I’m Depressed. Or a Genius. Or Just Human. It’s Hard to Tell.

Apr 28 2014

My thoughts have been twisty and turny for days now. Sometimes content. More often angsty. Sometimes not very present at all, like my brain is on hiatus even more than usual, which is really saying something since I’m usually working with one cobbled together from dried toothpaste, discarded snack wrappers, and the petrified crusts of toast that breed inside my couch cushions. MacGyver ain’t got nothin’ on a mom brain, man. 

It’s just, lately, I’m stuck somewhere between inertia – just sort of face down on the floor and done in and rather ppffftttt – and thinking I need to be more Nike; all gumption and grit and mind over matter and push-through-every-hurdle-life-throws-at-me – Just Do It personified, you know? Whatever It is.

And I’m extra hidey right now, too, like I’m not ready to be done with the hibernation of winter, and I want to stay huddled in a dimly lit, subterranean den lined with fluffy pillows and soft blankets and equipped with two of those fancy, plexiglass tubes from the drive-thru bank — one that connects me to the library so I can request cannisters stuffed with fantasy novels, and one that connects me to the bakery for fresh cinnamon rolls and the occasional cannister-shaped pie. So tell me, please, is that another wonky resurgence of depression, hard to recognize like the last one, or is it just genius and we should install a massive, worldwide network of plexiglass tubes, STAT?

It’s not that things are bleak. The opposite, really. My family is lovely in all the usual ways, by which I mean my 7 year old crawled into my lap last night to snuggle and to lick me, like an enormous, gangly puppy who can’t possibly show the depth of his love without saliva, and then I repaid his devotion this morning by betraying him when I woke him at 7:30 instead of 7:00 even though, “You knew, Mom! You KNEW I wanted to get up at 7. I always want to get up at 7, and you RUINED EVERTHING,” and tears, and wailing, and not enough time for Minecraft before school, and, “How could you do this to me, Mom? HOW?!” 

Which is the question, really. How can I do this? To any of the people I love and to myself? This constant being human, and making mistakes, and so truly, utterly, completely lacking perfection; how can any of us do this to each other and survive? 

And how do we tell the difference between Something’s Wrong and Needs to Be Fixed (like, helloDEPRESSIONvs. We’re Just Human and This Is Part of It and Welcome to Life, you know?

How do we know when it’s time for a medication check and when we need, simply, to submerge ourselves in Love and Grace and practice relentless forgiveness, especially of ourselves?

I don’t know. 

I wish I did, but I just don’t.

Greg took the kids to the beach on Friday. It was a perfect Spring evening; sunny and warm, and the kids played in sand by the sea. By the time I joined them on Saturday, the storm was raging with sideways rain and driving hail, and our big family felt small – teeny, tiny – inside the little redwood house Greg’s grandpa built while we watched the wind and the waves at war. The kids were afraid we’d blow away, and me, too, a little bit. But Greg reminded them that the house has weathered this before, and will again and again.

Which is maybe all I need to know.

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On Getting a Snake (and Possibly New Friends and Family)

Apr 23 2014

I’m so excited to introduce you to Isabelle, the newest member of our family.

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Isabelle is a Kenyan Sand Boa who enjoys snuggling and long walks on the beach. She’s really a darling. Also, she might be a boy, but whatever.

Of course, naming Isabelle proved to be a HUGE challenge. 

Greg wanted to name her “If you even think about putting her in our bedroom, I’m moving out,” and “no, seriously; I’m moving out,” and “of the house,” and “what part of I’m leaving you is hard to understand?” but I thought those were unwieldy names for a baby snake. Greg’s not very good at this.

I wanted to name her Fluffy, but my 1st graders thought that was the stupidest snake name ever, so I told them they were the stupidest ever. No, I didn’t. OK; yes, I did, but I assessed ahead of time that they’d understand I was kidding and would find it funny rather than hurtful, and I was right, so HA! Unfortunately, I failed to fully understand the implications of handing 1st grade boys the “Oh yeah? Well, you’re the stupidest ever” weapon, but my boys are driving the point home, one stupid sword thrust at a time, so if it offends you that I’d say such a thing to 7 year olds, you can go ahead and smuggly congratulate yourself on the natural consequences being heaped upon my stupid head.

The 7 year olds wanted to name her Radioactive or Sunshine. 

The 12 year old cried because Isabelle isn’t a unicorn

The 14 year old was sad because he still misses his fish. The one who died 4 years ago. Which is why, he explained to me, he was unable to finish his laundry room chores last night. The grief was just too much.

The 15 year old said she’s moving out with her father.

Having a new family member is an emotional adjustment. 

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Our friends suggested we name Isabelle Satan, Lucifer, or Beelzebub. Or Bob. Or Trouser or Inthegrass. Or Houdini. 

My cousin Leslie started a pool so the extended family can bet on how long it’ll take before we lose her or she escapes. 

Obviously, my 1st graders and I are scheduling interviews for new friends and family. Please feel free to apply below by answering any or all of the following questions:

1. What’s your tolerance for weirdos? (psst… High, Very High or Extremely High are all acceptable answers)
2. How do you feel about super sweet, darling, snuggly snakes?
3. Would you ever call your mama a stupidhead? What if she started it and she was, in fact, being a stupidhead?

Thank you for your time.

WE FOUND IT! The Perfect Eating Plan!

Apr 22 2014

photo (87)I was on a quick trip with my cousin last week, and now I’m home Doing All the Laundry and Drinking All the Coffee and Being Late for All the School Drop-offs and Listening to All the Urgent MomMomMomMomMommyMoms!, but I need to interrupt All Those Fun Things to tell you what Jen and I discovered in the middle of Rachel Ray’s magazine while sitting on a boring, blissful beach in the scalding, silent sun for two whole days

YOU GUYS!

We found
THE PERFECT EATING PLAN.

Which I’ve been searching for for at least FOREVER. 

And there it was at the bottom of page 36. 

The VB6 Cookbook: More than 350 recipes for Healthy Vegan Meals All Day
and Delicious Flexitarian Dinners at Night

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So the premise is you eat vegan meals during the day, which is NOT the part of eating plan that’s perfect. Obviously. Because I’m not going to be a vegan before 6pm or, really, anytime. Not because I’m opposed to veganism; it’s just a) I’m nowhere near organized enough to put an entire vegan eating plan together and then, hahaha, stick to it, and b) cheese.

But did you see the second part of that subtitle?! 

Because I realized what I am capable of doing was right there on the page in green and white.

I am, in fact, already doing it.

FLEXITARIANISM, friends.

The PERFECT EATING PLAN.

And OK, yes, I’m behind the times.

And OK, yes, I’m defining it all wrong.

But whatever.

Because I AM A FLEXITARIAN where Flexitarianism is defined not as eating mostly vegetarian with the occasional sidecar of meat but instead as totally flexible eating.

The Mixed Martial Arts of Eating!

A hodgepodge of food plans.

Like a chocolate cupcake, a banana and the handful of Easter candy I snuck from my kids’ baskets for breakfast. And trail mix with M&M’s for lunch. And my kid’s leftover fried rice for second lunch. And a trip to the farmer’s market for fresh, organic, local produce in the afternoon, because I care about healthful eating, folks, followed by I’m Confused Why You Keep Asking What’s for Dinner – Have We Run Out of Fake Kraft Mac & Cheese? for dinner.

FLEXITARIANISM.

It’s my -ism!

Which is when Jen noted that, when it’s defined right, she’s a Flexitarian, like, all the time.

Me, too!

So we decided to start the Flexitarian All the Time Diet.

To support our fellow Flexitarians! And to make millions, of course. Millions. 

FLEXITARIAN ALL the TIME, guys.

We’re calling it F.A.T. for short. 

Who’s in??

Why It’s Wrong to Ask Adoptive Families for Additional Proof of Adoption

Apr 16 2014

CAUTION: I’ve got my Adoptive Mama panties in a bunch today. Buckle up, folks, ‘cause off we go!

The crux of the matter is this: it’s not okay for insurance companies in the United States of America to require adoptive families to provide adoption paperwork as proof of legal dependency when the family can provide a state-issued birth certificate, instead, which already lists the child’s adoptive parents as the legal parents, is infinitely more simple and equitable, and is less, shall we say, a TOTAL CRAP MOVE.

I keep hearing from adoptive parents who are being asked, over and over, to provide extra documentation of legal parentage when they’re already able to provide proof that is easy to understand and legally relevant (i.e. a birth certificate listing the adoptive parents), and I gotta say, the whole thing is starting to boggle my mind.

Meghan1It happened again this week when my friend Meghan, whose husband Stefan is employed as a middle school teacher, learned that the Oregon Educators Benefit Board (OEBB) is conducting a dependent eligibility verification review to ensure that those covered by its insurance are, in fact, eligible to receive it.

There’s no problem with review itself, of course. Knock yourselves out, I say! Review away!

The problem is the fact that OEBB, as part of this process, is, for no discernible reason, treating adopted kids differently than kids who are, in their words, “natural.”

(Psst… adopted kids aren’t unnatural, folks. Let’s retire that one, shall we?)

According to OEBB, a birth certificate listing the OEBB member, spouse or domestic partner as parent is sufficient proof of the dependency of a “natural” child, whereas the parent of an adopted child must provide adoption paperwork, instead.

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Which… are you kidding me?

Because there’s a problem here.

A BIG problem.

Or more than one.

I’m just not sure that handing over adoption paperwork – in the languages of, say, Vietnamwhich is where we adopted our first baby, or Ethiopia, where Meghan’s baby was born, or Spanish or Haitian Creole or Russian or Chinese or any of the other myriad languages in which our paperwork is written – is going be all that helpful to the person at the insurance company in charge of dependent verification; a person who I’m going to guess isn’t even a little bit trained in authenticating international adoption paperwork or verifying the adoption paperwork of all 50 United States.

Avoiding this type of confusion and the Adopted vs. “Natural” disparity is exactly why adoptive parents go through the often overwhelming and always extensive, paperwork-heavy process of adoption and then re-adoption in our home states; so our adopted children have exactly the same paperwork as the kids we birthed ourselves and so we have proof of legal parentage. The same proof of parentage that biologically-related families have. Verified already by both state and federal agencies. With fingerprints and home studies and FBI criminal background checks.

Asking to see additional adoption paperwork when adoptive families can provide a state-issued birth certificate or United States passport that list the adoptive parents as legal parents is, quite frankly, like asking biologically-related families to additionally provide their hospital or homebirth paperwork. It’s pointless, nonsensical and invasive. 

And asking to see additional adoption paperwork isn’t harmless. A few months ago, a mom from another state contacted me about a similar situation with a different insurance provider; in her case, though, she was asked for proof of adoption while her child, who experiences anxiety and attachment difficulties, was present, listening to every word that assigned him as different and other. I mean, can we see the problem here? The position in which we’re unnecessarily putting kids who may already feel unsure of their places in their families, their belonging in their world? And can we recognize that we needn’t add to their uncertainty a burden of extra “proof” when we already have a better, more clear source of it?

When a child is adopted (or re-adopted) in the State of Oregon, the adoption decree states,

“From this day forward, this child shall to all legal intents and purposes be the child of Petitioners, the same as if born to them in lawful wedlock. … The adoption of the above-named child by Petitioners is recognized as a valid and legal adoption for all purposes in the State of Oregon and is hereby ratified and confirmed under international law.”

It’s time we started acting like that’s true.

Meghan2

…….

P.S. If you’re an adoptive parent and you find yourself in this position – being asked for additional adoption paperwork when you’ve already provided legal proof via a state-issued birth certificate that you are your child’s parent – here’s a list of somewhat pissy, passive-aggressive and pointed questions you can ask your insurance company:

  1. Are you concerned that this birth certificate is fraudulent? If so, why?
  2. Are you concerned that the state or federal government has not done their due diligence in confirming that our adoption is legitimate before issuing us this state birth certificate or United States passport?
  3. Do you ever ask biological parents for their hospital or home birth records to supplement a state-issued birth certificate? If not, why not?
  4. Given that every state and country has different paperwork and that no two adoption decrees look the same or have exactly the same stamps, seals, notarizations, and certifications, who do you have on staff or on contract responsible for and qualified to verify its legitimacy? 

Or you can be like my friend Meghan and write a kind letter, instead. 

Whatever.

In the end, though, I hope we’ll all genuinely ask this one:

What can I do to help change this requirement for adoptive families?

Because we all, every last one of us, deserve to be treated like we belong.

 

What It’s Like to Be Away. And Always Headed Home.

Apr 15 2014

I borrowed two small, rolling suitcases from my youngest children today because their suitcases are the newest in the family and so have things like working zippers and attached wheels and retractable handles that don’t get stuck in the half-upright position, passively-aggressively recalcitrant, like the handle on my suitcase which feels it ought to be treated with more deference and less verbal abuse in its old age.

Of course, my children don’t want me to use their suitcases because I’m sure to ruin them, and, given the tattered remains of mine, I don’t completely blame them for their concern. I tried to convince them I should be able to borrow the suitcases since I paid for them originally, but the children, who are smart, and also overly mouthy like their mother, countered that giving someone a gift doesn’t imply unlimited borrowing rights or takesy-backsies in the future, a lesson I now regret teaching them as toddlers.

So I’m technically renting two kids’ suitcases for $1 each and thanking my lucky stars they haven’t yet learned to up-sell me on optional insurance or to hold my credit card for incidentals, although they’ve each demanded a certain number of gummy worm futures, so please don’t worry for them too, too much. 

Anyway, my point is I left home for four nights, from now through Easter Eve, and I feel the usual mix of bone-deep relief for an opportunity to rest, nearly uncontrollable glee at the idea of being responsible for only myself, relentless dread, knowing, as always and without merit, that something horrible will happen to my people in my absence, and pathetic and desperate longing for the family I couldn’t wait to leave. The push-me pull-you of mothering, I know. I love it. I hate it. I love it. I don’t.

Which is why I’m sitting alone at the moment in a bar in a hotel where there’s a very large, very loud conference of people named things like Emmett Hubert and Mandy Smith which I know because they’re wearing nametags peeling around the edges like the bark of the birch trees outside the bar windows, and they’re all young and trendy and wearing skinny jeans and casually holding wine glasses without spilling on anyone. None of them look as lost and as found as I feel, proof positive looks can’t be trusted.

photo (85)I’m grateful – truly – for this time away to breathe and think and read books that are bad for my mind and good for my heart and possibly draft parts of my own, but I find myself missing my kids’ terrible teeth more than I ever thought possible when I used to have only a baby and spent so much time feeling sad for the moms whose kids were already gangly and awkward. I didn’t know yet that those kids were also gorgeous and awesome.

Greg held my hand in the driveway before I left and kissed me on the mouth and bent over to whisper how much he’ll miss me, which sounded like this, “You only have a small data plan on your phone, so you have to come home in 5 days or I will cancel the hell out of that thing.” Which is how I know he loves me. 

This is Springtime and Almost Easter, full of death and life and empty tombs in the in-between time when the contents have gone missing and haven’t yet been found. It’s the season of long nights growing shorter, and, after longer than we’d prefer, resurrection and rebirth which, it turns out, we must repeat over and over and over again. And so I’m away, on the lookout for rebirth and also, somehow, at the same time, always, always, always headed home. 

On Falling Down on the Job. Just Utterly.

Apr 12 2014

Convo with a Friend:

“Let’s talk about your 40 Days of Lent: 15 Minute Projects series, Beth. It’s HORRIBLE. I hate it. Or YOU. I haven’t done a single 15 minute project! You’re supposed to make me feel better about myself and now I walk around my house looking at all the crap and feeling worse. WORSE. Because EVEN BETH is cleaning her house. Really, Beth? Every day with the 40 days? EVERY DAY? I thought you were my people, but YOU’RE NOT MY PEOPLE.” 

“Um… did you read through the projects, Erinn?” 

“No. NO! Of course not. I already feel like I should be doing the things I’m not doing! I’m not going to read through everything I’m failing to do.”

“Well, not to imply that I know what you can and can’t do right now or to impose my super, awesome ideas on you, but you might want to check out the list, because there are options like Make Guacamole and Sit in the Sun, and Don’t Burn Down the House, and Fall Down on the Job, Just Utterly – which is on there twice – so I feel like there’s something on there that might work for you.”

You know. Just saying.

……….

It’s Saturday, so it’s time for:
5 Kids Reruns

5KidsHand180x1805 Kids Reruns Here on the Blog:

New Post. Our Secret Weapon for the Zombie Apocalypse

New Post. Basic Rules of Flying. “Becoming a parent is like jungle flying. There’s preparation. There’s planning. There’s checking equipment. There’s second-guessing and am-I-crazying? And then there’s actually launching. Straight out. Straight up. Holding fast to courage and stupidity in equal measure and taking off into the unknown. Hoping to stay in the middle of the air. Praying bad things don’t happen past the edges.” 

New Post. On the Importance of Being Weird and the Super Heroes in Our Midst. “Here we are, chugging away in the middle of it all, scraping dried, gummy ketchup off our cupboards, or ignoring it altogether, our capes in tatters and our super powers well masked under our secret, mundane indentities. So secret sometimes even we forget we’re super. But we are. We are.” 

New Post. When I Stopped Hating My Husband for Loving Me. This one shows you the fissures in my heart. And maybe a few that are healing.

New Page: DONATE. On why I don’t accept traditional donations and a way we might help others in this community.

FB.socialmedia5 Kids Reruns on the 5 Kids Facebook Page:

A new entry in the Things I Think Are Obvious But Are Not Obvious And Therefore Must Be Said Aloud category.

My children tell me they have standards. I’m trying to be open to that idea, but I admit I’m grieving a little because I thought we were all on the same No Standards page.

Our priorities in this country are not right. NOT RIGHT.

We played I Spy with the things I found under a living room chair:

photo 1 (69)And I TOTALLY ate those Tic Tacs.

And we lit our lawnmower on fire. ‘Cause, you know, all the cool kids are doing it.

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Some Favorites Pulled From the Archives:

We Do Train Wrecks Here: Because this is the most important thing we do here. We do magic and mess. And tragedy and triumph. And chaos and compassion. And sacred and scarred. And weird and wonderful. And WELCOME.

Tricky Dick: Not a Story About Nixon: Sometimes kids Say Things, and sometimes parents have No Idea What to Do About That, because sometimes those things are Tricky Dick or, you know, calling Clifford the Big Red Dog by his other name: Bull****. All I’m saying is, WE HAVE TO STICK TOGETHER IN THE MADNESS, momrades. There’s no other way.

5KidsHand180x1805 Kids Reruns on the Internets:

New Post on The Huffington Post: 30 Totally Rotten Things Parents Do That Are RUINING Their Kids’ Lives

New Interview on Huffington Post Live: 30 Rotten (Hilarious) Ways Parents Are SO Unfair

And the Grand Prize Winner in the 5 Kids Family and Imperfection Writing Contest, Jen Hulfish, is featured today as a Mamapedia Voice with her awesome piece, Between Our Naked Toes. Congratulations, Jen! 

RSS.socialmediaDon’t Miss a Thing

You are the driving force behind the 5 Kids blog. This space is about community; finding each other, finding ourselves, waving to each other in the dark until the dawn comes, and always – always – about Love. 

Stay connected. You can subscribe via RSS, Email, Facebook and Twitter.

When I Stopped Hating My Husband for Loving Me

Apr 10 2014

In my 40 year history as a human, I’ve disliked a lot of people for loving me, but none of them as much as I detested my husband.

I just spent a lot of time wondering, subconciously, mostly, but sometimes at the front of my brain, how he could be so stupid.

So dim-witted.

So stubbornly blind to my physical flaws and to my pettiness and my meanness and my rage.

So consistently unrevolted by me. 

Because the things to hate about me were legion, and I once could have filled pages enumerating them.

The way my unconfined breasts rest on the bulge of my belly.

The way the insides of my thighs rub together.

The scars and the scars and the scars and the scars.

The size of my backside and the way it shifts and moves like ripples in the water.

My nearly uncontrollable anger that came from the shame of hating myself.

I could have gone on like that forever.

Some days, it felt like I did.

But somewhere along the way, I made a conscious decision to stop hating my husband for loving me.

I’m pretty sure it was right around the time I made the conscious decision to start loving myself.

And it was horrible. Hard. And I was sure sometimes I couldn’t do it. 

Because it’s almost impossible to shut down the firehose of loathing.

To throw a wrench on that valve.

To pull and pull and pull until my muscles shook with the effort, and to find at the end of the day that I’ve staunched but a fraction of the infinite flow.

And to sleep and to rise and to tackle the valve again.

And again.

And again.

For days and weeks and months and years.

To tackle the valve, weak and weary, and some days not at all, just sitting at the curb and letting it go. 

But one day, I realized the trickle was less. And when he grazed the side of my breast with his hand and pulled me, tentatively, into another hug I was likely to reject, I leaned in instead of away, and for seconds, I accepted comfort before I made an excuse that I was tired. That I was in the middle of something. That dinner needed to be made or a kid’s butt wiped or anything… anything else but stand there being loved. 

For seconds, one day, I hugged him back.

And the next day, I shied away.

And the next, I hugged him a few seconds more.

And so we’ve ebbed and flowed through new days and new months and new years. Each one, truly, better than the last. Not perfect. Not finished. But better.

I’m learning to love myself these days and to love my husband for loving me. And it turns out, with Love comes freedom, and we are reborn. 

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