Toddler Bedtime is the Absolute Worst

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Of course you have, but I don’t care because this is my blog and I do what I want.

nosleepyDoes that sound like the voice of someone who had a nice, peaceful evening last night? No. No, it does not. Instead, it is the voice of a mom who has been routinely tortured by her adorably geared up three-year-old whose excitement over Christmas has reached such a fever pitch that he can’t calm himself down to go the F*** to sleep.

I know that parental whining about toddler bedtime is about as tired as I am at this very moment, but mostly it’s because we are trying to wrap our heads around why, why, why for the love of God, why is this happening and why does it keep happening, and why don’t we have that kid from Monsters, Inc. who giggles a little and then passes out so quickly you think she might have narcolepsy?

My son’s skills at evading bedtime are about as calculated and manipulative as an evil genius. We have tried to adapt, initiating different bedtime routines to throw him off the scent, but little by little, minute by minute, he stretches and negotiates until finally you realize you’re back in the same pattern of laying next to him trying to play dead while he whispers to himself in the language of Mordor and then crawls over your back to ask: “What you doin’, Mama?”

Me: Nothing, go to sleep.

Lucas: I want some water.

Me: You just had water. You had two glasses of water. All done water.

Lucas: No because I need it.

Me: Go to sleep.

Lucas: shbash shash bash sasha bah hardlach

Me: …. (pretending to play dead again)

Lucas: I need to go pee-pees.

Me: ……

Lucas: Mama. Mama. Maaaaaamaaaaaaa.

Me: ………..

Lucas tosses and turns for about five minutes and is relatively quiet. I hear him chewing on the edge of his pillowcase, but he hasn’t peeped up. I become hopeful that maybe he’ll doze off soon. I open one eye like Popeye to see if he’s finally knocked out.

He’s a millionth of a millimeter away from my face, just staring at me.

Lucas: Hi, Mama!

Me: LUCAS! Go. To. Sleep!

This pattern continues, by the way, for two hours and 20 minutes. Now do you wonder why I, and the parents of millions of toddlers, are losing our minds?

I want to know how our parents did it. Because they make it sound like they just left us in our rooms and, maybe we didn’t fall asleep right away, but we played to ourselves or babbled and eventually passed out on our own. Maybe a few nights we had nightmares and crawled into our parents’ bed. But did mom lay next to me for hours every night? I don’t think so. How can I be that mom?

Did our parents go through this and just keep their mouths shut? Or have toddlers somehow morphed into the dominant minds of our time, bending our weak Gen X/Millennial brains to do their bidding so that one day they can rule us all and in the darkness, bind us? Toddlers are to parents what North Korean hackers are to Sony. They get us by invoking the words “I’m scared” or “Don’t go, Mama” or “I need Mama,” and we give in, even though we swore we wouldn’t let the terrorists win.

Maybe we WERE like this when we were little, but our parents just forgot. They wiped it from their brains so as not to experience symptoms of PTSD. Either way, I know that— unlike the Balrog in the Mines of Moria—this too shall pass.

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

girl runningIt’s been one year since I started this here blog, and a lot has gone down since December of 2013. There have been some tragedies, including a second miscarriage and the death of my cousin, but there have also been some triumphs like…you know…admitting to making pasta with hot dogs and…wow, I really can’t think of anything else.

I swore 2014 was going to be a better year than 2013, and on paper, it certainly wasn’t. But I had something this year that I didn’t have last year—all of you. Sharing the madness inside my head and finding out that most of you are just as fucked up as I am has made weathering some of these devastating events much more tolerable.

I’m no longer holed up in the storm shelter talking to myself about my morbid fantasies or why the ant problem in my house has given me a permanent tic. Now I’ve got you guys huddled together with me, patting me on the head and, at the very least, feeling a smug superiority that you’ve got your shit together more than me.

But mostly you’ve all been amazing.

Thank you to people who’ve commented and shared their stories. Thank you to those who’ve emailed me with messages of sympathy and empathy. Thank you to friends and family who’ve told me that this blog made them laugh out loud. That’s all I wanted, really. What I ended up getting was much, much more.

Whether things looked bleak or promising, I knew I could always come here and spill, and none of you have judged me for it. Thank you for making this a safe place to bark at the moon, laugh at the devil, and continue making off-color commentary about my crazy Italian and Mexican families. Here’s to another year—and I won’t jinx it by claiming it’s going to be amazing. I’m just going to ask, can it please not suck? And if it does, well…

…you guys know where you can find me.

All I Want for Christmas is to Poop in Peace

Is that too much to ask? When I sat down with my in-laws to discuss Secret Santa presents, and we all went around the table saying what we wanted, I secretly yearned to whisper this phrase: Just let me take a dump, please, for the Love of God, without a single interruption.

Having a toddler means never having privacy in the bathroom, yes, we know this. But my toddler not only has a particular affinity for coming in to observe the ongoings, but also peppering me with questions about what I’m doing (taking a shit), why it’s taking so long (because it’s shy), can I turn off the light (no, I need it), I want to see your poopy (no, just…leave it alone, Lucas), GOOD JOB, MAMA! (resigned sigh…thanks, buddy).

If that weren’t enough, lately he’s decided that when Mommy goes pee or poop, he’s going to come in the bathroom and go, too! So I find myself scurrying to cut things off mid-stream, scrambling to de-pants my son while my own pants are around my ankles, and tossing him onto the toilet, only for him to giggle as he passes gas.

Here's JohnnySometimes I do race to the bathroom to try and lock myself in, but he catches on and follows me with the speed of a cheetah. If I make it in before him, I struggle against his sudden Hulk-like strength to force the door closed and locked. He’ll then proceed to bang on the door like a vicious axe murderer until I finish my business. I’m just waiting for the day for him to chop through all “Heeeeeere’s Johnny!”

Lucas, like all toddlers, has always wandered into the bathroom to keep me company, but lately it seems he’s hell-bent on not just hanging out but actually terrorizing me—so much so that the bathroom has turned from a sanctuary into a traumatic war zone. Last weekend I told Alex that I really needed some peace and quiet, so I was going to lock the master bedroom door AND the bathroom door so that I could take a bath alone. What do you think happened?

My husband PICKED THE LOCKS to come in and tell me that he needed to get Lucas ready.

He picked the locks.

He…PICKED….the locks.

Could he have waited an extra 10 minutes before getting Lucas ready? Yes, yes I believe he could have. I don’t think he realized how very precious that alone time was for me, otherwise he wouldn’t have done it. But in walked my son, who of course pointed out my private parts, rightfully shaming me for being naked in the tub.

Someday very soon Lucas will have zero desire to walk in on his mom doing her business. And that’s one of those baby things that, trust me, I will NEVER miss.

This Thanksgiving, I’m Thankful for a 40-Dollar Mouth Guard

And family and friends and blah blah blah. But if it weren’t for this silly little plastic piece I picked up a few days ago, those same family and friends that I’m so thankful for would likely not feel the same about me come Thanksgiving. (Translation: I’ve been a bitch lately.)

headacheFor those who’ve been following this blog/know me in real life (which is basically the same group of people), you’re well aware of my struggles with my chronic back pain. However, one thing I haven’t talked much about are my near-constant headaches.

Why not, you ask? Because whining about my back pain is riveting enough. If I add in the headaches and the jaw pain and the teeth clenching, you’ll start wondering if I have a case of the WebMDs. (Which, trust me, anytime you have lots of headaches, do yourself a favor: DO NOT GOOGLE. I repeat: DO NOT GOOGLE. You’ll convince yourself you have brain cancer.)

For many years, I’ve had pretty consistent headaches. Like…more days with headaches than without headaches. Initially, I thought they were tied to hormones and that my birth control pills were making it worse. But when Alex and I decided to start a family and we pulled the goalie, the headaches continued.

Then I rationalized that it must be allergies, of course. No amount of Advil or Tylenol could touch them, and my sinuses felt sore and tender to the touch. I loaded up on Claritin and Sudafed and Mucinex, and sometimes it helped (because sometimes the headaches were, in fact, caused by allergies). But the overall tension remained.

Three years ago, I saw my Monterey dentist for the first time, and he noticed some wear and tear on my teeth.

Friendly Dick-Van-Dyke-looking dentist: Do you clench or grind your teeth in your sleep?

Me: For sure. I think it’s just a by-product of an overall anxious personality/self-induced stress.

Dick-Van-Dyke-alike: Yeah, that’s usually what it is. I highly recommend you get a guard to wear in your sleep. It’ll protect your teeth from further damage and help with any jaw pain or headaches you experience as a result.

Me: How much?

Him: $400

Me: I’ll definitely look into it. (Code for: nope)

Even after being told straight-out what the problem was, I continued to justify the headaches and pin them on something else. But finally, after a particularly stressful week that was also coupled with particularly debilitating headaches, I walked into my nearest Target and dropped $40 on a stupid mouth guard and popped it in my mouth two nights ago. Guess what?

No more flipping headaches.

This is a lesson to us all (but mostly to me). 1. Don’t Google your symptoms. 2. Listen to a professional when they tell you what’s going on, especially if he looks like Dick Van Dyke. 3. Never trust your instincts.

November is Mental Hibernation Month

hiberatingNovember may be best known as Movember, the month in which the menfolk decide to piss off their ladies by growing spiny patches of facial hair “for a cause” (that cause being laziness and the ability to squirrel away crumbs of food to be discovered and eaten at a later date). However, I’m declaring November Mental Hibernation Month. Why? Because December is too crazy to be reflective, October is too far away from the end of the year, but November is a time when you have a minute to go…so wait, what did I do all year? And when you realize you’ve accomplished nothing, you just want to hibernate for a while.

For the last few Novembers, I’ve found myself entering a deeply reflective period when I think and explore and ruminate on who I am and where I want to go. Plus I begin fattening up for the winter. Usually this introspective phase is followed by a pseudo epiphany, which is then followed by a burst of I-can-do-ism. Unfortunately, it all goes to shit when I realize my can-do spunk has morphed into a can-do-later funk.

This time, my November hibernation may just be to rest easy knowing something big is around the corner. Something clicked during my deliberation this month, and I’ve finally stopped waffling and making empty promises to myself. Action is being taken, important decisions have been made (that cannot be divulged at the moment I’m afraid…I know, big tease), and I can nestle into my November sleep with far less angst knowing that this will be a period of meditation on how to get where I want to go instead of questioning what I want in the first place.

This time, my mental hibernation will be less navel gazing and more list-making—what positive steps can I take to reach my goals? How can I mentally prepare for disappointment if first and second and third tries fail? How can I encourage myself to keep going? I think the reason why I’ve been so gloomy these last few Novembers is because I’ve become a bit of a coward. I’m so afraid of No that I won’t put myself out there for a possible Yes.

I should let my 20 years of dancing remind me of who I am when I set my mind to something. I went on hundreds of auditions, and only some of them resulted in jobs. I didn’t let flat-out Nos or close-but-no-cigars get me down. (I mean, it sucked, but it was on to the next audition the next day.) I’ve been going back and forth for some time now on many personal goals—family, career, where to live, how to treat my chronic back pain—but after nearly a year of blogging therapy with you all, it’s becoming very clear what I need to do.

This time, when I wake up from my hibernation…I’ll be very hungry.

My Cousin’s Big Fat Italian Wedding

This past weekend, my entire Italian family (including a few cousins from the motherland) gathered together to watch my beautiful cousin Christina say “I do.” Nothing makes Italians more Italian than a wedding.

I mean, really. So gorgeous.

I mean, really. So gorgeous.

We stood for the bride’s entrance and the minute she walked through the door, the waterworks started. I thought I was the only one being ultra-sensitive, but then I noticed that more than half the room was sniffling. Guess which half of the room had to retouch their makeup after the ceremony? The Italian side.

As we filed into the reception area, a clot of black suits and little black dresses in the corner told me there must be a bar. There was—an open bar at that—though it was for a short period of time. So naturally, being the classy people that we are, we stepped up to the bar and ordered double drinks.

Back at our table, it was all the Garofoli cousins sitting together. Me, Alex, Alyssa, Corey, Corey’s boyfriend Jon, Jonelle, Matt, and Danny. Jonelle’s finance Joe was supposed to join us, but at the last minute had to cancel because of work. So as we sat down, we stared at the empty seat. Without a word, the tears started again, this time because all we could think about was Sam, and how he should have been there making us all laugh until we peed.

“Shutup, don’t you start!” said Matt to Corey, who hadn’t said a single word, but was already holding her eyes open so her mascara wouldn’t run.

“That’s Joe’s seat!” said Jonelle, who was trying to diffuse the situation, but it was too late. There we all were, mourning our funny cousin who was lost too soon. It’s going to happen at every happy or sad or momentous occasion moving forward. So we may as well let the tears flow.

Because we can’t go anywhere without causing trouble, Matt broke out a few nips and we all did a shot to Sam, but not before the waitstaff came over and yelled at us for having nips, which were not allowed at the reception.

“Sure, we’ll get rid of them!” we said, and proceeded to get rid of them by pouring them down our throats. Again, pure class.

Speaking of class, there was a photo booth at the reception, which needs to happen at all weddings I attend from now on. Note to any of my friends or family who plan to wed in the future: photo booth or I’m not coming.

Just in case you weren’t aware, Italians are attention whores. So a photo booth with accessories was like crack to us. As soon as we found out about it, we mad dashed to the corner and threw on the most ridiculous hats we could find and joined one another in pictures that got progressively crazier by the minute. We started off kinda nice, a few couples being slightly goofy, smiling and smooching. By the end, it was 80 Italians crammed into one photo throwing up middle fingers and giving crazy goat face.

lesscrazy

mediumcrazyfullcrazy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You think the madness ends there? I didn’t call this my cousin’s big fat Italian wedding for nothing. Certainly the cousins know how to party, but guess where we got it from? The parents.

As the DJ transitioned from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin into Lil’ Jon, the parents were befuddled. “Turn Down for What” blasted from the speakers and the cousins formed a circle to shake it down, but the aunts and uncles were like…uhhhhh…what is this music? So my mom and aunt, sufficiently plastered, decided to roll with it. They ended up busting better moves than all of us combined. And I have video evidence. Let’s just say, this is the tame, edited version of the events:

Ladies and gentlemen, my family, thank you very much. A room full of Italians celebrating the union of a loving couple by yelling out “skeet skeet” with all their might. If that doesn’t sum us up, I’m not sure what else will.

Our Ant Problem Is Turning Me and Alex Into Crazy People

grossed outAbout a week and a half ago, Alex discovered a few ants convened on the floor by our garbage can and promptly flipped out. Being born and raised in rural back-country, a few ants never bothered me. We cleaned em up, sprayed the area, and I forgot about them.

Alex, however, did not.

Every day, he checked for ants. He’d find one or two and kill them and then explore every effing corner of our house like he was Indiana Jones looking for the Holy Grail. He’d tell me how freaked out he was, and I’d feel sorry for him—mostly because I was like, wow, this dude’s got some neuroses that I was unaware of. I knew he hated spiders, but ants? What’s the big deal?

A couple days later, we found another gathering, this time in our bathroom. I was less pleased with this discovery (not that I was pleased with the first one, but more nonplussed). My bathroom is where I go to get clean and purdy. There shouldn’t be bugs in there. We once again killed the little suckers and sprayed (and now Alex went all around the outside of the house spraying and cleaning up ever-y-thang) and while I was bothered, within a couple ant-free hours, I forgot about the whole thing.

A few more errant ants and my husband was losing his shit. He couldn’t stop talking about it. He kept wondering where they were coming from. He took spackle and started just smearing it over any tiny hole he found in the walls. He left a note on our neighbor’s car to call us to see if he could go over to their side of the house and also spray (since the ants were primarily coming in from the side of our house that faces their house). I think at one point he started talking to himself and rocking back and forth in the corner.

This entire time, I’m keeping it cool. Then this morning I woke up at 4am and couldn’t fall back asleep so I made my way to the couch. I knocked out again only to be woken up by a soft tickling on my face. I brushed it off, thinking it was some phantom hair or something but then I realized…it was moving around. It was…walking. It was a fucking ant crawling on my fucking face.

ON MY FACE.

No longer keeping it cool, my friends. I keep scratching my hair and shaking it around expecting an army of ants to fall out of it. I keep swatting at my face and there are definitely ants inside my dress and my tights and my shoes and they are everywhere, I just know it. If people walk by my desk today and see me doing this, just know it’s because I’m covered in ants:

So maybe my rural upbringing made me cool with ants in my house, but it definitely did not make me cool with ants on my face. Alex and I are now both on the bus to Crazytown, and we’re taking our poor son with us. Lucas points out ants on the ground, or black lint, or any small spot he sees, which of course sends me and my husband into full-blown Stage 5 red alert lockdown. If Lucas spills his food, we literally dive to catch it before it hits the ground and ants swarm all over it.

We are about to go on vacation in a couple days, and Alex is ready to nuke the house. We have our friend coming to check on our place while we’re gone, and our explicit instructions to him are to look out for ants and kill each and every one of them dead. We’ll also probably set out about a hundred ant traps before we go.

Bugs don’t normally bug me (YES THAT PUN IS INTENDED), but bugs in my house I’m not too comfortable with and bugs on my face turn my insides out and set my brain on fire. Now I understand how Alex has been feeling for the past week and a half, and I’m sorry I made light of it. This shit is not cool, guys. Not….cool.

I’m Embracing the Sexy Halloween Costume This Year

When I went trick-or-treating as a little girl, I didn’t see streets lined with sexy Cinderellas and Sleeping Beauties and Snow Whites. Sure, there were the old standards—witches and ghosts and pumpkins—but I don’t remember the costumes of my era being as princessy and whorish as they are now. As a child of the 80s, my costumes included:

Mary Poppins
A scarecrow (stuffed with actual straw)
A smurf (not Smurfette)
A punk rocker
Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz)
A monarch butterfly

Now I feel sad for little girls at Halloween because the literal only costumes available are Elsa and Anna from Frozen.

In high school I was too cool to dress up for Halloween (though I did run through a few neighborhoods and smash a couple pumpkins because ANARCHY), and in college I went as a pirate one year and some kind of twisted half-angel/half-devil another. The other two years I was likely holed up studying for midterms or whatever. (Nerd problems.)

In the late 90s/early 2000s, there were a few girls who dressed provocatively for attention, but it didn’t seem like the norm. And if they did, they chose traditionally sexy costumes, like the sexy nurse, or sexy devil, or sexy kitten.

It wasn’t until the mid aughts that the whole slutty Halloween costume thing became a phenomenon in which ALL COSTUMES MUST BE SEXY. The sexy corn husk! The sexy carton of Chinese food! The sexy mustache! Sadly, this also seemed to coincide with when the princess costume became the only option for the young ones. So one year, sick of the rampant sexism ruining Halloween, I decided to fight the power and dress up as a symbol of feminism: Rosie the Riveter.

Rosie the RiveterFor those of you unfamiliar, Rosie the Riveter was a symbol of female empowerment during World War II, when women were taking over the jobs of the men who had enlisted to serve. I found myself a denim shirt and dark jeans and rolled up my sleeves and wore a red bandana on my head. I put a fake tattoo on my arm and dolled up my face in 1940s classic makeup.

I went out to the bars with my friends and was harassed for most of the evening. I was called a lumberjack, a d*ke, and Aunt Jemima (REALLY?!), and for those that didn’t call me outright names, there were actual snickers and pointing and laughing. Meanwhile, a girl walked by wearing only a thong and pasties, and all the “positive” attention was lathered on her.

Now I don’t mean to be naive here and expect people to fawn over a girl in a Mexican tuxedo while a practically naked chick walks by. But at least leave me alone. Why the snide remarks? Why the heckling? Because I dared to NOT dress slutty on Slutty-ween?

I haven’t dressed up for Halloween since, and I vowed that if I ever did, it would NEVER be in a sexy, degrading costume. Because fuck those assholes! Rosie the Riveter is awesome!

So this year, when my sister-in-law proposed a “Malice in Wonderland” Halloween party, what did I decide to dress up as? Slutty Tweedle Dee.

If you can’t beat em, join em, right? Well, that’s not exactly why. I’m a 34-year-old mother with chronic back pain—I haven’t had too many chances to look and feel sexy lately. Pulling off heels is tough, I can’t really work out, and in the last year my optometrist pretty much banned me from contact lenses, which means I wear coke-bottle horn-rimmed glasses day in and day out. I kind of figure this is my last call for sexy.

Even still, it’s hard not to feel self-conscious as I put together my sexy Halloween costume. It’s sexy-ish, but I don’t have the confidence to go full whore. Here’s a dry run of the basics, minus the blue bow tie accessory and red top hat I plan on wearing (plus slutty red lipstick and false eyelashes).

sexy Halloween costume

Please ignore the unmade bed with ill-fitting sheets in the background.

It kind of just looks like an outfit someone might wear hitting up a pub in Williamsburg. But for me, it’s a big step up from my daily grannie sweaters and boots. And it’s giving me serious anxiety as I count down the days until I’m exposing my mommy midriff to a party full of people. So in a way, this is me ripping off the band-aid. Here’s the tummy. Look at it. Just look at it. Because after this, I’m likely going to put it away for the rest of my life.

This Old Scruffy Shelter Dog Stole My Heart

On Monday, I lay on the floor of my office rolling over a tennis ball, trying to break up the tightness still present in my back nearly a week after my second epidural shot. With no warning, searing white pain shot down my right leg, exploding like a lightning bolt through the nerves of my calf and rendering my right foot completely useless.

Needless to say, it wasn’t a great day.

Tuesday, after much icing and ibuprofen, my leg was feeling a bit better, but my hope for finding lasting relief was all but gone. I sat listless at my desk, comfort eating six wheels of turkey wrap sandwiches that were brought in as a treat for a departing coworker. I needed to get moving, to get some air, even if it meant just hobbling around my building a couple times. So that’s what I did.

As I rounded the corner to return to my office, there he was: a sweet gremlin of a dog with tan shaggy fur and ears that made up 40% of his body weight and stuck out at 75 degree angles. He was being walked by a young woman through the brush-lined walkway in front of my office.

“Can I pet your dog?” I asked, ignoring the shooting pain as I bent down and reached out to his adorable fluffy face.

“Oh, he’s not my dog,” she replied. “I’m volunteering for the shelter and taking him out for a little exercise.”

Hearing this news, my reach became a little more longing, a little more sympathetic, and as I touched his downy fur, he flopped his little head into my hand. Perhaps the weight of his ears was too much and he needed to rest. Me and Shelter Dog, though—we had an immediate connection.

shelter dog

At that moment I forgot the pain in my back. I forgot that I should have been due to give birth to my second child this week. I just felt warmth and sweetness flowing through my fingertips to him and back to me.

Sir Didymus

immediately thought of Sir Didymus when I saw him

This little Sir Didymus look-alike. This little awkward, strangely-shaped guy. This bundle that just wanted to be loved. This sweet puppy that would get so many hugs from a toddler boy (and possibly a few kicks), that would curl up at the end of our bed, that would ruin more of our furniture, that would create kinks in our plans when we want to go out or travel, that would drive up costs with vet bills and pet food and insurance…

As I scratched behind his ears and rubbed the slightly more coarse fur along his back, he leaned into me, content. He wasn’t slobbery excited to see me. He wasn’t skittish or defensive, either. He was just there for me, like an angel dog showing up exactly when I needed him.

“Do you need a mommy?” I asked, fighting back tears. “Anyone would be lucky to be your mom.”

I stood up gingerly and said goodbye to Shelter Dog as I dragged myself up the stairs with the grace and agility of Quasimodo. There was another hour left of my day, but I had Shelter Dog on the brain.

I repeatedly messaged my two coworkers who were on the walk with me.

Me: He looks like Sir Didymus from the Labyrinth, doesn’t he?

Me: He was so sweet. He wasn’t really hyper, just kind of hanging out, you know?

Me: That girl said the shelter is right here, right? Like around the corner? It has to be close because she’s walking him around here.

Me: Okay, I think…I think I’m going to go try to find him.

Me: NO! I can’t. I know why we can’t get a dog right now. It wouldn’t be right. We are never home!

Me: I’m going to go get another turkey sandwich.

Me: Okay, it’s time to go home now. I’m going to the shelter first.

I walked over to the vet’s office to find out where the shelter was, and lo and behold, Shelter Dog was actually there! The staff led me to the back and told me he was getting some dental work done but that he was perfectly healthy otherwise, although a little more advanced in age (he’s likely at least six years old if not more). Normally this news would send me packing, as I’ve always wanted a puppy or at least a young dog so that our family could have as much time with him as possible. But I was in too deep. Didn’t matter. I learned that Shelter Dog’s name was Cody.

shelter dog pet

Still didn’t matter.

I have gone over and over in my head why I can’t have a dog for the last several years, but this guy finally did it. He just undid all the logic in my brain and made me fall in love with him in about three seconds flat, and now I can’t think of anything else.

Sadly, Alex doesn’t agree. Always the voice of reason in our family, he said that we really don’t have the resources to provide a good life for any dog right now. We are both away from the house for long hours. We don’t have proper living and outdoor space for him. We are just starting to come out from under a financial cloud for the last couple years. If we brought home a dog for purely emotional reasons, all the practical stuff would eventually hit us, and it could make poor Shelter Dog even more at risk if we had to give him back—something unthinkable, but something that could come to pass if we can’t pull together the support he needs.

I love this dog, of this I’m sure. But as Don Henley and Patty Smyth once crooned, “Sometimes, love just ain’t enough.”

Oh, Shelter Dog. I would come visit you again, but I don’t think I could walk away this time. And I know I’d have to. For your own good, not for mine.

shelter dog

My Mom Told Me I’m a Good Mother, So the Apacolypse Is Nigh

Italian mothers have two jobs: feeding you, and making you feel bad about yourself. They don’t do the latter out of spite. Their intentions are good, and in the end, they motivate you to become a better person (while also hating yourself just a tiny bit).

My own mother has always been tough on me. When I brought home an A- from school, she wondered why it wasn’t an A. When I didn’t put away a TV tray after she had asked me to (admittedly several times), she grounded me for a month. She taught me to sit up straight, make myself presentable, part my hair on the side (so it didn’t accentuate my large nose), and when in doubt, always do what “they say” (the elusive “they”).

mother and daughter

But Mom had never been more scrutinizing than when I became a mother. She had the experience, of course, and I didn’t know what in God’s name I was doing. I’m sure it must be just about impossible for an Italian mother to hold her tongue and let her daughter make her own decisions/mistakes about her child. Because if there’s anything an Italian woman loves more than her kids, it’s her grandkids. Trust me, I had a Nonna.

Mom had something to say about everything: putting Lucas on his back to sleep (I put you on your stomach and you survived), pumping at work and in the middle of the night so I could breastfeed for nine months (You’re crazy), not putting up a DVD player in the backseat of the car so Lucas could watch Elmo for our 45-minute commute (He’s bored!). A lot of her advice was sound, common sense mothering. Some of it was inspired! But many things have changed in parenting in the 30-something years since I was a child.

For every recommendation of my mother’s that I’d follow, I would shoot down three others in the name of research and modern family practices. We bumped heads a lot on the best way to raise my son, but ultimately, I made the calls I felt were best for him (while also quietly absorbing her wisdom like a sponge, and refusing to admit that I was, in fact, listening to her commentary).

I would often explain to my mom that certain tactics of hers wouldn’t work because of my child’s particular temperament. He’s as stubborn as a bull that mated with a donkey and gave birth to a mutant terrier-mule hybrid. This quality will serve him well for some things, but when it comes to parenting, some of the techniques that worked on lil’ miss eager-to-please (me) just don’t apply to him. Still, I think Mom saw this as either 1. me being a lazy parent or 2. me being stubborn myself and unwilling to try something she suggests.

Recently, my parents visited for a week, mostly spending time with their grandson while Alex and I went to work. Watching my parents with Lucas, I cackled to myself as they initially told me the sun shone out of his ass, only to eventually become weary of his obstinate and extremely energetic three-year-old ways. My dad remarked on how very bull-headed Lucas is, and I tried, I really tried not to say, “You see?! I TOLD YOU.” But I said it anyway. It was too tempting.

Smugness aside, something unfathomable happened to me a few days after my parents returned home. My mom called me up and told me something that I never in a million years ever expected to come out of her mouth.

Mom: You know, I really think you’re doing a great job with Lucas.

Me: I’m sorry, what?

Mom: You’re doing a great job. You really explain things to him, and you’re patient and gentle.

Me: ……

Mom: You’re a good mother.

Me: ………….

Mom: Did you hear me?

Me: Are you dying?

In all seriousness, I can’t tell you what it means to have your own mother, your mother whom you’ve always known to be tough as nails, stronger than any person you’ve met, and the very best mother in the whole world, tell you that you are a great mom.

But let me take a stab at it anyway. What it means is that after three-and-a-half years of questioning whether I was ruining my child’s life, of worrying whether I was too tough or too soft, of fretting if I was giving my son the right amount of attention, discipline, and support that he needs—if my mom thinks I’m doing a good job, then I must be doing something right.