I’m sliding. I’m slipping. (Part 2)

(This is the continued story of how I “survived” a week alone with three kids, two dogs, and a full time job.)

Wednesday – Day 6 – “I apologize for my behavior.”

Jacked locked us outside the house during on trip out to load the car.  Logan climbed in a window to let us back inside.  Logan’s ear ache seemed to be getting worse but I don’t have any sick days saved up yet.  I felt like a horrible mom for not being able to take him for three days and cried all the way to work.  I arranged to leave work early to take him to the doctor but when I got to his daycare to pick him up for the appointment, he argued that he was fine and wanted to stay and play basketball.  I may have called him ungrateful in the car.  After his appointment, we went to get his haircut.  He took clear advantage of my mom-guilt and I agreed he could get a “soccer style” if he would style it each day.  When I entered the daycare and was signing in, I heard a sweet voice say “Hi mom!  I’m in trouble!”  Jack was in the office for not being a good friend.  “Mom, I am a bad bunny!”  After dinner, (I have no idea what I fed them…did I feed them?) I decided we ought to take a family walk to burn off excess energy.  Logan argued that his sweat would mess up his new hair and Jack fought me for control of Norah’s stroller.  They boys began throwing rocks at one another and I’m sure there was also some stick swinging.  I began shrieking and threatened to spank everyone if they didn’t stop.  A rock then hit me in the temple.  I blacked out momentarily but when I “came to” I realized we were standing at the end of our neighbors’ driveway, which was full of cars.  “Oh good”, I thought, “they have guests over to see their new screened in porch…”  I later texted an apology for my behavior.  I sat down to nurse Norah and lick my wounds.   I made the mistake of noting that everything seemed calm.  Logan then began arguing about chores and Jack began yelling “I’m slipping.  I’m sliding.” over and over.  After I finished feeding the baby, I discovered that Jack was indeed slipping and sliding around the hardwood floors on a banana peel.  I was too defeated to clean up the banana slime.  I fell asleep on the couch but woke up on the floor with an imprint of laces from Logan’s shoe on my face.

Thursday – Day 7 – “-raspberry noises-”

Even later out the door because Logan had a complete meltdown that he didn’t know how to style his hair.  I found a toad in my bathroom.  No clue.  Jack was dropped off at daycare screaming “I want to be a bad bunny!”  Norah was dropped off also screaming.  Since she has no words yet, I can only assume she was pleaing with her higher power to find her a less chaotic family, preferably one without Jack.  Trey came into town to see Logan’s play and left soon after.  I attempted to appear as though I had everything under control.  I’m fairly certain my inability to complete coherent sentences led him to know my true functional level.  It began to rain on our way to Logan’s play.  When we pulled into the church parking lot, Jack announced “It is raining!  We’d better dance!”  He refused to walk inside until both Trey and I danced in the rain.  Jack required significant wrangling through the play and kept yelling “I’m going to see Logan!”  When my mom offered him a phone to take pictures with, he became upset because Logan wouldn’t “cheese.”  Trey and I had a minor spat due to both of us being fatigued and neither feeling as though the other had empathy for aforementioned fatigue.

Friday – Day 8 – “The day I completely lost my shit.”

We were late to work but not due to any chaotic events.  A summer rain storm caused us to slow down and ease into the day.  I worked diligently to practice mindfulness throughout my day as to keep a sense of peace within my soul.  Trey will be home tomorrow and we are going to celebrate surviving the week with friends tonight.  Deep breaths.  Deep cleansing breaths.

And then came the afternoon from hell.  Logan was upset that I picked him up during a basketball game at his summer day camp.  Jack was upset that I interrupted his playing with his best friend.  Norah was simply upset.  The drive home was full of spit and vinegar.  I’m certain all four of us were crying at some point during the 3 miles between daycare and the house.  When we entered the house, it was clear that Norah needed to eat NOW!  Her whine had escalated to a blood curdling scream.  Logan disappeared with my phone and I asked Jack to find a toy.  As soon as I sat on the couch, disrobed, and began feeding Norah, I heard Jack talk about eating the chocolate on the floor.  Mmmm!  Chocolate does sound good.  WAIT!?  We don’t have any chocolate and even if we did, it wouldn’t be on the floor!?  The lightbulb went on above my head and I began screaming at Jack NOT to eat the dog poop on the floor!  He argued that it was chocolate and I argued that it was not.  Norah kept eating.  He signaled comprehension that the poop was not chocolate by yelling “It’s ok, Mom!  I won’t eat it!  I’ll step on it and dance on the poop!”  (because we all dance on poop, right!?)  Before I could respond, Jack stepped on the poop and began smearing it with his foot across the hardwood floors.  Norah kept eating.  I screamed, “Stop!  Sit down!”  Jack obeyed and sat…right in the smeared dog poop.  He then took off his shoes, stood back up, and began standing in the poopy smear in his sock feet.  I ripped Norah off my bosom (that word makes this story more classy, right?), laid her on the floor (different floor than the poop floor), and rushed topless towards Jack to stop the insanity.  As I reached him, the doorbell rang.  I stood up and found myself making eye contact through the glass door with a door to door salesman…well, I was looking at his eyes.  His eyes didn’t know where to look.  (left breast, right boob, eyes, floor, repeat)  I quickly covered myself, threatened Jack to not ever move again, and answered the door.  We had an awkward exchange and I sent him on his way, probably scarred for life.  I don’t remember much after that.  I know that the poop was cleaned and we had a great time at a friend’s house but there are a lot of blanks in the story.  I wish I could blame the lost time on alcohol or mental illness but the only excuse is that I lost complete control of anything.  (But have I ever really had control?)

Saturday – Day 9 – “Trey’s epic return”

Trey’s return was epic not because of any one incident but simply because my partner came home.  Even though he returned and napped all afternoon, knowing that there was another adult around made all the difference.  I definitely am in awe of parents with more than three kids and am in awe of parents who don’t have a coparent for moments in which they need to tap out.  Parenting is hard.  Kids are tough.  Life is crazy.  I slipped and I slid from control to chaos but we all lived to tell this story and more stories in the future.

 

I’m Sliding. I’m Slipping. (Part 1)

Last week was my third week back at work since my maternity leave ended.  This was the week I dreaded more than the first week back.  Each summer my husband takes a week to participate in an Arkansas-based mission trip, OMP (Ozarks Mission Project).  He looks forward to this experience each year and I certainly don’t want to take it away from him.  However, knowing that I’d be alone for 8 days with three kids, two dogs, and a fulltime job, had me scared.  Then I learned that my mom would also be out of town for part of the week.  Eek!?

I realize that there are many people that would roll their eyes at my concerns.  There are families with more kids, single parents, parents who parent alone due to the other parent traveling for their job, etc.  Everyone has experiences that bring stress and hardship.  I am fortunate to have family and friends nearby and to have supportive coworkers. Still, I was apprehensive.  Similar to an athlete before a big game, I pumped myself up and prompted people around me to give pep talks.  I’ve got this!  I chose to view it as a field trial.  An experiment of sorts.  Could I keep from losing my shit for one week.  Surely, surely… After all, I am a strong, confident woman who has been through two deployments, lived in three states, work in a difficult profession, and have weathered many personal storms.  Surely, surely…

Friday-Day 1 – “A Confident Start”

Trey took Logan to my in laws on his way out of town.  One less kid.  I can do this!

After work, I picked up the littles and headed to the grocery store.  Norah’s carrier took up much of the buggy so I had to use the child seat for groceries and have Jack “walk” untethered trough the store.  We did fairly well.  He only climbed one shelf, ran off once (I took Norah on a wild ride to catch him – she’ll either be traumatized or grow to be a thrill seeker/adrenaline junkie, and made it to the checkout with only three unexpected items (Summer’s Eve, cookie dough, and a single mushroom – we bought the cookie dough).  On the way home, I told Jack we were going to have a pizza and movie party.  He requested a “sad movie where everyone cries and [I] will laugh and laugh and laugh.”  Despite my sudden fear that he might have some psychopathic tendencies, we had a great night.  I even broke from my normal rules and let him sleep in my bed.  I went to bed feeling victorious!

Saturday – Day 2 – “Confident Within Our Cave”

Our day began at 6:15am when a chubby three-year old finger poked me in the eye while saying “You got eyebrows, mom?”  The rest of the morning was spent snuggling my sweet littles and slowly preparing to venture out of the house.  Things were going so well that we opted for a lunch out with my parents before heading to a birthday party.  Lunch went well.  Jack ordered for everyone at the table “salad, salad, pizza, crackers” and assured every server that passed by that “we are good.”  Mom and dad offered to watch Norah while I took Jack to the birthday party.  Score!  …Oops, birthday party is tomorrow.  I redirected Jack and took him for a haircut and to grab the grocery items we’d forgotten the day before.  We then ended the day back in our cave.  The only crises involved Jack peeing in the bathtub, painting the kitchen cabinet with yogurt (paintbrush is now hidden), and feeding the dogs cornmeal from the pantry.

Sunday – Day 3 – “Shaken, not Stirred”

Today was quite a bit more challenging than the previous two days.  Jack fell in the toilet, while I was changing Norah’s diaper, and got the back of his head wet.  I still can’t figure out what the heck he was doing!? We were 30 minutes late to church due to me not being able to nurse Norah and keep Jack from disrobing simultaneously.   After church I decided to try out the new van’s automatic start button.  It worked!  The van started!  And the van was locked…it wouldn’t unlock!?  There I was in the middle of the church parking lot, holding a baby, with a locked running minivan.  Fortunately, a friend pushed the key fob button in a magical way and it unlocked for her…not for me.  I successfully (or, rather, she successfully) avoided the first frantic call to Trey of the week.  We survived lunch and headed to the birthday party that I thought was yesterday.  Jack became convinced that there were additional birthday party games located behind the “employees only” door so I spent the majority of the party redirecting, grabbing, and wrestling him.  Thank goodness for forgiving friends who will look the other way when you fall on the floor while child-wrangling and hold your baby so you can wrangle again…and again…  Logan came home and I realized that three are much easier to handle than just two, IF, the third is my awesome 9 year old helper!  Tonight I would give him all the gifts in the world for helping distract Jack.  The weekend has me shaken but I *think* I can make it a few more days.  I think…

Monday – Day 4 – “Is that a facial tic?”

Well, crap!  Monday morning began with me oversleeping.  Logan had a meltdown while I was in the shower because he no longer wished to be in the church play…play practice started at 8am.  Jack coated his hair with yogurt.  Jack had to be pried off of my body by two daycare employees because he didn’t want to stay at school and Norah spewed a gallon of milk the second I set her down in a bouncy chair at daycare.  I didn’t have time to dry my hair so I opted for the “beach hair” look that later in the day looked more like the “homeless woman” look.  Logan cried all evening because of an ear ache.  I served grilled cheese sandwiches and dry cheerios for dinner.  Banjo broke into the pantry and got into the trash approximately 37 times tonight.  I fell asleep on the couch with the bag of pretzels in my hands.

Tuesday – Day 5 – “I only cried a little.”

Logan had trouble sleeping due to his ear ache and began the morning in a serial-killer mood.  I had to change my shirt in the car because I’d put it on inside-out.  I left the diaper bag at daycare leaving us only one pacifier (we call it a plug) until the next morning.  I kept screaming at Logan and Jack, “Where’s the plug!?  I can’t lose the plug!?”  Logan declared it the “golden paci.”  Banjo ate the pizza I planned to eat for dinner.  Jack ran across the couch, tried to jump over Logan, and fell off bumping his head.  AFter screaming and crying for several minutes, he announced “I need to try it again!” forcing me to grab him and restrain him before became concussed again.  Mojo peed on the nursing pillow.

Half way…

 

 

Pokémon Ponderings

I’ve been watching posts and stories about Pokemon Go with amusement. While I haven’t engaged in the trend, as of yet, I certainly know many who are excited about this new explosion.  Last week, I read people’s posts wondering why their typically indoorsy children were suddenly excited about venturing outside for long walks.  My favorite post compared those walking around staring at their phones to zombies from The Walking Dead.  My 9 year old son heard about the app at his summer daycare and was initially a skeptic.  He made jokes about “pale gamers” wandering around looking for fluffy bunnies and other strange electronic creatures.  While leaving a doctor’s appointment, he began ranting about gamers being careless as they walked around with their eyes glued to their phone screens.  During this rant, he kept his eyes glued to a soccer video on YouTube and walked into a wall, although he now denies this ever happened.  As I predicted, his joking and criticism began to morph into a deeper curiosity about Pokemon Go and he ultimately spent a couple hours trying to find whatever it is these people are trying to find while on a walk with our resident game guru, my brother.

I doubt I’ll download the app but not because I’m opposed to the idea. I won’t download it for two reasons, (1) my phone needs to be taken to Oz and repaired so it will allow me to download new apps, and (2) because I don’t need another distraction from my (or Logan’s) daily life.  While I don’t anticipate joining in the Pokemon Go revolution, I am enjoying the rise in popularity.  I, personally, enjoy games and opportunities to explore new places and meet new people.  I love the idea that within our communities there are relics and adventures waiting to be discovered and often overlooked by those not paying close enough attention.  Additionally, don’t we all want to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves?  This is exactly why I have enjoyed geocaching, letterboxing, and book crossing at different points in my life and perhaps why people are drawn to stories like the ones in The DaVinci Code and the National Treasure movies.

Note: If you are already familiar with geocaching, letterboxing, and book crossing, please skip to the next paragraph. If not, read on for a description of these nerdy hobbies.  Geocaching involved the use of GPS coordinates posted on a website (geocaching.com) to find hidden objects or logs.   Many state parks and national parks have geocaches available for hunters.  Letterboxing (atlasquest.com or letterboxing.org) is similar to geocaching but adds personalized rubber stamps, often handmade.  When finding a letterbox, one leaves their stamped imprint on the letterbox log and also uses the provided stamp, often created to coordinate with the box theme, in their own logbook.  Book crossing involves leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.  The website, bookcrossing.com, provides the opportunity to log where the book was found and where it was left for readers to follow the book’s journey as well as find other books that have been left.

Perhaps Pokemon Go has tapped into our desire be distracted from the heartbreaking violence and hateful actions occurring around the world.  My brain and heart have grown weary of screaming, shooting, dying, and an inability to move towards solutions.  I can’t help but believe that the younger Pokemon Go players have tuned out the day’s hate-filled rhetoric and purposely tuned into the light-hearted distraction.  What might look like generational apathy, I wonder, could more likely be political weariness.  For this reason, I have resisted reading the often bogus posts about the app luring children towards harm and giving rise to crime.  Surely we can just enjoy something at face value.  Surely we can rememember how to have fun.

Time will tell how long the Pokemon Go phenomenon will last.   Surely some people will grow weary of the trend and move onto the next big thing while others will continue wandering around in exploration of new creatures.

Recently, when going to visit my grandmother at her retirement community, I could not find a parking spot. I was forced to park across the street and walk a greater distance than I preferred.  The parking spots were all occupied by people meeting for a regular bridge club gathering.  I have no idea how to play bridge and don’t know anyone in my age group that is a part of a bridge club.  This led me to daydream about retirement home social events and activities for my generation.  Will retirement villages boast about their “Aladdin’s Castle” game room or have Madden and Halo tournaments on the schedule?  Perhaps there will be Hamilton sing-a-longs and rap battle nights.  I’m sure I will be willing and eager to participate in anything that connects me to others of my generation and my community.

I wonder if the retirement homes my children enter will offer Pokemon Go nights. Can you imagine elderly players wandering around with a cane in one hand and their phone in the other while searching for a horned snake thing?  At least, even with their eyes down, they’d be engaged in an activity around others rather than isolating, rather than fighting.  A long life, a distraction from hate, a fulfilling hobby, and being apart of something bigger than one’s self…what more can we ask for?

Anticipating My Epic Return

In four short days, I will drop all three kids off at various daycares and head back to work following my ten week maternity leave.  This is not a blog post about how badly I long to be a stay-at-home mom and it is not a post about how much I love my job.  No, this is a post about humility, pride, and grace.  As I plan for my return, I can’t help but feel my face flush with embarrassment.  (If this were Wayne’s World, we’d now be waving our fingers in the air, saying “do do do, do do do…”, and signaling a flashback.)

My last Monday of work before having the baby, began like many others.  I woke up physically miserable, emotionally drained, and mentally absent.  I somehow trudged through our morning routine of screaming at everyone that we’d slept in and were behind schedule, cleaning Jack’s yogurt out of his hair, reminding Logan that we never watch tv in the morning despite his daily amnesia on this rule, and hollering the day’s schedule to Trey while I scrubbed my hair.  We raced out the door and I dropped both boys off at the appropriate locations.  I decided to meander rather than going straight to work and justified a donut treat because I was, after all, creating a human being.  I sat in the parking lot adjacent to the donut shop eating my treat and wishing I didn’t have to drag my pregnant self into work.  When I got to work, most of the parking spaces were occupied.  This was my punishment for being tardy.  Due to the cursed jeep being in the shop…again…I was driving Trey’s beast of a truck.  I typically avoid pulling into tight spaces because his truck is wide and difficult.  However, this morning my options were to pull into a slightly tight spot or park elsewhere and have to waddle further.  I pulled into the spot and was fairly proud to have done so.  In my memory, there was an empty spot next to me when I pulled in, but once the NPR story I was listening to ended, there was a little car next to me.  I turned off the car and opened the truck door.  Well, I tried to open the door.  The space between the car to my left and the truck door was not enough to allow my large body and pregnant belly to get out of the door.  No worries, I’m a problem solver.  I laughed to myself and began scooting my body across the truck seats to let myself out the passenger side door.  Well, I tried to open the passenger side door.  Again, I was too close to the van next to me to get out.  No worries, I’m a problem solver.  I decided to pull out of the spot and park on the other side of the lot.  Well…I turned the key…AND NOTHING HAPPENED!?  The truck was dead.  Let us recap.  I can’t open the driver’s side door.  I can’t open the passenger side door.  I can’t pull out of the spot.  Doesn’t this remind you of the children’s chant and book, “Bear Hunt”?  “Can’t go over it.  Can’t go under it.  Gotta go through it.”

Begrudgingly, I called Trey.

“Trey, I’m trapped in the truck.”

“What!?”

“I’m trapped in the truck.  I pulled into a space.  You’d be proud of how straight I’m parked in the space!  However, I’m too close to the other cars and can’t get out.  The truck is now dead and I am trapped.”

(I’ll let your imagination fill in his response.  It isn’t quite appropriate for this setting.)

Trey had been dropped off at the auto shop and was waiting for the jeep to be repaired.  He patiently (creative licenses are being taken) informed me that I’d need to wait for an hour or so for him to be able to come get me.  I remember wishing I had another donut.

I then called my boss to let her know that while I was at work, I wasn’t being very productive.  Once I assured her that I was fine and promised I wouldn’t go into labor, we laughed.  She then came out of the building with another administrator to check on me.  Again, I assured them that I was fine, promised that my water hadn’t broken, and the three of us laughed some more.  The word began to spread that pregnant Lauren was trapped in her car and people began to gather.  I suddenly empathized with animals at the zoo.  One coworker came rushing out of the building because she heard that I was in labor. Nope…just simply in emotional distress.  After what seemed like 3 hours (probably only 20-30 minutes) 400 people (20 were actually counted) were standing outside of my vehicle to provide emotional support (or laugh at my newest catastrophe).  The CEO and the CFO of the agency that employs me (although I suspect they may question my ability to carry on basic duties at this point) joined the crowd and asked me to pop the truck hood.  They were able to spot a disconnected battery cable and the truck started right up.  At that same time, another person had located the owner of the car to my left.  The car moved over and I could then get out.  Again, I assured everyone I was fine, that I wasn’t in labor, and laughed.  I waddled into the building and into my office, where I closed the door and spent significant time considering hiding under my desk for the rest of the day.  I finally decided that since there was a significant chance that I’d get stuck underneath my desk and would again draw a crowd, I decided to sit in my chair and count minutes until maternity leave.

Later that week, I had my annual employment review and much to my surprise, I maintained my job without any productivity goals related to my being a goober.  I have decided that being trapped in the parking lot has set my personal bar low.  My postpartum fatigue and “parent of three children-related mental fog” will be overlooked because “at least I’m not trapped in the truck today?”  I’ll look like a model employee…until the next incident.  Sigh…

Family Legacies

My Grandma has been in the hospital for the past week.  (Nothing too serious…just a quick tuneup following a fall)  I didn’t get to be with her as much as we both would have liked because we agreed it wasn’t wise to have my 2 month old baby around hospital germs.  During the time we did share, I caught her up on recent antics of my crazy boys and we reminisced about past adventures in parenting/great-grandparenting.  We laughed about Jack exposing himself at the birthday party (last post) and about the time Logan hung onto the rising garage door.  Grandma and I also wondered what tales Norah will add to our collection.

On my drive home from the hospital yesterday, I couldn’t help but think about other family stories.  Cars next to me must have wondered why I was grinning and laughing to myself.  I am fortunate to come from a long line of storytellers and have spent much of my time listening to the same stories be told over and over.  My paternal grandfather once had a country music show in Branson, Missouri and was a gifted storyteller.  One of his life mottos was that if a story gets a laugh once, it bears repeating.  Granted I never lived with Grandpa Jim, but I never grew weary of hearing his “greatest hits.”  Over 10 years since his death, I fondly recall some of those tales.  Each family member seems to accumulate their own portfolio of personal tales.  In family gatherings, I know that when stories are told about my dad someone will tell about Dad getting chased by a rooster multiple times because after the first rooster attack his older brother told him that he had simply approached the rooster incorrectly.  I know that my mom once tattled on her older brother when he “hitted [her] back.”  I know that I will never live down licking the peanut butter off a mouse trap (when I was a toddler), misunderstanding a story about hallucinogenic frogs, or declaring myself a “badge hog” in Camp Fire (a scouting-type youth organization.)  I don’t mind that the stories retold the most are goofs or mishaps.  Wouldn’t it be boring if your legacy was just that you were meek and mild?  I’m sure that one of my cousins played nicely but that story just isn’t as fun to tell as the time he mooned the entire family…including my grandmother.  (Right, Potter?)  I enjoy hearing the stories because it means that I’m remembered.  Someone remembers me with love and laughter.  I’ve often grieved for the foster kids I work with that there often isn’t anyone to collect these stories and retell them throughout their lives.  We continue telling these stories long after people move out of our lives.  Trey and I tell our boys about their Papa Jack and Great-Grandpa Jim all the time.  Jack is too young to have any memories of his Papa Jack but he already knows that Papa Jack loved to watch sports and that Papa Jack wore his pants up very high.  My Grandpa lives on through these stories.

“Meatloaf” is a cue word for my family.  Anytime someone mentions meatloaf, giggles are sure to ensue.  As the story goes, my mom prepared a meatloaf one Saturday evening to be popped in the often before we left for church the next morning.  When we came home from church, we sat at the table and Mom served us our meal.  She made meatloaf fairly frequently so this was not a new recipe but this time something was different.  The meatloaf had small crunchy things on top that had collected the cooking grease.  Dad, David, and I raved about the delicious meal as we tasted the crunchy pieces.  Mom agreed that something was particularly good about this meatloaf but she couldn’t figure out what was different.  As she began cleaning the lunch dishes she continued to search her mind to understand what made this meatloaf better.  She considered the regular ingredients, reflected on the time in the fridge, and checked the oven temperature…and then she realized what had occurred.  After removing the loaf from the fridge, she failed to take off the plastic wrap before putting it in the oven.  The oven had melted the plastic during cooking and the juice from the meat was captured in the little crunchy pieces of melted plastic wrap.  Mom began crying that she’d fed us plastic.  My brother tried to calm her by saying, “Its ok, Mom.  Our poop will come out in little pre wrapped packages.”  Poor mom will never live down feeding us plastic wrap and the rest of us will never live down enjoying it!

I often wonder what stories the kids will someday tell about me and Trey.  What crazy family antics will become our legacy?  Last week, when my best friend and one of her daughters came to visit, I caught the oven on fire while cooking frozen pizzas.  For several days, Jack played out the incident with his plastic pizza and toy kitchen.  He’d put the pizza in the oven, close the door, and exclaim “Oh no!  The pizza is on fire!  Time to go to the restaurant!”  Perhaps this will be one of my parenting legacies.  It could be worse, right?

 

And done.

I have multiple drafts of things I’ve written but discarded or forgotten on my phone and laptop.  I keep an ongoing list of possible topics for future writings.  Sometimes I fail to include enough information leaving me to wonder what I was hoping to remember when I revisit the list.  For example, my current list of topic prompts is as follows:

  • pinterest
  • pervert squirrel/possible psychosis
  • lifetime realities
  • misplaced anger
  • church
  • local restaurant
  • girl
  • posts
  • flaming pizza

While I recall what three of the nine prompts refer to, I have no earthly idea what I was intending to write with the others.  (I’ll leave you, the reader, to wonder which of this list could show up in a future entry.)  These forgotten essays perfectly demonstrate a strength and a weakness I have.  I am a creative thinker and often come up with great (in my opinion) ideas.  However, I often lack follow through.  I used to spend all of my extra spending money on craft supplies.  I threw my efforts into preparing to become a clay sculptor and a seamstress.  I bought items to embroider, glass to etch, scrapbooks to personalize, and metal to personalize with vinyl.  I went through a period in which I intended to create door wreaths to sell and another period of designing garden flags.  Cards were stamped but never sent, homemade paper was made but never used, and wire was ready to sculpt.  I collected the supplies, dreamed of the projects, but never fully committed.  Each venture began with a whirlwind of creative energy but fizzled out once I had to complete the project because the brainstorming and dreaming that I love was now over.

Ironically, although I flit from project to project, I don’t like the feeling of having something undone.  I hate opening a closet and seeing incomplete or untouched projects sitting on the shelf.  Every time I spot the incomplete advent calendar that is hidden in a dresser cabinet, I resolve to have it completed within the next month.  That advent calendar has been in progress for 6 years.

Those who know Trey and I well would likely chuckle at the fact that the thing that drives me craziest about my husband is when he begins a home improvement project but then moves onto another project before completing the first.  In fact, I believe I’ve written past blogs about having a toilet on our front porch due to a lengthy bathroom remodel.  (Update: the bathroom is completed and glorious!)

Logan and Jack are 6 and a half years apart.  After we had Logan, Trey and I knew that we wanted two more children.  My pregnancy, labor, and delivery experience with Logan was difficult and traumatic.  I wasn’t in a big hurry to repeat the process and when I became ready, it seemed like life kept getting in the way.  Trey and I waited out another deployment, multiple moves, unemployment, financial challenges, and anxiety before Jack decided to make his appearance.  From the moment that I learned i was pregnant with Jack, I felt as though something was missing.  This feeling left me consumed with guilt.  I loved and still love Jack with all of my being.  How could I not believe that he was enough?    My maternity leave was spent trying to find a balance between my newfound love for this new child and overwhelming feelings of sadness, anxiety, and shame.  I recognized that people I love are praying fervently for one child while I was holding a perfect child and yet wanting more.  I worried that I would never feel satisfied and also worried that if we never had a third child, that I would be forever left with this awful feeling of leaving things incomplete.  I cried countless tears over having to return to work because I felt so unsettled and depressed.

I wrote the following a little over a year ago:

I’m 36 years old.  Some days I feel like I’ve lived an eternity and others I look around and feel like an imposter playing house.  I hold my kids and wonder who let me be responsible for these precious lives.  There are days that I can’t shake the idea that I’m missing something.  Trey patiently rides the waves of my anxiety that I’ve chosen the wrong career, I was called to do something different with my life, concerns that we will “never” reach goals we’ve set as a couple, or assumptions that I’m failing he and the kids.  Don’t get me wrong, I know I have a great life.  I have a career that is fulfilling and challenging.  My husband loves me and endulges my eccentricities.  Logan and Jack adore me and make me proud every nano second.  We are a part of a church community that enriches not only our lives but our community.  Trey and I are surrounded by friends that make us laugh, challenge us to be better people, and pick us up when we are down.  We both come from supportive, loving extended families that remain invested in our lives.  I have plenty of stuff.  While we never feel as though we have enough money, we are able to pay our bills and support ourselves, something we haven’t always been able to do.  Trey came home from Iraq, physically whole and ready to move on.

And yet, something always feels missing or incomplete.  Its hard to put into words what this feels like.  Sometimes I wonder if the missing piece is a spiritual deficit and so I pray.  Other times I feel as though I am grieving a child that I have never conceived.  I am scared that these feelings will never cease and that I’ll forget how to breathe.  

Trey and I talked in depth about whether or not a third child was in our future and considered it for a period of time.  I worried that the desire for another child was similar to my project planning and that should I add another child to the family, I’d continue to be left with the feeling of being incomplete because it was less about the child and more about me not being in a state of personal health.  Not long after I wrote the words shared above, my heart began to feel less burdened and I began to feel more at ease.  The change came slowly but was welcomed.  I remember looking across the table at Logan, Trey, and Jack and knowing that I had what I needed and that I could choose to move on from feeling incomplete.  Trey and I began talking about purchasing a bigger camper and began planning future family adventures.  Life can be funny.  Just as I came to change my focus, we discovered that I was pregnant.  Throughout the pregnancy I felt like I was in a state of shock and was utterly terrified that once the baby was born the pains of feeling incomplete would still be there.  When people asked if I was excited, I’d fake an appropriate response while attempting to ignore the doubts in my heart.  Trey and I agreed this would definitely be our last child and scheduled a vasectomy before my due date.  I spent time meditating on and praying for peace of heart and for the depressive fog to stay away.  I didn’t want to spend another maternity leave and another few years fighting those feelings.

April 18, 2016 I met the newest love of my life.  I have written and rewritten multiple drafts trying to accurately capture the feelings I felt looking at Norah’s sweet face.  In addition to the flood of love for her, I felt my love multiple for Trey, Logan, and for my silly Jack.  I return to work in a week.  Part of me is dreading my return because I know I’ll have less uninterrupted time with all three of my kids.  However, unlike either of the other returns from maternity leave, I am excited to go back.  I can’t wait to establish our new routine, our new normal.  I know with my entire being that my family is complete.  I feel utterly satisfied and complete.  My typical anxiety over how we will manage our money, time, and energy remains but no longer do I wonder if I’m ever going to feel complete.

I will certainly dream of more projects that will end up incomplete on a closet shelf or under the bed, but I know that my family is complete.  Our best adventures are yet to come.

Timing

 

I haven’t published anything I’ve written for six months.  I suppose that work, family, soccer, and pregnancy muddled my brain and left me without energy to edit and share my crazy thoughts.  During this hiatus, I’ve continued to write for myself but more importantly, life has marched on.  A friend once commented on a previous post that we needed a reality show to be filmed in our home.  I appreciate that the stories I share about my life are entertaining and relatable to others, but was left feeling a little insecure about her comment.  Is my life more chaotic than most?  Are my boys more random and wild than most?  Surely not…  In order to reduce the self scrutiny and ease bubbling social insecurities, I’m telling myself that the adventures in my home are typical antics with atypical documentation.  Kids are funny.  All kids.  Life is funny.  All life.  We just need to do a better job recognizing the joy in the every day.  We need to do a better job recognizing life’s unique sense of timing.  During the moments when life stressors roll in like a heavy fog, it is even more important to seek out the joy.  I cling tightly to the old homage that one can choose whether to laugh or cry.  Of course there are moments in which the tears flow freely and with recent hormonal surges there have been more tears than I care to admit.  Typical stressors like having to return to work following maternity leave, anxiety, being worried about money, car trouble, learning to balance three kids, ongoing house projects, and fatigue muddle my brain and threaten to mute the laughter at times.  Thankfully, I am surrounded by joy; piercing, invasive, and persistent joy. 

Be it “a God thing” or the ability to independently create moments of joy, life presents needed moments of joy at the most opportune moments.  Have you noticed life’s perfect comedic timing?

My grandfather loved sports, especially life sports.  He was the ultimate fan and he didn’t hold back his vocal support of the teams he loved.  As he got older, his timing slipped.  His once witty and well timed loud comments to officials, became delayed and a bit more random.  I remember noticing this age-related change as a heart-wrenching clue that he was aging and this introduced me to the sobering concept of the finality of life.  Rather than cry at his obvious aging and cognitive changes, our family found humor in his shouts for referees to clean their windshields (?) or other instructions given once the game play had moved on to something else.  These funny game day goofs were made all the funnier by my Grandma’s eye rolling and head shaking.  Although, to be perfectly candid, Grandma’s response to Grandpa’s heckling remained the same over the years.

Someone once said that an infant reveals their smile when the mom needs it most.  I’ve found this to be true three times now.  Just when you feel as though you will never sleep again or that your nipples are going to fall off your body, a sweet smile starts in that newborn’s eyes and washes over their entire being.  Perfection.  I dare anyone to feel sullen or angry when these early grins happen.  In my fatigued, postpartum state, I found (and keep finding) myself holding Norah at odd angles to force her to make eye contact.  I then make the strangest faces and noises in hopes that she will reward me with those perfect smiles.  The truth is that she isn’t going to smile on command, I have to wait with baited breath for her timing.

At the ripe old age of 9 1/2, (How long do we maintain the importance of the halves?  I may begin planning my 37 1/2 party?)  Logan is becoming more and more aware of the value of timing.  He is presently working diligently to discover the secret of perfectly timing requests for additional privileges.  For example, waiting until I’m busy nursing or completely overwhelmed to manipulate the outcome in his favor.  He has also been working on his comedic timing.  His sarcastic rebuttals vary between being inappropriate arguments and genius observations.  We, as parents, are faced with the task of helping him differentiate the two with hopes that he uses this knowledge to keep himself out of trouble.  As he becomes more aware of the power of humor, he also has become more aware of various humor platforms.  In the past year he has followed a couple sassy behaviors with a request for me to post it on Facebook.  Nope.  While I do enjoy sharing our antics, I don’t want him to “play up” behaviors for some sort of misguided attempt to “Kardashian.”  He enjoys when I share “timehop” reminders of his past silliness but we’ve talked a lot about how these stories were funny because he wasn’t trying to be funny.  Again, it is all about timing.

Jack, on the other hand, is a natural born entertainer.  His sense of comedic timing is an instinct.  He is wild, carefree, and so full of joy.  While Logan is my physical daredevil, Jack is my social daredevil.  He is a pleaser and seeks moments to make those around him laugh.  This effort is combined with his general goofiness to create a mashup of chaotic joy.  I giggled once when he called me “Mr. Mommy” and so I’ve become “Mr. Mommy” every time.

Jack and Logan have proven to be a perfect comedic team.  Logan recognizes the importance of timing and Jack has natural timing.  Yesterday, as we drove to my niece’s birthday party, I told Logan that my niece was having a sleepover with lots of her friends so there would be lots of girls when we arrived.  Logan groaned, partly because of the prospect of spending the afternoon with giggling girls and partly due to my teasing him about being a “soccer stud” around the ladies.  I jokingly told him he needed to wink and say “Hello Ladies!” upon our arrival.  He told me in no uncertain terms, that he would NEVER say anything of the sort.  He then paused, grinned, and said “But Jack will!?”  Logan then spent the next few minutes teaching Jack to point and said “Hello Ladies!”  When we arrived to the party, the lesson was seemingly forgotten when then boys laid eyes on a giant inflatable water slide in the yard.  They joined the girls on the slide and had a fantastic time.  Several hours later, it was time to say goodbye.  Before leaving, we prompted Jack to potty.  Since he was wet and had muddy feet, we took him to the side of the house and asked him to pee on the privacy fence.  (Note: If you aren’t a boy mom, this probably seems inappropriate.  Peeing on things is a hobby for my boys.  Most trees and rocks in my yard, have been watered by Logan, Jack, and…ahem…Trey.  Norah will not be encouraged to pee on fences…unless there is an emergency.)  Jack pulled his swim trunks all the way down to his ankles and leaned his body forward against the fence to do his business.  Logan was mortified and pleading with the adults to stop Jack.  In that moment, something clicked in Jack’s little mind.  This was his moment!  He turned around, pants still ALL the way down, began waving, and shouted “Goodbye Ladies!”  Timing.  Perfect comedic timing.  Trey, Logan, and I laughed the ENTIRE way home.  Logan remarked that this story was going to be one repeated anytime we tell stories about Jack.  Poor kid already has a bit of a legacy at age 3!?

As life progresses through natural hills and valleys, tears will flow and laughter will roll.  I pray that with these kids and my sidekick, we will continue to seek out joy.  I have faith that one of life’s gifts will continue to be perfectly timed moments of this type of relief.

Goodbye Ladies!

Sleep Tight

I used to be a sound sleeper. I could sleep through my brother playing loudly in his room, through thunderstorms, and through typically busy nights in the residence hall.  The only noise that was certain to wake me as a college student was the click the fire alarm made just prior to sounding the full alarm.  To this day, my heart skips a beat when I hear a click in the night and my body becomes ready to jump into action to clear the hall.  #RAprobs

My identification as a heavy sleeper ended when Logan was born. Suddenly I was able to anticipate his cry and awoke with the slightest movement, even when he moved into his own room across the house.  My sleep became even less deep when Jack came along.  Now my subconscious was tuned into two breaths.  To make matters worse, every person in our house talks in our sleep.  A typical night will include Trey muttering incoherently between snores, Logan yelling about a soccer goal, Jack singing about animals, and…well…my talking doesn’t bother me so I won’t detail it here.  Ask Trey though, he typically keeps a list of absurd things I tell him in the night.  For example, apparently I was concerned that one of my fingers was missing the other night.

sleep1Some nights I wander the house feeling simultaneously feeling pity for my wakefulness, jealousy that every other creature in my house is able to slumber, and gratitude that the boys are able to sleep so soundly.  I’ll admit that there are nights that I lie next to my beloved husband plotting ways to enact revenge against him while he snores.  Surely dumping a large glass of ice water on his face or suddenly playing the cymbals would be forgivable offenses?  Logan and Jack may be high energy during the day, but once they are in bed, not even a marching band can wake them.  Despite my envy, I do pray #3 will sleep as well as the boys have been able to do!  Even my dogs are great sleepers.  If sleeping were an Olympic sport, and dogs could compete in the Olympics, Banjo would surely be a medalist.  She is able to sleep in the most absurd positions.  I wish I could have a little hound DNA!  sleep2

In an attempt to improve my ability to tune out non-emergent night noises, I’ve relied on various sound machines over the past several years. I initially used a clock radio that had a bubbling creek option.  Trey hated coming to bed and hearing a creek all night.  I recently discovered an app on my phone called “Rain, Rain” that has introduced new soundscapes.  My current favorites are “Rain on Tent”, “Rain on a Tin Roof”, and “Crackling Fire.”  To make the app even more exciting, users can piece together various sounds.  I have enjoyed putting off sleep while pretending to be DJ Snoozie Snooze and dropping dope beats of rain drops, wind storms, and high tide, yo.  While the app has multiple sound options, I have caught myself daydreaming about additional sounds I’d like to add to the mix.  Below is a partial list of sounds I’m proposing to help all of the light sleepers block out their responsibilities in order to get a better night’s sleep.

  • Golf on tv
  • An ethics training
  • My husband talking about my need to stop online shopping
  • My husband talking about our need to create an updated budget to assist in growing our savings
  • Television shows about Alaska. (Excluding the one featuring the Brown family. They are an intriguing social experiment.)
  • My dog, Mojo, snoring
  • 401K explanations
  • Someone reading a “to do” list
  • The sound of my dryer indicating there is laundry to fold
  • Car wheels on the interstate
  • John Mayer (excluding his blues work) and Coldplay

Until I am able to add the above to my sleep soundscape, I’ll continue to work to prefect my mix with the options I’m given.  I do understand that in just a few short months, however, I will be adding a new person to the home and my sleep will become even more sparse.  At that time, I’ll go back to the drawing board and try to invent new ways to maximize my sleep time.  What sounds work for you?

The Mouse-Rat Black Hole

This morning on the way to work, I noticed a dead mouse in the middle of the road and my mind began to go in overdrive.

  • How did I even spot the mouse?  Did I wake up with super sonic vision powers or was this mouse a victim of medical experimentation and had grown to an unusual size?
  • Could the mouse have actually been a rat?  I think rats have thicker tails.  This guy was belly up in the road making his white abdomen the prominent feature.  Do rats have dark backs and white bellies?
  • Was the mouse-rat large after dining at a nearby restaurant?  Note: I’m not sure I want to visit the nearby restaurants in the near future.
  • Mouse-rat was the name of the Chris Pratt character’s band on Parks and Recreation.  I miss that show.  I do love Chris Pratt…and his new abs.  I also love Amy Poehler and want to see her new movie with Tina Fey.  I wish I could spend the day with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.  I would want to eat at a quirky little restaurant with bad service and laugh with them about the décor.  I would hope the restaurant didn’t have a mouse-rat problem.
  • I wonder if I hallucinated the brown back on the dead mouse-rat.  Maybe it was all white and was actually an escaped “pinkie” destined to be fed to a large snake?  A movie or book ought to be written about a league of mice raised to feed reptiles working together to escape and create a new peaceful colony.  The plot would be similar to The Rats of NIMH, but without the NIMH part.  Perhaps this could be a sequel.  I’ll add this idea to my list of scripts I ought to write but will never find the time to do so.
  • I miss Pinky and the Brain.  I wonder if I’d still find the show as funny as an adult or if I’ve moved on intellectually.  Doubtful.  I’m still a child at heart.  Not in the Peter Pan syndrome sense but as seen in my immature humor.
  • Divided highways make it difficult and inconvenient to turn around and pass a mouse-rat again.
  • If I can’t confirm the existence of the mouse-rat, Trey will never believe that it was seen!?  He’ll remind me of other animal encounters that I was not able to confirm.  (ie. The black snake that I witnessed falling from our ceiling into the middle of the sunroom never to be seen again, the chicken that jumped onto my windshield and rode there 2 blocks before I could scare it off with the windshield wipers, and the sheep that was in the middle of the road near Logan’s school.)
  • Do other people spend this much time thinking about nonsensical things?  Isn’t my ability to get lost in an absurd black hole of imagination a sign of creative genius?
  • Tigers and lions are capable of breeding.  I wonder if mice and rats or mice and gerbils are capable of breeding?  Ligers are beautiful but die at an early age due to their hearts being incapable of pumping enough blood for their gigantic bodies.  I wonder if mice-rats or mice-gerbils would have similar issues.  I don’t like rodents and don’t want to live in a world with rodent hybrids but feel that this information will be beneficial in a future conversation.
  • I need to blog this episode of free association.  Granted, I haven’t added to my blog in months and this would make a very odd comeback, but perhaps someone else’s encounter with a mouse-rat will be validation for someone else’s mouse-rat encounter.  Wow!  How many people have mouse-rat encounters?  I’ve heard that Conway has a rat problem but could it be this bad!?

And this, my friends, is why I have difficulty doing anything productive with my life.

 

 

Embracing the Unexpected

A couple of weeks ago, Jack’s daycare called with news that he had woken from his nap with a fever.  I picked him up and took him right to the doctor’s office.  By the time we saw the doctor, the magical powers of Tylenol had begun to work and he was feeling slightly better.  Jack eagerly stood on the scale when prompted and kept repeating “I see doctor now? I see doctor now?”  I chuckled to myself about his excitement to see the doctor compared to Logan’s near phobia of shots that often prevents him from even reading stories about characters who visit the doctor.   When the doctor came into the exam room, Jack narrated, as he does these days, the entire visit.  “Doctor tickle Jack’s ear?”  “Doctor look Jack’s mouth?”  “Doctor talk Mommy?”  Once the ear infection was located, treatment options determined, and the doctor left the room, Jack looked at me and shared his disappointment.  “Doctor not say ‘no more monkeys jumpin’ on the bed.'”  Poor guy.  The doctor just didn’t behave as Jack expected all doctor’s ought to behave.

You don’t need me to tell you how life is full of unexpected moments.  We all are faced with surprises, twists, turns, and potholes.  Each time I begin to pout about an unexpected challenge, Trey reminds me that this is a typical part of life and that I need to move on.  I feel like I’m good at embracing the ironic, funny, and absurdities around me.  Too often I internalize the difficult unexpected life moments but ignore the exciting surprises.  Maybe I just need more practice with the exciting surprises!?  Perhaps the lottery commission will gift me with a surprise winning ticket if it is to help me learn this lesson?

Lately, I’ve enjoyed watching the surprise on people’s faces (or surprised emoji’s) when I’ve revealed our third pregnancy.  I’ve laughed at how many people thought we were joking because a third pregnancy has been that unexpected.  Logan’s reaction, however, has been my favorite.  He’d become worried because I had been so sick and assumed I had cancer.  No anxiety with this one, right?  Poor kid is his mama’s son!?  Anyway, he burst into tears one evening before going to visit his grandparents because he was afraid I was dying and he didn’t want to be away from me.  Trey and I hadn’t planned to tell him until after we’d been to the doctor but clearly we needed to ease his worries.  We sat him down in the floor of his bedroom and explained that I did not have cancer and he didn’t need to worry.  Hoping he remembered me being sick with Jack and then getting better, I prompted him to remember the last time I was sick like this.  Despite my prompts, he just couldn’t imagine that we weren’t there to tell him bad news.  Trey moved on and said “Logan, how would you feel about getting a new brother or sister?”  Logan was clearly not expecting this question and replied, “We’re getting rid of Jack!?”  Trey and I lost it!  We weren’t expecting that response!  Poor Logan!  We’ve since teased him that he’d better be nice or we’ll keep Jack and get rid of him instead.  He is mildly amused.  He expects the teasing.

My brain is currently swimming with all the “what if’s” that come with pregnancy.  “What if we can’t afford another child in daycare?”  “What if we can’t afford a larger vehicle?”  “What if this baby is just as wild as my other two!?”  “What if Trey and I never have a clean house again?”  “What if I never lose pregnancy weight?”  “What if I lose one of my kids…I can hardly keep up with the two I have!?”  “What if zombies invade and I can’t grab all of our necessary belongings for a life on the run AND my three children!?”

I don’t have all the answers and the difficult reality is that I may never have the answers I need to chase away this anxiety.  In the meantime, I’ll focus on embracing the unexpected; welcoming the surprises, enduring the challenges, and laughing about the ironies.  One thing I can expect is to be entertained daily by my two creatures who give me anything but the expected!

“Jack, did you have a good day at school?”
“YES!”
“Jack, did you make good choices?”
“YES!”
“Jack, did you push your friends?”
“YES! He’s all better now!”