I just have to get this out.

I hate real estate. I realized that a long time ago, when we bought our first home. There are too many twists and turns, too many curveballs. I don’t have the patience. My nerves aren’t made of steel. My heart isn’t strong enough. I just can’t handle it. I wasn’t MADE for this.

And yet.

Here we are, deep into the process and desperate for a much larger homestead for our family of five, and the only way OUT is through.

A summary: We put our house on the market on a Thursday in August. By the following Monday, we had four offers. We negotiated with the lowest one because it was a cash offer. Eventually, we got them to agree to pay asking price. Swell. We were happy. Everything progressed nicely. Meanwhile, we did our own house-hunting and, after making a total of three offers, one was finally accepted. We were thrilled. This was really happening! The home passed the inspection and appraisal and is now in escrow. We are, potentially, just days away from closing on it. But! BUT. But but but we are on septic (not sewer) here where we live right now and that is where the problem lies. We had to have it inspected as part of the sale and it’s a whole long story, but needless to say, it did not pass inspection. It started as a small problem and has become a HUGE problem (how? don’t ask me! this whole thing is a ridiculous, convoluted mystery) and we have consulted with five different companies and no one is in agreement of what needs to be done or how to do it. We have already extended the closing on our house once and are in danger of doing that again, if we don’t get this fixed NOW. We’re at a crossroads…fix it (which could, quite literally, take months and cost anywhere from $3500 to $25000) and delay closing (again) and probably lose the house we want to buy…or offer a hefty reduction in price to the buyer and hope he will be willing to take this on himself.

It’s a mess. I am a mess. My husband and I are fighting. I’m yelling at the kids. In a fit of rage, I nearly threw my husband’s shoe out the front door and into the mud, which is laughable now, but felt anything but in the moment. Through the ups and many, many downs of this, I have tossed around the word “divorce,” callously mentioned killing myself, and threatened to walk away from my life and never look back. None of which I meant. Not even for a second. That’s not how I — normally — talk or think.

But I don’t feel normal right now. I feel one broken nail away from having a complete meltdown. I am saying and doing things that are not me — not who I strive to be — and I hate myself for it. I feel ashamed, embarrassed, disgusted. Between the loss of my dad, Cupcake’s start to kindergarten, planning a big party for Poppy and Skittle in just two weeks, and — most of all — all of the stress of trying to buy a house, sell a house, and pack up 1500 square feet of JUNK and CLUTTER while also dealing with two children who scream and cry all day long and a baby who likes me to constantly be near him…I feel as if I am about to break. Something is going to go wrong and I am going to be one of those people who ends up having a mental break, and is found butt naked, wandering down Main Street in a daze. See that woman with her boobs flopping in the breeze? That is ME.

I say it tongue in cheek, but seriously…how much more? How much more can I take? I keep saying I can’t handle any more and I do, but I’m not doing it well. And I know these are First World problems. It’s just a house. It’s just money. I’m thankful I have both. My husband keeps reminding me that I don’t have to eat in the same place that I defecate, so I’m already winning at life and — yes! Holy cow, yes! I get that I live a rather good, easy life. I’m lucky in many, many ways. But still. This is my reality and I want more for our family.

Since Poppy’s arrival, I have felt cramped and claustrophobic in this house. Even a good spring cleaning didn’t give me much breathing room. My home — my safe haven — is starting to choke the life out of me. We need more space to spread out. We need a fresh start. And that house we want to buy? It already feels like Home. I can see our pictures hung on the walls. I can hear the kids squealing and screeching as they ride their bikes in the culdesac and I watch them from one of the balconies with a cup of coffee and a good book in hand. (Haha. Nice dream, right?) I have imagined Halloween spent there, finally in a real neighborhood where the kids can go trick-or-treating. I know where I want to put our Christmas tree. This is where I want my children to grow up. I can’t let the hope of that go. This house is it. I feel it. And the thought of losing it makes me go crazy. I’m afraid nothing else will ever be good enough and I’ll spend the rest of my life mourning The One That Got Away. Not to mention, the thought of going through all of this again with some other house down the road pretty much makes me sick. I’m not cut out for this, remember?

I’m rambling now. What was my point again? Your guess is as good as mine. But I feel my walls going up. I feel guarded. I’m not motivated to pack anymore. I’ve stopped window-shopping online for all the ways I want to beautify our home. I qualify every conversation about the house with “if we get this house…” I’ve said on more than one occasion that this feels painfully similar to those times when I have been pregnant. So hopeful. Desperate for it all to work out. But so, so afraid to make any solid plans…to prepare for The Big Day…to count my chickens before they hatch. I lived in fear of a miscarriage then. I live in fear of losing this house now. And though they can’t be compared, not really, my heart can’t really separate the difference in this moment.

I just want everything to be okay.

Releasing My Heart into the Wild Kingdom of Kindergarten

I am the mom of three kids and my oldest, my 5-year-old, always seems SO BIG to me.  She towers over her brother and sister and orders them around as though she is a queen and makes friends with a simple, “Wanna be my friend?” and uses big words like “hypothesis” and “crustacean.” She can wipe her own butt! She can write her own name! She can read the word “No.” She sits in a booster seat and FASTENS her own seat belt. She seems so big all of the time, that some days I have to remind myself she’s *only* five. Much of the time, it feels as if her high school graduation is right around the corner.

But then we walked into that kindergarten classroom on the first day of school and she was unsure of where to hang her backpack and where to sit. She seemed uncharacteristically timid and reserved, was dwarfed by her tall teacher, and looked lost in that sea of twenty-five children. And in that moment, she seemed so SMALL to me. HUGE in my heart, but so very small in the big picture of life.

She put on a brave face, though, and gave me a smile that didn’t look real and said “‘Bye, Mom” in the tiniest, shakiest voice.

I left her there, coloring her picture, with tears in my eyes. I walked away, feeling vulnerable. Fragile. She was the one who was in a new environment, without me as her safety net, but I was the one who had just released a piece of her heart into a foreign land of bullies and peer pressure and influences of which I have no control. I now have to fully rely on others to look out for her well being and I am terrified.

Her first day of school went well, as did her second. She may have been nervous, but shed no tears at my departure and, at the end of the day, she ran to me with wild, joyful abandon and said, “I had so much fun, Mom!”

But the third day? She wept when I dropped her off. She hugged me fiercely and mumbled into my shoulder, “I’m going to miss you. Don’t be gone all day.”

I dried her tears and stepped away, only to watch them fall again. They started and stopped over and over as we waited for her teacher to come out of the classroom and lead the line of children inside for the start of another day.

My heart ached watching her, ached as it maybe never has before. My brave child, my social butterfly, my big personality, my fearless diva who walks into a room and owns it…here she was, showing her weakness and vulnerability at last. Here were her tears, proof positive that she still needs me.

And I, her.

Because as she walked away from me, wiping her eyes, following the other kids into her classroom, she tugged my heart along with her and I felt empty and lonely and unsteady in its absence. It stayed with her all day and returned to me only at 3:40pm, when that sweet child’s hand was back in my own.

I didn’t know it would be like this. I thought I was stronger. I thought I was ready for this. I thought, maybe, horribly, that our bond just wasn’t that great. That, maybe, her growing up and going to school all day every day would be a relief to both of us.

As it turns out, we are no more ready for this transition than anyone else and she still needs me and I need her and we’re in this together.

And that realization is a relief, and a gift, in itself.

On The Day That I Learned My Dad Is Dead

Yesterday was a day like any other.

I wrestled three children from the bed to the bathroom to the table (rinse and repeat multiple times). I cleaned the house. I was cranky. I was tired. I drank a lot of coffee.

I was also feeling a bit sad for what felt like no reason at all, which is not entirely unusual but not exactly commonplace either. Maybe it was post-vacation blues. Or that my mom had just boarded a plane for home the night before. Or maybe my heart already knew what my head didn’t.

But mostly, it was a day of no great significance or importance. When my husband came home from work, I grabbed my purse and left (ALONE) to go grocery-shopping, just as I do every Tuesday evening. I treated myself to dinner, I shopped, I came home.

I got into my yoga pants, I gave hugs and kisses to two little girls as they were ushered off to bed, and I sat down to feed Poppy while watching America’s Got Talent.

All of this was normal.

And then my husband sat down on the ottoman in front of me and put the TV on mute. I was so unsuspecting in that moment before he opened his mouth. So blissfully unaware, even though his TV-muting behavior was completely not normal.

And then his lips parted and he said to me, “The police came while you were out, Hon. They asked for you.”

In the brief pause before his next sentence, my heart sank. Toppled. Flipflopped. Seized. Burst. Broke. All or none of the above? I’m sure it did something that there are no words for. I had texted my mom thirty minutes earlier and had received no response. I felt certain in that split second that he was about to tell me she was dead. I think I may have sucked in a breath, because other than losing my children and my husband, losing her is my worst fear. And then —

“They told me that your dad died.”

Oh.

Well, of course. He had Type I Diabetes and there had been many, many low points in his health over the last year or two. In the last month, he had started throwing up every day multiple times a day and had lost a significant amount of weight. Even though he’d had some bad spells before, a part of me knew the end could be near. A part of me knew it so well that, on an inspired day two weeks ago, I wrote his eulogy. But still. You never really know when it’s coming. Especially when you’ve thought it was coming many times before.

Tears fell. They fell as I watched AGT. They fell onto Poppy as I nursed him. They started and stopped over and over all evening.

I feel relieved for that. I feel relieved and thankful that, despite the abuse I suffered at his hands and the thoughtless way he treated my mom and the stupid decisions he made and the selfish things he did in recent years, my heart is not so hard that I cannot grieve for him. Not so hard that I feel nothing for him.

Because, at the best of times, he was still my dad.

He taught me to drive.

He was there for every graduation and rewards ceremony.

He helped me move into and out of college dorms and apartments.

He cried when he walked me down the aisle.

He paid off my husband’s school loans.

He read stories to my children.

He called me on every birthday.

He did typical dad-things.

And while we weren’t close at all and there are so many complicated feelings always associated with him (probably some of which have not yet been allowed to surface), yesterday — and today — I just felt sad. Sad that Christmases won’t be the same. Sad that Poppy and Skittle will never remember him. Sad that any future child of mine will never meet him. Sad that he was alone when he died. Sad that I can’t remember what I said the last time we talked. Sad that he may have felt unloved in his final days or years. Just so very, and unexpectedly, sad.

Last night, as I left the bathroom wiping my eyes, I heard Cupcake call for her dad. I don’t usually answer their calls for more water, hugs, books, and tickles because it seems to start a cascade of requests, but when I passed by her room yesterday, I felt drawn inside by her sweet voice. She was smiling at me from the top bunk and I walked to her and without saying a word, laid my head against hers and just drank in her warmth, her softness. I don’t know if she felt the wetness of my tears against her cheek, but she giggled and ran her fingers through my long hair.

And I hugged her, fiercely. Because it’s times like these when you acknowledge just how precious and fragile life is. When you can see all the wonderful, glorious years that stretch ahead of her and yet know with certainty just how fast they will pass. When you realize that your own days with her are getting shorter, slipping away, one by one.

So yesterday was a day like any other.

Except, it really wasn’t.

My dad died.

And I learned that I do love him after all.

And I was reminded that, in small ways, we’re all dying and we just have to cherish each other and the time that we have left together.

 

 

Photo Update: 9 Months Old

I’m not going to take the time to do a proper update on Poppy for this milestone, but I will say this: He’s as sweet and lovable as ever. Full of charm. Constantly wanting the affection and attention of everyone he meets. He smiles and laughs ALL the time. Which is a good thing, because otherwise the new, once-a-night wakings might not be bearable. He still has no teeth, which could explain those midnight wakings…they must be arriving any day, right?!?! He’s pondering crawling. He yells just for the fun of it. He slept through his first AND second plane ride (thank GOD, because up until the moment we boarded the plane, he was doing the before-mentioned yelling-because-it’s-fun). And for all the chub and rolls that he has, it’s hard to believe that BOTH of his sisters weighed more at nine  months than he does. Love this boy so much!

An Update, Because I Have Nothing Better to Discuss

Why, hello there.

It’s been a while. Or at least, it feels like it has. I’ve been so busy lately and I just haven’t had the energy, ability, or desire to write something worthwhile. At least not here, in this venue. But I’m feeding Poppy right now while binge-watching Army Wives, and I thought it would be a good time to pop in for a quick update on all the happenings in the Dash home.

So, here we go…

ME:

  • My mom left on Monday after spending eleven days with us. It was a glorious visit filled with lots of fun and laughter and very little strife, but I was on the go every second she was here. There were days I was only at home to sleep. I am exhausted. And lonely once again now that she is gone. Getting back into our old routine is always a little hard.
  • Breastfeeding continues and I donate hundreds of ounces every month to a set of twins who were born just a week after Poppy. Have I mentioned that before? I’m glad my body does this one thing right. And thankful that is has helped me to reach my goal weight earlier than I ever have postpartum, despite the copious amounts of sugar I’ve been eating. Breastfeeding cravings are seriously no joke!
  • Another essay of mine will be published on Scary Mommy on June 15th. This one will be published under “Anonymous” (to protect my kids) and is a bit more controversial than the last. I’m nervous about some of the hate it will surely get, but plan to brush it off and embrace the moment.
  • I’ve been thinking a lot about the future. This is really another post for another day, but I’m getting the itch to start “trying” again. We’ll be waiting until next spring, but I feel hopeful and scared and anxious for it all at once. I’m ready for it. But I’m not. But I am. But I’m not. And on and on it goes and always, at the back of my mind, there’s the question of whether I’ll ever even have the chance to have a fourth, ready or not.

HONEY:

  • We should hear any day or minute about what kind of raise or promotion he will or will not be getting. He recently retained a mega-million-dollar account for his company and worked his ass off to do it, so we’re hopeful they will compensate him accordingly and we will be deeply disappointed if they decide not to.
  • He’s always and ever an incredible husband and father. Hard-working. Jovial. Steady. The rock of our family. I’m the one who stays at home and yet he does so much to help me. Every day, I am reminded how lucky I am.

CUPCAKE:

  • She is about to graduate from preschool and I feel excited and a teensy sad to be staring kindergarten straight in the face. She looks forward to school every day, though, and I really, really hope that continues. It reminds me so much of myself.
  • That Scary Mommy essay I mentioned earlier? It’s about her. About how difficult it can be to be her mother, with the amount of attitude and grief that she throws at me on a daily basis. I really hope I don’t regret being so very honest in such a public format. Mom-guilt is real and constant and I’m already feeling it over this. Especially considering that, since writing this, she hasn’t given me many problems at all. I’m thankful for that, but it’s also very…curious. Could she be outgrowing it, after all? Or am I just immune to it after all these years?
  • The other day, she said to me out of the blue, “Mommy, I know you want another baby, but if you can’t have one, I’ll let you play with some of my dolls.” If only it were that easy, sweetheart. If only. And also…please don’t let this be some sign of what is — or is not — to come.

SKITTLE:

  • We just embarked on potty-training not long ago. We haven’t had many successes yet, but not many accidents either. Apparently, this kid has a bladder of steel.
  • She’s starting to talk, act, look, and walk more like a little girl than a baby. It breaks my heart, but I am enjoying every minute of this age with her. Everything she does is adorable. My favorite is when she dramatically throws herself onto the floor and says, “It’s no fair!” Any guesses where she learned that from?

POPPY:

  • Still no teeth. Still screaming in the middle of some nights and at random times during the day as if they will be arriving any moment. And he’s also taken to clamping down — hard — while nursing. This period of teething is so fun.
  • In the last week, he has gone from rolling around and getting stuck in odd places and then screaming for help to efficiently army crawling and getting to exactly what he wants. The dog food & water bowls now remain on the countertop during Poppy’s waking hours.
  • He had a prolonged cough and wheeze for months and there was talk of asthma, but the cough and wheeze are now almost entirely gone. Fingers crossed they stay that way!

WHAT ELSE:

  • We have started the home selling/buying process. At three bedrooms and 1500 square feet, we are maxed out on space here. I feel sentimental over leaving the only home our three children have ever known, a home that has seen me through some of my best and worst life moments, but we desperately need more space. I’m excited for what is to come, but I feel overwhelmed and stressed about the whole process. There’s so much to do! And how does anyone accomplish all of it with KIDS?!
  • Poppy and I will be flying to Idaho in a few weeks to visit my mom for a long weekend. And, later in the summer, we have two short beach getaways planned. We really should be spending our weekends and money getting our house ready to be put on the market, but quality family time is important. Or at least that’s what I tell myself every time I start to feel guilty about it.

So with all of that going on, I’m not really sure when I’ll be returning here. It may be in a week, or a month, or a year. I want this to be a place I can turn to, a release, a diary, but not an obligation. I’ll be back, maybe at the peak of craziness when I crave a shoulder to lean on, or maybe once the dust settles. This summer is going to be a whirlwind. And no matter what yours has in store for you, I hope you all are able to take a few minutes to enjoy a mojito and the sun on your face. Life is beautiful. Even when it’s hard, it’s beautiful.

Be well, friends. I’ll see you again soon. xo

6 Months Old (6 Weeks Late)

Well, our little Poppy boy is officially halfway through his first year. As of about six weeks ago. Better late than never for an update, eh? This sweet boy, bless his heart, loves to be held and spoonfed all the love and attention you can give — which means he spends a lot of his waking hours in arms or on a lap. I have worn this baby in a sling or Boba more at home than I ever did with either of my girls combined…probably twelve times over. It’s exhausting. And he really hates teething, also much more than his sisters ever did. So he’s a lot of work.

But he fills the house with unbridled joy. Smiles and giggles for days, from the moment I peek at him over the rail of his crib first thing in the morning to his last feeding of the day, beaming with my boob in his mouth before he drifts off to sleep. I love this boy more than I ever imagined I could. A few special things about him:

  • I put socks on him and he pulls them off almost immediately, chews on them, and then drops them wherever he is. Rinse and repeat throughout the day. Meanwhile, I find soggy socks throughout the house all day long.
  • Cupcake is possibly his favorite person in the world. He could watch her and interact with her for hours. He especially loves when she sings to him.
  • He rolls over and sits on his own. No crawling or other movement yet, but no surprise there. He’s BIG. (Oddly enough, not quite as big as his sisters were at this age, though.) Also, no teeth yet and barely any hair. Those will come some day, right?
  • He LOVES being outside. On his fussy days, I will take him outside if the weather is nice, and he will be happy as a clam playing in the grass for as long as he can.
  • He really, really, REALLY loves people. Be near him, talk to him, sing to him, tickle him…it will make his day.
  • Eating is fun! He wasn’t sure about it for the first two weeks, but now gets spastically excited when he sees the spoon coming at him with another bite of food. Cauliflower, avocado, banana, carrots, peas, chocolate frosting (don’t judge)…he seems to like it all so far!
  • His arms and legs are constantly flailing, kicking, moving. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten whacked in the face while nursing him.
  • He may be a lot of work, but most nights he does sleep through the night. For eleven hours or so. And he takes an hour-long morning nap and sleeps for 2-3 hours in the afternoon. I really can’t complain. It could be soooo much worse (and it was, for a while).
  • He’s so ticklish. It brings my heart great joy that, all these months later, it still sends him into giggle fits when we get him dressed and undressed throughout the day.

And also? Those cheeks! Those rolls! Isn’t he scrumptious?!

Her.

Over the weekend, Poppy and I attended a Birth Without Fear conference. It was an inspiring day, filled with so many inspirational women and moving moments. But the one that has stuck with me was unexpected.

I first saw her early in the day, when I went to the talk about loss. The speaker was a doula who lost a baby at 34 weeks and, as you might expect, the audience was filled with women who had tear-streaked cheeks and tissues balled up in their fists. The one who sat in front of me wept openly and there was something about her that told me her pain was new. Raw. She had long hair, a full face, a striped shirt, and a swollen belly. A belly that held life, or death, or at least did not so long ago.

I never did speak to this woman. Her vulnerability makes my heart look at her as a girl, but no. She was a woman. Probably around my age. I don’t know her story. She won one of the giveaways and asked if it had any baby stuff in it. I heard her say, “I can’t do baby stuff right now.” I can only assume that she lost a baby very recently, or was in the process of losing one, or was going to lose one that wasn’t compatible with life outside her womb. Or something. I don’t know. But I felt drawn to her.

Our paths crossed many times in the day. I held my Poppy tight against me and watched her quietly, felt the sadness that radiated from her, and thought of Teddy Graham. I ached for her, and ached to reach out and provide some meaningful words of comfort and support, but I felt lost. I may have three children, but I still relate to loss mamas and infertile women more than anyone else. I am not so far removed from the pain and trauma caused by those experiences. And yet, I also am painfully aware how lucky I am and I know — I so very much know — that my loss cannot possibly compare to the loss of someone who loses a baby much farther into her pregnancy. They’re the same thing. And they aren’t. So I feel in limbo. Like I don’t quite fit in anywhere. And when I saw that woman on Saturday, I yearned to provide comfort, but I was holding my perfect baby and felt tongue-tied and idiotic, so I said and did nothing.

When the conference was over, I found a window seat on which to sit and feed Poppy before we made the drive home. And as I sat there in the warm sunlight and thought about the day, the woman with the round belly walked by, carrying her prize basket of non-baby items, quietly leaving the conference alone. She glanced my way ever so briefly and I gave her a small smile, but I don’t even know if she noticed, if she saw that I saw her. Her pain. Her loss. Her baby.

I wish I would have chased after her then and asked to hug her. I wish I would have expressed how sorry I was for her pain and given her an opportunity to talk about her baby. But instead I watched her go and thought of how heavy her heart must be in that moment, but also how strong and courageous she must be in order to attend that conference, a place full of bumps and babies, with such a heavy heart. And to do it alone, no less. As she turned the corner, I said a silent prayer for her, because that was all there was left to do.

And now I remember why I make such an effort to do things that are important to me, despite how fearful I am. Because I hate the feeling of regret. I feel haunted by this woman and her loss, haunted by the fact that I didn’t do something when I felt called to do it. That I said nothing when I was in a position to do so. And I don’t know if it what I would have said or done would have been the right thing to say or do; I just know that I should have acted. I expect better of myself.

And so next time — if there’s ever a next time — I will. I will do better. I will be better. I will continue to try to live a life that doesn’t have room for regret and to connect with other women heart-t0-heart even when I feel my attempts are lacking, insignificant, or pointless.  Doing something is better, I am reminded, than doing nothing. I didn’t expect that to be my takeaway from the BWF conference, but alas…it is what is. Unexpected lessons in unexpected places.