Simple Girl is Simple Mama now. New site here, come and see!
I’m starting to get the tiniest itch. An itch I swore I’d never get. I’m starting to think that maybe I’ve got this stay-at-home mama thing locked up, and with a few weeks to go, I’m getting scared for it to end. Please, please take a picture of you rolling your eyes and send it to me- I deserve it. I’ve complained for six months about how I struggle with the lack of structure, how I miss adult interaction. I’ve spent years talking about the energy I have to summon to shower without a workplace motivator. And now I’m FINALLY in a groove. I’m definitely not the world’s most perfectly groomed person, but I could answer the door to turn down a solicitor without dying of embarrassment. I can swing a last minute trip to Target.
But we’re not even going to Target that much. I’ve been following through on my plan of super gently home schooling Milo this summer, and we are so busy. We have activities, books, puzzles, and special snacks, all organized around a weekly theme. We’re going on play dates and meeting up with friends. We have a weekly trip to the farmers market and a weekly field trip somewhere special. Elliott has doctor’s appointments and Milo has speech therapy. And I’m managing it. I’m a little baby centered, and I have lots of help (teacher friends on break, family members), but I’m having fun. A lot of fun.
Now I’m gearing up to slide back out of this skin I finally got comfy in, and switch roles. I’m required to be independent working mother who IS going to do it all: finish grad school, teach first grade, support my school on extra committees, spend quality time with my family, eat fresh and local food from farms, get regular massages/pedicures/haircuts, have girl’s nights, date my husband, and blog about every step of it with a smile on my face.
I never realized how important it is to absolutely adore the work you’re doing if it’s taking you away from your kids. With Milo, there was enough of “me” leftover after work, so I never really had to evaluate whether anything was worth it. He was also tiny and you couldn’t really DO anything with him. I came home to a sweet little drooler, and I got my exercise from a brisk walk while he napped, we did swimming lessons on Saturdays, and I replenished diapers for daycare once in a while, and I thought “I have this DOWN!”
Now our family is bigger, and I love it more. I love my life more now than I did then. My love didn’t grow in relation to the small size of our new extra person. It exploded- I love Elliott, but I also love the way Milo laughs when Elliott makes eye contact with him, and I love the way that Ben looks when all the babies are snuggled up in his arms, and I love the way the words “my sons” sound when I say them. That’s a lot more love. That explosion of love is also an explosion of work. It’s not just an extra bath and some extra laundry and an extra car seat. It’s balancing two creatures who need my attention, who need different levels of affection, who eat at different times and sleep at different times and can hurt each other if I’m not careful. It’s Ben being really tired, and me being really tired, and not really being able to give each other a break, and we’ll have even LESS of a chance to help each other once both of us are working full time. Our new life is crowded and messy and I really do love it more than I’ve loved anything earlier. I guess because I love it more, it’s harder to give up this time.
There’s no real question- we can’t afford for me not to work any longer than the break I’ve already been lucky enough to have. I do love teaching, and I love the team I’m going to be working with next year. I have childcare arranged and even partially saved for, in a home across the street with a family who I like and trust and who love my children. I’m lucky and grateful to have those things. This is definitely a first world problem, a thought that’s crossed my mind when one of my kids gets hungry enough to cry (not that I would get distracted enough to let that happen…no…), and I think, “What if I couldn’t make those tears stop right this instant? What if there was no food?” It feels horrifying and spooky and then my emotional battle about which face my kid sees most often becomes a little less crucial.
It’s not a problem this week, or next. I have a solid month and change before I need to switch gears and give up my 24/7 SAHM love fest. Until then, I’ll just keep scraping play dough out from under my fingernails and having company on trips to the bathroom. It’ll be over before I know it.
“None of this is as big or difficult as you think it is. Do you want to know what the main thing is that keeps me from my writing? Do you want me to tell you THE NUMBER ONE OBSTACLE TO MY ART? Is it fear? Is it depression/angst/motherhood/wifedom/the paralysis of exposure? No. It’s not. It’s House Hunters International. And maybe ice cream. It’s that decision I make to stay up an extra half hour to watch strangers walk through houses and wolf down more Rocky Road…STRUCTURE LIBERATES. Give up what you want right now (BRAVO AND HGTV AND FACEBOOK and DOUBLE CHOCOLATE FUDGE!) for what you really want (LOVE. To give it and to get it.)” –Glennon of Momastery
This is a TRUTH that speaks to my soul. The emphasis is mine, because it slapped my face. I’ve spent years blaming my inability to get things done on tons EVERYTHING under the sun- being too busy at work, not having enough money, not having enough support, having a kid, HAVING TWO KIDS…but that’s not true. At all. It’s the Today show. Good coffee creamer. Instagram. Musings on homemade baby food, checking Pinterest for a playdough recipe, spending 25 minutes choosing a movie to put on in the background while “do chores” (plan and list about chores).
None of this is new; I talk about my insanity ALL THE TIME. But this quote just reminded me. I love this lady. I found her blog through another blog, but then realized that I had heard a TED talk she had given when I finally googled what a TED talk is a few weeks ago. I think the Universe is telling me I need to listen to her more closely. I want to write and write and write and write and write and document and write some more. Even if everything else falls to shit, I can’t put off writing anymore.
It’s okay to go slow. It’s not a failure if you’re not going fast. Don’t use slow as an excuse to get frustrated, or quit. I’ve been chanting this to myself when I’m running (jogging…hobbling…) and when I’m tracking my weight watchers points and when I’m looking at our shabby front yard and a pile of outgrown baby clothes that need go in the correct containers in the basement. I get stuck, my thoughts are literally like mud, and I think “You’re awful. You can’t stay on top of chores, how could you possibly think you could run a road race, you’re home all day and you barely play with your kids, you’re never going to lose weight, if you don’t speed up, you’re not going to get out of this and your effort isn’t going to be worth anything.” It’s really yucky. And it’s a knee-jerk.
But it’s okay to go slow. It’s okay to go up and down and take a month to lose 5 pounds. It’s okay to get out of breath quickly, to wait for the walking intervals, and every day doesn’t need to be your best pace. It’s okay to throw away the decorative evergreen boughs in May, to let the newborn onesies sit in a basket in the hallway to the 5 month mark. Everything will get done. Trust me, it will.
I’m always on the hunt for more efficiency and productivity tips. I really do want to run fast, and lose weight, keep a clean house, and complete more projects. My head is absolutely bursting with the things I want to do. I want to write and paint and cook and document and print pictures and create content for the world to see. My ambition is so great that I get in my own way. I slow myself down, get angry at myself, beat myself up, and stop. I usually stop. But lately, I’ve been giving myself permission to go slow. I’ve been telling myself that it’s okay to go slow.
I wanted to run every other day and go Wii Fit and Yoga on the opposite days. That was my plan, and it never happened from day 1. A lot of times I didn’t get a run in while someone was watching the boys. Other times, I would goof off during naptime or one of the boys would get sick or I would just miss my chance to get a workout in. But I have been consistently doing SOMETHING a few days a week for over a month. I’ve been going to weight watchers since March, and my weight goes gently up and down. But it’s lower than it was when I started. And it will keep going down. I look at certain projects (pictures to be hung, clothes to be stored, papers to organize) and tell myself, “You won’t move away before you get to this stuff. It’ll happen.”
I hope you can be forgiving to yourself. Let yourself go slow. When you reach your goals, you won’t care if it happened in 3 months or 3 years. It’s okay to go slow.
…he won’t burst out in delighted laughter every time he hears the first few bars of “You’ve Got A Friend In Me.”
…he won’t walk around on his tiptoes.
…he won’t fake laugh to copy Mama and Daddy
…he won’t tickle his brother’s feet and make high pitched squealing sounds (cute!)
…he won’t feel the need to LOUDLY identify every “ball” that passes through his gaze
…he won’t hold my finger and “help” me click and drag on pictures when we use the Kindle
…he won’t use sign language
…he won’t pat our backs when he lift him up to our shoulder
…he won’t giggle when we make Monka dance on the bars of the crib.
…he won’t be enthralled with plastic easter eggs
…he won’t be a baby anymore.
This hits me especially hard when we are driving. The sound of “the Toy Story song” can absolutely change the mood in the car, and his little sweet voice lifts up and I realize “you don’t get this forever.” I never really focus on the way time is passing because some days are short and some days are long and sometimes I feel like I’ve always been a mom and sometimes I cannot believe that anyone would leave two kids in my inexperienced care. So time is just time right now. I can’t really imagine how it will feel to look back, to read the gloworm letters, to remember. But I have this really fuzzy sense that it’s going to be a sucker punch. You’re going to wish you remembered more. You’re going to lose some details with the passing of time. You’re going to need to write down the way he glows when you sing along with Randy Newman, because you might forget it, and you’ll never get it back.
Two weeks ago, we went to Florida. Laurel came to help the boys and I get down to Tampa and to celebrate our sister Julianna’s graduation from college. It was Elliott’s first time meeting his aunts (we also saw a very close cousin, Page) and we also got to meet my third sister Emily’s new boyfriend. It was also my first time flying with two kids under two, who were both booked as lap children. This was really kind of a disaster, so much so that I’ll probably save it for another post. I will say that I was much less prepared than I thought I was (I had NERDS, people) and that I owe my sister Laurel a huge thank you for suffering through that with me.
While we were there we swam in the pool, played with really fun toys, sat around with sisters, went to the nail salon, had a sushi celebration, got home from the bar at 3am (I had so much fun being DD), went to the shortest graduation ceremony ever (amen), took a quiz about Julianna’s college career, tested out hash tags, and had so much fun soaking up rare family time.
I’m proud for so many reasons: in this terrible economy, all of my sisters have full-time, career-based jobs, take care of their own living situations, and support themselves in all senses of the word. I know so much of our good standing comes from having an awesome upbringing, but still. All of the Kauffman girls are really owning their twenties, and I feel like it only gets better from here! Going down and getting a peek into the lives that Emily and Julianna have carved out was really good for my big-sister soul.
Anyway, I don’t know that any flights to Florida are in our immediate future. I have PTSD. But the trip was so, so lovely, and I’m so glad that I got to have family time and watch my sons show off for their excited family (think dancing around, hamming it up, and grinning like a fool to cheers from a room full of people). I hope that one day we have special family times without having to deal with quite so much travel, but for now, I’ll hang on to these trips when I’m lonely for my mama and sister bears.
Everyone has a story about the marathon. Everyone I know either lives nearby, or their coworker was running it, or their sister was at the finish line. Like mine.
Monday was such a great day. We had a family walk and then I took Milo for a little park time and some grocery shopping. As I was loading the car, I got a text from Ben: Call laurel. There was an explosion at the Boston Marathon. People are hurt. I felt a pit of fear in my stomach; on automatic, while strapping Milo in his seat, I called. Voicemail. Called again. Voicemail. I started shaking and told myself she was on the phone with my mom, so I tried her. My mom burst onto the line, “What is going on?! Laurel just called me, crying, talking about people hurt. She said she’s okay.” And I laid my head on the steering wheel and started to sob. This all took place before I’d seen a single clip of the explosion (I’ve now seen it about 50 times), before I knew that people lost their legs (At the marathon. They lost their legs.), before I heard that an 8-year-old was gone forever (I held Elliott in a silent house at 5:30 this morning, sobbing at the boy’s picture). Before any of the horror sunk in, the idea of losing Laurel shook me more than anything else I would see that day.
I have a plan for what I’ll do if something happens to Ben. I know the course of action that I’d need to follow if I ever got bad news about my mother. But if anything happened to Laurel, I would break.
She had gotten through on a friend’s phone, but hers was dead, and then we completely lost touch after cutting out in the middle of her call. Even though I knew she was alive, not being able to reach her was maddening. I tried (and failed) to stay calm and find a way to reach her. Social media is such a doubled-edged sword, in good times and bad, but I was grateful for Twitter yesterday; here were real-time reports, information about the poor cell service, lists where you could try to contact loved ones or check in on runners. People gave me comfort that I needed, and checked in to let everyone know they were safe, which was a great feeling. There is always the danger of misinformation, but I’m getting savvy enough to evaluate sources, and in general, I wanted a forum to discuss. We also got our first piece of information about Laurel by Facebook messaging a friend that we knew she might be with. Social media helped my stay in touch with family up and down the East Coast who needed to know that Laurel was okay, and made it possible for Julianna and I to sit and chat and share frustrations casually even though we were 3000 miles apart. I spent three hours texting with Laurel’s roommate, searching missing persons lists, and watching the constant stream of news.
Laurel is safe back home at her apartment. She never was actually at the finish line, but she was only few miles away. The T she was on was evacuated and they were getting calls from her work building in Copley Square and she was stranded and scared but safe. She’ll be feeling the effects for a long time; her office and her gym are directly in the middle of the crime scene, the hotel she works for had lots of marathoners staying with them, and the entire city is still on high alert.
Now that I know shes completely safe, my grief and preoccupation has shifted to the people who died and the people who lost limbs and the people who had to see it. Who where standing right there. All I can think is that I had played with the idea of going in to cheer with Laurel; she plans to run in the near future, and I even texted her about it this morning. And if Laurel HAD been running today, we absolutely would have been RIGHT at the finish line, double stroller loaded up with our most valuable possessions. It makes my blood run cold to think about trying to evacuate with our little boys, and I won’t even let my mind go to the other possibilities.
I’m giving myself just today to process and say, “what if.” Then, I will go on. I’ll play with my kids and wash the dishes and hopefully see my sister. I’ll give where I can and get myself back into the city that I really love as soon as possible. I’ll cheer on Laurel and support her training in any way that I can and when she runs the Boston Marathon, myself and my family will be at the finish line, jumping and cheering for more than one runner.