musical play would have, I think. The costumes were adorable, although perhaps a little subtle for the younger kids. There seemed to be kind of a 1920’s theme to the clothing and the music and the dancing. It was cute and quite enjoyable. The baby watched a good portion of it, grew restless, and then nursed to sleep. My daughter was frightened of the Terrible Frog (just like she is when we read the book), but otherwise loved the show.

After everything turned out so well, I was left wishing I could have gotten us there without the yelling that went along with our departure. Sure, it was stressful, but in retrospect, it was actually kind of funny. I’d like to be able to see the funny part better in the moment.

I’ve been anxious lately. I’ve managed to keep my inner critic fairly quiet about my novel, but that seems to have got her working overtime criticizing everything else I do. I’m just trying to sit with my imperfection and see all of the positives, but it’s a pretty big challenge. I’m fairly confident it will be worth it, though. It kind of already is.

But I’d still like to yell less.

I’m Guessing Victoria’s Secret Wasn’t Stretch Marks

NaNoWriMo Day 17 word count: 29,956

I have no idea what in my recent history caused me to be flagged as a person who should be receiving Victoria’s Secret, but clearly someone thought it was worthwhile for me or Current Resident (also me) to receive the catalog because there was one in my mailbox this afternoon. This is the first Victoria’s Secret catalog I’ve seen in, I think, about a decade.

Victoria’s Secret is a strange catalog. The women’s mouths are all partway open and everyone’s hyper-extending their backs. And I had no idea over-the-knee boots went with hot pants. But then, what else would they go with?

Perusing this catalog, I started wondering how nursing-friendly these clothes would be. Some, like the button-up PJs, would be quite nursing friendly. In fact, there was a model wearing some satin PJs the way I often wear my plaid flannel PJs (with the top completely unbuttoned and nothing on underneath). Maybe she’s a breastfeeding mom whose baby still wakes to nurse several times a night, just like my baby does. If that’s the case, I really want to know what exercises she did to get her belly so flat.

My mom actually wears as pajamas a velour warm-up suit like the ones they were selling in the catalog. She bought one for me when she was visiting. It’s quite comfy, but I have a suspicion we don’t look much like the models in the catalog when my mom and I are wearing our velour warm-up suits. My loose belly skin always kind of hangs over the waist of the pants more than these models’ tummies do.

I began imagining the catalog with real-life moms as models, something like a Victoria’s Secret meets The Shape of a Mother. In this imaginary catalog, stretch marks and green and purple veins radiate from the tops of push-up bras. Thighs are rippled rather than taut, just as nature intended. Calves resemble topographical maps with varicosities forming the contour lines. The exposed midriffs look deflated or doughy, depending on whether the model is contracting her transverse abdominals or not. Flesh yields to elastic waistbands. I know some of these models are moms, but I don’t understand how they’ve avoided stretch marks, cellulite, and that inelastic skin on their bellies that I thought was universal.

I think maybe I’m not getting adequate sleep. Combine this with the waking-dream state I enter when I’m working on my novel, and weird things happen. Weird, but kind of awesome, too. I would appreciate a catalog with models in it whose bodies look more like mine. Maybe.