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

How Do I Love Me? (Let me count the ways…) – Shamekia’s Story

10 Sep

 

 

Shamekia is a goofball, a Cleveland native, and a human jukebox. Her desire to become Carmen San Diego when she grew up is part of the reason that she has traveled to three African countries in the past four years (Ghana, Ethiopia, and Kenya). She loves music, food, dancing, cooking, singing (notice a theme here?) and fat animals. She also loves children, particularly when they are listening to stories that she reading aloud.

 

What this really means is that we’re work friends, separated at birth, and making up for lost time just as fast as we can. Here’s Shamekia’s take on loving herself. Enjoy! -Mary Susan

 

 

 

 

 

shamekia

 

How Do I Love Me? (Let me count the ways…)

 

(((Deep Sigh…)))

 

I don’t typically share this with people, but…I didn’t become pretty until I was 27. I won’t bore you with my years of struggle with low self-esteem (although, the struggle is So. Damn. Real, y’all). I’ll just admit that that’s when things started to click for me internally.

 

Most people shudder when I say this, but here goes: I am fat. Legit fat. For some odd reason people think that I’m declaring my ugliness when I say those words. I know I’m beautiful. I know I’m sexy. I’m also fat. The twain shall-and do-meet.

There are days when I forget how far I’ve come (old habits die hard, blah, blah…) yet even in the midst of down feelings, I think I give off a bravado that is more confident than I give myself credit for. It’s like my inner Foxy Brown/Sasha Fierce hops into action (sometimes without my knowledge). Or maybe, just maybe, I’ve learned to love myself before I appreciated what was happening. Love came on like the dawn. At some point I realized I was standing in full sunlight without realizing that it happened.

 

When things aren’t clicking for me, when I don’t walk with my normal strut, I have to remind myself of when I was 13 (the worst year of literally everyone’s life). I have to tell that girl that things get so much better. I have to tell her that she is and will be surrounded by love and laughter and people that truly respect her. That she is fearfully and wonderfully made by a God that is smarter than her, so don’t succumb to low self-esteem. Ever.

 

Loving my body is a constant lesson, like being given the same homework assignment that’s due every day. So, what’s so great about my body anyway?

 

My lips are the ‘Cupid’s bow’ shape that is simply made for deep red lipstick (shout out to Sephora).

 

My smile makes people happy.

 

My skin is the perfect shade of brown that looks good in every color.

 

My hair (when well behaved) is a rounded crown of ancestral glory.

 

My hips are epic. My. Hips. Are. EPIC. They are all that is great about womanhood and I’ve been told my many that my hips remind them of music.

 

Do I have to remind myself constantly of the prime real estate that my soul occupies? Yes.

 

Do I still battle with comparing myself to others? Sometimes.

 

Everyone has their bad days, and I’m not exempt from that. But that’s when I read my favorite poems:

I surround myself with friends. I cook. I dance. I laugh my ass off. I remember that God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.

Words…and an Announcement!

9 Sep

Many of you may know from Facebook, but to make it super-official, I’m excited to share some good news. I am proud to announce that I’ve joined Stephanie from the Help a Girl Out project as a co-writer, project developer, and general brainstormer. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be a part of this project that is already making a huge difference in the lives of women and girls! Go check us out on Tumblr…and just as a little incentive, here’s a teaser from my first official HAGO post. You can read the rest here…thanks for loving and supporting me, y’all! And as always, don’t forget to love yourself! -MS

 

 

The other day a coworker returned to the office from her lunch break visibly irritated about an encounter she’d had at a restaurant. As she was eating her lunch, a nearby child looked at her, then asked his mother, “Mom, why are some people so fat?”

 

When my coworker related this story to us, everyone became irate.

“You’re not fat! You’re beautiful!”

“That’s horrible!”

“I’m so sorry!”

“How rude!”

 

Apparently the child’s mother replied something about how some people eat different things and bodies are different. My coworkers were horrified by this response. They wanted the mother to explain to the child that he shouldn’t make comments on people’s appearance in public. I rather agree with both responses, given that the child was old enough to know about politeness in public. That’s really not the point, either way, though.

 

What horrified me the most was everyone’s reaction to my coworker being labelled “fat.” The feeling of indignation in the room was palpable. It was as though she told us that the child had called her “stupid” and I was reminded of this quote:

 

“She was struck by how mostly slim white people got off at the stops in Manhattan and, as the train went further into Brooklyn, the people left were mostly black and fat. She had not thought of them as “fat,” though. She had thought of them as “big,” because one of the first things her friend Ginika told her was that “fat” in America was a bad word, heaving with moral judgement like “stupid” or “bastard,” and not a mere description like “short” or “tall.” So she had banished “fat” from her vocabulary.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

 

We’ve all been admonished to banish the word “fat” from our vocabulary. How many times have we said, “I’m fat” only to be assured through heartfelt euphemisms that we’re merely big-boned, chubby, fluffy, plus sized, full figured, anything in the entire world but fat.

 

 

Read the rest here!

‘Twas the Night Before Preschool and All Through the House…

4 Sep

…Everybody was eating dinner at 8 pm ’cause I can’t get my crap together.

 

Seriously guys. The night before Maggie’s first day of preschool ever we ate cardboard pizza at 8 (bedtime) and they were bathed and bouncing off the walls by 9. Winning. I really haven’t been able to get it through my head that I’m old enough to have a kid in preschool, much less that my kid is actually old enough. I just don’t feel qualified for this milestone. I mean, I relate this to that feeling when they send you home from the hospital with a newborn. You’re all like, “Seriously?? Y’all trust me with this human?? Okaaaaaaay…”  I just feel like I’m playing make believe grown up the majority of the time. Like if I went to preschool, instead of a center to play “house” there’d be a center for playing “responsible adult”…only I doubt I’d play.

 

Now, I know excellence of this level seems unattainable and I’m going to be honest. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be as bad at organization as we are. But if you’ll follow my simple Guide to Chaos, come time for your firstborn to go to preschool, you’ll be a psychotic maniac just like me.

 


 

 

 

 

 

The Oh Bless Your Heart Guide to Chaos – First Day of Preschool Edition

 

The Weeks, Months, and Years Prior to Preschool

  • In the kazillion days leading up to preschool please make sure to avoid all thoughts of your child’s impending education. Resist the urge to research and live in happy denial that your baby has zoomed through toddlerhood and is now a candidate for some sort of a classroom. It is imperative that you put off thinking about preschool as long as possible…
  • Except for 1-3 days per month in which you completely freak the biz out over your lack of planning and compulsively research every single aspect of possible educational theories, styles, and types from Montessori to Reggio to homeschooling to unschooling to obedience school to just letting them be raised by wolves. These are all viable options and should be obsessed over in the wee hours of the night as you creepily lurk in your child’s room sniffling over how big she is.

 

Choose a Preschool

  • Make friends with somebody who has their crap together and get their recommendation for a preschool.
  • Go visit that school and get excited that you have friends with such good taste. 
  • Go drink some wine to celebrate.

 

Paperwork

  • Once you get your child all signed up, they’re going to give you a shit ton of paperwork. Pardon the expression, but ohmylawd there is so. much. paper. This is great for those who are striving to increase the level of chaos in their home. Don’t be overwhelmed by the paper. Simply take it home and resolve to complete it once the kids are napping.
  • Divide your stack of paper into approximately seven separate stacks, just like cutting a deck of cards. Now take those seven stacks and hide them in seven completely irrelevant places in your home. If you’re having trouble finding dumb places to put important papers, I suggest giving a few stacks to a younger child. Sure, they may just end up in the middle of the dining room floor, but I guarantee that they’ll be ripped to shreds by someone practicing their “penmanship.”
  • Because the kids are never napping, put off completing the paperwork until the night before the parent orientation meeting at school.

 

Parent Orientation Meeting

  • Go there right after work and pretend to be normal. (Please note that when Friend Katy saw me at our orientation which I raced to immediately after work, she commented on how fantastic I looked and asked if I had colored my hair or something. In all reality, all I had done was take a shower and actually fix my hair that day…unlike all the other times she sees me and I look like a hobo. Guys, this is how you know you’ve made it.)
  • Get more paperwork and follow the instructions previously mentioned.
  • Get real excited about all the ways you’re going to be involved with school, ’cause you’re not going to be the mom who doesn’t bring stuff and help with parties and whatnot. Volunteer to bring salad for the teacher’s lunch on the first day.
  • Immediately forget about the salad.
  • Silently size up the other parents in hopes that somebody, anybody is as cuckoo as you are. They’re probably not at your level of chaos, though, so don’t get your hopes up. It’s lonely at the top.

 

The Night Before School

  • Sure, you’ve had weeks to buy a backpack and pick out the first day outfit and all that, but I find it far more beneficial to wait until the absolute last minute to start doing this stuff. Planning ahead is a rookie mistake.
  • Remember the salad.
  • Rush home after work, greet your spouse, then divide and conquer. He’s gonna take the preschooler to buy that backpack. You get extra points if you did actually buy a backpack earlier, but had to return it because the zipper immediately broke upon entering your home, as all zippers do. Extra trips to the Target are always good at increasing chaos and decreasing expendable income.
  • You need to take the other two kids to the store at dinnertime because bagged salad is why.
  • Purchase adorable sugar cookies with fish iced on them as a “first day of school” treat. Congratulate yourself on your pun, then remind yourself that you’re literally the only person in this situation who will get it.
  • Race around like a maniac trying to get people to go to bed for Pete’s sake. Don’t get anything done, not really. Just resolve to do that stuff when you wake up at 4 am the next morning.

 

The First Day of School

  • Sleep through your alarm but get up early enough that you feel like you’ve got a little time to spend on yourself.
  • Realize you’re out of milk, but you decide that evaporated milk is just as good and then mix that with sweetened condensed milk and vanilla for your coffee creamer because Pinterest that’s why. Feel so good about how Pinteresty you are.
  • Pour yourself a cup of coffee and watch these videos on YouTube:

 

 

 

  • Look at the time and freak the shiz out.
  • Scramble some eggs and slap ‘em on plates, then decide that this nutritious breakfast needs some toast.
  • Throw some toast and butter on the griddle (make sure to set the burner on HIGH, that’s really important) and run upstairs to wake the cherubim from their slumber.
  • Rouse the dead, brush their teeth, change appropriate diapers, smell smoke, curse.
  • Run downstairs, remove charcoaled toast from the kitchen and put it on the patio table to air out.
  • Dress people. Attempt to make sure your preschooler look presentable. 
  • Remember you have to put the kid’s name tag on a piece of string so they can be easily identified. Don’t use the hemp string, but break out the Christmas ribbon and go with gold/silver snowflakes. Holla atcha boy.
  • Also remember that you need to put the kid’s name in the princess backpack that everybody else is going to have.
  • Also remember that you were supposed to pack extra clothes and crap in the princess backpack that everybody else is going to have. Put that off for tomorrow.
  • Also remember that you never really finished that salad. Crack open some salad bags and carefully arrange them in a crystal bowl. Take a moment to be annoyed that of the eight hundred old ladies that bought you wedding gifts, not one of them thought to get you good Tupperware, but bought stupid ass crystal bowls instead. Secretly pray that this dumb bowl gets broken at school. Salad done.
  • Change the poo-splosion that is the hallmark of your youngest child’s morning routine. Curse.
  • Throw people in the car only to realize you have to take the obligatory first day of school picture on the front steps. Do that now.
  • Fight morning traffic to get the younger two to Nana’s house because you effed up on childcare and the poor woman who is home sick with bronchitis is going to watch them. Resolve to get your crap together for goodness sake.
  • Drop the younger two, run to the grocery store and buy dressing for the salad ’cause you were just not Pinteresty enough to make your own dressing like you planned, you psycho.
  • Get to school and do yo’ thang. (Please make sure to appreciate that your child has absolutely NO idea what that pretend ironing board is for.)

 

The Evening After The First Day

  • Decide you’re going to do better tonight so you can do better tomorrow.
  • Feed and bathe the children at a reasonable hour. So reasonable, in fact, that you’ve got time to trim their nails!
  • Discover that your oldest has not only been biting her fingernails, but her toenails as well.
  • Gag, vomit, gag, gag, gag. Vomit. 
  • Throw in the towel and call it a night.

 

Girl, you have got this chaos in the bag! Congratulations!

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