Mom Instincts

23 Nov

Y’all. There are a few ways you know that motherhood is getting to you.

Permanent dark circles…

Lack of hygiene…

The contents of your purse… (No lie, at this very moment my purse contains the following: one dirty princess sock, a pacifier, several french fries, broken-lidded lip gloss I confiscated from the eldest, a diaper, my wallet, a comb, seven tiny hair bands, and the feet of a hopping mechanical chicken. Just the feet.)

There’s also the fact that you develop magical Mom Instincts. Like, I might not shower for days, but you’d better bet I can tell you the exact location of Maggie’s Bunny. Or I’ll be so exhausted that I’m literally running into walls, but I can catch a falling pacifier like a ninja. Mom Instincts allow me to decipher the deeper meaning behind the make-believe games, interpret whether or not requests for the potty are valid or cheap ploys for a later bedtime. While the rest of your life disintegrates around you, Mom Instincts allow you to remember preschool snack day just in time and recall the location of that one Frozen shirt.

I’d like to point out that, while Mom Instincts make you a rock star in the parenting department, they sometimes overrule all other rational thought and make you less than cool on dates. Just saying.

But I really hit a low point the other day in the “Motherhood is Getting to Me” department.

I need you to know that two thirds of our children have had the stomach flu, all have colds, and one may or may not be teething but he won’t submit to an oral exam and refuses to learn to talk, so…hell if I know. Also, the wordless one has been on a sleeping strike, so basically it’s like living with a cranky mute dictator who demands Wheel of Fortune at one a.m. Except he’s not really mute because he screams. A lot. Just no words. And his older sister is potty training. And I’m trying to take a doula class, and Vin is working like a zillion hours a week, and, and, and. Life is crazy.

I tell you all of this in hopes that maybe it’ll explain my actions, but I really just think I’m off. my. rocker.

So, night before last (but I don’t really know because my days and nights have been messed up since 2009), I got the kids into bed and foolishly assumed they’d stay there and took the opportunity to go to the bathroom. Alone. For the first time in forever. (No, I’m not sorry I just put that song in your head.)

I went to the bathroom, instinctively put the ironic Pooh potty seat on the toilet, and sat down.

And then I got all surprised and weirded out that the toilet seat was like a kajillion sizes too small, so I kind of freaked out a little bit, but things were already well on their way and I’ve had no control of that biz since, like, 2009, so I had not choice but to keep on keepin’ on. Luckily my aim is spectacular…unlike my brain which has apparently turned into a pile of mush.

Veteran’s Day 2014

11 Nov

If you met my dad, you probably would have as hard a time as I do imagining him manning a helicopter under fire in Vietnam. He’s a gentle person, someone who voiced prayers of thanksgiving over our chickens before slaughtering them, the most violent thing I think I’ve ever seen him do. He’s patient, a person who values hard work of both mind and body. My father is innovative. He has high standards and never does things “just because,” but takes action based on whether or not it’s the right thing to do.

My dad taught fifth grade…and sixth grade on the condition that they give him the exact same class that he’d had as fifth graders. They adored him and his unconventional classroom. Nobody gets off easy around my dad; he’s a ruthless tease and often intimidated his students and my friends by forcing them to think and have opinions.

He taught at a juvenile detention center, showing Shawshank Redemption, which, if you’re not familiar, is a film about breaking out of prison. It’s also about the power of hope and friendship, lessons those kids might never have heard if not for my father.

My father is a carpenter, a gardener, a preacher, a leader, a hero.

john mcgarr

He was awarded the Bronze Star in Vietnam. If you ask him why he was given the medal he’ll tell you, “For being stupid” and leave it at that. I find that pretty fishy, considering the fact that he’s the most intelligent person I’ve ever met.

My dad is a veteran. He’s one of thousands and thousands of women and men who have sacrificed and “been stupid” for our country. I’m always pretty emotional on Veteran’s Day. Having grown up in a family with military history and later living near Fort Hood, working with and teaching the children of active duty military personnel I’ve been privileged to see sacrifice played out in real life. There are no words to describe the depth and essence of the sacrifices made by the members of our armed forces. Thank you seems so little, so cliche. But it’s all I’ve got.

So, to my father, my brother, my cousins…

My friends, the co-workers, the parents of former students…

The kids I taught who have since enlisted (there are almost too many to count)…

Thank you. I really, really mean it from the bottom of my heart.

And, Daddy, you truly are my hero.

Time Together

27 Oct

The time I have to share with my husband is fleeting. While many people work Monday through Friday, 9-5, we have an incredibly erratic schedule. It changes weekly and usually consists of Vin working 6-4 and me working a couple of evenings 5-9. One of his days off is the only day I work a full 8 hour shift at the library. Finding one day of the week that we both have off is rare. Two in a row is impossible.

We’ve worked in the service industry long enough to be used to this. But that doesn’t mean that we like it. Most weeks, our version of “quality time” is in the time between picking him up at work and dropping me off. We attempt to talk over the kids singing along to “The Muppets” soundtrack and screaming at each other and generally interrupting every sentence we’re foolish enough to begin.

So, last night, when my wonderful mother-in-law sent us out to dinner without the kids so we could celebrate Vin’s birthday, I was completely elated. It’s funny since I live with the guy, but I really miss my husband. He is the most hard working, innovative, encouraging person ever. He has been knocked down time after time and just keeps getting up. He gets up over and over and over again and pulls me up right along with him. He’s absurdly talented, one of those people who is good at pretty much anything he tries. He’s passionate, loving, and funny. And I miss him desperately when we’re not together. An evening to ourselves was like winning the lottery. I literally bounced out the door to the car, I was so excited!

Y’all, we walked out of two restaurants last night. That’s something we have never done in the entire history of being together. It just always seems so rude and we’re the type who is more likely to make the best of a situation than just leave. But last night we left.

The first place was this new German restaurant in town that actually looks like it’d be a ton of fun. It’s bright and beautiful and there’s a fantastic band that plays authentic German music and there’s lederhosen out the wazoo. But we had to share a table with strangers and the music was so loud we were yelling to hear one another. It just wasn’t the intimate night we were hoping for, so we ditched.

The second restaurant was just a chain Mongolian barbecue place, so our expectations weren’t super high. But, when it took fifteen minutes for someone to take our drink order and we discovered that the salad bar consisted of brown iceberg lettuce, we just felt very blaah. And for a few minutes, we thought about just toughing it out and trying to make the best of it. And then we simultaneously agreed that no. No we were not going to make the best of it. So we left.

Because, here’s the thing. Our time is a treasure and we deserve to be picky. Our time together is so rare that it’s absurd to think of spending it in a place where we’d be disappointed and end up cranky. Our time is such a gift, it’s worth it to us to look like jerks, to appear to be rude in the eyes of others. I just don’t care about that at all because what I care about happened at restaurant number three where we ate greasy onion rings and giant sandwiches and watched football and drank beer. What I care about is having a booth to myself in the back corner of a sports bar and laughing at stupid jokes with my best friend.

There are defining moments in all relationships. For us there’s the time that we watched The Muppet Movie and Vin kissed me for the first time as “Rainbow Connection” played and the credits rolled. There’s the moment we found out I was pregnant with Maggie. We were cleaning our friends’ house while they were away on their honeymoon and I took the test right there in their bathroom and we laughed and freaked out all at the same time. There’s the time we packed up our lives and moved across the country to start over after a gamble didn’t work out the way we had expected.

And there’s that time we walked out of two different restaurants on the same night because quality time together deserves to be quality time. We walked out of two restaurants because our time together is a treasure and we have every right to be just as picky as we want to be.

Chin Up!

10 Oct

Hey, guys! I’m still alive, I’m just…heavy. I’ve had one of those weeks when I’m just completely worn out by sick kids, a messy home, bickering, work, too many commitments, negative self talk, everything. It’s also been one of those weeks when I’ve had the privilege to talk to friends who are feeling some of the same things.

One of my best friends just called me in tears, having the worst day ever, trying to get herself together in order to get to work and I just felt like I was talking to myself. We’re living very different lives and yet we’re both overwhelmed. We’re both struggling to find ourselves in the midst of our daily chaos and that’s hard. We agreed that so much of our days are spent just fighting to stay on top, that nothing seems to come easily, every single step we take is an absolute struggle, and nothing is a given. That’s just where we are right now.

And what I told her and what I told myself and that I’m telling you now is, regardless of all of that, we’re still worthy. No amount of laundry, no lack of money, no frustrations over jobs or relationships, no feelings of insecurity or self hate will ever change the fact that we are worthy. We are lovely, we are treasured, we matter. And even if it doesn’t feel like it, that’s the truth.

So my desire for all of us is to speak this truth to each other. Take some time this weekend to call a friend, send an email to someone who you know is having a rough time, tell the cashier at the grocery store, “You matter.” Because it’s true.

If you want a gorgeous and fun way to do this, check out the compliment cards over at Help a Girl Out! They’re free printables and a very sweet way to pass on some love.

And just to pep you up, here’s the “chin up” song from Matilda the musical I’ve had on repeat this week.

I just love this lyric…

In the slip of a bolt, there’s a tiny revolt.
The seeds of a war in the creak of a floorboard.
A storm can begin, with the flap of a wing.
The tiniest mite packs the mightiest sting!
Every day, starts with the tick of a clock.
All escapes, start with the click of a lock!

‘Cause if you’re little you can do a lot, you
Mustn’t let a little thing like, ‘little’ stop you
If you sit around and let them get on top, you
Won’t change a thing!

Big things almost always have small beginnings, my friends. So, if you’re feeling small and like you don’t make a difference, just remember that you’re loved and you have the power to do great things! Chin up, loves!

XOXO,

Mary Susan

Doodie Duty

24 Sep

Y’all. Today we’re going to be talking about poop and private parts and if you can’t handle that, then you best be on your way ’cause I’ve got a lot to get off my chest. And before you wonder, “Does she mean she’s got poop to get off her chest?” the answer is yes. There’s probably poop on my chest because there’s always poop on my body somewhere. Small though the speck may be, I am constantly accompanied by the feces of another human. This is my life.

So, let’s dive right in, shall we?

For those of you who might not know (that’d be the two readers I’ve got who aren’t either related to me or alumni of my elementary school), I’ve got three kids: two girls, and a boy. The girls came first and then the boy was born. He was born after I spent three and a half years getting used to girl diapers. He is a boy. With boy parts.

Holy geez, was that a game changer.

Literally the first week or so we had Everett home, I’d go to change a diaper and be audibly surprised at the contents. Like, I would undo the diap and get a shock because I was so jarred at the sight of a penis in there. And who can blame me? I mean, penises are pretty weird. I appreciate the fact that they’re built for service and they certainly perform their required tasks well enough. Hell, I’m sure I’ll really appreciate the fact that my son can pee standing up once he’s potty training and refuses to go at home but then has an emergency in the parking lot at the grocery store and I’ve got the girls buckled in already and Ben and Jerry’s melting in the back and I have no choice but to let him pee on the asphalt. At that point, I know I’ll love the fact that he’s got a penis since that probably will mean that he won’t pee on my feet like his ungrateful and uncoordinated older sisters. Vaginas are no good in a parking lot. (If somebody doesn’t put that on a throw pillow right this minute, I’m going to pitch a fit.)

So, at some point, I’m sure I’m going to be very pro-penis, but y’all, let’s just face it. When it comes to diapers, girls are so much more…streamlined than boys. With boys there seems to be an endless array of skin. Like, there are literally ten gajillion tiny crevices that poop can sneak into on a boy. There’s lifting and rearranging that has to take place before the kid is clean and you’re always under the gun. Ev has literally only peed on me twice in his little lifetime but I’m still super nervous that my luck will change. And ohmylawd there is so much junk  to clean. Maybe it’s just my kid, but changing a boy diaper is super labor intensive.

Cookin’ one up.

This brings me to the poop. Can I just continue to complain a minute? Guys, we don’t call Everett the Poop Smith for nothing. I have never in my life seen a child more capable of destroying the tri-state area a diaper than my son. At one point (and by ‘one point’ I mean ‘a stretch of several months and he’s only twelve months old’) I was changing that child’s sheets every single time he slept. He’d get a bath and smell all sweetsie and baby-like and I’d rock him and sing to him and kiss his little downy head and then I’d lay him down in his fresh, clean crib. Come morning, I’d hear him laughing and babbling in his crib. And then I’d go into his room…opening the door was like unlocking a crypt. I swear, I could actually hear the seal break, “pffffchhhh,” and then the smell of decaying body death poop-purri would just rise up like a Dementor and smack me right in the face. I won’t lie. I gagged. Several times.

I need you to know that this is a smell that lingers. As a coworker of mine said, it’s like one of those cartoon smells that contorts itself into a green goblin-y face or a creepy hand that beckons you into a mousetrap. It’s one of those smells. It doesn’t matter if you open the windows, take away every offending article of clothing/bedding, that room is still going to smell like a freshly cracked crap crypt all freaking day.

Let me reiterate here: this happened (and sometimes still happens) every single time he sleeps. So, the kid goes to sleep, craps his brains out, and wakes up. Every time he sleeps.

And this is not regular poop. This is poop that escapes any and all diapers that come into contact with it. It doesn’t matter cloth or disposable, this crap cannot be contained. This poop is so attracted to clean sheets that it will find the quickest route out of jammies possible. It defies the laws of physics and gravity and I don’t understand it. What angle is required, what force necessary for a child to achieve such feats? The poop goes up the front (the better to ooze into creases), up the back, down at least one- if not both- legs, and onto the sheets. Always, always onto the sheets. I can’t tell you how frequently we’ve just thrown that kid in the tub first thing in the morning. And I’m not sorry for the time(s) I’ve just thrown the pajamas away. Sometimes it’s not worth it. “I Love Mommy” has a very empty ring to it when it’s smeared with shit.

One of those mornings…

The good news is that his poop cycle is changing such that he doesn’t actually poop as frequently. However, that does mean that he’s pooping at times when I’m not prepared for it. Before the schedule change, I’d know good and well what I was in for. Sure, I knew I’d be changing the sheets for the kazillionth time that week, but at least I had the benefit of knowledge on my side. That way I could prepare myself for battle…shirt over the nose, plastic bags, eighteen thousand wipes, pressure washer, etc. These days, the lad’s more of a stealth pooper. He likes to wait till we’re not expecting it and then release his venom into the world.

You know, like when the weather’s just changing so there’s a nip in the air and the whole family is climbing out of the car to go visit a friend’s newborn baby in the hospital. That, that is the perfect time for this kid to poop. Aaaaaall the way down the pants, into the socks, filling the car with the smell of “Dear Lord, what is thaa…Evvverettttt!” That’s the time he poops. And once again, thank goodness for my mother-in-law who had the foresight to get some long sleeved shirts for that kid (which I luckily didn’t bring into the house because we live in our car the way good Americans do) so I at least had sleeves to put on him. Otherwise he’d be left with what was left of the extra clothes from the summer stocked diaper bag. So we dressed that kid in a onesie and a long sleeved shirt, threw him in the Ergo with no pants and took him in to meet the new baby. Because I’m a firm believer in showing people what they have to look forward to.

Happy Birthday, Baby Boy!

21 Sep

Can you guys believe that today is Everett’s first birthday?? It’s blowing my mind, y’all. All day today I’ll be going down memory lane, looking at pictures of how this amazing little person has grown over the last year. He’s just such a fantastic little man. Ev is a true mama’s boy and I’m not going to lie, I love it that he loves me so. He has been such an easy-going little fellow even since his birth. His was the most peaceful and restful birth I’ve ever experienced. It’s still one of my favorite memories. You can read about it here. 

And because I’m weepy and I love it, here are some photos of the last year:

Remember how fat his little face was???

So, so fatsy.

One month old

3 months and all business

Baptism day!

11 months

Happy birthday, baby boy! You bring more joy and laughter to our lives than I could ever imagine. Love you always, Mama

Another Announcement!

12 Sep

Guys. I’m beyond excited to announce that a dream of mine is finally starting to take shape. I’ve wanted to become a birth doula for a long, long time, but becoming certified through the organization I’d like to use is something that’s a little bit out of my/our reach at the moment. Between finances and kids and schedules, we just haven’t felt comfortable jumping into it right this minute.

At the same time, I feel like I’ve been surrounded by more and more beautiful people who are experiencing pregnancy losses. Be it terminal diagnoses or miscarriages, I’ve just felt that I’ve been made very aware of a need to serve families who are going through the unimaginable. It’s almost as though I can’t get away from it…like being a part of this is something I just have to do.

When I began researching doula certification, I stumbled upon Still Birthday, an organization devoted to serving people before, during, and after pregnancy loss. Their tagline is, “Every pregnancy loss is still a birthday,” something that truly speaks to my heart. Something that bothers me about many (not all, but many) pro-lifers is the neglect shown toward miscarriages and early pregnancy losses. Every loss is still a birthday. Every one. I can think of nothing more honorable or humbling than being allowed to be there for families during the births of these babies, nothing more rewarding and challenging than walking with them as they process their grief. I can’t think of anything more exciting than being able to work with mothers to bring their babies into this world, no matter how long they’re here. And SBD certifies doulas.

The certification is online, affordable, and something I can totally do right now with our current job and kids’ needs. So I’m happy to announce that, starting October 6th, I will begin an 8-week online certification program to become a certified Still Birthday Doula. I still plan to certify as a birth doula through another organization, like DONA, and I want to get my childbirth education certification as well (you can tell I’m obsessed with birth, right?), so this certification is my very first step toward making all of these dreams a reality.

I’d really love it if you would pray for me as I begin this process. I feel very under-prepared and under-qualified. Really, I feel unworthy of this calling. I’ve never experienced a pregnancy loss, so I somehow feel like I shouldn’t be allowed or something. But this is not something that will let me rest; I’ve pondered over this for over a year now and I’m blessed to have a husband and family who understand and encourage me to pursue this goal. Guys, I’m so, SO excited about this, and honestly intimidated and scared. But I know I’ve got an incredible group of supporters, so thank you in advance for your thoughts and prayers. You know by now that you’re coming along for the ride in all of my endeavors and I hope you know that I’m extremely grateful for your presence in my life!
Much love! Mary Susan

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