Parenting


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.


4
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


2
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

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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.


5
Jun 13

Bye, Bye, Kinder

I went to Anna’s final sing-along for kindergarten today and had some silent tears slip out when the kids sang this song (“Kindergarten Wall”):

When I was a little kid not so long ago
I had to learn a lot of stuff I didn’t even know
How to dress myself, tie my shoes, how to jump a rope
How to smile for a picture without looking like a dope
But of all the things I learned my favorite of them all
Was a little poem hanging on the kindergarten wall

CHORUS:

Of all you learn here remember this the best:
Don’t hurt each other and clean up your mess
Take a nap everyday, wash before you eat
Hold hands, stick together, look before you cross the street
And remember the seed in the little paper cup:
First the root goes down and then the plant grows up!

**********
I’ve been thinking more about what I want Anna to remember and learn the most during these years, and that chorus says so many important things in such a simple way. Watching her earnest face singing those words with great enthusiasm put such an ache in my heart to capture that moment. And even though I am, in some ways, a real social networking junkie (Facebook addiction, anyone????), I didn’t even think of jumping to get this performance recorded because the real heart of it was sitting there and living that moment, just watching her and letting her know that I am her biggest fan. It’s one of those moments that burns into your heart. I had no clue before I became a mother that love could be like this.


22
May 13

Home

The naptime dilemma:

When I’m cleaning, I’m feeling like maybe I should be resting instead.
When I’m resting, I’m feeling guilty that I’m not cleaning.

I usually err on the side of cleaning but then I get chastised by my (wonderful, loving, well-meaning) husband, who reminds me that taking care of myself is important, too. I have a hard time with this one. It feels almost impossible to do the most basic of self-upkeep. I’m averaging 2 haircuts/year (YEAR!!!). I haven’t been to the dentist in mumble mumble I don’t want to fess up how long it’s been. I have a couple of doctor appointments this week that have felt nearly impossible to make happen. Not saying this to complain, just to state that this is how it feels right now. I don’t come first. Parenthood isn’t about coming first. It’s about always keeping your children in mind first. It’s about selflessness and it’s about sleeplessness. Someday these priorities will shift but for right now, I’ve got my head down and I’ve got my hands full.

And sometimes my house is clean and sometimes I’m rested, but it’s rare to have both.


18
May 13

Today

What my life is like, today.

Up at 6 am (after being awake at around 3 am–I think? it’s all a little hazy–for a baby feeding) for the day. Tired, but isn’t that life? Wondering if I’ll ever feel the energy levels I felt as a 20-something, ever again. For sure it will help when I get to sleep through the night again. BUT, actually not feeling resentful or completely burnt out over these middle of the night feedings because it is the only time that my sweet Lily girl is completely mellow and still. This baby is either ON or OFF, it seems. She’s GO GO GO or she’s asleep. And the middle-of-the-night feedings are the only truly peaceful and still times I can spend with her. Even pre-naptime nursing sessions are filled with her sticking her fingers in my mouth, or kicking her legs repeatedly, or the “wandering arm” as I think of it…..she’s all over the place. She is a bundle of energy. She is so much fun but it is exhausting so it is actually nice to have these times–yes, even at 3 am–to sit and just BE. To trace the soft curve of her cheek, to feel the plumpness of her arms, to listen to her sweet inhale and exhale.

Anna is amazingly beautiful. Such a Big Kid, no longer any trace of Baby or Toddler or Little Kid. Bittersweet, this. I asked to braid her hair today and she obliged. How much longer until she is doing unthinkable things–driving a car, going to high school, buying her own clothes? It makes my heart hurt; it makes my heart soar.

Today she threw a fit inside of Michael’s craft store. We went in for one, and only one, thing (to buy some construction paper for a craft project that one of the school moms is organizing–an end-of-the-year teacher thank you) and we left with tears and unhappiness and screams of “It’s Not Fair!!!!” because we weren’t buying this or that crap item. It’s so hard! I would love to oblige every single craft fantasy that she has but it is not feasible or reasonable. There were tears but I’m happy to say that we were able to talk it out as a family. If I were to choose, I’d say that there are things about this age (6) that are infinitely easier than the baby stage. Yes, the big feelings are even BIGGER but the ability to talk and discuss emotional territory is immensely satisfying. It’s tough. Each stage is tough. It all has its easier parts and it’s harder parts.

These girls of ours….I keep imagining what it will be like in a few years because sometimes I need to hang on to a shred of hope. I need to look forward to a time of respite. Today, Adam and I talked about our 20 year anniversary (just 4 years and a couple of months away) and I realized that I will enjoy our time away–assuming that it will be feasible to take a short trip, just the two of us, once the kids are 5-ish and 11/12ish, but also realizing that I will probably miss them like crazy. It’s good for me have these glimpses of life to come. To have perspective. This was definitely lacking for me when Anna was an infant. It seemed like the sleepless nights and overwhelming feelings of being needed 24/7 would never end. And now, at 6 and 1/2, she has such independence that I end up missing her so much during the day when she is at school, asking for little tidbits of information at the end of the day–did she have fun? Did she learn anything?

It’s a push and pull of parenthood. It’s knowing that these times are intense but they won’t always be, at least not in this way.

It’s busy and its crazy but it’s my life and I love it. Sleepless nights and all.


28
Feb 13

Win some, Lose some

I have been going the solo parenting route quite a bit lately, due to Adam’s travel schedule.

Thing that I am winning at:

play/floor time for Lily

Thing that I am failing at:

providing a clean, dog-hair-free surface for said floor time

Thing that I am winning at:

providing healthy, balanced, homemade meals to my children all day long

Thing that I am failing at:

Sticking to healthy, balanced, homemade foods for myself (oh the siren call of sugar-y anything at 9 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, and 8 at night!!!!)

Thing that I am winning at:

making sure my kids get lots of sleep (its a win-win all-round)

Thing that I am failing at:

getting enough sleep for me (not all my fault, I do have a baby after all)

Thing that I am winning at:

staying calm and happy when my kids and dog are calm and happy

Thing that I am failing at:

losing my ever-loving mind when kids and/or dog are proving “difficult” in any way (really, really working on this one)


10
Jan 13

Attitude is everything

What a difference a little bit more sleep (thank GOODNESS Lily’s cold is over!!!!) and a little change in attitude can make. I am now rocking this entire week (ok, four days so far) of NO yelling, no threats, no explosive angry moments with Anna (well, she got explosively angry with ME one of those days but I totally kept my cool and for that I am proud). Four days doesn’t sound like a lot but it is a lot for me right now so I’m going to own it. I’m trying a new trick. I’m trying an attitude adjustment. I’m trying to adjust my expectations. I’m trying to look around and find at least ONE good and beautiful thing ever day. And, you know what? When I’m keeping my eyes peeled for that ONE good and beautiful thing, I almost always run into way more than one. It might be a rainbow, or that slow grin that Lily gives me when she is first waking up after a nap, or a dewdrop on a leaf, or the sound of children playing and laughing when I go to pick Anna up after school. It might be the way Anna says “bres-kist” instead of breakfast and I don’t even ever want to correct her because it is so darling the way she asks me if it is time for “bres-kist” and it might be the way that my down comforter feels at the end of the day, all weighty and soft at the same time.

Today, my favorite moment was when I thought I was about to lose my cool. I am all for story time at the end of the day but our two promised stories became three and then four because Anna kept asking for Just One More and whining and cajoling me to Please Please Please read one more story and that is all well and good but Mama is TIRED. I told her I needed a minute. I stood up. I walked to her bedroom door and stopped. It’s reading a book, for goodness’ sake, I told myself. Just read her the damn book. Be a good Mom. Just do it. I sat down, I opened up Little Bear’s Friend and then….I read it. But I didn’t just read it. I read it in the funniest way possible, for a six year old. I substituted Poop for just about every other word and I had Anna in hysterics at the end. And it was stupid and silly and, yes, totally vulgar but it was also the most fun I’ve had all day. And I’m proud of it, potty talk and all. Because sometimes I just need to laugh about poop.

Both kids were in bed, asleep, by 7:30 pm, so now I’m on the couch with the world’s best chocolate chip cookie (courtesy of my new cookbook, thankyouverymuch most awesome husband of mine) and, ok, yes, I’ll be honest here and admit that I also already ate two See’s chocolates as well. I’m pooped (ha ha) but I’m doing this. I’m totally doing this parenting thing.