22
Aug 14

Monkey Mind

I am struggling lately with my old demon, anxiety. It sits on my chest, making it hard to breathe. I wake up at night in a panic, endless thoughts eddying around in swirls in my brain. I remember yoga teachers talking about the “monkey mind:” a mind filled with this kind of loop-de-loop chatter. All the to-dos, should-have-dones, must-remembers. It’s unproductive, but I still can’t fall back asleep. Last night I roamed the house in the wee hours, driven by my monkey mind. I try to relax. An impossible task.

During the day I sit down to do one task and endlessly interrupt myself with other tasks that need doing. There simply isn’t enough time. I worry, over and over again, that I am not doing as well as I should do. I berate myself for not being better at life, for not conquering each and every challenge life throw at me.

And then I try and take a deep breath. I try and remember to be kind to myself. I think, “self? Would you think these things about another person that you love?” (Answer: no). “Then, Self, be kind. I can only do my best. My best HAS to be good enough.”

I wish things were perfect. I daydream about everything being my definition of perfect, and how that would solve all my problems. Except probably it wouldn’t. My definition of perfect would change. Or I would become an insufferable person to be around and lose all my friends. Or maybe I would even be bored(?).

I look at our bare concrete floor in the kitchen and feel a tiny bit ashamed that we don’t have “grown-up” flooring. And then I think about people who live in places with dirt floors. I think about The House on Plum Creek and Ma Ingalls sweeping that earthen floor and, BOOM, reality crashes back in.

I live under a roof that keeps me dry. I have plenty (so many!) of things to wear. I have running water. I even have hot water, at my disposal, day or night, whenever I want. I have a refrigerator and a pantry full of food to eat. I’ve even got books to read and things to entertain me, and a car to drive sitting in my driveway. I live with people who love me, and who I love the heck out of.

So I guess I am just working on my perspective, on breathing in and out, and letting go. Of practicing kindness. To others, but also to myself (I am my own biggest critic).

Meanwhile, the dishes in the sink beckon. Going to try and calm down my inner monkey and focus, zen-like, on that one task before me.


14
Aug 14

The hardest things I’ve done/learned since I became a Mom

**Please know that this is all tongue-in-cheek. I love being a mom (and a stay-at-home one, at that). I adore my children. I have the perspective to know that this stage (of toddlers/little kids) isn’t forever, that someday I will miss this time. This is the hardest, the craziest, the most insanity-producing time of my life but (most of the time) I am surviving (thriving?). I also strongly acknowledge that sense of humor is paramount to survival as a parent. Hence, this post.****

1. Acceptance of mess.

Really and truly, I don’t believe that it is possible to live in a perfectly spotless, perfectly organized, perfectly perfect house. Not when there are kids involved. Unless…I don’t know…well, no, I really don’t think it is possible. Every single day this summer has ended with pillow and blanket forts in the living room (and then the inevitable argument about cleaning up said fort at the end of the day).

2. Self-sacrifice/Farewell to Selfishness

My time is not my own. My possessions are not my own. My body is not my own. Right now is not the time when I get to choose things like when to wake up, how to spend any spare minutes of the day, or whether or not I get privacy while I poop (answer: NO). Speaking of which….

3. No Privacy

None. None at all. But beware interrupting the privacy of a kid of a certain age who is certain to yell at you when you enter her open bathroom door (regardless of the fact that she just jimmied open the lock on your bathroom door while you were showering not 10 minutes earlier).

4. Letting go/Giving up control

You may have a certain vision for how things will be when you are a parent. Yeah, good luck with that. Sure, we all have our ideals, but we all find ourselves doing/saying/being things we didn’t ever imagine for ourselves, not in our perfect pre-children visions. Example: pre-kid me imagined a perfectly orderly lineup of handmade, wooden toys. Reality: Barbies and random plastic figures that appear from god-only-knows-where but are somehow insanely precious.

Also, forget choosing what the kids will wear. They will choose. And sometimes it makes my eyes burn but I choose to not engage in that particular battle unless it is our once a year family portraits. Plaid with (non-matching) plaid? Yes. Floral and polka-dots? Yes. The layered look (multiple tank tops for no particular reason except “it feels nice, mom!”)? Yes. Bathing suit and rain boots to the grocery store? Yes. Whatever. Naked body covered = Great, let’s go, kids.

5. How to handle intense emotions

It doesn’t seem possible that these small creatures can bring about the most insanely intense feelings one has ever felt. They are not half-formed people so much as fully formed and capable of blindsiding you with an emotional sucker punch to the gut people. I have never felt so enraged, so despondent, so high or so low. When the feelings get too intense, I repeat my mantra: “Be the grown up.” (Did I ever tell you about the time Anna saw my naked body and started laughing and calling me “Jiggle Butt?” I had to hide and do some deep breathing before I was able to discuss how this “really hurts Mommy’s feelings”).

6. Poop. All the poop. All the poop in the entire universe.

Adam wants a cat. There is no way in %&^*#$ing hell I am getting a cat until Lily is firmly potty trained because I am sick of poop and I’m just not going to pooper scooper after a cat (we DO have a dog and he poops like a maniac and YES that is MY job, too, so NOOOOOO). I am fascinated and obsessed with it (“did she poop today? How much? What consistency?”) but I am sick of it. Sometimes I feel like gagging but don’t want to create some weird thing around it so I just pretend it is all fine, everything’s great but when Adam is home I just might sometimes MAYBE YOU CAN’T PROVE IT hide when I see her pooping or ask Adam to change her (I think it’s just a pee! Ha!). I entered a new layer of crazy this time around with the whole cloth diapering thing (can’t just hide that nasty poop in the trashcan, gotta deal with it (plop, or GOD FORBID, scrape it into the toilet and rinse it out and UGGGGGG but, shrug, whatever, it’s just poop). I’m used to it but I’m over it. So, so over it.

7. New identity, new me.

A long, long time ago, I used to be called things like “Mrs. Gray.” Now I am Mom, Mama, Mommy, Anna’s Mom, Lily’s Mommy, etc. Sometimes Adam and I even refer to each other by these romantic (ha ha) terms. Because it is just easier and because we are so damned used to hearing them.

Related: clothing. I used to wear high heels and suits (or at least slacks and a blouse). Now I consider myself “dressed” if I’m not wearing pajamas (and by pajamas, I mean not my flannel pants and an old undershirt of my husband’s). I totally take Anna to school on the regular in yoga pants (not necessarily used to do yoga in) or sweat pants (which are really pajamas but less obviously so). Though I do make it my goal to put on “Real Clothes” by the time school lets out at 3 pm (at least jeans). Hey, aim low and you won’t disappoint yourself or others.

8. Body changes

I pushed two children out of my body and then fed them with my breasts. ‘Nuff said. As we like to joke around here, “the ol’ Gray Mare, she ain’t what she used to be.”

9. Lack of follow-through/Simply not enough hours in the day

Look, if I really had it all together, this list would end at a nice, even 10 but I just can’t even….it’s 9:30 pm and tomorrow comes too soon. Ain’t no one got time for that…


12
Aug 14

Like a long-ago friend

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It’s been nearly a year since my last post (cringe). I miss it. I miss putting my words down here. It always feels like something (or someone) else needs my attention, though. There’s always something to do, something else more pressing (even if that “something” is “go to bed so I won’t hate myself in the morning”).

This is a weird time for me. We are still living in chaos (maybe that’s just life with kids, though?). The kitchen floors are still torn up. We still have pictures taped to the walls. Sometimes I feel embarrassed that I’m nearing 40 and these things are true–like I should have it all together by now, have that perfect Pottery Barn catalog house. I don’t.

I read this yesterday and it helped. It helped a lot. It helped me to remember the truths that I am trying to live in my life. To be grateful, to love, to be the best person that I can be. To remember that life isn’t a competition and that no one is winning or losing. We are all just here, doing our best.

I am feeling very introspective as of late. I am practicing a lot of tools of self-care: asking for help, exercising, taking deep breaths, being kind to myself when I hear the demon voices of negativity shouting at me.

I keep feeling like I am failing but I am actually more optimistic about my failures than I have ever been in my life. I feel like I have more perspective (ok, so I messed up, but tomorrow is another day and in the grand scheme of things it’s not that big of a deal) and more patience.

For some reason, it feels like more and more social opportunities have opened up to me lately and while this is a blessing (people are important! It is good to have friends and plans!) it can also be a stressor for me (I’m a total introvert and I find it exhausting to be “out there” all the time….but I feel guilty about limiting social interaction, both for me and for my kids. I feel like I should do more AND that I should do less, all at the same time).

I’ve been stressing about work lately. Feeling a bit odd about being out of a paying job for so long, feeling a tinge of regret for getting out of the academia game when I did (when Anna was a baby). Not regret for the staying at home part (SO good and important for me, for us) but for not nurturing that side of me. It’s too late to go back to that. No, don’t tell me it’s never too late. I dropped out of my PhD program, I’m years behind in everything. It’s too late unless I want to go back for more schooling, and me doing that would be a terrible financial move–there’s no way I could re-coup that investment. Yet I do want to invest in myself. Just doing something….different. It’s so weird being a stay-at-home mom. I am feeling an itch to make money. Doing what? What are my skills? What are my life desires? This is all buzzing around in my head a lot these days. It doesn’t really make sense for me to go work some job, just to bring in a few bucks (because of the need for childcare), but some days (a lot of days) I worry that my brain is turning to mush. I used to be smart, right? I used to do things, talk to people, teach them even! I used to read scientific papers!

I don’t mean to make it sound quite so woe-is-me. I think I’m just having that weird almost-midlife existential crisis.

Here are the things I love about my life right now:

watching my kids play together, actually PLAY together, now that Lily is a little older

having the freedom to make my own schedule

having Adam around so much this summer

swimming in the pool and laughing together

reading chapter books to Anna in the evenings

cleaning our home and looking around and seeing how I am caring for our home environment (fruits of my labor!)

eating a delicious dinner in our backyard, one that I envisioned, shopped for, cooked, and served up

connections with friends and family

kissing the kids goodbye on date night and knowing that they will be ok (this gets easier for me as they get older)

still having deep and wonderful conversations with my husband and mutually adoring each other

It’s just a couple of more weeks until this new section of life starts, the one in which Anna is in second grade (SOLIDLY a grade-schooler), and Lily goes to a couple mornings of preschool, and I no longer have a BABY in the house (well, for those two mornings a week, ha ha….the rest of the week will still be me + my little shadow). What will that be like? I guess that that’s the thing that keeps me going, and probably the thing that sometimes most surprises me about myself. I used to be such a pessimist. Even during the good times, I would be sad that “oh, soon this will be over.” Now? I’m always feeling like there are good things, gifts, just waiting there for me to discover. I can be enjoying this, now, and know that there will still be things waiting for me up ahead, around the bend.

It’s bittersweet watching my babies grow. It’s slow and it’s fast. It’s painful and it’s wonderful and oh, this life is beautiful. Even with ripped up floors and sheets for curtains (yes, it’s true). Perfectionism is a trap and a soul-killer. So I think I’ll just continue doing this, doing my best, living my not-perfect (yet beautiful) life.


09
Oct 13

At home

We embarked on The Next Big Thing in our house over the weekend: the kitchen remodel. It has begun. (Duh Duh DUHHHHHH!). And I remembered why I have such a love/hate relationship with any kind of home renovation. Love the outcome. Hate the process. It always takes longer (and costs more) and is way way way way more inconvenient than you ever thought possible. Especially with two kids.

The guest room is less a guest room right now and more a holding ground for an odd assortment of cookbooks, kitchen tools, office supplies, and serving platters. I can stand in the kitchen and look into the attic! Fun (and Brrrr cold in the mornings when the cold air from the attic is drifting downwards). Better, I can stand in the kitchen and see into the living room, which was one of the most major things that we wanted to tackle in this project (removing the wall between the two rooms to make for a more open space). I am loving that I can be fixing dinner and can watch the girls playing. It’s going to be so great (especially once we get the storage back in with the new cabinets and the new center island).

In the meantime, I am working on living with the uncertainty and mess that comes with this kind of an adventure. I am appreciating all the more having hot water and a clothes dryer and an oven and stove (the gas was shut off for three days as the gas line had to be cut to make room for the new structural work in the attic). I feel so lucky that we are able to work on making this house if not our dream home, than at least a really comfortable and nice space, great for cooking, living, entertaining. I’m so grateful for all of Adam’s hard work in making this happen. I’ve told him numerous times that if it were up to me, nothing of this scale or scope would ever get accomplished: I’m too chicken and too overwhelmed with all the little details. He is so good at coordinating and managing and getting things done. Can’t wait to share before and after shots (it’ll be a few months for the afters).


03
Oct 13

New day

It’s the end of the day, a long day. A day that started at 5 am (it’s now almost 11 pm). I can’t let it go.

Telling myself this truth: tomorrow is a new day. Plenty of new opportunities. Tomorrow will not be exactly like today (world record loooong afternoon, if not in actual minutes and hours, then just in the feeling). Didn’t eat enough, got grumpy, ate too much, got grumpier (and felt bad about myself to boot).

Tomorrow is a new day.


02
Oct 13

Flying by

It’s been two months since my last post? Eeek.

Life is flying by. This morning the little one woke me at 5:30. This evening the big one didn’t go to sleep until 8:30. And then there are still things to do: lunch to be made, dishes to be washed, laundry to be folded. That makes for one seriously long day, especially considering the little one only wanted to nap ON me (no personal time).

I am told that it goes by too fast, to treasure it, that someday I’ll miss it. I believe it. Some days are bone crushingly exhausting. Some days are maddening. Some days drag by in tedium. Some days are whirlwinds. There is never enough time. There is always too much to do. Someday I will have a perfectly tidy house that doesn’t get undone an hour into our day by busy little hands. Some day I will miss markers strewn on the floor, high pitched squeals, backpacks flung, dirty socks. Right?

I love it and it drains the me out of me.

I am always trying to live the balance of this, of surviving it, of finding humor and joy and love in the midst of chaos and exhaustion and anxiety. Some days I win, somedays I lose. Somedays I am the crockpot-clean floor-queen and some days we get pizza delivered because I can’t think of how to feed us all.

Adam is traveling and we miss him like crazy every moment of every day. All of us. Anna cries, “I just want to snuggle with my Daddy!” Lily toddles around, peering around corners, calling his name, “Dada? Dada?” I sit and wish for those quiet moments between the two of us that are so rare these days. The moments where our hands fall together and our eyes meet and we are glad to be in this together. We are still in this together but sometimes it feels like we are war buddies. Everything is so much more even keel when his presence is here. He calms and sustains us. We survive here, the three of us girls (plus Porkchop, who should really count for two people, I think, given his inclination towards noise and mess and neediness), but we aren’t whole.

Today Anna and I put up some fall decorations and I admired her slow and careful attention to balance and order as she laid miniature pumpkins across the mantle. She is careful in so many things. I am fascinated by watching her become who she is becoming. Such a lovely little whirling swirling presence.

Lily stumbles and falls and gets up again and does this a hundred (thousand?) times a day. She is different from Anna (of course, but it still amazes me). She seems bullheaded like her sister (!), but she is less cautious. She throws herself into things–into meals, into walking, into my arms. She plays hard, she sleeps hard. She is full force.

It is October and soon it will be November and Anna will turn 7. I remember 7. Seven was a slumber party (I think?) and a unicorn cake and giggling girlfriends. How is she seven?

This is a beautiful, messy life and I’m happy to be living it.


04
Aug 13

Fiesta 2013

Santa Barbara’s Annual Old Spanish Days Fiesta is winding down and we are in recovery mode after many very full and busy days. The good camera didn’t make it out to every single event but here are some pictures of a little bit of what we were up to this past week. Adam’s mom and stepdad made it down to visit this week, adding to the fun. Both girls loved having their grandma and grandpa around to play with, eat with, and parade-watch with. Good food, good friends and family, and a good time had by all. It felt especially memorable to be introducing Lily to all the pleasures of the week (last year she was only a few days old and neither she nor I made it to any of the fun). Verdict? ¡¡¡VIVA LA FIESTA!!!

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28
Jul 13

July 27, 2013

We had a sweet little family party yesterday in honor of Adam and Lily’s birthday. Adam’s brother Chris and his family (my sister-in-law Rejane and their two kids Bruno and Max) drove down from San Luis Obispo and my mom (kids’ Nana) came also. It was a small and wonderful gathering! Adam’s cake was a lemon cake with lemon curd and a lemon buttercream. Lily had a little eggless lemon cake with whipped cream on top. After she licked all the whipped cream she wanted more! It really felt festive to be celebrating both of these birthdays on the same day for the first time and it made me think of all the wonderful July 27ths in our future with our little family. I love these people so much!

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20
Jul 13

Singing

Today Anna took the stage for a recital with the Young Singer’s CLub, as the wrap up for a week-long singing/performing camp that she had attended. She sang in two group songs and performed one solo.

She didn’t remember every single word. She didn’t hit every single note. She didn’t do the choreography perfectly. But she stood up there, proud and serious (smiling only a little), and she tried her best, and she says that she had fun doing it (despite the serious face). And while she sang, I could hardly quell my own lips from singing along with her (hey–it’s Disney songs, how can I *not* want to sing?) because my heart was absolutely singing to see my girl up there, doing her best and having fun.

It’s that thing about having kids, that thing where you know, intellectually, at least, that they are their own person, full of their own thoughts and feelings and abilities and all of that and yet…seeing her up on the stage, she was me and I was her and I could see the entirety of her life, the past from babyhood on up to what is yet to come. My beautiful, amazing girl.

My heart sings.


03
Jul 13

Swim meets, Summer 2013

Here are a few pictures from Anna’s first summer swim meet.

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She was nervous the night before. Nervous enough that she dramatically declared, “I WON’T swim tomorrow” but quickly rescinded her statement when she remembered the ribbons….the awesome, super-cool ribbons. She was stoked to have a brand-new Speedo bathing suit in blue (her current favorite color), with new matching goggles and a matching blue towel. She loved seeing friends. She loved being in the water. She shyly smiled after each heat, warming with our high fives and congratulations as she rocked each and every heat she swam in. This girl is a fish and she loves it. We just love watching her enjoy what she does so very well.