Sunday, January 31, 2016

Be Gentle

"Be gentle with yourself. You're doing the best you can."

 I put this quote up on my FB wall mostly because I wanted my other mom friends (Momrades to quote Beth Woolsey) to see it. I have acquired an interesting role as of late: "wise advice giving mother." (my mother would refer to this as entering my "crone stage," but I am to vain to go there yet). I have many friends who are young mothers. I listen to them talk about their lives, and I can so clearly remember when Caroline was a toddler, and I tried to take on the entire world. Somehow I functioned on four hours of sleep and was able to work full time, take care of all of the housework, all of the errands, the pets, the cooking, and Caroline every night and most weekends. What the hell was I trying to prove? Social media was relatively new. I had no idea the world was full of mothers who were also a barely functioning shit storm. Mothers who would look at the chaos in their house and say "Fuck it!" I did not know about the debilitating side effects of anxiety and depression. I just thought I was weak or my family's favorite diagnosis: melodramatic.

By the time I had made it through a second round of PPD after Lily was born (I was so deep in my own world, that I had no idea that was my problem and did nothing to treat it), I finally learned to say "Fuck it!" By that time I was 36 years old, had lost 1/4 of my family and was getting ready to lose even more. I found an online support system and parenting reached the stage where it was more manageable. Things seemed less life and death. Rob's schedule changed and he was able to pitch in (he still wonders how the heck I did everything that I did). Still though, this is the hardest thing I have ever and will ever do. It is hard to be a mother. Period. End of sentence.

I feel like I have an obligation to be a sounding board and a voice of reason for young mothers. I can point to Caroline and explain that at one time I thought she'd never be potty trained. Lily's first word was jackass. I spent almost 14 years never sleeping on my own. It seemed like there was always a child's foot almost up my nose. I want to tell them if I didn't break my kids, you won't break yours.

I feel like I should serve as a cautionary tale as well. I lost myself. I became a "mombot," just going through life doing what needed to be done, but finding very little joy in it. Don't get me wrong, I love being a mother and loved being the mother of my girls when they were little, its just the job itself sometimes overshadowed the joy. But, I came out on the end with my sanity intact. My job is far from over, but I feel like it might not kill me. I even have time now to do things that I enjoy. Provided I make myself take the time.

I give advice only when given permission to do so. The biggest one is "learn to let some stuff go." Life cannot be perfect. This seems to be a war cry for mothers online lately. They bravely post pictures of their messy, yet love filled homes. They share embarrassing stories of the times they lost their shit and were not their best selves. They are honest about battles with depression and anxiety. We all share this so others know: "you are not alone."

 Another benefit is I get lots of "baby time."  I love to cuddle newborns (and sneak sniffs of newborn heads). I climb down on the floor and crawl around with toddlers. I bite my lip and try not to laugh a sassy "threeangers." My niece is the queen threeanger. I think she is just awesome!! I ignore the apologies for supposed messy houses ans ill behaved children. I am a story teller by nature. I listen to their stories and laugh along with them. Being a parent is often the most absurd thing you will ever do. I still find delight in the absurdity. Good grief come to my house and see what ill mannered and messy really looks like.

My goal is to provide the support that I needed. Not a week goes by that Caroline or I aren't sharing a tale of woe with Rob. It always involves another female who has done us wrong. Sometimes it is exaggerated, most often it is not. During one of these vent sessions, Rob paused and said something to the effect of  "I don't know why women can't support each other. Why are they in such direct competition? I wonder if this is why women haven't risen as high in the corporate world. If they worked together, it would be easier." He said it better, I'm paraphrasing. He does that about once a year. He stops me mid rant and makes such a profound observation it takes my breath away.

He has a point. So hear and now, I am starting a support network for moms. Not a place to compare stages and milestones, to shame others because of their feeding choices, sleeping choices, crafting choices, teaching choices, disciplining choices... Just a place to listen and to respond "I've been there too. You are doing great. I believe in you. You will get through this!" And because it cannot be said enough "Be gentle with yourself. You're doing the best you can."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Blizzard 2016: Same Simpson House as Always

After a warmer than normal December, we got hit with a January Blizzard. I should have known it was going to happen back in December when Rob told me he was going to be out of town at the end of January. When I heard the forecast, my first thought was "Of course!"

We ended up with at least 26 inches of snow. I was really sick at the beginning of it and had been out (being sick seems to be my theme this school year). The blizzard started Friday evening and ended Sunday night. Luckily, Rob's trip was delayed until Monday morning, so he was able to shovel the bulk of the driveway. I still spent the week dealing with the end of the drive, the cars, and the mailbox. It sounds like nothing, but remember: 26 inches! I had Lily jump on the piles of shoveled snow to keep them from growing higher than my head.

We managed just fine. I really think that my family is directly descended from sloths. We are at our best when we get to hang out, snack, read, and watch TV/movies. There were a few moments of cabin fever, but really we handled 8 days at home pretty well.

Today was Day 8 and the day Rob was due to come home. I was feeling better and decided to present myself as a wife and mother who had her shit together and had not just spent the past 7 days in the same pair of pjs, changing only to shovel snow. I got dressed in jeans and a cute sweater (with my comfy new loafers), ignored my very sore muscles, fluffed my hair and put on some lipstick (I'm on a red lipstick kick, it makes me happy!). I went to Target and Giant, picking up salt for future freezes, needed medicines, and groceries. I came home made baked potatoes (with choice of tasty, healthy toppings) and sat down with the girls to play Clue. Rob was going to come home to a loving normal family. So loving and normal, he would most likely think he'd walked into the wrong house.

I got up to put turkey bacon in the oven (healthy toppings, remember?), and Lily took Buffy outside. Buffy had already been restless, climbing all over our game and pretty much being her PITA self. I went out to check on them and some how the leash slipped out of Lily's hand. Off went Buffy with me in hot pursuit, until my loafers and I sunk into the snow. Buffy has learned almost everything except coming when called. She is the only dog to get so lost, she can't make it back home without the kindness of strangers. Buffy is the Blanche Dubois of dogs, which makes me Stella. I threw on rain boots and went tearing into the woods yelling "Buffy" while waving a bag of dog treats. Our neighbor tried to catch her, and I stopped to offer my apology of "I haven't been able to train her to come, we need a fence, this doesn't happen very often..." before plunging into a creek with the bag of dog treats clenched in my teeth.

By the time I scrambled up the snowy bank, my body decided to remind me that it was SORE from shoveling. I hoped that the neighbor and his kids had not heard my swearing and stumbled on through the woods. I stopped to ask a couple of dogs if they'd seen her and complimented their fence. I briefly considered laying down in the snow to rest my legs, but I've watched enough disaster movies to know that was not advisable. I trudged on through the neighborhood until a UPSC driver stopped. She asked if I was looking for a dog and told me two girls found her. Then she turned around drove back up the street to tell them where I was. Remember: kindness of strangers. I limped up the street, wet, sweaty, panting, and pretty much looking like a crazy woman carrying Bacon Treats, when I saw Buffy prancing along with two adorably coiffed teenage girls, all decked out in cute winter accessories. I swallowed every nasty word I wanted to say to my traitorous dog and thanked the girls. "Don't worry, it happens." they said with the worldly tone only teen girls can project. I limped home muttering to my furry little turncoat. I let her cuddle with me the entire time we were snowed in. What the hell?!

The girls were happy to see us. I had charged out without my phone, and they had no way to get a hold of me. They had already updated Rob via text so any allusion of having my shit together was gone, so I did the only reasonable thing I could: changed into fleece jammies and chowed down on a potato. By the time Rob got home I was too sore and tired to do more than say hello and head up to bed. Can we have a redo tomorrow?

Shaking Out the Cobwebs and Getting My House in Order

Long time no hear from, huh? There are a myriad of reasons that it has been so long. I've been busy at work, the kids, are keeping me busy, my laptop is on it's last legs and, like everything else in my life does things in it's own sweet time, I share many of my stories through Facebook (the blog might seem redundant), and well... mostly it's due to Netflicks. I have discovered a world of movies and TV shows that I never knew I HAD to see. Like most things that I become overly fixated on, my Netflicks affair has faded (besides I have watched every season of Criminal Minds). However, there is still the problem of work. I love my job, but in all honesty it takes a lot of my time. There's grading, planning, analyzing data... That's not going to change.

My biggest dilemma seems to be shared by my fellow "mom bloggers." What do you write about once your children become teens? What happens when their stories are no longer your stories. My girls are pretty awesome. They have never demanded to be left out of my blog. I do feel that I am obligated to not put anything out there that could cause them harm or embarrassment. One blogger stated that she doesn't want to put anything about her daughter in print that vicious 14 year old girls could find and use against her later. Honestly, blogging is kind of an old lady thing (come on, you know I'm right). Of all the types of social media, this is the most laborious. Youngsters with a "Twitter" attention span would probably not seek out my blog. None the less, I am keeping the girls personal business out of my writng from now on.

We are doing well. I am getting older and fluffier. I am still searching for inner peace and outer (inner) health. Caroline is getting ready to graduate! She is remarkable. She got into VCU and is ready to go off and make her mark. There will be a couple of posts on the wonderfulness that is my oldest daughter. I have publicly gushed already and none of this is off limits. Lily is also doing amazingly well. She is my Renaissance girl. She is playing the cello and on the robotics team. She recently built a robot! Oh and she currently has straight As. Will she have other bumps in the road? Yes, most likely (we are facing middle school next year), but we will get through. She will get through. Lily has learned strategies to help her deal with whatever challenges come her way. Besides she has Caroline, Rob, and I backing her all the way!

No promises of weekly blog posts. It will still be as the spirit moves me, but more often that it has been, that's for sure. Thank you for sticking with me!