Admissions of a Tired Mom

Croak?

Croak?

1. The other day, I actually thought that it might be nice to get sick. But only sick enough that I would feel justified in staying home and sleeping all day.

2. There is a dead frog in my car. Somewhere. Thankfully (?) it is flat and dried.

3. I sometimes feel bad about:
a. not reading The New Yorker;
b. not eating enough fish;
c. sometimes writing “congrats” instead of “congratulations,” because that’s just lazy.

4. I don’t watch much TV, except for Wild Kratts and Curious George, so I’m woefully behind in my knowledge of news and pop culture.  And I don’t really go anywhere interesting anymore.  This paired with my usual state of exhaustion means that I am, in fact, only able to talk about my children.  I do recognize how annoying this is.

5. My children think they have the power to change stoplights and songs on the radio using only their minds.  This is going to come back to bite me, I’m sure.

Pickle trying to exert mind control over his unsuspecting little sister.

Pickle trying to exert mind control over his unsuspecting little sister.

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I Miss Brunch.

I saw them. Sitting outside in the August overcast cool. They had drinks, cocktails, beer, small plates. They were leaning back, relaxed. They were talking. Laughing. Sipping.

Brunch. 2pm on a Sunday.

I looked at them and thought that perhaps after brunch, they’d wander home, flip through a magazine, take a nap under a spinning ceiling fan, belly full and head a little swimmy from the mimosas. They’d wake up, maybe shop a bit for nothing in particular, and without a list or itinerary. They’d pick up a piece of fish or some scallops for dinner. They’d take a walk. They’d take a drive. They’d go pick some raspberries. They’d consider going to the movies and decide against it. They’d finish reading the Sunday paper or the latest New Yorker. Maybe that woman would research a new bathroom fixture, pluck her eyebrows. Maybe she’d spend some time sorting old photos or looking up new recipes, listening to a podcast of storytellers. Maybe she’d finally clean out that closet. Make some raspberry muffins. Fold some laundry. Lie in bed in the quiet and think.

I miss that.

I miss brunch.

I miss the me I used to get to be. I miss being untethered.

I would like to say that I am the same person I was before I had children. But I’m not. The very center of me has changed. I am tied to them and there is never a moment they aren’t with me. In me.

And now, even when I get that time, that time to myself, to enjoy lazy brunches, to browse bookshops, to just be, by myself, and to recreate those untethered times, I recognize they are just that — recreations. They are wonderful and restorative times, but they are recreations of a time and a me that no longer exist. And when my hour or two is over I slip off that costume of my former self and return to being me, the current edition.

Still, sometimes, I miss brunch. I’ve replaced it with unreasonable wake up calls, too much cold coffee, Cheerios on the floor. But I also get tiny toenails, perspectives on the world from those new to it, and the warmth and heaviness of small sleeping bodies laying, growing, breathing, against mine. And though sometimes I miss the way brunch used to be, the changed me wouldn’t trade. And I know that’s the way it is supposed to be.

New Normal

Bedtime. Please.

Bedtime for Pickle.  We’re trying to rein it back, since it keeps getting longer and longer.  It is a long-ish routine to start with, but really, it should be simple enough: pajamas, TV show, pull-up, teeth, 2 books, 2 songs, bed.  How long can that possibly take?

Forever.  That’s how long.

Zzzzzzzzzz

My sister, amazed by his creativity and persistence, encouraged me to write down Pickle’s stall tactics/questions/pre-bed needs wants and desires.  So here is a (non-exhaustive!) list.  Yes, these are all real.  And yes, this is why bedtime takes forever.

  1. I have to pee.
  2. I have to poop.
  3. I want you to come sit with me while I poop.  So we can chat.  No I’m not done yet.
  4. I don’t want to wear overnight undies (aka pull-ups).
  5. My overnight undies itch.
  6. My overnight undies are too hot.
  7. My overnight undies hurt me.
  8. These pajamas are too hot.
  9. I want to take my pants off.
  10. These pajamas are too cold.
  11. I need to floss because I have yuckies on my teeth.
  12. I need to shower because I have so many yuckies. I didn’t wash all of my parts in the bath earlier tonight.
  13. I have to wash my hands.
  14. My hands hurt.
  15. My belly hurts. It feels like boo-boos.
  16. I need a “belly fixer” (Tums).
  17. I want to do “belly fixers” (a completely made-up placebo I came up with that consists of vaguely yoga-ish poses that will make belly ailments go away).
  18. I have to throw up.
  19. I have to pet the cat. I love her.
  20. I want the cat in my room.
  21. I want the cat on my bed.
  22. The cat licked my head. I want the cat off of my bed.
  23. I want the cat out of my room.
  24. I’m thirsty but I don’t want water.  I want milk, and then I want to brush my teeth again.
  25. I’m hungry.
  26. I want to do three more flips on your bed.
  27. I just need to sit on this large pile of clothes and pretend it is a horse.
  28. I want the light on in my room.
  29. I want the light off in your room.
  30. I want to read more books by myself.
  31. I do not like any of the 60 books in my room.
  32. I want you to read me more books.
  33. I want the light off.
  34. I want the curtains open.
  35. I want the curtains closed.
  36. I want the curtains open again, but just a little bit.
  37. I want my door closed.
  38. I want my door closed, but not all the way.
  39. I just need to try to tie the legs of my pajamas in a knot.
  40. I’m a little sad.
  41. I want you to check my room for lions and bears.
  42. I have to pee.
  43. I need an extra cuddle from you.
  44. I need an extra cuddle from Dad.
  45. I want to talk about things.
  46. I want to tell you something.
  47. I have a question.
  48. I want to tell you a secret.
  49. I have a surprise for you.
  50. I want you to sing me three songs.
  51. I didn’t like those songs; I want you to sing four more.
  52. Do you know a song about blueberries?
  53. My penis itches.
  54. Do you know a song about donkeys?
  55. I know a song about blueberries. I will sing it to you. (Cue 8 minute mash-up of songs he knows – none of which have anything to do with blueberries – interspersed with nonsense words.)
  56. I want to sing you three more songs (of the same long, made-up variety).
  57. I want you to sing me three more songs (including the full-length versions of Wheels on the Bus and She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain).
  58. What does ______________ mean (insert each line of each song here)?
  59. I want to talk about the day (this has included discussions about dog vomit, the origins and purpose of hospitals, and the ins and outs of air travel).
  60. I want to talk about tomorrow.
  61. I don’t like the plan for tomorrow and would like to discuss changing it.
  62. I want to negotiate donuts and lots of TV for tomorrow.
  63. I want a treat right now.
  64. I have yuckies on my teeth and need to brush them again.
  65. I want to see my sister. I love her.
  66. I want to hug my sister.
  67. I want to bring my sister something.
  68. I want to take something from my sister.
  69. I need Alfie/Cubby/Baby Bear/Monkey. (Always a stuffed animal conveniently not located in his room.)
  70. I’m still hungry.
  71. I want an apple.  Peeled, but not cut up.
  72. I want more water.
  73. I have to pee again, and I want you to come with me.
  74. My blanket is too hot.
  75. I want a cold blanket.
  76. I don’t want any blankets.
  77. Where is my other blanket?
  78. Why do we need blankets?
  79. I want your blanket.
  80. I want you to make me a nest of blankets on my bed.
  81. The nest of blankets you made me is not right.  I want to make the nest. (Cue 10 minutes of nest-making.)
  82. The nest I made is all wrong!  I blame you!  And I’m still thirsty!
  83. Where is the cat?
  84. I need to wear my hat/headlamp/bear slippers/stethoscope to bed.
  85. I’m not tired.
  86. I want the light back on.
  87. I want Dad.
  88. Why are you yelling at me?
  89. I have to pee again.

Two Hearts.

Plum turns one on this week. She is my dear little one, and is so much her own little person. And now that those ears have gotten better (mostly) she really is a delight – silly, weird and smart.

Plum at One

I must admit, that it took me the better part of the year to figure out life with two. It was a hard year. Just when I was getting used to this whole kid business, Plum came along and upset my confidence and equilibrium. She was not a particularly difficult baby (except we still haven’t gotten that sleeping thing down). It was just that sometimes I felt like life had become one of those fast-forward film reels. Completely normal, I know, but still tough.

We welcomed a new nephew on Saturday. He is a gorgeous little boy, and we are so excited he is here. He is a second child. His birth, and Plum’s birthday have meant some mama-reflection on what life is like with two.

Second Baby Surprises

I so enjoyed my maternity leave the second time.
First, Plum’s birth was SO much easier on me physically. I felt surprisingly good after delivery, which made those first few weeks so much better. The pinched nerve in my back, and time of year made it tough, but I was armed with better knowledge of my rhythms and the rhythms of a newborn. I loved cuddling and nesting. We kept Pickle in his regular routine of daycare/school 3 days a week. So for those days it was just me and Plum, cuddling and napping and getting to know one another. It was awesome. Oh, and I watched seasons one and two of Downton Abbey – added bonus!

It is a different kind of hard.
I had been warned that a second child didn’t make things two times as hard, a second child made things 100 times as hard. Thankfully, I found this was not quite true. With one, you’re already giving it your all, with two, you’re still giving it your all, just differently. Two IS hard, so hard. But it is a different kind of madness. It means you spend your day managing the needs of the littles. It means you have to get good at needy child triage. Whose needs trump right now? Some days, everyone is in the groove, and you can jump from task to need to play to nap to meal to task smoothly. Most days it doesn’t feel like that. Most days I feel like I’m scrambling behind the runaway train, hoping things don’t go too far off the rails. Plum needs to be soothed and rocked and fed and Pickle is bellowing from downstairs that he NEEDS ME NOW because he needs his bum wiped. And in order for me to respond that “I’LL BE RIGHT THERE!” I have to yell, which wakes up Plum. And then no one naps. And then people start throwing things and then there are tears, from everyone. Including me.

I came to trust Pickle more.
I had to. When Plum needed changing, feeding or rocking it was often impossible to convince a stubborn 2-year-old to come along (and sit quietly). So instead of dealing with two crying children, I had to trust him enough to leave him alone downstairs, playing, by himself. I had to trust that he wouldn’t break things, hurt himself, leave, make incredible messes, etc. There were some minor mishaps, but for the most part, he was a champ. And he rose to the challenge, feeling accomplished and proud that he could be in charge of himself for a bit.

Baby two helped me to better understand the relationship I have with my younger sister.
It is so interesting to watch a sibling relationship develop as a parent. Pickle is annoyed by his younger sister, of course, but he is also fiercely protective, loving and sweet. Plum gets frustrated with her older brother – who tries to boss her around and is constantly taking things away from her – but adores him all the same. She grins like a Jack-o-lantern when he goes to visit her in her crib in the morning. He is the best at making her laugh. Their relationship has helped me understand some of the dynamic between my sister and I growing up.

The quiet moments are sweeter.
Mostly because they are fewer. (HA!) I would have preferred a stellar sleeper, but Plum isn’t wired that way. And while it sometimes makes for exhausting days, the middle of the night feedings and cuddles have been more magical than maddening. The moments when it is just the two of us, in the glow of the nightlight, cozy in our pajamas, is the best. And the time cuddled with Pickle, reading a book, and stealing moments together while Plum naps, is lovely. Thankfully, these sweet quiet moments continue, and now sometimes include all three or us, or all four of us even. Last night Pickle perched quietly on the edge of the glider, snuggled into my left shoulder, while Plum had her pre-bed bottle, cradled in my right arm. As I sang silly, made-up songs (requested by Pickle, of course) I realized that it just doesn’t get much sweeter.

Two Hearts

Extra Ordinary.

Today was the best day ever.
It was really that good.

After a much-anticipated 35th birthday celebration dinner cut short by vomit (not mine), and a night woefully short on sleep, my expectations weren’t high.

 

Snooze Cat

Today we did nothing. And a few things.

We puttered.

We played.

We ate.

We avoided the tummy bug we were sure would sweep the 3 members of the family yet unbugged.

My husband broke out the vacuum. I shifted kid clothes. We had pasta for dinner. We wore our PJs far too late into the afternoon (and I am neither going to confirm nor deny whether some of us are still wearing them). We got some of Christmas put away, and didn’t worry about the rest. We read books. We laughed a lot. My husband and son played in the fresh snow in the dark – Pickle coming back inside with a chapped face and blazing ears “Mama, feel this ear! Now Mama, feel this ear!” Plum, feeling better, graced us with toothy grins and some belly laughs at dinner, and invented a new game of “peekaboo” with her brother. Pickle was helpful, sweet and affectionate, often struck by the need to hug and kiss any family member who was in a different room. He woke up from a luxuriously long nap, good-humored and generous and sat to play with Plum, exclaiming unprompted, “I love my sister.”

We had a few firsts, too.  Plum switched from her quick army-style crawl to an all-fours method.  Pickle started referring to me as his “mom” instead of “Mama.”

Everybody napped.

I read a book, uninterrupted, for over an hour.

I read a book, uninterrupted, for over an hour.

We were not in a rush to go anywhere. We were together, happily together. We accomplished enough to feel like the day wasn’t wasted, but were able to overlook the long to-do list of weekends – cleaning, straightening, cooking, shopping, going, doing.

Today was extra ordinary, and extraordinary. And when so many days with young children feel harried, half done, challenging and tiring, I am so grateful for this day.

Tomorrow I will go to work, and will worry about money, time, and whether we will get that tummy bug after all. But tonight, I will climb into my warm bed, read a bit more, and go to sleep with a grateful, rested heart, thankful.

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.

Living. Life.

Parenthood.

It is fun.
It is funny.
It is humbling.
It is interesting.
It is challenging.
It is ridiculous.
It is tedious.
It is messy.
It is the best thing I have ever decided to do.
It is the most worthwhile undertaking I have attempted.
It is really, really hard.
It is awesome, in the truest sense of that word.

But a lot of the time, it isn’t particularly enjoyable.

It is a never-ending quest to manage, wrangle, calm, soothe, meet-the-needs of, care for, provide, go and do.  And clean.  Why is there so much cleaning involved?

I try to be present as a mom, as a wife, as a person.  But the minutiae, the to-do list, the exhaustion, the frustration, the pace, the never-ending work of fulfilling the needs of others, can make this difficult.  In the quest to tread water, to keep my head afloat, I sometimes forget to feel the slippery water weaved through my fingers, to feel the cool and calming pressure on my skin, to feel my body in that space at that moment.  My life has become an eternal quest to plan for and accomplish what’s next while still being here, now.

Last night at dinner – which I hurriedly, and half-assedly prepared – before Plum started grumping and Pickle started trying to throw his kielbasa (“But I HAVE to! But I WANT to!”) there was a moment when Pickle was looking over at his sister, making funny raspberries, rolling his eyes up into his head, being silly and laughing.  She thought he was hysterical.  Her uncontrolled belly laughter is one of the tell-tale signs of her exhaustion and an impending meltdown, but we ignored that fact for a second.  He mugged and chortled and she laughed and laughed.  And we laughed along, too.

My husband, who had had a very long day of grumpy baby and willful toddler said, “See?  There is always one moment of the day where I like everyone.”  It was a funny way to put it, but I understood.  There is always one moment of the day – an exhalation, a sigh – where the kids are happy, everyone’s needs have been met, the to-do list is forgotten, and we are well and warm.  In that moment we are all present. Imperfect and usually exhausted, but present.  And in that moment, living becomes life, and I gratefully realize that in fact, I am floating, and not treading.