Confession: I am a Series of Contradictions

A few months (weeks? days?) ago, I wrote a post – A Type A Housewife’s Thoughts on Cleaning. I stand by that post, but today I NEEDED to clean. Seriously clean. Not just pick up and wipe up. I needed to dust, scrub, shine and polish. Not because it was dirty (it was filthy), but because I needed to feel in control of something.

Sometimes things get too crazy. Too chaotic. Too loud. Too fun. Yes, I just said sometimes things get too fun.

There are times that I feel like the ONLY thing I am accomplishing is entertaining and engaging my kids. Such an upbringing is sure to spoil them, right? Turn them into entitled little creatures that require immediate gratification? They have to learn (at some point) how to entertain themselves or be complacent with a little boredom, right? Maybe not. But today, that was my theory.

Today, I let my kids wander, tinker with toys, watch TV, and spin in circles while I almost completely ignored them and cleaned house. Not to worry, I made sure they were safe, fed them when they were hungry, and changed their soiled diapers, but I also did my own thing.

I think they actually enjoyed it. They played together, fought a little, found toys they had forgotten, and let their momma clean house (translation: reclaim a small piece of her sanity).

Windex makes me giddy. Crumb free floors make me want to dance (albeit badly), and polished furniture makes me feel brand new.

The kids are now napping, and I am sipping a cup of tea in a CLEAN house. All is right in my little world. What can I say, sometimes I just gotta scrub something.

On Caving…

Every book, article, and pamphlet I have read on parenting says the same thing: consistency is important – children thrive within boundaries, and routines are essential.

It’s not that I disagree… it’s just… well, sometimes “caving” is just as necessary. I have yet to read any literature that endorses “caving,” but I’m going to say  SHOUT it: SOMETIMES GOOD MOMS AND DADS GIVE IN!

Today I took the kids to the mall. Rex had won a prize pack in a drawing and we went to pick it up. Exciting stuff for an almost three year old! Not so exciting for his little sister. The nice lady who gave Rex his prize offered Sydney a sucker. Let me be clear, this was not my “caving” moment. While a sucker is not something I would have allowed Rex to have at 16 months of age, she is my temperamental second child and I am not no longer one to scoff at a treat that guarantees 15 minutes of contentment. She squealed and started sucking happily. We then decided to go to the indoor play area…

I couldn’t fathom allowing her to toddle around with a sucker so I decided it needed to go ba-bye. I took pried it out of her little hand death grip and the shrieking started. She threw herself to the floor and screamed in a way that frightened other mid-trantrum toddlers.

{crickets}

I felt other parental eyes searing into my spinning head. I could “hear” the questions conveyed by their eyes. “What’s she gonna do? Is she gonna stand her ground? Is she going to march that little tyrant out of the play area, strap her flailing, screaming body back into the stroller and go home? Who is going to win?” 

I wrestled with these questions for [what felt like] 5 minutes [though I’m sure it was closer to 22 seconds].

Here’s the thing. While I wrestled with my choices [stand my ground or cave], I felt myself escalating. My face felt hot, my shoulders were up around my ears, and my hands were clenched. My choices weren’t so much “stand my ground” or “cave”…they were more like “stand your ground now and later explode in the car” or “cave now and NOT turn into scary mommy later.” Honestly, given the two choices, the latter seemed the lesser of two evils.

So, while I acknowledge that consistency is important, I also feel [with great conviction] that sometimes “caving” is just as necessary.

Sydney got her sucker, I kept my sanity. We both won :).

IMG_5440

Everything is Going to be O.K. {Happy Easter}

“31” has been an “awakening” of sorts for me. It’s almost as if the very moment I blew out those candles, sh%* got real. Suddenly, things that happen to “other people” are happening to people I know, my people, and me. Things that only existed hypothetically are actual realities: cancer, death, divorce, infertility, terminal illness, job loss… etc.

These undeniably harsh realities define the human condition, and we all face them.

{Confession: sometimes the future scares the shit out of me.}

Whether it be money, health, family, or our relationships, I think we can all point to something that’s responsible at this very moment for deepening the creases on our foreheads.

Life is hard.

Today [Easter Sunday], while peeling potatoes at the kitchen sink, a soft breeze carried with it the sound of laughing children. I was overwhelmed with a sense of peace and joy. Life is so very good for me right now, but for so many people I know, this is a trying tragic difficult  hard time. Some faced this Easter for the first time without a loved one. Others faced the inconceivable reality that this may be their last. Still others are uncertain of what the future holds.

My joy in juxtaposition to their struggle is hard to reconcile. Why am I so [mostly] lucky?

Truth is, we are all blessed and we all face tragedies – just at different points in time.

I have seen an inspirational quote floating around the www a lot lately… something to the effect of “choose happiness.” While I understand the premise, and find it to be a noble thought, it implies that people who are not happy are choosing sadness. That’s simply untrue. No one chooses sadness.

Sometimes the circumstances are dire. Sometimes, there just isn’t a visible silver lining. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes, people are sad.

Several years ago, one of the pastors at our church did a sermon about life and its inherent struggles. Specifically, he spoke about worry, anger, sadness, and grief and he said something that resonated with me. He said, “It’s ok to visit there…just don’t live there.”

That is my hope for all of us – that our visits with struggle are “visits” and that we take heart in HIS promise.

John 3:16
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

While I do not believe people “choose” happiness, I can say this with certitude –EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE O.K.

Happy Easter everyone!

I’m Starting a Support Group (with an enabled comment section)

Yesterday was a not-good-really-quite-bad-awful-kind-of-day.

Sydney woke up fussing, fussed through breakfast and then started pinching. She was in a foul, no good mood.

I decided we should spend the beautiful morning (IT’S FINALLY SPRING IN MN) outside. So I said, “Let’s go to the park.” Knowing that we didn’t have much time because the flooring installer was coming at 10 to fix our faulty, still quite new, floor.

I negotiated Rex out of his winter coat, and into spring appropriate outer wear, and then repeated the same process with footwear.

Sydney allowed me to put her shoes and coat on with minimal resistance, but then did the whole arched-back-stiff-as-a-board-collapse-in-a-fit-of-shrill-screaming thing when I tried to buckle her into the stroller. I won. Barely.

While at the park, I made the mistake of being the first one down the slide. Awesome. It looked like I peed my pants. We stayed for a bit, but not long enough in a certain someone’s opinion so I had to coax and negotiate with a whiny Rex most of the way home.

The rest of the day consisted of much of the same – negotiating, re-directing, whining, audible sighing on my part, and many other unpleasantries said in my head or under my breath.

When an exhausted Tyler got home from work, I was fit to be tied, and the kids were restless. Those three things in tandem, do not a happy home make.

We ate dinner (and if I’m being honest, we did not enjoy each others’ company), and then decided to take a walk to the park.

You can imagine about how well that went. I will spare you the not-good-really-quite-bad-awful-kind-of-day details.

Tyler and I argued (I’m using that term loosely) when we got home. Yes, in front of the kids. The kind of argument that leaves you both cursing your younger self for “choosing” each other and saying nasty things in your head. It was ugly. I cried…out of frustration, guilt, and sheer exhaustion. Commence shame spiral.

Sometimes, when I have a not-good-really-quite-bad-awful-kind-of-day, the only answer is to “sleep it off.” So that’s what I did. I slept…

But, I woke up (at 5 AM) with no more patience or perspective than I had yesterday…until I went to Target and wound up next to the mother of the toddler in a “I’ve-never-been-this-devastated-in-my-life” kind of tantrum. I wanted so badly to say, “Take heart. I’ve been there. This too shall pass. I’m not judging you,” but she wouldn’t make eye contact.

I imagine she cried when she got to her car. I say this because she looked on the verge of tears inside the store, and speaking from experience, that feeling only intensifies during the walk of shame out of the store.

While I, in no way shape or form, enjoyed watching her public torture, it was comforting to know that I am not alone…it’s not just my kids… or just my life. It’s all of us. We are all struggling [most days].

So, to that end, I’m starting a support group :). We can meet at the grocery store…the library…Target…the mall. Heck, we can meet right here on this blog. We can smile at each other and say, “Take heart. I’ve been there. This too shall pass.” We can refrain from judgement and we will always be kind. We can share our not-good-really-quite-bad-awful-kind-of-day stories, NOT because misery loves company, but because EVERYONE is fighting some kind of battle and EVERYONE needs a cheering section.

Let’s start a support group called “Sometimes Life is Ridiculously Hard.” Let’s share our stories and cheer each other on.

I will start, “Hi. I’m Sarah. I’m a mom. I love my kids. Sometimes I fail. Last night, I fought with my husband in front of my kids.”

Shame Spiral

Shortly after their respective births, I assigned each of my children (whom I love with my whole heart) a name. He, Rex. She, Sydney.

I say these names with exhausting repetition each and everyday. “Rex, sit here. Sydney, don’t put that in your mouth. Rex, please stop. Sydney, eat your food.”

Some days, however, are different. Today was one of those days.

Sydney started the day “Sydney.” By mid morning Sydney was “she” (as in “she’s really fussy”) and by dinner she was “it” (as in “it won’t stop crying!”)

I sincerely hope I am not alone in the name-to-pronoun morphing phenomenon because if I am, my fear that I’m not cut out for “this” becomes a very real possibility.

Anyway, I experience days when my little people wear me down. Today was one of those days.

Inevitably, when my children (whom I love with my whole heart) become pronouns, I shame spiral. “Why don’t I have enough patience?”… “Surely, I’m the worst mom on the planet (or at least MN).”…”I’m ruining them…” Etc. I then feel like a worthless parent and yell more. [Cringe]

Here’s the thing about shame spiraling though- It’s dumb and pointless and just another thing we parents do to torture ourselves.

Let’s stop.

My sister jokingly said not long ago, “they [her family] are always critical when I yell…they should really be proud of all the times I DON’T yell. That’s the real accomplishment.”

She’s on to something. Let’s flip the script.

So you forgot to pack lunch… I’d be willing to bet you usually remember to feed them…

So you said sh*%… At least you didn’t say f#%^ …

So you yelled at dinner… I bet you told them more than once already that you love them…

Bottom line: What we lack in perfection, we more than make up for with love.  There’s always more good than bad. We just need to train ourselves to look harder…and stop being so damn critical ;).

Just Mom

Confession: Sometimes I think, “I can’t do this.”

I knew it [being mommy] was going to be hard; I just didn’t know what “hard” was. Some days it’s equivalent to getting kicked in the face with a golf shoe…

I follow a lot of “mommy” blogs and lately I have been overwhelmed by the number of posts focused on “empowering women” – posts about how to be more than just a mommy; how to keep the romance alive, nurture you spiritual self, do things YOU love, etc.

Good grief, I am having a hard enough time just keeping my kids alive! I don’t have time for “me time” or “date night”…

Isn’t “being mom” enough? Is my plate not yet quite full?…

Do you know what I am talking about? The suggestions to get mani/pedis, be your best you (code for go to the gym), sneak away for a romantic weekend, have lunch with “the girls,” etc.?

I just went from feeling overwhelmed to completely inadequate… As is if being mommy isn’t laden with enough guilt already? Now I feel like a failure because I don’t really know who I am anymore…

Wait a minute…I do know… I’m “mommy”…and that’s all I really have time for right now.

Forgive me, but in this season of my life – a season that is sure to be “gone before I know it” (as EVERYONE keeps reminding me) – I just want to be “mom.”

I want to wear stretchy pants and pull my hair in a ponytail and quietly accept the fact that I do not look like I want to, but that’s ok because my kids think I am beautiful, and their opinion is the only one that REALLY matters.

I want to lock the door to the bathroom and take a ridiculously long, hot shower and then I want to quietly accept that that 20 minutes is all the “me time” I am going to get this week.

I want to have conversations with my husband, but when I talk to him, I want to quietly accept and embrace the fact that the thing we have most in common right now is our kids… and THEY are enough. It’s ok if that’s all we talk about. For now, we can laugh about the funny thing Rex just said and marvel at the fact that our “baby” is now walking. I am sure a few years from now (when we are a little less bone tired), we will rekindle the romance. For now, our children are proof that what once was [romance], will be again ☺.

I would love to sneak away for a romantic weekend, but if it’s not in the budget or if we can’t find childcare, that’s o.k. Someday, when the kids are grown, we will have all the time in the world to travel and “get away.” I am sure when “someday” comes, we will talk about how much we wish we could “go back” and have a weekend like we did when the kids were small. Because, let’s face it, the grass is always greener.

At some point, all the stars will align and I will find an opportunity to get a pedicure and, by God, I will do so with a Starbucks in hand, but I am o.k. with the fact that said stars are unlikely to align anytime soon.

I’m going to stop resenting my husband for my lack of “me time.” He doesn’t get any either… We are parents. It comes with the territory and the sooner we realize that, the happier we will be in our current circumstances. There is beauty in these circumstances.

Like I said, I don’t think mani/pedis, being your best you (code for fit), sneaking away for a romantic weekend, or having lunch with “the girls” is in any way, shape, or form “not for mommy’s.” It’s not that I disagree with doing those things (AT ALL). It’s just that I don’t need another “expectation…” I don’t need to feel like when I don’t do those things, I am somehow less or incomplete. I think, when those things become expectations or entitlements, we lose sight of the beauty in being “mommy” (messy hair and baby bellies included). We need to be gentle with our often un-showered selves ☺.

I guess what I am trying to say is that “Just being mommy” is a short season. I don’t want to spend it trying to “find me,” and I don’t have to because Rex and Sydney already found me. When they were born, so was I. I am their mommy, and that’s enough…

What I’d like you to know about Miscarriage

I was alone with my thoughts this afternoon while I was sweeping the floors and I got to thinking. Scary, I know. But I was thinking about pregnancy announcements, which got me to thinking about the social norms surrounding such announcements. Typically, people announce their pregnancy around the second trimester because that’s when it’s “safe” to tell…

I announced I was pregnant with Rex at 14 weeks…because it was “safe” to tell. I announced I was pregnant with Sydney when I was 10 weeks pregnant…because it was considered “pretty safe” to tell (that and I threw caution to the wind). What I have never “announced” is that I had 4 miscarriages before carrying to term with Rex and Sydney. I have never “announced” it because it didn’t feel “safe” to tell people I had a miscarriage, let alone four. Think about it. Doesn’t the phrase “it’s safe to tell” imply that, God forbid, you should experience a miscarriage prior to 14 weeks, it’s NOT safe to tell people?

Granted, miscarriage is a tough subject. It’s uncomfortable (grief is like that). It’s hard to have the right words, and it’s even harder to know what to do for the person experiencing the loss. But more than any of those things, miscarriage is sad. Devastating. Someone’s child died… You can pussy foot around it all you want, but that’s what happened. Someone was going to have a baby and then the baby died.

Someone once told me that grief is often measured by the size of the coffin. Sad, but true. There is also this “idea” that miscarriage is some kind of natural selection…that nature is weeding its own garden (so to speak). Even sadder. It was still someone’s child.

I guess my whole point is that, in my opinion, a person should be able to announce their pregnancy whenever and however they choose. If one wants to shout it from the rooftops at 4 weeks 1 day, they should! If another wants to quietly announce it to close family and friends at 20 weeks, they should! There should be no norm! And if either of these pregnancies should tragically end, it should be safe to share that news too. That should be the norm.

Grief is messy, but it shouldn’t be done behind closed doors.

For the sake of time (I can get long-winded), and because I like lists, here is what I’d like to share with you about miscarriage:

1. Please don’t ever say to someone who has had a miscarriage, “At least you know you can get pregnant” -or- “At least you have another child.”
2. Please don’t say, “the baby probably wouldn’t have been healthy.” That doesn’t make them miss the child any less.
3. Probably refrain from asking them when they are going to “try again.” If they want you to know, they will offer up that information.
4. It’s ok to talk about the baby. Acknowledging the baby won’t delay nor prolong the grieving process. In fact, talking about it may help.
5. Don’t expect them to “move on.” Forward, yes, but never on. It happened. No amount of time will change that.
6. Don’t expect them to be who they once were. They are forever changed. If you don’t like this “new” person, I suggest you move on. Some friendships and relationships can and should end. That’s a fact of life.
7. You can’t fix it, but you can be a good listener and a soft shoulder. They will likely return the favor someday when you need it.
8. It will get easier with time. GIVE them that. Don’t expect it to happen overnight. They will have good days and bad days. They may have a string of 100 good days…don’t be surprised on day 101 if they turn into a puddle.
9. Don’t just suggest they go to a support group. Find one and go with them.
10. If you are pregnant, please know that they are happy for you (if you can’t see it), they are just also really, really sad.
11. Sometimes Most of the time you don’t need to say or do anything. Just be there.
and last, but certainly not least
12. Miscarriage doesn’t need to be shouldn’t be a secret.