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Two days ago a reader sent me a link in response to a comment I wrote on another blog. The link describes what it is like to live with a chronic illness on a daily basis–in this case, the author has lupus. I too have lupus. There have been times throughout the eight years that I’ve lived with this disease that my days have been so similar. Other days I fly throughout without cares or worries. Anyhow, I highly recommend it as I think it really explains what it is like to live with a chronic illness.

Before I share the link I do want to talk about something that the author points out and something I’ve personally learned as a result of living with lupus. Quite simply, it is that I can’t do everything I want. Truthfully, I’m profoundly grateful that I’ve learned this because it has helped me deal with a lot of hard periods in my life. And I think it is a lesson that more of us need to learn, especially mothers of young children.

We perfectionists tend to think that we must do everything and be in perfect and complete control. We think  that our houses should be sparkling clean, obsessively organized, filled with picture-perfect children, up-to-date hobbies, and a lovely romantic relationship with our husbands.  And when we can’t do that, which would be impossible in any case, we spiral out of control, wallow in depression, or teeter on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

So maybe you are perfectly healthy and you think I’m absolutely crazy for saying this. But I really believe it. Don’t go crazy trying to do everything. Life is more than your to-do list. Don’t attach your value or self-worth to the level of your busy-ness. Do what matters most and let the rest go.

I’ll write that again: Do what matters most and let the rest go.

When I was pregnant with my fifth son, a number of odd health things cropped up that knocked me off my feet. I literally stayed in bed for almost 9 months. I could only accomplish 5 things each day. It was hard, but I was doing what I had to do. We all survived. These days, my energy and strength reserves are full and I can do much more. But I still have days where I have to weigh and measure what I want to do with what my body will allow me to do.

Wherever I am at healthwise, I try to be grateful for what I can do, instead of focusing on what I can’t do.

Sorry for the rambling, here is the link.

http://butyoudontlooksick.com/navigation/BYDLS-TheSpoonTheory.pdf

I know its been awhile since I’ve posted. Life has been surprisingly busy, filled with a myriad of things that aren’t especially exciting or things I don’t feel like providing a commentary on. And the weather is humid and when it is hot and humid, my will to write is drained away.

I’m on track with things. New adventures are on the horizon. My kids are happy and busy. And the weather is humid.

So just in case you are wondering what I’ve been up to, here are a few things happening in my life.

1. My toddler throws major fits. Full, all-out, throw-himself-on-the-floor-and-scream-as-loud-as-he-can-fits.

2. I went to a two-day scrapbooking conference where I took 10 classes and spent the night at a hotel with my husband, sans children. It was blissful.

3. My oldest son enters middle school in the fall. The barrage of meetings, the puberty talk at school, forms, etc. have been ever-present.

4. My daughter enters kindergarten in the fall. Same barrage of meetings and forms, minus the puberty talk/video at school. 

5. I’m reading Acts in the New Testament.

6. I just finished Downton Abbey, a 7-episode BBC series, set in England between 1912 and 1914 at an aristocrat’s home. The interplay between servants and master is fascinating.

7. I finished watching Wuthering Heights and was reminded why I disliked the book so much. But I also felt really sorry for all the characters. I totally get why it was and is, to me, such a shocking book.

8. Zucchini and yellow squash can now be found again at the market. I’m crying tears of joy, truly. They are my two favorite vegetables.

9. I’ve sorted through all the clothing, which is such a major and detestable  chore. I also purchased new summer clothing for everyone.

10. We still have a month left of school and I am totally not in the mood for homework. I want to eat watermelon outside with my kids while they run through the sprinkler or splash in the wading pool.

11. Did I mention the humidity?

My only goal this week is to get caught up with my regular work. Wish me luck!

I am secretly amused at myself when I drop my daughter off at preschool. During that time I look completely normal. I have two children-a boy and a girl. I drive a mini-van. Sometimes I’m even wearing exercise clothes. (Yes, I am exercising!) What amuses me so much is that I have three other kids at another school. And there is no way of hiding the fact that where I live, five kids is NOT normal. When I casually mention the other three boys, the other preschool mothers and fathers are usually shocked.

Yesterday at the pediatrician’s office, we ran into one of my daughter’s  preschool classmates. I cheerfully greeted the boy’s dad and introduced him to my oldest son. I mentioned the other two boys and his eyes got big. “Really?” he asked me. I laughed and said, “I know that I must look so normal with just the two kids–”

“You look happy, ” he interrupted me. “We’re going to have three boys soon and I’m not sure how it is going to be,” he rushed to explain.

We chatted for a few minutes about the baby they will have and then I left with the conversation hanging in my thoughts.

I am always surprised at the number of people who imagine that having more than children increases one’s misery or unhappiness. Almost as if extra work equals unhappiness.

I won’t lie to you, having five kids is hard work. I don’t spend my mornings working out at a gym. I don’t have a nanny or housekeeper to pick up the slack.  I don’t have grandparents nearby to provide babysitting. My husband doesn’t arrive home at 5 p.m. on the dot. His hours are long and while he is a tremendous support to me and totally involved with his children, much of the child-rearing rests on my shoulders.  I know many mothers like myself–but I don’t live near most of them. And to the people in my area, having more than two children, making do without a nanny or a housekeeper, seems like an impossible feat to accomplish. They find it hard to imagine that I can keep smiling.

But I do keep smiling, even when I want to throw things because my kids keep making messes, spilling drinks on the floor or fight. This is my life. And I am not miserable. I have my tough days, but tough days are universal.

I believe that achieving something worthwhile, like raising a large family, requires hard work. The hard work is worthwhile and valuable because I believe that I’m building something bigger than myself.

 Why is that we as a society have a hard time acknowledging that as a valuable contribution? Yet we laud olympics athletes with praise as they dedicate virtually every minute of their lives to breaking records and winning medals. And yet, the Olympic feats are so fleeting. Records are broken by other driven athletes. 

My hope is that my work with my family will extend throughout generations. And that seems a little more valuable and worthwhile than an olympic medal. Certainly worth a smile or two at least!

Like every average woman, there are things I wrestle with. There are problems  with which I grapple and feel defeated. There are challenges I don’t understand, much less finding solutions for said challenges.

When that happens, I feel impotent and powerless against forces that are stronger. Sometimes my desperation spirals out of control and I wonder what in the world I will do.

I like action. I want to precipitate action in the face of challenge and adversity. But sometimes patience is warranted. I chafe against the waiting, the quietness, the inaction of it all. Then I worry.

But worrying is counterproductive. It stays in your stomach, adding lead to the weight you already carry, subtracts sleep from your schedule and frazzles your soul.

I find myself at an impasse. I’m torn between relentless movement and the need for inner stillness.

And in the meantime, meals must be prepared, clothes washed, children cuddled, stories read, houses cleaned. And I still wrestle.

Since moving to New York three years ago, I’ve been approached by modeling and acting agencies a few times about my kids. I imagine it is pretty common as there are lots of opportunities for modeling and acting and plenty of parents with visions of celebrity children dancing in their heads.

Part of me is totally flattered. Since I don’t post pictures of my children on this blog, you’ll have to trust me that the interest in my kids, particularly my youngest, is totally warranted. My little blonde baby has piercing blue eyes and the cutest little grin, if I do say so. I’ve secretly fantasized about Ralph Lauren seeing my little guy and demanding a photo shoot. What parent doesn’t want the world to acknowledge how darling and beautiful her children are?

The other part of me cringes. I know that  modeling and acting ventures don’t have to end badly. There are probably scads of well-behaved, well-adjusted child models and actors. The problem is that gossip magazines and the internet are full of stories of the bad experiences. I don’t want my kids to end up like Miley Cyrus, Lindsey Lohan, or heaven forbid, like the newest scandal, Demi Lovato (yes, I follow gossip magazines. . . it’s a vice).

I don’t want my kids to grow up with the crazy idea that being famous epitomizes success. If they want fame and are willing to work  and sacrifice for that dream–that is something they can pursue. But I won’t be pushing them toward it.

I want my children to understand that worldly success doesn’t equal happiness or contentment. And often the price of worldly success is far too high to pay.

What do you think? Would you let your child be a model or actor? If you were approached by a talent agency, would you take the opportunity? Do you think I’m crazy for saying no?

So about a month ago, we bought an elliptical trainer. My husband has been fabulously diligent, exercising 4-5 times a week. I’ve managed about 3 times a week. Usually, I try and exercise after I’ve dropped my daughter off preschool and then put my toddler down for his nap.

There was no time for exercising in the morning today. After the kids got home from school, I made sure everyone was settled, changed into my workout clothes and went to exercise. I filled my water bottle, turned on the music (The Corrs–so happy and peppy even when they are singing mournful songs), and started the 20 minute workout. 19:39 (the minutes count down from 20) J the toddler wanders in and begs for water. I hop off, fill a cup of water and hand it to him. I start my routine again. 18:40 J the toddler pushes his stool to the counter and finds the can of tomato paste I forgot to throw away. Then he digs his little hand into the paste, smears it all over, and tastes it. I jump off, clean his hands, throw away the paste. Get back on again. 17:22 J the toddler pushes his stool to the cd player and turns off my music. I get off the trainer and move the cd player up high and fold the stool away. By this time, I plead with my older children to watch their brother so I can finish my workout in peace. But to no avail. After multiple interruptions, I give up, get a glass of milk and eat 3 oreo cookies. They made me feel better, but not healthier.

Oh well, guess there is always tomorrow. . .