A Bushel and a Peck

Yesterday I was sitting in my son’s nursery, rocking and quietly singing. He had just finished a bottle, and my sweet, active little boy was winding down for his nap. He rarely lets me hold him. He’s always on the move and wanting to see what is around him. But on this day he was tired and he wanted to snuggle. He buried his head into the crook of my shoulder and gently patted my face as I sang.

I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck. I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.

In that instant I was transported back to my childhood. To days when I’d sit in a lap and my eyes would get heavy as someone sang to me. My childhood babysitter, Mrs. Claudia, was like a mother to me. Some of the best memories of my childhood are of her and her family – my family. Playing cards on a Saturday night. Watching “stories” (Mrs. Claudia’s favorite was Days of our Lives). Baking zucchini bread. Making a huge breakfast on Saturday morning and being so full you wouldn’t eat until dinner that night.

Mrs. Claudia was much more than a babysitter to me. My mom took me to her house for the first time when I was 6 months old and from that moment on I’m told she thought of me just as much her baby as my mother’s. Her family was my family. I went on vacation with her. I went to family reunions. My mom tells me often that she once went on vacation without me and called my mom nightly, crying because she missed me.

These days, it seems like some people think that daycare is a bad word. There’s a lot of judgment out there for moms who have to put their children in childcare so they can work. I’ve been a working mama and a stay at home mom and I know all the guilt and sadness you feel at having to leave your child with someone else so you can work. You worry about the time you are away. You worry about the person who is taking care of your child and what kind of influence they have on your child.

Well, I’m here to tell you that I consider myself lucky to have had two mothers in my life. Mrs. Claudia wasn’t my babysitter; she was my second mother. Even when I was a teen and was old enough to stay at home on my own, I chose to go to her house. I spent weekends there. We went camping for a week each summer. When her daughter moved into her own apartment, I spent just as much time at her house as I did at my own.

Mrs. Claudia was diagnosed with cancer when I was 16 years old. She had treatment and went into remission, and later the cancer returned. She died when I was a freshman in college.

I think about her a lot now that I have kids. I wish she could have met them. I wish she could have seen me as a mother. Every time I cook a big breakfast for my kids – every time I make zucchini bread – every time I sing a special lullaby – I think of her and I know she is with me. She’s with me, and she always will be.

A Bushel and a Peck takes me back to her house. To her husband, Mr. Ocie, who used to take me for drives and sing to me. Her son, Kevin, who called me “little sister” and used to carry me around on his back. Angela, her daughter, who carted me around everywhere she went like the little sister I was to her. And Mrs. Claudia, the woman who taught me so much about being a mother and what it means to be a family – even if you didn’t share the same blood.

I love you too, Mrs. Claudia. A Bushel and a Peck.

The Quest for Perfect

Some might say I’m a bit neurotic. I’m not neurotic; I’m… particular. I like things done a certain way, and I think that way is my way. My way = the right way. (My husband does not agree.)

A shrink would tell me that this stems from my childhood. My father is also… particular. He, too, likes thing done his way. So much so that he would rather do something on his own than accept help from someone who might do things differently. Example: when I was growing up and I would make my bed, he would go behind me and re-make it because he liked the way his method looked better.

And while that drove me absolutely crazy growing up, I have found that I am more like my father than I’d like to admit.

My quest for perfection has caused me to do some over the top things.

  • When I was in college, I would tear up my notes and start over if I didn’t like my handwriting.
  • I color code my calendar. I use 6 different color sharpies for different categories. I can’t just scratch things out if they get cancelled. I have to use white out.
  • I find it impossible to “pick up” or “lightly clean” my house. Every time I clean I am dusting baseboards, scrubbing the floor, steam mopping, etc.

Frankly, it is exhausting. It is exhausting to me and I know it is exhausting to my family. I can’t do things halfway; I always have to take the more difficult, more time consuming road. And that road comes with its own consequences.

I am stressed more than I should be. I stress about keeping a clean house. I stress about hosting parties and play dates. I stress about Christmas decorations and planting the garden. It’s quite ridiculous, really.

Here’s a perfect example of my crazy: I clean my house like a mad woman before company comes over. I know most of us do this, but I do it to an extreme. Scrubbing toilets the guests won’t use. Cleaning rooms they won’t step foot in. Steam cleaning the carpet and wiping down the baseboards. By the time the party happens or the visitor arrives, I’m so tired that I find I don’t enjoy myself.

There are consequences for my family, as well. My husband won’t load the dishwasher anymore because he says “you’ll just go behind me and do it over.” (I will.) He doesn’t help me with some things around the house because he feels like I am critical of how he gets things done. He will fold clothes, for example, but he will not put them away because he says I am too particular about exactly where the clothes should hang in the closet. (To that I say – long sleeves go together, short sleeves go together, pants go together…)

There was a point recently when I knew I had to change. I had to let go of my quest for perfection because it was negatively impacting my family.

A few weeks ago, I told my son he needed to clean up his playroom. He hemmed and hawed and made up a million reasons why he couldn’t put his toys away. I finally lost my temper and demanded to know why he wouldn’t clean up. “Because, Mommy, I will put them in the wrong place and then you will be mad at me.”

Ouch.

It was like a slap in the face. What was I doing to my child? Sure, I like things to be organized but was I being so over the top that my child feared me? Did it truly matter? Would the world end if Buzz Lightyear ended up in the same bin as the red Angry Bird? No! What was I teaching my child? Did I want him to end up like me? Stressed and overwhelmed by things that frankly are not that difficult or important in the grand scheme of things?

The answer was no. The world wouldn’t end if the toys weren’t put in the right place. The world wouldn’t end if my husband loaded the dishwasher his way instead of my way. The world wouldn’t end if pants and short sleeves got together and had a party in my closet.

The world wouldn’t even end if I made up my bed my way instead of my Dad’s way.

I’m a work in progress, of course. I still clean obsessively before people come over. I just stop short of cleaning the baseboards because really – who notices baseboards? I still have a place for everything, but if someone puts something in the wrong place I either let it be or I move it if it really bothers me. I even scratched something out on my calendar a few days ago and I didn’t use white out. Madness!

Perfection is over-rated. Sometimes “good enough” is just fine.

 

I’m So Tired

Who needs sleep? Well you’re never gonna get it. Who needs sleep? Tell me what that’s for. Who needs sleep? Be happy with what you’re getting. There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war.  – Who Needs Sleep by the BareNaked Ladies

I’m tired. Oh so very tired. The kind of bone tired exhaustion that only parents can truly feel and understand.

When you’re pregnant, people makes jokes that you, as a first time mom, can’t truly understand. “Catch up on your sleep now, girlfriend! It ain’t happening once the baby is born!” You, the first time mother, roll your eyes and think “Duh. I know I am going to sleep less. But I’ll be fine.”

Haha. Hahahahaha.

You don’t understand. You can’t understand. If you did understand, you would never get pregnant in the first place.

I had my first child in January of 2010, and  my husband got to take almost 3 weeks of paternity leave. While I was the one physically feeding the baby, my husband got up each feeding to help me and support me. We were high on Johnson’s Baby Lotion and sweet baby snuggles. Sure, we were tired. But those first three weeks were an absolute wonder of new experiences and love.

Then my husband went back to work. Suddenly the concept of “napping when the baby naps” didn’t quite work anymore. When are you supposed to get things done? I don’t know about you, but my baby had some super radar that seemed to tell him when I was about to drift off to sleep and BOOM! He was suddenly awake.

To top things off, I suffered from extreme anxiety after my first child was born. During the night, I would get up multiple times – while he was sleeping – just to make sure that he was breathing. I glued myself to his baby monitor. One night I got up, laid my hands on the baby, and swore I couldn’t feel his chest move. I started screaming and hysterically crying, and my husband jumped out of bed like Chuck Norris. He was quite displeased to find it was a false alarm.

Around 10 weeks, I began to emerge from the fog that comes from too many nights of too little sleep. The night before I was scheduled to return to work my son started sleeping through the night. Hallelujah! God heard my prayers.

There’s quite an age difference between my two boys. My first born is now 4 years old and my baby is 8 months old. I like to joke and say there is enough of a gap between the two that I forgot everything about taking care of a newborn.

Except it’s not really a joke.

You know how “they” say that after you give birth there is a hormone that makes you forget what you just experienced so you will get pregnant again? Well, I’m convinced there is something similar for the newborn period. You remember the sweet snuggles and how precious they look while they sleep. You don’t remember how terrible you look when you don’t sleep.

I forgot. I forgot how bad it was. If by some stretch of the imagination I did remember how bad it was, I did not take into account how different it would be when you had another child you had to take care of on so little sleep. Nap when the baby naps? Not so much. Your other child is awake and wants attention.

It is hard, no doubt about it. I am very much a “tell it like it is” person and so when new moms ask for advice I always tell them the first 8 weeks are brutal. It’s like boot camp, only the Sergeant barking orders in your face is your tiny infant. The lack of sleep is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. No – it isn’t like all nighters in college. It’s like all nighters spent listening to the same Justin Bieber (“Baby”) song on repeat while you sit in a small confined space and cry “why won’t you sleep? For the love, WHY WON’T YOU GO TO SLEEP?”

But I promise – it does get better. Your baby will eventually start to sleep through the night. You will eventually get 6 unbroken hours of sleep and you will feel like a rock star. You will take a shower, shave your legs, put on makeup, and wear something other than pajama pants. You will make it, mama.

Hang in there. And get yourself this t-shirt.

I’m So Tired (Adult) T-Shirt

 

To The Mothers

Yesterday I was woken up early by the sounds of my sweet baby stirring in his crib. I’ve got to be honest – most days this is not greeted with smiles and excitement. Most days I stumble out of bed, grab the baby, and make a beeline for the coffee pot. But yesterday I heard his babbling and I thought “thank you, God. Thank you for making me a mother.

I didn’t post this yesterday because I wanted to soak up time with my family, and I figured you would be doing the same as well. But since this is a site for moms, and I recognize and appreciate all you do, I want to dedicate a special post to you.

Thank you. Thank you to the Mothers.

You are the CEO and Director of Operations of your home.You juggle many hats: you are the cook, the chauffeur, the financial manager, the teacher, the secretary, the maid. You pack lunches and make dinners. You do laundry, pick out clothes, and dress the masses. You clean up. You scrub toilets. You referee fights. You drive and you drive some more.

You sacrifice. You give up sleep, alcohol, date nights, things you want, and sometimes things you need. You stay up late prepping for birthdays and sewing costumes for dance or theater productions. You clean a room only to have your toddler undo your work less than an hour later. You don’t sit down for dinner; you eat standing up in between cries from someone needing you.

You do the things that no one else wants to do. You clean up vomit. You mop the floor in the bathroom three times a week because *someone* in your household needs to work on their aim. You scrub grass and dirt stains out of sports uniforms. You figure out how to make your money stretch so everyone has what they need and a little of what they want.

You love. You love with a passion and depth that can’t really be expressed in words. From the moment you saw those two pink lines – the minute you felt the movements of your child in your belly – the first time you saw his or her face – you loved. You wept because while you knew you would love your child, you didn’t realize how much. You loved. You will always love, no matter what. Time, distance, loss – none of it can change the love for your child.

You feel the great responsibility that has been given to you. The responsibility to raise a child. To keep your child safe. To protect them. To teach them. To raise them to be ladies and gentleman of strength, nobility, compassion, courage, and love. You worry endlessly if you are doing this Mom thing right. The answer is yes. Yes, you are.

Happy Mother’s Day to the Mothers.

Thank you. Thank you to the Grandmothers.

You raised our Mothers. You provided an example to our moms on what kind of mothers they should be. Every hug, every kiss, every word of encouragement to us is because you were there to do the same for our mothers.

You provided endless fun and encouragement us. You swooped in and saved the day when our moms needed help or needed a break. You took us to the park, the ice cream shop, the amusement park. You didn’t yell. You rarely disciplined. You gave us what we wanted and then sent us home. You were fun! You were exciting!

You were at every sport game and recital, cheering us on. We hugged you tight the day we graduated. You were right there in the church, wiping your tears as we said our vows. You’ve been there for every moment, big and small.

Happy Mother’s Day to the Grandmothers.

Thank you to the Other Mothers.

Thank you to the teachers. The childcare providers. The church leaders and volunteers. The neighbors. The aunts, the cousins, the family members.

You might have been there when we took our first steps. You laid the foundations of our faith and our beliefs about God. You watched over us as we played, we swam, we had picnics and tea parties. You helped us to realize our potential.

You were our community. Our tribe. Our leaders and our examples. It takes a village, and you were the towns people.

Happy Mothers’ Day to the Other Mothers.

And a special note to those of you whom are grieving today:

To those of you who have lost your Mother, I pray you will find comfort in the memories of your mom. I hope her love for you is reflected in the love you feel for your children.

To those of you who have lost a child – I have no platitudes for you today. I pray you will feel the warmth and comfort of God’s embrace. I hope that even in your grief you can remember your precious memories and love. I pray for comfort and strength for you.

To those of you who are waiting to become mothers, I pray that you will experience motherhood someday soon. I do not know why it hasn’t happened for you yet. But I pray for you. I pray that in some way or form, God will fulfill the desire of your heart. Be strong and trust in the hope and plans that God has laid for you.

Happy Mother’s Day.