Mama Needs an Outlet

An outlet.  An outlet for frustration, exhaustion, stress and yes sometimes anger.  Mama needs an outlet.  Sometimes that outlet comes in the form of a few stolen minutes with a book (which does not rhyme or have pictures), a television show (with no songs or matching games) or an uninterrupted phone call (not with the nurse from the pediatrician’s office describing in great detail the color of your child’s snot).  The thing is we don’t have enough of them because we spend so much time with the f’n kids- which seemed like a great idea at one point…

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I am a sponge, absorbing all the fears, anxieties and concerns my children have.  I am an outlet for their worries: Who will I sit with at lunch?  Where does the library book go?  What if there is a fire alarm?  Will Emma invite me to her birthday party?  I lost my Croc.  Harry told me there are tiny bugs on my toothbrush.  Julie went home today because she had an itchy head.  Oh dear god.  All these worries are unloaded on Mama.  And in turn, I make their fears go away, all the while soaking in the worries and carrying them now as my own.

And they are heavy.

In addition to the concerns they have, there are more: Do I have enough gas to make it to the gas station?  And what if I run out of gas?  Do we all walk down the road together?  What do I carry the gas back to the car with?  Do I have my credit card?  Did that bill get mailed out on time?  When is that conference for Cub?  Crap, I forgot cat food.  How are we going to retire before we are 80?  Is the fucking government still shut down?  These are the day-to-day thoughts that run wild, flitting from one concern to the next.

And they are heavy.

On top of home concerns, there’s a butt-load of work anxiety too: When is that deadline?  Can I rely on her to have that to me on time?  Can I really refrain from screaming at that meeting?  What is my password again?  No, I don’t give a shit about how your dog woke you up last night or the cute thing he does when you walk in the door.  I hope I am the only one who can smell my armpits right now…  The work worry compounds the home worry and the kid worry…

And it’s heavy.  Break-your-back-heavy.

And it’s okay.  It’s normal.  I know this now.  I have accepted worry as a part of my life that will always be there.  Lurking.  As I would sit in the dark, nursing my babe, new to Mamahood, I would run through worse-case scenarios.  What happens if I drop him?  What if when I am in the shower, the cat smother’s him?  Is that real?  What happens if I wake up in the morning and find that someone has taken my baby?  Where would I look?  Thank god I turned off Lifetime and Dateline.  I spent so much time letting in all of this stuff.  And that’s just what it is, right? Stuff.  It’s taking up space in my already cloudy mind.  Taking up so much space that sometimes, I don’t have enough time to let in the good stuff.  The stuff I should be focusing on.

Mama needs an outlet.  I found that in running.   This weekend, I finished my first 5K.  And it felt awesome.  I trained for it, planned for it and did it.  All for me.  For the first time in my career as a Mama, I did something for myself.  I ran in the evenings, while husband put the kids to bed (added bonus), I ran on my lunch break at work (yes, my armpits were totally smelly), I ran on the weekends at 7:00 in the morning.  I ran in the rain.  I ran for me.  This was my outlet.

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Find your outlet Mamas.  Let out all that you let in.  Unload the worry you carry for your kids, your homes, your husbands, your jobs.  Let. That. Shit. Out.  Because then you can breathe again.  It has taken me eight years to find my outlet- far, far too long.  It was a disservice to my children and myself.  I could have been a better Mama.  I should have focused on the good stuff. I am making up for it now.  I have my outlet and I am not going to ignore the deep necessity to have something of my own.  It’s not selfish or greedy.  It’s enriching and empowering.  Find that outlet.  Even if it’s wine.

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Peace, Mamas.

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Who the Hell is Plastic Man?

Which book do you want me to read you tonight?  I ask without even having to guess.  Batman and Friends!  Woo-hoo.  I am so sick of reading this book.  Every night.  Every night we read Batman and Friends.  Every. Damn. Night.  Do your kids pick the same books to read over?  It can be physically painful to read a book over and over every night.  My anxiety is already through the roof because I want to walk out and shut that light off- of sweet Jesus how I want to shut that light off!- but no.  And then to read the same book?  Again?  Does Guantanamo have Batman and Friends?  Maybe they should look into that.  In my opinion it could be more effective than water-boarding.

So tonight following the showers-teeth-brushing-jammie-pick-books-fuck-show we are laying in bed reading… Batman and Friends!  It’s tonight, on my forty-eighth reading of the damn book that it occurs to me: Who the hell is Plastic Man?!  Is this guy for real?  He’s wearing plastic pimp sunglasses and has a stripper costume on.  Seriously?

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Initially, I was required to gain vast knowledge about tractors and construction equipment.  By the time my Cub was 18 months old, I could tell you the difference between a backhoe, front loader, skid steer, straddle-carrier, forklift, knuckle-boom loader, skidder, grapple truck, log-feller, and so on.  Next it was tractors and farm equipment.  I knew my Kaboda from my Massey Ferguson; my Husqvarna from a Cub Cadet.  I could name implements (yes, that’s what they are really, called) like combine harvesters, plows, round hay balers, hay rakes, row-crop planters, harrows and disks.  And then came the John Deere.  The 8020s, Model C, Johnny Poppers, Waterloo Boy, Spoker D and the Lindeman 420 Crawler.  I knew articulated and styled versus unstyled.  And now we have moved on from tractors and discovered superheroes.

So back to Plastic Man.  Now I am not here to break down (or build up) any gender stereo-types here but as a female product of the ’80’s, She-ra was my superhero.  I did on occasion watch He-man but didn’t really get into Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or Green Lantern.  I knew who they were, I guess but my knowledge was peripheral at best.  It wasn’t until I was gifted three boys that my understanding of superheroes has be broadened.  Significantly.

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Who the hell is Plastic Man, you ask?  Well according to Wikipedia, Plastic Man started out an abandoned 10 year old criminal, cracking safes.  It wasn’t until he was shot and fell into some kind of chemical bath and nursed back to health in a monastery that he found his new Plastic Powers and began fighting crime.  Wow.  Who makes this shit up?!  He also has a sidekick, Woozy Winks.  (Seriously folks.  No joke.)

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So now I am an expert on tractors, construction and logging equipment and Plastic Man.  Now who’s the Princess of Power?

Peace, Mamas.

Mama Forgets. Twice.

Cub began third grade this year and one of the special ways his teacher celebrates each student is to send home Corduroy, the Adventure Bear for a weekend.  Each student takes a turn to welcome Corduroy into their home, to take him on an adventure.  This weekend, it was Cub’s turn.  And we forgot him.  I know what you’re thinking: Winning.

When Cub ran off the bus on Friday afternoon, he was wearing a Christmas-morning-grin.  Lunging to the porch with a large bear.  This is Corduroy!  I got him for the weekend and he’s going to do everything with us!  Joy.  Dear God, just don’t let us lose him- better yet, please don’t let Zook rip his leg off…  We take out the bear.  There is an instruction page and journal for Cub to record his adventures with us.  Most importantly, Cub needs to read aloud to Corduroy.  Okay, here we go.

Saturday, Cub had a soccer tournament.  Four hours of watching, waiting and playing.  Husband lucked out had to work and was only able to make to the last game of the day.  Getting out the door was quite a cluster…  Packing lunches, finding shin guards- why the hell are they not together?!  Then the socks have to go on.  But what?  You can’t do it alone?  As I am packing Cub’s leg into his sock, my spine is beaten by Zook’s boot.  It’s unseasonably warm this weekend- 75 today- and no, child, you can’t wear your boots.  Finally out the door.  I have sandwiches for everyone, snacks and a couple hidden treats to serve as Tangible Rewards– certainly NOT bribes, what kind of Mama bribes her children?  I do however, recommend the Tangible Reward system.  You won’t be disappointed.  Promise.  It was a little ride to get to the tournament and we picked up a couple friends on the way (one for me and one for Cub) but by the time we got to the game, Cub realized we had forgotten someone.  Corduroy.  Shit.

I’m so sorry buddy.  We completely forgot him.  I bet you’re bummed.  We will bring him tomorrow when we go apple picking.  Okay…?  Fine.  Whew.  Dodged that melt-down bullet.  One down, forty-three to go.  The day was hot, long and by the last game, I was ready to be the one to have the melt-down but we survived with only twenty-two minutes of crying and one horrible port-o-potty visit.  Which I won’t elaborate on but I will say this: They are not suitable for young children.  And two people cannot fit.  Well.  Two people cannot fit well.  And then there’s the smell.  And the— Okay, I’ll just stop there for tonight.  But there could be an entire future post focused on visiting a port-o-potty with a two year old.  Just an FYI.

Sunday.  Gor-ge-ous day.  Amazing- even for Autumn in Vermont Standards.  Beautiful drive to the orchard with zero complaining- pretty impressive because it’s about a twenty minute drive from home.  As we walk through the first row of apple trees… Mom!  We did it again!  We forgot Corduroy!  Crap, that fucking bear is ruining everything.  We sit down for a minute- because now, I am pretty sure we are all trying not to hyperventilate.  We have to get him!  Husband tries first: The day’s not over.  We could play chase in the yard when we get home…  Cub doesn’t even humor him with a response.  We have to get him.  Mama looks at Daddy.  Go.  Please.  I say this with my eyes.  But he gets it.  Husband stands up.  Cub smiles.  He’ll be back (in approximately fifty minutes) with the damn bear.  With Corduroy.

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While I can say that dragging (or forgetting) the bear around this weekend was a pain in the ass, it was also a wonderful opportunity for me to listen to Cub read aloud.  He’s a wonderful reader- better than I know I was at his age- but he often reads to himself before bed, outgrown the evening ritual of being read to.  We still read plenty to him but it wasn’t until this weekend that I heard him read aloud.  It was amazing- like tears to your eyes amazing.  Thanks to Corduroy, I was able to witness my child read, hear him form the words, hear his inflection of tone, hear him enjoy a journey.  I asked Cub if he would read to me sometimes before bed after Corduroy was gone.  He obliged with much more optimism than I had anticipated.  I am beyond proud to report that this is a pastime that will not end when the bear is returned to school tomorrow.  Thanks Corduroy.

Peace, Mamas.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

My little Mooch has turned into a bit of a fibber.  I know it sounds naive but I am shocked he’s turned to lying.  My oldest, Cub, has never been a liar- almost to a fault, if that’s possible.  So I was quite shocked last week when I popped in to his kindergarten class and the teacher approached me asking if we were “all packed”…  For what?  For your trip- and are you really going to swim with sharks?  That’s so exciting!  Ahh… No.  And what the hell are you talking about?

At first, it just started with little things, like what someone had said.  But today it was down right lying.

Mooch: Today on the bus, a big kid got on the bus and said Little kids have to sit in the front! and pointed at me.

Me: Really?  Who was he?  What did you say?

Mooch: Well, I told him to Zip it.

Me: Wow. What did he do?

Mooch: He walked away.  Oh and you don’t have to ask Cub about it because he was there…

Me: What do you mean by that…?  If I ask him about it, would he tell me the story the same way?

Mooch: Um.  No…  He actually didn’t hear anything.

Me: So he didn’t hear this but he was sitting in the same seat as you?

Mooch: Right.

Me: Riiiight.

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What the hell kid?  He’s such a little fibber!  I know kids fib because they are insecure and looking for praise, acceptance and admiration.  Right now, this poor bug is trying so hard to fit in with his friends.  It’s hard to see him so insecure right now.  He’s always been my kiddo who was so sure of himself, easily befriending anyone who showed interest.  I still remember the love note I wrote to him on the eve of his kindergarten registration… It’s happening… And it’s heartbreaking to see his self-esteem plummet.

We talked up kindergarten so much.  He was so excited.  You’ll make so many friends!  You’re going to have so much fun!  Kindergarten is going to be a blast…  In hindsight, maybe we talked it up too much.  (Damn hindsight!  Where were you a couple of months ago?!)  I think he’s feeling let down.  And I think I caused it.  We wanted him to be so excited about kindergarten that we talked it up constantly.  We didn’t leave out the parts about how something new can make us nervous, or that it will take some time to get used to a new school with a new teacher and new friends.  We did say those things too but I think we played up the fun factor and he was really excited… Only to be disappointed.  Kindergarten is hard work.  It’s not easy to make new friends.  It’s tough to listen and focus for hours on end.  It’s a challenge to remember where your backpack/lunch bag/coat/ homework folder are supposed to go.  It’s hard to belong.

The fibbing is a symptom of a much larger ailment brewing.  Insecurity is ugly.  And right now this virus is coursing through his veins.  Telling his class about going on a vacation to swim with sharks made him feel special.  Made him feel cool.  Maybe made the other kids like him… Is it sick that I want to go with him and sit with him when he’s lonely?  Hold his hand when he’s scared, hug him when he’s been hurt?  The thought of him needing these things from me and not being there to provide them, is about the worse feeling imaginable in all of Mamahood.  I want to be there every second to say the right thing and make sure he’s always okay.  I know it’s irrational.  I know there are some Mamas who would say that we both need to suck it up.  But I don’t care how bat-shit-crazy it sounds.  I wish I could be by his side in case he needs me.

I need to trust that I have done my job well.  And that’s hard- especially when I lay in bed, feeling like I have failed in some capacity about fifty percent of the time.  How do I know I am doing the right thing?  Parenting is such a tough job.  And I am so scared that I am fucking up these perfect little souls.  Like I am unintentionally ruining them.  I need to trust that I have done my job well.  And I need not own my poor Mooch’s feelings of insecurity but empower him to be the amazing little human he was born to be.

Tonight, I overheard him tell his brother that he wished he was a fast runner like another kid.  I took the opportunity to say the following:

If you want to run faster, challenge yourself to run faster- but only if that’s what you truly want.  People are best at the things they love.  If you love to run, you will be fast.  And if you love to draw, you will be a wonderful artist.  Please don’t try to be anyone other than who you are.  Because you are such a gift.  And others will like you for you.  

Silence.  Breathing in the moment and thinking that I may have filled his little heart with hope and love, I watched him.

Mama, Graham said that some ladies have a lot of hair in their pits and some don’t.  Can I see yours?  My pits?  You want to see my pits?  Yup.

Seriously.  I give up.

Peace, Mamas.

I am a Hoarder. No more.

I know we have lots of excuses.  Two moves in three years.  Tiny basement.  Three babies.  Who grew into three kids.  And insane grandparents who spend far too much on toys, etc.  But however it happened, we kinda turned into hoarders.  We aren’t collectors of antiques, we don’t have newspaper clippings or mass amounts of old photos.  We aren’t even sentimental.  We don’t have twenty-seven cats.  Our yard is clean, our home is pretty clutter-free most of the time.  But our basement looks like it could be the season premiere of Buried Alive.  It was bad.

I am sharing because my goal through this blog was to ensure that any Mama who read this would feel like there was another Mama out there who let her know she was not alone.  Not alone with the struggle of trying to be a good Mama everyday and still feeling like you fall a little short.  Not alone with the exhaustion, tantrums, and anxiety of getting out the door.  Not alone with the basement packed floor to ceiling with shit.  Shit that you shoulda got rid of a long time ago.  Shit that you were only going to store down there for a little while.  Shit that you’re never really going to use but that you aren’t quite ready to part with.  Shit that reminds you of holding your babies when they were babies- and couldn’t yell at you.  Shit that reminds you of your life before kids- you actually had friends who you could “hang out” out with- who you didn’t have to talk about feeding schedules or diapers.  Or poop.  People with whom you could spend hours of time, without even mentioning soccer schedules, bus routes or which books eight year olds are into.  And did I mention that you can have these conversations in increments of more than three minutes in the parking lot with a crying child on your shoulder and another weaving through the parking lot like it’s a suicide attempt.  Seriously, you had friends like this.  I digress.

So the shit piles up and you watch it.  The stacks grow before your eyes and yet, you let it happen because you know you’ll get rid of it just as soon as you have the time/energy/stamina/motivation to go through it all…  I watched it pile up for the last seven years.  This is embarrassing and if you can eat off the floor of your basement, this probably isn’t the post for you.  A friend recently told me that she thought my blog was brave… And I am feeling pretty brave (or a little tipsy) tonight.  Here’s my basement…  Before.

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Holy shit, right?  I know.  I went through every one of those f-ing boxes.  And some had mouse poop in them.  (See again with the poop conversations.)  Some of the cardboard boxes were a little mildewy…  I know who puts cardboard on the floor of a 145 year old basement?  But remember, it wasn’t going to b there for long…  This is my basement… Now.

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Impressive, right?  I know!  So where did it all go?  Ahh, you know where it all went… To the garage!

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Utterly ridiculous, right?  I know.  So we had a yard sale this weekend.  And a couple things happened.  1. I got rid of a lot of shit.  2. I made a fair amount of moo-lah.  And 3. I discovered that the vast majority of the people who attend yard sales are weirdos.  For real. Or maybe it was just my yard sale, I don’t know.  I talked to more nutty people in a 48 hour period than I have in a long time.  Remember, I am a social worker; I know a lot of fucked up people.  They flock to me, in fact.  So, here’s my garage… Now.

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Ahhhh… I can breathe.  And I didn’t need all that stuff to remember my babies as babies.  I still have them.  They act like babies every damn day.  I don’t need a box of shit in my basement with mouse poop to remind me of the life I had before I had those babies because I still have most of those friends and I have new friends.  Friends who hug me even though I have puke on my shirt, friends who listen to me complain about math games, shin guards and bedtime routines.  Friends who drop off a bottle of wine when my kid has his eighth go-around with the stomach bug (and these friends can purchase that wine legally now).  I don’t just like my life now, I kind of love it.  And now that my house is not being swallowed in shit, I can enjoy it even more.

Peace, Mamas.

Picture Day F*ck Show

Picture Day equals drama in my house. It all began with a shirt, a boy who hated the shirt and ended with a Mama who lost her shit. Well, that’s the short version at least…

On normal occasions, I am allowed to pick out clothes for the boys, provided I stick to the regimented jeans or athletic pants- but not sweat pants- a tee-shirt with stripes or a solid color- no plaid- and a long sleeve shirt, with no collar, or buttons unless I have prior authorization. The dress shirt is known as the Wedding Shirt. Socks need to be ankle height with shorts however length is not an issue with pants. Sweaters are okay, again advanced approval is required. Walk in the f-ing park, right?! These requirements must also meld with mine including no holes, stains or superheroes, without my validating consent (see two can play). Should they be picking out their own clothes? Yup. Am I avoiding a mess, anxiety and fights at 6am? You betcha. If they wanted to pick out their own, I’d surely let them but no one shows much interest…

Until Picture Day.

I have a white dress shirt, with (gasp!) buttons and (double gasp!) a collar with a pair of jeans for each kiddo this morning. Laid out at the foot of each bed with underwear, socks and an undershirt to avoid their chest hair from showing in the photos. Okay, not really. They didn’t laugh at that joke either…

Cue the complaining. Cub: I am NOT wearing that Wedding Shirt! Mooch: Fine. Put it on me. (I always knew I loved him best…) C’mon buddy. It’s the one day of the school year I ask you to wear a shirt with a collar. I am sure all your friends are too. No they aren’t. And I am not wearing that. Yes, you are. All of your friends’ moms will be picking out shirts too. I don’t ask for much but on picture day, I’d like you to wear a shirt with a collar. Now please put it on and come down for breakfast. As I head downstairs, I hear him say No, followed by that uggghhhh noise (I am sure it was accompanied by the signature third grade eye roll). Packing lunches, making breakfast. I call him down again. Cub appears at the top of the stairs with his pants and socks on. No shirt. Where’s the shirt? On the floor. I am not wearing it. It’s junk. Look, I need you to get that shirt on and get down here so you don’t miss the bus. I know you don’t want to wear the shirt but today you are going to because I said so. Got it? (Oh my god.. I am my mother.) FINE. He disappears for a moment and then returns to the head of the stairs with the shirt balled up in his hand. Now as I am sure you can imagine, I am pretty pissed. And I am really trying not to start screaming like a maniac here but I am about to lose it. So what does he do? He looks down at me, right in the eye, and heaves the shirt down the stairs. It hits me in the face… I see red.

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I march up the stairs, take him by the arm and bring him down the stairs (this of course, is not as you are picturing… Okay, it’s actually exactly how you are picturing). I put the shirt on him without a word- or eye contact, his complaining is now drowned out by that new Katy Perry song- the butchering she does of Eye of the Tiger- you know the one- I bring him over to the table and shove breakfast at him. I’m getting in the shower and that food better be gone by the time I get out. I storm into the bathroom. What is my problem…? Why am i behaving this way? I am not going to budge on that shirt but how can I dismiss his feelings of insecurity and embarrassment? Mama Fail. Half dressed, I head back out to the kitchen. Buddy, I am sorry snapped at you. I know you don’t want to wear that shirt. I don’t want to argue with you about it and I am sorry we don’t agree. You just want me to look bad. Why would I want you to look bad on picture day? Because you hate me and you want me to look ugly. I love you. I want you to wear the shirt so that you look a little more dressed up for the school picture. You want me to look wimpy for the picture and you want me to be happy about it. I–ugh… Yeah… Shit.

I do want him to wear it but am I really asking him to be happy about it? Crap. I lean down to him. I am sorry you don’t want to wear the shirt. I know you don’t feel comfortable in it. How about we pack a different shirt to change into after the picture- would that be better? Yes, that would be better. And I am sure all the other boys will have Wedding Shirts on too. Remember last year one of your friends wore a tie. James won’t be wearing at Wedding Shirt. I am sure he will. I think he wore one last year. Okay. Fine. As long as I can change.

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So the fight ended with Cub wearing the Wedding Shirt and me feeling like I made it okay. Until I see that James’ mother has a picture posted on her Facebook page, with her smiling son at the bus stop. And guess what? No Wedding Shirt. Shit. Cub’s gonna kill me. But at least he’s wearing a collar…

Peace, Mamas.

A New Room for Cub

My oldest little dude is… Well, he’s getting older.  And it’s kind of wonderful.  For the last  two years, all three of my kiddos have shared a room and/or beds.  For a long time, Mooch co-slept with Cub and now, Zook co-sleeps with Mooch.  In an effort to give Zook his own space, we needed to evict someone from that bedroom because it just can’t accommodate three beds.  So Cub got the boot.  And he loves it.

We went with a gray and navy color scheme- he wanted a night-time city-scape theme.  The bedroom has knee walls which we accented in navy (Naval, Sherwin Williams).  The high walls we painted a soft gray (Light French Gray, Sherwin Williams).  I still need to work on the bedding… I’m thinking white with pops of red and yellow.

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With a reading corner and small desk, Cub has his own space to skim through books or draw- one of his favorite pastimes.

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We accented with some Lego ships he had built on his own (and now they are perfectly out of reach of our little wrecking ball, Zook) and some books which belonged to his grandfather in addition to an antique brass bell, which belonged to his great- great-grandfather.

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Love watching the amazing human this little guy is turning out to be.

Peace, Mamas.

Kindergarten Hell

We are in Kindergarten Hell.  My sweet, charming little Mooch left on the first day of school with a mere wave and what walked off that bus was a fib-telling, tantrum-throwing, rule-hating little demon, packed inside the shell that once was my son.  What the hell.  Where did my sweet, polite child go?  He went to Kindergarten.

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First there was the meanness to little Zook (whom I have no concern that he can hold his own) then there was the tantrum at soccer.  Soccer.  All was kosher until I whip around to seem my child (or what was once my child) stamping across the soccer field in the middle of the game sobbing and screaming.  The screams were barely decipherable (my hope was that they were completely indecipherable), the tears were flowing, arms swinging wildly in the air.  I hate soccer!  I hate my team!  I hate it!  I hate soccer- and my team! Sob.  Sob.  Sob.  After about 10 minutes of rolling, kicking (not at the soccer ball), drooling and snotting on the sideline, he finally was able to tell me what had offended him to this extent: He hadn’t yet scored a goal.  Really?!

There’s been meltdowns over the order of tooth brushing, nightly book choice, “wimpy” [insert item of clothing or footwear here], getting out of bed in the morning and into bed at night.  We have had hitting, pushing, pinching, throwing and fist-pushing (pushing your closed fist into someone’s stomach without the quick force of a punch- but with the same outcome). We have had arguing over meals and drinks and I’ve answered questions like Why can’t I have cookies for breakfast? Everyday.  (Which reminds me, I totally need to do a Things I Wish I Could Say Part 2…)

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My rationale is that he’s balking at his now-structured day, learning not only about numbers and letters but also about bullies and meanness.  Hearing new words and phrases, new jokes and insults- and trying them out at home.  On us.  There have been a couple times in the last two weeks that I have looked into his eyes, pleading with desperation… Please send my sweet innocent boy home to me!  Tonight, as I was tucking him into bed, he seemed sad.  What’s up Mooch?  How’s school?  Good. Is there anything you’d like to change about kindergarten? Silence and then…  Sometimes at Morning Meeting, the kids tell me to scooch over and I don’t have room to scooch.  Emma told me to scooch.  And I scooched.  And then Henry told me to scooch back.  But I had no where to scooch back.  Tears stung my eyes, my throat had that hard lump in the back.  As my Mooch looked down, he picked a chip of paint that had dried under his thumbnail… I didn’t have anywhere to scooch.  And then he leaned into me.

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So much is happening for him right now.  New friends, new rules, new words, new routines, new, new, new.  And he’s having a hard time catching up.  And I know he’ll get there but right now it’s really hard.  Hard to know what to ask and how to respond, when to talk and when to stay quiet, when to play and when to listen.  I can see that his behavior over the last two weeks has been a cry (okay, screaming tantrum) for direction, support and extra attention.  So that’s what this Mama needs to provide.  My dear Mooch, I will help you through this.  And you will learn how to be a kindergartner; I will learn what you need.  And we will conquer Kindergarten Hell.  Together.

Peace, Mamas.

Coming Up for Air

Holy shit that was fast.  In a nanosecond, summer passed us by.  It’s been a while.  My last post was about indulging myself in what was supposed to be my kids’ summer vacation.  Once I abandoned being a self-absorbed lamo, I threw myself into playing with my three little dudes.  We beached it a few times, went to the library a bunch and hung out in the yard, ran in the grass and fell into bed with dirty feet.  And we went to the Ben and Jerry’s Factory for a tour.  Which taught me a few nuggets of parenting genius- which of course, I intend to share here.

I hadn’t done many things with all three kiddos solo- other than work on my (semi) stay-at-home mom tan, while Pintersting as the kids dug holes at the beach- so I decided we needed a trip- somewhere to acquaint them with the culture of our state (Vermont), somewhere they could learn about local agriculture and industry, somewhere educational… Yup, we went to the Ben and Jerry’s Factory.  To learn about ice cream!  I was quite proud of myself as I drove to Waterbury (about a 35 minute commute from home), nearly smug as I pulled into the parking lot, pumping myself up.  See, Mama!  You can do this on your own!  Everyone is happy and ready for a relaxed day of ice cream and fun.  Ha.  Sure they are.  After parking, I gleefully walk to the trunk to get out the stroller- essential piece of equipment for a solo Mama of three at in ice cream factory…  Trunk’s empty.  What the fuck.  Reminder: send husband a hate text.  Now what.  Well, I guess Zook is going to have to walk.  Sure.  That will be simple.  A two-year-old is totally going to hold my hand and walk calmly and quietly as we tour an ice cream factory, right?  Riiiight.  Parenting Nugget #1: Always bring the fucking stroller.

Unloading everyone from the car, I pass out cheerful reminders like party favors.  Let’s try to be really good listeners today!  Mama needs your help to be calm!  We all need to work together and follow directions!  Hopefully they are not listening well enough to hear the panic bubbling in my throat…  This was going to be a long morning.  And why the hell do I not have the stroller?!  Okay Zook, hold Mama’s hand…  Nope.  Me run now!  Shit.

Up the 47 stairs from the parking lot.  Inside and into line to buy the tickets.  Thirty minutes until our tour begins… What are we going to do to kill some time.  Cub spots a spin art station.  The kids run over, to drop paint from a bottle onto a spinning sheet of paper.  Now I have to point out here that although the kids loved this, whoever in their right mind thought that a horde of children crowding around a spin art table was a good idea, clearly did not have children.  “Okay, just one drop of each color!”, the cheerful (annoyingly cheerful) 16 year old girl says to the boys as they rush the spinning paper.  Oh yeah, they are totally going to listen to you, honey.  Good one.  Zook takes a death grip on the bottle and squeezes like he’s trying to force out the last bit of ketchup.  Except the bottle is full and now there’s paint everywhere.  Everywhere.  Sweating, I pry the (now nearly empty) paint bottle from his paint-covered hands.  And now he’s screaming.  There’s paint everywhere.  Calm down, pull it together.  Clean up.  Who wants to pose in front of the giant ice cream truck?  Parenting Nugget #2: Don’t ever let a two year old do spin art.

Okay so spin art sucked up about 12 minutes- including clean up, which was really rather impressive.  Now what.  The boys spot a playground.  Perfect.  Just as they descend on the slides and climbing walls, I feel it.  The trickle.  A week early.  I have on mint green capris.  Fuck.  Boys!  We have to go back to the car for a minute.  Moans.  Whining.  All the “but we just got here”, “we want to stay” start a’flowing.  I forgot something and we need to go back to the car. Now.  Grumbling.  Of course Zook wants to walk.  All the way back to the car.  Oh dear god… This is bad.  In an effort to maintain my calm facade and struggling not to start screaming- or running- I try to formulate my plan of attack.  Do I dare leave them outside the stall in the bathroom?  Do I bring them in?  No.  There will be questions… Questions are bad.  The car.  I have to make it work in the car.  Good god, I have to make it work in the car!

I’ll spare you the details but my critical, curious (and a little annoying) 8 year old pretty much bitched me out the whole time while Zook literally devoured half a tube of chapstick and Mooch asked about 40,000 times how many more minutes until our tour- which by this time, I had completely forgotten about because so far, this fun trip to the ice cream factory has consisted of no stroller, spin art and my fucking period.  Where’s the bar.  Mama needs a drink.  Parenting Nugget #3: Don’t get your period at the ice cream factory.  (What?  TMI, you say?  Well, the name of this blog is Mama Gets Real.  And this is about as real as it gets.)

Long story long, we made it to the tour in the nick of time.  It was pretty boring.  But there was ice cream at the end and no one had a melt down.  As we drove out of the parking lot, Cub asked if we could do this every weekend, Mooch asked if we could have ice cream for dinner and Zook was passed out before we hit the interstate.  And my mint capris were totally fine.  Just when I think things are falling apart, they come together.  I forced myself to remain positive and my little ducklings followed suit.  Our summer wrapped up nicely.  My heart feels so full when I think about our last days of summer.  Completely elated that I had this time with them- which while stressful, warmed my soul.  Parenting Nugget #4: Enjoy these summer moments… Because the shit hits the fan when school starts again.

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Peace, Mamas!

Back on the Wagon… Again

My name is Sarah Russell.  I am a yell-aholic.  I have been yell-free for eight days.

So here we are.  Day Eight.  Many, many events have taken place in the past month or so.  Mainly summer vacation hit me like a ton of bricks.  The first couple weeks were quite euphoric.  I was craving the lax of no school, no obligations, no pressure… Until that’s just what I got.  Sure, the relaxed nature of our days is easier in some ways but I am not sure the pros have outweighed the cons because something happens when you don’t have to answer to school, sports practices, preschool pick-up and bus schedules: You get lazy.  And I am not just talking about lazy like Oh I’m just going to lay around— no, no.  Lazy like, I’m going to take a little break from parenting.  Lazy like, I’m going to ignore the bickering for just a little bit too long.  Lazy like, I’m going to say sure to that (store bought) cookie because you can get it for yourself and I don’t have to get up from Pinteresting to cut you up a goddamn piece of fruit.  You want to watch TV for an extra hour?  Sure.  You want to play video games past the 20 minute limit?  Go for it.  Your brother kicked you because you– oh nevermind.  Get another cookie.

And as I am sure you can imagine, the cart plummeted off the cliff at the intersection of lazy parenting and children gone wild.  Ugh.  Something had to change.  I was unhappy.  I felt like shit.  The summer was passing us by and I was like an indifferent, stinky high school student on summer vacation.  And then it hit me.  This isn’t my summer vacation.  It’s theirs.   What was my problem?  I was so looking forward to slacking off and then I realized I was wasting their vacation by being self-absorbed and lame.  Mama Fail.

So we went on a trip and spent a week at the ocean.  It was amazing.  On our last day, we had a very stressful travel itinerary and I knew that to keep us from living in a constant state of chaos while one humiliating meltdown blends into another, it was gong to take everything I had in me– which was not a whole hell of a lot considering the steady BAC I was able to maintain for six straight days (impressive, I know).  The night before, I panicked and fell back on the No Yell Challenge.  It was the only tool in my cloudy, liquor-saturated box.  I needed the No Yell Challenge.  And I needed to get Husband on board.  We needed to work as a team- not as ring leaders of t this dysfunctional circus we had operated for  the last couple months.

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Despite the whining, crying and annoying complaining of the next 24 hours, I managed to remain in control.  I did not lose my temper.  And when I was close, Husband became quite adept at identifying the bulging vein in my forehead and stepped in as needed.  We even high-fived each other.  Twice.  As I sat, crammed in between a sweet child and a fat, crabby Canadian (both snoring with drool hanging from their lips), I realized that I can do this.  And I owe it to these amazing little humans I brought into this world to be better.  Better at playing with them.  Better at listening to them.  Better at  guiding them.  

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So here we are.  Day Eight.  I’m doing it.  I have not yelled.  I have taken deep breaths.  I work so hard every day to be patient, kind and attentive.  It’s tough, I won’t lie.  But I feel so much better at the end of the day.  Instead of the guilt-stricken recap, I wrack my mind thinking of little things I can do to make them smile the next day.  And then I do them.   I have left tasks unfinished to read to them.  I have forgone errands to take them to the beach.  I have put my phone down to play with them.  Relishing the feelings which swell as they grab for my hand, turn to smile at me or as I catch them pretending.  This is their summer vacation.  My summer vacation is over.  Or maybe it’s just now beginning.

Peace, Mamas.