Monday, January 30, 2012

The Truth About Being a Mother

This is for mothers-to-be and mothers who already are. Nothing can possibly prepare you for motherhood. Until you have that little baby in your arms, you have no earthly idea of what you are in for. Because I am such a nice person, I am going to give you future mothers a little sneak peek of the things you get to look forward to. This is a typical morning in my house.
It is 6 am. I am desperately trying to nurse the baby back to sleep. The bedroom door opens and my daughter comes in, then climbs into our bed. I think that if I just lie still enough, maybe everyone will go back to sleep. My son, who was ALMOST asleep, pops his head up and looks for his sister. The two siblings start playing on top of me and even though I am being hit by multiple elbows, knees, feet, and other body parts, I am still clinging to the idea that I might be able to sleep some more if I just lie there pretending to sleep. My daughter sees right through this and screams: “Mummy, it’s morning time!!!” right in my ear.
Alright, I’m up. I go to the bathroom, accompanied by two little voyeurs. I attempt to get dressed. It takes me forever because the closet has a huge pile of shoes in the middle of it (my children were making a mountain), my daughter keeps urging me to ‘try her birthday cake’ which is in actual fact a tube of toothpaste, and my son is taking used tissues out of the trash and either eating pieces of them or tearing them up, leaving a trail of tissues bits all across our carpet.
After I have successfully thrown on something that makes me look halfway decent, it’s time to find clothes for the kids. Then comes the task of getting everyone down the stairs safely while carrying a huge pile of items that will be needed throughout the day. One of the dogs refuses to come with us, as usual, and my daughter is calling her repeatedly in hopes that today the dog will actually come downstairs like any other sane animal would.
We have made it to the lower level of our house without anyone hurting themselves. I enter the kitchen and find cat vomit all over the floor. I must now get it cleaned up without either of the children coming to inspect the mess. At this point, my daughter decides to try climbing over the stair gate (which is leaned against the stairs because we just got downstairs) which falls on top of her. The world is now ending and she cries inconsolably. Not only was she hurt, but she also wants to put her clothes on, get cuddles, have apple juice, and eat breakfast. It is a major tragedy, but I must step away to clean up the cat puke before my son eats it.
The kitchen floor is restored to its semi-clean state and the daughter-calming can begin. Of course, my son starts wailing because I am completely neglecting him while trying to comfort R. Both children are screaming and the cats are meowing for their food. I somehow maneuver them into the living room and get them dressed. This is a long process because the boy keeps running off naked and the girl hates every article of clothing she owns. After multiple meltdowns and three different shirt attempts, both children are somehow dressed and ready to be fed.
Finally, after what seems like a marathon run, everyone is sitting down, eating breakfast somewhat quietly. The children are happy, smiling, singing little songs, and all is good again in the world.
Basically, having children is like living with schizophrenic anarchists. It is absolute chaos, their emotions are all over the place, they are completely different people from one moment to the next, etc. And then, they give you a hug and a kiss. Unprovoked, just because they love you. It’s the best thing in the world- it cannot be bought, it cannot be forced. Receiving a child’s unconditional love is the best thing you’ll ever experience. This is why mothers get up in the morning and deal with the same madness all over again. Mothers-to-be, you’re going to love it!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Freedom of Breastfeeding

I keep coming across it more and more that breastfeeding is portrayed as something that is difficult and somehow cumbersome. Parenting magazines are filled with ads to help make breastfeeding easier and less stressful. The image this creates in people’s minds is one of breastfeeding as a hardship.
Ladies, I would like to tell you that despite what you may have read elsewhere, breastfeeding gives you and your baby so much freedom! Take a look at all those products that companies are desperately trying to make you buy- you don’t need any of them. Certainly there are some that might be useful in specific situations, but overall none of them are true necessities.
If you breastfeed your child, you and your baby are both completely independent of formula companies that manufacture breast milk substitutes. You don’t have to worry about the source of the milk used to produce the formula or the facility it is manufactured in, etc. When you nurse your baby, you know exactly where it is coming from and that it is specifically made for your child’s needs. No need to worry about human error somewhere in the manufacturing process. There is no equipment necessary for you to purchase.
In the event of a natural disaster, where there is limited access to food and water, a breastfeeding mother will still be able to produce milk for her baby. She does not have to worry about contamination of the supplies that are needed to mix formula- the woman has everything she needs with her at all times.
The same is true of any situation in which supplies are limited- unexpected travel delays, war, etc. It is absolute freedom in a sense because all the baby needs to survive is his/her mother. There is no dependence on outside sources.
However, many women feel trapped by their infant’s dependence on them. While I understand this feeling, I also know that this phase is of such short duration that it is over in the blink of an eye. Many women wish themselves back to this time in their lives, once the children have grown. It is a truly unique bond that nature intended us to have with our babies, so that mother and child would not be apart during early infancy.
I hope that more mothers can see how much freedom they actually have during the time in which their babies are exclusively breastfed. It is financial freedom and an independence from outside sources. Without this freedom, humanity would not have come as far as it has. Unfortunately, if the current trend continues, the art of breastfeeding may one day be lost altogether. My wish is for women to see what power they have in feeding their children from their bodies, to embrace this power, and to cherish it for future generations.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Changes Are Coming

A lot of our friends have already moved. Now, in just a few weeks, our best friends are moving away. 2012 seems to be the year of big changes. The dynamic of the groups I have been a part of here are shifting. There is a sense of coming and going in the air.
I don’t like change. Just a few weeks ago my friend said: “Oh, so you’re actually really conservative!” and for my own personal life, that is completely true. I’m not really too attached to geographic locations- moving isn’t very difficult for me. However, I have a very hard time dealing with people leaving my life. If it were up to me, I would keep all the people I have loved throughout my life somehow close to me.
This new era of change is going to be hard for me. I have been trying desperately to deny it, but it is coming and there is nothing I can do to stop it. Honestly, we’ve had it good the last 2 ½ years- so many great friends for my children to grow up with and so many wonderful mothers to help me become a better mum myself.
However, the hardest will be seeing my daughter be sad. I’m sure a lot of people don’t think that children as young as R are capable of forming close relationships with their friends. R really does have a best friend and it is going to be heartbreaking to try explaining the separation to her. I have already started mentioning her friend’s impending move in an attempt to prepare her, but I don’t think she will really understand until her friend is gone.
I know that this is life and I shouldn’t be so sensitive. I know that I take things to heart a lot more than I should. I can’t help it. I hate being separated from people I love and I wish I could altogether avoid it. It’s impossible, of course.
If you have any advice on how to make this easier on my daughter (she is almost three), please share!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Teenage Passport Photos

Just a few words of explanation... Most of the pictures I had of myself as a teenager were destroyed during the very ugly break-up of my first marriage. These are of me around the age of 16 and 18. I wish I had pictures of my REALLY wild days. Please excuse the poor quality.

Surviving Being an Idealist

I’m an idealist. I am a dreamer. Always have been, always will be. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It may make me seem more na├»ve than other people, but I don’t mind that. The most difficult thing about being an idealist is that you are frequently disappointed.
Last night, we watched a very interesting documentary on the singer and political activist Phil Ochs. He was such a motivated idealist, but ended up being beaten down by the reality of life. He committed suicide at the age of 35. Just like my favorite author, Jack Kerouac, life got the better of him. He tried escaping reality by drinking heavily and finally couldn’t stand staying alive anymore.
Watching this documentary made me realize a few things. 1. I am a total idealist in every area of my life, but predominately politically and in regards to parenting. 2. I have lived through my fair share of being defeated by the reality of life. I have struggled with depression in my past. I have also had bouts of heavy drinking.
Unlike Ochs and Kerouac, however, I am a mother. I have discovered that above all else, my children’s well-being comes first in my life. Despite the fact that I cannot change the world and the difference I can make on a global scale is minimal, I can change things for my family and make a difference in the lives of the people I love.
I still feel powerless and disillusioned and hopeless and lost sometimes. However, I also feel like I’ve found my place in life. I know that there are little people who depend on me. I have found joy in being a mother, in making a difference on a small scale. I love being home with my children. I love taking care of my animals. I love being a wife. Even though I haven’t been able to change the world (yet), life is good.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Horse Is A Horse?

We picked up my horse on Saturday morning. It was really difficult to get him on the trailer and it took almost an hour for the ladies to coax him in. I didn’t think too much of it- maybe he had had a bad experience with a trailer in his past.
The ride to our side of town was relatively smooth. We got him off the trailer and into his pasture without much trouble. I bought him a pretty horse blanket because it was cold outside and my friend and I went back to see him. We got him out of the pasture and tied him to some crossties in the barn to groom him. I was in the middle of brushing him when he suddenly got spooked by something and tore the crossties, backing up into a grassy area. After the incident, he was completely calm and I was able to walk up to him again, but he had shaken me a little.
I started noticing more and more that he likes to nibble on things- jackets, hands, lead ropes, etc. At first I didn’t feel very concerned, but it gradually became more apparent that Sonny is a very orally fixated horse. For those of you who do not know my history, an orally fixated horse is exactly the opposite of what I want because I was bitten badly on the cheek by a horse when I was a teenager, prompting my parents to not let me ride anymore. I still have a scar.
I kept thinking that he must just have been nervous, being in a new environment and all. However, on the second day he ripped the crossties out of the wall in the barn again. He could have seriously hurt someone! Then, he bit my friend on the hand. Not maliciously, but it was hard enough to leave a mark. At this point, I felt certain that I could not keep this horse.
Then I got in the saddle and all was forgiven. He is such a gentle horse under saddle and it was just an easy ride. Exactly what I had been looking for- attentive, relaxed, and gentle.
I am so conflicted. Sonny is wonderful to ride, but I am anxious around him. Because I am anxious around him, he is more anxious around me. A vicious cycle. I keep thinking that I should just conquer my fear and power through. However, when I take a step back and honestly look at the situation, this is not what I wanted. I wanted a horse that I could be around without fear. One that would help me regain my confidence, not make me feel even more insecure.
Sonny is a beautiful horse, but I don’t think he will stay mine. My search may just have to continue. I feel foolish for buying a horse on a whim because the price was right and the first impression was good. I’m afraid of being judged for this by the already very skeptical ladies at the barn. However, I am even more afraid of ending up with a horse I am too uncomfortable around to even ride. Hopefully, I will make the right decision.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Horse Therapy

As I wrote in my last post, I’ve been a little down these last few months. Then one day, during one of my German lessons (I teach German, by the way…), my student was telling me about her horses. She was just so excited about them and so happy telling me all her stories. It brought back many memories of when I used to ride and of how happy it made me.
I decided right then and there to get back in the saddle again. I started looking for a place where I could lease a horse. The more I thought about it and the more I researched, the more I started feeling as though leasing wouldn’t be enough for me. I realized that I wanted a horse of my very own. At first, I thought it would be financially impossible. But the further I looked into horse ownership, the more I felt as though it was something we could afford.
I know what you’re thinking- she’s lost it now! And maybe I have. But for the first time in a long time I felt excited about something that would be just for me. My husband is getting ready to start his pre-retirement work schedule, which means I will have a lot of spare time to spend with a horse of my own. I have never had this much freedom and will probably never have it again. It may seem irrational, but I want to make the most of this time and use it to do something I love.
I’ve been looking at lots of horses online and in person. I found a beautiful mare that I wanted to buy, but the owner changed her mind and took the horse back off the market. It was getting really tiring and frustrating not being able to find another horse that I felt comfortable around.
Yesterday, things changed. Suddenly, there was a horse that could possibly be a match. Today, we drove out to meet him and he was lovely! Tomorrow, we are going to pick him up for a trial and if all is good, I will be a horse owner in just a few days. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dark Thoughts

I haven’t written much lately. I’ve felt progressively more down over the past weeks. Actually, ever since E was born, I’ve been somehow painfully aware of the fragility of life. For some reason, I cannot stop thinking about death. And I’ve become increasingly obsessed with it. When I wake up in the middle of the night, the first thing that pops into my head is the thought that all of our lives will come to an end at some point.
In the night, when my thoughts revolve around mortality, I have almost an enlightened clarity of the truth about our earthly existence. I can feel my inner clock ticking and have images of what it will be like when my time is up.
And I panic. I find it hard to sleep. Increasingly, I have been catching myself questioning the sense of it all. What point can there possibly be to life when it can be over in a split second, never to return? Why do we spend so much time worrying about nothingness when our time is so limited?
To be honest, I am terrified of death. Not necessarily of being dead, but the process of getting there. It’s just so scary to me. The worst thing is that death is something that is utterly unavoidable and beyond my control. I don’t do very well with situations that I cannot influence…
The thing is, I love my life! I love everything about it. I love my husband and my children and our animals and my family and my friends… the list is endless. I feel like I am truly happy. I am healthy and have so many freedoms. I don’t want things to change. I guess I feel as though things can only get worse from here. I am so lucky, so fortunate, so blessed. However, I know that nothing lasts forever.
I am trying very hard to cope with my fears and dark thoughts. I have every intention of living my life to the fullest for as long as I can. You only live once, right? (At least, that’s what most of us believe- I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…)
I often wonder why I think like this. Of course, there is absolutely no use in thinking excessively about death- it is unpreventable and unavoidable. Rationally I know this. Yet somehow, I always come back to the same place when I wake up during the night and often during the day, too. And I’m fed up with it! I’ve been trying to find a remedy- I’ll let you know when I’ve found it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy Birthday, Little Amy!

Today, the member of our household that has been with me the longest turns eleven. Happy Birthday to my little doggie, Amy!!!

Amy is a crazy, cranky little dog. But I love her! She has been with me since she was three months old and has been an essential part of my life. She travelled the world with me, always staying close by my side. When my first marriage broke apart, she was the reason I still managed to get out of bed in the mornings.
Now she’s smelly and mostly in a crabby mood. She’s a little psychotic and her barking can be very annoying. She’s starting to slow down a little, not quite as keen to go on hour long walks anymore. I can’t imagine my life without her and I’m so happy she’s still healthy and going strong.

Friday, January 6, 2012

I Know the Smell of Skunk

As you may know, my family and I spent the Christmas holidays in Germany. It was quite a stressful trip, but I will write about that another day. The thing that was most profound to me was that upon entering the US again, I felt at home. Everything felt familiar, I finally felt more relaxed and at ease after a long journey.
So, what is different that suddenly I feel more at home in a foreign country than the one I grew up in? I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I have changed. I’m a mother now. I gave birth to both of my children in the US and this is where they have spent their lives to date. This is where I learned how to be a mommy. And where to get the best clothes, shoes, health care products, organic foods, etc.
When I was by myself on the tram in Frankfurt, Germany, I was nervous. We were visitors there and we stuck out in the crowd. People looked at us curiously and treated us like tourists. I had to ask my friends where the nearest playground was, etc. Frankfurt used to be my city, but it didn’t feel like that anymore. Moving through the crowds downtown was different as a mother with two children then it had been by myself. It was not longer charmingly familiar.
Today, I was driving around and a disgusting smell entered the car from outside. I sniffed the air and a little light went on in my head- skunk! It is an unmistakable smell, once you know it. And that is when it hit me: Things have become normal to me here. I now know what a skunk smells like and I don’t even think about how strange it is to be living in a place that has these funny little creatures anymore- it’s just how it is where I live. I guess I’m more at home than I thought I was.