Thursday, February 08, 2007

My Mind is AWOL, But (Lucky For You) My Keyboard's Right Here

So I was trying to get away from me me me all the time which prompted me to post lighter fair. A few lurkers came out to comment which was really nice. But where did everyone else go? Perhaps you were all just waiting for me to have a meltdown and go back to my introspection? You knew you wouldn't have to wait long! I guess I'll just give the rundown.

On environmental and economic issues- My grocery sacks have arrived, but I have continued to put off and put off actually going to the grocery store. They seem like they will work very well. I still have much to sort through on grocery shopping issues- hence, in part, the putting off of the trip. Things are so whonky with our finances that I have quit balancing our checkbook. We have a fairly deep "cushion" in our account that has resulted from years of me rounding up every transaction (except I round deposits down) because of my inability to maintain perfection. Does that make sense? It just drove me too crazy to be 13 cents off. So I decided I would be off, but always in our favor by rounding. I have no real understanding of what our actual balance is at any given time, but I have a general idea of what our cushion is. When we close the account, it will probably be upon moving out of state and the extra money will be sunk into the move- this happened with our account after leaving Alabama as well. We have all kinds of weird timing on our finances due to student loans and support etc. It has taken all kinds of stress off me to just write the check and know that if the money isn't there now, it will be soon. And in the meantime, the cushion, invisible to me but visible to the bank, will absorb the trouble! Not sure if this makes sense, but I hope it does because it leads me to my next point.

On general perfectionism- I am not so bad as you might think, not nearly so bad as many either. But I have my share of perfectionistic tendencies. When I think about the checkbook or about my handwriting, I realize something about myself. There is a certain circumstance in which things can be so out of control that I relinquish control and stop worrying. My handwriting is very hard for me to keep under control. Many of you can vouch for this. In a world where most writing is actually typing, it is hard to stay in practice of neat penmanship. When I do have the task of pen writing, it is usually a stack of thank yous after a birthday or Christmas. My hand grows weary from all those notes and my penmanship gets worse and worse. I try to rein it in, but it just doesn't work. I have ceased to care. I try my best, but really, I just can't control my pen after a certain point. I'm a slob. Have we discussed this before? I realized this when trying to ice August's birthday cake. It was horrendous. Truly. I will never be a master cake decorator or a surgeon or a beautician. I am fine with this. My apologies to future recipients of my thank you notes, my children at their birthdays, and anyone who is driven crazy by seeing makeup poorly applied! It is quite freeing to leave it at that. I just abandoned it right by my checkbook balancing perfectionism. Now if only I could abandon tidy house perfectionism. I really have no way of coming close to a tidy house, small as it is with three kids to mess it up. Elspeth doesn't mess it of course, but the baby paraphernalia is a mess just in that it exists in my home. Agreed? They have recently started making black toile baby paraphernalia. Too bad I went with red toile and blue ticking in the living room. Black just won't go. Anyway, you really would think it's to that point, like the checkbook and the handwriting and the birthday cake, the point where it's just so far out of my control that I just quit worrying. But unlike a checkbook that stays out of sight in my purse or a thank you that gets stuffed in an envelope and sent on its way, my house is there. Always. Perfectionistic or not, you must admit that homekeeping is a truly frustrating job. Laundry? You wash it. You dry it. You iron it. You hang it up. The next day it's back on the floor in the dirty pile. Maybe it stays on the hanger slightly longer than one day, but at any given moment, in a family of five, there is an entire load of laundry being worn on everyone's person. So tedious! I cleaned the bathroom yesterday. Last night there were two nice gross globs of toothpaste at the top of the sink. No amount of telling them to please spit in the drain seems to be going to change this. We didn't even make it six hours with a clean sink. We have daily reminders, impatient reminders I must confess, of not throwing dirty clothes under the bed and not leaving markers under the kitchen table and not playing with things that aren't toys and not standing on books and not forgetting to flush the toilet and not getting more toys out without picking the other ones up first etc. etc. etc. I want to hit my head against a wall. Because of course, every day, there are markers under the table and clothes under the beds and all the toys are out and you can't walk without stepping on books (and this often becomes a game or turns into dancing on the books!) and even things that aren't toys turn up mysteriously, rooms away, discarded under or on or in something else that isn't a toy! So why I am still perfectionistic about all of this, I do not know. Or is it perfection? Maybe it is just that I want some degree of order, some amount of work to remain done- after all the rest of my day is spent nursing and preparing meals all to fill tummies that in just two to four hours will be empty again! I do not attempt to know how to solve this problem. But every so often, once or twice a week, I lose my mind in all the mess. It is currently out there, among undone sewing projects, un-put-away (though folded) laundry, unsorted mail, and ballet, diaper, and (now!) grocery bags that will need to be used so soon, what is the point of putting them away because then I will just forget them since I have no mind?

On reading- I am almost finished with Pride and Prejudice and have really enjoyed it this third time through. The first time I read it was in ninth grade. We all hated it. I cannot imagine understanding this book as a ninth grader. I guess if you had a good exposure to the culture, customs and history of Austen's time (in a word, the setting) and if it was explained that Elizabeth is Lizzy is Eliza is Miss Bennett and that Jane is Miss Bennett too and that Catherine is Kitty not to be confused with Lady Catharine etc. it might be easier to follow. I just remember being very confused. And at that time, the newer BBC version had not been made so we watched the older one which a reviewer on Amazon accurately described as "like it was filmed in someone's basement." I am not even sure that my second reading, which probably coincided with the release of You've Got Mail, was ever completed. So this is the first real pleasure I've had of really taking this book in for all that it is. I am excited to read Persuasion next after some of your recommendations. Speaking of You've Got Mail, I recently read Nora Ephron's new book, I Feel Bad About My Neck. I loved it. I laughed out loud. I totally related or else I wanted to. And I fell in love with New York again, from a distance, as her movies always have me do. I flatter myself into thinking that we have similar writing styles. That this might have a shred of truth to it could be attributed to the dozens of my viewings of When Harry Met Sally and You've Got Mail over the years. I've never been much for Sleepless in Seattle though. After completing I Feel Bad About My Neck, I put in a request at the library for one of Ephron's older books. George picked it up for me yesterday. She has so much to say about current and recent events that I am not sure it will be as much of a fun and quick read as the other, which I finished in 48 hours. But I think I will do a whole Nora Ephron post when I am finished. Other readings include a small book called The Cross Centered Life which has not been very helpful to me, but I also don't want to say anything bad about it. I just recently started where I left off with Bono after forgetting about it during our five month move and then having a baby etc. Sometimes I am right in tune with him and sometimes I literally cannot figure out at all what he is talking about. I plan also to devote an entire post to this book upon finishing.

On planning and being late- Aye Yaye Yaye! Is that how you'd spell that? Well, I have been trying to put myself on a loose schedule for each changing day as I realize that the flailing is not going to stop until there is some sort of goal to each day. On the other hand, the only goal I can hope to achieve is to get everyone dressed and fed and clean what I can. I know this will change once we are off the two hour feeding schedule. She is stretchable during the day; we can go up to three hours, even four if absolutely necessary, but I pay for it at night. She wakes up at least once a night, fortunately she does go back to sleep, but my nights are so short anyway it is just exhausting. I set a plan for Wednesday on Tuesday night and stuck to it fairly well. This plan meant that I stayed awake after the 7am feeding and worked all day. I want to do this. Normal people can do this, but midnight to three with an hour awake there and then four to seven is just not enough rest! Anyway, I tried it and was beat by dinner time. Unfortunately, I still had to clean up after dinner and get the kids to bed and nurse and still had much laundry to fold. I did get a break to watch Lost last night, and then began working again, this time to prepare for today, and did not get to bed until after one. Elspeth did her hour long 3am thing and when George tried to rouse me at seven for Bible study and ballet, I was unwilling to move. Elspeth (and therefore, I) didn't wake up until nine thirty and by that time we had missed Bible study. She did another near hour feeding, and that made us late for ballet. On the way out to the van August tripped and busted his lip open thus putting us even farther behind. I mean, he's fine, but we missed ballet. I finally just called Amabel's teacher and moved her to a different day and time. It's like my life has no meaning until Thursday and then doesn't stop until Sunday. But then Monday. And Mondays are the worst days. If Monday doesn't get me, Tuesday will. Nothing to do but try to make order out of chaos. And then all of the sudden, things to do, but still no order. So just as Mondays are horrible, Thursdays are equally though oppositely awful! I think I am beyond help. I tried the laying everything out the night before but it just meant I was up until one. I guess that means I don't have three hours worth of stuff to do in the morning, but I still need a good two hours in the morning. It sounds like a lot of time. It is. I know. But leaving with three kids for five hours is a big event. And I have an hour of driving time round trip to consider. That's what happens when you get plugged into a church and dance studio and then move across town- provided you live in a town that is way too big for it's own good (I did say I had fallen in love with New York earlier didn't I?!).

On being okay with who I am- Yeah, that comes and goes. I probably never will be as long as other people aren't. Just being honest. And the thing is, you always hear the negative over the positive. Don't you? It is sad. And kids say the darndest things. Why do I let mine upset me so? I think because I have the feeling that I am no good at this motherhood thing. But then I've said that before. Today, after our crazy morning which ended in me throwing in the towel less than halfway to ballet and already twenty minutes late and pulling into Borders for a consolation prize of sorts, we came home and I noticed that our apartment yard looked like Sanford and Son thanks to my kids' Tonka trucks, sidewalk chalk, sand toys (right, in the middle of February) and the like. With frustrated tone (for them not picking up, for the cold, for the need to nurse Elspeth and being detained, for embarrassment of being the mom of the kids with the mess all over the complex who happens to be also the wife of the super, etc. ) I started helping them clean up and reminding them where the toys go outside and continuing with the reminder of where the ones that are inevitably lying around inside go as well. I went in to feed Elspeth and was interrupted numerous times by the freaking out over dirty mittens, the inability to get a coat off to use the bathroom, the flicking of mud onto one's sister with a shovel etc. After finishing feeding Elspeth, there was much lecturing on wiping your feet, on not flicking mud, on obeying me right away, on not leaving coats and (again) toys all over the place, etc. I finally said everyone needed a nap. I know this means Amabel will be in and out of her bed and unable to sleep until midnight tonight, but I couldn't deal. Upon getting into their beds August said "Mommy is mean to us." And Amabel giggled in agreement. I asked him what he said. Of course, he didn't know what he said until I told him I knew what he said and he had better stop lying and tell me or be disciplined. Then he suddenly remembered. I told them that I thought their Mommy had gotten them a bunch of books from the library yesterday and read them all to them and baked cookies with them and that she had taken them to the bookstore and bought them a snack and read books to them there this morning, but that I must just be thinking of someone else. That was kind of manipulative huh? Or at least sarcastic. Okay, obviously sarcastic. So not only now do the words "mommy is mean to us" linger, but so does the idea that I was pretty sarcastic and irritated in response. I forget that they are three and five sometimes. And I feel bad about that too. I know that this is all forgiven and that God loves me. I just want to do better. I want to be on time to ballet. I want to be more patient with the kids. I want to figure out how to get them to respond and obey to the instructions I give. And I have bigger fish to fry. I am constantly screwing up, needing forgiveness for the tiniest things, when I have big old things that need to be tackled and dealt with. But the daily steps backward, the daily struggles that I never seem to conquer seem to keep me from those big, lurking problems that I so want to begin making progress on- the very problems that seem to contribute to me making all the little mistakes. But George always reminds me that God knows where we are. He doesn't expect us to be perfect overnight, just as I don't expect Elspeth to start nursing every four hours and sleeping for twelve for quite a while. Chipping away at it, that's the best we can do. Or it's the best I can do. I guess you can't see it, until maybe over time, but I know I'm chipping and chipping so something must be happening.

On bread baking- Yeah, right! I still have it very much on my mind. But still just that one time with the cinnamon raisin swirl bread.

On smocking and sewing- You don't want to know. All of you would, undoubtedly, tell me to cut something out of the list. I just don't know what that should be. Elspeth may be getting old enough that I can smock while nursing. I know, that sounds like it couldn't be true, but I did it all the time with Amabel. It is the only way I'll get Easter dresses done.

On internet dating- Thanks for your help. I am thinking it is a good idea still and will still be looking to that post for comments in case you're late making your suggestions. Remember, with me, you're never late! As long as the post is still on the page at hand, I'll see the comment.

On writing- Clearly making time for that! It keeps me sane. That's all I can say. Thanks for reading and making it, at least a little, worth my time!

25 comments:

heidi said...

Writing does help sanity. Between all that we do..for everyone else around us. I usually have a list of things I need to do to save my sanity. I have to buy some baby clothes for a shower, and, thank goodness for online shopping. I found a cute place that sells the nicest things for babies! They even have a gift idea section: Sandboxcouture.com...A little tip for you if you dont have time to shop at the mall! :)

Brit said...

Ok, I'm back. You keep mentioning smocking. Do you have any pictures? Where do you get your patterns? I'm intrigued by your smocking....

abby said...

hey brit! I meant to welcome you earlier and I forgot. so welcome. i have all kinds of places i get plates and patterns- actual designs for smocking which can be applied to any pleated garment are plates, not to be confused with patterns which are designs for the entire garment (so sorry! please excuse my nerdiness! i didn't know how else to explain it! and i didn't know which you meant) if you are here in st. louey, eunice farmer fabrics on clayton near plaza frontenac is the only place i know of to get plates or patterns. they are pretty limited in their selection, but at least they have some stuff. i am happy to lend stuff out too.

in birmingham and nashville, there are entire stores just for smocking, so i get most everything when i visit. i learned in birmingham and have a nice little supply of different plates and patterns from the two stores there, Elizabeth Annes and the Smocking Bird. Right, the Smocking Bird. In Nashville, there's The Children's Corner and some other new one in the Factory in Franklin that I really loved last time I was down. Fabric is also easier to come by down there. although eunice farmer is better with the fabric than witht he plates and patterns. my two friends that have been into smocking in st. louis have resorted to online shopping because of the limited resources here, but it can be done, they even have lessons at eunice farmer.

possibly way more information than you wanted, but just in case other people were wondering the same thing.... it's really fun and a lot easier than you'd think!

KateGladstone said...

Don't let your handwriting go AWOL with your mind — visit Handwriting Repair at
http://learn.to/handwrite

rhb said...

Abby,

You have a nursing infant, a toddler, and a preschooler. Who wouldn't be feeling overwhelmed, late, frustrated by changing productivity patterns, etc. I think anyone who thinks they have the mother of three thing down when the kids are that young must be in denial! You are chipping away and you are persevering, and God is glorified in that! You don't have to figure it all out, just lean into Him day by day and hour by hour. He is the one who orders your days, He delights in your way, and He will uphold you with His hand! (Ps. 37:23-24) And He GENTLY leads those who are with young (Is. 40:11)i.e. all that pressure that you are feeling is not from Him! Don't you love that?! I do- it's a relief not to have to live up to my own expectations of myself. God just wants me to trust and depend on Him- simple but hard, I know.

abby said...

yeah, the word identification is going back up. two trollers in one post after taking it off!

the good, the bad & the ugly said...

I know the feeling of having so much that you want to accomplish and not being able to find the time to do it all OR doing it and being exhausted the next day because of sacrificing your sleep. I am with Rach in that it is really all about seeking and trusting Him minute to minute. I don't do that consistently, but I do cling to it!

Anonymous said...

arghhh I LOVE blogs!

Anonymous said...

That was a post!! There has got to be comfort in knowing that everyone who has kids identifies with the very feelings that you've written about. For me, it's like I'm always trying to find someone to say, "I get it!". So that I don't feel absolutely crazy all the time! But, as crazy as I can get, I am always so paranoid that my kids are going to pay the price for my mishandling of stress. Like today, my oldest was out of control and it felt like I was saying no and stop and pick up and time out all day. And then, just 30 min. ago she fell down the first 3 stairs at the house and busted her little lip. And she cried and I cried and she kept saying, "Mommy, make me feel better". And I realized that I make her feel safe. And I have to keep my stuff together to keep her feeling safe. And my strength for safety has to come from the Father b/c I suck at handling all of it!

So, I went on a tangent, but, it was my epiphone today and one that I have on average twice or so a week.

Courtney

Camille said...

I am about to head to bed so I am going to finish this post tomorrow but I just wanted to say that I totally understand the whole check book cushion thing. It makes totaly sense to me and that is so the way I am about our checkbook! You said it all perfectly! Can't wait to read the rest tomorrow! Oh and by the way my husband did a blog intervetion and made me get my own blog that had my own name on it. So I am venturing out there!

Anonymous said...

Abby, I saw that you said that you are trying to get Elspeth to go every 4 hours and sleep for 12. Before I had my first baby a friend gave me the book, Babywise by Ezzo. It was LIFE CHANGING. I will be happy to send you my copy (highlights and personal notes inside). Putting a baby on a schedule guarantees sleep through the night by 10 weeks and 12 hours by 14 weeks. You may have to let her "cry it out" for a little while but don't get discouraged- It wont hurt her and she will be breaking habits of manipulation for a lifetime. I am considering establishing my own blog for moms with the same problems needing advice. What do you think?

Elizabeth said...

Okay..first of all, I just have to say that all these trollers are too funny. If any of them actually read the entirety of your blog for a period of time, they would know that they are the exact kind of people that drive you crazy! And strangers are now offering to send books in the mail? Really??

Just have to echo the previous sentiments, and add that I think the combination of a nursing infant, cold weather forcing you inside, and a small apartment are probably not helping your feeling of being overwhelmed. And all the things you have to do over and over again are in your face all the time. You don't have a room you can just shut everything up in and forget about for a few days while you focus on another task. It's just right there reminding you of what you haven't done and are about to have to do again. But, again, be encouraged..you ARE chipping away, as as with all of us, it does have to be slowly. And don't feel like you are any good at the whole motherhood thing. I felt that way all the time when Caroline was little(not that I'm necessarily better now, I just don't worry about it now, but my point was that I can empathize). I think you've probably made HUGE strides in many areas since you first had Amabel, but you've just never had the chance to catch up and enjoy the progress, does that make sense? Every time you've gotten the hang of what you're doing, something new has been added to the mix..new kid, new job, no job, new city, husband in school, new church, new job, another new kid, multiple living places in-between. Just be patient with yourself and God in the mean-time(and that will solve all your problems--j/k :) )

Anonymous said...

Really, I would love to send you the book. Another book that has recentered my vision in life is Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life. After reading it and finishing the workbook, I feel like I have totally arrived in my spiritual journey. It just sounds like all you guys need is a little purpose driving your days and kids- try a responsibility chart, too. I like to hang mine on the fridge and it gives them purpose as well. It has totally made them obedient and joyful little muffins. Blessings!

Elizabeth said...

okay, that has GOT to be someone you know doing that as a joke...Matt?? Anyone?? I think I will start my own blog and start lamenting on things covered in books I really want and see if I get any offers.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, who is anonymous with no signature?? Not to be rude or ugly, but, if you don't know this person it seems a little pushy, eh? Hope you're having a great night!!!!

Love, Courtney

abby said...

Well, upon reflecting on two non-jokes at my own expense from the past- my mom was just sure we were kidding and made lots of jokes when we told her we were having Amabel and it was hard to reconcile with her for a few days, and a not-so-close-afterwards friend made a lot of jokes when she thought I was kidding about falling for George- I have opted to take anonymous seriously and think she must mean well but may not know me quite so well or have been reading so long as some of you. Of course, anyone is welcome to comment and it doesn't matter if I don't know you or don't agree with you. I don't appreciate the linking to websites for business thing and will let everyone else know that I don't know a Heidi or a Kate Gladstone. Nonetheless Heidi and Kate are welcome to add something helpful if they want, but like I said, I'm pretty okay with the penmanship thing and have said nothing about baby gifts or shopping.I also always love when new commenters take a second to introduce themselves. I know some people like to go anonymous but it usually seems to take a little from your credibility, and we promise not to hunt you down for leaving a name!

As far as Elspeth goes, I didn't say I wanted her to eat every four hours and sleep for twelve. On the contrary, I said I didn't expect that from her. She's a very young baby and while I have friends who have loved Baby Wise, I do not feel it is best for me and for my children. I do not do well with schedules, as I have said before. But more than that, i think that babies, being the weakest among us deserve as much patience and flexibility as we can give them. While people often forget and think it is up to me and grow impatient with me, I maintain that as much as I can, I need to serve Elspeth where she is. I have a generally impatient disposition, but in spite of that I think God gives me a special grace and patience with my babies that I cannot account for otherwise. Elizabeth can attest to this from an "open mouth insert foot" remark that we still laugh about sometimes as can George who is always amazed at my cheerfulness, almost excitedness to wake up to feed my newborn in the middle of the night. While it is hard on me and I do struggle to deal with the lack of sleep and the constant feedings, I know it is what she needs and am happy to love her, happy that God has given me a special grace to serve my young infant on her terms, to meet her where she is and not force her to adjust to everyone else's schedule. That is just how I feel about it, but I know a lot of people feel differently and that might work out well for their family.

George is pretty sure I am actually just wasting my time because of the ingenious subtlety of the joke. If so, kudos to you, for a joke I wasn't quite sure about. That's me, oversensitive and uncertain. But then, you knew that too didn't you? Also, everyone who was serious, sorry if your encouragement got lost in the shuffle. I'll get back to it. And I very much appreciate it.

Also, welcome to the pirate who loves blogs.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be a pain- just thought I would take my new access to internet and push a few of Abby's buttons- I've learned over the three years of our friendship which ones to push. It also gave me a great laugh on Saturday while I was tending to my 3 kids and my husband was serving missionaries at our conference! I love your response Elizabeth- miss you -and it was great to hear from you (in a round about way!) Anyway, all that was coming from me who by the way has a baby of 4 months who gets up at least 3 times a night and I have never read the Purpose Driven Life just heard about it! Oh yeah that was also me, the Pirate, Arghhh- from the Babckyardagans episode- we are all stuck on it! Love to you Abby and Elizabeth and sorry to her friends I don't know for taking up some serious blog time! Love, Michelle G.

george edema said...

Last night I said to Abby, "Well, who just got internet access at home?" Then we decided it probably wasn't you after all. I loved the "highlights and personal notes" line, and the "responsibility chart." That was hilarious.

abby said...

Michelle, you are awesome! I have to confess I just didn't give any of my friends enough credit for being SO clever on every level- unsolicited advice, Baby Wise, the patronizing tone, "joyful little muffins." Beautiful! It actually took Elizabeth and George being so persistent for me to not take it seriously- people act like that, ya know? Then I thought George was the only one who knows me well enough to know how each of those things would bug me. SOOOO glad it was you! And glad you're the pirate too. I didn't know what to do with that, but I thought if it was a joke, the pirate probably belonged to the same person. Man, you just know me so well! What did you think of my response? I was so worried I sounded like a self-righteous jerk. I didn't know what to say. So is this what we can expect from you from now on? YOU'RE the pretty funny one :)

Anonymous said...

Your response was exactly what I was looking for- it made the joke worth it! I love how you pulled out the "I know what she needs and am happy to love her" and " I am so glad God has given me the grace to meet her precious needs" gag! No, I'm just kidding- you probably do feel that way and here I am ready to exchange mine in for a new one! Don't count on too many responses from me- I have already found myself completely consumed this weekend with this one. I couldn't go an hour without seeing if someone responded. Anyhow, just know that you are loved by someone so much that they know what gets you annoyed! Arghhhhh Michelle

sara said...

Okay ,
All I can say is I am cracking up here. Soooo glad the whole thing was a joke--it spared me much time in a response!

lauren said...

Oh my gosh, Michelle, YOU ARE HYSTERICAL. I am about to wake my kids up laughing so hard at this...

"...and she will be breaking habits of manipulation for a lifetime."

Elizabeth said...

I KNEW that had to be a joke!! Ha, Ha, Michelle...you are SOO funny!! Thanks for the shout out :) Miss you too...thanks for the card and pic of your sweet children. Caroline remembered your oldest and said, "Wow! He's really gotten old!" I can't believe how big everyone's gotten, and your baby looks so sweet!
Anyways, I'm glad it was a joke(and that it was by someone from whom the joke would be easily received) b/c I was starting to feel like a jerk with my sarcastic responses. I did think, though, that if it was real, and the person actually had the audacity to write that(however well-meaning), then I, as Abby's friend, could have the audacity to be incredulous. My favorites were "totally arrived in my spiritual journey", and "totally made them obedient and joyful little muffins"...that was too good
! When I read it to Bobby, he laughed and said, "That has to be a joke!"

Abby, maybe my mind has gone AWOL b/c I have no recollection of the foot-in-mouth incident to which you referred.

Courtney said...

That was priceless. Very funny, indeed........

abby said...
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