The magic house….

Before we moved into this house, we jokingly called it the “magic” house.

The house magically fell into our laps when we weren’t looking and didn’t know we wanted a new house…..it magically met our long-term goals for renovation of our current house….

I had magical dreams for the house.  Since our bedroom would be on a different floor than the Hobbits, no one would ever come to our bed in the middle of the night.  With a designated playroom, toys would never be left lying around the house for us to trip over.  The laundry chute would keep the Hobbits’ bedrooms neat and tidy.

That was when my mediocre sister asked if we were moving into a magic house.  Well, yeah, I actually kind of thought so.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way.  Hobbits still wander to my room at all hours of the night….they only visit the playroom to make ungodly messes and then drag their toys all over the house….laundry piles up everywhere because, apparently, 10 steps is just too far to walk to the laundry chute.

We have discovered a different kind of magic in the house, though.

We had envisioned a home where our Hobbits’ friends lounged by the swimming pool in the summer, and played on the pool table in the winter….a place where awkward pre-teens and gangly teenagers would sprawl on the couches and the floor, playing games and watching movies.

What we didn’t see coming was that our friends would do the same.

We hosted a big party this past Saturday.  We cleaned the house, shopped for food, even ordered a small keg of beer.  Friends and family came, swam in the pool, and brought food to share.  There were even fireworks after dark.

The next morning, relaxing with our coffee, friends from out of state texted that they were headed to a nearby beach.  Did we want to join them?  A dozen texts and an hour later, they arrived at our house to swim and eat party leftovers.

Nine kids played in the pool for hours, with barely a cross word.  Parents lounged and swam and played with the kids.  The food was good.  The beer was cold.  The conversation was fun.  We kept the kids up past their bedtime for the second night in a row, and we didn’t regret one minute.

When the house was quiet, the diswasher humming, and the Hobbits snoring, Hubby walked me through the house.  ”I want to show you something,” he said.

We started by the front door, walked through the living room, through the kitchen, onto the screened porch and then to the deck.  We watched the sun going down next to the pool.

Hubby said this….

This is why we have this house, and this is what we do for people.  We give them a place to relax and leave their stress behind for a little while.  It’s not much, but it’s what we can do.

He’s right.  Life is difficult.  Parenting is hard.  Work sucks.

We all have too much to do and not enough time.  We deserve a break.  Our kids deserve a break.

We all need a little time to leave behind the stress of meetings and projects….organized sports….school projects…haircuts….and doctor visits.  It’s fun to watch our kids, relaxed and enjoying their friends…..and to join them, splashing in the pool.  Because there is never enough time for play.

We have appointments and deadlines, schedules and chores.  But we rarely find the time to relax and take a break.  So, once in a while, the magic house becomes that place…..where the rules relax, the kids behave, and we forget our stress for just a little while.

Sometimes, we swim until the sun goes down.  Sometimes, the kids watch movies while the grown-ups play dice or dominoes.  Sometimes, there are football games and ping-pong tournaments.

We hope the Hobbits learn that your family is not only the people who share your DNA…..your family is made of the people that love you….the people who make you want to drop everything to be with them….to celebrate weddings and baptisms with them….to cry with them through sickness and heartbreak.

The friends who come to our home are not always the friends that we see regularly, but they are all the kind of friends who open the refrigerator for a sippy cup of milk, kick off their shoes, put their feet on the coffee table, and enjoy the magic house.

They are our family.

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I have a photograph….

We took a big risk.  Hobbit #2 was invited to spend a few days at her friend’s house in the southern part of our state.  None of the Hobbits have ever been away from home for more than one night….and she seemed a particularly risky choice.

After the challenges she faced in the spring (read about it here), I didn’t want to let her go.  What if she had a melt-down?  What if she had a crisis?  What if I had to drive hours to go rescue her?  We were just beginning to breathe a little easier, and I was afraid this visit could set us so far back.

There was another part of me, though, that wanted her to go.  I wanted her to be able to have fun.  She had worked so hard, and been through so much, that I wanted her to be able to celebrate her victories.  I wanted her to just be a kid and have fun.

Her therapist asked me if I felt comfortable letting her go.  Of course not….but I’m not sure I will ever feel completely comfortable letting her go anywhere.

There is the part of me that remembers what it was like to see her in crisis….and I don’t ever want to go there again.  She seems fragile to me, and I don’t want to take a chance that she will break.  But she is brave, and she deserves to experience all that life has to offer her.

We decided to let her go.  I gave her the news at the therapist’s office, after privately talking through some of my reservations.

She was giddy, and bouncy, and excited, and couldn’t stop talking.  We told her that she had been through some really rough stuff in the past few months….she had worked really hard….and it was time for her to get back to the business of having fun and being a kid.

As she beamed, and chatted, and squirmed in her seat, her therapist caught my eye.  I may have caught the faintest glimmer of a tear in her eye.

She said, “Hobbit, I wish I had a photograph of you right now that we could compare to a photograph of you, on that same couch, just three months ago.”

I got choked up as I thought of the incredibly difficult journey we have all been on.  I could imagine those photographs clearly.

Three months ago, she was defeated.  She was scared.  She was broken.  She curled into herself and looked at the floor.  She clung to a stuffed animal as if it were a lifeline, and wrapped her arms around her body.  She was tortured by people we could not see, voices we could not hear, and things she could not understand.

This day, her head was held high.  The stuffed animal she had once clutched so desperately, lay carelessly across her lap.  She bounced in her seat.  She made eye contact.  She smiled.  Her shoulders were back, and her energy was infectious.  She grinned and giggled.

I laughed with tears in my eyes.  I, too, would love to have a photograph of those two little girls, side by side.  The same little girl….once tortured, now triumphant.

The fact is, though, I do not need a photograph.  I carry those images in my heart, and I will never, ever forget.

My girl is brave and strong.  She will face challenges throughout her life.  She will always have needs that are different from the other Hobbits.  She will one day leave my home, forever, to manage her needs on her own.  I will probably not feel confident for her then, either.

But I will still carry this photograph in my heart.  The one that reminds me that my Hobbit is a fighter, and she is oh, so strong.

The day she got home from her adventure, I was sick.  I apologized for not having a special dinner and making it a special night for her.

“Why should it be special?” she asked.  ”I’m just home.”

Yes, my dear Hobbit, you are “just home,” and that is exactly why it is special.  You are just home….no fuss, no drama….you are just home.

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Making memories….

We were on family vacation last weeek.  Nothing fancy…..a tiny little cottage on the shore of Lake Michigan…..eight of us packed into 500 square feet.  Eating, sleeping, playing together…..close together.

Two little duplex cottages behind a family home….four families….fourteen rugrats….and a new baby on the way.  (Thank god, it’s not ours!  It’s much easier for me to be happy about a new baby when it belongs to someone else.)

Sand everywhere…..in the bedsheets….on the floor of the shower….in the Hobbits’ hair….in the food.

Happy children in the freezing-cold water….learning to paddleboard….taking rides on the sailboat….playing games in the little courtyard…..digging in the sand behind the cottages.  Burying each other on the beach….floating in giant innner tubes.

Angry children fighting over glow sticks….begging for bonfires….wailing in time-out….”Go away, momma!”…..and begging for snacks and more snacks.

Some of our children are typically annoying in their appropriate developmental stage….the tween who rolls her eyes….the boy who tries to escape his chores….the trio of little girls who argue over toys and crayons.  Others face special challenges….dietary restrictions….help walking in the sand….meds, meds, and more meds….angry outbursts and tears long into the night….

Eight parents who alternate between diligently counting 14 heads on the sand…..and sipping glasses of wine by the fire at night, when the children are finally asleep.

We are all very, very close…..it’s not hard to know what is going on in someone else’s cottage….and if you don’t know, you just ask someone….or press your face against the screen door to look inside!

It is a tiny village of its own….built by one woman who hoped for exactly this…..to build lifetime memories for her own children, while playing a small part in allowing other families to build their own memories.

It is not a vacation for everyone….Mickey is not there (well, except for every article of clothing the Baby Hobbit owns)….there are no roller coasters….we are almost completely “unplugged.”

But if it is the vacation for your family, there is nothing else that can compare.

Seven full days of working together as a family team.  Seven full days of children honing their social skills and learning to work out their problems….taking turns, negotiating for “favorite” toys.  Seven full days of connecting with your spouse over morning coffee (me) or an early-morning run (not me).

Seven full days of parents putting aside work and responsibility and appointments and doctors and therapy.  Seven full days of laughing and lamenting about adventures in parenthood….the ultimate exercise in humility.

This was our ninth year on this same vacation….we have come to the point where I know exactly which shelf in the small pantry is reserved for cereal, and which shelf is for the snacks.

This year, the baby Hobbit turned three on our vacation.  In the weeks leading up to vacation, she couldn’t stop talking about her “birthday on the beach.”  We celebrated as we have every year with all the families and cupcakes for everyone.

Baby Hobbit was the star of the show for me on this vacation.  It was amazing to watch her forming some of her very first memories of our family vacation.

She called our cottage “mommy’s beach house,” and she slept in a big bed with her siblings for the very first time.  We brought the pack-and-play, but we folded it up after a couple of days, when she decided she wanted to sleep with the “kids.”

On the first beach day, she wanted to show us her “tricks”….which meant running into the water with her arms spread wide, and then running back, dripping and shivering.

Over and over and over again, she repeated the phrase, “I’m so happy!

When we went out for ice cream, she chose “pink” as her flavor and ate it with a giant smile on her face.

When vacation was finally over, and we got back home, she cried as we pulled into the driveway because we were at the “wrong house.”  She took a nap and woke up, saying that she wanted to go back to “mommy’s beach house.”

Hobbit #4 cried because she already misses the beach so much.

All of the Hobbits have started planning for next year.

Disneyworld may claim to be the “happiest place on earth” but I am pretty sure we made magic of our own this week.

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Tattoo shops and gay bars….

Since breaking from who I perceived that I should be, I have found freedom.  And I have also found my “people.”

The first place that I recognized my people was in the tattoo shop.  I walked in for the first time, intimidated and unsure of myself.  I met my artist, and began to talk about what I wanted for my very first tattoo.

The artist asked me lots of questions and made comments like, “it’s your body” and “whatever you want.”

And then he transformed my vision into something amazing….that became a part of my body and a part of my story.

No one thought it was strange that a 40-year-old mother of 6 was getting her first tattoo.  In fact, it was completely no big deal.  My place in life was part of my story, but it did not define me.

I was hooked.

I loved watching my vision come to life….first, in artwork, and then, on my body.  I loved the permanent reminders of my journey in life.  I loved that my tattoos had meaning that was mine to share….or not.  They were breathtakingly beautiful, and they reminded me to be beautiful and strong.

I loved that they hurt.  This was pain that reflected my journey.  I sat like a rock during a tattoo session, and I relished the strength that I had.  I felt like a rock star.  I wanted to sit longer….so I tattooed my entire back….in 5-hour sessions.

I felt immediately at home in the tattoo shop.

You are 40 years old?….getting your first tattoo?….a mother of 6?….having a mid-life crisis?  Cool.  Have a seat and tell me what you would like to see on your body.

The intimidated middle-aged mother sat with the giggly young girls and the barrel-chested tattooed men…..all getting inked, and nobody was made to feel uncomfortable.

I  love getting tattooed….and I don’t plan to stop.

I found my people once again when the Hubby and I stumbled upon a gay bar on vacation.  We knew it was a gay bar….we didn’t know it was a meat-market.

Once we got past the initial in-your-face, checking-you-out, what’s-your-story vibe, we had a lot of fun.  There were male strippers, being tipped by men and women alike.  There were angry lesbians, pretty lesbians, and too-drunk-to-know-where-they-were lesbians.  There were tough guys, pretty guys, straight men, straight women, couples, and singles.

Drag queens, cross-dressers, and a few straight couples.  There were young and old.  Hot and not-so-much.

The drinks were good.  The bartenders were friendly.  The music was loud.  And everybody was having a good time….including us.

Unlike the local bar we went to for my birthday, with the group of 40-ish women….who were trying too hard with their clothes and make-up and giving their “bitch-face” to every woman who came in the bar.

Hey, ladies, relax.  Nobody cares about you nearly as much as you think they do.

A day at the tattoo shop or a night at the gay bar is almost as therapeutic for me as a day at the spa.  A time to breathe deeply, relax, and be completely comfortable.

My people have always been there.  I only just discovered that I am one of them.

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Taking back my power….

I grew up in a cult….(you can read about it here).  I have been rejected by those in the cult…..and I am not the least bit saddened by that.

However, there are ambivalent feelings that I have been rejected by my very own family.

The break in my family relationship was my decision…..a gradual distance that became years of non-communication.  I was saddened and relieved that no one seemed to mind the distance.

In recent months, we have tried to establish a peaceful existence for the sake of the Hobbits.

The family came for a short visit.  Normally, that is a reason for the grandaddy of all panic attacks…..Xanax, please!

I was not worried about the visit.  I had not one shred of anxiety…..no sense of panic….no need for a list of “safe topics.”  I worried because I wasn’t worried.  Perhaps I was mistakenly letting my guard down, only to be shocked when the visit turned ugly.

You probably know about the struggles we have had with our anxiety-ridden Hobbit….(or you can read some of it here.)  It has been the most difficult time we have faced as parents.

When I asked myself about my cool demeanor in the face of a visit from the cult, I realized just what was the root of my calm.

In the aftermath of crisis, I knew there was no challenge the small-minded could bring to derail me.  There was no judgment they could bring that would be worse than the storm we had weathered.  Bring it, bitches….you have nothing I cannot handle!

It feels like an ugly thing to admit, but I am going to tell you anyway….I was arrogant.

The small-minded had their chance to raise their children.  They raised us, but they did not help us.  Every single one of us is a hot mess in some way.  Some of us are much more damaged than others.  We asked for help.  We acted out.  We tried to confide in them.

When they were faced with their children’s struggles, they chose to ignore us, pray for us, seek counsel from the cult leadership or, worse yet, place the blame squarely on our shoulders.

I have chosen a different way for my Hobbits.  I don’t have the answers.  I don’t know how to help my Hobbits through all of their challenges.  But I will find the people that do know how to help them.

I will not ignore their turmoil…..and I will never, ever blame them when they are weak or even victims of their own minds.

I am a better parent in twelve years than the small-minded ever were.

I never fit in their world….why would I want them to approve of mine?

There are no guarantees that my Hobbits will grow to be successful adults.  It turns out that some of life seems to be determined by the spin of a  giant roulette wheel.

But I will be damned if my Hobbits will go down without a fight….

The small-minded have no power over me, unless I grant it to them.  And for this one visit, I refused to allow them the power.

I embraced my own strength and power.  It was amazing to truly walk away from the baggage of judgment.

I continue to grow.  I hope I continue to be strong….for my Hobbits….and for myself.

 

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One down….

I can be so forgetful…..in the last two days, I have lost both my cell phone and my driver’s license….to later find them, mocking me, in the most logical of places.  But there is something really important that I forgot for quite a while…..

I really like my Hubby!  He happens to be a pretty cool dude….with endearing and crazy-annoying habits.  I have remembered that I used to like to hang out with him.

We used to enjoy drinks and dinner, going to the movies, laughing at ourselves, and talking on our pillows until late into the night.  We would wake up exhausted and hung over…..and we couldn’t wait to do it again.

Now that I have remembered this, we have a big problem, though….the Hobbits are cramping my style!

I do not appreciate being jolted from my bed with a demand for “JUICE!” or cartoons or a diaper change.

I want to recover from my over-indulgence with extra hours of sleep, a platter of scrambled eggs, and a mid-morning nap.

But there is a solution that I only recently discovered.  You can leave your rugrats!

You don’t have to wake up early after a long night….you can nap whenever you want….and you don’t have to feel guilty about it.

How did I not know this sooner?!?  Oh, right, I was too busy being angry and hating my Hubby…..or trying to be the perfect mother…..or wishing I could run away from my life.

I have discovered that I can run away from my life, at least for a little bit.

If I can get into the right headspace and leave my world behind, I am ready to face the Hobbits when I return.

I can forget for a little while that I am a mother….I can remember who my husband was when we were young and had fewer responsibilities…and I can remember that what I want is just as important as it once was.

Guess what?  You can do it, too.  You can walk away for just a little while and do whatever you want.  Maybe it will be an overnight….maybe a quiet trip to the mall….maybe a zumba class….or even drinks with your girlfriends.

You really will be a better parent because you took a break.

You will not be as angry when you have had too little sleep, and you can find the energy to continue peaceful negotiations with your pint-sized terrorists….in spite of their outrageous demands and primitive communication skills.

Hubby and I ran away this week.  Just a quick escape.  We asked a friend to watch over the Hobbits.

This friend is a well-educated, young, single man who is staying with us for a few weeks while he is in between places.  He is a polite, considerate, and helpful houseguest.  So conscientious, in fact, that we knew the perfect way he could “help.”

 Me:  Hey, buddy, wanna watch over the Hobbits while we disappear?  All you have to do is feed them dinner (carry-out pizza) and put them into bed for one night.  After that one night, I have a mom friend who will take over for you.  That would be great, right?

Friend:  Of course, I would be happy to do that for you.  You both mean so much to me, and I appreciate the hospitality you are extending.  It’s the least I could do!  Have fun, and don’t worry about a thing!  <big hugs>

We had fun….and we didn’t worry about a thing.  Mostly because we really didn’t care!

Every one of the Hobbits was alive when we returned…..that was truly my only expectation.  I like to set the bar really low.

However, the friend may never fully recover.  I think he may require some type of trauma therapy….

He was stunned, exhausted, and generally bested at every turn.  He had minor victories, but, all in all, I call this one a win for the Hobbits!

He experienced negotiations, tenacity, and mental gymnastics that rivaled his experiences in law school.  Hobbits do not follow courtroom procedure or file formal complaints…..they make the rules as they go….and change them whenever they want.

Their rules of engagement involve ear-piercing shrieks, stomping feet, and mental breakdown similar to Chinese water torture.

You can only resist for a certain time before you begin to consider slamming your head against a wall or stabbing your eyeball with a fork.

Somehow, the friend missed the little detail that Hobbits wake up early (even though he is living here)…..and they begin to argue and fight soon after.  He only got six hours of sleep, and don’t we mommas know that seems like a luxury, rather than a reason to be irritated and angry all day….

He was a broken version of himself.  He told funny stories of his experiences, but the laughter was a thin veil over his battered spirit.

He has reconsidered the entire vision of his future…..an only child now seems like an optimal plan!

Now, when Baby Hobbit shrieks, he cringes right along with us…..knowing a war is about to ensue.  He is napping on the couch in the middle of the day and out the door before the Hobbits wake up in the morning like someone lit a fire under him.

He has lost the sparkle in his eye and the spring in his step.

From the outside, the energy and chaos of a big family can seem exciting and warm.  From in here, it is game on at every moment.

There is always a tomorrow to prepare for…..always plans to be made….always a crisis to be averted.

Don’t worry about our friend, though…..I may have saved him from blindly walking down a path of madness like I did.  One down…..many, many more starry-eyed procreators to go….

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Small-minded assholes….

Sometimes, the truths of my past surprise people, and they are not sure if I am actually making a joke.  Most of the time, I am not.

This is a truth of my past:

I grew up in a cult….an official, certifiable cult.

It was a world of power-hungry leaders, brainwashed followers, physical and mental abuse, exclusivity, secrecy, and rituals.

Questions and doubts were unacceptable and called your loyalty into question.  It was the only world I knew.

Men dominated.  Women submitted.  Children obeyed.  We were taught that our lifestyle was the only true way to honor God.

I left the cult, but it took many, many years before the cult mentality left me.  Happily, there are very few times that I still carry that baggage.

Hubby and I have worked hard to create a different world for ourselves and the Hobbits.  We encourage the Hobbits to be open-minded, genuine, accepting, tolerant, and loving.  We surround ourselves with people who are also kind, genuine, and loving.

It has been nearly impossible to maintain an adult relationship with my family.  Now, we find it difficult to balance a relationship between family and the Hobbits.

In some ways, it is fortunate that they do not particularly enjoy our company any more than we enjoy theirs.  We have developed a comfortable relationship of avoidance.

I recently heard a podcast about a teenager’s struggle to be accepted as gay in her small hometown.  The host sympathized, and then made a statement about growing up as an outsider.

He said that many gay adults struggled to fit into the simple-minded world of their childhood years.  Even as they vainly tried to be accepted, they had no idea that the very estrangement they despised would one day save them.

I didn’t hear the rest of his comments, because my mind had already wandered back to my own childhood.

You see, I spent every single day of my life trying to “fit in.”  I wanted so badly to belong in my world.

The cult of my youth seemed idyllic, peaceful, tranquil, and right.  Of course, bad things happened, but they were always the result of God’s judgment or his longing to bring us closer to his love.

Bad people existed, but their days were numbered.  It was only a matter of time until the Creator brought them to judgment.

Good people did bad things, but that was because their righteous ways were a target for the devil.

I wanted so badly to belong to that inner circle.  I did not belong.

I wore my hair the way I was told.  I wore the clothes the cult deemed acceptable.  I voiced only the opinions held by the leaders, and I buried my doubts deep in the sea of God’s mercy.

I followed all the rules…..except when I couldn’t…..but, even then, I accepted punishment as a reminder to serve my Maker.

I believed.  I tried so hard to believe.

I failed.  I was rejected by my parents, my leaders, and their God.

I tried harder.  Still, I failed.

I gave up and made a new life for myself.  I wore the clothes I wanted to.  I cut my hair.  I had my first drink of alcohol, and I gave myself to a boy.

I felt so very guilty…..and dirty.  But I couldn’t deny that there were also fleeting moments of peace and joy.

It has taken years to leave my guilt behind.  Years of self-discovery and insight.  Years of trial and error.  Years of anger, therapy, and medications.  Years of honesty.  Oceans of tears and unbearable pain.

Now, there is peace.  There is a god who accepts me.  There is a home filled with love and acceptance.  There are friends who stand closer to me than my family.

In all the years that I was trying to belong, I had no idea that the real gift was in not finding a way to belong.

The shunning and rejection that I experienced forced me to walk a new path.  To find a new place to “belong.”  I found a new way of life grounded in self-acceptance and unconditional love.

If I had found a way to be accepted by my cult, I would still be with them.

I may have never found the courage to discover a new way of life.

Being rejected by a world of small-minded assholes forced me out.  Out of a way of life that never felt right….that always felt too harsh….that was never really meant to be mine.

There were heroes in my past that helped me to escape.  Heroes who taught me to love and to be loved.  They saved me….they planted seeds that eventually helped me save myself.

My heart was ripped into pieces when I was rejected by those who claimed to love me.  They did not fight for me.  They let me go.

I did not know they were giving me a gift.

They rejected me, and I did not become one of them.   I no longer have to live in a world of judgment.

I am free.  I am at peace.  I am satisfied.

 

 

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Dear Momma….

Dear Momma,

I see you in the waiting room at a pediatric mental health professional.

I recognize that you are having a hard time.

I have been you….I am you.

I saw your daughter dart across the parking lot without looking for cars.  I saw your son yelling at her to stop.  I saw you look up in distress as you unbuckled a car seat.

I was watching out for your little one to run back across.  That’s what moms do….we watch out for one another.  I waited very patiently before driving, even though I am sure you imagined that I was frustrated.

I stood behind you to check in.  While we waited, I saw each of your children run to you over and over again.  I saw your frustration as you told the littles to stop filling cups of water.  I heard you instruct the older two to begin their homework, as you handed your smallest one your smart phone to keep him busy.

I noticed your yoga pants and ponytail.  I saw that you badly needed a pedicure.  I could tell you desperately longed for a break.

I saw you struggling to keep the littles contained in a busy waiting room with gentle reminders of “inside voice” and requests to “please start your homework.”

I listened as you asked the receptionist if the doctor was behind in his appointments.  You were polite….but I heard your frustration as you hoped for the answer you needed.  You told the receptionist that you had been there before, but the wait was too long and you had to leave.  You needed someone to hear you.

I heard you.

I saw you explain directions to homework pages, and then quietly sigh when the children went back to work.  I saw you pick up a magazine, only to be interrupted before you could read more than two sentences.

I recognized your frustration when one after another asked to go to the bathroom.

I saw your jaw tense when you gritted your teeth and took a deep breath before speaking to the kids.  I heard the plea behind your words….”please, oh, please be good.”

I wanted to hug you.  I wanted to take you out for a pedicure and a glass of wine.  I wanted to listen to you.  I wanted you to know you are not alone.

I wanted to cry for you.  I wanted to cry for myself.  Your desperation and frustration felt so close to where I have been so many, many times.

I have no idea which of your children was there to see the doctor.  I have no idea what kind of challenge you are facing.

But I do know that you are doing a great job…..and I do know that you will make it.  I know you are struggling…..and I know that your children are loved.

I hate people who can’t mind their own business…..but I became one of them.  I couldn’t help myself.

I gave your arm a squeeze and whispered in your ear…..”hang in there.  It does get easier.”

You were surprised.  You laughed it off.  You were maybe a bit embarassed….a bit uncomfortable.

I hope you heard me.  I hope you felt the compassion behind my words.

I hope you remember.  I hope you find time for yourself.  I hope you stay strong.

I have been you……I am you.

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Puppies or babies?….

I have never, ever watched even one episode of Mad Men.  I hear great things about the show.  Chances are, at some point, I will binge-watch every season in one week, because that’s how I roll.

Something about Mad Men has piqued my interest, though.

I heard on a gossip show that one of the stars of Mad Men has admitted that she and her husband have no desire to have children, preferring instead the company of their puppy.

One of the hosts of the show said that women are delaying their families, and that a decline in the birth rate for women ages 15-29 is proof of that fact.

A decline in the birth rate among young women is proof that they are delaying their families?  Really??

What about the success of sex education in schools?…..increasing availability and use of birth control among teenagers?….independence and desire of young women to pursue their careers?…..freedom of choice?

I am certainly not a host of a nationally televised talk show, but it seems to me that women are exercising their right to create their own paths in life.

How about motherhood as a choice, rather than an assumption?  How dare we question a woman’s choice about whether or not to become a mother?

What gives anyone the right to assume that a woman will change her mind?…..or that she should change her mind?  What gives me the right to believe that anyone should travel the same path as I have?….or that my journey is somehow more fulfilling or more worthy than someone else’s?

I know a young woman who has been actively seeking a doctor to give her a tubal ligation since she was just out of high school.  She is now pushing 30, and has yet to find a doctor to perform the procedure, even though she has still not changed her mind about having children.

Think of all the years of hormonal birth control she has taken…..the diligence required to never have unprotected sex….even in a committed relationship.

Guess what?  If you decide not to have children….I think you are a genius!  I don’t want to have children, either….

I think you are brave.  I think you are strong enough to resist the social norms that are archaically imposed upon women.  I think you are honest with yourself and your partners.

Maybe, when you meet the “right one”, you will change your mind…..or not!

Maybe the “right one” who tries to change your mind is not the right one at all!

Children change your life for-freaking-ever.

There is no kennel to board them for a vacation…..and even if you are lucky enough to have a loving grandparent (or good friends) who will board them for you…..you are still a parent.  Because children require more than a walk, a bowl of food, and a belly rub.

There are phone calls when they have temper tantrums…..there are nightly calls to sing special lullabies….there are souvenirs to bring home so that they will know you missed them….you never really get away from them.

Another of the talk-show hosts argued that she also loves her pets, but there is  a reward in raising her child that could never compare to the affection from her pet.  What if a warm place to tuck your feet at night and a warm puppy nose are enough to fill your heart?

Of course there are sweet moments when raising children….and there are similiarities in raising puppies and children.

Babies like belly rubs…..after they have been crying for hours with colic and need to release a deadly cloud of gas…or a nasty diaper blow-out all the way up to their necks.

Toddlers will lick your face with delight….. right after they have vomited their entire stomach contents.

And, sure enough, babies and puppies love to rub their noses in their own feces.

If kids are not your thing, don’t force it.

There is power and freedom in being honest.  And there can be bondage and unhappiness in doing what is expected from you.

I never wanted kids.  Hubby and I thought we may not have any at all.  I never wanted them…..and, yet, here I am.  Some days, I am pretty sure that I have not changed my mind.  Fate changed it for me.  And sometimes fate is a bastard.

Have a litter….or tie your tubes…..whatever you do, just know yourself and then have the courage to be yourself.

Create the life you want to live.  You only get one chance.  Don’t fuck it up.

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We just will….

I don’t know how….but we just will.

How will we get through our family crisis?  How will we make it through the day?  What do we do next?

I don’t know…..but we just will.

We will get through.  We will make it.  We will be whole again.  We just will.

Mothers….families….we just do.

We put one foot in front of the other.  We make it through the day.  We make it through the hour.  We make it one baby step at a time.

We make it through rough times.  We make it through bad days.  We make it through fun and good times.  We just do.  We make it through sleepless nights.  We make it through worry.

There are no answers right now.  There is no clear path.  There is only fear, doubt, and the tiny celebration of the ordinary.

We are a family in crisis.  We carry on.

Hubby goes to work.  Mediocre mommy packs the lunches and loads the dishwasher.

The Hobbits go to school and avoid their chores.

In between all of the regular, we face our fears.  We cry.  We plan.  We hold each other close.  We love one another.

We pray that it is enough.

I ranted…..”how can I do this?….how will we get through?….what will I do?”….

My dear therapist said…..”I don’t have any answers.  I don’t know how you will do it….but you just will.”

I am hanging on to those words.

We have done this before, in different situations.

We look back, now, and we don’t know how we did it.  But we did.

One day, we will be on the other side of this, and we will not really know what we did to get through.

We just will.

We will make it.  We will survive.  We will be stronger.

We just will.

We will do it together.  Each of us bringing our own strengths to our family.

Hubby and I will stand together as the foundation of our home.  The Hobbits will challenge us.  They will make us stronger.  They will make us laugh.  They will love each other unconditionally.

We will lean on each other.  We will give strength to those who are weak.  We will figure it out.

We will do it one step at a time.  We will do it one day at a time. We just will.

We may not do it gracefully.  We may not do it well.  We may do it while kicking and screaming in protest.  But we will do it.

We just will.

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