Sunday, December 4, 2016

Santa doesn't stop here, and that's okay

I think I was about 8 or 9 years old when I learned the truth about Santa Claus.

I was spending time with my father, running errands around town, when we stopped in at a Radio Shack. My dad struck up a conversation with the clerk, and he brought up the fact that he'd bought a kareoke machine from that location the previous year, how the family was liking it, etc. Now, I'd already had some suspicions about the legitimacy of Ol' Saint Nick, but my fathers casual conversation that day sealed the deal. We'd been told the karaoke machine came from Santa, now I knew the truth. When I confronted my dad once we'd returned to the car, all he could say was, "Don't tell your sisters."

Whether or not I'd tell my kids there is a Santa Claus never really crossed my mind until I became a parent. By the time I married my husband, my bonus kids pretty much already knew he didn't exist, so it wasn't something I had to deal with. Then I gave birth to my first child, and when that first Christmas rolled around, I realized that whether or not Santa existed in our home was a choice I was going to have to make someday, and that it was something I was going to need to really think about.

I don't recall feeling devastated when I found out about Santa. As I said, I'd already had my suspicions, and finding out the truth about the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy quickly followed. When I confided in my older sister, I learned she'd pretty much come to the same conclusions I'd had, and neither of us were too upset. I do vividly recall however how inconsolable my little sister was when she found out about the Easter Bunny. Why my mother chose to tell her in the middle of Kmart I've no idea, but the stares of passersby as she tried to calm my sisters heartbroken cries likely caused her to quickly regret that decision. The truth about Santa soon followed, accompanied by more heartache.

As my two year olds third Christmas quickly approaches, I've found myself contemplating more and more on whether or not I will tell my boys there is a Santa. When I mentioned to my father that I didn't think I would do things like Santa, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy with my kids, I got a roll of the eyes and a shake of the head as a response. Guess I know his thoughts.

I spoke with my husband today and finally voiced what is in my heart. I don't want Santa for my sons. Why? The reason really boils down to this: I don't want to lie to my kids. I don't want the heartbreak they may suffer from finding a beloved idea is a work of fiction, and I don't want the betrayal they may feel knowing mommy and daddy intentionally told them something that wasn't true. There may be times in my life where lying to my kids may be my only option (though I certainly hope that is never the case), but this isn't one of those times. I am in no way judging any parents who choose to tell their children Santa exists, its just not something I feel I can do.

I didn't arrive at this decision lightly. I want my kids to enjoy the magic of the season and the wonder this time of year can bring. I want Christmas to be a time of love, laughter, and special moments, and I believe that can be accomplished without the assistance of Mr. Claus. I took into consideration my sisters heartbreak, my daughter telling me how upset and betrayed she felt upon learning the truth, and stories from friends about how their children reacted when they were told. I thought about how some kids get expensive gifts from the man in red, how some get clothes, and how some get "forgotten". I fought with myself, on the other handed, hemmed and hawed, and in the end kept coming back to the same conclusion. Sorry Santa, but ya gotta go.

My sons will be raised without Father Christmas, but they will also be raised to not ruin Santa for the children who do believe. I remember fighting as a child with a friend whose family didn't believe in Santa, vehemently insisting my parents wouldn't lie to me, as they just as passionately insisted he didn't exist, and there's no need for that. Just because he's not right for us, doesn't mean he's not right for someone else's home.

Santa won't be leaving any gifts under our tree this year, or any year. We will still sing songs about him, watch Santa themed movies, and maybe even take photos at the mall because I do think it's part of the fun. Just as dragons and faeries are fun to pretend, so is Santa. But he doesn't have to be real for us to have a merry Christmas.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I swear, I used to be funny

This morning, as I once again used Twitter as a sound board to vent my frustrations, I thought to myself, "Dammit, I used to be funny! I used to have people tell me they couldn't WAIT to read my thoughts on the day or about the things that happened to me that I made sound like an epic adventure. Now all I do is whine and complain, what happened?"

Truth is, I'm not sure. At some point in the last three to four years, I've slowly turned more and more into a whiny, cantankerous witch, and I don't like it. I tell myself I don't like it, I tell myself I'm going to change, I try to be more positive for a few days, then something happens and there I go again, complaining like a two year old that was told I can't have a popsicle for lunch.

Granted, a LOT has happened to me in the last few years. I moved out of my fathers house and into a rental home (which my dad owns), got married and instantly became a mother to three kids, became pregnant with my first child (and have basically been pregnant non-stop since then with 6 month gaps between kids), bought my first car, had two of my step kids move back with their mom, lost multiple sources of income, and ultimately lost my job due to massive lay-offs, which has lead to us going on WIC and will likely eventually have to apply for food stamps because I cant seem to figure out how to support my household on $300 a month and still pay all our bills, and there's no point in trying to get another job because I've got three kids under three come September, and with the cost of childcare I'd have to earn above minimum wage and work full time, and my local economy can't offer a job like that. So, yeah, a lot.

With all that living and learning and losing and stressing in the last few years, I've also lost a lot of what made me... me. I used to sing, draw, take photos, write, go on spur of the moment adventures, do things just because, and tried to live life to the fullest. Now my life revolves around my husband and my kids, and the most exciting thing I do all day is play, "Guess what died in the sippy cup" and "Dear God, what's under the couch?!" and man, it's hard! I love my kids, wouldn't change having gotten married and becoming a mother for the world, but I have moments where I dream about what it would be like to have my "old life" back for just a moment, and then I deal with the guilt that inevitably comes with even thinking those thoughts.

Speaking of guilt, I never realized just how much GUILT comes with being a mother before I became one. It's ridiculous! You feel guilty for every little thing, even something as simple as taking a five minute shower by yourself can induce guilt because you're kids start crying as soon as they realize they can't "play in the water" with you. Heaven forbid you close the bathroom door to take a poo. The sounds coming from your kids of utter abandonment are enough to make you feel like you've committed an unforgivable sin. And now I'm writing this blog post one handed because my teething one year old needs me to hold him, and my two year old is using some toy as a "hungry monster" trying to eat my shirt, so I should probably take the hint and wrap this up.

The conclusion to all this is, well, I guess there isn't one. I'll try to be more positive and I'll inevitable find something new to whine about in a few days (if not this evening). It's been hard to find out who I am since I got married, because my entire sense of self has revolved around either my family or my job, and now I'm a stay at home mom and my days revolve around little Napoleons and I don't see that ending any time soon. My husband bless his heart tries to help me and wouldn't deny me a night out or a hobby, but that just revolves back to that whole "guilt" thing again. Is there a happy medium for me? Who knows, guess I'll have to keep trying to find out.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Invisible Scars

“It is not the the bruises on the body that hurt. It is the wounds of the heart and the scars on the mind.”
Aisha Mirza

“The past is behind us," said Boudicca,"but the difficulty there is we keep looking over our shoulders.

Michelle Franklin

I am a child of abuse.

There. I said it. I've touched on it over the years, mentioned it to friends here and there, but I've never actually said the words.

I often downplay the abuse in my mind, tell myself it was nothing compared to what others have experienced, that I shouldn't really talk about it, that it was "normal", that there's no point in bringing up the "sins" of the dead, etc.

But it affects every single day of my life. It affects how I view myself as a person, as a mother. It's the vicious voice in my head that tells me I'm not good enough. It is the voice of my mother, a person who should have protected me, not hurt me.

My mother... well, she had a lot of demons. She herself was the child of abuse. She was often verbally and emotionally abused, was beaten, and came from a broken home. She married very young in an effort to escape an abusive father (who likely came from a long line of abusers based on the stories I've heard of his childhood), only to end up in an unhappy first marriage that resulted in a divorce. She suffered a miscarriage during her life and buried another child. She also suffered from a multitude of health problems which required a variety of medications that slowly killed her in some ways while keeping her alive in others, and which ended up ultimately contributing to her sudden death.

None of the items above excuse my mother from the abuse she put myself and my sisters through (my brother has never spoken of any abuse, and he had left the home by the time I can remember the abuse starting, which is why he's not mentioned), but they have helped me work towards forgiving her over the years. I love her and in ways I miss her, and I no longer blame her for the things she said and did. I don't even blame my grandfather anymore, though I did for years after her death (and the comments he made about her RIGHT after we left the hospital where she'd been pronounced dead only fed that blame), but I still live with invisible scars. Forgiveness does not always equal healing.

A few instances of abuse from my childhood stick out quite vividly in my mind... The time I told her I wanted to go to a public school (I was home-schooled partly due to my mothers health issues) and how ANGRY she became. She called me names, recited a cruel rhyme of, "Fatty fatty two-by-four, can't get through the kitchen door" that she heard in her childhood and told me that is what I'd hear in school because of my weight, and verbally abused me throughout that day. My older sister (who often was a target of my mothers abuse) urged me to apologize, to tell our mother that I didn't mean it, that we make her a cup of tea as a peace offering and try to sooth her anger.
The time she'd gotten angry at me for some reason I can't recall, and said to me that she'd found items in my room that, "Shocked her as to the kind of person that I was.". That ate at me for the longest time until I finally had the nerve to ask her what she could have possibly found that caused her to be so repulsed by me. Her response? "Oh, I don't know. I likely just said it to hurt you.". My mother often said cruel things just for the sake of being cruel, and I can't ever recall a time where she apologized for it.
The time she slapped me because I "looked" at her wrong.
The time she screamed at and punished me because I didn't freeze some spaghetti sauce that I didn't know I was supposed to freeze.
The time I stood between her and my older sister as she held a belt, and she threatened to let our dogs out, and that it would be my fault because I made her do it.
The time she screamed at and said horrible things to me because I refused to give her a large bowl of ice cream, regardless that my reason was because she was diabetic and I felt I was contributing to what would be her eventual death by giving in to her commands (when she died I felt extreme guilt over not standing up to her more often when she'd ask me to do things that I knew would harm her. I felt like I'd killed her because I was too much of a coward to say no).
Getting yelled at because I didn't put the paper towel or toilet paper roll on the "right" way, or not folding the towels correctly.
The time I stood in the way when she was going to force my older sister to pick up dog poop with her bare hands and I managed to at least get her to be able to wear gloves when I couldn't make the punishment stop completely.
That my mother let me physically and emotionally abuse my older sister and let me think it was normal because I saw my mother do it, that I was encouraged to do it, that I didn't realize it was wrong until I overheard my aunt tell my mother that the way I treated my sister was wrong and my mother told her to butt out, and the guilt I feel over my actions to this day.

Why am I writing this? Why am I talking about this? Because. Because my childhood affects me every day. Because I live in fear that the abuse won't end with me. Because I contemplated suicide as a teenager because of it and the only thing that stopped me as I held that bottle of sleeping pills in my hand was the fear of going to hell. Because I'm terrified every time I become frustrated with my children that I will turn into my mother. Because I second guess myself constantly as a parent on whether I'm being fair or if I'm being cruel when it comes to punishment. Because the voice I hear that feeds my poor self esteem and fear of failure is my mothers and I don't know how to make it stop. Because I tell myself NOT to talk about it, that it doesn't matter, that I'm just whining and I should shut up. Because abuse is abuse, no matter it's shape or form.

The abuse I suffered as a child is something I have to live with and work through every day. It has shaped who I am as a person. The pain from abuse lingers long after the abuse has ended. Our words and actions leave lasting imprints on those around us, and we need to be mindful of this fact.

I am a child of abuse. I am a fighter. I am a survivor. I want a better life for my children, my family, and myself. I want the abuse to end with me. I never want my children to ever feel what I have felt. I don't want my brokenness to break them. I don't want history to repeat itself.

I want to be free.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Tonight I'll Cry

Tonight, tonight I'll cry. Tonight motherhood has brought me to tears. 

It started off as such a nice afternoon. The boys were happy and content. The baby was cooing in his swing and I was snuggling my toddler as we watched Veggie Tales: Lord of the Bean. It was idilic really, so picture perfect that I'd even snapped a photo of it to share on Instagram. As soon as the movie was over though, it all just started to go down hill.

The baby started crying and just wouldn't stop. The toddler wouldn't listen no matter how many times I told him no, pulled him away from whatever havoc he was causing, or put him into time out. I had no relief as my husband was at work and my step kids are with their mother. I was at my wits end trying to sooth the baby and stop my toddler from the trouble he was getting in to that I snapped, and I yelled at my son. I don't yell at my kids, and as soon as the anger fueled words left my mouth and he teared up, I felt like a horrible person. I sounded like my mother, and in that moment I felt like a failure.

You see, I grew up with a mother that always yelled. She went from 0 to 60 when she got angry, and she could get mean. My mom wasn't physically abusive (I don't consider spanking abuse, though I may have been spanked more than was necessary), but she could get verbally abusive. She'd say things just to wound you, and even admitted that to me at one point in my life. It's kinda heart shattering as a kid to hear your mom tell you that she would say cruel, untrue things to you just because she wanted to hurt you. She grew up in an abusive household which in turn caused her to be abusive. She passed away due to chronic health issues when I was 14 and I swore to myself that the abusive cycle would stop with me. I love my mom, and have worked over the years on forgiving but not forgetting, so I don't make the same mistakes.

After yelling at my child, I once again put him in time out, picked up the baby in an attempt to quiet his tears, and burst into tears myself. I often feel like a failure as a mother, and wish I had someone to lean on for support or relief that understands my background. I don't have any women in my family who knew my mom that are close enough to turn to, and I don't think they knew that side of my mother anyway and therefor can't understand the fear I have whenever I react to my children from anger. I know it sure came as a surprise to my father when my sisters and I finally told him about the verbal abuse we suffered, and I often wish we hadn't as he feels extreme guilt over his ignorance. I hardly talk to my older sister due to a toxic relationship, and my younger sister doesn't have children and has enough issues of her own. 

With my tears there was also a deep sense of isolation. I never realized before I had children just how lonely motherhood can be. I feel as if I am no longer close to any of the female friends I had before I got married and became a mother, and I haven't made any new friends as my family takes up any available time I have outside of work. I can't recall the last time I took a night off to have a "Girls Night Out", and even if/when I have the time, my friends lead very busy lives of their own and our schedules just don't match. Since I haven't seen or talked to my friends in so long, on nights like tonight when I desperately long for someone to talk to I feel as if I have no one. I don't have the energy to fill someone in on the last few months of my life when I need to cry abut the here and now. Besides, they've got enough going as it is.

The toddler is now in bed, having been put there early and without a story after mommy explained why he was being punished for the umpteenth time tonight, and the baby is sleeping on my chest as I type this from my phone. I know I will have many nights such as this in the years to come, and I will need to forgive myself and move on every time I feel like I've failed, which will be often. And I know there will be times I will have to leave the forgiveness to God, because I will not be able to find it within myself. He has entrusted me with these precious gifts and I can't... I WON'T, fail them.

But tonight? Tonight I'll cry.

~ Lady A

Monday, July 13, 2015

When I Grow Up

I was scrolling through Facebook today and came across a Buzzfeed video that is part of their Teens React series. The subject of the video is that they gave a stack of encyclopedias to a group of teens, and the teens had no clue what to do with them. At least, that's what the description said. I didn't actually bother to watch. 

My first reaction to the description was to laugh and think, "I'd know what to do with them." My second reaction was, "Of course we'd know what to do with them. We are almost thirty, we left our teen years a long time ago."

You see, my first reaction came from a portion of my brain/personality that refuses to move past 19. Not 13, not 16, not 21, but 19. Why 19, and how do I know with such certainty? I don't know. I can't say any significant life event took place at 19, at least not that I recall. Maybe it's because it was my last year as a teenager, the year before I became a "real adult".

I both hate and love this part of me.

I hate it because this is the part of my personality that doesn't like to take responsibility for things, the part that throws tantrums when I'm too tired, the part that holds me back, the part that always chooses "flight" when things get too scary or hard...

Yet I love this part of my personality because it's "fun". It allows me to get on the same level as my teen and pre-teen, that gives me permission to act like a complete goofball and have fun with my kids, the part that feels no shame when I make a fool of myself, as long as I have a good time while doing it.

It can be hard trying to find the balance between my "mature" side, and the 19 year old side. At times it feels like they are at war with each other, the desires of the youth conflicting with the practicality of the women. I suppose it can be compared to the Angel and the Devil that sit on your shoulder, you're not quite sure who to listen to.

I think that the 19 year old version of me will always be around, and while at times it annoys the heck out of me, I know I'd miss it if that part of me ever went away. Hell, there are moments I wish my mature side would step to the curb and let it take control. 

Hopefully someday I can find a happy medium between the two. I have a feeling that when I do, I'll truly feel at peace in my own skin, and with who I am as a person. I'm just not there yet.

~ Lady A

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Hey Doofenshmirtz, I've got some ideas

I've been watching a lot of Phineas and Ferb lately on Netflix, as it seems to be something my toddler enjoys, and it means I don't have to watch Daniel Tiger and Chugginton for the billionth time. If you've never seen Phineas and Ferb, this post may be a bit hard for you to follow, so I'll give you a little background in the second paragraph. It's actually a pretty amusing cartoon even if you DON'T have kids, and sometimes you learn stuff. Because of a catchy little number from Season 2: Episode 3 - Tip of the day (no, I don't have that memorized, I looked it up) I will always remember what that bit at the end of a shoelace is called (extra points if YOU know!).

Phineas and Ferb generally has two story lines going on at once. The first being that Phineas and Ferb are always inventing new ways to pass the summer days, which usually involves the construction of large and incredible devices. Their sister Candace is always unsuccessfully trying to bust them and expose their crazy inventions to their mother. She always fails at bringing their mother into the light because whatever happens to have been invented that day seems to magically disappear (either by destruction or relocation) right before mom arrives on the scene. The disappearance of their inventions ties into the secondary plot line, that of the never-ending fight between Perry, the crime fighting secret agent platypus (the pet of  Phineas and Ferb, who have no clue he leads a double life), and the evil and inept Dr. Doofenshmirtz. Doofenshmirtz is constantly plotting to take over the Tri-State area (using various "evil" inventions, all ending with "inator") where all the characters live. Perry always foils Dr. Doofenshmirtz plans, during which their fights somehow cause any traces of Phineas and Ferbs antics to vanish before they can be exposed.

Have enough backstory to follow the rest of this post now? Yes? Good. Lets proceed.

I happen to be a person who can be very sensitive to the moods of those I'm close to, and last night my husband came home tired and annoyed from a long day at work. His mood rubbed off on me, and I began getting overly aggravated over everything. Now I was getting on my OWN nerves, and found myself wishing I could phone up Dr. Doofenshmirtz with a few "inator" ideas of my own. He could use them to take over the Tri-State area, and I could use them on my family! Win Win! My only requirement for the use of my ideas is that I get miniature versions to take home.

Number 1: "The Good Mood-inator"
A fairly simple and I feel self explanatory device. You simply take aim at someone who is in a bad mood, and ZAP!, they are suddenly in a good mood! Doof, buddy, just shoot the Tri-State area with this baby and with everyone now in a good mood, the thought of you taking over the Tri-State area will seem like a great one! It can't fail! I mean, it CAN should Perry decide to show up, but hey, that's your problem.

Number 2: "The Nap-inator"
How brilliant is this one, right? You can use it to put the entire Tri-State area to sleep, and I can use it to get my toddler to go down without a fuss! You take over as supreme ruler while everyone is catching some zzz's, and I can drink a cup of coffee in peace. Sounds good to me!

Number 3: "The Chore-inator"
Just think about how CLEAN your laboratory will be after you shoot Perry with a device that makes him helpless but to do chores! While he's busy cleaning up after your latest fight, you can devote all your focus onto taking over the Tri-State area without interruption! And I can use it on my teenagers so they'll finally start cleaning up after themselves on a regular basis.

Trust me Doofenshmirtz, with devices like these, you'll have no problem taking over.You'll win the hearts and minds of all the parents in entire Tri-State area, and that's most of the battle right there! So, what do you say, do we have a deal?

Honestly, I really could have used those first two devices while writing this blog post. It's taken me about 4 hours to write because I've had to stop to deal with a fussy toddler, clean up after a decimated roll, avoid explosive poop, and I've shouted, "No!" I don't know how many times. Honestly, I'm a bit parched. Can we add an "Instant Drink-inator" to this list?

~ Lady A

Friday, July 10, 2015

My tweens makeup: Rock that hot pink girl

Makeup. That amazing and frustrating thing that makes some people look like goddesses, and others incompetent clowns (and I've fallen in the latter more times than I'd like to admit). Right before I gave birth to my second child (and had the realization that I am only 3 short years away from 30), I got hit with one of those, "It's time to grow up and learn how to use this stuff" moments, and I put in a rather large order to e.l.f. cosmetics with the idea that I'd teach myself how to become an expert. Well, THAT didn't happen, but I did suddenly discover a love of lipstick. I went from 0 to 15+ colors in no time flat!

My sudden interest in makeup caught the attention of my pre-teen step daughter, whom has already developed a love of the stuff (and was ecstatic when my order came and I told her she could have a lipstick I didn't like). She'd asked me on multiple occasions before I decided to become a "makeup guru" if we could do makeovers as a way of spending time with each other. I always said no, because, well, you can't very well put eye-shadow on someone when you don't own any. All the different aspects of makeup fascinate her, and she loves playing with all the brushes and colors. I'm pretty positive someday she will end up being the expert I will never be.

Today was one of those days where she asked to play with my makeup. I've been letting her use primarily eye-shadows and blushes when I allow her to use it, and I instantly become that "cool mom" when her friend comes over and I let the two of them do up their faces (I was super cool that time I let them play in my heels). Not having much experience with makeup yet, she made her brows far too dark, and I sat with her cleaning it up and explained to her how less is more. I then left her to do her eye-shadow however she pleased. She has a love of BRIGHT colors, and when she came around the corner, pleased with her work and seeking my approval, I was taken back to the early 90's. She was wearing a bright pink lipstick that I bought her which she wears almost daily, and an eye-shadow that was almost the exact same shade. My first reaction was one of surprise and "Oh my.", even as I gave her the thumbs up. My second was actually one of pleasure. Pleasure that the way she had done her makeup seemed so young and carefree.

In today's society there is pressure at such a young age to look a certain way (Kardashian's, Ariana Grande, or Iggy Azalia [or however you spell her name] anyone?), act a certain way, present yourself a certain way. I've often been shocked and appalled when my step daughter has come home from school. telling me how the girls picked on her because her chest is too flat, she's not what they consider stylish (which really took me by surprise as the school she attended required uniforms, how stylish can those get?), that she's doesn't have what it takes to be popular, etc. The fact that 10 and 11 year olds are discussing the size of their breasts and that they find it perfectly acceptable says something about the nature of our society. We sexualize our girls at such young ages, and teach them that their worth lies in how desirable and attractive they are, and how close they come to representing societies idea of beauty. This isn't the sin of just this generation, a woman's worth has always been weighed by how desirable she is to a man. However with social media and sexualized messages being constantly crammed down the throats of our young women, the pressure to conform to what society thinks a girl/woman should be seems to be worse than ever, even as people take up the mantle to fight these messages and change how a women's worth is found.

I try to lead by example for my step daughter by not putting myself down or equating my importance/worth with how I look, but I know there are times I fail, and my example is only a drop in an ocean of voices she hears on a daily basis telling her how to judge her worth. I ache for her when she comes to me in tears because someone has yet again taken a chunk out of her wall of confidence, because they felt they had the right to judge her worth. Her worth, and the worth of every human being is NOT found in their appearance, but in their personality, their mind, and their heart.

So you rock that hot pink girl. You express yourself with all those bright shades and revel in the joy you feel in all those fun colors. Don't ever let anyone tear you down because you aren't following the latest fashions or beauty trends, because those trends will fade and die, while your beauty will only continue to grow and shine.

Teal eye-liner anyone?