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Is this normal?

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Feb 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

My clothes dryer broke this weekend.  Not out of the blue.  Actually it has been declining for a while.  But when it stopped functioning altogether, it was clear there was a problem that we had to address.   And when I say we, I mean my husband cause he’s the one who knows how to troubleshoot and fix modern contraptions.  After he replaced the heating element, it works like new.  It is unbelievable how fast one can do laundry with a properly functioning drying machine.  No, seriously, it’s incredible.  Now I see how ridiculous it was to accept my dryer’s previous performance, to think it was normal, to not expect more, to suppose that I must not be so great at keeping up with the laundry, to spend all weekend trying to catch up and only have a few loads to show for my efforts, to feel inadequate and disorganized as every morning was a scramble to piece together complete, properly fitting, weather appropriate, dress code compliant attire for everyone, to consider spending a day at the laundromat to make some headway.  But, it happened so insidiously.  It was so incremental.  I honestly don’t even know when its performance started slipping.

I feel like mental/emotional/psychological health can be like that.  Sometimes it takes something pretty significantly going wrong to realize that there is a legitimate issue that needs addressed.  Then when things have been righted and are moving in a positive direction, looking back it is crazy to see what you accepted as status quo.  But in the middle of it all, it somehow seems that maybe I just need to try a little harder, life is not all fun and games, maybe I am just not good at life, life is pretty serious business, maybe we are not meant to take it lightly.  And we trudge on, running like a hamster on a wheel, thinking if only we can stick it out, put in more effort, maybe someday things might get better but mostly this is all there is and all we deserve and what we just have to keep doing.

But then things get a whole lot better.  Brighter.  Deeper.  Hopeful.  Meaningful.  Enjoyable.  Attainable.  Joyful. Beautiful. Peaceful. And suddenly it seems ludicrous that you settled for quiet desperation and tried to make a life out of it.  Life is crazy and hard and horrible.  But it is also full of wonderful possibility.  You deserve to see that wonderful possibility and have a chance to embrace and embody it.

 
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Little Boys

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Jan 27, 2015 in Parenthood

1.  You find Nerf darts in the washing machine, your boot, and the baby’s mouth all in one day.

2.  You put real thought into how you can make green jeans a fashion trend and do a Google search for pants with kevlar reinforced knees.

3.  You hear yourself saying things like, “Stop chasing your brother with a butter knife!” on a normal Tuesday afternoon.

4.  You decide your next house will have a bathroom made entirely of concrete and steel so you can spray it down with a hose.

5.  You have to make a rule about what is appropriate dinner conversation and refer to it frequently so everyone can keep their dinner in their stomachs.

6. How to store and organize all those Legos is one of life’s great questions.

7.  You discover rocks in the washing machine, kitchen counter, couch… on a regular basis.

8.  Cleaning up means storing away weapons (plastic grenades and swords, cap guns, toy bows with arrows, aforementioned Nerf darts and an armory of guns that launch them).

9.  Multiple pieces of furniture have been broken due to jumping, climbing, swinging, throwing, etc.

10.  You find your (usually classy) self making jokes/songs about body parts/functions due to constant exposure to such behavior.

 
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Today

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Oct 1, 2013 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

It is an exquisitely beautiful day.  Too much beauty to drink it all in.  The kind of day when one should lose track of time and live in the moment.  And that is just what I did.  The world seems bold and vivid and bursting with life and full of possibilities.  This day is a gift to us right now.  I graciously and gratefully accept it!

 
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The Art of Blank Space

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Sep 16, 2013 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

I have been more mindful about the time I spend with my children lately. It has helped to have the structure that back-to-school routines provide, even though I was sad to see the summer slip away. I find I am better able to enjoy and manage the time with my kids when I have some time for myself. All the stars have aligned to make this happen. The dark haired boy is in third grade, the blondie started kindergarten in the afternoons, and this happens to be when the little red haired girl takes her nap.

Most days I get about three hours of time alone. I am an introvert, and to me this is a precious gift.  I can accomplish practical tasks such as laundry, dishes, cleaning and organizing, phone calls, paperwork, planning ahead.  I can indulge in little things like enjoying a leisurely shower, taking a nap (gasp), or reading.  But most importantly I seize the opportunity to:  Think. Breathe. Be.

Knowing that I will have this time when no one is asking questions, needing me, making demands, depending on me is freeing. Having space for me is an enormous, amazing gift. It keeps me grounded and renews me. I am finding it is healing and restorative and necessary for my well-being.

Currently, my man is off being a great white hunter and enjoying some much needed downtime with friends. His travel schedule waxes and wanes, and he has not been on a long trip for a while. So, I am being stretched a bit this week, parenting solo. In the times when I begin to feel the weight of this, I stop and remember how fleeting this all is and how I want to be present and live it, not just try to survive and make it through. So I make a conscious effort to be here now and inhabit the moment and take note of the things that are mine today that I will miss and long for all too soon.

Here are a few of those little things I am trying to fully absorb and enjoy and remember. A blonde headed little boy wearing Batman footie pajamas with a cape. Making up stories about crazy things that could have happened to  lead to the Purell wipes dispenser being completely empty at the Chick-Fil-A playground.  (Which reminds me of the time my preschooler wept as we went through the drive thru, and after establishing the tears were not due to missing out on the playground or not getting a toy, we established that the root of all the emotional upheaval was his desire for a “wipey” from the dispenser by the playground).  The eruption of pure joy on my little boy’s face and the best, infectious giggle as I pushed him “as high as you can” on his glider swing.  And his baby sister swinging beside him in her orange car swing, laughing at him laughing. My older son’s strikingly dark eyes as he declares a staring contest to try to rid me of my hiccups.  I had never heard of this remedy.  How he tells me stories about what happened at school, and talks to me about the little girl he is in love with, and gives me his review of that day’s school lunch.  The ways he tries to be helpful.  How he can’t walk across a room without hurting himself, but carefully he rescues his sister from her crib, carries her downstairs, places her in her high chair, and starts feeding her some yogurt.  The sight of him carrying her, radiating pure love, her clinging to him like a little monkey.  A five year old who delights in gathering wildflowers and making bouquets for his teacher. A sweet baby girl who flits around the room gleefully, takes a break from discovering and playing to give a hug and snuggle with her brothers sprawled on the bean bag, playing video games.  How she cheers and celebrates along with them as they accomplish new things in their games, even though she has no idea what the excitement is about.

It’s interesting how when everything is all crammed together, it looks like chaos.  But, when there’s a little blank space interspersed, the beauty emerges.

 
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On Making the Most of the Moment

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Aug 13, 2013 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool me a thousand times and I’m a parent who thinks this moment, this day, this season, this stage, this age, this child of mine…cradled in my arms, asleep on my shoulder, asking for one more goodnight hug and kiss, wrapped around my legs, shouting for me to watch, singing me a song, picking me flowers, drawing me pictures, writing me notes, dancing gleefully, learning to ride a bike, needing a ride to goalie camp and back every day this week and insisting I stay and watch, demanding I drop everything and push him on his swing, inviting me to play with him, hoping to have a picnic, twirling my hair, wanting only me for comfort, sitting in my lap, snuggled in my bed, eager for me to meet his friends, telling me long stories about his day, sharing her ice cream with me, smiling ear to and reaching out little arms for me when I get her out of bed, making me paintings everyday at preschool, asking for my help on a project, staring at me from the backseat as we drive here and there, demanding and delighting in my attention, sharing our time and space and hearts…..will last forever.

It seems like it will never end sometimes.  When I’m tired or alone or overwhelmed by all this responsibility.  It seems interminable.  Sometimes it seems permanent.  Like we were meant to be together and we will always be as we are now.  And sometimes, as you sort through preschool mementos and attend kindergarten meetings, it seems so fleeting.  It seems so precious.  And you realize the baby you just brought home from the hospital is walking and talking.  The tiny boy who picked out a red tricycle for his second birthday is zooming by on a two wheeler without training wheels.  The bright eyed boy you remember putting on the kindergarten bus is starting third grade.   The summer I anticipated sharing with them with such excitement is over.  And I realize that I have spent many days working, cleaning, cooking, washing, preparing, planning, researching, organizing, and surviving and not so much time playing, watching, listening, holding, cuddling, gazing, singing, reading, and taking it all in.  Caring for young children is a lot of work. It takes a lot of energy, physically, mentally, emotionally.  It is also a joy, a privilege, a gift, a life filled with wonder and amazement and so much love.  And it does not last forever.  So I will embrace it while it’s here.  My life and my heart are full.  It makes me sad to think I take it for granted.  It breaks my heart to imagine it changing.  And yet it does over and over.  And I am surprised over and over.  And I am bewildered over and over.  I love these kids with all my heart, and I will savor who they are and what we share every day.

 
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Getting Stronger: Day 3

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Jun 9, 2013 in Green-Eyed Machine, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

Today was busy.  As soon as I woke up, I was on a tight schedule.

Dark haired boy off to school.

Nurse baby girl, change diaper, get blondie and baby dressed and fed breakfast.

Get myself ready and get out the door.

Pick up 2nd grader from school.

Drive to dr. office for annual check ups.

Back in car to preschool drop off.

Grab lunch for 2nd grader and back to school.

Drive home to change a diaper, nurse baby, play on floor with puzzles and cars and trucks, feed baby lunch, quick clean up, and off to preschool pickup.

Back home, where I finally have a chance to breathe…ahhhh.  So I skipped breakfast and grabbed lunch on the go, but I still tried to make healthy choices.  Yes it was fast food, but it was a grilled chicken flatbread and an iced tea.  Could have been worse.  And, it’s just one day.  It could be easy to derail in the early days of forming a new habit, but I’m making it work.  Sticking with the program!

 
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Getting Stronger: Day 2

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Jun 9, 2013 in Green-Eyed Machine, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

Another successful day!  I did day 2 of “Couch to 5k”.  I even managed to get a solo run in this time.  Alone time, running the path around a beautiful park in my neighborhood, perfect running weather, in the moonlight, with some high energy music.  It felt amazing.  My feet hurt and my calves were sore by the end, but it was worth it!  I made more healthy choices.  I am feeling stronger and healthier and thinner already.  I even lifted some weights.

 

A few things I am learning:

1. Get used to feeling hungry.  It’s gonna be ok.  At first I freaked out, but sometimes it’s not about feeding your stomach, it’s about nourishing your spirit.  Denying yourself sometimes can actually allow you to respond to your longing in a more productive way or just realize that sometimes it’s not best to gratify every desire.  It’s ok to feel negative feelings.  You will survive, and it will make you a stronger person.
2. Make a few compromises. I can drink sweet tea like I’m a southern girl.  Instead of a large with refills, I had just one small cup.   Instead of a regular caramel frappuccino with whipped cream, I had an iced caramel macchiato with nonfat milk.  Balanced with lots of nourishing, healthy foods throughout the day, I can live with that.
3. It’s not all or nothing. It’s about making better and better choices until there’s no room left for unhealthy ones. It’s not about being perfect. If I make a less than ideal choice, all that matters is that the next choice is a better one. It’s about taking such great care of myself, that I feel so good I don’t want to do things that make me feel bad.
4. Eat lots of filling healthy foods first. It doesn’t leave much space for unhealthy ones. Salads are my friend.

 
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Getting Stronger: Day 1

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on May 8, 2013 in Green-Eyed Machine, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

A couple weeks ago I went to bed feeling defeated and miserable.  This was my predicament:

1. Eating healthy food in reasonable portions seems impossible, no matter how much I want to or how hard I try.
2. I don’t recognize my own reflection.
3. Clothes shopping is not how I enjoy spending time. I’m tired of buying bigger clothes, wearing maternity clothes 10 months later, not having anything to wear, or wearing clothes that are too small.
4. I want to take care of myself. I want to be strong and fit and healthy and feel good.

I finally reached a turning point.  The next morning I woke up early, startled by something. As I lay there in the dark, I found myself having a hard time breathing, my chest hurting, my heart racing. I realized that it was no longer just about looking good. If I didn’t make some changes, I was likely going to be unwell soon. My kids depend on me taking care of myself. It was time to do something.

This is where the rubber meets the road, and I became a woman of action.  I downloaded a “couch to 5k” app on my phone, and I used it. I did half the first day’s run/walk on the way to a park, pushing my kids in a stroller, and half on the way back.
I ate nutritious meals, drank some freshly juiced vegetables and fruits, and stuck with it all day. It was hard. In the afternoon I wanted to give up. I was so tired. But, somehow I didn’t. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have ready access to much junk food. Maybe it’s because I just kept trying. At the end of the day I felt so good and proud of myself… and stronger.

 

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Nappie Newby

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Apr 22, 2013 in Being Green, Parenthood

Day One of cloth diapering.  I have mixed feelings.  I was surprised when the supplies arrived at my front door, as I was expecting the first delivery in two days.  I had been anticipating this with just a little uncertainty, but mostly excitement.   I was getting ready to take the kids out for lunch, so I decided to wait until we returned to give it a try.  It was kind of a bright spot to my day.  Something to look forward to.

I reviewed the written instructions (with illustrations of a teddy bear) , decided to watch a video demonstration (on a teddy bear again, which my 4 year old found amusing), then viewed one with an actual human baby (we’ll deal with the whole teddy bear vs. real baby later).  Then I tried it.  It was late afternoon when I attempted the first cloth diapering, so I only got to try it out three times today.  However, I did experience both wet and poopy diapers.

Putting a cloth diaper on is a lot more time consuming than I expected.   Let’s talk about that teddy bear now.  I was a little unsure of being able to configure, fold, and fasten the diaper even after the teddy bear demonstration.  But substituting my baby for an inanimate object added another level of complexity to this whole situation.  My baby was a little tired and not really in the mood for a diaper change.  My baby was wiggly and squirmy and impatient and very open about her disapproval of this whole ordeal by the time her little bottom was swaddled in cloth and covered in a waterproof wrap.  I’m not very spatially adept, and although folding and applying a diaper is pretty straightforward, learning how to do it for the first time on my own was a little tricky.  Let alone, getting a baby to remain still and be patient as I stumble my way through it.  As soon as the diaper was on and she was in my arms, she was okay.  I changed the diaper two hours later.  It was wet, the cover was dry.

Round two was even more eventful.  There was poop.  The bad news is I had not gotten the diaper snug around the leg, and it leaked on the inside of the cover.  The good news is the cover contained it!   I set the cover aside to deal with later.  Little Miss Wiggle Pants was again not interested in being changed, which is not unusual lately.  I had planned on trying to remove and dispose of all the contents from the diaper.  I get a discount for doing so and it just seems like something that should be done.  However, doing so wasn’t as simple as I had expected, and after the drama of baby cleanup, I accepted my partial success with the diaper cleanup and tossed it in the pail.

That was just the diaper removal.  I decided to give the baby some time to calm down and wash my hands before  attempting another diaper application.  I also used the floor instead of the changing table so I wouldn’t have to worry about her trying to roll off.  This diapering session was an all out wrestling match.  She kept turning over on her tummy, twisting around to look at  and grab for things, and trying to get away.  I would get a good fold going on, get a snug fit and start to fasten it.  She would wiggle/roll/squirm and all was lost.  This is going to require more patience than I had envisioned.

So first impressions.  This is more time consuming than I imagined.  Just the actual putting on of the diaper.  But I’m wondering if I will get past the learning curve and it will be as routine as using disposables.    I am worried about how it will go overnight.  Will she feel wet and uncomfortable.  Will being wet for so long damage her skin.  Will it leak?  Will she wake because she needs changed?  Maybe we should use disposables at night.  Is that okay?  I mean it’s still better than using them all the time.  What about doublers or liners?  Ugh.  I didn’t expect to have to think so much about this.

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Metaphorically Speaking

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Feb 4, 2013 in Inner Workings, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

There is a scene in the Disney animated movie, Monsters, Inc., in which the lizard-like  villain monster Randall attacks the furry, lovable hero monster Sully.  Randall is strangling  Sully.  Sully is struggling and helpless and running out of time.  Sully’s best friend Mike, a goofy little round monster with one large eye, is standing right there with Sully.  But Mike doesn’t know what’s going on because Randall can blend into his surroundings like a chameleon, rendering himself  invisible.  So all Mike sees is Sully dancing around like a crazy person, shrieking and making strange faces.  Mike keeps talking, trying to have a serious conversation.  Sully is in trouble.  He is trying to fight, but he is losing.  He attempts to get Mike’s attention.  He calls for help.  But, Mike is focused on what he’s trying to say, and he  still can’t see what’s happening.  Mike starts getting frustrated with Sully, because he is trying to reach out and he’s in the middle of something important and Sully isn’t cooperating or paying attention or trying to do his part.  Sully is acting very strangely, but Mike just doesn’t get what’s going on.  Then finally Randall’s skin changes patterns and becomes visible and everyone grasps the reality of the situation.  And Mike comes to his aid.  And they  fight off the monster together.

It’s like that.  Depression and anxiety are like that.  I fight an invisible enemy.  So you think I’m fine.  You don’t see the monster threatening to squeeze the life out of me.  You miss the panic that is just underneath the surface.  The emptiness that fills me up.  You don’t know that when I drop my sweet boy off in your classroom I hug him tighter  because the thoughts I’m having of harming myself make me wonder if this is the last time I will see him.   That my heart is breaking because I can’t bear that thought, but I don’t know what to do with this desperation I feel.  That getting him to school late again, without the book he was supposed to return four days ago, wearing a sweatshirt and two jackets we found in the car because we left his coat at home, with signs of  lunch still on his handsome face,  and a backpack empty of the change of clothes it should be carrying, took every bit of the planning, timing, and energy resources I have and is a monumental accomplishment for me.

Or you wonder why I’m acting so strangely.  Why I’m so forgetful.  Why I can’t complete a simple task like making dinner.  Why I am impatient or irritable.  Why I always want to sleep.  Why I can’t keep my kids under control.  Why I don’t return your calls.  Why I can’t get off the couch.  Why I call you at work, wondering when you will be home.  Why I miss appointments.  Why I’m not making conversation.  Why I am gaining weight.  Why my appearance is disheveled.  Why I’m angry.  Why I am so needy.  Why I’m no fun.

Or you think because you don’t see it, it’s not there.  It’s in my head.  It’s an excuse.  Everyone has bad days.  Life is hard.  Stop whining and feeling sorry for yourself, buck up, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and deal with it.  Be grateful for what you have.  Count your blessings.  Think positively.  Be more optimistic.  Change your attitude.  Get up and do something.  If you don’t like your life, change it.  Happiness is a choice.   Put your head down and move forward.  Nobody’s perfect.  Don’t dwell on the negative.

If I were physically ill, in a way that is visible and understood, you might offer to take over child care for the day.  You would not question my need to stay in bed to get the rest I need.  Perhaps you would make meals for my family. You would urge me to see a doctor, take medication, go to the hospital if necessary, undergo therapy.  You would offer words of encouragement and hope.  You would help me complete tasks too great for me.  You would provide companionship and support.

But although my agony is palpable and very real to me, it is not visible or widely understood.  It is undetected, questioned, stigmatized, ignored, misunderstood, dismissed as a personal deficiency.  And so I push on in silence.  I fight my battle singlehandedly.  I daydream of having some obvious illness or injury so that someone might notice and take care of me. That the camouflage that hides this villain beating the life out of me might fail for just  a moment and  someone might come to my aid and we could fight off this monster together.

 

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