Thursday, December 19, 2013

Winning at Christmas

There aren't going to be salt dough ornaments in my house this year.

I didn't get to the cream cheese spritz cookies I'd been craving (which my mother in law makes better than I do, anyway).

My presents aren't all wrapped yet.  My house is a mess.  I'm pretty sure I forgot some Christmas cards.  We haven't started packing.

We watched a lot of TV this week.  I wanted to curl up on the couch and not get up.

I threw my littlest sweetheart a birthday party on Sunday.  I baked cupcakes.  Everyone had fun.

BG knows all the words to Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Jingle Bells, the chorus of Up on the Housetop, and one line of the Twelve Days of Christmas.   ("FOUR CALLLLLING BIRDS.")

My kids put on an impromptu ballet show to The Nutcracker this morning.

We saw Santa at the mall.  We wrote him a letter.

We've read The Polar Express and The Grinch about 5 million times each.

BG can count to 25.

The baby signs "hat" when she sees a party hat.  She threw a balloon this morning.

Sometimes winning happens even when you don't think you're doing much.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

To my sweet one year old

To my sweet one year old,

Today is the day, one year ago, that I held you in my arms and you were mine.

It would be a lie to say that from the moment I knew you were going to be born, I felt nothing but joy and excitement, and besides I've said too much already to backtrack to that now.  The truth is, until the moment I met you I had a hard time feeling anything.  I loved you, I wanted you, but I was so afraid.   I was so afraid that I couldn't do it, couldn't be your mom.  I was so afraid of letting you down.

But from the moment you were born, and you certainly knew how to do that part right, you've been reminding me that it's all going to be okay.

It is hard for me to take credit for how perfect you are.  I don't feel like I've always been a great mother to you, and there are times when I feel like I don't deserve someone as sweet and happy and easy as you in my life.  But every time you look at me, you let me know that you are mine and I am yours and we are just right for each other, and I am so grateful.

Right now, your loud and passionate sister is climbing on you, hugging you, and telling you Happy Birthday.  You are smiling.  You are smiling because you love her, because you love when she pays attention to you, but also because smiling seems to be your default.  You are so HAPPY.   Sometimes it makes me want to apologize to you.  I'm sorry, tiny girl, that your happy self ended up in this chaos.  But, the truth is I suppose that you aren't happy in spite of us, you are happy because of us.  You are ours and you belong here.

You are patient.  You are careful.  You figure out how to get what you want, how to solve problems, without crying or screaming.  You simply keep trying different solutions until you have exactly what I was trying to take away from you.  You are walking, no matter how much I am in denial about this.  You are talking in essence.  You wave, you nod, you sign, you babble.  We understand each other, you and I.

You are so loved, little girl, and I am so grateful.  And I realize today that I'm not sad about the end of your baby-ness like I thought I'd be.  I didn't miss it, it didn't get away from me. You were here with me for every moment of it.   I'm just so grateful to know you and to be your mom.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The dress

When I was pregnant with my littlest one, I was depressed.

I didn't say it out loud really, but I knew that I was.  I didn't want to go out, I didn't want to see anyone or do anything.  I was worried all the time.  I was in a constant state of dread, worried that I was letting everyone down, that I was destined to fail everyone.

I didn't nest at all.  I told myself that it was because everything was already done.  The nursery was already decorated, I had more than enough baby girl clothes.  But truthfully, I had no desire to do anything to get ready for the baby.  I was just so scared, I didn't want to think about it.

Then, one day, BG and I were at Target.  I was walking past a display of Christmas baby clothes and I saw A Dress.  It was really more of a onesie with a built-in tutu.  It said "My first Christmas across the chest."  And I had to have it for my tiny girl.

I wasn't 100% sure she'd even be born by Christmas, or that 0-3 would be the size she fit in on that exact day.  It was extravagant, unnecessary, and completely out of character.  But I had to have it.

She did end up wearing that dress on Christmas, and I have pictures of her in it, but those memories of the dress don't come close to eclipsing the memory of the first day that I had to have something pretty for my littlest girl.

I'm giving the dress away today.

I cleaned out all the other 0-3 month clothes months ago, but I've kept the tiny Christmas dress hanging in her closet.  Every time I've looked at it, I've been too overcome by my feelings of guilt and joy and love and regret and relief to do anything but close the door again.

But it's time to let it go.

It's just a thing, a dress, and it's silly for it to sit in her closet having only been worn once.  I want someone else to use it, to have better memories associated with it than I do.  My girl and I have plenty of our own memories now.  I don't need it anymore.

But I'm so grateful that I had it

Friday, December 6, 2013

Don't try too hard and other lies I tell myself

Sometimes, I have a lot of shame wrapped around the idea of trying too hard.

Okay, maybe more than sometimes.

I want everything I do to seem perfect and polished and impressive, but I also want it to seem like I'm laid back and everything is easy for me.

Parenting isn't easy for me.  But I also haven't been trying as hard as I could.

I feel very conflicted when I talk about this.  I want to do better.  I want to do more.  I don't really believe it's supposed to be easy.

I talk all the time about how you're doing enough, about how you are enough, and I am too.  And I'm still trying really hard to believe that second part.  But as for the first part, I could do better.

I know that my kids are fine even if all we do is watch TV all day long.  I know that they're safe and loved.  They're growing and developing.  It's okay to survive.

But being in survival mode all the time really doesn't feel good.  I don't like that my only goal is surviving until bedtime.  And sometimes, some days, I have to give myself permission to do that.  To survive.  To get through.  For that to be enough.

But not every day.

I want to focus my time and energy on things that matter to me.  I want my days at home to be purposeful.  I want to learn the skills I need to be successful at this, and give myself credit for the areas in which I already excel.  I want to finish each day knowing that I've accomplished something, something with my kids, something with my house, something with my writing, something for myself.  I want to do all of those things.

And I'm afraid to say it.  Because I don't want to be seen as obsessed with my kids.  I don't want to be seen as trying to justify my own existence.  I don't want to be seen as intensively parenting, as a crazy Pinterest mom, as beating myself up or doubting my own decisions.  I don't want it to sound like I think I need to be entertaining or educating my kids every second of every day.

I just want to feel like I'm accomplishing something.  I want to feel like my efforts are in line with my goals and values.  I want it to be okay to try.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


One moment, she is cruising around the table, carefully examining the remote.  The next she is holding onto the couch, looking up at me and shrieking in a demanding way.   "Mamamamamamamamamama."

I tilt my head to the side and scoop her up, and she immediately dives at my chest.

"Ah.  Milk?" I ask, calmly, opening and closing my hand.

She looks up at me with furrowed eyebrows and starts to bang on my chest with both hands.

"Well, all right, I was just ASKING."

I lift my shirt, and she nestles against me, nursing.  Five minutes later she is asleep.

I can't really explain what comes over me in that moment.  Her face, turned up towards mine, with her tiny eyes fluttered shut makes me catch my breath in my throat for a minute.  Curled up into me like this, she feels like she is still my tiny newborn baby.  Her face, though, at the same time extremely impressive and completely innocent gives her away.  She looks like a person.

She looks like me.

I want to take a shower.  I want to empty my dishwasher, fold my laundry, write.  I want to do yoga and run.  And I don't want to do anything but stare into her face forever.

I press my lips repeatedly to her forehead, and her eyes flutter but don't open.

In two weeks, she won't be a baby anymore.  I've never needed a pause button more than I do in this moment.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Doing my best

I am sitting on my couch with both my kids on top of me.   The baby is wearing a fleece hoodie with sweet potatoes on the collar, a diaper, and once sock and is sitting on my hip, looking at the TV.  The big girl is curled up in a ball next to me with her head on my shoulder and her feet tucked behind me.  PBS kids is on.  There's a pie in my oven and doctored baked beans from a can.  I went to the library, the post office, and the drug store.  I mopped my kitchen floor.  I screamed at my eldest daughter in public and was several times in danger of ripping her arm out of its socket.

It's been a strange day.

I spent a good portion of the day believing that this loveable creature curled up in my right armpit was intent on destroying me.

Sometimes?  My feelings get away from me. 

I get angry sometimes.

I take things personally sometimes.

I tried so hard today to remain calm.  To set calm boundaries and maintain my own sense of distance and space.  But as the day went on, it spun up and she spun up and I spun up.  

I want to be better at this.

I also want to be better at homemaking, at cooking and cleaning and getting my laundry done.
I want to be a better and more present wife.
I want to be a better, more prolific, more talented, braver writer.
I want to be a better steward of the environment.
I want to be a better friend, to be the one who remembers to reach out sometimes.

Today has been hard.

I'm doing my best.