How to have a great night’s sleep…or something.

by renegademama

How to have a great night’s sleep, one step at a time…

Work all day. Pick up your kids and baby. RACE to your house because you do not have enough time. Enter house. Begin shouting orders at children. Place your way-too-easygoing baby in the center of the floor of the living room, so you can see her while you bolt around the house caring for a sick puppy, repeating orders for the 9th time, preparing for the Extracurricular Activities of Doom. Scoop up baby. Let her nurse for 4 minutes while you arrange things with the husband. Put her in the car seat. Go to activity.

Go back to the work at 7pm to take care of unexpected development in a very urgent project.

Return home at 10pm.

See your husband and all three kids sleeping soundly and beautifully in your bed.

Contemplate sleeping on the couch.

Remember the condition of the living room, which houses the couch, and determine you’d rather sleep suspended by your toes in the garage.

Move biggest child to her bed.

Attempt to carry middle child to his bed. Cuddle his sweaty little neck when you transport him.

See the baby you haven’t really seen all day.

See the baby you haven’t played with.

Hear her little snores. Wonder how she’s managing to get along so well without you, when you’re obviously doing so poorly. Feel a wave of gratefulness for the amazing people caring for her.

Feel a wave of sorrow because you aren’t those people.

Wonder what the fucking point is. Of work.

Remember you have to work the very next day. Consider moving the baby to her crib, because you’ll sleep better without her in the bed.

Realize there’s no way in hell you can be away from her for one more moment. 

Pick her up from your husband’s arm. Wrap her in yours. Offer her sleepy self the breast. Watch her ignore it, too settled in deep sleep.

Pull her close, on your arm. Put your face to hers as close as you possibly can. Smell her breath. Kiss. Kiss. Kiss. Consider you might wake her up. Consider that you couldn’t care less about waking her up.

Close your eyes and inhale her heaven scent.

Wonder what the fucking point is.


Because you can’t stop.


Because you couldn’t stare all day.


Because she’s so luscious and wonderful and perfect you still can’t believe it.

Close your eyes. Try to sleep. Realize you cannot. Baby’s a bit too close.

Realize you don’t care.

Stare again. Kiss again.

Watch her wriggle. Nurse her. Be grateful.

Look at the clock. 11:30pm. Be ungrateful.

Settle deeper into determined attempts to sleep.

See a little shadow in the hallway. See that it’s your son. Tell him to come on in, but he’s gotta get on daddy’s side.

Watch him crawl in with his kitty stuffed animal. Watch your husband enfold him without waking up.

Hear the larger male snore.

Get annoyed.

Bang on husband to roll over and quit snoring. Watch him do it.

See that it’s 12am.

Begin getting really worried. Decide to move the baby to her crib so you can stretch out and really sleep.

Kiss her again.

Stick your nose against her mouth to smell her breath again and feel its whisper across your face.

Pick her up. Feel your heart break a little when you lay her on her crib. Because tomorrow will be another day of no-baby. Tell yourself it’s alright.

Even though it isn’t.

Go back to bed. Close your eyes.

Miss the baby so much you can’t fucking sleep. Wish things were different. Begin regretting almost every decision you’ve made in the last 10 years.

Say a prayer to calm the mind.

Repeat the mantra to redirect the mind.

1am. Crash.

4:30am. Hear the baby yelling “HI!” from her crib. Go get her. Change her. Watch her smile. Smile back because you can’t resist.

Bring her back into bed. Nurse her. Fall asleep.

Wake up at 6am. Refreshed.

Or something.

See your baby smiling, waving and saying “hi” from the other side of the bed, forgiving you already for leaving again.

Sometimes it's just me and her, no matter who's around.

She doesn't mind her crib. I do, though, sometimes.

Wait. I’m supposed to play with these kids?

by renegademama

I created a new category called “things I shouldn’t say out loud let alone publish on the internet.” This post, my friends, falls squarely into that category, and may actually redefine the term “over-sharing.”

I actually considered not writing this, even though I felt compelled to do so.

Because this borders a little too closely on something I may want to pretend doesn’t exist. Something I may deny. Something my ego hates to admit.

But in the first post I wrote for this blog, I asked “where do the bad mothers go?” (Wait. Did I just quote myself? Wow, that’s a new low.)…and that got me thinking…I already admitted I’m a bad mother, and I don’t mean “bad” in the “ha ha ha aren’t I funny because really I’m a great mother and we all know it” kind of way…I mean “bad” like for real bad – like people may wonder if I have a heart bad. Like screw you, Janelle, bad. Like I’m not proud of this but it’s true, bad.

And since I already admitted it, why back out now from telling this shit the way it is?

There’s no reason.

So here you go…

Most of the time, I pretty much can’t stand playing with my kids.

You see? What the fuck. Bad.

Sometimes the stars align perfectly and I’m in a great, playful, carefree mood, and I can play with them and sing and be goofy (like recently when I walked around Walmart with underwear on my head – (I was buying them, they weren’t dirty)…and the kids were in hysterics and we played sword fighting with the foam pool noodles, right there in the aisle…and it was fun and we laughed and I felt like an alright mom for a minute.)

But say…oh…I don’t know…say the kids ask me to play with them, and I’m not in that kind of mood. Say yesterday happens, when I had been cleaning the house for 6 hours and was finished, but was suffering from allergies and feeling not quite right…just a little uneasy…just a little depressed…just a little, wait…what was it? Oh right. Self-pitying and self-centered and DOWN. That’s right. Uninspired. Over it. Fuck this family crap. Down.

But they are kids and they deserve a mom that plays with them.

And they’ve been asking me all day.

And the game’s all set up.

And I should do this for them.

But what I really want to do is leave. Be by myself. Not clean. Not listen to kids. Not be in this house for one more damn second.

But I have that pull. I hear that voice “Janelle…you should do this. Mothers do this. Just fucking do it.”

So I sit down to play Monopoly and they are bouncing. Bouncing. Because mama’s playing a game with them. Mama’s involved. As a courtesy they pretend to buy my plastered smile.

They even put cushions down in my spot, so I would be more comfortable on the floor.

Those kids are damn angels.

But check it out. Everything they do irritates the hell out of me. The way they slam the board when they’re moving their tokens across it…the way they lean over and knock the money piles everywhere…the way Ava directs everybody’s every single move…the way Rocket won’t focus and rolls around constantly…the energy…the time it takes… all of it. My skin is crawling. I act terribly. I’m a straight asshole to those kids, telling them what to do, demanding they do things my way.

Demanding that they not act like kids.

As I’m doing it I hate myself.

What the hell is wrong with me?

I’m there. But I’m not there.

I try, but I can’t snap out of it.

If you’re reading this and your kids are in college now and you’re thinking about how much you miss them, please don’t tell me how I’m short-sighted and should cherish these times because wow they’re SO QUICK and before I know it they’ll be out of the house and soon I’ll give ANYTHING to have these moments back .

Don’t tell me that.

Because I already know it.

I felt a yearning for that Monopoly game 5 hours after it happened.

I realized the beauty of what I missed while lying in bed that same night.

Right now I feel the sacredness of playing a game with my non-stop director daughter and goofy distracted son. I feel it. I know it.

And YET it doesn’t change it. It has no effect on The Now – when I need it. And all the self-talk “Oh come on, Janelle, be patient. Be kind. Chill the fuck out. These are your KIDS…”… all of it withers in the face of…well…I don’t know. Whatever the hell it is that makes me act like that.

It’s only the next day and I wish I could go back. But as one of my favorite songs says… that’s a “no-go for this hobo.”

I wonder how many times I’ll feel this before I learn.


Sorry, guys. You got dealt a mama who ain’t that good all the time. In fact she’s pretty shitty most of the time.

She’s a bad player.

But she loves you. And she’ll keep trying.

Hang with me little ones.

"I know Alcatraz stopped taking prisoners a while ago, but do you think they'll make an exception for that bitch mother of ours?"

life is a stuffed seal at show-and-tell

by renegademama

So I’m obviously not over the whole stuffed seal thing (which I briefly mentioned in this post). And here’s why: I never have even an inkling of a clue of how to handle shit like that, so when it comes up, it lingers. It stays. Until it goes. And then, it comes back again.

Here’s how it happened.

As a souvenir from Santa Cruz, Rocket chose a big, stuffed white seal, with huge, sweet dark eyes. It was a simple toy. But Rocket loves his “stuffies.” He zeroed in on it immediately and for him it outshined every toy in the place (and believe me, we checked them ALL out). He carried it with him the rest of the day. He slept with it in the car on the way home. He slept with it in his bed. He had it in his arms ready to go on Monday morning, first thing, popping out of bed, elated to share it with his class for show-and-tell day. It was visibly excruciating for him to have to leave the seal at home to wait for Tuesday to come (when it’s actually show-and-tell day)..but when it did, man, the little guy’s excitement was undiminished. He bounced out of bed (“today I get to share my seal”) – got dressed in record time – ran to the front door of his school. All because of the seal. So excited to share.

That night as I was giving him his bath I suddenly remembered show-and-tell…excitedly I said “Rocket! I forgot! How was show-and-tell today?”

It was as if my words themselves pierced him. He was almost startled by the hurt. His face contorted suddenly into sadness. His eyes looked down. His mouth fell. His whole body shrunk.

And I fell with him, asking him “oh baby, what happened?”

And he answered “Nothing,” which is what he does and it kills me every time because how can he be only five and already protective of himself and closed off and fearful? But it’s what he does when something really hurts.

 So I knew it was a tough one.

 But I pulled and tugged a little then a little more (“please tell me what happened”) – trying to wrap him in warmth and safety as I wrapped his little body in a towel.

He looked at me with those freckles across the bridge of his nose and eternal blue eyes and said “They didn’t even think it was cute.”

I could feel something turn my insides upside down into a confused knot of rage, protectiveness, sorrow and insane empathy – oh little man I’ve been there. I know that pain. That rejection. I saw him standing there at the front of the class, excited in that wild, abandoned, fearless way only innocent little ones get excited and I saw his hopeful eyes looking around the class, waiting, for a comment, a smile, a moment of recognition. Some kindness. Some connection.

And finding none. And realizing you’re a damn idiot, standing there in front of everybody holding a fucking stuffed seal – wishing they’d see the beauty in it – perceive what you perceive – thinking for a moment these people may “get you,” – that maybe we’re connected after all…and realizing you’re a damn fool for putting yourself out. For trying. For exposing yourself like that to a room full of goddamned distant assholes.

Maybe I should have said that to him. But I didn’t.

 I didn’t know what to say. So I asked “What do you mean?” hoping to buy some time for the brilliant mother response to enter.

 “They didn’t even think it was cute. They said it was a girl toy. Jason brought in a dinosaur toy and they said that was ‘cool’ but nobody liked my seal.”

Ah, fuck you, motherhood, for making me the person responsible for saying just the right thing to this boy in this moment. Fuck you for making ME the person to set it right. To teach and guide him. To make this situation okay. And fuck you for abandoning me in my moment of need.

You don’t help me. You only made me a mother. You only made me a child’s whole world. You never told me how to be that world – how to be that mother. how to not hurt. how to make the pain subside.

So without a single tool I’m left with just me.

Always, just me.

And I got nothin’.

The canned mother response flashes through my mind… “Oh honey, the important thing is that you like the seal. We don’t care what the other kids think.”

But I couldn’t say it. because it’s just such bullshit. It’s just such crap.

Because we do care. Of course we fucking care. I’m not going to insult him with meaningless 1950s sit-com responses.

Though I have no other ideas.

So I don’t say anything. I bury my face in his warm clean neck and kiss his head and hold him as tightly as I can and I feel that pain that is his pain and the pain that is powerlessness.

Because it isn’t about a damn seal. It isn’t about having tough skin or learning to hold one’s own in the world or be a man or respond to others appropriately.

It’s about dealing with the pain that is existence and the pain of this moment with acceptance and courage and a little faith that it’ll be alright on the other side. And I want to give him tools to face that pain squarely but who am I to do so? When I spent so many years hiding in a whiskey bottle – so many years mumbling “nothing” – tearing my stuffed seal into tiny worthless shreds, too terrified to admit that I loved it. That I thought it was the cutest thing I’d ever seen. That I wanted you to think so too.

So REALLY. Who am I to give him these lessons?

Well, his mother, I guess.

watching the sun set over the ocean...wonder what he's thinking.

22 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | April 28, 2011

and then this one time, I got my kid to T-ball practice

by renegademama

One of the reasons I started writing this blog is that simple, “normal” parenting tasks – ones that other people seem to complete with relative ease – completely overwhelm me. They floor me. I gotta have an outlet for this confusion, lest I finally determine that I am, in fact, fatally maladjusted and ill-equipped for life, and give up entirely.

For example: extracurricular activities. I don’t get those. I mean, I “get” them: it’s the stuff kids do outside of school.

But I don’t get them – like, how to DO THEM.

One, maybe. Extracurricular Activity. Not plural. No plural around here.

Each kid gets one.

Yeah, I know. Bad mother.

But you gotta understand the situation here. I am genuinely impressed with my parenting skills when each one of my kids is involved in a single extracurricular activity. Except Georgia. Georgia gets boob. That’s her activity.

And I’m not kidding. I feel like an over-achieving, June-Cleaver-emulating, Martha-Stewart-weeps-in-the-corner-when-she-sees-me-coming bad ass when I get Ava to softball practice. And if I’m on time? Whoa. Hold up. Somebody’s on FIRE.

I think about this sometimes when I see other people’s kids doing freaking everything. Tennis lessons, Girl Scouts, violin lessons, French lessons, karate, earth-appreciation camp, junior democrat camp, social justice grammar school league (okay I made those last two up). And I don’t get it. Do their parents have chauffeurs? Do they have house boys (I have no idea what that is, but I think I want one.). Have they discovered 5 additional hours in the day, perhaps hiding under the armoire? Are they self-employed? Are they independently wealthy? Is there something wrong with me? (well, yes, Janelle. We’ve been over that. Now move along).

I mean COME ON I can hardly get my kids to SCHOOL each day, let alone optional character-building activities.

I think it’s a bit unreasonable to set those kind of expectations.

I mean pretty much the only reason my kids make it to school every day is because I’ll get arrested if I don’t take them and I really need them to leave the premises for awhile, so I can gather my strength to face the upcoming after-school extracurricular. I can’t believe I just said that out loud.

These things sound okay on paper. Like T-ball for example. Sounds innocuous, right?. Little kids, uniforms, balls, dirt, tees. One practice on Thursdays. One game on Fridays. Yeah, alright. I’m in. It’ll be fun.

Oh NO it won’t.

They didn’t tell you that the practice is at 4pm on Thursdays, so unless you’re a stay-at-home-mom, it’s a virtual act of God to get a kid moved from school to the park at 4pm on a Thursday – which means you’ll spend every Wednesday (when it occurs to you with a pang of sorrow that tomorrow is Thursday and thus T-ball practice) calling grandparents and distant relatives and old friends who hate you, begging them to help. Games at 6pm on Fridays? Alright. Manageable. But it isn’t just a game. It’s a game that requires particular clothing, meaning you will first have to locate this clothing (“Rocket WHY are your baseball socks tied to the dog kennel in the neighbor’s yard?”) and quite possibly wash that clothing (which of course is optional. But locating them? Not optional.). And then there’s the gear. (“Where the F is the mit?”) AGAIN. And of course we’re trying to eat food before the game so nobody starves, in addition to trying to dress Rocket in a baseball uniform that doesn’t exist (while he’s rolling on the floor in hysterics after trying to lick his sister, who is now screaming because her privacy’s been violated and she has homework and doesn’t want to go the game at all and NOBODY EVER CARES ABOUT HER EVENTS!) and it’s cold on the field so dress appropriately (but “I HATE UNDERSHIRTS MAMA!”) and the baby went to the bathroom for the 3rd time today, right now, so I’m yelling at Mac to handle it but he’s making food and I’m wrestling kids. And everybody’s reeling and WHY? Why is my life sucking so badly at 5:45pm on a Friday?

Because of the damn extracurricular activity.

I know what you’re thinking. Plan better, Janelle. Make a schedule. Organize your life. Use a calendar for goodness sake. Act like a grown-up.

But the problem is, I can’t do that either.

I put things in my Blackberry calendar then never look at it again. Or I write things on the family calendar then fail to realize that today is the day indicated on the calendar. Yes, I do these things. This is me.

Hello. My name is Janelle and I am inept.

We don’t plan. We avert disaster.

Maybe my kids will resent me one day because they only got to do one thing at a time. And that’s okay. I do what I can. And once they have their own kids, suddenly facing their own limitations, they’ll realize with perfect clarity that I did the best I could, with the tools I had at the time.

Or didn’t have. As the case may be.


Hey kids! I have an idea. Let's watch T.V. in a cardboard box instead of doing extracurricular activities!

beginning to see why people home school

by renegademama

What part of this am I missing?

Somebody explain to me how competition is useful in grammar school. I don’t get it. Or maybe I’m just too emotional or protective. I don’t know.

We went to my daughter’s “science fair” last night. All the kids had displays of their science projects, which they had worked on for weeks. They were all very proud, parading their parents around to all the boards, showing them whose was whose, especially highlighting their own, of course. My daughter was proud of her work and loving that we were at her school. It was fun. Well it was fun until the principal informed us that they would be “announcing the science fair winners” in a few minutes.

Wait. What? Why?

Why do we need ‘winners?’ Why does it have to be a competition? How do you judge the independent efforts of a 3rd grader? How do you judge learning and exploration? And more importantly, why would you place them in a competition they are not emotionally ready to handle? Are these competitions for the child or are they for the over-engaged parents?

And if you must have a competition in 3rd grade, at least give the kid a CHOICE of whether or not she participates. This was a mandatory school project –that’s getting judged? So wrong on so many damn levels.

After seeing the other science projects, with their super complex presentations and perfectly aligned poster boards and color-coordinated everything and other obvious contributions by parents, I felt like saying to Ava “check it out. You aren’t going to win, little one. You aren’t going to win because daddy and I have the strange and radical opinion that kids should do their own work, without help or input of parents beyond subtle suggestions and hints, when the kid is stuck and explicitly asks for it. Consequently, your project looks like it was done by a 9-year-old.”

So the principal walks to the front of the room and all the kids with their hopeful, bright eyes and the parents – some looking intent and serious, others, like us, looking like we’re about to vomit – and she announces “first, second and third place” winners. I glance at Ava.

Her eyes burn red. She’s trying not to cry.

Half the room is trying not to cry.

And I run to her, torn as usual: wanting to cradle her but wanting her to learn that the world is a rough messed up place. Wanting her to fight her own battles, wanting to beat the principal and the fucktard PTA mom judges to listless, bloody pulps. So I say “Ah, baby. Let’s talk about it in the car,” hoping the walk across the parking lot will shed some light on it…give me the right words to say…give me just the thing to make her feel okay, to teach her the perfect lesson for this particular experience and make it all okay.

But I got nothin’.

As usual I flounder and struggle and try to explain that it doesn’t mean her project wasn’t great. It only means that a few people thought it wasn’t as great as the others…and it doesn’t matter what they think and who the hell are they to judge and they have their own motives, etc. etc. But she’s not an idiot. What’s the take away for her? What’s the ultimate message? Mine was not as good as the others. Mine didn’t win.

Period. End of story.

My project was not as good.

I am not as good.

And the pride she felt a few moments earlier vanished. And suddenly hers was second-rate and she was silly to hold our hands and parade us around. Because it wasn’t very good. It wasn’t a winner. The important people said so. There’s no ribbon on mine. Therefore, I lose.

Please somebody tell me how that’s helpful?

Because even if she were to win, what would she have then? An over-inflated sense of ego and superiority derived from an arbitrary judgment of irrelevant individuals. A feeling of success because other people approved of her work. Why not value the process? The journey. The fact that she did this work by herself and she did a good job. And that is enough in itself.

There is a place for competition. When a person is ready to compete. When a person is emotionally prepared to handle the loss. When a person can separate herself from the outcome, knowing a competition doesn’t define her value as a person.

But not now. Not in 3rd grade. Not when it’s all wrapped up in one.

What did I ultimately say?

“Ava, remember that Townes Van Zandt song… ‘Don’t let the bastards get you down?’ Well, this is exactly what he was talking about.”

Then I called my mom and told her about the bastards, and tried not to let them get me down either.

when in doubt, ask yourself...