Yes, the internet is full of tips and advice for what NOT to say to a new Mom. Don’t give your advice on decisions she’s already thoughtfully made. Don’t tell her you once knew a girl in high school that was a total B that has the same name as her brand new perfect little baby. And of course say NOTHING about her appearance – except that she looks beautiful.
When my husband asks me what’s wrong, there’s about a 97% chance that I’ll say, “I’m just tired.” And God bless him, 61% of the time he responds with, “I got this – go take a nap.” Then, being the tired complainer I am, I get irritated. Because I don’t want to nap when you decide to give me permission! I want to sleep when I want to!
Which isn’t fair. He’s being nice. And I go and be nasty in return. And then it dawned on me, I’m not just tired. I’m exhausted. And it’s a kind of exhaustion that all the sleep in the world won’t solve. Because I’m not tired of not getting sleep. I’m tired of the Mom jobs that I’m saddled with. They aren’t going away anytime soon, so maybe if I vent them out – hear what makes you exhausted – and hide with my tribe for a few minutes, I can slam a cup of coffee, shake it off, and push through.
Until I cry because they’ve all left me for college.
You’ve walked by it a hundred times. And if you’ve walked by with your kids, no doubt you’ve had to fend off cries of, “Please mama, PLEASE buy me the giant bear we absolutely do not have any room for in our house!” (Or at least that’s what you hear). You see it and think “Holy God, that one stuffed animal is bigger than most of the stuffed animals in our house put together!”
And it is.
And if you’re me? One day, your well-intentioned husband, who feels moderately guilty about the extra long hours he’s been putting in at the office does the unthinkable and says, “Yes kids, we WILL buy you that giant bear.” Before you can pick your chin up off the floor, it’s been hoisted into your cart and you know from the sparkles shining out of your children’s eyes that this cannot be undone.
You live with this bear now.
You walk through Costco trying to be happy about the new member of your family. I mean, sure, its larger than you are, but you don’t have to feed it and it doesn’t poop. So really, it could be worse! Right?? On the other hand, you need to cram it in your car somehow…so that’s gonna be fun. Still in shock, you take pictures of the kids grinning from ear to ear, because when they forget about this bear in 3 hours you’re going to want to remember how happy it made them for 17 minutes. Then, you send the pictures to your Mom/sister/bestie – basically anyone that will feel sorry for you and commiserate.
They all do. Because YOU OWN A GIANT BEAR NOW. And even if your husband doesn’t get it – your people do.
You move the bear into your house and find him a room (because he’s that big). The kids try to show you that he was worth every penny by playing with him for a little bit. You start to warm to the big guy, now affectionately known as Tootles by the way, but remember that he is the enemy. Because you need a scapegoat and it’s better than thinking your husband is the enemy.
One day goes by, and then another. And then a strange thing happens. The kids keep.playing.with.Tootles. They lay on him when they watch TV. They feed him food they made in their kitchen. They ADORABLY ask you to take “family photos” with him. And wouldn’t you know it – those kids play with that bear EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Maybe their dad is paying them in candy to prove me wrong. Maybe they remember that I grumbled through Costco that “they better freaking play with this bear or it’s going in the alley.” Or maybe, they just really do love it. And it makes them happy. And it teaches me that I need to lighten up and say “yes” once in a while. And that maybe that means the bear was the best $30 we’ve ever spent.
I am not the first woman to notice this, but dear GOD WHY CAN’T MEN FIND THINGS. I can’t decide if it’s a lack of commitment to finding said thing, or if it’s that they know they have wife-insurance in this regard, so it’s not like it’s never gonna get found, or if there is some honest to goodness optical difference with man-eyes that just cannot be helped. Continue reading “Man Eyes”→
I found out I was pregnant with my first child just before my 30th birthday. It was a stupid deadline in my head, so besides the “We’re having a baby!” excitement, I also was celebrating hitting my silly goal. As we were setting up for my “Casino Night” theme birthday party, I was on all kinds of highs.
Then my husband said, “Enjoy it! It’s basically you’re last birthday.”
Okay, so it can’t just be us- kids’ movies give us all.the.feelings sometimes. Trolls? Who didn’t shed a little tear at that beautiful True Colors Duet? Or Finding Dory-did anyone else catch that her poor parents missed her ENTIRE CHILDHOOD? They can’t get that back, people! But that reunion, sigh. So lovely. And don’t even get me started on Up. Like, I can’t. I just can’t.
The most recent culprit? Moana, by a landslide. But Moana can affect everyone so differently, and for such different reasons. Will you simply trip on a taro root? Remind yourself that you know the way? Or discover friggin’ happiness is WHERE YOU ARE?!? Whoa, Moana. Whoa.
So? Where are you on the Sob-Spectrum?
Jaymi: Oh dear God, Lila is Moana. She loves her grandmas, she strays from convention, and she has to go her own way. She is strong, beautiful, and brave. She trusts her instincts and chooses her own path, but thoughtfully and responsibly. She knows who she is and can always find her way. And we just don’t freaking understand her sometimes. So, it’s sweet little tears for the first twenty minutes or so. And then at the part where she decides to leave, and the dad is mad cause he doesn’t understand yet, and the mom just gives her a little nod and helps her pack?!? It is like a flash forward to college, when Lila’s heading off to study fashion design in Tibet and I have to be like, “follow that voice inside, Lila” when really I want to be like, “Get your ass into nursing school.” Total onslaught of waterworks.
Christine: Don’t get me wrong. I’m made of stone. The whole “daughter going on a journey” thing? I can keep it together there. At this point Moana is a delightful story of a girl that wants to be on the ocean. Love it. Catchy tunes, that Maui cracks me up, and OH the crab. I get my old times Flight of the Conchords fix from the crab. Fun, fun, fun. And then she’s alone. On a boat. With the ghost of her Grandma. Singing. And that’s kind of a game changer. Because for us – family is EVERYTHING. And yes, my Nana passed away a little bit ago, so sue me if I cling to an eccentric cartoon Grandma. So when her Grandma sings to her and there’s a freaking key change, so you know it’s about to get real, and Moana finds out that “the call isn’t out there at all it’s inside me,” yeah, I start to get a little watery. Can you blame me?? And sure, maybe when she runs back to Ghost Grandma and the music swells as she says, “I will carry you here in my heart you’ll remind me that come what may, I know the way” my eyes swell too. I mean, she IS MOANA.
Chad (Christine’s Husband): You guys are crying at the wrong part. You cry when Moana is walking to Teka to restore the heart. I mean, she’s crossed the horizon to restore the heart and fix all of mankind! It’s about societal restoration and no matter what people do to you it’s how you respond. Moana telling Teka, “they have stolen the heart from inside you, but this does not define you” is a message to all of us that we are more than our circumstances! And fighting doesn’t get you anywhere, that’s why Maui failed. But you need someone that sees you. You just need that love, someone to say “this is not who you are, I know who you are.” It’s all about the love.
Michael (Jaymi’s Husband): Wait, you guys cry at Moana?
Everyone Else: You DON’T cry at Moana?!?
Michael: I don’t cry. Also, it’s a cartoon. Calm down.
When I was three years and three kids into Motherhood, I embarked on one of my most exciting journeys. A trip the HELL out of dodge. Without my husband. Without my kids. Just me, a cruise ship, the open ocean, and 9 of my best Mamas.
I was excited and apprehensive and happy and nervous and all the emotions. To be honest, I love to WATCH a Mom vacation a la Real Housewives of Every Single Franchise Ever, but there was always a part of me that was like, “why do they want to go out of town without their families so often???”
Now, I know.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Because unlike the Real Housewives of Everywhere, the drama surrounding my trip happened entirely before we set sail. Basically, the moment I told anyone I was going somewhere. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, “Who’s watching the children?,” I could probably have paid for the entire trip. If I got another dollar every time someone had to pick their jaw up off the floor when I answered, “Uh….their father,” I could have covered my bar tab. Which, for the record, ended up being a very significant total. But I digress.
The people around me were VERY concerned with me going on this trip. Offers to assist Chad flew in from every corner of my universe. I could leave confident that no one would go hungry, because the neighborhood was going to band together and bring a collection of casseroles and baked goods. His arms would never ache because the biddies at church all volunteered to come over and “just hold the baby” while he tended to the other children. Other people got fancy with their plans. “I’ll take Evie, we can do something fun! Then see if your Mom can take the baby, that way Chad can just hang out with Cole! Guy time!”
Basically the message was this: If Mommy was irresponsible enough to just go and LEAVE her children with a practical stranger their Father, then my village was going to step in and provide backup.
Perhaps this leaves a questionable perception of my husband. By all accounts, he’s a pretty hands on Dad in every day life. He changes diapers, he plays and reads, he knows his way around a onesie.
But I get it. Three days is a lot of time with the kids. He isn’t as used to doing everything day after day after day. Alone. Let’s be real, three days would be a lot for anyone.
Know how I know that?
BECAUSE MY HUSBAND HAS TO TRAVEL FOR WORK AND I DO THIS ALL THE FREAKING TIME.
When he went to Wichita for three days, where was my casserole???
When he went to Utah for a week, who was coming over to hold my baby???
When he left to Connecticut for two days when our third baby was TWO WEEKS OLD who the EFF took the reigns and doled out my other children so I could focus on the tiny ball of NEED???
So I stood there, patiently listening to all the concerned voices and when they felt like they’d said their piece, I told them all the same thing, “Thank you, that’s very generous, but he’ll be fine.”
It was a hot, salty summer day, and I was LIVING for the moment my husband got home. The kids and I were on our last strands of patience. We were tired and grouchy and so sick of our house and, frankly, each other. We were trying to keep it together, because we had BIG plans to head to the local park’s wading pool when Daddy got home at 5:30. An OhmHour was coming at 6, and I was gonna be darned if we were still in our un-air-conditioned house when it started.
And then it’s 5:30. And then it’s 5:45. And then it’s six, and we lose all the power (both literally and, like, the power to HANDLE MY LIFE, you know?). And I call the husband. “So what do you want to do tonight? Are you staying late?”
“I got a little caught up, but I’m coming home. I thought we were going to the wading pool.” And I almost lost it. We’d had a DAY, and there was just so much logisticking to do that I thought my brain was gonna fall right out of my head. The prospect of suiting them up and sunscreening them down and driving them over for only forty-five minutes of fun before unsuiting and towel-drying and redressing? I just. Didn’t. Want to.
But because we had no electricity, and it was either go to the wading pool or stay in a hot house with my cranky kids, I decided to give it one more bit of effort before I called it. I rechecked the times and found they didn’t close until 7:30. Truth be told, I was still less than willing to suit them up for those 45 short minutes, but heck, I had promised the wading pool already. And frankly, I didn’t feel up to being the bad guy that made the call that it wasn’t worth it. So my husband rushed home, I suited and sunscreened them babies, and away we went.
And, you guys. We had the best. Night. Ever.
It turns out that 45 minutes is exactly the right amount of time to be at a wading pool. And the later you go, the less odds that other people will still be there. And you might just get the wading pool to yourself, with your husband and your two small, perfect children, and you might look romantically at each other over their perfect little heads while the sun literally sets behind your husband’s happy face. And then you might go out for ice cream and kiss that sweet baby’s cheeks and smell his sunscreeny head and nearly burst from happiness while your daughter tells you that this is her most favoritest day ever.
And you would have missed all that if you’d decided to sit around being crabby at your husband and your kids. Don’t get me wrong, there are days to be mad. There are times when you have to turn on the TV for hours, or bicker with your husband about coming home late, and sometimes things get cancelled because you just can’t. There will be tense words and rushed dinners and early bedtimes. And that’s okay, too. Because that’s real life.
But once in a while, you’ve gotta embrace the lucky chances, push through the cranky, and go anyways. You’ve got to decide to be tired and crabby later, and be a family now, because we never would have gotten last night back. There will be cool drinks to ease the pain of long days, and bedtime will eventually come whether we enjoy the evening or not. But we need to take the time to embrace each other now. Cause I’m not gonna remember the irritation of the day (well not FOREVER anyways) but I’ll remember that perfect evening with my almost-perfect family for a lifetime.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for nearly a year, Cole and Evie have had an emotional goodbye through a chain link fence. It’s like a scene out of some prison movie. They tell each other how much they love each other and are going to miss each other and then I tear Evie away from the gate telling her we’ll see Cole in four hours. Often, I have to carry her writhing body in one arm, while balancing a baby in the other, and haul these girls out to the car. After dealing with this week after week, month after month, Chad and I had to have a serious conversation: Is it time to start Evie in preschool?
We had made bold proclamations and decisions on our plan for Evie’s schooling. I’m a stay at home Mom and she’s just fine here with me. She can wait until she’s 3 like Cole did. We can see if they have a spot open in January and if they don’t she can start the next fall. Two years of preschool will be plenty for her.
But it seemed she was disagreeing with us.
So I asked the Director at Cole’s eternally waitlisted preschool if they happened to have a spot. No rush, anytime really, we’re fine keeping her home as long as we need – oh, what’s that? You already had her on a list because I mentioned it to you once in passing? She can start next month? Yeah, okay, that works too…Suddenly we were launched into preschool prep mode! I bought Evie a lunch bag, did some “Back to School” shopping, grabbed her a water bottle and talked about the impending start of her career as a student. She proudly told everyone, “I go to school with Cole soon!” She was excited. Like really, REALLY, excited. Drop-offs were suddenly much easier, because as they hugged and kissed each other each morning, they’d exchange excited words about how soon Evie would be joining her big brother.
She was excited. I was all the feelings. Normally made of stone, the idea of having two kids in school proved too much for my solid core to handle. I just wasn’t sure I liked this. At all.
Then it was the big day. We got dressed in one of our new outfits. I busted out the chalkboard easel for important stats and pictures and a giant display of “Evie’s first day of preschool!” I took a thousand pictures of the three kids in every possible arrangement – sitting, standing, two sitting – Evie standing prominently, all three sitting together – Cole in the middle, Evie in the middle, Izzie in the middle – you name it, I probably have a picture of it. Evie looked happy and proud – probably a combination of first day excitement and the promise of a lollipop in exchange for endless smiles.
We loaded into the car, drove down to school, hopped out of the car and proudly marched down the hall. Which is about when all hell broke loose. To our complete and utter surprise, our cool, confident, happy-go-lucky, independent daughter freaked the F out. We thought we’d done everything “right” to prepare her! She knows this school, knows the teachers, knows lots of Cole’s friends! Plus the school happens to be on our church’s campus (though not affiliated) so she literally has been in the classrooms since the week she was born! We talked, oh how we talked, about what the first day would entail. And she was sooooo on board. Lest she forgets, this was HER IDEA!
But, as is a woman’s prerogative, she reserves the right to change her mind. And oh did she change it. My husband and I looked back and forth for a minute, telepathically running through our options.
Me: Evie, it’ll be fine. Cole’s right here with you. *Jump in here dude! Tell her it’s fine!!*
Chad: That’s right, Cole’s going to go do circle time, you can sit with him. *She’s screaming! Why is she screaming??*
Me: Honey, honey, honey, calm down, baby. *I don’t KNOW!! We gotta get out of here!*
Chad: *We can’t just LEAVE her like this!*
Me: *Like hell we can’t! She’ll be FINE! Band-Aid! RIP IT!*
Chad: Okay Evie, Mommy and Daddy have to go, you’ll be okay. *You’re a heartless monster*
Me: I’ll be back sooooo soon, you’ll have lots of fun, okay? We love you! *Oh, grow a pair*
Us: Bye sweetie!! We love you!!
I may have been the one to force us to leave, but I thought of my sweet little baby all day, hoping she’d calmed down and found some fun. I picked her up a few short hours later. Before she saw me, I saw her eating and laughing and I knew we had made the right call. She looked up, saw me, ran and jumped in my arms.
When we settled in the car I asked, “What did you do today Evie?” She said, with a big smile on her face, “I did art and crying.” I laughed at her and hugged the heck out of that kid. I said, “Maybe next time we’ll try for just art, huh?” She replied, “Yeah, I liked the art.”
So yes, in the grand tradition of first days of school, there were tears. Lots of tears. Mostly from Evie. But, as terrible as it is to say, the tears were a nice reminder that even though she’s a sassy, independent, stubborn, “I can do it myself” kind of 2 year old, she’s still my two year old baby, that just needs her Mama once in a while.