Another, please

Some days it’s hard to be a mom.

And then there’s Halloween.  The day you can say yes.  All the time.  And not screw them up.

One lumberjack. One superwoman.  One knight.  One hamburger (well, for a few minutes).  One lumberjack. Did I mention the lumberjack?

I’ll have another, please.

Days?  Kids?

Yes.

Order up!

And for the record, the law of diminishing returns does not apply to children (or Dr. Pepper).

Not Playing The Game

One of the things I wrote on the sign on our front door keeps buzzing in my ear, because I think it needs further explanation.  It reads “Young girls’ hearts are being grown here.  Please don’t refer to diets or being fat when kids are in earshot.”  So, although I think this may not be received well, here it is:

So many of us emphasize how incredible our daughters are, just the way they are.  It would kill me to think of Cal or Lumpy standing in front of a mirror one day and beating her hips and belly, tearing at her arms or thighs, shuddering in disbelief at the foul beast that her body has become.  Crying in a dressing room at a department store, hanging up the Misses size 16s and leaving in pain rather than admit to the indignities of the Women’s section.

Does this song speak to your heart?:

I know.  I have been this woman.  But, a while ago, I decided that I am not playing the game.  You know…the game where we decide we want to be hot, so we tell our friends “I’m disgusting” and they deny it, then we declare we’re losing weight, then we decide to do it together.  Yeah, that game.

I have never been on a diet for more than 24 hours.  I simply can’t do it.  Okay, I ate fat-free for six weeks when pregnant with Lumpy, and maybe 3 weeks with Hoss, but to diet all day, every day, with the purpose of losing weight…never.  I have once lost weight.  I lost 10 pounds before a friend’s wedding by not eating dessert for six weeks two years ago.  So, was that maybe a diet?  This friend and I both were pregnant within 2 weeks, though, and we laugh that it was all downhill from there.

But, I really don’t diet.  As a result, I don’t hate myself on a daily basis.  I know dieting must not do that to some women, but it does for me.  I do like when I don’t look quite so lumpy, and I do like the feeling of going down a size in jeans, but I can’t do anything with weight loss being my goal.  I just die a little inside.

But, I do believe in being fit.  I can run as far as I want to; I can carry every one of my children up- and downstairs.  My blood values are perfect and my resting heart rate and blood pressure classify me as an athlete.  But here’s the sneaky thing.  Women who are “fit” should look a certain way.  And that way is not like me.  If most women got up three days a week at 5:30 to run an hour at 6, but looked like me, they would be cursing their will power and begin waging the battle on the eating front.

I can’t do that.

I am made differently, I guess.  I was raised with really unrealistic perceptions of my beauty (did you know I was the most beautiful child that ever lived?), and I kid you not: it worked.  My parents never ridiculed my physical appearance…except to tell me “you’ll grow into your weight and slim down when your body is ready, like your sister did.”  It was true.  Then I went to college and ate my way through 6 pants sizes and all the anxiety I was feeling about my transition into grown-up-dom. I never really lost that weight, and got married at the exact same weight I am today. It was hard to love a person that size-especially because it was me, and now can’t be repaired after 4 kids.

Today, I think I am beautiful if I am functional.  I am crazy functional.  I can run.  I can lift.  I can push a full grocery cart while holding a preschooler’s hand, restraining the toddler, and wearing the baby on my back.  I make milk.  I make people.  What is there not to love, here?

I have never dyed my hair, but granted, it is fairly fabulous hair-crazy thick and blonde highlights.  I now have bangs, because I also have flat iron skills.  I look half decent when I wear make-up.  I even know how to put it on, and showed my mom a swank eye shadow trick last week.  I have a brown melasma splotch on my face and this weird little bump on my nose, that if I thought about it, must make people stare.  I don’t care.  I got it cut off once and it came right back.  It’s meant to be there.  My lips are huge.  My feet are my best feature.  My body is lumpy below my waist, on my hips, and I have the most ridiculous calves.  (I can’t believe I am doing this, but alas, this post has a full-body picture of me wearing mostly spandex…you’ll see I am not kidding about any of this.)  I can see this body for what it is, because it doesn’t own me.  It is my temple, and sometimes, my temple needs three desserts.  For breakfast.

In fairness, sometimes a tight waistband makes me want to cry because I hate how that looks.  Frumpy.  Out of style.  Out of control.  Many people who have tried to support me have suggested I pursue my unstated desire when I complain: lose weight.  But is that really what I want?  No.

I am so torn, because I see friends posting weight loss achievements and posting new diet plans, or lower dress sizes, and all I can think is I don’t know what to say.  I am so, so happy they are feeling awesome about themselves.  I want to encourage that.  But, I don’t want to encourage weight loss in general.  Is the diet healing their body?  Is it nourishing their soul?  Or is it punitive and filled with health risks?  I tend to err on the side of the latter.

Changing how you eat is crazy hard, and weight loss as the result of it is socially praised, and really rewarding and motivating.  But, it’s so hard for me to praise because I’m not playing the game.

If we don’t like how we look, why are women encouraged to lose weight?  In my world, if I look bad, I need a new haircut and clothes that fit.  If I’m unhappy with my body, it’s because I’m unhappy with the way it functions, and that’s what I work on.  The looks often don’t follow.  I am at peace with that.

Because I know how weird this is, I just tell people I’m nursing, and don’t want to jeopardize my milk supply by reducing calories.  But actually, I’m living with my body how I hope, and expect, my daughters to live with theirs’.  I don’t care what they look like.  I care what they can do.  If 230 pounds, size 22 keeps her blood chemistry in line and her BP and heart rate where they’re supposed to be, and she can meet her fitness goal, I just can’t condone restrictive dieting for weight loss.

A friend called this week and asked me how I deal with post-baby weight loss, and instead of telling her about the one book I read about how women lose weight post-partum, I simply told her, I’m not the right person to ask.  Because I just don’t think about it.  But even worse, in my heart of hearts, I don’t think she should either.  I know you’re not supposed to say that, to each her own, but it’s true for me.  Eating a different way to become a certain size seems self-destructive, even if the size you became was by eating self-destructively, too.  Because, isn’t that just more of the same?  I hate myself, so I eat.  I hate myself, so I starve…so I can love myself again.  There must be something more than this destructive, punitive game so many women play.

In their incredibly affirming book, Captivating, John and Stasi Eldredge speak about the very nature of woman.  It comes down to this: A woman is defined by the beauty she creates, and by the beauty she possesses.  God created woman to be this part of Himself to Earth.  Every part of this essence reflects the beauty of God in relationship and in the Creation.

Call me simple or old-fashioned, but I believe very deeply in the destructive power of Satan. He works by separating people from God.  This book helped me put words to this knowledge that was built into my heart: Separate a woman from her beauty and separate a woman from God. Satan delights in our self-doubt, as we actively dismiss our beauty.

What this means to me is that whether the woman actually is more beautiful by society’s standards at size 6 compared to 16 has nothing to do with the beauty she sees in her heart.  If maintaining a size 6 is a daily, punitive, destructive commitment, that woman is shackled by her beauty.  If eating herself sick into that 16 because she’ll never be a size 6 is a daily commitment, that woman is shackled by her beauty.

I cannot wish that for any woman, not just my daughters.

So while I would like to explain the rest of my journey that led to this peace, I won’t.  For each woman it means something different.  Maybe it means weigh-ins and using measuring cups at breakfast, but I doubt it.  But maybe.  But, I know that many, many women have a lot of grieving to work through about the pain their body has brought into their lives.  If your heart is able, start today.

Even more, I know that God is desperately desiring you to realize the incredible woman you are, to go all Queen Latifah on every room you walk in to.  To be the woman who has that special something, that confidence that means “all is right in my heart.”  To be the person who can look out into a world of hurting women and offer them comfort. Offer them peace.  Invite them to let this go.  Take a friend shopping in the Women’s section and dress her to kill in a great size 18, or 26, or 4 that really shows the world that she’s got it figured out.  Because there’s so much more that we have been made to do.  So many better ways we can use our energies and time.  I am praying that we all don’t waste any more of it in dressing rooms, crying in front of mirrors that lie.

If you can’t do it yet for you, start small, like me. Do it for her:

I’m putting this picture of me as a kid on the fridge instead of that “motivating” fridge photo-reminder of who I once was, or who I don’t want to be again.

Whose life are you shaping?

Isn’t she amazing?

Teach this song to her and make sure the words are written in her heart:

The risk is that you might end up looking like me.

The bigger risk is that you might like it.

Roll Out the Welcome Mat

I don’t know about you, but when people come over, I feel obligated to comment on the state of the house. I feel like if I acknowledge the disarray before they do, I am somehow better than if my house looked like this and I was okay with it. Every person gets this. From our insurance agent to our teenage babysitter. Even, on occasion, some six-year olds.

Today a dear friend posted a story I need to hear about three times a day.  (10/27/2011: I took the link down because the follow-up article was judgmental and totally contradicted the original idea of peace before tasks. Let’s just take her at what I THOUGHT she was saying–I like it so much better that way.)The idea in the article is that there is a choice to be made between peace and accomplishment, especially in a home with young children.  In our case, a lot of young children. I remembered again, that I chose this life, these children, this clutter, and this home. I am good with it.

So I put down my phone and got out some paper and permanent markers.  I ignored JR and Lumpy hauling a three pound bag of apples one at a time to the basement for their five children who don’t have names yet (I asked).  Hoss was only half-way ok with my little activity, and spent the second half of it drooling on my arm.

And I wrote a list.  Of expectations.  From our visitors.  Here’s what I got:

All you need to know about...

visiting the BLD family in their natural environment.

So you can't miss it

And a little something for our door to door salesmen:

And after I shot this picture, Lumpy started licking the window.

Sigh.

My point exactly.

Baby-Led Weaning

For many folks, weaning means ending breastfeeding. But here in the BLD house, it means adding big kid food to an exclusive nursing diet. Some time around six months, the BLD babies start grabbing food off our plates and mouthing everything in sight. I guess it’s called baby-led weaning, but I just call it “a better use of my time and money than putting kiddo in high chair, mixing rice cereal with expressed milk, and cleaning most of it out from between his fingers anyway.”

Little Hoss started about two weeks ago. Grabbing with an iron fist at my cereal spoon, reaching for his sister’s bagel (have I mentioned we don’t put this kid down much?). So, Andy fed him his first banana, with his germy old finger, right off the bunch. H gummed curiously, and didn’t spit it out. Somebody get the baby book! I did buy a baby book, right? Rats.

Then, he had some take-out refried beans off my finger sitting in my lap in our post-op, Amma sponsored dinner. It was just kind of an afterthought as he tried to put the takeout container in his mouth. Yeah, we don’t exactly do “baby food.” I think by the fourth kid, I’ve started to see that 6 month olds aren’t puppies. They don’t need jars of specially-labelled baby food. Breastmilk is real food, after all. Baby gets what we get, so long as there’s no dairy. Lumps and all. No pristine organic. No food processor needed…well, not usually.

20111023-205417.jpg

Aw, shucks, I'm not gonna stop you now, Hoss.

But, even I was a little surprised by Hoss when Lumpy left this bowl somewhat near him on the kitchen floor this week. Add to his repertoire: Honey Wheat pretzels. I figure if he’s grabbed it, he’s ready for it.

My laissez faire attitude meant that after the pretzel incident, Hoss got to have a piece of carrot from our buddy’s birthday cake, Cal’s circumnavigatedly-tooth-peeled (read: rejected) apple, and today, a half a bagel in the car. Somewhere kicking herself is the mother who spent $6.59 a pound for her first-born’s organic, grass-fed ground beef cooked in a cast iron skillet, mixed with my her first attempt at homemade applesauce. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

It’s a big, new world, little foodie! Enjoy all the privileges your birth order has granted you.

Support Group

Have you ever noticed that, until you need one, support groups look like places for whiners to dig themselves deeper into despair and wallow further into the misery du jour? Keeping the “me vs. them” mentality just makes it so much less likely that you yourself will ever need a whiner’s group. After all, getting a bunch of victims together to confirm their victimhood is not exactly a recipe for personal growth. At what point do you get over it? At what point are you human again? AA really has the corner on that market–they don’t even try to make you better. They make you call yourself “a recovering alcoholic” forever, so you know you’ll always belong at the meetings. Or is there more to it?

Well, today I was called out on the little support group I’m running here, and in other parts of my life. I was asked why I see myself under attack, constantly fighting paper tigers. It was a fair question. Do I feel under attack? Do my words here and elsewhere constantly strive to justify an academically sub-par life? Do I spend too much time describing fruitless venture after fruitless venture?

I do tend towards skepticism of otherwise reverred medical professionals. Maybe I AM unhappy with my life. Maybe I DO feel inferior. Maybe I constantly JUSTIFY myself to people who aren’t judging me. People value me, but I am a paranoic. I am not living in my own reality.

Well, at least I think that’s where the conversation was leading. Now, I must say that the person I was talking to is living a life beyond reproach–in a good way. Morally perfect. Academically at a zenith of achievement. Giving, compassionate, and relentless in helping others in her profession. Healthy, exercises, and has a genius sense of humor. I tell you that first to tell you that the personality trait in which we differ does not result from the above skills, but the above traits resulted because of the incredible focus and dedication of this person in all aspects of life.

I, on the other hand, am a complainer. I am a wallower, a hasher, and an analyzer of human emotions. I think she has the more worthy of the personalities. When things go wrong, her personality just lets it go, learns the lesson, and really does move on, and you’re none the wiser she struggled. My personality ruminates, talks, writes, analyzes, sucks life lessons out of the dry dust left behind, and leaves at peace three years later, telling everyone about it.

What that means in practice is that support groups and rehashing events mean dissatisfaction to my confidante. To me, it means analysis, growth, and knowledge I am then obligated to pass on. The world seeks truth, and in my own way, I have found it. Some of that truth will be laid out organically as it unfolded in my brain:

“Today my son dumped a box of cereal on the floor for fun; I can’t get ahead. Life for me isn’t about getting ahead–where is “ahead” anyways? I didn’t scream at him, so I am growing as a person.”

But, to this person who I admire so much, this kind of post appearing repeatedly is indicative of dissatisfaction.

I love her so much for thinking that. She worries about my happiness, and hears my comments or reads this blog and sees it as me sinking into repetitive, destructive self-criticism, flailing in the deep waters of my own self-analysis. What’s more, I am so glad that not everyone is like me, because the world as a whole would just be peacefully resigned to never getting anything done.

So my blog is my captive audience, my sympathetic support group, but it’s more than that, too. It’s a place I try to build a safety net for women walking the same path as me. Where I retrace my steps to confident acceptance of motherhood that lives in me. Where I show it’s not the stumble, but the recovery that defines our growth. If I don’t detail the struggle, I am just another piece of judgmental advice. And, I’m a damn good writer, to boot, and I like to show off.

(Hey, we were all thinking it…the “show off” bit.)

So, this post is for you, my friend. Please be assured, my dear confidante, that just because I go to support group doesn’t mean I’m living for the support group. But, don’t be mistaken, either. Even peacefully embracing this life, I need to go as much as everyone else like me.

In the words of pre-Carribbean Kenny Chesney, I’ve been there…that’s why I’m here.

Fake Fun

Today I did something dumb.  It’s garage sale Thursday, but it’s also the middle of October and it was raining.  There are no garage sales, and we couldn’t go somewhere, but I didn’t want a normal day at home.  Thursday should be better than that.

I asked the middles if they wanted to go splash in the backyard, come in and have a bath, then snuggle up and watch a movie and have soup for lunch.  “Tomato soup?!” asked JR.  Yes, my son.  Real tomato soup from a can.  He was in.  Lumpy?  “I have hot chockwet?”  Yes, my daughter.  Real hot chocolate from the powder in the cabinet.  There would soon be coffee in my pot, and we had made a rare run to the bagel shop–and it was $0.49 bagel day!  Rainy day blues?  Pshaw.

Who wouldn’t want to be my child at 9:08 this morning?

At approximately 9:40, I had put my husband’s socks on both kids, squashed JR into last year’s rainboots (Cal had swiped the big pair to wear to school–we stock them His, Mine, and Ours style), and even tracked down the incredible piece of engineering JR was dying to try: a glorified garbage bag the rest of the world knows as a poncho.  Lumpy’s ensemble was no less work…tracking down a pair of pants that almost fit, grabbing an extra shirt, hat, and, of course, dad’s socks.  And, at 9:50 I triumphantly sent them out to dig up adventure, my kitchen spoons in hand, coffee brewing, curtains opened, screen door closed, baby settling in to nurse.

Then, Lumpy broke down.  You see, the child who believes all waste material should be manually inspected, suddenly realized she had dirt on her hand.  “Mommy, my hawnds aruh dirty!”  Let me  get out my microscope.  Hoss unlatched (thank goodness for the privacy fence) I scrounged a nearby washcloth and restored order.  As she was walking back outside, the hydro-phobic dog decided it was the ideal to burst through the door to the fun going on in the mudpit that used to be the home of our blow-up pool (the one that the baby was NOT born  in…we’re saving that one for next year).  Lumpy down.  JR has scratched his best friend’s name in the mud.  4 letters during this whole fiasco.  JR says he’s all done.

A frustration-filled 5 minutes later, the middles are in the tub.  Back on track!  We were just a few pumps of soap from movies and tomato soup.  Then the whining started.  Then the ceiling-drenching splashing followed.  Then the fluffy cloth diaper was far too ouchy for a sensitive little bum, then we couldn’t get dressed.  Needless to say, the late morning snuggles and fun turned into a bare basics “please just put your clothes on, no a spoon of peanut butter is not lunch” scramble to preschool time.

As the kids were eating bagels in the car (yes, for the second meal of the day), I vowed to never plan anything fun AGAIN!  My new in-town buddy commented that anything that seems fun in commercials is just fake fun.  The mom of a friend said Disney World was built entirely on this principle–just sit around the lobby of a Disney hotel for a few minutes.  We’ll probably still try it again, but really, it just makes good pictures, and garbage fun.

There wasn’t even time to grab a camera.  And the kids didn’t seem all that cute just then, anyway.

Real fun happens when you most need it, not when you just want it.  Next Thursday, who’s up for a trip to the grocery store?

So, I Write.

Last week a friend, my son’s godfather, actually, asked me what is it about my psudonymous blog that appeals to me.  I think it was his first visit to BLD, and he’s now following it, so I thought I’d respond here, too.  Many of my friends in real life don’t actually know about this blog.  It’s not a secret, but sometimes it just doesn’t come up, or they don’t ever think to click a random link to what looks like a “not Jaime” production (courtesy of that crazy awesome picture for my header of my daughter and nephew being two, oh-so-adorably).

Let me tell you.  I do not get a lot of hits on a daily basis these days.  I have stopped promoting my blog to the wider world for the present time for a reason.  I am writing the outline for my “you’re not doing such a bad job after all, oh mother-of-small-children” book in these posts.  I am hashing out ideas, capturing rants and sweet moments that would otherwise go to waste.  Some days, I am writing whole chapters…though not as frequently on this more-palatable wordpress version I relaunched this Spring.

My readers are my friends, sometimes my family, and often my critics…but I am not writing to them exactly.  The accessability of this blog is meant to explain and express who I am and how I think to a benevolent, open-minded world.  In my mind, my reader seeks truth, wants to understand my perspective, and sees faith through my eyes.  My reader is non-judgmental, wants to see me succeed, and knows I’m not bragging about my children, simply marvelling at their skills that have accumulated without my prompting.  So, I write for me.

In many ways, this blog is probably the closest I come to honest prayer, a loving Father the perfect audience.

Why would I make such a thing public, though?  I guess it’s because I am too cognizant of the many educators who have taught me God is so omniscient, He doesn’t need to be told anything.  So prayer has always seemed silly.  I should simply plug in my hard drive and download the day’s events and requests.  My communicating anything through prayer has always been an act of obedience, not passion.

Because I can’t get past that, I wouldn’t write this way if no human could see it.  I would simply write nothing.  When I can see “15 hits today” that mean someone is there; I can imagine my words make someone see their lives the way I do–as having a purpose.  It doesn’t have to be a lot, but even one person reading, in some unusual way means that my words aren’t flying into the ether.  My thoughts exist.  My feelings are real.  My conflicts are challenging.

And if that’s true, then somewhere, somehow, maybe in a click on the other side of the world, it feels like the God who is seeking my whole heart can hear.  So, I write for Him.

The people who take the time to give me feedback on my writing, my thoughts, or my insights, are such a gift to me.  It’s always unexpected and affirms that I am doing the right thing to put my heart into words, out here on the web.  It is a very rewarding endeavor, and even when it’s hard to post something I know people won’t agree with, I do it anyways, thinking of other women who are feeling like I do, thinking how I think, and ready to scream just to be heard.  I’m no psychologist, but I think that must be a pretty good thing.

The results upset, confirm, irritate, divide, heal, soothe, and bring joy.  There are typos and poor grammar, and taking myself way too seriously, but no one else is going to do it for me.  So, I write for you.