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mind-over-motherhood

Being more than "just Mom".. honestly.

Month

March 2012

Notice the Absence of “Cooking, Baking or Culinary Arts” Among My List of “More” Goals

I told my wonderful-and-pretty-incredible husband back when we were dating that if he was (in some misguided way) under the impression that he was dating a gal who would end up staying at home raising kids, barefoot in the kitchen, then he was sadly mistaken.*

Who knew that 18 years later, I would be the stay at home mom of 3 – goes to prove you should never say never.

On one point, however, I knew what I was talking about.

I don’t belong in the kitchen.

First, I should tell you that I admittedly have a few “eating quirks”. For instance, I can’t eat any meat that looks like it did when it was alive. And I can NOT handle raw poultry that is still on the bone. I find it disgusting. I only buy boneless skinless chicken breasts. And you KNOW I don’t eat the dark meat, because there’s too much slimy stuff in that part (what is that?!).

Brace yourselves for what is next… 14 years into our marriage I have yet to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. Because I’m not rubbing on a dead turkey carcass or stuffing crap into its hind end. (Don’t judge me.)

I trim the fat off of meat like a top-notch surgeon, because I all I can think about is the fat pocket that used to be a cute round cow.

No egg yolks.. really, y’all that’s the baby chicken!

Seafood is out – for a multitude of reasons, but I blame this on those young years where my cousins and I would line up around my grandparents’ looooooong table in assembly line style to devein and pick shrimp by the dozens of pounds. Pulling the little beady-eyed heads off of shrimp was bad enough, but when my aunts or uncles (or whoever happened through room) would walk by and remind us to pull the veins out, I would about vomit. Noting my disgust, my cousins would then find entertainment in telling me that the odds and ends of slimy pieces were the shrimp’s.. well, feces.  Over.  Peel it, devein it and clean it, yes.. but never eat it. After all it was just alive on those shrimp boats just a few hours before and I killed it. At least it could rest in peace somewhere other than my murderous stomach. And it’s way to chewy.

My aunt used to have a large piece of land in Mississippi where they raised all sorts of animals. Some of you would call this a farm, but it wasn’t really a full-fledged farm.  They did, however raise rabbits and turkeys for  a while. When we would leave our city life behind for a visit, I LOVED hanging around the rabbit pins. They were so very cute. I wanted to have rabbits at our house, too. Then my cousins told me that they would EAT the rabbits. What the hell?!  My mom is lucky that I didn’t break them all out of their pins and stow them away in our car to save them.

During my teenage years, I recall eating at an Asian restaurant with a lot of my extended family.. where my Uncle ordered some insane soup that came with a whole — intact — fish head on top of it. I was sitting directly across from him and the freaking beady little fish eyes were staring right at me – wide open. I could only envision that it died with its eyes that wide open. No fish for me. And quite frankly, this is also why a trip to China or Japan in no way interests me.

… And then there was the time we pulled up at another aunt and uncle’s house, welcomed by a cute Bambi-looking deer hanging upside down from a tree in the beautiful front yard, with blood dripping out of its mouth.  — When I protested they talked about how they were about to skin it so they could have it prepped for meat! These are people that can afford to go to the store and buy meat that someone else has already prepared, now mind you. They just did this for fun?! NO. Maybe I should just go ahead and become a vegetarian. Oh, yeah, and all you people who post your (and your kids’) hunting accomplishments on your Facebook page? You gross me out. (But I’m not judging you.)

When I was young and would try to cook with my mom, I remember repeatedly screwing up the measuring of ingredients and then her frantically trying to figure out how to salvage the dinner I destroyed. Yeah. That about put the nail in the coffin of my cooking interest.

Honestly.. why do women have a strange fascination with aprons? I have never found one necessary or useful. Most likely because the majority of the meals I make have been prepared by someone else – usually with names like Kraft, Betty Crocker, or Perdue.  I just mix and heat, at best.

Now, there are a few things that I actually do make. Hummus: Easy. Hamburger Stroganoff: Also easy. Potato Salad: Really simple – just throw everything you have in the fridge in there. Red Beans and rice.. to be completely honest, I can’t make rice unless it’s boil in the bag OR I have assistance of a rice cooker. And my one and only baked good that doesn’t come from a box? Hershey Bar pie.

But aside from those few, my kids don’t know the difference between some Pillsbury cinnamon rolls out of those cans and homemade ones. Really I don’t think they know that the home-made part is an option.. the dough just magically appears in the cans.

Speaking of cans.. I cut my finger on one just a few short months ago. A can of green beans. Of course this domestic achievement happened on a night when I didn’t have time to do anything about the cut – you know why, right? Because of the 4,000 activities my kids are involved in. (see here) And since I didn’t have time to wait a million hours at the Urgent Care facility on that night, I ended up being scolded in the E.R. the next day because I didn’t get there in time for the stitches I needed.. with this as my parting gift:

Because that’s just how I roll.

And not too long before the can-cutting moment of glory, I burned my arm  on the oven while taking out a pan of biscuits which I slaved over (read: I took them out of a bag in the freezer and sprayed the bottom of the pan prior to slapping them on the pan, placing it in the oven, and setting the timer.)

Oh, then there is the topic of my timers. So… it would probably seem that with the low skill level required for the type of “cooking” I do, one could never mess it up, right? Wrong. I HAVE to set a timer or it’s over. I am amazed at those cooking shows where people can have 4 different things going at once and know just when it’s time to take something off the heat. Not me. I’ve burned dinner twice in the last two months. Once because there was no timer to remind me to stir the red beans. After that sad catastrophe I was a stickler for setting timers to keep my child-induced ADD from winning out over an edible meal. However, I underestimated its power one night when I was so distracted by all the things running through my head that I apparently turned off the timer without realizing I had done it. — Dinner? Sushi take out.

June Cleaver, I am not.

No Stepford Wife here. (Just go ahead and insinuate such a thing and watch me lose my cool.)

What is the name of that book.. the “ UN-domestic Goddess”. Had to have been written about me.

Lucky for me, my husband’s expectations of his stay at home wife do not include being a Domestic Goddess. He’s just happy he doesn’t ever have to step foot in Wal-Mart of Target – or worry about whether we have toilet paper.

And even luckier, he actually enjoys cooking! When he has the energy to do so, he gladly takes over the reins in the kitchen. MY HERO! Back when I was working full-time, we had a standing agreement that whoever cooked didn’t have to do the dishes. I would rather do the dishes than cook.. any day of the week.

But the good news? I cook anyway (most of the time). And I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with the fact that it isn’t a gift of mine. I actually feel good at the end of the day when I have pushed through my displeasure of being in the kitchen and put a meal on the table for my family. No matter how little skill it took to prepare it OR how many sacrifices of person and property that had to be offered up in doing so.

But I still won’t be wearing any aprons.

* (When I told other people this, they would always say something along the lines of, “Oh, you’ll learn how to cook.” Whatever, people. I don’t WANT to learn.)

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The World Has Gone Mad – And Taken Me With It {or.. Falling Out of the Coconut Tree}

 {I’ve been writing this post for weeks. I promised in another recent post that it was coming. But it’s not an easy one. It’s sort of a controversial topic in the world of parenting. But this is about being honest about my motherhood struggles, and this is a major one for me. So, all I could do here is be completely honest about myself. My thoughts, my feelings, my family’s struggles. That’s just want I’ve done.  Disclaimer: it’s long and has some content that everyone will not agree with. Love me anyway, please.}

To quote myself sometime around 2009: “I know it’s normal in this day and age for families’ lives and schedules to revolve around their children’s sports and activities, but that doesn’t  mean it’s right. In fact, it’s ridiculous. RI-DIC-U-LOUS! I’m not, I repeat – not – doing it.”

**It’s now 2012**

For the last two years I have not made plans with my extended family to attend our annual Thanksgiving tradition, the Egg Bowl (Football tradition: My Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. the University of MS) because I had to wait and see if my daughter’s competition cheer squad was going to be in the regional cheer competition that weekend in Orlando.

Worse yet? On Thanksgiving Day, 2010 we left our house in Florida – full of extended family in from Mississippi and Georgia – and schlepped our family of 5 on a two-hour drive to Orlando. Not for fun. But instead, so we could check in at the hotel in time for my (at the time) 8-year-old to run through a practice on the day before competition. (Practice. On Thanksgiving Day.)

Seriously. Family tradition at Thanksgiving vs. 8/9-year-old Cheer? And cheer wins?!

— And let’s not even start on the loss of the sanctity of Sunday as a family day. I completely caved on this.. and Sundays – for us – are about church and family. Or they were.  Kids’ sports won again. Not OK.

Who is ridiculous now?

That would be me.

Now obviously since my prime example here includes the fact that my extended family’s get-togethers revolve around a sporting event, you know I am a sports fan. I was raised in it. Some of my fondest memories as a kid and as an adult are tied to sporting events. Especially football. And I was a cheerleader myself (and a gymnast and a swimmer.. and early on, I was a dancer), so yes, I enjoy all of it.

However, I don’t want to be consumed with my kids’ sports. I don’t want to spend years never seeing my husband or sitting down for a family meal because we’re moving in three different directions at ALL times trying to get everyone to all of their different activities. I don’t want to lose perspective. I don’t want to spend a fortune on traveling to a 9-year-old’s sports competitions. I don’t want to be too busy to be a good friend or to spend important holidays with our family. I don’t want to tell my FAMILY that their schedules to see us have to revolve around an ever-changing youth sports program’s calendar. I don’t want to let fun family traditions fall by the wayside, because we’re too busy to make them a priority. I don’t want to give in to this crazy notion that kids have to play serious sports now or they will not have a shot at doing so later.. and I really resent that this point is mostly true. I don’t want to abandon everyone who has mattered in my life, because I have to go “all-in” to my kids’ sports in order for them to have a shot at “playing”.. much less being GOOD at it.

OK, let’s just go ahead and tell the truth. There’s that something inside of every parent that has the potential to get competitive. There’s that part in there that really wants their kid to be the outstanding performer on the squad/team. I’ll admit there’s even that thing inside of me that made me run up and down the sidelines at my son’s football games, yelling like a crazy coach.. so much so that one of my fellow cheer moms who caught a glimpse of my football-mom style told me I reminded her of “that chick in The Blind Side.” Ugh.

But I wonder many times, what am I teaching them if I say yes to everything – every sport they want to play? Am I doing them a dis-service if they go through childhood thinking the answer to everything is yes and that their parents will pay any price (monetarily or sacrificially) to get them what they want.

How are they going to handle it later in life when their mom and dad aren’t there to blow the household budget on them, just to make sure that all the extra lessons, private classes, and best preparation and equipment are at hand to help them be the best?

How are they going to handle it when they don’t “get it all” later in life?

How will they know how to deal with being second? Or being last?

This whole thing we’ve gotten ourselves into with the over-scheduling of our kids – the part where we just keep piling it on.. “Advancing” their skills early. Thinking ahead about what they need to do now to get that sports scholarship later.. or to make the team, or to be the cheer captain. Planning their futures and making real life decisions when they are 5  that are based on them having potential sports careers later?! Focusing on how to keep them ahead and going to any lengths to keep them from falling behind their peers.

————————————————-

It reminds me of one of my kids’ favorite books from when they were little, “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”. Do you know it? The one where the little letter ‘a’ kind of taunts everyone and they all race to see who can get to the top of the coconut tree first or fastest – something like that.  Anyway, we all used to love to read it – the rhyme and rhythm of the verse was soothing and fun. It kind of sucked you in.* But I never thought about what was really going on in the little story until now. Our copy of it is well worn. My kids know the book by heart.

————————————————

In December we were faced with a choice –a horrible, no good choice – when my daughter, The Pelican’s competitive year round cheer squad disbanded and most of its coaches and players moved to an All-Star cheer gym. My husband said the decision was simple. If she was going to have wear glitter and fake lashes on her eyes, bare her stomach and spend every Friday and Sunday at the cheer gym, we. were. out.

But in truth, the decision wasn’t that cut and dry. Nowhere near it. The truth is that my once extraordinarily shy, full of stage fright, and lacking in self-confidence child had found herself in this sport. I mean really found herself. The dancing and performing that she used to (shyly) do in her room ONLY when she thought no one was looking, finally had a place out in the open. The goal-driven kid had a place where she could set, achieve, and exceed her own goals. There’s something pretty wonderful about seeing my kid step up to every challenge given to her.. that pride she feels in her achievement couldn’t have surpassed mine.

The confidence she’s gained in herself. That part. Oh, now that part is priceless. For her. She needed it. It makes me happier and more proud than any success on the field or court or floor ever could. Those are the real triumphs.. the ones where they build some piece of their character that they’ll carry forward throughout their lives.

And she never – not once – even through 5-days-a-week practices and extraordinary pressure –- never even looked like she might complain. She loved every second of it.

Except maybe when her pre-performance nerves were so bad they caused her to feel (and at times get) sick to her stomach.

And the part when she started stressing out in school, because her mind was solely focused on cheer… and her grades were slipping. My self-driven, over-achieving student almost cried when she saw a C on her report card. (This, does NOT come from me. I happen to be quite comfortable in the world of C’s. {Smile})

But those pieces were too hard for me as a mom to ignore. No matter how great the feelings were when she was elated by her triumph.. I wasn’t Ok with the level of pressure she was feeling, even if it was self-imposed.

I researched, and I talked with her and my husband. And the other cheer moms. And my family. And with God.

I went to websites like these:

http://livefitblog.com/2010/03/15/how-parents-are-hurting-their-child-athletes/

http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/growing/child_too_busy.html#

I read the pros and cons. I searched for a clear answer to my dilemma. To cheer or not to cheer.

She, of course – as the cooperative child that she is – said, “whatever you think is best, Mom. I do love it. It’s my Thing. But if it is just temporary, I really don’t mind a little break.”

I guess hoping that she would help me make a clear decision isn’t the best parenting. Surely at age 9 she doesn’t know what is best for her, but really.. her perfectly Switzerland-ish response, didn’t help me one bit, except to affirm that she has a good head on her shoulders; which I already knew.

WHAT TO DO?!

And then it happened. Like that part in “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”, where the tree gets completely overloaded past the point of being able to hold its ground, breaks, and the whole alphabet comes crashing down…

I was dropping her off to play at her cheer-buddy’s house after the last competition.. and when asked by cheer-buddy’s mom (and my friend) what we were going to do, I inexplicably broke into tears.

Not pretty, misty eyed tears… but the ugly, snotty, almost hyperventilating kind. Full. On. Crying.

I had no idea that the tears were coming.

Where did they come from?

And why wouldn’t they STOP?!

What the hell is wrong with me? I’m crying over whether or not to let my 9-year-old child take part in cheerleading?

This was ridiculous. I sat in the car in their driveway crying like I had just lost a loved one – and all over a cheer decision?! I could hear my own “RI-DIC-U-LOUS” quote playing like 8-count cheer in my head.

Clearly, my decision was made.  We needed a break. We ALL needed a break. We needed to step away, regroup, breathe, and I  needed to get some perspective. She didn’t need a mom who was walking the line of sanity because I was overloaded. Having a mom who is stable enough not to be uncontrollably snotty-crying in her friend’s driveway was more important at that moment than cheer. It just was.

The break has been good. It really has. Again –  like deep yoga breathing for me. And her grades are up.. she’s never sick anymore. Hasn’t complained of a stomach ache in 2 months, and we have family time! We hang out with our neighbors and their kids spontaneously. We sit down at dinner around the same table at the same time and we talk. We tell about our favorite things each day. We have been a real, normal, Norman Rockwell (yeah, I know I’m pushing it) painting kind of family.

It sounds like we have this thing figured out based on that last paragraph, doesn’t it?

Do you remember the last page of the “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” book where:

“ A is out of bed,

and this is what he said,

“Dare double dare,

you can’t catch me.

I’ll beat you to the top

Of the coconut tree…”

…And there comes that sneaky little ‘a’ again. Making you realize that no sooner than all the Mommas and Poppas and Uncles and Aunts finish picking up the kids dusting off their pants, the whole crazy cycle up the tree starts again.  You start to get the feeling in the book that it will go on infinitely.

Well. Here we are. March is upon us. Next month is April. Know what happens in April? Cheer tryouts and registration.

You know what else has happened in the last few weeks?

Boredom. From my Pelican (NOT FROM ME). She’s walking around the house going through the motions of her cheer routine from their National Championship competition. And questions. Lots of them. From the Pelican cheerleader. Asking when she is going to go back to cheer.

Week before last I found her on the laptop looking through the end of the year CD with all of their photos and competition videos on it. She even wore her “Unfinished business” cheer t-shirt today.

Once again I find myself attempting to find the right balance in my  motherhood– this time though, it’s about attempting to find the right balance in the amount (and intensity) of structured activity that’s appropriate for my kids. I haven’t found the answer yet, because as I type I also have search windows open researching availability of tumbling classes and workshops. I’m right back where I started. Decision time again.

Sigh.

I’m beginning to think that the name of this blog should have been “The Balancing Act”.

* Not to mention that it helped them learn the alphabet.

Survival Tools for Motherhood

Yesterday was one of those challenging days in the motherhood, as you may have gathered by my late night post. BUT thanks to my go-to motherhood survival tools, the day did NOT beat me, and I woke up feeling positive &  ready to roll today.  Even after a 2 a.m. bedtime and a wake up at 6:30 a.m.

My survival tools?

(1) Prayer (thanks for the reminder Kelli M)

(2) Sarcasm and humor (lightens the frustration in an instant)

(3) Venting and friend support (thanks Mom, Molly, Julie B and Carva) and ..

(4) Surprisingly this one isn’t WINE! My newest addition, (which kept me from needing a glass of wine) this blog/FB page. I found yesterday that writing (journaling, really) as I went through the day allowed me to look at the day’s events in black and white, laugh, and gain perspective while in the moment.

Pretty cool.

Thanks for being free therapy, M.O.M.s!

What are your go-to Motherhood survival tools? Share the wealth!

Beware the Ides of March

(title credit goes to my Mom)

Today, (which happened to be March 15th) tomorrow, and Saturday were planned “MORE” days for me. With the exception of the crazy Thursday afternoon routine that includes Student Council, NJHS meeting, horseback riding, and tutoring, Thursdays are usually my favorite day.  My favorite morning would probably be a more accurate way to put it.  It’s my designated Yo-God (Yoga with a Christian focus) day.  For me, it’s like getting a stress releasing work-out, a tension relieving massage, and an hour of spiritual healing all in one. I love it.

But Yo-God was just going to be the tip of the iceberg this morning. My wonderful-and-pretty-incredible husband* had his big busy work week full of User Group Meetings and hosting client dinners this week. They stay at a gorgeous ocean side resort for three days when this is happening.. sounds divine to me, but in reality I know it’s still just work for him. This year he invited me to come out for the day, have lunch with him then enjoy the spa or the beach while he’s in meetings. Well YEAH! I’d say that lunch with him, a massage and some beach time would go a long way in making me more than just mom. So, I had planned to go straight from Yo-God to meet him at the resort.

As if that wasn’t good enough, I have tickets to see an Off-Broadway show (and a plan to juggle the three kids while he’s at a working dinner) Friday night with my girlfriends from my neighborhood! To be followed by some volunteer training that I’ve really been looking forward to on Saturday! Three days of MORES just for me!!

You moms know what is coming next, don’t you? I mean, that’s just too good to be true. Obviously.

My son, The Owl, started that asthmatic cough on Wednesday – the one that usually means I’ll be giving him breathing treatments q4hrs within a matter of a couple of days, so I just went ahead and started it.

My middle child, The Pelican, seems to be having some sort of reaction to the earrings she has the new-found freedom to accessorize with.. and her ears are slightly infected. (responding to Neosporin, but she can’t wear earrings. Can the holes still close in 3 months after being pierced? Because I’m not doing that crap again.)

My youngest daughter, The Starling, was home Monday with a tiny low-grade fever, but that’s about all.. not nearly enough to slow her down, so she went back to school on Tuesday. By Wednesday night she couldn’t breathe because of head congestion. And this morning she woke with a spot on her face that – best I tried – I could NOT ignore.

I took this photo of it:

… and sent it to my mom. Because that’s what I do when I’m in a panic – “Mom, PLEASE tell me I’m wrong and this is just a bug bite?!”  — My mom agreed that it was suspicious. Determined to keep asking people until someone told me she was fine to go to school, I called the school early and sent the picture to the school nurse.  I don’t know what I expected her to say, but she said, “Yes that really does look like Chicken Pox. Don’t send her to school. Take her to the doctor.”

With the calendar items and thoughts of how many days of school my child has already missed this year running through my head, I call the office of our Pediatrician. 2 hours of waiting for a return phone call, results in a second call from me to them. The Pediatrician can’t get her in until the afternoon.. which, as we have already discussed, is quite full with other stuff.  So we end up at an urgent care facility, because I don’t have enough patience to “wait” to find out what I’m dealing with.

So it’s the Ides of March and I can’t help think that my kids might be conspiring to kill the “just me” part of me and keep only the motherhood part.  “DEATH TO YOUR FUN, MOM! You’re our slave! How DARE you attempt to get a life?!”  I’m only kidding, of course.  But really, all that beautiful planning to do fun things for myself — all up in the air or gone by the wayside already. It makes me a little** disappointed and sad.

Yes. It’s a selfish thought process; I realize this. But I’ve given myself fully over to these little birds for the first 11 years of my motherhood, so finally finding a tiny bit of selfishness is Ok, right?

—–

Remember the 6th sense Superpower (that I’m convinced was given to them in the disgusting prenatal vitamins) they have of knowing when you’re on the phone or in the bathroom? Turns out that isn’t the only Superpower my kids have.

My kids also have Super-human powers like being able to break through ANY immunity or vaccine you can give them! You name it, my kids are going to catch it.** – I think I actually posted earlier on in my blog where I questioned the importance of these vaccines.. I just thought I was being funny at the time, but apparently I knew more than I realized.

——

Speaking of questioning the validity of health care.. back at the urgent care stop (that was in lieu of a beach side lunch date with my wonderful-and-pretty-incredible husband), my confidence was shaken a tad bit when I had to explain to the first practitioner that it was indeed possible for kids to “break through” the varicella vaccine and still get a mild case of Chicken Pox. Further doubts settled in when he reacted to my sharing of this information with a surprised face and asked if I minded that he step out to “do some research on this.” – I could hear the conversations through the closed door. Yes, it’s possible. When the door opened again, it was a different practitioner. Second opinion, I guess. And her surprised face was because indeed, “it looks like Chicken Pox!” with 100% certainty. Yet what followed brought me feeling like we were somewhere down around 60% sure. The second doctor then said, “But follow up with your Primary on Monday morning, because I don’t want to be responsible for her  missing that much school.” Well, if she has the chicken pox, she needs to miss that much school.

We left the urgent care office with a shaky diagnosis of… “Chicken Pox, but follow-up with your Primary Pediatrician.”

I called our regular pediatrician’s office back and promptly made an appointment for as early as they had available on Friday morning, rather than Monday morning. – Did I mention that I have tickets to see a show with my girlfriends on Friday night? –

Here’s the kicker.  At 3:45 my phone rings and it’s the pediatricians office.. returning my phone call from 8:15 this morning. Seriously? It’s way past time to fire my pediatrician’s office.

While on the phone with him, there is a heated conversation about why I went to urgent care instead of his office. (Um, hello, dude it took you 7.5 hours to call me back and I already have a diagnosis AND a follow-up appointment scheduled!) He proceeds to tell me that if I could come in then, he would like to see her, because “there’s NO WAY that she has Chicken Pox!”

Are ya freaking kidding me? I’ve already followed up with the school nurse. Who in turn has already sent out a “Chicken Pox letter” on School letterhead to all parents informing them that their kids have been exposed to Chicken Pox. Does he know how humbling (read humiliating) it is to be the source of a [potential] viral disease running though the school?! Well, I’ll tell you this. Until I have an unequivocal answer about exactly what the heck is going on, I’m not talking to the school nurse again!

The events that took place during and surrounding our second trip to a doctor’s office today are just too overwhelming to delve into, and I – quite frankly – am too exhausted to do so tonight. They did, however ALSO include over-hearing conversations between doctors and nurses through closed doors. Don’t they know we can hear them?! But anyway, tomorrow is another day. And of only one thing am I certain: it will include some sort of interaction with doctors. Because I still don’t know exactly what we are dealing with. AND I don’t know who our next pediatrician will be.. but there will be a next. And soon.

So no, there weren’t any beach side lunch dates, massages, or toes in the sand today. Instead, multiple doctors’ offices, lots of copays and frustration. And still no clear cut answers. There are going to be times when we bang our heads against the wall, and no matter how hard we try, our best laid plans will have to be let go.

It’s all going to be fine, though; that’s just part of this motherhood thing. Some days we have to give ourselves over to it.. and that’s really OK.

Plus my little Starling’s cheeks are the MOST kissable cheeks in the whole world. Today she had one that was totally void of mysterious spots.. clear for the kissing. And there was plenty of time for such things during the many hours we spent cuddling in doctor’s office waiting and exam rooms.

You know, at the end of this day, I can’t help think about the topics from my string of posts lately (including one that I have yet to post, but will soon) and though I did not intend for them to add up to anything.. they seem to. There’s been a lot of questioning of the hurried pace. Juggling. A lot of searching for balance. And derailing of plans that I’ve made.

I think SOMEBODY  may just be trying to give me a heads up on something…

Ides of March, y’all.

*Yes, I do believe that if I put the compliments before his name I can then say anything I want to say about him and it becomes all very loving.

** Fine. More than a little. A lot, really.

*** For instance? The Owl (my oldest) got the Chicken Pox when he was 8, despite having had the vaccine.

Don’t Use Your Full Range of Motion

Early Saturday morning (before the not-so-super-Saturday race that is my kids’ sports schedule), I sat at home with my 3 Little Birds while my wonderful-and-pretty-incredible husband and the rest of my neighborhood – the entire city, it felt like – ran in the city’s big race. 20,000 people. And I was not one of them.

“Don’t Use Your Full Range of Motion.” A quote from the Orthopedic Surgeon this week. – I’m not new to his office. Because I’m knocking on 40’s door and some of the “mores” I’ve chosen to place in my life in recent years have not been welcomed with love by my body. After a long painful battle at the height of my run training, my (now) dear orthopedist discovered that I had a labral tear in my right hip in early 2010. I had surgery on it and bounced back pretty quickly. At the time of the injury I know some people wanted to tell me (and some may actually have), “See, all that running is bad for your body.”  While I’m not an avid runner – I don’t crave it – I decided that the good that this particular “more” did for my mind (not to mention my high cholesterol), far out-weighed the wear-and-tear (literally) it put on my body.  So, 6 months post hip surgery I ran (some would argue that I jogged) my first half marathon.

My avid running friends said the injury must have been caused by yoga. And my fellow yoga fanatics blamed it on the running.

Turns out that neither is to blame; I just have a pre-disposition for those kinds of injuries. After a recent bout with recurring hip pain I fearfully (“please don’t tell me I need surgery again, Doc?!?!”) went back to my Orthopedic Surgeon. So far, no surgery needed. My recent problems are most likely due to (1) Lower back issues – I’ve been in a lot of car wrecks that wreaked havoc on my back.  And (2) A structural abnormality in my joints that makes them loose and therefore cause one bone to rub against the hip-joint and labrum. Apparently your hip isn’t supposed to be able to have a 90 degree range of motion. But really.. after 3 child births with no epidural + breastfeeding, there’s really nothing normal about a woman’s body, is there?

The “easy” – no surgery required – fix? Don’t use my full range of motion. When I am in my peaceful place at the end of Yo-God, resting in happy baby pose I’m now supposed to stop myself before I find my full stretch and hold it there? Well, that defeats the purpose. I love the rest and stretch part of yoga. It’s why I do the work part. Just like, the only reason I eat dinner is to get the dessert afterwards.

The “don’t use your full range of motion” directions caused me pause. And they may be harder to implement than the surgery was to take. — While I guess it’s better than surgery, it may not be easier. I didn’t have to do much of anything with the surgery. I got to lie around and have my wonderful-and-pretty-incredible husband and my 3 Little Birds wait on me hand and foot. — Anyway, these directions he gave me go against my normal way of thinking. I’m of the mindset that the main goal in life is give your best effort at all times. We see and hear it everywhere (and my kids do, too. From ME!) Do your BEST! Go the extra mile. Give it your all. Make the most of it. Never give up. Don’t waste your talents and gifts. Go the distance. Just do it. ™ Leave nothing on the table.

Don’t Hold Back. That’s where my brain goes. So what’s wrong with this crazy man that’s telling me “Don’t use your full range of motion!”?! He must be nuts. Did I really let him cut me open and mess around with needles and a scalpel in my hip?

But on second thought, maybe he’s on to something.

Maybe there’s triumph in holding yourself back, too.

Maybe the athletes who save something in the beginning of their race really do have more left at the end.

Maybe having a filter on my mouth prevents me from blowing up when I’m angry.. enough to cool down and share my frustrations in a more productive way later. *

Maybe refraining from volunteering my opinions about the way other people choose to live their lives (unless asked) makes them feel better about themselves. (And that’s never a bad thing.)

And maybe not using my “full range of motion” in motherhood (= not giving my entire being over to my motherhood) will leave something for me, when I reach the finish line.

* I have to admit that I’m better at this with other people than I am with my kids. But I’m working on it with them and getting better.

“..She Can Do It All WITHOUT Mixing Vodka and Xanax. It’s Amazing.”

My mom called me (many months ago) on her way out of the movie theater to tell me that I HAD to see the movie, “I Don’t Know How She Does It”. She told me that the main character (played by the great SJP) is a working Mom trying to juggle it all, but still thought of me (a SAHM) all the way through the movie, knowing that I would love it.

Fast forward 6 months.

Sunday afternoon: Overcast and super windy with ominous clouds looming. One of those rare days where we actually had free time at the house. My wonderful-and-pretty-incredible husband had a late lunch with friends and then they were going to the local NFL franchise’s stadium to choose their season ticket seats*, so I was at home with the kids by myself for a few hours. They were occupied (I use the term VERY lightly) with the electronic babysitting squad. I mistakenly thought this would be a perfect time for a movie that no one else in my house would particularly love seeing, and I purchased ”I Don’t Know How She Does It” ON DEMAND. I don’t know what I was thinking when I did this.. I should have known that as soon as I was engaged in something enjoyable for myself, their superpowers would turn on and they would instinctively know… converging on me and circling like vultures.

I did it though. I finally watched it. Although, the one hour and 29 minute movie took me roughly 4 hours to watch beginning to end. I’m not kidding.

I have no idea how many times I had to pause it, because… let’s face it, I can’t count that high, but I do know that I had to restart the movie no less than 5 times, because those pauses lasted so long that On Demand timed out and went back to its menu. It took me so long to get through the movie that the WAPI husband had time to eat, pick out seats and get home before I finished it. He then loaded up one of the 3 little birds (who all definitely felt like Woodpeckers this day) and went to the nursery to buy mulch, returning before I was more than half way through the movie.

In a moment of frustration, I actually told the Pelican (middle child, older daughter) – with a big sigh, “It’s going to take me 14 days to watch this movie!”  This was triggered by the 643rd interruption, when she came in to tell me that she and her Dad were back and they “GOT 25 BAGS OF MULCH FOR THE YARD!” – She loves to narrate life to me. Every minute (as in, every tiny, infinitesimal, minuscule) detail of it. And yes, dear wonderful-and-pretty-incredible husband, I do realize this is a trait that she got directly from me.  I love her little self and admire her passion for living a lot. Although I can’t quite comprehend the reason for her passionate excitement over how many bags of mulch they bought, and frankly I wish she would have toned the passion down for the afternoon, because it was driving me nuts. (Dear goodness, I must drive my husband nuts, too!)

Anyway, my children walked into the room to ask me a question no less than 50 times, really. It felt more like a thousand. I had to pause the movie for all sorts of things. Door bell ringing (multiple times). Phone ringing. At least 9 “I’m hungry”s.  One ball kicked hard into the window right next to my ear – which of course required me to stomp outside. Opening and closing of the back door 1200 times.. each time the blinds (that are broken and not attached to the door on the bottom) swinging back and forth, banging the door multiple times.. loud enough that I had to rewind to hear the dialogue… and on and on.

Is this the appropriate use of the word Irony? Watching a movie that is all about the struggles and challenges of motherhood (titled “I Don’t Know How She DOES It?”) – all while my children purposefully (I’m certain) try to drive me nuts. I think so.

When the yard work was finished and my husband came in and sat down next to me.. still 20 minutes left in the movie.. he comments “Why aren’t you watching this in HD?!” – I may have let an expletive slip at this point. HD?!?! What the hell? I’m just trying to hear the next line before I forget what the last one was. HD?!?! The only thing High Definition about this scenario was the constant noise that my children were making to prevent me from being able to hear the movie.. forget seeing it more clearly. (What is it about men’s obsession with high-definition? Quite frankly I’d rather him not see my wrinkles, etc. in high-definition.)

At the end of the movie, I literally stood up and did a little celebration dance – throwing my hands in the air in triumph, because quite frankly I didn’t think I was going to see the end of it. Not because I didn’t want to or because the movie was bad.. quite the contrary.. but more because I didn’t think the little Woodpeckers were going to allow me to finish it.

When I started the movie, you know, 14 days ago… I intended on writing a blog about it that concentrated only on my thoughts about the movie’s topic. What I ended up with was a blog on one of my own great motherhood struggles. Although, I’m pretty certain this topic resonates with most moms. Sometimes it feels like Woodpeckers are pecking at your head.. like you’ll never get a moment’s peace.  (BATHROOM!)

In spite of the unplanned direction the blog ended up going, I do still feel like the subject matter of the movie is worth talking about. A lot.

I’ve already established that I am waaaay behind on the viewing of this movie. Which also probably means I waaaay behind the curve in reviewing this movie and writing about its subject matter. There are probably about a thousand other mom-bloggers out there that have done this already. Here’s my two cents on it, anyway:

If you’re a stay at home mom and haven’t seen it yet, watch it (even if you have to drink espresso at 5 pm and stay up til 1 am, so you can watch it in peace after they’ve gone to sleep. Which is what I’ll do next time.).. you’ll get a glimpse into some of the issues that are different for a Working Mom than for us SAHMs. And you’ll be able to appreciate the battle that a working mom fights in the working world among men. Or at least, I did. It made me want to go put on my kids’ karate hand-pads and start swinging at certain characters in the movie.

In watching this movie, I  confirmed my notion that there are a lot more similarities than differences between the struggles of a working mom and that which I struggle with as a SAHM. Maybe more than a lot of people in this “great debate” realize, even.  Seriously, who among us doesn’t relate to the quote, “300 presentations last year, and I never messed up once.. It’s not my fault! The pregnancy did something to my brain!”  It may not be a work presentation for us SAHMs, but the mess ups are just as present in our daily lives.  And I don’t know which is worse: dropping the ball while trying to prove yourself in the world of men or dropping the ball while trying to prove your intelligence and worth among the world who sees you as nothing more than a Stepford Wife. I’d say they are both equally frustrating and humiliating. See.. same, but different. Different, but the same.  And that scene where Kate (SJP’s character) is lying in bed mentally writing her crazy child-induced-ADD-brain-List in sharpie on the ceiling?! Priceless. And so VERY me — and probably every one of you, as well.  I would bet that’s common among us all.

I felt some sort of solace in the fact that this stay at home mom could relate exactly to SJP’s character and not at all to the SAHM characters. They were stereotypical and harsh. And while I know they were only characters, behind their judgment, I recognized something of their struggle. I wish, however, that more SAHMs in real life dealt with their mom-struggles better than these SAHM characters did. I’m happy to say that the SAHMs here in my circle of friends are not at all like that. Whew!

If you’re a working mom and you watch (or have watched) the movie, know this – I know VERY few, if any, stay at home moms who are judgemental like these stereotypical ones in the film. Most that I know keep themselves so busy with projects and volunteer work that they are, in fact, just trying to juggle it all.. much like you.  Most of the SAHMs I know struggle more with their peer’s perceptions of them (and probably our self-perceptions)  than they do judging other moms..  But I do know that those judgmental moms are out there. On both sides of this debate. And that’s a shame. Maybe talking openly and honestly more will help lessen that divide that many experience between the two.

Far too often women turn their own self-doubt and guilt – or struggles – into defensive feelings that come out as anger, judgment, and even an attack on  other moms. But we never really make ourselves feel better by judging others or making them feel bad. Modern-day society makes it hard enough on women, we have to practice understanding and supporting each other more, instead of piling on. SAME TEAM!**

To quote myself in previous posts: “Just because my family’s circumstances, needs, and personalities lend themselves better to me being “at home”, doesn’t mean that is, or should be, true for every mom. I know that for a lot of women, working makes them an even better Mom (this was true of my grandmother – even back in the 1950’s and 60’s!), and I love that we all thrive in different environments.  — All Moms struggle.  It doesn’t matter what your particular “motherhood” circumstances look like:  1 kid or 10 kids. Working outside of the home or stay-at-home. Married or single. With a house keeper or a house full of dust. It doesn’t matter what your situation; if you’re a mom and you’re being honest, you struggle. With different things, maybe. But struggle still.”

And yes, Mom, you were right! I did love it!

* See?! We’re both doing a pretty good job of having friends and making time for ourselves.. so that we “both have something to bring to the relationship” as my mom says.

** I’ve said it before, but really.. we should be a united force – all Moms, no matter or work status – coming together to defeat the real enemy. The kids.  (I’m kidding.. don’t freak out!)

The New and Unimproved Saturday Morning

Remember when Saturday morning meant kids in PJs watching cartoons from blanket forts in your living room?

Those days are long gone.

This morning’s cozi family calendar included a 15k*, 2 of the little birds at the Dojo, and the third at the cheer gym for a tumbling workshop. – Which meant packing lunch at 9 a.m. on Saturday, multiple water bottles, coordinating dropping off/picking up of carpool, uniforms and gear, tight schedules, no time for traffic jams (which of course, there were) – all while trying to fit in weekend school assignments… Sound familiar?

Sigh.

I miss the blanket forts and lazy Saturday mornings in PJs where I could drink at least half of my cup of coffee before it got cold. I want cinnamon rolls fresh and warm out of the oven. I want my kids going from blanket forts in the living room to forts in the woods. This is what Saturday should be in my mind.

For years I have struggled with what has become the “normal” activity level for young families in today’s society. It sort of frustrates me. I think, often times, that we’re over doing it and really losing sight of “the family”.  Once not too many years ago, I put my foot down and said NO! “We’re taking the Spring season OFF! We’re going to do our homework and go outside and play like normal kids! We’re going to have our weekends as a family. We’re going to reintroduce our boat to the water!” – So. We didn’t sign up for ANY activities. (Aside from Wednesday night church.) And guess what? My kids were bored out of their minds. Want to know why? Because there was no one around with whom they could run and play. The neighborhood was like a ghost town. All their friends were too busy with their multiple activities and weren’t home to play.

Fail.

Needless to say, we promptly signed up for summer and fall sports and went back to the stress-filled run, run, run calendar schedule…. Much to my dismay.

I’m working on a more detailed post about my personal struggle with this topic, but for now I’ll just leave this “The New Saturday” image with you as a teaser…

Me.. as I walk back in the house from our "New" Saturday morning routine. Holding a half eaten sandwich, my daughter's glasses (not in their case), my son's glasses (in the case), my son's book that he needed to be reading for a book report, 2 pairs of hand pads, my suitcase-sized purse, a water for hydration and (thank goodness) a cup of joe to keep me going.

* My wonderful-and-pretty-incredible husband, not me. I’m sidelined with an injury.

“Ah-ha” Moments

I had a great visit at the bus stop this morning with a very wise friend who has children ranging in ages from 5 – 15. Yes, that’s a baby in kindergarten and a teen in high school. Plus she has two more in between.  Obviously, in my eyes she would fall into the “expert” category of moms.  I’ll be leaning on her a lot.

My oldest is now a teenager. And wow. When the “teenager” moves in, he moves in all. the. way.  Without getting into too much detail, my kid has been taken over by an alien. The teenager alien. It’s turning him from my sweet and sensitive little man to a mean green monster!**  Coincidentally, 3 years ago in a school art class he was required to draw a split face self-portrait. He drew himself as a green alien type monster. I guess he saw it coming before I did.  Fore shadowing. Maybe I should have him do an updated version of the drawing, where he shows his current ratio of teenage-alien-monster to sweet precious little Owl (If you see me refer to the “Owl” on the blog, I’m referring to the oldest – the boy – of my 3 little birds). It would surely be at least 90% green. He’s almost fully become a teenage alien now.

This fact has brought me some dread and some strife in the last few weeks. However today, my dear friend at the bus stop (my neighborhood mommy-expert) said something to me that made this whole teenager mess a big giant happy PLUS in my goals as M.O.M.*** — She said something along the lines of (please forgive if I put my own twist on the words), “I think God gave us these awful teenager years, so that it’s easier for us to let them go when they turn 18.”

So, the worse the teenage years, the happier I’ll be when they go?

Sweet!

I may just be able to make my wonderful-and-pretty-incredible husband eat his “you’re going to be pitiful when they leave” words, after all. I will NOT be pitiful and sad when they fly the coop. Based on the only example I have (my own teenage years), I’ll be dancing and jumping for Joy!

*Someone please bookmark this post and re-direct me to it in 5 years.

** I hate green monsters. Like the Incredible Hulk. Irrational childhood fear carried over into adulthood.

*** Mind Over Motherhood = there’s going to be a “ME” at the end of this “motherhood” that doesn’t struggle to find her identity without the precious little aliens!

Woodpeckers and Great White Herons

If you read my blog and don’t know me, at times you might be led to think that I don’t enjoy being a mom too much. Nothing could be further from the truth, though. I do love my kids and love being their mom. I really do. My three little birds make me smile and laugh and entertain me. Every day. They are each incredibly funny in very different ways. They have such super soft kissable cheeks – even though a couple of them don’t let me test that very often any more. I love watching them dance: pure joy. They often amaze me. — They’re turning out to be pretty incredible little people in their own right. Probably in spite of anything I am doing. (I’m certain that most, if not all, of these are the same feelings every mom has for her kids.. at times.)

I also feel extraordinarily blessed to be able to stay home with my kids. I don’t take that ability for granted. At all.*

I have the constant knowledge that one day they will be out and on their own. And don’t tell anyone I said this, because (1) it is contrary to my goal of having enough “mores” in my life so that I don’t skip a beat when the 3 little birds fly away and (2) My wonderful-and-pretty-incredible-husband will have ammunition for his argument that I will be pitiful when they’re gone (to which I am determined to prove him wrong), but… I will miss them. A lot.

My Three Little Birds are beautiful blessings.

— What comes next in this train of thought may seem like my child-induced ADD kicking in again, but bear with me.. it will make sense. Eventually. –

Birds are kind of a running theme in my life. Not on purpose. Just a bunch of isolated things that coincidentally come together in a bird theme.

~ Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” song has been sort of a mantra for me since having my third child. It’s even the ring tone for my house phone # on my cell. Really.. how can you not find a smile and a deep breath in these lyrics:

“Rise up this mornin’,
Smiled with the risin’ sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, (“This is my message to you-ou-ou:”)

Singin’: “Don’t worry ’bout a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
Singin’: “Don’t worry (don’t worry) ’bout a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!”

~ Since moving to Florida, we have had a good number of Bald Eagle sightings in the wild.. as there are a handful of nests nearby. One nest that we were able to view through a telescope at a local research reserve was the size of a VW Bug! Such a rare thing!

~ My grandparents (whom I adored) were bird watchers. I remember them sitting on the porch of their home with the Audubon Society – Sibley Guide to Birds book and binoculars always close at hand. Their yard filled with bird feeders and bird baths. – And the same was true for my parents, and our backyard.

~ I remember, when I was younger, seeing the awe with which my mom and grandmother watched the pelican population return to the Mississippi Gulf Coast – after their numbers had dwindled in previous years. I became smitten with the pelican in a split second after riding in the car along Scenic Avenue with those two amazing women.. who were amazed by the mere presence of the pelican.

~ My great big extended family has many stories of birds that came to “visit” them the day (and days following) my grandmother’s passing away. Including me. I particularly remember when a gust of wind blew open our front door (because you know my kids can’t close it all the way ) and a bird flew into our house. It happened to occur when I was having my first breakdown since saying goodbye to my grandmother in the hospital.  Since then we’ve had random birds come sit – front and center – at family weddings and other important events of the like. The feeling of my grandmother’s presence strong in each and every occurrence. A bird sitting on the eave of my house looking straight at me, brings me peace and comfort.. and makes me smile, thinking of her. It’s beautiful.

~ One of the only things I enjoy about mornings is taking my cup of coffee and opening the blinds in our living room to assess what flurry of feathered friends are visiting the pond in our backyard each morning.. many times, My own 3 Little Birds will join me for the morning show. There’s always an array of beautiful birds. The ducks and the cormorants that float in and dive on the water. The occasional seagulls. The pair of mallards that make their nest in my neighbors’ tree grove each year. The geese that come each spring and allow us to witness their goslings growing each day.

~ My favorite sight, though, is watching as the beautiful white and grey/blue herons soar in from the sky and glide low over the water, landing in the grass at the water’s edge.

~ And then one cloudy and overcast day, we had a surprise visit by a rare pair of Sandhill Cranes in my backyard. They were bigger than my youngest daughter and absolutely beautiful. The only time in my life I have ever seen them.

My kids can be like the beautiful birds I have unintentionally become a fan of watching. My 3 Little Birds can soar beautifully, spread their wings and grow, make me smile with pride as they comfortably float through difficult situations, dive into the water around them with no fear, know when I need them to stay close to mom, make me stop in my tracks in awe of the beautiful creatures they are, and entertain me with their mere presence.

___________________________________________________________________________________

That being said, there are those days.. when even Alfred Hitchcock has nothing on my kids.  Remember that old movie of his, “The Birds”?! Where the birds take over and attack everyone?! Some days, my kids feel more like THOSE kind of birds. The vicious ones that are attacking from every angle.** And on those days their “melodies” aren’t so sweet, pure and true.  They sound more like a 100 honking geese that are parked outside my bedroom window at 4 a.m. leaving a multitude of goose droppings on the lawn.

While they sound like honking geese, they feel more like woodpeckers pecking away at my head with their constant calls of “Mom”, “Momma”, “Mommy”. Repeat. Repeat again. And again. Then there’s their tendency toward speaking to me – or at me – ALL at one time. The volume level going up decibels with each word, as they try to be heard over each other. There’s absolutely NO respecting my need for a few minutes of peace and tranquility. They certainly don’t respect that my coffee time is sacred. Taking over the whole town. Nowhere to escape from them. Little woodpeckers pecking away at my head.  And it certainly seems like there are more of them than there actually are. It’s pretty scary.

So, they are an anomaly, these three little birds of mine. Part Great White Heron and part Woodpecker.

Parenting. Is. Hard. And often quite frustrating – no matter the (st)age of your child(ren). We can be honest about the hard/frustrating parts, while simultaneously loving our children and appreciating the ability to be parents. The two feelings aren’t mutually exclusive. – They can be that beautiful white heron gliding in low over the water as the sun sets, AND be the woodpeckers pecking away at my head. At the same time.

I am (daily, if I’m being honest) frustrated by and annoyed with my kids – while also loving them beyond imagination and being grateful to God for giving them to me.

… And maybe when my kids have all flown the nest, I’ll buy that Guide to Birds and add “Bird watching” to the mores in my mind.

(Actually, I’m already a “Bird Watcher” by trade. With 13 years of experience watching my 3 Little Birds. Can I put that on a resume?)

* This, however, does not mean that I can’t day dream about what it would be like to have them in after-care where they can do their homework with someone more qualified than me, while I go to work in tailored trousers, heels, a pretty crisp shirt and pearls – in the world of adulthood.

** Revisiting the story line of this movie led me to believe that this chick got what she deserved for following a man around and letting his needs completely take over her life.

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