Resist Urge To Scream.

This blog post is based on a series of real-life events.

6:30 a.m. Stumble to coffee maker. Mumble good morning to spouse. Wonder how this is happening again already.

7:00 a.m. Breakfast.

7:30 a.m. Tell Robbie goodbye. Hold screaming child back as he tries to run after the car. Brew another cup of coffee.

9:15 a.m. Look out of the kitchen window to see Asher standing naked in the driveway and Maverick on the roof of our vehicle with the water hose. Both are screaming.

9:16 a.m. Choose to ignore staring neighbors.

9:30 a.m. Boys come inside because they both have to poop and we don’t allow them to poop in the yard.

9:45 a.m. Pepper touches my unshaven legs while trying to climb into my lap and gets very upset because they “ouched” her.

9:46 a.m. Took a picture of her subsequent screaming because she wouldn’t stop and I didn’t know what else to do.

This is an actual photo of my child crying because she touched my hairy legs.

This is an actual photo of my child crying because she touched my hairy legs.

10:00 a.m. Take stock of my day.

10:10 a.m. Brew another cup of coffee.

10:15 a.m. Realize that the only method of survival is pool time.

10:45 a.m. Head to the pool.

Asher would wear his goggles 24/7 if we let him.

Asher would wear his goggles 24/7 if we let him.

11:00 a.m. Check Pepper into the nursery.

11:05 a.m. Arrive at pool with the boys and look for a lounge chair. The first two I sit in are broken. Resist urge to scream.

11:07 a.m. Move to chair number three. Notice that the lifeguard is looking at me from behind his smug hipster sunglasses.

Resist urge to scream.

11:09 a.m. OH MY GOD THIS CHAIR IS FUCKING BROKEN TOO.

12:00 p.m. Head home.

12:30 p.m. Prepare lunch that no one is excited about, including me.

1:30 p.m. Decide that the world will not end if Asher wears his Darth Vader costume to the grocery store.

This photo pretty much sums up my entire Summer. A whole lotta Darth.

This photo pretty much sums up my entire Summer. A whole lotta Darth.

1:45 p.m. Load kids into the van. Go inside to pee in peace.

1:48 p.m. Return to van and discover emergency brake was pulled while I was inside. No one will own up to it. Both boys are now buckled into their car seats. Realize I have never used the emergency brake in this vehicle. Unable to locate it because three children are yelling.

Resist urge to scream.

1:50 p.m. Call Robbie at work and ask him to tell me where the emergency brake is. FORBID HIM TO JUDGE ME.

2:00 p.m. Arrive at grocery store. Plunk Pepper into a shopping cart and find that the seat belt is broken. Select another cart. The seat belt is broken on that one, too.

Resist urge to scream.

2:25 p.m. Buy potatoes. Open “share size” bag of M&M’s in the checkout line and cram them furiously into my mouth.

Refuse to share.

3:00 p.m. Make potato salad from scratch. Wonder who fucking makes potato salad from scratch anymore because it’s a lot of fucking work.

3:10 p.m. Spend the next 30 minutes making sure my toddler doesn’t get burned by the pot of boiling water.

4:10 p.m. Verify Asher’s arm is not broken.

4:11 p.m.  Remind Maverick that no one wants to see his private parts.

4:15 p.m. Get band-aid and ice pack for injured child. Scream at boys to stop trying to put toys up their behinds. Finish potato salad.

4:20 p.m. Locate a large glass bowl and dump it in. Notice that the bowl is broken and there are shards of glass now mixed into the potato salad.

4:21 p.m. Walk outside to throw broken dish and the potato salad away.

Scream.

Screaming

No caption needed.

4:25 p.m. Count the days until school starts.

5:00 p.m. Start cooking dinner.

6:00 p.m. Wine.

7:00 p.m. Count the days until school starts again.

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Motherhood Can Be Jarring.

Tonight I got really sad all of a sudden because my children are getting SO big, SO fast, that it’s jarring. It takes a substantial amount of something to truly jar me. I stood in our darkened living room, watching my boys, and tears spilled onto my cheeks as I whispered to my husband, “Asher doesn’t need his blanket anymore.”

He used to need it.

I am jarred.

I know that a lot of mothers who are also writers seem to go on and on about the beauty and sadness that comes with seeing your children grow up. This post is just one among thousands like it. In fact, I wrote one almost exactly like this one, almost exactly one year ago, and it still makes me cry when I read it. (If you want to read it, click here.)

Except that, as I pulled my toddler into my lap tonight to rock and sing to her before I tucked her into bed, her legs dragged farther down than last week. And as I stroked her hair and talked to her softly, she talked to me back. She answered my questions, my mindless questions, the ones I apparently ask every night without thinking.

“Pepper, are you sleepy?”

“No. Pepper not sweepy.”

“Do you want to sing a song?”

“Yes! Sing a song! Siiiiiiiilent night, hoooooooly night … “

She used to be so tiny. Now she could climb out of her crib, if she wanted to. She climbed out of the bath tub today. I walked away for a minute, heard a THUMP, and there she was, dripping wet in the hallway.

“I get out?” she said.

Yep … you got out.” Bath time was over.

8-month-old Penelope. Back when she was tiny.

8-month-old Penelope. Back when she was tiny.

My oldest child is going to be taller than me one day. Much taller. I know this because he is 6 years old and the top of his head is boob-high already. He is all arms and legs.

He can read. I catch him peeking over my shoulder trying to catch a glimpse of what I’m working on.

He gets my jokes.

He used to scream unintelligibly when I asked him to put his pajamas on, and now he’s talking about the anatomy of bugs and asking me questions about space travel.

I used to know the answers to all of his questions.

I don’t anymore.

This photo was taken in 2012 when we announced that I was pregnant with baby #3!

This photo was taken in 2012 when we announced that I was pregnant with baby #3!

My middle child was so attached to his green blanket that he wore it to pieces and we had to replace it with a brown one. We fretted over how long he would drag it around.

Then, suddenly, he stopped. And I cried. I CRIED ABOUT MY CHILD GROWING OUT OF A HABIT THAT DROVE THE WHOLE FAMILY CRAZY.

When my babies were babies.

21-month-old Asher with his blanket and brand-new baby sister.

It’s so weird, this motherhood thing. The things that cause me pain can also bring me great joy, and the things that irritate the ever-loving shit out of me are also sorely missed when they stop.

I stepped over my children to make my way out of the living room tonight, wiping the tears from my cheeks. I stopped for a moment and leaned down to tell Asher goodnight. He smiled up at me, dimples cracking.

We whispered back and forth for a moment, saying our good-nights, and then he paused.

Mommy? Can you get me my blanket?

Yes.

Yes, I most certainly can.

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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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My Wife Bonus.

I survived my first real week of Summer.

The boys played tug o’ war with the water hose. They pulled and pulled with all their might, but the other end was stuck to the house. In the end, the house won.

My middle child walked around for most of the week with a large human bite mark on his face — big, purple, teeth-shaped marks on his cheek and eyebrow. I told myself it looked like dirt and tried not to worry about it.

They're pretty darn cute.

They’re pretty darn cute when they aren’t raising hell.

Our washing machine stopped spinning properly, so I have to wash tiny loads instead of normal-sized ones … which means my laundry pile seriously never ends. Robbie doesn’t seem to understand the enormity of this problem. He shrugged and said (and I quote), “Just stick your hand in there and get it going by doing this” and modeled how to jump-start the spin cycle.

I don’t have time for that kind of bullshit. I’m too busy screaming at the boys to stop drinking muddy water and keeping our youngest from hurtling herself through a window. I NEED THE WASHING MACHINE TO FUNCTION. I do not want to spin the washing machine by hand. I’m not that kind of woman. I don’t even enjoy camping without a real bathroom.

You know what kind of woman I am?

The kind who likes to get her hair done. The kind who dislikes broken things.

I went to the Beehive Salon this week, and I love what they did so much that it doesn’t matter that I had to pay for overpriced childcare in order to make it to my appointment. It was worth every penny, and I consider it my “wife bonus” for keeping everyone alive. (Have you read this ridiculous article in the New York Post about the “wife bonus?” Not that I’m against wives getting a bonus. I’m not. I just can’t imagine living that kind of lifestyle. Probably because instead of a $1,500 Burberry trench coat, I own a Nike zip-up hoodie.)

I leave for the BlogU Conference next week (!!!) and I simply could not meet all of these exciting people with two inches of roots showing. I also got my eyebrows waxed for the first time since my wedding almost a decade ago.

It is my hope that everyone I meet will be so mesmerized by flawless brows and smooth upper lip that they will want to work with me on projects that pay in real money, and magically my children will have childcare arrangements … and little blue birds will carry my laptop to me every morning while the mice make my coffee.

PicMonkey CollageI left my pride all over town this week. I injured myself in Kickboxing class. I had to jump into the kiddie pool and drag my defiant, screaming three-year-old out by his puddle jumper.

I bought something that I thought was a shirt, but it’s actually a dress.

I feel my age.

But my hair looks damn good.

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A Very Short Story.

The next time someone comments that I am wound too tight or that I “just need to relax,” I’m going to remind them of the time that Robbie and our oldest child went on a camping trip and left me home with our two younger children, and I decided that the best way for me to power through a weekend with a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old is to stay as busy as possible by doing things like going swimming at my parent’s house where I forgot to lock the deadbolt behind us when we returned and my youngest child escaped without anyone noticing and made it almost to the parking lot before I came running and screaming after her.

The end.

(Guzzles wine.)

20150516_173852(If you liked this post, then you will LOVE I Still Just Want To Pee Alone! Click here to find out more!)

All I Need To Know Today

I just want to breathe.

Right this very moment, my toddler is screaming from her crib and my middle child is playing with a roll of duct tape behind me, making that “riiiiiiip” sound over and over.

It’s nap time, obviously.

I need to breathe.

I have spent months struggling to find my breath. I have felt the actual sensation of my spirit sinking as I slogged through the hard parts of mothering, digging deep for just one more day of a little more patience and a little more strength. Just enough to get me through the day, because I’m not greedy … and also because I can’t allow myself to think too far beyond whatever is happening right in front of me.

I am weary, turned inside-out, and emotionally rubbed raw. I have found myself asking aloud, when does it end? Because surely, somewhere down the road, I will have a chance to regroup before the teenage years hit. Right? Surely it doesn’t stay this exact brand of demanding forever.

And then, clarity hit. That’s what always happens — months of painful slogging, followed by an epiphany. If my life were to have a working title, it would be “I Had Another Epiphany And Everyone Eyerolled.”

I was cleaning up my daughter after another accident when it struck me that the opportunity to care for others is a sacred thing. Cleaning them, feeding them, looking after them.

Raising them.

The quieting of their cries at the sound of your voice. The endless smiles. The begging for you to sing at bedtime, when you are exhausted and want nothing more than to dump them in their beds and lock yourself in a room alone to stare in silence. But watching those little bodies relax as you acquiesce and sing “Silent Night” for the thousandth time, only walk to the next bedroom and do it all over again with the next one … THAT is a sacred experience.

That is what keeps me going.

Being a parent is hard. It’s so much work, but it is holy work, regardless of what your beliefs may be. Guiding children to adulthood is by far the biggest and most serious responsibility I have taken on in my life. I’ve had people say I must be a sad person if being a mom was the greatest thing I’ve ever done.

Fuck them.

It is by far the greatest thing I have ever done, and if I can somehow manage to shepherd these kids into adulthood as functioning, mannerly, positive contributors to society … then it will be the greatest thing I WILL EVER DO.

My exhaustion is worth something. Yours is, too.

That’s all I need to know today.

20150328_080516If you liked this post, then you will LOVE I Still Just Want To Pee Alone! Click here to find out more!

When Christians Curse.

What happens when a person (me) who calls herself a Christian (I am) uses inappropriate language in print?

1. Upon seeing herself in an actual book, she screams “HOLY SHIT!”

2. She burrows under the covers, fearing judgement from those who will read it. Her husband coaxes her out with coffee and scrambled eggs.

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3. Her husband also finds her bio with the rest of the authors, and points out the irony of the F-word being in the same sentence with “loves God.”

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4. They laugh. And cringe. But mostly laugh.

The language. The admission of drinking. The brutal honesty. Is this “Christian?” Some would say no, and I accept that. I was raised a third-generation Seventh-day Adventist, surrounded by wonderful, warm, God-loving people who did not drop F-bombs. I’ve never heard my mother use inappropriate language, and I myself don’t use it out loud that often. I’m thankful for my conservative upbringing, because I do believe in God and I do hold my children to a high moral standard.

I also drink wine at night after I have prayed with them and tucked them into bed.

I try my best not to scream expletives around them, ever.

I sometimes fail at this.

But you know, some people get my writing and some people don’t. That is totally okay. I do not expect everyone everywhere to agree with me or love what I do. I understand if there are people who think I’ve gone off the deep end or turned my back on my upbringing, although both of those assumptions are incorrect.

You know what is a virtually impossible achievement? TO MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY.

I realize that there are lots people out there who don’t want to read my work, and I get that, because I am also very picky about what I read. We are all different and we like different things. That’s a good thing! I embrace diversity. I also know that thinking too much about the opinions of others is the quickest way to kill creativity. My one big rule is this: if my husband is not okay with it, then it doesn’t get published.

I guess my point is, I refuse to allow the fear of judgement to hold me back. This is the one thing I have in common with Taylor Swift. That, and the fact that we’re both very, very white.

This — my writing — is me, in honest form. If I tried hard to glaze over the grittiness of life, then I would not be speaking my truth. Some people are good at writing nicely. I’m good at writing honestly. And honestly, life is hard.

I only recently started referring to myself as a writer. When I say it out loud, it makes me weirdly and inappropriately emotional. My eyes well up and I choke a little, and then I feel stupid. Maybe eventually I’ll get used to saying it, but for now I just feel blessed to be able to back up that title with some pretty awesome accomplishments.

Buckle your seatbelts, bitches.

No Go.

I was gone for the weekend and it was absolutely glorious.

When my dear friend — who is due to deliver her first child next month — spotted me at the airport, she ducked underneath the railing that you’re supposed to stand behind when you’re waiting for arrivals, and we embraced in front of a rather enormous audience. There was a vague awareness of people saying AWWWWW, but we were in our own little world, off to vegan restaurants and IKEA.

I guess I have a lot of friends, but that is because I’m an extrovert and I have this weird need to connect that doesn’t make sense to the introverts in my life. Particularly since becoming a mother, I NEED TO CONNECT.

People mistakenly assume extroverts are never lonely and always feel understood, but that isn’t true for me. At all. I think it’s because I am always looking for my kindred spirits because they “get” me and I can understand them on a deeper level. I have a small number of people in my life who truly know me, know who I am, all the way down to my soul, and love me because of it or in spite of it or maybe both. Kate is one of those people, and I was so, so happy to see her.

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I loved every quiet moment of my weekend away. I sat down a lot, laughed a lot, and cried a lot of happy tears. I was happy to get home last night, but I really wasn’t ready to leave my friend.

Here we are before her baby shower. Isn’t she awfully cute for a 34-weeks-pregnant person?

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I felt self-conscious because I was supposed to be wearing a pair of black skinny jeans. I bought a brown pair which were identical in design and size, and they fit fine, so I never bothered to try the black pair on.

Always try the black pair on.

I couldn’t get them on my body. I ended up going with the brown leggings which are basically tights, and my “dress” or “shirt” or whatever the hell it was is pretty short. I was not comfortable with any of it, but I told myself that Kate was much more uncomfortable than I was because she is kangaroo-pouching an unborn child the size of a small pot roast … so, I kept my complaints to myself.

I returned home to this. Among other things.

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When I went into Pepper’s room to get her out of her crib this morning, she was so happy to see me and I swear she said “I wuv wu.”

AND THEN, as I told her I loved her too, and I am so happy to be home but I had SO MUCH FUN while I was gone, she said “Mommy.”

I stopped talking and listened.

And that is when I heard my daughter say her first real, intelligible sentence: “Mommy no go bye-bye.”

I guess when you have three kids, you no longer feel guilty for taking time for yourself because it is a NEED THAT MUST BE HAD. If I didn’t leave sometimes, my family would get the very worst version of me, and no one wants that. No one.

When Pepper said what she said, I hugged her warm, roly-poly body close against mine and said, I’m not going anywhere.

Not today, anyway.

 

When Children Learn To Read.

You know what’s hilarious? Overhearing a first-grader reading an Anne Taintor calendar out loud.

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Slowly and painfully he read from the October page, “There’s a very fine line between medicated and over-medicated. Hey Mommy, what does ‘medicated’ mean?”

I just laughed and hurried him out the door, feeling pretty proud of my 6-year-old who over the past few months has started to REALLY read. That feeling of pride continued until the next evening, when I caught him in our bedroom trying to sound out the second word on a greeting card my friend Kelli sent almost 2 years ago.

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I turned the corner and saw him studying it closely, mumbling to himself “You’re … f …

I quickly redirected him and shoved the card deep under a stack of papers, and once he was out of sight I stood still for awhile and let the waves of mom fail wash over me. I am well aware that there are many things worse that hearing your child trying to sound out the F-word, but I can’t think of them right now … unless it’s the time last week when Robbie and I were chatting with Maverick after the other kids were in bed, and we were making up rhymes.

Maverick was silly and tired, and I was just about to suggest it was time for bed when the following came out of his mouth, and I quote: “You don’t have a wiener, Mommy. You have a pagina. Starts with a ‘P’ and ends with a ‘gina.’ Do you have the Great Wall of China in there? How does it fit?”

Robbie turned his head away, his body shaking with silent laughter, as I sat frozen and speechless.

That.

THAT is worse than hearing him try to sound out the F-word.