every day life


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.


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


3
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.


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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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.


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.


2
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.


3
Jun 13

When all else fails, pack up everyone and go to the playground

It was one of those scream-y pick-me-up,NO!-put-me-down days (the baby, I mean. I hope that that is obvious?). My arms are tired. This has to count for some kind of exercise, right? Weight lifting? 20 pounds, all day long. Up, down, up, down, up, down. I’m totally counting it.

My floors are disastrous. I would be mortified if anyone walked into my kitchen right now. Muddy paw prints. And am I cleaning it up right now, now that both kids are in bed? No. No, I am not. I am eating a(nother) cookie and blogging and facebooking. And patting myself on the back for all that weight lifting today.

By mid-afternoon I was in that desperate state of having to leave this house RIGHT NOW OR ELSE so after a suggestion from my sis to just do it, even if it seems like more trouble to have to pack everyone up, we went to the playground and, wouldn’t you know it? She was right. It was just what we needed. We went down the slides, we went on the swings, we met new friends. And we came back 45 minutes later feeling that much better for having just packed it up and gone.

School is out for summer in three more (THREE!) days and this fact has given me the opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come along this academic year. I feel guilty that I did not volunteer in Anna’s classroom this year. Really, really guilty. Like, sad faced child guilty (“Why don’t you come help in the classroom like S____’s mommy, Mama?” See? Sad face). This was just not my year. New babies are hard. I was in survival mode. Yes, this is called rationalization but I need to think that this is true. At this point in the school year (9-ish months later) I am much more able to feel sane but in August? September? etcetera? No, not so much. It was so crazy when Adam started traveling again and the machinations that went on in the mornings still kind of make my head spin (nursing a baby while preparing breakfast, or bouncing a baby on the yoga ball to try and get her calmed/asleep while brushing Anna’s hair are two examples that spring to mind). So, really, I think that I need to let go of this guilt. I did my best, I parented the best way that I knew how. I made after school snacks, I hosted playdates, I helped with homework, I cared for a newborn/baby and I did my best to do all of this without losing my sanity (some days, no easy task). Things are so much easier (not easy! easier!) these days. Lily can play by herself (sometimes). She can wait five minutes to eat (sometimes). She takes regular naps (usually. knock on wood).

Anna has done stellar this school year. I am bursting with pride. She is such a great kid: smart and funny and friendly and focused and silly and just wonderful. I cannot believe that she will be a first grader. Time flies.

We have some fun stuff planned for this summer (three different week-long camps, visits from family and friends) but we also have a lot of downtime, time to not have to rush off to here and there, and I am looking forward to it. Remind of this on the days when Anna is telling me she is bored, won’t you? Actually, no, I’m hoping that there won’t be any of that. Lots of swimming, lots of beach days, lots of popsicles and sidewalk chalk and bubbles and bike rides and all that good stuff. Summer. It’s going to be great.


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.