Posts Tagged: Parenting


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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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.


15
May 13

Homework

Anna’s teacher started sending homework home just after spring break. She has two assignments every night: a journal (teacher gives a prompt and students write one sentence and draw a picture if they want to–of course Anna always wants to, my little artist) and reading out loud.

I’ll be honest: I am hating doing homework with Anna. I hate to say that, but it is true. I feel all rage-y when we sit down to work on it together. I am trying to remain neutral/positive because the last thing I want to do is for her to start hating it, too. Right now, sometimes she doesn’t want to do it, sometimes she doesn’t want to do it Right Now (LATER!!!) but usually she is ok about doing it. The problem is that I feel like I am constantly CONSTANTLY having to pull it out of her and then we end up disagreeing about something. I know we are both stubborn but, really, I’m pretty sure I know the difference between a “b” and a “d” and she fights me constantly about stuff like this, or tells me that I’m wrong because her teacher told her it was HER way (umm, no, these things are universal). Part of it is my (and her) perfectionistic tendencies and OHGOD the frustration of seeing her write it sloppy when I know she can write it neatly! Do I just let this part go (instructions from teacher say to encourage proper letter formation and encourage staying within the lines and encourage correct spelling etcetera)? I want to be there to guide and help her because I believe that school education needs to be supported at home. I believe it is parental slacking to trust that the school/teachers can be the one and only, that parents need to roll the sleeves up and do some of the “dirty work,” too, but GAH!

And the reading out loud. LORDAMERCY. I have to sit on my hands and bite my tongue. This sounds terrible. She is just learning to read and at first every single word she read was like unicorns and rainbows and butterflies erupting from her tiny little mouth, I was just so proud. But now I sit there thinking “just get ON with it!” as she re-sounds out the same word that she has just sounded out on the same page, literally the sentence before, over and over again. I don’t want to jump in and rescue her and do it for her–I think she needs to learn how to do it herself, but it is SO hard for me. I realize that this is all about me. I realize that I am the least patient person in the universe. I feel horrible about this. It also makes me realize how very very very very very patient my own mother was (and is). Mom! I never EVER felt rushed or like you were annoyed when helping with school work. Well, except for maybe that one time when I had to memorize the state capitols. I do remember the horror of those study sessions (so sorry). Maybe it is because reading came more naturally to me? Math was hard for me.

I could never be a teacher. I am not patient enough.

For the record, I don’t think that Anna is particularly struggling with reading or that she is behind or any of that. I just think that she is a normal kid who needs a normal amount of support while she learns. I am thrilled that she is learning to read and write. I DO want to help her. I am just struggling with my own feelings about this. I’m nervous about the years to come. I can foresee the homework future and it is daunting. More work. Much, much more work. More frustration, more difficulty, more opportunity for Anna to tell me that I’m wrong and she is right. It’s a continual lesson in humility and patience. I’m working on it. I love my kid, my stubborn and perfectionistic little one. She’s just like me.


14
Feb 13

Valentines….it’s all about the love

I spent my free time (very, very limited, Baby Girl has been boycotting long naps) these last three days working on making a very complicated, time intensive, amazing chocolate cake. Goal: valentine’s day dessert. Adam and I don’t go out for Valentine’s (too busy and crowded at restaurants, yuck); our tradition, instead, is for him to cook a special dinner and for me to bake a special dessert. So, I baked and baked and made special chocolate cake and chocolate cream and glaze and today, this afternoon, I was planning on putting it all together, assembling it into one piece. It was going to be amazing. It was going to knock Adam’s socks off. I put Lily down for her afternoon nap, started the glaze bubbling on the stovetop (it’s time sensitive so I wanted to have a good amount of time to do it and had fingers crossed that she would give me time) and then…..she woke up. After only 20 minutes. And I gave the glaze a quick stir and ran to her bedroom and patted her back and shushed her and ran back and she cried out again and I ran back and re-assessed and then…..I gave up. I put her in the Ergo and I kept making the cake but she was reaching and grabbing and I was holding the big heavy copper saucepan and no one got hurt but the cake? The cake is not perfect.

When Adam got home I cried, I stamped my foot. I was frustrated. I wanted to make one perfect and wonderful thing. I was angry. I was ticked that “the baby didn’t let me do it.” It’s part of that whole thing of having a baby, where some things have to go by the wayside. I miss having creative outlets, like baking and cooking and knitting and sewing and crafting. I have little bits of time, here and there, but those little bits of time are usually reserved for reading or taking a bath or sleeping or, I don’t know, sitting and staring into space because I don’t feel like I have the mental energy. Today, I wanted to create one purely wonderful, perfect thing.

My cake, it isn’t perfect.

But that’s ok.

Adam hugged me and told me that I already gave him TWO perfect things (any guesses?). I gulped. I remembered what was important. I hugged my baby and cried a little more and remembered that, someday, all too soon, my baby won’t be getting in the way of my baking. She won’t need me as much. Today, my cake is lumpy and lopsided but my baby is perfect.

I’m not a perfect baker. I’m not a perfect mother. But which one is it more important to put time into?

The cake, it isn’t perfect. But it is made with love (and chocolate) and the love is way more important than the perfection.

Counting my blessings today. I am surrounded by good and (nearly) perfect things. Happy Valentine’s Day!


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.


2
Jan 13

Treading Water

Posting has been sparse here, I know. That’s partly because of all the holiday craziness, partly because of the illness that went around our family, and partly because I’m only just barely making it through my days. Postpartum depression? Simply exhaustion from round the clock (and I mean this literally, Baby Girl has been waking at all hours throughout the night for weeks now) parenting? Sleep deprivation is definitely making me grumpy, tired, and not feeling my best (UNDERSTATEMENT).

I try to do that thing that everyone tells you to do (sleep when baby sleeps) but during the day there are other things to do (like shower, eat food, go to the bathroom, take care of my other child) and in the evening I figure I should put in a little time with my spouse so that this marriage doesn’t fall apart. And, in the end, there is just so much fragmented sleep that in a way it doesn’t matter how many hours I’m getting when those hours are an hour here, an hour there. I crave solid stretches of sleep like I crave nothing else. It’s my holy grail.

I’m honestly just squeaking by. Some days are ok. Some days are not so great. A lot of days lately have been horrid. I’ve been irritable, I’ve been physically exhausted, I’ve been not the best spouse or parent or friend. I’ve been withdrawn, I’ve been grumpy, I’ve been weepy, I’ve been yelling at everyone.

I’m not sure that I’m doing any kind of good job at anything. I doubt myself. I doubt my methods. I fear that I am messing everything up and that my kids will hate me. I fear that someone/everyone will see through my facade. It is exceedingly important to me that I at least look good, even if I don’t feel good and yet…I shrug my shoulders and sigh at the sticky mess on the floor, for days on end.

I want someone to come along and rescue me. I want to run away. I want a spa day. I want my Mommy.

I sometimes resent everyone who needs me, my husband and kids included.

But, dammit. I also love them. I chose this life and I choose this life and I trudge forward. I try and find my joy. I don’t always find it at 2 am when I’m nodding off while holding a crying baby. I don’t always find it when my 6 year old is whining that she doesn’t want to pick up her room. But I’m on the lookout for the moments that matter: tiny hands slipped into mine, quiet snuffling sighs of contentment as I nurse my baby, a shared look of amusement or tender love over the heads of our offspring. I practice saying I’m sorry a lot. I practice forgiving others and myself. I acknowledge that this is hard. I acknowledge that there are women all over the world having a hard time, too. I imagine them, also, staring at the dirty floor and crying over the impossibility of doing it all.

I need some sleep.