Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Remember Me

I think I have officially accepted that I am not currently using my time to blog ("I don't have time to blog anymore" sounds like I suddenly realized there was life beyond my computer, so I won't go there...)

I spend a lot of time in the car these days driving kids to lessons and such. Piano is the hardest-- two hours at the teacher's house between the two older kids. Getting an in-car DVD player has saved my bacon here. We manage to make it through the lessons sitting outside in the car with some jaunts to the park thrown in for good measure. I even manage to sneak in to hear snippets of the lesson.

Today I was sitting inside listening to part of Camryn's lesson when Jared tapped at the front window to get my attention. I came outside and he told me that Jackson needed to go potty. Jackson was standing outside the car doing a little dance that confirmed the veracity of Jared's words. I told Jackson to hurry inside to use the potty, but it is hard to move quickly when you are doing the potty dance.

As he writhed his way toward me, he said, "I'm not going to make it!", followed by "I pooped in my pants." The words every mother longs to hear standing outside the piano teacher's house. I will spare you the details of how I managed to clean up poopy pants out in front of the piano teacher's house in the rain. It may or may not have involved throwing underwear in the garbage. But I somehow survived the experience and many others like it. Now if only blogging regularly survived along with it....

Monday, June 4, 2012

Last Tuesday, or The Vomit Comet

Last Tuesday Addy slept in, which was not terribly surprising, considering that we were up late for Memorial day. She awoke with a bang with vomit in her bed, but Dave said that it didn't look like vomit so I made the mistake of trying to feed her a juice box. While my back was turned it squirted all over the floor (or so I thought) so I gave her another one. This time within 10 seconds of finishing it, it was all out on the floor again with a momentous puke. Yuck. So yoga was definitely going to fall off the radar for the day.

Unfortunately we were totally out of groceries (including Gatorade and saltines) and the cleaners were coming so I needed to be out of the house for two hours. So once Jackson was to preschool (I was pretty sure Addy's stomach was emptied) I braved a trip to the store (Yes, I am one of those evil parents who takes her child to the store when she is sick. This is one of those things you're not supposed to admit to on your public blog....) I returned some things to one store, drove around to while away some time and then stopped to get groceries, including the requisite saltines and Gatorade. Addy was fine (sigh of relief), I got my things done and I was happily driving home when I got a phone call from Jared: "Mom, why aren't you here to pick me up at school? I've been waiting for 10 minutes. I have piano today." Jared has piano on Wednesday, not Thursday-- I checked my phone calendar and the phone agreed with him. I realized his lesson had been switched but in all of the vomit excitement I assumed I would be staying home or doing nothing of consequence all day and didn't check my calendar. Usually I have a friend watch Addy, Jackson and Camryn on piano days and complete a complicated and circuitous pick up/drop off process.

Instead I had totally spaced it and had to figure out some plan. I was in the car with Addy, Jackson was still at preschool, Jared was at school waiting and Camryn on the bus on her way home. I did not have time to get the kids picked up and dropped off at my friend's house (let alone the fact that Addy was sick and couldn't be left at a friend's house anyway), so I picked Jared up from school, raced home to get Camryn and his piano music, had Jackson stay in preschool afterschool care and drove off to his lesson-- which is 30 minutes away in Portland-- with the two remaining kids in tow. We managed to make it only 15 minutes late (his lesson is an hour long, so that's not as bad as it could have been) and I sat in the car with the other two (very bored) kids instead of sitting in on his lesson like I usually do. Whew.
Internal commentary: Hooray for me, I just wrote another post about vomit! Why exactly do I feel the need to publicly record my exciting adventures with throw-up, the fact that I will take my germy kid to a grocery store when they are sick and yet another instance of me being scatter-brained on a public forum? Who exactly is itching to read about this? Is this really a productive alternative to following Addy and Jackson around the house, cleaning up the trail of play-doh, marker art on their faces or appendages and the massive mazes of Scotch tape left in their wake? Or cleaning and wiping all of the counters only to have them clobbered by Play-doh? Or diligently sweeping the floor only to find another wad of dog hair in a corner? Some questions are better left unanswered....

Hey there! Remember me?

Probably not... It has been about three months since I've posted anything. I've realized that preparing for a Cantico concert and active blogging cannot coexist at the same time. The concert (May 18th) came and went successfully--honestly I think it was the best concert we have done yet. I was very, very happy with it and again very grateful to have the opportunity to direct a group of such talented musicians.

Meanwhile, I haven't written on my blog or read any of my friends' blogs for months. Clutter has accumulated throughout my house and in my head. I've been doing lots of mental processing, but (obviously) not much has made or to my blog. Again I'm asking the perennial blogging question: How much of my life do I want to broadcast over the interwebs anyway? Does anyone actually read this? Is a blog too public to write anything worth reading? Is there any point to recording, in painstaking detail, the mental roundabouts of an overly obsessive thinker-- especially when those thoughts are laced with my dealings with vomit and diapers?

Or, in fewer words, is this blogging thing really working for me anymore?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thoughts on Being a "Good" Mom

Recently, a friend of mine asked a favor. She had a friend who is pregnant with her first child and starting to get anxious about adjusting to being a mom. She wanted to know if I had any words of advice to offer about the adjustment to being a mom and learning to not be hard on yourself. Well, apparently, being succinct is not my strong point. But, having taken the efforts to put my thoughts on this on paper, I thought I would share them here on my blog:

Sorry it has taken me a few days to get back to you. I can only share my own experience about adjusting to becoming a mom. I was a straight-A student, was very successful in my job and pretty much took it upon myself to do my best to be "successful" at everything I tried. I had my first child halfway through my masters program. I rushed to finish my graduate piano recital before the baby came and then had only a few classes left to finish to graduate.

Mothering was (and still is) something that I took very seriously. I decided that if I was going to be a stay-at-home mom then I would simply be the very best stay-at-home mom that I could: I would excel at mothering just like I had excelled in so many other areas in my life. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a fantastic recipe for disaster and depression.

To start with, I assumed that being a mother wasn't going to be that difficult to figure out. After all, I was getting a masters degree and had tons of experience taking care of kids (being the oldest girl of 6 children and a popular babysitter as a teenager). I was blown out of the water to find that mothering (despite society's depiction of it as brainless, menial labor) was by far the most physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually challenging work I had ever experienced. Aside from the obvious challenges (like being on call 24/7, rarely getting breaks and getting woken up in the middle of the night) there are deeper challenges like being calm and emotionally stable when you are dealing with a screaming child, finding that what works at some times may not work at others and dealing with the constant struggle to find the balance between being supporting/loving and setting/enforcing firm limits.

But by far the hardest part for me of being a mom is that there is no easy way to evaluate whether you are "excelling" at it. Being a bright person, I just decided to come up with my own measurement of "success." What I created was a composite of my own mother, my mother-in-law and every other woman that I admired: a Frankenstein-Super-Mother, if you will. I just decided that I would embody the best traits of all of them. I would have my mother's ability to connect and talk with her kids along with my mother-in-law's tremendous capacity to serve others combined with my friend's dedication to exercise, so-and-so's talent for cooking healthy meals, what's-her-name's incredibly clean house and someone else's kids that were always well-dressed and well-behaved. I set myself up with the perfect recipe for severe post-partum depression.

Sure enough, when I began staying home with my first child I felt tremendous, overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and loss. I felt inadequacy because of my inability to "perfectly" meet the needs of this beautiful child that I loved. The inadequacy deepened with my inability to keep up our house or a schedule in the way that I felt a good mother "should." You added to this the loss of the clear-cut affirmation, the accolades and tidy definitions of success that I had experienced in school and I was a complete mess. I was working my rear end off-- harder than I ever had before, both day and night-- but it seemed I could hardly manage to feed the baby, change him and grab some unhealthy ready-made thing to eat before he pooped all over his sleeper or it all needed to be done again. My husband came home at the end of the day and I felt like I had nothing to show for my efforts. It felt like things were no better-- or actually much worse-- than when he left. I was in total despair. What had become of me? I was once a self-sufficient, successful, organized and "together" woman and I had turned into a non-functional, sloppy, dependent mess who couldn't even get showered without help.

It took me a combination of time, experience, therapy, medication and lots of conversations with other women to come to a better way of looking at it. I am by no means a perfect mother, but (at least on most days) I can look at my imperfect efforts with satisfaction and see the good things that I am doing. (As just one example, I am writing this in my pajamas at 10:00 am while my two youngest watch Curious George-- and I'm okay with that.) Some things that have been helpful to me:
  • Recognize that mothering is difficult and demanding work. It is important work that should demand respect from both you and others. I felt like mothering was some easy, invisible thing that should just "happen" while I got other things done and kept my house perfectly clean. Especially when you have a tiny infant, taking care of your child-- just keeping him/her alive, fed, and diapered-- is pretty much a full-time proposition. Any thing else you do is frosting on the cake.
  • Allow your body lots of time to heal after labor and delivery. After you have a baby, a mother should have at least the functionality of someone who has been in a major car accident and hospitalized. Seriously, I look back at my post labor expectations for my first baby and think "What on earth was I thinking?" I expected to pop back to normal within a few days after being in hard (pitocin-induced) labor for over 12 hours, pushing for 2 1/2 hours and having an almost 1-inch episiotomy to deliver a nearly 10-pound baby. I pretty much felt like I had been run over by a truck. My body needed several weeks to physically recover and feel semi-normal again. That said, some people do feel pretty good again more quickly than that. If this is you, don't feel bad about that or feel like that means you need to jump back in to everything again. I would still get lots of rest, spend time with your baby and rebuild your emotional energy.
  • Accept and ask for help. Don't try to do it all yourself. People want to help you. Please let them.
  • Sleep whenever you can. Lots of people have said this, but it's still true. I figure it takes 2-3 years to catch up on the sleep you lose after having a newborn. Don't feel guilty about sleeping in or napping whenever you get the chance.
  • Your child's actions/personality do not automatically indicate your success/failure as a parent. Obviously, the way that you parent will have a huge impact on your child and should be taken seriously. But every action of your child is not an indication of your success or failure as a mother. For instance, if your child is fussy or always wants to be held, they may be hungry or sick... or they may just be fussy and want to be held. If you have a child (like several of mine) who is extremely strong-willed (they will scream about the juice box for two hours straight and they WON'T forget what they are mad about), it doesn't prove your failure as a mother. It shows that they are strong-willed. Your eight-year-old's lack of desire to comb her hair doesn't mean that you are a failure at teaching hygiene. Yes, we need to take our responsibility to parent seriously, but, no, we don't need to take every single action of our child upon ourselves as a source of pride or guilt.
  • Don't stress out about schedules or getting milestones "right." "Schedules" work for some people and don't for others. Having my kids on a schedule was about as feasible as teaching a dog to use the toilet, flush and wash its paws. There are some people that schedules work for, but if it's not you, don't stress out about it. Your kids will be fine. Don't stress about milestones either. If your child walks at 15 months instead of 9 months, it doesn't mean they are going to be athletically challenged. It usually doesn't make any difference.
  • Involve your husband in parenting. I felt bad asking my husband for help because it was "my job" to take care of the baby and he had to "work" each day. I felt like if I needed help from him that showed my inadequacy-- that I wasn't doing a good enough job. What I did by this was essentially devalue what I was doing -- I didn't consider my work to be as important as what my husband was doing-- and limit his relationship with our child. The truth was that we both had challenging jobs each day and that when he was home, we could (and should) share the responsibility for parenting our child. Expecting your husband to be actively involved as a parent benefits you, the baby and your husband. It helps him to have a stronger connection and relationship with his child. You will be happier and less stressed out and more available for your relationship with your husband. Sharing responsibility can harder to do if you are nursing, but there are ways to divvy things up (i.e. you nurse, he changes diapers). 
  • Real parenting is imperfect parenting. Do your best. If you mess up (which you will), don't beat yourself up. Make a mental note and try to do it a little bit better the next time. Don't be afraid to say, "I'm sorry," to your kids. It sets a good example to them of how it's done.
  • Have reasonable expectations for yourself, then lower them a little (okay, a lot). Life is about trade-offs. Nobody does it all perfectly. (If you aren't like this, congratulations on being superhuman. Don't tell your friends because they'll hate you.) ;) Just do what you can and let the rest go. There are times I have made home-cooked meals, but then my house is a mess and my kids aren't in any activities. If my kids are in outside activities, then we eat out more or buy frozen meals. I keep my house pretty clean these days, but that's because I pay for house-cleaners to come. If I get lots done, my kids watch lots of TV. If my kids aren't watching TV, I don't get very much done....
  • Moms have needs too. Make sure to take care of yourself. Do things to make you happy, that help you enjoy your life. It will help you be a better mom if you are happy and well-cared for, but beyond that, you are someone's child, too, and you deserve to be happy and cared for, just as much as your child does. By caring for yourself, you are also setting a good example for your kids. (i.e. It's okay to take care of my needs, to take a break or a time-out to read. It's okay for grownups to take a break to have fun or to spend time with friends. It's okay to spend money on things for mom, too. Life will go on if the world doesn't always revolve around them.)
  • Enjoy what you can but don't feel like you have to "love" everything. Enjoy all of the great moments, but don't feel like you have to "love" every last minute of being mom. Nobody likes cleaning up vomit or diarrhea. Most people aren't fans of a two-year-old tantrum in the grocery store. It's okay to not enjoy those moments. They will pass.
  • Connect with other moms. You will quickly find out that you are not the only one. Most moms feel exactly like you do and struggle with very similar things. This can be a huge support and help just to know that what you are experiencing is normal.
Sorry, I guess your request for some thoughts turned into a full-fledged five-page essay. By the way, I still struggle with all of these things-- it's still an ongoing process for me. But I am getting better at recognizing what I do well and acknowledging it.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

More Addy and Jackson Words

Addy: "gank oo much!" (thank you very much!)
"didderfly" (butterfly)
"I wanna cudder!" (I want to color!)
"Mommy, I need a change-a-roo!"
"yites" (lights)
"It's broke it!" (It's broken!)

Jackson: "a mudder one" (another one)
"How many minutes?"
"I need my screen time!"

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Our Blazers Game (Steal-a-Post)

We took our three older kids to the Trailblazers game last Monday, but my friend Kelly wrote all about it, so I'll just let you read about it on her blog.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sometimes Someone Says It For You

Every once in a while you find someone who writes exactly what you wanted to say, but better. I don't know if all parents feel this way, but I sure do...

Don't Carpe Diem

Monday, January 16, 2012

The One Place Where I'm Always Too Thin

As a mom of four I constantly find myself spread too thin, despite my best efforts to take stuff out of my life. I wish I could take this talent and instead constantly find myself too thin around my thighs or abdomen, but alas, my talent is limited.

It doesn't help that today the kids had the day off of school. I had what I thought were very modest expectations for the day: take the van in to get the remote locks fixed, clear the junk pile off my computer desk and maybe make sandwiches for lunch. I somehow got sucked into several of loads of laundry, dealing with a temper tantrum and transferring CDs to my computer and several other things.
It's a familiar pattern. I start what seems like a simple task. As I make ever-more-desperate attempts to finish I get constantly interrupted by the latest crisis: by Jackson head-butting into me for the fun of it, Addy climbing on my lap, Jared explaining exactly why Camryn is in the wrong in their latest disagreement, Camryn asking if I will let her make breadsticks, the dog chewing a plastic container lid or Addy deciding to bite my arm just for the fun of it (10 seconds ago). Eventually I give up and flee my laundry folding/desk organizing/dish-doing attempts for the temporary consolation of facebook/blogging/eating a snack that doesn't look like it has too many calories.

There are people out there that have children and appear to still be partially sane. What's their secret?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Today I was slated to teach a song for Camryn's activity days. Jared wanted to stay home, so I let him. Jackson was getting ready to play "Don't Break the Ice" and didn't want to come. Nonetheless, Jared and Jackson fight like cats and dogs so I insisted that Jackson come with me.

He screamed the whole way here, the whole time I taught the song and continues to whine while we wait for Cam to be done. Yay.

PS Blogging on an iPhone with a screaming toddler on your lap is less effective. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Feminist Rant of the Day

Recently I found a link to a website on Pinterest that just pushed all my feminist buttons and I just needed to have a good rant about it. It is a cutesy blog about "strengthening marriages," but to my admittedly very jaded eyes it just screams "ignored wives trying to get self-absorbed and checked-out husbands to actually acknowledge that they exist."

I freely admit that the concept of "dating" your spouse is a really good one-- I've always been an advocate of that-- but the idea (which the website implies) that it is entirely the wife's responsibility to plan dates, "spice up the marriage" and "focus on her husband" really rubs me the wrong way. I'm all for dating, but whatever happened to just getting some food and having an honest, real conversation for three hours? Or maybe having your husband take a turn putting in some effort to plan something fun and creative? You know, like a loving, mature relationship of equal partners? But beyond these *minor* irritations, it's just plain hard for me to not instantly hate a website where one of the writers lists as the craziest thing she's ever done: 

"Get ready for it..........I modeled a swimsuit on TV just 8 weeks after delivering my triplets!" 

Well you know how I react when that happens... Seriously?! Ohmygosh, I just HATE it when I do that. My DEAR hubby was so {embarassed} for me when I did that. ROFL! You are SO {crazy}!. .... So way to pin a rose on your nose. Yes, I'm a bitter old woman. I think we've established that. [Disclaimer: I make no pretense to being impartial, objective or fair in my representation of this website. I reserve the right to quote only the *best* portions of said website.]

So here is their intro:

"We began this lil’ venture of dating our spouses, just like anyone else…..waaay back before we said, “I Do”! Back when dates were the most important element of our life and held a high status over all else. {WINK} Being at the top of our lists, the focus on dating helped us fall MADLY in love with the men we now call our DEAR husbands." 

I don't know about you, but dates were always the most important element of my life and held a high status over all else. {Wink} Dumb things like my education, developing my talents or trying to contribute to the world were always on back burner, FOR SURE.
"We all know that marriage can become TOO comfortable {a.k.a. routine} and dating your amazing spouse – the way you did when first falling in love… is the sure-fire way to keep that SPARK in marriage!" 

And that means crazy, over-the-top dates like having dinner on a table set up in the middle of a traffic median. What better way to fan the flames of romance?

Lest you question their cred in giving marriage advice, they have pictures of each of the "divas" posted to prove their attractiveness.  But wait... one of these things is not like the other. No, wait. They all are. Exactly like the others. Over-made-up. But who could love a woman without piles of make-up on? Whew. You wouldn't want to get marriage advice from anyone who was unattractive. {Eek!}

Their website tells us how all of these girls had the same "problem":

"Each of them was married to a super-duper hottie, of course, but they were discovering that they were letting LIFE take over...and weren't focusing on their husbands as much as they would like!"

Gasp! Oh no! Everyone knows that a woman's greatest purpose in life is to focus on her husband! How could they? The obvious solution? Over-planned cutesy dates, making sure to choose their husbands' favorite take-out spots instead of their own. (Because we all know how selfish those mommies are. Stuck on themselves and their babies! Hardly any sex at all! Good grief, what's a man to do? Any problems are always due to the wife not focusing on her husband like she needs to. Duh.) P.S. I'm glad they reassured us that their husbands are "hotties." Why would you waste time on a guy who wasn't physically attractive above all else? That is the most important thing in a person, right?

Before I get angry responses that there is nothing wrong with devoting time/attention to your husband, craftsy-ness, "not letting yourself go," doing nice things for your husband, being unselfish in a relationship or actually planning a date, I freely acknowledge and concur with all of the above. I'm sure many of the date ideas mentioned on the website are really good and would be fun. I'm not implying that women should just ignore the needs of others, be selfish, be ashamed of being craftsy or promote boring/serious dates that aren't "super-cute" (well, at least not too much). But my personal experience is that way too many women with families become totally caught up in the needs of others and lose track of the fact that they are people too, with needs and feelings of their own.

I guess my beef with the whole thing is the implication that it is the wife's responsibility to "focus on her husband" and that if the quality of the relationship is sliding it is because she needs to make things great for him, rather than a relationship being a partnership and built between two people. And I think there is a very strong cultural bias that makes women feel like they are failing personally and need to fix something if their partner is disengaged or not meeting their needs. I'm not implying that you can or should try to make someone else change, but you shouldn't immediately assume that it is your fault because you are failing or doing something wrong either. Each partner needs to attend to his/her own needs, their partner's needs and their needs as a couple and work through those together.

"Focusing on your husband" can perpetuate a cycle where the wife over-functions in their relationship (often while under-functioning in regards to meeting her own needs) to desperately try to get the husband to engage. Meanwhile, the husband habitually under-functions in the relationship and slides along while his wife tries to compensate for him ignoring what should be his contribution to the relationship. She pursues/he distances. She over-functions/he lets her take care of everything. (See Harriet Lerner's "The Dance of Anger," "The Dance of Intimacy," et al). And issues like that might need to be addressed more directly than by making sure your make-up is cute and you have an elaborate plan for your upcoming date. But that's just my nerdy philosophizing. And if you don't agree with me, at least you'll get some great marriage mileage out of the following ideas:

  1. Personally, I think handcuffing your spouse to your arm and dragging him to get take-out is always a good idea. What guy doesn't love being dragged to his favorite take-out spot in feathered handcuffs? Super-cute!!! {WINK} 
  2. Um, seriously? We all know the solution to a low female libido is not attention to HER sexual or emotional needs, sharing, emotional connection or feeling heard, but just Batman underpants. ("But honey, I found this great idea on a website...")
  3. This one is particularly barfy. The thing every new mom needs to be told after surviving nine months of pregnancy and delivering a baby is to...
  • Be sure to lay out your husband's pj's for him so he can relax
  • Send notes to him "from the baby" on his phone all day long
  • Don't talk about how hard your day was
  • "Dress up cute for your man and be there for him. They understand what you are going through so they will be happy with anything that you do. So dressing up cute (or even a little skimpy – ahem, especially if you are nursing – WINK) would lead to other things without involving intercourse [while you're on your post-baby 'pelvic rest']."
  • Buy him a Willow Tree statue of a dad holding his baby with a cute note attached. [What every man dreams of! Okay, who knows? Maybe there are men that are into that kind of thing....]
  • And since no man could possibly survive six weeks without sex, they will prep you on how to care-take him there too. Phew. Because the most important thing you need to think about during those first six weeks is NOT recovering from a major medical event, adjusting to parenthood, trying to maintain your sanity with no sleep, meeting the needs of a new baby, adjusting to breastfeeding, recovering from stitches/tearing/afterpains or wondering whether you (including your nether parts) will ever feel/look/function the same again. (Or maybe wondering how YOU will survive without "getting some" for six weeks or how it will work if a baby screams in the middle of it or if it will ever not be painful post-episiotomy or tearing.) No, the most important thing is making sure your husband can survive that six week "dry spell" while you are "selfishly" wrapped up in the baby. Because the only possible reason for a woman to exist is to do cutesy things for her husband, provide sex and have no needs/thoughts/feelings of her own, right?? And everyone knows the only way that a women feels fulfilled is by having a man who wants to have sex with her. 
I'm not saying that you don't need to include him in parenting, address your husband's feelings or his physical/emotional/sexual needs upon becoming a father, but the implication that it's the wife's responsibility to anticipate/fix everything is downright pukey to me. How about a simple, "Honey, this is what I am feeling and needing right now. What are you feeling and needing right now?"

Sure, I could also make snarky comments about the men's websites full of tips on "lookin' good for your spouse," how to date your wife, "spice it up" and make sure your wife is "fulfilled" during the six weeks she is on pelvic rest after a baby, except-- oh wait. There aren't any. Actually, I lied. There are a few websites on "How to Date your Wife," but the only ones I could find were either written or co-written by women. You mean we have a cultural void in that area? You're kidding! Too bad.