Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How Many More Days Till August 22nd?

It's official. Two of our three "school age" kids are out for the summer, and the debauchery is already in full swing. Finding the motivation to get up and get going the past two mornings has proved challenging, but we still have a kindergartner in school well into the month of June. Breakfasts have been a hodge podge of items, and this morning's spread consisted of bagels, scrambled eggs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Gogurt, and applesauce. Hudson, Lawson, and Scout were loaded in the van in PJs and allowed to rock some nasty morning breath. Poor Cam was decked out in his school uniform, wearing tied shoes and buckled belt, and sporting a mouth full of freshly scrubbed pearly whites.

After dropping a slightly dejected Camden off at school, the rest of the Jones family slackers skulked back home to see what we could accomplish. So far our list of accomplishments is depressingly short. Well, let me clarify that statement. My list of accomplishments is short. So far I have managed to put Scout down for a nap, drink a cup of coffee, and talk myself out a Mommy Hulk moment. Several Mommy Hulk moments.

Now, Hudson and Lawson's accomplishments are quite noteworthy. So far they have wrestled, run through the house yelling, convinced me to let them watch Spider Man 2 instead of Dinosaur Train, and last but not least, DESTROYED my bed. My comforter and arsenal of pillows are on the floor in a pile, and they have occupied themselves for the last hour by alternating trying to suffocate each other and seeing who can stick the landing of their acrobatic jumps off my bed. My blood pressure and anxiety levels are up, and to prevent a serious case of PMS (Pissy Mom Syndrome), I finally decided to walk out of the room and shut the door.

Scout's low-grade fever and hacking cough will prevent me from escaping to my exercise class today (how do moms with no stress outlet survive?), but the guilt I feel from looking at four loads of unfolded clean laundry would have kept me in the house if Scout hadn't given me a better excuse. It's time to rally and at least pretend to live up to the title of "domestic goddess" (though most days I think "domestic disaster" is more appropriate) no matter how tempting it is to lock myself in a closet and count off the days until school is back in session.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Yes I Can! Yes I Can!

Anyone who knows me well knows I LOVE The Nutty Professor. I work a Nutty Professor quote into casual conversation whenever possible. When my bestie Amy was in labor with her first little dude, I tried to make her laugh between contractions by doing my best Sherman Klump/Buddy Love impersonation and pulling out the most crass tidbits I could call to memory (I'll stick this in the crack o' yo' ass!). Of course I'm fairly certain I mainly succeeded in offending her mom (I love you, Ms. Pat) and causing her dad to snicker in silence and shake his head at his daughter's inappropriate friend. But hey, I gave myself a good laugh, and that always counts for something.

Now, when the average viewer watches The Nutty Professor, he or she may find it to be your stereotypical slapstick Eddie Murphy classic. But as Rafiki from The Lion King says, "look harder." The Nutty Professor has tons of heart beneath all of its hilarious, timeless fart jokes. Its message to persevere despite the most overwhelming of challenges gets me every time. In fact, the blog title is inspired by one of the pep talks Sherman Klump gives himself about battling the bulge. I've been giving myself similar pep talks about a variety of things for many years.

Jason and I have decided to try and run Savannah's Rock and Roll Half Marathon in November. I think I must be crazy. I have degenerative disc disease, arthritis in my hips and feet, four kids, and the lack of bladder control to prove it. Yep, I'm owning that one all you fellow mommies, despite the embarrassment it takes to admit it. Yet for some reason I hear Sherman Klump's voice in my head saying, "yes, you can, Molly. Yes, you can."

I started training two weeks ago and ran my first mile. Ever. Since then I've sweated my ass off five days a week stepping, running, jumping rope, jumping jacks, and praying to God in heaven I don't throw my back out, pee on the floor, or lose my motivation to achieve my goal. The other two days of the week I'm in a two hour yoga class stretching and strengthening my core in an effort to combat the shin splints I already feel coming and to make sure my abs are strong enough to hold me in place when my feet go numb halfway through my cross-training class. I am determined to do something amazing for myself.

At one point while I was trying to bring Scout into the world, I remember thinking I was just going to quit. I wondered what would happen if I just stopped. Stopped trying to push through the indescribably painful contractions that two failed epidurals couldn't prevent, stopped listening to my friends urging me on, stopped trying to obey the nurse's order to quit screaming and use my energy to push, stopped looking at Spaceballs playing on the TV every time I lifted my body to curl around my gigantic planet of a belly. I don't really know what happens when laboring, exhausted moms refuse to cooperate, but I do know my beautiful little Scout was so worth every ounce of commitment I put into getting her here. After I held her for the first time, I remember thinking, "I'm kind of a bad ass. I just had a nine pound baby with no epidural."

So I can't give up. Because when I finish 13.1 miles in November, I want to be able to say "I'm kind of a bad ass" one more time. I'm going to attempt to run three miles this Saturday, and that's something I never thought I would be able to even consider doing. I'll need all the support and encouragement anyone can offer because I know I'll want to quit when it's 100 degrees outside and the gnats are setting up shop in my hair and ears. Sherman Klump will be in the back of my head the whole way, and just when I think I can't run another step, I hope I'll picture his momma clapping her hands and saying "Hercules! Hercules!"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hot Mess Moms

My friend Tara and I were talking yesterday, and she expressed frustration over her new found Mommy Brain and why it won't just go back to normal. She recently had her first baby, and I've been so excited to get to know her as a mom after eleven years of friendship and countless shared experiences. She specifically mentioned her inability to focus on just one room while cleaning, and if I could have come through the phone to hug her, I would have. She validated six years of personal frustration in one single sentence.

How many of you moms have noticed you can't remember ANYTHING anymore? Not even what room you were cleaning before you walked into another room to put something away. I'll start in the kitchen, which unfortunately is where all of our random crap goes to hang out and socialize. In an effort to put things in their places, I'll walk to my bedroom to put away one shoe that has lost its way en route to the closet, and suddenly I'm completely overwhelmed and distracted by the state of affairs in my closet. Cue frantic and compulsive attempts to organize said closet until I'm suddenly interrupted by a crying baby or a raucous fight between two or more Jones boys. As official baby whisperer and head referee of the home, I soothe crying baby and/or establish peace between sparring brothers only to look down in horror at the state of the playroom.

The playroom is frantically picked up (which is really so pointless until bedtime), and by the time I've moved on to putting away laundry, someone is screeching about being hungry and has taken it upon himself to hijack the bag of Goldfish and tear their way through it on the carpet of the playroom. Call in the dog to eat the crumbs and then break out the vacuum cleaner to suck up the ensuing tumbleweeds of dog hair. Back to laundry until the alarm sounds to remind me it's time to pick Camden up from school. Sit in the carpool line for half an hour and wait for the real fun to begin (which it does the second the oldest joins the mayhem). By the end of the day, no one room in the house is completely clean, I'm a frazzled mess without a firm sense of accomplishment, AND I'm out of Goldfish. And I've got to get up tomorrow and do it all over again.

Today one of my friend's Facebook status updates is "sometimes laughing at yourself is the best option." Perfect. I would only go so far as to say that laughing at yourself is always the best option. Jason may not find it quite as amusing as I do that I forgot to load the clothes in the dryer (especially when he reaches into the drawer to pull out clean underoos and finds none), but hey, it's life. It's messier than I thought it would be, but just for clarification, I can always find a pair of clean undies for him hiding somewhere. (I would hate for you guys to feel like I've got him creeping around in dirty drawers.)

There is color and humor all around, even when Mommy Brain threatens to turn everything disconcerting shades of gray or brown. Even when you can only see the humor after the kids are asleep and you've had a glass of wine or two. Laugh. At yourself, at your friends, at your kids (well, sometimes it's best to do this in private in an effort to preserve their little self-esteems), at your husband when he's flustered, sometimes at the ridiculous and seemingly insurmountable state of affairs in your life. I'm often surprised to find it's possible to laugh your way right out of a bad mood or to help someone else do the same. When the laughter won't come, let the tears do their job. They're pretty close relatives when you think about it, and both are incredible gifts from God to give us ways of expressing our joy or pain when words just can't do the trick.

Today I charge you to do what a great mommy friend charged me to do just this morning. Admit being a hot mess mom and love yourself for it. Maybe Mommy Brain is meant to distract us from the mundane tasks of organizing closets and encourage us to embrace something as simple as trying to follow the hilarious conversations of our kids. That's better than vacuuming any day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Owning Your Mommy Mess-ups

This morning I sat in a room with MOPS mommies I didn't know at all when I walked into my first meeting last summer unsure what to expect. More than providing a ministry that reaches out to moms, MOPS has provided a forum for women to open their eyes to the fact that the "perfect mom" is an illusion.

This principle is applicable not just at my MOPS group, but in the community of moms at large. In getting to know the women on this island, I've received the gift of their insight on so many things. I've also been able to listen to their perceptions of me as a mom even before they knew me on a personal level. Our community is small, so many of the moms I now call friends were in the backdrop of my life at the YMCA pool, the soccer field, or the grocery store. My friend Meghan recalls thinking I was a patient mom as she watched me attempt to manage three boys in the same swim lessons class while juggling six-month-old Scout last summer. This six day period of torture was probably one of the least fun things I did last year, and I remember thinking I was an epic failure at the swim lessons gig. It's so funny to hear her perception of me when my perception of myself was so negative.

We're hardest on ourselves for so many reasons--fear of making the same mistakes our parents made, fear of alienating our children, fear of damaging their self-esteems. But here's the thing. Every mom feels this way. Every. Single. One. We all worry we're not good enough for our kids, and we all make some super duper stupid blunders as we navigate the bumpy terrain of parenthood. Would you like to hear some of my own slip-ups? They're classic and guaranteed to make you feel better about yourselves.

  • Six months ago Lawson climbed onto a shelf in a store to hide when my back was turned, and we had to endure a Code Adam while they locked everything down to find him.
  • Three out of four of my children have rolled off my bed--some more than once.
  • I once got so pissed at Camden for screaming at his brothers that I told him to shut up. 
  •  Lawson tumbled down a flight of stairs when he was eighteen months old because Jason and I didn't effectively communicate who was watching him.
  • I can't remember Hudson's first words because I was too busy trying to take care of a toddler while pregnant with my third baby in three years.
  • We once had two boys get CT scans for falls within three days of each other. (I braced myself for the DFACS visit that never came when that happened.)
  • Sometimes I have to tell Camden to stop talking so much in order to preserve my sanity.
  • I once fed the kids cookies for breakfast and Goldfish for lunch (on the same day) to avoid taking all four to the grocery store.
  • I don't know how to appropriately communicate to Lawson that he has to stop touching my boobs.
  • Hudson's incessant emotional outbursts drive me so close to the brink of lunacy that I'm practically incapable of responding positively when they occur.
Aanndddd......breathe. Ah. It feels good to get that off my chest. Believe me, the list goes on and on and on. We try our best, but no one is capable of being at their 100% best every single waking moment of the day. Mistakes are inevitable. We have to own them, sometimes laugh at them, learn from them, and share them with other moms who feel they're sucking up the one job they want to be the best at. Knowing I'm not alone is essential for me to grow from my mistakes and sometimes even to understand that what I perceive to be mistakes are just every day normal life events. Loving your kids and communicating your love as much as possible is essential, and my guess is we all give this goal our best shot 24/7 even when we feel like we fall short in other areas.

Perfect mommies? Overrated. Every kid will need some parental shortcoming to discuss with their therapists later in life. I've started admitting to my kids when I make a mistake and apologizing when I feel like an "I'm sorry" is warranted. I figure they'll either appreciate my honesty and toss out their own ideas of perfection, or they'll worry over my apparent incompetence and use my blunders as ammunition against me when they're surly, rebellious teenagers. Let's hope it's the former.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Loving Ourselves is the Hard Part

Why is it that we as parents often take care of ourselves last? Why can't we be smart enough to remember happy parents equal happy kids? Instead we throw our energy into brushing little teeth, packing lunches, chaperoning field trips, and chauffeuring to baseball practice, telling ourselves all the while the money for our much-needed haircut is better spent on the kids or the few extra minutes in our day have to be spent folding laundry in order for the world to continue spinning on its axis.

My last haircut was at MOPS Spa Day last October. It was free and fabulous, but since then I've neglected to budget the time or money to have my split ends shaped up. And believe me they're screaming for help. I convinced Jason several months ago (after many years of pleading) to grow out his beautiful, dark, wavy hair. He's got that great McDreamy hair, and I've loved running my fingers through it since he agreed to "just say no" to scissors and clippers. However, he has risen the past few mornings looking more Chia Pet than Patrick Dempsey and as a result, I finally concurred he at least needs a shape-up. I'm thinking it's time I made the effort to schedule my own haircut because I seem to remember even the slightest of trims does a lot to boost self-esteem and keep away bad hair days. We women understand the irrational turmoil and havoc a bad hair day can wreak even when our men puzzle and scratch their heads over our tearful meltdowns and dodge the hairbrushes we toss away in frustration.

I digress, but my point is loving ourselves is hard. More than just finding time for yoga or budgeting money for the the good face moisturizer, committing to the relationships we have with ourselves can feel far more daunting than loving the people in our lives unconditionally. When I was twenty years old, I suffered a debilitating bout of depression that left me a shell of myself. It was not the first time in my life I had suffered such overwhelming emptiness, but this time I lost twenty pounds and any desire for happiness or pleasure at a time when I should have been discovering who I was and who I wanted to become. My dad and friends pushed me to seek help, and I fought them with every ounce of what little energy I had. I knew I wanted a different kind of life for myself, but I was so afraid to revisit the pain of my childhood. It was hard to look inside myself because I knew there was a very strong possibility I wasn't going to like who I saw. My pain was what I built my sense of self around for many years, and without it, I feared I'd be lost. Who would I be if I wasn't the girl who felt abandoned and angry over the hand I was dealt? How would I make my way in the world without my self-destructive and self-induced chaos? Was forgiveness really liberating?

Looking back, I was so incredibly lucky to have a father who understood I needed help and somehow managed to make sure I got it without ever making me feel weak. After a diagnosis of clinical depression and two years of sometimes grueling, sometimes uplifting talk therapy, I emerged from darkness a whole new person. There is a Christian song on the radio entitled "I'm Not Who I Was," and I smile in understanding every time I hear it. The woman I am today was buried somewhere beneath layers of hurt and fear, and I fought hard to peel it away and discover how to love myself. My counselor saved my life, and I feel gratitude for her validation every time I look at my beautiful family, talk to my dad on the phone, read my mother's loving words of encouragement on my blog, or simply catch a glimpse of myself (whole and happy) in the mirror.

I often wonder what path my life would have taken if I'd never taken the step to focus on myself and make it a priority to understand I was worthy of love and deserving of a new life. Clinical depression is a lifelong diagnosis, and there are times I've had to take action when signs of of my illness creep up on me. There are also still painful aspects of our childhoods both Jason and I have brought to our marriage, but understanding why we think, love, or disagree the ways we do makes the journey of marriage more fulfilling. Self-awareness and self-love are incredible gifts to give yourself, and it's never too late to find the time to work through whatever holds you back from embracing both.

I know my husband and kids deserve to have the best version of me I can offer, too. I hope something as simple as Jason's heading OI (what my family endearingly calls going off the island) and letting a real stylist shape up his luscious locks brightens his day and his confidence level. I hope I can stop feeling guilty over purchasing $12 shorts for myself instead of buying clothes for the kids and rock my new khakis at the grocery store come Monday. When I gather round the table with my Savannah ya-yas this week for coffee and mindless chit-chat, I hope I remember it's as important to nurture my own spirit as it is for me to nurture my four little doorsteps. In fact, it's not just important to love ourselves to be better parents and partners---it's absolutely essential.