Bedtime Prayers: A Tale Of An Ugly Cry

We don’t attend church.

We should. I’d like to. But first, we’d have to find a religion that Robbie and I both feel comfortable with, and then we’d have to physically go to a building. Dressed presentably. All 5 of us.

Big hurdles.

However, I do pray with my kids. We pray before meals and before school, when I remember. My favorite thing, though, is praying with them at night before bed. It makes me feel better, like no matter what kind of shit day we’ve had, if I can end it all on a decent note then we’re all going to be alright.

Tonight I was so tired. I just wanted them to put themselves to bed and let me lie down, but that isn’t how life works. Robbie works all the time now, and I have a lot on my plate and … blah, blah, blah.

By 7 p.m. I am just done.

Homework

Homework time.

I tuck Pepper in first, followed by Asher half an hour later, and then finally Maverick. By the time I get around to Maverick I’m spent, which is unfortunate because he asks the most difficult questions of the three and he likes to wait until bedtime to ask them.

A few examples:

“Mommy? Is ‘bitch’ a bad word?”

“What does it mean when I raise my middle finger?”

“What countries have you visited outside of the U.S., and why did you choose them?”

“How do you say ‘it’s hot in here’ in Spanish?”

“Can two boys marry each other?”

Tonight, I was spared the difficult questions. I think he could sense that I was exhausted. I tucked him in, feeling sad that I was too tired to talk more, thinking of his little brother and how I wished I’d given in and read him a second book — but he wanted to read that book about cats that takes half a lifetime to read, and I just could not do it.

I thought about my two-year-old and how she kept asking “What’s this?” and pointing to her wrist and then my wrist, and I maybe should have spent more time talking to her about our wrists and how they magically connect our hands to our arms.

Maverick chattered to himself as he settled into bed and I thought the aforementioned thoughts. I smoothed back his hair as I started praying, but I was too tired to make it a good one. I basically said, Thank you God for giving me Maverick. Please help me be the best mother I can be for him. And please, please help him to be a good boy.

My son looked straight at me and laughed.

“That was silly,” he said.

“I know. I’m just so tired.”

“No, you don’t understand what I mean.” His eyes bored into me.

I sat up straighter. “What?”

“Of course I’m going to be a good boy,” he said. “You’re a good mother. Why WOULDN’T I be good?” He patted me. “Silly Mommy.”

I was thankful for the darkness that hid my ugly cry.

Is there ever a time when your child reaches a point where you can finally sit back and think to yourself DAMN, I DID A GOOD JOB? Because I look forward to that.

Maybe my kid is right, you know. Maybe I am already the best mother I can humanly, possibly be, and that is enough.

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Terrible Choices In Footwear.

Robbie and I just got back from a 5-night trip to New York City. It was amazing and hilarious and he almost stepped on a rat in Times Square, but I’m going to save all of those stories for later. Right now I want to talk about my terrible choices in footwear.

Here are the shoes I brought with me.

Packing Light

Now, don’t hate. I don’t get out much, especially without children, and I love an excuse to dress up.

I’m one of those girls who does not wear tennis shoes unless she is also wearing workout wear.

It’s totally fine if you just eye rolled me. I get it.

My family thinks I’m crazy, but it’s just how I’ve always been and I’m not sure how to be any different. It’s like a compulsion. When I think about things from a logical standpoint, I know that it doesn’t make sense to choose discomfort over comfort simply because it looks better, but isn’t that the very same line of thinking that would require me to also stop wearing Spanx under my dresses?!? 

You know how sometimes a thought is so horrible that you have to actively choose to un-think it and never visit it again? That’s where I am with that. Because I REQUIRE Spanx.

So back to packing, I was feeling very smug about how smart and impressively pragmatic it was to bring tennis shoes with me for a days-long tour of a metropolitan area.

Look at how well I adult. Check out my skilled adulting. I am so adult-like that I packed my New Balance because that is the SENSIBLE thing to do. Adults make good choices. I am clearly making good choices. See my good choice?!

I DAZZLE ME.

But then, we arrived in New York. And even though I had comfortable options, my new black booties called to me. I chose to answer the day we visited The American Museum of Natural History …

Which was followed by a walk through Central Park …

Which was followed by a lengthy trek through the subway system.

Bad choices in footwearI WAS IN SO MUCH PAIN. At the time that this photo was taken, I was begging Robbie to get us a cab so we could just stop walking.

He pretended not to hear. He calls that “tough love.”

I’ll let you imagine what I called it.

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You Can Sleep When You’re Dead: Lessons From My 6-Year-Old

Maverick just wants to have fun.

That’s simple, right? He’s a kid — of course that’s what he wants.

I feel dumb saying this, but I’m going to say it anyway simply because I can: I have spent the past 6.5 years feeling frustrated on and off,  because I couldn’t figure this kid out. He is an enigma. If you know me personally or have followed my blog for awhile, you know what I’m talking about.

I did all the right things, and they didn’t work. I read a lot of books. I got a lot of pitying looks and comments from people who parented “easy” children. It all made me feel like something was wrong with me, or maybe something was wrong with him, or, most likely, something was wrong with my husband. I can always figure out a way to make things his fault.

At best, my son is a delightful, charming, witty, beacon of joy with a very clear, loud voice. He generally shouts, which is why I categorize his tone into “talk-shouting” and “shout-shouting,” which is not the same as the “yellisper” that I tend to do when I’m really upset.

Today I yawned, and he noticed, because he notices everything, and he talk-shouted, “MOMMY, YOU CAN SLEEP WHEN YOU’RE DEAD.”

Truth.

At the store, he shout-shouted, “OH MY GOSH, MOMMY, IT’S CHARMIN ULTRA-STRONG. WE HAVE TO GET IT. YOU KNOW HOW DADDY USES SO MUCH TOILET PAPER? THIS WILL SOLVE THE PROBLEM.”

Older ladies giggled as they wheeled their carts past us. One woman looked at me and whispered as she reached for the Kleenex, I had three of them, too. They’re adorable.

Thank you, I said. Because really, what else is there to say? They are. And this lady was still alive, after raising her three to adulthood. There is hope for me.

###

I’ve written about Maverick countless times. The tantrums. The mood swings. My inability to cope. The list of my concerns was endless, just like the notes sent home by his preschool teacher. “I have a problem child,” I’ve said over and over to close friends and family. “He’s a wonderful boy … but he is so hard to parent.”

Other people’s children would follow directions without arguing. Other people’s children would happily dig holes in dirt. Meanwhile, I looked out the kitchen window to see him buckle his little brother into the Radio Flyer wagon and shove him down the driveway.

Maverick has big ideas. Maverick is an entertainer. Maverick loves to laugh.

A year or two ago, epic battles waged when I was home alone with two, and later, three children for very long, hard days. I would collapse on the couch after wrestling them into bed, feeling like an utter failure in a million different ways and wondering what the hell was wrong with my eldest child.

My husband assured me I was doing a great job. “You’ll see,” he’d say. “He’s just like I was at that age. He’ll be fine.” But in the back of my mind I always worried, not because my husband isn’t an amazing man, but because of what he went through to get there. Do mothers know when their children are psychopaths? Was my child a psychopath? Would I recognize it in him if it were so?

And then, because I’m in a newly-released book and there are a lot of random promotional-type requests for head shots and snippets or, in this particular case, childhood photos, I went to my parent’s house. My baby pictures, which were once encased in a thick, emerald green photo album — the old kind, with sticky pages — are now tucked safely in a photo box. My mom sat on the couch as I opened the cabinet and pulled out the container.

It was heavy with memories.

For the next hour, we sifted through the faded photographs. I was a happy child, grinning in almost every single picture. Looking at 6-year-old me made me feel like I was home. Do you know that feeling? It feels like this picture looks. Like fun and carefree silliness in the warm sun with no one around to see it. That was my childhood in a nutshell.

11137113_10155648088130508_2407219665916664432_nI was lost in thought when I heard my mom say something that caught my attention.

“You laughed all the time,” she said. “Just like Maverick.”

Just like Maverick.

Just like my son. My mysterious, challenging, emotionally-charged son. The one who is too smart for even our craftiest parenting tricks. The one who at age 3 asked us if Santa Claus was real, and knowing I could never lie to him, lest he never trust anyone ever again, I took a deep breath and matter-of-factly stated that Santa is not real.

Same with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and every other make-believe creature, which forced me to endure years of chastising from my husband for robbing our child of a magical childhood. I don’t know what to say, people. I’m not a liar, and Maverick is a challenge. I do the best I can.

I went home replaying what my mom said: I laughed all the time, just like Maverick.

Laughing gets me through a lot.

###

This week Maverick is on Spring Break, and I have spent my time really paying attention to his laughter. This worked out well for me, because in all seriousness the extra laughs saved me from having a major meltdown. I made a conscious effort to practice laughing with my child who loves to laugh. Instead of getting annoyed with his flair for drama, I made jokes about it and we both ended up giggling. No one was mad. There were no slammed doors. One afternoon we even chorused together in angst, “LIFE IS HARD!”

Because it is.

When he whined about what was for dinner, I assured him he would love it — it’s POOP CASSEROLE! His favorite! We shared knowing looks and a lot of inside jokes this week. My mom was right. Maverick loves to laugh … just like me.

If there is anything I understand, it’s humor.

And because of that, I finally understand my son.

20150408_102501 20150408_10250511129289_10155659855420508_589426995_nIf you liked this post, then you will LOVE I Still Just Want To Pee Alone! Click here to find out more!

Not Bringing Sexy Back.

Being a stay-at-home mom is slowly but surely turning me into a socially awkward person. Oh, you don’t know what I mean? Let me show you.
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Robbie and I went tailgating at an LSU game a few weeks ago. Yes, that is a stripper pole. Don’t you love how I’m gripping it for dear life? I could never, EVER be any kind of exotic dancer and the reasons are too numerous to list here … but I think you can see why.

Today I was talking about how I can’t seem to move my body in the snakelike motion that some women in my Zumba class do. I can’t do a body roll. I can’t shake my upper body. I can’t … shimmy. I’m basically an uptight white girl, but I keep going to Zumba because it’s fun. My friend Shannon shrugged and said, “It’s all about what high school you went to. That’s where you learn.”

I stopped dead in my tracks. My high school didn’t allow dancing — like, at all. Also on the list of forbidden things: unnatural-looking nail polish, caffeinated beverages, hand-holding with the opposite sex, and good music.

I am so screwed.

All About That Bass.

I am so over the self-hate. SO OVER IT.

My body is not perfect. It will never be perfect. I’ve had three children, and I wasn’t exactly bikini-ready before I starting having them. Honestly it’s surprising to me that I can fit into some of the outdated fashions of my pre-pregnancy years, but the clothes don’t look the same. I have to stuff my muffin top down and hoist the girls up and some things don’t zip. Which is fine, because if I wore that thing from 2005 I would look like a mom who just managed to squeeze herself back into her favorite pair of wide-legged jeans, and is that really a good look? I submit no.

I’m active. I can chase kids down. I can pick them up. I can load and unload children, laundry, and groceries. In ways I’m fairly certain that I’m stronger now than I have ever been.

I exercise because it makes me feel better — because when I don’t do it, I start feeling like I need to be medicated. I can drop my kids off for two hours at the gym nursery and be alone with my thoughts in a brightly-lit gym with clanking weights and sweaty strangers, and for now, that’s enough.

Recently I stripped down and informed Robbie to take a good long look, because short of spending a large portion of my day consumed with diet and exercise (unwilling) or getting plastic surgery (unable), it’s not going to get any better than THIS RIGHT HERE. 

I was half-drunk when I made this proclamation and also half-kidding, but it was so empowering that I’ve been telling all my girlfriends they should do it. Like, today. Not when they lose 5 more pounds. Not when their period is over and they aren’t so bloated.

TODAY.

To my surprise (Which kind of makes me sad, because why is it so surprising?) my husband is more than happy with THIS. And then I had this thought: Maybe if I strip down every single day from now until we’re 65, he won’t notice the subtle changes. Maybe he will think I look exactly the same as I did in my early twenties.

Maybe I, along with every musician who ever sang about big butts, am an effing genius.

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source: amazon.com

The Psycho Threes.

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Asher is in a difficult phase I like to call the “psycho threes.” Based on prior experience, I expect it to last until he’s about 5 years old.

I’m pretty much over it and it only began in earnest a few weeks ago, the epic meltdowns and unintelligible screaming over things like his sister sneezing on him or touching him or touching his blanket or staring at him.

Sometimes it’s over things like the fact that I broke his banana off the bunch because HE WANTED TO DO IT, or because there is sand on his hands after he got in the sandbox or there is a rock in his shoe after he walked through gravel.

I’ve gotten better this time around (because Maverick’s third year of life was literally the hardest year of mine, and this experience by comparison isn’t that bad) at maneuvering the whole living-with-a-tiny-psycho thing … but it wears on me. A lot. It begins first thing in the morning when he can’t get his blanket to hang just right on the back of his chair at the breakfast table, and it ends approximately 12 hours later when someone pulls the plug on his bath because HE WANTED TO DO IT.

Some days I handle it better than others. There have been many days lately where I just sat down and cried with him because I didn’t know what was wrong or how to fix it and frankly, I needed a good cry. Being a mother is so, so hard when you’re not at your best emotionally and physically, when you are tired and feel like you need a break and yet … they are still there, asking for things. Needing things.

But tonight, at the end of a long stretch of hard weeks, after a bath and dinner and a book and a bedtime struggle, came the arduous task of picking out just the right pair of pajamas and the right pair of socks and trying and failing to put them on himself. And then it was finally time to put that sweet, psychotic, three-year-old boy to bed.

I was so OVER it, but I was holding it together, masking my exhaustion by sitting calmly on his bed like I had all the time in the world. I said — because now I must ask first, instead of just picking him up and plopping him on my lap — “Asher, do you want to sit in my lap?”

And after a long pause, he broke into that dimply grin and said very seriously, “IT IS MY FAVORITE THING.”

Then he climbed up, leaned in, smelled my shoulder like someone would smell a bouquet of flowers, and put his head on my chest.

It’s my favorite thing too, you know. So at least we have that in common.

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.

Six.

Suddenly, Maverick is six.

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He rides his bike without training wheels. He stands at the end of the driveway alone and waits for the school bus while I watch through the kitchen window. He insists on wearing boxer briefs.

On his birthday, I offered him a special pin to wear to school. He insisted on putting it on himself and I was silly enough to argue, warning that he might get poked, but he wrested it from my grasp and pinned it directly in the center of his belly. “I’m SIX now,” he said. “I can do things myself.”

He can. And he does. Maverick has always been fiercely independent, and it’s hard to find that line between being available when he needs me and backing off when he doesn’t.

Being a mom is hard.

His room is scattered with Legos and he keeps the door shut at our request, so the baby won’t sneak in there and eat them. A few nights ago I found him sleeping on the floor, surrounded by tiny helicopters and fire trucks he built from his stash, and I tried to pick him up to put him back in bed. But I can’t anymore — he’s too heavy. I stood in the dark realizing, this is it. This is the end of the little years for Maverick, and the beginning of the bigger ones.

I try to embrace all the stages — some have been easier than others — but this boy has a way of making me SO mad, and laugh SO hard, I can’t imagine him belonging to anyone else. As much as I struggle at times to parent him, I know I was specifically chosen to be his mother.

The other morning before I pushed him out the door to meet the bus, I whispered a prayer in his ear. He looked straight at me and said “Thank you for doing that, Mommy. It makes me feel less nervous.”

And then, he was gone.

 

 

F##K THAT.

If you are easily offended by adult language, stop reading now because I’m going to say fuck.

I don’t use the F-word aloud very often because it’s unladylike and I wasn’t raised that way. When I was pregnant with my firstborn I told Robbie that I was worried he would say bad words around our kids on accident, and asked him could he please work on his language? Little did I know I would one day be a stay-at-home mom to three children and find myself fighting back F-bombs on the daily. Sometimes, no other word will do. Ah … irony. We meet again.

Sometimes people who have never met me feel like they know me because they read my blog or my articles online, and expect me to be a certain way. Then we meet, and they’re like “Oh.” I’m not that funny, angry, or even smart in person. I’m a calm, mild-mannered Southern girl who has to tamp down her emotions while she’s parenting, and all of that energy has to go somewhere. So I write it out. If I felt like it was acceptable to verbalize my every feeling, such as telling my kids I hate meal times in this house,” or, “You are annoying the shit out of me right now,” I might not have as much angst to channel through my writing.

Robbie’s last day in the car business was Thursday. He started out as a car salesman at a dealership in Birmingham, AL when Maverick was small, and I was still working at State Farm. I got pregnant with Asher and continued working full-time until he was born. Then, all of the sudden, I was a stay-at-home mom to a three-year-old and a very colicky newborn with a husband that worked 12-hour days. It. Was. Hell.

I remember tearfully telling him I couldn’t go on like this, and he agreed that we needed more help. We moved back to Baton Rouge, our hometown, and he got a job as a salesman at a huge dealership.

He quickly got a reputation as someone who could SELL. I got pregnant with Penelope when Asher was 12 months old, and all the while Robbie was working every holiday (except Christmas and Thanksgiving), every Saturday, and 12-hour days minimum. Pepper was born in June 2013, and Robbie was promoted the next day to Finance Manager. He continued working like he’d been, and I kept on doing what I’d been doing. We were surviving. We were making it work. But it was insanity.

I was grateful to be home with the kids, so I didn’t want to complain … but it was so hard. I kept telling myself it was a season, and all seasons eventually come to an end, right?

And suddenly, it did.

Robbie is now working at the business my grandpa started in 1950, and I don’t think it’s actually hit me yet that he will be home for dinner tonight. We have this entire weekend free! Two consecutive days! This is all new to us.

Here’s what he looked like last night when he got home from his last day. I thought he’d look happier, but I think he was too tired to put effort into it.

20140731_183212-1Yesterday morning before he left for his last day of work at the dealership, he said, “This is weird, it’s my last day and I’m not sure how I should feel.”

I stopped in my tracks and said, “I’LL TELL YOU HOW I FEEL. I feel like I could walk in there with you and do this.”

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A job is a job and I’m grateful that we somehow made it through that impossible few years, but parenting alone all the time? What we’ve been doing?! FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK THAT.

Carry on.