Where I Become Undone At An Estate Sale

Last week I was by myself for about an hour.  Unbelievable but true.
I had errands to run and I passed an estate sale at a house I've always adored and decided to stop.

I was browsing through this gorgeous old house.  And in each room the typical estate sale tables were set up with the house's contents displayed and priced.

Except they didn't really belong to the house per say.

They belonged to the family who once lived here, then once the children moved out, it all belonged to the older couple that lived there together, and then once the father passed away, the mother who lived alone for years and then too, passed away recently.  The mother who set this house up, raised the children, purchased all these things to make this lovely house a home was gone.  The last one to leave.

And the more I thought about this, the more melancholy I got.  As I browsed the contents of her kitchen, and then the leftover stash in the basement, I headed up to the bedrooms.  Five in all, one I believe was a play room once.  Windows everywhere, with simple white curtains.  She made them herself, I could tell.  Because her sewing machine looked well used and was for sale in one of the bedrooms.  In the play room, I chose two little wind up Fisher Price music boxes circa 1970.  I remember owning one myself.  There was a beautiful old doll retro looking doll stroller, and some old Barbies, a Fisher Price school house, and some wooden puzzles and dusty Legos. 

I started feeling really really melancholy.

And then I went into the last bedroom.

And on a table there were sheet sets.

You know, like EVERY estate sale has.

Tablecloths on hangers and sheet sets folded neatly, tied up and marked Twin, or Full, or Queen.

The sheet sets had big bright flowers on them.  Like 1960's sort of looking sheet sets do.

And that's when I lost it.

That's when I slammed my sunglasses down on my face, and high-tailed it out of there as quick as I could, back to the parking lot across the street where my car sat.

I couldn't stop crying.  "What the heck is wrong with me?" I thought.

"How can sheet sets make me so sad?  Get a grip for God's sake."

But I couldn't.
Because it just hit me all at once.

I am going to die.
I am going to die.

And everything that represents all the work I've done, things I've touched thousands of times, symbols of my life, all the toys I've lovingly picked out for my sweet little babies and children, the rugs I've vacuumed so many times I couldn't count, the pots I've cooked in to make meals for my family day after day, all the sheet sets I've washed and folded countless times, the house that I will have spent a lifetime coercing into a refuge for myself and my family,
it will ALL still be here,
looking like nothing much more than ordinary old things,
but I'll be gone.

To someone else, all that stuff will just look like junk.  People I don't know might rifle through it. They'll think, "Now why in heavens would someone keep sheet sets from the 1960's?  Silly old lady."

And I won't be here to tell them, first,
To keep their gosh darn hands off my clean, nicely folded sheet sets.

And second, that my precious little freshly bathed, damp-haired babies slept on those sheet sets and they are so much more than just outdated old pieces of cotton.

And I thought of my own little children and how I have such a fond memory of picking out some particular shark and surfboard sheets one day 5 years ago.

I remember being so excited to move into a house I knew would be home forever, and I ran out to pick up some new bedding that my little boys would love and found these adorable sheets on sale.  The kind of perfect find that makes a mom's day.  Exactly what I was looking for.  I had spent hours and hours planning the children's bedrooms with them, and had a notebook with swatches and ideas.  I knew something fun would ease their transition into a new room, a new house, a new place to sleep. Always scary at first, till it becomes home and you can't imagine any place else.

I know that as years would go buy and the tossing and turning and general wear and tear and washings would make those sheets thin, one day I would say to myself, "You know, I should really get some new sheets for these two little boys who aren't really little anymore."

But I could never actually bring myself to replace them.  I would stop and think that these shark and surfboard sheets trigger the memory of two little, little boys...the ones I used to be able to read stories to at night, before they could read themselves.  The boys that I used to bathe, before they insisted on showers.  The boys that would wear matching pajamas from Carters, before they wouldn't be caught dead in matching pajamas from Carters.

And I'd know that those sheets could last one more year.  Who needs the hassle anyways?  The trend now-a-days is all frugality, so I'd tell myself.  I'd sew up a tiny hole I noticed and put some new elastic in.  Good as new. Righto.

I'd push the thought of the weirdness of "hanging onto old sheets just because you have problems with your children growing older" thought out of my head and move on with my day.   I'd come to realize that once I was someone who thought it was weird to have attachment to material things, that once I was a girl who wasn't one bit sentimental, and that I once thought I'd live forever...or just chose to never think about the hands of time.  I thought my children would be young forever, I thought my role of mother would never change.  I thought I'd live in MY nirvana as long as I wished to...making a home, with my husband by my side and with my little ones near me at all times.

And here at the estate sale, that fallacy of that thought caught up with me.  It pushed me over, punched me in the gut while I was down, and screamed, "Time flies and then you are dead!" right in my face, while I was still keeled over from the first punch.  (That being the Fisher Price toys.)

I still haven't come to grips with it. 
Here's the cold hard truth of what I'm feeling right now.

What if you go through your whole life wishing back years you've already lived?
What if you DON'T want to accept that the best is yet to come, but wish for years gone by?
For as long as you live?
Is part of growing older always surrendering bit by bit to this margin of time that you have no control over?  Because that doesn't sound to easy to me.  Not too promising to my state of mind in the future if flowered sheet sets at random estate sales put me into a funk I can't escape from. 
I don't know if I can keep that up.
And that stinks.
It really does.

I am grateful for my life.
I am grateful that I'm alive.
I know that there are many people who have received much less time than me.

But I want everything to stand still.
Not now, but 2 years ago I wanted everything to stop.
Will I move on?
I don't want to.
Like a petulant child, I want to stomp my foot down and scream, "STOP because I said SO!"
And time isn't listening.
I must somehow come to grips with the fact that it never will.


He Insisted


Little Things

I was thinking the other day about a little memory of my childhood that has stayed with me.  My mother would sometimes jog up at the high school track when we were all young, and we would accompany her and play amongst the empty stands, and vacant football field.  We kept ourselves busy, while she kept herself in shape (and kept her sanity).

One day I was walking along side her during her cool down lap.  From the field next to us, as we were on the outer lane, a bird darted out and layed down beside us and flapped it's broken wing.  I was so concerned and of course, my first instinct was to run up and hold it, to see how I could help.  My mom told me not to, and explained that it was a whip-poor-will, and we must have strolled too closely to it's nest of babies.  She told me that this is how the mother bird protects it's young...she offers herself up as a distraction to perceived predators to hopefully save her babies.  I was amazed at the risk, the self sacrifice, just the wonder of such an instinct.

I understand now, of course, more than ever.  I know what it feels like to be able to easily utter the words, "I would give my life for my child"...throw myself in front of a front train, jump into swirling waters, put myself in mortal danger...whatever it takes.

But I've realized those words are also easily, dramatically said when I know that I most likely will never be put in a situation where I will make a choice between life and death for myself in order to save my children.

Now that I've been a mother for almost 2 decades, I realize that I, like so many mothers across the world, will make thousands of choices in how I want to live my life as 'mother' and none of them would be as easy as uttering a phrase of dramatic and dying love.  All of them will be tiny, little, unnoticeable choices to say NO to someone, sometimes myself, and YES to someone or something else, mostly my children. 

A job turned down,
a career set aside,
a promotion not accepted.
A budget strained tight,
pride swallowed,
a road not taken.
A trip postponed,
a meal not eaten,
a lunch with a friend cancelled.
A nap forgotten,
a hair appointment delayed,
a book set down.
A night with no sleep,
a day with no shower,
a week with no break.

Little choices I will have to make at different stages, that would indeed might make my life harder, but would speak eons to them in terms of how much I value them, and to me in terms of how important I consider my role of mother. Nothing that will bring attention to me as a hero or someone extraordinary, certainly not something to award me for, or bring me fame of any kind. Just the opposite, actually. Things that might bring attention away from me for sure. Ordinary things that usually go unnoticed.

A no to something, means a yes to something else, I once read. 

A no to the rejection to the "live every day like it's your last" lifestyle we embrace in this country.  A yes to the idea that I have a lifetime to accomplish all I want...decades that I will be able to take that nap, sleep through the night, reintroduce that planned career, go on that trip.  But a short time to be MOTHER to an infant, to a toddler, to a child.  Years I can never ever get back, and they can't either.  A price to be payed for sure.

It's never really the big things...incredible rescues, death defying feats, or like the whip-poor-will, sacrficing our lives to deter danger.  It's never as dramatic or heroic.  It's easy to say, "I would give my life for my child"...of course, just like the wonderous instincts of the whip-poor-will, we all would.  It's never that easy...it's little things that add up over a lifetime.

"It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”


My Thoughts on Breastfeeding

Here's some tips I've learned after nursing six babies:
1. I read so much before I had Isaac.  (Dr. Sears' book on breastfeeding).  I loved knowing what to expect (somewhat)...I was glad I had the  knowledge and basics already, and didn't have to rely on other's opinions.  (Not that others don't have great advice, but some of it was wrong and I'm glad I knew the basics.)

2. Boys are hungry.  I fed my boys every two hours and that two hours begins at the start of nursing!  This slowed down as they got older for sure but I tell mothers of boys to be prepared for a lot of feeding time.

3. I learned how to nurse in bed, laying on my side.  God Almighty, I'd be dead of sleep deprivation if I didn't do this.  I thank a sweet nurse at the hospital with my first baby who taught me the importance of learning that little trick.

4. Remember it only gets easier!  So many moms stop at 4 or 5 months and once they start solids at 6 or 7 months, the feedings really ease up and become so predictable.

5. I keep a schedule of nursings in the very early months.  Not so I can keep the baby on a strict schedule, but so I felt some order and predictability to my life.  Those are two words that I thrive on, and if I find myself not keeping track it feels like I'm a fish swimming upstream.  Just by writing down what time I started nursing, I knew what to anticipate and could predict a little rhythm to my days.

6. On frustrating days, I reminded myself of the benefits.  I remember googlin '100 reasons to breastfeed', to get a little boost of encouragement!  I know it was really hard for me sometimes when I felt fat, and frumpy and I was the one who had to leave book club early.

7. Lactation consultant are awesome.  I learned that almost every problem in surmountable...sore nipples, low milk supply, latching on issues.  There are SO many people who will be willing to help now!

. Pacifiers are a nursing mother's best friend.  Yes, in the beginning I was careful to not use a pacifier in place of nursing when they are hungry or you will mess with your milk supply, but once we would get going, it helped me not become a human-pacifier. (But I had two babies who didn't take them and I survived.)

9. Growth spurts are real and lead to massive feeding frenzies.  I swear one day I nursed one of my little boys it seemed like ALL day.  Crazy.  This is how they regulate your milk supply and when they are growing so fast their needs change. 

10. Finding a good nursing bra was key.  Especially if you are like me and get Pamela boobs and don't appreciate the added weight, pain and cleavage.  I have used the Leading Lady brand that I found on-line, and keep some Target cheapies for night-time.


My Thoughts and Tips on Potty Training

Here has what has worked for me and my kiddos:

Between 2 years 3 months and 2 years 6 months, I potty train. I feel like it is some sort of magic age for learning to go on their own-a window of opportunity so to speak..

I plan ahead when I'm going to start. I make sure it an easy week, and I don't do it right before a vacation or a new baby or any major change. I wait till things are calm and regular.

I get out potties or potty seats. It doesn't matter. I set one in the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms and just let them get used to it. I am introducing it, totally casual.

We go shopping for new undies...I use the thicker trainer kind at first.

I have never used pull ups! Pull ups are the invention of a bunch of diaper executives to extend their profits as long as they can. I try to put myself in my child's place-could I physically tell the difference between a diaper and a pull-up? Then how can I expect my child to? I think they need a change...the sensory aspects that trigger their brain to make them realize...oh boy, here it comes, I don't have a diaper on anymore, I've got to GO! They don't have time to ponder, 'diaper or Pull up or undie'? They also have to feel icky. Feel very wet, or very poopy.

So we are ready to begin. I have diapers for night, but hide them. No more diapers is the die hard rule. NO MORE DIAPERS.

Once diapers are off and those big boy or girl pants are on, that's it.  I don't put one on when we go somewhere, take it off at home, back and forth.  Too confusing for them.

I  keep the child as naked as possible...just undies, or very light easy to pull up or down shorts. They have to see for themselves what happens and why it happens and what it feels like and they have to learn what to do after all those things.

I don't do anything for that week or maybe two weeks if it is taking little longer. If I have to go somewhere, I pack an extra change of clothes, or wait till my husband gets home.

I will change maybe 4-15 undies those first days. (Abbey took 2 days, Andrew took 2 weeks.)  I am prepared for major laundry and don't stress out about it.  I know I will be doing a load a day during that time.

I TRY TO NEVER EVER GET FRUSTRATED!  Yes, it takes major patience. I say, "Oh now you are wet, now we have to change." Maybe I have them sit on the potty right after and explain that they need to put their pee and poop in the potty.  Never punish or be angry at a child potty-training-they are learning a new skill and that takes time.

It's amazing from their perspective all that they have to learn. They have to recognize and tie their body and brain feelings all together and then take action. This is all new and they have to make that connection.  I don't expect it to be all done in one day or two days.  It's a process.

I ask them many many times if they have to go all day long. I have them sit off and on all day if they are willing that first week. If they go-joy! I make a big deal out of it, and we celebrate. Sometimes stickers, charts, rewards work. I think I did those with the first two.

So after they get it during the day, I find that they naturally get it at night too! It will take a couple more weeks than the daytime, that's why I put a diaper on at night. When they wake up with a dry diaper, I know I am done! BUT, I have to be very very careful of the fluid intake in the evening.

Some kids like to go in the big potty...that is the easiest. There are little cushiony rims that make the opening smaller and less scarier. I used those (although everyone else hated having to move it!) with Andrew and he did great. Some others, including boys, used the training potties. I taught all my boys with the "tuck in" method, not the stand up method...it's just too hard at this age...eventually when they are tall enough, they will get it.

If you need more help, I think I developed my method after reading Dr. Sears's Baby Book. Click here for a synapses of what he suggests. It's an excellent article...the weekend method is what I based my training on.