Tag Archives: cleaning

For the Record: I Didn’t Yell at the Vacuum



Hubs had tried twice to unclog the vacuum.  Unsuccessfully.  He and Jack had gone out to get planting supplies for our flower garden and the stupid vacuum was sitting in the middle of the filthy living room rug.

The damn thing had been clogged for like a month and every time I tried to vacuum, it spit out more dust than it picked up.  I’d once again implored the Hubs to take a peek at it, but he hadn’t gotten around to it.

Long story short, I took the thing apart, with the cheerful support of my six year old daughter, and plucked out a huge wedge of dust and fur along with a broken clothes pin that had been horizontally blocking the hole.  It took me a couple tries to put the thing back together, but I got it set straight and was happily sucking up a month’s worth of decrepitude.

Hubs and Jack got home and I proudly announced that I’d fixed the vacuum.

“How’d you do that?” Hubs asked incredulously.

“I exerted my domestic goddess nature on it,” I smiled.

“Mama,” Jack chimed in.  “Did you yell at it?”

“No, Punk,” I said, mildly annoyed by the smirks on the three other faces of my family.  “I did not yell at the vacuum.  Why would you even say that?”

“Well, you are really good at yelling,” Jack laughed.

“Very funny,” I said and dragged the vacuum upstairs to do the master bedroom.

It was actually pretty funny.  Jack’s timing was totally on point and we were all able to have a chuckle at my expense.  I don’t know if I would categorize myself as a yeller.  I do raise my voice on occasion, out of frustration, and truth be told I am not the world’s most patient person.

But it is always interesting to get a little glimpse of how my kids see me as a human.  And of course they do not see that for the one time I yell, there are about 47 other times where I take a deep breath and remind myself to go slow.

At any rate, I’m pretty sure the time that Mama (did not) yell(ed) at the vacuum to make it work again will go down in my family’s mythology.

End Of The World– Getting Cozy With Dukkha


The world is ending right now because there are dirty dishes in the sink and a bunch of moldering, half-eaten yogurt cups and tubes strewn throughout the house.

I just got home from the Urgent Care Center.  It is 8 p.m., and any mom who got up as early as I did this morning knows that 8 p.m. is the middle of the fucking night.

My husband is engaged in a power struggle with our seven year old son, Jack, over universe knows what.  My three year old, Emily, is wandering around like a lost lamb because she wants mama milk and cuddles before bed.

But first things first.

Since a huge vat of Purell or rubbing alcohol isn’t available, I hop in the shower.  It serves the dual purpose of warming my chilled, aching body, and cleansing off the filth of the walk in treatment place.  I had anxiety upon anxiety the entire time I was there as people coughed, hacked, wheezed, and made all sorts of moaning cacophony.  In the curtained area next to me, there was a woman chanting, “Germs, germs, germs, germs, germs,” over and over in a haunted whisper.  True story.  I can’t make this shit up.

The chest X-ray confirmed bronchitis and the doctor wrote me a script for antibiotic and a cough medicine, but then changed his mind when I told him I still breast feed twice a day.  He forgot to call the pharmacy and change the prescription, which resulted in an hour-long wait in the parking lot of the pharmacy, where I sat in my car, heat on full blast, shivering and crying.

Wait!  Before you stop reading because you hate me for bitching about First World Problems, please know it was pretty much the worst week of my life, followed by an exhausting weekend of poorly behaved children, and ending in body aches that rate waaaaayyyy at the grumpy and sad end of that smiley to grimace chart.

A client killed himself last week, and it left me reeling in confusion, guilt, panic, and fear.  While I have forced myself to accept there was nothing I could have done to prevent this tragedy, my heart has not caught up with my head on the matter, and being sick wears down the professional buffer I might have for such matters.

After spending the entire week in the aftermath of suicide, another employee of my program gave me her notice along with a few dozen clients to reassign.  Since my other clinician quit my program before the holidays, I have no one to reassign these clients to.  When I went, shaking and sobbing, to my supervisor for support, I was basically told to figure it out.

I came home looking for some solace, only to find my husband intended to work all weekend.  This is good news, in one way, because we need the money and he is freelance.  But it is bad news in terms of having the children, house duties, etc. ,and so on all to myself for the entire weekend.

So, contracting bronchitis was just the frosting on the crap cake I felt had been baked for me this week.  I feel like a jerk even writing that, while knowing I have access to better medical care and pharmaceuticals than 87% of the world.  (Note:  that is not a real statistic.  I’m making shit up because like I said, the world is fucking ending and who cares anyway.)

Sometimes I just need to vent.  Then I get sick of myself and get on with my life.

Some people have real problems.  I know this.  People like the family who lost their child in the most confounding, shocking, and traumatizing way last week.

After my shower, I hustle to put on PJ’s.  I ignore Jack’s tantrum and go straight to Emily, who is sleepy and sweet. She puts her hand on my heart as she snuggles into my breast, and touches my chin as light as a butterfly.

I’ve been contemplating the Buddhist concept of dukkha lately.  Dukkha roughly translates as “suffering,” and it is an important concept in Buddhism.  There has been ample dukkha in my life over the past few months. . .  the dukkha of motherhood; the dukkha of clinging to things during the process of our move last November; the dukkha of family issues at the holidays; the dukkha of yearning for things to be a certain way at work; the dukkha of physical illness; the dukkha of my anxiety and depression which has been rearing its ugly head over the past few weeks like a powerful and frightening dragon.

The dukkha of wanting to change the unchangeable, and to understand the incomprehensible.

And tonight, the dukkha of dishes left undone at the end of the night when I am sick and tired, and have already done dishes 17 times over the course of the weekend.

Basically, Buddha teaches that life is dukkha—  not that everything sucks, but that by its nature, our existence is flawed, impermanent, and difficult.  We can struggle against it and fight with it as something bad, or we can accept it for what it is and go from there.

What does that mean?

I don’t know.  And at the moment, I don’t really care.

I started writing a post last weekend about trying to sit with the grief and anxiety I felt in the light of my client’s death.  It was hard–  both to sit with and to write about–  because it made me fiercely restless.  I didn’t end up posting it.

Kuan Yin sat with the dragons and made friends with them.  What would it be like to do that?

I guess I could do the dishes.

Or I could not.

Maybe dukkha and I will cuddle up in bed with some Ceftin and Mucinex and try to get to know each other.  And maybe the world will keep ending, and I will lie in bed and hear things screeching and banging and popping outside my window.

Let Us Eat Cake, and Other Thoughts That Keep Me Going


IMG_6067There is a hunk of birthday cake in the freezer.

This thought keeps me going.

I have four loads of laundry to do, healthy meals to make for the week, moldy shower curtains to take down, wash and re-hang, a birthday party for which to prepare and attend, sibling disputes to referee, beds to make, and floors to de-crumb.  You know how it goes.

My hands hurt.  My back hurts.  There is a nagging pain in my neck.

Whaaamp whaaahh.

But if I make it to the end of the day, after the kids are in bed, I can sit on the couch and eat frozen cake.

I haven’t exercised in way too long, and my kids are watching way too much TV.  We’ve eaten fast food more than I’d like to admit.  Sometimes I go days without offering them a vegetable.

I don’t get around to changing the sheets on our beds very often, and tend to forgo activities I consider “adult” like buying wrapping paper or drying my hair.  I’ve gotten lazy about sending Thank You cards, and forget to return phone calls.  Many days, I look at my clients with an engaged face, but a disengaged mind as I contemplate the list of how I am failing as a mother, wife, and social worker.

It goes on and on.

Being a working mom is hard.  Like way harder than I could have ever imagined.  I’m sick of talking about it, and bored to tears of writing about it.  It’s not a unique a story, and I actually have it a lot better than most.

And that cake is there.  It is a little slice of nice, the thought of which momentarily stops the monotonous broken record of maternal depression and exhaustion.

Maybe I’ll eat it.  Or maybe I won’t, because just knowing it’s there, just in case, satisfies.

I feel guilty I’m not on Pinterest in my spare time, looking up crafty shit to do with my kids.

I.  Just.  Can’t.

I feel really, freaking guilty I don’t spend every second admiring my children’s ethereal beauty, and that I count the hours until bedtime.  I feel even more guilty after they are in bed and I realize another day is past us and I squandered it being frustrated and mindless.

Maternal depression is tricky.  It is misunderstood by society, and seems taboo to address head on.  I don’t think of myself as “a depressed person,” but every once in a while I become so overwhelmed by the mundane, it suddenly occurs to me, “I’m depressed and that is why every minute activity or request is being interpreted as a complex demand which threatens to push me over the edge of despair.”  (I.e., spending 20 minutes unraveling the vacuum cord after Jack “helped” me clean.)

I don’t even like using the words “I’m” and “depressed” in the same sentence.  For the record, I’m also not a person who eats her feelings, but imagining that cake. . . it just helps.

Before motherhood, depression sucks, but is tolerable because there’s more access to self care.  This is not to say depression can’t be totally debilitating to non-parents, and it is certainly not a competition about who is more depressed than who.  But I’ve found self care becomes a lot more elusive for moms who work and use money formerly set aside for organic diet and massage on daycare, or who are shuttling kids around to dance and soccer and don’t have the time to work out unless they get up before the sun.

There is also a weird dichotomy that if we don’t take time for ourselves we are martyrs, but if we do we feel oddly and uncomfortably entitled.  It doesn’t help with the whole guilty/worthless/trapped/hopeless sense one has when depressed.  Stupid jerk, I find myself telling myself.  What did you think motherhood would be?

Then comes the unbalanced, lack of perspective and sense of failure.  You don’t even deserve all you have.  It takes some strength to keep the train from careening off track.  So, let us eat cake.

Other thoughts that keep me going?

My daughter wakes me up every morning, pokes my nose gently with her pudgy finger, and says, “Hug mama?”  I love her chirpy voice and cookie dough smell even more than freezer cake.

20140118-083136.jpgThe kids may not eat veggies, but they eat fruit all day long.  Their preferred beverage is water, and so is mine.  We are all getting our fiber, and are wonderfully hydrated.  So there is hope for our health.

The kids played nicely for ten whole minutes the other day, so there is hope we might make it another year without them mauling one another.

We read to the kids every day.  They love books.  So there is hope that extra half hour of TV won’t demolish their brains.

Jack goes to karate and does everything he is told, the first time, every time for a whole hour.  So there is hope maybe he won’t always be a stressy ball of tantrum.

Emily pooped on the potty twice in the past month!  Sure she also peed on the carpet and dumped out a pantload of crap on the bathroom floor, but she also pooped on the potty twice!  So there is hope I will usher yet another child into big-kid-pants.

Jack’s sunflowers offer their bright faces to the sun.20130827-093636.jpg

It’ll be okay.

It’ll be okay.

These are the hard years.  These are the years when there is never enough money, time, patience, energy, room in our bed, or sanity.  These are the years on which we will look back with longing for arms stretched up to us.  These are the years when we are growing plastic, little brains and are under the gun to do it right, do it good, do it quick.

These are the years when tending to our own mental health so often takes a back seat to the needs of our families, work, home.

But we need our oxygen so we can keep breathing for those slimy little critters, who we can’t remember when last we bathed.

Sometimes a little cake on the couch does just the trick.  Sometimes simply thinking about cake helps.

These are the years when our kids need our hugs, smiles, and random potty jokes in the middle of the day so much more than something crafty from Pinterest.

It’ll be okay.  We will get there.

What do you do to take care of yourself when you are overwhelmed or down?  Share a thought that keeps you going.  


The Myth Of Everything Where It Is Supposed To Go



A day will come when the living room carpet is not

cluttered with pandas and goldfish cracker crumbs,

when I can sit down

without first moving a Lego X-Wing ship

or dirty socks out of my way.

I will not trip over winter owl hats in the first weeks of spring,

and couch cushions will have their place.

There will be no mashed banana or smeared snot in upholstery.

There will be no fingerprints on glass or shiny wood.

. . .

Once there was a time when my world was orderly,

neatly patted down.

I could look around me and see

everything where it was supposed to go.

Stuff stayed serenely still.

That life was sparse and silent in comparison to the heaps

of blocks and dolls and trucks that clutter and chatter and clatter now.

. . .

Now seems a time of chaos and excess,

a place where every available surface is stacked

with chubby, cardboard books, a time to wonder how long will it be,

and who and where will you be when order is restored?

But now there is this plump hand, reaching up to offer me

a tiny, purple, plastic teacup of air, and for the fortieth time today

it is priceless perfection just there.


The Mean Time– How Depression Looks As A Mom


I’m clinically depressed.  20140118-082848.jpg

The thought comes and goes like a wave, reaching in to the shore of my consciousness, then receding.

Here’s the deal.  I’m a child and family therapist, so I know all the signs and symptoms.  Irritability and a very short fuse with those around me.  Anhedonia, or lack of interest in the things I normally love, like blogging, talking to friends, or spending time with my family.

Change in sleep.  I want to sleep all the time, but when I am in bed my rest is not restful.  Change in appetite.  I want to eat all the time, but everything that passes my lips tastes annoyingly like sandpaper.

Worries about everyday things like finances and the behavior of my children take on new, sinister shapes like monsters in a dark room.  My thoughts become obsessive, intrusive, and disturbing.

I withdraw from people then feel awful loneliness.  I lack energy to tend to the things that need tending to like the dishes or clogged tub.

I have no emotional fortitude.  A tissue gets into the laundry and the world fucking falls apart.

I feel agonizing hopelessness things will ever be any better.

And then the thoughts:  You suck.  You’ll never be any good at anything.  You are a horrible mom and you screwed up your children.  There is nothing that will make you feel good.  You ruined your life by becoming a social worker.  You ruined your life by becoming a mother.  It will never end.  They would all be better off without you.  

Of course I know that like every other feeling, depression is just that- a feeling.  And feelings by nature are temporary, changeable.  I won’t feel this way forever, but in the mean time (and it is very mean, cantankerous, angry time), it sucks pretty bad.

I know a lot about depression and anxiety, not just because of my profession, but also because I have struggled with it on and off for the better part of my life.  I had severe postpartum depression after my first child was born, received excellent treatment and have basically been in remission for the past five years.  One thing I can tell you–  mood and anxiety issues blow, but they blow even harder for me as a mom.

Studies show that one in three moms struggle with depression, and as many as two in three working moms struggle with mood issues.  OK, who am I fooling?  I totally made up those stats.  I’m way too depressed to do research for my blog, but it sounded good, and it sounds accurate based on anecdotal data I collected.

As a mom, and a working mom no less, the pace of my life is relentless.  I take care of anywhere between seven to nine clients during my work day and have a short commute home to take care of the little people who need me here.  I don’t get a break until they are in bed and I can collapse on the couch for an hour or two before passing out myself.

Before marriage and children, I could take to my bed on weekends to rest and restore for an entire day if I wanted.  I could go for a long ride by myself to the ocean, music blaring, to get a change of scenery and sense of perspective.  I could go out drinking and dancing to reconnect with my vitality.  Now, there is no break.  Sure, my husband and I take the slack for one another here and there, but in general it just never stops.

A friend and I recently chatted about this and she said, “without kids you don’t really notice it as much. . .  but we are stretched so thin as it is, and the mental health stuff doesn’t have as much room to just be and causes more issues. I was fine being depressed when I wasn’t a mom. I mean, not fine…but like I managed.”  And that for me encapsulates why being depressed and anxious as a mom feels 40 gazillion times worse than when I was just a self-indulgent single lass.

It isn’t just me anymore.  My mood and behavior have a direct impact on my children.

While I’m not actively suicidal or homicidal, I fantasize about being on a desert island because I just can’t handle it around the reality corral.

And that’s probably the scariest, worst thought- that I just can’t take care of everyone for whom I need to care, and I’m probably screwing them up by not being as available emotionally, or by having intrusive images of them being eaten by bears because my obsessive/compulsive anxiety is also off the charts.

Things light up my day like my son singing along to a song on the radio in the car, or my daughter wearing sunglasses and eating a yellow lollipop.  But the moments are fleeting.  Elusive.

It’s a very lonely place to be.  My husband doesn’t “get it”.  He thinks I’m being histrionic when I rage about the millions of legos left out all over the house because one of the acute symptoms of my depression is a nearly obsessive/compulsive need for order.  Maybe he’s right.  Or maybe he’s depressed too.  Either way, he doesn’t get it.  Other than him, I have no family I can reliably turn to (Jesus Christ they all have their own issues yes they do where do you think I got it from in the first place), and the feeling of my lips making words to describe this shit to my friends sickens me.

So, I fake it.

I smile and accomodate coworkers.  I treat my clients like they are the center of my universe for 50 minutes each.  I titter and giggle with friends.  I place plates of sliced up fruit and glasses of milk in front of my children.

I fake it until something insidious slips out.  I fucking hate everyone and everything.  Oops, did I really just say that?  Hahah.  Then I get anxious and clumsy.  Drop things.  Swear.  Watch my hands fly up into the sky in front of my face like frightened birds.  I give up!  I’m done!  

Not to put words in your mouth, but you’re probably shaking your head and thinking, damn girl, get a grip.  Yet another post about your feelings and depression?  Why don’t you get yourself some help?  Maybe get on some medication?  

You make good points.  So, I’m considering the medication, much as I hate to.  I know it would help because I’ve been there before.  I also know it will make me gain weight.  But the chemicals would tighten things up in my head, tone down the negativity so I can make lunch for my daughter without feeling the scary need to get down on all fours and start scrubbing the grout in the bathroom with a nail brush.

As far as counseling goes. . .  well, it would maybe be palliative and supportive, but my insurance has a really high deductible and copays for MH treatment are exorbitant, and I kind of need to spend the money I have on groceries and gas.  Plus, when would I ever go?  This money/scheduling dilemma is just another facet of the complexity of depression as a mom.  If I did have the time and money for counseling, I would probably take a yoga or dance class instead.

It is a crystal clear winter day with copious sun.  The skeletal trees are reaching up to tickle the bluest sky.  My daughter is napping and I’m sitting on the couch, writing this.

I’m clinically depressed.  

The thought and its accompanying label almost bring me a sense of peace, like maybe I could make friends with it.  Maybe I could get really close, really fast to it, and do everything with it, and write about it, and think about it and call it up a hundred times a day.

Until we are sick of one another.

That Means You Are A Mom



Most days I vacillate back and forth about motherhood by the moment-  it is either:

A.  The best, most fulfilling, gratifying, and amazing experience on which I have embarked and I can’t get enough of it.


B.  It is the greatest fool’s errand on which I have ever embarked and I start wondering before I’ve even opened both eyes in the morning if I will make it to lunchtime without losing my mind and fraying my last three nerves from the chaos, noise, and breakneck pace of it all.

In addition to being a mom, I work full-time as a clinical social worker with very high risk families.  It is a job that excites and fascinates me at times, but most of the time is fairly draining and depleting-  sorta’ like motherhood.  I’m left with very little energy or time for that stuff they call self-care, and come home at the end of the day wanting to scream, “Don’t touch me!  Get away and leave me alone!” as though I am covered in nuclear waste and just need to go detoxify myself before I am fit for human consumption.

Through my chat with other moms- both working and stay at home- it seems I’m not totally alone in feeling this way, which validates my hope that maybe I don’t suck too much.  But I will share with you that over the recent holiday break, when I was home with my children for two solid weeks, I had to wonder what it said about me as a parent that I could only go three days with my family before fantasizing about going back to work.

What kind of mom can only tolerate a few days of her precious family before taking a nutty?

So, I know there are some of you out there (maybe?) who don’t understand what I am saying because you relish every moment with your kids, whether they are playing nicely or beating the snot out of one another.  And to you moms, I tip my cap.  Please don’t judge the rest of us who just get kind of tired and cranky and maybe feel a bit hopeless at the end of the day.

For the rest of us, I’ve come up with the following mantra:  That Means You Are A Mom.

Were you woken up by bed wetting, a night terror, a need to replace a pacifier, and a question about how old someone has to be before they are allowed unlimited access to Lego Star Wars on the iPad?  Then that means you are a mom.

Were you taunted by a mountain of laundry or dishes or dirty diapers or filthy cat box while you were trying to put on your stockings and get everyone else out the door for work and school?  That means you are a mom.

Did you get boogers wiped on your last clean blouse during a hugging incident that you thought was a loving nuzzle but turned out you were being used as a human hankie?  That means you are a mom.

Did you deal with a tantrum over sox six times before breakfast?

Did you just smash your head into the lampshade while rising from settling a battle between a child and a cat, scratches covering your hands?

Have you used the words, “Do you want a time out?” at least a dozen times in the last half dozen minutes?

Did you have to walk away from the sexy, new lipgloss because you spent your last $15 bucks on toilet paper and baby wipes?

Have you had to pee for the last three hours but not had a moment to yourself?

Do you have the theme to Barney, the Wiggles or Sesamee Street on incessant repeat in your head in the middle of the night?  Did you put away the plastic food 80 times over the course of the day in some sort of Sisyphean task?  Is your potty-training toddler running through the house with a drippy, bare bum while you sit on the couch without the foggiest clue how you are going to get a diaper or pull up onto them?  Are all the pieces to every board game in your house out and about?  Have you listened to Puff the Magic Dragon 25 times before 9 a.m.?

Yup, you got it, that means you are a mom.

I wanted to have children with my whole body and soul from the time I knew what babies were.  I started working with children in a daycare as a teenager, and went on to get my degree in social work so I could do child and family therapy.  I figured I would be an expert by the time I had children of my own.  When my life was finally graced with my first baby, Jack, I was shocked at how hard every minute of every day suddenly became.

It was also surprising that for every moment I held him in contented bliss, there were at least 45 other moments I was second-guessing myself and feeling like a complete failure.  Flash forward six years and another child, the feeling persists.

The truth is, motherhood is not either A. or B.  It is both A. and B.

Telling myself That Means You Are A Mom when I am frustrated, scared, exhausted, frazzled, and insecure is a powerful affirmation.  It grounds me.  It reminds me that with great love comes great responsibility, sacrifice, and sometimes even suffering.  It unifies the cognitive dissonance into a more melodic tune for me.

We embark on this terrifying journey into the unknown when we give ourselves over to our biological imperative to recreate.  Much like packing for an expedition, some are better prepared for the trek than others.  The fact that, despite my hubris, I felt so ill-prepared for motherhood is the stuff that makes me a human mom.

If we allow it, motherhood can be a pilgrimage not only of discovering who these tiny humans we grew in our body are, but also of self-discovery.

Sure, somedays there are a lot of sucky, mundane moments we have to slog through to get to bedtime.  But then there are the moments when our kids crave the tenderness of our lips on their shiny, sweet-smelling hair, when they allow us to play for a moment in their world, and we all have cake and cocoa with sticky smiles.  There are those moments (and they may be elusive sometimes) when we look into our children’s eyes and it is like peering into the center of the universe and suddenly knowing everything.  That too, means you are a mom.

The Mindless Little Things We Do That Drive Others Crazy




Really? Reeaallly??

A friend of mine on Facebook publicly chastised her husband for not putting the fresh roll of toilet paper on the roller. She even posted a photo of the fresh roll sitting atop the old, used-up one which was still on the roller.

My initial response was, really?  I wondered how rigid she must be to consider this a status-worthy photo and statement. I also imagined her husband must have the patience of a saint to put up with such nonsense. Such antics would mortify and annoy my own husband.

I pondered, then blushed as I remembered writing a Facebook status in my head that goes something like this:

I will be holding a seminar this weekend to teach how to fill the ice cube trays, pick up the bathmat, put cans in the recycling bin, and reuse one glass throughout the day so as not to clutter up the entire house with a plethora of cups and such. If you are interested in attending, or signing up your spouse, please inbox me.

Yeah, I get it. I’m a jerk. But at least I didn’t actually post it on Facebook and publicly humiliate my hubs, right?

Truth be told, there are many times I am tempted to gripe publicly (and loudly) about these mindless little things people do that drive me crazy.

At work this might be: For the love of all that is holy, would it kill you to refill the paper in the copy machine or put in a new bottle of water when you’ve drunk the last glass at the water cooler?

At home it sounds more like: Why are we tracking kitty litter all over the freshly vacuumed carpets, haven’t we learned by now how to wipe up globs of toothpaste, and is there a reason you’ve left your gardening gloves in the salad bowl again?

I think my friend’s status got under my skin so much because I recognized the rigidity with which I myself struggle. It isn’t one of my more attractive qualities and I know for a fact it drives others crazy both at home and at work when I obsess on minutia that has gone awry.

My husband complains very seldom about very little. Frankly, I was shocked when he wrote in sharpie across the top of the Britta pitcher “Please Refill.” It is one of his rare pet peeves– when the Britta pitcher is empty and allowed to dry out. But I wonder what else I do to make him insane.

Because I’m sure there must be plenty of stuff.

It’s good to remember I’m not perfect. It’s also good for me to check in with myself and try to figure out why all those silly things make me so nutty. Sometimes just being cognizant of the fact that my sense of order is being threatened is enough to make me chill.

Every once in a while, something happens that is like one of those zen gongs going off in my head, making me stop for a beat and remember mindfulness. My friend’s toilet paper photo was such a moment, and for that, I thank her.

What things drive you crazy? Do you have any behaviors or features of your personality that drive others batty? If so, what are they?

My Need For Clean Denied

The cat naps among toys, laundry, and air conditioner.

The cat naps among toys, laundry, and air conditioner.

If you came to my house and took a gander at the crumby kitchen floor and smelly bathroom, you might not realize I struggle with a need for order and clean bordering on full-blown Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  But if you looked deep within my eyes, you would see the gleam of chronic panic and anxiety resulting from living amongst complete and utter chaos 24/7.

I try to hide it.

I even try to pretend like, hey, man, it’s all good!  I love having every single one of my children’s legos strewn about the place.  It is just so freaking joyful!  

I want to be peaceful and reconciled to life as a working mom with two kids and a husband, all of whom do not feel my compulsion for CLEAN.  I do NOT want to be “that” mom who rants about the messy house on her Facebook or blog.

I’m fighting a losing battle.

In my work as a clinical social worker, I see situations the likes of which Stephen King could only dream.   Children living among pestilence and poverty, drugs, and violence.  Parents who were so abused and damaged themselves their ability to foster healthy attachment has been severely compromised.  Granted, I don’t have to live there, but working with this population takes its toll on my self-esteem and competence when I feel so helpless and hopeless.

This is why, at the end of the day, I want to come home to a place where it smells nice, where there is order, where I have a smidgin of control over chaos.  Is that so wrong?

I mentioned the other day to a few colleagues I only vacuum once a week.  One of them looked at me, horrified, and said, “Wow!  I clean my floors at least three times a week.”

Um.  Are you serious?  I think I might literally go postal-batshit-super-wicked-insane if I attempted to clean my floors three times per week, because in my reality, they are dirty again four minutes later and this is a mind-fuck I barely tolerate.

I read the above words and think, Suck it up dude.  You’re a mom.  This is life.  They are not fucking with your head; they are being children.  But what about my husband and his need to NEVER throw anything out EVER?

I wish I didn’t care.  I wish I didn’t have such a hard time going with the flow of never-ending sippy cups, McDonald’s prizes, and birthday party favors.

I don’t know the answer.  I’ve tried cute baskets but they end up stacked in a pile next to upended toys, or overflowing with the flotsam and jetsam of early childhood.  Either way, not very organized-looking.  We’ve taught my son to use both the vacuum and Swiffer mop.  He actually likes both of these chores, but the problem is we have accumulated way too much crap in this tiny house to effectively clean.  I’m beginning to feel like I live with a bunch of crazy hoarders, but my husband says that’s just my own crazy anxiety talkin’.

Today I burnt my nostrils cleaning the toilet with bleach.  I am speaking literally. Every time I have inhaled for the past couple hours there is a ashy, burning sensation followed by the scent of bleach which somehow has been imprinted in my nasal passages.

I feel frustrated, lonely, and misunderstood in my need for order.  I feel broken by a compulsion I can’t break for fighting a battle I can’t win.

If I am super-self-accepting, I can say my need for clean is one of my quirks, and maybe someday my children will have impeccable organization skills.  Maybe they will also come to appreciate the fact I can find any lost item in 19 seconds flat.  I imagine, by then, they will be much bigger and the days of strewn blocks and stuffed buddies will be long behind us.


Tea For Two- A Stop On My Journey Learning To Ask Questions FIRST


The other night while making dinner, I turned my back on my very busy toddler for about two minutes.

“Uh ohhhhh,” I heard from over the baby gate that separates the kitchen where I was cooking from the dining room where Emily was playing.

I looked over and saw she spilled an entire bottle of water onto the floor.

“Naughty!” I snapped.  I scooped her up and put her in her pack and play, then grabbed a bath towel to mop up the floor, all the time praying that my food on the stove wasn’t burning and boiling over.   Jack was in the shower, calling me to bring him something or other and Emily started to cry.  It was one of those moments where if mopping water up was the only thing I had to do, I would not have become flustered.  But I’m a one-thing-at-a-time-kinda’-gal and with four things happening at once, I felt overwhelmed.

20131002-165923.jpgThen I noticed the tiny purple tea cup which had rolled under the dining room table.

My heart melted and as I paused, my face made an involuntary, “Awwwww,” like I was looking at a baby panda or a gorilla mama tandem nursing gorilla twins.

Little Emily was just trying to have a tea party. 

My toddler was trying to be independent and clever and fill her little tea cup with a sip of water.  Something about her tenacity erased any irritation I had.  I brought her the tea cup which was still held a drop of water.  She smiled up at me as I handed it to her over the rim of the pack and play.

It made me realize that so much of motherhood seems to be shoot first, ask questions later (EEK!  Did I really just use that comparison?) in this fast-paced life.  Sometimes it could be helpful to stop, breathe, and ask what’s going on.  When I don’t stop to figure out what my kids’ motivations really were it can lead to frustration, confusion, and hurt feelings on all fronts.  This sort of situation happened a few weeks back when Jack brought a note home about his behavior from his teacher, and I freaked out only to find out later through calm conversation, that he had been bullied.

When I am mindful, my intentions are much more clean and clear.  Problems get solved in a more satisfactory manner.

Most of the time the kids are innocently navigating the world, experimenting, and learning when they make these little snaffus.  I resolved to ask more questions before snapping, freaking out, or name calling.

I kissed and nuzzled her golden head, threw the towel in the laundry basket, and went to tend to Jack.

Dinner had not burned.

I Hate The Playground


When our son, Jack, was a baby we could not wait until he was big enough to go to the quaint, little playground across the street from us.  At eight months old, we took him over, and pushed him gently in the baby swing.  He walked at 13 months, and not long after that was toddling around the place, loving it.

We were there in all seasons, reveling in Jack’s play land.

Flash forward six years, add to the mix another child and a whole lotta’ sleep debt.

Jack and his little sister, Emily, adore the playground, but going to the playground is my least favorite activity.

First off, after working with and living amongst tiny humans, I have had just about enough of their loud noises, chaotic smells, and erratic movements.  I’m sorry; I sound like the Grinch, but I’m cooked.

The sheer hyper vigilance it takes to make sure my children are safe (meaning they are not getting kicked in the head as they walk past the swings or mowed down by the big kids on bikes) while simultaneously making sure other children are safe (meaning that my children are not hitting other children with sticks or plowing them down on the slide) is just crazy making.  CRAZY MAKING I TELL YOU!  There are a lot of people out there who let their kids lose on the playground and then don’t supervise them while they play on their phone .  I am not one of those people, although I probably would be happier about the playground if I were.

Next, there is the matter of chasing around my headstrong toddler while trying to maintain sight of my six year old who is usually cruising around on his bike.  But wait!  There is a flock of toddlers chasing him like an angry Simpsons mob, threatening to knock him off balance!  Why isn’t he wearing his helmet?  And where did he go now?  Is he behind those bushes, because if so, he needs to get out now!  Those bushes are where the gross moms let their kids pee in public instead of taking them to a toilet.  By the time I get him back in my line of sight, OMG, Emily is headed straight for the exit and I need to race over to get her.  I’m exhausted and we are only five minutes into this punishing activity.

There is also the issue of how much work the playground is.  We never leave without some sort of tantrum and the kids are always dirty.  It’s not that I mind dirt because of the germs.  It is more the effort involved in extra baths and more laundry.

Yes, I sound like a crap hole.  And yes, I realize bathing and laundry are part and parcel of being a mom.  Further, I realize you can’t just make kids sit still and be quiet all day.  They need to run and climb and be wild and get dirty.  Playgrounds bring out the best in kids, and the worst in me.

I like being and playing with my children, but the Lord-of-the-Flies chaos of the playground triggers every nervous cell in my body.  I’m being hyperbolic here; our playground is actually quite tame and full of nice families, but it feels threatening to me, which should give you some clue as to my temperament.

Some time back, I became aware when I took one or both of my kids to the playground it evoked nail-biting anxiety in me.  Part of this was my concern they were going to get snatched when my back was turned for a moment, or raped under the slides.  These irrational phobias are probably vicarious trauma from my job as a clinical social worker.

There is also the real trauma imprinted by adrenaline on my brain of the times I have physically dragged my kids and their bikes out of the playground because one or the other is in the throes of nastiness.  We don’t have far to walk, but ugh, I just hate that feeling.

The other part of my fear has to do with the worry that my kids will just get hurt.  And they do get hurt.  There have been countless scraped knees and bumped heads.  The first time Jack fell and scraped himself, I remember being so frightened someone would call the state on me because I had not been close enough to catch him before he fell, even though he is rarely out of my line of sight since he was born.

In addition to bumps and bruises, there are the psychic scrapes inflicted when peers belittle or refuse to play.  I’ll never forget the time, shortly after Emily’s birth, when Jack approached a group of kids, politely introduced himself and asked to play.  I watched proudly from the sidelines with Em strapped to me in the baby pack.  My pride turned to sadness as they ignored him and went off leaving my confused little boy alone.

This memory wounds me.  Jack was such a lost little soul after I had Emily, and in some ways still is.  I remember him taking that leap of faith asking to play, and being denied, and think that he might have felt the whole world had turned on him.

In truth, he doesn’t remember that moment, and neither did I until I started this post.  Sometimes that is how mindfulness works for me.  I dwell on something, trying to figure out why my feelings about it are so intense or burdensome, and then I get led in a direction I didn’t even know existed.

That’s kind of motherhood, right?  You go with the flow, with the tantrums, and unpleasant activities until you end up someplace new and maybe even fascinating.

Being mindful of my feelings about the playground has been important.  Mindfulness of my own anxieties- rational or not- helps keep me in check.  Because if I am not in check, my anxiety can spill over onto my kids and cause, ehem, trouble to get in our way.  Being aware also helps me talk myself down when I start to get hyper about the dirt or other children, which are really no big deal except in my neurotic brain.

Most importantly, when I realize I am worried about my children, it offers me an opportunity to remind myself that we are safe and all is well.

The playground will never be my favorite place, but I will continue to bring my kids there on a near daily basis, because it is important for them to get their ya-yas out.  It also offers me a place for some serious exercise of a different sort.