Friday, May 29, 2015

7QT: Woes of an Army Wife


1. Will is once again in the field for a few weeks; it's day three, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't already reaching my limit. 95% of the time, I'm grateful for the military life. Seriously. Will has a steady job and paycheck, we have tons of great benefits like free housing, utilities, and inexpensive but excellent healthcare (we have Tricare Standard, for those who are wondering), we were able to live overseas for five years, travel around the world, and I've met some amazing people through the military who I know will be lifelong friends. So rest assured, this isn't another Army wife whining about how everything sucks all the time. But...sometimes things do suck. There are downsides to the military life; deployments, incredibly long days, your spouse is in the field or at a training school for weeks at a time with zero communication, dealing with Finance, etc. I've been having a couple of cranky days, and I thought I would lighten the mood by shamelessly using 7QT to describe our life (at the moment) in memes.

2.

TRUTH. The day after Will left for his fourth deployment (in 2008), our internet went on strike. Not just any internet, mind you; TKS, German internet which was created by Satan himself. Customer service was useless. I ended up dragging our huge, bulky desktop all the way down the stairs, hooking it up to the modem on the floor of our living room, and it stayed that way for the whole eight months. 

3. 

Pretty sure these handbooks are the most useless things ever created. 

4. 

Yep...definitely learned this the hard way. 

5. 

Seven moves in ten years, people. While I may projectile vomit at the sight of a moving van and cardboard boxes, at least I can say we've become experts in PCS (permanent change of station) moves. 

6. 
 
The struggle is real.

7. 

Now, I'll give the military credit where credit is due, and admit there have been some massive improvements in housing over the past couple of years. But...not all the bases care that much about housing conditions and updates. We've seen some pretty scary places over the years. 

Happy Friday! For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Friday, May 8, 2015

7QT: Obstacles to Adulting



1. I've decided that in order to keep order in my house and in my family, I need to be a better adult. Adults don't browse Pinterest or binge watch Netflix shows until midnight. They go to bed at a reasonable hour, wake up early, and get the day off to a great start. However, as I so unfortunately discovered...there are setbacks.

2. Setback #1: my body clock. I always have wicked pregnancy insomnia, and it's become quite the problem lately, seeing as how my kids like to wake up at the crack of dawn. The night before last, I was prepared. I shut off all electronics around 8:00, made myself a cup of sleepytime tea with honey, and diffused a "sleepy blend" of essential oils in our bedroom. Rather than turning on The Walking Dead, I read the Bible and the Catechism (go to this page if you want to read both in a year), and I drifted off to sleep somewhere around 10:00 to the sounds of Gregorian chant. Perfect, right? Except I wasn't counting on pregnancy nightmares. Nightmares involving being chased by a knife-wielding Michael Myers (curse my obsession in my 20's with cheesy horror movies) that woke me out of deep slumber at 4:30am. Naturally, I couldn't get back to sleep.

3. But no matter! If I'm going to try and be A Good, Responsible Adult, I might as well be An Awesome Wife as well. I trudged downstairs, straightened up the kitchen, made a pot of coffee, and got a load of laundry going. Did a quick budget analysis for the day (how professional can I GET?), and contemplated doing a morning pregnancy yoga DVD. Contemplation was as far as I got.

4. Down come the husband and our kids somewhere around 6:30. Husband is delighted with the fresh pot of coffee to greet him (clearly, this doesn't happen too often), and children demand breakfast. My offers of scrambled eggs with cheese and wheat toast are shot down in favor of Chex. Happiness was ours for about 2 minutes, until the dog  jumped up on the kiddie table and stole Alessandra's cereal. Screams ensued. Already feeling the beginnings of a migraine, I put the dog outside, replaced Alessandra's stolen cereal, and attempted to enjoy my coffee in peace.

5. Make plans to take children to the park in the early morning. Great plan. Foul-proof plan. Kids will burn off much-needed energy, get some fresh air, and I will feel like Awesome Mom for getting my kids out of the house for an hour or two. Look outside...big storm headed our way. Drat. Convince kids that homemade smoothies and multiple renditions of The Cat in the Hat are just as good as the playground on base. Kids give me skeptical looks, but fortunately go along with it. Suckas....I mean, great, they bought it. Children lose interest after an hour of stories, and I can already feel my back beginning to spasm. This is no good, this is not right, why must my back hurt day and night?

6. Step away from Dr. Seuss. Break a cardinal parenting rule and allow the kids to watch a movie in the middle of the day while eating an oatmeal raisin cookie (at least it's homemade...grasping at straws here). Take a Norco and make myself a cup of tea. Realize with sinking feeling kids are quickly losing interest in the movie. Check clock...only 9:30 am? Are you kidding me? Briefly allow myself to indulge in dreams of being a crafty mom. I bet crafty moms have a ton of rainy day projects on hand just waiting to be completed by their kids. Berate myself for being craft impaired. Feeling slightly foolish, I offer up crayons and coloring books. Rejected. Again.

7. After many hours of children's books, an episode of Octonauts, a failed attempt to make dinner (I hadn't made my "Adulting" vow before going to the grocery store last week, and I was missing a few necessary ingredients), I gave up all hope of maturity. I threw together a French toast and bacon dinner for the kids, and a bastardized taco skillet for Will and I after rummaging around in my pantry. I played Hooplakidz nursery rhymes on my phone while Tony and Alessandra danced around the kitchen, and almost collapsed in relief (and pain, thanks degenerative disk disease) when Will walked through the door at 6:30. So, adulting may be out of the question for me. At the very least, I can take comfort knowing that by the end of the day, the house wasn't in flames, no one had any broken bones, everyone was fed, and CPS didn't show up.

It's important for adults to have high standards.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

When You're All Out of W(h)ine

  Not too long ago, I was sitting at my weekly Catholic Women of the Chapel meeting. We were reading and discussing the book Walking With Mary, and we got to chatting about the wedding feast at Cana. Specifically, when the wine ran out and Mary asked Jesus to perform to be what I consider one of the coolest miracles ever; turning water into wine. This prompted a great discussion about the strict social customs of the time, how it was considered to be the ultimate faux pas to run out of wine at a celebration, and how Jesus truly turned the water into actual wine, and not grape juice (as I've heard before). Now, obviously our musings had much to do with the miracle Jesus performed. However, what I've always found so interesting about the wedding at Cana is that it was Mary who noticed the impending disaster. She and Jesus were guests at the wedding, but Mary wanted to spare the groom's family the embarrassment of having to tell their guests that they had run out of wine. So she did the only logical thing; Mary turned to her Son, the miracle worker, and asked him to remedy the situation. As we all know, Jesus turned the water into gallons and gallons of wine, more than anyone could possibly drink, and everyone continued celebrating.

  I've called upon our Mother frequently, not as a miracle worker, but to intercede on my behalf TO the ultimate miracle worker, her Son. One of the ladies at the meeting told us that one of the greatest (and simplest) prayers she relied upon during difficult times was, "Mary, I'm out of wine!" Crazy, isn't it? Yet there's something about the honesty and, frankly, desperation of that sentence that really resonates with me. How many times have you been at your wits end, with chaos raining down on you and nowhere to turn? I've certainly been there, and as a woman, a wife, and a mother, I often turn to our Blessed Mother. Yes, she is the ultimate model of chastity, obedience, and virtue. But...she was presented with the most earth-shattering news in the history of the world as a teenage girl, and she accepted without question. She gave birth to, cared for and protected her Son, who was the savior of the world. She experienced more heartache and agony than any mother should ever have to face. Because of Mary's strength, her fortitude, and her gentleness and humbleness throughout her life, she is frequently the one I turn to in prayer and in desperation. Take the other day, for example.

  Our fridge and pantry had reached Code Red status the day before payday, but thanks to my mad budgeting skillz, I knew we could make a trip to the commissary to re-stock for the week. Our morning didn't get off to the greatest start; Tony went to bed late and woke up ridiculously early, and when I told him he wasn't allowed to watch cartoons on Will's tablet, he threw a fit and woke up Alessandra to punish me. I was not pleased. The morning continued with incessant demands for every type of breakfast food imaginable, more tantrums, and a dog who decided to throw up grass all over the dining room carpet. By the time I actually got everyone buckled in their car seats, I was exhausted and in no mood to brave the commissary. What are you going to do, though, amiright? Armed with my grocery list, budget and Tula (Alessandra has been throwing a fit when I place her in the cart), we pulled into the lot...and my heart sank. There was some huge case lot sale going on, and the parking lot was jam packed. Realizing once again I had no other options, I put Little Miss in the back carry, Tony in the cart, and I rushed through the store like I was training for a marathon. I was feeling pretty good about myself, and congratulating my kids on their exceptionally good behavior, when I noticed the line. A line that stretched all the way past the checkout counters, past the deli, past the dairy products, and all around the store to the snacks and cookies (of course). With a sinking feeling, I pushed the cart to the end of the line, and made wild promises to my children ("extra goldfish crackers at lunch! a trip to the super awesome park later this afternoon! a popsicle after nap time!"), and hoped for the best.

  "The best" didn't last long. Within minutes, Alessandra was screeching to be let out of the Tula, and when I tried to put her in the car seat, that became another battle. She wanted to run around, and with the commissary chaos and my back giving out on me, that was not going to happen. I put her back in the Tula, ignoring the stares and raised eyebrows of the other patrons at my child's demon-like shrieks. I was hissing "don't touch!" every 2.7 seconds at Tony, who was trying to reach over and grab a bag of Oreos without me notcing (a pregnant woman not noticing that a package of Oreos made its' way into her cart? Not likely). A few moments later, I realized Alessandra's cloth diaper had given out when I felt the unmistakable trickle of...urine, yes, urine down my back. At that point, I was near tears, and the line showed no signs of moving. I put my head in my hands, and slightly louder than I intended, said, "Mary, I'm out of wine!" Okay, not the most inconspicuous move on my part. A largely pregnant woman with a toddler on her back, and a preschooler in an overflowing grocery cart is bound to draw some attention. But just saying those few words, just getting out my frustration, gave me the strength to press on. And press on, I did. After standing in line for 45 minutes (seriously), we got to the checkout counter, paid for our items, made a potty stop for Tony, and made our way back home. After feeding my whiny crew with our newly acquired groceries, I removed my pee-stained shirt and took a luxurious shower while the kids played quietly in Tony's room.

  Was it a perfect end to an imperfect day? No. No one wanted to nap, Alessandra refused to sit on the potty, and Tony gave me attitude until Will finally walked in the door that night. Fortunately, due to either my extremely low standards as of late or the fact that I knew my kids were overtired and crabby, I wasn't expecting a water into wine kind of miracle. Nope. I just wanted to get by...and get by I did. I rarely, if ever, pray for things, or pray for permission. I don't think God really cares (nor should He) if I want a fancy new car, a big house, or a fat bank account. He has more important matters on His hands. I do, however, pray for strength. And grace. And forgiveness. And a slew of other things that will ultimately make me a better Catholic, a better wife, and a better mother. I frequently seek the intercession of Mary and the saints, and ask them to pray for me when life is just too much for me to handle. I'll admit, coming from a Protestant background, that asking for intercession is still somewhat of a new concept for me. It was something I initially struggled with during my conversion, and slowly grew to understand over the years. After doing more reading on the lives of the saints, I came across this quote, from Saint Maximilian Kolbe. "Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did."

  To end on a light note, I shall leave you with this. Happy weekend, everyone.

Friday, April 17, 2015

7 Quick Takes-Momming



1. I'm making an effort to get back into blogging on the regular. Blogging keeps me sane during the week, when Will is gone and every other minute I hear "mama mama mama mama mama!" from one of the two members of my brood. Blogging is also very helpful when it comes to ignoring things that need to be done around the house, such as laundry, mopping, scrubbing bathrooms, what have you.

2. For the first time ever, we live relatively close to a Trader Joe's. I've heard a LOT about TJ over the years, and one of the selling points was (seriously), "It's kind of a poor man's Whole Foods." Hey, fine by me. By the time payday Wednesday rolled around, our refrigerator and pantry and reached Code Red status, and I decided it was time to go grocery shopping. Since I decided to half &$% it this week in terms of meal planning, I was able to find everything I needed (yogurt! fruit! tuna fish! jam and natural peanut butter! whole wheat bread! spinach and ricotta frozen pizza! organic string cheese!) at TJ's. Bonus points for the store? Despite my children acting like asylum escapees, no one batted an eye or gave me "the look." Rather, the employees were very pleasant and helpful. Can I get a HOLLA???!!!

Yes, I know. I have a first class ticket on the next train to Hell.

3. Speaking of TJ's, our grocery bill came to...$65. I'm still in shock.

4. Will unintentionally got me hooked on The Walking Dead. I say "unintentionally" because Will stopped watching the show after season two. Honestly, zombies really bore me, and this normally wouldn't be the kind of show I would enjoy. Buuuuut the plot has kind of drawn me in, and I've found myself really looking forward to nap and bed time so I can enjoy some zombie slaying without fear that my 2-year old will accidentally view a decapitation.

5. Speaking of The Walking Dead, Alessandra re-joined the Occupy the Crib movement the other night. I have no idea what got into her, but that little stinker woke up crying every hour and a half. No amount of soothing would settle her, and by the time 6am rolled around...let's just say it wasn't pretty. I sent Will a text and told him if I was gone when he returned from the field, he shouldn't worry. My absence could easily be explained by AMC, who saw a picture of me in my sleep-deprived state and immediately wanted to cast me as a walker.

6. Almost all of the Easter candy is gone, save for a few lone jellybeans. It makes me sad.

7. I've decided that living in Colorado will be most excellent in terms of making me feel all crunchy/attachment/organic mama-ish. Driving on the highway, it's not uncommon to see "Peace, Love, Babywearing" bumper stickers on the back of a minivan. There's a Natural Parenting Expo in Denver this weekend. Breastfeeding support groups, babywearing groups, and cloth diaper exchanges can easily be found in any major city. Midwives and doulas are plentiful, and unlike other states I've lived in, nursing in public is not only tolerated, but encouraged (at any rate, that's what I've observed so far). Yep...I'm going to do just fine here.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Embracing the Crazy

  To be honest, most of our days around here look like what I'm about to show you. Why don't I mention this more often? I'm not really sure. Maybe I like to give off the appearance that I actually know what I'm doing (I totally don't), that I have it all together (let's all take a moment to recover from hysterical laughter), and our home is calm, collected, clean, and stress free (rarely). However, in my continued effort to be honest when it comes to blogging, I'll give you a glimpse into our everyday, crazy life.

  I finally decided to bite the bullet and begin potty training Alessandra. One, stinky toddler diapers. Enough said. Two, I'm pregnant and still fairly sensitive to smells, and these exceptionally stinky, twice a week diaper washes have GOT to stop for a while. Three, the thought of having two in diapers once again is terrifying to me. So, I purchased the necessary Disney undies from Target, hauled out the Sesame Street potty and Minnie Mouse training seat, and discovered a pack of half-used stickers from one of our many attempts to potty train Tony. Now, all of the potty training books I've read have stressed over and over that you shouldn't make a big deal about stinky diapers. You don't want your child to think they're doing something wrong or shameful, and I totally get that. However, whilst changing her diaper this morning before switching her over to undies, Alessandra sat up, wrinkled her nose and said, "Dude!! Eeeew, poop!" Yeah, sorry, but that's just too funny to correct. Not to mention, she's right on the money.

  Speaking of Alessandra, this is her new favorite pastime. 
So safe. 
  Will is in the field until Monday (boo), but he had the day off yesterday. I took this extremely rare opportunity to get my hair did; cut, style and highlights for $80. That's what's up. I've had the idea of purple ombre-ish locks in my head for some time now; however, after conversing with the hairdresser and discovering that highlights like that required once per month maintenance (!!!!!!!) I was quick to decide on plain 'ole plum and burgundy highlights, without bleaching my hair first. I was quite pleased with the results, and I received a round of approval from Will and my progeny as well. Check it: 
Behold, "honest" Marisa. No shower. No makeup. 
  This morning, I was peering at my new highlights in our bathroom mirror when Will walked in the room. He said, "I really like your hair like that. Good choice on the color." 
Me: "Really? You don't think it's too young for me?"
Will: "Of course not. Besides, you're only 30."
Me: "...I'm 33."
Will: *pause* "I know that." 

  Being that Will is gone for the next couple of days, I don't feel the need to keep up the charade of being a super on-it housewife, and I can totally wing it where dinner is concerned. No planned dinners, no running to the grocery store to pick up that one last ingredient I need for dinner. I'm not sure if the kids will be pleased or disappointed to learn that their meals this week will consist of hummus and veggies, tuna fish, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chicken nuggets (the healthy kind, I swear), and pasta.

  Mornings around here...yeah. It can get a little ugly. Tony and Alessandra demand breakfast the second they wake up, and woe be to me if I don't have the exact thing on hand that they're craving. More often than not, you'll hear, "Is this really how we want to start our day?" or "I'm not going to make you anything if you speak to me that way." Yeah, it can get a little...tense here in the mornings. Fortunately, there's Bubble Guppies. Bubble Guppies is pretty much the Holy Grail to me while I'm trying to drink my morning cup of coffee in peace. That is, until the famous "Outside" dance (which makes an appearance in every episode, naturally) comes on. The kids love that song. They love it even more when I dance to it. Unfortunately for me, I won't be making a cameo on Dancing with the Stars anytime soon. My dancing skills are, well...I'll let you be the judge.

  So yeah. A friend and mom of three boys once told me that when she decided to embrace the crazy, life became much simpler. I think that will become my new mantra. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Free Range Chickens (err, Children)

  A few days ago, whilst browsing my Facebook news feed, I came across this article, which was shared by numerous friends. The title, "What Would My Mom Do? (Drink Tab and Lock Us Outside)" piqued my curiosity, so I clicked the link and began to read. And laugh. And nod as I read each paragraph. Granted, my mom never drank Tab and to my knowledge, never took a Jazzercise class, but she certainly shared a lot of traits with the mother of the author. Particularly, she let my brother and I be kids.

  I had a supremely happy childhood, one that had absolutely nothing to do with material possessions, multiple activities every single day of the week, and a constant need to be "entertained." My mom was a stay at home mom (let's make this easy and resort to acronyms; what can I say, I'm an Army wife), or SAHM, which was somewhat unusual in the early 80's. My mom even told me not too long ago that she was interviewed by the local newspaper on what it was like staying at home with small children when so many women her age were a part of the workforce. As a toddler and preschooler, my days were filled with story hour at the library, daily trips to the park in the village, dancing around the living room to "Jimmy Crack Corn" on my Fisher Price record player, Sesame Street, the occasional trip to the Milwaukee County Zoo, and running around the neighborhood with the other kids. Was my mom attentive, loving, nurturing, and aware of my surroundings and whereabouts? Absolutely. Was she a hovering, in-your-face-every-second "smother" who documented every single milestone? No. Nor would I have wanted her to be. 

  My parents knew all of our neighbors, and so did I. I knew who I could go to in the unfortunate (and extremely rare) event my mother wasn't there to help me. All of the parents looked out for all of the children on the block, and no one thought twice about seeing kids play outside unsupervised. In fact, it was expected, and it would have been odd to see a parent parked outside in the driveway, watching their children's every move. By the time I was in elementary school, my best friend and I were allowed to walk or ride our bikes to school together. Every summer, she and I would hurry up, eat breakfast and get dressed, and race around the neighborhood on our bikes, skates, or in our backyards. My dad (banker by day, carpenter by night) built a fantastic swingset for my brother and I when I was in third grade. Every day after school, my best friend, brother and I would run out to that swingset and play for hours. We made up games. We played Ninja Turtles. We brought out my boom box (yes, boom box) and danced around to cheesy 90's music. Our next door neighbors had a great big hill in their backyard, and whenever it would snow, we would grab our sleds and spend a good part of the afternoon going up and down and up and down and up and down that hill. Our neighbors didn't care. My parents never came outside with us; they didn't need to. In fact, by that age I would have been incredibly annoyed with my mom "checking up" on me. 

  Like the author, if someone had insinuated that my mom was unattentive, uncaring or reckless by allowing my brother and I these small freedoms, we would have looked at that person like they had three heads. There was nothing even remotely uncaring about my mom. On the contrary, I remember complaining that she was "so strict" compared to my friends' parents. If we wanted to play outside, we had to be back in time for dinner, or back after an hour or two to do homework. If I said I was going to a friend's house, my mom had to know which friend I was visiting, was their parent home, what did we plan on doing. I wasn't allowed to sit in the trunk of a station wagon like some of my friends; I had to sit in an actual seat with a seatbelt on. If I wanted to ride my bike anywhere besides our street, I had to let my mom know. Obviously, her "rules" are laughable now, by society's standards. Woe to the parent who lets their 10-year go to the park alone. Or walk to school without a chaperone. Or play outside with friends without setting up a lawn chair in your driveway, yelling out encouraging words every five minutes. You can expect a visit from CPS. 

  Look, there's a happy medium, like everything else in life. I know adults who grew up in the 50's, who laughingly tell me that they never saw their parents except for first thing in the morning and again at dinner time. They were expected to get out of the house and play all day long. I certainly wouldn't go that far; I DO want to know where my kids are at all times. I'm not blind to the dangers that are out there. But I also have zero intention of being a helicopter mom who hovers over my children's every step at the playground. Or helps them write book reports all the way through high school. Or plans an activity every single day of the week, because ENRICHMENT!!!! Do I enjoy reading books with my kids, taking them to the park, arranging play dates with my good friend Maureen so our kids can hang out, and burn off some much needed energy? Absolutely. Did I enjoy the occasional class as a kid? Sure! I started playing violin at the age of six (and continued all the way through college, where I majored in music). I took dance lessons and gymnastics, although both of those tapered off very quickly. I took swim lessons in the summer, and my brother and I loved playing twilight baseball. My point, however, is that we truly enjoyed these activities and classes. We were never made to feel as though we needed to be occupied every afternoon after school, or every day during the summer. If we lost interest in an activity after a season, we were never expected to keep up with it. We either explored something else that sounded like fun, or we just went on with our day.

  We want our children to grow up to be secure, happy, GOOD, independent adults. We want our children to know love and security, and to know they can always come to us in times of trouble, or if they need advice. We also want them to know how to take care of themselves, how to help others, and to have a strong work ethic. How in the world are we supposed to accomplish this, if it's now frowned upon to let our kids be kids without constant parental supervision and involvement? Of course I worry about the things every parent worries about; what will my kids do if a stranger approaches them and attempts to lure them into his or her car? What if Alessandra gets into a car with someone who has had too much to drink? What if Tony decides to "test the boundries" in high school, and blows off homework and tests, and realizes that he doesn't have the grades to get into college? Those are all normal fears, and I'd be hard pressed to find a parent who doesn't share the same worries. However, I never thought I would have to worry about being reported to CPS because my elementary school aged children were playing alone at the playground, a block or two away from our house. It never occurred to me (until recently) that I might have to worry about our neighbors alerting the authorities, rather than the parents, if my child falls off their bike while riding around the block. 

  To be honest, I'm not really sure what the solution is here. How do we reassure nervous, young mothers-to-be that they can still be wonderful, nurturing mothers, even if they don't read every single child development book that's been published, and they don't have to have a calendar full of Baby Learns French, Gymnastics for Tots, Music Therapy for the Littles, and Engineering for Beginners? How do we politely tell the older generation that while they were absolutely right to let their children play outside and entertain themselves, times have changed, and things like car seat safety, sunblock and bicycle helmets are absolute necessities in this day and age? I don't know, and I certainly don't claim to have all the answers. I just wish that as a society, we could learn to spot the difference between a child who is truly neglected, as opposed to a child who is well-loved and cared for, and simply given more freedoms than other children. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"So How Do You DO It All?"

  Last month, we grabbed our kids, our dog, our necessities (including but not limited to clothes, diapers, "bankies," debit cards, my violin, our wedding album, and goldfish crackers) and made The Big Move from Fort Benning, GA to Fort Carson, CO. We broke up the trip so that we actually traveled over the course of four days, to maintain our sanity and give my achin' back a break from the driver's seat as much as possible. All things considered, the kids did very well, and we made it to this mountainous state in all its' beauty in one piece. Since then, we have moved into a rental home, mostly unpacked our things, and we're slowly but surely getting used to Will's insane work schedule (and by "insane," I mean he usually leaves for work around 5:30am and if we're lucky, returns by 6:30pm). It's been a big adjustment, and we've had to weather our way through tantrums, multiple beagle escapes from our back yard, a pregnant woman with chronic back pain, and a papa who isn't around as much as he used to be. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I love Colorado. I love looking out the window and seeing mountains in the distance, I love all the state parks and attractions that are merely a short drive away, and I love the wonderful opportunities and organizations for families that are absolutely thriving in our community. I am truly very happy, and very thankful to be living here.

  One thing I've been hearing frequently from family and friends is, "how do you do it all?" combined with, "I could never do xyz like you guys," etc. So, brace yourselves, because I have to let you in on a little secret.

*whispers*

  I don't.

  I don't do it all. I have plenty of evenings where I look in our mirror and say to myself, "I have absolutely no idea how I made it through this day alive. Thank you God." Tony and Alessandra are both at the age where they require mental and physical stimulation. I try to balance their needs and wants with MY needs and wants, and believe me, that doesn't always pan out. I want to have a clean and organized house, I want to enjoy this pregnancy without wincing in pain every time I stand up, and I want to do fun, crafty projects and visit fun, educational places with my children every day. I also want to put away a healthy chunk of change in our savings account while squirreling away a decent percentage of our income towards our retirement, all the while replacing things in our home that desperately need to be replaced, and plan for a fun family vacation this summer while Will has block leave. I want to make delicious, healthy meals every night for dinner, while still keeping my children entertained lest they grab a box of crayons and color on the toilet.
Yeah, about that...
  Well.

  The past few days, my back pain has been so unbearable I didn't even attempt to make dinner. Tony and Alessandra have been feasting upon peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (at least it's natural peanut butter, right??) and scrambled eggs with cheese and toast. 15% of our income going towards retirement? More like 10% right now. I'm actually doing a decent job of sticking to a budget and putting money in our emergency fund, but we keep getting hit with all these random bills ($25 to the neurosurgeon I saw when we first moved here, $200 for the Harmony test I took during week 14 of my pregnancy, $140 gas bill, etc). Alessandra is getting her two-year molars, which means she's cranky, out of sorts, and not sleeping well. Poor little baby just wants to snuggle, read books, and eat things that feel good on her teeth, and while that's perfectly fine with me, my 4-year old (understandably) has zero patience for her discomfort, and just wants to run around at the park all day. Our home isn't dirty, but it's cluttered. Clutter makes me insane. I feel like I'm struggling spiritually. I try to take a few minutes every morning for prayer, but something usually gets in the way. I feel like my back is going to snap in half every time I stand up, and I spend most of our days limping after my children like a 90-year old woman. Gone are the days of experimenting with exotic cheese and Italian deli meats; those meals are no longer in our budget or on my timetable.

  In short, I'm falling short. As much as I appreciate the kind words and encouragement from my family and friends, the simple fact of the matter is that I'm so far from Wife and Mother of the Year it's not even funny. I'm just as guilty as the next mommy blogger of posting our Norman Rockwell pictures on my Instagram ("Look at my kids playing together at the playground in our neighborhood! See the tasty looking meatless meal I made for a Friday during Lent? Here I am with my hair styled and makeup on!"), and I'm really making an effort to knock it off. First and foremost, it isn't honest. I don't mean to imply that every day around here involves a war-torn house with mom on the rampage and Tony and Alessandra running around in rags, but lately, my life is a lot more Lynette Scavo from Desperate Housewives than Bree VandeKamp. Secondly, back in 2010 when I was gradually making the change from "dual employed married couple living overseas" to "gigantically pregnant stay at home wife in a Boston suburb," I made the mistake of devouring mommy blogs. And not just regular blogs written by regular moms; clearly, there's nothing wrong with that. No, I went for the full-on Perfect Mommy Blogger Who Looks Like She Just Stepped Off the Runway in Paris With Her Four Perfect Children in their Designer Twee Clothes Who Thinks Up Super Fun Artsy Projects Every Day and Has a Seemingly Endless Amount of Patience, Energy and Money. You know who I'm talking about (and this isn't even any one blogger in particular). I hadn't even given birth yet, and I already felt like crap about myself. I wanted to be the best mother I could possibly be to my children, but I knew there was no possible way I could measure up to those women. And truth be told...I didn't want to, because I knew that wasn't me. It was still a hard mentality to break from, and it's taken me a loooooooong time to be satisfied with my parenting, housekeeping, wife-ing, you name it.

  Bottom line? Don't be fooled by what you see on the internet. I'm not discouraging reading blogs altogether, because there are a few I've found that I absolutely love, and I draw inspiration, rather than self-criticism from these women. Just know that if you see what looks to be the perfect family with the perfect life on the perfect blog, you only know what they're choosing to show to the world. Their marriage may be on the rocks. They may have a huge, beautiful home and designer clothes, but may be drowning in debt. Their children may be involved in every art project, ballet class and playground get-together that week, but they may be sick to death of being photographed (and dare I say, exploited?) every minute of every day. Don't be fooled by my blog or my Instagram, either. Just because you see my kids hugging it out at the park doesn't mean they weren't at each others' throats an hour earlier. You didn't see the post where I tripped over my own two feet, spilled coffee on the carpet, and taught my daughter a new (swear) word. Just because I post a picture of our healthy Lenten dinner on Facebook doesn't mean that I didn't serve ice cream for lunch.

  I'm making a pledge (ugh that sounds so cheesy, doesn't it?) to be more honest about my life on social media. I can't, in all fairness, rip on other bloggers when I'm guilty of doing the same thing. That doesn't mean that every single aspect of my life has to be shared on this blog, but if I'm going to write about the good times, I damn well better include the bad and the ugly as well. In the meantime, if someone says to me that they don't know how I do it all, I will be graceful and kind, and because I DO know that it's a compliment. But I will also stress to said person that I don't do it all, I reach my limits like everyone else, and if they don't believe me, they are more than welcome to show up at my house at approximately 3pm (known as "post nap"). That should do the trick.