Friday, August 28, 2015

Take A Beat...Breathe

For this past week, I've only had one child to feed and put to bed and look after and play with and pick up and do all the things with.  Every year my mom takes Freddie and Ainsley for a week.  And every year, I'm reminded what an awesome mom I can be with one child.

I finish the week psyched to be the mom I know I can be, because I've just done it.  For a week I've been patient, I haven't yelled, I haven't doled out punishments, I haven't lost my temper, I've said yes more than no.

Then this week fades into next, and reality sets in.  Three kids mean chaos that overwhelms me beyond my breaking point.

I love my kids.  Of course I do.  I don't think I even need to say that.  But three kids is no joke.  I have three little people with different wants and needs, clamoring for my attention from the moment we walk in the door at night until the moment the last one shuts his sleepy eyes.

So all week, I've been trying to figure out how I carry this calm, patient Jaime with perfect parenting skills into next week.  Because so often I feel like my kids get the worst of me and I hate the thought of them growing up just wanting to get out of a house where mom is always stressed and annoyed and tired.  So. Very. Tired.  These three people are the most important people in my life, but because of all the other noise and demands and responsibilities, I can't give them the me I want to give them.

I get up and go to work every day and deal with a bunch of whiny, ridiculous, adult-babies.  Then I fight through an hour of traffic and race through pick-ups to finally walk through the door and have dogs knocking me over to get out and dinner waiting to be cooked so homework can get done and reading can get done and bedtime can happen so I can have 30 minutes of quiet before I go to bed and do it all over again.

That's not life, that's survival.  I don't want my kids to learn how to survive life.  A lot of days, most days, I feel like that's what I'm teaching them...how to make it to the end of this journey, and that's no way to live.

Right now, we're a bit stuck with the situation.  There's no space to quit a job.  There's no wiggle room to hire help.  There's no cushion to pick up and move to a slower pace.  We are trying desperately to change all of that, but until then I have to be a grown up and do what needs to be done and I don't have a lot of choice in the matter.  I guess there's always a choice, but not a good one.

So for now, I'm going to do my best at changing the one thing I do have control over...my attitude.

In a week and a half, my kids will be back in school and the autumn cacophony will fill our house and it will feel like the entire universe is crashing around me, but I'm going to breathe.  I'm going to take a beat before I yell.  I'm going to count to 10 before I scream a punishment.  I'm going to be as patient as I can be.  I'm going to do everything I can to slow things down and not have life rush past me in the blink of an eye.  Just like I've been all week with just me and Cohen.  Because my kids deserve a mother who's enjoying life and not just surviving it.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Bikini Question

So it's been awhile...summers are crazy.  I say that like the rest of the year is not crazy.  But the rest of the year I have this support structure in place to take care of things.  Summer time...all that goes out the window.  Camps that I can afford do not cover a full work day.  Super hero days are sprung on me hours beforehand.  A different location every week.  It becomes exhausting.  In addition to all that, work is at it's fever pitch for both Clif and I during the summer months.  At least it always seems to work out that way.

I love summer, but I'm kind of glad that things will be slowing down after today.  Camps are over for Ainsley, she'll spend the rest of her summer traveling up and down the eastern seaboard.

So my point is that I have a lot of updating to do.  Freddie graduated from preschool, Cohen turned 2, Ainsley turned 8 and life has been chugging along.  But I'll save that for another day, when my pictures are not being held hostage in my Mac Book.

Today I'm contemplating parenting decisions.  When am I not, right?  You know what they don't tell you about being a parent?  That you'll have this little baby, and you'll make all these enormous decisions...breast or bottle, cloth or disposable, organic or not, preschool or daycare, stay at home or work away.  All these things that you think are so difficult to decide and will totally mold your baby.  But now, I can sit on the other side of that baby mess and say those are not the big decisions.  I mean, they're hard, and you stress over them, and I'm not belittling them.  I definitely thought about all of those things for months before my kids were born.  But the really big, character molding decisions...they happen in the tiniest of moments, when you least expect them.  They are things that you did not discuss or ponder over as your baby rolled in your belly. They happen in Target or at the playground or in the bath tub.  They slap you in the face when you're rushing out the door to swim lessons or when you're late for work...again.

I had one such moment recently and it made me feel like such a hypocrite that it's all I've thought about for weeks.  It happened as I was getting the boys ready to go to the pool one afternoon.  I had already packed up Ainsley's suit and towel and now we could pick her up and go straight to the pool for a couple of hours before rushing home to start dinner.  Freddie refused to put on his rash guard shirt, and honestly I didn't really fight him on it.  It's totally fine for boys to wear just their shorts at the pool, especially at 5PM when the sun wasn't a factor.

And as the words "Sure, whatever you're comfortable in" left my mouth, it rolled over me like a truck.  This deep worry in the pit of my stomach.  This realization that I was a part of the problem that I so desperately wanted to fix for my children and my grandchildren.

Ainsley hadn't been able to wear a bikini since she was a toddler.  I felt that I should try and establish a healthy environment where she wasn't wearing skimpy clothes.  But instead it had become a point of contention.  Ainsley wanted to know why she couldn't wear bikinis.  Originally, my intentions were good. Maybe it's not appropriate for a little girl to wear a bikini.  But why?  I couldn't really answer that question, other than she was a little girl and I didn't want to make her a target.  Didn't want her to think that she should dress in skimpy clothes.  Wanted her to place value on her internal strengths, rather than her external ones.  All those "build girls up," "healthy body image," "don't sexualize a child" things you hear and read.

But in that moment, I realized that I had done exactly the opposite of what I wanted to accomplish.  Without a moment's hesitation I had agreed to let Freddie go shirtless, but I wouldn't let Ainsley wear a bikini in a setting where she was already WAY less dressed than either of her brothers.  And I had no explanation.  All I could conjure up was "she's a girl," and that is BULLSHIT.

So how do I undo that?  How do I now go back on what I had said and say a bikini is okay without pushing it on her.  And how do I make sure that she still feels all those things that I was trying to instill by not allowing the bikini?

I HAVE NO IDEA!!!

In the end, she asked for a bikini and I bought her one.  I tried to explain that I was wrong, that it shouldn't matter what she wears as long as she's comfortable in it and happy with how it makes her feel.  I asked her why a bikini was so important to her and she told me it made her look cute.  I asked her how it made her feel and she said happy.

So ridiculous that all this angst happens over a bikini. A little item of clothing that only gets worn for a few months of the year.  But all this big stuff happens in these little moments and insignificant decisions.  I still don't know what I'll say if she comes home at 14 with daisy dukes and a halter top that she wants to wear to school.  Because the truth is that the world is going to label her because of it.  I can do my best to alter my own opinions and show her how to be her best woman no matter the clothes, but that's not going to change the world view.

I'm at a loss in this department.  It feels like a tug of war, go too far one way and you end up in the mud.  I guess I just hope that Ainsley can forgive me for all the missteps and she's smart enough and strong enough to make her own decisions and stick by them. That she finds an inner confidence that will take her past all the bullshit.  In the end, I hope that's what I can give her no matter what she's wearing.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Eight

Dear Ainsley,

I didn't realize this before hand, but apparently eight is a big deal.  When you're a kid birthdays are always a big deal.  Soon, you will snuggle into eight and it will become well worn.  It will be comfortable and you will be itching to be nine.

But as an adult, I am looking at my eight-year-old and realizing that this is one of those times that I will look back on and think, "That was the moment when everything changed."

Maybe I'm being dramatic, but over the last few months there has definitely been a shift.  Your thinking is different, your attitude is changing.  You're maturing and aging and it's like I can see it happening.

Some of it's good, some of it is...difficult.  But you are definitely growing up.  I've seen that happen for eight years, but this past spring it's become very apparent that you will not be a kid forever.  Something that my head knows but my heart is not quite on board with yet.  So we have to take baby steps, because just like you've never been eight, I've never had an eight-year-old and we are navigating these new waters together.  So we give little bits of independence and judgement, then we pull it back when it gets too scary.  I think ear piercing is a good place to start.

You've been begging me for pierced ears for three years.  I originally told you, you had to wait until you were nine.  Why?  Who knows, ask Grandma.  That's when I got my ears pierced, so I figured it was a good age.  But I won't lie...I couldn't wait to buy you little earrings.  So when you begged and pleaded on your seventh birthday I made you a deal.  You show me how responsible you can be and I would take you on your eighth birthday to get it done.  Well, I'm not going to lie and say you were suddenly the poster girl for responsibility, because you so were not!  But I think I wanted your ears pierced as much as you did, so I conceded.



It was a stressful event.  I was so worried for you.  Not about the actual piercing and if you would be allergic or get an infection.  Those are all things we could deal with.  No it was more the way you handled it that ripped me apart.  You were so brave and insistent that you did not want to cry but you were afraid that you would cry.  Ugh...how did you get so grown up to have this emotion?  This need to not show your fear and emotion in public.  And you did cry a bit.  You cried before hand out of sheer excitement/fear/anxiety.  But just a tiny bit behind your fists.  Then it happened and you laughed and said "Ow, ow, ow..."  Because it did hurt, but not nearly as bad as you  had imagined.




I have to say, you have impressed me beyond my imagination with the ear hole care.  You can be a bit...dramatic...especially when it comes to injury.  A scrape on the foot needs a homemade cast and crutches in your opinion.  So I was worried that there would be a lot of whining and complaining about turning and cleaning ears.  But not once have you belly ached.  You listened intently to all the instructions and you come and ask me, "Does this one look a little bit red?  Could it be infected?"  You always wash your hands before touching them.  You worry about going swimming.  You clean them every morning and every night without being asked.  So I think we made the right decision.



In the end, they are your ears, part of your body.  And I always want to make it clear that all of those things fall under your power and your decision making.  Not mine.  I hope this is one small step in that direction, and I hope that you let me help you make these decisions the older you get.

I'm so proud of you, Ainsley.  I'm so proud of who you are and all that you do.  I consider myself really lucky to know you, to be a part of your world.  You're going to be great things and I'm glad I get to watch.

Love,
Mommy

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

For Now, Us Takes A Back Seat

Today Clif and I "celebrate" 9 years of marital bliss.

I put celebrate in quotations because other than a quick kiss on the cheek and a whispered "Happy Anniversary" followed by a mumbled "You too" before I left the house this morning, there won't be any typical celebrating.

We won't toast champagne over an elegant steak dinner.  We won't lie on the beach for hours as our fruity drinks sweat in the Caribbean heat.  We won't spend all day watching a movie marathon with take-out on our couch.

This week has seen little shut eye with a coughing Cohen, a puking Freddie, and a big school project that Ainsley needs to finish before tomorrow.  I think both of us would trade the beach for a secluded bed in a dark room for the next 72 hours.  Still, beats last year when we were battling the lice.  That is actually one of my favorite posts.  It is absolutely the truth about marriage.

I think back over the last nine years.  Nine is not a very exciting anniversary.  Just shy of that decade mark. Years behind our predecessors.  Years ahead of the newlyweds out there.  Still, a lot has happened in nine years.  We've been broke, we've been uprooted, we've grown our family, we've lost loved ones.  A lot of life happens in nine years.  And when you start stacking nine years on top of nine years on top of nine years, before you know it a lifetime will have passed.

So last night, Clif and I were joking about our anniversary and how it never seems to be about us anymore.  I said "I passed right by a CVS today on my walk and I didn't even go in and get you a card."  He said "Well, I didn't get you one either."  And we laughed.  Because we both think cards are a waste of money but it is a small, fairly simple gesture.  Yet neither of us took the time to do it.

"We aren't very good at making it about us," I said.  And he said, "Look around.  How could we possibly?  Don't worry babe, one day it will be all about us again."

And he's right.  One day there won't be sick kids to sit up with.  There won't be projects cluttering the kitchen table.  There won't be babies being born the day before with birthdays to celebrate every year.  There won't be lice to comb out and kill.

One day, we'll be able to celebrate our anniversary for weeks at a time if we so desire.  For now we'll just take the quick kiss on our ways to our respective days.



So Clif, Happy Anniversary.  We have seen ups and downs.  Good times and bad times.  I don't have time for you and you don't have time for me.  But we still love each other and we've agreed to stay on the ride...at least until next year.  We're already planning a 10 year anniversary vacation...without the kids.  After that, I'm not making any promises.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Little Tiny CEO

Dear Cohen,



Two years.  This is where I'm supposed to say, "I can't believe you are 2" and I can't because you're my baby.  But then...when were you not a part of our family?  A part of me?  It doesn't seem like I just met you two years ago.  It seems like you've always been around.  So much so that I recently looked at old pictures from before I was even pregnant with you and thought "Wow, life must have been so weird then."

Strange how a person can come into your life and just make it the new normal without a word.  There's no great shift.  Just all of the sudden you exist and it's like you always have.

But two...



Two is so much bigger than you were a year ago.  And just completely on the other side of the world from where you were 2 years ago.  You amaze me.  You are light years ahead of any other two year old I've ever known.

I guess that's the curse/blessing of the 3rd child.  You're going to grow up so fast.

Already you are so independent.  You want to be just like the big kids.  We aren't even allowed to consider a highchair these days.  Strapping you in takes an act of God.  You'd much rather sit in a seat and come and go as you please.  Sippy cups?  No way.  Pass the big kid cups.



You follow Ainsley and Freddie everywhere and pitch an absolute fit when I don't allow you down to the playroom or outside without me.

You started climbing out of your crib a month ago.  I'm not really sure what to do with you there.  Ainsley and Freddie were over 2, more like 2.5, when they did it.  You no longer want anyone to take you out of the crib.  You can do it yourself.

You want to brush your own teeth and read your own books and get your own milk.



You have lots to say, and even more to do.  You're always busy.  Always talking.  I can remember you as a tiny thing, thinking how could you possibly ever talk or walk.  But you can and you do, because that's how it goes.  We spend so much of our grown up lives not changing, that watching a baby become a toddler, then a kid is incredible.

The older kids like to play "punch buggy" in the car.  You are not one to be left out.  So randomly I'll hear you yell "Buddy!  White!"  You have a favorite Knock-Knock joke...

You: "Not - Not."
Us: "Who's there?"
You: "Tow."
Us: "Cow who?"
You: "MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

You ask questions and then more questions and when we answer you reply "Ohhhhhhh" like it's so logical.



When the others ride their bikes, you ride yours.  Down every hill, around every turn, you are right behind them.  You can ride a scooter like a pro.  You can climb up any playground structure.  Just the other day, I turned for a handful of seconds, and when I looked back you were teetering on the top rung of a ladder about 7 feet in the air.  Reaching your tiny foot over to the landing.  Babe, that ladder was not made for a munchkin like you.  It was not made for little toddler legs.  I sprinted over, screaming for you to wait, but you had already made the leap and just giggled down at me as you ran to the slide.



You are fearless.  You have no caution flag, no yellow light...just full-throttle.  You run.  You go.  You jump.  And you don't want any hand holding or help along the way.  Railings were not made for you.  You walk down stairs with your hands behind your back, defying us to stop you.

You have epic light saber fights with Freddie.  You already have the fighting stance.  You color with Ainsley.  You pick your colors carefully even though right now they are all "bue" or "yeyow."

When we try to get you dressed, you have very strong opinions about your style.  Yesterday we went through every single pair of socks you own.  All of them discarded to the floor with an "Ah na yike dat sock."  You ended up sockless.



Today it's choosing socks but one day I think you'll be tackling stock options or magazine covers with the same decisive authority.  You'll go far, little man.  And no one's going to help you.  You're going to do it all on your own, because that's the way you like it.

Happy Birthday Cohen!  We love you as big as your personality, as loud as your screams, and as funny as your knock knock jokes.

Love,
Mommy




Thursday, June 4, 2015

Thinking Outside the Box

For a moment, let's take Caitlyn Jenner out of the picture.  Because let's face it, she - along with all of the Kardashians - is a fame whore.  And to paint her as a hero because she's brought attention to a topic...well it's slightly ridiculous.  She said in an interview that you don't go through a sex change for media attention.  Well, I would disagree with that when it comes to anyone associated with the Kardashians.

True, Caitlyn has stirred up some emotions, and people are talking about it.  But I don't see her motives as selfless.  Liberals are singing her praise.  Weeping at her new found freedom.  The religious right is calling her an abomination. A slap in the face to God's awesome and perfect plan.

So let's take her out of the story.  Let's instead just talk about the topic.  Instead of it being a 60+ year old reality TV star, who may or may not go to any length to remain in the lime light...let's imagine that it's a no-name college boy or an unnoticed high school girl.  Let's put those people at the center of this topic and let's talk about them.

And instead of focusing on what our society labels us, let's broaden our mind and view gender and sexuality on a spectrum, rather than a box you check.

I think we could all agree, without screaming at each other, that there are different types of boys and girls.  There are girls who like to wear dresses and pig tails and there are girls who like to play in the mud. There are boys who love to sing and dance and there are boys who'd rather spend their days on a ball field.  Doesn't make these kids any less of a person or girl/boy...just means they're different.  We're all different. We're all unique and no where will you find a person just like you.

I think we can also agree that as these kids age and grow, different sexualities emerge.  And I'm not talking about homosexuality vs heterosexuality...though that is a part of it.  But even within our own "categories," can't we agree that there are different tastes?  A man may like only blond women.  He may only like to have sex in the mornings.  We don't put him in a "blond women, sex in the morning" category, he's just a heterosexual man.  And we don't think it's weird that he doesn't find Zoe Saldana attractive, because he's more of a Reese Witherspoon guy.  Right?

So instead of having these groups, why can't we look at both gender and sexuality as a spectrum?  That over here on the right you have heterosexual people who are horned up all the time and will drop their pants at any moment to get laid, then all the way over on the left you have homosexual people who would do the same.  And all through the middle you've got everyone else that fall, just somewhere.  Some women are attracted to men, but just not all that in to sex.  Some men are attracted to men and have sex once a week.  Some women go out every weekend looking to take home a new person.  Some women cheat.  Some guys are uber loyal to their spouse.  Some men save themselves for marriage.

Am I making my point?

If not, well here it is.  I've read multiple articles lately that talk about not messing with what God created.  I agree.  I believe in God, I may not attend church every week or memorize bible versus, but I believe.  And I pray.  And I tell my kids about him.  And I agree that God is perfect, and he has a perfect vision, and we are all made to perfection...fat, tall, thin, dark, smart...whatever.  And I believe that God does make people all over the spectrum.

So why is it so strange to believe there are men out there that feel more feminine?  And why is that a sin? God did make these people.  They exist.  It's not just Caitlyn Jenner.  There are lots and lots of boys out there being made fun of for painting their toe nails.  Did God make a mistake with them?  Because my sweet, sensitive, 5 year old loves to have his toe nails painted.  In fact, he and his 2 year old brother are sporting fuchsia toe nails right now.  Just like mommy.  So is that a mistake?  Do they not fit into the correct box?  Are they just trying to be something they're not to garner fame and attention?

I personally, don't believe that.  I just think when God cut us all out of his fabric he spiced it up a bit.  How boring would it be if we all looked the same?  Just as boring if we all fit in the same box.




Friday, May 29, 2015

Muscle Memory

So today I'm going to do something a bit different.  I know I have not been spending much time on the blog.  I think I've only written 2 or 3 posts this month.  But I have been writing.  I've been flexing my fiction muscles a bit.  They are way out of practice.  I hope they remember how to do the heavy lifting.

Recently my in-laws moved out of their house that they've lived in for years.  This meant that Clif and I had to find a home for all the stuff we were storing there.  I came across a box that contained writing from high school.  All fiction.  You guys?  I was really good at it.  I mean, I was totally impressed with my 17 year old self!  It was all a bit dark and angst ridden, but I was a moody teenager.

I had forgotten how much I loved it.  This then prompted me to find some of my college stuff.  Which led to 22-year-old Jaime stuff.

Anyway, long story short, I was yearning to dive back into it.  So I did.  So on the days that I would normally get an urge to post on here, I wrote a fiction piece.  None of them are done.  They're all just snippets.  So today, I'm going to share something with you.  But first...

THIS IS FICTION!!!!

Everything else I've ever posted on here has been absolutely true to the best of my knowledge and/or memory.  My point of view.  This is NOT true...fiction.  I just want that to be crystal clear so I don't get any worried phone calls or concerned emails.

I would welcome any constructive criticism.  I hope you enjoy it...


The memory is always the same, because how can a memory change?  A memory is.  There are no questions.  Different people may remember it differently, but to you, in the crevices of your mind, the memory stays exactly as it always was.

The memory comes in a dream, but it always seems to veer off course.  There is always some plot line that emerges that wasn’t there in 1982.

It’s raining.  Storming.  The thunder wakes me and as the next lightning bolt slices through the sky, my room lights up and my mother is standing over me whispering to be quiet. I can't be sure if she's real.  My mind has been yanked from unconsciousness and I can't tell what actually hovers over me and what remains from sleep.  The outline of her appears with the lightning and disappears just as quickly.

She picks me up, slips down the stairs and out the door.  She runs and my chin bobs on her shoulder.  I see the rectangle of light flowing out of the darkness where she left the door open.  I’m soaking wet by the time we slip into the car.  She tells me to lie down and she speeds off as another flash of lightning and boom of thunder disrupt the rhythm of the rain. 

Sometimes Andy is with us, running behind to catch up.  Other times I see him standing in the rectangle of yellow light, crying for us.  Still others I just hear him screaming for us to come back.  Once my mother carried both of us and when I looked over, he was just gone.  That's the dream's doing.  My mind's way of making sense.  In reality, Andy was never there.  He had drowned in the creek the summer before and I was left as an only child.  One child to a mother and father conditioned to parent twins.  Single in a world where I had never been alone, not even during my first breath.

My dreams always put him there, because how can I exist without him?  We were meant to be a pair and when he was gone, so was I.

I always wake when Andy disappears.  Right on cue.  I notice he's gone and my eyes pop open like I was never even sleeping.  As if my subconscious won’t believe he’s gone.  The memory exists, but refuses to finish it's playback.  I can remember what happens.  That my mother and I drove off, through the night, all night until we were four states away and passing under the neon lights of a dingy motel.  But my dream never gets that far.  My dreams belong with Andy...our dreams.  They can't move forward without him.  And without a dream, what could I possibly become?
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