Archives for posts with tag: parenting

I wrote this piece specifically for a writing contest. Alas, I did not win. Such is the life of a writer. Moments of unadulterated joy and success followed by a dark pit of despair and failure. There are rarely middle moments of mediocrity. Or maybe there are, but they get lost in the whirlwind of highs and lows. In my younger years, I think this moment of failure may have destroyed a bit of me. I am sad, of course, but this is not the only thing I have going for me. It is part of the writer’s life. We don’t win them all. Not every reader will enjoy our writing. Maybe you will hate this piece below. I am not sure. I am not sure I care. I wrote it. It is true. It is honest. It is a part of my very being, always lingering behind my happiness. This sadness that engulfed me when my grandma died. A sadness that never quite leaves. It ebbs and flows throughout my day dreams and middle of the night over-thinking sessions. So here is a brief story about my grandma, her life and death. It is not the whole story, I need an entire book for that, but a glimpse into one of the relationships that shaped the woman I am. 

She Was Too Tired

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My grandma and I were always close. Summers spent climbing the trees in her never ending yard. Was the yard really as expansive as I remember? It seemed to go on and on. Sleepovers with cuddles on the couch. “Grandma can you play with my hair some more?” The answer was always yes. Her long nails, scratching my scalp for hours on end. Was it really hours? I am not sure, but to me, it felt like she had all the time in the world to play with my hair. Tantrums ignited by having to leave the comfort of her walls. Six-year-old me even ran away from home. Riding my bike across town. Knocking on her backdoor. “Can I live with you? Mom and Dad won’t let me do what I want to do.”

I have this photo of her, my grandpa, and my firstborn son. Sitting on the couch, smiles on all their faces. He was six months old. The only child of mine she got to meet. As I was folding hand-me-down clothing for my youngest son, I came across the onesie from the photo. I stopped. My hands shaking. My stomach began to churn. Gingerly twisting the fabric between my fingers. Tumbling back in my memory to that afternoon. She was on the other side of my camera. Smiling at me.

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When I was eight months pregnant with my youngest son, my grandma died. I was sitting in my backyard, watching my three-year-old son play in the sand when my phone rang.

When I walked into her hospital room, nausea enveloped by body. She was hooked up to so many tubes. A giant mask on her face. The hum of oxygen penetrating the empty spaces around us. My grandma, who I used to tell “you’s not fat grandma, you’s fluffy!” looked so thin and frail in that bed. The next few days were a blur. Me and my round belly, waddling back and forth from the hospital. Sitting by her side, with my grandpa, with my dad.

Then came hospice. We got her settled into her room. Everyone gone, only my parents and I remained. I walked over to her, leaned down, and kissed her. Whispering, “get some rest grandma. I will see you tomorrow.”

She took my advice. The next and last time I saw my grandma, whose very presence oozed warmth and grandma-ness, was in her coffin. Unborn baby in my belly. An unborn baby she would never take a photo with. An unborn baby whose middle name would be the very name she gave her own son, my dad. She was too tired to find out how the story ended. She needed her rest.

 

*Special thank you to my friends and personal editors who volunteered and helped me edit this piece. I am eternally grateful to you and your intelligently sharp eyes. Ashley, Taryn, and Amanda. A writer is nothing without a great editor. Thank you! Thank you to my mom and husband who both told me this was a great piece and are always cheering my writing on. I could send them a run-on sentence jotted on a gum wrapper and they would say it was great! Thank you for believing in my writing no matter what.* 

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It’s not hard to believe that the little snuggly burrito in this photo is the seven year old young man that shuffled out of his room this morning. Looking taller. Or maybe that is just my mom colored glasses, biased to the fact that you’re a year older. Your face aglow with joy as you took in our birthday tradition. A room. A kitchen. A house. Decorated to celebrate the wonder that is your life.

That’s how time works. That is why it’s not hard to believe. It slaps me in the face every year. Baby burritos grow into young men. Seven. Seven is official. Seven is maturity. Seven is making your own breakfast. Seven is needing less help. Seven is a mom’s eyes lingering over your dimples and less round cheeks. Lost in in a sea of memories of soft downy hair, soft blankets, and baby scent. Tumbling back in time to hours spent on a couch from three homes ago, breastfeeding you for hours on end. Two souls, unsure of the new life ahead, sleeping, waking, sleeping, waking, but not moving much. Taking time to discover motherhood and infanthood.

Seven is a mom rambling on about scenes from a lifetime ago. Seven is exploration. Seven is picking up your little brother to show him things too high for his three year old length to reach. Seven is moods. Seven is opinions. Seven is bubble gum. Seven is best friends. Seven is letting you fly on your own, just a pinch more. That’s hard. Seven is never sitting still. Oh, well, that has been every year. That is you. Not unique to only this year of life. Seven came too fast. Seven will end too fast. Eight will be here when I blink next.

Motherhood is a bittersweet exploration of life. Elation and indescribable joy tightly intertwined with heavy sinking sadness. Each year your child grows, you celebrate their milestones and joys while knowing in the very abyss of your soul that you are letting go in subtle delicate ways. That is my journey to honor. That is my burden to absorb. For you, sweet, caring, emotional, intelligent, stubborn, honest, funny human, I long for you to absorb the wonder that is seven. Seven is beautiful. Seven is you.

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What are you grateful for?

The last two years have been a whirlwind for my family. A lot of change, new experiences, opportunities, adjustments, and relationships. 2017 has carried a lot of that. I am still in disbelief that this year is coming to a close. We have had so much happen, good and bad, in these last 11 months. It feels like New Year’s Eve was just yesterday. Today is Thanksgiving, a day in which we are supposed to pause and be thankful for what we have experienced over the course of a year. It is not my favorite holiday, mostly because it has become centered around overindulgence during a moment when we are supposed to be thankful. I find it a little counterintuitive. I love the thankful portion of the moment, so I am going to break down the things I am thankful for this year. They are not in an order of thankfulness, more of a stream of consciousness. Taking time to pause and reflect on the good in my life.

  1. We met many great people in the six years living in the ‘burbs. I made friendships that I cherish with people that inspire me. That said, there was always something missing from me personally. I fell madly in love with the city and moving away from it proved that to me. I’m thankful we made the fast, and slightly impulsive, decision to pack up and go back to where our hearts remained.
  2. My work at Carry the Future. I truly love being a part of the work being done. I’ve spent the last six months under the leadership of a very smart, funny, strong, capable woman. For whom I have immense respect and admiration. When people ask me what I do and I reply, “I’m a writer.” The next question is usually what for or where. My favorite part of that moment is when I tell them I write for a refugee organization.
  3. The path my career is on in general. I am so thankful I made the decision to go back to working outside of solely caring for the boys I love so much. Being a stay at home mom for 6 years was a wild ride. I reached a point where I was ready to do something for me. I am immensely thankful for the opportunities I have found. And for the people who have taken a chance on me.
  4. The women in my life that encouraged me to “run for something.” That turned into running for a co-chair position on the PTO. My first experience in running for something. I was so hesitant and nervous, but I did it and I am eternally thankful to the women who, post-Election 2106, looked at me and said that they thought I should run for something, anything, out there.
  5. The dear friend and woman who approached me to run for Secretary of the PTO. I hadn’t set my eyes on that at all. I was doing my co-chair work. She came to me and said she thought I was more than capable to make something with this position. That my talents were needed there. I was again, hesitant (something I am getting better at). I took my time to think it over. Ultimately, I said let’s do this. I have been enjoying my time SO much as PTO Secretary. I love the role and the frequent work that comes with it. The other day I was finishing up a task and just paused to think how happy I am that I have taken the role and made it my own.
  6. On that note, all the women I’ve been working with in general. I wear a few hats these days and under every single one is a strong team of women. Sometimes I sit back and think, “wow! We really do and can run the world.” I am so thankful to be working with and learning from them.
  7. That Jackson has done so well adjusting to a new school and a new home. Being older, he takes note of things a little more than Alexander does. The nuances of change have more of an impact on him. He has done it all with such courage, humor, and confidence. I am so proud that he is my son.
  8. Alexander’s conquering of his medical issues and his amazing speech improvement. He doesn’t stop talking. I can close my eyes and remember how I longed to hear his opinions and now he never ever stops talking. He is shaping up to be as chatty as Jackson! I am so excited for him and so proud of him.
  9. We are entering year 10 of marriage! Which is crazy to think because I am only 32, but here we are. Almost 13 years together and almost 10 years married. Ups, downs, and all arounds. He stills grabs my butt like we just started dating, so something is working! HA!
  10. That I am in a place in life where I can give back to my community and world. I feel so thankful that I can be charitable and volunteer my time and instill these values in my children. Being a generous helper is something I want them to grow up knowing, doing, and loving.

Happy Thanksgiving. May your servings be calorically appropriate. May you take a moment to reflect on your year and focus in on the reasons to smile and say, “that was good.”

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Depending on the moment, down to the second, my desire to have a third child has been susceptible to change. Are both boys peacefully sleeping on me? Their dark eyelashes dusting their skin? Chests rhythmically rising and falling with a small snore escaping their perfectly tiny noses? Oh, the urge to create another perfect tiny human radiates through all my bones, sinew, and joints. Are both boys in the middle of a literal knock out fight, screaming, “THAT’S MINE!” and punching each other? My uterus curls up into a ball, holding a small knife out, yelling, “come near me and someone gets cut!” That is how easily I could switch between the idea of adding another human to our brood.

I love my boys. I don’t have a desire to have a girl specifically (people ask that a lot), but sometimes the lure of newborn scent and snuggle is tough to resist. Reflecting on baby photos of my rapidly growing boys can make me tenderly remember those hours rocking them in gliders, nursing them to sleep. Pressing down the memories of desperate desire for sleep and the battles of breastfeeding. The urge pops up every so often, while I simultaneously and loudly lament, “I am definitely DONE having babies.” The thought was there: the consideration then the dismissal. Shooing away my husband as he hugged me and said, “let’s make a third!” But the choice was ultimately mine.

Until last week. Last week that was taken away from me by my own body. Or at least, I learned about this new version of me. Without getting into the nitty gritty details of that, because I am not sure I am ready to, the bottom line is this: my ability to have more babies has become very unlikely. Writing that out sent a chill through my body. I can describe the moment I received the news. I happened to answer my doctor’s call in the middle of the park last Thursday morning. All of the children running around me in slow motion, voices distorted, my head spinning. Knowing when I hit the red end button, I had to turn around, with a smile, and ask my boys if they wanted to go grab lunch yet.

I am only thirty-two years old. I know I have two gorgeous, funny, adorable, sweet, snuggly, happy boys. I know that. I love them more than anything in this world. I live for them, if it wasn’t clear through my countless articles and posts I have written. I am thankful they’re mine. This doesn’t mean a part of me didn’t die last week, literally. It did. Even if I have already produced two amazing tiny humans. That part of my life is dead now, over. There will be no more newborn scents or wails drifting through our halls. There will be no more onesies or swaddles. There will be no more little genetic combos of my husband and myself.

Until last week, It was my choice to make or not make. That was a power piece I held. If two years from now, both boys in school full time, I missed that baby stage so much, I could have added another to our bunch. That was always a possibility. Choice. I had a choice.

I have anxiety, so of course, I have been replaying a lot in my own brain the last few days. Living in my head. Yesterday I let myself breakdown entirely. Today, I have emerged from the fog. I gave myself one day of mourning and now it is back to my usual routine. As I walked to the grocery store, headphones in, I thought about the fact that I started having babies when I was twenty-five. These days, that is considered young. I remember my OB saying to me “you are the youngest woman in my practice, except my teen moms.” This used to annoy me. Today, I am eternally grateful. What if we hadn’t decided to try for Jackson when I was that young? What if I had said no to Jason about trying to have Alex just before Jackson turned three? What if I had insisted on waiting? The thought breaks my heart.

I feel like I lost a little piece of something last week. Regardless of the fact, that at this moment in life, I didn’t want another baby, it was still my choice to make. I had more time to make that choice. Who knows where we will be in a couple years. Maybe maybe maybe. This doesn’t change our family in any literal sense at this moment, but I do feel different. I feel broken. I feel like a failure. I feel trapped in my own body. I feel like I am incapable. Of what? I am not sure. A female’s worth doesn’t revolve around baby-making, I know that. I am so much more than “just a mom.” There is more to me than that part of my life, but it is a part and a big one.

Back to that internal battle, only this time it isn’t over whether I want another baby or not. Rather, it’s that I am not broken because I can’t have another baby. It’s that in time, I will accept this new normal of my body and life. For now, I just look back at the serendipitous moments that led to me having two children before the ability to do so was prematurely snatched away from my grasp.

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My oldest son is finishing up Kindergarten next week. I have been having an internal struggle with this stage of life we are leaving behind. The idea of First Grade seems harder for me to accept than Kindergarten was. There is still something that makes them feel so little while they are in Kindergarten. It is their toe dip into the big world of education. With First Grade looming in the wings, I cannot help but feel that there is one last piece of babyhood I am quickly losing my grip on.

My son will not be having a Kindergarten graduation ceremony. It is just how things worked out at his school this year. I am a little sad about that. I have even toyed with the idea of staging my own at home. (I am only half joking) I am sure I can find a cap and gown on Amazon in a pinch. I am not above doing something silly like that!

Recently, I overheard some people talking about how they find no value in any childhood graduation ceremonies. They even went to far as to say High School graduation is unimportant. I could not disagree with them more. I find value in celebrating these kinds of events. I cherish those moments. I am not a perfect parent and I never pretend to be. We all have our moments. When it comes down to it though, I cherish these important moments of my children’s lives. I go out of my way to create happy moments together.

We try our hardest to use positive reinforcement with our boys. I said we try. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we end up yelling. Every parent loses their patience once in a while. However, we value the concept and practice of positive reinforcement. This morning we cheered on our toddler who cleaned up a mess he created yesterday. He got high-fives and a ton of praise. Despite the fact that he was being straight up destructive when he threw my container of ear plugs around my bedroom. His face was a big cheesy grin when he heard us praise his clean up job. As a parent, you learn when to let go of the lesson and bring on the encouragement. It can be a balancing act, but you adapt. When you think about it, staging small graduation ceremonies for Preschool, Kindergarten, Middle School, and then the big one in High School, creates the ultimate method of positive reinforcement. You are creating happy and celebratory memories. You are encouraging them to work hard and follow through.

Childhood memories have value later in life. Close your eyes and think back to your happiest childhood memory. Maybe it was a family vacation, maybe a certain holiday, maybe it was a normal day that ended up being so silly and fun, maybe it was a graduation ceremony. The examples are endless. There is even a chance you had a hard time picking just one happy childhood memory. The Wall Street Journal examined the importance of childhood memories. The research determined that when children are able to recall childhood memories, they learn to cope better and have an easier time adjusting later in life. It helps them to develop their own sense of self. This allows them to reflect on their lives and see if they have stayed the same as a person or if they have changed and grown. When they recall happy memories, for example, a large happy life event that involves their family (think Kindergarten graduation ceremony), they learn to value family moments. The reason all of these internal changes occur is because children learn from their recalled memories as they mature.

There is a point in having a graduation ceremony for a child. There is lifelong value in that. Sure, it is not the only way to promote healthy, happy, and positive memories. There are so many opportunities in childhood for happiness. It is one way though. One which should not be scoffed at. How miserable are you as a person to scoff at a happy little afternoon for a child? When we value creating happy moments for our children, we are preparing them for a lifetime of living and learning.

I will do my best to make my son’s last day of Kindergarten memorable, even without a structured graduation ceremony. I always have him hold up signs on his first and last day of school. I started in pre-school. I already have my supplies to make next week’s sign. We will do something fun after I pick him up. He can choose dinner that night. I am not above having a box of goodies for him to open when he walks back through our door a First Grader. I am so proud of him for working so hard this year! Kids work hard in school. Their brains are growing, synapses firing, they create and absorb new knowledge! That is something to celebrate and encourage. What value is there in making a child feel like the work they accomplished is stupid and a waste of time? None, there is none. What will create a better world? Lifting up these tiny humans who will one day be in charge. Lifting them up high and celebrating their lives, happiness, joy, and success will only make our world a better and brighter place.

If I had my way, I would throw my children a graduation every year. I cannot wait to see how they both grow over the next school year, even if a piece of me is sad to watch my babies grow. I cannot wait to be a part of the happy childhood memories that will shape their adult selves.

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My sister-in-law gave me the sign pictured here for my birthday this year. Today, I found myself thinking about the quote, and how much I feel pulled to it today. I may not be able to single-handedly write the world into saving itself, but I will share my stories, and try my hardest to affect change when and where I can.

Yesterday my son was involved in a bomb threat. My six year old son was at his school, ready to participate in his after school club when some maniac called in a bomb threat. Right now, his school educates children pre-k through eighth grade. Someone wanted to harm, scare, evoke terror, and cause chaos for children that young. Let that sink in. The targets of this terror were small children just trying to learn and play.

I walk to pick him up every day. Yesterday, I took my time walking there with my two year old. I was working on teaching him how to stop at every parking garage and intersection. I turned it into a game. We were having fun. Completely unaware what was going on. As we walked down the stairs to the park near the school, I noticed fire trucks and commotion. I truly thought it had something to do with the construction site nearby. We started to walk by it, to get to the school. Two firefighters stopped me and told me I had to go around through the park. As we turned around, I overheard two other adults say the name of my son’s school and that it had been evacuated. This stopped me in my tracks. Things slowed down a little for me. I scooped up my little one and approached a fireman. He did not have a lot of info to give me. I asked him to please ask if there was someone who could come speak with me. I needed to get to my child.

It felt as if I stood there forever. I am sure less time passed than I think. I did my best to one hand text my husband and mom. He called me to get more details and let me know he was on his way. Another fireman came and spoke with me. I again explained my child had been in that building and I needed to know what was going on and where I could find him. He said they had been talking to the head of the school, and that the kids were sent to two different locations. He would try to see if he could get any information on what kids went where. I stopped him one more time and asked him to tell me what was going on. Why this was all happening. He turned and looked at me, he was silent for a second, then quietly said “There was a bomb threat.” I can tell you, even typing that right now brings a lump to my throat. I know my heart sank. I remember I exhaled a large amount of air as my body sank a little. I rolled my head to one side. That feeling of exasperation. I was still holding my youngest son. I did not ask any more questions at that moment. He probably should not have told me what he did, and in my brain, even in the chaos, I knew that. I think he looked at me and saw a scared mom holding another child, then he did the human thing and told me. He walked off to go investigate further. Then a lieutenant walked up and asked the parents gathered there “who is missing a child?” I raised my hand. There is that lump again. I was missing my child. He then asked each parent who raised a hand how many children they were missing. He rushed off to speak to other officials. When he came back he gave me the best information he could. The children were in two locations, but he had no way of knowing which location each child was sent to. He gave me the two spots. One was across the park, it was the closest and I started there. My son had on a bright orange shirt. It is Spirit Week and it was Athletic Clothing Day. As I began to walk across the park I saw a bright orange spot. I knew it was him! Then I saw his after school club instructor. I did not run or act scared. I continued to calmly walk up to him and said hi with a smile on my face. I was not sure how much information anyone had, especially the kids. I saw some other parents. I shared with them what the fireman had shared with me.

My son had nothing with him, of course. They left everything and just evacuated the building. The school completely evacuated in under three minutes. This was during after school activities, meaning staff and students were all over the place and not in normal situations, they were still able to get every human out incredibly quick. After we stood around for a while and I spoke to some other parents and faculty, I decided we were not going to stand around and wait for an all clear to retrieve his bag. Meanwhile, my husband had immediately jumped in a cab to get to us as fast as he could. As we walked away he arrived. We then ran into two other families we know. We took all the kids for ice cream and really had a nice time. Some calm after the storm.

When I got home and called my mom to update her I started telling her the story and I broke down. The panic had remained at bay, allowing me to function and keep my children safe. As we chatted, it suddenly came to the surface. The tears came flowing and I choked up as I tried to tell her all the details.

After the phone call, I sat down on the couch but I could not stop shaking. We started to talk to our son about what happened, the truth behind the sudden emergency. We did not want him to go to school today and overhear the word bomb, not knowing what he had really been involved with. He explained to us what happened when the alarms went off. How they did not take the elevator, they took the stairs. The stairs they took were “different and we left the building in a secret exit.” He said all the children were screaming, including him, on the way down the stairs. An hour later at the dinner table he brought it up again, telling us how he was feeling. He said he could not stop thinking about it. We answered his questions and reassured him again he was brave and we were so proud that he listened to his teachers. Everyone did an amazing job staying safe. He was safe and the school, police, and fire departments were making sure everything was ok.

I ordered him new shoes recently. The packages arrived yesterday afternoon. As I unpacked the new shoes last night, I paused for a moment. I looked at the shoes and thought about how if this had not been a threat, had it been real, and ended in pure tragedy, that I would have opened those boxes of shoes for a child that I may have lost. We do not always think about those small details in life. A new pair of shoes is just something that is needed or something that is fun. Not every threat ends with an all clear. There are parents who had new things for their child, and that child never came home. It makes me sick. It breaks my heart.

I am so angry today. I am angry that my child and all the other children had to experience this. I am angry that someone caused terror and chaos for families. I am angry that this is the world we live in. I am angry that my panic after getting home was not misplaced, because every day you see headlines about threats being followed through and people losing children and loved ones.

The other side of that anger is pure gratitude. I am thankful that it was a threat and my child got to sleep in his bed last night. I am thankful for the teachers, staff, and administrators who care for our children and do their best to keep them safe. I am thankful to all the firemen I spoke to. I am thankful to the fireman who told me what was really going on. I am thankful to the fireman who took the time to ask how many children each parent was missing. I am thankful to the police department who searched the building, are investigating this, and have been there today to keep an eye on the area. I am thankful to my mom who told me it was one hundred percent ok to breakdown once I got us home safely. I am thankful for the friends we grabbed ice cream with, helping us all return to a bit normalcy so quickly.

I sent him to school today. I even chaperoned a field study. The day progressed as usual. I overheard some children buzzing a bit about what happened yesterday. This did not stop us though. The kids are learning and laughing today. We are not being oppressed by the fear this horrible person tried to create. To say this is not in the back of my mind would be a lie. It is still there. I did overthink while in the shower this morning, wishing I could keep him home. I know that would not help him get over what he went through, it is just my maternal instinct to keep my children as safely close to me as I can. While this story may not save civilization from destroying itself, it is our story. It happened. It happens every day around the world, too often on a much more tragic scale. There is a human side to these events. There are new pairs of shoes waiting to be worn when a child arrives home safely from school.

I have had anxiety for most of my life. Now that I am in my 30’s and have a full understanding of anxiety, looking back, I can see that I have always had it. It comes and goes. Sometimes it is hibernating and other times it has been awake and in control. In the last few months it has been pretty prevalent. There are a variety of reasons I think it has decided to hang out for a while, which would take a few blog posts to dive into, so we will leave it there. What I want to talk about is the fact that I decided to see a therapist recently. This was a hard decision for me, as I always thought I could manage things myself. I have ways of coping and handling it. Exercise, deep breathing, baths, oils, acupuncture, etc. Those coping mechanisms haven’t been as effective lately. This time around I think I need a little extra help. It is what it is. It was a big step and I wasn’t excited to go, but I went.

It was awful. Worse than I could have predicted, if I am being honest. And I wasn’t thrilled to go, so imagine how bad that means. The doctor pulled out her phone at one point and started scrolling through it as I spoke. For an extended period of time. She offered no reason as to why. It wasn’t taking notes, she had paper and a pen for that. At the beginning she asked if I wanted medication. I said I truly would prefer to avoid any medication. I wanted to work through things in a more natural way. At the end of the session she wrote me a prescription and spent 10 minutes talking about her medication plan for me. She told me to take probiotics and not eat sugar. I do both of those. For many YEARS! She told me she couldn’t help me and wrote down some other places and told me to go there. Then check in with her in six weeks. She kept rubbing a strand of hair all over her chin. She charged me $500 and doesn’t take insurance.

Those things were minor compared to the absolute worst part. I was explaining the stressors of motherhood to her. Or at least the stressors I have been dealing with. From Alex’s food allergies to Jackson’s animal allergies and asthma to terrible two’s to whatever else was on my mind at that moment. Motherhood is hard. I am a stay at home mom. I have been doing this for six years. She told me “some people just aren’t cut out for that. Get a sitter 3 times a week for 3 hours at a time and get someone to do your laundry and stuff.” I felt as if I had been slapped in the face. I am not “cut out” to be the very thing I have been pouring every fiber of my being into for the last six years. It was so dismissive and really kind of cruel to say after meeting me once. I felt like total garbage as I left. I felt a million times worse than when I walked in the door, biting my nails and clutching my tea as my anxiety over trying this out punched me in the chest.

Being an anxious person, I have been repeating her comments over and over in my head since leaving that office. She didn’t listen to what I wanted for myself. She told me she couldn’t (or didnt want to?) help me. She was literally on her phone, which you would think that as a professional trying to help someone with anxiety, you wouldn’t do that to a patient. She told me I was not cut out to be a mom. She told me I wasn’t cut out to do the thing I have dedicated my life to. I just cannot believe that seemed like an appropriate thing to say.

As this has flipped and flopped over in my brain, I have used it as a moment of self-reflection. I am not a perfect mom. Not in the least bit. I lose my temper at times. We all do, even if we don’t post about it. I feel bad when I do. I wonder if I am messing them up. I try though. I spend all day with them and doing things for and with them, thinking about them. Last night my oldest woke up with a 105 degree fever. I massaged his legs until he relaxed as he laid next to me in bed. I put a cool rag on his head. I let him physically lay all over me because it made him feel safe. I have changed poop diapers today. I walked to Target with both boys so the oldest, who feels better, could buy Pokemon Cards and then made a video for Youtube opening them. (It’s all the rage) I have broken up fights today. I have asked them to stop slamming the playroom door, and it has fallen on four deaf ears. I have made meals. I have gotten snacks. I have listened and chatted with them. I have taken interest in their interests. I have been in the trenches all day on little sleep. And that is just today!

Walking home with them I came to a realization. I AM cut out for this. I am because I have been doing it for six years nonstop. The longest break I had kid-free was going to D.C. with my mom this January for the Women’s March. I was gone from Thursday-Sunday. That was the most time I have had off from motherhood. I still thought of them. I facetimed them. I searched for little gifts for them. I talked about them. They are always with me. I am cut out for it. I am also perhaps, a little burnt out. Which I don’t think is weakness or sucking at what I do. I think that is human. I think that is motherhood. I think that is parenthood. Anyone in any career can be working at workaholic levels and get burnt out at some point. Does that mean they are not cut out for it? Does that mean they can’t do what they do? No. Maybe they need a break or to take a step back and refresh themselves, sure. Maybe they need a vacation. It doesn’t mean someone should tell them they are not cut out for what they do. It doesn’t mean a mental health professional should articulate that judgement after meeting them one time.

According to the ADAA 40 million adults in the U.S. have anxiety. Women are two times as likely to suffer from it. This is not an uncommon thing. If women are more likely to struggle with anxiety, then that would mean, many mothers also battle this. I am not some unique special case. It doesn’t mean I am not cut out to be a mom. The fact that I was brave enough to know when my own methods of coping were no longer effective means that I want to take care of my family. That was one of the most unfair and hurtful judgements I have ever had thrown at me. It could probably go unsaid, but I will not be seeing her again. Just knowing that I am not the only woman, and mom, facing anxiety is comforting. I share my little story so that other mothers know, you are cut out for motherhood, even if on your worst day ever some batty lady tells you that you’re not.

 

I have written a few times here about how I feel about the current political climate. I have written about my Women’s March experiences. I wrote about why I marched. On my other social media outlets I have written and posted rather extensively (or annoyingly to some people, sorry definitely not sorry). It is not something I plan to end anytime soon. However, I want to touch on how this is making our children feel. Or rather my six year old in particular.

Let me rewind a bit, to last summer when I was young and naive. When I thought there was literally no way this would be where our country is. Surely, enough people could see and hear what I could see and hear. Well, they did popular vote-wise, but do not get me started about my feelings on that. My then five year old told us at our kitchen table he liked (vomits a little) Donald Trump. We both were very shocked. Neither of us had ever said anything remotely nice about that garbage fire. However, being parents who have an open door policy on discussions here, we asked him why. He said matter of factly, “I think he is funny. He is like a cartoon!” We both let out a sigh of relief, this we could work with. We explained he does look and sound funny, for sure.

Then came the Clinton campaign commercial with women reciting all of the terrible, sexist, disgusting, and misogynistic comments he has said about women. I had him watch it. After, I asked him how he felt about it. I asked him if he thought those were kind things to say about women? I am a woman, his grandmas are women, his aunts are women, his cousins are women, how would he feel if we were the women Trump was speaking of? Would he be ok with mommy being called a fat pig? Making fun of my looks. He said those things were very mean and he would not like that at all. From that moment on his view on the funny sounding orange cartoon character shifted.

Fast forward to this week. During dinner we caught maybe two minutes of a Showtime documentary about the election and Trump’s campaign in particular. During those 1-2 minutes they happened to show the violence that Trump called for at his rallies. He saw protestors. He asked what they were doing. I said they are protesting Trump, like mommy did when I went to D.C. Then he saw one of them get punched in the face by a Trump supporter. Then he saw it again as they slowed it down. He kept asking questions. I frantically urged my husband to turn something else on. This was too much. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. We moved on to something else.

During our bedtime ritual of all reading books together, I could tell something was bugging him. He seemed a little bothered, agitated, just not paying attention to the book. I stopped reading and asked him what was wrong.

“What if Donald Trump does bad things to our country?”

I was a bit startled, as that is not what I assumed was the problem. But I immediately knew, the brief 2 minutes had been burned in his six year old brain. I calmly explained checks and balances to him. That there are other parts of our government around to prevent the president from having all the power. He cannot do whatever he wants. He has other people to answer to.

“Ok. But what if he is sneaky about it?”

I said that is a fair point, but there are a lot of people who do not like him. A lot of people watching him. To make sure that he is not sneaky. Then I said it is nothing he has to worry about. I promise nothing too sneaky will happen. All eyes are on him.

I am sorry that show came on. I really am. I wish I had gotten it turned off a few moments sooner. My husband said to me later “he has to learn about checks and balances.” I let him know I briefly explained that. We also decided we need to be far more careful with our watching of news coverage around him in particular.

Our kids are watching and listening. They always are, we know this. The thing is, we shouldn’t have to feel like our children cannot be privy to what the Commander in Chief is doing. We shouldn’t have to explain to them the leader of our nation won’t be allowed to be too sneaky because we are all watching, but in the back of our minds not even believing that whole heartedly. I was always happy to let them be around when Obama was speaking. I never felt that he was going to make them afraid. My son never felt anxious during story time over something Obama said or did. There are times, during some of the countless mass shootings, that I turned the tv off, sure. That was more to do with the evil going on and not anything to do with how it was being responded to.

I am sad that we have to have these hushed conversations about the current situation. However, I will not stop telling him that I am protesting this. I will let him know that I am being vocal. When he has questions I will answer them and I will reassure him. I will try to shelter him from the worst of it. I will try to make him feel safe. Our children are watching. The next move is ours.

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I have been a mom for just shy of six years now. By just shy, I mean six years ago today I started going into labor. Tomorrow will officially be six years. I have learned, grown, changed, and loved a lot in these last years. These are some of the things six years of motherhood has taught me.

That I want my children to grow up in a world that values love, kindness, equality, social justice, empathy, and generosity. It can feel like an uphill battle some days. When everything around you seems filled with ugliness and hate. That doesn’t mean that I will stop wanting them to live in that kind of world. I will always strive and fight to shape that kind of world for them. I will send them out into the world with those values, hoping they too will be agents of them. 

Perfectionism is a nuisance. You cannot control everything at every moment. Life and children are unpredictable and sometimes you have to let more shit go than you care to. I cleaned up the whole kitchen and living room on Wednesday. Spotless! By that evening they had scattered toys all over the kitchen floor. They are still there. I sighed as I walked by them to start writing this. At some point I will get to it, but I am sure when I turn back around, they will have recreated the same mess. You have to let it go. 

Humility. You are not above wiping a poop covered butt (and even back, cause that shit, haha, can and does get everywhere) You will find yourself in the middle of situations you never thought you would be in. Being urinated on. Catching vomit in your hands. Getting poop under your fingernail. Changing a diaper in the trunk of your SUV in the parking lot of a pumpkin farm. Wiping up a half spilled grande pike roast from the floor of Whole Foods that your two year old knocked over when he moved your cart as you were trying to pick up the box of his minecraft figurines he dropped everywhere. So now you have minecraft toys, a box, and a giant puddle of steaming hot coffee all over the grocery store floor. These things happen on the regular. Stay humble folks, there is no prize for being prideful. You will be wiping up floor coffee in public. Or your own version of that scenario. 

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Generosity. Be as generous as you humanly can. With your love and praise for your tiny humans. With your family. With your neighbors. With complete strangers. I have seen it pay off in these last 6 years. My almost 6 year old has started random acts of kindness. He has asked me why I buy coffee for the car behind me. Why I roll down my window and hand cash to the homeless man with the sign on the street. I explain why in detail. This week at school he brought his Pokecards. Some friends didn’t have any and wanted them. He was planning on trading with another kid. He did. Then he gave out cards to his friends that did not have any. Just because he wanted to, because they wanted some cards too. He received nothing in return. Save for my adoration and praise when he told me the story.

Selflessness. You have to give so much of yourself when you are a parent. At least you are supposed to. We all do things differently. I give a lot. It can be exhausting, but then I think about how if I did things differently. If I wasn’t around to give them 200% of myself and then another piece just to be nice. I would not feel right. I want to be around and be the face in their memories when they look back at their childhood. When it all clicks about the magical times, the birthdays, the random normal days, the dinners, the laundry, the hugs, the books, the kisses, the songs, the errands, the treats, the love. You learn to put other people ahead of yourself. Which can be a hard thing to learn to do.

On that note, you also need to take care of yourself. Self-care is crucial. A trip to D.C. to march for yourself and fellow humans. A epsom salt bath. And yes, lock the damn bathroom door. Pilates in the morning. Putting them to bed a half hour early because they are bat-shit crazy that night. Ordering dinner, even though you have things to cook, they wore you out and you just don’t feel like cooking that night. Order that pizza, and bask in the glory of little to no cleanup. Self-care can be huge things, like 4 day trips, or they can be tiny little minutes throughout the day, locking yourself in the bathroom for 5 minutes. It comes in all shapes and sizes.

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Love. True unconditional heart growing mind blowing all consuming love. It is a love like I have never experienced. Sometimes I watch their faces and I literally feel like my heart might explode with joy. Sometimes I still look at them and think “they are mine! How is that possible? How did I create these two super cool humans?” It still takes my breath away, that I get to have these two dudes in my life. I am not sure I will ever quite get over that. It is amazing.

The value of words. We talk through things a lot here. Taking time to use your words to explain things to your children will really strengthen their understanding of life. Even if you don’t feel it is sinking in in the moment. They absorb these life lessons and they take them out into the world. I tell my boys “everyone is different.” When they have questions about why someone does something differently than we do. I always explain it as best as I can, then sum it up with “that is ok because everyone is different.” When the oldest was four, some kids at school hassled him because he doesn’t like ketchup and wouldn’t eat it. He got frustrated and finally told me that he said “I don’t like it and that is ok, because everyone is different.” Words matter. Words sink in. Talking through things sinks in. They are very intelligent.

To say sorry. I am a firm believer in apologizing to them. Sometimes moms lose their shit. We do. If you say you don’t, you’re lying, sorry. It comes in different forms for each person, but we all get pushed too far sometimes. If I feel guilty that I snapped on them or was short, or yelled over something totally stupid, I will go and talk to them and say I am sorry. This is not every time they get in trouble. Sometimes they do naughty things and they have to be reprimanded. But I can feel it in my heart when I know it was more me than them. Then I do go say sorry. The oldest and I can have real conversations about human emotions at this point, and we do. We talk through it. The little one, a hug with kisses and saying “mommy loves you I am sorry” will suffice at this point.

It is ok to talk to children as if they are humans with thought processes and feelings. I try not to baby things down for them too much. I explain things to them. I am not a huge baby talk person. I have always interacted with them as the red blooded people they are. I think this has shaped them for the better. I can see it in the oldest. He has a grasp on reality. The things he can discuss blow me away sometimes. I encourage him to think through his thought process. I can explain something and then ask him what he thinks/feels/wants from that situation. I have explained to him what is happening if I think he feels anxious. I explained homelessness to him. We have had conversations about dissent. We talk about body autonomy and consent. They know the actual names of genitals. My motto is if I keep that conversation going and trust them with actual knowledge that it will pay off down the road as life gets messier.

Sometimes we cannot do it all. We just can’t. It’s a fact. We want to. We feel we need to. This leads to being burnt out. I know, I have been there. Sometimes you have to take a step back and delete some shit from your life and schedule. Sometimes you have to say no we are not going to do that. Today we are going to be lazy and relax and enjoy one another. There is nothing wrong with taking some time to just be. As a family. I am still working on this. I am not great at taking things off of my plate. It is a work in progress.

Children love their mother so much. Sometimes I can feel their love radiating off of their little bodies. It can be overwhelming. Sometimes moms just need no one to touch them for, maybe, 2 minutes. That would be nice. Then you hear their little tiny human voices saying “mommy” and they just want to nuzzle in and you realize how very loved you actually are.

My favorite most calming thing in the world is when either boy hugs me and snuggles in to the right side of my neck. I call that “the good stuff” and love when they hug me tight, their little cheek against my neck. That is my calm. That is my heart. That is my motherhood.

I am not a perfect mom. I feel like I am failing a lot. I am hard on myself. I always think I can do better (I should reread that perfectionism paragraph, huh?) I am just being honest here. I do know that I have grown so much since having children. I have become a better person and woman because of them. They have shown me where my heart actually resides. They have made me cry. They have made me laugh. They have made me angry. They have made me insanely happy. They have made me stronger. I am thankful for these last six years. I feel lucky that I get to take this journey with them. Even as I shouted to my husband last night “You are getting a vasectomy!!! I do NOT want a third baby, they are crazy right now!” Yes, they were being insane. Fighting over Mario toys, tears and yelling, all as I was trying to make their dinner plates. No one could eat until the fight was resolved. It was ridiculous. It was so loud. It was frustrating. It was all mine. My crazy, loving, obnoxious, kind, silly, frustrating, kind, hilarious, adoring, and imperfectly perfect family.

I am looking forward to where the next six years of this journey takes me. Thank you boys. Thank you Jackson for making me a mommy. Happy start of labor day my sweet boy.

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My five year old is sick. Again. Such is life during cold and flu season for us. He has asthma, and subsequently he is very susceptible to all sorts of respiratory viruses. I have been begging him to nap all day. Five year olds do NOT like to nap. Especially my five year old. I decided to look for something to make to help him. I was browsing one of my favorite essential oil sites, and was inspired by them. Eden’s Garden. They have a line specifically designed for tiny humans. I may have bought every single oil in their line (so thankful for that this afternoon) They have a recipe for a sleepy time sachet. Using their sleepy time oil. I altered it a little bit, because I had different materials available.

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DIY Kids Sleep Sachet

Amount of rice/lavender will vary based on the size of you sachet. I happen to have a stock of muslin sachets in my herbs cabinet. For instructions on how to sew your own, you can refer to Eden’s Garden.

1 muslin sachet/bag

Handful of rice. I used brown rice, because that is what we have

Scoop of dried lavender

10-15 drops of Eden’s Garden Sleepy Time essential oil

Combine all of the ingredients in a zip baggie. Shake and mix well. Shake shake shake!

Pour the contents into the muslin bag. You can use a funnel if desired. I did not, I just kind of created a funnel with the zip bag.

Tied the muslin bag several times. I did 3 ties. Also, if you have smaller children who like to be adventurous coughcoughalexcoughcough you could sew this bag at the top as well.

This took  me a whopping 5 minutes to whip up. Most of my time was spent taking the photos. If you’re not photographing for your blog post, then the time should be even less! I did not heat this in the microwave, the scent was strong enough for me after I got it tied up. But Eden’s Garden does note you can warm it as well as warming it if the scent seems to be fading. It is reusable in the sense that you can also add more oil to it as the scent fades. Reusable and lovely smelling? Count me in!

He is not asleep in that photo. He was just looking down, but anything to help him relax. I am hopeful at some point he will doze off, even for a little while. If not, this will at least promote relaxation in general and his body can calm down. I will transfer this to his bed tonight for actual sleepy time.