Maximus

The 5 phases of moms’ back-to-school blues

Dear moms,

Whatever stage of parenting you are in, on the first day of school, know this:

You will survive.

You might not have five kids, like I do, to place your phases into neat little categories, but it only takes one time for us to share the back-to-school bond.

So, if today is your first time, read below, and cry away. If today is your third time, please enjoy it for me. If today is your 15th time, accept my deepest respect.

Most importantly, (and I’m saying this for myself as much as I am for you) all phases are perfectly acceptable.

We will survive.

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Phase 1:

On the first day of school, CHILD#1 was all dressed up in a perfect outfit selected just for the occasion. The brand-name pink dress matched her personalized pink backpack and chic brown leather boots.  The boots were adorned with flowers that were the same two pinks of her backpack and dress. The detailed accessorizing was absolutely necessary. Her “look” had to equal her worth. Perfection was the only option. Her long hair was styled in flawless pigtails with stationary bows; everything was doused with hairspray to perform their duty throughout the long school day. She couldn’t get to her classroom fast enough. As she walked into her kindergarten class she greeted her teacher with a handshake, a hand-made note communicating her excitement to learn, double school supplies, and a carefully wrapped teacher’s gift. She already knew how to read, write, and do simple math. She was just there to show off and tutor her new friends.

Her mom would sit stoic through the parent separation meeting where the teacher read “The Kissing Hand.” Her permanent squint barricaded the threatening waterfall of tears. She would go home and bawl while praying for her baby to be safe. This daily ritual would last all year.

Phase 2:

On the first day of school, CHILD #2 was in the outfit that her mom gently guided her to choose from the clearance rack at Target. She didn’t really like the red polo top, but her mom said it made her look smart, especially with her new glasses. Her jeans were gently worn, and her tennis shoes were double-knotted so that the teacher wouldn’t have to be bothered to help her re-tie them later. Her hair was cut short to make it easier in the mornings. Between the glasses and the headband it would hopefully stay out of her face for the rest of the day. She clenched her mom’s hand and was barely dragged along to her classroom. She greeted her teacher with a bowed head, a forced smile, and a backpack full of supplies that her mom hoped she wouldn’t be forced to share. She had a few extra boxes of Kleenex for her teacher. She could write her name, read a few words, and surely her puzzle mastery counted for the math. She was there because she wanted to be a big girl like her sister, but she was scared to death.

Her mom would not listen at all during the parent meeting because it was just easier that way. She willfully forced herself from the school dragging her large cement slab of worry to the car where she would sit and cry with the toddler in the back. The next day would be a little easier, but her aching would last all year.

Phase  3:

On the first day of school, CHILD#3 wore the outfit her sisters told her was the cutest at one of the fifty stores where they went back-to-school shopping. It was a plain combination of a shirt, skirt, and matching shoes. The clothes were new and she was ecstatic about owning something that no one else wore before her. Her shoes did not have shoelaces, but velcro fasteners. Even though her mom had always sworn her kids would know how to tie their shoes by kindergarten, she had changed her mind after a hundred unsuccessful demonstrations. Her hair was mid-length in two messy pigtails. She gladly skipped along side her mom. After all, this school was her second home. She was poised and familiar with her teacher: she’d known her for a year already. Inside her backpack was everything from the supply list except for the unnecessary things that her mom knew that the teacher had never gotten around to removing from the ancient list. Her mom carried a whole case of Kleenex as a gift for the teacher. Teachers never have enough tissues and this kid had an allergy-induced dependency on them. She could write her name and sit still for a story, but that was it. She gave her mom a tentative hug and told her to hurry and leave before she embarrassed her further.

Her mom left the parent meeting in a hurry. She had a date with the local bakery for breakfast. The freedom would last all year even though she occasionally worried for the sanity of her kids’ teachers. The only crying would happen that morning while eating her quiche: a single tear would roll down her cheek because of the touching plot-line of her book.

Phase  4:

On the first day of school, CHILD#4 wore something.  It may not have matched because if her mom told her it didn’t and she insisted that was what she wanted to wear, her mom relented. The clothes may have been from the rack at the thrift-store or from a bag of hand-me-downs in the garage.  Either way they were new to her and she felt fancy. She was the first one in the family to wear sandals on the first day of school. It was warm enough, and her mom figured the easiest way for her to learn that she didn’t want sod trapped between her toes at recess was to get the experience over with. Her hair was brushed. She didn’t need her mom to walk her to her class. School was exciting, but not nearly as thrilling as Disneyland. Her mom insisted on walking her to the front door of the school and then again insisted on a hug before letting her sisters walk her the rest of the way. Inside her backpack was nothing but an emergency change of clothes in a ziplock bag. They’d get the supplies later. For the teacher there was a gift-card to Wal-mart, but it hadn’t been purchased yet. She knew how to write her name, but the “a” was always backwards.

If there was a parent meeting, mom hadn’t heard about it. She waddled from the school and hurried home for a nap.  She only had ’til noon to pick her kindergartner back up, and there was only two weeks before her next baby would be born. The noon pick up would remain her largest source of frustration for the rest of the year especially when she had to wake up the baby from his nap. Some days she would cry about it.

Phase  5:

On the first day of school, CHILD#5 wore a t-shirt, some cotton pants, and a dry diaper. He was lucky she hadn’t left his pajamas on. He was shoe-less. He didn’t walk. His hair was brushed with some baby lotion to mask the musky baby boy scent. He sat in the stroller waving at all the energetic kids lining up outside the school. They would occasionally wave back when his sister pointed him out. School was a place where mom would take him from time to time. He and mom both waved to sister as she hugged her teacher and walked inside, but she didn’t turn around or wave back. His mom threw caution to the wind that morning and had brought him to the school without a bottle or a diaper. Really, she was just in a hurry. He couldn’t write his name. He couldn’t even say his name.

Mom conducted a parent meeting as she walked back to her car. She hurried the stroller past the other moms in her running clothes saying: “I was almost free. Lucky for me, this guy is going to keep me company for another five years.”  After her run, when she got home, she refused to cry. She plopped the baby in the highchair with some cheerios and opened up her laptop.

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Had I Remembered {a reflection on motherhood}

 

wpid-wp-1424717239819.jpegHad I remembered…..

the nights that I have to retrieve a pacifier at least every hour

and the mornings where I just want to read a single chapter of my book but the multiple feedings, epic dirty diaper, bath-time and the fact that for whatever reason he won’t go to sleep without being held make me give it up all together because it’s already noon

the teething

the whining and crying whenever I put him down

the poop that spills out of at least every other poopy diaper and up his back

the cost of diapers, wipes, and formula

the expense of changing wardrobes every three months

the spit up on every imaginable surface

the nap-times that are always too short

the date-nights that happen less frequently and for shorter spans of time

the little fingers that want to help my type

the impossibility of going to a movie as a family

the sex that only happens in a state of pure exhaustion

the weight of 20 pounds in my arms all day every day

the lugging of a car-seat everywhere I go

the sacrifice of about 90% of my free time

the difficulty of finding the time to just keep the house clean

the regular appointments to the pediatrician

and the fussy days after immunizations

the inconvenience of cooking a meal with a monkey on my back

the drooling like a puppy

the frustration of unloading a dishwasher when he grabs at everything

the impossibility of eating a meal with him in my lap

the fact that no matter how hungry I am he always needs to be fed first

the walking around like a zombie feeling that never goes away

the arduousness of Sunday mornings

{the list could go on and on}

…..but I’m so glad that I forgot. Had I remembered I probably never would have had him, and without him I would have missed out on….

his huge smile (that cheers everyone he sees – including the ornery old guy at church)

the fun times that his sisters play dress-up (see video below)

the cute way he sucks his lower lip and looks like a turtle

all the times he learns something new (he’s playing the piano below)

watching his face light up every time he sees his daddy

the euphoria of peekaboo (cutest video ever to be shared in the future whenever I get it off daddy’s phone)

his love of music

his fascination with the TV

the way he covers his eyes with his arm when falling asleep

rediscovering the softness of baby blankets and the way he likes to hold them against his face

getting to smell baby scent any time I want

watching him kick and squirm like crazy any time he’s naked or in the bath

his stubbornness and laziness that surfaces every time he refuses to hold his own bottle

his piqued curiosity every time he catches eye of our dog walking close by and how he loves to grab his ears

the way he screams instead of talking

the feeling when he finally relaxes and falls asleep in my arms (and sometimes sucks on his invisible pacifier like below)

his chubby cheeks….and legs…and fingers

his adorable laugh

Mom’s new year seems so old.

Two things are pressing on my mind today.

1- I need to make my new year resolutions.
2- How am I going to stay sane this year?

Maybe they can be related? Yesterday in church there were a bunch of new ladies. We were to go around the room and tell a few things about ourselves. Our name. Where we live. Our favorite treat. Our job. Our hobby.

I was all prepped to give me answers. I’m Alice Gold. I live within walking distance from the rest of you. In a two bedroom condo. With 5 kids. And a dog. I’m still blessed beyond measure. My favorite treat is whenever I don’t have to cook. (Who said treats have to be sugary anyway?) My jobs are to stay sane and to be kind, both which are greatly challenging and fulfilling. My hobbies are all in trouble this year because I have a newborn.

And then I had to leave the room to change the baby’s stinkiest diaper of all time. I decided I would change my hobby to figuring out if it is possible to change a boy diaper in under 10 baby wipes. By the time I got back to the room, they had changed the game to just telling everyone your name. (They were running out of time.) psh.

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I don’t even think I made resolutions last year. I was pregnant. Totally off the hook. My goal last year was to grow a baby. I did it. I’m amazing.

My other goal was to give birth all-natural. I failed. I tried and tried. I labored for what seemed like forever and I thought I would die. I wanted to push the baby out. The doctor said I was only at a 7 and wasn’t allowed to push, yet. I felt destroyed and figured I experienced enough all-natural and that the actors in movies really don’t exaggerate. I was not being kind or staying sane. I begged my husband for the epidural and cussed out the anesthesiologist enough when he got there that he gave me the spinal dose. (You mean you didn’t give me the spinal dose on my other 4 kids? What the heck?) One contraction later…literally…the doctor examined me and said the baby was crowning. I’m blaming the lack of all-natural delivery on him, but we all know it is really my inability to relax without almost lethal doses of drugs.

I’m not gonna lie. I’ve pondered how much easier life would be to live on a constant dose of lethal drugs, or laughing gas…or marijuana. Lucky for me, I’ve never crossed that ponder to action or else I would be a drug addict, in rehab, or dead. Life was meant to hurt. Drugs rob us of the very essence of mortality…except in labor…those drugs are legit. (This paragraph is a total sidenote that I can’t bring myself to omit.)

So, this morning the high of having a newborn wore off. I almost made it 4 months. That’s pretty good if you ask me. When everyone else in the family took off to work and school, I enjoyed the silence for 5 minutes until the baby started crying out of hunger. I looked down at him and felt a little resentment. I’m 41 and still waiting for “my turn”. What I really want is to pursue my own goals, yet for the past 15 years it feels like all I’ve done is take care of babies…I stared at baby Max in the eyes and committed to continued sacrifice. I’ll get my turn eventually.

[I don’t want to turn this in to a stay-home mom vs. working mom debate as I think the choice is personal. I did however laugh a while back when I asked one of my working mom friends which would be better to take a trip to Hawaii with or without children (if you could only go once in a lifetime). She answered, “With kids. We would never go without the kids, we would just miss them too much.” I was like, “yea right, I might get that if I hadn’t committed every waking hour to my kids for 15 years. I would miss my kids after about 5 days and then I would get over it for a few more.” It’s a lot harder to miss your kids when you are always with them.]

Anyhow, the older I have gotten, the more I realize that I can be a mom and pursue my goals. I just can’t pursue them in an all-out fashion like I would prefer. I have to balance my time for me with my time for them. I tend to give them a lot more than I give me, and I hope someday I will look back on that decision with no regrets. Let’s face it, I’m not taking any career with me to the next life, but I do think God will sit me down and one of his first questions will be, “How are your kids? How is your relationship with your kids?”

So this very long post has helped me to process my two things “to do” today. Thanks for riding along. I’m going to stay sane one day at a time and not expect too much out of myself or even for myself. I’ve done it 15 years. What is five more? And, really, is it the end of the world that I’ve been writing this all day instead of doing Caroline’s homework, working on the budget, or cleaning out the stove? Nah.

My answer #2.
Here are some simple goals.

1. Don’t have another baby. Ever. Check. This should be easy. See last post entitled “I’ve been fixed.” But gosh dangit as soon as I heal up from surgery LG and I plan to die trying. 12 weeks of celibacy in a 4 month period of time is rough.
2. Write. When I can and/or feel like it. Maybe join a writing group or class?
3. Take care of myself. This will hopefully include getting back to my running upon doctor’s approval, biking some, eating healthier, and getting back down to pre-baby weight before Maximus’s first birthday. (the occasional pedicure too)
4. Take pictures. When I can and/or feel like it. Read my camera manual if I get around to it.
5. Camp and hike.
6. Love. My husband and kids, mostly.
7. Self-improve. Focusing on being kind and gracious, letting go of control, living in the moment, and being happy.
8. Self-discipline. Focusing on not wasting as much time on FB and being a better morning person, which really means getting to bed earlier.
9. Give more to God. Having daily quiet time. Look for ways to serve my fellowman.
10. Read. (I’m not making a reading goal ever again as per the advice of my therapist.)
11. Save at least $10,000 towards purchasing a home. Sacrifice.
12. Overcome my fear of physics. Watch some smart youtube videos.
13. Remember!!! My family is my greatest blessing. Ever. Make sure they know that I know.

What’s not to love?

Boys have stinky wonder-twin powers.

max 1 mo

While on the phone with my mom the other day I was telling her all about my little Max. I can’t believe we are creeping up on his two month birthday already. If I was actually getting any sleep I would say let’s freeze time to keep my little Maximus little. The other day I told my husband, “I am such a bad mother because if God appeared to me right now and said he wanted Max back, I think I would gladly hand him over.” LG responded that there was no way that I wouldn’t give up a fight. I then chortled, “If he shows up during the 2 a.m. feeding there’d be no contesting whatsoever.” Yes, I’m that tired.

Anyhow, back to my mom who said,”Alice, I know you have your blog, but you should really write all these cute things down about your kids….you know, the things that you don’t want to forget.”

So, I know I am not going to do that every day, but I thought I could record some things here to someday look back on and smile. I know I will forget all about so many of them, even as early as tomorrow.

I laugh hysterically every time his little wee-wee goes crazy fire-hose on me. (I am so not used to having a boy and I have yet to figure this out.) He pees on me all the time. He pees on his own face. He shoots pee across the bathtub. He’s marked his territory in my bed, on my couch, all over his dad. I find it hilariously amusing even if it is inconvenient. The other day I wiped down my peed-on-sheets with a baby wipe and proceeded to lay back down on them to sleep. I was too tired. Come to think of it, I still haven’t washed those sheets properly. Because of my son, I finally understand why grown men can have a pee-off at Scout camp. That little fire-hose must be awesome fun…it’s like having your very own toy gun at your disposal.

After having four girls, I was terrified of having a baby penis around, but I have been surprised by how quickly I have grown accustomed to it. I don’t like how his baby poop hides underneath his scrotum. I use at least 10 baby wipes every poopy. For the record, I think changing boy diapers is much harder than changing girl ones. My husband LeGrand literally guffawed for about 10 minutes last month when I ignorantly observed, “No wonder why you use so much toilet paper if your poop is all up in your testicles like that.” After LG regained composure, he said, “Alice, we’ve been married 18 years, don’t you know that my testicles are nowhere near my anus.” I guess I haven’t paid that much attention and I guess I will now be paying closer attention to making sure Max’s gain a good enough distance at some point….will that be when diaper changing gets easier?

This kid eats and eats already, way more than my girls ever did. Everyone told me while he was in utero to start saving my dollars to supply snacks for when all his teenage friends come over. How am I supposed to do that when buying his formula is eliminating all chances of him attending college?

The day I dressed Max up in his little Air Jordans I thought my husband was going to die of envy. He accusingly questioned me about how I had afforded such a monstrosity. I informed him as quick as I could (before the shoes required a whole marriage counseling session) that they were a shower gift. I never buy baby shoes. No matter how bad my husband thinks I am with our money, I know that we can’t afford such an accessorizing-only-luxury. LG marveled, “Who gave those to us? Do you know how much those must have cost?” He then lamented, “I never had a pair of Air Jordans. They were way too expensive.”

Oh, and then when he goes to church, we always put him in his bow-tie. Girls never look this cute.

bowtie

Having a boy is awesome. It’s a lot like having a really great dog. Every member of our family, including our 5-year-old, has already learned to blame their farts on him. Poor thing. It’s totally legit though because this kid stinks! He’s going to grow up into a proud man. Seriously. Boys come with their own cloud of stench. His poops and his farts are rank. I almost can’t even claim the kid out of auromatic shame. Surely a mom such as I that smells only of roses and wisteria cannot have given birth to that. The other day, Max aimed to tell me that he’s already proud. When he farted in the tub, he kind of jumped from the surprise and then gave me the HUGEST smile you have ever seen.

The kid is always putting his hand down my shirt. I’d say he’s just like his dad (in fact I did) but his dad tells me that’s totally inappropriate and not funny.

The best part of having a boy: He loves loves loves his mama. He even dreams about me. Here’s the proof:

Maximus is the greatest

Introducing our SON
Maximus LeGrand Gold
Born at 1:17 pm. 7 lb. 9 oz. 20″

aliec and max

At the ripe age of forty, I gave birth to my crowning jewel last Monday. After four wonderful beautiful daughters, God saw it fit to bless us with a son. I don’t deserve him. I don’t deserve any of them, yet, they are here and they are mine. Bear with me as I indulge myself a post to reflect on motherhood and what it means to me.

I believe I could just type “All I’ve got is tears,” and that may be my best explanation, but let me try and put those tears into words, no matter how pathetic it may turn out.

We struggled with naming Max. LeGrand got to pick the name and was really set on Nathaniel, but our 15-year-old, Abigail, hated the name. I liked it, especially since it is the name of one of LG’s really cool great great grandfathers, but I didn’t want it to be shortened to Nathan or Nate. And you know that they (meaning everyone) always shorten everything (coming from the mom of an Abigail who is Abbie, an Isabella who is Bella, and a Sophia who is NOT Sophie out of her sure determination in correcting everyone.) Sophia loves Greek and Roman tradition and so we went back to the drawing board (the internet) and looked up Latin names. When I read aloud Maximus, the name instantly sang to the whole family. As everyone gave their approvals individually it became official as we went around the room and each one-at-a-time declared a collective fondness for Maximus. It just clicked with all of us. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The meaning of the name was just a perfectly fit bonus:

The Greatest

Not only did “The Greatest” go good with the already chosen middle name of LeGrand, which means the “The Big”, but it was a ringing of what was in all of our hearts…we were all finally getting another man in our family and that was pretty much the greatest thing that could ever happen. And we have not been disappointed. He is the greatest. Honestly.

I don’t know what it is, but there is something special about this baby. I don’t know if it’s because I am so much older or if it’s because he’s a boy, or maybe it’s just that I am reflecting an obvious adoration from our whole family, but this kid is the greatest. I have never been so proud. I feel like a peacock strutting around with my feathers. He is total perfection…..and God granted me the privilege of creating him, growing him, and birthing him. How does God find me worthy for that? I don’t know, but He does. It’s completely astounding.Totally overwhelmed is how I feel at the honor of the privilege and responsibility.

Last night as we were going to bed, LG and I talked about each of our kids individually (as we often do) and submerged into the swamp of life as we reflected on emotional, physical, and spiritual needs that always seem greater than what we feel we have to give. If you think about it, it really is a miracle that parents show up every day, knowing they are going to fail no matter how hard they try….and that they do that day after day, year after year. The hardest part about kids growing up is not that they become sassy teenagers (that’s actually pretty entertaining): it’s that they become your reflection.

I’ve been made to stare at myself four times over with my girls: at times all of my glory shines through them…all of God’s glory shines through them. Often, though, all I can see is my many vulnerable raw flaws in them….ones that I don’t want to have, much less bestow upon my most beloved children. Yet, I’ve given it all to them: the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. Looking through my own trash is the hardest thing that I’ve ever done. Knowing that I’ve embedded even the tiniest sliver of it into them is suffocating: like a deadly respiratory virus with no doctor. I know that I’ve screwed them up. I can’t deny it. No matter how hard I have tried to keep my trash to myself, it somehow got to them and tarnished them. Oh, how that fact hurts.

But, guess what? When I allow Him, God sorts through their trash -my trash- for me and He throws it all out and allows me to see only the shining jewel that I started with. The shining jewel that was His, that he loaned me, because He loves me and believes in me and wants to give me His joy. All five (it sounds so awesome to say FIVE) of my children are shining jewels. Walking miracles. Beloved son and daughters of God. It is God that gives me the greatest miracle – the miracle of the atonement – the miracle that sometimes shines brightest for me today in my kids: imagine it: only shining jewels to be found where for years I have involuntarily deposited my trash.

It’s just that when I look at Maximus (and oh how I could stare at him all day), there isn’t any trash to sort through just yet. The only deposit I have made so far is not trash but my greatest gift to offer: childbirth. God in his infinite wisdom and mercy knew exactly what He was doing when He called upon me to be that “older” mom. He wasn’t giving me a burden, He gifted me a rare jewel. Max is the greatest because it is he who has helped me see the jewel in all of them. Maximus is the perfect name because he came with the greatest message, “They are mine Alice. They are all mine. They are the rarest jewels, and yeah, you will dirty them up, but you are still good enough to be their mother. I will clean up your mistakes: all of them. You are my jewel and I have not a single flaw.” God is so good at reminders.