On Kiddlets

***While I am packing up our house like a woman possessed, getting our family ready to move across the continent, several generous readers have volunteered to keep you musing. This first guest post is written by Jasmine Johnson-Kennedy. Jasmine in an Alaskan off-grid homesteader (ironically, I do not know her from Alaska but solely from this virtual space). She also writes at her own blog, Bunchberry Farms.***

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You may think I’m crazy when I say this, but its true.  I have been actively talking myself out of having children for a decade.  How old am I, you ask?  I’m twenty six.

Why have I been dissuading myself from ushering new souls into the world for so long?  Because I want them SO DAMN BAD.

I actually give my younger self a lot of kudos for being so responsible.  As a highschooler, while I personally wasn’t sexually active until late in highschool, I had pro-condom bumperstickers on the back of my truck and in my bedroom.  I talked my friends through the process of getting on birth control.  I was decided that if I should ever need to, I would get an abortion rather than become a teenage mom.  And all the while I desperately desired kids.  I would fight the undertow of the longing.  I would find myself insanely jealous of the young single struggling under-advantaged moms that I worked with at my minimum wage part time waitressing gigs.  And periodically I would have to sit down with myself and have a good long chat about what the reality of kids would mean, about how having an underage mom wouldn’t be doing them any favors, and about how I wanted to be able to choose them at a time their nurturance would be my primary endeavor.

I played gypsy for a year, and then I went to college.  And for five years I indulged in academia and theatre.  I knew I didn’t have the time or energy for kids.  I knew that the time would come for being a mom, that that time was not the (then) present.  But I longed.  Oh, how I longed.  And I dreamed.  Oh, how I dreamed.  The dream of the homestead and the dream of the motherhood came to rival each other in depth and intensity.  They became entwined to the point of identity.  My mantra-goal became “Get the land” because once I had the land, the homestead and the kids could and would come.  I plotted and planned and despaired and hoped and leveraged will power and luck and fate and love to get the homestead.  Meanwhile I would read the parenting magazines at the Laundromat, hide “Fit Pregnancy” (the prenatal yoga issues) and “Natural Parenting” magazines in the wait-station at the restaurant, read the latest “Mothering Magazine” and “Midwifery Today” every time I visited my mom.  I would hide in the magazine section at the grocery store and read “Good Housekeeping” and “Real Simple,” skimming past article with potential relevance to where I was at, and instead focusing on the ones that talked about homework and kids organizational strategies, about family dinner plans and how to pack a school lunch.  I rarely babysat because I was always in rehearsal or on stage or waitressing.  I was engaging in the act of living the life-stage I was in while desperately and nearly obsessively longing for and planning the future.  I have always been the queen of ten year plans.  I am not entirely sure it is the healthiest way to live, expending so much energy and thought and time on a future that you are at the same time ensuring is distant from where you are.

Sometime in college I met my Darlin’ Man.  And as soon as we met, certainly as soon as we became serious, I realized that there was no way I could or would ever get the abortion I had always planned on if we accidentally conceived.  This realization scared the shit out me.  I mean, I thrive on planning the future.  The reality of children was always, always something that I knew I would invite into my life when the time was right.  I wished for them NOW, but I knew this.  When I was maybe 3, maybe 4 years old my little sister was a baby.  I have this vivid memory of sitting in my kid-sized rocking chair (the one that is in the attic space at my mother’s house waiting for the next generation along with boxes and boxes of kids books and toys that I’ve been saving all of my life), in the middle of the afternoon, and singing lullabies to my doll.  For hours.  We had this tape of lullabies, English on one side, French on the other – Lullaby Bersuese – and I distinctly remember one specific afternoon repeating and re-listening to the French side at least two if not three times.  Singing along and rocking my doll straight through from afternoon to dusk.  I wanted to memorize it so that when I was a mom I could sing it to my kids without the tape.  Ever since then, I have known, bone deep, that motherhood was something that belonged in my life, that it was something I would choose for myself.  Accordingly, it became the end-goal of every 10 year plan I ever made.  It was there and real and desperately wanted, but was always placed a decade or so away.  Placed out there in the future with a plan in place to ensure it stayed there.  So when I met my Darlin’ Man and realized that if we conceived I would keep the baby, it scared the shit out of me.  It took the concept of motherhood out this plane of planned activity at the perfect time – a place I had put it, and kept it, so that I would not be prematurely tempted – and (re)created it as a  thing that could happen by chance, something that could happen to me and I would do nothing to stop it.  I mean, no kind of birth control is fail-proof right?  And if the idea is that you manifest in your life that which you focus on, kids are an immanent accidental possibility, right?  And that’s scary stuff.  But even while recognizing the absolute havoc that untimed and unplanned kids would have on my life, on our lives, even while rebelling against the mere concept of the active choice being taken away from me – in my deepest self of selves I rejoiced.  I rejoiced because suddenly, miraculously, my most deeply held desire was a possibility.  Because even a 1 in 10,000 chance is a possibility, right?  And if I hit that one in ten thousand jackpot, well,  I could hardly blame myself for accidentally becoming pregnant with my beloved’s child, right?   It wouldn’t be an ill-considered decision, but fate.

And I rejoiced because I knew that the choice of pregnancy and motherhood was really and truly finally within my grasp.  And that scared the shit out of me.  Because if it was something that I finally could choose for myself, why was I not?   If facing the reality of eminence of the mere possibility of kids brought me such joy and relief, why was I avoiding it?  What was I doing with myself?  If I was defining fulfillment as motherhood, and I was denying myself motherhood, then what sort of messed up mind game was I playing with myself?

So I did two things, I sat down with myself and gave myself the permission to savor this pre-kid life for what it is.  There are many things I love about it that I know I will nostalgically savour when my proverbial style is cramped by the minute to minute reality of littles. This life I’m living now is a step along the way but not merely a means to an end.  (Or so I tell myself when I’m not assuring myself that AS SOON as we get enough student loans paid off, I can then get pregnant.  If that’s not a means to an end, I don’t know what is.)    And I asked myself what motherhood really meant to me.  I found that while the essence of motherhood in my soul stands alone and can be applied to or fit within any life scenario I can imagine, my VISION of my future motherhood was pretty specific.  Once, in the early and turbulent portion of our relationship, my Darlin’Man asked me if I knew what my purpose in life was.  I don’t remember the words I chose – I think nurture was one.  But I remember being very careful of what words I used because I knew the answer as clear as day, and I knew that English lacked a single word for the amalgam of creation and nurturing and tending and supporting and healing and reverence that gardening and mothering and animal husbandry and making art and feeding people and giving them medicine and tending their wounds all have in common.  There is a common element, and it is profound and resides in my soul, but I don’t know that there is a word for it.  I thought about all of this and I realized that my vision of my own experience of motherhood was all entwined in my vision of homesteading.  Raising kids and goats and gardens was all one life action for me.  Which meant I better get the set up in place if I wanted to realize that vision.

So I shifted my future focus onto the homestead (and by this I mean I took all of that near-obsessive planning and applied it to small scale agriculture).  I got married.  My mom moved up here in anticipation of being grandma in the not too distant future.  Last summer we bought the homestead.  It needs a lot of work in creating it as a productive home scale agricultural venture.  It craves digging and building and fencing and lots of compost.  But every time I think about a fence line, or the placement of a coop, I think in terms of little hands on latches, little feet in the grass, buoyant laughter echoing, trees for solace of little hearts.  As I think about where the fruit trees and the barn ought to go in relation to a future barn, and maintaining the direct sun on the solar panels, I’m also thinking of swings and climbing trees.

I’m now on the two year plan for getting pregnant and every time I sit with myself and examine my prospective reality of motherhood, it still scares the shit out of me.  In a deep and challenging way, a way that has within it the distillation of the visions of bliss and golden glowing mama-ness.  A way that encapsulates the dreams and the bone deep blood deep voice that knows about children belonging in my life.  A way that is also aware (as aware as one can be without the experience) of the work and the drudgery and the self abnegation and the frustration.  The responsibility and the giving.

And if the prospective reality scares the shit out of me and I still want it with the intensity of a decade’s longing melting into tender humbleness; that must mean I’m getting closer and closer to actually being ready, right?  Are you ever ready?  Probably not.

And the closer my own motherhood draws, the more I find myself open to following the lead of this land, our (future) kids, this life we’re choosing.  The ten year plan has opened to allow me to glimpse possible vistas of twenty and fifty years down the road – it is less rigid and encompasses much more possibility for change.  Which means I might just make it though, right?

                              –Jasmine Johnson-Kennedy, Bunchberry Farms

Stretch Marks

It’s 8 o’clock in the morning. I’m sitting here with a cup of coffee, quiet in a sleeping house, writing.

A few short month ago, I would have killed to get my little guy to sleep past 6:45 on a regular basis. Now he sleeps until 7 or 7:30 reliably, occasionally even later. Am I busy praising the stars and relishing my newfound extra sleep and more frequent mornings alone? No. This morning I didn’t get myself up till 7:30 and didn’t get myself coffeed till almost 8, so I’m busy wishing he’d sleep till goddamn 8:45.

And take a nap at 1, thank you very much.

When this mothering job gets really rough, kindly friends remind me that it gets easier as time goes on. But when things are looking up, and I gaze hopefully into the future for a time when things will be even better, those same friends soberly lead me back and say, ‘It doesn’t get easier, really. It just gets… different.’

What the hell? What does it get? Easier or not easier? Get your story straight.

I know kids (and parents) are all quite individual. Not all babies are as high maintenance as mine were. Some apparently sleep. Not all two year olds have daily 30 minute screaming sessions. Not all mothers need time and space for themselves as strangulously as I. Perhaps we, as a family, stir right up into an explosive younger-years cocktail.

Nevertheless I’m pretty sure that, apart from that long span of teenage years too far in my future to contemplate, when people say parenting doesn’t get easier, they are on crack. Parents of the 4-12 set have just plain forgotten what babies and toddlers are like. They have forgotten sleeping a total of 6 hours/night in no more than 90 minute segments and then waking up to a fussy baby and two shitty diapers before coffee. They have forgotten trying to control one child’s screaming fit in public with the other child strapped onto their body. They are under the spell of biological amnesia that allows our species to keep reproducing. I for one am writing this all down, so that I can never blithely tell a mother of a 2yo and newborn that what she is going through is not the very depths of what humans are capable of.

Fear not sweet mama, wherever you are, it does get easier. If you feel completely insane right now, at the very bottom of your barrel, it’s because you are. Things can only look up. Kids grow. It’s really true.

But.

I’m sorry to say, there is a catch. I have come just far enough now to see what it is.

Consider how you have stretched slowly over the years since your very first morning sickness. Things you never thought yourself capable of doing are now old hat. Motherhood is a million times harder than you ever could have conceived of. And yet, simultaneously, you are a million times stronger. You keep thinking ‘fuck me, it can’t get any harder’ and then it does! You keep thinking ‘I can’t hold out any longer’ and then you do! You keep thinking you are at the absolute bitter end of your frayed rope, but your rope keeps stretching.

Which is brave and wonderful and human. I remember one night, washing the dishes at 9:30 pm, after one of those insane days, thinking– I am a demigod. I will never be conquered again. I am now accustomed to working 15 hour days, on 6 hours of disjointed sleep, doing the hardest work of my life. When the impossible-ness of this job subsides, I’ll have the energy and the self-discipline to accomplish anything. The world will be at my feet.

The catch is– that stretchy rope? It shrinks too. It’s a goddamned bungee cord.

It gets easier, yes, but it doesn’t feel easier. When things ease up, I notice the change and appreciate it intellectually, but I still feel like I’m at the end of my rope, every day. I have to hang out with friends in the real crazy year (newborn + 2yo) to remind myself. Oh yeah, my life is hard right now. Plenty hard. But it’s possible. And immediately after that humbling thought, I go back to being mad that my now 2yo didn’t sleep till 8:45.

Maybe I’m just an ungrateful bitch. Maybe, as every little bit of new space opens up, I try to add in too many things. Keeping the house cleaner. Cooking extra for My Man. Writing more. Rioting in my spare time. Maybe it’s just that old ad-borne cultural expectation that we deserve to have it all.

Whatever it is, the outcome is that although it does get easier, it also doesn’t. You won’t have to wake up 6 times a night and then for good at 5:45 to a poopy diaper, you won’t have to strap on a 19 pound weight so that you can finally get the dishes done, you won’t have to listen to hours a day of full-bore screaming. You will be able to calm everyone down by reading a book sometimes, you will be able to leave the room for more than 10 minutes without catastrophe or injury ensuing, the kids will (not always, but often) begin to earnestly and happily play together.

But you will forget the harder times almost immediately, as your body prepares you to continue propogating the species. You will (if you are anything like me) suck down your newfound freedoms and instead of being sated, just want moremoremore. You will wake up one morning in your own bed at 7:30 and wonder honestly if it was all a bizarre dream. You still feel like you are operating at maximum. With a full 8 hours of sleep and 30 minutes of quiet morning, you still feel sparely armored for a day of what still feels like crazy hard work.

All you will have to remind yourself of those farther distances reached are the stretch marks.

You are a demigod.

Related post: The Glory Days

By Surprise

Some time back, after shaking the last bit out of a salt canister, I had a brainstorm. I looked at that big cardboard tube and thought, planetarium! We got right to it, poking star holes with the pointy end of a candy thermometer, removing the metal spout to make a peep hole and lastly painting the whole thing night sky blue.

I finally stood back with pride while my girl squinted up one eye and gazed into her private galaxy. And then it hit me.

Holy fuck. I am a mom.

I looked at a salt can and saw a galaxy tube. My brain thinks in scissors and paint, my house is littered with toys in every room, the walls are plastered with children’s drawings, I stroller my kids to library story-time every Tuesday morning, and I almost always remember to pack a variety of wholesome snacks.

I wasn’t exactly terrified. It just…. caught me by surprise. It always does.

Back when I was a mere three months pregnant with the first and our kind-hearted neighbors started bringing by boxes of second hand kid stuff, I freaked out. I was not going to be one of Those Parents. Whose house is overrun by kids’ toys, whose lives are overrun by kids’ activities. Babies don’t need stuff, I told myself. This pre-stockpiling is completely absurd.

There was one moment in particular– A woman I vaguely knew had called to see if I wanted a baby bassinet. “What’s a bassinet?” I asked. She explained and said she’s bring it by for me to look at. I must have missed her knock at the door, because two hours later when I opened it to go out for a walk, there was an enormous monstrosity of white lace blocking my exit. I gasped. I felt dizzy. I considered taking it straight to the trash, but I am too pragmatic for that. As quickly as I could I stripped off the white lace, hauled the bassinet upstairs and exiled it to a dark closet. Similarly the four huge boxes of cloth diapers. I think I might have even made the woman who brought them by feel bad for dumping them on me.

Lo and behold, a few months later that bassinet became critical to my every day. I would lay the babe in it in the kitchen while I did the few necessaries (a really few).  And the diapers, jesus what an ingrate. I didn’t realize I was being gifted hundreds of dollars worth of extremely nice cloth diapers.

But, they just…. caught me by surprise. I hadn’t thought about diapers and bassinets yet. I was still coming to grips with the fact that I could hardly breathe enough to walk up the mountain trail by our house.

Things have continued at such a pace. I am perpetually several steps behind in the ‘gracious acceptance’ department, always suffering from the arrogant expectation that I would be ‘different.’ Having a second helped drive the point in. I had been adamantly against strollers, but come 6 months pregnant, carrying an almost 2yo up the hill in the Ergo with 20 pounds of groceries strapped on back, my resolve began to melt.

These days I look more or less like any mom. Like a real mom. Kids in the stroller, diaper bag bulging, unwashed hair flying everywhere. Life more or less completely folded around my littles.

I do sometimes long for those footloose days when I imagined what kind of mama I would be, imagined how I would be ‘different.’ Everything is possible in one’s imagination.

But I am becoming more and more comfortable with my place down here amongst the human people. Being a mom with a diaper bag. Thinking in scissors and paint. Finding delight in an old salt can. Being overrun by kids.

In fact on the days that I manage to surrender to my role, I sometimes find myself blissfully happy about the entirety of my mom-ness. Like some earthy Madonna, I feel full with motherhood. Peace descends from above. And it’s good.

Which above all is what catches me by surprise. I am mom. I am okay.

Screen Time for Ludites

You may have noticed I’ve been posting quite a lot lately, especially considering my ages ago decision to write only on Saturdays. Slowly, over the almost year since that cleansing fast, I’ve crawled back off the wagon into the deliciously wicked addiction of The Blogger. Oh, but isn’t it glorious down here in the dirt!

I have lately given myself reprieve though. After many months of fighting, not just the writing addiction, but also what I can only describe as an addiction to myself, I have given in. I survived a year of incredibly intense mothering, the lips above water kind. Now, things have evened out a bit. My job is still crazy hard, don’t get me wrong. But I am not losing my mind. My Man can sometimes look me in the eye when he gets home from work and still want to ask how my day was.

And as life has become more possible, survival more definite, I have found myself sometimes becoming bored. The typical desperate housewife syndrome I guess. Where is the me outside of the mother? What do I have to show for myself? Where is the space that is mine? All the same regular bullshit.

What of my grand epiphanies? My submission to the noble cause of motherhood, my neo-feminist punk housewifery? Wendell Berry’s pride of home economics; frugality and responsible action and the independent spirit; the garden, the kitchen, the homemade laundry soap? Kids swirling in my undertow, me the brave heroine, brandishing my homegrown parsley.

Despite all that very good stuff, I’m bored.

Fuck. I hate it when I find I am suffering from the same pedestrian maladies as the general population, which I apparently thought I was better than. But there it is.

I am not in my homeplace. In case you are new here, we are in New Orleans for My Man to go to school. Next year we’ll return to Alaska, our little blip of a town in the enormous maw of coastal wilderness. There I have much more to do, much more to focus on, much more that belongs to me. It is my element, the life I spent the other 32 of my years learning how to live. I wouldn’t say that I’ve been desperately homesick, in fact I’ve just recently started to feel homesick at all. This move has been wonderful in many ways and if life were rewound, I would choose it again unhesitantly.

But considering this is a time in life when women are classically groping for what of themselves is left after the tsunami of small children, being out of my homeplace is a bit extra extra.

I realized recently that, for better or for worse, writing has stepped into that place for me. Given me a thing to do that is mine own, and it’s no wonder I find it devilishly addictive.

I am a person who needs an all encompassing project, a kernal to fold my life around. I am happiest in the midst of an Obsession. And mothering… It’s all encompassing for certain, and my life is quite origami-ed around it. But it’s not like it’s my project. The work is very challenging on all levels, but the outcome does not belong to me.

I think that’s what we need as mamas, an outcome we can own. Maybe it’s self-indulgent. Maybe we would be better spending that time meditating, releasing our grip on ego, submitting to the universe. Not to belittle spiritual practice, but friends, if I couldn’t meditate in my 20s– alone in the woods— that shit just ain’t gonna happen with two kids under 5.

So. Outcome it is.

And with that in mind, I have lately given myself permission to write more.

Accepting that my obsessive alone habit involves staring at a computer screen has been hard enough. I spent the majority of my 20s living without electricity, quite passionately in fact. I am a Ludite by nature, skeptical of anything with a cord or battery pack, but especially scorning of what I consider The Era of the iBrain.

But if that’s hard to answer to, here’s the next question. Where do you think a mama of two littles can find the many hours required to indulge in an outcome based activity such as blogging? Some mornings I get 30 minutes or more in the wee hours to glom my face onto a screen, all alone in a quiet room. But other than that, I have to steal my time from my 4yo’s brain, by plugging her into her very own screen during the Babe’s nap.

Just typing that out hurt. Because unlike the more reasonable opinion of most parents, I do think that any little bit of screen time, on a regular basis, is bad for developing brains. I never, ever thought I would have kids who watched tv. I mean, we don’t actually have tv, we have dvds, so that cuts out my biggest beef– commercials. And of course I try to cherry pick from the enormous onslaught of hideously bad children’s programing. But, that still adds up to my daughter’s face slack jawed in front of a glowing screen.

For… (deep breath)… an average of… (deep breath)… 1.5 hours per day.

Wow, is that hard to admit.

I spent a long time fighting it. Really I’ve been fighting from the beginning– when I was 6 months pregnant, packing up our entire house for a move across country, and my MIL sent some childrens’ books on dvd which I found would hold the (no longer napping) 2yo in one place long enough that I could slide my eyes closed for 15 or 20 minutes. I fought it, but then– I did it. So, not a very strong fight I guess. The fight was all in my own heart, and has continued to wage right there. Her mid-day dvd watching became a daily thing and over time an almost unshakable habit, my internal wars notwithstanding.

What is the difference between submission and giving in? How do you know when to fight and when to let go?

This parenting job is tough, and I don’t believe our world is set up to support us right now. I want to choose some moral high ground, to make The Right Decision for my kids. I want to practice no compromise ethics. But this is not a single variable equation. If my girl stares at a screen for 1.5 hours of her day and has a happier mama for it, where is the moral high ground?

I am rolling over that old submission a lot lately, like a pea under my mattress. Sometimes I feel like I tried and failed to submit to motherhood. But really what happened is that I did it, and it really helped for some time, my hardest time. Now I have moved on, we are in a new phase. My job as mother is (perhaps imperceptibly) loosening, and I am looking around, taking a breath. There is a little space for me now, not much, and I can’t help but want to run in there and muscle it open. It’s intoxicating, and confusing.

If I were a better mother, perhaps I would take this opportunity to ween my 4yo off of the afternoon movie. We could spend that time on the floor inventing elaborate pretend play, and she would lap it up like a puppy. I wish I were that mother sometimes, that I could annihilate my ego, truly and absolutely. Become Budhamama.

But here I am, so very human. So very pedestrian. Instead of seeking motherhood nirvana, I think I will leave the housework undone and get in my own 1.5 hours a day.

Here’s to us humans.

Breathing Fire

I had a blessed epiphany sometime after my first born turned two. She was fantastically, dramatically two, down to the last detail, and it suddenly occurred to me that she and I were living shockingly parallel lives. We experienced pretty much the same angsts. We both felt completely marginalized. Our own lives were not under our own control, and we couldn’t stand it. Someone else made all the decisions, and we had to make do with whatever was left over.  Everything felt unbelievably intense. We were both attracted and repelled by the ones we loved best. We tried our damndest, yet still felt all our efforts to communicate landed on deaf ears. No one ever listened to us, no one cared. They just dragged us around through a day in a life we didn’t get to conduct.

Consequently, we both did a lot of screaming and crying and gnashing of teeth. My daughter’s fits were considerably more impressive than mine. I was often jealous of her fits and even strangely, vicariously sated by them.

Only, she was two. And I was 32. It doesn’t seem fair that I have matured so little in all those 30 years. Parenting has been a continual reminder of the fact that I’m really not so grown up as I like to think. I had always thought of My Man and I as pretty laid back folk. But since having kids, I have realized that we were really only laid back because we had constructed just the life we wanted, and got to make all our own decisions about everything. Denied the ability to make all my own decisions I discovered a part of myself I had hardly known.

Rage.

I never used to be a rageful person. I am the sad kind by nature, when the going gets tough I crawl into bed and cry. I had to listen to a lot of Ani DiFranco in my 20s, just to discover some requisite anger for survival.

But since I had kids, everything has changed. And I do mean everything.

Mostly I stifle my rage. Letting it out seems to makes things worse, my babies reflect what they feel from me in magnified detail, not to mention the flood of self-loathing afterwards. So I swallow it down like a double shot of turpentine. Gulp for air. Try to remain standing.

This stifled mama rage is almost an emblem of motherhood to me. The job is just so insanely hard, the ability to take vengeance so completely off limits. Some whole days have gone by in which I just kept swallowing. The feeling is indescribably clostrophobic.

Fortunately, I suspect I don’t need to describe it. Although it is rarely revealed in public, and almost never in the fantasized media we are all drowned by, I am quite certain that most mamas feel this poisonous rage. Some more than others, to be sure. The parenting books always cede to this by saying, ‘sometimes, every parent gets angry.’ Is that an attempt to assuage my guilt? ‘Sometimes?’ Seriously? Try every fucking day, and some days without ceasing.

Of course, that’s how it feels in the heat of the moment. I know it’s not really every day, and no day is really all rage. Nevertheless, I sure don’t feel like they pay heed to this extreme and extremely dangerous emotion of parenthood.

What are we supposed to do with our flaring bellies full of turpentine? Obviously, you can’t just keep swallowing that shit down, something’s gonna blow.

I don’t believe it’s good to hide anger from kids. They get angry themselves of course, and since they learn by emulating, they need to see us get angry so that they can learn how to be angry. They need to see us deal with our anger constructively. But that to me is where anger stops and rage begins. If I have myself enough under control to go outside and scream, or pummel a pillow, or otherwise model appropriate angry behavior, then there’s really not a problem.

Rage, on the other hand, is the feeling of being out of control. Which is exactly what a screaming fit is, only our two year olds are about 28 inches tall. Although I am continually surprised at how strong little people can be, they still look relatively innocuous when they are out of control. When you invert the situation– and their small bodies are faced with our enormous mama hurricane, all five foot eight and Kali arms everywhere, howling all the air out of the room– how truly terrifying.

I’m sure it is terrifying on a physical level, but more importantly, their tiny hearts and spirits are all wrapped up in ours. At the tender age of two or three, we are still the beginning and end for them. Their view of the world and themselves is through our lenses. It is worth everything that we give them the best possible view.

All this is to say that I absolutely believe that it is our responsibility to give our best self to our kids. Stop playing martyr and make whatever decisions it takes to be your best self. Circumventing mama rage does not start when the heat flares, it starts the day before when you feel yourself flagging, and muster the courage to ask your man for an hour alone.

But what of the rage when it does come? When you have done what you could do (or didn’t but it’s too late), after you have been the mama you never wanted to be and the wave of remorse drowns you, let it go. Accept yourself as you are and have been. Love yourself, just as you love your two year old, even in the midst of a 40 minute screaming fit. Forgive yourself when you storm and rage, just as you teach your three year old that she is not the sum of the mean words she uses. Believe in your own true, kind spirit, just as you explain to your daughter that she is not the emotions that pass through her, but the enduring beautiful soul beneath.

We cannot be the perfect parents. It is a strange kind of arrogance to feel you are falling short of such an ideal. We are human, and therefore a constant work in progress. Being 34, I am hopefully not even half finished. I am growing myself up. Swallowing the turpentine some days, breathing fire other days. Forgiving myself when I can.

A mama’s heart is splendid and fearsome. We are the all-encompassing force of the world. But underneath our storms and passions, we are still little girls, trying to love ourselves.

A Day for Mamas

Been busy today– making mulberry/strawberry jam, fixing the bike trailer, unpacking, cleaning, and writing for the zine. Lord! What you can get done in just half a day when yer all by yer lonesome!

No time to fit in a Mother’s Day post though, almost forgot about it altogether. But, here’s a re-post from last year.
It’s good. You’ll like it.

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from Open House for Butterflies by Marice Sendak and Ruth Krauss

My first mother’s day was a revelation.

As in– the heavens opened up, Somebody came through, and slapped my ass into line. Old testament style.

I had been looking forward to it as a day of rest and indulgence. A day off from all my hard mama work. A queen-for-the-day celebration of MeMeMe and all my amazing-ness. I thought I would lie down my Renaissance curves on the couch and someone would feed me grapes all day (or preferably coffee and chocolate.)

Yeah, I was asking for it.

My mom called early in the day, after I had finished up a morning alone in bed with coffee and a magazine, to wish me happy mother’s day. After we had both congratulated each other, and done all the catching up, she said,

“Well, enjoy your day with your beautiful little girl. You are so lucky to be a mama.”

And I was knocked flat.

Oh. Right. Mother’s day. Not a day to escape being a mother. A celebration of motherhood– all that I give, and all that I am given.

An old friend visited recently. She knows me about as good as anybody. On her last night in town, as I was finishing up a mama-bitch session, she asked whether there were any parts of mothering that I enjoyed.

Ouch!

Apparently I have not learned my lesson.

All I can say is, parenting is like nothing else. Nothing. It all starts with birth, and carries forth on a similarly mind-blowing level. It is so far beyond the hardest thing I ever imagined, and so far beyond the most joyful. It is truly intoxicating. To seed and grow new souls into the world– what greater privilege could there possibly be? What headier work?

Some days are blissful. My babies are vibrant budding souls and I am the model mama, mindful and nurturing.

Some days are the depths of hell. I writhe in confusion/disillusion/resentment/guilt/self-loathing until I have to go back to bed and pull the covers over my weeping eyes.

And we must take it all, like communion, with bowed head and downcast eyes. We are humbled before our babies, and ourselves; our gratitude and our responsibility. Humbled before our own power.

A couple of weeks ago, we were all standing in the kitchen, doing something utterly banal, I think I was pouring the Toddler juice. She looked up at me, and said, “You are a gate mama!” then turned to My Man and said, “You are a gate papa!”

Happy Mama Day to all you beautiful, hard-working, earnest-hearted mamas out there. In between the grapes, let us give thanks for the babies (and the papas) who make us what we are.

The Way He Walks

I don’t mean to be all dark clouds and dirty underneaths here at Apron Stringz. It’s not what I started out for. I was going to write a fun, punky DIY homemaking blog. Do happy things like document my worm bin and the line walked between it and motherhood.

But ever since becoming a mama, the ground has been shifting beneath me. I sometimes feel cheated, pissed that no one told me. How crazy hard it is. Not the specifics of it, but the balancing of it. The emotions of it. The submission of it, worn on my radical freak frame.

When I entered the blog world I was as moony as anyone else over the vicarious perfection of Other Peoples’ Lives, but after a few months the same disillusionment crept in.

I started writing about the tangled ball, the dark threads of mama. Not because I’m so very dark myself, but because darkness is so under-represented, and I do love to champion an underdog. To my surprise, each time I turned over some new ugly rock, comments poured in, reader numbers spiked. Posts about the worm bin went unread, because of course there are a thousand posts out there about worm bins.

C.S. Lewis said “We read to know we are not alone.” And nothing makes a person feel less alone than reading what they thought were there darkest most secret feelings, given voice by another soul.

And so I don’t regret what has become almost A Calling. But recently it occurred to me that by writing so much about the hard, tangly bits of motherhood, I’m giving just as warped a view as anyone else. If you read this blog, and don’t know me in person, I wonder what you must think. Do I go around in a rage all the time, swearing up a blue streak and throwing chairs?

In fact, I’m a very un-rageful person. Before I had kids, I hardly knew what rage was. Even now that I’ve discovered it, it’s not like I am consumed. I have also a shocking quantity of patience. Reserves I never conceived of. And that’s my whole point really, even the gentlest of us feel rage and that’s okay. Mothering is a test of how we deal with that rage.

One of the ways that I deal with it is to write about it here. I spill my darkest moments into the light of the internet partly to purge myself. Here is a safe space. No one gets hurt.

That’s all well and good. But I want to start sharing with you some of the goodnesses of my every day too. Because there is so much of it and leaving it out is a story half told. Even aside from the spiking bliss, the polarity of ecstasy to my darkness, I just a generally enjoy being a mama. It’s crazy hard, yes, but I am present with my kiddos for most of their waking life. I do understand how lucky I am. I get to watch them unfold into the people that they are, and there is nothing, nothing like it. A big, full bloom of succulent joy.

So today, I want to tell you about The Babe. Who’s hardly a babe anymore. He is in fact 19 months old. I too often compare him to his older sister since, opposite to most everyone else’s experience it seems, my second is not so very different than the first. But of course he is wholly his own. How very much his own he can be! In such a small sized bundle of cuddly pudge, such a completely full sized bundle of person-ness.

Often times when people talk about spirited children, “spirited” is code for difficult, or even for bad. I catch myself doing it, putting verbal quotations around the words I use for my kids. Yes, she’s very… “passionate.” Babies with opinions can be a challenge, there’s no doubt, and I can fall into the martyr role sometimes. But in truth I do really deep down adore their fiery independence busting through.

My Little Man is the second in line, no getting around it. And second to a real force of nature. But he holds his own, oh my does he. He busts through.

He has this walk. I guess maybe all toddlers do. He strides around like he owns the place. Belly first, full bore, the rest of his body bobbing back and forth to keep up. He is so eager to discover what lies in his kingdom.

I love his vivaciousness, his appetite for life. I love his fearlessness. Oh, of course he runs from big sounds like any one year old, but the tangled kind of fear I talked about in that last post he has not known. All possibilities are opened. His heart, clear. The world is his oyster.

I’ve often wondered at the cliché of “If only he could stay a baby forever!” These cliché people do not have babies like mine, to be sure. But more than that, from the moment of birth I have so looked forward to my babies’ growth. Not in an “I can’t wait till they get out of here so I can have my life back” kind of way, but in an “I can’t wait to see what sort of person he becomes” kind of way. Not that I don’t miss every little lost baby sweetness, I do. Who wouldn’t? But watching my babies become their very own grown up selves is incomparably worth it, worth anything.

I watch his eager, completely confident stride and see a kaleidoscope of him at every age. The rambunctious 5 year old, the outraged 17 year old, the footloose 23 year old, maybe even a papa someday, watching his own son stride around. He will grow into a man, all his own. He’s already on his way.

Look out world.

Survival Mode

We are hunkering down for the last few weeks of My Man’s semester. ie: Finals. Things have already been getting increasingly intense around here, but now we’re in it for real. I have curbed my expectations for papa to 1-2 hours/day. Nix on the Saturday=mama day business.

This last weekend I took the kids for a little trip, to give him some space to work on a paper. I have often found that trips aren’t any harder than being home if I don’t have help from papa at home anyway. Both our kiddos really thrive on newness, and it tends to keep them distracted from fussing.

But trips do of course take a certain kind of investment from me, a dive into mama-ness. Complete submission. And I’m afraid I just don’t have it in me right now. The weekend was okay. Won some, lost some. Might have added up to neutral if it weren’t for the packing and unpacking.

So, if I’m gonna stay here and be essentially a single mom for two weeks, I realized I need to batten the hatches. Stop unpacking boxes, even though I’m so close to done. Stop cooking anything but the most basic foods. Stop cleaning the house unless 1. we can’t walk or 2. we’re attracting cockroaches. Start taking more outings again, since they keep everybody happier. Especially to the Parenting Center, a local grant run place where I can really just sit and actually read a book while the kids play. A brilliant and sanity saving resource that all towns should have.

My main trick for survival mode:

Roll with it baby.

3YO’s eating store-bought cereal for lunch? Roll with it. Laundry still on the line 4 days later? Roll with it. Dust bunnies in every corner? Just kick some toys that direction so you don’t have to look at ’em.

Of course, there’s only so much rolling you can do. At some point I discovered that the house is an awfully lot faster to “tidy up” if I just go through with a laundry basket and put everything in it. It’s nice when the toys are somewhat organized, books all on one shelf, clothes in their own bin. But what the hell? Not like the kids can’t pull their toys out from the jumble when they want them. You can clean up a messy room in like 2.5 minutes if you just get down on the floor and throw all the shit into one basket.

Of course, a feisty 3YO can mess up a room in 0.5 minutes if all she has to do is upturn a laundry basket. Better put it on a high shelf.

And I can roll with it for lunch but a decent dinner I cannot let go. Doesn’t need to be fancy, just reasonably healthy. Starch, protein, vegetables. So many possibilites. Goat tacos tonight– fry burger, shred cabbage, heat tortillas, crack a jar of salsa. Dinner.

Hopefully I’ll still be writing posts over the next few weeks, since this has become one of my lifelines. But the new FB and HG groups will have to fend for themselves. Also, I doubt I’ll be answering comments for awhile. I was trying lately to respond to them more, since I do so adore comments and want to encourage y’all to speak up. But even though it seems simple enough, and there aren’t all that many of them, it takes me time to respond. Time that I could be writing another post, and have a much greater sense of accomplishment at the end. I need that sense of accomplishment.

I also really like the way writing posts makes my brain feel, compared to the other online stuff. Responding to comments is fun, chatting in the various chat hot spots, but all those things make me think and write in a choppy, disjointed, jumpy way. I don’t need help feeling disjointed.

Post writing gives me the space to see a thought through to the end, which is what is so sorely lacking in my life right now.

This all sounds so ominous, like I’m gearing up for a year in Paraguay. I guess I feel a bit like that. Two weeks is a long time to work 23/7. I just never can understand how you single mamas do it. Holy fuck.

What are your survival mode tricks?

Walking the Line

As I knew would happen, joining Facebook and starting the Apron Stringz page over at Homegrown has sparked a real computer bender. When I hit the start buttons for those groups, a little voice in my head screamed. But I did it anyway. I wanted to. I craved to.

Telling y’all about my struggles with the glowing box addiction is just silly. It’s like starting an AA meeting with a glass of champagne. “Here’s to a mostly dry week, friends!” But I do it anyway, because here is where I talk out all that kind of shit, and I know many of you struggle with the same balancing act.

The problem is, the more I use this cursed blessed WWW, the more I glue my eyes to the box, the less I want to do anything else. Particularly take care of two fussy little scraps. I start out by brushing them off like flies. Once the bender gets serious, I start heavy into the Mama Rage.

I get outrageously mad. I never had anger issues before I had kids, but here I am– the three headed hydra of rage again. And of course, being that mad at my sweet heart-of-hearts for simply needing my attention makes me downright depressed. Predictably, being depressed makes me stop cleaning the house, stop doing anything productive. Living in a disaster zone and feeling totally unproductive makes me more depressed. Being more depressed makes me want to veg out on the computer.

Ad infinitum.

Day before yesterday was a stupid, crap day. I got a sore throat from screaming “fuck” too long and hard. That’s no joke, and not the first time that’s happened to me either. I started a stupid crap post at the end of that day, but fortunately for all involved, I deleted it.

So, yesterday morning after a wicked seeming extension of the day before, I decided it was high time to pull myself together. No writing. Anywhere. All day.

I cleaned the house. I cooked, not just in survival mode, but some needed projects. I biked my kids to the zoo. I turned some dirt in the front garden bed. I cleaned more.

By the time I was setting the table for a nutritious yet savory dinner, including one thing I had grown myself, and one thing from the farmer’s market, I was feeling pretty good. ‘Look what I can do when I just knock that computer shit off!’ I said to myself proudly.

Then I realized. Other than about 40 minutes at nap time, when I cleaned instead of jumping onto the continually fascinating Homegrown discussion, where exactly had all that getting-shit-done time come from? Not from my self-restraint. No.

That time had come from the kids. They had just plain had a good day. The Babe had been happy. They had played sweetly. I had been able to stay home in the afternoon and get in some good work time, rather than having to escape the house in desperation with two fussy, fighting wildebeasts strapped into the stroller.

Oh, motherhood. The ups. The downs. My brain lags behind the actuality of change. Subconsciously I was still thinking we were in those Glory Days I wrote about in early February. And wondering why I wasn’t getting anything done.

How have I still not installed the fact of small children into my expectations? How can I still expect to be in control all the time? How can I still be getting down on myself when I fail to keep up with all the work which, haven’t I said myself, is not meant to be done by one person alone? Haven’t I read this damn blog?

Not to say that my computer addiction is a-okay. Of course if falling behind is what makes me feel crazy, then any time that I take away from catching-up is a problem. And what about the very real probability that my kiddos ‘good day’ was sparked by my own decision to just be mama for the day?

But it’s the confusion of the modern world, because doesn’t this writing feel good too? Doesn’t this help beat back the crazies?

Absolutely. That’s why I yanked myself up out of bed at 5:30 this morning so I could write this all out. Thanks for listening.

And now I’m going to go see if I can’t walk the line again. Another day, another load of laundry.

A Love Letter to New Mamas

Dear you,

I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately.

I’ve been thinking about how crazy our broken up lives are, all separate and sequestered behind our closed doors. I’ve been thinking about my first year as a mama, how isolated and confused I felt. And I’ve been thinking about you out there, alone behind your door.

The world you used to inhabit has fallen into pieces at your feet, like so many mismatched socks. The friends you used to spend days lazing in the sun with, plotting the overthrow of The Man or a hike in the mountains with equal fervor. The friends who now kindly tolerate the drastically downscaled walks, the baby fussing during potlucks, the constantly interrupted conversations. And then go back to their quiet, own homes and self-structured lives.

You try to explain what your life is like now. Why you feel so dragged out. But it always comes out like bitching.

You don’t mean to be bitching. About your tiny, beautiful unfurling flesh of flesh. If it’s difficult to explain how hard this new life has made your own, explaining the surge of devotion for it is all but impossible.

You search for a new friend. A mama. Someone who understands the caged feeling that strangles you daily, the guilt that crushes, the fury that lights in you sometimes like wildfire, and terrifies you no less. Someone who understands as well the spiking joy. The immeasurable sweetness of that tiny new soul birthed from your body, taking shape in the world. The quaking in your heart when she stares wide open into your eyes. The way her body yields to yours, trusts you entire.

Someone who understands the roller coaster that is your life.

But everyone else seems to be doing fine. The other moms have their shit together. They play with their kids, clean the house, make dinner, all with a smile. Don’t they? Or are you just recalling movie moms? I myself look back and try to count the moms I’ve actually known in my life, on a personal level.

Two.

Did they have babies when I knew them?

No.

You feel the rug ripping from under you, and wonder suddenly how you can be 30 years old and have no idea what babies or their mamas are like.

In your loneliness you look to the Wide World. You nurse your baby to sleep in your lap while staring into that glowing screen of possibility.

If real life is peopled by mamas who appear to be surviving so much better than you, the cyberworld is full of super-heroines. Blog after blog, written by cool, green mamas. They wake in the morning perky and fresh. They craft colorful happy things out of wool before the children wake up. They prepare healthful homemade breakfasts. They take their kids on walks in natural landscapes, which they photograph in macro. They sew their own cloth diapers. Make their own whole grain breads. That they never scream at their kids is a given. Never fight with their man about money. Never swear. Never forget their reusable cloth grocery bags.

These super-mamas are a curse and a blessing. You’re addicted to the fantasy they peddle. But, this is your first baby, you don’t know yet that it’s a fantasy. You think it’s just you that’s failing. Just you who screams at the baby at 2 AM to go the fuck to sleep. Just you who bread dough won’t rise for. Just you who can never for the life of you remember to bring the goddamned grocery bags.

I have three very important things to tell you, dear new mama.

1. It is fantasy. It’s a tale we blogstresses spin, for ourselves as much as anyone else. In the cyberworld you can choose your character. You can construct just the person you always wanted to be, and carefully photograph your proof. Anyone would want to show their best self to the world. To focus on the positive, turn toward their sweetness.
But the outcome of our selective presentation is that we all look to one another and see nothing like the tangled ball of dark threads inside our own secret heart. And the rift grows.
I call our bluffs! All of them! I speak brazenly for all bloggers, who carry closets full of everything. We are you. We try and fail daily, hourly. We are doing what we can with what we have.

2. The insanity eases. Motherhood is a slow stretching– of what you know to be true, of what you think yourself capable– and the beginning can be the most painful. No matter how much you think you might be drowning, you’ll be okay. You’ll make it. Babies grow. It will get easier.

3. Cut yourself some slack. A lot of slack. However much slack you need. If you are just now awakening to the green, DIY revolution in homemaking that I champion herein, cut yourself several extra fathoms. If you lived a passionately self-made life full of responsible action before, understand that you will slip– possibly all the way back down– for awhile. That’s okay. There’ll be time later to build or re-build. Babies need you so completely at first. Surrender yourself for now.

And in the meantime. Read all the inspiring, edited stories of mamas who kick ass. Enjoy them for what they are– a celebration of the good parts. Know that in private they fall short, several times a day. Just like you. They are discouraged and disillusioned and ravaged by guilt sometimes. They soar on the ecstasy of motherhood sometimes. They do it all with a smile. They say fuck the world from under the covers and order out pizza for dinner.

Their life is a roller coaster.

Our lives are a roller coaster.

Here’s your ticket.

Mardi Gras, Party of My Dreams

{{{This is a republish from last year. This year met every remembered expectation. I heart this New Orleans holiday.}}}
One of many costumed families wandering around downtown on Mardi Gras

I’ve just come back up for air after a major Mardi Gras takeover. Well, with my sister visiting too, there was lots to do and see. She was coming to the Big City from Small Town Alaska, and I know just how that is. I had to show her a good time. We ate loads of good food, including a food gorge/gasm at my fave funky, but fancy restaurant, Jacque Imo’s; chocolate croissants, berry brioche, Caribbean fried catfish with lime butter that changes my perspective on life, and lots more yummies at home. We took her to the aquarium and the zoo (we have a membership), every vintage shop within a five mile radius, and yes, we took in our very first Mardi Gras.

When we moved here I, like you, thought Mardi Gras was all tits and frat boys. Drunken revelry and mania. It had small appeal. All our neighbors and new friends tried to convince us that Mardi Gras was a family event, but we were a hard sell. We’d seen the news footage. Finally we’d heard it from enough people to sort of believe it. We got tentatively excited.

Let me tell you, it’s true! Wow. Much of Mardi Gras was so thoroughly family oriented that I found it kind of boring. The zillions (okay, 20 or 30, but still-!) of parades that lead up to Mardi Gras day consist of floats and marching bands. I mean, how many floats and marching bands can a person care about? I hate to sound jaded, but the floats were nothing compared with the floats we saw in Panama when we spent Carnivale there years ago. The big thing here is the throwing of beads, and small plush toys. Each float is lined with people hucking said items at the crowd. And no, again, family event,remember? No titties were bared, unless you count my poorly concealed nursing moments. They throw the beads to anyone and everyone, particularly cute kids, or anyone who jumps up and down screaming like a crazy person, which many folks do. I had trouble getting into the mood. A bit hard for an anti-consumer such as myself to get excited about a huge pile of cheap crap. Thank you little Chinese kids, working long hours in unsafe conditions. Now we’ll leave the fruits of your labor in dirty drifts across the streets of New Orleans, to choke birds and leach toxins.

That said, it is so thoroughly local to play this parade game, that I did try my best. We went to four parades. One of the big parades passes a block from our house, and that was cool ‘cuz it felt sort of like our parade.

But! Friends! This is in fact a love story!

After two weeks of trying to rally myself to get into the parade spirit, Fat Tuesday finally came. The day there was supposedly a big party of costumed revellers downtown. My sis and I are heavy into costuming, so we were really looking forward to this, had spent days getting our outfits together and making fabulous masks. I had heard about a parade from the Marigny to the French Quarter, called the Saint Anne’s Parade. A walking parade of anyone and everyone in costume. We wanted desperately to make this parade, thinking it might be our only chance to see awesome costumes. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any info online, in the paper, or anywhere else about where and when it was. Some kind of underground parade. Oooo la la, how alluring. We heard a rumor it was at 9 AM (the partying starts early on Mardi Gras day, strange, we thought) so we hauled our asses out of bed at 6 AM to get in costume and out the door by 8 AM, determined not to miss it.

Oh. My. Sweet. Jesus.

I am in love.

You might have heard me say those words before. Yes, I’m the kind of girl who falls frequently. But, this time. This is the one. Really.

For those of you who know me and my love of costuming, let me say this. These people put my efforts to shame, to SHAME!!!!!! My sis and I felt completely underdressed! But I don’t mean to say that I felt ashamed, oh no. Just awed, floored, and inspired.

But the fantastic quality and quantity of costumes, giant puppets, and bike floats was not even the best part. The best part, for me, was that it truly was a family event! There were kids everywhere, and old people too. All generations partying together. Not that it was G rated. Most of it was, but there were some PG-13s (including myself) and even a few Rs. But nothing to worry about.

The thing is, I love to party. Now by that I don’t mean, I love to get shit faced, do illegal substances, and have regrettable encounters with strangers. You may remember, I’m ahalf-beer girl. What I do love is dressing up and dancing my ass off. And I hadn’t realized how sad it makes me that that part of myself is made to feel disparate from my mama side.

Here is where this long diatribe comes to topic. Mama’s need to have fun. Mama’s shouldn’t feel like they’re being “bad” or even “marginal” mamas when they have a good time. So long as the kids are safe and having fun too, mama’s need to let loose! Of course, a supportive papa or otherwise partner is pretty handy here. But mostly what was making me feel stifled (other than no party to go to!) was a barely spoken societal disapproval.

Finally, I have found a place where I can be me, party mama. That’s me on the right. And yes, those are fake boobs. And no, I don’t see a single thing wrong with that.

 

The Glory Days

I hesitate to say my life is easy lately. I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea. I know there are some readers out there without kids and, no offense, but our standards are just different. I’m quite sure that if you spent the day with us, you would not consider it easy. But to you mamas out there, especially those with two little ones, I can safely say without fear of miscommunication that my life has gotten just a little bit easy lately.

Oh, there’s still screaming, daily. And plenty of long, drawn out nap fighting, and way too much night-sleep interrupting. And squabbling and pushing. Not to mention dinner to cook, diapers to wash, and my now endless list of things to clean.

But in between the squawks and squabbles, there are many moments of two little kids playing, happily. Sometimes they play for almost an hour, with practically no intervention. Giving me actual time to tackle that list. It’s glorious.

I mean, it’s great because I get time to get shit done, right? But what I really want to say is that it’s great because it’s great. I can work at my own project and every few minutes look over and watch them working at their projects. I can hardly get enough of seeing their little selves unfold. The ideas they get, the things they learn, the gears of their brains whirring. I get to be their mama! Here with them all day, every day, to witness this unfolding. I think often lately, “Oh, this is how it’s supposed to be!” The stuff of dreams.

For some strange and unfortunate reason, it’s much easier for me to write of hard times than good times. The gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair always sounds genuine. Everyone can relate. But it’s hard to write about joy and happiness without sounding cliche. Or maybe it just lacks a plot. No problem to solve? Boring.

Not to imply our life is problem free, by any stretch. It’s still really damn hard. So much to do, never any time with My Man, still tapping the bottom of my resevoir every single day. But not exceeding, that’s the difference. Having two littles has stretched me to previously unimagined dimensions. And I do feel like I’m still using all of that extra me. But now it feels like enough, life feels possible. I don’t feel like I’m mid-jump off a cliff with no parachute.

I think I’ve finally found the distance perspective, a hard-won and absolutely pivotal mothering tool. I can see how they’ve grown, how they’re going to keep growing. When you’re mid-jump like that, it doesn’t matter how many people tell you it’ll get easier soon enough. You listen and say, ‘mm-hmm’ and might believe it with your brain. But in your heart you know it will always be like this. Forever and ever, amen. Till the end of time, you will never get to sleep again, never get to crap all alone with the door shut, never get to cook dinner with both arms and all your legs, never be more than 15 feet from a poopy diaper, never get to wake up in the morning and ask yourself, ‘What would I like to do today?’

It’s not that I didn’t feel the impending loss of milky soft baby-hood. Somehow, even though I felt the hard times were here to stay, I was always acutely aware of how I would (if all goes as planned) never get to hold my very own, sweet flesh of flesh, tiny perfection of spirit again. This was the last time and I’d better goddamned enjoy every minute of it. Or else.

A few days ago I realized this is my blessed overlap. My glory days. I can see how they will grow and in a few years they won’t need me to do much more than feed them. But for now, they’re still babies really. There’s still time. I finally feel like I have the space and sliver of peace I need to step back, breath, watch, smile, and be the joyful and grateful mama I always wanted to be.

 

Off a Duck’s Back

Howdy friends, sorry to pop such a controversial and caustic article on you all in that last post and then disappear! It’s been a busy week here at Camp Mayhem, with short naps by the Babe. But I’ve been reading all your comments with great interest, and I have re-read Erica Jong’s article a few times, as well as the one written by her daughter. I am absolutely fascinated by both. I don’t have time to write fully all the things I’m thinking, but I did want to check in with a few thoughts.

I’m fascinated not just by the mothering content of her article– which I agree with and despise in turns– but by her writing itself, which is often pure doublespeak, and appears to invite offense and require agreement, by turns. I am not surprised that y’all came back with such a wide variety of comments. Jong offers such disparate information and opinions that you could come to a variety of conclusions about what the hell she’s trying to say. And it’s not as though she brings this variety to the table with an open and wondering heart. Like someone said in a comment, Jong’s definitely bitter about something, and her piece hits (me at least) like vengeance.

But as quick as she got my back up, she got me thinking about another compelling topic. Judgement and scorn beget judgement and scorn. We have to let the water run off our backs like good little ducks and remember that we’re all in this together and none of us know what the hell we are doing. According to her daughter’s brief biography of her, it doesn’t sound like Erica got much love as a kid (had she gotten a little AP when she needed it she might not sound so bitter right about now…) We all come from somewhere, and we do what we can with whatever we came with. She says some important stuff, and whether or not she really means them, we can still use what’s good, to the benefit of all.

I hope to have a more thorough response to her article sometime soon. Along with the finale to the cast iron series. And all my laundry cleaned, and the floors mopped, or even just swept. Hell, we can dream, right?

The Madness of Motherhood

Today is Saturday. My day off! It’s really just half a day, but enough time for me to gloriate in my garden and bring the computer to my favorite coffee shop for some writing. I feel blessed!

Mid way through the next and last installment of the cast iron cookery series, I got up to get more water for my tea. At the counter I happened to look over the headlines of the Wall Street Journal, not a typical activity for my eyes. Up in the top corner, where they put the “human interest” spots, I saw

Erica Jong on The Madness of Motherhood

Hmmm…  How juicy. To which of the madnesses could she be referring? Haven’t I heard of her before? Rather than pay for a Wall Street Journal, I looked it up online.

Wowza. This chic packs a punch. After the first waves of rage passed, I found her article and my reaction to it fascinating. Thought provoking. I’ve always liked to read extremists, on any side. If you are feeling up for getting yelled at to relax about parenting, go check it out. There’s some really true stuff, bound up into an argument who’s spoken point I can agree with wholeheartedly, but who’s underlying passion and adjenda are everything I write against.

Very interesting.

Discuss.

A Three Legged Stool with a Lot of Buts

Writing is weird. You know how when you wake up from an intense dream, and you are trying to relate it to someone, you find the dream itself changing as you put it into words? Because dreams and words just don’t really fit together.

Sometimes writing is like that. You can’t just sit down and let it all hang out. Even if it were possible to commit the true working of my mind to words, no one would want to read it. Too messy.

One thing I’ve really always hated about writing is that you are not supposed to contradict yourself. You are only allowed to bring in contradictory ideas if they are weak, so that you can systematically knock them flat. It’s all such bullshit. You have to act like you know The Answer. I remember in school having my essays marked up in red because I kept contradicting myself. The whole premise behind writing is to pick an opinion and then stick with it.

But what about genuine exploration? What if I have some ideas, and they sound good, but so do some other ideas. And anyway, everybody always wants a neat little package of Things That Go Together, explainable in a few simple paragraphs, because it’s a busy world don’t you know.

That last post, Submission, was a doozy. I knew it would be before I even touched the keyboard. It was long, and many of you apparently waded right through to the end, bless your hearts. Still, as long as it was, I cut a lot out in my effort to make it coherent. And a lot of what I cut were the buts.

I didn’t get any of the hate mail I feared I might with such a taboo subject. I guess you all either know me well enough or understood your own path to similar conclusions. Hopefully there’s no one with a shiny blog out there feeling silently wounded, because what is this anyway? And you know I’m prone to the macro lens myself. In fact the irony of that post was that, every hour I spent thinking and writing (and believe you me, we’re talking about a lot of hours!) was an hour not submitting to motherhood.

Well, that’s not exactly true because, here’s the buts I left out of that (consequently cohesive) post.

**But! By submitting to motherhood I don’t mean erasing every personal aspiration. We’ve been over that balancing act several times before. It’s important that your kids see you taking care of yourself. You have to keep doing the things you love, for everyone’s sake.  I dare say, making the time and energy for doing what you love makes you a better mother. But (can I have a but within a but?) it all comes back to the Alcoholics Anonymous ‘Serenity Prayer’ mentioned in an earlier post.

“Grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

The courage to change the things I can;

And the wisdom to know the difference.”

It’s a three legged stool. Won’t stand without all three. No cheating.

**But! If you were to quit everything that was you without kids, then at the very least, what the hell would you do in another five years, when you don’t need to be mama 24/7? In fact at some point in motherhood what you need to do is not be mama 24/7. At some point you’d better step back and trust that you have given those little nubbins all the skills they need to proceed on their own. And at that point, having something distracting to turn your attention to would sure be handy!

**But! Here’s one I don’t think I’ve rambled about yet– Submit, but don’t enclose.

By submitting to motherhood, I really don’t mean sit around and play leggos with your kids all day, in case you were worried. I have a strong opinion that although playing with your kids is awesome, and everyone should do it a little each day, kids need to feel like they are a part of a world going on around them, not the single starring role. The stereotypical American “submitted” mama is an imbalance that I don’t think is good for either mama or kid. If it’s kidkidkid all the time, then they will surely grow up thinking the world revolves around them. I believe that turning your energy towards the home, the kitchen, other people and the general maintenance of life for a good part of every day gives kids healthy expectations. I’d like to post more about this soon, because I do feel it’s a pitfall of home-parenting. Our culture is just not set up to have kids be a meaningful part of it.

**But! Everyone has there very own lesson to learn in life. I’ve known plenty of mamas who do not need to be told to submit. On the contrary, their personal lesson is to assert! Only you can know what you need.

And lastly–

**But! What the hell do I know anyway?

Submission

My one year anniversary for this blog came and went sometime in September. Looking over Apron Strings with a critical eye, I noticed my sidebar explanation is a bit… overzealous. Written from the vantage point of only one kid. Whilst I aspire to having my daily life be divided among ”digging dirt, tending vegetables, dumpster diving, punk sewing projects, making all our own bread, household fix-its, and salvage construction” I seem to be mainly (and occasionally entirely) overtaken by just the “raising up little ruffians.”

As I mulled over the feeling of shortcoming, I had an epiphany.

We neo-feminist punk housewives have started to bring back some respect for the lost arts of homemaking, but it suddenly hit me that even still we are leaving the most basic female art in a dusty corner, covered by a pile of moldering towels. Making and raising babies has not experienced any of the fad-ish comeback. Canning? Oh yeah, it’s hot. Baking, ditto. Knitting, don’t even get me started. There’s a blessed wealth of new energy in the sustainable living, urban homesteading fields. Thanks largely to Shannon Hayes, we can tentatively start to call ourselves homemakers in public again.

But you’d better have something to show for it. You’d better have your house littered with DIY projects and several kinds of ferments. You’d better have a big shiny blog detailing your obsessive late night crafting and cooking exploits.

What? You’re too busy peeling small people off your legs and circumventing disasters of flour and paint to can up that 20 lb box of farmer’s market peaches? How gouche. Get a babysitter.

Because really, raising babies into mature, adjusted, respectful, independant, happy people? Where’s the glory in that? Nothing to prove yourself at the end of the day. No beasts slain or monuments erected. It’s women’s work.

Suddenly the absurdity of it hit me. Sure I am bucking the social norm by forgoing the career world and choosing to make a home and a family instead, thereby honoring the female in my own neo-feminist way. But in the end I am buying right back into the patriarchal paradigm by disregarding the humbling and dirty mama work for more glorious objectives.

I am assuming the above paragraphs rings as true in your cultural ear. But, seriously? How in the hell did we get to think that birthing and raising human beings is anything short of monumental. Suppose there were a laboratory scientist who under microscope inseminated human eggs, grew fetuses in an artificial womb, then provided just the right environment for physical and mental growth into a mature human specimen. I can only suspect this would be lauded as the highest post in the scientific realm. Heady stuff. Playing God, it sounds.

But no. It’s just playing Mom.

Because birthing and raising kids is commonplace does not mean it is anything less than absolutely extraordinary work. The highest post in the human realm (to risk making enemies). Worthy not just of respect, but outright worship. And I don’t mean I expect anyone else to bow down, but that I myself need to bow down before my own power. Yank it out from under those dank towels and worship my mothering self.

Which brings me to the kernal my life has been folding around for the last year. What is worthy of worship is worthy of Submission.

We are not taught to respect submission. Domination, that’s our bag. But I will dare to speak against the grain again and say that we whatever-we-are kind of feminists might want to reconsider. Submission in it’s pure form, shed of the baggage of polar duality, is beautiful, useful, and essentially female.

Now, don’t get yer panties in a bunch. By “female” I don’t mean only for women, or that only women naturally submit. I mean that it is the female in all of us that submits, and the male in all of us that dominates. I think we are all of us twisted up combinations of male and female qualities.

Before I get off track, let me explain further what I mean by submission. Such a dangerous word merits definition.

Because I do not mean submission to a god, or submission to your husband, or father, or priest, or pope or any of that. I mean submission to your chosen path, a gracious yielding to something beyond self. It’s what marriage means to me, and why I wanted to be married. Submission not to My Man, but to the union of Us we have chosen to make. Submitting makes it so much easier. You can let go the constant questioning, the wondering, the judging. You can stop re-examining your relationship every time you have an argument and put that energy instead into solving the conflict.

I started ruminating on submission regarding motherhood when I was visiting with a friend back home. We were talking about a woman we both knew, a mama who has given herself over entirely to being a mama. I couldn’t help but feel disdain. My friend swore this woman was happy, blissful even. I narrowed my eyes,

“But don’t you think that in some secret dark part of herself she’s all locked up and screaming?”

“No. No, I really don’t.”

I felt blind-sided.

“Maybe that’s what true submission means. Really, actually, honestly letting go of all your shit.”

I’m still not convinced that some bitter poison of stifled self will not leach in later years. Nevertheless, this shard of possibility which rubbed so wrong at first has been gathering like a pearl ever since. I feel there is something I’m missing. A keyhole empty.

I have always harshly judged the chic, city “accessory mom” who wants kids because they look good with her Saturday leisure outfit, and certainly would never let parenting get in the way of her career. Yet at some point recently I realized that I had shockingly similar expectations, just with a drastically different looking “career.” I also expected child-raising to fit into the corners of my otherwise me life. I would just keep at my illustrious Woodsy DIY Career whilst my babies played quietly with sticks and rocks in the corner, right?

When the truthing point arrived three years ago, in the form of an angelic and opinionated infant, the hardest part for me was lowering my expectations of production. I understood I had to give some things up, but it was only through gritted teeth. I was relenting. I was not gracious.

Enter the second. A seeming clone of the first. Not the “easy second child” I’ve heard tell about. Another beautifully spirited, curious, passionate and yes, opinionated baby. It’s amazing how early their little opinions exert themselves on your world. Size is not relative, let me tell you.

Two kids is a world away from one. It’s almost hard for me to really get a mama of one now. They seem so spry, so peppy, like fireworks compared to the dragged out way I feel. I’ve heard that this close spacing will pay off later, but so far all I can say is that having a newborn and a two year old at the same time was complete insanity.

Submission in the loosest sense of the word is inevitable. There is no escape hatch, no side halls, and the ground you walk over disappears as you pass. The only way is forward. But the spirit with which you go is everything. No hour passes slower than an hour of gritted teeth. To resist with your mind what you are in body doing wastes precious energy.

I am continually surprised by how pregnancy and, especially, birth prepare us for motherhood. Did you read the hippie birthing books? Submission, man. It’s all about submission. I can’t remember if they actually use that word, but that’s the concept behind pages and volumes of birthing books. Fight the pain and the baby will stick in there like a barb. Let go your fear, release yourself into the pain.

This is of course a fuck of a lot harder than it sounds. And I’m not sure I did such a keen job of it, which might be why my first labor lasted for three days. Obviously this is my special little lesson.

In labor you learn, above all else, that you are capable of completely impossible shit. In fact, it seems impossible and then the pain doubles. And then doubles again. And then, if you’re like me, when it gets to the pushing part the double double impossible is suddenly dwarfed by a mind boggling infinity of un-fucking-believable.

Which is good in a way. Because you come out the other end understanding that you are capable of feats as yet un-dreamed. If you can push a baby out of your vagina, mothering is all downhill from there.

We can do it. It’s the hardest job I know, and maybe it doesn’t offer immediate and tangible rewards like the more glamorous homey arts. Maybe you have nothing to show for the end of another hardest day of your life. Nothing to tally, nothing to photograph in macro, nothing to blag about, but we’re making mother fucking people. Beat that sister.

Here, But Gone

As I suspected might happen, my vacation from the computer has left me wary. We got back Saturday night. Sunday I just luxuriated in being home, having a husband/papa, and not feeling edgy every time my kids fussed. It was bliss. By Monday morning I was all geared up for a splurgy computer blow out, I thought. Excited to read all of y’alls blog accumulation, and even get started on scribing down the Epic Saga that was our trip.

It didn’t take my little blogland fantasy long to get squashed. About 5 minutes in, when both kids started fussing, I remembered. Maybe I had just woken up on the wrong side of the bed. But my whole day got a sour start, and it wasn’t anyone’s fault really but my own. And this damn screen.

It’s the way it makes me into a junkie. I’m always looking for a way to sneak off and get high, and when I don’t get my fix I’m bitchy.

It’s not okay.

Being away–clean for three weeks– then delving for a moment back into it was the clarity I needed. I was a pretty great mama for those three weeks, if I do say so myself. I had some breakdowns, don’t get me wrong, but considering the circumstances, I was remarkably patient and compassionate. When my MamaRage rushed back in, second day home, I had to stop and think.

Partly I had been holding it all in, because true emotional response was not really an option on our trip. Somebody had to keep their shit together, and since I was 29 years the senior, I figured it had better be me.

But at least as important was the fact that I had accepted and submitted. I knew what I had to do, I knew there wouldn’t be time for Me. I was mentally and emotionally prepared for the task at hand. Once back home however, I went right back to thinking I ought to get something. It’s only fair.

We’ve been over this. It’s not that I don’t think mama’s should take time/energy for themselves. But I can tell you that this internet/blog world sucks my time up at an alarming rate. If I have an hour to myself, and I use to sniff blogs, my hour’s up in a blink and all I want is moremoremore.

The past few days I have instead read and tinkered in my precious morning time, and I feel so much more restored. 30 minutes of reading feels like a lot. 30 minutes of blogging feels like nothing.

Fear not. I am not swearing you off for all and always. I do truly enjoy writing and sharing with all you fabulous ladies (and winsome fellows), and I hope to keep it up. Maybe at a once every week or two rate. I think if I have a specific day that I am allowed to blog, I can keep myself in check.

We shall see.

The trip was great by the way, if ever so challenging. What a crazy bunch of work and stress, I’ll tell you about someday.

But for now– I need a vacation.

Keeping it Real and a Recipe for Playdough

In keeping with my general theme of authentic at all costs, I really had better clarify that yesterday’s post did not come out of a place of Sweetness.

Isn’t it always easier to find words for what you want to be, when you are in fact straying farthest from the path?

To be truthful, I have been having quite a time lately. Not exactly open-to-the-public blog material. Something along the lines of a mid-mama-life crisis. It’s been fairly dire. And yesterday after my pretty post about Sweetness, I spent the rest of the day decidedly turning away from it.

What I need to know is this. How do we strike the balance between putting our kiddos first, setting aside our selfish desires for Me-ness, but not becoming the bitchy martyr mama? Or worse, the empty black hole mama who has nothing left of her own to offer up anymore?

This is where I am stuck. I truly do not understand how to navigate this. I er on the bitchy martyr side, and I don’t like it one bit. As Joan Baez said, “A martyr’s a nuisance to live with at home.” Not to mention it feels icky to be.

I mean, really, as far as mama-hood goes, I am so lucky. I get a little time every day, and at least a few hours alone on the weekends. My Man is supportive and loving, and adores our kiddlets.

But I want more. More. It’s just never enough.

All the things that I did before, all the things that were important to me, are now relegated to just hobbies. A word that horrifies me. Now the central core of our life consists of just two things. Kids and money. I do the kids, My Man does the money. The things that I had wanted my life purposed towards, the things I had intended to blog about, are peripheral at best.

But then I am smacked down by my own hideous three headed hydra of guilt. Not even guilt exactly, but ….. remorse. I don’t want to be the kind of mama who is always trying to get away from my babies, who resents them for standing between me and The Things I Wanted To Do.

So.

I am trying. But bear in mind, voicing does not mean doing. I will have to leave “turning towards” for more hopeful times. Today I will be glad just to remember that I do have some sweetness. Somewhere in my tangled ball, there is a strand or two of mama who loves being mama, who is grateful and humbled by the opportunity to do such heady work. Who is joyful even.

And where does the playdough fit in, you might ask?

There are tools in mama’s apron. Things that, though seemingly mundane, can make a difference. Homemade playdough is one. It’s one little control you can turn over to your daughter, therefore empowering her to become her own soul in the world and lessening her need to exert her budding control elsewhere. Go ahead. Mix all the colors into rainbow sherbet, followed closely by brown. No big deal, there’s plenty more.

Note: There are some not-so-great homemade playdough recipes floating around our world. This one is not among them. It’s really good.

Playdough No One Has To Be Afraid Of

  • 6 cups flour
  • 3 cups salt
  • 3 Tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 6 cups water
  • 6 Tablespoons oil
  • food coloring

Bring water to a full rolling boil. Meanwhile, mix dry ingredients in a very big bowl, or stand mixer if you have one. When the water is boiling, stir it in slowly along with the oil (kids need to seriously back off for this part as the boiling water can be sloshy at first). This is hard to do with a wooden spoon, but you can do it– give it the strong arm! It’s easy in a stand mixer. When you can’t stir anymore turn out onto the counter and knead like bread dough until all the flour is incorporated (yes it will be hot, but not so hot to injure anyone at this point).

Divide into three or four pieces and knead in the colors, either by hand or with your mixer. I let the Toddler squeeze in the colors, which meant that looking away for a second resulted in an ever so indulgent red.

Buy the big sized bottles of food coloring, and big bags of cheap flour and salt. You’ll be making lots of playdough from now on.

Don’t forget to drop your grown up self just enough to enjoy a little squishy-color-goo too. Might I recommend a garlic press? Makes me laugh every time, no matter how far away my Sweetness seems.

 

Being The Mama

I’ve been reading Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Cohn in all my little available moments lately.

My head is a-swarm with thoughts, but one that really stuck out to me from his book was just a short paragraph where he talked about “being the parent,” as in not responding to your two year old’s behavior with two year old behavior. Remembering that we are the adults, and acting our age.

Of course this doesn’t mean not getting down on the floor and playing walruses. This means that when my Almost Three gnashes her teeth and screams at the top of her lungs for me to “Go away!!!” I have to do my best to resist the childish urge to say “Fine, have it your way. Goodbye. Nyah.” I have to be the grown up and quiet my heart and see that although she is screaming at me to go away, she is also clinging hard to my leg, and obviously needs me there. I have to look past the shrieking banshee to whatever fear and confusion is twisting her up. I have to swallow my hurt and my pride, and all my lifetime’s accumulation of my own fear baggage and be Big.

Ooof. Am I really up for this job? Being a mama is so much like birth. Just a drawn out, 18+ year birth. I don’t think I can do it. I had no idea it would be this hard. I had no idea anything could possibly be half this hard. I remember a line from the book Birthing From Within, something like, ‘It hurts like hell, it’s hard as hell, and you can do it.’ I always really liked that as a mantra. I like how it’s an ‘and,’ not a ‘but.’

No less useful for mama-ing, don’t need to change a single word. “It hurts like hell, it’s hard as hell, and I can do it.”

I’ve been really fixating on the idea that first we have to grow ourselves up. A friend has assured me that’s all we can do. Grow yourself up, kiddos will follow. Sounds sound.

Another thing Cohn has briefly touched on, which I think deserves much more attention is the fact that what you say matters, what you do matters even more, but what you truly feel trumps everything. Kids are intuitive little buggers. No lie is gonna get past their razor sharp sensors.

So, not only do you have to speak and demonstrate your unconditional love, compassion and affection for them, but you have to feel it. First.

You can’t make this shit up. You can’t say, “I love you and I know you’re having a hard time right now.” while secretely thinking, ‘You little toad, get off of my foot and stop that shrieking. What the hell’s the matter with you?”

Of course, you can’t just change how you feel, right? You can’t just say, ‘whoops, don’t feel that way, insert this more appropriate feeling.’ But here’s the thing I am reminding myself of, multiple times a day. We are all, not one thing or another, not the Bitch Mom or the Wholesome Mama, but everything all wound up together in a hopeless tangle of mama-ness. You don’t have to lie. You don’t have to obliviate anything.

Just turn towards your sweetness.

I am making a real effort in my days of late to Be The Parent, to take many, many breaths, to look past my own fear and hurt, to be Big and turn toward my sweetness.

Happy Mama Day!

from Open House for Butterflies by Marice Sendak and Ruth Krauss

My first mother’s day was a revelation.

As in– the heavens opened up, Somebody came through, and slapped my ass into line. Old testament style.

I had been looking forward to it as a day of rest and indulgence. A day off from all my hard mama work. A queen-for-the-day celebration of MeMeMe and all my amazing-ness. I thought I would lie down my Renaissance curves on the couch and someone would feed me grapes all day (or preferably coffee and chocolate.)

Yeah, I was asking for it.

My mom called early in the day, after I had finished up a morning alone in bed with coffee and a magazine, to wish me happy mother’s day. After we had both congratulated each other, and done all the catching up, she said,

“Well, enjoy your day with your beautiful little girl. You are so lucky to be a mama.”

And I was knocked flat.

Oh. Right. Mother’s day. Not a day to escape being a mother. A celebration of motherhood– all that I give, and all that I am given.

An old friend visited recently. She knows me about as good as anybody. On her last night in town, as I was finishing up a mama-bitch session, she asked whether there were any parts of mothering that I enjoyed.

Ouch!

Apparently I have not learned my lesson.

All I can say is, parenting is like nothing else. Nothing. It all starts with birth, and carries forth on a similarly mind-blowing level. It is so far beyond the hardest thing I ever imagined, and so far beyond the most joyful. It is truly intoxicating. To seed and grow new souls into the world– what greater privilege could there possibly be? What headier work?

Some days are blissful. My babies are vibrant budding souls and I am the model mama, mindful and nurturing.

Some days are the depths of hell. I writhe in confusion/disillusion/resentment/guilt/self-loathing until I have to go back to bed and pull the covers over my weeping eyes.

And we must take it all, like communion, with bowed head and downcast eyes. We are humbled before our babies, and ourselves; our gratitude and our responsibility. Humbled before our own power.

A couple of weeks ago, we were all standing in the kitchen, doing something utterly banal, I think I was pouring the Toddler juice. She looked up at me, and said, “You are a gate mama!” then turned to My Man and said, “You are a gate papa!”

Happy Mama Day to all you beautiful, hard-working, earnest-hearted mamas out there. In between the grapes, let us give thanks for the babies (and the papas) who make us what we are.