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The Worries of a First Time Kindergarten Mom

My eldest is about to start kindergarten. She has all her supplies, and her new school clothes. We are going to get her hair trimmed and buy her new shoes. I’ve got her bus pick up and drop off times, we went to orientation, we are all set.

She asks me every day how many days left until she starts school. She cannot wait to ride the bus, eat in the cafeteria, and explore her new playground. She is so excited. I am so excited for her.

I am also scared.

I’ve done my best to encourage her to love herself. I’ve tried so hard to teach her that, while not everyone is kind, we can choose to be kind to everyone.

I’ve tried to help her see how it doesn’t matter what others think of us, as long as we are happy with the way we act and the way we treat people, as long as we love the clothes we are wearing or the backpack we have, it’s okay if someone else doesn’t like it. That their opinion doesn’t take away from who we are and what we like.

I’ve tried to instill confidence in her. To give her a shield (or ten) against the onslaught of negativity I know the world is waiting to throw at her. I’ve tried to take negative experiences for her and turn them into teaching moments.

I’ve tried to help her learn that friends are nice to each other, that you don’t have to play with someone who is choosing to be unkind to you. That it’s okay to say “You are not being nice, and I don’t want to play anymore.”

I’ve tried so hard to make sure that she only keeps the best parts of me and the best parts of her daddy, and left all our insecurities and faults behind.

I’ve done everything I can.

But when she gets on that bus in a little over a week, will she remember?

Will someone make fun on her on her first day? Will they make my baby cry? Have I taught her enough, along with her dad and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and preschool teachers, to let it roll off her back and keep on shining?

When she chooses kindness, will the other kids in her class reciprocate?

What about the older kids? Will they be nice to her? This is the first time she will be at a school with kids who are older than her. And ten year olds must seem pretty huge when you’re five.

Have I done enough? Have I given her enough? Have I loved her enough?

I watched her at orientation last week – she had almost every child in that classroom gathered around her to play a game she had gotten started with two children while the grownups wandered around the classroom, trying not to cry. (Okay, maybe just me, but still.)

I think she may have two best friends already, and school hasn’t even started.

She’s informed me she wants to ride the bus the first day, that she doesn’t need me to walk her to class.

She says she doesn’t need me.

She says, “Mommy, it will be fine!”

She is creative and beautiful and intelligent. And she KNOWS it. She KNOWS.

She is a confident little social butterfly who loves everyone she meets and thinks she is beautiful and thinks she is funny and thinks she is nice and smart and good at art and is learning to read and SO proud of herself.

So I have to trust her. I have to believe that my baby is as ready as she can be. That what we have been able to teach her for the last five years is enough. That she will take the strength of our love with her, and thrive.

And, let’s face it.

She has always been strong. Certainly stronger than me.

Run, baby, run.

You’re going to be fine.

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Bedtime Battles

If you had asked me before I became a mom what the most frustrating part of parenting was, I probably wouldn’t have had a good guess. Something general like, “back talk” or “not listening.”

I would have been wrong, in any case. Because in the last 5+ years, the Most Frustrating Thing Award has gone to bedtime. Every. Single. Time.

When B was 10 months old and started fighting sleep. When she was 14 months old and thought bedtime was playtime. When she was 2 and decided that she didn’t really need to stay in bed (or even her bedroom) just because we said so.

When C was born…right up until now, at three. She has always fought sleep like it was her arch nemesis.

And E…she goes back and forth between being easy and being a nightmare to get to sleep. Currently, she is sleeping in her toddler bed. It’s taken a couple of weeks to make that transition, but, fingers crossed and knock on wood, I think we’ve got it down.

B and C share a room. We don’t have a choice, and when E is old enough to hold her own with her big sisters, she’ll go in that room as well. Trying to get a 5 and a half-year old and a 3 year old to LEAVE EACH OTHER ALONE, SETTLE DOWN, and JUST GO TO SLEEP is a freakin’ nightmare, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

If one wants the little lamp on, the other one screams they want it off. This role can change from day-to-day. If one wants the fan on high, the other wants it on low. If one wants the closet door shut, the other one insists on opening it. They want to share a bed tonight (for five minutes, until they change their mind), NO they DO NOT WANT THEIR SISTER IN THEIR BED EVER!

Entire toy bins get dumped on the floor. I go back and forth between their room and the couch so often, I should be tracking my steps. If the oldest gets up to go to the bathroom, the freshly potty trained 3 year old insists she has to go to. This wouldn’t be a problem if the oldest didn’t try to convince us she needs to go to the bathroom every ten to fifteen minutes all night long.

I tried putting a baby gate in their doorway to discourage so many trips to the bathroom. I figured, if they had to have us come let them out, maybe that would show them that it’s not a game.

Oy.

Biggest mistake ever.

Granted, it’s only been two nights, but now, they open the door and “whisper shout” across the apartment at us (because they know if they wake up their sister in the room next to theirs, they’re busted). “MOMMY. BATHROOM.” “MOMMY. COOKIE.” “MOMMY. WATER.”

I swear, it’s like a revolving door at Grand Central Station here.

Husband and I sat down today and figured out a solid bedtime routine that will go into effect tomorrow. We decided that we will stick to it like glue for the next three weeks and see if bedtime improves. I REALLY hope it does, because by the time they finally fall asleep (lately sometime after 11PM and hopefully before 1AM), I feel as if I’ve run a marathon and my hair is always sticking up like I’ve stuck my finger in a socket.

They know how to push all my buttons. Rawr.

So, new routine –

Dinner around 5:30.

Cleanup after dinner and put toys away.

Baths around 7:00.

Brush teeth.

Story.

Song.

In bed with lights out by 8:00.

 

Hopefully, that’ll work. Because I’m exhausted.

 

 

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A General Sort of Post

It has been almost a year since I posted a blog. Life has gotten just a little (okay, a lot) crazy since our newest little was born (on Thanksgiving!!) and I’ve let the blogging go to the back burner.

But we are l still here. So here’s a bit of an update.

Ella was born just after 11PM on November 24, 2016. She was just as beautiful and perfect as her sisters, and she fit right into our little family. She is now almost 7 months old, and is our laid back, bubbly, happy, smiley little baby. She goes with the flow and flirts with everyone in sight, and her big grins and giggles make everyone around her smile, whether they want to or not, haha.

I was very happy that, this time around, my PPD was not nearly so extreme as it was for Chelsea. The depression itself was quite mild. This time it was more postpartum anxiety that got me. A lot of panic attacks and fear of inadequacy as a parent going on to start with. But I had feared the PPD so much that I was in constant contact with my doctor and midwives, and was able to get the help that I needed with my PPA sooner rather than later. 💗 Remember: there’s no shame in asking for or accepting help!! Always reach out to a care provider if you feel like something is wrong. No one who matters will judge you for getting the help you need to be a good mom/happy human. ❤️

Chelsea turned 2 at the beginning of June, and she is my adventurous little daredevil. She has no fear, which scares the you-know-what out of me. But her bright blue eyes, mischeviois little grin, and delighted little laugh tug at my heartstrings. She is shy, and doesn’t talk much unless we are at home. But she is determined to keep up with her big sister, and loves to play and crawl into my lap for snuggles.

Briana is four and a half now. 😭 She started preschool in January, and she’s a sassy little thing. We’ve been butting heads a lot because she acts just like me. (I KNOW that’s why it gets under my skin, lol!) Bri loves school and is quite upset that we are done for the summer. She loves to learn, and is looking forward to Pre-K in the fall with her same teachers again. She wants to know the “why” and “how” of everything. She’s my budding little scientist. I’m doing my best to encourage her love of learning, and try to answer all her questions (with the help of Google at times).

Husband has a new job (yay) and is doing quite well. 

I’m still doing the editing stuff from home, which is a blast, and also selling Jamberry, which is fun.

I’m perpetually sleep deprived, and I feel like pulling my hair out most days. I’m more snappish than I want to be, and yell more than I care to admit. But at the end of the day when I get to kiss three precious girls and tell them I love them and that I hope they sleep well…it makes me realize it’s all worth it. And I do my best to not beat myself up too much about the moments when I fail to be as patient and kind as I aim to be.

I never really got the meaning of that saying, “The days are long but the years are short.” At least until I became a mom.

I’m hoping to start blogging again. I may be going back to edit all my blogs to just use the girls’ first initial. Just for privacy reasons. I’m feeling particularly paranoid lately, I guess.

At any rate…if you’re reading this, thanks for sticking around. ❤️

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One Step At A Time

I came into the bedroom to give Chelsea her bottle of milk. She still wakes up most nights around 1:00 to have a drink. She drank her milk and handed me her bottle, and then crawled into my lap (I had put her on my bed and sat next to her, that’s what she prefers at night).  She put her head on my shoulder, wrapped her arm around me, grabbed my shirt, and went immediately back to sleep. I’m still sitting here, ten minutes later enjoying the weight of her here on my shoulder. Smelling her sweet baby smell. Kissing her sweet little face.

I realized today that she doesn’t want to snuggle unless she’s sleepy anymore. I realized that although she wants constant reassurance that I’m still here, she’s more interested in chasing Briana around these days than cuddling with mama for very long.

She’s growing and changing so quickly. And I thought I was ready this time, that I knew how fast it would go. I was wrong. It goes so much more quickly when you have two to chase after and divide your attention between. And when you’re pregnant as well, everything goes on fast forward.

I realized that in 14 short weeks, she won’t be my youngest anymore. That I will have three babies to look after and love and chase and teach and giggle with and marvel over. That I will no longer have enough hands to keep hold of everyone when I am by myself. That someone will always be left feeling as if they are being cheated of my attention.

But earlier, Chelsea fell, and I was all the way across the apartment, and she cried out that heartbreaking “I really hurt myself” cry, and before I could get to her, Briana was there.

“It’s okay Chelsea, I’ve got you. Sissy is here. Did you get an ouchie? Do you need a Bandaid? Let me help you up.”

Chelsea stopped crying and let Bri help her up. Bri kissed her forehead and held her hand and said “Let’s be careful so you don’t fall, okay?”

And my eyes welled up a little bit as Chelsea giggled and started walking along with Briana, not even looking around to see where I had gone.

And just like that, another stage passes. Just like that, they’re a second, minute, hour older. Every time you blink. Every time you glance away. Every time you sleep, wake up, and start another long and exhausting day.

Just like that they’re one step further away from you, one step closer to independence. They’re learning to lean on each other. They’re forming a friendship, and it’s the kind only siblings can have. It’s amazing and beautiful.

And it means they need me just a little less. And that’s beautiful, too. And also a little heartbreaking. And a little scary.

Some days the thought of having another baby is completely overwhelming. I feel as if I can barely handle two. My PPD is under much better control now, but there are still days that I feel like I’m drowning.

But then, on days like today, when Bri steps in and helps her sister, even with something small. When I hear her tell Chelsea not to do something so she won’t get hurt. When she sees me getting frustrated because the kids aren’t cooperating and says “I’m sorry mama. I’m ready to listen.”

On days like today, I know I will figure it out. That David will be there to help me. That David’s parents and my family and our friends will always be willing to reach out and jump in with extra hands when I need them.

On days like today, I know I will be okay. On days like today, I hold onto the fact that all my babies are still little, and still need me, but that their growing independence will be what helps us transition from a family of four to a family of five.

One step at a time. For them, and for me. For all of us.

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Success

Sometimes, I let life get to me. The struggle of keeping my head above water on days when my PTSD and PPD make just getting out of bed hard, and I have two little people who need me to do nearly everything for them. And it’s not just the struggle to get up and take care of them, but the struggle to be present for them in the way they deserve.

Today, there was a big mix of failures and successes. I am learning that just because I failed at some parts of the day does not mean the whole day was a waste, or that I’m a failure. I’m learning, slowly, to move past the rough moments and enjoy the good ones, even on the days when there are more rough moments than good.

If you had asked me a month ago if I succeeded or failed at a day like today, I would have said, without hesitation, that I failed. I raised my voice more than once. I lost patience many times. There were timeouts and there were a couple yelling matches with my three year old when I forgot to be the adult.

But I also fed the kids three real meals and two non-packaged snacks today. And we had a mini-dance party in my room after I changed the baby’s diaper. Briana and I spent twenty minutes looking at a Mickey Mouse book that is similar to a “Where’s Waldo” book…a find it sort of book, and the look on her face the first time she found something in the sea of objects on the page without my help was pure magic. We used straws for magic wands and had a “magic fight” that mostly involved a lot of giggling and saying “hex, hex, unhex!” Bri went through three outfits today before settling on the perfect dress. The baby shared her graham cracker with me, and giggled like crazy with every bite I took.

I used to feel like all the moments I stumbled as a parent far outweighed the moments when I got it right. But at the end of the day, after I rock my snugly, sleepy, happy 1 year old baby to sleep and get her settled into her crib, and walk across the apartment to my 3 and a half year old’s room to say goodnight, she doesn’t want to talk about the moments we slipped up. She wants to snuggle up to me while I play a song for her on my phone and we sing about taking on the world. She wants me to read her a story and give her a kiss and “Please, Mommy, lay with me just a little bit longer? I need your attention. Your attention makes me happy. How about we read a story?”

Kids are great at moving past the negative and holding onto the good stuff. Somewhere along the way, I lost my ability to do that. My kids are reminding me how. Every day.

Something happened at my nephew’s birthday party on Sunday with Briana that keeps making me smile, because it shows me that, even though I may forget how to “bounce back” myself sometimes, I’m doing an okay job at teaching her how to handle her emotions in a more healthy and constructive way than I do.

Her cousin got a cool ride-in truck for his birthday, but was a little leery of getting in. So they had Bri jump in…well…she’s three. So of course she didn’t want to jump out! I went over and lifted her up out of the truck and told her it was someone else’s turn and set her down in the dining room. She was facing away from me, so I couldn’t see her face, but I could tell from my mom’s face that it was a sad one, and before I could get her turned around to talk to her, she had taken off for her cousin’s room.

I followed her and found her face down on the floor, hands covering her little eyes, crying. I sat down next to her and scooped her into my lap and she put her head on my shoulder and I asked her to tell me what was wrong. Between big sobs, she said that she wanted the truck, and she was sad that it wasn’t her turn. She was sad that it wasn’t her birthday.

I reminded her of her own birthday party, when she got lots of presents, and asked her how she would have felt if someone took one of her presents and wouldn’t let her have a turn. Her crying got quieter, and she said “I wouldn’t like that. And that’s his truck, huh? And I had a turn and now it’s his turn?” I agreed with her. She still sounded pretty teary, but she wiped her eyes and said in a trembling sort of voice, “Mommy, will you just play with me for a minute? I feel sad.”

So we sat there on the floor and played with some of her cousin’s toys, for maybe three minutes. She jabbered at me about this toy and that toy, and how they were her cousin’s toys but we could take a turn since he wasn’t using them. And then she popped to her feet and said “I feel a little better now. Thanks, Mommy.” And just like that, the rough moment was a distant memory, and she was ready to fly off and play with her cousins again, while I trailed along after her down the hall.

My three year old is better at moving past things than I am…my kids are going to teach me through me teaching them. How crazy is that? Life is crazy. But life is also good. And today, I succeeded at life.

One step, one minute, one hour, one day at a time. And each success matters, and the moments I mess up don’t take away from the moments I get it right.

I’m learning. Slower than my three year old maybe, but I’m learning.

 

 

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Not Enough

I worry so much that neither of my girls are getting everything they need from me. Especially Briana. I feel like, since Chelsea has been born, Briana feels desperate for more attention. It makes me feel bad that she doesn’t feel she is getting enough. I try hard, I do, but the baby takes such short naps, and when she’s up she is my superglue baby, never wanting to be far from me and needing so much attention.

Some days I do better than others. Today I felt like I didn’t do very well.

I think it may be time to plan something for just Bri and me to do together, and find someone to keep the baby for a couple of hours. Maybe take her to the park if the weather is nice, or take her swimming at our apartment complex pool. I don’t know. Just do something with just the two of us. I miss that with her. And I know she misses it, too.

She is handling the change, the switch from being an only child to a sister, really well. But she is still only three. I was watching her sleep for a moment when I checked on her before I went to bed, and it really hit me how young she still is. She’s not much more than a baby herself, and I’m asking so much of her…I mean, not too much, not being unrealistic or anything. But it’s a big deal learning how to be patient and learning how to share toys and learning how to share your mommy and daddy when you had them all to yourself for two and a half years. I’ve started picking her up and carrying her around sometimes again, like I do with Chelsea, and it just makes her whole face light up. I can’t carry her for long though…she’s so tall and she’s getting too heavy for me, with my non-muscles from my non-workouts.

I just want both of my kids to feel loved, and lately I feel there isn’t enough of me to go around. It’s frustrating. Hopefully, as Chelsea gets a little older, she will be a little more independent and I can start spreading my attention a bit more evenly. Until then, I’ll just worry that I’m scarring both of them for life. (That’s a joke…kind of.)

Mommy as a Human, Uncategorized

I’m Still Here

I have started and deleted probably ten blogs in the past few weeks. I haven’t been able to focus. Postpartum depression is really no joke. I can’t sleep (hence blogging at 2AM), I am either eating all day long or not eating until five in the evening, and I am either being perfectly patient with my kids or going off my rocker with them…there seems to be no in between for my brain right now. I’m either happy or so furious I can barely speak, or will be suddenly overcome with tears over something relatively inconsequential. Mixing my PPD with my PTSD and sleep deprivation is…interesting, to say the least.

In short, I’m a hot mess.

I’m blogging about this because more people need to be honest about the struggles with any and all types of mental illness. And postpartum depression, while temporary, is a type of mental illness. The stigma surrounding it needs to end, so that people will seek help sooner.

I thought I had it handled a few months back…I couldn’t have been more wrong.

These last few weeks in particular, I have felt like I was drowning in sadness. I walked around with this sadness that I could literally feel in my chest, like a twenty pound weight. Like someone had put a stone inside my rib cage to weigh me down. I could paste on a smile when I left the house, and try to play with my kids, and might even manage a genuine laugh here and there…but it was just these tiny flares of light in this deep, dark, black hole I had been sucked into. I haven’t felt this kind of depression since I was about 15 years old, and it was not a feeling that I had missed.

I knew that, having suffered from depression before, I was more prone to getting PPD. And I got it with my older daughter, but it passed fairly quickly and I didn’t really seek help. I just got over it. So this time, I thought I could just get over it, too. Take a few supplements, keep myself busy, it would pass.

Wrong. So wrong.

Have you ever felt like a passenger in your own body? Like, you’re watching yourself slip further and further down into this depressive state, and the sane and rational part of you is going “HEY! You’re falling! Get help!” But the part of you that’s falling is going “I’ve totally got this.”

And then one day soon, the sane and rational part of you is watching the insane part of you yell at your three year old over something stupid or have a panic attack driving down the freeway or sobbing on the floor of the shower while the water runs cold because you’ve been in there so long. The insane part of you picks fights with people and says mean things to friends and pretty soon, the insane part is sitting in the living room in her pajamas at four in the afternoon with all the curtains closed, letting the kids watch Daniel Tiger for the entire day, surviving off of your daughter’s goldfish crackers because, while you always make food for the kids, it seems like too much effort to make any for yourself.

And meanwhile, the sane part of you is screaming “I freaking told you to go get help! Now we are stuck down here in this hole and you are too depressed to get help for being depressed.”

I saw a meme the other day on Facebook that described depression perfectly. It said something like “What’s depression like? Depression is like drowning…only you can see everyone around you breathing.” You feel invisible. No one can see how much you’re struggling. If you had cancer or pneumonia or a broken arm, people would know you were sick, and they would want to help. But everyone believes the lie you have pasted on your face, and no one knows you can’t breathe. You share the happy moments on Facebook, the good pictures. It’s an instant life filter.

And then you hit rock bottom. You tell your friend you want to run away or die, and you don’t care which.

And you didn’t even realize you were feeling that way until the words come out of your mouth, and then you burst into tears, because you’re a mom, and you’re not supposed to think things like that, and it makes you feel like a terrible person and an awful mother, and you just feel…defeated. So defeated.

But somehow, putting it into words, realizing where you are at, lets the sane part of you reach the insane part. You pick up the phone, and you call to schedule an appointment with your doctor. You start talking to everyone.

You know that some people are going to think you’re doing it for attention, and in a way, they’re right, but not for the reasons they think. You’re doing it for attention, because you don’t want to disappear without anyone noticing. You don’t want to do anything you’ll regret later. You don’t want them to go, six months from now, “Whatever happened to…” You don’t want to be invisible anymore.

And, funny thing.

The good friends don’t judge you.

The good friends suddenly blow up your phone with text messages like “I had no idea you were struggling so much. What can I do?” Or “I want to get you out of the house, so lets take the kids out tomorrow.” Or “Lets have coffee next week.” One person sent me a text that said “I love you. I’m here for you. Don’t ever get so lost in your mind that you forget how many people feel the same way I do. You’re a good friend to so many people…let them be good friends to you, too.”

My favorite was this message from my best friend that lives out of state.

“Like a shattered mirror
You’re beautiful,
Refracting the world around you in a dozen different ways.
You are perfectly imperfect, a chaotic storm of deepest reds and blues.
Your heart is huge, your emotions deeper than the oceans.
I don’t even have the words for you.
You’re more than I can describe.
You’re amazing.
Beautiful.
A Disney freak to the highest degree, and loyal to a fault.
You carry the world on your shoulders, and pick yourself up when you shatter.
Stronger than you know, just remember, that I see you.
I know you.
And you are wonderful.”

I love the line, “You…pick yourself up when you shatter.”

I have talked to more people and been invited to more places in the last week than I have been in probably the last year put together. And I’m not blaming the people doing the inviting. It’s hard to get a depressed friend to want to do things with you, and even when you manage to make plans with them, there will be a lot of last minute cancellations. I’ve canceled a lot of plans in the last 9 months especially. I’m just mentioning it because it surprised me how many people cared enough to issue an invitation.

Just…if you have a friend with depression (whether PPD or otherwise), please don’t give up. Keep making plans. If they don’t want to go out, go to their house to watch bad movies and eat popcorn. Keep trying. Because the fact that you care enough about them to love them even when they aren’t necessarily a bundle of laughs means the absolute world to them. I promise.

My appointment is on Tuesday.

I am very nervous about it.

But I keep reminding myself, it’s a step toward feeling better. I want to feel like myself again.

I’ve been writing in my journal again every day. There have been three days this week where all I could bring myself to write were three words…but they’re pretty important.

“I’m still here.”