To All The Men Who Make Me a Better Person

Most men are terrific, capable fathers. For the record, I could word that the same way, “Most women are terrific, capable mothers”. There are, of course, exceptions to both. It was after a recent episode of “Desperate Housewives” that I got to think how men are depicted in TV shows, advertisements and the like. In the aforementioned “Desperate Housewives” episode, Lynette has decided to go back to work while husband; Tom stays home with the kids. The first episode in which Tom has the kids the whole day, Lynette returns to a house with dishes everywhere, toys strewn about and an image of overall disarray; not to mention Tom looking haggard and exhausted. This first episode didn’t anger me because I believe it would be quite an adjustment to go from working full time to staying at home full time. It was at the end of the show when Tom has shown he continuously can’t handle the kids and the housekeeping like Lynette could that bothered me.

I’ve often been heard saying, “Zach is a better father than I am a mother.” Sure, I’d prefer him scrubbing out the stains on our carpet or vacuuming the couches after our dog decides to deposit large amounts of hair on them; but he is a fantastic father. He is not only warm and loving, he is attentive and caring, funny and playful. When Trysten was a baby, he would wake up with him just as much as I would to do the burping and the changing. He has been involved since day one and still loves having daddy and Trysten time when mommy is not invited. So seeing men in commercials not “handling” time alone with their own children or hearing men refer to “babysitting” their own children really gets me heated up. Maybe it’s because I have so many great examples of fathers in my own life: my dad, my husband, my father-in-law, and my brother-in-law that I get mad for them at the way they are represented. Imagine if the ad execs had the audacity to constantly portray mothers as incapable, can’t-wait-til-daddy-gets-home parents. There would be uproar in the feminist community, the likes to which have never been seen! So why aren’t those same women becoming outraged at such an atrocious portrayal of men?

I for once can’t answer that question. I have been a witness to men who do sincerely consider it “babysitting” when they are alone with their own child. I have known women who can’t go out without finding a babysitter because their husbands don’t want to be left alone with their children. But I’ve known more men who love and cherish and welcome time spent alone with their children, and it’s for these men that I am writing this.

For all intents and purposes, Zach is a better parent than I am. He is more patient, stricter, tickles better and will teach our son to pee standing up. Zach has pointed out that Trysten could care less about clean clothes as long as he gets more personal time with me on more than one occasion. It is for Zach, my faithful, loving husband that I write this. It is because of men like him that we women, we mothers, get such a good reputation. And for that, I thank you and I will yell at the TV next time a dad is portrayed as incompetent, even if I’m the only one yelling.

I am She-Rah, Princess of Power

I love Harry Potter. Not in the “Oh, it’s a ‘fun’ read” love it; I love it, love it. I started thinking about this when I realized that the latest movie installment would be released November 18th. (See, I love it, love it). I realized it after I checked out the website just to get a few sneak peaks. I especially realized it when my son was wearing glasses and called them his “Harry Pottah” glasses (we only refer to Harry Potter with a British accent in my house).

The whole idea of Harry Pottah mania is so baffling to me because in all fairness, he’s just a wizard on a broomstick that gets in and out of trouble with two of his friends by his side. He’s just a boy wizard fighting crime so what’s all the fuss about? If I had a dollar for every time I thought to myself, “I wish I would’ve thought of this first…” I’d be one rich woman. But I didn’t think of it first, and that’s what brought me to my conclusion.

Kids love Harry Pottah because they are growing up in an age where TV, not fireflies, is keeping them entertained. It seems kids know more about Grand Theft Auto than King of the Hill on snow dunes. When was the last time you saw Red Rover being played anywhere but the schoolyard where PS2 doesn’t come as school-funded equipment? Childhood obesity wasn’t as prevalent when I was at that age because we only came inside when it was snack time or bedtime. Right after school it was down to the bridge to mine for fool’s gold, not picking which prostitute to sleep with then run over (For those of you who don’t know, that’s what happens in the game Grand Theft Auto, believe me, I’m not even good enough to make that up). What an incredible time when kids ask, “What am I supposed to do outside,” when not allowed to come inside.

It seems their imagination is being provided for them. Sure, as my avid game playing husband argues, there have been studies linking good hand-eye coordination from kids who play video games. Sure, there are the cartoons that can be intellectually stimulating and faith renewing. But when do they get a chance to form their own imagination? I can hear the “Debbie Downers” who think the same can be said for books but it’s a different world. When kids read Harry Pottah they put their own voices with it. Their own trusted friends are that of Hermoine and Ron. They picture themselves flying and when they’re reading the books they get lost in a guided world of imagination. It’s like the good old days when we read comic books and leapt off our beds like Catwoman. They are Harry Pottah just as much as I was She-Rah, Princess of Power.

It’s amazing to me how spoiled kids of today really are. With pre-packaged food and toys come pre-packaged imaginations. Just right for your little Mikey and works well for your little Betty too! I’m going to try my darndest to let Trysten explore the world of his own imagination. Reach beyond the corners of what TV can teach him. I ache to watch him create castles out of sand and hear the screams of a midnight game of hide-and-go-seek. I long to hear his version of the book he just read and wait with anticipation at the first time he can utter the beautiful words, “The book is better than the movie.”

Because that would mean I’m doing my job right. Afterall, the book is only a representation of his imagination.

We Should Be an Act at the Circus

How do we balance work, wifehood, motherhood and self-gratification in the world we’re living in? I find this an immensely difficult question. See, I grew up with both my parents working, but when they got home it was family time. We had family dinner every night (including weekends for the most part), we took family vacations where we didn’t bring friends, and we did everything as a family. I don’t remember my parents really having a life outside of “family”. I remember a few times when I was younger, having a babysitter and watching my parents come home a bit more giggly and “touchy feely” than usual, but it wasn’t enough times to make me wonder what was going on. I still thought I was the center of their universe and I think my brother and sister can attest to the same feelings. So where is the balance?

My husband and I were just discussing this issue last night after putting our son to bed early so we could get some quality marriage time in. Is it a product of our upbringing that we think we should have a life that is independent of the family? Is it because I was the center of my parents’ universe that I still get a tinch selfish from time to time? I work out in the mornings, by myself, one night a week I try and fit in Pilates by myself. Zach is trying to find his “by myself” moments and in the midst of this discussion I got to thinking about my own parents. I would not change a thing about my childhood. I have the most amazing parents, the parents I aspire to be every single moment and yet I don’t want to wait until my last child is out of high school before I start having parties again and making new friends. Let’s be honest, making friends is exhausting and who has time for that after raising children?

At a time when over half of all marriages will end in divorce, should we be carving out more “by myself” time? Will this end the rash of seven-year itches, or midlife crisis’s? One of the times Zach seems the happiest is when he comes home from playing basketball, he’s sweatier than anyone I’ve ever seen, smells like an old boot but yet has the biggest smile on his face. He almost bounces from room to room, after two hours of non-stop running, he has more energy to give us when he comes home. It’s the same for me too; when I work out in the mornings there is a vast difference in my attitude. I sing more in the shower, I wrestle more with Trysten, I am a more agile Spiderwoman, and the list goes on! And isn’t that what all the professionals say…it’s about quality not quantity? But when we talk about which nights will be “by myself” nights, I can’t help but feel guilty. Will Trysten miss me, will he remember his dad, are we horrible parents for wanting to be away from him and will we get divorced because we don’t want to spend every waking moment wrapped in a lovers embrace?

Absolutely not. I don’t care what they say. I know it works for other parents to make child rearing their only priority but I will not have that be what defines me. I am a woman, I am a wife, I am a mother, I am a Christian, I am an athlete, I am a professional, I am too many things to be “okay” with focusing on one. If I let any one of them go I might as well let them all go because each one makes me too happy. I still very firmly put Zach and Trysten’s desires before my own; however, I still find time for making sure I’m happy too. I don’t have all the answers, but the parents Zach and I are, the ones that like to have “by myself” times as often as we can, are doing the best we can. And really, I don’t think we’re doing too badly.

The Best Medicine

I laughed today. Not one of those teehee laughs, but a side splitting, ear-shattering laugh. The kind of laugh you remember for the rest of your life.

Sitting in the back of our rented van, my mom’s head thrown back, a torrential downpour of her laughter raining down on my brother and sister sleeping in the back. Me, 5 years old, utter joy pulsing through my veins.

Chasing my brother up the stairs, falling at the top tickling him so hard he turns purple. My stubborn sister sitting down during a performance on our dance team. Me, loving them so much I always laugh.

Walking down the aisle arm in arm with my dad, the only man I’d ever really trusted. Watching him hand me off to the man who truly makes me laugh every single day. Me, laughing so hard; joy, sorrow, excitement, nervousness, happiness…pure happiness.

8 months pregnant playing a daring game of outburst with the exuberant Klipschs. Girls vs. Guys, game is on the line. Gentlemen only by title have to guess other names for “fart”. My eldest brother-in-law shouting the most repulsive expressions ever heard by my poor sister-in-law’s virginal ears. Me, without breath, gasping for air and feeling the sweet strangulation of a good laugh.

Grunting, pushing. “He has long eyelashes!” 8 lbs 8 ounces of the cutest mass of person ever seen. A miniature Zach in my arms staring up at me. Me, holding my firstborn knowing it is only the first time he’ll make me laugh so hard I cry.

Stirring Alfredo sauce in a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago. My big-eyed sister-in-law pouring me another glass of wine. Discussing deep issues with sarcastic tones. Fighting to look like anything but desperate housewives. Me, crossing my legs, watching her through tear streaked eyes and thanking God for a feeling this good.

I want to bottle it up, my laughter. The feeling you get when you’re surrounded every day of your life by people who make your stomach hurt. How do I bottle that up and send it to the people touched by tragedies I’ve never known? How big of a bottle would it require to make them feel for one second what I get to feel every second?

The Sisterhood of the Blogging Klipschs

I might have the best sister-in-laws in the entire world. Yesterday I joined the sisterhood of bloggers with one of my sisters I was blessed to marry into. Leslie is a professional writer and her blog: is filled with profound poems and amazingly insightful short stories. I read her blog and want to be a better person. The pink words come off the page and make me laugh, cry, do the happy dance and send silent hugs through email. She’s an amazing stay-at-home mom that doesn’t give herself enough credit; which, let’s be honest, what mom does? She is an intellectual stimulator and if she loves you, she will be your biggest fan until the day she dies. We have been told (maybe only by each other) that we look a lot alike, we laugh often and on occasion drink too much wine. We fancy ourselves entrepreneurs in spirit and will go to great lengths to discuss what kinds of new business this world needs. She is what I like to call a little piece of heaven right here on Earth.

After I joined the blogging world, my second sister-in-law, Kait wasted no time joining too. See, that’s just what we do. Leslie blogs, so do Kait and I. I have babies, so does Leslie (and Kait will too as soon as she can). Kait buys a purse, so do Leslie and I. That’s just the kind of sisters we are. Her blog is filled with ridiculously sound statements made from a college freshman. She has always been that way. She’s one of those women we short women hate. Tall, long legs, beautiful in literally every way imaginable. If she weren’t my sister, she would be one of those women I would search for something to make fun of just so I felt better about myself. The sad part is, I’ve actually tried and there is literally nothing bad about this woman. Kait is the most down-to-earth, hilarious, intelligent, self confident, Godly woman I’ve ever met. I like to pretend like I’m so much older and wiser than she; I am after all 5 years older, but she understands more of the world than I do. She has a greater grasp of life than most people I know. If I were to have a daughter, I would honestly want her to be exactly like Kait, long eyelashes, long legs and all. She is what I like to call a little piece of heaven right here on Earth.

So why dedicate an entire blog entry to these two women? Because in a world where we fantasize about having Halle Berry’s facial features and Anna Kornikova’s body; I find myself wanting to be most like a stay-at-home mom and a college freshman. Perfect in their imperfections. And how great would it be if we all idolized other women for their intellect or their Godliness and not on their size 4 frame and ridiculously good bone structure? The way I see it, hopefully I’m just ahead of the times. Maybe when my kids get to the idolizing age they will find perfect examples in their siblings; in an even better world, maybe they’ll just find it in themselves.

Oh No You Didn’t!

It’s true, it can happen to anyone. Even someone who all but minored in women’s studies. Someone who fancies herself a feminist and loses her temper when sexist remarks are whispered at water coolers. Even we bra burning women can raise a son who says, “No mommy, boys are fast, not girls.”

It happened on a cool day in Davenport, on a little jaunt to the local Wal Mart. My 2 1/2 year old son, Trysten, and I were “racing” to the front door. I did something I will regret for the next few months at least, I let him win.

“Wow!” I exclaimed, “You’re fast”.

“Yes”, he said with a grin the size of Texas, “fast like daddy”.

Not to toot my horn but, I was a college track athlete afterall, I couldn’t let this moment pass, “No, fast like mommy”.

“No, fast like Papa Frank”, he assures me.

“Oh Trysten, mommy is DEFINITELY faster than Papa Frank, he is a grandpa after all!”

And here it comes….”No mommy, boys are fast, not girls”.

Perhaps I overreacted, I couldn’t help myself. In one instance I saw his life flash before my eyes. A 5 year old on the playground not letting a girl be on his kickball team; a 14 year old teasing a girl for throwing differently; a 21 year old only complimenting women for their outward appearance and finally a 50 year old executive, not giving the woman the same amount of money the man was getting for the same job. I felt my heart break, I felt my heart break! I treated it like any other misdoing we happen along when raising a toddler, I got down to eye level and stated calmly, “Trysten, that is not exactly true, there are lots of girls that are faster than boys, you shouldn’t make those umbrella statements, they are unfair to many people.”

He took it well. His big blue eyes looked up and he said, “Okay mommy”.

“Well then say you run fast like mommy and give me a kiss and we can go get you a toy at Wal Mart”.

Like I said, I’m a flawed mom. I ran this atrocity past my husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law. To set the stage all of those men are better men than the overwhelming majority. They all treat women with more respect than we treat each other and they usually give a hearty cry at the outrages against all minorities. My father-in-law and Zach (my husband) looked at each other and then at me like I was overreacting. It was only my brother-in-law that gave me a look like he could understand as well as any man could.

My husband, who I assure you is a great man, he did marry me after all, said “Well, you have to admit it is true, most men are faster than women.”

I gave him one of my now notorious death glares, “Okay Maurice, let’s see you race Marion Jones!” I ached to yell.

But what good does it do? Even someone like me understands that it’s not always about the big battles but the little fights have to be won too. But was this too small of a fight? Was I a woman standing up for women’s rights or a woman who complains about the color pink in the University of Iowa opponent’s locker rooms?

One comment from my innocent little boy made me rethink what it meant to be a feminist in this age. I stand by my outrage, but I stand by it now only because it represents a man I don’t want him to become. The fact is, Maurice Green will forever beat Marion Jones in the 200 and it’s something I’m just going to have to get used to. But I will never let my son, or any other man for that matter, win a little fight that could one day become a big battle.

God Deserves a Knuckle Sandwich

We lost our baby.

Those words still seem so foreign to me. Still so new, so hard to pronounce I find myself writing them rather than speaking them. Instead of calling my dearest friends and family I wrote a mass email, similar to one that you get with a funny forward attached. Only this mass email contained only sadness, only my tears strewn across the keyboard as I wrote.

There’s no easy way to say it. Miscarriage. The word in itself pisses me off. As if I did something wrong, I carried it wrong, I MIScarried. If anything, I tried my hardest to protect this 10 week old fetus. I ate better, I avoided any movement that would affect my belly. I wouldn’t let my 100 lb dog on the couch with me anymore, I thought twice before wrestling with my 2 year old, I was a cautious carrier of my baby and yet, I miscarried.

I knew it would happen when I got so sick. As bad as I was feeling it tears me apart inside to think of my baby feeling that or even worse but flying to heaven on the wings of an unmistakable angel, there could be worse ways to go.

My husband asked how I was doing. I was surprised to hear myself say, “better than I expected”. In what world would I have expected this? How can you be better than expected when you weren’t expecting it in the first place? I found myself lying to him, and to others who asked. “How are you doing?” “Oh good,” I would answer as if there was a good way to answer that. I could feel how uncomfortable even the people who loved me most were about the subject. “I’m not okay!!!” I wanted to yell. How could I be okay with losing something I loved so much?

I’m not exactly sure when the miscarriage from hell will stop. I trust God will show me one day why I had to endure all this, perhaps He already has and I’ve just been to pissed off to see it. I asked my mom, who in a heinous twist of fate had a miscarriage her second pregnancy too, when the emotional pain stops. “Not until you get pregnant again, TL”. Only now do those words feel like some sort of sucker punch to the stomach since who knows if I’ll ever be able to get pregnant again.

What words do I have for other women who might have miscarried? Absolutely none. Again, my disdain for unwanted “advice” takes over and the only thing I could offer a woman who went through this truly miserable experience is a big hug and a few shared tears over babies only we truly felt. And you know what, maybe that’s enough. Maybe miscarriage is one cut that heals with hugs and tears. It couldn’t hurt to try.

I’m a Flawed Mom

I’ve never known if it was how I was raised or a product of my degree from a liberal arts college; but I don’t believe in the theory that a book or magazine can tell me how to raise my child. Don’t get me wrong, I still read endless amounts of parenting magazines, I rip out the latest edition of, “10 Ways to Keep Your Child From Dying” with an intensity not seen since I went through labor. I just don’t buy into the idea that someone else can tell me how to raise my child.

This is why I’m a flawed mom. I read those and can find at least one time in which I tell myself, “Oh, you should stop doing that”. But my son is the most amazing child I’ve ever met. I’m not just saying that either. I do so many things wrong, I often find myself wondering if he should be in a science museum somewhere with a plaque at the bottom that reads, “Came from a mom who made too many mistakes.” I can see it now, him standing motionless with his big smile, big blue eyes and blonde Mohawk, just happy to be alive.

My husband and I like to try and take credit for it. The truth is I’m beginning to believe a lot more in nature than nurture. I got pregnant before Zach and I were officially married. We had Trysten when we were just 21. We were getting our college degrees and working and somehow made it work. All signs point to thousands of dollars of therapy in Trysten’s future, but for now he’s great and it has little to do with the kind of mom I am.

Where do we women get the idea that we have to have answers to everything? That there is a “DaVinci Code” for motherhood. Is there some random equation that will just make motherhood make sense? I find my single friends look to me for all the answers on motherhood and wifehood. I feel like a failure for not knowing them, I SHOULD know them shouldn’t I? But I find myself gufawing at all the mothers who seem to have the answers to everything. How could what they do for their Susie most assuredly work for my Trysten? Without the same DNA make up, there really is no telling what one parent’s go to method could do to another parent’s child.

I went into my son’s room this morning when he was saying good morning to Spiderman. I watched him read his books and play pretend games not seen in my imagination since I was that age. I realized then that it is entirely possible I learn more from him every day than he could learn from me. What does he learn from me? No apple juice on our new, white carpet; milk for dinner. And what do I get to learn from him? In our very own living room we have an entire baseball field with unlimited amounts of bats, balls, hats and gloves. That my husband is flawless in our child’s eyes and that I actually don’t look too bad in the outfit I’ve had for years. It turns out, me being a flawed mom, a mom who doesn’t have all the answers, will pay off in the end. It might just mean that my 2 year old can provide me with wisdom way beyond my years.