Goats are my new favorite things in the entire multiverse. Entire. Multiverse. I don’t mind waking up at 7:15 in the morning and layering under mounds of socks and legwarmers and shirts and armwarmers and sweaters and coats because I know they’ll be the first things to greet me good morning. I can hear them from across the farm, yelling at me to hurry up and let them out. And when I say yell, I mean yell like crazy humans. Golfer and I had a theory that all the goats in this hilarious video were overdubbed by real men yelling, but now I know that goats often make ridiculously realistic bleats like that. So when I’m breaking up the ice in the water buckets and gathering armfulls of grass to feed them I hear them yelling “MAAAAaaaAAAAAA!” which sounds suprisingly like my kids used to when they’d wake up in their cribs. And just like I used to stumble in to my kids rooms at the crack of much too early to give them hugs and get them food, so I do into the goat pen.
Goatwatching is one of my favorite pastimes on the Happy Janssen Farm. I’ve never spent a lot of time with goats before this. I always avoided them on petting farms because of their crazy eyes and all the nibbling. I’ve never been a fan of things nibbling me…not from boyfriends, not from my teething kids, and not from animals who don’t even buy me a drink first. These goats still try to nibble me, but I’ve gotten over my aversion because they are so highly entertaining to watch. There are 6 goats here. Here are Cloud and Clover.
They headbutt the most. Their favorite target is little Violet, who is the smallest of the goats and the last one to become a part of the tribe. Whenever I text Sara to say the other goats are being mean to Violet (again), she assures me this is the goat way. It’s like watching siblings who can’t help but give the youngest brother or sister a sucker punch as they walk by. You can see in the next picture that Violet, the little brown cutie, is trying to get up with the big kids. Either Clover or Cloud (I can’t tell them apart exactly yet) couldn’t resist, and bent down to headbutt her back onto the ground.
What you can’t see is that the other one saw a golden opportunity and headbutted the one doing the headbutting which sent her skanking down in a flurry of headbutt and cloven hoves into Violet. The two of them then tumbled down to the ground in a tangle of goat. Without missing a beat, Clover or Cloud continued the headbutting onslaught on Violet while in mid fall, and then gave her one last one for good measure when they regained their footing.
Violet always comes up to me and looks at me with these eyes that say, “Lady, why are they so MEAN to me!” and I wonder if Sara will notice that I’ve moved Violet into the main house and she’s now sleeping in the master bedroom. I think I can even get Violet to pick up on basic table manners by the time she comes back. Instead, I pet her little head and say, “They’re just teaching you some dance moves. Skanking is all the rage with goats and people at Flogging Molly concerts!” Then I put on some ska from Spotify and skank around to show her how awesome it really is.
A few nights ago Naturalist and I went to put the goats into their pen for the night. First we closed off parts of the pen so Naturalist could get the grass and alfalfa, walk 10 feet, and put it in the feed trough. We couldn’t quite figure out how to work the latch though, so I told her I’d hold the gate closed while she did it. Unfortunately all the goats got so excited about dinner that they rushed the gate and all stood up to push against it. I realized I couldn’t hold them all back, not when they worked together like that. I had just enough time to call out, “Naturalist, hurry, they’re coming in!” With only an armful of grass and alfalfa to shield her, I saw her turn around and shriek as the goats skanked their way rapidly towards her.
What happened next was a blur of hooves, spindly goat legs, and bleating sounds coming from both goats and daughter. Suddenly, there she was, in the center of a skankpit with 5 feet to go till she could throw the food into the trough.
“Don’t let them knock you over! They’ll skank all over you!” I yelled out in support. “Put your back to a wall!”
Luckily she has a history of skanking at concerts like Reel Big Fish and she held her own. I was so proud of her as she ricochet from wall to wall, throwing elbows, knees and legs out in a beautifully comically violent pas de deux with all 6 goats. As she bleated her way across the pen, I doubled over in laughter. I don’t think either of us will forget it.
She stayed focused and delivered the food to the trough and then got the hell out of there.
In the past I’ve always worried about sending my baby out where I know they’ll be crowds of people like in concerts and music festivals. You just never know what will happen in them, people being highly unpredictable and sketchier than goats. Now I know, I don’t have to worry about a thing. My girl! She got moves, strength, and a level head!
If you can skank with goats, you can handle just about any situation.
I’m here farm watching for my friend Sara. Part of my job in keeping the goats happy and safe is to feed them and make sure I shut and lock all the gates behind me so they don’t go free range all over the front range. This I have done to perfection. Except the time yesterday when I didn’t. It’s not that I didn’t lock the gate, it’s that they rushed me when I was opening the gate and there’s not much my puny arms or stern voice can do to keep back an onslaught of goat.
Being in the middle of a bunch of rowdy goats reminded me of the time when I went to a Flogging Molly concert with my friend Amber a few years ago. We got there, she taught me how to do a double shot of whiskey first thing (before the lines start), go to the bathroom (before the lines start), go back and have another shot of whiskey (so we don’t have to lose our place in the show to get any more later), and then find the best place to see the band. One minute there was calm and order, the next minute everyone was skanking all around us. Skanking being a type of dance where you kick your legs, flail your arms, and catapult yourself into the person beside you. Violently. Amber, a wee little lass maybe all of 5’3″ and OG California riot grrrl, managed to protect me from anything more serious than a fat lip. It’s a little blurry on account of all the whiskey, but I’m pretty sure I tried to kiss her…so she also protected herself from me. I was new to drinking and hadn’t yet learned that just because whiskey makes you FEEL like making out with everyone, you shouldn’t ACTUALLY make out with everyone. I learned a lot that night.
Anyway, these goats. Being in the middle of them was like that night. They weren’t trying to make out with me, but one of them did stand up and bite my ear pretty hard. I couldn’t hold them back, and half of them ran out of the gate before I could stop them. I managed to shut it before they all got out. Echo, their protector llama who usually watches guard while sitting in the pen, got up to see what all the ruckus was. He ambled over, assessed the situation, and then looked at me with his judgey eyes.
“Lady,” his eyes said to me, “I don’t know who you are, but this never happens when the cute blond woman comes in here. Not only are you in way over your head, but now you’ve involved me because those are my charges and how am I supposed to watch them now that they’re running away?”
Echo’s solution was to take matters into his own hands and try to get out of the pen.
Sara, who gave me detailed instructions on how to handle a goat rebellion like this, told me to get alfalfa nuggets and clang them around in a can. “The goats will come running!” she said. So I rushed to get the alfalfa nuggets before anything escalated. I managed to get them, get back to the gate, open the gate and shake the can. The goats did, indeed, come running. They knocked me back in their effort to get to the alfalfa. I held the can over my head until I could get them all through the gate before they ate it all, but goats like to rear up on their hind legs which puts them at eye level. They also like to shove with their front legs which feels like…terrifying. As I was trying to control that situation, Echo rushed out of the gate to get to the goats. Now the goats were inside so I threw the alfalfa can over my head and shut the gate door.
Now I had a new problem.
Most of the goats were on the right side of the fence. Echo was not. I’ve never handled a llama before. Sara said he wouldn’t spit if I didn’t annoy him, but I haven’t read the book “How To Annoy A Llama” so to be safe I assume everything I do annoys him. His eyes confirm this.
I had to get Echo into the enclosure. I had to get the other goats away from the gate or they’d rush out again.
I got more alfalfa nuggets in a container and went to the other side of the pen. I rattled it around and watched the goats skank their way rapidly towards me. I flung it on the ground and, as they were preoccupied with eating it up, I ran to the gate and opened it. I gently put my arm around Echo while saying, “Please don’t spit on me. I’m not trying to be annoying, I’m just trying to get you on the other side of the fence where your friends are…”
He gave me the benefit of the doubt and humored me by sauntering back in.
All’s well that ends well.
Goats and llama, happy and safe!
Echo’s eyes said to me, “This never happens when the cute blond lady is around.”
I know, Echo, I know. She’ll be back soon!
When we last saw each other, last week sometime…or maybe two weeks ago, I lost track of reality for a while…I was finishing up packing and moving to Colorado. Then I stopped blogging because I entered into a catatonic state as a result of a bad reaction to stress, red bull, organizing, packing, too much red wine, and not enough sleep. It wasn’t pretty, people.
The only thing that got me through was knowing that my friend Sara (aka Walk Slowly, Live Wildly) and her Happy Janssen Farm were on the other end. Naturalist and I made the 16 hour drive from California to Colorado and got here 4 days ago, I heard her three girls squealing “SHE’S HERE!” as I drove onto the farm, and then pretty much collapsed into her arms while we almost cried hugging each other. (There’s something so awesome about an almost cry hug. Maybe you’re tired. Distracted. Emotionally spent. Emotionally blocked off. Whatever the reason, saying to someone “I’m almost crying!” while giving them a hug is like saying, “I can’t quite get there, but if I could right now, I’d totally be crying for you!”)
We didn’t have a lot of time to stand around almost crying for each other, though. She was leaving with her girls the next morning to join her husband in Minnesota for a couple weeks and leaving the farm in my totally incompetent and unreliable hands. So, she gave me a crash course in farmgirl 101.
I tried to listen as she showed me around the chickens, goats, llama, and cats. I really did. But I kept getting tripped up when she’d say things like, “Never turn your back on a rooster” and “don’t worry, the chickens can only fly up high enough to hit your stomach, not peck your eyeballs” and “llamas won’t spit if you don’t annoy them.” What had I gotten myself in to?!
I’d find out the next day when my official foster farmgirl gig started.
“So…I just roll on out to say hi to the animals when I wake up?” I asked.
“No no no, you gotta get out there by 7:45 am.” She corrected. “Before daylight savings time, it was 8:45, but now the time has fallen back so we have to get up an hour early.”
It appears that like my kids, animals don’t register clock time–especially when it jumps backwards or forwards.
Also like my kids, animals are very particular about immediately needing to eat upon sunrise or else they really start losing their minds and fucking shit up.
I’ve learned a lot in my short time as a farmgirl! And I am now non comatose and recovered enough from the move to blog more regularly about it.
Tomorrow I will discuss my current obsession of anthropomorphizing chickens!
I’m in the home stretch of moving to Colorado. Less than a week. I’m surviving on coffee and panic attacks…I’m sure the two are connected but I don’t have enough energy for the self care it would take for anything else. Speaking of self care, I started my period 7 DAYS EARLY. Not that it has anything to do with self care, but I also lack the energy to write full complete sensical sentences. I will tell you this…I plan out when my periods are coming because they are so disruptive in my life I need to batten down the hatches mentally to get through the next one. So in this case I was grateful that I would be done moving before I started PMSing again.
Instead, my period is here and it’s a doozy. I’m shoving boxes of tampons up there and still bleeding all over everywhere. I’m sorry, that was gross. But I swear it feels like all my internal organs are sensing my complete shut down due to moving stress and agreed the best course of action would be to abandon ship via my menstrual blood via my vagina. I’m sorry, that was really really gross.
I don’t spend a lot of time wondering if there’s a God. People who knew me when I was mormon ask me what I am now…athiest? Agnostic? Still Christian? Honestly, when you spend all your waking moments starting around 7 years old feeling guilty about if you’re good enough for God to be happy with you versus sinning enough that you’re about to get a righteous smack down from a dude who has no problem drowning a world full of people, and then you decide at 37 to let it all go, you don’t really care one way or another. I don’t know what I am, other than a good person, and that’s good enough for me. I have enough tangible shit to worry about–bills I can’t pay, groceries I can’t afford to buy, a move to Colorado without a house to rent–that intangible things like The Big Questions will have to work themselves out on their own.
However, having my period start NOW, 21 days after the last one that I barely recovered from, 7 days before it’s supposed to…this is a sign that there is a God, or a Universe, or something out there that has it out for me. Something hates me, and wants me to die a slow bloody death via my vagina.
I’m dealing with it by filling a thigh high sock full of rice, microwaving it for 3 minutes, and tying it around my lower back/girly parts. I don’t have time to tether myself to a wall connected to a real heating pad. In this way, I get 5 minutes of relief. I’m taking shit tons of Motrin that God or the Universe is combatting with internal pain worse than labor.
In this manner I am trying to finish packing.
I am failing miserably. My ex is here, and I’m having another storage container dropped off since I filled up the first one with only half our stuff, and I walked out to the garage with him and very intelligibly said with arm movements miming double hand tossing boxes over my head, “This second fucking container, can we just…you know…fucking start throwing shit in…just fucking…you know…I don’t give a fuck…throw shit…just get it fucking in…not stacking but fucking throwing all this shit…” then I trailed off because my improvised heating pad lost heat sending waves of pain through my body while at the same time all the blood in my body started pouring out of my vagina.
I’m sorry, that was crass and gross.
Welcome to my life for the next 5 days. I’m pretty sure the coffee and panic attacks will see me through, but just barely.
I had a series of nightmares, actually, that changed my life in a way hazy half remembered dreams rarely do. Night after night for a full two weeks…detailed, visceral, and violently raw. In the retelling of these dreams, I should make a disclaimer that this post will be significantly more graphic than any of my other posts…mostly because usually I like to write in general terms about happy shit. And while these dreams have congruently increased my happiness in ways I couldn’t imagine, getting to that point will take reading about intense, violent, disturbing dream experiences. So if you prefer to skip over an R rated equivalent of dream violence, maybe go pick some flowers or drinking some hot spiced apple cider and then skip to the end.
When the kids and I were down in South America earlier this year, my ex joined us after a bit. The last time we’d spent that much time together 24/7 was before our separation when we all lived back in Colorado 3 years ago. My friends wondered how it was going, and at first it was a bit rocky for both of us. As you can imagine. But for years while the kids were young he’d always worked out of state 5 days a week, and I really wanted him to be able to spend time with them while on this epic adventure. So, it was a tug of war between what I wanted for the kids and what I needed for myself.
A few weeks after he arrived my dreams started. The first night, someone in my dream was trying to kill me and so I killed them with a weapon instead. Rawr!
I should fill in a bit of backstory. For the 6 months prior to my separation, I had a recurring dream where I suffocated to death in countless ways. One night I would drown. The next night I would asphyxiate in space. Sometimes I would choke to death. One night my dream started with my ex tickling me until I couldn’t catch my breath, and my dream self begged for him to stop but he didn’t and I died then too. When we split, the dreams stopped but I was still haunted by the powerlessness I felt when I’d wake up from them.
So now that the dying dreams started up again I was happy that at least I wasn’t a casualty anymore. I am woman! See me roar! I am now stronger! Better! I can handle this shit! I am in control! I will cut a bitch that tries to take anything from me! Fuck yeah!
Night after night, dream people would attack me and I would kill them with various weapons. I took this as a sign of empowerment. I WILL BRING THE HAMMER DOWN!
Then, when dream people came at me there were no weapons and I started having to kill them with my bare hands. One night I spent my whole dream choking someone to death and when I woke up my arms were sore, as if I’d been contracting my muscles in real life while the dream nightmare was taking place. I was shaken up by the visceral nature of it all. I did not feel empowered, I felt sick. The next night I broke somebody’s neck, and I could feel the ligaments rip apart. I woke up sweaty and shaking. The next night, when the dream person came for me, my dream self refused to kill them. She tried to run away, but the dream person ran after her. So she (I) broke their arm as a warning. The chase didn’t stop, so she (I) broke their other arm. I could feel each bone shatter. I could feel the force I needed to snap the bones. She (I) broke one leg, then the other before realizing the chase would never stop. So she (I) kicked the dream person to death. I felt every impact of my foot. I woke up with bile in my mouth.
My nightmares weren’t done with me. The next night, the dream murderers started making innocent people come after me by threatening them. Game on, dreams. Way to up the ante. But guess what? I’m done sacrificing myself for other people. DO YOU HEAR ME? When push comes to shove, I will shove. So I did. These new dream people were innocent, but they were still coming after me, so I still had to kill them. I woke up tired and weary of the violence. “Please stop, please stop, please stop” I’d think every night before bed. But still, they kept coming. And still, I was resolved to do anything to protect myself.
I didn’t think it could get any worse, and then I had the final dream. I was on a train full of passengers. Every seat was filled. Someone on the train was going to kill me. To stop it from happening would mean derailing the train and killing everyone on board. Hundreds of people would die. People who weren’t after me. People who were innocent and unaware. Babies, mothers, a high school volleyball team, fathers, families, old people, newlyweds. I talked to them all as I tried to find my killer, in an effort to pinpoint the threat and avoid all this collateral damage. I was trying to buy my dream self some time, trying to think of any way out of this situation. Trying to stay alive without paying such a high cost. Trying to wake myself up.
But the dream pushed the inevitable conclusion forward. The choice remained firm. Me or them. For the final time, I chose me. I blew up the front car on the train. It derailed, sending wreckage into a river below. I stood on the bridge watching the destruction. The scene was too graphic to even write about here. I saw luggage, drowning people, and car seats float past me. I watched as hysterical family members arrived to claim the bodies. I was alive, but at what cost?
I woke up shaking, weeping, a low moan escaping my mouth from somewhere deep inside. I didn’t stop for a long time. “No more, no more, no more” I repeated over and over. For the next few days and weeks and even now, the images would come back to me and I’d start crying again trying to process the meaning. Ever since then, my interactions in life have shifted. It wasn’t long after that dream that I felt my temper rising after something my ex said to me, and I thought of the words to say to lash out at him to protect my Self. But something else was there in front of my words. It was the thought, “At what cost?” and I thought of the collateral damage. Everything has a cost, and it would be my kids paying the price. I felt the violence of his words on me, and the violence that my words would have to others.
No more, no more, no more.
For weeks I struggled with the back and forth of feeling this violence of words, actions, thoughts of others towards me and my need to protect my boundaries at all cost…but now also feeling the effects of this zero sum game.
No more, no more, no more.
Slowly, slowly, slowly I began to define the experience and redefine myself. What was I willing to protect, with what violence, and at what cost.
My kids…do something to them and I will hunt you down and hurt you. Yes.
My boundaries, my inner Self…destroy that and I will destroy you.
But oh my god, what do I need to protect? Can anyone really take those intangibles away from me? Can anyone really hurt those things by words or actions? Really? No.
They exist in themselves.
They are strong in themselves.
They can’t be stolen away. They can’t be hurt. I don’t have to defend what isn’t at risk.
How can I take anything personally when nothing is a threat? What I have and am, no one can take away from me.
Whenever my defense mechanism kicks in; if someone is being cruel or hateful or disagreeing or whatever, it is tied to my new awareness of the violence that comes from reacting to it. I have proven to myself over and over in the dreams that I am more than willing and more than capable of whatever it takes to defend myself. But at what cost? I see it in the world around me…everyone’s fierce need to protect and defend what is actually strong enough to not need to be defended. And the cost is high.
I don’t have to destroy anything because nothing can destroy what is essentially me.
I mean, obviously, I can be physically hurt…but how often is that a reality? How often is someone actually trying to physically harm me? 0% of the time.
Everything else is just a perceived threat. A difference of opinion. It’s not me vs. them anymore, because what I am isn’t up for debate.
We are all more powerfully enduring and impervious than we can imagine.
I don’t even know how to end this post really. The feelings that those nightmares brought to me have stuck with me and are triggered by the littlest things. The only way I know how to not relive that again is to not engage in that kind of either/or thinking anymore. It’s like the classic line in “WarGames”…”Strange game. The only winning move is not to play.” If I know that you can’t really hurt my essential self, then no matter how much of a douchebag you are, you aren’t my enemy.
I want to create, not destroy. I want to build, not tear down. I want to open dialogue, not defend walls.
Life isn’t a zero sum game. We’re all in it together.
I’ve never had a chore chart up in this house. I mean, I did try it once; but coming up with all the stickers, rewards, punishments, and cute lettering for them was more exhausting than doing the actual work so I stopped that real quick. It’s not that I don’t want a clean house, or for my kids to know how to pick up after themselves…it just seemed counterproductive to me to make it into a Big Deal like that. Cleaning is a part of life, and how many life things do we make charts for, to make sure they’re done? Do we have Fun Charts? Play Charts? Things To Watch On TV charts? No. That stuff just happens. And with us, so it is with cleaning.
Just the word alone sets people up for failure. “Chore.” Drudgery…as in, “this is such a chore!” And having to do it at a set time, in a set way, with a set purpose–rewards or punishment. Jeeeeeez. This is not why I became a mom!
Also, I’ve lived on my own. I’ve lived on my own with roomates. I’ve been in bachelor pads. I’ve been over to my friend’s houses. It’s not like, since the advent of the chore chart, we are all professional cleaners. We are all adult functional cleaners. If it absolutely has to be clean, we do it. If not, it gets shoved into closets and the oven. Bathrooms aren’t pristine, floors aren’t always eat off-able. For special occasions we all rally. But for everyday life it’s a balance between what we can live with and what is a health hazard.
I got rid of the charts a long time ago and brought out a cleaning bucket full of supplies and fun cleaning props. Feather dusters, toilet wands, battery powered dish scrubbers…those things are fucking magical to kids. I left and still leave the bucket out on the floor all the time. You would be amazed at how playful and amusing all these things are to kids. And how grown up and awesome they feel when allowed to freely access them. I remember at 6 not being able to wait to be able to clean like the grown ups…until I was assigned everything as a chore and related to it as an overbearing task full of punishment if I did it wrong.
Instead, for the last 15 years or so, the kids and I clean freestyle. “What do you see that’s dirty?” means that at random moments the kids will dig into the bucket and pull something out while exclaiming, “DIRT!” They clean how they want, when they want. It’s not always on my schedule, but it gets done.
I have a functionally clean house.
There’s a natural ebb and flow to the cleaning “schedule”. Golfer can’t eat breakfast in a dirty room, so it’s a natural time to all chip in and pick it up. I can’t cook in a dirty kitchen, so it’s a natural time to all chip in and clean the kitchen–kids are amazing cleaners when motivated by hunger. Naturalist can’t concentrate on her drawing when the living room is chaotic, so we all chip in to pick it up. Sassy likes using cleaning mechanisms and will clean anything at any time. It may not be the most thorough, but she notices more as she gets older and self corrects. Sometimes I do give them tips for a functionally clean house, like, “if you pour PineSol into the bathroom and kitchen sinks and wipe down the counters with it, it makes everything seem 100% cleaner!” Often the appearance (or smell!) of clean hides a multitude of sins.
Often when I leave to run errands I can say to the kids, “I need x, y, z picked up by the time I get back!” and they are so elated not to be running errands with me they happily oblige. When I come back the clutter is gone, walls are wiped down (thanks Sassy!), and it smells like a forest of pine trees all up in my motherfucking house…without me lifting a finger or nagging.
It’s not spotless, but it isn’t a health hazard, either.
It’s functional, and it’s clean.
Then we sit back and watch a documentary about Everest on Netflix.
This is why I became a mom!
I have a little under two weeks to get my ass (and my kids’ asses) to Colorado. Now is the time when I enter into the 7th circle of moving hell: absolute panic and despair. I abandoned hope a couple circles ago, probably at the point when I faced two storage spaces full of stuff to go through. I’ve moved a lot over the last 20 years, but the last couple times have been exponentially more difficult. This time, I’ll be amazed if I make it out 1) sane, or even 2) alive.
Going through boxes has unearthed a lot of things we’d forgotten we had, and this week we found a huge stash of googly eyes. While I’ve been neglecting my kids in favor of stacks of boxes, they have been googly eye bombing the house (again).
Finding googly eyed decorated items is the highlight of my day.
I also discovered that if googly eyes are put on delicious food, like cookies, you don’t want to eat it anymore. There’s just something so wrong about eating pastries that are looking at you.
We haven’t found the labelmaker yet, but I hope we do. There is nothing better than setting kids loose with the unlimited power to label anything they see with whatever phrase they want. The last time that happened, everything (including the dog and each other and every square foot of the house) was tagged and labeled. Hilarity ensued.
Ah, these kids. Sometimes I entertain them. And sometimes, like now, they entertain me. They’re my lifeline at a time like this.
Thank heavens for them and the googly eyes they wield with wild abandon!
This weekend I had the opportunity to take a class taught by Jacqui Becker of Hoopnotica…and 9 hours later I am now certified to teach integrated hoop/dance/fitness classes! I’ve taught a lot of classes in my day…sunday school, religious studies, science, art, history, crafting, scrapbooking, and unschooling…but nothing has been as personally fulfilling and rewarding as being able to share hooping with other people!
Hoops remind me of women which remind me of Shakespeare: “Though she be but little (cute, sparkly, playful, and fun!), yet she be FIERCE.” Never underestimate the power of a woman or a hoop.
After a day of solid of hooping, I felt more exhaustion and muscle fatigue than I did at the end of my half marathon. It’s a total mind/body/spirit workout, and it is badass. So, since I haven’t talked about hooping for a while, I’ll recap to explain my love affair with a little sparkly round plastic hoop.
WHAT IS HOOPING?
Take one round hula hoop. Not the ones sold at Target or Walmart, those are too small and light for grown up bodies. A nice big heavy hoop with fancy sparkle tape! Play your favorite music. Put the hoop around your waist and spin it on your body, just like you did as a kid. But wait, there’s more! As you get better with it you can start to spin it anywhere…legs, chest, hips, neck, even your nose. And not just on your body, but you can play around with it and maneuver it in lots of ways off your body too.
Here I am playing around with my hoop on and off my body while hiking in Argentina (travel hoops can go anywhere!).
WHO CAN HOOP?
Anyone. There’s a huge community of hoopers…men, women, children, grandparents, tall, short, petite, full figured…even bears! If you have a body, you can hoop.
WHY DO I HOOP?
Two years ago, my friend gave me a hoop to pass the time at pit stops as I drove cross country. At that moment I was swimming for my arms, running for my legs, doing yoga for my core, and meditating for my mind. Then I started hooping and every one of those things came together in this one activity that I couldn’t get enough of. It was fun, childlike, playful, never boring, never anything I had to make myself do. I couldn’t get enough of my hoop!
It’s an amazing core body exercise, which has toned my body more than anything I’ve ever done. But what keeps me coming back into the hoop is what it does for my mind/body connection. Like Tai Chi, yoga, or any other moving meditation activity, hooping is a very centering and clarifying exercise. Also, as someone who has always been clumsy, uncoordinated, gawky, and never feeling quite right in my own body, it feels so good to dance with my hoop and have ballet teachers come up and ask me how many years I’ve been a dancer. Then when I protest that I’m not a dancer they say, “Yes, you are.” And then I cry.
SHOULD YOU TRY?
Yes, yes, yes. You should try it yourself. You should try it with your kids! You should try it with your friends and family! You should come find me and hoop around with me, too! You won’t regret it.
Find a hoopnotica teacher!
Discover how to pick the right hoop and start hooping!
Lately I’ve noticed something different at the grocery store. Something that I didn’t have back in my day of shopping…back before single serving coffee pods, pre-shredded cheese, and way way before frozen crustless peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. Yes my friends, I lived in some dark age shit before the dawn of iphones and internets. Anywho, we have these sanitizing stations outside in front of the grocery carts.
People really load up on this stuff before they dare touch the cart. I’m old and set in my ways, so I always wonder why this is really necessary. It’s not like there was ever a pandemic traced directly back to grocery carts. It’s not like I’d put on gloves and a bird flu mask before calling up my friends to tell them I was braving the grocery store carts again. “Good luck!” they’d whisper on their corded phones. “You’re much braver than I am. Can you pick me up a block of cheese while you’re there?” No, this never happened.
I touched the handle just like everyone else before me, and everyone before them, which meant I was touching not only their germs but everyone elses germs that they’d touched (just like it said in the STD video I watched in high school, except on hands instead of private parts!) ((although I don’t know what those other pervy grocery cart people were touching)). At no time did I or anyone else think twice about it. In fact, I lived in a time before those adorable quilted comfy cart covers were invented so I subjected my children to the germ ridden, menacing cart handle. Usually I’d look over to see them gnawing on it like the best teething ring ever. Ah, drooly, spit covered handle, I just wiped you off and returned you to the line of carts. It’s just how it was done back then.
So, after blowing off the sanitizer (I love germs! They build up my immune system!) I looked up to see something even newer that I hadn’t noticed before.
“Shopping single? Change your luck at Match.com!”
FML. What gave me away as being single? Is it my unwashed and unbrushed hair? The eye makeup smeared down my face because I was too exhausted to wash it off last night? My sweatpants with the droopy crotch that makes me look like I have the wrinkly flat ass of an elephant? My lack of bra and panties because, let’s face it, I could barely rally myself to get sweats on let alone mess with underwear. Or maybe it’s my plastic flip flops and unshaved legs.
Whatever it is, I started thinking…metaphorically speaking, aren’t we all shopping alone? We all have to take care of our own shit, whether we’re single or a couple. And actually, literally doesn’t it still apply? It’s not like I walk into the grocery store and it’s filled with happy couples giggling and feeding each other grapes from the produce aisle. Thank god. Because if that were actually the case I would kill myself in a massive marathon of eating, binging on everything in the bread and pastry aisle. Word would go round the store…”avoid Aisle 5, there’s a single lady on the floor, drowning her sorrows on refined sugar and carbs!”
That’s not to say it wouldn’t be fun to shop with someone, assuming that by “shopping with someone” it would mean that I just send them to the store for me with my list in hand.
Honestly, if I’m going to pay money to anything, it won’t be to Match.com. In Match.com I’d only end up finding dudes who are looking desperately for someone to get serious with so the lucky gal will take over the grocery shopping for them. I’d rather pay a handyman to be my grocery shopping cabana boy. Make and bring me drinks, sure, but with the added bonus of gathering meal supplies from the store and then cooking them up in my house.
Yes, yes, that’s a much better bang for my buck.
The dirty, germ covered single girl with blocks of cheese and stacks of hostess products in her cart.
This morning started how mine usually do…kids asleep, coffee made (with a scoop of ice cream in place of creamer, yum!), chair outside waiting along with the assortment of birds (crows) and hummingbirds flying about. I sat down with some Crosby, Stills, & Nash playing on my spotify and opened facebook from my iphone. There I saw, back to back, two posts from two friends who don’t know each other. One was detailing the frustrations of getting an unmotivated kid off to school. The next was from an unschooling mom whose kids recently asked to go to school, who was loathe to go wake her kids up because they looked so warm and peaceful sleeping.
The responses to both were like night and day. I really love that about my facebook feed. I have walked in many divergent shoes over the last 20 years. Mormon. Not Mormon. School mom. Unschool mom. Traditional parent. Attachment parent. Religious. Athiest. I have a mixed jumbling of friends in each group, and they fill my facebook with such a grand array of equal yet opposite views. Whether I agree or disagree it fills my life up with variety and spice and I appreciate the chance to peek into such differing world views. My morning facebook is like cereal…just one flavor would be boring, but with everyone adding so much flavor it’s like a big bowl of Fruity Pebbles. You are the Froot in my Loops. You put the Fruity in my Cheerios, if you want to be “healthier” about it.
So, the first post about how to get an unmotivated kid to school on time brought a lot of suggestions. Start giving rewards so you can take them away. Send him out of the house in whatever state he’s in when it’s time to go…half dressed, without eating, without a lunch…whatever it may be. Take away things he loves. I could add a few to the list, since getting Naturalist off to school back when she went to school was never easy. I had to be on her ass every 5 minutes keeping her on track. I’d alternate between being a cheerleader and being a drill sargeant. Do this. Now do that. We made her lunch the night before to streamline the effort. She’d start crying with about 15 minutes till bus time, right when I’d be brushing her hair while she ate breakfast because we’d gotten behind in the getting dressed/packing the bookbag stage. Teeth brushing usually got ditched…aint nobody got time for that! Not when the bus just passed by in the neighborhood behind us! I’d give her some cookies to try and stop her tears, which never worked, so I resorted to literally shoving them in her mouth. I’d then push her out the front door while saying “You can’t cry with cookies in your mouth!” and give her a peppy wave. Then I’d slump to the ground and start recharging myself for the next morning when we’d have to do it all over again. It took the full 24 hours to recover, mostly because I was mormon at the time and couldn’t go for a glass of wine by 8 in the morning.
Eventually I let her sleep in a bit later and drove her to school. I thought it would be best because she could spend more time at home and be dropped right off in front of her classroom. What actually happened was a lot more drama. Sitting in the car gave her more courage to actually wail instead of just sniffle cry. One desperate morning I used my right arm to open her door while leveraging my right leg against her, gently but firmly shoving her out of the car while slowly driving away. “Have a good day!” I called out while trying to close the door again without running into other momcars. I looked in the rearview mirror at my crying 8 year old and also had a good cry driving back home.
I didn’t become a mom for this, dammit!
One thing led to another, yada yada yada, Naturalist didn’t finish out the school year. When other moms asked me why, I talked a lot about bullshit NCLB, bullshit administration, bullshit teachers (not all! But certainly her teacher that year), and bullshit curriculum. What I didn’t say, because it made me sound completely ridiculous, was that the morning routine was killing me slowly. People can get judgey about that. Like, how will your kids learn how to be decent human beings if you don’t teach them–come hell or high water–how to get to school on time. But I’m pretty sure decent Human beings don’t want to bang their head repeatedly against the wall while simultaneously throttling their offspring by 7:30 in the morning.
Fast forward to today, and the other facebook post about not wanting to wake up her warm, happy, sleeping kids for school. The responses were very different. Let them be late! Can they miss the bus and get a ride? Do they really have to go? Along with a bunch of other moms who, like me, are school mom drop outs for this very reason and who openly admit it. Spending slow mornings with happy kids, all while still in pajamas, is such a gift. She ended up bringing warm tea into her daughter, who got up with her alarm and was ready.
Morning schedules are what separates the homeschoolers from the regular schoolers. They are the straw the breaks the camels back, like in my case, or the motivator to really buckle down and regulate, like in my schooly friend’s case. Different people know what’s right for them.
For me, unrushed mornings full of cuddles and fun pancake breakfasts without tears and punishments is what’s right.
This. This right here is what I became a mom for.
Parenting is a tough gig, mostly because no one knows if they’re doing it right. We’re all flying blind here, in the ultimate mash up between doing (or not doing) things based on how we were parented, how our friends parent, how the doctors say to parent, how we wish we were parented, and whatever Oprah says. A common theme through the ages is this idea that we parents are the disciplinarians, we teach lessons, we give tough love, we get our kids to tow the line, we put our feet down, we are firm and if needed scary. Being friends isn’t high on the list…in fact, it’s usually on the other list of things not to be. It’s too equalizing, too familiar, too soft, too indulging, too unrealistic.
17 years ago, I jumped into being a mom with both feet. Looking back, I don’t look much older than a child myself, ha.
I tried parenting by the book for the first few years. Time outs, punishments, star charts, rules, firm hand, in control, dishing out lessons left and right like the ice cream man slinging frozen treats at the playground. Except less tasty and fun.
I’ll tell you something. I hated it. It felt unnatural to love something like my own flesh and blood so so so much, and then sit and listen to them cry for me when I sent them into a time out or banished them to their bed at night. It was exhausting being a rule enforcer. It felt strange to my punk rock spirit to now become “The Man.” It didn’t seem right that here I brought this precious bundle into the world only for us to become Public Enemy No. 1 to each other.
I didn’t become a mom for this! I was getting wrinkles from all the added stress, and that was the tipping point. I will not age prematurely over this! I will find my own way that will preserve both my sanity and my vanity!
I started with the premise that I don’t think kids are assholes. Well, actually, kids are kind of assholes. They are the tyrants and dictators of the human world. My sister’s 3 year old likes to hit and bite her when he’s angry, and that’s kind of a dick move there buddy. So I guess I started with the premise that kids are like feral animals, and I stopped taking everything so seriously and so personally. I believe kids do the best they can with what they have, and when they know better they do better. It’s a long process–18 years if you go by the legal age of adulthood. Raising a kid is a motherfucking marathon, not a sprint. I don’t know how I made it through those early days, it’s a trauma that like childbirth has been erased from my memory. But I do know that I believed that if I just kept treating them respectfully and modeling the right words and behaviors, that was the language they’d learn as they were figuring their shit out.
I stopped giving punishments. I stopped making hard and fast rules. I stopped being “The Man”. I want my kids to be responsible for themselves and self reliant. I want them to act with integrity to their truth, not mine. In doing this I discovered that there’s a connection that happens when you work with your kids to figure out what behaviors work, don’t work, and why instead of enforcing rules “because I said so”. There’s a learning process in teaming up with your child through misunderstandings that isn’t there when you lay down the law and end the discussion with a punishment instead of a heart to heart. Principles have become our guiding force and it’s been so fulfilling to watch my kids discover their empathy, integrity, compassion, ethics, and moral code.
I asked Naturalist, who is 17 now, what she thought about not growing up with rules and punishments. “Well, following rules or avoiding punishments never became my guiding force. We kind of came up with our own internal rules about how we treat ourselves and others. For me, it boils down to respect…respect for myself and respect for the people around me.”
That’s not a bad summary of how things are around here. I think kids need and deserve our respect as they grow themselves up, not our ideas about how we think they should grow up. I think they need and deserve our trust and confidence, not our fears and misgivings. I think they need us to show up for them, to be there for them, and to love them unconditionally through all the bumps in the road. I think they need our friendship most of all. The parent/child relationship is a formative bond, and every great relationship is based on a solid foundation of genuinely liking the other person for who they are and trusting that your emotions/thought/boundaries are safe with them.
In the short term, I am a power figure to my kids while they grow up. The balance is tipped unequally while I’m the one doing the feeding/cleaning/caretaking/keeping them alive gig. But in the long term, they will be adults and equal with me for a far greater amount of time. I want that to be full of an awesome connection so that we can be a support to each other throughout our entire lives. Eventually I will need them to be there for me, to change my diaper and do my grocery shopping.
Right now, though, I am living with two teenagers and a tween. People react as if this must be the worse thing in the world. “Oh, TEENAGERS! You must be going crazy!” But no, no I’m not. I genuinely like who my kids are. We feel safe with each other, and have amazing discussions. We give each other space when we need it. We realize that we’re not perfect and allow space for growth and understanding.
In short, we are all friends here.
This is why I became a mom.
I can’t explain my love for writing and the written word, but I know I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. I used to get in trouble when I was little for a few things: stashing half eaten buttered tortillas in the couch (sorry mom, I see the problem with this now), cutting up the wood drawers with knives (I wasn’t being destructive, I was being a woodcarver!), staying out with friends past the time I was supposed to come home (a habit that didn’t resolve itself until I went to college and didn’t have a curfew ((I love being a grown up!)). But worst of all was being told to stop reading/writing because it was way past my bedtime. If I had a good book or a lot to say, it was so hard to put the book or the pencil down. Now I don’t have a bedtime (I really do love being a grownup!) but I still stay up way too late with a great read in front of me. If I’m bored, I write. Sad? Write. Angry? Write! Lonely? Write! It only makes sense that I have a blog.
Before blogging, I had journals. I started writing in them when I was 6 or so, and continued up until blogging took over. I have stacks and stacks of journals. Hello Kitty journals, rainbow unicorn journals, fancy leather journals, and plain old paper notebook journals. I don’t really ever go back and read them, because when I do I cringe at the hyper-emotive and overdramatic nature of them. The journals prove that I am, in fact, a ridiculous human being.
Golfer and Naturalist are helping me pack and organize boxes, and Golfer happened to find the one holding all my journals. He took some pages that had fallen out of a bigger “My Melody” journal and started reading out loud:
“My sister is 9 years old now, I am 7 years old. I love my sister and she loves me. My mother’s name is Donna and my father’s name is Robert. I love them all and they love me.” (spelling and punctuation added because I hadn’t really learned about them yet when I wrote this.)
He was laughing and then added, “Wait, it says you wrote this in 1979. Woah. 1979!!!!!!”
Yes children, your mother is as ridiculous as she is ancient.
He turned the page and went on:
“In January the first my sister is going to be 10 years old. I’m going to be 8 in November 12, 1980. I am Tiffani who wrote this. I am putting Deborah in my notebook. LOVE YOU! With love! Love Tiffani”
“Mom, that’s a lot of love.” he said.
I am quite a ridiculously enthusiastic ancient dinosaur of a woman!
At this point I tried to grab it from him but, being 8 feet taller than me now he lifted it up over his head and continued reading:
“It’s Christmas now. Deborah is sleeping. Donna is sleeping. My dad is sleeping. I am waiting for someone to wake up. It’s May now and I’m taking a bath at 6 pm. We go to bed at 7:00. Or 7:30. Or 8. or 8:30. On special occasions we go to bed at 9:00. Or 10:00.”
By the end of it he was crying from laughing so hard. Even now, a few days later, he asks when something is going to happen and then says, “We can do it at 5. Or 5:30. Or 6. Or 6:30. Or maybe even 7. Or 7:30…” Or he’ll announce, “I am hungry. Sassy is hungry. Naturalist is hungry. We are all hungry!” He only stops if I chase him around threatening to bear hug him until he knocks it off.
I am a ridiculous ancient person enthusiastic about every minute details, what can I say?!
He continued reading:
“Christmas is almost over. I am in my bed writing this. Bye.”
“Really fascinating, Mom. Very gripping work you have here!” he quipped.
Everyone’s a critic!
“Time has past quickly. I am playing. My dad is watching TV. It’s March 8th. Tiffany, my friend, is playing with Deborah. It Tuesday.”
Then the pages ran out.
“Mom, that is probably one of the cutest things I’ve ever read” he said, still tearing up from laughing after making fun of me.
I’ll tell you something, when your often grumpy, continually eating, never impressed, slightly underenthused 14 year old son tells you that something you’ve done is one of the cutest things ever, you melt into a puddle on the floor of the garage while glitters and fairies spill from your gooeyness.
Just like it’s hard for me to imagine how big they’re getting, it’s hard for them to imagine that I was ever little.
Thanks to my penchant for writing every little thought down in a journal, now they now that not only was I little, I was still just as ridiculously tediously enthusiastically neurotic as I am now that I’m an old, old, old woman.
So here I am; still neck deep in packing boxes and assorted knick knacks that I’m decided whether to keep or give away, when all of a sudden I come across a nondescript tiny red notebook. I immediately know what it is, and the last time I saw it was June of 2004. It is my newborn “journal” that I kept after Sassy was born. I did this with all the kids, but I think this is the only surviving keepsake of my early days with a newborn.
In it I wrote down when they fed, for how long on the right and left breast, when they pooped or peed, and sometimes indications of their general dispositions. Because Sassy was a little early and on the petite barely-over-5-pounds end of the spectrum, I was pretty diligent about it. I was anxious to get her big and chunky like her brother and sister were as newborns, so I indulged her in extra long feeding times as often as she wanted. This resulted in an epic string of almost back to back nursing.
She was pretty great at giving me at least one or two 4 hour breaks, after which she’d nurse every two hours until she’d take her next break. Of course, I never knew when she’d be planning on her long naps, so I would play that game where you want to take a nap but aren’t sure if you’ll be woken up soon by a hungry baby or be able to sleep. The times I chose to sleep she would wake me up…the times I’d stay awake she’d sleep. I never won at that game.
Looking back, May 29th and 30th were pretty brutal double headers of nursing. No wonder one day melted into the next when one is nursing a child for 25 minutes every 2 hours for 48 hours straight. I remember waking up from long nights, covered in breast milk and spit up, sneaking away for my only alone time in a 15 minute shower and then picking up where I left off in my baby growing routine…with her on my breast and me trying not to cry from my sore and cracked nipples. I survived those early nursing days by baking banana bread every day and leaving loaves scattered around the house with glasses of milk. A loaf with milk by the couch, by the bed, by the kitchen table, by the bean bag in the playroom. I was so crazy hungry for banana bread every time she’d nurse, and I would gobble the loaf down while she ate, slowly depleting my bread stashes as the day wore on.
Only a mom would indicate, as I did on the next page, that the baby was asleep from 11pm to 8:30am…oh, well, except for eating at 1:50, 3:40, 5:40, and 8:40. Except for those nighttime wakings, she slept great! Me…not so much.
Reading between the lines I remember what I did when she wasn’t eating. In the morning I would put her down after the first day feeding to make everyone breakfast, then pick her back up to feed her. Then I’d put her down to get the kids games/toys/art supplies out and then pick her back up to feed her while they played. Then I would strap her into her carseat (so sad I had my babies a few years before babywearing entered the picture!) and try to run errands/get groceries before she woke up. This never happened so I’d finish with a crying newborn and two other cranky kids who were hungry for lunch. I’d feed Sassy while the other two hovered around me telling me how hungry they were. Then I’d put her down while I made them lunch. Then I’d pick her back up to feed her while they ate, then put her down to play with the other two, then pick her back up to feed her, then put her back down to help everyone pick up their messes, then pick her back up to feed her, then put her back down to make dinner, then pick her back up halfway through dinner prep to feed her, then put her back down to finish cooking and get dinner on the table, then pick her back up to feed her, then put her back down and get the other two ready for bedtime, then pick her back up to feed her, then clean up dinner and do bedtime, then pick her back up to feed her and pray to anyone listening that she’d stay asleep and I could maybe get some quiet time to myself to read or take a bath or something. But no, of course, I’d need to use that time to rebake banana bread for the next day’s festivities on my boobs by a hungry newborn. I’d crawl into bed and just be almost asleep when she’d wake up and I’d pick her up to nurse her again. Luckily, it’s possible to nurse a child while sleeping.
And then of course, as she got a month older, her wake/sleep/eat schedules evened out and she stayed awake longer. I was able to think beyond when the next feeding was. On this day she was awake all day and cranky, but I’m not sure if I meant Sassy or myself.
Without this journal, I would have forgotten the *real* reality of life with a newborn. All I remember is the awesome feeling of milk letting down and covering the initial pain of 50493580439 pounds of suck focused on one human nipple…the sweet soothing sounds of a baby cry being softened and stopped by my comfort and milk…the overwhelming cuteness of a sleeping child smiling while still on my breast…a grasping baby hand finally finding and holding onto my finger…the delicious feeling of skin to skin contact…giving little baby massages on the tiniest of human bodies…nursing the newest child while the second oldest sat on my lap and the oldest sat beside us while I read them all book after book…
But also, I remember feeling so completely overwhelmed and inferior to the tasks at hand. I felt like I wasn’t a good enough mom/wife/housekeeper because there was always someone who wanted something that I couldn’t give right then, or chores left undone, or things I’d forgotten, or frustrations I couldn’t make right. I ended most days vowing to be better and more on top of things the next day.
Looking back though, I don’t know how I managed it as well as I did. Not once, but three times! I have a great deal of awe and respect for the woman that I was and the mom that I grew into. That woman…she handled that shit like a seasoned warrior on the battleground of feeding voracious newborn baby appetites and meeting older kids needs. I’m much more gentle on her now than I was on myself all those years ago.
I understand now all the advice to me then from seasoned moms who knew the what was in store for me in the marathon of motherhood I’d started on. “Don’t worry about the mess.” “Sleep when your baby sleeps!” “Enjoy this time, it goes so fast!” “Make sure to take care of yourself, too!”
I still love banana bread, and now I get to sit back and relax while the kids that I nursed while I ate banana bread that I made special every night are old enough to make it for me anytime I want it. Which isn’t every day, like it was then, but it’s still nice to have them all grown up and available to make it at my beck and call…just like I was available for their becks and calls all those many years ago. The circle is complete!
I spent a day at the park with some unschooling friends, letting our kids run around while we chatted about nothing and everything in the way you sometimes do around people you trust. You start out talking about the calm waters of nothing until you get warmed up, establish that there is support and caring happening, and then delve into the turbulent waters of everything that is throwing your world akimbo. One of the mom’s was the first to jump in.
“Something’s really been bothering me. My son is so into sports, but I’m struggling with the sport mentality. The way he talks with his friends…about girls, about other people, about life, about himself…it’s this alpha male thing and I don’t get it. I wish he’d spend more time by himself, learning to think on his own. I was always a thinker. Him…not so much. What did I do wrong?”
The other mom jumped in right after her.
“OMG, my kids do nothing but spend time by themselves, in their rooms. I’d love to have your son. Mine seem to do nothing but think on their own! I wish they’d have friends over or want to go out and be involved in ANY group thing. I was always outdoorsy and sporty, so I get that. Cameraderie, teambuilding, working together, but they just read. By themselves. It’s like nothing else interests them but these imaginary places and it freaks me out.”
Then I jumped in after her and we were all dog paddling in the deep end.
“I’ve always felt that I’d have learned a lot, and a lot more effectively, if I wouldn’t have gone to school and just read all day. So, I was excited that when the time came, I could do that for my kids. I’d be so much more at ease if I had your kids, because I totally value what massive amounts of books will do for a person. So it’s ironic that 2/3 of my kids are dyslexic and really late readers, with the other 1/3 being more into sports than books. My kids are either playing video games or playing outside, but it freaks me out that I’ve created an environment for reading and none of them do! I would be more comfortable if they were holed up in their rooms reading everything that crossed their paths!”
We contemplated doing a kid swap, but decided that moving all their stuff to each other’s houses would be a huge pain in the ass. And that we’d kind of miss them.
Then we laughed about how a kid could be troublesome in one person’s eyes but totally awesome in another’s.
Then we cried about how hard this motherhood gig is.
Then we laughed because we just proved that the universe is, in fact, out to get us. How else to explain that instead of having kids that are just like us, we get kids that are totally opposite of us.
Then we cried because we realized we’d been holding our kids to our own standards, rather than to their own. Which was keeping us from appreciating what they brought to our family table. We may not have kids that we completely understand, since they’re not copies of us, but we resolved to understand them in their own way…respecting that just because it may be different than us, it’s no less important and valid to support it.
Then we decided we needed a mom’s night out at the local bar, STAT.
A spider has taken residence in front of my house. I mean, a lot of spiders live here, Southern California has a very hospitable climate for arachnids of all kinds. They are usually pretty reclusive and stay out of sight, which is nice because otherwise my fragile constitution wouldn’t be able to handle living here. When I lived in Vegas I was thisclose to putting our house on the market and leaving town when my friend found a scorpion in her bed. IN. HER. BED. PEOPLE!!!!! Also, it’s very hard for me to drive anywhere near Texas because I saw a documentary that included a segment on a highway that was covered in hundreds of tarantulas out for a lovely stroll. Or whatever tarantulas do with their eight legs. HUNDREDS ON THE ROAD! And sure they’re not poisonous to humans but I’m pretty sure the heart attack I’d be having would finish me off just as quickly as venom anyway.
I’m used to fear, I’m actually quite a fearful person. This always surprises people because I seem like a very outgoing do-anything-for-fun kind of gal. I am, but not naturally so. It’s taken years to take on each of my plentiful phobias. I’m a girl who is afraid of her shadow, quite literally. When I was little I was afraid my shadow had a spirit and would one day decide to do me some harm. On this list of phobias, at quick glance I’d estimate I have 87% of them. It’s not easy growing up being afraid of everything, but I’ve discovered the beautiful flip side to fear: it leads to absolute exhilaration when handled correctly. And now that I think I have a good handle on it…meaning, I just go ahead and do everything whether I’m afraid of it or not…I live a pretty exhilarating life.
You know how some people have to go base jumping to get a rush? I get that same rush mustering up enough courage to talk to a stranger in the line at Starbucks (anthropophobia), or going higher than 5 stories in an elevator (acrophobia)! I don’t have to jump out of a plane to feel alive, all I have to do is look straight up (anablephobia) or…well…see a spider (arachnophobia).
My fear of spiders is the one thing I just can’t get over. I’ve held a tarantula. I’ve held a golden orb spider. I’ve done everything you’re supposed to do to get over fears…face them…but it just doesn’t matter.
I think it’s the eye thing. I’m less afraid of things I can look in the eye. Eyes tell you if something notices you, it tells you how something is feeling, if an attack in imminent, where they’re looking, that they are a living animal like you…but things with no or multiple eyes! Get me the fuck out of there. Never take me to a fancy restaurant for a romantic meal and order the full lobster plate. I will run out of there quicker than you can say “drawn butter”. Monsters don’t scare me, because they have eyes. But these eyeless animals or any arthropod, ever, are straight out of my nightmares.
Spiders like dark spaces without a lot of foot traffic. Ergo, my garage and storage space. I have to organize and pack all my stuff. Stuff that is in my garage and storage space. Ergo, I am freaking the freak out. All it will take is to discover one spider on a box or near a box before I will find it perfectly rational to burn everything down to the ground. Luckily my desperate and psychic plea that all spiders remove themselves before I find them seems to be working and I have miraculously avoided all interaction with them. This doesn’t keep me from anticipating an encounter everytime I go in there, so I’m being proactive by wearing leather gloves and drinking glasses of wine.
If I do see a spider I will try and keep my shit together by feeling the exhilaration of the fear rather than the fear itself. But oh my god if I see a black widow I am going to:
1) scream so loudly you all will hear it, no matter where you currently live.
2) cover everything in gasoline and light it up.
3) vomit and retch. retch and vomit. etc., etc. until I pass out.
4) start brushing my hands all over my body to remove phantom spiders that are now crawling all over me as if I’m having a bad trip.
5) place myself forevermore in a hermetically sealed bubble a la Jake Gyllenhaal in Bubble Boy.
I’m not even kidding. In fact, after seeing the images that I’ve linked to in this blog post, I’m now going to have to smash my computer into a million bits and then torch it.
I’ve gotta go back into my garage now. The thought of it makes me queasy. This is the one fear that no matter how much I face it, I just can’t beat. So be it. One thing I have learned since taking all my fears head on is that fear is one thing, but what I do with it is another. It doesn’t have to stop me from doing anything. It just changes how much wine I have to drink in order to do it.
Cheers, bitches. You’ll find me and my bottle of Malbec in the garage!
I have a long and storied past with vacuums. Some might say it’s even been a bit psychotic. I’ve had my ups and downs with vacuums. Mostly downs, but lately a lot of ups. When I began my journey with the vacuum, I was around 7 or 8 and deemed “Old Enough” to be tasked with vacuuming as a chore every week. Up till then my life was idyllic, blissful, sheltered. The vacuum brought with it a kind of adult responsibility I neither wanted nor asked for. It was the bane of my existence…and so it remained…until recently.
See there, behind all the cute hoops?
That’s my vacuum now. It means something very different to my now self than it did to my 7 year old self.
Back then, I hated and resented it so much I devised quite a brilliant plan to spite it and all the people who expected me to use it. I would let it run in place for 10 minutes while I stood behind it, silently cursing my cursed life that involved menial labor inside my house when I could be riding my bike through the neighborhood listening to “Thriller” on my bike mounted radio. In this way, my mom could hear that I was vacuuming while I didn’t have to actually vacuum. Of course, I knew my mom was a pretty smart lady and after getting into trouble a few times I put two and two together and realized she not only listened for the sound but also looked for the track marks of the vacuum. So after running it for the allotted time, I then shut it off and ran it back and forth, back and forth, back and forth through the hallway/rooms to give it that freshly vacuumed look.
Of course, you might be saying to yourself, “That doesn’t make any sense…if you were going to go over the room pretending to vacuum, why didn’t you just vacuum” and I would say to your feeble mind, you are totally missing the point.
I knew I couldn’t defeat the evil vacuum, but I didn’t have to play by the rules, either.
My mom would come in to check the chore off, see the still visible debris scattered on the floor, and have me vacuum again…this time while she looked on. So I would really vacuum it, now 45 minutes in to my cleaning sentence of woe that should have only taken 15. But again, that’s not the point. It was never the point. Perhaps you are raising a child like me. Someone with dazzling intellect and a keen eye. Perhaps you are thinking, like my mom probably did, “I don’t understand why she cannot manage to do this one. simple. thing!” and maybe it makes you question why you had kids in the first place. I tell you this: never make a child like that vacuum. And if you do, expect it to be a long drawn out battle till the very end. The very end, in this case, being until I left for college.
I got married in my 3rd year of college, and as a wedding gift, my husband gave me a vacuum. How could he know my hatred of it? Maybe because my dorm room was always a pigsty…but love is blind. Unfortunately. So…here I am married with a vacuum. I pushed it into the closet. I forgot about it. Almost a year later I thought, “what the hell!” and got it out to use it, only to discover vacuums had changed over the years and I didn’t know how to work it. I called up my hubby and told him my dilemma. There was a pause on the line. “Does that mean…you haven’t even touched it…you don’t even know how…it’s been almost a year and you…AM I THE ONLY ONE VACUUMING OUR APARTMENT?!” Love is only blind when you’re dating, apparently. When you get married, love has eagle vision.
You’d think what’s in the past is left in the past, but I’m here to tell you that 17 years later if you were gifted a vacuum as a wedding present and then didn’t use it for a year, that shit comes back up when you are breaking up. “Remember when you got me a fucking vacuum for marrying you? A FUCKING VACUUM!” followed by them saying, “Remember when you didn’t even touch it for a year? A year I spent working and going to school and all you had to do was go to a few classes and keep the fucking apartment clean?!”
So. Yeah. Vacuums and I don’t see eye to eye. And not because vacuums don’t have eyes. Because mine totally does, thanks to Sassy going through a googly eye phase where she plastered everything that couldn’t run away with googly eyes. I’ve just never gotten a sense of fulfillment from vacuuming. I judged the people who did, and you know who they are because their houses are neat and impeccable immediately upon entering, as shallow and vain. I mean really, there’s a big wide world out there and aint nobody got time for that!
But oh my god I am eating my words now. Now, in the season of my discontent (moving) the vacuum is my anchor in a sea of disarray. In the mess of packing, purging, organizing, and turning everything upside down, I only have one reprieve from the doubts that enter my mind. Doubts being: I am never going to be able to do this. When I start having panic attacks over how industrious I’m not being, I vacuum. I clear a room of clutter and vacuum the shit out of it. Then, and only then, I feel better. Sometimes I vacuum the same room more than once in a day. I feel so complete, so organized, so clean, so accomplished after I vacuum. Lately, it’s pretty much the only time I do.
So I’ve changed my mind about my vacuum. I have a strong bond with it, actually. I think you might even say I’ve grown up a little bit.
Give me my vacuum or give me death!
I’ve made big progress on cleaning house–literally and figuratively! After 3 days of my patented* (*not really patented) routine of putting things into 3 piles; throw away, give away, keep, and then dealing with them accordingly, I have slayed the beast that was my garage! Behold the beauty!
4 days later:
Riding high on my amazing accomplishment, I walk into Sassy’s room (which I had spent cleaning the day before, remember this miraculous before and after?) to find this:
She’d ripped into the “keep” bags and set up a playground for her Littlest Pet Shop pets.
This is why I’m a laid back housekeeper. Or, homemaker. I’m not sure if there’s a difference, but whatever. I’m laid back any way you slice it. I have to be, or else I’d be crazy. There’s only so many times you can clean a kitchen to spotless only to have a small animal that you happen to call your child wander through and break into the flour/crisco/powdered sugar/eggs. Cleaning while children are living at home is, actually, the definition of insanity: repeating something over and over expecting a different outcome. The thing repeating: cleaning. The different outcome: that it stays clean. What really happens: it goes all to hell again within .5 seconds.
When I had my kids I gave birth to 3 things. My kid. The placenta. A huge mess.
This is how I practice nonattachment. I like it clean, but I do not base my happiness on it being or staying clean. I don’t like it messy but I don’t base my happiness on it being messy. Instead, I base my happiness on how much cheese and hard cider there is in my fridge. I realize I have a long way to go to enlightenment. But I’ve come a long way too! Instead of being a bit upset that all my hard work was partially undone, I was happy that she found a way to be happy and entertained while I focused on the garage.
A happy kid is a messy kid, and a messy room is a sign of a creative child, and a hard cider makes mama slightly tipsy and not care so much about the mess. Namaste.
Friends, countrymen, romans; lend me your hard apple cider. I have been at this cleaning/purging/organizing for the last week. Or maybe longer, I can’t tell because I’ve lost all track of time. I go from room to room to garage with either a garbage bag or a give away bag, filling them up with appropriate materials over and over again. What’s left over I then clean and organize and arrange in our keep piles. It is an epic thing for someone with a mind as prone to boredom as mine. I feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over every day in a task devised by Zeus to punish me for being such a flighty and irresponsible homemaker.
Now I can’t help but deal with all the unmatched socks I haven’t had time or energy in the last 2 years to match. Now, finally, I am faced with every half used bottle of lotion/mousse/perfume/conditioner/mouthwash that I squirreled under the bathroom sink. Now I have to wrangle all the boxes that I’ve shoved in the garage instead of going through them. Now I sit weeping as I stare into the abyss known as “My Kid’s Closet” that they haven’t been able to use because I started putting camping gear in there, followed by unused blankets and pillows, followed by whatever the fuck I didn’t have a place for but didn’t want to throw away.
My only highlights are a steady stream of Woodchuck hard apple ciders and chunks of cheese that I tear off with my bare hands and eat with tortilla chips. I’ve been reduced to an animal, I tell you.
I always promise to myself–in all the 3459893475934857983475934875 moves that I’ve done–that when I finally am finished moving and get to the next place, I will channel Martha fucking Stewart and be so anal with my homemaking even the dust bunnies will be in a straight line. Wait, what am I saying?! I won’t have dust bunnies! I won’t have clutter and I certainly won’t have piles of random shit shoved under the couch. True, I won’t have a lot of friends and none of my kids would talk to me but dammit I would never face “My Kid’s Closet” ever again.
Incidentally, when I emptied out “My Kids Closet”, everything that fit in the closet filled the room up to ankle deep level. Sassy walked in an even she was at a loss for words. I told her she could keep any money she found if she helped me go through it all, which she agreed to, so we divided and conquered. She put everything she wanted into garbage bags. I threw all the trash away (4 bags worth!) while putting all the clothes that would still fit the kids into the laundry. What was left over I put into the donation garbage bags and voila! 8 hours later a clean room!
Any feeling of accomplishment evaporates when I realize I need to do this to 2 more rooms, a kitchen, 2 bathrooms, a garage, and 2 storage units.
I’m gonna need more cheese and cider.
Today, Sassy and I went stand up paddleboarding (SUPing) and it was fanfreakingtastic. We woke up and had just enough time for breakfast (coffee and a peach for me, nutella sandwich and OJ for her) before driving over to the beach to sign in and get our paddleboards. She was nonstop excited about doing it for the first time. When she first got on she said she was only going to kneel and paddle, but after .5 seconds she got herself on her shaky hands and knees, lifted herself up, and never looked back. “This is AWESOME mom!” “I love that we did this today!” “This is my favorite day!” “LEt’s race!” “Thank you for bringing me here!” These were all the things I heard from her in the hour we SUPed together. And my heart was full.
This is my girl right here. Always has been. While the other two older kids dove headfirst into tween and then teendom, she remained my faithful sidekick. There’s nothing she didn’t want to do, as long as we were doing it together. Clothes shopping? She’d hold the clothes for me while I browsed. Food shopping? She’d point out what she wanted and we’d plan what meals we could make with it. Errands? We’d do them arm in arm, making each other laugh to pass the (boring) time. When all of us went to Death Valley, the older kids stayed at the campsite reading and napping while she and I hiked the shit out of the trails. She didn’t bat an eye when it was time to wake up to see the sunrise. “Please never change!” I thought to myself on our adventures. “Please stay my girl forever!”
This year she turned 9, and I’ve been skittish ever since. I put myself into a little self denial about her body growing stronger, taller, and a little curvier. When she proudly pointed out her first pimple, I convinced myself it was from getting too much pizza grease on her face rather than changing hormones. When she started sleeping in later and later I chalked it up to being so active during the day rather than a biological shift. Because one thing still remained…she was being so nice to me! No eye rolls, no overt criticism of who I was as a person, no earbuds in the ears as soon as we got in the car.
And then…this week…I can’t deny it anymore. It’s happening. Tweendom is claiming her as it’s own.
Damn you tweendom! Get your mitts off my kid!
Two days ago I got a beer out to have with dinner and she gave it one look before saying, “Oh of COURSE you are.” and then I was all, “of course I am what?” and then she said, “of course you’re drinking alcohol” and then I was all, “I know, I always have a beer with dinner!” and then she said, “of course you do.” And I didn’t know what to say because I’ve never had my beverage of choice criticized like that.
And lately when I joke around with her, being stupid silly, she doesn’t laugh. She looks right through me and then away like I’m some sort of court jester that displeases her.
Even worse, she doesn’t want to see the sunrise with me anymore. Nor does she like to go on errands. When I reach for her hand, she pulls it away. When I play my music she tells me how horrible it is.
She’s definitely infected with tweendom. In fact, after we got back from our magical day of SUPing, I said to her, “Thanks for coming along, I had the best time!” and she said over her shoulder like a transforming Dr. Jekyll into a Ms. Hyde, “Well I didn’t really have a choice did I?”
“Well, ya, you did. You always do! I asked if you wanted to go, and you said yes, and then you said it was the best day ever! So did you have a good time or not?!”
“well, I guess I did” she said before going to play a video game.
I took a deep breath. I got this. I’ve done it two times before. I fell back on what I know about this fucker tweendom.
*it’s them, not me. I repeat this over and over as my own personal mantra.
*it doesn’t last forever. Only 3 long, torturous years.
*don’t take anything personally. I understand that the hormones be crazy and so I like to pretend it gives them situational tourettes or something.
*this is what friends are for. My friends give me unconditional love and support. When my kids are tweens they just give me headaches. I complain to my friends and try to maintain mindful parenting with my kids.
*this is what gives me perspective. My kids are destined to fly the coop and have their own lives. This tweendom is what makes me start to be OK with it.
*walk the walk. I always say I want my kids to be open, honest, direct, and vocal about their needs. This is awesome when they’re being awesome. It’s not so great when they are telling me my music sucks. But freedom of speech and freedom of feelings still applies, even when I don’t like what they’re saying/feeling.
So this is it…for a while I’m going to lose my girl, my partner in crime, my left hand man. She will dive deeper and deeper into tweendom while I grin and bear it. When she eventually emerges like her older sister did, she will be a young woman and she will be her own and she will be fiercely amazing. We will spend time happily together, and go on hikes to see the sunrise, and hold hands again, this time infusing the connection with her own personality and stories. I will be wiser about what I wish for, and I will think to myself, “Please always grow and change! I promise I will be here to be patient and listen, because nothing you do will ever change that I love you and you are my daughter forever.”
In the meantime, thank heaven and earth that there are good friends and good beer available 24/7.
“Hey, Sassy! Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?” I asked her.
“No.” she replied while firing up Skyrim.
“Alright then. I’m just gonna be outside with a beer.”
“Of course you are.” comes floating out of the other room in what I now understand is her equivalent of an eye roll.
Bottoms up, tweendom. May I survive you one last time.
As a single mom struggling to make ends meet in Southern California, I’m contemplating a move back to Colorado…the exact opposite of 4 years ago, when I moved as a married woman from Colorado to California for my husband’s job. The universe, she has a funny sense of humor no?! Now that the kids dad isn’t here anymore, there’s really no good reason to stay in a place with such crazy high cost of living. My goal is to balance taking care of the kids and I financially while also keeping our unschooling lives going. Here I pretty much need to work full time to afford basic living, while in Colorado I can work nights, pay half as much for everything, and still be home adventuring and learning with the kids during the day.
If you didn’t know me back then, I blogged every day during the month it took me to purge, pack, and clean my 5000 square foot home. It was a more transformative experience that I knew at the time, and is a pretty good look at the mind of a woman going through lots of accumulated shit in order to streamline her life. Literally and figuratively. Grab a drink and some popcorn! It goes chronologically backwards, so scroll through to day 1 and go from there.
Moving isn’t anything new to me, I’ve done it 10 times in the last 20 years. So, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve that I’ll share with you. These work equally as well if you aren’t moving but are just trying to declutter and simplify your life. You can share them with yourself or with anyone you know going through it. Like death, packing and moving comes for us all eventually. And like death, if done right it doesn’t have to be scary and traumatic.
1) DON’T PANIC.
When faced with the thought of having to deal with something like my garage, the first impulse is to run away in terror.
I am having a panic attack just looking at that. It’s just one part of an entire house that I have to wrangle into submission. I can feel the anxiety rising and the thoughts running wild. “I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this. How did it get this way? Why wasn’t I more organized before? What kind of person am I?” So, OK, maybe panic a little and use all that adrenaline to propel you into action instead of propelling you into a fetal position in your bed with a pint of ice cream. You got this. And when it’s over, your shit will never be more together and you will feel amazing.
2) START DAYDRINKING.
I did 8 of the last 10 moves stone cold sober. Never again. If I could go back in time I would tell myself that wearing neon green for 4 years in high school doesn’t make me look like Madonna it makes me actually look like I’m losing the fight with emphysema. And then I would tell myself to start drinking wine before every move and to not stop until I was done. Add baileys to your coffee, and sip on a glass of wine as you sift through your clutter. Slightly tipsy is what you’re aiming for…too sober and you feel overwhelmed in every moment, too drunk you’ll end up passed out on a pile of broken furniture that you saved to fix but never got around to doing. Your mind will be slightly dulled and unable to fixate on all the things you still have to do, and even more giddy with the thought of finally weeding out everything you don’t need in your life.
3) SCHEDULE YOUR DAY.
I’m not much of a planner, preferring instead to see what the day holds for me. But when I start packing, I have a default schedule. I get up early so I have a few hours to myself while the kids are still sleeping. Everyone knows that kids cut productivity by at least 85%. I’m up at 7, run for a couple miles which acts like revving a car’s engine for me, eat a protein filled breakfast, have some coffee (with baileys!) then go to a room and organize the shit out of it. This allows me to slack off in the middle of the day when the kids are up and I lose some momentum. I hit it hard again after dinner and go until either the wine or my exhaustion get the better of me. I’d rather go to bed early than sleep in late. It’s just what works for me…figure out your optimal rhythm and maximize the hell out of it.
4) MAKE A PLAYLIST.
Music makes everything better. That is all.
5) PURGE FIRST.
Don’t even think about packing yet. The first 2 weeks is all about getting rid of everything you don’t want to pack. I have 3 piles that I start in every room. 1) Things that are broken. 2) Things to donate. 3) Things to pack. Everything in the 1 pile goes immediately into a garbage bag and is thrown away. Everything in the 2 pile goes immediately into a garbage bag and gets put into the back of my car. Everything in the 3 pile is dealt with later. I know that sometimes it’s hard to choose between giving things away or holding on to them, so think of it as if every box that you pack is going to cost you $20 to move. Is it really worth that much to you? Free your mind and your wallet by downsizing and simplifying. It’s the gift of moving! Also, find a good charity. I was holding on to a lot of baby clothes for sentimental reasons while packing up my house in Colorado. Then the earthquake in Haiti hit and suddenly it felt right to send them to families in real need rather than keep them in a box for the next bazillion years. It’s easy to give things away when you are emotionally connected to a cause. Find a women’s shelter, or homeless shelter, or anything that you connect with. Then give give give. It’s also the gift of moving!
6) INVITE FRIENDS TO COME OVER.
Especially if they have kids, because then everyone plays while you guys sip wine and sort through stuff. Give them incentive to help by promising they can have anything from your house that you don’t need anymore but they do. Kids toys you’ve outgrown, kitchen stuff you never use, old clothes you don’t wear anymore…open your house up to your friends like a showcase on Wheel of Fortune. This was my favorite thing about moving from Colorado…how happy I was to have the help and company of my friends and how happy they were to walk away with something they’ve always wanted!
7) FIND AN OUTLET FOR YOUR EMOTIONS.
Moving puts you into a state of temporary insanity. Find something you can do when it gets too much. I run in the morning and hoop during the day. Just 10 minutes of hoop dancing to my favorite songs goes a loooooong way towards clearing myself of lingering anxiety/boredom/stress. Plus, I can do it while sipping on wine (#2!).
8) DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR KIDS.
Let them run their show while you devote your time and energy to moving. Take them grocery shopping and have them pick out what they want to eat and snack on…make sure it’s things they can make for themselves. Loosen up on your standards a bit. Froot Loops for lunch? OK! Video games all morning? OK! They will be just fine. Put out art supplies and snack foods. Take them to the library and get shit tons of books/videos. Let them explore what it’s like creating a day that they’re happy with so that you don’t have to micromanage them while you’re also tackling pile after pile of accumulated possessions. This is how I started unschooling, actually. I had mono really badly one winter, their dad was traveling for his job, so they pretty much raised themselves while I just tried to stay coherent in bed. I expected them to become feral, sickly monsters and was amazed at how responsible and well planned they were for their own time. Even after I got better, we kept that same level of their own individual personal responsibility. Lighten up a little, and let your kids do what makes them happy while you work at taming your materialism.
9) DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE MESS.
As you are opening every drawer and cabinet to purge and organize, you will create a godawful mess. It’s ok. This is just the storm before the calm. It’s the puke before the feeling of health. Like vampires, you have to get everything out into the light of day in order to kill the monster. For my own peace of mind, I try to keep the living room/kitchen/bathrooms spotless…but everything else is in total chaos until I’ve dealt with it. It’s a process that lasts until you are done moving. Embrace your mess, knowing that you are going to tame the beast and walk away 99% more organized and streamlined than you were before.
My life in the next month is going to be devoted to steamlining, purging, killing the clutter, and simplifying. Even if you’re not moving, I invite you to do the same in your life! I’ll be sharing what space I’m tackling and you can dive in yourself. Because, come on, I know I’m not the only one with a garage like that…