mothers and moms and sheep and goats.

The other day I was working at a Starbucks instead of at home (it’s nice to get out, you know?) and this particular Starbucks has its bathroom located outside between it and another store.

When my phone buzzed to remind me that it was time to go pick up Dax from school (do NOT judge; sometimes I’m so engrossed in my work that I don’t notice what time it is) I packed up my things and headed to use the bathroom before I left.

While waiting my turn, I noticed a young couple — probably not much older than Dan and me — sitting at one of the outdoor cafe tables. The woman was carefully holding a brand new sleeping baby girl, obviously their first and only one. They had the words, “BRAND NEW PARENTS” written all over them in that they were accompanied by a huge, new stroller adorned in countless baby toys and teethers and an obnoxiously overflowing diaper bag. And they looked tired. Happy, but tired.

I just gawked at them. That time in my life seems like it was forever ago, but it really wasn’t. It was only just a little bit shy of three years ago.

My mind was reeling. That Baby Girl was so impossibly tiny. “Are babies really that tiny when they first come out?” I thought to myself. “I mean I guess they are, right?” But I can barely remember a time where it didn’t almost break my back and tear my biceps to shreds when I go to pick up my solid-as-a-rock toddler boy.

Finally the bathroom door swung open indicating it was my turn. I went inside, did my thing, washed my hands, and zoomed out of there. I had to pass the couple again on my way to my car. I wanted so badly to stop and talk to them, but I was already almost late picking up Dax. So I just thought about what I wanted to say to them in my head really hard, hoping that by some chance they were mind readers and could hear me through my skull.

“I just want you both to know,” I furrowed my brow hard as I thought these words, “in case no one has told you, that you’re doing a really great job.”

That’s it. That’s what I wanted to tell them.

I remember the first three months of my son’s life nearly killed me. The sleep-deprivation, the incessant colicky screams, the bleeding nipples, everything. It all sent me to the edge of my limits and I remember thinking at more than one point that I was doing a terrible job and that motherhood must not come as easily to me as it does every other woman and that I was doomed to fail. In those early months, all I wanted to hear from someone was just a small, quiet, unprompted, and sincere, “Hey, you’re doing a really great job with that boy. I’m proud of you.”

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Two weeks ago was Mother’s Day. The night before, appropriately I guess, I couldn’t get much sleep because, well, that’s what happens when you’re 30+ weeks pregnant and it hurts to sit and also hurts to lie down and also hurts to stand. I had spent the night tossing and turning in our guest bed trying and failing to get some rest. (Our actual bed is a 20-year-old broken hand-me-down mattress and it has screwed my back up in ways I never knew possible, and our guest bed is newer so that’s why I was giving it a try.)

When my alarm went off to tell me to get up and get ready to go to church, I was already awake and angry about it. I shut off the alarm and went into our bedroom feeling quite defeated. I turned on the shower to begin getting ready and heard my husband stir.

“Hey! Happy Mother’s Day!”

My eyes filled with tears and I just flopped down on the bed and told him that no, I did NOT want him to tell me Happy Mother’s Day because I don’t deserve it because I’m not a good mother and you should only say those words to people who are good mothers.

“I feel like just a mom,” I went on to explain. “Not a mother. Mothers have their junk together. Mothers meal plan. Mothers pick out matching, cute clothes for their kids. Mothers actually, you know, clean their houses. Mothers know what they’re doing. I never know what I’m doing. I’m always flying by the seat of my pants. I’m just a mom; I’m not a mother.”

Ahem. Mothers don’t wait two weeks to write blog posts about their Mother’s Day. They sit down and write about them, you know, the day they happen. But here I am, writing about Mother’s Day two weeks later, because I’m just a mom. Not a mother.

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I realize this is a ridiculous assertion. I am obviously a mother in the most basic, biological sense. I grew, birthed, and then fed another person with my body. And I’m working on doing that a second time. But while sleep-deprived and hormonal, it made perfect sense to me at the time. I was separating the sheep from the goats in my own head, the sheep being the mothers who make DIY presents for their sons’ preschool teachers and the goats being the moms who pick up a Starbucks gift card with their morning lattes because oh crap, is Teacher Appreciation Week THIS WEEK?

One of the earliest memories I have with my own mother is her chasing me around the house with a hairbrush while I dramatically hid from her with my hands covering my head, screaming. Yes, actually screaming. I hated to have my hair brushed. And teeth brushed. And I didn’t really bathe. I was kind of gross, actually.

Another vivid memory I have of my own mother is sitting with her on this bright orange velour chair we used to have (thanks, late 80s trends) and listening to her read a book to me. I can’t remember what book it was, but I remember it was one that I basically had memorized. I knew the story backward and forward but still insisted that she read it to me. And she did, because she loved me and was usually really good at hiding how annoyed with me she must have been.

My mom was (is) a single mom. And I’m sure she could have used a positive affirmation every now and again. I’m sure there were days when her drama queen of a daughter fought vehemently against the evils of, you know, basic hygiene and made her feel like she was failing, too.

I don’t really have a resolution for this post, but I’ll just end it with this:

Mothers — sheep and goats alike — you’re doing a really great job. I know it’s hard, and I know it’s thankless. And I know it isn’t glamorous. And it isn’t all Pinterest DIY projects and home-cooked meals. Sometimes it’s late birthday cards and pizza three nights in a row. But you’re doing a good job.

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calm after the storm.

Just a few moments ago, as I was putting Dax to bed, I heard the tell-tale sound of summer.

Thunder.

Next month it will be two years since my family moved to Naples; we relocated just as the hot, rainy season was ramping up, and I remember that not a day went by in those first weird months that I didn’t hear that throaty rumble of the angry, humid skies.

And I heard it again today for the first time this year and it sent me into a spiral of nostalgia.

When we first moved here, we didn’t have any friends. We didn’t know a soul. And Dan was out of town for work a lot, so many nights I would sit by myself on our lanai and watch the lightning and listen to the thunder. It was lonely, sure. But it was also peaceful. I didn’t know much of anything about my new town but, being a native Floridian, I knew that sky and I knew those sights and sounds enough to not feel completely out of place. Being naturally extroverted, however, it was a whole new challenge to find so much time to myself. To be silent. To listen and to not speak.

To anyone.

Today was one of those days I wish could have been struck by some of the lightning I saw tonight; both Dax and I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, each of us already counting down the minutes to nap time before the last bite of breakfast was swallowed. I’m hormonal, and he’s two. And then a massive poop cut off a huge chunk of nap time, causing the rest of the afternoon to go just as poorly as the morning. He tested one too many boundaries and I lost my temper in an embarrassing way one too many times. And when I didn’t think I could possibly handle any more, I got a phone call from a debt collector wondering why we haven’t paid the nearly $3,000 still owed to the emergency room for last year’s miscarriage.

Seriously, Wednesday?

The storm is over now. Rain is no longer falling and thunder is no longer rumbling, but the ground is still sopping wet. Similarly, Dax is no longer raging against the Mom Machine but is soundly asleep in his crib. I’m no longer yelling at him, but am sitting on the couch in a funk so intense it almost has a color, contemplating eating cookie dough ice cream straight out of the carton (BECAUSE WHY THE HECK NOT, I’M 30 WEEKS PREGNANT) feeling both relieved to finally be done and ashamed at the ways I missed the mark today.

And Dan is away at work and I’m home by myself.

The sun will come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar.

little victories.

I just got done reading this article about who Supermom is (it’s click bait, certainly, so I’m sure you can figure it out). And, as a mom, of course it resonated with me.

I think the reason there is so much pressure put on moms (on dads, too, but to a lesser degree) is that there really is a lot at stake. I mean, you’re shaping a human being. The decisions you make each day have a direct effect on the person entrusted in your care and will inevitably contribute to conversations had in a comfy chair in a therapist’s office years later.

In the day-to-day of motherhood, each day brings with it the little failures — the tantrums, the times you lose your patience and raise your voice, the times your kid wakes up in his crib before you and, when you finally hear him, it’s after a poopsplosion, etc. And because the stakes are so high, it’s easy to focus in on those little failures and deduce that you’re doing a really horrible job.

Yayyyyy… :\

But just like in everything, the fact is that sometimes you nail it, and sometimes you don’t. So why not focus on the times you nail it?

As our weekend is winding down, I gotta say *brushes shoulders off* this weekend, we nailed it.

That is, we are currently celebrating a few small victories in our house. Notably:

  • Dax’s lunch was comprised COMPLETELY of vegetables yesterday. And he asked for more! (So what if it was just cucumbers? Baby steps.)
  • He now understands reasoning, so instead of completely freaking out and throwing the dinner I make him, he allows me to bribe him to eat his dinner with things like animal crackers and marshmallows. It’s not perfect, but I’d rather him have a belly full of real food and marshmallows than going hungry like he had been.
  • He has learned how to actually kiss. And I would venture to say that there are few things better than the feeling of little tiny toddler lips on your cheek. Ugh. So perfect!

So yeah. It’s been a good one. :)

my own strength.

The thing about being a parent that no one can prepare you for is the huge gap between what you believe you are capable of, and what you actually are capable of. And that gap is sizable, I might add.

I never thought I would be able to handle the exhaustion of the colicky newborn days. I thought for sure that I would crack. Alas, I am still standing.

I never thought I would be able to breastfeed very long. I thought that maybe I would be able to nurse for six months or so, but here I am, miles away from weaning, well past Dax’s second birthday.

The terrible twos began sometime around his first birthday. And we’re knee deep in them and still getting through each day.

And tonight, he pooped in the bath and I didn’t throw up.

I didn’t know my own strength. It’s a miracle, people.

some daxisms.

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My son Dax is awesome. Here are some great things he says sometimes and what they mean.

“No Mama do it.”

Translates to: “Mama, please don’t do the thing that you are currently doing.”

“Dax hold it.”

Translates to: “Please give me some item whose name I can’t verbalize yet, but I fully expect you to figure it out.”

“Mama’s lolos.”

Translates to: “Look! Mama is eating noodles!”

“Mama pray Why.”

Translates to: “Mama, please pray for Super WHY!”

“Mama run; Mama gitchoo.”

Translates to: “Mama, please run so that I can get you.”

“No ews mouth!”

Translates to: “Please do not wipe away the snot that is dribbling from my nose and into my mouth.”

“Dada kiss Mama.”

Translates to: “Dada, kiss mama.”

“Strawbess? Yergurt? And?”

Translates to: “I would like to eat strawberries and yogurt.”

“No yes share!”

Translates to: “I will not share, even though you just told me, ‘Yes, share.'”

bad guys.

I can’t remember how young I was when I learned that there are “bad guys” out there, but it was pretty early. I remember being not older than maybe 5 or so, and my cousin (two years younger than me) and i were at Disney and in line for Splash Mountain and I remember a man, probably a dad, in his thirties or forties, letting my cousin and I go ahead of him (probably because he couldn’t see our family watching and thought we might be alone). And I distinctly remember panicking and telling my cousin that this man was going to steal us away and kill us, so I grabbed my cousin’s hand and dragged him to the front of the line so we could evade danger.

This afternoon, Dax and I were sitting on the floor watching some LEGO Marvel superhero show on Netflix (he really wanted to see Hulk and this was all that was available). He knew who most all the heroes were — Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, and OF COURSE Hulk — but these good guys were doing battle (in the sky!) with a bunch of enemies I didn’t recognize. But I tried to explain to Dax who they were anyway.

“Those are bad guys,” I said.

“Bad guys,” he repeated.

“Yep, Hulk is fighting the bad guys. Don’t worry. Hulk will win.”

A few minutes later, Dax got up from my lap and went out onto the lanai.

“Bad guys, sky,” he said, pointing to the horizon.

“Oh no, Bubs, there aren’t any bad guys in the sky for REAL. That was just pretend.”

“Bad guys, sky,” he said again.

And then I felt my stomach drop. Because I’d just lied to my son. It wasn’t even half a day ago I was in my car hearing the latest reports of the Islamic State and comments from Pakistani leaders who are disappointed with Malala Yousafzai’s awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize because she is no more than just a “useless girl” and feeling overwhelmed with the number of bad guys in the world.

But there are heroes, too. There are good people, too, and I hope that I am providing enough examples for my son so that when he is old enough to realize the bleak state of the world, he won’t be nearly as cynical as I am.

rescheduled.

When you are getting ready to have kids, everyone around you (both those who have and have not had children yet) love to shower you with things — diapers (yay!), blankets, cute outfits your baby will likely wear once or twice before outgrowing them, hand-me-downs (more yay), and, of course, advice.

I got all kinds of advice when I was pregnant with and newly mothering Dax:

  • sleep when he sleeps (lol really why is this even advice, it’s so ridiculous)
  • breastfeed
  • formula-feed
  • cloth diapers are best
  • disposable diapers are best
  • swaddling always calms babies down
  • don’t give him a pacifier
  • please give him a pacifier

…and so on and so forth.

Some of it worked for us (shout out, pacifiers). A lot of it didn’t. But we did find that one of the most helpful suggestions was to try and get Dax on an eat-play-sleep schedule. It took a little while but by the end of my maternity leave (when Dax was 8 weeks old) he was sleeping “through the night” (meaning only waking once or twice to nurse and then falling immediately back to sleep) and napping through the day and we were all happy and sane-ish and loving life.

Thing is, since we chose to breastfeed, the schedule we implemented has always involved me. And since he has yet to wean, I’m still a pretty integral part to nap times and bedtime. But since he turned two and started school Tuesdays and Thursdays, we’ve all kind of had to live with a pretty irregular day-to-day schedule. Sometimes I can be there to nurse him, sometimes I can’t. Don’t worry, though — on days I can’t he does great. (Basically, if Mama’s in the house, nursing needs to happen OR ELSE. But if she’s not, it’s cool.)

Mondays are days I usually can’t be there. Dan works from home and I leave the house before Dax wakes up and come home after he has gone to bed. So on my way home from work tonight I swung by my friend’s house and had her touch up my latest dye-job. (Red, guys!) But being that she was rushed and I was also rushed, she sent me home with the dye still in my hair and the cape still around my neck and instructed me to wash it the second I got home.

When I walked through the door I expected to see Dax’s door closed and hear the soothing sounds of the white noise machine telling me he was fast asleep in his crib. But nope. Instead I found him wide awake in his Spider-Man jammies all ready for bed and ALL READY FOR MAMA TO DO BEDTIME, YAY!

Mama with her goopy head of hair dye. Mama who couldn’t do ANYTHING AT ALL, much less snuggle a toddler, until she got in the shower and all the color was washed out of her hair.

I’m sure you can imagine how well that went over. But Dan just told me to go on into the shower and he would handle it. I washed my hair as I heard Dax cry for me in the other room.

When I got out of the shower pushing 10PM, Dan said to me, “So I got Dax to calm down. But only because I told him you would go in to his room once you got done…you know, if you could.”

This frustrated me because it was already so late, and he should be going to school tomorrow so he should be getting up early, and me going into his room would only make him excited to nurse and snuggle and keep him awake longer. My head was telling me, “Just let him get over it. He’ll fall asleep and be fine.”

But my gut said, “Nah. Just see if he’s still awake. What’s one night pushing bedtime back? Even if it IS till 9:30?”

So I went in anyway. And sure enough, there he was, quiet as a mouse but awake and waiting for me. He sat up when he saw me.

“Mama milk!”

So I pulled him out of the crib and we snuggled and nursed and I rubbed his back and smelled his freshly-washed head. And after a little while I looked down at him and said, “Bubs, it’s time for night night. Can we do one more milk then night night?”

I braced myself for a tantrum but instead, he popped up off my chest and said, “One more milk! Night night!” And he nursed one more time, and then said, “Night night!” And laid down on my chest.

Then I placed him in his crib, gave him his TWO pacifiers (wasn’t kidding about that shout out), his plush Spider-Man and plush Elmo, and put his blankie over him. I bent down to kiss him and said, “Night night, Bubs. Love you.”

Then I walked to the door of his room and just as my finger tips were about to reach the handle I heard what made it all worth it:

“Love Mama.”