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Friday, January 31, 2014

being willing to face the hard stuff

(This was a tough post for me to write and in the end I decided to be brave and post it in case there is anyone out there who needs a good reason to go ahead and put herself first.)

A year's worth of inner work culminated in a moment for me when I got the second phone call within a week from a doctor with less than ideal news.

As you may or may not know, this has been a big year for me.  Beginning last January with the decision to end the war with my body,  I have been on a wild ride that was much more than I bargained for.  My hard (painful) work and determined diligence has brought me the deep peace with food and my body that I was seeking but, more than that, it has opened me up to myself, to what I need, what I'm hungry for, and has stripped me of the barriers to my own happiness.  I have learned to do less, live more.  I am less agitated and worried, more present and content.   My life is largely absent of the self-judgement, excessive pushing and attempting to live up to (my own) unreasonable standards.

I am a different person that I was a year ago.

None of it has been easy and it seems ever time I succeed at one aspect (for instance sitting down and breathing instead of screaming my head off when the kids get under my skin), there is yet another piece waiting around the corner for me to work on.  Another place for me to exercise acceptance, to be in the now when I would prefer not to be (like when people are crying at my feet or wiping their snotty noses on my shirt).  Most days I feel some reward, some payoff for working so hard on myself, but I often feel like I have hiked and climbed and only made it to base camp while the mountain looms large in front of me.

It is an enormous undertaking to reinvent yourself.

It turns out I require a lot to care for myself.  (I suppose this makes sense when you have spent your entire life neglecting yourself.)  I need time alone, plenty of exercise, time to mediate and journal, time for yoga.  I need to not rush or have too much to accomplish.  I also need down time to do nothing and just be which, before last year, I have allowed myself precisely, well let's see.... yeah, never.   All of this makes me feel very needy and makes negotiating my needs and the kids needs a daily struggle.    Over the past year as I have made self-care a regular practice, I have fought the nagging feeling that it is a luxury and that too much of it makes me selfish. (I think people have written entire books on this sort of insane Mommy guilt and I should probably read one of them.)

I have made it my priority to be good to myself and present for my kids and to not let things, tasks, commitments to get in the way.  If it makes me feel like I can't breathe or like I want to yell, I work to do it differently or just not do it.  But life is busy and often inconvenient and stress has an insidious way of slipping in unbidden and unnoticed and suddenly I can't find time to play with my kids because I have so much to do again.

It is hard to be dedicated to your self-evolution and show up for the constant demands of motherhood.  In order to best care for myself and not take too much away from being "Momma" I have tucked my self-care into corners to have minimal impact on others.  Namely, I sleep less and try to do most of it when the kids are asleep.  I have made myself a priority but, sort of only when it is convenient.  I have tried to keep up with everything and just move slower or do things less perfectly.  Supper consists of veggie burgers and salad instead of the cool new recipe from Cooking Light, for instance, and the laundry isn't always clean.

Just a couple of weeks ago I started to see the integration of all this work and care.  Instead of stitching only the tiny fabric swatch in front of me, I could see how all the individual squares I had sewn were being woven into an entire tapestry.   I could see all my progress gathering from the various corners of my life to meet in the middle and take shape.  My broken pieces were being rearranged into something I recognized as me.

YES.  I was finally getting somewhere.

Then the doctors called.

To give the crib notes version of the story, suffice it to say that over the past 20 years I have had repeated expressions of autoimmunity in my body, the biggest one being Type I diabetes.  (Type I diabetes is caused by your immune system attacking the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas and killing them.  These cells don't regenerate so once they are gone, your body can no longer make insulin.  This is why Type I diabetes is called "insulin-dependent" and why I have an insulin pump attached to me 24 hours a day.)  I have actually had 4 different types of autoimmunity in my body, the most recent one being hyperthyroidism.

Over the past 6 months, as the regulation of my hyperthyroidism has reached new levels of difficulty, I began to really wonder about this trend.  What the hell is wrong with my immune system that it keeps attacking me??  And then, with the subtlety of being hit on the head with a sledgehammer, I realized:  I have never at peace with myself.  Why wouldn't my body respond in the same manner as how I function internally day after day, year after year?

This awareness made the work I was doing seem even more critical.  It was essential that I learn to be kind and aligned with my body.  It would take more than a few months to effect a lifetime of patterns at the cellular level but I would be patient but persistent.

I have been working and making so much progress in this regard.  So imagine how I felt when I got two phone calls from two different doctors with reports about some recent tests I've had.  Two of these autoimmune processes are not stable and my body is fighting itself, creating inflammation and unstable hormone levels.  If things don't turn around I will be looking at having my thyroid removed in a few months.

If you are wondering what I did as a more evolved person than I was a year ago receiving less than ideal news from doctors I will tell you: I sat and cried.  I put my hands in my face in frustration at the unfairness of it all and I cried.

Why can't my body and I just get on the same frickin' page??  How am I working this hard and getting these results?

After feeling a little bit sorry for myself, I suddenly realized the gift these results had given me.  I need to make myself a real priority.   The kind of priority you make if your health is in danger.  Because essentially mine is.  I need to take my self-care out of the dark of the pre-dawn, sleeping children hours and into the daylight.  I need to not apologize for the time I need, the space I need and however many yoga classes I go to.

The truth is that I may have needed this - an excuse, if you will, something to justify what I am already doing.   Something to hang my hat on and validate what I already know I need.  And you know what?  I'm okay with that.   If this is what will prompt me to make putting myself first without guilt than that is fine.  I'm lucky it isn't something more serious that has gotten my attention.

Sandi has been so supportive and wonderful.  We sat down with the kids and explained that Momma needs to make her health a top priority because if not I will be sick.  We told them I need more peace, less fighting, less tension, less worrying, anxiety and running around.  I need more help.  I need them to listen when I ask them to do something and not repeat myself 3 times.  They responded in a kind and thoughtful way that made me very proud of them.

I am going to heal my body from these conditions. I am going to listen to their message and make the changes they are asking of me.  I have given my notice to give up my PTO position.  I am going to take more shortcuts and put my feet up more.  I will order pizza or serve cereal when making dinner feels like too much.  I'm going to let my big ideas roll on by while I find some internal balance.  I am going to play with my kids more and not let any tasks or to-do lists get in my way of being a relaxed mom with them.  I am not going to care about the great scale of equality where I may have more time to focus on myself than other people (most of the time when my kids are well and school is in session).  I am going to say no to more things and not feel even a little bit badly.

"No, no thanks.  That doesn't feel like what I'm meant to do."

"No.  I can't make it."

"No  I'm not going to be able to help you with that."

"My pie has been sliced and there isn't a wedge for that."

"No.  I'm not the person for the job."

"No.  That won't make me feel good."

"Sorry. I have met my quota for giving today.  I'm out of stock."

"No thanks. I'd rather remove my eyebrows with a blow torch than do that."

Self care isn't a luxury.  It is essential.  My health depends on it.  If I had received a phone call with truly frightening news this is what I would do, this is how I would proceed.  Lucky for me I can do it with far less to overcome than some health crises people face.

Now that I sufficiently pushed the usage limit of the parenthesis in one blog post, I will leave you with a Maya story.

That night after we talked to the kids, I was playing with Maya and we were hiding under her covers and I was pretending to be nervous as Sandi was looking for us.  Maya scolded me and said, "MOMMA! You're 'upposed to be calm!"

That's right.  My six-year-old is holding me to the carpet.  I think that's awesome.  Feel free to the same.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

it's time for some good old fashioned parenting

I'm pretty sure that this weekend the kids thought I had lost my mind.

I want to start this story by describing the phenomenon that has happened to me.  It is that thing that happens when something isn't working well and you don't really know how to fix it so you sort of ignore it, sort of avoid it and sort of resign yourself to it because you feel powerless to change it.

I think in some circles people call this denial.

Yes, I have been in denial about how bad our kids' fighting had become.

It has gotten so bad that I find myself anxious and tense when I am alone with them, bracing myself for the next blow out.  Anytime I leave the floor of the house they are on (to put laundry away, for instance) I am not gone for 5 minutes when I hear the screaming: "MOMMA!!!!" followed by some litany of the wrongdoings of the other.

I can't go the bathroom without refereeing fight, can't go outside to clear snow without something coming out to tearfully report the transgressions of the other.   Nearly every every fun thing we do  ends in some sort of emotional upset by one or both.  Nearly every day after school one or the other is so grouchy that sibling play is impossible.

I had become so used to it that I was, without really knowing it, trying to bend myself this way and that to keep this one happy and then the other one.  But lately I've found myself more distressed, feeling very torn and like I can't win, like my pretzel can contort no further and being unable to take a deep breath when my kids were at home.

I didn't let myself acknowledge how much it was interfering with our family life and my own personal happiness until I was with the kids almost nonstop during Christmas vacation.

It isn't like we haven't tried to fix this, haven't discussed it for hours, but Sandi and I had just sort of resigned ourselves to it.  After all, we have modeled generosity, acceptance and inclusion, shown our kids that they don't need to compete for love, attention and affection.  We are peaceful, loving people and surely our offspring would grow out of it.

But it has gotten worse.  They have gotten older and stronger which makes them craftier, more manipulative and able to physically hurt each other.  We had tried to send the message that meanness wouldn't be tolerated.  We had taken away TV, iPads, beloved toys, special outings, etc. but nothing was having a lasting impact.  What could we actually do about it?

Just a few days ago Sandi told the girls she would pay them each a dollar a day for every day they didn't fight.  She could see how much they were wearing me down in her absence.  Maybe a little old fashioned bribery was the way to their hearts and their sisterly bond.  They couldn't even make it one full day.

After a few conversations with people about their kids sibling relationships (wherein kids fight from time to time but also play together a bunch) and feeling like I was up against a wall with anxiety and discontent when I was alone with my waring children, I decided that something had to change.  I simply couldn't stand to feel so powerless and to feel like my six and nine-year-old held all the cards.

Sandi was on call all weekend and was called in both days.  This meant a rather unstructured Saturday at home with just me and the kids.  I told them that before they went to the twins house to play (while I went to do a massage) they needed to clean their room.  Part of the goal was to get rid of toys they didn't want anymore so that they had more space to play.  (They had recently told me they liked having less stuff in there and having it clean so this was not a forced clean exactly.)

I told them I would help them when I got out of the shower.  Skip over to the part where they fight and argue and keep barging in the bathroom and I threaten them.  I finish getting ready and go in to find Maya hiding under her covers and Ella organizing her headboard which can take hours and doesn't add to the general cleanliness of the room.  I ask them why they aren't cleaning and they scowl at me.

I had HAD it.  So I did what Sandi had suggested months ago when our kids were in a particularly entitled stage: I took all their toys out their room.  I dragged shelving units and toy boxes and soft-sided stuffed animal totes.  I took it all.  I made them go downstairs.  I didn't yell; I just took it out.  It looked like the Grinch had been through there.

The girls were crying and screaming at me. I guess I had said earlier that if they couldn't be bothered to take care of their toys, I knew there were kids who could.  So they assumed I was giving all their toys away and they were freaking out.

Ironically, bound by crisis, the girls leaned on each other.  I heard, "Ella, she's taking all our toys! What are we going to do?!" and "You're the meanest lady in the world!" and then to her sister,  "Isn't she??"  "She's TAKING OUR TOYS!!!"

I actually found myself giggling a little.

The next thing I know, Ella, bawling her head off, comes at me with the telephone. I think, oh, boy, who has she called?  (I have to insert the image my friend Brenda gave me of the kids dialing 911 and saying, "Help! It's an emergency! Mom is giving away all our toys!")  I looked at the phone and realized it was Sandi who had just happened to call from the hospital to check-in at that unfortunate moment.

She was, understandably, concerned at the level of sobbing and distress but I calmly explained that I had had all I could take and I was taking drastic, but thoughtful measures.  She all but said,  "Carry on" and that is just what I did.

At this point I had to take the girls to the twin's house and get to work.   As they climbed into the car, puffy-eyed and sniffling, Maya said to Ella, "At least Kaylee and Kendall have toys at their house...." as though they had been living toyless for years.

Now at this point you are either thinking I am a total bitch or an absolute genius.  Allow me to finish.

Things have turned around here in mere days.  We have stripped the kids down to bare bones.  The toys I took out of their room are off limits for now (they still have some downstairs) as are their iPads and TV watching.  For each day they get along they can pick one toy to take back.  As Sandi said, it takes 30 days to form a habit so if they get a toy back per day by the end of the month they will be in the groove.  We are making it very clear that all the privileges they have day in and day out will disappear if they cannot get along- play dates, gymnastics, fun outings...all of it is up for grabs at this point.

I really believe that our kids had the wrong idea about how the world works.  They think their life is hard if their iPad is out of battery, if supper doesn't consist of their favorite foods or if their favorite shirt is dirty.  We want our kids to be more appreciative, have more perspective, really comprehend how fortunate they are and understand what it means to work hard.

The girls will continue to clean up their own plates after meals but added to that will be clearing up the whole table as well as helping to set it and help make supper when it is asked of them.  I will not be bullied by whining into not taking them to the grocery store or having them help clean the house.  I confess, I have stopped insisting on some things (such as if you want your favorite shirt clean then help fold the laundry) because I can't stand the complaining.  But avoiding these painful conflicts with them has given them a free pass to not help, to have this life that is carefree but unbalanced because it is absent of any real worth ethic and equal participation.

The expectation is that they not fight and learn to treat each other with kindness and thoughtfulness.   We don't expect that they will never fight but we want them to learn to walk away from each other instead of inflaming each other.  And as I told them, no amount of punishment from me has altered how they relate to each other so this is going to be up to them.  They will have to decide that they want to get along and work together to figure out how to.  I am putting it back on them to solve this problem they got themselves into.  All their privileges are on the line and the choice is theirs.

It feels so liberating.

We get a say in whether or not our kids are sassy, entitled and unhelpful citizens of their generation.  I just forgot that for a few minutes as I worked hard to keep my denial intact.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

cleaning out

You may remember that my two grand intentions when my children both went to school full time were to:

1. Clean out my house.
2. Write a book.

So far I feel I am spending way too much time running errands, doing laundry, doing regular maintenance cleaning (and struggling to resume the big clean-out cleaning), managing our family's change in insurance, organizing our finances and catching up on medical and dental appointments.  I've also been working (which I love), making time for yoga (which I love even more) and volunteering at both my kids' school.  And sometimes I even sit with a cup of coffee and peruse youtube to learn new ways to braid Ella's and my hair.   

Yes, you heard me right.  Feel free to report me to the unproductively police.  

My first attempt at the ladder braid.  I have a lot of room for improvement.
To be honest, I have written not one single word on my book.  But the house cleaning project had really been coming along until Christmas hit.  The holidays set me back a month since stuff was moving in the non-desired direction (into my house rather than out of my house) but since the kids got back in school my motivation has returned full force. 

When my friend Martha died 4 years ago, she left me all of her kitchen related possessions- all form of cookery, cutlery, ice cream makers, food processors, mandolin cutter, pasta maker and all other manner of kitchen gadget and appliance.  She also left me NINE boxes of cookbooks.  I lovingly made space for them on the shelves in our guest room closet. Since then that closet has become akin to a black hole; once things go in they are rarely, if ever, found.  No cookbook that was ever wanted could be found.  A major overhaul was needed.

If you have young children and your house is anything like mine, you may realize that if the influx of stuff (which is nothing short of a steady avalanche) isn't balanced with periodic and a nearly surgical removal of stuff, you will find yourself unable, in far more moments that you will want to confess, to ascertain if you actually have something you need and even more unlikely to be able to put your hands on it. 

My big goal in the clean-out was to sort through the kids things (projects, papers, artwork) I want to save and to "filter" out the rest.  I have set my aim to clean every drawer, closet and storage space so that I would know what I have in my house and where it is.  This isn't about perfectionism but about a true need for a reduction of clutter and an establishment of order in my surroundings.

In short, I am pretending we are moving but we aren't.

Back to the cookbooks....Martha was a huge supporter of our local library. I contacted the director and asked if she had use for them and she did!  I sorted through and kept all the cookbooks I thought I would use and donated SEVEN boxes to the library (thrown in were some other assorted books from our shelves).  The sheer freedom I felt far outweighed the sense of disloyalty I had in getting rid of them.

Anyone undertaking a major house clean knows that one of the other major obstacles to success is spending too much time doing everyday cleaning and having no hours left in the day for the big projects.  I realized I am picking up after my kids WAY too much.  

I saw this idea on Facebook and thought: why the hell not?  So I made one for myself.

The kids think this is so fun.  Maya goes and picks out chores just to do them.  Hey, whatever works.

If stuff stays in there more than 2 days, it "disappears." I am taking no prisoners in my war against the  stuff.

Today I filled a trash bag with old files from a file cabinet I hadn't used in 3 years.  Chucked it all.  My rule is if I haven't used it in a year,  I need to give away or toss it.  Being someone who works well under pressure I have come to realize that it will be biking season by the end of March and if I really want to do the whole house I need to keep making steady progress.  For me this means 5--10 hours a week to the cause.   I will fight cabin fever with cleaning, yes I will. 

And a huge reward to all my cleaning:  I have found so many pictures of myself several evolutions ago when there was so much more of me in every regard.  I found paperwork from a doctor's appointment 12 years ago where I noted my weight was 30 full pounds more than I weigh now.  The pictures show the same. I hardly recognize myself. 

Sitting there in the mountain of discarded files, photos and paperwork, I was overcome with gratitude to live in the skin I live in now.  I am grateful to have finally found a peaceful place with food and my body and smiled at the thought that showering myself with goodness and love is now my norm and self-judgement and negativity are no longer part of my daily soundtrack. 

My rule with the purge is the standard one: If I haven't used it in the past year, get rid of it.  To which I added:  If seeing it makes me sigh and throw my hands up in frustration of what I'm meant to do with it, get rid of it. 

In unrelated news, we got to have Noah and his parents at our house and the kids made a kickin' music video.  (Recognize the wigs from our Whoville costumes?)  I am quite partial to kids making rock videos.  Sorry there is no link so  you can see it. I was not permitted by the featured talent. 
Blurry photo but you get the idea...
Also we are puppy sitting for Jax, Trish and Brock's 6 month old puppy.  It is a very bipolar experience where I find myself thinking: there is NO WAY we can ever get a puppy to oh, she's so good...maybe if the kids would just learn not to fight we could swing this.  But then they fight over feeding her, fight over who gets to take her out or that neither of them want to take her out, fight over giving her a treat or even which one plays with her.

In other words, they fight all the time.  (A second post to follow about this.)

Plus there is the steady supply of dog hair.  It is like someone is stealthily moving around my house pulling fine black hairs out of pouch and throwing it like confetti on the sly.

There are some cute things in all the conflict.  One thing that isn't cute is that she chewed our baseboard like a beaver.

As far as puppy's go, she is the bomb.  I'm just not sure my nerves can take a puppy full time.  I like that our kids get to "have" Tia and Uncle Brock's puppy who usually lives just up the street.

I have to say, though, she can be great company.  That is when I am not coming unglued on the front 
lawn at 4:30 in the morning begging and pleading with her to just pee already.

Friday, January 17, 2014

the trouble with sleep

This morning I had one of the top 2 most frightening moments as a mother.  It was rivaled only by the feeling of terror I had that night 2 years ago when Sandi was gone and Maya the worst airway crisis to date.  I couldn't reach anyone by phone and was afraid I didn't even have enough time to get an ambulance there so I threw my kids in the car and drove to the hospital like a crazy person, terrified that at any second she was going to stop breathing and I would have to pull over and do CPR.

First let me back up and tell you that having my children above the age of 5 has made me a more lazy, less vigilant sleeper.  In almost every way, this is marvelous.  Except last week when I began to worry what things I could easily sleep right through now and what things I might need to be awakened for- say, an intruder, or an airway crisis for Maya.   (But at least Maya has the doorbell on her headboard to ring if she is in distress and it will sound in our room so that gives me some peace of mind.)

Sandi had her first overnight call shift last Thursday.  We got in bed by 8:45 (not abnormal for us since we get up at 4:30 AM) and I put an earplug in to muffle the constant coughing poor Sandi has been doing for the past 4 weeks.  Even with the buffer, I woke several times as her lungs had their way with her before finally falling to sleep.

When the alarm went off in the morning I said, "Well, first night of call and you didn't get called."

She looks quizzically at me and said, "The pager went off at 9:20 and I went in and did a c-section. I didn't get back in bed until 1 AM."

I swear I thought she was kidding but I knew it was too early in the morning for joking.   The pager is really loud, our stairs are really creaky and she said when she came back to bed she coughed for a long time before finally falling asleep.

I slept through ALL of it.  She left the house and returned, was out of the bed and back in it and I never knew.

I was not pleased with my restful slumber.  I was disturbed.  I have always prided myself on waking up as soon as one of the kids entered our room in the middle of the night, before they ever uttered a word.  My maternal sense would alert me of their need and I would wake up and speak to them so they wouldn't be afraid in the dark.

I have never been afraid of not hearing if someone broke into the house, if there was a fire or other catastrophe.  Now I have lost faith in my sleeping alertness.  I blamed it on the earplug (even though I was pretty sure it feel out shortly after I fell asleep).

Except there was this morning.

The alarm went off at 4:30 and I do what I usually do, sneak into the girls' room to turn off the nightlight and cover up Maya who sleeps like she's being attacked and never has blankets on her.  I do these things in an effort to extend their sleep by an hour or so and it usually works.

I walked over to Maya's bed and didn't see her.  I rubbed my half-opened eyes and assumed she was tucked in deep under the covers.  No.  She must have fallen off the bed.  No.  She must have crawled in to Ella's bed.  No.  Is she over sleeping in that pile of stuffed animals?  No.  Maybe she went to the bathroom and feel asleep in there?  No, not in the bathroom.

Fully awake, panic gripping me and squeezing my now pounding heart, I ran into our room and said the words to Sandi that no parent ever wants to consider speaking:  "Maya is not in her bed."

I was pretty sure I had latched the gate at the top of the stairs but it wasn't latched.  We keep it there because Sandi was a sleepwalker as a child and she has always worried Maya would be.  I prayed she was downstairs but the likelihood was so remote since she is terrified to be on a separate floor of the house from anyone else.  And here is was dark.

As I ran downstairs, every maternal prayer ever uttered flooding my head, all I could think, even though it was the last thing I ever wanted to think was: what if she isn't downstairs?

She was, of course (or I wouldn't be writing this post about it), curled up in her security blanket asleep in the recliner.

I carried her sleeping curly-Q of a body upstairs and tucked her into bed where she slept until 7.  We assumed that she was sleepwalking because she never would have stood to be downstairs in the dark alone.  This is the kid that wakes me up to escort her to the bathroom in the middle of the night because she is too scared to be alone in the dark.

I asked her about it when she woke up and she said she didn't remember it.  But when I told her the story she said, "I wanted to be the first one downstairs so I came down."  I don't know if she was awake or not now but I lean toward sleepwalking with maybe a tiny bit of awareness.

I would never wish this kind of terror, however momentary, on anyone.  There are parents who have had this experience with a far different outcome and it unfathomable to me.

I didn't have an earplug in last night and I still didn't hear her footsteps or the creak of the stairs.  I know nothing bad actually happened but it unsettles me nonetheless to have these two experiences of sleeping so deeply that I am unaware.

There are many things I do to be a better mom.  I get up at a semi-unreasonable hour most days so I can take good care of myself in hopes to have more care to give to my children and my partner.  I now say no to things that get in my way of being present with my kids.  I shop at way too many stores to get all the things each of us need and want to eat healthfully. I spend hours each week making good meals for my family.

Do I also need to sleep at the top of my stairs and act as a sentry every night so nothing bad happens?

I hope not because I think increasing the amount of coffee I'm drinking would be unwise.

Here's what no one tells you about sleep when you are considering becoming a parent:  once you have kids you will never again sleep well.  When they are babies you will awake for obvious reasons.   As they get bigger you will get up early or stay up late just to have some peace and quiet.  When they get even older, you will stay up late because your kids are out and you will have to wait until curfew to rest easy.

And apparently when you do rest well it will incite panic of all that you might miss while you are sleeping well.  Because the trouble with sleep is that you are, of course, asleep.

I guess, as usual, the solution is somewhere along the lines of the theme of my life: you can control very little.  Give it up and let it go.  Get some sleep; you need it.

Monday, January 6, 2014

when the world turns to glass

The ice storm that hit Maine last week has brought such beauty and destruction to our area that it is hard to balance the two opposing notions when you look around.  I have never seen Maine as beautiful as this, where the copious woods seem to made up of silent filigree giants.  When the sun hits the trees just right it seems the whole world is glass.  

Of course these same stunning, ice encrusted branches are a double edged sword, falling freely onto power lines or heavily onto the ground, weakening the trees and making them vulnerable to disease and possible death.  Driving down the road you see massive branches curved downward in reverse arcs with the tops lying frozen in the snow.  After the ice fell from the sky and stuck on the trees the temperatures dropped dramatically and froze this world like a grand pause button, leaving us in this stunning ice for days on end. 

None of these pictures really capture the arresting beauty of this ice world.  Looking at it through the lens dulled it and I felt like I was having about as much success as trying to hold a rainbow in my hand.  

We got a small reprieve from the frigid a few days ago (and then returned to the kind of cold that makes it impossible to be warm unless I am sitting directly beside the wood stove)  and took the kids sledding and it was such fun.  I laughed so hard which reminded me that I need to do my Kegel's.

Okay, but here is my real ice related story.

We had a strong foundation of snow on the ground before we got the 2 inches of ice. Then we got another snow storm so we had, essentially an ice sandwich.  This lead our kids to discover that shoveling some snow in the back yard produced and "ice skating rink" when they found the smooth, hard ice under the most recent snowfall.  Maya and I went out to "work" on clearing off the "skating rink".  Once it was totally bare, Maya encouraged me to try her slide technique which entails running across the ice and sliding on your knees the rest of the way.

Now as you may know, I have been working hard to show up for my life and to be a more present mom.  I have been trying to be less stressed and more playful, trying to say yes to the tea parties, the games of UNO and Chutes and Ladders.  So I said to myself, "Yes, I would rather be inside finishing that loaf of pumpkin bread and starting supper but I will slide across this ice and be free with my daughter."  So I ran with heart and slid like a rock star doing a guitar solo across that ice.  And I forgot it wasn't a real ice rink, that it was in fact a layer of ice on snow, and my knee went crashing through the ice like an angry fist in a wall.  The pain that shot through me was intense and burning (and slightly worrisome) but soon I was laughing- the kind of laughing you do instead of crying.  I continued to laugh and then laugh some more and soon the hilarity of the situation, of my throwing caution to the wind on a fake ice rink made by my children, caught me squarely and had me in hysterics.

I think my hysteria frightened Maya a bit and she said, "It's okay Momma. You're okay."  She was perhaps reassuring herself as much as me.  I said, "Now there is a big hole in your ice skating rink!"  She patted me on the arm and said, "If you can get me some water I can make more ice. I know how to.  I saw it on a show."

So I limped toward the house patting myself on the back for letting my kids watch too much TV lately, trying not to worry about the state of my knee ligaments, and feeling grateful to be free enough to cross unchecked into old age where being fun gets you injured.

I am really proud of the kind of mom I was over this extended 2 week Christmas vacation.  I felt like I showed up even in the hard moments and cultivated a ton of patience that I could call on when my kids needed it. When I needed it.  I made being a mom a bigger priority than having my house clean or my stuff done and, once I got over the initial discomfort, it felt really good.  By last night though, I felt I had run out of steam and didn't have any more reserves.  I needed some time alone.

I woke up this morning so looking forward to school drop off.  Instead I was met with a snow day.  Or an ice day as it so happens.  We have ice falling from the sky again and another day together.

May I be blessed with strength and more patience.  And may our shingles be strong and keep the melting ice at bay.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Christmas 2013

Happy New Year to all of you and, for those of you in the Northeast, Happy the-temperature-is- supposed-to-reach-over-0-degrees Day.  (But right now it is still -18).

This is always one of the hardest posts for me to compile since Christmas is rather a massive event in our lives. There are three Christmases (ours, and then one with each of our families) and we notoriously take way too many pictures.  It took me 2 hours just to weed through the 300 pictures taken over the week.  

So I am not going to summarize or tell stories but instead just share the pictures and a few thoughts otherwise this post won't be ready until February.  

Resounding thoughts on Christmas of 2013:  

- I have never been so thankful to have power and heat.  So many people were without power from the ice storm (our friends the Smiths were without it for 8 days over Christmas...) and I felt very fortunate to not have to be dealing with that kind of stress.  We felt so lucky to have our power that I dare say we even flaunted it a bit by using our electricity to power our ice cream maker when it was like 3 degrees out.  I think that is the definition of ridiculous.  In fact if you look up the word ridiculous in the dictionary you will probably see a picture of us spooning homemade chocolate ice cream into our mouths whilst wearing flannel, wool, fleece and mittens.  

-Our kids need to do some charity work.  ASAP.  It was glaringly obvious throughout the Christmas celebrations that they do not have the perspective we want them to have. I will no longer blame them for this since we shelter them so much but instead find ways for them to understand what being less fortunate means and to cultivate the love of giving. 

-Red wine and meditation are holiday must-haves for me.  I was much more chilled out this year and even when I got wound up or overwhelmed I found I could easily bring myself back to the present.  This is sort of a Christmas miracle and showed me that the immense work I have put in is paying off.

-I think I might like to try a Christmas where no gifts are exchanged.

- We have entered fully into tween-hood and I am frightened on all levels.

-We are so very blessed to have such love and joy and laughter in our lives.  I hope to always be amazed and appreciative of this.  I hope I never stop standing in wonder at my life.

Okay, so pace yourself.  Here come the pictures.

Christmas at our house:

Sprinkling reindeer food on the snowy lawn.

Our new niece: Jax.  

Christmas on Beals:

Sandi was a tomboy when she was a kid.  Her family used to go to a lot of sporting events and when she would go into the ladies room women would stop her and say something like, "Excuse me little boy, this is the ladies room."  So her mom made her a tshirt to wear and on the front it says, "I'm a girl" and this is what it says on the back.  Her mom wrapped it up and gave it to her for Christmas.  

Christmas with my family had to be rescheduled 3 times due to the crazy winter storms we have had here in Maine.  Finally we celebrated on New Year's which was more fun anyway.
My family is known to have spontaneous dance parties.

My mom with the painting Ella gave her.

We have a tradition of making gifts with my family.  This year we made fleece tie blankets for Michaela and Braeden and then loved them.  They made quilts for our girls' American Girl dolls.  Adorable. 

The unveiling of the giant sled my mom got for the girls.

Here's to hoping your holidays were everything you wanted them to be and that you were as happy to take your tree down as I was!
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