Mom-Life Crisis

fab old lady

When I was a kid, I always thought I would age gracefully (I was a really weird kid).  I imagined myself being a cool old lady, who was really hip and had fun hair and a sharp sense of humor and a pet poodle.  I still think I’ll be like that; I absolutely think I’m going to kill it as an old lady…I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to my future style, and another dedicated just to poodles.  I’m pretty eccentric, and eccentricity looks better on people who have the wisdom to back it up.  I’m finding it much easier to be comfortable with my idiosyncrasies as I get older and lose more and more of the impulse to impress other people.  On that front, I’m doing ok.  The thing I forgot about when I was imagining myself as a rad old lady was the transition period.  The one that lasts about thirty-forty years in the middle of your life; the part where you slowly creep away from your youth, and put in the real work that is the meat in your life sandwich.

Once, when my daughter was an infant, I went to the grocery store on a Saturday morning.  I was twenty-nine and feelin’ fine.  I hadn’t yet realized that I was an actual mother, so much as a cute girl who happened to have a baby.  I forgot that people viewed me as “a mom.”  I sauntered up to the express check-out lane, and saw that I was behind a bunch of bros buying beer.  “Great,” I thought, “I’m so not in the mood to be hit on right now.”  One of them turned, looked me up and down, and said “why don’t you go ahead, ma’am.”  “MA’AM?!”  Didn’t he know that just a year before I was buying beer on Saturday mornings?  Didn’t he know that I was young and hot and cool?  I couldn’t believe he was being such a dick!  Oh, except he wasn’t.  I had a baby strapped to my chest and I was just buying one thing and he was being super nice, and now I feel bad for calling him a bro.  I wasn’t who I thought I was.  I was a mom, with a baby who needed to get home.

Mom-life is hard, especially when you have little kids — you’re such an adult, but you still feel young.  It’s an awkward transition, not unlike the many other awkward transitions in your life, but this one seems to be more fraught than most.  It’s the first transition that feels like I have left my unbridled future behind.  My future is totally bridled.  Now that I’m three years in, I’ve mostly adjusted and am happy in this season.  I am grateful to be a part of this generation, where being a mom is a part of you, but not all of you.  It is nice that I can still wear cool clothes, and have a job, and be me, but it doesn’t totally prevent an identity crisis.  Maybe it was especially hard for me because motherhood was thrust upon me unexpectedly, but I imagine most parents experience this to some degree.  It’s hard to reinvent your life.

(Photo via: Hello Giggles)

It could happen, but it probably won’t.

I’m generally a pretty anxious person.  I like to think it’s because I’m a genius (self-diagnosed).  I have the delightful ability to look at any situation and automatically see the worst possible outcome. Once, when I was in high school, I had a total meltdown (is it significant that “meltdown” is only one letter off from “MelTown?” Probably.) because I didn’t bring home a piece of paper that I needed to study. I panicked because I knew if I didn’t do well on the upcoming test I would fail the class, not get into college, never be able to find a job, and be homeless.  I’m serious.  That was my actual train of thought.  I got an A in the class, because I got A’s in most of my classes (ugh, chemistry), but I never believed that I would succeed.

Now that I’m in my thirties and “successful” my concerns have morphed, and in some ways skyrocketed.  I’m a mother now.  Motherhood is terrible for anxiety!  Everything seems so much more dangerous, and the stakes are so much higher.  Somehow, I’ve managed to cope pretty well and am a mostly functioning adult.  One of my best kept secrets is to marry someone with similar anxiety issues.  If you’re a type-A, first born, overachiever marry one of those.  It sounds counterintuitive, but calm people don’t understand why you’re so anxious and it helps if one person can shoulder half the worry.  It really works for us!  That’s not to say it’s never stressful, but we actually do a pretty good job balancing each other as long as we avoid the anxiety spiral we both face if we try to make a big change.  The other secret is my newly realized but long-held mantra.  “It could happen, but it probably won’t.”

I’ve found facts to be the best balm for my anxiety.  During my first pregnancy I was terrified of childbirth, or more specifically, tearing.  Like, beside myself terrified.  When I mentioned it to my doctor in the most casual tone I could muster, she said “Look, it’s your first baby.  You’re going to tear.” and you wouldn’t believe how much better I felt!  There was no point in worrying about it; it was just going to happen. Unfortunately, few things are sure bets (and yes, I know not everyone tears…and I didn’t tear…I had a c-section.), but statistics can still be your friend.  My sister is afraid to fly and she’s very aware that air travel is safe (fact), but also that planes sometimes crash (also fact).  Knowing that both facts are true isn’t all that helpful. I once blurted out in a fit of being a good big sister annoyance that “sure, the plane could crash, but it probably won’t.” and it actually brought her some sense of relief.  I mean, she’s still afraid to fly, it’s not magic, but it helped.  Some version of these words has been said to and by me so many times, and they bring me so much calm.  The best way for me to handle my anxiety is to look at the facts, make an educated assessment of the risks, and chill out.  Once I know what I’m dealing with, I feel better.

Recently I was talking to a dad at a three year old’s birthday party, and he was telling me that he is about to start a job as an officer with the Houston Police Department.  This was a day after a sheriff’s deputy was killed outside of Houston as he was pumping gas, gunned down without provocation.  We were discussing fear, and danger, and he said he still felt fairly calm about starting his new job, but also mentioned that his wife is nervous in movie theaters these days.  We were talking about the culture of fear that is creeping into our lives, and I said it.  “Sure, you could be shot in a theater, but you probably won’t be.”  The facts are there.  How many shootings have occurred compared to the number of movies playing at all times of the day in countless theaters across the country.  Odds are, you will be safe.  It hit me then that this phrase had become my coping mechanism and I hadn’t even noticed.  If the words ring true, I know a situation isn’t worth my concern, and if they don’t I need to back away.

It’s not a perfect system.  There are so many life choices that fall outside the reach of these words, but when I’m taking a shower and my husband isn’t home and I’m sure someone is going to break into the house right then to murder me, or I’m on the operating table, awake, during my second C-section and sure I’m going to die during surgery, or panicking about my car being submerged in water and not being to get my kids out…while I’m not even driving (this might have happened this morning), these words at least take my anxiety from a 10 to around a 4.  Not bad!*

*This post is not meant to suggest that anxiety can be cured with words. It’s just one anxious person sharing something that helps sometimes.

Ok, I’m ready to tell you about my light fixtures now.

It’s Friday, let’s talk about something fun.

living room fireplace

Before We Moved In

kitchen dining room

Before We Moved In

We moved into our house four years ago, and you would barely know it.  To be fair, I have been pregnant or taking care of an infant for 100% of that time (until now), and with tiny kids, full-time jobs, and wanting to also do things like “go outside” and “see people” we kind of dragged our feet on a lot of our improvements, but no more!  We’re still doing things the slow and steady way, but making more of a concerted effort to actually make progress.  I should warn you that I suffer from two conflicting afflictions:  I have really expensive tastes, and I’m super super cheap.  Why I have been cursed with this problem, I don’t know, but I like to think it’s so I can tell people how to appear fancy while not blowing their wine money.  I mean, what’s the point of a chandelier if you can’t afford to drink champagne under it?  AMIRIGHT?

We actually replaced three light fixtures that you can see when you come in from our front or back door, so the terrible lights that were there before were really harshing the vibe of the house, and I love to give a good first impression.  The previous owners had, er, interesting taste (more like no taste), so not only were the original fixtures inappropriate for the house, but they didn’t even match each other.  This is probably getting pretty boring, I’ll skip to the good stuff.

before new lights

Right Before The New Lights (Still Trying to Decide How to Handle that Fireplace)

The Kitchen:

kitchen fan

Kitchen Light: Before

People really liked this double fan, and I’ll admit it wasn’t horrible, except that it was too big for the room, when it was going full force it made terrible noises, it didn’t let off much light, and you needed a remote control to operate it.  Plus, it just isn’t my taste.

new kitchen

Kitchen Light: After

So we put this one in instead.  It was the most expensive, and probably my least favorite (I do really like it), but it is pretty, and bright, and kitchen and bathroom rated.  It has the added benefit of making our ceiling feel higher, something I hadn’t noticed was an issue when the fan was there, but it really was.


The Living Room:

formal fan

Formal Living Room: Before

ja living

Formal Living Room: After

I love this one.  It’s so pretty, and bright, and because our house was built in the 1940s it really hearkens back to the original time period, while still being appropriate for today.  It makes the room feel much fancier than that cheap old ceiling fan, and while I think it needs a dimmer, it’s nice to have some light when we’re playing and hanging out with the kids (even though we do most of that in a different room).  I mostly just like it because I like it, and that’s reason enough for me.

The Dining Room:

dining room monster

Dining Room: Before

This is the best part.  If you’ve been reading for a while, you know I was looking for the perfect sputnik chandelier, but I’ve also been a bit worried that they were too trendy and I didn’t want to drop thousands of dollars for something I would get tired of in two years.  After much googling, and found the PERFECT solution.  Lowe’s had a sputnik chandelier for sale for $198…a steal because the light bulbs are included.  Amazing, considering they’re generally pretty expensive; however, being a hardware store, and not a designer they only had chrome.  So I spray painted it gold, and voila!  The brass sputnik of my dreams, for super cheap, so I don’t have to feel guilty if I get tired of it…which I don’t think I will because I’m in love.

sputnik love

Dining Room: After


And there you have it.  We have about a million other tasks to tackle.  The front living room is almost finished, but the curtains I bought are back ordered until November, which kills me.  The dining room just needs some curtains, and the kitchen needs new everything.  Ugh.  I won’t even get into the rest of the house, but things are starting to come along, and it feels so good!  I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t have a good after picture to show the whole shebang, but I promise you’ll see about a million more pictures of my house in the future.

Have a good weekend!

Yes, I know I look Tired

A snapshot of a nice, normal, uneventful day:




Pretty Pretty Pretty

Things People Have Said to Me in Regards to My Appearance: A Poem, of Sorts

Pretty is as pretty does.

It hurts to be beautiful.

Are you anorexic?

You look like an Auschwitz survivor.

You either need a new bikini or a new ass.

If you get your chin fixed, I will buy you a new car.

You’d be prettier if you got your ears pinned.

Stand up straight, your neck looks weird when you slouch.

Why don’t you put on a little blush?

How much do you weigh?

Hey beautiful!

You’re not hot.

I don’t like your outfit.

You dress so cute!

You look better without bangs.

You look better with short hair.

You look better with long hair.

The girl I cheated on you with had firmer boobs than you.

You may be skinny, but you have great boobs!

You don’t have an upper lip.

Do you know you have a huge pimple on your nose?

You have really dark circles under your eyes.

I think you’re pretty, but I can’t date you because you’re too skinny.

Don’t you wish you were blonde?

Don’t you wish you were short?

It must be awful for you that your friends are little and blonde!

You’re so lucky that your kids didn’t get your brown eyes!

You have chicken legs, don’t be offended.

You’re too tall to be hot.

Your teeth are perfect!

Your teeth are too big.

Your teeth are so bad you could eat a peach through a chain link fence.

Do you know you have a birthmark on your back?

Your butt is saggy.

You must be terrible in bed because your ass is so small.

You have a huge ass for your body.

You have birthin’ hips!

You look heavier than last time I saw you.

Ew!  Your hands are so wrinkly!

Your feet are beautiful, can I kiss them?

Your pinky toenails are too big.  They’re gross.

Your eyes are too close together.

You have a tiny head.

You have too many moles.

You have a mustache.

Your knees turn in a little.

You’re too pretty; I don’t want to stand next to you.

Have you tried lifting weights so you’re not so skinny?

You’ve gotten kind of fat.

You’re interesting looking.

You don’t have the girl next door look.

You look really exotic!

Some people just don’t look good without makeup.

You look tired.

Your sisters are prettier than you.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to approach my daughter’s appearance.  I already know to encourage pursuing her interests, whether they be trucks or princesses.  I know to teach her that her worth comes from within.  I know that as a parent you’re not supposed to place any value on appearance, but I also know that’s impossible.  I know that now, at three years old, people comment incessantly on her curly hair.  They tell her it’s beautiful, because it is, and they tell her to tame it even though she needn’t.  They view her as wild, because her hair is wild.  People tell her she’s pretty.  They love her dress.  They comment on her big blue eyes.  I know these people mean well.

Lisa Bloom wrote an article years ago about the way we talk to our girls.  It was a plea to ask them about their interests, and not their clothes.  To comment on the cool book they were reading, and not their pretty face.  It made so much sense, and it definitely made people think.  I like to think it made an impact, and that people are at least aware that this is an issue.  But how far is too far?  How much should we minimize appearance?  If we minimize it to the point that we don’t even mention it, what will that do to our girls’ self-esteem?  Shouldn’t we be aiming for a whole identity and not just that of “the smart girl” or “the pretty girl”?  Should we be manufacturing compliments, or should we highlight the positive traits we see as we see them?

I later read an article on Jezebel that I think explains the balance a bit better.  We shouldn’t emphasize appearance, but we can’t ignore the importance either.  Beauty and fashion are fun.  You can be beautiful and funny, sexy and smart.  We shouldn’t denigrate girls who are into these “frivolous” interests, because you can be interested in more than one thing.  I know some brilliant women who are very fashionable.  At the same time, we shouldn’t push fashion and beauty onto our girls.  It’s ok to not look beautiful all the time.  It’s ok to not even care if you do.  Confused yet?  I am!

I’m still trying to sort everything out.  I know that I’ve been given free coffee, and dates with cute boys, and even been hired when I’ve looked good.  I know I’m treated much, much differently when I don’t put on makeup and fix my hair.  I know I’ve been treated like I’m stupid when I look pretty, or incessantly harassed on the street.  I know that sometimes my daughter will look good, and sometimes she’ll look bad, and all the time someone will have an opinion about it.  I know that she might be into fashion, and she might give zero shits about makeup.  I don’t know if she will grow up to be conventionally beautiful or not.  I don’t know if she will be beautiful at some stages of life, and not during others.  I guess it doesn’t matter.  Everyone else will always care about her appearance.  I just hope I can teach her that whether she cares about her looks or not, and no matter what she looks like, she needs to own it because all that matters is that she feels good.

So for now, I don’t know if I’m doing it right or not.  I don’t know if I should be encouraging her to fix her hair more often or not.  I don’t even know if I will have the most influence over her, or if the kid who picks on her in sixth grade will give her an eating disorder (God, I hope not), but I’ll keep trying.  I’ll act like I feel good in my body, and I’ll keep wearing a swimsuit in public, and sometimes I’ll go out without makeup. I’ll keeping trying to keep her grounded in what is important, and I’ll keep letting her pick out her clothes, and the only question I’ll ask of her is “do you feel good in what you’re wearing?”  Hopefully I won’t fuck her up too much.

Rocket Pop Mania!

w rocket pop

Let’s switch gears and talk about something fun.  As much as I love talking about gender (and I do, I could talk about it forever), and as important as the heavy parenting topics are, sometimes we need to take a fucking break.  I love summer.  LOVE IT.  Sure, I have a slight issue where I faint when I get too hot and it’s too hot all summer in Houston, but I don’t care.  I could spend all day, every day, for the rest of my life in the pool or at the beach, eating popsicles and hamburgers, drinking beer, and just being with my favorite people.  My kids share this love, especially when it comes to popsicles (and minus the beer, obvi).  My daughter would only eat popsicles for the rest of her days if I let her, and in the summer, I do pretty much let her, because I can because we make them at home and they’re really, really healthy.

As long as something is frozen and moderately sweet, she is happy, but the girl especially loves Rocket Pops.  We only buy them for the Fourth of July, so I thought I would take it upon myself to try a homemade version.  They’re not as sweet, or as patriotic looking as the real deal, but they’re yummy and so healthy.

m rocket pop

What you need:

A popsicle kit (mine only makes four, but I think I need to expand my collection!)

An immersion blender (I have this one and love it)

1 cup cherries

2 limes

Sugar (optional)

1 cup blueberries

Pit your cherries, and puree them.  Add them to the mold, and freeze until solid.  Pour the juice of half a lime into each mold, and freeze again*, puree blueberries, and do the same.  Ta da.  Rocket pops.

If you want a bolder color, you could definitely cook your fruit first, but I tend to err on the side of easy.

*I don’t usually add sugar to my popsicles, so that’s why I kept the lime layer really thin.  It was crazy sour, but delicious.  It really depends on your sour tolerance.

Speaking of rocket pops, here are some cute things that have rocket pops on them, because they’re so adorable and I’m obsessed!

rocket pop

Men’s Underwear/Headband/Sunsuit/T-Shirt/Shorts

Shirt/Dress/Temporary Tattoo

Happy Summer!

Grief and Children: How to Explain Death

“Patience on a Monument Smiling at Grief” John Roddam Spencer Stanhope

After the terrible blow that was 2014, the way we grieve and talk about death have really been on my radar, especially when it comes to our daughter.  When she was brand-new I had a conversation with my father-in-law about Harry Potter.  He and his wife were watching one of the movies, and I had commented that I hadn’t read the books or seen the films, but that I would wait until my kids were a bit older and we could read and watch them together.  He was concerned about exposing children to the sadness of death, but I argued that it was a natural part of life and that they needed to know.  Unfortunately, he was one of the people we lost last year; my daughter’s first brush with bereavement.  When he was ailing, I spent a lot of time researching how to explain death to a child.  I spoke to our pediatrician, read articles, and did some soul searching.  Everything I came across gave largely the same advice.  I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but I listened to this episode of This American Life the other day, and it felt too important not to share.  So here is what I learned:

The most significant thing you can do when a loved one dies is to be direct and factual with your children.  It is so tempting to try to protect them, but you can’t really.  They always know, at the very least, that something is terribly wrong, and it’s much scarier to be in the dark than to know even the most upsetting information.  It’s especially important to explain the facts of what happened, along with the reasons it won’t happen to them. If someone died of cancer, tell them the person was sick, but also reassure them that it’s different from when they get sick, and that it’s not contagious.  It can also be helpful to let them know it wasn’t their fault, depending on the situation.

If it was a caregiver who died, children need reassurance that someone will still be there to care for them.  It may seem selfish from an adult’s perspective, but if you were entirely dependent on help, you would worry about your well being if there was no one to care for you as well.  The world is scary when you’re small. Let them know that someone will always be there for them.

If you are religious, it’s still often best to avoid talk of the afterlife, especially with a very young child. It can be confusing to think that the person is still there, but that you can’t see them.  It’s better to explain that the person is gone.  Everything I read said the same thing: simply explain that the person’s body stopped working, and why.  If they already have a strong understanding of Heaven, they might bring it up themselves, in which case you should answer their questions in a way that feels honest and simple to you.  Let them take the lead, and don’t over-explain.

Let your child ask questions, but don’t insist that they talk.  Death is a tricky concept to understand, and questions that seem inappropriate, are just their way of working through the facts.  They need space to think, so don’t press them for questions.  Just be available to answer them as they come up.  Also, let them use play to work through their issues. Play is how children make sense of the world, and is interestingly less about escape than confronting their problems straight on.

Something I found interesting in the This American Life story was the mention that children re-grieve as they grow.  Each new milestone brings on new grief.  We tend to think of grieving as something that is very intense in the beginning, but lessens with time. Children don’t necessarily follow the seven stages of grief, but grieve in waves instead.  I found this really interesting because my daughter seemed to go through a cognitive leap recently, and with it came many more questions about Pop Pop.

And to circle back to the first point, always tell the truth.  This has been the biggest theme in everything that I have read or listened to, so it seems worth repeating.  When my grandmother’s mother died when she was six, she was told her that her mom went away on a train.  She lived to the age of ninety and never forgot that betrayal.  She had to grieve twice…once for the abandonment of her mother, and again for her death.  It’s so important to really let kids know what happened so they can grieve appropriately, and hopefully only need to process one loss.

Here are the links I found most helpful when I was doing my research, along with some posts that have come up since:

This BabyCenter article on explaining death to a preschooler was my favorite.

A Cup of Jo also tackled the issue recently.

The aforementioned “This American Life” episode is great all around, but the third act is about death, and is really moving and interesting.  I definitely recommend it to all parents, not just those dealing with loss.

I haven’t read this book, but I stumbled across this post this morning, and had to stop back by the blog to add this recommendation for Duck, Death, and the Tulip.  Like I said, I don’t know much about it, but it looks interesting.

If you live in Houston, Bo’s Place was recommended by our pediatrician, but if not there are similar grief counseling organizations throughout the country.

Hopefully you won’t need this information, but if you do, I hope you find this post helpful.