I See You…

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Wouldn’t it be easier if we could all remain truth tellers? If words could easily spew from our lips. If we could all be completely transparent.

We wouldn’t lie …

If people’s words back to us didn’t cut us sharply like swords. And it always shocks me how easily those words are said—without a second thought of how much hurt they can cause. 
If we didn’t feel the glaring eyes of others constantly hovering over our backs like a hovercraft.

Those words, those looks, that judgment—gives us shame.

Yet, we sit there and judge each other in whispers and sometimes in screams.

But what if…

If we weren’t afraid. If we didn’t have shame.

If we didn’t have to hide any part of ourselves.

If we didn’t have to get to the age and maturity where we don’t care anymore.

Why is it that we are so hard on each other? We know how hard this life is. We have each driven on the bumpy, winding roads of life—different highways and intersections but they all have challenges. We have learned how to drive on these roads, from years of practice. But of course, there are accidents, traffic, and roadblocks along the way. The potholes can be deep– sometimes you can get stuck– get a flat tire, the engine blew— and while you are waiting for help you can find yourself waiting for hours, days, maybe even years thinking about your next move. Sometimes it’s hard to make that call to ask for help.

To the person that is stuck deep in the pothole trying to claw her/his way out, I see you.

I see you trying to get through the day.
I see you going through the motions.
I see you functioning on auto-pilot.

I’ve been there.

To that person, please speak your truth. I hope courage finds its way into your tank. You can make any car model stronger. It starts by making the call to get repairs.

Then you must take action—make sure you know how to deal with future potholes. This is the hard part. This is the dirty work. You have to work to make a change. Change doesn’t miraculously happen—this life isn’t that easy. There is no magic fix, no abracadabra and you get a sweet bunny out of a top hat.

And after some time, your car will be back on the road–running smoothly, oil changed, gassed-up and ready to cruise again. Yes, there will be bad days once again, but you can deal with roadblocks better when you know how to be your own mechanic.

You will accept the judgment because it’s inevitable and you will be more understanding of other car model’s track marks—a small dent in the hood, a nail in the tire, and a crack in the windshield. You have been there.

And like me, you will see others and understand. You will give them a nod instead of a whispering hover.

You will wear these dents with pride–they made you, YOU.

I Had Enough

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Lost. I heard the baby wailing in the background. Her wails were piercing roars, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I lost it for the first time.

“I can’t do this anymore!” I screamed, pushing hard on the break. The baby, who is intuitive like me, got nervous and cried louder. My toddler joined, and then I did something I am not proud of—I screamed again. I have never cried in front of my kids—but today I started panicking. My body felt tingly, and I lost it. Heart racing with anxiety as tears drip-dropped down my cheeks. I wanted to run out of that moment. Turn around and go home. I can extinguish any emotion if I have to. Usually.

Not today.

I had enough.

Today I was completely lost in the web of motherhood. Tangled in knots, trying to find my way out, but only making my way back to where I started– stuck in that same darn knot.

The day started to take a turn for the tangled when I was leaving for camp with my two littles. I Bjorn the baby each morning; I mean that Bjorn is my lifeline with two littles and only two hands. And when I didn’t see it, I was left with the realization— my husband took the Bjorn to work accidently—and he was definitely not getting any sexy time later.

Now, you may be thinking; you can just put the baby in the stroller. Well, my stroller isn’t allowed in the classroom because it’s a fire hazard. So, I went to class with the baby in one arm, the toddler in the other arm. And…to no one’s surprise—it was sh!t show.

This about sums it up: I left the splash pad, baby in one arm, toddler in the other arm—insisting on being picked up too, of course. We were almost back to the classroom–thank goodness because my hands were breaking…. And then the fire alarm went off. The frightened toddler screamed as we continued walking past the classroom and out of the building for a fire drill. The toddler was too afraid to let me put her down—so I had to continue holding both in the blaring heat of the sun until they let us back inside. Yep. That’s the kind of day I was having.

I had enough.

We left class a little early after my toddler had a full on break down because she’s a toddler and when you are having a difficult day as a mother, they can sniff it out, and make it worse for you. In all actuality, she was jealous I was holding her sister so much, and she finally lost it.

I had enough.

We got home, all was fine, both kids napped, and then that afternoon we had a birthday party. I should have sensed my mommy karma was off and counted my loses, staying at home, but I decided to go for it.  I mean the toddler napped so maybe this mama’s juju was on the up and up.

Think again.

I put the address in the navigation and…got, so freaking lost.

It was a five-minute drive that turned into a 45-minute drive. This brings me to the beginning, with the baby crying to the point where I hit the break (and my breaking point), screeching to a full stop and screamed at the top of my lungs.  With that, the baby started screaming, and the toddler joined in and wanted out of her car seat. Kids feed off your emotions. They got scared because mommy was upset and I was even madder at my reaction. That for once, I couldn’t keep my cool in front of them. I felt like such a failure.

I had enough.

I took the baby out of the car seat comforting her and apologizing.

A passing driver stopped her car, “Are you guys okay?” she asked the frantic mother, aka me, rocking her baby in the middle of the street. I’d think no!

“Yes, we are just lost and the baby’s upset,” I said, admitting defeat.

“I’ll help,” she said pulling out her phone and trying to direct me. This person’s kindness was so sweet and needed at that moment, but I am not the best at taking direction, plus I was so frazzled—so I could hardly listen. But it was enough to get me back to thinking rationally.

I had enough.

I got back in the car. I breathed. These are not horrible, horrible, horrible things happening just little grievances. I need to hold it together. I can do this.  I breathed in again and regrouped. I needed to get to this house where the party was because it was closer than home and my crying kids needed out.

I calmly called my husband, and he guided me the rest of the way. Of course, I was around the corner, and there were two streets with the same name within a couple of blocks of each other. Because… Of course.

We made it, and I cheered, my toddler, mimicking my enthusiasm with cheers of her own. It was an outside party. As soon as I saw that, I knew that there would be a mosquito banquet with me as the main dish.

Total sh!t show? Yes. But at least I was out, experiencing life. Trying things. I used to be afraid of my own shadow, and that held me back from doing anything. Old Dani would have stayed in after the morning from hell she had. New Dani, was going to conquer the day head on—her kids kept her courage strong. The day could get better. And maybe it didn’t this time, but the chance that it could, kept my tribe and me going. A tribe leader needs to be brave. More times than not, I am happy to have left our comfort zone—leading my tribe into adventure. An hour later and about twenty mosquito bites deep— we got home.

I had enough.

Then my eldest did something so sweet. She came up to me and gave me a big hug, saying “mommy, I love you.” I felt that same tingly feeling as before, but it calmed me. I felt at peace as she wrapped her arms around me.  Even deep in, stuck in the tangled web, on these horrible days—I love leading our tribe, being the brave chief mom. Because I had enough of this day, but never of my role as a mother to you.

 

 

 

 

 

Accepting My Body

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I look down in the shower at my body.

The water is drip-dropping down my hair, off my nose, down my torso—to my toes covered by a layer of skin—my old friend, fat.

This body has been through the ringer. All bodies have. But you can always find the beauty in the dark. You just have to not give up and keep looking.

Fat, ugh, THAT hideous word.

I can be frank with you. I have NEVER liked you. I have gotten to the point in my recovery journey where sometimes you fall out of memory, but then I look down and see you. You are kind of like that mean relative who I never want to see because you make me feel bad about myself but we are attached by common family so you pop-in every so often. Yes, that would be YOU fat.

“I feel fat.”

“Do I look fat?”

“Gosh, I look fat in these!” I would say your name way too often for many years. To myself, to my family, to anyone I could confide in.

When I first found out I was pregnant, the emotion of thrill was quickly followed by fear. Fear, that I wasn’t strong enough in my eating disorder recovery to handle the weight gain that goes hand-in-hand with pregnancy.  I was finally at a place in my life where I was doing well with my body and now—this would be a huge test.

So fat, as I gained weight with each of my babies I slowly embraced you. I embraced my expanding waist-line with an additional coating of you. I embraced you creeping into my breasts, making me ready to become the family cow. I had to make peace with you.

Fat, you will always be there, a form of excess flesh—protecting my body. Fat, pregnancy made me accept you for what you are, extra padding for this mommy—the strongest kind of woman there is. Extra padding that helps lift my daughters’ one in each arm. Extra padding that gives me the energy and strength to care for them.

This body has been through the ringer. All bodies have. But you can always find the beauty in the dark. You just have to not give up and keep looking.

My children are the beauty I found in the dark. They have helped me accept my body as it is, finding better coping mechanisms. They have reminded me that fat isn’t the enemy—be ridding my body of it, was my way of disappearing, not wanting to be seen. My babies make me want to take up more space and live. In fact, I am afraid to not be here because no one can love them as much as I do.

Pregnancy was the most space I ever took up. And gosh, my body was beautiful– because my babies were inside. This body created them. This body, fat and all. This body, it deserves to be cherished because it does so much.

I look down in the shower at my body.

The water is drip-dropping down my hair, off my nose, down my torso—to my toes covered by a layer of skin—my old friend, fat.  I now more than accept you. I love you for helping me finally find the beauty in the dark—my girls. I am glad I didn’t give up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One More Book

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It starts with one story read each night when you aren’t old enough to read. You listen to the words daddy reads to you, taking it all in, holding onto each word of his deep voice—wanting him to read one more, just one more—because you know that means more time with him. You look at the pictures and you help turn the pages. You cuddle up in the warmth of each other’s bodies.

You don’t see daddy all day, so if he’s home to tuck you in—I know I will see that jack-o’-lantern-light-up-the-room smile form between your cherub cheeks.

“Pumpkin face, it’s time for bed.” I say, picking up some toys off the floor.

“No way!” You demur.

“Look it’s Daddy, and he is going to read you stories.” Then Daddy appears into the room in his work clothes, fresh from rush hour traffic and a stressful day–ready to put on his daddy cape and save the day. He is your superhero.

“Dad-eee!” You screech with glee. Then like you just gave him a secret hand shake or a double thumbs up only you two can see, you walk past me grabbing daddy’s hand to go to your room.  He tells you to pick two books and you do. Then you lay on your big girl bed in daddy’s arms.

Him reading, you listening.

You start getting antsy when you see the last book coming to an end.

“Book, peas,” you say wanting one more, sensing your time together is about to end.

“Okay, just one more,” he answers your raspy plea. You pick one more– and you both dig in.

You like to hear the stories but what you really love is your time with him. You, laying peacefully on his chest. Him, reading to you and making silly voices for different characters. The two of you—laughing, smiling, eyes twinkling at each other.

One day you will get older, and you won’t want to read with daddy. He will be there for other things like life advice, homework help, and to grab you and your friend’s bagels after a sleep over party.

You talking, him listening and vice versa.

When you are sad, he will let you lay peacefully on his chest—and try to make things all better– taking you back to the times when he read to his little girl during story time. When you are happy, he will celebrate you, because your victories will be his. He will always have that twinkle in his eye for you, his little girl. When it comes to you, he will want one more book, one more moment. Always.

Mama Friend I Forgive You

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I overhear a lot of things at my daughter’s classes. And I must say, there is too much complaining amongst mommy-kind about each other. I hear it in whispers, laughs, sometimes anger.  I thought I needed to set the record straight on my opinion about this epidemic. So here it is and this is my take on how I know a mommy friend is a keeper.

You forgot my birthday mommy friend. Don’t worry, I am not counting my presents and making an exclusive invite list to my big birthday bash at a chic high-end restaurant and YOU BETTER BE THERE OR ELSE. I am most likely ordering in dinner with my family and having my two-year old blow out my birthday candles. I too, believe it or not, am not perfect, and get confused about what day of the week, month, it is here in Mamaland—which is a lot like Disneyland in the high probability rate of tantrums that happen, minus the fun rides. Yes, it’s THAT much fun. This means, I more than get why it may slip your mind. In fact, I more than forgive you and probably didn’t even think twice about it.

You made a borderline offensive comment mommy friend.  You made a joke at my expense about my parenting style. How “I am crazy for breastfeeding so long and co-sleeping” but you didn’t mean to. You thought I’d laugh along. People make mistakes. Yes, my feelings were hurt in that moment, but I’ll get over it. I always do.

You didn’t call me back mama friend. You said you were going to, but I never heard back. Now it has been five days and no call back. I am so NOT mad. Come on, I have done the same thing to you. Life gets busy. Trust me, at the end of a long day of changing countless dirty diapers, dancing non-stop to The Wiggles, at least two toddler tantrums, a lot of tears shed, the last thing I want to do is call anyone back, including you (sorry, not sorry). I am in no way holding it against you.

You ignored my text mommy friend. I saw that you read it. IPhone’s can be truth tellers like that. Big deal. It happens.

You had to cancel plans over four times in a row fellow mama—a different excuse each time. I get it, things happen in life. I’ll most definitely do it to you. Even though I won’t mean to.

What is my point with all of this?

Look I know how it is to feel overwhelmed, down, depressed, so sad you feel like you are drowning but you are eyes-wide-open while the water is caving in on you—it’s absolutely terrifying. I know what it is like to be so in the grasps of depressions hands, that it is literally suffocating you and you can hardly breathe. You want to scream but you are underwater so you can’t–thoughts are blurry, self-esteem absent. You can’t see the positive in anything. Your soul is literally drowning. I know how it is to go through really bad times. I think most people once they hit a certain age do.

This is why I take other things into account and overlook these little insignificant things. Because when you go through hard times you realize what truly matters in a friend:

1). You have always been kind to me and my family— genuinely wishing us the best.

2). We always laugh hard together or have good talks.

3) . You are always kind to my kids, treating them like your own.

4). If I needed you, I know you would be there or at least attempt to get there.

In my mind, even if you are just thinking positively about me and my family you are a good friend. Motherhood is hard. There is a whole lot going on at all times—spaghetti on the walls metaphorically and literally. The kids take up 95% of the day. So why would I get rid of you based on being forgetful, a one-off joke, a simple lapse of memory? I wouldn’t.

Everyone’s life is messy-a sprinkling of good and bad times, hopefully the good outweighing the bad most of the time. Everyone is going through something. It may be different degrees of that something but it is still messy, raw, and I am sure hard as heck And on top of that, we are raising children and have their problems at the forefront. That’s a lot to take on!

The world doesn’t owe you anything. Unfortunately, no one does. That’s why when you find another good person or good people, hold on really tight and don’t drop them for insignificant reasons. Motherhood can be lonely. We need each other.

Repeat after me: I ________ forgive my fellow mama friend for the small thing that got me upset and will not drop them or complain to others in my tribe. Understanding breeds understanding, kindness breeds more kindness—and I want us mamas to be each other’s supports instead of knocking each other down for stupid lapses or oversights (Plus, hello momnesia—it’s real!). We are all aboard this mama train for a ride of a lifetime so we might as well chugga chugga choo choo along and stick together.

 

 

Gosh, I will miss that gummy smile

 

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I wake up because I hear your little babbles next to my ear from the bassinet you sleep in at my bedside.  “Bah Bah Bah” your babbles slowly get louder and louder– I hope it’s because you are counting sheep back to bed (hence the Bah), but it’s highly unlikely. You are having a late-night conversation with me. My everything is too tired to participate though my heart knows it’s time for me to check out why you awoke, willing my sleep-ridden body out of bed.

My husband lays to my side. He doesn’t move or notice your loud babbles. Oh, some men. I laugh at the way he plays dead.  I look at my iPhone that flickers 2 AM. “You have to be kidding me” I say mid yawn, I just dream fed you at 11 PM. How could your seven-month-old body still be hungry? Growth spurt?  Or is it your teeth trying to break through your soft gums? Torturing both of us, because I hate to see you in pain even more than the tiredness that comes from these wakeful nights. And gosh I will miss that gummy smile if your teeth are the culprit.

Your babbles get even louder “BAH BAH BAH.” Those sheep must be having a full-on ragger!

I get up and look into your sweet baby browns.

“What’s going on sweet girl?” I say and you smile at me so big and bright, you have a magical twinkle in your eye. I can’t help but smile back at your happiness.

I lift you, taking you down the hall to the playroom where I feed you daily. I marvel at how I can hold you on my left hip. We bounce down the hall in the dark–silence and the beat of the heater fill our house. You feel so good on my side– you are no longer delicate and dainty.

I feed you your bottle and listen to your feeding noises, little gulps and grunts, while staring into your eyes.

As much as I hate these hour and half wake ups that have been going on these past couple of weeks, it is our time. It’s the only alone time we get. As exhausted as I am because we are up early with your big sister—I will always treasure this time. This time, just you and me.

Your sister is demanding with my attention. She is the spicy to your sweet and sugary. She demands the spotlight—a lot of the time taking it from you without even meaning to. Most of the time she does mean to, she’s still a little jealous of you. So baby girl, this is my way of apologizing on her behalf.

The only other time in your life we were alone was hard. You were born a month early and found yourself in the NICU for the first two weeks of your life. It was a tough time. It broke my heart to leave the hospital without you. I never was without your sister for a night until I gave birth to you—but those two weeks I had to leave you in other hands—great ones—but they weren’t my own hands. My hands that love you more than anything on this earth. I don’t think anyone else in this world besides your father can say that.

Now here we are, me and you, alone again. You, still in my hands, but now much bigger. You are not the delicate little baby I held—swaddled up to keep your little body warm. You keep getting bigger and bigger and soon bottles will be replaced by real food and you will want to be more independent, like your sister. So I will embrace these wakeups because they are so short-lived, days go by fast and furious, and I will miss this one day too soon.

After you are done with your bottle, I give you some Tylenol for your maybe-teeth and you talk to me while I pump—making your yummy breakfast.

Then around 3:30 AM we head back to bed. You and me, us–together.

I tuck you in and you smile at me one last time before we close our eyes for the final stretch of the night. Gosh, I will miss that gummy smile.

Stand Up, I Dare You

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I was sitting in Madison Square Garden watching P!NK storm the stage in an all-white ensemble like the angel goddess she is. She even flew in on strings like she was attached to a marionette—but let’s be real, P!NK is her own puppeteer and that’s why she is admired by many. She took my breath away as cheers and loud edgy-pop-inspiration filled the jam-packed arena. Some sections promptly stood up, as if P!NK’s all around magnetism pulled them off of their feet—and it did. Of course, my body had the same reaction, but I held myself back. The problem: I was in the inhibited section where everyone was clapping and bopping their heads in their seats, up and down, like bobble-head dolls, but no one dared to stand up. I would normally feel comfortable in this area being an outgoing introvert.  I can be social and enjoy going out to concerts and interacting with new people at times, but it takes a lot out of me.  It’s really in my moments alone where I am energized and recharged. I am not a live loud and dance like no one Is watching kind of girl by nature.

“Let’s stand up!” My sister-in-law, shouted into my ear over the loud vibrato of P!NK’s magical vocals. I looked around, scoping the area, and found not one person in my section was blockading me and my lack-there-of-dance-moves.  Everyone behind me would bear witness.  I mean, me and my toddler dance to The Wiggles, but I wasn’t sure if all these people would be ready for those kinds of moves.

“I can’t, I am a terrible dancer,” I meekly replied taking a small sip of a cheap chardonnay that tasted like wet cardboard. Thought process: maybe liquid courage would help.

Then there was a voice saying isn’t this what P!NK stands for? Confidence, courage, and being you and not giving a hoot about who approves. I reflected back at five years ago when I was at rock bottom with my eating disorder—listening to P!NK, attempting to empower myself—because I was too weak on my own. That’s what eating disorders do– they numb and stifle you. You are not really living. I survived for way too long afraid of making the wrong move, a misstep, terrified of what people would think.

My advice from years of being a member of the walking dead: You have to put yourself out there and live.

It’s better to be laughed at or rejected than to not try. It’s better to love and get hurt than to be alone. If you don’t take chances and push yourself out of your comfort zone you will never be living and experiencing. And then, what’s the point?

It’s kind of like with motherhood. If you aren’t taking chances and making mistakes in the process, then you aren’t learning, living, and growing as a mom. You learn what works for your child through these missteps and successes by trial and error.

Bottom line: You have to get a little messy to get the overall best results. Get your hands dirty if you will.

When my daughter finger paints, I get such anxiety because finger paint can wind up in her hair (and it does) on her clothes, my clothes, walls of our home. But the reality of the situation: big deal.  She takes a bath and it was a great time. She gets to learn a new creative skill, I have a keepsake, and everyone grows from it.

On that thought, “Funhouse,” started playing and I took my sister-in-law’s hand and said “Let’s stand.” We danced and sashayed to the music as I tried my best not to think about the people around me. Then by “Just Give Me A Reason,” I was dancing with no regard for who was watching.

I don’t want my daughters to stand on the side-lines, observers, of their own life stories like I was for far too long.  I want them to be active participants–living life fully, messily and beautifully. I want them to choose to stand up.

This was why I faced my fears and stood up. And dare you to, too.