Most things about motherhood confuse me.  Before, I thought I was going to LOVE being pregnant.  It was going to be a MAGICAL time, I was convinced.  I would glow!  Then I actually GOT pregnant and found out that the pregnancy glow everyone talks about?  Is actually a fine layer of sweat.  I never knew Oklahoma winters could be so HOT.  The weatherman claimed that it was the coldest winter they had had in 17 years, but weathermen (wait, is it weatherpeople?) are wrong at least 67% of the time.  Its true.  I did some research.

I was confused about how I felt about my newborn.  Wasn’t I supposed to have this overwhelming sense of love and adoration for her?  I didn’t.  Sure, she was cute.  But I’m convinced that kids are cute so parents don’t drop them off at gas stations when they get to be too much.  My boobs?  They baffled me.  Why didn’t they work the way they were supposed to?  I mean, they have ONE job to do (and no, it’s not entertaining my husband, as much as he insists that it is) and they weren’t doing it.  Come to think of it, my boobs also confused 3 Lactation Consultants, 2 different chapters of LLL, and my mother – who apparently breastfed me until I was three and only stopped because she became pregnant with my kid brother.

As Claire got older, my bafflement of all things child-related grew.  Where, exactly, does one learn the “Evil Eye.”  Is there a class I missed?  Do they also teach “The Voice That Stops Kids In Their Tracks?”  Because my lovely sister-in-law doesn’t even have to get to three before her kids run to do whatever it is they’re supposed to do.  I tried that once.  I said, “Claire.  1……2” thinking she’d jump at the thought of getting in trouble.  Nope.  She went, “3…4…5!”

In fact, I have failed at every form of punishment I’ve tried.  I’ve tried the Stern Voice (“Claire.  SIT. DOWN.); I’ve tried the Quiet Voice In Her Ear, which is works well with the Threat (“Claire, if you don’t stop screaming at your cousin, we will leave”).  One time, I tried Time-Out and wouldn’t let her get up until she apologized for hitting me.  She sat in that chair for 4 and a half hours.  You think I’m kidding.

I was confused when my Gymboree teacher asked me to teach a few classes a week.  Most of the time I didn’t like my OWN kid.  Why would I want to spend time with kids that I DIDN’T grow inside my body for 9 months?  I was confused when other mothers suggested I become a preschool teacher.  See above.  I was confused when I started actually ENJOYING the kids music that played through our car speakers every day.  And the night I lay on the couch with Claire – after she fell asleep, mind you – to finish a new episode of The Penguins of Madagascar, I almost didn’t recognize myself.

The truth is, I’d rather stay at home with a good book than go out to a bar.  Well, unless that bar has karaoke.  I can rock Salt-n-Peppa’s “Shoop” almost better than Salt or Pepper.  Because, as I always say, it doesn’t matter HOW much I have to drink, Homeslice is still up at 6am.

Motherhood is confusing and you NEVER learn everything; you think you’ve got everything under control and then they decide that they DON’T like applesauce anymore, that they’d rather poop on the floor than go on the potty.  It doesn’t make sense that they only like spaghetti at your sister-in-law’s house, even though you make it the EXACT same way; or that they know just how far to push you before you totally lose your shit, and that’s when they rev up the doe eyes and cuddles.  Nothing about motherhood make sense.

But on days when everything goes right; when there aren’t any tears (Yours or theirs), when they take a three hour nap and eat their dinner without walking around the house or asking for 12 different drink options.  When, at the end of the day, the house is clean (or clean-ish), dinner’s made, and you’re still laughing.  Those days?  That’s when it doesn’t matter if it confuses you.

Because it’s so good.

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One day, she’s going to teach ME. Scary.

When I was growing up, we had an old Macintosh computer.  Remember?  The one with the little green screen.  It was shaped like a box.  My dad is a huge computer nerd, so it was imparative that my kid brother and I learn how to use them.  In 4th grade, I gave my first Power Point presentation (it was on panda bears).  I remember the day we got the internet; I used to spend hours on AOL Instant Messenger.

I remember our fist cell phone only worked in the car, and looked just like the one Zach had on “Saved By The Bell.”  I had the first generation iPod and I wanted one of those orange Macbooks with the handle.

It seems that kids are getting younger and younger when they get their first cell phone.  Can you imagine what will be possible when my kid is my age?  She’s already learned how to use my iPhone.  She can unlock it, find the pictures, and scroll through to find a picture of herself.  She’s recently learned how to use the camera so I have 30 or so pictures of her leg and the couch.  She’s called my mom, because there’s a picture of her next to her contact information.  She’s sent text messages to my husband.  She can even find the video of the (stupid) Gummy Bear Song that she loves on YouTube.

I decided to embrace the curiosity, rather that discourage it.  I found a few good apps for my phone that she can use herself (she knows they’re on the fourth page and is very good at scrolling to get to them).

There’s a SpongeBob Tickler app that we have that does exactly what you think it would.  You tap the screen and bubbles float up the screen and he laughs.  Every once in a while, SpongeBob will talk to you, saying “Hello! It’s SpongeBob SquarePants!” or “Whatcha’ doin’?”  I can only handle about 10 minutes of that one before I find something else to entertain her.

I’ve one called Hatch that has a picture of an egg.  For each tap on the egg, a crack appears.  On the fourth tap, the egg breaks apart and a cute little animal is inside.  Most of the animals featured don’t actually come from eggs, but I figure that is a lesson for another day.

I Love Fireworks is a fun little game where you drag your finger across the screen and you see a trail of dots.  When you lift up your finger, a firework explodes.  Claire likes it because she can make her own fireworks, or watch a programmed show.

I also have an app called SoundBoard, which is just a bunch of sounds.  Animals, music, jingles, and my personal favorite, farts.  A little confusing, but I think it’s funny.

Our favorite game, by far, is called Shapes by Toddler Teasers.  It’s one of the only free ones (all the ones above are free), but Claire can play with it for hours.  Three shapes will appear on the screen, and a voice instructs her to touch one.  There’s crescents, stars, hearts, ovals, diamonds, rectangles, squares, circles and triangles.  Every time she touches the correct shape, there’s a round of applause.  And after she gets through a few rounds, she gets a “sticker” to place on a scene.  The next level has four shapes and so on.  She knew circle, square, star, triangle and hearts before she started playing this, but she caught on very quickly to the other ones.  I plan on buying more of the Toddler Tearsers.

So those are my favorite.  Do any of you have toddlers who can use your phone better than your mom can?  What games do they play?

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Suck it up, kid.

While waiting for dance class to start, Claire and cousin Jane were warming up.  One of Claire’s favorites is to bend her arm at her elbow, then fling it out while throwing her body around in a circle.  One time Jane got a little too close to the whirling dervish and got smacked right in the face.  She probably wouldn’t have reacted, but my lovely sister-in-law and I both cringed so she lost her shit.  She ran over to her mom, crying, and I pulled Claire over to me.

“You need to apologize to Jane.  I know it was an accident, but you still need to say I’m sorry.”

Claire looked at Jane for a minute, then clear as day said, “Shake it off Jane.  You’ll be alright.”

The best part?  Without missing a beat, Jane stopped crying, said “OK, Claire” and wiggled what her mama gave her.

Then it was back to the dance.

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I am woman, hear me roar!

JR was in Mexico for work last week (No really, it WAS work) and of course all the appliances decided to go on strike.  The shower head broke off in the middle of my shower, the vacuum was so clogged it took me an hour just to clean it out.  Our dishwasher wasn’t working Saturday morning, so I pulled out all the dirty dishes, and the dish racks and cleaned the whole thing.  I figured it was the hard water that was clogging it up, and I was planning on running it empty with just vinegar.  I’m half way in the damn thing with my Lysol Wipes when Claire walks in to see what I’m doing (“Whatcha doin’ Mom?”).  She takes one look at me and says “Be careful.  You don’t want to break it, do you?”

No, honey.  And thank you for the concern.

And for the record, I DID fix it.  I’m not sure HOW I did it, but it has worked beautifully since then.

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58 and still giggles like a school girl

My mother is 58 years old.  She’s always been fun.  In fact, I can’t remember a time when I hated (in the teenage angst, no-on-will-ever-GET-me-my-life-is-so-hard-WAH kind of way) (although I’m sure she could come up with some instances).  I remember being on the bus during a band trip when someone ran on an announced, “Cori, your mom just started a water gun fight.”  The same trip, she somehow convinced most of the chaperons and all of the band directors to jump in the pool, fully clothed.  She claims that she didn’t convince anyone of anything, but she WAS the first one in the pool.

So it really should come as no surprise that the older she gets, the more she turns into a prepubescent boy.  Every time I talk to her we end up talking about poop and/or farting.  And every time we talk about it, she laughs so hard she nearly pees (or actually DOES pee, but that’s another story for another time).

To wit: the other night we were talking on the phone about the new book she was reading, Rage.  She was reading a passage where Danny Evans was telling a coworker that he “cropdusted a 3 year old.”  To anyone who’s worked in the food service industry, this is not a new phrase.  It’s funny, sure, but we’ve all heard it before.  But to my 58 year-old mother, this phrase was new and, apparently, HILARIOUS.  She couldn’t get through three or four sentences without stopping to laugh.  I listened patiently, because I’m a good daughter, and when she was done I chuckled a bit and said, “Yeah, that’s good.”

“Don’t you think that’s funny?!” She asked, surpised that I wasn’t rolling on the floor laughing like she was.

“I mean, yeah.  It’s funny.  Cropdusting a three year old is funny, and telling your Mormon coworker about it is even funnier.”

“Cropdusting!!!  HAHAHAHAHA!!!  I had never heard of that.”

And it’s not just cropdusting.  She thinks it’s ridiculous that JR likes to *ahem* take his time in the bathroom.  She prides herself on getting in and out quickly.  In fact, just this weekend when she was visiting, she came out of the bathroom and announced that it takes her less than a minute to pee (yes, she timed herself).

“I always put it off because I think it takes too long.”  She said.

The first thing she does when she gets to our house is poop.  She stops at the same place every time she drives to Houston to “get a cup of coffee and poop.”  We’ll be engaged in a lovely conversation, or in the middle of something and suddenly she’ll jump up, yell “It’s crowning” and run to the bathroom.  She’ll come out less than a minute later and resume whatever it was that she was doing.

Is this what happens when you “grow up?”  Because it looks to me like she’s regressing!

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On doing something

When we moved back to Austin, Claire was 3 months old and I was staying home with her.  I didn’t mind it so much; she didn’t DO anything and I got to just sit around a lot.

But, a week or so after we moved back, JR started travelling.  He was gone 9 weeks in a row.  Not 9 weeks total, but he’d be gone 3 days here, then 4 days there.  I don’t remember the days being all that bad, but the nights were hard.  I wasn’t hanging out with the people I used to hang out with because I had a kid. I couldn’t just go out if I wanted to; I stayed home a lot.

JR’s friends really stepped up.  A few times a week, usually when JR was gone, one or two of the boys would come over.  We’d drink beers and talk.  It was those nights that kept me from going crazy that first 9 weeks.  I don’t know if you know this, but a 3 month old doesn’t have the best conversational skills.  I’d ask Claire what she thought about the new movie that was out and the best answer I got was a blank stare.  Sometimes she’d drool if she really enjoyed the conversation.

With our friends, I could have a conversation with someone who didn’t grunt when they were pooping.  Or maybe they did, but being gentlemen they kept that from me.  We didn’t talk about anything life changing; there wasn’t discussions about politics, or Kant, or the state of affairs of Cuba.  But it was important to us.  One of the guys was going through a divorce.  He’s one of the most introspective people I’ve ever met, and it hurt me to see him as withdrawn as he was.  Talking in our garage, over cheap beer, we worked out a lot of things.  I didn’t directly benefit from any of them, and I don’t talk to him any more, but for that moment in time we really TALKED.

Soon, JR would stop travelling and start hanging out in the garage and the conversation would turn to less intrusive topics.  Then I went back to work and stopped hanging out there altogether.

I was reminded of those late nights tonight.  A friend of ours is leaving next Wednesday for New York.  A few weeks ago he went to a 10 day acting workshop and was awarded a partial scholarship to an acting school.  He tells me that he always liked to perform, but never thought he would act.  Then one day, he just…decided to try it out.  And he was hooked.

He’s 27.  He’s been to college, he’s had a full-time job.  And now he’s going to New York to persue a dream that he’s had since he was a kid, even if he didn’t realize it.  I’m so envious.

Not about moving to New York, although I would love to live in a city like that.  And not about the acting part, although I would like to act.  I’m envious of him because he is doing what he wants to do.  It’s not going to be easy, he’s not that naive, but he’s decided that this is what he loves and what he wants.  And he’s working toward a goal.

We’ve lived in Houston for almost a year now and I’m still trying to find my place.  I’ve taken up sewing, I turned the guest bedroom into a crafts room, I buy scrapbook paper and sharpies and fabric.  Cork board lines my walls; I have a notebook labeled “Inspiration.”  I subscribe to DIY blogs and decorating blogs and I visit forums.  I have a folder labeled “Crafts” in my bookmarks and I add something to it every day.

But I’m not DOING anything.  I know I want to create something, but I’m scared to try.  I can’t draw, so I’m scared to try.  Writing doesn’t come easy for me, so I just don’t write.  Every night I find myself looking back over the day and wondering what it was that I did.  What did I accomplish that day? What did I spend my time on?  Usually the answer is “I finished the first season of True Blood, and started watching The Wire.”

My life can’t continue like this.  I need something to work towards.  I need deadlines, and specific goals, and they don’t have to cost money.  If I want to write, I need to write.  If I want to take beautiful pictures, I need to pick my camera up and fumble through it.  I’ve gotten used to not doing anything that I’m not DOING anything.

Starting tonight, I will create something every day.  It can be perfecting a drawing of a dandelion, or sewing a pillow case, or writing for 10 minutes.  I need to work out my brain, to shake off the dust and cobwebs and push my limits.

Starting tonight, I will DO something.

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Now that I can breathe again, now that I can speak again, I realize I’m back to where I was before my darkness.

I want to DO these great things; I want to BE this amazing person; I want to CREATE.  But I don’t know how.  If someone were to tell  me that I could do anything in the world, without worrying about money or childcare or the commute, I wouldn’t have a clue as to what I would do.  I’m inspired every day by words and pictures, but I feel like I don’t have it in me to create the same thing.

This might be the plight of the stay-at-home mom.  All this time, and nothing to do.  Claire goes down for a nap and suddenly I’m alone.  There are hundreds of things I SHOULD do; laundry, dusting, dishes, wash the kitchen floor, vacuum.  There are dozens of things I would LIKE to do; take pictures, find objects to fit in my new typesetter tray, sew.  But, when it comes right down to it, I end up reading or watching TV and then she’s up and it’s back to being a Mommy.

I haven’t grown into this skin; this motherhood.  I’ve had 2 years to do it and I still feel like a novice.  People mention how good I am with kids (hell, I was offered a job at my local Gymboree. Even more amazingly? I was deep in my depression and it took everything I had just to GET to Gymboree), but I don’t feel like I am.  I would rather be good with adults that kids.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s nobody’s fault but my own, I have the resources, and I have the oppurtunity to create, but I don’t.  I want to be something other than a wife and mother, but I don’t know who that person is anymore.  I’m different, now and I can’t describe it.  I don’t know what I like, I don’t know what I want.  I know only that I wish everyday that I could be happy.

It’s not that I’m unhappy.  I’m just not happy.  But when asked what would make me happy, I don’t have an answer.

I’m just here.

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