Kids Ruin the Bad-Ass in You

Kids ruin the bad-ass in you. Yep, I said it. I have envisioned myself, the way I’d really be if I got a break from my kids. Okay fine, it wasn’t anything crazy but I always think, “Man, if I had one morning to sleep in and answer to no one, I’d sleep in until 10:00 and take my time getting ready for the day.” But guess what? On our Mom Spring Break 2014, I never slept in past 7:00 a.m. In fact, I was wide awake trying to think of reasons not to get up. And I actually woke up earlier every morning and called Scott and the kids at 6:45 or earlier hoping to hear their little voices.

Another wild notion I had was, “I would delete all of these awful Yo Gabba Gabba and Sesame Street songs clogging up my playlists on my iPod and never miss them.” I brought my iPod and listened to it once on shuffle until one of the kids’ songs came on and I actually got teary missing them singing along. Now I think even if the kids are in high school, hearing Cookie Monster will probably make me weepy.

Sometimes I think crazy thoughts like, “I wouldn’t be one of those sappy moms with cow eyes over every little kid at the beach on my four day vacation away from my kids.” And at the pool one day, I started chatting it up with a mom who had an adorable shrieking two-year-old simply because I missed my own kids so much.

The truth is that I really don’t know who I would be anymore without my kids. Some people would see this as being incredibly unhealthy. It doesn’t seem right to be so dependent on your kids to define most of who you are. Maybe it’s not. But the one thing I learned about myself last week is that I love my life more now than I ever did before they came along. It makes me wonder who I used to be in my early twenties when I used to say I never wanted kids at all. Just naive I guess.

I respect people for choosing to have no kids or choosing to have twenty kids. Because I can see both sides. I am sure my life would have turned out all right if I’d never had kids. But I can honestly say that now knowing who I am as a mother, I would have been missing out on one of the greatest experiences of my life. Maybe the whole parenthood thing isn’t for everyone. It does take away most of your personal freedom. You won’t be a stoic bad-ass anymore. You could probably live a much more glamorous or exciting lifestyle and come and go as you please. You won’t have nightmares about terrible things happening to your kids. You won’t have to worry about screwing up your little people so badly that they’ll need therapy later in life. You will be able to eat mostly hot meals. You will probably advance without limit in your chosen profession.

But if you choose to go down that road more traveled, the one filled with cliches and the one that has inspired thousands of blog entries like this one, somehow your life does become richer and every day brings a new adventure. You learn things about yourself through the challenges. You see what your character is made of. Somehow, waking up at 6:30 every day doesn’t seem like such a big deal. You won’t mind that it takes an entire morning of preparation to get everyone bundled up to go to the grocery store. I am thankful for the glimpse I had last week. Those beautiful days basking alone in the Gulf sunshine pale in comparison to the freezing cold days cuddled up with my sweet kids in our happy home.

Oh, It was Valentine’s Day, You Say?

Valentine’s Day weekend is officially over. In our house, it really looked like just another weekend. Friday night, Scott and I took turns going to the gym. Last night we went as a family to a one year old’s birthday party and today I went to a baby shower. Scott caught us up on laundry. It’s quite an exciting life we lead these days.

But it made me think. This is really what love looks like for most couples who have been together long enough or have young children. Love isn’t always, or even usually, this heady thing that sweeps you off your feet. In fact, I’d argue that true love is sticking it out through the mundane stuff. It’s weathering the tough times and sometimes it gets a little bruised and broken along the way. True love isn’t this immaculate, perfect thing. I don’t even think you can know that you love a person fully until you’ve gone through a few challenges together. If true love were represented by a paper valentine, it would probably have frayed edges, a few tears pieced back together with scotch tape, and lots of folds and scribbles.

Scott and I dated for less than a year and a half before we got engaged. We never lived together until our wedding day. We had no idea what we were getting into that first year. We bought a house. We got a dog. We had a miscarriage. We fought like crazy. We had to learn how to grow together, how to support each other and agree to disagree on MANY things.

Now three kids, a major career change (for me) and a second house later, I feel that even though we are still figuring out a lot of things about one another, the forecast seems pretty bright ahead. I have no regrets that Scott and I did things more the old-fashioned way. We didn’t do the practice run of living together first. And even though it probably would have been a realistic portrayal of married life, I don’t think it would have made a difference as to whether or not we’d end up together. I know in my heart, even through the many bumps in the road, Scott is in my corner and I am in his. I think it’s important to recognize that kind of love not just on February 14, but every day.

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My partner in crime.

When I look at Scott, I know if we keep choosing to be in this every day (because it is a choice), what I am working toward is a “someday” where I am holding his hand, while we sit in matching rocking chairs on the front porch watching the sunset talking about our life we’ve built together. And that makes it a little easier to hold my snippy tongue and to forgive the stinging things he can say.

So here’s to all the couples living a horribly boring life and sticking with it because you know the best is yet to come. Hold that ripped up Valentine of your love close to your heart and know it’s just that much more true because of all it’s been through.

Living in the Doldrums

“Crazy? I was crazy once. They put me in a hospital room full of birds. They drove me crazy. Crazy? I was crazy once. They put me in a hospital room full of birds. They drove me crazy. Crazy?…” I can still see Hal*, the awkward teenage boy I used to carpool with back in high school trying to drive me out of my skull by annoying me every morning during our half-hour commute. I wanted to throw things at him, swear at him, even in the presence of my mother or father, or force the driver to slam us into a tree so I didn’t have to hear him anymore.

This winter, which we are just a month or so into, is having a similar effect on me. I don’t really want to injure anyone. Not seriously anyway. But holy geez! These kids are driving me bonkers. This has been the coldest winter I have ever lived through. It’s in the negative digits more days than not. It’s so bitterly cold that if you’re out for more than a few minutes without a scarf over your mouth, it literally hurts to breathe. It feels like someone smacked you across the chest with a bat. So we are stuck in the house besides the days when the boys have school or it’s absolutely necessary to go to the grocery store.

Our couch has multiple purposes now. It is also a launch pad, obstacle course hurdle, diving board (the cushions are the net), and fort structure support. Mommy has also gotten a little lax on which rooms are designated for eating, so we’ve added a few grape juice polka dots to the upholstery and carpet. Our walls are striped with black tire tread marks and paint from toys that have gone “off-roading.” And I find that about once a day before I totally snap, I stop and just watch the havoc that two little boys can create using their imaginations and an over-abundance of foam balls and stuffed animals thrown from the balcony on the upper level.

In past winters when boredom is this bad, I have packed them up in the car and we’d go to get a bagel or mommy a coffee and the boys a juice just to get out of the house and change up the scenery for an hour. But it’s not so easy to do that this year. We live off of a slightly treacherous dirt road. A few weeks ago, I just missed hitting a tree head-on at the bottom of one of the curvy hills when a UPS truck was parked at the bottom. I was trying to avoid the truck. So I swerved away from it, forgetting that the road was a sheet of ice and lost control. I didn’t hit the truck, but I was headed for a tree. A giant boulder actually buffered the crash and saved us from hitting the tree as hard as we could have. Unfortunately, all of the kids were in the car. Though no one was hurt and the only damage done to the car was my rock guard falling off, Noah and Luke were rattled from the incident and now congratulate me every time I drive past that spot without hitting the tree. So that’s fun. I really enjoy that my five and three-and-a-half-year-old critique my driving ability.

Another thing that makes car rides super special is they also like to request songs from my iPod. They actually fight about whose turn it is to pick the band we will listen to. Here’s a tip for parents: only introduce your kids to music that you love so much, you will want to have it on repeat every time you are in the car. Yeah, I have yet to figure out what kind of music that would be. They are slowly killing all music that I once loved.

The one thing we have going for us is that we have a really supportive family and parents who like being around us (most of the time). We have been able to get out to my parents for long afternoons or Scott’s mom has come by a few times a week to play and give me a break. Even my brother came by one day to wrestle with the boys and wear them out. I really can’t even articulate my gratitude for our family. THANK YOU are two totally inadequate words I can offer. But they’ll have to do for now. When we thaw from the Arctic circle of hell, we will have a spectacular pool party for surviving the winter of 2013/14.

In the meantime, I am praying for stay-at-home-parents everywhere that you keep hope in your heart, sanity for your mind and a sense of humor that gets you through the truly trying days.

*Name changed because although I seriously doubt he reads this blog, I don’t want to be mean-spirited. From what I’ve heard, he actually grew up to be a really decent person and an officer in the military. Incidentally, I hope they put him in charge of something with interrogation. He’s obviously skilled at breaking people down using non-violent methods.