Committed to Marriage

 

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Marriage is hard. When you start out you are excited about the future, making a family, combining two worlds into one, and it seems like nothing could go wrong. That it will be all breakfasts in bed and flowers every week. It isn’t. There is nothing wrong with that part of marriage. The beginning. We all have beginnings. We couldn’t get to the middle without them. It fades. For some fast and for others slowly. Before you know it you are knee deep in the muddy middle. The thick of it. The heart of it. The make or break of it.

No marriage is flawless, perfect, or smooth sailing all the time. There are doubts, jealousies, financial woes, pregnancies, pregnancy losses, sleepless nights, raising kids, job stress, not seeing each other enough, sexual appetites not lining up, tuning each other out, not sharing enough, feeling alone, or not feeling like you are on the same team. These things happen to all of us at some point. There are moments when we look at our spouse like the enemy instead of our partner. If we stay stuck in those moments, if we surround ourselves with people who want us to dwell on the anger or sadness then marriages can get lost or stuck. Your spouse is no longer your best friend or lover, they are your enemy.

I am not claiming to know everything about marriage because I don’t. I am fumbling my way along just like everyone else. There are times I really suck at being married. I am lucky because my husband has never once cheated or abused me. I cannot say how I would react in those situations.

Here is what I have learned. The days when you stay, the days when you fight for it, the days when you are there because you made a commitment and you want to uphold that commitment those are the days that make it count later. When the storm is rough and you don’t know what you were going to do or how you will make it through but you stay, you pray, you look at each other and reaffirmed to one another that you will stand together and fight for your marriage, well, that is what makes marriage even stronger. When you lean into each other for support. When you open your heart through the tears and lay it all out. That is when your marriage becomes stronger.

In my marriage there is commitment to one another, by both of us, and that is the first thing. We laugh a lot. We flirt a lot. We are still very attracted to one another. Very attracted. We acknowledge each other’s strengths and weakness when it comes to all parts of our life together and we step in or up depending on the situation. Little things matter. A kind word, a text, a break from the insanity that is life, and quick kiss on the forehead. These things matter. They add up. They count. We support one another. I am his biggest cheerleader and he is mine. I tell others how awesome he is so he knows that I am proud of him. Having our extended family support our marriage is huge. They see the value of our marriage. They encourage us in our marriage and in spending time together without our kids. Time to focus on one another. We continue to improve ourselves for one another. We don’t just sit there on the couch gathering dust. We listen. We are best friends. We share life together.

The middle is hard. It is the part that defines the marriage. It isn’t always perfect. It has ups and downs. The struggles are real, but so are the good times. In the end it boils down to one simple thing for us-we don’t want to do life without each other. We are better together. We will work to make our marriage work. I am grateful I get to enjoy this life with my husband by my side.

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The Toddler, the Toilet, and the Terrifying Trauma of Two

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I still have toddlers in the house, but no toddler has been so exuberant or unremitting as my oldest son. He was in a league of his own. He was the all-star of destruction. Thinking back to his terrible toddler years many stories flood the memory, but there was one week that really should have stopped me from wanting to procreate anymore.

There was a small bottle of baby oil on our bathroom counter. I kept it there to remove eye make-up. My son was very interested in it. He always wanted to touch it, grab it, and carry it around. I kept telling him no. He was highly ingenious, as most toddlers are, and would drag a stool to the bathroom in order to climb on the counter. I more than once found him sitting there holding the bottle trying to figure out how to remove the lid. Now a smart mother would have done a much better job of moving or hiding this bottle. I was then of the mindset that he should just learn not to touch my stuff. After all one of his favorite words was: Mine!!  He surely could understand the concept in reverse: Mine! Mommy’s! Don’t touch! (Looking back I love how naive I was.) 

One morning I hear my son whining Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!  I follow the voice into the bathroom. It doesn’t take much time to notice he finally succeeded in removing the lid from the baby oil. He has poured it everywhere! Floor, sink, toilet, and himself! It was a wonder I didn’t slip and slide into the bathroom. I grab a towel and start cleaning it all up. I can’t find the bottle. I ask him where it is and he answers-potty. I look in the potty and it isn’t there. I look in the garbage can, under the sink, behind the potty, in the shower but there is no bottle. I ask again. Again he says, potty. Well, it seems there is only one option here, I stick my hand in the potty. I can’t feel it. I stick my hand further in. Still can’t feel it. I flush the toilet to see what happens. The water slowly rises all the way to the brim, and before it can spill over it slowly recedes back down. Hmm… This doesn’t look good. At this time we lived in a small apartment, so I grab my toddler, and walk to the office head hung low, and tell them what has happened. They send a guy over and after flushing the toilet on his own, snaking it, and feeling around on his own, he tells us there is nothing in the toilet the flapper just needed to be replaced. That still doesn’t explain the mysterious disappearance of the small baby oil bottle. However, for the rest of the night the toilet works fine. 

The next morning is a different story. I use it, flush it, and water just pours out of the toilet. I grab the plunger and instead of helping it appears I made it worse. Now there is a waterfall coming out of our toilet. Water is EVERYWHERE!! I am already up to my ankles. It takes a minute, but I finally remember to turn the water to the toilet off. I call the office and they decide to send two guys over this time. After snaking it again they tell me that it appears there is actually something in there.They can’t get to it though, and the only way to remove the object is to remove the toilet. As these are just apartment handymen they can’t do this, they have call in the experts. Later that afternoon a new pair of men come in and try an industrial grade snake. Then they seem to acquiesce and take the toilet off. They take it outside to the front of the apartment complex, and I watch from our small balcony as they snake it, flip the toilet this way and that, stick their hands in, shake it, and who knows what else before they carry it away.

A few minutes later there is a knock on my door. When I open it there are the two men, and one of them is holding the bottle of baby oil. Guess my son was right when he said: potty. I should mention that it was just the bottle they carried-not the toilet. The next thing they tell me is that in order to remove this bottle they had to smash the toilet into small pieces. 

This was just the first part of my week. Can you believe that? Later that week, my son decided to one up himself. My husband and I were in bed. My son walks in and wakes me up. This isn’t odd. He sleeps on a mattress on the floor in his own room. He usually walks in to tell us he is ready for breakfast. I roll over, get out of bed, and follow him to the kitchen. Just like normal. Only, it isn’t just like normal because my apartment is now brown. I am on autopilot and continue to follow him into the kitchen. The refrigerator is open, there is milk, eggs, orange juice, cheesecake, and pretzels all over the floor, in the dog bowl, on the wall, covering the counters, kitchen table, all of the chairs, and the walls. The picture is starting to form. I am beginning to realize what is going on. The carpet had once been a lovely shade of off-white, you know basic apartment colored carpet with matching wall paint, now it was brown. Sorta spotty, but mostly brown. The walls had brown hand prints and streaks. The coffee table had a plate with some random assortment of food and a cup filled to the top with milk. It was also covered in an eggs, milk, and oatmeal paste. There is a cheesecake trail leading from the kitchen to near our balcony where I find the rest of the cheesecake and the cause of the brown. A once completely full bottle of chocolate syrup is now completely empty.  I have also discovered that not only is the carpet and wall brown, but our green couch is now green and brown. Since it is a small apartment, most of our toys are in the living room, and all of them are covered in, I don’t know what to call it, chocolate food goop. I mean like all of them, the crevices, the cracks, and the insides of toy trucks.

It only took about 5 minutes for it all to sink in. The moment it did I yell my husband’s name as loudly as I can. He comes running out and then just stops the second he sees what I see. We are both just standing there. Staring. Mouths open wide. Eyes even wider. Wondering how in the world one tiny child could cause so much destruction. How will we ever clean it, where do you even start? What do we do with the child? He is just staring at us wondering why we aren’t really moving. He is not at all phased by the ruination.

In the end I think I summed it up like one of those old Visa commercials.

2.5 hours on hands and knees scrubbing every single inch of carpet in main part of apartment and don’t forget every single piece of furniture we own!!! *still not quite finished need some heavy duty resolve to re-clean most furniture since cleaners we have did not do the trick.

1.5 hours Pete spent steam cleaning every single inch of carpet in apartment

1 hour spent cleaning toys, clothes, dishes, counters, food, and etc.

45 minutes spent cleaning son, mother, and father 

1 gallon of milk, half a container of pretzels, leftover cheesecake, and 1 bottle of chocolate sauce-gone. 

Realizing you need to be a better parent-priceless

My son is now a preteen, and he has heard these stories many times. He loves them. He laughs so hard every single time saying: I destroyed a toilet. I ruined the apartment. I was so bad. He loves to regale the lunchroom crowd, especially the girls, with his tales of destruction. At least something good came from it.

A Little Madness Goes a Long Way

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Last night was Open House at my kids’ school. My husband and I dragged our kids to this cramped hot melee while listening to a combination of whines and eagerness. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to go see their classrooms, look at their work, and see the smiles on their faces as they share what they do all day. I am just never fully prepared for all the papers and projects I have to carry throughout the school. I am never excited to chase the younger kids who think this is an opportunity to play extreme hide and seek. I dread the thought that I will be pulled aside to discuss the oldest child’s behavior, while dealing with all the chaos surrounding me. For an introvert Open House is a bit of a nightmare. In a lovely turn of events my kids who actually attend the school were very well-behaved. It was my daughter who had a massive breakdown while visiting the book fair. It got to the point where she and I had to leave. We walked home. I had 3 kids worth of stuff under one arm and my daughter in the other. She made it very clear that she wanted to stay, she wanted her Daddy, and she did not want me. I held my head high, looked straight ahead, and did not engage with the screaming tyrant. Though I imagine we must have looked like quite the sight. Girl, red in the face screaming her heart out, and Mom, carrying a crap ton of projects and a 4-year-old. We made it home only have her brothers race up carrying the book which started the whole thing. I made a stand, she threw a fit, and in the end she got the book. Hmm. That doesn’t sound right.

Later that evening, after I was already worn out and exhausted, I had to put the kids to bed. Being a mom is a lot of work. It doesn’t help that we are trying to convince the younger two kids to sleep in their own room. They prefer sleeping in bed with me. However, I am a little bit tired of it at this point. They are 3 and 4. Lately they start upstairs in their beds. They don’t really fall asleep well together though. They tend to get each other in trouble. Most nights they end up in my bed as a way to stop the playing. Last night after being too rowdy I put them in my bed. I closed the door and sat on the couch. When I went to get ready for bed myself, just an hour later, the bathroom was covered in water and wet toilet paper. The door to my bedroom was open and even though it was dark I saw that the carpet was wet. Upon further investigation the carpet wasn’t just a little wet, it was sopping. Like puddles of water because the carpet had already soaked up as much as it could, but the kids didn’t care and just kept pouring water over and over again. There were two water bottles and two plastic cups on the ground, which were obviously used to make a pool in my bedroom. The kids were hiding under the covers laughing!!! I couldn’t speak. Well, I did keep saying, “What? What? What?” over and over again causing my husband to come back and see what happened. We had the windows open, fans on, used towel after towel and to try and rid my bedroom of the water feature. This morning it is still wet in some parts.

Some days I look at my kids and thank God for the wonderful blessings in my life. Other days I wonder what the hell I was thinking having kids. I will say that I am glad for my crazy minions, but I am also glad that I decided to have my tubes tied.

What My Daughter Saw

 

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I looked out the window and what did I see? A yard full of dandelions, nothing but weeds. I must drive to the gas station, fill up the mower, and make time during the day to mow them away.

My daughter looked out the window and what did she see? A yard full of bright yellow flowers, now it is spring. She ran out and picked them, put them in a vase, and proudly exclaimed, “These beautiful flowers are for you!”

I saw errands to run, chores to be done, and day full of sweat as I mowed them away. My daughter saw tank tops, shorts, and fun. Flowers for mom and everyone.

She heard my sigh and mumbling words, and she began to cry. “Mom, please don’t get rid of the flowers. They are so pretty. I picked them for you. I thought you wanted it to be Spring. I thought you wanted flowers. Why will you mow them away?”

I looked at her and remembered a time, way back in my mind, when I thought they were flowers too. Not today, I won’t mow them away. We will put down a blanket, have a picnic, enjoy the birds singing, the warm weather, and flowers. We will be happy the sun is shining. We will celebrate the Spring by rolling in the dandelions.

This Parent Thing is Bad for My Ego

I have an eleven year old now. I’d ask where did the time go, but it feels short and long all at the same time. We are in the middle of the journey, helping to shape, helping to mold, helping to guide, and it feels like it, it feels like we worked so hard to get here and we will have to work even harder over to get through the teenage years. This 11 year old is a blessing, and in ways he won’t understand. He is the baby we begged for, hoped for, crossed our fingers for after my first pregnancy ended during the second trimester. He helped make us parents, he helped heal the hurt, and he was a very real blessing. He has also been a challenge to parent from the very beginning. He came into the world via forceps because his heart rate dropped so low they just had to get him out. Ever since it has been something. I feel like God said you want a kid-I will give you a kid.

Having him was baptism through fire, and if you ever thought you had it together as a parent this kid will surely knock you down a few pegs and let you know that you do not. You never did, you never will, and the moment you are getting the hang of it, he will change things up so your parenting ego doesn’t get too inflated. It has its benefits not a lot phases me anymore, I know my kids have their own distinct personality which doesn’t have anything to do with my parenting. I have kids that like rules and order, and I have kids that don’t at all-not even a little.

The phone rings in the middle of the day, and I look down to see it is the school. Immediately my shoulders tense, a weight feels like it has been placed across them, and I briefly wonder: If I don’t answer it does that mean the problem doesn’t exist? Of course, I answer it because answer it or not I will have to hear about it. These phone calls want me to come to the office to talk about my son’s behavior, the teacher wants to basically vent because my son is disrupting their class and has all year, the reward program we had in place isn’t working, he lost his math book, he hasn’t started his science project that is due next week, he used writing time to type the letter 1 for four pages instead of writing, and the list goes on in a varied but similar fashion.

When I talk to him later the answers, the responses, and the whys are far more frustrating than the incidents. I was bored, it doesn’t matter what I do because I get in trouble anyway, they care more about if I am quiet than if I am learning, I was just sticking up for my friend, I am just a jerk, I am a bad kid, I don’t care, nothing ever changes so why does it matter, and the list goes on. This is the heartbreaking part. The part where I alternate being sad and being angry. He speaks truth and he lacks the wisdom to see the whole picture. If ever a kid had a support system this kid does. He knows for a fact that his parents, especially his Dad, will do anything to help him. That doesn’t mean we will do it for him, and that is what makes it so frustrating. He wants it handed to him on a silver platter, he wants it to be made easy, but it just isn’t, and for him, it never will. There are reward systems, there are breathing techniques, mind breaks, alternatives to walking around, talking out, and butting in that have been taught to him, and still here we are. It moves from school to home and self that is so hard because he internalizes it and wears it and it weighs him down.

He sees a therapist. We are starting to consider medicine. Every single person we meet is worried about middle school. It is one of the first things out of their mouths these days. Once he starts to fail or flounder in middle school it will be hard to stop. We need to set him up for success from day one. They all want him to succeed. They give him many chances, they spend a lot of time worrying, they want a fix and a change, but it won’t be that quick. Even with medicine it won’t be that easy. He is smart. Very smart. This is part of what frustrates people me included. Imagine what you could do if you put that energy toward something positive? But, he is the hardest on himself. The negative self-talk is strong, which starts the cycle of this mom worrying all over again. Wanting him to see his worth.

Yesterday was his birthday. It was a rough day for him. He got in trouble at school, I got a phone call, he had to stay after with the principal, and it just seemed to build. Not exactly how you want to spend your birthday. When he got home I gave him a card from his Pappy. After he read it he started to cry a little. He wanted to call his Pappy right away. I read it. It suited the day. It reminded him there are good days, and it acknowledged the truth that he has bad days, but still he needs to believe in himself, we believe in him, and he is special. It wasn’t long, but it reached him where needed to be reached. I am grateful for the relationship he has with his grandparents, his dad, and a select handful of other adults who see him for the entirety of who he is. It will be a difficult road, but hopefully with love and support he will make it through relatively unscathed and with the knowledge that he is loved.23905563_10155986380868086_5785062047597659629_n

Lucky in Friendship

In my life I have never been the type of person to have a large group of friends, a handful at most. Not only that, to this day, my dearest friends from each stage of life are still my most beloved. They have all been a gift, a blessing, my support system for every trial and tribulation. It takes me a while to be real with people. My trust is not easily earned. This may be a fault, I see it as protection, but once we’ve crossed the line from,“I am fine. How are you?”to “Cut the crap what happened?”, well I guess that makes us life long friends.

In looking back it seems that the universe/God must have known my journey would not always be easy. My heart would break over many things: parents, family, boys, children, purpose in life, and religion. It is because God saw fit to place personal angels in my life that I can remember a McDonalds sausage biscuit and coke at my mom’s visitation, a birthday cake with smiling faces and song in my dorm room when I was sure no one would be around to say Happy Birthday, it was cautious visits and gifts that only your best friends could bring after I lost my first baby, it was playdates and walks to just vent about motherhood that saved my sanity, and a girl’s trip to the city when I thought I would lose my mind if I didn’t get out of the house. It has been friendship, at these junctures, that was the guiding light.

This evening on my porch was a box. I grabbed it, put it on the counter and went about my business of making food, straightening up, and getting juice for everyone. I saw it sitting there, and thought about sticking it in the closet until tomorrow. We had a long day, there were a few things floating in my head I hadn’t really processed yet, plus I wasn’t expecting anything, so surely it could wait. Just as I was about to put the youngest two children to bed I grabbed it and brought it with me into my bedroom. Let me say, the thing about friends is that sometimes they know what you need even when you don’t. Inside the box was an ornament with a picture of me (as a baby ) and my mom. The back had a quote. It was one of those moments when you sort of pause and think-What did I ever do deserve so much love?

I am glad I opened the box tonight, I appreciate that all of my friends are more outgoing than I am and have pushed their way into my life, and I am honored to call the women who have held and continue to hold my hand-Friend.

Bittersweet Memories

Shoved back in a dark dusty corner of my daughter’s closet are boxes, old boxes, they have made it through many many moves. The moves to IN (all the many apartments and townhouses we lived in while there), the move to Germany and back (we kept them safe at my in-laws in KY), and our move to IL. Now they rest relatively untouched. The boxes are falling apart, they need to be replaced. I try to forget about them though. They contain pictures and albums from my childhood, college years, and young adulthood. There is one album that is at the very bottom, and I don’t like looking at it. I don’t like seeing it. Memories are tough. They are bittersweet. All life experience shapes, changes, and molds, I can’t turn my back on those experiences, but that doesn’t mean I want constant reminders.

Many years ago I wrote a note, and posted it in the back of the album. It has been on my mind a lot lately, so I went into that back corner, dug around to find the album, and flipped to the back.

Here is that note:

I could often feel you move and I would place my hands over my stomach so I could feel closer to you. It made me feel like I was already holding you and taking care of you. I would talk to you or lightly scold you and tell you to cool it with those kicks. I would give anything to see or feel you move again. How I would relish in it and know that it meant you were safe and happy. I loved you from the moment I knew you were mine. I couldn’t wait to hold you and see you. When they said you were going to be born so early I hoped against hope and prayed that you would be the miracle that made it and you would live. I couldn’t let go of that. If I did what would I have left? As time passed and it became clear that you would not survive I shifted to autopilot and did what I had to do.You had been loved by many and now you were gone. I’m still not sure what to do or think or feel. I know that long before you were born you were a blessing to this family. We will forever be changed because of you. We love you and always will.

My first child was born early. He ended up being stillborn. His name was Owen. Right before they told me he wouldn’t survive they did an ultrasound, and there he was sucking his thumb, unaware that my body was failing him. Instead of keeping him safe and allowing him to grow, my body couldn’t handle the weight and had begun the process of going into labor. I was too far along to stop it, that is what the ultrasound had determined.

I have 5 kids that drive me nuts on a regular basis, but the memory of my first pregnancy often floats in and out of my mind. I am lucky that I have an album full of sweet notes, cards, ultrasounds, and pictures of him after he was born. I only look at once every few years, but it is there when I need it. Back in KY he has a headstone if we ever want to visit. Since we moved away we haven’t, but if his siblings ever want to see it, we know it is there.

These memories are bittersweet, but they are there and they are mine, if I ever need them.

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