Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bittersweet Birthday

Welp, here we are.

My baby turned one.

*Sigh. We did it. We made it through 4 stints of babyhood. Sleepless nights... the zombie-phase. The gassy nights, the screaming nights, the "I just don't wanna sleep, so I'm gonna keep you up with me" nights.

I look at those moms that are ready to give birth at any moment with their first baby, or are cradling their newbies with pity. I don't ever have to do that again. But at the same time, that moment when you first see your baby and realize just how fragile life is and how much you are responsible for from here on out... My favorite moment.

I'm overjoyed and saddened. I want to press the pause button on the day and relive the moment I walked into his room this morning when he awoke and started bouncing up and down in his crib. It's true what they say, it went by fast. Really fast. But I do feel like I took in every moment, cherished it, and stuffed it deep down in the crevasses of my brain so that those moments, the ones I don't ever want to forget, will always be there. It might take some gingko biloba to access them, but they're there.

So here's to a day of celebrating the birth of by far, the happiest baby I've ever had. With the biggest smile, and head rocking excitement, he will melt many a girl's heart someday. But for now, he melts mine. I love you Mr. Gibbers.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Employed.

As most of you know, I had a job interview last week to be a barista at a coffee shop.  The interview was interesting. For starters, I had never been on the opposite side of the spectrum, in terms of age. The interviewers were in their mid 20's, and here I was, trying to hide my gray hairs. It went smoothly, they seemed like really sweet people. Perhaps a bit too hipster for me in that the experience of drinking coffee has brought them to tears before. But who am I? I've seen credit card commercials that have brought out the shaking sobs in me before. 

I left feeling confident. I'd spent most of my early twenties making and serving coffee. I can do it in my sleep. And the sheer thought of doing it again reminded me of my youth, and a more simpler time. Jim with his decaf orange spice tea, Tom with his huge world mug filled with our drip of the day, leaving about an inch of room for cream. Jackie with her one shot decaf, extra hot, extra foam, nonfat chai tea. The regulars, the conversation, the feeling that I am an important part of those people's days... Okay, I'm not in complete denial, we all know it was the beverage that was the important part, but still.

3 days a week. Two weeknights 6pm-midnight and Sunday mornings 8am-2pm. Those were the hours they threw around when talking about the position. I could do that. Tony would be home and I wouldn't have to worry about someone watching my kids. Lets be real, the job wouldn't pay for someone to watch my kids! I got home and cuddled with my baby. As I say there, something stirred in me, I shoved it down. I was excited. I could potentially have a life outside of my children. Which was something I somewhat longed for. I love my kids. They are my life. But I didn't want to lose who I am and the. Wake up 18 years from now with an empty nest and an identity crisis.  

Later that night as I put Declan in his jammies and sat down to cuddle and rock with him before laying him in his crib, that thing began to stir again. Maybe it was the Beatles lullaby music on the CD player, or the burrito I had for lunch, but this time I didn't ignore it. What was I doing? Sitting here, snuggling this little man, giving him my undivided attention, was one of my favorite parts of the day. Wy would I give this up? He's not ready, I'm not ready. What am I doing? 

Now I know there are moms out there who are thinking, "it's guilt. Don't you think if you just weaned him that he would be fine?" Yes, I could wean him, and he would be fine, but that's not the point. It's not even about nursing. It's about the fact that when I had one baby, sure I could wean him and go out and get a part time job and have little problem knowing Daddy was home putting him to bed at night. But he isn't my first, or my second, or even my third. He's my fourth. And do you have any idea how nonexistent his one on one time with me is? That time before he goes to sleep at night is the one and only time during the day that he gets me, all of me. It's sacred and I'm not willing to give it up. Not yet. 

So I made up my mind, unless the job was one shift on Sunday morning, I wasn't going to take it. 

So when the call came on Saturday and the guy on the other end said, "so you want a job?" My response was, "It depends. What hours are you offering?" And to my surprise, he responded with, "What hours do you want?" 

A short conversation later, I'm happy to say, I will be a contributing member of society on Sunday mornings. Call it a blessing, call it what you will, but I didn't compromise what I thought I wanted for what my family needed. And I'm okay with that. In fact, I'm more than okay, I'm happy. 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Raising four children doesn't pay in cash.

I have a job interview today. Why? Simply put, like every other stay at home mom, I don't make any money. In a moment of disparity, I went out of my comfort zone and put my resume in at a local coffee shop. When they asked to meet me and then called later to schedule an interview, my stomach churned. 

What have I done? 

I have this great gig where I don't have to wear pants, why on earth would I want a job where I have to act like a grown up?! There are so many moms out there that HAVE to go to work to make ends meet. That HAVE to say goodbye to their sweet babies every morning in order to pay the bills. And I am beyond blessed in that I am not one of those moms. I do not envy them. what they have to do is heartbreaking and sacrificing and I am in no way devaluing what they must do. I get to see every smile, every laugh, the first time they crawl, walk, run, sing... I've kissed every owie, heard every joke, received every hug, and at the exact moment in which they wanted to give one. And now I sit here with knots in my stomach, wondering why on earth I would want to trade those irreplaceable moments in for minimum wage.

And this is where it gets dicey. Our medical insurance sucks. There, I said it. We have four kids. They get sick. Heck, I get sick. A LOT. We are paying far more than we ever did before. I used to be able to buy a box of cereal for less than $2 but since moving to Arkansas, that price is no where to be had. Milk is a dollar more than it is in Oregon. We pay a $50 fee every month on our water bill to help protect some dumb endangered cave fish (Disclaimer: I apologize for saying dumb, I appreciate endangered species and know that we need to do our part to protect them, but in this instance, I'm merely complaining about the extra cost I wasn't planning on paying when I moved across the country). I know it's not huge, but it adds up. These are all costs we didn't calculate when my husband took this new job that I feel I need to compensate for. 

But let's get real people, I have always felt the need to contribute monetarily since I had my first baby almost 8 years ago. I've been making and selling headbands, accessories, dolls, whatever I can, for years now. Every day when I have a free moment to myself, I think of ways I can make money. I have a website, I will go ahead and plug it, no shame: Http://www.thepaisleynderground.com, where I sell the stuff I make. I even have a DIY blog that links to my website that I created in the hopes of getting enough traffic that I can make money off of google Adsense. In fact, yesterday I was brainstorming ways I can sell tutorials on Etsy, on how to make the things I make so that I can make some extra cash. And I love creating, I do. But the real reason I create these things and sell them... Because I feel inadequate. Because after all of the hours I put in, at the end of the day, I don't see a paycheck. Don't get me wrong, the hugs, the kisses, the smiles, giggles, "I love you"s... They are totally worth it, but they don't pay the bills. 

There was a time when women were expected to stay home. When a Homemaker was a proud title to have, not something people saw on a medical form in the "job" area and said, "oh, so you don't work?" 

Sometimes my reaction is defensive... 

Do you have any idea how much I DO in fact work? How about I trade you "jobs" and we see who works? I have one of the hardest "jobs" there is, making sure that these four small souls grow up knowing how to be patient, kind, loving, smart, hard working, positive contributors to society, all while they scream and throw food at me.

Other times my reaction is one of embarrassment. 

You're right, I don't work. I don't make any money. I don't pay the bills. I. Am. Worthless. 

My husband makes good money. I don't NEED to work. I don't NEED to contribute. But there's this gut response every time I go to the grocery store, pay the bills, buy a coffee (because I was up for two hours and couldn't sleep and then the baby decided he wanted a midnight snack and I can barely function)... It's guilt, it's a knee-jerk reaction of "I don't make money and therefore I can't spend money."  I don't think I've ever met another stay at home mom who hasn't felt this way at one point or another, if not all the time. 

I'm not here to tell you that society is wrong. That you have value, that what we endure while staying home, raising our children to be people of worth is one of the hardest jobs there is. You and I already know that. No one has to tell us that we are valuable. Our children tell us. Maybe not in this moment, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not in words, but in the way they treat others, in the way they love, in their hugs and deeds and ability to function outside of us, in a chaotic world...  THESE are our reminder that we are of something more worthy than money.

It doesn't mean I don't have days like the other day when I haphazardly took my résumé in to a coffee shop thinking to myself, "heck yes, a job... I will make money. I will be worthy. I will get a break from the screaming and the fighting and the food throwing."  Those days happen... a lot. The grass is alwats greener... There are days when my husband comes home and I tell him, "I quit. It's your turn with the crazies... I'm gonna go get a job." Maybe I'm bipolar. But what mother isn't? It's a coping mechanism. How else are we capable of being the disciplinarian and the fixer of owies at the same time?

So today I am in a unique situation. Instead of going into this interview wanting to wow them, I have the opportunity to go in with the mindset of, "this job must wow ME. It has to be something I love to do." Because I already have a job that I love. A job where I am irreplaceable. A job where I am of the greatest value. 

Sunday, August 04, 2013

I'm inadequate.

So my daughter Lucy turned 3 about three weeks ago. And every day since then I wake up saying to myself, "crap, I suck... I was totally going to update my blog and write some cute thing about Lucy and her birthday and how much I love her. And I didn't... I'll do it today." But then I realize the reason I woke up in the first place, the 11 month old is crying upstairs in his crib because he awoke and there wasn't a boob in his mouth. Sidenote: He loves the boob, more than any of my other kids did, what can I say? So I run to the bathroom because I know that I won't have another chance to go for another two hours- when he goes down for his first nap. I then spit my retainers out and rinse them off because, you know, I've had braces a million times and I've become this crazy rule follower since becoming a mother, and braces cost money. I run upstairs because the faint cry that was coming from his room has become more of a wail and I open the door to not only the near-one-year-old jumping up and down in his crib because he's half excited to see me and half pissed that I'm not already topless, but The poor 7-year-old is moaning and whining with the pillow over his head because this was the one day he decided he wasn't ready to wake up yet and his brother woke him up. And we all know that if we ourselves make enough noise, we can drown out the source of the noise we are trying to avoid, right? 

And down the stairs we go. I fend the baby off just long enough to help the kid pour his bowl of cereal. I sit down and the baby immediately starts moaning at my shirt in this, "I'm pretty sure you know what I want, but I'm gonna be extra loud just in case you forgot" sort of way. And just as he starts in, down the stairs traipse the 3 and 5 year old beauty queens with their blankets in tow and their curly hair matted up in fluffy rats nests plastered across their faces. 

"Good morning Beautifuls," I say, as the oldest plops herself on the couch, but mostly on top of me, and starts loving on her baby brother, who is totally distracted and yanks away to smile at his sister as my plethora of milk squirts halfway across the room. I get him redirected to the task at hand just as the 3-year-old looks me point blank in the face and says, "I want breakfast," and continues to utter the exact same phrase over and over even though I've already explained to her just as many times that I can get it for her when her brother is done nursing. I love her, but she's the result of that phrase my mother told me over and over as a child, "I hope you get one just like you." Apparently mothers have that sort of control in life. I got one just like me. And she wants what she wants when she wants it and she wants it now.

So I plop the baby in his chair at the counter and immediately dump some cereal in front of him in hopes of distracting him for a couple minutes so I can get the girls some breakfast. That works for about 20 seconds. I flip the switch on my espresso machine, because I have one now you know. The girls get settled and I sit and start to feed the baby some food while I try and shovel some cold cereal into my face and end up feeding the baby half of it because he's the size of a two-year-old and eats more than I do. Meanwhile, whatever food I've given him that isn't mind, he throws on the floor. I guess that means he's done. I wipe him down and take his banana covered clothes off and change his diaper. In his cleanliness he decides to go sit in the middle of the food he threw on the floor and starts to eat his 2nd breakfast. 

He's occupied, the 5-year-old is still eating, and the 7 & 3-year-old's have their noses in a book, nows as good time as any to get me some coffee! I enjoy coffee and today I'm gonna have an Irish cream latte. The whirring of the steam wand in my milk is comforting. The smell of the pulled shots bring me back to a simpler time in my life. I finally get to sit down on the couch to drink my liquid comfort and the 3-year-old comes over to announce she's hungry. You see, she eats about three breakfasts a day because every single night, whether the food is something she actually likes or not, she refuses to eat her dinner and is probably starving every morning. I reach around to give her a hug and realize she's wet. Awe... Crap. She must've peed the bed. She's potty trained mind you, but sometimes she just cant make it until morning and decides to NOT share the fact that she wet the bed. 

Let the cleaning commence.  I send her upstairs to go stand in the bathtub while I find and clean everything she's sat on. Then I head upstairs to take her bed apart and throw it in the washing machine. I go and have a talk with her about telling Mommy when she's had an accident and I decide to not just rinse her but give her a full on bath since I can't remember when the last time she actually bathed was. Oops.

I throw a yogurt on the table for the newly bathed and dressed child and by the time we are done, the baby has had it and needs some attention. We hang for a bit, play on the floor and soon it's time for his nap. I get him to bed and I sit my butt on the couch just to realize my epic cup of coffee goodness is cold and nasty. So I nuke it and the count down timer in my head starts... An hour and 25 minutes, tops... I take a couple of sips and set my sights on getting the other two kids dressed and ready for the day. That's a twenty minute fight... 1 hour, 5 minutes... The 3-year-old wants her third. Breakfast. I brush everyone's teeth and jump on the treadmill for a quick run. I'm sweaty, I'm gross... 30 minutes left, just enough time for a shower... And he's awake. Crap! 

I bribe the older kids to play with and distract the baby with half empty promises of greatness so I can shower. I clean myself in less than 3 minutes, pack the kids some lunch, and we jump in the van and head to the library. We pick books, we check them out, and I need to run to the grocery store cuz we're out of milk... And yogurt, and probably a hundred other things I won't realize we are out of until I walk down the aisle and go, "oh yah, we need that." The kids eat their peanut butter and honey sammies in the van while I starve and by the time we get home it's time for nap number two for the smallest of the small fries. I get the baby to bed and for two seconds, the kids are playing nicely. I sit. That's it. I sit. And the longer I sit, the more inadequate I feel. 

I need to be productive.

I need to make something I can sell since I don't have a job and I need some source of income because we have four kids and raising four children doesn't pay in cash.

I need to come up with some awesome craft to do with my kids like all the moms on Pinterest do. 

I need to plan some child's birthday party with handmade invites and streamers made out of all of the old newspapers I've saved. Oh wait, I don't get the paper.

I need to document and blog about the latest wonderful thing one of my children did, like turning 3.

I need to go bake something delicious and gluten/sugar/dairy free because that's what good health conscious mothers do.

I need to go for a run because I'm not as thin as I could be and there is this mom down the road that is gorgeous and teensy. Why did I have to be the one with the slow metabolism and big bones!?

I need to create a handwritten treasure map and clues to the map and go bury treasure that I happened to have hand made in my free time the other day in some obscure place in order to entertain my kids because I was put here on this earth to entertain them.

And oh crap, I need to defrost some meat because I need to have it thawed for that dinner I pinned onPinterest  that I need to have on the table when my husband gets home at 5:30.

And I am overwhelmed. Completely overwhelmed.

And I realize something: I suck. I'm inadequate. I'm not a good enough mother. I'm not the best mother, far from it in fact. And so I sit. Then a child cries. And another one yells and I jump up out of the fog of self appointed patheticness and I run upstairs to break up the fight. And I go downstairs and I sit on Facebook and see all of the wonderful and amazing things all of my friends are doing. I see all of the pins on Pinterest I planned on doing or making and I decide to start a project, or sweep, or vacuum, and a child cries. And I repeat the process. Until the baby awakens and I realize I never finished anything. The floor is still filthy and only half of the dishes are put away and we didn't do a treasure hunt and why am I so dizzy? Oh yah, I didn't eat lunch. So I grab a handful of leftover raisins from the kids' lunch and I get the kids a snack. 

Some days we go hang out at the pool because I don't have the energy to do anything else. Or we will have dance parties or make forts or play games. But a lot of the time I just play referee. The husband gets home and most days I'm like, "welp... I didn't make dinner." And my husband, being the saint he is, will whip something up. Part of me just doesn't have the heart to make food for a bunch of people that just yell at me and tell me how much they hate it. I guess there's no joy in that. 

So after we spend the better part of the evening trying to convince four small people to put a nourishing substance in their mouths AND swallow it, we spend the last bit of daylight wrestling them into their beds. And we get slandered while we do it... Like the time my husband told our 3-year-old she can't sleep with the tape recorder and she yelled, "STOP BEING MEAN TO JESUS!" at him. This is the point in time I tell them, "Mommy is done. Do not come out of your room unless you are on fire or have to go potty." And yet they somehow make it down the stairs a few more times to get a book, or tell me there's a bug in their bed, or just because they wanted to tell me a random fact about a Pokemon character they know before they all finally pass out around 9:30pm. And at this point the very VERY last thing I want to do is well, anything... Especially write a blog post about the wonderful antics of my newly three-year-old daughter. But I do it. And why is that? Why do we feel this overwhelming desire, as mothers, to make all other mothers think we are the healthiest, craftiest, most put together one of them all? 

It's tiring, it's relentless, it's the farthest thing from glamorous, but it's the job. And we do it because we love them. And I know a lot of times people think I have it all together, which at times I do... But most times I don't. And that's okay. I'm sure I'm not the only one that has days when I'd rather sit, pantless on my couch, without makeup and my hair pointed sideways with food all over my floor, and everyone in their pajamas, than expend the effort it takes to leave the house. Or at least those people are better at hiding it than I am.