Monday, March 25

The Name Game


      Oh man, we're having a doozey of a time coming up for a name for this babe rolling around in my belly!

     I must confess if you had asked me 10 years ago if I would have believed that we were going to be parents to THREE girls I probably would have not believed you...I mean ya gotta mix it up a little bit, right?!

     Haha...not so much. God likes to do things in the way I often least expect them in my little corner of life over here. 

     One of the funniest, most ironic things about all of this is probably that my younger sister, who serendipitously also met her husband when she was his waitress (the same way I met Scott), just had her third child...her third BOY! 

     Go figure!

     I'm thinking that on some psychological level that because I never believed we would have three girls I exhausted the girl name possibilities on our list and started toying with names like Max, and  Carter and Benjamin. 

     I also think it's difficult thing to bestow a lifetime title on a person whom you have never met! With the girls we would come up with a short list of 3-5 names we had really honed in on, take it to the hospital with us, meet them and then give them whatever name felt most fitting in the moment...we'll probably do something along the same lines this time around.

      There are lots of pretty girl names out there...I know...but they all seem meant for someone else's child. Did any of you have that experience while naming your children? People would give suggestions, and we gladly welcome them, and some of them seem like very nice names...for their children. 

     So, we've circled around a few names that I'll share...The first three, our favorites at this point, all happen to belong to children of people we either know or loosely know, which makes us a little bit unsure about them, but we're throwing them out there anyway...

     Reese (one of Scott's favorites)
    Grace (we will likely use this as a middle name, if not a first)

    So, that's where we are...We're still taking suggestions!

    Almost every night before bed I ask the girls what they think...Ava will often give me the names of one of the girls in her class or repeat one of the names she knows we've been thinking about. 


    Haha...Her favorite seems to be Zanna! Yes, several times I've asked her what we should name the baby and she tells me "Zanna". I nod my head and try to pretend it's a very real possibility. 

      I tease her that the name must be from that imaginary planet called Northland that she tells us she is from when we ask her (and we ask her this frequently!) "Ella, what planet are you from?!!!" 

     Send along you're suggestions, we'll add them to the mix and run them by the girls! Hey, if we pick your name I may have to make you dinner or something for helping to ease the naming burden from our shoulders! Granted, dinner after baby #3 is pretty much going to amount to organic hot dogs, jarred apple sauce and carrot sticks, but it's the company that really counts!   And who wouldn't want to have dinner with a hormonal momma, an outnumbered dad, Ava, Ella and Zanna? 

Thursday, March 14

Sock by Sock


       Have you ever been in a situation in which you look at the task that lies ahead of you and it feels so large, looming and almost insurmountable (at least with the 25 minutes you have before you have to make a meal or pick someone up from school or your children come to find you in the kitchen because they need a band-aid or want to tattle on their sibling) that you shake your head, raise your eyebrows, and tell yourself, “Um, yeah, we’ll save that one for another day.”

     I do this ALL the time and I’m beginning to realize it is a sneaky form of procrastination that is not helping anyone!

     I had 25 minutes (the number of minutes in the Jake and the Neverland Pirates episode that was entertaining Ella) one day last week and went down into our basement (Oi! The basement!) to “clean”. 

     After shuffling past (on the stairs, mind you) several miscellaneous Christmas decorations, extra shoes, a clean vase, a bag of door hinges intended for a future project, a can of paint, a roller,  several mismatched 5 lb. weights, a box of beads…o.k. I’ll stop, but let me tell you there was more and this was just on the stairs leading down to the basement... 

     ...So, after precariously shuffling past all of it, I landed in the pile of dirty towels and socks hapharzadly thrown to the bottom of the stairs (intended for some later day laundry doing) and surveyed the task at hand.

     Then I had an asthma attack…even though I don’t have asthma…fell to the ground in despair, and needed to be carried back up the stairs by the paramedics…

     Just kidding…

     Though that started to feel like a very real possibility.

     What really happened is that I surveyed the situation…got briefly overwhelmed, almost threw in the towel (figuratively and literally!) and decided I was just going to go back upstairs and wallow in the misery of complaining about how organizing and sorting and keeping track of STUFF for the four, almost five, people in our family is IMPOSSIBLE.


     After a brief stay in my pity party…

    I decided that what I would do instead is take my own advice (or, rather, my counselors!) mentioned in my last blog post and lower my expectations!

    I did not have to clean the entire basement today…right now…in this moment. And, just because I would not be able to clean the entire basement today…right now…in this moment…did not mean that there wasn’t something I could do.

    Sometimes part of lowering our expectations is breaking down big tasks into smaller more manageable ones. And then being o.k. with only getting to the smaller more manageable tasks. For today. Maybe you'll get to another small task tomorrow. Maybe.

     So I cleaned the stairs.

     I put that vase on the shelf where it belonged and those hinges with the other “house project” stuff, also on a shelf. I threw a bunch of stuff in the trash and sorted the shoes into one area. I decided the Faith Hill CD that I have owned since living at home with my parents really wasn’t relevant to my life anymore and was simply adding to the clutter. I threw that pretty little CD into the goodwill bag…along with  Avril Lavigne, Madonna, and some obscure folk artist whose album I bought in a moment of inspiration 10 YEARS ago!

     They were soundtracks to a completely different season of life and it was time for them to go! 

      In Anne Lamott's often quoted book on writing, Bird by Bird,  she  says something that has long stayed with me about my own writing, but is also very applicable to other areas in my life, especially since becoming a parent.

     She tells us a story about her brother, at ten years old, working on a research project that he had procrastinated on and the bit of advice her father shares with him: 

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he'd had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”   Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life


      That image and story has stayed with me for over a decade since I first read the book...I've used it to pull myself out of mental ruts when it comes to all sorts of things, writing and housework being at the top of the  list! 

     And so on those days when I wander around the house and survey the messes and the clutter that seem to appear everywhere and out of nowhere when you have children...

     On the days when I feel like I never may have a free moment to write anything valuable or read a book for pleasure again...

     On the days when there is a massive basket of mismatched socks sitting at the top of my stairs beckoning for someone to bring some order to it...

     ...You'll find me taking one deep breath (or several, depending on the severity of the tasks at hand!) and repeating to  myself...until it sinks into my soul..."Sock by sock momma. Just take it sock by sock." 

I'll leave you with two more great quotes from Bird by Bird...

Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived...Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation... Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist's true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.”

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.” 

Saturday, March 2

Notes from the Therapists Office


      I pondered, over and over, how to start this post. Mostly because, by sheer fact of the title alone, I'm admitting something that I've never mentioned to my bloggy readers as a whole before...that I have spent time in a therapist's chair. Many different therapist's chairs actually!

     If I started by saying, 'After my therapy session last night...'

     I realized I might stop some of you in your tracks...'Whoa, she's in therapy?!' you'd be asking.

     Or maybe you'd say, 'Wow, thank goodness she's in therapy!'

     Or maybe, 'I'm so relived someone else is in therapy...I thought I was the only one!'

     Whatever your reaction, it might come as a surprise to you that I have spent time in therapy as recently as last night.

     In this season of my life it is inconsistent. I found a woman last fall who is covered by my insurance and I decided to give her a call. I like having that "tool" in my repertoire of life management tools and so even though I wasn't going through any major crises in my life I decided to give her a call and begin the relationship.

     Admittedly, I have struggled with anxiety issues on and off over the last ten years and have actually seen many different counselors at differing seasons. After the birth of both girls those anxiety issues, that can tend to wax and wane depending on my season of life, re-emerged in the form of post-partum anxiety/depression (more anxiety than depression, but often lumped into the same category).

      In both situations I found great comfort in the sheer fact that I had someone to call 'if I needed to'.  In both situations I found myself, baby in tow, in a counselor's chair on at least several occasions. And I was thankful for the encouragement, support and neutral words of wisdom offered during those times.

     All of that is a whole other that I have not shared in detail with many people, but perhaps that I will, at least in some detail, share some day.

     That said, I knew with a third baby on the way and none of my trusted prior counselors around (I had both of the girls in Massachusetts, this is my first in Buffalo) that it would be healthy for me to have someone to call in case I need to.

     Not to mention, I fully believe that EVERY momma could use a full-time counselor at her disposal just to get through the sheer challenge of motherhood!

     This woman is sweet. I've seen her once every 6-8 weeks over the last nine months and while we have no other meetings scheduled at the moment her contact information is in my I-phone and she knows she may hear from me sometime in May (after the babino arrives late April!).

     Given all that, I really appreciated our appointment last night and she said a few things that I wanted to share. They were simple things, things I've heard before, but things that really resonated this time around. Things that made me really re-think the way I've been...well...thinking!

      As I drove to her office my mind felt tired and tattered. The weather here has been DREADFULLY DREARY (Sorry, I had to put that in caps. Truly, winters in Buffalo are gray, gray, gray....and it makes me crazy, crazy, crazy! And, yes...I know there is a clinical name for people who can't hack the gray days of winter...but we're avoiding that for now!).

     So between the weather, this hectic season of raising little ones and a pregnancy whose hormones have completely depleted my capacity for patience...I sank into the soft gray couch in this woman's office and smiled and sighed all at the same time.

     "So, how have things been?" she asked. "I haven't seen you since January."

     "Ha! Right! Right after Christmas when I was reeling from the crazy Christmas season..."

     "Yes, yes. You were trying to come down from the hecticness of December."

     I laugh.

    "Things haven't slowed down. Not one bit." I retort.

     "I'm not sure they ever do," she says very matter of factly. She has four children and knows the drill.

     I tell her about the house projects, and the Birthday parties and Scott's busy work schedule and several other commitments that slipped in there as well and how I feel emotionally ill-equipped to handle it all.

     "A lot of times," she says, "Our emotional state has a lot to do with our expectations. I bet you end many of your days feeling like you didn't meet your expectations for the day."

      I pause...I can't disagree...Even though I want to. I don't want to admit that I've set my expectations for the day to day higher than they should probably be. That in the midst of redoing our floors, and remodeling the spare room to become a nursery, and planning a 4th Birthday party for Ella and simply making meals and lunches and trying to manage laundry throughout the week, that I had IDEAS of other things... clean and organize our basement. write more blog posts. read a book or two. create photo albums and organize pictures of the girls. connect more deeply with my husband. keep the dust off of the television cabinet. actually take my girls outside once in a while. get the library books back...ON TIME (my fees were only $12.50 this month!)

     There are many more things I could add to the list. Things, that as you can see, are all subtle. They're little things, but they add up to a big list...and if I'm honest I let that list loom over my mind like the dark gray clouds that haven't lifted from the Buffalo sky for more than a day at a time in three months.

   And those are just the tangible about the the fact that I do live my life half expecting that it will all slow down. Or that the girls won't fight with each other. Or that they'll pick up they're rooms without being asked...or....

     We talked about a lot of other expectations for myself as a mom, as a writer, as a wife. How they all intertwine. And how, in this time of raising young children, the children really do become the front and center and a lot of other things need to be laid down. For a time.

     I know this. I reach moments of peace about this at least once or twice a week. However, the living out of it is a completely different thing.

     The living out of laying down our expectations, our own personal needs, for our families and our children, without becoming frustrated, and crabby... that's often easier said, or thought about, than done! 

     I can keep up with the best of them when it comes to completing the tasks, but the emotional side of things...the not getting bogged down and overwhelmed in the midst of it all...I'm not so good at that.

     I'm good at the actions of the day to day. I'm not so good at the reactions to the day to day. 

      I asked her how I make those more positive reactions a part of my day to day. She told me exactly what I thought she'd tell me.

     "It takes practice."

     I keep thinking...keep expecting...that it should come naturally. That one day I'll wake up and Poof! The 'patience, lower expectations, I'm o.k. with the chaos' fairy will have come over night and have left a little pouch of pixie patience dust under my pillow.

     I'll take action! I'll sprinkle that dust on my head and suddenly I'll be a calmer, more easy-going woman...

     I realized when I left last night that maybe I need to stop watching so much Tinker Bell with the girls and start the hard work of practicing more positive dialogue in my mind. That the pixie dust isn't coming, but that if there is one thing I CAN take action over in my life it is reframing my own thoughts about it all.

     If I remember correctly, that little tidbit wasn't in "What to Expect When Your Expecting."

     I'm thinking that maybe it should be!