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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Baby’s First Cake, Saved the Party for Later

Benji turned one last week.  Poor kid got about two tiny handfuls of his cake and Ellie and I ate the rest.  Well, she ate the frosting.  I ate my piece, and her pieces minus the frosting.  Did I just finish off an entire two layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting by MYSELF?  For the most part, yes.  Yum.
Regrets?  None.  That cake was GOOD.

Did I feel a twinge of guilt at all the sugar and white flour I put in?  Only in passing.  I’ve been playing around with Stevia - substituting 1/3 cup sugar for that seemed to work out well.  I could try doing half white and half whole wheat like I do the bread I throw in the bread maker from time to time.  I’m all for making it healthier as long as it still tastes great.  

I have not found a reliable substitute for the icing sugar I use to make the frosting.  I will keep my eyes peeled and let you know.  I think there’s got to be some middle ground between the full white sugar/flour recipes I grew up with and the nasty granola-gluten-oil-free cardboard the ‘good’ parents are expecting at a birthday party. 

Just FYI there were none of THOSE parents at his party.  Because I didn’t have a party.  

That’s right.  I brought his home-made cake to a friends house for a Thanksgiving dinner we had planned.  I even totally blew it and couldn’t find balloons I had hidden from Ellie (so well they’re lost forever) so the host graciously went out to the nearest grocery store and got some for me.

Am I vying for bad mom of the year?  Maybe.  I just think that at 12 months this kid’s friends are my friends.  He doesn’t want, need, nor will he remember a big ‘tah-do’.  As it was the over stimulation of the (two) balloons, the (two) presents and the cake was enough to tip him screaming and crying into baby-rage land where he stayed for several sad but entertaining minutes.  

And I was not bummed.  Or embarrassed.  He acted exactly how a 12 month old could be expected to act.  I didn’t expect him to take it all in stride.  I can’t imagine why anyone would.

As a result his birthday was fun (chocolate cake for the first time!) low key (he’s screaming but since he’s not the center of attention it quickly calms down) and since I’m not busy hosting other people, I can sit down with him and play with his two new toys.

Which is to say, hang out on the floor while he rips apart the wrapping paper and works to open and close the box it came in.  Then moves on to play with the curtain strings.

Regrets?  None.  That ‘party’ was perfect.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Don't Throw Away Your Vision Board. Yet. Add Some Action!

So I’ve always been a big fan of Vision boards.  I’ve spent half my life trying to fast-forward through whatever hardship I thought I was enduring, and the other half pipe-dreaming these big elaborate fantasies about what I wanted my life to be like.

Those pipe-dreams may seem like a waste of time but when you let your imagination go crazy, it tells you a lot about yourself.  Once you get past what you THINK you want.   (I want a big house!  I want a man who listens to me!) you get to the sweet spot where you’ve really delved deep, have ‘tried on’ some fantasies for size and surprised yourself.

You get to the sweet spot.  The nugget inside of what you think you want, the ‘real’ hearts’ desire.  

Turns out when I imagined enjoying my big house I thought I wanted, I got annoyed by all those empty rooms.  The big pool?  I hardly ever used it, even in my day dreams.

Having an imaginary someone come to clean my ginormous fantasy house every day was irritating too.  Who wants a witness to the velour track-suit you wear every day and the mounds of chocolate bar wrappers by your favorite tea mug you rarely wash?  After awhile the big house started to feel lonely and isolated instead of comfy and cozy.

Turns out that big house I thought I wanted was a pain.  What I really longed for was a cozy place to write, bake, and enjoy my kids, where I can hear them from any part of the house.  A close home where we bump elbows as we pass in the hall.

In that respect Vision boards are great.  They help you focus and define what really triggers your excitement, and helps you weed out what you only thought you wanted. 

The next step, and the one I’m just exploring now, are Action Boards.  (Throw Away The Vision BoardBy Neil Farber- Psychology Today.

They’re like a vision board except instead of just dreaming about that sunset in Maui, you start taking concrete steps to get there.  A picture of the plane that will take you there (cramped, ugh), a pic of the dream job that might pay to send you there.  Once you do that you start to actually search for how to make those dreams a reality.  What do I need on my resume to get a job that will send me to Maui?  Who do I know in that field?

Anyway, turns out I only need a few simple things to really be happy.  My laptop so I can write.  A private space with only my favorite and inspiring things around.  A sacred space only my own to sip hot tea and imagine what kind of elf I want to write into my story about cupcakes.  (Every story could use an elf.  Imagine how much better War and Peace would have been if there’d been a little high society elf thrown in?  I mean, really.)

What my heart really yearns for, right now, is time to reflect and meditate.  A quiet place where I can look out my window and see green trees waving in the wind.  A chocolate bar to nibble on, obviously.  A fuzzy, sweet little dog near my feet.  

These things will change.  As my babies continue to grow and need me less, I’ll have all the quiet time I crave.  Too much, I’m sure.  And then what I want and need most will change again.  And I will follow my heart then too plastering pictures of my new dreams on my board.  

When all my energy isn’t poured out to ensure the safety and comfort of the babies, I’ll want to expand that energy out into the world.  Yoga teacher maybe, just another kind of mothering if you ask me.  Real Estate agent?  Helping people find that perfect place to find their own quiet time?  Sounds like fun to me.

Anyway, my point is, what we think we want, and what we really crave may be profoundly different.  And you won’t know unless you do a little actual dreaming.  After all, how do you know you’ve arrived if you don’t know where you’re going?

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing.  Knowing is not enough; we must apply.  Being willing is not enough; we must do.” - Leonardo Da Vinci

Friday, November 10, 2017

Being Here With Compassion. Or, Barely Resisting the Urge to Yank Out Your Eyebrows in DSW

Let me set the scene.  Me, in the middle of DSW, trying to find a decent pair of black dress shoes with a heel that won’t send me to emergency and a style that won’t make me feel like the rest of my outfit is from the thrift store.  (Because it probably is).

Ellie is yanking down boxes at random faster than I can put them back and pulling off her cowboy boots to ‘try them on’.  Benji has screamed and twisted his way out of his stroller and is on the ground on all fours actively looking for disgusting things to put in his mouth.  

I glance down at the price.  I glance up.  He’s two rows away and tripping a hapless shoe employee.  Ellie is waving her arms trying to balance in a pair of purple heels-so-high I’m dizzy ‘shoes’.  I can’t even call them shoes.  They’re like Halloween decorations you’d put on the mantle but never, ever, actually put your FEET into.

Anyway, so that’s the scene.  I have time to glance at the other shoppers, leisurely choosing which color, which style.  Standing and trying them on, putting them carefully back into the box and moving on to the next.  While I wistfully gazed at those lucky leisure shoppers Benji found a mirror to lick and Ellie actually managed to fasten those ‘shoes’ on her feet and was struggling to stand.  I could feel my impatience and irritation rising.  I just wanted a pair of shoes!  Why was this so hard?

And then I remembered, Be Here, Now.  Be here, in this moment.  Lean in.  So Benji was babbling loudly and licking everything he can get his hands on.  So Ellie was making a little mess and chattering nonstop so I can’t bring a thought of my own down into my brain.  

So, what?

Once I did this, let go, accepted the moment, it changed.  I don’t know how to explain it but something seemed to shift and I realized the shoes she was struggling with were actually hilarious.  And beautiful, in their own LOOK AT ME NOW kind of way.  And Benji looked at me and laughed his little baby laugh, so happy to be exploring someplace new.  And I rocked back on my heels and smiled too.  Why was I getting so worked up?

Just then one of the older ladies I had watched jealousy as she explored shoes unfettered by babies turned to me and said, “Enjoy every minute.  It’s the best time of your life.”  And all my ‘be here now’ peace went out the window and I said, “Yeah, I’m sure when I’m sleeping at night again it will all seem better.”  Whoops.  Did I say that out loud?  Yes, yes I did.

And she kind of started, looked at me again, and smiled, and I could tell she was remembering some long forgotten argument or accident or melt-down.  She nodded and went back to shoe-picking.  She understood me.  And I understood in that moment she missed her kids, was lonely, and longed for the days filled to the brim with noise, action, need, and bustle.  There is no time to think, or be lonely, or even really be sad when you’re constantly ‘on the clock’ with young kids.  There is only survival and the hope of rest at the end of the day.  It's exhausting, and beautiful, and so special I fight not to worry all the time about what could go wrong.

It occurred to me as I gathered my monkeys and managed to get through the check-out line without blowing up the store that most people assume they were happier in the past, or they WILL be happy when….and it’s a total, absolute myth.  

I was looking at that older woman longing for days when I have more freedom, she was looking at me longing for the days she could have her babies close to her again.  Neither one of us was present.  Neither one of us was Here, Now.  Neither one of us was happy.

Once again circumstances seem to evolve so that I can learn how to be more present.  When I’m focused on being fully in this moment I am, if not happy at least content.  It seems to open up my tight heart and let more love and gratitude flow through.

Now who doesn't need more love and gratitude in their lives?  Maybe, just maybe if I keep doing this I can accept those well meaning comments with equanimity and compassion, instead of just barely resisting the urge to scream, cry, and yank their eyebrows out.

“You know when you’re a mom when sleeping in until 8AM feels as magical as riding out of your bedroom on a unicorn.”  Anonymous.  

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Screaming At Bunnies and Other Things Stay At Home Moms Need to Do To Stay Sane, or, Date Night Drama

Yesterday everything went wrong.  Ellie was upset all day, making Benji upset.  She almost (accidentally) knocked him out about three times.  She pushed me, she hit me, she threw things at Ben.  She chucked applesauce all over the living room floor, then screamed and slammed her door when I told her to change.  I said Time-Out.  She said no.  I said calm down, she screamed….no.  

Cue tears and Super Whine.  (That’s whining while crying and screaming…)  It’s not my favorite thing.

Today she is back to her sweet self.  Telling me she loved me while I put her soccer socks on.  Where yesterday I got random things chucked at my head, today she was randomly hugging me and snuggling in.  No tears all day.  No screaming.  No chucking.  No hurling her toys in a blind toddler rage.  

Yesterday by 5:30pm I was frazzled, confused (how do I handle this so I don’t scar her for life but also don’t allow this unacceptable behavior?) and totally at my wits end.  (I’m obviously screwing this up big time).

Today I’m serene and competent.  She kicked butt at soccer, made friends, ate lunch and every single time I’ve said ‘no’ today she’s said…”Ok mommy.”

How can I have a crazed toddler-psychopath one day, and the very next day have this super-adorable, giving, loving, thoughtful, sweet little girl?

I will tell you.  Two words.

Date.  Night.

Yes.  I do not believe it was coincidence that yesterday Bill and I had a date night planned, and someone (someone she knows very well, a friend in fact) was coming to watch them while we went out to eat.

Could it be that the whole day’s worth of tantrums, uber-upsets, simmering rage and physical mayhem was all because we were going out for a couple of hours?

Yes.  There is no other explanation.  

Our last date night was when I was pregnant with Benji.  Benji will be one next week.

Now that I think about it, we got back just as she was going to sleep and she was so excited to see us.  Her relief was palatable.  She kept saying, “You came back!  That wasn’t so long!”

Smiling from ear to ear, lots of fierce hugs where she doesn’t let go for a minute or two.  Cheek to my ear and a big sighs.

Poor kid.

Well that’s it folks, I don’t have a solution to this I’m just…expressing an issue I’ve got.  If anyone has any magical this-worked-for-me ideas I am all ears.

For now it is clear we need to go out more often, so she gets used to it.

I’m still debating going back to work full-time, or trying to get into some part-time work.  

Intellectually I know this is just a faze and there is no need to let this incident color my decision of when to go back to work.  I know no matter what, after adjusting, she will be fine.  Maybe even more resilient once she knows mom and dad always come back.

When I think of their little faces though, every time I hand them off to a caregiver, the pout (or outright tears) the outstretched arms…my resolve cracks and crumbles.

I’m torn between feeling like this baby/toddler time is fleeting, and will I ever really regret my time at home?  I don’t think so.  I’m putting them ahead of my own…antsiness?  Is that a word?  To get out of the house already and dress like a human again and interact with other adult life forms.  To feel valued?  Appreciated?  Needed?  Like I belong to society again.  To wake up in the morning and know people are counting on me to brush my teeth, get dressed, and show up.  To have more than bedtime, exhausted and spent, to have time to myself.

I keep making this decision every day.  Every day I wake up and if it's a bad day, I’m resolved to go back to work.  If it’s a good day, I feel like I can hang on a little longer.

I don’t have a solution to this parent-stay-at-home ennui either.  Except, today was a good day.  Today I loved being the main caregiver.  It was fulfilling, gratifying, lovely.  Lots of love from my little monsters.  Quiet, peace, and harmony.  Birds sang, rainbows bounced down and sunlight shone on our radiant faces.

Tomorrow I’ll probably get pooped on, screamed at, kicked, pushed, used for toy-target practice, break my toe on that stupid push-toy again, and in general feel like screaming at bunnies and plucking the eyelashes off baby gerbils.

But today was good.

“Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.”  Ida Scott Taylor McKinney