Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Day in the Life

 Before I left the house this morning, I decided that I wanted to remember this day. It's not out of the ordinary, really. Just a day in my life.

But I want to record it. I want to remember what it feels like to be in the trenches of motherhood, this here and now that I love so much. This time and place that brings me so much joy and so much aggravation.  I want to remember this day because it represents thousands of days just like it. I want to record more than just the tiny glimpses that my memory will allow me once this phase of my life has passed. I want to really remember. So I can hold onto the changes that are happening within me. So this refining process won't just wash away once my children are grown.

Because I want to be more than the nice old lady at the grocery store who smiles and offers unhelpful platitudes. I want my future self to be a real force for good. I want to remember how much strength and fortitude it takes to raise children. How much strength and fortitude I earned with every tantrum calmed and every math page completed and every toddler mayhem endured. Strength that I can use to help the future mothers of the world. To be supportive and encouraging. To be willing to jump in when I see a need. To bake cookies and drop them off because I notice a mom who had a particularly rough day with her kids at church. To offer a non-judgmental ear when I see a mom struggling with her child's behavioral issues at the park. To be a caregiver or a babysitter or a tutor to children who are not my own. To be a pillar others can lean on because I have been where they are going. Because I remember how amazing it is.  And how tough.

This post is for me. It is by far the longest and most detailed post I have ever written. Most people will likely have very little interest in this. But I post it here because it is the one place that I know I will be able to find it again.

My day began when our foster dog decided it was time to wrestle with Charger at 6 am. In our bedroom, of course. Yep, we are back in the foster game. And this dog is the best foster we have had. Period. She does well with dogs and children and has no issues. Except that she was shaved. Probably to treat some dermatitis thing. So she looks sorta funny. But she is the sweetest dog that has come through my home. (Sorry Charger, you have issues.) And I'm not just saying that because she likes me the best and follows me everywhere like my own personal, adoring shadow.

The getting ready for school craziness was more or less the same as every morning. K gets herself up and ready and to the bus stop. She loves the one on one time she gets with Shaggy when he walks her over. B usually wakes up next, ready for her baba. She snuggles with me as we lay in my bed and I revel in her sunny smile, soft skin and sweet baby voice that says “Mama, mama! Ou!” as she pulls the blankets off in an attempt to get me out of bed. I am grateful every day that this little bundle of joy is a newborn no longer and that I am done with nursing forever. It was sweet and wonderful and horrible and convenient and painful, all at different times. I am stinkin' proud of the fact that not one of my 5 children ever had a drop of formula. Because I know that it is the only perfect record I will ever have as a mother. And I am ok with that.

S also gets herself up and ready, though her brain teems with questions that she just has to ask right at the moment I'm changing a stinky diaper or calming a meltdown or trying to get J out of bed. J pretty much always yells when we tell him it's time to get up. He wastes most of his time dawdling in the bathroom and then has to rush through breakfast and brushing teeth to make it out the door on time. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen without a whole lot of nudging from us. And J doesn't always respond well to nudging.

R shows her sweet little sleepy face at some point during all this rushing around. It is a bright spot in the middle of all the morning craziness. She is always willing to give a cuddle or a hug and she is blessedly easy to nudge . . . most of the time. Today we have to hurry and get ready so we can actually make it to preschool on time. Because after I drop her off, I have to book it over to the junior high to watch K get an award for her good grades. We always try to make sure she knows how proud we are of all the effort she puts into learning, but these awards have become commonplace over the years. She and S get these awards twice every year.  But we do love it. How responsible they are. How much they don't need nudging to get their homework done. How much pride they take in a well done assignment. We realize that their attitude towards learning is a blessing.

As I was about to dry my hair, I realized that B had been absent and quiet for a little too long. That is usually a sure sign of trouble, so I went to investigate. I found her sitting on the table trying to drink the milk straight out of the jug. There were some flowers in a vase that were tipped over with the water cascading off the side of the table. As I got the milk out of reach, she grabbed a bowl and spoon from someone's leftover breakfast. I took that away before she could dump it out. Faster than lightning, she grabbed the cereal box and turned it upside down. S calls her 'monkopus'--a combination of monkey and octopus. I think it's a pretty fitting description of B as she is now. Finally, I just grabbed her little mischievous self and scooped her off the table and tipped over all the chairs so she couldn't climb up again. She started crying. And lifted her arms to be picked up.

I swung her up to my hip and glanced at the clock. I had ten minutes until it was time to leave. My hair was sopping wet. I had a baby with no shoes or snacks to get her through the awards ceremony. My preschooler was spinning around on the coffee table singing, "You'll never get rich by digging a witch (sic), you're in the army now." She had crazy morning hair, unbrushed teeth and her feet were shoeless. I told her to go find her shoes and put them on. She walked over to the front window, looked outside and announced, "I can't find them." Then I noticed that she hadn’t found any items to put in her share bag like I asked her to do 5 times yesterday. But didn't follow up on because I was running around to doctor's appointments and helping a friend who had just discovered that her mother had passed away in her sleep.

I realized that it was hopeless. We would not be on time for preschool. Maybe I would also miss K's award ceremony. It wouldn't be the first time. Finally we managed to get all ready except we couldn't find B's jacket. Whenever she sees it, she carries it all around the house trying to get someone to put it on because she thinks then she will be able to go somewhere. Somewhere more interesting than home.

At long last, the crazy morning routine was over. Thank heavens! As I drove to preschool, my mind was mulling over all the tasks that I needed to accomplish during the day. Errands and award ceremonies and missions of mercy would all have to happen with a toddler in tow. No getting around that. But the calls and emails and applications and research would be impossible to do with my little whirlwind around. This is why naptime is so critical to the smooth sailing of my ship. When naptime turns choppy, that's when we capsize.

We raced over to preschool, late, of course and then raced on to the junior high. I fielded a call from my mother who had a question. I had to put her off with a promise to call her back which I forgot about as soon as I hung up. Baby B and I made it just in time to . . . sit and wait. And wait. And wait. While they went through hundreds of awards before getting to K's. Time where B climbed up and down and over me and everyone sitting near me. She handed me her jacket 20 times in the hope that we would leave and go somewhere more interesting. She tried to dump out my purse and fussed for a snack and tried to draw all over everything within reach with a marker she had found. I felt a surge of pride . . . and sweet relief when they finally read K's name. I wanted to duck out then, but the idea of climbing over so many people with a toddler on my hip kept me in my seat until the ceremony was over.

As we were walking back to the van, I marveled at B. At how big she is. And how adorable she is when she runs, even if it is in the opposite direction that we need to be going. I smiled at the way people responded to her assertions of independence. When she ran away from my outstretched hand, or just sat on the ground to protest the way I was herding her to the van. I had to scoop her up and stuff her flailing arms into her car seat straps while I talked to her about birdies in my most soothing mommy voice. Sometimes that works. But today was not one of those times. I listened to her crying as we drove home.

I probably should have just left her in the van, we had so little wiggle room with our schedule. But I brought her in while I hunted around for a phone number, brought the afore mentioned spilled flowers back to life, grabbed a plate of muffins and a giant homemade card. I followed her out the door with all of it held precariously in my arms. I knew it was a bad idea for her to be loose, but there wasn't much I could do about it at the moment. The minute I turned my back to shed my load and gain a free hand to grab her with, she darted into the middle of the street. I was a few steps behind her and said a million silent prayers that there were no cars coming.

With her safely stuffed back in her car seat, we headed out on our mission of mercy. Which would have been more merciful minus the little whirlwind. She climbed, fussed, and handed me my purse with stern orders to put it on. All in the hopes of going somewhere else. When all else failed, she pushed me out of my chair. I felt grateful that she had at least flashed her impish little smile at my grieving friend while we were there.

An already fussy toddler does not make for a good errand buddy. Ever. But we forged ahead anyway. Errands have a way of just needing to get done, no matter who your errand buddy is.  It makes me feel schizophrenic to even walk into a clothing store. Too many kids. Too many different sizes. Too many "Mom, I need more . . . " Too many things that will probably be needed next month that I would like to jump the gun on. Too many great deals on clearance that might fit next year. All I really want to shop for is cute stuff that will look good in pictures that I will probably never get around to taking.

In the middle of all this, I realized that I was nearly late for R's preschool pickup. As we were driving, I had to sing silly songs and reach back to tickle B in a desperate attempt to keep her awake so she would take a nap. I needed that naptime more than she did today.

Once home, I tried to rush through the sleep routine. Halfway through I realized that I was not even aware of the words I was reading. My mind was far away. Distracted. Stuck on my list of things to do. That would not do. So I stopped, and I nuzzled B's baby soft cheek, and made animal sounds until I heard her delightful little laugh. I gave her kisses until she screeched in protest. Then we spun in circles while she waved night night to all the animals on her walls. After a few more smooches, some whispered words of love, getting tucked in next to her beloved teddy, she was set. I still feel grateful every day that she is so much easier to put to sleep than when she was little. She sighed and watched me walk out of her room with those beautiful baby blues. 

I sat down with R to have lunch to the sound of my Celtic station on Pandora. It's my go to music when I feel the need to be soothed. There is something about Irish melodies that feed my soul. I closed my eyes and let the music wash over me and realized that it was the first truly peaceful moment I'd had since 6 am. It was beautiful, but short lived as I realized that R was making an art project rather than a meal out of her PB&J.

I finally made it to the computer to begin to record the fleeting memories of my morning. By tomorrow they would be gone, pushed aside by the momentum of this phase of my life. I managed to type one sentence. And then the phone rang. My mother. Who had a quick question about an upcoming birthday. And then spent the next hour and a half hashing things out with me. She likes to hash things out.

I finally broke away from the phone call when B's post-nap crying became a crescendo. So much for my small window of productivity and decompression time. It took me a while to calm her down. And when I finally had, school was out and it was time for the homework onslaught to begin. The hash session had stripped me of my equilibrium, as it always does, and I lost my patience with J who is the world's biggest dawdler when it comes to homework. I just couldn't get him to stay in his chair and focus, so I yelled at him. He yelled back and continued to yell and go out of his way to try to start fights with his siblings. I patted myself on the back for a job well done and sent him to his room where he was instructed to finish his homework before coming out. Without my nudging, it took him 1.5 hours to get it all finished. The first sentence he wrote for an assignment was, "I had a bad day because my mom yells at me." It made me laugh. And apologize. And hope that his teacher wouldn't call DCFS. But I drew a frowny face and wrote, "Poor J" just in case she thought I wasn't aware of his sad, sad home life.

My afternoon was a blur of fussy toddlers, bored preschoolers, grumpy grade-schoolers, and energetic dogs.

Dinner was nothing very memorable. Pasta, I think. Standard fare around here. After dinner, once Shaggy was home, I escaped to my room. I managed to get 10 minutes to myself to type, type, type before S showed up asking about nintendo downloads. And K wanted me to look up how to do sock bun curls so she could try it. It just couldn't wait until tomorrow, apparently. I love spending time with these girls. They are fun to hang out with. They are witty and enthusiastic and categorically helpful. I long to have more time to spend with them without the distractions of to do lists and the needs of little ones. But time like that is few and far between. I love being their mother and look forward to getting to know them all over again as they move through the phases of their lives.

Then it was time for the bedtime routine. Which took hours, even with two of us, and more patience than I had. But it still had to be done. The highlight was when I got to chase R from corner to corner and room to room as she cowered and cried and begged me not to take off the band aids from her three immunizations. But we got it done and she bounced back to cheery, except for her runny nose and hacking cough. She amazes me. Truly. Her ability to jump between moods as easily as a butterfly flitters from flower to flower. I think she is my hero.

With two tucked into bed, it was time to cajole J into the bath. Another activity where he excels at dawdling. But it gave us a welcome respite from his foul temper. Which seemed to get washed away along with the sand and dirt and whatever else was lingering under his fingernails. He emerged clean and happy and full of questions. Mostly about stuff I couldn’t answer. So he went and had a serious discussion with Shaggy about ghosts. A newly discovered fear thanks to an overheard conversation between two budding paranormal investigators at school. He is now afraid that there are ghosts in every room. He doesn’t want to be alone. It’s a good thing that he shares a room with Baby B or we probably would have been rearranging some furniture. He now resists going to bed even more than normal. When Shaggy explained that ghosts weren’t real (now would not be a good time for the whole ‘our spirits leave our bodies at death‘ thing, I think), that they were just in stories like monsters and dragons, J insisted that they were real. Because he heard his friends say that you could see them as spots in the backs of pictures. Case closed, according to Shaggy, because Mommy has taken pictures in every room and there have never been any spots. Voila! Ghost free home. Good night. Except anxiety disorders don’t follow lines of logical thinking. The fear stayed put. But J did modify his prayer, which he says word for word every night, usually with very little modification. Now it goes something like this:

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for this day. Thank you for food and water and the sun and school and work and whiteboard markers and legos and Baby B. Please bless there to be no mites, no tics, no fleas, and no spiders. Please bless nothing to hurt me, nothing to bother me, and nothing to go wrong. Please bless there to be no ghosts.  Please bless there to be no scary noises.  And please bless me not to be scared. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Asking God for help with not being scared is the most perfect thing this little boy can ask for.

Once he was tucked safely, or not so safely depending on who you asked, it was on to sock buns and nintendo downloads. And the realization that I still hadn't done those urgent things. It took me a while to remember what they were. I sometimes think my mind is going, that these crazy days are robbing me of my ability to remember things because too much happens. I cannot hold even a fraction of it in my memory. Which is why my blog posts are so important to me. I want to remember more than I am able to on my own. I want to record it--a window for the future me to look into and relive a small piece of today's normal. Because I know that it will not be tomorrow's normal. It is certainly far from yesterday's normal. If the past me were dropped into my current life, she would have a breakdown. No doubt about it. But that is a thought for another post.

For now, it is time to rest. I have recorded one day, one day of my life. It was not a perfect day. There would probably be nothing from this day that I would have remembered a week from now. But now that I have recorded it, it will live on. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Just before crawling into bed, I told Shaggy that I thought we should just skip K's application to the specialized music high school we were considering. There's no more time. The deadline is upon us. All my intentions of working on it today didn't happen. And I have serious doubts about our ability to get her over there every day come next fall. So she will miss a potentially great experience simply because we are overwhelmed. Ah, well. It isn't the first time and it won't be the last.

I'm realizing that it is such a struggle to find a balance between being in the moment and planning for the next moment. Both are important, vital even. But it doesn't seem possible to do them both at the same time. So I am left to bounce back and forth between them, planning and cherishing. Cherishing and planning. And knowing all the while that most of it will fade away with time. Except for the lessons I have learned and the ways I have let myself be changed by the process. If I can just remember . . .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this post!!!! You are so amazing for writing all this down! No one would believe except for someone who has lived it. I agree that if your past self (read: me who is not there yet) got dropped in your now life she would have a nervous breakdown! It's exhausting just to read about your day. Love you! -- Shaggy's sister S