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October 2012

Some really super excellent news

AS YOU ARE WELL AWARE, I have a hard time feeling like what I do is Valuable. Insert the regular qualifiers, defensive statements, blah blah blah. You know I like being a stay at home mom, I just have a hard time feeling like it MATTERS. 

But! I have been rethinking this.

See, Phillip has done some pretty impressive stuff since his forgetting-what-day-his-final-is-on college era. He worked for himself. He survived layoffs. He went after raises and promotions. He got his masters degree. He found himself in charge of a Fancy Shmantzy Project requiring heaps of business travel. And this whole time I've felt like because he works so hard, because he's so aggressive, because he keeps pushing himself, I get to stay home with our three perfect children and spend my days going to parks and Target and libraries and checking my email and planning blog conferences in far away cities and hanging out with my friends whenever I feel like it. BELIEVE ME, I am WELL AWARE what a drag it is being a SAHM some days, but that's honestly how I look at it 95% of the time. Like I'm getting away with something. Like if Phillip found out what I really do all day, he'd want to trade. (WE CAN'T HAVE THAT HAPPEN!!!)

It's this weird thing where I simultaneously LOVE and JEALOUSLY GUARD my position in our family, but it butts up against my desire to Look Like I'm Doing Something Impressive (aka: THREENESS, GAH.) Do I want to do anything else? NOPE! Do I hate it when people ask me what I Do? YEP!

Some of this has to do, I'm sure, with the fact that I wanted kids sooner than Phillip did. Although, let's be honest, if it weren't for me, Phillip might STILL be deciding whether it's a good time to have a baby. (Note to anxious men: THERE IS NEVER A GOOD TIME. GET OVER IT.) So yeah, there are ways that I feel like I insisted on this life and forced him to provide it. eek!

Then this year happened. Including December of 2011, Phillip has traveled every single month this year except for June. He made up for June with two trips in September, two in October, and another two planned for November. 

But after that? PHILLIP STARTS A NEW JOB. 

I've known for weeks now, but I couldn't tell you. I KNOW! I don't want to say too much about the process, but it's been a lot of work, a lot of waiting around, a lot of wondering, a lot of frustration, and a lot of conversations about what he's worth. The week after Thanksgiving he starts work at an entirely new company with a more relaxed vibe and minimal, if any, business travel. There is seriously only one negative thing I can think of about Phillip's new job and it's that he'll have a longer commute. But hey, that beats a monthly week-long trip to the East Coast, right? 

As we've figured all this out and hashed out every possible scenario, it's dawned on me that... well, because I do what I do, Phillip has been able to do what he does. 

I have no doubt that if I were working full time in the sort of job I imagined I'd have way back when, Phillip would still be reaching his career goals. But he'd be negotiating with me every time he had to work late or travel or take a phone call or study or meet his group to work on the project or go out to dinner with muckety mucks or ANYTHING. I mean, this whole time it's just been a given - one we are both happy with - that I can watch the kids and take care of things at home. I started paying the bills and managing the budget years ago. I do most of the cooking and nearly all of the shopping. He can make choices about last minute travel and working late and other work emergencies without ever worrying about childcare. He is free to focus on his career and all the ways he wants to grow professionally because I am taking care of everything else. 

I hope that doesn't sound like I'm resentful or jealous, or like Phillip doesn't do anything at home. I wouldn't choose to do anything else and Phillip is an awesome dad and holds up his end of housekeeping. Seriously, I'm always wondering when he's going to realize how great it is to stay home and fight me for the honor. 

I've always been AWARE of this, but I really don't think it was until we got the job offer news that I started to feel like it was TRUE. I wasn't just managing all this stuff that he didn't want to deal with in the first place. I wasn't just hanging around while he did all the hard work. I wasn't getting away with something, I wasn't burdening him with a family. Because I do what I do, he's been able to do so much. I feel so awesome about this, you guys! I GENUINELY FEEL like of COURSE what I've been doing is worthwhile, because look what its made possible! That's a huge huge thing for me. 

Although, really, who cares about that - PHILLIP HAS A NEW JOB! You might never have to read a whiny blog post about solo parenting again! Well, after Thanksgiving that is. And I guarantee nothing. But you should be pretty happy about this turn of events. Really, there should be a definite decrease in angst around these parts. 

(Thanks for making it possible for ME to get through those weeks.)


Another possible future "Career" for Me

I'm trying to think of something INTERESTING to write about and failing (AS PER USUAL). The only thing that keeps sticking in my mind is this conversation I had with my parents this weekend about retirement homes. I KNOW. If that is not excellent blog fodder WHAT IS?!

BUT SERIOUSLY. Did you know that I used to work in an adult family home? Which is code for "some narcissistic rich lady turns her mansion into an assisted living facility and hires Russian immigrants and a couple of silly girls in their 20s to take care of six extremely crotchety old ladies". Or maybe that is only true in my case. But yes, this was one of my better paying jobs in college and it was both incredibly Life Affirming AND the worst job I have ever had in my life. Turns out I really love crotchety old ladies and I really abhor narcissistic rich ladies who take advantage of Russian immigrants and 20-something girls who don't know any better.

Before that I spent a summer working in a REAL assisted living facility, making beds, vacuuming carpets, serving breakfast, and learning how to fold fitted sheets. After college I volunteered to be a "friend" at a nursing home, and was assigned an old lady who (I'm pretty sure) had no family, no friends who were still alive, and never remembered a single thing I told her. Eventually she remembered ME, but she never remembered that I had a boyfriend or where I worked or where I lived or what we did the week before, but she knew that when I visited she got to go outside for a while and this was enough. I had to stop seeing her when I switched jobs (I would visit her once a week on my lunch break downtown) and I've always felt a little guilty about that. 

It's so far away still, but I DO think about what I'm going to do with myself when all the kids are in school. Or even, honestly, what I'll do next year when it's just Emma and me until 3pm every day. The possibilities seem endless. And until I was talking to my parents this weekend, I'd sort of forgotten that I thought it might be fun to work in a nursing home. 

FUN! I know. My dad volunteers for the library every couple weeks, delivering books to nursing home residents. Every so often he has a good story about one of his clients or something interesting to say about the activity directors and this weekend I thought: HEY. THAT STILL SOUNDS KINDA NEAT! My dad said, "Don't you think it must be DEPRESSING?" It's true - my dad's library patrons keep dying on him. But I am an optimistic sort who believes in A Better Place and I don't feel anxious about that part.

Some people love doing crafts with three-year-olds and have a great time with the preschool set, others think hanging out with octegenarians is where it's at. I'm definitely the latter. I feel like I have to impress little kids or con them into liking me or trusting me somehow. I don't feel comfortable leading a group of kids, but I have plenty of experience charming old ladies. They're easier. They have lower standards. Yeah, some of them are nasty, but a lot of them just want to chat. I'm GREAT at chatting when I'm not worried the other person won't like me!

I just got a flyer in the mail from the organization I volunteered with years and years ago. I haven't heard from them in forever and I have no idea how they got my new address. But I was instantly interested. And I have a BABY this time. Is there anything old ladies love more than babies? NO. I would be SO POPULAR.

So I'm considering it. Maybe after the holidays. I'll sign up to be a "friend" again and make a weekly playdate with a nursing home resident and maybe see what goes on in those places again. I think it would be an excellent use of my English degree and I'm sure it pays heaps of money. 

Also, I must know: do you prefer cranky old people to preschoolers? I'm not saying I don't LIKE preschoolers, I'd just rather WORK with the old folks. You know, like lead a group of chair-bound white-haired wrinkled people in song instead of roly poly adorable three-year-olds. And I do too get to compare these groups because neither one can remember the words. 


You can tell Phillip's been away

I'm really angry at my kids tonight. That probably means I shouldn't be writing here. OH WELL!

When I was little, just a look from my parents could make me cry. I don't really know what I was like when I was Jack and Molly's age, but what I do remember from the times I was in trouble is a Hyper Awareness of my parents' moods - if they were upset with us, which one of us they were upset with, and what I could do to make it better. 

It is really weird to me - and BEYOND frustrating - that Jack and Molly seem wholly unaffected by my anger. 

Oh, they'll stop and look at me, they'll calm down, Molly's chin might even wobble. But even if I've just shrieked my fool head off, which I HAVE been known to do, the minute I turn my back it's playtime again. They might not be doing anything to get them in trouble, but they're giggling or diving right back into a game and being silly and I'm all, "WTF CHILDREN. I JUST YELLED AT YOU. ACT LIKE IT!"

So I wonder, you know? Do they just not KNOW how to behave when they're "cruising for a bruising"? Is that something I have to teach them? I try. I tell them what appropriate behaviors are when they're in trouble and need to get back into my good graces. Cleaning up quickly and quietly, not laughing and dancing around and making an even bigger mess. Because sometimes I can tell Molly to do something ten times, in the most direct language I can think of, straight to her face, in any tone of voice, and she will either continue stand there looking blank, or do something ELSE. I'll be furious about a huge paper and markers mess that they're taking forever to pick up, and Jack will ask me for a snack while there's still garbage all over the floor. Maybe they really don't GET IT. 

I've also wondered if I'm just not mad ENOUGH. This seems crazy to me, because I get plenty mad. I have lost my voice from shrieking at them, hand to God. I'm not proud of it, but I swear, sometimes I don't know how else to get across the very basic fact that I AM MAD! And it STILL doesn't seem to matter. It's like they're just waiting for me to get it out of my system. 

I am oh so slowly starting to think: what's the point? This isn't working. It just makes me angrier and more tired and voiceless. What works (when I am on top of things, when I'm not exhausted, when I'm in control) is an instant and matter-of-fact anvil coming down on whatever/whoever the issue is. Immediate card taken away, immediate removal, immediate loss of whichever treat or privilege is in contention. And I don't have to get mad about it. I just have to be quick enough and solid enough and that's it. Done. Boom. No iPad for you. No dessert. No story before bed. No Netflix. THE END. 

But I'm just like... SERIOUSLY? Do you not SEE that you're in trouble? Did you REALLY just ask me for that? Did you REALLY just talk back to me AGAIN? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? 

What is wrong with ME?

I can't figure it out. 

Is it baffling because I'm tired and lazy and I would much rather discipline with an Angry Stare than a behavior chart and thinking up things to take away and verbally shutting Jack down every time he opens his mouth (WHICH IS A LOT)? Or because I was the sort of kid instantly cowed by my dad's angry voice? Am I not scary enough? I can't BE more scary! OMG I AM SO TIRED.

My kids are SUPER GOOD at school- polite, kind, cheerful, obedient. They're both rule followers. They both respect adults and are very aware of the kids who don't. I am not at all worried about their behavior anywhere besides my own home. I'm not even WORRIED about it, I'm just TIRED. I feel utterly ineffective and STYMIED. If someone got in MY face the way I occasionally get in JACK'S face I'd be a sobbing mess in the corner. 

Jack? Toooootally different kind of kid. I am not equipped for this kind. 

This is the sort of blog post that I publish and think, "Well, everyone who reads THAT is going to think [UNFLATTERING DESCRIPTION OF MY PARENTING SKILLS]" but... I don't know. I don't really care tonight. I just feel like writing out the frustration, no matter how it sounds. I know we're fine and I know things will be fine and I'm a good mom and my kids are decent little humans, but MAN, there are days when I CANNOT figure it out. 


It's Enneagram Week. (LAST ONE, PROMISE)

Are you guys sick of this? I feel silly writing about it again. Like it's this super dorky thing that only I am into. I know I'm a huge dork. This was evidenced today by waking up from a 10 minute snooze on the couch to find that a chocolate chip had melted in my cleavage. 

SO ANYWAY. What did I say I was going to write about again? How I "use" my enneagram smarts? 

Something like that. 

Each of the nine types has a "chief feature" which is something really unpleasant - the seven deadly sins, to be exact, plus deceit and fear. Your type describes how you've arranged your life around that fear or failing, how you've accomodated it and worked around it and existed with it. One way that you know you've identified the right number for yourself is reading that description and feeling "found out". That thing, or how you live with or deal with that thing, sounds familiar, but also secret, like one of the things you don't really want anyone to know about yourself. Maybe THE thing. 

The way I think about it is: what is the thing I believe about myself that most keeps me from God? 

For a Three, it's that you're worthless. If you've been around months, let alone years, you've probably read at least a dozen posts about feelings of failure and worthlessness, that I'm not measuring up, that I'm not doing a good enough job. A Three only feels loved for what they DO or what they ACHIEVE. The idea that someone could love them just for who they are... that's crazy talk. 

And so it is with God. Yeah yeah Jesus died for our sins, even mine, but I am not worthy of that sacrifice, I don't deserve it, I haven't earned it, I haven't atoned or repented enough, I haven't beat myself up enough, I haven't done anything special enough to win that prize. Who am I? Just a boring SAHM with a dumb blog and a dirty house. How do I even matter?

In the Three description there's all this talk about how impressive and successful Threes are, and when I read it I thought, "Um, that's not me." I'm not charming the pants off anyone at a party, I'm not winning any elections, I am not climbing a corporate ladder, I'm even (I hope) rather honest about my lack of any Super Mom trophies. I'm probably not a Three, right? Except, when I delve into the motivations of a Three, and how a Three views the world, and what that Three is thinking about other people, oh yes. I totally get it. I totally understand it. That perception of the world makes complete sense to me, it even sounds like the right perception. The Three's chief feature is "deceit", which isn't about being a liar so much as someone who is so good at projecting an image, they even believe it themselves. They believe people want THAT person, not the real one... whoever that may be. 

And so it is with God. God will only love me if I'm good enough, if I win enough, if I'm best, if I get all straight As. 

That worthlessness was my Thing was not news to me, and then once I finally consented to being a Three I didn't know what to do with that information. So what. Just another personality test thing. 

What's been helpful, for me, is two things. The first is that the more you think and learn about it, the more you understand how a person with your "root sin" can grow (I think Helen Palmer calls this "evolving") and even find ways to redeem that sin. You start to be aware of how that root sin interferes with true things in your life, and distorts how you feel and what you think about things. You're just more aware and better prepared. 

The second thing is a little more concrete - reading about Phillip's type was ENORMOUSLY HELPFUL for me. Like... I would say that until I read the description for Nines I had no idea that other people acted the way Phillip acted about certain things. I hadn't interacted with any other person on the level that I do with Phillip, and certain things about him are SO WILDLY DIFFERENT. The biggest "discovery" for me was about "merging". So, throughout our entire relationship, Phillip has had a really hard time dealing with me if I'm moody or upset or angry or anxious or whatever. I think the way I looked at it was that he was so frustrated about not being able to fix it that he got angry too. So whenever I was not doing well, Phillip was not doing well either. I thought he was mad at me. Simply because I had a bad day at work or something. Gah! 

I... do not do this. If you are not doing well? I don't take it personally. I empathize, but I don't feel upset about it. I was starting to think something was wrong with me because *I* didn't get upset when Phillip was having a hard time. Was I an unfeeling horrible person?!

WELL. Turns out that a lot of Nines do this thing Helen Palmer calls "merging", which is sort of like taking on another person's feelings as your own. It's a way to ease tension or a way to focus on something instead of what the Nine himself is feeling, because he forgets himself, or doesn't want to work to figure it out. So Phillip really IS angry when I'm not doing well, because he's the type that 1) "emotionally merges" with people and 2) absolutely hates feeling anything other than peaceful and content. I get upset about something and get over it quickly - Phillip will be upset that I'm upset and take foreeeeever to get it out of his system. TOTALLY WACKO TO ME. (Sorry Nines!) 

But yeah, it was a whole new INSIGHT into my HUSBAND! I picked out his type in seconds, seriously. (Nines are pretty easy, I think.) And just knowing a little more about how those two types interact has been helpful for both of us. 

I am TOTALLY COPPING to the fact that this is a WEIRD PERSONALITY TEST THING and obvs I am not living my life around it. But I HAVE found it very helpful. Also fascinating. Obvs. 

This is just a bunch of garble, isn't it? I'm so tired right now. Good night, Internet. I'll see you later. 

 


Guidelines, if you want them

There is no blog post tonight because Phillip is home from his weekend chopping wood and shooting things and eating ribs with friends in Montana, also because he goes back to the airport tomorrow morning for work. Nothing to see here! Definitely no prattling about the enneagram!

EXCEPT THAT:

1. The test on the website I linked to is goofy (I took it) and I don't think it's accurate or useful (it said I was a Two) and I REALLY DON'T RECOMMEND THAT METHOD OF TYPING YOURSELF. 

2. I recommend reading all the types, carefully, thoughtfully, like you are in school and/or psychotherapy, while being extra super honest with yourself. Not like you have anything better to do, right? Be aware of your "oh $&%#, that's me" moment. 

3. Someone else might accurately type you, but they might not. My friends and I thought we had nailed another friend's type, only to have him pick an entirely different one. Once he told us why it made so much sense! So it's not really about how others perceive you - it might have to do with parts of you you don't necessarily share with others. Also you probably shouldn't influence someone trying to figure it out for themselves. I did this several times today. MY BAD.

4. I was told that you should be in your 30s before you dive into it. This gives you enough Life Experience to look back on. But I don't know, perhaps you are a particularly insightful and self-aware 23-year-old. Go for it. 

5. I like Helen Palmer's book best. I also like Richard Rohr's book if you're into the spiritual side of things. But I would still read Helen Palmer's first. I like her descriptions best.

6. The foreword or introduction or whatever to both of those books are weird. The origin of the enneagram? WEIRD. Just say to yourself, "it's only as helpful as it is helpful!" If you are DUBIOUS feel free to write this off as "Yeah, she seems like a nice person, but she writes about some really wacko stuff." THIS IS A FAMILIAR CATEGORY FOR ME. 

7. I only say these things because enough of you commented/emailed/instant messaged me today. It seems like information you might WANT. Just saying. 

8. Tomorrow I will tell you how I see the enneagram or how I "use" it or how it's meaningful or helpful or SOMETHING LIKE THAT. I mean, beyond the point where I'm super interested in personality assessments and "discovering yourself"(barf). It will be churchy, so fair warning. And then I promise to shut up about it. OKAY BYE. 

 


Oh yes, I moved on to Type Three, I'M SORRY, good thing your reader is full of much more interesting stuff

I've decided that all of you need to discover your enneagram type so we can have a big nerdy conversation about how awesome and/or super messed up we are. Right? Wouldn't that be FUN? It seems like everyone who commented was a SIX! Which is so funny because I think I know maybe one or two sixes in real life. (Yes - once you "learn" the enneagram perhaps you start typing everyone who hasn't already typed themselves. BAD FORM! But you cannot help it! It's so! Interesting!)

I am a Three and I remember Elsha calling me out on my Threeness way back when, I think before I even decided it myself. I actually thought I might be a One! (The Perfectionist.) Then I thought I might be a Two, because even though I suck at bringing dinners I can be a bit of a Two in other areas. I just wasn't sure about Three because Three... Threes are intense and obsessed with image and their core "sin" is DECEIT and OMGGGGG IS THAT ME? And even my good into-the-enneagram friends were all, "ARE YOU SURE?" Threes are winners and achievers and charmers and seriously, I am their SAHM friend who's never finished a writing project and has no interest in a career and, as evidenced by this evening, feeds her baby McDonald's french fries for dinner. 

But yeah, I am totally a Three. I will skip the whole History Of My Character (SNORE) and just say: in high school, for example, I had no idea what *I* wanted to do or be, I just wanted to make sure my parents and my teachers were proud of/impressed with me. Which is where the deceit stuff comes into play - so way back when I was 1000% percent driven to go be a missionary in China with Phillip and we were accepted into the program and ready to go and TOLD EVERYONE, I literally had to have an anxiety attack before I realized THAT I DID NOT WANT TO LIVE IN CHINA FOR A YEAR WAS I INSANE?!

I had honestly (HONESTLY) not considered the possibility of staying home until my dad (MY DAD!) said, "Uh, if you're so anxious, you think maybe you shouldn't go?" 

(THANKS DAD!)

I had just gone around saying for a year or two that that's what we were going to do and BY GOD we were going to DO IT - to quit or change my mind would be a failure.

Another thing: I remember sitting on Pancakes's bed in her dorm room trying not to vomit because I HAAAAAATED working on the college paper and I wanted to quit, but I couldn't let myself QUIT! I was not a QUITTER! I had told everyone at home that I was going to be a world famous journalist! And here I was not even able to hack THE COLLEGE PAPER! AAAAUUUUGGGHHH!!!

People who are not Threes think this is the height of wacko. (This was Pancakes's reaction. "Um, just quit! Who cares!") People who are Threes are all, "But! But! What would you do THEN?!"

Threes are focused on the job at hand. They push feelings down so they don't get in the way of the Goal. Threes feel worthless if they aren't DOING something or PRODUCING something or ACHIEVING something. Here's a truly flattering and affirming thing to read about Threes:

Everyone needs attention, encouragement, and the affirmation of their value in order to thrive, and Threes are the type which most exemplifies this universal human need. Threes want success not so much for the things that success will buy (like Sevens), or for the power and feeling of independence that it will bring (like Eights). They want success because they are afraid of disappearing into a chasm of emptiness and worthlessness: without the increased attention and feeling of accomplishment which success usually brings, Threes fear that they are nobody and have no value.

So of COURSE a Three would have a BLAWG. Gah. You can see, now, why I warned you that learning about the enneagram makes you feel really great about yourself. 

I think all this personality assessment stuff... it's only as helpful as it is helpful, you know? The Myers Briggs (INFJ, holla!) and the strengths finder thing and even the gifts assessment we did at my church - I LOVE this stuff, but I know a lot of people think its hooey (or various levels of hooey, anyway) and I'm not trying to, you know, CONVERT anyone to the enneagram. I just think it's interesting and it HAS helped me. Actually, it wasn't reading about my type as much as reading about my HUSBAND'S type that was helpful. (That's a whole other post.) (And he's a Nine.) (Nines' core failing is Sloth.) (HAAAAAA.)

Anyway, I think that my experience with anxiety has stomped a lot of the Three out of me, at least a lot of the outward appearance of a Three. I used to care a ton about achieving in work and school, and now? Uhhhh, I'm very much aware that what *I* really want to is to have a bunch of kids and stay home with them and maybe do some writing and some work that maybe doesn't pay anything and while I'm aware that this is not the picture of success in America, I'm only SLIGHTLY uncomfortable with it. Instead of, you know, SO uncomfortable that I'm BLIND to it. I think, for me, struggling with anxiety has opened my eyes to things that are Worth It and things that Aren't. I mean, I'm still a Three and I will beat myself up about no one drinking the hot chocolate at my Christmas party and therefore it was the worst party on record, but I'm not out there trying to live up to what my AP English teacher thought I should be or do. (At least, not anymore.) (I still think about it.) (Would he be disappointed in me?) (I AM THIRTY-THREE YEARS OLD, TIME TO LET IT GO EH?)

You guys, seriously, I meant to make a quick note about the enneagram and then complain about how Emma is now the most demanding, attention-hogging, ME ME ME baby on EARTH right now and how it's KILLLLLLING ME. But then I started talking about Threes (ie: myself) as I am wont to do and SIGH. Good thing there's always TOMORROW'S enlightening blog post for whatever I missed today! 

 


More futile attempts to be a better person!

Today we are going to discuss people who are Type Twos on the Enneagram. And why I would like to be more like them. AHEM: 

When Twos are healthy and in balance, they really are loving, helpful, generous, and considerate. People are drawn to them like bees to honey. Healthy Twos warm others in the glow of their hearts. They enliven others with their appreciation and attention, helping people to see positive qualities in themselves that they had not previously recognized. In short, healthy Twos are the embodiment of “the good parent” that everyone wishes they had: someone who sees them as they are, understands them with immense compassion, helps and encourages with infinite patience, and is always willing to lend a hand—while knowing precisely how and when to let go. Healthy Twos open our hearts because theirs are already so open and they show us the way to be more deeply and richly human.

 

The enneagram, as I may have mentioned before, assigns a sort of key "flaw" to each type, and if you are reading one of the books trying to figure out which type you are, my friend says you'll know when you are reading a description and thinking, "oh s&%* oh s*$% that's me." So it's not really this warm fuzzy thing that makes you feel awesome about yourself. ALAS.

THAT SAID. I know a whole heck of a lot of Twos in real life and they are ALL on the Healthy and In Balance side. Twos are the people who are always thinking of what you might need and how they might take care of you. Twos are the people for whom bringing a meal to a family with a new baby is the easiest and most no brainer thing. Twos have dinner at your house and before you know it they've washed all the dishes. The Twos I know are empathetic, good gift givers, people who consistently go out of their way. I... am not a Two. 

I am trying to think of all the times I've brought a meal to a family with a new baby. I am having an easier time thinking of people to whom I DIDN'T bring meals, even people like SUPER GOOD FRIENDS. I throw baby showers, I buy gifts, I visit (eventually), but unlike my Two friends, ways I can practically help someone out almost never occur to me. It's embarrassing, really. The meal thing is just ridiculous. Sometimes I can barely cook for my own family, so I know that's part of the problem. And I'm stuck with all these foodies and great cooks for friends, so I'm terrified of bringing something not up to par. But the "helping" never outweighs the "I'm too busy". GAH!

A friend of mine said, "But you're always bringing me cookies!" And I said, "That's because I like to bake! Not because I like to bake for YOU!" Maybe that's a good way to describe it. Also, don't you want to be friends with me?

My growing awareness of this deficiency has meant making a greater effort to NOTICE. At the very least I can NOTICE. So I try to be aware of messes or how I can help in the kitchen or asking someone what I can do since I will never come up with a good idea on my own. I'm not as completely out of it assistance-wise as I used to be. But I am still not a Two. Twos are in their very own class of amazing. 

It helps to know, though, that I'm NOT a Two. I do other things. I have different motivations, different flaws, different perspectives on things. Lots of people aren't Twos! Lots of us suck at bringing dinner to friends! It's sort of like when you start to focus on what you're good at instead of what you aren't. Stop trying to make yourself something else, and do what you DO even better. Right? Right. 

So what CAN I do? 

A pregnant friend was over the other night and noticed that I organized my bookshelf by color. Lots of people point this out and it never fails to make me feel like an Anal Retentive Weirdo - then again, EMBRACE WHAT YOU ARE! Anyway, my friend LIKED it and so I said, "Pregnant Friend, I might not bring you dinner for months after your baby is born, but I can totally go to your house and organize your bookshelves." 

If only the things I'm good at were a little more USEFUL...

The thing is, I'm VERY empathetic. Like, to a FAULT almost, so that I often have to tell people not to tell me stories about so and so or what they heard on the news because AUGH I can't deal with it. I'm a good listener! I want to take care of you! But in a sort of... I don't know. Emotional way? Like with talking and praying and hand holding and just sitting there and being near. But anything of practical value? I'm hopeless. I am TRYING, but I am hopeless. I have to be prompted or see what OTHER people are doing to help before I even THINK to be helpful OMG I AM TERRIBLE.

Anyway, I suppose all of this is really just to say that all of my Twos have been taking care of me over the last couple of months, or even since this third baby showed up. I have Twos in the internet too and I'm pretty sure you know who you are and today I'm just feeling awed by all of you giver types. You are so great. I wish I were more like you, but while I'm working on it I am happy to sit here and eat the chocolate you bring me while you clean up my kitchen. 


In which I would like to be a less self-absorbed person than the person who wrote this blog post

Sitting here staring at the computer because I think if I keep my fingers occupied I won't wander into the kitchen and tear into the bag of chocolate chips. Really I'm only prolonging the tearing into a bag of chocolate chips. 

I've had to have many conversations with myself lately re: God will not love me more if I lose the last five pounds. There is no prize for losing the last five pounds. The clothes I'm wearing right now will still be the clothes that fit if I lose five pounds. The conversations are only sort of working. So there are some days where I'm really happy with where I am and what I've done and hey I've had three kids and business travel is stressful and so much is going on and SHOOT I only have five pounds left! GO ME! Then there are other days when I am very down on myself, very depressed by my closet, very despairing that I will ever fit into my size 8 jeans again. 

Which is WEIRD FOR ME. Because up until now I have never ever EVER "tried to get back into my old jeans". I mean, I was doing that each time I lost the baby weight, but since I've been Somewhat Overweight my entire life, losing weight in itself was a totally new experience. With Molly and Emma, the weight I was immediately postpartum was my highest weight pre-kids. I lost 30 pounds before I had Jack, I've lost [almost] all of it all over again after each kid, and even right now at plus five pounds I am a smaller size than I was in high school. 

So this TRYING to get back into my "SKINNY" PANTS is really warping my brain. Especially since I've been trying to lose these last five pounds since JUNE and it's JUST NOT HAPPENING. Like, maybe that was just this singular time in my life, where I had arm muscles and a waist and I should just be lucky I got to find out what it was like to wear a size medium button down shirt without the whole thing busting open. Maybe this is how other women feel about their "wedding weight" or whatever. (My wedding weight was my highest. !) Maybe I don't get to be that way again. Maybe I don't have what it takes to get there. Maybe what it takes to get there is more than I can give right now. More than I WANT to give, more than I SHOULD give.

I have good, normal, positive body image days. Most definitely. The not-good days are just killer, though, and I hate them. I hate thinking that way. 

I am slowly stocking up on clothes I like. I don't have an EBJ-style Uniform, but I know what I'm comfortable in and what generally looks decent on me and I no longer buy anything that isn't Way Awesome. (So long, Old Navy! SIGH.) I also totally purged my closet and got rid of tons of stuff I either never wore or didn't fit. I kept a handful of too-tight pants and barely-fitting dresses, but all the other stuff I didn't love, so it didn't need to be in my closet taunting me. Some of it DOES fit, which is nice, but some of it doesn't and I didn't cry any tears as I tossed those things into a Goodwill pile.

I am running when I can. Some days it works out, some days it doesn't. Today EJ woke up so early that I couldn't get away with keeping her up until noon, but then she ended up napping in the car and refusing a morning nap ANYWAY. I could have run in the afternoon, but I was tired and fell asleep on the couch. SUE ME.

My biggest problem is an Eating Peanut Butter Out Of The Jar problem. Also a tendency to cheer myself up with snacks or feel entitled to something sweet when my day is rotten. I've heard that you're not supposed to reward yourself with food, but you know what? I like cake! I do not want to live a life without cake. Sometimes? I'm going to eat cake. SO BE IT.

And the reason why I have not lost the last five pounds begins to dawn on everyone...

Bah. You know, I think I AM fine with myself right now, but I'm afraid that if I decide to be ALWAYS fine, then my weight will creep up again. I don't have a "cushion". If I lost five pounds, then I'd have a five pound cushion for being fine. Does that make sense? The difference between gaining a few pounds and having tight pants and gaining a few pounds and pants no longer fit. 

I don't know. I also hate the fact that I keep writing blog posts about losing weight when I want to be ABOVE caring about how I look and caring about what others see. GAWD WHY CAN'T I BE A BETTER PERSON WITH MORE NOBLE GOALS!!!


In which I get Inappropriately Overemotional about the INTERNET OF ALL THINGS

Because October suddenly got real with the rain and the darkness and the cooped-up-inside-ness, herewith is a list of Things I Am Looking Forward To: Blathering Edition. 

1. TIME TO BE ME. I'm a mom, I love being a mom, I don't do anything else except be a mom, I would choose exactly what I do over and over again, it's definitely the place and thing for me. However! It will be so nice, so invigorating, so reenergizing to spend a few days being me without the momness. Conversations uninterrupted by demands for snacks. Dinners out minus the package of wipes and kid menu crayons. An extra glass of wine because I won't have to make a bottle in the middle of the night. Getting invested in someone's story, and that someone is not in preschool and uses big words. And for longer than just a night out at a bar or an afternoon in a coffee shop - this will be several DAYS' worth of being all of me minus the sandwich making and the butt wiping and OH GOSH it sounds magical. 

2. SIGHTSEEING. I know zilch about New Orleans. I know the words 'Cajun' and 'Creole', I'm vaguely aware of Bourbon Street, I know what Mardi Gras is, and I like jazz. I have heard of this small piece of heaven on earth called a beignet and I intend to consume as many as possible. But I haven't spent any time at all researching New Orleans or figuring out what I want to see and do. Mainly because I'm jealously guarding my Internet Friends Time and I will pretty much do whatever my internet friends want to do because I am all about them, right? It's a little unlike me, this total lack of research and spreadsheets, but I also know that I WILL get to see and do a lot, even if I don't have it all planned out ahead of time. I'm from the Pacific Northwest by way of overseas military bases, and there's so much about my own country - ESPECIALLY THE SOUTH - that's not even on my radar. Speaking of, is New Orleans considered The South? See, I don't even know that. I'm one of those accent-less, lives-in-a-bubble, West Coasters who really has no idea about anything. This is exciting. 

3. THE FRIDAY NIGHT PARTY. It might be my favorite part of the Blathering, when everyone's in the same room for the first time and it's all DUDE, THESE ARE REAL PEOPLE. I think it's much easier for me to be excited about this part than other attendees, mainly because I'm one of the people organizing the whole thing and therefore I'm not that nervous about meeting people. It's kind of like how I infinitely prefer hosting my own giant parties to attending someone else's: if I get overwhelmed, if I get nervous, if I start saying the wrong things, if it seems like no one wants to come stand with my in my little corner, if it looks like everyone wants to talk to Emily Cassee instead (which they will, she's much cuter and infinitely funnier than I am) it's not a big deal! I can always head into the kitchen and find a job to do. I can always go around pouring wine. I can force myself to go meet someone on my own, not because I'm brave and confident, but because I'm hosting and that's my JOB. But honestly... maybe it's the wine, I don't know, but I'm sort of dying to throw myself at my favorite internetters, to go all fangirly, and give all the hugs to all the people. Fair warning: I can be inappropriately overemotional, but it's only because I LOVE YOU!

4. NEW FRIENDS. I'm introverted, I'm quiet, I'm terrible at chatting, I get embarrassed easily, I can't figure out how to participate in group conversations, I am (see above) inappropriately overemotional, BUT! I am always on the lookout for new best friends. Really. I almost always assume I will get along great with everyone and I have spent considerable amounts of time trying to figure out how to have deeper relationships with people who maybe shouldn't even BE my friends: the girl who cuts my hair, my OB, Jack's kindergarten teacher. Maybe I don't NEED to be best friends with everyone, but if I WAS it would be AWESOME. 

5. SEEING OLD FRIENDS. You know who you are. I am so excited to see you. You seriously have no idea. I might spend the entire weekend crying because I'm so happy to see you. I mean, I'll try not to, because I understand how that would get annoying, but I will WANT to be happy-crying the whole time.

6. DRESSING UP. I know everyone gets anxious about what to wear what to wear what to wear and honestly, I don't know what to wear EITHER. But I know what I LIKE to wear and those things are usually sparkly and/or shiny and/or have very high heels. (OR ALL THREE. OOOOH!) And because it's the Blathering and I'm gonna have fun, you bet I'm wearing my sequinned dress to dinner Saturday night. SEQUINS ALL OVER. If you're the sparkly type yourself I encourage you to bring your own glitter because honestly, if you can't wear it with Internet ladies in New Orleans, where CAN you wear that dress?

7. GOOD STORIES. At the first Blathering I roomed with Liz, Emily, and Manda and I can't repeat half of what we talked about. (See above: embarrassed easily.) I can't repeat the other half either- I missed it because I was laughing so hard. 

8. HAVING FOUND MY PEOPLE. So the tagline on the Blathering website is 'Find Your People'... I think those of us who started this thing felt like maybe we sort of knew who our people were? And the first Blathering just cemented it and that was amazing. It's like... ok, here's a tiny example. My real life friends know I like to write, but they don't read my writing. That's not how we're friends. But that's how WE are friends, right? Because you read my writing and I read yours and it's this other part of me that doesn't come out so much in my "real" life, but is such a real and huge part of me. And the things I write ABOUT - you know those things too! You know me! Oh God this is starting to sound WAY dorky, now NO ONE will want to talk to me in NOLA... WHATEVER! Seriously, I relate to people who express themselves in writing. And people who write tend to get ME. And going to a gathering where pretty much everyone is a writer, where everyone understands how Twitter is a lifesource, where everyone's already put their story out there just like you have - it's different than "real" life! Here is where I get inappropriately overemotional, also embarrassingly introspective and sentimental and loopy. But I just think it's a really spectacular opportunity. I thought I found my people the first year, but I found my people the second year too. I missed out in Austin, but I bet I'll find more of you in New Orleans.

Although, honestly? Even the plane ride is starting to sound like a day at the beach right now. No kids? A bag of books? Snacks galore? Hours to myself? SIGN ME UP. 


And you appear in all your splendor

What a FANTABULOUS and AMAZILICIOUS weekend! I almost feel... not tired! 

There have been several times in my marriage where I didn't feel like I was spending much time with Phillip. I remember feeling this way when we were both working full time, but it seems totally foreign to me now, since what were we doing after work except hanging out with each other? It's not like we had children or particularly demanding jobs to distract us, right? RETROACTIVE EYE ROLL.

Then we had Jack and Molly (does anyone remember when we had one baby instead of two? Not me!) and we were awfully busy and awfully worn out. Happy, but tired. Like all couples in charge of small children, maybe we didn't get a lot of time to ourselves. 

The grad school years were especially lean on quality time. Phillip was often in class or studying away from home on Saturdays, he often had to write papers and do homework on weeknights. And he started traveling for work during those years, so yeah. Remember when he was traveling for work the week we had to pack up and move out of our rental house AND I was pregnant? I DO!

And then 2012 brought a week-long trip every month, on average, and I started to think that maybe THIS was worse than all the other times. Hadn't I railed against ANY business travel EVER? And now it was occuring on a dismally regular basis? But 2012 is the year of Realizing I Cannot Do It All and one of the things I couldn't do was Get Mad. It wasn't Phillip's fault anyway. It was just the nature of things and it was best to just plan a lot of friends and family time during those weeks and Power Through. 

But now, you guys. NOW there is an exponential increase in business travel. He went twice in September, he's already finished one week of travel in October and he potentially travels next week and the week after that - three weeks in October. In fact, we sat down tonight and put all the work travel on the calendar and while everything is constantly changing, right now he is traveling every week until Thanksgiving. And that doesn't include his trip to Montana this weekend with friends (which he is doing with my complete and total blessing) or my trips - The Blathering in November and Urbana in December. 

This week he's home and it almost feels weird. Really. I had to make a meal plan for the week; I'm going to have to COOK. I will have help in the evenings. Someone else will put the kids to bed. I won't have to wake up for every single thing in the middle of the night. I won't feel nervous turning out all the lights. It's weird when your normal life starts to sound novel. 

So this weekend we took huge fantastic advantage. He came home super late Thursday night. Friday the kids didn't have school so we visited my parents, by which I mean I went shopping with my sister all day while my mom was in charge of feeding and corraling the shorties. And on Saturday we met up with Phillip's parents for dim sum and when THEY took our kids home with them, WE went home and sat in front of the television. For hours. I am not even the slightest bit ashamed. We watched a terrible movie about the financial crisis (Margin Call) and almost everything on our TiFaux. Then we dressed up, went downtown, ate fattening appetizers for dinner, and walked over to the Paramount to see Wicked WHICH WAS SO SUPER DUPER I wish I could buy you all tickets. We stayed up late, slept in, made ourselves giant breakfasts, and argued through Meet The Press. We did some laundry, cleaned out the closets, dropped everything at Goodwill, went to the grocery store - all without kids and it sounds boring I know, but when was the last time we had time to talk about how we will basically cancel each other out when it's time to vote? Or time to sit on the couch and watch trashy television? Or put on glittery shoes and go out by ourselves and stay out, way past our bedtimes? 

He's home all week until Friday night, when he'll leave for Montana. He comes home Monday evening and goes back to the airport Tuesday morning for another work trip. He'll get back Thursday night. I think that will be the longest/hardest stretch. I have a plan and we'll be fine, but part of how I stay fine is getting used to doing it all by myself. And then it's really weird to sort of allow him back into life at home. 

Isn't that horrible? But that's how I do it. I don't know. 

This DOES have an end point. This particular project is over by Thanksgiving. After that there's business travel, but not at this frequency and intensity. And I don't think I'm writing this to complain about the travel or to elicit sympathy (although I am always happy to take sympathy!) or anything like that - I think I just actually want to write down how it's WEIRD. It is WEIRD when this integral part of your life, a key piece of day to day living, a NECESSARY INGREDIENT just... isn't there! Or has to disappear for days at a time. You start to tell yourself you DON'T need that piece. That you're fine without it! Because, well, you have to be fine without it. He doesn't want to worry about you while he's away and you don't want him to worry and you just do what you have to do and feel relieved when he comes home. But then he comes home and it's weird! GOOD weird, but... still weird. Because you (me) mentally place yourself in I Can Do This On My Own land and then you suddenly don't have to be there anymore...

I always knew I couldn't marry anyone in the military because of deployments. Dads were constantly deployed when I was in high school and living on the military base. Even then, having no idea what it's like being married and having a family, I knew I didn't want that. And now that I've been doing what I've been doing, it sounds even worse. There's the solo parenting for months on end, sometimes without any family nearby, then there's the reentry into Normal, which can't possibly feel Normal after months of solo parenting. How do those families make it? 

I'm writing this as Phillip is putting the kids to bed. A whole half hour later than I would do it if he weren't here. I have time to write when Phillip is home! But we're so tired and I think we're just going to fall back into our Too Tired To Move modes, then he'll leave again on Friday, then it all starts over. 

So it was pretty awesome Saturday night, wearing fancy shoes and makeup, sitting in a theater in the best seats Phillip could get, knowing every line of every song, glancing at my husband who would glance back and smile because he knows his wife loves fancy shoes and theaters and huge song and dance numbers and being out at night. There are hot pink roses in a vase on my dining room table. There are emergency chocolates in Phillip's coat pocket. I think we'll be okay.