Mommy’s Tools

I’ve had to do a lot of starting over with things, and that’s okay. Starting over is good. It’s cleansing; it’s neccesary. You hear these stories of how the wife takes everything, down to the last fork. I wasn’t that wife..I didn’t want any reminders, I didn’t want anything that wasn’t ‘fresh’ and ‘mine’. So, even though it means I’ve had to spend a lot of money I’d really rather not have to, I have new dishes, new silverware, a new bed, a new couch..and it’s mine, with no memories attached. It also means I have empty walls – no more gorgeous artwork that was collected over the years. But, again that’s how I wanted it. Starting over; all the way.

Along with all this purging of my house, went all the tools. Not that I used them very often, but if I needed a hammer, I knew I could run down to the basement and grab a hammer. If I needed a screwdriver for some reason, again I knew where to find it. This morning, I decided it was time to address the absence of tools. I have shit to hang and I need some tools! The girls and I headed out to Home Depot, formerly known as “the Daddy store”. On the way, we were talking about what it was we needed to get and Hannah very perceptively pointed out that you know, we shouldn’t call this the Daddy store anymore. I’m like, you’re right…maybe we should just call it the tool store? She said no, we’ll call it the Mommy store. Hannah has watched me morph and change from someone who used to say, ‘mmm, no we can’t do that – Daddy needs to do that’ – to, ‘pfft, of course Mommy can do this – here, watch and learn’. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of what I’m teaching these girls.

So, we’re in the store and the first thing I see is duct tape. I grab some and toss it in the cart mumbling something about gotta have duct tape. Hannah overheard me and was like, what? What do you use duct tape for? I told her, everything. I’m pretty sure duct tape fixes everything, and I’m pretty sure we need some. Then we moved on to tools and rulers, and levels, and even a cute little bucket thing to hold them all in. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have a cute receptacle for all this. I may not know exactly how to use all these new tools of mine, but they’ll at least look good in their storage spot.

We’re at the checkout and the gal who is ringing me up says something to the girls about, “oh are you guys shopping for Daddy?” Hannah, bless her heart – said no..these are Mommy’s tools. I looked at the cashier gal who then clearly realized her error and looked uncomfortable and unsure of what to say next, so I just smiled and said, “Yep, these are Mommy’s tools.”

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Just Another List

I am a list maker by nature, pretty sure I get it from my mom… But there is something fulfilling about making a list and crossing things off. And then of course there’s the whole, I can’t forget things if I have them down in a list. Though there are plenty of times I get my pen and paper out only to completely blank on what it was I going to actually list out. And then there I sit with my pen wondering, what the hell was I going to write? Yep, clearly closing in on 40 this year.

So, with all the changes that divorce brings you can only imagine the amount of lists I’ve gone through. My attorney was slightly in awe of the binders I showed up with, full of lists and information. When I do something, I don’t really do it half-assed ;) And now that our custody arrangement has been worked out and finalized, I felt the need to have a list for the girls. This is so much change for them, I need them to be able to wrap their head around what it all means and when it all happens. One quick stop at Office Depot and I got them a very visual list. We’ve been using this board for a few weeks, and had just been flexible with what happened on which days, but now finally they get to see a pattern and can rely on and know what to expect.

IMG_6085We just sat and filled out the calendar for August and as I was making the stars, Hannah was one step ahead of me already seeing the pattern and knowing who she was going to be with when. It’s one small thing I can do for them to try and ease them into this transition of 2 houses. Mommy and Daddy each gets a color, daycare Angela gets a color, and babysitter gets a color. And since Hannah was so quick to pick up on this visual guide, she’s been explaining it to Liza too…’look this day we see Daddy, but this day we get to stay with Mommy’. List successful…

 

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End of an Era

This post has been a long time coming…a surprisingly long time coming. You know when you get married, you never *ever* even consider the fact that there may come a day when your dreams will shatter and your marriage will end. That just never occurs to you; you’re so swept up and so into this new chapter in your life. And rightly so. I think back on our wedding and it was a wonderful day, the weather, the people, the celebration, the songs, the vows…the pictures say it all. I was so in love, so very very in love. I thought I had found my soul-mate, and I thought we would grow old together. I think it’s safe to say that everyone in attendance thought the same thing. We had been “Lance and Dee” for years before we got to the formality of an actual wedding.

But… of course there’s a but in my story. Honestly, there is a ‘but’ in so many stories…I just never thought, and tried so hard to not be that ‘but’…but, the dream was shattered and I had to set a new course for my life. Looking back, isn’t hindsight always 20/20? I was holding on to something that wasn’t there for far too long. I read my “family vacation” post from March of 2013 and I think…I was such a fool..how could I not have known? But the thing I’ve come to realize, is that I did know. Deep down, on some level, I knew things were wrong. I just didn’t know how wrong. And I read the subsequent posts and I see now, I see it so clearly now. But, at the time I just didn’t want to admit it. I just didn’t think it could possibly be true. Always trust your gut. Always. No matter what it’s telling you.

And I’ve struggled with wanting to take down my entire blog. But then each time I think about that, I think about the other stories I have up and I just can’t. 90% of this blog was written for the girls; for when they’re older and they want to have stories from their childhood. So many stories, so many adorable and frustrating and full of life stories. I can’t take those away from them. They are all a part of my life. A part of my life that is over, but a part none the less. And so the blog stays.

And girls…when you’re older, you’ll understand that what I did; I did for you. So many times women stay in a marriage, “for the sake of the kids” and they compromise their morals and they lose themselves even more, just so they don’t have to let go of that dream of the perfect life. But, I had to realize, there is no perfect life. Dreams shatter. Things change. And for me, for you, it was time to let that go and move on. I’m sorry for the months I was not the Mommy you needed; the mommy you deserved. It was an unbelievably hard time and it took everything in me to get myself back. But it was you, you beautiful girls that pulled me through. It was because of, and for you that I came out of my tailspin stronger than ever. I needed to prove to myself and to you, that I could do this. I could be a strong woman, on my own. And that is one of the best lessons I could possibly teach you. You can do anything. Literally anything, if you set your mind to it. You girls have watched me come back into my own and you’ve been with me every step of the way. From the simple tasks of conquering the mower and putting in a garden, to the bigger ones of putting a baseboard back on, fixing a toilet, a bathtub – you see things break and you know that it’s okay because Mommy’s got this, Mommy can do anything.

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“No” means…No.

No means no. No has always meant no. But, for whatever reason, we allow ourselves to be persuaded, to be accommodating, to compromise our boundaries. I have spent hours (literally days) in therapy and boundaries are huge. One needs to set boundaries and maintain those boundaries. Once boundaries are crossed, wheels are set into motion that shouldn’t have even been moved.

 

Examples…

Hannah: Please mommy, please I want to go outside.
Me: No, Hannah. For the 8th time (honestly, it was), we are not going outside, we do not have your snow gear and we’re staying inside. Period. No more asking.
3rd party: Hannah, would you like to go outside?
Hannah: YES!!!!

That situation showed Hannah that what Mommy has to say doesn’t matter. The 3rd party in that situation usurped me as a parent, undermined me as a parent, crossed a boundary that I had set for my child. My child saw and heard me be treated as less than a parent.

Me: No, I don’t want my children to walk down the icy hill.
3rd party: (physically taking Hannah’s hand), Let’s go Hannah, “be brave!”
Me: No. (physically taking Hannah’s hand) No, Hannah. It’s too icy, hold my hand.
3rd party: Took one step and fell down hard on the ice.

That situation also showed Hannah that what Mommy has to say doesn’t matter. And physically crossed the boundary by taking her hand after I had said NO. Also, implying that I’m not brave. That by choosing to not walk on the ice, I was in fact the opposite. I was cowardly.

Me: Do not cut Eliza’s hair.
3rd party: I know you said not to, but we cut Eliza’s hair.
Me: Complete and utter meltdown. I couldn’t even speak for hours, I was so upset. I had specifically said in 5 words, crystal clear, “Do not cut Eliza’s hair”.

That situation is by far the most undermined I have ever felt as a parent. My baby girl had her first haircut by someone I didn’t know. Someone I didn’t trust. Someone who had no regard for her precious little baby curls and threw them all away. Eliza’s hair went from long and flow-y to short blunt bangs, short blunt sides and a chopped off backside. No more long, almost 3 year old baby curl she has had her whole life. That is in some barbershop’s trash can. But that isn’t the worst of it. Hair will grow back. I will grow out the bangs she was given against my wishes. I will grow out the sides that were cut against my wishes. It is just hair; it will grow.

What will not grow back is the boundary that I had set. One rule. One boundary. Please do not cross it. Eliza will never know how atrocious her hair cut is. She has only heard and seen me be supportive of it. I am taking her in to *my* barber tomorrow. The barber I trust, the barber I know. She can fix Eliza’s hair. She cannot fix the broken boundary though.

Boundaries. We are supposed to learn about them as children, and then throughout life learn how to set appropriate ones for ourselves, and subsequently our children. I never realized how hard it was going to be to maintain these boundaries. I never realized I would be fighting  a constant battle to keep my position as parent. But the fact remains; I am the parent. I set the boundary. You are not; you respect the boundary. And if you choose to disrespect the boundary; know that you are sending a message that screams undermining…insolence… and I am left feeling less than. But, I am not. I am not less than.

 

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In Pictures

There is such a gap in my writing, that it’s easiest to catch up in pictures. The girls grew so much in these last several months, I’m glad that even though I wasn’t writing, I was still snapping pictures. Pictures can sometimes tell more than an entire story…

 

IMG_3567Summer canning session, this year both girls helped and it was awesome. Hannah is watching me type this now and is asking when we can do tomatoes again!
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Some mornings were just spent lounging, all my girls.

 

 

 

 

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First day of preschool (3 days a week this year!). At our parent/teacher conferences this year, she had a stellar review. Plays well with everyone, wants to try everything, is always willing to help, and turns out… she’s very social :) lol

 

 

 

 

IMG_3668And then of course, there was the foot surgery. An achilles tendon restructure AND a bunion-ectomy. Zelda really didn’t leave my side.

 

 

 

IMG_3791It was during this time, the Wii was dusted off. Dance Party time! And Hannah has learned how to play Legend of Zelda AND Super Mario brothers. Hand/eye coordination, right?

 

 

 

IMG_4137Finally, my foot healed enough I could make my way back into the kitchen to soap. And when I soap, the girls soap :) We’ve done great this year with our soap adventures. The girls have had their little hands on every part of the process (except of course the dangerous lye part). I’m pretty sure, squishing the soap butts into “house” bars is their favorite part.

 

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Nutcracker tradition, year 3. And this was by far, the best of them. Hannah knew what to expect and loved it! We even got to meet some ballerinas on our way out and touch their pretty outfits.

 

 

 

And to end the year, a surprise visit from Santa!!!

IMG_4344Hannah and Santa
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Eliza gave Santa many, many hugs. She couldn’t have been more adorable.

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If you don’t have anything nice to say…

One of the phrases that I will always remember being taught as a kid. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Perhaps, the hardest thing for me is the keeping quiet part.

My blog has been deafeningly quiet. And that’s because I haven’t had anything nice to say. My last post was about hope and despair, and I was in probably the lowest point in my life I have ever been. Even lower than when I was 20, and tried to kill myself. Yes, I said it. Outloud, for the whole world to hear. I was at such a horrible place when I was younger…lost, confused, feeling too much, I couldn’t get out; and felt the only way out was to drink a bottle of whiskey and take 5 boxes of sleeping pills. I was selfish and not thinking of anyone but me. I wasn’t thinking of my parents or my siblings or any of my family. I was just caught up in too much angst and couldn’t see any light.

For whatever reason, my suicide attempt did not work. I can only assume it’s because I had things yet to do. And I see now, those 2 things are named Hannah and Eliza. And every day, every day I am so grateful for them. During these last 6+ months of darkness I have found myself in, Hannah and Eliza have helped balance it out. They remind me of everything good and innocent and young and worthwhile. I can now finally say, I’m no longer in a place of despair. I have found strength and courage. I am a grown woman who has given birth to 2 children; I wear those scars and stretch marks proudly. My body has changed. I am closing in on 40. I will never again be 22 and that’s okay. I don’t want to be. I am older and wiser. I am proud of who I have become and who I am continuing to become.

And to those who are imposters. I can’t be like you. And I will never understand you. A friend of mine recently blogged about that here. And I keep thinking of her post and realizing that I have to let it go. The hatred I have of impostor(s). Those who know they’ve done so wrong, so very, very wrong and damaged others; yet pretend they are the best. They give the world a view of them that is nothing but perfect and beautiful. They don’t acknowledge the pain they’ve caused, nor accept any responsibility. As my friend said, it’s not about you, it’s about them and their inabilities. Their inabilities to deal with what they’ve done or not done. It’s not about me. And so, I am letting go of my impostor anger. I need that energy for myself.

I’ve missed writing. I’ve missed sharing the cute little day to day stories that the girls are constantly giving me. And now that I am at peace with my anger and letting it go, and feeling stronger in myself – I will write. This blog has always been for my girls, a way to share with them what life was like when they were little. And there is a 6 month gap of so many amazing little girl stories. It’s time to catch up :)

 

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Hope and Despair

Hope and despair – could they be any further apart from one another? They’re opposite ends of the spectrum and yet those are the two feelings I find myself battling with/struggling with every day.

I’ve been silent on the technology front. So silent that I’ve gotten a surprising amount of emails and texts asking if I’m okay. Those friends who have reached out to me, asking if I’m okay, have given me glimmers of hope in some very desperate days. So, thank you to those who’ve noticed and commented on my absence. I’m on a technology break. As much as I have embraced technology over the years, I need to step back from it. Particularly Facebook…I used to love throwing out random, useless, non-sense onto Facebook daily. It was fun, it was nothing, it was a quick way to briefly connect with others. But now, all I see are people throwing out fake joy. Covering up what is really going on, pretending life is okay, when it is anything but. And when I know, I know what is going on in their lives and I see their ‘status updates’, it irritates me to a point that isn’t healthy. So, I’m on a break.

Despair. I honestly can’t recall ever feeling as desperate as I have these last few months. I have never been at a point this low in my life, ever. You know when you’re just chugging along through life, living your day, raising your kids, doing what you do – and then in one instant, all of that is taken away. You go from, I’m happy, I have a really good life – to, what just happened? What is going on? Why? What am I doing? What is this mess I call life?

Hope. I need some. I need some hope. I need to find a way for some inner peace and calm. How do you find it? I know so many find peace and calm in church, I don’t. I just don’t. Where else do you find it? How do you pull it out from within? How do you do it? How do you make it through the bad times? I’ve had some really good conversations with my mom and some friends about bad times. Everyone has them. Every relationship has them. Some people own them and some don’t. But, it’s how you deal with the bad, that matters. I’ve decided to face the bad head on and deal with it, I won’t run from it.

Please share with me some of your strong words; that help you get through the bad, that help you and your heart heal.

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Following Through

SoapIt’s one of those things that is considered a ‘fault’ of mine, I’m sure many others have the same fault. Not finishing what you started. My husband reminded me the other night that I’ve got a pretty good track record of starting things and not finishing them. It’s true. It’s not something I’m proud of or that I even like to admit to myself. But, this time, with my soap business, I am following through. It is taking some serious time, but I am committed. And excited!

I’d never really been content working for the man, but I did it because that’s what you do. When I was about to have Hannah and was trying to figure out a way to work at home and make money while taking care of a newborn, my movie business was born. I thought it was a neat idea…take peoples photographs, add music and waa-laa, give them a beautiful movie back. I hadn’t thought about how much care a newborn needs, much less how to promote this new wackadoo business idea I had. So, of course, it failed. I did have a few orders though and those few were really happy with my work. But, my idea tanked.

A few months ago when I decided to make my own soap, I had the same sort of wackadoo thinking going on….hey, what if I were able to make this into a business? Like, a real business?? I tried to take a much more professional approach (it helps when there is no newborn, but just a 2 and 4 year old). I established a set of trials. 15 friends volunteered to accept every soap sample I gave them, in exchange for filling out an online survey detailing their experience with the soap. Reading all their feedback really gave me the inspiration to keep going. I felt like I was on to something. People were liking what *I* was making. Crazy! So, I kept moving forward; applying for tax permit, establishing an LLC, applying for area markets, etc.

And now, I have a business! Green Mama Soaps, LLC – A Natural Clean. I can’t help but think I should be more excited than I am about this, but I’m feeling a bit torn right now. My business is taking off, people are actually buying my soap. They do like it. But as with all things, something has to suffer. Last week as I was trying to get a handle on orders and shipping and packaging and everything that comes with the 1st week of opening a new business, Hannah says to me, “Mommy, you should take a break. You aren’t taking care of us.” Brought me to my knees. Literally. I stopped stacking boxes of soap in the basement and came over to kneel down by her on the stairs. I gave her my full attention so she could tell me what was on her mind. She talked, I listened. I can completely understand how having Mommy’s attention 24/7 and then suddenly seeing Mommy take an interest in something OTHER than the children, would be upsetting. We talked about how I can do both, I just have to find the right balance.

Part of our compromise was that I would only make soap while they are sleeping, which is what I already do anyway. Working with lye isn’t exactly kid-friendly. And the other part of our compromise was to have Hannah be more involved. Even if it is only carrying soap boxes, she wants to help. I get that. And I love that. I told her she can always help me. So, here I am…another new business idea. I’m trying to be optimistic. I will succeed. I will follow through. I will make soap, and I will sell soap!

Please, check out my website (completely created by myself, with much, much hair-loss) and give my soap a try. No chemicals, just love and nature. And if you like it, tell your friends, maybe you can help me succeed :)

 

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The Change

I never saw it coming. When I was a kid and even when I was an older kid in college, I couldn’t spend enough money on disposable, chemical-laden, fragrance-filled products. I didn’t care where it came from, I didn’t care who made it, and I really could have cared less what was actually *in* it. And that pretty much applied to anything; food, random bath products, clothes, perfume…I just didn’t care.

Fast forward to hearing that I am pregnant with Hannah. That moment right there, is when I can pinpoint the change beginning; when it wasn’t about me any more. I had a little someone growing inside of me, I had to start being more aware. Of everything. I listened to every word the doctors had to say. And I read every book and online article I could find about being a new mommy. That’s when decisions like natural childbirth, doulas, nursing, cloth-diapering, babyfood making, baby-wearing, and all sorts of other things came up that the younger-non-pregnant-me, would have NEVER considered. I started to joke about turning into a hippie.

But now, I think I can safely say I have completed that metamorphosis. And it’s something I’m really, pretty happy about. It’s not like we’re living in a commune or anything, but we are making much greener, and more aware choices. A hearty dose of documentaries is seeing to that. This spring,  we’ll get our first “farm delivery”. We decided to spend the money up front and go in on a CSA. 4 years ago, I wouldn’t have known what those letter stood for, today I still forget what they stand for, but I get the gist…we get produce every single week of the growing season, grown by a local farmer, free of pesticides and chemicals. We’ve also stopped buying hormone and crap infested cow milk and beef, and are looking at local farms to buy that from as well.

And, to top it all off, I taught myself how to make soap. After telling Mom about my newest adventure, turns out Nana used to make her own soap too! Maybe that’s why Pandora is always throwing me the Andrews Sisters and Glenn Miller while I’m soaping…  I love it though, I love making a product that is full of nothing but good things. Pure olive oil, coconut oil, mango butter, essential oils…no beef tallow. Did you know most soaps you buy are made with rendered beef fat?! They use fancy pretty words to disguise it, but there it is. You are cleaning your hands with pieces of cow. (okay, not like his tail or anything, but ewww.)

IMG_3013I’ve gotten so into my soap making, that I have decided to turn it into a business. I can only assume that there are others out there like me…new to hippie-hood and appalled at what they’ve been slathering on their bodies for years. So, mark your calendars for June 1, 2013. That is when I will unveil the website I’ve been working on, and start selling my hand-crafted soaps. http://www.greenmamasoaps.com/

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Koch Family Vacation, Part Two

cabinLike I was saying, this Vacation In The Woods we’d planned, is not exactly my kind of vacation. And yet, I was the one cheerleading for this cabin, this spot, in these mountains. It was like, as soon as we decided we were actually going to do this, I wanted to do it right. I wanted a good old-fashioned, family vacation. And what’s a family vacation if not hours and hours of each others’ company in the car, with a kick-ass cabin on the other end of the ride? Add to that, our friends and their kids…it’s like a never-ending play date for kids and grown ups!

I don’t really remember it, but there are pictures to prove I was on this very kind of vacation when I was little. But the cabin we went to in up-north Wisconsin, was a bit more on the “rustic” side. I don’t do rustic. If I’m going to be in the woods, I’m going to need to be able to *really* enjoy my indoor time. I don’t want to be outside, frying spam on the campfire or something…I want to be inside, pouring drinks and looking at the outside through the really big windows. And, vacationing with 2 former Eagle Scouts ensures the kids will be aired out. So of course while they were airing, I was enjoying the solitude and looking through the big window. (Amber wasn’t able to make the trip, so I really did have solitude when the guys had the kids.) Though, it’s not like I spent the whole time indoors; there was plenty of outside time. Just not as much as the guys :)

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We had packed our build-a-fort thing, thinking it might be fun on a rainy day. It kept Lance occupied for awhile anyway.

 

 

 

 

IMG_2778One morning was ideal weather for a hike. Or so says the outdoorsmen. I do have to admit, it was really pretty cool. We walked out our back door, down into the ravine, and into nature. After a while, we found a river to walk along. Look closely and you’ll see a black and brown blur that is Zelda. Without a doubt, Zelda had the best time of her life on this vacation. She spent most of her time in the woods, hunting bear.
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On our last day there, we bon-fired. The kids, the guys and the dog were all happily hunting and gathering sticks and wood. It’s like I could hear them beating their chests and grunting the whole time…

 

 

IMG_2812This is my favorite picture from the whole trip. It sums up our vacation perfectly. Friends and family, spending quality time together without any stress or troubles getting in the way. For this, it is worth the 2 day car ride. :)

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