Doing (almost) everything wrong: instant motherhood.

William Shakespeare once wrote:

be-not-afraid-of-greatness-some-are-born-great-some-achieve-greatness-and-some-have-greatness-thrust-upon-them

Substitute greatness with “motherhood” and I fall into that third category. I wasn’t born a mom (because…that would be weird) and I didn’t achieve motherhood. Instead, I had motherhood thrust upon me. Not with an infant (or two) that I could bond with, nurture, and mold, my kids are fully grown little people with opinions and personalities and eternal souls that I’ve been given the amazing privilege of helping to raise.

And I’ve discovered the secret of motherhood. Seriously, I cracked the code.

None of us have any clue what we’re doing. 

Oh sure, there are books and blogs and recommendation. I’ve done research on blended families, on step-parenting. I’ve adjusted my expectations and made several (dozen) lists. I’ve learned so much along the way. An absurd and ridiculous amount. So much that I often forget the things I learned before and make the same mistakes 6 or 8 dozen times.

For example: did you know that you don’t actually have to engage with your child when they are being ridiculous? So when you send them to straighten up their room and they insist that nerf guns spread out across the entire floor is”good enough” because they need an arsenal, even though we’ve been over and over what counts as a clean room all summer. Apparently you don’t have to get into an unending “No it isn’t,” “Yes, it is!” battle of wills with an 8-year-old. You can just say, “you know the expectations,” and WALK AWAY. Magic!

Anyway, there are days when I feel like the absolute worst person, like I shouldn’t even be allowed around children. When they are mad at me, I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut and when they are hurting, you better step back.

But then there are these moments, beautiful and glorious. The moment when Little One didn’t throw a fit when he sat next to me instead of J at dinner, when Flipflops asks me for help with his summer reading. A random, unprovoked hug or a thank you or an I love you.

I’m pretty sure I’m doing almost everything wrong. Maybe, just maybe, though, I’m doing something right.

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My “perfect relationship” is ruining my life.

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I am not a morning person. Seriously.

I’m under the impression that morning people are a bizarre race of quasi-human and shouldn’t be trusted.

I have a certain lifestyle to which I have become accustomed and it involves frantic mornings of oversleeping, hasty work preparations and speedy drives to school, while putting on mascara with one hand and trying not to spill my life-giving coffee. It might not be graceful, but it works for me.

And then came this guy.

J is staying at my house this week since the gremlins boys are with their mom for a month (!) and I’m still in school for a couple more days. It’s been a treat to have him around in the evenings, enjoying our snapshot of domesticity: making dinner, playing cards over coffee, etc. Since he’s sleeping in the guest room, I don’t notice when he wakes up until he comes into my room with a cup of coffee in hand and gently pulls me from slumber. Before I realize it, I’m caffeinated, dressed, and out the door to school on time. ON TIME!

How dare he?

I am not a morning person. I don’t do on time. I revel in the adrenaline rush of the last-minute. Nevermind the calm serenity of leaving on time! Where’s the excitement? Where’s the drama?!

Meh, I guess I could get used to this…

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The Beautiful Life…

This weekend I achieved a relationship goal of cinematic significance. Every sappy love story has one great kiss in the rain. Allie and Noah from The Notebook, Paul and Holly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Charles and Carrie from Four Weddings and a Funeral have filled our heads with the romance and emotional significance of the watery embrace.

tumblr_m3o3ln6nzd1qks92eo1_500Turns out,  much like everything else in my life these days, my kiss in the rain was nothing like I’d expected. Instead of a semi-frantic meeting of impassioned lovers, J and I giggled through our rainy kiss with the sounds of a neighborhood block party going on in the background.

Saturday night, J’s neighbor, SuperMom, and I decided to put together a little Memorial Day grill out for Sunday afternoon. We recruited a handful of neighbor families who pitched in a brought side dishes, and piled what turned into a couple dozen kids into SuperMom’s garage once it started raining. After a traditional grill out menu, the adults gathered around to chat while the older kids made up some kind of dodgeball alternative and the little ones ran laps around the cul-de-sac, jumping in every available puddle.

I don’t know that I’ve ever been happier.

Take a moment to enjoy your beautiful life: the silly moments, the perfectly imperfect moments, the moments you’ll never forget.

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An appeal to the mommas…

I am not a mom. I’m a cat mom, but that doesn’t really count.

I’ve never given birth, or experienced morning sickness. I’ve never rocked a baby for hours at night, tears streaming down my face from exhaustion as I plead with God to take this ear infection away so that we can all get some rest. I’ve never felt the surge of pride and fear that comes from watching my little one take his first steps.

I am not a mom.

Then three of the most amazing little humans crashed into my life full force. I felt my breath knocked out of my lungs with the noise and chaos they brought with them. They are loud and rambunctious. They vehemently defend points of view that are not based in fact. They are constantly covered in mud and have no idea what is appropriate to wear to church (I’m looking at you, Flipflops.)

And I love them. With every fiber of my being I love these small people. I love them so much it’s confusing. How can I feel so connected to people I didn’t give birth to? Up to this point, did I really understand love at all? The questions bombard me as I feel the daunting and overwhelming task of doing right by these boys.

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I am not a mom.

I would never try to replace their mom. I know that the struggle must be intense for her to be without them and the best I can hope for is to help her do her job by extension. I’m not qualified for the position, but I’m doing my best.

So I help Little One clean his room and wrap MacGuyver in a towel when he’s wet and freezing (obstacle run…it was a thing.) I made a deal with Flipflops that I would DVR some show he likes if he would get his baseball things together the night before practice.

I expected to feel overwhelmed, inadequate, tired. What I didn’t expect was the cold shoulder I’d receive from the moms. With some notable exceptions, instead of helping me learn the ropes this group of women treat me with disdain. If it were overt, I’d be much better able to combat it, but it’s hard to fight a generalized coldness.

So I appeal to all the mommas out there. Be kind to other mommas, mommas-in-training, step moms, expectant mothers, and well-meaning girlfriends. You have no idea what a difference you make.

I am not a mom, but I am trying.

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Suddenly, chaos.

I spent the weekend with J and his three (!) boys. It was the first time I met them and I was more than a little excited, with a healthy dose of nervousness sprinkled in for fun.

I thought the biggest struggle was going to be packing for a weekend of endless possibilities of activities and weather. Despite what the calendar says, “spring” in the DC Metro area has decided to sleep in a bit and winter has stepped in for an encore. Add in a less than locked-in schedule, a couple of 5K runs, and church on Sunday, and my weekend bag was having a bit of an identity crisis. I was also the only estrogen in the sea of testosterone where five men regularly reside. FIVE! That means no bobby pins, flat irons, or clear nail polish in sight.

*brace yourself chickadee*

Turns out, the biggest challenge of the weekend was a matter of pets. J and the boys are dog people; friendly, energetic, loud, outgoing, did I mention loud? I’m more of a cat person.

Dirty, blistered, sick, and bruised, I hobbled home on Sunday exhausted, but ecstatic. I survived my first excursion into J’s natural environment. I got to see him in a whole new light, and it only increased my affection for him. I’m honored that he brought me into this portion of his life and I feel really positive about how the littles and I interacted. It will take time for me to adjust to my extremely loud and high energy future, but I’m exited for the challenge.

12994310_592997390856512_6143785930623525137_nPoint of fact, you’ll probably be hearing a lot more about the kiddos moving forward. Here’s how you’ll know them:
Flip flops – 12,  loves video games, baseball, and pizza. Does not understand why we don’t wear clothes with holes in them.
MacGyver – 11, loves break dancing and taking things apart. Good at break dancing, still working on putting things back together.
Little One – 13 days shy of 8, loves hanging out with dad, board games, and doing whatever his brothers are doing.

Hope your weekend was at least half as fun as mine, but twice as restful.

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Stand by Your Man | How to help when there’s nothing you can do

“Sweetheart, I’m exhausted.”

His voice on the phone broke my heart a little. God, how do I make this better? I feel so helpless.

When J is in pain, I’m in pain. It’s as simple as that. Whether it’s physical pain, like his hurt shoulder from a weekend of snow shoveling, or the weight of his responsibilities, I yearn to bear some of the burden. When I can’t make it better, I feel useless. After much consideration (and feedback that makes me feel like this stuff really works) I present 5 things you can do when you can’t do anything for your man. Or, you know, some much shorter, catchier title. Meh.

Pray for him

Get on your knees and plead for him. Pray that he would be strengthened, that God would protect his mind and heart, that he would not be tempted by sin in his time of weakness. Pray that you would have wise and encouraging things to say. Pray that God would use this hardship to bring himself glory. I think often we see prayer as a last resort, but it should really be a first response.

Listen to him

He may not want to vent; be ready to listen if he does. You will likely feel helpless as you are unable to do anything to ease his pain, but listening and standing by him as he walks through the valley are far more influential than you realize. Lend him strength by sharing his struggle; be sure he knows that you are always available to lend an ear.

Woman hugging a manRemind him that you are solid

During a stressful time in your man’s life, the last thing he needs is to worry that you are going to get fed up and walk away. Even if you feel like he “should know” how you feel, make a point to remind him that you are in it for the long haul and you aren’t going anywhere. He’ll know that whatever else may come his way, you’re always in his corner.

Tell him why you respect him

Women need love, men need respect. Make a list of the things you respect about him. It doesn’t have to be long, just a few things will go a long way to restoring his soul. Is he a great provider? Does he work hard? Does he take physical fitness seriously? Is he emotionally available to you? Is he a godly man?

When is that last time you told him how much those qualities mean to you, how much you respect him for all he does?

Be silly with him

No one can be serious all the time. He may be struggling through physical pain or emotional trial, but you can go a long way to lighten his mood. Send him a quick text with a funny meme, share an inside joke, or send him a selfie of a silly face. You’ll bring a smile to his face and remind him that you’re thinking of him in one fell swoop.

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Just a Trim | Cutting out the dead ends

Last week I got a haircut.

This isn’t a major event, though, embarrassingly, I haven’t had my hair cut since last May. I told my stylist/friend Lindsey that I wanted to trim away the dead ends. Nothing drastic – a good, healthy shape up. As she washed, combed, snipped, and styled, we chatted away about our lives.

12522994_10103468522584801_2390564703336504702_nWhen she was done, I felt like a new woman. There was nothing significantly different about the style – a little shorter, but not much – but as I ran my fingers through my locks, I could all but feel the freedom of trimming away the dead portions. Plus she’s basically a hair wizard.

Oh, the metaphor.

I started thinking about other areas of my life where “dead ends” are lurking. Why, for example, do I still have the contact information and full text message transcripts of the last four guys I dated (including the jerk who broke my heart) saved in my phone? Delete. Why am I holding on to a Save The Date for a wedding I’m no longer invited to attend? Throw it away. Why do I allow the shame of past mistakes to make me fear the future? Confess it and move on.

Oh, friends, how freeing it is to let go of the things that are weighing you down. What are you holding onto? What are the dead ends in your life?

Maybe it’s time to cut them off.

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The problem with toast | Turning down a second date…

I haven’t really talked about my breakup with A (whose name was actually Alex, by the way). Honestly, there are still moments when it feels like some sort of bad dream. No closure, no explanation, no logic. He evaporated from my life as quickly as he had appeared and I was left with a few months of memories and a broken heart. It’s still a bit painful, but I knew I needed to get back on the horse.

Enter: Kevin, 27, Engineer. He met, to my knowledge, all four of the non-negotiables for a potential life mate. We kept up through text messages, until our first date, earlier this week. Location picked, time set, and hair curled, I was equal parts nervous and excited.

The date was nice. Conversation was relatively easy and there were no obvious red flags (unlike bad date guy – remember him?). I’ve had dates where I couldn’t wait to see him again, dates where I was intrigued enough to want to see him again, and dates where I was certain I never wanted to see him again, but this wasn’t any of those.

I felt…nothing. Not nothing, I felt kind of the way I feel about toast; I like toast, but if I didn’t have toast in my life, It wouldn’t really affect me.

Don’t misunderstand me; he was a really nice guy. He stood when I walked in the restaurant and paid for dinner without hesitating. He is close with his family and gets along well with his housemates. He’s good at his job and has a circle of friends for whom he makes time. There was just no connection, at all.

*People who are judging me: my life, my rules. Leave me be.*

He followed up with a text saying that he’d had fun and asking if we could get together later in the week. What to say? The toast analogy seemed callous. He didn’t do anything wrong, so I couldn’t blame that. I could have pulled a Houdini and just disappeared, but since I’ve recently been through a Houdini breakup, that would be cruel. I could have emphasized how busy I am and hoped he lost interest, though I’m not sure I can spare the bad Karma.

In the end, I decided to go with the truth (paraphrased and borrowed from this article):

It’s very sweet of you to invite me out again, but I just don’t feel a romantic connection here. It was really nice to meet you!

My goal isn’t to be mean. While it might sting to be on the receiving end of these words, I believe it’s far kinder than to lead him on or use some lame and/or insulting excuse. I wish him the best, but I’m not his best.

On to the next adventure, I suppose…

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It’s not about the nail | Understanding women

Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

Woman complains to man. Man tries to offer solutions to fix woman’s problem. Woman gets mad at man because she just wanted him to listen. Many gets confused and frustrated because woman is acting crazy.

Somebody (Jason Headley) made a short movie about it.

The scary part? I recognize how crazy this girl looks and I still understand where she’s coming from.

While an extreme case, this really does happen in relationships, even platonic ones. My advice (if you’re up for it) is to ask the complainer what they would like from you. Do they want to fix the problem, or would they prefer that you just listen and support them? Clear expectations, friends, this is what life is all about.

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Paint me like one of your French girls…

With my truly disastrous love life (oh, by the way, we’re laughing about it now, at least 60% of the time), and my absurd devotion to Stuart, I guess I should be getting ready for a life as a crazy cat lady. Just picture me in rollers and a pink fuzzy bathrobe standing in the doorway of my house yelling at the neighbor kids to stop messing with “my babies”. I’ll give them (the cats, not the neighbor kids) ridiculous names like Sir Fluffinstuff and Senor McCuddles and for Christmas we’ll all wear sweaters and pose for a card.

Guys, you need to find me a man. Now.

Anyway, cats make (almost) everything better, including artistic masterpieces, apparently. Wait, what? That’s right. Fat Cat Art is any entire website dedicated to famous painting that have been augmented with cats.

I am in love.

Consider these two versions of Manet’s The Bar at the Folies-Bergère:

Edouard_Manet,_A_Bar_at_the_Folies-Bergère    manet-a-bar-at-the-folies-bergere-cat-w

Can you even? Bonus points because the cat looks a bit like Stuart. I wonder if he’d pose for me….

Happy Tuesday!