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I had a moment last week where I totally broke down. After a day of irritability to the extreme — everyone and everything was making me cranky — I lay in my bed and sobbed until the tears ran dry. There really was no one reason for it; more of an accumulation of things from of a really hard, really long month. I just felt done.

Immediately after returning to school after winter break, Owen came down with a horrible cough. He would be unable to catch his breath and as a result, he would throw up. In the kitchen, on the couch, in his bed. It lasted a week, and despite my best efforts to sanitize every thing he touched/looked at, it wasn’t long before I started to feel run down. Without getting TOO whiny about it, my cold turned into a sinus infection that completely and totally put me out of commission. I’m not exaggerating when I say I would rather give birth than have a sinus infection. Especially when you can’t take any good drugs. At the height of it, I parented from the couch, moving only to put on another movie for the boys or go in search of some snacks for them. They ate pancakes for dinner twice in a row because the thought of getting up to make an actual meal was exhausting. Despite all the help he gave when he could, Michael had to work. No way around it. So it was just me and the kids and oh yeah, a polar vortex that kept us housebound and closed school more times than I could count. To say we were going stir crazy was an understatement. Ryan came down with his own version of the cold sometime in the middle of this. I’m really, truly done with kid snot. Really.

In total, at least one of us — mostly me — were sick for an entire month. It wasn’t until last week when I was finally able to take a strong breath, smell things and taste my food. It took a toll on us. As a mother, I felt like a failure. I was tired, grumpy, yelling. We did nothing fun. The boys fought and wrestled and yelled. Ryan climbed things and threw cars at his brother. Owen was defiant and pushed boundaries and yelled no all day long.

For a month, all I felt was guilt. I felt guilty when I sighed with relief after dropping Owen off at school, guilt for looking forward to nap time and bedtime like it was Christmas day. Guilt over the amount of television they were watching. (SO MUCH TV.) I felt guilty for not even smiling when Michael came in the door because I was just too burnt out. I was stretched thin and began to panic. If I feel this way now, how am I going to feel come June? Another baby, another little person with needs. That straw broke the camel’s back, and the tears came.

I woke up the following morning feeling better. Nothing was resolved, but it felt like a new day. A day where I could make a change. Now that I was healthy, it was time to work on my behavior and how I was relating to and dealing with the kids. The yelling, it needs to change. Look, I’m not naive. Sometimes I’m going to yell. Sometimes it will be warranted and hello, it’s part of life. But I don’t have to yell as much as I have been.

In my quest to Do Better, I stumbled across this post and it stopped me in my tracks. If you have a three-year old, you should look at that. Especially a three-and-a-half-year old. The behaviors listed are Owen to a tee right now, and made me feel SO much better. It’s not just him. It’s not just me. We’re all dealing with a crazy child at this age. Some of the less desirable traits (and don’t get me wrong, there’s some awesome stuff going on with him too. But, that’s now what this post is about. Ha!) that stood out to me were:

Three and a Half Years:

“Turbulent, troubled period of disequilibrium, the simples event or occasion can elicit total rebellion

New- found verbal ability “I’ll cut you in pieces!” and lots of whining

May refuse to do things a lot, or howl and scream, or say a lot of “I can’t” I won’t” kinds of things

Demanding, bossy, turbulent, troubled but mainly due to emotional insecurity

Mother-child relationship difficult but may also cling to mother

May refuse to take part in daily routine – may do better with almost anyone than Mother”

Oh yeah. That’s Owen right now. Throw in an equally strong willed 19-month old who is in a whiny stage, and you have a recipe for a crazy mother.

The follow-up piece to that post discussed dealing with those behaviors, and a big part of it was about how the parent handles it. I read this passage, teared up (of course), and the light bulb was turned on.

Which, of course, does not always mean that your child will “behave”.  Many attached parents feel like failures when their children hit three or so, as the child’s sense of self and an increased need for boundaries start to come out. As a parent, you cannot count it as a “good day” if your child doesn’t cry or melt-down or not have a temper tantrum… You can count it as a “good day” if you were calm, if you helped to de-escalate the situation, if you held it together. And even then, please be easy with yourself!  Living with small children can be challenging!  This is about the path your child is taking as he or she grows and becomes their own person, this is not about you versus them. – The Parenting Passageway 

So that’s where I stand today. I am determined to be a better mom. My poor little first pancake, Owen. I’m sorry I have to make the mistakes on you, buddy. You are blazing the parenting trail for me. Every day with you is something new and I want you to know I’m trying my best. Together we will make it through this crazy year — and all the crazy years that are to come. I love you, kiddo. So very much.

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When I lost my job in public relations it felt awful. I left a job and people I loved in the not-for-profit world for one in consumer electronics because I thought it would advance me in my career. It was close to home and paid much more than I was making, and so, after much back and forth, I took it.

The problem was, I wasn’t very good at the new job. The passion I held for the museum I left could not be replicated in the consumer world. I felt timid and confused and spent a better part of a year hoping to not be put on the spot, afraid it would reveal the truth.

Despite all that, getting fired was terrible. Although a part of me felt relief that I could just go, I still felt awful about my performance. It wasn’t the right job for me, but it was still my job. I should have worked harder. Done better.

My current gig is one I am passionate about. Being a mother brings me both joy and a sense of accomplishment. I’m good at this job, most of the time.

Lately, though, I feel like I’m slipping into the failing zone, and while no one can hand me a pink slip, I’m still aware I need to do better.

Two and a half is a challenging age. Owen argues with me, is defiant and fresh. He refuses to nap, pushes boundaries and tells me “no” all day long. At 6 months, Ryan is a happy little thing, until he’s not. Lately I spend my days more frustrated than happy. I feel burdened and unappreciated by my two small people. I am grumpy and annoyed easily and on top of that, I yell.

I could hear myself yelling more than I should, but when Owen called me out on it, I knew it had to stop. After getting out of bed AGAIN to go potty (he knows he can get out of bed for that), I snapped that it was ENOUGH.

“Why are you yelling at me, Mommy?” He asked.

“I’m not, bud,” I said, backtracking.

“Well, you were…”

Ouch.

I’m afraid that I’m so caught up in the endless minutiae of the every day, that I am missing the good stuff. I don’t want to miss a funny quote or a big cheesy grin because I’m mad that I tripped over a stray toy for the 10th time. I don’t want my kids to remember me as a grumpy mommy who yelled over nothing. I want my words and tone to mean something.

I don’t like the mother I’ve been lately, but unlike my previous job, I’m going to do something about it. I need to take a deep breath, calm my blood pressure and start a new. One day my house will stay clean and no one will be fighting me over a nap, but that also means my babies will have left the nest. I need to focus more on the now and appreciate this time while they are still little.

And so, I have an opportunity to change the way things are. This time I can, I WILL, do better.

At least you can have an occasional drink at this job.

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(He’s laughing at me. I lose.)

- We have ants. Not those giant, creepy ones, but teeny tiny ants. It started slowly, one here or there. They seemed to be mostly in the kitchen and mostly near the sink, but for the life of me I couldn’t (and still can’t) find the source. I’ve cleaned everything, and yet, they remain. Yesterday I went out and bought some ant traps and the result is HORRIFYING.

What was before a problem of three or four ants every so often, is now at least 50. The traps seem to be working in the sense that they’re all hanging out in it, but still. Apparently this trap works by an ant tasting the delicious poison, then going off to tell his friends about it before returning for more. I guess that meant telling the entire mini-ant population of Rhode Island that my kitchen is the new hot spot in town. The directions say to leave them alone and let them do their thing. Not chase them around with bleach spray and a paper towel humming “The ants go marching one by one…TO THEIR GRAVE MWAHAHAHAHA”. Although I’m finding it hard not to do that and instead watch them swarm the traps on my kitchen counter. GAHHHHH I hope it’s over soon.

- You might have read that article in the Huffington Post, “Apologies to the Parents I Judged Four Years Ago”. A few people posted it on Facebook and there were definitely some points I could relate to. I have two judgement-stories I can think of right away from before I became a parent myself. Once, I was trying to get together with my friend Sara (of the Stories of Motherhood posts) while she was at home with her first baby. He was relatively young at the time, and we were planning on lunch. That day she kept texting to reschedule, pushing the time later and later and I thought to myself, what is the PROBLEM here? How hard can it be to get out of the house with an infant? I mean, they’re a little blob of kid! Pop him on he boob, change his diaper and let’s go.

Ha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Needless to say, after Owen was born I confessed my judgement to her and apologized. She laughed and said no apologies necessary, as she had once judged just the same as I.

The other time I can recall very clearly is a day we sat on our friend’s couch watching their two boys play. I was pregnant with Owen, and as the boys climbed the couch like monkeys, jumped off and onto each other and rolled around like maniacs, Michael and I looked at each other with wide eyes of fear. On the drive home we smugly talked about how our kids would never be so wild, how they would never jump on the couch.

Heads up: if you’re newly pregnant, maybe you don’t want to come sit on my couch during Owen’s waking hours. Unless of course you’d like to shield yourself from a toddler dive bombing you while shouting “Weeee!!!!”, before he climbs down and starts playing with trucks. Just a thought.

That crow I’m eating tastes mighty fine.

I’ve been writing all these letters to Owen over during his first year, talking about what he does and what he’s learned. But when I thought about it, there is so much I learned too. I thought it only fitting that I put it in the form of a letter…only to myself.

Dear Molly,

Congratulations! You have made it through your first year of motherhood. It’s been quite the journey. You’ve come a long way from the delivery room, that’s for sure. Becoming a parent has taught you a lot. About life, about yourself…about bodily functions. Never before would you have cared so much about them, let alone the bodily funtions of someone other than yourself. But you DO.

You have learned patience. To breathe, to take a step back, to realize that “this too shall pass”. To appreciate the quiet moments as much as the loud ones, because they are all fleeting.

You have learned to pause — to look into your child’s eyes and take a mental picture of the wrinkles in his forehead, the dimple on his chin and how long his lashes are. Next time you look at them, they will be similar, yet different. He will get bigger every day, and somehow with you knowing it, he is a toddler with words and demands and the best personality in the world.

You have learned that you can survive on very little sleep. Some days you don’t think you will make it. You will cry; you will be crabby. But you will get up, start the day, and do it all over again. And just when you think you can’t take it anymore, when sleep deprivation threatens to convert you in not just a zombie, but an irrational, crazed zombie, the baby will grant you a reprieve and sleep through the night. At least for a few weeks.

You have learned a new language. Parent-ese. You’ve become fluent so quickly you will wonder why you can’t remember exactly how to conjugate verbs in French after years of classes, yet could teach a course in Parent-ese after just one year. Parent-ese ranges from discussions on things like breast pumps and sleep regressions, to deciphering seemingly incoherent babble. Even when no one else understands, you know exactly what your child wants when he yells out “Wah-Bah!” (For the record, he wants a waffle.)

You have discovered a strength you didn’t know existed. It will start before he entered the world. You have experienced physical pain — gut-wrenching physical pain — and channeled that energy into a force only a woman could posses. You used that force to push a child out of your body and then? Then you had to heal from it — both physically, and emotionally. You were bruised and battered, but you came out unscathed and even after all that, you will forget what it was like just enough to want to do it all over again.

You learned that love has no limits; that the heart can grow to accommodate more than you ever thought possible. You have discovered a new level of love for your husband watching him as a father. Your relationship has grown, changed, together. When you look at him now, you will see so much more than you ever have before.

You have learned the fine art of stain removal. From diaper blow-outs to ground-in strawberries, you are a laundry pro.

You have found that your body is amazing. That it can grow a child, push him into the world, then feed him with your chest. You will watch it change, shrink, shift, over time. You have decided to accept what it has become — almost the same, yet slightly…different. It’s no longer just a vessel, it is now a life raft for your little boy.

Molly, you have learned that this life is a special one. You are a very lucky woman, you know that? Here’s to the next year, the next lesson.

Love,

You

I woke up yesterday feeling pretty darn sorry for myself. At 3:30 in the morning I was in horrible pain from my stupid hip (some Googling plus advice from my cousin who is married to a doctor leads us to believe I’m not experiencing sciatica after all, more likely that my Sacroiliac joint is out of whack. Ow.)

Bed is the most uncomfortable place to be right now, so I just decided to get up and do some yoga stretches in my hallway for a while. The stretches feel great while I’m doing them, but really don’t keep the pain away at all. By 5 a.m. I was feeling emotional and tired and finally decided that it was time to bite the bullet and take some Tylenol.

Tylenol is supposed to be the one pain medicine that is safe to take during pregnancy, as they say it doesn’t cross the placenta. Even still, I had been reluctant to take any medicine during my pregnancy, and started to feel like a failure that I made it this far and was finally breaking down. Add that to no sleep, crazy hormones and no rational, and you get one teary-eyed, red-nosed waddling woman making her way slooooowly down the aisles at the 24-hour CVS at 5:27 a.m. in search of relief.

I found what I needed and headed to the counter, only to find the cashier that is alway, ALWAYS, in a bad mood and super rude. I prepared for a terse exchange, when he totally surprised me.

“When is your baby due?” he asked, smiling. I told him just about two and a half weeks and he literally clapped his hands and wished me luck. He then looked at my purchases (Tylenol, hot water bottle) and asked if I was feeling OK.

And here’s where I felt like an ass. Because I’m going on and on complaining about having leg and hip pain, and here’s this guy — a guy who needs to use crutches and sit in a special chair his entire life because of what I can only assume is a very painful and debilitating disease — happy as a clam and offering me sympathy as I quietly admit that I’m buying things to relieve my leg pain. From having a baby. A baby I’m so fortunate to be carrying. So, yeah. Universe reality check, take one.

I thanked him and started to leave, feeling a little ashamed, and when I stepped out the door and began waddling to the car…the sky opened up and rained on me. Hard. And just as a finally climbed into the car and shut the door…

…the rain completely stopped.

A two-minute downpour just for me.

I get it, Universe. You win. Lesson learned.

I’ll admit it. I came home and cried into Michael’s chest as I relayed the story and took the stupid Tylenol. Then I curled up on the couch with the hot water bottle against my lower back and fell asleep for a blessed two hours. When I awoke, the pain was manageable — not gone, but better — and I was able to do some things around the house that had gone to the wayside.

In a short matter of time (days? weeks?), I’m going to give birth. I’m going to have a son. The memory of this pain will be far away and I will have much more important things to think about than woe is me.

Perspective. I needed some.

Thanks, Universe.

In fourth grade I proudly wore my favorite outfit to school. It was a red and white striped boatneck top with a matching skirt and attached black bike shorts. I thought it was the most awesome fashion invention since puff paint and snap bracelets.

I put effort into dressing up that day. I brushed my hair. I picked out my matching scrunch socks. My Keds were white as snow.

My enjoyment over that outfit lasted approximately two hours, before a boy in my class — Aaron — asked me why my legs looked shiny. My legs looked shiny? I didn’t know. I didn’t make them look shiny on purpose.

But the mere fact that my legs looked shiny gave Aaron enough ammunition to completely mortify my 9-year old self.

He told everyone I shaved my legs.

Shaved my legs!! Can you imagine? Why would I ever do such a thing, I argued. I don’t shave my legs! Shaving is weird! I didn’t! I swear!

It didn’t matter what I said. By the end of the day the whole class thought I was shaving my legs, and it was enough for me to put that outfit, my wonderful red and white striped boatneck and matching skirt with attached bike shorts outfit in the back of my closet, never to see the light of day again. Because, ugh, SHAVING. How WEIRD.

(To be fair, 9-year old me also thought regular hair and tooth brushing were optional.)

This morning, Facebook “suggested” I become friends with Aaron. I’m thinking of taking a picture of my three (ok, four) days unshaven leg (umm…it’s cold out? And…I’m wearing a lot of pants?) and sending it to him with my friend request.

“Remember me? The LEG SHAVER? How do you like me now?!”

Pardon my absence yesterday. I spent the last two days in Toronto and hardly had a moment to wash my hair, let alone blog.

So, Canada. Aside from the traveling it took to get there, (I blame the two guys who don’t have passports, making us fly to Buffalo then drive into Canada) the trip was quite fun.

Some things I learned on my trip to Canada:

- they really do say “eh”.

- it’s hot there too. Really hot.

- crossing the boarder into Canada is a lot easier than crossing back into the US. All you need to get into Canada is your license. The US requires a blood and urine sample, three forms of I.D., $600 and a promise of sexual favors.

- they are very literal. No need to wonder what is sold at The Beer Store or The Sod Depot.

- iced tea at restaurants is sweetend. They tell you that when you order.

- the Monte Carlo Inn and Suites is only one step up from a Days Inn. The shower curtain will smell weird.

- JetBlue is a pretty awesome airline. The extra leg room and TVs in every seat makes the flight go a lot faster. So does a John & Kate Plus Eight marathon.

- JKF airport is a hell hole that should be condemned. A two-hour layover will feel like six.

- I will forever rue the day I decided to wear flip flops on the plane. You know you have to take your shoes off when you go through security, right? I forgot. Until my feet were touching the ground. Ewwww.

- cramming four adults into a Sebring convertible will be a challenge.

- but ladies who get carsick will be allowed to sit in the front seat.

- the thought of a hot shower will be the only bright thought on your flight home.

- but when you get home, only to find the hot water heater broke in your absence, you will forgo a 2 a.m. shower for you bed.

- however, you WILL have to suck it up in the morning and try and lather up while pressing yourself against the shower wall as far as possible from the water.

- if you don’t get to take your comp day until next week, you will be tired. Very tired. And will spend your morning wondering if there’s such a thing in RI as The Chocolate Store because that would be pretty wonderful right now.

I chose a window seat so I could lean against the side during the flight. I know it’s a risk picking that seat. You never know who you’re going to end up next to. But because the flight was long and I was running on minimal hours of sleep, I decided to go for it.

A couple took the two empty seats next to me. Grungy with stringy hair, they reeked of cigarette smoke and cheap cologne. I rolled my eyes and exhaled at my misfortune, silently judging them as they pulled out identical McDonald’s bags.

While trying to hide myself in my book, I noticed that while he has scarfed down his food, she was quietly picking at hers. I noticed her wedding ring…a simple band of gold nestled next to a circle of colored stones. A glance at his hand confirmed that the weathered band around his finger made him her husband.

The plane began to taxi the runway and tears formed in her eyes. “I can’t,” she said shaking her head. “You can,” he replied.

She leaned towards him and he wrapped his arms around her in a tight bear hug. And he held her in that hug the entire flight. All five hours of it.

Sometimes he would hold her hand or stroke her hair. Sometimes he would kiss her on the forehead.

But he never let her out of that hug.

As we made our descent over the bright lights of Chicago, I found myself tearing up. This couple–one that I clearly and rudely misjudged–represent what love is all about.

I smiled at them as I left the plane, saying a silent thank you with my eyes.

Then I pulled out my phone and dialed that familiar number.

“Two more hours, baby. I cannot wait to see you.”

The last leg of my commute is a stretch of I-95. I don’t usually think too much about it as I’m almost at work and the drive is pretty straight forward.

The other day I was on this stretch and got in the left lane to pass a tractor trailer.  As I moved over, I slowed down slightly since there was a Volvo in front of me and we were going around a curve.

Thank goodness I slowed down.

All of the sudden there was a huge BANG! as the truck’s rear tire exploded. In between the cloud of smoke and flying rubber (part of which slammed into my mirror), I was able to make out the rear of the truck veering into my lane.

Oh my God.

Instinctively, the Volvo in front of me slammed on their brakes, which left me with three options: get hit by truck, slam into the Volvo while getting hit by the truck, or move over as far to the left as I could without hitting the guard rail.

I chose option three.

As my car rode precariously along the shoulder, my side mirror just inches from the guard rail, the truck’s tail end wove in and out of the space between me and the Volvo before the driver was able to regain control and pull over. If I hadn’t slowed down during my initial pass, I probably wouldn’t be here.

It all happened so quickly that I didn’t even have time to do anything but react. It wasn’t until I got off my exit that I noticed my hands were shaking.

This morning as I drove by that very spot, I noticed a set of tread marks veering off to the left. A set of tread marks that are dangerously close to leading a car head-first into a tree.

Those are my tread marks.

I am truly thankful that I am able to drive by those marks today, as a reminder to be careful, to be cautious and to not take anything for granted.

Thank goodness I slowed down.

Inspired by Alissa’s list.

1. Always be polite.
2. Always keep a savings account and hold your own checkbook, even when you’re married.
3. You’re never too old to cozy.
4. If you want long hair, you have to take care of it.
5. You didn’t actually vacuum if you went around the shoes.
6. Lying is hurtful and disrespectful.
7. No one can take away your education.
8. You should always have enough money for first and last month’s rent, an unexpected car problem and a good pair of shoes.
9. Sometimes ice cream before dinner is OK.
10. A man should be hardworking, educated and kind. He must have a sense of humor and a job. He must respect you.
11. No matter what, you can always come home.
12. Fingers do not belong in your nose…unless they are clean. And never in public.
13. There is a very fine line between tasteful and inappropriate cleavage.
14. Always call or send a thank-you card.
15. You can accomplish anything if you work hard.
16. Tattoos and body piercings that are chic now eventually go out of style the same way clothing and hairstyles do. Tattoos are forever (and I will be out of the will.)
17. Travel.
18. Do not make fun of people who are different from you.
19. Good friends are important.
20. Always keep good dark chocolate in the house.
21. Hot dogs and spaghetti are boring. Eat ethnic food!
22. Learn a foreign language.
23. Know the history behind different religions.
24. Don’t let people push you around. Compose your thoughts and make your point.
25. Exercise.
26. Play an instrument. (Or two)
27. Laugh.
28. Say “I Love You.”
29. Dance around your living room in your socks to good music.
30. Read for pleasure.
31. Money doesn’t grow on trees. You have to earn it.
32. Family always comes first.
33. Driving is a privilege, not a right.
34. Making your bed makes the whole room look neater.
35. A hotel room doesn’t have to be fancy, but it must have clean sheets and a clean bathroom.
36. The sun makes you happy.
37. Don’t drink and drive.
38. Don’t clean the kitchen sink with the bathroom sponge.
39. Plant a garden.
40. Drink soy milk.
41. Take vitamins.
42. Take chances.
43. If you need your mom, she’s there. Day or night.
44. Burritos are a quick dinner that always tastes good.
45. Always make a traveling pee pee.
46. You might look funny in snow boots, but your feet will be warm and dry.
47. Take pictures.
48. Write.
49. Never leave candles unattended.
50. Good sheets make all the difference.
51. How to make the perfect “dip dip” egg.
52. Every Christmas ornament has a story.
53. To value myself.
54. To be open-minded.
55. That even though women are completely capable, sometimes it’s easier to hire a man to tile a floor or paint a wall.
56. It’s OK to cry at movies.
57. That when you have to go, you have to go. Everybody poops.
58. A messy closet is an unhappy closet.
59. A mirror can make the whole room look bigger.
60. Cheese is a necessity.
61. It’s OK to love shoes.
62. Eyeliner makes small eyes bigger.
63. Don’t procrastinate.
64. That when the leaves show their palms, it’s going to rain.
65. There’s nothing better than a maple sugar candy.
66. Wear sunscreen.
67. Floss.
68. Be on top of current events.
69. Hair grows back, but don’t mess with it too much.
70. Sing.
71. Get your oil changed.
72. Balance your checkbook.
73. That she’s proud of me.
74. Smile.
75. You can love the ocean without actually going in it.
76. Don’t eat too much candy. It will rot your teeth.
77. And if it does, get the white filling.
78. Learn your family history.
79. Appreciate art.
80. Don’t eat processed foods.
81. Drink lots of fluids when you’re sick.
82. Get lots of calcium.
83. Call just to say hi.
84. Eliminate clutter.
85. It’s true, socks do disappear in the dryer.
86. Dress appropriately for an interview.
87. It’s OK to flirt.
88. Always carry a Bandaid, Advil and Chapstick.
89. Eat tomatoes and peas right off the vine.
90. Get a hummingbird feeder.
91. Drive slowly in the snow.
92. When tying your shoes bunny ears work just as well as the other way.
93. Believe in something bigger than yourself.
94. Wear interesting jewelry.
95. Voting is a right that not everyone in the world is fortunate to have. Use it.
96. Brunettes are even sexier than blondes because they have more mystery and soul. They didn’t get a free ride because of their hair color – they earned it.
97. A girl can buy her own diamonds.
98. Trust your instincts.
99. Learn from your mistakes.
100. Your mother is always right.

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