Unreliable Narrator

As far as Januarys go, this one hasn’t been that bad. I know we’ve had others that were far more brutal in terms of illness and weather (although the cold plus just enough snow/ice every few days to keep the roads an absolute mess has been exhausting and cabin-fever inducing to new levels); however, the way my posts are going so far in 2020, that’s kind of hard to see because even though the new year hasn’t been the hardest, it clearly also hasn’t been the easiest.

It seems that we are in the phase of life and parenting right now that is tough. (Sidenote: I’m 10.5 years into this gig and starting to become wise to the fact that all the phases come with their own, unique challenges, so…..).

Part of that is the sheer number of children in our house. For perspective, I’ve started referring to the children as “a little army of our own making” which is said with equal parts love and exasperation. Another factor in the struggle is that their age range (10.5, 8, 6.5, 4 1/3, and 2) makes it near impossible to do any activity all together that everyone enjoys/doesn’t sabotage (WA, I’m looking at you). And yet another part of the hard is the fact that each one of those children, just like the stages of growing up, comes with her or his own unique needs and challenges that we have to navigate at all hours of the day and night.

Hey, I didn’t say this was ground breaking content here; just some necessary truth telling because when you see pictures like this, I need you to know (and my future self to remember) that they are utter bullshit.

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The fact that my children all played the same thing at the same time peacefully, yes, did happen. But it lasted for less than two minutes before someone got bored and someone else stole someone else’s tool and someone else tried to eat the PlayDoh (*ahem* Wilson). So yes, I snapped this pic and am sharing it with you but not because I’m gloating or showing off my mothering skills. It was an utter fluke in the midst of long winter days filled with close quarters, quick tempers, and meals that are much like play time where there is always SOMEONE (pick one, anyone) who is pissed and not having it.

I share this with you because I need to be honest about the unglamorous moments, which, let’s be real, seem to accumulate much faster than the shiny ones. Actually, I just think it’s that the shiny ones aren’t as (literally) loud as the hard ones, which is why it is so tempting to try to capture and document those only.

But that’s not real life, or at least not mine, so here we are – stuck in the middle of winter, telling some truth and owning the fact that loud and cranky as it may be, I still wouldn’t ask for anything different (that’s also BS; of course less infighting and food complaining would be welcomed. Beyond that? Nope; wouldn’t change a thing).

 

 

 

One Blessed Day

I know I’ve said this before out loud, which means it has probably crept into a post before, too, but oh my word. How do parents do school breaks and keep a shred of sanity without having their co-parent home?!

In other words, I am very spoiled that for 95% of my kids’ time off from school, my spouse is also off from school. And thank goodness, because being outnumbered 5-2 is hard enough, much less 5-1 like I am today, on the last day of Christmas Break.

Confession: this morning I even had my mom here for a few hours to be my +1, so seriously, I have little room to bemoan this situation, except for the fact that this break wasn’t exactly the one of our dreams.

It started with a lot of social nights for me which was both awesome and draining because, much as I love my people, homebody introvert needs kicked in. And I guess you could say my need was answered because then we got majorly stuck at home, but not in the way I would have wanted.

We ended up with a kid-after-kid progression (in age order, no less) through GermVille, starting two days before Christmas that went from HD to TJ and it was awful. Fevers. Coughs. Interrupted sleep. Worry and stress. And totally botched family Christmas plans. We still got to sort of see my family that was in town but not in the fun, spend a lot of time together hanging out way.

Thankfully the baby avoided that round of yuck (but her runny nose the last couple days indicate that she’ll most likely be our first fallen ill in the new year) and we got to have a semi-normal second week of break but it was literally all spent here or at my in-laws. Meaning, we went into LockDown Mode big time and did NOTHING all the rest of break that put us around other people/exposed us to any of the crud flying around town (minus HD’s first-ever go at acolyting in church but just he and I went and left other, still-recovering kids home).

To say that cabin fever has set in big time is an understatement, even with all the fun new board games and Legos the kids were gifted for Christmas.

So to lose B to meetings today, on the same day that I have to re-enter my own online teaching presence, but still have all five kids home which happens to include a snot-faced toddler and a bunch of end-of-break crankiness?

WHOA.

I repeat: I don’t know how people do this on a regular, all-break, every break solo. One blessed day of it and I’m over here twitching a bit.

To all you parents getting through the last day of break/preparing yourselves for tomorrow’s blessed and challenging return to routines and being semi-dressed and functioning before 8:00A, Godspeed, good luck, and may your caffeine source be STRONG.

And may all of us avoid the sickies which you know is already making me nervous about re-entering the outside world.

25 Things in 2019

Y’all, I’ll be honest – this post makes me nervous this year because I waited so much later than normal to start it. The first year I did my list of 25 things, both big and not so big, accomplished, it was late in the year and I learned right away that sometimes these “things” take time. But apparently this year I spaced that lesson and so here I am with just a week left in 2019, starting my list.

Let’s see how this goes….

  1. Survived 12 entire months of constant house renovations this year. There was work before that and there will be work after it, but 12. Entire. Months. People in my house, my house torn apart, my family trying to exist amidst the chaos. I’m grateful we’ve been able to take on this remodel but I also wouldn’t recommend anyone else ever doing the same. It’s crazy making as much as it is beautiful making.
  2. Survived 9 WEEKS WITHOUT A KITCHEN AND FIVE SMALL CHILDREN UNDER THE SAME ROOF. I promise every entry won’t start with the word “survived” and this will be the only one in shouty caps, but seriously – I’m clearly not over the challenge of that yet. It may be years or decades before I find it funny.
  3. I taught 9 sections of college classes this year, mostly for Bellevue and one summer session for CCC. BU runs 12 or 10 week terms all year round, during which I am always teaching two sections of the same class. It’s a little nutters trying to work from home when 2/5 of my children are still here most/all of the time, but you know – it’s OK, and it’s making a lot of other things possible (see above), and I am so grateful to be able to do this work from home gig.
  4. I stopped teaching yoga. I’m not saying “quit” because I still don’t know how permanent this is, but in August I made the decision to make more time for myself and my family and to do that, I had to set my business totally off to the side. And promise not to touch it for six months. When that time passes, I’ll reassess, but honestly, I don’t know. Yoga is a beautiful gift in my life and I love to share it with others, but I also need to put my own life mask on first, if you know what I mean.
  5. I practiced a lot of at home yoga. I’ve done multiple months of every day practice with the YWA community this year. I’ve done some just making it up on my own. I love breathing and moving with others in a public class but I also love the beauty and the listening that comes from time with just me and my mat in my living room. It feels easier to make it my own when I’m on my own for practice.
  6. I meditated for 172 days straight. And then I got sick and forgot. But 172 is my personal best for consecutive days of sit ever. It wasn’t pretty and there at the end, it wasn’t all that productive, but it was informative and helpful and will allow me to reorient and create a new, healthier version of the practice in the coming year.
  7. Went to four* concerts: Guster with the Omaha Symphony (and my hubs) in Feb., Trevor Hall in Omaha in March (got to meet TH after the show thanks to an amazing surprise VIP pass from a friend), and T. Hall and Nahko co-headline at Red Rocks in June with some of my best girls. The fourth carries an asterisk because The Talbott Brothers were technically in Hastings three times this year – Flatwater, a street dance, and two nights at The Lark – and you can bet your sweet bippy I saw each one of those! And I even got a photo opp with the brothers, too! All magical musical medicine. I cherish every single opportunity I get to witness live music that I love.
  8. (Finally!) Saw Hamilton!!! Ben and I got a night away in Omaha so we could see the show and hoby pokes, it was amazing. Our seats were in the way far back but we were there with friends, the cast was incredible, and I am so pleased with our anniversary/birthdays/Christmas present to each other. 😉
  9. Read 65ish books to myself and another handful+ to the children (this does not include the literal hundreds of pictures/board/story books read this year).
  10. Wrote 35 blog posts. This is my smallest in ages, but life, man. It got in the way this year and not everything is something I can share here, so, the number is what it is.
  11. Took a sledge hammer to a wall in the basement, because, therapy.
  12. Took the whole family to Kansas City for the Littles’ first MLB game – KC Royals vs. Linky’s team, the New York Yankees. I have never wanted the Royals to lose a game before, but they pulled it off in an extra inning.
  13. Experienced my first late spring/early summer as a baseball mom. Some of my best guy friends in HS played baseball so sitting in the stands is nothing new here…it is still just as boring and glorious as it’s ever been!
  14. Coached two soccer teams this fall with Ben, sometimes at the same time on two different fields! We had three kids playing and it was a wild six weeks, but with the help of grandparents, good friends, and our teams’ parents, we pulled it off!
  15. Got our first real coffee maker (just a Keurig or pour over before). Both B and I now partake. Clearly I’m chugging the stuff right now because the !s are flying and so is this list (knock on wood). Bonus “thing”: I stopped adding any dairy to my coffee to end the year. Just a touch of raw sugar and I am good to go. Look Ma, I’m growing up!
  16. Finished nursing my last-ever baby. It was bittersweet because it was all her call (that’s fine) but I would have gladly continued for years. How strange to close such a big (darn near 10 years of breastfeeding) chapter in my life.
  17. Discovered that if permanent preventative measures had not been taken, I’d be yearning for a sixth baby right now. And by yearning I mean lobbying because I’m already yearning. I blame Wilson’s cuteness and the fact that we’ve never had a baby turn two without another one on the way soon after (or a wee bit before), so I really don’t know how to do this moving forward as a complete family thing, but I’m learning. Because, permanent. Prevented. It just is what it is. And what is, is good, even if I sometimes wish it could be different.
  18. Got a standing desk because of unexplained, undetermined abdominal painthat started in June-ish and is maybe still happening (I say maybe because it comes and goes, so who really knows). Also tried meds, tests, an ultrasound, and acupuncture, and still not sure what’s really been going on, but as a side note, the desk is nice.
  19. Bought my first pair of Converse sneakers (mind you, not every item on this list is soul searching or revealing). Love them.
  20. Didn’t* buy clothes all year. *OK, so there were a couple cheats like fundraiser shirts and a sweatshirt in SD when it was freaking chilly in late-July and we had no long sleeves packed, but beyond that (and, I can’t lie, a duster and a jumpsuit) I did a solid job of shopping in my own closet or those of friends.
  21. Got a way late start to watching both Game of Thrones and Shitt’s Creek but we’ve binged our way through all the seasons (OK, almost done with Season 5 of SC but definitely will be before Season 6 airs next month) and totally loved these two (totally, totally different) shows.
  22. Did my first-ever speaking gigfor a local mom’s group. Apparently I still cry when I try to talk about body dysmorphia in public, but hey, I got through it.
  23. Kept house plants alive for over a year! This is a freaking miracle unto itself and is perhaps, like the coffee, a sign of real adulthood!
  24. Changed countless diapers, wiped endless bums, checked far more fevers than I ever would have cared to, did umpteen-million loads of laundry and ran the dishwasher at least 1.5 times a day….all in all, the life of a stay/work at home mama with five Littles. I don’t know if these count as “accomplishments” but good Lord, I need to document these days so when I look back on them in coming years I can marvel at how it all got done. (My guess? Totally the coffee.)
  25. Finally learned how to curl my hair on trend/like a grown up/by myself! I’ve only been trying to do this for what, 20 years? Yay, me!!!!!!

And there ya have it. A lot of grown up growth this year.

I don’t know that I’d say I’m looking back fondly at 2019 just yet, but as always, this kind of reflection makes me pause and realize that yes, there was change and development and challenge and failure and success and life this year. And that’s all very much worthy of noting.

Whether you share yours or not, I hope you’ll give your own list a think; you may surprise yourself!

And also, proof of the houseplants. Because, truth telling.

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A Mama’s Mantra

Does anyone else remember that feeling from childhood when time stretched on forever and days lasted weeks or sometimes years? How about from your early 20s when you thought 30 seemed old and how it’d be ages before you were 40? And then did you blink and find yourself suddenly 37?

Yep.

Me. Too.

I think any adult, especially one upward of 30, would agree that you get here (whatever your age/here is) faster than you think because that molasses time really is reserved for the young only. As you age, time only speeds up, and days/weeks/months can fly by, even though something all parents (especially those of the stay-at-home variety) know is that those days can also still be forever long and challenging.

This week started off for me with illness – something no mama has time for ever but hard as we fight it, our bodies just know the best way to slow us down and force us to rest. In a way, that’s OK because B and I already don’t try to cram every bit of joy and holly jolly into the month of December, so a little fire-throat-induced-reprieve early in the month was doable.

For two days.

Then, suck it up Buttercup – it was time to dive back into parenting and life.

As I explained to a few folks I saw yesterday, being upright was basically happening against my will and the fact that I was dressed and had my hair curled was only because I was faking it with coffee, to which a wise friend responded by saying that she’s been doing that her whole motherhood and all I could think was, YES, Sister, YES.

Because ready or not, like it or not, we are of the age where time flies and life (thankfully) just keeps coming at us full speed. With this many little people along for my ride, I need a little extra fuel in my tank and not just on the weeks where I’m trying to recover from a germ bomb. I promise, coffee isn’t the only form my fuel takes, but by golly, it is today. And probably will be tomorrow, too.

Honestly? I’m OK with that.

Because by “faking” it, I don’t meant that I don’t enjoy the journey; I just want to make sure I’m awake for it. 😉

Faking it with Coffee

 

All the Feels

So it’s not news to me, with the fifth kid, that Year Two comes with big doses of alllll the emotions, but apparently this year that means not just for said child but also for this particular mama.

I mean, I’ve probably cried during at least half of our kiddo birthday celebrations throughout the years, but something feels a little different when it comes to Wilson’s second birthday. I think it’s safe to say that 1) Sweet Girl has always done things different from Day One, and 2) even at two years out, I’m still reliving those early, different, difficult NICU days that consumed us for the first three weeks of her earth-side journey.24819275_10103621685305583_55478072_o

At the start of the month when Baby Girl (y’all, honestly. How will I ever stop calling her The Baby?!) was sick, my mom kindly took TJ to preK for me and I sat for three hours with my butt in the rocking chair and Wilson in my arms. The house was much (MUCH) quieter than the hospital ever was, but for some reason, my brain hopped back there lickity split to the days of no other kids around and just a baby in my arms that we desperately wanted to be better so we could in fact go home. I didn’t get all teary-eyed that day, but today? On img_59162nd Birthday Eve (can you tell we’ve been practicing showing off her new age)? Oh, goodness. I got super weepy thinking about the shock and challenge of all that and the emotional roller coaster it took our whole family on post-delivery.

And now, in what literally feels like no time at all, we’re here, at the stage of so much personality and so much activity. And did I mention SO much talking? Wilson is the perfect little magpie which is super cute and entertaining until someone says something you wish they hadn’t and then you have to try to divert really quickly until she finds some other word or phrase to latch on to instead.

Two of her favorite phrases are: “Pick-a-up” and “Supa-high” which refers respectively to wanting to be in my arms/on my hip and wanting to be in her toddler swing where yes indeed, she does want you to push her freakishly high and quick (which scares her mother on the daily but she loves it and squawks at you if you don’t comply, so yeah. Good Luck.)

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I am guessing that as we roll through the actual birthday and the coming weeks, there are going to be plenty more moments of big feels. There’s not as much shift happening in our family as we’ve always had in the past when a kid turns two, but processing that she is our last to do so is a big change all on its own and worthy of some feels.

And even though, or maybe especially because, I know time will just keep flying by, I will make note to enjoy all those moments she wants to be held and all the new Toddlerisms she teaches us because no matter how much I sometimes flash back, we thankfully, blessedly keep moving forward as a family.

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Opposites of Answers

For the last six-ish months I’ve been having “unexplained” abdominal pains.

For the last four-ish months, we’ve been trying to explain/fix it.

If I were a betting woman, I’d say stress is the cause. 11.5 months of living in renovations while raising five Littles is too much and I really think the pain is my body talking to me, telling me that all is not well with this set up and my system. But honestly, I can’t really test that theory until the house is done-done and we’re still a handful-ish of weeks away from that, so who knows. Considering that all the medical tests that we’ve run have been just as unclear (that’s not true; some concerns have been ruled out by the tests – they just haven’t indicated what is happening), it’s possible that I’m right.

The latest attempt to eradicate pain has led me back to acupuncture, something I haven’t used in my life since before Trumy was born. It has been both good and challenging on many levels, but three weeks in and I’m still experiencing the same symptoms, this week especially. I know healing methods like this take time, especially when the backlog is as deep as mine, but I was presented with an intriguing question recently that, like the pain, just keeps coming back to me.

In addition to being challenged to “let it go” (heaven help me; if 2019 has been a lesson in anything, it’s been about living with things outside of my control, even when in theory, I should have it and, quite frankly, I’m freaking over it), I was challenged with working to reverse the emotions that have set up camp in my system. The practice given to me to do this was to notice the emotions arising and then, assuming they were unwanted, imagine the opposite.

Call me crazy, but I am struggling.

For one, I’m a big believer in feeling all the feelings. Mr. Rogers and this excellent article a friend happened to share earlier today would seem to agree. As I’ve discussed with my therapist over the years, the important thing is not to get stuck in any one feeling. But stuffing or an inability to navigate through feelings is just as dangerous because those emotions are going to set up shop somewhere in your system and come back when you least expect or understand them.

But isn’t that what I’m already experiencing? Pent up emotions already messing with my physical body that in turn is hurting my emotional body? For example, I have been so mad these past couple days and I’ve also been experiencing more abdominal pain. Which one came first this week? I don’t know and am very much having an egg/chicken debate with myself about it because I can totally see how either one could influence the other.

So even though I didn’t really understand or even accept the opposite feelings challenge, I tried to do it. I’ve just been really, really angry lately and if I could opposite it away, I was ready for that to happen. Of course that’s when I realized, holy crap – that’s really, really freaking hard to name. So much so, that when I put it out to friends as a thought experiment on FB “the opposite of anger is _____” I got over a dozen different answers. I also got a link to an article that actually explores (and does so beautifully), the language and psychology behind this struggle to pinpoint an actual opposite of anger specifically which you should definitely read.

img_5572So how can I opposite my anger away if I can’t name an actual concrete opposite? Honestly, like the rest of this medical mystery, I still have no answers, which means I just have to keep trying to take care of myself and my system in the hopes that this really will get better (and by get better, I mean GO AWAY). That being said, if you have a favorite way for navigating (not stuffing) anger in particular, I’d love to hear it. I’ll be honest, one of my favorite ways is (shocker) with words, so a little writing and one of my favorite comfy sweatshirts go a long way some days. Others, not so much.

And if you have an opposite for anger for the thought experiment, I’d love to hear that, too! The list generated so far has been so eye and heart opening.

Words on Words

Today was a first. Even though I’ve been writing the words upon words here for over eight years now, today was the first time that they resulted in me getting up in front a group and giving voice all by myself to the same experiences that I share with you all here.

Y’all, that is a great honor and a terrifying thing to have done! But I did it, so now I can – in true form – write to you about it.

To explain: it’s been a few years since I’ve been a regular at MOPS because of preK schedules and having new babies and just life. But it’s still a special group to my heart because when I started attending it, also over eight years ago, I met some amazing people, many of whom are still good, good friends. So when that same group (now called Moms of Hastings; check ’em out here if you are interested in joining a local mama group) reached out early this fall to ask if I’d like to come speak to them about body image and postpartum and the basic challenges of motherhood, I said (to myself): “that sounds scary and also right up my alley” and to them: “Yes!”

Today was that yes come to life and while I won’t share the whole transcript of my (sorry ladies, a little rambly) talk, I do want to share the gist as well as the experience with you.

After the initial ask, I made some notes and wrote out some ideas weeks and weeks ago and then promptly set it all aside until just last week when I picked up my notes and flushed it out into a longer piece. Then I realized I needed to make it way longer to be the correct amount of time, so I kept reworking and managed to practice it a couple times. img_5750But then yesterday (spoiler alert: you may not know this about me, but I have always been a stellar student who is also a giant procrastinator) when I should have been practicing all the live-long day, Wilson got sick and wanted nothing more than to be in my arms the entire three hours Trumy was at preK. Somewhere in that experience is an upcoming post about NICU flashbacks, I promise.

So, I didn’t get to run through as many times as I maybe would have liked, but I felt pretty solid on my three main points which were as follows, and yes, I really did stand up and give an entire talk about words:

  1. Talk therapy saved me. I didn’t say those exact words this morning but that’s the gist of it, folks. Having access to a trained professional who listens to, guides, challenges, and helps me? Hands down the best form of self care I know. Plus she got me to the yoga and we all know what a role that’s played in my life.
  2. The words you use and surround yourself with matter. And yes, I did quote Daniel Tiger’s “Use your words” song because Wilson is obsessed with him and this blog is already named for a different PBS show, so how could I not?
  3. Challenge yourself (obscure reference here: Go Doane!) to quit belittling your body in passing conversations and don’t join in or feed the flame when others do the same. I’m not asking people to stuff their feelings or desires for change in their bodies, but I think if we could change the culture of shared body shaming, we’d all be a lot happier and healthier no matter what our metrics are.

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For the most part I think it went pretty well but gosh darn it, I thought for once I’d be able to get up in front of a group and speak about my life and NOT cry, but, nope. That streak continues.

But really, I know that’s OK because the part that got me was by far the hardest part to talk about which is that I have a condition that I will most likely always have to work against in my life/in my brain – body dysmorphia. And I don’t know how many speaking engagements I’d have to do before I’d be able to say “I have a mental condition that I work with and through every day of my life that impacts both me and my family depending on how I am managing it” and not cry. To quote Lizzo completely out of context, “that’s the human in me.” And that’s fine. I learned today, however, that when you are the only speaker instead of a member of a panel, and you get all sniffly, it’s a lot harder to stop and collect yourself/blow your dang nose while everyone in the room is watching you. You know, the important things you don’t think about until they are happening. In front of a group. 😉

Scary as it was to get up and do that this morning (and hard as it was to leave a sad, still img_5756sick Wilson at home to go do it), I’m glad I was asked and I’m glad I did, because the more we give voice to our struggles, the easier it gets to carry our individual loads because then they aren’t just ours to bear. To share one direct quote from this morning with you:

If sharing my stories has taught me anything, it is that real beauty in relationship with self, others, and spirit comes when we can speak truthfully to our imperfections and our successes and love our way through it all the same.