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Big Dude has been helping out around the house more as of late. Instead of milking this phenomenon for all it’s worth, I am having my own guilty freak out reaction that goes something like this:


For more than 10 years, I have begged, pleaded, cajoled, shamed and/or threatened my husband into helping out around the house with chores such as taking out the trash.

(I despise taking out the trash, specifically dragging the cans to the curb on pickup day.  Don’t ask me why this particular chore annoys me so much because I have no answer.)

All of a sudden — and I can’t even pinpoint the day — Big Dude started doing things around the house.

On his own.

Without being asked.

He’s been doing dishes, putting dishes away, even folding laundry. Just this morning, I came down the hallway, made the right into the kitchen, and found Big Dude putting the finishing touches on Little Dude’s lunch.

Do I stand in the hallway and beam lovingly at my husband, giving thanks for him and the five extra minutes he just saved me (hey, which I can use to shave my legs!)? Nope, not me. I, in all of my Guilty Glory, feel guilty that I’m not the one that made Little Dude’s lunch. I feel guilty that I’m not the one who emptied the dishwasher.

After years of preaching equal participation in household duties, I should be throwing a party now that Big Dude seems to have heard my pleas. I should at least go shave my legs with those extra five minutes. But instead, I find myself wanting to pitch in and help with whatever task he is doing. If he’s emptying the dishwasher, then I help empty the dishwasher because even though he’s finally participating in chores around the house, when I seem him emptying the dishwasher, I feel like I am not pulling my own weight.

Crazy, I know.**

Why can’t I just sit back and appreciate this new helpful side of Big Dude? It could leave just as mysteriously as it came, so I better appreciate it while it’s here, right?

Here’s my lovable husband shuffling from sink to cupboard as he waits for his morning caffeine to kick in, putting away last night’s dinner dishes to help out his wife. Then his wife comes in, hairy legs and all, and rushes to put away the rest of the dishes before he can.

It’s a sickness, I tell you. A sickness!

My brain ping-pongs back and forth inside my head:

Guilt Goddess:  No, I won’t interfere. I should let him finish with the dishes.
Me:  I really should help out. It’s only fair.
GG:  What’s fair is you cooked dinner and washed the dishes last night, it’s his turn now to put away the clean dishes this morning.
Me:  But I can’t just stand here and watch him put them away while I sip my coffee.
GG:  Yes you can.
Me:  Well I can, but I feel guilty.
GG:  Is he complaining?
Me:  No.
GG:  Are you annoyed, angry or resentful that he’s helping out?
Me:  No, I’m ecstatic.
GG:  Then if you feel guilty watching, don’t watch. Take your coffee in your bedroom and go about your morning.
Me:  Yes, ma’am.

Sigh. I wish either of us was motivated to do laundry. I bet I wouldn’t feel guilty if he sorted his own underwear and socks.

**BD thinks this entire line of thought is beyond hilarious.  He said if him helping out causes this much anxiety, he will happily go back to sitting on the couch.  Um, I didn’t ask for THAT.  I just need some time to adjust.  I’m hoping in a few weeks I’ll be the one on the couch watching TV and he’ll be in the kitchen making dinner.

A girl can dream, right?

A dear friend of mine, a woman stronger and more at peace with the world than I’ve ever known, is going through a rough patch.  A roughly, prickly patch that is starting to weigh her down.

When she realized she was wading through this patch alone, she reached out to her friends for support.

When I first listened to my friend’s troubles, I thought, my goodness, if this amazing woman can have her foundation rocked, what hope is there for me?  But then I realized, we all have the same troubles.  We all trip over the same pitfalls.  No one is immune.  This is a learning experience to understand how we can weather these kinds of storms together.

The following are my words I wrote to my friend:

Oh, my dearest! My heart goes out to you. You have such a beautiful outlook on life- I’m sorry that’s being challenged right now.

Stress is a bitch, isn’t it? With all the crap I’ve been through in the last few years, my immune system decided to wage war on my thyroid and my adrenal glands decided to shut down. After every blood test, all my doctor says is ‘you have to find a better way to manage your stress.’

But you know what? The power of the mind never ceases to amaze me.

Look at you.  Despite all the signals your physical body is sending to let you know it’s feeling the stress of your current circumstances, your mind is well and whole. Your mind is able to look at your life, identify the causes and triggers of the stress you are dealing with, and it’s able to make choices to pull you through. Your healthy and complete mind is also what has allowed you to reach out and seek the love and support that will pull you through this time. So, no matter what your body may do, take comfort in knowing the amazing power of your mind.

It’s so hard to stay connected to that self-confidence that allows you to just have trust in the universe. I find myself struggling with this constantly. We have to remember that everything in life is a cycle, though. (I’m wanting to sing The Byrds’ “Turn, Turn, Turn.”  For everything, there is a season…) There are upswings and downswings, and knowledge to be gleaned from every phase. But when you feel like life is just throwing you that downswing, it is so hard to keep your faith in the absolute trust of the universe.

Often, I liken myself and my stress to a boat out in the ocean that keeps getting hit by wave after wave that crashes onto the decks. I think, ‘How many more waves can I withstand before my boat starts to break apart?’ But really, when I step back and think about it, I should be saying to myself, ‘Hey, despite all these crashing waves, my boat is still in one piece, and I’m still sailing forward.’  I think it’s natural to focus on the grief and not realize how resilient we really are.

You, my dear, are the strongest, best built boat I have ever come across. (I know, I’m taking the boat analogy a little far.)  These waves don’t stand a chance against you. Plus, you have the whole Ya-Ya flotilla sailing out to surround you and be by your side through this storm, reminding you to trust in yourself, to trust in the universe, to trust that this is a cycle, a circle of life that is necessary for you to learn and grow and fully embrace your life. We won’t let you steer off course.

Love you, girl.

Yesterday was Little Dude’s first day at his new school.

After the last day at his old school Friday and a wonderful birthday party for his fourth birthday over the weekend, the big day was here.  Little Dude’s first day of pre-kindergarten.

I’ve been anxious about this for weeks, doing my best to prepare Little Dude (and myself) for this day.  LD has been very excited, counting down the days on the calendar with me and asking to drive by the new school each day.  Yesterday, first thing he did when he woke up was to climb in bed between me and Big Dude and proclaim with a big smile, “Today is my first day at my new school!”

It made me excited that he was so excited.  Maybe he is getting this more than I thought.  Maybe this transition really will be that easy.

I kept watching for signs of anxiety as we went about our morning routine.  He ate breakfast like normal, had hot cocoa like normal, played with toys like normal, got dressed like normal.  As I watched Little Dude breeze through the morning like it was any ol’ day, my anxiety was mounting like a thunderstorm.

Is he really going to be ok with this change?
Yes, of course he will.
What if the new school misplaced his paperwork and somehow he’s not on the list for the class?
You know they’re expecting him because you called on Friday to make sure.
What if —
Stop.  He’s fine.  It’s fine.

I didn’t want there to be any glitches, any extra issues to deal with in case Little Dude started to have a hard time.  I wanted to focus on being there for him and helping him any way I could.   I was wishing that there was a way I could absorb any difficult feelings he was having about change and leaving behind his old school.  While that is not rational or helpful in his development in any way, it’s that mom instinct to want to protect my baby from harm.

But Little Dude seemed to have embraced that he was starting a new journey.  He got dressed in his Buzz Lightyear shirt, put on his Buzz Lightyear backpack, picked up his Buzz Lightyear lunchbox (complete with new Buzz Lightyear thermos), grabbed his favorite purple sunglasses, and walked out the door.  When had my little boy become a big boy?

Once at the new school, he was happy and eager to go into his new classroom and start exploring.  We found his cubby, we found the hook for his backpack, we scouted out the bathroom.  He went right over to the toys and pulled out a microphone to sing into to.

I stood watching the other parents and kids filing in, checking in with the teacher, finding cubbies.  I wondered if any of the other parents were having the same internal debate as me, anxiety warring against common sense even though their child seemed perfectly at home already, zooming cars and piecing together Mr. Potatohead.  Realizing they were a parent to a Little Kid, not a baby, not a toddler.  A Kid.

Ok, now I was starting to get a little frustrated that I had all this anxiety and LD wasn’t needing any type of reassurance.  Can’t I get at least one ‘I’m gonna’ miss you, Mommy?’  Come on kid, throw me a bone.

And he did.  He turned to me, pulled me down for a kiss and a hug and a high five, and told me he would see me after school. So I gave him the biggest squinch ever, waited for Big Dude to repeat the same kiss/hug/high five ritual, and bravely walked out of the classroom.  Big Dude put his arm around my waist and held me tight as we walked out.  He even stayed next to me while I stopped at a spot around the corner where I was hidden but could still see into the classroom window.

Interestingly, Little Dude’s day actually ended up being a bit difficult.  He was shy and apprehensive about introducing himself and meeting new friends, but he loved recess and coloring with a yellow crayon.

This morning, on the second day at his new school, all of my anxiety was gone.  I was embracing this day as my big boy had the last.  Little Dude and I walked to his classromm hand-in-hand.  His little grip got tighter as we got closer to his classroom. “Momma?  I think I need to stay with you today.”  We kept walking.  “I have a fever.”

I stopped and bent down.  I felt his forehead, knowing before my hand ever touched his skin it would be cool as could be.  “Oh, baby, I’m sorry you’re having a difficult time this morning.”

He threw his arms around me.  “I’m gonna’ miss you.”

“I’m gonna’ miss you, too.”  I held onto him tight.  “But I’ll be right here after school to pick you up and to hear all about the fun things you do today.”

He took my hand and went into his classroom.  We put his lunch in his cubby and his backpack on his hook.  His bright blue eyes were a little shiny as he kissed me and hugged me goodbye.

“I’m so proud of you, my buddy.  You’re such a big boy.  You’ll have a wonderful day, I just know it.”  He high-fived me before slowly making his way over to two boys who were playing with cars.  I waited a minute, then got up to leave.  He ran back over for one last hug.

“You’ll be just fine, my baby.”  I put him down and left.

So my big boy really is still a little boy after all.  He’s ready and willing for new adventures, but he still needs his mom by his side.  And he still needs my hugs.

As we move into the fall and my baby turns a year older and I realize that life is moving forward at the speed of light (yes, freakout updates coming soon), it’s nice to have simple, special moments where I’m reminded that my baby is still my little boy.

This is a conversation Little Dude and I had this afternoon. He likes to pretend he is a waiter and I’m a cook. We were discussing what to have for dinner, and Little Dude decided that fish sticks and pizzas made with tortillas would be on his menu. LD stood in the middle of my bathroom, red marker poised over his ‘order notepad,’ and delineated the following 18-step plan for making dinner (which he said were ‘instruction questions’ for me).

Step 1: Get the tortilla out of the bag.
Step 2: Put the pizza in the middle.
Step 3: Put the fish sticks in a pan.
Step 4: Put the pan on the stove.
Step 5: Set the table and drink some water while you wait.
(Whispering, ‘What number comes next, Momma?’ ‘You just did five. What comes next?’ ‘Six?’ ‘You’re right.’)
Ok. Step 6: Drink some more water.
Step 7: Have ice cream from the freezer for being a good boy.
(‘Don’t we need to eat dinner first?’ ‘We did. Now i get ice cream.’ Yup, we’re related.)
Step 8: Take a shower
(I guess this is the plan for the entire evening?)
Step 9: Put your towel on your head when you come out of the shower.
Step 10: Brush my teeth.
Step 11: Get the toothpaste out of the cupboard.
Step 12: Get the toothbrush.
(‘Mama, what number comes next?’ ‘Thirteen, honey.’)
Step 13: Read your kid a story.
Step 14: Cuddle.
Step 15: Go potty.
Step 16: Put your kid in bed
(‘Mama?’ ‘Seventeen, baby.’)
Step 17: Get your froggie.
Step 18: Wrap your kid into a burrito.

That’s all of my questions for you, Cook Mommy. Got it?

Then the little imp ran away with his order pad to go take Big Dude’s order.

Guilt Goddess says: That’s quite a bit to keep up with… Enjoy it while you can!

It’s Thursday.  How did it get to be Thursday already?  Sheesh, time flies.

This time last week, I was packing up an RV and heading to San Diego County for a weekend of relaxation and family fun.  More than 600 photos later (I filled up a 4 GB flash card), this is what I have to report:


How awesome is it to walk out your door into the quiet stillness of the sunrise and be greeted by two rabbits munching on a patch of grass?  I briefly thought about waking up the Dudes, but I decided to just stand there, quietly taking pictures as the sun came up.  It was just me and the cottontails greeting the day.


I was blown away by the peace and majesty of Mother Nature.


After the Dudes were up, we went to visit the geese and ducks at the pond.  The geese had quite a bit to say, and Little Dude was not so sure he wanted to meet and greet the birds up close.


So, he found himself a special seat where he could see the birds but they couldn’t get to him.


I just kept taking pictures of flowers.


And sunsets.

And myself.

Camping, where have you been all of my life?
This experience was soothing and nurturing and so much family fun.  I can’t wait to go again.  In fact, I can’t wait to explore camping across the whole U.S.

Guilt Goddess says: It sounds like you finally had a chance to relax and recharge.  Nothing to feel guilty about there, honey.

Big Dude and Little Dude had the time of their lives going on water slide after water slide at Legoland Water Park. I was keeping up, but after the fifth time landing on my butt going down the little kiddie slide into the wading pool, I decided to take a break.

I was happily sitting in a chair in the shade when a lady and man pulled up to the chairs next to me. They were pushing a double stroller with two little girls wearing matching pink tutu swimsuits.   Big Sister was about three and a half, Baby around eight months.  These were the cutest children EVER. All dimples and pigtails and smiles. Dad took Big Sister in the water while Mom stayed playing with Baby, trying Big Sis’s heart-shaped pink sunglasses on Baby and capturing it all in pictures with her phone. Smiling at this little family unit brought up all of my thoughts about having a baby #2.

When Dad came out of the water with Big Sister, two other boys (about five and seven) seemed to be tagging along. ‘Where are these kids’ parents?’ I’m thinking. ‘It’s sure nice of this man to play with these boys while still taking care of his daughter.’  The two boys followed the man and Big Sister all the way over to Mom and Baby.  When Mom opened her bag and started handing out towels to everyone, the extra two boys included, I realized that those were HER kids.  My cute little family of four was actually a family of six!

I know many of you manage three plus kids with ease and grace.  Personally, that idea scares the bejeezus out of me.  I would love to have two, but more?  I don’t know if I could handle more kids than there are parents.

I watched this family with fascination.  The kids kids listened, didn’t squabble and genuinely seemed to enjoy each other’s company.  And no, Mom did not have alien superpowers or some kind of force field with which she controlled her children (at least I didn’t see anything.  I guess a force field would be invisible?  Maybe.)  She seemed happy — serene even — completely in control of and in sync with her family.  She even had a manicure.  A french manicure and her hair in a cute braid and big silver hoops in her ears.

I had to remind myself it’s not polite to stare.

Here I was with only one child, lounging in my stained Old Navy tank top that’s coming apart under the right arm, in desperate need of any kind of manicure.  I wish I was as fabulous as QuadraMom!

I watched as all four kids had lunch, lined up in their chairs.  I watched Dad hand out quesadillas and juice boxes.  I watched Mom make sure all four pairs of shoes were lined up under the chairs, and all four towels were laid in the sun, ready for the next break from the water.  Effortless, smiling.  Baby was now fast asleep in the stroller, Mom sitting serenely in a chair watching her brood.  I kept watching, thinking, ‘Maybe she gives lessons?  Or maybe she has a how-to manual I can borrow?’  I was impressed and awed.  She made parenting four children look easy.

I will remember this experience the next time I am dealing with my one child having a tantrum.  I will remember that it could be four crying, overtired children who have had one too many s’mores.  But then again, I would have the benefit of the invisible force field because they must give that out after the third child is born, right?

Guilt Goddess says: Haha, it just comes with practice, honey.  Practice and patience and taking things as they come.

I wish the minds of children were contagious.

Really.

I spent my afternoon playing Superhero with Little Dude, a monkey blanket tied around his neck as a cape and a stick as a sword.  He had originally asked to go camping, so we drug our little blue tent outside (much to the discontent of the dogs).  Over the course of an hour in our square of a backyard, Little Dude was Batman, an explorer in the forest, a chef and a surfer.  He dove, ran and flew.

I was relegated to ‘making recipes’ at the pretend restaurant.  While I was making the fictitious green eggs and chocolate ice cream (Little Dude’s secret recipe), I kept thinking how much better off we as humans would be if we could tap into that imagination and wild abandon whenever we felt like it.  Imagine conducting your next business meeting with your pants on backwards or dressed up like a pirate.  Or a rockstar.  Awesome.

If you have lost touch with that inner joy, find it.  Spend time with a child and remember what it’s like to let your imagination run wild.  (Little Dude is available on weekends… You must provide your own blanket to use as a cape.)

Trust me, you’ll have a new outlook on life.

Guilt Goddess says: I have dibs on LD for Saturday!

With Big Dude working all weekend and the weather outside so iffy, I asked Little Dude if he would like to go see Toy Story 3.  (What’s better on a hot summer afternoon than sitting in an air-conditioned movie theater devouring a tub of buttered popcorn?)  When I made this suggestion, it was like I handed over a Wonka Golden Ticket.  To say Little Dude was excited does not even begin to describe his elation.

Getting ready for the movie, it wasn’t enough for Little Dude to wear his Buzz Lightyear t-shirt.  We had to have Buzz undies, Buzz socks, and he added the bright purple polyester/spandex hood from his Buzz Lightyear costume.

Walking through the shopping center to the movie theater, he got more than a few looks wearing a purple head covering that velcroed under his chin.  He even informed the concession guy that he, Little Dude, WAS Buzz Lightyear.  Concession Man asked, “How can you be Buzz out here buying popcorn but also in the movie?”

Never one to succumb to such logic, Little Dude replied, “But I have the hat AND the shirt.  I AM Buzz Lightyear.”

Off we went down the hall to the theater where Little Dude sat the whole time wearing the puprle hat velcroed under his chin, eyes rivetted to the big screen, his little boy world full of his friends and heroes.

Watching him, I couldn’t help but share in his imagination and wonderment.  At what point do we ‘grow up’ and start to feel self conscious about wearing silly things on our heads?  This outing made me realize that I spend too much time in the land of Adulthood & Priorities and not enough in the World of Wonderment and Imagination.

Guilt Goddess says: See what happens when you trade in some of that guilt and the ‘I shoulds’ for a carefree afternoon?  Way to relax, girlfriend.

This whole whirlwind trip to San Francisco in the middle of the week to participate in someone else’s wedding and events really forced me to go with the flow, especially with Little Dude in tow.

In his wedding finest.

After putting Little Dude to bed about 10:00 pm the first night after a rehearsal dinner in Chinatown (a good 2 hours after a normal bedtime), Big Dude had to go to the wedding site early the next day to set up all of the audio equipment. This took A LOT longer than expected. It took so long, in fact, that by the time he was done, we ended up with about an hour in which to take a twenty minute cab ride back to the hotel, shower, change and become decently gorgeous for the wedding, and a twenty minute cab ride back to the park. Not a small feat. Consequently, Little Dude had to hang out at the wedding venue with us all morning, have a slice of pizza in the cab on the way back to the wedding site as his lunch, and hold it together during a 2:00 pm wedding which meant sitting still and being quiet during what is normally nap time. That’s asking a lot from a three-and-half year old.

None of this set in for me until later that evening when we had some friends up to our room (which had a gorgeous — and fortuitous — rooftop patio) to enjoy a few cocktails and appetizers as we watched the sun set. I started to have all kinds of anxiety about not providing enough structure during this trip for Little Dude, not being able to stick to his regular schedule, dragging him around and expecting him to hold it together wherever we ended up. And now, we were having an adult get-together in our room and he had to once again go with the flow, playing with his toys and competing for attention.

Putting on a show.

Interestingly, when I couldn’t take my own anxiety and guilt anymore and unloaded it all on Big Dude, his take was the complete opposite. He said this unstructured time was good for our Little Dude. He got to use his imagination during the whole wedding day setup, playing with the decorations and helping Big Dude with all the speakers and microphones. (LD actually took a microphone and started to entertain the setup crew with his favorite hits- We Will Rock You, Octopus’s Garden and Hey Jude. Priceless.) The little man had to think about his own needs and communicate when he needed to use the bathroom and when he was hungry, and he had to flex his socialization muscles talking to and interacting with adults.

Well, darn. That made me pause. Here I am at the impromptu cocktail party imagining this scene being reenacted in a Movie of the Week to illustrate Little Dude’s neglectful childhood and here comes Big Dude saying the kid was not only happy but probably learning from his environment, too.

So why am I so uptight? The rational part of my brain realized it’s probably pretty hard to scar and/or screw up a kid in three days. And everything would return to normal when we get home. But the irrational part of my brain worried that I wasn’t providing a good enough environment for Little Dude, yielding too much to circumstance and/or my own wants and needs instead of putting his first. But I always put his needs first, so what’s a couple of unstructured days of adult-focused time where he still got to have fun, too?

At the end of it, all this ping-ponging back and forth just wore me out. One side of my brain having a total freakout, berating myself for not doing more, planning better, etc., etc., while the other side of my brain kept saying relax, it will be fine, you’ll be home in twenty-four hours. By the time we were on the plane home, I just wanted to close my eyes and let my brain switch off.

Guilt Goddess says: Honey, give both those voices some Advil and just relax. Did Little Dude eat three meals a day? Did he sleep 8-9 hours each night? Did he come home with all his fingers and toes? Then he’s fine. A happy, healthy toddler. You work on switching off that brain of yours and being a happy, healthy mother.

I’m still downloading pictures and organizing my thoughts from Ya-Ya Wedding Week, so I thought I would post this ‘ya-ya introduction’ as a prelude.

Ya-Yas. I’m so blessed to be part of this special group of women. They love and accept unconditionally- something so refreshing. But I have to admit my own social anxiety and awkwardness stand as a barrier between me and my ability to just receive the friendship offered. I over-analyze and judge myself, with my own lack of self confidence leading me into dark, guilty pockets of my own mind instead of allowing me to fully enjoy the light these ya-yas bring.

The beautiful Z loving life on a San Francisco rooftop.

But I’m working on it. (That’s a recurring theme here, isn’t it?).  The beautiful Z, whom I like to think of as the Head Ya-ya, read my Total Mom Freakout post and said to me, ‘Embrace the tribe, girl.’ As in, we’re here for you. Why didn’t you ask for help?  Of course, me being me, I never considered that because (wait for it, we all know what’s coming) I didn’t want to be a burden. Burden, burden, burden, guilt, guilt, guilt. This prompted Z to list every social date on the calendar for the next two months and pin me down on whether I would need childcare for each occasion.

Sigh. Where would I be without the ya-ya tribe pushing me to stretch beyond my comfortable little bubble of Burdenville? (Which, coincidentally, is on the map right next to Anxiety City and Awkwardopolis.). I’m starting to realize life is better — more meaningful — with a tribe. With friends who support and love you, no matter what. Maybe someday I will stop commuting from Burdenville and move to Ya-Ya County permanently.

Guilt Goddess says: Z said it best. Embrace the tribe, girl.
Me: I know it. I’m packing my bags.

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The Guilt Goddess

Giving guilt a voice one post at a time.

I am your average guilt-ridden mother of one (or 2, if I'm being honest and including my husband), trying to balance running my own business, running my household and now writing a blog. Someday I hope to have vanquished all of my myriad pangs of guilt and be living blissfully free from moment-to-moment. But, until that time, my guilt will live here.

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