Motherhood is a progressive feast, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Sure, you can have it all. Just like you can at a progressive feast-you can have it all if you don’t eat too much at one place. You eventually have it all, the long and short of it, the braised ribs and soufflés, just not all at once, in one spot. Nothing is truer of that then motherhood.
All together frustrating and beautiful at once, this “have it all” bite by bite through life.
Its similarities are astounding: that meatball skewer appetizer at one house wasn’t your cup of tea, and neither was the terrible twos. The pork loin roast – a delicious slice gone in an instant – your daughter at six years old. The delectable pear dessert that was immeasurably satisfying and deeply pleasurable? The rocking chair years, the baby giggles, those fat, dimpled knees.
I don’t know about you, but I get lost in these woods sometimes, the ones that tell me I’m supposed to “have it all.” The thing is, though, only after giving up my big time career have I come to realize I have it all already. I’m just choosing what’s important to me in this season of my life, my family’s life.
We can have it all, eventually. (Italics emphasis for me, really as I’m reminding myself of this.) Just like my writing career – as much as I’d like an illuminating, fast-paced writing career, I can only build small towers at a time; small blocks of work and articles, one bite, one nap time at a time. I am still in the baby phase, a career growing at the same pace (or slower, if I’m being honest here) as my family.
And maybe eventually, I can say I was a best selling writer, an author, someone who writes a regular column.
But right now?
I’m still working slowly through the appetizers savoring each mouthful, most of which are pretty good.
Author’s note: I’m trying my hardest to consistently post on my site. Which is a lot harder than I thought, being home now.
Which means that today, with little time to actually write, I’m posting something from the archive. Which you’ve probably never seen. Since it’s in the archive of my old drafts. You’re welcome. And enjoy the un-edited random thoughts on life, God, gratitude and airplanes.
Thank you Lord, for not leaving me how you found me.
Thank you Lord, for long trips, soft beds and people I love to work with yet at times cannot stand.
Thanks you for little baby pudgy knees, for toddler tantrums, for hearty chuckling child laughter and toddler woes and cries.
Thank you for the things I cannot say thank you enough for, the things that seem thankless and a little bit like hell on earth like car rental shuttle buses, tangles, exhaustion and all the small irritating things that do not go my way.
Thank you for the things I cannot change.
Thank you for the gift of figuring out what my gift is.
Thank you for books, recovery, slippers, hot tea, chocolate. For my husband to snuggle next to at night, for all the things that are beautifully imperfect and still need a little work, including me.
And thank you for the discipline to resist ordering from Sky Mall. Although truthfully there were about three things in there that I truly wanted and I’m not so sure I’m proud of that.
Because we all need a diet that can work with our lifestyle. And a little humor in the midst of upcoming Swimsuit Season as well.
The Mom Diet
Also known as how to keep you at a consistent, constant weight!
Note: Start on a Monday.
Breakfast: Coffee with cream
That one last yogurt that’s left in the fridge
Lunch: Pure, untouched pb and j sandwich crusts
3 leftover goldfish
Dinner: Sweet potatoes and grilled chicken.
Eat three portions, because, rebellion from the troops about eating food that’s “good for us.”
Exercise: Loudly encouraging eating our dinner that’s “good for us.”
A square of stashed chocolate. Before 9am.
Lunch: The soup no one wanted to eat.
Cast off vegetables from last night.
Raisins for snack and mostly dinner too, since you’re overdue for the grocery store.
Taming the beasts who do not want to eat leftovers
Bathing the children who do not want to be bathed
Leftover party favor cookie from kid birthday party last weekend
At the store, hit up the samples: Shot glass cup of a new Dorito flavor, yogurt raisins from purse, and a communion cup’s worth of the new overtly marketed Orange Berry organic juice from the sample man at Kroger.
Dinner: the piece of pizza that fell on the floor.
The salad that was declared too many “soggy leaves”
Wine. Lots of wine.
Exercise: Running after children at park
Breakfast: Coffee and wine regret
Lunch: Turkey cheese rollups, air popped popcorn, mini baby carrots, and gummis.
More or less, your toddler’s lunch. That he more or less did not eat. Because of all the vivid, healthy colors.
Snack: Sand in the face from the afternoon trip to the park.
Dinner: Spaghetti squash casserole that you loved. And lovingly ate.
While everyone took tiny bits and drank at least three cups of milk (or beer) instead.
Exercise: “dancing” at the library story time hour
Breakfast: Coffee. Mad rush out the door for drop-off, so no time for breakfast.
Lunch: Mini kid food, from tiny tray at Big Kid’s cafeteria, and tinier chair to sit on. This is good. This overweight elf feeling could work to your advantage to remind you to lose some weight!
Snack: Home-baked cookies for everyone!
Dinner: Breakfast for dinner. Since you didn’t have any breakfast earlier. And don’t have to cook.
Breakfast: Oatmeal and berries. Green tea and virtue.
Lunch: Picinic in the park. Your own sandwich, chips, and mini carrots. Plus everyone else’s sandwich crusts, carrots. Juice box.
Snack: None. Forgot to bring snack to GS troop function.
Your daughter’s disappointed and has a mad scowl. That may last a lifetime. Or at least a solid two weeks.
Dinner: Random assortment of mini-appetizers and desserts from two separate birthday/celebration parties.
Breakfast: Husband wakes up, makes coffee, wrangles children and flips pancakes.
Joy, divine joy and hot coffee for breakfast.
Lunch: Sunday dinner at in-laws. YES. ALL the things. Including ROLLS.
Snack: Half of the chocolate bar no one knows about.
Dinner: French meal. Or, grapes, bread with butter, and several cheese selections.
Recipe also called Don’t Have Enough Energy to Cook Tonight.
Net weight gain/loss: Lose 7lbs
Breakfast: Green tea and oatmeal.
Then coffee. And chocolate.
Lunch: Cottage cheese, banana and coffee.
Snack: Chips. Whoops.
Dinner: Half drive-thru, half homemade: One burger, two mini bags of mini carrots, one (and a half of the toddler’s) French fries. Gummis.
Exercise: Running late to soccer practice.
A leftover mini quiche that no one but you loved.
Lunch: One piece of cheese, a handful of spinach leaves and other assorted rejected sandwich parts. The second half of a banana.
Snack: Chocolate. In the guest bathroom so no one hears you and/or makes a comment about it.
Dinner: The Good Mother special: Grilled chicken, peas and salad.
Exercise: Running after the kid that wanted to run away from the park.
Breakfast: Coffee. Lots of coffee.
Last crumbly bits of Cheerios, and milk dregs.
Lunch: Out. Can’t remember if you ate lunch at home, so soup, salad and sandwich while you’re out (glorious!) and the sitter is watching the little one.
Dinner: Pork chops, mac and cheese, squash.
Eat pork chops, miss out on the mac and cheese since kids ate all of it. Eat squash to your heart’s content. Because it was rejected as “part of dinner.”
Exercise: The gym. Finally.
Breakfast: The hot water heater broke, the kids are a cranky mess and “we” forgot a science project and a book report. Special Coffee Day, a la Venti Mocha Frappucino with whip on the top yes, and a cake pop.
Lunch: Crackers and cheese with cranky toddler.
Snack: Cheetos with a side of wood chips in the park.
Dinner: Various casserole samples and dessert from Bible Study.
Exercise: The heart quickening exercise of stress, and then bigger stress of trying to let the stress go.
Donuts on the way home from drop-off.
Lunch: Turkey roll up and fruit.
Snack: Smoothies and errands in the car.
Dinner: Who cares? Date night! Out of the house! Drinks! Dessert!
Breakfast: Hangover, so coffee. And buttery IHOP deliciousness for everyone else.
Late lunch: Scrap of pizza, half an orange and the cupcake bottom from soccer team party.
Dinner: Your weight in flour and cheese products from the local Italian place in town.
Exercise: Reviewing the estimate for replacing the hot water heater, followed by fainting.
Breakfast: Coffee. Random, non-chocolate chip granola bar shoved in mouth while herding children into car.
Lunch: Baked potatoes and fruit.
Snack: Sundae on a Sunday.
Dinner: Lasagna and garlic bread, just enough time to fling in the oven before the whole bedtime/bath routine/debates start.
Exercise: Getting everyone to church on time, so sweating and yelling .
Net weight gain/loss: Gain 11lbs
Breakfast: Coffee. Toast crusts for breakfast accompanied by a shot glass of milk since apparently you’re out of clean dishes, milk and apparently, anything resembling a proper meal with real portion sizes.
Lunch: The all-organic vegetable dish that was made just for the little one. Who didn’t eat it all.
Dinner: Coffee and sighs while the kids argue it out about if they would rather have to eat snot or ear wax for dinner. Daydreams of another date night soon with dining room buzz so loud you can’t hear anyone else’s conversation. And especially not conversations about ear wax.
Exercise: Running to the car to get into the carpool lane on time.
Breakfast: Coffee and the half of a banana deemed “too yucky.”
Lunch: Well-balanced lunch out of half of a grilled chicken breast, half of a serving of green beans and 3 bites of a dessert at Board of Directors meeting. Because you swore you read that they provided childcare at this meeting, but you were wrong. Spend other “fine dining” experience chasing little one and shushing.
Snack: Reminiscing about those missed bites of dessert all afternoon.
Exercise: Walk to park.
Snack: Soccer treat day: Eat only one fruit snack pack and 3 mini Goldfish packs before doling out to kids. Feel like epic self-disciplined goddess.
Dinner: Dinosaur chicken nuggets for everyone! Mac and cheese on the house!
Exercise: Trying to fit into last year’s shorts. Sweating, swearing.
Breakfast: Donuts with Dad, so luxurious early a.m. omelet, alone before toddler wakes up.
Green tea because you are a Healthy Lady.
Lunch: Leftover snubbed vegetables from last night’s dinner.
Kid-sized applesauce for snack. Time to run to the store. Again.
Dinner: Netflix, popcorn, pizza and night.
Exercise: Trying to calm the loud tantrums coming from your cart at the store.
Day 18: (Almost there!)
Breakfast: Coffee. Forget to eat breakfast due to epic meltdown about shoelaces and walking to school.
Lunch: Chick Fil A – one third portion of a salad since your toddler is apparently going through a growth spurt.
Snack: Coffee. Three jelly beans shared with you from daughter’s school event.
Dinner: Meatloaf, cornbread, and green beans. Because you finally got it together, did the dishes and went to the store.
Breakfast: Coffee. Green Tea. A handful of vitamins chugged down with OJ. Oatmeal. With chocolate. Because you are an adult and can make those sorts of decisions.
Snack: An apple with three bites taken out of it. Coffee cake.
Lunch: Leftover soup that didn’t have the goldfish on top of it.
Snack: A Ho-Ho from the Ho-Ho stash that no one knows about. Yet.
Dinner: Pizza and exhaustion.
Breakfast: Healthy quiche because you got up early. And alone. Also because no one had an early a.m. game and/or practice today.
Lunch: Chili’s of course. And half eaten portions of kid’s menu broccoli, rice and mashed potatoes.
Soccer treat day: Eat only one fruit snack pack and 3 mini Goldfish packs before doling out to kids. Feel like epic self-disciplined goddess.
Dinner: Steak, wine and peace. Make note to love husband the rest of your life.
Day 21: (Hooray! You made it!)
Breakfast: Half a cold coffee and fruit roll-up in the car. Ain’t no one got time for a peaceful breakfast when everyone has to look nice AND be ready at the same time for church.
Lunch: Drive-thru tacos and relief.
Snack: Chips. Everyone’s asleep and no one can hear you. Or bother you.
Dinner: Half of a piece of supposedly “perfect” fried chicken. Recipe fail.
Late night snack: half of a pizza. Since you are still hungry from the earlier fail and need to go to the store again.
Net weight gain/loss: Lose 4lbs
Congratulations! You did it for 21 days! You should feel recharged and ready for the pool. If you’ve followed the diet faithfully, you should see something similar to these results:
Net loss: 0 lbs.
Net gain: 0 lbs.
Back to original weight!
See how easy it is to maintaining your weight for 21 days?! Hooray for you!
Skinned knees, broken dishes, burnt omelettes, laundry. Hurt feelings and unbridled joy; ecstasy and boredom. Anger, frustration and hope.
Extremes: Utter joy and utter moments of well, being human.
The things we do that make us both wonderful and terrible; things that help remind us that we are “wonderfully and fearfully made.”
Socks with holes. Doors that jam. Those closets that either crash its contents on you upon opening. Or the ones you’re too afraid to go into or come out of.
Baby belly laughs.
Finding money in your coat pocket and other unexpected treasures like a clean bill of health from the dreaded doctor appointment. Wonder. The final bite of your favorite meal. Bubbles. New car smell.
Dread and shame and other words that describe terrible feelings.
The way the sun streams through trees, glistens on tissue-thin flowers in the early morning before anyone is up. Peace. Books so good you have to keep one in your own personal library. Foot massages. Chirpy bird conversations. Weight loss.
Life in this world. Full of such visceral joy and such visceral pain, and holding them, mixed together like oil and water, in one body. Holding onto both of them at the same time.
Wonders never cease all we can hold onto and let go of in this place.
I’m currently working through Julia Cameron’s “self-help” book for artists entitled, nobly, “Walking in This World” and she has some really great points on transformation and identity (and the crisis of change both of those bring.)
Her main point here is that it’s not a matter of who you are, but who you are changing into. She uses the analogy of an old story about three blind men describing an elephant – one says it felt like a brick walk, the other mentions a trunk and a third mentions the sheer presence, if I’m remembering at all correctly (I’m probably not.)
Anyways, she goes through this exercise to demonstrate a point: we are all a portion of what we really are; that we as artists forget our largeness, forget the sum of our parts. We tend to just remember our parts, like an actor reads up on his “role” as a writer, painter, or composer.
She goes on to explain that an elephant is not just a wall of grey, nor just a trunk. And neither are we – we are a sum of all of those things too, not just the things or the roles that others, including our friends, define us as. That perhaps, we could be a writer-composer. A this AND a that.
So, as things go, I spent half of today chasing my tail after a bad night of sleep and wondering why in the world I couldn’t “get it together” all the while, simmering in the background, wondering what kind of animal I am nowadays. My brain would whirl around these questions and those naggy little thoughts like Why am I not gliding through the to-do list? What’s wrong with me that I can’t get to the kitchen immediately after groceries? Why, why, why? Why am I so slow? Am I depressed?
As you can see, it’s a wild ride in my head.
And of course, with all of this I’ve learned about my particular brand of crazy, I’m sort of prepared for it. Most days, when I’m not so sleep-deprived, on better days, that is. But the answers in short are: I’m tired. I’m older than I used to be. I have a small one with me at all times, and goodness how I love a clean and well-run house, I love the people in them more. So I chose people first, usually.
And the groceries were bought and put away, lunches made, naps had and stories read, so all in all, I’ve done an okay job. But the mind – the monkey mind that is mine won’t let me slow down nor give myself grace. And is seemingly always on Depression-Watch, which clearly is a very narrow definition of depression, in that, if you’re not being productive, you’re depressed.
Oh, me. It’s funny when I remember to recognize the antics my brain plays with me.
And halfway through my workout this afternoon (that should have been this early morning before the kids woke up, my mind reminded me) it dawned on me what kind of animal I am:
A dog in a cone of shame desperately trying to scratch it’s wound.
I’m exactly that poor meme of a dog that keeps trying to scratch its wounds while wearing the cone of shame.
Heaven help me: I’m the cone of shame dog.
It’s sad to say at this point, but I share it because at this point in my life it’s true, and second, maybe you can laugh as maybe you can relate.
Yes, I would like to be an elegant horse or perhaps even a cat, maybe an elephant even, with all that commanding presence.
But in this journey of becoming more me, and hopefully a little more graceful with myself, I’m learning that cone of shame dog unfortunately fits for right now.
And maybe one day, I’ll let that wound go, let it heal. And maybe then, I’ll can just simply be a dog. Or my own sort of animal altogether.
I’m not sure what the hell I’m supposed to be doing.
While I’ve had (what I’ve felt over the course of several years) was a calling from God to write, I’m not so sure anymore. There have been things that have developed (now that I can clearly see with two undistracted eyes) that need some addressing and taking care of, now. More immediate than the lifelong dream of being considered a “writer.”
Nothing bad, no, and thanks for asking.
But I’m seeing things and behaviors in my family unit that I just accepted because well, I was too busy to address, and here’s the frightening thing: even notice.
Too busy to even notice.
From me, the Always Constant Noticer, the One Who Remembers, or so I’ve been called (and have recognized that tendency in myself ), this is terrifying.
Too busy to notice. Which is heartbreaking to me because it begs the question: What else have I missed?
What else has sailed on right past me because I was too busy building my career, focusing on me, wondering, just when in the hell, I could have a writing career of my own?
Please hear me: ambition, work, not bad things in life. Good things, actually.
But when you realize you perhaps, have a problem with ambition, in that it drives you to see only you and how things might work out for you, I think you have a problem. I’m using the word you, of course, meaning me.
What other things will I find under this big heavy rock of selfishness, I wonder lately.
And each time I wonder, more worms. More selfishness. More, sigh, dirt.
My husband reminds me that I’m changing too, a transformation of my own, and to not be so hard on myself.
But still I wonder what more I’ll uncover, hesitant. Though ironically knowing that what I discover about myself (negative or otherwise) is really, truly an opportunity.
An opportunity, yes. Even if it feels a little bit (I won’t lie: a lot) like pain and something I don’t want to have to deal with.
It’s like what they say about sickness and also well, my personal thoughts about clutter/cleaning up: it always gets worse (or seems worse) before it gets better.
So, that’s what I’m reminding myself now. To holding on. To hold on and know deeply that all the things and relationships I had in a certain arrangement in my previous life are transforming, changing, shifting. Just like me.
And through it all, remembering to listen to God. Because if He’s changing me, the dreams I’ve held for several years may also need a bit dusting off too.
Of all the things parent and young family related, there are quite a few that warriors called parents and/or guardians give up from our previous “life” that we let go of for our family without a problem.
For you and me, I imagine that list may look somewhat the same, somewhat different. But since we’re all sharing, here’s my list of my things I haven’t minded giving up on behalf of my children:
-Most nights, late dinners (hangry is a real problem for me)
-Swimming parties/pool parties
-Late nights (meaning, out past ahem, 8 pm.)
-Hanging out by the pool all day or at the beach all day (and cue Alanis – because guess where I grew up? The beach. Isn’t it ironic…)
-Days of silence, without chortles or giggles, or before, when I was single, days without kisses
-To some degree, the whole gym scene
-A predictable bedtime routine with responsibility for only putting myself to bed
For the most part, I don’t miss those things at all.
Especially the early-to-mid twenties pool parties that seemed to be prevalent in my day, where I felt uncomfortable hanging out in the middle of the day (I am nothing if not productive and/or a napaholic. Plus, the idea of “working a room” poolside makes me take deep gulps of air to calm down.) And then, at a pool party there’s the whole other level of discomfort – doing above uncomfortable activities in a bikini. Lots of panic at the disco for me.
And yes, I know – I must be a thrill to be around.
So, when we had kids, thankfully a lot of the things I found not so enjoyable went away as a matter of nature by the routines of having small children entail, and a lot of great things came as a matter of course. And yes, we had kids for a reason…and we wanted them and clearly, wanted to add more joy and a whole lot more chaos and mess into our lives.
But I will say – I do miss brunch. Or at least, the idea of brunch.
And sure – maybe you don’t, maybe you can still do brunch (you have a newborn, or a kid who doesn’t fall apart completely with late naps, or maybe you birthed an angel) but, as a young family who is so close to being able to withstand a late breakfast/earlyish lunch affair, I sure do miss them.
And yes – I’ve heard the flack about it – it’s the previous week’s leftovers, sometimes. The champagne isn’t that great. It can be loud and it can be packed but man oh man – a couple of hours to eat and chat and drink coffee into the early afternoon and maybe look at a newspaper in peace…would be nice. Brunch, in my opinion, is spectacular. It’s a mini Sunday (peace, relaxation, rest) all squished together with yummy foods and hot coffee brought to you by a lovely stranger, all within a span of two hours.
Last year about this time, I had brunch in Paris, at a nice little café with co-workers and friends on a business trip and it was lovely, I won’t deny it. A Parisian omelet (the real deal, in my opinion) and nectar of the gods coffee that was sweet and deep and warm and filled all the holes in me that an 8 hour flight poked in on the night before. So…perhaps this is where this little brunch craving is coming into play.
It’s a very familiar feeling for me and perhaps you too – the crazymaking of being this close to Major Goal (whatever that may be – retirement, the big 4-0 or 5-0, New Baby or the next level on Candy Crush) that you almost just can’t stand it. The closeness of it (much like how I feel about brunch, and potentially, writing a book proposal) is making you crazy. Absolutely crazy, due to it’s nearness. It was so much easier to be mannerly and patient, and well, sane when the goal wasn’t so close.
Which, is not unlike the last four days of my first pregnancy. The last four days were harder than all of the other pregnancy days added up together. I could so closely see the chalk on the finish line that I about whimpered all the way up until the end.
And I imagine, not so different than my recent brunch obsession. So close I can taste the eggs and peace.
But, until then, we’re all hanging out in what I’m calling this Wild Middle. The Wild Middle where you’re waiting for things to happen. Also known as Life. And, as we all sagely know, it’s a Whole New World when we get there.