Friday, April 4, 2014

There is nothing brave about this blog post.

It's just a bunch of pictures.

A bunch of pictures taken at various times in my life.

You might notice I look a little different in some of these than I do today.

You might even send me an email that I'm positive you intended to be helpful, that says something like, "That's not the most flattering picture of you Stephanie." or "You have thighs of doom in that picture, Stephanie." or "Have you considered PicMonkey Stephanie?" 

Yeah. No. And that's okay.

Because you know, it's the darnedest thing.

That's actually what I looked like when the photograph was taken.

Shocking, right? I know.

I don't want to say anything about weight loss. It makes me seriously want to scream when people talk about their journey. I guess I'm on a journey too, but for some reason that makes me think of some epic quest through the forest or something. No. I just have some fat I need to lose. It's been difficult and it's been going on for like, ever, and it's been a huge pain in my ass frankly, but still. It's just what I've been doing.

I can't pretend that these pictures don't exist. I can't pretend that I didn't look like that when the picture was taken. What would I say to my daughter if I got rid of all of the pictures from when she was little? Nope honey, moms thighs were too big to keep that one. Sorry about your childhood memories.

Forget those pictures of grandma, that you miss so much. You look horrible there. Forget having a picture with your sisters and your brother.  Or a picture with your mom and dad. Your fat rolls are showing.

It's ridiculous. It's crazy. And I'm not doing it.

I would be lying if I said I loved some of these. I would be lying if I said it makes me happy to look at myself at my heaviest. I would be lying if I said I thought that I won't get criticism for posting this (Hell, I get criticized for the most ridiculous things ever like being proud of my kids, so why not this?). I would be lying if I said I'll never have an unflattering picture again. I'd be lying if I said I'm done and I'm totally happy with how I look now.

Like it or hate it, that's how I looked at that exact moment the camera flashed.

My mom looks at the picture of her family and the picture of her children and she feels so happy that we were all together and thinks of how much she loves us. My children will forever cherish their five generation pictures. Pictures of my great-grandma (that I miss terribly) are priceless to me. Pictures of me with my friends are irreplaceable. Despite the size of my pants.

This is how I looked right that second. Right this second I don't look exactly the same. That doesn't mean those old pictures don't matter. It doesn't mean I'm not thankful I have them.

I won't get to my goal weight today or tomorrow or next month. That's okay. The camera doesn't lie and I'm not going to either.

All of these are me.

It's not brave. It's just reality.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Yes, I brag on my children. You should too.

Recently, I received an email that stated that the sender was a long-time reader of my blog, but they were no longer ever going to give me any page views (I don't make money off this blog, so I guess the joke is on you!) because they were sick of my "humble bragging" about my children.

I got irritated by that and then later? I got more than irritated and moved to "downright pissed". Know why?

It's my right and my privilege as their mother to brag on them.

I'm not going to stop. Not ever.

Now, I'm not saying my children are perfect. Oh my God. Far from it.

For example?

My daughter has a "Bitch please" face that could knock a grown woman to her knees. Observe:

(Please note that in the second photograph her brother appears to be very intent on whatever I was saying and she was looking at me like, "Whatever")

She was seven years old when these two pictures were taken. SEVEN. She's spent many, many years perfecting this face of utter disgust. She throws it at me periodically. She also sometimes thinks I'm impossible. She listens to very little of my fashion advice. She says things like, "Women make babies and that's their superpower!" and I have to remind her, gently, that not every woman can make babies and that's not the only thing women should value themselves for. As many teens are, she is sometimes cranky. I'm sure she does not always tell me the truth.

And let's not forget my son. My son who at seven years old decided he would forge my signature on a document he needed to turn into school. Sadly for him, he did not know my initials and his subterfuge was soon discovered by his teacher who marched straight to my car in the pick-up lane and showed me what he had done. Too bad kid. If you didn't realize my name isn't actually "Mom" you might have gotten away with it.

My son never, ever listens to any of my fashion advice. I'm quite certain he doesn't always tell me the truth. He frequently purchases cookies at school prompting me to say, "Dude, I got ANOTHER auto-replenish notice for your school lunch account". He once said, "Most women don't know who the father of their baby is, right?" and I had to promptly shut that nonsense down (and turn off the Maury program, oy). He is rarely cranky, but often does not listen and his room frequently looks like it should be condemned. I need to take a nerve pill every time the child had to choose classes for the next marking period because he. cannot. make. a. decision.

My children? So not perfect.

Their mother? Also not perfect. Not even close.

So not perfect that her daughter called her out the other day and she totally deserved it. So not perfect that the smoke detector went off four times in the past week while she was cooking dinner. So not perfect that she didn't realize that her son had a huge hole in his shoe until he specifically pointed it out. So not perfect that she's spent a lot of years in therapy, trying to figure things out. She's spent more time working than a perfect mom would. Less time building tree forts and teaching driving.

Not perfect. Not even close.

I've noticed recently there seems to be this trend on social media to talk about how sucky your kids are and how much being a parent blows. People complain, somewhat unceasingly, about how difficult their child is. How hard it is make dinner or make cookies or get up to make sure they get to school on time. They wish their kid would stop talking, would go to sleep, would go outside and play, would stop asking for everything. They wish they could have their old lives back, wish they could sleep in, wish they could go to the gym whenever they felt like it, wish they could have wine. Lots and lots of wine.

And you know? There have been many times in my life I could identify with many of these things (except the wine part since I don't drink it). If you know my son, you know that he spent the years of 2004-2012 talking pretty much continually without taking a breath. There have been many days that I worked so many hours that the very thought of making dinner made me want to stab someone in the neck (and my husband would often helpfully say, "I'll take care of it!" and then order pizza, which made me want to stab him in the neck). I had twins. I think I slept a total of twenty-five minutes in 1998. I have fallen asleep in the shower. I have fallen asleep sitting on the toilet. I haven't seen the end of a movie we watched at home since the year 2000.

I get it. I really, really get it.

Our children are human, though. They are imperfect. They are messy, they are funny, and they are sometimes a pain in the ass.

My children are mine. Only for a little while, but still. They are mine.

They will have many years of people being harsh to them. Being cruel to them. Kicking them while they are down. Expecting things of them that they can never deliver on. Being mean to them for absolutely no reason. The world is often a very ugly, negative place.

My home does not have to be.

I want my children to know that there is no one, no one ever anywhere on this planet, who loves them as much as their mom. That even if they fail at something and they are kicking themselves about it, that I still love them. That I am so, so proud of them for even little things.

There is enough time to be kicked around by the world. They deserve this safe place to fall.

My children deserve to know they can fail and they will still be loved. My children deserve to know that mama has their back. My children deserve to know that home is the place you can be yourself, whoever that might be.

Your kids deserve that too.

So I'm not going to stop bragging on my children. I'm not going to stop being proud. I'm not ever going to think they are perfect, but I'm going to be really happy at how perfect they are to me.

I would be so happy if you would do the same.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Happy Birthday, sweet 16

My dear daughter,

I normally address your brother first, as he was technically the first born. I'm fairly certain you were meant to be first though. I've always felt that way. He was first out of necessity and likely out of order.

Not long ago, I was gathering up a pile of laundry in your room. This is highly unusual as you are always quick to do your laundry, but your after-school obligations (and quite honestly, your dad and his laundry) had kept you from the task at hand. As I stood in your closet, I could not help but marvel at how...precise everything was. When I think of you, the words intelligent and eccentric often come to mind (and I'm sure your obsession with 50 year old British television shows has absolutely nothing to do with that), yet precise is the best word I could come up with to describe you in that moment.

You are precise. You are grace. You have always walked through this world with your shoulders back and your head held high, just like you belong anywhere you attempt to go. It sometimes kind of amazes me how I've been able to raise such a confident, organized child. Oh, I'm organized but it goes against every fiber of my being. I have to force myself. I can't even force the confidence. Not you. It's just who you are. You are well-prepared and meticulous.

Well, mostly.

I see the shoes lined neatly up in pairs and the clothes all organized by color, by season. Your socks are all perfectly matched, your carpet is never soiled. Your desk is a thing of beauty; so pristine I would think it was completely untouched...except for the beautiful, wild, amazing mess that is your notebook.

Yes, I know about your notebook. I know about how you write your stories, filling up hundreds of pages. Living the lives of those characters, telling their secrets. I know how that notebook, and all the notebooks you have filled over the years, are your sanity. How you look forward to nothing more than unleashing everything you have into them. Those pages, all inky and handwritten and glorious.

In that way? You are just like me.

When I was your age, I wrote until I thought my hands would fall off. I dreamed bigger dreams than I can even remember and I had stories. Oh my girl, I had stories. They filled my head and my heart and I thought they would go on forever.

I know, yes I know, when you and I are the library or sipping our coffee together, or shopping, or making tea, I know. You are thinking only of those stories. Of that screenplay you are writing. Of when you can get back to that notebook.

My hope for you today is that you never, ever lose that love for those words. You grow up and tell your stories. That you don't let a bad review or a broken heart make you fall down. That you are stronger and braver than your mother will ever be. A better story-teller too. I know.

You have the sweetest, most loving heart of any person I've ever known. You are beautiful both inside and out, funny and kind. I am blessed, in every way possible to have you as my daughter. It is a privilege and a joy to be your mama.

Keep the Faith, my dear one. My sweet girl, my favorite, favorite daughter.

I love you,

Dear Son,

The day before you were born, I distinctly remember thinking that I would never be happy again.

It hurts to type those words. It hurts me to even think them, but they are true and they are real. I really thought that my entire life was nothing but a fail and I didn't see, couldn't see, how I could have a baby, much less two babies, when I was completely falling apart.

Then, unexpectedly, you and your sister arrived and...well, I wish I could say I immediately recognized how wrong I was and that my happiness was instantaneous and all that other crap, but honestly? It took a minute.

I was afraid of you, a little. You were sick, you had trouble, and also you were a boy. I didn't trust boys and didn't like many of them either. I figured you'd break my heart (and someday maybe you will) but instead of all the things I feared? I ended up with you. A kid who could not be more like me if he tried and makes me laugh every single day of my life.

I've always been in awe of your sister. She's such a different personality than me that I've frequently said that she's the person I want to be when I grow up. So full of self-confidence, so organized and just so unabashedly okay with who she is. I don't have that, and often neither do you.  You are the least organized person I've ever met and I've come to realize that your room is just sort of an extension of your mind. Messy and wild and full of everything all at once. You keep it together somehow and even though I can't understand it at all I recognize that what you do is impressive on so many levels.

I'm in awe of you too though, for reasons completely unrelated to the awe I have for your sister. I've honestly never met anyone as funny as you and I don't just say that because you are my kid. You have a rare gift for humor (and, well, sarcasm) that a lot of people just don't have. You shrug it off like it's nothing, but you have the ability to turn almost anything around and that's amazing. It really is. You've brought me up from the lowest lows and changed things for me more times than I can tell you. I've always said you have to be intelligent to be truly funny and you are. I've always known. Even when your grades didn't show it, I knew.

I've seen you struggle. I've seen you get knocked down. I've seen you get picked on. I've seen things be so damn hard for you sometimes that I felt completely helpless. Somehow you just kept moving and not only did you survive, you've thrived. Your grades now reflect your intelligence. Your work ethic and volunteer spirit reflects your heart.

I genuinely enjoy being around you, and I don't know a lot of parents of teenage boys who can say the same thing. Within the last six months you made my heart swell in my chest twice; once when I heard you tell a friend that we were close, like it was no big deal, like you were okay with being friends with your mom (and I know that's hard for a teenage boy to admit) and once at Christmas when you told me (while we were in church) that "you sing freaking beautifully". You don't see my flaws the way other people do, and that's really special. You may not realize how special that is, but someday you will. Someday I hope you have a spouse who appreciates this quality in you. A long, long, long time from now.

I am so proud of who you are growing up to be, and who you have always been. You have the most wonderful, gentle, sweet spirit and I hope you never, ever lose that.

I love you, my brother bear. You've always been my favorite son.

Your mom

PS: Heh. I said "your mom".

Monday, March 17, 2014

Yep. Lucky.

The Boy and Girl go to a school which requires uniforms and despite the day, green is not one of the approved colors. The Boy came home today with a shamrock drawn on his hand. When I asked him who drew it, he named a girl that I'm pretty sure is sweet on him.

"I think PotentialGirlfriendName likes you," I told him.

"I doubt it," he said, cheerfully.


"She thinks I'm an idiot," he told me.

"Why on Earth would you say that?" I asked, surprised.

"Well," he replied thoughtfully, "I am pretty stupid sometimes."

I am training him so well you guys. So, so well.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Special delivery: Snark

The Boy and I were driving to the recycling center on Saturday when we came upon the two postal carriers who deliver the mail to our neighborhood.

Yes, two.

No, I don't know why but I'm sure there is a good reason for this.

I was driving one direction, one of the postal carriers was driving the opposite direction and the second postal carrier was sitting at a cross street waiting for me to pass. The carrier coming toward me stopped to put some mail in a box and the carrier sitting at the cross street yelled something to the other driver.

The windows were up so I didn't hear what he said.

My son speculated however:

"I'm gonna get you, you sumbitch. That'll teach you to deliver mail on my route!"

That's probably not what he really said.