Thursday, September 11

Mommy Has Meltdowns Too


     I glanced into the rearview mirror expecting to see the baby smiling and staring out her window. She had gotten very quiet all of a sudden, which I found odd because she had been shrieking and arching her back just minutes before.

Her head was nodded, eyes were closed. She was sound asleep.

Shucks! 

She was supposed to stay awake for ten more minutes so that I could feed her lunch and then put her down for a 1 p.m. nap. Now I was carefully weighing my options, hoping this short catnap would not foil the 2 1/2-3 hour nap (aka: mommy's free time!) that she was supposed to take.

It did.

Hope was kept alive for a few short moments when we pulled in the driveway and I unbuckled her without her waking up. I picked her up, cradled her in my arms and carried her all the way upstairs with her eyes closed, and completely content.

Yes. We made it! I'll feed her lunch after her nap, I thought.

Within seconds of my laying her down that wispy head of strawberry blond hair popped up on the side of her crib grinning wildly like a jack in the box.

Ha! Gotcha! She seemed to say while smiling through her binky.

We moved on to plan B.

I carried her downstairs, fed her some lunch and decided I would attempt another nap time in 45 minutes or so.

She only slept for 10 minutes in the car, she's got to be tired soon, I reasoned.

I'm sure you can see where this story is going. That sweet face was not the least bit tired 45 minutes later. Nonetheless, I gave her her binky, pulled the shades down and left her in her room. She never cried, she simply spent the next 35 minutes jumping up and down, banging on the wall and rattling the side of her crib.

Because she was supposed to take a nap I had all sorts of good plans lined up. Clean the kitchen, go for a run (Scott was working from home),  sort through the massive pile of crafts, pictures, old mail, magazines and papers that were piled high in the dining room begging for attention since the middle of July (and growing taller with each passing day!).

After 35 minutes I relented, went in,  picked her up from her crib and went huffing and puffing my way down the stairs with her in my arms.

You are supposed to be sleeping! I reminded her sarcastically.

She is supposed to be sleeping! I reminded Scott as I furiously pulled clothes from the washing machine and launched them into the dryer, slamming the door for emphasis.

Bah! 

All sorts of grunts and groans seemed to bubble to the surface of my previously calm demeanor...So many so that Scott eventually told me to just go for my run and leave the baby with him, which I refused to do because I knew he had a lot of work to finish and would not get anything done with her at home.

I huffed and puffed and put the baby in the jogging stroller. I huffed and puffed and put my sneakers on. I huffed and puffed as I ran back in the house to get her binky.

And then I got tired of huffing and puffing and did what we women often do too well...especially during a PMS week...I sat down and cried and decided I wasn't going for a run after all because everything is extra-specially dramatic and emotional during a PMS week and I no longer felt like strong mom ready to run.

I was quite tempted to not share this post because I was afraid of what you might all think of me if you read it. She cries? That easily? Over something so silly?

As a matter of fact my blogging as of late has gotten inconsistent for two reasons...

1. I don't seem to have a whole lot of time to squeeze it in anymore
2. I started blogging because I wanted to be able to encourage other moms, especially if they were feeling as overwhelmed as I was from time to time...ok, most of the time.

I suppose I thought that somehow I'd be able to do that in sweet messages full of honest encouragement, but only if I felt I had it all together.  They would be posts that said, "Ah yes, parenting is so hard, but here are 5 handy tips for meal planning that will change your life!"

Or, "Are you struggling with time management or clutter in your home? Well then, you've come to the right place because my home is never cluttered for more than two days, I have a fantastic cleaning schedule and if you can just implement these 3 practices into your life you'll be well on your way to managing the 7,345 pieces of small plastic in your house too!"

I've read many of those articles online and somehow they have failed to change my life...I think it happens somewhere in the execution or failure to execute...maybe I'm reading the wrong articles!

In all honesty, I haven't figure out the niche of being encouraging without being totally transparent and transparent these days means tired, confused and disorganized much of the time.

The mommy meltdown was short lived. They usually are. As much as I can be prone to giving into my discouragement, and find myself in a slobbery heap of tears, I bounce back pretty quickly and was  on to rolling the ball with Aubrey five minutes later.

She didn't seem to notice my bad behavior and was happy to oblige with whatever silly games I came up with, so I folded socks and she flung the mismatched ones around the living room, we read 3 pages in a book (before I lost her attention) and played peek a boo with a helium balloon. She has a way of prompting enormous smiles from me--she's hilarious-- and I knew it ultimately wasn't her fault that she wasn't tired.

And so it goes on the roller coaster ride of stay-at-home or work from home motherhood. I do think some of this is unique to the experience of being at home everyday...a place where it's hard to set goals that will not be deterred, you are constantly needed and the whirl of meals and toys is never-ending.

I try not to have too many expectations on any given day, because plans are often quickly changed, but with the two big girls back in school I did start to have ideas about the things I might be able to get done with just one little one at home. One little one who is supposed to nap.

I did get out for that run eventually. Aubrey finally fell asleep around 3 p.m. and I was able to squeeze a run in and landed right back on my doorstep as the big girls bus pulled down the street.

However, the papers are still piled high in the dining room and I'm sure I've already forgotten to send a form back to school that needed to be signed (it's hiding somewhere in the pile of papers!).

I'm hoping, sometime during this school year to actually find a meal planning system and a house management system that works for me. When I do, I promise to share it! Hopefully it will change all of our lives for the better!

In the meantime, I'm incredibly thankful for the practice and discipline of running in my life and for the little spaces of time where I'm able to fit it in. I'm thankful for baby smiles and laughter. I'm thankful for the ability to laugh at myself when all is said and done.

In the midst of the craziness I will continue to practice thankfulness, because on some days its the only constant we've got and the only thing we have control over.


"In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 
1 Thessalonians 5:18




Friday, September 5

Back to School: The Happy, Sad Dance


Ah, the end of summer vacation. It comes with so many mixed emotions doesn't it?! 

I know some "I'm SOOO happy my kids are back in school...I couldn't take this ONE MORE MINUTE!" moms.

I'm not exactly one of them (or maybe feel too guilty to admit that sometimes I might feel that way just a little bit more than I expected to!)

There are also the "I'm SOOO sad that my kids are back in school" moms who seem to love every minute of summer vacation with a house full of crazy kiddos, and almost thrive on the chaos. 

I'm not one of those moms either. For sure. 

I'm a somewhere in the middle mom. I'm doing the happy and sad dance. Admittedly I'm enjoying some extra moments of quiet, but I'm also wondering how the time went quite so fast and how the girls got quite so big without my permission. 

I was walking around the house yesterday afternoon...a very quiet house...and this thought went through my head, "Whoa, it's a whole new world!"  and "Whoa, it feels weird to hear myself think again." 

The two big girls started school on Wednesday (kindergarten and 2nd grade) and it feels like a whole new world. Of course I still have little Miss Aubrey at home with me, which I am super thankful for because I'm not ready for a completely quiet house all day long. She naps for several hours and this is the first time that I've had just one child at home who takes a long nap, allowing me time to...gasp...find my thoughts and get some laundry put away.

You might think I'm joking about finding my thoughts, or if you know me well enough, you're laughing because you know I've lost them and have been searching high and low for their whereabouts. But I'm completely serious. At one point this summer I clearly thought to myself, (during a very brief moment that I had to think), "Whoa, so this is what people mean when they say they've lost their minds."

I used to just think that was a funny expression of speech.

Now I realize that it is a phrase most likely coined by a mom at the end of a summer vacation.

It comes out of nowhere, after several strings of weeks where you are going from morning to night trying to feed everyone, keep them from fighting, make them pick up after themselves and provide some low key activities to do out of the house, just for distraction sake.

It is then that a thought like this goes through your mind..."Goodness, gracious, I don't know where my keys are, what meal we just ate, where the bottom to Aubrey's or the top to Ava's bathing suits are, what day it is, or where that birthday card got off too that I had really good intentions of mailing to my good friend...Shoot, the Goodwill is still in the car from three weeks ago?! Did I really just pick up 17 things from the grocery store and forget to buy the milk and diapers that I actually went in for?! Wow, I've lost my mind."

And then someone starts screaming like they've been horribly wounded, only to find out that they stubbed their toe and the baby is on top of the patio table in the back yard.

And that's the end of that thought.

Ha...Such is life with kids.

I jokingly mentioned on Facebook on Tuesday night that I needed a t-shirt that says, "I Survived Summer Vacation!" to don once the girls got on the bus on Wednesday morning (I'm still thinking I should have one designed and printed for next year).

Nonetheless, it was a crazy, busy summer full of fun moments that required an exorbitant amount of energy on the part of the momma person. It was a 'drinking from the fire hose' (to coin a phrase I used in my last post, from a wiser older momma friend) kind of summer. For a while I thought maybe it was just me, still trying to figure out the pace of life with three, though it seems, from the friends I've  talked to, that many of you have had a similar experience.

So anyhow, the big kids are back in school and it leaves this momma with kind of a little bit happy/little bit sad sort of feeling. While a sense of relief comes with the reintroduction of order, there is a sadness that all of the summer fun is over. There is also some sadness because they've gotten so big, so fast. Big enough to be off to school and to have swiftly moved past stages (like princess dresses) that I thought would last forever.

But grateful for the chance to reorganize the house just a little bit and get some laundry done, before they're all home in the late afternoon. Grateful for the chance to write a blog post or two. Grateful for the chance to recover some of my scattered brain and catch my breath.

I jokingly told Scott on the night before school started that it felt like I had reached the end of a marathon and when I returned back to the house after the race, a hurricane had blown through and upended all of our belongings, scattering them here there and everywhere!

"Yup. That feels about right," he said.

Here's to reordering, taking a deep breath and finding my lost mind.

Here's to accepting the ages and stages, as furiously and quickly as they seem to come and go, and to being as present as possible to the new adventures, and moments for all that they are.

Thursday, August 14

Girls, Girls, Girls




Girls. Girls. Girls.

We have three of them.

We love them to pieces. To the moon and back...a bazillion times we tell them at bedtime.

They love to recount that they love us to the moon and back a bazillion and one times. We go back and forth about who loves who more until one of us recedes from the "I love you more" game and we all smile and bask in the hugeness of all of the blessed love in our house.

Girls are fun, and colorful. Sweet and creative. Sensitive and silly. Full of life and spunk and beauty.

Girls are squirmy, squeal-y and easily grossed out...mine are anyways (they've probably taken notes from me!).

As a matter of fact, right after this picture was taken, we were walking along a very groomed, very short, hiking path in a local park. You would have thought I had taken the girls into the Amazon for a week.

"Momma, are there wolves in here?"

"No girls, there are no wolves."

"Momma, do you know where you're going? Are we going to be able to get out of here?"

"Yes girls. Yes, momma does sometimes know where she is going. Just sometimes though."

We see a snake on the ground...way off the side of the path.

"Girls, look, a snake!"

The big girls run behind me. "Where mom?!! Where?! Eww. A snake!"

"Yes, girls...it's just a little snake."

"Is it poisonous?!"

"No. Girls. Again...we live in Buffalo...the suburbs actually. We're all ok."

A few minutes later, "Look girls a daddy long legs!"

They screech and jump behind me again, afraid to move further. We now look like a scene from the Wizard of Oz where the lion, the tin man and the scarecrow are all cowering behind Dorothy!

I shake my head and laugh. "Oh my," I say aloud, "We really are a bunch of girls."

Ava laughs with me. "We are a bunch of girls, aren't we mom?"

"Yes honey. Yes we are."

There is no denying that we are a house full of girls. We have pink and purple bedrooms. Lots of pink shoes, princess crowns and tutus scatter themselves amongst our decor with fierce regularity.

I have come to the conclusion that girls also require a LOT of attention to detail. And raising girls requires attention to details that mommas of boys just don't have to think about.

My sister and I each have three children-- she has three boys, I have three girls-- we love to talk, laugh (and, yes, sometimes whine and cry together) about the craziness of having three children. We chatter about the blessed mess, about the whining and the fighting, the laughing and the adventure. We compare notes, ask for advice and offer each other suggestions.

While there is a great deal of shared experience in parenting for the two of us, there are also vast differences that are easily noted when comparing the parenting of a set of three boys to a set of three girls.

I like to chide her that in my very naive opinion, I think boys, on some level,  MUST be easier! They are less emotional, less dramatic and require WAY less personal upkeep.

I still remember the day, last summer, when Ava and Ella both ran out to get the mail. Ava came back in the house with a triumphant grin.  Ella remained out near the mail box pouting and despondent.

Any momma knows that that means.

Big sister outran her littler sister to the mailbox, boldly grabbed ALL of the mail, leaving none behind and before the littler sister even had a chance to reach the mailbox came bounding back into the house to deliver the handful to me.

"Where is your sister?" I ask, eyes wide and cynical, already knowing the answer.

"She's still outside," big sister responds smartly, as if its no big deal, even though we all know that it is.

"Ava Katherine!" (the middle name always comes out in these conversations!), "Do you think that was very nice?"

"What?" she asks coyly.

"Are you serious right now?"

She gives me eyes that say "Are you serious mom?" though she knows better than to say such words.

"You go out and get your sister. Give her some of this mail and walk with her back into the house. Now!"

She huffs a little and gruffs a little...but only a little, because she knows better...and goes back out to get her sister, who now must practically be dragged up the driveway because she is mad and sad and digging in her feet and doesn't want to be helped up the driveway. Particularly not by her sister.

I spend the next 15 minutes channeling my inner spiritual compass and a little bit of Judge Judy and try to figure out how to best navigate the emotions of the situation.

When I finally share the story with my sister later she laughs and tells me that if that had happened to her two oldest boys, the middle one would have just knocked the older one to the ground- they would have duked it out for a minute and then all moved on their merry way.

"Are you serious?" I ask.

What I wouldn't give for a one minute resolution at this point. Even if it did involve fists. Seriously.

Girls are very emotional.

And my poor husband is VERY outnumbered. Even the girls have picked up on this.

Just yesterday, while we were at a local playground an older couple nearby commented on how cute Aubrey was.

"She's the littlest sister," Ava informed them.

They nodded knowingly. "Yes, we can see that."

"And I'm the biggest sister. And the middle sister is over there."

They nodded some more and smiled, "Wow, three girls, huh?"

It took Ava the briefest second to report what I've reported dozens of times in similar settings, "Yes," she told them, "My dad is VERY outnumbered at home."

They laughed.

The poor guy. He is very outnumbered.

When things aren't so emotional we are in the thick of things that can tend to make girls complicated on a more superficial, but just as complex level.

Let us begin with the hair. Lots and lots of hair!

"Katherine!" I like to exclaim to my sister at the end of a long day, " The boys just get out of the tub and poof, they're ready for bed! or church! or wherever you're off too! I have hair to dry and comb and detangle. Lots of it!"

She doesn't argue. I actually think I can hear a smirk in her voice when she says, "Ah, yes, you are right about that."

There is the washing of hair, and the snarls in hair, and the drying and brushing of hair after every bath time. I figure if the girls take baths 4 times a week and you multiply the time spent combing conditioner through the hair and then drying it all...you're looking at a good 30 minutes extra of bathroom hair care per bath session. That's two hours a week!

After the hair care there is the whole topic of clothing with girls...an issue that we realize will become more complex with age.

Oh my heavens, we are still in elementary school, but it doesn't take a momma of girls a ton of time to realize that there are a LOT more details in this area of parenting. The skirts, and dresses, tights and shoes...the shoes, the shoes, the shoes! There are headbands, bows, barrettes, and clips. The are belts and scarves and necklaces and bracelets. Even for a mom who tries to be frugal and simplify where possible,  there is a lot of extra stuff!

Boys, all they need are some sweatpants, shorts and t-shirts, a pair of sneakers, a pair of dress shoes, a couple of church outfits and they're all set.

I suppose the boys make a bigger dent in the grocery budget, but I'm still convinced girls are more expensive in the long run.

Please don't say the word...w-e-d-d-i-n-g. Seriously. Three of them?!!

So, I'm just saying, because I'm a momma to three girls, that I think they require an extra measure of time, money and personal care that can be avoided with boys.

Sometimes, as female as I am, I feel like I have no gosh darned idea how to navigate the estrogenic terrain of our household. I just look at Scott and throw up my hands. "Yup. No idea," I say.

And so I just laugh.

Or, if its around that time of month, I might cry.

But then I usually laugh again, because, as they say, laughter is the best medicine...or antidote, I say, to a house full of girls who will all be teenagers at some point...all at the same time for one  year.

Heaven help me...and my husband. At that point he may really need that "man cave" we like to joke about, and I may just go move in with my sister for a few weeks, where milk and bread may be in short supply, but saltines sans hormonal upheaval sounds like a real deal if you ask me.

At least the girls will be able to wash, dry and brush their own hair at that point.

I'll be on my knees using that extra two hours to pray in earnest for wisdom, wisdom, wisdom and extra measures of patience.

And hope that my pre-menopause doesn't collide with three new bouts of PMS.

That might just send poor Scott, the mountain man without a rock in sight, running to the hills after all.








Wednesday, July 23

Great Expectations: Summer Vacation





Hello All...

It's been a while.

How is your summer going?

Our is...well...going...

     Wink. Wink. Smile. Smile. Says the mom trying to create some semblance of structure and sanity around very unstructured days with a 14 mo. old who is a walking pickpocket, cup tipper, dishwasher climber, tissue box destroyer, cabinet emptier, shoe flinger and general disassembler of all things in all parts of the house + two older children who look at me with yearning eyes that say "Ok mom...you're the activity director, right? Whatta we doin' today? And please, please, pretty puhleeaze don't say organize the playroom or clean our bedrooms AGAIN!"

in case you needed proof

     Ah yes. Summer vacation. In all of it's splendid gloriousness. In all of its crazy chaoticness.

     I love summer. I love the warmth and the sun and taking runs at dusk. I love grilled chicken and vegetables, corn on the cob, berry picking, and beaches (though I must confess, I haven't been brave enough to take all three children yet!).  I love watching the girls ride their bikes and how their hair turns lighter with each day. I love their tanned skin and band-aided knees. I love eating  ice cream with them, the longer days, buying cherries at the farmers market and  wearing nothing on our feet but flip flops (and let me tell you, when you become a family of five there are flip flops EVERYWHERE! There are so  many that it becomes a seek and rescue mission to find two that match sometimes!).

     I LOVE not having to bundle everyone in layers, and jackets and boots!

     Summer always makes...I can't even say it...that season that starts with the letter "w" (shhhh! don't say it aloud!)...seem so very far away and maybe...just maybe bearable one more time....if we must... but let's not talk about that right now.

     However, for all of the things I LOVE about summer I must confess, summer as a mom of small children is...hmmm...how does one say this...a tad hairy at times (:

     I recently had a discussion with a very wise mom whose own children are college aged now. "Ah yes, summer vacation," she aptly said, "is like drinking water from a fire hose."

     That just might have been the best description I have heard to date to describe the daily goings on at our house.

     And yet, in the midst of the fire hose drinking marathon there is a great paradox-- As a mom I can start to feel like for as much as I'm trying to do, I'm not doing enough.  That they are not getting to do enough.

    What's up with that?

     The kids can seem bored and it feels like my fault.

     When we don't have a jam packed schedule of activities, I feel like I'm doing something wrong.

     Because I haven't managed to schedule the playdates I wanted to, or do one of the crafts I had hoped to do, or because taking them all to the beach feels like a feat of such gargantuan proportions that I have decided not to,  I start to feel like I'm disappointing them somehow.

     Because some days it feels like all I can manage is to stay home, feed everyone three meals and clean up in the wake of their towels, sand, clothing and bathing suit changes, and then pick up the array of socks, underwear, shoes and game pieces that seem to find themselves scattered about the house, I feel like the kids are 'missing out'.

    On what? I'm not totally sure.

    We seem to be a culture seeking a constant activity buzz and even though I don't really want the buzz, I  want my children to enjoy their summer. I want them to have great memories of long hot joyful, fun-filled days. Somehow a subliminal message has weaseled its way into my mommy mind that if we are not on the activity buzz rocket ship I'm letting everyone down.

    Off to outer space is what I would like to say to that rocket ship whose name is mommy guilt.

    Does anyone else ever feel this way?

     Really, what do kids need? They need to feel loved. They need a tin of water balloons and a spicket. They need someone to help them apply their sunscreen and make them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.  They want you to read them a book and watch an episode of their favorite cartoon on the couch with them.

     And while I know all of that, kids tend to have needs and wants, and as a parent it is sometimes easy to fall into the trap of wanting to meet as many of their wants as possibly...even if it happens unconsciously.

     Some kids are thrill seekers. I must say, Ava would hold a ticket to a different theme park every day of the week for the entire summer if she could. I'm totally not kidding about that...as much as I can say all she needs is for me to read a book to her, she asks me EVERY day when we are going to Darien Lake and Canada's Wonderland. She would also like to know if she grows another half inch by the end of the summer (and she probably will) if can we drive back to Ohio to go on all of the rides at Cedar Pointe that she didn't get to ride when we were there two weeks ago.

     I think she wishes I could take them swimming more, that we could go to Darien Lake weekly, that we could install a pool in our very tiny backyard and that life were a little more festive than it actual is because...well...there is a baby in the house that needs a lot and naps a lot, who requires constant attention and who isn't quite big enough to ride anything at Darien Lake.

     And so even though she is only seven,  I realize that I actually may be disappointing my sweet girl on some level with what I am and am not capable of. I'm realizing that as a mom of three I have limitations and that those limitations are very real and have very real implications for what we can and cannot do on many of our summer days.

     Life in our house, some days, IS plain boring.

     Even for me.

     Yes we have taken the same bike ride 16 times. Yes, we are going to the same park again. Yes, it is ham sandwiches and go-gurt for lunch, again.  No, we cannot go to Adventure Land right this moment, and probably not even by the end of this week. Though I will try to make it happen (despite the fact that theme parks make me cringe) by the end of the summer.

     I'm realizing that even though this makes me a little bit sad...the fact that I'm likely disappointing my daughter on some level...it's part of maturing (or growing up, so to speak) as a mom and it's part of growing up as a kid with siblings.

     So, while summer  often comes wrought with great expectations, I'm learning that we we have to consider and reconsider, over and over again,  what it is that makes our days...our lives...great.

     Is it big exciting, activity packed days at Adventure Land. Or is is small adventures in one's own backyard...feeding ducks and watching a momma bird sit on her eggs in another bird's nest in our shed?

    Is it go, go, go...to new, new, new places...or is it finding new things to see as we frequent the same old places?

     Is it squeezing the most activity out of every day or is it learning to be ok with doing less?

     I know the answers to my questions.

     (Sometimes knowing is the easy part, it is living the answers that is often much harder.)

      The answer is (as far as I can see) that there must be a balance somewhere in-between. That new adventures are fun, but familiar places are refreshing and offer a different kind of fullness.

     That being busy is not always a bad thing, but that being still is not so bad either.

     That kids will always be kids who will have far more energy than you do and that some "boredom" is a requirement for a summer vacation well lived (how many times do you remember saying "I'm bored!" to your own parents!).

     That being content with less requires just as much energy as attempting to plan more.

     I will close with the words of one of my favorite motherhood authors Katrina Kenison in her book "Mitten Strings for God" (the book I always reference when I'm feeling guilty for not doing more). In this chapter titled "Play" she describes how good, old-fashioned, unplanned days are quite good for us after all.

     "I grew up in a typical New England town, where it didn't occur to anyone to plan their children's days or even to keep too close an eye on them when they weren't in school. My childhood seemed--to me then and for many years afterward-- completely uneventful. But now, raising children of my own, I consider my childhood rich indeed, for I still hold within me those feelings of freedom and self-reliance, and memories of summer days strung together like beads on a string, all of them mine."

     Here's to hoping my sweet girls feel the same way about their own summer days many years from now.