Confessions of a Tired Mom

Jane Shenandoah, my daughter of the stars. 
This is you, at two years old,
Wearing vintage glasses and being totally silly.
You're sassy and wild, deep down.
You've got a will like steel. 
You're learning to shape it, and care for it.
And it's hard sometimes,
I know.
But someday, it's going to take you to places,
That are wild, and free, 
Like you. 



If there's one word that describes my last few weeks it's this: tired. I've been using an app called Stop, Breath and Think the last week or so and every time it asks me how I'm feeling today I spend at least 5 minutes searching for that word under all of the options (it's not there, by the way, but I still look for it every single time. Slow learner maybe?). Almost exactly a year ago I was having some scary physical issues, which ended up being diagnosed as stress induced. I was exhausted all of the time (a sharp contrast to my normal self), experiencing heart palpitations and pain in my chest, and having a hard time breathing. I've taken a lot of steps to take better care of myself since that time, and I'm much better, but there's still a lingering "crash" that happens when I allow myself to get too stressed out about too many things. These past few weeks I've felt the remnant of that, and I've had to remind myself that even the things I do for myself, like this blog, can find themselves on my mental list of things that "need" to be done, and things that need to be stressed over when they're not accomplished. So I've been a little MIA, and I'm learning to be ok with the fact that it's simply a reality of this phase of life from time to time. Sometimes the necessities in life eat up all there is of you, and while that isn't healthy for long periods of time, I'm beginning to understand, and be ok with the fact that it's just how it is for me, right now, at this little point in time. 

Also, age two is hard, guys. Maybe it's not hard for everyone, or maybe "hard" looks different in different situations. And maybe, if I weren't trying to accomplish some of my own dreams at the same time that I'm trying to mostly stay with a two year old at home, it wouldn't be as hard. I don't know. But regardless, the last several months have added up to a constant level of underlying exhaustion. Jane Shenandoah is the most beautiful little thing to enter my life. I lay with her at night when she's asleep and tell her that I'm sorry for not knowing what the hell I'm doing sometimes. For telling her I have to work instead of play (and then she says "PLAY?!" in her sleep) sometimes, and for being frustrated with my and Dirk's hearted headed, strong will, manifesting in her. I still find that I have so many expectations for who she is and who she will be, instead of learning who she is as we go along. My parents took my siblings and I everywhere with them when we were growing up (business meetings, EVERYTHING), and I have fully expected to be able to do the same. But this girl, this girl isn't me. Or my husband, or my siblings. She's different, and I've been pushing against some of that since the day she came into this world. 

Jane came into this world with a plan about how things should go. I still remember my sweet friend Jenny Anne holding her the first time she met her, and watching her fight to do everything herself as a squirming one month old. She looked at her and said "oh my, you're so strong, and you know exactly where you want to go in this world, don't you?" no truer words have ever been spoken. To spite all of that, I've still hung on to the idea that if I just parent well, stay firm, be consistent, she will be able to function the way I want her to. Sure, things will blow up occasionally, but we will still be able to sail into a meeting, clad with an ipad, and get shit done, at least part of the time. It took the last consultation that I tried that at, going exactly the opposite of how I had planned it, for reality to really hit me hard: this is not my failure as a parent, or her failure as a child...this is who this child IS. If I'm honest, I've seen it all along, and I probably should have come to terms with it a little sooner. 

We took Jane on a three week European vacation with my whole family through four countries, traveling entirely by train, when she was 4 months old. Given the circumstances she did incredibly well. I, on the other hand, was kind of a basket case. I was breast feeding exclusively (TMI, I know. Just wait, it gets better), partially because I believed that was best for my baby and partially because this was how my mom did it and it worked for her and she fed us wherever and when ever and all was right in the world. However, like I've mentioned before, Jane has always had her own plans for things, and at this particular point in time her view on the situation was that she needed to be fed every three hours (exactly every three hours. No sooner, no later), oh and by the way, everything needed to also be completely silent. Little old french man over there talking? Yes, you, please shut up. Her view was also that if everything couldn't be completely silent then she would not be able to eat, and would then proceed to scream at the top of her lungs. So here Jane and I were, battling all through Europe, on an endless string of awkward feeding situations, with both of our stubbornness fighting it out. Until Italy. When I undressed for the third time in the last 10 minutes, on a train that was literally shoulder to shoulder full of loud italian commuters, my child screamed at the top of her lungs which translated to "SHUT UP OR I WON'T EAT" and I'm pretty sure we spilled milk on our neighbor, I finally had the thought "why am I doing this?" Why am I fighting her. Why don't we have a bottle. Why don't we try something else. Why am I about to lose my shit just because I wan't this child to be someone she's not. Let's get real. 

If I'm honest, there's also a lot of me that's afraid of what people will think. I cried my eyes out the day I decided to wean Jane. Partially because it hurt to give that up, and partially because I felt like I was failing in everyone else's eyes (for the record she literally didn't care. At all. She stopped in one day and never looked back). And I know that plays a part in my ongoing struggle. I know what the old ladies in the grocery are thinking when my child screams and pitches a fit, and I desperately want them to know that they're wrong, sometimes even at my child's expense. I want them to know that my will is strong, and that I have literally NEVER given into her when she acts like this, yet, her will is strong too, and she still does it. Over, and over again. But here I am again, making choices based on someone else, and keeping myself from being able to actually get to know my daughter because of silly expectations and a sometimes crippling need for approval.

I had a really beautiful talk with my mom this week. I told her that I loved how they raised us, but that I also had inadvertently come to view it as the standard, and that I finally realized that I felt that something was wrong if things didn't look exactly the same. I've realized this before, and now I'm just facing it again, in different place, and a different time. I'm remembering to love this girl for who she is, right now, and accept the person she's going to be. I want to give her an image of life, and freedom, and grace, instead of my crushing expectations that need to be lived up to. 

Here's to getting to know these little people we bring into the world, in the same way we want to be known ourselves. 

In which going to the playground is high school all over again, and I still wanna be Avril Lavigne

This is me, without my filter, in real life, telling Jaime that this is my "eff frumpy mom attire outfit." Jaime is really fast with a camera, and I was having a real moment, so this showed up in the end. It's here mostly because I'm tired of pretending like I do have a great filter and don't actually say things like this in real life. I do. I mostly just whisper them.

A few weeks ago I took Jane to the park. It was one of those random 70 degree Southern spring days, right in the middle of a week of 50's and rain. I'm pretty sure our entire neighborhood had the exact same idea we did, because the park was absolutely full of moms, and a few dads, and about a million children. I was dressed just like I always am, except that I was also wearing leggings, which I felt were a little more "mom" appropriate of me (not saying anything about leggings here!). But still, I'm the girl with all the jewelry, and the makeup, playing on her iphone, and trying to overhear what the two moms close to me are talking about as they look and me and say things about "societal norms" while my two year old catapults off the end of the big kid slide at about 50 mph. The bottom line is, I left the park feeling like I was just walking out of high school all over again, and I was still  just the kid that looked different from everyone else and wanted to be Avril Lavigne. Since that time I've thought about it a lot. Mostly because Jane asks to go to the park just about every day, and I can't help but dread it a little bit inside.

Now to be fair, a big part of my issue is me. I still feel judgement and just about wilt beneath it. And let me tell you, in the world of parents, judgement is not doled out slowly. There are the helicopter parents who think I should be watching my child more, the outdoor lover parents who wander what the hell I'm doing to her dressing her like that, and the live-simply parents who wander what sort of an example I'm setting for my child by feeling the need to wear makeup every day. I really should be able to be ok with that. I know, because their opinions really don't have the power to define me or my well being. And I also know that they feel that way because different things are important to them. I can respect them for that, and I know that they love their children just as much as I love mine. But can I just tell you the mom at the park on her iphone-wearing three layers of free people and heels-and makeup perspective for a minute?

I wear what I wear because I love it. I wear dresses and makeup and fix my hair because I think it's fun, and because it's important to me. I want to feel beautiful for me, and for my love, and yes, even for my daughter, because I believe it's important to show her that motherhood doesn't have to rob me of my personhood. I wear lacy bras with no padding because I look like a pre-pubescent boy under there and I don't fucking need a real bra. Not because I'm trying to be scandalous and get your husband to look or to tell my daughter that it's ok to show off her boobs all the time. If she happens to get some gene from somewhere other than her family that gives her some real boobs we'll cross that bridge when we get there. But the future isn't looking hopeful for her. I wear heels because I love the way it makes my legs look, and I just have a real thing for shoes and the perfect pair makes me really happy. I play on my phone because it's half of my job, and my child is not my only focus, and because I use it to capture these memories of her. I watch my kid catapult off the slide, and fall down the stairs, and trip over the rocks because she is the most independent little thing I have ever met, and sometimes when you run really hard you fall a little harder too. That's going to be life for her, and I want her to learn it now. I want her to know that falling isn't the end of the world, and that she's going to be just fine (and to the employee at the jump gym last weekend, who dove from the OTHER SIDE of the building to catch my child and keep her from falling into a PADDED WALL [did I mention that it was padded? Like, with foam? Ok cool] right in front of me...I didn't catch her because I knew she didn't need it. Thanks for the help though).

We all see things a little differently. That's ok.

I love that diversity creates a picture that has color and life and longing.

In these pictures Jane looks like she had a run in with a bear. Really, we were playing ball in the back yard and I got a little overly zealous, and literally kicked the thing right out from under her. She ate an entire face-full of dirt and rocks. I felt pretty terrible, but guys, it's real life. We all make mistakes. Sometimes my outfits are too much, I have massive fashion fails, I forget that my kid is two and kick a ball out from under her, and sometimes I'm checking my phone because I'm lazy, and addicted to instagram, and I'm trying to escape the discomfort of social situations. All of those things are reality. Life is messy and rough and full of mistakes. But for me those things don't mean that I have to change my whole philosophy. I'm going to wear it anyways, I'm still a rebel at heart. And I'm becoming more ok with that.

So the other day when I put this outfit on, contemplated going to the park, and immediately thought "everyone is going to look at these shorts and judge," I texted my friend Jaime and said "I look like a bum, but I also don't look like a stereotypical mom. We should take pictures." And because Jaime is the most amazing, real, fun person you'll ever meet, we did (you can, and should, check out her photography page, Our Ampersand Photography, and the kick ass style blog she runs, She Wore it Anyways. This girl is killing it guys). And then we had the brilliant idea of putting a two year old in a drainage ditch, and Jane thought it was the BEST DAY EVER. The last picture of her is immediately after she found the only foot deep pothole in the entire ditch and managed to fall face first into it. Which she thought was the most incredible experience ever. Pretty sure she's winning at life right there, and we could all take a few tips from her. Dress up. Get dirty. Be real. Splash in puddles.

(Wearing Free People top, Urban Outfitters Bra, H&M shorts, Wolverine 1000 mile boots [Samantha Pleet for Wolverine], Earrings from World Market. Jane is Wearing H&M top, overalls, and hightops)

(edit: I obviously can't spell. Even when I'm desperately trying to get it right. Avril. NOT Averil. FML)

The Hardest Words I Say

(these photos were Jane and I having fun [well, I was having fun at least] with the leftover flower crowns from a recent shoot with jes + em. Aren't they amazing?! They're from May Flowers here in Chattanooga. Look to the end of this post for a link to our blog post on them and May Flowers site. Wearing Express Portofino shirt dress, H&M tights, and Anne Klein booties).

"I'm sorry, but mommy has to work right now." Those eight words kill me just a little bit every single time I say them to my sweet girl. Not because I don't want to be working, but because they embody all of the tension, and uncertainty, and love, and pain that is tied up in being a mother, and being a person who has dreams, and vision and plans that stretch outside of my motherhood. When I first had Jane Shenandoah I was a full time stay at home mom. At the time I felt it was what I was supposed to do, and I let go of any plans or dreams that I had outside of caring for her. However, over time, it became clear that I really wasn't thriving there. My soul felt shriveled, a little starved, and under inspired. I feel terrible saying that, because there is something inside of me that says my child should have been creative inspiration enough. I shouldn't have wanted more than that beautiful job. But deep down, I know that isn't true. I know that the person I was created to be longed for something else too, and I've come to terms with the fact that that is a gloriously beautiful thing. I absolutely love, and respect, the mothers who choose to devote their entire lives to raising their children. I couldn't do that, and I'm inspired by their sacrifice. I am also in awe of the mothers who go back to work full time. I'm not ready to do that either, and I'm amazing at their energy, strong decisions, and sacrifices. 

Honestly, I don't know what the hell I'm doing right now. I don't know how to balance working from home, raising my daughter, and being a functional person in society. Sometimes I realize that I've spent a whole day telling my little girl that I don't have time to play with her, and sometimes emails and phone calls go unanswered because there are 20 dolls in the living room and my child needs me. Sometimes I'm gone at night because I need social interaction, and sometimes I cancel on my friends because my child needs her mothers interaction. And slowly, I'm beginning to accept the tension. I'm beginning to realize that at this point in time, there may not be an "answer." My life may be chaotic, by virtue of being the person that I am, but chaos does not always equal failure. Because here's the thing: I'm thriving. Here in this chaotic, emotional, messy life my roots are growing deep. And for me, that's a key to remember. When I doubt myself (which is pretty much everyday, in case you wondered) I can remember that although those eight words are the hardest that I say, they also tell a story that I think is incredibly important: they tell her my heart. I'm not going to get this parenting thing "right" (and if you care to hear me rant about that you can see it here "You Will Fail Your Children."), but I'm going to do the best I damn well can, and above all else I want my daughter to know my heart. 

I want her to know that my choices are not made lightly, and that they aren't always easy. I want her to know that sometimes it kills me when I leave her, and sometimes I wish I had nothing else to do but soak her in. But I also want her to know that I have dreams, and visions, and plans. I have things I want to achieve, and my world does not revolve around her, even if she is one of the most important pieces in this story. And I want to show her that I am pursuing those things, exactly like I will tell her to do. I want her to know that I feel and dream, just like she does, and that that is exactly what it is to be human. To not have it all figured out, and listen and learn along the way. I chose this road. She may choose another. But perhaps she will at least know the joy of peace within tension and love within longing.

Go check out the full feature on May Flowers HERE

The longest day ever, with parenting and cozy sweaters

Today has been one of those days when I remember, with acute pain, that being a mother is a hell of a hard job. One of those days when teaching a tiny little person how to grow up into a functional human being feels next to impossible, and when I inevitable end up hiding out in the pantry with a lot of chocolate, using everything I've got left not to break out the wine. One of those days when I put on my favorite sweater and drink copious amounts of coffee to celebrate the fall breeze, in spite of a failed walk around the block (read, intense meltdown because I won't let her [jane] get hit by a car).

I love her.

(Wearing pink rose sweater, H&M cami, American eagle jeans I cut off and vintage flats)

Raining in the sun

                                Lucky brand shirt, baby gap pants

I posted this picture on Instagram today but I also wanted to share it here. Mostly because I have more words to say than a socially appropriate Instagram post allows, but also because I'm being an absolute kid spammer today and think this face is the best. I was sitting on our front steps today watching Jane excavate the yard looking for rocks to add to her ever growing collection when it started to rain. But it was one of those really beautiful summer showers where the sun is shinning through making all of the drops look like curtains of silver. I pointed this out to Jane and she turned to me and just gasped. The biggest, most astounded gasp you ever saw. I just happened to have my phone out and took this picture. It hit me a moment later: the realization that this tiny little thing, that I would barely take notice of now, was absolutely amazing to her. Sure, I don't know how much she understands, but the moment was still meaningful to her. William Wordsworth once said that "our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting" (Imitations of Immortality, 60), and I think that in at least some way he is right. I've forgotten how wonderful really seeing things for the first time was, and I know I can never see it that way again. I remember the first time I actually saw it rain in the sunlight; I was all of two and a half. My mom and I were sitting on the couch in an old log Cabin we lived in on our farm. My mom pointed it out through the window and I remember feeling like I had just been witness to one of the most amazing phenomenons ever. I was completely in awe. I'm sure it will never hold that same glorious feeling again, but watching Jane discover her world has brought back a whole new focus on the small, insignificant, deep down things.