Teach your children well

“So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.” ~ Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

I had a different post I was going to write about tonight.  I was going to post about the fact that today my kindergartener came home on “yellow” because he couldn’t focus at writing time.  I was going to post about how my four year old thinks no one loves him anymore (in his words) because sometimes we are busy with the new baby.  I was going to post about how  Mike had class tonight so it was just me and the three kids and with the above mentioned factors and Charlie going through a growth spurt and for the first time in three weeks I started to think that maybe I couldn’t do this…

I was going to post about all these things and how they made me feel like a failure as a parent.  Then, as I log into social media for the five minutes I have to breathe, I see the destruction that is Baltimore.  I see the peaceful protests being marred by the loiters and the rioters.  I see stores being burned to the ground and people being hauled off in ambulances.  I see a newly constructed senior center being engulfed in flames less than two blocks from the school where I teach and I wonder if MY 25 kindergarteners are all right.  All of this is hitting way too close to home and I feel the tightness in my chest start to rise.

And with that I realize that in the grand scheme of things being on “yellow” for one day is not the end of the world.  And in 10 minutes Oliver will come to me for a hug and kiss and validation and be back to his normal self.  And Charlie will finish her growth spurt and go back to my happy, adorable baby.  And that none of this is catastrophic because we are all loved, and safe and ALIVE.  All I want at this moment is to keep them home, little, and protected with me for as long as I can.  I want to teach them about these moments while shielding their eyes and hearts from them at the same time.

This is exactly what I think as I turn off Twitter, rush upstairs, and hug all my babies a little tighter.  Because right now, we are OK.

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The Proverbial Itch

““That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.” ~Charles Dickens

This happens every few years.  The proverbial itch.  That feeling I get when I can’t sit still.  It’s usually proceeded by a great life change.  Two years ago it was the death of my father.  Now, the birth of my newest child.  With my father it had a lot to do with me rebelling against him, his death, and the need to prove that I am still very much alive, even when he was not.  It was a need to prove that in a great upheaval, a great depression, I could still be happy.  I felt the need to break free, go crazy, and prove that there was still “something” left in me.

But now, I’m starting to get that feeling again.  I look at my daughter as I hold her in my arms at just 17 days old and think that I have never loved anything in my entire life as much as I’ve love her.  And for someone like me, this can be very scary because when you love something that much, you now have something to lose.

Just the other day I was walking around my neighborhood and I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that spring seemed to bloom overnight.  The trees seemed to be bare one morning and then alive with light and color the very next day.  And I found this to be the way I love my daughter.  Unsure during my entire pregnancy if having more children was the “responsible” thing to do and then within minutes of her being born not being able to imagine living my life without her in it.

But these are scary feelings and sometimes they seem stronger than I am actually able to process within myself…hence the itching feeling, hence the need to break out of my own skin and shed the uncomfortable feeling of being unable to process so much.

The last time I made choices, and while many of them weren’t very wise choices, they brought me to the place where I am today.  I’m stronger than I once was, I’ve discovered my love for running, I have an amazing new daughter, and I’m the most confident I’ve ever been.  I learned a lot about myself during this time of upheaval, most importantly, to take myself seriously and not let anyone be in charge of my happiness.

But two years ago I did it all wrong. Two years ago I decided that the problem wasn’t me and that it was everything else around me.  At that time running away seemed like the only option.  And while I didn’t run away per se, I left my life behind for a while and jumped head first into something different and something unknown.  I assumed that this would help me feel better.  I assumed that this is what I needed to survive.  But what I realized was just the opposite.  Running away from my life nearly broke me.  I became a shell of the person I was and it took too long to rebuild myself.  I don’t have that kind of time anymore.

Now, things are different.  The main difference, of course, was before I wanted to run away and now I simply want to run.  I’m looking forward to being able to run again.  To getting out there are pounding the pavement and smashing my problems as I work through them.  Maybe this time the itchyness is a good thing; it’s a desire to get back to work on my and continue to my journey to becoming the best person I can be.

And that’s exactly what I’ll do – for me, for my family, and now for my amazing little daughter; the answer I never new I was looking for.

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Non-Fiction

“Outside the windows the day was bright: golden sunshine, blue sky, pleasant wind . . . I wanted to punch the happy day in the face, grab it by the hair, and beat it until it told me what the hell it was so happy about.”  ~Ilona Andrews

No fewer than ten people have said to me an amalgamation of the following terms:

  • “I can’t believe you just had a baby.”
  • “You look great for just having a baby.”
    “You have so much energy! I wish I could have been like that after giving birth.”
  • “You seem so relaxed like you are on vacation.”
  • “You make it seem so easy.”

After each one of these observances I smile, laugh a little laugh, and state that it’s just the whole “not being at work that agrees with me”.  True, I’ve been walking every day.  True, I’ve lost 20 pounds and am actually under my pre-baby weight.  True, my baby seems to do a great job for sleeping long stretches at night.

But these are the observations from the Monet point of view.  From far away it seems like my life after a newborn is a masterpiece.  Rich in color, vibrant in activity, something you can hang on a mantel and then marvel.  It seems like by kid #3 I have it figured out and “baby” motherhood, and “mom of three” motherhood is agreeing with me whole-heartedly.

But here’s the trick: go up to that painting and stand so that your nose is almost touching.  Now it’s a mess; a bunch of blurred lines, overly textured colors, haphazard in appearance and technique and that is more of a representation of my life these day.  When you look up close you’ll see that I’ve been walking everyday because I don’t always have access to a car to pick the kids up from school (luckily we live close) and also because I need running the way some people need prozac, and since I can’t run (and don’t have prozac), I walk.  I lost 20 pounds which happens to be all my baby weight and then some because during my pregnancy I was so stressed and had terrible heartburn so I never ate enough and therefor didn’t gain any weight (which, contrary to what some might think, is not a good thing).  And the reason my baby sleeps so well?  According to her doctor it’s because she’s not eating enough so her body is putting her in a hibernation mode to conserve energy.

So today, I woke my baby up after 3 hours for her 3rd feeding after which she promptly fell asleep and while I should have been cleaning the house, or doing laundry, or any of the other 100 things that needed to get done while the kids were at school, I cried.  Or if I’m being really honest I stuffed my face full of Ritz crackers and cried because I felt like a terrible mother (and then I felt terrible for eating the Ritz crackers).

So not only was I feeling terrible, but then both the other littles were having trouble with their “listening ears” and I had to yell which made me feel even more terrible.  And the icing on the cake (wait, there’s cake?) was the full on melt down I had at dinner when our rental company called and said they were showing our house tomorrow, which means I had to scrub it clean tonight.

But it’s 3 hours later now.  All the kids are in bed and asleep.  I just ate a lovely chocolate bar and a spoon full of peanut butter.  And perspective is starting to creep back in to my subconscious.  In a few short hours it will be a new day and I’ll get the chance to start over again.

Sometimes that’s really all we have to hold on to.

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The Last Supper…

“Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” ~Dante

As you may or may not have read here (depending on if you follow my self involved ramblings on my blog), I entered the lottery for the TCS NYC Marathon…and was accepted.  I won’t go into much detail because the whole story is listed on the link above, but I have to say that each day I float between elation and crippling fear.

It sounded like a great idea in January.  It was still 11 months away.  The chances of me getting in, especially for the first time, was slim to none.  I was safely encased in my pregnancy…a legitimate excuse not to run or really train for that matter so I wasn’t injured, or ultra tired (except for being pregnant), or broke because of race entry fees.  But now, I’m 12 days post baby and the marathon is 196 days away.  28 weeks.  Approximately 7 months. As the little one and I blog together this evening I can’t help but wonder if I wasn’t completely insane for even considering this.

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Insanity, is of course, a relative term.  This is going to be tough, no doubt about it.  But I’m itching to get started again.  As of Friday I am down 20 pounds since my last pregnancy visit…that’s actually 3 pounds less than my lowest weight pre-pregnancy.  It’s definitely motivating.

But, for the past 12 days I’ve also kind of let myself go.  It’s been nice to have wine.  It’s been nice to eat more than a few bites without feeling full.  It’s been nice to not have heartburn with EVERY SINGLE FOOD that I eat.  And really…should we even mention the Easter candy that is finally gone (with much of my help).  But not anymore.  This week-end has been a “last supper” if you will.  I went a little more indulgent, a little more unhealthy, a last hoorah of bad decisions before jumping in wholeheartedly.

It’s time though.  I’ve had my share of wine, sugar and fried food.  I’m ready to get back on the wagon and really put my heart and soul into this training, eating healthier, and really moving forward with my life.  I could say that it’s all about the marathon, but really, it’s more than that.  I now have three beautiful, wonderful kids that I want to be around for for many years to come.  I’m not only training for a marathon, I’m training for life.

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Tonight I raise my glass…to me and all I’m going to accomplish this year, especially the NYC Marathon.  Even if I’m last  I’m going to kick some ass.

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This week’s training goal: 20 miles walking at a rigorous pace

Remember when we were friends…

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” ~Jane Austen

Shockingly enough this is not a post about being a mother.  Nor is it a post about running or some form of transformation I hope to create for myself.  This is, in simplest terms, a post about friendship.  I’m not quite sure where in my sub-conscious it formed, but I know it’s a story I need to tell.

Earlier today I received a text from a friend saying she saw a certain friend of mine having lunch with someone else I knew.  It was semi-shocking news knowing these two people have a tumultuous history, but nothing completely out of the ordinary.  What struck me most was the fact that for awhile, this friend and I had been rather close, inseparable even, and now it hard to remember when I last talked to or even saw this person (actually, it was December 2013, so about a year and a half ago).  While the “conversation” didn’t really make me miss this particular  friendship per se, it did get me thinking about the idea of friendship in general.  In the most juvenile terms it really had me thinking “what happens when you’re not friends with your friends anymore?”

Last August I wrote this post about friendship.  I talked about how amazing my friends were at helping me through a really tough summer after my dad died.  And yet, out of the four people I named in that post, I haven’t seen two of them since last July, and one of them, I haven’t even “talked” to except maybe once or twice via text.  That’s not to say that I don’t think about these people or wonder about them or even miss them, but it’s just interesting how one minute someone can be one of the most important people in your life and the next minute you have trouble remembering the last time you had a meaningful experience with them.

I can literally name maybe five people that I am legitimately friends with at this moment, but in full disclosure, I tend to just have a few close friends instead of a large amount of acquaintances anyway.  I think in the era of the “Facebook Connection” we tend to think we have more friends than we do.  We think that all these social media platforms are helping us, but rather they are actually harming us and our friendships.  We, as a society (me very much included)  don’t feel the need to reach out and keep a tangible connection to the people in our lives because people are “right there” with the touch of a button.  These quick connections take all the effort out of maintaining a friendship and friendships, like any relationship requires work.  We post posts or like photos with the feeling that we are keeping some form of connection going when, really, are we?

And what happens when someone, a friend, doesn’t like out photo or our post?  Half the time we run through the following thoughts and questions: Are they mad at us?  Are they being petty or jealous?  Do they agree with me and my opinion? Or maybe, the thought that never occurs to us, maybe they don’t spend every minute on social medial and didn’t see the actual post.

I realize I went off on a little bit of  a tangent and with all my post-pregnancy brain-ness I don’t really know where this was going in the first place.  But I think what I’ve gotten out of it is that I need a break.  A break from all the wondering.  A break from trying to figure out people or even figure out where I stand.  A break from feeling like I’m losing something that wasn’t ever really mine in the first place.  A break from the second guessing of certain friendships and relationships when I have a house of people right here to focus on.

Because you can’t fight for everyone, especially those people who don’t want to stay in the first place.

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A step back

“Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.” ~Simon & Garfunkel

I woke up this morning to feed the baby around 4.  Once she was finished and feel back to sleep I was awake for awhile.  I was literally itching to run.  I was calculating if I should or shouldn’t throw my running shoes on for a 4 am walk/shuffle around the block.  That way I would have tons of time to do other stuff during the day.  I know I shouldn’t be running.  I know I should be taking it easy so I can fully heal.  And here I am, making bargains in my head at 4 am about how to manage everything I wanted to accomplish on my ever growing mental list.

I didn’t think I’d get to this place.  I thought I was going to do everything differently.  Right now I’m having a tough time. Normally it’s quite hard for me to admit that.  I don’t like others to see my weaknesses and I usually feel that if you don’t admit to them, they don’t exist.  But here I am admitting this for the whole world (or the 15 people who read my blog) to see.  I am having a tough time.

Surprisingly enough, I’m not having a tough time with the whole “parenting three kids” thing.  Once you have two VERY active boys, adding a third child, especially a calm, almost always sleeping baby into the mix really doesn’t change much.  I’ve found with a little finagling I can balance most of what everyone needs, though maybe not what they all “want”.  Sure, I have a husband at home who is helping and the two oldest are in school at least part time.  But for the most part we are prattling along just as we always did, maybe just a little more tired than we were before.

What I’m having a tough time with is stepping back and simply taking time.  For the first time, I actually have time.  Time to sit back and relax.  Time to heal.  Time to think.  Time to simply enjoy the smaller and larger things in life.  And what am I doing with this time instead?  Planning.  Making lists.  Checking my work e-mail.  Replying to other emails. Organizing and cleaning.  Mentally and physically exhausting myself because I seem to think EVERYTHING needs to be done TODAY.  I feel like if I do it today, I won’t need to think about it tomorrow. I’ll have time to relax tomorrow.  I’ll have time to give more individualized attention tomorrow.  But you know what happens?  A new task or plan pops up for tomorrow and I am right back to square one, thinking that I’ll always have tomorrow to play catch up on the more important things.

Part of it is that I have no idea what to do with free time.  It’s not that I never have it.  Having “grandparents” who love my kids and take them all the time gives me loads of free time.  But that free time is usually marred by the guilt I feel.  Guilt about having a slightly messy household.  Guilt about maybe not having my lesson plans done months in advance or having some new game or activity created for my students.  Guilt about not spending every minute of the day involved with my kids.  Guilt thinking that I should always be doing “more” than I currently am, whether that be at home, work, or among friends and family.

I seem to live by my guilt.  And I’m pretty sure if I don’t do something about it I’m going to die by it as well.  I’ve got to learn to slow down.  I’ve got to learn how to enjoy the smaller things.  I’ve got to learn to let go…especially of the overly high expectations I have of myself.  Maternity leave, while it’s just begun, will be over before I know it and I don’t want to look back and regret not spending more time with the kids, or relaxing, or just being.  I don’t want to look back and realize that the work e-mails could have waited.  The laundry could have waited an hour before putting it away.  Who cares that there are 3 dirty dishes in the sink if it means I spent a little more quality time with the people in my family, or even just some quality time with myself.

I need to breathe, heal, and relax.  I need to take this time to work ON me FOR my family.

And right now, I need to shut this laptop and go play a video game with my 4 year old who is patiently waiting for some extra time with his mom.

Reinvention?

“Slow down you crazy child
You’re so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you’re so smart tell me,
Why are you still so afraid?
Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?
You better cool it off before you burn it out
You got so much to do and only
So many hours in a day.” ~Billy Joel

It’s been almost a week since baby #3 has joined our chaotic family.  I should probably stop calling her baby #3.  Her name is Charlotte Emerson and she was born on Tuesday.  I won’t bore you with the baby stuff (like I’m sure I’ve bored almost every single person on Facebook and Instagram) but I will say that she is completely perfect in every way.

While I’ve been on maternity leave since April 2, this kids and pretty much every one I know was on Spring Break last week so it really didn’t hit me until this morning when I had to get up and feed and dress people with the timed deadline of school.  Even though everyone slept in later than normal (even the baby Charlotte) we managed to get showered, dressed, fed, and out the door on time and I was able to spend the next few hours completing some random housework, holding Charlotte, and flipping through Netflix unencumbered buy anyone or anything.

I realize it’s only day 1.  I realize Charlotte has only been with us for less than a week. But honestly, things are working out better than they were before.  I’m trying to figure out if motherhood just agrees with me more, or if it is, in fact, simply maternity leave and time off from a very stressful job that has changed me so completely in just a few short days.

Last night Mike took Charlotte to visit with his parents.  I cleaned the main level of the house, made dinner for the boys, and then went outside to enjoy the beautiful weather. After having baby #3 six days ago I’ve never felt more sore, more tired, and more poor in my life. I’ve also never felt happier, more relaxed and more in love with my life. I haven’t been short tempered, or depressed, or annoyed with anything. It made me realize just how much having to go to my job (not work in particular, specifically my job) affects my happiness.

I have 7 weeks off (plus all of summer vacation) to do some real soul searching and think about the direction that my life is heading.  The last 10 months of pregnancy were hard on me and I am sure they were hard on my family.  I was a pretty miserable person and, in turn, am pretty sure I made them miserable too.

I have this time now, though, without the stressors of work, to get myself together.  I keep thinking of it as having a chance to reinvent myself, to become who I really want to become.   But I don’t think that’s what I’m really aiming for. Reinvention consists of the idea of remaking or making over.  I feel more that I now have the time to focus on becoming the absolute best version of myself.  For me,  For my friends.  And for my family.

I need to slow down more, have more patience, see past faults, be more understanding, be less frustrated, and a myriad of other things.  I always felt that what I really needed to discover myself and work towards a better me was time and that’s actually the one thing I have in droves right now.  Time.

I raise my glass to toast to the future.  To toast to time.  To toast to becoming the person I want to be…the person I know I can be.  I toast to becoming the best version of me.

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