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No Seriously My Child, You have NO CHOICE but to be Strong

When I was a kid snow days were a gift from the heavens – an unexpected present from the Goddess herself, gloriously saving me from yet another mundane day of pretending to understand fractions. I’d wake up and see the world draped with that distinct frosty substance, and my heart would fill with relief as I wriggled back into the womb of my bed ready to spend my day playing “Super Mario Brothers.” Yet now that I’m a parent, a snow day instead fills me with that feeling of, “Awww fuck.”

When you’re an obsessive workaholic that finds your sense of personal value exclusively through what you produce each day and your self-esteem is predicated on what you’re able to accomplish to the point where you fall into a deep state of anxiety if you’re not able to achieve all you expected from your waking hours – a day off can actually be kind of stressful.

As such, I had to make a plan with The Munch about our day so we could both get what we wanted – my needing to fulfill my self-imposed compulsive demands of productivity, and her wanting to quite reasonably play with me outside. Now of course The Munch’s request for me to join her frolicking in the open tundra was appealing, yet only after I was able to feel some output out of my day. Our compromise was that she would entertain herself for 2 ½ hours, and then we’d play.

Part of me wanted to just let The Munch do what she wanted to do (in order to extend my work time) and let her watch some bullshit show on her screen. But fuck that! No memories are made when watching some slutty monsters go to high school (this is a REAL show called “Monster High” – and I’m not slut shaming them, because I believe monsters should be as sexually adventurous as they please, just commenting on the unnecessary attire and body types they are drawn with). I didn’t want to let my kid’s imagination rot by letting her passively fill the hours with media, as tempting as that can be because are imaginations really that important?

Since The Munch is an only child, expecting her to play by herself for a few hours is reasonable. The Munch set a timer for exactly 3 hours (the extra half hour was her gift to me) and off we went to our perspective rooms – her to play make-believe, and me to write make-believe, but in a very serious way.

When my time was up, it was time for us to go outside. The Munch and I decided that sledding was a good plan, yet there aren’t really any good hills near my house. The closest one is about a 2 mile walk away. Of course I could have drove through the blizzard to get us there, but like most moms, I needed my car to get covered in snow so I could dig it out on film the next day pretending to be a sexy snow bunny for a video idea I had about New England girls being just as hot as California girls. Every kid has to deal with that right??

Since we couldn’t drive, we decided that we’d hike through the snowy terrain to the sledding hill. The Munch and I packed some snacks and water, tied the sled to a string so she could pull it behind her, and off we went out into the nor’easter.

We first had to hike up a hill about a ¼ mile long that’s as steep as a mountain. We were still optimistic at this point, despite the snow propelling with alarming speed into our faces causing an inability to see. Once we almost traversed to the top of the crest, The Munch accidently let go of the string pulling the sled, and had to run full speed and dive to catch it, otherwise the sled would have slid the entire way back down the hill. I have to say I was pretty impressed by The Munch’s instincts, because she plunged headfirst and slid about 8 feet to grab the string just in time.

Watching my daughter throw her body down a hill and glide on her stomach like a seal version of Neo from the Matrix to retrieve this sled got me thinking. I know it’s common rhetoric to talk about the need of raising your daughter to be a strong woman. You hear that a lot right? Yet I started to think about the harsh reality that I may have to raise my daughter to be strong in a different way than what I’ve been assuming. Not just strong in the sense that she’s strong enough to say “no” to a man whose advances she doesn’t consent to, or strong enough to become a leader in whatever occupation she chooses. There is the emotional strength I’m familiar with of being a woman within the patriarchy and trying to find my place of significance despite the insidious sexism that still permeates most of modern culture. Yet with my quest of challenging social paradigms I’m still physically comfortable and live in a western world that provides me with the illusion of personal safety. Despite my being sexually harassed and Weinsteined every so often, I do take for granted my access to the basic luxuries of life – like having electricity and easy access to food.

Yet suddenly it dawned on me that I may have to empower my daughter in an entirely other way as well. The Munch may have to be strong in ways I never had to be considering the future I’m handing her. There is a pretty good chance that my daughter has to be strong enough to survive THE MOTHER FUCKING APOCALYPSE!!!!!!!!

Was I being alarmist? Maybe? Was I perhaps a little stoned/paranoid, thus envisioning the potential future we are racing towards that’s laden with biblical style horrors led by the insanity of our current administration? Possibly? Yet it’s also naïve to assume that The Munch is going to experience the same lifestyle I am currently enjoying considering there is major probability of MASSIVE GLOBAL CATASTROHPE.

I started to get so despondent realizing the very REAL potential that shit could seriously hit the fan, and how my daughter’s main concerns in life won’t be comparable to mine – like how many “likes” her videos get – but rather her troubles will be whether or not she’ll endure the pending ice age caused by all the cataclysmic erratic weather patterns. Or if she’ll be able to live through the violence that will ensue as resources diminish and water is the most valuable commodity.

As we continued to hike through this mammoth tempest towards our sledding hill, my mind was filled with prophecies of this tragic future and how my child might one day be desperately searching for animal carcasses to feast on the raw carrion, as fire would be a luxury only the 1% could enjoy. I started to realize that maybe I haven’t been doing my daughter any justice by keeping her warm, and cozy, and fed, and instead I needed to teach her to survive in the wild!

The Munch: Mama, I’m hungry. Let’s take a break.
Toni: We have to keep going! You have to be strong!
The Munch: But I’m tired! It’s harder for me to walk than you! The snow is deeper for me! It’s only up to your knees, but it’s up higher on me! It’s past my thighs!
Toni: Munch, what if there’s a war? Like world war 3? And we have to hike out of here to survive? How would we hide from the enemy if you had to rest because your legs were tired?
The Munch: Easy. I’d just do this.

The Munch proceeds to curl up in a ball to “hide.”

Toni: Dude, I can still see you even though you can’t see me!
The Munch: I’d just bury deeper in the snow and camouflage.

The Munch snuggles in, and brushes some snow on her back to “camouflage.”

Toni: I can still see you! We have to keep going!
The Munch: My legs hurt, and my feet are cold. I should have worn wool socks.
Toni: Dude, you have to push through the pain! Your body is capable of so much if you’re determined. You have to persevere, and train yourself to face suffering – not run from it. And who knows, you may not even have access to wool socks in the future? You have to get used to freezing toes. We have to keep going… Now what are you doing?
The Munch: I’m drawing a picture of summer in the snow. See, here’s the sun – and the sun’s smiling because it’s warm out – and here are some flowers, and that’s me swimming.
Toni: Munch, there is no time for drawing pictures in the snow! If we were running from the enemy we’d have to be efficient. Do you know if you can eat this kind of bark? What about this moss? Have you ever tried moss? Wait… now what are you drawing?
Munch: It’s us sledding. See, that’s you, that’s me, that’s the sled, and that’s the sun smiling.
Toni: No more drawing smiling suns! You have to get up and walk!
The Munch: But I’m hungry.
Toni: Fine, if you make it up this next hill, then you can stop and eat.
The Munch: That hill is like a mile long!
Toni: It’s the only way! You have to be strong!!!! We can play “I spy” while we hike.
The Munch: We can’t play “I spy,” because everything is white and brown?
Toni: MUNCH, YOU HAVE TO JUST KEEP GOING! YOU HAVE TO BE STRONG!

We finally made it up the next hill, having negotiated through the snow for over a mile. I then let The Munch stop to eat, but there was no shelter for us, so we just had to sit in the snow as the wind blew more snow in our faces while even more snow fell from the sky. I took off my backpack that was… you guessed it… covered in snow, and then took off my gloves to fish out her snacks that were also… covered in snow because the snow had snowed inside my bag somehow? Those two minutes with my gloves off were excruciatingly cold, and I wasn’t sure how The Munch was going to eat her cut up apples and cheese with her gloves on? Yet The Munch took off her mittens and proceeded to enjoy her snack for the next ten minutes – not a care in the world, not complaining about her blue fingers, not saying much really. She just hummed to herself as snow collected on her eyelashes while she ate her food.

We then slid down the hill we had just climbed and eventually hiked home. Once we were finally inside after 3 hours of outdoor training, as we peeled off our sopping wet gear The Munch turned to me, ice crusted in her hair, and said:

Munch: That was really fun Mama! I like playing I the snow with you!

It was then I realized that maybe The Munch will make it after all – especially because I then made her stand outside barefoot for a bit to toughen up her feet.