I’m BaAAck! – Why I left and the co-meltdown that inspired my return.

It’s been about seven months since I’ve written. I have a half-written post about Calvin’s first birthday still saved on my desktop. He’s now eighteen months old. At first, I made excuses: “The birthday party plans took all my time.” “It’s busy season at work.” “Just one more episode.” But, the truth is, I was scared. It took more courage than it should have for me to even start publishing a blog in the first place, and, as time went on, my fears were only fueled by my own self-doubt. I started to dread opening my Instagram page, dreading the thought of seeing model mothers. Feelings of inadequacy flooded my mind every time I saw a post from a successful mom blogger. Even moms who seemed to embrace imperfections seemed to do it so perfectly. They’d write about how things aren’t always perfect, but their photos told me another story. My insecurities were consuming my every thought, and I felt it must be better for my mental health to just avoid anything that made me feel unfit. So, I just stopped. I stopped writing. I stopped reading. I stopped looking. I just stopped doing anything that would make me vulnerable to feeling inadequate. Then, two weeks ago, we started the fall semester of Calvin’s music class.

I may not have an Insta-worthy house or wardrobe. I know that I should spend more time meal-prepping and less time in the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru. I definitely need to work on my patience. I don’t give 100% of myself to my family 100% of the time. I’m very aware of my shortcomings, but I can give myself credit for something. I try my very best every day to fill my son’s time with healthy, meaningful activities that stimulate his development. He doesn’t use the iPad or watch videos on my phone. He gets two hours or less of screen time, watching only programs that promote learning or physical movement. We read, color, do puzzles, stack blocks, and spend tons of time outside playing and learning about nature. He goes to swim classes and yoga classes and music classes. He goes to Sunday school with other toddlers. He goes to the daycare at my gym. We have passes to the aquarium and the zoo and visit both regularly. Despite all of this, Calvin still seems to have social anxieties. He’s shy and timid and has separation anxiety. He doesn’t like to play with or even around other kids, especially rambunctious kids. Every single time (I’m not exaggerating. It’s Every. Single. Time.) I take him to the gym’s daycare, I get a message saying I need to come get him because he’s inconsolable. We’ve been paged at church to come back for him because he won’t stop crying. He’s undoubtedly the strongest swimmer in his class, but I can’t move him up to the next level because he can’t handle going in without me. If another child approaches him on the playground, he immediately finds me and hugs my leg. It makes me sad that he doesn’t enjoy playing with the other kids. It breaks my heart to see him cry when I drop him off at church or the gym, but I always take comfort in knowing that it’s not abnormal and that he’ll likely outgrow it.

However, when we started the fall semester of his music class, things changed for me. There were no summer classes, so Calvin hadn’t been to music in about four months. During the spring term, he was shy and clingy, always staying in my lap, but he seemed to enjoy the instruments. Knowing that both the musical and social aspects of the class were good for him, and seeing him learn new songs and dances over the summer, made me excited to sign him up for the fall course. I was confident that he’d be more interactive. He wasn’t even walking in the spring, so I pictured him coming back into the class and really showing off how much he’s grown physically and mentally. I pictured him learning the songs, dancing, and perhaps even working up the courage to start running around with familiar kids. I just felt so certain that this class was the ticket to getting him out of his shell.

On the first day of class, I packed him in the car, full of hope and excitement, ready to show off my smart, funny, musical boy! When we arrived, he started inexplicably crying. I popped him out of his car seat and set him down on the sidewalk believing that letting him walk in by himself would both distract and calm him. Then he fell, and this was a real fall, not just a toddler stumble. Blood, tears, and screams shifted my excitement to anxiety. I took him into the bathroom, cleaned him up, and did my best to calm him before class. No such luck. He was still crying when we walked in. Still crying when class started. Still crying while other children played. Then, during a freestyle dance session to the tune of “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire, all of the toddlers took it upon themselves to get into the most adorable dance circle you’ve ever seen. Phones and cameras aren’t allowed in this class, but even the teacher pulled hers out to capture the sweet moment. Every kid in the class was enjoying the purest bliss of music and friends, every kid, except mine. Calvin was still clinging to me for his life, still crying, and in a moment of vulnerability like I haven’t felt in a very long time, I lost it. I clung to him, clutching him as close as possible, and I cried with him. It was one of those cries that just fell out of me, one that I couldn’t control. I was sobbing. It was as though I was letting out something I didn’t even know I was holding inside of me. The song ended. The class went on to play with instruments and practice new songs, and I just kept weeping. Calvin was able to pull it together at the sight of a pair of maracas, but I just couldn’t. The thought of my child missing out on something great because of fear and anxiety just hurt my heart so deeply. Watching those sweet kids dance and play, knowing how much my boy adores dancing and playing, knowing how special and playful and smart and hilarious and wonderful he is, yet realizing that he’s too afraid to share his huge personality with others just made me ache. I cried through the rest of the class. He fell asleep in the car while I was still crying. I collected myself. Then he woke up from his nap. I saw his sweet little face and lost it again. I cried again when Joe got home and again when I went to bed.

I can’t explain it. I know that I was unreasonably upset. I know that nothing is wrong with Calvin. I know that it’s okay that he was having a bad day and okay that he was nervous. I know all of that. I knew it before and I know it now, but I didn’t know it then. I believe I felt something exclusive to motherhood, a sort of culminated, paralyzing fear for my child. I felt it build every night when he was a newborn, checking his breathing obsessively, and every time I’ve trusted someone else to watch him, every time I’ve buckle him into a car seat, every time I’ve thought about his future. I worry constantly, and I suppose that constant worry just built itself into a fountain of uncontrollable waterworks on that particular Wednesday during music class.

As I collected my thoughts and reflected throughout the following days, my mind drifted back here, back to a space where I intended to share my struggles, seeking clarity and perspective and unity.

I will never have a flawless Instagram feed. I refuse to edit my photos. I refuse to edit myself – my experiences, my body, my family. I won’t. Maybe that means that no one will find me interesting. Maybe that makes me and my story unattractive to most, but, you know what? That’s fine. Because I’m not here to be flawless or “perfectly imperfect.” I’m here for me. I’m here for Calvin. I’m here for moms who sometimes cry inexplicably and uncontrollably. I’m here for moms whose hearts ache for their children, who understand what it feels like to have your whole heart walking outside of your body, who know unconditional love and know that “unconditional” means blood, sweat, tears, poop, vomit, boogers, dance parties, breathless giggles, bedtime stories, and those tight-squeeze hugs that melt you into puddles. I’m here because motherhood is not like anything else, and I’m back because I don’t want to make it up alone.

Even if Calvin’s Mimi is the only mother reading this right now, I want to acknowledge and thank every mother who may stumble in here. Thank you for your selflessness, your compassion, your sacrifice, and thank you for sharing your parenting journey with me, if only for five minutes.

Talk again soon? Let’s.

 

 

 

Sickation Days

I was hit hard with an intense cold last weekend. It’s the third time since Cal’s arrival that I’ve been sick enough that Joe’s quarantined me in our bedroom so I won’t infect the rest of the family. The first time I had mono and was out for a week. Each quarantine has included Kleenex, NyQuil, OJ, Vick’s, and all that good stuff. Sounds miserable, right? Days of sniffling, sneezing, coughing, and not being able to see your husband and baby? Well, I’m not particularly proud to admit it, but I didn’t actually hate it. The days also included lots of sleep and Netflix and ice cream and sweet, sweet silence.

 

I love spending time with my family. Ninety percent of the time there’s nothing I’d rather do. However, about two percent of the time, I want to be with friends, laughing and reliving my youth (hence Vegas), and the other eight percent of the time, I just want to be alone. I want to watch shows my husband won’t like and eat dessert without sharing and finish a thought uninterrupted, but I just don’t have it in me to say, “Hey, the baby is yours tonight. I’m going to go watch Bravo in bed with Ben & Jerry. Night, guys!” I don’t really like the thought of them potentially having fun out there without me, and I can’t relax knowing Joe is doing dinner and bath and bedtime on his own while I do nothing. But being sick? It takes away all of that guilt. I need to rest. I need to keep my family healthy. I’m doing my part right here in bed. It’s what’s best. When else can I say that?

 

I feel like I came out of my most recent cold with a new-found optimism, an outlook on life that embraces times that seem difficult or sad or icky. There always has to be a silver lining, a greater purpose, right? I think we have to believe that in order to feel joy. In being sick, I learned the value of alone time. Last night, Calvin had an upset tummy. We had to clean him up and change his sheets and make a bottle and rock him and comfort him until nearly 2:00 AM. Knowing I had a 5:00 AM alarm, I was initially frustrated. However, as I rocked him, I realized how big he felt in my arms and how his legs dangled over the side of our glider. I remembered a time, one that feels like last week and years ago all at once, a time when his whole little body fit cradled in my arms. It occurred to me that he’ll never fit in my arms that way again but also that he’ll never fit in my arms this way again. It won’t be long until we don’t fit in that glider together at all. It’ll feel sudden when he doesn’t want me to rock him back to sleep anymore, so I held him closer, and I embraced the 1:00AM snuggle. I wrapped my arms around him and my heart around the moment.

 

It’s not always going to be easy, and it may sometimes not be possible, but I am committing myself to looking for these silver linings, these hidden blessings in seemingly everyday frustrations. It may be a moment to myself or a sweet baby snuggle, but if I can just look for something to celebrate, something for which I can give gratitude in every obstacle, I know I can help fill my heart and my house with joy. And that’s what my family deserves, a home filled with thankfulness and celebration every day, no matter what.

 

So, even though sometimes we just need to cry or scream or take and extra long bath, I encourage you, Mama, take a sickation day, laugh when the baby joyfully splashes in the dog’s water bowl, be grateful you have a home even when it requires seemingly constant repairs, enjoy your ugly, outdated, but oh-so-comfy couch, and fill your heart with as many happy memories as it can hold. I believe our families will thank us.

What Happens While Mama’s in Vegas…

Last week I did something I said I’d never do as a mom (you can add it to the running list of things I do that I said I’d never do): I left my baby behind and took a trip to see Queen Celine in Vegas with girlfriends. I used to wonder, “What kind of mother would leave her young child for a selfish trip with friends?!” Well, now I know: a good mother would! If you’re not comfortable leaving your baby behind to take a trip, that’s completely understandable, totally okay, and you’re a good mother too! But, let’s face it, some of us just need a little time to feel like normal adults who have a reason to wear heels and that sparkle eyeshadow in the back of our makeup drawers, and it’s really not selfish. It’s just a way to feel like ourselves again and, really, a way to feel new and lost appreciation for our families and the lives we’ve built at home. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or some nonsense like that, right?

I’ve had two long weekends away with Joe since Calvin was born, but this felt different. I knew no one there would be able to share the moments in which I missed him so much it hurt. I knew no one would by dying to look at his adorable videos while we waited to be seated at dinner or while we tried to fall asleep, but I also knew that this could be very good for me. I knew that having a little too much champagne and experiencing “My Heart Will Go On” live would remind me that I’m still young and worthy of such experiences.

This would be the longest Joe ever had Cal by himself, so I knew it would be good for them too. However, I did expect some bumps in their experience alone together. Joe is a great father, but he doesn’t know all that goes into packing the diaper bag or which sippy cups are acceptable to Calvin or where I keep the Diaper Genie refills. He knows how to feed, clothe, and bathe him. He knows how to put him in the car seat and keep him safe, but he doesn’t have Calvin’s playlist downloaded for that moment his screams fill the car with panic and desperation. I didn’t expect Joe to fail, not at all. I just expected to come home and start writing about their funny mishaps – forgetting to pack snacks, running out of diapers just in time for a car seat blowout, going to church in footie PJs – stuff like that. When I asked for updates throughout the weekend, things seemed to be going as expected. I got a photo of Calvin eating a family-sized bowl of pasta for breakfast and another of him crawling around without clothes because “he’s just going to get them dirty anyway.” I got a call telling me our kitchen sink fell through the counter and flooded the kitchen. I knew Calvin was safe and fed and loved, but I was bracing myself to come home to things all out of order – a home that painted a scene of two boys just trying to survive the weekend, but when I actually got home a little after midnight last Monday, I experienced something quite different.

When I walked in, I didn’t notice the sink first. Before I saw anything, I smelled the cleanliness. It turns out, the sink broke because Joe was soaking our oven racks in soapy water as he deep-cleaned the kitchen. The counters were cleared of everything except the bottle drying rack and fresh flowers. As I moved through the house, I saw Calvin’s toys were put away neatly. The blankets were folded (nearly) perfectly. The dirty laundry baskets were empty, even the ones where I put dirty cleaning towels. I didn’t even know he knew where those were. The shower was scrubbed. The bathroom counters were cleared…except for two Lush bath bombs, one from Joe, one from Cal. I was overwhelmed. I felt gratitude, love, disbelief, and, honestly, quite a bit of disappointment in myself for expecting anything less.

Joe has always been thoughtful. He can sense the tone in my texts and knows when to bring home dessert and/or (usually and) wine. I’ve had fresh flowers on my kitchen table since our second date…unless we’re going out of town because he’s “not buying them just to let them die alone.” I honestly wasn’t surprised that he picked up the house or that he bought flowers. I was, however, surprised that he seemed to manage everything, in many ways, better than I do. He did admit that he wanted to impress me and that he couldn’t maintain this level of cleanliness and overachievement on a weekly basis, but, wow, I was impressed. It made me realize how much I underestimate and underappreciate him. I chose him as my partner because I love, respect, and admire him, but too often I let myself believe that no one could run the house better than I do. Why? Because I want to feel in control? Because I want to make myself valued? Yes and yes.

I learned so much that weekend. I learned so much, in fact, that I’ve been working on this post for over a week and couldn’t even narrow in on what I learned. It was intended to focus on what happens to Daddy and Baby when Mommy’s away, but that intention died out in the best possible way. So I pondered…Should I focus on how important it is to remain young and vibrant and fun, to be yourself and have new, adult experiences? Or do I want to focus on appreciating and not underestimating your spouse? Or should it really be about the underlying issues in all of this? Welp, after I don’t know how many edits, I’ve decided to keep a little of all of it because it all matters. I’m allowed to learn more than one thing in a weekend. And I’m allowed to appreciate more than one experience. And I’m not being graded on this essay, so who cares? I’m supposed to be making things up, right? And since I’m not being graded, I’m going to do something I’d never accept from one of my students, I’m going to conclude this piece of writing with a bulleted list, so here it goes…

A list of advice based on my Vegas weekend experiences:

  • Don’t feel guilty doing something for yourself once in a while. That “absence makes the heart grow fonder” nonsense isn’t really nonsense at all, and it’s nice to have a fond heart.
  • Pack your bag the way Marie Kondo would. It’s delightful.
  • Trust your husband. You married him for a reason, you know.
  • FaceTime your baby, and take screenshots. It’s hilarious.
  • No more than TWO glasses of champagne. You’re older now, and the headache isn’t worth it.
  • Finally, See Céline Dion live. It’s spiritual. You won’t be sorry.

*Note: Photo quality courtesy of Joe and Calvin.

Babies Are Boring

That’s right. I said it. Babies are boring, at least some of the time, and I believe any mother who says she has never had this thought is either lying or crazy. I adore my son. Really, I’m arguably too obsessed with him sometimes. He can just look at me a certain way that makes me wonder what in the world I ever did to deserve such perfection, but, let’s face it: he doesn’t know anything about pop culture or current events, and he’s just so predictable. We’ll start with a little peek-a-boo. Then it’s time to dump everything out of the toy bin. Then he moves on to pulling every book off the bookshelf one at a time. Then he’s ready to be taken to the next room to play peek-a-boo, dump things out of bins, and pull things off the shelves. Repeat until nap time. Honestly, I believe the real reason parents get excited when their babies learn something new is not just that we’re relieved to see developmental progress, it’s largely because it means we can throw something else into the mix. He can clap his hands on command now??? Wow! Finally, something other than peek-a-boo! Clap those hands, Cal!

 

I spent months on the floor of Calvin’s nursery trying to come up with new things to do with him. I’d read a book for the 64th time, but I’d change my voice – make it funny, make it a song, etc. I’d try to get into his head any play whatever little games he played, but I just can’t make shaking an elephant rattle excite me the way it does him. Finally, I decided that I really just needed to get off the floor and get out of the house. I don’t need makeup. I don’t need clean hair. I just need to put on a bra and go. Where did I go? Target, of course. I certainly shouldn’t need to explain why that was a problem. Did he need another toy? Did I need another face mask? Did either of us need new books? Nope. What about the glittery pumpkins to put out in the fall? Did we need those? Absolutely not. Did we buy all of those things anyway? Of course. It’s Target.

 

I’ve made it my mission these past two months to keep both Calvin and myself entertained without holding myself prisoner in his room or mindlessly spending money at Target, and I’ve come up with a few tricks:

 

  • First, I’ve discovered that our local Parenting magazine always includes family friendly events coming up in our area. You can also Google kid-friendly event calendars for your area. There are so many cute festivals, farmer’s markets, and gatherings you’d never know about otherwise, and most of them are free!
  • The library and local book stores also have a ton of fun, free events and activities for kids of all ages. Calvin especially loved last week’s dramatic reading of Jane Eyre.
  • We’re getting a lot of use out of our zoo pass. I pack all our snacks and drinks in a diaper bag, so the day doesn’t cost anything extra. Calvin loves to watch the animals and other kids, and I get my steps in. Win-win. We plan to get Aquarium passes when the Florida heat starts getting oppressive again.
  • I took the deepest of breaths and finally let Calvin go to the little playground at the mall a few weeks ago, and he LOVED it. Can anyone explain to me why everything is so sticky there? Actually, don’t. It’s best I don’t know. After I doused him in organic, baby-friendly hand-sanitizer, took him home, and gave him a bath, I realized that he actually survived all the germs. He didn’t even get so much as a sniffle. He’s been back since then, and I started taking him to our neighborhood park to go in the baby swings. He puts his mouth on the chains, which makes me cringe all over, but I just try to focus on how much better this is than another round of bookshelf demolition.
  • Sometimes, I just don’t want to put on that bra, and that’s ok too. I like to challenge Calvin to learn one new thing each week. I like to teach him little dance moves that make us both laugh. Sometimes I read an article or a chapter from a novel to him. He doesn’t know the difference, and I feel like I’m part of society for a minute.

 

I think it’s important to accept that it’s okay to find your baby a little boring sometimes. It’s okay to give yourself a little slack and not feel guilty when you just don’t feel like playing yet another round of “tickle monster” or staring at your baby while he plays with his feet. Going out with your baby doesn’t have to be an expensive or time-consuming production. Just go out for one hour and see how it changes your moods. And staying home with your baby doesn’t mean you have to accept everything he chooses to do. Redirect him to something you think is cute and funny. And when all else fails, put on your favorite playlist and have a dance party because nothing brightens my day more than when Cal and I get down to Queen Celine’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.”

 

Have fun out there,

Kelly

 

Be S.M.A.R.T. in 2019

My bank account is small. My waistline is big. The time has come. It’s January 10, 2019, and it’s time (past time, really) to accept the end of the holiday season. It’s hard to say goodbye to mindless eating and careless spending, but it’s gone on long enough. Honestly, I’m not hating getting back into a routine as much as I have in the past. Calvin spent the holidays being passed from grandma to grandma, aunt to aunt, cousin to cousin so much that I don’t even know when my child is supposed to eat or sleep anymore.

 

It seems as though most people kick off the new year with resolutions, but I find this unrealistic. Starting a diet on January 1st?! The day of hangover breakfasts, collards, and black-eyed peas? No thank you! I need to settle back in slowly. Spending two weeks eating, drinking, and spending as I please can’t just come to a screeching halt. Let me take home some leftovers. Christmas cookies for breakfast, a salad for lunch. It’s all about balance. I’ll step back on my online shopping, but let me roam Target. I need to ease in.

 

I spent most years of my life making resolutions that never saw Valentine’s day. Most never saw Martin Luther King Jr. day, if I’m being honest. My first attempt at “Dry January” lasted until January 4th. Not bad, actually. My first successful resolution was two years ago. I set out to be on time. I vowed to be at least ten minutes early to work four out of five days each week. I gave myself one day to run a little late or even on time because, you know, life just happens, and I did it! I wasn’t actually sure why this resolution was the first to be successful until I kicked off the next school year by teaching my annual lesson about specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound (S.M.A.R.T.) goals and realized I had unknowingly set a S.M.A.R.T. goal when making my resolution to be on time. That’s why it was a success.

 

I’ve been having my students make S.M.A.R.T. goals for the past three years, and I’ve seen a tremendous increase in student success. However, I never applied this successful goal-setting method to my own goals because….well, I don’t actually have a reason, just another example of my mindless negligence, I suppose. If you’ve never set a S.M.A.R.T. goal, and you sincerely want to achieve something, it’s truly worth trying. Break it down, and ease yourself in.

 

Specificity is key in successful goal setting. It’s also imperative when sending your husband to the store for ice cream. Low fat sorbet, Joe? Really? Who do you think I am? Where’s my Chunky Monkey?! It’s great to want to lose weight, get healthy, or be more present, but what exactly do you hope to achieve? Think about the who, what, where, when, and, most importantly, the why when setting your goal.

 

Your goal must also be measurable. Otherwise, how will you know if the goal has been achieved? I want to be more present this year, but how can I measure that? You expect me to keep a log? Please! That’s not going to last a week. Let’s be realistic. A simple “yes” or “no” can definitely be considered a measurement.

 

Speaking of realistic, let’s start making our goals achievable. You’d be surprised how often people set crazy unrealistic goals for themselves, only setting themselves up for failure (like “Dry January”). I’d love to lose 50 pounds and become a millionaire, but let’s all get real with ourselves.

 

Goals must also be relevant to what’s going on in our lives and to what we actually want. Do you really want to start a business, become PTA president, go vegan, and run your first marathon this year? Really? That sounds like a good time?

 

Finally, you should make your goals time-bound. Otherwise, technically, you have until eternity to achieve them, and who wouldn’t put it of ‘til then?

 

So, I want to be more present and use my time more intentionally in 2019. I want to spend more quality time with Calvin. I want to read more and have more confidence. It all sounds great, but who do I really think I am? I can’t do it all. I can’t be a perfect wife and mother and friend and employee and enjoy every second of every day. I just can’t, so I took these ideas and made myself three S.M.A.R.T. resolutions for 2019, and I really feel like I can do it.

 

2019 S.M.A.R.T. Resolution #1: Read at least one book to Calvin each day in 2019. – I chose this not only because I want to teach Cal to love reading, but because it forces me to turn off all of the devices, sit down with him, and be engaged. I like it because it often leads to us reading another book or snuggling or playing, which allows me to be present and enjoy the quality time I was seeking. So far, I haven’t missed a day. Although, one day we read a four page book of colors….I Still haven’t missed a day!

 

2019 S.M.A.R.T. Resolution #2: Read at least twelve books by the end of the year. – This started out as “Read at least one book per month,” but I realized that some months are just busier than others. I always claim that I don’t have enough time to read, but, let’s face it, if I put down my phone and turned off “90 Day Fiancè,” I could have already read War & Peace this month…. Then again, did you see Asuelu at the reunion? Poor, sweet, confused man.

 

2019 S.M.A.R.T. Resolution #3: Never say “no” to being photographed in 2019. – This is a big one for me. Whenever a camera is pointed at me, my immediate reaction is, “Stop! I don’t look cute!” I need to get over it! It’s not like every photo needs to be posted for the world to see. Maybe I’m not in my skinny sorority pose. Maybe my hair hasn’t been styled (or washed) in a few days. Maybe I could use a little concealer. WHO CARES?! I want to look at these moments as opportunities in which a moment of my life that I’ll never get back is being captured. I know I’ll look back at these photos and see myself in a precious time in my life. I won’t see the tummy rolls or the messy hair. I’ll see the joy, and I’ll cherish it. So, aim those cameras at me!

 

Each of my resolutions uses specific language, is easily measured, can definitely be achieved, is relevant to my life and my heart, and has a 2019 time-limit, and I truly feel they will make me better this year. Another personal goal of mine is to post here once a week, so I’m counting on YOU to hold me accountable. Mamas supporting Mamas!

 

Cheers to a new year,

Kelly