What a Wonderful World

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.