Thursday, May 21, 2015

Awkward Mom vs. Change

So, where have I been? Well, lotta changes over here at Awkward Manor. Which will be relocating to Davenport, Iowa in a month and a half. Awkward Dad's residency journey has finally come to an end and it is time for him to start his dream job. It is time for us to move and start the next part of our adventure. I have many feelings about this, so naturally, I have totally put off dealing with them in any way, shape, or form.

I started this blog the fall of the year we moved here, after a whole difficult summer of awkward mom meetings and intense loneliness. (Flashback!) Things have changed dramatically over the past 5 years, and now I think the difficulty is going to be in leaving all the beautiful friends I have found here. I'm not gonna lie, you all were not always easy to find. Had to suffer through a lot of playdates and fake-smile at a lot of perfect moms, but when I found you, giggling into your sleeve while I pretended to love the kale chips or rolling your eyes when the who-walked-earliest contest began or whispering spoilers about Downton Abbey during the Mommy and Me circle time, I knew we were meant to be. You are the reason Ann Arbor has been a beautiful place to be for the past 5 years. Every one of you. The ones I laughed with at the park. The ones I have never seen anywhere but in the magical dashes and zeros of the internet. The ones I didn't know I was going to like. The ones I basically stalked. The ones my children found. The ones my husband found. The ones who found me. The crunchy ones. The homeschooling ones. The stay-at-home ones. The working ones. The intense ones. The relaxed ones. The sweet ones. The strong ones. The slightly crazy ones. All of you are the reason I lived through the last 5 years on a cloud of laughter and understanding.

My motherhood grew up here. I was a new mom with a 2-year-old and a baby. I knew exactly 3 people in Ann Arbor and they all lived with me, not that we ever saw Awkward Dad very much that first year. I had no idea what I was doing. Now, I am a less new mom, with 4 children under the age of 7, and an amazing circle of passionately different women who weave around me into a magic quilt of loving, supportive,  faithful friendship. I am not sure I have any more idea what I am doing, but I have fully committed to that. That's my role in the magic mom quilt and I'm cool with my chaotic, weird, crooked little square. What's more amazing is that all of you are cool with it too.

I am probably going radio-silent for awhile. (It isn't for lack of awkward tales; the house hunt alone could fill a whole book.) I am just legit busy. And, well, goodbyes are hard and awful and near impossible to make funny. Who wants to read 6 weeks of sappy and mopey waxing about the womanhood quilt and the eternal friendship? Come on, that would suck. And most of you are gonna have to deal with it in the flesh, so I will spare you any more long-winded introspection here.

This period of my life is coming to a close. A long awaited and fabulous close. Which I am now thinking I don't want at all. Of course, that's not true, but change is ever so hard. But of course again, if motherhood has taught me anything, it is these 2 things:

1.) It's all change.
2.)You can do it.

I've off to battle the massive super villain of Change, but know this, Wonderful Readers, I will see you on the other side of it. Same Awkward Channel, Slightly Later, but no less Awkward, Time. (Iowa is in Central Time.) Love yas!

Change has no chance against this super team.
They just embrace him. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Awkward Mom vs. Eavesdropping

I am just gonna sit here and type what the children are doing in the other room. I promise you, it will be worth it:

Super 1st: OK, look, I'm the brave knight. Super Toddler is my beloved and bravest warrior. Super Preschooler is an evil wizard. And Super Baby is the dragon. I'm imprisoned by the evil wizard in the tallest tower of the land (the bunk bed) and Super Toddler has to save me.

Super Preschooler: Cool. Oh, hang on, I need a hat.

Super Toddler: Need sword, be right back.

Super Baby: AHHH!

Super 1st: Nice, that's a good dragon sound.

Super Toddler: Back!

Super 1st: You can't use a real knife!

*Stay tuned, back after a word from our sponsor.*

Super 1st: It wasn't my idea, I swear! What is that?

Super Preschooler: My hat.

Super 1st: It's not very evil looking.

Super Preschooler: It's perfect, just use your imagination.

Super 1st: It's an Iron Man mask.

Super Preschooler: It's fine.

Super 1st: Whatever, OK, so I'm imprisoned and Super Toddler has to slice the chains, hand me my weapon, and we'll flee from the dragon.

Super Toddler: OK!

Super 1st: Hey, not the face! The chains are down here.

Super Preschooler: Wait. I have to sing my song of evilness first.

Super 1st: What?!

Super Preschooler: I'm the bad guy and the bad guy has a song.

Super 1st.: Sigh. Fine.

Super Preschooler: (loosely sung to the tune of Do Your Ears Hang Low) Oh, evilness is the best! I like to hate the rest! And all of the bad guys are my friends. We have axes and swords and we like to laugh. Badness and evilness are great! Evilnesssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss! (this "note" is held for a least 30 seconds)

Super 1st: Are you done?

Super Preschooler: Yes.

Super 1st: OK, free me, Super Toddler! Defeat the evil wizard! Super Toddler?

Super Preschooler: She left. She's watching Big Hero Six with the baby dragon.

Super 1st: Really?

Super Preschooler: Yeah.

Super 1st: What part?

Super Preschooler: Like the start, I think.

Super 1st: OK. Game paused!

Super Preschooler: I'm hungry.

Both: MOM!!

 Avengers Assemble! 
You know, after snack, that is. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Awkward Mom vs. Feminism

Psst. Hey, you. Yes, you. Wanna be a feminist? Well, today is your lucky day because you too can be a feminist in 4 easy steps! Easy-peasy:

1. Define feminism as the ideology that woman and men should have equal rights and opportunities. People might try to stick other stuff in there. Don't let them. Tell them, politely but firmly, to go get their own ideology or sub-ideology. And maybe a sandwich. They seem crabby, maybe they are hungry.

2. Tell yourself that you are equal to any man or woman in your universe. (And really beyond; not that we know how they establish gender in other universes. They might not have gender. Which would be interesting, just on a bathroom level alone, but if Ally McBeal's law firm could have unisex bathrooms, I imagine genderless alien races could figure it out, but what is really important here is that you are equal to all of them because you are amazing and beautiful and wonderful.)

3. Eat a sandwich. All that ideology and positive self-talk makes one hungry. You can eat with the crabby people, if they have calmed down.

4. You are full; of positive feelings and sandwich. This is great! Now go about behaving as if you are equal to any man or woman in your universe, and that any man or woman in your universe is equal to you. Do this as seems good to you; lean in, recline, do extreme yoga moves, lie on the couch and binge-watch House Hunters, be a great chef, order take-out, dress-up, dress-down, don't dress, have children, don't have children, act like children, attach, detach. The options are literally endless. Just make sure that you are being you; not an archetype or an example or a symbol. You are none of those things because you are so much more. You are a fully formed and flawed human being who should glory in the uniqueness of you, not try to hide it because someone you encounter tries to tell you that you are not equal to him/her. They just haven't done the 4 steps yet. Pity them and keep on being a feminist. Or, better yet, tell them about the four steps so that there can be more fully formed feminists to hang with; win-win! You might wanna start with #3. Never underestimate the power of a good sandwich. And never underestimate you. You are glorious.

Celebrate! You are now a feminist!

Make your celebration as unique as you are!
Even if that means a sock full of marbles.
Be you! 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Awkward Mom vs. the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

In no real order, the reasons that today is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day:

1. I have bronchitis. I have had bronchitis for a week. I am tired of being sick.

2. I spoke to no adults today. I am lonely and bored and am starting to pay attention to the damaging voices in my head that tell me I am worthless because I don't have a job and contribute to society. I'm not sure how damaging they are, I am starting to think they are just right. Unpleasant, but right.

3. The baby won't stop crying. And won't nap. And won't eat. And won't do anything but cry.

4. Awkward Dad isn't picking up his phone and it is going to voice mail. And voice mail is full.

5. It's rainy and cold. Again.

6. The news is depressing. Again.

7. The children are fighting. Again.

8. I keep thinking this list will somehow get funny, but it doesn't. And I don't think it is going to.

9. I think I am over blogging. I like writing, but blogging is starting to feel like the sound of one hand clapping. It used to feel useful. Like a connection or a release. Now, it merely feels like a popularity contest that I am losing. I mean, what else can I say in one of the most saturated online communities there is? Parenting is hard? Moms do crazy things? Why can't we all just get along? If I am not singing this in a slick and viral parody of Uptown Funk then I doubt anyone is going to be interested. Was that harsh? Maybe. I don't really care to temper my temper today.

10. And that's OK. No. No, it's not OK. I'm not OK.  Why even write this? I mean, it isn't funny. It isn't normal. It's isn't even awkward. It's sad and pathetic and just no good. I suppose that's the point, right? Online everything is filtered and sanitized and edited and lit in just the right way to produce whatever effect you are going for, and mostly you are going for "look at my fabulous life!" I don't have fabulous today. I'm not exactly sure I ever have fabulous. And I think all I can muster today is "Look!" That's it. Just look. Why I want you to look at this is up for debate. It isn't a pretty meltdown and it isn't an interesting meltdown. No screaming or ranting or throwing things. I'm kinda melting down slowly and sadly into a puddle here in the middle of the internet, and the internet is gonna blow right past because that is what it does. It moves fast and frantic and onto the next thing. That's fine. But I'm just gonna sit here because I am tired. And not having a particularly good day. Maybe you could sit with me? We can watch the internet rush past and just be unfiltered and unsanitized and unedited for awhile. No pressure, but maybe you are tired too. Tired, having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, and just want it to be OK that it's not OK. You know what? It's OK that it's not OK.

I get it, Sad Elephant. 
I totally get it. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Super 1st. vs. Friendship

Basically, it's a rout. 

My Precious Super 1st.-

You are many things, my strong, compassionate, genius first born. You are bold without being bossy (most of the time). You are fearless with a decent degree of caution. You are a quiet leader, and you are flexible while maintaining clear preferences. You are an open book with enough secrets to be interesting. You are balanced (most of the time), and your temper is a slow burn that will usually acquiesce to a timely hug. You are skilled in untold ways and it would take years to write them all down, so I will focus on what is going on in the other room.

You have a friend over. One of your dreamier friends who sometimes needs some patience and drawing out to feel comfortable. You do this without breaking a sweat. Toys are proffered in quick secession; rejects flung to the side and possibles placed in his lap like offerings. You rush here and there, gathering talismans while encouraging siblings to advance or retreat depending on their various noise levels. You are creating a sanctuary of play. Your friend relaxes. And then laughs. And then a spirited game of Ponies/Fairies/Restaurant spills forth. It is glorious and epic, while appearing natural and commonplace. It's one of your best play dates to date.

You are the best friend that I have ever witnessed in action. (The only one who comes close to you is your father, so that must be where is came from.) The expansiveness of your friendship is truly endless; you can hold countless friends within your open arms and yet manage to lavish love on all of them. I think your heart is a black hole, but like in a good way. You draw everything in to it. And you remember things! Who likes milk. Who hates milk. Who wants chocolate milk. Everyone's imaginary friends. Birthdays. Important dates. Who is best friends among the girls in your class, this week. Who failed the spelling test and needs some extra attention at recess. Who needs to be left alone. Who needs you to shove over. Who needs you to move in. I once witnessed you mediate a near-war by casually suggesting that instead of playing princess or house, you all play castle instead.

You have an effortless ability to catalog your friends' quirks, pulling this knowledge out like a magician's scarves. Your friends love you for it. Perhaps they are all too young to start taking advantage of you or learning to expect your lavish love, rendering it less shiny. But I doubt it; I think you have actually achieved the ability to make others feel loved and wanted, while not discounting your own worth and beauty. You know you are a good friend, like you know all your other skills. It is a knowledge so intimate and devoid of pretense that it renders bragging impossible. Of course I am a good person, you say. As are all my friends, let me count the ways.....

But it would take a year, so I will cut off your beautifully balanced ego for the moment and just lean my head toward your room. The game has shifted to Spies and if I listen close enough, I just might learn your secrets. Your magical secret to being such a wonderful friend.

I love you-
Awkward Mom

Friendship is indeed magic. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Awkward Mom vs. Leprechaun Traps

I had never heard of Leprechaun Traps until this year. They have probably been a thing for years and they just popped onto my radar now; this is usually how very popular mom things get to me, a couple years late, so they can stir up the angst of being late to the party as well as having no idea how this new thing/theory/terror works. WikiHow has a full page on them, if you are a late bloomer, like me. Here. Check it out, I'll wait.

What fresh hell is this?!

That was my first thought. Cute crafty time-involved nonsense that Perfect Mom cooked up in her diabolical lab and then sent out, via her Pinterest clones, to torment all of the normal moms with the knowledge that we aren't good enough and stuffing our children's brief childhood with enough magical delights. Ugh.

And of course, Super 1st (being cute, crafty, and time-involved himself) was all over this idea. His requests to do something "leprechauny" for St. Patrick's Day started towards to end of February, along with my panic and shame and complete disbelief that 7-years into this whole mom thing, I still don't know what I am doing.

I went through all the stages:

1. Research.

2. Disbelief that this whole leprechaun-trap thing is a thing. And a thing so big and with so many steps. (Similar to step 2 of my Elf-on-the-Shelf panic, my attempt at a baby foot print flowerpot, and the great Christmas explosion of 2013.)

3. Conviction that it must be a joke of some kind and that I am missing the point.

4. Frantic search for "the Onion" listed anywhere in the links.

5. Realization that it is not a joke, but that I turn everything into a joke in order to deal with my total lack of real mom-abilities and crafting skills.

6. Existential crisis about my role in the universe that winds up requiring massive amounts of chocolate to get through.

7.  Stern self-talk to "Woman-up!" and just do the silly thing. Women have been giving birth and raising children and basically running the world for eons. Surely I can handle some cardboard and glitter.

8. Burst into tears when bested by the glitter glue.

9. Decide that I am going to be morally against leprechaun-traps because they detract from the religious nature of the holiday.

10. Express this to Awkward Dad and deal with his, rather excessive, laughter.

11. Cry. Again.

12. Admit defeat and tell Super 1st. that I have no idea how to build a leprechaun-trap, despite 3 weeks of research and study.

13. Listen to Super 1st say, "That's OK. I just want to give them some gold anyway. Trapping them seems kinda mean. Where should I put the gold so they will find it?"

14. Cry some more.

Since Babcia is here 
(and she is crafty),
the leprechaun took the gold and left behind a note,
tucked into a little handmade box,
that wished us all good luck this year.

We all know that I need good luck,
so thanks, Leprechauns!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Awkward Mom vs. the Church Talk

I was invited to participate in a panel discussion about care-giving. It was through the Women's Group I belong to at church. I thought it would be fun to share my talk with you all. So, it's kinda God-focused and whatnot. Not too holy or anything, there's still plenty of awkward:

We church awkwardly around here. 

OK, so, to tell you what I want to tell you, I have to take you back a few weeks to my house. It’s around 6 and, by some miracle to rival the loaves and fishes, dinner is actually on the table and everyone that I have married or given birth to is actually sitting there. Not on the table, but actually in chairs. It’s pretty amazing. Which makes it extra painful when some peas hit me right in the face. Now, I don’t know who started throwing peas. Odds are good that it was the 3-year-old because she likes to throw things. And she has an arm like a cannon. But you can’t count out the 5-year-old. He had a rough morning at preschool, something about not sharing a toy car. And the 7-year-old has one of those tempers that simmers and simmers until it just explodes. Usually around the end of the day. And, while I don’t think it was the baby, you can’t count him out; he watches all of them, real quiet-like, and he is learning way more than I think he knows. Could have been him. Could have been any of them. That’s really the point; I don’t know who starting throwing peas and that kinda makes it worse.

Naturally, I lose it. Yelling, crying, screaming. Stood up, so hard and fast, that the chair fell over. And they all freeze. Like mid-throw. And I realize that this is a teaching moment and I have to get this right. This is the moment where I can convey to them that normal families do NOT get into food fights over who is going to lead the dinner prayer. I mean, I don’t really know what normal families do, but I imagine what we are doing isn’t it. So, I am standing there, thinking about the perfect was to phrase this, eating peas off my shirt, because we haven’t prayed yet and I am hungry, and the baby thinks this is just hilarious and he starts to laugh. Now, I know that all of you, at one point or another, have heard a baby laugh. And it is one of, if not the, best sounds on earth. It just took all my mad away and, so, I smiled. Which made my husband smile, which made the children relax. And I picked up the chair, sat down, and let them say every prayer they knew because the food was cold anyway. And I want to tell you that this was an isolated incident, but it’s not. Stuff like this happens all the time.

You see, my life is so. (And I don’t mean s-e-w because I haven’t sewn anything since the first one was born.) I mean, s-o so. Because that’s the way it is in a house with little children, if there is 1 child or 20 children, everything is just so. So messy. And so noisy. And so frantic. And so much. Which makes me worry that in all that massive so-ness, where is there room for God? Of course, this is a silly question because God is the very definition of so-ness, right? So He moves into the chaos; in and around and through until He is right in the center, where He should be anyway. And I think I always knew that God would be there for the important parent stuff; births, baptisms, sacraments of any kind really, those scary ER visits, maybe the first day of school. But what was a surprise, and really what enables all of it anyway, is that God is there All The Time. All the time. In the middle of the night. In the morning. At the end of the day when they are climbing the walls. At the park when I am afraid of the moms that look more put together. For every temper tantrum; theirs and mine. For every diaper change. And when someone vomits. And when I think I might throw up myself if I have to read Good Night Moon one more time. The good. The bad. The excruciatingly boring. God is always with me. Which is the only reason that I can do this. Because this is pretty out of control. Out of my control anyway.

The thing about parenting little children is that there are very few plateaus. It’s a lotta peaks and a lotta valleys. And you usually go from one to the other in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. It’s equally parts exhausting and exhilarating. And I can’t go up and down like that by myself. I know this. God is always here. And I want my children to know that, but sometimes I think they know it better than I do.

I had these charming fantasies about educating my children spiritually. Hushed reverent talks about Jesus and adorable Norman Rockwell scenes with the 4 of them lined up in the pew, by height and in perfectly clean church clothes. The reality is a little different. Church is really more 5% listening and paying attention. And 95% keeping them from drawing on all of the donation envelopes. Oh, and dropping the kneelers. And Lucy isn’t allowed in the church much at all. Lucy is my 3-year-old with the arm like a cannon, and the child certainly lives up to her name. But rather than being, you know, a nice warm glowing light, she is really more of a towering inferno. She attends the children’s nursery during mass because when allowed into the church she attempts to re-baptize herself. Full immersion. To date, she has achieved this twice. We joke that it must not be taking… But it really must be because the child is so very full of the Holy Spirit. Of course, this doesn’t manifest in the quiet reverence that I think it should. When we walk down to the nursery and she sees the crucifix. She eyes light up and she waves and she shouts Jesus! at the top of her lungs, all love and happiness. And before she could really articulate, it sounded like she was shouting Cheezit! but I am sure Jesus understood. He gets her. She definitely isn’t quiet or even particularly reverent, but she is full of awe and wonder, which I think counts.

They so innately know that God is with them. All the time with them. I don’t always have their certainty. Sometimes I think it is because I can’t hear Him over all the noise. And I really need to hear Him; I need to know that I am doing this right. Well, as right as I can. As right as they let me. Right enough. But God knows this. He still talks to me. It is just not so much in the stillness of my heart anymore. I hear God when they finally start playing together, after almost a whole afternoon of near war-level fighting. I hear God when I find another adult to talk to at the park. I hear God when my husband calls me just to say hi. I hear God when I text a friend at 4:36 on a Tuesday just to stay sane. I would call her but I wouldn’t be able to hear her because the children appear to be acting out Lord of the Flies. And she texts me back to tell me that this too shall pass and she’s gotten run because her toddler is coloring on the wall. With her lipstick. I hear God through my friends a lot. And I know that I have heard God through each and every one of you. Lots of messages; all encouragement and hope and love. This all makes sense; God is gonna sound like all the best sounds, right?

And the big message is that these days are not forever. And it might not feel like that at 4:30 in the afternoon because 4:30 in the afternoon is full-on forever. These days, when they are little and loud and so, well, so; these days are really a very brief, precious time of my life that is going to be over well before I truly want it to be. And I don’t say that in some lame Pollyanna way to guilt myself if I don’t thoroughly enjoy the stuffing out of every second. That’s silly and impossible. There are plenty of moments of pure frustration and annoyance and angry and thrown peas. It’s OK to be human and not enjoy all of it; all of the mess and chaos of raising little children. But what those many voices of God are telling me is the truth that I already know deep in my heart; I many not love every second of parenting, but I do I love my children every second.

His current favorite voice is baby laughter. It’s a good one, especially when delivered with a side of tossed peas.

The one and only time we let her near the baptismal font willingly.