You Get What You Need

I want a cup of tea.

Not herbal. The real stuff. With milk and sugar.

And I want someone to make me popovers.

Which I will eat warm with a little butter and cinnamon sugar.

 

I want someone to wash my duvet cover and then put it back on my comforter. Because if we’re honest with each other, that is a four-person job.

 

I want a week to declutter, shuffle and reshuffle, purge (stuff, not vomit – though both usually make you feel better), think about writing something, nap.

 

I want dinner to be done, meals planned. But really, I want to do that stuff myself.

I want a bedside clock for my husband that isn’t the brightest clock on the planet.

I want the socks paired.

Oh the socks.

 

I want not to worry about the four RSVPs, camps, birthday party to plan.

I want to be grateful that I have parties, camps, birthday parties to worry about.

I want new work shoes that I don’t have to break in.

I want to use the hours between 8:30pm and 10:30pm wisely at least once a week.

I want to figure out how on earth to spend more time being and less time doing.

 

I want to cook every day. Walk every day. Sleep more. Pick up less. Read to my kids more. Explore more. Love more. Give more.  Fight more for the things I think are worth fighting for. And sit on a blanket on the grass in the sun.

 

I want to spend more time doing silly and creative things, and less time wondering what could have possibly spilled on the floor to make it that sticky.  I want more time with my kids. I want more time with my husband. I want more time by myself.

I want more time having grown-up conversations. With wine. I want more music in my house. I want less dust. I want my kids to eat less yogurt.

 

I want more dancing in my life.

 

And I want the thank you notes to write themselves.

 

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Midweek Deep Thoughts

Have you seen Ugly Volvo‘s recent post entitled “All of my Issues With the “Goodnight Moon” Bedroom“?  It’s great.  And right on.  When you have to read the same book or listen to the same song over and over (and over), you can’t help but over analyze.  My children are currently obsessed with the Kidz Bop version on “Kokomo”.  (Excruciating.) The Kidz Boppers have changed the lyrics “afternoon delight” and “cocktails” to make them tamer. But they have left in the phrase “tropical contact high”.  For real?!  I shake my head in annoyance every time I hear that verse.  And then I immediately wonder “WHY AM I WASTING VALUABLE BRAIN ENERGY THINKING ABOUT THIS?!

If there is something better than the slightly crispy broiled cheese that hangs over the edge of a crock of French onion soup, I don’t know what it is.

Serious Eats recently posted a pretty amazing French Onion  Soup recipe.  This is their photo.  Click on the photo to take you to the recipe - and check out the blog post "How to Make the Best French Onion Soup" while you're there.

Serious Eats recently posted a pretty amazing French Onion Soup recipe. This is their photo. Click on the photo to take you to the recipe – and check out the blog post “How to Make the Best French Onion Soup” while you’re there.

The other day, a few gals commented on my have-it-togetherness. I found this hysterical. My hair was wet, I had just fed my kids bribery donuts, I forgot some necessary school item (like a coat for Pickle, in NH, in winter), I was exhausted and I had just discovered that the shirt I was wearing (to work) was coated in something sticky.  I didn’t feel together. At all.  I never do.  But, as these ladies noted, my kids are clean(ish) and happy and I’m pretty calm (perhaps, “tired and resigned to chaos” is a more accurate description).  Sure, I’m in desperate need of some mascara, but I’m doing alright when it comes to the big stuff. It was nice to stop for a second and reflect on that.  It was also a nice reminder that the folks I admire for having it all together probably feel the same way I do.

My little Pistachio just turned one.  He is awesome.  He is a baby optical illusion – people constantly remark on how large he is when he is actually quite average size.  He loves to dance.  He loves his brother.  He is the straight man in our family farce.  And he is a smart little dumpling who has recently started hiding his binkies, just because he can.  A few months ago I dedicated a post to him, and how often he looks at the camera, just as I snap the photo, as if to say, “Really?!”  He didn’t let me down on his birthday (see photo). But the part of that post about sleeping through the night?  Yeah, I take that back. Birthday wha?

Onward and upward, friends!

A porcupine in my throat…

This Mama was down for the count.

Strep visited 3 of the 4 family members and I was the third. When I felt a strange burning on my tongue I hoped for the best. But I was up at 2:30 that night, pretty miserable, and making calls to my doctor’s office (did you know that the answering service can make appointments?! Most excellent!).

The doctor’s office swabbed me to confirm (rapid strep tests, also most excellent) and sent me packing with a prescription and directions to lay low for a day while those antibiotics started working. Kids at school, I called work, told them I was in quarantine, had them send me some work, picked up my prescription and went home to change into my pajamas.

Here’s the thing about being home sick.  It is hard not to look around my house and see things that need doing. In my mind, I had laid out my plan for the day.  The plan consisted of mostly work, with just a few “I’m-sick-but-not-on-my-deathbed” housekeeping tasks thrown in.  Work 3 hours, change sheets, put away laundry, change diaper genie, take out trash, return library book, start dinner, work three more hours, get kiddos. Sounded good to me.

But you know what?  My plan was dumb.

I was tired.  I was sick. And I was (am!) 6 months pregnant.

Mamas, self care is too often sacrificed for the sake of laundry. Aren’t we smarter than that?

Laundry is never going to go away.  But hopefully, with rest, fluids, and Amoxicillin, strep throat will.

So I amended the plan.  Housekeeping triage.  I removed the stinky things from the house (trash and diaper genie), made some tea, did some work (but not enough) while sitting on the couch in pajamas, and took an hour-long nap.  Much better.

The laundry will still be there tomorrow – and yes, there will be more of it – but I’ll be feeling better.

Sick.

Everybody’s Working for the Weekend?

I’ve decided to stop feeling bad.

I’ve got a job I enjoy, with hours flexible enough that I get to spend a lot of time with my kidlets, and a dual-income household that may not afford us an extravagant lifestyle, but allows us luxuries like dinners out, newish cars, and grocery bills we don’t worry too much about. I usually get enough sleep (as much as can be expected with two small people in the house), and I don’t work weekends.

But I also have a Princeton degree, and a never-ending, nagging sense that I should be on a faster track, in a higher paying position with more responsibilities, a leadership role, room for advancement and more respect.  My little internal – and it is mostly internal – voice tsk tsks me, whispering of missed opportunities and talents wasted.  When someone asks what I do, I tell them, but feel like prefacing it with, “I’m just a…”

I’m not sure why staying close to my childhood hometown, not pursuing an advanced degree (at least not fully and/or not yet), and working at an average job (and one without clear social value – because at least that would be something to hang my hat on, and is, perhaps, why I now tell people who ask what my job is that I am also a mother) feels like a failure, but a lot of the time, it does.

The conversations aren’t new – Anne-Marie Slaughter, Marissa Mayer, and scores of others are influencing the recent discussions on work and life issues specifically as they pertain to women (and mostly highly educated women), but really, as they pertain to all of us – as employees, employers, fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, you name it.  (Because really, you can’t impact, influence or re-balance half of the population without impacting the whole, can you?)

Tock

Here’s what I want to know: when did our priorities get turned upside down?  Work, goals, achievement, financial security – all good things, worthy pursuits. But this slow shift towards the worship of work? When did our self-worth, respect earned, and societal importance start being measured by long work hours – and not just long hours, incredibly long hours and constant work contact in the 8 hours a day you’re not physically at work?

“Fifty years ago, Americans signaled class by displaying their leisure: think banker’s hours (9 to 3). Today, the elite — journalist Chrystia Freeland calls them “the working rich” — display their extreme schedules.”

I’m crying foul.

Maybe I’m just trying to justify my own life choices here – I probably am. We all do that. And I am not blind to the fact that to even have these life and work choices was not something afforded my gender until recently and that my class and geography play a huge role in the availability of these choices, too. (K.J. Dell’Antonia touches on this today.)

But by choosing to opt out – even partially – of this world of work worship, you are necessarily choosing to give up status, give up income, give up respect, and potentially waste talents and abilities. I have done that, and though my reasons are clear, and my life fulfilling, it doesn’t always feel good.  In fact, it often feels bad.  It feels, well, lazy.

Friends who have opted in –  have they missed milestones, family time, sleep, negatively impacted their health, and missed out on lovely, average, every day experiences? The answer is probably yes.

Friends who have opted in later in life, and tried to catch up – have they suffered discrimination for being older and out of the work force? Have they suffered an income gap that they won’t be able to make up? The answer is probably yes.

Friends who have opted out – have they taken pay cuts, felt financial burdens, felt their societal value, or self-worth somehow diminished because the opted out, and potentially wasted their talents and aptitudes?  The answer is probably yes.

Who is winning?

Full or Fumes

You’ve just filled up your gas tank when you see the sign “Next Gas Station 6 Miles – Last Services for 9,000 Miles”.

Yeah, that’s what parenting is like.

Fumes, I tell ya!

I may be a little slow on the uptake since it took me nearly three years to figure this out: the breaks don’t come when you need them.

You get a breather, but it is at mile 0.25 of the race, not mile 10.

You put some gas in the tank but then have to drive until you are limping home on fumes.

With kidlets, nothing quite happens how or when you need or expect it to.

The other day, I had a day all to myself. (That bold font doesn’t add nearly enough emphasis.) The kidlets were at school and my office was closed.  The stars align like that about twice a year.  I had big dreams of a relaxing, yet productive day.   I planned out my day over and over in my mind – the places I’d go! the things I’d accomplish! the wonderful break it would be!

And it wasn’t a bad day.  I took a long shower, got a pedicure, had a nice lunch, wrote some thank you notes that were becoming embarrassingly tardy, caught up on a DVRed episode of Downton while sipping coffee.

But it was kind of like prom.  The preparation and anticipation was the best part.  The prom itself?  Kind of a letdown – just a dance with fancy clothes, with the same people you saw every day.  My day was filled with things I would have done anyway, just over the course of a month and not a day.

My day to myself came at a time when I wasn’t desperate for a break.  The kids were on the mend from the dreaded winter bugs, folks had been sleeping relatively well, work was busy but manageable, my sniffles had cleared, and the holidays were cleaned up and put away.  My parenting mood was more like “I got this, kind of!” rather than, “Help me! I’m drowning!”  My tank was ¾ full.

It is a parenting challenge – perhaps a life challenge? – that I haven’t figured out how to manage.  The breaks, the respite, the calm, the recharging, rarely come when I need them most.  So I don’t feel like I take full advantage, and end up with nothing saved up for the trying days and nights that come so often when raising two very small people, nurturing a marriage, working full-time, managing a household, and not losing myself completely in the process.

I’m not sure how exactly, but I need to work on keeping my tank a little more full.  And embrace those breaks more fully when I do get them.  Another item for the to-do list…

 

Do your best with the rest.

There is so much to say, but I am unable to start. Like inhaling to begin my sentence, but pausing, breath held, until I simply exhale, rather than say anything. We are in that space in between, right now. Life in the ellipse, the pause in between, the search for the words. The pause to let the frenetic ticker-tape thoughts slow and drift and settle quietly.

*****

This morning, I thought I’d settle in this evening, carols and PJs on, and write a bit about a lovely suggestion written by a relative, George. George is navigating his new world where a family member’s scary, unexpected health emergency has prompted reflection of the most heartfelt kind. He wrote:

“Please let this experience remind you to hold the people you love (and who love you) close and tight as soon and as often as you can, taking nothing for granted. Appreciate that so much of life is completely beyond our control, and do your best with the rest.”

Appreciate that so much of life is completely beyond our control, and do your best with the rest.

*****

I rocked my Plum to sleep tonight. She was warm, heavy-lidded, and felt so big in my arms, transitioning from infant to little person in inches, pounds, sounds and teeth. My dear little person.

And, yes, I held her a little longer, a little tighter.

And I kissed her sticky cheek, acknowledging my luck, reminded, yet again, again, again, that we are all balancing on the lip of loss.

*****

The crazy man I saw on the corner the other day, the one who was watching his own parade, or bike race, or procession as I considered locking my car doors, someone had rocked him, too. He was somebody’s baby. And someone soothed him, fed him, sung to him. Someone had kissed his sticky cheek, and filled their heart with hopes and wishes just for him.

We are all somebody’s baby. Perhaps we don’t all get everything we need, but I am certain, that to get here, we were all quietly rocked, fed, warmed, our hair smoothed gently at least once. At least once.

All of those little blossoming people who were probably so excited for Santa.

All of those adults, with pasts, presents, futures, people who loved them, people they loved.

And the shooter, too. He was somebody’s baby, too.

We forget that. We forget that we all begin, and are at base, fragile and temporary. But this reminds us like an electric shock, a punch to the ribs. And as we pull those we love closer, tighter, we look for walls to build, or armor to wear. I wish that even in our fear and sadness we would also remember that we are more alike than we are different. That our duty is to each other. Even if life is scary and unfair. Because it is both.

We are all somebody’s baby.

*****

George was right. And it bears repeating: so much of life is completely beyond our control.

But the rest. We get to do our best with the rest. Even when our hearts are breaking, even when our worlds are crumbling, even when we are knocked off our balance on that lip.

Hug your babies a little bit tighter tonight. And by “your babies,” I mean all of us, each of us. Because that is how we do our best with the rest.

Grace

I received the nicest text message the other day. It was unexpected and rocked me back on my heels and made my heart full.

My dear friend Grace who moved 1000 miles away last month (to a new job, with a 2.5 month old – crrrrrrrrrrrrrrazy) is good at that. She is thoughtful. When we moved into our new home she invited us over for dinner on moving day, because she knew we’d be exhausted and not want to face restaurant crowds or unpacking boxes to get to our dishes. She also got me a lovely house key chain for my new house key – I still use it. Both the dinner and the keychain were lovely thoughtful things. But what tipped the thoughtfulness into range of CRAZY AMAZING THOUGHTFULNESS was that she had had the forethought to dump out her ice tray the night before so her ice maker could make us all new ice. She didn’t do this because she thought she needed to impress us, she did this because she thought it would be nice for us to have fresh ice. Fresh ice. Who does that? Grace does.

She is thoughtful because she is full of thought. She reflects on people, behaviors, herself. She is smart, positive, forgiving and sensitive (though her lawyerly life means she has had to hide some of her sensitive self – which is a shame, because I think it is a marvelous strength – damn Lawyerland). She laughs well and often. She has a wide-eyed innocence and curiosity that is endearing and sincere rather than annoying. I’m a big fan.

So I was touched when she sent me an out-of-the-blue text message telling me that she admired me for setting high standards for myself, but still managing to be kind and forgiving to myself. In all my years of navel-gazing, I had never reached that conclusion about myself. But it was nice to hear it, because it is something I work towards. After too many years of judging myself harshly (why do we do that?), I’m trying to be kinder to myself.

I understand where she’s coming from. New mom, new city, new job. She’s set expectations for herself of how to be the best mom, employee, wife, sister, friend, person she can be. We all do. But time, patience and energy are not available in endless supply – they just aren’t.

So many of the moms I know feel tired and stretched thin, meting out their time and energy to the various parts of their life that cry, “Me! Me! Me!” All of those parts need attention and nurturing but usually there’s not enough to go around and we end up feeling like we’re getting by, but not truly succeeding at any one part. We end up feeling like we’re not doing our very best job at any one of our jobs. We fall short of our own standards – professionally, emotionally, personally. And it doesn’t feel good. It feels hard. And it feels like failing.

But I don’t know one mom who is truly failing. They are all working incredibly hard, and they are raising secure, capable little doodles. They are doing the best they possibly can. And sometimes it feels good to hear that that is enough.

So thanks for your (never-ending) thoughtfulness, Grace. I’ll take some time today to try to pay it forward to my mom friends who are getting by, struggling, working hard, working towards balance, keeping all of the balls in the air and being so much to so many. And Grace, be kind to yourself, because you’re doing a great job. No really, you are.