Disappearing Act

I was rereading my most recent post, from almost six months ago, and if I had only known then how my life would change, on the very next day…..

The day after that post, I found out that was (very unexpectedly) pregnant with my third child, a “surprise.” I was terrified.

In addition to that, on that very same day, other more personal changes occurred, and everything I had planned in my life crumbled in my hands. My Plan A dissolved. We weren’t even on Plan B, or Plan C. We found ourselves on Plan Z.

Suddenly, I had to shift goals and priorities. I had to work harder to rebuild and strengthen what my husband and I readily admit was a struggling marriage. I lost individuals in my life that I loved dearly. My future, my dreams of happiness, of returning to graduate school…everything changed. Nothing was what it used to be, and it only took 24 hours.

But, you know what? Even the darkest, most terrifying storms in our life can lead to renewed ground to stand upon.

For a while, I lost myself in the tempest of that storm. I forgot who I was, where I belonged, that I mattered. I felt ashamed of past decisions, loathed myself, felt myself overcome with bitterness, hurt, and anger. I was overwhelmed. I simply didn’t feel good enough.

But, this is where I am now, after the storm….

My husband and I are making changes and accomplishing goals that we never thought we could tackle together, at least not easily. It’s a long road, but we’re taking that road step by step, solid.

I’ve learned to let go of those who treat me poorly, who don’t have my best interests at heart, who don’t love me, who hurt and use me.

I’ve embraced the third chance I’ve been given to be a mother, and I’m anxiously awaiting the birth of another wonderful daughter, and all of the cuddles, the bonding, the sweetness that a new baby will bring into our lives (I’m still not a fan of the idea of sleep deprivation, but we’ll manage).

I’ve refocused on new priorities, and have centered my life around my family and home, and less on selfish pursuits.

I am (slowly) learning to forgive myself.

I’m bonding with my children in ways I never expected as they grow and learn every day. My four year old tells me every day, “You are my friend,” and I feel so blessed, so humbled, so inadequate.

I very nearly lost myself to the disappearing act of guilt, depression, and pain, and yet, here I am, having weathered the storms in my life, still on the path, finding my way, one day at a time….

Here’s hoping I stay on said path, and that I can fully find myself again.

 

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Back on the Path

It’s been so long since I’ve posted here.

I have a problem with goals and dreams. See, I throw myself into them, as a rule, almost to a fault. When I started this blog, and I saw (slight) success when it comes to interest and readership, suddenly I wanted to do ALLTHETHINGS. Everything from scratch, mending, making do, doing with less, all natural, all local. I wanted to turn the blog into a networked business–advertisements, product reviews, classes in the community, affiliate links, obsessing over Facebook likes and shares. ALL. THE. THINGS.

And you know what? I lost the joy for it. I became exhausted. I can’t do it all. I lost my therapeutic outlet, my desire to share my story, stumbles and all. This blog is supposed to be about my path to self-reliance and a more natural, simple life. Turning it into my obsession wasn’t me, and it wasn’t what it was supposed to be about.

In addition, there were struggles and adjustments in our personal lives as a family. My husband was laid off for six months. We both started new jobs. I switched from a part time job to a full time job which was a career change for me. I’m contemplating going back to school. I’m potty training a reluctant three year old. I’ve been reminded that marriage and parenting are really, really difficult jobs, and it’s not always easy navigating the challenges. I simply couldn’t do it all.

Some things I haven’t been as diligent in maintaining. Our finances still need work. I don’t have time to cook at home as often as I would like, and when I am home, I’m too tired to want to do it all from scratch. My house is an unorganized mess and is chaos. I’ve lost almost forty pounds due to a number of factors, but still find myself lacking a true workout regimen. Natural medicine and remedies have frequently given way to conventional treatments, so I’m trying to learn a balance there.

In other ways, I’m meeting goals and making changes. We still support as many small businesses as we can. We buy much of our meat and produce from local farms. I do exercise, even if it isn’t as consistent as it ought to be. We’re renewing our CSA this season. I feel like I am a more patient parent who yells less and tries to understand my little ones more and their motives and feelings. I still use natural skin care products when possible, still try to clean with healthier, less toxic alternatives when able. It’s a balance. I’d rather be consistent with a few things than fail at trying to do it all.

And there are the victories. I have been under the weather for a week or so, and we still managed to go strawberry picking as a family for 45 minutes, and ten pounds of berries later….. These are the moments that matter. It’s the little things and moments that add up to a true lifestyle change, and not obsession and extremism.

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What Falls By the Wayside

So, if you asked me what my goals were as of, say, a year ago, they would have sounded something like this:

–Get out of debt, and spend as little as possible.

–Eat healthier, consume more “real foods” and less processed junk.

–Eat in more and buy take out less often.

–Learn to fix, to mend, to do more from scratch.

–Figure out a cleaning routine and organize all of the chaos that is the clutter in my house.

–Be more patient with my little ones.

–Figure out what I truly believe in (I’m in a bit of a religious/spiritual crisis, if you will).

–Pottytrain my toddler.

Yeah, so these things aren’t going so well.

This wannabe homesteader, do-gooder, “simplify, simplify” sort of mama has gone off the rails a little bit between working more than I am used to with little ones in the home, plus trying to support a husband through a months-long job loss.

“Get out of debt?” Ha. I’m happy that we haven’t accumulated more than a small amount of new debt since the lay-off. In fact, I’m simply content to get the bills paid. And trust me, when we do have a little extra money, that shopping twitch that I have suffered from my whole life turns into a hellacious urge, and I then find myself knowing all of the cashiers at TJ Maxx on a first name basis.

Eating healthier and cooking more meals at home is a joke, too. On one hand, we keep a fair amount of fruits and veggies in house, but it’s simply finding the time, and the energy, to do anything with them. I mean, seriously, do I really want to make pesto from scratch, or slice countless veggies, or cook ANYTHING after a long day at work, when the pizza guy totally delivers?

Fixing things and learning how to do things from scratch? Again, time and energy.

My cleaning and organizational routine is still having our housekeeper on speed dial. That is another expense I have refused to cut.

My patience with my little ones has increased only because I have mastered the art of bribery. See, I’ve always been a big believer in bribes (“bwibery” was one of my son’s first words, and I am NOT kidding), but I find myself offering up Skittles and Peanut Butter M&Ms just to get the adorable little boogers into bed at a halfway decent hour. When in doubt, negotiate–that seems to be this #1 mom’s M.O. of late, and it’s worked, for the most part.

I don’t even know where to begin with spirituality and religion. It’s hard to even find faith in much of anything when your hard working husband was let go from a job he was devoted to for years because of some gluttonous, foolhardy corporation’s bottom line.

And pottytraining my toddler? Let’s just say that bribery doesn’t work with someone who thinks it’s AOK to play in cat litter, who only answers to the siren song of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and who is firmly convinced that the potty is a hat. NOT. GOING. WELL.

And I don’t even know what to say, really, about any of it. I don’t know whether to be frustrated with myself for basically starting our lives over again from scratch (because little in our lives right now is stable or totally secure), or whether to say the hell with it and that this is entirely normal. Someone, somewhere is going to read this and think that these things are just so easy, and even easier to do or learn when your family goes down to one part-time income (“Well, this is the perfect time to learn to do such and such, to figure out how to spend less, etc.”). The thing is, it’s not. Each of those little goals of mine has become all the more difficult. I thought a job loss would propel me to a more simple life by default, but it’s just made everything all that much harder. I’m too tired, too worn out, too stressed, and sometimes, honestly, too apathetic. Feeding the kids Crazy Bread with their pizza dinner, and calling a housekeeper once a week falls into the “pick my battles” realm–is it worth adding more stress to worry about each “mistake” I make, or is it better to eliminate what stress I can, even if it means diving into processed foods and putting aside goals?

One thing I’m doing well in is finding a workout routine. I’ve never been much into formal exercise, even if I have tried repeatedly and failed, but this summer, I’ve found a system, a routine, and a schedule that works for me, and I’m shedding pounds, between that and the lack of appetite (stress related, I’m sure). So there’s one thing I’m doing kinda okay with, in spite of myself.

Everyone’s gotta do one thing well, right?

 

Trading “American Girl” for American Farm

I’m one of those mothers who unfortunately has the fault of chronically comparing herself to other mothers. And in our quest to get out of debt and to live a simpler life, I find myself questioning my decisions involving my children even more.

We cut the cable cord over a year ago–we do have a few channels still, due to a digital tuner–but avoiding the bombardment of incessant commercials telling me what we supposedly need and apparently lack is totally worth it. I don’t have children who ask for the latest and greatest toys, gadgets, processed foods, or whatever else is being sold and packaged in bright, neon colors and advertised with flashy commercials and ever-present advertising.

However, I am on Facebook. I do utilize social media. So, it’s easy to see the green grass on the other side. At Christmas, I see children with smartphones, and American Girl dolls, and tablets, and piles of clothing, and expensive shoes, and shiny presents with gigantic bows that fill entire rooms. I know that my Kindergarten-aged son’s friends have video game consoles, the latest toys, their own electronic gadgets. I know this, and it worries me. For now, my son seems oblivious, but sooner or later, he will start asking why we don’t buy presents on the level of So-and-So’s family, or why he can’t have a smartphone when he’s eight years old. I feel it is inevitable. Someday, his little sister will want Barbies, and even more expensive dolls, and more toys, and what her friends have.

And, sometimes, I question my decisions–is it wrong to deny them a grandiose Christmas? Should I make presents more of a priority? Don’t I care whether or not they will be made fun of in school? Is our goal of a self-reliant life going to set them up for bullying later on?

Today, our family attended a Maple Tree Tapping class at a local farm. And as I watched my children marvel at baby goats, as they chased chickens while trying to feed them organically grown soybeans harvested from the farm, as my son learned that maple syrup doesn’t come from a cute glass jar at the grocery store…during those moments, and on this rare occasion, I feel like I’m doing something right…..

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“Kee-koos” and “Doe-wees”

When my son was eighteen months, maybe two years old, he didn’t talk much. I mean, no two year old does, really, but he had an especially limited vocabulary.

Yet, one word he did know was “cookie,” though he didn’t quite say it that way. To him, for months on end, “cookie” was “kee-koo.” He’d walk up to you with the sweetest expression and would quietly ask for “kee-koo?” It always had the inflection of a question, even when it wasn’t used in that capacity.

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When he attended speech therapy, I even asked the therapist if we could hold off working on “cookie” for a while because I knew that some day, sooner or later, the baby-magic of “kee-koo” would be a thing of the past. And, let’s be honest, we mothers sometimes selfishly want to hold onto those precious baby moments just a little while longer. (The therapist also allowed “ba-dockedy” to stay…….his word for “broccoli.”)

Now that he is six and far past his “kee-koo” days, I find myself watching his sister, who has never met a storybook she didn’t like (coloring books with pages that can be torn out are a different matter). She is my “baby bookworm,” and she loves a story or seven every time she takes a nap or goes to bed. She walks up to you with these big, baby blue, puppy dog eyes, and asks, in her little toddler voice, “Doe-wee?” (Of course, if you don’t oblige her within 2.4 seconds, she yells “DOE-WEE!” and throws the book at you, so it’s not 100% innocent.)

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(Rotten much?)

Much like “kee-koo” before it, my heart melts at “doe-wee,” and I know there will be a day when, not only “doe-wee” will end, but she will no longer want her mama to read her a story.

These moments are all too fleeting–downy baby fuzz, chubby little diapered legs, babbles and coos, uncertain steps, first words and foods and experiences. I’d like to be able to hold my babies and keep them little forever, but I know I can’t. No one can. All I can do is relish “doe-wees” and take the chances I can to appreciate them and have them while I still can, while they let me.

(NOTE: Grandparents took these photographs. I cannot claim credit for the pictures, though I take credit for my cute kiddos in them!)

A Month of Gratitude, #20-22

I am feeling grateful for many things this evening, so I am looking forward to writing this entry. Lately, it has been a bit of a chore to sit down and ponder what I am thankful for because, well, I suppose we all have our mopey, gray months, and November is one of mine, due to the weather change, the stress of the impending holidays, etc. However, I think it’s times like these when it is the most necessary to count our blessings because it helps to save us from drowning in our own self-pity and miseries.
So, tonight, I am grateful for:
20) The willingness of others to serve and assist me when I am in need of help. Whether it is my mother in law who constantly helps me with my children when I am overwhelmed or need a break, or my husband carrying in load upon load of groceries from the van to the house in the freezing rain without complaint, or our housekeeper who keeps her rates low and always does more than we ask of her–I am grateful for their generosity.
21) The clearance shelves in our grocery store’s organic/natural foods department. I am able to stockpile organic canned goods, healthy cereals and snacks, natural cleaners, and many other things we otherwise couldn’t afford, thanks to this little known area of my grocery store. It is important to me to try to feed my family higher quality foods, so I am grateful when, for example, I can find organic canned baked beans for 70 cents a can (and which now reside in my food storage).
22) The artwork my son brings home for me every day from Kindergarten. They provide warmth for my soul, and color to my refrigerator’s door. 🙂

Before and After, or, Alternately Titled, a Mother’s Descent into Insanity

In a Facebook group, a group of mamas were discussing the fact that we often find ourselves fighting back tears when we look at baby pictures of our children, wondering where the months and the years have gone.

I present to you, the before:

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And now, the after shots:

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Yup, I have shed more than a few tears over these two darlings.

And that is what makes evenings like tonight even worse. Because, no matter how much I love them, there are some days and nights where the screaming is too much and too constant, the temper tantrums are too loud and too long, the demands are too frequent and too insane, and I’m left wondering what hell-bent demon has possessed my children, and whether I’ll ever be able to poop in peace again without having tampons thrown at me by human beings under four feet tall.

Some days, I want to quit, run away, and honestly, I feel like I am simply going to fall apart and lose the last of the fraying strings that are holding me together.

It’s a rough feeling as a mother, balancing the aching love you have for your children, as well as the moments where you simply want to flee and head for the hills. It’s enough to make you feel like the worst parent imaginable–you feel like everyone has it together more than you, and that you must be the only mother who has ever wanted to get away from it all for a while.

We survive. We manage. We get teary eyed looking at the baby pictures again a couple hours later. But, I find myself still feeling guilty for losing my cool, becoming frustrated and lost.

I have to remind myself of something I read online about parenthood–Of course we’re going to lose our sh*t when it comes to our kids every now and again. After all, if an adult pulled the same crap with us that our kids pull, they’d be in prison in a heartbeat.

And we put up with it out of our children, and we love them immensely anyway.