Tuesday, August 26, 2008

At the end of the day

I must be under some test of strength by the universe. If I can handle this, I can handle just about anything, right?

I take it all back. Every last word.

I'd take a full day of tantrums and whining and never getting anything done to never, ever have to drop them off at day care, again.

What was I thinking? This isn't going to work out. I don't have it in me. I'm going to cave.


But, I can't. I'm not working to make money. I'm not working to get away from my children. I'm not working to further a career.

I'm working to help people; to make a difference in my daughters' world.

It's hard right now to keep this in perspective. They didn't eat all day. They cried all afternoon. They sobbed, uncontrollably, again when I arrived to pick them up. Their little hearts bursting with emotion. They don't want me to leave their side all night afterward. We were each other's worlds for so long and now they feel like I'm going to leave them any second.

And, my God, I can't stop crying about it (when they aren't around.)

They are depressed. I can see it. And it's truly breaking every string of my heart. One by one.

I don't think I can take another "it will get easier" comment. This sage advice doesn't help as I have to slide their little tightly gripped hands off mine and walk away, leaving them crying so hard they sound like they will vomit.

My super cool boss said that I'll laugh about all of this in seven years and he's probably right. He's a father himself. And I take comfort that all of this will pass and we'll all be stronger for it.

I'm afraid, I might be the one scarred for life. I'm picturing all the working moms of the world and wondering, seriously, how they do it.

How do they do it and not feel totally, utterly, sincerely crushed?

And then this note from one of their teachers: "They have a lot of trouble transitioning from one activity to another."

Seriously? This is a joke, right?

I'm worried that my only children -- my first born -- my youngest and my oldest -- are getting basic needs, like, say food, water, sleep and that they are smiling and happy for more than 2 hours in an 8 hour day.

But, OK, thanks for sharing your concern about how to get them to ease right from playing hard into taking a nap ON THEIR SECOND DAY OF DAY CARE!

That will make everything better for my depressed 2.5 year olds who feel like their mother has left them and will never return.

But, whatever, tomorrow's a new day and like this morning I'll set out with a smiling, happy face that will have them fooled until ...

I get dressed for work.

Then, it's game over.

UPDATE: What 2 minutes can do.

In just two minutes they stopped crying ... 2 minutes.

I cried longer than that!!!!!



Please, just rip out my heart!

Seriously. Take it out. I don't want to feel anymore.

This morning was harder; the crying, louder; the clinging, tighter; the pain, greater.

I"m having trouble seeing the forest through the trees. Why am I doing this?

I feel so selfish.




Monday, August 25, 2008

Live blogging ... a heart breaking

Did you hear that? That loud crash ... the earth falling off its axis?

Nevermind it.

It was just my heart shattering in a million little pieces and falling out of the sky as two little girls cried and clung to my legs as I shoved them away and left them. With strangers.

That's all. Just their world changed in a single morning.

And, no they didn't stop crying after I left. Perhaps it is harder on me than them, but it's really hard on them, too.

Back to work.

EDITED: Who needs lunch? Or snacks? When you're depressed, right? Turns out, they didn't need a full belly to take a nap.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thinking Out Loud: Notes to Working Gals

I've learned so much these last two years as a stay-at-home mom and I certainly do not want to forget any of it. And, to be sure that I do not, I wanted to create a memo to return to time and again to keep myself in check. Just about any parent could learn a lot staying home with their children for an extended period of time.

Live on one income: Even if you make two, try very hard to live on one. Be frugal. Save a lot. And, keep things very simple.

Be creative: It's not about being able to go out and purchase a piece of art; it's about working within your means to create it and have fun doing so. This goes for just about everything, too. Pick up pieces of a wardrobe at thrift shops and then try to make them work. Spend more time at the craft store than at the toy store. In fact, do not even go to the toy store.

Think natural elements: Put rocks in your windows. Twigs in a bowl. Pick up acorns, leaves and pine cones to remember the place you visited. Spend more time outside than inside. Value Mother Earth and all the beauty she spins on this planet. Try to walk more; drive less. Stop to smell the roses, meditate and cherish a little piece.

Snuggle: Our kids need this. Even if it's just once or twice a day. Stop cooking and cleaning if they want held. Pick them up and do it. If you can't that second, let them know you know that they need it and work hard to make it happen.

Quality time: Take time each morning and each evening to really just be with your children. Period.

Remember, we're all busy: And, we truly are. The stay-at-home mom life doesn't offer much in the way of breaks or time to fix dinner, either. It also doesn't offer sick time or vacation. Nor, was it easy to get to a doctor's appointment. Motherhood is hard no matter which way you slice it. Suck it up.

Write, write, write: Between getting ready for work, working out, meditation, preparing breakfast and dinner and spending good, fun times on the floor, playing, you have to find time to reflect on this life. If you do not, it will pass too quickly and you will wonder where the time went. Write about it so you'll always remember. Just write. Even just a sentence like, "We ate ice cold ice cream in the scorching sun today -- as a family."

Thank you for visiting today.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Motherhood on a shelf

For nearly three years, I've had to fight to remember who I was before I became a mother. I had to wonder what I did with all my time.

For the last 2.5 years, I haven't been able to escape being a mother. I couldn't dream of being anything else. The simplest things led me back to two beings: My daughters.

I breathed them. I dreamed of them. I daydreamed about them. I couldn't imagine another child, another life ever being more consuming than my love for them.

I couldn't imagine anything -- nothing at all -- ever coming between me and them. Where I began, they started; where they started, I began.

Now, as I spend eight hours away from them each day, I have to fight to bring myself back to being a mother. When I'd normally be fixing their lunch, I'm fielding calls with complete strangers who now need my attention.

As I walk on short breaks around town, I wonder who am I now? Am I still Mommy? Am I still a writer? Glimpses of my old self have started creeping back. It's me, but very different.

Like a web spun by a spider, I'm feeling stretched from limb to limb to remember the person I've been the last two years, the one who has put creativity and art and nature before everything else. The one who values family and love and gratitude above all. The one with dreams that have been on hold.

And it is hard. I walk down the store-filled street, window shopping for exercise, and realize that I'm drawn to the natural elements as I have been lately. I long to sit in and do yoga, create an artful masterpiece to sit on my daughters' bookshelves, a small bowl wih a simple message. I want to drop in the all natural cleaning store and soak up the good vibes respectful of Mother Earth. So many things I wanted to do ... so many, many things.

And yet ... I want to grab a glass of wine and listen to some music. I want to browse at the library. I want to talk to random people because I haven't' talked to random people in so long. but I forget how to talk to them. How to speak. How to get a conversation started without my conversation pieces -- Jadyn and Liana. I have nothing to glance down to, nothing to push forward and say, here these are my girls! Look at me! I'm somebody!

It's just me. Feeling very exposed but thin and frail and a bit insecure. Like just learning to walk for the first time. Careful, cautious, considerate.

My first three days were spent nearly incognito in a town where many people would recognize my face, and know my name. But, I have even changed that. I'm no longer using my maiden name -- my byline, a name that illuminates that woman I used to be and who hardly exists anymore. Even my hair is different.

At 5:01, I lock the office door, and briskly walk-run toward the parking garage and swiftly make my eight block drive home to my husband and daughters who await my entrance with giddy laughter and big smiles -- something long, long overdue in my life.

This week has been easy. I know they've been happy and fulfilled. Next week, next week will be different. And hard. Perhaps putting motherhood on a shelf won't be as easy.

But, for this week, it's been an interesting experiment to just be a little bit of both of women I used to be.

Photo Courtesy of Luckychair.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Guest Post from Daddy Dan

I'm three days into my week with the girls. Here's what I've learned so far:

They are a little more overwhelmed by new environments than I might have thought. Liana's clingyness is especially surprising: She is so independent and adventurous around the house. We went to gymnastics Monday, and they were both stuck to my legs. Same thing at our new pre-school. Now, in both places, they did warm up after a few minutes. But the world is still a big - and sometimes scary - place. It's easy to forget that seeing them in their element at home.

Meals are the most stressful times of the day. They say they're hungry and then don't eat. They chew things up and then spit them out, and they don't always have a clear reason. They love to bang silverware and make messes. Exhibit A: The Working Mom made a special effort to whip up some chicken salad for chicken salad sandwiches at lunch. They were hungry. I brought out the sandwiches. And Liana very patiently took off every last bit of chicken salad and ate only the bread. Question for my mom: Was I like this at 2? Oh, never mind. I know the answer.

All the energy it takes to keep up with them, all the stress - it's worth it for the one or two moments each day:

Hearing them tell the story of their day to Mom when she comes home from work: "We saw cows. In the barn. Go milking. Cow peed. One cow pooped."

Liana crying from a scraped knee on her way to the car. Jadyn, from her car seat, unprompted, reaching out to hold her sister's hand while Liana got her knee cleaned and bandaged.

Seeing them with other kids and realizing they move pretty well on their own and make decisions on their own. In not quite three years, they have become little people. Not perfect by any stretch, but the most beautiful people I could ever imagine.

Any dads out there have a story to share about that first solo week at home with the kids?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Shiny new us

Dear Jadyn and Liana,

Two years ago, my heart was breaking in two just about every day because I missed you so much as we parted as I left you at day care and went off to my job. I missed seeing you. I missed hearing your cries. I missed everything about you. I worried, too, that I'd miss seeing some of those important milestones. All of those firsts.

In the last two years, however, I am happy to report that I've missed nothing.

I was here when you first crawled.

I was here to hold your hand when you lifted yourself to stand for the first time.

I was here to catch you when you took your first steps.

I was here, unfortunately, when you took your first spill and got a terrible boo-boo.

I was here to introduce you to a slide and a swing, to show you the early morning when the birdies come out to eat, to watch you learn to draw circles and lines and zig zags.

I was here to listen to teach you to count to 10, and listen to you do it successfully.

We may have had our rough patches, but I will forever be changed (and more improved) for the time we've spent together these last two years. I'm looking forward to what lies before us now. I promise to stay awake to this remarkable life change.

This shiny new us.

Thank you for visiting today.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

How daring are you? Writing Project

It's time. Submit your Daring Group Writing Project entries here with Mr. Linky and let's get reading. I've decided to leave this contest open until Sunday at noon, EST. in case anyone had a bad week of sleeping like I did.

I will draw to names, at random, on Sunday evening and announce who will win the Starbucks gift cards.

Enlightened, for a moment

There's dew on the railing. A mountain of sand before me. I rub my eyes, clutch my yoga bag and head straight for her.

She's vast, open and lush with sea foam.

She's deep, harsh and scary, too.

I spread out my mat along the crystal sand specks along her shore and stretch my arms out to her, wanting her to wrap her arms around me. I breathe in everything she offers, and it is everything.

I sit. And wait.

Wait for the quiet inside to squelch even the sounds of her crashing waves, a sound I dream about, a sound I long to hear over and over. Seconds. No, no minutes, pass. Hours, maybe.

And then it happens.

Peace. A smile. Lost tension. Light as a feather. Filled with nothing but sea salt air, and compassion.

And a profound respect for my God, Mother Earth.

Then, like magic, I turn and we continue building the most awesome sand castle around.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A pot of gold during a storm

I've had a lot of time to think and prepare for this life change of returning to the working world. In fact, if I were going to continue staying at home, as is, I would be defending that choice.

But, I'm not. The only real disadvantage of working is lack of time with our kids. And, it's a pretty big one.

That said, right now, there's very little quality time going on between the three of us. It's squabbling time. It's bickering time. It's negotiating time. It's give-and-take time. It's cleaning time. It's making mess time. It's trying to please time.

And, frankly, very little of it is actually fun anymore. What came first the job or the difficult toddlers? I guess they both sort of evolved at the same time. And since I know my days left to tolerate this challenging period are nearly over, I have less patience than you might think.

Still, it will be hard. But, after a really great visit to their "school" last Friday I can attest to the fact that they will be MUCH better off there than at home with me. First of all, they are at an age when playing trumps everything and I am not sure I can step back onto another playground after this week for a long, long time. It's not just that, they want to do everything fun all day and so the things we used to be able to do, like crafts, are really boring to them now. I'm lucky that I had a really great almost two years since I know moms with boys have not had those great crafty moments.

My point to this post, which has gotten lost as I watch HGTV on the couch instead of at my office computer, is that working will be easier than mothering full-time. I guess that is what many moms have meant when they said they are better mothers when they work. I can see how that is the case now that my girls are in a challenging stage. This week in particular has been rough and I'm not feeling like a very great mom right now. I suspect that I'll miss them terribly next week when they spend the week with Daddy Dan and even more the weeks after that when they start school. But right now I can see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and here's what is inside:

  • Relieve the pressure: Today's mothers have so much more pressure to deal with than our predecessors. Not only are we expected to mother without any village to rely on but we have to worry about serving our kids too much junk food and not enough organic; we have to worry about stimulating them and nurturing their creativity instead of just sending them off to play by themselves; we have to worry about pedophiles, car crashes, hot slides, plastic bottles and sippy cups and whether or not we're being a helicopter parent. Quite frankly, I'm looking forward to working all day and worrying about other stuff and letting day care deal with some of this stuff so that at the end of the day I can be what I wanted to be in the first place: A mommy who adores her kids.
  • No more lunch rut: One of the hardest parts of my days -- other than being on my own with two toddlers for about 12 hours -- is the hour prior to lunch. They are usually starving and tired, especially now that they are getting up too early. I will not have to make lunches for day care and, boy, am I grateful. I've already been able to plan out a monthly meal plan thanks to this change. Same goes for snacks. Meals have become such drama that I'm thankful to have to be in charge of one less.
  • Active entertainment: Related to the first bullet, but worthy of its own section is the fact that I feel so much pressure to keep these girls happy and smiling and learning all day. The fact that they are usually begging and crying for a car ride by the time we eat breakfast does not help. They are not satisfied with just staying home anymore. We must go, go, go ... home is boring. And yet playgrounds can make or break my day. They are much more adventurous now, which scares me when I'm only one person to spot two toddlers, and I have a REALLY BIG PROBLEM with moms who do not supervise their own kids on the playground. In fact, I stormed out with one toddler under each arm yesterday because of unsupervised kids blocking their path on the slide, the climbing wall and in the tunnel. There was nothing else to do so we left, in a storm. If you are one of those parents who stands in a moms circle ignoring your kids, your child is the one who is desperate for attention and doing anything necessary to get it. I assure you.
  • No more boring days: School is so wonderful that when we visited last week there was a bouncy house in the parking lot! That's how cool it is. I can't compete with that. And, if I did, it would cost more money than we already spend to go to places like Gymboree and the Zoo. I'm spending an easy $50 per month or more on new toys, activities, special events just to keep these girls entertained each day. If I wasn't doing this I might have lost my mind months ago. Day care will do all the right things that kids who are 2.5 years old need.
I know we will have rough patches as we deal with sick days and doctor's appointments. I know none of it will be easy or perfect and I might get into and realize that being home WAS easier. (doubtful). Who knows? All I know is that I have the ability to see the good and the bad in every situation and this is no different. I do know that I will always be one of those moms who sends in the cool snacks for the cool holidays like Summer Solstice and I will always be the mommy who is home after school.

But for now, I"m just going to be mommy.

Thank you for visiting today.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Daring Group Writing Challenge

Somehow, during The Venture, we figured out that if we tell the girls NOT to do something -- like eat green beans -- they would, happily. It started because the girls would hardly eat on the trip and the result was that one of them -- Jaybird, in fact -- kept waking up starving in the middle of the night. Ack! Unfortunately, she's still doing that now that we're home. Double Ack!

So, it went something like this:

Don't you eat that chicken!

And, lo and behold, she'd eat it, smiling, and she'd eat nearly all of it.

That's now a game we can't stop, and I know it's a very bad technique in toddler-world. But, they're asking for it and while we're not delivering all the time, it's hard to resist, especially when they are hardly eating a bite of dinner and we foresee a night of little sleep and proceed to fill her little belly with anything we can find.

In honor of this first-class parenting technique, I'm thrilled to host my next (and long overdue) Group Writing Project. In the past, these contests have made my heart swell with pride for how awesomely dedicated my readers are, and I have gained such wonderful readers from these projects. I encourage anyone looking to gain readership to host their own project -- after mine is over, of course! Read the first three here, here and here. Some of the themes on this blog will change over the course of time as I try to figure out how to remain PRIVATE in a job that is not-so-private. I'm working for a politician, for goodness sake. But, these writing projects will remain, for sure. (And, I have three very cool elements I plan to add in starting in two weeks.)

So, here's the deal: The Daring Writing Project will be just one day this time -- Friday -- yet another pivotal day of my motherhood experience when my days as a full-time, stay-at-home Mama come to end, for a while anyway. So, for you procrastinators who fear deadlines, you have five full days to write and submit.

My heart will be bursting and breaking and sagging and leaping as this transition happens. But, I am ready because my core-being is to ready to serve something other than grilled cheese and carrot sticks. I long to make this world a better place, to make my community and my daughters' world a better place -- and not just by picking up a cigarette butt at the playground. I look forward to adult conversation, lunch breaks and time to actually get my annual Pap smear without having to hire a sitter or beckon the Husband home.

Your duty, my dear village, is to write in any style or genre that you like using a writing prompt about having your Third Eye, an idea I came across via one of my new favorite blogs, Doobleh-vay.

The second I saw this idea, I thought of so many situations in which I'd like to have a third eye, to understand more and judge less. I thought of my neighbors, and their families and how violence on so many levels is a part of their lives and how if I had a third eye what I might see. It would not be pretty or fun, I am sure. I also thought about the fleeting moments of time when I'm driving or walking and feel enlightenment -- mere seconds of pure bliss with the world and all of its imperfections as imperfect people swell my heart with compassion.

So, your job is to write like there is no tomorrow about what your Third Eye sees, or what it would see, or how it feels to be there. If you are a fiction writer, as several of my readers are, write what your character's third eye sees. If you are a mom, like most of us, you could write something funny or serious or memorable about what your Third Eye taps into about your toddler or teenager. It could be true stories about your community, or your family, but feel free to be poetic or dreamy or just plain simple. There is no wrong or right for these so long as you write, and write honestly -- and, of course, link to this here blog post in the process.

Mr. Linky will collect your posts as you submit them for the world to read and devour over coffee and scones next weekend. I will choose two participants, at random, to each win a $5 gift certificate to Starbucks, where you can gleefully indulge in something like an iced caramel latte or something else I often dream about when the sleep faerie visits. To be a valid participant you have to write your post, link to this post and/or Friday's post, submit via Mr. Linky in my Friday post and, above all, comment in the comments of Friday's post as well -- and all before midnight on Friday, August 15 EST. I know, I know ... lots of work but I've learned a few things in this blogosphere about giveaways. Winners will be announced Sunday night -- or when I get around to it. LOL Oh, and please spread the word so we all get some great visitors reading these posts!!

Next week, Daddy Dan will be filling my flip flops and managing the rascals the entire week so I can get used to my new job and we all get used to being apart from each other. Baby steps, I suppose. If he can swing a minute or two, he'll be guest blog posting here and, on Thursday, at How Do You Do It? Otherwise, follow me on Twitter for my "Oh, hell, what did I do?" moments.

See you all here Friday. I can't wait to read your entries!

Thank you for visiting today.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

My bliss list. What's yours?

A magazine I read a couple months ago had a page about carving out me time, specifically, about creating and writing a bliss list -- special treats for yourself designed to help you automatically have more energy. The piece stems from a book called, "Everyday Bliss for Busy Women: Energy Balancing Secrets for Complete Health & Vitality,"Maryam Webster. Webster is the director of The Energy Coach Institute. I saw another book out recently by energy coach Kimberly Kingsley.

As a mother, I am always lacking energy and, ironically, me time. I love the idea of meeting one need in order to fulfill the other.

As I return to work and juggle the work-life balance, I want to keep this personal list of simple pleasures handy. I will not be running out the door when the Husband gets home anymore because I will have missed my girls all day.

These little things that bring me happiness, though, are easy to fit into a day, especially once I start getting up earlier to beat the toddler clock.

Here's my list.

  1. Chocolate
  2. A crisp, clean Chardonnay
  3. A sweet Riesling
  4. Sitting outside on a quiet morning
  5. Nature walking
  6. Yoga to energizing, but relaxing music -- or with my girls
  7. Clean sheets
  8. Daydreaming
  9. Meditation
  10. Planning just about anything
  11. Browsing bookstores -- used and new
  12. This candle
  13. Take out and a video with hubby (if he doesn't fall asleep!)
  14. Listening to music
  15. Going to bed early

How about you? What's on your bliss list?


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Sunday, August 3, 2008

A sluggish morning -- 14 Days to go

I realize there's only two more weeks left.

I realize otherwise laid-back mornings will soon turn to chaos right before my eyes.

I realize I'll be on a mission to get out the door, to not forget anything, to not be late for work, to kiss them too much and hug them too tight.

I realize the impact Catching a Shooting Star has on a life, let alone two little lives.

I realize it all.

That's why I'm trying to savor this life as it is right now. I'm trying to embrace the manic days of Terrible Twos and eat up every ounce of sunshine and smile and giggle I can get.

It's not really anything different, except everything is changing and my heart is aflutter, and there's a lump forming in my throat and the sleepless nights are coming and there's tears dripping from my eyes right this second.

Rough waters ahead, passengers. Rough, indeed.

Breakfast -- al fresco.


Pumpkin French Toast
Sausage links

But, the meal was hardly eaten, foiling yet another master plan of mine to relish these last slow mornings.

The real highlight were the slow eaters at the neighboring table.

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