Saturday, May 16, 2015

On those pesky Pixar movie songs

When Toy Story came out, I watched it and thought it was sweet and cute and filled with punny humor for grownups.  I don’t really remember sitting down and watching Toy Story 2. As is the case with lots of kid movies, I’ve seen bits and pieces.

Fast forward to the present, to me, the mother of three children.  Have y’all seen Toy Story 3?  It’s just downright mean.  Andy goes away to college, leaving his mom behind along with the cherished icons of his childhood-Woody and Buzz.  It killed me!

Even though my days are long and the arguing is maddening and the whining pushes me past my limit, when I think of my babies leaving home, I’m reduced to a puddle of hysterical tears. When they tell me they want to live with us forever, I happily (albeit completely unrealistically) agree.  I know that they will “need” me less and less, and I take immediate comfort in that because so often right now, the “needs” feel overwhelming to me.  But at the same time, each milestone, each putting-the-toothpaste-on-by-myself breaks my heart just a little.

And then…guess what Sophie’s ballet recital song was?  Jessie’s song from Toy Story 2, “When Somebody Loved Me." It's the one where she recounts how her girl, Emily, loved her as a child, then outgrew and ultimately abandoned her.  Jason makes fun of me for crying every time I hear the song, but it represents more to me than just a child leaving behind a toy.  To me it equals a child leaving childhood, growing up and not needing the security of holding on – to a stuffed giraffe or a soft blanket or my hand. 

Don’t get me wrong! I’m happy to have healthy children who are growing every day.  I pray for them to be strong and independent. But growing up means growing away and it hurts.  

So I hope this explains, to the other dance moms and a bit better to my husband, my weeping at parent’s day at Studio B, and sometimes when I was waiting outside the door there, and certainly today at the recital. For the snuffling, mascara-smeared mess I was, I say thanks to Pixar and Jessica Sheffey!  Could you please pass the tissues?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hashbrown KeepinItReal

Ok, here’s my confession:  most days, I would die an embarrassed, painful death if people I know stopped by my house.  I have to clear a spot to stage photos of the kids.  With three children under the age of seven and a job where I work from home at tasks that have no real start and stop time, I just stay overwhelmed.  The laundry is overflowing, the toys are EVERYWHERE and the kitchen table is buried under school papers and mail. 

What is the answer to all this mess?  Don’t relax for one second.  That’s the answer.  Don’t sit down with your husband, who, by the way, appreciates the struggle, but also is driven crazy by the clutter and chaos.  To be fair, it drives me crazy too (or craziER, to be precise).

I went through a no-kidding, hormone-driven nesting phase when I was pregnant with my youngest.  I cleaned out closets, deep-cleaned nooks and crannies, caught up the laundry and breathed a sigh of contented relief at night when I fell, exhausted into bed.  In the evenings after the children were asleep, I folded laundry and put it away IMMEDIATELY, made sure that the stray dish in the sink was washed, wiped down the stove top, scrubbed shower floors, and on and on.  I didn’t sit down and watch television at night.  I didn’t sit down to do anything except drag out my laptop and get some work done for the magazine. It was extremely satisfying, I have to admit.  And at the time, I thought, “This isn’t that hard.  Why have I struggled so long?” I kept it up for about 3 months after Bryce was born, when apparently, the hormones wore off and my driving force ran smooth out of gas.

The problem with the clutter is two-fold.  The first is that there isn’t a specific place for everything, so when I’m trying to figure out where to put away, say, the foam -tipped craft painters or the school papers that I don’t really have time to sort until Saturday, they get shoved in a pile that looks more and more unsightly as the week passes.

The second reason is that to do one thing requires multiple steps – most of which I don’t have time to do right then.  For example, I’d like to put away the clothes immediately after folding/hanging them, but I’d first need to sort the clothing in the crammed closets and chests of drawers to make room for the clean clothes, make a bag for charity (that would realistically sit by the door or in the back of my car for six weeks), put away the off-season stuff in bins (that have clean laundry in them because, let’s face it, the laundry baskets are already full) and put said off-season items away in the storage areas high above the closets (which can be accessed only by ladder and must literally be climbed into to reach the back).

To heap more trouble onto the pile, it’s nearly impossible to do any of the housework tasks during the day because sweet little hands are contributing ceaselessly to the mess, and sweet little voices are, all the while, asking for snacks and apple juice, for help turning on lights and wiping themselves.  Add to that the fact that my two-year-old is terrified of the vacuum cleaner and I have to hold him while I vacuum if I do so while Daddy isn’t home.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly blessed to have a home to clutter, a husband to drive crazy and healthy children to wipe!  It’s just that I drive myself bananas in the process, trying, and failing, to keep up with it all.  I saw the chart below on Facebook recently. Yeah, I know, I have time for that life-sucking activity!  Ironic, isn’t it?.

It’s so true!  But the fact is my sanity suffers any way you look at it.  I can’t enjoy sitting down to play with the kids amid the disaster, and I refuse to be the drill sergeant who obsessively barks orders at them to keep things straight.  I have enough orders to bark without adding constant clean-up to the list. Orders like; "Don't hit your sister!", "Please get your feet off of him, he hates that!" and "For the love of all that's holy, don't play in the toilet!"  Midday mopping anyone? No happy medium.  Am I right?

It’d be fantastic if we could be a bit easier on ourselves, to do that which we’re advised by more mature women who implore us to enjoy this time with our children and leave the mess.  We absolutely know that all too soon, the kids we’re picking up after will be gone from under our wings and roofs and we’ll have much less mess to contend with.  But still…

Maybe there’s no sanity.  Maybe we just all band together and be real.  Maybe the only people who care so much about how cluttered the house really is, is us. Oh, and our husbands.

I’m searching for the balance between the mama who never-stops-working-at-it-for-a-second and the one who trips over the dolls in an effort to give cough medicine in the middle of the night.  But until the sippy cups sprout feet instead of fuzzy mold like the one I found under the couch last week, and walk themselves to the dishwasher, which needs emptying of the clean dishes as I write, I'm simply stumped.

Carry on, you mamas and daddies in the trenches.  And let me know if you find some housekeeping hacks for me.  In the meantime, the struggle is real over here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Careful what you wish for

At a gathering of some women friends from my church tonight, one friend told me that her husband, who normally doesn’t eat much fast food, treated himself to a Big Mac for his birthday.  Another friend mistakenly thought she said he treated himself to a nap.  I said with a laugh, that would be a treat to me, to have everyone out of the house so I could take a long nap.  

Yet another friend at the gathering is in her 50’s and was widowed not too long ago.  When I made the comment about the nap, she put her arms around my shoulders and whispered to me, “Careful what you wish for.  I can sleep as long as I like.”  She went on to point out that the things we wish for when we’re in the middle of the busyness of raising a family, like some alone-time, seem ironic when you actually get them.  

My prayer tonight is that I can stop wishing for peace and quiet and appreciate the chaos a little more, do less photographing of my life for Instagram and more LIVING in it.  I pray that the worries, stresses and the weight of my to-do’s will fade into the background during the times my babies demand my attention. That when they say, “Hold you, Mommy,” I will realize, each time, that there will be a very last time they ask, and it won't be too far down the road. I pray that I'll remember these days won’t last forever and I have to soak them up, to hold those babies, even though I’m more than half-crazy and the house is most always a disaster.  Because one day, I’ll look back from the vantage point of my neat, quiet, empty house and span of days ahead and wish for them back.

Friday, April 18, 2014

It's Four O'clock and all is...well.. "-My Messy Beautiful"

 This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

Frustrated, aggravated, I’m struggling to accomplish something that I shouldn't bother trying to accomplish until my three are in bed for the night. I’m ignoring the pulverized Goldfish crackers on the rug under my feet, letting Bryce wander around freely with a third serving so I can try to finish an email for work. Sometimes working from home is for the birds! I check to see if it's 5:15 - time for backup to arrive - this is a two man job (at least) and Daddy seems to have fresh energy when they tackle him at the door. They’re just so glad someone’s not grouchy! I’m guilty already for not having anything at all in mind for dinner and even guiltier for the monstrous pile of laundry that seems never to shrink. The fact that the den looks like a bomb exploded, scattering toys, shoes and snacks just adds to the anxiety!

I’m trying not to yell at them, then I’m yelling at them, "HEY!! Please stop yelling!  I was ON THE PHONE!”  I know, right? Or in my angry voice with my angry face, teeth clenched, saying, "Will you please speak more KINDLY to your SISTER!"  I KNOW, right? And the not-so-magic-momma-mirror appears and I see the ugliness of my anger, and over what? Nothing, really. My own stresses that have nothing to do with them. And that little voice in my heart whispers the phrase I saw online somewhere and wrote on the notepad on the fridge, and on the post-it stuck to the computer screen, "The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice."

Then the real guilt crashes in as I think of another mother some 70 miles away in a hospital room watching her just-turned-three-year-old baby fight for his very life, praying for a transplant that will save him. 

And I think of my grandmother who lost her 62-year-old son. Even though he was a grown man with his own grandchildren, he never ceased being her baby.  And I think of my mother-in-law, who lost her 18-year-old son. Many years later, she continues to laugh and cry, live a happy life, breathing in and out, but never quite outruns the sorrow.

Then the tenderness and overwhelming realness get all tangled in sadness and an aching...ache I feel looking at my own nearly three-year-old, cherub-faced daughter. 

I gather them all up in my chair, even my growny six-year-old boy who still craves my hugs and kisses

And I look at their tiny noses and their long eyelashes and the baby's full-lipped pout, and I feel a pang of regret that I don't do this more often. That I say, “Just a minute, let me finish this and then I’ll hold you.”

And I tell them, through messy, snarfled tears, with words that can't even touch being enough that I love them so, so so much.

And I know I'll be aggravated and tired and cranky/hormonal again, probably in about 10 minutes. But in this moment, I’m just so thankful I have mind enough to be thankful for this moment.