No More Lemons, Please

Death_to_stock_photography_Wake_Up_5

To those of my readers who say that they love me and my blog because I am unafraid to be real, this one is for you. I am writing this through the tears of an exhausted, hormonal, self-conscious, anxious wreck of a person.

I have learned in my all-of-26 years that life ebbs and flows. This is nothing new. There are good days and bad days, and most of an average life is constructed of seasons where the good days outnumber the bad. “This is just a crappy day.” we say, hoping and praying and KNOWING that tomorrow will be better. But what do we do when the proverbial switch is flipped? When the bad days seem to swallow us? What do we do when everything should add up to happiness, but it just doesn’t?

I have been wrestling a lot lately with the concept of perception. I know in my heart that I don’t have it that bad. “All of my kids are healthy. I have a great husband. I have beautiful home. Our income is stable.” These are things I try really hard to tell myself when the going gets tough. Other women wake up not knowing whether or not their children will have food that day, or whether their husband/boyfriend/etc. will be kind or abusive that day. My heart aches for these women. I remind myself of them and pray for them when I become enamored by my own “sufferings.” But sometimes, I can’t talk myself out of the tears. Sometimes, life hands me a lot of lemons and the lemonade-makin’ machine is broken.

Today is one of those days. I’ve had it with the babies’ crying, with the loneliness, with the being needed, with the adulting, with the responsibility, with the expectations, with the spoon-feeding, with the diaper changing, with the keeping up of appearances (because even the most transparent of people still have to pretend sometimes), with the politeness that I don’t feel like mustering up, with being tired.

People say a lot of nice things about me. They tell me that I am a blessing. I smile and make some sarcastic or self-deprecating comment. They tell me that they don’t know how I do it. I say Neither do I. What I feel like doing sometimes is tearing up and honestly telling them “I don’t.”

This is such a hard season. Three babies under a year and a half is asinine and I am constantly torn apart by my desire to snuggle and hug and ENJOY and my desire to just be done with this phase. I’m over the crying babies, the not being able to do anything out of the house by myself, the nursing, if I’m being honest. And yet sometimes I never want them to grow up.

After I had Grady, I suffered from some postpartum anxiety and hormone balance issues (outside of the normal hormone problems). It was a rough 6 months for our marriage and for my sanity and I didn’t even know how to tell anyone about it. All I knew was that something wasn’t right. Surely this was not normal. The problems went away only because I got pregnant again. I spent the second half of this pregnancy terrified that I would become a basket case again. That I would crack under the pressure. That I am not enough. And some days, like today, I feel like that is true.

In a normal season, I would know that I would wake up tomorrow and feel better. That this is just a crappy, bad dream of a day, but I don’t know that lately. What if it’s not?

I’m learning to trust God and lean on him more, but I am a habitual “Do-it-myselfer.” I tell myself that God is busy with those other women I mentioned above. That my silly anxiety would be a selfish issue to bring up. God has been letting me fall on my face enough lately to draw me back to Him and to show me that my emotions and self-worth are important to Him, and that He is big enough for all of us, duh.

I say all of that with the caveat that I don’t at all intend for that to be the “message” for my post today. Sure, they are nice words, but when I say that I am learning and convincing and working, I mean that to the very fullest extent that I can convey. I don’t even feel good about writing those words because I would never want anyone to think that because I know those things, that I am smiling behind my computer and satisfied with the moral of this story and tying it with a neat little bow. The reason I wrote this today was mostly because I needed to. Sure, I hope that my bluntness and in-eloquent venting might resonate with someone else, but sometimes forcing myself to come out from behind the facade that others build for me because I am “so selfless and inspiring” is the therapy needed to get me through another day.

Love, Alex

The Mom Olympics

There is a lot of competition between us moms. Am I caring enough? Do I speak in sweet enough tones to my children? Do I discipline the “right” way? Do I never EVER put convenience above hygiene or general cleanliness? Am I making activities educational enough? Oh, that other kid knows his ABCs at 18 months, should mine too? The list is endless. Add snarky looks from other moms who OBVIOUSLY do it better than me and other moms who could OBVIOUSLY learn so much from me and my mommy-skillz and my self-esteem is always tip-toeing on the wall between the confidence of Kanye West and George-Michael Bluth.

My vote is that we stop this arbitrary and objective competition and hold one that matters for realsies and can actually be scored (preferably by someone holding big white signs with numbers 1-10 on them).

Enter the Mom Olympics.

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We will have general areas of expertise with sub-events in each area. This is an Olympic year, after all. Let’s get in gear, Mama.

Hygiene

  •  Nail-cutting: Momletes would be judged on speed, overall precision, and ability to hold toddler still during event without clipping skin or using “scary mom voice.”
  • Diaper-changing: Momletes will be given a toddler with a dirty diaper who has been fed 3 pixie sticks and shown a light-up toy that is just out of reach and then evaluated on swiftness, ability to keep diaper pad clean, and least number of wet wipes used.
  • Bath-time: Momletes will be given two children ages two years apart to fully bathe while being scored on memory of and cleaning of all parts and crevices, creativity with bath toys, lack of actual or perceived soap-in-eyes, and least amount of body splashed.

Bedtime

  • Bedtime Story: Momletes will be judged on use of theatrical character voices, maintaining control of situation with tired, banshee children, and resistance to urge to suddenly shut the book mid-story and say “the end.”
  • Bedtime Ninja Crawl: Momletes will be given an only somewhat sleepy child and tasked with putting said child to bed, only to be asked by child to “lay down for a minute.” Momletes will then have to wait until child is asleep and then do her best stealthy escape without waking child up with movement, sound, light from outside of room, or annoying 6th sense of child.
  • Post-Bedtime Victory Dance: Momletes will be allowed to include a partner for this event, and will be scored on enthusiasm, overall choreography, creative inclusion of partner, with bonus points given if dance is continued all the way to the place where wine is kept.

Sickness

  • Nose-Sucking: Momletes will be evaluated on ability to hold down child while keeping his/her hands from swiping the bulb mid-suck and completing actual snot-extraction with only her two arms, and also instinctual knowledge of whether there is more gunk in child’s sinuses, paired with decision of whether or not it is worth it to retrieve said gunk or just call it a freaking day.
  • Comforting: Momletes  will be judged on use of soothing tones, creative use of unnecessary medical items (ie: bandaids) as a placebo effect to trick child, and resistance of using the phrase “suck it up” with over-dramatic children.
  • Immune System: Momletes will be scored on dodging of sneezes, coughs, and throw-up, remembering to take Vitamin C tablets (even though science has told us that this mostly does not work), and of course, sheer internal will to not get sick.

Communication and Media

  • Listening: Momletes will be paired with a 7-year-old who had an interesting day at school and then have to listen to the child turn a simple story into a 30-minute saga while being judged on head nodding, tracking sounds that make her seem interested, resistance to checking time or letting mind wander, and performance on detailed quiz at the end.
  • Deciphering Cries: Momletes will be played a series of cries, screams, and tantrums and tasked with deciding whether each one is a result of child letting go of a balloon or of breaking an actual bone.
  • Instagram: Momletes will be paired with a toddler who couldn’t care less about being photographed and then scored on ability to use creative lighting, difficult positions, and non-cooperative child to create the best photo shoot with the wittiest caption.

Being in Public

  • Grocery Store: Momletes will be given 3 children and an extensive shopping list and then evaluated on tantrum policing, control of situation on cereal and snack aisles, and will-power to not abandon cart and carry all children football-style to car.
  • Other Children: Momletes will be paired with a child in dire need of a nap and placed in a dentist office waiting room with badly behaved children whose mother is at the point of waving a white flag and doing nothing to control them. Momletes will then be judged on ability keep child from also turning into a monster and resistance to crazy-eyes.
  • Mall-Escape: Momletes will be placed in a crowded shopping mall and paired with a child who has been told “no” multiple times when he or she requested to purchase wildly unnecessary items. Momletes will then be scored on attempts to keep child’s spirits up, followed by ability to stop child from laying down in the middle of the mall while throwing a tantrum, and finally, discretion on best timing to airlift child and take situation to restroom or vehicle.

Playtime

  • Park: Momletes will be tasked with taking a child to the park and evaluated on ability to push child on swing with vague “correct” speed and height, coming up with new and convincing reasons why she cannot play tag beyond a quick 3-minute stint, and knowledge of when to put down phone and look attentive to child for the sake of other, judgy moms.
  • Arts and Crafts: Momletes will be given multiple children with varying personalities and tasked with casting their hands, putting together a gingerbread house, and supervising them playing with a bead set. Momletes will be judged on ability to pep-talk herself before activity begins, willingness to throw structure, order, and instructions out the window, and coming out of event without crazy-eyes or more than one child punished.
  • Make-Believe: Momletes will be scored on correct portrayal of character they barely remember from some children’s show, enthusiasm while being stabbed by fake sword, shot by fake gun, or otherwise slayed as a dragon, and ability to expertly repeat mildly decipherable line of dialog fed to her by child.

The award system will be tiered with:

Gold: Night in a hotel to yourself

Silver: Drinking an entire beverage while it is still hot

Bronze: Getting to pee alone

I really feel like this should be a thing. Can we get on this? 

What events am I missing? Lay ’em on me!

Love, Alex

Crying in the Ultrasound Room

See my dress color? Yeah. It took me a while to get to that thumbs up.

See my dress color? Yeah. It took me a while to get to that thumbs up.

Now I’m sure some of you thought that title may have corresponded to precious, loving feelings of seeing my baby and finding out its sex. I think I’ve made it clear that I am not precious, and while I do cry a lot, talking about the amazing feelings of seeing your baby are awesome, yes, but also not unique banter for a blog. What I’m getting at is that I cried hot, sad, guilty tears that day. And before you come at me with pitchforks and torches shouting about how I’m ungrateful and unloving, hear me out. Especially because I think I’m probably not alone in this.

It most likely won’t come as much of a shock since the majority of women hope for a girl during pregnancy, but *shocker* I wanted a girl.

I had my reasons. Everyone in my larger church community seemingly had lotsandLotsandLOTS of boys and I wanted a different experience than them. We have girl dogs (ahem, children) and though it might sound silly, watching Bryan with them and knowing the type of man he is, I just wanted to see him with a daughter so badly. There are petty reasons, like the fact that girl clothes are 1000 times cuter than boy clothes, (<–fact) and also bigger reasons like the one I have to pull the vague-card on again (I really do promise to share soon).

Regardless of all the things, Bryan and I were both standing squarely on the girl-train.

In my increasing nervousness as the big day approached, I did some research on gender disappointment and found that it is an actual clinical issue that many women deal with. This should have made me feel better right? “No!” said my brain, “That would be much too logical!”

I was just so afraid of being disappointed to find out it was a boy and then feeling guilty about being disappointed like a vicious circle. I talked to a few people about it, most of whom understood, some of whom did not (Thanks guys!). It didn’t help to hear friends and family refer to the baby as a “him” before we even found out though, because as ridiculous as this sounds, I knew their happiness at guessing correctly would make it harder for me to pretend to be excited.

On July 24, we got up and headed to the clinic with a belly full of baby and butterflies. We were called into the ultrasound room first. Just like that. No doctor visit barrier. I think the tech was a little weirded out at ALL THE QUESTIONS. “Already? Are you sure? Like this? Right here? Uhh, so do you have kids? What’s the worst reaction you’ve ever seen of someone finding out the gender?” (You guys…) She told me that none were really too bad.

Awesome.

So we’re all chit-chatty and “Oh my gosh that’s our baby!” for the first few minutes. Then. She waves past the evidence quickly, but we had already seen. “Ok, are you ready to know what it is?! It’s a boy!”

Silence.

I had such mixed emotions at that moment. Here I have a perfect, healthy baby BOY and all I can think about it my disappointment–>guilt for being disappointed–>but…BABY GIRL CLOTHES–>our baby is healthy!–>disappointment–>OMG HE’S SUCKING HIS THUMB–>well they do say boys are easier and now I’m off the hook for the birds and the bees talk–>disappointment. (<– vicious cycle. I know you appreciate me spelling it out for you because it’s not obvious or anything really.)

I cried. Like, so much that multiple tissues were needed. It was embarrassing and I hated myself for it.

All of the articles I had read about gender disappointment talked about how, much like when you take a pregnancy test that is negative and mourn the loss of a baby that never was, you mourn the loss of the baby girl or boy that never was.

I got it. Sitting in the waiting room accepting the fact that we wouldn’t be having a girl before having to fake excitement for the doctor was hard for both of us. Not to mention the fact that we had this family reveal dinner in the works for that very night that I had to polish my acting skills for.

gender reveal 1

Oh hey guys!

I got to work that morning and immediately started messing with our Amazon baby registry as a coping mechenism, hoping to distract myself with cute and shiny. It was overwhelming enough trying to pick out so much stuff with all of the reviews and safety reports and options and opinions to consider. What made it harder was that BOY STUFF IS JUST NOT AS CUTE AS GIRL STUFF. Plus, as it turns out, I’m super picky about the boy crap I actually do like. I’m so much fun, no really.

See?

See? So much fun. (Ugh so grainy. Sorry guys, It was dark in there!)

Oh, and I had to call the bakery to tell them what color to use to fill the cupcakes and I’m sure the poor girl at Rick’s just thought I was a heartless weirdo.

“Hey, just calling to tell you the filling color..it’s blue *small amount of forced excitement*”

“Oh a boy! Yay!”

“…yep. Ok thank you *more forced exctiement*.”

I mean…

How awesome are those though? Not-at-all-humble brag: the catchphrase was completely my idea and not a product of Pinterest at all.

How awesome are those though? Not-at-all-humble brag: the catchphrase was completely my idea and not a product of Pinterest at all. (Again with the grainy. I tried with the editing, I really did.)

We took our announcement photo to post after the reveal dinner, which we made it through and I didn’t cry at all. Small victory! It was actually a lot of fun to watch everyone bite into (or the smart ones use a knife to cut) the cupcakes and cheer at the filling color (which they would have done for either one of course).

See how genuine my smile is? ACTING.

See how genuine my smile is? ACTING.

The next morning, I talked to my mom and apologized for being a giant brat crabby the night before. She said she knew I was disappointed and completely understood. AND THEN (this is the “wait it gets getter” part) she said possibly the most profound thing ever. Work with me here because apparently I’m even more selfish and dense than I ever thought.

She told me that as much as having a little girl would have been wonderful and sweet and awesome,God obviously has a plan for our son, and that plan is much better than anything we could have dreamt up for our baby girl.

Ouch.

I realized that I had been thinking of this only from the standpoint of me having a baby/child/teenager. I was forgetting that there was a lot more living for him to do after the “raising him” part was over. And I think that kind of rocks.

A few minutes later my dad called me.

Let me pause here and explain something, because what I’m about to say will have much more meaning once I do. My dad and I are like, the same person.  Seriously. Both stubborn  as mules, both feel the need to constantly be right, and both tell it like it is and have to work hard on the encouraging words. So while my dad has lots of amazing qualities, the pretty words aren’t normally one of them. This is how I know God was (more gently than usual in my case) sending me the words my heart needed.

He told me that he knew I was hoping for a girl, but he thought I should know that I was going to make the best boy mom. He said that watching me with Grant and Guy (the sons of both of our mentors and who we watch when they are out of town), he could tell that I was going to be great and natural at this parenting thing. (<–HAHA)

Cue the tears. Seriously, y’all. This is when the good times started for me. I still had set-backs, like on vacation when all I saw were adorable, clean, well-dressed little girls and mangy, screaming, fit-thowing little boys. Hold me. But I got to go shopping at the outlet malls with the world’s best and most patient mom because for real, I AM SO PICKY, and I got some freaking adorable stuff for Grady.

That’s his name, Grady. OMG my child has a name. And OMG I’m over halfway there. And OMG I’m someone’s mom.

Crazy Eyes.

 

I've told you about my husband's obsession with bears, yes? Imagine my excitement to find this. I mean really.

I’ve told you about my husband’s obsession with bears, yes? Imagine my excitement to find this. I mean really.

My child is already swimming in threads thanks hugely to my wonderful and generous parents. Can you tell which piece is the favorite?

My child is already swimming in threads thanks hugely to my wonderful and generous parents. Can you tell which piece is the favorite?

Love, Alex

PS: For what it’s worth, here is the link for our ultrasound video. Not that I expect anyone to go watch it. I completely understand that what is wonderful and exciting for proud parents is just soooo boring for others. 🙂