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Exactly six years and two months ago (add seven minutes if you want to be exact) Jackson and I welcomed our first baby girl into the world.  It was such an anticipated event that came after the longest nine months of my life and I would have to say that it was worth every millisecond of the count-down.  Jane was such a great baby and was so full of life.  The words cute and adorable didn’t do her much justice.  She had large round eyes framed by long dark lashes and an explosive, bigger-than-life personality cased in the teeny-tiniest of bodies.  She brought such joy to so many faces and many of them belonging to people we didn’t even know.  Even at a young age of just a few months old there was something different about her.  It was as though she had been blessed in heaven with some sort of magic running through the marrow of her bones. 

As Jane grew and changed she met each new milestone with overwhelming excitement as her world opened up to a whole new perspective.  By the time she was old enough to pull herself up to a standing position one of her  favorite things to do was stand at the window in our family room and stare outside.  With every passer-by she would fill the room with high-pitched squeals and laughter, sometimes being so loud that the people would stop for a moment, looking around for the origin of the playful and infectious sounds.  She was my own personal miniature version of a one-woman show that kept me captivated for hours on end.

One of the greatest joys of being a first time parent and to a child like Jane was getting to experience this tiny new life discovering so much joy out of the sort of things I had become callused to over the years:  the feeling of grass rising between our toes, the splendor of walking up to the sky-walk in downtown Lexington to watch the tiny world moving below us, or watching the way a bubble gracefully floats through the air with such ease before it suddenly pops out of existence.  Even back then, when time seemed to slow down to suite our life together in our own little world, I knew that some day it would all have to end.  The time then was delicate, just like that bubble, and there we were encased safely inside moving gently along in a world that was moving at a much faster pace.  I knew that one day the bubble would suddenly pop and we would fall very quickly back into reality.  At the time all I could do was pray that no matter when and where it happened I would still be able to hold onto Jane so tightly, knowing every inch of her so well, and being able to still borrow from the magic of her bones.

I’m not sure exactly the time and space that our little bubble popped, but I am certain that it has.  Life is moving so much faster these days, but I have to admit that as Jane has grown and changed, so have I.  In those days when life moved at a pace that left me two steps ahead I was organized and more neatly put together in a pretty impressive Mommy package.  Two cities and two more children later I feel like quite a mess.  To add to it, for the past few days my youngest has held me prisoner in a breastfeeding concentration camp and yesterday my emotions finally got the best of me.  As I walked through our living room that has been carpeted with stuffed animals, pet shops, and crayons for more days that I would like to confess, there was a fresh batch of large blankets piled up beside the basket where moments before they were nicely folded into.  I lost it.  “That’s it, I’m moving out,” I yelled, tears streaming down my face.  “I can’t do this anymore!  You have to live here with Daddy and I’ll come and visit, but I just need to live somewhere organized and clean.”  With that I walked out of the living room, my tiny warden riding on my hip.

As I entered the kitchen I felt so angry and disappointed, but surprisingly it was with myself.  I knew exactly what I had done.  In that moment, I had failed to stop before a raging ball of emotions spilled from my lips, drenching the securities of my innocent little girls with my own fears and anxieties.  I proceeded to set up Camp Molly in the high chair with toys and a pacifier and safely buckled her in.  I cried quietly as I began to pray.  “I am a horrible mother.  I’m a stinking, rotten horrible mother!  Please forgive me, please forgive me, and please, Lord, let them forgive me.”

As I collected myself and began to pull the makings of dinner from the cupboards and the refrigerator I was interrupted by the sound of hurried bare feet slapping against the tiles of the kitchen floor.  It was Jane, happy and playfully rushing in to join me.  I looked down at her and she seemed unscathed as though nothing ever happened. 

“Jane,” I told her.  “Mommy didn’t mean that.  I’m not really going to move out.  I’m just really tired and stressed out and it wasn’t fair for me to unload all of that onto you.”

“I know, Mommy,” she replied in an upbeat voice.  “You can’t leave anyway.  You give our family love.” 

With that she turned and started rearranging the magnetic letters that decorate our refrigerator door in a disorderly mess.  As I took a head of lettuce and placed it on the cutting board, there was only the sound of Molly banging her toys, and Jane talking to herself.  “Let’s see,” she said as she started arranging letters.  “F… and… R…. and… T… and… S.  There, family rises the spirit.”

I stopped and turned to her, looking at the letters in primary color that formed the most beautiful acronym I had ever heard.  “Where did you hear that, Jane?” 

“What?”

“Family raises the spirit.  Did you hear that in church?”

“No, Mommy.  I just made it up in my mind.  Ya, know?”

I asked, “What do you mean by spirit?”

“Ya, know,” she replied, “like the invisible kind… like inside and like God.” 

I stood there quietly watching her as she stood to walk out of the room.  It was as though an angel had entered the room long enough to lift us back into that bubble for one more brief moment in time.  To be there with her yet again, and to, yet again, soak up some of the magic running through her bones was as magnificent and healing as God Himself.

I smiled at her, looking into those same recognizable large, round eyes and said, “Thank you, Jane.  That’s brilliant.”

 

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When I started this blog I promised this wouldn’t be a blog just about motherhood (see about me section).  Low and behold, all of my posts thus far have been about just that.  Lets face it, there isn’t much else going on right now, AT ALL! 

Although I have not blogged in a number of days, I have been thinking about what to blog next.  There have been a number of interesting things here and there to comment on, but finding the time to get on here and turning those thoughts into words has been a challenge.  I keep telling myself that I will blog once I “clean the house” or “feed Molly” or “run an errand” or “feed Molly” or “spend nurturing one-on-one time with one of my older and neglected children” or “feed Molly”.  The only thing I seem to get done lately is feeding Molly which makes me feel like I have been reduced to a large, walking, and talking boob.  Cue the feel-sorry-for-me violin.

The decision to be a stay-at-home mother involves a lot of self-sacrifice.  The image that comes to mind is a well dressed, funny, creative, and intelligent woman stepping into a large pot of boiling water.  The first child is born and a little bit of goo seeps from her mind into the water, second child is born and a little more seeps out, the steam from the pot wrinkling her skin, and as the third comes along her body slowly melts away to an unrecognizable mass of mushiness. 

As I have woken up each morning for the past few weeks, wearily going downstairs, stumbling over toys with a baby on my hip, and shoving dirty dishes aside to fill up the coffee pot, I stare out of the kitchen window at the outside world which I no longer feel like I am a part of.  I think about whether or not I made the right decision with my life.  It feels very disorganized and rushed, and I can barely think anymore, my children being the only topic I can carry on a decent conversation about.  No longer am I able to watch grown up television, but can explain what the last four thousand episodes of Yo, Gabba, Gabba! were about.  On the bright side, at least I won’t forget how to point out opposites or a triangle amongst a group of squares.

As I stand there daydreaming, the coffee pot starting to overflow from the running water, Molly squeals and jerks her legs.  I turn off the water and look at her face to which she responds with a giant smile, her dimples creasing on the sides of her cheeks.  Annie shuffles around the corner, her messy hair arranged wildly from a night of tossing and turning, and she mutters a “Good morning, Mommy” in a soft tired voice.  As Jane and Jackson join the rest of us there is a feeling of completeness that surrounds our little family.  It’s a feeling of warmth, comfort, and love. 

In that moment, the woman in the pot reaches her arm out of the pile of mush with her heart tightly clutched in her fist.  In that pot a lot of things she had once resembled may have simmered down to a small ounce of what she has now become, but all the while the one thing she possessed amongst it all that had any real value seems to have gotten that much stronger.  In her heart she possesses the ingredients that has produced the warmth of a mother and the love of a family.  To have the opportunity to spend her life nurturing that love may mean sacrificing a lot of things, but every dimple, every soft “Good Morning”, and every moment surrounded by her family makes it seem like a very wonderful and fulfilling trade-off.

For some of us lack of fear becomes something that we never outgrow.  Afterall, there are people out there who do things like jump out of airplanes for a living or jump off of cliffs with a long piece of elastic rope tied to their legs!  I am one of those people who wouldn’t be caught dead doing either of those things, or better yet, maybe I would, considering that it is the only way someone could get me into that plane or on top of that cliff.  It just ain’t happenin’!

When I look back, I do remember a time when I was fearless.  Not only did I ride down one of the scariest, steepest hills in my hometown on rollerblades as a child, I also moved to California alone at the age of nineteen after answering an ad on the internet for a roomate!  I know:  nieve, scary, dangerous!  Gasp!  One thing is for certain, surviving the risk-taking personality of my youth gives me great faith in the existence of guardian angels. 

It is such a surprise when I come across people who I haven’t seen in ten plus years.  The remark is always the same.  “You’re so different!”  “You have kids, I never would have thought!”  I think what they are trying to say in a nice way is, “Wow, what a complete and utter square you have become!”  My grandmother is so proud.  Squares are boring and boring people don’t take risks.

I’m certain that this point of turn-around came with the dawn of parenthood.  I look at myself now and I, too, recognize the difference.  I went from the child who jumped off the furniture to the parent who freaks out when her children move too quickly in front of the brick fireplace.  I even say things like, “What are you thinking pretending the coffee table is a catwalk?  Are you trying to kill yourself?” or “What are you thinking running with that stick?  Don’t you like seeing the world through two perfectly healthy eyeballs?”  I realized that I had crossed the line from square to anxiety ridden lunatic when I seriously contemplated moving into our current home because it had two flights of stairs the kids might fall down.

Luckily, my children don’t buy into my fears.  They seem to move right along, never remembering that if they run through the living room they might bust their head open on the brick fireplace.  They face each day with the wonder and enthusiasm that play testimony to the fact that they have not yet discovered the dangers that lurk around every unforseen corner in life.  I envy them for this and some day would love to borrow it for just a moment.  However, I feel this is a part of life and the survival of the fittest.  Humans harbor such deep emotions, especially when it comes to our offspring.  From the day they are born we start to develop a desire to protect them.  This is what leaves us sitting in the shadows pulling our hair out when they take risks in which we can see the impending danger, but they cannot.  A part of me knows that I have to let them live in their lack of fear for as long as they can.  So for now I will have to stare out the kitchen window biting my nails when they do things like play on the outside of the treehouse instead of on the inside the way it is intended.  Yes, they might fall, and yes, we might end up in the emergency room, but it is highly unlikely that they will hurt themselves beyond repair.

When my parents let me go, moving to California to live with a man they didn’t know, they had nothing to rely on but their protective instincts, prayers, and an abundance of faith that I would be okay.  I have to admit that without their fears I might have seen darker days out there.  So, thanks Dad for sending me $100 here and there; thanks, Mom, for listening to my late night phone calls; and thank you, Nannie and Papa, for sending me a plane ticket to come home when I was ready. 

For now all I can do is model those same protective instincts with my own children.  I pray, and pray, and pray some more!  And you know what?  A few days ago one of my fears became a reality when Annie (my three-year-old) took a bad spill down the stairs.  In that moment, seeing her laying on the floor, my heart stopped, but to my surprise, a millisecond later, she got right back up and kept going.  Although I surrendered my guts a long time ago, I think there is something to learn from those who never give them up.  Although fear can protect us from harm, it can also paralyze us from enjoying life.  All we can do is take a deep breath, jump off that cliff, and pray that our guardian angel will be there to cushion our fall.

As an afterthought, Bobby, if you happen to read this, thanks for not turning out to be a crazy madman looking to lure young unsuspecting girls into his lair.  Let it be known that, although our duel risk-taking personalities left us in some truly dangerous once-in-a-lifetime situations, you are a legendary part of my past.  Thanks for watching out for me and for being a great friend.  🙂

Hello, Soy!

Dear Self,

How on earth did you miss the fine print in any of the gazillion books on breastfeeding that read the following: 

“At some point baby may wake every hour in a seemingly painful state of starvation only to nurse for 45 seconds before falling back into a peaceful, happy slumber.  However, peaceful, happy slumber for mother is a faint memory slowly disappearing into her dissipating memory.”

“Need to wear baby becomes a method of survival.  Baby’s attachment to life form carrying nourishment may become severe.  In other words, you must now affix a wrap, otherwise known as an external uterus, to your torso and insert baby.”

“Unless bottle is introduced early on, baby may never take an artificial nipple.  In other words, your baby has received caviar for so long, why in the world would she give that up so easily for trout?”

“Mother may feel pregnant beyond pregnancy.”

Oops…

Alas, I must confess, I believe I have given up control to one of my children and she weighs all of 11 pounds.  The culprit is breastfeeding.  I wanted so badly to breastfeed my oldest daughters, but my emotions got the best of me in the first few weeks and I ended up giving them a bottle.  I have no regrets.  They are both smart, healthy little girls.  However, when Molly came along, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.  I set a goal to breastfeed for at least six weeks which we have surpassed with flying colors until now.

Today Molly woke up with congestion and an unusual fussiness.  A slight temperature at noon sent us to the doctor for a visit.  I decided to check Molly’s diaper before the doctor came in just to avoid any surprises.  Luckily, just as I pulled back her diaper, the doctor came in.  In her diaper were little streaks of blood in her stool.  Her doctor was calm and took it to be examined.  The results returned that it was indeed from Molly and the culprit was probably from a milk protein allergy.  The answer was to “just remove dairy from my diet”.  No big deal, no milk, soy it is.  Humbug! 

At this point I was ready to turn back and head straight for the formula selection at the local grocery store.  Although I had been reduced to this several times before, Molly has always won, refusing the bottle with such animosity that you would think I was feeding her liquid hell.

I guess it could be worse.  Although adjusting my diet to some degree might be a little tricky, it seems like a much better approach than listening to Molly’s cry and see the sadness in her little eyes when I try to sooth her hunger with an artificial nipple.  How can I blame the girl?  She knows what she wants and isn’t going to give it up without a fight.

In all honesty, all of the granola hippie mothers I used to poke fun of really knew what they were talking about.  There is something remarkable about breastfeeding.  Just like when a baby is growing inside of her mother, relying on her body to sustain her tiny life, the same is true once they come into the world and start breastfeeding.  The difference is that only now you get to witness this miracle of life firsthand.  At the end of the day, the lack of sleep, lack of a consistent schedule, baby wearing, and now a list of dietary restrictions may be some pretty hefty drawbacks to breastfeeding, but they are still not enough for me to throw in the towel just yet.   

Raising a girl is scary!  Although I could do without the comments of onlookers, it isn’t uncommon for someone to stop me when I am out with all three girls to tell me about their own horror stories of raising daughters.  The best was from a tired looking young grandmother in Publix who said, “You don’t let em’ do anything and they end up pregnant, but you let em’ do whatever they want and they still end up pregnant!”  What the hell?  I smiled politely as I slowly walked away from that conversation.  Please people, just let me enjoy my girls while they are little.  Our biggest problem right now is whether or not someone got more chocolate chips in their cookie than they did and I would like to stay here for as L-O-N-G as I can.

Despite being forced into the private lives of complete strangers, I have a good feeling that my girls will be alright and not because I was too involved, or not involved enough, but because I love them unconditionally.  With that in mind, even if the unthinkable does happen, I’ll still be there with open arms to help them through it.  However, there is one situation that I fear greatly:

They are EVERYWHERE!  In the grocery store, at Wal-Mart or Barnes and Noble, and hanging out in front of the movie theatre.  They all have the same look on their face – mouth hanging open, vacant eyes, too much make-up, and their finger twisting around a flat-ironed highlight.  When they speak it is worse.  “Oh my GOW-ED!  I was like NO… WAY!  Then he was like NO… WAY!  It was like CRAY-ZAY!”  I have to admit that this is one reason I love the popularity of texting amongst teenage girls.  I look around for their mothers.  Where are they!  Aren’t they witness to their daughters destruction?  Not to say that these teenagers are bad, or stupid, but they are giving into a peer pressure to be perceived as stupid.  They are mimicking the ridiculous MTV reality shows they obviously could do without.  Let it be known to the world:  I DESPISE THE HILLS!  “Like oh my GOW-ED, Heidi!  Are you serious?  Your husband DOES NOT want to have your bay-bay!  That is SO wrong!”  The last thing I need is to see that girl try to change a stinky diaper.  No, Heidi, they do not provide a plastic surgery procedure to prevent a baby from pooping!

My only dream for my girls encompasses many good things:  I want them to respect themselves.  Therefore, I want them to speak politely and intelligently.  I want them to dress appropriately.  I want them to stand up for themselves.  I want them to tell boys NO.  I want them to realize that giving their sexuality away takes away the essence of being a girl.  Instead, their sexuality is a sacred gift that is to be given to someone who is deserving and appreciative.  I also want them to realize that the moment they sit on a bench at Wal-Mart wearing revealing clothing, too much make-up, or GOD FORBID those pants with words written across the butt, all of the above goes out the door.

Oh, well, lets face it.  More than likely my own girls will go through those stages, especially as friends start to become cooler and more persuasive than I am.  One thing is for certain, I will still be there to talk them through things and will still be there with open arms the day they finally come to their senses.  And if the unthinkable does happen, I will certainly not bash them in front of an unsuspecting young mother as she shops at Publix with her three adorable, innocent, and tiny little daughters.

Another Wednesday

I keep visiting this page, even opening up a new post here and there to force a new entry.  With the encouragement of a great friend, I have been inspired to revamp this blog.  True be told, I have no idea how to care for a blog.  From other blogs I have read, it seems to be something that needs nurturing and tending to on a daily basis.  There are blogs out there that have gained so much popularity that the bloggers generate decent paychecks from them.  Then there are others that sit, lonely, unvisited, and screaming for attention.  I’m not sure where I fit in, but I guess I’ll never find out if I don’t start somewhere.

And so it begins…

It’s a quarter till nine.  Jackson and Jane are off to work and school which leaves Annie, Molly, and I at home.  There is not much in store today other than a Mom’s group meeting, hopefully a workout on the elliptical, and keeping the girls alive and well.  Day to day life can feel so boring and mundane.  What I find interesting is that when I look back over the years, the best memories I have are from the day to day experiences.  For a long time I have wondered if I could erase the boring feeling from days like this if I could only tap into the magic each day holds.   Obviously there is something wonderful happening there if they generate all of those happy memories.

I am positive that my biggest problem is that I focus to much on what used to be, what isn’t, and what could be instead of what is.  We used to live closer to family, my body isn’t in the best shape, or Jane could be in a better school.  However, what is?  It is Wednesday, it is ordinary, but that doesn’t have to be all there is.  Although it seems like another Wednesday to add to all of the other Wednesdays, it is a Wednesday that will never happen again.  I will seek to enjoy that part of today.

In my hometown there is a park up on the Hill that I loved taking my daughters to.  There wasn’t much there.  Just a small jungle gym and a row of swings.  The best part was that on that hill you could look out over Bowling Green and see what seemed like the entire town.  There was nothing but miles and miles of tiny little buildings, trees, streets, and cars.  From up there everything seemed so miniscule which seemed to make time stand still and it was brilliant. 

In those moments it was just me and my girls at the top of the world where the breeze swept in so perfectly from the shade of the row of old trees that lined the back of that park.  I remember it being one of my most favorite moments in time swinging up there.  I would look down as my feet moved before me, sweeping through a back drop of black mulch, green grass, and into the sky high above the town below.  As I would reach my high point and start gliding back down, the movement, coupled with the scenery below, would make me lightheaded.  I would suddenly feel my heart skip a beat and my entire body would tingle.  I always imagined that if I could fly this is how it would feel:  magnificent, weightless, and powerful.

From as early as I can remember swinging has always been one of my most favorite things.  Even now at thirty years old it is not uncommon for me to find my way to them when my girls are safely in sight and the park is empty.  I don’t know what it is about them.  Maybe it’s that feeling of moving so freely through the air, becoming momentarily lightheaded as I soar back down.  It could also be that it reminds me of the myth that used to circle around my elementary school playground that has always intrigued me even to this day. 

The story goes that if you swung high enough to flip over the bar you would turn inside out.  I imagine now that this was a gruesome hokes meant to scare the younger kids into thinking that their skin could actually flip inside out, thus bringing forth all of their internal organs.  I thought of it differently though.  To me turning inside out was something that didn’t resemble a scene from a cheap horror film, but it had much more to do with bringing forth an internal self that I kept hidden from the world around me.  Out of fear and intimidation I had learned to build a wall of steel that displayed a persona that so drastically differentiated from who I really was.  If only I could get over that bar I was sure my sense of vulnerability would vanish and I would no longer feel like a hard to disguise giant trying to blend in with a scenery that clashed so horribly around me.  Instead, the energy that churned the thoughts and emotions within me would suddenly come forth and radiate in comfort, confidence, and laughter.  I would be open, sociable, and full of life.  Most importantly, I would be happy. 

For years no matter how hard I tried I could never physically get over that bar.  Little did I know then that I would be well into my twenties before I could perform such a dramatic, life-changing trick.  Of course, when it did happen it didn’t involve swings and magic tricks.  It was gradual and took a hell of a lot longer than it would have taken to flip over that bar. 

I remember the exact moment that I flipped inside out like it was yesterday.  When it finally happened it seemed like it was by force.  Although it eventually became a necessity, it wasn’t initially by a dose strong will and determination that got me there.  In that moment it was a strong dose of desperation to get it right for the sake of her that finally brought my feet up over my head, flipped me upside down, and sent me sailing back down the opposite side of that bar. 

I was sitting on the table with my shirt pulled up.  A glob of cold clear goo was smeared over the globe of my belly and the technician moved her wand around, pushing down to peer deep into my womb.  She looks at Jackson and I and says with a smile,  “It’s a girl!”