Friday, November 8, 2013

The Night an Onion Made me Cry

Onions don't usually make me cry. I discovered a long time ago that as long as I have my contacts in, I am protected from their evil potency.

I had my contacts in tonight, and the smell of the onion wasn't bothering me, but I was crying like a baby because it was 6 pm, and I hadn't showered or even put on a bra. It wasn't for lack of time though. It was a survival tactic + I just didn't want to, because if I spend any of my only alone time, while the kids are napping, doing anything other than crocheting, I want to send them right back upstairs 5 minutes after their nap has ended. While many people consider a shower...and maybe even a bra, great things to do for yourself, those things do not relax me. Crocheting in my living room, all alone, and ignoring all of the must-get-dones, is my happy place.

My one year old, Isaac, is going through this thing where he screams at me if he's not being fed or entertained. Most of my friends would never believe that. He's a pretty content baby when we are elsewhere or when others are here. Ya know why? Because he's being entertained. But when it's just us, here at home, and Elijah and Chastity are trying to do their school lessons, and I am desperately trying to teach them, Isaac is upset about everything. Today was no exception, so I decided that we wouldn't do any lessons at all while he was awake. In the meantime, he pooped in every diaper I put him in, leaving a red and bleeding behind for the wiping (which gave him another reason to scream). So the kids had an hour long bath/play time, so he could air out his sore little tush. And it was the only time, all day, that Isaac was happy.

During his nap we got a couple of lessons in, but not enough to call it a productive day. He woke up screaming, screamed throughout his diaper change, screamed because I had to put him down to wash my hands post-diaper change, and screamed because I didn't feed him quickly enough. I don't have anything in this house I can shove in his mouth quickly enough, except Cheerios...and he's getting really sick of Cheerios. And so he screams at those too and flails his arms all over his table until he has successfully fed the dog.

And I want to scream too. I am angry almost all the time. I wake up in the morning looking forward to naps; naps which my oldest is most definitely growing out of at the age of 6, naps I could use for cleaning or even for teaching my oldest lessons we didn't have time to do during Isaac's first nap, but I force the issue anyway, because I don't want to clean. I don't want to teach. I want to sit, by myself, and watch stupid TV shows that are so stupid I can spend the whole show with my face in a lap full of yarn, and not miss a single thing.

I should stop here and say, I love my children, and they know that. I hug them, even when I'm angry. I smile at them even when I'm annoyed, and I tell them "Of course I want to see that," every single time they ask me, "Mommy? Wanna see this?" And while I watch them jump in the air, and twitch their hands while shaking their heads, for the 100th time, I know, that that is the most fun I will have with them all day. Because I am the teacher, the chef, the maid, the do-all-the-things-yet-get-nothing-done Mommy. I am home with my kids all day every day, and we have no time for fun, because keeping them fed and educated (between screaming) and saving them from drowning in piles of laundry is a full time job. In fact, just keeping Isaac from getting hungry takes up most of my day. So no fun for us, or at least me, because the brief moments they all play peacefully and contentedly together are the only moments I have to keep my head above water. And so I feel like I'm losing myself. I feel like I'm drowning in a sea of chores that will never get done, and just when I get my head above water, just when I finally fold the laundry in the dryer and on top of the dryer, I'm pushed under again by the next wave of clothes, and dishes.

And this probably isn't the time or place to mention this, but...well, why not? I was once made to feel shame over a blog I wrote which I ended up deleting, because I had shared "too much information," but you know what, sometimes people need some of that TMI to know that they aren't alone in their struggles and to even find help. If women lived in fear of talking about their concerns or struggles, breast cancer would always win because God forbid we talk about our boobies. So I'm going to talk about this. Bam!

A little over a month ago, I lost a baby I didn't know I was pregnant with. Yeah, my story just took an uncomfortable turn, but let's push through. I have not dealt with it well. I haven't wanted to talk about it. I have suppressed it because I feel guilty for even being upset about it. I have three beautiful and healthy children, and it's not fair of me to feel sadness over a child I didn't know I had. So instead of sadness I walk around PISSED OFF (sorry Mom and Dad). I'm mad at everything. I yell sarcastically at the dog as if she understands sarcasm. I talk trash about every driver on the road, out loud, to myself. I find myself in a room alone and something as small as dropping the peanut butter knife on the floor will send me into a fit of  flailing limbs hysterically, silently cussing out everything from the ceiling to the floor. The worst of it is when it effects our school day. Every now and then (about every other day it seems) Elijah seems completely dumb-founded by a concept he just understood the day before. I will so much as give him the answer and he will stare me in the face and still give me the wrong answer. And all I can do to hide my crazy is throw up the white flag and call it a day, and wonder when I should just call it on the whole homeschooling idea.

See, Jelani and I weren't sure we were going to have a 4th child anyway. We (me) weren't really ready for a permanent solution for that problem though, so we prayed that if it was God's will, and He so saw fit, that He would override any precautions we took. The majority of our precautions involved abstinence, however. Not on purpose, mind you, but because I am one of the lucky 1-3% of women who can't have intercourse (does that word make you slightly less uncomfortable?) during pregnancy or...OR while breastfeeding. Well, ladies and gents, that's flippin' 18+ months. My hormones make it very painful for me, and so Jelani and I are the best at...cuddling...that is until our backs start to bother us. Anyway, so Isaac was starting to ween, and things were starting to get a little bit better down there, but the month I would have conceived we made love (that one any better?) ONCE, and it was with protection. Now, I'm not a silly teenage girl. I get that these things happen. That's why there are so many unwanted pregnancies in the world. But the pure irony of it under these circumstances was just plain cruel. If I'm being honest (am I allowed to be honest?), my first completely uninhibited, human, horrible-Christian reaction was, "Wow. God was totally just out to prove something, like 'look what I can do. I giveth and I taketh away.'" I played the part of angry victim quite well, and most definitely failed the "Job test." I don't feel that way anymore, but I'm still having a hard time letting go of the anger.

I lost something I didn't know I had, but the moment it was gone I knew how much I loved it. I can look into the eyes of my other three children and know exactly what I lost and exactly how much love will be missing from our house without it.

And so I'm angry.

And as I stood over that onion at 6 pm without a shower, or a bra, nothing to show for my day and no fun stories to think about, and having left everything in the house less than half done, I chopped that onion angrily, recklessly and ferociously. I imagined, just for a second, chopping my fingers, not intentionally of course, but just, what if? And the thought didn't bother me at all. Me, who can't make it through a surgery scene in Grey's Anatomy, and can't watch my own children puke. The thought of accidentally chopping off a few fingers didn't bother me at all, because then I'd be forced to feel something other than anger or drowning OR I'd really have something to be angry about. But then as quickly as that thought came, I thought, "No! I wouldn't be able to crochet!"

My very first thought after imagining accidentally chopping my fingers while dicing a stupid onion was not about quality of life, or my children, or how traumatizing that might be for them, or even my husband, but about missing crochet, the hobby that replaced basketball after that career ended, and the hobby that I never tire of doing; a hobby that sometimes makes me wish my children would nap a little (a few hours) longer.

And that is why I cried over that stupid onion; because I have been so angry about losing a child I obviously don't deserve to have.

And while I've been busy being angry and  hating myself, and hating myself for hating myself, my children have found sensitive ways to show me they love me. As Chastity watched me change the other morning, I self-consciously asked her, "Why are you looking at me?" She simply responded with, "Because I love you. And you're beautiful." And I know that for her, that is truth, and I wouldn't want to do anything, ever, to destroy that truth.

So I share this today for all the moms who have lost a pregnancy, at any stage, and felt as though they couldn't talk about it.

The moms who have felt crazy with guilt and selfishness over what any "rational" person would think ludicrous.

The moms who have been unable to have sex (oooooo, I said it!) because of pain, or depression, or illness, or various other complications, but are too afraid to talk about it.

The moms who have felt alone and need to hear that not everything you feel is crazy, even if it sounds crazy written down (clears throat uncomfortably) :-/

The moms who feel like they can't be honest about their emotions for fear of judgment.

And the moms who don't always feel like they like their children, but always, always love them not in spite of the children, but in spite of themselves.

Tomorrow will be better. Maybe I will shower, and maybe, just maybe throw on a bra.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Form of Payment; Food Stamps With a Side of Guilt

Am I the only person who has literally never seen anyone have a kind word to say about someone using food stamps or other grocery assistance? I witness rude people behind them in the check out line talking very loudly about how horrible it is that people take advantage of the system. I see Facebook friends blast the latest atrocity they witnessed at WalMart on the first of the month with their cart loaded up, cell phone in hand and nails and hair done.

What are you going to do about it?

You aren't going to catch a "poor" bug if you talk nicely to them. Poor is not contagious. If you put as much energy into helping to feed the poor and the needy, as you do whining and crying about the government allowing "scumbags" to take advantage of the system, maybe the government wouldn't have to step in at all. See, before government supported the poor, people used to. Human beings with hearts to take care of others volunteered their food, their money, their time, and even their homes when necessary. Sure, that still happens occasionally, but mostly, it just plain doesn't.

Why am I telling you this?

I have been that girl. I have been the mom holding up the grocery line because the food stamps card isn't working in the machine, or the cashier doesn't know how to process the WIC checks. I have been that mom paying for snack items for my kids, ice cream for a birthday, M&Ms for potty training, or other items you've judged me for. I have been that mom receiving dirty looks from fellow customers, overhearing them talk about all the other ways I must be spending my money. I have been that friend on Facebook who has to read about how awful it is that a woman checking out with food stamps has a cell phone of all things. I have even been that mom swiping the food stamps card with freshly manicured nails. And I have had to block out every ounce of guilt I felt about it every time I heard the whispers, saw the looks, or came home to read all the nasty Facebook status updates about it. I have kept my silence on this topic for a very long time, mostly because of shame or fear of disgusted reactions friends might have, and also because it's really no one's business. But I want to set a few things straight.

My husband works hard...always. When he didn't have an income, he worked hard in school, and at being a great father. Whenever he could, he did work, sometimes working all day in the heat only to come home, grab a quick shower and sandwich, and then head out the door for evening classes. We did things honestly. We reported our income whenever it came in. We also had rent to pay, gas to put in a vehicle, debts to pay off due to expenses coming up during difficult times. We had (still have) cell phones, a computer (complete with internet), and a roof over our heads.

Does having those things mean we shouldn't qualify for food stamps?

That girl in the check out line paying with food stamps while talking on her cell phone probably has the internet too. I bet she even drove to the store in her very own vehicle. Do you think that should be taken from her as well? Why don't we go ahead and remove all of her resources before we're willing to provide some assistance so that then, she's so incapable, she can never get back on her feet at all, or the government has to pay out even more to help her.

Do you see where I'm going with this? Come on people! By helping with the necessities before it's too late, that family has the opportunity to put their money into other things, other resources so that they can educate themselves or find work. And what makes you think they just purchased that nice item while on food stamps? Oh, they have a great camera. They must be taking advantage of the system! Oh, look what they drive! They must be lying about income!  No, no. Not everyone who has fallen on hard times has been falling for so long that they have lost everything. Believe it or not, some people had nice things before they lost their jobs.

To give you a little perspective:

Two of the family vehicles we have owned over the past 4 years have been hand-me-down vehicles from our parents. I was bouncing around in a Lincoln Navigator while paying for some of my groceries with WIC. Our parents have helped us in whatever ways they could, and that was one of them.
I learned how to coupon while on food stamps. And I learned how to make just about anything we wanted from scratch. That ice cream or those candies you saw in my cart, cost the government close to nothing. And that flour and sugar made a cake, bread, and a couple pizzas. Those $1.50 tortilla chips happen to go nicely with the $5 meal I had cooking in the crock pot which would likely feed us for two days. I have children, and while I couldn't give them everything I wanted, I could, at least, make them food.
My cell phone allowed my family to reach me if needed, and allowed me to call 911 if necessary, for goodness sake. We didn't (nor do we now) pay a bill for a home phone, so this is all we have.
We had a computer and internet to pay bills and for Jelani's school work.
The great clothes my kids were wearing were bought by their grandparents or they were awesome hand-me-downs from friends. Their toys were paid for by modeling gigs, and a small Christmas allowance we had. (Seriously, would you begrudge a person putting away a whopping $10 a month for Christmas?)
The nails I had done were dress code for a wedding for which I was a bridesmaid. Not something I do on a regular basis, but so what? Maybe that girl you saw with her hair and nails done was trying to clean up for a job interview, her sister's wedding, or maybe it was a spa day gift from someone who loves her and felt she deserved an afternoon of pampering. I'll bet your sour looks for her form of payment sure put a damper on her day out, looking and feeling, for once, like she wasn't a leper, only to receive your glares.

People, my point is this; not everything is black and white. Not everyone's circumstances are exactly what you think they are or should be. There's already a loaded amount of guilt piled onto a family resorting to food stamps without your judgmental accusations. I had to swallow my pride and guilt every time I purchased something other than a canned good thanks to a Facebook rant from a friend who believed food stamps shouldn't cover anything else. That's not fair.

So, I don't explain myself because I owe anyone an explanation or because I have anything to feel guilty about. I explain for the mom who recently lost her job, after purchasing the new iPhone and 2-year contract it came with. I explain for the mom whose friend just took her to get her hair and nails done so she could forget her problems, if only for a moment. I explain myself for the sake of all the moms out there who are doing the best they can to keep it together during crisis while having to smile at your smug face and pretend it doesn't bother them.

Do some people lie and take advantage of the system? Yes. But not everyone on food stamps or any other kind of assistance for that matter has to have just gotten off the bus, dressed in rags, and in need of a shower. The hope in food stamps, is that they will never get to that point of crisis. So calm down, love them, smile at them with genuine patience and understanding, and maybe, instead of judging that mom who's holding up the line because she went over her food stamps budget and has to put some items back, offer to pay for what she can't matter what it may be. I promise you, it will feel a lot better than ranting online hours later about what an awful waste of space you think that person might be, and it is a much more productive use of the space God has given you to reside.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

31 Flavors (and Then Some)

When I turned 30 there was so much changing in my life, that nothing slowed down long enough for me to really think about it. Sure, I was no longer in my 20s, but being 9 months pregnant on my 30th birthday, there wasn't much else I could focus on besides getting that child out of me.

Less than one month later my first born was beginning school for the first time. We were embracing home schooling for the first time with a newborn under the roof, and life was so happily chaotic that I spent most of the year not even remembering I was 30.

But then my 31st birthday was suddenly around the corner, and I was forced to remember that I am no longer a 20-something.

We had a really busy family reunion weekend over this past weekend. I didn't even have time to think about my upcoming birthday. I came home yesterday evening to empty cupboards, a cluttered house, errands that couldn't be put off, and, of course, the dreaded chore of unpacking a car full of bags stuffed haphazardly. Then it also occurred to me that my license expired today. Woops. I had tried to renew it online, but they needed proof of an eye exam, so I couldn't. Then our busy weekend came up quickly, and I didn't get the chance to go in.

I had been looking forward to this license renewal for 4 years. That awful picture had been taken when I was 9 months pregnant with Chastity. My face literally looks swollen, my eyes just little slits barely able to open from the fatness of my cheeks. I was glad for the renewal, but 15 years after the only birthday where going to the DMV is exciting sort of put a damper on my mood.

So today, on my 31st birthday, I woke up and got around to run errands. In anticipation of the dreaded license photo, I even did my hair and make up. I raided my jewelry box and found several pieces I hadn't worn in years, just like brand new! Happy Birthday to me! I strolled into a moderately busy DMV and waited in line. When it was my turn, I handed them my ID and renewal papers, and said, "My license expires today, but I was unable to renew online." They streamlined me right through the process. No complaints there. But in NY state, licenses expire on your birthday. TWO different women looked directly at my ID, aware that it expires on this day, my birthday, and neither one wished me a happy birthday. I went on with my day with a 30 minute drive out to Lockport to pay for the pavilion we're renting for Isaac's 1st birthday coming up. That had to be done or they'd give it to someone else this week. Then I went out for groceries which had to be done, or we'd have to survive on cereal all week.

I had left the house in the morning before Isaac woke up, and returned just after he'd gone down for his nap. Elijah and Chastity were also about to go down for their naps. My birthday was half over, and all I had to show for it were some groceries.

I started to hit a wall and spin into a funk. So this is 31. Running errands, cleaning, taking care of everyone else. My birthdays are no longer about me. They are just about getting older.

To uplift my spirits, I began to think about one of my favorite things; ice cream. (Doesn't everyone do that?) The old Baskin Robbins slogan, boasting 31 flavors, hit me. I am 31 flavors (and then some). I am not just a wife and mother, or picker-upper-of-things. But my birthdays aren't supposed to be about me. They are about the life God has blessed me with, the person he's molded me into being, the husband he's joined me with always and forever, and the little people he's entrusted to me to help shape and mold. I am goofy, fun, sensitive, loving, kind, and helpful. I can be loud or quiet at times. I am athletic, active and energized, but marked with life's changes. I can be controversial and opinionated. I am creative and focused. I can be both disciplined or flaky; sloppy or trendy; brutally honest or quietly kind; clean and organized or a messy Marvin. I am confident in some things; insecure in others. I'm not afraid of hard work, dirt, and sweat, or a sexy little dress. I am prayerful, faithful, hopeful, and above all else; full of love for the Lord. The list goes on and on, and it's difficult for me to talk about myself like this, but I think it's emotionally mandatory. My boobs, my butt, my hips, my thighs will never be the same but those are not the things which make me.  I know who I am. I am so many different flavors, but not everyone's taste, and that's ok.

So this is 31; beautifully, chaotically, lovingly blessed with little and big people who know all my 31 flavors, prefer some over others, but ultimately love me wholly and unconditionally.

Today, in spite of the errands, the chores, and the unobservant DMV clerks, I am blessed. I am wrapped in love from Jelani's famous (really, it's famous!), homemade Buffalo chicken pizza, to the drawings from my littles to my very first phone call being from my very first, childhood friend. Your 31 flavors may look differently, but for me, this is 31.

I can smell the pizza in the oven, and my babies are waking from their naps. The journey must go on, and perhaps it will land us in the living room gathered around a Disney movie, but really, is that any different from any other distant year? Some things never change. :-)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Firsts, Falls, and Fruition

We celebrated a first for our children last weekend. It was kind of a big deal, and this mom forgot the camera (not my mother's daughter). We were invited to a birthday party at a local roller skating rink. The kids have seen our roller blades and often played with them, so when we told them that morning where we were going, they bounced off the walls, declaring their excitement for hours before we actually left for the party.

I was nervous though. I knew it wasn't going to be as easy as they thought, and that they didn't fully understand the hard work it would involve. I was afraid they would be frustrated and wouldn't actually have any fun.

They got there, put the skates on, and attempted to stand. Chastity's legs would have fallen right out from under her if I didn't already have a good grip on her arms. I walked out to the rink with her and helped her for a while, holding her wrists tightly and getting an amazing bicep workout in the process, while her legs flailed about, independent from her body.

After Elijah was able to gather his balance and he learned to use the wall to help, Jelani took over for me so I could relieve our friend from baby duty. She, of course, wouldn't allow me to take Isaac back, and told me to put on my own skates. While Jelani was still trying to keep Chastity upright, I joined Elijah's slow progress around the rink.

After watching him fall a handful of times, I wanted to hold his hand so badly, but we quickly learned that it made it even more difficult because he would rely on me too much and lose control a little bit. So I let go. As I let go, and watched him fall, repeatedly, I learned one of my most difficult parenting lessons to date. I learned that I sometimes have to watch my children fall.

I was watching him fall over and over and over, on his butt, on his hands, on his knees, on his elbows, and doing splits. Not once did he even wince. His face was so serious and so determined, I  became concerned that he wasn't having any fun, so I would repeatedly ask him, "Elijah, are you having fun?"


"Do you want to take a break and sit down for a bit?"


He was always very clear in his responses. I continued to skate next to him, watching him fall from only an arms length away, knowing there was nothing I could do. And it hit me.

This is parenting. This is life. My concerns were unfounded. He was having a blast, but it was breaking my heart. It was the first time something fun for my children was not fun for me. I had to retire from the rink to take care of Isaac and I was relieved to have the baby to distract me. Elijah had to learn to stand on his own two feet. He had to fall. He had to learn how to catch himself. And he would eventually grow stronger and be better.

Similarly, when God watches us fall, I believe it breaks His heart. But He can't do everything for us. He can't force us to stay upright. He gave us the gift of free will, and He wants us to learn and grow through our challenges. But He is there if and when we call on Him, walking right next to us.

We do our children a disservice by trying to hold their hands through everything when what they really need is for us to just be there to support, love, and encourage them. Right then, Elijah didn't need, or want, me to hold his hand. He just wanted to know I was there...watching.

This week, the kids learned to skate, Elijah learned to ride his bike without training wheels, and Chastity learned to finger knit. Mommy and Daddy learned how to let go just a little; just enough to watch them stumble, pick themselves back up, and ultimately succeed.

Friday, July 19, 2013

10 Years With My Sunshine

Ten years ago today Jelani and I decided to be more than just friends. Ten years ago today, I made the best decision I have ever made, seriously. My dad always told me, when dating and thinking of marriage, look for someone who has the qualities and character you'd most like to see in your children. So on July 19th, 2003 I struck gold.

Over the years, the most frequently asked question I've received is, "How did you two meet?" I think our obvious physical differences are what usually prompts the curiosity. Really, I don't think people are nearly as curious about two similar people from similar backgrounds, but this little white girl, from a 99% white, small town, literally fell in love with a tall, dark, and handsome fellow, and no one would have ever imagined how "dark."

Similarly, I don't think any of Jelani's family and childhood friends would have imagined him marrying the whitest girl he had ever met. I know his mom was thinking, "Blond and blue eyed? Couldn't she at least be Italian with some darker skin and hair?" Joke's on her. I am part Italian and Native American even. Genetics are a crazy science, I tell ya.

Anyway, here's the story, as I know it. ;-)

In the spring of 2003 I had newly given my life to Christ. I was excited about all that I was learning, and as an English major who needed to take some summer courses since I was on campus for basketball anyway, I decided to enroll in Bible as a Literature for the summer. I could knock out some English credits and learn more about God's word with this class. Meanwhile, I had gotten a job in Alumni Arena as a monitor. I had to check student IDs as people entered the building, and was allowed to study and read at my post.

Jelani had just graduated and was an intern for Recreation and Intramural services, as well as a supervisor to the monitors. We had seen each other around during his internship in the varsity weight room that spring. In fact, I even thought he had a crush on me due to a mix up with a friend. She was telling me about someone else wanting to hang out with me, but when she pointed in his direction, I only saw the guy that someone else was talking to, which was Jelani. So for about a month I thought he was some guy with a different name, who had a crush on me, but was too shy to talk to me. (Really glad I didn't embarrass myself by making the first move there!)

The end of May, when I met my supervisors, I realized my mistake. As supervisor, Jelani had to make the rounds, checking in on all the monitors throughout the day. One day, he stopped and sat down across from me. Noticing I was reading the Bible, he began to interrogate me about what I believed. When I say interrogate, I mean that literally. He seemed angry and acted as though the Bible was foolish. I stumbled and stuttered, and didn't quite know how to respond. It was just two months earlier that I had given my life to Christ. I was so new at this, and had never really shared my faith with anyone, let alone an angry unbeliever. I panicked. I was thinking, Dang it! Here's this guy, searching, asking, and questioning, and I'm too new at this! I don't know what I'm doing! I finally just blurted out, as fast as I could, "I believe Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the dead! Why? What do you believe?" Way to just rattle off what everyone knows Christians believe. Sheesh.

His eyes lost their intensity, and a smirk played on his face. "I believe the same thing. I just wanted to see where you were at," and he walked away, leaving me very confused and embarrassed. Now, instead of flubbing up and getting flustered in front of a skeptic, I did it in front of a peer who likely knew more about this stuff than I did.

After that, he would stop and talk with me for a while each time he made his rounds. Then he began coming in on his days off to work out, purposely during my shift, and he would often visit with me after his work out for extended periods of time. I knew very early that he was someone I wanted to spend a lot more time with. A mutual friend of ours invited a bunch of us over to her apartment to hang out and watch a movie. When Harry Met Sally was on the agenda, and happens to be one of my favorites. I called Jelani to find out if he was going, secretly thinking I would only go if he went too.

"Are you going tonight?" I asked him.

"Only if you are," was his perfect response, filled with what I later learned was a ton of false confidence.

We went, we laughed, and had fun in a large, safe group of people, and we all dispersed. After that night, Jelani and I began hanging out as friends outside of work. I looked for excuses for us to get together, usually involving a get together with multiple people. I had my first ankle surgery on June 27th that summer. He often helped me do my grocery shopping while I was on crutches. His smile lit up a room. I loved his smile so much I began calling him Sunshine. In fact, up until recently (silly, smart phone), he was Sunshine in my phone address book. :) We talked a lot, about things we wanted. We both wanted to be married by 25 and start a family young. 20 and 22 at the time, we joked that at the age of 25, if we didn't have anyone else (there was never going to be anyone else), we should just go ahead and marry each other.

The days leading up to July 19, Jelani was at an Exercise Science conference in Indianapolis. It was only a few days, but I missed him more than a person would miss a friend. On the 19th a few of us decided to head up to Canada to Crystal Beach for some swimming. With a bum ankle, I mostly sat in the sand, anxious for Jelani's return that afternoon. As we crossed the border back, after a long day of sun, I helped plan a trip out to eat for later, knowing it would give me a good reason to call Jelani (I'm so sneaky). So we all planned on going home, getting cleaned up, and then meeting up at the Outback Steakhouse.

I called Jelani to let him know of the plans, and ask if he'd like to meet up with us for dinner. He was just getting into town when I called. He said he might come, secretly very excited that I had called him.

I wore my cutest outfit (you've gotta rock something cute when lugging around crutches). And a group of about 6 or 7 of us went out to eat at Outback. We then moved the party to Anderson's for ice cream. As the evening was coming to an end, ice cream cones were disappearing, and everyone else was planning on going to a party somewhere I knew I'd be uncomfortable on crutches, I bowed out. Knowing Jelani was not the party type anyway, I casually mentioned I was just going to be watching movies at the apartment, and he was welcome to just hang out with me.

He took the bait, came over, and pretended to really like Lilo and Stitch, just to hang out with me. As the credits rolled, we again joked about our hypothetical marriage. He confessed to me that he had never really dated anyone before.

"You can't just marry me, having never dated anyone before!" I told him. "How could you possibly have any idea what you want?"

"I know what I want," he answered simply.

"Well, maybe we should date a little first, to see if it would work," I said, half joking, looking for a reaction.

He thought for a minute. "Ok," he said.

And he kissed me.

We never really talked about that night again. It was months before either one of us was comfortable referring to the other as their boyfriend/girlfriend for fear that the relationship was never really defined and we might offend the other.

Better yet, it was years before we ever mentioned that night again, and could laugh at how outrageous his response was, and how we swooped into a serious relationship relatively quickly based on an, "Ok."

But we already knew we wanted to marry each other. We wouldn't have bothered dating if we didn't. There was no real definition needed. Ok seemed perfectly legit and reasonable, and the best place to start what had already begun.

So, here's to the dating years, the funny pictures, the stories we have to tell, and the investment we made. Because on July 19th, 2003, I know I made an investment, paying handsomely into my future. God placed Jelani in my life at the most perfect time, and I couldn't have even prayed for all those awesome qualities I am finding in our children daily. I don't think anyone in either of our families could imagine life any differently, and no one cares that he's not white and I'm not black (or look Italian ;-)). Happy 10 years together, Sunshine!

p.s. No one has ever had a clue what was going on in that middle, right picture above. Don't bother asking. That is why it's one of my favorites. :)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pinning Attitude: Why I Hate to Love Pinterest

Oh boy.

I have had one of those days.

You know the kind; the kind of day when I day dream of having a nanny who can watch the kids mid-day so that I can go enjoy a an empty theater...alone...maybe with a smuggled in glass of wine.

Really, my day doesn't begin with just today, but no bad day really is just about that one day, or that one incident. It's always about the straw that broke the camel's back. I mean, really, extraordinarily, tragically bad days go without saying. But day dreaming about smuggling wine into an empty movie theater while a nanny watches the kids in the middle of the day is usually the accumulation of one type of emotion: annoyed.

I cannot be the only mom who has ever felt like an annoyed teenage sister to her children. They ask me questions, repeatedly, which they already know the answers to. They are on my heels, causing me to trip over them when I'm trying to do some cleaning. They are whining about every little thing the other one does.

"Mommy! Chastity's saying what I say!"

     (Repeated by Chastity), "Mommy! Chastity's saying what I say!"

"Stop it! I don't like that game!"

     "Stop it! I don't like that game!"

"Mommy, can I have lunch?"

     "Elijah, breakfast was literally 5 minutes ago."

"But I'm huuuuuuuuuuuungry!"

The dog is on my heels because I haven't had the chance to feed her yet. Heck, I haven't had the chance to feed myself yet. Isaac sneezes all over me right after taking a big spoonful of food. The delivery guy delivers the package we've been waiting for, the one he attempted to deliver 5 minutes after we went to the park yesterday, the one my husband needs in order to avoid getting a ticket for driving without a front bumper (which fell off in the middle of the road Sunday) during my only bathroom break; pounding on the door during the baby's nap. Fun stuff right there.

Then I have a minute to myself, I sit down at the computer to look up a cake recipe I need, and I'm inundated with things of this nature:

I love Pinterest. I've found really great recipes and craft ideas there, and of course some great ideas for activities with my kids, but sometimes, it just really grates my nerves.

Let me catch you up. Everything that has happened this week has been ill-timed, from a destroyed bumper to a sneeze, my children are annoying me, I want to smuggle a glass of wine into a movie theater in the middle of the day, and now Pinterest is getting all high and mighty on me and making me feel guilty about not doing a bazillion really messy, time consuming, activities with my kids. And chances are good (really good) it will take more time setting up and cleaning up those activities than my children will spend doing said activities.

I love my kids, and I love spending time with them, but when 95% of the activities I find online are painting with food, painting with eggs, painting with fly swatter (real thing), body painting, powder painting, textured painting, edible painting, it. is. exhausting. I had a mini anxiety attack while reading the list and wondering about all the fun things my children are missing out on because I'd rather spend more time with them than cleaning up after them. Let's face it, that's already the majority of my day.

But then I remembered my parents. They didn't have lists. They didn't need lists of things to do with us in order to spend time with us. We played outside, went bike riding and hiking, took walks, went for ball walks (walking while dribbling a basketball, fun and challenging on bumpy sidewalks!), read books, played learning games, played sports, watched movies, threw rocks in the water (super fun, cheap, zero clean up, activity that a child will do for hours), watched cars driving by, and we colored...on paper...with crayons. And we turned out just fine.

I often times get caught up in the kind of mother I am not rather than the kind of mother I am. Pinterest can be like the devil at times, trying to make me feel lousy as though I am not as creative as other moms, or because I don't enjoy the clean up, I'm a lazy mom. Pinterest can, at times, feel like a one upmanship contest, like "look what I came up with to do with my kids," or, "look what I'm going to do with my kids," or, "look what I plan to do with my kids (but probably never really will. Swell idea though)." Pinterest doesn't keep track of the times I play baseball in the park with Elijah, or the times I push Chastity on the swings, or the times I embrace all three of my children in a tickle fight. Pinterest doesn't keep tabs on the times we've made cookies together, or the books we've read, or the bubbles we've chased.

Sometimes we all need to be reminded of who we are, not who we aren't. We don't need to sit at the computer looking at lists of things everybody else is doing with their children. Kids care more about being with us than about what we're doing. Heck, my children get more excited about going to the store with me than anything else.

Less is often so much more.

Know that you don't have to be perfect, and you are not alone when you become annoyed with them, but remember one day, those roles could reverse, and you might find yourself at the opposite end of irritated, short answers to multiple questions you already know the answers to, but are asking anyway just so they will talk with you.

So I ignored all the crazy things I could have done with my children according to Pinterest. But I acknowledged that I still needed to change my attitude. And clearly the best way to do that, was to join them.

I crawled onto the floor where Isaac excitedly greeted me, and climbed right on top of me.

Then I proceeded to blow up my cheeks really big...and "pop" them with his feet,

resulting in the most rewarding and attitude healing giggles you ever did hear. Elijah and Chastity joined in the fun by wanting to take pictures (excuse me, I'm not camera ready probably 99% of my daily life).

Later in the day, while Isaac was napping, Elijah, Chastity, and I sat by their bedroom window, watching the cars, and watching the rain clouds roll in, and just talking. I didn't find these activities on Pinterest, but they were food for my mothering soul, let me tell ya.

Embrace them, relish their laughter, and really look at them when they tell you a story. There is no app for that, and you cannot put a pin in it, because those little faces won't look like that forever.

Pin that, Pinterest.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Prayer I Never Knew I was Praying

This day, June 10, 2013, Jelani and I have been married for 7 years. But I have been writing poems of love for much longer than I have known him.

My parents left me with a fascination of love at a young age. What made them stick by each other? What made them stay even when they argued? What made them desire to spend so much time together? I never fully understood, but I spent much of my adolescence writing about love anyway.

So yesterday, I surprised Jelani by reading a poem to him in front of our church family. And now I'd like to share it with you. It's rough around the edges because I wrote it in the middle of the night after feeding the baby. I tried to make some edits the next day, but then decided it was better left untouched, so forgive the somewhat rambling nature.

While it has no real title, I like to call it The Mother of All Love Poems, because I'm ever going to beat this? :)

God answers prayers,
unspoken and unheard.
Even Jesus tells us,
"Look at the birds."       (Mattew 6:26)

Unspoken it may have been.
Unheard it still may be,
but written time and time again;
the words were always there to see.

I wrote of a love that made me dream,
a love that set me free,
a love that didn't make me blind,
but a love that made me see.

Years of ink poured out on paper
before we ever met
and yet
my unheard word
never prayed;
instead displayed
a love I had yet to know

And so,
future, past, and present collide
where pen and paper
smoothly glide,

as I wrote of love
I never truly knew
'cause every love poem
I ever wrote
was about you.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Super Mom's Kryptonite

I never feel like a super mom. I am my toughest critic and I am more judgmental of myself than anyone else. I am constantly apologizing to Jelani for the lack of cleanliness around here, as though it is my fault Isaac is teething and fussing at me during 90% of his awake hours. To his credit, he always looks at me like I'm absolutely ridiculous and tells me, "Stop apologizing for life."

But you get my point. I feel like a failure most of the day. I have realized though, that there are times when I am super mom. I can go to the bathroom, shower, put my contacts in (or out, depending on the time of day), and brush my teeth in less than 10 minutes. And that includes the dentist recommended 2 minutes of brushing. I can strip Isaac down to his diaper while carrying him up the stairs to minimize the amount of poop to touch his clothing. I can teach Kindergarten to Elijah while reading a story to Chastity while breastfeeding Isaac. And possibly the most impressive, when Jelani has to go to church before us to practice with the worship team, I can get myself and all three kids bathed, dressed, fed, and in the car in less than an hour.

The common denominator in all of this is sleep. But it isn't what you think. I was on the ball back in September. I had a new baby, I was homeschooling for the first time, and I was averaging 4 to 5 hours of sleep a night. It was expected. It was consistent. And my days, and nights had a rhythm to them. Believe it or not, the kryptonite was the sleep itself. Somewhere around 3 or 4 months, Isaac began consistently sleeping all the way through the night. It was a dream come true, but once you grab a hold of that kryptonite, it is hard to let go, and it weakened me.

Only two months later, Isaac began teething, and eating solid foods, and suddenly forgot how to sleep through the night. By association, I forgot how to live without sleeping through the night. My super powers were diminished by my suddenly inconsistent sleep patterns. Now Isaac sometimes wakes at 4 am, sometimes at 6. Sometimes he's up at 11pm, 4am, and 6am. He's all over the place and my dream was snatched right out of my hands. I can't even remember any more how I once functioned that way, and it is tearing apart my organized daily schedule.

Now, instead of getting Isaac to the changing table, mess-free, I find poop on my hands as well as his clothes, and in his hair. Now, Elijah's video lessons are taking over and he's seeing more of those and less of me because I've forgotten how to manage my time. Now I find I'm losing myself in meaningless apps and games just to keep myself awake, while I have to hold a fussing squirming baby. And lastly, rather than my 10 minutes in and out of the bathroom, I find myself spazzing out at the shower curtain while it continuously moves in on me, attacking me (that sneaky, slimy, no good, curtain).

Sleep has weakened me. It was my shiny green kryptonite which looked like a beautiful emerald I just had to have. It was given to me and then snatched away, only to be dangled in front of my face, just out of reach. My super mom skills have slowly diminished since touching it.

So if you find me misusing words, or notice an unusual amount of typos in my posts here or on facebook, or if I'm unusually emotional or irrational, or if I just seem a little bit off, remember I have been poisoned by aliens and I've temporarily lost my cape.

Wait. Huh?


Monday, April 22, 2013

Letter to my Teenagers

You know how a song from your past can take you back to a moment in time, reminding you of joys and pains long forgotten? Or maybe it's just me? Last weekend, I found a CD I had made for my little sister for a high school graduation present. It was meant to be our soundtrack. It turned into two CDs by the time I put together all of the meaningful songs of our childhood, from the lullabys our dad used to sing to us to the awful rap music we used to drive around listening to out of our parents' earshot. It was the Peeper and Ernie Soundtrack, inspired by our childhood nicknames.

I was joyriding along in my new-to-me mini van (any ride when you can listen to your own music is a joyride) bumping down Main Street in Buffalo when Jay-Z's Can I Get a... came on next. And the most ridiculous thing happened to me. I began giggling and crying all at the same time. Jay-Z...Can I Get a... It is not a song I advise listening to, nor is it, by any means sentimental, or heartwarming. But there I was, thumping down Main Street in my mini van, with three (empty, mind you) car seats in the back, giggling uncontrollably with tears streaming down my face.

Music can do that to you. Heart breaks long ago healed, bitterness and anger forgotten, and distant joy hidden in your memory can be stirred up instantly with just a few notes. There are songs to this day that I can't stand because they remind me of past relationships, past hurts and betrayals, and broken hearts. I have long since moved on, but those pains were at one time very real, and it is no fun remembering feeling that way. On the other hand there are songs which can stir up happy and joyful memories I had somehow forgotten. Yet even the joyful memories can bring a tear to your eye just in knowing those days are long gone and realizing how quickly time passes.

In listening to this soundtrack of my sister's and my childhood, I experienced a flood of emotions. And remembering, for mere minutes, what it was like to be a teenager, what it was like to feel every emotion with the strength of the world's most powerful magnifying glass, taught me something.

It is so easy for adults to forget what it was like. It's so easy for adults to cast teenagers aside as immature, irrational, or emotional, because it is so easy for us to forget what that was once like; to have all of the emotions and passions of an adult with little knowledge, patience, or discipline in how to handle them.

I do not have teenagers yet, but I know that as quickly as I went from teenager to mother of three, I will, so I want this written down while it's most fresh in my brain.

Dear teenagers of mine,

I will always tell you I love you, no matter how annoying you may find it. Trust me, one day, you will hold your own child, and understand that.

I will never have a favorite child. That may be hard to understand if you're feeling a little left out from time to time, but it's true. You are each a product of your dad and his family, and me and mine, and so naturally I may have more in common with one of you, or I may even understand one of you better because your characteristics and demeanor most resemble mine, but commonality does not equal love. My love for each of you is constant. It may manifest differently in trying to connect with you, but it is unconditional and ever lasting.

I will always show you trust and respect, as long as you show me the same. You will have the appropriate amount of privacy, but understand, at your age, it is much less than you would like. It is not because I don't trust you. But allow me to help protect you from your own emotions. It is hard to feel all that you feel, and it is hard to know what to do under emotional circumstances. While I will have to let you make many of your own decisions as you get older, use me to help you navigate. I have been there, and I can help you avoid making some of the same mistakes I made, if you will be honest with me. When in doubt, always pray. If it is something you don't think you can even talk to me or your dad about, God is there, and He knows it anyway. Speak with Him.     

I will never discredit your feelings, and if you feel that I am, let's talk about it. You are dealing with a lot of emotions, and you can talk to me about anything. You think I won't understand, and maybe I will struggle with that some, but I promise to always try. I promise, that every so often when I'm having difficulty understanding everything you're going through, I will refer back to the music of my teenage years and let Jay-Z, N'SYNC, and Mariah Carey (to name a few) remind me (stop laughing at how old I am or I'll make you listen to them too). ((Ok, maaaaaaaaybe not Jay-Z. In fact, don't ever listen to Jay-Z))

I will always encourage time together as a family. You may not always remember why, but we all love each other and God put us together for a reason. Elijah and Chastity, just remember, you are not far removed from when you once pooped in the bathroom together and checked each other's booties for traces of poop after wiping. You can't fake that kind of closeness, so embrace it. Families who poop together, stay together. You had each other's backs then. Let's keep it that way.

I vow to try not to make fun of your music, if you will try not to make fun of mine. I remember well what it was like to have my own tunes I wanted to listen to. I experimented with music as a kid too. All I ask is that you remain constant in the Lord first and foremost, and if the worst you do is occasionally listen to some rap crap along the way, I will do my best not to give you a hard time about it, and trust and that you won't allow those songs to influence your decisions.

I promise not to write any more embarrassing things about you in this letter. I can make no such promises for the future. It is those embarrassing quirks which make us the family we are, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Your super cool, mini van driving, crocheting, cake baking, wacky dancing, blog writing, mommy (always mommy)


Friday, April 12, 2013

Daughter Dilemma

My daughter is beautiful.

I'm not being vain here. It has very little to do with me. Other than providing her with a place to grow, I did not create her. God did, so yes, I think it is ok for me to state that she is undeniably beautiful.

She will be 4 years old next month, but it is never too early to begin thinking about how we will run off the boys. Jelani wants to take notes from Will Smith in the movie Bad Boys 2 and answer the door in a wife-beater tank, looking crazy, screaming, "I ain't afraid to go back to jail!" Where as my brainstorming has taken a more practical direction.

Chastity has this amazing, innocent quality about her, which causes her to be honest about everything. She will pass gas like a champ and follow it up by yelling, "I pooted! Excuse me!" Often, when they are like chain reaction poots, pop pop popping out, we'll hear, "I pooted. Excuse me. I pooted. Excuse me. Ipootedexcuseme!" There is the lesser known, sister phrase as well, "I burped. Excuse me."

Then, yesterday before nap time she said, "Mommy, can I tell you something?"

"Sure," I answered.

"Yesterday, I picked my nose."

"Uh, well..."

"I ate my booger. It tasted weird."

"You ate your booger?!"


"Are you just kidding?" I asked, hopefully.

"No. I really ate it. And it got stuck on my teeth. And that was funny." (Insert goofy, giggly grin here)

It was so funny, and so gross at the same time, that I wasn't quite sure how to react. "Oh, well that's...ummm...yucky. We shouldn't eat our boogers." But as soon as it was out of my mouth I somewhat regretted saying that.

Yes, I regretted telling my daughter not to eat her boogers. Two things occurred to me here. 1. She trusted me, to tell me something she knew was weird, but that she thought was funny and wanted to include me in it. I once read a quote about how if we want children to talk with us openly and honestly as teenagers, we need to listen to them openly as children. And here she was, just having a very open and honest moment with me. I was actually very honored. 2. The dilemma: do I stop her and teach her to be more of a lady? Do I tell her that picking her nose (and eating her boogers) and "pooting" in public are impolite and unladylike? Or...hear me out...or do I allow these traits to run the boys off quite naturally? Chances are she won't be quite this brazen with it for the rest of her life, but if I stifle it, she might go the opposite direction and try to be something she's not, and won't her true love one day, love her just the way she is anyway?  (With the time transcending powers of the blogosphere, I hope he is reading this right now).

Yes, I am rationalizing a way to keep boys temporarily away with farts and boogers, and maybe that doesn't make much sense, But it could keep her safely in the friend zone just a little bit longer. After a few seconds of thought, with Chastity still looking up at me with her innocent smile, still remembering the hilarity of her booger story, I smiled back and said, "You're so funny. I just love you."

She sighed, "Me too, Mommy."

Monday, April 8, 2013

Learning to Love

I worry about Chastity.

I shouldn't. The Bible tells us not to worry, but sometimes I still do. I've always had a complex about having multiple children. With each pregnancy after the first I have worried about there not being enough of me to go around. I've worried about leaving a child out or making one feel neglected. You always hear things about the "middle child syndrome," and how they get lost in the shuffle, and sometimes I worry that Chastity is that card in the middle of the deck, and no matter how many times I shuffle, she never comes out on top.

Elijah is 5 and in Kindergarten, but I am homeschooling. That takes up about 4 hours of our mornings. Isaac is 7 months old and teething, nursing, moving, and upset about not being able to walk. Really I could have stopped at "7 months old," and you'd understand. Chastity is almost 4, and she will have her own school schedule next year, but right now, she does not. No matter how many times I (or even Elijah) try to include her in our school schedule, she becomes quickly discouraged because she knows the difference between her coloring and activity books and Elijah's school books. So to keep her happy and Elijah focused, I usually set her up in my bedroom to watch Sesame Street.

She is patient and good. She does not jump on my large, tempting bed. She knows exactly when to turn the TV off and come back downstairs, and she does. She even keeps her laughter to a whisper when she knows Isaac is taking his morning nap in his room next door.

Still I worry.

Even after school, I find myself wrapped up in keeping Isaac content. The computer sits right next to my nursing chair, so I'm often nursing him, or bouncing him, with one hand on the mouse, doing something on the computer, while watching Chastity and Elijah play together. They often fade into the background amidst the discontent of Isaac while he's winding down for a nap. "Mommy, look!" "Mommy, watch this!" "Mommy, mommy, mommy..." There are days when I feel like I'm on autopilot with the nods, and "Uh huh," and "Wow."

The saddest days are the ones when I feel they've given up on me completely, and they go play in their room, and I wonder, "What am I even teaching them? They barely even need me anymore."

But then the magic happens. God opens my eyes to see. I see Elijah running to help Isaac and announcing his every move to me with such delight and pride. I hear Chastity's sweet voice singing, Your Are My Sunshine, repeatedly while cheek to cheek with Isaac to calm him down. I catch a glimpse of Chastity rocking him in his car seat while we're all rushing around to get out the door. I see them kiss him and tell him, "moo moo," which is "love you" in this house. I hear Elijah pray that Isaac's teeth won't hurt, and that he'll have a good night's sleep.

While Satan tries to tear me down, telling me I'm a lousy mother, damaging my children, God shows me His truth. Look, you are teaching them. They see how much you love Isaac, and by association, are reminded of how much you love them. Let me show you.

I hear Chastity's sweet voice, and see Elijah running to help Isaac reach a toy.

They are learning how to love.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

How Dare You Speak Honestly With Me!

I recently read a blog listing off what not to say to a working mom. You're going to want to check that out in order to better understand me. She told us not to freak out, because she supports stay at home moms, but so much of what she said contradicted that, so I have responded with my own list of things you shouldn't say to a stay at home mom.

I wish I could afford to do that!

Do you? Do you really? Don't say it if you don't mean it. I have no problems with you working. There is no shame in enjoying your work or career. There is no shame in enjoying the extra income if that's what it is to your household, but keep in mind, many of you do have the choice. Single moms and moms from very low-income families don't always have that choice, but about 90% of the women who have said this to me have husbands earning twice as much (or more) than my husband. In fact, I have had women say this to me while we had zero income at all while my husband was going back to school and we were living on school loans. You assume that we are rolling in upper class dollar bills when you make a comment like that, when the truth is, we just do without a lot of stuff. In the past, we've spent years without cable and some without internet as well. We hardly ever eat out, we might go to the movies once or twice a year, and our vacations consist of visiting family. At one point, when it was just me, my husband, and our first born child who was still only nursing, we managed on a grocery budget of $25 a week. I kid you not. If they didn't have it at Aldi, I didn't buy it, and we didn't really buy any snack foods. Now that is not a realistic budget to maintain, and it's not for everyone. Noted. But don't insult my intelligence. If you really wanted to stay home with your children, you would find a way to do it. Wanting to work doesn't make you a bad mother any more than saying how badly you wish you could stay home makes you a better mother.

It must be so great to be there for all the milestones.

You are assuming that I don't have anything else in the house to do other than keep both eyes on my children all day. The thing about being home is that people are always there to make messes during the day. I have missed many a milestone while doing the dishes, making dinner, stepping out of the room to take care of something, etc, etc. I catch them after the fact, or now, one of my older children will notify me of something the baby did. The things I never miss? The first poop, the first pee all over me, the first puke, the first potty training accident. Always around for those, and usually the only one available to clean it up.

What will you do once your children go to school?

My time at home with my children has not made me irrelevant to society nor has it completely negated any previous experience I've had. This world's work force needs to stop shunning women who have made the choice to stay home with the next generation. I haven't stopped learning or contributing to society. In fact, I have learned a great deal about teaching, and patience, and multi-tasking; things the work force could use a lot more of. Don't write me off as though I'm a handicap to the working body. There is plenty I can do.

Oh, I don't have the time to watch TV ( or insert any other leisure activity here).

Right. I forgot how you are so much busier than I am. After all, I just watch reality TV all day, and have plenty of time to work out. It couldn't possibly be that I only watch TV during nap and/or after bedtime, and that I only workout at 6am before my children awake. It couldn't possibly be that I just have an organized schedule and routine that I am disciplined enough to stick to.

You look exhausted.

I am. Thanks for noticing. I have three children. I am homeschooling one, nursing one, and trying not to ignore the other. I'm cleaning, teaching, and feeding someone all day and sometimes night.

At least you get to spend time with your children all day.

Here's the thing. I am here physically, with my children all day. I spend as much time with them as possible, but like I said before, the thing about being here all day, is that messes are made which need to be cleaned. When you're a working mom with a working husband, and your children spend their days in daycare, in school, or in someone else's home, your home stays in the state you left it. In mine there is constant work because there are constant mess makers. And it's work that often takes me all day (or all week) to finish. I get my hands in the soapy dish water, and the baby cries. I start folding clothes that have been in the dryer for three days, and the kids are hungry. I get out the vacuum, and the baby starts screaming. I start to make dinner, and the baby needs to nurse. I could go on and on. Actual quality time with my children is less than one might think.

It must be so nice not to have a job to worry about.

You're right. I don't work. And never in my life did I ever have a dream of having a career. Come on! I love my kids, and I believe I am where I am supposed to be right now, without a doubt, but there was  a time in my life when I desperately wanted a career in basketball; be it playing or coaching. It didn't work out for me, but thanks for the reminder. After all, we stay at home moms never had any dreams or aspirations beyond giving birth.

I don't know how you do it all.

I was raised on the importance of doing a job well, and to believe that it was better to be a master of one rather than a jack of all trades, but most days I feel like everything I do is half-@$$ed. Sorry, can't think of a better way to put that. Most of what I try to get done never gets completed, or it is just plain never ending. My house isn't that clean, my meals are hit or miss, and even though, yes, I am home, I feel like I don't have enough of the good time with my children...not just time. There's a difference. So no, I don't do it least not well.
But wait, how is this an insult exactly?

Why do you homeschool?

Why not? Because that's what my husband and I believe is best for our children right now, that's why. Don't look at me like I'm some sort of freak who won't let her children experience life. I went to public school myself, and have nothing against it, but this, right now, was our personal choice, and I shouldn't have to defend that.  

Don't call me a stay at home mom while we're at it.

Implying that you are a working mom while I just stay at home, is insulting. From here on out I declare that stay at home moms should be called career moms, because we are making a career out of working, yes working, at home. Change approved! (So what, I watch Cougar Town). 

You look exhausted.

Yeah, we covered that already. Thanks.

And lastly...
Don't tell me what we can and can't talk about.

Do you parade this list around to your friends? Or are you only insulted by strangers trying to have an honest conversation with you? Besides maybe two items on your list, those all seem like legitimate conversation pieces between moms. We all have struggles and challenges, and while we may not fully understand each other, our own personal struggles don't negate anyone else's struggles and challenges. We shouldn't be beating each other up over them or refusing to allow people to talk to us about them with this my challenges are greater than yours mentality.   

Does my list here sound ridiculous to you? My goodness, I hope so! If you haven't gotten it by now, I am being facetious. Ladies, we have got to stop tearing each other apart for our choices. Aren't there enough battles going on between women about personal choice? Do we have to add this too? We shouldn't feel the need to defend the choices we've made in raising our children. We shouldn't need to berate others' for their decisions in order to feel better about our own. And we shouldn't have to walk on egg shells to talk with each other. Why are we all so easily offended by everyone's differing opinions?

We are all strong, independent women with something to offer the world and each other. We should be able to sit and talk frankly about issues and concerns or questions about the choices we each make. We should seek ways to relate to one another and support one another. We were designed to be encouraging and nurturing, and yet we encourage each other in all the wrong ways! Rather than encourage someone in their decision and through their struggles, so many women are collectively reading the above (snarky, in my opinion) blog I referenced, and all jumping on it, "You tell 'em!" "I can't stand that!" "You go girl!" We women are so quick to ban together over gossip and disdain, and we're quick to encourage each other to be hurtful, hateful, petty, and resentful. I mean, if my snarky response blog here doesn't prove my point, I don't know what does. ;-) Seriously though, how many times do you dismiss something that may have bothered you, only to be further encouraged in your bitterness by other women? We all do it! We get into groups and suddenly a small issue is blown out of proportion and we're all on soap boxes about how awful we've been treated and how we would never do that to someone. We all know that's not true, myself included. We have all been the perpetrator and we've all played the victim, no matter how unintentional. All of the above things which have been said to me at one time or another were never intended as offensive or hurtful. They were sincere, however misguided, questions, comments, or just conversation pieces, and I wouldn't dream of writing a serious article about how these things should never be said to stay at home moms. They do not offend me, nor should they. Talk to me! I want to understand your struggles. I want to encourage you, even if I don't know what it is like to leave my children with a sitter or daycare provider. I want to build you up. Because you are each special and unique, and God has a plan for your life and your family and what you are doing with it and for them. And I hope that when I say, "I need a day out of the house," rather than judge me for it or take offense to it personally, you would return my encouragement, and understand that having a moment to myself, for myself, would help maintain my sanity and rejuvenate my spirit. Can't all moms relate to that?

In closing, I have no hard feelings towards any working mom who has posted that article or related to it in anyway, because I'm sure many of you are wondering. I am not offended by your ability to relate to that blogger. I'm not actually offended by what she has to say. I just think it's a shame she feels the need to sensor and stifle conversations among women. I understand what she is trying to say, and I appreciate how difficult it may be to hear some of those things from people. They may appear insensitive and judgmental and maybe even some people intend for them to be, but don't allow it to harden you against all line of questioning and conversation between moms. We shouldn't limit what they may say to us out of curiosity or confusion. I am often an awkward conversationalist myself, but my desire is always sincere in just wanting to connect with people.

In all seriousness, I have been over dramatic here to make a point. I hope you all understand that, but I am open to honest and sincere questions. I am not even saying all this because I believe I hold the keys to not being offended or that I am a superior strong woman who doesn't let anything bother me. I say these things because I too have once thought them. I'm just being honest about it!

I know I have said this before, but I have a great deal of respect for all mothers! Keep trying to connect and relate, because we all need each other, and we could all use a little encouragement from time to time.   

Friday, January 25, 2013

Origins of the Side Ponytail

I made an astounding discovery today. The very popular on again/off again trend of the side ponytail is very likely not at cool as you might think.

It seems like every generation has had it's own version of the side ponytail. They were long and often braided or twisted in the Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman age.

Yes, that is an acceptable reference.

In the 70s, the age where multiple pigtail styles were for adults of all ages, Susanne Somers made the half side pony unforgettable.

I think we can all agree that the 80s were seriously high and more than one way. They were curly, and crimped, and teased, and really everything but timeless.

And I'm pretty certain the 80s terrified us all and turned us all off to the side ponytail for a very long time because I didn't see another one until the final season of Dawson's Creek where Jen wore a very subtle, thin, wisp of a side ponytail that you could barely notice. I'm watching it on Netfilx right now. Leave me alone.

So now, it is made popular by celebs of all kinds, as a swept to the side, low-maintenance look.

But does anyone truly know the origins of the ever-so-popular side pony? Today, I can venture a pretty good guess.

I had just finished nursing Isaac late this morning. I hadn't showered yet. My hair had been in a sloppy ponytail on top of my head, but had slid down quite a bit and some was straying out of the rubber band. I lifted Isaac, my 5 month old baby, off the boppy to burp him. He grabbed a fistful of my hair and burped his baby spit up right into it. Thankfully that fistful was yanked right out, so I didn't have the pleasure of walking around the rest of the day with spit up in my hair. 

Later, after I had showered, I found myself in a similar predicament. About to burp him with my newly washed hair hanging down my shoulders, I quickly pulled it all off to the opposite side and tied it up, out of his reach.

It was an hour later when Jelani looked at me strangely, and asked, "Is that a side ponytail?" that I had a realization.

Light bulb moment, ladies.

That gorgeous and trendy look you're all just dying to have? That elegant, swept away look found in so many of your prom and wedding photos? That look was made common by nerdy moms like me, tired of the same boring bun on top of their heads, and tired of having their hair yanked out and spit up on.

Some mom, somewhere, took a look at her disheveled, side swept hair in the mirror, and thought, "I can make this work!"

Look who's cool and trendy now.  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Unforgettable Fun

I love my readers, I really do, but I don't really write this blog for you. You see, some days I feel like I'm in the middle of the battle grounds with no chance of escape. My days are consumed with being the teacher, the cook, the cleaning lady, the referee, the disciplinarian, the soother, the bottle, and the lady with poop on her hands, minus the added perks of being the chauffeur because I am the stay at home mom of the literal sense. I have no car. So when I'm in the trenches, I am in the trenches.

My days fill up pretty quickly with a lot of stuff I don't even know how to name. And between the teachings, the feedings, the changings, and the runnings around desperately trying to keep the poop, which is bubbling over the top edge of Isaac's diaper, from touching anything, I don't have much time to just have fun...not that those things aren't fun. I couldn't stop laughing while using 50 wipes all over Isaac's little body just to get him clean enough to take a bath. That is truly a crap filled memory I will not soon forget. I'm talking about real fun. Poop-free fun. The kind of fun when a mom can just stop everything in her job description, let loose, and thoroughly enjoy her family.

Tonight, if you happened to drive slowly by the Greene residence, and caught a glimpse of some strangely moving and grooving silhouettes through the blinds, you were witnessing a very intimate Greene house dance party. Chastity asked, or rather demanded, that Daddy dance with her. So we turned Pandora onto Motown, and for a solid 30 minutes, we all shook it like mad in the living room. Isaac and Selah stared up at us from the floor as though we'd done lost our minds.

So I don't write this for readers, as much as I love you all, and I love your feedback, and I love hearing your stories and how you can relate to mine. I write this for me, because I never want to forget.

I never want to forget Chastity's blissful little face with her arms and legs hugging her daddy, swaying to The Temptations. I never want to forget Elijah looking up and smiling at me while trying so hard to dance with me like a big boy. I never want to forget how Elijah stood up on the couch so he could spin me. I never want to forget how Chastity herded Jelani and I together so the "big people" could dance together and the "little kids" could dance. I never want to forget how she and Elijah danced together trying to be so grown. I never want to forget how many times they spun in circles, laughed, jumped, and hugged us and each other. Because that half hour makes everything under my "job description" so worth it, and when Mommy has that much fun, she doesn't ever want to forget it.

Writing for yourself is the most enjoyable kind, so I hope you find the time to write down your fleeting moments, and make time to enjoy those you work so hard for! I might just declare every Saturday night, Saturday-Night-Fever Night...minus the disco.