Monday, April 3, 2017

Let It Go

Well, here we are. Less than 2 short months before my oldest son's graduation. It has happened in the blink of an eye. Before I was mentally (or emotionally) prepared for it, it came and has been sauntering all cocky and confident up my sidewalk getting closer and closer to my door. One would think that I would have seen it coming; somehow I should have known that this day would happen whether I wanted it to or not. But, I have to tell you, while parenting I've rarely contemplated this actual day. I mean, we don't generally enjoy releasing our prized creation into the wild!  I've been so consumed in the thick of it that I haven't even considered the magnitude of this next step. Nevertheless, it will be here before I know it and whether I like it or not.

And so it begins. The very real "letting go" of a child. There it is. That's the rub. The hidden agenda of this whole parenting gig. No...the sleepless nights and tantrums aren't the hardest part. The letting go is. You see...this boy, this little boy that has grown into a handsome, mature, ready-to-conquer-the-world young man holds a huge chunk of my heart; quite frankly, a piece of my very soul strolls around with that little boy-er- young man. And I am expected to gracefully and joyfully open the door and allow him to walk into the world...all on his own...while I watch and pray and trust that the world will love him back.

We put all of our efforts, time and money into these little creatures...they've even spoken for money Captain Hubby and I haven't even earned yet! They quite literally get our blood, sweat and tears. Every ounce of energy; every waking moment; several supposed-to-be sleeping moments; all of me as a mother has gone into raising, grooming, teaching, molding, rooting for, supporting and defending this boy. Of course, that doesn't end the minute he crosses that stage all proud and determined and convinced that he's leaving home. But it surely changes things. It changes the dynamic of our mother-son relationship; it changes the ebb and flow of our little family; it changes the camaraderie between him and all his brothers. He will no longer be "one of the posse", he won't be part of the 6 when I count my crew; he may never ever again be considered one of my Woozles. And that makes me sad.

No longer will I have 2 "Bigs" as I'm gathering my crew. No longer will I set his place at the table and curse under my breath when he doesn't arrive promptly because he was engrossed in an Xbox game; No longer will we juggle our schedules to accommodate the oldest teens' schedule. Nope. That's all going to change. And for some crazy reason, people seem to think I should be excited, happy and ready for this moment. This moment that's been 18 plus years in the making.

Eighteen years is a long time...a really long time...a really, really long time to fiercely mother someone and then simply go cold turkey. I'm not sure it's for me. I'm not positive I'm that trusting, graceful mama that will wave and smile and watch him drive off. No! My name is Crystal, and I'm 100% addicted to this human that I created with my own body. I won't comply! I'm throwing the proverbial bull shit flag on this entire production! As mothers, we've gotten the short end of the stick. Explosion diapers, baby puke running down my back, so many pee-in-the-face moments that it hardly phases me anymore, tantrums, injuries, spelling tests, teaching a teen how to drive (who's brilliant idea was that?!), numerous rogue nut-cup sightings and now that I have finally groomed this drooling little fart-machine into a well-mannered, respectful and functioning human I'm EXPECTED to just unlock the door and let him go?! What the what! Did I wrong someone in some previous life? I have 2 that still don't even wipe their own butts, take one of them! Don't take the individual that laughs at my jokes, has civil conversations with me, takes care of bathroom business without involving or alerting me and (for the most part) cleans up after himself. Take any of the other 5! Not because I don't love them as fiercely, but because I'm certain that they are SO unprepared for life without me that they'll barely make it past the driveway before they come rushing back to me.

I'm certain that there is going to be some ugly crying, a tantrum even, that is going to ensue when he attempts to break free of this Mom-dom. To hell with letting them spread their wings and fly. I'm much more on board with breaking those wings and keeping them safe and sound in this nest.

Sick and twisted. This whole thing is sick and twisted. On behalf of all of the mamas of the Class of 2017, "Nuts and bolts! Nuts and bolts! We got screwed!"


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Just Me And The Lorax

I think I was born in the wrong time period. Quite honestly, I've felt that way for as long as I can remember. My soul, my very most inner being longs for a much simpler time. A time of more community, sock hops, malt shops, and drive inn movies. A time when small communities were the thing- alive and thriving! Ma and Pop shops were on every corner and people actually got together in person for that thing called "socializing". Less schedules and more picnics on a blanket in the park. Less social media and more meeting for coffee and donuts. More lemonade stands without worry about safety of the kiddos running it.

Call me an old soul, traditional, or crazy. Whichever. It doesn't change the fact that my soul yearns for porch swings and acres for my boys-in-the-hood to roam, build, destroy and grow. I want a quiet country road that sings of birds, dust and wild flowers. I want kids on bikes, pick up games of flag football and fresh cookies in my oven. Falling asleep under a big oak tree while reading a good book and the sun warms my skin sounds like the best afternoon.

That's what my childhood was filled with. Laughter, hay bales and bike rides- riding so fast and so hard we thought our legs would fall off. No worries about juggling our sports' schedules and practice times. We swam at the local pool daily; all our friends meeting up at the corner, dropping our bikes and rushing in with towels over our shoulders. Never concerned about what would come later. Ahhh. It calls to me.

Maybe it's because life as an adult isn't nearly as ideological as we make it out to be as teens; or maybe it's because all the weight of parenting is on me right now in this season; or maybe I truly have an old, old soul. I'm not sure what it is that pulls my heart. Overwhelming feelings, schedules and emotions probably brings out the desire for simple in all of us. But for me, it almost pushes me over the edge. I don't like to be so busy that we can't fit in a family meal around the table. I don't enjoy rushing to event after event. I don't enjoy not sitting and reading stories with my children. I thrive in long, lazy days in the warmth of summer. I love spending those days with my kiddos, eating popsicles quicker than they can melt and deciding if we are going to go to the pool or run through the sprinkler. It truly is what I enjoy. I have no desire to run any kind of rat race, punch anyone else's clock or miss out on any moment- no matter how small- that pops up in my boys' lives. I'm selfish like that I guess. I want all their moments; every single one. I don't want to miss out on any. And lately, the running around, jostling people from one practice to another, filling my calendar up with everyone's schedules and the sort just doesn't seem to offer the same appeal as it has in years past.

Give me a swing under my tree and the sweet sounds of laughter of my kids and I've found my happiest of dwelling places. I would have enjoyed being a parent in another generation because I have no desire to serve anyone outside my home. I want to cook and sew and bake desserts and make my home a peaceful retreat for all seven of the boys I've been blessed with in my life. Give me a 100 year old farm house with some acreage and oak trees and you may never ever see me again. It is where my old soul wants to be for eternity.

Just me, my boys and some trees.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Hug it Out

Here I stand, wobbily at best, in this season of motherhood on the verge of stepping onto the slippery slope of an almost welcomed deranged psychosis. As appealing as it is, I'm trying desperately to maintain my grasp on sanity. I remain, however, frozen at this fork in the road one foot firmly planted on the side of calm, serene, normalness and one foot sinking uncontrollably on the path leading down a labyrinth filled with hectic busyness, uncertainties and overwhelming mania.  I'm quite literally on the very edge looking over a chasm of the deep dark abyss of chaos, schedules, To-Do's, expectations, letting go's, and obligations. It's been a long 3 and half months of being the one and only functioning adult managing this less-than-tiny dynasty of boys. And slowly but surely the weight of all of it has gotten heavier and heavier and exhaustion has become my new normal. There is a foggy haze that has enveloped me, and I am desperately trying to decipher the dim lights of the EXIT sign.

Don't get me wrong; I am not crying out for help. Honestly, I don't even know how to do that even if it was necessary. What I am doing is screaming as loudly as I can muster a need for a reprieve, a break, a moment to exhale. Six kids brings with it six times everything and even though I do the lion's share of "kid duty" when Captain Hubby is in the same country, I at least have a battle buddy that's willing to get down and dirty in the trenches with me and take on every battle that parenthood throws our way. It's a sense of not being alone in the day to day process that we call life. As much as I am an introvert, I am drowning in this sea of lonliness.

Honestly, I need a hug. A long, strong hug from stronger-than-mine arms; arms that can carry the weight that I'm struggling to hold up; arms that bring with them ears to hear without judgement all that has my mind spinning and twisting and tying into knots; arms that bring soothing words of God- breathed scripture void of suggestion, opinion or observation. I'm quite aware of all I'm doing wrong. No need for it to be highlighted. I just need...need to not be the only one in this village that's raising these young men; need to not hear "just ask for help" because I don't know how or even what to ask help with; need to have the bravery to lighten my load without letting the devil heap mom-guilt onto my plate; need to figure out how on earth a mother let's her child leave the nest without holding on for dear life; need strong steady arms that squeeze tight, tight enough that the tears I never let see the light of day feel safe enough to escape and release their burden on my soul. Because my soul is tired...so tired.

Be that as it may, there's no time to pout and count my "whoa is me's" because I'm a mom. And being a mama means doing your absolute best to meet the needs of your children. This is not just shelter, food, water and clean clothes. It so much more than that. And its becoming quite apparent that solo parenting isn't God's design because my children's needs are not being met. One sweet little boy cries daily. There simply isn't enough of me to go around, physically, mentally, or emotionally, and he desperately needs his daddy. I have another trying-to-be-a-man boy that has found himself lost- surprisingly lost without the constant, daily tough love followed with jokes-only-dad-can-make presence of his Father. And for whatever reason, I wasn't prepared for my kiddos to struggle during this experience. Sometimes I forget that they are just little people in this big old world and have far less life experience and defense mechanisms to help them through. For me to focus completely on those 2 kiddos has left the other 4 lost in the middle of existing and being forgotten. Nothing about this is fair...or easy...or going quickly...or "been there done that". No amount of deployments or TDY's makes a family experts in the area. Each age, each child and each situation is different every single time. That realization alone is enough to drop me to my knees, but when I add the actual reality of having to manage and deal with all the children, ages and circumstances I've realized how inadequately equipped I am to be Momming alone.

So day by day and sometimes hour by hour is how I'm existing. I'd love to think that it'll get easier once we get through this valley, but I know all too well that life never slows down. We DO have six kids, afterall. And short of pulling them out of all extra-curricular activities- which just so happens to be my one and only viable option, one I'm actually considering, I can't see a moment of refuge in our future. So my daily routine has seemed to suffice in soothing my nerves and anxiety, however simplistic that sounds. But more and more I've discovered that there's less and less time in the day for all the things that need my attention. There's less and less time with my oldest son before he leaves for college. There's less and less time to help my boys grow up and grow tougher while dad is gone. There's less and less time for me to remember to set the example and teach the lessons that need to be learned. And such is life...that's how it goes...and by what we overcome and conquer during hard times is what we will hopefully be able to pass along to the children desperately clinging to us during our shared storm.

And that's life. It is what it is. We all do our best with what we have. But sometimes hugs should be given without request and without worry. Because sometimes a strong and heart-felt hug just might save a mama from stepping over the edge.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Hickory Dickory Dock

When Captain Hubby is taken away for long periods (ya know, saving the world and all), I always make it a point to come to a mutual understanding with the worldly powers that be that this particular moment of single parenting wouldn't be the ideal situation for any untimely shenanigans, Murphy's Law type scenarios or unforeseen disasters. However, the cosmos always seem to align perfectly to cause some sort of complete and utter chaos, trouble and usually an ER visit or two. Each deployment in the past has left me baking another installment of a boy to eventually reign in this kingdom and thus sufficing the world's need to see how much I can actually handle. However, this go around left me childless; correction, I still have my six original dudes but I was vetoed on the war-baby tradition and hence left with no new editions in the making.

All was well and good with the no-new-children-for-Crystal deployment battle drill. Everything was going according to plan. While Captian Hubby was gone my plate would be filled with the senior year and college search for our original boy. Followed up with a graduation and then the dreaded "dropping off at college" was all going to have to happen, like it or not. I'll also have the privilege of taking kiddo number five to kindergarten and kiddo number 2 to high school...all by myself. I'm not actually looking forward to any of that. All of it makes me want to hide under the bed in a fetal position while sucking on my thumb. But, everybody seems to think I can handle more than I really care to and insist on telling me I'm strong enough to do it "all by myself". All while handling Boy1 and the senior year frenzy and then Boy5 and his eventual start of his academic career, I will have 4 other dudes to nurture, raise, teach, taxi and basically parent.

Great! Again, all is going according to plan. Cue month number 2. Everything was just going a little too swimmingly, apparently. I was handling it all a little too well. I got cocky...this was sensed by the universe which subsequently aligned the cosmos in a most terrible, hitting below the belt way. Bring on the plague of rodents that started with one teeny-tiny unsuspecting little mouse. His presence was disturbing but somewhat innocent in nature. We all get mice, right? None of us; NONE of us are immune to those little creatures. So without a man to aid in my rescue, I put my ninja panties on and trapped that little jerk of a rodent in a jar. A damn jar, people! I channeled my inner ninja warrior, crept behind that little guy and trapped his ass under a Ball canning jar. Victory! Women for years will be telling my story and inquiring of my super secret ninja stealth mode.

Not quite.

That small victorious step for all-military-spouses-left-behind, that tiny little victory that made me feel like "I've got this!", and "Ain't nobody got time for that!" actually became more than just a giant leap for the lowly mouse that spilled a rodent-sized can of worms. This 1 tiny mouse became a disaster equivalent of Pandora's box! What started with one errupted into an all out assault on my home, my nerves, and my sanity. I dare say, I've taken care of all of the mice in our entire county. Generations of mice seemed to be living, reproducing and wreaking havoc in our garage. What with the dog food, rice sensory bin and heat, my garage proved to be a full fledged rodent spa.

Snap traps, sticky traps, pest-control sized traps...all used to seek and destroy these horrible little creatures. Multiple times a day I'd hear a snap, see a mouse, hear the squeakity squeak squeak of mice in the live traps. It has been the worst kind of torture I could ever imagine for a woman who is terrified by mice. And to top it off, no one would help me dispose of their sad little carcasses! It's been all me! I'll gladly shed my ninja suit and tap out if anyone would just simply step up to the plate and help a lady out. This has been the least amount of fun I've ever had. Actually, it's been 45 times less fun than anything in my entire life! 45? Yes! That's the number of mice I've caught, killed and disposed of. I'm done, y'all. Done!

If this deployment doesn't drive me to being a full-fledged wine-o, nothing will! Hickory dickory dock, I'm about ready to not give a f***

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I struggle from time to time balancing the "fill my cup first" moments and the "momming" moments. Very often the "momming" moments have to come first; they simply do because necessity dictates that reality. Being a mom is a full time job whether you work at home or away from home, and I think we can all agree that the mom-job (and parenting job, for that matter. Dads, you know you keep these families afloat!) doesn't really have any days or moments off. All of us, for the most part, realized that our parental role was going to take over most areas and dimensions of our lives when we excitedly saw the positive results on that pee stick way back when. But I would guess that we never knew the extent of that "take over" effect until we were elbow deep in the trenches of parental warfare. There is never a down moment or dull time of life in this path from womb to dorm and every other step, fall, bump, bruise, broken bone, tantrum, teenage attitude or drama in between.

So...We know parenting is hard. What happens when we throw some hiccups, pot holes, unexpected events, and bumps in the road? Well, life is very often unpredictable and notoriously known for uncertainties and changes in plans. We've all come to expect those things, and trust me when I say I'm not looking for any sympathy or words of encouragement during our own unpredictable situation. But I am maybe trying to figure out what to do when being both mom and dad isn't going as successfully as I'd hoped. You see, I love being mom and wife. I love staying at home and selfishly having all of my kids' moments. With that said, I seem to be more successful at those two jobs when my husband is in the same country as me. Actually, it's most successful when he's under the same roof.

What I thought would be an old hat really hasn't proven to be the truth of the matter. Deployment is a difficult experience...every single time. And every single one is equally hard....not "been there done that" as maybe is assumed. It's simply not. Just because we've "done it before" doesn't necessarily mean I'm some kind of master or role model in this less-than-ideal experience. My six boys are all- all of them- handling it differently and none of them are handling it in the same way they did 5 years ago. Things change. Times change. Children grow and change and are faced with different challenges and stresses all the time. This isn't the same. And trying to feed their minds, bodies and souls all differently isn't easy. I'm very much struggling to meet each individual boy's needs at the time they should be met in every individual situation that presents itself a hundred times a day...each day...every single day.

Basically, I'm failing this mission. Not in the sense that the house is falling apart or the kids are struggling emotionally and in need of an intervention or that I simply cannot function any more. But in the sense that the house IS quite messy and more unorganized and dustier than usual and the boys often are sent to bed without their love language being completely met or getting a one-on-one talk with their parent or simply having a bath. We eat leftovers more than we ever have before. There is quite often dirty clothes crawling out of the baskets. The kitty litter is almost always stinky and in need of attention. The turtle tank is murkier and stinkier more often than not. I show up late and usually frazzled to my kids' events. There's college information that needs to be addressed and decisions that need to be made. There's additional expenses that don't quite fit into the designated budget which is requiring more math than I'd ever like to use. Sheets and bedding hasn't been washed since Captain Hubby left. And, quite honestly, I can't remember when I last bathed (with soap and deliberate washing) my youngest two. This is the real nitty gritty. It's the "real" of this moment. It's not graceful or pretty and sadly it doesn't feel very close to my family's motto of  "I've got this". Not at all. It feels more like "well, maybe I'll get it".

You see. My cup is so empty right now- emotionally, spiritually, physically- that I'm struggling to get drops into each of the six kids' cups. And because of that amazing thing we all know as MOM GUILT, I'm not very forgiving to myself. It's actually my job to make sure these boys are filled with love, security, attention and not to mention food, clean laundry, a clean healthy home, and the feeling of a safe, calm haven to which they can seek refuge. It's just not the case right now...at least not all of it and not all the time. I'm trying really hard to yell less and smile more. I'm making a conscious effort to make eye contact when the child wants to tell me another story about what happened at school or a joke they heard that is "so funny"! I'm doing my best to keep my eyes focused and ears open longer into the night than I'd like so I can have another oh-so-precious conversation with my college bound oldest babe. These moments are fleeting. So fleeting. I'm watching them grow and mature and handle life without their dad in such an amazing way that it makes me sad. Nostalgic even. It needs to slow down. I need to linger in their moments longer. Inhale their beauty and stinky smells on a more regular basis because I know I'm going to miss it. When did the ugly, busy, craziness of life become the most beautiful thing I could ever imagine? When did these moments that seem so insignificant and so overwhelming become the beat of my heart?

And at the end of it all, I'm hoping that through the exhaustion, leftovers, not always as-clean-as-I'd-like home and all too often a short response instead of really giving them my full attention...that they'll know I did my best and gave them all I possibly could in these moments. I'm doing my best by these 6 boys; giving all that I have in me to get them through this as unscarred as possible and perhaps with a life lesson or two.

And maybe, just maybe they'll have learned enough through three deployments that grace and patience and love was the answer the entire time. And maybe...maybe they'll declare without any irony or doubt that "we've got this"...

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Do You Want Fries with that #2?

So...I'm a mom, right? It's who I am; it's what I do; it's pretty much how I will be defined by this life that I'm living when I pass on to the next world. Most days I love what I live. It's my purpose for which I was created...more or less; am I right? But all ooey gooey sentiments aside, sometimes, SOMETIMES, momming doesn't bring out my best, or my most gracious soundbites. Anyone worth their salt as a parent wouldn't be caught dead -without very impressive disguise, I suppose- buying a parenting How To written by yours truly.

I'm hardly a guru in this area. Actually after 18 years, I'm more of a rookie than I'd care to admit. I mess up constantly; get things wrong continuously; take the easy road quite often when my give-a-crap meter gets too low; and...I've been known to let the TV or other electronic entertainment babysit my kids for a few precious moments of "me" time. Oh I'm not proud of it, and I'd rather not shout it from the roof tops. But let's be honest...this shit is hard and sometimes mind numbing...and very often this Mom job we wouldn't trade for the world is the very thing that could be sucking the life right out of us! Like a leach! A blood-sucking leach.

I'd like to think that I'm the master of my domain; the cream of this crop; the place where the buck stops...but if I were to be honest with myself, my kids hardly even know I'm here. Other than the fact that I'm the laundress, cleaning lady, chauffer and personal chef my children believe in mom being seen and not heard. Not heard...unless I growl, snort and breathe fire which will always perk their sweet little ears. The poltergeist that comes out of me at those moments will most assuredly be the image and memory my children will speak of in hushed tones once they leave my nest. That will be my legacy...Chuckie's mistress-an evil, fire breathing demon that turns into a Gremlin every couple days. The Gremlin-like state is most assuredly brought about via sleep deprivation, repeated inquiries of "put these away", "pick that up", and "who used the toilet and didn't flush". Too many of those unanswered inquires coupled with a mom-tired state always spurs the spawn of satan that was once lovingly referred to as "mama".

Again, I'm not proud of this metamorphosis that transpires at least once a week. In fact, my New Year's goal was to be less grouchy, less yell-y, less...well, me in those stressfull, I'm-gonna-blow moments. I don't really want my kids to be subject to that experience. If any other person came into my house and growled at my kids I'd probably lose my poop in ways that would make the evening news. Nobody messes with this mama's cubs...nobody except me apparently. I truly beat myself up after these "ass chewings heard 'round the world"; but every now and then my sons seem to need mama to blow up in order for their listening ears to find their way to the ON position.

Just this morning I walked in on a sight worthy of a horror movie. Poo water on the floor, poo filled toilet, garbage everywhere...the smell was horrid. Mama's crazy was unleashed! I can always tell when the kids know I'm at the brink because they forget how to speak and their eyes merely blink blankly in my direction. The "not me" fairy comes out of hiding and apparently "it wasn't me" is my 7th son because he seems to do everything around here. My growl was in full swing but the fire didn't come out of my eyes, ears and nose until during the ferociously anger-filled plunging while lecturing the children on the fact that this ISN'T a Frat house caused poo water to splash...onto my face! MY FACE! I know!! There's no coming pack from poo-water face. Needless to say, the bathroom is cleaned and now off-limits since I've put "caution: crime scene" type tape up. Hopefully a lesson was learned by all of us. The children (fingers crossed) learned that mom doesn't appreciate a poo-filled toilet simmering and waiting patiently for her to discover. And I've learned not to lecture and plunge.

And now I'll spend the rest of the day searching the internet on how to get new skin for my face...