Thursday, September 29, 2011

Free Pass(es) in First Year Postpartum

Given that this isn't my first rodeo, but will probably be my last, I've decided to put together a list of activities that women should not feel any obligation to do in their first year postpartum.  Who knows?  Maybe the universe will listen and women from four corners of the world will rejoice?  Just like maybe a money tree is growing as we speak in the back yard...what the hell, it couldn't hurt.  Here it goes.
  • Family Photographs...this is BRUTAL my friends.  Even if the mommy in front of the camera has miraculously lost all of the pregnancy love handles, chances are, she dawns dark circles and a face that screams, "Please, dear God, just let me sleep."  Keep the camera in front of the baby.
  • Sex...I'm just gonna speak the truth.  Any woman who is up every 2-3 hours, possibly breast feeding, probably sleeping in spurts (at best) on the couch does not want to do the nasty.  She wants to sleep.  She loves you.  She thinks your hot.  The scoop is...she's having a love affair right now with her bed and you can't just make do with your hand.  Everyone's got to sacrifice.
  • Cooking/Cleaning...there should just be a lovely person who comes weekly and tidies the place and leaves home cooked meals along with really good coffee and yummy chocolate.
  • Exercise...let me tell you right now.  If we wanted to burn calories, we would be having sex...not running, not doing yoga, not scrunching ourselves into the work out clothes that used to fit but are now well, a bit of an embarrassment.  Really, if the baby is sleeping and we have disposable energy reserves, we want to take said chocolate and watch "Lifetime" in our underwear (maternity underwear that is) on the couch.
  • Make Money....there really should just be a money tree in the backyard.  Women should not have to go back to work after 6 weeks or 12 weeks.  If they want to, have at it.  But, if it's the economic pressure or job requirement that is making the decision...well, piss on that.  Women should be allowed the time to heal emotionally, physically and to bond with their babes.
That's all for now.  I'll think of more later.  It's okay if you don't agree.  It just means that you haven't had a baby.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Take heart...even in the tough times

Four years ago after the birth of our second child, we made the decision that I would stay at home full-time and that my husband would be the sole income earner.

This was a tough decision because I recently completed my graduate studies and was finally earning a decent wage.  In the end, we halved our income.  With two children in diapers and one drinking formula, we learned to tighten up our grocery budget, do away with cable, cook at home, cancel our gym membership, and ultimately, live on less. 

That first year was really hard.  I was resentful.  I was tired.  I was under-stimulated.  I missed working with a team of people.  I longed for a project that I could see through from start to finish.  I missed recognition.  I wanted to talk about politics and community hub bub with other adults. I yearned to go out to lunch and to put on heels.  I missed business cards, an office, and privacy.  And, honestly, I missed a paycheck.  In short, I was wondering what we had done.

And then something happened.  At the end of that first year, I realized that I enjoyed walking my kiddos in the park, reading the same stories over and over again because it produced such great reactions.  I enjoyed lingering instead of forcing the moment.  I appreciated that I wasn't stressed about project work or deadlines.  I was learning to find the joy in it.

Now, post the birth of our third child, we've been feeling the financial pinch again.  The rising cost of healthcare, school tuition, fuel costs, and groceries has sent us back to wondering if we should make a change.  It's tough to live so close to the, "What would happen if someone got sick?" line or wow, our savings is really abysmal or retirement...ugh...or life insurance or college funds or bigger car for a family of five or someone needs braces or someone needs to see a chiropractor.

We've decided to keep on keeping on.  My mom keeps saying, "This is a season...just trust."  And so, that's what we're doing, praying, trusting, believing that we've made the right decision for now.  I guess, only time will tell.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Power of Divorce

It's interesting, over the past few weeks, I've found myself engaged in conversations revolving around the topic of divorce a lot.  Now that we're in our mid-thirties, some of our friends are getting divorced or remarried, others are finding themselves in rough patches in their own marriages, and some are reflecting on their experiences growing up as children of divorce.

My parents divorced when I was four-years old and my brother was an infant...approximately, the ages of my second and third children.  My dad married our neighbor and they have been married for over 30 years.  It wasn't so strange.  Many of my friends growing up had divorced parents.  They understood what it meant to share holidays, cart your stuff between two houses on the weekends or summer break, and many of them inherited step siblings and parents.  It was the early 80's and lots of folks were getting divorced.

Most of us didn't know how those experiences would shift the pendulum when it came to our own marriages.  For me, I didn't get married until I was almost 30 (by that time, my mom had been divorced for three years and had a seven and four-year old child to raise) and even though I thought I wanted to be married in my 20's...the truth is that I probably wouldn't have known what to do with myself.  I'm glad I had the chance to travel and to finish grad school and to live in an apartment, alone.

Now that I've been married for seven years and have three children, I think, "Man...divorce is paralyzing."  While I can't argue that for some relationships, there is no hope for reconciliation...for many there is.  I just think that we're selfish creatures by nature.  We want what we want when we want it.  We use jargon like "soul mates" and not "in-love" with you anymore to justify our temporary whims. 

Let's be honest.  Marriage is hard, not a little bit hard, a lot hard. Take into account jobs, mortgage payments, kids, illness, health coverage or lack thereof and a myriad of other demands and you have a recipe for disaster on any given day.  I'm not sure what the trick is...I'm still learning how to communicate and how to pick my battles...but my hope is that I won't throw in the towel. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Channeling My Inner Twinkle Toes

So, I think I mentioned in a previous post, that I recently started an adult ballet class. 

That's right, every Saturday morning, I dawn a leotard and pretty pink ballet shoes.  It's me, a 74-year old woman, two men, a half a dozen women in their 30's and 40's, and one girl who is clearly the bell of the ball.  She knows her stuff.  Oh, and the instructor who is eight and a half months pregnant.  That's right.  She is ready to pop and amazing on her feet.  It's truly inspiring.

So what in the world would possess me to go so far outside of my comfort zone?  I mean really?  I'm not completely a novice.  I took ballet very briefly as a little girl. However, my one claim to fame at the Orpheum Theater landed me in a shuffle, ball change, facing the back of the all of the other ballerinas bowed to the front for the grand finale.  It was more than a little embarrassing.  So, let's just say, I don't have natural ability or talent.

But the deal is, I really love it.  It's one hour.  Just for me.  Away from the kids and the noise and the laundry and the dishes and the needs.  A woman plays beautiful music on the piano.  The instructor teaches us gorgeous french vocabulary words.  I get to sashay across the floor, attempt to point my toes and try not to get consumed with the figure that I see in the mirror.  Miraculously, it's a work out using muscles that I'm not sure I knew existed.  And, now I stand a little straighter, shoulders upright with a bit of whimsy in my step.

I'm not advocated that everyone should take ballet...but I do think you should try something way outside of your comfort zone.  You only live once, right?

When I told my four-year old daughter that I was nervous to go to class, she comforted me by saying, "You'll be great mama, just remember to point your toes!"  

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pining for Tuscany

Last night while making dinner, the smells of garlic, oil, onion, tomatoes and peppers had me dreaming, yet again, of Tuscany.  I've never been there, but I've been hankering to go for years.

I don't want to go to Italy to visit monuments or museums. I want to go to a small village, rent a villa, and spend days staring into the beauty of God's creation.  I don't want to react.  I want to think.  I want to reflect.  I want to drink copious amounts of really good wine.  I want to eat amazing pastas, gelato, bread, pizza, vegetables and cheese.  I want to write.  I want to breathe.  I want to shoot photographs.  I want to dream.  I want to feel me again. 

I've decided that when that money tree magically appears in the backyard and the mortgage is paid, the school tuition is done, the student loan debt is done dealing...that's where you'll find Italy.

What about you?  Where will you be?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

There's Enough Love

The other day during Kate's music class, I was galloping around the room with Claire (our 9-month old baby) on the front carrier, singing and dancing with my four-year old. 

Out of the blue, another mama said to me, "Man, I don't know how you do it."  She has a three-year old little girl and a 16-month old little boy.  And then she said, "I knew I was done at two.  I just can't stand how hard it is to balance the needs of both of them.  I always feel like somebody's getting the shaft and in a way, you gotta admit, they kind of are."

A bit stunned and well, probably looking more than a little frazzled (Claire threw up on me earlier and I canceled my hair color appointment at the beginning of the week), I said, "hmm...never thought of it that way."

But the truth is, I had.  When we moved from a married couple to a family of three, I thought, "When will there be time for us?"  That was a fleeting thought since we got pregnant on our honeymoon...but one nonetheless.  Then, when we got pregnant again, I thought, "How will I ever love another baby as much as I love Sam?"  And yes, the thought entered my mind on the third pregnancy confirmation...but complicated by the idea that I might be cheating the first two out of quality time, attention, financial opportunity, and also wondering if I would have time/energy again for a date night or a pedicure?

Not long ago, a friend said to me, "Live your life from a place of abundance and not a lack thereof...there is always enough love."  She elaborated by saying that our hearts, our world, our friends, our family all have enough love for "come what may."  That means if you're worried about whether your friend will still remember you if a new one enters the friendship circle, don't...there's always enough love.  If from time to time, you wonder about a former love and feel guilty, don't...there's always enough love.  If you get a new co-worker/team member and worry that his talents may replace yours, don't...there's always enough love.  If your parent gets remarried, it's okay...there's always enough love.  And, if like my best friend from college, your husband is one of 17 siblings...well, there may be a limit.  (insert big smile)

Remember, that we haven't even tapped a fraction of the love that this world has to offer.  Trust in that.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Coveting My Abundance

There's a house on a street that I drive down almost daily...that I covet.

It's not particularly fancy, in the sense that it's a mansion or something, but it's a lot bigger than mine.  It's brick with a beautiful garden patio on the side and a gorgeous golden retriever that's always running in the yard.  The flowers are vibrant, the chiminea is at the center and the trees tower over the lawn.

Inside, I dream that the couple who live there plays records while drinking wine and chopping up yummy foods in the kitchen.  They steal moments to kiss or to dance and to give thanks for their day. I envision kids running around in dress up clothes building forts and indulging their folks in cutesy faces.

I do all of this in the 15 seconds that it takes me to drive by it and down the hill.  Pathetic, I know.

My house is quaint, "cottage-like," charming, a perfect home for a young least, I think that's what the ad said when we bought the place.  Don't get me wrong.  It's filled with beautiful wood floors, gorgeous archways, a sweet backyard and a kitchen that almost always has good smells coming out of it...the best part is that it's filled with seven years of memories...the births of each of our children, the planting of our gardens, the building of our lives, the nourishing of our safe haven.

It's easy for me to get caught up in what a bigger space would do for me or how my kids deserve this or that.  And, in all honesty, my kids would probably not know what to do if they each had their own bathroom, play area, or bedroom.  The big kids like telling stories to each other before they fall asleep and fighting over who gets to play with what.

The truth is, I am blessed and happiness is wanting what you have.  The truth also is that some days it feels like the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.  And, maybe it is.  But for today, I will covet my own abundance and remember that this is my hot mess...a beautiful one.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Postpartum Bounce Back or Lack thereof

Those that are close to me are really getting weary of their continual invitations to my "Kelly Gering Postpartum Pity Party." 

Our youngest, Claire, just turned nine-months old and well, the adage nine-months on, nine-months off is really not holding true for this mother of three.  In fact, I still very much look like I'm pregnant...the proof is in the example of a recent party I attended where a woman actually put her hand on my belly and said, "Oh, baby."  Let me tell you, kids, there's really no graceful way to recover from that one.

Almost weekly since about month six, I've vowed to do something...start running (I bought cool shoes), drink copious amounts of meal replacements (I spent a fortune on organic meals in can), walk the picturesque Elmwood and Field Club Trails (I've sort of held true to this one), take crazy classes at Prairie Life (Pump & Cut nearly broke me) and yes, I started an adult ballet class (there's nothing more humbling than shoving your 36-year old touche into a leotard).  All of this in the hopes of dropping the weight, but really to no avail.  The truth is, "I'm a chunky monkey."

Sadly, I didn't realize just how challenging it would be to live with this weight until one day I stepped on the scale and wallah, here I am.  Don't get me wrong, I definitely gained weight with my first two, but it seemed to come off much faster and with less effort.  I suppose we could blame it on the perils of getting older, a slower metabolism, sleep deprivation, or let's just be honest, my ridiculous addiction to all things chocolate and coffee related....oh, and my bed, when I can get a decent night's sleep.

I'm convinced that one day, I'll remember that girl that I see in the mirror...until then, this lady that's moved in will have to kids and husband think she's pretty, I'll just have to trust them at their word.

Bullying makes me want to kick some ass

Once a week, we drive our son to a music class out west.  While Sam plays his glockenspiel and dulcimer, his little sisters and I find something to occupy ourselves for an hour.

Tonight, we decided to try out a park down the hill.  This play area is one that we hadn't frequented before, but it appeared to be way cooler than the midtown ones near our home.  Complete with two rock climbing walls, three twisty slides, a motorcycle and swings, we were in Heaven.

As we approached, I noticed a group of five or six older elementary/maybe middle school boys throwing a football.  Paying little attention, I sang the "A,B, C's" to our four-year old daughter and enjoyed the sun on my face.

The tone of our outing took a dive when I turned to see one of the boys kicking, punching, and yelling obscenities at another boy who pulled up on a bike to play.  Pissed as all get out, I walked over to the scene and attempted to be the fair witness...the one who says, "I know what you're doing and you better stop."  The sad thing was it didn't.  The bully continued to jab at the kid while his friends egged him on and seemed to enjoy it.

Within a few seconds, as my blood boiled over, I thought, "Do I intervene?"  "What if this gets more out of control and they hurt my children?"  "Why the hell did I leave my phone in the car?"  "I can't NOT intervene!"  And so, I walked as close as I could get and said, "ENOUGH!"

Miraculously, a middle-aged, crazy mama in yoga pants must command some level of authority because they stopped...but damn, I am still so outraged.  When did it become okay to wail on another?  And why, do others watch as if it's no big deal...especially, because it's not happening to them? 

Once I collected my children and we got into the car, I had a really long conversation about the power of stepping up.  Sam asked if I was scared.  I answered honestly, "absolutely" and then promptly told him, "but, that's when you know that it's the right thing to do."  I'm sure that this is the first of many incidents that I'll be privy to as a parent, so I vow to not stand by in silence.

What do you want to be?

This morning while making breakfast, my four-year old daughter proclaimed that she wanted to be a spy when she grew up.  Shortly prior to this conversation, we learned that our six-year old son aspires to be both a paleontologist as well as a deejay.  My husband and I thought it would be pretty cool if he opened with the line, "Sam in the house...can you dig it?"  Their sweet proclamations for the future made me wonder, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" 

I always thought it was such a farce that colleges required students to "major" in specific studies...or that financial planners strongly encouraged couples to create a "five-year" plan.  The truth is,,,who the hell knows?  The reality is that while we want definitive(s) in our life, most every day we live in the gray.  And, the more we become comfortable trying not to control the present day circumstances, the better.

As I reflect, any really great gift in my life has come because I've been open to the possibility of it.  For years, I lamented whether I would ever get married.  As it turns out, the man of my dreams was under my nose the whole time.  He just happened to live over 1700 miles away.  Upon completion of my graduate degree, my career was finally underway, Moments later, I discovered that I was pregnant.  Wondering how I would juggle my job with my babies, I made a decision not to.  A hard decision not to.  Now looking back, the truth is that my children saved me from me. They helped an OCD, high maintenance, crazy lady focus on a leaf and laugh at herself.

So when I think about what I want to be when I grow up, I'm mindful, now more than ever...that this life is a series of seasons, a journey of stages, not a point of arrival.  Of which, I'm so thankful for...because as much as I fancy myself a planner, I'm just not.  And as much as I want to major in something and dawn a business card again and fit back into my business suits...right now, I'm more comfy in my worn out yoga pants, my graying hair and my old Honda.  

However, if you have an idea of what I should be once the kids get into school...I'm all ears.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Here I am...

So the other morning, I walked by the mirror and realized, I'm a 36-year old wife and mother of three little ones.  I live in a white house with black shutters and a red door.  I make oatmeal and wash dishes and read lots and lots of stories and change lots and lots of diapers.  I drive kiddos to school, church, ballet, music, basketball, and their friends' houses.  I admire art work, dance moves, kind words, and gooey brownie fingers.  I shun hitting, eye-rolling, cruel words, and video games.  And late at night, when I have disposable energy, I wonder, how did I get here?

Yesterday or 14 years ago, I was reading philosophy texts, drinking beer, chatting it up with girl friends, wondering if I would get married, hoping I would get a really good job offer and firmly believing that I would never move back to Omaha, Nebraska.

I used to make fun of the women that I babysat for...they wore sweater sets from Talbots, faded pleated pants, the same pearl earrings, and drove station wagons or mini vans.  Most needed a highlight at best and some needed significant work like a lip wax or a personal trainer.  Everyone of them were so thankful to see me pull up in the driveway and after a few brief reminders encouraged me to eat anything I wanted in the house...I think they just really wanted me to come back.  They all seemed so old.  I used to giggle with my girlfriends about who had cute husbands and who had fat ones.  Which ones seemed really in love and which ones got the short-end of the stick.  Either way, I couldn't imagine that one day, someone would call me, "Mrs. so and so" and tell me that the kids would be just fine while I pulled out of the driveway.

I think it's funny that I got my master's degree in Conflict Resolution.  When I was actively practicing, I used to mediate other people's differences...i.e. Landlord/Tenant cases, Neighbor barking dog issues, Divorcing couples, Employer/Employee tensions...etc.  Now, I just seem to mediate my own internal do I evolve in this new season of my life and also retain that which I claim to be vital to my soul?

And because I've been writing in my head for the last fours year (ever since I became a full-time stay-at-home mom), I've decided to create this blog...primarily, as an outlet for me to reclaim my voice (outside of "use your inside voice") and also as an opportunity for me to connect with others who may relate.  The truth is that the dynamic between like-minded individuals is what I missed the most about writing in my journal.  And sometimes, the facebook fragments are just not enough.    So, here I am.

I'm not sure how often I'll write.  I'm not terribly concerned about being offensive or liked.  I just want to hear my voice again as I hit the key strokes.  I want to be reminded that I am here...all parts of me, not just those that care take for others. 

I'm grateful for the hot mess that I find myself in most days because it reminds me that I am alive.  I may be covered in puke, exhausted from an all-night marathon with a baby, or wearing a size that I  reserved for a middle-aged woman...but I'm here.  I'm doing it.  And, honoring the journey...well, that's good for something.