The Great Debate

It’s all over the news. Microsoft and Netflix are now offering pretty amazing maternity and paternity leave options for their employees. I, for one, could not be more excited that two big companies in our country are finally getting their shit together on this topic. Will I ever work for Microsoft or Netflix? Most likely not. Will I ever have more children? Definitely not. So, in a way, this news doesn’t apply to me. But really, it does apply to everyone in our country.

Back when Justin and I decided to have kids, we knew we needed to save money and sick time to  make it work. That was something we were willing to do. We put ourselves on a five year plan so we could travel (but we forgot to go any place), and save loads of money (but we forgot to do that too) so that we could comfortably afford for me to stay home with our children until they were school age. After our first child, we just weren’t ready for me to be a full time stay at home mom. I considered taking a one year leave (unpaid) so that I could return to work after an extended time home with my baby, but the HR department denied my request. Really, my options were limited: I could resign completely from my teaching job, or take six weeks of “paid” time off. Since I have a dad who’s a labor lawyer and a husband who’s a union representative, I found out I could actually take twelve weeks total with FMLA, but my time off would not be monetarily compensated. With summer vacation included, I got to stay home with Harrison for five whole months. Everyone, including my husband and myself, considered this a very very good deal. With the birth of our second child, we were financially prepared for me to stay home with both children, and that is where I am now.

So many women in my profession came back to work just six weeks after their tiny babies came into this world. They’d stand at their classroom doors before the students came in in the morning, choking back tears because it felt like their hearts were ripped out and torn to pieces that morning leaving little ones at daycare. I saw it happen time and time again, and then I was one of those moms, too.

When I read comments on these news articles from Netflix’s and Microsoft’s new announcements I see the following patterns:

“What about those of us who decide not to have kids? How are we compensated?”

You are compensated by a full night’s sleep every night. You are compensated by going to the grocery store by yourself. You are compensated by not using your vacation time for sick kids. You are compensated by knowing that the next generation may not grow up without supervision from their parents who need to work because they have no choice. 

“I’ll have to pick up their slack when they’re home snuggling their babies in their pajamas til noon.”

Your company will likely hire a temporary replacement for the absent employee. Oh look! More jobs in the country! If you feel like you’re picking up slack, you can come over and pick up poop and vomit instead!

“Can non-parents take a year of vacation too?”

According to, a vacation is: 


1.a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday:

Schoolchildren are on vacation now.

2.a part of the year, regularly set aside, when normal activities of law courts, legislatures, etc., are suspended.

3.freedom or release from duty, business, or activity. act or instance of vacating.

verb (used without object) take or have a vacation:

to vacation in the Caribbean.

I don’t even know if I need to elaborate, but of course I will. “Suspension of work” is not the definition of parenting and nurturing an infant. The words “rest”, “recreation”, and “holiday” also are not the words I would use to describe my children’s first years of life. And shall we discuss number three, a “freedom or release from duty, business, or activity”??? My favorite part about that definition is thinking about vacationing to the Caribbean with a baby. Ha! So, no, you may not take a vacation while we are busy parenting. 

Although I worked as a school teacher, which gives me an amazing schedule when it comes to having children, I knew I wouldn’t be good at balancing all of the late nights of grading papers, lesson planning, and learning new curriculum that was going to change the next year anyway when I could be home with my children. I know lots and lots of moms who LOVE being working parents. They’re good at it. They’re good at the balance. But it should be a choice. And by choice, I mean that companies and places of work should make it possible for their employees to work and take time for their families. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have children, or your children are all grown up. This is something our society needs. It’s something our children need. It’s something our future co-workers need.

Missing the Message…or Massage…

A while back, I attended an open house for a new wellness center in my area. I was invited by my sister-in-law, Casey, and I was really excited to go see the new place. Plus, it would get me out of the house without my “extra appendages” (someone I knew at the event actually referred to my kids as such). Plus, plus, there were mimosas.

The center was offering free demos on exercise classes and body treatments. Casey and I both signed up for a facial and a Reiki massage. I’ve had facials aplenty, and in my younger and freer years, I would have the occasional massage. I LOVE massages, but I had never experienced Reiki before, so it was a new learning adventure.

Well the nice lady sat me down in the massage chair and explained what she would be doing. She told me I might feel a “light touch” on my back. ‘Just one light touch?’ I thought. I’m no expert but I thought massage was all about touch. Oh, and agrees with me:


[muhsahzh, –sahj or, esp. British, mas-ahzh]


1.the act or art of treating the body by rubbing, kneading, patting, or the like, to stimulate circulation, increase suppleness, relieve tension, etc.

So I put my face in the face hole and relaxed as best I could. I sat there for a good two minutes and felt no light touches, or touches of any manner. I almost sat up to ask if I was missing something, but then there it was. She laid her hand on my back. And left it there. For like five minutes. Nothing else. Then she moved it to another spot and did the same thing. And then one more spot. And then no more. Nothing else. She whispered that it was over and I sat up, slightly confused. She asked if I felt energized and I politely smiled, thanked her, and moved on.

Casey and I headed to the car and talked over our experiences:

Casey: So, how did you like the massage?

Me: I don’t think I get it.

Casey: There wasn’t much to it, was there?

Me: Ella gives better massages than that.

Casey: I think that would be the best job ever. To charge like a billion dollars and just put your hand on someone’s back? I can totally do that.

Me: I’m pretty sure it’s all in your head, that kind of massage. But I like head massages too. I didn’t get a head massage today.

Casey: I guess I wasn’t thinking hard enough if it was supposed to be in our heads, because I didn’t feel massaged after.

We then talked about how we were either really missing something, or the massage itself was missing something. This provoked me to look up a little information about Reiki. DO NOT TELL MY FORMER STUDENTS, but I used Wikipedia and found out some interesting factlets about Reiki. Here are some quotes:

“It uses a technique commonly called palm healing or hands-on-healing. Through the use of this technique, practitioners believe that they are transferring “universal energy” through the palms of the practitioner, which they believe encourages healing.”

Well there you have it. Must be that our practitioner wasn’t very energized that day.

And here is another:

“Reiki is a form of pseudoscience.[1] It is based on qi, which practitioners say is a universal life force, though there is no empirical evidence that such a life force exists.[3] There is no good evidence that Reiki is effective as a medical treatment.


OK, so to me, anything that begins with “pseudo” is NOT REAL. I’m not really sure how empirical evidence differs from other kinds of evidence, but I am feeling better that there’s nothing to PROVE that Casey and I were just not “in tune” enough to catch the life force being sent through our bodies. Or…was it the mimosas??

So tell me about your Reiki experiences. Did you feel the energy? Or the mimosa?

Captain Underpants

This morning, Harrison asked me to come into the bathroom to help him. I always get nervous when I hear him call me from the loo. He’s gotten into all sorts of trouble in the bathroom, so sometimes he needs help wiping; other times, he’s flooded the tub or unraveled all the toilet paper. Today, when I arrived, it was simply that his underpants had slipped off his ankles while he was doing his business. “This will be easy to learn, buddy,” I say. “You just slip your feet through these holes and then pull them up.” Delighted that this was a quick fix, I returned to sip my coffee and watch the Today Show.

Now, I have been trying to catch at least one full segment of the Today Show for three years now, and it hasn’t happened, so I don’t know why I thought this morning would be any different. As soon as my coffee was to my lips, I saw Harrison exiting the bathroom with his underpants AROUND HIS NECK. The best part is, he looked at me as if this might be a completely reasonable way to wear underpants. It is not, my friends. It is not.

How does one mistake his neck for his feet? I do not know, but I also do not know what was going on on the Today Show, or how my morning coffee tasted, because I had to go unravel him from that mess. On a completely unrelated note, here is a picture of him putting his shirt on yesterday:


Sight Unseen

I put in a new pair of contacts this morning. To those of you lens wearers, you know that contact lenses come in varying lengths of wearability. Some are monthly, some are weekly, some are daily. I’m more of a “wear them until you can no longer identify solid objects” kind of a girl. Since I just throw them in the case without any rinsing, you can imagine how fuzzy things get. Once in a while, I’ll lose a lens, and that will speed up the process of replacing them. Obviously, my optometrist loves me.

When I went to put my contacts in this morning, however, I noticed that the lid to the right lens compartment was open slightly. I looked inside only to find that there was no lens there. Then I checked the left compartment. Empty. My heart started racing. This has happened before, but of course, only after a night of overindulging on wine. After a moment’s reflection, I was sure this didn’t happen, as I had been in bed by 8:30 reading the night before. I looked all over the bathroom counter for signs of runaway contact lenses. There were no remnants. I checked Justin’s case. Could he have mistaken my case for his? Nope.

And then, as a three-year-old screaming blob ran by the bathroom door, I had a sudden revelation. Harrison has been spending an awful lot of time in the bathroom now that he’s potty trained. At least seven times a day, I have to clean up some new experiment in there. (I’ve long since given up constant supervision in the bathroom, because inevitably Ella will need to be in there with us and there’s just not enough space. Also, watching your kid pee gets old after about the 300th time.) So, I decided to investigate:

Me: Harrison, did you open Mommy’s contact lens case?

H: Yes I did.

Me: (out of pure curiosity) Why did you do that?

H: Because I thought it might be a little bit dirty. So I cleaned it.

Me: Honey, you don’t need to do that for Mommy. Where are the contact lenses?

H: <blank stare>

Me: You know, the little things that Mommy puts in her eyes so she can see?

H: I washed them too.

It is unclear to me where exactly those lenses ended up, but I’m assuming they took a trip down the drain. I do, however, think that my eye doctor will be impressed with Harrison’s concern for my eyewear’s cleanliness.

What’s Really Important

It has been a terrible morning. Harrison took over an hour to eat his breakfast. I had to chase him around the house to get him dressed. Ella decorated the house with a stack of diapers. She pooped like four times before we left the house. I am frustrated and exhausted and its only 9am. Sometimes, though, you need to look back and find something beautiful to hold onto. Sometimes, that’s the only way to get through the day. I found a snippet in my memory this morning, and here I am, still breathing, still smiling, because I can remember the good in the midst of the bad.

Several weeks ago, we decided to take a trip to the playground with our friends Terri and Olivia. Olivia and Harrison are about the same age. Because they are three years old, they do not necessarily always play well together. But I’ve noticed that Harrison is a bit different with Olivia than he is with his boy buddies. It’s with a slight twinge of gentleness that he interacts with her. His voice is softer and sweeter. He still steals her snacks, and she still doesn’t like to share her toys with him. Terri and I sometimes have to intervene to prevent arguments, but on this hot sunshiny day, we got to witness something truly great.

At the playground, there is a nice little path into the woods. It simply leads to a side road, and the kids like to venture down it because the residents at the end of the road have chickens that they can harass. All three kids (Ella toddling slightly behind the older two) were racing down the path in mirthful giggles as Terri and I meandered behind them. And then I witnessed something that made my heart explode. Harrison stopped, and turned to Olivia. He said, “Oweeveea, may I hold your hand?” She obliged, and they continued on the trail, hand in hand.

This was such a big moment for the mother of a little boy. I witnessed my son ask a female for permission to have physical contact. I saw him show respect for another person’s body. To some, this may have been a small gesture of good manners, but to me, it was my son’s first step towards becoming a good man.


Lost on a Mountain in Maine

This may come as a surprise, but I took the kids hiking the other day. After my recent post about loving camping so much, it was kind of odd that I chose such an outdoorsy activity. However, the mountain we were to be hiking is more of a hill, and I’d done it before, so I thought it would be a perfect adventure.

I had posted my intentions to take this hike on Facebook a few days prior, and so several friends all from different social circles told me they might be interested in coming along. Unfortunately, that day was also the day I chose to drop my brand new iphone. I dropped it off for screen repair on the way to the mountain, so it was like the olden days, where I couldn’t actually contact anyone. This alone nearly gave me an anxiety attack, but I pushed through.

Ella is at the age where she COULD still fit in a baby carrier, but I know her well enough to know that she would abhor the idea of being strapped in. I didn’t even bother, and assumed she’d be just fine. You know what they say about assuming things. I ended up carrying Ella most of the way up the mountain, which is only a .2 mile hike so I just figured I was getting an extra arm workout in for the day. She happily munched on a giant marshmallow while being toted up in my arms, and Harrison was a real trooper, climbing right along beside us.

We reached the summit, and had our lunch. Rather, H and E spilled ham and cheese and goldfish crackers all around the great outdoors while I frantically tried to keep nature clean and prevent my children from falling off of a cliff all at the same time. It was truly a magical experience.

On our way down, I noticed that I could go one of two ways. I *thought* I was going the same way we came up but it turns out that we veered in the opposite direction and were headed down the back way. I figured this was no big deal, as I had just seen a woman with a jogging stroller go the same way. It couldn’t be that bad, I thought.

How hard could this be? We are up. We want to go down. Down we shall go. I kept this mantra up for TWO HOURS, you guys. I had my poor children stranded in the woods for TWO hours with no cell phone. Because I’m a stellar parent, I forgot that Ella’s ears, being that she has tubes in them, are very sensitive to altitude changes. It didn’t dawn on me until after we endured forty five minutes of crying that she was in severe pain. Any parent knows that when your kid is that upset you cannot concentrate on anything else. Like getting off a mountain.

We were so lost. I tried to take several different routes, but we kept ending up at the same trail marker. Harrison kept chiming in, “I think we’re lost, Mommy.” Somebody get that kid into college quick. He’s a real thinker. Finally, I found some people. I asked if they were going to the parking lot, and they replied that they were, however they were going the “long way”. I think they could tell by my frazzled state, and Ella’s tears, that we weren’t up for the long way. They kindly gave me their map and told me how to take the shortcut. Unfortunately, I cannot read a map to save my life, especially if I don’t know where I am on that map to begin with. I thought I found this alleged shortcut, or at least, some sort of path on which to walk that I believed was taking us someplace.

Well, that shortcut took us right back up that damn mountain. Luckily there was a wild turkey up there, which distracted Ella from her ear pain. She almost ran off with it, but I caught her just in time to head down the way we came. For real this time. We happened to walk a lot more than .2 miles to get back down, but we finally did. The moral of the story is, do not go hiking with me.


The Great Outdoors

I hate the outdoors. I hate bugs. I hate dirt. I hate being dirty. I hate when my hair smells like a campfire. I don’t like to be cold. I don’t like to be hot. This is why I surprised even myself when I agreed to go camping with my husband and our two children for their first tent overnight.

I have no idea what possessed me to take the chance to do such a thing-I had a free pass to stay home with Ella while the guys went and did their thing. We could have stayed home and watched chick flicks. We could have painted our toenails and eaten chocolate. We could have remained clean. Instead, I packed up just enough stuff to MAYBE get by out in the wild for one night and we all jumped in the car.

Actually, we took two vehicles. We weren’t sure if Ella would make it, as she’s only a year old. The plan was for me to take her home if she couldn’t sleep in a tent. I somehow managed to ride in the car by myself while the rest of my family went off in the truck-this is a luxury I don’t usually get to enjoy. It was a great start to the trip.

Once we arrived to the camp grounds, we weaved through the little tiny roads that lead to each site until we found our own little spot. I knew things wouldn’t be ideal when both of our cars barely fit there-with no room to spare. Before I had shut my car door, my sandals were filled with dirt. It was going to be a long day.

Then Justin took out the tent. I was imagining a small little shelter with just enough room for the four of us to line up our sleeping bags one beside the other. I should have known better because we didn’t have sleeping bags.

The tent turned out to be a palace. Think Harry Potter at the Quidditch tournament. You go in and a whole house is set up in there. I am not joking you, the tent Justin purchased had THREE rooms. I did not even know that tents came with rooms. So that foiled my plan of sneaking out early with Ella. She’d have her own room (a luxury she does not have now in our house) and her pack and play fit in there with room to spare. Never mind the sleeping bags; A queen sized air mattress for us, and a twin size for Harrison. Crap. It looks like we’re staying. It took forever for us to explain to the kids that they couldn’t wear their shoes in the tent, because they’d track dirt in. So naturally, when Harrison climbed out of the tent shoeless, he made a point of jumping in the dirt (how could you not? SO MUCH DIRT outside.) and smearing his socks in it. He should have just said, “THERE, Mom. So what about my shoes??”

Justin had the grand idea of bringing a beach ball for the kids to play with. Our campsite now had exactly 3.6 square inches left of walking space, what with our palatial tent, three camp chairs, two cars, a picnic table, and a grill. For the first fifteen minutes, Harrison routinely threw the ball into the surrounding campsites, as there was no more space to do so at our site. We let that happen until Ella began running off into the woods on her own to chase the ball. Harrison, we knew would come back. Ella, not so much. To divert their attention, we brought out some snacks, which we ate at the picnic table. Do you know what happens when you eat snacks at a picnic table? Your snacks get dirty.

After eating a few salt and pepper chips (although I don’t know if it was pepper or dirt on them), we took the kids on a walk. I had seen three playgrounds on location as we drove through, so I thought we’d be in for a grand time. We stopped at the closest one, and let the kids do their thing. Harrison and Ella love slides, so of course, Harrison went for the biggest one there. He flew down the big blue plastic chute and, I kid you not, face planted into the dirt (which was everywhere. There is dirt everywhere when you camp.) and cut his face in two places.

We returned back to our site with no further injuries, and prepared for dinner. In other words, Justin prepared for dinner while I supervised the kids running around in the dirt. I mentioned before that we had three camp chairs. Two of them were for big people, and one was for little people. If you do the math, we were one chair short. In the big book of parenting rules, probably the first rule is that if you don’t have enough for both kids, no kid should have it. Well, we broke that rule, because, hey, we were in the great outdoors, too busy getting dirty to worry about fairness. The chair was fought over until Ella decided that perhaps she’d like to stand on a rock instead of a chair. This put me at ease because the rock wasn’t going to fall over like the chair did when she stood on it. Except I was wrong. The rock didn’t fall over, but Ella did. On her head. So now I have two kids with cuts on their faces. And dirt in their hair. And in their fingernails. And on their feet. Clearly, camping is far too dangerous for the Clark family.

We somehow made it to bed that night after s’mores (you know, where you roast a marshmallow on a stick that’s been on the ground, in the dirt?) and a series of hysterics from Harrison who insisted he use his flashlight even though it wasn’t quite dark out yet. I enjoyed approximately two hours in my nice big queen air mattress, fully clothed, before I was beckoned from the other “room” to help Harrison fall asleep. Oh! I lied. I wasn’t fully clothed. I had no socks. Who brings socks camping? Everyone besides me, that’s who. Freezing and resting on a nearly deflated air mattress, I lay awake listening to the rain. Which was perfect, because I had to pee. Surely, I thought, it would be morning soon, and then I could get out of the tent without waking up the wee ones. But when I checked my watch, it was only 3:22 am. All I could think about was how my feet were covered in dirt, and how the kids didn’t brush their teeth, and that I was still wearing my freaking bra. You can’t take off your bra when you’re camping, because what happens if you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and you run into a stranger?

Throughout the night, Ella woke up and cried several times, probably because I didn’t pack her warm jammies. She, however, did have socks on. Harrison’s antics continued routinely as usual (he doesn’t sleep well at home, so why would camping be any different?!) Naturally, he insisted on sleeping in just his underpants, because that’s normal when it’s cold and you’re sleeping outside.

Luckily, we all survived the night, most of us wide awake, and made it home in time to shower before we turned into swamp people. I think my next camping trip will be to the Marriott. Alone.IMG_0198