Sunday, August 24, 2014


A few weeks ago a dear friend said to me, "Lets go camping!" And I enthusiastically agreed.

My mind filled with warm memories from my own childhood - s'mores, campfires, and creepy, flashlight illuminated trips to the bathroom in the middle if the night. 

As the day loomed closer Hubs began emailing me long lists of necessary items. I seemed to have forgotten the sheer enormity of work required to spend a single night in the wilderness with 2 small children. 

Thankfully for me, I am married to boy-scout-who-grew-into-engineer so I was able to smile, nod and think about s'mores and lightning bugs while he thought of things like food and shelter. 

We packed the truck with more stuff than we usually take for our week-long summer vacation at the Cape, and we still had to stop on the way for ice and firewood.

Upon arrival at the site we first were greeted by an entire swarm of bees that had taken up residence on our picnic table. We discovered they weren't particularly aggressive but they also weren't keen on vacating our table. They crawled around searching for food as if they had confused themselves with flies. 

While we debated the bee situation (buy Raid? burn table?) our youngest child was nearly carried off by mosquitos. 

Then came the putting up of the tent. Now, putting up a tent isn't too difficult (especially when married to Boy Scout) but putting up a tent while running herd on 2 children is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle while someone steals the peices and replaces them with pieces from another puzzle. 

Eventually though, the tent was up. We went to the lake and the playground, and then finally back to the campsite for dinner and campfire with friends. 

Building a fire (step by step instructions)
Observe and snicker at nearby campfires.
Pass judgment on other's fire building techniques. 
Tell friends about amazing talent at fire building. 
Stack small sticks and paper in teepee shape. 
Light and blow.
Smile smugly at cheerful fire.
Add larger wood, blow some more. 
When larger logs fizzle and do not catch, frown and complain about wet wood. 
Utilize more kindling and paper. 
Poke, prod, blow and complain.
Contemplate lighter fluid. 
Once larger logs are burning, obsessively poke and reposition logs for optimum air flow and even burning. 

Many things were cooked over the fire and eaten. My children insisted (shockingly) on pasta cooked on the camp stove. 

All the children were repeatedly saved from death by fire, then they lapsed into sugar comas and were trundled off to bed. 

The adults chatted until the coals went dim (best part of camping ).

I shared a sleeping bag and a twin sized air mattress with the Wee One. It wasn't as bad as I expected - though he is a bed hog and I couldn't zipper the sleeping bag all the way. I'll have you know that sleeping bags are far less warm when your backside is hanging out the zipper. 

The children were, as usual, up with the sun but we bribed them with Angry Birds to keep them quiet and avoid being murdered by neighboring campers. 

The Wee One's only volume setting is "trying to be heard over a noisy crowd" and though his high pitched voice is cute - it's Too Damn Loud. 

At some point I exited the tent and shuffled off to the bathroom - looking like a bedraggled, hunch-backed, semi-frozen homeless person. Hubs took a photo. 

When one of our friends offered to make a Dunks run, I nearly wept with joy. 

Hubs made pancakes on the camp stove  while shooing our new pets - the pesky fly-bees. 

We took the kids out in a canoe (can I play Angry Birds?), then to the beach (can I have a snack?), then out to lunch (can we go home?).

Upon arrival home additional work awaited us: tent maintenance, cleaning and putting away camping stuff, and 14 loads of laundry. 

At tubby time the filthy, sticky boys were showered and scrubbed while the water in the bottom of the tub ran brown with DEET, dirt and soot. 

Once they were tucked into bed Hubs and I collapsed onto the couch and didn't even make it through one TV show before nodding off. 

I would like to bow respectfully to my grandparents, who took 6 children camping in the days before easy-up tents and iPhones, and to my own parents who took my sister and I into the woods and didn't leave us there. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Things I learned at Hampton Beach today:

My self esteem is directly proportional to the bodies of the other women in my field of view. I can go from emotional devastation to euphorically average with a single head swivel.  

Fringe on bathing suits is apparently a thing now. To me this seems unpleasantly... Drippy. 

Pregnant women are the most beautiful women on the beach. No cover ups required - you glorious goddesses you. 

There are a lot of tattoos out there. 
 Some are art, some are trendy, some are strangely blurry. 
Many are illegible due to overly scripty font. (Does that say Family or Fatality?)
People put tattoos everywhere. Including places I would never consider tattoo-able - yet there they are (armpit?).

Though all children are different, every single child at the beach ends up with a saggy bum bathing suit. Plumber's crack, the great unifier.

I am eternally grateful to every old man who pulls his swim trunks up too high, and to the wife who allows this. Carry on.

Ladies: though I am fully supportive of padded bathing suit tops, please buy a suit that fits. The bra cup of your suit should not hover 4 feet away from your boob, looking like it's accepting donations for the homeless. 

Gentleman: though I do indeed appreciate your sculpted biceps and abs, please return to the gym and do 1,000 calf raises, then 1,000 squats.  My 4 year old son has better quads. 

I don't actually like the ocean. No matter what anyone tells you - it's friggen cold, and full of fish, sharks, crabs and other touchy, bitey things. 

The only acceptable display of affection at the beach is hand holding. Even a hug is far too intimate for general viewing when both parties are nearly naked. 

A Brazilian cut bathing suit requires a Brazilian wax. No substitutions, please. Also, I think this type of bathing suit is best worn by Brazilian women only. 

A woman can have a thigh gap and cellulite. Shocking, I know. My apologies for staring, but it was like seeing Santa Claus or Bigfoot. How is this possible?

It is extraordinarily difficult to maintain a goth persona while at the beach. Despite long black hair, pallor, and black swim trunks - the application of sunscreen just can never be angst-y. 

Here's to a sunny, sandy summer.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why I never get anything done

So last weekend I decided to clean up a bit before family arrived at my house for a little Memorial Day BBQ.

I had no grand aspirations. Those days of sterile surfaces and dedicated grout-only toothbrushes are long gone. I simply wanted to stow away all the flotsam and jetsam that covers every available surface, hose off anything sticky, and empty the trash.

The problem with me and cleaning is that I have two children  I never really get anything done. I clean and clean and still the floor is sticky and I step on a Lego and is that cat puke and do people really clean the windows and PRIORITIZE Melissa and perhaps I should put on music and yes you can have a snack and no you may not watch tv.

But, past experiences aside, I gathered up some supplies and attempted to tackle the worst of the messes.

When it came time for mopping I realized I was (of course) out of Swiffer Wet Jet pads.

So I improvised.

Totally MacGyver'd it.

I opened the windows wide to let in the fresh air and was horrified at the state of the windowsills. Dirt and dead bugs and cobwebs.  I couldn't leave them like that - could I? Are other people's windowsills a dirty bug graveyard? How do I even attempt to clean this?

First I went for the sweep-that-shit-outta-here method.

Unfortunately, the dirt gets stuck in the grooves and doesn't really go anywhere.

Next up, I attempted a soapy, bleachy washcloth. 

This made mud in the grooves.
Not really improving the process much. 

A friend suggested using a vacuum next time. 

There may not be a next time. 

Why are you wasting time on the windowsills, Melissa, seriously. Go scrub the toilet and all surfaces within 3 feet of the toilet. Then teach the boys AIM. 

My new favorite cleaning tool is this: 

Lemon Essential Oil - added to my soapy, bleachy, bucket.
Clean ALL the surfaces. 

After MacGyvering the wet jet and failing miserably with the windowsills - I needed a bit of a pick-me-up.

A healthy, low-fat snack ought to do the trick. Celery sticks perhaps? 

Insert slab of banana bread. 

While I am in the kitchen I note that we are out of muffins - and rather than face the 6:00am wrath of two muffinless children... 

What cleaning? There's plenty of time. 

While knee deep in muffin batter I note the bean sprouts that the wee one brought home from school and that I promised to plant in my garden. Might as well go throw them in the ground before I get back to cleaning. It'll only take a second ... 

I will kill these, as I kill all photosynthetic life forms. 

On my way outside to plant beans I note the porch - still in winter mode - and filthy.  This must be remedied post-haste as  it is likely our guests will sit out here during today's BBQ. 

Sort and store - attic, goodwill, trash 

The porch is insanely dirty. I sweep and scrub an entire spring's worth of pollen which is layered on an entire winter's worth of sand, salt and cobwebs.

Where was I? The muffins are beeping.

I am up to my elbows in dirt, planting those damn bean sprouts when my guests arrive. 

"Oh. Hi." 

I have not showered, nor really "dressed," nor finished all the cleaning I had hoped to accomplish prior to their arrival. 

Party preperation? Oh dear God, no.  

I force my family to prep their own lunch while I slip (unshowered) into something not covered in bleach stains and dust. 

And this is why my house looks the way it does. 

Sangria, anyone? 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Children's books

Sometimes there is some weird stuff in children's books. 

Take this little story for example:

A school principal bakes a gingerbread man cookie and takes it to school in his lunch box.

The principal has a bowl of candy eyes on his desk.

Pencils, pens, gold star stickers ... Bowl  of candy eyes - the usual school administration stuff. 

If that's ON the desk, in a CLEAR bowl, what (dear Lord) is IN the drawers? 

Next up, the Berenstain bears go to the dentist. 

After the kids' visit. Mama Bear and Dentist Bear share this steamy look:

What is up with Mama's sultry gaze and flirtatious wave? Not to mention Dr. Bearson's sly smile. 

The only other explanation for Mama's expression that I can come up with is Nitrous. Are Mama and Dr. Bearson taking hits of the laughing gas? 

Not sure which is worse. Infidelity? Drug abuse? Creepy voodoo principal? 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tech detox

For Christmas this year beloved Hubs gave me an iPhone. 

Though it was hard to give up my prior phone - which had a slide out keyboard - I very quickly became addicted to my new little friend. 

Unfortunately in the depths of this cold and miserable winter, I discovered games. 

I discovered that I really, really enjoy hidden object games. There's an entertaining little plot, tasks to accomplish, and puzzles to solve. 

It seems such a harmless thing. 

Until I notice I'm always playing my game near the kids. Instead of watching them, or heaven forbid - playing with them. 

I had noticed other folks breaking away from technology lately. A few friends bidding Facebook adieu. Others giving up everything fun on their phone for Lent.  An alarming show on NPR about electronics and parenting. 

I decided to join the trend. 

No more games. How hard could it be?

It's hard. 

Embarrassingly hard. 

I pick up my phone frequently (way too frequently) and check my email. Then, with no game to open, I sigh and put it away again. Repeat in 5 minutes. 

It's not getting any easier, either. I really, really want to go download a new game. Right. Now.

The good news is - with nothing to entertain me - I have begrudgingly gotten a few extra chores finished, emails sent, books read, and blog posts written. 

I wish I could say that detoxing from iPhone games prompted a renewal of quality family time. Alas, no. The children are far too irritating for that for the most part. 

But I did have some moments with a wiggly, squirmy, farty, argumentative 4 year old in my lap instead of this phone in my hand. 

And I suppose that is good. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


I frequently talk to my yoga classes about their mental/spiritual "toolbox". A group of tools we can access as we work on our mat. The thing about yoga though, is that we practice with our tools on the mat in order to be able to use them off the mat - in real life. 

We can put a lot of good stuff in our toolbox. Deep breaths, sighs, ujjayi breath,  kindness, forgiveness, discipline, stillness, lack of expectation... The list goes on. 

During a yoga practice we might need to pull out a variety of tools. A deep sigh at the beginning of class to let go of our day and focus on the practice. Discipline during the physically challenging lunges or planks. Forgiveness and loving kindness during a stretch that highlights the tightness in the shoulders or hamstrings. The same can be true for facing the challenges in our daily life. 

Periodically I like to spend some time focusing on one tool. Honing it. Practicing with it. Making note of its' many uses. 

With respect to the seasonal change (dear God, please let the season change) I've been focusing lately on the tool of openness, or lack of expectation. 

In late winter we know that spring is coming, yet we are able to anticipate its' arrival without throwing open the door every day enraged by the lack of crocuses and balmy breezes. If we take, on the other hand, our experience on the yoga mat - how easily do we await the arrival of the practice where we finally touch our toes in forward fold or when we make it through sun salutions without huffing and puffing. 

We don't. We curse ourselves and our hamstrings, our lack of cardiovascular endurance. And while we're at it - we curse that bendy lightweight who never huffs, nor puffs, nor struggles. 

SO. Openness. Lack of expectation. 

On the mat we work to approach each practice with openness, without assumption. Obviously, this is hard. Yoga is repetitive and we know where our weaknesses are. So we work. We work to let go of our expectation. We work to enter each practice, each pose, each moment as if we've never been there before. Because, in reality, we never have. We've never been in this moment before, and we'll never be here again. 

The way to begin using this tool, cultivating that openness, is simply to observe our mind. When our instructor names the next posture or sequence what pops up in the mind? First we become aware - then - we can let go. Then we can come back to this moment. Experiencing the pose this time, without comparing it to last time or judging it against an expectation of how it should be. 

Like all things in yoga, we practice this on the mat so that we have it in our toolbox off the mat. So that when we encounter that same difficult person, or that same frustrating situation - perhaps we could be open to a new encounter, a new experience. 

Just as on the mat - first comes observation. Noting the way we mentally prepare to interact with a person we know before they even arrive. Knowing just what they will do and say. Knowing just how they will be. 

The way our shoulders elevate and tighten as we walk toward that certain meeting at work. Knowing the way it will go. Aggravated before it even starts. 

SO. First, the observation. Then, the letting go. We figure out how to quiet the mind (and relax those damn shoulders) before our interactions. Sure, things may go down just exactly the way we had anticipated. But, they may not - and if we are not open to a different experience -then it will certainly never be any different. 

Being able to let go of expectation, it's a powerful tool. I promise. All that endless chatter and preparation (those imaginary conversations and arguments) take up an awful lot of mental energy. Without them clogging up the works, we become truly present to a situation, with access to our own inner wisdom.

So whether we are a yogi or not - we can observe our mind. What arises as we approach all the people and events in our day. First, we observe. Then, we let go, coming back - time and again - to this very moment, with nothing between us and our good heart. 


Monday, March 10, 2014

"I hate you." A Parenting Milestone

My youngest son, the Wee One, is four.

He is a combination of the stubbornness and poor coordination of age 2 mixed with the impulsiveness of age 3.

He has a temper like my retired US Marine Corps father and the manipulative skills of a charming 16 year old girl.

The intensity of his rage appears undaunted by the smallness of his stature.

In the space of 30 seconds he has been known to say:

"Mama, could you please fetch me some water? My cup is empty and I am thirsty."

And then:

"Mama? Is this still today?"

And then:


And then:

"Mummammuumma garbeldygook babytalk gibberish"

It is challenging to keep up with his wildly swinging moods.

He will hug me and then mid-hug begin to choke me - yes, on purpose. He waits until I ask him to stop. He does this so often that I'm fairly certain he is testing the exact pressure at which hug becomes pain and he wants to be statistically certain that his value is within an acceptable standard deviation.

He head butts. He pinches. He bites. He yells and throws himself on the floor. He jumps straight up and down when frustrated - which would be absolutely hilarious if not for the surrounding tantrum.

He is challenging to parent.

He requires a level of sustained parenting commitment that is difficult to maintain. He needs me to be on my A-game from 5am to 8pm. Every day.

If I stay fully engaged with him, moment by never-ending moment, I can help him regulate his moods, impulses, and urges. But, I can't realistically do that. Yet another way I fail as a parent, I suppose.

Nonetheless - now you have the background for the tantrum that occurred last weekend.

I forget what was the precipitating event. He was asked to go to time out.

He refused.

He was asked to walk to his room.

He refused.

He was carried to his bed. His wails and screams echoing throughout the house. His kicking and flailing becoming increasingly aggressive as we approached the threshold of his room.

He was placed (perhaps not entirely gently) into his bed, and I took my usual seat during tantrum-time in the rocking chair.

My philosophy during tantrums is to sit nearby, letting the rage run its' course, offering support, guidance, and consequences.

As the fruit of my loins thrashed on his bed he began to yell:

"I hate this!"
"I hate my room!"

wait for it ...

"I hate you, Mama!"

There you have it.

Inside my head there was a moment of shocked silence. Then a myriad of voices began to chime in:

Sweet, motherly voice: "I think a piece of my heart just died"
Intellectual voice: "QUICK! THINK" How do we respond without permanent damage?!"
Angry voice: "That little $%*# Imma kill him."
Tired voice: "Where is hubs? I'm done."
Sweet, motherly voice: "There. We've done it. We've ruined him forever."
Intellectual voice: "What would Dr. Sears say??!!"
Angry voice: "Still mad here. Really mad."
A voice that sounded like my own: "I'm the worst mother ever."

In the end I said something like, "How would you feel if I said that to you? That's a very hurtful thing to say."

Later, Hubs made him apologize and we talked about how hurt feelings are like boo-boos and they take time to get better.

I wish I could tie this all up and say he sweetly sat on my lap later and the dead piece of my heart was healed ... but alas he continued to be a pain for the remainder of the weekend. Thanks, daylight savings time, and the truth is - he's not much for cuddling and warm fuzzies.

I suppose this will not be the last time he hates me, and I better get used to it. Adolescence should be fun.

Parenting, my friends, not for the thin skinned.