Category Archives: this mom stuff is hard

Ain’t no sun

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There are days when the sun just won’t shine. Days when it hides behind clouds, or the sky is darkened with rain. 

It’s rained a lot lately in Texas. I would say too much, but it’s so nice to have it, I loathe to disparage it too much. 

There are other days, though, that have little to do with the sun in the sky. Days like today. No matter how pretty this day might turn out to be, the sun has hidden its face from me. 

Today, like I do every summer, I walked part of my heart to the gate and watched her until I couldn’t see her any more. 

Today, she cried. She hasn’t done that in a long time and it tore my heart out. It was all I could do to stand there and keep it together. 

I’ll wait here until she’s off the ground, and then I’ll go home. And wait for my sunshine to come back. 

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nails

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When I get stressed out, I start picking at my nails.

I’ve decided to pass on trying out for Chicago, at TCT. The show rehearsal schedule includes the Jr Cotillion winter semi-formal, two cheer competitions, and a week out of town for work. To top it off, the opening night of the show is the third Jr Cotillion event. Have I mentioned I am chair of the 6th grade for Jr Cotillion and chair elect? Because I’m @@!#%$ insane. I do not need the additional stress of a rehearsal schedule on top of all that – no matter how badly I wanted to sing Mama Morton.

I’ve been listening to Magic Hour (performed by Ahn Trio), The Seal Lullaby (performed by the Eric Whitacre Singers), and Michael Nyman’s The Piano Sings today, trying to get my brain to slow down enough to focus on one task at a time.

I’m pulling images for a corporate presentation, reformatting an HR notice, worrying about a certain coach with a nagging cough, wondering how I’ll get it all done at the house, trying not to have a panic attack over how I’m going to manage three kids at DFW Friday, resigning myself to not sending out Christmas cards – again – and not even caring what’s for dinner. I don’t know why all these people look to ME to feed them. Cereal is a wholly acceptable dinner…isn’t it? And that brings me back to THEM.

I feel smothered. There is so much good happening and I’m grateful. Really. But to sit in silence. Alone. To read a few chapters of a book. To sleep. To have a good, hard cry. I haven’t had time for myself in so long I hardly remember what it’s like.

This is the trenches. It doesn’t even have to be “big stuff.” It’s the day in and out routine: the time in the car, doing the 305th load of dishes or laundry, picking up food off the floor, sweeping up more dog hair, realizing that you have to get up at 5:30 if you want any quiet time at all, sneaking out to the grocery store at 9:30 at night because taking ALL OF THEM is too much.  It’s all too much.

Yes, they are magnificent. Yes, they are miracles. Yes, they are my heart. But do they have to touch me all the time? Can’t they ever stop talking? Do they have to bicker so much?

*sigh*

Yes, I know. They won’t be little forever. I should cherish these moments because I’ll look up and, JUST WAIT UNTIL THEY ARE TEENAGERS. Thank you. I know.

To imagine moments where I am not only not in love with motherhood, I almost hate it because of what it costs.  I feel guilty even typing the words.

I suppose it is all worth it. I’m sure it is. I just can’t really see it right now. So I pick at my nails. And turn the music up.

 (Please, if you would like to comment, be kind. I’m tired and over-sensitive.)

Finality

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There is something so final to saying I am done having children. In 2 more weeks, The Boy will be a year old and I’ll be out of the baby business. And, while that’s a good thing – I have three beautiful children that are growing and learning more about themselves and their world and one in heaven watching over us – I will never again experience the wonder that are those first flutters. Hiccups in the middle of the night, from the inside out. Heartburn so profound I’m surprised it didn’t melt the enamel off my teeth (ok, I won’t miss that at all). Writing lists of names and arguing with the stubbornest man I’ve ever met until we come to just the right one. Final.

Soon, there will be no more bottles or binkies, formula or diapers. Primary colored blocks and noise-makers will give way to trucks and trains; stuffed teddy bears will give way to Barbie dolls and hair bows. And then, even those will be gone; replaced by laptops and smart phones. The floors will get cleaner and I won’t have to cut grapes in half or clean up the disgusting half-chewed mess that is mealtime with a toddler. And, somewhere deep, I will miss it.

The soft cheeks, the smell of their hair, the sound of them as they sleep. Fighting invisible spiders on the wall (a thumbtack in the ceiling where her butterfly once hung), or tip-toeing ever so quietly by the baby’s room, or smoothing back the hair from the finally still face of the oldest one as she sleeps; the only time of day when she isn’t halfway rolling her eyes at me, “Moooom, I’m SOOOOOOOO busy….”

I worry every day that something will happen. Something bad. Those fears that surely lurk in the back of every parent’s mind; fear that is too horrible to express for fear of breathing truth to it.

I worry over scraped knees and fevers. Bad dreams and math anxiety. Too much time on the computer and not enough time at church. Balancing equipping them to face the realities of the world in which we live and protecting them from as much of it as I can until they are “ready.” Figuring out what the hell ready looks like. Because I certainly am not some days.

 

Parenting is tiny heartbreaks, smoothed over by overflowing joy.

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More

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I knew three was going to be more. More kisses. More snuggles. More laughter.

And, yes, I knew it would be more work. What I underestimated was how much more. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wonder what on earth I got myself into and when I’m going to feel a little less overwhelmed.

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Overwhelmed by the mess.

Overwhelmed by the noise.

Overwhelmed by how tired I feel. All. The Time.

Who knew adding one more little person to the mix would add all this work?

I’m pretty sure I’m messing it up. The Boy cries when he’s tired. Or hungry. Or wants to be picked up. (which is all the time). Princess Crybaby is a tyrant. Munchkin is growing up too fast. WAY too fast.

Oh, and have I mentioned the mess? And the noise?

 

….SIGH…

Just when I feel like maybe I can’t take any more, they do this:

And then I laugh. And I do. Laugh, that is. A LOT.

There is a lot more of that, too. Delight at the beautiful young lady Munchkin is becoming. Amazement at how fast Princess Crybaby is learning and how incredibly smart she is. And the sheer joy of falling in love with a boy. (they really are SO different)

I read something the other day that said to have young children is to accept that, for a time, you just have to hunker down. And I guess that’s what I’m doing. I just hope I make it out alive. *laugh*

The boy who never grew up

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I am reading Peter Pan to the girls at bedtime. I think they are enjoying it – even Princess Crybaby gets mostly still and quiet. Sometimes she will lay her head on my lap and I’ll rub her back while I’m reading. It’s terrific. Munchkin and I read The Secret Garden last year and it was really fun.

peter-pan-15Last night, we were reading the chapter where Wendy decides it’s time to go home. She’s telling the story about the Darlings and how the mother always kept the window open for them to return – never forgetting them. Peter goes on to tell his version of that story, when his own mother “forgot” about him, locked the nursery door and replaced him with another little boy.

Call it runaway pregnancy hormones, but I started to choke up. The girls were absolutely silent too. It was quite the literary moment.

I reassured the girls at the end of the chapter that I would never forget about them if they flew away to Neverland and I would always keep the windows unlocked so they could come home. And then the bedtime rodeo recommenced and the moment passed.

For them.

Peter PanBut, a little while later, I found myself thinking about Peter and his story and I could not help but think of Riley. The temptation to fantasize about our eldest boy being one of the Lost Boys, running wild around Neverland; having adventures with Indians and pirates is an intoxicating thought. And then we get to coming back to the window. Would our little “Peter” (aka Riley) think we’d forgotten him? Would he see the crib and bassinet and a closet full of clothes waiting for The Boy’s imminent arrival, and decide that we must have replaced him?

Yes, I know it’s irrational. Riley is in heaven and has been since that morning in October, four years ago. I have not forgotten or replaced him. In fact, I don’t think a day goes by that my heart does not, in some way, whisper his name.

It’s just a story. And I’m VERY pregnant.

One day, I will read Peter Pan to The Boy and kiss the top of his head for the trillionth time and, yes, think of my own Peter Pan. And, while I am perfectly aware of the fact that this is from the movie Hook and not Peter Pan or any of the original versions, I still love this quote from Tinkerbell:

“You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you, Peter Pan. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”

I yelled at my kids today

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It was NOT a good mommy morning.
I yelled at Princess Crybaby for dropping her cookies in the car.
I didn’t tell Munchkin “goodbye, I love you” when I dropped her off. I told her to be good and mind her own business.
I mumbled something huffy under my breath when I had to find the compact cards for Coach.
I feel like I failed as a human being today by being a complete bitch. I’m going to make something yummy for dinner tonight, to make up for my awful-ness this morning. And read bedtime stories.
And, yes, I’m trying not to cry about it, but I’m not doing a very good job.
I’m tired of being pregnant. I feel fat, my uterus feels like it’s starting to fall out and I DO NOT want to hear another person tell me how quickly September is going to go by because I might punch them in the throat.
I’m terrified about having three little people need me – at the same time- to help them get ready for the world when I, myself, feel like such a tangled mess.
I’d like to go back to bed, please. I’m being unkind and that’s the same crap I yelled at Munchkin for.

I don’t wanna be nice

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Have you read my webfriend, OhAmanda? She’s awesome. She’s a mom. She’s not perfect. She’s real. She does cool things and I vicariously imagine myself doing them as I read along. She posted this great post on What’s in the Bible’s blog the other day about kindness and I had to share it. Because it’s great. 

When I step OUTSIDE of my tired, 30weekspregnantandyouhaven’tstoppedtalkingsinceIpickedyouupchild moment and make myself gently kiss heads and help brush little teeth and tuck little faces into bed (again) and bring ANOTHER drink of water, I find all that other stuff fading away as they smile innocently up at me; completely oblivious to the fact that, 10 minutes earlier, my broken self wanted nothing more than to go hide in the car so I could have five minutes of quiet. And then, as I stand in the dark hallway, after pulling the door shut on sleepy little bodies all tucked in for the night (yes, this time for real mom), I realize how special those moments are. And, like Amanda, I hope they only remember the soft moments and not the moments before when I showed my exasperation; or when my brokenness gets in the way of how much I really love and treasure them. 

 

Oh yeah.

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Oh Yeah, THOSE Moments

I discovered this blog wandering around on Pregnant Chicken and have laughed more about pregnancy than I thought was healthy. Kegels, my ear.

I told another lady in my office (re: keeping your cool) that I bet I could hold the world record for how quickly I can go from, “honey, let’s get dressed” to “PRINCESS JOSEPHINE CRYBABY IF YOU DON’T COME HERE THIS VERY SECOND AND LET ME PUT YOUR @#_)$*(@#%CLOTHES ON I SWEAR TO GOD YOU WON’T SEE PRESCHOOL.”

Motherhood ain’t always pretty. But it’s pretty darn funny if you really think about it.

invested

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When you are in a long-term relationship, you make certain investments in the relationship to help it grow. You give it your time and attention. You are careful to respect boundaries while still pursuing intimacy, trust and friendship. You work through bumps in the road together. You make certain concessions when the other party isn’t playing ball and hope they allow you the same courtesy. You never, ever quit. 

No. I’m not talking about my marriage.

I’m talking about school. I’m talking about our decision to trust our children to the public school system. To date, only one is currently enrolled in public school and she’s going into 5th grade this year. Our last year of elementary. Then…OMG…middle school. [excuse me while I take a moment to stuff that impending reality back into the dark corners of my mind; not to be thought of again for at least a few months…]

The last few years have been challenging. (to say the least) Oh, I’m not denying Munchkin’s culpability in creating and/or maintaining some of the drama through which we found ourselves wading. I’ve posted before about her amazing ability to find the most dramatic situation and implant herself smack dab in the middle of it. I’m also not denying there were things that were just part of another year of getting older, moving on, transitioning into another phase of childhood, etc.

What I AM saying is that there were some parts of the last couple of years where I felt a real sense of partnership and cooperation with the school and parts where I felt like I was dealing with avoidance, passive-aggressive behavior and constant conflict. Again, I will reassert that Munchkin can be something else and she IS entering the phase where she thinks she is more grown-up that she is and following those “little girl” rules are starting to pinch her, but she’s not mature enough to handle any more freedom. When she IS given freedom, she usually puts her foot in her mouth or makes some other dumb decision that, upon reflection, should have been foreseen by the adults in charge (ahem…us).

Academically, last year was an enormous catch-up, but the instruction was great. She made up all the ground she’d lost in the jumble of third grade math teachers and she gained and built on the spark ignited for reading and writing. Socially, my gawd I lived for weekends and holidays. I KNOW this is the age where girls hate each other with a venom that rivals the most poisonous animals on earth. Females can be vicious and cruel and we experienced both sides of that equation: Munchkin as victim AND Munchkin trying on the role of the spider. I watched her struggle with the seemingly endless cycle of cruelty. She was unhappy with her own behavior, but not mature enough to navigate away from it or work through it when it found her. I saw a side of her last year I hadn’t seen. I hope the experience worked itself out of her system and she is now content to go to school to learn; not be a gladiator. And yes, I know some of this is unavoidable. This cycle lives and breathes and grows freely in “good” and “bad” schools alike; public and private. So, no, I’m not looking at this through some kind of wonderland looking glass. The jabberwocky is everywhere.

Where I am hoping to see some measurable change is in the overall climate of the school. Teachers need to be supported by administration to demand respectful behavior in the classroom. Violence against one another MUST not be tolerated in any way.

Investment. Rather than pull her out and run to another school or district, we are going to stay in the fight and work through it. Because we have a relationship. Because Munchkin must learn that the way to handle your problems is not to run away from them but to roll up your sleeves and work HARD to fix them. Find a way to dialogue on topics you don’t understand or approve.

And I’m scared to death.

Scared to be “that mom.” Scared NOT to be “that mom.” Scared that not moving her to another school is going to automatically doom her to another awful year like I’m on the quest for the holy grail and her experience becomes collateral damage.

I just want to get it right.

 

 

This parenting stuff is hard, y’all.

sleep

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24 weeks. The magic point at which, it seems, comfortable is becoming a passing memory; something to think about in the past and look forward to in the future. It’s sometime around 4am and I’ve given up on sleeping any more. Princess Crybaby woke up a little bit ago, asking to go to the bathroom, but she was so sleepy I don’t think it actually occurred to her to go. Then she asked to sleep in our bed. Well, she’s so dadgum snuggly at 4am aaaaaaand I relented. (I have NO willpower at 4am) Well, by the time I settled her back in and got halfway situated myself, I was well and truly awake. Knowing better than to lay there and watch the clock, I got up. And here I am.

I actually don’t mind it. (right now; ask me again this afternoon when I’ve propped my head up with catalogs so I can pretend I have enough batteries to get me through the workday.) The house is still and quiet and it’s still dark enough I can’t see our “happy mess.” *laugh* I have surrendered to all but the basic “necessity” cleaning until the children are old enough that it’s not like watering your yard in a rainstorm. I mean, really – what’s the point? (don’t think that lets Coach off of dishes duty while school is out. I have my limits.)

I think of my sweet sisters and how lovely and clean their house is and I envy them. (and wonder where they get that extra energy and if it something that comes in a pill form.) While some people want to be Martha Stewart, I want to be Molly Weasley. She had a spell to do the dishes for goodness sakes and that beats making crepes and origami christmas ornaments any day of the week.

I console myself with the Joel Olsteen-esque “name it and claim it” platitude (i.e. completely useless, but so warm and fuzzy) that they won’t be little forever and time I “waste” scrubbing floors and sinks and doing laundry is time I could be spending with the kids. Or something like that.

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You know the really funny thing about this picture (and many others just like it)? I don’t think there is a single child within five miles of this room. Low sharp coffee table? White upholstery? Skinny vases three inches from the edge of the table? Open, roaring fire? And, look at the shine on those floors. Are you kidding me?

One day I’ll have a lovely clean house again – probably right around the time I can reach the stuff on the floor (or sometime after Halloween). For now, excuse our mess.

Oh, and if you hear snoring coming from the corner office around 3 today, you’ll know why.

Talking to Myself

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I’ve decided there are some things I just shouldn’t say until I’ve heard them outside my head first. I think people over-estimate the ability of “professional communicators” to effectively communicate in every situation. There are some situations where I cannot remove my own personal bias. My own personal emotional triggers. But people assume that, because they’ve seen me clearly, calmly and non-emotionally communicate every type of situation for my job, I will also carry that same level of detachment into every conversation. Well, here’s a newsflash. What they see is the FINAL draft. A distilled version of the Real.

The most important part of the process to create authentic communication (in my opinion) is finding a voice that is relatable. Showing enough emotion to demonstrate compassion and empathy without muddying the water. Getting the facts straight is a given. So, what happens when that emotional line is too close to the surface? When I haven’t had enough time to process through my emotions to get to a rational, centered (*cough* level path) response? Or, my systematic beliefs differ from those with whom I’m communicating? That’s where the task of communication becomes drastically more difficult. And I find I’m all out of answers.

*sigh*

That brings me to talking to myself. An English teacher of my youth always advised reading a written thing out loud so you could hear any weird syntax errors or oddly structured sentences/paragraphs. I’ve taken this advice to heart and, to this day, no written communication leaves my desk until it’s been read out loud. Quality control, you might say. That has somehow spilled over into my spoken presentation as well. Sometimes, something sounded good in my head, but once I get it outside I realize how dumb/angry/defensive/flippant/whatever I sound. That is a red flag to change my approach BEFORE I say it in the course of a conversation and hurt somebody’s feelings. Mom says that’s part of growing up. (please don’t remind me that I’m the mom now.)

This brings me to today. I have a conversation planned with a teacher. A friend. An excellent educator. One I hold in the highest esteem. But. (yes, Mom, I know what that means) She’s taken exception to a certain pattern of behavior and I don’t really understand at a level I can intelligently relay back to Munchkin the expectations to achieve a satisfactory “grade.” (Yes, I know it’s February – this just started happening, ok?) So we are meeting this afternoon. [insert ominous music here] The dreaded parent-teacher conference. Not because of any academic reason. But because there seems to be a disconnect in their expectation, my perception and Munchkin’s performance.

I readily admit Munchkin can be a challenge. A bright, shiny, wonderful, exasperating, infuriating, delightfully brilliant challenge. She is my joy and my truest test of patience. I easily identify places where I have not been as consistent, but I also acknowledge never giving up; always admitting my lapse and picking the gauntlet back up and getting back in the fight. Because it’s worth it. She is worth it. Mercy so, but I love her – how could I do anything less? She deserves my absolute best effort. And I think, MOST of the time, that’s what I give her. And, while there are days where I want to rip my hair out or grind my teeth into dust, I see so many flashes of the incredible heart and spirit of that child; I KNOW I am on the right track.

So, how do I effectively advocate for her when I’ve heard one side of the story and taking responsibility for one’s behavior is our current battleground learning opportunity at home? How do I balance needing to give her the benefit of the doubt and partnering with the school in teaching Munchkin to respect the rules set forth by ALL adults; even the rules we (meaning mom) think are stupid/illogical/irrational/impossible? How do I separate my loathing of the Stepford method of classroom management adopted by the District and the need to keep order in a classroom filled with children; some with no sense of discipline at all? How do I keep from coming off as “that Mom” who never thinks her kid does anything wrong; while still raising a red flag and saying, “Come now, let’s reason together?”

I talk to myself. That’s how. I spend a great part of the day practicing how I will communicate that I think asking a child (any child; not just my child) to sit still and quiet and never get up and never blurt out and never talk above a whisper and automatically know (at 10) how to be kind, patient, fair, unselfish and how to NOT be immature or otherwise obnoxious all day, every single day is STUPID, IRRATIONAL and UNREALISTIC. That I think the conduct grade is nothing more than a math formula; lacking any kind of big-picture, whole child LOGIC or COMMON SENSE at all; solely based on a number of “offenses” divided by the number of days in a grading period. 9 marks; regardless of the severity (or lack of) is considered “not satisfactory.” 9 marks in six weeks. That’s one a week, with three exceptions where you get two. I don’t know that I could go five days without somebody telling me (when I was 10) to sit down, Regina; raise your hand, Regina; please let them do their own work, Regina. That’s three in 10 seconds. I’d be branded a trouble-maker too. Shoot, I don’t know if I could do that NOW.

Like I said before, I’m NOT saying she is never difficult. Lord knows that would be laughable. And I’m also not saying I don’t want to know when she’s disrupting instruction with her impulsiveness. I want to know when she fails to be kind, patient, fair and unselfish; or she’s being immature or otherwise obnoxious. That is part training up her character. But talking? Laughing? Being out of her seat? What am I supposed to do with that at 6 o’clock at night; when the offense happened at 10am? Kind of makes you want to throw your hands up, doesn’t it?

I guess I have a little more talking to do. I’m glad this conference isn’t until this afternoon. I’ve got all day to figure it out.cat-lion-mirror-image

Routine

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Munchkin has STAAR test tomorrow. She’s a big third grader and that’s the year testing starts. I’ve read all the recommendations for pre-test meals and bedtimes.. And, I’m a rebel. What can I say? Other than bed a little early, we kept the routine pretty normal. Otherwise, it would make her nervous. My goodness, she’s like me.

I remember the night before the All-State auditions; my senior year in high school. The music was Mozart’s Requiem and I’d made 1st Chair Region and 2nd Chair Area. Everybody said I should sit in steam, drink hot tea and lots of water to conserve my voice. Well, they’d all been to all-state and I hadn’t. That night and the morning of the auditions, I did exactly what they said to do. As the minutes passed in the warm steam, I could feel myself getting more focused on the upcoming auditions and my anxiety rising.

I got to the first audition and I drew last in my group. Great. Have I mentioned I hate waiting? Needless to say, I bombed my first audition. Totally went in and completely tripped over my own feet (vocally, that is). SO. Being certain I’d just destroyed my chance to make All State Choir, I sat down and had a slice of pizza and a Dr. Pepper. I drew first in my group for my last two auditions. I’d come this far so I went ahead and sang through. I was relaxed (heck, what did I have to lose, right?) so I felt like I could leave happy – maybe I’d make alternate.

That was the year I made 1st Chair in the All State Choir.

Moral of the Story? Don’t change the routine or you’ll freak yourself out.

So, tomorrow is a big academic milestone for Munchkin. She’s ready. She did well on her benchmarks. She’s smart. She’s a problem-solver. She’ll do fine. But she is a WHOLE lot like me. So, we didn’t change the menu. I didn’t keep her from the iPad (her favorite after-school distraction). She went to bed about 30 minutes early. But that’s all.

And tomorrow, she’ll be fine. Maybe a few butterflies because she’s my kid (and we have a tendency to over-think things), but it won’t be because we went all crazy over a test.

One of our Assistant Superintendents talks about when he was a campus principal and one of his parents got all upset because he didn’t send anything home before the test so they could “get ready.” Calmly, he looked at her and responded, “well, ma’am – your children have been ready for some time. There really isn’t anything else for you to do. It’s just one test.” I like that.