What is “Me Time” Anyway?

Last night . . .

Tomorrow, after I wake up, I am going to take a nap.  When I wake up from that, I am going to spend the day hiding in our bedroom, writing and napping.

That sounds like a plan.

This morning:

So, what’s the plan for the day?  What do we want to accomplish?

I’ve already woken up and then gone back to sleep.  I’m just getting something to eat before I go back to our bedroom to write and nap.


He obviously didn’t take me seriously last night, but my plan for today really is to hide in my bedroom, in my bed, surrounded by fluffy “hotel” pillows I ordered from Woot a few weeks back, and write and nap.  I need a day “off.”  Actually?  I need to start taking days “off” on a regular basis.  He does, too, quite frankly, but that is his deal to figure out for now.

I just swapped laundry around and helped Midge with some homework.  There really is  never a day “off.”

Recently I saw an online article, 4 Easy Ways to Avoid Burnout:  Why Self Care is Anything But Selfish, and thought, “Eeek!  That starts with a number rather than the number word?!?  Okay, it is more a title than a headline, and you studied journalism over 20 years ago, so maybe the rules are different.  Breathe . . . .”  Then I thought, “I wonder if those ways to supposedly avoid burnout can help reverse it?” So I read the article.

I read the article and a few things jumped out at me.  The author asked,

What gives your life a sense of fun, accomplishment, relaxation, connectedness, color, expression, or adventure? What do you do that makes you more you?

Answer:  I have NO. IDEA.  I haven’t gotten to be me for so long that I have no idea who the heck I am, what would be fun for me, or if I even want to have fun.  I parent.  I homeschool.  I keep everyone alive and at leas semi-well-mannered , semi-well-behaved, and semi-dressed (I only shoot for semi-well-dressed if we’re going somewhere special).  I fight physically and emotionally to quell trauma induced rages in one of my sons (luckily we are now experiencing several months between these episodes).  I try to magnifying my church callings (and frequently get kicked in the teeth for it, metaphorically).  I cook (and then watch the various disgusted faces made by various members of my family, at least one of whom is waaaaayyyyy too old to still be behaving that way).  I clean, though not enough, so I beat myself up about that.  I grocery shop at flippin’ 6am in the morning.  I clean up puppy excrement and spend an inordinate amount of time protecting our furniture from puppy teeth.  I try to serve others.  I try to not do too much at once or stress too much about any of it, because that can trigger migraines.  I online shop just because it’s something I can do (Oh-ho the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’ down the street), then I have the occasional moods where I must purge the house of all the stuff, but I never manage to get enough stuff out, and there is always too much stuff.

I think just re-reading the above paragraph is going to trigger a migraine.  Not really, but I can literally feel my blood pressure rising.

Then I read this:

I know it’s hard. I’m in the middle of raising five kids, and there are weeks when I am “on” for 12 hours or more every single day. But find dreams that are workable within the boundaries of your life and enlist your loved ones in pursuing them.

I dream of getting a solid eight hours of sleep at night, but, short of hiring a night nanny for the geriatric dogs, that’s not happening.

Seriously, I laughed a slightly bitter, slightly maniacal laugh when I read that.  I would love to have mere weeks where I am “on” for 12 hours or more every single day.  I would also love to have loved ones who lived close by and/or cared enough to help me pursue my dreams.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!  If I still had any dreams, of course.  (Lie.  I have a bit of a dream).  I’m not trying to diminish the author’s experience, and I’m not trying to whine (though I’m doing a bang up job of it).  I’m just saying that I’ve been “on” for 20 years now, even if sometimes that “on” just looks like me surfing the internet while the kids do their school work, because the minute I get up to accomplish anything other than being the Eye in the Skye that keeps them on task, all hell will break loose.  In those 20 years, I’ve gone to two, maybe three, two-day homeschool conferences, one two-day conference on Common Core, and my parents took the kids for a night “just because” twice that I can recall.  Other than that?  “On.”

I love my kids.  I chose to homeschool, and I re-choose that every day.  I had to convince my husband that homeschooling was not going to make our kids terribly weird and awkward, and that it would be a good thing overall.  I wouldn’t change any of that for anything.  I don’t wish I had fewer kids (well, maybe sometimes, but then I wonder which ones I wish I didn’t have and, while there occasionally feels like an obvious choice or two, the reality is that I wouldn’t NOT have any of them for anything).  I don’t wish I’d been sending them to public school all these years.  I guess what I’m saying is that, when I read another mom felt like being “on” for 12 hours or more every day for weeks was a lot, it made me stop and think.  It was a bit of a lightbulb moment.  It made me realize that expecting myself, and having others expect me to be “on” every day for 20 years, migraine or not, is . . . more than a lot.

Midge just told me she heated up leftover pizza and butternut squash soup and asked how much I wanted.  God bless her.  I got out of bed and served myself.  I shouldn’t be eating pizza.  Oh well.

So today, while McH takes the boys and the puppy out to walk around Tractor Supply and Home Depot (because those stores welcome dogs, and it’s a good socialization exercise), while they are all out getting haircuts and using Christmas money to shop for Magic Cards, and even when they are back, I am taking a day “off” in my room.  I am going to write, because celebrating moms and sharing their wisdom is my dream right now, and I have a couple of those blog posts started, and I want to finish them.  And? I am going to nap if the mood hits me.  Just because.  Today, I am “off” (except for the laundry, which needs swapped again).

Motherhood Monday: The Awakening

In order to give you context for my whole awakening experience I want to share, I’m going to have to set the scene a bit, and the scene involves some churchy stuff.  If you’re not a churchy person, just bear with me.  There’s a point to it all, and I promise the point is not to be preachy or missionary-y (I love inventing awkward, “new” words).  Having said that  . . .

Sort-of-but-not-quite recently, I was substitute teaching for a primary (Sunday School) class at church, and the lesson I was teaching was on the importance of the sacrament (similar, though not identical, in concept and practice to communion, for my non-LDS readers) (*snort* like I even have more than five readers these days).  With that in mind, I went into that week’s sacrament meeting with greater-than-normal resolve to really focus on the Savior and the atonement during the sacrament portion of the meeting, to really ponder what it all means to me and how it has affected my life.  As I was thinking these deep thoughts and praying for further clarity about how to help the children in the primary class go home with a greater understanding of the basics, the sacrament tray came down our pew.

As I took it and looked down the row, passing it to the child sitting next to me, who passed it to the next child, who passed it to the next, who passed it to the next, I thought of, as I always do, my two kids who weren’t with us because they are off at college.  But this time was different.  This time I was hit in a deep way with the realization that several people have moved into our congregation since A~ and L~ left, and so, to those people, I am the mother of Midge and Tank Boy and Quinn and Spuds.  And that’s it.  Some of them are vaguely aware there are two older kids, but they don’t know them.  And?  They don’t know me as their mother.

This made me profoundly sad.

Being the mother of A~, and L~, and Midge, and Tank Boy, and Quinn, and Spuds is such a huge part of who I am, and I realized in that moment that I was surrounded by many people who will never truly know me, because they will never really know me as the mom of all six of my kids, and they will never really know how awesome those oldest two kids are.  I was surprised to realize just how much of my identity involves my motherhood, involves being the mother of these kids, all these kids, and I immediately was taken back to a conversation I had with my own mother when I told her I was pregnant with A~, the oldest.

The pregnancy was planned, so it was not an “oh crap” kind of thing, but I was still scared.  Get ready to judge me here:  I wasn’t terribly scared of being a horrible mother, nor was I scared of the financial aspect of it all (even though I knew we’d be dirt poor for a while), and I wasn’t all that scared of the physical changes and possible dangers that accompany pregnancy.  I was scared of losing myself and my identity (here’s where you judge me for being selfish and shallow — go ahead, you won’t be the first).  I remember telling my mother that I didn’t want to “just” be so-and-so’s mom.  I wanted to be known for who I was, not for my relationship to a child, but I knew that I was going to wind up being “just” so-and-so’s mom.

You know what?  I was right.

I quit my job as a small-town newspaper editor a week or two before A~ was born, and, just like that, I was “nobody.”  There were no more invitations to join and/or speak at local clubs, judge local pie contests, or sit on local steering committees.  No one was asking about or trying to influence my opinion on local issues, and nobody was trying to kiss my she-buys-ink-by-the-barrel hiney.

A~ entered the world as an extremely colicky baby with a scream that seemed permanently attached to a well-cast sonorous spell and an Olympic-level ability to projectile vomit, if projectile vomiting were an Olympic sport.  As I was reduced to, or felt reduced to, being that woman with the screaming baby who was perpetually wiping up yack, I increasingly missed ME.  I missed using my brain.  I missed interacting with other adults every day.  I missed making my own money, meager though it had been.  I increasingly missed college and the independence, freedom, and growth I experienced there, and I would cry every time an alumni magazine came in the mail.  I also desperately missed sleep, which probably exacerbated all of my other woes.

I was, as I’d feared, “just” A~’s mom.  This left me feeling simultaneously like gum on the bottom of the shoe of life and like the luckiest person in the entire universe.  Because this colicky, vomitous little human who never slept more than 20 minutes at a stretch was my beautiful, little, extremely alert human who loved books by the time she was three days old, and how lucky was I to get to be her mom?  So, so lucky.  I know it doesn’t make sense, but that’s how I felt: like a mushy ball of so, so lucky garbage.

Two years later, again according to (a seemingly crazy) plan, along came L~ , and I was further sucked in to being “just” a mom.  A~ never left me with free time (two twenty minute naps a day just don’t count as free time), so it’s not like I suddenly had even less time to be me.  I just had the same amount of time to be less me.

Three-and-a-half years later, and along came Midge.  Then Tank Boy.  Then Quinn.  Now Spuds.  It would be a long, long post if I tried to figure out and detail my twenty-year transformation from being “just” a mom to being A Mom, but it happened without me even realizing it was happening.  I suppose one cannot dedicate twenty years of her life to such an intense, multifaceted, and complex pursuit without losing herself to it so totally and completely that she becomes fused with it.

So I sat there in church, fused in my heart with all of my children, even (maybe especially in that moment) with those not present, mourning the fact that I am not me without them; and though I still have them in my life (thank you, gods of technology, for making that easy these days), I will spend the rest of my life knowing and getting to know people who will never fully know me because they will not know them.  Likewise, I will never fully know many mothers I meet or already have met because I will never know all of their children.

Oh, how important are the mothers of this world who pour so much of their souls into their children, and how under-celebrated is their motherhood.  I think we need to celebrate that motherhood.  I think we need to acknowledge and examine and even exalt this portion of our identity which is everything to us but, sometimes, seems to be nothing to the world around us.

I don’t care if you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom.  I don’t care why you work outside of the home or don’t.  I want to get to know you as a mother, not as a stay-at-home mother or a working mother, but as a mother.  I want to hear about your motherhood-related hopes and fears and accomplishments and lessons learned.  I want to hear about the motherly joys and the sorrows, the mothering things you know you’ve done right and the things you would change if you could.  We’ll leave worldly employment status out of it and just talk about mothering and motherhood and how awesome you all are (even when you don’t feel so awesome).

So my goal for the blog in 2018 is to have regular (which doesn’t necessarily mean weekly —  let’s not go crazy with the goal setting) Motherhood Monday posts in which I feature a mom, “just” a mom as far as the blog is concerned, so that we can recognize and celebrate this all-important part of us, so we can recognize and celebrate each other as individual mothers, and so we can recognize and celebrate motherhood itself.





Mary’s Sense of the Sacred

I was asked to give a talk in church yesterday.  Because I eventually want to get all of  my church talks from over the years on the blog (for posterity more than anything else), I figured today would be as good a day as any to publish my most recent talk.  This one is deeply personal to me because at the end I used Mary: A Mother’s Testimony which I wrote back in 2003 for a different occasion.  Writing that was a daunting and humbling experience that drove me to my scriptures and to my knees and gave me a love and appreciation for Mary that I hadn’t felt so deeply before.  I was, uncharacteristically, nervous to give my talk yesterday because I was including that piece of writing in my remarks.  Writing it was a profound experience for me, the end result sacred to me, and my current congregation . . . well, I never know when somebody is going to take me aside to tell me what a horrible person they think I am or what a horrible thing they think I’ve done, so I was afraid to share it.  I was afraid I was casting my pearls, as it were.  I was afraid I was doing exactly what Mary didn’t do.  But it’s done now.  The talk has been given, and no rotten produce has been hurled my way.  Yet.

Anyway, enough blather.  Here’s the talk:

In his April 2017 General Conference talk, Whatsoever He Saith unto You, Do It, Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy said:

“The Savior performed His first recorded miracle at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. Mary, His mother, and His disciples were there as well. Mary apparently felt some responsibility for the success of the feast. During the celebration, a problem arose—the wedding hosts ran out of wine. Mary was concerned and went to Jesus. They spoke briefly; then Mary turned to the servants and said:

Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.’

We usually remember this event because transforming water to wine was a demonstration of the power of God—it was a miracle. That is an important message, but there is another important message in John’s account. Mary was ‘a precious and chosen vessel,’ called by God to give birth to, nurture, and raise the very Son of God. She knew more about Him than anyone else on earth. She knew the truth of His miraculous birth . . . She had unshakable confidence in Him and in His divine power. Her simple, straightforward instruction to the servants had no caveats, no qualifications, no limitations: ‘Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.’”

Mary had an unshakable testimony of her son.  It is interesting to contemplate and try to study her testimony of and relationship with her son.  There really isn’t a lot in the scriptures to go on.  More than anyone, she would have reason to have that unshakable testimony, to know that her son was the Son of God.  At the same time, as a mother, I can see how it might be difficult at times to remember that that child whose hair you have washed, face you have scrubbed, and, let’s face it, diapers you have changed is your Lord and Savior.  On the one hand, motherhood is a high and holy calling, and being the mother of Christ himself is the highest and holiest version of that calling.  On the other hand, motherhood is filled with a lot of mundane tasks and moments that can quickly and easily dull the sparkle of it all, no matter how many times we are told we are doing the most important work we can be doing.  Yet Mary, even through the monotonous moments that must have existed, maintained not only her testimony of her calling, but also her testimony of her Son.  I think, though only in part, this can be attributed to Mary’s strong sense of the sacred.

The scriptures don’t really tell us a whole lot about her, but in Luke we are told that, after the angels appeared to the shepherds, the shepherds hurried off to Bethlehem to see the babe in the manger and, after seeing Him, “they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child,” yet Mary, “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”  So while the shepherds ran around sharing the sacred experiences they had just had, Mary kept her sacred experiences and knowledge to herself and pondered them in her heart.

Looking at Luke 2, verses 17-19, we read:

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

From the perspective of a writer, I think it is interesting that we are told first how the shepherds reacted, next how those that heard the shepherds reacted, and finally how Mary reacted.  The juxtaposition of the first two reactions with the third, that of Mary, emphasizes her sense of the sacred.

Now, I’m not saying the shepherds didn’t have some fantastic news to share.  I’m not even saying that they weren’t supposed to share it.  But I’m also not saying that they were.  The scriptures don’t really clarify that one way or the other as far as I can tell.  Regardless, as I read these verses, I get a picture in my mind of the shepherds eagerly saying things like, “Guess what I saw!” and “Have you heard?  Well, let me tell you . . .” as people are wont to do when they have witnessed something spectacular.  And from there, I imagine the news might have spread pretty quickly in a “Well, my cousin’s wife’s brother told my next door neighbor who told me” kind of fashion.  Then, in stark contrast, there is Mary keeping all of these things and pondering them in her heart.  She could have been saying to every shepherd and wise man that came along,  “Look!  See my baby? He is the literal son of God.  Yeah, that’s right, I gave birth to the son of God.”  But instead, she heard what the angels had told the shepherds and “kept all these things and pondered theme in her heart.”  I can only imagine that she was thinking about what the angels had said in the context of what the angel Gabriel had told her, and she knew that all of it was sacred.

Later in that same chapter of Luke, Christ was 12 years old, and his parents had traveled a day’s journey from Jerusalem before realizing he wasn’t with them somewhere in their company of fellow travelers, so they went back to find Him and Mary said, essentially, “Why did you do this?  We were so worried!” We know the reply, “How is it that ye sought me?  Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (v.49).  The very next verse tells us, “they understood not the saying which he spake unto them,” but instead of a typical, “don’t talk back to me, young man,” Mary, once again, “kept all these sayings in her heart” (v. 51).

So, again, though the scriptures don’t tell us a whole, whole lot about Mary, I think we can safely infer that she was a thoughtful woman with a strong sense of the sacred.

In his 2004 CES broadcast address, A Sense of the Sacred, Elder D. Todd Christofferson said in part, “A sense of the sacred should lead us to act . . . with reverence . . .”  Can we question whether or not Mary acted with reverence where her son was concerned?  I don’t think so.  Elder Christofferson also said, “. . . those who do not appreciate holy things will lose them.  Absent a feeling of reverence, they will grow increasingly casual in attitude and conduct.”  As we see later in the Savior’s adult life, Mary still appreciated the holiness of her son, she still had reverence for Him as the Savior, the Savior of mankind as well as the Savior of a wedding feast, as she said, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”

Way back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, in 2003, I was asked to participate in a skit in which various sisters of my ward were asked to deliver monologue testimonies of Christ as if they were a woman from the scriptures or church history.  A few years back we did this same Testimonies of Christ dinner theater activity for our Relief Society here in Canada South, so this may be familiar to some of you.  Anyway, I was asked to portray Mary, the mother of Christ.  Additionally, I was asked to write my own part, as the script had not yet been finished.  It was a daunting, humbling, and moving experience for me that involved a lot of scripture reading and re-reading, pondering, and praying, so I hope it is not inappropriate to end my remarks today by sharing with you what might have been Mary’s testimony:

Mary:  A Mother’s Testimony

Mine was the unparalleled privilege of bearing the Son of God and watching over Him as he increased in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.  I would not have chosen to bring Him, or any child, into this world in such surroundings as I did — a stable, a manger; but looking back, I understand that He who is greatest among us all had to descend beneath us all in order to complete His mission, and so this was a fitting beginning to His mortal life.

Mine was a unique role as I was His mother, responsible for his care and upbringing; and He was and is my God, responsible for my eternal welfare.

I watched Him turn water to wine, heal the sick, bless the children, and raise the dead.  No other mother can possibly know the profound joy I knew in the presence of my son.  Yet, through it all, the words of Simeon the prophet came to my mind, “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also.”

As we fled Egypt to escape the slaughter ordered by King Herod, I thought perhaps I was understanding Simeon’s prophecy.  Then, as we had traveled a day’s journey from Jerusalem only to find my son was missing, I felt sure a sword was piercing my soul.  Finally, I knew I understood his prophecy as I watched my tortured son dying on the cross.

No mother will know the pain I knew, for I was not merely watching the agony of my son, I was watching the agony of the Son of God — agony that I knew was being suffered on my behalf, and even on behalf of those who were inflicting it.  Even as God in Heaven left Him to suffer His final agonizing mortal moments alone, I, his mother, stood helplessly watching, and a sword truly pierced my soul.

What do I think of Christ?  He is the son of my flesh, the brother of my spirit, the father of my world and the author of my salvation.  He is the son of the Living God.  He paid the price for my sins, and your sins.  He overcame death for us all.  It is by Him and through Him that we can reach our full eternal potential and return to live with our Father in Heaven.

I hope this is an at least somewhat accurate portrayal of Mary’s testimony.  I can say with certainty that it is my testimony.  I am so thankful for Mary and other faithful women who have come before us and set the unshakable example: Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.



Prayer and Politics

Because my trusty Suburban is too old to have satellite radio, I was flipping through stations the other day as Spuds and I were making the hour-long trek home from Costco.  In the midst of this flipping, I heard a soothing male voice talking about hurricane Harvey, so I stopped (station flipping, that is, not the car).  I like soothing voices, especially soothing voices on the radio.  The soothing voice very quickly transitioned from talking about the possible weather repercussions of the hurricane to talking about President Trump pledging to donate one million dollars of his own personal stash to hurricane relief efforts.

The soothing voice went on to say something to the effect of, “I really respect the president for that.  I don’t know how anyone could not respect that act.”

That got my attention because, even thought I am no fan of Donald Trump as a “reality” television host, President of the United States, or pretty much anything else, it still seems pretty obvious to me that the media are showing their bias like a two-year-old in a sun dress shows her underwear — with gleeful reckless abandon and completely unaware.  So to hear the words “I respect the president” spoken over the airwaves was a bit of a surprise.  The soothing voice had my attention.

Next it started talking about how Governor Abbott had issued an official proclamation calling for a day of prayer in Texas, and how this was a positive step, and I was left driving down the road thinking, “Whoa!  I have stumbled into the Twilight Zone!  Or, wait, maybe I’ve stumbled across a Christian radio station.”

Then the soothing Christian radio station voice read the entire proclamation word for word, clear to the end where it says:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GREG ABBOTT, Governor of Texas, pursuant to the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Texas, do hereby proclaim Sunday, September 3, 2017, as a Day of Prayer in Texas.  I urge Texans of all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds to offer prayers on that day for the safety of our first responders, public safety officers, and military personnel, healing of individuals, rebuilding of communities and the restoration of the entire region struck by this disaster.

I was so moved by this.  I was moved by the inclusion of everyone and everything, all faiths, the victims and the rescuers, the here and now and the work to be done in the future.  I was moved that a government official would throw political correctness to the wind and urge his constituents to turn to their God.

And then the soothing voice proclaimed in its soothing manner, “Now, as a Christian, I can’t agree with the part about all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds.  As a Christian, I know there is only one God of the Universe, so I can’t support urging others to pray to their false gods.  There is only one God we should be praying to.”  I’m paraphrasing, since I couldn’t drive and write down direct quotes that I never ever expected to hear, but that was the general gist of what he was saying when I changed. the. station.

I didn’t want Spuds to think that we should scoff at the prayers of others.

Which brand of Christianity, I wondered, does the soothing voice practice.  Is he Methodist?  Presbyterian?  Baptist?  Evangelical?  Pentecostal?  Catholic?  Don’t they all disagree, at least a little bit, about who and what God is?  So are they really praying to the same God?  Does he also scoff at the prayers of his fellow-but-different Christians?  I suppose he would scoff at my non-mainstream-Christian prayers.

I can’t speak for the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints, nor can I speak for other members of my church, but here is what I personally believe about prayer and praying, regardless of your faith and religious tradition or background:

If you believe there is a God, if you approach that God with sincerity and faith in your heart and you humbly pray your righteous desires to that God, the God of the Universe (to directly quote the soothing voice) will hear you.  I don’t care what you or I or anyone else calls that God, and I don’t care what you or I or anyone else knows or thinks we know about that God. If you are approaching your version of God as God, He will hear your prayers, because He knows you, and He knows you are putting your faith and trust in Him and appealing to Him, and He loves you regardless of what your level of understanding of Him is or isn’t.  If you’re sincerely praying then you’re sincerely trying to know Him, too, and that counts for a whole heck of an awful lot.

What parent among us hasn’t heard a child’s voice call the word, “Mom!” or “Dad!” only to turn around to respond and discover that it’s not our child, and it’s not us to whom they are calling?  I believe it is kind of like that with God, except that we are the children doing the calling and He is the parent to whom we are calling, always, because we are all His. Maybe we are calling to a parent who we don’t fully know or understand, maybe we are calling to a parent about whom we have some pretty big misunderstandings, but God hears us anyway, because He is THE parent.  There is no one else.

Unless you’re a satanist or something, but I think I pretty much excluded you in the above paragraphs anyway.  You know you’re not praying to God at that point.  Run along now.  I hear Hot Topic is having a sale.

Bottom line:  If I am, or a loved one is, ever involved in a crisis, either as a victim or a rescuer, I welcome your prayers on my behalf, on behalf of my loved ones, on behalf of my community.  If you believe there is a God, if you believe He can help us put the pieces of shattered lives, homes, and communities back together, then I welcome and appreciate your prayers.  I suspect there is a large part of Houston that welcomes your prayers as well.  I am sorry there are those who don’t.  Please know they don’t represent all of us, no matter what you hear over the airwaves after a bout of channel flipping.

Tewt the Christian Newt wishes you well (and, admittedly, has made one or two purchases at Hot Topic — but he got in and out as fast as he could).



Proud Mom Moments

I don’t know why it took so long, but today we found out that L~ got a 5 on the AP English exam she took last spring.  My English major/mom heart is happy.

Shortly after getting this news, I was shopping at Costco with the 13-year-old, almost-12-year-old, and the two nine-year-olds.  You all know I deserve a massage and a medal now, right?  Because I do.  Anyway, as I was pushing around the cart laden with, among many, many other things, 160lbs of dog food (who needs Crossfit when you’ve got about 250 lbs worth of dogs at home?) we saw this:

and my almost-12-year-old son said, “That’s from Macbeth!  ‘Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.'”

My heart almost exploded.  But only almost because, you know, somebody had to pay for and drive all those canine comestibles home.  At any rate, I’m feeling a little more excited about starting our homeschool year next week.

Tewt the Newt thinks that’s a good thing.

Team Bedlam

I am currently holed up in my bedroom with my laptop and a pound of bacon (okay, 12 oz., but let’s not split bristles) because it’s either that or have a nervous breakdown.  Somewhere in my house, at this very moment, my eldest is fighting back tears and thinking I am just the most insensitive, mean mom in the world because . . .

Drum roll please . . .

I told her we are absolutely not adopting a teenage boy no matter how badly she wants an older brother.  She is claiming she has always wanted an older brother.  A few years ago she wanted us to adopt a twelve-year-old girl because, she said, she always wanted a twin sister.

This would all be much easier for me to deal with if she were off crying somewhere for some normal teenage reason – like because we won’t let her dress like a whore or go on dates to the drive-in with a pot-smoking boyfriend.  Then I would feel wholly justified.  But instead, she is off crying because I won’t adopt an older child right now, so, rather than feeling justified, I feel like a heel.  There are lots and lots of teenage boys who need families, and I’m saying no to all of them.  Bad, bad me.

And yes, it is me.  It is all me.  If it were up to the trusty husband, we’d have adopted a teenage sibling group by now, so I am completely alone in my compassionless, selfishness as I keep telling them, “I just can’t handle it right now.”

Because guess what?  I can’t.  It’s not like going to the pound and getting a puppy.  A lot of baggage and struggle comes with a teenager who doesn’t have a family.  Who could expect anything less?  I wouldn’t expect anything less, but I know I’m not ready for it.  Now is not the time.

My dream in life at the moment, for the past several years’ worth of moments,  is to just get my feet under me, to have a year or two of status quo.  I have begged for that.  It has yet to happen.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful.  I have been blessed a lot.  I mean, A LOT, and I know this.  And the past three years?  Have been some of the most stress-free years of my married life.  Nobody has died, we have not had any screamy, colic-y, unable-to-sleep babies, we have not gone through any adoptions, we have not moved, I have been able to get reasonable amounts of sleep, I have been able to manage my migraines relatively well, we have not had financial struggles, there have been neither surgeries nor job changes . . . life has been pretty good for the most part.

But . . . there is always a but.

There is a lot to do around the homestead.  Never ever in my life did I ever fantasize about living on a farm, mini or otherwise, yet that’s pretty much where I am.  I mean, real farmers would scoff, I’m sure, but once you buy a tractor and plop a horse in a fence and put on muck boots even once, that makes you a farmer in my book.  We’re now on our second tractor, and we have three horses.  I was wearing muck boots last weekend.   Thanks to the weather and the million other things I have to take care of, my garden still isn’t in.  That is major stress right there for a farmer.

So I’m living my husband’s dream on the mini farm while he’s off at work all day, sometimes out of town for days, and, though I don’t have to do the day-to-day horse and barn chores, I’m always the one here when one of those beasts escapes (and, generally, if one is lose they all are lose), and I’m always the one here when the fence gets broken, and I’m the one here when one of them (or all of them) throws a shoe, and I’m the one here giving cats IV fluids and shoving antibiotics down their throats, and I’m the one here when the animals die (the cat stayed in a box on our back porch for days until he got back in town to dig a hole in the frozen ground), and I’m the one here dealing with the never-ending behavioral issues stemming from one son still acutely feeling the sting of abandonment and inaccurately surmising his birth mother must have gotten rid of him because he’s bad, and I’m the one dealing with the stupid school district, and I’m the one doing the homeschooling, and I’m the one planning the vacation, and I’m the one making sure the 10 million animals get fed, and I’m the one always saying no to getting more animals (because I’m apparently the only one with any common sense), and I’m the one here all day with the barkingest dogs in the world, and I’m the one feeling like a complete failure because I can’t keep up with it all and, oh my gosh, don’t even ask me when the last time was I cleaned our showers.

And I realize he works hard.  He really does, and I am grateful for it.  And I know he has to deal with stupid people and situations at work every day.  But?  Whether or not those people ever pull their heads out and get over their stupidity is really not, ultimately, his responsibility.  If my kids don’t become decent adults/people, if my son doesn’t get past some of his aggravating, accusatory, self-pitying, pushing-people-away behaviors and is never able to have  healthy relationship when he’s older, if my oldest daughter never gets her nose out of a book and figures out how to have an actual life?  Totally my fault for not being a good enough mom.

The weight of my calling to be a mother is very heavy on its own, is what I’m saying.  I don’t take it lightly.  I never have.  Sometimes I wish I could, but I don’t know how to just relax about the whole thing because . . . eternal consequences, you know?  I don’t want to fail.  Add the weight of all the rest of it, and I feel like it’s just driving me down into the ground.

But all anybody seems to notice is that I won’t let them get chickens and/or goats, and the horses stress me out, and I melt down when the newfoundland rips a big hole in the screened-in porch so she can stick her head in to try to play with a cat (that I didn’t want but we had to get because we need barn cats to keep the mice out of the hay), thereby making us look like the epitome of white trash, and they don’t like the food I cook because it’s healthy, and instead of gushing non-stop* for days with gratitude over the new flooring in the basement I am stressed out by the fact that our entire basement (and, oh gosh, it is a big basement with an entire apartment in it and a lot of crap) is just completely torn apart with the aforementioned crap strewn everywhere (never mind the fact that I frequently asked if we couldn’t just cull the crap before we started the flooring project, because I knew this would happen), and why haven’t I done a load of pinks yet?  And now?  Now?  I won’t try to adopt a teenage boy.  How selfish and thoughtless can I be?

My lack of being a team player knows no bounds.  I just never expected to be a member of Team Bedlam.

Tewt the Newt is in hiding.  I don’t know if he’s eating bacon or afraid of becoming bacon.

*For the record, I have gushed: I have thanked, I have admired, I have appreciated, I have praised, but that’s not what gets noticed.

But That’s Not What This Story is About

First, a long overdue thank you to Deanne for the recipe for homemade taco seasoning in the comments of the last food post.  I shall be trying it soon!

But that’s not what this story is about.

So the other day my washing machine fainted.

“What?!” you ask.  “How does a washing machine faint??”

Well, it’s like this:  One day last week, I don’t remember which day, probably Saturday, I threw a load of laundry in and we all went out somewhere, I don’t remember where, but probably to see the horses.  When we came home, the astute and perennially studly husband (who, not surprisingly, has lost more weight than I have) noticed the washer was making a very odd noise, almost as if it were saying, “Quick!  My swoon bottle!  I must have my swoon bottle!!”

“What’s this noise the washing machine is making?” he asked, as if I were the Maytag man.

By the time I could join him in the laundry room, and before I could give him the swoon bottle schtick, the noise had ceased and the washing machine was doing nothing.  NOthing.  I spun the nob and tried restarting it, and nothing.  SWOON.

So the IT god husband got the bright idea to unplug the washer and leave it be for a couple hours, then plug it back in to see if it worked.  I mocked him and said that one can’t reboot washing machines.  He called my dad, who told him to unplug it for a couple hours and leave it be, then plug it back in and see if it worked.   Puh-lease.

After a couple of hours, I plugged the thing back in.  And?  It worked.  So you see?  My washing machine didn’t die.  It fainted.

But that’s not what this story is about.

Incidentally, we are replacing the washer and dryer anyway.  They are relatively old, our family is large, and I have neither the time nor the patience for fainting appliances.

But that’s not what this story is about, either.

This story is about the events leading up to the Big Swoon.

It began in the morning with Tank Boy telling me he didn’t have any clean underwear in his dresser and a subsequent massive search through the clean-but-as-yet-unfolded laundry piled in a basket on the dryer.  The search was futile, and Tank Boy was forced to go commando while I began sorting and doing even more laundry.

Throughout the sorting process I noticed a conspicuous lack of Tank-Boy-sized underwear and asked him where it all was.  In typical six-year-old boy fashion, he shrugged his shoulders and said something like, “I dunno.”

As I continued to sort and shove laundry around on my laundry room floor (what?  who cares if it’s on the floor?  it’s getting washed anyway) I noticed a clump of clothing behind the door.  I pulled it out to find, of course, several pairs of Tank Boy’s unmentionables.  Predictable, no?

What I did not expect to find, however, were what can only be diplomatically described as severe skid marks gracing the little boy boxers briefs.  I will spare you the graphic details and an expanded metaphor about how much rubber was on the road, but, obviously, a conversation with my son was in order.

“Dude,” I said, “If you don’t wipe well enough and your underwear winds up like this, TELL me about it.  Don’t hide it.  I need to wash it right away, not have it festering behind the laundry room door.”

I know at this point you are wondering how bad my house must smell if we hadn’t noticed the odor of more than one set of soiled shorts, but the truth is?  They just didn’t stink.  My house doesn’t smell.  I’ve even had someone ask me how we can manage to have such big dogs and a house that doesn’t stink.

“So in the future,” I asked, “you are going to put the dirty underwear in the laundry room and tell me about it, right?”

“Right,” he said.

“Because that is totally gross,”  I said.

“Okay,” he said.

“I’m not going to be mad at you about dirty underwear, but if you hide it again I will probably be mad,” I said.

“Okay,” he said.

“Okay,” I said.

“Mom?” he asked, “how is it again that women get pregnant?”

“And that,” says Tewt the Newt, “Is what this story is about.”