“If there’s one piece of advice I have for you guys,” she said to a room full of mothers with young children. “It’s that you should write down the funny, adorable stories before they fade from your mind. That’s the one thing I wish I’d done when my girls were little.”
As a writer and natural keeper of warm, fuzzy and sometimes prickly memories, I decided to take this advice to heart. Introducing Truth Bombs with Henry – nuggets of sage and succinct wisdom articulated by my smart ass kid.
A dear friend who doesn’t have children recently asked me a very standard, very benign question:
I deliberated for a week. I typed and retyped responses in the dialogue box. I started writing things like, Motherhood is the best. It’s awesome. I’m astonished and humbled every day. I found my purpose, my true calling, the reason why I’m meant to be on earth.
I erased those sentences and started again.
Motherhood is a mixed bag. Some days I feel like I’m floating down a river, bobbing effortlessly like an otter on its back, my head tilted toward the sun, my body weightless and my mind on nothing more than playing. Next to me is a smaller otter, a tinier version of myself. We’re splashing and slip-sliding and doing whatever it is otters do. The small otter is following my lead. I dip underwater. He dips underwater. I flip onto my back. He flips onto his back. The air is warm and the water is cool. The small otter climbs on top of my chest, burrows under my chin and together we float as one, at peace with each other in our wild, meandering domain.
Then there are days when I feel like I’m swimming against the current in a heavy Mississippi flood. I can’t touch the bottom. My muscles ache from kicking and paddling. I’m swimming in slow motion past fallen tree limbs and wayward debris. A young boy is clinging to the branch of an old oak, crying like a kitten, desperate to be rescued. “Mama,” he cries “Save me.” I push my body upstream, past overturned cars and floating piles of untethered junk, the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life. Beleaguered but not broken, I wade through waist-high weeds. I climb the tree, retrieve the child and clutch him to my chest. I lower us back into the water. I kiss his wet forehead and like Rose in Titanic I vow to never let go. He hugs me, happy to be in my arms. He tells me he loves me. Then he punches me in the face.
When my childless friends ask me about motherhood I have an urge to respond with these longwinded analogies as if it’s the only way to articulate how terribly difficult it is. GAG.
The truth is nothing is easy. What’s easy is being a kid and even that’s hard.
I willfully signed up to be a mother, ugly bits and all. As much as it may feel like parenting is a herculean feat, it’s not. For better or worse, big people have raised little people for centuries. Same complicated human experience, different generation. Same circle of life, different shit getting our panties in a twist.
Let me begin by saying I hate cooking. I really truly do not like to cook. Unlike most of the females in my family, I’m not wired for it. I much prefer pulling something out of the fridge and eating it with little to no prep time and little to no guilt. Even Rachel Ray’s 15 Minute Meals are too much trouble for me to follow.
I’m a lousy rule follower, which means I’m a lousy recipe follower, which means I have a hard time seeing a meal through from scratch to finish. When I was in my 20s, single and drinking alcohol every other night, my culinary hangups were a non-issue. As a 31-year-old married mother of a wild child, I’m much more concerned about food, or as I like to think of it now: fuel. If you’re not into cooking, your family risks eating Rice-A-Roni and chocolate pudding cups for dinner. This is a problem.
I’m fairly health conscious, minus the
occasional everyday peanut butter cup(s).
I’ve been a vegetarian* since I was 19 years old. I love fruits and vegetable, thus I try to stuff Henry with as many as possible. (Meat-and-Potatoes-Only Joe is a lost cause, so please refrain from sending suggestions on how to sneak nutrition into his food. And yes I’ve tried Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious and no, it did not deceive him.)
About a year ago, I joined an organic food co-op called the Hot Mamas of St. Pete. (If the group were called the Haggard Mamas of St. Pete I would not have joined.) I did this at the urging of my neighbor – a total hot mama – who needed someone with whom she could share her twice-a-month bounty. For $20 every other week, I split a laundry basket stuffed with everything from eggs to kale to baby eggplant to bok choy. Avocados and berries always go first. The greens and veggies stick around until I toss them in a stir fry, a salad, or a quiche.
I started this post a couple weeks ago and my intentions were to discuss the ways in which I think I’ve grown as a person, a mother and a journalist. I also intended to discuss the ways in which I think Joe has grown as a person, a father and a journalist. I thought this would be semi-interesting to at least four people.
I intended to share some of my brilliant and ghastly time management strategies, as well as some of my brilliant and ghastly potty training strategies.
I thought I’d tell you that Henry regularly uses the toilet, but since he also regularly bites other humans, throws close-fisted punches and flings chewed food on myself and the dog I wouldn’t say he’s 100 percent housebroken yet.
I thought I’d tell you we got a new dog.
Folding him into our life has helped fill a void and mend an ache. After months of huffing Cubbie’s favorite blanket in an attempt to bring him back, I washed it today for the first time with a load of sheets.
I thought I’d tell you that after a year of hustling as a freelancer, work is starting to happen with as much surprising regularity as Henry’s good potty days. This month I filled my calendar with so many projects and assignments I had to turn down work.
Today is Cubbie’s birthday. He would have turned nine. He would have gobbled up a celebratory gourmet dog cookie with a candle in the middle. He would have walked bowlegged through the neighborhood, greeting passing dogs and people with the kind of amiable superstar charm that is reserved for celebrity darlings like George Clooney and Tom Hanks. He would have nestled in bed beside me, keeping me company as I type this. He would have fallen asleep quickly, his barreled body warm and soft and all the things Cub was and isn’t anymore.
I wish I’d given him five celebratory gourmet cookies last year.
Joe told me I need to stop writing sad posts about the dog. He told me enough already, Heidi. You wrote your closure piece, now move on.
So today I moved on. I did what I thought was the best possible thing to do on Cub’s birthday. I loaded Henry into the kayak, tucked Cubbie’s ashes into a waterproof bag and pushed off into the bay at sunset.
The weather was perfect. The water was glass. The air was still and the park was quiet, save for my homeless friend Charlie, who wished us well as we paddled into the calm, orange distance. My son was well-rested and contemplative as I explained to him the significance of today’s paddle.
“We’re going to scatter some of Cub’s ashes in the water.”
“Cubbie has ashes,” he repeated.
“Yes,” I replied.
“We see Cubbie again?” He asked confused, or so I thought.
About a year and half ago I interviewed a quirky Sarasota snowbird who had just won an award from the Sarasota County Film & Entertainment Office for an 82-page screenplay he wrote about a city kid who imagines he’s a cowboy in the wild west. The fella’s name: Mifflin Lowe. The title of his story: The Adventures of Cowboy Kareem. His objective: to get a studio to turn the script into an animated short; a big dream, but not impossible for someone with ambition, heart and talent.
As Lowe described scenes from the story – Kareem envisioning skyscrapers as mountains, bike handlebars as ox horns and women’s fur coats as grizzly bears – I immediately saw the project’s potential. I could picture it almost as vividly as Lowe could; this beautiful and lively animated short about a boy with an overactive imagination.
In a perfect world, the script would fall into the hands of the geniuses at Moonbot Studios. (Note: Moonbot won the Academy Award in 2012 for Best Animated Short for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. In September the studio grabbed headlines again when its Scarecrow ad for Chipotle went viral. Dear Moonbot, Lowe is on to something with Cowboy Kareem. You read it here first.)
On 11/11 I got up at 7 a.m., roused by Henry whose new favorite way to wake me up is to throw the sheets off my body and tug at my legs until I fall out of bed.
“Breakfast Mama. Cook eggs Mama. Get up Mama.”
I was in the middle of a reoccurring dream about Ben Affleck and wife Jennifer Garner, which recently replaced my a reoccurring dream about Brad Pitt and former wife Jennifer Aniston.
I pleaded with Henry for another 10 minutes. He granted me 30 seconds before yanking me to my feet.
I sluggishly made my way to the stove. Cooked pancakes, topped them with syrup. Sliced an apple, topped it with peanut butter. I opened the window by my kitchen table to survey the never-changing weather. It was as it always is this time of year: sunny, warm and perfect; a ripe morning for a paddle on the bay.
I slid a plate of pancakes in front of Henry and asked him if he wanted to go kayaking. I might as well have asked him if he wanted to eat birthday cake while flying a rocket ship with a robot as his copilot. YES OF COURSE HE WANTED TO GO KAYAKING.
Holy sad sack! Have I been a downer lately, or what?
On the Lance yes, I suppose I have been. This is where I go to sort out my feelings because I feel it’s socially unacceptable to weep publicly. Online I can mope in my slippers and caftan, listen to Bon Iver and wear my homely glasses while surfing YouTube for videos of pugs being adorable.
In person however, I’m quick to laugh at jokes, RSVP yes to parties, dress semi-attractively (hello trendy black glasses!) and carry on intelligent conversations with a fair amount of sophistication and crude humor.
What I’m getting at is this: blogging is my Haagen-Dazs and Sleepless in Seattle. It’s where I go when I’m feeling vulnerable, PMS-y and tolerant of Meg Ryan’s dopey acting.
Pug woes aside, I’ve had a lot of good laughs over the last couple months. You wouldn’t know it if you only read my blog. So in the spirit of reminding you that I’m still a good time, I’ve decided to share with you some of the things that went right in September and October – in photos of course.
Joe was in charge of getting our son ready for preschool one morning. This was the note he wrote for himself the night before so he’d remember what to pack in Hank’s bag. Let me translate for you: water, cheese, applesauce, sandwich and George (as in Curious) backpack. I found this to be almost as amusing as pug videos on YouTube.
Some days I feel like I’ve got it all together.
As a mom that is.
Some days I really feel like I’ve got my head in the game.
I stuff my kid with a hearty breakfast – spinach and sausage in scrambled eggs, organic fruit slices arranged into a smiley face, almond milk sprinkled with fairy dust, a napkin made from Egyptian cotton.
Instead of letting him watch Woody Woodpecker on YouTube, I read him a library book that espouses the kind of morals I bend every day.
I remember to wash his face.
I insist he do his business on the toilet. And when he does, I give MYSELF a sticker because let’s be honest, potty training is a bigger pain in the ass for parents than it is for children.
I do not turn on the TV. I refrain from answering emails. I refrain from Facebooking. I earmark nap time for doing laundry, dirty dishes and sewing torn clothes, the way I imagine my foremothers did in the Time Before Internet.