This is happening!

Guess what, friends? You know how I’ve spent over two years now ranting and occasionally raving about the ups and downs of pregnancy and motherhood? Well, I guess there were enough rewards to convince me to do it again.

Photo: Laura Puzic

That’s right, there’s a baby boy on the way here. Estimated arrival: June 2018.

Guess that means I’ve got a whole bunch of new material to share with you. 😉

Coming up soon: how this first trimester was radically different from last time (but still somehow fell short of the “fun” category).

 

Only in Texas: guns and parenting

The night before Sunday’s devastating church massacre, I learned a parenting lesson that I never would have thought to seek out on my own.

I was sitting around a dinner table with parent friends whose kids are a few years older, chatting about the ins and outs of slumber parties, when the subject of weapons in the home came up. I’m so grateful the conversation landed on this topic because it never would have occurred to my oblivious California-bred self that one of the pre-screening questions for playdates or slumber parties, at least in my neck of the woods, needs to address whether there are weapons in the home.

And not just that question; it’s a good start, but it can’t stand alone. Instead, it’s a conversation that needs to be primed and carefully managed to make sure you feel comfortable sending your kids to another home, and to also make sure potential guests are comfortable in your home. Here’s what I learned:

“Do you have guns?” can be interpreted lots of ways

This sounds so crazy to me, but people will answer “No” to the question “Do you have guns” because they don’t have, for example,  a gun case with 50 rifles, or they don’t consider themselves collectors or hobbyists. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have a handgun in their bedside table or another gun in their truck for hunting. Instead of saying, “Do you have guns?” ask “Do you have weapons in your home?” The question is (hopefully) broad enough to remind them of the various types of weapons that may be stored somewhere on their property.

Start the conversation yourself.

Asking about guns in someone’s home can be a potential landmine, especially in a region where people have strong opinions about their arms and their rights. The consensus around the table was to bring it up yourself, by offering something like:

“Would so and so like to come over for a playdate? So that you know, we do have guns in our home that are unloaded and locked in a safe in the garage.”

Of course that’s a simplified script, but by proactively offering the information yourself, it opens to door to ask in return without putting the other family on guard.

If you don’t have weapons in the home, my friends recommended not saying “we have no weapons,” but instead starting the conversation by saying, “How do you store your guns?” That way, you don’t risk making gun owners feel judged, or that you might not green light a playdate if their answer is different from yours. Of course, non-gun-owners can just say, “Oh, we don’t have any.”

Don’t ask “Are they stored safely?”

Instead, ask, “How are they stored?” The definition of safely stored varies, from “oh, we just keep the one in our bedside table, it’s loaded, but that drawer is so hard to open, no kid will succeed,” all the way to, “we keep guns unloaded and locked in a safe in the garage, and ammunition in  a separate, locked safe with a different password.”

Terrifying set of questions to ask, isn’t it? I admit I was completely in the dark before this weekend about just how fraught and necessary this conversation is for potential playdates.

The next morning, it felt so timely, in the worst possible way. Sunday’s massacre was horrifying, with the chilling bonus of being just down the road from us. And most horrifying of all is just how routine this kind of news is beginning to feel, from the initial reports of a mass casualty event, to the predictability of how it will be interpreted and spun by our leaders and media. We can fill in the blanks of the narrative with just with a few variables: what color was the shooter’s skin? What color and religion were his victims?

From there, the story just falls into place, and we begin screaming at each other over semantics—what kind of gun was used, whether it was legally obtained, whether he’s a terrorist, whether it was mental health to blame, whether the good guys with guns stepped in fast enough, whether now is the right time to address policy changes. Those deeply felt arguments, shouted into the algorithmic void, are just as rote as the mass shootings that keep happening, again and again.

I find the conversations happening online mortifying. How easily our leaders regurgitate the same anodyne statements that do nothing to help and nothing to prevent. How adeptly the reactionary public contorts a tragedy to support its own world views. How quickly we spread memes and misinformation to blame, vilify, retrench.

What kind of sick culture uses a community losing nearly 10% of its population as a catalyst for more violence against our neighbors?

Why can’t we all concede that we have a problem with gun violence in America? That acknowledgment does not invalidate your strongly held beliefs on gun ownership or gun control or masculinity or mental health or immigration or hate crimes or politics or anything else, other than that we have a gun violence problem in America.

You can remain pro-2nd Amendment and still recognize that this epidemic of tragedies is surely not what our Founding Fathers intended.

You can be pro gun control and still engage in pragmatic and productive conversations about how to stem this tide of violence.

Let’s stop spewing bile from our firmly established trenches. Our lives depend on it.

What kind of investments are you making?

The other day, as I was innocently typing out a post, I found myself defaulting to this tired language:

“I’ve reduced the amount of time I invest in typical beauty routines, like blowdrying my hair and putting on makeup”

Invest. Hundreds of underpaid copywriters have leaned on that default word choice in thousands of throwaway pieces, I’m sure. What a particularly capitalist flavor of condescension to women. It’s a pretty poor investment that brings you clogged pores and split ends instead of wealth or power.

I suspect that that word was embedded into my subconscious 20-some years ago by seventeen magazine. I have visceral memories of feeling initiated into a mystery the first time I ran my fingers over those pages. Each one radiated glossy seduction: eat just 2/3 of a Reese’s peanut butter cup (25 calories!) and you’ll earn the thighs that allow you to wear these jean cut-offs. Wear those shorts and you’ll be invited to join the popular girls’ lunch table. Use Night Replenishing Core Activating Anti-Wrinkle Rejuvenating Matte Day Cream with Light-Refracting Mineral Crystals in Honey Nectar, twice daily and your crush will finally ask you to prom.

Oh, what happy returns.

Surely this language is an anachronism, a hanger-on from back when we taught girls that their worth was measured by how they looked.

Or.

Well.

Sometimes it feels like the fatigue of “this still? really?” comes up and smacks you in the ass. Or is it grab – no, no, let’s not go there.

Let’s talk instead about radical prioritization. I’m winnowing, but I’m no Marie Kondo. I can’t just give up every tchotchke and 10-year-old skirt from Forever21 like it doesn’t matter to my life. My garage still guards one giant box of personalized sweatshirts from my childhood dance studio, and another of notes I wrote to my bestie in 8th grade science class.

Kari: if you’re reading this, THE SUN IS GOING TO EAT YOU. (What is happening ☝️is that the sun is slowly expanding and will someday absorb the earth.)

Compounding this imminent solar threat is that I feel always at a loss for time. Always torn in many parts. No matter where I am, I should be somewhere else, doing something else, ticking something else off that godforsaken to-do list.

I’m not minimizing material things so much as I am removing rituals that are burdensome and not, in fact, necessary to my success as a female human. This practice dovetails nicely with my dawning realization that while I have survived a particular set of cultural attitudes about women with only minor hangups and occasional flareups of rage, I cannot abide by my daughter being raised to associate the sisyphean task of pancaking and then removing twenty finely differentiated products, daily or twice daily, with the word investment.

I’m saying no to all the things and it feels so good. It feels like an opening up of possibility. Advancement through negation. Freedom and fortune. Fortune through freedom.

This is a very long winded way of saying that I’m not wearing makeup, I’m not blowdrying my hair, I’m living the capsule lifestyle, and I am considering chucking my razors, but someone recently told me that smooth, glistening skin is THE beauty trend this season, and I took the quiz on page 54 and learned that my legs are my best feature, sooo …

So I guess we’re done

Breastfeeding, that is. I spent ten days away from Mac this summer, and had no real plan or agenda about how that would affect our breastfeeding. Over those ten days my body gave a few last gasps of production, and then with a last sigh of resignation it relapsed into pre-pregnancy, pre-breastfeeding state.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad about the end of our time together. Breastfeeding was hard and painful at first, and it was frustrating and inconvenient any time I dared to step beyond a certain radius of my child, but it was also rewarding, to the tune of an extra 1,000 calories a day to blow on brownies and triple cream yogurt and as a form of bonding unmatched on this earth.

Mac is sad, too. She still nurses, a few times a day, and it’s a soothing transition mechanism for both of us and discomfort for me and frustration for her. There have been so many big changes recently, so much upheaval in routines and places and people, that I’m hesitant to counter with a hard NO when she asks. So she supplicates at the dry well and I squint with occasional twinges and we get along.

Photo: stitchy.lala.pupu

And, speaking of new worlds opening up, that box of clothes I put aside as too small are back in play, and the bras once in regular rotation are officially benched. This pre-baby body is here-ish, forever altered by the expansion and service to a life more important than its own.

And I find myself in need of new bras. Which, by the way, I have foresworn along with makeup. My apotheosis into first-wave feminist is nearly complete, if only I could reject razors and dresses as thoroughly as I have eyeliner and underwires.

So to justify my shopping, I bought a Gap gift card with ShopWithScrip, and then went to town on smaller sizes in the only kind of bras I’ll tolerate these days: bralettes free from wires, hooks, clasps, and all other mechanical fixtures.

And while I wait for my wardrobe updates to arrive, I’m embracing how thoroughly motherhood has, through hormones or hocus pocus, expanded my emotional repertoire enough that I’m missing being at the beck and call of an irrational tiny human.

Honey I fired the sleep trainer

Sleep has been our constant struggle, as I’ve shared over and over again. There are so many times I’ve reached the end of my rope with sleep deprivation, so many mornings when I was sure I could not keep going like this.

Each time, I’ve bounced back, always through the help of my husband or my mom or my village, all of whom are so gracious in taking a night or two and forgiving whatever nasty things I say when I’m at my sleepy craziest.

The last time I hit my edge, I finally called a number that I’d saved several breaking points ago: the number for a sleep coach that several of my mom friends had recommended to me, promising that she was a baby whisperer, and that there was virtually no crying involved in her bag of tricks.

It’s at those desperate moments that the yearning for a magic bullet overpowers your judgment and your critical thinking. There’s no choice but to just dial the number, and groggily ask the questions you’ve been formulating in the small dark hours of the night, night after night.

What is your method.

How much crying do you allow.

What are your success rates.

In which category of the baby product industrial complex should we purchase two of everything to adequately prepare for this process?

Can you come today.

This time, the answers to those questions didn’t turn me off, as they had with previous phone calls I’d made. Most notably: 2 minutes crying max. And, specifically, only the fussing kind of crying, not the hysterical, soul-shredding crying that I am biologically incompatible with.

Two weeks and too much cautious optimism later, my would-be savior showed up, and she took charge of the night shift.

Nathan installed himself in front of his phone so he could monitor the proceedings, with every intention of staying up all night.

I hid in my room and pretended like nothing was happening, except that I anxiously scrolled Facebook and drank a beer and couldn’t fall asleep.

Nathan came in a couple hours into it, and said, I know you don’t want to see this, but I think you should see this. This has been going on for over an hour.

And there, on the video monitor, was my toddler, hysterically screaming bloody murder while frantically trying to open the door to her room.

The coach came in, laid Mac back down in her bed, then left, and immediately, Mac was scrambling out of bed, face and body contorted with rage, twisting and tripping over her sleep sack as she charged the door again.

I marched upstairs and ended it.

Over the next hour, her breathing finally slowed back to its normal rhythm, and she spent the full night sleeping on my chest, like she was brand new to this world. My sweaty barnacle didn’t even want to nurse. She just wanted full body contact.

I realize I am on perhaps the extreme end of the sensitive spectrum when it comes to my baby crying. Maybe with the second one I’ll have developed better coping mechanisms. But I would so much rather drink a lot of coffee and pull in backup support (husbands & grandmas FTW!) than have my child experience that kind of emotional intensity in the service of my convenience.

Sleep training for us lasted less than three hours, all said and done. If anything, our brief flirtation with it set us back, sleep-wise. And I’ve said it before, but I really mean it this time: I’m done with treating this like a problem to be solved.

There’s no magic bullet. And that’s something I just need to keep remembering, every time I think I’ve hit rock bottom.

PSA: Hopefully this is redundant, but it bears repeating since sleep is such a polarizing topic: I have ZERO judgment for—and have zero place to judge—however you are parenting, sleep related or otherwise. This is where I’m at. End of story.