Wednesday, August 19, 2015

CHAOS.

The word "overwhelmed" seems to resonate in my life at this point in time.

For starters, our world has been rattled by our six-month-old son over the past three weeks.  What started as a double ear infection quickly turned into the realization that he is highly allergic to amoxicillen.  After being referred to an allergist and watching the poor little guy endure a skin test, we learned that he's also highly (if not severely) allergic to dairy, eggs and peanuts.  Shortly after the skin test, he got a ridiculously bizarre GI bug that spun out of control and dovetailed into another allergic reaction, resulting in one ER trip, one abdominal ultrasound, one blood test, and a total of five doctors' office visits over the course of seven days.  He's fine now...but, let's be real...

My friends - the past three weeks have royally sucked.

It's hard for me to wrap my head around Teddy's allergies.  Can you imagine a world without cheese?  Because I can't.  Cheese is a staple in my life.  A life without cheese is a life without culinary joy.  You may think I'm exaggerating, but you clearly haven't seen the bottom drawer of my fridge...

On a more serious note, though, moving to a more vegan lifestyle is only slightly daunting for me.  We'll do what we have to at home to keep Teddy healthy.  What concerns me is what happens once he leaves our house.  I really don't want to be that parent who has to send their kid out in a hamster ball, but I also know that my husband and I have to fill a new role of "advocate" as well as "parent," where we monitor everything that our child comes into contact with until he's old enough to know what he can and cannot have.  As for the fear of what could happen when he's out and about...I'm keeping that at bay right now.  I just can't deal with it at this point in time.

This is the overriding stress in my life right now, but there are a plethora of other "little factors" that are certainly contributing to my nail biting and short temper:

(1) Abby has completely regressed in regards to potty training.  We're starting over from square one.  I can't really be upset with her about it - life has been very difficult for the past couple of weeks, and she's just controlling what little bit that she can.  But, even though I'm not upset with her specifically, I'm so frustrated that we have to go through the pain of potty training again.

(2) Work has been wonderfully challenging and rewarding on a multitude of levels, but I continuously feel a sense of workaholic guilt.  This job goes beyond the label of "job" for me.  It's step one to God's greater calling for my life - a calling to ministry.  I'm growing deeper into my faith and love of Christ, and I am really excited for the promising changes that we can expect to see on campus this year.  I'm just trying to learn how to work at a part-time status when I want to give full-time+, all while still maintaining a healthy life-work balance.

(3) My home.  My home.  I hate the condition that my home is perpetually in.  It seems like, no matter what I do, no matter how much I pick up during the day and perform disaster recovery when the kids go to bed, some furry, fat monster comes forward in the middle of the night and barfs up a ground-covering spew of dust, goldfish crumbs, and baby toys.  It's like an every day manifestation of Martha Stewart's broken dreams.

(4) What the heck is the secret to staying fit with two small children?  I eat healthy, I'm not even remotely worried about that.  But getting workouts in?  It's freaking laughable.  "Work out when the kids nap," you say.  They don't nap.  Ever.  And they especially don't nap at the same time.  "Work out when they go to bed," you suggest.  After the previously-mentioned disaster recovery, I typically fall asleep on the couch within 45 minutes.  I won't even allow you to toy with the notion that I'll wake up before the children (meaning around 5-5:30 AM) to exercise.  I'm still waking up two or three times a night.  The thought of losing more sleep makes me want to vomit.

So, my friends, that's where I'm at in life right now.  I'm hoping to experience a sense of calm in the coming month or two, but I'm not counting on it...I'm learning to operate fairly well at a decent level of chaos.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Random thoughts

I haven't had much for a full blog post lately, so rather than waiting for inspiration to strike in my brain, I thought I'd jot down some of the more prominent thoughts:

1.  New job, new beginnings.

As of last week, I officially became the Director of Catholic Campus Ministry at Oakland University through St. John Fisher.  God truly blessed me (and my family) with this position.  For starters, a life in ministry has been tugging at my heartstrings for a long, long time - I just never felt that I was...well..."religious enough" for such a position.  Little did I know that there were many people in my life who felt the exact opposite and have been pulling for me to get into this line of work for years.

Furthermore, this job a.) is part-time for this year, but has the potential to grow into full-time (meaning I get tons of my time with my kidlets while they're itty bitty, and then when they go off to school, I can go back to work), b.) pays well enough to justify the cost of daycare for two kids and still bring home a bit o' bacon, c.) encourages me to continue researching, reading and challenging myself and my faith, and d.) surrounds me with people that I can have intelligent conversations - sometimes heated debates - with, but it's in a respectful and open environment.  I love that.  This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

2.  The kidlets' first day at school.

With the beginning of a new job brings the whole category F5 tornado of emotions that is dropping the kids off at daycare.  Excitement to be alone for a few hours and have an adult conversation, guilt for feeling excited, dread that I didn't pack enough of everything for them, fear that my son would hate his day...

My daughter I wasn't too worried about - after all, she was going back into the same classroom with the same teachers and the same kids.  Plus, my daughter thrives on activity.  She loves being busy, engaged and creative...so although there were a few moments of shyness in the morning, she moved right past them after a few minutes of snuggles and enjoyed the rest of her day.

My son, though...my son and I haven't been apart for more than a few hours since he was born.  We're thick as thieves, he and I.  So, despite the fact that I completely trust the ladies in the infant room (let's face it - if they could handle my daughter as a baby, they can handle anybody), dropping Teddy off in the morning was rough.  He cried his "Wait - why are you abandoning me?!" cry, and I let my tear drops fall right on into my coffee as I drove to work.

That being said, though - every picture that was taken of my hunka chunka's first day had nothing but smiles, smiles and more smiles.  When I picked him up, he was exhausted but happy as a clam.  My daughter squealed and ran to me, shouting "Mommy!!  You came back!  I'm so happy!", and her teachers claimed the only rough moment of the day was when she saw her baby brother and couldn't go be with him.  Cue the sound of my melting heart.

3.  Pinterest fails.

My hubby and I are trying to lose weight (and both doing well, I might add).  That being said, our diet is getting a bit boring, and I'm constantly trying to find new recipes that are quick, yummy, and super healthy.

But Pinterest...oh Pinterest.  Pinterest is doing nothing more than inspiring me to be an absolute fatty lately.

For example:  When I do a general search for "healthy recipes" under the "Food & Drink" category, I don't particularly want a step-by-step tutorial on bacon-wrapped onion rings that you can throw on the grill.  Or on how to deep fry your own elephant ears.  Or the different versions of buttercream frosting that you can lick straight out of the damn bowl like a sugar-crazed child delicately dab onto your homemade banana cupcakes.

And, might I add, there's really only so much you can do with quinoa.  I get it.  It's the newest super food with tons of protein and goodness and blah blah blah...

Just show me different ways to cook up a chicken breast and give me some new ideas for veggie side dishes.  That's all I ask.

4.  A quick home rant.

I live in a pretty rural area of Michigan, but we just so happened to pick one of the few homes in the area that's actually in a somewhat cramped subdivision.  I'm not crazy about it, but we have a beautiful and spacious home in a safe neighborhood, and there's a little bit of room for our kids to play...

That being said, there are a couple of things that are making me twitch these days...

A.)  While grilling up some chicken the other weekend, our neighbors were sitting on their deck, and they shouted over to us "HEY!!  That smells great!  Come on over for drinks if you want!"

Even though they were being neighborly and sweet, I legitimately can't stand the fact that my house is so close to other homes that people can freakin' smell what I'm cooking for dinner.

B.)  In my experiences in life, people generally mow their lawns on the weekend.  So, Saturday and Sunday afternoons have a tendency to be kind of loud and obnoxious, but after that, it's quiet.

Nope!  Not in my neighborhood!

People here feel the need to fire up their mowers (and every other stupidly loud lawn gadget) every day and every night.  No, really.  I'm home every day and every night, so I can guarantee you that on any given moment, someone will be cutting their grass.  And it's not like it just ends at six o'clock when people have dinner.  We have people that cut their grass at nine o'clock at night.  They don't even break for federal holidays!  My neighbor two doors down fired up his riding mower at 9:13 PM last night!!!

What good is a summer night when all I hear is
 
*BRRRRRRRRROOOOOOWWWWWWWWMMMMMMMMMM
putter putter putter
BROWWWWWWWWMMMMMM*


Well, that's all I've got for this evening, friends.  Sorry for the schizophrenic styling.  Better to write a little than to not write at all, though.  Have a great week!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dear soon-to-be-mommies

Dear soon-to-be-mommies:  

Hi.  

I feel compelled to write this because of recent events in my life.  I'm going to preface this whole letter to you by telling you that I love my children to the point where my heart physically aches.  

Now, moving on:

There are some of you who have read every article under the sun, discussed a multitude of topics with a plethora of mommies, and have even taken part of the raising of a child in some capacity or another.  There are others of you who have never even held a baby, who are terrified of what's to come, and who feel guilty because of that terror.  

There are some of you who have had magnificent pregnancies where you've been glowing from head to toe the entire time.  There are others of you who are convinced the "glow" is sweat...sweat that comes before and after puking throughout the whole. damn. pregnancy.

Some of you want to breastfeed, and some of you can't imagine restricting your life in that capacity.  Some of you want to use disposable diapers, and some of you will tackle cloth diapering.  Some of you will only allow fifteen minutes of educational screen time, and some of you are planing on raising your children on strict television diet of Archer and Jurassic Park.

Save for maybe that last one...I'm going to promise you - It's alright.  You've got this.

And, no matter what you choose, most of the time it's really not that big of a deal.  

Let me explain where I'm coming from on all of this.  I have been both a stay-at-home mom and a working mom.  I know what it's like to be home with my kids with very little support network (simply because of where we are geographically located) and I know the routine can be both ridiculously rewarding and absolutely grueling at the same time.  I have treasured the snuggles, the smiles, the baby milestones that I've witnessed only because of my time at home with them, and I've also locked myself in the bathroom for a minute and shed a few tears just because of the overwhelming loneliness and the longing for a newspaper and a cup of coffee (or a few shots of tequila with a good friend - it all depends on the day).  Every single day, no matter where I am at, or what the situation is, I take a deep breath and say "It's alright.  You've got this."

I chose to be a stay-at-home mom because of where we were at in life and the need for a stable environment for my children during tumultuous times.  I'm choosing to go back to work part-time because I feel like I'm a more patient mother who can spend better quality time with her kids after a couple of days of work.  After a ridiculous amount of time feeling guilty about this, I've realized that it's really not that big of a deal.  What works for me and for my kids is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum of what works for other families.  My daughter thrives in daycare, and other children do better at home.  One situation isn't particularly better than the other...and again, it's really not that big of a deal.  

Why am I stressing these points?  Because we are currently engrossed in a culture where everyone is an expert in something and the internet is teeming with articles on how to raise your kids to be intelligent/empathetic/hard-working/independent/compassionate/self-reliant and so on.  All of these opinions are helpful and wonderful, but not a single one of them will every completely work for your kid.  You have to figure out what works for you, and then dance away to those fresh, newly-discovered beats.

It goes beyond that, though.  This part of my letter to you is probably going to put me in a bit of hot water, but whatever:

There will be days where you wake up and think "I really just want to go out and get breakfast alone like I used to."  There will be days that your toddler is acting like an inconsiderate and slightly overbearing dictator, and you will be - literally - shaking with anger over the DUMBEST THING IMAGINABLE.  You will miss your old life, and there will be moments where you're holding your crying baby and you'll think "God...this kind of sucks."  

That's ok.  

When you realize that you are absolutely burnt out, find some capacity to "walk away."  Whether it's going for a long drive and burning a tank of gas while your kids sleep so you can sip on a coffee and listen to NPR, hanging out with a friend and quietly ranting about your children while they play in the other room, calling your mom and having a good cry...even actually physically walking away from your child who is on their second or third hour of screaming for a minute or two is completely alright.  Just like your kids, you will have good days and you will have bad days.  You know you're a good mommy when you find a way to start over.

That's not as hard as it sounds, really.  I can't tell you how many times my daughter has pissed me off to the max, only to come up ten seconds later and do something so stinking cute that my heart of stone melts into a puddle.  (Her newest trick is to come up to me when I'm clearly frustrated, sit down next to me and pat my leg like an old friend.  "Hi mommy.  How are you?  Are you feeling better?")

So.  Don't panic.  Try not to hyperventilate every time you look at the bassinet, and stop searching feverishly through message boards when you wake up in the middle of the night to pee.  You will have good days, you will have bad days - and you will be blown away by how much you love your little peanut regardless.  

And, if you need someone to be real with you who won't blow rainbows and sunshine up your ass every ten seconds - you know where to find me.

Love,
Pam

Friday, May 15, 2015

And that's why I talk to my daughter's stuffed animals

My daughter has to take a whole slew of stuffed animals with her to bed each night.  They are these big-eyed, perfect-for-toddler-hands-sized little guys from TY...one black and white cat ("Kitty Cat"), one blue cat ("Byoo"), one little lamb with ginormous green eyes ("Lamby"), and one ultra-special pink giraffe that was an "I'm a big sister" gift from her Mima and Papa ("Jaffy").  [Side note:  I keep telling my husband that we have to have back-up animals, especially for Jaffy.  If she loses one of these guys, Lord have mercy on us.]  She does inventory each night after story time and grins from ear to ear as she tries to walk up the stairs herself with her hands full of her little friends.

Tonight, for whatever reason, one was rejected.

She scooped up the four fuzzy fluffballs and started to head up the stairs, when all of sudden, she turned her gaze towards Lamby.  "No," she sternly said, "Don't want Lamby," and she all out threw him on the ground, moving towards the stairs without looking back.

My husband and I looked at each other absolutely dumbfounded.  "Damn," I said (quietly, mind you, because my daughter is a freaking parrot these days).  "Poor Lamby."  We both chuckled, and my husband followed the tired toddler waddle up the stairs.


(He looks so sad and lonely...)

I scooped up Lamby, set him next to me on the table, and told him consolingly "It's ok, little dude.  I still think you're pretty cute."

Cue the inner monologue:  Wait.  What?!  Did I seriously just console a freaking stuffed animal?!  

It was in that moment that I realized that Disney has permanently screwed with my brain.

In this instance, it's all Toy Story's fault.  Every time a toy in that movie gets either temporarily or permanently tossed under the bed or onto a book shelf, they have some sort of existential crisis.  Look at Jessie and Lotso in particular.  They held onto that "my kid threw me away" grudge for a long time.  (At least Jessie took a turn for the positive...Lotso was just a purple version of The Governor from "The Walking Dead".)

So what do I do when a toy gets flat out rejected by my kid?  I pick it up and give it love, because I don't want to deal with psychiatry bills for a 2015 version of a Beanie Baby.  

Last week, it was The Little Mermaid's fault.  While potty training my daughter, she immediately learned how to manipulate the system (because, let's face it, after day three of changing wet pants and begging my daughter to just go on the "special big girl Minnie Mouse" potty, I was getting desperate).

Every time she successfully went potty, we would give her one fruit snack.  Abby, the Chief Negotiator, turned to me and inquired "Abby get three fruit snacks?"

"No, you can have one."

She took my face in her little hands.  "Look at me, mommy.  Listen."  *dramatic pause, followed by creased in eyebrows and a plunging frown* "...I get three."

I laughed out loud and said in my best Sebastian the Crab voice possible, "Toddlers...you give dem an inch, dey swim all over you."

Cue the inner monologue (again):  She doesn't even know what you're talking about.  You won't let her watch that movie because you know Ursula will traumatize her the same way she traumatized you.  So stop, Pam.  Just stop.

It goes on and on and on.  We watch The Princess and the Frog, I wonder what kind of life lessons she'll take away from it.  Spoiler alert:  None.  She's two.  The frog and alligator sing, and the firefly has a funny accent and a butt that lights up.  That's all she cares about.

We watch Frozen, and Olaf is the most inspiring and intriguing character to her, with Sven screeching in at a close second.  The love between sisters means nothing to her.

I'm the only one who is taking anything away from you at this stage in our family life, Disney.  Just me.  

Granted, I'm not really complaining.  Keep sending me movies like the before-mentioned Princess and the Frog and Brave - I'm diggin' them.  I've just come to accept the fact that my mind and heart is the only one touched by these movies thus far.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go round up Abby's farm animals and set them up lovingly around her newly-created chicken coop.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

What a month.

My husband had been preparing for a six month (or longer) deployment for the past year.  We actually knew about this deployment before we were pregnant with Teddy - and even when we found out that we were expecting the sneaky little ninja baby, our plans didn't alter in any way.  We needed the money, he wanted to be with his guys...it was a sacrifice we were willing to make as a family that would be brutally painful in the short-term, but pretty darn good in many aspects in the long-term.

There is a whole lot of thought and planning that goes into getting ready for a longer deployment.  I won't even get in to all of the emotional hurdles and changes of mindset that my husband had to undergo to get ready.  That's his tale to tell.  From my perspective, however, I had to get ready to mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually be with two very young children on my own.  In particular, our two year old daughter is beyond attached to her daddy.  They have been thick as thieves since I was pregnant with her.  (She would be so still that it would frighten me, but when Tim would get home from work and we would be chatting, it would feel as if she jumped for joy in my womb.)  They're inseparable...and we were coming up to a point where they would be separated by time zones, with next to no communication.  No post-work cookie baking in her pretend kitchen, no wrestling, no story time, and no night-night snuggles for six-plus months.  Thinking about it would make me hyperventilate for her.

In thinking about taking care of Abby and a very new Teddy, I began to hyperventilate for me.  How was I supposed to handle the emotional stress of the deployment of my best friend and also be the strong one for my children?  Furthermore, what was I supposed to do when I needed a break of any kind?  We live out in the middle of nowhere, and I have to drive over an hour to reach any of my support network.  I have no friends out here, no family, no one that I can turn to in an un-showered, half-dead state to hand over the little bundle of joy and say "I either need a nap or I need a trip to Target.  Alone."  

With all of these factors in mind, we decided that I would move in with my in-laws.  They have plenty of space for me and the kids (where each of us could have our own room), and they were more than willing to help me out with the kids throughout the day.  Plus, they live only five to ten minutes away from my folks, who are also more than willing to help out but don't quite have the space for all three of us.  As much as I appreciate and love my families for their immediate offer to help, a darker corner of my heart was dreading the whole ordeal, solely because of the fact that I would not be in my home, with my stuff, and my rules.  That being said, though, I know my weaknesses, and I'm no longer too proud to admit when I need help.  So, we planned on moving.  

As the deployment drew closer, I began to spend more and more time in thought and prayer about whether or not I could manage my job and my children and my husband being gone for an extended period of time.  I already knew that, financially, we would be losing money to be putting our two kids into daycare full-time.  That being said, I loved my job.  I was really freaking good at it, the people that I worked with were so kind and funny and accommodating, and the work was rewarding.  When I brought up my concerns to them, they bent over backwards to make things work for me and my family in the short-term while Tim was gone.  My heart was so moved...but once I went on maternity leave and our little pudge was born, I had a full realization of what I was up against.  There's only one me, and I am no longer at a place in my life where I can pretend I'm Wonder Woman at the expense of those that I love and my own personal health.  I couldn't give my children all of the support and love that they would desperately need and give my job the attention and care that it deserved and make sure I was staying mentally and physically healthy.  I decided to put my notice in, and although it wasn't even close to an easy decision to make, I knew that putting my family (and my health) first was for the best. 

So now we arrive at about the two week marker before the deployment - and this is where things start to get, for lack of a better word, weird.  Everything - and I really, truly mean everything - was going wrong in regards to my husband's paperwork.  We still hadn't received orders for his trip, his life insurance paperwork was messed up, our Tricare information for our family was screwy, our marriage certificate got lost for the fourth time...we were spending more and more time out at the base trying to get him ready for the deployment and trying to make sure that all of the necessary pieces were in place to make sure that we were all safe and taken care of.  I began to get this sinking feeling in my gut.  "Something's not right," my brain kept nagging.  "This is bad.  All of this going wrong before he leaves...this is bad."

Finally, we received his orders, only to realize that something was horrifically wrong.  They had him listed as a "volunteer" as opposed to "involuntarily mobilized".  For those of you who don't speak military, this is bad.  Really bad.  Because my husband is a guardsman, he has a regular 9-5 job.  The reality is, although it is illegal for an employer to fire you while you're gone regardless of what the orders say, it's a whole lot easier to find the loopholes in an order that says "volunteer".  Under no circumstances could my husband leave this country with orders that said "volunteer".  

After speaking with everyone under the sun that could hear him out, everyone came to the conclusion that there was absolutely no way they could change the orders in time for the trip.  It was far easier to find someone to scoop up his orders who actually wanted to volunteer for the trip, rather than duck and dive through the bureaucracy and the massive amounts of red tape that come with writing out orders.  He was no longer going on the trip.  

"WONDERFUL," everyone exclaimed.  "Aren't you thrilled?!"

Well, yes.  I'm ecstatic to have him home safe with us.  I'm so happy that he will enjoy all of the little moments with our son - potentially our last baby - and he won't miss a day with our daughter.  I'm happy for his sake that he doesn't have to go through all of the bullshit that comes with being overseas away from family and friends.  

That being said:

-A year of planning.

-A year of changing our mindset.  Of thinking entirely differently than the rest of the world thinks.  A year of emotional detachment and an unholy amount of stress.

-A year of spending money on things that he would have needed overseas that we don't need here in the US.  Money that we don't have.  Money that we need now for things like formula and diapers.

-Quitting my job.  A job that I loved.  A job that loved me.

-Pulling my daughter from daycare.  A place where she thrived and learned and grew since she was five months old.  A place where I trusted and loved her teachers.

-All that money from the trip that we really, truly needed.  Not wanted - needed.  Money we planned on having by the end of this year to help us with high bills, home repairs, cars, various items for the kids...life's necessities in this day and age.

All of these tumultuous transitions, and all of the sleepless nights...all of the nightmares, all of the tears, all of the emotional distance...it all meant nothing within two weeks of the fucking trip.

So many people just can't understand where we're coming from on this.  We're well aware that life isn't all about money, but it's a whole lot more enjoyable and stress-free when your husband isn't working late nights and weekends.  And, as I've stated a multitude of times now, I quit my job.  

I've never in my life felt such frustration and helplessness.  I've never been so confused as to what I should be doing with myself.  I've never had a moment where my plan has gone so completely wrong.  I threw my hands up and yelled (yes, yelled) at the Lord.  "Alright!  Let me know whatever it is You have in mind for us!  Let me know - when it's convenient - how I am supposed to deal with this chaos while I'm dealing with the birth of a new child.  And by 'chaos', I mean 'paying the bills.' Oh, and if You could cut my over-worked, exhausted, and stressed-to-the-absolute-max husband a break, that would be particularly wonderful.  Whenever it's convenient!"  

(I'm not proud of this.  It's just the facts.  There's no point in sugar-coating any of this.)

That was the last time I "prayed" for quite a while.  I had no words, no thoughts, no iota of grace and understanding in my heart.  

My mom urged me to come with her to church on the Feast of the Divine Mercy - for no other reason than I was in town and taking the grandbabies to church is always a plus.  I sat down in the seat, gave my daughter some crayons and a coloring book, made sure my son was still snoozing, looked up at the crucifix and sighed.  "Alright," I thought.  "I'm here.  I'm sorry.  I'm listening."  

And I really did listen.  And I heard that, despite life being what it is, our role in life is not to test the Lord.  It's not to say "I will believe if x, y and z happen."  We are to believe.  We are to trust that God is with us.

The love of the Lord supersedes my anxiety, my focus on my family exclusively, my anger, and my overall nonsense.  It's hard to fully comprehend because I can't allow myself to see past my set plan most days...
I walked up to receive the Eucharist with my son sleeping in his car seat and my daughter on my hip...and I still felt all of the worries that I felt forty-five minutes earlier.  But, I took the Bread and with my "Amen," I prayed "It's going to be fine.  I don't know how, and it's not my job to know how - it's just my job to trust in You."

Still struggling.  Still worrying.  Still here.  Still praying.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I'm back!

Ironically, the lack of posting came at a time when I vowed to start blogging on a more regular basis.  
The problem?  The keyboard on my computer stopped working.

Well, not entirely.  Just the "c" key.  And the "v".  And the ".", the "7", the "9", the "enter", and occasionally the "space" key.  Sometimes the keys would work if you would cuss at them enough, but even then, they would only work just enough to give you hope that you could type a sentence in less than five minutes, only to promptly disappear again.  

Anyways.  I now have a working keyboard again!  Despite my complete and utter exhaustion due to raising two little wolves children, I vow to start writing more.  Stay tuned!