Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Damn you Aldi.

My husband shops at Aldi. And he does it well.

He brings home foods of which I approve, ones that have lists of ingredients I can pronounce. He is careful to skip over the overly processed choices, though he's not one to forgo the Mamba fruit chews. How naughty of him.

He buys enough food to feed our family on less than I'd spend at any other store. It's this love-hate relationship I have with what we consume and what we support and how we feed our family.

For me, shopping for our family's meals brings me a sense of peace and accomplishment. I enjoy driving over to the co-op and walking the aisles. I am familiar with the layout and putting the organic apples and local cheese in the cart makes me feel responsible. I like grinding my own peanut butter and scooping the bulk items into the provided bags. I feel like I could put most anything in my cart, knowing that someone has taken the steps to ensuring the items are responsibly prepared and ethically outsourced. I want to use my dollars to communicate to the world that I care about what I purchase and what I feed my family and what I put in my body.

I don't buy exclusively from our co-op. I choose where I want to spend my money and it's not entirely on co-op buys. I'd prefer to give it directly to the farmers, which we do when we make it to the Farmers' Market or subscribe to a local CSA. But I know when I do make it to the co-op, I put the money into our dairy, meat and produce.

Walking out, I know I will have spent over a hundred bones. Especially if it's a week where I've bought organic milk or locally brewed coffee or olive oil or all of the above.

I have to say, I like how I feel when I'm shopping at our co-op. I like how it smells and I like when other customers make eye contact with me and smile and I like seeing local finds.

I am not against Aldi, mind you. The products are no different than what I'd find at any other grocery store. And really, looking over the list of ingredients on the products that come into our home makes me feel okay about it.

And when I think about the life I want to lead, I think about frugality and simple living. I want to save money, enough to feel comfortable in the future. But I also want to spend those extra dollars on meat and dairy products that were produced in a humane fashion. I want to eat vegetables that don't contain chemicals. I want to support our locally owned shops that may not have the larger discounts huge chains can afford to offer.

I struggle daily with the challenge of spending and saving. I worry I have champagne tastes on a beer budget. I wonder whether the savings of today truly matter if our health is affected.

If only...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Back home again.

I'm back in the town that raised me.

The one where I wrote a report on hamsters in the fifth grade. And where I went to my first dance. And had my first kiss. And learned to drive. And...

This town only had a Piggly Wiggly and a McDonalds and maybe not much else. Its Main Street had a breakfast place and a pizza place and a bank. There were churches and gas stations and dry cleaners. But mostly it felt like a place that didn't stand out or seem exceptional.

This town has changed. It has more places to eat than I could imagine. Need furniture or home furnishings? There are lots of stores to explore, both here and in the surrounding communities. Instead of heading thirty minutes away to a larger shopping center, all you have to do is head a mile down the road and you have countless stores at your disposal.

It's frightening and awesome all at once.

Back at home I turn into a younger version of myself; my dishes are left in the sink, the bathroom counter is littered with my stuff, my clothes are spread throughout my room. I can remind myself every now and again to grow up and DO MORE but it's not easy.

It takes a lot to separate myself from who I was to who I am today. I return with my children, and yet if I could, I'd totally step back and revert to my fourteen year old ways: sleeping in, socializing with friends, talking on the phone. And yet, I'm ultimately still responsible for my kids and I can't just pass them off completely to their grandparents.

I find it interesting to head to the shopping centers with my children, and I search out for people I recognize. It's incredibly unlikely I'll see anyone I know, but I'm always wondering if I'll see someone with whom I went to school. And if I do, I'm super excited for that nostalgia.

I do have a few friends still in the area, and it's always lovely to visit with them. I imagine what life would be for me if I still lived in suburbia. I think I'd spend more, live bigger and wish for more than I currently have. I'm not sure why, other than I just think I'd be surrounded by friends that lived in bigger and nicer homes, and I'd feel compelled to have the same.

I think it helps living in a college town, as many people are in that place in life where living with less just is a necessity. I also like being in a place where my interests have found a home, specifically in birth work.

I wonder what my children will think when they return to our home once they are in their twenties, thirties and beyond. I only hope they can return with positive feelings and fond memories.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Learning as we go.

I've been thinking about parenting. 

And I've been thinking about how I'd blame my parents for all the mistakes I made, the troubles I had, the shitty emotions I'd feel. As I get older, I am starting to realize that maybe they're not totally responsible for all that. And what's brought about this change? My own children! And not my own maturity.

My parents have never parented a kid in their late-thirties before (my older sibling, not me!). This is all new to them! They have no fucking idea what they're doing. Okay, not really. So how can I possibly expect them to respond to my needs perfectly if they're still learning and I'm still learning? We're both still learning, people!

What I'm trying to figure out now is how to find peace with parenting my children in a non-perfect manner. And better yet, how I'm doing this while maintaining a positive relationship with my children. 

I'm already experiencing it; my older children look to me and seem to expect me to have the answers. They expect me to be calm, and they want me to meet their needs in a reasonable fashion. And I WANT to be that person. I want to be that person that is offering loving support and positive and peaceful. But the truth is, I CAN'T be that for my children. At least not all of the time. 

And I think the best gift I've received lately is seeing my parents as they are. They are learning and growing and figuring out their way. They are not perfect, and that's okay. That's better than okay! That's life. That's how it goes. 

I want to teach my children that there is no such thing as perfect. They just need to do what they can with what they have. As a child, we have these expectations that our parents know all and are everything and have the answers.

But they don't know all. They don't have the answers. They're figuring it out and learning and that's okay. 

I don't want to be put on a pedestal nor do I want my children to think I'm totally fucked, either. I want them to look at me and feel like they're getting the real deal. They're getting a mother that is honest and loving and accepting. I will admit when I've done wrong, but I won't be shamed or blamed. There comes a point where it stops being about my errors in motherhood and becomes their shit. 

I am learning. My kids are learning. And my parents are learning. And you know what? That's okay. In fact, it's better than okay. It's just what is needed. 

Start Listening!

What's with all the whining and yelling and pouting?

That shit has GOT to stop! 

No, I'm not referring to my children, people. 

I was a hot mess last weekend. I blame lack of sleep, driving for hours, the heat, missing out on a friend's special event, feeling wronged by my kid. 

I'm not proud. I could've chosen differently. But I'm owning it. 

The thing about this whole parenting gig is that we start off with these little babies that need such basics. They're such vulnerable, fragile beings, and our job is to love and feed and protect. They may cry but it feels so out of our control so we just go with it. We soothe and love and calm. 

And then our kids get older and suddenly it feels like they can listen and obey and follow directions. And they can. And there are times when they should. But not all the time. 


I hate to admit it, but it's true. The other night, my older son was doing exactly the opposite of what I wanted, and I told him to stop. He didn't. We were in the car and I gave him THE LOOK in the rear view mirror, and that didn't make him stop. I raised my voice and repeated, STOP! He didn't. Then I pulled the car over to the side of the road AND stopped suddenly AND yelled STOP! 

He stopped. 

But at what cost? And what exactly made him stop? And what will I have to do next time to get the same result?

Parenting is not perfect. It's messy and full of times where the roles are reversed. My kid is the one telling me to blow my anger out and I'm making faces behind his back. But I'm working on it. I'm learning and growing and managing. 

Today I will use my words and blow my anger out and do better. Not perfect, but better. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Feeding My Soul.

Five years ago, I strapped my newborn son into his car seat and carried him out to the car. I buckled my daughter, not even two, into her car seat. I sat in the driver's seat, and I drove to the nearest coffee shop equipped with a drive-thru. After ordering my extra large iced mocha, I drove around town, heading nowhere in particular. All I knew was that I couldn't return home.

Being so newly postpartum, responsible for my two young children, I struggled to keep my sanity. My husband had returned to work, starting around 4pm and not returning until close to midnight, leaving me with our children.

They don't call it the witching hour for nothing.

It felt as if not only my children transformed into crying, needy things but so had I. Only I didn't have anyone to care for my needs, dry my tears, and tell me it was going to be okay. If I had, I might have had a better recollection of those dreary months.

Tonight, my husband went out to socialize. This doesn't happen so frequently, as work and family and home often monopolize his time. I wasn't sure I wanted him to leave, or rather I wasn't sure I wanted to be left with my children. By myself. But even though I wasn't sure I wanted to solo-parent tonight, I knew I wanted him to have time to laugh and drink and talk. What's a few hours anyway?

It wasn't even half an hour when I decided I needed to take that drive to the nearest coffee shop, the same one that provided for me five years ago. This time I buckled my babe in to his seat while my older two headed to the car. We all settled in, and I drove away from our home.

What a delight! I was escaping our home, strewn with laundry and toys and books. It felt so much different this time, however, when I pulled out of our driveway. I knew that while I didn't want to be home with my three children, I knew that I could manage if I needed. I'm not quite sure if that was the case five years ago.

I ordered my expensive espresso drink, and I drove my brood home. But when we pulled in the driveway, I knew I wanted to give them something. I wanted them to have a chance to let go of their own stuff, and I asked if they wanted to ride bikes. YES! REALLY?! LET ME GET MY SHOES, said daughter as she ran out wearing her pink rain boots.

I drove the few miles to where they could ride bikes around a track, and I settled in to a bench seat with the babe while my older ones rode with the wind at their back.

And that moment felt good. It felt like a gift to my children, and I felt capable.

That's not to say the rest of the night was flawless and easy. But it's the times like tonight, where I took them for an impromptu bicycle ride that make up for the moments where I'm just feeling like I'm not enough.

Because I am enough. I always have been. And I always will be.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's DAY?!

Yesterday I celebrated Mother's Day with my children and husband. And I have to admit, while I received some extra kisses and a fabulous gift, I didn't necessarily feel like it was much different than any other day. 


The whole notion that on this one day, moms gets to sleep in, eat breakfast in bed, leave the dishes to someone else, is whack. 

One day?! That's it?! 

Not for me, thank you very much. I'm past the feelings of guilt and shame that I'm not the cheery homemaker. My partner has always been involved in our daily must-do list. Grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, bill-paying, he does it all. When he's not directly involved in caring for our children or animals, he's managing our home and providing for our  needs. My mother has commented how lucky I am at how hands-on my husband is with our children and in our home. 


No, ma'am. I'm not lucky. I just knew that I was not meant to live a life caring for another person in a way that left me feeling empty, drained and burdened. 

This is not to say I don't take pride in caring for my husband, our children, our home. I do enjoy the work I do in our home and with our family. It's just that the household tasks don't rest SOLELY on my shoulders. 

I'm regularly the one to organize and sort our clothes at each change of size or season. I'm the one that deep cleans the kids' room and rotates their toys, books, and crafts. I tend to handle our social calendar, planning activities and outings. This is not to say my partner wouldn't DO these things, but we've worked out this balance that feels doable, at least during these years of parenting little ones. 

I used to cook more, clean more, do more around the home. And then we had a baby. And then another. And then another. So my time is focused more on their basic needs and their wants. And that's okay. It's okay that I've shifted my time away from cooking dinner and washing dishes because I'm doing what I can with what I have. I'm feeding my baby. I'm volunteering in my older son's classroom. I'm remembering it's Teacher Appreciation Week and making cards for their teachers with them. 

So when Mother's Day rolled around, I felt slightly annoyed that apparently it's the one day of the year that mothers have permission to NOT DO everything they're expected to do.

If my partner communicated to me that he needed me to to DO MORE on a daily basis, then we'd have a conversation how I could support his request. But if he were to come to me and demand that I BE MORE, I'd really have to press pause and figure out what and why and how that request developed. Was it because I really wasn't contributing to our family's well-being? Was I neglecting my share of the work that needs to happen just to keep our family and home functioning? Was my partner needing something from me so he could focus on his own personal needs and wants? 

There's no right or wrong in any of that, and sometimes we need to step up and BE MORE and DO MORE because we love that other person and we WANT to BE BETTER and DO BETTER. But I also believe we have to really consider whether we're somehow sacrificing a part of what we believe and what feels innately right when we're living this life that just doesn't meet our own needs. 

Yes, I'm blessed to have my partner and children, and Mother's Day was a fabulous day for me. I can't imagine my life without my created family, and I will always take great pride in them and our lives. 

And I will always celebrate my role as mother every. single. day. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cover up.

At a visit to a walk-in clinic today, I disrobed to show the doctor some bumps on my skin. She held up the gown and told me to cover up. Or some bullshit like that.

My body has birthed three children, is soft and round and is still in the process of change. I already felt vulnerable, standing in the room in the robe and my socks, all the while holding, nursing, and interacting with my younger son. The nurse had instructed me to put the robe on so it opened in back, but how in fuck's sake do I feed my baby with the opening in back? So I wore it, open in front but eventually put it back on, so it opened in back.

The doctor walked in and she was stand-offish. She didn't shake my hand. I get it; I was there for some skin issues. She probably didn't want to catch some weird disease from some walk-in patient. That's cool.

And then she asked me about my bumps, so I took off the robe and showed her these bumps that itch like crazy and flare up when I scratch. And that's when she held up the robe, open in back, and ushered me into it.

Fuck. That.

But I'm a good girl so I did as was asked. I started to move the gown aside again and she placed it back on my body, telling me she was just going to look at one spot at a time. Which she did. While the rest of me remained covered.

And that's how it went. I went to breastfeed my son and I swear she didn't make eye contact and diverted her eyes.

Really? Is this really happening?

Fuck. That.

Speaking up has never been my strong suit, but I swear to you, my resolution is to SPEAK. THE. FUCK. UP.

I had never been in a medical situation before where I had felt so frustrated with my care. AND I paid walk-in clinic fees (after hours charges, I'm sure) so I basically paid someone to make me feel like shit. Great. Awesome.

I think what made me feel like shit was the fact that she came in with this power. I asked her some questions about the safety of the treatment she suggested with lactation, and she basically said, I'm a family doctor. I do this all the time. 

This was such a change from a visit I had had earlier in the day when I brought my younger son in to be seen for what I suspected was an ear infection. We went in to an after-hours office to see a pediatrician in the practice, and I was feeling stressed out by his congestion and cough. His name was called and I started to lift up my bags and carry his carseat, when the nurse came over and helped me. She carried my bags, while I carried my sleeping son in his seat.

We entered the exam room and she asked me the typical questions. One asked about medications and I admitted I hadn't given him his whole round of antibiotics that he had been prescribed a few weeks prior.

She looked at me, and she told me that she could tell I felt guilty about not finishing the round of antibiotics.

I nodded.

She told me I was a good mother and that I was caring for my son's needs.

I nodded.

And I wanted to hug her. And tell her thank you. Thank you for going above and beyond in making me feel safe. And comfortable. And supported.

Tonight I will be thankful for people like the nurse that cared and listened and supported. And I'll try to let go of the frustration I felt from the other woman that didn't seem to care. Or listen. Or support. And most importantly, I'll try to grow my voice, so that I may be more capable of advocating, for myself and for my children.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

All I Want

I look at my children, and I want them to feel happy and satisfied. I want them to feel loved and supported and fulfilled. I want those great smiles and belly laughs to carry them through their days. I want them to have friends, and I want these friends to encourage my children in all the "right" ways. I want my children to find love and feel love and be loved.

 I want my children to eat well and stay strong in their bodies. I want their bodies to be healthy and whole. I want my children to care for their world, and I want them to reuse, reduce and recycle.

I want my children to use their voices to share good news and sing and talk late into the night with their best friend. I want my children to include me in their lives, and I want them to write me letters, call me, think of me. I want to get along with my children and please them. I want all of this and more for my children.

What more could I want for my children?

I want them to feel angry and pissed off. I want them to feel dissatisfied in their life and be pushed to be better, be more, or just plain be. I want my children to cry hard and low, getting out not only tears but all the anguish they've ever felt. I want my children to figure out friendships and relationships, even if it gets messy and painful and hard.

I want my children to be mad and scream and rant. I want them to separate from me, when they're ready, so they learn more about themselves and their world. I want them to find their own passion, even if I don't understand or want to understand. I want my children to screw up and make mistakes and be fucking normal. I want them to go deep in themselves, figuring out their own shit and learning from it.

I want my children to move halfway across the world, even if they're unsure what or where or why. I want my children to have their own adventures, creating memories and stories they'll hold forever in their hearts.

I want my children to speak other languages and play musical instruments and climb mountains. I want my children to find a small town in the middle of nowhere and settle down. I want them to explore big cities and wear fancy clothes and dirty jeans and go barefoot on the beach. I want them to memorize constellations, and I want them to wake to see the sun rising over the horizon.

I want my children to grow old and gray, and I want them to be wise and strong.

I want, I want, I want...