Homeward Bound

I've wrestled with being a "working mom" in a variety of ways in the three years since my son's birth.  I've felt proud for pulling it off, harried when I haven't, and a constant awkward juggling act of overflowing laundry, papers needing graded, and a neglected husband clamoring for my attention in between.  I've relished the worth of being a teacher and that of being a mom and have attempted numerous unwritten math equations of budgets, time management, and priority adjustments to magically execute both roles.  At my finest moments, I've stormed late into school after dropping a sick son off at day care and thrown a volatile, "This working woman stuff is crap!" to unsuspecting teachers who happened to be in my path on the way to my classroom--suggesting to them, myself and God above I was one ear infection, sock-less sock drawer, or frantic morning routine away from chucking it all in the trash and riding off into the sunset in my trail blazing search for the promised land: at home motherhood.

But really I never could muster the courage to step away.  I looked to women who had slipped off the grid for that title of stay at home mom and found them quite mysterious.  What did they do all day? No really, what was it they were doing all day?  How did they manage little ones who couldn't speak, preserving self, and all those household demands that can so sneakily slide into mundane? How did they keep their sanity intact with an endless string of children's songs and adult-to-child conversations? Did they question their decision? Were they lonely? And how in the world were they able to take that leap of faith?

Essentially, I couldn't prompt myself to walk away from the financial security of my salary for the enterprise of full blown motherhood, regardless of its honorable purpose, wherein I would likely find a great deal of failure in myself.  

Yet, I'm here to share with you that I'm in fact homeward bound.  At the close of this school year, I'm taking a break from teaching to be with my sons (the three of them...how cool to type that part!).

The decision has been met with, as any reasonable person would imagine, a roller coaster of emotions: peace in knowing it was definitely and finally time to do so, sadness for leaving a rich, collaborative work environment, anxiety for the unknown, and excitement for the opportunity to journey through something new, foreign, and undoubtedly challenging.

Two weeks ago I wrote down all my fears about being a stay at home mom on a piece of paper and took a moment to think.  It was very summer camp-esque.  That kind of activity where your paper plate of fears is thrown into the bonfire and ta-da, you're free! Only it definitely didn't make me feel free. It just helped me face the reality that stay at home motherhood isn't one big party of days that consist of me donning the apron and patiently showing my sons how to bake just as much as it wouldn't be one long nightmare of fiendish tear-inducing poop horrors, nursing babies out to kill, and me shower-less as I greet my husband at the end of the day.  It wasn't, won't, be either of those.  It will be some of this and some of that and a lot of in between stuff all over the place. 

Or so says the woman who hasn't even packed the chuck wagon bound for the promised land yet and has no idea that by the time she will have made it to the plains of Kansas she will have tossed half of her weighty belongings to the side of the well worn trail.  Because that's how I work.  I cling. I plan. I collect. I scheme. I write. I pack up all my hopes and dreams into my heart.  And then somehow along the way I happen to really live and in so doing discover to lean into an authentic reality...and that's when I let go and grow. 

Last night, I earned my initiation into that stretching title of SAHM.  At my first Mothers of Multiples meeting, moms with similar twin ages huddled together in small groups to swap advice, share stories, and ask questions.  After a winding conversation of birth stories, baby weights and milestones, and our considerations for the future, we landed in that subject of work.  Our positions on the Map of Working Mothers popped off one by one.  And there it was after my transition-to-at-home-motherhood-announcement, an onslaught of  "Oh, I could never do that" concessions and counters for my craziness.  I smiled, bit my tongue and thought of how we're all connected with our guilt to be superhero moms regardless of where we are and what our work looks like.  And that guilt can sometimes fuel our defensiveness when really we should be high-fiving each other for working our butts off to put family first in the unique and (always) courageous ways we know how: working mom, stay at home mom, or whatever title it is that you are currently wearing.

I'll go ahead and deflate this post.  I'll inhale the helium and make a funny voice to make you smile.  I thought I needed some big announcement to declare, "I'm going home! I'm gonna be a stay at home mom!", but I don't really.  I thought I needed people to rally by my side and congratulate me and wish me luck. And don't get me wrong---I would happily accept all above! But I'm in a happy place right now where I'm not concerned with the difference between me and other women, the race up the ladder, or what I have to prove. I'm at a happy place where I think womanhood rocks and being a mother is powerful and it's a super challenging job regardless of our titles and that unity is to be celebrated!  

Most of all, I'm here to tell you that all those questions I had about those elusive, off the grid mommies will now get answered by me.  I plan on spelling out for you how I've lost my sanity, detail my attempts to manage a string of endless days, and narrate both the joys and the horrors of the Real Housewife of Three Boys Under Four.  And you might get lucky one day and happen upon a post which throws a volatile, "This stay at home mom stuff is crap!" your way when you are least expecting it.  

The Reality of Twins

I killed time in between doctor appointments pounding away at the pages of one of my riveting twin books. I've decided a new approach for the homework of reading books on multiples I've ladled out for myself: divide, conquer, and shoost those suckers into the closest library deposit slot as quickly as possible because I'm kind of tired of breaking out in sweats from perusing non-fiction.

These books are one part rest-assured and nine parts crap-your-pants.  I honestly feel like I've crammed for an exam.  Baby weight numbers and when feedings can be stretched to three hours.  Tandem feed holdings.  Must have items for nursing.  Witty comebacks for cliche questions people will likely be asking (and most of them I've already heard).  How to ask, beg, and direct people for help.  The four different approaches to nighttime feedings with a spouse.  Pregnancy weight gain projections.  Averages for gestation.  NICU know how. Symptoms of post partum depression. All the reasons why you've chosen the wrong names for your twins.  It's quite enjoyable.

Seeing as we all have a little crazy in us...  [Wait, you don't?]... I find myself reading within these books personal testimonies of women you have lost themselves somewhere amid the finances, fatigue, or feeding of twins and I think to myself, "Oh, but I'll pull this off.  I'll think logically.  I won't need an intervention."  And turn the page and read on I do.  And yes, I get frantic over all there is to do and know and prepare my home and heart for, and yet the crazy part of me is excited for the challenge.

And I say crazy part because I've got the credibility to say so about myself.  Tonight, I came home with my son and weathered the storm of a boy who is sick and would like nothing better than test his vocal cords' ability to produce whiny, high-pitched indecipherable noises.  I gritted my teeth when he accidentally spilled the sugar cinnamon   I reassured him when he pooped in his diaper.  I took a deep breath, literally three minutes later, when he tip toed suspiciously into the hearth room and admitted, "Mommy, my poop fell in the closet." And I whipped up dinner quickly so that I could cuddle him on the couch for some much needed read-with-mommy time.

I kept my cool until dinner.  Interrupted in what I've waited all day to do, talk to Paul, by Thomas terribly distraught over not finding his "utter boo" (which is some interesting way of naming a toy weapon), I pull a fake smile and my eyes widen across the table from my handsome husband as I tell him, "it's your turn."  I may have added some melodramatic maxim like I've hit my limit or I can't go over there.  Essentially, some kind of concept of me hitting my head against a wall.

The reality of twins is something a book will only marginally prepare me.  If my good sense serves me right, my wall of I-can't-take-any-more will have no choice but to be torn down and rebuilt farther down the road over and over again.  But just as my patience and love for Thomas wasn't overnight, neither will my ability to gracefully whisk two newborns to my chest sans help, complaining, cursing, or tears.

Too bad for that.  Books 1, 2, 3 & 4 of Run & Hide: You're Having Twins make one thing very clear.  I don't have time to allow for gradual, incremental additions to my bounty of love and ability.

These babies are coming, and for the 1st month, the most critical, their mission is to leach on to take, take, and kill.  Or so I've read.

Stay tuned.  It's gonna get real up in here.

Quick Takes

I can't put into words my adoration of Downton Abbey.  That's why, when perusing Hulu Wednesday night in an attempt to numb myself to sleep on the couch and finding that the second season of Downton Abbey was available for viewing, I forewent words and squealed a loud, foreign sound similar to that of a teenage girl finding One Direction serenading her at the front doorstep.

Watching Downton Abbey has me yearning for a different sense of womanhood.  The love story of Matthew and Lady Mary wound by the allegiance to unforgiving virtues whispers in my soul a conversion to greater modesty, respect, and poise.  The show has me searching for new heights of femininity which I will likely follow up with a copious amount of reading and pithy actual change in my daily living. 

This morning, after debating whether a trip to Lowe's deems a shower necessary or not, I made an impulse decision to jump in the shower. I figured I could be quick and that I didn't need to secure/confine/white jacket my son in order to do so in peace.  However,  there was a silence when I stepped out of the bathroom, one that had me searching through the house in nothing but my bath towel.  While I should have been concerned about a possible neighborly sighting due to many opportunities for window exposure, I was focused on Thomas's safety...and the can of white paint which I spent thirty minutes trying to open earlier with every conceivable tool in our house.  A toddler has a way of sniffing out smashing impossibilities or excavating ancient paint cans their mommy has unsuccessfully attempted to open.  I spotted a splash of water on the entry room rock floor and my eyes shifted up to see in split second motion picture fashion an open front door, a garden hose gone wild, and a blur of a toddler wearing nothing but his diaper and a grin. 

The actions which followed were horrifying.  Me hiding behind a wall and hissing begs at Thomas to retreat inside.  Me sprinting to my room for clothes.  Me sprinting back to the living room because my bra was where I had left in that night I watched Downton Abbey wee into the night.  Me sprinting back to my room for clothes, 2nd attempt.  Me running out of the house to chase down a toddler, my eyes darting arrows of frantic madness and yet also thinking, "Do I have clothes on?" as a neighbor drove by and I politely waved so as to retain a semblance of normalcy.

This escaping toddler incident illuminates the stark contrast between me dreaming for a supremely feminine life and me celebrating a shower which doesn't invite chaos into my home.

Oh, and that 1st QT about me numbing myself to sleep.  No worries.  That was just because my husband was out of town.  He's back now, so there won't be any more willful adherence to television marathons.  Instead, we do this routine where I tell Paul every detail of my day, and the new evolution of my goals, and the progress on my project list and so forth until the point where I ask Paul a question and he musters a "huh?", "yuh", or a "hmm", and I decide I should stop talking and go to bed. 

Earlier this summer I posted about the ridiculous mantra all or nothing.  I'm still trying to put this into practice because I think, in appropriate instances, it can be a very healthy mindset.  My happiest moderation find has been taking a stroll around the neighborhood after dinner.  I don't put on a sports bra or tweet my mileage or push myself to a heart rate of any extreme.  The fresh air and the quietness is enough to reward me for an action so minimal.

If you haven't checked out Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary, the hostess of Quick Takes, you should.  She's equal parts helpful and hilarious.

"Why, Mommy?"

I had just told Thomas, my two year old, that we would eat chocolate cake but that we would share: one plate, one glass of milk, one fork, one piece.

I opened up the fridge and grabbed the container of milk. As I shut the door, I heard my son ask, "Why, Mommy?" with his head tilted to his right and his palms facing up and out beyond his shoulders in that universal stance of questioning.  I stood at the counter smiling at his look of query. Oh, happy day!

He has no idea what this means.  Maybe, even, he's like the rest of us---big people, adults---who think things so often, the line between said and unsaid is fuzzy.  Maybe he has been thinking Why? for quite a while now, but I know this is the first time I've heard it.

So, what does this mean? Why am I thrilled about this simple two-worded question?

1. You remember Discipline Reform School, or whatever it was I referred to it as? Well, that's going great and all, but I'm still at home with a toddler, one whose unrivaled fight for independence and authority is not quite an equal match to his entry-level vocabulary.  The use of that simple word why means another outlet for preventing and diffusing frustration. I try my best to explain to him why he shouldn't touch the flame or spray me with jet-force blasts of water, but I'm so happy that, if I forget, he will remind me to tell him why.

2. All knowledge comes from questions. Well, duh. We all know that. But seriously, pinch my slap happy teacher self!  For the nerdy, lit toting educator that I am, this day, the day my son started asking "Why?" is more significant than all those benchmarks in his neglected "baby book".  Forget the day his first tooth pushed through his gums or the day he rolled over unto his back. This is the real stuff! 

Good thing he's not quite old enough to ask, "Mommy, why have you eaten 1/3rd of that birthday cake you made for Daddy?"

Quick Takes

Yesterday, Thomas and I visited an Asian market in town to buy ingredients for pho bo.  As I tightly squeezed past customers I tried my best to not appear as an intruder.  Because here's me, flipping over bags, bottles, cans, packages, thinking Where's the English? and generalizing everything as I made my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th laps around the tiny store: Okay, Noodle Aisle, Sauce and Oil Aisle, Candy Aisle, Seafood and Things I REALLY Don't Recognize Aisle. I was so disoriented from the missing convenience of being able to read that I couldn't tell basil from ... well, I just couldn't find the basil.  

Thomas likes to say no.  He draws a strong sense of authority from it.  However, as I've recently enrolled him in Discipline Reform School, I thought I could quench his thirst for command in a more tasteful manner. And so I bring you a book we've checked out from the library twice now.  
Check it out.  Your no-toting toddler will figure the rest out. I promise.

Recently, I've been thinking about my view on friendships and how I generally let my social anxieties and introverted streaks take over too often.  Being a good friend isn't about personality type or tendencies though. It's an integral part of our life's experience. So, maybe I need to do some rethinking.  Let me ask you--What makes a good friend?

We visited Silver Dollar City last Sunday. My son was thrilled about this.  And I was too. But I just want to get one thing straight:
1.  I got pregnant three years ago
2. My equilibrium is forever off
3. And now my toddler asks that I join him in rides that spin in a twenty foot diameter under relentless, all-seeing heat of the sun where I cramp myself into a contorted position specifically designed for suffering, sweating, and under-the-breath swearing as he yells and hoots and hollers a special kind of happiness because Mom's in the backseat of him bouncing, jolting, and seeing a vision of her unbalanced equilibrium induced vomit hitting the pavement four feet below. Yeah, that.

Other than that, it was an awesome day, especially the part where he fell asleep in my arms on the train, likely exhausted from dragging Mommy unto rides and bouncing in frogs.

Summer started two weeks ago.  I've just been sitting around, watching Ellen, painting my toe nails, and eating bon bons. Um, NOT! Okay, I've had a leisurely cup of coffee [Read: I drink bottomless cups of coffee], I read and play with Thomas almost anytime he wishes, and I've had the time to rip up my string cheese abs at boot camp, but it's been super busy here too.  In fact, I've had a few moments where I've looked at my summer project list and thought: Not. Enough. Time. ACKKK!  

This morning I created my vanilla extract starter as suggested by Ina Garten of The Barefoot Contessa.
Put a dozen vanilla beans in a bottle, fill with vodka, and wait a month--so says my cookbook. We'll see. I'll put it under taste tester inspection in July.

Have a lovely weekend!