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.

Advertisements

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.

Image
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.

What a Wonderful World

Image
Luke, Grace and Noah. We wish you a Merry Christmas!
(Photograph by Nicole Reno)

To borrow a phrase from the made-up ending of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen, today I am “incandescently happy.” I am staring out the window at the trees which are still encrusted with sparkling ice from the ice storm Southeastern Michigan was blasted with the other day. Everything under the clear, blue sky is nestled under a thick blanket of snow. I woke up with Gracie on my pillow. She has a bit of a runny nose and slept next to me; my little, chubby teddy bear in fleecy elephant jammies.
I had so much energy, I was inspired to make a breakfast that took a little extra time; homemade hash browns, scrambled eggs and toast. Then I began putting things away from our Christmas celebration we hosted this weekend for Scott’s mom’s family while
Scott put on his snow gear, bundled up the boys and they are now (hopefully) sledding down a hill at their Papa’s house. Gracie is taking her morning nap. I am sitting down to write (something I didn’t think I’d have time to do with all of the holiday insanity).

At this moment, everything feels right. I have everything and more than I could have ever asked for: these three indescribably crazy, smart, beautiful, sweet children to keep me on my toes and a loving, frustrating, strong, thoughtful husband, and we are in the center of this circle of a colorful, warm, loving family.

So I wanted to take a brief moment to wish you and yours an “incandescently” Merry Christmas as well. I hope you find beauty in the imperfections of your day and see the good in everyone who comes your way.

Unexpectedly Introverted Living in an Extrovert World

So here was my year at a glance: had a baby, co-planned and co-hosted two baby showers, stood up in a wedding three weeks after I had Gracie, hosted two birthday parties for my boys and one giant birthday celebration for my very sweet Grammie Ellie, hosted a celebration for Gracie’s baptism, and now I am gearing up to host Christmas for Scott’s mom’s side of the family next month. I am not listing any of this as a way to toot my own horn or even to complain, but rather to explain how in spite of all of these “extra-circulars,” I am a pure introvert.
It may or may not come as a surprise to you to know that I am an introvert. I discovered this only within the last year or so. I always thought an introvert was someone who was very shy (and I am not shy). Here is the actual meaning of the word “introvert”: the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life. In other words, “introspective” or “self-analytical.” And that is who I am, as you can probably see. It also has been said that introverts re-charge their batteries by being alone and being in group settings tends to drain them. This is true for me.
I actually love opening up to people one-on-one and listening to people, getting to know them better. I love finding out what makes people tick and finding that hey, maybe I’m not such a weirdo after all! I like cooking very much (it is usually an “alone” activity for me) so entertaining isn’t really the issue for me either. Believe it or not, public speaking doesn’t even bother me too much because it allows me a chance to write something down before-hand and is a chance for me to be alone with my thoughts.
That is pretty much where the contradictions end, however. I do not like crowds. I get very anxious whenever I host a get-together or am invited to one. Even play-dates stress me out. I do not like having one-on-one attention with another individual compromised by noise of other people, music, screaming kids, even our pool is a problem for me because my eyes are darting around making sure that no one is drowning. I like giving people my undivided attention and I also like to be alone in my head. My day literally plays out like a narrative or a movie script in my head. I need time to reflect, to sort out my thoughts. Unfortunately it comes at a price.

Glennon from Momastery blogged yesterday (http://momastery.com/blog/2013/11/26/somebody-help-figure-good-friend-others/) about her struggle with introversion and I thought, “My God, I could have written this.” Her thoughts mirrored so many of my own.
I do feel like a crappy person to many people in my life. I know for a fact there are people who have contacted me wondering, “Did I do something wrong? Are you upset with me?”

The simple answer is the old, “It’s not you, it’s me,” line. And it really is me. It was me trying desperately to fight my introversion and to make you think I am this really energetic, go-with-the-flow kind of person. And I do this because on more than one occasion in my life, people have told me that when they first met me they thought I was going to be a giant b**** before they got to know me. I am always eager to prove people wrong. My introversion probably could come across as “snooty” but it’s really not my intention. I really do want to spend an afternoon getting to know people, chatting or catching up, but I know it will involve my kids running under foot, my attention being pulled away from what I feel like I should be doing, and inevitably a half hearted conversation on my part. But more importantly, constantly socializing drains me and takes away from who I truly am.

My kids also suffer from my introversion. I am very short with them most days. I wouldn’t say I’m mean, just business-like. I am not the “fun” mom who I always envisioned being before I was a mom. I find I am asking them to help pick up their toys constantly or snapping at them to stop jumping on the couch. And I never thought I would feel this way, but sometimes I find it grating to hear their little voices saying, “Mom, watch this!” or “Mom, look at me!” or “Mom, can you get me (fill in the blank)?” I hit a point around 6:00 p.m. most days when I want to run screaming from the house, tired of being pulled in too many directions, none of which are the direction I would choose to be going if I were alone.

And poor Scott gets whatever is leftover at the end of a day like that. Generally he’s okay with the arrangement. He is also extremely introverted and respects my need for temporary solitude. I usually just hand him the baby and tell him I am going to take a shower or I need to go to the grocery store alone. I know it sounds awful, but I need that chance to regroup. As soon as I get back from the store, I instantly love the sound of their little voices yelping, “Mom, you’re home!” from the other room. It’s just I need that time alone every day.

I have a handful of friends who understand me and I am thankful for their friendship. A three-month lapse in communication doesn’t seem to phase them and we can pick up right where we left off. I suspect that they are introverts as well. My extrovert friends are less accommodating to my preference for solitude so I don’t have many. There are only a handful of people I can talk to every day without feeling that sense of intrusion. It’s nothing personal to anyone. It’s just how I am wired. Ask any introvert and I can almost guarantee that they will agree.

Glennon had me thinking about it all at length after I read her blog post yesterday (a fellow introvert friend tipped me off to read it). But I feel like we are a misunderstood breed of people. We have many gifts to share. It seems like a selfish way to be, but I imagine we were made this way for some greater purpose. I need to learn to embrace it. I wonder if anyone out there has any advice to give on this. Because right now, I feel guilty about being this way. It goes against the grain in almost every aspect of who I am “supposed” to be; part of a large and rowdy family and an active, involved mother of three crazy kids. I welcome any input or insight anyone can share! Introverts Unite! (Quietly, Anonymously, and Separately)!

Camp-Out with Daddy

I am excited to finally have a chance to write today! It was such a busy weekend. I didn’t have a moment to put fingers to keys. But I am able to report many personal and family accomplishments which occurred in the last 72 hours.
Saturday morning, I ran my first 5K (3.1 miles) since having Gracie. I ran with a fellow mom friend who had a baby twelve days before I had Grace. We did the Run or Dye 5K. Proceeds benefited the American Lung Association. We were covered head to toe in pink, orange, purple, yellow, green and blue powder dye at each half mile marker. The boys thought it was hilarious when I got home. It was so much fun and thousands of people participated. It wasn’t a timed run but we did finish it. It was a nice way to ease back into competitive running.
Saturday afternoon I came home to a mess of a house but it’s ok, because Scott kept the boys fed and happy; priority number one. Sweet baby Grace, however, refused to take a bottle the whole time I was gone so she was famished and very excited to see me. As soon as I got out of the shower, I took care of her. It was the longest we’ve been apart since she was born. I had been so nervous to even sign up for the race because of her aversion to bottles, but Scott promised me he would keep trying and even though it didn’t work, she did survive. I don’t want to do that on a regular basis, but it proved to me once again just how capable Scott is.
The whole rest of the afternoon, Scott and the boys played outside. It was a gorgeous late summer day. I could hear Noah’s excited yelps as he zipped around the yard. Luke came in once or twice for an “iPad break,” but went right back out. They ate an awesome dinner (Noah actually had a grilled cheese and a peanut butter and jelly). Then as I was serving dinner, I glanced out into the backyard and noticed my crazy ambitious husband setting up the tent in the backyard…
…It was a gorgeous day, but the lows at night had been dropping well into the mid- thirties. Quickly, I grabbed Grace out of her exer-saucer to interrogate Scott.
“Whatchya doin’?” I asked shielding the sun from Grace’s eyes.
“Setting up the tent. What’s it look like I’m doing?” he asked slightly exasperated.

Now back it up about a month or so. I had suggested to Scott that he do a backyard camp-out with the boys, but he’d never quite gotten around to it. We’d had such a busy summer with something going on every weekend that prevented an ideal opportunity for a camp-out. I did consider this before I chose my next words.
“I know you have been wanting to do this for a while, and it is so sweet of you to want to do it now, but don’t you think it might be a little cold outside tonight to do this?”
“We’ll have the space heater,” he said gesturing to the fire hazard space heater and extension cord lying nearby in the grass. I could tell this was going to be a closed discussion. I pressed my lips together and knew the only thing left to say was, “I will get the blankets and sheets for the air mattress.” I bit my tongue before I said, “fire extinguisher.”

Dusk was fading to navy blue and the temperature was dropping quickly. I had taken Gracie with me to the grocery store for a few things and also to distract myself from having an anxiety attack. Now, I should say, I trust Scott most of the time. And even in this instance, I didn’t doubt his ability to keep the boys safe. He has been hunting in much colder weather without a space heater, countless times. He has been camping more times than I. He is far more “out-doorsy” than me in most ways.

But the what-ifs were buzzing around my head again… Luke had been fighting a cold… What if Scott fell into one of his coma-like sleeps and didn’t wake up if one of the boys needed to go potty… What if the tent caught on fire… or a coyote came out of the woods and started attacking them? I shook my head at my own imagination and put the groceries away. I went out and took their picture and kissed them all good-night.

I kept a constant vigil on the tent from inside the house after I put Grace to bed. I turned on a movie that Scott would never watch with me; Pride and Prejudice. It’s my go-to any time he’s away hunting or on business. But tonight, Knightly and McFayden weren’t doing as great of a job holding my attention. The only thing separating my babies from the night were four thin, nylon walls and their daddy. I craned my neck more times than I care to admit, looking for the inevitable blaze to be dancing in the pitch dark.

Grace was up about every two hours to nurse and I never really calmed down enough to fall into a deep sleep after feeding her. The only phone call I got from the tent was Scott asking me to go turn off the sprinklers. Apparently one had popped up under the tent and was spinning around underneath them. That was actually quite funny and I could hear the boys giggling hysterically in the background.

Camping Boys

But somehow midnight melted to two-a.m., two a.m. bled into four, and at about six in the morning, with a very gloomy sunrise, my brave boys shuffled into the kitchen. Their cheeks were rosy and they carried their blankets. I kissed them and asked them if they liked it. They both started chattering at the same time about how cool it was. Then I heard Scott tumble into the house, arms full of sheets and all of their gear. I looked up at him smiling, “Good job,” I mouthed. He gave a tired, but victorious smile.
“Who wants pancakes?” I asked.
The boys started jumping up and down, “We do!”

Scott dumped everything in the laundry room and told me that he was going to take a hot shower. Apparently, he froze the whole night so that the boys could have the air mattress and the space heater to themselves. And I realized in that moment, once again, what a great man I had chosen to be the father of our kids.

He was very happy (and sleepy) the whole morning until I told him we were going apple picking that afternoon in the rain. Then I remembered what a crab I had chosen to be the father of our kids. But he took a nap and recharged enough so that we even had fun getting soggy at the apple orchard. And now it’s Monday and for once, I think he was very excited to be going back to work.

The Best Birthday Buddy a Daughter Could Ask For

Tomorrow I will be turning thirty-two. I will admit, thirty-two looks a lot different than I thought it would look when I was younger. I remember thinking that by my thirties, I would have more answers. All I really have are more questions. I thought I would be totally comfortable in my own skin and be very confident. But I find more than ever, I feel like I am screwing it up and everyone knows it. I feel like the most unorganized mess of a human being. I am deeply flawed.  I am selfish. I am bossy. I am impatient.

These are traits that are hard-wired into me and I have to try every day to be the opposite. But I’ve had the best teacher to show me how. She started teaching me from the day I was born how to be a better person. Take for example the fact that I was born the day before her twenty-second birthday. That’s right on the last day of her twenty-first year, she was delivering me (naturally) into this world. Talk about a pain in the a**. She was recovering in the hospital on her birthday. She was probably excited, but also scared to death. But she’s never even hinted at regretting any of it. She has always said I was the best birthday gift she ever got.

She has had to share her birthday with me for most of her life. And for years, I have believed I was so special to be born so close to my mom’s birthday. But now I realize that growing up, she was just sacrificing her day of being special to make sure that my day was more special. She has always made our birthday cake but let me blow out the candles. She threw parties for me and my friends on my birthday and probably had a big mess to clean up on her birthday.

Now I finally understand how much my mom has given through the years for me and my siblings because I am a mom. I was given new eyes the day my son was born. I see through the same eyes my mom has seen through for thirty-two years. I can appreciate all of the sacrifice she made for me and my siblings. She stopped working outside the home to make her full-time profession a stay-at-home-mom. It was the 80’s! She didn’t raise us in a time of play-dates every day. She and my dad worked very hard for everything they had. She had my sister nineteen months after me and my brother 20 months after her. My kids are even further spaced and I am still ripping my hair out daily. AND she even had a fourth kid! (Sorry, Pops. That won’t be happening.) There were no iPads to keep us busy while she made dinner. We never had cable T.V. to entertain us while she stole ten minutes to take a shower. There was no facebook to help my mom keep in touch with her friends. My mom didn’t go to college. She got married and had kids. She grew up quickly, much younger, and far more alone than I did.

Mom, I know you’ll read this. I just want to thank you for giving me the best birthday gift(s) of all. Thank you for sharing not only your day with me from the minute I was born, but the rest of your life. I finally see that once you become a mother, you’re a mother for the rest of your life. Thank you for showing me what selflessness looks like. Thank you for teaching me humility. Thank you for showing me unconditional love every day of my life. These are things you can’t give a person, but can only teach by example. You are the best role model a person could ask for. If I learn nothing else beyond what you have taught me these past thirty-two years, it will be okay because you have taught me the things that matter most.

You are an angel on earth and I love you. Happy birthday.

Our Birthday
My pretty mom and our family at our bday celebration this year