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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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.

 

Time Change Woes

My husband doesn’t know it yet but he bought me “I’m Sorry” Coffee this morning. He also doesn’t know he is the reason I need it.

So we can probably all agree that the time change sucks. Every time, spring or fall, messing with clocks and sleep is a beast. And somehow, in his own sleep dep stupor thanks to having to sleep with a cold and cough recovering TJ, Ben also messed with my room darkening shades last night, the first night after the time change, also known as the worst time to mess with my shades.

So first, a little health update. Since August we have been trying to get a grip on my abdominal pain and three months later we still don’t have any clear answers. I’ve tried antacids and had bloodwork and an ultrasound and still nothing is clear and the pain still comes and goes. The only real known is that my sleep is still off the rails hence why the messing with the shades turned into such a caffeine requiring offense.

Again, a little background….I have never been a good sleeper and since Baby Lincoln arrived six years ago, Ben and I joined the 14% of American partners who don’t share a sleeping space because with all the babies bothering me, the last thing I needed was a snoring husband also keeping me awake at night. I also don’t sleep with a clock and do my best to shut out as much light as possible. Even though we no longer have a baby to keep us up all the live long night, my sleep is clearly still fragile and in need of repair, which I am working on in hopes that better sleep will equal a better belly (not abs; just not abdominal pain).

So, when B failed to put down the roller shades before closing my curtains last night, it is no wonder that strange, unexpected light came in and bothered me. When I saw it, I assumed morning was almost coming and with the time change that would make sense. But then no kids were running around and I was not sleeping and not sleeping and not sleeping for soooooo long that I finally realized something was wrong.

I didn’t know until after B left for school what had happened.

Turned out, though, that I was wrong and that the “I’m Sorry” Coffee actually came from my kids because it was one of them last night who put curtains down post bath without pulling shades, not Ben (we got a minute to chat over his lunch and he was appalled by the accusation, and not in a trying to get out of it way – it really wasn’t him!).

Clearly my brain is on backfire mode today, even with all the coffee and so it goes post time change.

Here’s to pulled roller shades and much better sleep tonight! And no misdirected marriage angst come tomorrow!

Our Drawn Out Dominoes

After RL started off September with the fever germs, LT decided last week to end the month/start October with a similar seeming virus. While he didn’t quite get the migraines that she did, he did keep popping fevers for four solid days and then sported a cheek-to-toe spotty little rash that was just lovely and kept him home from school for three days last week. We made a new family special sicky fort with a dinning room chair and blanket to block to the light and then did our best to keep the baby away from him (and failed, clearly).

We then had a lovely little Thursday/Friday/Saturday with the normal comings and goings of allllll the activities, and then came to today, Sunday, with the plans of going to Sunday School and church so we could partake in the communion service for which our kiddos helped make the bread at their Wednesday night programming. Thankfully, with the change in season, this morning was slightly less sweaty at church and I maybe even heard bits and pieces of the message. But I also noticed partway through that Truman was only going from Ben’s lap to mine and not in a bouncy way, but more in a “hold me, rock me, love me” way which for my active crew is never a good sign. (I mean, they do love on us when they’re feeling good, but extended daytime snuggles like that? Nope; not typical).

Sure enough, Little Dude skipped eating one of his favorite ever lunches after church (Gorilla Cheese and Tomato Soup) and then he voluntarily curled up on the couch for most of the rest of the day. And yep – he’s now sporting quite a fever to boot.

So, first of all, my apologies to anyone who was around him this morning. We had no idea he was going to take such a nosedive today, much less start it before the end of church.

Second of all, if you’re a praying person or a good vibe sending person, please throw some our way because this drawn out illness trading is way too similar to last fall and I’m not really sure I have the stamina to keep up with one kid after another after another with all this. Granted, it’s no easier to have a handful of sick kids all at once, but as we all know, the never-endings are just as brutal. img_5394

#assholeparent

You know all those parenting memes and hashtags that are floating around that make you snort-laugh or nod your head so vigorously your neck hurts, all because they just clearly get how rollercoast-y this raising tiny humans gig is? I appreciate the heck out of all them because every single truth-telling masked in joke-form speaks to my soul and helps me normalize that no, it’s not just me, and yes, children really are the best of the best even though they throw the worst of their worst at you.

Which they do.

A LOT.

Take this morning. I quickly became an #assholeparent when I told one of my children to wash his hands after using the bathroom. The bathroom he raced me to just to beat me to the privilege of peeing first before leaving for school (a moment he topped off by slamming the lid AND the seat back down, thank you very much), so really – how dare I remind him that basic freaking hygiene needed to happen?! But apparently it was a grave (or is it great?) offense, because the rage and meltdown that came left me blindsided.

For the most part, we’ve navigated this kids-going-back-to-school business with relative easy. Oh, there have been some super Captain Cranky Pants moments in our house, don’t get me wrong. But we’ve tried to take things slow on weekends and evenings, and for the most part, we have not had these trouble getting ready and getting out the door.

Well. Welcome to Week 3, friends! Honeymoon is clearly over.

Thankfully, even though my child was losing his shit, I did not lose mine. But part of what came out of still needing to get in the van and get to school in the midst of his meltdown is that a) he didn’t want to get his backpack and b) I wouldn’t let anyone else put it in the car for him. Natural consequence, right? Right.

Except then, on the drive to school, I remembered that it’s Wednesday — that means early out AND Wednesday Folders (the day the school sends home ALLLL the official paperwork which is fabulous except when your kids explode their folders all over the kitchen before you can get in from unloading the baby from the van and you don’t know which of the eleventy-billion papers might belong to which of your three school-age children, but I digress/am flashing back to last week).

Wednesday is a crappy, crappy day not to have your backpack.

There was no time to turn around to get it at that point and really, said child still hadn’t calmed down enough to warrant such an act, so I dropped them off (and watched his backpack-free back walk to his line, looking totally out of place in the sea of kids + bags) and went on with the rest of our morning tasks.

Within half an hour of getting back to the house, I decided to run his backpack to the school before lunch.

Did he make a crap choice this morning? Yes. Yes he did (and no, I don’t just mean not washing his hands). But am I actually an #assholeparent? Well, I’d sure like to think not, and I want my kid to know that I really do have his back(pack) even when he’s the one having a tough morning and isn’t handling it very well (read: is being a bit of a tiny asshole, expect I would never call my kids assholes).

I have yet to see him and hear what he thought about his bag magically appearing on his hook today at school, but whether he is happy or indifferent, I don’t really care. I didn’t do it to be a hero. I did it because we’re all human. We’re all going to have asshole mornings. We’re all still worthy of having people show up for us in small ways and big ways and bring your bag to school ways.

PS: This picture is from Open House, a few weeks ago…a night they definitely all had their backpacks (and some funny faces post mad-dash through the school to drop off all their stuff)! img_4825

Making Peace with Sunday Dinner

Just shy of a year ago, my feathers got seriously ruffled when someone made a comment to me insinuating that I wasn’t doing enough as a mother by not having a hot meal ready to go the second we walked in the door from church. If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written about church, you know that it often hits me in all the feels and leaves me sweaty and exhausted by the time service is over because, well, five kids 10 and under makes for a long haul, no matter how welcoming the majority of the environment is to their presence (and thank goodness for all those who are so gracious and accepting of my wiggly, not-so-little herd).

Today at church was the kick-off of Sunday School, which Ben teaches, and the baby no longer naps through, so the whole crew was there bright and early to get all the info and send 4/5 off to their classrooms (actually, the baby tagged along with Daddy and his class because after him heading back to school two weeks ago, she’s not really willing to let him out of her sight if she can help it, come the weekend). And then we stayed for service, as is our tendency during the school year (sorry, summer; you sort of went off the church attendance rails this year).

By some force of magic (and the help of a familiar, friendly face), Wilson went to the nursery during most of the service. That meant I got to hear more than I normally do which is always nice, but we still had Truman (who went on an all-day early-bday extravaganza to Omaha yesterday and is still in fall-out today) and a “How much longer is it???” asking Lincoln from like the first hymn on, and yeah – still sweaty, still tired when it was all said and done.

And you know what?

That’s fine. It’s totally OK for our time in the pew to be a little bit challenging right now (and for the foreseeable future). We’ll get what we get out of it and our kids will hopefully get something out of it too, and someday far from now, we’ll be empty-nesters who can actually pay attention start to finish and that will be a grand adventure, although in a totally different way.

For now, we’re going to let some things go, and by things I really mean Sunday dinner. I didn’t really care too much last year when the flip comment came my way (except for the rudeness of said comment) and now a year later, I am just full-on embracing the fact that our Sunday routine after church is going to be constituted of precisely No Routine.

After my kids have held their sh!t together for 2.5 hours of Sunday School + a full church service, I really don’t care what they do once we get home, short of cleaning their hands and changing out of their church clothes*. I don’t even care if they sit down right away to eat; I mean, why would they want to after being so still for so long leading up to that point?

You want to go play in the dirt? Fine; change your clothes first.

You want to go read a book? Fine; wash your hands first.

You want to eat some left-over pizza or a granola bar and crackers or some watermelon for lunch? FINE. Change your clothes and wash your hands first and have at it!

I just don’t care for formality at this point. What I care about is that my family is here and free to have a little say in how they unwind and process and if we can give them a little more grace and space in the doing so, along with ourselves, then that’s all the better.

*I really wish I had gotten a picture of the little Welschies today before we came home and they changed because how they dress for church is definitely another avenue of Pick Your Battles (and Mama’s not picking this one) in our house. Lincoln was in gym shorts and a t-shirt. Truman, khaki shorts and a t-shirt. Harrison, sweatpants with a “fancy” t-shirt and his dress shoes. Wilson in a cute little dress. Raegan in a fancy fancy dress she got as a hand-me-down from friends. So basically, a giant hodgepodge and again, it all went fine. I might fight this more on days they have to sing/play bells in front of the congregation, but beyond that? Whatever. img_4915I will dress myself up as I like and I remind myself that just like Jesus doesn’t give a flying flip if my kids eat cheese and crackers for lunch after church, he also doesn’t care what their clothes look like, no matter how much society may try to make us think otherwise.

 

 

Off He Goes, Go He Must

All of our babies have family namesakes (some on multiple levels) and it is from Lincoln Thomas’s, my dad Tom, that I know the phrase used above in the title. From as early in my memory as I can go, which is probably about the age LT is now, I remember my dad saying some version of, “Off I go; go I must” when he’d be headed out of the house to the field or the truck or where have you. This phrase seems fitting today because Lincoln Thomas embarked on his own first big adventure away from home – full day Kindergarten. img_4862

Of course Linky’s had some practice at being away from us over the last three years with increasing days of preschool, leading up to five day half days all of last year. But this whole away-from-home-all-day-every-day business? Goodness, it feels different.

Of course I know he’ll be fine. He is my small-but-mighty, my little-but-fierce and I know he’s going to learn and love a lot about school this year. Getting him to this point this summer, though, has felt like a bit of a proving ground.

Based on frustration levels (both his and mine) and gray hairs (just mine), I’m pretty sure we went through some serious teenage-like push-away phase during the last month where I know he still loves me and I love him but holy moly whoa…challenging attitudes and behavior and moments and just all the things that I guess are making it easier for us to separate now that he’s off to school all the time? That’s how that works, right, as they claim more independence and grow? They sometimes have to gain that space by making it for themselves.

Both the hubs and the BFF think that some nerves and anxiety on LT’s part might be behind it all, and that’s probably all true, too. Goodness knows, I’m as mama-heart-nervous to send this one off as I have been with all the others. As much as I know he will be all of these things, I sit here and ache a little with the longing for him to be OK, accepted, understood, and loved. I mean, it’s what we want for all of our babies, yes? Now and always. Yes.

But the beauty of this kid and all that is sweet (and those little bits that sometimes turn sour) is that he was indeed ready to go this morning. It probably helped that his own BFF is in his class and started today too, which is another calming factor for all of us, I think.

All told, the first morning was fantastic. We stood all smiles and high fives in line until it was time to go, and he told me he didn’t need me to go in the building with him, so we stood and we watched and not a tear was shed by any of the Welschies, not even Mama! For as hard as the last few weeks have been, I know it will be equally hard to be away from him all day today.

So to all you mamas sending pieces of your heart off to school this week or the next (or the next), trust me when I say that I get it when you are both so excited to see them go (again – multiple levels to this, my friends) and missing them like crazy while they’re gone.

But off they go, as they must. This is the way, the path, and bumpy as it may be at times for all kinds of reasons, it’s an honor and privilege to be along for the ride with these incredible young souls.