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.