Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Against the Tide

Daddy and his evermore mini-me Colby, after today's haircut

So, my last official workout was on Friday. I'm not sick, the kids aren't (that) sick. I'm not slammed with work. I'm just tired.

Today was a day of recovery. I threw a party here last night, so the house is twinkling, at least twinkling enough for me. The laundry demons are napping, and the dust bunnies holding tight to their steads. I think it might be because it's So. Darn. Cold. Seriously! I saw snow today.

And if I'd had the energy, it would have been a soup day. As it was, the "easy-peasy," always-pleasing spaghetti fit the bill.

The short story is, if I run like hell, think a million miles a minute, and generally commit to flying by the seat of my pants, I can do it all. Today, there was no urge to do any of those things. I napped when the babies napped, changed out of my pj's only after Luke peed on me during a diaper change. I spent some time on the phone, did minimal cleaning and dishes, managed to get the boys to the beauty shop for much-needed haircuts.

And I decided early that it really didn't feel like a day to attend Zumba class.

Momma's tired, and this day was hers. I had simple goals, and I met them. I cherished each of my kids. I smiled at my husband many times. I took the time to do the things that mattered.

I've learned that when I am tired of living my life in fast forward and against the tide, that I can rest.

Speaking of rest, I hear my bed calling my name. Warm sheets and soft, puffy blankets, I hear you! I am coming. I think I'll go fill up on some frosted mini-wheats and hope that maybe tomorrow, I'll be ready to don my supermom cape once again.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Angel Baby

Life with a newborn is a very unpredictable thing. It's hard to please a two-foot tall dictator who has major communication deficiencies, but I try. There have been a couple of nights in the past week where blogging or an organized activity of any kind was absolutely out of the question. Luckily, there were a couple of key times when Luke was very good, surprising us all and giving his mommy some much-needed breaks.

Friday was a good day. One of the reasons, I'll be honest, was just that it was so much better than Thursday. Thursday? Not so good. But Friday, hell yes, that was a good day!

Shrek was off work, for one thing. I'll take that extra set of hands anytime. I let him do the school thing with Lily and slept in until 8 with the baby. The sunshine propelled me to Zumba, where Luke slept angelically throughout the whole class. I then had the house to myself (and Luke) for a bit. I finally got to take him to visit Lily's classroom, and she really enjoyed her 15 minutes of fame. I valiantly and cheerfully battled laundry for awhile in the afternoon, curled up with my baby for a nap, welcomed my mother-in-law and yet another set of hands(!), and then--the kicker--got to head out on the town with my hubby, sis and brother-in-law to hear some wonderful friends, aptly named Carpe Diem, play music. My token drink, or two, were also amazing. It was a welcome night with friends I don't get to see nearly enough!

I honestly thought Luke would cry most of the time we were gone. He really hasn't done too well on his trial runs so far. But he again surprised me by being awake a total of maybe 20 minutes the whole time.

So maybe we're turning a corner. Maybe we're growing up a bit. I have to keep reminding myself that even though I'm a veteran mom, Lucas is still a newborn. While it still isn't going to feel good or normal, going back to work and being separated from my baby will be a fourth-time occurrence for me, but a totally new phenomena for Luke. But I've got my village and my wits, and we'll do this thing.

And Luke will do his part too. He'll be an unhappy dictator and an angel baby, in turns. He'll help to remind me that I'm not an island. I'm not in control. He'll remind me to let go and let God.

And just like that, the bounds of my motherhood are expanding. I've got a new teacher, and he's an angel baby. ... sometimes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sweet Rewards

A typical pre-bedtime scene at the Roberts house... Big kids sipping on berry banana smoothies and Daddy trying to get a smile out of the baby.

Ah, a Smirnoff after the kids are in bed after a long day. This is my reward.... Oh, and the clean, shiny freshly-bathed kids, of course!

I love this weather, the slow way the family all trails in the back door as the sun sets. The dirty, tired kids and the promise of so many more days like these. Not right away, but soon, they are promised.

I've been spending my final days off work getting some big items off my to-do list, practicing being away from my reasons and alternately pep-talking and terrifying myself about returning. Alas, the day will come no matter what I do. And we'll be all right.

Today I took a little trip. My primary goal was to pick up a part for my van. One of the rear sliding doors has been on the fritz. Thankfully, I have one of those amazing husbands who can fix just about anything. He investigated, found the problem and not only ordered and paid for it over the phone but had it installed within minutes of getting home from work today! Bonus points!! Oh, and when I jumped out of the passenger side of the van when we were almost late for church on Sunday and forgot I wasn't supposed to use the door and yanked on the handle and tore the door off the van?? Well, he "shrekked" it for awhile and got us to church on time. I'm telling you, I'm one lucky woman!

Back to today, I made a day trip out of the errand. I packed up the boys, took them to sitters for a dry run, and hit both Kohl's and Wal-Mart. I wandered around in Kohl's aimlessly for way too long. I don't think we moms realize how tired we are until we're without kids and in that dreamlike stage of freedom. I kept thinking I should be more productive, I should be having more fun. I couldn't figure out what I should be doing, but, in the end, I came out with some pretty sweet deals and the satisfaction of looking at everything I'd wanted to see.

Probably the most successful part of the day was just getting out of the house with the unbelievable amount of things a mother and four children need to survive a day like today. It's crazy!

About a month ago, during my first shopping trip with Luke, he was screaming to be fed as I waited in the checkout line. Once I finally got to the cashier, she said, "They say it's good for babies to cry, but it's hard to listen." And I was like, "They do? I've heard a lot of things, but I've never heard that." (Who are "they" anyway???) She went on to say it exercised their lungs or some mumbo-jumbo.

Well, getting out of the house could possibly be good for a mother's blood pressure, but I'm not sure. I swear, the final twenty minutes or so of my exit is NOT pretty. It's random yelling to speed up the older kids, shush the baby, soothe the toddler. It's grabbing a million floppy handles to bags filled with everything you can imagine. It's changing that dirty diaper that always seems to throw a wrench in things. And it's trying to keep my head from blowing up, because my blood pressure has to be soaring and the clock won't stop!

May you never, ever come capture those horrible moments of my motherhood, and may you know the salve of damp, sweet-smelling children after baths on a balmy night. Oh, and a Smirnoff too!

Namaste, my friends. Namaste.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

(Not) On My Own

For I am a rich woman, and these are only half of my millions....

Mommy's first foray into taking some time off didn't go so well last night. The mommy guilt got me once I got home with four unhappy kids, and there were tears. Some of them were mine. Lessons? Well. Hmm. Let's see... There are several. For right now, I'll just say once you have four kids, you just might not get much time off.

Motherhood is hard. Nursing motherhood is harder. It's tough to be the bottom line. Last night, I felt very singular in my disappointment and in my guilt. I'm a bit of a turtle when I'm feeling really defeated. I tend to withdraw inside myself and that pesky, yet useful instinct that I can and will do it all by myself comes out. I believe, at times, that I'm "on my own."

It didn't matter that my mom and brothers and a friend had all pitched in to give me some time to myself. It didn't matter that my hubby sat on the couch with me and the baby to talk it all out. In my mind, the night had proven to me that I was on my own.

So I let myself get sad. I gave it up to a higher power. And talking to Dave helped. Just being back on my familiar spot on the couch with the older kids asleep and the baby on my lap in the Boppy helped. And getting to bed at a decent time and waking up nestled next to a beautiful baby boy to a sunny day and hearing the familiar sounds of a mourning dove? Now that really helped.

The best thing about emotionally crashing is how good you feel once it's done. I have had a spring in my step today, a very glass-is-half-full kind of feeling. I'm getting great workouts, I'm eating well. I'm getting a little bit closer every day to believing that I can and will survive my return to work.

I enjoyed a nap today. Time with friends and family. A gorgeous walk with my sis and her birthday girl. I am so rich in so many ways.

And, even though there are times I feel as if I am on my own, I am not. I am the mother of four children, the wife of a loyal, stubborn man, one of very large family/tribe, and a child of God.

I will never be lonely, and, for that, I am thankful.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Light a Candle

Image courtesy of

Bad things happen to good people. You don't have to look very far these days to know this. This past weekend, in particular, was a reminder of that truth. The world watched as coverage of the earthquake, the tsunami and, now, the nuclear disasters in Japan, unfolded. Tucked in my warm house, with all my chicks in the nest, plentiful clean water, too much food and not a care in the world about how I'd make it through the next days, I watched, too.

I watched much of it while browsing the Internet, checking my Facebook account and posting on this very blog. I started Googling my memories of the tsunami in Thailand and Sri Lanka, thinking I remembered hearing Nate Berkus, of Oprah Winfrey Show fame, lost his partner in that disaster. My memory served me right. I was wrong, though, in thinking it happened a couple of years ago. It actually took place in 2004. How quickly we forget when our own lives aren't affected.

I was blessed to stumble upon something Nate Berkus actually wrote in the year after the loss of his partner. While all of it was well-written and enlightening, a couple of lines really struck me. Though he didn't feel he'd ever move on from his grief, a good friend of his gave him a basket of beautiful candles for his birthday and told him, "You can light a candle or curse the darkness." In his words, "We lit the candles."

This amazing quote came in handy for me on Saturday when I comforted a wonderful friend after the unexpected and tragic loss of one of her relatives.

We've all been there. In the fresh face of disaster, of that terrible thing you can't believe happened or is happening, it's hard to imagine that life will go on. There's no tomorrow, next week, next year. It's all about getting through this hour and the next hour and the one after that.

As bystanders, it's hard to know what to do to help. We can pray and donate money to aid those in Japan, we can lend a shoulder and an ear to friends and family suffering their own catastrophes here at home. And we can trust our guts, be quiet and listen to know just what is needed and what might help.

I once had a close relative in prison to whom I wrote letters on a weekly or biweekly basis. How do you start a letter to someone in prison? "How are you?" is kind of a dumb question. What I learned worked, at least in our case, was "How are you today?" Because, to someone in crisis, it's actually a very tender and thoughtful question. It acknowledges and allows for the roller coaster lows and highs we all experience, but especially in times of trouble.

And so, for Japan and for dear friends mourning one of their own, tonight, I light a candle. I invite you to do the same.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Everyday Magic

Last week was rough. Really rough. The four walls of my house were exerting such internal pressure that I nearly lost my mind. The weather was terrible. The kids were kids. It was maddening.

And, somehow, we made it through. My Lily is so smart and active. She constantly needs an ear, a project, a place to go. This is really hard for a mom of four-year-old, nearly two-year-old and six-week-old boys to handle because it takes so much energy to constantly be "on" for a curious, demanding seven-year-old girl. By Thursday of last week, the tensions between the two of us were intense. In the hour and a half between her getting home after school and her daddy getting home from work, I promised her we'd either go somewhere or... or... or conduct the Roberts Family Olympics!

Somehow, my tired mind came up with a plan. There would be games, medals, point values and even a medal ceremony! I was, in fact, so convincing that it would be fun that she threw out Plan A and decided, definitely, that we'd do Plan B.

And so it was. It only took about two hours and major hot-potato-like finagling of two baby boys, but the elder four family members competed valiantly in Yahtzee, Hi-Ho Cherry-O and Memory. We had a blast and crowned a gold medalist in Lily. No surprise there. She is as good at games as her daddy. Somehow, I at least managed to beat him and won silver. Daddy and Max duked it out for bronze, which ended up going to daddy, while Max was awarded a "platinum" medal. (Is that good? I came up with it in the heat of the moment...)

If Colby were a better photographer, I would be sharing with you the four of us arranged on levels around the armchair, pledging our allegiance to the flag while listening to the first rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that Google could blare from my laptop. It was classic.

Did I mention I also completed four recipes with my little man Max last week? A dear friend, knowing his love of all things kitchen, brought him Kids Cooking: A Very Slightly Messy Manual, which comes complete with a four-piece colorful measuring spoon set. Talk about the perfect gift! So I, his "assistant," aided him in making the green cake with the blue icing (his own recipe), the Berry Banana Smoothie, the Homemade (green, per Max) Lemonade and, finally, the Homemade Applesauce. Max tells us when he grows up he will be a chef. ... and a motorcycle driver. Look out, Cake Boss.

And Colby grew a bit. He has accepted the fact that binkies are now only for sleeping times. Seemingly overnight, his pants turned into capris. And he has expanded his vocabulary, with Daddy's help, enough to churn out his very first sentence and phrase: "Wow. Look at that!" (Wo, loo dat!)

Luke is filling out too. He had his first bottle of Mommy's milk Monday night and thanked us for filling his belly by sleeping six hours straight that night! I'm waiting patiently on that first real smile, which I believe I'll see any day now. This is the closest he has come so far....

So, all in all, maybe it wasn't a bad week. In fact, it sounds pretty fantastic now. These are the days that we remember, I hope. The ones that pushed us to craft entire contests out of thin air to keep the peace. The ones that remind us that life happens all the time, not just when it's the weekend, or when the laundry and dishes are done or when we're on vacation. There is magic in every day. Sometimes it just might be hard to see.

Tonight, dear friends mourn the loss of a son, who was also a brother, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin, a friend. I pray for their peace. I continue to create my own.

Because you never know when you might be making a memory you'll cherish for a lifetime.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Find Some Peace Tonight

One of the few photos of me since I became a mother of four....

Today was one of those days. I think it actually started last night. I was surfing a Web site with salary information for public employees. These weren't just any public employees. They were people I work with, know and love, in some cases, and in other cases, not so much. Let me tell you: the disparity in wages is just unbelievable.

I finally hauled myself off the Internet and into the shower, where I continued to think about how some people are paid far more than they are worth and how others never will be paid what they deserve. Because, really, aren't we all human beings? Don't we all bring something useful to the table?

And I've said it a hundred times in my life if I've said it once: I hate money. I hate how money makes people mean. How it prompts people to do things they shouldn't do and give up things they should never give up. How it defines us and how it divides us.

I often struggle with my status as a part-time working mother. I'm not a working mother in the way those that work full-time are working mothers. And I'm not a stay-at-home mother, since I'm gone from my house for ten-hour days three days a week to work. I'm in the middle. And while I would love to make more money, I do believe I have the best of both worlds.

But as the Sarah McLachlan song goes, There's always some reason / To feel not good enough / And it's hard at the end of the day. I think that's where I started this bad day, in thinking, while toweling off after my shower last night, that my salary was somehow subpar, that if I could just muster up the energy, the drive, the gumption to bite the bullet and go full-time, we might just realize our dream of moving to the country. That the kids could run and play outside in their own trees and on their own acreage and that they could finally have the pets they want.

So I went to bed in a funky mindset. Thankfully, I was smart enough to know it. I started to craft a prayer to make myself feel better and bring myself back into the happy place of gratitude. "Dear Lord, thank you for this husband, this good man, lying to my left, snoring. Some military women don't get to hear their husband's snore for months at a time. Thank you for this healthy baby snoozing in his bassinet to my right. Some babies aren't so healthy. Thank you for my kids sleeping peacefully in their beds. Some kids don't have safe, warm places to sleep..." And it helped.

Alas, I still woke up today to rain and gray skies both inside and out. It was a day for napping on the couch, for giving in to gloom, for being a quitter. But I couldn't be a quitter, because I am a mother.

So I struggled through my blues, and it wasn't pretty. I had a fight with Max and needed hot tea for my sore throat because I yelled at him so loud. What is wrong with me? I nursed and cajoled a baby to sleep about eight times, only to have his older brother Colby shriek so much that he woke him right back up at least half of those times. My bad mood seeped into Lily, who was a bull all afternoon.

And now, hours after the kids have gone to bed, my head is still pounding.

But I know there will be days like these. It's one of the tough things about my job as a mother. The one that doesn't pay in dollars, but in hugs, kisses, heart swells and pride. The one job I know I am meant to do.

While I am not paid what I might be worth, I value motherhood. I know there are so many of you in my shoes. I get you. I appreciate the job you do in trying to raise kids that will be a part of a better society. We should all be millionaires. In the ways that matter, we already are.

Elevating the status of mothers everywhere starts with us. We have to value our work and each other and get this done.

May you find some comfort here.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Going Through It

It's been a somewhat long weekend of keeping four kids fed, bathed and happy while running to several different social functions. I had fun in showing off our new beautiful boy, as well as some of our new photos, to family and friends.

Some of the family in town included my youngest uncle and his wife, who are expecting their third in a matter of weeks. When we parted ways today I jokingly told him to feel free to call us for advice anytime and that we would tell him we didn't have any. And then I said the truth: "There's no easy way around it, you just gotta go through it."

Because sometimes the growing pains are excruciating. The baby's cries added to the radio and the random squeals and protests and singsong voices of older siblings in the car can be just deafening. Sometimes finding peace and sanity is no more realistic than winning the lottery. And, sometimes, you can't remember why you married the person you married.

But then you remember. The older brother lets the baby suck on his finger and the crying stops. The squealer falls asleep. You push away the fog of your bad mood to accept the random kiss your husband offers as you pass, again, in the hall, sometimes like ships in the night.

And, just as quickly, the peace is broken. Somebody hits somebody, milk spills on the carpet, a forehead slams into a doorjamb, or any combination of similar catastrophes.

At times, the minutes pass like hours. Yet, somehow, there's never enough time to get it all done. The to-do list grows almost, but not quite, as fast as your cluster-feeding nursing newborn. The hard thing--as if there is only one--is finding that balance between getting through the day and not wishing time away.

Because I believe what they tell me. I'll want these little people back. I'll miss the handprints on my windows, the smell of the tousled hair rubbing up against my nose, the sheer softness of their skin and the simplicity of their thinking.

So I'm going to keep on keeping on. I'm going to remember one of my many mantras: faith, grace and selflessness. I'm going to go back to work when I must, and burn the candle at both ends to make it all work.

And I'm not even going to try to get around it. I'm going to go through it, and I'm going to make sure I make it worthwhile.

Thanks, again, to the lovely Kristin Pottmeyer for these amazing photos.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Leaving My Footprint

I'll be slipping into bed soon with mixed feelings on the day. I can't even believe I'm saying that given the success I had in getting things done, namely, my first real workout in a long time. I also juggled an unusually fussy baby with batting emails back and forth with my best friend and bride-to-be, designing and ordering birth announcements and thank you cards and making dinner for my extended family. While I did some of that, the boys--okay, Max--finger and toe painted my kitchen linoleum blue. Blue is his favorite color.

I think, from the looks of Colby, that he may have helped just a wee bit. (And, in the mess of the cupboard, he found a binky, which I've been limiting...)

I have been keenly aware of my place in this world lately. Right now, it is home with my newborn and family. I find my happiness and success in making a complete meal every night, keeping house and growing children. Alas, I can't be on paid leave forever. If I could, I would.

Because there is so much joy in a home. In making a place yours. In spending the day with your kids, who are perfectly imperfect.

And I think that's where I am going with this.

The daughter of friends is battling brain cancer and a young girl in the next town lost her battle today with a similar brain cancer. And a day of helping my first-grader make the bus stop on time, playing hot potato with my crying newborn just to get a moment with both hands free, and throwing two healthy, raucous boys into the tub again after they paint my kitchen floor blue? It's paradise. Really.

And so, in spite of all the good in today, my heart is heavy for others. As someone said of the little girl that passed away, "Her wings will take her where her feet could not."

But we're all still here. Where will our feet take us?

While I'm still not sure how far I'll go, it is my hope that my footprint will be one of gratitude, of happiness and of love. Life really is beautiful, just the way it is.


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