August 18, 2014

The Best I Have to Offer

My favorite small humans
Tomorrow is M's birthday. We're going on a date, and that means tonight we're having a little family party.

The girls planned it.

That is why we're having a strawberry cake with chocolate ice cream, and the cake will be decorated with pictures of the whole family standing under a rainbow.

Yes, I'll post pictures.

That's why I'm still unshowered and my house is a mess. Because the priority right now is birthday.

Wrapping presents. Baking cake. Mixing frosting. Making ice cream.

And yes, picking flowers. And making a giant freaking mess.

I always feel bad about the way my home looks. Always. Because my home is always a disaster zone. Take the dining room right now- there are dress ups under the easel, there's laundry on the rack that's been dry and ready to hang up for three days. There's a mountain of coloring books and picture books under the toy table. The dining room table still has breakfast dishes, and craft supplies, and random crap all over it. My desk is a an organizational nightmare. There are random trucks and clown shoes and neck pillows scattered on the floor. There's dryer sheets and bean bags and a puppy in a baby carrier just hanging around underfoot.

That's just one room. And barely the tip of the iceberg.

That laundry has been there since Thursday.
I tried to clean it last weekend, so that a professional housecleaner could come to my home and do the deep cleaning.

She deemed it uncleanable and gave me my money back.

I am constantly embarrassed by my home. I go to other family's homes and I see their floors. Their carpets, and I see their spotless countertops, and their little rows of matching shoes... and I feel ashamed and incompetent.

That's how I feel most days.

But there's one person in this world who always makes me feel better about my home.

I've never seen her home. I've never seen her family. But she's in my home twice a week, every week, and she knows when I make some pathetic excuse about how busy we've been, it's nonsense. This is just how we live.

And that person is RH's physical therapist.

You might recall RH started physical therapy about a year and a half ago to help her compensate for a possible spinal cord tether. Since then, two times a week, this woman comes into my home and plays with my children. She takes all three of them to the yard so I can take a shower. She plays games with them, and she compliments them.

And before she goes, she compliments me.

I am not the best parent in the world. Despite what my husband and kids say, I know I'm not. I know there are parents out there who make more nutritious meals for their kids, every day, from scratch, and at least once a week my kids have veggie corn dogs or fake chicken nuggets courtesy of Morningstar Farms, smothered in ketchup that's 99% corn syrup.

I know there are parents out there who keep their homes clean. Like, REALY clean. Who have EVER wiped down the baseboards. Who go through the house putting away toys once the kids are in bed. Who never leave dishes "to soak" in the kitchen sink overnight.

I know there are parents out there who are more engaged than me. Who spend all day homeschooling, or unschooling, or going on adventures. Who ration out screen time carefully. Not like me, who uses Disney Princess movies that I despise as a nearly daily opportunity to brush my teeth without being interrupted.

I know there are parents who get out of bed before the kid so they can get in an uninterrupted workout routine, whereas I stay under my covers until the very last moment it's humanly possible.

I know I'm not the best mom out there.

This is one of DD's "collections." You can find them in drawers, corners, baskets,
and hats all over the house. Only the flowers don't look so good anymore.
I know that today I've already threatened my kid with a spanking for screaming and crying and ignoring me when I tried to talk to her about headbutting her sister so hard in the face that it gave her a nosebleed. I know that today I ignored the fact that my toddler was wearing "princess shoes" before "princess shoe time" because it was the first time all day she's stopped yelling about anything and everything, even though our downstairs neighbors have more than reached their limits when it comes to the constant noise of three small children above them. I know that I've got a pee soaked cloth diaper draped over the edge of a diaper pail with no bag in it because I'm not going to risk waking a sleeping toddler just in the name of sanitation.

I know I'm dirty, and exhausted, and I smell like days old migraine sweats and somebody else's piss, and in a few minutes I'll take the world's fastest shower so I can finish baking a fresh-from-scratch strawberry birthday cake and write "Happy Birthday Daddy" on it.

But an hour and a half ago, when RH's physical therapist left my home, she stopped to talk to me as she does every Monday and Wednesday.

"RH is doing so well," she says.

"And SI and DD are so smart and so polite," she says.

"And they're so good with her. They're such good big sisters," she says.

"I don't know how you do it. You must do a lot of reading," she says. "Your girls are so sweet. I'm so impressed with how you deal with the temper tantrums. All the talk about choices and talking them through what they did. I tell my sister how good you are with that kind of stuff."

And I am flabbergasted that she says these things. I cannot imagine that she could mean them. This sweet woman, with two kids of her own- also four and two. She thinks I'm doing something right.

This is the woman who, one particularly rough day, SI greeted by announcing, "Mommy THREW DD onto the floor!" Which isn't what happened, but it had JUST happened. And I was sitting on the floor, hugging DD and telling her I'm sorry she fell when I yanked her out of her seat, but she needed to use TWO HANDS when she grabbed for a full cup of milk and I needed her to move instead of freezing so I could get to it before all the mess all over the dining room was soaked in milk. And while I panicked that now a state child welfare worker was going to have to report me for potentially abusing my child, she looked at me and said, "Would you like me to take the kids outside so you can have breakfast with a little quiet?"

I'm a mom who snaps more than I'd like to. I get angry, and I get frustrated, and I'm constantly outnumbered. Outnumbered by three kids who are all going through growth spurts and won't eat cheddar cheese if they know there's gouda in the house, and hate mangoes until all they want to eat is mangoes, and trash every room the moment I've finished making it livable again, and no matter what I do I can't keep up with them.

But I'm lucky. Because twice a week, another mom who's constantly outnumbered and exhausted and can't keep up with her kids either comes into my home and tells me I'm doing a good job.

Part of me hopes RH needs twice weekly physical therapy for the rest of her childhood, so I'll always have that twice weekly moment of reassurance.

Part of me feels intensely guilty for my gratitude that this woman has no choice but to come and relieve me for an hour twice a week of the constant attention of my own kids.

My little chaos machines
Today we're baking a cake, from scratch, and I can do that. I can do these fun things, and take pictures, and laugh, and have a great time with my kids.

I can help them wrap presents and I can enjoy this time with them, and I can make a gourmet freakin' dinner for M's birthday- grilled tuna steak with tequila salsa for him, quinoa garlic patties for the rest of us, a spinach strawberry salad for us salad eating adults, and curry roasted cauliflower for everyone. I can acknowledge I'll be cleaning up those dishes for another three days. I can acknowledge that while the cake cools, the children will be trashing the living room.

I know it's coming.

I know what my life looks like, and what it looks like is chaos. These are my priorities.

And although I'm ashamed, constantly, of the results of those priorities when it comes to my shabby house, my monstrous dust bunnies, my perpetually nearly-not-dying house plants and the random used bandaid that turns up in the middle of the floor, I'm not ashamed of my choices.

I'm happy with them, because they are the choices that make me happy. Rather than force myself to feel the constant frustration of my children's enthusiastic mess, I just let them live in it.

Rather than feel the constant exhaustion of not looking beautiful enough, I put my hair in a ponytail and settle for an Ariel assisted tooth-brushing.

Rather than argue with an obstinate two year old that she's making an invisible neighbor miserable, I accept the tongue lashing I'll get in ten minutes on the phone.

Facts are facts. The fact is that my house is a disaster.

But my life isn't.

And even when it feels like it is, because people can see my disastrous home and therefore must have access to my disastrous life... the physical therapist smiles and tells me my kids are great, and I must be doing something really right.

Today is our celebration of M's birthday. Fresh fish, a pink cake, chocolate ice cream, home-made wrapping paper covered in his daughters' drawings.

He deserves it.

I deserve it.

And my children deserve the best of what I can give them.

I can't give them a spotless home. I just can't. But I can give them the best of my love. I can give them the majority of my attention and affection. I can give them hugs and kisses, and songs, and stories, and green eggs and purple oatmeal, and teach them to squeeze lemon onto sliced strawberries.

I can let them make a mess.

For me, I think that's the best I can do. Because my life is messy, and they're a part of it.

And I think they know what a big part they are.


  1. My place is a mess too, and I only have one kid. Who can't even walk yet. I can't even imagine what it will look like in four years! Even though I've only met your family once, it's so easy to see that the physical therapist is right-- you're a phenom of a mom! A phe-mom!

    And I can't wait to see pictures of that CAKE!

  2. I totally relate to this!!! I"m so glad you have someone who gives you an accurate reflection of your home!!! Much love and enjoy the party!!

    1. Thank you, Kathy! I want to cry with gratitude when she's here, but I think that might be weird.

  3. Thank goodness for mom support, right?! Because validation from another one is real and genuine because we each know what the other really goes through!

    1. It's true! Based on what happens online, you'd think moms spent all their time tearing each other down. It's good to remember that when you actually get to SEE other women, they act like human beings.

  4. My house is never clean either! You know one day our kids will be grown up and moved out and we;ll miss those messes!!

    1. I don't know about you, but I think it will take me a looooooooong time to miss the mess!!!

  5. Lea this is amazing! I'm sitting here in my filth of a house, and all I want to do is send you pictures of my mess so I can say SEE! ME TOO!

    Love you so much!

    1. I love you too, lady. Thanks for making me feel like a person. :)



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