Tag Archives: home

For the Record: I Didn’t Yell at the Vacuum

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Hubs had tried twice to unclog the vacuum.  Unsuccessfully.  He and Jack had gone out to get planting supplies for our flower garden and the stupid vacuum was sitting in the middle of the filthy living room rug.

The damn thing had been clogged for like a month and every time I tried to vacuum, it spit out more dust than it picked up.  I’d once again implored the Hubs to take a peek at it, but he hadn’t gotten around to it.

Long story short, I took the thing apart, with the cheerful support of my six year old daughter, and plucked out a huge wedge of dust and fur along with a broken clothes pin that had been horizontally blocking the hole.  It took me a couple tries to put the thing back together, but I got it set straight and was happily sucking up a month’s worth of decrepitude.

Hubs and Jack got home and I proudly announced that I’d fixed the vacuum.

“How’d you do that?” Hubs asked incredulously.

“I exerted my domestic goddess nature on it,” I smiled.

“Mama,” Jack chimed in.  “Did you yell at it?”

“No, Punk,” I said, mildly annoyed by the smirks on the three other faces of my family.  “I did not yell at the vacuum.  Why would you even say that?”

“Well, you are really good at yelling,” Jack laughed.

“Very funny,” I said and dragged the vacuum upstairs to do the master bedroom.

It was actually pretty funny.  Jack’s timing was totally on point and we were all able to have a chuckle at my expense.  I don’t know if I would categorize myself as a yeller.  I do raise my voice on occasion, out of frustration, and truth be told I am not the world’s most patient person.

But it is always interesting to get a little glimpse of how my kids see me as a human.  And of course they do not see that for the one time I yell, there are about 47 other times where I take a deep breath and remind myself to go slow.

At any rate, I’m pretty sure the time that Mama (did not) yell(ed) at the vacuum to make it work again will go down in my family’s mythology.

In Bulk

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 I may have been bragging at work about how my husband brought home bulk paper products from a wholesale club.

Ok, I was.

And seriously, when I saw the hubz stroll in after work one evening with a huge-ass package of toilet paper under one arm, and a gigantic stack of tissues under the other, I had never been so in love.

It’s the little things, folks.

Lying in bed, after my long day, I found myself wondering if swooning over the hubz joining BJs and stocking up on paper towels was a little pathetic.

But, I mean, he did also get some enormous jars of the natural peanut butter.

I don’t write very much about my marriage. . .

I tend to focus on my children, my role as a mom, and my never ending waterfall of feelings about life.

My role as wife, central as it is to my existence, often takes a back seat to the rest of the maelstrom.

Maybe I don’t write a lot about my marriage because it is so good it would be boring to write about it.  Maybe I don’t want to jinx it.  Maybe it’s out of respect for the hubz privacy. . .  dunno, but I do think the solid foundation of my marriage allows me to wax and wonder about other things, to freak out, and to know I will always have a stable base to which I can return.

Don’t get me wrong, my husband does typical annoying things like leaving glasses all over the house, leaving stinks in the bathroom, letting the kids eat junk, and complaining about the way I hang pictures.  We bicker.  It’s not “perfect.”  And I’m certain I do a shit-ton of stuff that irks him, only he is a lot more generous and forgiving when it comes to not complaining about my, uh, quirks.

He provides for us with a quiet, unwavering stoicism.  And I don’t just mean materially.  He provides calm love, a sense of humor, and faithful devotion.

He also makes awesome pancakes.

So, when he does something like bringing home huge quantities of paper products, it says way more to me than just that he wants our noses and asses to be wiped.  It says he is being considerate of our needs and thoughtful of our comfort.  It says he is saving me a trip out to Target this weekend.  It says he is taking care of us.

My husband has never been a love-letter-writer or flower-giver, except maybe on our anniversary.  I’m fine with this now, but it used to make me feel like I was missing out on something.  Maybe I’ve just become overly pragmatic in my middle age, but I’ll tell you, the messages a load of paper products sends to me at this point in my life is sexy as hell.

I really love that dude.

Like, in bulk.

the Vulnerable Little March of the Ladybug

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IMG_7304There are about six near-complete posts in my “Drafts” folder right now.  While I am somewhat happy with them, none of them seem particularly relevant to my life or blog at the moment.

I keep thinking about the ladybugs we’ve been finding in our house.  Outside the world is still a frozen mess.  Inside, we have these pretty, little beetles of summer roaming up and down our walls.

We’ve found about a half dozen.  Emily is delighted with them.  “Yookit!  Yookit!” she squeals, jumping up and down.

They make me kind of sad.

They are slow.  When we pick them up, they feel really crunchy.

We don’t have any plants in our house, because our dick-weasel of a cat eats them, so there is no place nice to relocate them.  No happy retirement village for ladybugs to munch vegetation and feel their feet in soil once again.

It crossed my mind to buy a plant for the sole purpose of giving these little critters someplace green and warm to spend their last moments.  But then, the thought of plant pots being knocked over, soil on the floor, chewed up leaves, and cat vomit just seems too much right now.

So we watch them slowly, steadily drift across our walls, one tiny step at a time.

I’m sitting with this vulnerability, this sense of fragility.

The more I accept it, breathe it in, the less terrifying it seems.

As long as no one makes any sudden noises or movements, and doesn’t ask too much of me, I’m cool.

My head is slowly coming back together, after the abrupt fragmentation it experienced last week in the face of trauma.  It is actually kind of cool.  Because I am in the biz, it is like I can watch it all in slow motion, understanding and processing every little twinge and shudder.  It is helping me to stay mindful, to feel a sense of control even as I sit with the fact that 99% of my existence hurtles out of control at the speed of light.

Sometimes I catch myself talking about it on auto-pilot.  Yeah, I almost could have died and stuff.  

And other times I’m really touching it, losing my breath and needing to go be someplace quiet for a few.

Oddly, being aware of it all is somehow less painful than not thinking of it, or trying to ignore it.  When I’m on auto-pilot stupid shit happens.  I slip and fall on ice walking around the rental car to put gas in it.  I slice open the tip of my finger cutting a bagel for Jack.  I get hyper-focused on the pain in my lower back and lose my temper when I drop something and have to bend over to pick it up.

It’s bright and sunny out today.  Stuff is melting.  This thought is both scary and hopeful.

There is a hot cup of tea and an ample slice of coffee cake with cinnamon crumb topping that the kids and I made yesterday.

I don’t want to go to work tomorrow.

But I will.

Because life goes on.

Winter Makes It Worse

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For a brief minute or two, the breezy hum of my hairdryer drowns out the tantrum taking place in the kitchen.  Jack is pissed about doing homework.  Something has not gone to plan and he is freaking the fuck out.  While my husband is trying to butter waffles and shield Emily from Jack’s flailing pencil and fists, Jack is screaming, calling names, and taking swings at my husband.

This used to be an every day occurrence and now it is more like a couple times per month.  But still, when it happens, it feels like a freight train is racing towards me and I can’t move.  I don’t know what to do.  And I am supposed to know what to do because it is my job to tell other parents how to handle situations just like this.

He’s not giving you a hard time, he’s having a hard time!  

Stay consistent!  

Be present with him.  Keep your composure!  

Try to be perceived as a helper!

Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  It frustrates me I am so inept in my own home.

Winter makes it all worse.  I don’t really know why.  We are still going out, getting physical exercise, staying busy.  Maybe it is the lack of sun.  Maybe Jack is as sensitive to this as I am.

IMG_7057While I am not one to complain about the weather, I have to recognize that this winter in New England has sucked in a giant way.  We have been pummeled with snow for weeks.  I stand nearly six feet tall, and yet there is a mound of snow TALLER THAN ME for crying out loud, next to our driveway.  Other parts of the country may be used to this type of precipitation, but for us, here, it is a little much.

The ice and snow are destroying people’s homes.  A bunch of my friends and coworkers have had slip and falls on the snow, have had to take time out of work, and have been sore and injured.  Businesses have had to shut down for state-of-emergencies, and have lost significant revenue.

My husband was in a fender bender a couple weeks ago, because he could not see around the enormous bank of snow at the top of our street.  While everyone was unharmed in the accident, it still required auto-body work on his car to the tune of a $500 deductible.  Since we don’t generally have $500 lying around, this represents an additional financial stressor in our lives which are already stretched very thin.

These are all real stressors.  These are all factors that tip the scales in favor of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

At least they have for me.

I’ve been noticing my patience is really thin with my kids, and then I feel like a total jerk hole for yelling or being short with them.  I’ve been noticing that my energy is low, my appetite is poor, and all I want to do is sleep and munch on chips.  I’ve been noticing it feels like an act of Congress would be the only thing to get me up off the couch to put the laundry in the dryer, or to get Emily a drink of water.

I look around outside and the big, crusty, piles of snow make me feel claustrophobic, like there is no room to move.

Then I get to go to work and listen to dozens of clients vent about their lives, the weather, and how insane their kids are acting.  At some point, I just want to say, Look, I’m not any better than this and I really have no advice for you because I am a total fraud.  So, good luck with everything.  Now go away and leave me alone.  

I was sick with bronchitis and then bronchitis induced asthma for the entire month of February, so any emotional buffer I might have had to tolerate aberrant child behavior, a hectic workload, and the third blizzard in as many weeks has been rinsed down the sink in a gob of greenish-yellow phlegm.

So, when I get pumped up with a tiny burst of pleasure at a nice hot shower, it just feels devastating to have that bubble popped by hearing a tantrum the second I turn off the water.

I know kids do crazy stuff and they get angry too. Believe me I know I’m not supposed to take it personally.  But it seems I’ve gone a bit snow-blind and have lost some perspective on things.  I’m trying to remember Jack typically has trouble at this time of year, then things get a little better with spring.

I just want my family to be happy.

I just want to be happy.

It sounds so simple, and yet somedays it can feel so hard.

Are you having a tough time this winter?  Have you ever been diagnosed with SADD?  What has been helpful to you during this time?  

Ps. Please check out my new creative writing blog, the Story of Blue. I’m so excited to see you there!

Panic at the Play date: Defining My Role as a Mom Among Moms

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We recently moved into a house on a lovely street lined with pleasant people into which we are gradually settling.

Our first box hadn’t been unpacked before the little boy across the street came over to ask if Jack could come out and play. This thrilled me, as it did Jack.  The kids had a wild rumpus outside, and we counted our blessings at having such great neighbors.

We live close enough to Jack’s school that we walk some mornings.  The kid from across the street walks too, and his mom and I chat while the kids bumble down the sidewalk pointing out dogs and bikes and stale Halloween decorations to each other.

It’s charming in a way that begets thoughts of Norman Rockwell and cups of sugar passed over picket fences.

The other mom is so sweet.  She’s also hugely popular. Before we even moved, when we told people the street we were moving to, they invariably said, “Oh! You’ll live on Martha’s street!  She’s the best.

I’m grateful for the warmth she has shown our family as we went through the adjustment of moving.  She seems to know everyone on the playground, is very active in the PTA, and has energy for things like Pilates, baking, and book club.

In other words, she is very social and energetic.

Which is great.

But I’m sort of a socially-anxious introvert, and the whole dynamic has me feeling confused and insecure.

Questions rattle around like dry beans in the gourd of my skull–  How often am I supposed to invite them over?  Do we have to alternate and should I feel awful if she invites my kid over twice in a row?  What if she doesn’t like me once she discovers I only vacuum once a week?  How do I ask whether there are guns in her house before Jack goes over to play?  What if she tells all the other moms not to like me?  What am I supposed to do if she asks me to babysit her kids and I am just not up to it after a day in the social work sweat shop?  How will I handle it if my kid acts up on a playdate?  What if her son hurts my son’s feelings?  What if I get the reputation as the mom who is weird or stressy at playdates?   

In a way, it feels like the terror of middle school all over again, trying to figure out the social rules and expectations, and how do I define my individual role as a mom among this pack of my peers?

I was never the “popular” girl in school. I had a rag-tag group of friends, most of whom were exotic theater types or quiet dancers like me. My “best friend” was popular and spent most of middle and high school ignoring and bullying me, until I finally got a boyfriend and dumped her in tenth grade.

I’ve always been a bit mystified by and skeptical of popular people.

In another way, unlike middle school, I am more comfortable with myself, and don’t feel the need to know or talk with everyone on the playground. I’ve evolved into someone who is aware, strong willed and minded, with shades of that exotic and theatrical dancer. I consider myself to be a pretty cool person, and also a cool mom.

I’ve cultivated a group of friends who are caring, kind, open-minded, and accepting.  The friends I’ve made as an adult are people who find me lovable, neurosis and all.  My bestie thinks nothing of it if I text her in the middle of the night to report a recurring anxiety about polar bear attacks in my backyard, or if I forget her birthday.

But it is a cozy little microcosm, and in this new neighborhood, where I am formulating new relationships, I feel sort of out of my element.  Will other moms be as forgiving if I forget to RSVP for their kid’s birthday bash, or if I don’t immediately reciprocate the cookie tin at Christmas?

There is this nagging fear that people will find out just how neurotic and weird I am.

Much like the dynamics we enact and reenact in families, I am finding that social roles also seem to be a perpetuating pattern.  Of course, any pattern can be broken.  So, I could get out there on the playground and be my healthy, brassy self, not really caring what the other moms think.

But it seems like the stakes are higher now because it is more than just my reputation and popularity at stake.

I am also a representative for my children.

While it seems unfair their popularity or desirability should be linked to my political views or prickliness around new people, it also seems somewhat inevitable. I mean, what kid is going to want to come over to play at the house where the mom is weird and stressy?

Maybe I am way overthinking things, but I know enough about the social pecking order to know people are judged.  While I don’t really care how other moms judge me, I do very much care if they judge my kids.

Finally, since we do not plan on moving soon or ever, I need to figure out how to balance being a good neighbor and ambassador for my children, with being myself- quirks and all.

My advice to myself is to take it slow, take time to figure things out, and take one for the team.  I will be gracious and keep my chin up for my kids, even when I am feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

One thing I know about being a mom is you occasionally have to do things you don’t relish.  I despise legos, dread the playground, and think Hello Kitty’s voice is worse than nails on a chalkboard, but my children love them, so it is important for me to take an interest and be there with them.

If all else fails, I suppose I could bake some muffins for Jack to bring across the street.

Have you ever felt anxious about getting along with other moms/parents?  

8 Ways Having a New House is Like Having a New Baby

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IMG_6430It is funny how sometimes really positive events can be overwhelming and stressful.  We recently bought a house, and while this was a wonderful change for our family, it also brought some new and unforeseen challenges.

We only moved a mile away from the apartment where we had lived for nearly nine years, but the entire process made me realize why moving is way up there on that list of “Life’s Greatest Stresses.”  (IMHO, moving with children should be up just a notch on that list, but anyhoo…)

I took a week off from work to move, and when I returned to my job, I was greeted by people who excitedly wanted to know all about the house.  In some cases, I actually had to “fake” my pleasure a bit when I told them all about it, because I was just so tired and emotional about the whole thing.  In other cases, I was able to explain to people how having a new house is akin to having a new baby.

1.)  It is an exhausting flurry of activity that is hard to remember.  Much like the hazy weeks after the birth of both of my children, when I was too sleep deprived for my brain to actually transfer anything into long-term memory banks, moving was just that–  moving.  Constantly.  For days on end.  Until our bodies were sore and I was so tired all I could do was cry.  It reminded me a lot of pacing the floor with my colicky newborn boy, uncertain how many minutes or hours were flickering by and always being surprised by how fast or slow time was ticking.

2.)  It is disorienting.  Living in the same five rooms for nearly nine years, I developed a certain muscle memory.  I could reach for things without looking, or collapse into my favorite spot without really thinking about it.  But in my new house, everything felt out of whack, awkward.

It reminded me a bit of how it felt breastfeeding those first weeks, finding new positions to be comfortable in, and figuring out how to hold a nursing baby while reading or talking on the phone.  With a new baby, my body needed to learn a whole new language of moves for nursing, consoling, and playing.  It eventually came and became natural.  In my new house, I am learning all the new twists, turns and contortions to make it comfortable and familiar.  It will come, but at times feels funky.

It has been strange at times for the children too, as they adjust to new space, especially for our three-year-old daughter.  Emily is having some major sleep regression and feels really frightened when she is alone in her new room.  We are all trying to be patient with one another during this enormous transition.    IMG_6354

3.)  It is shockingly expensive.  I remember dry-heaving a bit when I learned how expensive day care was going to be.  While we are doing everything in our new home on a tight budget, it still feels like I blink and another couple hundred bucks has disappeared.  Shower curtains, paint, a new duvet cover, shelf liner–  it all adds up.

4.)  There is tons of unexpected crap that goes down.  When I was expecting our first-born, I imagined a placid little tot who would sleep for hours on end, eat contentedly from my breast, and coo like a dove at my voice.  Imagine my surprise when I got a fussy, high-needs, perpetually hungry, non-sleeper of a baby.  This rude awakening felt very similar to the experience we had when all of our plumbing backed up almost immediately after signing on the house, necessitating extensive (read, expensive) rotor rooting, despite our careful and thorough home inspection only weeks prior.IMG_6386

5.)  It can take some time to fall in love.  Of course I loved my children before they were even born.  Of course I did.  But with both of them, it took me a while to get to know them, to appreciate their quirks, and to feel that intimate connection.

My first week in the new house, I cried every night that I wanted “to go home.”  But each day, I found things that delighted me a bit more about my new environment.  The way my hardwoods gleamed after a good swiffering.  The tranquil lavender accent wall in my bedroom.  My family’s coats all hung neatly together on hooks by the front door.

6.)  I get to see my spouse in a new role.  When my babies were born, I was amazed at how my husband became a father.  A whole new side of him emerged with this new title, and it took my breath away to watch him find new ways to soothe a fussy Jack, or how he would chatter and play with kicky Emily.

Upon taking ownership of our new home, my husband chose paint for our children’s rooms (with their input, of course), and did an immaculate job painting them.  He has trouble shot issues with our plumbing and heating.  He has raked and re-raked our leafy lawn.  He installed new shades.  He hung a bird house.  He even bought a fresh evergreen wreath to hand on our front door so we would look festive for the holidays!  The care he is putting into our home delights me, just as it did to watch him with our children for the first time.

7.)  There is no better time to practice Radical Acceptance!  I often wish for a do-over with my Jack during his newborn period.  He was such a challenge for me, and I think I could have done a much better job being his mom.  But all his challenges were, in fact, a tremendous gift to me because it ultimately taught me the importance of Radical Acceptance in this motherhood gig.

When Emily came along, I was much more prepared for sleep deprivation, feeding issues, and the general discomfort of parenthood.  It made for a much more peaceful postpartum period because I was in the moment with Emily, as opposed to trying to bend a situation to my will–  which is almost always a futile situation.  My mantra became, this is what makes me a mom.

For me, it has kind of been the same with the house.  Rather than getting overly frustrated or upset with the ups and downs of home ownership, I have been able to embrace the trials and tribulations that go along with home ownership, and also to accept my own feelings about this move, whether trepidation, sorrow, or excitement.

8.)  It is an incredible time and opportunity for new memories to be made.  I am not a great cook, nor do I relish cooking, but I will forever remember the first stir-fry I made in my new house.  In our old apartment, cooking was dreadful in the postage-stamp-sized kitchen.  But in our new house, the spacious kitchen is pretty cool.  We all sat at the table and it just felt great.

IMG_6410Much like all of the enchanting firsts after having a baby (the first yawn!  the first sneeze!  the first time they poop/pee/puke on you!  the first smiles!), creating new firsts in our new home is sweet.

We waited a really long time for our first home.  We dreamed about it, talked about it, and did a lot of soul searching about it.  In the end, it seems like it was a good choice, and will continue to be well worth the labor of love–  just like a new baby.

Gratitude

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I am grateful for the horrendous behavior my son had at bedtime because it means he is alive and feisty, and it means I am a mom.

I am also grateful my husband handled said tantrum and said bedtime.

I am grateful for the bickering my husband and I did this morning over who would mail the mortgage payment.  Our relationship is always strong enough to handle silly arguments.  I am grateful I can drop it, go to work, and come home to start fresh with him, even after we have been fresh with one another.

While I am on the subject, I am grateful to have made my first mortgage payment, and grateful I will have the opportunity to make many more.  It means we have a wonderful home of our own, and it means we have the finances, however meager, to afford a sturdy roof over our heads.

I am grateful for the plumbing, and heating, and painting, and lighting problems we have already experienced because it allowed for us to get creative solving problems, to see how supported we are by family.  It also allowed me to see my husband shine in his new role as master of the house for the first time.

I am grateful I have learned that no one is all good, and that no one is all bad.  This knowledge helps to temper my relationships with humanity.

I am grateful for the gigantic, purple bruise I have on my back from falling down the cellar stairs the other day.  All that blood under my skin is a sign I am alive and my body is doing what it needs to do to heal.

I am grateful for my daughter’s presence in my life, how she came to me when I fell and brought me the tiny ice pack, offered me hugs and kisses, put her hands on my thighs and said, “I’m here with you, Mama.”  This moment was such a blessing, despite the pain in my back, because it offered me a glimpse of her gentle nature, and was a tiny reflection of the nurture I have poured into her.

I am grateful for piles of dirty laundry that I will wash and fold and make sweet and clean for my family because it means we have fun, funky threads to keep our bodies warm as the weather cools, and clean water with which to do our wash in the comfort of our own home.  I am grateful for my husband’s assistance in this and many other chores.

I am grateful for the traffic tonight because I got to listen to music in solitude, and to relish private memories hidden therein.

I am grateful for the company of Regina Spektor, Peter Gabriel, the Cure, Iron and Wine, George Michael, Zap Mama, Tori Amos, Alanis Morissette, Florence and the Machine, Ingrid Michaelson, Erykah Badu, Ani Difranco, Bon Iver, Dido, and so many others who have been with me in moments of joy and darkness.

I am grateful for the crowds in the grocery store because it means people are getting stuff to nourish their bodies and to spend time with their own.  I am grateful for the eye contact and smile of the grocery clerk who rang up my last minute purchases with good cheer.

I am grateful for all my friends who complain about the rain, the cold, the wind, the sleet, the heat.  I am happy to hear their weather woes because it means there is nothing more tragic in their lives.

I am grateful for my familial squabbles because it offers me an opportunity (if I so chose to accept) to deepen bonds and mend ways.

I am grateful for the anxiety I will feel over going to family events for holidays because I have lived with anxiety forever and it makes me realize how strong I am and how far I have come in being able to tolerate it.

I am grateful for the food I will eat, for the wine I will drink, for the multiple desserts I will savor (just because they are there and amazing!).  I am grateful for how sick and lazy I will feel afterwards because it is truly a blessing to be so decadent.

I am grateful for the memories of those no longer with me, weather because they have passed beyond the veil, or because we are out of touch, or because we have fallen out of each other’s graces because the grief of a loss is always in proportion to love.

And love is everything.

I am grateful for love.

That I can feel it.

That I can make it.

That I can share it.

That I can say, thank you, I love you.
I am grateful for this, and this, and everything.

Big love and blessings to you and yours from Momaste.

 

Wave Goodbye and Say Hello

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Last Monday, home did not feel like home.  Yet.  I was still pining for our old apartment, for the life we had grown there, and for all the little and big memories and moments.

This past weekend, we finally cleaned out the rest of our crap from the old apartment.  Or, actually, to be precise, my awesome husband cleaned out the rest of our crap.  All the boxes of flotsam and jetsam in the basement are now stacked in our new basement, and in our garage, having been shuttled over in about a dozen trips.  He did this while I was grocery shopping with Emily.  We came home from shopping, and he let me know he had handed in his keys to our old landlord, and I would need to do the same.

During Emily’s afternoon nap, I went over there to give up the keys and say goodbye.  I drove up to the old apartment with a pit in my stomach, not sure what to feel or think.

I walked in, pulling my former keys off the ring, and ran into our landlord.  I handed over my keys and the garage door opener without thinking about it, not wanting to make any sort of moment about it.  We chatted for a few, and he let me walk through the house I’d entered thousands of times without needing permission or invitation from anyone.

It was in the process of being painted, so everything was covered in a thin but bright, white coat of primer.  It was sterile.  All traces of our mess and noise and joy and frustration was wiped away.  There were paint chips and drop cloths on the floor where once there were clumps of cat hair, toys, and books.  I walked through each room with my landlord following behind me, not leaving me any time or space for a private moment.

This is it, I thought.

It felt strange, but it didn’t feel awful, not exactly.  I realized our home wasn’t there any longer.

We had moved.

That statement may seem like, Uh, DUH Charlotte!  You’ve been writing and ruminating about this for the past month.  How was that a surprise to you?  

I dunno.

Maybe I’m just a bit slow sometimes.

I poked around our space in the basement for a moment, marveling at the fact my husband had removed all traces of our crap we had been piling up down there over the past eight and a half years.  The baby gear.  The boxes from our wedding china.  The outgrown toys, maternity clothes, and musky books.

All that remained was an old area rug that used to be in Jack’s room.  My husband had opened it up and left it on the floor.  It had masking tape lines all over it that Jack had made to denote roads and parking spaces.

By the time I got back upstairs, my landlord had gone out to work on a project in the garage.  I stepped back into the apartment for a moment and snapped a picture of the view out the living room window, facing the bay.

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How many times had I stood at that window with a sleepy, sleepless, or sick baby in my arms, staring at the water?  How many sunrises had I watched, nursing on the couch?  How many nights had I come out and peeked out that window when I could not sleep and needed a change of scenery?

I loved that view, even though it was not really all that posh what with the power lines and other houses in the way.  I loved that for a brief period of time in our lives we could say we had a view of the water out our living room window–  an experience we will likely not be able to afford ever again.

Taking my phone out of my pocket, I snapped a quick shot from the window sill.  It was an act that felt like I was stealing, or violating someone’s privacy.  I hurried to put the phone back in my pocket and walked out of the apartment, shutting the door behind me.

“See you later!” I shouted to the landlord.

And then I drove the one mile home.

The Key

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We closed on our new house. IMG_6386

Since I’ve held the same job for the past ten years, and my husband is self-employed, everything was put in my name.  Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I split everything 50/50, but in this instance, it was advantageous for us to go through my financials.

If you think about it, it’s pretty messed up, based on the peanuts I make as a social worker.  Anyhoo, I put on my big girl panties and signed a whole stack of papers, in exchange for a key to my new, humble abode.

(For the record, I have always hated the expression, “put on big girl panties,” however in this situation, that is what it felt like.)

After the signing, I did a lot of pooping.  My intestines were pretty freaked out at the bigness of the purchase.  I mean, it’s a house.  It isn’t just a scarf I bought on impulse at Target because I was feeling a bit down and wanted something to spruce myself up a bit, you know?

Since I never bought a house before, the whole process was new to me.

The closing happened at the lawyer’s office with the sellers, who were from out of state.  They pulled up in a luxury SUV.  They looked very well heeled, well dressed, and well rested.  They looked like people accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and who can afford to take nice care of their skin and hair.  They had bought the house–  our house now–  for their daughter who was in college nearby.  Since she graduated and moved on with her life, they were selling the house.

I felt a bit shabby, parked next to their shiny car in my ten year old Corrolla with the dent in the side from the douche who backed into me in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot then drove off, so I was never able to sue his insurance and afford to get the dent fixed.

We were paying the maximum of what we could afford for this little bungalow, but you could tell it was just chump change for these people.  I’m sad to admit it took a little of my pleasure out of the whole process.  It felt like we were getting their sloppy seconds.

I wondered if they looked at the rusty dent in my car and felt a little bad.  Or maybe they were just happy to get rid of that property.  Either way, it made me uncomfortable.  I don’t know why their opinion of us, if they even had one, would matter to me.  We are good people.  We take good care of our kids.  We live nicely and respect the planet.  We just happen to reside in a part of the country where the standard of living is exponentially high, and where it is really hard to buy a home, even if you are forty, well educated, and employed.

The signing went off without a hitch. The lawyer was an affable fellow who put me at ease.  He rambled off a lot of legal jargon, and might have been speaking a language foreign to me.  At one point he asked me if I had any questions.  I looked at him, smiled, and said, “I have no idea what you just said.  But you are smiling, so I am going to assume everything is okay, and just sign where you tell me.”

After about 30 minutes, the lawyer passed some checks around to the realtors and sellers.  Then the seller’s agent and the sellers left.  I spent another half hour signing, initialling, and generally feeling like I wanted to simultaneously vomit, pass out, and have explosive diarrhea.

Then we were handed a key.  One key.

I sat and posed with the key and my husband while our realtor, a good pal of mine, took our picture.

She and my husband had been chatting about the race for governor while I completed the actual signing which made the property mine.  So, she posed me with a pen and a page that had a shit ton of numbers on it, made my husband and me smile for the camera.  Cheese and snap!  The picture came out okay.  I look “happy” and my husband looks amused.  She emailed me the picture from her phone and I posted it on Facebook.  But it felt kind of fraudulent, like the moon landing photos are supposed to be.

I left the signing and went to work.  I couldn’t even fake happiness for my friends at work.  Some were surprised that I felt so confused, overwhelmed, and let down.   Others said it was normal and they felt the same way when they signed on their home.  Every conversation ended with me feeling awkward and annoyed, smiling and saying, “Nah, it’ll be okay.  It’ll be okay.”

All night I laid awake counting beans, wondering how we would make our mortgage and do all the necessary work in the house.  I obsessed about vacuuming up the spiders in the basement so I can put my kid’s legos down there.

We will go into the house to paint and clean and put in shelf paper.

I have the key.

I can go in there now.

I’ve driven past this house a dozen times over the past few weeks, champing at the bit to get in there with my stuff.

And now it’s mine.  Ours.

It’ll be okay.  It’ll be okay.

Eventually, the house will look and smell like us.  It will have our dead skin cells collecting in the corners, and our hairs clogging the drains.  It will have our sleepy morning smells.  We will fill it with our familiar noises.  We will mark it with spilled juice, errant crayons, and muddy sneakers.

At the moment, it feels kind of like I am jumping off a cliff into the unknown, as I take a breath, slip the key into the lock, and open the door to the next chapter of our life.

 

Let Us Eat Cake, and Other Thoughts That Keep Me Going

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IMG_6067There is a hunk of birthday cake in the freezer.

This thought keeps me going.

I have four loads of laundry to do, healthy meals to make for the week, moldy shower curtains to take down, wash and re-hang, a birthday party for which to prepare and attend, sibling disputes to referee, beds to make, and floors to de-crumb.  You know how it goes.

My hands hurt.  My back hurts.  There is a nagging pain in my neck.

Whaaamp whaaahh.

But if I make it to the end of the day, after the kids are in bed, I can sit on the couch and eat frozen cake.

I haven’t exercised in way too long, and my kids are watching way too much TV.  We’ve eaten fast food more than I’d like to admit.  Sometimes I go days without offering them a vegetable.

I don’t get around to changing the sheets on our beds very often, and tend to forgo activities I consider “adult” like buying wrapping paper or drying my hair.  I’ve gotten lazy about sending Thank You cards, and forget to return phone calls.  Many days, I look at my clients with an engaged face, but a disengaged mind as I contemplate the list of how I am failing as a mother, wife, and social worker.

It goes on and on.

Being a working mom is hard.  Like way harder than I could have ever imagined.  I’m sick of talking about it, and bored to tears of writing about it.  It’s not a unique a story, and I actually have it a lot better than most.

And that cake is there.  It is a little slice of nice, the thought of which momentarily stops the monotonous broken record of maternal depression and exhaustion.

Maybe I’ll eat it.  Or maybe I won’t, because just knowing it’s there, just in case, satisfies.

I feel guilty I’m not on Pinterest in my spare time, looking up crafty shit to do with my kids.

I.  Just.  Can’t.

I feel really, freaking guilty I don’t spend every second admiring my children’s ethereal beauty, and that I count the hours until bedtime.  I feel even more guilty after they are in bed and I realize another day is past us and I squandered it being frustrated and mindless.

Maternal depression is tricky.  It is misunderstood by society, and seems taboo to address head on.  I don’t think of myself as “a depressed person,” but every once in a while I become so overwhelmed by the mundane, it suddenly occurs to me, “I’m depressed and that is why every minute activity or request is being interpreted as a complex demand which threatens to push me over the edge of despair.”  (I.e., spending 20 minutes unraveling the vacuum cord after Jack “helped” me clean.)

I don’t even like using the words “I’m” and “depressed” in the same sentence.  For the record, I’m also not a person who eats her feelings, but imagining that cake. . . it just helps.

Before motherhood, depression sucks, but is tolerable because there’s more access to self care.  This is not to say depression can’t be totally debilitating to non-parents, and it is certainly not a competition about who is more depressed than who.  But I’ve found self care becomes a lot more elusive for moms who work and use money formerly set aside for organic diet and massage on daycare, or who are shuttling kids around to dance and soccer and don’t have the time to work out unless they get up before the sun.

There is also a weird dichotomy that if we don’t take time for ourselves we are martyrs, but if we do we feel oddly and uncomfortably entitled.  It doesn’t help with the whole guilty/worthless/trapped/hopeless sense one has when depressed.  Stupid jerk, I find myself telling myself.  What did you think motherhood would be?

Then comes the unbalanced, lack of perspective and sense of failure.  You don’t even deserve all you have.  It takes some strength to keep the train from careening off track.  So, let us eat cake.

Other thoughts that keep me going?

My daughter wakes me up every morning, pokes my nose gently with her pudgy finger, and says, “Hug mama?”  I love her chirpy voice and cookie dough smell even more than freezer cake.

20140118-083136.jpgThe kids may not eat veggies, but they eat fruit all day long.  Their preferred beverage is water, and so is mine.  We are all getting our fiber, and are wonderfully hydrated.  So there is hope for our health.

The kids played nicely for ten whole minutes the other day, so there is hope we might make it another year without them mauling one another.

We read to the kids every day.  They love books.  So there is hope that extra half hour of TV won’t demolish their brains.

Jack goes to karate and does everything he is told, the first time, every time for a whole hour.  So there is hope maybe he won’t always be a stressy ball of tantrum.

Emily pooped on the potty twice in the past month!  Sure she also peed on the carpet and dumped out a pantload of crap on the bathroom floor, but she also pooped on the potty twice!  So there is hope I will usher yet another child into big-kid-pants.

Jack’s sunflowers offer their bright faces to the sun.20130827-093636.jpg

It’ll be okay.

It’ll be okay.

These are the hard years.  These are the years when there is never enough money, time, patience, energy, room in our bed, or sanity.  These are the years on which we will look back with longing for arms stretched up to us.  These are the years when we are growing plastic, little brains and are under the gun to do it right, do it good, do it quick.

These are the years when tending to our own mental health so often takes a back seat to the needs of our families, work, home.

But we need our oxygen so we can keep breathing for those slimy little critters, who we can’t remember when last we bathed.

Sometimes a little cake on the couch does just the trick.  Sometimes simply thinking about cake helps.

These are the years when our kids need our hugs, smiles, and random potty jokes in the middle of the day so much more than something crafty from Pinterest.

It’ll be okay.  We will get there.

What do you do to take care of yourself when you are overwhelmed or down?  Share a thought that keeps you going.