X-Plan: Giving your kids a way out (#xplan)

My parents always assured me that I could call them to come get me no matter what and I could always use them as a way out of something that made me uncomfortable. I appreciate that and I love this idea for the world that my girl is going to grow up in.

Bert Fulks

Friends, as most of you know, I get to spend an hour each week with a group of young people going through addiction recovery.  Yes.  Young people.  I’m talking teenagers who are locked away for at least six months as they learn to overcome their addictions.  I’m always humbled and honored to get this time with these beautiful young souls that have been so incredibly assaulted by a world they have yet to understand.  This also comes with the bittersweet knowledge that these kids still have a fighting chance while several of my friends have already had to bury their own children.

Recently I asked these kids a simple question:  “How many of you have found yourself in situations where things started happening that you weren’t comfortable with, but you stuck around, mainly because you felt like you didn’t have a way out?”

They all raised their hands.

Every single…

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You’re Amazing, Just the Way You Are

I love the encouraging words written here. Know this, sister mothers, you are amazing!

Wine and Cheese (Doodles)

alka-seltzer-for-tired-momsMoms are notoriously tough on themselves. We beat ourselves up for not having a visible six-pack in the ninth month of pregnancy, for not being back in the size four jeans three days after pushing a baby out, for not having hair, makeup and the baby all bundled up in a pretty little package one week in.

There are plenty who tell you it’s not difficult to raise a few kids and look put together and there are plenty who think showering is overrated. For some working out is a priority. Others feel they get their workout chasing after a toddler.

The fact is, you change after you’ve had a baby. Or two. Or five. Sure, you change emotionally, but you change physically as well.

It’s not always easy to look in the mirror and like what you see. Even on a good day. If it is after a few months of sleepless nights? Forget it. If you are focusing…

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Bedtime Evensong

I just sang my daughter to sleep (and she actually FELL ASLEEP) for the first time in I don’t know when. It took less than ten minutes for her to drop off, maybe even less than five. I’ve missed that. Usually, if I stay in her room, she will fight sleep to interact so I have to leave her room in order for her to settle down and fall asleep. I don’t know why tonight was different but I am glad that I kept my heart soft and was mindful and went to her when she cried instead of just assuming that it was because she didn’t want to go to bed.

As I sat on the side of her bed, she settled, curled up on her side with her little blankies and snuggled under her “giant blankie”. As I hummed her lullaby, she hummed the first verse along with me, fidgeted around with her blankies for a few minutes, and then eventually quieted, her breathing calming and evening out. When I finally stopped humming and raised my hand from where I had rested it on her waist while I sang, she didn’t stir. I kissed her head, whispered that I love her, and lingered by her bedside for a moment, just watching her.

My girl is growing so very quickly. She’s strong and smart and imaginative and fierce and spiky and strong-willed. She loves to pretend and play dress-up. Her current favorite movie is “Inside Out”, which she calls “Calm Down” and she dreams of being Joy “with the beautiful blue princess hair”. I tell her that one day we will dress up together – her as Joy and me as Disgust. (I mean cosplay, of course.) She is starting to express a desire of wanting to go to school so I am trying to use that as motivation to take that last step towards potty-training. She knows the process and all that stuff; it’s just convincing her to be in regular underwear all of the time and doing the work of going to the bathroom regularly.

But, for tonight, she was just my baby girl who fell asleep to the sound of my voice.

 

((Art: Lonely Lullaby – http://www.deviantart.com/art/Lonely-Lullaby-216206458 ))

Birthday Thoughts

Today, my daughter turns three, I am running on 5 hours of mostly-full-though-still-broken sleep, and her gifts were JUST wrapped a few minutes ago by her Mamaw while I kept her distracted in the living room.

It’s been a nice build up to Bizzy’s birthday. This week, as we have been out and about, she has been spreading sunshine around to others: waving, smiling, saying “Hi, everyone!”, and wishing people “Merry Christmas!” It’s done my heart good as I have tried to concentrate on the moments that make this season wonderful and not let myself be trapped by the expectation, comparisons, and stuff that made me regret it all at the end of last year. Fewer presents and more meaning. Less doing and more being. Fewer obligations and more space for magical moments and divine appointments.

Today, there will be no huge birthday party, no me running around to pick up party platters, birthday cake, and decorate a party space, no leaving my mom to mind and dress and prepare Elizabeth for said party while I go hither, thither, and yon. No running around desperately trying to be a good hostess as well as an attentive Mommy. No cleaning up afterward, trying to figure out where all the leftovers and cake are going to fit in the fridge, especially with Christmas Day foodings in 6 days. Nope!

All of that that is #offthebeam this year (thank you, Jen Hatmaker). As fun as it might have been for Bizzy last year, it was so much stress for me that I was a wreck by the end of the day and I didn’t get to enjoy my daughter’s birthday really at all. This year, we are going back to basic and easy: a relaxed day (that hopefully involves a nap or two for me), a family dinner out at a Chinese buffet that she really likes, presents, and a small cupcake (with a Christmas tree in frosting) for my girl to indulge in.

My little girl is three years old. I am running on five hours’ sleep, and I am so very pleased and proud to be the mother of this wonderful, fabulous, maddening, fierce, spiky, friendly, smart, lovely little person.

Ghosts of Fridays Past

Last night, after a trip to the gym, I did the unthinkable: I braved the mall on a Friday night, two weeks before Christmas. In my defense, it wasn’t my fault. I had things that I wanted/needed to return so that I could purchase their replacements as soon as possible. As I speed-walked through the mall, determined to be done as soon as possible, I couldn’t help but be accosted by the realization of just how long it had been since I had traversed the mall on a Friday evening. I was also suddenly inundated by memories. Memories of Friday nights past. Before the Big Change, i.e. before baby.

In Friday nights past, Ben and I would often get out of work and head straight to an early dinner. We liked to hit dinner early so that we could enjoy our meal before the start-of-weekend dinner rush. After dinner, we could make our way over to the mall or to Best Buy (depending on our movie location) to kill time before making our way to the movie theater to catch whatever flick suited our fancy that weekend.  We would peruse the DVDs at Best Buy or the bookstore or Hot Topic at the mall, enjoying our geekery in its myriad forms.

I miss those Fridays, if I am being completely honest. I miss strolling around the mall or the store on my husband’s arm, just meandering with no rush, timetable, or out-of-sight worries to keep me out of the moment. I think that is one of the things that I miss the most right now: being able to consistently stay in the moment, whether it’s a date on the couch with Ben, a conversation on the phone or online, reading a book, or journaling. I love my daughter, make no mistake, but she commands the lion’s portion of my time, attention, and strength.

A friend of mine (and fellow mommy) sent me an article by Wendy Wisner today entitled “The Hardest Thing About Being a New Mom” and something that it said struck to the core and heart of a great many of my feelings.

“Oh, the things they don’t tell you about motherhood. […] I’m talking about your identity. I’m talking about the fact that in one quick instant, you go from being woman, girlfriend, wife, professional, artist, lover, free-thinking-doing-being-person to MOTHER. Just like that. And mother, at least at first, is bigger than all those other things, whether you want it to be or not.

But I wish someone had told me it was normal to feel like the person I’d been before kids had been smashed into sharp little pieces of glass.”

I must be honest: I feel this way sometimes. A lot of sometimes. Like all that I was, who I was, has just been smashed to smithereens and I don’t know just how to see myself as anyone other than “Mommy” anymore. And that, truthfully, is very difficult sometimes, especially since it took me the better part of twenty-some years to find an identity that was just and wholly me, apart from anyone else in my life.

Please, do not mistake me. I love my daughter. Love her to the moon and back. But I do want to be more than just Mommy. I want to be Melissa and all that means along with being a mother. I am not entirely sure just what all that is right now, however. I do not know whether “teacher” is still part of that or not, how long “pastor’s wife” will be part of it, what part writer/blogger has in it.

I wish someone had told me that I would eventually find all those pieces of myself — that I would sweep up the glass, put it together again. And that the new me would sparkle, bend light, make rainbows.

I wish someone had told me I would come out of it all intact, kick-ass, more resilient than ever — a mother.”

I do not feel like I am to this place just yet. I am still searching through those pieces, figuring out what they are, and how they fit together into the ‘me’ I am now. The mosaic that is me, composed by all these differing piece, is coming together, maybe slowly, but it is. I have a few of the pieces, I dare say a few of the very important ones, and I will continue to grow and hope to fit some more of the pieces together in the coming year.  I dearly hope that I can say, as Ms. Wisner does, that I will sparkle, bend light, make rainbows, and, yes, be more kick-ass and resilient than ever.

Those Friday nights past are bright spots in my memory, as are my Friday nights present. Evenings of pizza and tag and kitty-cat finger puppets and singing before bedtime, of cuddles on the den couch leaned against Ben with my book while he plays “Fallout 4”. And I am hoping that my Friday evenings future will be even brighter as we all grow together.

When You Feel So Mad That You Wanna Roar…

This is our first year with a full-sized tree since Elizabeth was born and it has been impossible to keep her from pulling ornaments off the tree. Tonight she succeeded in that top-shelf fear of mine: she pulled the Christmas tree down. Thankfully, it did not land on top of her. I heard it fall, heard the clatter of ornaments on the floor, and hurried to the doorway between the kitchen and living room to see her across the room leaning against the couch and the tree facedown on the floor. I admit, I covered my hand with my mouth and struggled not to cry as I saw my tree sprawled on the floor, ornaments tumbled hither thither and yon around the living room.

I didn’t scream. I didn’t yell. I inhaled, counted to three, and exhaled as I entered the living room, asking firstly if she was OK and she said yes. I then set about righting the tree while she gathered the fallen ornaments into a little pile. I silently thanked God that I had had the means to buy a brand new set of shatterproof ornaments along with this tree. I was not also going to be vacuuming glass up out of the carpet for the next hour and then fretting for days to come that there would still be shards hidden, just waiting to embed themselves in our feet. So there was that in my favor. I slowly and as calmly as I could straightened out the bent branches and replaced the ornaments on the tree, though there was a small struggle with Bizzy over the last one, which she adamantly didn’t want to relinquish. I still think the tree looks a bit at sixes and sevens and I will most likely have my mother give it a once over and fix when she gets here.

But I am glad that I took that three-second pause. I wanted love to be my first response as often as possible and it most definitely was not my first response for most of today. Today was a rough day. We have all been sick for the better part of a week, Elizabeth since Thanksgiving night. So we are tired and worn and she and I got in each other’s way a lot today. Tomorrow, though, I will forgive myself and have the new beginning that tomorrow is.