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Being more than "just Mom".. honestly.

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If We’re Being Honest

Have you seen my Motivation…

Because I have clearly lost it.

It’s January. (Now March – but I started writing this piece back in January. I thought it was fitting to leave it..)

This time last year I was looking at back at my year in review, analyzing the goals that I set and achieved (or missed altogether) the year prior  and setting new goals for 2012.  By this time in January, I had taken on multiple purge and re-organize projects in my house. Totally revamping my closet. I was reading a book (gasp!). I was taking up tennis. I even really – truly finally got serious about my writing and this blog.  That was my biggest resolution in 2012.

What do they say about the average time that people actually keep their New Year’s Resolutions?  Based on the drastic drop-off at the gym  this week of every year, my guess would be two weeks.   A FranklinCovey  survey found that “35 percent of respondents break their New Year’s resolutions by the end of January and only 23 percent of those surveyed don’t ever break them.”

So, I’m not that bad. I made it well past January of 2012. At least through the first quarter if not half way through the year.

But the truth?  I haven’t yet looked back to see what my goals were for 2012 for fear of how many I dropped at some point during the year or abandoned completely. I don’t have a single resolution or goal for 2013. Not one.

Still waiting for some New Years motivation. Hoping it gets here before the year is over.

Introducing Blue Ivy and Locating the Whereabouts of my Brain

Did you think I croaked? Well, almost.

I turned 40.

I have a lot of catch-up to do  on the blog since I last wrote, but in the mean time I just have to get a quick share out to y’all. I just read a quote that so preceisely sums up my thought about life and Motherhood that I couldn’t stand to wait to share.

(But first – and in my typical hyperactive-brain style, a tiny bit of background info is needed.)

Not too long ago (May 7th, to be exact) I posted a link to another blog on my Facebook page. I never posted it here, but, wow did it resound well with my FB friends.. even becoming a neighborhood anthem of sorts with the women around here. Some of you already know where I”m going with this, but for those of you are not reading my mind yet, you must go here and read, laugh, breathe and then come back to this post.

My Mom is here visiting from my native Mississippi for my big 40th birthday (also known as the rise of my character and decline of my body, but more on that in later posts). After posting/sharing the “Beyoncé the big metal chicken” blog post back in May, my Mom has sent me many photos and references to the chicken (which is oddly, really a rooster.)  I’m still waiting for the time frame where this blog doesn’t make me laugh so hard that my 40 year old bladder isn’t challenged to maintain its muscle control.  I don’t even really know why exactly I find the post so off-the-charts funny. It isn’t because those types of exchanges are happening in  my house.  The truth is that my WAPI is pretty great and rarely – if ever – has a problem choosing the appropriate battles to pick with me.  And he’s not so crazy as to ever use the word “forbid”  with me in anything other than jest. So, though I can’t much relate to the exact towel-forbidding issue that prompted the purchase of the big metal chicken, I do find the fact that men don’t understand the great importance of something like the need for new (from Macy’s obviously) towels greatly odd and equally as frustrating.

Anyway, Mom’s birthday visit has been wonderful for a litany of reasons, but probably my favorite highlight was this (on my birthday):  – at 7 am, there was a pounding at my door. I opened it and there, on my doorstep….

….is Beyoncé the big (little) metal chicken.  Bearing a yellow “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” sticky note. A gift from my mom.

KNOCK KNOCK!

Starting the morning laughter.. it sure makes getting older a lot easier to swallow.

Mom has referred to the gifted chicken as “Baby Beyoncé” while telling me the stories of BB’s many adventures through airports and suitcases to get to me here in Florida, so I’m now calling her Blue Ivy.*  I think my friend Blue Ivy may just randomly show up on my friends’ doorsteps with a note attached that “this chicken will cut you if not returned to..”  Then all the husbands in the neighborhood will ask about the chicken, hear the story and all hate me for sharing it with their wives. And we will all just laugh.

And yes, of course, I had Blue Ivy standing on a bar-towel in my WAPI’s home office (on top of his bar, you know, because every office should include a bar – with towels) when he got home from work that day. To which he responded, “I forbid you to put metal chickens in my office.”  🙂 See, he gets that I think it’s funny too, even though he doesn’t know why. And while he isn’t as entertained by her presence, Blue Ivy has had my Mom and I rolling laughing since she made her entrance into my 40-year-old life.

———————————————————–

Now, to my point for sharing all the chicken history.

My Mom and I have a few differences in personality that become evident sometimes. Such as the fact that I read this one blog post about the big metal chicken and immediately rolled with it, never even so much as looking at the rest of the blog. My Mom, however, not only read the rest of the blog, but also researched the author. (Logical progression.) It turns out that the author of the blog has penned a memoir called “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. Mom shared it with me on her tablet. But just as I did with the blog, I haven’t gotten past the intro, because I loved it so much I had to share it right away. At this rate it will take me until I’m 80 to finish this book…

“This book is a love letter to my family. It’s about the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments – the ones we want to pretend never happened – are the very same moments that make us who we are today. I’ve reserved the very best stories of my life for this  book… to celebrate the strange, and to give thanks for the bizarre. Because you are defined not by life’s imperfect moments, but by your reaction to them. And because there is joy in embracing – rather than running screaming from – the utter absurdity of  life. I thank  my family for teaching me that lesson. In spades.”

Now my friends, have I not been saying these very things all along?  I just knew I was missing part of my brain; I am apparently sharing it with Jenny Lawson.

* You may want to google the real Beyoncé. Strangely enough it was brought to my attention that Beyoncé (the real one, not the big metal chicken) and I, coincidentally share the same birthday.

Ice Cream Scoops and Buckets of Frozen Margarita (The Liquid Store Chronicles – Part 1)

 

Motherhood can make you do some crazy stuff.

We all have that list of things we have done as a mom that we NEVER would have imagined ourselves doing pre-motherhood.

We’ve all been vomited on, seen things come out of our children that are either all too recognizable or completely, unimaginably, unrecognizable.  Our once pretty/clean cars now look like a crime scene. We have watched our bodies pay the price: sagging and bulging and stretching and wrinkling.. and on and on. And while those things can drive a person pretty crazy, those aren’t quite what I’m talking about in this post.

I’m talking about those times when you’re on completely exhausted, sleep-deprived, auto pilot and before you know it, you have  done ( or said) something that never would have happened before entering your motherhood.

We’re talking about the things that would have mortified us in our previous lives.

But alas, here we are in the motherhood with a resume that is full of embarrassing, disgusting, and down right terrifying job requirements. Still worse are those instances – oh goodness, all the instances – where level-headed, well-educated, socially adjusted, rationale was simply lost to the motherhood… in retrospect I wonder how we (me and my 3 little birds) made it this far.

~And so it is… M.O.M.-fession Time~

My list of horrifying moments includes the fact that I have taken a picture of my child’s, well… fecal matter… that was on the floor outside of the bathroom and emailed it to one of my best mom-friends in a fit of frustration over potty training.  – I plead “potty-training insanity” on this and therefore you cannot judge me for it.

{Insert pause so you can process what you’ve just read.}

I know, it’s gross.  I can’t fathom doing such a thing now, but honestly I was in a toddler-induced haze. You can’t think straight when you’re dealing with potty training, because honestly, whose brain really can deal with the fact that all those years of education are being put to use by trying to get a kid to rid him or herself of their waste in a toilet instead of having them sit in it?! The brain’s only option is to completely shut down and process nothing. It’s a self-defense mechanism, really.

Somewhere during that same time-frame (go ahead and wrap your head around it.. I had a ~ kindergartner, a ~3 year old and a one year old.. oh, and a traveling husband) I realized that things like sending disgusting pictures to friends weren’t the best way to deal with my stress and mommy-frustration.  Nor was the giant bowl of ice cream I was eating each night.  (Again.. given the circumstances, there was no such thing as a “work out” at this point in my motherhood, unless it involved chasing a naked kid who just got out of the tub and wouldn’t let me get them dressed.)  But we all have to have our motherhood survival tools.

Though, I could entertain the idea of cutting back on the ice cream a bit (but would not retire my ice cream scoop, instead re-purposing it), I was still leaning heavily on venting, prayer and a big cup of “Mommy-juice” after the kids went to bed each night.

Yes. Prayer and alcohol.  Jesus turned water into wine.  And He knows what He’s doing. It’s a good combination.  But the prayer comes first. Always.

Add it to the list of MOM-fessions.

Even better ones are coming.

Now that my kids are a bit older, I look back and think of those days (and how much fewer the MOM-fession instances are now that they are older), I am reminded of how many of my mortifying moments stemmed from having to take them all grocery shopping with me.  I was doing all of my shopping – groceries and otherwise – with all three kids (and oh how much less stressful life is now that I am not forced to do so).  You all remember how that routine goes. Something a bit like this:

(The only thing wrong with the illustrations here is that in the right column, my hair would have been in a pony tail, I would be in yoga pants – though not having done a lick of exercise – and my clothes would have spit up and Cheetos stains on them.)  Ugh. Doing the grocery store with kids is the stuff Mommy-nightmares are made of. Especially considering the following facts surrounding my particular situation:

I had a rambunctious and inquisitive 5-year-old boy, an almost-3 year old who was still potty training and did NOT stay still unless she was sleeping, and the piece de la resistance: an almost 1-year-old who was crying screaming if I wasn’t holding her and in complete protest of being weaned.*

I’ve mentioned that the child was blessed with an insane amount of cuteness. which saves her now, but then?  Well, at that age – it drew a lot of attention from strangers everywhere we went. Especially the grocery store. Every stranger that walked by felt the need to lean over into her cute little face and tell her how adorable she was. Little did they know that she was opposed to any one existing on the planet other than me.. which resulted in her rejecting their compliments with a hateful grimace, a good loud “NO!”, and a good solid swing of her hand. Yep. My kid beat up strangers in the grocery store – even before her first birthday. I would just walk around mindlessly saying, “I’m Sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.” over and over like those were the only words I knew. — Except maybe for the interjected “NO! Put that down!” and “Sit down in the cart!” to the other two, in between apologies.***

(Oh, and have I mentioned that my WAPI husband was traveling for work 4 – 5 days a week?)

The important thing to note here is that just next door to our local grocery store that year – was the Liquor Store. {YES!!}

Wine = Mommy’s Little Helper. (Or instead of my now-preferred wine, buckets of margaritas at the time – yes the big buckets that you put in the freezer. – When I decided to cut back on the ice cream, I would use the ice cream scoop in the bucket of frozen margarita, just like had with the Mint Chocolate Chip.)

After reading the last few paragraphs maybe you’ll understand WHY I was crazy enough to feel the need to take three kids in the liquor store.

And I did. All three of them.

The first time I braved the Liquor Store with the kids I felt some apprehension and guilt for doing so… I wondered if people walking by would judge me for dragging my littles in there with me. I wondered if the people who worked there would even let me in with the kids. That would have been much worse than the judgement from others, to be quite frank. My fear didn’t last long, though, because as soon as we got through the door my soon-to-be-friend behind the counter reached down and pulled out the BIGGEST glass jar full of suckers** to give to the kids.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only Mom in the neighborhood who strapped the toddler in a stroller (so as not to let her pull the shelves over), hid in sunglasses and a hat and snuck into the Liquor Store with her brood of children – all the while hoping that the establishment wouldn’t tell me, “You can’t have kids in here.” (Because then I would have been faced with the temptation to leave them outside the door of the Liquor Store while I got what I needed. What? It was a strip mall and the wall/door were entirely made of glass. I could have seen them the whole time. — OK, I’m just exaggerating here. I was WAY too much of a paranoid, over-protective Mom at the time to EVER actually do that.)

And that jar of suckers was all it took for this to become part of my new routine. Grocery store, then Liquor Store.  And sometimes, Liquor Store then Grocery Store. I traded in my 5 minutes in the freezer section by the 1000 cartons of ice cream, for 5 minutes in the Liquor Store.

Here’s the thing: my oldest, The Owl, was around kindergarten-age about this time in my motherhood. And by the end of kindergarten he could read. I mean REALLY read. Almost anything you put in front of him.**** He would have read through the entire Magic Tree House Series by the end of that year and would wait with great anticipation for Mary Pope Osborne to release each new one in the series. We pretty much lived at Barnes and Noble.

I had worked with him for a long time on his letters and phonics, so I’m not sure why I didn’t see the next piece coming. But I didn’t  (I blame that on potty training brain, too).  One particular errand running day (before he started kindergarten) we went to the grocery store, but instead of going into the Liquor Store, we left and began the drive home. It was then that (from the back seat) the 5-year-old Owl yells, “Mommy, wait! Don’t you need to go to the Liquid Store?!”

WAIT-WHAT??!?! How do you know what it’s called?! Did you read that?! And oh crap, are you telling your teacher and friends that your mommy takes you to the grocery store and then the Liquid Store for suckers?!  

I wasn’t sure whether to be mortified that I had conditioned him to this liquor store routine or amazed that he had actually gotten the “qui” put together  from reading the sign out front or laugh at his very literal interpretation of the word he was reading.

So, I defaulted to another one of my motherhood survival tools: venting/sharing… and I called my mom, dad, sister and brother to share with them that their grand-son/nephew was a genius..  and that child protective services may be contacting them soon to take my children and check me into Betty Ford.

Yep..add this to the list of mortifying, I-can’t-believe-I-did-that MOM-fessions:  I’m the mom who taught her kid to read via the Liquor (Liquid) Store sign.

And yes, when my kid asks me what word did he first read, I will have to tell him that – technically – it was Liquor. To this very day, our entire family no longer uses the word “liquor”, but instead, it is always “The Liquid Store.”

Now, don’t worry. This isn’t the end of the Liquid Store stories..  by any stretch of the imagination.  Stay tuned for the next installment. It gets even better. And more mortifying. I may actually need to have a drink and say a prayer before I confess the next edition of the Liquid Store Chronicles…

(To be continued…)

* I’m not sure which thing has produced more nightmares in  my motherhood: Grocery shopping, Potty Training, or Weaning!

** I was just informed by a friend from the Northeast that some of you don’t know what I mean when I say “sucker”.. but that’s the Southern way of saying lollipop.

*** It wasn’t a big town.. it’s a wonder that word didn’t make its way around not to approach the crazy “I’m-sorry Lady” with the light-weight champ, disguised as a cute little toddler. (Can I call her a toddler if she wasn’t officially walking at age one?)

**** Oh how different each kid is.. one reads before kindergarten and another struggles to read in 2nd grade.

My Favorite 4-Letter Word

I mentioned in a earlier post that my Mom-in-love came to visit recently for Spring Break. (I call her this because mother-in-law has such a negative connotation, and she is not your typical mom-in-law.. she’s wonderful, and I thoroughly enjoy her company. She coined the term “in-loves” instead of “in-laws” a while back, and there is no better use for it than to refer to her as Mom-in-love!) Shortly after her departure my youngest little bird (who is 8) was goofing off with her wonderful-and-pretty-incredible Dad when she yelled (with great fervor) at him, “You scared the HELL out of me!” Emphasis on the word “hell”, of course. – He explained to her that terms like that are not appropriate for kids to use.. then we quietly laughed after she went upstairs.  I decided that it was far too convenient not to jokingly blame Grandma for my little Starling’s new addition to her repertoire. BUT if I’m being honest, it is more likely to have come from me.  My only shred of hope that I hadn’t taught my child to speak this way was hanging on the fact that “hell” is not usually my favorite choice of 4-letter words. I try so very hard to reign in such things around the kids (and everyone else), but honestly, when I’m tired there’s one sneaky little word that has a mind of its own. It just comes out without any cognizant decision on my part. It just happens.

And that got me thinking.

Thinking about the beginnings of my blog – one email in particular that I wrote during a really rough motherhood week a few years ago. My “there’s been some damage” girls used to get (and send) emails like this often, but their encouragement and response to this one was what would eventually help me work up the courage to start this blog.

And so, the following post IS that original email.. copied from my sent box and pasted here. With no editing or revisions.  Though that part was hard, because this was written to the kind of friends you can (and do) say anything – and everything – to. This conversation would have been edited had I been sending it to almost anyone else. That’s your warning. It’s real. And a bit raw for me. And it is likely a bit TMI at moments. BUT this is how I survived the early years of my motherhood (VENTING), and so I’m sharing it. In its entirety.  Transparency is a scary, vulnerable thing. But I’m doing it anyway.

Because after all, the whole premise of this post is that using certain words sometimes just make you feel better. Here’s my word:

From: Jenny
To: Christy; Julie
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 9:49:43 PM
Subject: Sh*%.

I’m tired. I’ve been cooped up in the house with sick kids for 8 days. Their fever is high enough to keep them out of school, but not out of my hair. They wake themselves coughing at all hours of the night and come get in the bed with us. I woke the other night with a knee to the rib to find two of them that didn’t belong in the bed with us and me clinging to the edge so as not to hit the floor. I’m tired.

The oldest has decided to be difficult and has developed a mental block towards having to write. All they do in Florida schools is write. Day in and day out. They write. I should have taken stock in those damn marble journals because I had to buy 16 of them at the beginning of the school year. And 14,000 pencils. Every time he has to write for homework, he throws a fit (picture an almost 10-year-old throwing a full-blown 2-year-old pounding and kicking on the floor of the grocery store style fit), fights with me and tells me “I’m not doing it and you can’t make me.” or my favorite: “I don’t care if I flunk out of school.”  His teacher goes to our church. Her daughter is in the Sunday School class next to his. We talk. She’s finding it challenging to get him to write at school, as well, though she will not give up on him and continues to challenge him in this area. He missed recess 4 days in a row week before last (he was out with a fever the entire last week) because he refused to do his classroom assigned writing. Lovely. Again today, he fought me all afternoon about writing his homework.

My husband came home at 5:30 in time to eat the dinner I cooked {have I mentioned that I hate cooking?!}  while fighting said kid over said writing homework. The husband promptly stated that the current fever-running kid was in desperate need of a bath from a parent because she doesn’t really clean herself. I say “go for it” – he says he has to go to a meeting at church. Note to self. One extra night without sex at the end of this cycle. ** {I can’t believe I am leaving this part in here . PLEASE see my footnote.}

Which by the way I just started AGAIN today on day 24 of my cycle. Again. It won’t stop. Pre-mental-pause. I typed it that way on purpose. Apparently I should have also bought stock in the Tampax company.

My nose is stopped up. My head feels swollen and is pounding. I buy vats of Ibuprofen and will probably die an early death from whatever disease I am getting from taking too much of it. If I had purchased stock in Ibuprofen, I’d be rolling in money and could pay someone else to make the boy do his writing homework. I am running the lowest grade fever ever. Just enough to make me feel exhausted, but not enough to curb the appetite I have because of said “period”  coupled with the “I’m-bored-stuck-in-the-house-and-eating-everything-in-sight” binge I’m on. And there is Valentine candy in the house that I am supposed to be putting in cute little baggies to send to school. But instead I am putting it all into my not-so-cute mouth which is currently covered in a very large and uncomfortable fever blister. Lovely. (Have we reached the point of too much info, yet?). Nope, we haven’t.

The pediatrician told me to start giving stinky kid #2 myralax twice a day to help with some issues that she is having.. that have nothing to do with the fever she is currently running. We are on day #2 of the stuff that helps her go #2.  Today it worked. Very well apparently. And apparently the low grade fever is just enough to prevent her from being able to lift her arm high enough to find the flush handle on the toilet. Every toilet I have been to in the house tonight has brown water with little floaters in it. Now you wish I had stopped at the last paragraph. But I’m about to make it worth the reading of this paragraph.

Refer back to paragraph #2 and take it into consideration as you read the following. Today was the big 4th grade “FLORIDA WRITES” day. State-wide “testing” they do in 4th grade to evaluate how effective their writing grants have been. The teachers are evaluated greatly on their class average on said writing test.

So, I get a phone call today and the caller ID showed that dreaded Name of the County School.

I answered it despite my fear.. because  this usually means one of  my kids is sick and I have to pick them up.

“Jenny, this is Shelby.” (My non-writing son’s teacher. All I can think is.. ”Oh hell”….)

“Your son gave me a heart attack today. He wouldn’t write during our testing time. He just sat there with an angry look on his face and twirling his pencil… with the veins in his neck protruding..”

Here it is ladies.. the moment that will make you so proud to be my friend….Have I ever told either of you that I curse without realizing it when I am tired?

And that [the WAPI husband] has even made jokes that he was surprised none of our kids’ first word wasn’t “shit”.. because I would say it in my sleep when they would start crying to nurse in the night.. or even still when they come in and wake me up in the middle of the night. (Ok, fine. In the morning, too.)

I like the word “shit”. Sometimes it just makes me feel better to say it. You know, just release the tension with the word “shit.”  Apparently it made {my Pelican, aka kid #2} feel better today too. Shit coming out sometimes is a good thing.

BUT — not so much in this moment.

On the phone – with my son’s teacher – I let out a loud.. all caps, bold, with exclamation point… “SHIIIIIT!”  Yep. I cursed my kid’s teacher today.

It just happened. Kind of like when I am asleep. You know.. at that point where you are too asleep to control what you are doing but awake just enough to be conscious of it? Before any conscious thought came to my head at all – like an out of body experience.. you know like you are listening to someone else say something in your head?

“SHIT.”

Blame it on the tired or the pre-MENTAL pause or the PMS.. or the combination of them all, but still it doesn’t negate the fact that I said it.

To the teacher.  On the phone. Who was calling to tell me… after my inserted “SHIT”.. that my son made her so proud, because after sitting there for 15 minutes.. almost breaking down, almost crying,  he recovered his composure (which she was surely realizing is a trait he did NOT get from his mother). And he did it!  He wrote the prompt in the given time allowed and put his pencil on this desk with a giant smile of pride on his face.

I can’t ever go to church again. I might see her and we’ll both be thinking about my big “SHIT” all the way through mass.

Sharing is good. If you can’t bring laughter through totally embarrassing moments, then you’ll just have to crawl in a hole, right? 🙂

I’m going to put these kids in bed and pour a glass of wine and dream of our girls weekend!

{End email}

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

** OK, I’m going a little outside of my comfort zone by not editing this part OUT, because yes, even I believe there is such a thing as too much information – but in the spirit of trying to be honest.. that’s what I really said in the email, so here it is. For the entire world to see.  Even though I didn’t really mean it and only said it in attempt to be able to laugh at the situation.  My WAPI husband is such a good sport – I’m thankful for that. I’m also grateful that he is comfortable with my open-book style in this blog. See? Wonderful and pretty incredible.. EVEN when I’m at the end of my rope with the little birds and take it out on him.

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.

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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.

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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.

I Think My Mind May Be Losing to The Motherhood..

— Or maybe I’ve already lost my mind?!

So, I’m doing pretty well right now at maintaining the “mores” in my life, and I’m steadily working on my goals. The home organization projects are continuing (and being maintained), I’ve read 2 books already in 2012 (that’s a lot for me!); I have some volunteer opportunities in motion; I’m getting back in a regular exercise & yoga routine. Had a great date night with my husband and friends this weekend (lots fun and dancing!). I even managed to make (and keep) a hair appointment, and have lunch with my sister!  {Yo-God, Lunch date with my sister, and a haircut all in one day was like a mini-vacation all in 6 hours! Aaaahhh.}

The point here is that – for the time being – I’m managing to find a decent (though delicate) balance between my motherhood and the “mores” in my mind.

It’s my actual mind that I can’t seem to find. Or at least the part that remembers anything. Some recent examples of what I’m talking about:

  1.  I forgot that I had a pot of red beans cooking on the stove and burned them. Burned — As in, scorched beyond being able to salvage anything. (If you aren’t familiar with the Louisiana/Mississippi tradition of Monday Red Beans and Rice, you can find a good recipe here.)
  2. When trying to sign in for my Yo-God class (Yoga with purpose: an alternative to mind/body classes) and couldn’t find my name on the list. Turns out that the letter M – with which my last name starts – comes after the letter K. Momentary loss of alphabetical order.)
  3. I paid $20.00 for monthly fitness class, but when I logged my payment I wrote $2.00. It had to be pointed out to me by the kind lady that was standing next to me. (I guess that third zero was too much for my mind to handle.)
  4. I lost my sunglasses.. looked for them for at least 15 minutes ALL over the house, dumped out my purse, scoured the car, only to discover that I had actually put them in their case. Where they belong. And didn’t remember doing so.
  5. Forgetting that I put someone on hold to catch another line.. after hanging up the second call, the phone rings back to me and I act surprised, because I forgot that we had been on the phone in the first place.
  6. Conversations with friends have been a bit tricky lately, not due to lack of making it a priority, but more due to the fact that I  have trouble finding the right words and just blank out in the middle of a sentence while my brain tries to reach back and retrieve it.
  7. During a conversation with my husband about a potential volunteer position that would require me to give people tours, he (lovingly) giggled at me and asked if I thought I would be able to regain the ability to use complete and coherent sentences by then.

I’m sure there are many other examples (probably even better ones), but ironically, I can’t remember them. Yep. It’s bad.

I used to have a fairly high functioning brain. I was by no means MENSA – ever – but I was in the gifted program in my early school years, followed by Advanced Placement classes in high school. Although, I will readily admit that I was far too focused on social things and breezed right through school making B’s with little to no effort, so I doubt I impressed anyone as being overly intelligent at that stage in life, either. It’s a shame, really, that I didn’t use it while I had it, because it’s almost certainly gone now.

Over the last few years, I have developed a theory about why this happens. With each childbirth a piece of the brain is sucked out and a portion of the oxygen flow to the remaining brain is cut off. – So the kids did this to me, right? I seem to be on a roll lately with blaming them for things. –  The biggest hole in my “blame it on child-birth” theory is that my grandmother gave birth to 10 children, worked as a pharmacist, owned and ran her own business 7 days a week**, and still managed to speak in intelligent/coherent sentences. I’m certain there were many times in her motherhood that she “lost it”. Maybe even daily. However, when the kids were grown and on their own, and I was in the picture, she always came across as an intelligent, well-informed woman. – So, maybe by the time the kids are out on their own our brains will recover?!  At least, partially? If indeed we are able to recover some of the function in our minds when the kids are grown and gone***, then maybe I am wrong in blaming it on child-birth.

If it is a temporary state (which I hope and pray is the case), possibly the root of the problem is steeped in something else. – Perhaps, it’s overload. We’re overloaded. — Trying to remember the multitude of daily action items and planning ahead, even just the items for the kids.. well, it’s exhausting and overloading our brains.   Add on trying to fit in the “mores” into your motherhood’s massive and constant to-do list; something’s got to give. Apparently, for me, it was my ability to remember to zip my pants, call my kids by the right name, and how to spell my own.

– And have you ever noticed that the Dads, even the best and most involved of them, don’t seem to have this problem? What is that? Not fair.

I had a conversation with my husband and a friend of his along this subject a while back. We sat peacefully in the living room while all 3 kids were out and about playing with friends in the neighborhood. We were in the midst of a real, deep and philosophical conversation. It occurred to me that I almost NEVER get to have conversations like that… and moreover, that they regularly do. It also occurred to me that they were sitting there able to throw their whole mind into that conversation without another thought in the world. And that they had probably been able to think about the topics we were covering before and actually form an opinion based on something other than an initial reaction.

As for me? Not so much. I shared with them that while we are sitting and talking, my brain is also running a million other thoughts through it. It didn’t seem fair that I didn’t have the luxury of turning the rest of the world off. “Because if I did, who would be concerned with the fact that the 7 year old (who has no boundaries and very little impulse control) was running around between the neighbor’s trampoline and the pond, and I needed to be watching and listening. And where is the oldest who rode his bike down to the basketball court with friends? Should I be checking on his whereabouts? And is the third one over-staying her welcome at a friend’s house? And what activities do the kids have tomorrow that will require me to make sure that a uniform is clean? Did I sign everyone’s school planners on Friday and am I supposed to be sending anything in to school tomorrow that will need preparation? And what am I going to feed this house full of people tonight? And tomorrow is grocery day; I haven’t made a list.. do we need toilet paper…”  with each additional item that came out of my mouth their mouths fell open a little more. When I was finished with the list (can it really ever be finished?) my husband’s best friend looked at me with a bewildered expression and said, “You’re really thinking about ALL of that?! Right now? All at once?”

Yes. All of it. All the time. No wonder my brain pushes out the simple things like an insignificant little zero. And it’s this way for Moms everywhere.  (Or at least I like to think so. If it’s not, please don’t tell me.)

A little while back I was in a class at church, and the presenter was telling us about a book,  Men Are Like Waffles–Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your Differences by a husband and wife team. I have to admit that I have yet to actually read the book myself, so I can’t tell you what this whole “delighting in our differences” business is, but in the brief overview of the book I did gain some valuable understanding of the difference.

The premise of the book is that a man’s brain is very much like a waffle with individual boxes or compartments. In each square of the waffle is ONE and only ONE thing. (Can you imagine that, ladies?!) Each square has little walls like a waffle’s squares, so nothing can seep over into another square. Everything is compartmentalized.

They have a square for work and a square for tinkering in the garage and a square for the TV remote and a square for the house budget. They have a square for each of their emotions/feeling and a square for each of their hobbies and a square for sex (I would bet there are multiple sex squares.. maybe even, every other one), and actually even a square for nothing.

They can actually sit in their “nothing” square and think of nothing. So when they look all lost in some deep thought, and we look at them wonder what is going on in their minds, then ask and get the answer “nothing”… well, while we can’t believe that this could be true, it might actually be the case!?!  All the many times I’ve gotten my feelings hurt and felt that he didn’t want to share his feelings with me.. and all along he really COULD have been thinking about nothing?!   Huh.

On the flip side, this book’s theory maintains that us girls.. well, we have a big blob of over cooked and sticky spaghetti  in our heads. Each strand for one thing, but all intertwined and impossible to separate without tearing it all up. It’s all connected. With buttery glue. And Parmesan cheese.  And extremely difficult to separate. And I would bet there isn’t a single spaghetti noodle for “nothing”.  – The book surmises that this is why we are typically better at multi-tasking than men.  (Overview of the book found here.)

I surmise from this that the most used spaghetti strands are the ones that grow the longest/strongest and have begun to strangle the lesser used  (or lesser significant) ones.. you know the ones that remember that there are three zeros in $20.00 or that M comes after K in the alphabet.

While admittedly, I’m a huge pasta fiend, I wouldn’t mind having a little more waffle in my life – and my head. Waffles are good. Especially all drowning in syrup. (See, even waffles aren’t just waffles in a woman’s brain.)

* Please tell me I’m not wrong in my assumption that this is normal for a ~40 year old mom who is beginning mental-pause!?

** Along with my grandfather, who would tell anyone who would listen that she was the brains and the muscle behind their business. He was the smiling face behind the counter.

*** I will not be sad. I will not be sad. Repeat it with me and just maybe it will be true. I will NOT be sad.

“My Bathroom is NOT The Visitors Welcome Center!”

Vent.

Not the one in the bathroom ceiling that is infuriatingly attached to the light you want to use, but don’t because then you have to listen to that annoying humming from the vent fan.

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Just typing this sentence makes me thankful for that third light switch in my bathroom that is devoted solely to the vent fan. And never used. — My house: also known as the land of too many useless light switches (three years in and we still have a couple of switches that do nothing. Or at least, nothing that we see.)

– Okay, sorry. My child-induced ADD just kicked in. Refocusing in 3.. 2..1 –

Back to the word of the day: Vent. As defined by Merriam Webster.com:

1vent

verb \ˈvent\

Definition of VENT

transitive verb

1 : to provide with a vent

2 c : to give often vigorous or emotional expression to <vented her frustration on her coworkers>

3 : to relieve by means of a vent <vented himself in a fiery letter to the editor>

I find it funny that the “her” example implies that she let loose on her coworkers like some sort of hormonal fit, yet “his” example implies that he wrote a logical, yet convicted letter. – Or maybe I’m overly sensitive, and my perception of the definitions say more about me than the actual examples say about our society? Maybe I need to do some self-examination on that point more in a later post, but for now, let me attempt to keep myself on topic from here on out:

The real mistake that the Webster’s people made was neglecting to put a photo of me by the word “vent” in the dictionary. Vent is one of my favorite words. Because it’s one of my favorite things to do. Ask my wonderful-and-pretty-incredible husband. It drives him kind of nuts (in a loving way).  Ask my “there’s been some damage” girlfriends – burning up those venting emails for years with me. They know.  And my neighbors at the bus stop? Yep, they get it, too.

I believe in venting. I believe that when we try to pretend everything is all rainbows and sunshine (when in fact we screamed like a crazy person at our kids as we tried to get them to the bus on time), we do ourselves and other parents a dis-service. I also believe that letting it out has the same effect as a great big yoga exhale. While venting might not be as peaceful as a good long yoga session, it makes you feel better when you’re done, just the same.

So, let’s do some of it. Venting time.

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How do they do it? How do they know?

I think it was those disgusting prenatal vitamins that the doctors made me take.. Maybe they weren’t really for nutrition and healthy formation of the baby, but instead they contained some strange magical super power (or maybe kryptonite for moms) that allowed the children to develop this weird 6th sense. You know the one I’m talking about. That one.

That one that makes them come running from the next street over to ask you a question the minute you get on the phone with a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while. Never mind that you were perfectly available to answer questions for two hours, but they waited until the split second you get on the phone to decide they need you.

It’s that one that makes a sleeping baby/toddler wake up the second you sit your butt down and put that first bite of yummy food in your mouth, requiring you to get up and let the plate of food get cold.

It’s the one that sets some alarm off in their bodies and switches them to seek and destroy mode the minute you are peacefully in your bathroom with the door closed. –

Oh, how the bathroom has changed since my motherhood began. Showering? This is when they decide for the first time ever that they need to follow the house rules and ask (and it must be face to face.. never through the door) before they get that snack out of the pantry. And tomorrow, the need to bust in on my nakedness – which isn’t pretty – will be for some other equally as frustrating reason (“The phone is ringing!”, “Did you go to the grocery store today?”, “We’re out of cereal!”, “Do you know where my ipod is?”, “She came into my room!”, “He breathed out loud at me!”, etc.) But the scenario will be the same.  They will fling open the door, ask for what they want (or complain about something), get yelled at, sulkily walk out and leave the door open so all the cold air comes into my warm showering haven.  Every day. — I’ve started taking showers late at night after everyone is asleep, because oh, how I love a nice long hot peaceful shower. And that’s not gonna happen if they’re awake.  I’m fairly certain that any day now there will be some sort of metamorphosis of the super magic powers and they will add the ability to sense in their sleep that I’m in the shower (waking them from their slumber so they can bust in on my shower time).

Sitting on the toilet?  Tattle time, every time. If I go to the restroom, they go to fighting. And one or more of them ALWAYS comes tearing into the bathroom with guns blazing, yelling at me about how they have been done wrong by a sibling.  (Mind you, this means they have to open not one, but THREE closed doors.) I then yell at them.

All logic, reason and calm/consistent parenting that I have ever strived to achieve goes out the window for the entire day as soon as one of my kids busts into my bathroom. It makes me crazy, and then it makes me feel like a crappy mom for having let it get to me.

Much to my relief, I discovered that I am not the only one. Last week I had the good fortune of meeting 3 of my hilarious – and very wonderful – friends for breakfast before we broke for our “work” days (some in offices and some in our homes).  So many great topics came up – but one is particularly worth sharing.  My very favorite quote of the day came about when we were on this topic of venting the frustrations we have with our little blessings. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the passion with which my friend delivered the line: “I just want to yell at them, ‘MY BATHROOM IS NOT THE VISITORS/WELCOME CENTER!!! I’M NAKED! GET OUT!’ ” – in reference to the fact that her children bust into the bathroom each time she’s in there getting dressed.

There’s comfort in venting our own frustrations.. and there’s comfort in hearing a friend vent about the same feelings/experiences you have.  When I heard her share her bathroom frustrations, I wanted to stand up in my chair and scream, “YES!!! ME TOO!! WOOHOO!! I’M NOT THE LONE CRAZY MOM!”  The truth is, I always default to the idea that if I’m experiencing it behind the closed (but never for long) doors in my house, most other motherhoods probably look (and sound) fairly similar. Whether they like to publicly admit it or not.

I have no idea how to strip the kids of their kryptonite-like superpower and keep them out of my bathroom (and phone calls, etc.), but I do know that since my friend’s bathroom confession, I have been much more apt to laugh at the visual of the “Welcome Center” sign that pops into my head than I am to yell at them when they bust into the bathroom. So that’s something.

So, vent it out, and just maybe it will help flip that light switch inside of you, so things become funny instead of completely frustrating.

**And as a bit of a post script, I think I just figured it out!! My bathroom is the only one in the house that has a separate switch for the fan! THAT must be why everyone always wants to be in there!

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