Seeing Flowers

Parenting is overwhelming.

Not necessarily on a daily basis. On a daily basis you are required to keep the children safe and feed them. That’s not bad.  I mean they keep requesting to be fed three times a day this summer, but if they are all still alive at the end of the day you’re winning. It’s when you start to think about the tiny humans you are raising and what they might become that the weight of the parenting responsibility comes crashing down like a summer’s worth freeze pops and pool floaties.

Are you raising them to be kind but also to stand up for themselves? Will they be generous but not taken advantage of? Are they polite? Do they wash their hands when they are supposed to? Do they know how to fold a paper bag and collapse a cardboard box? Can they cook a meal? Have you taught them not to talk to strangers but also to be friendly? Can they swim? Can they ride a bike? Do they have decent morals? Have they learned not to lie but also to tell white lies when opening gifts in front of people? Do they eat the food they’re given? Did you remember to teach them how to behave with strange dogs? What do they do with a bully? Are they the bully? …

Parenting is overwhelming.

Today I took my kids to the beach (either I was trying to teach them that if you hurry up and do chores then you can play or I was just tired of being hot and sweaty myself, I forget which). While we cooled off in the lake we noticed catalpa flowers floating by, the girls started to swim them down collecting as many as they could.  As we gathered a small pile on our floatie and tried to tuck them into swimming suits and behind ears as decorations, we heard a group of girls squealing about the toilet paper that was floating by them again.  Aghast I looked up to avoid this floating health hazard only to realize that they had misidentified the beautiful catalpa flowers as toilet paper and were swimming in the other direction. I was still aghast, but for a different reason.

A dramatic re-enactment of the situation staged in our rain barrel.

Parenting is overwhelming.

Are you raising them to be curious enough to look, really look, at the world around them? Are you remembering to teach them to use their brains? (One of mine is in middle school, she forgot how to use her’s but I’m hoping it comes back to her in a few years). Do they run from something different or lean towards it? Can they tell the difference between a nasty piece of trash and flower dropped by a tree?

I left the beach thinking that maybe the only parenting goal should just be to teach children to recognize a flower when they are faced with one.  Even if it’s out of place, even if it’s different, even if they have to stretch their brains to figure out how it came to be there, even if it’s something they’ve never been faced with before.

And if they can do that maybe they can do anything.

Except fold a paper grocery bag.

That one is apparently much trickier than I thought.

Parenting is overwhelming.

But I fed mine more than once today and they got to bed alive, if hours past bedtime, so I’m totally winning and I bet you are too.

 

 

Self

I listened to The Thick Thighs Save Lives Podcast today. It’s a fitness podcast, generally aimed at women, and today’s episode was called “Lift Like a Girl.” While the whole thing was great, the part that really stuck with me was when they pointed out this:

Why do we, as adults, go watch all our kids games and activities but when it comes time for us to go for our workouts, our practices, our games, our races, we leave them with the babysitter? Or we forgo activities altogether because we don’t have “time” in between their activities.  We are their roles models. I want my girls to see me work hard at something I love. I want them to see me succeed and I also want them to see me fail and try again. I want them to see that because that’s what I hope they grow to aspire to do themselves.

Photo by: Foster Chaffee Photography taken at the 2018 Natural Family Expo.

Admittedly, I already drag the girls along to many of my events but I’ve always felt a bit guilty for doing it. Not any more. They might not always love it, but that’s okay. Moms having been forcing kids to do things they didn’t want to do because it was good for them since the first two year old said “I don’t wanna!” It’s basically a requirement.

Not only that, I want them to see me as more than just a mom. I am a mom but also I’m a “real” person, who does things she likes to do. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of family life. So easy to put the kids’ needs ahead of your own and suddenly, if you aren’t careful, the mom who facilitates everyone’s plans only has time for a quick bath and calls it “self care.” I want more than that for me and my girls. I want them to see me as a mom who still has a sense of self. And if they go down this road of motherhood, I want that for them too.

Family Planning

When you are having babies people are very concerned about timing. Do you want to have them all in diapers at once or one at a time? Should siblings be old enough to help with the baby or better to just pack the car seats in in the back of the car like cordwood? Will they play together better if they are 2 years apart or 4 years apart? So many questions. So many debates.

But you know what no one ever considers?

Do you know what the big oversight in child spacing consideration is?

Middle school.

I just realized I’ll have a middle school girl in my house for eight straight years.

Eight. Straight. Years. Of. Middle. School.

Please send Bourbon and dark chocolate, we are going to need a lot of it.

Now, hold on before you feel the need to tell me how wonderful my eldest is. I know she’s a great kid, she has spent the past few years turning into a lovely, even keeled, responsible child. But now she is a middle schooler.   And she is just the stereotypical, grunting, lack of eye contact, hormonal, moody kid that you expect a middle schooler to be and, because we’ve been doing our parenting job tolerably well, she’s mostly just like that at home.

Ahhhh! The sweet, sweet rewards of parenting!

The look Ivy would give me if she knew about this post.
Never tell!

We have “discussions” about why wearing ear buds while talking to people is rude. There are tears and pouting that pass like summer storms and are replaced with a girl that exudes rainbows and sunshine only to have her fall to pieces later in the day/hour/minute. We have a continual one sided discussion about how words are an important part of conversation right before she chats at me non-stop for an hour. I know I can look at this as an excellent opportunity to practice my own patience and understanding. I can use these times to work on my compassion, even on a busy day, and to practice forgiveness, even at the drop of a hat. This is a personal growth opportunity presented to me on a silver platter.

And I try. I really do.  But see, here is the thing.

It’s not that fun.

It’s really hard.

And I fear for the future.

It’s all well and good to say practicing patience, compassion, understanding and forgiveness is good for you. But when the every day reality of life gives you opportunities for self improvement, whether you want them or not, it feels a lot more brutal and a lot less fortuitous than it sounds.  These great growth opportunities where one can practice all these skills are presented to you every single day. And not just once a day either.  Opportunities abound on days that you are sick and days you are tired and days where you already did a good job of being kind and understanding to the kid that screamed at you all morning and you really don’t have it in you to try it again.  It was one of those days that I accidentally did the math in my head and realized that I will have a middle school girl living in my house for the next seven years, eight years total. I’m not actually sure I can afford to consume that much dark chocolate and bourbon.

So, if you are in the baby having years consider this a warning! Think ahead, plan for middle school.  And when your baby has a meltdown in the grocery line and the mother of a young lady gives you a sympathetic, “Solidarity mama, you can do it!”  look, check her cart. If it’s got a stash of dark chocolate and bourbon, give her that look right back, she’s gonna need it too!

 

I Forgot…

Well, I forgot one of my kids tonight.

It was bound to happen eventually (Actually it might have happened before. I’m not sure. I forget.).

Fortunately her dad didn’t forget her and, while Ivy was the last kid picked up from her after school activity, she was remarkably fine with the fact that her mother forgot her.

(That’s not our kitten- Thank goodness!)

I mention this because:

A) Lots of people lately have been all “Omg you are amazing, you do so many things!” And I try to tell them things like, “Yeah, no,” and “Not really,” and then they don’t believe me so I try hard to learn how to accept a compliment and move on. But here is the thing. If you, like me, talk about slightly abnormal things like chasing escapee geese in a flooded river (I really should share that story here…) and traveling with pigeons and keeping bees, it seems that people assume you are doing all those things plus all the things that people, mothers even, regularly do. And to that crazy thought I say, “HA! Are you serious!?” my days have 24 hours in them just like everyone else’s. Something always has to give and in my life it always seems to be the “boring” things- you know, cooking, cleaning, and remembering things, like how to count to three (coincidentally that’s how many children I have) that fall by the wayside. Nobody is superhuman, least of all me.

B) She’s fine! I’m not the worst mother in the world (John assures me crackhead mothers and people who drown their children are much worse than me.). Sometimes people leave you hanging. Sometimes you have to wait. Sometimes shit happens. Would it be better if someone else taught my kid that sort of lesson? Probably. Do I still love her and she knows it? Yes.

C) Have I forgotten to return your call or your bowl or your e-mail or drop off a bag of apples or some other thing that I forgot I even forgot recently? Don’t be offended, it’s not you. I forgot my own kid today.

 

E-mail Conversation Circa 2012

What follows is an actual e-mail conversation between John and I from May of 2012. At that time Jane would have been about five months old…

…Clara two and half and Ivy five, though not yet in school…

..and e-mail was John and my primary method of communication while he was at work.

John:

Can you email or call Abi and see if they are available for us to visit on the 31st? And to refresh my memory, you were thinking leaving Thursday morning, so I should take off right?

Did things improve with the girls today?

 

Me:

yes until it rained in kitchen – now sucks jane asllep pn arm, stuck and afraid to move

 

John:

Would you mind elaborating on “rained in kitchen”?

 

And then, according to my old e-mails I was cleaning out, I never answered him. Which makes me giggle every time I re-read it. Because what must he have thought at work knowing total chaos waited him at home? “Well, at least they didn’t burn the house down.” or “I guess it’ll be cleaner now.” or “Just another typical day at the Stevens house.” I have no idea, and he doesn’t remember either but, unless it rained in the kitchen twice in May of 2012 (a possibility I am NOT discounting!) I did blog about it…

“It’s Raining…”

 

One of the major problems I have staying home with three kids is that while I’m nursing the baby the other two are doing stuff. Some days they are doing nice stuff and some days are like today. Today I came into the kitchen and found that Clara discovered not only how to change the kitchen faucet from a stream to a spray but that you can also pull out the head of the faucet. I pull out the head of the faucet to wash large pans and clean the sink. Clara pulled it out, must have thought it was actually intended to be the worlds best water gun and got right to work spraying Ivy.

Read the rest of it’s raining here: https://behindthewillows.com/2012/05/22/its-raining/

 

 

Not Home Yet

It was passed the time the kids should have been off the bus and in the door.

I quick stepped out to the top of the driveway – still no sign of them.

Crouching to peer under the hanging apple tree branches I double checked- nope, no kids.

Jumping up I ran back into the house pulled out my hidden cookie and sat down.

DSC_0314-(2sm)

And as I enjoyed my last five minutes of quiet I thought to myself, “Yup.  This is it. I’ve pretty much hit the pinnacle of motherhood and the stereotype of a stay at home mom all in one fell swoop. Good job mama, good job.”

A Dubious Purchase

I did something recently I’ve never done before. Something I would have never guessed I would have done. Something that I still can’t believe I did.

I bought a bag of makeup.

This might not sound so ridiculous to you so let me be more clear. I, whose makeup purchases in the last 10 years begins and ends with two identical tubes of mascara, bought a bag of totally random makeup. A bag of makeup that, I might add, didn’t even have single tube of mascara in it.

The woman selling it was very good, very sneaky saleswoman, she caught me at my most vulnerable, in the toy aisle of Walmart. You see it happened like this…

Ivy needed a birthday gift for a friend. I needed printer ink and tortellini. Walmart was the place to go. I met the girls in the driveway after school, so we could all go shopping together. This was mistake number one. The girls (well everyone really) are at their worst at 3:45 in the afternoon.

Everyone knows that at 3:45 you should either be taking a nap or just getting up from one. Not a single one of those girls is either sleeping or has just slept when they climb off the bus.  I, waiting in the truck, was also not sleeping, and I hadn’t taken a nap either. That was probably mistake number two.

After school is also the time when everyone is hungry. I’m sure this has something to do with the fact that Ivy keeps growing and is a bottomless pit, Jane eats slower than a snail in February and always has at least half of her lunch left and Clara, well Clara eats a snack at school at 2:30, I have no idea why she’s starving when she gets home but she is.

So I took those tired, hungry and therefore cranky children, who I knew would be tired, hungry and cranky and loaded them up in the truck anyway.  All the other mistakes pale in comparison to that decision and all things that came after this point were directly related to that decision.

Now, Walmart is the closest place for us to buy these three random things but it’s still just about a half an hour away. And remember how the kids are always hungry when they get home from school? Good, because I forgot. So Jane’s leftover lunch parts were fought over, Clara performed a random feat of magic and pulled half a bag of veggie chips from her backpack (I have no other explanation for it’s appearance) and then all the available food was declared boring and fighting erupted. The backseat food wars escalated until the truck pulled over and children were separated in such a way that no one could stay buckled up touch anyone else.

And you wonder why we drive such a big vehicle.

Now before you envision me as the wild haired frantic mother yelling “Don’t make me pull over,” I just want to say that, on this day, I handled everything with a remarkably calm and cool attitude- on the outside.

Approximately 23 grey hairs later we pulled into the park lot. Parking lots, if you don’t know, are triggers for kids to start begging for snacks. Me, evil monster mother of ridiculous expectations said, “No.”

Repeatedly.

There was crying, there was begging, there was the slowest putting on of shoes ever. And then we went into a Super Walmart.

Miraculously, and in a way that you may only understand if you also have young children, the girls all became angels. They held hands and stayed close and smiled and giggled with one another. They happily tried on super freaky looking giant animal heads. My mind reeled with the sudden change of attitude.  And then we hit the toy aisle.

Ivy was looking for a Smooshy, or a Mooshy or a Squishy or some sort of weird smash-able toy. And while they all maniacally ran up and down the aisle asking if they could get toys of their own, (No!) Ivy tried to educate me on the differences between Smooshys, and Mooshys, and Squishys and Smashies and Gooshies and… Under the guise of looking for a Mashy-Smooshy-Smush I threw one last “no” over my shoulder and snuck off toward the LEGO mini-figures.

That’s when she pounced.

Targeting moms in a Walmart toy aisle. It’s either the cruelest act ever or complete stroke of brilliance. Just wait until those mothers have said “no” so many times to their kids they don’t have any resistance left. Then use normal adult language without even a hint pouting while you show them your wonderful shimmer powder and bag of makeup that they can buy, right there between the LEGOS and the Barbies…

I didn’t even protest, I didn’t even fight, I just handed over some cold hard cash and walked away with a small bag of makeup products half of which I’ve never owned and had no idea what to do with.

When I got home I looked at what I had bought, saw that it included a pair of false eyelashes, panicked and did what every girl faced with a bad day and a pile of makeup does. I called my friends.  I had to let them know I was probably having some sort of traumatic crisis and I was in need of help, support, love and makeup tutorials.

 

The Missing Candy

I always knew that being a parent meant getting woken up in the middle of the night.

However, I was completely unprepared for the variety of things that would cause my children to think “Hey look, it’s 3:55 AM, I better go tell mom all about this – right now!”

Last night Jane showed up at the side of our bed at, you guessed it, 3:55 AM.

She was very upset.

This is not unusual. Most children who arrive in the middle of the night in the pitch black are upset. What was unusual was that she was upset about her candy.

That’s right, Jane woke me up just before 4 AM to tell me that her candy was missing.

Apparently, her secret stash of candy (which never should have been in her room in the first place) was missing, it was probably Goose’s fault and what was I going to do about it.

My intelligent response to this was, “Urgh. Murble. Rummppfff.”

Jane was unimpressed so she repeated her tale louder and more insistently which woke me up enough that I replied with an ever more intelligent, “How about you come snuggle with me.”

Which she did as she continued to talk about her candy. Finally after listening to her candy dilemma for six hours, (or maybe six seconds, it’s hard to tell…I’m not at my best at 3:55 AM)  I harshly yelled at her to be quiet because it was the middle of the night and why was she even talking about candy?!?

Then she cried, fell asleep, hogged the bed, messed up the covers and was a giant pain right smack dab in the middle of John and I for the rest of the night.

This morning the first thing she did was run to inspect her candy stash. Admittedly I rolled my eyes when she started in talking about it again.  I thought that this had all been a bad dream, maybe her dream, maybe mine, maybe we both had a bad dream but I didn’t think it was real because…

Who would inspect their secret candy stash at 3:55 AM?!?

But it was true. Her secret candy stash was missing and all she could find was a chewed on sucker stick with the wrapper still clinging to it.  She was crushed.

I told her to hurry up and put her clothes on before she was late for school.

Moral of the Story: Mom’s have no sympathy when breaking the rules backfires on you.

Other Moral of the Story: Never underestimate the power of children to disrupt your sleep. 

 

Mom Ears

I lost my mom ears.

You know, the super sonic hearing ears that let you know every time your child rolls over, coughs or calls out your name.

They broke.

It’s the best thing that’s happened to me in years. Now instead of me jumping out of bed when kids cry or make other random noises in the night, John does. I don’t hear a thing, he has to tell me about it in the morning.

It. Is. Amazing.

I think this is what he felt like all those nights I was up nursing kids and banishing boogey men. (And yes, I nursed those girls, we have YEARS to go before John is even close to catching up with late night waking hours.)

There is one problem though. Since I don’t hear the girls I don’t know they are coming until they show up next to the bed. John can attest from his years on the night shift that when I wake up with someone next to the bed, I scream. For years I woke up to John saying “It’s John! It’s John! It’s John!” until I turned my siren off.

Clara recently got a new blanket, a zebra blanket. It’s soft and fuzzy and has a “hood” on it with a stuffed zebra head she can pull over her own. She loves it. Clara wears it around the house while getting ready for school and sleeps with it every night. It is her new favorite thing.

This was not staged. This is just what she looked like when I went to check on her tonight!

So, when Clara came down to our bed in the middle of the night, I didn’t hear her coming. I didn’t notice her standing next to the bed. In fact I didn’t register her presence at all until a zebra was climbing into my bed and it’s big black zebra nose touched my face.

Facts.

1) I really hate it when things touch my face when I’m sleeping.

2) Zebras are more startling than small children.

3) Screaming in a panicked fashion in your child’s face does not make them feel better.

I lost my mom ears. It’s pretty amazing but I do feel a bit bad for the kids.