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.

My Best Friend Brother.

If you passed by our house this evening and didn’t stop to stare at us through the kitchen windows, you missed out on quite a show.

It was 6 p.m. The boys were wild, the baby was that teething kind of cranky, and I was exhausted. Robbie arrived home excitedly trying to tell me that he won tickets to the LSU game this weekend, and I wanted to hear all about it, but couldn’t focus — the high-pitched shrieks of our third born were filling my ears. A few minutes later, I left my half-eaten dinner on the table and swept her out of her high chair for a bath.

As I got her dressed for bed, I could hear dishes clinking and voices chattering and I relaxed a little, thinking that in just a little while the kids would be in bed and I could breathe. Robbie came to tell the baby good night and lingered for a few minutes, talking to her.

And that is when the boys had a food fight.

Before we realized what was happening, our kitchen was covered in sticky white grains of rice and ketchup. It took me a full hour to clean it all up while Robbie addressed discipline. I considered briefly making them help me, but the rice coating the floor was turning into a grayish glue that got stickier the more I touched it.

It. Was. A. Mess.

As I wiped ketchup off the baseboards, my rage turned into exhaustion which turned into tears. I easily could have asked Robbie to clean up the kitchen (he had already started sweeping) while I dealt with the boys, but I was so angry I chose to be sequestered in the kitchen where no one could talk to me until I was done. And now my kitchen is spotless; the floor under the table was mopped properly for the first time since we moved here.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend about how hard this phase of life is. Every year is hard, in a different hard way. They say it gets easier and I can see that it does, but “easier” doesn’t necessarily mean “not hard.” It just means “not as insanely difficult as it is right this minute.” But even as angry as I was, picking gluey, dirty rice off of my kitchen floor and pausing to wipe mascara and tears off my face (I put on an even better show than the boys did — be sorry you missed it), I was still grateful. Is this what I’ll miss one day when they are grown up and gone? Because I’m fairly certain I’m going to block it out.

When I hugged my boys and kissed them goodnight before bed, they each apologized for what they had done. Asher smiled his dimply heartbreaker grin and whispered “I sowwy, Mommy.” Maverick looked at me worriedly with his big round eyes, concerned that he’d really done it this time — he’d pushed me too far and I didn’t love him anymore.

“I love you NO MATTER WHAT, Maverick,” I said. “Now … don’t ever do that again.” And I felt his body relax.

These boys that cause me so much grief and leave so much destruction in their wake have my heart in their hands. So maybe what I’ll miss one day won’t be the cleaning up after them so much as the wide-eyed, “I’m sorry I threw ketchup at my best friend brother, Mommy, really, I am,” apologies that follow. Because they call each other best friend brother. And really … who can stay mad at that?!

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The Day We Stopped Yelling.

I used to talk a lot about my oldest child’s behavior problems, but if you are a long time reader, you have probably noticed that has tapered off some. I still have stories I could share DAILY, but instead of focusing on what my kid is doing that seems sociopathic, I am really trying to focus on the things he’s doing well. Positive parenting and all that. Plus, by the end of the day, I’m just glad it’s over. No need to rehash.  I made it, we’re safe. The end. Well done.

Maverick is an amazing kid, but he has issues with anger and is very (VERY) oppositional by nature. He is a brilliant, demanding, complicated child and he gets every single difficult characteristic from his father … obviously.

Some issues have calmed with age and maturity, but other things seem to be running deeper and becoming more serious. After a few recent events, I realized that we need to make some changes to our parenting style. Things that used to work for us are no longer working, and over time Robbie and I have become … cringe … yellers.

Just admitting that makes me uncomfortable. We were not yellers in the beginning, neither of us came from yelling households, and now we are yellers. There are a million excuses and reasons I could give for why that is, but it doesn’t matter because we are the parents and we set the tone. I don’t want to live in a yelling household, and yet we do. That’s not the tone I want to set.

In the worst moments of my day, generally between 4-6:30 p.m., I have an out-of-body experience where I hear myself screaming at my children like a maniac because no one’s listening and everyone’s throwing food on the floor and acting like hoodlums from SOMEONE ELSE’S HOUSE, CERTAINLY NOT MINE, BECAUSE WHAT KIND OF MOTHER HAS CHILDREN WHO ACT THIS WAY?! The mom I saw, I didn’t like. I didn’t even recognize her. I thought she was better than that. She used to be, when she had one kid. But then she had two and then three and she felt ill-equipped to handle her oldest, complicated child because her life was overwhelming. Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed it’s hard to gain clarity to see how things really are.

Robbie started yelling more when he was home. And then we saw our kids start to model that behavior. Yesterday I had flash-forward of Maverick at 14, towering over me and screaming “You’re an idiot!” refusing to comply with anything I asked of him, and that was it. I was done. No more yelling, and Robbie agreed.

That was last night. This morning, Asher woke up first. He had pooped his pants. I changed him and put the dirty diaper in a shopping bag, tossing it out on the carport to put in the big garbage can later. Robbie woke up with the stomach bug that is traveling from member to member of our household. He dragged himself around, getting ready for work; he was going anyway, even though he felt terrible. So for all the people who are buying a Kia today — stock up on charcoal tablets. You’re going to need them. Wash your hands if you shake hands with Robbie Hobbs.

We reminded each other over breakfast that we were no longer going to yell at the kids. This was going to be The Day We Stopped Yelling.

And then.

Maverick wouldn’t stop picking on Asher. Asher wouldn’t stop screaming like he was being skinned alive. The baby wouldn’t let me put her down. Robbie kept having to run to the bathroom. The chaos escalated. The tension level rose. We took deep breaths. Asher tried to drill the baby with his toy drill. He hit her with a metal toy. We breathed more deeply. We told Maverick he had to run laps in the yard. He crossed his arms and said “I will NOT.”

I took a deep, deep breath, holding the baby while Asher clung to my leg. I would not yell. I would be calm. I can’t do this, I thought. 

And that is when I saw it.

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The next door neighbors are doing construction on their house which has prevented Asher from napping for two full weeks. I haven’t mentioned it here, but their damn dog keeps getting out. He’s a friendly dog, and harmless I guess, but he’s huge and hyper and scares the kids because he jumps on them. Last time he got out, I marched next door and asked the construction worker to make sure they don’t let him out because I have little kids and we like to be outside.

Well, this morning I looked out my kitchen window to see that very same dog eating Asher’s poop diaper and strewing it all over our front yard.

And I yelled.

But not at my kids. So does it count? I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know: since this morning, Maverick has acted like a lunatic several times. Normally I would have yelled at him, but because today is The Day We Stopped Yelling, I stopped what I was doing, got down on my knees and looked in his eyes. I took his hands in my hands and quietly asked him to stop doing whatever it was that he was doing, and it worked. Now, do I have time to stop what I’m doing to calmly ask something of my children? No. I also don’t really have time to pee or feed anyone, but it has to be done anyway.

Not yelling is exhausting. But the alternative is unacceptable. Do you yell? Did your parents yell? HELP ME! (I yelled that at you.)

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.