This isn’t a post about running; it’s about motherhood. Or, about life.

022

I am incredibly tired. I mentioned before that the prevailing feeling that I’ve had since Anna was born is that of running on a treadmill that’s set just slightly too fast. I’m tricked into thinking I can keep up with the pace, but before I know it I’m out of breath and overwhelmed, only there’s no way to slow the treadmill down.

It’s been a challenging few weeks, even as Anna has continued to settle into a schedule and Will has grown ever further out of the toddler stage. I think the challenging factor is … me. I keep coming up against my own limitations, and not knowing how to exceed them. Every day I am surrounded by my own insufficiency.

When I say that I’m trying to make the right choices ahead of time, to be prepared and ahead of the game, and to be patient, what I really mean is that I am wondering what it would be like to be someone who actually does those things successfully, regularly, and habitually. What is that like?

It’s hard for me to accept the limitations of this stage in life, because every time the laundry piles up, or the kitchen is left a mess after breakfast, or there are toys scattered in every corner of the house, or I have ten work emails that haven’t been answered yet, it means there is something else I haven’t done. Something else I still need to take care of. Leaving it until later, throwing my hands up in the air and saying “oh well! I have two little kids! It’ll have to wait!” just means that I need to find time eventually to do it, and by that point five other things will have popped up in the meantime. Putting off folding the laundry just means that when I get around to it, I’m drowning in it, and when I feel like I’m drowning, I shut down.

And I think that is the issue right there. I feel like I’m drowning, so I’m shutting down. I don’t cope very well with feeling overwhelmed, which makes me wonder sometimes if I struggle with more limitations than other people (?? that is another can of worms right there …?). I just shut down. When I don’t have time or energy to fold a small hill’s worth of laundry, letting it become a giant mountain only makes it less likely that I’ll be able to address it without suppressing something akin to panic. I don’t know why this is. But it leads to the old familiar chorus of other people can do it just fine! so why can’t you? what’s wrong with you? that I have worked so hard to drown out.

Yes, it’s only housework. Yes, it’s only a part-time job. I really don’t know why it feels so overwhelming or why I feel so stretched thin, but I do, and I don’t really know the way out.

056

One more hour until preschool pickup — I’ll make it count.

It doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but I still have moments where I instinctively reach for my phone to call my mom. Most recently this happened the other day when I took a picture of Anna practicing her sitting. I then had that whole numbing string of realizations: I can’t text her this picture. In fact, she never met Anna. And in fact, she never even met Will. She never got to know me as a mother. She’s still gone.

It hurts just as much as it ever did, but I’m so used to it now that it feels more like a heavy, dull punch to the chest than a violent blow to the head. It knocks the wind out of me, but I can catch my breath sooner now. It’s wearying to think that this is going to continue happening for the rest of my life.

I’ve accepted my loss. I have “come to terms” with it, whatever that means in the end. Spiritually and theologically I allow it. But it still pisses me off.

In the end I’m just really annoyed that I don’t have my mother around. She doesn’t know my kids and they’ll never know her. It was my worst fear when she was diagnosed, and now that it’s come true, it feels just as empty as I thought it would. I hate not having her around for advice, for encouragement, just for company. Right now I don’t hate it in a sad, disappointed, grieving way — I hate it in an angry way. I may have a happy life, but I can think of a million little ways in which it would be ten times happier and richer if she were still a part of it.

image (7)

Where, o death, is your victory? Where, o death, is your sting? — honestly I can see the victory and feel the sting all the time. It’s here in my own heart, in my neverending sadness. It’s hard not to feel sometimes like death has already won.

But today’s Easter sermon was on 1 Corinthians 15. What a relief I felt when I read the passage! It’s one of my favorites and one that brought me deep comfort when my mom was dying. To destroy suffering. (You can listen to it here.) What Easter means is that death hasn’t won. The battle has already ended.

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

That victory, here on earth, here in my mortal body, feels hollow sometimes. Sometimes I just want her back, damn it, and that’s the end of it. It’s that physical ache that will never really go away, that hole in my chest that’s never going to close, that longing that is not joy.

But death has been swallowed up in victory. On the other side of this we will laugh at it. I don’t know why there is so much suffering in this world, but in spite of it, laughing in its face, I see God’s redemptive work every day. One day I will try to write and make sense of my mother’s life story and testimony, but all I can see when I look at it right now is that redemptive work. It’s all I see, too, when I think about my own grief and loss. See? The battle has already been won. Suffering will end. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

This is why Easter is my favorite holiday. The hope fulfilled. The longing satisfied. The joy, the joy, the joy.

Happy Saturday! I keep being reminded of the old adage the days are long, but the years are short lately, because the weeks seem to be flying by despite how long some of the days feel. I have always disliked how fast the years seem to fly by. (It’s already April?) — I think I just hate knowing I will never get any of that time back.

But that’s more heavy than I want to get on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I have a few things I’m celebrating this week.

First:

image (8)

Six months old. I talked sometime last week about how the last six months have gone, and even since then I feel like we are turning a corner. Anna is learning how to sit up on her own, she is (I think) transitioning to a nap schedule, and we’ve started solid foods in earnest.

image (4)

Today I made pea puree and I have applesauce in the crock pot. She has had oatmeal, carrots and applesauce so far and isn’t quite sure what to make of solids yet. She doesn’t know what to do with the food once it’s in her mouth, but I think she’s starting to get the hang of it.

And speaking of turning a corner now that we’re at the six month mark: I have two pairs of jeans that fit me now. No, I am not forsaking my personal uniform or my new year’s resolution to wear leggings all the time, but man does it feel good to have pants that zip and button. Small victories.

Another small victory: today I did a headstand in yoga for the first time. My yoga practice has been interrupted by pregnancy and childbirth a couple of times now (as well as long periods of time with no access to regular instructor-led classes), so it’s taken me a while to be able to advance my practice to the point where I feel comfortable doing more advanced inversions (and, I think, you also have to be in the right place at the right time — today’s class was small, and the instructor was able to help me). I was against the wall of course, and I had some help figuring out how to kick my legs up, but it felt so good to have things click into place, as well as to prove to myself that I do have a lot more muscle strength than I did a few months ago.

And now on to a regularly recurring feature in my life: here’s an article I hated. Every so often I come across an article online that is meant to be inclusive and relatable, but instead it seems to reveal more about the author’s character flaws and personal shortcomings. This is the latest: I called him pathetic, he accused me of ruining his life: What children did to our marriage, via salon.com.

I don’t even know where to start with this one. First: imagine being one of this couple’s children (including the fact that your mom published this article on the internet for all eternity) and try not to cry. Second: imagine being either the husband or the wife. Sometimes, as it turns out, having children isn’t the problem in your marriage. It’s being selfish. Of course children complicate a marriage relationship and it can be hard to navigate the road from independent couple to settled-down family. But insisting to your husband that it’s okay for him to be emotionally absent from your family because you want another child and he doesn’t? That’s insane, and it hurts everyone in your family. Being uninvolved and resentful of your wife and children because your “real life” is being interrupted and put on hold? That’s insane too, and childish. Sulking and blaming your spouse and children because your life doesn’t look like how you thought it would? Oh my god, grow up. I totally want to go to a dinner party with this couple. I bet they’re a blast.

Please tell me I’m not alone in being totally horrified by this article. Please. Someone. Anyone.

Anyway: that’s all for now. I’m attempting to create my meal plan for the next week or two and may have to make a trip to Whole Foods later today — I hope I can make it out alive, braving the grocery store on the day before a holiday. Wish me luck!

Linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into this month!

March is probably my favorite month now that I live in Virginia. It was definitely my most despised when I lived in New England because it’s then that winter drags on and on. I used to start to feel slightly crazy around the third week of March when daily highs were still in the 40s and sleet was still in the forecast. Here, though, the weather agrees with the calendar: it’s spring.

2324

It was actually a visit to Virginia in mid-March eleven years ago (!!) that convinced me to move here. I haven’t regretted it!

Anyway, here’s what’s happened around here this month.

Books:

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte): I hadn’t read this in several years, and this was only the second time I had read it, so I hadn’t remembered many of the small details. I loved it. I especially loved the few scenes where the narrative would shift from past tense to present tense, in order to make the reader feel even more like a part of the action. I also really enjoyed the narrative technique that allowed Jane to speak directly to her reader; I found myself forgetting that I was reading a work of fiction. It’s beautifully written, also, which I don’t think I appreciated last time I read it. He made me love him without looking at me. At the end of a lengthy paragraph in which Jane describes falling for Mr. Rochester, this line gave me chills. Perfection.

020

The Creative Habit (Twyla Tharp): I got this because I feel like I need successful, disciplined artists (and their bossy books) to help me in my quest to become, if not successful, at least a more disciplined writer. Like Stephen King’s On Writing (only more generalized) this book is a great resource if you need to kick yourself back into gear or rethink your approach to a creative life. I appreciate books that take creativity seriously and serve to remind me that just because it’s fun, that doesn’t mean it isn’t also work.

Gilead (Marilynne Robinson): I kind of can’t handle this book. I first read it two years ago and really haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I know it sounds like hyperbole to say that I think it’s the best book I’ve ever read, but … I think it’s the best book I’ve ever read. It’s just incredible. I read it for my book club and we’re meeting tomorrow to discuss it. I hope they all liked it as much as I do.

Free Range Learning (Laura Grace Weldon): I’m not that far into this book and I think it’s going to take me a while. I appreciate its thesis (it’s about unschooling) but its execution is rather dry. But I’ll stick with it. I have a long list of kindle books to read when this one is through, though, so I need to get going on it.

I also abandoned Lizzy and Jane (Katherine Reay). It just didn’t grab my attention. Life’s too short. Maybe I’ll come back to it at the beach this summer. Coming up next: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Bronte)! I haven’t read this one yet and I can’t wait. This is the next selection in my friend Maggie‘s and my Bronte Book Club. After that I’ll be consulting my very long to-read list.

On my mind

I’ve gone through probably 1,000+ tissues this month between allergies and a bad cold. I can’t wait to feel what it’s like to not be congested. Despite all my gushing about March in Virginia, spring is actually pretty late this year and our daffodils are just blooming, so my allergies (which normally last about a week) are lingering. No fun.

In terms of writing, I’ve been struggling some with knowing how to get started on my current project, which I think is going to be a novel. I’ve created some mysteries for myself that I haven’t solved yet, in terms of plot and character, so I’m starting with world-building and hoping that will allow me to glean some wisdom. I am still working on making writing a daily practice but I am getting somewhere.

I’m also thinking a lot about habits, as I mentioned last week. I’m taking small steps toward cementing better habits in my daily life, and those small steps are adding up. We’ve started to settle into a new, manageable rhythm (that I am sure will change before I know it!) and that feels really good. I keep reminding myself, though, to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Forward momentum, not arriving in one leap at a permanent destination.

Other stuff

Here’s something exciting: Will graduated from speech therapy! He aged out of early intervention (he’ll be three next Saturday) and so we took him to be tested by a speech therapist through the public school system, to see whether he’d qualify for ongoing services. They did a screening, but no test was necessary. He’s caught up!

056
Celebrating with donuts!

And speaking of donuts, I’m also working on eating less sugar. It’s actually been easier than I expected it to be, simply because I stopped stocking Dove chocolates and the Trader Joe’s schoolhouse cookies, and because I’m still allowing myself some kind of small dessert at night. I was starting to feel like sugar had a hold on me that I didn’t like, and it feels good to get it under control.

anna

This girl’s going to be six months old on Thursday. I adjusted the rise on her diapers for the first time yesterday, and she’s starting to practice sitting up on her own. She smiles and laughs at her brother all the time and wants to imitate him when he blows raspberries at her. I’m glad to have reached the six-month mark. This is all starting to feel a little less unfamiliar to me now.

As far as house projects go (I figure I will share our fixer-upper updates here too, partly for my own future reading pleasure), this month Steve is working on building a sandbox for Will. We also wired the living room for cable and got a TV stand at Ikea (and special ordered some midcentury-style legs from Etsy) in addition to a new bookcase and hutch. Once we special order a curtain rod for our insanely large picture window, things will really start to look put together. We made a big Ikea trip last weekend and came home with curtains for the living room and our bedroom, so perhaps by the one-year mark we’ll actually look like we live here. I can’t wait.

image (2)

Onward to April!

I’ve mentioned it here many times before, and I’ll mention it again now: clutter is my nemesis. It has pursued me no matter where I have gone, what I’ve been doing, no matter how hard I have tried to beat it back. It is a constant presence in my life and a constant struggle. This blog post about clutter actually blew my mind a little because — how did she get inside my head?

(Seriously, why is it so hard to keep a clean house? Clean house makes me happy. Messy house makes me stressed. This should be so much easier. But that is a topic for another day.)

ANYWAY. I said in my last post that these days, I’m having to use my time much more wisely and efficiently, not just in regards to clutter but in every area. I’ve redoubled my efforts in this area this week and you know what? I’m seeing progress. I’m seeing results.

  • After too many days in a row of sleeping until the kids get up and then feeling rushed as we start our day, I got up early this morning so I could shower and feel ahead of things before the day started. It made a huge difference, even just mentally. Getting up early is not easy for me, but it is absolutely worth the effort.
  • After walking past the same pile of clutter on the dining room table and thinking I need to put that away for the eight hundredth time, I actually put some stuff away.
  • After spending too much time digging through baskets of clean laundry to find the black leggings I wear almost every day, I did three loads of laundry and folded and put them away that very same day.
  • After months and months of cookies, ice cream, Dove chocolates and cake-just-because-it’s-Tuesday, I am eating less sugar. I actually think this is having a bigger impact overall than I expected. I am eating way less sugar and a lot more protein and I’m feeling a big difference physically. Much more energy, and (get this) I’ve lost a few pounds too! I guess it’s worth passing up those extra handfuls of Dove chocolates.

These are pretty simple, obvious things but it’s so nice to actually feel the benefits of making positive changes. Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better Than Before, is on my reading list, so the topic of habits has been on my mind. I know I don’t need to read a book about habits in order to change my own, though (although that is my instinct), and just thinking about habits has me analyzing my own. Maybe it’s the warm weather, maybe it’s another symptom of coming out of hibernation and getting more used to our new normal. Whatever it is, I’m enjoying reaping the benefits of putting good habits back into place. Whew.

books
New bookcase from Ikea. Ten months later we unpacked some books!

Also, full disclosure: I spent the last half hour writing this blog post while Anna naps and Will has Daniel Tiger Hour instead of, you know, being productive. But this is productivity of another kind!

So for about the last six months, I’ve had two kids.

945

Strangely enough, Anna is going to be six months old next week. I say strangely because it really does seem like she was just born. My memories of the newborn days are becoming hazier and hazier, but I still feel like I’m running on a treadmill at a speed just slightly too fast. Out of breath, struggling to catch up, eyes darting around desperately for a reprieve. (Okay — that’s a bit of an exaggeration at this point, but it describes the first two months pretty accurately.)

Having two kids is so so so different from having one. I knew it would be, but there’s no way to adequately prepare yourself for the lifestyle change. The first two months were absolutely brutal. I’ve mentioned before that Anna is an incredibly easy baby, and she was a very easy newborn, but the postpartum period was very, very hard on me this time around. Anna’s birth also coincided with Will giving up his nap for good, so the daily rhythm we had lived with for over a year and a half was suddenly shattered, and we had no rhythm, nothing felt familiar, nothing felt remotely easy. I talked to myself a lot in those early days and one day I said to the clothes I was folding, I don’t even feel like a person right now. I don’t even feel human.

So that was the first two months. Now, postpartum hormones (and my eventual diagnosis of postpartum depression) explains a lot of that. But truthfully it’s just a big lifestyle change and it was a really tough adjustment. I knew what I was doing one day, and the next day I knew nothing.

1726
This picture was taken the day before I called my doctor to get help, and I think of that every time I look at it.

We turned a corner when Anna was about nine weeks old and I began to get my feet under me a little. Will had been without a nap for two months by this point and he was really starting to fall apart, so I spent two weeks driving over the mountain to a drive-thru Starbucks every afternoon so he could catch up on his sleep. This was in December, so I would listen to Christmas music softly, drink a peppermint mocha, and read in the car. Those afternoons saved me, I think, because I could finally take an hour or two every day to exhale. I was so, so tense and that break, which I rigidly enforced, kept me from breaking in two.

This sounds strange, but I have fond memories of the spring after my two miscarriages. I was filled with sadness, rage, helplessness and resentment, but because of that I had immense compassion for myself. I felt a little like I needed to protect myself (my inner life, I think) from the trauma I had gone through, and so I spent a lot of time running, practicing yoga, listening to music by the Avett Brothers and Florence + the Machine, and just waiting to feel better, trusting that someday I would. So I remember that time more than anything with a sense of fierce protectiveness.

I did the same this winter. At first, my top priority was just survival. (I’ve always found that concept vague, so I’ll clarify that in my case that meant getting through the day making sure everyone was fed and healthy, and for me, without a long crying jag or losing my temper.) But after those two weeks of anchoring our days with a long drive, I began to feel a little braver. I experimented one Monday with staying home all day long, just to see what would happen. And the neatest thing happened: we had so much fun.

1913

That was a turning point. It was a big relief for me to know how much I could enjoy being a mom again, and how much fun (yes, fun) I could have staying home all day with a toddler and a baby. It helped that Anna was no longer a newborn and I could put her down for short periods of time, and that Will was becoming more and more accustomed to long days without a nap. I was (and am) so tired, but also so happy.

So that was the first three months. The last three months have, thankfully, been MUCH easier and I finally feel like I am getting my feet under me a little. However, it’s nothing like life was before. These are some of the big changes I’ve experienced:

  • I am forced to use my time more wisely. This is hard for me because procrastination is one of my spiritual gifts, so the learning curve has been steep. When I don’t use my time well, I wind up stressed and feeling behind in almost every area, so I pay for my procrastination more dearly now than I used to. (Real life example from right now: I should probably have taken a shower today. I didn’t. Now I’m going to have to either figure out how to shower very early tomorrow [not likely, nor a given opportunity] or fool everyone I see into thinking I’m the kind of person who showers daily. Guess which one I’m going to choose?)
  • My priorities have changed again. I’ve written about this before, but I care much less about exercise, organizing my home, and losing the last of the baby weight. It’s not that those things aren’t important to me, but I can’t prioritize everything and these are some of the things that have had to fall to the wayside right now.
  • Related: losing the aforementioned baby weight has been a much slower process this time around. When Will was a baby I used to devote one of his naps to a workout almost every day, but I don’t have that luxury anymore, so I’m not exactly in the best shape of my life, and I’m sure it doesn’t help that I’m 35 now. At this point I’m only about five or so pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight, but I am still decidedly lumpy. Now that it’s spring, I’m finally feeling a little more motivated to get moving (and back into my old clothes, if it’s possible).
  • Time is passing much more quickly. You only get one first year with your baby and I’m stunned that Anna’s is halfway done. Some days I dream wistfully of both kids being older and more self-sufficient, but most days I really just want to freeze time for a while.

2091

2085

I actually like having two kids better than I liked having just one. I’m not sure why — probably because now I have two kids to love, but I don’t feel completely overwhelmed by them. And I really, really, really love being at home with them. Many people think of being a stay-at-home mom as something intellectually stagnant, but I find being at home with my kids to be the opposite. Changing diapers and managing tantrums don’t feel like a waste of my time or my abilities; they feel like the reason for them. It’s great.

We moved in nine months ago this week. Someday I will write out the story of the week in June that Will and I moved into the house (it was a few weeks after we closed and we stayed with my dad while Steve painted). The week we moved in began with a stomach virus, culminated in admitting Will to the hospital for 2 nights, and finished with the loss of my beloved cat, Teaker. It was pretty insane and not a week I ever want to relive, but that is not today’s story. Anyway: we moved into somewhat more of a fixer-upper than we intended to, really. It’s a 1964 ranch and I love every inch of it, but this is what the kitchen looked like at closing:

349

The glorious coil stove, 1980s microwave, and miniature oven are now fixtures of my day and I actually kind of love them for their ugliness. Our bathrooms are in a similar state — usable, but not very pretty. The basement has a cold tile floor and wood paneled walls, and at move-in, the trim in every room was painted the same dingy beige as the walls, and the light fixtures and light switch covers are all in need of replacing.

(Except this one:

219

YES that is a sputnik lamp and it’s staying forever. Sorry for the poor picture quality — it was taken while we were house-hunting.)

Since we’ve had a ton of work to do on the house (and still have a long way to go), furnishing it in any sort of nice-looking decorative manner has gone by the wayside. Just a few weeks ago we finally hung something on the walls — my jewelry holder — and the only rooms with curtains are the kids’ because we needed blackout shades for them. Our windows let in gorgeous morning light, but they’re still bare.

594

I’ve also hesitated to decorate much at first because we didn’t really know how we were going to live in the house. I wanted to wait and see how things felt and what made sense for us before doing much. Now that it’s been close to a year and spring is peeking around the corner, I’m excited to make not just more needed updates and changes to the house (I’m coming for you, bathroom facelift), but ones that will make our home look more like a home. We have a trip to Ikea planned and I need to get my shopping list finalized.

So today I brought a little springtime indoors:

image

It’s just a potted rose from Trader Joe’s, but it’s a start.