Did I do something right?

If I were to categorize my blog posts, I’m guessing 10% are literature and bookishness, 70% are teeth-clenched comedy about how I barely made it through the day with my adorable and irrepressible children, 10% are raw and unfiltered posts in which I admit to being completely overwhelmed by life, death, and the days when those two coincide, and 10% are crowdsourcing pleas in which I seek solutions for managing to stay alive during one of my indomitable children’s…um…phases.

I don’t know yet that I’ve posted enough “I do believe I might have done something right” posts to actually register on any NaptimeWriting highlights reel. This Halloween might be different.

Berkeley upcycles its trash into art. Hard to feel like I'm #winning next to that.

Berkeley upcycles its trash into art. Hard to feel like I’m #winning next to that.

I woke this morning totally panicked about our Halloween policy. The first few years, with just Peanut, we adhered to a “have two pieces a day until it’s gone,” policy, and despite relieving the bag substantially in the evenings, Halloween wore on WAY too long into November. Once we had two children old enough to carry a treat bag, we offered the idea of trading candy for books or toys, but Peanut, the oldest, would have none of it. We settled on a friend’s approach: two days of unfettered access, then all the candy goes away.

This year the kids loved the plan. They knew unfettered access still meant they had to eat three meals a day, all veggies and protein. They knew this was non-negotiable.

But they were like crazed maniacs on Halloween night, sprinting from house to house to maximize their haul. The four-year-old dashed up stairs, knocked on doors, beamed his brightest “HappyHalloweenthankyouandhaveagoodnight” as he grabbed all he could hold. And at 7:00 November 1, both kids were leaping on my bed, hollering, “go make eggs so we can have protein and then eat all our candy!”

I freaked out a bit.

I texted my most awesomely conscientious mom friends to ask their policy. One allows a single piece a day, and sneaks out the egregiously colored stuff. Another negotiated a trade of all but four pieces in exchange for a book.

Mmmmmm. Homemade caramel.

Mmmmmm. Homemade caramel.

I mentioned those candy-management options to my kids, who laughed and, I’ll be honest, openly judged those parents aloud for being “too unfair.” (I talked to them about fairness and candy and starving children. My grandmother would be proud.) After wolfing down their eggs, my sugar-fiend cherubs agreed to take the most toxic of their stash and trade it for the brands I trust. I stocked up on candy made with natural ingredients, colored with fruit, sweetened with organic sugar, and made sustainably so I could give their dad the stuff that will color your liver for months. (What? It’s not rude to give your ex toxic candy, right? Not the stuff with razor blades; just partially hydrogenated oils.) So some of what the boys devoured at 7:35am was candy that they’d already selected from my Alternative Treat stash.

But the haul was still grotesque. Gorgeous to the candy-loving child/teen/adult in me. Disgusting to the parent I have been posing as for almost nine years.

While they ate we talked about red dye #3 and red #40, blue #2, yellows #5 and 6. Coal tar, guys. Those colors, in more than 30% of your candy, are made from coal tar. Some are banned in other countries and some are banned in the U.S. in cosmetics, but not in food.

“Don’t care,” they shrugged. “it’s two days of the year. We never buy this kind of candy, we always eat well, and we worked hard to get it.” My eight year old genuinely said these things.

They wore me down. Not because they’re right, but because I am easily pushed off the perch from which I fear going too far toward the self-righteous Berkeley I both celebrate and disdain. I’m also freaking exhausted from all the negotiations and battles and teachable moments about brushing teeth and not calling names and being kind and embracing difference and standing up for anyone who’s being pushed around and treasuring people over things and …I’m seriously just exhausted. I was willing to look the other way while my kids are coal tar artificial colors, child-slave-labor chocolate, and highly processed high fructose corn syrup.

So they got as much candy as they wanted between meals today.

For the record, they were miserable cretins all day: whining, annoying each other, throwing fits, and flitting around like hummingbirds. I kept telling them that their behavior told me next year should be the Halloween of Two Pieces Total.

And then tonight, the big one called me downstairs when I finished the four-year-old’s bath. He showed me more than 60% of his remaining candy in a pile. Candy he likes as well as candy he likely wouldn’t have eaten. all the duplicates and several brands he knows his dad likes. All lumped in a big pile to trade. “What would this get me?” he asked. It was such a significant gesture from a candy hoarder (he keeps a stash of candy that remains uneaten from random holidays stored in a clandestine backpack; and he asks once every few months if he can eat one of his bits of treasure), such an unbelievable change of heart, that I told him he could pick a book and a toy for his efforts.

The little one, apparently done freaking out about how his socks never quite line up across his toes correctly, stomped down the stairs and surveyed Candy Central. He saw what his brother was trading away, and he shoved his pile at me. “I’m done with this. I don’t even want to trade. I’m just done.” He kept one bag of organic, vegan gummy bears.

"Don't worry, mom. We don't need candy, we have kale. And we don't need toys, we have cardboard."

“Don’t worry, mom. We don’t need candy, we have kale. And we don’t need toys, we have cardboard.”

Both my kids had way too much candy today. They each likely had 30 pieces of candy.

But they’re done. Done. They don’t care any more. The novelty has worn off. They want LEGOs and books, instead.

I don’t want to say this too loudly, or anything, but I might have inadvertently done something right this Halloween.

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You Have to Know Who You Are

Each morning when I dress the part of the human I’m pretending to be, I think about the contexts in which people will see me. An all-kids day means I wear a geek T-shirt, skort, and pair of worn-out Chucks with red recycled-kimono laces. A meeting with clients means a suit (despite the fact that I’m still clinging to pre-kids suits that are way too tight and too short. Because children, apparently, made me grow several inches. Or made my rear-end absorb several inches of pant-length. Probably the taller thing. Because science.) I reject heels with those suits in favor of sturdy brown wingtips with yellow recycled-kimono laces.

When I’m headed to a conference I feign disinterest and fight my personal love of tweed trousers. I pair a crisp French-cuffed shirt with jeans. Sometimes a tweed jacket. Because I can’t help myself. Oh, my word, the draw of elbow patches. I would put elbow patches on T-shirts and jammies if I could. To fight the corporate-academic look I wear boots, especially my canvas and leather jump boots. Because nothing says badass-academic like jump boots and Scrabble-tile cufflinks.

But an upcoming conference poses a perplexing problem. I’m headed to Chicago for BlogHer, a massive conference for bloggers that I never really thought I’d attend. I’m not sure how I got caught up in the excitement and the joy of this conference. Except that I know exactly how it happened. I won a kind-of-a-big-deal blogging award.

A lovely human named Alexandra, who blogs her infectious love of life, family, and women in several places including at Good Day Regular People has been outrageously kind with me since she found my blog last year. She has connected me with sites she thinks I should blog for and has cheered my accomplishments. She’s my age, but I think of her as my abuela. She’s kind and supportive in the way everyone’s families should be.

And when the BlogHer Voices of the Year submission process opened, Alexandra tweeted to her Empire that everyone should submit because everyone is worthy.

Trying to learn from her example, I slammed the door on self doubts and submitted three pieces from last year.

And promptly forgot that I had entered. I was proud enough to have sneered at the internal, “why would *you* ever…” long enough to submit. I didn’t actually think about the process or the possibility that I might be selected.

But my post on autism is one of twenty-five blog posts being celebrated for inspiration at the upcoming conference.

And when I found out, I was incredulous. Then I cried. And then assumed that all further references to Voice of the Year would necessitate an asterisk.

“Tonight we celebrate 99 bloggers who inspired us, and one extra, whom we chose to fill out the extra seat next to them.”
“We have worked diligently to select some of the best writing online this year, and are throwing a bone to a post by a mediocre writer at whom we shrug a lukewarm nod. You know whom we mean.”
Seems a rather disrespectful view of the judges. [Not of myself or my writing, by the way. The judges did all the work. And the other writers. And the webmaster. And conference planners. And the snack vendors. They all deserve the credit.]

After a bit of this disrespectful drivel, I started to think, maybe, perhaps, there are a few other honorees who similarly think their mention is a mistake or footnoted pity vote. That when I’m clapping for the other bloggers whose posts just *wrecked* me with humor and heart and compassion and truth, perhaps one or two might be hanging their heads in embarrassment, too.

Probably not.

What did this to me? What makes me think what I make doesn’t matter? Or shouldn’t count? Or that when people say, “I read that and liked it” that they’re wrong/lying/trying to be nice? Why wouldn’t I say thank you the way I do when clients like my writing or academics like my writing? Why is creative writing, unpaid writing, heartfelt writing less worthy?

I did feel proud of my writing when I hit “post.” And I did feel satisfied enough in my writing that I entered a contest, something I never, ever do. So why would that pride die when I won? What kind of headcase freakiness is this?

All the other VOTY posts I’ve read, without exception, have floored me. They’ve made me want to write more.

And dozens of people commented that my post was important to them. I have a responsibility to those readers, including the judges, to smother the ridiculous nonsense in my head and to take a bow.

So I’m going to straighten up, allow the smile to settle in, and sit proudly with those wonderful writers at the Voices of the Year celebration later this month.

Because I need some applause in my life, yo. And all I have to do is stop knocking myself down to see the hands making that noise. They’re lovely, gentle, raucous, funny, smart, activist, human hands.

So now to the last, little problem.

What does one wear to act the part of someone who is learning to shut the door on self-doubt and to take full possession of her body, brain, and writing? Is there such thing as a tweed skort and french-cuff shirt with recycled-kimono elbow patches? Designers? Call me if you can hook me up with that kind of swag.