Phone Fears

WARNING: I’m about to get hella meta (and just a little bit needy). But since my friends have stopped engaging me in this particular line of neurotic, I have no choice but to whine to you. So here’s my confession: 80% of my self-worth comes from social media. Maybe 85%. Unless I share that creative craft I did with my kids with the world – and get the proper feedback – it may as well have not taken place. Who cares that I have built a wonderful life for myself: loving husband, great kids, a comfortable home. None of that means anything unless it garners impressive #s of likes. I was working towards a healthier relationship with my phone (setting it aside during meals, practicing self-control during date nights, and even implementing no-phone Shabbat). And then I started this blog. Naturally, a day or 2 after I Amazon Primed a strap for my phone so it can be on me at all times. In case, God forbid, my watch doesn’t ping me with notifications as they come in. And I am so appreciative of my growing following. I love reading all the comments and feeling like I’m connecting with people. But you know what’s a shitty feeling? When you go to check your # of followers and watch in real-time as you lose one! I didn’t know that was a thing when my only followers were long-lost high school frenemies and my doting mother. And look, intellectually I get it: I’m not everyone’s cup of tea/you didn’t realize how often I’d post and my black and white scribbles are keeping you from seeing and liking all the newborn pics from co-workers. And how irritating that Instagram won’t let me know who these haters are so I can stalk them to figure out what went wrong with us! I know I shouldn’t dwell on these traumatic moments, I have kids to feed and a husband to argue with, after all. But this phone has brought out the very worst side of my obsessive need to please…

Sometimes when I’m bored I find my fingers taking me to my Amazon app and my mind desperately trying to remember what household items we need that I might be able to buy to satisfy my shopping urge. Inevitably the TP/detergent/light bulbs don’t cost quite enough to get the free overnight shipping, and why wait 2 days for something when there are people whose job it is to stay up all night just to make sure our new vacuum arrives by 4 AM instead of noon. So the responsible thing to do in these circumstances is spend 30 min-I hr going deep into the app, searching for toys my kids don’t need and essential oils I will never remember we have. Because I am a grown-up, and it is my job to save $2.99 on shipping!

Glowing

Before I got pregnant with my 1st child I had this beautiful idea of what it would be like: I was going to eat lots of organic, leafy greens, go on lots of hikes looking oh-so-adorable in my normal sweatshirts that were just a bit tight over my perfectly hard, ball-shaped belly, and I’d practice hours of prenatal yoga to ensure my baby received all those good, calming chemicals. The reality of my 3 pregnancies, as you might guess, looked very different. I HATED BEING PREGNANT! I took absolutely no pleasure in my ever-expanding body – my boobs, thighs and arms grew at almost double the rate of my belly. I didn’t want those leafy greens anywhere near me. Really, I could smell them from my bedroom upstairs through the fridge in the kitchen. Everything hurt, especially during my 3rd pregnancy when my pubic bone was split in two. Yup, that’s a real thing. People talk about finding it difficult to tie their shoes – no one warned me that I’d have to find new ways to wipe my butt. And hikes! Forget it! I spent the majority of each pregnancy camped out on the couch figuring out new ways to get my husband to fetch me food without my having to move. Some of this was a result of doctor-recommended bedrest (apparently my cervix is a tad bit incompetent, an actual medical term), but honestly I doubt I would have been much more mobile without this lovely excuse. My babies and I survived on Oreos, pop tarts and bagels, and I spent 80% of my time googling “is my diet going to make my baby stupid” while stuffing my mouth with chips…

Once at a restaurant a family wouldn’t stop staring at me. Annoyed, I finally said “Can I help you?” to which one of them responded, “Oh, sorry, we were just watching to see if you were going to fit in that booth.” And honestly, I don’t blame them. I was a medical marvel, having gained almost 3X what doctors recommend during pregnancy. So many strangers asked me if I was having twins that I started to answer in the affirmative. This was only a problem one time when the woman revealed she had been a mother of multiples and then drilled me with very specific twin-related medical questions…

A good way to end up on my bad side is to complain about the 40 pounds you gained while pregnant. 40 pounds is nothing compared to gaining the weight of a small adult!

The REAL Fancy Nancy

I know what you’re thinking. That frumpy woman in sweatpants and Ugg boots has no business indentifying with this superstar to the left. But I am, in fact, the REAL Fancy Nancy. You see, before 3 babies sucked every ounce of energy and giving-a-s**t out of me, I was quite fancy. Perhaps I would be still if I fit into my wardrobe or had time in the morning between breaking-up wrestling matches and trying to get some calories into all the needy bellies in my house to appraise my jewelry collection and curate the perfectly-accessoried ensemble. But sadly these days I am quite impressed with myself if I leave the house in matching shoes (true story: the other day after hours of errands my friend remarked on my interesting style choice to wear 2 different Birkenstocks. It was charitable for her to think this was in any way a choice). But once upon a time, I was an endearingly high-maintenance, accessory-loving, overly-dramatic child who just so happened to be the favorite niece of Fancy Nancy’s illustrator, Robin Preiss Glasser. And when she was given the 1st manuscript, my aunt channeled my fancy energy, dug up some old pictures, and got to work creating the now-world-famous FN. And let me tell you something: I, too, have been thrust into stardom. After finding out who I really am, all the little girls in my son’s class fought over holding hands with ME on the field trip to the farmer’s market. And I have signed my fair share of books; grandmothers get very excited to get my autograph for their granddaughters. So being the real FN certainly has its perks. But it is also a lot of pressure. School drop off/pick up for my kids has become oh-so-stressful since my true identity has gotten out. I constantly feel like I am letting all the 6-yr-olds down when I show up in spit-up covered pj’s. But I do make sure to keep a lipstick in my glove compartment, which I only wear when I might run into all the little 6-year-old mean girls who intimidate me so. I cannot bear to imagine what they must say behind my back when I show up sans boa and tiara.

Giving Up

The other night for dinner I served my children popcorn, corn chips, guacamole and grapes. On the floor. In front of the TV. I had spent the last 12 hrs listening to whining, leaping to keep tiny fingers from getting crushed in doors, and holding my shit together so that the primal scream in my head stayed there, locked up where it couldn’t traumatize my kids. So when they were finally quiet – and still – zombified in front of my boys, the Kratt Brothers, I could not convince myself that poking the sleeping beast was a good idea, even for nourishment. I knew, however, that if I didn’t throw some food their way I’d regret it at bedtime when they would turn rabid and ravenous. So I called it a TV picnic. And my eldest told me I was the best mom in the whole world, which is the opposite response than I’ve gotten every-other night when I put effort into their dinner. And by effort, I mean defrosting a Trader Joe’s meal. And hey – I’m pretty sure the guacamole made this a well-rounded meal…

The other day I had a brilliant idea. After screaming at my kids to stop what they were doing (jumping from console table to couch to coffee table), urging them to be careful, and explaining I didn’t want to make a trip to the ER in the middle of a global pandemic, I gave up trying to get them to listen, went to the garage, found their helmets, and threw them their way. “Fine,” I said, “at least put these on.” Their play turned to a head-crashing game after this, but at least I could sit and drink my coffee in peace…

Confession: my kids usually only brush their teeth before bed. There’s just too much going on in the AM to remember to fight with them about it. And I figure these baby teeth are going to fall out anyway…

Question: Does one actually have to wash their kids if you use bubble bath? Clearly in our house the answer is no.

Bra Bites/Bras Bite

When I was little I wanted a bra SO badly. I would sneak into my mom’s closet and try on her lingerie, pieces I thought were the most elegant but now realize were worn, tired mom bras. It was the early 90s, and shoulder pads were the perfect shape to stuff into the bras. On more than one occasion I got in trouble when my mom went to get dressed only to find her shirts empty and sagging in the shoulders. But what would she have me use, socks? Not when it was so clear to me that these pads were designed just for this use. But I wanted my own bra, and one day I took matters into my own hands. I grabbed the grown-up scissors, a couple undershirts, and got to it. My mom found me at the scene-of-the-crime, crying over the murdered bodies of several undershirts. My bras didn’t’ look or feel anything like the special ones my mom wore, and the shoulder pads slipped out the bottom and landed with a plop on the floor, just like my dreams of womanhood…

I loved nursing my 3 children. I had no shame when it came to feeding them. My breasts didn’t feel at all sexual, or even bodily, and I was known to squat anywhere when a child needed to eat. I’ve nursed on playground swings, in the middle of a pumpkin patch, on a ferris wheel, and in dozens of restaurants all across the U.S. I’ve been boob-out chasing after siblings and have nursed on-the-go while grocery shopping. For the most part, people were accepting of this. But once on an airplane in the middle of my son’s lunch, a flight attendant brought me a blanket and asked if I’d like to cover up. I looked right at her and said “no thank you. My son prefers his meals in the delightful fresh air of this plane.” And that was that…

When you are nursing – especially during the 1st few months – you have a person attached to your nipple around the clock. For me this meant I found myself eating at the same time as my baby. When I would undress in the evening – on those rare occasions that the baby was content long enough for me to get a shower – I would find whole meals in my nursing bras. And let me tell you, these bras, like my breasts, were enormous. There was ample food storage space. And I enjoyed this extra surprise snack at the end of the day.

High Falutin

You know you’re not a candidate for hard core drugs when a puff of Mary Jane causes you to see Sebastian from the Little Mermaid riding through the room in his seashell chariot. I tend to experience an uncomfortable sensation of circling through time – my own time, not like real history – but time, nonetheless. I’ve also been known to eat an entire pot of goat cheese pasta, right from the stove. With the serving spoon. I don’t think my friends or family would describe my baked brain as smarter (or functional), but I present this poem to share with the world some of my deepest, most profound thinking. These words were written many moons ago – before kids or marriage – during an especially upsetting episode of time travel. We were watching that nonsensical Charlie Sheen interview – which I had seen previously and knew to be insane. But it suddenly all made sense to me – Charlie Sheen was speaking truth. And that’s when I panicked. I sensed that those around me weren’t taking me seriously. I also knew in my heart that the thoughts I was having were as close to TRUTH as I’d ever come. So I grabbed paper and pen to preserve my insight, to document the clarity I was sure I had grasped…

Only vaguely have a concept of the future

Going back in forth in time

Seeing myself, my seat and my time from various perspectives

My thoughts keep getting erased

Where am I?

Hearing voices

Know one [sic] has experienced this – why doesn’t anyone feel it – I know this is different

Antisemetic

Knowing when/how to act w/o my brain—Jessie w/o Jessie

Many me’s in me

Am I functioning?

Understand crazy

In and out of time

How long is it taking?

Most important thoughts

Not wanting to be put to death w/ Alzheimer’s—lucidity of time

Cookies—small, hard cakes

My Mother, the Hoarder

I think most of us can admit to guilt-watching TLC’s Hoarders show, probably on multiple occasions. It wasn’t until I saw this wonderful window into an extremely relatable mental disorder that I was even aware my mother’s penchant for re-using pieces of tinfoil and old takeout containers could be something other than penny-pinching. Look – there’s nothing wrong with saving a good, sturdy soup container from your Thai delivery. But when you have multiple drawers of said containers that jam-shut every-other time you close them, I think we can agree there’s a better way. And it took my years – until just recently – to recognize that perhaps I am not overly wasteful as my mother would have me believe, when I put packing materials in the recycling bin, but that SHE is the one with the underlying syndrome. Maybe her basement powder room filled-to-the-brim with bubble wrap and packing popcorn is just a tad excessive. That at the end of the season it is okay for me to throw out the holiday cards we received and so lovingly displayed. That perhaps my mother will, someday, take up mosaics and that therefore holding onto the broken pieces of pottery and will be useful, but that she probably won’t and if she does she could most likely afford to purchase the craft materials at that point. Unfortunately for me, my mother has been swayed by my constant nagging and has begun the process of cleaning out her basement. This means that once a week I receive a very-well packaged box of my things that she no longer wants to store. The problem is, SOMEONE has to hoard because it is indeed essential to hold onto all my old history tests and English papers. And while I never much cared for sports or put any effort into these team endeavors, how can I throw out my “best effort” trophies? So as my mom declutters her basement, mine becomes more pathological each week…Y’all, I think I have come to realize that my mother loves me TOO much. It’s hard for me to admit, but maybe the dozens of binders she keeps of our old AIM chats from college are a bit over-the-top? Could her excessive love have been a disservice to my ability to function as an adult? Is it her fault that I resent my quotidien domestic duties and believe I am destined for greater things than butt-wiping 3 kids? The good news is, if I ever do become the influencer I’m meant to be, my mom has a perfectly-preserved archive of my life.

Executive Mal-functioning

I have this stack of planners, calendars and journals on my bedside table whose sole purpose is to shame and nag me. The pile continues to grow every time I spot one too beautiful NOT to buy at the Paper Source, or each time I open Instagram to feel bad about my parenting/body/wardrobe and am told by their advertising gods that if I buy this new kind of planner AND enroll in their online course in this very specific type of journaling, I too will end up the kind of parent I want to be with the body and wardrobe I’m meant to have. For the most part these planners remain empty and my life remains unchanged, except for the guilt, which grows as this stack becomes ever-more unstable. Really, how hard would it be to write just one line a day about my life, especially since setting aside these few minutes is apparently the key to happiness and gratitude. And what kind of mother can’t be bothered to write down the exact place and time of her child’s first word/step/lost tooth? As my self-esteem slips away with these memories, I find myself ever-more invested in my abusive relationship with these books. And tomorrow I’m confident everything will change when the mailman delivers the journal I found 2 nights ago which I know will be the answer…

Why can’t I keep any plants alive? It makes no sense that a person in charge of keeping 3 little humans alive should fail so consistently when it comes to flora. Even succulents and orchids, which supposedly need very little upkeep, enter my home to die. I so want to have one of those houses filled with green life and perfumed flowers, to be a person who revels in that new bud. But I am coming to terms with the fact that truly, basil bought from the store does the same job as the fresh stuff my neighbor gathers from her garden. And really, who ever has enough pesto when they attempt to make it themself?…

I have never known what it’s like to have any concept of where I am in space. Honestly, if you gave me $1 million I could not tell you which direction is north (to be continued)…

Silver Linings

I’m tired of hearing myself complain. There must have been a time in my life when surviving until bedtime wasn’t my daily goal. Mentally healthy people are always preaching things like “smile more” (the most annoying) and “think positive.” Well, I’m a glass-half-empty kind of gal, but it can’t hurt to try, right? So here goes…

This pandemic hasn’t been all bad. My lungs feel stronger, having learned to make do with 50% less oxygen they receive through my mask. My eyes have adapted to the 75% visibility they get without the glasses I can’t wear since my mask fogs them up. But best of all, I spend much less time grooming that I once did. Who needs to wax or bleach their mustache when it never sees the light of day of the eyes of the public? I’m embracing my Frida-look, and I’m not going to lie, stroking my newly-accepted facial hair is very soothing. I never have to worry about having food in my teeth, a concern that once plagued a majority of my social interactions. Nowadays the only physical attribute of mine for people to focus on (on those rare occasions I am close enough to another adult for them to notice) are my thick eyebrows. Luckily for me my eyebrows just happen to be my very best quality, and the one and only part of my body on which I have ever received compliments from strangers. Masks serve another useful purpose – changing diapers has become much less loathsome. If my youngest isn’t potty-trained by the end of this mess, I will store all the masks we’ve acquired by the changing table…

My family has been forced to seek out new outdoor amusement, and we have been exploring far more trails that we would have otherwise. This is most enjoyable the 1st 30 seconds of fresh air we breathe in after we step out of the car, before we cover up our faces and before the 2-yr-old inevitably falls into a puddle, gets covered in mud and refuses to move on. But, on another positive note – we have become very strong having to carry her 40 lbs up hills and over uneven terrain. And we have become expert in bribing children with candy in exchange for exercise…

This pandemic has also helped absolve me some of the guilt I used to feel plopping my kids in front of the TV. My proudest pandemic parenting moment was when my 2-yr-old sat through an entire movie for the first time. It took a lot of hard work, but I can now say she’s an expert TV-watcher…

And hey – masks may contribute to chin acne, but who would ever know?

Relax…

I like massages more than anyone I know. They are a requirement in my marriage, and without them I’m not sure my husband would ever get laid. But often I come out of professional massages more stressed than when I laid down on the table. You see, I like deep tissue massages – to me there’s no point to pay someone to pet me. My kids do that for free. Constantly. The contact never ends. So when the masseuse has limp hands even after I’ve checked the “deep tissue” box and written a polite, but forceful annotation reinforcing my proclivity for pain, I’m propelled into a terribly unrelaxed state in which I am both cursing my decision to try this hole-in-the-wall spa but also perpetually hopeful that the massage will improve. “Maybe she’s just warming up,” I’ll convince myself as I begin the process of waiting in anticipation which I’m pretty sure is the exact opposite of the “mindfulness” I should be trying to cultivate. “Just do it!” I’ll think. “Speak up! Tell her you’d like a bit more pressure.” By this point I’m usually so worked up that I begin to worry if I’m sweating too much, so I also have to will her to turn down the heated bed. This in turn propels me into a deep state of body shame: how does my body measure up to her other clients? Is she repelled by my arm flab? Is she annoyed there is so much of me to rub or is it easier with more to squeeze? And how much time do I have left before I hear those 3 dreaded words, “Thank you, Jessie”? But inevitably the massage always ends and I’ll drink the cucumber water, smiling, unsatisfied, but tipping the masseuse nonetheless…

You know that feeling at the end of a yoga practice during chavasana when you should be meditating but really you keep peeking open your eyes to see where the instructor is so you can will her to pick you for the “hands-on assist,” and when she chooses the skinny yogi to your right who clearly didn’t have to work as hard to complete the class, you say “fuck it,” and pack up your mat and leave early? Yeah, me neither…

Though my feet currently look 50 years beyond their age, I have rather enjoyed avoiding my typical pedicure anxiety during this pandemic. It’s been nice never having a reason to shave my legs. No one has passive-aggressively shamed me about picking my toenails and making their job more difficult. And I haven’t had to worry that I might contract HIV via unclean pedicure tools.