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Miranda: Choose your own creative ending

The following was inspired by Kelly’s recent post, which reminded me that I often struggle with the same issues over and over again. I figure out what works, then somehow “forget” what I figured out and find myself reinventing the wheel a few days/weeks/months later. So here’s a little lecture to myself. I thought I’d share, just in case there’s anything useful in here for you too.

The scenario (based on actual events):
A simple ambition: a trip to the park. It takes about 38 minutes to get out the door, but finally the 3-year-old and the 2-month-old are strapped into their carseats. The baby starts fussing before we’re even out of the driveway despite the fact that I just tanked him up before departure. During the 10-minute drive, I nearly break my arm off trying to reach behind my seat to rock the baby, who is increasingly frantic. When we finally get to the park, I squeal into a spot, leap out of the car, and extract the wailing baby from his carseat. I release the older child too, so that he can climb around in the car while I nurse his brother.

When the baby is sated and calm, I strap him into the front pack. I put hats on both boys, only to discover that my 3-year-old has pooped in his Pull-Up. I lie him down in the back of the minivan to change him. The baby, still in the frontpack, complains about being dangled horizontally during the process. Unfortunately I don’t have any more Pull-Ups in my diaper bag; just things for the baby and a couple of outgrown toddler diapers. I put a diaper on my son and he complains that it’s too small, and itchy on the sides. I notice that he walks a little funny. He’s not happy, but we make it to the sandbox.

The baby is still fussy; I’ve tucked a burp cloth under his chin but he manages to spit up all over both of us. In less than 6 minutes, the 3-year-old says he’s hot and wants to go home. We go back to the car and get a drink from yesterday’s water bottle. Before I can successfully convince my older child to stick it out for a few more minutes, the baby starts making pterodactyl noises and has a full-on diaper blow out, staining his clothes as well as my shirt. Second stint in the back of the car; I clean the baby and change his clothes. The preschooler still wants to go home. I feed the baby again. Then I strap both boys back into their seats and start the car.

Reaction option #1:
As I drive home, I can’t help but cry. My life is a continual struggle against a tidal wave of minutiae. My attempts to be a “good” mother are foiled at every turn. I have so little emotional margin that I snap at the kids for the littlest issues. I have no time to write. I have no time to exercise. I can’t fit in my non-maternity pants yet. I’m stress-eating bags of cookies when no one above the age of 2 is looking. My husband and I are adrift in the sea of separation that often arrives with a newborn. I’m exhausted. I’m overwhelmed and can’t deal with the fact that I really need to stop at the store and buy milk on the way home. And now my face is all red and puffy from crying.

Reaction option #2:
As I drive home, I can’t help but laugh. The morning was an exercise in futility, to the point of humor. But at least we got out of the house and enjoyed a few minutes of sunshine. The situation was a little stressful, but I kept my cool and didn’t yell at anyone or tear my hair out. Now we can stop at the store for milk, which I needed to get anyway. I call my husband to share the ridiculous story and a few giggles of commiseration.

How to increase the chances that your reaction will be #2:
As I noted in an earlier blog post, being creative on a regular basis is a natural stress reliever and perspective restorer. We know this. We know many things about how to live our lives with purpose and serenity. But, speaking for myself, it’s so easy to forget all those things that we worked so hard to learn. I CAN do a good job and feel capable and satisfied, but sometimes I forget that I’ve already figured it out.

The solution? Write it all down on one page. Create a mission statement. Make a list of the important things you’re doing, and why you’re doing them. Jot down your favorite mantras. Then, every morning, before you do anything else—or maybe while you’re brushing your teeth (tape the page to the inside of your medicine cabinet?)—read the page. The whole page. Read every word, take a few deep breaths, and remember who you are and what you’re doing. If at any time throughout the day you feel at loose ends, go back and read your page. Read it at night, too, if it helps. This is your centering point. Moi, I need centering.

Stay centered and be creative, wherever and however you can. You’ll be the mother you want to be, without even trying. (OK, there will be a little trying, but it won’t be as hard.) And maybe, just maybe, I won’t have to keep re-learning the things I know all too well.

So, today, I am going to take some time and create my centering sheet. If anyone is interested, I’ll be happy to share it.

19 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oh Miranda! I can SO TOTALLY RELATE to your scenario (based on actual events of course!). The thing about twins is they are both at the same stage at the same time, right?. My girls will be 5 next week and it STILL sometimes takes 38 minutes to get us all out the door. With blue-eyed red-heads, sun block is always a must. There were so many times early on when I’d go through those exact same steps you describe; I particularly giggled at the reaching back into the backseat to soothe the baby while driving…I was a true contortionist at that! Since my girls were 7 weeks premature, I stayed home with theme for 6 months before going back to work, doctor’s orders. By two months we were able to start getting out a bit and it would literally take me an hour to prepare for that, making sure I packed everything I needed, planning as much as possible to get out between nursing sessions (though I did have to nurse in some strange places at times, including smack dab in front of the front door of Walgreens when my Trooper just happened to die in that choice parking spot and we were stuck there for an hour and a half). Sometimes I wondered if it was worth all that effort! I definitely had days of Reaction #1, and still do! But thankfully I manage to pull out some Reaction #2’s sometimes as well. A trip to the Gate station for an Icee usually settles us all down. 🙂 But yes, a mantra like that is a great idea. I always had to keep reminding myself that even if my girls didn’t really care about getting out of the house at two months old, I needed to get out of the house. We do know what we’re doing most of the time, don’t we? Isn’t that why God gave us the title “Mommy”? Nice to know that we all need a little reminder every now and then. I have a little sticky note that I keep on my computer monitor at work that says “Have a V-8!”. I keep them in my office fridge but I forget about them without that reminder. Yep, I need a reminder of that sort at home… I might go back to that “breathe…accept” thought.

    July 24, 2008
  2. cathy #

    miranda, i found this a comedy of errors from the beginning. thanks for the laugh. and the reminder to keep a sense of humor about it all.

    a month or so ahead of you in post-partum, i am exercising a bit here and there (does up and down the stairs count? yes!) and have acquiesced to something i previously swore i’d never resort to living in: tucking my hangy, big belly into sweat pants. not even elastic waist, pure drawstring!

    prior to child 3 preg, i was still squeezing into a 4. i’ve more than doubled that at the moment. so don’t be so hard on yourself at 8 weeks post-partum for not fitting in pre-preg clothes….and keep up your nursing calorie intake! i’m sure the minutae wrestling counts as exercise, too.

    July 24, 2008
  3. Oh Miranda,

    I can so totally relate. Yesterday, Sam was playing nicely with his Thomas the Train set, so I seized the opportunity to practice nursing John (going lots better by the way!). Then one of my best friends called. I ignored the fact that Sam took advantage of mommy being preoccupied to steal away into Daddy’s office… He was very quiet and I had a luxuriously nice chat with my friend… until the silence from Daddy’s office was broken by talk of “doot” (poop for those unfamiliar with the 2 year old linguistic lexicon). Uh oh… this can’t be good. I hang up the phone, put John in the pack and play, and go see what mischief Sam’s gotten himself into.

    My type-A, neat freak husband’s office is a scene of carnage. There is cat food spread across the carpet from wall to wall. The cat litter scoop is in the center of the room and a tell-tale trail of litter leads back to the litter box. Thomas the Tank Engine is upended in the cat’s water dish, half consumed by a layer of mushy-cat-food-and-self-clumping-litter quicksand. Sam’s diaper is sagging nearly to his knees. I try to grab him but he makes a break for it and heads to the dining room and the newly-laid, perfectly pristine tile floors. In his zeal to escape, the diaper creeps ever lower, until it lands on the floor. Now half-naked Sam and I begin a little dance around the dining room table, he kicks off his diaper, a huge ball of poop goes flying out from it, bounces onto a tile, then another one. Of course Sam steps in it and tracks a poop circle around the dining room table, giggling nonstop as John wails from the living room.

    For a brief moment I wanted to scream and pull out my hair. And then I opened my writer’s eye and took notes instead. Someday this is going into a novel. It’s too perfectly awful to keep it to myself.

    I was also able to keep my cool because of how often we’ve talked on here about letting creativity happen and going with the flow. Between the blog posts and the weekly contests, I’ve realized that a little spontenaity is a good thing in life – even when no one else appreciates it and it requires no small amount of clean up. Yes, Sam made a horrendous mess in the office, but it was a creative effort nonetheless. I was able to see it for what it was and not be upset by it. Apparently 2 year olds and their mothers both need opportunities to slip away and experiment, make messes, and be creative in their own ways.

    July 24, 2008
  4. OH. MY. GOD. BRITTANY! Now that I’m done laughing AND crying over your story, I don’t even know what to say. I do know this, however: the next time anything stressful happens around here, I will say to myself: “Well, it doesn’t compare to The Story of Doot, now, does it?” And then I’ll just smile serenely and carry on like a veritable Mary Poppins.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, for gifting us with the mother of all reality checks. And a massive pat on the back for keeping your cool! My awe capacity has reached a new height…

    July 24, 2008
  5. cathy #

    brittany, that is hysterical!!! and i needed the laugh.

    glad to hear about john nursing better! yay! i have been wondering about how that was going. just so you know, baby c is growing wonderfully regardless of her shallow sucking, too.

    July 24, 2008
  6. Cathy, this might help baby C – advice from the occupational therapist that helped John go from not nursing to wonderful latch, good deep suck nearly overnight-

    She had me switch Sam’s bottle to one with a very prominent nipple (I use the NUK bottles now), get the same brand pacifier and freeze them, and use the nipples as a nipple shield for the first few minutes of nursing (yes, stick the bottle nipple over your nipple…I know crazy! But it works!)

    The prominent bottle nipple forces the baby to suck harder to get the milk to flow, and the frozen pacifier causes the baby to suck in their cheek muscles, which exercises them, allowing a harder suck.

    If John starts shallow/lazy sucking, the OT has me use my free hand to stick my thumb and pointer fingers onto his cheeks–it allows him to “cheat” by giving him more cheek muscle strength when he’s tired.

    I’m so excited by John’s progress I could shout it from the rafters. I’ve only pumped twice today! Yippee!

    July 24, 2008
  7. yep, i agree, brittany’s story will go down in the record books! hysterical!

    July 24, 2008
  8. Juliet Bell #

    Oh my God – this is one of the BEST exchanges – great laughs over morning coffee. Over Dad’s office, I would have taken option #1 for sure, so congratulations. And…I love the image of the Trooper stuck in front of Walgreens – like one of those dreams we have of being naked on stage. You all make me wish I had a chance to do it all over again – what different choices I might have made.

    July 25, 2008
  9. thanks for suggestions, brittany. we have given her nuk pacis, but at this point my pedi and i decided, if she’s managing to eat fine, don’t even introduce it if she’s not really interested. worst is her ‘falling off’ and gettig back on frequently, so she has big burps.

    the sunday a few weeks back, when i was stuck on all fours for a few hours in the backyard w/slipped disc, my mil tried desperately to give her a bottle, but she just got mad. granted, she may have started that way….otherwise, we’re doing fine. happy to hear you are now, too! and i didn’t even know the cheeksqueeze i had stumbled upon was an ot solution!

    July 25, 2008
  10. Cathy #

    i had a little help w/ a creative ending this week, some laughs here and through a dear friend who doles out zingers!

    July 25, 2008
  11. Yay! Cathy has an avatar now 🙂

    July 25, 2008
  12. How do you get an avatar? I want one!

    July 25, 2008
  13. Avatar instructions: save your headshot (or other image) at 128 x 128 pixels or similar square (I’m happy to do this for anyone who needs help). Log in to WordPress. In the top left corner, under the “my account” menu, select “edit profile.” On that screen you’ll find a box for uploading your avatar. Let me know if you need help!

    July 26, 2008
  14. it was a fun challenge, i just wish my hubby didn’t sneak up on me for the librarian look while i was sitting at my pc. i’ll try to get a better pic in once my boys are back from dad’s and i’ll get a pic w/all my progeny.

    now i know why my former students usually feared me at first!

    July 26, 2008
  15. Cathy #

    and don’t forget to relogin when borrowing hubby’s laptop!

    July 26, 2008
  16. I somehow just stumbled upon your blog! How wonderful. Not only is it about finding creativity, then I read this post which I could have written myself because this is my life! I have 2 boys, 11 months apart. They are now 1 and 2. Both hard ages. Just today, I think we mastered food shopping. My mood is awesome today just because of that! I look forward to reading each and every post on your blog and forwarding the link to a scrapbooking group that I have! Love it!!

    July 28, 2008
  17. Great to have you, Christie! You are really in the trenches…we look forward to hearing more from you! 🙂

    July 28, 2008
  18. I popped over here for the first time, you were linked on Kiddio. Thank you – this is really exactly what I needed to hear this week, when I’ve been feeling too frustrated and have about resigned myself to just not being a “good” mom, because the effort (a 4yo, an almost 2yo, and a 3 month old make for a handful!) just isn’t worth it. So like I said, I really needed to hear this, the reminder that it IS worth it, and all I need to do is change my perspective.

    July 29, 2008
  19. I have to give a shout out to Jacqueline of FrugalCraft, who wrote the NICEST things about my blog post! Check out: http://frugalcraft.blogspot.com/2008/07/hi-my-name-is-jacqueline-and-i-harbor.html. Wonderful to have you as a reader, Jacqueline!

    July 30, 2008

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