Mostly Cloudy with a Chance of Breakdowns

In the last eight sleeps, only two have not involved being up for hours in the middle of the wee early night/morning. Each one of these disjointed sleeps eventually included a short “nap” before the rest of the house woke for the day, but I am here today to admit how much I am struggling as a result of all this and just how relative that lurking darkness in the seemingly fine, bright clouds in the sky feels to me. img_7753

Zombie jokes don’t even begin to describe the dark and ragey place my overtired but brain now seems to live. And while this is not new territory for me, especially this late in pregnancy, it is certainly unwelcome as it is making normal existence as a functional human being difficult, much less the challenge it is adding to parenting. Anything and everything my crew decides to throw at me right now feels huge and heavy and fit-inducing, for both them and me.

Like 7:50a.m.-we-need-to-be-out-the-door-just-tie-your-shoes meltdowns.

Like someone who learned (where? how? WHY?) the phrase, “Bye, Stupid!”

Like another someone who insists on sitting on my head as I try to take a PBS nap on the family room couch.

Like all the sass and attitude that I might normally be able to deflect or redirect, but that suddenly feels personal and like the epitome of reflection of how much I am sucking right now.

It’s all of these things and a dozen other little bumps in any given day that I’m not handling well. At all. I’m mad. I’m sad. I’m yelling. I’m crying. I’m the stereotypical wrung out mom (to-be) and the crap part is, I have absolutely no idea what I can do to turn it around, because try as I may have in the last 8+ years of baby growing, I still haven’t found the magic cure for taming the hormones that will 1) bring rest in order to 2) bring peace.

Now, I know that part of today’s particular struggles (that list from above? Yeah, that could be any given day in the last week-ish, but it was all this morning before noon) have been compounded not only by the lack of sleep but the excess of activity. I had a HUGE weekend with two major work events and a book club and normal church activities Sunday morning, and while that’s all good stuff, it meant I was moving from one to the next to the next to the next, fueled on adrenaline, coffee, and a Sunday afternoon power nap that I’m sure I should have been doing something productive around the house during, but AYFKM? My body and brain are SO. BEHIND.

Also not so helpful? Ben has conferences tonight, so after a not-great morning, I’m in charge of nighttime stuff that is normally not “mine” and I’m basically using this screen-time post-writing opportunity to officially offer a wild-flung hope and prayer that we all make it through without more yelling or more tears, from any of the parties involved. That actually sounds like I am asking for a miracle, but I guess a mama can dream, even if she can’t sleep.

And the moral of this post? Yep, there’s not one. Other than to say, for honesty’s sake, that Baby No.5 has landed me in the not-sleeping place far, FAR sooner than I would have liked and that, too, is worth documenting, in all of it’s weepy, very un-shiny glory because I know no mama alone, but the other worn-the-eff-out mamas need to know it, too: I see your dark circles, friend, and I know just how uneasily they are earned.

 

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On Definitions, Labels, and Learning.

During a lecture in grad school, one of my professors called me out by name during his class for being a (quiet) contrarian. It happened so long ago that I can’t recall his exact language, but it was something along the lines of,  “And then you’ll be saying something and can look at Jenni and know she is contradicting all of it.” And even though I don’t know if that’s precisely how he said it, I do know the first thought that went through my head was, “Me?! No, I’m not!” which pretty much proved his point right then and there.

The funny thing was, until that experience, in my 22+ years I naively assumed that I thought and believed pretty much like anyone else around me. It never occurred to me that someone might take me (well, actually my writing, as I’ve never been very outspoken in classes) as a force of contradiction. In the years since, however, this claim has stayed in the back of my brain, and it’s actually helped me in many ways.

For one, it’s good to know that I have my own voice and that it is worth sharing because yes, it might in fact differ from that of another person. Not that I have to strike out to change their thinking, but that giving my unique perspective is of value because it does indeed add to the conversation. For another, it has helped me – sort of – as a parent because now that I am raising at least one little contrarian of my own, I can find solace in knowing from where it comes, even if that doesn’t do much to help me actually deal with it in real life.

All of this is a very long-worded intro into the fact that as Ben and I are now completing the New Member classes at our new church, First Presbyterian (you guys, I still can’t spell that right on the first try) Church in Hastings, I’ve had some of these contrary student moments that have given me pause and caused me to reflect a bit.

At our first session last week, we were asked as part of our introduction to share what it means to us to be a Presbyterian, and y’all, I blanked. So much blanked that I said, “I don’t know” as that part of my introduction because beyond still not spelling it correctly, I couldn’t tell you what the word itself meant or where it came from, so how else could this contrarian answer but with a non-answer?

Fortunately, we did go over some church history and even the definition of the word “Presbyterian” (ha! no red squiggles!) which has to do with church governance and committees and such , and I walked away from the evening certainly knowing more, but also realizing that I knew more than I gave myself credit for when I first answered.

Another benefit of being contradictory in nature? You learn that you can contradict yourself even, and sometimes fairly soon after a statement’s been made.

You see, as I listened to the others in our group do their own introductions, I realized they were all touching on the very messages/themes that I’ve written about before when I’ve blogged about church, namely being the concepts of love and service. Love and service. It may have been the invitation of friends and the desire to have a church home for our family that initially brought us in the doors, but it is this particular church’s driving forces of love and service that kept us coming back and ultimately led us to become official members this summer. And not just lip-service, either, but actions and actual in-the-world service, which is where my heart lies, introverted and contradictory as it may also sometimes be. [Parenting side note: this too has come up more and more when I address my children because as much as their mama loves words, they have to know that actions matter, too, and often times, even more so than their words.]

In my defense, I was the very first person to share, after our pastor that is, and tired/pregnant mama brain + first-out-the-gate nerves perhaps got the best of me. I should also mention that one of the other questions we had to answer was about which Bible character we related to with a list of examples/qualities to help us, but I still totally pulled a “there aren’t enough women on this list and I’m not connecting with any of the men on here, either” for that one, so yeah….Sorry, Pastor G – there’s that whole contrarian thing again!

But after chewing on these questions for the last few days, and learning more and more about the larger church itself and the actual congregation here that we are now officially part of, I once again land at the conclusion that we are fortunate to be where we are in this community that lives not only by faith but also by love and service. This is the message, the work, and the spirit we want to surround our children with as they grow, and it is how we want to be in the world, too.

And, as I explained in an email to our pastor that he’s most likely not seen yet, but touches on many of these same points, this particular explanation would have been far too long to share with the New Members group (and thanks to my prenatal weepies, I doubt I would have gotten through it one piece anyway), but it is worth sharing here because where we go from here….how we love and serve as a family….well, that’s what it is all about and this is where I share those stories.

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Taken the Sunday in June when we joined the church! 

 

Soon? Wellllllll…..

Hey, there, friends! Greetings from the 3rd trimester and September! We’ve had an interesting start to the school year with a sick Harrison (for over a week and a half!) and other various oddities, but we’re now a week in which puts us past Truman’s 2nd birthday (Happy 2, Little Man!) and the 29 Week mark for me and Baby No.5. This 3rd trimester has decided to show up with some oddities of its own, which I’ll touch on here, but really this is a friendly little reminder that some words, when applied to pregnancy, are very, very relative.

First, the update: Holy Heartburn! Over the last weekend, my esophagus decided to burst into flames and for the life of me, I don’t know what’s going on. Diet? Trimester? Stress? All of the above?! Who knows. But for the first time, I am taking an OTC medicine for it because WOW. And OUCH.

Also OUCH? Well, I won’t go into specific details because it’s too much TMI for today, even for me, so instead I’ll just leave it at this: there is no way my body needs to be preparing to actually give birth 11 weeks out, so let’s just hope the system chills out a bit, shall we?

And about that 11 weeks….

Y’all, I still have 11 WEEKS to go. And much as I can’t control what comes out of the mouths of others, you can sure bet I am going to try to gently remind folks that while that might seem like soon to you (or them) it is NOT to me. I may not be counting the days yet, but 11 WEEKS currently feels like an incredibly long time to me, so as fast as I know it actually will go, I (and probably most pregnant women) would prefer not to hear it called “SOON.”

For me, that word is double-edged. While I’ve had moments of doing much better this go-round with body image, I’ve also had complete face palms and freak outs, so to suddenly have people using the S-word around me all the time makes me think they must think I look ready to pop. And you know what? Maybe I do. I honestly have no idea, other than my weight and baby’s growth are both normal and on track with all of my other pregnancies and within healthy limits, but there I go getting super defensive, so let me bring it back in a little bit….

The point is, even if someone thinks I look like I’m ready to have Baby tomorrow (despite weird pains in my body, trust me: I am definitely not ready for that), I don’t need to hear it. If someone feels the absolute need to comment on my body or my belly or my shape, the only thing they should be saying is that I am a) glowing (I still don’t know what this one means, but I’ll take it over an insinuation of ready-to-burst anytime) or b) look fantastic.

And really, there is no need to comment on my body at all (but I won’t lie; a compliment isn’t going to hurt a preggers, ever). Instead, ask me how I’m feeling or how I’m sleeping or how the kids are doing or what we had for dinner last night or basically anything other than drawing attention to the fact that yes, my belly is large (because it should be) and yes, a baby is going to come out of it (but that my definition of “soon” is probably highly different than most of society’s right now). And if you’re just curious/can’t remember when I am due, ask that. I’d much rather tell you (November) than assume that by your use of “soon” you mean a couple weeks from now. 😉

So that’s it. I’ve said all of this before, I’m sure, but since folks continue to use very, um, interesting words to comment on my physical appearance these days, I too am taking the blunt approach of saying: Love it or let it go. And, please!, don’t assume the word SOON is part of my current vocabulary.IMG_2500

 

The Camel’s Back + Football Pretzels

For the last week, our house has been in attempted healing mode. I’m not entirely sure how well our efforts have been going if we’re still at it a week later.

For me, that means my knees. After taking a tumble on a concrete driveway last Wednesday, it took several days just for the injuries to scab over, much less really start healing. While one is definitely closer to fine than the other, I still can’t put hardly any pressure on them (I can at least bend them enough to squat down to kid level though), and, like most injuries, you just don’t realize how many times in your daily life with Littles that you put weight on your knees until your knees tell you NO.

My discomfort, however, has taken a backseat to the health mystery of Mr. Harrison who has had an incredibly strange seven days/beginning of his school year. I’m no math teacher, so this could be wrong, but at this point he has darn near missed as many days as he has attended (one of those was our own doing with our Eclipse Day).

The culprit for the rest of them? Fever. One that showed up last Wednesday afternoon when I picked him up from school, then spiked on Thursday night (and resulted in couch sleeping shifts for B and I that night), and then persisted at various levels the whole weekend. Of course we kept him home on Monday but ended up not at the doctor because the fever went down (I had my own doctor’s appointments for Baby No.5 that day, so we still had familial representation at the medical park), to the point that he was then good to go to school Tuesday. But then the fever showed up again, low-grade, last night and was still there, low-grade, this morning. So. Another day home, but this time for sure to the doctor.

I should mention that we also did a trip to convenient care on Saturday where they did test him for strep, which was negative, but you know how sometimes you can just look at your kid and know something is still not right? That has been the last five days with HD. img_7527His eyes just haven’t looked right this whole time.

So this morning, another strep test and a finger poke to check blood counts and whatnot. Everything came back – again – negative. But you can tell something is wrong just by looking at him, much less by peering in his throat, so we’re thinking the medical mystery is a virus last week that broke Monday but then resurfaced as a secondary infection yesterday. So meds it is, as many fluids as we can get in him (unfortunately the child got his father’s hydration habits and not mine, so this is a challenge unto itself), and hopefully back to school ASAP.

From a parenting standpoint, this has made the last week, um, challenging. Next to nothing has been normal, and even though I am not teaching for CCC, I am still working via Grounded Sky and coordinating not only a big event for September, but also still teaching yoga classes of various styles. Plus, hello Third Trimester with Baby No. 5. I feel like that should be explanation enough as to why things have been less than smooth these last seven days.

So wth does this have to do with a camel and pretzels?

Today, after getting home with all three boys from preschool pickup, after spending much of the morning at the doctor’s office/pharmacy with two of them, in a span of two minutes, the 4yo managed to lock me out of the house and then then 2yo (once I was back in the house), dumped an entire bag of football shaped pretzels all over the dining room. Normally those aren’t really things that would make a person lose their shit, but I lost my shit. Which really means, I yelled and stomped around the kitchen a bit, and was just generally a big old mess of human because my patience and nerves (and knees, because ouch – literal salt in the wounds trying to clean up the pretzel mess) are shot.

And, clearly, I desperately need some normal, because so far, we are two weeks into the school year and I still haven’t found what that means for us yet. So with our window for establishing a routine being so short before we upturn everything again, I’m not terribly surprised that locked doors and pretzels were enough to tip me over the edge today.

Humanness + tunnel of parenthood + recovery mode pretty much = I need a nap, lots of coffee, just a teensy bit of normalcy, and no more damn pretzels.

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We Took an Eclipse Day

Since most of my blogging purpose is posterity, I feel I would be remiss not to document this day – this day that has been talked about and talked about for months (and for the last week, has been freaking me out via the Interwebs and eyeball burning warnings) of the Total Solar Eclipse 2017.

But since Hastings really was in the “Path of Totality,” we had a prime spot for taking in this monumental day/night and we ended up taking full advantage of it.

For a while now, I have wanted to pull the kids from school for the eclipse, simply because I wanted to be with them for this once-in-a-lifetime experience, which was a sentiment echoed by several of my mama of school-agers over the course of the last few weeks. And since the hubs was down for that, we proposed the plan to the children at the end of last week: get to come home in the middle of the day for the eclipse.

We were met with one “Cool” and one TEARS.

Poor Miss Raegan; she was so excited to start school last week (and also so warn out by starting school last week) that after school on Friday, she was in hot mess meltdown mode because she wanted so badly to have it both ways – her whole family with her at school for the eclipse AND her whole class here with her family for the eclipse. Sorry, Love – no dice on either since TJ needed a nap and I wasn’t really down for inviting 20+ Kindergartners to our yard (for potential eyeball burning).

So we kind of let the issue sit and on Sunday, my aunt and uncle from MN arrived (he is a high school science teacher and was excited to get in on our view) , and Ben and I decided on the wild plan of not just pulling the kids from school for the event, but for the whole day. It just seemed like the best way to keep RL from losing it again and it made for less runaround during our day before and after our observation of the sun/moon dance. And because Ben happens to have plan during the middle of the day and did not have study hall today, he could even join us as the house for gearing up and viewing all the way up to totality (and then he had to split).

While there were definitely moments this morning of wishing I had just sent them (long side note: RL might have stayed home today anyway because she woke up from a bad dream – that’s new and hopefully done – at 2:00 a.m. and with a horrendous barky cough – and I ended up “sleeping” with her the rest of the night to keep her calm and on her side which meant NOT much rest for me, so my patience level plus excitement level of the children just were not on par, but cookies and coffee and extra helpers around the house make a world of difference), I am ultimately so glad that we kept them home and got to be all together (minus the napping baby which was a blessing as far as safety goes) for what turned out to be very much worth the hype.

We did not see everything (no Shadow Bands that we could see, and I’m pretty sure I missed both the Diamond Ring and the beads), but dang, Totality came and it was UNREAL.

Honestly, I was a little freaked out that our timer app was wrong and we’d taken them off too soon, but just like that, you could hear people all over town cheering and hooting and hollering because it was just that wild to have it so suddenly be like night time out (with the 360 sunset around us) including street lights and cooler temps and this perfect ring of light around the moon up in the sky. And lucky us, we got to experience it for over two whole minutes!

The kids – and all of our grownups – were drop-jawed. And it was crazy how, just like that, it was then reversing and the day was returning to normal(ish).

At that point, we headed back inside to return to our regular afternoon routine (as if we have a “hooky” routine! As we told the kids – the staying home from school offer was pretty much once in a lifetime, too!) and I will admit, I felt a little off. Some of that was fear of “OMG. Did we just burn retinas?!” and some was exhaustion from the previous night and the rest was hangover from the awesome craziness of the eclipse. And it legit took most of the rest of the afternoon for that to clear. I mean, does anyone else who experienced it feel like they lived more than one day today?

Although the kids couldn’t quite give us a highlight/favorite moment of the eclipse, at dinner RL said to the table, “Raise your hand if you had the best day ever!” and everybody did, so I would say all the hubbub and such was totally worth it. And thanks to our homemade masks, I think we are all more than fine, even though the 4yo was stressful to watch because he fought the mask for so long, but geez – let’s hope there are no lifetime ramifications of the lifetime event, for us or for anyone else (eventually I’ll get over this fear, I swear).

 

 

No Tears!

Friends, Raegan has been waiting for this day for, well, possibly two years when HD img_7413started Kindergarten, so to say that she was Ready is a bit of an understatement. She was so ready that we had tears yesterday because HD got to start and she had to wait for today! My sweet girl. Can you see that longing look in her eye in the photo bomb from his first day pics? Yep. She was more than pumped to get up today and Get It!

And you know what? It was a great morning. Much better than yesterday, actually. img_7423Maybe it was the sunshine or the fact that now, today, our real big kid school routine begins (preK will be added in a couple weeks and then we’ll have a couple/few months of normalcy before Baby arrives), but wow – total difference in everyone’s attitude and temperament (including Mama’s). Also, she told me I picked “perfectly” with her golden unicorn t-shirt for her to wear today. 😉

img_7435We got to walk with friends to school as we like to do and from there, it was a bit of back and forth across the playground for myself and the littlest boys (naturally the grades in which my kids land line up on opposite sides of the building) but we got to catch up with Big Brother (who ran ahead with his buddies) for a quick photo and hug (and face wipe which I also had to do for Raegan — apparently we need to install some more lighting in our house because I had no idea they still had breakfast faces until we got out in the sunshine of the playground. Whoops.) And then it was a quick dash back to Raegge for all the same before watching her walk in for her first day.

She was a Rock Star. No tears. No freakout when I left her to go check on HD. She just flat out nailed it. And you know what? So did I! I had the sunnies ready to go to hide my blotchy face and tissues in my bag, but no tears, my friends! From any of us! I can’t even possibly explain this except that she was so solid and that helped me keep it together, too. Could the tears still come? You bet. But for now, this – a quick little note to my girl on her first day of school:

Dearest Raegan,

Welcome to Kindergarten, Baby Girl! We are so proud of the amazing person you are and on this, your first day of school, we wish you all the continued fun, learning, and excitement with which you have so anxiously awaited this day. Your strength of spirit, your creativity, and your spark for life are inspirations to your dad and I, not to mention great sources of joy for all who know you. May you always carry the tenacity, sweetness, and love you hold inside you today with you wherever you go, for we know you are off and on your way to do and be amazing. We love you, Raegee. Go get ’em, girlie! 

Love,

Mama*

*OK, there are the sniffles. I knew they weren’t far below the surface! img_7429

 

Behind the Highlights

Lord in heaven. If you have Littles, or have ever had Littles, or have ever been around Littles, what I am about to say is no revelation, but it is Truth: taking a trip with Littles is not a vacation. In fact, I am not even sure it can qualify as travel. It is simply the same – nope, more – work than caring for your children in your own home. 

See? I told you. Nothing newsworthy here, and yes I acknowledge that being able to go anywhere with my family is a privilege, but just to keep life balanced from the IG and FB feeds with cute (if not all looking at the same time pics), I also have to say the obvious, which is that being away from home right now is freaking hard work.

Of course our reasons for travel are great. Getting to SoDak for first time in 14 months was important to us. Seeing my two remaining grandparents and attending a family reunion were big priorities for us this summer. 

But of course life and sharing rooms never goes quite as planned and so here we are smack in the middle of our trip, tired, frustrated from a hurry up and wait afternoon that was out of everyone’s hands, and hoping against hope that everyone will get some damn sleep tonight (& that whichever kid wakes up in the middle of the morning doesn’t wake up the rest of the crew by flipping on the bathroom light because Truman got a whopping 30 minutes of day sleep today and holy crap, do we need him to SLEEP) . 

I’m sorry. Did my tired creep through there? I don’t think they make a concealer strong enough to combat it, so I might as well be honest about it. 

Again, our reasons for traveling are solid. And I am 99% sure that our kids are enjoying themselves 95% of the time. B and I are even getting some evening time to visit with family. But damn. That saying about needing a vacation after getting home from vacation? Yes, please.

And also, this: I took it with a flash in the dark hotel room and it was the first thing to make me really laugh since earlier in the day, so I’m keeping it. Because, documentation, friends. It is possibly as vital as honesty.