The Misguided Middle

Sam is our middle child. He’s 8. He’s wonderful. He’s a bit of a shit…

Truth be told he always has been. I can say this because I love him. He came into this world backwards and screaming. He screamed for months. He wouldn’t let anyone else hold him. Once he could move he followed me everywhere and he screamed if I went out of eye line.

Sam pulled my hair. Sam hit me. Sam bit me. Sam hit and bit his sister. He ate all of the time. He was a bit of a shit…

As he grew, it started to become clear that Sam did not get language. He could not understand us and he certainly couldn’t express himself. Super long story short, Sam had sensory issues that interfered with language acquisition. We worked with our local ISD and did a ton of work at home, and eventually he started communicating, but to this day, Sam is not GOOD at expressing himself.

We’ve been working super hard on behavior. We’ve tried all the things. But Sam still hits people when he gets mad or upset or hurt and this happens on the daily. We talk about how we can’t control what other people do, just how we respond to it. He makes lists of other things he can do when he’s upset (count to 10, punch a pillow, walk away and do something else, etc) and he posts them on his wall. But I still worry, that Sam is a bully.

Last week, trying to be funny, he did something so upsetting and disappointing. Renna loves to draw and she even enters contests with her favorite YouTuber Draw with Jazza. The work she’s most proud of, was an updated girl with the pearl earring drawing in her sketch book. She worked so hard on it. Sam “added on” to EVERY page in her sketch book one day…including that one.

Elliott can’t write anything but his name, Sam…get a better alibi…

We had the big talk about how hurtful that was and how disappointed I was. How he had to make amends and he owed Renna something. He also had to apologize both in person and in writing and used his own money to buy her a new book.

Truth be told, Sam is my most helpful kid. When he’s showered in love and attention he’s amazing. He unloads the dishwasher, does laundry, helps with the animals, helps with outside stuff, pulls weeds, cooks breakfast, all the things when I ask. If I can hit him with a preemptive strike to keep him busy and entertained and working, he is a joy of a child. But being in the middle in a family with 4 kids is hard.

He’s not the oldest. He doesn’t have that extra responsibility and the opportunity often to be “in charge”. He’s not the baby and he got a double hit on that one with twin younger siblings. We do our best but undivided attention is sometimes hard to come by.

He’s stuck in the misguided, misunderstood middle. And sometimes that means he’s a bit of a shit… but we’re working on it. And we love his naughty little face off. And maybe someday, with enough guidance, he’ll be able to express himself without violence and vandalism 😉

The Elephant in the Blog

Five months ago, I wrote a blog called Why I’m NOT Leaving LuLaRoe, and I announced I’m leaving LuLaRoe this week…and then I noticed some hits on that old post, and thought I should probably drag that elephant out here and talk about it.

I reread the blog and I stand behind everything it said except one part. I no longer LOVED my job. I was doing my job, but I LOVED everything else I was doing more. The things that I loved about LuLaRoe still stand. Creating a community so that no one feels alone, gathering with women, working for myself, and being home with my family, ALL of that stands.

This morning I got up, opened the barn, and took my time with the animals and watered the garden. I read my twins a book, made bread for our lunches and the rest of the week from scratch, researched and pitched a free lance article. I washed dishes with a rag I knit myself while I watched my kids through the window picking Mulberry leaves off the tree together in the sunshine to make our own herbal teas. They discovered silk worm eggs on a leaf and we made a habitat so they can watch their lifecycle happen up close. And this is all I want. And this is what I want to do and where I’m meant to be. People will think we are weird or odd, and that’s ok. They will never understand and they don’t need to.

It’s what we’ve chosen and it feels right. We will sell some tea, and some knit wash rags, and write, and host craft classes and keep building our community. We will all learn together and share what we can through social media.

So while I may not sell LuLaRoe anymore, I still believe in the things I wrote. And I still love the brand and all my friends who still sell it, and there are exciting things coming! Did you see the tank top? Finally! I hope all my friends sell the bananas out of those clothes. I’ll be here. Writing about chickens and making tea, and being super happy with my choices while I do it.

Make your choices for you and no one else, and if they think you’re weird, it’s just because they don’t understand 🙂

I Left My Heart on the Table

I was yelling at my kids today. I’m not sure why. But there was kind of a lot of yelling. I tried to apologize and then explain to them why I was yelling. I poured my heart out about the “mental load” that many writers and bloggers have been writing on lately, the part of your mind-space reserved everyday for all of things that need to be done and all of the things you need to remind other people to do for the household or for yourself. I started asking them questions, like who knows how to empty the dishwasher? Do you know it needs to be done even if I don’t ask you? Who knows how to brush their teeth without being told? Who knows where their plate goes after breakfast without being reminded to clean it up and where to put it?

The resounding answers were that they all knew, but none of them do it without being asked. They know how to start laundry and they all have an assigned laundry day. Never once has one of them started their laundry without me telling them to start it. And this is where the mental load gets heavy. As primary parents, caregivers, whatever, it’s super exhausting to micromanage everyone’s lives. They are children, so I know I need to know when important things come up, like they’re due for the dentist and make that appointment (note to self for the 12th day in a row, call dentist) and I accept that responsibility. But why do I need to tell them to put clothes on their body every single day? Why do I need to know when they showered last and why don’t they know they need a shower? Can they not see or smell that they are dirty? Why do I need to remind them that when we go to the car for a full day of classes that someone needs to grab the backpack, the lunch, and the piano music bag?

I’d love just a brief glimpse inside their brains and what their mind is filled with on a daily basis. One of my goals as a parent,and particularly a homeschooling parent, is to teach them to be strong, independent adults with life skills. At what age do they just know that things need to be done without being told 9,000,682 times?

So there I sat at the kitchen table pouring my heart out to them. They were receptive. They smiled. They nodded. The little one told me that when I look busy she could say hey it looks like you need help, mama, can I help? And I cried because she was so sweet and she understood!

Then I walked into the other room and within 10 minutes all of that eager helpfulness was gone. Dead on the floor. The mental load was left resting on the dishes still on the table. The juice cups mocking me with sweating koolaid rings. The laundry, left unswitched in the machine. And I yelled some more.

Suddenly, I understood. I NEED A BREAK. And that’s ok. And I am saying it out loud and I’m saying it with purpose. I NEED A BREAK. It doesn’t mean I don’t love them or appreciate them. I just need a minute with my own thoughts where I’m not the nag micromanaging everything. I tried to remember the last time I did something without them that wasn’t work, and the only thing I could come up with was the time I met a friend at target two months ago and we walked around drinking Starbucks for 2 hours. It was glorious.

I adore my kids. They’re fun and funny. They’re truly good kids. But I need a minute. Do you?

Glued

Once upon a time, I was a creative genius…

Armed with a bin full of feathers, a hot glue gun, and a 2am coffee buzz I would sit at my kitchen table with the madness of a scientist who just used the lightning to create new life where there was none before.  From the outside, I’m sure I just looked straight crazy.  But in my mind’s eye, I was expressing some deep part of my Native American roots and communing with the feathers as they told me what it was they wanted to be.  I realize now, I may have been talented, but I was also extremely sleep deprived and something was missing from my life.

I grew up a creative person.  My old friends, my parents, my teachers, etc. would probably use the words artistic and creative to describe me.  I wrote.  I drew.  I painted.  I sewed. I played piano.  I acted.  I directed.  I did none of these things perfectly.  I was not a protege.  But I did them all and they made up a piece of who I was.  WAS.  W A S.  3 painful little letters making a word that describes something gone, something that no longer IS.

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When I first started making headbands and jewelry from feathers, I was sad.  I felt like I had become a mom (a good one) but nothing more.  I am not belittling being a mom.  It’s the best job I’ve ever had.  It’s by far the most rewarding, and it’s definitely the most challenging.  Somehow, in the challenge and the hustle, I lost my identity.  I lost my ability to be anything but a mom.  At the time, I had 2 children.  I was waitressing.  I was a nanny to my nieces, and I was working opposite shifts of Lewis and doing every day the same.  So I found something that was for me.

I spent money we did not have, and time I could have used sleeping, or cleaning, or doing laundry; curling nagori goose feathers with safety scissors or twisting peacock swords into new unique shapes and images.  I burned my fingers on hot glue and I didn’t even feel it…possibly because it was some serotonin/dopamine induced haze.  I needed to create something that was mine and mine alone.  I needed something to be proud of that was not a tiny human.  ANYTHING.

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As mothers, many of us bury ourselves in our children.  We do for them.  We do because of them.  And we do to benefit THEM.  But who are you?  What do you do or do you have that is uniquely yours?   And if the answer is nothing, how do you survive?  I felt guilty at the time for being tired the next day, or for thinking about things I could make when I should have been reading Hop on Pop and doing puzzles.  I felt like I was taking something away from Renna and Sam.  So even in my joy, my mom brain was able to turn that into guilt and somehow what was entirely about me, became about them in the light of day.  But not at 2am.  At 2am I was alone in the quiet and I was creating something I saw in my head.  Something I hadn’t seen anywhere else before.   At 2am, I was gluing myself back together.  At 2am I felt whole.

I’ve changed directions with my creativity more times than I can count in this life.  And I’m sure I’m not done yet.  I went from feather creations, to hats, to dance clothes, to felted animals, to painting, to sensory toys, to websites, to a masters degree I had no idea what I would do with, to a blog 😉 . But what I do know, is that as time has passed I am able to beat that guilt away (most of the time).  I see in my children a 2am spirit.  They are creative.  They look up to me.  They imitate what I do, and they will stay glued together because of 2am.  I didn’t take anything away from them.  I showed them a spirit.  I showed them what life looks like when you’re feeling more fulfilled and you can create.  And I truly don’t think they’re any worse for the wear…yet.  This is a bit of rambling, but it’s almost 2am, and I’m pretty sure my point is, that when you hold on to those pieces of you, you ARE doing for THEM.  And they will do for themselves some day.

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-Mary

To see my feathers and glue site (down since I found out I was pregnant with the twins 5 YEARS AGO) go here:  www.fancythatfeathers.weebly.com

Also, now you know why I am always wearing hats…well that and for ALL the days I don’t wash my hair…

 

 

 

Tall & Chubby

Buckle up, this is probably a sappy post.  When I was 13 years old, I was already shopping at Tall Girl, that store most average women never gave a second thought, you know, by Target in Utica.  I don’t know exactly how tall I was at 13, but it’s the first year I remember being seriously taller than classmates.  It’s also an age when we become very aware of ourselves and start to fall into the trap of comparison.  Well, I went shopping at Tall Girl with my mom one day, and the manager, Tammie, was working.  She was full of life and spunk.  She was fun and she told you what she was thinking.  Always.  And if she didn’t, her face did 😉  Tammie said something to 13 year old me that day I was shopping with my mom that I have never forgotten.  She told me to always stand up straight.  You’re going to be tall regardless, you might as well look nice and have good posture.  MIND BLOWN.  I was going to be tall regardless.  It is true that I could be tall and stand hunched, or I could be tall and stand up nice and not look like a silly hunch back trying to pretend she’s not tall.  I chose straight.  I tried on a pink swimsuit that day with a zipper up the front that I LOVED.  I stood up straight and I felt beautiful.  Then my mom made me put it back because I was 13 and it was a $70 swimsuit in 1995…hard pass.  So no swimsuit that day, but words I would carry with me always.

As an adult I’m 6’1″.  I’m plus sized, which is a really nice way to tell you I’m chubby and have been for over a decade.  In college I once had mono for 2 months, and after that I was smoking hot.  But it was short lived.  A good dose of mono does wonders for weight loss, but I still wouldn’t recommend it.  I hear spleens are important.

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OH MY BLOG!  DID I REALLY JUST POST THAT PHOTO?  Am I sweating?  I think I’m sweating… But here I am.  This is a photo I took when I started a diet plan last August.  It was supposed to be my before and it was supposed to be for my eyes only sort of…so I don’t know what the heck I was just thinking.  But it’s out there on the line now.  The diet came and went and it’s possible you could say I failed but I’m going with I wasn’t ready. This is what I look like.  And even if I don’t always love it, this is the reality of a body that has worked hard it’s whole life (I’ve had demanding jobs since I was 12), carried 4 beautiful children (it has super powers and can carry two at a time), and a body that carries the soul inside of it.  ME.

It has always been difficult for me to shop.  Tall Girl closed it’s doors awhile back, and for a short time I had no store that felt like home.  Enter LuLaRoe.  That’s the boutiques part of our Barnes & Boutiques.  I was invited to a LuLaRoe pop up boutique in Grand Rapids.  It was too far, I’d never heard of it, and I didn’t have any money anyway.  But I started looking into it online.  I fell in love with the idea of their clothes.  I was messaging my hostess friend, Sarah, and the consultant, Emily, back and forth about how interested I was.  They had just come out with Tall & Curvy leggings.  Hey!  I am both Tall & Curvy and I have legs!  I wanted to try them!  Sarah, my world changer, sent me some of their clothes as a gift.  She’s an amazing human.  2 and a half years later, and I am the proud owner of a boutique FULL of LuLaRoe.

The funniest part of this job to me, is that I model my clothing line and take photos and post them on social media.  Me.  Chubby, super tall, me.  But here’s the thing.  I do love me.  Flaws and all.  I KNOW I’m not perfect.  I KNOW I’m not a model.  But when I put on the right clothes, I feel good.  I feel proud to be in my skin, and these clothes have reinforced that for me.  I’ve also watched them do it for other people too.   Some people think LuLaRoe is a trend.  A fad.  I disagree.  Loving yourself is always en vogue.  Putting on clothes that are comfortable that make you feel beautiful never goes out of fashion.  Pieces, styles, and prints may change but walking out the door without the hunch of hiding in your clothes will remain.

I have no qualms telling you most of these photos took several shots and knowing my angles.  But I do know my angles, so there.  And I know when I FEEL confident and comfortable, other people can see that too.  I won’t be going out the door in my Olivia Newton John Black cat suit any time soon, but in these clothes I feel beautiful.

 

I hope you tell your body how much you love it today!

-Mary