Thursday Nourishment – Guest Post by Katrina Anne Willis

I’ve sort of got a girl crush on this amazing writer/mom/cool person I met on this funny thing called Facebook. Seriously, we met over the comments section on one of my favorite blog’s Facebook page (she was meeting THE Anne Lamott, so I creeped in and started talking to her.) What’s really weird is that we used to live 10 minutes apart, know some of the same people, both have a lot of kids and each seem to try to be a sane, spiritual being in this same big world – so the world got small and we got kindred.

I am pretty picky about who gets my “tears” on the internet and it takes a lot to get into my crazy head. Somehow, Katrina always does it. Maybe it’s because she has four kids and she’s been to mental and back again or maybe it’s because she’s funny or it could be that she is just an amazing writer. You can judge yourself, I am sharing my FAVORITE Katrina essay for our nourishment guest post today.

If you like the popular blog “Momastery”, you should add Katrina’s blog to your blog roll. I think you will enjoy. You can check her blog out here : Katrina Anne Willis. If you want to read a sample of her “big time writing” –  you can read and review “Baby Steps” here. (Bring your tissues, moms)

Ok, enough of my words. I hope you get the beautiful, ugly cry I got reading this. Be nourished! PS, after  you read this essay, go read this one, my 2nd to favorite. 

Toddlers and Teens and In Betweens

Our kids are 15, 13, 12, and 10. That means at one point in our lives, they were 5, 3, 2, and barely out of the womb. When Mary Claire was born, Gus was not yet walking. When George (the baby) was born, Sam (the oldest) was still in preschool.

People ask how we did it. How did we manage with 4 kids under the age of 5? And my answer? We just did. It was what we knew, what we created, what our lives were all about. Parents of quads do it. We know a family who just had their 9th kid. NINE! Makes us look like lightweights in comparison. And that mother of nine? She’s always smiling. Always.

I was not always smiling.

Many have asked how hard it was to go from one to two, from two to three, from three to four. And here’s my experience… zero to one was the hardest. Zero to one rocked my world. When Sam was born, I was a lunatic. I was afraid of every germ, of every disease, of every nuclear holocaust that had ever been threatened. I was entirely sure he’d choke on his food, fall out of his crib and directly on his soft spot, be eaten by wolves. And meningitis? It haunted me. I don’t know why. But every time he ran a fever, I was SURE. I was ill-prepared to be a mother. I’d always hated babysitting (ask Chandra, she has first-hand experience with all my failures as a sitter), had always been more of a tomboy than a nurturer. I played with basketballs more than I ever played with dolls. I didn’t know what to do with a baby, I only knew that I loved him with a ferocity that scared the shit out of me.

Then came Gus. People asked, “How do you love the second baby as much as the first?” And that always seemed a bit silly to me. Because you do. You love them with the same fierceness, with the same all-encompassing power. Your heart expands with each baby. It has a limitless capacity to love. And, of course, Gus made sure we noticed his arrival. He and Glenn Close? They would not be ignored.

Next came sweet Mary Claire. That finger-sucking, pink-wearing, smiling-all-the-time baby. We had her pretty quickly after Gus. I was afraid I’d chicken out if we didn’t keep going, and I knew I wanted six kids. (My uterus made me stop at four, but that’s a story for another day…) At this point, we went from man-to-man to zone defense. It’s a bit of an adjustment to be outnumbered by those who can’t wipe their own tushes, but like everything else in life, you learn. You adapt. You keep the other team from scoring too often.

And George. Georgeous. Baby George. I was as big as a barn when he made his debut. Waddling up and down the preschool stairs, carrying Gus in one arm and Mary Claire in the other so they wouldn’t go plummeting down into the dark basement abyss. Because “my uterus was tired,” we knew George would be our last.

Those early days, quite honestly, are a blur. Gus was our baby who didn’t sleep. We tried everything with that one — we swaddled him into his carseat and put his carseat into his crib so he’d get used to being in his room. I cried a lot back then. (Not really all that different from today.) I remember pleading with him as I sat on the wooden floor beside his crib, trying desperately not to curl up and go to sleep under his Paddington mobile. “Please go to sleep,” I’d beg. “Please. Please. Please. Just for an hour. Just one hour.”

The early days were all about survival. While Chris was at work or at IU (let’s all remember that these are the years during which he got his master’s degree, then his doctorate…) or supervising a school activity, the kids and I were on our own. I’d strap Gus and Mary Claire into the double jogging stroller, load George up in the Baby Bjorn, give Sam a piggy-back ride, and we’d be on our way… to the grocery store, to the mall, to a restaurant. Those were the two-cart days: when shopping at Marsh, I’d push a cart for the groceries and pull a cart that contained all the kids. We weren’t fast, but we were a sight to behold.

The nighttime routine was akin to a marathon. One in the bath tub, one out. Another one in, another one out. Lotion, powder, diapers, PJs, books, songs, bed. Chris and I would tag-team it all. Unless, of course, he was at IU. Then it would just be me.

I remember crying at my beloved uncle/doctor’s office because Sam stopped drinking milk at one point. “Is he going to die?” I asked. “Are all of his bones going to break? Will he be crippled with osteoporosis by the time he’s ten?” And my sweet, straight-talking doctor/uncle said this to me, “Honey Baby, there are children in this world who eat nothing but rice and fish eyeballs. Shit survives.” It may seem a bit crass to you, but if you knew my uncle/doctor, you’d know that it wasn’t. It came straight from his tough-love heart, and it became my mantra… when they boycotted vegetables, when we ate too many McDonald’s cheeseburgers… when breakfast consisted of Pop-Tarts and donuts… when they skinned their knees and bruised their hearts. Shit survives. It is the beauty of this crazy life.

Those early years were the physical ones. Everything we did involved a high degree of manpower. We’d carry our gear around like pasty, overweight Sherpas. High chairs, carseats, diaper bags, Pack and Plays. By the end of the day, we’d fall into bed, exhausted. My muscles ached, my legs were tired, my arms were sore. Every single moment, I was spent.

We set lots of kid parameters back then. It was a necessity, not a luxury. By age five, you were in charge of your own wiping, seat-buckling, milk pouring, and buttons. Those might not have been our most hygienic days, but little by little, they became more manageable. Some mornings we even made it to school on time.

The physical days have since morphed into the mental ones. Now that our kids are teens, tweens, and pre-teens, they take care of their own physical needs. They wipe themselves (I don’t actually check that, but I’m definitely banking on it), wash their own hair, make their own lunches, load their own backpacks. But they also come to us with middle school drama and full-blown teenage grunting. There’s either too much communication (Mary Claire… talking… nonstop… All. Day. Long.) or none at all. Parenting teenagers requires less physical stamina, but the mental prowess of a seasoned Zen Master.

When doors are slammed and texts go unanswered and eyes are rolled, I want to yell, “Don’t you remember that I offered you MY BOOBS at all hours of the day and night ON DEMAND??” But actually voicing that statement would probably do more harm than good. And with all the parenting missteps we’ve taken thus far, we’d just have to add additional money to the therapy fund. And there’s never enough money to go around, anyway. Have I mentioned how expensive these babies are? Don’t think you’re getting a raise when you no longer have to pay for daycare. Because soon thereafter come book rentals and sports fees and lacrosse equipment and hollow-legged teenager snack rations and car insurance and college tuition and weddings with open bars. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

There are two things, I believe, that have sustained us — Chris and me — in this parenting journey…

1. Love and respect for each other.

2. Unconditional love for our kids.

That doesn’t mean as a family that we always like each other. Sometimes, in fact, I want to jump on a plane and fly far, far away to a private beach that contains nothing more than sunshine, a library, a full-service bar, a cabana boy, and no cell signal.

But we always love each other. Ice cream before dinner is negotiable. Love is not.

There are so many mountains we can die on — the key is choosing which ones truly matter. You want to cut your long, beautiful hair off? It’s just hair. You want to wear plaid shorts with a striped shirt? It will make for a great graduation day picture later. You want to go on a date when you’re 13? Umm. No.

We haven’t always gotten it right. I’m not even sure we’re 50/50. But my best advice to new parents in the throes of the physical years is to breathe.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.

Remember every possible detail. Write it down.

Take time to nurture your marriage/partnership — it was you and your spouse first and foremost, it will be you and your spouse after the kids have grown and left home.

Trust yourselves. Your own instincts are better than any advice you can read in a book.

Find a mentor who has been there before. Watch, learn, grow. Thank God for my sister and my cousins who blazed the Mama trail before me.

Never say never. I was the perfect parent before I had kids. Just ask Carrie.

You’re not the only one who can “do it the right way.” Let your partner take over. Let the grandparents spoil them. Hire babysitters. It takes a village. Sometimes it takes an entire country.

It will get easier. And then it will get harder again. Life is like that. There will not be a day when you’ll wake up and say, “We’ve arrived!” (Although the moment your youngest straps himself successfully into his own carseat will feel that way.) Little victories become big wins. Celebrate them. And know that new challenges will come. They are, in fact, peeking around the corner right now. Teenagers are a breed of their own. They stink, they’re sullen, they’re messy, they’re secretive, they’re moody. And they’re also fun and witty and smart and full of life and wonder and promise.

Those babies? The ones whose noses you’re wiping and whose shoes you’re tying? They blissfully, magically, wondrously came from you. But they’re not you. Remember that. They’re individuals. They’re human beings with their own little brains and their own little quirks and their own little wants and needs and dreams. Nurture the shit out of that. They may not be who you expected them to be, but they’re perfectly themselves.

Give them a safe place to land, always. The babies, the toddlers, the teens. They all need love and kindness and reassurance at home. And when you’re done yelling because you’ve — once again — lost your shit, make sure they know that despite your craziness, you still love them. You have always loved them. You will always love them.

Let them know that you will make mistakes, but that you will always have their best interests at heart.

Expect the best from them. Not your best, but their best. Vast difference.

Love them. Love them. Love them. Kiss them while they’ll still let you. Hug them. Sing to them. Read to them. Laugh with them. Let them see you cry. Then they’ll know that all those emotions are okay, are normal, are expected, are perfect parts of our human imperfection.

You may not think you’re doing it right, Mamas and Daddies, but you are. Oh, you are. Just look at those precious faces. There’s nothing wrong about that.

Get dirty. Get clean. Get grateful.

Fall down. Stand back up.

Do the work. Embrace the reward.

Hang in there. Sleep when you can. Drink when you must. Hide a secret stash of Oreos. Pull up your britches and get on with it. Hang on tight. Let go when it’s safe.

Enjoy the ride.

XO

Tuesday Taste: Fuel The Body Well Guest Post

Last August at the Blogher’12 Conference, I had the privilege of a chance meeting with a girl after my own nutritional heart – Simona Hadjigeorgalis from Fuel The Body Well.Com. I met her briefly but feel like I know her well from following her awesome blog and watching her personal videos on nutrition and health.

Simona was nice enough to put together a video JUST FOR US!

In today’s Tuesday Taste, Simona shares with us 5 quick-tips for nourishing our bodies.  She made this video especially for “Just Breathe Mama” readers, knowing that we mama’s need reminders on prioritizing our own wellness!!

Enjoy this video and check out Simona’s full bio and info below her video…and then go check out her blog fuelthebodywell.com for more simple and practical advice on health and nutrition!

Simona is the co-creator of a family of wellness websites developed to empower people to connect to the wisdom of their human vehicles. She is also the owner of SiVantage Marketing.

While her kids are at school, if she is not consulting for fortune 500 companies or doing P90X2, Simona is either writing for FueltheBodyWell.com and TrainingforLabor.com or she is mentoring wellness-minded and aspiring Momtrepreneurs on their paths to financial freedom.

You can find Simona on Facebook, YouTube , and Pinterest and occasional visit to Twitter.

All Things Nourishment

If you haven’t noticed, I am a big believer in nourishing your body AND soul…especially as a mother. The minute we find out we are pregnant we start to sacrifice the priority of our mental and physical health for the priority of ANOTHER body and mind… and  from there, it never ends. The time we take to spiritually reflect or treat our physical body well starts to dwindle, although this is the time we need that spirit and body the most.

I have two guest bloggers this week for you to enjoy. They are both “experts” in their field of nourishment … one for the physical body and the other for the spiritual soul. Come back prepared to listen, learn and do something for yourself this week. I promise you will enjoy them both!

“Tuesday Taste” : “Fueling the Body Well” with Simona

“Thursday Nourishment” : “Toddlers and Teens and In Betweens” with Katrina

As we enter this beautiful fall week, let us be nourished together – the best way!

 

Haunted House at Indianapolis Children’s Museum

Who doesn’t love all things fall – including a visit to childhood every October when Halloween rolls around? The smell of Snickers, Twix, Starburst and Milky Way mingling in a trick or treat bag is like heaven. A close second to the naughty candy made calorie-less one day a year, is the spooky fun you can have getting lost in a haunted house.

Of course, our kids are a little on the young side…but since Haunted House at The Indianapolis Children’s Museum offers “non-scary” hours with the lights on, we went ahead and checked out the”Wicked Workshop” last week. (It opened this weekend AND it’s the 49th annual event!)

Although a little young for the witches and really spooky stuff, they still had fun touching the rats and animals down low, watching the lights, dancing to a little “Thriller” and running through the big fuzzy pumpkin. There was so much detail and activity, you could get away with taking toddlers to teenagers, and all have a great time.  They REALLY liked the ‘trick or treat” at the end and there was even a concession stand with various fall treats.

Tip: Marsh has discounted tickets if you aren’t a member! Here is more information on scary/non scary hours and ticket prices ! INFO!

Enjoy a little snapshot of our 1st haunted house!  

 

Prime Car Wash: No Brainer for Mamas & Papas

So, moving on from marriage to my minivan.

These are my minivan thoughts:

Graffiti of fruit squeeze pouches on the doors and windows, crushed crackers in the carpet, socks ripped off and chewed and thrown to and fro, half eaten chicken nuggets, random sour milk sippy, the occasional missing dirty diaper and the piles of random toys, books, old wrinkled balloons (hazard, I know), and bags and jackets and dirt and grime and wrappers and …

I can’t breathe.

So, I’m lucky that my friends at Prime have a pretty good gig going on for parents with disgusting cars that need help. Disclaimer: I tend to stay away from reviews…but I thought this worth sharing. I did get some perks to try out the wash, but was not paid by the company to give my opinion!

During my “mother’s day out” time last week, I spent around one hour sitting in a clean cafe, with wireless and good music and ended up with what appeared to be a new minivan. I didn’t even know it smelled so bad, until it smelled so good.

If you live in the Indianapolis area – you should go check out Prime Car Wash on 37 and 146th Street. It’s an interior/exterior full service car wash with a CLEAN comfy waiting area with good music, televisions, free wireless and i-pads to use. Did I mention a real coffee bar ? (not grouse black coffee like at the car dealership). It’s only $45/month for a membership including: as many inside/outside washes as you can cram into the month and free coffee in a cafe setting while you wait. PS, Orange Leaf is right next to Prime if you have your kids with you…I always blame ice cream runs on my kids.

OH…and you know how you always clean before the cleaning person comes, you don’t have to for them, they cleaned around my junk and THREE car seats…

Thank you Prime for making me feel a little more sane with a clean, shiny mama minivan!

*PRINT OUT THIS BLOG POST AND BRING INTO PRIME CAR WASH THROUGH THE MONTH OF OCTOBER TO RECEIVE $10 OFF ANY DETAIL SERVICE!*

BEFORE (that is baby food puree that is probably about a year old on the right, eww): 

 AFTER:

Vows

(written October 6, 2012…somewhere much warmer. Life has happened since, so please excuse the gap in posting time…pretty fitting for life as I know it right now.)

Five years ago. Today. 
We look classy, huh?

I can smell the ‘Scent of Peace’ perfume on my skinny and smooth 26-year-old chest.  I can hear the sweet voice of Carol King in the background singing “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Women” as they zip up my dress in the dressing room at the back of the church. I can see the smiling, excited faces of my girls and family as we made our way to the tiny chapel in that church where it all began. I know the thick wooden doors were closed…open the doors and see all the people. Wind hit my face. I’m sure the trumpets played…because I paid them a check, not because I heard them. In my memory, the chapel went quiet, like when you go under water and everything is blurred and your ears are full of water rush. It felt like I floated home – right up that aisle, clinging to my dad’s arm as I made my way to my groom. We were so excited. In fact, friends later teased us because we “side kissed” when my Dad handed me over…we simply couldn’t wait until the preacher blessed the allowance of the first kiss. He really was the prince that saved me from the frogs. I was ready to be his ever after. 

Of course, that sounds terribly hopeless and tragically romantic – but it was the truth. I was his lady and he was my man, and nothing – NOTHING, I thought, would take us under. 

We are blessed to be in paradise this week as we ring in five years of marriage. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic has done a nice job of echoing the fairy tale feel of our wedding day. We’ve had this weekend to celebrate, reflect and relax on all that has happened, or not happened, over the past five years. We have been gifted a step out of reality, much like that wedding day was, to just be together and celebrate life together. To reconnect in the present, vow to the future and learn from the past. 

Thinking back on the day we said “I Do”, it seems confusing. We say our vows when we look our best. Feel our best. Have gathered among the best. When we have prepared every detail, overspent on the altar flowers and carefully picked the appetizers served to guests during the God awful transition time where the wedding party lets their hair down and sober guests stare at their feet waiting to get served. Yes, we say the vows, but let’s be honest, saying the vows that day are kind of like when you go on a flight for vacation. You sit down and let the flight attendant say what to do in an emergency, but really, all you are thinking about is the frozen drink you are going to have when your toes hit the sand. The words are very meaningful but they get lost – just part of the pomp and circumstance. They blur into the background, there when you need them for the emergency… with prayers you never really need them. 

In my opinion, there aren’t many days or weeks or months that go by without “marriage emergencies” that call upon those vows. You need those words, and you don’t need them when you are in your wedding gown toasting champagne with your husband, sharing your first bite of cake together. You need them at 3 am, over a middle of the night feeding, when you haven’t showered for days, your boobs are leaking and you trip over the nine loads of laundry sitting on the sticky floor. Or when the house is empty of any food outside of crumbled crackers, you, coincidentally, haven’t showered yet again for three days and all the kids are sick and you are sick and he is sick and, and, and… 

That is when we need our vows – on the not so fairy tale days that make up life. The vows, although lovely and meaningful, are said at totally the wrong time. Scott and I wrote our vows, so truthfully, they did mean WAY MORE to me than simply repeating ornate vows offered to us. I know he said “when he was away from me, he couldn’t wait to get back to me,” and I said “you make my crazy sane.” And they were sweet and poetic and made me tear up and chill all over my overly fake tanned Bridezilla body. However,  I wouldn’t know what any of those promises would mean until the ideal picture of our life together would start to take shape into reality. Although full of so much life and joy and beauty, it has been a puzzle missing pieces here and there – leaving us scared and afraid the picture would never come together. 

I was sitting on the beach this week reading “Bossypants” by Tina Fey. (HIGHLY recommend, hilarious on all measures). She told this story towards the end of the book, referring to a time in her life where she was facing a “crisis” having to do with her family/marriage: (*her words not mine. Excuse the vulgarity…but it just fits*)

One time my mom babysat a set of the Italian kids while their parents went to a wedding reception. This was the first time this nice couple had gone out alone since their children were born. Their parents dropped them off after the ceremony. Little Christo and Maria were still all dressed up. Christo wore a tiny black suit and a white shirt. Maria wore a red velvet dress and cried in the playpen from the moment her parents left until the moment they returned. My mom tried everything to console her, food…The end.

After a couple of hours of this, seven-year-old Christo was beside himself. He had never been babysat before. How long was this *fuckery* going to go on? His sister was hysterical. He paced around our living room, now in his shirtsleeves and black pants. Pulling his golden curls nervously, he looked like the night manager of a miniature diner who had just had a party of six dine and dash. He ranted to his baby sister in Greek, ‘HGE, KATAVITNOE, BRI, MAJOJ!’ This sent my mother running into the dining room laughing hysterically. I chased her. What? What did he say? Roughly translated it was ‘Oh! My Maria! What is to become of us?’ 
His overdramatic ridiculousness tickled my mom in such a specific way that she doubled over in the dining room, hoping the kids wouldn’t see that she was laughing so hard at them she peed a little. A phenomenon I now understand on all levels.  
They were going to be fine, but they couldn’t possibly believe it.   
That must be what I look like to my doctor friend. That must be what I look like to anyone with a real problem – active-duty soldier, homeless person, Chilean miner, etc. A little tiny person with nothing to worry about running in circles, worried out of her mind. 

 

Either way, everything will be fine. But if you have an opinion, please feel free to offer it to me through the gap in the door of a public restroom. Everyone else does.

 

- Tina Fey, “Bossypants”


I cried. I cried because this story represents so many of the bumps, little and big, that Scott and I have had in five years. Some are very public and some are very, very private. Most are not that dramatic, yet all have been life altering. All bring a new piece to a puzzle that I thought I had all figured out five years ago. I thought I was vowing to the picket fence, the 2 kids and the perfect career while supporting Scott in all his endeavors. My vows were right, my ideals were wrong. And I am often that little tiny person, running around – NOT BELIEVING it will ever be fine again.

It’s been said before and I’ll say it again. Life is what happens when you are busy making plans. To my groom, Scott, thank you. thank you. thank you, from the bottom of my 31-year-old, “a lot more wrinkled and a little more saggy” chested heart – you still make my crazy sane. And you ALWAYS remind me when I am the strung out manager running around after a dine and dash, assuming life is so derailed it will never feel normal again, that it will be fine. It will be fine.

WE will be fine. 

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