Published by PaintingChef on 06 Dec 2013

Making this one count.

I know, without a doubt, that as we get older, our memories of significant childhood events take on kind of a hazy, glowing, sparkly quality. We have an incredible ability to filter out things that we’d rather not remember or that just don’t really jive with the way we would prefer to have something burned into our minds.

So while I tried to keep that in the back of my mind as I thought back over my favorite memories of the holidays of my childhood, I am also quite confident that whatever wine goggle haze the memories have taken on, I still had it pretty damn good. Patrick and I both did. Still do.

This holiday season is unlike any other for Patrick and I. We have this little person. And we have no idea if we will have her for another holiday, we honestly don’t even know if we will have her for her birthday in February. What we know is that we have her NOW. And so we sat down and made the decision that everything was going to sparkle. We were all in on Christmas. Lights, parties, Christmas dresses, cookies, the whole deal. We are doing ALL of the things.

Because even if they send her back to her parents in February, even if the courts decide that her parents are making the required efforts and that living with them again is the best possible place for her, they are… ill-equipped. I don’t know how to say it any nicer than that. But like I said… we have her now. And regardless of what happens in her coming years, I can do everything in my power as her mama to make sure that she remembers this Christmas as magical.

I’ve even closed up shop in the bakery until the first of the year. No Christmas Boxes. No bags and bags of cookies. And you know what? I feel really good about that. I don’t want to be stressing about the things I need to get done after she goes to sleep. I want to be putting together easels and dollhouses and tricycles. I want to be figuring out where we are going to look at outrageous Christmas lights. I want to have one more glass of wine and cuddle up with Patrick and know that while we have no idea what’s coming, we are both so happy that THIS is our life right this second and that there is no one else in the world that we would rather share it with.

(yes… I may have glossed over that whole 180 degree swing in the outlook of all of this and how I kind of dig being a mama now. I’m still working on getting that one out on paper. I have no explanation for it. But it happened.)

There is a line that I must draw though. There will be no motherfucking elves on my motherfucking shelves. You can all push me on it all you want but hear this now… one day, that bastard will kill you in your sleep. How do you not all have nightmares every single day that you know he is in your house where you can see him? Absolutely. No. Elves.

Other than that? Bring it on. Because if anyone in the world deserves it? It’s this little girl…

Abi

Published by PaintingChef on 13 Nov 2013

On the Vagina Embargo

So… I have a daughter. I have a daughter until at least February and then, who knows. She is three. But at some point, she will be thirteen. And sixteen. And eighteen and twenty-three and on and on and on. At all those ages, barring some significant event, she will be the owner of a vagina and it has become clear to me that someone early on has put some crazy in her head.

Here is what is weighing heavily on me right now. At no point in time did it ever occur to me that she was already forming opinions and impressions about her own body. But the other night during her bath, she referred to her vagina as a “cushy” and said it was ugly and yucky. I was speechless. Heartbroken. FURIOUS! Who told her that?? How do I address that? Where do I start? It never occurred to me to call it anything other than a vagina but as I jogged my memory, I recalled my mother using the word “tutu” as some point very early on. It was quickly replaced by the proper name once I was able to form the word.

My three year old is unable to pronounce vagina. I know. I tried. But calling it a “cushy” brings to mind the word “coochie” which I find incredibly crass and so I nipped that shit in the bud (bad pun) immediately. We agreed on tutu for the time being however I also introduced her to the word vagina, told her that was the proper name and that it was not a bad word at all and when she felt comfortable saying it, she should.

Next step? It is ugly. And yucky. I corrected that too. It is not ugly. Or dirty or anything to be ashamed of. It is part of who you are and it is a special and beautiful part of your body, my dear. Love it, care for it and keep it happy and healthy. (But the reason it hurts sometimes is because it is tired. Let her sleep honey. Hands out of your pants please.)**

But this sent me down a thought spiral. Why do we even insist on cute little names? Or worse, vulgar, disgusting ones? Why are we teaching our daughters that their vagina is something ugly or shameful? It’s no wonder that so many girls grow up with body image problems. We are drilling into their heads from an early age that they carry with them something we can’t even name. That one of the parts of their body that makes them a girl (and eventually, a woman) is something so shameful that we can’t even talk about it.

Why have we made vaginas so terrifying? They are beautiful and neat in their perfect little packages. And when we take care of them, they take care of us right back. They bring life into the world. They give us pleasure. Those are both GOOD things! And yes. She’s three. Obviously we aren’t talking about “where do babies come from” and bath time isn’t a lecture on the beauty of the female orgasm. But it is a chance to plant the seed that her body isn’t something to be ashamed of.

So I propose we bring back the vagina! Let’s get rid of nicknames, slang and degrading terms. Let’s teach our daughters to love their bodies, to be proud of them and to care for and respect them. Yes. I’ve been a mother for all of 2 ½ months. But this one? I never saw this one coming. It never occurred to me. And I think I’m probably guilty as well. I know for a fact that I’ve used the terms “lady business” and “lady garden” more times than I can possibly count and I’m sure I thought I was being cute or clever.

Thoughts? What say you, dear internet? Am I crazy or is perhaps the Vagina Embargo the root of more problems/issues than we imagined?

** And yes. I know this for sure. She has been to the doctor. She does not have a UTI or anything that requires medical attention. She has good old run of the mill irritation. Chafing, if you will. From… exploration. Which I am all in favor of at some point. Just maybe… not at the dinner table?

Published by PaintingChef on 24 Oct 2013

Wheels.

My track record with cars is… abysmal seems too kind and mild of a word… Between the tender age of 16 and what I perceived to be the wise old age of 21, I drove and subsequently totaled 5, yes FIVE cars. In short… if you saw me coming and needed a little spare cash, you should probably find a way to be in my path because there was a damn good chance I was going to find a way to hit you.

Now before you think I’m making light of a situation that is, indeed, NOT FUNNY, let me assure you that (a) only one of these accidents occurred at a rate of speed to cause any significant injury, (b) I was the injured party (c) my damn shoulder STILL hurts when it rains and (d) the remaining cars were only totaled because my father had become wise to the fact that putting me behind the wheel of a car worth more than about $500 was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.

Additionally, I totaled three of those five cars in parking lots. Skills. I have them.

After Patrick and I got married, I found myself behind the wheel of something I never imagined I would see. A brand, spanking new car. A 2003 Volkswagen Pasaat that I loved beyond reason. She was beautiful, sleek, stylish and she was all mine. I affectionately dubbed her “Tiger Northshire” as I read somewhere that if you take the name of your first pet and the street you grew up on, that’s your drag name and to me, Tiger Northshire looked like a lovely young lady but she maybe had a little something extra under the hood.

For years, Patrick found himself in the fortunate position of having a wife who refused to consider a new car and would, in fact, stick her fingers in her ears and yell loudly when the topic was broached. I loved my German baby with all my heart and she was oh so very good to me.

Until she wasn’t.

Two weeks ago, as I was getting on the interstate to drive to work, she kind of… lagged? And then suddenly was sluggish and, if I’m being perfectly honest, not purring so much as wailing like a very unhappy feline. And on some level… I knew. I just knew. She had rolled over. I made it the rest of the way to work (oh shut up. it was like a mile and she was RUNNING), pulled into the parking lot and made my March of Sadness back to Patrick’s office.

“I fear she is done.”

A few days of research, diagnosis and tow trucks and it was determined that Tiger Northshire would live out her days frolicking with the other elderly German adult kittens on a farm in the country and I was going to have find a new damn car.

I was really, really sad until my sister pointed out to me that I’d finally had one live a long and happy life. Other than that one air conditioning unit I backed into (sorry Neena…) back when she was but a wee lass, she was injury free. Maybe I’m finally growing up? I’m 36 and, for the moment anyway, someone’s mother. I guess it’s finally time.

Oh yeah… I almost forgot… meet Ziggy Stardust…

ZS1

ZS2 copy

I love her.

Published by PaintingChef on 27 Sep 2013

Nothing but questions. Really, truly, wholly honest questions. The kind I’m probably not supposed to ask out loud…

It’s so difficult, this not being able to talk about it. I have so many things that I WANT to put out there, ponder out, ramble about and just, in general… GET OUT OF MY HEAD. How terrified I am that I’m just crewing it all up, making her life worse, not being the parent she needs or deserves.

This is the hardest, most heart-wrenching and sometimes spirit and soul-crushing experience I’ve ever had. I try so hard to find the good times, the few moments in each day where it all makes sense and I just KNOW that this is right. This is our path. This is where we are meant to be and this is our little person, the piece that completes us and makes us whole. I want that so desperately.

Climbing

But it’s just… not there. One month in today. And no, that’s not long enough. I know that. We don’t say “I love you” to each other, there are plenty of hugs and kisses. I am “mommy” and Patrick is “daddy”. On the surface it all works. She even has my blue eyes. She could be ours. But she isn’t. Not now. And I don’t know if she ever will be. It’s just too soon. Much like counting votes… just too close to call right now.

We went to the beach. She was… well she’s three. I’ve mentioned that, right? But it was her first time to see the ocean and the beach and the joy on her face was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Lie. That’s a lie. I’ve seen that joy on the face of my sweet puppies on the boat and they don’t follow it up with a temper tantrum… But there was just so much learning for her on this trip. Everything is new and foreign. Sharing. Eating fruits and vegetables. Bedtime. A routine. Not being an asshole (and who am I to teach her that?)

Shells

She is confused. She is apprehensive to trust. I get that. She is uncertain of her place. It was suggested to me that she is testing us now because she is finally comfortable with us and is more trusting. Maybe so. That would be a good thing, for sure. But holy cats can she test. She can push and prod and she finds buttons I didn’t know I had. And every time that I get frustrated or upset, I want to crawl in a hole. How dare I? This little person has been through things I couldn’t even conceive of. If anyone deserves a beak, is it not her? But if I bend, am I doing her any favors?

I have no idea. I have no clue if this is what I am cut out for. It’s not that this has me questioning if I want to be HER mother. It’s that it has me fearful that I’m not cut out to be ANYONE’S mother… and that I might be perfectly okay with that.

I’m not the “fun” parent. That’s fine. Kids need to be clothes, fed, bathed, put to bed. I read books with the best of them but I become irrationally annoyed when she takes the book and wants to “read it to me” which basically consists of her counting monkeys, regardless of the presence of monkeys in the book. I refuse to let her read “Goodnight Moon” to me… that is mine. That is my closure to the day. I read her goodnight moon and if she isn’t too mad at me, she gives me a kiss goodnight.

Beach

She called for me after we put her to bed last night. I was in the kitchen and over the monitor I heard a little voice saying “mommy? Mommy!!” And so I went to her and she just wanted a hug. A little extra cuddle. (Okay, she also wanted a cupcake, a cereal bar, milk, stickers and a doll but what she got? Was a cuddle). She laid her head on my should and for a minute, all was right with the world. So there are flashes. There are moments where I think I could be alright with this. But so far, that’s the best I’ve got…

What’s wrong with me?

Published by PaintingChef on 04 Sep 2013

Congratulations! It’s a Toddler!

A more dependable blogger would start this with something like “What a difference a day makes” but alas my sweet chickens, you have me and I will simply say… oh holy balls. I have a three year old. She is funny and sweet and silly and adorable. She has the most beautiful crystal clear blue eyes I’ve ever seen.

And she is kicking my ass.

In foster parenting class, they cover a lot of ground. We learned about discipline, effects of abuse, education, working with schools, navigating the DCS system. We covered first aid and CPR, giving children medication and how to take clues from the child about working with them to settle into a new situation. Good stuff.

But I now realize there was a HUGE component missing.

For the better part of eight years, Patrick and I have been trying to figure out how to become parents. We have built this goal up in our minds to astral heights. Through infertility treatments, I dreamed in pink and blue. I would find myself spending hours looking at nursery bedding and little clothes. I would envision doing things as a family of three (or four or five… fertility drugs man… you never know…) and imagine how great it would be to see Patrick as a dad.

Somehow, through all that, what I managed to forget was that for the first 26 years of my life, I had ZERO interest in being a mother. I crossed the street when I saw the stroller Mafia in my path and as my friends became parents, I mentally crossed them off the list of “people I day drink with on a regular basis”. (PS… that list currently consists of me, Patrick and my mother and I’m pretty sure I have to cross Patrick off. It seems the responsible thing to do. I mean… what if we run out of milk? Kids? They like milk? And it is bad form to send them to the store with five bucks taped to their shirt as that is the type of parenting that landed her in her current situation?)

But in conveniently forgetting that, it allowed me to assume that I would see this small little girl and immediately feel maternal love towards her. I expected to know what to do. I expected… Hello Kitty riding a unicorn and shitting rainbow glitter to magically inhabit my body while I slept? I saw myself scooping her up and slipping into the kind of effortless parenting ballet that I recall absolutely defining my mother. The natural caretaking that I see so many of my friends perform every single day. I don’t know what I expected. But I know what I did NOT expect and that was the… lack of emotion. The fear that Patrick and I had made a horrible, terrible mistake. And that this desire to be foster parents was nothing more than a lark as we flitted from distraction to distraction trying desperately to avoid being actual adults who don’t eat ice cream for dinner or store some of their clean clothes in the dryer.

Of course, I have since learned that I am completely delusional. My friends all struggle. They wonder every day if they are doing enough. Loving enough. Playing enough. There are days that they would all just rather stay in bed with coffee and Veronica Mars. And that paragon of motherhood that I imagine, my own mother? Well apparently, it wasn’t just once I hit 15 and became an epic asshole that she would have paid the gypsies to take me off her hands. Mothers doubt themselves, their abilities and maybe even their decisions to become mothers in the first place every single day. (Says the 35 year old woman who has been a foster mother to a fully potty trained 3 year old for all of 4 days.)

And in those moments when we are filled with resentment and longing for a past life that seems to be slipping further away with every damn second of My Little Pony (My SKANKY Little Pony, by the way), we aren’t, as I cried to my mother on a very difficult morning this weekend, broken. I am not defective. What I am, is human. Normal. And in the middle of some crazy shit. On Friday afternoon, I opened my front door and there was a toddler there. She walked into my door and puked in my hallway. And boom. I was someone’s mother.

I’m just still waiting for the rest of me to catch up. I know we’ll get there. Progress is being made and I feel it a little every day. Do I love her yet? No. I don’t. That’s blunt but it is the truth. I adore her, I want her to be safe and happy and healthy and I want so desperately to keep anything else bad from happening to her. When she is happy and excited telling me about her day, it overwhelms me to hear that little voice and see that big grin. But as I tuck her into bed each night do I say “I love you”? No. I don’t. I’m not there yet and I don’t think she is either.

What I’m learning is that that’s okay. We have to make our own path on this one and we will get to wherever it is that we are supposed to end up. Maybe she is meant to be with us forever and maybe we are just a place for her to hang out while her parents work on their issues so that they can be the parents that she deserves. Because she deserves the world, that little one. And eventually, for however long it is meant to be, maybe I will become the kind of parent that she deserves too.

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