finding myself, home, kids, mindfulness, moving on, self worth, sticky floors, Uncategorized

Moms Have Messy Floors and Messy Lives

My house is a constantly evolving mess. It’s everywhere. My kids have numerous chores that they begrudgingly do, but it is still a hot mess.

Class papers threaten to multiply and take over every flat surface in my house (I attempt to combine them so that there is only one large stack every couple of hours). There are dirty socks that coat my floors, stripped off in sock balls and thrown down wherever they are taken off. Cups half full of water sit everywhere in my house, making me wonder how many each child uses a day. Toilet seats always sport sprinkles and there is never a day where gloops of toothpaste aren’t cemented to each sink throughout the house. Dirty dishes? I’ve got them ten fold, even after we have mostly switched to paper plates!

Some days, I tackle the clutter but then the underlying dirtiness shines through. There is insidious dirt that lives at my sliding door, dragged in from the outside, deposited on the hardwoods and then spread by stocking feet throughout the house. One minute vacuumed, the next a hopeless of mess of backyard debris. The slider is our link to the backyard, even though I had another door installed off the mudroom with the intention of it being the outside egress, the slider gets all the attention.

It’s a constant battle with nature, the tendency for things to go towards chaos. The threatening of nature always trying to return to its primitive state.

Maybe this is why I watch so many home improvement shows with there updated and serene spaces. I understand that they are “made for TV” houses. That fact is not lost on me. They are completely staged. Once the show is over, the furniture and nick nacks are removed and the families move in, their mismatched possessions take over and from there disorder ensues. There is something about those houses, though, that is so clean and stripped of mess, with so much promise for an ordered life. I can just imagine what it would be like to live in those spaces, anxiety and stress lowered.

My house is a tragic mess lately. Two months ago, I switched our house cleaners from every other week to once a month. Last month, I stopped the cleaners all together. Quite honestly, cleaners are expensive and they were just too much for my budget. Imagine cleaning your house but then multiply the number of people in your house by two to three, add one shedding dog and any number of child playmates. At any time, our small house could be harboring 5-9 kids, all with their own appropriate age toy mess and food crumbs. The sheer number of kids and friends is something that I would never want to give up. Don’t get me wrong, I love their craziness. Cleaning up after kids though, is a full time job. Cleaning up after all of my kids is a high paced marathon with absolutely no finish line. Someone once said that cleaning with kids is like trying to “brush your teeth while eating an Oreo.” So true.

Lately, it seems like I am trying even harder, but still getting nowhere in the battle.   My home reflects my state of mind. Right now, my house is out of control and a mess, just like my life. It’s like a tornado and it sucks to live in it. I can fix it up with the illusion of “put away-ness”, but if you look closely, stuff is hidden in dark closets here, always ready to spill out.

This morning as I was cleaning up my umpteenth dirty dock I got to thinking about the sayings “Excuse the mess. My children are making memories” and my other favorite, “Good moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, dirty ovens and happy kids”. I think that I use these sayings as a scapegoat for my inability to keep a tidy house. First and foremost though, let me get this straight with all of you… I have never had a clean oven. Let’s get that out of the way before I continue. That would be a monumental effort that I am certain I will never get too. My oven regularly sets off the fire alarm with the amount of burn off smoke. True, I have sticky floors because I have so many kids and I just can’t get it all done. Kids spill and in my case, stick stickers to the floor. My kitchen is always messy because I am constantly cycling through meals so that breakfast dishes always get pushed to lunch meal cleanup and then often stretching out until dinner pickup.  It makes me wonder why the open floor plan was such a great… It’s open and people can see the dirty dishes! The piles of laundry are a consequence of at least twelve outfits a day being stripped off onto the floor. Sometimes, I feel like I have become the Old Lady Who Lived In a Shoe. She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.

I hope that I am really not the only one who hides piles of stuff and that we all have sticky floors because we are just really messy. If not, I am pulling out a skeleton in the closet that I am just dirty. I’m guessing, although I can’t be sure, that we are all in the same boat. So why do we stress about getting it clean??!! Why does an unexpected ringing of the door bell strike fear in my heart?

June Cleaver always seemed to have such a clean house. She found time, when not preparing the perfect meal, to sit and enjoy a book (not a trashy tabloid) in a nice armchair with her ankles crossed. She always had on her adorable dress, neatly pressed, and heals, swathed in a lovely apron. The door bell would ring and she would strip out of that apron, poof her perfectly done hair and answer the door with a smile, always ready to bring out a hospitable tray with refreshments. If there was such a thing as a messy bun and yoga pants, do you think that she really would have worn them?!

Ready for this statement though? It might shatter your reality.  Is it possible that it’s all an illusion.  An illusion we (women), buy into even if it’s at an unconscious level? Is it even possible to attain that picturesque life? Maybe I am perpetuating the myth to my children that women can keep a clean house and teach my kids to read before they are two. Can I really always look perfectly put together and never get frazzled? Will my children feel the same when they are grown?

I can get over the not-so perfect clothing I choose or the dust bunnies that are getting bigger each day. My biggest issue is whether my kids are actually happy and if we are making any memories other than them watching TV and doing homework. I wield TV like a treat, an expert babysitter. When not cleaning, I am driving them to their seventeen activities each afternoon and evening? What happened to family board game night and playing pass in the yard? Sometimes, we get outside and they ride bikes or draw with chalk. More likely than not, if I am “participating” in any of these activities, it is in a chair with a glass of wine in my hands, pretending to watch them.  True, I had five kids and this is what I signed up for, but does that mean that I am still working towards making them happy or providing a clean organized house?

I feel guilty that I am not making those great memories with them. Their lives are not easy these days. Try as I might, to shield them from high emotions and changes, they are just as scared of the unknown as I am. I want to give them the order of a tidy house that I/they need to lower their anxiety levels. I want them to feel like even though the world is spinning out of control, at least they have a clean place to live and a pair of beloved pants in the drawer.  Is this what they really need, now or ever? I am wondering if providing this life for them is coming at the cost of not making memories that involve great times with mom.

Maybe cleaning has become just a scapegoat for not spending time, too. There are days when I am so sad or angry that I just don’t want to play. I want to hide at the kitchen sink and wash endless amounts of dishes so that I don’t have to have to play another round of imaginary doctor. “Please play with me?” “Not now, Brody, I have to finish the laundry.” Isn’t this selfish? A big chunk of me feels it is.

I think it really all comes back to the fact that I am beating myself up for not living up to all that I feel like I should be, something I have always done but now in increasing levels since my separation. Weighing on my mind… my marriage is a big fail, so I am a big fail. Not only am I not keeping up in the marriage department, but I am failing on the mom and house cleaning level. I am just failing.

Somebody let me off the hook! Give me the magic pill to take the guilt away and let me realize that, just maybe, I am good enough just the way that I am. Tell me that I am doing the best that I can with the circumstances being what they are. Tell me that someday it will get better, easier. Would hearing it all from you make me feel any better? Probably not.  Sorry.

In reality, all that really needs to happen, is that I need to let myself off the hook.  The biggest problem in this situation is that I am searching for the validation from a place that I really shouldn’t be looking for it, everyone else. Validation needs to lie in me, a belief about myself. It’s all about self worth. Well, there it is. Maybe that is why I am finding peace and relief in this blog. It is making me feel like I can share and be okay with who I am and how I think. I’m out there and people aren’t judging me harshly (at least not to my face) for what I am writing. It’s helping me gain that worth in myself that I really feel like I have always been missing.

In the end, I need to realize that I am doing the best that I can, in this moment. That maybe tomorrow, things will be cleaner and I will find that time to fit in that board game… and just maybe, I need to find a way to get a larger junk closet to hide all the mess!

home, kids, lice, Uncategorized

The Dreaded Letter…

Boom!  I got the letter, the dreaded letter.  It is the letter that instills complete dread in every mother out there… the lice letter from the school nurse.

It always starts the same,

“A student in your child’s class has lice.”

They then proceed to tell you “not to worry”.  OK, I never did worry until… we got lice.  Worry is an understatement of what I go through when we get that letter, which by the way, they send home in a sealed envelope.  It’s as if they know that if any other parent with a child in another class might have seen that letter leave the school with your child, sheer panic would ensue the town.  Every mother of a previous lice infected head would quarantine there child, because, quite honestly, missing weeks of school would be preferable to getting lice!

When I get “the letter” I break out in sweats and I start to pace and panic.  If I had been told ebola was present in the class, I would feel better.  I get a little hysterical.

My first act after the bomb hits, is to immediately question my child.  Who was the infected kid?  This often takes some investigative work.  Very often, they don’t know.  This normally gives me a sense of relief because it means it wasn’t an immediate friend who they could have easily picked it up from.  The threat remains though… it could be a kid they sat next to in class.  Who was absent?  When were they absent?  How long were they out?  They could have shared a hat or some other item that would allow that louse to transfer to my child, who may, within 8 hours, have it crawling through their hair, feeding.  Within 8 hours, that bug or its babies could have transferred themselves to another child in the house and Boom! again, the whole house is infected.

The protection phase then begins:

First, hair washing STOPS IMMEDIATELY.  I don’t care if they have just sweated for two hours and the hair is wet… it stays.  Besides, extra dirty hair means extra protection.  Grease slick or not, they are going to school looking filthy but with a major protective shield from infection.  Major embarrassment is again, preferable to getting lice.  We avoid infection at any cost here.

You better believe that hair is TIGHTLY pulled back when returning to school.  I mean the type of pulled back where their eyebrows threaten to reach up into their hair line.  A pony followed by a tight braid is key.  No loose hairs can be out there, as they are a port of call for the bugs.

Finally, the MOST IMPORTANT step, hair spray and gel are thickly applied.  Now I know that most people swear by the pretty lice spray that you can get at the store with witch hazel in it.  Let me tell you… its definitely not 100% effective.  The special lice experts have informed me, that a huge barrier is the only protection that keeps those bad guys away.  We go big here.  Not only does it provide protection, but it keeps the flyaways from flying away during the day.

Once the threat has passed, we can go back to washing hair and I breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Why the intense reaction?  Let me go back in time to one of the worst weeks of my life…

School got out.  Aah!  No more rides to sports and activities.  First week of vacation and its time to relax and hit the couch for a week in pajamas and unwind.  The kids don’t want to go anywhere and I am on board with that idea.

Maddy had been complaining about an itchy head for a week but naively, as a mom who had never dealt with infection, I failed to look for the bugs.  I wasn’t even quite sure I would recognize them but I had decided that we wouldn’t ever get lice.  Lice was for other families.  I assumed, again… wrongly… that it was just a dry scalp.  See, my kids take after me and suffer from dry flaky scalp.

My head was itchy at the time as well… but again… dry scalp.  Time to break out the tar shampoo and rid myself of the itch.  Funny thing was it wasn’t really working very well. Oh, well! Must be really dry or something!

Enter knowledgeable babysitter.  I was happily browsing the aisles of Target when she calls.

“Maddy has lice…”

“No, babysitter, that is impossible.  Are you sure?”

“Yes, they are crawling. Oh, and Piper looks like she has them too, but I couldn’t be sure.”

I gagged.  Gagged right there in Target and my own scalp kicked up the itch.  (In fact, my scalp is getting itchy right now just thinking about it.) It was like the flashbacks in movies where the character puts all the signs together that the murderer was actually their husband… they had ignored the signs, not believing the truth… it wasn’t fathomable.  Well, I had ignored the signs, but they all had pointed to lice.

I actually pushed the cart as fast as I could, running behind it, to the lice aisle.  There was a woman there who was very helpful, from a distance.  She clearly had suffered the dreaded lice infestation and wasn’t gonna get too close.  I literally grabbed every shampoo and comb available on the market and threw them in the cart, hoping to stop the spread to the rest of the kids.  Let me tell you that these products are NOT cheap.  Thank God that it was only two kids and maybe me.  Wrong again.

I immediately buzzed Brody and Conor, IMMEDIATELY.  Obviously not down to the skin.  I really didn’t trust my use of the clipper.  Phew, buzzing meant nothing could get into their hair.

After hearing horror stories from friends who had gone down this road, I decided to just call in the experts.  We hired a nit picker.  She showed up at our house, a beautiful girl.  I had pictured her in my head as this gross Nanny McPhee type of woman.  My first thought was why? Why would anyone want to do this?  She explained that, first, she needed the money and second, she liked picking them.  Apparently, it was like popping a zit for her.  She loved it.

 

Maddy and Piper were confirmed cases.  I sat down and sure enough, I had it.  The kids started getting competitive over who had it worse… fighting to be the worst case!  Maddy took first prize, with visible bites, and I came a close second.  Piper was in third.  It took 2.5 hours to pick our heads, one strand at a time.  We were covered in olive oil, which she swore suffocated the bugs.

The nit picker thought it was wise to just check the rest of the kids.  Sure, why not.  They didn’t have it.

2.5 hours later, all kids and myself were confirmed, even the boys.  Well, our regular weekend sitter, Kelly, should probably be checked… She drove up and I died of guilt when she was confirmed.  Dan came home, and yes, even with a short buzz cut, he had lice.  8 cases of lice and a HUGE bill to have the initial lice picked.

What you don’t realize, if you are a newbie, is that after the first picking, eggs are still left in the hair and then they can hatch and release the next wave of lice.  She explained that we would need to put a large amount of olive oil in the hair each night and comb each strand again, then we would need to cover their heads with bags to sleep in.  In the morning, we would need to use large, and I mean large, amounts of Dawn dish soap, comb it through each strand with the lice comb again and then let them shower and shampoo.  We would need to do this for a week.  Now, the upside to this method, she said, was that we wouldn’t have to wash sheets etc, because the lice wouldn’t jump (oh, yeah, did I mention that they can jump) from the sheets to our hair.  They wouldn’t go near the olive oil and our hair was encased in bags anyway.  Bedsides, there was a large re-infestation rate with those chemicals that other people put on their heads.  We only had to do this for a week, every night and morning.  OK, doable.

NO, NOT DOABLE.  When you have 5 kids, 4 with super thick hair, this takes HOURS both morning and night.  I would start combing at night while some kids were eating.  45 minutes a head… times 5 kids.  That is almost 4 hours of PICKING LICE.  My arms ached and we quickly finished bottles of olive oil.  After everyone had been put to bed, it was finally my turn.  I would start on my head at 10:00 and finish around 11.  Talk about exhaustion.

The next morning, the process would begin again… Each kid was covered in Dawn dish soap and scrubbed followed by a thorough combing.  Another 45 minutes per child.  Then it was my turn.  See you later morning.  By lunch time, I fed them and we were given 3 hours of blissful relaxation… while I continued to try to do the rest of the house duties.

Then it was back to the drawing board.  I realized that out of my 24 hour days, I was spending almost 10 hours picking lice.  I am not joking.  10 hours. By day 3, I was in tears morning and night.  It was horrible.  We resorted to nothing but pizza delivery for those three days.  We ate it for dinner, then for lunch the next day.  I knew I would never be able to keep this up.

I ended up breaking down completely in a pile of utter dismay.

The buck stopped there.  I would agree to wash all the sheets, all the towels, all the blankets, all the couch cushions, all the pillows, all the stuffed animals… all of it, if I didn’t have to pick anymore bugs or spend anymore time oiling and dish soaping anyone’s hair.  I broke out the big guns… give me the f*ing chemicals.

Two days later and two treatments later, we were free.  I would pull back the blankets and there were dead lice on the sheets.

It took 3 weeks to wash all the piles of stuff that needed to get washed, putting the two loads of wash a day that I normally do, on the back burner.  The clothes were now piling up.  Then I needed to run the sheets again to be free of lice, eggs, whatever…

It didn’t matter.  We were in the clear.  The lice was gone.  I swore… I WOULD DO EVERYTHING IN MY POWER TO NEVER, EVER HAVE LICE IN THE HOUSE EVER AGAIN!

So, do I freak out about the lice letter? … Heck, yeah!  I will have a child in the school system for the next 20 years.  Short of a vaccine… they will always be out there, ready to infect my kids, my house and take over my life.

Who’s head’s itchy now???!!!

home, hygge, Living in the Moment, mindfulness, moving on, self love, Uncategorized

Time to Hygge

I’m a nester.  I am constantly updating what’s around me to make it feel more like a home.  Now, before you make that joke about how I have been pregnant for most of my life… so of course, I nest a lot…hear me out.  Nesting is something I love to do, but also something I feel compelled to do.  If I don’t do it, I feel off somehow.  My space feels uncomfortable. Turns out, the Danish have a word not only for the action of nesting, but also the feeling, in a moment of mindfulness, that nesting gives you… Hygge.  Yup, its a word… How do you pronounce it? Good question.  I was completely wrong.  Take a guess… You’re gonna be wrong too… so I will just tell you…It’s Hoo-gah.

What on Earth is hygge you ask yourself?! Well, it is the feeling that one gets from being surrounded by people and things that bring a warm cozy feeling to your heart.  I love that the Danish have a word for all of that.  There are countless articles on how to increase the hygge in your home.  Apparently, hygge is the new feng shui of the house world.

Being alone makes you want to nest.  It makes you want to feel, well, not so alone.  Rooms that once felt crowded now feel tired, cold and… very lifeless.  I find myself wandering through rooms that feel indescribably empty that are filled with special memories that are gone or changed in my mind now.  My home doesn’t feel like home anymore.  Of course, I’m not really “alone” in these rooms.  Gosh, with five kids between the ages of 11 and 3, I AM NEVER ALONE!! I go to the bathroom sometimes, locking the door and pretending I’m “busy”, but instead reading a magazine while sitting on the floor… I digress… Back on track now… Being alone makes you want to surround yourself with beautiful wonderful things that bring warmth to a heart that doesn’t always feel warm and loved.  I want my house to feel like my home.  I NEED SOME HYGGE!!

People ask how I am doing on a pretty regular basis now.  I’m hanging in there is my best answer.  It’s factually true.  I function during the day, but the big secret is that I dread the nights.  There are times where I can’t fall asleep because my mind is so busy working through scenarios for my future or things that have happened in the past.  It is as though movies play through my head and I can’t push the pause button.  I am forced to watch them over and over.  I get frustrated because I can’t sleep, which makes my mind race.  It’s an ugly spiral. There are other nights where sleep overtakes me and I collapse into bed, physically and emotionally exhausted.  I am ready on those nights to feel restored, only to wake four, five, six times for no apparent reason.  My heart is racing and I cannot find sleep again, no matter how hard I try.  When any of this happens and I find myself staring at the walls or the ceiling, the room feels so cold and empty.  That is when I want to feel a little hygge, enough so that I can wrap that hygge around me and fall into a tranquil sleep again.  I think you probably get what I am talking about even if I have used the word hygge too many times and probably at least half of those were incorrect in usage.   I need extra throw blankets and plush down pillows to feel like that warm hug that can sooth even the most broken heart.  I want my space to feel like a winter evening on a couch in Vermont, snow falling outside, large fire in the hand built field stone fireplace as I wear long johns and a Nordic sweater from LLBean, sipping hot cocoa while my old trusty dog sleeps by my feet… OK, that’s a little over the top, but you get the drift.  I want a soothing, calming, warm and inviting place to be.

I have always been a nester.  As a kid, my mother would patiently let me put out the boxes and boxes of Christmas decor.  I can’t say that I would ever let my kids do this… I think my mother was a saint…  I loved doing it and living with all of the Christmas clutter but when it all came down after Christmas, I would cry because the house felt so empty.  What I didn’t know then (because I didn’t know this amazing little word) is that I no longer got that cozy, comfy feeling that my body and soul needed, in short… the hygge was gone.

I would continue to nest all through college and the first years of marriage but pregnancy, well, I became a full blown disaster.  Sonia Cleven, I’m sure, remembers me being in full blown labor, ready to push and planting coral bells in my yard. No joke shovel in hand and dirt smeared all over me.  It was followed by lots of cursing and a mad dash to Boston for delivery.  I ended up delivering Taylor five minutes before I was “technically” admitted to the hospital… all because I HAD TO NEST.  I learned a valuable lesson as they cut my pants off that day… if you take too long to nest and don’t get to the hospital on time, they won’t give you an epidural…

Nesting has turned into a full blown obsession, in part, thanks to my neighbor, Amber Blanchard, who has seduced me into the creation of styling seasons… If you didn’t know, decor has five seasons, Spring, Summer, Fall, Christmas and Winter. Who knew?! You also need to jazz things up for smaller holidays (Valentine’s Day, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, birthdays of all sorts…).  I am not joking.  Sounds silly, right, but man, it’s got me hook line and sinker.  Once I did one season, all the others felt just depressing and dull.  I had to continue! Each season has a concept and theme that fits with the weather.  Thank you so much to Pinterest and Homegoods for helping to make this a full blown addiction.  My wet basement is loaded with throw pillows in every shape and color for every season, hanging in trash bags to keep them safe from the wet floors.  If you didn’t know, you would think that I have body bags hanging from my ceiling!

IMG_0870
The pillow “graveyard” in my basement where I store the many seasons of throw pillows.  This is but half of the pillow collection.

I’ve got the buying and decorating thing down.  I can create cozy, fashionable spaces.  Truthfully, it does help with some of the feelings of loneliness.  I have added some cushy stuff to most of my spaces, but somehow things still do not feel hygge enough for me.  See, I am only nesting.  Every room still feels very empty of feeling but stuffed with stuff.  I need more.  See, hygge isn’t just about putting throw blankets and pillows in every space… if it was, I would have more hygge than I would know what to do with…

One of the biggest tenants of hygge is that your spaces need to contain things that you love, and only things that you love.  Anything that isn’t useful or carrying warm sentiment should be removed from your space.  Everyone has that crap in their spaces, that was maybe given to them but they really don’t like.  You don’t want to throw it out because A)Your great aunt Dorothy would be so sad it wasn’t on the shelf when she visits every five years or B)It’s good stuff and you can’t part with it… It is time to purge, people! I have been purging lot’s lately.  The VVA could open an entire store with the amount of stuff they have picked up.  I don’t need it.  Someone else does.  All that clutter was taking up too much space in my crazy life.  The reward has been two fold! Someone who needs my stuff is getting it and this makes my heart feel full from giving it away. But the biggest benefit, there are now spaces to put the things that really do matter to me.  I can dig deep in the basement water logged boxes and pull out the mementos that I have saved and never put out because I never had the space.  The ever growing collection of sea glass and shells.  The birth announcements for each of my children.  There are places for candles to create soft glow and spaces for house plants.  Basically, the hygge model says that if it doesn’t invoke joy, it has to go!

It seems completely absurd, but when I am at my darkest, I hide.  I hibernate.  I isolate.  It’s probably one of the worst things that I can do for myself and my state of mind, but there it is.  I have to block it all out and spend some days in my pajamas and pray for the sun to come up.  If you don’t get a return call or only a one or two word text… I’m in isolate mode.  (Check on me in a couple of days, just to make sure I’m alive and most likely, I am up and about again.) Here is where hygge can help me again.  Hygge isn’t just about surrounding ourselves with comfortable sentimental things, its also about adding some special people to your life that can create memories with you.  I need to invite in those people that want to share a cup of tea and a plate of cookies with me.  I want to talk about the weather and the mundane.  I want to listen and be heard.  I want to get rid of the technology (except for Pinterest because I might lose my mind) and play board games and bake with my kids.  I want to draw silly pictures and tape them to the walls.  I want to have friends over for some soup and homemade bread.  I want to make memories, warm ones that I can go back to in my mind when things feel bleak.

So now I am on a quest.  I am going to bring this hygge thing into my life in as many ways as possible.  To me, it sounds like a pretty good roadmap towards living a life full of mindfulness.  Maybe there was a reason that I couldn’t sleep a week ago and had to get up and give in to browsing on Pinterest at 3 in the morning.  God has a reason for everything, right?! Stumbling upon this silly word, this amazing word that I couldn’t pronounce without looking it up, this amazing idea for a feeling that I want to enjoy every moment of my day, is quite possibly the greatest gift that I can do for myself.  Not only does it mean being mindful in all of the special moments, but also taking an active part in providing a setting for those moments.  I want to set the stage for those memories to come and fill me with joy.  I need a little joy in my life.

My life has been about surviving up until now.  It has been nothing but tough work.  But as I put back the pieces back together, I want it to be about more than the work.  I want it to be about exploring, searching and studying what is around me and what it means to be me.  To put these pieces all back together, I need a space that will embrace me at the end of the day and that will provide me with a theater for all the new and wonderful things to come, whatever they might be.  I need that space to be shared with friends and family so that I can create some new and fantastic memories to fill up these empty rooms.

So I’m gonna hygge… sounds like some crazy dance, doesn’t it!?  But seriously, I want to share with you some of the changes that I am making to my home and life over the next couple of weeks and months and well, as long as it takes for me to become a whole person again.  I’m gonna hygge ’til it hurts.  LOL.  I love this word.