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Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

I spent much of Sunday afternoon in our shop garage, looking through a bunch of our old baby items for things to sell on Craigslist.  I was supposedly tackling the disorganized clutter of assorted outgrown infant carriers and safety gates that has over time evolved into a mountainous collection of all things outgrown, but what I was really doing was taking a nostalgic stroll down memory lane.  And wiping tears from my face with my soon soaked sleeves.

I pulled out our umbrella stroller which had accompanied us on a few trips to Disneyland, and struggled to open it, knowing there was a lock somewhere that was holding it all together, but not remembering quite where.   After shaking it, stomping on it, and yanking on every latch I could find (um, you may want to think twice about buying the Combi City Savvy Stroller in Carolina Sky listed in the Portland Craigslist), the stroller finally flew fully open.  As it did, I was engulfed in the most lovely, sweet cloud of baby smell.  A smell so strong it made my arms begin to ache in that all-encompassing I must hold a baby in my arms right now sort of way.  Which is crazy thinking.

Next, I opened a large plastic tote that turned out to hold an array of size 3-6 month clothes, worn by both Addison (for about a year) and Hayden (for about a minute).  Again, I was overwhelmed by the baby powder smell of newborns that had somehow managed to cling to the fabric through several years of storage.  That’s when a strange sound came from the back of my throat.  Followed by another.  And then a huge intake of air as the sobs overtook me.

What the heck!?  Like I said.  Crazy thinking.

Needless to say, very few things actually made it past my sentimental attachment and into the moving on to another family pile.  But as I sorted, I had plenty of time to think, to reflect, and to wonder where all the time has gone, and how it managed to go so quickly.  And to think about what I would tell my old self about all the things I know now, but didn’t yet then.

Such as…..

1)  I would tell my pregnant self to turn off the Dallas reruns, and actually sleep during all those times I was put on bedrest, because it really is true that once you have kids, years will pass without a full night of sleep.  And that makes for very tired (and cranky) mamas, so sleep all you can, while you can, and when will you ever have a better excuse to sleep than when on bedrest?

2)  I would tell myself not to waste $25. on a bottle of miracle lotion that will keep stretch marks at bay.  It is still sitting unopened in the medicine cabinet.  And turns out to not have mattered, as the dreaded stretch marks never appeared.  According to my sister, she got enough for the both of us.

3)  I would say not to sweat the baby weight.  I’d eventually lose most of it.  But then gain all of it back and more from my ice cream addiction.

4)  I would go back to my quick and unexpected, but complicated, labor with Addison to tell my very scared and bewildered self that I am so proud of her for facing such a scary situation with grace and strength.  And then I would tell her to focus, focus, focus so she would remember that first moment she lay eyes on her baby, because in the next few moments things were about to get a whole lot more complicated and chaotic than they already were, and she wasn’t going to be able to recall that precious moment, no matter how many nights she stayed awake trying to force the memory back.

5)  I would demand that I take more pictures.  Many, many more pictures!  And video.  And to write down the funny things they say and do, right from the very beginning, because once mommy brain sets in, memory goes out the window.

6)  I would tell my exasperated, exhausted self that I am exceptionally blessed to be mommy to two wild, energetic, free-spirited, hugely enthusiastic, hilarious boys and to not miss a minute of it, because it goes so quickly.  And that in the blink of an eye, I will find myself out in the shop surrounded by piles of memories, wondering how all of a sudden I have a 5 year old, and a 2 year old.  And that I would give anything to have some of those lost moments back.  Just to hold on a little longer.

Addison getting to know his Daddy

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As I walked into my bedroom this afternoon, I was astonished to discover a leggy, large busted, skinny waisted, strawberry blond hiding under the bed covers.  So astonished, in fact, I stopped in my tracks, vigorously rubbed at my eyes, and then slowly turned around, fully expecting to find that I was being either delusional or overly imaginative at the very least.  Surely my eyes had deceived me!  Instead, my jaw hit the floor as I saw that the Barbie in my bed was indeed, not a figment of my imagination.

My mind raced, trying to come up with an explanation for this other woman to be claiming my bed as her own.  I have two boys.  When did they start playing with Barbie?  Where had she come from?  How did she get here?  Who put her in my bed, and rested her disproportionate head on my pillow?  My niece was here last week, and Addison’s best little friend who happens to be a girl was here the other day.  I didn’t recall either of them bringing any toys with them, though.  And Peyton hasn’t been here for ages, and I’m almost positive that she doesn’t have any Barbies here, preferring instead Littlest Petshop, Polly Pocket, Groovy Girls, and the boys’ toys.  But it couldn’t have been any of them anyway, as I was the only girl in my bed this morning when we all woke up.

Crap.  If my boys are playing with Barbies, should I be concerned that they are playing with dolls rather than mock machine guns and fire crackers?  Or does this now mean that I need to worry about them developing low self-esteem and poor body images?  Oh wait, I guess perhaps I really need to start worrying about them idolizing an unrealistic body type and expecting that this is how their future girlfriends will look.

I step back and consider her for a moment.  Then I tentatively reach for her and pick her up.  My sister and I didn’t have Barbies when we were growing up — our mother wasn’t fond of her.  I twirled her hair in my fingers, then swept it up to a french twist before letting it fall back to her shoulders.  I adjusted her dress, which was beginning to ride a bit high, and in doing so, saw that she was wearing panties, but no bra.  I pulled off a stiletto, then carefully put it back on her impossibly arched foot.  I twisted her legs until she was doing a perfect split, tilted her head, and made note of her large, doe-eyed expression.  Her neck, so slim and long, appears to have room for only one or the other — her trachea or esophagus.  From the looks of her, she opted to breathe rather than eat.

I carried her with me as I walked over to our mirror.  I held her out beside me, and looked us both up and down.  Is it really possible that my boys would look at this doll, and decide that she represents an ideal beauty?  Would playing with her cause them to grow up with skewed perceptions of women and their bodies?  Ah heck, c’mon!  Really, this is just another piece of molded plastic that is lucky to still be in one piece at my house.  I am willing to bet that if I go in for another look now, I may find that Hayden has popped off her head.

And I have to say that I am pretty confident that my boys opinions of women will be more influenced by the actual women in their lives, rather than some silly, plastic doll.  The truth is, they adore their mama, and many of the other women in their young lives, including Nana & Gram Gram, their aunties, their beloved Miss Patricia, and our neighbor girl from up the hill, just to name a few.  And we all have different shapes and sizes, that are each, in their own way, distinctly beautiful.  We also have so much more to offer in the personality department than that poor dear Barbie ever will, so I think it’s safe to say that they will see through her shallow beauty, and find they are wanting more than that.

So as for Barbie, well, I don’t know where she came from, or how she found her way into my bed, but she is welcome to stay as long as the boys will have her.   I’m doubting it will be much longer at all.

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Why Always Daddy?!

Hayden fell out of our bed, and onto the cold, hard terracotta tile floor.  The thud of his sweet little head hitting the floor, face first, is what woke me.  The screams came later, while I raced past the foot of our bed, and around to daddy’s side (had daddy actually been in bed, rather than out on the couch watching a DVR’d episode of ‘Mad Men’, Hayden would have just rolled snuggly into him.  And shut up, you who are thinking, “If Hayden had been sleeping in his own bed…”).

As I held him tightly and smothered his little head with kisses, I chanted the mommy plea of “Please, God, please let him be okay,” and “It’s okay baby, mommy’s here,” while he heaved with unrelenting sobs.  Patrick came in, asked to hold him, and of course, that little daddy’s boy settled right down, with just the occasional gulp of air being the only sign of anything amiss. Before either of us knew it, he was again sleeping soundly.

And the truth is, I am a bit pissed off.  In my current sleep deprived, irrational state, I am irked to no end that the child that I had not morning sickness, but 24 hour sickness, and not for the first trimester, but for the whole pregnancy with, that the child I nursed for 15 months, that the child I spend nearly all day, every day with, that this child, when hurt, cries not for me, but for daddy.  AHHHHHHHH!!!!!  WHY?!

And then it came to me.  Patrick gets to be the daddy during almost every interaction he has with the boys.  They don’t witness him being their ‘father’.  He does that away from them when he leaves the house to go to work in order to provide our food, shelter, and clothing.  I have to be their mother right in front of their eyes, and I think that often overshadows the times I get to be their mommy.

As a mother, I think that sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in the doing of motherhood that I end up missing opportunities to simply be their Mommy.  I let the innumerable dirty diapers, the mountainous piles of laundry, the never-ending to do list, and the eternally sticky floors become so overwhelming and so distracting that it is nearly impossible to hear, let alone  enjoy, what my kids are saying and doing.  I spend so much time mentally doing back-flips in an attempt to figure out how I will ever get through the checklist of everything left undone, that I miss  the opportunity to actually do somersaults in the grass with my children.

I always think that tomorrow, I will roll down the hill in the backyard with them, but today, I will organize the closet.  Tomorrow, I will help Addison build that fort, but today, I will wipe down all the kitchen cabinets.  Tomorrow, I will dust off the video camera and record Hayden’s funny running before he outgrows it, but today I will work on my site.  And before I know it, time has flown by, and all those moments of memorable possibilities with my children are gone. And I’ll never get them back.

Their daddy really gets it.  He gets that he has to savor every moment with each of his kids.  He gets that when he walks through that door at the end of his work day, he is Daddy.  And yes, it is true that he is lucky enough to have the luxury of an office in which to stash his Father persona, while I have to juggle both Mother and Mommy in front of them.  But it is also true that lately, I haven’t been doing much juggling.  Somehow, Mommy got lost in the shadows of Mother.  Or maybe in the piles of laundry.

So today, I am going to be the Mommy. I will heat frozen make pancakes in the microwave in the morning, savor every kiss and temper tantrum, build forts, roll down hills, and make home movies.  And I am going to do it all while thinking only of them, and not of every task waiting to be done.  The tasks will wait, while their childhood will not.  And the laundry will always be there, but sadly, my boys will not.

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Before I had kids, I thought I knew how to be the perfect parent.  I was bound and determined that my own children would never throw tantrums in public, would always write their own thank-you notes, would never pick their nose, eat gum from under a restaurant table, talk back, or sleep in my bed.  Before I had kids, I’d quickly pass judgment on the mother who didn’t reign in her kids when they were overly active, or too noisy, or too messy, or too sassy.   Before I had kids, I didn’t have a clue.

These days, I can, without a doubt, be that mom.  You know the one.  The one at one end of the Walmart grocery aisle, pretending that she is in no way whatsoever related to or responsible for the children busily opening the cereal boxes in search of the toy surprise at the other end of the aisle (Don’t worry, I always pay for anything they open — take a look at my pantry if you want proof!).  The one with the bit of playdough unknowingly tucked  in her hair, and the dried kid snot on the back shoulder of her shirt.  The one who looks longingly at the skinny college-aged girls laughing and gossiping as they guiltlessly load their baskets with Ben & Jerry’s and Double Stuf Oreos.

Now, I’m not saying that I am raising little hellions and standing back with my hands in the air claiming to have no idea how or why they behave the way they do.  Most people would say that all in all, I have some pretty swell kids and that I should be proud of their kind, generous spirits.  It’s just that before I had my own kids, I didn’t realize that there is an ebb and flow to parenting, that there are days that in order to keep my sanity, I just have to take a step back and pretend that I am unaware of the developmentally and age appropriate testing they may be doing.   So it is quite possible that someone who does not know us might witness one of these little parent vacations that I find it necessary to take from time to time, and think that I am raising spoiled, entitled brats.  On the other hand, there are some moments that if I were to publicly respond to their abhorrent behavior, someone may call child welfare on me, because it is quite possible I might just totally and completely lose it.

You see, it took putting in some time deep in the trenches of parenthood, of being pooped, peed, and thrown up on for me to discover that the closest I will ever come to being a perfect parent is being a perfectly flawed parent.   I love reading other mother’s  stories of their own lives, from the extreme, heroic,  or unusual circumstances to the plain old la-di-dah living of daily life. They make me feel a little less like a miserable failure at this mommy gig, and a little more normal.  It is comforting to identify my struggles with others going through similar experiences.  It is reaffirming to look at these other mothers sharing their stories and to love who they are and what they do, and to know from them that I don’t have to be perfect to be a good mom.

So I’ll continue to be who I am.  Someone who lets her kids sleep in her bed.  Someone who has spent months planning the perfect mommy getaway, just to stay home at the last minute because her baby can’t stand to see her go, and she can’t stand the guilt.  Someone who sometimes looks the other way when her kids are playing chase around the sanctuary after church.  Someone who occasionally pulls the covers up over her head in the morning to avoid the inevitable squabbling of her little ones.  And my kids will grow up to be good people.  Along the way, they will jump in mud puddles on their way into school.  They will need stitches because they think they can fly.  They will laugh too loudly in the library, and eat too much candy.  They will be kids being kids, and I will be doing my best to not beat myself up about it.  And I’ll tell you what —  I am so done passing judgment!

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End of Summer

I feel the sun burning my scalp and wish I’d taken the time to pull a baseball cap from somewhere in the depths of my messy closet.   I halfheartedly tug at some hair in an attempt to cover the skin exposed by my part, and lean further into the shade of the umbrella.  Shielding my eyes with the back of my hand, I watch as my son is splashing in the sparkling ice blue pool,  shrieking with delight at the prospect of his daddy throwing him through the late summer air and into the water again and again.  He is almost 5 and he will be starting kindergarten next week.  My heart is torn, wavering somewhere between cherishing these last innocent moments of summer with him, and breaking into tiny pieces at the dawning of realization that he won’t be my baby much longer.

A drop of water lands on my foot, as he splashes in the pool with his dad.  The coolness of it startles me, much like the impending start of his school caught me unaware.  I thought we still had so much time, so long before I had to share him with the rest of the world.  I thought this time was so far off, and yet, it came without a warning, without me even noticing its fast approach.  How had the time passed so quickly, when it seems I just held him in my arms for the first time, not so long ago at all?

I look at the little boy, his baby brother, playing at my feet.  He has sticky popsicle on his lips and and a dump truck on his shirt.  Dirt is etched in his fingernails and there is a scab on his knee.  I reach over and pull him into my lap so I can breathe in his scent of grass and playground dirt, sugar snacks and little boy sweat.  Can I do it right with him?  Can I savor every moment, somehow not waste a day of the little bit of time before he follows his big brother, and steps out into the world as well?

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There Was a Time

There was a time when I slept past ten every morning.  Sometimes I miss that.

  • But then I remember how much I love snuggling with my boys in the early mornings, before the day gets their attention.

There was a time when I wore high heels and French Manicures.  Sometimes I miss that.

  • But then I remember how the kids laugh when I push them on the swings, and that flip-flops and sneakers make me uber-stylish in their minds.

There was a time when I had the time to read any book I wanted.  Sometimes I miss that.

  • But then I remember that life lessons can be learned from Dr. Seuss, too, and he’s quite entertaining.

There was a time when I was a perfect size 6.  Sometimes I miss that.

  • But then I remember that my body changed because it grew my beautiful babies, and because I love ice cream so much, and then I think that maybe the trade off wasn’t so bad.

There was a time when I could drop everything at a moment’s notice in search of a sunny adventure in a tropical destination.  Sometimes I miss that.

  • But then I remember that taking three kids to the grocery store takes just about all the energy I have, and for now, that is more than enough adventure for me.

There was a time when I would have front row seats and backstage passes at sold out concerts.  Sometimes I miss that.

  • But then I remember how much fun it is to watch the kids dance and listen to them sing, and suddenly the best seat in the house is the one they choose for me.

There was a time when my nights were just getting started around 10 o’clock.  Sometimes I miss that.

  • But then I remember how great it is to be home with my husband, watching the 10 o’clock news in our comfy cozy bed.

There was a time when I thought I knew all the answers.  Sometimes I miss that.

  • But then I remember how much I have learned and grown in the past 36 years, and I’m glad that I often don’t know if I am coming or going.  That’s what makes my life so worth it.

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