Thursday, December 4, 2014

I Already Have That

Have you seen those annoyingly terrible Geico commercials lately that feature the "Well, did you know...." dumb endings? I dislike them immensely, but, unfortunately, one of them will help illustrate my thought for today so I'm going to reference it anyway.

Point Geico. Ugh.

The individual commercial from the horrendous series is one in which the question is posed, "Well, did you know that genies are very literal?" It then shows a guy finding a genie in a bottle and wishing for a million bucks. The screen then fills with male deer, and the man is truly disappointed when he realizes his poor diction. He got EXACTLY what he wished for, it just wasn't in the way he wanted it. He wanted money. He got bucks. Hardy har har.

I've been thinking about how that happens in life to so many of us. We want, wish, and pray for certain things and sometimes don't even recognize our blessings when we receive them because they don't turn out how we expected.

When I was younger, I wanted to be somebody special. I wanted to be a household name. I don't know why, really. I just did. I wanted everybody to know my name.

I always thought it would happen if I became a famous author, which I really wanted. Although, to be a famous author, you have to write something worth publishing, and I haven't quite worked that part out yet. So I thought, at least for now, that my dreams would go unfulfilled. Until recently, that is, when I looked at my life and realized that I already have what I have always wanted.

I am special. Not to everyone, of course, but to the people who love me, I am special. There is only one of me (and for the good of the world, I really think that's best). I'm a little weird, but my quirks make me different. They may me special. Boom. Done.

I have a household name. Everybody knows my name. That happened the moment my name changed from Kathryn to Mama. Everybody knows Mama, or Mom, or whatever else mothers are called. I have a household name.

This isn't exactly how I pictured things when I was younger and hoping for them.

This is better.

I might yet successfully pull one of the stories out of my head and publish a book one day. But even if that never happens, even if nobody beyond my own friends and family ever recognizes the name on my driver's license, that's okay. I already have everything I ever wanted...and a little more.

So, what about you? Are you still asking for something that God already gave you?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Chore I Hate the Most

I hate to do chores. Well, that's not really true. I hate the need to do chores. I procrastinate with all the other things that I need to do before I will resort to chores. Call it ADHD. Call it being messy, a slob, whatever. My step-mom even calls it "But First! Syndrome". As in, I need to do the dishes, BUT FIRST I need to answer emails. And then, I need to answer emails, BUT FIRST I should really make that vet appointment the dog needs and check in on Suzy Q from church who just had her baby to see if she needs me to bring her dinner tonight. It usually ends up meaning I have a whole lot of half done chores and nothing to show for it.

However, once I really get into a chore, I love the productive feeling I get. That sense of pride that something is getting done, that's what really drives me. Because when I'm done, I take a deep breath and feel better. And I don't just feel better about my to do list. I feel better in general. I accomplished something. It feels good.

So while I really dislike scrubbing the pots and pans, I feel good about it being done. I really don't like to do dishes. Especially since it's a never-ending cycle of scrub, dry, put away and then a few hours later, get back out, used to cook, and then have to scrub, dry, etc all over again. But I do it, because in those few hours between the new cleanliness and the start of the new mess, it feels good. Although, I might have, on occasion, gone out for dinner just to preserve the clean state of the kitchen for a few extra hours. Don't even pretend you can't relate.

I dislike doing the dishes, I dislike this particular chore on a level above the others. Still, it isn't the chore I hate the most. The chore I hate the most is one I only have to do every couple of months. It's one I'll have to do every few months, sometimes weeks, for the next several years, and then one day, I won't have to do it anymore.

I hate cleaning out my son's closet. Like all other chores, I love the feeling I get when I know I'm being productive. Unlike the other chores, I don't procrastinate on this one. As soon as it's time for him to move up to the next size because he has several other things that don't fit, it's time for the small stuff to make room for the bigger stuff. However, the feeling of pride over my productivity is often overshadowed by another feeling altogether.

With every piece of clothing I pull out of his drawer, or off of his hangers, I realize just how quickly my son is growing up. I realize that those days that seemed long, were shorter than I thought. Those moments that seemed like they would never end, when he would cry and reach for me because he needed me to do every little thing for him, are getting fewer and fewer everyday.

I get more chores done around the house now. I can scrub pots and pans, do laundry, and even cook simple meals without him having a conniption that I'm not standing or sitting right next to him every second. My house is cleaner. My to do list reaches completion more often. He doesn't need me to entertain him at all times, because he has learned to entertain himself.

We still have play time together. We still have reading time together. He still needs me to make meals, give baths, kiss boo-boos, and do all the other things that a one year old needs his mom to do. But he already doesn't need me all the time anymore.

With every pair of pants that is now too short or too snug, with every shirt that isn't long enough, with every pair of socks that no longer completely covers his heels, he has hit milestones that means he is becoming more independent. He needs me less.

He is my son. To some degree he will always need me. Even if it is just to love him. But one day, that's all he'll need of me. And that is so very bittersweet. One day he will be grown. He will have a job, a home that is not mine, and a family for whom he is responsible. He will have these things because each day we (I'm not in this alone, after all) teach him new skills. We teach him right from wrong. We are slowly, each day, teaching him not to need us. Not to need me.

There are still days, usually when I am carrying him into church or the store, when I think, "Little man, you need to learn how to walk because you are getting heavy." And then I know that one day he will be able to walk, run even, and I will chase after him and wish he was still small enough to carry.

I open the box his old clothes go into and look at all the other outfits in it. He was so small once! I remember when he wore this. He woke up every three hours to eat and I felt like a zombie. I prayed he would sleep through the night so that I could, too. I remember when he wore that, he couldn't crawl yet and would just roll across the floor to get to his destination, which was, more often than not, me. Now I put a new batch of clothes in the box. Ones that I will long for a few months from now. Ones that I'm sure I will weep over someday when I clean out the attic and this is not the only box of things he has long since outgrown.

As a mother, the days can seem very long. You have laundry to wash. You have dishes to clean. You have floors to sweep or vacuum. You have shelves to dust, towels to fold, toys to pick up, and bills to pay. You have food to cook. You have emails and phone calls to answer. You have a million little things that you need to be doing and you have this little person, this beautiful, wonderful, adorable, hugely needy little person pulling at your pant leg. You wonder, will this phase ever end? And then? It does. It's over. You still have a million things to do, but that little person isn't as little anymore and is off doing something without you. It makes your to do list easier, but your days are shorter. The years are shorter. And that breaks your heart.

I'm proud of every milestone my son hits. I'm proud of every new thing he learns how to do. But I know just how fast time is going by. I know because that deep, wide box of clothes is almost full. I'll have to start a new box now. Another box to pack memories into and close the lid on.

Now, if you'll excuse me I have chores to finish. I need to do the dishes, BUT FIRST I think I'll play with my son a little longer.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


I can't take credit for the title. A friend of mine has been using the term since Mississippi State Football first hit #1 in the polls.

But I TOTALLY get it.

I'm the kind of State fan that has ridden the roller coaster of hope and disappointment before. A LOT. We, as Bulldogs, embody the old adage of "hope springs eternal". Perennially, we hope that THIS will be the year that we go back to Atlanta. Each year (except 1998), we quickly realize that THIS will actually be the year that we will only squeak into bowl eligibility, and Atlanta is COMPLETELY out of the picture.

Not this year.

This year is the season (so far. knock on wood.) that even us seasoned, jaded fans are starting to raise our eyes to that metropolitan skyline in Georgia. It is full of possibilities, good publicity, fun games, close calls, and more positive comments from color commentators than we have EVER received.

Seriously, in the past when we beat a team by whom we were expected to be made in minced meat, it was always their own fault. Commentators talked about how our opponents fell apart, never about our own efforts. For the most part, this was with good reason. We've been really bad in the past. REALLY bad. On an EPIC level. Sometimes, though, it was just insulting.

Now, each week, the praise gets better. Our mistakes are noted as unfortunate, but not insurmountable. When other teams rattle us, even for a few minutes of play, it is OUR fault, not THEIR strength. Oh, how the tables have turned. For the first time in forever (fear not, I'm not breaking into a Disney song here), WE are the team to beat. For the first time EVER, we are NUMBER ONE. IN THE COUNTRY. And we did it in RECORD TIME.

We are the first #1 ranked team to ever be announced by the selection committee for the college football playoff. We are the answer to a question in a future version of Trivial Pursuit.


And I hate it.

And I LOVE it

It's a roller coaster. Did I mention I get motion sick? Us Bulldogs, we're not conditioned for this.

Why the hate? Because every week, WE ARE THE TEAM TO BEAT. For any team that can manage it, we are a statement. We are a moral victory. If they can beat us, WE are their big win. I'm not comfortable in this position. I'm not accustomed to it. To know that EVERY team you play against will NOT be looking past you to the next big team on their schedule, but that you ARE the big team on their schedule. They are all gunning for us. US. The Bulldogs. Smallest athletic budget in the SEC. Small town, cow college, no respect, backwoods, maroon and white, MISSISSIPPI STATE. Suddenly, we have a target on our back. And our chest. And our helmet.

Every week matters. EVERY WEEK.

It's both beautiful and horrific.

I love it because I love winning. I love the celebration. And, truthfully, I love the team this year. I'm not the biggest fan of each and every individual player, but for the most part, I really like this group of guys.

But on the flip side, every time a turnover happens, or an opponent makes it to the red zone, I start to feel a mild internal panic. Because THIS could be the moment when it all goes down the drain. THIS could be the moment that ruins the rest of the year. THIS could be what keeps us out of the playoff. THIS WEEK. THIS GAME. THIS MOMENT.

It's exhausting.

I knew it would be lonely at the top. I didn't realize it would be this nerve wracking.

Of course, that might only be because I'm a tad too emotionally invested in a sports team.

Stop judging. I'm sure you have the same problem with something in your life. It just maybe isn't sports. Glass houses, people.

Anyway, I'm enjoying this season immensely. And also trying not to have a coronary event at every turn.

And if Dak Prescott doesn't win the Heisman, I might lose the only ounce of cool I have ever possessed.

Y'all pray for me.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Be Quiet and Know...

I have taken a pretty long hiatus from blogging, with the exception of a few shared thoughts here and there. It started off unintentionally. I was busy; I was distracted; and then, strangely, I just didn't have much to say. As most of you know, that's usually not a problem for me. I'm never at a loss for words. I even talk when I'm nervous (which, often, leads to just babbling). Too much quiet makes me uncomfortable, so sometimes I have to say something. So why didn't I have much to say? Because for the few times in my life, I was busy trying to listen.

I've been going through a Bible Study at church this fall which is just fantastic. I love the women who lead it. I love the women who attend. I love all the things that God has put on my heart since starting it. I even love the sense of conviction that reduces me to tears sometimes because I know that God is speaking to me.

It's not like there's a big, booming voice that shakes the room saying "I'M LOOKING AT YOU, KATHRYN!" There is just this realization, this truth, that hits me like a ton of bricks and I KNOW that I NEEDED to hear what was said.

For those of you who are wondering, the material for this women's study is Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa Terkeurst. I strongly recommend it. I have never met Lysa, she is not paying me to endorse her book, she doesn't know I exist, but after reading this book and going through this study, I feel like she knows me. She is very open and transparent about her struggles and I share so many of them. Every chapter or so she would describe something that she has or has previously had problems with and my reaction has always been, "RIGHT?!" Because I KNOW. I've been there. I AM there. Girlfriend hits close to home...HARD.

Anyway, one of the things she talks about in the book is being a woman of intentional words, meaning that everything I say should have a purpose. It is about more than just not gossiping, although, that is a factor. It's about protecting our mouths. She gives several verses that relate to this idea and I would like to share them, and a few more, to help make my point.

I have always thought of Ephesians 4:29 when I think about what I say, though, we all know that I'm not always so great at adhering to it. It says, "No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear."

I have used curse words, sure. I admit that. I still have to fight them off every time they want to spill forth from my mouth in either anger or hurt. But, I always focused only on that half of the verse. I was so focused on the importance of not using profane language, that I sort of skipped over the part about only saying what is good for edifying someone in need. That doesn't mean that I can't hold someone accountable. What it means is that I have to give my criticisms in a constructive way and with love. I shouldn't tear people down. My mean streak, decorated with wit and sarcasm, needs to be put it its place, which is out of my heart.

I also recently was struck by Job 18:2, "How long until you stop talking? Show some sense and then we can talk." This is in reference to Job's, well, pity party. He is upset because many disasters and tragedies have befallen him, so he is lamenting, and lamenting, and lamenting, and lamenting. Finally his friends call him on it. It isn't that he didn't have a right to grieve, but we cannot live in grief. We cannot wallow.

Not only do I sometimes wallow, but I also tend to babble when I'm nervous. So this verse speaks to me. It shows me that I need to stop and quietly reflect sometimes. I need to shut up and listen for what God has to say about my situation. He has a plan. He always does, but if I can't hear Him because I'm too busy droning on, I'll miss out.

The second half of Matthew 12:34 says, "...For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart." So when I tear people down, when I'm mean, crass, or profane, I'm putting my inner darkness on display for the whole world to see. I'm showing that I'm not letting God rule my heart, because if He had control, I wouldn't say such things because I wouldn't feel them. I'm showing my failure in the battle to rid me of myself, maybe that day, maybe that week, or longer.

Or to people who don't know God, but know me, I'm scaring them away from Him. If I'm cruel and mean in my speech, what does that say about the God of my heart? If I babble nonsense, stick my foot in my mouth, use profane language, I'm giving people the wrong impression about who God is. Because they may not know that it isn't God who is saying those things, but the very human, very broken, very defensive and easily offended me.

So what does ALL this have to do with my blogging absence? I'm not just babbling here, really. It's related. I've spent the last several weeks trying to be more intentional about what I say. I'm trying to guard my heart by conquering my tongue. It isn't easy and I don't always succeed, but in those moments or days when I am successful (because I let God be in control of my heart AND my mouth) I feel....better. It's like a weight is lifted off of my chest at the end of the day. I don't lie awake thinking of all the things I said that I can't take back. It's freeing.

Psalm 19:14 says, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer." I've been trying to live that out. It has been my cry, my plea.

And my silence? My lack of anything to say at all? It isn't because my heart is empty. Within the last week, I was struck by something that has made me want to be quiet a little more often, which is VERY hard for me.

My son's nursery has Bible verses on the wall in several places. They aren't for Him, he is far from being old enough to read. Although, a few are in his honor and for him to see each day as he grows up and learns to read. Most of them, though, are for me and my husband. There is one that hangs over his crib. Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God..."

My son turns a year old next week and we put that on the wall before he was born, meaning that verse has been on the wall for a year, or a little longer. I have seen it many times a day, EVERY DAY for a year. I have stared at it in the middle of the night. I have looked up at it from the rocking chair at nap time. I have glanced at it before and after diaper changes. It's been there. THE WHOLE TIME. But this week, A YEAR LATER, God used it to speak to me.

I chose the verse originally because sometimes it helps me remain calm when I'm faced with too much...anything. It reminds me that God is there and He is in control. He's got this. Calm down. It's going to be okay.

This week, though, the verse has said something else to me. It's as if I could read it as BE QUIET and know...

It's like God said directly to my heart, "Stop talking, turn off the music, close the 2,568 tabs your brain has open, and just listen. You might just hear Me."

So I did. I got quiet. And It. Was. Wonderful.

I heard Him. It affected me. I was more joyful in my daily tasks. I was happier. I was upbeat. And He even prodded me a little when it was time to stop being quiet and share my thoughts with my husband, with my Bible Study class, and with my blog.

Two women in my study group came up to me last night and hugged me and told me how blessed they felt by what I share in class. They praised me for my wisdom, especially at my age (they are both my parent's age or older) as well as my honesty and transparency. By the end of the conversation we were all in tears. They commended me and I was so humbled for it. Let me say that again, 'cause y'all KNOW I can be quite prideful. They COMMENDED ME and I WAS HUMBLED. It was beautiful. Truly.

And somewhere in my head and in my heart, I felt that now it was time to break the silence and share. Because now, I had something to say. More than that. I had something WORTH SAYING. And that's the real reason I haven't been blogging, I realize now. I didn't have anything really worth saying.

Maybe now that I've broken through the block I had, I can finally right a decent post about my excitement and weekly anxiety about MSU Football and it's current #1 ranking. That's for another post, though. Now, I think I will close the computer, put my phone on vibrate, and enjoy the quiet while I work on some of my daily tasks. I'm not uncomfortable in the silence now, at least not all the time. I learning to appreciate it. And maybe, just maybe, I'll hear God along the way.

Friday, September 26, 2014

I Don't Even Like That Girl

I really, REALLY love the song "Lead Me to the Cross". I don't even care which of the MANY Contemporary Christian Artists is singing, and seriously, A LOT of them have recorded this song. I love it all.

Anyway, I have been thinking a lot lately about the chorus:

Lead me to the cross where Your love poured out,
Bring me to my knees, Lord, I lay me down,
Rid me of myself, I belong to You,
Lead me, lead me to the cross.

I especially have been focusing on the the "rid me of myself" part. It is an everyday struggle for me to relinquish control and give it to the Lord, to whom it really belongs. Sometimes, it is a battle I fight several times in the same day. I love the Lord. I trust the Lord. I want Him at the helm of my life. So why is it so hard to let Him?

When the Lord is in charge, when I'm committed to serving Him, I am nicer. I am more productive. I feel love and joy in ways that I just can't explain and don't even compare to when I'm steering the ship of my life. The trouble is, I'm a bit of a control freak.

But why do I want to be in control, when I KNOW just how much better it is when God has the reigns? Who am I, when I'm in control. I look in the mirror to see.

Oh, the mirror. WE ARE NOT FRIENDS. I know that girl looking back at me. It took me a REALLY, REALLY, REALLY long time to learn to love her. I do now, I love her. I love the kindness I discovered deep down in her heart. I love her endless creativity. The trouble is, no matter how much I love her, I can't seem to like her. Her kindness is buried within and her creativity is hidden behind the fear of sharing it. She has a constant need for approval, but she has trouble letting people in. Her heart is not hidden behind a brick wall, but a barbed wire fence. She is witty, but often uses her wit in a cutting and judgmental manner. When she feels she has been wronged she can be vengeful and mean. She's not so great at the forgive and forget mantra. She loves food a little too much.She's moody. She can be really condescending.

I DON'T EVEN LIKE HER. So why is it so hard to let go of her?

I know her. She's comfortable. I am her, after all. To give everything over to the Lord I have to step outside my comfort zone. I have to willingly walk into the unknown. The thing is, it is not unknown to Him. Recently, I was given an illustration. Take a piece of paper and draw a line all the way across it. Pick up a straw and look through it to see the line. You can only see a little bitty, teeny weeny, yellow polka dot...wait, scratch that last part. The point is, you can only see a very small, minute part of the overall line. The line is like a timeline of our lives. We can only see the day to day. A tiny piece of the overall line. God sees the whole line, though. He knows what is coming. He knows how to prepare me. The trials I face each day are his way of shaping me so that I am best suited for what is coming.I know that. And it helps, really. It's still a little scary to relinquish control.

I love the Lord. I get to know Him more a little each day. But I have a finite mind and will never understand all that he understands. That girl in the mirror? I know her completely. That's why she's so hard to let go of.

I'm working on it, though. Everyday. All day. Constantly.

Rid me of myself. Please.

I don't even like that girl.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Lessons From Motherhood

The first nine months of it anyway.

I love being a mom. Even more than I ever thought I would. Most people don't know this about me, but I've always wanted to be a mom. Even through my tomboy stage. Even when I wanted to be the kind of world traveler that never settles down. Even when I wanted to write novels (I still kinda want to do that). Even though I would have denied it if you had asked me when I was younger, the truth is through every stage of my life I have held a secret desire to have children. In fact, when I was in high school a friend of mine had to have a medical procedure done to ensure her health that had a possible side effect of not being able to bear children. She cried at the prospect. I cried with her. I cried as her friend. I cried out of sympathy. And I cried for fear of it one day happening to me. I've wanted a lot of things over the years, my wants and desires have changed with each stage of my life in unpredictable ways, but my desire to have children never wavered. I sometimes questioned if it should happen or if it would happen, but I always wanted it. And now? I have a beautiful baby boy.

I am a mother.

Despite the fact that I have wanted this for so long, I still sometimes am blown away by that last part. I AM A MOTHER. I'M THE MAMA. Where's Mama? Right here, because, suddenly, I'm Mama. I'm the one who is supposed to mother. I'm in charge of this little life. I love it and it terrifies me.

See that is the thing about having wanted children all my life. I always dreamed about what it would be like.  Y'know, I thought about when they go off to school, when they need comfort, when they go on a first date, when they get their heart broken, when they have amazing accomplishments. It is a little like dreaming of being a soldier, even if it means going to war, but forgetting about going through boot camp first.

I never thought about the infant part. How hard it would be. What the challenges might be. I knew I'd be exhausted. I knew I would love my child. I did not know to what extent on either account. I'm not sure either state can be described with the limited ability of human language.

Nine months in and I'm still learning. I love it. And since many of my friends have become or are becoming parents themselves, I thought now might be a good time to share some of the lessons I've learned thus far. You might disagree, or not care. That's not really the point. As always this blog serves as a form of my own self expression and if you don't like it, too bad, so sad.

1. There is a reason child rearing is meant to be handled by both parents. It is a team sport. You have to be on the same side and help each other out. Having said that, I now think successful single parents are the closest thing that reality has to superheroes.

2. A lot of the things I thought about parenting before I became a parent were stupid. "You can always just..." "I'll never let my kid act like that." No, you can't. And yes, you will. Why? Because you must pick your battles. Some are more important than others. Some can be saved for another day. Others must be fought and MUST be won immediately. You'll know when it happens to you. In my house giving up the pacifier outside of nap time could wait until 8 months old, but kicking Mama during diaper changes had to be dealt with without delay. Drinking a bottle on his own? Negotiable to a degree. Throwing food? No, sir.

3. Other people will give you more advice than you can shake a stick at. Smile and nod. Just smile and nod. You can tell them off in your head, but do try to avoid doing it out loud. They think they are helping. Really, they do.

4. Other people will also try to tell you what your child is ready for. "Oh, he should be doing (insert arbitrary milestone activity that has nothing to do with mental, social, or physical development here) on his own by now." And might even try to force your child into it. Try not to strangle them. Even if they wait until you're not looking, and make you miss a "first" that, while arbitrary, was still important to you to see. They mean well. They don't realize they have just stolen a moment from you. He'll do it again soon and you can watch in supportive amazement then. As for the meddler, they think they've done you a great service. Even if it is through clenched teeth, say thank you and move on.

5. Love is not finite. Just when you think you couldn't love this small creature any more than you already do, something happens and more love flows forth from you. I didn't know human beings had such a capacity for love before parenthood. I understand God's love for us just a little better now. I'm not claiming to understand it completely, mind you, just to understand it better than I did before.

6. You can survive on a lot less sleep than you think. A lot less. A LOT less. And then your child will sleep through the night and you'll get used to getting more again. And then, one night, he'll get sick or have a nightmare and you'll be up all night again. And you'll survive. And you'll want to slap every person who tries to tell you how bad caffeine is for you.

7. Welcome to the "mommy wars". They are brutal and unforgiving. You didn't breastfeed? Wretch. Breast feeder? Attachment issues.You are using cloth diapers? Crazy Hippie! Disposables? Earth hater! You are going back to work?  You are shirking your motherly duties! Staying home? You are killing feminism!! In the mommy wars every decision you make will be wrong, someone else will always be able to do it better, and NOBODY wins. Nobody. A mom's best ally during the wonderfully difficult first days of motherhood are other mothers who understand what you are going through. Worst enemy? Other mothers who will tell you everything you are doing wrong. Learn who is who and stay away from the latter.

8. Not all wipes are created equal. Some are thicker (great for the especially gross moments). Some smell better than others (or at least less disgusting than what you are using them to clean up!). Some are wetter, or slimier. Prices vary greatly. I, personally, love Huggies Triple Clean. Partly because I can buy them at Costco in bulk and not worry about running out at the most inconvenient time possible. To each her own, though.

9. Not all diapers (disposables, I have no experience with cloth diapers. That's right, I must be an planet hater.) are created equal, either. And not each type or brand of diaper fits every baby. My son can't wear certain brands because he has a longer torso, and they don't fit him at all (he ends up with "plumber's crack"). While we started off LOVING Pampers Swaddlers, as he got bigger and started moving around more, I grew to really appreciate Huggies Little Movers with the double grip strips. Although, I sometimes use Pampers Baby Dry at night these days, because they do better to get through a long night. Wait. You mean you use two different types of diapers? You betcha. Anything to get the job done. I've joined both rewards programs and redeem my codes, too.

10. Consignment shops are awesome. You can sometimes buy kids clothes that have never even been worn, for less than half the original price. Worth it.

11. Nothing can distract your child long enough for you to get a potty break, or even brush your teeth, quite like Mickey Mouse. I have always loved Disney. I even worked at one of their stores years ago. LOVE Disney. Now that I am a mom and Mickey Mouse affords me a couple of minutes at a time to take care of my own needs, Flight of the Bumble Bee style, while teaching my son about primary colors, counting, letters, shapes, etc, that rodent is magic. Doc McStuffins with her check up song also helps us get ready for doctor visits.

12. Don't judge me for turning on our TV for 15 minutes a day. Unless we are watching Sports (I tuned in to the World Cup, my husband and I love to watch college football, and he loves to watch the Braves), I generally don't turn on the TV while my son is awake. Sometimes, though, if I have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it, I will turn on Disney Junior for 15 to 30 minutes to give me a few extra minutes to accomplish things. That's it. He only pays attention for maybe 2-3 minutes at a time anyway, so it never lasts long, and then I turn it back off.

13. We have read to my son multiple times a day, and again at bed time everyday since before he could sit up on his own. He is nine months old now and thinks books are the greatest things ever. They are toys to him. He LOVES reading time. Bed time stories are great, but we also generally have reading time each afternoon where I sit and read to him whatever he has pulled off the shelf (another favorite game of his). He giggles, he wants to touch the book, he loves to turn the pages (sometimes even before I'm done reading it). New books are such a treat for him. I love that.

14. Do not mess with nap time. Nap time is sacred. If you miss a nap, the whole rest of your day is shot. My child gets cranky and tired, but too tired to sleep. It's not good. And I miss the part of my day that offers me respite.

15. There is no job greater than that of being a mom. There is also no more difficult job that I know of. When people ask me how I feel about motherhood now, I say it is the best and hardest job I've ever had. I love it. That doesn't mean I couldn't use a break now and again. That's okay, too. It's okay to want to paint your nails, dry you hair, or watch a show you like (y'know the kind without cartoon animals as the main characters). It's okay. It doesn't make you a bad mom. It makes you  human.

16. It's okay to ask for help. My husband is GREAT with our son, and loves to come home and give me a break. He loves getting to spend time with our son after work and the fact that this gives me a little chance to rest is icing on the cake. Sometimes, though, we both need a break. We need to sit together and have adult conversation, with EACH OTHER. We need to call reinforcements. Again, it doesn't make us bad parents.

17. The first time your child gets sick you will completely freak out. No matter how prepared you are. No matter how calm and collected you normally are. When your child gets sick, your heart will break, your brain will go on the fritz and you will lose it. I mean LOSE IT. No other mother will judge you for this. In fact, you will probably get the pitiful "Aw, you poor thing. I've been there." look from them.

18. The first time your child gets hurt is the same. My son fell on his face. No, really, ON HIS FACE and got a black eye. I felt like the worst human being ever. Who lets their baby get a black eye? ME! That's who. My sister, mom to three boys, never missed a beat. She put a comforting hand on my shoulder and took a look at my son, saying, "That's gonna look nice. The first of many. He'll be fine." He was okay. It took a little more comforting on my part.

19. No matter how hard this phase is, it won't last. I'm tempted to quote every last lyric from "It Won't Be Like This for Long" by Darius Rucker. I liked that song before. Now it sends me to tears. In a good way. Teething? Sleepless? It won't be like this for long. One day soon, you'll look back and wonder how it seemed to last so long, and be over so quickly at the same time. You look down at them at nap time as they are still and quiet and all of sudden think, "How did you get so big? I used to be able to hold you in the crook of one elbow. Where has the time gone?"

20. Your house will never be completely clean again, and that's okay. At least once a day I have to clean up the play area. If I don't, the mess gets daunting. It doesn't matter how much laundry I do a day, how much I sweep, vacuum, or dust, part of my house will always be a disaster. The play area. My son's favorite activity right now is to pull all the toys and books off of his shelves, spread them around on the floor, and to generally make as big a mess with his toys and books as possible. During afternoon nap I try to put it all back where it came from. Otherwise, I look at it before I go to bed and think, "Nope, not worth it."

21. There's no place like home. Seriously. Traveling to see your family is great. Traveling to see your friends, wonderful. But there is nothing that disrupts your baby's sleeping habits quite like being somewhere new. At home our night routine for our son consists of bath time (a few times a week, not every night), teeth brushing, pajamas (and new diaper), hair brushing, story time, and then setting him in the crib, turning on his sound machine and leaving the room. He puts himself to sleep. However, when we are at someone else's house, or at a hotel, it NEVER goes that smoothly. I usually have to turn on his sound machine and rock him until he is so asleep his pacifier falls out of his mouth. And he usually doesn't sleep through the night when we travel either. Vacations are exhausting.

22. Put your child's name, or at least surname on EVERYTHING. Even if he is just going to the church nursery. Even if he is just going to a play group. Seriously. My husband's aunt and uncle gave us these labels that are dishwasher/washing machine safe that had our son's name printed on them. MARVELOUS. I can't tell you how many times it has saved his stuff from accidentally going home with someone else.

23. Toys that have been hidden away for a couple of weeks or months are just as good as new toys sometimes. I have a few of my sons smaller toys hidden away all the time. I keep them separate from his other toys and rotate them out every so often. I hide them in the diaper bag so when we go places, if he gets restless and needs a distraction, I pull one out. He is so fascinated by the "new" toy or so excited to see his old toy that it buys me a few minutes at a time.

24. Is baby fussy? Restless? Go for a walk. There is nothing that will calm my son down faster from a bout of whining than putting him the stroller and walking anywhere. It doesn't matter if it's around the neighborhood, through Target, all around our large church parking lot, it doesn't matter. Outside is usually better, but when it rains, seriously, Target will do. A $10 inflatable baby pool also helps. Let him splash around and get water all over the patio. He'll love it. Instant happiness.

25. Every mom thinks she is screwing it up at some point. You're not. I know it is hard to believe. I'm writing it and I still need encouragement on this issue. Really, though. You'll be fine. And so will your child. And if there are hiccups only the way, don't worry. You have to mess them up a little so they'll be interesting as adults anyway, right? Right?

There are many more things I could write here. A ton more. A myriad. Every day, every minute, I learn something new about my child, about myself, about life, about love. Some lessons are harder than others. Some are more wonderful. All are totally worth it. I've wanted to be a mom all my life. Now I am one. I wouldn't trade it for the world. If my younger self could see me now, she might not recognize me for all the changes I've been through in my life, but she would be elated that I have a child. And you know what? I am, too.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Breast IS Best, But BACK OFF!

There are a myriad of people who will not hesitate to tell you all about the numerous benefits to breast feeding. It is best for the baby and has some pretty great health perks for mom, too, including a decreased risk of breast cancer. Awesome. No, really, I mean that.

Doctors, scientific researchers, lactation consultants, La Leche League reps, other moms, and COMPLETE STRANGERS will tell you all about how formula is the devil and breast feeding is the only way to go. What makes this more unnerving are the nurses along the way who will swear up one side and down the other that every woman can breastfeed, and that those who are unsuccessful just aren't committed to it enough. 

I beg to differ.

My son is almost two months old and I desperately wanted to be able to breastfeed him. I knew that my sisters, as well as other, equally well respected, women in my life had experienced trouble in doing so. I knew that I might not be successful. I kept telling myself that it would be okay. If I could do it, great, if not, formula isn't the end of the world. The nurses at the hospital told me that was the wrong attitude to have. The nurse teaching the 7 week parent preparation course assured me that I would have no problems, I just had to be willing to stick it out. So I steeled myself the best that I could. Outwardly I told my friends and family that I wouldn't be heartbroken if I couldn't do it, but I wanted to try. Inwardly, I thought that was the truth. Until it happened.

While I was in the hospital, several lactation consultants and a slew of nurses tried relentlessly to help me. When my milk came in before I went home they were convinced I just had to stick it out, it was going to work. I was determined, but I had a small problem. My son would scream relentlessly during most of his waking moments. I didn't know what was wrong. He had a good latch. He had a strong (ouch!) suck. He wasn't tongue tied. What was wrong? Finally, one of the nurses from the nursery handed me a bottle of supplementation formula. 

Wait, I was told I just had to stick it out. I was told there was no reason a woman could not exclusively breastfeed her child. I was told it was a matter of will. This nurse disagreed. She recognized his cry and said he was still hungry. I had nothing left to give and my child was still hungry. What else could I do? So I gave him the bottle. And do you know what happened?

He stopped crying. He slept better. I felt horrible. My determination to exclusively breastfeed was starving my child. What kind of mother was I? What was wrong with me? So I continued to supplement with a bottle the rest of our stay in the hospital. And the lactation consultant rolled her eyes at me as if I were some kind of lost cause. She brought me a pump and told me to pump after every feed to increase my supply so I could stop supplementing. That mostly lead to sore nipples and about a quarter ounce, but Rome wasn't built in a day.

Then we went home. My supply continued to decrease and it became harder and harder to breastfeed at all. I was reduced to heaving inconsolable sobbing every couple of hours when it was time to try again. HEAVING. INCONSOLABLE. SOBBING. I have never cried that hard or that much in my life. And that, I'm ashamed to admit, is saying something. What was wrong with me? I thought I had prepared myself for this possibility. I thought I could handle it. Now, though, all I could think was that I was a giant failure as a mother. I wasn't enough for my son. My heart broke over and over again, but I had to put aside how I felt and focus on what he needed. So I kept supplementing and made an appointment with the lactation consultant at pediatrician's office. I hadn't met her yet and prayed that she didn't roll her eyes and tell me I wasn't committed enough, because if she did I might implode into a concentrated ball of white hot rage.

In the meantime, my sisters, my friends, and my mom all tried to comfort me. It happens. Some women have trouble. The nurses were wrong, not every woman can do this. You love your child enough to not let him suffer. He'll be just fine. Some of the sweetest, smartest, healthiest, most beautiful children I know were formula fed babies. It is not the end of the world situation they are telling you it is.

I rented a pump from the hospital to help, too. I had been using the hand pump at home, but needed the heavy artillery. Double electric, hospital grade, #1 trusted brand in America. This HAD to help, right? So I pumped. Every two hours. I ate the foods that are supposed to increase your supply. I drank more water than ever before in my life. I stared at my child while pumping. I smelled his head. I tried everything I had ever heard. I looked up more tips online and tried those, too. My supply was still decreasing.

My visit with the lactation consultant was actually pretty great. She gave me more tips. Showed me some techniques to make the breastfeeding process easier. She comforted me. She gave me 3 grocery bags filled with packages of formula to supplement with and told me not to give up, but to do what was best for my son, which was to feed him enough. She also had me go ahead and make another appointment for two weeks later to check in.

It wasn't an easy two weeks. When I returned, my supply had decreased even further, despite my efforts and adherence to her advice. I dreaded what she might say. Was she going to think I wasn't trying? Because that just wasn't true. She comforted me again, gave me another list of tips and tricks, and more formula. 

My saga continues, but I have learned a few things along the way. I still have moments when I break down in tears. I still have moments when I feel like a failure as a woman and a mother because of my struggle. 

And then there are those moments when a woman behind me in the grocery line while I'm buying more formula, an old friend, a new acquaintance, or complete strangers that happen to see me pull a bottle out of the diaper bag give me that look of disdain that says "How could you do that to your own child? You gave up. You just wanted life to be more convenient for you. Your child will suffer for your selfishness." In those moments I don't want to cry. I don't feel ashamed. I get angry. I get defensive. Would you rather my child be malnourished? You don't know my struggle. You weren't there when medical professionals told me it was time to start supplementing. You haven't been there for both the heaving sobs and the quiet tears during bottle time. I'm thrilled for you that you were able to breastfeed without issue, or at least, without issues to this extent, but I'm having trouble so get off your high friggin' horse and stick your judgement where the sun doesn't shine. I'm not a failure as a mother. I'm not a failure as a woman. I'm not being selfish. I haven't even given up breastfeeding completely. I have changed techniques, taken supplements, and continue to make the changes and plow ahead through it all. I'm trying, dang it. And how dare you try to make me feel like a failure and add to my distress. HOW DARE YOU. HOW. DARE. YOU. I would say I wish similar struggles and failure upon you, but I don't. I'm not THAT petty. I wouldn't wish the feeling of helplessness that I have experienced on ANY OTHER MOTHER. So why the MESS would you wish such a feeling of failure on me with your unconcealed disdain and air of superiority? 

Breast is ABSOLUTELY best, but it isn't the only option and letting my child die of malnourishment is not an option at all so BACK. THE. HECK. OFF.

Thank you.