Things I’m Not Afraid To Admit.

Life is fucking hard, man.

People don’t say that often enough. Maybe because they think they will sound weak or whiny. Maybe because they’re afraid of judgement. Maybe because they are worried that it’s not hard for other people. Maybe it’s just hard for them.

Maybe they’re afraid that if they open their mouths and admit to someone else that life is hard, it will mean that they just aren’t religious enough. Maybe they aren’t good enough for God to make it easier.

Maybe He can’t hear them. Maybe He isn’t even there.

I don’t believe any of that.

I long for Robbie and I to go back in time approximately 10-12 years, back to our previous life when our biggest concerns were as follows:

1. Where everyone was going to go that night,

2. What I was going to wear,

3. And how much sex was too much sex. Wait … never mind. That wasn’t a concern. So really we only had two things to worry about.

Throw in a fear of pregnancy and not having enough money to pay my $350/month rent, and that pretty much covers my early twenties. I want to go back to that time, not because I don’t want my kids or the life that I have now, but because I want to remember what it felt like to be less exhausted than I currently am. Right now, I’m close to being exhausted enough to stop showering, and if you know me, you know that this is MAJOR.

This thought hit me the other night when I was engrossed in watching a YouTube video of someone extracting impacted earwax from a man’s ear. I looked up to show Robbie, but he had fallen asleep listening to an audio book of Game of Thrones.

When I yelled, “What is happening to us?! WHO ARE WE?!?” it made him jump.

The next night, I sidled up to him and purred seductively, “Are you going to watch the rest of this baseball game?” He said, “I don’t know … I might fall asleep.”

I gathered my pillows and went to the couch, wishing for things to be less mid-thirties and more mid-twenties.

This morning I was passive-aggressively flipping through a magazine, feeling angry that I am so tired, that three-year-old children are so irrational, that my husband is just as tired as I am, that I don’t ever have time to write, and that people constantly need something from me.

Most of all, I was angry that I am becoming everything that I said I would never be.

I’m resentful, unkempt, and irritable. I yell. A lot.

I recoil when my husband touches me. I am touched out, talked out, cleaned out and incredibly tired of going to the grocery store. I’m exhausted of feeding people and cleaning up messes and hearing complaints from at least one person at all times, because there are five people in this house and no one is ever happy all at the same time and that includes me.

I’m a jerk.

I was gone for 4 days and it didn’t help. It just made me want more time away. It was a tiny drop in my dried-out bucket. I do my best to care for myself, but I still come up short. I’m being pulled in so many different directions, every day. I am asked to give more, even when I don’t have anything left, every day.

I am a frazzled mom.

That makes me wish that I could travel back in time to when life was simpler. Look how smooth our faces were. Look how close we are standing to each other. His hand is practically on my ass, and who could blame him? No one was squeezing in between us, yelling “MY Daddy!!!”

I want to warp-speed myself back to THIS.

I want to warp-speed myself back to THIS.

This is why people tell you not to rush your life — because you never know what the next season might bring. It might be really fucking hard.

You might have children stuck to you like agitated starfish for 12 hours a day.

You might have to unclog toilets and wipe up pee and chase small people who are surprisingly fast.

You might tear your hamstring in Kickboxing class because you’re getting old and you didn’t warm up properly.

As I mulled this over today in a brief moment of peace, during which I spaced out and sat completely motionless because no one needed me, I heard a sound coming from the bathroom.

“I bwush my teef.”

That’s what she was saying to me as she held up her toothbrush, smiling that double-dimpled smile that exposes her perfect toddler teeth.

I want to travel back in time.My baby just turned two and can hold full conversations.

“I bwush my teef.”

I stood there and stared at her. It was like I couldn’t breathe.

She’s so beautiful. So smart, so sweet. So cuddly and funny. She isn’t just beautiful because she’s pretty. She’s beautiful because she glows.

I am so grateful.

She held up her toothbrush. “MOUF!!!!” (That’s “mouth” in toddler-speak.)

The thing about seasons is that even on the darkest night, when the wind is howling at your door, there is still a moon in the sky. It’s not all bad, even when it’s fucking hard.

And I’m not afraid to admit that out loud, either.

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Mothers of Boys.

You should relax, they say.

Okay, yes. I should. So I will send my sons out to play, and while they are outside I will make a shopping list.

Aww … look how nicely they’re playing.

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This was just before Maverick shoved the wagon containing his little brother into the street.

Now, I’ll give him credit for immediately freaking out and trying to catch him. And I give myself credit for not coming completely and totally unhinged.

Mothers of boys can never relax, I’ve decided.

Biscuits & Gravy.

I spend a lot of time writing about how my kids are driving me to drink.

I have blogged for almost 5 years about all the ways motherhood stresses me out. I’ve talked about the things my children have broken, peed on, or otherwise damaged. I’ve lost kids, locked kids in vehicles and houses, and made a fool of myself at drive thru windows. What makes it all so comical is that I really do consider myself to be a relatively capable and intelligent human being. When I got married in 2005, I was a woman who was always put together, knew what day it was and how much money was in her bank account. That person read magazines and newspapers and knew what was happening in the world. I was going to be somebody. I had plans.

I am now none of those things and I know none of those things. With age, I have realized I AM someone right in this moment. There is no more aspiring to become someone. I made three someones, and my plans now consist of getting those people to adulthood in one piece.

I don’t know the date. I don’t know which bills are due when. I don’t know when I last mopped. I don’t know where several important documents are located, or where the slips are that I signed for Maverick’s school. We do not have a family dentist and that FALLS ON ME. The burden of our oral health is resting on my shoulders. It feels heavy.

Women carry an unbelievable load that often is not recognized or applauded, because no one can see it. We carry emotions and feelings and worries and love. We carry plans, aspirations and schedules and love. We carry lists that are written on a million scraps of paper and love. We carry every sad look from our children, every wrong word spoken in haste, every runny nose and strange-looking dirty diaper and nuance that tells us something might be wrong, and love. We notice smells and changes in behavior before anyone else. We see when things are wrong and when things are right, and we know when the toilet is really, truly, absolutely clean … because we love.

Sometimes that invisible load is just so. damn. heavy. I get bitter and resentful and I take it out on my husband and my children, just because they’re there AND THEY WANT SOMETHING. I feel unhappy and alone and certain I’m the only person ever who has to cart around this kind of load. Does any of this sound familiar?

Today I remembered that as much as my children, with their chaos and incessant demands, add to my load … they can also lessen it if I let them. Because children — messy, sticky, loud children — emote joy over things like tall bar stools with seats that spin. They press their faces to glass cases and peer inside at all the different kinds of cake balls like it is the MOST AMAZING THING EVER.

They touch everything. Because they must.

They wake up excited to see what they new day has in store for them, and at night after they have run us ragged, they snuggle down deep in their beds and whisper “I love you, Mommy.” Children love life, and they breathed life into what would have been my very boring existence of knowing the exact date and time.

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If you’ve ever wondered why people have children, this is why. If you’ve ever wondered why Robbie and I have three of them … well, there you go. They give us as much as they take and more, in their weird, loud way, and I love them more than biscuits and gravy.

Gravity.

Do you ever feel so emotionally raw from dealing with the people in your house that you feel unable to cope with “real life?” I am so there.

I can’t watch the news. I don’t want to hear about children dying in cars, I don’t want to think about the President or what’s happening at the border. Anything that requires extra thought or emotional energy, I don’t want to know it. And if it’s too late, I want to un-know it.

The other night I was completely shredded mentally and emotionally from dealing with Maverick. He’s a difficult, smart, hilarious, handful of almost-six years. When Maverick is awake, you know it. When Maverick is upset or bored or happy, you know it. He shouts every emotion and thought from the rooftops. EVERYTHING IS LOUD. EVERYTHING IS HARD. This type of child is really, truly exhausting to parent. If you don’t have a kid like this, you might think you understand.

Nope. You don’t.

I could write pages and pages about this topic alone — raising a so-called “spirited” child — but I can’t right now because raising my spirited child is sucking the life out of me. And also, would it be fair to him for me to tell the world about our struggles? No. Not yet, not until later on, when I have gotten out of the thick of things and I can see better. Right now I don’t have perspective, I just know it’s ass-hard, and people who have never met us would unfairly assume that he’s a sociopathic brat and/or I’m a horrible mother.

Anyway, I’d had a rough day. Robbie got home and turned on a movie called “Gravity.” Have you seen it? It’s about astronauts being lost in space and I could not handle it. I want to un-know that debris can hit a space station and kill astronauts, and that a person can just bob away in space, gone forever. I’d never thought about that happening. I’d like to never think of it again, but oops, it’s too late.

I now know something I want to un-know.

Robbie said something like, “You’re so much more sensitive to stuff than you used to be,” as I sobbed because Sandra Bullock was flying through the air, grabbing at things, failing to get a hold of the space shuttle. I just knew she was a goner.

YES, I AM. I am more sensitive. I am more exhausted. I am an emotionally-raw person who shouldn’t be allowed to interact with others or have access to the internet. So many moms in this same season of life talk about how becoming a mom has made them feel lobotomized, like they can no longer carry on normal conversation or even act like a normal human being.

It’s because we’re just way more of everything. Whatever I was before has been amplified, good and bad. I’m way more of a mess, and I pour way more of myself into raising my kids to be good people than I even realized I had to begin with.

So. While I may not have the answers to anything I’ve lamented above, hear this: I’m never, ever going into outer space.

Ever.

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Thank you, but no thank you.

 

Victory.

This is the first week of the first summer that I will spend with all three of my children home with me, all day, every day.

I am 34 years old.

All day long, I count the hours until the next hurdle is reached, and at night, when I’m reflecting, I think about years. Next summer I will be 35. Thinking about this is what made me decide to start weight training and getting serious about eye cream. I’m almost halfway to 70, and shit’s getting real.

Last summer I had a baby, and because I know my limits, we shipped our oldest off to day camp. It was a sound decision, worth every penny of the $1,000 that I had to scrounge up for it. One thousand dollars is a lot of money to us. Sometimes I feel like people assume that if someone is staying home with the kids, it’s because you have so much money that you simply don’t know what to do with it all. In such a case, according to those who are assuming, OBVIOUSLY the thing to do is to quit your job and space out in pajamas while infants and toddlers teethe on your fancy wares.

I do not fall into this category.

I’m home with the kids because I know in my gut it is what I am to do. I’ve tried to go against my gut before, and it never goes well. I feel like I needed to mention that, maybe more for my sake than for yours, because this week I have found myself asking myself WHAT I AM DOING trying to take care of all these children. Where did they come from!? How did this happen?! These are the questions I ask myself when I am standing in my kitchen surrounded by wailing, tiny people who throw things when they are angry.

I don’t have the time or the energy to fabricate lies. I’m going to tell it to you straight. If I make it through this summer without doing something absolutely bat shit crazy, it will be a miracle.

Things that qualify as “bat shit crazy:”

  • Leaving my home in a state of undress, noticing, and not caring.
  • Seeing my kid(s) drink my coffee, noticing, and not caring.
  • Breaking any number of laws, noticing, and not caring.

Yesterday, it became apparent that they boys were going to tear apart the house — no, I’m totally serious. Tear. It. Up. — if I didn’t do something to snap them out of it. A walk, I thought. A family walk will calm them down. To clarify, “family” walk consists of me and three kids, because it was Wednesday and Robbie was at work. So after dinner, out we went.

We got three streets over and Asher tripped and fell, skinning up both knees and his hands. Two minutes later, Maverick tripped and fell, bloodying one knee so badly that it was running down his leg into his rain boot. Both boys were limping and bleeding and crying, and the baby started crying too, just because. I hyper-focused on getting us home, but little did I know that getting there was the easy part. The hard part was trying to triage two bleeding boys, plus a teething, cranky, crawling baby. The bathroom looked like a crime scene when I was done, bloody hand prints on the wall included.

Today brought a whole new set of totally weird and unprecedented experiences that I didn’t have time to dwell on until now. For example, the baby ate a ball of dirt at the indoor playground. I’m not sure if Maverick drank any water. I had pie for dinner.

I was supposed to be saving it for Robbie, but I ate it because I HAD TO. But you know, as long as I’m not eating a handful of crack because I HAD TO, I consider the day to be a success.

See how we all have our arms raised up in victory in the family portrait below? That’s because we just made it through another day where none of us ate a handful of crack.

Our family, drawn by Maverick, age 5

Our family, drawn by Maverick, age 5

We look like we did … but trust me, we didn’t.

V-I-C-T-O-R-Y.

Welcome To Hell.

Today I kinda snapped in the swimsuit section of Kohl’s.

Consider this my public apology to the kind lady who happened to walk up at the exact time of my snappage. I just made that word up, I think. I’ll add that to my Dictionary of Words I Say That Aren’t Really Words, right next to my other fave, “yellisper.”

Anyway, all I remember about the lady is that she had on a family reunion t-shirt and she looked a little surprised when I looked at her and yelled, “WELCOME TO HELL!” but she didn’t seem to judge me.

I tried to reign it in. I silently shopped in several other stores before I got to this one, the frustration building with each problem I encountered. The tankini top was perfect but the bottoms were made for someone with a tiny rear end. The mix-and-match section didn’t have anything in my size. Bikinis are out of the question. One-pieces are frumpy. Swim skirts just drew attention to what I was trying to cover up, and rather than look like I was smuggling potatoes to the beach I WILL JUST OWN MY THIGHS, THANK YOU.

By the time I yelled “WELCOME TO HELL!” I was so angry that I wanted to throw every ill-fitting shred of spandex/poly blend on the floor and stomp. Hard. And I really think I would have, except that I also wanted to hide in the car and cry.

There are a million blog posts and articles out there talking about bathing suit shopping, and they can all be condensed into one sentence.

Shopping for a bathing suit blows.

It would really make me happy if every article titled “Find Your Perfect Suit!” ended with something like, “Here are some tips to guide you, but overall, it’s going to blow. Godspeed.”

I came home and ate a healthy salad followed by Oreos, and thought about the torture women go through that straight men will never understand. Robbie does not realize that I spent the majority of my day self-loathing under florescent lights because I needed something to wear when I take the kids to the pool. He probably thinks I should wear one of the bathing suits I already have, and if he said that to me I would irrationally scream at him that I WOULD LOVE TO WEAR ONE OF THE CUTE ONES IN MY CLOSET BUT THREE DAMN PREGNANCIES MADE THAT IMPOSSIBLE, ROBBIE. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE NOW, SO LET’S JUST BURN THEM.

Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone. I’m ready to get my tan on, in my very sensible one-piece with a ruffle around the bottom.

 

Behold ... it is hell.

Behold … it is hell.

 

Graduation Day 2014.

I’m having a lot of trouble wrapping my head around how my kid went from this roly-poly wad,

To this handsome boy, the youngest in his class, graduating from Kindergarten with an award in Reading Excellence.

He wants to be a geologist when he grows up. I told him he can be whatever he wants to be. He’s Maverick. He’s a doer. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but something’s going to happen. That’s just how it is.

It’s weird how intimately you know your child, without them realizing you know them at all. I see qualities in him that he isn’t even aware of yet. I’m so proud of him, and so proud of me, because for a very long time I struggled and felt like I was failing because he was just … well, he was just awful. But now I think the awfulness is behind us because he understands that he doesn’t run our house.

It took a very long time for him to come to this understanding.

Maverick does not cower under authority figures, older kids, or bigger kids. Robbie and I took our three to the park a few months ago and we saw some of our friends there. One of the little girls climbed up a pole and was sitting on a bar. A mean little boy started yanking on her leg, trying to pull her down. Robbie and I noticed this because we heard Maverick’s voice, calm and clear cutting across the playground:”What are you doing? Leave her alone.”  

But the mean kid didn’t leave her alone, and Maverick didn’t back down. The kid pushed Maverick, but he stood his ground. He asked the boy to leave his friend alone, and the boy pushed him again and again, harder and harder. Maverick just popped right back, undeterred. Robbie and I discussed if we should get involved, but we decided no. We waited.

That was hard.

The mean kid ended up punching Maverick and it erupted into a fight, so we intervened at that point. I don’t want my son getting into playground fights on the regular, but I was proud of him for standing up for his friend. I was proud of him for not being afraid. I may have trouble knowing how to deal with some of his qualities, but I love his boldness — even when it manifests in questioning me. I love that he doesn’t just accept an answer. He pushes for more information, more explanation, more examples. 

So to my son I’ll say today, and again when he graduates from high school and then hopefully college: never stop pushing for more. There is an endless amount of knowledge, love, and fun to be had. 

I want you to have it all.



Something Worth Something.

I made it through Spring Break. Wow. I guess it was just a preview of what this summer will be like. A lot

A lot of good, a lot of bad, a lot of tears, a lot of laughter, A LOT OF CHAOS, and a lot of life. As hard as this is and as much as I struggle … and believe me, I struggle … I came away from that time exhausted and sunburned but feeling that good kind of tired that I feel when I know I’ve done hard, worthwhile work.

Maverick is 5 years and 7 months old and he now knows how to make his bed, take out the kitchen garbage, put a new bag in the can, set the table, and make his own sandwiches. He can also sweep and steam mop the kitchen with some help. He learned how to climb trees, which caterpillars are the stinging kind, and we’re working on tying his shoes. He can wash his own hair, takes a shower on his own and is pretty much all of the sudden a big boy.

Brothers sharing an afternoon snack.

Maverick picked a bouquet for me every day.

Climbing.

These are the things I had in mind when I signed up to be a stay-at-home mom. It brings me joy to sit outside on a blanket and watch my kids discover the world right there in their front yard. I love watching my younger kids watch their big brother. I love fostering independence in a safe environment.

We don’t have much money, so everything we do is simple — but it brings me so much happiness to see the magic that unfolds when you put a child outside and just let them do their thing. So while I may be nervous/terrified about the three months I’ll have this summer with my children, who will be 5, 2, and 1 years old … I think I can handle it? 

I was totally cringing with fright as I typed that sentence. I probably just jinxed myself for the next 7 years. Yikes. 

Anyway, clearly it’s not going to be easy, but I hope we can pull through it in one piece. And while I am certain the house and my eyebrows will be a hot mess, I hope I will feel kind of like I do now. Like I did something worth something. Because I did. I really, really did.

Watching big brother arduously drag the garbage can up to the house.

Bittersweet.

At 10 months and 2 days old, the baby finally crawled.

Raising little girls

It was so bittersweet. I was standing barefoot on a blanket watching her, and I thought I would burst with pride. Of my three children, she took the longest to start crawling, but she put the most work into learning. For almost 3 months she has been working on figuring it out, spending her nap times practicing in addition to countless frustrated hours on the floor.

It’s hard to watch your children try and fail and try again. Today I watched Maverick try to climb a tree. He insisted he needed help, but I refused. It was a low tree, and I was close by. He doesn’t know that I was climbing trees like a monkey when I was just a little older than him. I would take the canoe out alone and paddle around the lake at 8 years old. I haven’t told him much about what I was like as a little girl because I’m afraid he will think he can just jump into the nearest canoe and take off with it. He can’t swim yet … so I’ll hold off on my stories.

Looking back, it freaks me out to think about the things that my parents let me do. My mother must have been worried sick while I was off adventuring through the woods, but we had a big German Shepherd who always tagged along and — get this — nothing bad happened.

As I grew older, I found that a large majority of girls my age were fearful and lacked self-confidence because they had never been allowed or encouraged to be independent and/or strong.

Children won’t know what they are capable of if they are never allowed to DO ANYTHING, especially girls, who tend to have confidence issues to begin with. Sometimes by thinking you are protecting them, you’re actually stripping them of the one thing that is vital to their quality of life and happiness: their inner strength.

I understand now how hard it is to let go and hope nothing bad happens as you loosen your grip to allow your child more freedoms. It’s terrifying. I waffle between wanting to lock my children away from the world, and encouraging them to be as involved in it as possible so they can eventually, somehow, change it.

So … I say all of that to say, it’s a big moment for me and for my kid when he climbs his first tree. And, more notably, when his little sister finally crawls to the edge of the blanket to eat the grass she’s been eyeing for months.

As I swept her up and moved her away, pulling wads of clover from her tight grasp, I whispered “I AM SO PROUD OF YOU. YOU JUST KEEP GOING.”

And I know that she will.