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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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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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My Knuffle Bunny and Me

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Sep 27, 2011 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

I get the dark haired boy on the bus.  Then it’s time to go get my blondie off to preschool.  I find him still in bed looking incredibly like the baby that he is no more.  I inhale his smell, the sweet scent of his skin and hair, of him.  I snuggle into his warmth and softness despite the fact that I know we should be getting ready to go.  How many more moments will I have like this one?  Where his cheeks are so squishy underneath my kiss?   Where he twirls my hair around his little fingers and puts his little boy arm around me?  These are the slippery moments that I must inhabit fully, even as they fall through my fingers.

I fear he will be hard to get going since last night’s sleep was restless and too short.  But as I move to get his clothes, his little voice says, “Get me.”  We go upstairs, me and my knuffle bunny, to pick out his outfit.  I reach for a t-shirt from the drawer, but he wants to check out the closet for “shirts with buttons”.

As he struggles to push and pull those tiny little buttons into tiny little holes with tiny little fingers, I remind myself to be patient and let him find his way.  I’ve been reading a parenting book that tells me I need to encourage autonomy and not step in to solve all his problems for him.   I give him some advice (which is allowed).  He works and persists until he has gotten that button into it’s hole.  Then we discover it was the wrong hole.  I wait for the frustration, but instead he gives me a big toothy grin and says, “Now what do we do?”  This surprises me and makes me smile.

He doesn’t want to wear undies.  But, when I offer him a blue pair, he decides to wear them because that’s his best friend’s favorite color.  Oh, the simplicity.  He doesn’t want to go to school.  He doesn’t like his teachers.  Then he remembers that his lost slug might be at school.  Suddenly his face brightens.  He loses the wilted flower look, sits upright and bounces up and down at this thought.  Now he is a man on a mission.

We grab an apple on the way out the door.  They are doing some projects and he needs to one today.  He picks the green one and tells me it’s cause it’s little and he likes little ones.  He says he’s going to eat it.  I grab the big red one, just in case.  As we get in the car he asks me, “Where will you be when I’m at school?  Where will you be when you leave?”  His question catches me off guard.  It hasn’t occurred to me that he might think about this.  I give him my answer and he is satisfied.  I ask him why he wants to know.  He tells me he just wondered where I would go.  Then he moves on.  No fuss.  No big deal.  But I am fascinated by this question and the thought behind it.  I am fascinated by this little boy.

When we arrive at school, he shows me the hole in the little green apple where he has dug his fingernail into the skin.  So I reach for the big, red, just-in-case apple.  But he says he wants to eat it.  We take both apples and he does indeed take a few bites out of the red one.  We end up leaving the green one.  Life is not perfect.  And I’m okay with that.

He is clingy.  He comes back for more hugs and kisses. Then he remembers his slug.  I tell him to go ask his teacher if she found it.  Off he goes.  Off I go.  Off time goes.  But this morning will remain in my memory.

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Bunny Love

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Sep 15, 2011 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

I’m not sure exactly how it began.  It may have been the rabbit family that hung a home-sweet-home sign in our neighborhood.  Daily sightings of a mama bunny and her baby, munching and hopping through our backyard.  An even smaller baby bunny that we nearly shocked out of his fur .  He shot out of the bushes and ran frantically in circles as we turned on our table saw to finish up the swingset we were building.  When he finally found an escape from the garden wall, he hunkered down in the tall grass and did not twitch even a baby bunny whisker for hours.  We feared his heart had stopped.  But the bunny statue was not there the next morning, so he must have recovered.

Then our neighbor discovered a nest of impossibly tiny baby bunnies in her front yard.  Their were treks to see the baby bunnies.  There was much instruction on not touching the baby bunnies.  There was a fiasco the day the growing baby bunnies left the nest and hopped in all directions as neighborhood kids scrambled to herd them back home.  And a couple of boys who could not keep their hands off those baby bunnies took the opportunity amidst all the chaos to grab one up and hug them tight.

Or it may have been my visit to the potential preschool.  Gracie The Bunny, as she is affectionately known in my house, is the resident pet.  My bunny crazy boy finally got to meet her over the summer.  We got to hear a lot about her.  Now twice a week, when I pick him up, we make the trip downstairs to the room where Gracie lives.  We watch and wait as Gracie lies in her cage or hops about the room.  When she decides to come see us, we reach our hands over the fence and pet her furry head.  We reluctantly peel ourselves away and wave goodbye when Gracie hops back into her cage.

Or maybe it was when Grandma made a treasure trove of felted animals for Easter and bestowed some bright yellow chicks and brown and white bunnies upon us.  These bunnies became our companions at home and out and about.  So well loved they became various pieces of bunny anatomy.  An ear, a nose, a cotton tail;  unrecognizable to the unfamiliar eye.  On a recent trip to Grandma’s house, my boy came home with a great big orange bunny.  His name is FoFo.  The boy doesn’t like it if you don’t remember the bunny’s name, and he takes the bunny everywhere.

While out shopping this week, he spotted a soft bunny with pure white fur.  It was part of a gift pack for a baby girl.  It was sitting in a stroller in front of a display of baby items.  It caught his eye immediately.  Of course he begged me to buy it.  In the end he admired it, took it for a spin in the stroller, and responded to my insistence that we not buy it today, with, “But, it’s beautiful, Mommy.”  It is beautiful.

Today was my boy’s first day to be the snack buddy.  Choosing a snack for all your preschool friends is both a privilege and a great responsibility.  The fall chill in the air today called for some apples with caramel dip.  But, the piece de resistance,   cheddar bunny crackers.  The boy celebrates his new preschool pet and does not let his friends down at snack time with his boisterous, beautiful love for bunnies.

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What a Girl Wants

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Dec 22, 2010 in Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

My husband asked me a simple question that many people hear this time of year.  “So, what do you want for Christmas?”  But it set my mind whirling into a spiral of existential pondering.   I drew a blank.  “I’ll have to think about it.”  Think about it?  Since when do I have to think about what I want?  Don’t most people have a list of some sort floating around in their brains, ready for just such a time as this?   What do I want?  Not just for Christmas, but boil it down to the simplest desires of my heart?  What kind of life do I want?  What do I want to spend my time doing?   What do I want my existence to be defined by?  Where do I want to go on vacation?  How do I want to spend my free time?

Maybe it’s because no one ever asks me this question anymore, I stopped even asking myself.  I”m always trying to make someone else’s wishes come true, from the mundane to the magical.  What do you want for lunch, which shirt do you want to wear today, what kind of cake do you want for your birthday, what do you want to be when you grow up?  I am the fairy godmother, not the princess.  Caring for young kids, running a household, sustaining a relationship with a busy husband.  It’s not so much that I don’t have a running wish list ready to produce on demand that bothers me.  It’s that not knowing what I want in life has left me disconnected from the real essence of me.  It’s not just about surviving another day and accomplishing all the tasks I need to do for others.  Who am I?  Where am I going?  What kind of legacy do I want to leave?  What do I want?

As a parent, it’s easy to lose touch with yourself.  We fall into the familiar routine of caring for others and we forget to care for ourselves.  Or maybe we know it’s important, but it’s easier to let it slip because all our energy and time is expended in taking care of everyone else.   Arranging and paying for childcare, scheduling appointments or just time off, even keeping track of our needs are all an addition to our to-do list that sometimes we just would rather skip and save ourselves the trouble even though we know the benefits can be huge.

So what do I want?  Not because I should do it or it would be worthwhile or it would make someone else happy or I know it’s good for me.  What do I simply desire to do or have or be just for me?  So my first new year’s resolution is to spend some time thinking about it and start figuring out what it is I want.

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