the dreaded PTA mom

Missing the adrenaline surprised me. Exhaustion set in for sure; I have never slept so hard as after the event.

But the next day as I thought about getting back to my normal life, all the things I normally love to do when I am not in charge of decorations for a circus-themed silent auction fundraiser (like write and spend time with my family), I realized I was going to miss the adrenaline that has kept me company during the last week.

I have never had such a role in one of the school’s main events. Quite frankly, I have stayed away from them. I am not a big “task” person. I prefer people.

And to be perfectly honest and risk offending people, the image I have in my head of a typical “PTA Mom” is not glowing. And that’s putting it mildly.

So for six years, I managed to avoid it entirely. I signed up for membership every year to show support for the school, but then helped in the classroom while avoiding eye contact with any one who might ask me to do something for or with the PTA.

But after enough years of avoiding the madness, I gave in.

One of my dear friends was chairing this event, so of course I volunteered for things I otherwise would have graciously dodged. And to be honest again, not all of it was easy or enjoyable.

But while I cannot stand the image in my head of PTA, the idea of coming along side schools to help them financially when they are being hit particularly hard right now is something I believe in strongly.

And that belief kept me going. Which was super helpful because getting different personalities together to work with each other toward a common goal can be…….tricky…….from time to time. We can all make each other crazy.

But that’s how we learn.

So now I am back to those things that connect me to my life and keep me grounded…….dishes, laundry, and toilet scrubbing as well as lingering snuggly hugs, intentional eye contact, and tender bedtime rituals.

And I love it, even though the adrenaline that comes along with being crazy together when planning a big event leaves a bit of a hole. I suppose that just makes me realize how valuable it was to engage in the process of working with others for a greater good. 

for the love of waiting……

“Well….this is different,” I thought. I’ve done this sort of thing before. But as usual with this third child, the experience seems familiar and foreign all at once. So it goes with an evolving person.

We were late to preschool this morning, but I decide not to get stressed out about it, like I sometimes do. What matters more than being on time is being together. This is Mom’s Morning, after all.

And at our preschool, Mom’s Morning is a special time for moms to be with their kids at preschool. Snapping at my son to hurry him up so I don’t look bad in front of all the other moms is no way to get that started. Instead, I immerse myself in the process of getting there rather than the result of being punctual.

The teachers have an art project all laid out for us. Picture frames. But of course Zachary has to stop in at the bathroom to wash hands before we get started.

Instead of coming with him to move things along, I stay outside and wait. I remind myself his independence is more important than my desire for control.

We eventually find a spot and Zachary gets going on the frame. Gluing treasures on pre-assembled, brightly painted popsicle sticks.

He doesn’t seem to need my input. He gets lost in his project. I watch as he maneuvers a dollop of glue onto a stick and carefully moves it over to his frame.

His hand hovers over the wooden containers on the table, lightly touching each of his options. Feathers. Buttons. Shells. Smooth glass rocks. He is considering. This is his creative process.

He repeats the steps with the occasional rogue string of glue landing on his hands somewhere. He tries to rub it off, but remains unsatisfied. He excuses himself to wash his hands. He does not like sticky fingers.

He comes back to the table and focuses back on his work. He is careful, thoughtful. I fall in love watching him.

The second time he gets up to wash his hands (particularly sticky glue), I notice from my seat that most of the other children are done with their project and have moved on to other activities.

I feel a shove from the old me to hurry Zachary along. God forbid we don’t keep the same pace as the others. Then someone would have to wait for us. Although really, would that be so bad? What treasure might they find? What might you?

mac&cheese wednesdays

What is her top strength? I have a hard time choosing. Administration, organization, execution of a well-thought out plan, attention to detail, to name a few. But the one I think of on a weekly basis is creating traditions.

I am not particularly strong in this area, but I do appreciate the value they bring. Traditions give me pegs to hold on to through my life. This world is constantly shifting and sometimes that can be crazy-making.

Traditions are one of the things I hold to for comfort and security when the ground might be coming out from underneath me.

And every week, I think of these things because there is a tradition I am upholding. I think of it as my secret time with her. During this period when time and space and a few other things don’t allow for much.

She fills my mind as I follow the recipe with only five ingredients. Pure, unadulterated macaroni and cheese. Not messed up with all the funny business other recipes add to make things fancy. My kids love it. The one meal I get NO complaints over.

And lately on mac & cheese Wednesdays, I think of another tradition she created. I confess I did not embrace that one warmly. In fact, I think it could be argued that I fought it every step of the way. Independence. 

But now, since my healing, my putting-back-together, I appreciate the strength I had to ask for help, to take care of myself, to separate from what others might think and be me.

They all harken back to that tradition of independence. Blazing a trail. Being my own person. And I am deeply grateful. I am forever changed because of this tradition.

And all of that simmers inside of me and comforts me as my home fills with the familiar aroma. I open the oven door and hear the sound the bubbles make when the dish is cooked to just the right temperature and my heart expands. A meal can be so much more than food.

I will always have one of the best parts of her with me in the traditions.

What is your favorite meal and what does it connect you to?

forever preschool

When will he finally get this? To be fair, he is truly doing an exceptional job learning. But even still, I find myself quick to be frustrated with my youngest son. He is all of four years old now and we are constantly working on the tasks of his life-stage.

Learning to not get his way and handle himself appropriately.

Learning to speak up for what he wants instead of whining or whimpering.

Learning to respect others, get along, and use his words.

And all the while figuring out who he is and how the world works.

Simple.

So why do I not have more patience for the poor boy? I am not in new territory. I have done this before. Twice. And yet there is something in these moments of teaching and coaching that reaches beyond this one child. Whatever it is seems to trigger a quiet desperation inside of me. One that is distinctly disproportionate to the four year old at hand.

Eventually, after one of the days of family togetherness that didn’t bring out the best in us, a light bulb goes on. I am not just disturbed by Zachary and his age appropriate behavior. I am also discouraged with his older brothers and the fact that they have not mastered the tasks of preschool yet, either. And I am disgruntled with my husband because he has not mastered the tasks. And while I am at it, I am completely stymied with the entire world for not mastering the tasks of preschool.

Which really, of course, all boils down to the fact that I am irritated with my own self. Because I have not mastered preschool either.

So my distinctly disproportionate desperation comes from the knowledge that no one ever truly masters these tasks. My son is doomed to live a life of humanity. And so are his brothers. And his father. And the rest of the world. And me.

I must have tricked myself into thinking these tasks should be easy because the age appropriate time to address them is when we are small. And my frustration only magnifies when I realize NO ONE has mastered these simple tasks, including me. The futility of the situation glares at me every day.

The problem is, the tasks I speak of may be simple but they are also enormous.

And so I have changed my mind. Instead of thinking the tasks are small because we teach them to small people I realize the tasks are just as gargantuan as they sound and that is why we start learning them at such an early age. Because truly, these tasks require a lifetime to even begin to grasp.

But I have to believe it is worth the effort to try.

stopping for snuggles

What is she doing?

The scene flashes before my eyes quicker than my brain can process what I see. There is a clearing where I get on the freeway and another ten freeways converge and veer off. I see a woman standing there, safely centered in the middle of a grassy area with her car pulled off the road. The expanse is surrounded by fast-paced, southern Californian roads and freeways. She stands out like a sore thumb.

She is holding her baby.

Her body gently sways back and forth as the look of patience and compassion adorns her. So many thoughts rush through me as I try to put the pieces together.

I have vivid memories of driving with my baby screaming behind me, helpless and frazzled as I navigated to our destinations. The tension would mount in my shoulders, tying my muscles into knotted rocks.

I was always so convinced of the nuisance I was to other drivers, sure they could hear what was happening in my car. They knew what a terrible mother I was a) for not being able to keep my child from crying in the car and b) for getting in everyone’s way as I drove so flustered and frantically.

But this woman let that all go. She stopped. And for this moment, when I saw her, she was living out her priority that her child was more important than her destination or what other people thought of her.

And she has come to my mind so many times in the last week. I have been raw and surging with hormones. I’ve been processing some family stuff. I’ve been wrestling with a desire to write more that clearly doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere. And I have been reading The Hunger Games – with all it’s intensity (dying I love it so much, by the way!) – which has delightfully pulled all of my emotions right to the surface of me.

As a result, I’ve been a little short tempered with my children. This is my Achilles’ heal, my continual battle with myself. Not getting loud and shaming when my patience runs thin. And while it is true that my children are neither perfect nor angelic, my temper is my problem, not theirs.

And in the middle of one of my “You better get your shoes on or you will be late for your preschool fieldtrip!” episodes, my four-year-old looked up at me with his crocodile-tears and big hazel-brown eyes and adorable little face and cried out, “I want some snuggles!”

He does this from time to time when I loose my cool.

And it is as precious as it sounds.

And I immediately think of that mom safely off to the side of the freeway, swaying back and forth with her baby cradled against her body. And I stop, and I snuggle my four year old. Know what? Turns out snuggles is just what I need right now, too.

potato chips and chocolate

The crinkle of the bag brings me hope and dread all at once. My pain draws me to the cupboard without my awareness. I have been carrying around this powerlessness and it is heavy and painful and I want an escape from it. But there is none. That doesn’t stop me from looking, though.

As the salt touches my tongue, it seems to be a numbing agent on my heart. For the moments that my mouth is full, the overpowering taste blocks out my emotions.

Eventually, I finish the bag or the bag finishes me leaving my mouth raw. I sit for a minute, trying to force the satisfaction to stay. But eventually it runs away like it always does and my mind dances with the sweet that would sooth the savory I just consumed.

Another crinkling bag delights my ears. I pull out the handful of dark chocolate chips and let them sit for a while to be warmed by my hand. Then in my mouth they go as the cocoa, rich and smooth begins to soften and ooze together forming a luscious mound of heaven that melts down my throat.

Eventually I realize the break from my pain was only temporary, and the let down sets in. I want this to help but it doesn’t. I try night after night, but the pain remains. I cannot control others. I cannot change what they think of me. I cannot force someone to listen.

All I can do is let go and mourn what is lost. And sometimes that is more of a process than I would like it to be, even with my potato chips and chocolate.

my loves

I thought I would be swallowed up by the testosterone in our home. That I would cease to exist in the land of males I was immersed in. The day after I found out our third child was going to be another boy I was pissed. Toilets. Do I need to say more?

Fortunately I moved through my issues before that beautiful baby was born. And truthfully, sometimes I even like being the only female in the house. Don’t tell anyone.

So years later on this Valentine’s Day I find myself tickled that I have four great guys to love. I seem to be giddy to celebrate each one of them. What a lucky girl I am.

And I thought I would take a moment to honor them here. Call it bragging if you like. There are still plenty of other days I curse the toilet they pee in (or more accurately miss), just in case knowing that makes reading this more palatable.

Colby

Today the middle child gets to go first. When I look in your eyes I see the most beautiful soul I have ever beheld. Both innocence and mischief dance on your face in the best of all combinations. You are my mystery man, one that I marvel at in awe. You are so different than me, and yet you love me so well. Everyday you give me the gift of your love and grace.

Zachary

My baby I never planned on having. I didn’t know how much I needed you. Because of you, I get to have a second go-around with motherhood, and I think we are all better for it. I love that you now own your name, emphasizing the “ary” when others fail to do so. You who opened your eyes wide from the moment you came out of the womb are filled with wonder and expression. I know delight because I feel it every moment I am with you. I am enamored by you.

Joshua

Watching you come of age is the most touching and beautiful thing I have ever witnessed. You struggle in your tenacious way with the deep questions of life and I am blown away by the stirrings in your soul, honored that you share them with me. I taught you perfectionism (sorry!) but now I see we are learning grace together as well. Your company on this journey fills me and inspires me every day.

Phil

The biggest of all my men, you have my heart. You have shown me faithfulness in its purest form. You have loved me for better and for worse. When I was young, I dreamt more of a lifetime with someone – of growing old with my best friend – than the wedding day starting it off. You have been my dream come true. Like I sang to you on our wedding day, you are my knight in shining armor. Not because you heroically save me everyday (which you do) but because you valiantly love me everyday.

I have not lost myself in all of you, but you have discovered and uncovered and recovered the best in me. Thank you, my loves. Thank you.

Happy Valentine’s Day.