The Semi-Working Mom: You Pay for the Luxury, but It’s So Worth It

The past few weeks I’ve gotten a taste of the working-mom life. And it is sweet. But I get the feeling that it’s one of those treats that is most appreciated in small bites.

This is literally my first pumpkin spice latte ever. I grabbed it on my way to work on the first day of autumn while wearing a cozy sweater and felt compelled to shoot a sassy selfie to show my husband what a basic bitch I was being. I rocked it.

This is literally my first pumpkin spice latte ever. I grabbed it on my way to work on the first day of autumn while wearing a cozy sweater and felt compelled to shoot a sassy selfie to show my husband what a basic bitch I was being. I rocked it.

I can easily see how many moms would get overwhelmed by everything it takes to get to work while someone else keeps your kid alive. This is no small feat. And it’s not something you can really understand until you try it. I was freelance editing for most of Tommy’s life before I started teaching again, but I had no idea what all was involved in actually going somewhere else to work.

Using a sitter or daycare is an interesting experience. At first you sort of freak out because you’ve got your kid’s napping schedule and feeding methods down to a science that nobody else could possibly replicate. But after typing up schedules and instruction sheets and having long conversations with the caregiver, you realize that you’re totally being a control freak, and your kid will survive if his nap or meal experience isn’t exactly perfect. Because every experience at home was perfect, right? Yeah.

And then there’s the inevitable freak-out when your darling baby realizes you’ll be abandoning him with these strangers. Tommy absolutely loses his shit whenever I’m dropping him off or picking him up, but the caretakers assure me (with photographic evidence) that he is fairly happy in the meantime. I’m fairly sure he’s just putting on a show to prove to me that he needs me, and (fingers crossed) he’ll get over it eventually. I sort of just drop his stuff and run out the door with an “I love you” flung over my shoulder on the way out in an effort to minimize the scene. It’s probably exacerbated by the fact that we only do three days a week, so his routine is changed up damn near every day.

The biggest challenge by far is finding childcare that doesn’t bankrupt you. Infants are the hardest to find care for because they can’t do anything for themselves, the little freeloaders. Compared to older kids, there has to be a greater number of caretakers in a room with fewer kids because all of the little monsters need to be fed and entertained, and all of their little tushies and noses need to be wiped (not in that order). Thank the gods for childcare providers, seriously. I don’t want to do what you do. This is why every daycare has a waiting list. And if you don’t get on the ball really early (like me) you might only get into daycare one day a week when you really need three.

What I’ve had to do is find a babysitter for the other two days a week. And really, the sitter is way cheaper than the daycare. Did I mention that childcare is really fucking expensive? Because it is. I didn’t get to teach as many classes as I’d hoped for this semester (that’s what happens when you’re the new instructor), and adjuncts don’t make very much money to begin with. So I’m literally paying more in childcare than I’m earning this semester. That’s right, I’m actually paying for the privilege to go out into the world and work. It’s like my unpaid internship in Berkeley all over again.

But, people, it is so worth it. I’m using my brain, keeping myself sane, and feeling good about myself. Even though I do have to grade things, I’m absolutely happy with this deal. Not only do I get a legitimate reason to talk about literature and writing for a few hours a week, I have a reason to wear work clothes, and do my makeup, and fix my hair. And, AND, I get to go to the gym once a week! What?!

I know, I know, many of you are all like, what’s the big deal? If you want to go to the gym, just go to the gym. But guys, it isn’t that easy. The gym where we live (on post) doesn’t have daycare, just a co-op where you have to go certain hours and watch other kids every once in a while, which is way too complicated and scary for me (other peoples’ kids? how do I even?). If I wait for Robin to get home so I can fling the baby at him and go to the gym, I won’t be able to hang out with both of them together before bedtime, and I like hanging out with the dudes. And the nearest off-post gym with childcare is still kind of far away and too expensive. But now, on days when I’ve got Tommy in daycare, I can take an extra hour (because I’m paying for it anyways, dammit) and go to the gym near the college. Hooray!

So the working-mom thing is amazing. But in addition to the big childcare question, it comes with so many little challenges, and some of them are weird and small, and you don’t expect them until you are dealing with them head-on. For instance, I can’t just use the baby as my alarm clock anymore. Yes, he tends to wake up around 6 or 6:30 every morning, which ought to be enough time, but he’s not reliable; every so often there’s a glorious morning when he decides to sleep in past 7. And also, if I want to do my hair and makeup without a little monster crawling up my legs and whining the whole time because he MUST BE HELD, I have to do that stuff before he wakes up.

And getting out the door is a bit of an ordeal. I have at least two giant bags (briefcase and diaper bag), sometimes three (gym bag), plus a baby on my hip. And god knows where my wallet is on any given day, because it gets rotated around so often, and I’ve gotten stuck off-post without my ID (horrors!) on at least one occasion so far.

I guess the key is getting organized up front. The people who do this well (not me) get the daycare set up while the baby is still in utero, work enough hours to pay for the childcare but not so many that they never see the kid (I have no idea what the magic formula for this is, does anyone?), and either wake up really freakin’ early or have some ability to get shit done at night that eludes me. I salute you, Wonder-Moms.

I figure I’ve got a pretty sweet deal going, even if it is in my own fumbling fashion. I may spend more money than I’m earning for the privilege, but I get to use my brain for what I trained it to do, I get a few hours to myself, and I still get to spend a ton of time at home with the baby. Of course, I went and screwed up my system, because after this semester I’ll be adding another baby to the mix and probably won’t be able to do this again. Meh, here’s to the present.

Advertisements

The Zombie Phase: 8 Similarities between My Toddler and the Undead

 

My one-year-old recently started walking. One day he figured out that he could stand unassisted (amazing!), then he somehow realized he could take steps without holding onto things (no way!), and he finally learned that if he did that a bunch, he could get this whole bipedal motion thing working for him (like, whoa!). He’s just getting the idea of it, but by god, he is determined to keep working on it. So now we have this baby awkwardly toddling around the house, practicing his new skill during all of his waking hours. We officially have a toddler.

The thing is, he’s not very good at it. Add to it the fact that he’s still not verbal—well, he speaks some language, but it ain’t English—and it seems that he has completely morphed into a little monster. Specifically, a zombie.*

zombie-499924_640

Consider the following evidence:

  1. Lurching Steps: As I said, he’s not great at walking yet. He tends to lead with one foot, then bring the other one up behind.
  2. Pushes through Movable Obstacles: If there is a toy in his path, he won’t hesitate to kick it out of his way. He can deal with freely swinging doors, no problem. If the furniture isn’t too heavy, that’s going wherever he decides to push it. But….
  3. Lacks Agility and Speed: He definitely can’t operate a doorknob or gate latch. He can sort of go up and down one or two steps but not well, and he can’t climb anything overly high or complicated (like a ladder or fence).His movements are slow but deliberate. You can very easily outrun him.
  4. Moaning and Groaning: Like I said, he’s not verbal. But he’s definitely vocal. And he’s trying out new sounds. Most of his jabber these days comes out in a weird, gravelly growling voice. And he repeats syllables on a seemingly endless loop. Random passers-by often get an enthusiastic, but still creepy, growl in their general direction.
  5. Driven by Hunger: Although he doesn’t eat humans, he is incredibly motivated by food. I guess he’s not unlike a Labrador in this capacity. You’ve got food in your hand? Can he have some? Either way, he’ll lunge for it. And everything, food or not, goes straight into the mouth.
  6. Attacks the Living: Any person within a certain vicinity is a potential human jungle gym. And no body part is off limits to those grabby hands. This can get dangerous when the little pinchers or claws are involved.
  7. Gross Bodily Substances: It may not contain human viscera, but he definitely leaves a gooey trail in his wake. I’m talking about the constant stream of drool here. Anything that comes in contact with him is bound to get slightly moist. And he’s frequently quite stinky.
  8. Survivors Must Band Together: George Romero himself (the forefather of the modern zombie) stated that zombies were simply a stand-in for “a global change of some kind,” and that zombie stories are really all about how people react. Well, I’m fairly certain my world is about to be rocked when the beastie figures out how to gain some speed. It’s a good thing his dad and I like each other quite a lot. We sure need that bond to be able to tag-team his ass when he really gets going.

Luckily, unlike an actual zombie, my little creature will eventually learn to walk and talk like a real person, and I don’t have to fear infection from his bites, so I can just let him do his thing rather than flee or fight him. And (this is a very important point) he’s much cuter and friendlier than the undead.

For those of you who are interested, here’s a video.

*Let’s just assume that the Romero zombie is the one true zombie, okay? Get outta here with that running zombie crap.

I’m Pregnant and Hormonal, and I’m Somehow Surviving

Okay, so it has been one hell of a month, and I know I haven’t written anything in a long time, and I’m sorry, so let’s get going.

First off, I’m pregnant. Remember that? I sure as hell can’t forget. And the first trimester of this pregnancy has been SO MUCH HARDER than my last one. I’ve been much more nauseous than last time, but more than that, I was just completely exhausted the past few months. Like going to bed at 8:00 after putting the baby down. Like letting the house get fairly icky because, oh my god, I just can’t face doing anything right now. Like WHY IN THE HELL ISN’T THE BABY NAPPING because I can’t do anything but lie face-down on the couch. Luckily, I seem to have turned the corner into the second trimester. The nausea has abated most of the way, and I feel almost human again.

The 14-week baby bump. It's a-growin'.

The 14-week baby bump. It’s a-growin’.

Another reason I was feeling so crappy was that my brain chemistry seems to have gotten all messed up recently. Some mixture of the hormones from my last pregnancy and my current one combined to attack the stability that I’ve had going for the past few years, and I started to get depressed. I guess the medication I’ve been on for the past several years encountered all of those baby hormones and just gave up. That is a lot of shit going on in one brain, after all. The good thing is that I recognized what was happening. The tiredness was more than just tiredness. I didn’t want to go anywhere outside my little world of home and the grocery store. Every task was overwhelming. I wasn’t excited at all to start teaching, I just dreaded the thought of having to do everything associated with it. Faced with an opportunity to work a bit more, thinking about the phone calls and arrangements I would have to make to get it done, I had a panic attack and just said no. So I went to the doctor and got on a different medication, and I’m starting to feel better.

And just in time. Everything went crazy last week, and I was able to deal with it.

On Wednesday the college called and told me the Tuesday/Thursday class I was scheduled to teach (a remedial reading course) didn’t have enough enrollment and was being dropped. Would I be able to teach a literature/writing class on Monday/Wednesday/Fridays? Um, yes please. But I only got into the daycare two afternoons, and now I had to switch everything around. Within the one afternoon I had to figure things out and give them my answer, I was able to secure a babysitter and daycare. And I didn’t freak out. That right there is a testament to the new pills working. Praise be the gods of pharmacology.

So now I’m teaching a much more interesting class, and I don’t have to do it with a screaming baby strapped to my back. There’s a very nice woman watching him two days a week, and he’ll be in daycare the other morning. Huzzah! I spent the weekend trying to scrape together a syllabus, and I started teaching this morning. Syllabus day, in and out. So far, so good.

Robin also started a new job this morning. He got transferred to a new department, but it’s here on the same post. He received word well over a month ago that he might maybe be switching, but the definitive word didn’t come to him until late last week. I won’t get into the details, but he says his new job is essentially like being a non-resident RA for the cadets. His hours will be a bit weirder, and he’ll be on-call more, but that’s about all I know about it for now.

Robin Hat

This guy. He’s the adult in charge of the youths. Watch out, cadets.

And now for the important stuff: Tommy’s birthday.

Birthday TieTommy turned one yesterday! To celebrate the event, we drove down to Philly to have a little family party with Robin’s parents. There was cake and swimming, and fun was had by all. Even though I was working through quite a lot of the weekend. Shout out to my mother-in-law for getting everything together. I’m not a great party planner. If I was in charge, Tommy might have gotten cake. Maybe. And everyone else would have eaten whatever was in their own homes because I would have forgotten to invite them.

Tommy birthday cakeI am really impressed that Robin and I have successfully made it a full year as parents. It seems like at least three years have passed. In any case, Tommy’s doing great. The little bugger is crawling everywhere. He can stand unassisted really well, but he can’t walk yet. He loves grabbing a toy in each hand and clomping around the house with them. And he babbles all the time, with the occasional “mamamamama” or “dadada,” but no actual words that we can understand.

Tommy Duplos

Dude. This afternoon he put two Duplos together. Then pulled them apart. All on his own. The kid’s a genius.

In case anyone is interested, the overwhelming winner of the advice I asked for in my last post is to sit on the floor while changing a diaper and sling a leg over the baby’s chest. It’s firm enough to keep him in place, but it won’t hurt him. Tommy doesn’t like it much, but his vote doesn’t matter on this issue.

So that’s what’s been happening here. Lots and lots going on, and I’m able to handle at least most of it now.

Crawling: A Blessing and a Curse

Crawling babies, man. They are a riot. They are discovering the world and finally figuring out how to amuse themselves. What’s over here? Have I seen this today? Can I pick this up? Open this? Throw this? What does this taste like? This drawer thingy pulls out! But it smashed my fingers! Betrayal! Dog bowl? Dog bowl!

Tommy has spent the last month exploring every nook and cranny of our home, seeing what he can get into and taste-testing as much as possible. The first floor is basically a loop consisting of living room, hallway, kitchen, and dining room, with myriad doors, drawers, chairs, and tables to test and pull up on. He spends a good part of the day circumnavigating this loop and getting into as much mischief as he can.

Tommy Pulling Up

Whatcha doin? Can I help?

The best part about this is that Tommy can finally amuse himself. No longer is he trapped in one spot, subjected to whatever toy or activity I bring to him. He can go to the object of his choice and do what he wants with it for the 2.5 seconds that it holds his attention, then move to the next item on his list. For much of the day I’m free from holding him or sitting on the floor. Instead, I can stand or sit on a chair like a civilized human being while I watch him, slowly following him around from activity to activity.

Granted, I can’t exactly get as much stuff done as I used to while he’s on the loose. Instead of being able to plop him in once spot while I do the dishes or whatever, when I set him down to do something productive he’s instantly trying to climb up my legs, pulling down my pants in the process. It’s a bit harder to move around the kitchen with an anchor on your leg, one that will cry if you accidentally knock it over.

Big Brother Teeth

I HELP! I WANTS UP!

His favorite destination is the dog’s water bowl, because he loves splashing, so I’ve had to move it up on the counter at all times when the Tommy Monster is loose. He won’t eat the dog food, but he will fling it about whenever he can. The poor dog, she knows good and well that she’s not allowed to snip, growl, or make any threatening move at the baby, so she just looks at me like she’s been betrayed and avoids the baby’s grabby hands as much as she can.

StellaFace

*SIGH*

One of Tommy’s most amusing games is opening my file cabinet and playing with the tabs. At least once a day he’ll pull out one or the other of my degrees (which I keep in their padded folders in the back of the drawer) and fling them on the ground. I ignore the subtle irony and put them back, and we play the game all over again.

Tommy Filing

Hahahaha, you went to college! Twice! Now you just follow me around. You don’t need this.

There is one problem, however, that surpasses all the other problems associated with crawling. And it’s one that I just can’t seem to find a reasonable solution to. So I’m asking for your help, internet (er, the 30 or so people who might read this post). Please tell me what to do.

What the hell do I do with a crawling baby who won’t let me change his diaper? I’ve looked for advice on the web. All I’m getting is that if the baby is flipping over and squirming, it’s best to take diaper changes to the floor level and try to distract the baby with a toy. Well, I figured that out. Oh, and I should use this special time to enrich the bonding between mother and child? Really? Because my horrified screams of “NONONONONOAAAAAHHHHHH!” are really great for the mother-child relationship? Fuck off, Mother Serenity; you’re not fooling anyone.

wrestlingWhen it’s just a wet diaper, it isn’t such a big deal. It’s annoying, but I don’t really care if he crawls around bare-assed for a bit while I try to slap a diaper on him from behind. What’s really traumatizing us both is the poopy diaper situation. He simply won’t lie still long enough to wipe the poo off his butt before he crawls around the entire room, getting that filth all over everything. He just wants to move. But he doesn’t realize that it isn’t okay to roll over, sticking a foot or knee into the dirty diaper, or wander about and sit on various objects while his underbits are still an unholy mess. And I can’t subdue him with toys or songs. I used to get him to hold wipes or diaper cream, or anything that might capture his attention, but now nothing works. No, the only thing that I can do is physically restrain him, pinning him down so that he can’t roll away. Sometimes I even have to hold his shoulders down with my feet. And I feel like I’m straight-up torturing him when I do this. He certainly thinks so. It’s ridiculous! I feel crazy, I look absurd, and I sound like a lunatic every time I have to change the kid’s diaper.

I know I’m not the only mother who has ever gone through this. I can’t be. My common sense tells me this. But I can’t find many people talking about it online. Is it that taboo? Is everyone so ashamed of either (a) poo or (b) physically restraining their babies that they simply refuse to talk about it? Well I don’t care! I’m calling out for help. Someone tell me how to solve this so that I don’t emotionally scar my child and myself and/or have a house that is forever unclean. The two are not mutually exclusive by any means.

forever unclean

Life Update: July 2015

I realize I’ve been a bit off the grid lately. Unless you are directly related to me or live within 100 feet of me, you probably haven’t seen or heard from me in a while. That happen sometimes. This time it’s because there has been so much happening that I’m just trying to exist.

First off, the really great news is that after his whirlwind 9-month battle, my dad finally kicked his cancer to the curb and my parents got to head back to Japan. Hurray! I just wish I was able to be there when they ate their celebratory cake. It looked magnificent.

Ass Cake

YASSSS

Tommy and I packed up and headed for the lake at the beginning of the month. He got to spend some quality time with his grandmother and great-grandmother, and I got to relax a bit and look at the lake while I got some work done. Tommy loves splashing in the lake, and while I don’t love cleaning the sand out of his diaper, I do love seeing him discover the awesomeness of the beach.

We got to see the Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, Fourth of July parade, which Chris Christie and Marco Rubio marched in. It was really bizarre, but I guess fairly predictable with the number of local wealthy republicans and the fact that it’s an early primary state. The bulk of the parade was your typical small-town fare with trucks and floats from local businesses and clubs, small bands and youth dance groups, and the obligatory choreographed lawn-chair routine. Then it seemed like the parade was over. But no, there were people pointing up the street saying something else was coming. And along came the Christie group, creeping along, super slowly, so that the candidate could pose for selfies with some of the many, many local republicans. And then there was a loooong gap, and Rubio’s group came creeping along, doing the same deal. Apparently Mitt Romney, who has a house nearby, hosted what Jezebel called a “deeply weird sleepover.” Fairly hilarious and totally worth watching.

Unfortunately we had to leave Robin at home. He’s been working really long hours lately. He hasn’t been home during daylight hours much in several weeks. In fact, he’s at the office right now, on a Saturday afternoon. He hates it, I hate it, but what you gonna do? We know it’s temporary but necessary.

Luckily, I was able to use much of the down-time at the lake to get ahead on my editing project and finished it up earlier this week. So I don’t have that stress to worry about, and I can take the occasional nap when I feel like it. Which is very important to this pregnant lady.

I also got to go to Ikea to get a new coffee table (Tommy smashed the glass top on our old one) and a new dining set. Sorry Mom, but I sold the fabulous 1980s wicker set you passed down to me. It was time. And I really didn’t need Tommy smashing the glass top on it. I love Ikea. Coming from Oklahoma, I didn’t have the opportunity to go there until fairly recently, but now I’m addicted. I love wandering through the store, eating in the cafeteria, and putting stuff together. Unfortunately, the dining set didn’t come with any of the required hardware, so I had to pack up Tommy and drive all the way to freakin’ Paramus, New Jersey, twice in one week. Less than ideal. But meatballs, chicken fingers, and the play area went a long way toward soothing us.

This Gem Served Us for 30 Years

This gem served us for about 30 years

I realized last week that the BlogHer2015 conference would be going on in New York City this week, and I spent a lovely few moments imagining how I could get myself there. But in reality, there’s no way I could have gone. Maybe if I had realized it was going on before last week and planned ahead. I love conferences. And a lady-blogging conference where I might run into one of my favorite writers in real life? Yes please. But I didn’t budget for the fees (hello, Ikea) or set up a babysitter, and this is NOT somewhere I’d want to go with a potentially cranky baby. Besides, I’m simply not a serious enough blogger for it to be terribly important right now. Maybe next year, if it’s somewhere I can travel to, or if I decide to do anything with this blog beyond simply communicating with a handful of people. We’ll see.

I’ve been using much of my free time this week getting ready for my new job teaching a couple of classes at a local community college this fall. I interviewed for the job well before I found out I was pregnant, but I figure I might as well go ahead and teach a semester, then I might be able to only take off one semester and teach again next fall. We’ll see how well this works. The class is the most remedial of remedial English classes, meaning I’ll probably have an interesting mix of young and older students who haven’t seen a decent classroom in quite a while and need to figure out how college works. Quite frankly, editing pays better than teaching, and this isn’t exactly the ideal course, but I’m dying to work outside the house, if only for two afternoons a week. I’m working on getting Tommy into daycare, but the facilities on the campus and here on post both have full infant rooms. I’ll probably end up paying most of my paycheck to have a sitter while I linger on their waiting lists. But, guys, I get to GO SOMEWHERE to WORK! I might even get to GO TO THE GYM!

Who knows what my life will be like when baby #2 comes along. I may not get to work for a few years, or I may fling the kids in the general direction of the nearest daycare every chance I get. I love working, but I know this might just not be the right time for me to work outside the house beyond the classes this fall. And I can deal with that. I’m just really lucky to be able to have choices about it.

Tommy is growing and growing. He shoves solid foods into his mouth by the fistful. He’s crawling everywhere and trying to climb things, but so far with very little success. The dog’s water bowl seems to be a favorite destination. He babbles and whines a lot but has yet to say any actual words on purpose. While in New Hampshire he figured out clapping, and he’d clap for his great-grandmother every time she entered the room. We’re working on waving, but quite frankly, I’m a terribly lazy teacher when it comes to baby tricks. I’ve almost completely crapped out on baby sign language. As cute as he is, It can be exhausting hanging out with Tommy all day (I know, I know, this is paradise compared to what I’ll face with multiple children, just let me whine. IT’S MY WEBSITE). He’s not napping well right now and tends to get really tired and whiny during a good portion of the day. Ugh, and the pinching! Don’t let that little boy’s fingers anywhere near the soft flesh of your upper arm. But he does love hanging out on the front porch with our neighbors, watching the bigger boys play. And when all else fails, Sesame Street can captivate him pretty well.

Stella gets so nervous. Those ears.

Stella gets so nervous. Those ears.

As for baby #2, I’m roughly 8 or 9 weeks pregnant, which according to babycenter.com, means the kid is the size of a kidney bean. But my stomach isn’t aware of that fact, because the instant pregnancy hormones hit my system, my tummy pooched out as if my abs decided they were going on vacation early this time. Such assholes, those abs. And the nausea hit harder this time, but a combination of vitamin B6 and (weirdly) antihistamine seem to be keeping me from being completely miserable. Tired but not completely miserable.

7 Weeks

The maternity suit (yes, already) masks the 7-week belly pretty well.

So that’s what’s happening with me. I’ll try to keep the blog updated more, now that I don’t have to work every single moment the baby’s sleeping. In the meantime, happy summer.

That Feeling When . . . You’re Pregnant Again!

Big BrotherYeah, so you know how I wrote that I was all angry at Mother Nature for making me think I was pregnant when I wasn’t? Turns out I was pregnant when I wrote that. Yeah, I don’t even know what my body has been doing lately. But whatever.

What

In any case, HERE WE GO!!!

You know that feeling. That feeling when . . .

When you find out you’re pregnant.

So Happy

When you remember how you told the internet that you weren’t pregnant, but it turns out you were wrong. Oops!

oops

When you want to tell everyone, mostly so you can complain because, let’s be real, that’s one of the small pleasures of pregnancy. But of course, there’s some social rule that you’re supposed to wait a while. But screw it.

Secret

When you realize that your kids will be 18 months apart, which is what you wanted so that they could be playmates and stuff, but then you realize how little the existing baby will still be when the new baby is born, and also how hard pregnancy is without a little boy-creature to take care of, and you think, “What have I done?”

George Costanza

When you have to do something involving a large agency (for instance the medical clinic and the insurance people), and you’re not sure who you have to contact or what you have to do, so you suck it up and make the phone call, but then get shuttled around from department to department.

Nightmare

When baby-brain, which in this case seems to be manifesting as pregnancy-induced ADD, makes you completely unable to focus on the work you have to get done and you feel like a complete flake.

Homer Brain

But really, you want to be like, “I am a capable, educated human being!”

Smart

When you can feel that there is definitely something happening in your uterus. Is the baby rearranging the furniture or what? It’s the size of a freakin’ lentil!

Pivot

When you’re nauseous beyond words and the 10-month-old doesn’t want to do anything but climb up your body. Or when you open a can of cat food. Or when you haven’t eaten in 20 minutes.

When you happily share a meal of chicken nuggets and goldfish with the kid because that’s all either of you wants to eat right now.

Chicken Nugget Power

When you’re trying really hard to believe that the decaf coffee does anything for you.

coffee

When you are exhausted beyond belief and fully realize that this is just the beginning of life with two kids. And you just sort of think, Bring It.

Wonder Woman

When you think about how you’ve got a limited amount of time when you and the current baby have each other all to yourselves, so you probably ought to appreciate that.

Baby Dinosaur

I GOT TO GO TO THE MOVIES!! Inside Out

People. I got to go to the MOVIES last weekend! And it was amazing.

JL_approved_insideOutLogo_finAs a mom who works from home, I have very little free time in which I can concentrate on anything indulgent. There are times when the baby is sleeping, maybe three or four solid hours in a given day, during which I can focus on something, read words and let my brain engage fully, really concentrate on a subject, or write something coherent—currently this time is devoted to work. That is, when I don’t get sucked into my Facebook stream on autopilot only to look up after half an hour and think, “What the hell just happened?” The rest of my day is largely spent on errands, household chores, or hanging out on the floor, letting the baby use me as a jungle gym, all of which must occur while at least half of my brain is keeping track of a small, mobile person who is just looking for a chance to hurt himself.

So I don’t get as much time as I used to get to think deeply and write about the all-important pop-culture topics, which I am fully capable of spending SO MUCH TIME pondering. That’s just one of the results of an advanced degree in the liberal arts, I guess.

But this weekend I need to stop and think. Mostly because I got to GO TO THE MOVIES on Saturday. And I gorged myself on popcorn and felt slightly ill, but it was so worth it.

If you currently have, or have ever had, a baby, you know what a luxury this is. I never really thought about it before becoming a parent. But in order to actually go to the movies, you have to arrange for someone to watch the baby. Because babies aren’t movie-theater-friendly. Because babies can’t sit still and engage with the movie. But they can get angry at not being allowed to move (see topic “Air Travel”), and by god can they make inappropriately loud noises (see topic “All Day, Every Day”).

In any case, Robin went away on yet another bachelor party weekend (seriously, people, stop getting married all at once!), and as a favor to me he set up a playdate as a window of free time and a much-needed respite for me. I dropped the boy-beast off with his fairy godmother for a few hours and headed to the movies. BY MYSELF. It was amazing.

I went and saw the new Pixar movie, Inside Out. I’d read about it and was really interested in the premise: five embodiments of emotion (Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness) lead the control booth of a little girl’s brain as she deals with the difficulty of moving to a new city with her family. At first I thought, This isn’t a new concept. Several shows and movies have anthropomorphized the workings of the brain and other bodily elements over the years. What’s so new about this?

But Inside Out really is a great movie, not because of the premise, but because of the ways they’ve worked out the world inside the brain. And how they display out the development and maturing process of a person’s emotions.

Okay, so I really don’t have the time to sit and think and compose a thorough analysis of the movie—because that would take me hours, and I have a deadline, and I haven’t worked nearly enough the past few days—but I do want to share what some other people have said about it and just say that I think the movie was beautifully done.

From NPR:

Villains are staples of stories for kids. Making them bigger, meaner, madder, more impossible to defeat — that’s how you build the ideas of fear and then, inevitably, of courage. . . . You learn that you, too, can beat the bad guy. You learn not to lose heart and not to give up. You use something inside yourself to beat something outside yourself.

There is no villain in Pixar’s new film Inside Out. That’s not only because the action takes place inside the mind of 11-year-old Riley. It’s also because even in there, . . . there is no villain. Riley isn’t stalked by any invading monster; there’s no hulking, lumbering beast named Insecurity or Hate or Depression who must later be defeated or vanquished in a climactic battle or persuaded to change its nature. Riley begins with a vibrant spirit humming with varied, vivid life, and her great battle—the battle that must be fought by her Joy and her Sadness but is being fought by Riley always, after all—is simply to master the fact that her assembled life is delicate and complex.

From Jezebel:

This movie is a welcome reminder that the way you’re feeling at any given time is all right, even necessary. Despite Joy’s endless need to make everything okay (the vocal casting of Poehler was the perfect call), when things start to fall apart in Riley’s life (and mind), that’s when Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger all show their worth. Being happy all the time is a nice goal, but it doesn’t always get us where we need to go, whether that’s strengthening relationships or moving forward in our lives.

Go see the movie. And think about the other astounding moments Pixar has given us (the first few minutes of UP or those devastating moments in the Toy Story frnachise, for instance) and think about how beautifully emotionally intelligent some of that company’s movies are for adults and kids alike, and how they help us remember that growing up is really hard and tragic and necessary.

As a mother of a little boy who will one day start to deal with emotions, and as I will have to figure out how to understand and deal with them, I really love the way this movie gets into the emotional workings of a child and the complexity that comes with growing up.

Oh, and I can already see fan theories and interpretations going up on the web. And I LOVE IT! But spoiler warning, in case you click on those links.