When your heart just isn’t in it – NaBloPoMo

A pizza cutter has become my undoing.

Several months ago, our resident pizza cutter went missing.

I swept through every drawer and canister in my search, and gave up looking for it in a huff of frustration. I remembered when we bought that thing, and then I realized that it was such a small, silly thing to even remember. And how utterly ridiculous it was to feel so helpless without it.

It was a big deal to me when we bought it because a pizza cutter was something we never had while growing up. 

It was one of those seemingly superflous things that could be found at any of my friend’s houses. Some unseen marker for civility and order.

Just like the way their families promptly cleaned up right after dinner, and started the dishwasher before they headed up the stairs for bed at night. Or the way that they used fabric softener, and didn’t overload the washing machine. I remember how they had so much discipline when it came to dessert, never eating the last of something, and even saving some for the next day to enjoy.

Those seemingly unnecessary details that quietly marked where civility begins were like a breath of fresh air for me. They are the things things that we should choose to take the time to do, if for no other reason than because we believe that we should care.

Because caring makes us act.

I grew up in a home of expedience.

Overloading the washing machine got through the laundry much quicker, even if we were treated to forty-five minutes of laundry banging loudly against the side of the machine.

We hacked through our pizzas with paring knives, serving pizza slices with jagged edges to each other.

The dishes sometimes rested in the sink until us children argued about it long enough for someone to finally take the turn to wash them, or at least, for our mother to make us wash them. Even then, we’d just indifferently load them into the dishwasher, slops of condiments and food bits sometimes still stuck to them. 

The details were something we didn’t fuss over. We did what was the quickest, the easiest. 

It wasn’t until I tried to manage a family of my own, and was trying to grow into the mom and person I wanted to be, that I realized how short-sighted this way of thinking can be. 

I always prided myself in how laid back and seemingly low-maintenance my family was.

A crock pot of chili was perfectly fine for Christmas Eve dinner, because it was far easier to prepare than a ham with all of the trimmings. Using paper plates and plastic cups at large family gatherings were perfectly acceptable, they allowed us to clean up faster. And before we soaked up the last of the Thanksgiving gravy on our rolls and our dinner plates were clear, our family was on the march to clean up and restore the kitchen to order. 

Savoring was not something we wanted to do. Because savoring meant work. 

Isn’t that ridiculous? The thought that savoring takes…work?

There are so many proverbs and cross-stitched pillows that beckon us to savor and enjoy each fleeting moment. To thoroughly appreciate them, we must redeem them by believing that we are squeezing each and every drop of leisurely pleasure out of them.

But we sometimes gloss over the fact that enjoyment takes diligence and work.

Sometimes, no, almost always, the grapes from the vine taste even sweeter when it was our hands that helped grow them. 

I have struggled with this at first seemingly benign mindset. I thought it was simplest to have quiet, settled children than paint splatter all over my table from finger paint. I thought it was easiest when they went to bed without a fuss instead of reading that book for the sixth time.

I thought it was easier to lean out than in. 

Because leaning out preserves my sanity and my energies. It gets us through the day quicker with not much destruction or unforeseen aggravation. 

I’ve leaned out so much in the last few months in particular.

I lost my dad.

And what I thought I needed was this safe space to exist in. This cathartic space to simply…be. Where if I gave up, and ordered an overly priced pizza for dinner, and let the dishes “soak” in the sink for a few more days time, that it would be easier.

Where if the husband put the children to bed, while I laid on the sofa and just stared at my phone or at the ceiling, it was the best thing for me. 

I thought I needed to be indifferent. I thought I needed to let go of the reins. Because having to function while in pain was too much to even think about.

When the truth is that having that luxury of space, and zero obligation, has taken away the challenge in my day to day life. 

I whisper to myself as my fingers glide over the face of a photograph of my parents on their wedding day, that I want to finish the bucket list my dad never made. Maybe visit places he never thought of. Hike to the top of some mountain and take in the expanse of life and greenery around me. Put my toes in every ocean I can. Get lost in a small town that  is hardly a dot on the map.

I say that I want to do these things, while I struggle to remain indifferent to what is happening around me. When maybe the thing is that I need to lean in. 

Yes, paper plates and plastic silverware, and tv dinners and quick cycles on the washing machine have their place. And sometimes, you just have to drop the attempts at dinner and order that pizza so that your mind isn’t lost forever. Practicality has its place. I am all about dollar menu McDonald’s in a pinch.

But sometimes, the things that keep our hearts beating are the things that are the most challenging. The things that tell us that no, we can’t stay here. We have to go. We need to move on, because we have things that are still left for us to do.

Sometimes, I think that if my dad were here, he’d take the time to scrub the dishes. He would spend his weekend afternoon in the autumn sunshine, raking the leaves that are falling like golden waves from the trees. He would relish the time to even be healthy enough to work.

Because in the working we are living to serve the things we love deeply. 

I can’t think of any greater love song sometimes than a barefooted momma, hunched over the kitchen sink in the dark hours of the night. Listening to music, arms at work loosening grit from a frying pan. The love song of folded laundry or arranged books on the shelves. How it creates this world where the people around them matter so much they want to create just the tiniest sliver of serenity in this broken world. 

The mom who cares enough to lean in. Who knows that pretenses don’t take the place of openness and warmth and serenity, but who is wise enough to know that the world may cave in, but you will always have warm food for you belly, something to wear on your back and my arms to fall into when you need me most. 

I want to be her someday. 

 

 

 

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May Day

Things have been dreadful around here. 

Okay, so maybe the word “dreadful” is taking it a bit too far. But, I don’t want to lie to you, things have not been fun. 

The Northeastern sector of the country, where we live, has been drenched with rain for nearly the entire month of May. I am not exaggerating. At all.

This means a lot of days inside. A lot of television watched. A lot children going crazy from cabin fever. 

I must have jinxed myself. Because I started going to the gym again. I dared to catch up tremendously on lots of house work, and even thought I might be able to manage repainting my master bedroom this summer. I did all sorts of productive things. 

Which meant that, naturally, half of the family would be wiped out with sickness over the course of the last three weeks, and I would be considering fumigation as a viable housekeeping option.  

Let me back up to the three-solid-weeks-of-germs thing.  

I have had boogers smeared across my shoulder, and in my hair by grumpy and needy children. Fevers. Wakeful nights. More fevers.

Now, I’m even infected. 

I recently put all of the medicine bottles back in the bathroom the other day. We normally keep them handy in the kitchen when we are dosing children around the clock. Decorating with ibuprofen bottles and medicine droppers is kind of the hipster thing to do. You wouldn’t understand if you’re not a parent. </sarcasm>

This is what I get for deigning to think that we were done with sickness. Or that life was calm.

I brought this on myself. 

I feel like this is the way it always goes. 

We have a few good weeks. I feel on top of things. Things are running relatively smooth. 

Then the pendulum swings back the other way… 

And handily knocks me over. 

This is the cycle of being a stay at home mother. 

You feel as though you pay dearly for those lulls in activity and stress. When things seem too easy, you come to find out that they probably are, and you are reminded of the way that life is supposed to be. Or really is? I’m not sure. 

Everyone is telling you that you’ll wish you had these days back, but truthfully, nobody wants cold and flu and allergy season with small children. We just think that we do. We love the idea of nursing babies and kids through colds with soup and crackers, love and snuggles because it seems so easy. We don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

Then we live it, and we try not to bang our head against the wall. 

See? The pendulum does a-swingeth. 

The best that I can do, as I console myself over the amount of television my children have watched and the amount of frozen meals that we have heated over the last month, is remind myself that I’m doing my best. 

It’s nothing magical. There is nothing outright soothing about reminding yourself that you are doing the best that you can do. It doesn’t magically do the dishes in the sink, or get the laundry folded, or the smushed banana out of the carpet. It doesn’t quell the fevers, doesn’t wipe the red noses. It doesn’t make that five hour stretch of sleep you had feel like eight. 

But sometimes, it does restore a bit of sanity. It helps us reset. The only thing that we can do sometimes is our best. And maybe try to tell ourselves that our children will remember us rocking them to sleep when they were feverish. Or how we laid in bed with them until they were able to fall asleep. 

I dare say, that my kids aren’t gonna remember how messy or how clean the house was on that Tuesday in May when they were four, and I were busy realizing that the place was trashed, yet again. But they do remember how I laid with them on my shoulder, with a wet rag draped across their forehead. 

They probably won’t notice the way that we moms breathe in the scent of their hair. Or how we couldn’t get over how pink their cheeks were when we were standing over them in the dark. 

Those moments are just for us. They’re our due as we try to reconcile the perpetual hurricane that is mothering. It’s the things that only we can notice, because only we can mother them. Only we can find a couple of snot-nosed, grumpy kids the stuff of poetry. Only we can sense the divine in days spent dealing with children who argue over granola bars or dumping toilet water on the floor in the bathroom. It’s a harvest that is ripe for the gathering. 

I’m off to medicate. 

Happy Tuesday. 

Moms, you are allowed to say that it’s hard

Somewhere, around 9 a.m. this morning, I decided that I wanted to give up. 

Or rather, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to give up so much as I didn’t know if it was even worth the effort to actually try today. 

I had forgotten about my son’s weekly club meeting that he went into school early for on Thursdays, and he sat crumpled on my lap with tears running down his face because he would be missing out.

Even though he was over it and laughing and shouting, “after a while, crocodile!” to my, “see you later, alligator!!” as he boarded the school bus a half an hour later, I couldn’t shake my guilt.  

Shortly after his departure both of his sisters were bustling about downstairs. The imminent approach of turning two has turned my toddler into a brash little person as of late. She screams if she isn’t allowed to sit on our dining room table and take bites out of every single shining red gala apple in the fruit bowl. Even if that supposed apple is actually an onion.

I never thought that produce would be the bane of my existence. 

Before long, my dear children had turned the dining room (that I had just cleaned for company the night before) into a kinetic sand desert. Meanwhile, I stood in the kitchen and struggled to keep my eyes open and my wits about me despite the unfolding chaos. 

Later, I loaded my children into the van under the pretense of going to the grocery store…which was conveniently located across the way from a Dunkin Donuts. The car smelled like old yogurt, and it wasn’t long before a saw a purple sippy cup poking out from beneath the seat with what I was sure was filled with verifiable toxic waste.

dishes in sink

Our trip to town probably looked like an incredibly normal sight to any passersby. A mom, out at the store with her children on a spring day. 

I reluctantly let my four year old push a child-sized shopping cart around the store. Don’t get me wrong, such an invention is adorable and gives my children something fun to do while shopping with me. It’s just that now, the shins of everyone else in the store are in imminent risk of a severe bruising. 

As we navigated around the turns around the end of each aisle, she almost unintentionally plowed into an elderly lady pushing a cart full of fig newtons. Because of course she did.

We excused ourselves, and thankfully, the lady was gracious and friendly about it. She even thought the scene was funny, and went on about her business. In the meantime, I thought I was going to have a stroke at the thought of my daughter with windswept hair potentially maiming the ankles of every adult in close proximity. 

We arrived at Dunkin Donuts, and I am not going to lie, my donut was gone in under a minute. I waited for my coffee to cool while my thoughts knocked back and forth loudly in my skull. 

bussmess

I feel so alone in all that I do sometimes.

My kids sure as heck don’t see me. I mean really see me.

They don’t see that it takes three or four trips to load everyone and everything into the car when they ask me to about face and go back inside to fetch the toy they have forgotten.

They don’t see that I’m carrying a toddler strapped into a carseat, a purse and a diaper bag strung across the front of me when they ask me if I can carry their bottle of gatorade. 

They don’t see my face as I wince when they tell me that they don’t like the dinner that I spent the last hour making. 

Nobody sees that sometimes, this just isn’t what I want to do. 

Nobody sees how thankless, frustrating and degrading being a stay at home parent is. I mean really is. 

The little old ladies at the store, bless their hearts, don’t see me either. This morning looked mundane to them as I plastered a patient smile across my face and sucked it up in a devout effort to keep my cool, all while keeping thoughts of coffee in the back of my mind the way that a rat keeps the wedge of cheese in the back of his mind as he navigates around the corners of a  maze. 

This all feels like a maze, with no wedge of cheese. It doesn’t end. 

And it’s ridiculous. 

Sometimes, I think I make myself lonelier because I’m reticent to talk about how difficult it is, or because I don’t think that someone else will understand. Because when I do, I’m sometimes invariably met with similar responses.

Of how I should just enjoy myself.

Of how I should breathe in every single moment as if it could be my last.

Of how I should hang in there, have faith and choose joy. 

Of how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing

Let me just tell you that sometimes? There is no “just” anything when you are a parent.

There is no choosing joy when the dog has done number two on the carpet in the dining room (again), and the baby has found it with the bottom of her feet and tracked it everywhere. 

Sometimes, there is no enjoying myself when I am scraping bits of old food out of the corners of tupperware containers that were left for too long in the back of the fridge. 

Sometimes, I don’t feel so lucky when I forget about my son’s Lego club meeting, and he’s crying in my lap as I try to tell him how sorry I am, but daddy and I were so tired that we both just…forgot.

A lot of the time, parenting is getting the rawest end of the deal imaginable. Because you can’t automatically fix it, or get over it or deal with it and move on. Those long days wear on you like a weight on your shoulders. 

Sometimes, the best we can do is make the choice to choose joy afterwards.

Like, when I’m sitting in my white rocking chair on the front porch, processing the day and trying to remember that there is still so much good in what I do, even if I didn’t notice it while it was happening.

Sometimes, I feel joy when they are finally tucked into bed and the dishwasher is humming out in the kitchen, and I remember that I am doing all of this for very noble reasons. 

Until then, we have to be honest with ourselves.

We cannot choose joy, I mean really choose joy, without acknowledging how flipping hard all of this is. The difficulty makes the joy taste that much sweeter. We have to remove the feelings of guilt when we finally admit to ourselves just how terrible the terrible two’s are, or how awful cold and flu season is, and believe that it actually is okay to label them as such.

Sometimes, we need to give ourselves, and other parents, the breathing room to have crappy days. We need to stop treating mothers like the anti-Christ when she’s miserable because her Thursday isn’t going so hot. 

There are days that this calling is difficult because my children are crazy, donut-obsessed tiny people who want what they want, when they want it and will scream or cry or whine or ask a thousand and one times until they get it.

You could also say that this task is so, so difficult because I’m not always worthy or conscious of this sacred calling, and I don’t see it for how beautiful and incredible it is.

Neither answer is wrong. 

And neither answer is entirely correct, either. 

And yet somehow, even though there are days when the sky is falling, everything turns out okay in the end. 

At least, that’s what I’m guessing. Kids don’t turn into adults who carry the remote control around in their underpants, right?

Gosh, I hope not.