18
Mar 15

Daunting

It’s daunting, starting over here again. It’s been so long. There are so many parts of my life that have had to fall by the wayside. I’m on my feet for most of the day. I’m doing stuff, I’m going places. I’m making beds and folding laundry and cooking food, and wiping toilets. And then I crash into bed, watch something mindless, try and drift off into sleep before I do it all over again.

The good: I’m taking better care of my body. I’ve been consistently getting up early to exercise. I eat salads (I also eat cookies and drink wine; balance, right?). The other good: I feel like I’m doing the best I can in many ways. I’m putting on my big girl pants and being the grownup and doing the hard stuff. I’m being calm even when I feel like screaming back (at kids or at my husband, not random people on the street). I’m taking care of all the stuff that it’s my job to take care of. I’m taking finances seriously (especially after Porkchop’s accident that left us with many, many unexpected and very expensive veterinary bills). I’m stretching our dollars and being creative. I’m trying my best to connect with other people: family, friends, husband. Sometimes I’m not great at this–it’s busy here and some days just pass me by in a blur–but I’m doing my best to make plans and make it happen.

The not so good: some of the other ways of nurturing myself are definitely lacking. Leisure activities are a rarity. Lily’s “nap times” (ok, rest times, she doesn’t nap anymore SIGH) are spent prepping dinner or filing bills. I haven’t knit in ages. I all too often, when time does present itself, find myself playing a mindless game of solitaire instead of reading a novel or writing down my thoughts. I worry that I am sadly lacking in thoughts these days. Or that all my thoughts are in list format: make beds (check), take shower (check), fold laundry (check).

I’m still in here. That creative part of me.

How/when will it be let out again? How can there be the time for just me? I don’t feel like I have the time to be selfish. Being selfish means my family loses out. There are not enough hours in the day. I feel like a winner and I feel like a loser. I’m Superwoman and I’m also a dumb and boring housewife. I’m busting my butt and I’m too lazy to get out of my yoga pants.

I miss me.

I don’t know how to do this balance thing. I long for something cool, something like a woman retreat. Something like a day all to myself. Nah, I’d miss everyone too much. I like this little family of mine. But I also long for the some day, that tantalizing dose of dreaming about the future me, the one that has time for personal pursuits that aren’t centered around making everyone else’s life easier and/or livable and/or cleaner.

I miss me.

Is there a way to come back to me while still maintaining all this other stuff? To get the meals ready and set the table and fold the laundry AND take care of all of me? I don’t know that it is possible. I don’t know that it is possible to live WELL at this stage of my life AND not have it include a fair amount of self-sacrifice.

I’m afraid that if I sway in the other direction, my children and my husband will be missing out. That it would be detrimental to them. And, then, to me, too.

I miss me, though. I still miss me.


30
Sep 14

Love

I am my own worst critic. I have a hard time loving myself unconditionally. I am constantly judging, worrying, questioning whether I am ok, doing the right things, being the right person.

Do we all struggle with this, or is it just me?

Today I was sitting outside after lunch, watching Lily play with some little toys, and I felt an overwhelming sense of contentment. A feeling so strong of being happy and like the world was just right. All from watching my little flaxen-haired girl flit around like a like a fairy. I thought about the moment she was born, the moment that Anna was born. The strongest feelings of “everything is right” that I have ever experienced. My heart filled my chest, my whole body. It got so big and so full of love that tears escaped. I thought about this and then I thought about loving myself in that way. I thought about my girls, and I hoped with all my heart that they could feel this love, from me, but also from themselves. I want that, for them. I want them to know just how amazing they are. Will they know this?

Loving ourselves is a gift to ourselves but it is also a gift to the ones that love us. Treating our own selves with respect and love sends the message to those that love us–our spouses, friends, and our parents–that we accept their gift of loving us and that we value ourselves the way that they value us.

What do I want my two girls to know? I want them to know love–from their father and I–and I want them to love themselves. I want them to have the self-respect to seek out relationships that give them the love that they deserve.

There have been so many of these life lessons that I haven’t fully grasped until I became a parent. And, as I move through each stage, there is more and more and more to learn. It’s that proverbial onion peel, being shelled open to find layer after layer after layer. It’s that lengthy mystery book, turning page after page as more and more is revealed. “Oh!” we say, “Now I get it!” But there is always more. Revelation upon revelation.

What will I feel as my girls get older? Their pain will be my pain, that much I know. My own mother told me this herself, in just about these words. But I didn’t get it then.

What will I feel if/when my girls get rejected….are disappointed….struggle with negative thoughts about their bodies….get their hearts broken….struggle with mental illness…have to have surgery…become depressed or lonely or fail to see the beauty inside of them…???

Their pain will be my pain.

The best I can do is show them the love and trust for time to reveal for them as it has for me: that they are worthy, that they are unique, that they are beautiful, that they are loved and that they can love. And to trust that when (because it surely will happen) they forget these things, when they are desperate and hungry for something beyond themselves, that they can come back to this, their soul center: just be. Be yourself.


23
Sep 14

Veggie girl

That moment when you know your kid is just not YOU.

This weekend we were eating dinner and Lily was enthusiastically eating noodles and salad and I kept pushing her to try the chicken satay. She continued eating her noodles and salad. She finally looked at me, irritated, and pronounced, loudly and clear as anything, “I. HATE. MEAT.” And went back to eating the rest of her dinner.

: O

Wellllll….ok, then. Carry on. (Apparently she isn’t a meat-eater).


08
Sep 14

body

I feel more confident now, in myself, than I ever have. Is this because I am nearing 40? Is this just what happens with age?

I remember being a tween (probably around 12 years old), feeling like the walk from the bathroom to the swimming pool was some sort of walk of shame. I remember trying to hide the birthmark on my upper right thigh with the palm of my hand, wishing my legs were smaller and less noticeable. Wishing that my…my…everythingwere….different. Because surely no girl should have to live in the body that I inhabited. A body that was, at 12 years old, a woman’s body. I remember getting catcalls from older boys and just wanting to absolutely die, to shrink, to disappear. It was unwanted attention. I thought it was bad, thought I was bad. I wanted to be like those tiny little skinny girls, the ones who were still girls.

Now, more than 25 years later, with 100% more thigh jiggle and overall skin droop, I walk without even a thought. I walk because that is how you get from point A to point B, bathing suit be damned. I’m not getting catcalls anymore (well, from my husband, because–bless him–he happens to still find my aging body attractive). I’m just a woman, a grown woman. A woman comfortable in her own skin.

Do I have my moments? My moments of doubt? Where I become that 12 year old girl again, full of self-doubt and remorse and dread? Sure. Of course.

Do I think my body is “perfect?” (What the hell does that mean, anyway???). Nope, of course not. I try to avoid fashion magazines. I remind myself that those models are mostly 20 years my junior and that they live on lettuce and air and cigarettes. Or that they come from a different genetic stock. I remember what it was like when I weighed just over 100 pounds, after my pancreatic surgery 4 years ago, how my hipbones hurt at night from the pressure of the mattress. How my concaveness scared rather than delighted me. I’d rather be a slightly rounder version of me. The version that is healthy and whole and eats cookies (sometimes too many) and drinks wine and doesn’t obsess over looking exactly SO. I remember what it was like to be 25 and to count calories and to sometimes eat too many and then to throw it up or exercise for hours and hours, a punishment. A punishment for not being perfect. A struggle not worth those tears.

My body is me, but I am not my body. I am more than my body.

My body can do things. My body made babies and fed them. My body got sick and then got better and continues to serve me pretty darn well. My body gets me from here to there and it bends over to pick things up and it lifts things and it twists and accommodates and holds it all up. My body can breathe the air and it can take in deep gulps of water, of life.

I am strong and I am capable and I have my head in the right place, finally.

I still wear a bikini because, well, I find it more comfortable and because I don’t generally like the constriction of swimsuit fabric on my stomach and because I don’t think I have anything to hide. I have been on this earth for 38 years and I hope to be here a while longer and I might as well enjoy it with the warm sun and the sweet breeze tickling my skin.

Do I need to apologize for the space that my body occupies? To I need to apologize for my body’s bumps and lumps and scars and hair and general imperfection?

I am so much more. We are all so much more.


04
Sep 14

tiny flowers

My life lesson is this:

how to live a life fragmented
to find my peace in the uncertainty, the incompletion, the half-formation:
Partly-folded laundry, partly-done dishes, partly-grown children.

no ending to grasp
no project completion date
the ending is the ending is the ending.

leave the crumbs!
come, Mama!
plunge your hands into the dirt, splash in the water, run with outstretched arms to the arms that belong to you
and only you
only you
for now.

complete despite?
complete because of
the incompleteness–

endless birdsong
our anthem


03
Sep 14

We did it

Today was the first day since school started back up that we didn’t have Adam/Daddy around to help with the morning routine (as per the usual during the school year). It was harried and a bit stressful but hot damn if we didn’t make it to school on time after all! I could not have accomplished that without the following:

1) Set my alarm 15 minutes earlier than I thought I would need to get up. Not because I am a snoozer with my alarm, but because it always seems to take my at least 15 minutes longer than I think it will to get everyone out the door in the morning. So I got up at 6:30 so that we could leave the house around 8 am. An hour and a half seems like an obscene amount of time but, well, that’s what it took us today (and most days).

2) Showered the kids the night before.

3) Got clothes and school lunch ready the night before.

4) Got breakfast stuff prepped the night before.

5) Coffee. Yep.

So, in sum, did everything the night before and still took 90 minutes (where did the time go???) but we were on time (score!!!). It’s a win.


02
Sep 14

My Best

This past weekend was Labor Day weekend and instead of spending it at the beach with friends, or having a pool party or a barbecue (with friends), we spent it moping around at home because Lily and I were sick (with Anna only sightly under the weather). And, because I spent a lot of time in bed with my iPad, I (naturally) spent a lot of time browsing Pinterest, as one does. And now I have a million ideas and also a million bad and terrible thoughts at the ways in which I am failing at life because my life is not Pinterest-perfect. It’s not perfect in any sense.

So I am going to remind myself today, as I find myself needing to do so often, that I am doing my best. And that my best is good enough. My best is good enough!

Life isn’t a race. There isn’t a prize at the end. If you have more stuff at the end, you still die…without your stuff.

So.

I won’t give up on my dreams of a perfectly organized bathroom or crafting with leftover egg carts, but I will continue to believe, in my heart, that piles of stuff in the guest room does not mean that I am a bad person. It means I am a busy person who is choosing to orient myself towards other things right now, at this time in my life. I am wiping noses and doing endless loads of laundry and picking up dog poop. I am reading bedtime stories and wiping marker marks off of tables and kissing boo-boos. These are the important things right now. Not labeled baskets.

Love to all the busy parents out there. We’re in it together. XO

IMG_8595


28
Aug 14

Anna, 2nd grader

I have a secret. Please don’t think poorly of me. This is the first year that, as Anna heads off to a new school year, I have not heaved a gigantic sigh of relief. Don’t get me wrong: I love and adore that kid but every other summer has been summer enough. This summer, the summer of absolutely no summer camp and absolutely no big huge long vacation, was over entirely too soon. It was a long, slow summer of lazy days doing nothing more than playing in pajamas and swimming in our pool. Afternoons at the beach and homemade play dough and staying up too late to read “just one more” story. Sleeping in and slacking on housework. It was good. And I kind of didn’t want it to end.

Kindergarten and first grade? I had a newborn baby/little toddler to contend with. It was hard work. Summer just upped the ante because then it felt like I had to take care of TWO little ones’ needs and it just all felt like too much, much of the time. It’s not always easy breezy days around here now, but we did start to fall into more of a rhythm. Life is a tad more predictable. I’m not up all night and stumbling around like a zombie during the day. Lily is old enough now that she and Anna played–like really, really played!–all summer long: dolls and dress up and restaurant and princesses and school and train. They made forts and Anna did Lily’s hair. Sure, they fought. More times than I’d like I had to jump into a biting/hitting/scratching scenario or straighten out whose turn it was for whatever was the favorite and most desirable toy of the day.

But yesterday I came home, relieved that we got to school on time, that the PTA welcome coffee had gone off without a hitch, and realized that I wholeheartedly missed my Anna girl. For the first time, I saw the appeal of having kids home all the time (not planning on starting to homeschool or anything, but I have to say that I just get it for the first time). All day long, Lily asked, “Where Anna?” and “go get Anna now?” So sweet and sad. Our days are both easier and harder, but they are decidedly missing one kid.

This is going to be a great year–Anna came home all smiles yesterday, thrilled with her first day of second grade. She likes her peers, she likes her teacher, she loves her school. All good things.

But I miss her.


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…