Team Baby Turns Two

Hey Soupie.

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So here we are. Another year older.

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Did you know that you remind me of your brother, because you love your blanket and your thumb?

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But you also remind me of your sister because you love to dress up and sing Let It Go.

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And you also like superheroes and magic and imagination, like your other sister?
10881710_10152683431838791_2319086170355807763_nI remember thinking, three kids is good. I like three kids. I can handle three kids.

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But then, here you are, my fourth, my baby, and we’re doing alright.

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Your big sister, Mae, never acted like the baby. But you? You have it down to a science. You know the fine art of, “Up, peese, mama!” and “I sit, mama!” and “Cheese stick, peese, mama!”

Have I mentioned you love your mama?

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There’s always that time that comes, where babies can’t get enough of their dads, and they’re over their moms, but you, dear one, have not had that happen yet.

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You spent the entire time at the beach with me. Sitting on me, laying on me, splashing in the surf with me.

Did you want your Grandma? Nope. Did you want your dad? Nope. Did you want your Papa? Heck no.

Mama.

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I guess that’s okay. At the time it was really annoying, I’m not going to lie, but looking back, you are my last baby, and you were my surprise baby, and even more than all that, you were my miracle baby. So I’m okay with holding you a little extra, because, honestly, I almost never got to hold you at all.10367572_10152301025658791_5989418407606963898_n

So you take that knowledge and run with it, making dinner with me, brushing my teeth with me, planking with me.

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And even putting on your own makeup.

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Let me tell you a quick story. Your brother, Luca, is very quiet. He’s the sweetest boy ever, but it’s hard to know that when he’s so shy. The day you were born, and he came to see you at the hospital…I can’t even describe it. Audrey, he looked at you, begged to hold you, and that was it.
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You guys have been inseparable since.

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I would often worry that you’d be left out, what with being the youngest. So far, it hasn’t happened. 10432111_10152332362288791_2031503442917478432_n

You’re kind of everyone’s favorite.10478527_10152616704438791_2473720437621752978_n

You like to copy your sister.10624957_10152421330528791_2252123437331451944_n

You’ve already started to give me looks.10641276_10152451460713791_898035875302779323_n

You love your dog.10665696_10152492572798791_9157231106050389341_n

When you’re not teething, you’re generally such a joy to be around.
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You are already super independent.10950696_10152770109468791_5651299440669556488_n

And we all love you.

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Very much.10671353_10152593504643791_7307428003359000693_n

To my sweet baby on your second birthday: I love you. You have grown faster than any of your siblings, and I really wish you’d stop. I could sit here and write out all the ways you make me happy, but to sum it up to, I look at your smile, and there it is. That’s how you make me happy. By being alive. By being here. By being the miracle I never knew I needed.

In your two short years, you’ve brought me so much joy, so much happiness. They say you never miss something if you never had it, but, Audrey, if you never were, I would miss you so much. I don’t really know what else to say.

Always be patient. Always be kind. Always love your mama.

Love,

Mama

Wishes for babies

Late last year, my best friend Jessica sent me a text. She was pregnant. She was nervous but excited, and we celebrated via no wine and lots of emojis.

A little while later, she called. Jess doesn’t call often. We are more down to text or gchat, so when I saw I had a missed call from her, I freaked out.

Twins.

She’s due in a few weeks, and in April I’ll go down there to play nanny for a long weekend so she can get a little rest and I can spoil her two big kids, Sarah and Norah.

Her baby shower was this past weekend, and it killed me I couldn’t be there. One of the activities was to finish a sentence. I think that’s such a great idea, so I thought I’d play, too.

Wishes For Babies

I hope that you always love life. There will be times where it’s not the greatest, and you may not like it, but you two may not realize this yet, but you’re so lucky. Don’t get caught up in the day to day, and remember there’s always a bigger picture.

I hope you have your mom’s loyalty. Your mom is one of my favorite people in the world. She is always there for me, and I’m not just saying that. Always. Every time. No matter how silly.

I hope you have your dad’s quiet presence. He has a very calming nature about him, because he listens. Always remember to listen.

I hope you learn that it’s good to make mistakes. A lot of them. But learn from them.

I hope you aren’t afraid to fail. Failure has happened to me so many times, but each time I’ve failed, I’ve gotten back up, more determined. It’s important to remember that. To remember that with failure comes success, and sometimes a few good laughs.

I hope you love to sing and dance. And be silly.

I hope you laugh all of the time.

I hope you never forget to breathe. Sometimes life is going to get pretty rough. It’s just the way it goes. But remember to breathe, because sometimes you can’t fix everything. Sometimes things are just going to be hard. Breathe, then ask for help.

I hope you respect your bodies. Guys, take it from me, you need to treat yourself well. You need to know your worth, and you need to know your limits. Push yourself, but don’t abuse yourself.

I hope you become the best version of yourself. Right now, your mom and dad have big dreams for you two. I want you to take those dreams, make them your own, and then surprise yourself.

I hope you grow and grow and grow. And that when you stop growing tall, you keep growing wise. You come from a family of very smart people. Kind people. And now you two are one of those people. Grow into who you need to be, and know that I will always be here for you. Both of you.

Love always,

Cassie

Your words hurt

I remember when Claire was just a baby and she wasn’t sleeping…ever…and I kept thinking, in my sleep deprived state, it can’t get any worse than this, right?

But then something crazy happens. Kids grow up, and with growing comes a new set of obstacles involving emotions, and stress, and teaching them how to be a caring, responsible, honorable little person. Suddenly, I’d give anything for those sleepless nights where I knew how to fix it. Where I was absolutely certain that I could solve the problem.

I have four kids, and each one (well, Audrey is still TBD) has their own personality that is completely different from the next. Claire is smart, almost too smart. Caring, almost too caring. A feeler, but feels too much.

Luca is quiet. Likes to build. Doesn’t like attention. Doesn’t like to play with Maelie when Claire is around.

Mae is me. She is loud, and conversational and adventurous and a little annoying because of all of that. She tries to play with Luca every day and gets pushed away, but she doesn’t let it get her down. She’s persistent for sure.

Audrey is the quintessential baby. She loves her mom. Her mom wishes she didn’t love her so much all the time. But I digress.

Claire is the first child, so of course with first children comes a certain set of obstacles. We as parents screw up a lot. We give them complexes. We have no idea what we’re doing, but we don’t like others to know we have no clue what we’re doing.

95% of the time, Claire is an awesome kid. I’m not just saying that because she’s my kid, rather, because it’s the truth. She, however, has her own set of demons, and it’s in the form of the spotlight and anxiety.

Claire gets the spotlight a lot, be it because of me, or because of her, she’s in it a lot. Animal Rescue stuff aside, she’s smart. She was tested into accelerated reading, which lifted her spirits a little bit. She is pulled aside in class to do advanced math, which brings her up a little higher. She may be tested for gifted at the end of the school year, which is, again, making her walk pretty tall. The problem is, at school, she’s perfectly humble. She doesn’t talk down to a friend or fellow student. She doesn’t say anything to make the other kids feel badly that they aren’t where she is. I’m very proud of this.

However, when she gets home, she sort of lets loose a little bit, and she comes undone somewhat. Without going into too much personal detail, because I respect Claire’s privacy, all this comes at a price for a kid like her. She feels, too much. Far too much, and it comes at the price of anxiety and panic attacks. She knows, as well as a seven year old can, that she’s different. She cries and says the work is too hard for her, but she coasts through it, while claiming her friends don’t have to do this hard of work. I tell her, if she really wants to, she can ask her teacher to give her easier work, to which she replies, “But that would be boring.” She’s proud of the fact that she gets special work, and can do more than her friends, but she also is envious of her friends’ homework at the same time. It has to be a weird place to be in.

And it’s not so much what she says, rather how she says it. I can see her walking tall, which is every mother’s dream for a daughter. A daughter with self confidence and pride. But at what point do you have to knock them down a few pegs for being too proud?

Last night Claire tested for her blue belt in taekwondo. For those who have no idea what that means, the color belts for taewkondo go: white, orange, yellow, camo, green, purple, blue, brown, red, red-black, black. In between every color are midterms, so there are multiple testings to get to where she’s at now. I believe this was her 12th testing. She worked very hard, and I was very proud that she got her blue belt. Mostly, because last Saturday, she made mistakes in her form, and didn’t get permission to test. Determined, she practiced extra and on Wednesday she pretested again and earned her permission to test.

Today Luca is testing for his yellow belt midterm. (It’s the test between belts. Next testing he’ll go for camo belt.) Today is Luca’s day to shine. Claire, proud of her blue belt still, wore it around the house all morning, and couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t let her wear it to Luca’s testing. I explained to her that she needs to go and be proud of the tiny tiger students today. That she can be proud, but she needs to also be excited for other people. It’s Luca’s turn.

Luca, being the quiet one, listens really well, and heard Claire when she said, “But he didn’t work as hard as I did.”

I’m pretty sure my brain exploded when she said that. While, yes, Luca didn’t do as much work as Claire did. That, during testing, he does his form with an instructor, and Claire does hers alone. That when I say, “Guys, please practice your TKD,” she does and he doesn’t. That we tell Luca that if he goes through his form x amount of times, Matt will play Legos with him for 20 minutes. I get that. And in a seven year old’s brain, it’s not fair. I have to explain to her that, Luca isn’t seven. That he isn’t her. That Luca doesn’t like being watched like she does. That he would rather be in a quiet room building Legos than in a room with 100 pairs of eyes on him doing a form.

It’s always been a bit of a dance with Luca and taekwondo. He even went as far as going on hiatus for 6 months. We let him. We let him tell us when he was ready to come back, and when he did, he picked up where he left off. We are very proud of him for that, but then Claire makes these side comments like, “If you didn’t take a break, Luca, you’d have your camo belt by now.”

He hears that, Claire. And your words hurt.

So I guess that’s where I’m at. I’m sitting here, thinking about the good days where she couldn’t talk, couldn’t crawl, couldn’t over think, couldn’t freak out over little things, couldn’t brag. When her words didn’t hurt.

95% of the time, Claire is an awesome kid. But sometimes she isn’t. And I’m at that place in life where I don’t even know if I’m doing anything right.

I’m also sure that my words hurt, too.

And that, in a nutshell, is parenting, is it not?

When I was two, I ….

Last month, you started this new phrase, “When I was two, I….” and then you’d proceed to tell me all the things you had done and some things you thought you had done when you were two years old. “I fought a dragon, I bonked my head on the corner and got my head glued…I can’t tell you any more.”

Sitting in the backseat, you tell me stories about your made up friends. Most of the names sound as if they belong in an IKEA ad. Your friend Poonta likes to play Barbies, Keeya has a brother named Pedro, and Oohla likes to dress up like princesses. And you go on, telling these intricate stories to me while I drive.

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It seems our best conversations happen in the car. You keep me up to date with all your school friends, (even though you don’t actually go to school.) You tell me about science. Like, why the sky should be pink instead of blue. You tell me that Grandma is going to take you to the old Cookie Park (read: Eat ‘n Park) by the Super Gym (read: The Club in Monroeville.) You often remind me that I’m driving and that I’m not allowed to crash. You also remind me that I’m going to die.

Yesterday, you took it upon yourself to take some acrylic paint and, very quietly, began to paint the side of my mom’s dollhouse. The dollhouse was built by my grandpa when my mom was a kid. I was cleaning the kitchen, listening to the Lumineers and I noticed it got very quiet. But you had previously been building with Legos, so I thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until you came into the kitchen, with your hands behind your back, looking for a towel, that I noticed you had paint all over your face.

I’m pretty sure the neighbors could hear me yelling “Why!?” at you. didn’t even know my voice could get that loud. You stood there, staring at me, eyes so wide they were nearly double in size, and you shrank down and said, “I’m sorry.”

After time out, I plopped you on the counter and smiled. I said, “Mae. What you did in there is exactly something I would have done when I was a kid. In fact, when I saw your work, I immediately thought about how much fun you must have been having. So, while it’s a very pretty paint job, and I do admire it, you can’t do that, okay?”

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That wasn’t what you were expecting at all, because you were waiting for me to lay into you about how you need to listen, and that was wrong and how could you? Instead, I realized that, well, you are exactly like I was as a kid, and to be honest, I quite liked myself then.

Anyhow, what I’m trying to say is, when my mom told me, “I hope you have ten kids just like you,” I never really thought it would happen. But every day you do or say something that makes me think, “Wow. I totally have done/said/thought that.”

You still love dance class, and now you’re learning how to do things properly, so you constantly critique my dance skills while we’re bopping around to Fireball on Pandora. You’re also very opinionated. So when a song comes on that you don’t like, you take it upon yourself to thumbs it down, even if everyone else likes it, including yourself the day before.

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Mae, you’re a delight. You are the kid that is most remembered because you make yourself known.

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You dress yourself every day, and there’s no telling you what you should wear.

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You’re also probably the most self sufficient kid I’ve ever met. If you want something, you get it done, no matter what it takes. If you want water, you drag something that looks slightly sturdy over to the sink and stand on it. You decide when to wash your hair, even if that means wetting down your hair at the gym. If you want to paint, well by golly, you’re going to paint. If you want your hair to be short, why wait for mom? You’ll just cut your hair at 6 am. (And do a surprisingly good job.)

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If you want a manicure, you just look at your dad with those big ‘ol eyes and, bam. Manicure.

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That’s not to say you get away with everything. If anything, I’m probably harder on you because I can more or less anticipate what you’re going to do, or why. Sorry about that.

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You’re a typical little sister, but when the big kids don’t want to be around you, you find something they’ll want to do, so you can weasel your way in.

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Mae, when you were born, you looked at me and I knew. I knew that you would be the kid who would make yourself known. Even when you couldn’t talk, you would tell me all kinds of things. (We call that phase the Mae-Rage phase.) When you finally did learn how to talk, you could make me laugh more than anyone else.

From the moment you entered our lives, you have brought with it so much joy. You’re just that fancy. Happy Birthday! I love you.

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(Look mom! I’m two! No, Mae. You’re three in this photo. No I wasn’t. I was two. Mae, seriously, this was last year. You were three. Ugh. Mom.)

It just takes time

A while ago after teaching BodyPump, a brand new member came up to me asking about quick ways to lose weight. If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me about that, I’d be a very rich woman.

I often have to put myself in the perspective of the person asking. There stood a woman, recently sent her youngest child off to college, started a new job, is a cancer survivor, and was looking for a fresh start. And she stood there, looking at me, a fitness instructor of 3 plus years, a runner, a lifter, a spinner.

I smiled at her and told her that there’s really no fast way to lose weight, rather consistency and variety of your workouts, good food and lots of patience. We talked for about a half an hour, worked out a basic plan, and she seemed excited to begin.

I still see her around at the gym and she’s working so hard. I told her, she has the attitude to be where she wants to be, that’s half the battle.

Often times, I need to remind myself that I’ve been there. I did, after all, have four kids, and any woman who has had a child will tell you, losing the baby weight is the absolute worst. I mean, my back would jiggle while brushing my teeth. Talk about kicking a girl while she’s down.

Today, while looking at my Time Hop app, a photo popped up that was a side profile of my body, with the caption: Every few months I take a photo of myself to see my progress. Some days I feel like there’s been none or that I’ll never have the body I want. But today, when I took this photo, I had to give myself some credit. Am I supermodel thin? Heck no! But that body has carried four babies. One just under a year ago. If I keep going in the direction I’m going, I may not have the body I’ve envisioned, BUT, I’m farther today than I was yesterday. So I’m going to keep with it.

Sometimes we all need a gentle reminder that change, no matter what it is, takes time. A year ago (left), I was at a certain point and today (right) I’m farther from that.

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There’s a note on the wall of one of the clubs I teach at in the hallway as you walk towards the main gym. It says, “In three months, you’ll thank yourself,” and it’s so very true. Two years ago, I was very pregnant with my fourth baby, overwhelmed with the thought of how I had to, yet again, lose the baby weight. Today, I’m here, and I’m proud that I was patient enough to make it. (Which is saying a lot, since I’m so NOT patient with much.)

You have to figure out what you want, and how you want to get it. For me, I spend my time with some amazing people who make my job easier. And they subsequently make working out so much easier.

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These people show up, week after week, and have for years. They’ve been with me through a lot, and I honestly couldn’t do it without them. If words could truly express how much I love, respect and admire them…well, I just hope they know. Because I do yell at them a lot.

“But you get paid to work out! So of course you’re in shape!” Ugh. I work hard, if not harder than the people in class. I have to. I strive to be a role model for every member, and that means giving it my all, every time. Even if it may not show in my face, I’m dying up there. When it stops being hard, I know I’m not working to my potential, and I need to figure it out. Yes, it is a giant perk that I get paid to workout, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

When I got my first tattoo, the artist said to me, “You are at a rare point in your life, where your body is a blank canvas. Shape it how you want.”

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Six tattoos, several piercings, a few scars, a lot of lifting, running, biking and a lot of time later, and my body is a canvas I’m very proud of. It’s not blank so much anymore, but I still have spaces for change and color. I wouldn’t go back to being 18 for anything. At 30, I’m right where I want to be, in more ways than just my body shape. (I said it! I said I’m 30!)

I was told as a young child to always love yourself, so you can be proud of who you are. I told that to the member at the gym, and today after Pump, she turned and said to me, “I remember what you told me. And I love myself now more than ever. I believe in myself.”

Sometimes it just takes time.

Unseen

I remember when I was 15 and I wanted to see the whole picture. The whole thing, all at once. Why are we here? What are we doing? Where are we going? Who will I become?

I wanted to be a physical therapist or an athletic trainer or something that used my hands. I thought I’d go to Slippery Rock and join the crew team. I wanted to show my strength and be a person someone could rely on in high pressure situations.

I still can’t remember why I chose to join the Army. I was fearless then. Or maybe I didn’t care much about myself. I know a lot of it had to do with me wanting dog tags, but the rest is really a mystery. I was in the final picks for the Governor’s School for the Arts, which was a high honor, but I was afraid that going there would test me in ways I wasn’t comfortable with. I was good with shading but really no other form of art, so why would I waste their time? Maybe I would have then chosen art school after and become an interior designer.

Instead I chose the Army and with it the unknown of what I’d be asked to do.

When I was 16, I went through a horrible phase, as most 16 year olds do, where I was confused and frustrated and couldn’t see beyond the next day. Again, I wanted to see the whole picture, but at the same time, I didn’t want much to be seen. I knew that if I just flew under the radar, I could get by.

A year later, things proved to be the same since the last thing you ever want in Basic is to be seen. You want to keep your nose down and do your work. Which worked out well, since, let’s face it, the majority of the time was spent with my nose to the ground. Literally.

In yoga today we did a pushup series twice, once in sun salutations and again in back work. One of the members said, “Wow, I remember when I could do all that on my toes.” I thought to myself, well I can do it on my toes, but my wrists don’t like it much.

I think that is from the Army. I remember when we had to do pushups on the drill sergeant’s time. Down. Wait. Wait. Wait. Up. Down. Wait. Wait. Wait. Up. I prided myself on the fact that I could. I could hold low. I could push up. I could do what they told me to do. I could do it all, because as long as I did, I could be unseen.

I had a best friend there. His name was Brown. I still get sad when I think about him. We pulled each other through some of the worst shit you could imagine. For example, one time Drill Sergeant decided to play a game with me and dropped an open canister of tear gas in my fox hole while in the field. Brown, who was the platoon leader at the time, knew it was coming so he warned me right before it was dropped, and I had my gas mask on in time with little damage. D.S. was impressed enough and left me alone the rest of the three days out in the field. When I had to do my final ruck march, Brown knew my hip was busted up good, so he kept walking back to me to tell me how much further we had, even though no one else knew. He’d say, “Keep going, Reed. Only another three miles.”

When we graduated, we exchanged numbers and we promised to keep in touch.

I remember the next time I saw him, he pulled up to the gas station off I-80 in his pickup truck and stood there waiting for me to get out of my red Ford Ranger. I ran to him and we hugged for what felt like forever. We had a friendship that was built on trust and camaraderie. There’s really no other way to describe it. When you go through what we did, if you get along, you hang on to that.

He had a girlfriend, I had a boyfriend. We were friends and I never thought anything more of it.

We kept in contact via phone and email for the next year. We would talk about everything. His girlfriend had long since left him and my boyfriend and I were on the outs. We jokingly talked about him moving to Pittsburgh because that’s where his best friend was after all. When he was deployed to Iraq, I would get random phone calls at 4 am from him telling me he was safe, that he missed me, and to wait for him.

Somehow things got lost in translation and I never caught on to the fact that he thought of me more than just a friend, and when he came home from Iraq, I was living with Matt. I guess I never really grasped on to the concept of “wait for me.” We had never had a romantic relationship, so while I truly could have seen myself falling in love with him, I wasn’t there when he was.

I haven’t seen or talked to him since. He was hurt, and I can’t blame him, and that’s where our friendship stopped.

I miss my friend.

In this day of technology and Facebook and Twitter, you’d think it’s easy to find someone. But, I don’t even know where to start. He has a generic name followed by the fact that he was deployed twice and I don’t even know where he’d live now. I don’t know where to begin.

Last week I had a dream about Basic. It was a memory. In the middle of the ruck march where it became twilight, we came to an open field to our left and woods to our right and the sky was lit with a million stars. We took a water break there. Everyone was looking at it. Just staring. Brown came up to me and, while we weren’t permitted to talk, we just smiled because how could you not at that sight? We had been through hell and back for almost 10 weeks. When I dislocated my thumb, he put it back in. When he tripped on a run, I helped him up. When D.S. cut off six inches of my hair because of a violation, he told me it didn’t look that bad. When we battled in pugil sticks, he didn’t go easy on me. In fact, he busted my lip open pretty good. We were there for each other.

Part of me fears that where we have been and where we are now are so different that perhaps it’s best to remain unseen. I don’t know if he’d be proud of the Reed I am today. I wonder if I am the way I said I’d be.

Jacob Brown, of Basic Training, Alpha 2-10, 4th Platoon Renegades, Ft. Leonard Wood, MO: I really miss my friend.

Squirrel Story

During the summer, and early fall, you’d find me at the Y lifting with my strongman boss, Joe. Mae has a very active imagination. She frequently tells stories that aren’t even remotely true, but she will tell it with such a passion that, well someone has to believe her, right?

One afternoon after a lifting session, I picked the girls up from the daycare and one of the daycare ladies handed me a paper and said, “Oh you’ll like this.”

They were always handing me papers, because Mae drew a lot and of course, I was supposed to gush over every last scribble.

I got to the car and read the paper handed to me.

I had to laugh. Mae was always telling people to write down her stories. “Mom! I’m telling you a story. Can you write it down?” “Mom! I’ve got a good story. Can you video tape me? It’s awesome.”

Here’s the story she demanded (probably very cutely) the daycare lady to copy down.

It was titled: Squirrel Story

It’s a squirrel running around. It’s going to Antarctica. He’s going to figure out what he’s doing. The squirrel daddy is thinking about something. He’s thinking about squirrels. There’s chick-monks and they don’t like people. They hate people. They live up in the trees. They eat their pinecones. They comb down and go on the wires and it goes CH CH CH- they got electrocuted. And then they died in the water. And then they got dead. The end.”

 

Training Day

I’ve begun potty training Audrey because, while I don’t really mind the diapers, I had the other three trained by the age of two, and her birthday is fast approaching. I’ve gotten more chill with each subsequent kid, even going as far as not caring that Audrey didn’t walk until nearly 16 months. Given her siblings were walking at 9 and 10 months old, and I used to religiously follow the “what your kid should be doing at xyz month milestones,” that’s saying a lot. I’ve let her take her time figuring out how to feed herself using utensils. I’ve let her be carried around by her siblings and have even let them dote on her. But it’s time, mostly because she hides to poop. Awareness has begun and I’m on to her.
I don’t particularly enjoy potty training, but I guess the approach I’ve taken for the past three kids has worked, so here I am again. My approach? Naked from the waist down and patience.

Perks of this is it forces me to steam clean the rugs more and I’m able to remember the last time I scrubbed the floors. So there’s that.

The cats have taken it upon themselves to all use Jill the Bobtailed Wonder’s tiny little litter box in Claire’s room, thus leaving it to smell like, well, a room with a litter box in it. The older two cats have basically refused to use their giant litter box in the newly renovated basement. In the beginning, it was fear. Change. Then one of the kids locked the cat door (but of course no one knows which kid did it,) and then the cats would pee on the brand new carpet. Can’t really blame them. But of course we thought that they were just mad at us. Nope. Their bathroom door was locked. So I unlocked it and showed them it was unlocked, but they don’t care. Jill’s litter box is where it’s at now.

So today, after Audrey peed on the rug, I noticed Claire’s room smelled absolutely horrible and realized I’ve had enough. So I got rid of it, for now, and steam cleaned every soft surface in the house. Figure it out, cats. Figure it out.

When we first got Beau, he would ritually do his business in the play room, in the same spot, always when we were away. But it didn’t start until about a month after he moved in. Then, about two weeks ago, he showed that he does in fact have food aggression towards other dogs, as evidenced by the fact that he attacked Sadie when she was eating.

After the initial fear and stress wore off, and I had texted every since dog savvy person I knew, I came up with a plan to fix the situation.

When Beau was brought into the shelter, he weighed in at 52 pounds. He’s a German Shepherd mix, and so it was absolutely insane to have such a big breed weigh so little. Along with his random peeing, I put together that he was probably an outdoor dog. Also known as a tethered dog. Why anyone would own a dog just to keep it outside…rage; I won’t go there. Either way, the dog had food issues that needed to get sorted out and when I looked at his surrender papers, it was written he didn’t get along with the other dog. Now I see why.

I don’t give up so easily. Sadie is incredibly submissive and that’s not good when she should be showing Beau where he belongs. The first thing we implemented was single feeding sessions. Sadie has been a grazer for ten years, so it was more about training her how to eat on demand vs Beau, because that dog can eat on demand 24/7. I started with hand feeding both Sadie and Beau. It worked well for the first week, but Sadie was still hesitant, so I mixed a little peanut butter with her food and she’d eat it all right away. Now I’m on this homemade kefir milk kick, so I mix the extras in her dish and she happily eats that up.

We also gate Beau in the living room, a place he feels safe, when we leave. Sadie has the whole rest of the house to roam.

So far, we haven’t had any other issues. We’ve also been teaching Beau the fine art of “Leave It,” a wonderful training tool that teaches dogs not to steal cheese sticks out of tiny hands. Because, tears. And lots of them.

I still need to get Beau to the shelter for a weigh in, but I can tell you now, based on just pets, he is gaining weight. He eats his tumeric every morning wrapped in cheese, so his hip dysplasia symptoms are almost all gone. He gets coconut oil every afternoon and treats every time he goes outside and does his business. He gets brushed twice a week and he gets half the couch to sprawl out on every evening. He is loved.

I’m in the process of training my hips to be stronger. With all that I do, I don’t do enough work in that department, so I’ve had to take the time, every day, to make it work. It takes time, but I already feel the change.

Just last week, when I filled in for a Zumba instructor with BodyPump, three elderly women stayed and tried the class. They did everything to the best of their ability and never quit. At the end of the class, I asked them how old they are: 72, 83, and the one who worked the hardest, 87. She said she was just glad to still be able to move, and has never stopped.

I know that a lot of times, people want things to be just right right now.  Especially in January. I understand that. I’m like that, too. Sometimes, however, training is involved. I want my kid to no longer crap her pants, so I need to take the time to train her. I want my dog to not attack my other dog, so I have to take a lot of patience and train them. I want to feel like the best version of myself, and rid of weak hips, so I have to train myself. Just like the 87 year old said to me, “I just had to be patient and keep moving.” I think we can all learn from that.

So whatever you’re training for in life, take the time, the patience and the heart to know that it’ll happen, someday.

Beauty

This is an incredibly personal post and I’m feeling pretty vulnerable for putting it out there, but I’ve had it written in my head for a few years now, I figured it was time. 

My mother in law wanted a family photo. One with all of her kids, their spouses and the grandkids. In one photo. At one time. My mother in law has four kids. Her oldest son is married and has four kids, her second son is unmarried, her third son is Matt, and her youngest, a daughter, is married with a son. The kids ages range from Audrey, at 22 months to A.T. who is almost 12.

In one photo.

But because we love our mother in law, we acquiesced and we all planned to meet at Matt’s oldest brother’s house where they would have a photographer waiting.

I may seem on the outside to be an outgoing person, but self-confidence hasn’t come easy. Any given day of the week, if someone were to say to me, wear gym casual attire, I’d be set. But when I have to wear something that’s even the slightest bit dressy, I go from feeling confident to the ugliest girl in the world in a matter of a few seconds.

I teach five classes a week, and yet I still don’t feel like I look the part. I don’t write this for sympathy or for people to come out and say, “Oh! But you’re wrong!” Mostly because I know what I see in the mirror. I see tired. I see plain. I see eh.

This happens every time I’m near Matt’s family. They’re always so well put together and even though I’ve been in the family a decade, I still feel like an outsider. Completely because I’ve put myself there. I’m a stranger to the traditional family scene and I’m still working on how I can fit in while being myself. I’m incredibly outspoken and I have always marched to the beat of my own drum, and they’re probably the kindest, most normal people I’ve ever met, and it’s still hard to find where I fit.

I’ve never felt as if I’m interesting enough or do things that are worth talking about. When I get to a gathering, I make up in my mind that I must be quiet because no one cares what I have to say. Or if I do decide to talk, talk about the kids.

Truth is, Matt’s family is very beautiful. And every time we get together, I immediately feel frumpy and so plain. It’s hard enough being a woman in this day and age when everyone is constantly judging you, but when you judge yourself? Game over. And I lose every time. I am my worst critic and it shows in the ten minutes before we have to leave the house to go, and I’m changing my clothes for the tenth time and I’m looking at my face in the mirror and sighing.

And then I turn around and see Claire or Mae watching me. What am I teaching them about beauty? How can I show the girls how to love themselves for everything they are when I don’t even find myself to be beautiful? I’ve struggled with this for a long time, mostly starting around the time of Tony’s death, which is subsequently when everything changed for me, and the only way I felt release was by cutting.

I don’t want that for my kids. I don’t want them to feel so awful and self-isolated that they have to resort to that awful world. I don’t want them to punch themselves in the face because they’re not good enough. Because they don’t look like the girls in the magazines. Because they have to wear makeup to look halfway decent, unlike the other girls who can get away with a clean face and confidence. I don’t want them to feel that feeling in the pit of their stomach when they know they have less than 10 minutes to get ready for a gathering where everyone else looks better and feels better than they do.

I don’t want that for them. I want them to know that they do good things. That they have good taste in music and books. That they are incredibly strong physically and strong willed. That they do good for animals and humans alike. That they can draw really well and are pretty good at Sudoku. That they have a really good life. That there’s more to beauty than what they see in the mirror.

Mostly, I wish I could say that to me.

What is beauty? Because I really, really want to be beautiful.

Must Read

Today I received a letter from my contact at the health center from one of the families that we helped this year. Since it wasn’t just my project, but all of ours, I thought I’d share.

All of you are my Christmas gifts this year. I’m so thankful for each and every one of you.

letterpartone

 

letterparttwo

 

Thank you.

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