Back to Basics

I am remembering who I am.

Over the years since I’ve been married and had kids, I’ve listened to a lot of voices outside of myself as to how a wife and mother SHOULD run her household. I’ve tried schedules, I’ve tried lists, but for as long as I can remember – even as a kid – I’ve loved making schedules but hated following them.

Last week I realized I was driving myself insane by trying to follow someone else’s method – whether it be Bryan, or the Flylady, or another mom, or a book, or whoever – because I had completely ignored how I best Get Things Done.

Last week I had a burst of motivation and cleaned my kitchen. I cleared off my deck and made it look homey. I cleared off the dining room table and piano and cut flowers from my garden. I cleaned my room.

And my house looked beautiful.

And now that it’s not still looking so beautiful (life happens, dishes get dirty), I’m totally okay with that because I know in a couple days I’ll get another burst of motivation to swoop through and clean it all up again.


I’m so tired of the pressures of Monday as cleaning day, Tuesday as grocery day, Wednesday as friend day, etc. What if on grocery day my kids are cranky and I’m feeling on the edge of insanity? Would YOU want to run into me in public? What if cleaning day is sunny and beautiful and we’d all rather play outside than dust the piano?

That schedule may work for some, and it may even be good for me during another season, but right now I’m feeling the need to embrace the Me that I know best, the one that can deal with a little bit of chaos, then swoop in and bring it all to order. And most importantly, I am embracing the Me who has an anger management problem, and acknowledges that rage comes when my carefully planned schedule gets hijacked. I am doing what I can to avoid the rage triggers until I am better at heading them off when they rise up.

And yes, Bryan, I can hear you talking to your computer about the fact that you live in this house, too, and what is she thinking? But I figure as long as you have clean clothes to wear and food to eat, and I’m not just sitting on my ass watching t.v. all day long, your needs will be met, too.

The point is, I took great joy in cleaning my house this week, and I felt refreshed by the task. I didn’t trudge through it. I actually put the kids to bed and cranked up the music and sang at the top of my lungs as I cleaned the kitchen. And when I was done I sat down with a glass of wine and read a book, satisfied with my productivity.

And today? Today I am less motivated. Today I will maintain, and probably do a couple loads of laundry. But I know myself well enough to not expect a lot of myself when I’m feeling like this. I will be a more patient mother today if I don’t constantly feel like something’s not getting done. And I know from experience that I will likely get a second wind later on and end up painting trim in the new office. That’s just how it goes.

I am remembering who I am, and it is bringing peace to my mind.


As predicted, you have not heard from me for awhile. Last night I chose to read some of the blogs in my RSS reader and not watch commercials. The night before that I took a hot bath with lavender oil and read a book. During the day I’m trying to stay busy doing the things I’m supposed to be doing, rather than distracting myself with writing posts, reading blogs, or not watching

I’ve also been in a very poor head space, having lost my temper twice with Ruthie this week, and having launched into a volatile, all-caps, IM argument with Bryan on Tuesday. All of this required some serious garden therapy to clear my mind, and I was able to put new perennials in one whole section of my yard and re-route some of the drip hoses my dad installed for me.

Piling It On (And Taking It Off)

I finally made it back to the gym today after a short hiatus for puking children and yearly check-ups. I was encouraged to see I had lost another pound. At this rate – a pound a week – it will take me nearly a year to hit my goal weight. But my new doctor encouraged me that taking it off slow and keeping it off is far better than taking it off fast and gaining it back.

I wanted to tell her to shut up, but I like her too much for that.

Listening to the Good Voices

While working out on the monotonous machinery of sweat I spent some time in prayer, and I felt the Lord reminding me of the man who sat by the pool of Bethesda in John 5. Though he could be healed by the waters of the pool, he had by lying there, lame, for 38 years.

6When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
7″Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

This is how I’m beginning to feel about my current state of mind – like I’m just sitting around wallowing in my anger and depression waiting for something miraculous to happen in me that will make it all different. And since it hasn’t happened yet, it must be somebody else’s fault that I’m still a bitter mess. But while I was on the monotonous machinery of sweat this morning I clearly heard God ask me the big DUH question: “Do you want to get well?”

So that’s what I’ve spent my morning chewing on. Do I want to get well.

I Am Going to Make It Through This Year, If It Kills Me.

Seeing Red

This line from my favorite Mountain Goats song (called ‘This Year’) has become my mantra. I play it in the car as loud as the kids can stand it, and I sing along with the band’s signature melodic shouting as I drive around running errands. The very nature of their music releases tension.

I’m obsessing over a million thoughts in my head, and as I’ve written them all down over the last few days it’s turned into one long, slightly crazed collage of thought – all related, yet still in incomplete pieces. So now I sit and wade my way through the free write – an edit, if you will.

This blog has become a place where I sort out my thoughts, where the irrationality can be seen in black and white, and therefore named. I find that if I deprive myself of the release of writing, my mind becomes wound tighter and tighter until I plunge into a depression, unable to escape the confusion. Here is my attempt to begin naming what has been plaguing me.

Thoughts On My Children

I’ve been realizing lately that I associate all things FUN as being anything that doesn’t involve my children, and anything OVERWHELMING as the definition of being a mother. I dredge through my days as if these little creatures hanging off me are weights drowning me in the water, and I look forward to each moment I have without them.

This devastates me because my children are so. much. fun. Yet, I act so inconvenienced by them. I pray that my heart changes, that it truly becomes transformed, because I never want my children to think they are unwanted or burdensome. I want them to feel loved and secure. But specifically, I want to enjoy my children, and I want my love to radiate from me and be known through my actions, just like it says in 1 John 3:18, “Let us not love in word or deed, but in actions and in truth.”

Thoughts on My Recovery from Rage

This weekend I have felt great conviction that I have not been listening to the voice of God, that I have not even been interested in what he has to say to me. This conviction has been brewing all month, actually, but in my spiritual laziness I have busied myself with noise.

Prayer. Prayer. Prayer.

I keep hearing this in my head, not as a guilt trip to kick me under the table, but as a loving God calling out for me to know him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). I complain about my life, I feign action against my sin, I seek to conquer my rage through my own understanding, but I am still trying to control what is happening.

I have forgotten how to listen to God, and I pray that a miracle of faith will urge me to seek him out in prayer.

But It’s Not All Bad

Today in a training I attended for leading recovery groups, we talked about how we can turn a relapse into something positive. Instead of feeling defeated by failure, I can view it as a barometer of trust – what am I still holding onto in my own strength? What do I still need to release control of?

I feel a lot like I do when I clean out a closet – it always gets worse before it gets better, because you have to haul all the shit out of the closet before you can sort, purge, organize, and put everything back together. I’m totally at the overwhelming messy part where the crap is piled up all over my living room and dining table, and I can’t seem to get to anything useful because of all the clutter.

I am sorting and purging.

I know the Word is in me, written on my heart. Though it may be buried deep under a Pile, God will draw it out and dust it off. And he will make it new.

Sometimes I think to myself, You should just let her keep running.

Someone flipped the Obstinate switch on in Ruthie’s brain today. From the moment she woke up (do you want cereal for breakfast? NO!), to the minute she went to bed (would you like to take a book with you? NO!) she expressed not a word of voluntary cooperation. Every question, even every request, met with her resolute NO! answer.

By dinner time I was losing my mind.

This morning my sister, my mom, and I took the kids to Como Park Zoo. Shortly after walking through our first indoor exhibit – the primates – Ruthie ran ahead of us to a wrought iron fence that separated the zoo from the amusement park, which was currently not in operation. I didn’t think much of it. The curve of the fence cupped her in and there wasn’t anywhere she could go.

Or so I thought.

I caught a glimpse of my mother shouting at and running toward Ruthie. I panicked as I saw the upper half of her body wedged through a gap between the fence and a gate. Her cap fell off, and she grabbed it in her hand as she tried to shimmy the rest of the way through the gate. I raced toward her and yelled, “Ruthie! Stop!” like I have so. many. times. It never seems to work. It didn’t work today, either.

In a split second, as I raced faster than I thought my flab could take me, a montage of images flickered in my mind: My screaming at Ruthie to come back. Ruthie’s blatant disregard for my authority. Calling for help as my three-year-old wanders alone through an empty amusement park. Wondering if I’ll ever see her again. Furious that the little bitch was ignoring me again. It was a mixture of fear and rage.

The scene played out like the climax of a movie. The more I yelled at her to stop, the faster she shimmied. I reached the fence just as her last leg disappeared, and I reached through the bars and caught a handful of shirt at the nape of her neck.

Ruthie turned and saw the look on my face and instantly began to cry. I had scared her. I’m not sure if the look itself (murder, death, dismemberment) scared her, or if she finally realized the scariness of her situation, but it was obvious she was suddenly scared.

Later, in an unrelated spurt of self-expression, she took her cap off and tossed it over the fence into the lion’s yard. I closed my eyes and gripped the fence to avert my will from tossing her in after it. This behavior went on all day, and it exhausted me.

Now, as I lay in bed, I am tense and wound up. Today I didn’t lost my temper, I didn’t speak disrespectfully to her, I never grabbed her or spanked her inappropriately, and I still managed to have moments of fun and affection with her. I am a different mother today than I was a few months ago. Yet, without the expression of my rage I feel anxious and full of nervous energy.

It was a taxing day, but I’m trying to see life through the victories. Today I was a good mother, despite having a bad, bad daughter.

The Good Mother

The other day I was talking to a friend who also struggles with anger management. She relayed a story about allowing her children to “help” her with a task, knowing that in the end she would just become frustrated and lash out at them. But in her mind she believed that a Good Mother would be able to include her children in this task, that a Good Mother would make it work, that a Good Mother would enjoy incorporating them into her daily work.

When indeed she did become frustrated and lash out at her children, something finally broke in her and she recognized the lie swirling in her head about what a Good Mother resembles.

I listened to her with my mouth gaping open because it was like she was reading a script from inside my own head.

It was a valuable conversation to me because it turned to trigger points – those proverbial cherries on top, the straw that broke the camel’s back, and so forth. In the last few months since seeking help and accountability for my anger problem I have seen significant change – and not just behavioral management, but true inward change – yet I still found myself in moments of lashing out, and I wanted to explore the pattern (Ack! I’m starting to sound like Bryan).

When I noticed I mostly lashed out at my kids just before nap time and just before bed time, it clicked: I was becoming irritable because I was in desperate need for a break. As an introvert who needs down time alone to regroup, refresh, and regenerate, I became worn out by Ruthie’s constant need to engage me (an introvert, she is not).

Realizing this has been huge, and has allowed me to make adjustments to avoid irate breakdowns. For instance, I’ve started putting Ruthie down for her nap an hour earlier – before my fatigue sets in – so our morning ends on a more positive note. I spend the next hour doing something that refreshes me, like reading or writing an essay, then I spend the next hour doing a task that’s difficult to do when the kids are under my feet. If they wake up before the two hours is done, I leave them in their rooms because this is the two hours I have set aside for my sanity.

I’m learning that it benefits no one to embrace my limitations as failures, but if I accept who I am and learn to accommodate my limitations, I am truly a better mother and a better person. I am only a bad mother when I’m trying to be something I’m not, when I try to alter a part of myself that just Is, like trying to stuff your feet into a pair of shoes that are just too small.

I am redefining the Good Mother in my head to resemble something more familiar: me.

Story Telling the James Frey Way: Everything you are about to read is true – except I didn’t actually see it happen.

I have a friend who is going to massage school.

We all love to have friends like that, friends who give great massages for free. I love that.

She came over last week to teach me how to give Bryan a back massage as part of her student project. While demonstrating, she noticed a large lump on his back that turned out to be a huge ball of knotted muscle tissue. She also noticed Bryan’s left shoulder was tense, as if he was holding it tight, though she couldn’t get him to release it and relax.

She investigated the knot for awhile to see if the two were related.

Gently, she worked the tissue with the heal of her hand, explaining that she was exploring the direction of the muscles, loosening things up, and so forth. Slowly, the knot began to loosen until – POOF! – Bryan’s shoulder dropped. She had finally triggered something in the knot of muscle tissue that released the tension in his shoulder and it relaxed, right there in front of our eyes.

This week I’ve had the distinct feeling that I am holding on to something I should be letting go of, but in my confusion I don’t know what that is, and therefore I don’t know how to let it go.

I am fighting something inside of me, and like Tyler Durden, I am taking that inner battle and turning it outward, releasing my aggression onto others – making them hurt as I hurt, in hopes that their pain will release me from mine.

As I ran my errands this afternoon I thought about that knot in Bryan’s back, and I wondered what pressure was being put on me so I could be released from my own tension.

Not to overdue a good analogy, but having the tension worked out of your back hurts so good, don’t it (insert twang)? I mean, think about it:

How many times during a massage have you groaned, “OOWWWW!”

And the masseuse says, “Is that too much pressure?”

And you say through clenched teeth, “NO! IT FEELS GREAT!”

I have been frustrated. And I’ve said some things. And I’ve said some more things. And now I can’t remember some of the things I’ve said. And the things I DO remember I’ve said, I can’t tell if I really meant them. Was what I said based on a Lie I believe? Or is the confusion over what I said distracting me from the Truth of what I said?

So basically at this point, if you’re just tuning in to my blog, you’re thinking to yourself, “This chick’s not so much fun. I’m going back to reading Dooce.”

But I assure you, Dooce is a little crazy in the head herself. She just uses the delete button more liberally than I do.

Where’s My Yellow Brick Road?

It seems my son has inherited the Early Morning gene from Bryan. He wakes up at 6am, perky and ready for the day, which really puts a cramp in my creative process. I write my best stuff in the virgin dark of morning when my mind is refreshed and clear, free from the business, stresses, and failures of the day.

Without this time to do my free-writing I end up posting quip-y things like this conversation that I overheard the other day:

“…and when I realized I had eaten HALF the package of doughnuts as I drove down the road, I started tossing them out the window, one by one.”

“WHY was I not driving behind you???”

Funny? Yes. But not the kind of writing I’ve always dreamed of doing.

I have so many thoughts swirling in my brain, so many stories to tell, but O how to set them free? I used to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, wrapping up my thoughts as Conan filled my screen with his huge, square head and pointy chin.

But Thomas’ Early Morning gene was clashing with my Late Night With Conan O’Brien gene so I redirected myself to fall asleep earlier.

I feel my life balancing out more.

I feel myself moving away from the Bitter About My Circumstances end of the spectrum toward the Accept the Things I Cannot Change end of the spectrum.

Knowledge is power – if I learn I play The Victim when it is difficult to take responsibility, yet I choose to continue blaming Bryan or Ruthie or some uncontrolled circumstances for the unfairness of my life, I move from ignorance to rebellion.

I’ve done rebellion. It did nothing for me but create guilt, stress, and loss of credibility.

Seven months ago I was complaining about the very circumstance I find myself in this morning – Ruthie waking me from my slumber before I’ve had my cup of coffee. I’ve grown up a little since then, and I’ve had my ass kicked a few times.

I’m learning that life is a series of choices I make.

I choose to lose my temper when Ruthie wakes up in the night, or I choose to be patient and soothing. I choose to shoot fiery darts of wrath at Bryan, or I choose to lay low and guard him from the hormonal surge. I choose to attend a women’s retreat, or I choose to attend an equally important tech conference on the same weekend.

I’m learning to make my choices and move on. If it’s good choice, I build on that. If it’s a bad choice I learn from it. If I have to choose between two Best Things, I leave regret behind and enjoy the choice I made.

None of this is easy for me. The women in my family are bad at making choices. I come from a culture of buyer’s remorse and second guessing, of being in one place wishing for another, of wanting things to be different than they are. I waste a lot of energy wishing, wanting, and regretting.

This is not the culture I want to raise my own daughter in.

I’m not sure where I’m going with all of this. I’m trying to spill out a few thoughts as Thomas crawls around on the couch, rolling on a bed of Cherios like Mena Suvari in her roses.

Perhaps I should wrap this up and simply say, I have been writing less because my circumstances have not provided enough opportunity for me to write. And I’m learning to be Okay with that.

No Longer Depressed; Still a Rage-er.

Yesterday afternoon I unleashed the Fiery Fury on Ruthie.

As I relayed the story to Bryan when he got home from work, we found ourselves laughing at the absurdity of the events – something I was not able to do in the heat of the moment. Not that my rage is funny, but that we have a cantankerous daughter who keeps us on our toes.

It started when I went upstairs to get Ruthie after her nap. I walked into her room and found her on top of her four-drawer dresser, unscrewing the light bulb to her lamp and unplugging the humidifier. Horrified, I scolded her for playing with things she knew were off limits (and that I thought she couldn’t reach), then took her downstairs.

At that point I was under control.

Once downstairs, I took her straight into the bathroom to go pee – a new tradition we started on this, the first week of potty training. As usual, she told me to ‘go away’ because she wanted to do it herself. Usually not a problem, so I went into the kitchen to thaw some hamburger. When I came back to check on her, she had unraveled almost an entire roll of toilet paper into the toilet. Frustrated, I scolded her for playing with the toilet paper and marched her into the living room for a Time Out in the chair.

At that point I was still under control, but a little on the edge.

When her two-minute Time Out was over, I came in from the kitchen to find her unscrewing the entire top part of my floor lamp from its base.

At that point, I boiled a little over the edge.

I grabbed her by the arm and dragged her into the kitchen where I was making dinner, yelling at her the whole time about God knows what, but I know it involved a few swear words. I dropped her not so gently into her booster seat, strapped her in, and faced her toward the wall, yelling at her that she needed a new Time Out and she obviously couldn’t be trusted to sit in the living room.

I turned around to the sink to catch my breath and calm down, knowing I had lost my temper (but Sweet Moses, wouldn’t YOU?), and I swear to Elmo that when I turned back around she was peeling paint off my kitchen walls.

And this is where I unleashed the Fiery Fury.

I never touched her this time, but I yelled and screamed about Why Can’t You Just Sit There For Once and spewed some more swear words for good measure. Her shoulders slumped and she sat still.

I, of course, felt terrible, but the tension of rage was still boiling in my chest. After a few minutes to calm down, I took Ruthie into the living room to snuggle. I told her it was wrong for Mommy to lose her temper, and that I was sorry for yelling at her and being mean to her. She gave me a kiss. I then told her that even though Mommy was wrong to be mean, Ruthie still disobeyed by getting up from the chair during her Time Out. She said, “I sorry,” and we kissed again.

We sat there for a few minutes, Ruthie sucking her thumb and playing with my ear, and I evaluated everything that had just happened.

Despite yesterday’s events, I still feel the same way I did when I wrote this post: energized, clear-headed, and determined. I don’t feel as if I built up a false sense of security, only to have it toppled by my failures – I never said my rage was gone, only that I was no longer feeling the depression.

On the contrary, I actually feel I am better able to work through the rage and not get muddled down by my hormones and irrational emotions, and I found myself analyzing my trigger points and looking for patterns in my behavior that are unhealthy.

I acknowledged to myself that I was doing too much multi-tasking, leaving Ruthie alone too much for her to NOT get into trouble. I acknowledged that, due to illnesses and 26 straight days of rain, we have all been stuck in the house for three weeks, sending my active and curious two-year-old up the walls. Literally.

The second thing I really can’t do anything about. It’s out of my control, and up until yesterday afternoon I had kept everyone busy with crafty things.

But the first thing, the fact that I take on too much and multitask through my day, I have complete control over. I wake up every morning with an agenda, and it usually involves housework, or projects, or personal time. Rarely do I schedule in time for Ruthie, but expect her to just tag along with my day and keep herself occupied. Then around lunchtime when she begins to get clingy for my attention, I become impatient with her neediness.

Poor thing. She just wants some of my time, and I often don’t think of that until it’s too late.

Recently I’ve taught her the phrase, “Mommy, I need you,” when she feels lonely for me, and this has worked really well. As she catches on to this, she does less whining and clinging and “Up! Up! Up!” and will just come to me and say, “I need you.” I try my best to acknowledge her need by giving her a hug, or picking her up for a minute, or if time allows, we snuggle. Just as I am learning how divert my rage and manage my day between tasks and relationships, I am trying to teach Ruthie how to communicate her needs effectively and age-appropriately.

At any rate, this is exactly why I had decided to join a recovery group for my anger management. I knew that one day my post partum depression would end, but that my anger would still remain. I am thankful for the program, for its reminder that God can and does heal and deliver us from ourselves, and for the friendships and accountability it has brought to my life.

It has, and continues to change me.

So much for fresh starts, but the week is not a total loss.

This was the week I was to start back up at the gym. I even worked it into my calendar so I wouldn’t be tempted to brush it off. But alas, my children both came down with congested, croup-y coughs last night making me unable to leave them in the gym’s childcare room.

But despite that disappointment we are having a fantastic day. I have alternated between busy-work and playing with Ruthie, a routine I cooked up last week that has been a winner for both of us. Now I can set her in a chair with a pile of books while I clean the kitchen, because she knows that when I am done we will play dress-up. After playing for a bit I sit her at the table to color while I sweep and mop, then we have a snack together. And so on.

I feel amazing these days. The old, fun, Jennifer seems to have returned. I am full of energy, emotional clarity, motivation, and determination. We watch a lot less t.v. There are aspects of my temper I will never overcome simply because I am not perfect, but these days when I find myself on the edge of an explosion I can somehow communicate to Ruthie in the moment that she needs to shush and just give mommy a minute, at which point I walk away and take a few breaths.

But even these explosions are coming fewer and farther between as I seem to be irritated by less. It used to be when Ruthie asked for a Band-Aid for her imaginary scrapes I scolded her for even asking. I don’t know why it bugged me so much, but I became ENRAGED at the mere INQUIRY of a Band-Aid. But just yesterday Ruthie and I were silly and put band-aids on all our fingers.

I can’t explain this change. Maybe it’s a God-thing, maybe the hormones shifted after weaning Thomas, maybe time has just settled and I am officially no longer Post Partum. Likely, it is all of the above. All I know is that I am now on a quest to get off this godforsaken medication that leaves me feeling like a ten year old girl – totally in love with Bryan, completely in favor of snuggling and hanging out at the movies, but oh so uninterested in the Marital Dance.

Yesterday I started talking half pills of the Zoloft, which Bryan is in full support of. He’d definitely like to ditch the ten year old and get his wife back.

Today I Fell In Love With My Chiropractor

I tend to have long-term monogamous relationships with my chiropractors. My last one started around 1999, and sadly, I’ve had to move on.

Because I’ve moved to a location in South Seattle somewhere close to Portland, and because I’ve birthed two children who dictate my schedule, I am no longer able to maintain the free-spirited relationship we once had.

I had to break it off.

Meeting a new one has been a difficult and long journey. I’ve met some nice ones but have not been able to commit to an X-ray transfer.

Until today.

Today I felt a connection with my new chiropractor. He understands me, and oh how good he makes me feel. He has won me over, and I am ready to commit to another long-term monogamous relationship.


When I was a kid I kept a journal in fabric covered blank books. I would write the day’s events before I went to bed, recording what I did, who I saw, and on occasion, how I felt. I’m not sure why, but I always felt compelled to write, to record my life for posterity.

Perhaps this compulsion was linked to my belief that there were video cameras lurking around every corner, recording my life like The Truman Show.

[That movie brought validation to every twenty-something who grew up suspecting their life was a sit-com.]

If I missed a day, or a series of days, I felt overwhelmed by the task of catching up my adoring fans on the events I had missed writing about. And oh how exciting those events seemed to me.

Sometimes I would go weeks without writing. At some point I would attempt to start the chronological recap, only to give up or get tired before the task was done. Discouraged, several more days would pass, and I would be even more behind in my event recording.

I felt traumatized that whole gaps of my life had not been recorded for posterity, though now, as an adult, I feel no lesser of a person because a few pages were left blank.

I have been distant from my writing this week.

Many things are swimming in my head – too much confusion to express in printed word. This is where my introversion takes over, my tendency to process internally, then express in writing what I have come away with.

I once read a book, I can’t remember the name, but in it the mother processed her stress while keeping busy. If there was tension in her home, or if she was upset about something, she would wash dishes.

Washing dishes kept her hands busy, kept one side of her brain occupied so the other side could muddle through all the confusion. If there were no dishes to wash, she would empty out the cupboards and rewash all the clean dishes, just to go through the motions.

I SO related to her. I have never read or seen a fictional character with a quirk SO identical to my own. She is me.

My house is moving toward spotless this week. I have occupied my mind with dusting and sweeping and decluttering and rearranging of decorations. Lord knows it needed a little overhaul.

I have needed this break from writing. I have needed to tap into something more internal this week. There are some things only the Holy Spirit can reveal, and I need to be listening carefully.


This morning my neighbor came over to borrow my phone so she could call in sick to work. She had a hangover. While we were chatting in my kitchen, the gate in my yard was open long enough for my dog, Scout, to get out. A fact which I did not realize until about an hour later when I called for her to come and clean up the breakfast crumbs off the floor.

I swore, strapped my kids into their respective high chairs, and ran out the back gate where I immediately saw Scout across the street. She never goes far, she’s too loyal. She came as soon as I called her, and we rejoiced at her safe return by wrestling on the back deck.

It was at this point I realized she had rolled around in another dog’s poop.

I don’t know if all dogs do this, but mine always does whenever she gets the chance. It must be some sort of canine camaraderie thing. Thankfully, she never rolls around in her own poop, because I have plenty of that on hand.

So now my morning was delayed because I had to scrub the dog down with shampoo and water so my house wouldn’t smell like poop.

While Scout dried off on the front porch I took Thomas upstairs to change his diaper and get him dressed.

It was at this point I realized I was too late and he was soaked in pee, literally up to his arm pits.

I should have been leaving the house about the time I realized Scout was missing, but instead I became sidetracked by all these circumstances that were time consuming and frustrating, not to mention disgusting. I didn’t leave until ten minutes past the time I was supposed to be at my destination.

It was at this point I realized how comical my morning had been, and I found myself laughing.

I laughed through tears when I realized I lacked the tension of rage in my chest. I began sobbing when I realized I was rushed, late, AND sidetracked by things out of my control, yet I didn’t lose my temper or take it out on my kids.

I laughed.

I let it go.

I won.

Rage Interrupted

I sit here at my computer this morning, talking myself down from wanting to shake my son until he shuts up.

For those of you who know Thomas, you know he is one of those babies every mother dreams of, who sleeps hours at a time and cries only when he needs something. Beyond that he is a smiling bundle of easy-going joy.

This morning Thomas is not cooperating with my pre-set agenda, and I am feeling the rage well up within me.

I got up at the ass-crack of dawn this morning so I could get some research done on the internet – research I’m getting paid to do and have a responsibility to follow through on. I get up at the ass-crack of dawn so I can do this in the quiet of my living room without interruption.

This morning Thomas woke up at half past the ass-crack of dawn, which I thought would be okay. I thought he would nurse, then play quietly on the floor next to me while I did my research. But that didn’t happen. He has been fussy and whiney and only wants to be held or nursed – which by the way has been extremely painful this week due to [WARNING: you may consider the following to be ‘too much information’] a yeast infection on my nipples.

I am frustrated, and for the first time since he was born I am feeling rage toward my docile son.

I thought he would be exempt from my rage. I thought my rage was directed at Ruthie because she is so much like me. But I am once again reminded that my rage is an issue of my own selfishness, not of anyone else’s provocation.

I am frustrated with Thomas because he is interfering with my agenda, with my set plan for the morning, and it pisses me off. CAN I PLEASE HAVE ONE HOUR TO MYSELF TO DO WHAT I WANT??? I can feel the anger seething in my chest. I have a right to do what I want, and he is stealing my time away from me. The morning is MY time, just as the late night is MY time.

These are the thoughts running through my head as I sit here in the living room, listening to Thomas scream in the playpen in the basement recreation room. The poor little guy needs his mommy, and instead of providing comfort she has abandoned him for the sake of her own selfishness.

[I pause to breathe deeply and pray for peace of mind.]

I hit a milestone this morning. As I felt the rage welling up in me I chose to head it off. So often I satiate my need to rage because, like sex, there is much comfort in the post orgasm release of pent-up tension. False comfort. I feel relief for a fleeting moment until the guilt sets in.

Today I left room for hope and sanity. I drew my fists back to smash the stereo, but I did not deliver the blow. I allowed the spirit of God a foothold in my heart, just enough for me to walk away and accept that I cannot control my son.

I am not perfect, this was not a perfect exchange, and the likelihood that I will blow past this small victory to rage again in the future is high. But for today, for this moment, I feel empowered by the Holy Spirit that God really does have the power to change my wicked heart.

The lesson for today is “Listen To That Inner Mommy-Voice When It’s Screaming At You, or Else [insert tragic circumstance here].”

Just when I thought I was running out of things to write about and my blog would shrivel up and die, my two year old once again provided plenty of material for me.

To preface this story I would just like to say that in addition to my 4 month old and two-and-a-half-year-old, I’m also watching my friend’s 18-month-old for a week. Plus, it’s ninety degrees today which makes everyone whiney.

That is my defense.

For a brief hour today I had all three kids simultaneously taking naps, during which I read a book without guilt. One by one they each began to wake up, so I began the snack rotation while putting dinner together. It was only 1:30 in the afternoon, but I was making a chicken curry salad that needed to be chilled.

Toward the end of all this mayhem, one kid was crying, one kid was wandering happily about with toys in hand, and one particular EEEVIL blond girl was much too quiet.

The Voice told me to check on her.

I ignored The Voice.

“But I just want to mix this dressing,” I told The Voice. “I’ve been trying to make this salad all morning and I’m almost done.”

She’s up to no good, said The Voice. CHECK ON HER NOW!

Quietly and patiently I scooped the salad into a tupperware and put it in the fridge, washed my hands, put a few dishes in the dish washer, then walked into the living room to check on Ruthie.


[Now, let me just take this moment to assure everyone that I later apologized to Ruthie for what you are about to read because, while she grossly misbehaved, there is no excuse for the temper I unleashed on her in my anger. I am far from perfect as a mother, but I always make a point to tell Ruthie I’m sorry when I am wrong.]

The pink I painted on her toenails apparently was not enough for Ruthie, because she confiscated the bottle of nail polish and painted her legs, her arms, and poured the rest of the bottle out onto my BRAND NEW COUCH.

This is the couch I saw in the store window, fell in love with, waited six months until we had the money to buy it, waited five weeks for it to be delivered, and now have the privilege of napping on daily. It’s red. It’s soft. If I were Dooce I would lick my couch.

I’ve only had it for three months.

I believe what came out of my mouth was something like, “YOU ARE IN SUCH BIG FUCKING TROUBLE YOU KNOW BETTER THAN TO TAKE THINGS OFF THE TABLE DO YOU REALIZE HOW MUCH I HAD TO FUCKING BEG FOR THIS COUCH I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DID THIS…” etc. etc. etc. You get the idea: all caps, no punctuation, lots of swearing.

Poor thing. Poor, unsuspecting cute blond girl who just wanted to look pretty.

I think the most important thing that I am currently learning as a mother is how easy it is to crush the spirit of my children and embitter them against me. Countless times I have, in mid-sentence, flash forwarded in my mind to Ruthie at age thirteen: bitter, rebellious, and hating me because we’ve spent our entire relationship butting heads.

She is a creative, smart, observant, verbal, independent girl, and I think most of the time I fail to recognize all of these (and more!) amazing qualities about her because I’m so fixated on her stubborn will and propensity to be curious.

I pray on a daily basis that I will let go of this and learn to choose my battles more carefully with her so the next time I go ape over [insert tragic circumstance here], my voice is not just the white noise she hears from me all day long.

I made good with Ruthie. As I cleaned her up I spoke quietly to her, apologizing for losing my temper, and I asked her to forgive me. We kissed, we hugged, then we had some snuggle time while the other kids napped again. I cherish my time alone with her, and I wish I could will myself into being more tender with her when she’s out of line.

She is a beauty — a one-of-a-kind — and I love her dearly.