He was nice to me

Twenty-nine years ago today, I attempted suicide. Last week, a guy I went to school with succeeded.

I haven’t seen, or even much thought of, this guy since I was 14. We weren’t close; in fact, I never would have said we were friends. But he was nice to me. He was cute and funny and ornery; when I picture fictional characters like Peter Pan or Huck Finn, it’s his face I see. I don’t remember him not smiling.

From what I’ve gleaned from the internet, he had a whole lot to be unhappy about since I saw him last. Eventually, it overpowered him. I’m sorry for that in a way I can’t quite express.

Junior high is not the best period of a kid’s life — it certainly wasn’t a high point in mine. I flip through my yearbooks now and don’t remember many of those people. But I remember him. Was he sometimes jerky, as almost-teen boys are wont to be? I’d be surprised if he weren’t. But I don’t remember that. What I remember is that he smiled a lot. Laughed more. And he was nice.

May he rest in peace.

Scenes from the potty

My son is at this point completely potty-trained; he just can’t be bothered to go to the toilet all the time. As a result, he gave himself diaper rash. He’s never had diaper rash a day in his life, so I thought he had some sort of disease. Took him to the doctor; she gave me Desitin and looked at me like I was a hypochondriac mom.

He hates the cream. He dug through the first aid drawer, found the tube, and threw it away while cackling gleefully. He also hates being wiped with wet wipes, because they are wet and he doesn’t want his butt to be wet. (But sitting in a sack of his own urine and feces is apparently a-OK.) So he tries to hide the fact that he’s pooped his pants. When found out (I have an extremely sensitive nose; I can smell poop from across the house), he screams and punches and pleads. It’s a two-person struggle to clean this child’s tush. So I’ve stopped letting him wear pull-ups during the day, in the hope that he will start using the potty with more regularity.

This is a punishment for me, not him. He still craps his pants. Only this time, I can’t just throw them away; I have to scrub and wash them. This is the child I nicknamed Mr. Fastidious; never have I cleaned up after him so much as I am now.

The following scenes took place in a span of roughly 18 hours.

Scene 1. A public restroom.
He’s told me he needs to potty, so the kids and I pile into a stall in a fast-food restaurant. Kai, for some reason, stands beside the toilet instead of in front of it. It’s one of those oval-shaped toilets, which means he has to really lean to get the angle right. He’s a little guy yet, and not used to standing and peeing, so this is an even bigger challenge.

Once he relaxes, awkward angle and two-person audience notwithstanding, he overshoots and hits the floor on the other side of the toilet. We all laugh. His sunglasses fall into the toilet. He pees on them.

Scene 2. His bathroom.
He’s about to go outside to play when I notice him tugging on the crotch of his shorts. I tell him to go pee first. I leave the room to get a beverage to take outside. When I return, he is mopping up a puddle on the bathroom floor.

“Didn’t make it?” I ask.

“No,” he replies.

“That’s okay,” I tell him, and give him some more paper towels to clean up the mess. “I’ll go get you some dry underpants.”

He is flushing the toilet when I return. “Toilet broke,” he says.

“Oh, no — did you flush the paper towels?” I ask. “You’re not supposed to…”


“Well, I needed to mop the floor anyway.”

Scene 3. Our living room.

After three days of carrying it around, I finally get the chance to crack open my new book. I’m on page two when I start smelling poop and pee.

“Are you wet? Did you poop?”


I check his pants. He is not lying. I go back to my book.

The smells persist. I check again. Nothing.

“Please go use the potty.”

“I no hafta go!”

“Can you at least try?”


I could continue to argue with him, but it’s been a long day, and to be honest I’m kind of tired of fighting about this. I go back to my book.

Just as I finish the first chapter, the poop smell gets really strong. He has either pooped already or will soon. I go get the wipes. When I return, I see him digging at his butt. Which smears the mess from inside his underwear through to the outside of his shorts. I clean up said mess, start the washer, clean the sink.

I sit back down with my book. A few pages later, I realize I still smell pee. I run my foot over the carpet in front of the couch and find a wet spot. Sniff. Yep. Get the stain remover and a rag, scrub the spot, throw the rag in the wash, and sit down to read again. Just as Daddy and Anya return from Girl Scouts.

I never did get to finish that chapter.

My week in ten paragraphs

Noise-cancelling earbuds work just like ear plugs, if not better. Which is really nice on those days when I need to focus on editing and my son needs to listen to Ryan’s World at volumes so loud the neighbors across the street can hear it.

I learned…somewhere (can’t put my hands on the article right now) that weaning can cause depression and menopause-like symptoms. So I’m in a chicken-or-egg quandary here. One thing’s clear: The hot flashes are getting worse instead of better. Just in time for summer! Did I mention that in Barry’s wake we’re experiencing heat indexes of 110+ degrees?

I find gummies to be unspeakably disgusting, unlike the weirdos I live with. R had a bag of gummies in his car, which in this heat melted into a big steak-like mass. And they ate it anyway.

Our kitchen faucet has leaked since we moved in. YouTube made the fix sound simple. What I thought was going to be a 5-minute procedure turned into a 2-hour ordeal that ultimately culminated in just replacing the whole thing. During the faucet replacement, R periodically called me out of my office to give me show-and-tell progress updates. (The inner workings of the faucet were very rusty and gross.) During one of these updates, I was distracted by the music he was listening to. “Did he just say ‘My dog is bigger than yours?'” I asked. “No,” laughed R. “He said ‘My cock is bigger than yours.'” I like my version better.

Last month, when Anya had her nature camp, Kai begged to go to camp too. So I signed him up for a preschool day camp at the botanic gardens. He was excited to go to camp like a big boy…at first. When he realized that the mommies were leaving, he crumpled. I even stayed at camp with him; it didn’t help. After an solid hour of him begging me to take him home, I relented. He later told me that while he liked seeing the worm (it was a big one — as long as my foot, easily), he didn’t want to go to camp unless Anya was there. So I paid $125 for him to see a worm.

I’ve been doing Illustrator training again (lynda.com videos on LinkedIn — Deke McClelland is amazing), and while I watch the videos I’ve taken the opportunity to stand and stretch the muscles and ligaments in my lower back and sides that are hurting me so. (I tried looking them up so I could list them by name, but when Google served up anatomy photos instead of just illustrations, I decided I could happily die not knowing what they are called.) Turns out stretching in the morning makes me feel better all day. I need to figure out a way to make this habit. I’ve also learned that in order to make the pain better, I have to first lean into it. There’s a life lesson in that.

Two things I’ve been trying to make time for lately are non-yoga exercise and Duolingo. It’s too damn hot to walk outside, so I’ve been trying to do the step exercises on Wii Fit. But I end up having to fight Kai for the balance board and everyone ends up mad. I’m thinking I need to start getting up at 4 and squeeze in some steps before work. The Duolingo is going much better, because Kai likes to practice with me. His German’s not bad — maybe better than mine, even.

This Instagram post from Twisted Doodles had me sobbing. Though our circumstances are different — she could have another child, but chooses not to — the feeling is the same. It’s why I record in text, photos, and video my children’s every waking thought and accomplishment. The sense that something is slipping away even as you hold it is strong. I waited such a very long time to be a mother, and childhood passes so quickly.

The kids dug in to my workout gear cabinet and found my tai chi ball. I was having trouble explaining to them what it was for, so I decided to show them. Thanks to the YouTube app on our TV, the vast array of videos on YouTube are now useful to me —  I can actually see and hear what’s going on now. Bonus: The kids did tai chi with me! It was a short routine, just 5 minutes, but that was pretty much the only 5 minutes I didn’t have to fuss at them that day. I may try to make this a thing.

Last weekend, we all pitched in and cleaned Anya’s room. It has floor now! This week, after a couple of snags, we bought paint for the kids’ rooms (blue for Kai, aqua for Anya) and Friday we painted both because I am an insane person. Next up is furniture. Pics to come.


Simple mango milkshake

I was going to take a photo of the milkshake for this post, but Kai drank it all before I got the chance.


Luckily, I got a second chance: Anya asked for one the next day. This time I managed to snap a couple of photos (of which the top photo is one) before Kai reclaimed his cup.


The kids are avid Coraline fans, so I have created various versions of her mango milkshake for them. Usually the shakes involve bananas — we almost always have some bananas on the brink — and I make extra so I can freeze some in popsicle sleeves for healthyish snacks. But I was in a hurry and also out of bananas, so I whipped this up for Kai. He declared it delicious and told me I am a good mommy, so it must have been good.

This recipe makes a small (8 ounces) milkshake; feel free to double (or triple!) the ingredients if you are not a little boy.


Simple mango milkshake

1/3 cup good quality vanilla ice cream
1/3-1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
1/3 cup orange juice, or to taste

Blend ingredients together until smooth.

Mama’s magic go juice

A recipe! I know — it’s been a while. I’m still fumbling with these food sensitivities. I think I have this smoothie down, though. Nothing in it sets off my stomach, and it keeps me full for hours. I can eat and work and not worry about crumbs in the keyboard. Plus I get my fruit without having to, well, chew it.


Mama’s magic go juice

1 tablespoon avocado oil
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1 scoop pea protein powder (I like JustPea)
2 teaspoons sugar
10 strawberries (I like mine frozen)
1-2 cups cranberry juice, to desired consistency

Blend the oil, seeds, protein powder, sugar, and a little bit of the juice together until smooth. Add the strawberries and 1 cup of the juice and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add more juice.

Insert straw. Drink. Get stuff done.

I am so not cool

In the immortal words of Keith Mars, I was never cool. In fact, me quoting Veronica Mars is probably the coolest part of this post.

I’m bumbling and awkward and have a hopelessly dorky sense of humor. You’ve heard of 95% of the bands I like, because they used to be played a LOT on the radio. (Probably still are, on oldies stations.) I tend to prefer mainstream movies and popular authors. My fashion sense peaked somewhere around 2004. Which is also where my hairstyle comes from, and when I purchased the majority of my shoes.

Since my daughter was born, I’ve been out of step with the world, and I am just now catching up on the music, movies, and software updates that came out in the intervening years. (Books are on my list, but further down because they require more time than I have to myself these days.) My daughter was born in 2011, so I’m now nearly 10 years behind you all. I’m the Midwest personified, without all that Republican stuff.

Speaking of the broken democracy in the room, I have strongly held opinions, but I hate to debate, so aside from the occasional FB share I keep them to myself. I also hate haggling; I have paid full price for everything I’ve ever bought. Perhaps I would feel differently about both of those things if I were more persuasive and charismatic, or at least more argumentative, but I am none of those things.

I talk to myself. A lot. It’s slightly more socially acceptable now because I have children; people assume I am talking to the kids. Sometimes I am, but not usually. My social media and this blog are also, to some extent, me talking to me. It’s how I sort things out, how I remember, and how I make room for other thoughts in my head. The rest of it’s what passes for my social life. Because I am so, so, so not cool.

The nice thing about middle age is that I’m finally completely at peace with being uncool. Somewhere between 40 and 50, we all just become ourselves. Probably because none of us are particularly cool anymore, and even the coolest among us aren’t really sure just when that happened, or how. We leave the jockeying for dominance to the younger set and just get on with things. It’s one of my favorite parts of middle age, actually.

I will never go big; I will always go home. I like it here. It is my favorite place to be.

7 going on 13

My daughter has been diagnosed with premature thelarche. Which, if you’re not up on your medical terminology (this was a new one on me), means she’s developing breast buds a little ahead of schedule.

She is 7. Nearly 8, but still…7. With the beginnings of breasts.

That’s not the most upsetting portion of the situation to me. Because we went to see the doctor, and she ordered a hand x-ray to establish whether Anya’s skeleton was developed beyond her years, and it’s not. So we have avoided the hormone therapy we might have endured. No, what makes me sad/happy is this:


Mom and I took Anya for a girls’ shopping trip. We used to shop all the time before Kai was born, and after he was born until he began boycotting clothes shopping. It’s been harder since Mom’s been on oxygen, but she’s doing much better these days. So we went out.

But just look at my girl.

In my mind, she looks like this.


And this.


And this.


But she’s also helping me create weekly menus and insisting I let her clean the bathrooms and having discussions about pop music with my mother.

Yesterday we had to buy her new clothes (because she’s up a dress size) and shoes (because she’s up TWO sizes — putting her feet a mere three sizes smaller than mine). She’s eating roughly 4 meals a day these days. The girl who, not so long ago, told me “I don’t really like food” ate two dinners last night and wanted a snack when we got home. At 9 p.m.

Anya says she’s nearly a teenager. I tell her that, no matter what her body is doing, she won’t be a teenager for 5 years.  There is no denying, however, that she’s more mature mentally than I was at her age. I remember lamenting the loss of the playground when I entered 6th grade and we moved to the other side of the school. My classmates were losing interest in playing; they wanted to talk about hair and makeup and clothes and boys. I still wanted to swing. While she loves to play, don’t get me wrong — Anya is swiftly growing more sophisticated in her interests. I don’t see her as regretting the passing of childhood like I did. She’s more forward-looking than I ever was.

It’s a lot of fun, having a big girl. I have someone to talk to, someone to shop with, someone to bake and walk and watch movies with. But it also makes me ache.