17 March 2015

Can I Really Call Myself A Writer?

"What do you do?"

It's what grownups ask each other by way of a greeting because we so often identify ourselves by what we do professionally.

"I'm a stay-at-home-mom," I reply.

And if I'm meeting someone who is not another SAHM, but instead a member of the "working world" that statement is often met with a blank look or a tepid, "Oh, well, that's nice."

So, then I add, "Oh, and I'm also a writer."

At this point the non-SAHM perks up with a, "Oh! Really? What do you write?"

Apparently learning about what I write is more interesting than hearing stories about making snacks, wiping butts, and hanging out with my 3.5 year-old daughter.

"I write a blog and I'm working on my first novel," and then I add with a laugh, "which is languishing in my laptop."

So there it is.

I'm a writer.

Of sorts.

Truth be told I have not worked on my novel in earnest since my daughter arrived in our lives three and a half years ago.

I always knew when I made the choice to stay at home with my daughter that my creative life would take a hit. Raising a kid is hard work. It takes time and energy. When we decided to adopt one of the conditions I laid out to my husband was that we would need to live on his salary. I knew full well that I would not be capable of raising of a small child  and holding down a job outside of the home. And so I left a career in which I had burned out and started my SAHM gig. And for the most part it has been awesome.

Except...

It didn't occur to me that I would not be capable of raising a small child and at the same time having a creative life. That I would stop writing.

But I did.

Only recently have a I resurrected this blog.

And my novel?

Still languishing in this laptop.

Am I really a writer?

I don't know.

10 March 2015

Togetherness

"It's a LOT of togetherness," I often hear myself saying in conversation when I'm talking about my life as a stay-at-home-mom.

"A LOT of togetherness."

I wouldn't have it any other way.

But, man, is it ever a lot of togetherness. Oy.

Here's the thing that you aren't supposed to say about being a stay-at-home-mom:

Being a stay-at-home-mom is kind of driving me crazy.

Don't get me wrong...I LOVE my daughter. I love love love love love her. I love her like I've never loved anybody. It's an intense, crazy, deep love that makes me ache when I look at her. How did I get so lucky to be the mom of this amazing person??? When I see her wicked smile and her dimple. Omigod...the dimple. It's the cutest dimple EVER. And I hear her laugh. Pure joy. It fills me up. I know that I am the luckiest mom on the planet. Bar none.

Really.

But then she has one of her spectacular meltdowns. Omigod. The meltdowns. Brutal. For both of us.

Or we get done with swimming lessons at 10:00 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. We get ourselves dressed and I look at the clock to see that it is 10:52. Dear God...WHAT am I going to do with this child for another SEVEN HOURS AND EIGHT MINUTES until we have dinner???

Or the day where we have NOTHING on the schedule and she flat out refuses to go to gymnastics open play or Kidz Wurld indoor play center. 

And the fact that she stopped napping when she wasn't even two and a half years old. What kid stops napping that young???

"Oh, he naps for at least two hours everyday. Most days it's closer to three," a mom I meet at gymnastics open play tells me. Her kid is four and a half.

Four and a half years old and he naps for THREE HOURS???

In my dreams.

Moms hate naps at first because infants take so many of them which makes it hard to schedule your life. But then as life gets crazier when the kid starts becoming more mobile and active, moms come to appreciate and NEED The Nap. The Nap gives moms a break from the togetherness. You use it to clean the house, have a cup of coffee, sleep, or sometimes just sit and relish the quiet.

When my kiddo officially gives up her nap I feel like I might actually have a nervous breakdown.

No napping leads to a LOT of togetherness.

Twelve straight hours of togetherness most days.

Without a break.

Here's something that many people don't know about me: I'm an introvert.

You wouldn't know it about me because I am super chatty, I like to meet new people, and I do like to be out and about. I have decent social skills. I'm not a typical introverted introvert. I'm an extroverted introvert.

But I need alone time.

I need it. Crave it. Have to have it.

Serious quality alone time to recharge my batteries.

Alone time where I have an opportunity to be quiet and creative. When I can make art, write, read, and use my brain in a different way than when I'm in mom mode.

But with twelve hours of togetherness with my three and half year-old daughter...there ain't a lot of quality alone time to recharge. I'm pretty much totally exhausted at the end of every day. So my end of the day alone time isn't quality alone time AT ALL. I collapse in a heap on the couch where I watch television as my body twitches and vibrates because I am over-tired and over-stimulated. Watching television doesn't really help much, but in general I have little brain power for anything else at the end of my day.

Here's the other thing you aren't supposed to say about life as a stay-at-home-mom:

Being with a small child for twelve hours a day is a grind.

It is.

Wiping butts, cleaning up crayon on the walls chasing your kid through the library to get her to stop running and yelling, searching for the same lost toy every single day, watching the same episode of Curious George for the 47th time, keeping your kid entertained and clean and fed and engaged every single day, being the primary educator and disciplinarian every single day. It's. A. Grind.

Please, don't get me wrong...there are SO MANY parts of the day that are also TOTALLY AWESOME. I love watching my kid running and jumping and walking the balance beam at gymnastics open play time. And our couch tickle fights are spectacularly fun. Hearing her whoop with excitement when she hears the theme music for her favorite cooking show, The Pioneer Woman. Listening to her tell her hundreds of stories everyday is the stuff that makes life with her the best. Watching the wheels in her brain turn and seeing her learn something new. Completely awesome and amazing.

However, it's a lot.

A lot. A lot. A lot. A lot of work. A lot of togetherness with no break.

And I know...this is MY choice to stay at home with her. Please, no one needs to remind me. I chose this life. I choose this life everyday even when I think I might have a nervous breakdown because of it. I choose to be the person who raises my daughter.  I choose the grind. And I am SO LUCKY that I have that choice. That my husband earns enough to keep us in house and home so that I can spend twelve hours a day with our kid. That my husband is OK with me "opting out" of the work force to be a "SAHM." I KNOW that I am lucky.

Really. I do.

But, man, it's still a LOT of togetherness.

03 March 2015

No Comfort

"I DON'T WANT YOU!" my three and a half year-old daughter roars, fists clenched at her sides, body rigid, tears and snot coating her face.

"I DON'T WANT YOU!" she roars again mid-meltdown then jumps up and down screaming at the top of her lungs.

I hardly recognize this enraged little person. 95% of the time my kid is joyful, happy, hilarious, and extremely kind.

But that other 5% of the time.

Meltdowns.

Spectacular, epic, blow-the-roof-off meltdowns.

Filled with rage.

In the midst of these spectacular epic meltdowns my normally super affectionate, loving, huggy girl directs all of her rage at me.

"What can I do for you?" I ask her in my calmest voice. "What can I do for you?"

"NOTHING! GET AWAY FROM ME!" she shrieks, body still rigid, fists still clenched and eyes now closed as if the very sight of me is just too much to bear.

She rejects my attempts to comfort her.

She rejects me with every fiber of her being.

Sometimes her meltdowns last for just a few minutes, but on occasion she can rage for close to an hour. It is so awful to witness her fury and her suffering as huge emotions overtake her.

If I'm honest with myself, it's also extremely painful to have all of that rage directed at me.

It's especially painful because I secretly worry that she rejects me in this way because I'm not her birth mother, K.

Is there some deep part of her that understands that I am not the woman who gave birth to her? Does she subconsciously want K and thus rejects me?

When she screams "I DON'T WANT YOU!" I secretly panic that she will always reject me because somehow I'm not her "real" mother.

I wonder and worry, if K were raising her would Esme just collapse in K's arms and allow herself to be hugged and comforted? Would she let K do that for her when she won't let me? Will she ever let me comfort her through a meltdown?

"I don't want you," Esme says again breathing hard, but she is running out of steam.

"What can I do for you?" I ask again.

"Nothing," she snuffles then walks to the couch where she seizes her beloved purple fleece jacket. She takes her "worry spot" (the bottom front where the zipper comes together) and gently rubs it under her nose. Her preferred method of self-soothing.

I take a step toward her and ask gently, "Can I give you a hug now?"

"Not yet," she says hiccuping, a few tears still rolling down her cheeks.

"OK, I'll come back and check on you in a few minutes."

I walk into the kitchen where I sag against the counter exhausted and hurt, trying and failing to not take it personally. Trying and failing to be confident in my role as Esme's "real" mom.

Wondering and worrying.

A few minutes later I return to the living room to sit down near her on the couch. "Can I give you a hug now?"

She shakes her head, but she moves closer to me and we sit together, not quite touching, in silence for a long time.

26 February 2015

Margaret's Birthday

"There is a cat," says my 3.5 year-old daughter.

We are sitting at a table in our local library and she is "reading" to me from a Rainbow Fairy chapter book. Whenever we come to the children's section of the library she immediately secures the lone red plastic wagon with the blue handle (there are also two blue wagons with yellow handles, but apparently these are less desirable than the red) and rushes to the chapter book spinners to peruse and select her books. Recently she announces that she will only select the Rainbow Fairy books with the PINK covers.

Conveniently there are dozens and dozens of Rainbow Fairy books with pink covers.

Once her wagon is loaded to almost overflowing, Esme comes to me to "check out" her books. This involves me sitting with an old computer keyboard in my lap "scanning" each book - passing it over the keyboard while saying, "Beeeeeep." I scan them. She puts them back in the wagon.

Today Esme grabs my hand when we're done "checking out" her books. "Come," she says, pulling me to my feet.

"Where are we going?"

"To a party!" she says with a grin.

"Whose party?" I ask.

"Margaret's party! It's Margaret's birthday party today."

Margaret is Esme's baby doll. The doll who goes EVERYWHERE with us. Whose clothes, despite numerous washings, have degraded to a rather unfashionable shade of pale grey. Who is, according to my daughter, the source of all trouble in our house. When I comment that the living room is a huge mess, Esme informs me, "Margaret did it. Margaret makes big messes!" When I trip over the scooter suddenly laying behind me on the kitchen floor, Esme says with a straight face, "It was Margaret." And when I return to the living room one day after folding some laundry in the bedroom to discover an entire bowl of Triscuits crumbled to little bits and spread all over the couch...the apparent culprit, "Margaret."

We really do love Margaret despite her trouble-making tendencies.

So, apparently, today is Margaret's birthday (it was also her birthday a week ago Thursday, several times in January and on multiple occasions throughout the last six months) and we're having a party in the library.

Esme pulls all of the rolling chairs from the computer desks over to a table. There is no one else in the children's section right now so I make no objection.

"You sit here! In this one," says Esme pointing.

"OK."

She then pulls half a dozen Rainbow Fairy books from her hoard, slaps one on the table in front of me and says, "This is yours. You read."

OK.

"No, wait!" she says, yanking the book out of my hand. "I read this one to you."

She opens the book to the middle and begins in the sweet sing-song voice she uses when she tells her stories, "There is a cat. The cat doesn't want to be picked up. I pick up the cat. I say, 'Shh cat. You OK. You OK.' I put the cat down. The end!"

She closes the book and looks at me with a huge smile.

"You have so many stories to tell," I say to my daughter. "So many stories to tell."

She laughs.

And with that she opens another book to tell me yet another story. This is what the rest of the party consists of - her "reading" the rest of the half a dozen books to me and Margaret. Some of the stories have a plot and even make some sense, but most of them simply involve Esme experimenting with different words in nonsensical combinations, half-talking and half-singing.

I'm pretty certain based on prior experiences that Margaret will have another birthday soon. Probably not in the library. More than likely at home where Esme will "bake" her a cake in her play kitchen and I will be commanded to sit at the kitchen table where I will have to eat the pretend cake over and over and over again. 

22 February 2015

You Never...Until You Do

Do y'all have a list of "nevers" in your head?

You know the list...that slightly self-righteous all-knowing "Well, I'll never do this" or "I'll never do that" list.

"I'll never date a bad boy."
"I'll never lie to my parents."
"I'll never take the easy route."
"I'll never get married."
"I'll never have kids."
"I'll never get fat."
"I'll never stay in a bad marriage."
"I'll never get divorced."
"I'll never take a job that I don't feel passionate about."
Etc. Etc. Etc.

I didn't know that I had a "never" list when my husband and I set out to become parents some five odd years ago. In the front of my brain I just assumed I'd become a mom and it would be all rainbows and unicorns and sweetness and light.

OK, well maybe no rainbows and unicorns, but I thought it would be awesome.

And it is.

Mostly.

I know that I am incredibly lucky to have the life I do with my husband, my daughter,  a nice house, money in the bank, and the opportunity to stay home to raise my daughter. Truly, it's a great life and I know I shouldn't complain.

But.

But three and a half years into this momhood gig I realize that I've had a "never" list lurking in my brain.

My list goes something like this, "When I'm a mom..."
  • "I'll never 'let myself go' and will always take care of myself so I don't get fat and unhealthy."
  • "I'll never neglect my marriage." 
  • "I'll never judge other moms for their choices."
  • "I'll never leave the house while wearing sweats or yoga pants."
  • "I'll never let the laundry go for days and weeks."
  • "I'll never leave the house unless I've showered and done my hair and make up."
  • "I'll never leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight or for days at a time."
  • "I'll never put my child's needs before the needs of my husband and our marriage."
  • "I'll never resent my husband for having a job outside of the home when I'm home all of the time."
  • "I'll never let my kid eat food for which we haven't yet paid."
  • "I'll never let my kid have a tantrum in public."
  • "I'll never raise my voice to my child and will always speak to her patiently."
  • "I'll never check out mentally when I'm with my child."
  • "I'll never plop my kid in front of the television for hours at a time so I can get things done."
  • "I'll never check out mentally when I'm with my husband."
  • "I'll never give up time with my girlfriends."
  • "I'll never stop being a good friend."
  • "I'll never stop writing, blogging and making art."
  • "I'll never spend every evening on the couch zoning out in front of the television."
  • "I'll never give up date nights with my husband."
  • "I'll never lose the things about myself that make me me."

And I never do any of these things.

Until I do.

All. Of. The. Time.

I almost always leave the house while wearing sweat pants or yoga pants.  Do my hair? Wear makeup? Seriously? That never happens. I haven't been thin or healthy in quite some time. I find myself judging other moms for things that I know that I do with own kid or that I am afraid of doing. I don't want to be THAT mom who is yelling at her kid on the playground. But sometimes I am.

Do I pay attention to my amazing husband beyond talking about our daughter or general domestic issues? Not so much. Here I have this wonderful, kind, brilliant and loving life partner, but I can hardly remember what it feels like to be in a romantic relationship with him because I don't make the effort these days. I'm too worn out from being a mom. Or at least that's what I tell myself to justify not giving him more of me. He always gets the last and worst of me. I'm not the wife that I want to be.

What about my totally awesome kid? She's funny, kind, energetic, and one of the most engaging people I've ever met. But I'm not the mom I want to be because I'm not in the present moment with her the way I should be. I'm so tired and sometimes just plain resentful of constantly having to be on duty for her. She gets me all of the time. But she doesn't get the best of me. At the end of the day especially I am always impatient and in a hurry to get her to bed. I'm not kind. I'm not the mom I want to be.

My house is consistently a wreck. It takes too much energy and patience to try to wrangle my 3.5 year-old into helping put away the 800 toys and all of the household items that she just HAS to put on the floor every single day. I always put off doing the laundry and the dishes. And when was the last time my floors saw a mop? Ha! I'm not the housekeeper I want to be.

And my friends? Well, I see them a few times a year and I keep them updated a few times a week on Facebook. I'm an awesome friend...yeah, not so much. I'm not the friend I want to be.

Blogging? Writing my novel? Making art? Haven't done any of that in I can't remember how long. I'm not the creative person I want to be.

Truth is, I'm pretty much a hot mess right now. I find myself in that territory many moms find themselves in: I've lost the things that make me me because I let the "never" list take over.

I never.

Until I do.

But now.

Time to set the "never" list aside.

Time to get back to being me.

25 June 2014

Transracial adoption: One of these things is not like the other...

An interesting incident from January 2012 when I was still a new mom...

We are in line at the grocery store, my five month-old daughter sound asleep in her baby carrier on the cart and me watching the woman in front of us unloading her cart's contents onto the belt.  The woman is blonde, blue-eyed, petite, and pretty. The little boy standing next to her - probably five years-old or so - has to be her son because he looks exactly like her. He is adorable. I can't help staring at him.

The little boy notices me gazing at him so I give him what I hope is my best "I really like little kids" smile. Thankfully he smiles back. Then he notices the baby carrier sitting on my cart and makes his way over to me.

"Can I see the baby?" he asks me in a raspy voice.

"Sure, Buddy," I say and move aside.

Grasping the cart handle he hoists himself up for a good look. Apparently this is a kid who really likes babies because he gets a goofy big smile on his face. At this moment his mom notices him missing from her side and looks around to see him standing on my cart.  She looks as though she's going to call him back so I give her my most "it's OK" smile with a little hand wave and she relaxes while the cashier continues to scan and bag her items. After another moment the boy's smile fades as he looks from Esme to me and back again several times. He steps down from the cart and with a serious expression says slowly and loudly, "S h e ' s   v e r y   b r o w n."

The petite blonde looks alarmed at this loud pronouncement from her son.

"Yes, she is," I reply.

"She's very brown," he repeats, "and you're NOT."

A look of sheer horror settles on the face of the little boy's mom, but I wave her off gently before she can interrupt.

"No,  I'm not," I say with a chuckle.

The little boy thinks about this for a moment and then asks, "So, is your husband brown?"

"Omigod," says the little boy's mom her face flushing in utter embarrassment.

Personally, I don't think she should be embarrassed at all. Her kid is a genius! How many five year-olds would make that leap?

"No, Buddy, my husband isn't brown."

He looks confused.

"My daughter is adopted."

"What does that mean?"

The boy's mother is now making quiet strangling noises with her face in her hands, "Honey, please!"

Ignoring his mother's near panic, I say, 'That means that my daughter grew in someone else's tummy, but that lady couldn't tale care of her when she was born. So my little girl came to live with me and my husband and now we're her parents."

"Oh, OK," he says cheerfully walking back to his mother's side.

"I am SO sorry," says the mom looking as if she'd rather be anywhere else.

"Please don't apologize. It's just fine. Really."

My daughter is brown.

Very brown.

And I am not.






23 June 2014

I'm Back (and Conversations with Esme...)


It's hard for me to believe that my amazing girl is almost three years old.


And that I haven't written on this blog for more than two years. What the heck happened???

Motherhood.

That's what happened.

Diaper changes, sleep deprivation, walking circles around the kitchen island in the middle of the night trying to get her back to sleep, schlepping her in the car seat here and there, teething, barfing (her, not me), bottle feeding, baths, sleep deprivation, multiple daily clothing changes, getting barfed on, getting barfed on some more, getting barfed on again, sleep deprivation, crying in my car because I'm so tired, hearing her first laugh, seeing her first smile, watching her roll, then scoot, then crawl, then pull herself up, then take her first step, and more steps, then run, then say her first word and her second word, trips to the playground, more trips to the playground, etc. etc. etc.

Losing myself entirely for almost three years in this wonderful, terrible, fabulous, maddening and transformative thing called motherhood. When I started this blog back in 2009 to explore my husband's and my adoption journey, I had every intention of then writing about our family post-adoption and about my experience with motherhood. But somehow writing about motherhood just never materialized. I was just too busy. Too tired. Too much of a mom and not quite as much of the me I was before I became a mom.

But here I am again. Feeling the need to write. And what else would I write about? Being a mom is my full-time gig. It's what I do. It's what's in my brain. It's kind of all I know these days. So basically it's all I know to write.

So, to kick off the re-boot of this blog I am going stop making excuses for why I've been gone so long and instead get you up to speed on my girl via some of my favorite conversations with Esme who is, as I already mentioned, amazing.

Actually she is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Super smart, extremely independent, uber social, fearless, compassionate, charming, and has a great sense of humor.


February 8, 2014

Filed under "What Not to Say to Your Child":

ME: OK, Sweetie, it's time to get dressed.

ESME [goofs around in rocking chair]

ME: Guess you don't want to go to the mall today. Guess we won't replace your bracelet.

ESME [hopping off chair]: Go mall! Go mall!

ME [lifting Esme onto changing table]: Well, we have to get you dressed. Can't go to the mall in your pajamas. Well, you could, but then I'd be a crap mom.

ESME [laughing hysterically]: Crap mom! Crap mom! Crap mom!


March 19, 2014

At the library with La Munchipessa.

ESME [picking up a toy stuffed frog]: Frog is sad.

ME: The frog is sad? Why is he sad?

ESME: Has no friends.

ME: The frog has no friends?

ESME: Nooo.

ME: That is sad.

ESME [rolling a toy car with two Little People in it to the frog]: Frog has new friends!! [smiles]


May 5, 2014

ESME [pointing to her purple sock monkey doll]: This is baby.

ME: Purple Monkey is your baby today?

ESME [nodding, but also frowning]: The baby sick.

ME: She's sick? Oh no.

ESME: Need to go to doctor office. The baby sick. Need to go to doctor office.

ME: OK, we better call to see if we can get an appointment.

ESME [pointing to Purple Monkey's little leg]: The baby has cramp! Has cramp!

ME: Oh no.

ESME: [rubbing Purple Monkey's leg and smiling a huge smile]: Cramp all gone! Baby feels better!


May 11, 2014

I am in bed while my husband and daughter are busy in the kitchen making pancakes for me. (And I know this because La Munchipessa just ran to the bedroom door, announced, "We making pancakes for you!" and then dashed off again.)

Happy Mother's Day to me!!!

[addendum: In related news, La Munchipessa just reappeared in the doorway to announce, "We have syrup!"]


May 31, 2014

So, I'm fighting the spring/early summer crud [cough cough cough sniffle sniffle sniffle]. My daughter;s take on the crud...

ESME: Open you mouth.

ME [opening my mouth]

ESME: You have germs in you mouth.

ME: Yes, I have germs in my mouth.

ESME [pointing to herself]: I doctor. I make you feel better.

ME: You're the doctor and you're going to make me feel better?

ESME: [nodding enthusiastically] : I doctor.

ME: What do you recommend for me to feel better?

ESME [thinking]: Soup!! [runs to her covered water table where she busily combines dirt and grass in a bowl] I make you cake. You feel better.

ME: Well, thank you. I think cake will make me feel better.