Mama is Homeless

Yup. Sold our sweet little farm house and moved all that shit out. Figured it was time for an update. We have moved in with the ‘rents while our new digs is being thrown together. Thrown together on an amazing piece of land, in the same, picturesque town in Vermont with which we have fallen in love over the last eight years. And by digs, I mean, house of our dreams. Well, realistic dreams, at least. But now we are waiting. Our shit is in storage and did I mention that we moved in with my parents…? Which I am dying to write about but since they may be reading this and I don’t want to end up truly homeless, I can’t. But you’re really missing out on some go-od stuff folks…

So unfortunately, I can’t tell you about how on our second night back under this roof (in nearly fifteen years) we listened to my parent’s argue about whether my mother snores. It was only when my mother smugly thought she had convinced us of her silent slumber habits that my father presented to us an audio recording of the previous night, evidencing the see-sawing. As they giggled on the opposing couch, I glanced at my husband. Eyes wide, we exchanged the same what-the-fuck-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into look.

Nope. I can’t tell you that. And I also can’t tell you about trying to explain Facebook to my father. Dear. God. I can’t tell you about an argument over who’s drinking the orange juice with pulp or who missed their morning wake-up call for the shower, making everyone late for work. (Yes, we are really sharing one shower.) I can’t tell you about how hard it is to live with people around all the motherhumping time. And I can’t tell you that I am sure the adjustment for us was equally as profound for my parents.

But what I can tell you is that two weeks ago, I watched someone very close to me end a long term relationship. I witnessed her heartache and break. And then I helped her move her stuff out and in with family. What I can tell you, that was never as apparent to me before is that family is everything. Everything. Witnessing her fall, only to be caught, held up by people who love her was eye-opening.

We spend so much time focusing on the things we have. We work to buy more things. We pay bills, go on vacations, buy toys, clothes, electronics. At this moment, near 95% of those things are in a 12 foot by 15 foot concrete storage unit. And we are still happy. All that shit we thought we needed- buying and using- and without it, we are still happy.

I can deal with the nit-picking about OJ and the annoyance of breaking down a grocery bill or deciding how to split up the Costco case of toilet paper. I can deal with waiting for the shower now and then so my mother can shave her legs or with the car shuffle in the driveway. Did I mention that two weeks in, the washer broke…? Eyes on the prize: A new home. It’s family stuff. And I am at this moment very grateful for this family. And most of the stuff that comes along with that. As far as the audio of snoring or explaining Facebook to those over age 60… Well, ask me again in a month.

Peace, Mamas.

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Mama Drops the F-bomb

Today has been one of those days.  One of those days.

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The day began pretty typically for a Saturday with the Hub leaving for work at 6:00am, kissing me gently on the forehead as I barely have the strength to move, both arms trapped under sleeping boys.  As he walks out, I lay, trying to remember when and how they ended up pinning me to the mattress.  I have no clue.  I move.  Eyelids snap open.  Coffee.  Heading into the kitchen, I am struck by the most debilitating pain in my foot.  Crumbling to the floor, clutching my foot with tears starting to sting my barely awakened eyes.  A Lego.  A mother-humping Lego.  And it’s still stuck in my foot.  Right in the sweet spot between the ball and the pad.  I can barely contain it but I am thinking it.  Really thinking it.  Fuck.  It’s not out loud.  But it’s more oozing from the pores in my forehead.  I am sweating obscenities.

I manage to recover.  With no help or concern from the little beasts gobbling granola bars and fruit cups from the couch, little eyes glued to glowing screen like they’re in some kind of trance.  I survey the house.  The living room is pretty bad.  The sink is piled with dishes.  I efficiently, almost smugly, loaded the dishwasher the night before last (yes, you read that right) only to find that we were out of detergent.  And then I forgot to get it yesterday.  So now, this morning, not only is the dishwasher full of dirty dishes, but all the dishes from yesterday are piled in the sink.  Sweet.

Looking over to the playroom, I am filled with anxiety and dread.  That has to be cleaned.  You see, we are in the beginning stages of selling our house and have people coming to look at it tomorrow.  Tomorrow.  And they are such a sweet young couple… The sight of that playroom may affect them so profoundly that they may never again be able to stomach the idea of bringing children into the world.  But more importantly, they probably wouldn’t buy our house.  I sit.  Staring- glaring in at the mass of plastic, knowing that I will have to find a spot for each and every piece of shit in there.

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Fuck.  Again, not out loud but in my soul, I am breathing this curse in deeply and spitting it out from far in the back of my throat.  Silently.  And with a smile.  Because that’s what we Mamas do, right?  We hold shit together.  For everyone.  With a smile.  Because if we can’t, everything falls apart.  Everything falls apart.  No pressure.

Mooch has a birthday party today and we have yet to choose the perfect gift so we are off to pick out something ridiculously pink, frilly and girly.  Just have to pick out clothes for everyone.  Walking into my bedroom, the fury of my looming task in the playroom returns in full force.  Standing in the doorway, looking down at the heaps of laundry I must also deal with.  But later.  I dig in, searching out shirts and pants and underwear, and socks.  God, I hate looking for socks.  Hunching over, trying desperately to find the match to a dinosaur sock, I am so engrossed in my quest that I don’t even hear the smallest child sneaking up and pouncing on my back, catching me off guard, sending me face first into an over-turned laundry basket.  Fuck.  This time, it’s mostly in my head but the Fffffff slips a little.  Hi Mama!  Got you!  And he runs off.  The quest is over.  Mooch will not be wearing matching socks today.  I walk out of the room, but not before I take one long look back…  Knowing I will have to tackle this later.

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Mooch is pissed about his mis-matched socks.  Zook won’t wear his coat.  Cub is bitching at me for something but I can’t even hear him over Zook’s angry wails.  We manage to make it into the car.  Zook continues with the sobs- now because he wants to take his seat belt off.  I stop to pick them up bagels.  Silence as they chow in the backseat.  The toy store is uneventful except leaving- which is always stressful.  Always.  And ends with me yelling that I am leaving as at least two kids run screaming, partially believing that I may actually be gone.  I am beat.  But we have a gift that looks like something a fairy barfed up so I think we are in good shape for this party.  Mooch steps in cream cheese.  And now it’s all over the car.  My wallet falls to the ground into a mud puddle.  Along with the card for the gift.  Cub stands, looking at my wallet, acting like a sponge, soaking up the murky water.  Pick it up, I am saying to him.  But he’s just standing there.  I’m not putting my hand in that… I vaguely hear him say as I am wiping cream cheese off virtually every surface with upholstery.  Scooping my water-logged wallet up, I glare at Cub.  I get in and just as I swing my arm down, I feel a bump.  Hear a splash.  Looking down, I see that someone has left a full bottle of milk on the center console.  Without the cap.

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Fuck.  This time it’s out loud.  Instant shame.  Did I just do that?  Was that out loud?  Did they hear that?  I desperately scan the rear view mirror.  Yup.  They totally heard that.  No one says anything.  Nothing.  Deep breaths.  I put the cap back on the milk. Put my seat belt on, after about ten deep breaths.  I pull out of the parking lot.  I know I should say something but I am just not quite sure what that should be so I just drive.  Finally, I just blurt out, I am sorry.  That was a really bad word.  Mama was really angry and frustrated but it’s still not okay for me to say bad words.  Quiet.  And then giggles.  Breathe Mama.

It was a day.  A bad day.  One of those days.  But now it’s over.  Now, they are up in their beds. They know their Mama isn’t perfect but they know she tries her hardest every day.  The playroom is clean.  The dishes are done.  And the laundry, well that’s still up there.  But tomorrow is another day.

Peace, Mamas.

Mama is Lost

Ever have one of those days (weeks or months, really) where you start to feel lost?  Where you question everything about the way you are raising your kids.  Usually it’s easier for me to push those feelings of insecurity back down with my foot- like packing down the garbage I should have taken out two (three) days ago.  Packing it down is just not working right now.

Lately I have been doing a lot of reading about alternative parenting.  I have never considered myself a traditional parent by any means but I am starting to feel like I have fallen into that category in the last couple weeks.  Sit at the table until your plate is clear.  No talking until your coat is on.  Don’t talk while  am talking.  Seriously?  Seriously.  What is my problem?  Where has the kind-hearted, patient, sensitive Mama gone?  My kids want her back.  And I do too.

She’s probably buried under that pile of five loads of laundry.  Or trying to climb out from the stack of crusty dishes in the sink.  She could be digging her way out of permission slips, math games, book orders, dental appointments, grocery shopping, preschool meetings or meal planning.  Or she could be smothered by researching “clean” recipes, heathy fats and GMOs or she’s trying desperately to fit working out in because goddammit she has to put on that bathing suit in a month.  Oh wait, you have a job too, Mama?

So that’s where Mama went.  Come back Mama.

Trying.  Wishing desperately that I could find the balance.  The thing is my life is so full.  But the fullness I focus on are the parts that don’t matter.  What will my kids remember?  Will they remember laundry piles, dishes, permission slips, book orders, dental schedules or the ridiculous task of creating a meal plan which is “clean” and compatible with the eating habits of a three year-old?  Nope.  Will they remember what their Mama looked like in her bathing suit?  Nope.  But will they remember Mama not playing with them?  Will they remember being forced to sit at the table alone, in the dark kitchen while everyone else is playing a laughing together?  Probably.  Definitely.

To let go of all that extra stuff is so hard though.  Harder than anyone admits.

I need to remember what’s important.  I need to color with Zook.  I need to race cars across the floor with Mooch.  I need to read Harry Potter with Cub.  I need to jump into football playoffs and superheroes and sharks.  I need to chase and tickle and cuddle them.  The things I need to be buried in, smothered by and consumed with are my children.  And I know I can get back there.

Mama is coming back.  Mama is back.

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.

Mama’s Little Helper

My littlest dude loves to help his Mama.  With. Everything.  While I adore the way he looks up at me with those big innocent eyes, Help Mama!  Help you?  Pease?  Seriously how can I say no to that.  So we pull up a stool.  And he helps.  Whether it’s cooking, weeding the garden or putting away silverware from the dishwasher.  Including him in the process makes it take about twice as long (if I am lucky), tests my patience, forces me to take deep breaths and slow down.  But since when are exercising patience, deep breathing and taking my time bad things…?

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We move through life so quickly and barely take the chance to appreciate the interactions we have with our kids.  It was quite apparent to me when we sat down for dinner one night and began our evening ritual of sharing the favorite events of the day.  We got to Zook, who usually makes something up to feel like he’s contributing although at two and a half, he’s barely able to sift through the day’s events to find a favorite- or so I thought.  Zook, what was your favorite part of the day?  Cook Mama.  Cook [with] Mama.  It was my most tedious and frustrating task of the day.  The part of my day that caused the most amount of frustration because I had to slow down, take my time and breathe.  Sounds pretty ridiculous now, huh?  Yup.  Really, so much about life can be learned from retrospect.

I am reminded of a previous post where I talked about Committing to No and realized I really need to go back to that.  I need to breathe.  This high strung Mama needs to relax a bit because her kiddos are becoming high strung offspring.  Breathe Mama.  Soak in the moments.

I love my little helper.

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Peace, Mamas.

Sunday Reset: Vomit Talk

End of another week.  My posts haven’t been as frequent due to round 411 of this fucking stomach bug.  Seriously.  My middle dude seems to pick it up more than anyone else.  So he’s had it twice in the last week.  Just when I start to think we are getting through this…  Mama…?  It’s coming.  Racing up the stairs, clutching his body, turning to head back down the stairs and…  Yup.  All over me.  In my hair.  Dripping down the stairs.  Oh my God.  What the hell just happened?  While husband is showering Mooch, Mama has now stripped and is cleaning up some of the vilest vomit with diluted vinegar –because some idiot (ugh, me) decided it would be a good idea to break up with the Clorox.  Idiot.  While I am cursing myself out for that stupid decision, near-naked, I realize I have quite a night ahead of me.  My prediction was dead-on.

So I think we are in the clear and three days over again: Hello, Vomit!  Missed you so!  This time the stairs were safe however, the carpet and sheets took a hit.  Not in my hair- but in his and just on the shoulder of my shirt.  Only for the rest of the day, I can smell throw up.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  Where you know you catch a whiff and then you start sniffing like a lunatic trying to locate some shred of evidence to support the stench?  I’m not the only one who does this, right?  Right…?  But then you don’t smell it anymore.  Life goes on.  And all of a sudden, while playing the 506th game of Connect Four, I get the whiff again.  Pulling out my own shirt, I locate the source: a dime-sized chunk of vomit stuck to the inside of my sports bra (yes, I’m still wearing the same one from last night, no I have not showered and no you can’t  judge me).  What the fuck.   This is my life.

Now this may all seem very gross to you- even if you have kids.  But I bet you can relate.  And if you don’t have children, well, I should apologize because after reading that you may not ever want them.  But if you have stuck with me thus far, keep reading.

All of this throw up and lost sleep, carpet cleaner, laundry and scrubbing also brings some good stuff too.  Like watching them sleep.  (Okay, I’ll admit it, I am obsessed.)  In addition to swearing slow and painful torture on the culprit who wakes said child, I get the privilege to witness their peace- the steady rise and fall of their chest, those soft pink lips, the sweaty little palms holding tight to your own.  The gentle flicks of their eyelids.  Staring, searching their faces for hints of change or age; memorizing every contour of that plump chin and those fleshy, warm cheeks.  It’s bliss.  And then comes the upchuck of bile and the acidic remnants of last nights dinner.  Instant replay.

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It’s in these moments of bliss that I realize two things (1) They are fleeting and (2) I’m actually really patient and kind when helping my children through incredibly stressful, terrible situations (getting barfed on is about as bad as it gets…) yet in those times of normal stress, I kind of suck.  The annoyances of every day life seem to, well, annoy me the most.  Those ridiculous noises, the random yells, repetition of song lyrics, whining, not listening and sluggishness when it’s time to get out the door.  If I can deal with vomit in my hair (and in my fricken bra for half the day) why can’t I deal with the little shit?  Good question.

I need to be more patient.  I need to dig deep.  This week, I shall.  One week from tomorrow, I leave my children for four days.  Leaving on a jet plane to Denver for work.  I’m going to miss them terribly.  And I know they will miss me.  This week, before I go, I am making it count.  I am going to give them my ultimate patience.  And I’m sure you’ll hear about it.  How hard it is, how I may fail but how hard I am going to to try.  As I was reminded recently by a friend, I need to rediscover the No Yell Challenge.  It is really hard.  But it’s really important.  Join me.  It will be far less repulsive then vomit in your bra.

Peace, Mamas.

Dropping the Guilt

Five years ago I dropped the Guilt.  I stopped judging myself.  I stopped criticizing myself.  And others.  I stopped blaming myself for sleepless nights, deviations from a strict feeding schedule and shabby weight gain.  Five years ago, I let go of rigidity, pressure and stress.  I embraced the sleepless nights.  I welcomed the midnight feedings and relished in all day (and night) cuddles.  I gave up trying desperately to be the pre-baby person I used to be.  I began being a Mama.  Which is really kind of ridiculous considering I already had been for nearly three years prior…

I had planned for a natural delivery with my oldest but he apparently had a bad sense of direction and when he refused to point his head north, we ended up with a c-section with 6 days notice.  The first blow to Mama’s self esteem.  His means of entrance into this world was also the birth of Guilt.  Deep, self-loathing, ugly Guilt.  Poor latching issues, coupled with slow weight gain, compounded by a steady stream of well-meaning guests seemed like good places to point blame in the those early months of stress; however, I could only credit them with supporting roles.   I looked at the plastic faces of mothers smiling with their eyes closed as they held half-naked babies on the diaper package.  I kind of hated them.  How could they be so happy with this?  Why don’t I feel like that?

I was kind of a crappy Mama to my sweet first child.  I certainly could have been worse- there was no neglect, no shortage of snuggles, playtime or love.  But I could have been happier.  I could have done it better.  I could have lived in the moment instead of thinking ahead to the next.  And judging myself every step of the way.  Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

I had missed the boat on happiness and I would be damned if I was going to do it again.  Call it a new outlook, confidence, or chance.  Call it rebounding from a devastating miscarriage.  Call it relief from a stressful, agonizing pregnancy.  Call it what you want but something inside me clicked.  With the birth of my second child, I really became a Mama.  I started to enjoy being a Mama.  I stopped fighting the warmth of cuddling a baby while the whole world happened around.  I threw out the schedules (and the books), let go of the nightly bath routine (seriously, what was my hang-up with that?) and kicked that ugly bitch called Guilt to the curb.  And now, I am a better Mama.

Five years ago, my Mooch was born.  I honestly had never known a greater feeling.  He taught me to be a softer, more patient Mama to my oldest and prepared me for the insanity of my youngest (and holy shit, insanity is a gross understatement).  I am inspired by his love for life and his willingness to welcome changes; his openness to unconditional love.

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His fifth birthday also marks the death of Mama Guilt.  The Guilt still makes plenty of guest appearances, haunting me at the first sign of insecurity; lurking, waiting for weakness.  When Guilt rears up, ready to pounce, I carefully, diligently fold her back up, put the lid on her box and place her back up on the top shelf of the closet and close the door.  I put her away.  In the dark.  Where I never want to be again.

This year, as I wish my sweet Mooch a delightful fifth birthday, I also celebrate the death of Mama Guilt.  Peace Mamas.

Mama’s Still on the Wagon. Barely.

Well it’s been five days and I am still on the No Yell Wagon.  There have been a couple close calls but somehow I have managed to hold on by my fingernails.  Pressing my buttons the most these days is my youngest.  The tantrums are pushing me over the edge.  Most frequently, melt downs happen when someone does something irreversible like flushes a toilet, throws something away, someone goes through the door first- you get the idea. When something can’t be undone, we have a situation.  The situation usually includes screaming, repetitive sobs of “No, mama.  No, mama.  No, mama.”  Or, “Me do first.  Me do first.  Me do first.”  This can last anywhere from 10 minutes (never less) to 40 minutes (sometimes longer).  The situation also may or may not include rolling, kicking, throwing, hitting or pushing.  Or pulling clothes.  Which for some reason enrages me.  Why?  I have no idea.  When a child pulls on my clothing as I try to walk away or move, I just about lose my shit.  These situations occur 4-5 times per day lately.

I was in Old Navy a few days ago when a situation came about (He wanted to pull clothes off the shelves and I wasn’t really cool with this so he was strapped into the stroller.)  The screaming lasted the entire time I was in the store.  I needed to finish the errand and couldn’t take time to cool down in the car, outside etc.  As I walked through the store, looking for the last fucking pair of size 7 slims they had in inventory, the screaming became so loud that a salesman approached us an produced a golf ball.  He asked if it would make him happy if he held it.  Yeah, sure dude.  I hope you have dental insurance because I am guessing you’ll need it after he hucks that ball at your chops.  Seriously?  My child doesn’t need a fucking ball.  He needs an exorcism.  And a tranquilizer.  Um, I mean, no thank you.  The sobbing continues.  “Mama, out.  Mama, out.  Mama, out.”  In the check out, we waited for the cashier-in-training to reload the register paper.  Would you like to sign up for an Old Navy card, ma’am?  Really?  You read my mind!  That’s exactly what I want to do right now!  Just like I want to chew through my own arm and beat you with it.  Um, I mean no thank you.  We left the store and I swear I heard applause as the door shut behind us.

Getting into the car, I was forced to use the hold-child-secure-with-elbow-technique while buckling the five-point harness that should have come with a muzzle.  “Mama, peas.  Mama, peas.  Mama, peas.”  I kissed his sweaty, snotty cheek and shut the door.  And stood in the parking lot next to the car.  Wanting to cry because that was really hard.  Because I didn’t think I could make it.  Because that was embarrassing and terrible and stressful and awful.  But also proud that I didn’t freak out.  That I made it.  That I didn’t lose my cool.  Breathe.

I put the stroller in the trunk and got in the car.  The crazed animal looked at me from the back seat, quiet now.  He had stopped crying but looked like he could relapse at any minute.  I sat there, looking at him in the mirror.  Hi, he said.  Hi.  And we smiled.  That moment.  The smile.  The relief.  I can do this.  Breathe.  Want to grab a bagel?  Yes.  Hungry.  Let’s go, little buddy.

So I think we are getting there.  Slowly.  Slowly.  It’s not easy.  And it’s not even getting easier.  But I feel a little better each time I don’t yell.  Maybe one of these days it will be easier.  Or maybe we will get sued because someone eats a golf ball.  Ya never know what tomorrow brings.  Peace, Mamas.