Monday, August 26, 2013

Cleaning the Closet in Quiet

Today was the first day that my two older children were in school all day long.

Sam started third grade and Kate started first grade...which left me alone with our precocious two-year old, Claire for an entire eight hours. 

While my inclination was to escape the mess that has become my home, the weather proved to be an obnoxious 95 degrees with a ridiculous amount of humidity and so, I resigned myself to remain indoors and clean.

I turned on some tunes and encouraged Claire to entertain herself with puzzles and books while I tackled cleaning my older children's closet and room.  Seven Goodwill and three trash bags later, I was astounded at what I had accomplished.

While I was cleaning, it dawned on me just how incredibly loud my life is....really on all fronts.  There is very little time afforded to contemplation.  There's mindlessness that emanates from exhaustion, but that's not the same thing as carving out space to think, ponder, reflect, dream, take it in.  And I don't know why cleaning a closet or really anything for that matter, helps me to zone in on my thoughts.

While I was gathering up old clothes, shoes, books, toys, nick knacks, and keep sakes, I realized that Sam and Kate are not the only ones embarking upon a new journey. 

I am too.  And, so is their very sweet little sister, Claire.

Next year, Claire will be in preschool which may mean three or five mornings a week, I will have no children at home...and then, what will become of me and my time.

My best girlfriend from undergrad predicts that I'll go back into the corporate world temporarily trading my running kicks for kick ass stilettos.  My husband predicts that I'll free lance my conflict resolution skills and mediate from home.  My close-knit girlfriends think I might volunteer more at the school or start a prostitution ring to continue paying for Catholic education.

All of these options sound interesting to me.  But whatever unfolds as I shared with my friend this morning, it won't be to the detriment of raising my kiddos or the passion of my soul.  I want to gain clarity about that piece and keep asserting it to the world so as not to lose its significance.

My hunch is that I have a lot more soul searching to do...which means a lot more closets to clean, spaces to declutter and times of solitude.

And this space of quiet, I am excited about.  I've been waiting for it, well, for a while.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Beauty Amidst the Chaos

I love our mail carrier.

She always has a smile on her face, kind words for my children and wonderful, sage advice.

About a week ago, while getting the stroller loaded to head to the park, she and I had a nice chat.  She shared that she is a mother to six grown children and a grandmother to nine beautiful little ones.

I was lamenting that it had been a day and that I just felt overwhelmed by it all and subsequently, appreciated her smile and kind eyes.

She told me that the one thing she was always grateful for was that she didn't have a clean house, but most of the time had happy kids.

"I never missed going to the park or the pool to put the laundry away and if my friends happened to swing by unannounced, I never apologized for the streaks on the windows or the sticky prints on the door knobs.  And as I look back, I don't regret the sacrifice one bit.  Now is the time to have fun.  When you're old like me, you can clean the house.  Or not.  It's overrated."

And so, I took those comments to heart and informed my family that for the last week of summer, we were going hog wild...swimming, reading at the library, checking out new digs at Fontenelle Forest, having tea parties with friends and eating macaroni and cheese to our hearts content.

And my house has taken a beating, but there's a weight lifted off of my shoulders and thus far, no one from Child Protective Services has ushered my littles away.

To prove that I mean what I say, here's some documentation to help you be thankful for your abode.  You're more than welcome to hang out at mine, you just might not be able to find your way out...but I promise that when you do, you'll have a smile on your face.

Here's to the last three days of summer....

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hope I've Done Right By Them

 Over the last few days, friends have been sending their children back to school.

Adorable first day pictures have been popping up on Facebook of little ones all decked out in their new duds, uniforms, back packs, signs in hands labeled "First Grade" or "Kindergarten"...and mothers saddled with mixed emotions.

On one hand, after a long summer full of swimming, bike riding, dirt digging, no schedule heeding and lots of ice cream eating, it feels like it's time to get back to some sort of routine.

On the other, it means that our children are growing up.  Which, I suppose, is what they do.  But maybe, just maybe, we could freeze frame these moments and keep them little just a little longer.

And so, this morning, I was particularly moved by a Facebook friend's status update.  She had just finished sending her girls...a new fourth grader and Kindergartner off to the races.  And she was a crying mess hoping that she had done right by them.  She posted an amazing poem entitled "The Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away from the Curb," by Sharon Olds and I was inspired.

In six days, I'll be sending my 8.5-year old son to third grade and my 6-year old daughter to first grade.  It will be the first time that they will both be in school all day long and combined with soccer practice and games, ballet, cub scouts, and girl scouts will spend more hours outside of the house than inside, except when they're sleeping.  And, all of it has given me pause.

For what has seemed like an eternity, I've been hyper-aware of the many ways that I have sacrificed for my children.  When they were babies, it was the loss of infinite amounts of sleep combined with my breasts becoming utilitarian feeding sources. My house became transformed into a baby land with child proof gates, books, toys, diapers, and every learning gadget under the moon.  My dreams of executing my graduate degree were put on hold to stay at home.  Leaving the work place changed the face of our household income and reshaped the way we thought about making due and being practical.  And then, there have been the sanity checks.  And believe me, mine has been tested countless times.

But now, six years later, I sit here thinking.  I hope that I've done enough.  I hope that I've read to them voraciously.  I hope that I've fed their soul and cemented the belief that they are beautiful, capable, and amazing.  I hope that I've taught them coping skills and an understanding that things won't go their way and that from time to time, the world really can be an unfair and cruel place...but in the same breath, the best thing to do is to get back up and try again.

And through all of the time outs, the raising of voices, the 5-4-3-2-1's on the playground and in the grocery store, I hope that they know that they were loved.  And ultimately, I hope that I've done right by them as well.

Because after all, there are no guarantees.  All we can do is try and then try again with a pure heart, good intentions, and the sincere desire to see our little ones happy, healthy, and ready to tackle this new place they find themselves in...and I suppose, that we find ourselves in as well.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Minimizing Regrets...Starting with a Mammogram

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I once had a horrifying experience in a tanning bed.

I was in my early 20's and as luck would have it, I found myself with a free ticket to go on an all-expense paid cruise in the dead of winter.

I was ghostly looking and thought that a quick dose of color was exactly what I needed to get my tropical island groove on.  Somewhere between placing the uber small goggles on and the ultra fluorescent lights humming, I quickly became overwhelmed with the sensation that I was laying in my own coffin.  Lifting my arms up to get my under sides, I started quickly feeling for lumps or inflamed tissue of any kind.  Nothing.  But I still wasn't convinced.  I started planning my funeral.  Deciding the music.  The people who would speak.  All of it.  Visibly shaken, I got out of the bed and have never gone back into one again.

I didn't think much about it until years later, I started learning about the history of breast cancer on my paternal side of the family.  Continuing to administer self breast examinations regularly, I just thought, I'm too young to worry about this.

And then, during my last annual exam, my OB encouraged me to get a mammogram.  Even though, I'm 38 years of age, the familial history makes a difference.

And so I week.  And, I have to admit, I'm starting to feel anxiety all over again.  Not quite yet planning my funeral, I am however, assessing my behavior and trying to decide which regrets that I no longer want to live with.

While we all behave poorly from time-to-time and have people that we've not yet apologized to for our choices, overall, I'm painfully aware that the real purpose of all of this living thing is how we treat one another when the going gets hard....when someone is reaching out in need, do we offer a hand, or do we rest in the rationalization that we're busy people and we can only do so much?

Is it possible to choose kindness when all you really want to do is to have a minute to yourself?  And when we do choose to give, do we find ourselves with more energy, bigger hearts, greater appreciation and ultimately, more love?

My mother always told me that "To whom much is given, much is expected."  I've never taken that phrase to mean monetary goods....I've always equated it with whatever gift(s), blessing(s), you find yourself endowed with, they must be shared with the world.

Because if one day you find a lump or the test comes back positive or your better half decides not to come home, the most important place you can find yourself in is one of gratitude....thanking God and the world for what you've been given, no matter what.  And ultimately, it starts with acts of kindness, generosity and availability always.

My experience tells me time and time again that it's worth it to give.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Epic Motherhood Fail

Two days ago, I found myself on the kitchen floor, legs curled up to my chest crying.

It had been a day.

It didn't start out so bad.  The kids and I had a fairly uneventful and easy trip to the grocery store.  We piled the cart with plenty of healthy items and then sprinkled it with our favorite treats.

While traveling home, they accommodated my NPR program and quietly read library books while gnawing on Starburst.

It was joyful.  Until it wasn't. 

Somewhere between grilled cheese sandwiches, carrots and chocolate milk, I turned into a raving lunatic.  I could no longer cope with asking them fourteen times to take their plate to the counter, wash their hands, and to stop bothering each other.  I could not contend with the constant giggling, teasing, and non-stop joke telling over and over again.  Imagine that, kids wanting to laugh and tell jokes in the summertime?  And when they started running circles around the kitchen saying the same mundane, ridiculous made-up phrases over and over, I lost my shit.

"G-E-T you HEAR me?  G-E-T O-U-T of the God damned kitchen!!!  I am through with you!"

Anyone who knows me, knows that I don't curse at my children.  I'm likely to be the one to give you the evil eye if you happen to drop a 'shit' or 'damn' around my little ones.  I just don't tolerate it.  But for whatever reason and really with very little prompting, I could not, I repeat, I could not handle it.

And it wasn't until after washing the dishes and heading into the bathroom, I found my middle child crying pulling out the vacuum from the closet.  Tripping over the power cord, tears streaming down her face, she looked at me and said, "I'm sorry I made you mad, mama...please don't be through with me."

Epic fail.

Fuck me.

To which I threw down my towel and said something to the effect of, "I'm so sorry.  I didn't mean to say those words.  I love you to the moon and back."

Why is parenting so God damn hard?  Why do my decisions matter so much to me?  Argh.

And so there I was knees up to my chest crying....wishing that I knew how to get a better grip, how to not worry so much, how to not stress so much, how to not try to control so much.

I suppose acknowledgement is the first step.  I'm hoping that grace is the second and that ultimately, they won't be laying on their therapists' couch someday recounting this story.  I'm certain that there in for many more doozies with me at the helm. 

Until then, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.  The courage to change the things I can.  And the wisdom to know the difference."  Amen.