On breathing the good stuff…

momming.jpg

I feel like there’s this modern mom thing where we bitch incessantly about our children and our lives…especially those of us that are stay-at-home moms. It’s weird. It feels really freeing sometimes. I love that I have a huge network of friends that I can commiserate with on this motherhood journey. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in the oft-aggravating daily things that come with being a mom…the whining, the complaining, the missed showers, the leggings and pajamas, the fights over meals, the screen time guilt, all the things! 

I often wonder if my own mother bitched about motherhood in this same way? Were the 80s as accepting of it as the 2010s have been? Or were the 80s just not as fraught with “mommy wars” so there wasn’t as much to bitch about? Or did all our mothers just keep quiet and suffer through? To be honest, I wonder a LOT: how many of our own mothers were suffering from PPD/PPA and it just wasn’t something that was as widely discussed or treated as it is today? I mean, I could talk a person’s ear off about my PPD struggles and I just don’t give a shit what he or she thinks. Mental illness is a very real thing and something that deserves a lot more attention than it gets, even now.

Anyway, it really just makes me wonder. I’ve had several weeks in a row of incredibly awful days with the toddler. Being one thousand weeks pregnant doesn’t at all help the situation. But Godzilla has been absolutely on fire recently and last week, we didn’t have a single good day. It was a garbage week and there is no getting around that. I did so much bitching to and with my mom friends last week. None of us had great weeks. It was one hit after the next. Small things that normally wouldn’t seem so horrible just set us off in all the wrong ways (like when Godzilla tried to bring me my 32oz water bottle only to dump it all over herself, the couch, and the floor).

So when I woke up (way too early) this past Monday, I decided to employ “the secret” (you know, that book from a few years ago that tells us that what we say and think is what we bring upon ourselves blah blah blah). I kept repeating over and over, “Today is a good day. I have a happy toddler. I am a great mom.” And you know what? Every day this week (and yeah, it’s only Wednesday), we’ve had surprisingly good days. Godzilla hasn’t been a complete jerk upon waking up,  she has fought me about getting in her stupid car seat, she’s been pleasant to everyone she sees, meals haven’t been quite as challenging (she still eats like a crazy person, but she’s at least trying a few new things, like the awesome red wine braised shor rib stew I made last night).

The point is, I think we tend to spend a lot more time focusing on and bitching about the awfulness that is motherhood. To be clear, it does have it’s horrifying moments. There are days, weeks, months that make it seem like everything is awful and nothing is ever going to get better. But I wonder if that’s partly our own fault. Are we creating self-fulfilling prophecies by constantly bitching?

For several years, I’ve been a proponent of “positive self talk.” Before I married a sailor and had children, I worked in a pretty high stress job (which is just a strange thing to say because I sold cheese and worked with some of the greatest people on the planet). At the same time, I was going through some incredibly stressful and overwhelming things in my personal life. But every day, I tried to wake up and just decide I was going to have a good day. And on the days I actually remembered to do this? Those were the best days. Sometimes, they were also the most stressful, but I managed my desk and my head with such ease that I ended up falling in love with my job even more, sometimes hoping for a new, insane, cheesy challenge to come across my desk just so I could kick its ass one more time.

But somewhere along the line, probably when I stopped working and naively thought I wouldn’t be stressed anymore, I stopped remembering my positive self talk morning ritual. My life is currently far more stressful than I could have imagined it would be. So I think it’s time I re-introduce my old routine into my new life. It’s time for me to focus more on the good, great, and wonderful things that motherhood has to offer.

 

On the songs of my baby…

Quotefancy-11282-3840x2160.jpg

Photo Credit: QuoteFancy.com 

I’m roughly six weeks out from the impending delivery of my second baby. Technically speaking, I’m eight weeks out, but my midwife is fairly confident this one will come early since the last one did. I’m also hopeful she’ll come early…it will give me substantially more time to recover before moving across the country and the world. So there will be much red raspberry leaf consumed by moi in the coming weeks.

At any rate, I’ve been working on my labor and delivery playlist for several months. This is something that, even with my first, I just knew I wanted – music that calmed me or energized me or made me think of how much I already knew I loved this tiny human. With Godzilla, I pulled together my playlist kind of last minute, but it was also rather easy. She was born during the Christmas season and since I love love love Christmas music, I just grabbed 200+ songs from my very extensive collection, added in some Britney and Taylor and called it good. It was perfect.

And I never used it. Not even once during my nine hours of labor did I want to hear music. I thought about it once, in the middle of a particularly awful contraction (aren’t they all kind of awful?) and just the thought of music made me angry. So that was a hard pass on music.

With Mothra’s playlist, I’ve found myself carefully curating songs over the last seven months. There are currently only 36 songs on the playlist, running about two and a half hours. It’s a pretty schizophrenic list, but then, so is my general taste in music. It contains pop, hymns, bluegrass, the 80s, rock, miscellaneous covers…it’s one of my favorite playlists I’ve ever created.

But there are two songs in particular that hit me hard every time I listen to them…for vastly different reasons.

“Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding.
For a lot of people, this song is associated with one of the most poorly written and ill-conceived books ever released. I’ve never read the book (just selected passages. It’s terrible) or seen the movie. I just love this song. The first time this hit me as a birthing song was over the summer, while I was walking with Godzilla in her stroller. Almost every line of the song can very easily be translated into labor and delivery:

“You’re the light, you’re the night, you’re the color of my blood…” – Yep. She’s going to come at whatever time of day or night she chooses and no matter how she makes her way in the the world, she and I will be the same color, covered in the same blood, even if for just a few minutes.

“You’re the cure, you’re the pain, you’re the only thing I want to touch..” – Delivering a baby, especially in the, um, very traditional sense, is everything at once. It hurts like hell, but the moment she arrives, all the pain is gone. It’s like I’ve been waiting my whole life to touch this tiny creature.

“Fading in, fading out, on the edge of paradise. Every inch of your skin is the holy grail I’ve got to find.” – Every contraction can feel like you’re about to pass out. It’s 30-120 seconds of agony followed by maybe two minutes of sweet relief….until it all happens again. Over and over for hours on end. But every moment brings me closer to the absolute ecstasy of holding my baby for the first time, pressing her sweet, sticky skin against my chest and hearing her cry for the first time.

“Yeah, I’ll let you set the pace cuz I’m not thinking straight. My head’s spinning around. I can’t think clear no more. What are you waiting for?” – This is the first line that made me think of labor and delivery. It reduced me to tears on that walk. There is no way to tell a baby when it should or shouldn’t come into the world. It’s all up to her. She decides everything. And she will decide everything from the moment I go into labor until years later. I have to let her set the pace. I have to let go of the control I want to have and just wait…sometimes calmly (as in the first several months of pregnancy), sometimes impatiently and agrily (like during active, awful, bone-crushing labor).

“human” by Christina Perri
This one hit me harder and in a much more painful way. It made me immediately think of breastfeeding, which, frankly, was not a great experience with my first baby. I’m cautiously hopeful that it will go better this time around, but I have pretty intense memories of the first time. So when I hear lines like:

“I can hold my breath. I can bite my tongue.” – I remember how painful it was. The searing pain that shot through every fiber of my body as she latched for the first time…and for 13 months worth of times after that.

“I can stay awake for days if that’s what you want. Be your number one…Give you all I am” – I am not looking forward to another year or more of restless, sleepless nights. But I am what keeps her alive. My body nourishes her so I wake up with her and I suffer through it. Because it’s not all suffering. She will smile, she will laugh, and – mercifully – she will sleep.

“But I’m only  human. And I bleed when I fall down. I’m only human. And I crash and I break down. [The] words in my head, knives in my heart, [they] build me up and then I fall apart, cuz I’m only human.” – I was diagnosed with post-partum depression when Godzilla was around five or six months old. It was a simultaneously freeing and brutal thing to grapple with. Finally, I had answer to some of what I was feeling. Finally, I had a way to cope with all of it. Finally…I felt a little bit of fear and failure. Nothing was going right. I couldn’t feed my child enough. I couldn’t love my husband the way he deserved. I didn’t want to be a mother. Everything I had ever thought I wanted, I finally had and I couldn’t deal with it. The words in my head crushed me.

“I can do it. I can do it. I’ll get through it.” – And I did. I did it. I fed Godzilla on a near constant basis. I accepted the magic of formula. My friends and my husband encouraged me and brought me coffee and reminded me that I wasn’t just doing enough for my daughter. I was literally doing everything for her. I may not be the perfect mother (far from it), but I am the perfect mother for her. I was reminded to take time for myself and that asking for help isn’t admitting defeat or weakness, but rather significant strength. To know when I’m about to break and to ask for help is one of the strongest things I can do as a mother. We’re fed line after line that we can have it all, do it all, and be it all, but when we aren’t, it feels like we’ve failed in every  possible way. Whatever happened to “it takes a village”? My tribe has taught me, over the last two years, that asking for help means I’m willing to be vulnerable and that I trust those closest to me. It also means that when one of my tribe starts to falter, I will be there to prop her up with coffee, wine, wisdom, time, a listening ear, whatever she needs. I have learned that “mother’s intuition” extends so far beyond my own child…it weaves its way into the lives of my mama-friends. We start to know exactly when and how to best help each other (like when one of my newest tribe members brought me a chai latte and a surprise cherry danish the other day). We just sense each other. We respect each other. Sometimes, it feels like we are each other.
__________________________________________________________

So these are the songs that have made the biggest impact on me during my second (and probably final) pregnancy. There is so much left to accomplish in the few remaining weeks before Mothra arrives. At least, it seems that way. But what I know with absolute certainty is that I am ready. I am excited. I am prepared – emotionally and mentally – in ways I just couldn’t have been the first time.

I am patiently and uncomfortably awaiting her arrival.

I am ignoring the thoughts of doubt that seep into my subconcious.

I am ready.

On knowing I have plenty…

354963-Maya-Angelou-Quote-You-alone-are-enough-You-have-nothing-to-prove.jpg

Photo Credit

It’s the new year and I’ve decided to try two new personal projects for 2017:
1. Don’t buy anything that isn’t necessary.
2. Do ten minutes of yoga every day.

Surprisingly (to me), it’s the second one that’s been the most challenging so far. I’ve done yoga once since January 1st. ONCE. I have carved out ten minutes for myself one time in five days. And even then, Godzilla was screaming for me the entire time (Sailor was home and handling it, but it was far from the zen ten I was hoping for).

But the “no spending” thing? That’s been oddly easy. I didn’t buy any car candy or frozen pizza at the grocery on Monday. My Target spree yesterday was actually entirely necessary items (milk, diapers, a birthday card for my dad, etc.).

I think it’s because I’m trying this thing where I really evaluate what I think I need. And what that comes down to is the word ENOUGH.

I have enough. I have plenty. In many ways, I have more than enough (I went through my lingerie drawer last night and found more than a dozen pairs of unworn underwear and at least as many that could be gotten rid of. My bras are another beast entirely…I have probably thirty of varying sizes, but two rounds of pregnancy have taught me that boobs change size on a whim, so I’m keeping all the bras…for now). Clutter generally stresses me out. I like seeing wide, clean spaces (like my countertops). It’s hard to manage this with a toddler. She has SO MUCH STUFF! I don’t want to get rid of her toys just because it stresses me out. But I do wish we had a room that could be devoted just to her things because seeing it all the time makes me crazy. I spend more time picking up after her than anything else. It’s not going to be any easier with an added tiny human. So I do what I can with my own things. I’m trying to be fairly brutal with my closet, but that’s also challenging because I’m pregnant so who knows what I’m going to fit into in a few months? The one thing I know is that I’ll be able to off-load much of the maternity clothing I’ve amassed. That’ll feel good.

But the thing about “enough” that’s proving more difficult is the part where I AM enough. I think a lot of us struggle with that. There’s always some area of life where we feel somehow unfulfilled or underfulfilled.

Recently, that’s been motherhood for me. Two year olds are hard work. That wasn’t a surprise to me. But my ability to manage her has been less-then-stellar. I get angry with her a lot. I yell more than I want to. I ignore her when I just can’t take it anymore. I’m supposed to be one of the only people she knows will love her unconditionally…her attitude and behavior shouldn’t affect the way I treat her. I always want her to know kindness from me.

But ohmigod, she is a real pill sometimes. She gets so worked up that there’s just no reasoning with her. I just have to let her cry her tears and throw her tantrums and generally be insane…and sometimes that lasts for way too long. It’s frankly no different than when she was an infant and would cry up to twenty hours a day. It’s just louder now. Much, much louder.

It causes me to wonder: am I doing enough? Am I challenging her enough? Do we do enough activites? Do I read to her enough? Do I discipline her enough? Do I hold my ground enough?

The one thing I know I do enough of is love her. God, I love that little girl. She’s crazy and difficult, but my heart seems to grow bigger every single morning when I get her from her crib and she reaches up with her big, sleepy eyes and says, “Hi mommy!”

Up until very recently, I had legitimate fears that I wouldn’t be able to love both my girls enough once Mothra arrived. Would I love Mothra more? Would I love Godzilla less? How can one person possibly be expected to love more than one person with every fiber of her being?

It turns out, the closer Mothra gets to making her arrival, the more my heart seems to acquire the space.

I don’t know that I’ll ever feel adequately “enough” to manage two little girls. We will fight. We will yell. We will say mean things. I know…I have experience being the daughter of a headstrong mother. I will probably always feel like I haven’t done or given or taught or prepared them enough.

But I know that I will always love them enough. I will love them Beverly Goldberg style. I will love them until it annoys the hell out of them and they push me away and it will hurt me in ways I’ve never been hurt before. But I will love them enough.

And in the meantime, I’ll be making space in my house and getting rid of excess things I have enough of…and try to do some damn yoga.

On the depths of my soul…

christmas-eve.jpg

It’s exactly one week until my favorite day of the year. It’s better than my birthday. Better than Valentines Day.

Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year.

When I was younger, Christmas Day ruled all. I think that’s true for a lot of us. As children, we look forward to presents and Santa and seeing the tree in the morning. It was my favorite day until I was in my early 20s, I think. My parents did the most wonderful job of making Christmas magical for my siblings and me. The decorations always sparkled. We left out cookies and carrots for Santa and Rudolph (he was always welcome in our house). There were hoofprints on the roof in the morning. The tree was beautiful. The fire was always warm and crackling. In fact, none of that has changed. I’m nearly 37 years old and my parents still do everything the can to make Christmas morning magical. We still get gifts from Santa, wrapped in the same paper for the last 30-plus years.

As I’ve gotten older, my sense of wonder has shifted a little. Don’t get me wrong: I still love everything about Christmas morning, especially at my parent’s house. But the magic isn’t there anymore. It didn’t disappear. It shifted. It changed. It evolved.

The culmination of the entire year happens on Christmas Eve. My faith relies heavily on what happened that evening (which, yes, probably actually occurred sometime in the fall). Without Christmas Eve, my faith doesn’t even exist.

Every Christmas Eve, I look forward to midnight mass (or “the eleven o’clock service”, as it’s more commonly known in the evangelical world). It’s quiet and reflective. It’s peaceful. It’s serene. It’s basically everything that birth is not and everything that my life to that point hasn’t been. A year of chaos and noise comes to a grinding halt on Christmas Eve. Life’s busyness subsides and I am able to rest in the quiet and the candlelight, even if for just a moment.

It feels like Christ himself is breathing new life into my soul. Like I can hear Him say, “That feeling you have right now? That’s me. That can be all the time if you’ll just slow down and let me.”

That’s where the magic is for me now. When in the bustle and madness and fear and unknown of everyday life, I can sit quietly and honestly think, “Yes. All is well.”

So the magic of Christmas is still there for me. But it’s not in the lights or decorations or cookies.

It’s heavy. I can feel it’s weight.

It is the deep magic.

On wanting what I have…

resolutions.jpg

With only two-ish weeks left in the year (and thank God for that), I’ve started thinking about New Years resolutions. I do this every year. But the last ten or so years, my resolutions are more about deleting something from my life than about adding.

One year, I vowed to go to chain restaurants as little as possible. That one really stuck. Well, until I moved to southern Maryland where chain restaurants are really the only available options most of the time. I love seeking out new places to eat and discovering little hole-in-the-wall family-owned dives that just know what they’re doing with whatever food they’re serving. I’m looking forward to getting back to that when we move next year. That was easily one of my best resolutions to date.

This coming year I’ll be thinking more about subtractions. I want to simplify and minimalize. I want to spend less and do more.

For the last few years, ever since having our first baby, I’ve felt a constant need to get rid of things. I feel like there’s a lot of clutter and chaos in my life and a baby (or two babies, as the case will soon be) doesn’t lend itself to a lack of stuff. And the things we do actually need for the tiny humans are quite large. I’m beig overrun by toys, diapers, and shoes right now. It’s overwhelming a lot of the time. So I end up violently purging my own things a lot of the time. I’m vicious when I purge. I give zero regard. If I don’t currently use or need it, I want it out of my house. To the point I don’t even care if I can sell it. I’ll give it away if I can just get rid of it!

So my personal goal for 2017 is to buy fewer things. I honestly can’t think of anything I actually need, much less want. A friend recently told me about a friend of hers that went an entire year without buying anything new. I would love to try that sometime. I don’t think it’s at all realistic for someone with a husband and children. But it’s certainly something to keep in the back of my mind every time I go to Target or the grocery store or log on to Amazon.

One great thing about having two girls is that I don’t really need to buy anything new for the littlest one. She’ll get a few of her own things, but by and large, she can just wear her big sister’s clothes. And let’s be honest: babies and kids grow out of clothing so quickly that most of her things are still in fabulous condition! And there are some things that my first just didn’t get to wear for long enough, so it’ll be fun to put her sister in those tiny, cute clothes!

There’s also a really good chance that I’m going to need some smaller clothing once I’m done being pregnant and have hit my goal weight again. That’s a ways off, but it’s a reality. Granted, I have a TON of pre-pregnancy clothing that I can’t wait to get back into, but I know I’m going to want to treat myself to a couple new things. I think that’s fair. Plus, I’m going to need a new dress for when the sailor comes home from his next deployment (whenever that is).

But beyond that, there’s just not a lot of need or want in our family. We have everything we need and more. And what we want? Those aren’t really tangible things. I suspect that’s partially a product of getting older. I’d rather just spend time with my family than buy a new gadget.

Except for a bluetooth keyboard for my iPad. I really want one of those.

On firming it all up…

manners.jpg

Photo credit: Someecards.com

Can we talk about etiquette for just a second?

At what point did “maybe” become an appropriate response to an invitation? When did it become okay to just not respond to an invitation until well after the requested RSVP date and at the near-harassment of the host?

I sometimes feel like social media has made us far lazier and more rude than was ever intended. Why, Evite, is “maybe” a response that can’t be eliminated when creating an invite?

I hate the “maybe” response. Why? Because it makes me think you’re waiting to see if something better comes along. It makes you look incredibly inconsiderate. It makes it damn never impossible to plan for food and drinks, which makes it really hard to budget. Would you respond “maybe” to a wedding invitation? If you would, I’m really going to need you to evaluate how you run your social life.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had no less than three  friends tell me they’re having the worst time nailing down RSVPs for parties they’re throwing. Look, folks. It’s not that hard. FFS we’re all attached to our smart phones. It’s not like you don’t have access to a calendar literally all the time. Check your dates and respond appropriately to an invitation. There is no “maybe”. You’re either going or you’re not.

And please don’t regale me with tales of how you might have to work or you’re trying to get out of working or you don’t know if you can find a babysitter. I get it. There are legitimate reasons for saying “maybe” to an invitation. But don’t. Just don’t. Figure your schedule out and respond. It’s one thing if a sitter falls through last minute or you suddenly become violently ill and have to cancel. Of course life happens. That’s not the point. The point is, you are either planning on attending or you are not.

It makes it really hard for the host to not feel like an asshole when they try to follow up  with you Maybes. And why should the host feel like that? YOU should feel like a jerk for not responding appropriately in the first place.

It’s the time of year when people are planning and hosting parties basically every night of every weekend for the next four to six weeks. Do your hosts a favor and respond. Seriously. Stop what you’re doing right now and respond either “yes” or “no”, “going” or “not going” and put it on your calendar. Give them a chance to throw a kick ass party without having to hunt down half their invitees and feel like a jerk for doing it.

 

On filling the voids…

chores.jpg

Photo Credit: Ann Taintor

I hate chores.

I also hate chaos and clutter.

This is just one of many dichotomies about me that annoys the hell out of my husband. He doesn’t mind chores, but he also doesn’t get nearly as bothered by clutter. We’re kind of an awful pair when it comes to that. Ill-matched, at best.

I’d just as soon get rid of nearly everything we own and live in a “tiny house” than deal with any more clutter. I like clean surfaces and tight bed sheets (I’m the person that would iron and steam sheets if she could). I like the smell of lemon bleach and the sight of an empty kitchen sink. I like seeing a freshly mopped floor and a clean front entry.

However, I am about the last person that will ever volunteer to complete these tasks.

I really hate chores.

Except for two. There are two chores I will do every single day and never complain.

I will iron and I will vacuum. I will especially iron if I can use starch and I will definitely vacuum just so I can see those lovely tread lines. I was ironing our cloth napkins the other day and when my husband asked what I was doing, I said, “I’m ironing. I freaking love doing this.” I had to explain no less than three times that I was definitely serious. I was absolutely enjoying ironing my napkins.

I honestly wish I knew what it was that irritated me so much about clutter. Then maybe I could figure out why I have an aversion to chores. Or maybe the two are entirely unrelated. I don’t know. All I do know is there is a lot of money in therapy to be spent on this!

But every now and again, like today, I’ll get in some crazy mood and just start cleaning and go on a mad binge for at least an hour. I did a 30 day cleaning challenge about a year and a half ago and my kitchen has never ever been as clean as it was that day. I mean, it was spotless and the counters were completely bare. It was quite the sight to behold. Maybe I should do the challenge again. But a year and half ago, I had a four-month-old. Now I have a two-year-old and she is a tiny, walking tornado of toys. Keeping things uncluttered and cleaned is a whole different ball game now.

I try to let go of my aversion to clutter. I really do. But every several days it just comes to a head and makes me want to have a “going out of business” sale with my house. It actually makes me a little excited about moving to a much smaller house next year and not being able to take a lot of our things with us.

I like having space. I don’t like filling the space with stuff just for the sake of filling the space.

And I hate cleaning up the things.