Saturday, August 27, 2016

To My Girls on the Hard Days

Our reality that has been approaching like a dark looming tunnel ahead in which we have to find new footing and balance to maneuver our way through unknown territory is now upon us, and  I know myself too well to know there will be days I come unhinged. I will not be the mom I want to be or the mom you enjoyed this past summer.

There will be days work uses up all my energy and I come home with little left to give. There will be days I lack sleep; therefore I will lack patience. There will days I lack enough time; therefore I lack tolerance. There will be days I can't do it all, and I just really need your help. There will be days my requests sound like angry demands and my tone of voice mirrors the wicked witch's.

I will try to keep that angry, short on patience mom's visits short. But I'm sure she will make her unwelcome entrance into our lives at random chaotic times this year. I just ask you to have patience with her. Try to remember all that she's trying to do and be for herself and for you. Remember even when she seems unhappy, mad, exhausted that she loves you more than anything.

Remind her you love her. Give her a hug. Ask her what you can do to help. Give her a few precious minutes alone. Just as she's held you tight through the difficult moments, hold her tight through hers. The happier, more patient mom will return with the love you shower on her.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Baby's Love

My oldest is 7.5 years old and my youngest four months. The other day as he was looking at me with that look of complete awe and trust that a baby gazes at you with I thought how different it was than the looks I receive from his sister these days. The seven year old that now calls me out for being on my computer or phone too much, who tells me I’m bossy for telling her do things around the house. She sees my imperfections and daily mistakes now. I’m no longer perfect in her eyes like I once was and still is in my son’s young eyes. She knows the truth that I am a flawed human.

He doesn’t know yet that sometimes I’m tired and out of patience and in those moments the not so best sides of myself come out. She does though and she tells me she doesn’t want to be a mom because I make it look too hard and stressful. He doesn’t know that sometimes I get distracted and miss things, but she does and reminds me that it’s not very good of me to not pay attention to what she’s trying to show me. He doesn’t know that I’m not perfect, that in truth I’m full of many flaws, but she knows because she tells me how I’m a horrible cook and makes sure I know all the things I don’t do very well.

It wasn’t until I saw that wondered look of love in a baby’s eyes that I forgot how much I missed it. It wasn't until I saw it again that I realized how truly fleeting it is. All too soon he’ll know I’m not perfect either. He’ll know I make mistakes daily.  He will see the truth too that I am only human but for now he looks at me like I am his whole world.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Reasons to NOT Travel with a Baby

I write all the time about how much I love to travel and how I love to include our kids with us. I don’t really plan to change my ways even as crazy as traveling this summer has made me. I’ve decided a person that decides to travel the country frequently with their children, particularly as babies must be a really special person. Like the special kind that is not in their right mind. However, I am very dedicated to my values of traveling and making the time and effort to see family so I braved this crazy trip across country with our three month old, and I can now tell you why maybe you should NOT travel with a baby. I’ve put my sanity to the test to test this theory so I’m an expert by all means so please heed my warning.

First of all a baby cries A LOT. And when you’re all stuck in a car or a small living space like a hotel room there is no escape from the ear piercing siren horn that is your beloved baby that you definitely love but suddenly completely understand the phrase, “I love you but I really don’t like you right now.”

Second, because your baby cries A LOT rather than strangling your child because at one in the morning it almost seems like a good solution you and your spouse instead attack and insult each other. Which let me tell you solves everything. NOT. But again, not in your right mind in the first place when you decide to travel across country with a baby.

Third because your baby cries A LOT,  when it occurs in those trapped in the car going 70+ miles down the highway moments your options are either drive everyone off a cliff and end everyone’s misery or trust the two younger children in the back to “take care” of the baby by feeding him. When they basically dump a whole bottle of precious breastmilk all over the baby try really hard not to lose your shit. They’re only four and seven. What did you expect? It’s just breastmilk. Breastmilk! You know that stuff they call liquid gold!

Fourth, when the baby is actually not crying and testing your last nerve there’s the crazy amount of extra stuff you have to pack to haul a baby around the country. It has to have its own special bed, the playpen. However, it will make sure you know it does not appreciate you hauling a special bed across the country as it lays there night after night and screams at you to get it out of that damn foreign contraption.

Fifth, it pees and poos a lot. But I will say is better than traveling with a potty training traveler which I have done as well and don’t recommend either but that’s a post on peeing on the side of the road for later. At some point you’re going to get peed and pooped on maybe to the point where you’re not even sure if the wet circles on your clothes are pee, liquid poo, or a combination of both, and your only hope because everything is packed away is that the car AC will dry it quickly.

I still have about 7-8 hours left in this drive across the country at this point so I’m sure I could come up with about five more reasons why to NOT travel across country with a baby but I think you get the idea at this point that I would NOT recommend this particular experience.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

These Two

I have to take a moment to recognize my two daughters. I want them to know this summer was about more than just their baby brother. You ever look at your kids and realize you're actually quite impressed by them. These two continue to amaze me every day so yes I'm going to brag on my girls if you don't want to read any further.

They have made juggling three so much easier than I'm sure it usually is. I always say God sent my oldest first because he knew with no family around we would need this girl, and her little sister at just four years of age I think pitches in even more than she did at four because she follows her sister's lead.  As my oldest told me the other day she's going to be cooking us dinner before too long, and I have no doubt. I had to leave in the middle of making our olive oil with basil sauce and tomato pizzas the other day to nurse the baby, and she with the help of her sister they finished the pizza and put them in the oven so by the time I came out they were cooked and ready to eat. With so many meals being prepared throughout the day with all of us home I've come back again from having to take a break to feed the baby to finding a completely cleaned up kitchen with surfaces wiped down and dishes loaded in dishwasher and even occasionally washed by hand (with a little extra water on the floor but hey who am I  to complain). The girls started this summer helping with just putting their clothes away; they now sort laundry and know how to operate the washer. They decide one day to wash all the clothes in the laundry room for me to leave a nice huge pile for me to fold (but again who am I to complain). They've fed the baby, they've changed the baby (unless it's poo then Mom!), they've dressed the baby.

I wish I could explain the relationship these two have. It simply amazes me. I hope they know watching their love for each other is one of the greatest joys of my life as a mother. Now together they've turned that love and devotion on their little brother who just completely adores them in return.  They have so much love to give and it's one of the things I am most proud of as their mother. The world unfortunately will do its best to steal that from them, and I hope they know their love and compassion can be one of their greatest gifts to the world so I hope they never lose it.

Their imagination and creativity gives me a laugh almost every day whether it's playing school, barbies, horses and ponies, or house with their dolls. They always have a "story" their "characters" are living.

They are so smart. They will just share some random fact with me. Something I don't know like why cats have whiskers. I'll ask where they learned it and they'll just reply with a "from the books we read from the library" like duh, mom. They just soak everything in and remember EVERYTHING it seems like.

I want them to know they are going to do great things. Even in those tough moments, my girls, come back to the love in your heart, the creativity that makes you unique, and the smarts that will lead you to think for yourself. These three things will guide you to great places.

I cannot express how much I have loved watching you grow this summer. You really do give me so much love and joy. Don't ever forget that.

Check out my recent published essays and articles in other magazines and websites this summer

Home is Where the Work Is on Tribe Magazine

10 Things I've Learned in my Pursuit of Happiness on Lose the Cape

A Mother's Wish: I Hope you Always Dance

A Mother's Harshest Critic on The Red Tricycle

Make Momma's Happiness a Priority on The Red Tricycle

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Emotional Pendulum of Returning to Work

My emotions with returning back to work full time after being home with my children so much for the past five months are all over the place. I was really hoping I'd start to get bored from being home so much and be sick of my kids that I'd be more than ready for the break from them that working offers.

They definitely have their moments where they drive me crazy but I'm not sick of them or dying for a break from them. With three kids and my own agenda with working out and enjoying my personal hobbies like reading, writing, and (digital) scrap booking there's been little time for boredom. To say being home with this has been enjoyable would be an understatement.

I know my older two need to get back to our "normal" with their school, activities, and routines. But even though this is my third time it's still so hard to face leaving a baby when you go back to work. I loved my job last year. I'm super excited for new things I have coming up this school year. It's the knowing I'll be leaving him for ten hours a day that kills me. This is where that hour commute each way hits me. I love the school I've been at the past two years but it takes me away from him for at least an extra hour or so a day. But then I remind myself with the other two, more so my first  I had a second PT job 5-10 hours a week (my second was a year old before I went back to doing PT work after school) so at least I don't have that making going back to work harder for me this time.

Of course I always ask myself what about staying home. First it's always never been a possibility because I bring in half of our financial needs and with going into thirteen years on the salary scale with a Masters +30 degree as well as the extra stipends I get for other school projects I do I make too much money to not work. I've done the math. Even with a part time job that paid at $30 or so an hour and with no daycare costs we'd still lose half our income. Plus it'd setback my retirement goals, and those are kind of important to me.

Obviously money is the first thing I consider when it comes to my choice but the other is knowing myself. I need productivity in my life on an almost daily basis. I also crave to feel a part of something and feel like a contributor. At seven years into this working mom gig I know flaws and mistakes and all, I'm still a good mom. I'm not perfect by any means but I've also learned I don't have to be. I know now that I can be a good mom and a working contributor on different levels. Being a working mom makes me feel like I contribute productively on many levels. I'm contributing as an employer but also due to my job on a larger societal level. As I stated before being able to equally financially contribute on a family level is important to me. I understand in homes where one parent stays home they work out a contribution balance that works for them, but as someone who's had to pay for her own things the majority of her life having to depend on someone else financially would kill my perception of my own self worth. Whereas other girls/women may struggle with self image and worth due to appearance or weight for me it's more linked to my contributions and the productivity I accomplish. I need to be busy; I need to be doing. Modeling the balance of motherhood with a career and my own personal goals/ambitions to my girls is important to me. The world is so different today for women than it use to be generations ago, and I want them to know they can pursue their own ambitions one day too.

God knows I've considered other ways to be home more and still financially contribute and feel productive and a part of something, but I've invested 16 years (counting undergrad studies) into my career. Right now I'm happy in it again which is HUGE. I can't just abandon everything I've put in to get here where I am. However, I have to have a good year career wise this year because I already know from experience if I have a bad year that is when the guilt of not being home with my baby will consume me. If it's a good year and I'm happy I can manage the guilt. I know all too well the first two years away from your baby is when the guilt is at its worst ( after that I feel they benefit from my absence at work). The good news is this time our life is more together than it was when we brought the other two into our family. I won't have to pick up extra work throughout the school year, and I should be able to enjoy my summers home with them again.

I'm headed into this school year with mixed emotions. Excitement because I'm excited for what I'll be doing in and out of the classroom at work. Sad because it's always hard to leave your baby, and I'm going to be leaving him as he hits that seperation anxiety stage (at least I'm not the one dropping him off). And anxious because I worry about balancing it all and not feeling overwhelmed, and I want it to be great a year professionally and personally but worry I'll get in my own way at times.

Working is important to me. As much as teaching has drained me at times, whether it's the workload with the grading or at times the behavior of the kids or even their sometimes crazy parents, I take a lot of pride in my chosen profession. I, just like every teacher I know, really can make a difference whether it's through one child that just needs to connect with that one adult or through the lessons we pass on how to go out there and make our world a better place.

But I am also incredibly grateful for these past few months to be home with my children. Maybe that's why I didn't burn out of it like I kind of hoped I would. I knew it was a rare opportunity to thoroughly enjoy them in a way I haven't been able to in years, possibly ever. Maybe it's a good thing I didn't burn out because I can go back knowing I made the most of my time with them.