Friday, May 30, 2014

Shattered: A Tragicomedy in Two Large Parts and Many Small Shards

Because I'm still on vacation, I had intended embrace sloth and to skip my second post for this week -- yes, even though I spent much of Wednesday's post flogging myself for only posting once the week before. (I'm a self-generating guilt machine!) But then I went and did something too humiliating to keep to myself, because blogs, as we all know, are about trading one's dignity for new followers.

If you'll recall, reader(s), I bragged in my last post -- the aristocratically titled Type A-ness -- that I had yet to humiliate myself while a guest in my in-laws' home. Dumb. Dumb dumb dumb.

A word of advice: Never boast online about how you haven't clogged a toilet, because, number one, that's not really brag-worthy, and number two, Murphy's Law. (And number three -- I just used "number one" and "number two" while describing a toilet. That's my Master of Fine Arts degree at work right there!)

Before you jump to conclusions, let me assure you that I have yet to clog a toilet. A clogged toilet is boring. A clogged toilet can't maim you and your loved ones, unless it's harboring a poltergeist or a sewer gator or something. No, I'm a die-hard overachiever, so I upped the ante on humiliation.

What follows is a TOTALLY accurate rendering of how it went down. And by "it" I mean my last shred of self-respect:

Shattered: A Tragicomedy in Two Large Parts and Many Small Shards 

Fog curled its thick fingers around the pine saplings and honeysuckle. Summer mornings in the mountains of North Caroline were usually a slow and quiet affair. But on this summer morning, the woods, the birds, even the stone path, all seemed to be holding their breath. All seemed to be waiting.

Yet, inside the house, warm family banter filled the kitchen, coffee percolated, and V-Tech toys sang and sang and wouldn't stop singing. Why wouldn't they stop singing? Where was the off switch? Why couldn't anyone find a damn off switch? Seriously, someone needed to find an off switch because the warm family banter was beginning to take on a slight edge of tension, a whiff of insanity.

The dogs paced. "Are you done frying that bacon? Because we would like to eat all of that bacon," their wise faces seemed to say.

Jessica, ever the elegant young mother, stuffed another dirty tissue into the pocket of her gray hoodie and plucked at the seat of her pink pajama bottoms. She loved the morning and she loved her family, thanks only in small part to medication. It warmed the one remaining cockle of her heart to watch as her in-laws doted on their only grandson. 

And the grandson, Jessica's doe-eyed toddler, Pork Chop, soaked up the attention. Surrounded by an almost impenetrable wall of V-Tech noise, he eschewed the blinking lights and spinning whirligigs and instead studied a tuft of dog hair on the carpet before reverently placing the tuft on his tongue like a communion wafer. Oh how he enjoyed nature, the sweet little prince.

True, Jessica had some misgivings about spending an entire week as a guest at the home of her husband's parents. But being a guest always made her uncomfortable. For weeks before the trip, she was prone to grinding her teeth or plucking at the hair near her temples. Perhaps she never felt worthy of hospitality. Or perhaps she was just that nervous about clogging her mother-in-law's toilet. 

But by day 5 of their week-long stay, Jess began to relax, began to un-clench. She sipped her piping hot coffee and flashed her husband a grin that conveyed both the depth of her love and her desire that he not eat the last piece of danish. She felt at last like her old self -- hungry but also friendly and kind of sexy. 

She paid no attention to the silence growing deeper in the woods around the home. The silence that was, in fact, creeping under doors and slithering down the chimney. 

As breakfast dishes were cleared from the table, Jessica, coffee in hand, joined Pork Chop in the living room. Her son had fished a set of kiddy keys from atop Great Toy Mountain. He delighted in pressing the car alarm button over and over and over and over and over and over. What kind of asshole puts a car alarm button on kiddy keys? The saintly yet foxy mom didn't care to answer such questions. Instead, she perched herself on the coffee table, from whence she could view her son and his kingdom of blinking, singing, whirling, honking, godforsaken toys. 

She sipped her coffee and mused, "This child is a gift and a joy. How can I ever live up to such a blessing? How did I come to deserve such a child? Is he grunting or humming? Do I smell poop?"

She leaned forward, snatching her wiggling toddler with one hand while she held aloft her mug of coffee -- the exact temperature of the core of the Earth -- with the other. Then she hoisted her son's bum toward her motherly nose, intent on sniffing out a bomb.

Did she feel the quiet, the cold and deadly quiet, as is slunk up the leg of the coffee table? As it spread like cold, tingly BenGay across the tabletop? 

No. No, she did not.

She did, however, hear the silence give way with a sickening pop. Because her GIANT ASS HAD SMASHED THE GLASS TABLE.

Very thick glass. But no match for my much thicker ass.

Her coffee spilled all over her mother-in-law's beautiful Persian rug. Her precious child would have had the shit scared out of him had he not already shit. And Jessica lay on the floor in a useless, humiliated heap, rubbing her duplicitous butt. No one was injured except for Jessica's dashing husband, who pulled his back while hauling the shattered remains of the table top to the county dump.

Jessica's mother-in-law was utterly gracious about the whole debacle. 

Jessica now feels like an ass, a big, fat, glass-crushing ass. Also, she's afraid to use the toilet.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

FBW: Type A-Ness

Since I fired up this blog a little over 3 months ago, I've tried with all of my might to follow a twice-weekly posting schedule. And thus far, I've been pretty successful. In fact, considering my utter lack of self-control around corn chips and hoarder-themed reality TV shows, I would say I've performed nothing short of a miracle by posting on the regular. But last week, I fell short of walking on water. I managed to doggy paddle, but doggy paddling doesn't exactly generate devout followers. And if I didn't feel bad enough for only posting once last week, I think I just compared myself to Jesus. When it comes to the missing post, I do have an excuse. When it comes to comparing myself to Jesus, that may be a reach. Damn it. Guess I'll have to flog extra vigorously today. This intro is really long. Too long. I'm stalling. Gotta write the post now. Going to write it now. Now. Now. Writing now.

Normally, I spend Wednesday evening and much of Thursday composing the finest of blog posts. And, yes, "composing" sometimes means "writing a sentence and then scrolling through Facebook and then starting a new sentence and then looking up a synonym for 'butt' on and then eating candy." But last week, there was no time for composing. No time for "butt" synonyms. (There was, however, time for candy, because there is always time for candy.)

Instead, I had to pack. For a road trip. With my husband. And my child. And my dog. A 2-day road trip with my husband and my child and my dog. To my in-laws'.

There are Type A people and there are Type B people. I don't think I am overstating matters when I say that I am a solid Type A-Plus. There is nothing I cannot plan. Nothing I cannot list. Nothing I cannot iron, starch, fold, and place on a tidy square of shelf. Nothing beyond the scope of my anxiety. And on a scale of 1 to 10 of anxiety, a lengthy family road trip ranks a conservative one-billion-million with a side of trichotillomania. In planning for this trip, I entered the fabled, deep, and murkiest waters of Type A-ness.

For the record, I should state that I actually like my in-laws, like them a lot in fact, and not just because they might read this post. (Hi, Mary Jane!) But being a guest in anyone's home can be stressful: What if I want an extra serving of food? What if I don't want an extra serving of food? What if I run out of toilet paper? What if I clog the toilet? The opportunities to humiliate yourself and estrange family are endless.

And did I mention the 2-days in a car with my husband, child, and dog?

In the spirt of Type A-ness, I have created a numbered list that details how this little family vacation played out in my head:

  1. Pack for the baby: size 4 diapers, overnight diapers, swim diapers, diaper wipes, diaper cream, diaper bag, portable changing pad, baby powder, V-Tech toys (because I hate myself), books, onesies, blankies, footy pajamas, a stroller, a portable crib, a baby monitor, baby sunblock, a sunhat, Mum Mums, apple puffs, Cheerios, sippy cups, snack cups, and, of course, Pork Chop's beloved and besnotted stuffed elephant
  2. Pack for the dog: dog food, dog treats, dog bowls, a dog leash, and a dog collar
  3. Pack for me: maxi pads, bras, migraine prescriptions
  4. Watch as Shelby packs all of his vacation gear into a carry-on-sized bag in under 30 minutes. Try not to set Shelby on fire.
  5. Jam all of our luggage into the SUV. Realize it won't fit. Decide to leave maxi pads and bras at home.
  6. Wake up 2 hours early, but still succeed in leaving 3 hours late.
  7. Get exactly 5 miles from home before Pork Chop blows out a diaper.
  8. Pull into a gas station. Change baby. Hose down car seat.
  9. Where is the dog?
  10. Go home and get dog.
  11. Decide that a Sausage, Egg, and Cheese McMuffin and a large McCoffee are in order. Profoundly regret this decision somewhere in the Virginia hinterland, where the taxidermy shops far outnumber the rest stops.
  12. Get stuck driving behind a flat bed truck hauling a load of metal beams, lumber, buckets of dangerous chemicals, and chickens.
  13. Listen to too much talk radio. Have a panic attack about global warming and cost of limes.
  14. Blow a tire.
  15. Help Shelby change the tire -- in the pouring rain -- which leads to a lively discussion about divorce.
  16. Where is stuffed elephant? Sweet Mother of God, where is stuffed elephant?
  17. Retrieve stuffed elephant at the McDonald's where I bought the McMuffin of my undoing.
  18. Order Chicken McNuggets with a side of apple slices for Pork Chop. Feel like a good mom for getting those apple slices.
  19. Realize that after a full day of driving, we are 10 miles from home.
  20. Call the in-laws. Tell them that we will be visiting via Skype instead.
But Type A-ness, for all of its orderly, list-making power, tends to skew reality. We did not, in fact, blow a tire. Pork Chop didn't even blow out a diaper. This is how it really went:
  1. Pack all the things and load up the car. 
  2. Leave 30 minutes behind schedule.
  3. Blue skies and open roads!
  4. Okay, #11 actually happened.
  5. Arrive at destination 2 days later and 30 minutes behind schedule.
Thirty minutes behind schedule! What a nightmare. But it wasn't talk-radio-lost-elephant horrible. And life at the in-laws' has been lovely. No clogged toilets to speak of (yet)! Although, one pulled pork sandwich was viciously maimed in the making of this vacation:

The horror! The horror!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

FBW: Pumps and Dumps and Baby Bumps

Fifteen minutes ago, my child crawled over to where I was sitting cross-legged on the basement carpet, sucking down lukewarm coffee, and working on a blog post. He smiled up at me. He clapped his hands to signal, "Time for Patty Cake!" He tilted his head and sweetly said, "Mama?" Then he shut my laptop. So he's in his crib right now, taking a nap and/or thinking about what he did. Naturally, I feel bad that my 15-month-old has to compete for attention with you, lovely reader(s), but Pork Chop can't hit the Like button on Facebook yet. So you win!

I'm a little late to the whole mothering gig. Not that I'm pushing retirement, but I had my son a few week's shy of my 37th birthday. During my first ultrasound, the obstetrician, whilst checking my lady credentials, if you will, mentioned my "advanced maternal age." Actually, the term he first used was "elderly primigravida." I didn't know what the hell "primigravida" meant, but it's not like I heard anything past "elderly."

"What the hell is going on down there?" I wondered. Was my uterus sprouting chin hairs? Had the doc found an AARP card in my fallopian tubes? Did my vagine mail him a five-dollar bill for Christmas?

Sensing my concern, the OB explained that "elderly primigravida" simply referred to a pregnant woman over the age of 34.

Okay then. So the fetus wasn't wearing compression hose. Good news.

The bad news? My crotchal region is one chip short of BINGO! One low-pressure system shy of "Oww, my knees."

"Elderly primigravida." "Advanced maternal age." Those were the terms that welcomed me into the world of motherhood. And ever since, I've had particularly strong feelings about, what I'll call, "mom lingo."

Many of my friends and family members use mom lingo. So I feel terrible about silently judging them. Frankly, I prefer that my judgements be loud and public. If you're wondering whether I've been judging you, wonder no more. Here is a short list of terms and phrases that I find objectionable:

Baby Bump

A "baby bump" is the term folks have imposed on the bellies of pregnant ladies. I'm not really sure what was wrong with "belly" or "stomach," but someone somewhere decided that pregnancy didn't sound close enough to a jungle disease. 

"Aww, look at your baby bump! You should probably treat that with a little benzoyl peroxide or something."

"Her baby bump is totes the cutest. But I'd stand back before it hatches. [whispers] Tiny spiders, y'all!"

Please. Just. Stop it.

Baby bump? You'd better wash your hands.

Pump and Dump

I am actually guilty of using this phrase, but I was strongly influenced by a fishbowl-sized mojito. Look, I get that this term isn't just cutesy; it's also accurate. Had a few drinks? Pump your breast milk and then toss that White Russian down the drain. The problem is that every time I hear "pump and dump"I imagine some poor mom hooked up to a breast pump as she squats on a toilet. And now you do too. Let's come up with some other phrase, shall we? Maybe "saving the baby's liver" or "absolving myself of guilt about drinking a fishbowl-sized mojito"?

I drank all of this. And then I ate Mexican food. You do the math.

Push Present

Okay, first, when did this become a thing? A gift for having a baby? I agree that labor and delivery are, well, laborious, but it's not like moms are doing dads a favor. Once pregnant, that baby's gotta come out. True fact, ladies.

But beyond my beef with the very idea of giving a woman a necklace or a fancy handbag to say, "Thanks for birthing," I take issue with the the term. Like "pump and dump," a very particular image comes to mind when I hear "push present."

Picture it: A woman in stirrups, seized by contractions. She howls. She grunts. She bears down. "I can see it!" shouts the doctor. A cheery burst of confetti shoots from the woman's hooha. And then, joy of joys, out pops a neatly wrapped box containing a blouse from Ann Taylor LOFT and a comfy pair of linen capris. Congratulations! It's a new outfit. Sorry, no returns.

This is so stupid that I can't even . . .

DD, DS, and DH

Are you kidding me with this? Dear son, dear daughter, and dear husband? How about "son," "daughter," and "husband"? Too many letters? How about "kids" and "spouse"? How about "family"? How about we not make our loved ones sound like government agencies? How about you don't force me to refer to my family members as "dear"? I always love my family. However, I do not always like my family. In all fairness, my family does not always like me. Sure, sometimes I'm Shelby's DW, but a lot of the time I'm his "OMGJR?" (Oh my god, Jess, really?) or even just his long, defeated sigh, which kind of defies an acronym.

No more. This is dumb.

Mucus Plug

Not slang, I know. But this is just way, way, way too accurate. I'm actually lobbying to come up with some euphemism to replace this one. "Baby stopper" has a certain appeal. "Stork cork" maybe? I'm open to suggestions.


Again, this is not really slang, but this term is misleading. Effacement is when your cervix thins or, eww, "ripens" before delivery. Until I took an actual birthing class, I thought being effaced meant that the baby was, well, see the picture below? Then you get the idea.

Where's mommmmy?

I'm not sure why we can't just say "thinning" instead of "effacement." When you're 9 months pregnant, it would be really nice to hear that something is getting thinner, even if that something is a delicate little pad of skin that's about to be massacred by your precious miracle.

Fur Baby

Look, folks, I know you love your pets. I love my pet too. She's a member of our family. We feed her better than we feed ourselves; we let her musk up all the couches and beds; we make peace with the tumbleweed-sized fur balls blowing through our home. But a "fur baby" she is not. 

Yes, the dog is in the shower.
Because there wasn't enough hair in the drain.

First of all, unlike my actual baby, Sarah the dog has the decency to crap outside in the grass. And unlike my actual baby, Sarah the dog is content to sleep most of the day and night. And unlike my actual baby, Sarah the dog did not suckle from my bosom and thus turn that bosom into a deflated heap of chest flesh. However, both my Pork Chop and Sarah enjoy chewing on a good stick. But really, the similarities end there.

Unless you're nursing an Ewok, no more "fur baby," okay?

And that's it. That's my list. If you've used one of the above terms, I've thought less of you. But, for what it's worth, I just ate a slice of American cheese and a handful of Tostitos for breakfast.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Critical Reading of Tawny Scrawny Lion

Pork Chop isn't yet up to the task of eating jelly beans or marshmallow peeps, so on Easter of this year, my folks stocked his basket with Little Golden Books. My kid went absolutely nuts . . . over the plastic Easter grass. I, however, felt a deep, electric thrill when I spied a copy of Tawny Scrawny Lion. A classic of children's literature! A fond memento of my youth! Oh, how I anticipated settling my son into my lap, reading the beloved story, lingering over Tenggren's iconic illustrations.

I ran to my husband, waiving the book. "Holy shit! Holy shit! It's the Tawny Scrawny Lion!"

"What's that?"

"What do you mean "what's that"? It's the Tawny Scrawny Lion. Don't tell me you've never read this."

"I've never read it. I've never even heard of it."

I had to brace myself against the kitchen counter. What could it mean? My husband grew up in a genteel, palm-lined section of Miami. His parents were smart, successful, and good looking. Shelby spoke fondly of good friends and a warm family life.

But was it all a lie? Had I married some stranger, some man with a gaping hole in his heart where there should be the happy tale of a needy lion befriended by a ragtag band of bunnies?

I handed Shelby the book. "You need to read this."

He cracked the thin spin. It had been decades since I'd last laid eyes on old Tawny Scrawny.

Shelby took one look at the lion and screamed, "I'M GARY BUSEY!"

I'm Gary Busey!
Then who the hell am I?

And with that, my husband took my living, beating childhood in his hand and he squashed it. He killed it. He ruined my childhood. He plastered googley eyes and big goober teeth on everything I have ever held sacred.

It took two Cadbury Cream Eggs, a handful of pastel M&Ms, and the butt-end of a chocolate lamb to settle my nerves. But I couldn't unsee Gary Busey. I opened up my son's copy of Tawny Scrawny Lion and read it with new eyes, with new, big, crazy-ass eyes.

And, so okay, maybe the book is a little different than I remember.

Let's take a closer, critical look, shall we?

So, to start, there's the lion, ol' Tawny Scrawny, who has a taste for the following: bears, zebras, camels, elephants, monkeys, and kangaroos. This would indicate to me that Tawny Scrawny hails from a zoo. Or a game reserve. Or Pangea.

Tawny Scrawny's problem isn't that he can't find food; it's that his food is mobile. Our poor lion friend is wasting away from chasing after his prey. Tawny is hella bummed about this situation, as are the bears, zebras, camels, elephants, monkeys, and kangaroos whom he brutally kills.

The animals try to convince Tawny Scrawny to maybe, pretty please, stem the tide of blood. But Tawny Scrawny is like, "It's all your fault for running away."

And the animals are like, "Uh. . . ?"

So T.S. elaborates, "If I didn't have to run, run, run for every single bite I get, I'd be fat as butter and sleek as satin."

And the animals are like, "Uh. . .?! "

Tawny Scrawny is nothing if not goal oriented. 

Recognizing the futility of reasoning with the lion, the other animals band together to trick a fat, friendly rabbit into becoming Tawny Scrawny's next meal. Sociopathy, it would seem, runs rampant in Pangea.

"We appoint you to talk things over with the lion," the animals explain to the rabbit, knowing full well that Tawny Scrawny is going to pop that bunny in his mouth like a furry pizza roll. But the rabbit is honored. The rabbit is psyched. The rabbit is like, "Hip hop hooray!" which makes exactly zero sense, because the rabbit is clearly the smartest mammal in the bunch; he's wearing pants and a natty little vest while the others are just standing around in the nude. And the rabbit's eyes are normal -- as in not terrifyingly dilated. Every other beast in this storybook looks like its been huffing butane.

But, for whatever reason, the rabbit agrees to chat things over with the lion. In fact, the rabbit invites the lion to supper back at the rabbit village. Fortunately, Tawny Scrawny gets a big ol' murder boner at the thought of laying waste to an entire bunny population, so, rather than nomming him on the spot, he follows our fashionable rabbit friend home.

As the unlikely pair make their way to the village, they stop for stew supplies along the way: fish, carrots, mushrooms, berries, and herbs. Tawny Scrawny, no dummy, thinks this stew sounds like an unholy health slurry. But he doesn't really care. Why have carrot soup when you can cram your big Gary Busey-looking mouth with hot bunny guts?

But, lo! When the duo arrives in the village, broth is already at a full boil. The smell is so intoxicating that the lion forgets to eat the rabbit and his family. Instead, the lion slurps up the stew with a gusto normally reserved for disemboweling bears, zebras, camels, elephants, monkeys, and kangaroos. Mmm mmm. Carrots, berries, and fish! 

Personally, I'm not sure how that stew could smell or taste like anything other than fermenting trash. So maybe there was something else in that stew. The residents of rabbit village did look awfully energetic. I'm not gonna come right out and say drugs were involved. But . . . meth.

Right, so T.S. eats the hell out of some nasty stew. After a few bowls, he's looking pretty plump. "Fat as butter and sleek as satin," to be exact. Which just sounds greasy I guess. Like a suckling pig or a Popeye's buttermilk biscuit. By the end of his meal, and I quote: "He felt so good and fat and comfortable that he couldn't even move." Ah, yes, food paralysis. Maybe this story takes place in America after all.

The point is that one good meal does the trick. One meal. So someone really needs to find the recipe for this stew and share it with all the Third-World countries. 

Notably, the stew softens not only the lion's figure, but also his heart. As long as the rabbits cook and cater to his every whim, Tawny Scrawny agrees to scale back on the butchery. In celebration, the bears, zebras, camels, elephants, monkeys, and kangaroos join Tawny Scrawny for a peaceful communal meal. The bear even dons a top hat and cravat for the occasion, because he apparently became an oil tycoon during his new-found free time. 

In the end, Tawny Scrawny transforms into the overweight pantywaist he was always meant to be. 

As a kid, I thought the moral of this story was to be kind, even when kindness felt undeserved. But kids are dumb, and I was wrong.

The true moral of Tawny Scrawny Lion is that murder is slenderizing; that if you threaten murder, people will do whatever you want; that not murdering just makes you a fat ninny. Yeah, so, the moral is murder things.

Thanks for the Little Golden Book, Easter Bunny. And thanks for ruining everything, Gary Busey. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

FBW: Dear Boobs

The sun has set on Mother's Day, dear reader(s), and I can now resume my normal schedule of thinking it's high time I come up with some sort of schedule. Seriously, I get nothing done. Most days of the week, it's all a panicked blur of diaper paste and toothpaste, sippy cups and coffee cups, Old MacDonald and Old Grand Dad. Ugh. The guilt! The guilt! Let's just talk about boobs instead.

Dear Boobs,

Where did we go wrong?

Twenty-five years together is a lot of years, and I'm not ready to throw it all away. But maybe it's too late to fight for us. Maybe you're gone, and gone for good. That satin, leopard print push-up - the really slutty one we love so much - I tucked it into a bin along with my winter sweaters and those wide-leg raver jeans from college. I put it in storage, boobs. Because it doesn't fit us any more. And, boobs, I'm afraid of what that means.

For so long, everything felt perfect between us. It felt full and feminine, sexy even. But in the last few months, I can tell you're . . . how do I put this? I can tell you're depressed. The long face gave you away.

It used to be that when I looked in the mirror, you were looking right back, like you were proud of us. Not anymore. Now when I look in the mirror, you just stare at my feet or, worse, slump into my armpits. In desperation, I pulled that low-cut blouse from the back of my closet. The clingy black one we haven't worn since we were single. It seemed like a good idea at the time - to remind us of how we used to be. But it was a disaster. You weren't up for it, and that made me angry and confused. I guess it's true what they say - you can never go home again. Yet I miss home, even if home was sometimes pretty trampy.

Remember when we dressed up as Babe-raham Lincoln for Halloween? Sure, it took a Miracle bra, some bra cutlets, and a total lack of self-respect, but DA-DAMN. We looked presidential as hell!

 34 score and C cups ago. 

We haven't dressed up on Halloween for a few years now. Certainly not since the baby.

Can we talk about the baby? We need to talk about the baby.

When Pork Chop came along 15 months ago, we put you to work. And it was hard work. Really hard. Like sometimes, I'd wake up after my two hours of nightly sleep, and you'd feel like cinder blocks. You'd kind of look like cinder blocks. I had no idea, boobs, that you were capable of becoming rectangular. 

And let's just admit that the kid wasn't exactly a benevolent overlord. He gnawed. He swatted and scratched. He used you as a pacifier for hours on end. He made you bleed. But you stayed at it. You fed my son. You comforted him when he was tired or sick. You knew his cry, and you sprang to action when you heard it, even while we were at the grocery store. Even when I was wearing a thin white tee shirt.

Then there was the pump. When I went back to work, I had to use the breast pump three, sometimes four times per day. How did I ever bring myself to strap you into that nightmare spawn of a taffy puller and a meat grinder? After each 20-minute session, I half-expected to look down and find you hanging in a neat row of links from my chest. But again, you stayed at it. You fed my son.

As the months rolled on, Pork Chop's lust for milk mellowed. Pumping became less frequent. Nursing sessions were no longer painful; rather, they were welcome quiet time. Quiet time for me, anyway. Between long pulls, Pork Chop would sometimes look at you inquisitively. Sometimes he'd talk into you like a microphone. "Mimi?" he'd ask. And I'd say, "Yup. Milk." Then he'd flash a terrifyingly toothy grin and get back to it.

As of a few weeks ago, Pork Chop only nursed in the morning and just before bed. We had a little more time to ourselves, you and I. Yet when we were left alone together again, despite all of our history, it was awkward. There I was, finally feeling like the old me. But you? You just looked old. 

Shelby picked up on the tension. For Mother's Day, he took us to Nordstrom so that we could be fitted for a proper bra. It was a revelation. A 32? Really? A 32! I was wearing a 36. Sometimes a 38. No wonder you've been hanging out in my armpits. My god, boobs, did I ever really know you?

That same evening, I prepared for a dinner out with Shelby - another Mother's Day treat. I slipped into one of our new underthings; it felt just right. I pulled on a silky pink shirt. We looked pretty good. Not Babe-raham Lincoln good, but not bad for a woman with both a toddler and snack chip codependency issues. 

Before handing the reins over to the babysitter, I settled into the glider in Pork Chop's nursery. He was wearing footy pajamas and holding his trusty stuffed elephant to his cheek. I curled his warm little body around my own. I brought his head to my chest, preparing to nurse. And . . . nothing. Not a drop.

My son howled. 


He howled and howled.

Still nothing. Fifteen minutes of nothing but the sound of my son crying himself to sleep in my arms.

Needless to say, I drank most of my dinner that night. By the time I was a few glasses deep, I figured it was a fluke, that the morning would be different. And it was different, because by morning Pork Chop didn't even want to nurse. He wouldn't even look at you. He was done too.

Had I even paid attention that last time? Had I noticed how soft his head felt, propped in the crook of my arm? Or had I been flipping through my tablet, reading "The 100 Most Important Cat Photos in History" when it all came to an end?

As a kid, I loved Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. I understood, even when I was young, that the story wasn't really about a tree, but about something much bigger. Now I know. It was about boobs. 

When you were magnificent and full of life, I treated you like some silly object. And when I became a mom, I made you my baby's bitch. And now that you've been reduced to stumps? I want to know why you don't fill out my shirts like you used to. 

I wasn't prepared for you to be so sad. I wasn't prepared for you to give up. Maybe, though, you have nothing left to give. 

I don't know what the road ahead looks like for us. I can't promise there won't be another kid, more time spent strapped to the brutal hot dog machine. So I guess I just wanted to say that I'm sorry. I didn't know the good thing I had when I had it. And I guess I just wanted to say thank you. Without you, Pork Chop just wouldn't have been porky. And Babe-raham Lincoln would have looked ridiculous


Friday, May 9, 2014

Ground Control to Major Mom

So maybe you didn't make it to the Listen to Your Mother DC show, because, I don't know, you don't value mothers? Or you hate fun things? Whatever the case may be, I'm doing you a solid and sharing my LTYM story below.

But first, imagine me in a dazzling blue dress and tan wedges. Imagine my hair is lustrous and dark. Imagine my bosom looks soft and full, like I'm wearing a really nice padded bra or like how my boobs used to look before breastfeeding. See me at a podium, my lipgloss glinting beneath the hot stage lights. Notice my pedicure; it matches the color of my necklace. Notice the manicure, which matches the pedicure. Think to yourself, "My god, she looks so . . . so beautiful. Someone that beautiful can't possibly tell a good story. This beautiful woman's story will surely suck very hard."

Then prepare yourself to be SO WRONG! Because I rocked it! And you weren't there. Wah wah.

Sexpot on the far left. 

This might be a good time to mention that I spent an inordinate amount of mental and physical energy trying to look nice. Also, I'm still on a pretty high dose of steroids.

Oh, and if you were there, thank you; you're excused

Ground Control to Major Mom

What they don’t tell you about becoming a mother is that it can take a while before you realize that you’ve become a mother.

Sure, some women say they felt like moms the first time the baby kicked, and that’s sweet and probably not total bullshit, but that just isn’t how it happened for me.

My big moment of becoming a mom happened in a restaurant parking lot while I chased a runaway baby turd.

Sam was 8 months old. For 8 months I’d been pumping milk, hooked up to a machine bent on turning once-glorious boobs into a pair of miserable hot dogs. I felt like a dairy cow, but still not a mom.

For 8 months I’d become intimate with the lonely hours between 2 and 6 a.m. I’d floated away from sanity and into the void of sleep deprivation with a screaming baby under one arm and a copy of The Happiest Baby on the Block under the other. I felt kinda like Major Tom. But like a mom? Not so much.

So when a friend invited Sam and me to lunch at an upscale gastro pub, I leapt at the chance to bury my sorrows in a tall microbrew.

No kiddie menu? No problem. Babies love charcuterie!

Sam happily noshed on artisanal cheese while the grownups dug into plates of something locally sourced. But as I hoisted my beer, I realized that my son had gone chillingly still. His eyes were fixed in the distance. A vein pulsed in his forehead.

We may have a situation.

Diaper loading in 3, 2 . . .

When the bomb dropped, all the mixed greens within its blast radius wilted. Diners clutched each other. Those who weren’t passing out were passing judgment.

The thing about upscale gastro pubs is that the bathrooms aren’t typically family friendly. No changing station. No paper towels. Just a wall of Dyson air blade dryers, which, lemme just save you the trouble, do more damage than good when it comes to getting crap off of a baby.

The backseat of my car was the only option.

The October weather was unseasonably hot. High 80s. My sweat-dampened rump hung out the passenger side door. Sam lay on the back seat, furiously pedaling his slick thighs – a move that made it nearly impossible to de-pants him.

If I’d felt like a mom, I would’ve bribed my kid with his favorite: something breakable and expensive.

Instead, between the heat stroke and the panic attack, my brain just rocketed away, toward the cool, distant glow of memory.

Suddenly, I was standing in my bedroom, singing Donna Summer songs and twirling a blanket around my neck like a boa. I was 4 years old. My mom, carrying a laundry basket, stopped in the doorway and held out my pair of Batgirl Underoos.

“Jessica,” she said, "what exactly happened here?”

I glanced at the undies, clearly the scene of an accident.

I turned back to the mirror and replied, “I didn’t make it.”

“Uh, I think we both know you made it.”

“Mom! I didn’t make it to the bathroom.”

“Wait. You just didn’t make it to the bathroom? And you didn’t say anything? And you just threw these in the hamper, what, a few days ago?”

“Mom! What did I just say? I didn’t make it! I am practicing my singing, mom, ooookay?”

And my mom looked at the underwear and then at me and then she looked over her shoulder, like she was expecting someone to let her in on the joke. But no one was there, and it wasn’t a joke, and she laughed anyway.

Just 4 years after that, my mom was gone, lost to cancer.

When Sam was born, I felt lost too. What had made my mom laugh in the face of those savaged Underoos? Who would show me how to tap into that deep, calming well of crazy?

A tearing sound snapped me back to Earth. Sam’s diaper tabs had begun to give way. Before I could pin him, he flung his ham hocks skyward. The diaper popped open. The contents were set free.

A perfectly spherical poop rolled onto the leather seat just as a convertible tried to pull into the parking spot beside me. But my car door and butt blocked the spot. As I groped for the runaway with a bare hand, I smiled back psychotically at the driver, a bemused and good-looking guy in his 20s. Of course.

Oh god. Dude is looking at my sweaty post-baby butt. Oh god. My car is gonna smell like a hippo house. Oh god. This piece of shit is gonna roll into the no man’s land behind the seat belt. 

A rolling runaway poop. They didn’t warn me about that in prenatal yoga. But the alarm bells were already being drowned out by “On Top of Spaghetti,” playing like a victory march.

“You will not turn into mush!” I vowed. To the poop.

Stifling my gag reflex, I nabbed the wayward poo as it rolled off the seat but before it could plop into my purse. I hopped back from the car, holding my fist aloft, and yelled, “Suck it, turd!”

Sam stopped crying and instead gnawed a sock. Dude stopped looking bemused and instead looked horrified. Me, I stopped panting and instead laughed.

I couldn’t stop laughing. “Now Jessica,” my mom might have said, “take your protein pills and put your big girl panties on. You made it.”

Then, then, I felt like a mom.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

FBW: Listen to Your Mother (on Drugs)

Hot damn, people, Flogger Blogger Wednesday is about put on all kinds of airs. It's still chockfull of the guilt, but today it's a major theatrical debut of guilt! It's guilt under hot stage lights. It's guilt behind a podium, sweating through its Spanx. It's Listen to Your Mother DC guilt. It's guilt on ROIDS!

Okay, so before I get to the part of this story where I tell you how wonderful and life-affirming my LTYM experience was, lemme first say a few things about the 24 hours leading up to my reading. A few drug things.

Remember how I was all worried that I'd give everyone in the audience the literary equivalent of botulism or salmonella poisoning? Well, that may have happened. I don't know yet. No one in attendance mentioned cramping or fever, but deadly toxins can take a few days to percolate.

What I do know is that, thanks to a miserable and horribly timed spell of migraines, my doc put me on a heavy dose of steroids 1 day before I had to take to the stage. And steroids, my friends, are awesome . . . if you're into having unlimited ambition coupled with very, very limited intellect.

Being on the roids feels like, how do I put this? Like:

Go! Go! GO FASTER! No sleeping! Get that thing done! DONE NOW! Wait. Wait a minute. What thing? Here's a thing! Do that! How do I do it? So sweaty! Need CHEESEBURGERS! Wanna exercise! Time to walk the dog! Just try and keep up with me, dog! WHY ARE YOU SO SLOW, DOG? Let's go home, dog, and eat cheeseburgers and do CHORES and exercise and write a poem and feel nervous and HUG THE BABY. Energy! Cheeseburgers! Did I pay my credit card bill? NOTHING CAN GO WRONG! Where are my pants? I feel like LIGHTNING! Sweat. Sweat. Sweat. I'm a CHEETAH! I'm a sleek and mighty tower of CHEESEBURGERS! Let's buy shoes! Gotta go potty.

Obviously, this is exactly how I had hoped to feel as I prepared for show day. But given the choice between wanting to Hulk smash and feeling like I'd been Hulk smashed, I opted for the steroids rather than for the migraines. And, yes, the drugs made for a physically pain-free experience. But psychically pain-free? Well, I know at least one husband, one child, and one dog who may have some trust issues to work out with me.

I had wanted Saturday to be a day of rehearsing, of ironing and polishing and moisturizing, of giving in to the excitement and joy. Instead, I bought and returned 3 pairs of shoes, bought and returned 2 sets of jewelry, and asked my husband 5 times, "Why is it so damn hot in this damn house, damn it?"

Shelby, bless his heart, was beyond patient. He opened windows and turned on fans. He occupied our son as I jetted off to yet another store in search of the magical accessory that would make me both talented and pretty. He nodded and nervously eyed our dog when I declared, "I'm taking the old girl for a romp!"

I had wanted to thank them -- my little family -- because, without them, there would have been no show to prepare for. There would have been no story to tell.

Instead, as my brain detonated like Jiffy Pop above a camp fire, I stomped around the house, fretting and sweating and never once saying, "You are the loves of my life. Thank you for loving me back." No. What I said, come Sunday morning, was, "I gotta go! I need to hit a McDonald's before I drive to the theater. I'm so hungry for a damn cheeseburger!"

And that's what I did. I sped away, hit the drive-through, and arrived at Synetic loaded down with a duffle bag containing: extra-strength deodorant, 38 pounds of makeup, a bottle of water, a tin of breath mints, Advil, Tylenol, Pepto, an extra pair of underpants, an extra dress, champagne, red Solo cups, hairspray, hair gel, hair pomade, hair brushes, and a double-cheeseburger meal.

That's me in the blue dress, front row, third from the left. Use one of those
solar eclipse boxes if you plan to stare directly at my calves.

There was much hugging and primping as my cast mates gathered backstage. Everyone was brimming with anticipation. And, as I watched them apply lipstick, borrow safety pins, and pass around homemade cookies, I wanted to thank them -- my new friends -- because they are kind and funny and nurturing. Because, without them, I could not have told my story.

Instead, juiced to the hilt, I experienced some kind of mild Rachel Zoe stroke. I heard myself say, "Bananas!" I heard myself say, "Shut the front door!" I shouted, "Does someone have shiny white eyeshadow? I really need shiny white eyeshadow!" I gobbled up the chocolates supplied by our producer and reassured everyone that I had brought an extra pair of underpants in case of an underwear-ruining emergency.

Then it was go time. Of 14 readers, I was lucky #13. As we took our places on the stage, my Hulk heart thudded and then, miraculously, it slowed.

The stories poured over me like a salve. The audience gasped and laughed and cried, and it was soothing music. When it was my turn to stand in front of the microphone, I wanted to say, "I don't know how I got here, but I know I have you to thank."

Instead, I told a story about a runaway baby turd. (You're welcome.)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

It's Time for the Big Show!

I used to talk in my sleep, back in the days when I got sleep. Most of my chatter, I'm told, consisted of "No, no, no, no, no!" punctuated with the occasional "Oh no!" for variety.

Not infrequently, though, I'd wake myself up with some dreamland pronouncement. Once, I shouted, "He meant dirty in two ways." Another time, in a low growl, I whispered, "There's someone at the door" (an experience from which I have yet to recover). But by far, the best wake-up call I've ever given myself was the time I sat bolt upright in bed, my arms held out Frankenstein-style in front of me, and announced, "It's time for the Big Show!"

Sadly, the "No, no, no, no, nos" far outnumbered the "Big Shows." Even as I slept, I seemed to be running from some menace; facing an impossible obstacle; crouching in a dark corner and hoping the bad thing would pass. It's a painfully accurate metaphor for how I approached, um, EVERYTHING. 

Take cooking -- For thirty-odd years, I've successfully avoided learning how to cook for fear of giving my family botulism, salmonella, typhoid fever, leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis, and/or Brainerd diarrhea. (Side note: The CDC website is amazingly comprehensive; don't read it before dinner.) 

This worst-case-scenario approach to tackling the unknown, however, has often left me watching everyone else have fun while I mope on the sidelines. So, as 2014 dawned, I vowed to not only face fear but to land a totally sweet hi-ya karate chop to fear's big, dumb face.

Do the Running Man
like no one is watching!

As it turns out, auditioning for Listen to Your Mother DC felt an awful lot like popping fear in its busted-ass grill.

And do you know what happened when I crawled out of my hidey hole and faced up to fear? THE FEAR MULTIPLIED (not unlike a gremlin or e. coli).

I didn't expect to actually be cast in the show. The thought of reading in front of a live audience makes all 53 of my sphincters clench (go ahead, Google "How many sphincters in the human body").

I didn't know I'd end up meeting so many talented writers and performers. Ugh. Talent. I can't talk about poop in front of people with talent. People with talent probably have not idea what poop is, because people with talent do not poop (oddly, I could not verify this on the CDC website).

But even when I was fully puckered and struck dumb, I refused to quail. And it wasn't just because I was tired of feeling left out. There was this other nagging little issue: my kid.

Maybe Pork Chop will grow up thinking I'm a terrible cook with a scatological vocabulary; I'm okay with that. But I can't, I just cannot stomach the thought that he'll judge me to be a coward. Or, worse yet, that he will learn to be a coward because of me. "I learned it from watching you" doesn't only apply to the reefer, ya know.

So, tomorrow at 2 p.m., I'll be walking onto a stage with 13 other writers. I might sweat giant pit stains into my dress. I might wobble in my heels. I might need to tinkle. I will probably tinkle. But I'm going to read my story! And, yes, I will be selling out my son for cheap laughs in that story, but I am the mother, and that is my right! And fear might be lurking beside me while I'm at the podium, but I don't give a damn. I AM COOKING THIS METAPHORICAL CHICKEN, AND I AM MAKING EVERYONE EAT IT!

Just over 24 hours to go, folks. It's time for the Big Show.