Tag Archives: health

Vehicular Therapy

Something new to me is the peace that comes from the solitude found during a morning commute.

Before kids, I would wake at the last possible minute before dashing through my morning routine and flying out the door and down the road to work.

Four years as a SAHM meant no silence in the car, never a true chance to let my thoughts flow and truly listen to what my body and mind were telling me.

Sure, there were times when I could do some introspection, which lead to one of my best posts of all time.

Sure, I could listen to my audiobooks while the kids entertained themselves in the backseat.

Yes, there were chances to talk with other adults on the phone while I drove.

But to truly seek yourself every morning takes either discipline or forced solitude.  Like my morning commute.

Eight Weeks of Intensive Therapy

I have been at my “new” job for a little over two months.  Since we live in the middle of nowhere, I have a minimum of 35 minutes in the car each morning.

I’ve been training myself to select the day’s outfit and pack my lunch the night before plus set my alarm to give me plenty of time to bathe, dress, paint and coif, eat, and possibly care for a small child that woke too soon.  Most mornings, I am beyond blessed to get out the door without the kids waking and seeing me off.

Any parent who has walked away from a crying child with the guilt of “I’m putting my paycheck before you, little one” knows what it means to leave before they’re even awake.

I take my time because I’ve gifted myself that time.  I climb into my little four-door, four-cylinder car, pull out of the driveway, and get my mind into the zone.  No music or audio books.  No rush where I have anger or panic to focus on.  No one in the car to watch me as I silently run through a gamut of emotions because I’m mentally pulling apart the past few years of my life.

Or, some days, my whole life.

I spend roughly 30 minutes every morning picking through my experiences, thoughts, and emotions like I’m untangling a knot of metal chains that have rusted together.

I practice deep breathing and different levels of prayer and meditation.

I am working on picking myself back up, one mile at a time.

Underrated

One day, taking a long lunch away from my desk and picking up a dear friend from her nearby work, I confessed to her what I had been doing.  It was pouring rain and we had a slightly rushed lunch in a loud, packed Panera.  As we sat in her work’s parking lot, I told her that I had been working through some of my issues during my morning commutes.

She nodded emphatically.  She said she knew what I was talking about, knew how critical that alone time is for her in her busy life.  She agreed with me that vehicular therapy is underrated.

That is why I’m sharing it with you.  You need to know this.  You, who get up in the morning (or evening) to go to work, to spend time away from family and home and friends and an ever-growing to-do list; you, who find yourself wound up and bent out of shape before you make it to your lunch break; you, who wonders what more is there to life or if there’s something wrong with you or why can’t I find the perfect job, perfect car, perfect friend, perfect lover.

You, my dear reader, need to know what a blessing your commute time is.  This is your chance to truly be by yourself and look narrow and deep or wide and shallow at your life, your behaviors, your future.

Embrace your vehicular therapy time.

Personally

I’m working through a year’s worth of grief.  I’m working through a lifetime of pain cause by my mother and almost a decade of issues with my mother-in-law.  I’m working through the drama and bullshit that came about after a lying liar lied about me…and was believed.  I’m working through long-term goals and what my hang ups are.  I’m working through marital issues, mommy guilt, crises in faith, and so much more.

I recommend you do the same.

Because I feel more on the level now than I have in a very long time, even though to an outsider it may look like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

Personally, I will tell everyone I encounter about the joys and blessings that come from 30 minutes of silent introspection at least 5 days a week.

Thoughtful Thursday: Christian Environmentalist

The evidence is irrefutable.

If you are a Christian, you are an environmentalist.  You must be concerned with the state of the earth and our environment.  Scripture states that we are stewards of the planet.

The quotes below from the Bible are ones I return to time and again when so-called good Christians argue with me that Jesus does not want us to worry so much about the earth as we are to care for the people of the earth.  This argument gets under my skin, so I have my selection of God’s words to remind others where we truly stand on the planet.

If you find yourself unconcerned or unwilling to make changes for the betterment of our planet, you are not a thoughtful Christian.  If you think the destruction around you is part of God’s plan and that you need play no part in protecting or bettering the state of the oceans, landfills, ozone layer, etc, you are not paying attention to the Scripture you reference.

Do not say to me my focus shouldn’t be on the condition of the earth while invoking the Lord’s name in your reasoning.  That’s asinine.  We are to care for the earth, for all of its inhabitants, for the Lord’s creation.  I care for the earth as much as for the people upon it, and that’s what makes me a Christian.

“Then God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
Genesis 1:26

We humans, above all of God’s creations, were chosen to be stewards of the earth and all He put upon it. God wants us to take care of what He created and yet there are people who claim to be followers of the Bible who say we can do as we want because we were given “dominion” over it.  Owning something and caring for it are two different things; we were not given such an honor and a gift to exploit it or destroy it.

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”
Psalms 24:1

If we are harming the earth, then we are saying we are more powerful than God.  If we pollute, overuse, waste, or drive a species to extinction, we are showing we can destroy that which He created, implying we can use this earth for our own ends rather than for His glory.

“Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar and the fullness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth.”
Psalm 96:11-13

And what does He find when He comes to judge?  Not only are we harming God’s creation with pollution, we are harming ourselves.  When He comes to judge the living and the dead, and we have polluted our bodies and wrecked the planet He gifted us, I fear God will not rejoice in what He finds but rather see us in our sinful, destructive pride.

“And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.”
Revelation 11:18

Well, if that isn’t pretty cut-and-dry, I don’t know what is.  Seriously, folks, take care of the planet.  All Christians ought to be environmentalists; all of us need to be aware of the daily harm we are doing to the planet.  We were given this great, big, beautiful, bountiful gift, and look at what we collectively have done to it.  Is God really happy with the earth, with how His greatest creation is treating all His other creations?  Or will we eventually, all of us, be cowed in fear as God destroys us for destroying the earth?

“The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth, and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, and broken the everlasting covenant.”
Isaiah 24:4-6

The Bible clearly states that God created and blessed the earth then made a covenant with Man that we would protect and care for it and all the creatures upon it.  Scripture says that if we do not treat the earth right, He can take what He has given.

“And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination.”
Jeremiah 2:7

How dare we?  How can we keep on with denying the changes our consumption and selfishness have wrought?  Why are we not, on a global scale, calling Christians together to make a change to bring the earth back to a healthy, stable position?

“How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? The beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end.”
Jeremiah 12:4

Changes have been occurring for centuries.  The histories tell us how, time and again, climates have shifted or rains have stopped or floods were numerous.  Each of those times is part of God’s plan, just like the issues facing our earth today are part of His plan.

That does not mean we continue blindly on with our destructive behaviors and our habits that clearly show poor stewardship of the earth.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”
Psalm 24:1

God is the Great Creator.  We merely inhabit His planet.  Everything under Heaven belongs to God.  It is time all of us started behaving as such.

What changes will you make in your daily routine to lighten your destructive impact on the earth?  Where on your thoughtfully sought path will you make a difference for the planet’s health?

The 5 Best Pieces of Parenting Advice I Can Give

My last blog post was a couple months ago and on the negative side.  This will be my first blog post of the New Year; I’m going to write something positive.

In the last post, I listed off the 5 Worst Pieces of Parenting Advice I have ever received.  Now I’m going to share with you the 5 Best Pieces of Parenting Advice that I have received as well as what I’ve discovered along the way.

Take these with a grain of salt.  Or as gospel.  This whole parenting thing is different for all of us.  So here goes…

#1.  There is no such thing as the “right time” when it comes to having kids.

The BHE and I were asked when we were going to start our family before we were even married.  I know, I know: this is an acceptable thing in our society.  But for us it was not part of the plan.  We had a Grand Master Plan.  We had our goals and our priorities and we just knew when the right time would be for us to get pregnant.

Oh, boy.

First off, folks, I can tell you from experience that just because you decided you wanted to get pregnant/have a child by such-n-such a date DOES NOT MEAN your bodies will cooperate.  Seriously.  This is out of your hands.

We tried for a couple years after deciding it was the “right time” and my heart broke month after month.  We have friends who tried for much longer, some without any success, and others with the kind of success that led to great loss.

There isn’t a “perfect” time to have children.  Your house, your career, your finances, your car, your whatever will never be perfectly aligned in reality the way you think you want them to be before you have children.

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Just a few weeks before the Angel was born, here I am working in the empty nursery, painted yet not ready for a baby!

If you know you want kids, take comfort in knowing that no matter when or how they come, you’ll handle it like a champ.  No matter if your car isn’t a brand-new minivan or if the nursery never got a fresh coat of paint or you’re still at that job you hate.  Parenthood is a whole new ballgame; roll with it.

#2.  But it is all about the timing.

No, seriously, watch the clock and the calendar.  Timing is everything.

During pregnancy, you’ll be seeing an OB or midwife monthly then weekly.  You’ll be asked about when you had your last period, when you last peed, when you first felt movement, what frequency you felt movement, and on and on.

During labor, you’ll be timing contractions and counting breaths.  Make sure there is a clock in the room where you deliver your baby.  The wall clock in the delivery room during the birth of my son was broken, so I had no idea what time of day or night it was, no concept of how long I had truly been going at it, no idea until after the fact that I had been laboring for 29 ½ hours with over 3 hours of pushing.  No idea.  None.

TWENTY-NINE AND A HALF HOURS!

During early infancy, you’ll be tracking the times spent feeding, how many ounces or minutes, when was the last bowel movement, and more.

During the early days of solid foods, you will have to count the ounces as well as days since you introduced a new food.  And you’ll be counting more dirty diapers.

During toddlerhood, you will need to watch the clock to keep track of when your tot got out of bed, when was breakfast, how soon is snack, when you need to feed them lunch so you can get them into a timely nap, how long was the nap, how long after the nap until bedtime, how long between dinner and bedtime…

And you think I’m kidding.  I’m not.  Watch the clock.  It is the best way to avoid meltdowns induced by lack of food or sleep.  Because, really, the wee beasties need copious amount of both if you expect them to be angels.

A schedule helps them as well as you.  There’s advice all over the place, from your pediatrician to this lifestyle blog, about how children need a regimen to maintain equilibrium and how parents need their children to have a regimen to maintain sanity.

#3.  When in doubt, present food.

If your child is crying, check for these things:

  • Is he/she hurt?
  • Is the diaper dirty?
  • Is he/she tired?
  • Is he/she hungry?

If your darling angel isn’t hurt, has a dry diaper, just woke from a nap, and just ate, feed him or her again.  For real.  Present more food or another bottle or your breast.  Feed them.

My son cried way more than my daughter did during his first year.  It feels like he was constantly wailing about something.  He also was the size of a two year old at his 9 month check-up.  He’s a beast.  What I didn’t understand in the first 6 months or so was that he was screaming like he was hungry even when he just ate because he was already hungry again.  He never wanted to stop eating.

 

Now that he’s one, my son wants a snack cup in his hand as soon as he exits his high chair after breakfast.  For real.  Feed him.  And then feed him again.  When all else fails, feed him.

#4.  Have a canned response that you have practiced delivering without emotion to anyone who dispenses unsolicited advice.

I learned this one from a good friend who chose a very non-traditional route for becoming a mother.  We had a lunch date where I asked her the questions I felt she would receive throughout her child’s life; she told me she had a response ready to cover most of them.  For the ones she wasn’t prepared for, she just wouldn’t answer.

Boom.  Done.  Response is ready, no matter the circumstance.

So I thought this should apply to all new parents.  We all know we will hear things in our lives that upset us or irk us or get under our skin and fester.  What better way to save yourself some strife than to have a reply ready!  It doesn’t have to be snarky; in fact, it shouldn’t be.  It should be an unemotional, canned response.

Try this:  That’s interesting.  Thanks for sharing.

Or:  Great!  I bet that works for a lot of people.

Even:  You are very considerate to share that with me.

I highly suggest avoiding anything that is open-ended or could lead to further discussion.  Unless you really, really want to know/be upset/upset the other person.  Just have a one-liner ready to roll out and then walk away or change the subject.

There are a million other topics you can get into an argument about.  Try politics.  Or religion.  Walk away from parenting advice that makes you shudder.

#5:  You need a village.  If you don’t have one, start building one.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a network of people you trust and can count on for anything in your parenting adventure.  You will need a shoulder to cry on, someone to watch the kids in an emergency, a person you can count on to come over with wine but without judgement, a mother-figure for you, grandparent figures for your kids, someone whose advice you can count on, other mothers and fathers at the same stage of parenting, other mothers and fathers further along or even further behind… you need people who get you as well as get this whole parenting gig.

I don’t feel like I had a village for most of these first years of my journey as a mother.  Too many people have come and gone, for one.  Also, I live in the middle of nowhere, a good hour from any member of my family, more than a half hour from most of my friends and former coworkers, forty-odd minutes from any major place for groceries or shopping… seriously, if it weren’t for two libraries within twenty minutes of us, my weeks would crawl by.  I have church on Sundays and three story times a week to look forward to.

People need a community in which to thrive.  We cannot go it alone.  Life isn’t designed that way.  We are commune creatures, to a point.  If you want to fight off baby blues or the more sinister postpartum depression, keep your dears very near.

My advice here, to tag onto this most important piece, is to start with the free things and go from there.  Your family and friends, right now, are free.  Call them, invite them over, make plans, whatever:  keep them in the loop and keep them close.  Then look up other free things to make new friends, to meet other parents, to be around those with kids the same ages as yours; try local libraries and parks, your church, a zoo, a mall playground.  Go to places you would normally go, though, instead of forcing yourself into awkward situations that may repel you from great people.  Someday I’ll write a post about being the odd one out at a mommy group full of women who could not believe I had driven almost 3 hours to be present.

Having children will isolate you from people you never expected to lose.  It will also introduce you to people you once never noticed or maybe even looked sideways at.  Be open-minded and recognize that it takes a village not just to raise a child but to support the parents.  We are human; we are not meant to go it alone.

Parenthood is amazing and eye-opening. Your heart will be full to bursting with love and pride.  Parenthood is really freaking hard.  Your body will be drained, your eyes will be burning, you will lose your mind from time to time, and you will need support.  It can be so isolating and exhausting as well as exhilarating and network-building, what with all the story times and preschool functions.

A village gift

You really do need a village.

Won’t you be part of mine?

5 Workout Hacks for the Busy Mom (or Cat Lady)

Bust A Move!

All over the Internet and in almost every “women’s” magazine you can find articles, tips, posts, and pins for quick cellulite obliterators or five-minute moves or fat-buster workouts.  Let me condense all of that and then make it real.

Read on, fellow Woman with Life-Goals!

Background

Before kids, when I was still gainfully employed in a cubicle, I came up with a series of workouts to help me burn calories, keep toned, and not fall asleep at my desk, drooling on my keyboard.

I have tried different  “workouts”, targeted different “problem areas”, and felt “the burn” in different muscle groups.  I am not a fitness expert by any means.  What I am is a woman in her 30s with two kids and a nice physique, ready and willing to help my readers slough off a few extra calories, maybe a few extra pounds, and certainly a few extra mental and emotional blahs.

So you know, I am 33 with a 3 year old and a 9 month old plus a body that some days feels 23 and some days feels 93.  However, I stand at 5’7” and carry 120-some-pounds that seem to settle around my hips.  You can read more about my weight history here, but I think you should know we chucked out the bathroom scale years ago; I have no idea what my current weight is.

suit

RARE SIGHTING! Bikini photos from mid-summer

What I do know is that I am physically healthy, and I feel mentally and emotionally healthier when I’ve done some exercising.  How do I weigh so little?  How do I find the energy and time to exercise?  How is this possible?

You ask all these things, so I give you three answers:

  1. Genetics play a HUGE factor so please please please don’t beat yourself up (or do 30 extra burpees) thinking you can obtain my figure and weight. Or any other woman’s figure and weight.  Be realistic.  If you can’t be, stop reading “women’s” magazines and start reading self-help books about accepting yourself for who you are.  Moving on…
  2. What you put in greatly effects what you get out of your body. Here’s how we eat.  Here’s why we eat it.  And the recommended daily intake of water?  Yeah, I drink roughly 80 oz of water a day.  That doesn’t include coffee, almond milk, juice, beer, wine, or anything else I might enjoy; I’m talking filtered water right from my fridge.
  3. Engage in these five exercises at least once a day, seven times each. For your body.  For your brain.  For your sanity.  For your family.

The Exercises

These were developed when I had a desk job. I would either do these in the spacious one-seat bathroom that was across the hall from my office or right in front of my computer, behind my desk chair.  You have to keep your blood pumping to your brain and extremities or that office chair might truly be the death of you.

None of these exercises requires anything other than your body and a little bit of space to move.  You don’t need a gym membership or bulky equipment or even a sunny day.  Squeeze in all five of these at least seven times a day to feel results that you will one day see.

Disclaimer:  if you have an injury or a medical condition, please consult your doctor first.  If you feel like you’re in good health and will take the advice of a fit woman who isn’t a professional, keep reading.  Remember that I am not a fitness guru, health expert, or running coach*.  Those professionals are out there so seek them if that’s what you need.

These all happen organically, right where you are, wherever you are.  Just do them!

  1. Vertical Push-Ups
  2. Squats
  3. Lunges
  4. Standing Bicycle
  5. The Toddler

How-To

First, the Vertical Push-Up:

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Found online since I can’t get a good picture of myself.

  • Not to be confused with the hand-stand push-up
  • Sculpts, tones, and strengthens your arms, shoulders, and chest
  • Does a favor to those flabby underarms
  • Keeps you off the floor where littles (or cats) interrupt your efforts
  • Won’t force you to literally face the fact that your floors are filthy

Face a wall, standing a little farther than arm’s length away, feet shoulder-width apart. Lean your body forward and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.  Now bend your elbows and get your nose as close to the wall as you can without touching it.  Slowly push yourself away from the wall, straightening your arms.

Next, the basic Squat:

20160919_164854.jpg

Teaching the Angel fractions with laundry-folding techniques

  • Sculpts, tones, and strengthens your thighs, hips, and buttocks
  • Doesn’t require anything more than the space you’re already taking up by standing
  • Helps with developing core strength

With your hips back and feet hip-width apart, bend your knees to lower your torso.  Perform at varying depths without letting your buttocks touch your heels, the floor, or a chair.

20160920_142026.jpg

The Modified Squat includes 23 lb weight.

Then, some Lunges:

20160920_142141.jpg

A slight twist as I attempt to placate a baby at dinnertime

 

  • Gain flexibility, balance, and strength while toning your backside and legs
  • Entertain your kids (or cats) with this move by using it to walk to the bathroom, where you will inevitably have an audience to the tasks you perform in there

From a standing position, take a step with your right foot.  Lower your body until your right knee is as close to a 90 degree angle as you can get it without hurting yourself or falling over.  Hold it.  Hold it!  HOLD IT!  Now push yourself upwards with your right leg, back into the standing position.  Repeat this process with your left leg.  That’s one.  Do it again seven times (that means seven times for each leg).  Keep your back straight and your shoulders back, mentally focusing on each muscle group. 

20160920_142328.jpg

Lunging my way back to the stove

To make this fun for your “audience”, use lunges to move about your house.  Instead of pushing yourself back into the standing position, lift the leg that’s behind you and bring it forward into a Walking Lunge, and walk to the bathroom or kitchen or washer or backdoor…

Now for the Standing Bicycle:

20160919_164828.jpg

Bad hair and demon eyes not required for optimum calorie-burning

  • Lovely abdominal exercise… that will help with the muscle but maybe not so much with the loose skin that was generated in the creation of your beautiful children
  • Don’t need to get on that floor you’ve been avoiding since the first exercise
  • Do this in front of the stove or microwave while you’re prepping dinner
  • Again, the kids (and cats) can’t climb on you while you’re standing

With feet together and knees slightly bent, place your hands behind your head and slightly lift your left heel.  Pull your abs in tight, being aware of each part of the muscles, and lift your left knee up as your right shoulder rotates to bring the right elbow to the knee.  If they don’t touch, don’t worry; be normal and pain free.  Repeat this process with your right knee and left shoulder and elbow.  That’s one.  Some would say you should consider doing this twenty times to call it a “rep”; I say if you do both knees to both elbows seven times each, you’re done. 

dishes-bicycle

Again, an extra 23 pounds does wonders for the physique

 

Finally, the Toddler

  • Again, no need for an expensive gym membership, special mat, or weights and tools; just a toddler (or any child or cat, really)
  • This is more of a mind game than a bodily exercise, but your whole body will get one heck of a workout
  • Whatever toys or laundry or housework you have on hand can be incorporated with minimal effort
  • Like I said, a FULL BODY AND MIND WORKOUT

Mimic.  Whatever they do, you do.  But the adult version.  If the 3-year-old wants to squat, hop, bounce upright, run for 10 steps, drop to her knees, crawl 5 feet, roll onto her back, pick up a ball, then twist her torso as she runs back to the starting point, do that.  If the cat rolls onto its back, stretches, then brings its head to its pelvis with one leg in the air, do that.  If the 9 month old crawls as fast as he can to the next room only to roll around, stand up using a chair, and bounce in place for a solid 30 seconds because the song on the radio compelled him to, do that.

Once, I followed the Angel for a solid 40 MINUTES as she walked “round and round” these doorways in our foyer with a ball in her hands.  She had the best time once she realized I would do whatever she would do, just the adult-sized version.  My calves and abs got a good workout and my brain had to keep up with all of her motions so I could mimic every move.  It was exhausting.  My thighs got more of a workout in that 40 minutes than they do on Laundry Day.**

Add in the folding of a load (or two or twelve) of laundry.  Or while wiping down the kitchen counters.  If you’re in an office with no kids or cats and trying to do this, practice Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks as you move towards the copy machine, coffee maker, break room, bathroom, etc.  It sure is a conversation starter!

Hydrate and Contemplate

Get yourself into the habit of using all your muscles every day, throughout the day.  And drink plenty of water!  Personally, I have an H2O intake of 7-12 pints a day.  That doesn’t include the water in coffee or juice or almond milk or beer.  I have a nifty Murphy’s pint glass that I keep next to the fridge, on the side where the filtered water comes out with the press of a lever; I fill and chug at least 7 times a day, if not more.  Sure, that means lots of trips to the bathroom, but that also means plenty more chances to do my Walking Lunges or practice the Toddler moves.

How are you feeling today?

 

 

*Shameless plug:  Abby over at Back at Square Zero is a nice starting point for those interested in a running coach.

**Picture this:  3600-sq-ft house with bedrooms upstairs, bathroom on main floor, washer in basement, and clothesline on the farthest corner of the ½ acre yard.  Now, do 3-7 loads of laundry.  I once counted and learned that on laundry day, I can climb the stairs 14 times (that’s just climbing, not including going down, the other walking, and how heavy the baskets are that I’m carrying…or if I do it with a baby on my hip).

My Current Season

I had a girlfriend over yesterday for a few hours.  She came along with her 7-week-old son and some much-needed adult conversation.  One thing that came up more than once is the hardship that is motherhood-in-isolation.  We agreed that for everything, there is a season, and this season is HARD.

For now, my season includes raising two children with a small, dispersed village.  My season means many hours without another adult.  My season doesn’t have excess funds for entertainment, extravagance, or even much travel to visit those in my proverbial village. My season is brightened by the joys of motherhood but dulled by the lack of regular adult interactions or even that mythical land of Alone Time.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

My Current Season as a Stay-at-Home-Mom

I have been a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) for almost 3 years now.  I left my job a whole month before Angel Baby was born.  Now I’m the mother of 2 and hold a Masters in Library Science.  I can list many accomplishments for these years:

I started a blog, made some crafts, fine-tuned my cooking skills, and learned how truly obsessive-compulsive I am about things like dishes and dust.

I also learned how hard it is to hold onto sanity when your main interactions with adults are limited to when your husband isn’t at work and those brief moments you’re in the check-out at the grocery.

This season feels like winter.

I am alone.  A lot.  Yet I am always with my children.  I crave adult interactions, yet find myself poorly prepared to interact with other adults.

My ability to converse is sorely stunted by my lack of real-world experiences.  Get me talking about potty training, toddler diets, issues with breastfeeding, the cost of diapers and milk storage bags, and how to use natural oils to cleanse your face, we are going to have a great conversation.  Want to discuss anything else?  I’ll either mutely blink at you or somehow turn the conversation about you and your husband house-hunting to how many stairs I do on laundry day*.

The Loss of Winter

The trees lose their leaves and the grass loses its green.  I, in my SAHM Winter, have lost friends and sleep.

I keep telling myself it is the season, though.  Those friends that I’ve lost touch with because I only knew them through our mutual efforts at work or through our mutual efforts to consume alcohol and stay out ’til dawn are merely a past season.  Spring will come again.  Those friends may return or they may just be leaves that have lost their color and tumbled away**.

There is a Season

One day, I will return to the workforce.  One day, our household will have an income that can support more frivolities.  One day, my children will be involved with sports and activities that will require more from the BHE and me.  One day, my children will have their own transportation and social lives to tend to.

I just have to remind myself that this isolation won’t last forever.  That the friends I no longer have things in common with will either still be there as support or will fade away entirely.  That the clothes I wear won’t always have elastic waists and smell like sour milk.  That the conversations I have will include more than the daily routines of me and my children.  That this is where I need to be now.

Where We All Are

One of my favorite inspirational writers, Sarah Mae, wrote that my time is coming, my chance to shine.  I should take a deep breath and explore the NOW of my life to live it fully.  She recommended that I stop thinking there are other things I could be doing and so much that I am missing and remember that this — this parenthood, cooking-cleaning marathon, home-bound life– is where I am meant to be now.  She says that God will guide me through my Seasons in life and to not lament the distance and losses that occur during my time as a SAHM.

My chance to be profound is not now, but it will happen.

 

*So sorry, Vicki.  I heard myself turning the conversation to be about myself and still was unable to stop myself.  I’m not losing it; I’ve lost it.

**Jesse, you’ll never be a leaf that loses its color.  You’ll always be vibrant, and one day, I will return to you as a friend that can consume alcohol until dawn.

 

SEASONAL BLESSINGS

Just a second

Right now, my kids are sleeping.  My almost-three-year old has been down for about 30 minutes, easily slipping into her nap since I woke her quite early to stuff her in a dress then into the car to sit and be told to be quiet at church.  (That is such a difficult thing for a tiny tot.  It is amazing what we expect of these new humans that are almost literally bursting with energy.)  My 5-month-old is resting peacefully in his swing that he has almost grown out of, the big chunky boy.  These moments aren’t really rare, thank God.  I get a good 20-40 minutes each day like this.

However, there are the days where I really could use more.  More like 20 hours, but maybe that’s asking an awful lot.

My joy

My children mean so much to me.  They are my little lights.  They are unexpected treasures and delights, sweet angels on this rough hell of Earth.

I find solace in their warmth and smells, comfort in the routines of feeding and clothing them, joy in their hugs and sounds and squeezes and messes.  I also find a ton of anguish in some of their behaviors and plenty of fear that I might not being doing this whole parenting thing right.

They see me at my ugliest.  They’ve seen my best, and they are most accustomed to my average and every-day.  But, dear Lord, they have seen the ugliest.

Reign it in

I just have to reign it in.

There is a lot of guilt, sure, when I lose my shit, but there is also a lot of hurt.  I hurt myself when I hurt them or let them see the ugliness within me.

My daughter is so forgiving, and I try to use that as my example.  She doesn’t harbor ill will or remember all the nastiness.  That is me; I’m the one holding onto the ugly side.  I want to be more like her.

Barely 3 and able to be a better Christian than me.  No wonder Jesus loves all the little children; they embody all that we ought to be:  smiling and joyful, energetic and inquisitive, forgiving and happy.

Not yet

There is always tomorrow.

I keep having to remind myself of that.  Not just “tomorrow” in the sense that after I get a handful of heavily interrupted hours of sleep tonight I get to wake up and try all over again at parenting and cooking and cleaning and listening and learning and teaching and driving and talking and so on.

Let’s look at “tomorrow” in the greater sense:  who I am today is not who I will always be.  The adversities I face today will not always be facing me.  The blessings I should be thankful for today will not necessarily be there tomorrow any more than the bullshit I am struggling through will always be bogging me down.

An author/blogger I enjoy is Sarah Mae.  She wrote (somewhere, please don’t ask me to quote) that we are given talents by God to use during the seasons He is presenting to us.

For instance, I enjoy writing and I am very good at it.  I am not plagued by self-doubt when it comes to writing any more than I am plagued by poor grammar.  I dream of writing a best-selling book or having many followers on my blog.  I want to write.

There are days where I kick myself for not writing, for not making larger steps towards seeing the completion of my book (or a blog post at the very least).  This anxiety builds up within me when I think that I’m getting older, my children are getting older, that if I want to have an income while staying home with my children, that I need to spend my time more wisely and work on my book/blog/et cetera with every single extra second that I have.

Then I remember to reign it in.  And take a deep breath.  Like Sarah Mae was saying, there is a season for everything.  God didn’t give me the gift of writing so I could spend sleepless nights beating myself up over not writing.  God gave me two healthy children and a very supportive husband as well as the gift of writing.

This, right now, is not my season for writing a book.  This is my season for being a mommy and a wife.  One day, my season for writing will begin.  Just like it may end.  Just like my season for teaching, my season for nursing, my season for being a better friend, happier daughter, wiser mother, or whatever… those seasons are coming.

Deep breath in…and…out

I just need to reign in the negativity, take a deep breath, and remind myself that what I am doing right now is precisely what I need to be doing right now.

That is my pat on my back.  That is my reminder that my life is not stagnant and what I’m dealing with right now won’t always be what I am dealing with.

Actually, that brings up another point:  what I *get* to deal with.  I keep lamenting about the things which I *have* to do:  I HAVE to do laundry, I HAVE to make dinner, I HAVE to put off sleep to take a shower, I HAVE to go to the grocery.

My goodness am I an ungrateful ass!

For real, these are things I *get* to do.  I GET to do laundry because not only do I have plenty of clothing and linens for myself and my family but also clean, running water and these fabulous machines that do most of the hard work for me.  I even GET to have the option of tossing everything into the dryer (and forgetting it for 3 days) or getting some exercise and fresh air by hanging it outside on the line.

These are blessings, not curses; these are choices I should be grateful for rather than chores I bitch about.  Sometimes, though, it is just so hard to see that difference between HAVE TO and GET TO.

I’m working on it.

 

 

41 Weeks: The View from Up Here

Today marks 41 weeks of pregnancy.  Am I ready?

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I was losing my mind at 39 weeks…

Comparison

I still compare everything from this pregnancy with the last one.  At this point during my first pregnancy, I was holding my newborn Angel Baby during our last day at the hospital.  There.  That’s where I was.

Not once during my pregnancy with Angel Baby did I feel a contraction.  My cervix never did anything special, like get ready to expel a baby.  On the projected due date (PDD) at 40 weeks, we learned that our unborn child had actually been hanging out upside down… or right side up, depending on how you want to look at it.  Angel Baby was going to be stubborn and presented her sweet little self in the breech position.  We scheduled a c-section for 40+4, and that was that.

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The best skin-to-skin we could manage in the OR.

Here we are at 41 weeks:  baby is head down but not engaged, all signs are great for both baby and mommy, and now we just wait.

Sorta.

Fear

I wanted a “natural birth”* so badly that it took me quite some time to get over the fact that I had a surgery rather than an experience with Angel Baby.  I felt like I’d failed my body and my baby.  I felt robbed.  There are days I still feel like I was robbed of everything I had prepared for.

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Trying so hard to stay positive and be excited, yet here I was in pre-op just holding back tears…ones that had been streaming out of me since we learned baby was breech.

I never experienced any aspect of labor at the end of my first pregnancy.  I went from pregnant to the OR to being a breastfeeding mommy.  There was no major epiphanic (is that a word?) moment where the angels sang and the lights of Heaven shone upon me as I became a mother.  I just was.  Here, have this:  it is ridiculously demanding and you didn’t get to unwrap it like you wanted to.

Sigh.

So there’s fear going into this 41st week of pregnancy, round 2.  What if my body wasn’t made to give birth?  I mean, it clearly was made to get pregnant and carry babies. Quite awesomely, actually.  I’m super healthy as is the baby.  Just like last time.  (Ok, this time was a little more troublesome but all-in-all a healthy pregnancy.)

I had what is called a non-stress test (NST) yesterday.  I sat in a vinyl recliner with two straps over my belly:  one to monitor baby’s heart rate and movements, the other to monitor for my contractions.  I was handed a little clicker and was instructed to push the button each time I felt the baby move.  Baby Sprout was called a “show off” by the nurse.  And I had a contraction.  One.  And it wasn’t one I even recognized as such; the machine told me so.

And my cervix is still just sitting there.

Next Step

There are so many different ways to approach a pregnancy that continues past the PDD.  The best, in my mind, is to let it go.  Your body and baby know when it is time and it will happen.

However, as logical as that sounds, there are so many other ways to handle it from here.  Because my first pregnancy did end in surgery, there are certain measures/precautions/preconceptions regarding how this one ought to go.

I’m not going to tell you how you should handle this situation.  I’m not going to tell you what my friends say, my family thinks, or my midwife said the OB on-call would do… I am just going to simply state what I plan to do from here, my recliner, in my warm home.**

Unless Baby Sprout and my body agree to start moving things along, at 41+4 I will return to my midwife’s office for a membrane sweep.***  Until then, I will calmly go about my regular life with Angel Baby and the BHE.  I think a lot about Thanksgiving, as it is less than a week away.  I am double-checking the care and coverage we have for Angel Baby when we do go into labor and then through the hospital stay.  I am keeping my house clean, my pantry stocked, and my patience stretched.

After the sweep?  I don’t know.  I don’t.  And I’m not going to stress and fret about what needs to happen next.  I know my options, I know what I am comfortable with, I know what the BHE and I have talked about as well as how the midwife would like to proceed… the rest is just the rest.  I won’t know until we get there.

Deep Breathing

I’m fighting off a week-long cold and have been busying remaking plans for Angel Baby’s care****.  I am resting as much as possible but still going about my life.  I eat and dance and shop and read like any other SAHM.  I breathe.  And breathe some more.

*As a really great friend pointed out to me recently, all births are natural.  Truly.  No matter how your child comes into the world (unmedicated, at home, with an epidural, c-section, in the backseat, surrounded by machines that go BING!), the birth of that child was a natural occurrence.  Embrace that shit and be proud.

**I’m so over the pregnancy “advice”.  As well-meaning as everyone is, I am struggling to smile and nod at every little bit being said to me.  I’m not technically overdue, just past my PDD.  And yes, I’m having this baby in the hospital.  No, I don’t want to induce.  Yes, I am aware that may be what it comes down to.  No, I am not 100% opposed to induction, and sadly, I do know that a c-section is always a possibility (just like getting in a wreck on the way to the hospital is or any other thing you really don’t want to have happen).  Yes, I want to wait to make sure I give my body and the baby every chance to go about this on their own.  No, I don’t need anyone telling me my legal rights or how VBACs should be handled or why I should have sex and eat pineapple.  If I joke about it with you or share my thoughts with you, it isn’t me opening your floodgate; it is me talking to you.  I’ll stop talking now.

***Excerpt from site if you don’t want to read the whole thing:  “During an internal examination, she will try to insert a finger into the opening of your cervix (neck of your womb) and then gently but firmly move her finger around. This action should separate the membranes of the amniotic sac surrounding your baby from your cervix. This separation releases hormones (prostaglandins) which may kick-start your labour.”

****The absolutely ideal set up we had for Angel Baby while we’re in the hospital fell through because of this awful nasty thing called the flu.  Sadly, the loved ones who were going to be providing and abiding are fighting off this ugly, ugly fever-cough-vomit-misery.  Which meant last minute scrambling to make sure Angel Baby will be cared for those 3-ish days we’ll be “gone”.  Maybe just maybe I’ve gone past the PDD because my body and mind were well aware that it just wasn’t the right time yet.  Sure, the average is 41+4 (not 40, people; do your research), but maybe it is more about fate and a Guiding Hand making sure all is right before Baby Sprout joins us on the outside.

Building a Village

One SAHM’s ambitions to bridge the gap in her path

For those of you who know me or my blog posts like this one and this one, you are aware that I am a pregnant (third trimester!) mother of a two-year-old and have chosen to not work during these formative years of her children’s lives.  You may know, as well, that we live in a tiny town in a rural county.  I have friends and family that I can call and count on*, yes, but there are so few near me that I feel I could rely on for any-and-every-thing.  I need a village.

Springboard

First off, the pregnancy hormones this time around are a bitch.  And they are making me a bitch.  A whiny, crying, resentful bitch stuck in her great big house in the great big Nowhere.  During my first pregnancy, I was still working so I had things like:

  • Double our current income
  • Daily interactions with other adults
  • No other children so more flexibility with my time

I feel stuck.  I feel distanced from everyone.  Not just the friends without children or with children who are more independent (re: older), but I feel like I’ve lost touch with so many just because I don’t have the time/money/energy… or they don’t want to deal with me, my toddler, and my stories of the SAHM life.

And don’t get me started on how the Mommy Wars  (and I’m not talking just about the battle regarding staying home or going back to work) have affected my relationships with those I thought were friends.

Second, I knew I needed to be proactive.  I’m the go-get-‘em girl.  I am the hostess with the mostess.  I have always been the one who pulls the wallflowers off the wall, adds in a few gregarious individuals, and mixes it up at my house.  I just keep feeling less and less inclined to do this.

Last, there was this blog post that was shared with me on Facebook from the online village I’ve been welcomed into.  Read it.

It Always Begins with a Book

For real.  For those of you who know me in the real world, you know how often I start sentences with  “This article I read…” and “In this book I got at the library…” and “I was reading about…”  For those of you who know me in the virtual world, you’ve probably picked up on my bibliophilia as well.

I read, consecutively, Desperate: Hope for the Mom who Needs to Breathe and Getting Unstuck.  Without going into drawn-out reviews of these books, I can tell you they were part of the “springboard” as well.  I’m intelligent and insightful and have been known as a great problem-solver, but sometimes even the best (not saying I am the best!) need little reminders and pushes and small matches to lead to big explosions.  It was both heart-touching and mind-enlightening to read these and remember that I’m not alone AND I have skills and talents I need to be putting to work.

I need to not only come up with the answer to my question but to form the question in the first place.  I can’t mope around, being miserable because I feel so isolated.  I need to figure out why I feel isolated and what I’m going to do about it.

Let’s see:  I feel like I don’t have other women with children the ages of mine who also have similar interests as me that live near enough to me it won’t be a major hassle for us to get together.  I feel like I don’t have older women who have been-here-done-this to call on when I need someone to listen and (not try to cram advice down my throat) tell me I really will come out on the other side as a better, strong person with good, strong children.

My question:  WHERE ARE THE OTHER WOMEN!?

Um, duh, Sarah.  They’re all around you.  They aren’t moths to your flame, though, honey; they have their own lives they are tending to.  Just.  Like.  You.

It Takes a Village

Our mothers and their mothers and so on had whole communities they could rely on.  They lived close to their families and lived in towns and neighborhoods filled with other SAHMs.

Today’s world is so much different than just 15-20 years ago… and certainly not made up of communities like those in which my grandmothers raised their children.  I could wax poetic about technology and personal transportation and the need for many mothers to work out of the home.  But you know all that.  Or you’ve heard it.  Or you can just SEE it when you watch the kids climb off the bus near your house or watch the parade of cars lined up AFTER FIVE PM at the various daycares and after-school programs.

But it really does take more than just one woman to raise her children.  And it takes more than that woman’s husband (significant other, whatever) to build her up.  A village needs to be in place where she has other women LIKE HER to talk to and visit with and be around and work with to build up the other mothers in the area.

We can’t do it alone.  No matter how strong we are, no matter how independently we make it through each day, we still need each other on some level.  Women need women!

My Next Step

Well, first off, I’d like to stop crying.  I’d like to stop feeling like I have no one to turn to and that I’m doing this all on my own.  I want to stop having these little meltdowns every time it seems like no one has time for me.  I want to be just as proactive in other moms’ lives as I want them to be in mine.  I don’t want to feel alone any more.

Then, I want to give mad props to the women who did invite me into their village**… online.  One of my besties lives about 3 hours away and has a village.  (Yes, they DO exist!)  They communicate with each other IN PERSON as well as on the phone, Facebook, Instagram, etc.  They support each other and offer advice and vent about stressors and share websites with insight and recipes and funny memes regarding life as a mother.  And I was welcomed into their private Facebook group.  Again, these lovely ladies are three hours away.

What I need is someone RIGHT NEXT DOOR. OK, maybe not that close.  But close enough that if they need me to bring over some bitchin’ brownies in the middle of the morning or I need one of them to take Angel Baby long enough to let me get my hair cut (it’s been over a year and it is obvious), then we can do that for one another.  Or heck, just meet up in someone’s kitchen while the kids play in the next room and everyone is ok eating with their fingers, sitting in yoga pants, and ignoring the piles of laundry (clean or dirty, I’ll ignore it for you).

That’s my next step:  building a local village.  I’m going to talk to the ladies that bring their kids to story time beyond introducing our children*** and I’m going to call the women whose numbers I have had the backbone to get and I’m going to build up other women the way I need built.

My Approach

I think I’ll start with the Facebook idea, actually.  See, our generation had Stranger Danger beaten into us as children and then were gifted modern communication technology like chat rooms and cell phones when we hit college.  We haven’t had to interact with strangers.  Sure, classmates and coworkers were strangers that we had to interact with (and I have some really good long-term friends who are former coworkers).  But those were not social situations like story time or the line at the grocery or the benches at the park.

I have actually tried to approach other moms to have them quickly smile then look at their phones as I got closer.  Seriously.  This avoidance tactic is very obvious, ladies, and it will get us no where.  So I’m going to be the awkward one and insist you freaking meet me.  In the meantime, I will start small and local and online.  You can get to know me that way and see if you want to spend face time with me.

If you live near me, and I hope some locals are reading my blog, then expect me to be a little more OUT THERE in the near future.  And look for the group invite on Facebook.  It is my first step.  There will be more.

Oh, yes.

There will be more.

Q-and-A

That stands for “queries and advice” rather than “questions and answers”.  What are your thoughts on my approach?  What are the steps you have taken to reach out?  Have other moms reached out to you?  Are you open to this idea?  What’s it worth to you?  Who is your village?  And can I join it?

*Honestly, more days than not, I feel like I’m so alone and that these friends and family AREN’T there for me and CAN’T be counted on.  And the mood I’m in today, I’m not going to get started on how many times I’ve called or texted or Facebook-messaged to get nada in return.  It wears me down and the tears start flowing again.

**Really, these are great women that I have a lot in common with.  It isn’t just that we are moms to young children or SAHMs or that kind of basic connection.  These women are strong, independent, intelligent, and “crunchy”… just like me.  Sadly, they just live too far away to really be MY village.  They are A village that I can talk to but it just isn’t the same.  And yes, I have made the drive out there to meet them in person.

***Seriously.  I think we’re all guilty of this.  We introduce our kids by name and age and then completely forget that we are the adults and we are more than just their caretakers.  Last week, I met a lovely woman who had a two year old girl AND was pregnant AND due the same week as me.  We told each other this information yet still managed to not introduce OURSELVES.  I never got her name!  WTF!  I hope she’s there next week so I can rectify this dreadful oversight.