Saturday, July 31, 2010

I let it all hang out

Some people may like me because I am open to a fault......there ain't much I'm not willing to spill about myself, my shortcomings, my mistakes, my needs, desires, goals and so on.

Some people may dislike me for my openness.  They get tired of knowing what I think about politics or religion or breastfeeding or my anxiety or how much my kids drive me nuts.

And then there is probably just a slew (of the 6 people who actually read my drivel) who don't quite comprehend how I can stand to let so many people know what is going on with me.

I like talking about everything and anything because I've found that in many cases, someone feels the same way.  And so I don't feel so alone.  So weird.

Up until a short while ago, D and I had been in a celibate marriage since sometime in 2009 when I was pregnant with M.  Lord knows, I wasn't dying for sex while gestating and banging a chick who looks like she swallowed a watermelon wasn't much of a turn-on for him.  I felt weird about this.....because most articles I read make it seem like people are having sex at least twice a week.  I suspect these people are lying OR the remaining 80% of the population didn't take the same survey.

Anyway, at bunco or bookclub, a friend of mine who was pregnant at the same time I was and who is breastfeeding said that she and her husband had been celibate since she got pregnant when I brought up mine and D's particular situation.  I could have hugged her because I no longer felt like I was a freak.  Even if she and I were the only two women in temporarily celibate marriages on the planet, I was ok because someone else was in similar shoes.

And so that is part of the reason I just say what is going on or what I feel.  Because I know how relieved I am to find other people feel similarly or have gone through something similar or can relate on whatever level they can relate.

The other reason I just let it all hang out is because, dammit, it is just too much work to act cool and self-assured and hip.  The reason I chose to become a middle school teacher is because the insecurity and awkwardness that plagues us when we are adolescents is the only "phase" of life we never fully outgrow.  And I am determined to just accept that part of me and not work to come across as anything other than the real honest Carrie.

Very young children are so energetic, so alive, so fully of energy.  Everything is new and exciting and full of possibility.  But with time, life becomes more routine, boring, and our zest lessens.

Teenagers are invincible, or think they are.  They can't be hurt or die.  The world is their oyster and lies fully open and stuffed with pearls.   But it doesn't take too much time before that feeling of invincibility dies.

The insecurity, the awkwardness, the feeling weird in your own skin of adolescence, particularly middle school, never goes away.  I think everyone carries a piece of this in them forever.

My theory is that if I accept the insecurity, awkwardness, weirdness and am honest about it with those I know and meet, then I am free to find the zest for life that lies dormant in me and the feeling of invincibility.  I am able to feel everything more freely because I am not trying to be something I am not.

The funniest thing about this whole line of thought is that because I am honest and open, I think lots of people think they know me better than they do.  They think they have me pegged.  Maybe they do.  But at the same time, they still don't really know me.  Every moment of every day I learn something new about myself or change in a way I wouldn't have anticipated.  So how can anyone really think they know me when I don't fully know myself?

I couldn't help thinking of Song of Myself as I was writing this, and I found a couple lines that seemed appropriate to this train of thought....

Funny how Mr. Whitman inspired me as a college student in American Lit. and almost 20 years later, at a totally different stage of life, I find his song still calling to me.

Do I contradict myself? 

Very well then I contradict myself, 

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)


The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab 

and my loitering. 

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, 

I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. 

Friday, July 30, 2010

Highlights of summer

I am having N make a "What I Did This Summer" scrapbook in an effort to keep her brain from atrophying as we muddle through these new few weeks.

And so she and I sat down and tried to remember and jot down what we've done this summer.

The list was so extensive I feel like a frickin' ROCK STAR!!!

Here's what we came up with:

Holiday World visit
Ride Thomas the Train
Science Center visit
Build A Bear Workshop with Girl Scout Troop
Junk Genius workshop at the library
Krispy Kreme visit
Toy Story 3 movie with her daddy
iHop for lunch
Having 5 friends over to play this summer
Going shopping with Mamaw
Swimming with Uncle K, Aunt J and cousins at country club
Swimming at Nana & Pa's neighborhood pool
Having sleepovers with grandparents
Climbing the dirt pile at the nearby construction site
Going to Cousin Sheila's for a birthday party
Going to Cousin Jeannie's for a birthday party
Sea lion & seal exhibit at the zoo

(and this is in addition to running to Target, visiting the library to check out books, going for doctor visits, and working in her SummerBridge workbook.)

Here are some photos of N's summer......

Her Rosie tattoo at Thomas the Train event
Riding the rides at Holiday World

Uncle K throwing her into the pool.  
With G, climbing the dirt mountain.  
Her Junk Genius statue.  
Her Krispy Kreme souvenir.
At the Science Center.  
At one of the birthday parties.  
With Ju Ju Bear with Girl Scout troop. 

Not a prude but high standards

I don't think I'm a prude, really.  I am not anti-sex (although my desire to discuss sex is always far greater than my desire to actually have sex).  I expect my children will have sex before they marry, and that is ok.  If D wanted to watch porn occasionally that is fine.  I will occasionally watch porn, if for no other reason than because of the laughable "plots."  For procreation, for recreation, for establishing and renewing intimacy, sex is natural and normal.

The same cannot be said of marriage.  Humans need to couple, but coupling for a lifetime.....??  Now that I'm not so sure about.  There are very real reasons to marry and to stay married, but most of them have to do with money and legalities.  Whenever I read comments whereby Angelina Jolie is asked whether she will marry Brad Pitt, I think, "She has no need to marry him."  She has no need for his money or his legal protection.

With all that being said, there are few things that give me as much pleasure as seeing a couple who have stayed (mostly) happily together for years and years and years.  Because I think there is great value in making a promise and sticking with it.  Doing what you say you are going to do.  Tempering one's desire for instant gratification with the joys that come from delaying.

And adultery?
Well this is the rub....because sex is normal and natural, but people have financial and legal reasons for marrying.

Which brings me to this little saga.

Now in a perfect world, Rick Pitino would value his marriage a little more than the ego-stroke that he says Karen Sypher gave him.  But men, being so influenced by testosterone from week 8 of conception, are highly sexed.  And so he allegedly succumbed.  From a man used to being given what he wants, with a whole lot of money and a big entourage of people who "yes" him all the time, I don't expect much more.

Also in a perfect world, Karen Sypher would have the good sense to realize that, as a woman, she will bear the brunt of anything that should result from a sexual encounter in a restaurant.  It will be her life that will forever change whether her encounter is consensual or not.  I don't believe in blaming the victim, but I also think it is imperative that women do everything in their power to not put themselves in compromising situations.  And my gut instinct tells me Ms. Sypher wasn't a wallflower who was taken advantage of.

In a perfect world, people would have higher standards of behavior and decorum for themselves.

Monday, July 26, 2010

So why in the world am I a stay-at-home mom.....

When I really don't like the staying at home part of the job?  This summer I have asked myself that question more often than I ever have before (since I started this gig in 2004).

Staying at home can feel tremendously isolating and mind-numbing, especially on a day when you are stuck inside due to illness, hot-as-Hades weather, or tons of precipitation.  Sometimes I really think I might scream if someone else says "Momma."  Because it is not just an isolated, one time yelling of "Momma" by each child.  Rather, each child screams a litany of "Momma," which looks something like this.....

Momma!!!  Momma!!!!  Hey, Momma!!!  Mommy!!!!  Mom, where are you?   Mom, I want a cheese stick.  Mom, where are you?  Momma!!!  Mommy, can I have a snack?  "Mom, watch this."  "Watch this, Mom!"  "Hey Momma, watch this!"  "Mommy!!"  Somewhere right about here is where I want to find a hidden bunker and escape to it.  Momma!!!  Momma!!!!  Hey, Momma!!!  Mommy!!!!  Mom, where are you?   Mom, I want a cheese stick.  Mom, where are you?  Momma!!!  Mommy, can I have a snack?  "Mom, watch this."  "Watch this, Mom!"  "Hey Momma, watch this!"  "Mommy!!"  Still searching for the bunker.  Momma!!!  Momma!!!!  Hey, Momma!!!  Mommy!!!!  Mom, where are you?   Mom, I want a cheese stick.  Mom, where are you?  Momma!!!  Mommy, can I have a snack?  "Mom, watch this."  "Watch this, Mom!"  "Hey Momma, watch this!"  "Mommy!!"  Where is that MOTHER FUCKING BUNKER?????  Momma!!!  Momma!!!!  Hey, Momma!!!  Mommy!!!!  Mom, where are you?   Mom, I want a cheese stick.  Mom, where are you?  Momma!!!  Mommy, can I have a snack?  "Mom, watch this."  "Watch this, Mom!"  "Hey Momma, watch this!"  "Mommy!!"  

I am a much better, happier mom when I can get out and do things with the kids, at least for part of the day.  I enjoy taking them to the library or the zoo or the Science Center.  Even though physically tiring, these active days don't weigh so heavily on my psyche.  They are not as emotionally exhausting as staying home, breaking up fights and trying to keep little ones entertained as I also attempt to keep the house clean and cook a meal.

There are a number of practical reasons why I stay home.  For one, with my pay as a teacher and the cost of childcare, it wouldn't behoove me financially to work.  What I made would be spent on childcare, and so what is the point?  Secondly, even though it would give me a break from my own children, I would still be with kids all day long.  Third, the after-school paperwork would infringe on my time with my family in the evening and that would make me irritable, probably more so than what my kids do.  Finally, if I worked, D would have to do a whole lot more than what he does and he doesn't want to deal with it, so he is completely supportive of me staying at home.

But the real reason I choose to stay home with the kids is because even though they drive me stark-raving-mad at times, I have been able to witness every.single.step of their lives since birth.  I have been a witness to every smile, roll, crawl, babble, first step, song sung, and letter written.  I would hate it to have missed these things.

And I would have hated to cede control or decisions about my kids to someone else.  I decide when they are ready for solid food.  I decide when they should be potty-trained.  As hard as it is at times to have complete and total responsibility for them, I would have had a really, really hard time allowing someone else to have that responsibility.  Because I trust no one as much as I trust myself, particularly when it comes to caring for my children.

With all that being said, I do need to get better at taking care of Momma, getting away from the kids not just for doctor appointments but to get a cup of coffee and read a magazine in peace.  Or to buy myself, heaven forbid, a new article of clothing.

Finding a balance in this job is a constant work in progress.

So it's NOT her. *Sigh of relief*

I had a revelation the other day--actually a series of revelations that made me feel tremendously better about myself as a mother and a person.

Over the course of the past couple weeks, I think since we reached "maximum bored with summer" status, I feel I've been increasingly frustrated with N.  Carping at her about everything, it seems.  And I don't like feeling this way.  I don't want N to remember her childhood as one in which her mother was critical about everything she did.

Now some of this, I recognize, is simple mother-daughter stuff.  And some of it is trying to manage a 6-year-old while keeping the 2-year-old from doing everything the 6-year-old does.  And some of it is throwing a 9-month-old in the mix and trying to stay sane.

But I was seriously wondering if I just didn't like N at all.

And then I had my first "A-HA!" moment.  I read a blurb about Ayelet Waldman, the writer who caused quite a flurry when she said she loves her husband more than her four children, in which she noted that she wasn't very good with young children but has found herself being really good as a mom with her older, teen children.

When I decided to become a teacher, I knew middle school would be a good fit for me and didn't even consider working with elementary-age children.  And this past school year, when I would visit N's kindergarten class, I was exhausted within 30 minutes of watching all of the whirling dervishes.  So why should my feelings as a teacher be different from my feelings as a mother?

Why is it so wrong to dislike a certain stage of child development when I feel no qualms about loving a particular from 13 - 40 months?

My second "A-HA" moment was when I remembered how I used to get with D before we had kids and were on vacation.  Within 2 days of being with him constantly without a break....sleeping, eating all meals, spending all day....I was SICK TO DEATH OF HIM.  I found myself needing a break from the  togetherness.

I don't seem to get this way with the boys, I think because they nap during the day, allowing me some freedom, a break from them.  N doesn't nap, so even if she doesn't want me to play with her she asks me for a snack or asks me to help dress a Barbie or asks me to watch her do some kind of trick (you know, the "Watch me, Mom" stuff).

Even though these "It's not you; it's me" realizations made me feel better, they also made me wonder why in the world I am a stay-at-home mom, but that is a blog for another day.  For now, I'm just relieved to know that my feelings about my daughter have more to do with my own quirkiness than her annoying-ness.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Seriously desperate for a REAL routine

This summer is  Badly.

I have no discernible bruises, but psychologically I am battered.

I am oh so tired of trying to be concierge to my 3 children....all of whom are on totally different schedules and find totally different things entertaining.  I keep telling myself that next summer, assuming I live to see the end of this summer, will be better when I will only have to contend with afternoon naps, and our mornings are easier to manage.

We have reached critical mass, and Momma is about to blow.  N is officially bored to the point that she has admitted being ready for school to start back.  G, I think, is ready for N to be gone for awhile.  Like me, he is tired of watching Hannah Montana Season 1 over and over and over and then listening to N complain when he wants to watch a Diego Halloween episode repeatedly.

I have tried to keep the kids sufficiently entertained.  Setting up playdates for N.  Attending weekly playgroups with G's little friends.  Taking them to the pool and zoo when it is not 300 degrees with 200% humidity.  We've done 4 summer reading programs and visited the library.  We have painted, played in the wading pool, baked zucchini bread and stirred jello.  Made tents.  Destroyed tents.  Eaten at iHop.  Played games at Chuck E. Cheese.

And, of course, there have been the doctor visits and various weekly errands.

N has almost completed her SummerBridge workbook without too much complaint.  She has written and mailed postcards and letters to friends and family.  She has learned to tell time on an analog clock.

I decided after reading this post, that I would require N to read or do workbook pages to earn time dorking around on  She earns 5 minutes for every book she reads or I read to her and 1 minute per page in the workbook.

But the novelty of that, all of that "forced" summer activity, has worn off.  Having endless time has become stifling.  I can understand the drudgery of living forever.

As a stay-at-home mom with a baby, I cannot have a set-in-stone schedule, although this would be nice at times.  A day-care like structure to the day.  We live by ebb and flow.  The ocean does it marvelously, but me?  Not so much.

Which is why the routine of N being back in school--the bus arriving at 8:25, fitting naps in before school lets out, finishing snacks by 5:00, in bed by 8:00--is very much desired.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Finally not delaying gratification

I can delay gratification like nobody's business.  Usually.  

I am very good about denying myself things I want to buy.  There are always other, more pressing fiscal needs.  There is always a rainy day for which I need to save.  

I get my jollies from saving money and an infusion of anxiety when I spend.  

Most of the time.

But occasionally, I find myself thinking, "Why the fuck don't I get things that I want sometime?"  Because I buy for the kids.  And D buys himself games and techno stuff.   And when he needs new underwear or shirts for work I buy him stuff.  

So I have gone on a tear the past few days.

I bought a new serving thingie for holding my veggies in the kitchen.  (I've been wanting this for at least a  year.)
And I bought a new tumbleweed composter so I can compost my kitchen scraps and the new green diapers I am using on the boys.  (I've been wanting a compost bin since we moved into this house, in 2001). 
And I'm going to buy a new scrapbook on Tuesday so I can begin scrapping for G.  
And D just ordered a refurbished Ipod for me.  

And it feels good to get some things I want.
Until I get next month's credit card bill and have to write a big honking check using money we've saved.
Then I'll be on a frantic saving spree again.

This week wore my a** out

I am glad last week is over.  It completely wore me out.  Let's recap.

Monday, July 12th--Took M for his 9 month pictures.  This doesn't sound like alot, but with two other kids in tow, it is downright exhausting.  Not only did I have to get M to smile and be pleasant for the shoot, I had to bribe the other two with snacks and promises of suckers and throwing pennies into the fountains at the mall after I selected pictures.

Tuesday, July 13th-- It rained so playgroup was at our house.  And my MIL came for supper.  I don't do well psychologically when it rains and I do not leave the house all day.

Wednesday, July 14th-- Took M (and the other two) for his 9-month well visit at the clinic.  Bribed N and G with lunch at iHop if they were well-behaved.  We brought M home for his nap, and then the promised lunch was had.  I also stopped to purchase bunco gifts at Pier 1 (did I mention I took all 3 kids with me?).  Walked down to Chuck E. Cheese so they could play a few games.  Was Runner-Up in the "Awesome Mom" contest.  Came in 1st Place in the "Crazy Ass Mom Takes Her Kids Shopping" contest.

Thursday, July 15th-- Took kids to exercise class in the morning and then met with some mom friends at a park for a picnic lunch.  Hosted bunco that evening.

Friday, July 16th-- Took all 3 kids to audiologist for G's post-op hearing test.  Due to 30% hearing loss in his right ear, we were sent downstairs to see the ENT again (2nd time in 1 week).  So 2 doctors in 1 day with 3 kids = a mommy bordering on complete and utter breakdown.

And did I mention my mother has been out of town for a week?  She helps me out 1 day a week so I can run errands or take 1 child at a time to the doctor.  And damn, I have missed her like crazy.

Plus she is the only person besides D whom I talk to  And I often talk to her about D when I am completely up to HERE with his guyness.  So I haven't even been able to vent properly this week.

I have decided my mom is never allowed to die.  Ever.

And my MIL, who helps often tag-teams with my mom to help me out, was out of town W, Th and Fri.

This week has reaffirmed for me why in order to move away from my family D would have to make at least a billion dollars a year.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Is there a purpose in judgment and guilt?

Well, once again, without intending to, I posted a quote and caused a little stir on Facebook.  I think my epithet will be something along the lines of.....

She had OCD and GAD.
She tried to be a good mom.
She posted Facebook comments that incited the masses.  

My comment was a quote by Elizabeth Gene:  

"Women should not feel guilty if they are unable to nurse their baby, but they should feel guilty if they are unwilling to do so, and they should be intellectually honest enough to know the difference." ~ 

And the comments that resulted from this status update have had me thinking all day about guilt, making judgments about others, and the purposes these two things serve.   Or if there is a purpose.

I. The Reason I Posted the Quote
If you know me at all, you know I am an ardent breastfeeding supporter.  Breastfeeding is what nature intended for babies to have.  We have not evolved enough for this to no longer be true.  Breastfeeding is normal and natural, and modern life has screwed with the process.  Women were designed to be with their babies (or very near their babies) pretty much constantly....but that is not the way life is anymore...for better or worse.

So here is basically where I stand---

Do I think breastfeeding is what nature intended for babies to have and is better than the alternatives?  Yes, I do. 
Do I think moms who don't breastfeed are bad moms?  No, I don't.
Do I think breastfeeding is the be-all and end-all of motherhood and determines whether a child develops into a wonderful person?  No, I don't.
Do I think some women really give it everything they have and simply cannot produce enough milk?  Yes, I do.
Do I think some women can and do produce enough milk and choose not to breastfeed because it is time-consuming and initially inconvenient?  Yes, I do.
Do I wish women would be honest enough to say the truth of their breastfeeding experience, such as "I have a medical condition that made me unable to breastfeed even though I would have liked to" or "I didn't want to breastfeed and I don't feel guilty about it."  Yes, I do.

Because what most women say is "I couldn't breastfeed," which lumps everyone together.  Those women who really, really desperately wanted to but who's milk supply dried up and physically couldn't do it.  Those women who think breasts are solely for sex and were disgusted by the idea of their baby suckling.  Those women who only did it for 2 weeks and stopped because they were tired of having their baby constantly want to suckle and preferred for someone else to be able to give the baby a bottle so they could get out.  

There is an ocean-size difference between couldn't and didn't want to.  And I think this is the real gist of the quote I posted.  

The sad thing is that when everyone is lumped together like this, those women who really, really wanted to but really physically couldn't don't get the supportive comments, the consideration of their grief (which is what they experience when they didn't get to breastfeed), the encouragement from moms who also shared similar experiences or moms who had successful breastfeeding experiences and could potentially help them out.  

II. Guilt
I know moms who breastfed, moms who couldn't breastfeed, and moms who didn't want to breastfeed.  I think these moms are all good, caring, dedicated, loving moms.  While I do not necessarily understand not wanting to breastfeed or stopping after 2-3 weeks, this doesn't make me think any less of these moms.  

I only wish that everyone could be fortunate enough to be able to experience a close, successful breastfeeding relationship because my experience has been so wonderful.  I know that not everyone can, and some people simply don't want, an experience like mine.  But I can still wish.  

If moms feel any guilt related to breastfeeding or anything else they do as a mom, it is not because I and my opinion (which in reality is only important to me) have anything to do with it.  Guilt comes from within.  As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."  I think this applies to guilt.  Lord knows I guilt myself into plenty without anyone having to say a single, solitary word to me.  

III.  Judging Others
Everyone judges people.  It is human nature.  I make judgments all the time.  I judge people who don't recycle when I know they can afford to.  People who don't take care of weeding their front flower beds.  People who register as Republicans.  People who spend as much money sending their kids to Christian K-12 schools as I will sending 3 kids to college.  People who think Tom Cruise is a great actor.  People who smoke.  People who are overweight.  People who have pets and allow them to run loose in the neighborhood.  

I know that everyone has their own reasons for making the choices they do.  And I am not privy to those reasons.

So maybe the very overweight person in front of me in the grocery line has rheumatoid arthritis and difficulty managing pain, thereby making it nearly impossible to exercise.  Do I eye their food choices questioningly when I see lots of chips and soft drinks?  Yes, I do.  Because my wish is that people will eat healthier in general and exercise more (to feel better, to lower health care costs.)  Do I get frustrated when I see people in my neighborhood not recycling?  Yes, I do.  Because my wish is that we all become more careful about reducing our waste.  

I know that I am judged for the things I do or don't do.  For having a crucifix hanging in my hall when I refuse to attend any kind of church.  For not getting "fixed up" to go out in public.  For being pro-Obama.  For being something of a dowdy housewife who's mental energy is probably more wrapped up in her children's lives than it should be.

And so sometimes I think maybe I shouldn't say what I think.  Maybe I should just keep my thoughts to myself.  I mean, I have this blog, right?  Isn't that enough?

For me, though, Facebook is a quick little 5-minute escape from the monotony of fixing cheese sandwiches every day, reading the same Diego book 40 times a day, dealing with the sassiness of my 6-year-old, being stuck inside on a rainy day.

As much as I hate the idea of sparking conflict, it does me a world of good to occasionally have something poignant or heated to think about.  To assess my feelings and thoughts and beliefs.  To reflect on what kind of person I really am at heart.  To understand where another person is coming from.

This blog serves that same purpose but I've been crafting this particular post for almost 3 hours now.  Interrupted hours, but hours nonetheless.

Facebook is the only kind of quickie I do right now.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Reserve my bed at the old folks' home

In September I will turn 37, which used to seem wicked old but totally isn't.  I imagine I will say this about every age I live to see.....43, 56, 68, 74.  Dare I say 83 or 92?

Even though I don't feel old, per se, I have lately been reminded of the process of aging.

The first issue that I've been noticing is weight gain among people as they age.  I am, by no means, the size I was in high school, but I'm not too much beyond it.  My body composition has changed due to having my babies.  I am not as limber as I once was.  But I hope to become increasingly fit in the next few years.  I have said I want an 8-pack (abs) by the time I'm 40, which may or may not come to fruition.  There is only so much one can do with a muffintop, which I am so sportin' since M came along.

I want to have more stamina, have some nice muscle tone.  Be healthier.  Right now fitness comes second to time alone to decompress and sleep.  Once my children are out of this very needy stage, I will be able to devote more time to taking care of myself.

But I see family members and friends who have grown flabby, and it scares me.  Because given modern conveniences and food options, it is easy for this to happen.  Plus changes in metabolism once a person hits 40 years of age.  Throw in a couple of babies and the normal process of mom taking care of everyone but herself and there you have an extra 30+ pounds.

I would be lying if I said how I looked isn't important to me.  Clothes, cosmetics, shoes....this part of how I look is unimportant.  But how my body looks is.   How I feel about how my body looks is even moreso.

The second issue that has made me feel a little old is the fact that I won't be venturing out to see The Flaming Lips this evening for a number of reasons.  One, there is the breastfeeding.  M usually needs a feeding around 11:00 p.m., which is when the Lips would be on.  Yes, I could pump, but M hasn't taken a bottle in months and months.  And the worry of whether he'd wake up and whether he'd accept a bottle of expressed milk would dampen the experience of a concert.

Then there is the money.  When I have groceries, 9-month-baby pictures and diapers to buy this week, spending $60 on a 2-hour concert seems wasteful.  I don't know that my enjoyment of the concert would outweigh the anxiety I'd feel looking at the checkbook knowing I could have used that money to buy other more necessary things.

And finally, there is the knowledge that if I did go, I would be surrounded by lots and lots and lots of young, young people.  High school and college students.  Young people who can't imagine other things  being more important than seeing a really cool band at a really cool festival.  Who are willing to stand in the heat.  In a ginormous crowd.  For a long time.  And then sit in traffic afterwards.  And stay up really late.  And totally say it was worth it tomorrow.

I used to feel that way myself some 15 or more years ago.

But as I pondered whether to go I thought about standing in a big crowd in the heat, sweating profusely, worrying about whether the kids were waking up, how D was handling M if he had to give him a bottle, fuming in traffic afterwards because I need to get home and into bed so that I could be a half-way decent mom in the a.m., wondering how bad my tinnitus would be tomorrow.

And all that boiled down to "It would be more of a hassle to go than to not."

Which made me feel recognize that I'm not a young person anymore.  I'm not footloose and fancy-free.   I have reached the stage of life where partying and staying out late and the sweet smell of pot wafting in the air isn't cool.

Which means I may, in fact, not be young enough to actually know what constitutes cool.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Books we've enjoyed in the past few months

N is kinda going through this "Disinterested Reader" phase.  She doesn't want to read much and what she does want to read doesn't hold my interest.  She is kind of out of that magical phase where she devours books and would eagerly read anything I'd select at the library.  

She selects her own books at the library, and I fill in with things I think she would like based on Best Of reading lists.  At our recent library visit, N did select some Minerva Louise books (by Janet Morgan Stoeke) and has been enjoying those.  They are cute but not uber-memorable....
*A Hat for Minerva Louise
*Minerva Louise and the Red Truck
*Minerva Louise at School

But getting her to read is like wrestling a whale to pull it's tooth.  

She seemed interested in the book Stars Beneath Your Bed:  The Surprising Story of Dust by April Pulley Sayre as well as Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth by Kate Klise.  (I figured she could relate to Little Rabbit on this title.)

She has some that I will soon read with her like Carolinda Clatter by Mordicai Gerstein and Foo, the Flying Frog of Washtub Pond by Belle Yang.  They look promising but we shall see.  

Fortunately, G is in that phase where he has series of favorite books and just can't get enough of reading. 

G's favorites of late are listed below: 

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
The Bridge is Up by Babs Bell
Dinothesaus:  Prehistoric poems and paintings by Douglas Florian  (I totally didn't expect G to like this book but he asked for it over and over and over).  
Move Over, Rover! by Karen Beaumont
Tillie Lays an Egg by Terry Blonder Golson  (N liked this one too)
Petropolis by Susan Santoro Whayne
Maybe a Bear Ate It! by Robie Harris  (Tonight G said as he was holding his Mater book, "I yuv my book," which is what the character in this book says when he locates his lost book.)

Both the kids have been enjoying the Mo Willems' easy-reader books, like Cat the Cat, Who Is That? and What's Your Sound, Hound the Hound?

What good books have your kids been reading????

De-cluttering, budgeting, Christmas shopping in July and other projects

I have the opposite of the OCD folks on Hoarders.....I love, love, love to de-clutter and organize.  D gets so tired of me moving things around from one spot to another, but I do it in the name of efficiency.  In the name of attempting to be efficient---unfortunately, I have been known to move things around so well and so much that I no longer remember where I moved them (and have had to pay $100 to have a safe-deposit box cracked into as a result of this relocating of items).

There is a pile of kid-related items in our basement office for next month's kids consignment sale.  And today I dropped off stuff at Goodwill.  And I finally just threw some junk away that had been sitting in a closet from before M was born, waiting for me to "fix" it.

In the midst of the chaos of children and toys spread out from one end of the house to another, taking a little slice of house and getting it organized gives me a sense of control.  I know it is only an illusion, but it makes me feel better, more relaxed, like I have a handle on my life.

I also love, love, love to save money.  Even though we tend to live pretty frugally (I think), I am always reading articles like "How to Save $500 Extra Dollars a Year" or "Bleed Money From a Stone."  But I am forever disappointed because I am already doing many, if not most, of the things these articles recommend.  Like dropping gym memberships (never had one), discontinuing cable for public television (already did it), and buying generic brands (do it for most things).

I use coupons as much as I can, don't buy clothes/purses/shoes/cosmetics, and get virtually everything for the kids via consignment or on sale.

Every so often I try a different budget for saving more money.  Right now I am trying a 26-week saving system, which equates to saving more over the course of a year than if I was just saving one time a month.  I am trying to save 49% of every paycheck and still have enough money for milk, fruit and diapers before the next paycheck comes.

Which brings me to.....

Christmas shopping in July--
In years past, I always had a dollar budget for my kids, nieces and nephews birthday and Christmas presents.  But with having 2 kiddos in diapers and more health-related spending every.stinking.year, I am opting out of this program.  The whole point is to give a gift you think they'd like, not whether you spent $15, $25 or $30 for it.

And I was forever busting my hump trying to get to that specific dollar amount, which sometimes meant I had 2 or 3 items for one child and only 1 item for another.  Shopping is torture enough for me without having to worry about keeping things even, fair or resembling equitable.

It occurred to me last Christmas that 1. for the most part, kids just want toys (ANY toys), and 2. even if they say they want a specific item, they are "over it" by December 26th or the day after their birthday.  Since we watch either PBS or something from the Netflix queue, my kids aren't exposed to a constant barrage of advertisements, which helps minimize the insistence on the "Be All and End All" gift, at least so far.

So I refuse to stress over what toys I buy the kids in my life.

With that being said, Target had some toys on clearance at 50% off, so I was able to snag something for my niece for Christmas and my nephews (for one's November birthday and the other's Christmas).

So I've Come Full Circle--
Now that I've completed this post (almost) it occurs to me that I am back once again to needing to de-clutter, as  I now have brand, spanking new boxed toys in my basement taking up space for the next 4 months.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

I am one of "those" women

If I was going to generalize, I'd say I get 3 kinds of looks from people when I am out and about with my 3 kids:

1. The "What a Great Mom" look---this look is accompanied by a smile and/or a chuckle.  My neighbors give this one to me fairly often, like when I took the kids to the gigantic dirt hill in the midst of all the neighborhood construction so N and G could climb it repeatedly as I videotaped.

2. The "How Do YOU Do It?" OR "How Did I Do It?" look---these looks are very similar so I lumped them together.  The first is usually accompanied by the person saying something along the lines of, "Boy, you've got your hands full, don't ya?"  The latter is often given by older women who remember back to the joys and challenges of when they were raising their children.

3. The "I Pity Your Life Choices" look---this look is given by women who may or may not be professionals or childless.  It is a withering kind of look.  I got one of these the other day, and I had a revelation when I saw it.

I used to give that look ALL.THE.TIME.  I used to see women with children, packing them around, wiping their snotty noses, getting after them in the middle of stores, and think, "You poor, poor woman.  What a sad, miserable, unfulfilled life you have."

And, in some ways, this perspective was spot on.  Because tending to young children as a stay-at-home mom on a daily basis is a grind, no doubt about it.  The lack of adult interaction (which is one of the greatest benefits of I can "check-in" with the adult word periodically throughout the day), the monotony of doing the same tasks over and over (diaper changing, mouth wiping, picking up the toys), the financial dependency on my husband.  These are the things that sucketh.

But there are also moments of delight and pride---
  • Watching and hearing N read books to G in the foyer.
  • Hearing M babble and seeing him make his lunging attempts at crawling.
  • Hearing G say as he is playing with a toy car, "I need some more gas, people!"  
  • Listening to N ask questions like, "How does a chicken know that an egg she lays is a baby chick or the kind of egg we eat?"
  • Feeling a sense of accomplishment at getting everyone fed, dressed and out the door for an activity, like the zoo.
  • Knowing that, despite the often burdensome responsibility, my family depends on me to keep this ball of wax from melting into a gooey mess.  
And you have to live it to understand and/or appreciate how it sucks and delights at the same time.  A complexity I still can't get the hang of 6+ years in.

Despite all my tiredness, my worry, my sometimes up-to-HERE with all the headaches of SAHM-dom, I wouldn't want the headache and guilt of working full-time outside the home.  I am willing to make the trade-off and do some small things that keep me semi-sane----blogging, for instance.  

Friday, July 2, 2010

A plethora of frustration

I have a hard time reconciling myself to my emotions, how they can be all over the map on any given day.  And by this I mean any given completely uneventful day, a day chock full of normalcy.
When life throws me unexpected curveballs or is in any way out of the routine, I become emotionally sunk, unable to manage the complexities of what I am feeling.

How can I be doing exactly what I want to do and still feel pangs of misery at the same time?
How can I possibly feel guilt and a profound sense of no-guilt at the exact same moment?
It completely defies all logic to me.
Hence, my emotional state.

Towards the end of high school and into college I went through a stage of reading E.M. Forster novels, and one of the things I so related to in the characters was how mixed up and emotionally discombobulated they were.  Like them, I am muddled.

Two months out, D is still having pain and discomfort from his vasectomy.  He is going for an ultrasound on Tuesday and a follow-up with the urologist on Thursday of next week.  Depending on what the u/s finds, he may have to have more surgery.  What we have always heard as being a quick, almost pain-free in-office procedure has turned into a small nightmare for both of us (large nightmare for him since he is the one suffering from discomfort).  There is an actual condition called Post-Vasectomy Pain Syndrome (PVP).  How nice of life to allow us to become aware of this highly uncommon acronym.

I keep thinking maybe I should have had my tubes tied in October.  Or maybe I should have looked into Essure.  But I know my brain, and I know my body.  Had I gotten my tubes tied immediately after M's birth, my anxiety over "what if something happens to the baby?" would have been through the roof.  And if I have learned anything about myself in the past 6 years, it is do whatever I can to minimize my anxiety.  Don't purposely do things to increase it.

And in terms of physical side effects, I can't even wear earrings or use sunscreen/most types of soap without having unpleasant allergic reactions to the metals and/or chemicals in them.  Let's block my fallopian tubes with a metal clip or other foreign substance and see what happens.  I never even considered an IUD because of the metal and what havoc the hormones would play on my mind.  I would have gone back on the pill but D doesn't trust that anymore (a'la Unexpected Baby M).  And what married couple likes the idea of using condoms until menopause is good and complete?

I have talked to enough of my mom friends to know that I am not alone is being mostly (95%) uninterested in sex.  So it just felt like why should I be responsible for preventing pregnancy anymore?  I keep asking myself if I was selfish in not taking steps to become sterile.  Maybe I was.  And so I feel guilt.  But didn't want to be and don't want to be responsible for this anymore.  And so I don't feel guilt at the exact same time.

But I want D to feel better.  To not be in pain.  To feel as he did on April 29th.  Except be completely sterile.

And then there is the frustration of being a SAHM mom in the summer.  I want to be a stay-at-home mom.  I love my kids.  I would not want to deal with all the logistics and exhaustion of having to work outside the home and still be responsible for 98% of work inside the home.  I am doing exactly what I want to do....being able to witness and experience my children growing up on a daily basis.

But sometimes I just want a minute's peace.  I just want a string of a couple days in which there is no sleep-deprivation coupled with little one's boo-boos and bad moods and fights over toys and teething.  I get tired of meeting my family's needs for clean laundry, stocked groceries in the cupboard, warm meals every night, and the desire for me to tend to their emotional and physical needs without allowing for me to tend to my own with any regularity.

How can I be mostly content and somewhat miserable at the same time?

My parents are going on a 2-week vacation this month, and my MIL will be out of town for a bit as well (plus she has responsibilities of owning her own business), so the folks on whom I ask for help will be unavailable.  And D has enough on his plate at the moment without me asking him for help because in addition to his condition he has jury duty the next 2 weeks.

So I feel the heaviness of my village temporarily picking up and moving, leaving me solely responsible for tending to the children.  The follow-up tube surgery visit, the 9-month well visit, the 9-month pictures, the annual cats' vet visit, and the sundry details of just normal life without all these extra goings-on.  Throw in a possible surgery for D just to fray the ends of my nerves a little more?

And what makes me especially angry with myself is that none of this is life-threatening.  The end of days is not nigh.

It is normal stressors with a few curveballs.

Making me face up to how poorly I deal.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sides of the coin

I find myself on a daily basis feeling so thankful to have N with me during the summer, and yet, ready to throttle her at the same time.

She can be so good with the boys....providing them entertainment, watching over them for a moment or two while I run off to pee alone, caring for them in a loving way.  Being a "surrogate" mother of sorts.

But being a child of 6 years, she doesn't understand that this doesn't mean she is "The Mom."  She doesn't get to issue ultimatums to them.  She doesn't determine what the boys do and do not get.  She shouldn't offer suggestions that she doesn't have the ability to provide or that really aren't in the boys' best interests.

She is forever saying to G, "If you don't do [whatever it is she wants him to do] I'm going to put you on the steps [or whatever disciplinary measure she deems appropriate]."  Or she will try to pick him or M up and move them where she wants them, even though both of them are half her size, and she doesn't have the strength of an ant.

Although I try to thank her for being sweet to them, or playing with them nicely, I spend more time saying, "N, you are not their mom," or the nicely generic, "N, knock it off."

And she doesn't understand that because she is the Big Sis, G wants to do everything she does, and so therefore I can't have her crawling through the diaper box shelves at Target (which she shouldn't be doing anyway for obvious reasons) or running ahead in front of me at the store because G will run ahead, out of control.

Correcting her usually results in a temporary stop to the behavior because she understands in a way that the 2-year-old doesn't.  When I correct G, half the time he thinks it's a game or merely a suggestion on my part.

Sometimes I think I need to explain all of this to N more than I do, but I have explained it to her in as many ways as I can think.  But she is a child and her understanding of it and her attention to it are limited.  So I guess I will riding this out for the next 6 weeks until school begins again, and I can be the one and only Mom.