Don’t Let the “Buts” Override the Joys

“Talking About Our Problems is Our Greatest Addiction. Break the Habit. Talk about Your Joys.”

A few weeks ago an old high school classmate of mine shared this on her Facebook page. It immediately struck a cord with me, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Mainly because It’s.Just.So.True. Rarely do I call my dad up with something “good” or send one of my fellow mom pals a text with something great that my kids did. Most of the time it’s simply me bitching. Me bitching about my kids. Bitching about my husband. Bitching about the weather. Just me bitching about anything and everything. Yet over the past few weeks as I’ve been ruminating on this idea, every time I try to think about something I’m grateful for, there always seems to be a giant BUT at the end. I’m grateful for my health…BUT I hate the feeling of getting old. I’m grateful for my kids…BUT boy do they drive me crazy. I’m grateful for my hardworking husband…BUT why won’t he do X, Y or Z? And it just keeps going on and on. I know I’m a Negative Nelly. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember. But geez, even for me sometimes I think enough is enough. So I decided to write a post (mainly to prove to myself that I CAN remain positive for once) about my JOYS. The things that make me happy. And there will be no BUTS. The buts are my addiction and it’s true, I do need to break the habit. So here’s my first attempt.

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One of my greatest Joys over the past few weeks has simply been the generosity and kindness of my gal pals. Recently I had a minor procedure done and was laid up for a few days. Now everyone knows I hate asking for help of any kind. I don’t know why I do, I just don’t ever want to be a “burden” on someone else. Yet these ladies simply took charge. I had homemade dinners delivered, goodies for the kids, milkshakes for me. I had numerous additional offers and daily text messages checking up on me as well. Even the women I work out with got together and all signed a card for me. Now these woman will all tell you this was “no big deal” for them, but I beg to differ. Some of these woman work. They’re all raising families, being chauffeurs, cleaners, chefs. Yet they went out of their way to help me. And they did it on their own. That is some good people right there. No buts needed for this Joy.

Now it would be wrong of me to write about my Joys and not mention family. However seeing as I feel this is just a “given,” I’ll keep it short and sweet. My family has each other’s backs. We’ve been around the block a few times in the Village of Hell and we’re are all sorts of crazy, weird and impossible, but that’s what I’m most thankful for. Because given a choice between The Cleavers or The Conners, I’d take the Conners any day. They’re a lot more fun. So even when my phone calls and texts are about 95 percent me talking about my problems, I can always count on my dad to remind me that “this too shall pass” or my faithful cousin, who’s a few years ahead of the parenting/life game than me, to talk me off that ledge. They’re my forever Joys. The lemonade to my lemons. (Sorry, sometimes, I like a good ol’ cliche!)

About a year ago, in my forever hunt for cool vintage items, I met a local woman who has a sweet little antique business that she runs out of her home. Recently she asked if I’d help her with the online portion of her business. Um, hello?! I get to look at and fondle beautiful, one-of-a-kind treasures AND get paid for it?! YES! This woman is grateful for my help, and I’m beyond grateful for simply having the opportunity to “do what I love.” I don’t necessarily believe in all the “you meet everyone for a reason” garbage that people like to say, but I certainly could not be any happier for having met this woman…despite having spent way too much money on all the pretty things that she sells. At least now however, my guilt is justifiably a tad less.

Now obviously there’s a million and one other things that bring Joy in my life. It’s candy corn season. The trees look freaking amazing. My kids are doing well in school. And my husband recently discovered what is currently my new favorite beer. Overall life is good. But it’s just so damn easy to spend so much time focusing on the buts and the negative side of things. (Candy corn makes me fat. Falling leaves means snow is coming. My son writes like he’s in preschool. Beer makes me fat. – See how easy that is??) But here I am, attempting to work on Amy 2.0 and trying just a tad harder to consider that my glass might just be half full instead of half empty. And on those days that I simply can’t do it – a 6-pack and a bag of candy corn make a damn fine way to end the day.

The End of an Era

IMG_3529So I did a thing the other day. I sold the high chair. Now let me preface this by saying I have been planning to have a bonfire with this thing for probably at least a year. I had basically given up trying to clean it except for the actual tray. But the amount of crusted on food, dog slobber and God knows what else was enough to make even the strongest of stomachs quake. Hence my dreams of the bonfire. That said, however, I suppose with some major arm strength and potent chemicals, that chair has the potential to have a long, happy life.

Now for the most part, so far it seems I have not been a sentimental person when it comes to my kids’ stuff. Which, I’m actually strangely perplexed by. This coming from the person who has oddly saved every single paper and notebook I ever used from eighth grade through college. And after hauling these heavy-ass totes through three moves I feel like it’s just wrong to throw them out now. So under the basement stairs is where they live, because obviously my freshman year Spanish homework is important, but my kids’ baby items are not.

But back to my point – over the past seven years as soon as my kids have outgrown something I’ve done my best to get rid of it, with the exception of a select few items. I’ve just had no desire to hang on to all that stuff because to me, that’s exactly what it was – just stuff. It didn’t represent my babies or our memories together. That is however, until I had already gotten rid of the high chair. It was one of my favorite gifts from my baby shower – over seven years ago (gasp). It was one of the “nicer” things I wanted. It was wooden, semi-expensive and once upon a time looked pretty. And due to the closeness in age of my kiddos, it was essentially used every single day for the past seven years.

Now I had no problems handing it over to the next era of users. Until of course I went to bed, and on queue, my brain fired right up. And then it truly hit me that this was really the last thing that represented my babies. And now it was gone. Which basically translated to my babies are gone. I have never been a baby person. Not my own, not other people’s. Even after having three, they still tend to scare me. So while so many of my friends swoon over the precious little bundles of joy, I’m totally fine keeping my distance.

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My babies aren’t babies anymore

But still I had three and I love them all. And while I still consider myself clueless because they’re all so different, raising each baby gave me different memories, different experiences, different lessons. So while even thinking about having another baby sends me into an immediate panic attack, getting rid of this high chair solidified the fact that I will never go through those experiences again. And while I hate to even admit this, I’m sad. So many of those milestone “firsts” I’ll never witness again. And while I’m ALL for my kids expanding their independence (in terms of self-care at least!) this is still a reminder that I’m just not as needed as I once was. That’s a hard thing to swallow.

I will never be one of those people lecturing younger moms to “cherish these years because they go by so fast.” I hear that all the time and frankly it drives me nuts. Maybe it’s because deep down I know it’s true. Maybe it’s because I have a hard time thinking about the future because I’m knee-deep in the shit that comes with the present. Maybe it’s because I’m just damn tired. And yeah, yeah, I’m well aware that I can “rest when I’m dead” but still. Knowing how to live and actually living that way are two different things.

That said, however, after experiencing the joy, the grief and even the pride that I’ve been feeling over the past week from letting go of this high chair, I’m trying to use these emotions as my own personal lesson. Because as annoying and cliche as it is that “I’ll miss this when it’s gone” it’s just the plain truth. No, I won’t miss everything. I won’t miss bouncing that screaming baby for hours on end during the night. I won’t miss those level 10 blowouts where you just start tossing everything into the garbage because you’re both covered from head to toe in shit and the garbage is all you can see through your tears. But I will miss those adorable baby smiles that you see when they’re sleeping. I will miss when those tiny baby hands grasp your finger and won’t let go. And yes, I’ll even miss when the baby cries for everyone except me because they know that I’m their mom. Those are the experiences I can’t get back, but they’re the memories that will stay with me forever.

With the upcoming school year approaching I’m going to try to remember to slow down even when things are speeding up. I’m going to try to remember their smiles on their first day of school (because we all know that won’t last). And I’m going to try to hug them for a few seconds longer every night. In between the constant daily chaos, the fighting, the screaming and the tears, there’s always memories to be had. Lessons to be learned. And a life to live. I just need to remember to live it.

Surviving the Mayhem that is Summer

IMG_2843Well, it’s that time of year again. Parents all over social media are posting all their “first day of school/last day of school” photo montages. People comment about how cute the kids are, how much they’ve grown, and how fast time flies. Sure, I participate in that trend too. Because it’s all fun and games until that first day of summer vacation actually comes around. You wake up to the sound of your kids barging into your room at 6 am with their latest list of wants and demands, and then they immediately start fighting because their wants are more important than their siblings’ wants and It’s Not Fair. And then the baby starts crying too because her diaper is down to her knees from the night and wants to be changed “Right Now!” And you’re barely processing any of it because you were still in the middle of your REM sleep from having gotten up three different times in the night to deal with whomever needed covering up or a drink of water at any given time. So you just stare at these screaming, yelling, demanding monsters and think “what the F is going on?!” And then it dawns on you that this is just your everyday morning, but have no fear the bus will be here soon and you’ll at least be down one kid. But then you really wake up and your brain starts to semi-function and now you’re at “holy shit, there is NO bus. It’s SUMMER!!” You immediately try to slip back under the covers and hope they don’t notice, but it only makes them yell louder, demand more and of course jump on you.

img_2767So yeah, summer vacation has commenced. Remember when you were that kid though and you couldn’t wait. And all you could think about was the freedom, the never-ending playtime and just all of the fun! Those were the days. Yet here we are now, on the other side of the fence wondering how the hell are we going to survive these LONG two and a half months?! I’ve decided it’s basically the same thing as Purgatory. You essentially have one foot in Hell at all times but you know you won’t be stuck there forever (even when it seems like you will). You have one mission for the summer: SURVIVAL. The key is understanding that it doesn’t matter how you get there, just that you GET THERE.

img_2774As a new parent or even a parent of just one kid, you might be delusional in your summer planning. As in you’re actually excited for ALL the fun grandiose activities and adventures you’re going to do. And hey, if that’s what you’re able to actually do (and enjoy it) then more power to you. For me, on the other hand, who’s in the midst of toddler hell, I know better. I’m in full on survival mode and trust me when I say it’s not easy. So here’s a few tricks I’ve learned that just might give you a slight edge to making it to August.

Step #1: Always have a calendar handy and in sight. You want to be able to see the days tick by and know at all times exactly how many you have left. It’s mainly for moral support to again remind you that this won’t be forever. And each day you get those kiddos to bed (well to bed and actually ASLEEP) it’s a full on WIN for the day. Because the key to survival is taking it one day at a time.

Step #2: Do a little recon on your house. Take a few minutes and try to scope out a few different places that you can hide, even if it’s just for five minutes. You know they will hunt you down like dogs and they will do it quickly, but a few minutes of silence is basically the equivalent of Super Mario finding a magical mushroom that gives him that extra boost needed to make it to the next level. We’re stay at home moms; we wipe asses for a living. It doesn’t take much to find our next burst of strength to keep going.

Step #3: Lower your expectations. As in, stop having any. A successful summer is not the equivalent of having a full itinerary every single day. More than likely the kids won’t even remember visiting every single local park. Letting them run wild outside will be just as exciting and probably more memorable anyway.

Step #4: Use your village. Find a few core friends that have the same philosophy as you (as in they don’t give a shit and it’s all about making it through the day) and have play dates. Now, not the Pinterest kind of play dates, the kind that actually make sense. As in “kids, there’s the swingset, a bucket and a pile of dirt. We’ll be back in two hours to feed you so no one withers away. We’re going to drink mom juice and shoot the breeze in peace. Unless someone needs the ER, WORK IT OUT.” Because oftentimes if kids are left alone without hovering, crazy parents, they actually do okay. And even if they don’t, that’s okay too. Our job is not to interfere with every single banter or incident of not sharing. Let the little bastards figure it out. We’ll all be happier in the long run.

Step #5: Do whatever you can to make them more independent. You know they need us for everything, but even if we end up hearing just one less “mom!” in a day, it can make all the difference. Give them access to available snacks. Make sure their clothes are easily accessible so they can dress themselves. If they come down wearing their Christmas dress, so be it. Just remember it’s simply one less thing you have to do yourself. Sometimes it can be extremely difficult to let go of the control, especially when you see the messes they make from doing things themselves. But just keep your eyes on the prize: the more they do, the less you have to (well eventually, because in the beginning there will most likely be a lot of extra messes.) But they will get there!

Step #6: Ignore them. Obviously not entirely, but in those first few weeks when they’re fighting over EVERY SINGLE THING, stop trying to be the referee. It’s simply impossible to do, and you’ll be in the asylum before the end of June. Just keep reminding them that unless there’s blood, they need to work it out themselves. By the end of the summer, more than likely they will have all learned a few new choice words because you’re simply unable to control the not-so-silent mutterings under your breathe anymore. But hey, if they’ve learned to work out even one of their 74,382,974,389 fights in a day, you’re doing a great job.

Step #7: The most important step to surviving the summer is to just have fun. Most likely that will involve a fully stocked (wine) fridge and a secret stash of Snickers, but it is important to remember that this is your time too. Being a stay at home mom is a damn hard job and even though we live with one foot in the nut house, we’re lucky as hell to have this time with our kids. Loosen up and remember, they’re just kids. Give them the damn vats of Goldfish, let them pee in the yard. Because they won’t always be barging in on us in the bathroom or be around to climb in bed with us every night. It’s hard to truly┬ábelieve, but deep down we know someday we’ll miss this.

So keep your friends close and your alcohol closer. And let the countdown to August begin.