Someone hit repeat

I went to write what I thought were new thoughts rolling around in my mind and instead decided to read back over old posts here. I haven’t written often so I was able to skim read the last two years fairly quickly. It nearly made me cry that what I was feeling and expressing that long ago is basically the same place I’m at now. No closer to an answer than I was then and if anything, feeling like I have less time to think about it.

I’ve been reflecting recently on the push for women to do more and be more. Facebook is full of “you’ve got this, mama,” and “do what it takes to make things happen.”

I want more income but don’t want to run a business. It adds so much stress to our lives when I’m pushing hard at something like I did with Usborne last year.

I want more time to pursue creativity but I don’t want to farm my kids out to do it.

I want to have a more orderly house but I don’t want to spend every moment cleaning or organizing.

I’m just as stuck as I was years ago and I don’t know how to get out of it. I tell Mike this stuff and he doesn’t have any response. I suppose this is one of those times when I honestly wish he was the kind of man who wants to fix things. I think he is just as stuck as I am but isn’t bothered by it.

There are areas I can let go of. I am trying to work myself into a place where I’m okay with things being the way they are at home as long as everyone is functioning all right. If no one is bothered by the schedule we keep with laundry, meals, etc. than there is no reason to change it. It may mean that sometimes it looks different here than in other homes but if my kids and my husband are okay with it, does that matter?

I am making another effort to lose weight. I’ve lost thirty pounds since the middle of September, which is a success at least in losing the weight that I gained during my last pregnancy. I honestly would be fine staying where I’m at, in terms of comfort with myself and it being a relatively easy weight to maintain but I know that when I get pregnant again, I am already going to be in multiple different high-risk categories. My weight is still at a place where, based on BMI, I will be red-flagged as overweight in addition to all the other red flags that will exist because of my history. I wish it didn’t matter but it does. So I am forced to carry on and try to lose as much as I can before another pregnancy, even though it is time consuming and tiring to think about it.

This is all very uncomfortable. I would love to say that I’m moving forward and ready to jump into whatever it is I’m called to but I’m in the same place, feeling like I’m failing at the obvious calling – motherhood – and stagnant in every other area.

I told Mike last night in the middle of another monologue that I wish I had the answers to all of these questions. He quoted Hitchhiker’s Guide and said, “42.” I don’t think he knows how much it hurts when quoting a movie is the most he can give me. I know he’s not supposed to have all the answers but he’s the only one I am completely honest and open with. I feel like I’ve asked God and only hear silence. And friends have advice for what works in their lives but most is not applicable to mine. I’m lost, stuck and confused and it sucks.

Reinvention

At least once a year, the urge to reinvent myself takes over. It often happens near the New Year but sometimes in the fall, when school is starting again and everyone seems to have a clean slate. In the last week, I have dyed my hair and gotten new glasses, so I suspect the urge is here again.

As I was thinking on things I could do to magically transform into a different kind of person, I remembered that yet again, I did not get family pictures printed or write a newsletter or send Christmas cards. I didn’t bake for my friends and I didn’t knit anything for family members. In my earlier years of motherhood and marriage, I did all of those things every year. I was organized and on time and the reason for all of this (in my opinion) is that my kids were young and still took naps. I’m also certain that this is why I blogged an awful lot more nine or ten years ago than I do now. I just had more time.

I have perfectly good reasons for doing things differently now, or for not doing things. But somehow I always feel that life would be better and feel more “real” if I still managed all of that and more. When it comes down to it, I feel that I just don’t measure up right now. I suppose those are mostly my own standards but they are also standards set by family members or other stay at home moms. I know deep down that I don’t have to live up to them but they still hang there like flashing neon signs.

I have been reinventing one area in my life lately and feel that I’ve made a lot of progress in making it something for my good instead of something I have to do. I have so often read my Bible quickly – one chapter at a time, alternating books in the Old and New Testaments. For a few months now, I’ve been reading a book I feel led to read and writing at least one page on a verse that stands out to me and my thoughts on it. It feels good, like studying for the enjoyment of the subject versus studying to pass a test. I’m meeting once a month with a small group of friends to pray and encourage each other and that has also been a blessing instead of feeling like an obligation or responsibility.

But still this desire to change other things is there. To become organized, efficient, more frugal. To cook more and eat out less, to exercise regularly. I know that what works best is small changes over time, that trying to turn my world upside down all at once will be a failure every time. There are just so many times when I try to work on the little things and get busy, distracted and tired. The next thing I know, I’m right back where I started.

These are just my thoughts today. I wish I had an answer, a light bulb moment to show me how to get past this or accomplish it. I don’t. I just needed to write.

 

Wanting Too Much

You know how some people are just made to do that one thing? To sing, teach, act, build buildings or run marathons? Sometimes they make it their career, other times it’s just a hobby. But so many people seem to have that thing they do and do well.

I’m a mom. I always wanted to be a mom and when I became a mom I felt fulfilled in it. But I didn’t stop writing and creating. And I didn’t stop dreaming of things I wanted to do someday. At least not right away.

Women are told they can do it all. Some seem to be told they should do it all. No one told me that. I’m a mom and most of the time I profess to be satisfied with motherhood as my thing. Except it’s not. I don’t actually feel very good at it most of the time. I love my kids and I love being a mother but I feel as though I’m failing in this position so often. There are other things I can do that I feel I am better at than mothering. Clearly I’m good at having babies and I’ve been fortunate enough to breastfeed all seven successfully – in a few weeks, my estimated time breastfeeding will total one hundred and three months. I’m good at that. But beyond this stage, moving into other areas, I have so many shortcomings.

I know plenty of other women who feel this way but so many of them have a thing that they do and I believe that success in that task helps them overlook some of the perceived failings in their motherhood. Some grow amazing gardens. Others write books. Some paint and sell their paintings. Some craft beautiful jewelry. Many go to the gym, eat right and stay in great shape.

I feel like I don’t have that anymore, though. Here I am, raising seven kids – kids who are with me all day long, basically every day. I do the basic things that moms are supposed to do – keeping their clothes clean, feeding them, doing the dishes. But then I just sit around and think about all the things I’d like to do. I want to write a book. I want to lose fifty pounds. I want to re-learn guitar, write songs and maybe even perform them. I want to take a pottery class. I want to make things again. I want to buy furniture and make it look amazing and new. I want too much.

How do I deal with this? I have no idea. I have this feeling that I don’t have time for it all. That I’m going to have to pick something and give the rest up. Then another voice enters and says, “You think you have time for something other than being a mom? You’ve got to be kidding me. This is your life now. Let go of all that stuff; you don’t have time.”

Who am I supposed to believe?

Do I have talents I’m wasting or is it silly to think that they are still there? Is there some other thing I should be doing? Or is motherhood really my only task and calling?

This may seem such a trivial question for so many people but know this: it breaks my heart not knowing. There is so much uncertainty in these thoughts and my actions reflect it. I am stuck, my legs knee deep in mud, fighting to keep myself upright and wondering if the branch reaching out for me to grab is this thing I’ve been neglecting. If grasping it and running with it would pull me out.

Sick baby, tired mama

Simon has pneumonia, although we are on day three of antibiotics and I’m certain he is improving. But I’m so tired. And I wrote this long post that ended up sounding whiny and rambling so I’m sticking with something short. I have so much to do and finding a balance between work and rest is hard right now. I could really use a tiny little vacation or a week at home with no kids for most of the day. Since those things won’t be happening anytime soon, I’ll just keep getting through one day at a time and hope we come out relatively unscathed on the other side.

Happy New Year!

Here we are in a new year and I’ve picked up a planner again to see if I can reorganize my life. I have weight to lose and stuff to clear out and a brain that can’t handle much in terms of planning unless I write it down. I also have sick kids and have had some form of illness in the house since mid-November. This means I’m going easy on myself for now. I know this will pass and everyone will be well again. For now, I give myself a task or two each day on top of the normal daily stuff and have so far reorganized my linen closet and threw out half of my makeup. Not bad for three days in.

Short and sweet and to the point today. I hope you all had a joyful Christmas and that your 2017 will be blessed!

Used to be..

I used to be a writer. Words came out of me all the time. When I didn’t have a pen in hand or my fingers on the keys, my mind was spinning with things I had to write down as soon as I could. I once said that I wished I had a way to record my thoughts as they happened so I could remember all the stories, poems and prose that were formed there.

I used to be an artist. Not the drawing, painting, sculpting sort, but in my own way artistic. I used to create things and when I wasn’t creating, ideas were always there for something new to make.

I used to be fun. I suppose I still am sometimes but often I just feel old. And confused. And tired.

I watched a video a few minutes ago – a spoken word piece by a popular artist. He said that it is always the things people didn’t do that they regret at the end of their lives. He said we all have a gift and we should all be using our gifts. He said, “Sometimes you gotta leap. And grow your wings on the way down.” I love that. It speaks to me. But putting that into practice while I raise a family and do all the things a mom does is difficult at best. I believe that years ago, God spoke to my heart and called me to something. Something big but not specific. I believed then and do now that it centers on my gifting as a writer. If I based my belief in my gift on the number of readers I have here (one, maybe two?), I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. But it’s been there for a long time. Long before blogging was a thing. It was always my gift.

So maybe leaping is saying, “I am a writer. I am an artist.” Maybe leaping is not even knowing what I’ll find when I get to where I’m going. Maybe leaping is making a way even when it seems impossible. Even when babies cry and dishes need to be washed.

Humble Pie..

This pregnancy has been humbling. That’s a gentle word for it, anyway. When I got pregnant, I was in the best shape I had been in since before having kids, even though I didn’t weigh much less than before I got pregnant with Oliver. The month of January was spent working out of a daily planner in order to keep on top of meal planning, decluttering and general housework. I wasn’t working out every day but had a good routine to maintain my level of fitness. And then I got pregnant. It was not unexpected and I was very excited.

The first few months of pregnancy were exhausting. I couldn’t work out, couldn’t clean the house, stopped using my planner and only barely got meals on the table half of the time. I was so sick and the medication I was on to make me feel better made me even more tired. Finally, about halfway through, I stopped taking it and started to feel a bit better. For a few weeks. The typical second trimester energy just never kicked in for me and then suddenly I was in the third trimester. My weight gain by around halfway was over twenty pounds and as of right now – 35 weeks – I’ve gained nearly forty-five pounds. I have felt heavy and slow and tired and incapable of many things that are usually just part of normal life for me.

The latest development is a return of a pinched nerve or compression in my shoulder that sends numbness and pain down my arm every time I sleep. I’ve tried sleeping sitting up, somewhat reclined on the couch and on my back (which has only been possible for an hour or so a few nights ago). I even went so far as to bring my zero gravity lawn chair inside the house last night and slept in for a few hours but even a reclined position didn’t prevent it from happening. I went back to bed sometime after seven and cried – sobbed – about the whole thing. Big, messy crying from pain and frustration and total exhaustion. Mike prayed for me but I know he’s having a hard time with all of this, too. Kind of tough to go from having a wife who is on top of everything and keeps you and your kids fed and happy to having a wife who is in pain all the time, crying at the drop of a hat and waking you up with all her tossing and turning.

A few weeks ago, I decided the best way to get through these last weeks was to stay busy – have some sort of project for each day. Now I’m faced with produce I bought to can and a whole load of unfinished projects around the house. I watch as other women, just as pregnant as me, tend their gardens (I never had one), can their produce, take daily walks and make creative meals nearly every day. I can barely stay awake today and really have no idea how I’ll make it through another five weeks like this. I warned Jenny and Elias today that if things don’t improve, they will have to pitch in a lot more around here. Honestly, I’m tempted to hire help but then I feel that people will wonder why my husband and oldest kids aren’t doing more around the house to help me.

Needless to say, there are a lot of mind games going on here. It’s hard to stay focused on what is important and while I’m looking forward to holding this baby, it’s not easy to wait and endure the physical and mental trials that this pregnancy has brought me. I have learned my limitations and while I would love to rest when someone close to me tells me to rest, I just don’t know how to do it without everything completely going to pot around me.

Fixing Things

Two weeks ago, we had a “something’s gotta give,” moment. Wednesday is cleanup day and Thursday is computer day but it took the kids until Thursday afternoon to finish cleaning up which means they did not get their two hour turns on the computer that day. I realized (yet again) that they had a staggering amount of toys/books/clothes/etc and very little organization. So I woke up last Monday morning with what was almost an epiphany – we would do one hour a day of cleanup, using a timer, and with five weekdays and five kids who use the computer, each kid in order of age could have two hours a day to play games, watch Netflix, etc. once we got the cleanup done for the day.

There were tears from a few kids who clearly do not like change and were struggling to see how one hour a day was better than morning until evening on Wednesdays. I told them that we would try this through the summer and that I would be with them for that hour so they wouldn’t be doing it on their own. I knew this was necessary because a) they get distracted easily (um, they’re kids!) and one hour on their own would be far less productive than one hour with mama’s help, and b) being there means I get to be sneaky and throw out/donate things that they never use but would undoubtedly keep if I wasn’t there.

Last week, we put in one hour a day of cleaning – sometimes a bit more if I felt the need to add a few minutes due to total lack of cooperation –  and we finished their playroom, which is also where Elias and Erik sleep. I spent nearly $60 on under bed storage so that most of the sets of toys could be stored out of the way. It’s not perfect and I’m confident that we could get rid of a lot more, but it’s way better.

This week we’re working on the “big room” which is our large downstairs family room and is a second play area as well as where all our books are stored, where I workout (when I’m up to it), where they watch movies and play Nintendo. It needs a TON of work. We started yesterday and it looks worse than it did before but that seems to be the name of the game in big decluttering/organization projects like this.

My goal is to make the entire house functional and easy to move out of at any point. Not that we are planning to move but I’ve lived through two moves that were totally dysfunctional – throwing things in random boxes and sometimes not even unpacking them for years. Last night I opened a sealed box to find a bunch of candles I’ll never use, knick knacks I don’t need or want anymore, empty frames that I was apparently saving to use again and various other small things. 90% went into donation boxes. This is proof that those haphazardly packed boxes are not something I want to do again.

The most daunting thing about this job is that I’m slightly more than halfway through pregnancy right now. My energy levels are better than they were six weeks ago but not as good as they have been in earlier pregnancies. This one has been tough on me. I would love to see everything done before this baby comes but I know that it’s not that likely. So we’ll keep trucking away with one hour a day and I’ll try to fit in a few hours a week decluttering my own stuff (hello, craft/laundry room) and hope to be half done by the fall. I’m trying to be optimistic that this is a reasonable expectation and that if I have a few days with extra help at home or the kids out of the house, I might get a little bit further.

It is very clear that the old system was broken. I just hope that this one will get us to a better place and make it easier for the kids to clean up their own messes in an organized fashion. And for that matter, help me clean up mine as well.

Chaos

We have moments of calm, hours of quiet at night, half an hour at a time when all the kids are occupied and at peace. But we have a lot of chaos. We also have a lot of stuff. I have been seeing the connection between the two more and more recently.

Last week, two large wildfires threatened rural areas outside of town, well enough away from us that we were not really threatened but still felt the need to be prepared. It occurred to me during that time that we have way too much stuff. When I considered what I would want to save if our house were on fire or we needed to quickly evacuate, it was only important documents, two heirloom quilts from my grandparents, our wedding photos, our backup hard drive which has photos and documents from 2006 and on and Jenny’s baby album since we didn’t have a digital camera when she was born. These things would fit in a large Rubbermaid bin and the rest could be destroyed and I wouldn’t care all that much.

When you start thinking like this, it makes you wonder why you bother keeping all of it if you don’t really care. I always have reasons – we need lots of books because I want my kids to love reading and have plenty accessible to them at all times. We need all the toys because there are so many kids and they might all want to do different things at the same time. These two are so easily refuted – the books barely get touched because they aren’t organized at all and there are so many that choosing becomes overwhelming. The abundance of toys means that six different things (or more, actually) get dumped out at once and fighting is a constant thing because sharing and cooperation don’t actually come naturally when there is so much stuff.

I know people who have downsized and simplified and found that it brought a big change to their homes and families. Most of these people had two young children or no children at the time of starting the process. The more kids I have and the older my oldest children get, the more daunting the process seems. It is also difficult to imagine doing it without Mike being 100% on board and enthusiastic. He doesn’t mind having less stuff – he welcomes it – but he’s not the type to dive in next to me throwing stuff out. I’m the sorter, the seller, the decision maker on stuff in this house. With everything we have, it feels like too heavy a burden to continue bearing.

Transparency and pain

I’ve had a teary couple of days. Triggered by some changes around me that were not totally unpredictable but still felt sudden and leave me feeling stranded and lonely. Also triggered by the strangest thing – spending an evening talking to a bunch of other homeschool moms after a meeting. I came home happy and optimistic until I took a moment to think about these people I had just been talking to. They are all slightly more than acquaintances. They are “fringe friends.” Friends on Facebook, people I would happily talk to in a grocery store when I run into them every six months, some who I have had long and meaningful conversations with that left me wanting more time, more opportunity to get to know them, to continue discovering the string of things we’ve just found we had in common.

Just writing that last run on sentence made me gasp and sob. I am so painfully lonely sometimes. But because I’m friendly and people seem to want to spend time around me at events, I probably don’t come off that way. All these fringe people have a best friend or a small clique of sorts. Someone I often see them with, who they carpool with to homeschool or church gatherings, who they potluck with as families. They like to talk to me – I won’t deny that – but they don’t have time for someone like me in their real lives. Someone who has many mouths to feed and many boys to try to keep under control.

We had friends who understood that and loved us and embraced the craziness. They had us over when we lived in our tiny house because they knew it made more sense to gather in a larger space. We still have these friends but they live across the country from us and have now for nearly two years. There is still a hole left behind.

There is also an assumption that I hear often, that we spend most of our free time with our family. That isn’t true, either. The bigger our family gets, the less we do together because we are just so overwhelming as a group. And when it is your heart conviction to leave your womb open, the future just holds less and less acceptance from those around us. Our families love our children but we don’t hang out all the time. I don’t invite people over often – family or otherwise – because the work involved in cleaning up and cooking and serving my own family plus extras is overwhelming to me. When I do have people over, I spend most of the time feeling like a terrible hostess.

I have become a fairly accomplished homebody. I can stay busy with things at home and not think about the loneliness. I get some amount of connection on Facebook – a place that I will acknowledge is not “real” but gets me by. I talk to moms in the nursery at church. Most are women just starting out with their first babies. In their eyes, I am “crazy”, “brave” or a “super mom” for having so many kids. I’m old, seasoned and established and I am darn good at keeping a smile on my face. I have no desire to be vulnerable with fringe people because I know it just looks like self-pity. And it probably is. I have no desire to be vulnerable with my family because they will call me out on it and skim over the very real pain I am in. Even writing this is only possible because I know there are only one or two people who read what I write (hi, Carol). If I thought those who I see on a weekly basis were reading it, I wouldn’t allow myself to be so transparent.

I’d love to chalk this up to hormones. I’ve just entered my second trimester, I’m still sick and tired but not quite as sick and tired as I was a month ago. I have gained too much weight and feel clunky and unattractive. I am constantly behind on everything around my house because I just don’t have the energy for it all. All of that is reason enough to shed a few tears and I know I’m not the only pregnant woman to do it. But this hurt just came bubbling up yesterday. A hole left much longer than I anticipated after the departure of my dearest friend and a realization of the distance I put between myself and other people in an attempt to hide all of this from them. I know the looks I’d get, the comments people would make if they knew. And I just don’t feel safe so I keep hiding it and burying it under being a “crazy” pregnant mother of six children.