The Uncomfortable Brightness of Motherhood

Motherhood is weird, right?

We long for a light in the darkness, and yet…

sometimes the sun shines so brightly that we have to squint and shade our eyes and smile through it even though it’s almost painful.

We work so hard for these sunny times that even though they are often blinding, we will take them.

My Eddie with his eyes shielded, looking forward for his mom with his hand on my shoulder.

My Charlie squinting and throwing up rock n roll horns even through the sting of the sun for his mom mom with his other hand on my back.

My Alice closing her eyes and smiling because momma said to and she trusts me completely while gripping my arm tightly.

These kids man.

Not what I expected at all.

Uncomfortable at times.

But Better.

Brighter.

Charlie’s Card he made me in Preschool. My boy knows me so well!

 

 

Mirror

So often

I see reflected in my children

that of which I am ashamed

in myself.

yelling

anxiety

unkind words.

I am SO over you right now!

I can’t deal with you!

Get out of my face!

JUST. LEAVE. ME. ALONE!

these reflections are so clear

but occasionally

those effigies shine

kindness

grace

forgiveness.

I love you.

These are for my brother.

I forgive you.

In those moments

I am

assured that

it’s going to be ok;

They

will be more

than Ok.

mirror

Letting Go

It started with the baby boy clothes. I carefully divided them into two piles: what would fit my nephew and what was too small for him. Each tiny onsie and legger brought back memories of chubby thighs and soft tummies, wobbly legs and curious hands.

Box by box they left our house, clearing much-needed space in Eddie and Charlie’s closet. I kept only a precious few items: a baptismal outfit, an Easter sweater, a onsie with a name on it.

I felt a pang, but we weren’t having anymore babies, and Alice wouldn’t wear any of those clothes. They may as well go to someone new who could use them and love them rather than sit in a closet in our house.

Then Alice started growing out of her clothes, and other than an Easter dress and a tiny pair of shoes, those were passed to my just-born-yesterday niece. I didn’t have as many feelings about those; after all, only one baby wore them and most were hand-me-downs. Those things weren’t as difficult to let go.

But now, Alice is growing out of the infant things–stuff we have had since my baby showers for Eddie seven years ago.. Items that have been a part of this stage in our life, representing the “child-bearing years”. When she grew too big for the swing, we passed it on to my brother and sister-in-law as they await their first born. That was…difficult. That swing was the first place both of my boys slept when they came home from the hospital. Alice was the only baby who loved it enough to use it often to soothe her. The swing in the corner was a symbol of the babies we were having, the expansion of our family.

It’s gone now, replaced with a jump-a-roo.

Some of our items are getting claimed before Alice has even outgrown them.  Our rock-n-play and car seat’s bundle me are going to one family, the infant tub and bounce seat to another, and the bumbo and tray to our daycare.  I love that we can give these items to people who need them and will love them like we did rather than dropping them off at Goodwill to go to a faceless family. It was also important to me to give the items to people since they were all gifted to us; making money off of them didn’t seem right to me (not that I am judging you if you sold off your stuff. That was totally my plan too, until it came time to actually do that. Then I just couldn’t).

I’m really good at purging our house of stuff; it feels good to clear out things we don’t use to make way for extra space or new things.  But this is different. It’s harder.

Last night, at bedtime, I had a mini-panic attack. I had been snuggling Alice after her last bottle and I was thinking about my new niece who had been born that day. I had also watched a video that popped up in my Time Hop of a little 4-year-old Eddie talking about what he wanted for “Cwis-mus”.

We are done with the newborn phase of our life, and every single day I am reminded that we are slowly easing into a new phase of life.

I asked Cortney, “from now on, whenever I hold a new baby, I am going to get emotional, aren’t I?”

“Yes,” he told me, “you will.”

Newborns used to remind me of what we still had coming in our future, but now they will be a nostalgic symbol of our past.

As I laid down to go to bed, I said, “Sometimes I think about all those little boy clothes I gave away to Goodwill and I panic.”

“As long as you don’t start buying replacements for them, I think that is totally normal and Ok,” Cortney reassured me in the darkness of our room.

“Heh. I won’t,” I promised just before I drifted off to sleep.

But a sadness had wrapped itself around me. Eddie’s toddler voice is gone. Charlie’s baby squeals are gone. Alice’s newborn days are gone.

Whether I like it or not–whether I am ready or not–time is moving forward and we are all growing up and older.

Letting go of the baby stuff and embracing the big kid stuff is harder on me than I thought it would be.

The Motion of Motherhood

Why are you swaying? You know you’re not holding the baby, right?

I laughed and stopped moving.

But only for a minute. I found myself watching my oldest son dig in the dirt in right field rather than watch the boy up at bat. As I bit a nail and tried to telepathically tell Eddie to stand up, I realized I was swaying again.

I do this a lot–the swaying with no baby in my arms. It’s like my body has become accustomed to a small one being there.

The Motion of Motherhood

Charlie Bird

If I am standing, I am swaying.

If I am sitting, I am rocking.

When we stand to sing a hymn in church, I sway or bounce regardless if Alice is in my arms or not; it has just become habit.

During “wait time” in my classes, I sway back and forth in front of the room.  I have a bounce in my step when I am walking around reading.

I bounce my leg or shake my foot when I am in  meetings.

Something is always moving.

Something is always looking to soothe.

The Motion of Motherhood

Eddie Bear

The other night I found myself stroking the blanket next to me because I was used to Charlie’s arm or head nuzzled next to me during before-bed-shows.

When no one is in my arms or in my care, I find my eyes wandering to find my children. Where are they? What are they doing?  I do this even when I am somewhere without my kids. It’s like a reflex. No one in my arms or hanging on my leg? Find them.

I smile more at other moms and other children in stores.

The Motion of Motherhood

Alice Beans

All of these movements are new to me since I became a mother six years ago.

I used to actually be able to stand still.

I used to be able to sit without leaning in to each sound or bouncing a baby who is not in my arms.

Not anymore.

Now I move to the motion of motherhood.

Because my children are always with me.

The Motion of Motherhood

Mother Lover

Top Ten Reasons I Love My Mom

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she does a good job tolerating me.

1. She always puts up with my dramatics and ridiculousness.

2. Even though she doesn’t “get” my sense of humor, she rolls with it. Most of the time. Unless it involves swearing.

3. She spoils my kids in ways she would never, ever had allowed when I was growing up under her supervision.

4. She is quick to point out how my children are like me (crazy) and how they are not (chill).

5. She never once blamed her her childhood disadvantages for anything.

6. She was quick to credit her childhood (and my grandmother) for many things.

7. She still buys me birthday gifts and makes my favorite foods…even though I am thirty-seven…because she knows my love language is gifts. And I love that she never makes me feel bad about that.

8. Her logic evens out my irrational 98% of the time. The other 2% is why I take meds.

9. She has never let me down. Except when she missed Charlie’s first birthday party to go to Mexico. I KID, MOM! I KID! (She just mumbled “Oh GUY, Kate!” to the computer. Just take my word for it. She loves when I push her buttons.)

10. She wouldn’t have given me the world even if she could have because she would have wanted me work for it which is probably why I am a hard-worker as an adult. But her love she gave freely…and still does. I never deserved it or had to earn it. She just doles it out unconditionally.

That's me on my great grandma Katherine's lap. in the middle is my grandma Jo. On the right is my beautiful mother.

That’s me on my great grandma Katherine’s lap. in the middle is my grandma Jo. On the right is my beautiful mother. Four generations of AWESOME women.

 

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being A Mom

2015-04-05 12.42.261. My kids are the funniest people on the planet even if the majority of their jokes have to do with bodily functions and “booty butts”.

2. Whenever I start to get overconfident, my children point out my weaknesses (“Mom, please don’t sing. It’s terrible”) and keep me grounded.

3. Having an excuse to bake cookies and cake and all the treats. It’s for the kids, yo.

4. Reading with small people and watching them learn to read by themselves and feeling awe that this person who is READING was a nothing and then grew in my stomach and is now READING.

5. Homemade gifts.

6. Endless bouquets of dandelions.

7. Sticky faces close to my ear whispering “I love you Mom Mom.”

8. Honest awe and declarations of “Mom, you’re BEAUTIFUL!” when I get ready for church.

9. Run-by huggings.

10. Middle of the night snuggles to ward off bad dreams, growing pains, or sadness.

Because motherhood is always full of smiles and cooperative children, yes?

Because motherhood is always full of smiles and cooperative children, yes?

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers that are and ever were and ever will be.

And thank you, Mom, for being you and showing me how to be a great mother. It’s the most frustrating and lovely thing I have done with my life so far.

 

She Just Did It

One of my favorite stories is the one about when I was born. My parents don’t tell a lot of stories from when we were little, but the details I have pulled out of them about my birth are some of my favorites.

About by birth I know this:

I was two weeks late.

My mom was in labor for about ever.

When I was finally born, my dad went home and sat on the stoop with his black lab and had a beer because he was exhausted and overwhelmed.

When my dad brought my mom and I home from the hospital, he had to go back to work, but he made sure to ask my mom if she could do laundry because he was out of clean underwear.  And she did it without even thinking anything about it.

Being a new mom in our small town in 1978 was so different than it was for me, in the same town, in 2009. I can’t even imagine what those early days home alone with me were like.

My mom didn’t have the internet or the Google if she had a question about what was going on with me or with her. When Eddie wouldn’t stop crying, I turned to Twitter, Facebook, Google, BabyCenter, my blog…looking for answers and suggestions for calming a colicky baby.

What did my mom do?

When Eddie spiked his first fever, I looked to my nurse friends in my computer to find out at what point I should worry and bring him in.

What did my mom do?

When I felt lonely and separated from the world, I looked to my computer to find moms who felt like I did.

What did my mom do?

A blog comment on someone else’s blog is what prompted me to realize I might have postpartum depression.

How did mom’s know they needed help back then?

Whenever I ask my mom, she says, “I don’t know. We just did it. I’m sure there were moms who had depression, but we just didn’t know about it, so we got through it.”

I know she doesn’t mean that as a slam on me for not just getting through it. She is just simply shrugging her shoulders at what her reality was.

But did she cry when I cried?  Did she wonder if she was enough? Did she tell my dad she was scared? Did she wonder what in the hell she had gotten herself into?

I”m not sure I could have done this motherhood thing without the moms in my computer. I had plenty of support in “real life” from friends and family, but the moms in my computer were there 24/7 and there was always someone who experienced what I had.

Over the course of the past five years I have wondered at how moms did this thing alone before. All those moms without a tribe around them…how did they survive those first years?

When I ask my mom  these things, she waves me off  and says, “pfft. I don’t know, Kate. We just did.” My mom even claims to not remember. Is that possible? Maybe. I do find it harder and harder to remember Eddie and Charlie as tiny. And it has been 36 years since I was a tiny infant in my mom’s arms.

But then I see her throw her head back and laugh when she is with Eddie and exclaim, “Oh Kate! He is SO YOU!”

And I wish I could see what her mind sees. I wish I could remember being four-almost-five.

How did she do it?

I guess in the end it wasn’t too different than how I do it, really.

One moment at a time, doing the best I know how by my boys.

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Thanks, mom, for “just doing it.”

And I totally know what you mean all those times you said, “you’ll understand when you’re a mom.” I thought you were just crazy and dumb.  Turns out I was the dumb one.

Love you, mom.

 

Sometimes It’s Hard

I enjoy writing about the sweet moments of motherhood: the funny things Eddie says, the innocent questions, Charlie’s belly laugh and fearless nature.

But sometimes it’s not sweet.

Sometimes this motherhood thing sort of sucks, if I am being honest.

It’s an unpredictable, patience-trying grind of hard.

It’s Charlie’s refusal to listen when we say “no” or his adamant nonacceptance of sitting in timeout when he has made an egregious error like hitting his brother, slapping me, or throwing toy tubs at people.

It’s Eddie incessant whining when we say no to tablet time or candy or more chocolate milk.

It’s sassy mouths and scream-crying at bedtime.

It’s lollygagging and stalling when we are in a hurry.

It’s ignored requests and disobedience.

It’s 10 minutes of fighting after 10 seconds of playing nicely.

It’s all the water that ends up out of the tub and onto the floor, walls, toilet, and me.

It’s the high-pitched scream of “MINE!” from Charlie.

It’s Eddie’s long-drawn out “CHAAAAARRRLIE!” when his brother does so much as breathe wrong.

It’s the way Charlie planks his whole body when I try to buckle him into his car seat after daycare…and a long day of work.

It’s the way Eddie thrashes his whole body when he doesn’t get his way.

And then…

boys3

Contrary to what some mothers will say, these sweet moments do NOT make it “all better” for me. They don’t wipe out the headache or the wound up feeling in my tummy. But they do soften the blow.

As much as this motherhood thing is lovely and miraculous and more love than I thought my heart could ever handle, it is really hard sometimes.

And sometimes I just need to admit that.

a paradox

Bonbon Break


“Fair is foul and foul is fair”

“What does that mean?” I ask my seniors. They want to be interested, but it’s hard with Shakespeare. At least in the beginning until you get used to the language.

“Um…good is bad and bad is good?” Asks a precocious boy in the back of the room.

“Yes…but what does that mean?” I prod.

Blank stares. Uncomfortable silence. I lean into that discomfort and wait.

“Well, maybe you can’t tell the difference between the good and the bad. Maybe it’s all confused and happening all at once,” a brave student offers.

“Ok. Yes. Anyone know what that’s called? When something contradicts itself but still appears to be true?”

“A paradox!” several students yell out.

We start to talk about other examples and my mind wanders through my own days.

The sloppy wet kisses and tumbly hugs my boys give me when I leave for work each morning, and the fits they throw when I pick them up from daycare.

The soft way Charlie lays his head against my chest, and the violent way he flings himself down in anger over…well, who knows what.

Eddie asking me if I need a kiss when I bump my head on his bunk bed, and the way he breaks down in loud sobs when I won’t let him have candy right before bed.

The kisses Eddie blows me from the front of church when he spots me in the crowd, and the epic meltdown over putting on socks.

Charlie’s sweet little voice saying, “tink too!” (thank you), and his powerful screams.

The way both boys still sit on their bottoms with their knees bent and piggy toes sticking out behind them, and they way they are constantly bickering over toys.

How Eddie willingly and selflessly gives Charlie his last piece of candy, and the way he trips Charlie when they are playing “chase”.

The sweet smell of a clean-haired boy, and the stink of poopy diapers.

The reflection of my own hilarious sense of humor in Eddie’s giggle, and my own over-reaction in his tantrums.

Charlie’s fierce determination, and his stubbornness.

Watching Eddie figure out technology with the same ease his dad does, and having to pull him away from screens.

The way Charlie can take things apart and put them back together, and the way he just takes things apart and leaves them that way.

Chubby little hands learning their world, and little hands that hit.

The millions of books that the boys carry over to read, and they way they stall bedtime.

One minute I find myself cuddling two boys in a chair, and the next minute both of those boys are fighting and kneeing me in the stomach and I feel completely “touched out”.

When I watch the boys together playing so nice or being so loving, tears spring to my eyes. Tears of joy and gratitude. But in a second that loveliness can go to hell and my tears turn into to those of frustration and anxiety.

My heart can be so full, and so broken at the same time by these little people.

I can’t imagine life without them, yet I find myself wondering how I can get a break.

I feel guilt and love and pride and anger and hope and hopelessness and gratitude and sadness and comfort all at the same time.

Being a mom is both fulfilling and frustrating in ways that I have never experienced before.

It is both “fair” and “foul”.

As cliche as it sounds, the “fair” is why we do this thing called motherhood. It is. As many blog posts where I lament about how hard this all is (and it is!), there are small moments of lovely that are big enough to swallow all the difficult times.

Motherhood is a paradox for sure; however, all the headaches and heartbreak these boys bring me are worth it with just one snuggle and kiss.

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The Unassuming Mother’s Day

I have so many words in my head and heart for Mother’s Day.

So many mothers I would love to write about and give words to so they know what impact they have had on me…and how they continue to inspire me every single day.

So many different types of moms: laid back ones, working moms, stay at home moms, teacher moms, best friend moms, groovy moms, trendy moms, veteran moms, newbie moms, optimistic moms, realistic moms, dreamy moms, dreamer moms, hot moms, sad moms, hurting moms, waiting-to-be moms, past moms, present moms, my mom.

All beautiful.

All deserving of something extraordinary.

But this year there was no fanfare.

And I was glad for it.

There was no running around to all of the mothers and trying to thank every mother who has ever mothered me or inspired me to mother.

There was sleeping in.

There were boys pouncing on the bed.

There were new jammies that someone (ahem…EDDIE) had already told me about.

There were cards…one in particular with a “macaroni and cheese machine” drawn on it.

There were wet kisses and tight hugs.

There was fighting and whining and pooping in diapers and barging into the bathroom.

There were groceries gotten and laundry done.

There was feeding of hungry boys.

There was grading of long-overdue tests.

There was a bubble bath.

There was rocking.

There was wearing sweat pants all day.

There was this…

008

Smile as hard as you can.

And hold on even harder than that.

Mother.

So much power in that title.

I hope I do justice to it.

baby rut

When Cort came home for lunch yesterday I admitted that I hit my stay at home wall…

Less than three weeks into this gig.

I am bored.

Ok, not really bored.

It’s not like there aren’t things to do.

And it’s not like there aren’t other things I would like to be doing.

But either the things I can do are boring and take two minutes and I do them every day and oh-mah-gawd how many times can I wash bottles in one day? or the the things I want to do, I can’t because I am not allowed to exercise or do “excessive lifting” or whatever just yet.

Currently I am living life in three hour increments which go kind of like this:

baby wakes up and cries.
change baby.
feed baby.
baby is awake and happy.  the world stops and I stare and talk to baby.
baby gets fussy since he is not wrapped up and held.
wrap baby up and snuggle.
and snuggle.
baby falls asleep.
put baby down.
baby wakes up because he knows the swing/bouncey/crib/bassinet/couch is not snuggling him.
snuggle baby.
baby falls asleep for the long haul (which means for whatever is left of this three hours).
repeat.

So I guess you could say I’m not bored because clearly I have something happening constantly.

I am in a rut.

My “free time” each day…aka “when the baby is sleeping”…is anywhere from 2 hour blocks to 30 minute blocks.

I use that time to shower, wash bottles, and empty and refill the dishwasher.

Those are my three goals each day other than “keep the baby alive”.

If I have extra time, I try to nap, but I can’t always make that happen, even when I am dog-ass tired.  For some reason napping, which I could do pretty much anytime, anywhere while pregnant, is eluding me now.

In those “free” minutes where I am not holding or staring at this sweet new life I have, I play Words With Friends (by the way, you all are a bunch of cheaters.  I am convinced of this), watch crappy daytime television, read a book, or screw around on the computer.

I try to write, but I have nothing to say.  At least not here. (I guess I could just post pictures of Charlie every day…but I already over-saturate twitter and facebook with my instagrams of him).

Because I am in a rut.

I miss civilization.

I am actually looking forward to Easter Sunday because I will get to get up, shower and do my hair, and wear nice clothes.  In public.  With my family.

I need a purpose for each day other than feeding a tiny human.

I want to reorganize the basement, exercise, paint the bathroom, clean Eddie’s room, purge the closets, ship stuff off to Goodwill, start a baby book for Charlie, work on Eddie’s little boy book, oh this list goes on and on.

Many of these things have to wait until Charlie is napping more regularly and/or I can push up my sleeves and do some sweaty manual labor.

So for now, when I’ve played all my opponents in WWF and I just can’t focus on my book or another episode of Friends, and when the words aren’t coming for this blog…I guess I will just keep staring out the front window…wishing I could wear pants with a zipper.

And then I will go back to staring and snapping pictures of this:

 I’m taking suggestions on what to do with my “quiet time” for the next couple weeks.  Anyone?

 Also, I am aware that now that I just posted this, Charlie will do everything in his power to keep me busy and away from anything else except the TV from this point on.  Yup, I just did that to myself.

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