Thursday, June 26, 2014

Won't *something* wreck our bodies eventually?

Ah, summertime...when a young (or old) mom's fancy turns to thoughts of swim suits. Or at least mine does. Now I'm a lifelong swimmer. 9 competitive seasons under my belt and countless stints on the lifeguard stand. I'm actually less traumatized in the fitting room by swimwear than by any pair of jeans I've tried in the last 4 years. I guess it's like a second skin for me, in a very real sense. And nobody's skin is perfect, you know?

But I know for lots of people, especially mom-shaped people, swimsuit shopping is thee worst. On par with dentistry and public speaking and unmedicated birthing and all manner of horrors (not judging any dentists, conference speakers or natural birthers here. Just identifying usual suspects of terror).

I'm sure everyone has read at least one piece this summer (see what I did there?) extolling the virtue of just putting on the damn suit and jumping in the water, and that's all true and good. Some writers reasoned it is for our children's sakes that we ought to suit up and get to splashing. Others insist that our bodies are made for more than just lookin' good (don't I know it) and that doing it for the kids indicates that there is some kind of aesthetic nose-holding going on and that we really need to be more comfortable with whatever shape we're in, and not endlessly consumed by some sisyphian quest to alter it. I can see both sides.

And then some of us - some of us just want to be left alone, both by the mirror and by the assessing eyes of the general public. Sure, it'd be nice to look toned and tanned in a two piece, and sure, it'd be great to have sand as the primary irritant of water play and not the arduous ascent of one's bottoms to one's waist once wet.

All this talk of spandex got me thinking. And now that I'm walking roughly 5 miles a day, I have a lot more time for thinking lately, even when I'm pushing and hauling child tonnage around the neighborhood. So I was wearing Evie, pushing the boys and sweating my literal ass off and smiling at the thought of that metaphor becoming sweet reality and it suddenly, startlingly occurred to me that no matter how great of shape the miles I'm logging gets me into, the inevitable ravages of time and work and (hopefully) future pregnancies and nursing are still going to destroy things, aesthetically speaking.

This has occurred to me before on some level. Earlier this year when I was still wearing workout clothes day and night and chugging aqua from my hospital-issued jug, my little sister helpfully (and fraternally, if a sister can speak in such a manner) pointed out that I wasn't getting any younger (and, presumably, any hotter) so I may as well get dressed and put on makeup, no matter how rough I felt, because there truly is no time aside from the present that we have to actually live in our bodies.

Now maybe you don't wear makeup. That's fine! I don't wear a ton, but I find that on the days I go further than my spf tinted moisturizer, blush/bronzer and eyebrow filling, I feel markedly better. Even with the same amount of sleep/coffee. There's something very life-giving for me about getting dressed, albeit in very simple, preppy clothes, and swiping on a bit of mascara. It helps me take my job more seriously as a mother, and it helps me present a more joyful persona to the general public.

All that is good, and it's helpful for me to be aware of the tone I set for our day with my level of self care. I also think it's a bit of a witness to not present to the outside world the shrewing, frantic mess I am on the inside, lest they feel confirmed in their suspicions that having children is a hell of a lot of work which daily sucks the marrow from your very bones.

But you know what else sucks the marrow from your bones? I mean, aside from being bone-marrow donor, which would be an excellent practical application of life-giving love.

Life. The ravages of time. Pulling all nighters for work (or for partying). Traveling the globe. Digging ditches. Landing contracts. Getting on and off of highway exits. Gravity. Gluten.

Whatever it is you're spending your time (your body's time, too, because you are your body) doing, it's undoing you. Piece by piece, wrinkle by wrinkle, cell by cell. It's all breaking down, even as we're busy building up a life for ourselves. And the only thing any of us are going to have to show for it, in the end, is a laundry list of accomplishments or failures. And I think relationships will be at the top of the laundry list.

It's comforting to me, not in a sadistic way but in a serene and pragmatic way, to think that no matter what, 50 years from now, if I'm still chilling in my mortal form, I'll look pretty much like old lady in the Denny's booth next to mine. Okay maybe I'll have a tad more sun damage, but at 81 years old, I don't think anyone will be counting my sunspots and wrinkling their already wrinkled nose over it.

So no matter what choices I make now, my body is going to look pretty much the same. I mean, maybe I will score some additional longevity if I eat well and stay active, but no amount of starvation dieting or pinning miracle smoothies or popping birth control pills to keep my waistline trim and my bank account plump is going to make me any better looking, in the end.

So while I feel very acutely that I am quite literally spending myself for the sake of my children, I struggle to identify another, worthier cause in which to invest.

Our culture is obsessed with becoming - and remaining - thin. With appearing more beautiful. With capturing and domesticating youth, both in appearance and in behavior. But it's all fleeting. And truly, there is nothing sadder than a 60-year-old man or woman dressing down by 3 or 4 decades, desperately striving to appear relevant. Desirable. Loved.

But what about the 60-year-old who is desired, deeply, by her husband? By his children? By her friends and co-workers?

What about the person who has invested deeply, not in himself (though there's nothing wrong with self investment, rightly-ordered) but in the relationships which are the very essence of life? How good will that feel, to be fading into antiquity as we all do, but to be very much unforgettable to the children you've raised, the spouse you've loved faithfully, the friends you've nurtured, the lives you've spent your own on?

There is no original thought here, just the arresting realization that it's all passing away, and that no matter how much I might want to look like another body, I'm in this one, and I'm the only one who can choose how I'll use it, how I'll spend myself.

Our culture tells us that to spend a life in service to another is a waste. To give up one's very body in bearing and nurturing life is obscene, is antithetical to real happiness.

I beg to differ. I look down at my soft, motherly midsection and I know that while it's hard to give up the body I once had, we're all asked, each of us, to surrender the goods eventually.

The only real question is, will you give it away, or will it be taken from you by force?

I choose life. I choose to give it away. It's a small cross, and it's marred by stretch marks and double digits in the denim department, but I won't be any more beautiful in 50 years for refusing it.

In fact, in embracing the cross of life, I might just guarantee beauty beyond all comprehension.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Soul Blockage

For my Catholic readers, have you ever been so acutely aware of your need for Confession (not talking mortal sins here, just a metric ton of venials) that you could literally feel the obstacles stacked between you and God's grace? Yeah, that was me the past, oh, 3 weeks or so.

I normally don't let 2 months lapse between visits to the box because I am one angry mother when I don't regularly take out the trash -- it's so much more apparent than before I had children and a husband to care for. It was easy, at least for me, as a single person to kinda let things sliiiiiide in the reconciliation department because honestly, I didn't have all that much in my life riding on me being in a state of grace. I mean, except for the glaringly obvious possibility of dying while being willfully separated from the mercy of God. Yeah. But other than wasn't all that obvious to me when it had been 'too long' so to speak, in between sacramental sessions.

Now I have children and a spouse, each of whom challenge me in unique ways and each of whom are worthy of my best self, not the nasty sin-bedraggled self who loses her damn mind when watermelon rinds end up in the toy box and wet towels are slung across her precious footboard. I mean honestly, sometimes I can lose sight of what is a legitimate complaint (using the shower curtain as toilet paper comes readily to mind) and what is merely something that comes with the territory, something that I shouldn't let drive me down the road to rage but should instead calmly and serenely correct and then forgive.

This second category would probably involve every particle of food under our kitchen table. And perhaps dirty socks that are bunched up rather than stretched out. And, okay, fine, crystalized toddler urine ringing the toilet seat and, frankly, the entire "guest" bathroom. (Boy moms: Does anyone else have such a hideous toilet situation that you direct your guests to tromp through your bedroom to use the master bath rather than face the shameful music to the tune of tinkle tinkle in the secondary latrine? No? Just me?)

Anyway, confession. It's amazing how fresh and clean the week can seem when Sunday starts out with a double dose of Sacramental grace. Add to that the two excellent books I devoured this past week (the Nesting Place in a matter of hours, truth be told) and I'm just feeling so much more rightly ordered. And I know they know, if you know what I mean. At lunchtime Joey smiled and me and said "You're pretty when you make a happy face, Mommy." to which John Paul immediately chimed in "You're pwetty mama."

I'll take it, boys. But don't think I didn't see the pile of bread crusts and roly-polies (sicksicksick) you left me under the kitchen table. Lucky for you mommy's soul was in a state equal to the challenge.

p.s. Speaking of walking (which we weren't, but, you know, last week we were...thanks for the huge response!) this made me feel even more firm in my resolve to move mah buns every day. Who knew?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How to Walk 10,000 steps a day (with little ones underfoot)

I'm a believer. 20 days into our Walk-a-thon and I'm convinced I've unlocked the secret to maintaining - and achieving - a more reasonable weight and shape than perpetual-post-partum-pachyderm. While I still have 10 days to go before I can lay claim to my prize (I'm coming for you, darling) I thought I'd share some practical tips with y'all for what has worked for me during this little lifestyle shift.

First things first: wear your pedometer (or your iPhone with the free pacer app, if you're cheap like me) from the moment you wake until the last minute before you flop into bed. I cannot stress enough how incredibly motivating it is to see those steps adding up...or how easy it is to see that you're just 2,000 or so short of your 10K goal and then make the not-entirely ridiculous decision to drag your laptop out to the back deck, prop it open to an episode of Parenthood on Amazon Prime, and spend the next 20 minutes stepping up and down the 2-stair elevation of said deck while enjoying a little veg out time. Ahem.

Steps are steps though, you get what I'm saying?

In the morning, I try to make a mental list of what things I'd like to accomplish on the housekeeping and errand running front, and which of those might possibly be adaptable to a pedestrian approach. For example, yesterday we had some library books to return and, since our library is less than 2 miles away, I loaded up the double stroller, strapped a baby to my chest and set off with high hopes and huge ambitions. Now, granted, a nearly 4-mile roundtrip with 3 bodies in tow is kind of unrealistic. And it was. We ended up making it no further than a neighborhood park before the sun and the whining robbed me of my ability to persevere, but we did still rack up an impressive 4,000 steps before 10 am and the kids got to play at the park.

Like good red-blooded Americans we later drove the 6 minutes to the library, but we did park in the furthest spot in the lot. I also like to bring the stroller in as a single and push Evie around through the stacks while the boys enjoy the ridiculously overdone kiddie area. Bada boom bada bing, 800 more steps for me.

Once the child herd goes down for quiet time/naps I look at my accumulation for the day and decide whether a trip to the gym is in order. If it's a day my mother's helper comes, I run out for a 40 or 50 minute treadmill trek while she holds down the fort. I've been trying to make better use of her presence in our lives by scheduling restorative activities for mommy during her visits, rather than simply cramming as many loads of laundry/trips to TJ's/minutes of scrubbing toilets as possible. I can clean with the kids around me, after all, but I can't always write, answer emails, go to Adoration or simply chill out with a novel in my hands. Priorities. Plus, I'd way rather be paying someone to let me relax or get meaningful work done than to simply free me up to do housework. Which is meaningful! But not in quite the same way.

Usually by the time late afternoon rolls around I'm sitting at somewhere around 6,000 steps if I haven't gone to the gym and 9,000 steps if I have. Taking this into account, I'll strap the baby back on if she's awake) and make a very, very inefficient sweep through the house, picking up toys and clothing articles one at at time and walking them to their respective homes. This can earn me another 300-600 steps if I play my cards right.

Now it's dinner prep time. If something is in the crockpot or already cooking, it's a perfect time for us to load up for a quick evening walk to the park, where I can practice my mother shark circling skills around the play structures or even walk up and down the hill behind the soccer field, still close by and able to keep my eyes on the kids while they play. This particular technique is a favorite because it basically guarantees immunity from helicopter motherhood. And yet, you can still hear a skull hit the gravel and be at someone's side in under 60 seconds if need be. Win, win.

Some other step-generating activities:

Become a pedestrian in your neighborhood, whether residential or commercial. If you're stuck in an office all day like my husband is, use your lunch break to walk to a nearby park to eat in, or better yet, eat at your desk and then spend the entire hour walking the neighborhood surrounding your building, looking for a not-too-close coffee shop to call your own.

Do you have a grocery store within a mile or so of your house? You can walk there, yes you can. It sounds crazy, but if you think about it, it's not as crazy as hopping in the car for one or two items missing from your dinner prep list. Obviously I'm not recommending you try to do your weekly stock-up shopping on foot, but if you've got a need for a gallon or two of milk, there's no good reason not to walk over there and get it.

This is a HUGE difference between Americans and Europeans. Even Romans we knew with their own cars would never drive such a short distance, unless the weather was truly horrendous or they were physically infirm. True, gas is much more expensive there and parking much more dear, but beyond that there really is more of a culture of pedestrianism (is that a real word) that helped to make neighborhoods much more humane and friendly places. You literally interacted with your neighbors every day, because you walked right by them.

Does your kid play sports? Do you have to watch them practice? Attend games? You know where I'm going with this. If they're playing on a field, chances are there's a track surrounding them, or at least grassy space where you can pace the sidelines like a psychopath, racking up steps while they rack up goals.

Finally, try walking dates with friends and with your spouse. If that sounds really lame for an actual date, consider a pub crawl or a progressive dinner where you park and then walk from place to place. You'd be surprised how pleasant an after dinner (or between courses) stroll can be.

Do all these suggestions sound like more work and more planning than you're willing to spend?

Consider this: in the past 20 days, changing little other than my walking habits, I've lost close to 4 lbs, dropped an entire pant size, had noticeable thinning in my arms, legs and face, and been told by multiple friends and family members that I look like I've lost *all* my baby weight. Ha. Not true, not by a long shot...but my body looks and feels so much better for all the movement! And on days when I'm really intentional about planning for walking, I don't have to think about finding the time and energy to get to the gym. So, to review: weight loss, more time with my kids, less time in the gym, and better overall health.

I'll walk to that.

(10,000 steps per day is a kind of arbitrary recommended amount for optimal health, and works out to somewhere between 4 and 5 miles, depending upon stride length)

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Distressing Disguise of the Toddler

We’ve been trying to incorporate more daily prayer into our little household, and with toddlers underfoot and a hungry baby calling the mealtimes, it isn’t the most prayerful environment. Honestly, it’s the antithesis of what I picture as a prayerful environment. But, work with what you’ve got, right?
Last night found me on wakeup duty at 11 pm, 11:45 pm, and then midnight. All the same child, and all requests of a similar vein: “I’m thirsty, I’m hungry, I just can’t sleeps.” This particular child, my sweet eldest son, is my most challenging; he is the most like me in temperament, and he may be more intelligent than I am. He challenges my authority daily, and he is constantly practicing his litigation skills during nap and meal times. We’re two of a kind, and there is nothing quite like looking into the mirror of your child and seeing some of your own deepest struggles reflected back at you.
As I hoisted him up on the kitchen counter last night, perhaps a tad too forcefully, I shot a resentful glance at the digital display on the stove: 12:04 am.
Doesn’t this kid know how hard I’ve been working all day? Don’t I deserve some peace and quiet between 7 pm and 7 am? Why can’t he just wait until breakfast for his next calorie download?
I looked at his small, tear-streaked face while I peeled his banana in the dimly-lit kitchen. Suddenly seized by an affectionate impulse, I bent down and kissed each of his little bare feet, dangling limply off the counter top. Hadn’t I just read a quote from Bl. Mother Teresa earlier today on somebody’s blog? Something about seeing Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor?
Well here was my street urchin. Here was my Calcutta. Standing in our kitchen at midnight, resignedly peeling fruit for a child who is allergic to sleep and knows no end of testing my patience. He was not an interruption, I suddenly realized, but an opportunity to show greater love. Love that cost me something, love that must be wrenched from my selfish heart and offered with straining muscles and forced smiles and a bone-weary soul.
Here in first-world America, surrounded by luxury and convenience and shielded from almost all physical suffering, it was the closest approximation to the radical, self-giving love preached by the saint of the streets that I could make. Take my looks, take my free time, and take my pants size…but when you take my sleep, that’s when my real Calvary begins.
I tried to see him as a little image of Christ, this naughty son of mine, and even while I felt a tad dramatic embracing and kissing his dirty little boy feet, I felt intensely that this moment was an opportunity of grace custom made for me. He needed a drink and a midnight snack, but not as much as his mother needed a chance to flex her flabby muscles of self-denial.
It’s all very well and good to pray with your children when’s it’s convenient. It’s essential, actually. Earlier in the day I’d felt quite satisfied after praying 3 decades of a ‘cheerio rosary’ with this same child, interiorly patting myself on the back as we counted out 10 Hail Mary ‘o’s’ and some raisin Our Father’s which he painstakingly tracked and consumed as we worked our way through the mysteries.
Parenting, I’ve got this! I thought to myself, feeling the warm glow of accomplishment. And it was an accomplishment, getting my child involved and engaged in formal prayer. But it cost me very little.
There are opportunities for both kinds of grace every day in this vocation: moments that are easy and natural and flow out of the steady rhythm of a happy home, and moments that feel enormous when they occur, demanding sacrifice and seemingly-heroic patience.
I just pray I get better at recognizing the latter, never content to remain only in the former. I don’t want to be a surface level Christian with my children. Happily for me, they don’t seem content to let me remain there for long.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Walk Your Buns Off

I was at Starbucks this morning (don't judge, it was actually my first foray into the green lady's lair since our April trek to Rome) with all three kiddos in tow, the youngest specimen strapped securely to my torso, when I sat down next to a spritely blonde on a laptop who looked not too unkindly at her suddenly less than serene mobile office space and smiled at the boys, each sucking greedily on a $4 carton of organic free range cane-sugared chocolate milk. Turning to me she raised an eyebrow and made the usual "you must be busy" chit chat before leaning it conspiratorially and confiding to me that "You look pretty good for three kids!"

To which I chuckled heartily before replying, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Actually I grimaced and made some comment about walking instead of driving to the 'Bucks because sustainability! (Actually, because it kills 40 minutes of my morning and the commute is excellent fodder for my latest venture: the Walkoff of 2014.)

About 3 weeks ago Dave and I, while sorrowfully contemplating our matching American paunches, made a steely resolve to do!something!about it! But this time was different; instead of embarking on yet another quest to eat the method du jour and thereby once and for all solve all our weighty woes, we instead thought back to a time when our bodies were in decent shape, we felt good, and we had a decent amount of energy, small children notwithstanding.

Bing bing bing! Italy. With it's non-GMO produce, piles of pasta drenched in butter and cream sauces, rivers flowing with chianti and, perhaps most importantly, millions of miles of walkable streets. Ha. Walkable. As in, there's so much freaking humanity crammed into a space designed 2,000 years ago, you're better off hoofing it if you need to get, well, anywhere. 

Plus, when we lived there, we didn't have a car.

We had this amazing stroller, which is still sitting pretty in my garage as I live and type, and we had 2/3 of the children we currently possess, and so every day I dutifully put the two together and strode about the city, stopping intermittently for the most incredible coffees and pastries and never giving 2 shots of espresso about what I was putting into my body, at least for the most part. And I looked good.

Even when we got pregnant with Evie, I didn't gain a single lb until week 21 rolled around, which is unimaginable with my gestational history. It was magical. And, until now, we couldn't really figure out how to replicate it Stateside.

Dave and I scratched our heads, looked in our mirrors, and decided that while Trader Joe's could only take us so far in the unprocessed foods department, the 45 minutes we were each putting in on the elliptical nightly probably weren't cutting it in the phys ed department. Suddenly I remembered reading about how Anne or Jen had mentioned their love affairs with movement-tracking devices and I knew, I just knew this was the magical key we sought. I did 3 minutes of research and then downloaded the Pacer app on both our iPhones and suddenly we were off to the races: the spouse with the most steps tallied in 4 weeks wins $100, and mommy gets to buy herself some hot jeans.


Except it hasn't been entirely simple. I mean okay, it has been simple, but it hasn't been easy. First of all I was way overestimating how much movement I was getting in a day. 10,000 steps (the recommended amount for optimal health) a day? Pshhht. I've got 3 babies and we live in Colorado, we're active, I've got this.

Except nope, I didn't. In fact, the first day I tracked my steps I was shocked to find myself stalled out in the mid-3,000s come dinnertime. But, but, how could this be? I'm so busy!

And I was busy, but I wasn't moving nearly enough to impact my health or my waistline. So the app.

Here are the pros: it holds us accountable. Some days the competition is downright fierce as the texts fly back and forth;  6,555...6933...8990....12044 even, one day! It's super motivating for both of us to have a direct competitor taunting us, encouraging us, egging us on; it's effective. Some concrete examples: I park as far as I can away from wherever I'm going in the lot, I walk around the house constantly, choosing to do one thing at a time rather than doing a whole bunch of streamlined tidying, just so I can get more steps. I run up and down the basement stairs to the laundry with small armfuls of folded clothes instead of one basket with everything in it. And, if all else fails, I hit the gym in the evening to make up the difference.

The cons: it's not cool to have your phone literally touching you all day long. I'm sure I could buy an armband thing or figure out a more sophisticated carrying solution, but right now I either tuck it facet under my sports bra shoulder strap (breast cancer) or tuck it into the waistband of my gym shorts at my side (love handle cancer?). Neither is ideal, but in order to track my steps, it has to be able to feel me stepping, if that makes sense. I think either a fitbit or a jawbone (hint, hint, darling) would solve this problem marvelously; it's also sometimes a huuuuuuuge pain to take the child herd on yet another walk or to do something so ridiculous as walking to a suburban coffee shop, because the looks you get strolling down that busy intersection. Sheesh.

It's also really, admittedly tough to live a pedestrian-centric (is that a word? totally not a word) lifestyle in a auto-centric culture. This morning's foray to Starbucks, for example, less than 1.5 miles down the road from mi casa, but nevertheless a place I'd never normally walk to. And for my office-bound desk jockey of a husband, it's been really tough for him to get his 10,000 steps in unless he hits the gym in the evening for a little quality time with the treadmill.

Some other walking hacks we've been incorporating to hit that magical 10K mark: walking 'meetings' or phone calls, nightly or morning walks to a nearby park, circling the kids playground area at the park like a shark mother, looking only ever-so-slightly like a lunatic in so doing, and trying to replace sedentary activities (netflix binges, internet trolling in the evenings) with active ones.

Overall it's been way, way effective in keeping us on the move and trimming down. And the best part? I'm down like an entire pants size and I've lost a couple pounds, too. But more than that I'm starting to look like myself again, and not some fluffy postpartum caricature of the ghost of Jenny past. And between you and me?

I don't look half bad for having had 3 kids. 


(Oh, and for posterity's sake, here's a poorly-lit selfie of today, 3 weeks into these shenanigans. Evie will be 6 months old on Sunday, just for reference.)

Friday, June 6, 2014

7QT: In which I make a confession

1. Hi, my name's Jenny, and I'm an introvert. Cough.

2. If it weren't for the internet, I would go entire days without speaking to anyone outside my immediate family, save for my awkwardly friendly checker at Trader Joe's and the even more awkward interactions I occasionally sustain from my driveway with my neighbors.

3. So when you comment...are you ready for this? IT FILLS MY HEART WITH SO MUCH JOY. Because it's like virtual interaction minus the actual interaction part, y'all. But then...oh, then...the back log. The mounting pressure of having no way to respond to so many (no emails linked to names) or just simply not enough time in the day (kids, work, baby, back episodes of Parenthood on Amazon Prime. Priorities) to reply to every single one and then I get, like, panic-attacky in the dark of night, thinking back over all the lovely, thought provoking and insightful things that people have said and that I HAVE YET TO ACKNOWLEDGE. And I feel bad. Real bad. Because I'm a blogger...and we LIVE for comments. It's like a little kiss from the universe for the effort we put into over-sharing on the internet.

4. So I'm renewing my effort, here and now, to keep more on-top ish of the com box. But...but...if you don't hear from me and you weren't asking a direct question or trying to locate a specific resource, the radio silence you may experience from my end is in no way evidence of my indifference to your virtual attention. I am so grateful for every single comment and every reader this here little blog has. It's just that I also have a mini pack of needlets who are constantly pulling me into the backyard to play baseball or yelling to me about a bodily fluid situation from across the house. And then during the 45 minutes each day that they're (sometimes) all quiet at once? Well, my little introverted heart sighs in blessed relief and I collapse onto the couch and stare vacantly out the window. Or I vacuum. Gosh I love to vacuum...

5. So won't you forgive a mother blogger and her ineptitude in the social media interactivity component of blogging? It's not that I don't care, it's just that I care so much it hurts my brain.

6. And actually, I'm kind of an undercover introvert. If you meet me in real life (I'm looking at you, Edel gals) I'm fairly outgoing-seeming and I like to make people laugh and I can even do a really convincing imitation of a party-loving extrovert, especially with a little liquid courage in my wine glass.

7. But make no mistake. When the sun goes down, I can be found quietly rocking myself back and forth, back and forth (love you forever, like you for always, anyone?) in a dark, quiet room, trying to regain some semblance of mental equilibrium.

Introvert in an extrovert's world up in here.

What about you? I get the feeling sometimes that there are more introverts than extroverts in the blogosphere, just because it's such a natural fit.

Also, I'm an INTJ on the Meyer's Briggs scale. If that helps.

See you at Jen's place.
p.p.s. Please, please please please consider linking your email to your name in your comment form. It means the world to me when I do have the time and wherewithal to respond because then when I finish tap tapping a little reply email I don't experience that hulking dread when that little 'no-reply at' message pops up, indicating to me that I've just spent precious human resources emailing cyberspace and not an actual human. Grace has a great tutorial on how to do this, here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What a difference a year makes

I just finished reading this post, dated one year ago today, and I just cannot fathom that 1. Italy was so, so hard (and I was so, so whiney) and 2. That I had so many moments today, one year later, in America, where I was like uuuhhhngggghh my life is so haaaaaard.

Just to recap for spoiled, present-day Jenny: today you were upset because your Irish twin preschoolers were fighting like rabid dogs much of the morning. Well ... they're 19 months apart, male, and quite possibly rabid, so what? This time last year you had a broken shower, a broken dishwasher, no car, no friends, almost no ability to communicate with your neighbors should there be a medical emergency (or convenient access to any medical care, actually) and absolutely no access to the Super Target which you painfully navigated for 27 minutes at 9:14 am this morning. 

I am not winning in the game of emotional maturity. Except I guess, until just now, that last paragraph up there, I hadn't actually shared any of today's shameful struggles with the internet like I would so readily have last year.

But oh the day...the day we had up in here. I mean besides the drive to Target I had to assemble lunch while they shrilly and persistently sang their siren song for "cold milk please" which I had to painstakingly fetch from my full size refrigerator and pour into their dime a dozen sippy cups which I have no problem ever finding replacements for. Also, I couldn't decide if the AC was too high or too low so I kept messing with the thermostat because those boys! They won't keep the door to our expansive, landscaped, fenced backyard shut. Also, 3 loads of laundry. Sigh.

Seriously, Italian Jenny wants to murder American Jenny right now.

I also saw my little sister for a morning visit, took my posse to the most ridiculously upgraded public library in all the land for a little literate afternoon delight, and walked 3 blocks to the beautifully landscaped public school/park complex at the end of our street which features a creek, several bridges, 3 separate playgrounds, and miles of clean, green, cigarette-butt free grassy play fields.

Yeah, my life ain't hard. I'm just getting soft.

Do you ever dip back into your archives? What do you experience when you reconnect with your former self via the written word?

P.s. Linking up with Blythe because I dug a hole in the backyard, let my 3 year old fill it with the hose, and then let him strip naked and frolic in it. It was 89 degrees so, pretty standard, textbook "hot mess."

(streaking picture withheld because his father would kill me)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Once Upon a Weekend

Let me tell you a little story. It goes like this: all three of my kids are still asleep at 8:17 am and I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO. Drunk on freedom and possibilities.

So I figured I'd blog.

This past weekend Dave took Joey to my parent's cabin in southern Colorado for a little manly man's weekend. So male bonding time plus mommy was down one highly-energetic 3.5 year old ... it was kind of a dream.

Don't get me wrong, I missed them, and it was not that fun to be the only parent in town come bedtime, was oddly relaxing to have so much, how do I put this...? Emotional currency available for the other two bebes in my care. I was like, present. For pretty much the entire 2 day period. And it was fine.

I hadn't really realized until this weekend that we were still very much in postpartum survival mode until one of the small fry was removed from my mom-scape for a couple days and then BAM, seemingly endless amounts of patience for Peter Rabbit and an odd willingness to take long nature walks and sit in the grass with dump trucks, herding roly-polies and splashing in the wading pool.

This makes me sound like a pretty crappy mom, but I'll go out on a limb here and admit that most days? I don't even come close to the kind of attentiveness and generosity of spirit I was able to muster up for the past 2 days. Most days I be like, 'oh, 5 pm? Strap some flip flops on my feet so I can pitter patter out the door when daddy rolls up.'

But I have to remind myself that it was not always so. And that it will not always be so. One day long, long ago, in a condominium complex not so far away, I was drowning in a sea of reusable cloth diapers and trying desperately to keep my head above water as I transitioned from an office dweller to the CEO of Uebbing family, inc. My solitary charge was a 3 month old bundle of sleeplessness who kept me busy from dawn till, well, dawn. And although we did take walks and go on frequent Starbucks outings, it was always such a production. I never felt like I was really caught up (wherever up is) and it was just frankly shocking to my system to be somebody's everything, every day.

If you could have shown 28 year old me a crystal ball glimpse of life 3 years later where I would willingly (yes, willingly) accept mission impossible of a solo weekend with a 5 month old and 2 year old and that I would take them out to eat, to Mass, and to my sister's hood rat apartment complex swimming pool I would have been like LOL SHUT THE FRONT DOOR YOU FOOL because no friggin way.

Except guess what? Perspective. It's so effective.

I wonder if this is what parents who stop at 1 or 2 kids never get to experience? The 'leveling up' of one's parenting abilities/patience/reserves of strength. I'm guessing this factors somewhat into the decision to quit while one's ahead, so to speak. Except I don't think you ever actually know you're ahead until you get a million dollar snatch of hindsight to tell you as much. I guess if you never know it's going to get easier, that you're going to get better at this whole mothering gig, then you can proceed with a little less fear and trembling into the unknown territory of 2 or 3 or 4 ... and yes, it will still feel terrifying and overwhelming and, at times, utterly stupid...but you'll have the reassurance that you always feel this way, at least at first.

That's what this past weekend was: a little pat on the back, a little 'atta girl' for this tired mom who feels perpetually behind the 8 ball and like she's never quite doing these little people justice on a daily basis. I am, though, as best as I'm able, keeping my head above the tepid, questionable pool water. The difference is, now I can see that I'm doing it.

How refreshing.