Friday, June 29, 2012

What I Wasn’t Told About Motherhood

Or maybe I was, but I just wasn’t listening?

Nothing forces you to be selfless and yet makes you feel so selfish all at once quite like parenting does.
It’s a never-ending battle between putting your kids’ needs first (okay, little baby, I’ll get up in the middle of the night to nurse you when you cry because I’m your mama, and you need me) and fighting the urge to fulfill your own desires (how about I just shove my head under my pillow and pretend I didn’t hear that?).

I love my children deeply…almost desperately…in a way that aches because the idea of a world in which they don’t exist terrifies me.
But they make me crazy.

Sometimes I don’t want to breastfeed. Or get off the couch to go get juice. Or go to library storytime. Or listen to a crying baby without also crying.
Sometimes I just want to be alone with my thoughts. I want to relax – truly relax, without the threat of interruption.

That’s so selfish. That’s so “me-centered”. And yeah, I know it’s okay to put your own needs first sometimes, that it’s healthy to take a break from the kids – yet I can’t help but feel super crappy when I want time to myself, especially considering that being a mother is a calling that I’m thrilled to have.
Blue Eyes Baby Doll

I’ve always known that I’m a type of person who needs alone time. I have to recharge by just being by myself for a bit, but the time for that is rare when you’ve got little ones. I’m learning to recharge quickly. I’m learning that mommies have to recharge for the sake of their babies.

As I’ve said before, I love the sweetness in a baby's dependency. I know that one day I’ll be sad when my little ones don’t need me as much, yet I so look forward to them getting older and reaching certain milestones…because with their independence comes my liberation. Things will get a little easier.

Life isn’t easy, though, and the things that matter most are often the hardest, if you take them seriously enough. Parenting is something that I take very seriously – to the point that my perfectionism often rears its ugly head. I know I can’t be a perfect parent. There’s no such thing in the human realm. I just don’t want to be a selfish parent. I’ve seen what that looks like, and I want no part of it.
Sweet Siblings
So I forge ahead in this journey, learning each day how to be the mother I want to be and the woman I need to be. A selfless nurturer who also nurtures her self.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Memory Making - A Guest Post

Today I've got a guest post over at Crafty Crunchy Spicy about making the most of these early days with the kids while fighting those occasional feelings of inadequacy that we mamas can get. Check It Out!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Life Lately

Life has been a little crazy around here lately.

I know; everyone says that too often. How are you? Oh, it’s been crazy.

But seriously – it’s been crazy.

When we went on vacation last month to visit family, everyone commented on how good-natured Abram was, how he was just so pleasant of a baby.

Little faker.

I think he’s going through a separation anxiety phase. I never dealt with that with my independent little girl, so I’m just not used to having a seven-month-old who’s this fussy. He’s also still waking 2-3 times a night, but Hannah did the same at this age, and I’ve accepted that I just don’t have children who sleep through the night. At least he’s generally easy to get back to sleep.

Hannah has been attempting to give up naps lately, which I attribute to me finally getting brave and taking the “sucky” away just before we left for vacation. Sometimes, however, I can still get her to comply. Right now she’s peacefully snoozing away in our bed (I put her there so she wouldn’t disturb her brother’s nap), but I optimistically didn’t put a pull-up on her. I just checked – looks like I’ll be changing sheets soon.

As for me, I’ve been lacking in the motivation department and feeling like I can’t keep up with everything. Our vacation made me realize how nice it would be to have more of a family unit around. I’d love to have more time alone with my husband, more time to myself, and just more time to take care of things without squawking and shrieking in the background.
But, you know, if that’s the worst of my problems – I’ve got it pretty good. So I just try to maintain that perspective. I’ll admit, though – Abram’s not the only one who has had a couple of mini meltdowns.

Gotta love 'em, though.

Babies driving mama crazy

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Judge Me Or Love Me

“Are you going to watch your little girl?”

We’d been traveling for about twelve hours and had just checked into a hotel for the night. We were road weary and wanting to get settled in before the baby got too far past his bedtime. After bringing most of our luggage up to our room, Clint stayed with Abram while Hannah and I went back to the car to grab a couple more things.

I pulled a bag out of the trunk and set it down. I needed to get something from the front of the car, so I told Hannah to follow me and made my way around to the passenger side.

I had just poked my head into the front seat when I heard a startling HONK! I stood up and saw a large truck idling in the parking lot, right behind our car. A man and woman glared at me from inside the cab.

“Are you going to watch your little girl?” The man angrily spat at me.

I furrowed my brow in confusion, which quickly grew to anger as the meaning of the words sunk in. Hannah stood three feet from me, gripping the side of the car and looking as confused as I was.

The couple continued to glare at me with the same look of disgust, as though they had just witnessed me trying to shove my child into the back of the trunk, or something far more sinister.

I have since thought of many wonderful things I could have said back to them, but I didn’t say a word. I simply took Hannah’s hand and went back to gathering our belongings from the car. They drove off, no doubt congratulating each other for not being as negligent and senseless of a parent as I was. Inside I was furious, but I chatted cheerfully with Hannah, determined to be the parent I know I am and show Hannah how to handle such matters with grace.

The words stung. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I actually started to question myself. I hated feeling as though I’d just been labeled as an unfit parent, even if it was by people I didn’t even know and will likely never see again.
I know I’m a damn good mother. That’s why I sincerely never thought I’d be on the receiving end of a look like that. But that’s because I tend to underestimate the power of self-righteous indignation.

We all do it. We all pass judgment, probably on a daily basis, and we feel justified for it because we know that others do it to us. I think many of us live by the “do unto others” rule and keep our snark to ourselves, but I think perhaps we need to reach a little deeper.
Why can’t we speak to each other out of love? Why can’t we extend some grace in those vital moments?

If the man had truly been concerned, he could’ve simply said, “Hey, just making sure you’ve got your eye on her” and chosen a route of compassion. He’d obviously misread the situation. He’d pulled around the corner at just the right moment to make an uninformed and rash judgment on a tired mama who protects her babies far better than he’ll ever know.
I know what he thinks of me doesn’t matter, but his mistake did teach me something. How many mistakes like that have I made? How many times have I spoken too harshly when I could have responded in love? When have I glared when I should have smiled?

That mom with the unruly kids in the grocery store. That driver who cuts us off in traffic. That angry customer on the other end of the telephone.
The truth is we could all use some compassion and kindness in our lives. Especially the strangers whose paths only cross ours for a moment. We only get one brief chance to love them.

Today's post is a linkup with Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Successful Road Trip {Yes, Even With Kids!}

We did it. A total of around 42 hours roundtrip after all was said and done, not including little trips while we were at our destinations.
Road Trip With Children
That is a lot of time in the car.
That’s a lot of time for an adult, but for a six-month-old? That’s, like, ten percent of his life!
(Okay, it’s more like one percent or something, but that’s still a lot.)

Good news for all of you parents who will face travels like this at some point – it went quite well. It was not without its moments. Squawking, crankiness, exhaustion…but it truly is manageable. Here are my tips for survival:  
Be prepared, but keep it simple. Make lists to help you figure out what you’ll need, but consider space. You don’t want to feel claustrophobic, especially if you’re traveling in a little car.

Possible Scenario: You finish packing and think you’ve got your bases covered and luggage scaled down to a manageable amount. You mentally high five yourself. Then your husband informs you that he’s bringing his giant emergency survival backpack for show and tell. You’ll be glad you kept the travel items to a minimum.

Be flexible. Accept that stops will be more frequent and last longer. Before children my husband and I would make great time on road trips by keeping our stops short. But trust me, everyone will be much happier if they can spend some extra time out of the car – even a baby who’s not very mobile yet.
Possible Scenario: You’ve enjoyed scarfed down your Chick-Fil-A sandwich, let your oldest expend some energy in the play area, nursed the baby, and completed potty runs. Just as you get ready to leave, the oldest decides she needs to poop (and already has a little). You will be glad you are going with the flow and not on a strict time schedule.

Consider investing in an iPad or other fun-filled device. I’m all for encouraging your child to read and be creative and not relying on electronics for entertainment, but when you spend that much time with a mobility-limited child, you will be glad you weren’t too strictly opposed to technology. Plus it reduces the amount of entertainment you need to bring, which means less clutter in the car!
Possible Scenario: Your child actually enjoys the road trip with minimal complaints. Your only tradeoff is having the dialogue from Toy Story memorized after hearing it played from the backseat 18 times. At least it’s not Spongebob.

Trust yourself to know your child’s needs, and do what works for your family. Some parents swear by traveling overnight so their children will simply sleep. Others – like us – may have a baby who wants (and needs) his bed for nighttime sleep. Don’t make matters more stressful by following advice that goes against your instincts. (That applies to a lot of parenting issues, doesn’t it?)
Possible Scenario: You’re nearing the end of the first day of driving and things have gone better than expected. You think, “Hey, maybe we can make it a little further than we planned. It’s just one more hour to the next town.” Right on cue little bubs begins a full-on screamfest, and as you try everything imaginable to calm him – from rolling down windows to singing horribly off-key lullabies – you seek your inner ‘happy place’ and wonder if perhaps it actually would have been better to stop an hour earlier than planned.

Don’t let your guard down. Remember that your preparedness should not end once you reach your destination. Be ready for the unexpected, at all times.
Possible Scenario: Your two-year-old eats too much fruit one night and gets the travel trots the next day. At church. Before making it to the potty. You will be relieved that you remembered the extra clothes.

And finally, remember that your goal is to have fun! All of the packing, organizing, and facilitating can get a little stressful.  As you embark on the trip back home, you may find yourself asking, “Did I really have fun?”
Then you’ll get home and start browsing through your photos and realize that you did. You totally did.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Settler and the Reacher

Clint and I aren’t big TV watchers (other than Lost and The Walking Dead, because we’re major nerds), but we do enjoy occasional reruns of How I Met Your Mother.

And while I certainly wouldn’t say that television is where we get our relationship tips, it does provide us with some interesting discussion topics. On one episode of HIMYM, it was said that in every relationship there is a “settler” and a “reacher” – one who “settles” for a lesser partner and one who “reaches” for someone smarter, better looking, funnier, or whatnot. So then of course we discussed our relationship roles, and Clint – sweet boy that he is – insisted that he was the reacher.
I guess the fact that he feels this way is a good thing for me, but it’s just not the case. The truth is we are quite evenly matched. That’s why we’ve been married for eight years today, and that’s why we are completely committed to putting up with each other for eighty more years. However long it takes.

He is a green, and I am a blue. He is logical. Analytical. I am poetic and sensitive. 
He has the patience that I don’t have and most likely never will.

He may never have the tact that I would prefer, but I’ve taught him how to be softer with his words. He has taught me how to be more assertive and confident with mine.
I have accepted that he will always leave trails of dirty clothes in the bedroom and beard shavings around the sink. He has accepted that I will never properly organize the linen closet or manage to keep the countertops free of clutter.

He loves my cooking, my pale skin, and my propensity to laugh at everything. I love his singing, his dark hair, and his goofy sense of humor.
He’s my strength when I’m weak, and I’m his support when he’s discouraged.

He drives me crazy one day and surprises me the next. And I probably do the same for him.
We’re definitely both reachers. We’ve always known that we never wanted to settle for a marriage that wasn’t great. We’re reaching for a life together that’s full of love and meaning .

Maybe relationships work best when both partners believe they are the reachers. Or at least if both behave as though they are the reachers, by always believing the other is a treasure whose value cannot be measured.    
As long as we can still love each other even when we don’t deserve it, as long as we’re always trying to out-give each other, as long as we’re together while we’re weathering the storms and embracing the joys… we’ll never have to settle.