...you are the reason so many of us get a bad name, and why the mommy wars continue in this vicious ridiculous cycle.  You are also the reason husbands feel like they can't. ever. win.

I just read this article from ModernMom on how "Daddy is Always the Good Guy" and my knee jerk reaction has inspired this post.  Although I'm hoping, truly dearly hoping, that the entire thing was just satire. ...continue reading To That Mom Who Can’t See Past Her Own Jealousy….

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50 Shades title Let’s get the paint out, she said.

It’ll be fun, she said.

The boys will love it, she said.

It won’t be that messy, she said.

It’ll inspire their creativity, she said.

Sometimes my inner mommy has…er… interesting ideas. IMG_1914 I’ve been trying to embrace this whole stay at home parenting thing more.  I want to be with the kids.  In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that I was ranting about the fact that I had to go back to work full time.

But I’m struggling to do it mindfully and practically.  How does one be a stay at home mom mindfully?  Does it mean spending my every single moment with the kids?  How do I do that and keep a sense of self?  Is it wrong that I want to maintain my sense of self?  How much structure or un-structure should I be pushing for a one and three year old?  Do I need to present them with a three course lunch because I’m home and I can?  I promised myself to just do what’s right for me and mine, right?

I’m finding myself caught between the varying parenting techniques, sometimes treading water, sometimes drowning in a sea of self doubt.  Much like everything in America- there are far too many choices, none of them ideal, all of them an extreme cult type thing- where it is all or nothing and forget everyone else.

There is the independence doctrine, filled with references of walking to school in the snow and making dolls for Christmas, wherein kids should be forced encouraged to entertain themselves to make their absentee parents proud foster individuality and promote independence.  This one also pushes supports having few toys and gadgets and zero screen time.  But when left to their own imaginations devices, my house quickly devolves into the boar hunting scene from Lord of the Flies.  And quite honestly, when my boys are teenagers I don’t want them going on some sort of tv/computer/video game bender because we’ve not let them taste the punch.  Make a fruit forbidden and you can bet your buns that your kids will find a way to become OBSESSED with that very thing.  We tried this with my sister and the internet.  It blew up in our face, and potentially could have become a very dangerous situation.  It is a blessing that we’ve been able to experience parenting teens before having kids of our own.  Because, let me tell you- we learned a heck of a lot about what NOT to do.  This method could work, if I had a farm, and if I didn’t love my Hulu so much.  A hypocrite I will not be.

Then there is the perfectionist micromanaging technique, which one would think my type A control freak would love.  This involves detailed schedules and pre-printed grocery lists, preferably crafted by oneself because none of the calendars or day planners available in Office Max or on the wide world that is the internet have the right set up, or the right font, or are pretty enough.  These moms also have command centers free of clutter and color coded wall calendars that sync with their iPhones.  They lose their baby weight super fast, volunteer for everything, can speed clean their house in half an hour and have mastered the ten minute homemade dinner.  Or at least that’s what their beautiful blogs would have you think.  I’m a reader of many such blogs- because I often get great ideas from them about how to stay organized and I’m envious in awe of their abilities to seemingly keep it all together in a nice and neat little package all tied with a Pinterest inspired hand crafted bow.  There is the fact that I think most of them are so NOT as with it as they portray.  They have a brand to sell themselves, and with all branding, there is a lot of shiny colorful packaging covering up what amounts of be the same parts of any other commodity.  They are all human.

The problem with the micromanager is that I’ve done it (nesting is fun!), relished it, and then realized that I was one checklist away from locking myself in my closet from the sheer overwhelming impossibility of it all.  I was continuously out scheduling, and out organizing myself, and was becoming an over-planned hot mess.  It is precisely the reason why I’ve decided I want to embrace practicality and mindfulness in my life, or at least attempt to in between editions of my personalized day planner and cleaning schedule.  I decided to try and stop branding myself as a mommy blogger and just start being real with myself and whoever may grace their presence here.

Then there are the traditionalists, who really are the homemakers of the 50’s, reincarnated in to these millennials that are up working out at 5 am and making muffins for breakfast and keeping their home spotless and crafting with the children and going to bible study and doing the laundry and pressing their husband’s shirts and getting a three course dinner on the table with dessert wafting from the kitchen.  They make their own baby food and bread (wait, I do that too).  I only half think that these parents are fantasies.  Because I know some moms who certainly qualify.  And I’m not naive- I know they have hard days and good days, but somehow they have so much grace and character that they can see the big picture and remove themselves from selfishness and self-judgement.  I wish with my whole heart that I could be that enthusiastic about being a mom and wife.  And I am often questioning what is wrong with me when I can’t be that way.  Everything is for a time right?  Why can’t I let go of sanity riding for a few years to be a 120% love it all mommy and wife?

The answer to that is, I. Don’t. Know.  I don’t know, and I can’t dwell on it, otherwise some real self doubt starts to set in and that is not at all productive.  Maybe I’m too much a pessimist, a cynic.  Maybe I’m too selfish.  Maybe my rough start to life has made me obsessively extremely protective of the things I cherish, like my ride time.

The list is endless- there are the homeschoolers (religious and non), the un-schoolers, and the overachievers (i.e. flash cards and a calendar filled with field trips and extracurriculars).  There are the social butterflies and the naturalists.  There are the germaphobes and over-protectors, the vaccinators and the co-sleepers.  The constant throughout them all, at least to me, is that when you sign on you sign on with full commitment.  There is no taste-testing the doctrine, if you drink the cool-aid you better keep on drinking.  Better yet, you better start offering your cool-aid to every other parent you know, because they. are. doing. it. wrong.

So what are the rest of us supposed to do?  I know there are many friends of mine that are in the same boat- and we feel, well, ostracized from the herds.  We don’t fit into any parenting mold, and, honestly, I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.  I’m a little bit of all of them, mixed up in my own glorious individuality.  I like a crazy organized closet, in all it’s color-coded sleeve length sorted glory, but we had baked chicken and mac-n-cheese for dinner…. again.  I love seasonal decorating, but sword fighting with the boys?  Not. So. Much.  And, yeah, The Chronicles of Narnia is on in the background for the 80 gagillionth time because it helps dull the screaming.  Painting, sure, but the mess is going to drive me bananas and I’ve still got to figure out what to do with the remaining 10 hours and 35 minutes of our day, and I have help.  (I know, I know, cry me a river.)  Sometimes I just want to work on my beautiful blog, and I never, ever care that my truck smells like a barn.

It is not at all lost on me that, if I am to maintain my semblance of self, then there must be a semblance of structure.  If I am to keep riding, then I must keep a calendar and schedule.

I think most new parents feel this way, and some how we get caught up in these ideas of the perfect parent.  We stop following our instincts and begin sampling everyone’s cool-aid, which does nothing more then give us a really bad stomach ache.  Either that, or we have to start mixing the cool-aid with vodka so we can enhance the flavor.  Modern practical parenting should be like a good stew, aged meat, tossed in the fry pan first, fresh veggies of all different sizes, seasonings to taste, with the occasional can of corn if you forgot to buy fresh, and a splash of beer or wine to give it depth.  A good stew helps you survive the winter.  So, too, should our approach to parenting.  We should shop the aisles and use what suits our tastes.

Then again, maybe this is just all in my head.  Maybe I really do need to get over myself.  Either way, I’ll continue to try to figure out what the answers are for me and mine.  I’ll try to be more mindful and practical on a daily basis.

We had fun painting.  Little R tried to eat the paint, but quickly realized that was not a good idea.  Maybe I shouldn't have put the paint on plates.... IMG_1916 IMG_1912 I made myself stop and interact in the moment, rather than chasing their every move with a paper towel.  And when they decided after ten minutes the water to clean the brushes was more entertaining, I did not intervene (i.e. it took every ounce of strength I had) to clean up right away, but instead let them play with the brushes in the water and “paint” the porch. IMG_1913 Plus, I managed to not get any paint on myself, so I consider it a win. See?!  I told you so!  she said.  Now if we can just get that scholarship to art school!  IMG_1917 Love and Happyness to all!

~M

What are your thoughts on modern parenting and maintaining self?  Where do you find balance?

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This is a mommy rant post, for all those mommies out there who sometimes really really need a shoulder to cry on, or whiskey in their coffee.  Multitudes of sarcasm will ensue.  

But before that, the other day a got this shot, which means there is hope on the horizon!  😉

Occasionally this happens.  Must mean we are doing something right....right?
Occasionally this happens. Must mean we are doing something right....right?  (Please excuse the mess, we just got our HHE!)

September 5, 2014:

Whoever came up with the phrase terrible two’s is a liar, and should be punished accordingly, because how simply evil can one be to make all the parents of the world believe that when they get through those first two years the heavens are going to open up and shower rainbows and unicorns upon them and their little angels, who will now magically be done with tantrums and diapers.

Three is really hard folks.  Sometimes it Just. Plain. Sucks.  Living with a three year old is akin to living with a miniature bi-polar terrorist.

Seriously, I think my three year old could give Al-Qaeda a run for their money.  I mean, just unleash the tasmanian devil on them for an afternoon and then BAM, world peace before you know it.  Who needs airstrikes?  Note I say Al-Qaeda and not ISIS- because they are just cray cray.

Anyway I digress, as usual, it started yesterday afternoon when usually a good nap sets the stage for a great afternoon, except when it doesn’t.  Patrick woke up with with an itch to be naughty, and when that happens, I might as well just tie myself up in a chair and relinquish all authority.  I’m not sure what it is that he inhales that sends him on a bender of mayhem, but depending on his mood it can last anywhere from hours to days….

He wanted more fruit snacks, and when I said no, he tantrumed (apparently tantrumed isn’t a word, but selfie is, so get with the program Merriam-Webster).  This was followed by taking his anger out on Little R with an inflatable Thor hammer.  (Thanks Dad, for the fruit snacks AND the hammer by the way- because that really made things interesting!)  Little R, shockingly, took offense and set out for his defense strategy which is to whine/cry/scream at a decibel and pitch that only dogs should hear and run for mommy’s legs, successfully tripping me up and making it impossible for me to move, i.e. catch Patrick.

So I scolded Patrick for attacking his brother and took the hammer and threw it downstairs.  More tantrum, followed by him raiding the refrigerator for more food.

“You may have an apple if you are hungry.”

“But I just want some more fruit snacks.”

“No, if you are hungry you can have an apple or some milk.”

“But if I say sorry to Reagan for hitting him, then I can ask for more fruit snacks.”

Nice try, buddy.

“That’s very good to apologize to Reagan for hitting him, but you still cannot have fruit snacks.”

Repeat tantrum above, this time with inflatable spider man sword.  He gets scolded and sent to his room.

Three is really really hard.

Time to hit the re-set button.  Deep breath, put on false Stepford mommy smile, glance longingly at wine cabinet.  “How about a bath everybody!”  Reagan goes squealing to the bathtub in excitement.

Thank goodness!  My inner mom pats herself on the back.  Good thinking!  Toddlers:2  Mom:1

We get the bath going and Patrick peaks his head around and decides to undress to get in as well.  I get Reagan all bathed up and shampoo Patrick, and then my three year old pulls yet another personality out of his hat.  This one was the I’m-suddenly-afraid-of-hair-washing- alter ego.  He screamed like I was spraying him with scalding water, or battery acid.  He screamed and screamed.  And then Reagan screamed and screamed.  I’m sure the entire building could hear it, since the little bathroom windows all line up along a kind of internal chimney in the building.  And then Reagan slipped and fell in the tub and screamed even more.

There goes all that work we put in to getting Reagan to be unafraid of the water again.  Months and months down the drain in a nanosecond.  Not to mention all the neighbors will think those Americans torture their children.

Three is really, really, really hard.  Toddler:3 Mom:1

I lose my temper, because that’s a totally productive thing to do.  “ENOUGH!”  And I proceed to fuss at Patrick for being, well for being three, and then I fuss at Reagan for refusing to actually sit down in the tub so as to not slip and fall….  because the 18 month old totally understands where I’m coming from.

Toddlers:4  Mom: 1

But they are scared into being quiet for a moment.  As I’m sulking in guilt and getting Reagan dressed Patrick cleans up the bath toys and drains the tub…

And then proceeds to let out his Chucky laugh and run around the house naked, refusing to get dressed.  A game of chase with Patrick is never any fun.  It’s like trying to catch the snitch on Harry Potter.  He’s too fast and there is a good chance I’ll end up with a broken arm.  If only I had a flying broom.

Three is, well you get it by now, really HARD.  Toddlers:5  Mom: 1

I wasn’t surprised by the chase, because how else is he going to react when I lose my cool?

At this point H calls and I freak out over the phone for about 90 seconds, you know, because all of THIS is happening, AND we are out of juice and butter, AND the internet is down, AND there is a problem with my phone.  Stupid third world telecom carriers, maybe I should get the CEO of Orange to watch the tasmanian devil for a day….

I put in a movie and try to get dinner started with Reagan latched between my legs.  I pry him off me and set him aside and he decides to protest by climbing onto the kitchen table.  Put up child gate.  Set whiny baby on other side.  Pull out wine bottle and pour BIG glass.  

I put on a playlist and begin chopping veggies.  I ignore the whining, and let the naked Chuckie run around and do whatever.

Toddlers:5  Mom:2

Not one of my best days, but not the worst.

Three sometimes really sucks.  But this too shall pass.

Later before bed, Patrick gives me a hug and a smile and a big “I love you Mommy.”  And my heart melts.  Reset button pushed.

Today is a day which I remember vividly.  I was a freshman at Carolina enjoying a sleep in day until I heard thunderous knocking on our door.  We were one of the only ones with a TV and cable on our hall. Friends of ours had heard what happened and wanted to watch the news.

My roommate's dad was a United pilot and they couldn't get ahold of him for the whole day, and her mom didn't know his schedule. He turned out to be okay, but she had such bad PTSD after that that she ended up having to drop out of school.

A few weeks later we had a football game and everyone was very nervous about the helicopters flying so low. And then a few weeks after that some guy drove his SUV on campus and stabbed several professors. That's when we started to learn and realize that the Raleigh area had quite a few extremists around.

To this day I always think of that day when I see a plane flying unusually low.

Today I've been reading other FS 9/11 stories, and it is both heart wrenching and incredible to see the uniqueness of each experience.  I think, for Foreign Service folks, it was perhaps the most difficult and the most unnerving for those who were abroad.  This was long before I ever even knew my future life would be as a FS wife.

But it seems as though many have already forgotten.  It is about 6 am Eastern Time right now, and the Fox News front page looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 2.17.10 PM

I had to scroll down to see anything about 9/11.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 2.17.27 PM

MSNBC didn't do any better.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 2.19.08 PM

Atleast CNN had something within view without having to scroll, and with a photo no less.  One of the Editors must still really care a lot.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 2.15.58 PM

Maybe I'm being overly sensitive, or maybe I'm right in thinking that the majority of the nation has become complacent.  I know it's early, and these headlines will (hopefully) change once the commemorative moment of silence is about to take place.  Will schools all over stop and remember?  Will teachers tell stories of where they were?  I certainly hope so.

To all those who lost loved ones one that day.  To the heroes on United Flight 93 who refused to give in to terrorists.  To the first responders who died to save others, or are still suffering from after effects.  To all my husband's comrades who fought for our country after.  To all those troops who gave their lives in the mountains of Afghanistan and elsewhere.  To all those soldiers who still suffer from the effects of war.  This community of people who have sacrificed careers and time with family and time at home will always remember.  We will always remember.  I will teach my sons to always remember.

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Warning, seriousness to follow.  And when I’m serious I ramble a bit, so apologies in advance.

Sometimes I have to take a moment and smell the roses.  Things are good.

In an All-American effort to keep working harder and keep self critiquing only to work harder, its nearly impossible to live in the moment and just take things as they are.

Occasionally I need to remind myself that things are good, that I’ve come so far from how I could have ended up, that I’ve achieved so much in a lot of ways.  And even if they aren't, it's OKAY!

I was reminded of this when we had new friends over for a play date.  Over coffee and the sounds of our children’s laughter I had an educated conversation with one of H’s coworkers.  It was so nice to speak with someone who shared a very similar outlook on life.  We talked about the kids and I blushed in embarrassment when I gave Little R a bottle.  It was close to nap time and he was getting cranky. Oh, and did I mention that he’s 18 months old?  I can see our pediatrician, hands off as she is, scowling across the ocean at us.  However, we’ve been through so much transition over the past several months, and, well, I seriously doubt he will be 2 or 3 or 5 years old and still wanting his Ba-ba.  H and I have always parented off of instinct.  We were also blessed with a very independent first child who let us know when he was ready to quit things.  In Little R's case, I'm glad he isn't a thumb sucker, nor does he like pacifiers, so I feel blessed that we are down to 2-3 bottles a day, only before nap and bed time.

“I know…he shouldn’t have a bottle at this point.  I feel awful that he still does,” I explained.  Wow, well that was self-deprecating.

And then my guest scoffed at my embarrassment, “Bah- whatever works for you and yours.”

I could almost here the collective gasps from all my suburban neighbors back in Nova, ready to rattle of a list of reasons/recommendations/judgments as to why “whatever works” is precisely not okay.

But for me, a fifty ton weight was lifted off my shoulders.  Why am I so concerned about how things look or what others think?

It happened again during another visit, with a new family here for the military, when I was chatting about how I think Little P is too over the top for the playgroup, and I feel bad taking him.  I feel like maybe the other moms think him overbearing.  “You probably fit in better than you think!,” she surmised.

Yep, she’s probably right.  And even if she isn’t, what does it matter?  What matters is whatever works for me and my family, and that means getting my boys out to socialize, even when it makes mommy nervous and shy.  It's times like this when I really miss CG (Colorado Girl), because she's like my kindred spirit introvert soul sister.  We get each other so well its scary at times, and she's always the best at encouraging me to follow my gut and get over myself for what's right, or to tell the world to f*&# off if it's appropriate.

Being overseas is just solidifying my opinion that Americans really have overthought and over analyzed things to the point of absurdity.  (Read more about that here.)  We’ve lost all capability to operate off of our instincts, whether romantic or parental or from common sense.  Mothers are constantly comparing themselves to one another or grading themselves off of whatever book they read recently.  Not to mention the obscene levels of judgment shown toward every other women they know.  I mean, obviously my close group of friends are loving and wonderful, but we all frequently discuss the judgment we get from others around us.  Not that we are innocent victims mind you.  I’ve been guilty of this very thing I hate in others, reading about the latest thing to keep a baby happy, then celebrating success for the nanosecond that it works, followed by allowing my ego to inflate to the point where I feel like I can tell everyone else how to do things.  I try, at least, not to do that, and I’m usually too shy to actually speak my thoughts, but it doesn’t make it okay that my internal monologue is lecturing and pontificating like a PhD student.

I recall last year that I ranted about our neighbors who kept their twin girls up much later than we did, and we could hear them crying and fighting to get them to eat dinner at 8 pm….  I was so quick to silently ridicule their schedule, and say “well they just really need sleep” as I smugly enjoyed a drink with my husband.  What I should have realized was that we rarely heard them on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when their girls slept in, probably offering them some precious extra zzzs.  My kids never sleep past 7 am, and rarely past 6:30.

When did Americans become such know-it-alls, in such an amazingly UN-knowledgable and UN-educated way?  When did the encouragement of innovation and individuality and instinct die out?  To each their own right?  I mean we love to throw out cliché after cliché that we claim describes our lives, but in reality most of us are secretly comparing and judging with the rest of them.

And if we aren’t actually being judged, or doing the judging, we all have this nagging inner judgment because we are so paranoid that we are Doing. Everything. Wrong.  That kind of negative thinking puts us on the defensive, and so turns this vicious cycle round and round like a cheap county fair ferris wheel.

The thing that gets to me, though, is that for introverts like me, who already have a hard time fitting in and meeting new friends, this cycle makes us retreat even further into ourselves.  We trust no one.  I’ve been catching myself assuming that I’m unwelcome here because of what I’m used to from back home.  And I know now that it isn’t the case.  So I’m going to try a little harder to come out of my shell.

I’m finding life abroad refreshing.  I feel as independent as ever, because I always have been.  But independence and confidence are two very different things.  Everything happens for a reason.  I think this lifestyle we've chosen is going to bring me new confidence and strength and a renewed faith in humanity because I’m meeting so many wonderful women who have also chosen this crazy life.  And they too, are able to distance themselves and gain a similar perspective that I have.

Whatever works for you and your family.   That's the practical thing to do.  That’s what you should do.  That's what I am going to do.

Love and Happyness to all,

~M