Being Stuck (I think I’ve used that title before…)

Some days, I get stuck.

When I say “stuck” what I mean is, I have 1,001 things I want to do…never mind the things that I HAVE to do…and yet, I could sit on the couch and do AB.SO.LUTE.LY. NOTHING.

And while I think that having “down” time is good for the soul, being “stuck” is different.

When you’re stuck, you know that you have the space and time and breathing room for reading that book you’ve got set aside, for indulging in your guilty pleasure of Netflix binge-watching, or taking a mindless trip to Target or TJ Maxx…but even getting started seems like so much effort.

Maybe none of you can even relate to this.

But I have a few different theories floating around in my head as to why I get “stuck”.

I’ve mentioned before that I struggle with depression. I have more sunny days these days than I definitely used to, but every now and then, I get overwhelmed and…just sorta…stop.

So maybe it’s as simple as “I’m in a funk”.

Maybe it’s just a hormonal thing.

Or maybe…it’s fear. Or perfectionism.

Or both.

Allow me to expound…

Before I had my first child, I had an image in my head of exactly how things were going to be…

…And they did NOT go that way.

Which is okay…I mean, it’s okay NOW. I’ve accepted and adjusted…to the idea that my Utopia in parenting and motherhood does not exist in this realm.

But my idea of Perfection in Parenting followed all the “guidelines” given out by the professionals…

And so where I used to have the TV on a lot and I had “my shows” that I loved (I still miss you Monica, Chandler, Joey, Phoebe, Rachel and Ross…and those fews seasons that Marcel the monkey was on…), I stopped having the TV on so much. And I didn’t have shows that I watched anymore… I was too focused on raising this baby that I had by the “rules”…and somewhere in those “rules”, I thought that meant that I had to wipe out all the “fun” in my new mommy life.

I remember that I was reading The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks the week that I (finally) went into labor with McKenna.

…She’s 9. I STILL have not finished that book…

I stopped buying things for me. I bought things for the baby.

I used to bake. A lot. And that came and went in spurts until the third baby was born.

And then, even if I had wanted to resume the world of the culturally relevant, I didn’t have the time anymore.

Somewhere in between the years of 2005 and 2013…I forgot what I liked. I forgot what I enjoyed doing, reading, watching.

Slowly, as the babies got older and one by one they trotted off to school, I realized that even though time was slowly creeping back into my life in minute little increments, I had completely forgotten what I enjoyed doing anymore.

The old expression “I lost myself” seems so cliche…

…But sometimes cliche is “on the money”. (See what I did there?)

At any rate, because I’m still discovering and re-learning what I enjoy doing, I think that I get “stuck”. I’m almost overwhelmed with the choices that I have…

It’s been almost a decade, and this is sort of a new phase of life for me…the kids are more independent…so sadness and complete elation are a mixed bag of emotions that I carry around these days.

But, just like moving into any new stage in life, there is some time needed to find your footing. My transition into motherhood was tough, the transition into adding each new baby had its own period of adjustment.

And now, with only mere months separating my youngest from Kindergarten, I’m in sort of a “life crisis”…my role as 24-7 caregiver is coming to an end…and there’s a need to find a purpose and new things that I enjoy.

I sat most of the day, like a slug, with a stack of books in front of me, an available laptop on the ottoman, and three unoccupied TVs in my house.

Finally, I did what anyone has to do to get “unstuck”…just start moving.

So I moved.

And that simple task, that simple act of moving to do SOMETHING, motivates you to move and do and find yourself more and more and more.

Now that I have moved, it’s time for me to get out of the house by myself for a bit today while Stephen is here to watch the kiddos.

…Because while I love the movie Frozen, the middle child has just hit play on it for the FOURTH time.

I’m all for movie-quoting and Disney and musicals and all that…but if I’ve discovered anything while “re-discovering” myself it is that repetitively watching ANYTHING without a break, is NOT what I’m made for.

It’s, um, time to “Let It Go”…

Bad puns, though? Yeah…I’m all over that.

 

I Hate Mornings (and the truth behind my Facebook post)

FACT: I am NOT a morning person.

 

OPINION: You can BECOME a morning person.

 

I have never, EVER been a morning person. I don’t really start to function until 9:00. Until that point, I’m really just going through robotic motions and can not make decisions, recall information, or hold a reasonably coherent conversation.

I do, however, realize that most of society does not function this way. There are jobs to wake up for, school to go to, and all that good stuff. So while I’d rather be snoozing in, I wake up at 6:00 with the alarm and prep the kids for school.

The simple fact that I DO NOT like mornings is one of the many reasons I do not homeschool. Without someone holding me accountable and there being definite consequences for starting school on time, I am just going to stagger out of bed around 8:30 like some college kid with a hangover growling at everyone else who is already awake to be quiet and get out of my way. We would never, ever get anything done.

Like, ever.

I had a job once. (Well, I’ve had several “jobs”…but I had a “career” at one time) as a teacher. Now, you have to actually SHOW UP for work and be ON TIME and ready to go every day when you are a teacher employed with a school system.

I had an interesting ritual that I followed every morning…and I only overslept ONCE during my incredible 7 year span as an educator. (Little sarcasm there….since that 7 years didn’t even TOUCH what I spent in student loans getting the degree I needed to pay OFF the student loans, but whatever…)

Every morning, the alarm went off at 5:30. I would get up, take a shower, and then reset my alarm and crawl back into bed for 30 minutes. Cognitively speaking, I knew I WASN’T cheating the clock, but it FELT like I was…and when it comes to mornings and my ability to function as a member of society, FEELINGS MATTER.

When I got married, and Stephen discovered this little ritual I had perfected, he was mortified.

“Why ON EARTH would anyone DO THIS?!”

I had no explanation. I just know it worked for me.

Well, five years into my teaching career, a baby arrived…and well, that kind of jacked up my sleeping. I started a new plan that involved nursing a baby or prepping a toddler for childcare drop-off, and I think that may have been the beginning of my sleep deficit.

My oldest is 9 now…so, I’ve been behind on my sleep for almost a decade.

I am by nature, a night owl.

But you mix night owl with three kids and school and homework and housework and meetings and just a normal standard of living, and you end up with one tired, dark-circle eyed woman.

For years, decades even, I thought that I HAD to start my day with the chickens. Get up before anyone else (there has, by the way, never been a time when, as a mom, I’ve planned to do that that someone else hasn’t woken up first with pee pee pants, the need to watch TV or to crack open a box of Cocoa Puffs and a new gallon of milk by themselves.) This is like, I don’t know, the DUMBEST advice that I feel like you can give to a mom of small children.

But I digress.

I was under the impression that you need to spend your “quiet time” or “devotional time” or “personal time” or “prayer time”…whatever you want to call it…first thing in the morning.

May I be honest here?

EVERY.TIME. I have tried to do that, I have fallen asleep and my journal that I was going to fill with heartfelt ponderings and prayers was instead scribbled up with random lines of a ballpoint pen where I had fallen asleep during that “quiet time”.

I even tried this again this morning. And I’m not ashamed to tell you…I have no idea what I read. So I came home after dropping off the wee one at preschool and read it again. Made so much more sense…and I EVEN UNDERLINED STUFF.  I know, I know. Amazing, right?

I have even googled “how to be a morning person”. And I suppose that you CAN train yourself to be one…Stephen says you can. But he is, by nature, a morning person.

He even sings and whistles while he’s walking around the house.

And I have to control the urge to not throw my coffee cup at him.

At any rate, I feel like the phrase “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” comes into serious play here.

I am VERY near 40. I have birthed three babies, all who have kept odd hours, and I’ve held down responsible jobs that required me to be at work before 8 a.m., and I am here to say…I will NEVER be a morning person.

I’ve quit trying, quite honestly.

I just don’t think clearly. In fact, the very first thought that runs through my head when that weekday alarm goes off is…How many hours until bedtime? Or until I can at least squeeze in a ten minute nap while the kids soak up some mind-numbing television? (Don’t judge. Remember…I’m working off 10 years of “sleep debt”…)

I think that, just like some of us are wired as introverts and some of us as extroverts and some of us some weird hybrid of the two, we’re either wired for morning or evening productivity. Maybe, biologically and physiologically speaking, I’m wrong. I only have my near 40 years existence to go by, so I could be just looking for a way to validate my own feelings of inadequacy when it comes to not being capable of meaningful human interaction…or functioning…before 9:00 a.m.

I recently read an article that said creative people “work the hours that work for them”.  So I’m going to claim myself as a creative…

That way, a RESEARCHED ARTICLE (I think) has given me PERMISSION to not have to try and be like Ma Ingalls and get up at the crack of dawn, complete 15 household chores or administrative tasks, and have a soul-awakening spiritual experience by the time the pitter patter of my precious angels hit the floor.

The pressure to fit the mold of what a responsible Christian American woman looks like can turn me into an angry, stressed out, grump.

So…I’m just going to embrace my non-morning side, find schedules that work for me and my family…and try to get more sleep.

Just this morning, I posted on Facebook about how my girls went to school without jackets even though it was cool out…

Sent the girls to school without jackets. It’s 51 degrees right now…
They keep losing/forgetting/trading them for candy…I don’t know what they’re doing with them…but maybe they’ll remember to bring one home and keep up with it if they have to be a little chilly right now.

Btw, it’s going to be 77 later, so I’m not a cruel monster mom. Just a mom who’s tired of asking “Where’s your jacket?”

One day, I’m gonna send McKenna in without her shoes…

I received some very kind comments on what a good parenting decision this was.

Truth be told, it wasn’t about parenting or teaching them a lesson.  I was just too freaking tired to look for those jackets.  I had no idea where they left them, and if it didn’t bother them to be cold, I decided it wasn’t going to bother me either. Besides, Jack was still asleep and if I shooed them out the door fast enough, I MIGHT get to go back to bed for a few minutes before the boy woke up.

Looking for jackets steals sleep, y’all. And I don’t play around if there’s a chance of extra minutes of snoozing.

Now…if you’ll excuse me…I’m going to try and squeeze in a nap before I have to pick up the kids from school…

 

The Shaming Selfie (Brave part 2)

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.

–Dr. Brene Brown

I just spent two hours composing a post.

And I just deleted it all.

Because it was too safe. It wasn’t even MY story.

It was bits and pieces from other blogs and books and stories from other people.

When I started this blog several years ago, I wrote regularly. It was an outlet and I enjoyed it…and it was easy.

I wasn’t trying to “protect an image”…I think that I stayed underneath some safe layers at times. But I wrote freely…

Sometime within the last few years, I stopped writing regularly. It was sporadic postings at first, but then the time between posts became longer and longer.

Writing wasn’t easy anymore. It took work…and I had to carefully craft sentences so that they wouldn’t come across as “snarky” or “offensive”. I had to make my stories all reflect some positive Gospel laden message where I could throw in a nice scripture at the end and tie it up and present it neatly as my “offering”.

It was not until I had lunch with a new friend last week, that I realized what had happened.

It started with just a couple of criticisms.

You really shouldn’t be posting statements like that.

Please bear in mind that my writings are my honest words…so when I received the message that what I was posting was off-putting or “someone could take it the wrong way”, it cut deep.

I began to believe somewhere in my subconscious that I was making a fool of myself with the things that I was writing. Obviously, there were at least a handful of people who thought that…or else they wouldn’t have taken the time to let me know it.

 It was shaming and it hurt. 

I shut down. I stopped writing because I couldn’t pretend that everything ended neatly or that I could point to some God-ordained reason that everything happened.

I felt like I couldn’t really be who I was anymore because I was being judged by a standard that I was unclear as to what the rules were. I was so focused on how this post, this tweet, this Facebook status would come across that I felt like I had to qualify every statement I made so that no one could bring it under the microscope of scrutiny.

I received “helpful suggestions” on how I could be a better parent, a better wife…how I shouldn’t read “that” book or listen to “that” music.

Who I was as a person had to be veiled and shrouded in “happy Annette” who could always find a way to make the story end with a spiritual lesson.

Some of it was self-imposed, for sure. I was so focused on how others would see me, that somewhere I lost myself.

To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself—

means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight—-and never stop fighting.

–e.e. cummings

Even now while I’m sitting here composing this post, I’m stuck. How do I get to the point I’m trying to make? How to move forward to what I want to say next?

How long will it take before I can move past that feeling of wanting to shut down and keep silent about things because it doesn’t sound beautiful enough or poetic enough or smart enough?

When you are stuck in a place that you don’t want to be, how do you move forward to the place that you know you NEED to be?

I guess, maybe, you just…move.

Or speak.

So I’ll say this… I thought that I would be bold. And take a picture of the slouchy, real, no-makeup me. (I had no idea at the time that I took the picture that the Today show was gearing up to do No Makeup Monday yesterday. I’m so ahead of my time.)

I enlisted my daughter’s help to take my picture. I was smiling from ear to ear…because I thought for sure that I was going to take an “after” picture that would trump the “before” into oblivion. I was going to make a point about how we are all hiding our real selves and that we can all make ourselves appear so much more perfect for others…when maybe all we really want is for someone to be freaking REAL around us.

(This is not a lecture against make-up or flat-irons and hair dryers. Lord knows I love ‘em. I was just going to be all object-lessony about “Look at how much work we do to hide behind the mess of who we are.”)

Well. It all backfired. So very badly.

When I finally did my hair and makeup and put on what I thought was a cute outfit, I had her retake the picture. Dang…I was so smug!

Until I actually SAW the picture.

I hated it. I hated how I looked. I hated how the lumps and bumps showed through my clothes… I knew I had gained weight. I knew I had gained more than I wanted to. But looking at that picture made me so ashamed.

Had people seen me out in public like this? Have I been walking around looking like a whale who’s nearing 40 that thinks she can still shop in the “teen” section?

I wanted to crawl in a hole (a large hole) and die.

What I did instead was I let the shame of how I felt about my body image turn me into an anger-filled monster. I was snappy with my kids for the rest of the day. I lost all motivation to do just about anything. I was just a shame-filled, ugly-feeling sour puss.

It was a nasty day.

And now, I’m sharing it with you. I don’t have a resolution to it either.

I’m not going to tell you that my son told me I was beautiful and that made everything turn to sunshine and roses.

I can’t say that (insert best southern church lady voice) “I just realized that it was what was on the inside that made me beautiful, y’all. Not the outward appearance.”

Because trust me, the inside was looking so hot that day either. I was a crabby lady ready to go for the throat on anyone who crossed me.

I’m simply sharing it for two very real reasons…

One…it’s my truth. It is my experience. If I can speak my shame out loud, perhaps the power is somehow diminished. I don’t know…I’m still learning.

And two, if I can speak it out loud (or type it…whatever), then I’m willing to bet that someone out there can identify with the feelings that I felt. And you will know you’re not alone in thinking things like I did….

I CAN’T BELIEVE I’VE GONE OUT LOOKING LIKE THIS.

I’M THE FATTEST ONE OF ALL MY FRIENDS.

I BET THAT WHEN PEOPLE SEE ME EATING DESSERT THEY THINK, “Wow. Get a clue, lady.”

I NEVER THOUGHT I’D WEAR THIS SIZE.

I NEVER WANT TO LOOK IN A MIRROR AGAIN.

That’s all real crap, right there people. And it kind of sucks to put it out there like that, but maybe…oh, this may be a shot in the dark…but MAYBE…through being vulnerable, I can be authentic, and that authenticity can lead to empathy. And perhaps the courage to share brings about the compassion to show the empathy which is the antidote to shame. And maybe you can feel free to say, you know what…me too.

Or maybe it’s not your weight, maybe it’s your hair or your wrinkles or your scars. And maybe somewhere in that process of sharing and connecting and saying, “Oh my gah! Me too!” we can create those relationships that are real and honest and more than surface stuff but become the “heart” stuff that deals with the “hard” stuff…

And we can laugh and/or cry about it over a big ole hot fudge sundae.

And P.S. I’m posting this without proofreading because I don’t want to second guess any of the honesty and truth that I have spilled. However, I can’t stand misspelled words, improper grammar, or misuse of commas… so if I read it later and I find that kind of stuff…well, I’m gonna have to edit it. Note: use of ellipses (…) will never, ever be corrected in anything I write ever because it is my favorite use of punctuation…

BRAVE (part one)

…And since your history of silence won’t do you any good…

Did you think it would?

LET YOUR WORDS BE ANYTHING BUT EMPTY

WHY DON’T YOU TELL THEM THE TRUTH???

And say what you wanna say

And let the words fall out

Honestly, I wanna see you be brave

To say what you wanna say…

Brave, Sara Bareilles

 

I don’t even know where to start.

So…I’ll say this…what I’m about to write about is going to be TOO.MUCH for one simple blog post…this could require multiple postings…and I don’t know how many and I don’t know if anyone will even read this (Hi Melissa and Shari and Jill and Whitney and Terri:), but as I am processing these things, as I am exploring and discovering and bringing to light things that have been hidden in the dark, I’ll continue writing. Even if it’s for my own therapy.

Two recurring themes have been dancing around me for awhile now.

VULNERABILITY

BRAVE

What follows will be unedited and raw…and I think that’s just what it needs to be. I’ve prayed for days that God would grace me with untangled thoughts and ideas that were anything but the disjointed mess flowing through my heart, but as I sat in church yesterday, I think I caught a glimpse of why I haven’t felt a clear starting point.

It is because that is exactly what I needed to share.

THAT I HAVE NO CLEAR STARTING POINT. THAT MY LIFE IS NOT A SERIES OF PERFECT CHAPTERS AND PHRASES AND ALL ENDS TIED NEATLY WITH RIBBONS AND BOWS.

The honesty…the VULNERABILITY to BE HONEST…comes in saying…I have no idea what I’m doing. ALL I KNOW IS THIS….

THERE IS NO NEED FOR ME TO HIDE BEHIND A FACADE.

THERE IS NO REASON THAT WE CANNOT SHARE OUR STORIES AND OUR HURTS OUTLOUD.

Not in an attempt to look for sympathy, but in a courageous effort to say…Good night. I have been HURT. I HAVE BEEN WOUNDED. I HAVE DOUBTS and I HAVE DREAMS and I FEEL LONELY AS HELL.

And I say words like “hell” and “damn”…and we can all play “nice Christian” and keep them out of our vocabulary if that is something that you find offensive…but there’s really no reason for me to pretend anymore that I DON’T say those kinds of things.

For a long time, my entire life basically, I have tried to hide beneath safe layers of what would be acceptable to others. There’s no need to start thinking I’m hiding bodies in my basement or even skeletons in my closet, but I have lived a life of silence.

Saying only what would be considered the “right” things or the “good” things. And thinking that somehow, that “not quite” polished exterior was what would keep me being “enough” in the eyes of the world.

It wasn’t even that I wanted to appear as some perfect version of who “Annette” really is….I just wanted to blend in and be like everyone else. I wanted to be like the pictures of the girls on Facebook with their friends in a coffee shop with their arms around each other and some caption that read something like, “So blessed to share life with these ladies!”

I say that with a side of snark, because we all know…Lord help us, WE ALL KNOW, that when we post that picture what we are in effect saying is, “I feel good about myself here and my hair looks great and I am rocking those boots. And my girlfriends…Y’all!! I have girlfriends!!

Oh…and we are all looking chic with our Starbucks paper cup.”

Can I be honest? Sometimes…I just don’t even want to carry my Starbucks paper cup in public…and I do like I good white chocolate mocha…but it seems so damn cliche that I find myself repulsed by the fact that I have one.

But please….don’t call me a hypocrite if you ever see me with one because I can’t pretend that I’m so self-righteous that I DON’T BUY expensive coffee or that I’m so cutting edge that I carry around my own reusable mug to pour my coffee in so I can make a “statement”…Lord knows that I don’t have time for the mess.

Just know that, inside, I am dying a little at the loss of individuality I have just suffered.

DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE A PLASTIC BAG

DRIFTING IN THE WIND

WANTING TO START AGAIN?

DO YOU EVER FEEL…

FEEL SO PAPER THIN…

LIKE A HOUSE OF CARDS

ONE BLOW FROM CAVING IN?

DO YOU EVER FEEL ALREADY BURIED DEEP?

SIX FEET UNDER SCREAMS AND NO ONE SEEMS TO HEAR A THING?

 –Firework, Katy Perry

RIGHT. THERE. In the lyrics to that song, Katy Perry has captured EXACTLY HOW I FEEL a great deal of the time.

We have to be able to tell our story. We have to be able to OWN that story. And we have to love ourselves through it.

There is a remarkable researcher/sociologist, Dr. Brene Brown, whose work I have recently become fascinated with. She has spent years and years researching the need for human connection and the relationship between shame, worthiness, and vulnerability. In fact, I posted one of her TED talks on my Facebook page a few days ago.

If you haven’t seen it, really…you should take 20 minutes and watch it.

It. Is. FASCINATING.

At the beginning of one of her books, she says this…

OWNING OUR STORY AND LOVING OURSELVES THROUGH THAT PROCESS IS THE BRAVEST THING WE WILL EVER DO.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

Now…personally speaking…one of the things that I have to be careful with is this…telling MY story, and not someone else’s.

The story of my past several years that has really led me to the place that, I’m going to be honest, just this past week, that I have discovered…well, it intertwines with quite a few other peoples stories.

My husband has a story. My kids (especially my oldest) has a story. And my story involves people who have let me down and disappointed me and hurt me and walked out the back door when I needed someone to come in the front and sit with me in my mess and cry with me and love me through it.

But those stories are not my stories to tell.

So there is a dance…a fine line…where we reveal our truth and our story, but we must not throw others under the bus or share things that they are not yet ready to share.

I’ll end today’s blog with this…

A year and some odd months ago, my family’s world was turned upside down. And it appeared to those on the outside, I suppose, that we were fine and we were okay and…the belief seemed to circulate that we were making a big deal out of a small situation.

But it was a situation that HURT LIKE HELL.

The short version that I can give is this…

Within about 6 weeks time, we lost our “community”, our purpose, and we were…as a family…utterly and completely alone. And we lost part of our income.

And then…my grandmother passed away.

A week and a half later, Stephen’s grandmother passed away.

And a week after that, we took another financial hit when the owners of the shop Stephen worked at needed to cut his salary…by 20%…in order to make their budget come anywhere close to balancing.

It wasn’t personal. It was business.

But thrown on top of the already devastating circumstances we were facing, it was enough to send Stephen and I headlong into a season of depression during a winter that seemed to never end.

There is light to this story, however. And we’ll get there eventually. But…I cannot relate a life of rainbows and unicorns without telling you the truth… and that is that we were facing down demons and dragons and every sort of horrible insecurity that could rear its ugly head.

If you have not read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, do yourself a favor and get your hands on a copy.

In short, she talks about how in giving thanks…in the eucharisteo…there is joy.

…as long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible. JOY IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE.

I’m going to share with you…in my honesty and vulnerability and attempt to “let the words fall out” and “be brave”…an excerpt from my journal just a few days ago. The day that I finally was able to give THANKS….true soul-changing thanks….for that long season that seemed an endless nightmare.

 

It was during the dark depression of last winter—in losing community and family and physical provision—that I REFUSED to give thanks.

I was steeped in a hurt boiling over in bitterness and anger.

I would let the anger toward humans overtake me…until it turned into anger at God.

There was no thankfulness.

There was only, “What in the HELL are YOU DOING?!”

And while God allows us a season of that, where even an angry prayer is still a prayer…at some point, at some stillness in the chaos of our souls, we begin to heal. And as we are healing, as the darkness is replaced with hope, we can begin to give thanks for the wounds that ultimately bring us clarity.

Ann Voskamp says this, “OUR WORLDS REEL UNTIL WE REJOICE. A SONG OF THANKS STEADIES EVERYTHING.”

There is more. More to my story. More to my vulnerability.

Until then…as Mrs. Voskamp would say,

DANCE BRAVE AND UNAFRAID…

 

 

 

 

Add Another One to the “Greatest Hits Collection”

Man. They’re “totes adorbs”, right? Cute little buncha boogers. (Btw, the hubs took this pic. He’s like, UBER talented.)

This picture was taken today…but let me let you all in on a little secret…

Today was the kind of parenting day that sucked.

But I suppose that you need that kind of day every once in awhile to remind you that, really, most of the other days aren’t always that bad.

Also, it drove me as sort of a therapy for myself to post on my blog after a two month hiatus, so maybe there’s THAT silver lining.

Unless of course I get some rude comment about what a crappy mom I am from some lady in Norway.

No really. That happened once. I posted about how my kids are more “snack eaters”, and somehow this lady found my blog and wrote me a nice little note about how if I were a better mother and would actually sit down to eat with my children, then they would become better eaters themselves.

Thanks, Mrs. Norway…but as Kelly Clarkson once said, “You don’t know a thing about me!”

Total aside: Am I the only mom who wants to start singing that out to the judgmental busybodies when one of my kids has some sort of freak meltdown in public? Ugh…I feel like I need to pop that song up on my Spotify now just to get out my angst for the day.

But back to the case at hand…crappy parenting day. Or maybe just crappy kid day. Yeah…that sounds better to me at the moment.

I know that during this “month of thankfulness”, I should be posting about what blessings I have in my children, how they brighten up my life, and how they are my heart and soul…and how I’m “feeling blessed” and that the angels are smiling down on me and singing the Hallelujah chorus.

But today wasn’t that kind of day, y’all.

Today was the, “For flippin’ real. This day needs to be OVER. Bedtime should be at 5:00, and I need to shut myself in my closet with lots of chocolate and have a good cry” kind of day.

I have three amazing kids. Really, these kids ARE amazing…they are smart and talented…and people, the wit that flows through this house is beyond compare. (I know, they’re mine. I’m SUPPOSED to brag on them. But…take to heart that I am also griping about them in the same blog post.)

And so with all that wit and talent and energy and um, fiery passion for, Oh. My. Word., EVERYTHING…yes, with all that comes some of the most amazing meltdowns I have ever seen.

And Lord help me, I can have a meltdown just as good as they can when they’ve gotten all jacked up about something.

We have referred to some of their more, oh…how can I put this, “lively” moments as their “Greatest Hits”. Oh yes…Stephen and I remember them all well.

“Remember ‘The Sleepover Incident Where She Swung From a Tree In Our Friend’s Yard Screaming Like A Maniac’”?

“Or the classic ‘I’m Having a Night Terror in A Hotel Room and Hotel Management is Now Knocking On Our Door Asking What Is Going On.’”

“And the all-time hit, “I Just Lost It At Walmart Cause I Have to Leave the Power Wheels and Also, I’m Gonna Lose My Lovey While I Throw This Fit. Oh and P.S. Mom’s Outta Town…So Dad, This Crap Is All On You Tonight.’”

Yes, yes. We have had some mighty good ones. And today, we added one more hit to the collection. I won’t tell you whose “volume” this goes on…but I will say, it lasted THE. WHOLE. ENTIRE. DAY.

So…I’m toast. I’m done.

They went to sleep…and I left the dishes in the sink. The laundry is still in the washer downstairs…and I ain’t  gettin’ up to switch it. There are 542 beads scattered all over the ottoman, crushed Townhouse crackers in the carpet, and I’m in bed and pretty much resigned to the idea that I’m not getting out of it to brush my teeth. Or maybe ever.

So here’s the wrap-up. Here’s the “take-away” from this story…

Fo reals…I LOVE my kids. That crazy Duggar family got nothing on us when it comes to really loving their kids (only, we won’t be having 19 of them…or accompanying them on every date until they get married…) My kids are GOOD kids. They all have a very strong sense of what is morally right and wrong, and they are kind and caring people. And they are hard-wired for FUN and LOUD and EPIC. 

But when you get FUN and LOUD and EPIC…you also get massive tantrums that are LOUD and EPIC. (I’m hoping one day we can look back on them and laugh and call it “fun”. I’m doubting it at the moment…because, like I said, today bit the big one.)

Oh heavens, I’m praying tomorrow is better than today. But if it’s not, and maybe even if it is, be prepared for me to tell the story of how my precious little four year old begged me to put a puzzle together, and for the life of me, I DID NOT WANT TO. It’s a tale filled with a battle of wills (mostly mine), a crappy puzzle that wouldn’t stay together, and a desperate need for a nap…for me. The four year old seemed to be fine.

I know you’re on the edge of your seat waiting for it.

Until then friends…if you don’t hear from me in the next 24 hours, it’s only because I’m hiding in my closet

 

Starbucks and some therapy

I ordered a venti.

I NEVER order a venti.

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve seen and heard auspicious rumors that the pumpkin spice drinks are back at Starbucks.

So last week, I decided to grab one while I went to sit in that torture trap known as car rider line. (It’s really not THAT bad, if you just remember that some of those mamas are just gonna wig out on anyone they see during the 2-3 p.m. hour.)

Floating into Starbucks with the knowledge that I could order JUST ONE DRINK and that would be MY drink and I didn’t need to pay for a half a dozen chocolate milks or Izze soda bottles or “strawberry shakes”, I approached the counter with timidity.

I saw no signage displaying the pumpkin beverage. I saw no hint of fall gracing their countertop.

Heck, they were still advertising the “lime hibiscus lemonade berry ancient tea extracted  from a volcano in eastern Paraguay” cooler thingies. Which are good in their own right, but I was looking for a taste of cooler weather, a nod to all things autumnal, a seasonal transition to boots and sweaters and… other things that we don’t get to experience living in coastal South Carolina.

The barista told me that on September 3rd I could return and find my beloved. Well, my beloved in beverage form. (Love you, Stevi. I promise to never replace my devotion for you with a measly, albeit wonderfully measly, beverage. :) )

Today is September 4th. I waited an extra day so as not to appear eager.

Actually it was because I kinda forgot. (I’m not THAT obsessed with this drink.)

Having downed a cup of decaf this morning in place of my regular joe, I had tried to convince myself that if I PRETENDED it was regular ole caffeinated stuff that I wouldn’t fall victim to the lethargy of a non-caffeine induced state of zombie-tosis. (I like Doc McStuffins ala Disney Channel…she makes up ridiculous ailments for her toys and gives them made-up names. Like…zombie-tosis. Only, I’m pretty sure that she doesn’t reference zombies since she’s geared for like, 4 year olds.)

My mind games with myself regarding coffee failed miserably. I put Jack in the bathtub and went across the hall and laid down on his bed…and dozed until I heard, “Mommy! Poop problem!” (Actually “poop problem” was earlier in the day, but the morning seems to kind of all blur together from 6:00 a.m. onward.)

So when I dropped the boy off at school, I headed straight to my local Starbucks. I could see the picture from the door (which is kind of amazing because I’m wearing my glasses right now because I have an ULCER  ON MY EYE!! It’s not that bad anymore…but it SOUNDS like my entire eyeball should just be falling out of my head.)

When it was my turn to order, the barista asked me what she asked everyone in front of me as she dangled the cup sizes in my face.

You sure you don’t want a venti? Only fifty cents more!”

And usually, I say no to an up-sell. Or up-sale. Or rip-off.

But this time, I caved.

Because she just sounded so dern chipper about offering me that venti. She asked me my name like she really cared. She said, “How are you today?” in a way that made me think maybe she was in school to be a therapist or a counselor.

I wanted to tell her all my problems.

“So thanks…I just felt like I needed a little extra boost of caffeine today. You see, I ran out of the regular kind of coffee at home and I had to use decaf. I thought I could mind control myself into thinking that maybe it would wake me up a bit. I get up at 6:00 everyday after I go to sleep at midnight. Got three kids in school and so after they’re in bed, I stay up packing lunches and washing their uniforms and finding their shoes that they leave in the van. And…two of them have a dentist appointment after school and I just really don’t want to go because it’s all the way in North Charleston and traffic will be crazy when we’re through and they’ll have to do their homework AND it’s a bath night, too. We do baths every other night because I just can’t handle the chaos of doing it every night…except for the little boy because he only goes to school for PART of the day and it keeps him entertained in the morning if he can play in the bathtub while I do the dishes that are still in the sink from last night’s dinner. Oh…and I also don’t want to take them because the last time I did, the middle kid got so upset that she threw up all over the dental hygienist and besides that, I know she has a cavity because she tilted her head back one night and I was all “Oh poop! That’s a cavity!” which made me instantly feel guilty because I don’t take them as often as I should to the dentist because quite honestly, I have dental-phobia and they have to prescribe me valium and my husband has to take me in if I need a cavity filled. So I thought I might need an extra dose of caffeine today anyway since I won’t be getting to bed until late because once we DO get home from the dentist, I’ll have to figure out what’s for dinner which means I’ll probably give up because it’ll be late and there will be homework and baths and so I’ll opt for a nutritious Little Caesar’s Hot n Ready pizza with that crazy bread stuff and they’ll fill up on the crazy bread and not eat the pizza which means it’ll get shoved in the fridge where it will sit until I get groceries later this week and I realize I have no space for anything because the pizza is in the way. But…once I DO get to bed tonight, I’m super-pumped because I did manage to wash the sheets AND I remembered the fabric softener this time so they’ll smell good and also because there’s an episode of Siberia on my DVR that I haven’t watched yet. Have you seen that show? Cause it’s wacked-OUT and the first time I watched it and that guy Tommy died, I thought it was real.

So….extra whip, please?”

Just for the record and to set you all at ease, I didn’t tell her any of that.

Also, I only drank a third of that humungous venti.

And to tell you the truth, it didn’t taste all that pumpkin-y…which was a little disappointing. 

And it wasn’t very orange-looking either…not like the picture anyway. And I know that it’s not “real” pumpkin that makes it orange so I should be happy that they didn’t dump fake colors in it or something.

But I think tomorrow I’ll take my pumpkin craving to Panera…where they have the most amazing pumpkin pie bagels. (I know, right?! PUMPKIN PIE BAGELS?! I die.)

That is…if I survive this dentist appointment this afternoon.

 

 

Because a little ice cream for dinner never hurt anyone…I don’t think.

This looks like an innocent picture of three kids out for ice cream.

Let me tell you what it really is…

This is a glimpse of how far I’ve come as a mother. This is the picture that I wish I could’ve sent myself back 8 years ago when my first child was born.

This is a picture of ice cream for dinner on a Saturday at 5:00 p.m.

And two of the kids are in the same clothes that they woke up in that morning. (AKA pajamas.)

Those are two scoop cones. (Well, except for the big kid. She said she didn’t need that much sugar. She’s 8…and I question whether she’s really mine with that statement, but whatever.)

Two scoop cones WITH SPRINKLES.

And we ate them outside cause the littlest kid wanted to. Even though it’s August in Charleston and they melted within two minutes.

And then I was left with this.

This is intense, y’all.

And there was a time, not really that long ago, when this literally would have almost sent me into a panic attack. “Where are the wipes?!! Oh my gosh…is that gonna stain?! We have to stop on the way home for some spray n wash!! And you can’t sit in the car seat like that!!”

But not this time. You know what we did after this?

I’m not even kidding you when I say I took them through the McDonald’s drive-thru. And we had McDonald’s Happy Meals…..for DESSERT.

And because little man was covered head to toe in ice cream, he went straight to the bath when we got home…where I sat his chicken nuggets (or pieces of plastic or styrofoam or seriously harmful toxins, depending on which of the latest FB links you’ve read) on the side of the bathtub, and said, “Here’s your dinner. Holler if you need me.”

And he was okay with that.

And here’s the kicker…I. WAS. TOO.

Before my first child was born, I read books on child rearing. I had ideals about how this whole pregnancy thing was all gonna go down. And I was seriously intent on not taking medications or drinking caffeine or sleeping on my back or lifting anything that weighed more than 5 pounds.

I did all the “right” things. Including a non-epidural birth. Which left me emotionally traumatized, and I’m not even kidding.

I had nightmares for months after that experience. And I knew right away that I was NOT going to say no to the epidural for any future deliveries.

Little side note here: If you can rock that whole “no drugs during labor bit”, I am super pumped for you. Really. It just didn’t work for me, and I’m okay with that. (Even though I spent $250 and 12 weeks on a class that told me there was no reason that I couldn’t.)

And once I brought home that 6 pound 2 ounce bundle of joy, I was armed with an arsenal of personal rules about how I would raise her to be an exceptional individual. There were certain elements of control that I was going to make sure that I wielded over the raising of my own child…and I would not go down without a fight.

I didn’t watch TV while she was awake…because I didn’t want her to be over-stimulated or grow up with TV sucking the life out of her brains.

I read to her. Not like, “Goodnight Moon” or “The Poky Little Puppy”.

No, no. I read The Chronicles of Narnia. She needed to be exposed early to good literature.

You can all stop laughing now.

I spent YEARS trying to be that “perfect” mom. If she didn’t have a matching hairbow for her outfit on Sunday morning on the way to church, we left early enough for me to stop by Target and get one that did.

Bedtime was at THIS time…and no other. Everything was fresh food and “specially made for toddlers” and the amount of shoes that child had was RIDICULOUS.

Bath nights were not to be missed. Brushing teeth began as soon as she had more than two.

And look at where I am today. Cotton candy ice cream (with sprinkles…cause that’s how amaze-balls I am) for dinner. Plastic food from an over-priced establishment for “dessert”, a boy who sat in his own french fry laden bath water, and an eight year old who asked to watch TV till she fell asleep. And I said, “Yeah. That’s fine. Cause it’s Saturday night. So…have at it.”

I wish I could send a letter back in time to my younger mommy self (slight Brad Paisley reference here…if you pick up on it, we can be BFFs). I would tell myself to have more confidence.

Oh my word. MORE CONFIDENCE in all those ridiculous mommy-moments of self-doubt where I was all, “I’m so screwing this whole thing up. My kids are being wrecked by my ineptitude as a mother. Am I saving enough money for their bail one day?”

There are just some things in life that aren’t worth stressing over.

And matching hair bows and whether or not they watched 1/2 hour more of TV that the Grand Poobah’s of Judgmental Parenting say is best and whether or not they eat an occasional meal of ice cream for dinner isn’t going to send anyone to hell or land in anyone in prison.

Just my thought.

I do try and keep reasonable limits. I buy grapes and apples and carrots and we watch Discovery channel and do our homework and read books and take baths without a dinner tray propped on the tub.

BUT I just wish that someone had told me, back in the day of my formative years of mothering, that SOME times, SOME days, heck…SOME WEEKS, are just gonna be those, “You know what? Whatever.” types of times…and that is okay.

And there will be those who will shake their heads and silently weep for my poor children and the fact that I JUST DON’T CARE if they wear shoes on the playground or that my kids have SEVERAL Disney channel shows memorized and can recite them, word for word with voice inflection, from the opening theme to the ending credits.

We are a family that lives hard. (not like, dangerously hard…I mean, there ARE limits.)

But we are full speed with…EVERYTHING. (Unless it’s getting them dressed and out the door…then we become a herd of newborn kittens, blind and stumbling over each other and never making it quite to where we need to be without one on one guidance…but that’s another story…)

I only wish that I wouldn’t have stressed so much about the dumb stuff when it comes to parenting.

Because…here’s the thing...the majority of us really are kick-butt mamas.

And we are ROCKING this mommy-thing so much better than we think we are.

Even if there’s an occasional ice cream for dinner/chicken nuggets while you’re naked in the bathtub kind of night.

 

Thoughts from an insomniac mother…

I stay up way too late for a lady who has three kids.

And it’s not even necessarily because I’m a night owl.

It’s just that the nighttime affords me a quiet and a stillness that is unreachable and unfathomable during the day.

It’s summer and I awake to a four year old jumping on my bed.

But if it were during the school year, I’d wake to an alarm that goes off far too soon with far too little sleep and the day begins with a flurry of activity.

I think “flurry” is a ridiculous term. More like… “monsoon-y blizzardish hurricane…”

But at night, no one is asking for a snack. And no one wants a story and no one wants to know how to find that show they like on Netflix. And no one is yelling, “Mom! Mama! Mommy!”

And it’s not that I don’t like being called mommy. It is my joy.

But it is not always my joy.

And sometimes, I’m all, “Seriously?! I cannot hear “mommy!” one more time or have one more person try to jump on my back or hug my leg or pull my shirt so that I’m showing the world either my bra or my muffin top.

And then I feel bad.

What about all those ladies that just WISH that they could hear mommy…just once? Or…even worse..just once more.

But then, even with that bearing on my conscience, I still find my breaking point. And I still turn from being the mom who takes her kids to the pool and for ice cream and gives hugs and wipes tears and passes out band-aids like a Southern Baptist passes out Bible tracts at the fair, and I become that lady who’s sweating in the library, grabbing her kid by the elbow and hissing in their face, “If you don’t STOP. IT. RIGHT. THIS. INSTANT….IT’S GOING TO GET REALLY UGLY FOR YOU…”

And they know I’m bluffing.

They know it when the steam comes pouring out of my ears.

Because really, am I gonna go all Mommy Dearest on them in the library?

And the truth is, we’ll get home and I’ll be so exhausted from the whole debacle that I’ll throw popsicles at them and tell them to go play outside while I collapse on the couch instead of doing the dishes.

And it never fails that the breaking point, the tipping of the mommy-endurance scale, comes after I’ve had several successful Mommy Days.

It comes right after the days that I fall in bed, no less exhausted than any other day, but feeling like I kicked some serious tail in the mommy department. I didn’t lose my cool, even when they splashed water all over the bathroom. And we went to the pool or the park and I made them wear sunscreen and no one got burned. And I read stories and snuggled and watched movies that I want to sleep during and I feed them a (mostly) nutritious meal.

Then comes…the fall-out.

And I stay awake far too long, with books stacked on the nightstand and a mind too full and a heart too heavy to pick one up and bury myself in someone else’s story.

Because my story is too loud. And my story begs to be rewritten because I screwed it up today.

So I dump my mangled mess at the foot of the cross. Because I have no other way. I have no other hope than to let go of the control that I try to wield over my life and my own messed-up way of muddling through.

And I let my kids go.

I let them go and give God control.

And that’s hard. Because, what if, by relinquishing control…. what. if?

But that’s where I have to rest. I have to find the beautiful mystery in knowing that by letting His love and grace guide me and by giving Him back the children that He gave me, that is the ONLY WAY that either of us, the kids or myself, will truly live.

 

 

 

Raw

WARNING: This is raw and real. It may not be eloquent and it may not be perfect, but as I stood at my kitchen counter with tears spilling out of my eyes, I was reminded once again that NOT sharing my story is damaging. For me, for someone who may need to hear it.

 

I came to this as I was asking God, “Why? Why do I feel like this? Is there a purpose?”

And if I keep my struggles to myself, it will help no one.

Myself included.

So here goes…

It’s been a rough few days for me personally.

I have beaten myself up and crawled into my pit emerging only to do what I needed to survive. And that sounds dramatic. But it’s the truth.

I struggle with depression.

Most days, I am okay. But then there are times where the feeling of failing at being a wife, a mommy, a friend overtakes all the happy thoughts.

I have a non-neurotypical child. And I’ve mentioned this before. She is beautiful and smart and talented and creative and kind and funny.

But we also have hard days, hard times, hard moments.

Throw that into the mix of having two other kids who are also “live wires”, and at the end of every day my body often physically hurts from the toil of it all.

I feel overwhelmed. And with a million and one things barking for my attention, and some more loudly than others, I shut down.

But I’m tired and there are times where even my prayers are just my hands thrown up in angst, begging God to give me answers.

Parenting is hard. Parenting a child with high needs is hard. Parenting when you feel tired and at the end of your rope, is super freaking crazy hard.

And here’s this…I love my babies.

I love them with all my being.

I cry over how to help them when they seem “unhelpable”.

My husband is a source of strength…I am not in this alone. He is an amazing father who prayerfully seeks the best ways to guide our family. I am beyond blessed.

But depression and anxiety are not respecters of that.

Over and over and over and over this week, I feel like I have failed. I feel like everything that I’ve done has been wrong.

It has been hard. So hard.

And as I stood in my kitchen, listening to David Crowder sing, “Here’s my heart, Lord. Speak what is true…”….well, that’s when the tears came.

I KNOW the condemnation I feel towards myself and the feeling of failing and feeling hopeless are not real. I know they are not TRUE.

I can’t change my child…these are medical issues. Only God can “change” that…and He may not choose to do so.

It wasn’t what I asked for when I became a mommy…I had a totally different picture in my head.

And God rocked that world. And gave me three of the most amazing little people that ever existed.

If I’m being honest, I think I spent years…and even until just recently…wishing for something different. Not wishing for different children…but that the issues that we have were non-existent in our lives.

But they are. And I have to believe that because we struggle with the things that we do as a family, that God has a purpose for them. Not only for us, but for our story and our journeys to help another family.

We have been blessed to have some amazing individuals placed in our family’s life that have encouraged my daughter’s growth, that have loved her for who she is not questioning us or her for the struggles she has. And really, that’s all I can ask for…that God continue to guide us with people who love us as we are, flaws and all, and who encourage us, help us, respect us, and pray for us.

I’m pushing forward, because I have to. I’m leaning into the light, and holding on to Jesus as much as I can…and sometimes it’s the death grip/hanging on for dear life kind of holding, but I think that’s okay.

Some times the best I can do is to keep telling myself, “Keep moving.” It’s what I have to tell my kids when we’re getting ready for school or for bed. “Keep moving”…there are going to be things that distract us, but if we don’t keep moving, we get sidetracked and never get anywhere.

Today is a “keep moving” kind of day.

 

 

 

Five Honest (and boringly benign) Things About Me

Each one of these honest statements about myself could use a blog post of its own, but in the interest of just posting SOMETHING today, I’ve decided to just list them.

Maybe, just maybe, someone out there can yell a rousing, “ME TOO!”

 

 

1. I struggle with my weight. –Like, struggle more than Oprah in the 90′s kind of struggle. I lost 20 pounds awhile ago. Then, I gained 30 back. AWE.SOME. As in, NOT awesome. So, I need to lose 30 pounds, mostly because I currently have no clothes that fit.

 

2. I’ve racked up exorbitant library late fees. And I own more Redbox movies than I care to admit to.

 

3. I kill plants. –Not because I WANT to but because, even though my grandmother could grow flower gardens that would make an issue of Southern Living jealous, I did not inherit the green thumb. I have kept my peace lily alive that a dear friend gave me (ironically, at my grandmother’s funeral)…but only after much guidance and my husband remembering to water it.

Oh, and I actually killed a cactus once. I thought that was near impossible. Like killing a vampire kind of near impossible.

 

4. I go to bed with dishes in the sink. And toys on the floor, crayons under the table, and laundry still in the washing machine. –I know. I’m such a rebel, right? I never really had a “wild streak” in high school or college, so this is how I “sow my wild oats”, so to speak, in my late 30s.

 

5. My “garage refrigerator” contains a pot of chicken tortilla soup that is…really old. And it’s only because I’m too lazy to remember it’s there to clean it out. –What makes this even more awesome is the fact that it was moved from the kitchen fridge to the garage fridge because I ran out of room in the kitchen fridge one day, and I was in too big of a hurry to dump out the contents (I won’t even call it soup anymore).

 

So, there it is. “Shocking truths”. Can we still be friends?

 

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