Practicing Patience

batteries-1379208I am a very patient person. That is, until I’m not.

Let me clarify. I’m one of those people whose fuse is very long, but who also gives very little warning that my fuse is almost at its end. For example, I’ve had coworkers who repeatedly took advantage of those of us around them. Working in restaurants there are always those coworkers who consistently take the last lemon and don’t restock, use the last glass without replacing the rack, take the last mint, etc. Those same people usually go out of their way to boast about how much money they make. Well, good for you. I probably could have made that much too, but I was too busy backtracking all night restocking all the things you left empty.

While working at a popular Italian chain restaurant a few years ago, I worked with such an employee. One night, while standing in the server station, I watched her repeatedly throw pieces of ice at the bartender in jest. Then she laughed about it. I was calm and collected until she gave me the “what are you gonna do about it” look. That’s when I lost it. I spewed forth everything I had been holding in for the previous 2 years of working with her in approximately 5 minutes. I finished my rant red-faced and panting because I’m pretty sure I didn’t take a breath the whole time. She was looking at me with absolute terror on her face. One of my closest friends, who witnessed the entire scene, had the biggest grin on her face and looked at me and said, “That was amazing.” The coworker feared me the rest of the time we worked together and would go out of her way to let me know what she had restocked and how much extra sidework she had done.

Let me remind you: I’m 5’1″ and at the time I was about 100lbs soaking wet. There is nothing about me that’s intimidating. I don’t tell this story to make myself seem all big and bad. I’m merely setting the scene.

Unfortunately, this personality flaw is also evident in my parenting style. I’m fine, cool, collected, and fun. Until I’m not. And then, hell hath no fury…

I have a 6-year old and a 2-month old. I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in months. I’m attempting to get my body back in shape (or at least strengthen it) but I’m still weak in some areas. My husband works a lot of overtime, so there are many days when I do all the parenting and housework alone. I try to start off the day Mary Poppins, mom-of-the-year style. By the end of the day, though, I’m done. I’ve had enough. As much as I love these little people, I need them far away from me in dreamland so that a) I can have 5 minutes of peace, and b) I can attempt to get some sleep before the youngest is back up for his next bottle.

Oh, and did I mention I’m an introvert? An extroverted introvert, I guess, but an introvert nonetheless. The best way for me to describe it is this: I can do the outgoing, happy, love you, love life, constantly smiling thing when I have to. And for the most part, I’m not faking that. I have worked in the customer service industry for almost 20 years now. You can’t fake it for that long. You just can’t. I honestly love my job most of the time. And then I clock out. And I don’t want to talk to anyone or put on the smile or do anything, really. I want to go home and read a book and let my battery recharge- silently.

Except when you’re a mom you never get to recharge your battery. Ever. Not completely anyway. You have to be “on” all the time. All. The. Time. I still haven’t found a way to do that. I try. I try so hard. I read books and blogs about being patient. I pin all the summer activities and parenting hacks I can find. I start the day with so many plans and so much enthusiasm.

I’m running on a maximum of 5 hours of consecutive sleep on any given day. I have a 2-month old who needs me for everything and a 6-year old who wants me for everything. The 2-month old is fussy and the 6-year old is bored. I am being pulled from every angle and I feel some days like they are sucking the life out of me. But I love them more than life so I continue to let them. I run on an uncharged battery because they are worth it.

I’m trying to be more patient. I’m trying to remember that the 6-year old is exactly that- just a 6-year old. That she will only want me to be a part of everything she does for a little while longer before she doesn’t want me there at all. I try to make a little extra time for her while the baby is sleeping so that she doesn’t feel left out or left behind. I try to hug her a little longer and to be quicker to forgive her mistakes because she really doesn’t know any better. I try to remember that the baby is still getting used to this loud and crazy world. That each day he is learning something new and that I’m the lucky one because I get to witness all of it. That soon he too will be bigger and will be running around like a maniac. That one day he won’t want to fall asleep on my chest or cuddle into me. I’m trying to be patient, kind, and a good mother.

Until 11pm. Then all bets are off and everyone better be asleep.

 

Delusions of Productivity

20160516_062335

(He’s mocking me with that grin. I know he is.)

It’s true that you forget the first few months of parenthood. I’m a second-time mom but there’s 6 1/2 years between my kids. Honestly, I forgot pretty much all of it.

I forgot that even though the baby eats every 3 hours that doesn’t mean you have 3 hours to be productive until the next feeding. It takes at least 30-45 (2:30-2:15 hours left) minutes for the feeding and to change the baby. Then you have to get him back to sleep. There goes another 20-30 (2-1:45 left) minutes of your 3-hour span. We’re down to

Did I mention making the bottle, cleaning all the dirty bottles hanging out next to your sink, doing/folding laundry, showering, going to the bathroom, etc? Those things all cut into your 3 hours as well. Not to mention trying to fit whatever broken sleep you can in there somewhere.

But again, I forgot about all of that. Somewhere in my delusional mind I thought I was going to have all this time to write this blog, find and execute a job working from home to supplement my income, and still go have lunch with real adult people. And this time I’m supposed to do it all while entertaining a 6-year old on her summer vacation. Hahahahahaha!

Over the past month I have found time to have lunch with friends a couple of times. I’ve even managed to get on a schedule where my house does not look like a disaster zone. I’ve gone on Pinterest a couple times to look through my “extra income” board for a side job, but as soon as I start reading an article or making any headway I am jolted back into reality either by the cries of my infant or the never ceasing, “Hey, Mom!”

I keep telling myself that once the baby is sleeping through the night I will be productive again. I’ll be a good mom, start writing in this blog more, get a side job and do well at it, go back to work at the casino, and still maintain my somewhat presentable home. Part of me believes it. The realistic part looks at my 3-month old nephew who is sleeping through the night but only takes one nap per day and laughs hysterically at that other part of me.

Only time will tell, but I’m pretty sure the realistic side is gonna be saying, “I told ya so” about a month from now.

Sleep Is Worth Fighting For

adorable-21998

Before I had Little E, just about a month ago, I would have killed for a full night’s sleep. My back hurt, I couldn’t sleep on my stomach, I was waking up every few hours… I would look at my peacefully sleeping husband and think horrible, horrible thoughts in my sleep-deprived jealousy. I couldn’t wait to give birth and be able to sleep again.

I know what you’re thinking: “How did she think she was going to sleep with a newborn?” This is not my first rodeo, folks. I knew what I was getting myself into. But the first time around, I did it alone. My daughter’s father was not in the picture. I woke up for every feeding and diaper change. I was there for everything. I dealt with sleep deprivation like a champ. But this time around, I had my loving husband by my side. Surely I would be able to alternate middle of the night feedings with him. Together we would get through this without a hitch.

Sure, I remembered how hard it was. Sure, I had read about women who wanted to strangle their husbands in their sleep. But my husband and I are a team! We were going to beat those odds.

The two days after I had Little E, while we were still in the hospital, confirmed everything I believed. My husband was the epitome of what new dads should be. I couldn’t get out of bed so he changed every diaper and was hands on with all of the feedings. It was a beautiful thing to watch… this transformation that he made. Before, he was the man who wouldn’t hold anyone else’s baby – ever. But here he was, so involved in our own fragile little newborn. It’s still beautiful to watch them together. But I digress.

We came home from the hospital and things stayed roughly the same. I would wake up for the midnight and 3am feedings, then T would take the 6am and 9am shift. Or vice versa. I would get up with the baby for an entire night so that he could catch up on sleep, then he would do the same for me. His nights became increasingly more difficult, as the baby wouldn’t seem to go back to sleep for him, so I tried to take a couple nights in a row to his one night.

Then I told him that I was mostly recovered from my c-section and he went back to work. The babymoon was officially over.

Please let me preface this by saying that my husband is still very involved with the baby. It is not me against the world, even when I’m so tired that I feel like it is.

Depending upon his work schedule, he still tries to help out in the middle of the night, which I am eternally grateful for. Then there are the nights that he can’t help and even though these nights are not his fault, I look at him peacefully sleeping and I wish harm on him. Not death or dismemberment, but at the very least the same excruciating calf cramps that would wake me up from a deep slumber while I was pregnant. I’m sure he’s wished the same upon me those nights when the baby gives him a hard time and I’m fast asleep. I’ve snapped at him over the stupidest things… something I was hoping would end after the surge of pregnancy hormones had escaped my scarred, shriveling body. We often go to bed barely speaking now, not because we’re angry with each other (as far as I know) but more out of sheer exhaustion. There’s a good chance that at any given moment in our house either someone is sleeping (the baby) or someone needs a nap (either one of us).

To the teenagers out there thinking, “I want a baby so that I have someone who loves me forever,” or the early 20-somethings thinking you’re ready, I say this: This is how you know if you’ve found true love or not. When you are so tired that you want to physically harm the person you love, but you stop yourself because you would miss them and your life would be infinitely worse without them in it, that is true love. I have found that with the man of my dreams… even on the days when I’m fighting for 5 more minutes of sleep.

And Then There Were Four

20160505_062915

First off, please let me apologize for not posting in a while. I was kind of busy giving birth. That’s right. We have a new little man in our home! Yay!! Little E is absolutely wonderful so far and worth everything it took to get him here.

See, last Tuesday started off like any other day. Peanut was at school, I had lunch plans with one of my besties for her birthday, T was sleeping in because he worked the afternoon shift that day… Nothing out of the ordinary. Until 9:36am when the first contraction hit. The next one came 9 minutes later. I texted my friend to let her know what was going on, but still thought I had plenty of time. So I jumped in the shower. Three contractions later, I was getting dressed and waking T up to let him know he should probably get ready for the hospital. The contractions were a steady 3-4 minutes by then and gaining in intensity, but I still wasn’t panicking. We had time, right? Wrong.

By the time we got to the hospital I was in so much pain. I was admitted immediately and that’s when the real fun began. Not only did I go from 5cm to 8cm in a matter of what felt like 20 minutes, the entire nursing staff in my room was panicking. Unbeknownst to us, the cord was trying to make its way into the world before my little man, so every time I pushed, his heart rate dropped. After much yelling and screaming (from both the nurses and doctors and myself yelling back at them) and no pain medication, I was wheeled back to the OR for an emergency C-section. T was forced to stay in the waiting area with very little knowledge of what was going on and our conditions.

The hospital staff did a wonderful job and Little E came into this world at 12:27pm weighing in at 6lbs 11oz and 20.5in long. He is everything our little family didn’t know we were missing and watching my family with him has made my entire being that much more worthwhile.

T is an amazing daddy. Especially considering he would never even hold a newborn up until a couple months ago. He has been so hands on and you can tell how absolutely in love he is. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed. He’s been wonderful with me too. Not that I had any doubts. Things are just so much different this time around than they were when I had Peanut. It’s much harder to get around after a C-section. T has been completely understanding and has been taking care of bottles, laundry, dinner, etc like a champ. We have a pretty good system so far of waking up with the baby, but that will probably change once he goes back to work. For now, I’m so grateful to have him home and to have such a loving, supportive husband.

Peanut is such a great big sister already. She’s been helping with feeding him, giving Little E his pacifier when he cries, and just helping me with all of the things I can’t do yet. She still doesn’t completely understand the depth of my incapacitation (and no, I’m not playing the invalid and letting my family do all of the work, but I am taking things easier than I normally would). I showed her my staples last night after she spent the day utterly frustrated by my lack of enthusiasm for playing outside, and she finally understood. She had no idea I was in that much pain or that I literally had 19 staples going across my belly. She also gets frustrated thinking that she’s not being a good big sister every time we correct her or when what she tries to calm the baby doesn’t work. But we’ve been talking her through everything step by step and she’s trying her best. That’s all we can ask for.

All in all, it’s been a pretty emotional week for everyone in our house. But it has been 100% worth the ride. I’ve seen sides of my family that I didn’t know existed and I have reached new depths of love. Welcome to the family, Little Man. You’re in for a crazy ride.

Nesting and Prepping

egg-1151755

Well, folks, I can officially say that I’ve entered into the nesting phase of this pregnancy. Maybe it’s the fact that my due date is less than 4 weeks away. Maybe it has something to do with trying to get my Spring cleaning done (even though we’ve had more days with snow this “spring” than we did through all of winter). Maybe it has to do with the fact that I went to the doctor last week and I’m already dilated 3cm. But time is definitely running out and I still have a long To Do list before I’m ready for this baby.

My seeds have all sprouted and are ready for the garden. Mother Nature, however, has other plans. Hopefully the weather breaks soon and I can plant them. Especially since it’s looking like I’ll be out of commission sooner rather than later. I planted a lot of different types of seeds this year because I wasn’t sure how the pod planter that I bought would work out, but so far it seems to be a very good investment for this year’s produce. There are carrots, Brussels sprouts, lemon balm, dill, parsley, chives, spearmint, basil, oregano, 3 types of tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, cauliflower, etc. If the garden yields anything like what it did the past couple of summers we will be all set this year. I’m looking forward to making homemade baby food this fall. If only it would stop snowing at night so I could actually plant everything. Which reminds me, I also have to build a vertical apparatus for the cucumbers this year to save space in the garden. More on that in a future post.

I’ve set up the bassinet and washed the gender neutral, hand me down baby clothes that I have. There’s a tiny little sock monkey baby outfit that I think will be perfect for the hospital pictures. I’m still hunting for the right dresser/changing table, though. I don’t know about you, but I get a picture in my head of how something should look and I cannot be stopped until I find that exact thing. I’m willing to compromise a little, but not nearly as much as I should. The hospital bag is packed and ready to go. I’m going to research hospital bag checklists, however, so I can make sure I’ve really packed everything we’ll need. I know there has to be something that I’m forgetting.

Friday night I was on a mission to clean up the clutter counter we have in our kitchen. That got done, I replenished the cabinets from the downstairs stock shelves, and I wrote out my list of what I’ll need to buy to replenish the backup stock. I also need to plan out some more freezer meals so that we’re ready to go for the next month or so. I’ve been focusing mostly on dinners, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to look up some good breakfast recipes as well so we’re not living off of cereal. Yesterday was a day of very little sleep and lots of running around, so I didn’t get anything done around the house, but T started on the laundry so that was a big help. Today, I attacked the bathroom with full force. Didn’t get to the tub, but I organized the closet in there, took inventory of what bathroom essentials I need to stock up on, and scrubbed everything else. Like, Clorox wiped the baseboards and scrubbed the tile walls and floors kind of cleaned. No one else will notice, but I’m happy with the end results and that’s all that matters right now.

Tomorrow, we have an ultrasound at 7:30am (yuck- at the time and the fact that T can’t make it. I’m excited to see how much the baby has grown, though) and then I plan on heading to the store for all the items on my list. I hope to replenish all of that so we are prepared for another 30 Day No Spend Challenge in May. With me being out of work it would help to save as much as possible and will make up for some of what I couldn’t save for my maternity leave. I’m also going to pick up the necessities to start my freezer meals, order the 1/4 cow that we’ve been waiting for, drop off some clothes and other items for donation, and tackle another room in the house. I should probably go with our bedroom since we’re going to be adding a roommate shortly.

I figure if I go room by room I will be set by the time the little one arrives. Maybe. Probably not. But here’s to wishful thinking!

 

You Are Not a Special Snowflake… And Other Lessons to My Children

snowflake-554635

Okay, so I know what you’re thinking. I’m a mean mom. But hear me out on this one. The millennial generation is one of the most entitled generations to date. And yes, the baby boomers set them all up in part for that one. But that doesn’t make it okay for me to raise a total pansy. It doesn’t. And the only way out of it is teaching my kids that.

I love my daughter more than life itself. I think (I hope) that I’ve made that evident. She is an amazing little person and the fact that my body created her still amazes me to this day. However, she’s been an only child for 6 1/2 years. She has had A LOT of one on one time with me, my husband, her father, all of her grandparents, her cousins, etc. Because of all this time around adults (and almost adults) she has developed this attitude that is not at all cute on a 6-year old. It’s damn right infuriating. Even worse is that she gives you this attitude in the right context. This is both a proud moment for my inner bitch and a disheartening one for the rest of me.

All of this one on one time, however, has made her feel like she’s the most special little snowflake in all the land. Her dad reinforces that, as do his parents, and my own. Our baby shower is next week. I’ve had multiple people tell me they’re going to bring a present for her. Please don’t. I appreciate the sentiment. I really do. And our growing family will be a very difficult transition for her. I get that. That’s why we’ve sat down together and talked about it multiple times. That’s why I leave the lines of communication open so that she can talk to me about any future concerns she may have. And while a “Big Sister” tee shirt would be cute, there are only so many of those that we need (one, and I’ve already purchased it) and this shower is about the baby. She’s gonna have to get over herself and realize that it’s not always about her and it never will be again.

See, I look at it this way… It’s not my job to be my kids’ friend. It’s my job to make them into decent people that I would be willing to be friends with in adulthood. I have no intention of raising self-entitled little assholes because I wouldn’t want to hang out with those people later in life, let alone admit they came from me. It’s also my job to get them ready for the real world. And the real world doesn’t care that you just had a major life transition. The real world gives you a brief period of time to put your life back in order and then it’s all, “Suck it up, buttercup. Life goes on.”

Now, before you go reporting me to Child Services, please realize that my daughter knows how special she is in our home. There is no one that could ever replace her and I would be lost without her. What I teach her is that everyone feels like that in their own home. But then you go to school (or soccer or gymnastics) and not everyone can be the special snowflake all at once. You have to take turns. I’ve already threatened to remove her from any and all activities in later years where you receive a “participation award.” Those things are crap. What I teach her is that she needs to learn how to handle situations on her own because, excluding small exceptions, she’s gonna be the one there and I’m not the mom that’s gonna call the school to say, “So-and-so was picking on my Peanut.”

A perfect example… She is currently obsessed with Shopkins. In case you don’t know what they are, they are tiny little choking hazards in the shapes of food, shoes, household appliances, etc that have cutsy names like Dakota Dogbone. I don’t even know if that’s a real example. I just made it up. Anyway, she’s allowed to bring a toy for recess. She frequently decides to bring some of her Shopkins because it’s a status thing in 1st grade. I get it. For back story, please know that I have been telling her since she started Kindergarten that she is not allowed to accept daily “gifts” from other kids in her class or on the bus because these kids will just as quickly change their minds, turn around, and say that she stole it from them, she wasn’t supposed to keep it, whatever excuse they can to get the object back. She knows this. She has been forced, by me, multiple times, to give items back to other kids because I refuse to be known as “The Klepto’s Mom.” It’s just not a title I want, okay? Yesterday she came home complaining that she and another girl in her class had traded Shopkins and she wanted hers back now. She even gave the girl back her original Shopkins, but the girl won’t bring hers back. She also informed me that it’s my job to call that girl’s mother and make her bring them in.

Know what I said? “Looks like you’re beat, kid. And technically, you’re beat twice because you already gave back her Shopkins.” I know. I know. I’m terrible. I’m a horrible, no good human being. However, I’m pretty sure she learned the lesson that I’ve been trying to teach her for the past 2 years. And I doubt she’ll be as eager to “trade” in the future. Now, this is just my wishful thinking. She is my kid and I’m very good at holding a grudge. I still get angry when I visit my grandmother and pass by Liz Velchik’s old house because that little girl would make me late for my mother to stay and clean up Barbies but would run out the door while my house was a mess if she had to go home. But, I digress. I hope she learned this lesson, even if she did have to do it the hard way, because it’s bigger than a toy. It’s learning who to trust, standing up for yourself, anticipating what’s to come. These are things I’m trying to teach her now because they are lessons that are so much harder to learn later in life.

That, and that everyone is special in their own way. But one snowflake doesn’t usually stand out in a blizzard.

How to Just Get Through It

portrayal-89189_1280

The past couple of weeks have been an emotional roller coaster. From the loss of a loved one, to the exciting potential of a future career, to the usual arguments with my 6-year old, and back up to looking at our dream home, all while being 6 months pregnant… emotional is the simplest word I can use.

A week and a half ago, my grandfather passed away. While everyone in the family knew it was coming and many of us took the opportunity to travel to see him in his final days and say our goodbyes, it didn’t make the loss sting any less. There is a hole in our family that will never be replaced. The thought of never hearing his laugh again breaks my heart. He had a great laugh. I’m just lucky that baby #2 gets to have such an amazing guardian angel looking out for him/her.

Then there were the repetitious arguments with my 6-year old about brushing her teeth correctly, finishing her homework, finishing her dinner, etc. That cycle never ends. I feel like it’s preparing us for the teenage years when we fight over much bigger issues. She’s going to be my rebel child. I just know it. Hopefully the new addition is calmer like my husband and me.

On the plus side, I had a very informative meeting with a professional blogger late last week and she gave me a step by step guide to promoting my blog and getting on the right track to start making an income from it. While my goal is to hit my current income or higher by the end of the year, maternity leave is coming up fast and any income there will be helpful. I’ve also decided to revamp the website and keep track of the process that I go through in order to get to that goal. If I can stay at home with my kids while still earning a decent living doing something I love I have to try it. I’d be crazy not to.

Finally, today we went looking at a house. Not just a house. THE house. It met both of our requirements for what our dream home should have: 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a separate family room that can be turned into a playroom, on an acre of land surrounded by farm land, with a pool and a gazebo in the backyard. It even had a tree on the edge of the property that would be perfect to build a tree house in. T, who is the least impulsive person I know, was the first to suggest we put in an offer as soon as we heard there were 2 other offers being submitted on it today. Then we crunched the numbers and it wasn’t in the cards for us. While we could make it work, there are just too many variables and too many other things we need to get done before we’ll be able to buy it. If it’s already off the market by then, it wasn’t meant to be. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Now, for the million dollar question and it’s very simple solution…

When life keeps throwing you curveballs, how do you take it in stride instead of getting overwhelmed? Well, I’m not exactly an expert, and I’ve been known to get overwhelmed quite a few times, but I’m also pretty logical when it comes to these things. In my family, we always look for the funny side of a situation. That’s just how we deal.

As far as my grandfather goes, it’s cliche to say that he’s in a better place now, but he is. His quality of life had dwindled down to nothing. By default, so had my grandmother’s. She spent every day taking care of him and going above and beyond to make sure he was comfortable. She’s incredible. Now she doesn’t have to automatically decline an invitation to go out to dinner with friends, come out to western PA for a baby shower, or even miss church because she’s unsure whether Poppop will be having a good day or not. It’s the first time in 54 years that her life doesn’t revolve around him. As a newlywed, that feels earth shattering to me. But, at the same time, it has to be a little bit liberating for her. They always loved to travel and she hasn’t been able to for the past few years because of Poppop’s health. Now she can go anywhere her heart takes her. Please don’t think I’m being callous by saying this. My grandparents equally mean the world to me. I’m blessed to have had them both for as long as I have. But if I’m going to look for a silver lining in this dark cloud, it’s going to be her and the opportunities that now stand before her. I hope she’s brave enough to take them.

As for my daughter, I’m going to remind myself that I wouldn’t have the life I have if not for her. If she had not come into my life, I never would have left New Jersey, I never would have decided that I had to set a better example for her and start dating men who were worth my time instead of just taking up my time, I never would have met my husband, and I never would have appreciated him the way I do. So, let her have her phase. We’ll get through it. Hopefully unscathed and stronger for it. I’m going to take a deep breath and remember that this is the life I always dreamed of, even if it didn’t happen exactly how I planned it to.

As far as our dream home goes, I’m gonna chalk that one up to a learning experience. We now know exactly what we have to do in order to be ready to list our current home and we have a plan in place to get it done. We also have a plan to pay down some of our debt, which, in turn, would free up some of our monthly income and allow us to afford a bigger mortgage without becoming house poor. I’d much rather wait and do things the right way than rush into buying this home only to have it all flip upside down on us at the worst possible moment. What’s the point of buying your dream home if you’re not ready and you lose it to foreclosure? Or you ruin your marriage in the process fighting over money all the time? No thanks. I’ll hold off on that one.

Basically, I’m telling you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. The situation you’re in right now might not be ideal, but it may be leading you towards a better scenario. Seven years ago, when I was pregnant and alone, do you think I thought it was the best place for me to be? No. But it led me to here. And I’ve never been happier, closer to my family, or had such an amazing group of friends as I do right now in my life. And I wouldn’t trade this life for anything.

How Do They Do It?

I see these moms out there who absolutely adore their children and never get angry with them. They live these perfect lives where finger paint gets all over the walls and they laugh it off with their, “Kids will be kids” mentality. They are honestly proud of each and every minuscule accomplishment. I stare at these women in awe because I will never be one of them. Ever.

When Peanut was born, I loved everything about being a mom. I didn’t mind getting up in the middle of the night. I didn’t mind that I was exhausted all the time. I was so in love with her and I loved seeing the world for the first time again through her eyes. This was my purpose in life. This was why I was here. I was made to be this beautiful creature’s mom. I didn’t care that we were broke or that I had been forced to regress in life and move back in with my mom in order to get back on my feet. Nothing mattered but her.

I saw friends that would get so frustrated with their infant or toddler because the children couldn’t verbalize what they needed. I understood, but at the same time, I didn’t. This poor little being needs you to help guide him/her to what they want. You have to teach them. And teach I did. Before she could verbalize, I looked through an American Sign Language book that I had from college and taught her words in sign. She knew what sound every animal I could think of made. She spoke clearly and in complete sentences so quickly. She was so damn smart and so ahead of herself that I couldn’t believe how lucky I was.

I went back to work the summer before she turned 3, which meant she started spending more and more time with my mother, and that’s when our disconnect started. I would wake up in the morning after closing and cleaning the bar the night before and they would just be gone. No note. No text or phone call. She would come home with shoes for days and new outfits galore. I couldn’t compete. I was just starting to get my life back together. My mom gave her undivided attention nonstop and took her on endless shopping trips while I still had other things I had to do- laundry, errands, an erratic work schedule, etc- and bills to catch up on. She started choosing Grandma over me every single time. Every. Single. Time. A part of me died inside. I gave up. I started sleeping until 2 in the afternoon. What did it matter? What was I missing? She was just going to ignore me anyway.

I know this was a childish way to react. I’m not saying I was right. I’m just being honest about what happened. I had tried to talk to my mother about backing off a little. It fell on deaf ears. And who was I to criticize anyone? Me, the single mom, living at her mom’s for free, while my mom babysat for free, trying to get back on my feet. I felt like I had no say in the matter. I was just there and I wasn’t even doing that well.

About a year later I got the job at the casino I work at now. I was working full time, but it was the overnight shift. This gave me much more time with my little girl again. I didn’t leave until bedtime. I was there for dinner and her bath, I got home just in time to get her up and ready for preschool. I was more involved again. Things were starting to get back to normal and I was starting to enjoy being a mom again. Weekends were still the same old scenario, though. I would wake up and the house would be empty. Even on days that I had made plans for us, no one would be home and I would have no idea when they would get home. Or, even better, my mom would make plans with my daughter without telling me. Then, when I already had plans for us and vetoed their plans, I became the bad guy. She still does this.

I started dating T early that fall. By Christmas we were madly in love and discussing moving in together. I told him I wanted to wait until Peanut was done with preschool that May. That gave us time to make sure this was what everyone wanted and time to do things the right way. The truth is that I would have been out of my mother’s house that spring come hell or high water. I love her dearly and I will always be grateful for everything she has done for me. Everything she still does for me. However, we had overstayed our welcome and it was ruining my relationship with my child. I needed out. We moved in that June, spent the summer solidifying our little threesome as a family, and he proposed to both of us that December. I had dropped down to part time at the casino when she started Kindergarten and from then on I have only worked weekends so that I’m home more often and more involved. I thought we were finally on the right track.

Everyone warns you about the terrible 2s. Some people warn you that the 3s are even worse. No one warns you about the psychotic 6s. Or maybe that’s just my kid. She spends 2 weekends a month with her dad, one near his home, the other near ours. The aftermath of these weekends is an entire week of trying to make her act like a human being again because she’s just been spoiled for 48 hours straight. The other 2 weekends a month are spent at my mom’s. The same thing happens. T and I spend the majority of every single week trying to reestablish control over an entitled 6-year old and we’re not the ones causing the behavior. It has strained our relationship on occasion, and it definitely puts a strain on our little family. There are only so many times you can be the bad guy before you start to give up.

Those same friends that were so frustrated with their 2-3 year olds? They have great relationships with their kids now. It feels like our roles have completely reversed. I’ve thought many times about trying to get a more traditional job, even though it would be a significant decrease in pay. I’ve gone for my real estate license and failed at making that into a business. I got certified in phlebotomy, but couldn’t find a job for the hours I was available. I’ve tried to do more with my life than just be a bartender or waitress, tried to go a more traditional route. But the truth is, once you start making the kind of money you can in a restaurant or bar, it’s hard to go back to the regular 9-5 grind. I would have to work so many more hours just to break even, which means more time away from my child.

Basically, I’m at an impasse. I’m hoping things will be better when I go out on maternity leave and I’m home all the time, but I’m also worried about my little attention seeker. If she’s not getting enough attention now when it’s one on one, what will happen when her brother or sister gets here and they need all the attention? Will the outbursts get worse? I don’t know if I can handle worse.

So, to the moms out there whose children can do no wrong, who smile at your offspring and say, “That’s okay” even though the living room looks like a bomb exploded in it, I would like to know… How the hell do you do it? How do you not get so frustrated that you yourself explode when you’ve told them 18 times to calm down and they’ve looked into your face and done the exact same thing again? How do you not freak out when you have the same fights about brushing hair, brushing teeth, putting clothes in the hamper, doing homework, etc, day in and day out for the entire school year? Because I’m at the point where I lose my cool now. I’m over the repetition. I’m over all of it. Seriously, how do you do it?

The Patriarch

20150621_165453

I’ve avoided talking about it up until now partially because we were unsure what was happening and partly because, frankly, it’s just too hard to talk about. But my grandfather is dying. He’s been sick for years, slowly getting worse then rapidly bouncing back. Last June, I drove out to New Jersey with my wedding dress in tow so that he could see it in case he didn’t make it to our September wedding. By September, he was home and in good spirits. We’ve received the call that he might not make it through the weekend so many times that even my younger cousins are now like, “Oh, it’s January and Poppop’s back in the hospital? Well, he was about due.” And the toll it is taking on my grandmother is getting more and more noticeable.

This time, however, is different. This time he is on hospice – done with the ICU altogether, in the comfort of his own home, sleeping on a hospital bed in the middle of his living room. This time we have family driving in from all over to say their goodbyes and tell him they love him. This time, no one expects him to bounce back.

We drove out this Sunday to see him, not knowing what to expect. Would he even make it until we got there? I wasn’t so sure. Every time my phone went off with a text notification or phone call, my heart sunk. Every time I wondered if this was THE phone call and we had just missed him. Every time I wondered what I would be subjecting my daughter to once we got there. Should she see him? Should she stay outside? Should I give her the option to decide for herself? How do you introduce death to someone so innocent? How do you tell her that this will probably be the last time she ever sees her great-grandfather? How do you put what is happening into words and still stay strong for her?

I got to thinking of my life with him and what he means to me. It’s something I’ve thought about often, but something I’ve always had the option of revisiting… when we made new memories. Now, I think all the memories are made, so I want to share a few. My parents were very young when they started their family, and so we lived with my grandparents until I was 10. I grew up sharing a room with my aunt like a sister would, fighting with my uncle over bathroom or phone time like a brother, and being scolded by my grandparents like a second set of parents. Our family dynamic was nontraditional to say the least, but it’s the reason we’re all so close today – even when we’re not all so close.

In an almost all Catholic house, we were raised Methodist because we actually enjoyed going to Poppop’s church and Sunday school. Poppop was a part of the choir, as were we, and his voice was so deep and so loud that you could hear it throughout the church without a microphone. When standing beside him in the pew it would startle us every time and make us kids chuckle at how loud he was. It’s sad to know I’ll never hear the loud boom of his singing voice echo through the church again. Sundays after church were family days where we would all have “supper” together. As we all grew up and became busy with our individual lives, it somehow became Wednesday night dinners. Even as an adult, I would drive up to their home to share Wednesday nights with them and catch them up on my week.

Each week on his bowling night, Poppop would alternate taking my sister, my brother, or me with him. He would give us money to play in the arcade while he bowled. It was our special one on one time with him. I remember not knowing the pinball machine had a start button on it, and thinking it kept eating my money. When I went to get Poppop to tell him about it, he walked me back, only to find a kid that had been watching and using my quarters for his own games each time I left. Poppop stood up for me and made that kid give me back my money.

We would spend summers in the backyard around Gram and Poppop’s in-ground pool. Gram wasn’t a swimmer. She’s actually terrified of the water. But Poppop would lay out there for hours with us, applying and reapplying baby oil to his skin (hey, it was the 80s). He would watch us swim, and help us move the blue Fischer Price elephant slide over to the edge so that we could slide into the deep end.

He was not a man without flaws. He battled an alcohol addiction for years, he could be quick-tempered and gruff at times, and he has taken my grandmother for granted more times than I can count. But he is a good man. He loves his family to no end. He’s quick to get off of the phone, but always leaves with an I love you. In our family, we all kiss and hug hello and goodbye and we always say I love you. We are always there for each other, because that was the kind of family he and my grandmother raised. We all know an unsettling number of corny jokes – jokes that we have all dubbed “Poppop jokes” – because that’s the kind of sense of humor he has. Some of his favorites include: “Are you alright? No, you’re not; you’re half left.” (when calling)”Did I get you up? Well, were you sitting down?” And, in June when my sisters and I took him outside at the rehabilitation facility he was staying at, we were trying to figure out if a bird in the parking lot had died or not, and Poppop, knowing it had been run over said, “Maybe it’s just tired.” Even though it’s usually one of those, “Wow, that joke was terrible” laughs, he has always found a way to make us laugh.

As I said before, last September, we held our wedding in New Jersey, in the town where my grandparents live to optimize the chances of them attending. Luckily, they were both able to attend, and my grandmother and daughter joined in on the father-daughter dance so that we had 4 generations dancing together. It was a beautiful day, made even more so by the fact that so many of the people who mean the world to me were able to share the day with us. My grandparents had to leave early, so there are not as many pictures of them as I had hoped to get. But the few I have I will cherish for the rest of my life.

All of these thoughts and more passed through my head as we made the 6 hour drive from our home to theirs. Over the past 6 1/2 years, one of the hardest parts of moving out to western PA has been being so far from them. I have known for a while that their time is limited and I have gone out of my way to make sure my peanut knows them and knows what they mean to me. Until I got a full time job a few years ago, I made the drive at least once every month. I have been there for graduations, for family parties, for their 50th anniversary party. I have eaten crow and asked my daughter’s father to take her to see them at home or in the hospital when I could not make the drive.

Taking her out there for what is probably the last time to see him (there will still be many more visits) was absolutely heartbreaking. I had to explain to her in terms she would understand what was happening. I had to put it in a way that she could relate to without completely scaring or scarring her. I did my best. When we arrived, my sister was waiting outside and asked me to step out of the car before my daughter or my husband. I was sure Poppop was gone. She filled me in on his situation and asked if I wanted to keep my daughter outside. As I’ve shown in previous posts, I don’t lie to her. I told her the situation and let her decide what she wanted to do. She wanted to go in.

We went inside, spent a few hours with him, and told him how much we love him. He mostly slept through the whole thing, but he woke up to answer us and to smile. When my aunt and uncle started playfully arguing over who his favorite was, he woke up shortly to answer that Mom was his favorite. It means the world to me that one of my final memories of him has him appreciating my grandmother for everything she has done and sacrificed for him. One of my final memories will be him smiling at my daughter and telling her he loves her. One of my final memories will be of my wonderful husband holding his hand, holding back his own tears, telling him that he loves him and thanking him for holding on long enough for us to get there. We left him late last night because there is nothing else that we can do before the end. I’m glad we got those final few moments with him, though.

So, to Poppop, thank you for everything you have done, everything you have made me, and everything you have shown our family about love and life. Thank you for a wonderful childhood, for sticking around long enough to know 2 of your 4 great-grandchildren, and for smiling up until the end. Thank you for showing me that there are marriages that can go through hell and back and still last over 50 years. T and I hope we are as in love as you and Gram are after 54 years together. Thank you for some of the worst jokes of my life. I will cherish them forever. I love you.

Blessed

Being the mother of a strong-willed 6-year old with whom I have entirely too much personality in common means that there are many times when I fail to appreciate the person that she’s becoming and focus more on how I want her to behave. We fight about the same things on an almost daily basis. While I love being a mother, and feel blessed to be her mom in particular, sometimes it’s hard to keep that in perspective on a daily basis.

My peanut has been off of school for the past two days and I’ve been home with her. Yesterday was a snow day; today we had doctor’s appointments at the local children’s hospital. It was also a chance for quality one on one time with her and a chance to appreciate her again. While yesterday was filled with playing in the snow and making an igloo, today I got to appreciate what a brave little girl she has become.

Peanut was born with one leg longer than the other. While we don’t exactly hide this fact, it’s also not something we talk about often either. I took her to a pediatric orthopedic in New Jersey from birth until the time she was about 2 1/2 years old… Every six months like clockwork to keep an eye on the discrepancy and make sure it didn’t get any worse. There was also a concern that she would develop tumors in her belly, which is another symptom of a potential disorder. When that doctor started talking about leg-lengthening surgery, I stopped going to him. The surgery would basically consist of breaking her left femur, separating it slightly, then pinning it in place and forcing the leg to mend itself and the space. It’s extremely painful and was something I deemed unnecessary. Please keep in mind that she was walking at 11 months, has been taking gymnastics since she was 2 1/2, plays soccer and t-ball, and runs just like any other kid. This “disorder” has not hindered her in any way, and this is her normal. To put my child through that much pain… I just couldn’t do that. Ever.

Last March, however, she started complaining about her belly hurting. This brought back concerns over tumors and the like. MedExpress diagnosed her with an ulcer and gave her medication for it. It seemed to help. In December, the pain came back. I immediately scheduled an appointment with her pediatrician, who was concerned about the previous diagnosis considering they went off a blood test rather than doing a scope. I also brought up my concerns about this being related to her leg discrepancy. This led to today’s appointments at Children’s.

As we left the house this morning and took the drive up there, we talked about what might happen at her appointments and her concerns. She was worried she would have to get another finger prick or a shot. All she wanted was stickers and a lollipop. I told her what I knew they were checking for, but I was honest about not knowing what the day had in store for us. First up, the orthopedic doctor. She had to change into a gown, which was shorter than she was comfortable with so she wrapped a towel around her waist, and went in for her x-rays. She did wonderful. The doctor was amazing – very personable and easy to understand. Spoke professionally, but did not use all medical jargon that a layperson wouldn’t understand. He was also great with her. We talked about the discrepancy, how it had stayed roughly the same over the last 4 years, and what his concerns and plans were. There was a brief discussion of surgery around age 11, but there is still plenty of time for monitoring her condition before that becomes a major discussion.

Next came the gastro doctor. We talked at great length about Peanut’s eating habits, drinking habits, defecating habits, etc. She spoke to my daughter directly and only asked me questions when she needed more clarification or my child didn’t know the answer to a question. We talked about her “ulcer” and how we’ve remedied the situation since last March. My daughter sat there so well behaved and answered so clearly and distinctly. I was very proud of her. Then came time for testing, and she had to give blood and a stool sample. She cried during the blood draw, but I can’t blame her. It’s scary for a 6-year old.

As we were sitting there, it occurred to me how brave my little one really is and what a wonderful person she’s becoming. Here she was, out the door at 7:30am, seeing doctors and running all over the hospital until after noon, and almost the entire time she was calm, barely complained, and did exactly what was asked of her even when she was scared beyond belief. I felt like it was an honor for me to be the one to hold her hand while she went through all of this.

We went to lunch after and talked about how she felt, what the doctors had said so far, what we were waiting to find out, and what we would do with the rest of our day. She took off her bandage from the blood draw by herself even though it hurt to do it. Then she finished her milkshake, and we headed home. As she napped in the car on the way home, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I am that I get to be her mom and how often I forget that lately. This person changed my life 100% for the better. She welcomed my husband into our little circle with open arms and creates beautiful little cards for him that say, “To Dad.” She constantly comes home with art projects made just for me, kisses me and tells me she loves me for no reason, and gives me hugs at the exact moment I need them. While I get lost in the day to day stresses of telling her again and again to shut off her bedroom light, clean up after herself, and complete her homework, she’s floating along in her own world, singing at the top of her lungs, totally unphased by me. She is such a wonderful little person and as I tucked her in tonight after reading a chapter in her book, I made sure to tell her as much.

Right at this moment, with a daughter I appreciate more than words can express, a wonderful husband who loves and supports us, and another child growing inside of me, I am overcome with a feeling of joy. I am so lucky that my life turned out this way.

Until tomorrow when we fight about combing her hair or brushing her teeth, anyway. LOL

Have a great night.

-C