Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hitting the Summer Wall of Fatigue: Forgive Yourself, Channel Oprah, and Check Flights to Napa

Entering our seventh week of summer, I’ve hit the wall. The summer wall. You know how when you are running a marathon, and around mile 21 or so you hit a wall of fatigue (or so I'm told) and you feel like you cannot run one more step?

That’s me. Pushing against the summer wall. Pressing forward through the sweltering hot, long days of summer with my six kids.      

Listen, I’ve done my duty in regards to summer fun. I’ve helped them make the lemonade stands. I've taken them  to the library and the splash pad.  I’ve slathered on the sunscreen and jumped in the pool with them. I’ve filled up the baby pool and sat in a lawn chair in the driveway while they splashed away. I’ve hung out with them during “lazy” rainy afternoons in the house, and, when that got boring, we played in the rain. I've had all the neighborhood kids over countless days for free-for-all play time.  I've cuddled on the couch with them and watched copious amounts of t.v.  In short, we've had some serious summer fun.

But right now, I’m so tired. I’m tired of looking for their shoes every single day.  I'm tired of the twenty outfit changes a day and all the laundry that they generate. I’m tired of figuring out what to make for every single meal of the day.  (Side note: why are they all so hungry all the time?).  I’m tired of answering the questions about what’s next and what fun thing are we doing today?  I’m tired of wiping babies' bottoms and being buried under my children, all six of whom decide they want to sit next to or on top of me at the exact same time. And don't even get me started on the popsicle messes; I keep swearing I'll never buy them again and somehow we always have more. 

Summer burnout is a thing, apparently.

Sometimes, I find myself fantasizing about being alone on these long, sunny days. On the craziest days, I look up how much it’d cost to fly to Napa that very day, where I’d stay in a really posh hotel and drink wine in a fancy bathrobe. I’d order room service and eat my meal on the bed while watching really crappy reality tv. All alone, with no one sitting on top of me. What a luxury.

I know you’re suffering from it too. That’s why we were both at the gym for two hours yesterday (hello free childcare), even if we didn’t sweat very much. It’s why all the go-to babysitters are booked right now. It’s why all the summer camps are full, despite their totally overinflated prices; it’s supply and demand at work. 
I have two solutions to help us all enjoy these summer days.  

First, let’s forgive ourselves daily when we lose our patience, our keys, and everything else too.  Summer is hard.  Fun, but hard.  Like life.  It’s ok to lose your patience when they leave their wet bathing suits all over the house for the millionth time.  It’s ok to be frustrated when you have to answer the 7,535th question of the day.  It's ok to curse and get mad when no one has picked up their toys and shoes that are strewn all over the yard.  Forgive yourself and move on, tomorrow is another day.  One where you will likely be asked 8,345 questions, so get ready.

Second, I’m working with my kids to foster an attitude of gratitude.  I had a long talk with my kids about gratitude the other night, and, after a few false starts (“I’m grateful that I’m grateful!”), I think they have the idea.  I know my kids want the summer to be an endless carousel of fun where they spin around and around and around until they hop off at the first day of school, but that’s not happening, kids.  Because that's not life.  Life also includes down days, where we clean up and do laundry and go to the grocery store. That’s why we’re going to talk about what we’re grateful for every day, a la Oprah, if you recall her love of a daily gratitude journal.  If it works for Oprah, surely it will work for us, too, right?  So we're going to be like Oprah on these summer days and name three things we're grateful for each night before we go to sleep. (So recap: forgive yourself and be like Oprah. m'kay?).

Look, I know we’ll get through this crazy, busy summer. One day and one step at a time. We’ll limp, we’ll crawl, but we’ll get there. And when we do cross that finish line on the last day of summer, let’s meet up and toast ourselves with giant margaritas. In the meantime, I’ll be checking flights to Napa, forgiving myself on the daily, and channeling Oprah's attitude of gratitude.  Solidarity, fellow parents, we can do this.  

P.S. feel free to share if you know fellow parents who've hit the wall and may benefit from these tips.

P.P.S. did you know I'm on Facebook? Find me and let's be friends! Roussel Six Pack.

Note to Self: Stop Thinking "It Gets Easier" and Focus on Today

As a parent, it's really easy to get caught up in thinking "it will get easier when . . ." I know this because I do it a lot. I think "oh, it'll be so much easier when they're not in diapers." Or, "it'll be so much quicker when they can walk to the car themselves."

Just today I said to myself that this summer will be the hardest summer with the babies, because next year they'll have lots of words and be more independent.

Then I came across this photo tonight while scrolling through my phone. This was a year ago today. I remember that day. I remember thinking it would be easier next summer (this summer), when the babies could get up and walk outside and entertain themselves a bit more. Ha. I was wrong--it's busier than ever.

I think it was the perfect reminder for me to pause and focus on what's good on any given day, rather than focus on what might be easier in a year, two years, or five years. Because when I look at this photo, all I see is my happy, chubby babies and their sweet big sister. I can't even remember what was so hard on that day or even last summer.

So my note to self for today: focus on today. Don't wish away today thinking that tomorrow, next month, or next year will be easier. It probably won't be. So take a deep breath and take it all in.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Gift of Friends Who Knew You Before Kids

Two of my dearest friends just visited.  We now have ten daughters between the three of us (ten!).  We met when we were in our late 20's and working long hours together at a big law firm in Washington, D.C.  Our lives were very different then; we were very different then.  I have to say, there's something special about my friends who knew me before I became a mom.  I've been trying to put my finger exactly what that is, and I think it's that they have a more complete picture of me.  In short, they knew me before:
  1.  They knew me when my wardrobe consisted of stylish tops, trousers, heels, and a variety of accessories.  When I wore makeup and blew my hair dry every day.  Waaaay before the days of dry shampoo.  And undereye concealer too.  I barely remember this version of myself, y'all.  
  2. They knew me when my ambitions were vast and anything seemed possible.  They knew me long before lists of life goals included sleeping all night and finding a sippy cup that doesn't leak or have 50+ parts. (Why is this so impossible?  Why?)  
  3. They knew me when I went to happy hours on a whim, where cocktails flowed freely and we'd move from happy hour to dinner and stay out much too late, laughing and drinking.
  4. They knew me and my husband when we were a party of two.  I repeat, party of two.  Amazing.    
  5. They knew me when my weekend plans included leisurely brunches and back-to-back movies.
  6. They knew me when I wasn't sleep deprived.  (Again, kind of wanting to revisit that version of me).
  7. They knew me when I drove a tiny car.  Long before the SUV, the the mini van, and now the big van.  That was so many vehicles ago, friends.
  8. They knew me when we'd travel to far away places at the drop of a hat, with only a small carry-on in tow: Greece, Costa Rica, France--the world was waiting and we were ready to go.
  9. They knew me when working out actually meant going to the gym or running rather than hauling babies and carseats back and forth to the van.
  10. They knew me when I was stressed about short-deadline projects and briefs rather than stomach bugs and developmental milestones.
  11. They knew me when I whispered in the bar that I was fake drinking because I was pregnant with a baby that was the size of an olive.
  12. They knew me when we had a gender reveal party at an Irish pub, and we opened the envelope and found out our first baby was a girl.     
  13. They knew me when I welcomed my first baby girl into the world.  Then the second.  Then the third.  Then the fourth, fifth, and sixth.  They cheered.  They cried.  And they came to visit me and my babies, where they held them and marveled at their littleness.   
I love that they knew me before kids--what made me tick, what motivated me, what made me happy--and were witnesses to my journey of creating my family.  And what I love even more about these friends is that they still know me, too.  
  1. They know that I generally only wear makeup if I have an appointment (hello, jury duty and parent teacher conferences) or am going out on a date night.
  2. They know that happy hour now means drinking a glass of wine in my kitchen while I sweep up crushed graham crackers.  
  3. They know that it requires a lot of coordination and a team of babysitters to go out to dinner. 
  4. They know that if they text me at 10 p.m. and I don't answer, I'm asleep on the couch.  
  5. They know that I'm happy with life as a party of 8.
  6. They know that brunch doesn't happen and the only movies I see are rated PG or G.
  7. They know that my weekend plans now include t-ball games, birthday parties, and the occasional date night.  
  8. They know that travel requires days and days of preparation and packing, and that I never travel on a whim these days.
  9. They know that I've traded big-city daily commutes for crazy-long carpool lines, which I happen to love because it means no one can touch me for 20 minutes. 
  10. They know that I regularly spend a small fortune on coffee rather than vacations because my little coffee is like a 30 second vacation every day.
  11. They know that I love my kids and my husband, even though I sometimes complain. 
  12. They know that my babies are miracles and I'm so thankful every day that they're here and healthy.  
  13. They know that my phone chats, visits, and texts with them are the highlights of my days.
  14. They know that our children will always know each other, and we will always be present in each others' lives, because no matter what changes, we're in it together.

To my friends, thanks for being there before and after, and the entire time.  I love you and I'm so thankful for our friendship.

My friends and I with 7/10 of our group.