I Tried to Save My Postpartum Sex-Life With a Sex Subscription Box

This is a submission in our monthly contest. January’s theme is “Wild.” Enter your own here!

It was a rather typical Wednesday night. My husband offered to put our daughter down for bed. The whole routine can take up to an hour so I was happy to sit it out. So I sat, waiting for my husband to give me the thumbs-up that she was asleep. Normally the thumbs-up meant it was safe to proceed with our routine of Netflix and chill. Tonight was different, and I was anxious.

Typically when my daughter was off to bed, we would plop ourselves on the couch and binge a streaming series. We only have an hour or two in which we can barely keep our eyes open. Invariably we are shocked, at 10 pm, that we even stayed up that late.

Even though an hour or two isn’t much, we looked forward to the alone time. Sometimes in between episodes we’d sneak in a “quickie,” because when you become parents it’s kind of how sex just becomes: quick and convenient. It’s either that or it’s nonexistent. But not that night.

That night I had two glass balls in my vagina, black bondage body tape, and a whip, courtesy of a subscription sex fantasy box. I was excited yet nervous. I felt kind of ridiculous, too. What did I get myself into? I waited for my husband to peer his head through the door and let me know that our daughter was asleep and that it was time to go all “50 Shades of Grey.” The minutes ticked away, and I grew more anxious.

Perhaps I should back up a bit and explain how I ended up here.

A few weeks before this particular night, it became increasingly apparent that it was almost that time of year again. Cue the heart-shaped candy, boxes filled with chocolate, and cheesy rom-coms. Yes, Valentine’s Day gift guides were spamming my feed because February 14th was rapidly approaching. I was on a quest to find my husband the perfect gift but stumbled on to so much more.

It was almost Valentine’s Day and, just like the past two years, it also meant “Freed,” the final installment of the “50 Shades of Grey” movie franchise, was set to be released as well. With both so close together, I felt inspired to tap into my inner Anastasia Steele.

I give us kudos for even maintaining an active sex life with a rambunctious toddler and only four hours of sleep a night on average, but to be honest, we could’ve used a change. We’ve fallen into well-planned “sex dates,” which worked for us for a while, but the lack of spontaneity has its drawbacks. It was typical for me to say, “Sex at 9:30 in between episode two and three of Black Mirror?” To which my husband would nod in agreement.

So I Googled gifts for Valentine’s Day with the intention of breaking free of my postpartum sex-life routine. That’s when I discovered what I thought to be my solution: a sex subscription box. With so many different subscription services, offering clothes chosen by a stylist, expertly curated make-up, and even food to suit your taste or interests, it should come as no surprise that there are now subscription boxes catered to couples.

My husband and I tried a date-night subscription box in the past, and that was somewhat of a success, but when I stumbled upon a sex fantasy subscription box, I was immediately curious. Nowadays, I do most of my shopping online, but shopping for a sexual fantasy to play out with my husband? The thought never crossed my mind. Sure, I’ve bought lingerie online but not an entire box filled to the brim with a pre-planned sexual fantasy for my partner and I.

The Fantasy Box is a subscription service that delivers boxes with various themes with everything you’ll need to play out different kinds of sexual fantasies. Each box can include sex toys and even clothing and also comes with notes that guide you in a particular fantasy. Boxes range in size and price.

I decided to try a one-time order and chose the “Grey Area” box ($45 plus $5 for shipping). I’m not sure why I assumed “Grey Area” was the right box for my husband and I. After all, neither of us ever expressed an interest in this particular bondage fantasy, but something about Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey has captured the essence of the ultimate sexual fantasy. As a woman, trying to rev up my sex-life post baby, I was willing to give it a try.

Somewhere between attempting to insert the glass balls and wrapping myself in bondage tape, I felt like I’d gone a little too far. It just didn’t feel the way I expected it to feel. When my husband gave me the long awaited thumbs-up, I nervously walked over to him and asked if he read the instructions. He nodded and we proceeded.

I wish I could say that it was a mind-blowing sexual experience and that channeling “50 Shades of Grey” instantly fixed my sex rut, but it didn’t. It was awkward, like a really bad porno.

“Are you into this?” I asked nervously, my hands and legs bound.

“Not really” my husband replied.

Instead of an exotic night in the Red Room, my face was just red with embarrassment.

There’s this stigma that sex after a baby fails by comparison to sex before kids, and I was afraid we were falling into that category. There’s also this pressure women face to remain sexy and sexual after a baby and to avoid saying things like, “I’m too tired” or “Not tonight.” Although we were having sex regularly, I was afraid it had become too casual and planned.

However, trying to assess what my marriage needed by considering two fictional characters wasn’t the way to go. In fact, it made me realize that lazy, planned, and convenient sex actually really worked for us, at least for right now. This idea that my sex life shouldn’t change just because I’m a mom is ridiculous, because everything else has changed since I’ve become a mom.

The effort I put into my marriage right now may seem minimal but it’s significant considering I never get a full night of rest and I’m always cleaning up after a smaller version of myself. Planned sex isn’t necessarily a rut that I need to get out of, and it was a sex subscription box that helped me realize that.

My Son Put a Sheep’s Eye in His Lunchbox

There are moments in motherhood we simply never forget: the first time our child smiles, the first time he takes a step, her very first day of school, the first time he brings home a sheep’s eye in his lunchbox. Oh, wait, did that only happen to me? Yes, I am the lucky winner of that fun parenting moment.

My son was in sixth grade and, though he loves science, he wasn’t looking forward to the upcoming dissection lesson. He tends to get easily grossed out by things of that sort (as does his mother). Driving home from school that particular day, I asked him how it went.

“It was actually really cool,” he replied. “We dissected a sheep’s eye. It was so cool that I asked my teacher if I could keep a piece. And he let me.”

“What do you mean keep a piece? Of the sheep’s eye? Like to take home?”

“Yup.”

“So you have it right now?”

“Yup.”

Remember when I told you his mother is easily grossed out? In my trying-not-to-freak-out voice I asked, “Where is it?”

“In my lunchbox.” His tone was casual.

“In your lunchbox?!”

“Yeah, why?”

“How could you put a sheep’s eye in your lunchbox? That is so gross! Is it in a baggie? Is it wrapped up?”

“No. And it’s not the whole eye, anyway,” he clarified. “It’s just the lens.”

“So you’re telling me the lens of a sheep’s eye is just rolling around your lunchbox? Next to, like, your pretzels.”

My son genuinely did not see anything wrong with this scenario. Furthermore, he also could not locate the piece of the eye when I asked him to take it out so I could sterilize his lunchbox.

So there I was, a seemingly normal 40-year-old woman frantically looking through a lunchbox and backpack, hoping to come across the lens of a sheep’s eye.

You know what’s worse than your son bringing home the lens of a sheep’s eye in his lunchbox? A missing sheep’s eye lens that you now have to worry about stumbling across at some unsuspecting moment in your life.

I remember thinking to myself, “This is one of those moments of motherhood where you realize what a completely wild and crazy ride this is.”

I mean, how many jobs does one mom even have? We are, at various times: chefs, housekeepers, chauffeurs, counselors, nutritionists, event planners, cheerleaders, rule makers, and, always, teachers.

Sometimes, I guess, we’re also sheep’s eye-seekers. Who could ask for anything more?

Posted on Categories _Writer Contest

A Wild Child

This is a submission in our monthly contest. January’s theme is “Wild.” Enter your own here!
When I dreamed of children, I conjured a wild child. Loud and bright. The kind you could not slow down. That leaps before she looks. That isn’t afraid of anything.
Some kids, when you let them loose, take off. They run for the corner of the playground. They run around, just to see their legs work. Sometimes they try to watch their own legs in motion and fall.
My first is terrified of things. Noises, smells. Hand dryers, heights. She is a cautious child. If the tension of a moment, a book, a show, is powerful, she looks away. She cannot look. She cries easily. She draws like it’s a second language. Her inner capacity for fantasy must be so great, so wild, that the world she sees looks strange. I don’t know how the world looks to her, but I know it scares her. Despite trepidation, she is loud and bright.
Aren’t all children? I see my own more clearly now in the mix of kids at school, the kids in our community. When a child grows confident; when a child articulates desire and organizes herself in pursuit – that is wild.
If you look at the children of today, it’s easy to assume – they are not nearly wild enough. Post-millennial American children are not that wild, and yet we desperately want them to be. It might be a byproduct of our fear, but we want them to experience a stage of fantasy and freedom in a culture increasingly bounded by money and futures. We want to protect them; we know we’ll need their courage.
What is wild is how swiftly the world seems to be moving away. Online, people refer to their children as cubs. Little wolves. Bears. Never puppies or kittens, these wild things. I’m fascinated by these kid-animals on Instagram, the accounts dominated by wildlings – in the woods, unencumbered, explorers all, captured out of doors. They are dressed in knits, in homespun. Throwback children, nimble pioneers. Who are these outliers? They appear to have unbounded time with their children. That alone, a fantasy. They seem immersed in the beauty of trees and sky, no roads for miles. The wildlings make for pretty pictures.
The mundane revelation of reproduction – there is so much time indoors. Naps and feeding alone make for hours by a bed, kitchen, a toilet, a washing machine. Shortly beyond napping life, there is school, then homework, early bedtimes. Most children today grow successfully boxed, in containers we have built for them. We go from house to daycare or school to activities or after care and to the house again. The days are long, yet there’s no time for running free. I understand the yearning for freedom. Childhood is rife with boundaries. The parent walks an impossibly narrow line.
When you have your child, wild or not, you apprehend. It’s not socially desirable to have a wild one. Wild is bouncing off the walls. Wild doesn’t follow directions. Wild is anti-social. Wild is aggressive. Wild is a handful. Wild never stops moving. Wild wears people out.
The contemporary wild bears two extreme strains – the inbounds child and the wildling. The wildling appears to be raised out of doors. They’re homeschooled, unschooled, or attending outdoor preschool; they’re completing survival training and reading about bravery. They have animal encounters. They’re scouts all. In the other strain, these kids are overscheduled, already behind in any endeavor that might lead to the good life. School is for fixing them, somehow. Preparing them for a future we cannot predict. Do not be fooled by the wildlings, which are every bit as documented and prized – overparented – as the inbounds.
Is the wildling reactionary, an anti-capitalist, pro-social fist raised in defiance? The free-range cubs on Instagram, I assume they’re wealthy. The families appear to labor but do not seem burdened by work.
In a wintry corner of New York, I’m raising my city kids. We go to a gym down the street where they can jump, run, and climb like wild things. It’s a colorful place with ninja lines, a trampoline, ladders, the best of child parkour. Even the most placid kid turns feral. They bounce and swing their way to red cheeks, sweaty hair.
There are places one can live out of doors, and places it’s less feasible. My daughter was born in California. There was never a reason not to go outside. We walked, jogged, and hiked to her first birthday. Then we moved to New York, where winter is an atmospheric threat; the radio warns you not to leave the house. There’s an argot employed only for weather, from “lake effect” to “persistent snow bands” to “blizzard-like.” I wish the terms were more endearing. If Lake Erie freezes over, the snowflakes harden and fall like glitter. Sometimes the snow dumps overnight, in a beautiful quiet. Just as often it falls during the rush hour. The buses run late. Wild is driving with your children in a terrifically persistent snowband. Wild is being absolutely grateful to be home, to have a warm home and no desire to leave.
I’ve known cold winters: Chicago, Maine, and Germany. Weather isn’t scary. One morning, when my child was four, we went to meet the bus at our corner. I may have been under-dressed. We waited minutes past our pickup time. Then we waited longer. Maybe I called, and they kept telling me it was almost there. I was afraid to go back inside; didn’t know whether to just pull the car out. My child was properly bundled, but I got dangerously chilled. After that, I understood the fear mongering in each storm forecast.
When it’s too cold, they call off school. They don’t want kids waiting out for buses that can’t get through. The assumption is that city kids don’t have warm enough coats, hats, pants, and gloves. These are another kind of wild – children presumed to be on their own in the morning, under-parented, perhaps. Wild is children who are sent home with food on Fridays, enough to get them to Monday. Wild is a school district that feeds all children without charge, because so many qualify for free lunch. For these children, wild is hungry, not free.
Of children – there’s precious wild, and real wild. There’s what I thought they’d be, and what they are. And then there’s everyone’s children, who are authentically wild, with or without us. I like to think my own have tamed me, training my heart for a more ferocious love.

Posted on Categories _Writer Contest

Is That Your Child or a Wild Animal?

This is a submission in our monthly contest. January’s theme is “Wild.” Enter your own here!

Recently I took the kids to the local zoo. Yep, all three kiddies and me. We thought it would be a nice way to kick off summer vacation. While navigating the property, we encountered tons of different and unique animals, some of which reminded me of one of my kids at some point.

I know what you are thinking: “She’s looney.” Either that or you think I’m the worst mother in the world for sharing with the world that I, on occasion, have an easy time comparing my children to zoo animals. But I bet you could, too.

There are so many similarities between wild creatures and our children. Passing up an opportunity to make and share the correlation was just something I could not do.

Ever seen a toddler go ape-shit on you? Boom, there’s your gorilla. For real, right? How else are our kids like gorillas? Well, gorillas spend their time in three main activities: feeding, traveling, and resting – the same as your child, who basically only wants to eat, stay busy, rest, and then repeat.

Do your kids enjoying viewing the tortoises at your local zoo? I’m sure they do, because it’s like visiting a long-lost family member. Think about it. Ever beg your young child to hurry up because it takes them ten million years to do anything, including get their shoes on or get out of the car? That’s because they’re like the land tortoise who moves at less than one mile an hour. Nice little family reunion for them, right?

Wait, did you just secretly open a snack for yourself? No way that you’re going to enjoy that little goodie without your child. With his slothbear-like keen sense of smell and great eyesight, he’ll spot it for sure. You will never, ever get away with eating something and not having to share some of it with your children ever again.

How about those lorys who have no concept of respect for personal space? Ever walk into the lory bird sanctuary at a zoo and have them leave you completely alone? That’s rare. Usually, once you enter, they swarm you – they’re on your head, your shoulders, your arms – just about everywhere. Just like your children, right? I mean, when is one not being held by you, or tugging on you, or touching you? For me, it feels like never.

You know what other animal my children are like? Giraffes, or at least the ones at my local zoo. The giraffes there are very moody and often do not comply with the requests of the handlers to come closer for a guest-giraffe encounter. Who does this sound like? Who else can be ill-tempered, rebellious, and non-compliant? I don’t think I have to tell you. I’m pretty sure you have that one figured out.

You also can’t forget about how our children, as toddlers, often waddle like drunk penguins, typically stink like warthogs, and spit like llamas whenever they excitedly talk to you.

There’s one last comparison to be made, and this one might surprise you. This was not a creature that had its own exhibit at our zoo. Rather, it was a creature that we saw and observed, many times, merely walking the zoo property. Can you guess what it was? A butterfly.

How are butterflies similar to our children? Well, just like children, each butterfly we saw was different and unique in its appearance. Each one had different mannerisms, unique to itself. Each one was taking a different path and flying in a different pattern. You know what else? Each butterfly was beautiful and each butterfly made us smile. Wouldn’t you say the same about your children? (I couldn’t end on a less-than-positive comparison.)

It isn’t always bad to be compared to an animal. I’m proud of my children’s animal-like qualities. I love animals and I love kids. That’s why I am totally cool with my son wanting to go to the zoo, aquarium, or pet store each and every day.

Sandra Bullock said once, “If you don’t have kids and animals, you don’t truly know what life is about.” Amen, sister.

This post has appeared on the author’s personal blog, jthreenme.com, under the title “How Children Are Like Zoo Animals.”

There’s a Bear in There – Tales from the Wild

This is a submission in our monthly contest. January’s theme is “Wild.” Enter your own here!
2017 was the year of the bear for my family. Officially it may have been the Chinese year of the rooster but for us, it was definitely the year of the bear. Born, raised, and living in Australia where kangaroos and small marsupials abound in the wild, I dreamed to see bears in the wild. I marveled at the idea that these large mammals still had enough habitat to survive.
We planned a trip to Canada and Alaska. Others may go to these locations to see Lake Louise or get their fill of glaciers. For our family, it was all about finding a place that had so much wild that bears roamed free.
We talked about the wilderness a lot. Sure, we have the outback in Australia with it’s deadly snakes but how could this compare to the real wild as we started to call it. The real wild not only had bears we discovered in our planning. The real wild had wolves, caribou, deer, moose. It had squirrels, chipmunks and marmots.
We studied hard for our trip into the real wild. We read travel books and blogs. We watched TV shows about hardy Alaskans living in harsh and unforgiving lands. We learned how to feed a dog team through winter, how to survive in a tent in subzero temperatures and how to make a makeshift bed from pine needles. These skills were sure to come in handy in our RV adventure through summer.
We also learned that Alaskans were not as keen to see bears in the wild as we were. We often heard an Alaskan say “I’m really hoping we don’t see a bear” while watching the programs. Rather than being amazed that bears continue to exist in the wild, many Alaskans seemed to spend a lot of time hoping they wouldn’t. One woman would regularly recount the time a bear attacked her and speak of the ongoing psychological trauma she suffered as a result.
Undeterred by any local opinion, we remained keen to see bears. Sooner than we knew we were in Canada trying to see our first bear. Our first black bear we saw from a shuttle bus and another we saw crossing the road in front of our car, so fast we couldn’t even take a picture. Finding two black bears, a mother and cub, on the side of the road eating berries was a highlight. We excitedly filmed these bears from the safety of our rental car.
We became interested in animal scat. How to tell a brown bear’s scat from a black bear, how to tell that of a moose from a deer from a caribou. For the first time in my life I came home from a vacation with numerous pictures of animal poo on my phone. I’m not telling how many but it was more than five and less than 20.
Our first face to face encounter with a wild animal happened when we stumbled across a moose and her calf on a brief walk to the lake in Alaska. I was so focused on bears I hadn’t read up on moose and chose to behave as if the moose was a horse. According to a ranger talk I heard later, the mama moose in summer is the most dangerous animal in Alaska, prone to aggression when protecting a calf. Fortunately for me, the moose seemed to know we were harmless Australians and didn’t charge me or my children.
In Denali National Park we observed plenty more bears from the park shuttle bus. We took a hike close to the visitors center and spotted a bear walking across a river. One child started walking backwards, deciding that was close enough. A debate about what was 1000 yards exactly began. 100 yards is the distance we were told to keep at all times from a grizzly. A yard means nothing to an Aussie who functions on the metric system. Without signal we couldn’t Google an answer. According to my kid, 1000 yards was the point we stood.
We pushed on wanting to get closer to our first bear that we had discovered on foot. As we walked closer, the bear decided to put more distance between us. Clearly, the bear knew what 1000 yards was.
On our down day in Denali National Park, we decided to take another hike in the real wild. Denali doesn’t have marked trails so we followed a wooded area parallel to the river from our camp. As our hike continued we began to notice bear scat in increasing quantities. It looked kind of fresh.
“Sing out, kids,” we said. “remember to make noise. This is what we’ve been practicing for. We don’t want to surprise a bear we just want to see one.” Silence. Then we came upon a freshly chewed and rather large caribou leg bone. The kids started singing out “I don’t want to go any further,” “I’m scared,” “There’s a bear here,” “It’s going to eat us,” and “we’re going to die.” At that moment, it dawned on me. The kids did not want to see a bear in the wild any more than the Alaskan folk on the TV show.
We pushed on, because my training as a psychologist has taught avoiding things in response to anxiety is not good for kids. I’m pretty sure that sometimes my kids hate that about me. My husband and I were pretty sure that the kids were going to ruin our chance of seeing a bear on the hike. We resentfully grumbled under our breath about how the kids were killing our dreams while enthusiastically encouraging the kids to keep moving towards what they were sure was certain death.
We gave up the hike when we were entered a wolf den area. No further hiking was permitted to protect the wolves’ breeding success. As we turned back, a bus driver hailed us and asked if we could see the large grizzly bear about 900 yards from where we were hiking. No, we couldn’t. He pointed and gestured for a while before eventually drove off telling us hopelessly blind Aussies to make noise and keep our eye out for the bear. A disagreement began between my husband and I this time about how far 900 yards was. I realized and not for the first time, how often we relied on Google to solve our problems.
We had the unenviable task of convincing the kids to hike back to camp with the kids now fully aware that there was a bear in our proximity. The same bear that was at some distance which neither of their parents could agree on or provide any reassurance about. We searched the zone for the grizzly for some time but never spotted him. What had been high anxiety in the kids was now closer to terror. With some heavy negotiation involving S’mores, we managed to get the kids to agree to hike back to camp along the open river bank. My husband held the bear spray as we proceeded.
We didn’t sight that bear much to my disappointment and the kids relief. They ate a lot of S’mores that night and seemed to forgive us for forcing them to hike into possible danger. We saw more bears throughout our time in Alaska and we learned how to convert yards into meters. The kids remained scared of seeing a bear in the wild unless we were in a vehicle. According to many Alaskans, that’s just how it should be.

Yes, It Was a 16th Birthday Party, But "Sweet" Isn't How You'd Describe It

This is a submission in our monthly contest. January’s theme is “Wild.” Enter your own here!
Wild at heart, wild animals, Wild Thang, walk on the wild side … holy moly COW, you ain’t seen “wild” until you host your 16-year-old’s surprise party.
I was approached by one of my son’s female friends with the request to throw a surprise birthday party for him. She (let’s call her “Stacy”) was a nice, quiet neighbor of ours, one of his homework buddies, and I was touched by her thoughtfulness. “Of course,” I said. “Yes, by all means: what can I do to help?” And she assured me that she and another young lady would handle all the details. I was simply to keep it secret.
The afternoon arrived, as did the two sweeties, to decorate the house. This was to be a rather large affair and my husband and I were going to grill hot dogs and hamburgers for the crowd. Stacy mentioned that her Uncle knew a girl who danced and thought it would be great fun to have her drop by. How cute, I thought, imagining someone dressed for the ballroom, teaching my son how to salsa. Or perhaps she would lead everyone in the Funky Chicken, like on a cruise ship. Whatever. Fun, fun, fun.
The crowd arrived and soon, so did my son. “SURPRISE!!” The desired effect was achieved, everyone blew those paper blowers and I bustled around in the kitchen, making munchies.
There was a knock on the door. There stood a scantily dressed female, and behind her was a short, heavy-set gentleman in a suit and tie, and behind him was Frankenstein, some sort of huge bodybuilder type. Stacy came running up, hugged the Suit and introduced him as her uncle. Frankenstein was the strong, silent type and just grunted. They followed me into the kitchen where, me, Ms. Naïve Suburbanite, attempted to make small talk and discovered that the very sexy girl was “in law school.” The other two seemed extremely ill at ease, even when I offered them a plate of my famous snickerdoodles.
Stacy soon fetched the budding lawyer to come with her into the living room and I attempted to follow. Stacy suggested that it would be better if I remained in the kitchen. Frank(enstein) followed behind them. I looked quizzically at her uncle, shrugged my shoulders, and busied myself at the sink. I heard a roar from the crowd and whistling and hooting and I froze. What in the name of all that is Good was going on?! My mouth fell open as I realized what kind of dancer I had invited into my home. And who was entertaining my now officially 16-year-old and his friends at that very moment! The Uncle looked at his watch, said “Time to go,” and fetched his entourage to leave. I thanked them for coming, wished her well in law school, and wondered why I was so fixated on being polite to these undesirable people! Some habits are just too ingrained to control. I’m a Mid-Westerner.
It wasn’t until years later that I came upon a photograph of the dancer and my son and blushed! Don’t worry: she was fully clothed after all – no one wanted to have gotten arrested that day, but I felt so hoodwinked by that sweet, “innocent” little neighbor of mine. It was truly a wild party for the ages, and my son assured me that my reputation as “Coolest Mom” was cemented that day. Whoop, whoop.

An Open Letter to Our New Neighbors

Most people get welcomed to the neighborhood with a delicious casserole or tray of baked goods, but my kids would eat it before I could even get it to you.

This is a submission in our monthly contest. January’s theme is “Wild.” Enter your own here!

Dear New Neighbors,

I see you bought the house next door and you’ll be moving in shortly. Most people get welcomed to the neighborhood with a delicious casserole or tray of baked goods, but my kids would just eat it before I could even get it to you.

They seriously want to eat every single night. Are your kids like that? I’m pretty confident that they don’t like lima beans though, due to the intense gagging and moaning when they are made, so maybe I could whip you up a batch of those. Okay, who am I kidding? I don’t cook. Would a can of them suffice?

Back to these said kids. We have five of them. Yes, I said that right. Five. I know, I know, we need to get a hobby. We could probably have more hobbies if we had a babysitter. Speaking of babysitter, do you like kids?

Anyway, they play outside a lot. Clothing seems to be optional. What is it with boys only wanting to wear underwear? Do your boys do that? You’re probably thinking of how crass that sounds, but at least they’ve learned that they can’t pee in the front yard while waving to passing cars, so I think we’ve come a long way.

They also like to wrestle all the time. Don’t be alarmed if you hear them screaming. I’m an E.R. nurse so they know if they come crying to me, they better have an appendage hanging off. Ain’t nobody got time for that, right? By the way, if you’re the betting kind, I would put your money on the little girl. She’s a savage. She put one of her brothers in a headlock once with a single, swift, ninja-like move. She may look cute and innocent, but as her oldest brother says, “You can’t trust that face.” No worries though. Just pray for the boys if they get her dress dirty.

Did I mention how much these kids want to eat? I honestly don’t know where they put it and I’m beginning to think I should just start feeding them my paycheck. We start off the week with a plethora of vegetables, fruit, meats, and cheeses. In a matter of three days, we are down to one can of spam, two and a half apples, and some rice. I know I promised you that can of lima beans, but I’m probably going to need to get those back. Okay, that’s rude of me. You can keep the beans in return for one night of babysitting.

Any-hoo, welcome to the neighborhood! On a serious note, we love Jesus, and friends, and our little mountain town. If you ever want to babysit – okay fine, hang out – we’re right next door. Just come on over, meet the kids, and make yourself at home. My husband and I will graciously run out to get some food for everyone.

It should only take us a few hours.

Posted on Categories _Writer Contest

Juniper, the Impossible Baby

The juniper plant is impossibly resilient, just like my impossible baby.

This is a submission in our monthly contest. January’s theme is “Wild.” Enter your own here!

I was never supposed to get pregnant.

I’d been told by seven of the best doctors in the country at the tender age of 19 that I would never carry a child. They told me that if I did somehow manage to get pregnant, that I wouldn’t be able to carry my baby to full term because of complications with my uterus. Basically, my baby would spontaneously abort due to lack of space. I tucked this painful knowledge away, because I was far too young and unversed to deal with such devastation, and forged ahead.

Fast forward five years. I was 24 and suddenly I’d started to feel…strange. I had new aches all over my body. I wanted to eat peaches, which I’m allergic to. I had violent mood swings that were way out of character for me. I took a pregnancy test. It was positive. I took six more tests. They were all positive.

I called my sister, who was in the medical field, and asked her if drinking too much coffee could give you a false positive. She laughed and said, “Absolutely not.” I went to the doctor a week later and confirmed it – I was six weeks pregnant.

After a few months of freaking out, I heard the heartbeat and that sealed the deal; I finally believed that I was really growing a human. As it sunk in, I could feel something emerging inside me, a new feeling I had never known before. I couldn’t name it but I knew it was going to be out of this world.

I held my breath, however, because the words of those seven “best doctors” kept echoing in my head. Despite reassurances from my current OB, I had this deep and permeating fear that I would lose my baby, that their prophecies over my future non-pregnancy would come true. Nevertheless, my baby and my body kept growing, everything was normal and healthy, and I began to breathe a little bit easier.

As my belly grew, I came slowly to believe that I would actually have this baby. I found out I was having a girl, and I knew I had to choose a name. I was due in June, and I felt like that should be a part of her name. A Gemini baby required a strong, wild name. I began to research the word June and its relatives. I stumbled across the name “Juniper” and, as I read on, I realized that was the only name for my impossible baby.

The juniper plant has 50 varieties. It can grow in any climate and any environment, based on the variety. There’s the juniper fir, juniper berry, juniper bush, juniper tree, and so on. It’s a hearty plant that’s been used by generations and its uses include food, fuel, medicinal purposes, furniture, utensils, and oils. It could potentially provide all of the necessities of life for a group of people.

It’s impossibly resilient, just like my impossible baby. As I read more and more, I was filled with hope for my unborn baby girl.

Amidst this hope, I recollected in agonizing detail the depth of disappointment and sting of pain I felt upon receiving the damning words from those “best doctors” that my body wasn’t fit to grow a human and it was an impossible dream. I had only been 19, but I’d already thought about children and how much I wanted to be a mother.

As I caressed my belly and felt my Juniper kick and push, I fully understood the correlation between the determination of my body to overcome this negative prophecy and the resilience of this name, and it filled me with an incandescent, wild hope. I think it was at that moment that I let go of all doubt about the viability of my pregnancy and stepped with total confidence into the new title of mother.

I delivered Juniper via cesarean section on my mother’s birthday, strengthening her Gemini spirit with her grandmother twin. She was small but perfect, and there were absolutely no complications for either of us. I recognized her cry right away and, as I stared into her chocolate brown eyes and held her tiny hand, I knew she was the embodiment of her name. She was the impossible baby, forged from my optimism, grown from hope, and born from the wild determination of her mother.

Juniper is seven now. She’s on the autistic spectrum. She’s brave and smart and compassionate. She’s beautiful and an utter delight to talk to. She knows her story. She knows her name and she knows the resilience that created her and continues to create her. She lives in it every day. I can’t wait to watch her grow up and change the world.

Nine Going on Nineteen

This is a submission in our monthly contest. January’s theme is “Wild.” Enter your own here!

By all accounts, I’m very lucky. My nine-year-old son, Jack, is a great kid. He’s polite, kind, compassionate, outgoing, and does well in school. He even still lets me sneak kisses and hugs in fairly regularly.

Lately, though, things have been tough. I forgot how difficult the “odd” years are. Jack never went through the Terrible Twos, so when he turned three and his behavior drastically shifted to that of a wild child, I was shocked. By the time his fourth birthday rolled around, he was back to his gentle, sweet, and mild-mannered self. This cycle has continued every other year since Jack’s third birthday.

The long, unstructured days of winter break, augmented by dangerously low temperatures, have proven extremely difficult. My once easy-going, polite, and mild-mannered child has become moody, lazy, and way too quick to talk back. His insistence on getting the last word in just may drive me crazy by the time school rolls back around in one short week.

To combat this wild child behavior, my husband and I have had lengthy conversations with Jack, explaining to him that if he can’t get his behavior under control, we will have no choice but to cancel both the tennis and sailing camps he looks forward to all year. We’ve taken away all electronics: his phone, his iPad, his laptop, his XBox, and even his television privileges. So far, nothing has worked.

Out of sheer frustration, I began doing some research. My goal was to learn how I could better handle Jack’s newly-developed attitude. What I learned shocked me! Much to my surprise, nine-year-olds are considered “tweens,” and in the early stages of puberty! I had no idea my baby was so close to becoming a teenager. If his recent behavior is any indication of how his teenage years are going to be, I’m certainly not looking forward to them!

While I understand it’s completely normal for a nine-year-old to desire independence, I refuse to accept blatant disrespect from my child. Furthermore, I refuse to allow him to grow into a spoiled, arrogant man with a sense of entitlement.

As I’ve reflected on Jack’s behavior and all I’ve learned through my research, I’ve come to realize I carry a lot of the blame for Jack’s current attitude. He’s my only child, and I dote on Jack endlessly. Anything he asks for, he gets, and on the rare occasion that my husband or I actually tell him “no,” a meltdown immediately ensues.

I’ve come to realize that we absolutely have to stop giving into Jack. We’re not doing him any favors; we’re spoiling him. If he continues to get whatever he wants when he wants it, what incentive will he have to improve his behavior? Only time will tell how our plan of scaling back will work. I have a sneaking suspicion this is going to be harder for us than it will be for Jack.

Wish us luck!

Finding Calm During the Wild After-School Rush

This is a submission in our monthly contest. January’s theme is “Wild.” Enter your own here!

After school is probably the most unstructured time of my day. As a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer, I work hard to make the most of the mornings and the opportunities that come after lunch during nap-time. I usually run a bunch of errands after getting my girls to school and breakfast cleaned away. My son and I sneak in some fun playtime and, before we know it, we’re ready to eat lunch. Nap follows soon after the mid-day meal, which gives me some time to do some writing. This set-up usually takes us right up to the bus arriving home and, voilà! Eight hours has vanished and all of my children are home again.

Life is so very busy that I think it’s okay to try to find some calm and take a little bit of the rush out of what is typically “rush hour” in the majority of households.

The hours between 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm are like a twilight zone at my house, because those two hours are so unpredictable. One day might involve a snack, homework, laundry-folding, and a highly anticipated cartoon viewing of “Ready Jet Go” or my girls’ PBS favorite “Odd Squad.”

Other days the weather may be wonderful, and my kids ride bikes outside with the neighbors while some of us stay-at-homies sit on tailgate chairs in our driveways to keep an eye on the kiddos while also mingling in the respite that is adult conversation.

Then there are other afternoons where extra-curricular activities override those two hours and I pretty much spend the whole time carpooling kiddos to different activities and wishfully thinking dinner would prepare itself.

My only real staple of duty for after-school is checking school backpacks, and making sure the girls put their shoes away and hang up their coats. I also try to have a meaningful dialogue about their day, which means getting creative with the questions I ask them. (I’ve written in earlier posts about the need to ask different questions to really engage kids so that they share details and actively converse.)

Here are a few of my favorite things to ask my daughters:

1 | What did you do at recess?

2 | What did you do in your “specials” today? (Specials at our school include art, music, computer, P.E., library, and guidance.)

3 | What did you pick for lunch?

4 | Who did you sit by at lunch?

5 | Who did you play with at recess?

My kids are big talkers, but it still feels good to ask them about things in a way that mandates we will get beyond the standard: “yes,” “no,” or “fine.” Generic questions like: “How was your day?” or “Did you do well on your assignment?” often inspire these one-word answers.

Also, if I’m being entirely honest, once 3:30 rolls around I’m pretty tired as a mother. I’ve usually been going full bore the entire day and just want to relax and enjoy my kids before the chaos of dinner and the witching hour that’s known as prepping for bedtime.

I probably need to be better about having a chore list and making sure my eight-year-old and six-year-old are aware of the responsibilities that go with keeping a house in order and somewhat clean. However, those two hours are not my strongest. I just want to relax or, at the very least, ratchet my Type-A, over-scheduled self down a notch or two.

I think of the time between 3:30 and 5:30 as my auto-pilot – the calm before the storm that my family calls the end of a long day. It’s the quietness before my husband gets home from work and my kids turn into hyenas. It’s the serene tranquility before the need to exercise, pay bills, empty a dishwasher, and lay out school clothes for the next day takes over my existence.

The after-school hours can be wild, but I choose to make them as pleasant as possible. It doesn’t always work because deadlines, music practice, gymnastics, and seasonal allergies can wreak their own special type of havoc. However, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Posted on Categories _Writer Contest