Monday, February 26, 2018

Proud Moments, Happy Heart

When I started this blog, my sole intent was to display the journey of motherhood... the real one, or at least my reality.  After a year or two, when life got real, I shied away.  I started feeling like it was too much to write down and expose.  My reality felt hard and raw and not normal.  It was frustrating and taxing, not fun, and felt like all work to raise my kids.  I felt like I would be judged if I displayed that.  I felt like I was the only person who felt like I did, who had the kids that I did.  On the complete opposite, I started to feel like if I shared good things, I was bragging or showing a "highlight reel."  Those two opposing thoughts caused me to just stop writing all together.  I really hated that.  I missed writing and missed documenting their lives. So, I'm going to write... write about real, unfiltered life without the guilt of good times and the humiliation of bad. 

My last post was a small glimpse of these two extremes.  The times when motherhood is hair-pulling, frustrating, and feels so unnatural are those moments of wanting to wave the white flag, but they are often coupled with pure good moments that make your heart swell. Tonight, those moments are on my heart.

There have been many times in the last year or two where I've been able to watch something the kids do and be so proud of things they are doing.  Recent ones I've noticed are:

Instance 1 - Emily is becoming reflective and learning to apologize.  This past Fall, I had come to my low point with her.  That is a whole post of it's own, but suffice it to say that I was concerned that something was wrong.  I got her evaluated and spoke with several professionals, and ::drum roll:: it's her personality and apparently she may be on the more intelligent side, which just makes her sharper and harder to handle.  I've worked with giving her clear expectations, explaining why we follow certain rules, how to engage appropriately in social situations, on and on.  This has been a process, but there has certainly been positive advancements.  Most recently is the reflection.  I've noticed her coming up to me a little while after an instance and giving me a heartfelt, thorough apology.  Today she started to cry (loudly) when Josh chose the toy she wanted at the pizza place.  -- As an aside, best pizza place EVER.  Joes Pizza II in Emmaus... we go there every few weeks for lunch and this week they had saved 5 little stuffed animals from the claw machine and gave one to each kid.  Emily wanted the one Josh got and pitched a fit. --  Later, she hurt Annie while they were in the stroller together.  She came up to me, out of nowhere last night, and said "I'm very sorry that I cried at the pizza place.  I should have taken the stuffed animal nicely.  I'm also sorry I hurt Annie in the stroller."  Her tone is sincere and her heart is looking for acceptance.  This is HUGE for the firecracker that she was that just blazed her own path and didn't care who she knocked over in the process. 

Instance 2 - School.  The big three are in elementary school.  Not only do they repeatedly have good grades and parent/teacher conference reports, but all three have been recognized by their teachers as model students.  There is an assembly each month and each of them have had a month where they have been called out and given a certificate.  On top of that, their school has something called the "Principal's 100 Board."  If you go above and beyond, you are sent to the office to be put on the Principal's 100 Board.  All THREE of them have been on that board this year.  June and Elizabeth were on the board last year.  Josh was left out last year, but not only did he get on the board this year, but he also was chosen (this is by chance) to attend a special trip with the principal.  I guess they are making and decorating pizzas...?  Regardless, as super frustrating as they are in the day-to-day, I'm so proud of them for how they act when outside of my sight.  Granted, this is only elementary school... as they get more freedom in middle and high school, who knows what choices they will make and what type of people they will truly become, but for now, I'm so happy with them and their school behavior.  I'm very hard on them and myself, so having them in school is such a good check for me to hear that all is well and they are good humans. 

Instance 3 - I suppose since I spoke about #1, 2, 3, and 4, I should mention little miss 5.  Annie is 3 and 3 year olds are pretty much the worst.  However, Annie is a sweetheart.  She is the most cuddly loving little bug EVER.  She wants "huggies" all the time and will grab my face in her little hands and say "I love you, mom."  She's so sweet.  She also responds well when I give her boundaries.  She still has her pacifier (I know I KNOW...) but when I see it in her mouth and remind her it's for her bed she will reply, "Ok, I will put it in my bed."  She's not perfect... she's 3, but there are glimmers of good in her too. :P

Instance 4 - Collaboration.  This is my favorite, I think.  The five of them are messy, and fight, and watch too much screen, and can't seem to remember how to play with toys, but then... they can have the biggest hearts and work together in collaboration to achieve something for someone.  For instance, Josh asked me this morning if he could buy June a gift because June gave him a gift for his birthday.  I agreed and went to Target with them.  I bought a gift from Jim and me and I told Josh and Elizabeth they had $15 to buy something from the 4 of them.  They huddled and shopped and deliberated and picked an awesome gift for June.  When we got home they found Christmas wrapping paper and a glue stick and wrapped all the gifts (7 total).  Josh got a gift bag, put the gifts in there and stuffed it with pretty paper.  He and Eliz made a card and they have it hidden in Josh's closet for June's birthday this week.  The love that they have for one another, deep down... real underlying unconditional love is amazing.  They squabble and fight and irritate the hell out of each other, but man, they love that I see come out sometimes, THAT is why I chose to have a big family. 

Instance 5 - Collaboration Part 2.  This one I have to share too, only because I don't want to forget it.  On Valentine's Day I woke up to 4 Valentines Day cards (June sleeps later than me so he missed out, lol).  Josh and Eliz got the little 2 in on it and all of them made me a card.  They even helped Annie.  She scribbled me some orange blobs and cut fringe around the edge of her paper.  They also exchanged their own gifts.  I don't know who gave who what, but I do know that Emily treasures her stuffed animals and she gave every last one away on Valentines Day.  So sweet. 

Kids are hard.  Parenting is hard.  It's so worth it though.  I like my kids.  I may be raising good people after all...

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Whiplash Parenting

Ya'll... I feel like I am located within an insane asylum on a pretty much daily basis.  I don't mean that in a "my kids drive my crazy" kind of way.  I'm speaking more to the mental toggle that is the ups and downs; the severe highs and low lows of parenting that occur within moments of each other.  The emotional whiplash that comes from observing and correcting children antics.  There can be this monumental feeling of "Good gracious I am failing and am raising sociopaths" and then the other end of the spectrum... the elation of  "Look at these wonderful character traits... I'm raising beautiful people!" These very same thoughts can occur within moments of each other, often!  The mental strain of motherhood is unlike any other. Amiright?

To backtrack, my kids are 10(b), 9(b), 7(g), 5(g), and 3(g).  They have the capability to be so incredibly thoughtful and sweet.  They can be helpful and capable, good solid human beings, not only on their own, but working together in collaboration as well.  They do things that make my heart swell and affirm why I had children in the first place.

Then... well then they can be barbaric, incapable of speaking in a normal human pitch: the yeller, the whiner, the crier, the link-up of voices that mimic a full high school cafeteria level of noise... They can show absolutely no respect for the livelihood of each other and can be so cutting and mean.  Defiant, rude, irrational, irresponsible (how hard is it to put the milk away and put shoes in their shoe bin?!)...

Then they revert back to polite and capable. Dude, I can only take so much back-and-forth.  Anyone else feel me?

Tonight Emily cleaned the whole dining room after dinner, by herself, then within a few seconds of joining the rest of the children again, she did something to make Annie scream. ::face palm::

I don't know if this is everyone's kids or just mine...

I mean, don't get me wrong, the highs are awesome.  Seeing the times that they care for one another, respect you, listen and obey and do things without being told make the whole journey worthwhile.  During those times I truly feel like I am seeing their future selves.

But then...

When June is on a vendetta to get Josh admitted to the hospital,  Josh is egging on June and whining that he's getting hurt (but does NOTHING to get himself out of the situation),  Elizabeth is crying over Josh stepping on her homework,  Emily is angry because Elizabeth colored on her picture,  Annie is screaming because the pony shirt is dirty in the wash and she wants to wear it, and the dog is zooming around because the kids riled her up.  In THOSE moments, it feels like a fast track to loony town.

Then moments later, somehow, peace emerges and they sit together harmoniously watching a show calmly.

I think motherhood provides the mental conditioning necessary to face pretty much any task, vocation, or moment in life.  Dealing with the above conditions for the last 11 years, I feel pretty sharp.  Either that or my mind is slowly slipping and they are sending me to an early grave.

Whiplash parenting... anyone?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Dear Elizabeth - 11/23/2017

Dear Elizabeth, 

Right now you are 7.  You are in 2nd grade and blossoming.  You are really good at math and a rule follower.  Your teachers adore you EVERY year.  You started gymnastics a few months ago and are obsessed... working on skills whenever you have the chance.  You are proving to be one of the mellowest Conrads, but with a fierce passion and strong will despite your pleasant  nature.  You feel deep and tears come quickly.  You don't want to do wrong, be wrong, or get corrected and your heart is soft.    

All of these things are items that I've noticed in the last year as you have grown and matured.  However, there is something else recently that I decided is worth a letter to you.  This is my first letter, by the way.  I tend to start and stop on my blog so maybe this will be the first and only, but I would like to think that this will be the first of hundreds that I write to you kids as you age.  Anyway, what I noticed lately and something that I have prayed for, but wasn't sure had been answered in my favor, is to have a child (preferably multiple children) with a servant's heart.  I would love to cultivate hearts that want to give back and want to serve.  

Elizabeth, you have a servant's heart.  Today, I was getting ready for Thanksgiving and the house was a mess from breakfast and a morning of playing, and the typical chaos was reigning.  I decided to quick clean up before we left and nobody wanted to help.  Honestly, I didn't even ask.  I just decided to quick clean as much as I could.  You walked in shortly after I had started and I cut you off "Elizabeth, I'm cleaning and if you are down here, I am going to give you a job," I said curtly.  You happily replied, "I will help clean. What can I do?"  You didn't pick the things you liked to do best, you wanted to know what needed to get done.  You picked up toys and took them to the livingroom. You cleared the counter.  You vacuumed the kitchen.  You wanted to switch the laundry and was annoyed that it wasn't ready to be changed.  You really seem to love laundry.  You helped in any way I needed and you know what?  We got the kitchen and dining room cleaned in time.  

Every time I am cooking, you want to help.  When there is a task to complete, you complete it with a happy heart. Even your own jobs: homework is done to completion without me asking.  You are always dressed and ready in the morning.   Elizabeth, I am so thankful for you.  For your gentle, pleasant, giving heart.  Your ability to get joy from helping others.  

Sure, your siblings annoy you and when you see someone doing something wrong, you are quick to correct them yourself.  You can be quick to anger and strong with your tone and those frequent tears aren't easy to handle as a mom.  You are human, but I feel so much admiration and gratefulness when I watch you and see your little servant's heart growing.  You are truly becoming a beautiful girl inside and out.  I am enjoying watching you grow.  Thank you for how intentional you are in life.  Thank you for helping, especially when nobody else wants to help.  

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Motherhood loooooow

My emotions are much calmer than last week which is so so good because that was a little scary.  I felt very depleted and empty and ineffective.  Each of those are pretty awful ways to feel. Most of this stems from motherhood.  Hardest job I've ever had.  I shoulder the kids behaviors intensely and recently seeing some (end of summer, probably pretty normal) frustrating behaviors, I felt like throwing my hands in the air and waving a white flag.  I try to parent well.  I try to be present and intentional.  In addition to that, I'm adventurous and we have a good summer, and then a steady school year with structure and reliability.  I try very hard to be a good mom, and not in the "Go me" sense but the "raise them right" sense, but when I do all of that and then see lying, destruction, rowdy antics, disrespectful tones, and defiance... there eventually is a straw which temporarily breaks me. Seeing those behaviors are just a gut punch.  I try to continue on, but I start to react instead of respond.  My fuse shortens and my anger increases... I start to hate how I am acting and hate how they are acting and that final straw descends. That straw fell about a week ago.

Thankfully, I had a week of an alomst understanding, silent husband.  He wants to "fix" things but knows to just sink to the background because in those moments, I don't need things fixed, I need to process.  I need time. I need to think.  I need to go slow. I had a week with the kids in school, and a new book in hand, uplifting podcasts in ear... I also had a week of good conversations with just the right people.  Hard truths, refreshing words, lots of thinking and a few solid suggestions later I am renewed.  My head is on straight again.

And thank goodness... man that dark place is zero fun.

When I feel the hard feelings coming in, I tend to shame myself "Why did you choose this life, you aren't good at it!"  "I don't see everyone's kids acting like that!" "Did you see that stare you just got?"  "Did you hear how your kid was just talked about?"  "You are awful at this mom thing!" And my mind reels.  Those words feel so true.  So real.

So I write all of this in case there is someone else out there, trying their best, but feeling those lies.  This week, I feel calmer.  I feel able.  I feel comfortable in this role as a mother.  I don't feel superior... I don't feel mastered... but I feel ok. And ok is ok.

Onward, mothers!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Pardon my mental baggage...

When I started blogging, I did it for 2 reasons.

1. I wanted a way to tangibly remember my kids' childhood and my own journey of motherhood.

2.  I wanted to remember the reality of them, and not my mind's rose colored memory.

When I began blogging I wrote about the day to day.  I wrote about highs, I wrote about lows, funny anecdotes, and the seemingly mundane.  I wrote in a stream of consciousness.  I didn't proofread much.  I didn't focus on grammar or the perfect picture to accompany. I. just. wrote. And that worked for me beautifully.  My two goals were achieved and my blog had a steady flow to it.

I always intended to write about the real, but my real got REAL... too real, big hard emotions real. Life got harder and my resolve to show the real started to falter... Why?  Because the day to day got hard.  Big life stuff with marriage and kid behaviors and health and sensitive topics were flooding life.  I wanted to share, but also needed digression.  This particularly pertains to marriage.  It's HARD.  We dealt with some bigger things, personality clashes, each of us crashing down at different points, and I didn't want to showcase that.  That was all between Jim and myself.  I couldn't pull it into a blog.  It didn't feel appropriate.  So I went quiet.  Now, from all the observing I've done about marriage I don't think we are the exception.  Our marriage has been worth ever struggle we have crawled through and the end goal has always been in sight (hand in hand enjoying each other's company when we are 80), but the path to that goal it's a linear climb.  So when kid life got harder, marriage got harder, life got busier, and Susie got swamped, my blog got dropped.

My own thoughts became less fun.  My frustrations became more real.  I've had times of feeling apathetic toward motherhood.  I've had times where I question if I am doing anything right.  I have times when I just feel numb.  Through all that I kick myself because some of the sweetest memories have ticked by, undocumented because all these real life hard feelings covered them and prevented me from sharing here.

When I became a mom I was calm.  I was level headed, cool, collected, and unruffled.  When I started to rip from that place, I stopped sharing my journey.  However, I am ready to come back.  Life isn't calmer.  Life isn't easier.  There has been a tremendous amount of growth.  Life has been goooooooood, amid the normal amount of hard, but my mindset has been murky.  Beyond that, when I was blogging I got further sucked into how to be a "blogger" and I stopped writing.  I felt like it was too much to be a blogger so it didn't make sense to keep blogging.

You know what?  That's crap.  I don't care.  I don't know how often I will blog going forward. I won't be running things by a blogger's rule book.  I don't know how uplifting this blog will be, but this is my place.  I am going to write... I'm going to write the good, bad, and ugly.  I'm documenting... because I regret not documenting the last few years.  Don't say I didn't warn you if there are a fair amount of ACK!! posts amid the fuzzy and warm ones.  Real life isn't fuzzy and warm.

See you on the flip side