Monday, September 28, 2015

being there

Today I felt crumpled. I know that's not an adjective people use to refer to themselves, but it fits in my case. I came home from working at the coffee shop and the kids were whiny and tired (because these kids sleep much less than normal kids do, I swear to you). I also was whiny and tired and that just doesn't work. Someone needs to be the strong one, the voice of reason; a person that isn't too involved in themselves to be aware of the needs of others. But none of us were feeling up to it.

I tried loading the kids into the car to go to the bookstore, because retail therapy is a real thing and there is nothing I could purchase that would soothe me more than some good books. But Holden was screaming and throwing his head around like he was having a seizure again (he gave himself a black eye doing this last Sunday), so I gave up. I released him from his car seat restraints and herded him and Brandon into the backyard. Then I collapsed onto the grass in a crumpled heap.

I haven't written a word on my novel in the two months I've been working again. I haven't gone for an outdoor run. I haven't read books or taken a bath. I have had only very little time to myself that I haven't been asleep in these past two months. And it all caught up to me today. I just wanted a half hour in a book store. Or even a half hour with a book when the kids weren't whining would be fine. Well, it wouldn't be fine, I would want more, but now that I didn't get that, it's easy to say it would have made me happy.

I thought of all the things I would be doing if I had endless free time. I would love to join a writer's workshop and start taking yoga classes. I would love to finish some writing projects and a list of books I have scrawled down next to my uncompleted checklists. I'd like to paint the upstairs bathroom and take baths and do puzzles. Maybe focus some energy into giving up coffee and taking up matcha tea instead (probably not though).

I stayed crumpled on the ground until I heard Holden telling me he lost his shoe and then I fetched his shoe and put it back on. I resumed mom duties. And I tried again, to strap the kids into the car seats. This time, I won. I wasn't much stronger than the first time, but just that little extra oomph was all I needed. They fell asleep within a mile, so I turned the car around and transferred Holden into his crib and went and laid down myself.

Then, once they were asleep for the night, I ran a little on the treadmill and did some yoga. During my break, I read in Women's Health something Michelle Obama's mom told her, when Michelle was a busy working mom with a baby, barely able to take a shower each day. She said, "Michelle, you cannot be there for everyone else if you're not there for yourself." And I thought, that's it. That is why I crumpled. 

So this week I resolve to carve out a little time for myself each day. Even if it's ten minutes (but God, I hope it's longer than that), I will do something I want to do. And it's not because I don't want to be everything for everyone who needs me; but rather, it's because I do. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Day out with Thomas

Yesterday we went on a day trip to see Thomas the Tank Engine. Yes, we road tripped three hours each way with a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old to see a damn train because we're totally nuts.
Holden was happy to get out and run around at our halfway point. He is not the type that likes to be inactive and restrained.
 I love wind turbines. I always have to take a picture of them. They are powerful and majestic do-gooders full of energy. Maybe my perfect man is actually a wind turbine, come to think of it.
 Brandon was all smiles once we got there.
But then, he got two bee stings. You can see them here - one on the right of his mouth and one on his chin. He was a damn champion though - he only cried for a minute - much less than either Steve or I would have (at his age or today).
 We got him a giant balloon, which made him feel much better.
 The balloon has followed him everywhere since: we even tied it to his headboard last night.
And Holden got a pennant, never one to be left out.

Monday, September 21, 2015

realistic expectations

There are many struggles in motherhood for me. I would love to say I took on motherhood with a fierce calm and conquered it, but that would be a boldfaced lie. Motherhood and I are not a perfect pairing. As I've written about before, one of my struggles has been surrendering my Me Time and what sometimes feels like my entire identity in the name of parenthood. Another one is adjusting to the difference between what I'd like to accomplish and what I am actually able to.

I am not Type A or OCD or a Perfectionist, but I do seem like the type who would give myself a label. I am an Accomplisher, if that's a thing. It is now. I make people look lazy by comparison - I know this because it happened yesterday at work. I am a mover and a shaker in the literal sense. I do. I make lists and cross tasks off with gusto. I make the most of my time most of the time. I am productive. On the mornings I open the coffee shop, I am driving to work at 5:15 a.m. I always smile at the runners in their reflective gear, up before the sun; these are my people.

So at first I tried to keep up my productivity, in spite of having two rowdy little boys underfoot. I thought of staying at home as an early retirement and happily thought, just think of everything I can get done! I had grand ambitions of reading 50 books a year, writing blogs and in my journal, practicing yoga, walking and running, keeping the house clean, keeping the boys clean and dressed and then knocking out some of my large house projects, all while writing a novel in my spare time. And it took me no time at all to realize that was not just unlikely, it was impossible. 

In those early days of being a stay-at-home mom, Steve would come home and ask -- foolishly, as all husbands have done -- "what did you do all day?" And I would glare at him, annoyed at my own filth from not having showered, of the kids' filth, of the house's filth. I would agonize over all the things I didn't get checked off my list - of each week that passed that I couldn't turn the page in my task book because I was still stuck on last week's task list.

But a year and a half have passed and although it still bothers me that there isn't the time in the day for all I want to accomplish, I have learned anything that I do accomplish is progress. It didn't take me long to be proud of a day when all three of us were bathed as a productive day. Although my plans could be to clean the entire house one day, a more realistic goal would be to clean the fridge. Or sometimes just eat the leftovers out of the fridge. Baby steps.

Monday, September 14, 2015

big shadow

On Friday we went for a walk to the park and on our way home, Brandon chose to walk too. He held my hand as he talked to me and I choked back tears at the sweetness of the moment. It was dark out, and he kept pointing out his shadow. As we would get closer to the streetlights, his shadow would grow larger.

"I don't want to get big, mom," he said.
"Why not?" I asked.
"It scares me," he replied.
I smiled.

I thought of what growing bigger means and for kids it means chores and school and peer pressure. They won't get away with relics from their babyhood like binkies and bribes and temper tantrums.

I thought of what growing bigger means for adolescents: they are always under pressure. They try to be good at school or at sports or at music or having a lot of friends - basically find a niche where they thrive; a niche that keeps them afloat in the seemingly endless river of hormones and angst.

I thought of what it means for new adults: finding jobs and paying bills and securing an apartment and deciding what they want to do for a career. It means sorting through a lot of people with bad intentions to find the good ones. It means staking your own claim; finding your own way.

As I was pondering this, Brandon said, "Could you hold me mom?" So I scooped him up and we walked the last block with him in my arms, cradled like the baby he once was. "I just want to stay little," he explained. And I kissed his head, wishing the same.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

first dentist visit

Today was Brandon's first dentist appointment. After his hysterical display at Saturday's wedding, I hoped for the best, but expected the worst. But I am a firm believer in preparation, so I went to the library and the book store and gathered up some books about visiting the dentist. We have read them each night before bed. And each time I talked to him about it, he said he doesn't want to go to the dentist, that he's scared.

This morning I told him that we were going to the dentist and he replied, "my teeth are fine mom, I don't need a checkup." He is such a grown-up sometimes, it scares me. When I gave him my mom look, he added, "let's just go tomorrow, instead." I told him that today he would go to the dentist and then his teeth would get nice and clean. I knew that would get him. He really loves for things to be nice and clean.

I had my appointment first and I warned the hygienist that he has been an absolute monster lately. I told her he has been crying about silly things all the time and he acts like a complete baby. I really bashed him good. She told me if he was too terrible, they wouldn't clean his teeth. They aren't in the practice of strapping people down while wrestling metal objects into their mouths, any way. We both resigned ourselves to that with satisfaction. It's out of our control. Kids will be kids. They aren't going to ruin anything for us, damn it. 

After my appointment, I walked Brandon back to the room and watched as he sat patiently in the dentist chair while the hygienist took x-rays. I watched her polish his teeth while he politely and obediently did as she said. She even flossed without him protesting. I was shocked. Shocked! I left the room and entertained Holden in the waiting room while the dentist came in and examined him. I listened for cries or sniffling, but didn't hear a peep.

When he emerged from his checkup, he was smiling and holding stickers and his new toothbrush. He told Holden about his cleaning and that one day when Holden was big like he is that Holden would have one too. And when we got home, he called me into the bathroom where he was holding his new toothbrush. He asked me to put toothpaste on it.

And to think I expected the worse, when he ended up being the best. Sometimes, kids surprise you. And once in awhile, it's in a good way.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

a wedding with kids

Last night was our time attending a wedding with children in tow. Steve and I enjoy weddings - the free-flowing booze and dancing the night away. I mean, what's not to love? Except, of course, when I'm pregnant as I have been at the last two weddings, but that's a different story. A friend of mine from college married the love of her life yesterday and I was given a Carrie Bradshaw moment in the ceremony by doing a reading.

Weeks beforehand, I went toddler suit shopping, then found both a tie and a bowtie in a matching pattern for the boys which I had shipped from China. I bought them nice shoes they may never wear again. I bought a dress that was in the same color scheme as their shirts but not the same hue. I decided what Steve would wear. I have a tripod and I planned to take some self-timer pictures beforehand that we could use for our Christmas cards this year.

I accounted for everything, except, of course, that kids are fickle creatures. How was I to know that Brandon would have the meltdown of the century when I pulled on his pants? He lost his damn mind; tears streaming down his face, snot from his nose. I couldn't calm him down with any reasoning, so in a moment I'm not all too proud of, I let him change out of his nice clothes into his street clothes and told him I would change him back into his dressy clothes once we got to the church. No tripod self-timer photos for this family.

I expected both boys to nap in the car and was hoping they would waken refreshed and happy. But although they slept, as soon as I tried to wrangle Brandon into his pants again, the tears and the snot quickly returned. Damn it. DAMN IT! I took them into the church anyway, and learned how to turn on the mic and where to stand for my reading. Then I tried to pacify Brandon with distractions, none of which stuck. The only thing that would make him happy was changing his clothes. Steve and I left the church with the kids, literally a moment before the wedding started, deciding they would wait out the ceremony outside while mom did her reading.

The bride saw me outside and had someone quickly beckon me back inside - my reading was right at the beginning. So I did my reading, and had my Carrie Bradshaw moment, but just like Carrie Bradshaw, my man wasn't there to hear me. My reading was terrible; my voice was shaky. It was definitely amateur hour. As soon as I finished, I exited and found my kids in the car - Brandon back in his street clothes playing on dad's phone, those never-ending sniffles miraculously ended.

I now know not to plan on plans. I have no pictures for our Christmas cards. Holden stuck his finger down his throat and puked onto his suspenders, bow tie, and dress shirt at the reception. But although situations aren't always ideal, I have my kiddos to make them memorable. Plans are boring. Spontaneity - now that is exciting. And as frustrating as they can be, it's true what they say - my kids keep me on my toes. I won't say they keep me young though, because they are definitely making me old, very, very quickly.