Birthing babies is incredibly complicated and incredibly simple all at once. And while it is pretty freaking amazing, it rarely goes exactly according to (the meticulously researched, single-spaced, holistic birth) plan.
My guess is that it is just the universe’s way of saying, “You know how you thought you were prepared and in charge? You’re not. Welcome to parenthood. Neener neener.”
Parenting is full of a whole lot of unexpected events and feelings – some good, some bad, many hysterical and enlightening.
Some things I didn’t expect as a parent…
… how much I would simultaneously love and fear finger paints, stickers and silence.
… baby neck and armpit cheese.
… how very tired I would be.
… how happy and how sad I would be to see myself – traits both good and bad – reflected in my tiny people.
… how big a 2-year-old’s feelings are.
… how much it feels like failure or just getting by sometimes. And how universal that feeling is.
… how much work bedtime would be. And how lovely a quiet, full, sleeping house can be.
… how delicious baby cheeks, elbows, bellies and toes are.
… how much I would need to nurture my friendships. And just how much effort and scheduling that takes now.
… how amazing human development really is. From a helpless, little, human blob to a walker and talker in just about 365 days?! Unreal. Really.
… how much I love to be silly, to play, and to laugh with my children.
… how much I love whole milk yogurt.
… how much I feel like this is something I was supposed to do with my life, even in the hardest moments.
I have carved out a little cozy place in my house where I can sit and not see the mess. The mess is overtaking everything, as Christmas and all of the stuff that comes along with it explodes. And it is only going to get worse before it gets better.
Tonight, I can’t look at it, and I can’t think about it. Would it make me feel so much better to just take some time and clear the clutter? Probably. But I just don’t have it in me tonight, so I’ll sit and write and clear the clutter in my brain instead.
I need to figure out how to enjoy Christmas. All of it, or at least more of it. Not just that one magical moment when my children realize that Santa visited, in the twinkly tree light as the sun comes up on Christmas morning. I need more cuddles, more cozy, more gratitude, more calm. Come to think of it, I probably need more of those things all year round, but I digress. I also need more hot cocoa – preferably with Baileys in it. Because it’s the most wonderful time of the year, dangitall!
When someone tells you “You will eat your broccoli and you will like it!” it doesn’t actually make you like it. So telling myself, “You will be cheerful and enjoy the chaos!” doesn’t seem to be working.
Then again, people tell me that the more you exercise, the more you love it. And while some part of me thinks they’re crazy people trying to sneakily share their exercise-induced misery, I bet on some level that they’re right. So perhaps if I just wrap more, clean more, carol more, decorate more, and bake more, I will love all of those things more.
So instead I’ve developed a plan for bringing back the cheer…
- For me, gratitude is is harder when sleep is short. So that will be step one. Eight hours of sleep. A lofty goal, but Christmas is all about miracles, right? Mama will settle in for a long winter’s nap, once I find that silly kerchief.* And once I can get the kidlets to bed – a task that is getting more and more difficult by the week.
- “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by Bruce (Springsteen – I figure my regular readers will know who I’m talking about when I refer to him only by his first name). It isn’t Christmas until I hear it. And I haven’t heard it yet. Ooh, now that I think about it, perhaps I’ll dig up some “Merry Christmas, Baby”, too. That one always improves my mood! Horns make me jolly.
- Ask Pickle about all of the people he will get to see in the upcoming week. Because when I do, he excitedly lists off the names of family members like reindeer. And his pure joy at getting to see aunts, uncles, and cousins is a great reminder of the love and family that we are surrounded by.
- Clean up the living room only, and sit with my husband – on the same couch! – in the quiet of the twinkly tree (with all of the non-toxic, chewable ornaments on the bottom). Maybe we’ll reflect on our year a bit. Maybe we’ll have a glass of wine. Maybe we won’t do either, and we’ll just be.
- Take a few quiet moments during my commute home to send good, loving thoughts to people I know and people I don’t know who are lonely or hurting or sad. And I’ll try to take an opportunity at some point to do something unexpected and loving for someone I don’t know. Because I still believe that good will, kindness and love are contagious and more necessary than ever.
I’ll let you know how it all goes.
– Sarky Claus
* I do believe that this is only the second time in my life that I’ve ever typed the word “kerchief.”
50 Days of Gratitude – My Thanksgiving Countdown continued…
The countdown to Thanksgiving continues. I’ll admit, sometimes at the end of the day it is hard for me to come up with more than 2 things. And usually one of those two is “sleep” or “bedtime” or some permutation thereof. But I’m still going, and I’m more than halfway there.
Things I am grateful for…
Days 11 through 20
50. Sweet and surprising things Mr. Pickle says in the midst of the daily madness that catch me off guard – tonight it was an unprompted, “Thank you for dinner, Mama” while we all sat eating together
51. Hearing a great/fun/memory-full song on the radio that I haven’t heard in ages (The other day it was Phish’s “Bouncing Round the Room” and I was right back in high school again.)
52. English Breakfast tea
53. Junk food TV (My husband makes fun of me, but I am not ashamed to admit that I like Long Island Medium. I do. And I’m tempted to tune into Duck Dynasty, too. I have not yet reached the level of Honey Boo Boo, though.)
54. Drinking straws (The number of bendy straws I go through is irresponsible. Surely, I am contributing more than my fair share to local landfills. I feel guilty, but not enough to stop using them.)
55. Internet shopping (I have started my Christmas shopping, but only because it is so much darn fun to hunt for bargains and great gifts online. In case you’re wondering, I have not purchased the unicorn mask for anyone… yet.)
56. The overwhelming kindness and support of my friends
57. Night swimming (The activity AND the song by REM.)
58. The quiet of snow (I once heard something about sound waves travelling differently- or not at all? – through falling snow. I should probably look that up. But in the meantime, I think it is true and the stillness, and quiet it just amazing.)
59. Coordinated naps (Can I get an “Amen”?!)
60. The big freezer in my basement
61. Iced coffee
62. Gummy vitamins
64. Flying, leaping hugs
65. My wise, old soul little girl, who loves “Goodnight Irene” better than any other song
67. The ability to participate in our political system
69. Dental care
70. Flannel sheets
71. Legal pads (I inherited my love of legal pads from my father.)
75. April, Jena and Christine (Different backgrounds, different ages, different life paths, but the same loving supportive friendship. I am so grateful for them.)
76. Gold sunshine on an October afternoon
78. ATM machines
80. Roasted garlic (Or any garlic, really.)
81. Giggles (Is there anything better than hearing wild giggles emanating from your son and daughter while they play with their dad? Nope, there isn’t.)
85. Cole slaw
86. Rock ‘n’ roll
88. Greek yogurt
89. Good hair days
91. Monogramming (I can’t help it. Please don’t ever get me a labeller – it wouldn’t be pretty. My daughter just received this blanket from Pottery Barn Kids and I love it. So does she. If I had to guess, this blanket will quickly become her lovey. Added bonus? The gift giver had it monogrammed with her name!)
93. Oatmeal raspberry squares
94. Coffee, but not just any coffee, coffee that is the absolutely perfect temperature with just the right amount of 1/2 and 1/2.
95. My husband, who is unreasonably patient and kind, with me and with the kiddos
96. Baby bunnies (A co-worker raises amazing fluffy bunnies so she can shear them and spin their fur/hair into yarn. One of her mama bunnies had 6 little ones, and I can now state, without hesitation, that baby bunnies are indeed the cutest things on the planet. Or probably the universe. Puppies are in the Top 10, as are kittens. But bunnies top the list. No question.)
I recently started a little project on Facebook – a 50-day countdown to Thanksgiving. Every day I post three or four or five things I’m for which I am grateful. Some are big, some are little. But I’ve found it is a nice way for me to reflect upon the many good things in my life. It is a little Oprah-ish, I know. One of my FB friends teased that by the end of the 50 days I’m just going to be listing items in my house – he may be right. But I’m going to see if I can do it.
I plan to do a little recap here every 10 days – and flesh out a few of these with explanations. Plus, it will help me to have the entire list in one place so I don’t list “coffee” and “sleep” 23 times each. I am very very grateful for both. Usually on alternating days.
50 Days of Gratitude – My Thanksgiving Countdown
Things I am Grateful for…
Days 1 through 10
- My son potty-trained himself (At 27 months. The kid is a rock star – I claim no credit for this – this is his success, and not a parenting success – but oh, I do love that he is diaper-free!)
- My daughter smiles and claps for me when I go to get her in the morning (Great on those days when I’m feeling un- or under-appreciated!)
- Antibiotics (Little Plum went three rounds with a nasty ear infection, but I think it is down for the count! At least for now…)
- A good night’s sleep (See #3)
- Pancakes (Perhaps someday I’ll post my Dad’s super-best-ever buttermilk pancake recipe.)
- Small towns
- Tim Gunn (I just think he’s lovely. I’d love to have tea with him. But of course, I would have nothing to wear…)
- The camera on my phone (What did I read recently? Something like, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” I love my iPhone, mostly because of the camera – I’ve captured some amazing moments with it. But it should be mentioned that I also love my iPhone because Siri recommended dumps, unincorporated land, and funeral homes when I asked her where to dump a body.)
- Sundays (Slow pace, pajamas and numbers 5 and 12.)
- Long naps (Plum isn’t so good at this, so when we get one we relish it!)
- Clocks with hands (My mother gave me a traditional, locally-made mantle clock for Christmas last year, and I love it. And it means that my kids will learn to tell time on a non-digital clock.)
- Beetles (Mr. Pickle and I love watching these little guys crawling around the house. I fear the ones in our house are actually stink bugs, though, and refuse to google them.)
- Washing machines
- A warm house (A warm house with a thermostat I can control and turn up as high as I’d like. How lucky am I?)
- My mom and dad
- Handwritten notes, mailed, with stamps
- Broccoli cheddar soup
- Owls (C’mon, look at that face!)
- Cuddling with my Mr. Pickle everyday and sniffing his sweaty stinky little boy curls (He has recently come to love cuddling with me, and I can’t get enough.)
- White noise machines (With a noisy toddler in the house and a baby who is a light sleeper, these are required.)
- Colorful Post-It notes
- My job (Not what I expected to do, but I feel respected, the job is interesting and I really enjoy and respect my co-workers – pretty good if you ask me!)
- Fresh flowers
- Bedtime (For my kids AND for me!)
- Mascara (My hair may be a mess, there may be kid schmutz on my shirt, and I may be half asleep, but at least I can look half awake!)
- A spouse who can lovingly laugh at me and at himself
- Jellybeans (Especially the pectin ones.)
- Small gestures
- Grilled cheese sandwiches (I like them all but I adore provolone, pesto and tomato sandwiches. So so good.)
- Bruce Springsteen
- Lula (My sweetest little half-eared cat, who thinks she is our first baby.)
- Dry shampoo
- Neighbors (You know who you are! We sometimes gather for take-out or just wine on Friday nights. We think they’re great!)
- My bestest sister (I need to figure out a way to talk to her more, because she is so good for me, and always has great insights and makes me laugh.)
- Target (I have $75 Syndrome. I can’t walk out of there without spending at least that much.)
- Pesto (See #32.)
- Cashmere (If I looked good in, or regularly wore bathrobes, I’d be lusting after one made from soft and lovely cashmere. The number of cashmere sweaters I own? I’m not telling. But many goats have suffered.)
- Rocking my little dear heart to sleep (Plum is a happy dumpling, but not a great eater and not a great sleeper. I know rocking her to sleep will bite me in the arse later – or now, she is 7 months old after all – but it is such a nice, cuddly, connected time with my sweet milk-mouthed little one.)
- Beef stew
- Gift certificates
Stay tuned for days 11-20!
I should be in bed. Hours ago. Today was a long day. I had gooey visions of my last day of maternity leave. I would bake. Or at least I would get a lot of good cuddle time, good play time, and sunny smiles with my little peanuts. Instead, I was feverish and sick. And exhausted. Not a good day for my patience-reserves to be low. Mr. Pickle Pumpkin was up with a cold, cough and fever last night. So I was up too. He was exhausted all day, but was so far beyond tired that he couldn’t nap after a short snooze on the couch this morning. My sweet, though stubborn, little boy was a disaster. A willful, biting, flailing, hyper, flinging food disaster. All day.
And Miss Plum? She was better than her brother. And is really a pretty good little doodle. Except she didn’t feel like napping today either. Even though I was feeling rough, I decided a walk would brighten everyone’s day. Plum wailed the whole time. I decided a brief trip to see Grandpa would make the day better. Plum wailed the whole time.
What is that “Thud! Thud! Thud!” you hear? That is me. Banging my head against the wall. I searched my bathroom cabinet for some Calgon to take me away. Alas, none to be had.
So I’m back to work tomorrow. Nerves frayed. Sick. Tired. And I have no idea where my non-maternity work clothes are. Or even if they’ll fit. Blargh. And I’m returning to an office that has undergone major changes in the last twelve weeks. And people there are sad and scared. I don’t know how this new schedule is going to work – how we’re going to make it all work. But we will. And after all this whining, I will choose gratitude over annoyance. And sleep over blogging.
I’m not the sappy type, but throw in a little piano, or a choir, or any music really and I turn into a blubbering dodo. This girl could sniffle her way through “Mary Had a Little Lamb” if the situation was right. I can sit dry-eyed through a funeral, but cue the organ and “Danny Boy” and I draw stares while trying to stifle my gasping, sobbing snorts.
My husband and I still laugh about our visit to the Constitution Center in Philadelphia. They had this multimedia/live-action display in-the-round with booming narration and earnest actors – a nicely put-together brief patriotic synopsis of the US Constitution. Though I outwardly tend toward sarcasm, I carry in my heart Pollyanna’s spirit. So when the end of the presentation came – a climax of sorts with an orchestral version of something patriotic (if memory serves it wasn’t the national anthem) – I found my only-mildly patriotic self overcome. Cue eye faucets. The best part? I married the right guy. He got all misty too. Aw.
This past weekend I attended my MIL’s annual church holiday concert. It is awfully cute. With equal parts awful and cute. There is a loud soprano (says the Alto – so typical), an out of tune cellist, an in-tune cellist, a piano player whose style is LOUD, and a small chorus of (mostly) non-singers doing their best. I love it. Her church is a perfect example of New England small town congregational architecture and attitude. It is white, and plain, and old and sits on a lovely town green in a small town. I have been in many churches just like it. They serve punch (cranberry juice and ginger ale with sherbet, of course!) and home-baked goodies at intermission. There is a door prize. There are carols, and a few guest performers (who are truly amazing). Older women chuck marshmallows at the audience as part of their act. The whole event clocks in at under 2 hours. It is perfect.
I make it through the first 5 songs without a tear. My 18-month-old son is sitting calmly on his grandfather’s lap (a true Christmas miracle). My husband and I are counting the number of songs left in the program, in preparation for an 18-month-old meltdown somewhere in the middle. And then comes the chorus with “O Holy Night”. I am not one of the faithful, and I’m pretty sure I don’t fit the definition of “holy” either. This isn’t even my favorite Christmas carol. And in this instance, it is only aptly but not excellently performed. But I can feel the tightness in my chest as the spigot turns. And then, tears. Lots of them.
I am moved by my luck. By my small-town upbringing where people are born, grow, fight, laugh, love and die. I am moved by my dear friends and family. By finally getting around to marrying the boy I met in nursery school. By the amazing opportunities afforded to me by my parents. By the beautiful boy I had the privilege of growing, birthing, and now loving and raising (who is also continuing to sit quietly). By the community around me who remains connected in the ways that matter, in a world that makes that harder and harder to do. By my warm house. By my full belly – full of not only plenty of food, but also the wriggly little one scheduled to arrive in March.
I am moved by people’s voices, joined together in celebration, in community, in good humor, and in the spirit of effort and not perfection.
I am moved by darkening sky and the orange and pink sunset visible through the church windows. I am moved by the plain white church, on the plain strip of road with the plain uncomfortable pews, whose message seems to be, “You are enough. This is enough. We are enough. Together.”
I am moved, and humbled and grateful for this all together extraordinary and ordinary life I get to live.