Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I give thanks...


Tis the season, why thanks-giving (in the literal sense) has become a season is kind of sad.  But rather then getting caught up in the politics of why or when we should be giving thanks, I figured I would just take November as motivation to write about thanks-giving and do what I should have been doing all along.

So Today - I will take a moment.   In this moment, I will close my eyes and meditate on just a few of the things that make my life spectacular.  None of the 'despite this' or 'the silver living is...' kind of thanks. True, meaty, simple, down to your toes kind of thanks. This is the thanks that keeps us going, that changes the world.

I am thankful for my babies tummies, so very fun to tickle and blow bubbly kisses onto.  Which leads directly to:

I am thankful for baby giggles!

I am thankful for beautiful weather, most of the time. For the wind, oh I love the wind! I love how the wind smells, feels, everything about the wind is wild and magical!  I do so love the wind.

I am thankful for the ocean. I am thankful that I can see it everyday if I wish.  Sometimes we need to stop and look at the ocean. It keeps our world both big and small all at the same time.  We need that big/smallness to stay grounded.

I am thankful for coffee, that must be high on the list for sure. Though this list is in no way by order of importance, coffee should still be toward the top.  In fact I think I shall go back and add it to the top.  Hold on one sec.....done!   See what I did there?  And you thought I was just going crazy and accidentally left that sitting at the top of this post. Ha! There was purpose all along.

I am thankful for my wonderful vacuum.  Bet you didn't see that coming.  But really people, it is amazing. So amazing that it makes it almost fun to vacuum my living room.  Almost.

I am thankful for yoga pants and comfy-ness.  Because that is how life should be lived.

I am thankful for Daniel Tiger, which allows me to write while my little one is up and jumping about. She does jump a lot...which leads to:

I am thankful for modern medicine! I am also thankful for ancient medicine, like my essential oils that banished my cold yesterday.  Bam! Gone! Amazing.

I am thankful for a wonderful neighborhood for my kids to grow up in.  Friends all around, a wonderful school for them to go to and did I mention the weather? Yeah...we are lucky. And no, I do not take it for granted!

I am thankful for my house, for my family and my beloved friends.  I am thankful for my big comfy bed and even comfier husband - who is not only an amazing hard worker and provider for his family - but is also my very favorite person to be around in the world - and he makes me coffee everyday!  Of course there is a small chance those things could be slightly related...  

I am thankful for helpful kids that are learning how to actually be helpful kids by cleaning my house. And every so often (like yesterday) they do it with very little complaining!  I am thankful for those little things that make me feel like there may be hope, that maybe I am doing ok with this whole parenting thing.

I am thankful for soft blankets and good books.  Soft blankets and good books should always come together.  And coffee too.  But that is just a given right?  I am thankful for fun hat and warms scarves.

I am thankful for Target, and coupons, cartwheel and clearance schedules. I am thankful I can contribute to helping my family save money, even though I don't technically "work" by cutting coupons and waiting for the sale.  It helps me feel needed.  

I am thankful chocolate.  I am tempted to add chocolate up to the top with coffee, but I don't want to over-do that.  Perhaps I'll put it at the bottom, you know - because every good (and bad!) day should end with a little chocolate.

I am thankful for color, for texture, for words, for writing.  I am thankful for smells and shapes, for hot baths and cold ice-cream.  I am thankful for flowers and butterflies and crazy beautiful spiders. For superhero's, super-villains and brand new socks.  I like socks.

I am thankful for baking bread, From the fizz of the yeast to the feel of the dough when it has been kneaded exactly enough. I am thankful for the excitement of the rise, the smell of it baking to the dried bits of dough stuck under my fingernails and the flour on my clothes and counters, and hair and floor and kids! And of course for the butter to put on top!

I am thankful for music, oh I am thankful for music!  For the kind of music that makes you feel down to your toes - for broadway, that shows me how the world should be, people breaking into song whenever they feel like it.  The world would be a better place if we all did that! I am thankful for music without words, to speak for us when we feel lost and cannot speak for ourselves.  Thank you.

I am thankful for running.  For feeling strong muscles, for losing my breath and catching it again. The world is always more vivid after a run.  The colors are brighter, smells are stronger, my head clears up for a moment, the world slows down.  I am thankful.  

I am thankful for baby kisses and my husband's hugs. For long conversations with friends over a cup of hot tea.  I am thankful for grandparents that love my kids as much as I do.  I am thankful for the occasional stolen date-night.  So renewing! I am thankful for papa johns pizza, movies and popcorn.

I am thankful for fun conversations with my ever growing kids - they are becoming such amazing young people!  How did that happen?  I am thankful I get to watch all the growing-ness.  The easy stuff and the hard stuff.  I am thankful for it all.

I am thankful for you - my beloved readers. You help me to feel real when the world is full of haze. Thank you.

I am thankful for the many memories I have collected, such treasure. The best. I am thankful that I am always be growing, always becoming, always learning. I am thankful that tomorrow is always a new day, no mistakes, just exciting new possibilities! And coffee, tomorrow always has coffee! Did I mentioned yet that I am thankful for coffee?

And to end, because Daniel Tiger is just about over - I am thankful for turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes!   Because in two days it is thanksgiving.  And for some weird reason we think we can only have this meal on the last Thursday of November. And it is one of my favorites, and it will be absolutely amazing.  I can't wait!

I hope to always be thankful, not just in November - though I think there is great purpose to being reminded everywhere we go to take a moment to say thanks, even just for one month of the year. Let us be thankful, in everything we do.  Not just the 'despite this' or 'let us try to see the silver lining' thanks.  But REAL, deep, raw, magnificent in it's beauty and simplicity - thanks.    


Sunday, November 16, 2014

I am the anti-OCD

You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.                     -  Madeleine L'Engle
I will warn you now.  This post has no real purpose. It is the ramblings of a lost literary lunatic. Proceed with only the utmost in patience.

It has now been 6 months since I have sat down and written a story.   Since I had just started my journey to become a "real author" 8 or so months before that, it seems like not that big a deal to take a break.  And I suppose it is not.  I have always known that writing is my "once kids are all in school" career.   
But I do miss it...
Funny how the 'missing it' shows up. For instance, I find myself looking up fun "writing quotes" on pinterest, not a very valuable way to spend my time.  Truly!  But fully interrupt-able, unlike writing where I really need at least 2 hours where I know I shall not be bothered or I get very upset.  Yeah, three kids = not going to happen in my house until at LEAST 9:30 at night.  And since I get up every morning at 6...that means starting something like writing after 9:30 is not really an option either.
So I am on hold...waiting.  It feels sometimes like I took that part of me that was free to jump about, and stuffed it down deep inside of myself. Rather like how my kids stuff their jacket into their backpack every morning.  
I do have this blog as an outlet, and I thank each and every one of you deeply for reading and responding to my ramblings.  I truly cannot tell you the void it fills in my life, to know that my words are being read by someone.  It is like taking a fresh gulp of air after swimming the length of the pool for the first time.  So very sweet, so very life-giving! 
I have often wondered if there is something truly wrong with my brain - and lately I have felt this monstrously.  You see - every bit of human behavior that I emulate, I have had to learn by consciously watching others, taking mental notes and mimicking that behavior as best as I can.  Nothing about being a human person feels natural to me.  Perhaps I should have been a koala instead, those are fuzzy and cuddly looking - everyone likes koala's.... see?

Who wouldn't love that!   

I on the other hand, am not fuzzy or cuddly. I'm the anti-cuddly really. 
Perhaps everyone feels this way (the human thing...not the koala thing.  I am certain everyone at some point has wanted to be a koala. It seems weird to even ask that question!) Perhaps we are all aliens in our own skin.  Not made for this world? Honestly, I have never asked anyone if they feel like that before. I think I should start asking...questions are good. They make us feel less alone. 

Do you think it will catch on?  Instead of simply saying "how are you?" every time we see someone.  We could ask "on a scale of person to koala, how human do you feel today?" It could bring the world together in ways we cannot even imagine! 
Or maybe it really is just me, perhaps I alone didn't get the memo - the whole instinct thing on how to act in what human social setting. (I have been informed that stating "you may now call me master!" Is not, in fact, appropriate...especially not at church!) So I watch, constantly.  I watch how people walk, how they move their lips when they speak, how they sit, what specific body positions they use when they are eager, upset, angry, happy, uncomfortable, etc.  And I log that away to use when I feel I am supposed to emulate that emotion.  I also file away personality traits I do not want to emulate. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I get it very wrong. Always learning.  I have specific memories as a child, choosing what personality I wanted to have. Reading a story, or watching someone and practicing the look, the stance, the sentence until I got it right.  It wasn't about fitting in - I didn't care so much about that. It was just about collecting, like a personality enthusiast. 

It has been a long road, but I feel like I am just now starting to be ok with my oddities. I have always been proud of my uniqueness - but was not entirely sure that it ever came across as anything more than arrogance, and that has never been my intent. Now that I hesitantly call myself a writer, it finally feels like there may be purpose to all this. 

I have never really been very good at much in my life aside from writing. Simple things, like driving, simple DIY projects around the house or french-braiding takes every ounce of my being in constant focus for more hours than I can count in order to moderately master. I am not sure why I have these roadblocks (no pun intended!) but that is how my life has generally been. Again - perhaps it is this way for everyone. We should really talk more about this as human persons! 

 I have worked very hard and I have become ok at things. Like singing, I am ok at singing. But I could never make a living at it. Years of classical training and my voice is still too harsh, it is not pretty. I can be loud, you will hear me! I can belt out some broadway tunes with ease. But you may wish you couldn't hear me...because my voice has an edge to it, like a blade. 

Or acting - I can memorize lines and play a role, but there is a good chance it will look a lot like the last 5-6 roles I played - I am not as diverse as I would like to be.  I enjoy it tremendously, but I'll never move beyond local theater. 

I don't say these things to fish for compliments. I loath pressured compliments with all of my being. I will not give them, and when I receive them it makes my flesh crawl. So PLEASE just don't.  I am ok, I promise.  I do not need you to become defensive for my sake. It will make us both feel awkward.
I think one of my problems is, I just don't feel emotions very deeply. I have them, don't get me wrong...but there is usually a cloud between me and them, so it is all kinda fuzzy and awkward on this end. I don't have very much empathy, especially not for those going through emotional stress.  I simply can't relate - I can fake it, but I can't relate. Sure I get angry, upset, happy, frustrated, etc - but it often feels rather surreal- like I am playing a part. Or watching a play, not really real. The only real emotional response I feel, sometimes every moment of everyday is that I want to run.  Run away, to run home.  

I am not a fan of hugs from anyone but my husband and children. This freaks people out - especially church people. I don't like being touched at all, so hugging breaks all the "personal space bubble" rules.  I have taken online "do you have aspergers" tests, just out of curiosity.  (The internet doesn't think I have aspergers, but it is pretty sure I may have a mild sensory disorder.) 
I say the wrong thing, I offend on accident - sorry to everyone by the way!  I'll just present my blanket apology here. I didn't mean it that way.  I promise!  My ears buzz at me a lot, so that means I am very sensitive to sound,  If the tone (literally) of something is off, on a recording or video - I can't handle it. If my children are all talking at the same time or there is music on while I am trying to focus, anything that pulls me in separate directions in the auditory sense, I fall apart.  For this reason, driving can be extremely stressful for me.  So please, don't take offence when I rarely come to see you if you are more than a 30 minutes drive away.  Sometimes I can handle it, and sometimes I really can't.  And since anxiety attacks while driving can equal death - If I am not feeling up to it, I don't take the risk! 

I have spoken previously about the auto-immune skin condition I dealt with while pregnant with my first child (google Pemphigoid Gestationis if you dare).  My time when it was active damaged my skin. because of this I don't respond correctly to heat, cold, or to various degrees of moisture in the air, which leaves me moderate to severely itchy. All. The. Time.  Mosquito bites? Not a problem. I have so much resistance to itch built up. But it means that I often feel like crawling out of my skin, just because I am tired of dealing with it all the time.  
To add to that - my rebellious thyroid brings with it something called a goiter.  And while I can often keep it under control using essential oils and generally trying to distress - that is not always effective, which results in the feeling like there is always something stuck in my throat, like a pill that refuses to go down all the way. 

I am crass, I am blunt.  I am a rebel in almost every sense of the word.  I HATE being predictable, I enjoy shocking people. I am incredibly lonely, I hate being around people for more than a short amount of time, but spending time with friends keeps me alive.  I hate being a stay at home mom, but couldn't imagine missing out on being with my kids all day. I often forget to return texts and when I decide I don't want to buy something at target after all, I just deposit it on the closest shelf (gasp, I 

I am a broken person. But you know what? I think we really all are in one way shape or form.  I can list off my brokenness, I bet you can too.  But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter.  
Because you know what?  These things may make me who I am - but they don't define me as a person.  Do you know who I am?  I am a writer.  And a damn good one too.  I am a mom, the best I can be (some days better than others!) I am not the pile of dirty dishes, I am not the over-stressed breakdown I had last night.  I am not the whole of all my parts.  I have value despite being broken.  In fact, the broken parts make me more human then I ever think I will feel.  This pain has purpose, there is joy in the journey.  

Humanity is fleeting.  Weird to think in that way, but it is true.  I wonder if that is why the supernatural is so appealing to so many people.  Whether it is in the form of aliens or superhero's, monsters or simply "other-worldly beings" like vampires, fairies or werewolves.  We like edgy, we like the feel of danger. It make us raw, it keeps us human.

I am a rebel.  I love imperfection.  I am the anti-ocd.  Pictures like this?

Make me happy in a way I cannot explain.  I am wrong, I am different.  I cannot, will-not, be like you.  I MUST rebel against the crowd.  I must make a statement that says I am different.  I must say things that make you uncomfortable - or I will explode.  And you know what?  That is ok.

This scares people.  I don't belong.  Nice "normal" people don't know how to react to me.  I get a mix of utter delight and supreme loneliness when I am around nice "normal" people.  You see...I am not meant to be. Some wire somewhere is not connected, that makes people want to smile and nod and back away slowly.  But you know what?  I am ok.

As I write, I have been wondering what the point of this post is, and to be honest I am not entirely sure.  Except - I want you to know...that despite everything that is technically "wrong" with me.  I am ok.  I am truly ok. Even though I probably shouldn't be. I am.

You know what else?  You are ok too.  Despite everything you feel is wrong. You are uniquely you, and you are spectacular!  And that means your teenager, or middle-school kid, or cousin or friend or whatever...you know who I am talking about.  The one that is different and bothers you and you feel like you need to just take them by the shoulders and shake them into reality?  They will be ok too.

We do a lot of preaching in our world.  We have strong opinions about what and who everyone should be. We have rules we like those around us to follow - especially in private conservative groups. There are certain behaviors that are NOT acceptable for really no apparent reason aside from someone somewhere decided it was wrong - and change is scary, so it must be that way from here on out or people get uncomfortable.  But while we are shooting down those who are different, we preach about 'being the real you' and not judging - we tell people to not let others get you down (shake it off right?) while at the same time we simply cannot believe that he/she/they are wearing THAT (just to spite you all, I wear leggings as pants.)  No wonder we are all so confused all the time!

So I guess the purpose of this post is to give you a moment to breath. To give me a moment, because I think I need it.  I need to restructure some of my thinking. It's ok.  THIS part of life, this part of being human is not our responsibility. Let him/her/they be who they were made to be.  Let go of the stress, let go of the burden of holding others to your own ridiculous standard.  It is not your job, it is not my job. We can't force others into our mold.  It wont work, I promise.  And the result will be pain on both ends.  And for those on the other side?  You will be ok.  Spectacular you that you are! You will be ok. We will be ok. We will be fantastic.

I think sometimes we really do need someone to tell us that.  Say it again with me?

It is going to be ok.

Even if it feels dark, never ending.  Even if the routine has made our heads explode. Even if it feels like everything is going wrong, or we can't shake the haze, or it feels like the haze has completely enveloped us.  Even if we are alone in a crowd and it feels like we are invisible.  I see you. You are spectacular.

It is going to be ok.

I am a writer. That means I am wild, imaginative - I am unbridled and rebellious.  It means I say the wrong thing at the very right time. It means I chase the impossible in order to get that high of putting together 5 words that make the most brilliant sentence imaginable. It means I think very highly of myself, it means I think very highly of you.  I have strong opinions, and they change constantly. It means that I have very high highs for no reason what-so-ever. And very low lows that have absolutely nothing to do with you. I can defy logic at least 7 times before breakfast and I could probably live on salt and vinegar potato chips, wine and very good coffee. It means I forget to say things, because I know I will write them down later - so spoken words have very little meaning to me. It means that my brain is very seldom here, and my deepest revenge is writing you as a boring insignificant character in one of my books. Beware!

Being a writer means that if I know you, if I love you, I can give you one supreme promise.  You will never die. I have captured you. You are a part of my story and I am a part of yours, you will live forever. frozen in time, never forgotten. This, this my beloved reader. Is my utmost promise and deepest gift to you. And this is the gift that I so lovingly receive from you.  We are all a part of one big, giant, magnificent story.  

We're all stories in the end. I'll be a story in your head, but that's okay, because we're all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh? Because it was, you know. It was the best.   - The Doctor

Saturday, October 25, 2014

For want of an eyebrow...

There is a little known fact about me, that I have often spoken of.  To be blunt: I have no eyebrows.

I know, terrible.


No eyebrows. It is a tragedy.  Imagine how hard it is to look scary, or surprised?

See?  No one is going to take me seriously like this!

And the one eyebrow up, "You do not amuse me" look?

Complete failure. It doesn't work with no eyebrows!  Whatever is a person to do?

I can't even do "shifty" correctly.  See?

I try to do shifty a lot, seeing as I am generally a pretty shifty person (the "F" in that word is very important,) But it turns into what is generally recognized as "resting bitch face." A condition I have found I occasionally suffer from - which has lead to lots of "when I first met you I thought you hated me."  I have worked very hard to overcome this.  In the meantime, let me assure you that I did not hate you when I first met you.  It is because of my eyebrows. I thought you were a lovely person when we first met and I couldn't wait to get to know you better.  I promise!  

One benefit of no eyebrows?  I rock the frog eyes look.  See? Nailed it!

Ha! You can't un-see it now.  That image is burned into your brain FOREVER AND EVER!

But I degrees...

I have suffered greatly in my life for my terrible lack of eyebrows.  Sure, I can paint them on with various cosmetics.  But that doesn't help me when am trying to instill "fear of the mother" into my children first thing in the morning or when I attempt a shockingly-sexy-yet-perfectly-subtle "come hither" look toward my husband in the evening.  I am also ridiculously cheap, so any attempt I make at make-ing up my eyebrows is generally gone by dinnertime anyway.  And I rarely re-apply.   Besides, I shouldn't have to!  I should have eyebrows like any other human being!  All my siblings do, why not me?

The pain, oh the pain and suffrage! (Wow, suffrage is actually a real word, and here I thought I had created it. See? Disappointment all around!)

But anyhow - I was recently bemoaning my lack of eyebrows internally to myself - as I often do. And it got me thinking - there are millions and millions of people, all across this world that unlike me, HAVE eyebrows, many of them magnificent.  And they never give even a second thought to their eyebrows.  They simply go on their merry way, with eyebrows, living life...all eyebrow-ish!

And, while it is certainly an unspeakable tragedy that I have to suffer as I do - it really does not affect my life in any way, shape, or form to not have generally recognizable eyebrows.

So as I am always working very hard to better myself in any way I can, I decided that I am a grown-up woman now, and it is high time I gave up this childish obsession and focused on more important things.  So, it got me thinking:  What do I take for granted everyday, that other people lack? Speaking on a strictly superficial level here.  What do I walk around with, never even giving it a second thought, where some poor soul, possibly even reading this today - is tragically missing?

Toenails!  I don't think about my toenails very often.  They just kinda hang out there.,,,on my toes. I'm honestly not even sure what their purpose is. Could it be?  That there is some poor fellow (or lady) out there even now, crying bitter tears over their lack of toenails?  It could be!

Earlobes! Sure, they are great for hanging earrings on.  And while they don't do much beyond that, I am sure there is someone in the world today that wishes they had earlobes. Ears in general puzzle me a bit.  Everything truly useful about them are rather on the inside.  And while I am sure there are certain acoustical advantages to having ears attached to the sides of our faces, they seem a bit...err...fancy for their general purpose?  

Elbows?  Now those are useful! So I'm not sure they count.  Without elbows there would be no chance of putting said elbows on the table.  And I do so love putting my elbows on the table.

Perhaps my lack of eyebrows could be listed with those men who sadly cannot grow a mustache. And while I am not a fan of mustaches myself, (Speaking on men, not on me...though I doubt I would really be a fan of that either.) I have heard that some people feel great affection for theirs.  If I had eyebrows would I feel affection for them?  In that case, perhaps those that have eyebrows do not in any way take them for granted like I have previously assumed, but instead get them groomed, comb them with a little eyebrow comb while whispering sweet nothings, Perhaps they write ballads to their eyebrows, (and mustaches, let us not leave those out) saying in so many words exactly why they love them so much.  Perhaps they have conventions? I would so love to attend an eyebrow convention....

But no.  I am moving on! No more bemoaning.  The time to grow up is now. I will no longer let my lack of eyebrows hold me back in this world! It is time to wake up and face reality.  A smile on my face and a spring in my step.  I am eyebrow-less and proud of it! The world is my oyster, I am woman, hear me roar...err...or not.  Not really in a roaring mood at the moment.  Still feeling a bit sensitive here. But I am feeling much better about the eyebrow thing.  I will not let my insecurities about my eyebrows keep me down! I will not pass on this negativeness to me children.  I am better than my lack of eyebrows!  Yes - I feel the freedom. I am empowered!

A new me.  A new proud-of-my-lack-of-eyebrows me! I am changed.  

 Hmmm - You know, now that I think about it?  Ears really are particular things...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Breath with me? Let it go...

Let me see, I have been a parent now for almost 8 1/2 years.  More if you count pregnancy, which I do.  So...that would make it just over 9 years.  Not really a very long time if you think about it.

In that time I have had three very different baby girls with three very different personalities, needs, wants, likes, etc

My first child loves to please, likes mom and dad to be happy with her and rarely requires disciplinary action.  When she was young, a mere disapproving eye was often all she needed to nudge her into the realm of obedience.  Of course we had our battles (once when she was almost three, she was in time-out for 3 hours because all she had to do was pick up the goldfish crackers she had thrown on the ground in defiance - she refused to clean up, so she sat in time-out until she was ready to obey....three hours later.) And her emotional personality is always a challenge for me, our brains work very differently, so we clash sometimes.

2.5 year old Taylor

But generally, she works hard to be obedient - and as a toddler, she was just challenging enough to stoke my parental ego (she would learn lessons quickly, always apologized sweetly and rarely received consequences more than once for the same thing).  I often laugh and say, that if I had only had her, I truly would have considered myself a perfect parent.

I should have known my second child would not be so kind when she first came into existence despite using two forms of birth control - and then she tried to kill me a few weeks before she was born.  Ok, so technically it was was the blood clot in the brain causing a (TIA) that tried to kill me, so it is not really fair to say it was her fault... Either way, it should have been a warning sign.  
That and giving her the middle name "Grace" - should have been a sign she would need a lot of it! 

Ayla screamed for the first year of her life, sleeping in one hour increments...occasionally...for the whole first year of her life.  She didn't sleep through the night consistently until she was almost 4 years old (yes, you read that right) despite trying every "sleep method" ever invented.  So ignore me if I ever randomly burst into tears as you tell me about the sleep challenges your newborn is offering, I still suffer from a good amount of PTSD.

4 month old Ayla 

As she entered toddlerhood, my beloved second child did not care whether or not mom and dad were pleased with her.  I think she may have actually enjoyed time-outs, at the very least the punishment was well worth the crime.  As she got older and I was desperately trying to find some sort of consequences that would give even some means of motivation for obeying mom and dad next time, she would literally hand me her precious toys and stuffed animals as I threatened to take them away unless I had instant obedience and say "I want you to have them. I want them to go in time-out!" and then continue to glare at me in utter rebellion and defiance.  And just as we would get through a long and complicated battle, finally finding answers and working  towards obedience, something would set her off and we would have to start all over again. The same lessons, over and over and over again. 

The girl seemed to have no memory for how it turned out last time she made that particular choice...we are still working on this, often daily. So we get to work out the same things over and over and over.

Basically, my knees were (are) as sore as my ego as I desperately prayed for divine help in parenting this child!  (long story short - she is exactly like me.) And it was not until she started school that I started seeing some improvement in her behavior, which in and of itself was another huge hit to my ego.  Could have been coincidence - the right age.  But needless to say, I no longer thought I was a perfect parent!

I was crazy - as many moms are.  So I decided I wanted another child.  Thinking, I have had two extremes, there is no way another one could offer anything I have not dealt with yet...right?


Kaylee was an easy baby. She used to take 3 hour naps in her swing everyday as young as 2 months old and started sleeping through the night by 6 months.  I could do this! Finally, God had pity on me.  I got one of those easy babies I thought only existed in the wonderful land of mommy make-believe!

She started crawling around 6 months, and was FAST right away. After a while, I started noticing a trend in the photo's I was taking:

 And an even bigger trend in the video's:

By the end of every day I would notice that my eyes would hurt, they were hugely tired. I would realize I wasn't blinking, and no that is not an exaggeration. I could not take my eyes off the child AT ALL. The girl got into everything. Baby-proofing was a joke. She could get past even the most clever of devises. Childproof cap? A joke. Outlet plugs? Please! She was a tiny 1 year old tyrant, 16lbs of trouble, laughing at your feeble attempts to contain her.  Her favorite was getting into the frig, she liked to pour her own milk and would collect condiments and hide them around the house.  We got a frig lock, she broke it. We got another...she broke that one in less than a day since she now knew how.  We were at a loss. And as she got older, I became very familiar with the phrase "I want to do it myself!" and I mean EVERYTHING. Well, except peeing on the potty - but that is a post in and of itself!

So - is anyone interested in what this post is actually about yet? If I have done my job right you have not even considered thinking that far ahead, you were so sucked in by my brilliant skills as a writer.  Right? 

Err...I mean...Ahem!  Anyway...go back and look at the title. I'll wait............

See? There is a point to all this!

I have been a mom now for 9 years to three very different baby girls.  This means that in the last 9 years I have learned a lot, I have made lots of mistakes. And in 9 years, there are some things that I have learned; some things that I need to let go.  I have to work on these constantly, letting go can be really hard, especially for those of us with control issues. Three very different babies, one lesson that is very much the same. 

Let it go.

No - not the frozen thing. Though you can let that go too....please?

I mean letting go of some of the things we like to hold onto as parents.  To make it simple - I'll count down my "my top 5 things I should just let-go already."  

Disclaimer:   I am not in any way an expert, just a mom that has made way to many mistakes. Obviously these subjects have loads of variations, so bear with me. I am touching briefly on subjects that in my experience, I need to learn to let go a little better. I am not condemning, just speaking from my own life experience. There are lots of "what-ifs" to all these examples. I am going basic here people. Don't get your panties in a bunch.

5. Getting shoes on the right feet, and choosing the perfectly matching clothes - or the weather appropriate clothes, or some days the clean ones! This seems simple, but it is amazing the morning battles I left behind when I just let them decide the basics of their wardrobe and what foot goes into what shoe. (You would really think that last one would be a 50/50 chance thing. But no, I would say approximately 96.4% of the time, my three year old still has her shoes on the wrong feet.) I have learned that the cape at the grocery store wont kill me. The jacket left behind when it is freezing outside will only happen that one time (And they wont die - assuming it is a quick trip). I have learned that wearing the same shirt 3 days in a row, or changing clothes 14-73 times a day simply means less laundry for me (it all just stays in the basket). And I have learned that shoes will never, ever be where they belong. I smile, take a deep breath, and let it go.

4. Mom guilt for not enjoying playing with my kids. I don't play with my kids, I don't feel guilty for it (ok, I work hard not to feel guilty about it, sometimes I succeed). I read to them, LOTS.  I dance to music with them.  I will occasionally build blocks or color with them, we go on walks, do science experiments - and we have lots and lots of good conversations.  But I don't play. No hide and seek, no tag, no imagination games. I don't do candyland, planes, trains, auto-mobiles or babydolls. My hands don't touch toys unless I am putting them away. They have one another for that.  They have friends for that. That is not my job as a parent. We do life together, folding laundry, cooking and cleaning, fixing broken things, walking to and from school, doing homework. That is how we spend time together. I don't play. I used to be plagued with guilt over this.  I am learning to let it go.

3. Doom and Gloom parenting. This is my special name for warning other parents about whatever stage is coming next.  As an example - I have three girls.  So that means at least 12 times a day (I wish I was exaggerating) someone says "3 girls huh?  I feel sorry for you when they are all teenagers!"  And what does every mom of a baby say to the first time pregnant mom?  "You think it is hard now? Just wait until that baby is born!" And what does every mom of a crawling baby say to a mom of a newborn? "You think it is hard now? Just wait until they are crawling!" And every mom of a toddler to a mom of a crawler: "You think it is hard now? Just wait until they are two!"

I could go on. But I wont. You don't want me to do you. Because no one - NO ONE likes to hear the doom and gloom. It brings no encouragement, it doesn't serve any purpose at all aside from making ourselves feel clever, like we know some deep, dark secret and we can only give smug hints of the torture to come.  So stop it already people. Let it go.
I am working really hard at this one - and please, to anyone on whom I have brought the doom and gloom, please forgive me. And for moms that hear it and feel themselves curl up a little inside, I have a secret for you. Us experienced parents touting the doom and gloom? We are wrong. You know how you feel entirely exhausted right now? How your one child is taking 100% of your energy? Well, the mom with the toddler and newborn, her kids take 100% of her energy too. One baby takes 100% of your energy. 5 babies take 100% of your energy, the only thing different is your own personal 100%.  But guess what, your 100% grows with your child, it grows as your family grows. It is only ever easier in hindsight. Truly. Will the next stage be hard? Yes. But that in no way lessons how tired you are right now.  And your 100% will grow. You will be ok, I promise. And you want to know what else?  There are great joys ahead of you, I can't wait for you to get there.

And for the record? I am going to enjoy my 3 teenage daughters.  I am determined!

2. Fear of super-kids "Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!"  Errr---you get my point.  This could also be titled "let your kid be the superman they already know they are." 

We have a 'no help from mom and dad' rule when it comes to being active.  The idea being, if you cannot do it yourself, your body is not ready.  This rule comes into play at the playground, climbing trees, jumping on rocks, etc. It has done wonders for my kids self-esteem. 

Basically, if something is physically hard, I don't physically help.  I will offer advice, suggestions, or when they are in a sticky situation I will verbally coach them out of it. But if you can't do it, it means your body is not ready.  I will however, stand ready to catch them if they actually fall - If I feel I need to, but that is becoming more and more rare.  

I had a friend over a few years ago. She had a small child, her only. I would say the child was about 5.  Remember my elephant? (if you never saw it, think jungle gym of steal bars in the shape of a 6 foot tall elephant) The elephant is actually the reason the "no help" rule was created.  I remember watching as this mom helped her child to climb just one rail of the elephant. Mom gasping every time the child wavered. The moment the kid was 3 feet off the ground he started crying. He knew mom was scared, therefore there must have been something scary right?  She took him down and for the rest of the playdate he looked longingly at the kids scaling the elephant, obviously wanting to join, but not understanding why mom got so scared.  He would stand at the foot of it, holding onto the bars and lifting his feet 4 inches off the ground, not willing to go any higher. 

But you know what? Kids know when it is something they can do, it is just hard. But if given the opportunity, they will keep trying.  And when they do it all by themselves? Wow, the celebrating is truly contagious!  They are so proud of themselves, and I am so proud of them - and I really am proud, it is genuine and deep and explosive (we jump up and down a lot) because they tried, and it was hard, and they did it themselves, even when they thought they couldn't.  They worked hard and because of the aching muscles and scrapped knees, they mastered a new skill - all by themselves! And I can trust their ability, because I know the skill and the strength is there.  And so do they, they have learned what their own bodies are capable of, and perhaps more importantly, they have learned what they are not yet ready for. They have learned to read their bodies, stop when the limit is reached, work harder when they are almost there. And as for my own mom-fear when they run fast, when they get dirty, when they climb high?  

I am learning (slowly!) to let it go. 

1. Food.  This is one of the biggest ones. This one was (and is) very hard for me to let go.  But I think I mostly have, and wow it has made a huge difference! In this case I will go so far as to offer some blatant advice. Ready?

Don't battle over food. Ever. Zip, Nilch, None, Nada, Never. At All. Ever. The only exception I can think of is if your child has true medical challenges related (allergies, swallowing or gastric distress) to eating. But as long as there is no medical reason for you to make a big deal? LET IT GO.

"But - you don't understand how picky my daughter is!" you say?  Well - My first child went through a picky "stage" the first three years of her life.  She was in the 5th percentile for body weight (when she was even on the chart), she didn't gain any weight for over a year. She refused to eat anything but milk, sometimes for days or even weeks on end.  I agonized. I begged, I threatened, I offered bribes, I offered consequences.  

I was wrong.  

If your child wont eat the "three more bites" you requested? Let it go. They are done. Let them be the boss of their bodies. Let them learn to self regulate when it comes to food. Let it go. Choose not to battle over this. 

Remember this is my own very humble opinion based on my experiences and research - others may differ. But this is actually a subject I am very passionate about.  Why? Because childhood obesity is such an epidemic, because we all have screwed up views of food and eating. Because even as adults, there is too much emotion connected to how little or how much we eat. Because most of us have somehow lost the ability to listen to our bodies correctly. Why?  I personally think it starts in toddler-hood. When moms demand "3 more bites."  Now, I am not saying that struggling with food with your toddler will lead to an eating disorder. Come on peoples. We are smarter than that. But I don't think it helps anything. You can lead a horse to water right? 

When I was in the thick of stressing over my child eating I read a random parenting article that changed how I parented when it came to food. Simply put, they took a bunch of kids who were parent-proclaimed "picky eaters"  and split them into two groups. In the first group, they told the parents to do everything they could to get the kids to eat. Beg, bribe, etc. The second group, they told the parents to simply let the kids eat or not. No "three more bites!" no begging (but no random snacking either). The parents didn't say a word. They let it go. At the end of the 6 month study, the kids in the second group had gained more weight than the kids in the first.  I was shocked.

So, figuring it can't hurt. I stopped asking her to eat more. The only time I ever said "three more bites" is on the rare occasions where dessert is about to be served. And then, the reasoning is simply "if you are too full for lunch, you are too full for dessert. Fill up on lunch first."  

Now, I cringe a bit inside every time I hear the question asked "is she a good eater?" or even worse, when parents go on about how terrible an eater their child is...right there in front of the kid! (Toddlers are sponges, remember? They hear everything.) I hear moms trying to force three more bites out of their child and I always want to ask them: Why? Children, unlike us, are programmed to know when they are full. If a parent is worried the kid will be hungry 30 minutes later - It is easy to have lots of fruits and veggies available.  My kids know they are offered food at mealtimes and an official snack mid-morning and after school - and they can eat apples, carrots, sweet peppers or any other veggies we have on hand any time they want. They don't even have to ask.  

And you know what? As soon as I stopped making a big deal out of it and simply worked hard to be a good example? My "picky eater" became a "good eater." I was floored. 

Let kids be the boss of their bodies. Don't disrupt natural signals. And please, let discipline happen far away from food - you know how experts say you will never potty train a child by disciplining them for having accidents? I would add on to that, you will never teach good eating habits by punishing because a child did not eat three more bites. Don't do it. In fact, consider this a free pass. You never again have to argue with your kids over food! If the dessert thing is an issue, stop eating dessert (or eat it in secret after they go to bed. It tastes better that way anyhow). 

Let it go. 

Now, my kids do have to sit at the table and be a part of the family meal, but if they are not hungry - they are completely welcome to not touch a thing. Perhaps they honestly are not hungry, and they are listening to their bodies, knowing that they don't need anything to eat at the moment. I don't want to teach them to ignore those signals just because my schedule says food goes into bodies at 6pm sharp every night. I also don't feel sorry for them if they go to bed hungry. I am fairly certain they will survive. Of course that could just be me and my utter lack of pity for my overly dramatic kids...it is possible I need to work on letting that go too.  A little empathy occasionally never hurt anyone right? 

Say it with me: Let it go. 

So I know I said 5 - but I am going to throw one more in there for all us tired moms (and dads).  

It is time for us to let go of the 'we can do it all' mentality.  It is time to let go of the guilt of rest - why do we feel so guilty when we do nothing? We all need to do nothing occasionally. Why is it so hard?

My challenge for you tonight? Let the dishes sit til morning, shove the cars and blocks and thousands of shoes (why are there so many shoes!?!) aside with your foot so there is a safe path to the door and to the bathroom.  And rest. Drink a cup of tea or pour yourself a glass of wine.  Take a deep breath, grab onto the stresses of the day, mingle them into that breath, and in one great exhale that throws away the weight of the day....

Let it go. 

(admit it, you are all singing the song now huh)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Why wont you listen? My response to "stopping the mommy wars" campaign.

Will you not listen? Why won't you listen?
God has spoken peace to us Why will you not listen?  
                                                                                              - Michael Card

A few months ago this article went full fledged viral. The message being "let us stop judging one another and our parenting choices. As long as we are raising happy, healthy children - all the little stuff doesn't matter. So stop the judging already!

I found I had a very funny reaction to the article and have been mulling it over ever since, trying to figure out how to put it into words. While on the outside, I can see the benefit, and the message seemed to be a positive one that has really resonated with many moms that have felt judged for their decisions in the past - but something felt wrong about it to me. (Am I alone here?) I have given it a lot of thought, trying to figure out what - and I think I am finally starting to see why.

 Many many years ago, I was a part of a moms group. A young mom myself, I was trying to figure out how I fit into the world of moms; making choices for my children, my growing family, my husband - all while growing up myself and learning who I was and what I wanted to be. I was eager to offer input wherever I could in mom conversations. I believe at the time I had a toddler and a newborn. So for at least some of the mommy-ness of life, I felt I had a little bit of experience under my belt. 

Now, I'll admit I have something of a character flaw. I make assumptions about people sometimes. For example, I will often assume that if something was wonderful and life-changing for me - that it could be for other people as well, and I sometimes get very excited and want to share it with everyone around me - regardless of their interest in the matter. I try to take the hint, but sometimes I will admit that miss it.

On the flip (and probably more damaging) side; I also will often expect, that if something is/was not a problem/big deal to me, that it won't be for others as either.  For example, I don't really care if my socks match, so the idea that someone would care very, very much that their socks match, and be emotionally distraught if I were to point out that they don't (even as just as casual observer) doesn't really occur to me. I would not be upset if someone pointed out my non-matching socks. So I have trouble anticipating a potentially devastating emotional response in someone that would.

Is this making sense to anyone?  I know my examples are a little odd, but it is the basic experience I am going for here.

Please hear me, neither of these personal flaws of mine are malicious, or even intentional in any way. Most of the time I am not even aware when these assumptions come into play. As I have grown older, I have tried very hard to be aware when these short-comings pop up, but it is an area where I am constantly growing. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

Now - back to the subject at hand, this moms meeting was my first introduction to "mommy-wars" and forever changed how I would relate to other moms.

As we were sitting and enjoying coffee together, one of the moms on the leadership team stated that she needed to talk to everyone. She wanted to make sure we were all aware of how we treated one another and how sensitive we were being to one anothers' feelings. She told a story of how several years ago, when she had small ones, she hated being home and trapped in the house. She would get out as often as she could and because of that, her kids did not have any kind of regular schedule during the day. They napped when they needed, they ate when they were hungry etc. She shared how one morning she was talking to a fellow mom, and this friend was telling her the importance of a schedule. The friend spoke of how she had her toddler napping at regular intervals, and shared openly of the work that she had put into keeping that schedule sacred. She talked in depth of how she strongly believed that keeping things organized created a sense of security and the constancy it created led to confident kids.

The first mom then shared with our group how she spent the next few weeks in tears, feeling completely inadequate as a mom because she hated being at home and therefore, her children were not going to become confident adults due to their lack of schedule. She felt judged by her friend, belittled because of her choice to spend lots of time with her kids outside the home. She eventually found a good happy medium that seemed to appease her own self-doubt. But apparently this conversation had marked her as a parent, while the friend had remained completely oblivious to the pain she had caused. 

I cannot remember what had come before this "talk." But do I remember it hitting me like a block. I was keenly aware that part of the reason for this "talk" was because of me. Whether this was true or not I am not sure. But her reason for telling this story was "be careful what you say to other moms, because you might be offending them accidentally, and making them feel judged by you."

I was shocked, hurt, frustrated. The thought that my stories, my experience, my views and personal choices on motherhood could be taken as a judgement by someone else was ludicrous to me - especially since I was so new at it all. I had never taken someone else's stories as a judgement on the choices I made, therefore I assumed nobody else did either. We are just moms, offering a listening ear, a helpful word of encouragement or a "been there, done that" story both of success or dismal and eventually hilarious failure.

From then on I didn't offer advice anymore within that group.  I never shared my stories of success or failure.  I smiled, I played the stupid games, I answered the bibles questions honestly, I listened to the speakers and not too long after, I stopped attending the group.  I was terrified someone would think I was judging them - and for the first time ever, I wondered if someone was judging me.  A problem I had never even considered before. I became hyper aware of comments other moms made - especially since I had a baby that cried for hours and hours a day, had to be held CONSTANTLY and woke every 1.5 hours at night until she was almost 1, no matter what "method" I used. Before this "talk" I had viewed other moms advice as helpful - now every "Well, you know what I did, and all my children were sleeping through the night by the time they were ________" became scornful and felt like a physical blow.

It took me several years to be able to look beyond that, to realize that these moms really WERE trying to be helpful and offer advice, and even if they weren't, who cares? Some of what they said was still useful - or at least showed me clearly a direction I didn't want to go. And no matter what, I always had the freedom to smile, nod, and do whatever the hell I wanted.    

When the article above came out I felt thrown back into that moms group.  It felt like a clamp was being fitted over my face, arms and body.  Don't speak, don't look, don't make any sign that you may be judging, or you will offend someone accidentally!  And the frustration I felt years ago came back along with the knee-jerk reaction to scream "This is not helping!"

Please, don't misunderstand me.  I do see the benefit of the "don't judge" attitude and I do think it is important. But I honestly think that we as moms have been taught to see judgment in places where it really isn't.  While I do not deny that there is a problem here, I am suggesting that perhaps the problem goes slightly deeper. For instance, one of the signs reads "I felt amazing after having my baby" while another mom writes "I had postpartum anxiety and depression." If I am being careful not to ever appear to be judging, that means the biggest thing I am going to change is talking - sharing my stories and ideas.  I don't talk, I don't share, I don't offer advice/experience because I don't want anyone to think I am judging. The result of this is not a lack of judgement, the result is that we feel like we are doing this mom thing alone.

If I share "I felt depressed after my first child, it was truly hard for me" and the result is silence? That is devastating. But if the answer is "I did ok after my child was born, I made sure and got out of the house and get some exercise everyday and that really helped" What will be the result?  Well, I have been conditioned to believe that those around me are judging me. So I will immediately be offended that the person offering me advice thinks I don't exercise enough, I feel judged and walk away fuming, feeling just as alone, just as depressed. There is no winning.

But wait, what if she really, honestly just wanted to offer some helpful advice, no judgement - just helpful experience? What happens if we dig deeper? Perhaps I could ask if she would walk with me once a week? Perhaps if it doesn't work I can go back to this friend, tell her I tried, and she can encourage in other ways, even watch my child (because she is doing ok after all) while I have an hour alone, a date with my husband or a chance to go talk to someone that can truly help.  Perhaps she is not judging, perhaps she is just being my village - but we have learned to fear the village. So we do it alone, we get it wrong and we wonder why we are so lonely.

We fear judgement, we fear someone perceiving judgment from us, so we keep the helpful advice to ourselves, we don't listen, we don't speak. We walk in crowds, alone.

I am a brain-stormer by default.  I know I have mentioned this before. I do it to myself, to strangers, to my kids, to friends. It is how I deal with problems. So if a mom comes to me, for instance with a child that doesn't sleep well, I am likely to offer 12 different kinds of advice, experience, stories, etc. in a matter of 12 minutes.  Some of the things I offer will be jokes, horror stories, things I have read that failed miserably for me, but I have heard others have found useful - some of the things I will offer will be things that worked for one child of mine but maybe not the other, or perhaps tips and tricks, parent-hacks that I wish I had known years ago.  At the root of it all, I always understand that all kids are different, all moms are different. And just because something works for one mom/baby never means it will work for another, or even that it will work again for the same mom/baby a second time! This is how I am the village to those struggling around me, and I love it when people can do it for me too. 

Imagine for a moment, if mom-judgement was not even a factor - because regardless of whether or not moms were judging, we didn't care because we understood that everyone is different - and I do get that the article above is asking for exactly this - bear with me. But I still think they are going about it in the wrong way. We need to hear the advice, the stories, and take from them what is useful and happily throw away the rest.

I am calling to end the mommy wars from the inside-out.  Stop feeling Judged. Take away the victim mentality. Because honestly?  The others moms are probably so focused on not feeling judged themselves, that they probably weren't even thinking so far ahead as to judge you.  And even if they are, who cares? That doesn't affect your parenting at all, and who knows - swathed in judgement as it may be, their advice could have useful nuggets inside. Do you know how we learn as parents? We listen. Listen to the big, the bad, the ugly, the useful, the insightful, the experienced, the wise.


Listen to the mom that worked through her depression, to the one that is struggling in the midst of it. Listen to the mom that never dealt with PPD, never struggled to breastfeed, had the kids the slept through the night right away or potty-trained at 18months. Maybe she knows something you don't. Listen to those that have been there/done that.  Listen to grandma's, to babysitters, to teachers, to big sisters, to neighbors, friends, those that are different from you and those that are the same.  Listen to the hippies, to the attachment parents. Listen to anti-helicopter parents, to the strict, to the very involved parent. Listen to the parent that values independence. Listen to moms of special needs kids, listen to foster parents, to those that struggled to have kids, listen to moms that have experienced the grief of losing a child. Listen to the moms that have dealt with extreme teenage rebellion, listen to moms that never did. Listen to those with empty nests, hear their stories. Listen to the brand new mom in the thick of it. Listen to those that say over and over again "this too shall pass." Listen to the mom that remembers how tiny her babies used to be while looking up at them instead of down.  Listen to those that don't have kids, sometimes their perspective can be priceless. Listen to what parents are not saying, sometimes that can speak the loudest - usually they need us to listen the most.

Listen. Listen. Listen.  

And as you listen you will hear VERY different thoughts on all matters.  And that is ok, that is how it is supposed to be.  Work very hard not to feel judged, own your own opinions and ideas, sift through it all to find the gold and throw away everything else. And then, when you meet the other moms that are struggling too? Talk, tell stories, offer advice, laugh, cry - do your very best to make sure that those around you know that they are not doing this alone.  If you need to, assure them that you understand not everything works for everyone - but share, hug, do someone's dishes, hold the baby while they eat a meal. Do life together. and LISTEN.

'Stop the Judgment' alone will not end the Mommy Wars, but truly listening to one another? Living life together? Being there in the thick of it, holding one another up, and offering advice - both helpful and not so much.  That, that is what we need. That is the village I am proud to be a part of.

After all - I am always learning. You are always learning - we are all of us, always learning to do life together.  So let us do life, TOGETHER.

“I don't know how to thank you.'

Then I will tell you. There is only one way I care for. Do better, and grow better, and be better."
                                                                             ― George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie