I’m Not a Badass But I Play One on TV

_DSC7506Disclaimer: I try really hard not to swear on my blog or any of my work, but the term “badass” is the only appropriate word to use in this context. My apologies.

I went through a phase a couple of years ago where I wore a lot of skirts. I was a tomboy growing up and always favored t-shirts and jeans to dresses. I was in my late-20s and decided–well, the internet probably told me–that I should start being a woman. I should wear skirts and pretty shirts and heels and embrace the conventional term of “pretty.”

I liked it. I liked feeling pretty. I liked feeling feminine.

But.

I didn’t feel like me.

I felt like an imposter.

People would compliment me on my outfit or on how long my hair was getting because, you know, short hair isn’t feminine. My husband liked it which is always a perk.

Still, despite the positive reinforcement surrounding me, it just didn’t feel right.

Since having children I’ve discovered my true self.

My true self wears her hair super duper short and dyes it an unnatural red color. In the summer it is styled as a faux-hawk.

My true self prefers to wear blue jeans and black tank tops whenever possible despite the fact it makes my already pale skin look even more pale.

My true self prefers dark eye make-up (when I choose to wear it) even though the “no make-up” make-up look is in… I think.

My true self prefers knee high black boots to heels.

My true self says “screw you” to anyone who thinks I should look and dress and act a certain way simply because I have a vagina.

My true self wants to feel like a badass and these things–hair, fashion, make-up–help me to feel like that.

When I feel like a badass, I feel empowered. I feel like I can get stuff done. I feel strong and confident and that I look good. If I look good, if I see myself in the mirror and can say, “You look awesome,” I’m more apt to be happy. And if I’m happy, I’m more likely to be happy around my husband and kids and friends and family.

I don’t know if I’m actually a badass, but I know that when I feel like one, I feel like the most amazing woman on the planet.

I’m not saying you should ditch the dresses and heels. What I’m saying is that you have to do whatever it is you need to do to feel like you. I know that’s a confusing sentence so I’ll say it another way.

Do whatever it is that allows you to feel at your core that you are a woman warrior capable of opening doors, cleaning house, taking names, and being your most awesome self.

For me it’s a red faux hawk. For you it’s something else. Whatever it is, do it without shame or fear of what society will think. Society is full of wannabes trying to fit in and, as a mom, I don’t have time to mess around with those people.

Be a badass.

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My SorryNotSorry Apology to Everyone at the Grocery Store

photo credit: shopping cart harmonic convergence II via photopin (license)
photo credit: shopping cart harmonic convergence II via photopin (license)

Back story: I don’t drive–long story–so when the kids and I need to go to the grocery store we walk. It’s only about a third of a mile so, up until Saturday, I’ve been strapping the kiddos into the stroller and we meander over.

Here’s the thing. They can both walk. Lils is getting a bit big to be in the stroller all the time. Levi is an independent little dude who wants to do whatever his big sister does. So…

Saturday we all walked to the store together. I still brought the stroller to put them in when crossing the two busy streets we gotta get past, and as a handy get-groceries-home device, but otherwise the kids walked the whole time.

They walked to and from the store ever so slowly, picking up pine cones and sticks and playing in the grass. You know–that cute stuff kids do that only sometimes drive me crazy. Like when I have to pee.

Letting them walk to and from the store unencumbered was the easy part of the adventure.

The part that stressed me out beyond reason was them wandering around free at the store.

Don’t get me wrong. My kids aren’t monsters. They are surprisingly well-behaved or so I heard from passerbys. But still…

Levi wandered into the wine area when I was getting milk and I freaked out for half of a second because I couldn’t see him, and when I could see him all I saw in my mind’s eye was him knocking over a case of expensive wine which would be a tragedy on roughly 207 levels.

Lily grabbed an armful of oranges while I was grabbing bananas and demanded that we take them home.

Levi thought the avocados were cool balls to throw… so we bought a few of those as well.

They took stuff off shelves and put them back at my direction.

They cut people off because kids don’t have a concept of “look where you’re going.”

They played Ring-Around-The-Rosie in the cereal aisle.

They touched every piece of candy in the checkout line and said hi to everyone who looked at them.

And I wanted to apologize to everyone who crossed our path. I wanted to say “I’m sorry” to the college kid who couldn’t get to the milk because Levi was struggling to open the case door himself.

I wanted to say “I’m sorry” to the older gentleman in the motorized cart who Lillian cut off not once, but twice. Lils probably scared six months off of his life due to the fear he was going to run over my child.

I wanted to say “I’m sorry” to the cashier for the kids trying to put impulse buys on the conveyer belt, and to the baristas because… well, I guess simply for my children’s presence.

I wanted to write this and say I was sorry to everyone we encountered.

Then I thought about it and realized I have nothing to be apologetic for.

My kids were just being kids. And they were actually being good kids. They listened when I told them to return the Frozen cereal to the shelf, and moved their toddler legs as fast as they could when I told them to keep up. They smiled and were pleasant. They didn’t throw a tantrum. They didn’t scream.

The only thing I could apologize for was them getting in people’s ways and, let’s face it, I’m 31 and I still do that.

It was my own hang-ups that I should apologize for. My own insecurities that tell me strangers I’ll only see for a minute are going to hate me for letting my kids loose. My own fears of inconveniencing anyone. My old judgmental self who used to hate when kids were terrors in the store and, now that I’m a mom, I totally get it.

For those things I’m sorry.

In the end, though, I learned I can allow my kids to be free at the store, that nothing awful will happen (fingers crossed) and that Levi and Lils are pretty great.

And that I’m a good mom because I survived and people seemed to like my offspring.

And that I’m a cool mom for letting them walk like big kids.

So… Sorry Not Sorry.

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How to Clean Your House With Kids in 40 Easy Steps

Today is a special guest post by the hilarious Joanna of Ramblin’ Mama. If you ever wonder why your house is dirty despite your best efforts–this is why.

photo credit: Artful Laundry. via photopin (license)
photo credit: Artful Laundry. via photopin (license)

How to Clean Your House With Kids in 40 Easy Steps

1. Start by sorting one of your many baskets of clothes.

2. Make a pile of clothing for each member of your household.

3. Watch as toddler puts the empty basket over their head, running around the living room pretending to be a ghost.

4. Attempt to retrieve clothes basket from toddler without causing a meltdown.

5. Wait for toddler to stop crying.

6. Bribe toddler.

7. Collect all dirty clothes and put them into the basket.

8. Marvel at all the random places you find pairs of children’s underwear.

9. Come back to find the baby has knocked all clothes piles onto the floor.

10. Watch as your toddler puts underwear on as a hat.

11. Grimace as your toddler finds another “hat” for the baby.

12. Say a silent prayer that both pairs are clean.

13. Resolve to “accidentally” throw dirty clothes away.

14. Move on to cleaning the floor.

15. Clear an area of your carpet to vacuum.

16. Struggle to keep your patience as your toddler expresses their need to play with each and every toy you try to put away.

17. Bribe toddler.

18. Turn vacuum on.

19. Wait for toddler to stop screaming.

20. Yell at dogs for barking.

21. Console baby.

22. Abandon vacuuming.

23. Move on to the kitchen.

24. Begin loading dirty dishes into the dishwasher.

25. Notice baby climbing into the dishwasher.

26. Move baby.

27. Explain to toddler that the dishwasher is not a toy.

28. Watch as baby picks up mystery item off the kitchen floor.

29. Explain to toddler that the dishwasher is not a ride either.

30. Intercept mystery item from baby before they put it in their mouth.

31. Resolve to clean the kitchen floor instead.

32. Explain to toddler that you’d love for them to help but it will take much less time if you do it yourself.

33. Wait for toddler’s tantrum to subside.

34. Spend 30 minutes teaching your toddler how to hold the broom correctly.

35. Take an additional 30 minutes teaching them to use the broom and dustpan.

36. Sweep entire kitchen with toddler at a snail’s pace.

37. Praise toddler for being such a great helper.

38. Watch as toddler waves dustpan excitedly, dumping all contents back onto the floor.

39. Throw a towel over remaining pile and call it a day.

40. Move on to opening the wine.

Joanna McClanahan resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, toddler, baby and two dogs. She mostly took up writing as an excuse to make her husband watch the kids. Her likes include sleep, fantasizing about sleep, and binge eating cookies. Dislikes include weird smells and talking about herself in third person. Sometimes she vents in an attempt to retain her sanity at ramblinmama.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter @ramblinma.

You Matter

photo credit: Eternel via photopin (license)
photo credit: Eternel via photopin (license)

As mothers, we fight battles and put out fires (metaphorically speaking, I hope) every day. We tend to wounds. We teach and guide. We read and color and drink imaginary tea. We discipline and forgive.

And we sacrifice.

Even I, who was so unprepared for parenthood, knew that this adventure would require sacrifice.

We sacrifice our bodies as we grow a little human inside of us. Stretch marks racing up our underbelly and organs rearranging themselves to make room for their new womb-mate.

We sacrifice our sleep whether it’s because our newborn wakes up to nurse or because our 4th grader is getting bullied.

We sacrifice our time as our days are fraught with decisions to make as to how to best spend our days now that our children are awake and ready.

We sacrifice our hearts and put ourselves through so much emotional torment because we just want to be the best mom we can be and some days, maybe most days, we feel as though we are failing at that goal.

We sacrifice. It’s just what we do. It’s part of parenthood.

One thing I’d like to argue that we should not sacrifice, though, is ourselves.

Call it selfish but I believe that we, mothers of newborns to high school students, we matter.

You matter.

And, therefore, what you want also matters.

And I believe what most of us mothers want is to feel like ourselves. To feel like a strong woman. To feel like a woman first and then a mom. To feel healthy, powerful, beautiful.

So often when our babies leave the safety of our uterus, they take our sense of self-worth with them. Of course having a mom gives us a new purpose, and it’s an almost regal new role that we are given. But the sacrifices of motherhood should not take away our self care.

I strongly believe that if we are taking care of ourselves first then we will be better able to take care of our children.

You matter.

And what’s important to you matters.

If it’s important to you to take a shower every day, do your hair and make-up and wear clothes without an elastic waistband, then you should do everything in your power to make that happen every day.

Because you matter.

If submerging yourself in a new book and being whisked away in your mind to some other time and place matters, then you should fight to find that time to make it happen.

Because you matter.

If you want to begin valuing your health more and eating better and wearing your yoga pants for actual yoga, then you should find that time and guard that time with everything in you.

Because you matter.

Carving out time to make these things happen will of course require sacrifice. But hey–we’re already great at sacrificing these days. We’re professionals. And we shouldn’t have to sacrifice ourselves any longer.

I don’t know what makes you feel like “you” and I don’t know how you can find the time to remind yourself that you matter. Maybe it means waking up a half hour early to get in that shower and shave your legs time. Maybe it means forgoing the dishes so you can read a chapter in your book. Maybe it means making a phone call and asking someone to watch the kids so you can just get away for a few minutes.

I don’t know your struggles, but I do that you are important.

I don’t know your schedule, but I do know that you are a person who deserves the opportunity to take care of herself.

I don’t know you, but I do know that you matter.

You, your thoughts, feelings, wants, desires, needs all matter.

I hope you believe me. I hope you find time to tell yourself daily that you matter. If not, hit me up and I’ll help remind you.

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My Daughter Tattled on Me

photo credit: I want your fu-fu-fu-fu future love. via photopin (license)
photo credit: I want your fu-fu-fu-fu future love. via photopin (license)

Monday night was not the finest hour for anyone in the Hammer household.

The kids went to bed at their normal time just fine. I was finishing up my nacho dinner and an episode of Friends around 9:30 when my 21-month-old son woke up very sad and crying. I went into comfort him and his almost three-year-old sister whom he had woken up. I sat in their room and comforted Levi until he went to sleep and Lily quickly followed suit.

About five minutes later he woke up sad again so I shuttled them off to the couch and we all watched an episode of Curious George together before I put them back to bed.

About 10 minutes later he was sad and crying again so I thought I’d try to get them both to sleep in bed with me. I’m sick and I was tired and I just wanted to sleep by any means necessary.

It looked like it was working. He was curled up on me and dozing while Lillian was falling asleep herself.

Then he got sad again, climbed out of bed, and handed me my glasses and phone–his signal that it’s time for me to get up.

I did not want to get up and, in an embarrassing moment, I lost my temper a bit and stormed out of bed, into the living room, and turned another blasted episode of Curious George.

Once the kids were settled on the couch with their sippy cups I called my husband to whine. He works nights and is privy to why I’m calling him so late. He offered to Skype with the kids to distract them for a few so I opened it up on my computer.

The kiddos were happy, chatting with Daddy, and then Lillian said, “Dad, brother was crying and Mommy got mad and now we’re watching George!”

HAHAHA…hahaha… ha… ouch.

While I’m not naive enough to believe that my kids don’t understand the emotions I’m feeling when I’m acting upset or sad, it struck a nerve deep within me that this is how the situation appeared to her. I was mad because Levi was crying.

The truth is that I was mad because I was sick and tired and didn’t want to be watching that stupid monkey at 11 o’clock at night and I was being selfish–something one can’t be when they’re a parent.

But that’s not how it looked.

Seeing life through the eyes of a child can be magical and awe-inspiring. Monday night, though, it was heartbreaking.

It was kind of funny and cute, but more than that it was extremely humbling. I’m not super great at remaining calm in these situations and I’m not awesome at controlling my emotions. However, it’s now vital that I figure out how to respond to situations in ways which will not make it look like I was angry at my son for being sad.

That’s going to be quite the challenge and I’m not sure I’m ready for it. Lucky for me, I have a long track record of being unprepared for parenthood and, so far, I think I’m doing okay. This is just one more step on my journey.

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The Overwhelming

photo credit: (64/365) Really really really ow... via photopin (license)
photo credit: (64/365) Really really really ow… via photopin (license)

Confession: I try really hard to keep this blog professional, without swearing, without a lot of angry rants, and to make it appear that I’m a “real” writer whatever that means. I like to post on a schedule, scatter my blog topics so you all don’t get three list posts in a row, etc.

I’m not going to do that today because I feel so completely out of control of my life that it’s time to rip back the curtain and just be real and raw and honest. There will be nothing pretty here today.

I am suffering from a condition I am referring to as “The Overwhelming.” My entire life is in some way touched by this malady and it really, really sucks.

We’ve had some upsetting medical news recently which has shaken up our lives, as well as our diet, and stresses me the eff out when it comes to figuring out what to make for dinner every night. With my husband going to work and school and leaving the house around 3pm five days a week, getting dinner done by 2 o’clock was already daunting and now I have to, like, meal plan and stuff and think hard about what I’m feeding everyone and I don’t have the mental energy for that all the time.

The Overwhelming.

I was on a major writing streak up until two weeks ago. I was getting pieces accepted, making a little money, and gaining hundreds of new readers. And now I’ve been in a dark pit of a valley which makes me think that all this writing stuff is just a waste of time and I should go back to extreme couponing because there’s no reason to waste my nights typing out these pithy things that no one cares about and no wants to read and no big site is ever going to like so what’s the point of all this work and agony?

The Overwhelming.

My children are at impossible ages. My son is 21 months and my daughter will be 3 in May and they suck the life right out of me. Yesterday I made it until 9 a.m. before I was feeling the heavy weight of The Overwhelming crush my chest and force my airways to constrict. It was hours away from nap time and I felt I had already exhausted all of my options for what to do with them. I was low on energy and imagination, they were tired and cranky, and it made for a really crappy day. I felt lost. I felt alone. I felt like an awful mom. I didn’t want to be around them but I couldn’t not be around them, and the guilt of being around them but not engaging with them was too much. There’s no balance. It’s just pure exhaustion from sun up to sun down.

The Overwhelming.

I love my kids so much, but there are days lately where I’m positive I’m not meant to be a stay-at-home mom. I don’t think I’m good at it. It’s not my gift. But the alternative–going back to work at a 9 to 5 job–sounds even more shitty so I don’t want to do that either.

So I feel stuck. Trapped. Overwhelmed with my life.

AND, because I’ve been suffering from The Overwhelming, I’ve been treating my body like crap, too. I wait until the kids go to bed, wait until my husband’s at work, and then I make enough nachos (chips + cheese + salsa verde) to feed three normal-sized people and scarf it down while watching a couple episodes of Friends. Then I get up in the morning and feel awful–physically and emotionally–for treating my body like that. But salt and fat triggers the feel good part of your brain and I need something to make me feel good damnit.

But, I’m also smart enough to know that working out will help me feel better. Endorphins and all that jazz. However. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WORK OUT WITH TWO SMALL CHILDREN PULLING ME IN TWO DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS ALL DAY LONG? I don’t drive. Taking the bus with two toddlers is laughable considering my current mental state. So I need to work out at home which is a great idea until it requires me to get out of bed earlier than I already do (yawn) or working out while the kids are awake (hahahahaha) or working out after they go to bed which will only energize me and keep me awake longer than my regular insomnia already does.

The Overwhelming.

This is my life. This is my life in full color. No filters. No airbrushing. I am overwhelmed by literally every aspect of my life and it sucks and I hate it and I don’t know what to do about it other than bitch to all of you.

So thank you for listening. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for helping me feel less crazy. Thank you for being with me and reminding me that these are struggles everyone goes through. Maybe not all at once, but we all have these moments in life.

Thank you for reminding me I’m not alone.

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I Blinked

photo credit: London Tube via photopin (license)
photo credit: London Tube via photopin (license)

My son will be two in May. He is already smart and funny. If you say, “Levi, look at Mommy’s eyes” he’ll swivel his head to look at you and say, “Hmm?” His favorite foods are cheese and whatever he can steal from his sister. He cuddles when he’s sleepy and pouts when I lay him in his bed at night.

He is growing up so fast and it wasn’t until a week ago that I realized just how fast he is growing up.

You see, two weeks ago, I was struggling with him. I didn’t know what he liked or didn’t like. He wanted to do puzzles like his sister but he couldn’t figure them out. He liked to hide under a blanket but didn’t understand the storyline Lillian would make up as to why we were hiding. He liked to make feeble attempts at ripping books apart instead of trying to read them.

And then I blinked.

Just a week ago, he was not only able to do peg puzzles, but wanted to do them voraciously. Upon waking, he would cuddle with me for a minute and in his toddler gibberish I’ll decode for you he would say, “Mom? Puzzle?” and point to the stack in their room. Overnight it seems, something had clicked, and I learned what he loves.

And then I blinked.

Several times a day he goes to his and Lillian’s bookshelf and pulls out all the books. He flips through them and points out the animals he knows. “Mom, duck. Quack quack! Mom, dog. Bark bark!” He will scour through every book in search of trains and gleefully exclaim, “Mom! Choo choo!” Suddenly he has a love for books and trains that I didn’t know existed.

And then I blinked.

The other day he pulled a blanket out of the closet. He put his Mickey Mouse doll on the couch, covered it with the blanket and said, “Mom. Ssshhh” alerting me to the fact that Mickey was asleep and we needed to be quiet. His imagination has suddenly bubbled to the surface and now he enjoys making dolls dance, play figures swing, and bringing me pretend cups of coffee.

I blinked and within a week, my son, who seemingly had no likes or interests, now loves puzzles, books, trains, and making up little games for his toys.

He is growing up so fast and I am so excited to watch and cultivate the man he is to become, but this week there has been an ache in my chest because I blinked. And within that split second, he has grown up. He is a full-fledged toddler boy and no longer the baby boy I would bathe in the sink.

I blinked, and I’ll continue to blink, and before I know it he will be an adult and I will remember fondly this week where I learned of his love of puzzles and books and watched his imagination bloom before my eyes.

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The 5 Types of Tired All Moms Experience

All moms are tired all the time, but what type of tired are you? Here's my thoughts on the 5 types of tired all moms experience. Hope you get a laugh. Or a nap. As a mom, I am tired all. the. time. Okay, maybe not all the time. I think I’m fully energized for a few scant minutes around Noon but that’s about it. When babies are born they wake up all the time and you wonder, “When will they sleep through the night?” You think that once your baby starts sleeping more than three hour stretches you’re in the clear. Woohoo! They’re sleeping through the night! This is great.

Until you factor in teething.

And growth spurts.

And sleep regressions.

And any life transitions.

And their growing developmental skills which compel them to wake up at night so they can finally build that block tower more than three blocks high.

And so on and so forth.

Because of this constant exhaustion, I’ve compiled a list of the different types of tired that affect us parents. What? You didn’t know there were different types of tired? In between yawns, give this list a read and let me know if you identify with any of them. Or all of them like me.

The Too Anxious to Sleep Tired: This is where you’re so frazzled from trying to keep your kids entertained and out of trouble that you can’t sleep when you lay down in your own bed–hopefully by yourself. Your eyes are heavy, you stretch, you yawn, you think about sleeping and… an hour later you’re still wide awake trying to figure out how exactly your son got into the bathroom sink. It’s not your fault. It’s because you’re tired.

The Newborn Foal Tired: Growing up I watched a lot of Discovery Channel and it turns out when animals are first born they can’t walk right away. They’re clumsy, they trip and stumble and fall. You know you’re this type of tired if, out of nowhere, you suddenly drop your cup of coffee on the floor. Or you fall over while trying to stand up from the couch. Or you somehow just miss the sidewalk completely and go sprawling onto the pavement. It’s not your fault. It’s because you’re tired.

The Narcolepsy Tired: You know those days where you find yourself dozing on the couch only to hear the familiar sound of your kids getting into something which suddenly jolts you awake? And then you find yourself dozing off again in the middle of disciplining them and explaining that the pots and pans are not step stools to use in order to gain access to the fruit snacks on the top shelf? And then again when you’re sitting on the toilet trying to pee by yourself? It’s not your fault. It’s because you’re tired.

The Coffee Doesn’t Touch Me Tired: Coffee is a mom’s best friend because it wakes you up and gets you going at 4am when your children have chosen to start their day. It’s also used in the afternoons when you’re counting down the minutes to bedtime. There are days where the coffee can’t defeat your exhaustion. You drink it and you drink it and you drink it–all the time knowing that you could pass out in a second if given the chance. It’s not your fault. It’s because you’re tired.

The I’m A Mom Tired: This final type of tired begins the first night your baby is born and ends… well, according to my mom, never. Being tired is no longer something that just happens, but it is now a part of you. It’s embedded deep in your soul. Oh sure, you have moments of life and vibrancy, but in the end, the tired is always looming in the shadows, waiting to take over your body when all you want to do is be productive after the kids go to bed. Let the dishes sit in the sink. The laundry can wait. It’s not your fault the house is messy and you haven’t had a shower today. Or this week. It’s just because you’re tired.

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