Seven wishes for my 37th birthday

This morning I woke up to thirty seven. Thirty Seven. It doesn't even seem real. Honestly I don't feel thirty seven, but I don't know how old I feel. For many birthdays now I usually think about what I was like ten years ago. Who was I at twenty seven, as opposed to who I am today at thirty seven. This year, when I think about my twenty seven year old self, I don't really miss her. Sure she was young, and she was strong and beautiful and a few pounds lighter. But she wasn't even married yet. She wouldn't be married for another month. She wasn't a mother yet, in fact, she had serious reservations about becoming a mother. Twenty seven year old me was selfish in so many ways, driven in so many ways, and dreaming completely different dreams. And while I some days long for her energy and her drive, I'm so glad she had no idea. I'm so glad she was blind and naive to all of the things that were about to happen to her. She was just on the cusp.

Today I'm so thankful to be where I am. I'm married, I'm a mother, and I have a new appreciation for both. I'm smarter than I was ten years ago, I'm stronger, and I am, believe it or not, happier. Every year I'm so afraid of getting older, I'm so worried about what that is going to look like, but this year, I'm not afraid of what that is going to feel like. Every year getting older feels amazing. It feels like love and grace, it's warm with laughter and happiness, and even when it's hard, even when it feels impossible, getting older feels as it should, like a gift.

This year I have seven wishes. Mostly because thirty seven seemed too self indulgent. Says the woman who writes a blog...

This year, I wish for grace. Every morning I pray for grace. To get through the day. To make it to the next. I pray for grace as I don't make it out the door on time, as I have another argument about kitten heeled sling backs on a seven year old. Oh, please year thirty seven, shower me with grace.

I wish to be surrounded by women who inspire me. Women who inspire each other. I want to talk to them and laugh with them. I want to cry with them, and share their hardships. I want their trials to inspire me, and I want to return the favor and inspire them. I'm too old to spend my days comparing myself to others, especially women. I'm too old to be worried about what the standard is on beauty or success. I'm just old enough to understand that we are all beautiful and that we are all successful, no matter what the scale says, no matter what my bank account says. I want to be inspired this year, and I want to inspire in kind.

I wish to let go. Let go of the standard. Let go of the rules. Let go when my daughter wants to wear a tutu and jeans. Let go when her socks don't match. I want to let go of the nine o'clock bedtime, and the rush in the morning to always be five minutes early. I want to let go of all the evils that steal the joy out of otherwise peaceful mornings and happy nights. I didn't write the rules, and so I need to let go and follow my own. Thirty seven will be the year I let go of all that holds me in a place of fear and anger. It's time to let that shit go.

I wish to keep my dream. The publishing dream. I need to keep this dream. I leave it, I give up on it, only to find that I come back to it every time. My wish is to publish a book, even if I have to do it myself. Even if it's just ten copies that ten people read. Even if it never makes it to Amazon, or a shelf with a bar code. I just want to see my writing, bound, with my name on the cover. So if that means I compile all of my favorite posts and send it to my best friend in the mail, so be it. This is the year I will hold tightly to my dream.

I wish to accept myself again. I once loved me. I loved how I looked, how I felt, but last year I didn't for most of the year. I called myself names: ugly, fat, horrible, unworthy. I let myself believe that these descriptions were true. It's hard to accept that your body has settled, that maybe you aren't a certain size anymore. I want to accept myself again. I want to look in the mirror and like that person. So my wish is to slowly learn to like the way I look again. To not feel defeat when I have to buy a bigger size. Not to beat myself up about a day spent with chocolate. This year I will be nicer to myself and stop shaming myself.

I wish to lean in. Lean in to discomfort. Lean in to fear. Lean in to the unknown. I want to take chances. I want to do all the things that scare me, all the things that force me to be brave. I want to lean in to life.

This year I want to live. Fully. Wildly. With abandon. I want to have more days filled with laughter, less days filled with tears. I want to really appreciate every day, finding the really good stuff in each one. I want to be present. I want to say yes more. I want to make my daughters laugh. I want to make my husband remember why he married me. I want thirty seven to be a year filled with life. Full life. Happy life. I don't want to waste a minute.

I'm thirty seven today, but I don't feel old, I feel seasoned. I feel experienced. I feel like I finally understand that growing older is a beautiful thing. Regardless of the extra pounds, the gray hairs, the laugh lines, I'm incredibly lucky to turn thirty seven today. So instead of complaining about being an hold hag, on her way to forty, I'm going to feel lucky. I'm going to feel alive. I'm going to make seven wishes, and spend the year making them come true.

Floating on the mess

I apologized to my husband tonight. I told him I was sorry that the house was still a mess. That I was sorry the folded laundry was still on the chair in the living room, the floor of our bedroom, and that chair on my side of the bed that I promised would never be covered in clothes when I moved it in there. I apologized that I signed us (read him) up for another cookie booth on Sunday. That I've RSVP'd for three birthday parties on the same Saturday that all start and stop within a half hour of each. I told him I was sorry my life was such a mess.

I feel like I'm stuck in the middle of the mess. I look at my dining room table and wonder who put all the papers and crayons and Fruit Loops on it. I wonder why I just keep shoving the shit aside when it would take me no more than five minutes to clean it up. I look at my clean laundry and my dirty laundry and see no obvious difference. I keep thinking that I'm missing important notes from school about parties and projects. I wake in the middle of the night and remember that we are out of turkey for lunches or gluten free bread for Caitlin. I just keep wondering if I will ever have my shit together.

Truth is, I've never really had my shit together. Not totally. But somewhere around Mackenzie's second birthday I felt pretty secure as a mother and a wife. My house has never been "company ready". There are always piles to recycle, give away, or throw away. I've never been one of those women who take comfort in cleaning, I've never been a great cook, and I've never found real joy in exercising. But three years ago, I found this groove, this happy place, where I was completely content with the mess. Where I could embrace the chaos, ignore the bullshit, and be happy with the mundane. I didn't even have to try.

Lately I just feel lost. I've never really regained my footing after going back to work full time. Every morning is a struggle, to wake up, to prep and pack lunches, to get two little ladies dressed and ready for school. It's not that I'm incompetent, it's just that the hours between five and eight o'clock in the morning feel like they move at warp speed. It doesn't matter if I wake up at four thirty every morning, I still can't get us out the door before eight? Why is that? I couldn't tell you, because it feels like we do the exact same thing every morning.

For some reason the mess feels bigger and heavier this week. Maybe because the girls reminded me that the leprechaun didn't come to our house and pee green into our toilet. He didn't leave treats in the leprechaun catcher either, but that's probably because we didn't build one. I told the girls that maybe it's because we need to invite the leprechaun to our house, and that maybe if we send him a hand written invitation, he will show up next year. Maybe. I also misplaced a fundraiser worksheet with sixty six dollars in checks attached to it. My mom showed it to me on Saturday while I was getting ready for work, and that was the last thing I remembered about it until she asked me if I had turned it in. I tore my already in shambles house apart looking for it. It wasn't on the dining room table with the other one zillion school papers and crayons and forgotten books and, oh look, Fruit Loops. It wasn't in the recycle bin, or on the bench under the window with the other books I've read and haven't read, and hey there's my lap top cord. And I felt it. I felt that tug, that pull to the dark side. The dark side where you are the quite possibly the worst, most disorganized mother on the planet. And every day I look at myself in the mirror and say, "Get your shit together".

I gave up on the idea of perfection years ago, when I had a baby who broke every rule in the book. Still it wouldn't be so bad if I had just a little balance in my life. If I could put in place a system of prepping lunches at night, or make the commitment to fnot yell at anyone before eight o'clock in the morning, then maybe, just maybe, I'd find some balance. I feel like if I could just do that, the leprechaun thing wouldn't sting so much. The lost fundraiser form would make my cheeks burn every time I thought about it. From the outside I look like a stand up kind of mom, but from the inside I feel like a walking disaster. Why is it that the little things always feel like the biggest failures. My kids are happy and smart and healthy, so why does a lost form or the lack of green pee in my toilet feel bad enough to make me eat my feelings?

One day I'll find my sea legs again. I'll find that place where the chaos is no longer stifling, where the joy co- exists with the bullshit. I'll know exactly where I put the fundraiser form, and I'll make sure we invite the leprechaun over, I'll even remember to buy gluten free bread before we run out. I had forgotten about the choppy waters of motherhood, the ones that make you feel like you can't sink or swim. For now I'll do my best to tread these waters, to keep my head above them, and on the days I can't, I'll float.

Because if I float, right in the middle of the mess, maybe I won't feel like I'm sinking.

What would the Jolie-Pitts Do?

A few months ago my best friend called me while she cleaned out her closets in preparation for her big move to Montana. She was going through her kid's clothes and was at the point where she wanted to trash it all, but then again, didn't want to trash it all. Before she lost her mind all together she called me to ask some very important questions. Like what I was doing? If she really needed to keep baby onesies sized three months? And the most important: Could her daughter wear her son's Where the Wild Things are t-shirt?

My answer was of course, because faded grey boy t-shirts make little cherubic blonde girls look like riot girls in training. Also why the hell not? But then I reminded her that my parenting role models swear by recycling their children's clothes no matter the gender. I told her that the Jolie-Pitts would definitely let Zahara wear Maddox's old Where the Wild Things Are shirt.

Because the Jolie-Pitts are the coolest parents on the planet.

Sure they are mega super stars, and most of what I see of their parenting is published in the pages of People Magazine or US Weekly. I'm sure that they are just living their lives, doing what they think is best for their kids. But in a world filled with Kardashians and Vanderpumps, I can't help but notice their quiet crusade to parent their own way. Obviously they are always under public scrutiny, and there are still people who hate Jolie because she did steal someone's husband, but I have to make a case for them being very modern and very awesome parenting role models.

A few years ago, I read an article about Ms. Jolie where they asked her about what it's like to be a Hollywood mom. They asked her all the usual questions about balance, about child care, about their educations, and then they asked about her favorite Sunday morning ritutals. Because Sunday mornings tend to carve a life of their own after you settle down and have kids. Jolie mentioned that her favorite thing about being home with her kids versus a movie set was waking up with them. Then she proceeded to tell the interviewer that she and Mr. Pitt had a custom bed built for their family. A bed that is seven feet by seven feet, because at the time the Jolie-Pitts were co-sleepers. This my friends changed my life. Here were two of Hollywood's biggest stars, with more money than the average person could imagine, with the means to hire the best Nanny/Sleep Trainer in the world, but they said nah. They said to hell with all that jazz, and just got a bigger bed, because why fight it? Also at the time they were outnumbered anyway. I decided right then and there, if co-sleeping was good enough for the Jolie-Pitts, well then it was just fine for me.

As their family grew, and the paparrazi made more money for photos of famous people, I got a better look at what their family looked like. I noticed that the kids wore clothes that were very basic. With the exception of a dress here and there for Zahara, I saw that they mostly wore things like jeans and cargo pants, t-shirts and hoodies. Then in a parenting magazine, they did an article on "Celebrity Kids" style and pointed out all the times that Zahara and Shilo had worn hand me downs from Maddox and Pax. I mean why should this family be any different from another? Oh, wait, because they were being photographed in the south of France with their mother looking flawless in a black maxi dress and flip flops. But there they were, walking the streets of France like they were just these jet setters eating Cheetos.

Yes. The twins were in their strollers eating Cheetos. I remember this because I was so surprised that they were able to get Cheetos in France, but since Cheetos are delicious, I guess they are universal. Again, here is a family that you would think would be eating things like baguettes and croisonts and macaroons, but instead Cheetos and Snickers. Ok, I haven't seen proof of the Snickers, but if they eat Cheetos, my money is on Snickers as well. I've also seen those Jolie-Pitt kids drinking soda, eating other varieties of chips, and any kind of junk they can get their hands on... Why? Because they have real parents. Which is easy to forget because they are famous and so incredibly good looking. But seriously, when I think about letting my kids eat Flaming Hot Cheetos in public, I think, What would the Jolie-Pitts do?

So what would the Jolie-Pitts do? They would let their kids have a hand in planning their wedding. They would let Pax bake their wedding cake. Angelina would have a dress designed featuring drawings by her children. The Jolie-Pitts have let their kids sleep in their huge bed with them until they decided they were ready to sleep in their own beds. They have let their kids eat Cheetos in the South of France. What would the Jolie-Pitts do? Whatever they want. Whatever is best for their kids. Whatever is best for their family. Which is not only inspirational, but also pretty effing cool.

My favorite thing the Jolie-Pitts have done as parents? Call their daughter Shilo, John. Now this is tabloid fodder, (and its been going around the internet for the last few months), but it has been said by both Pitt and Jolie that Shilo has said that she would like to be called John. She also likes to dress like her brothers, and act like her brothers. So what? Maybe she is a tomboy. Maybe she is identifying as male as the tabloids like to speculate. Whatever the reason, the Jolie-Pitts have decided to comply with her wishes. This is why I think that the Jolie-Pitts know a thing or two about parenting. They also know a thing or two about not caring what the rest of us think. Which after years of parenting, I feel is the most important lesson to learn.

So if you find yourself wondering if letting your kids Cheetos at Whole Foods is a good idea, or if letting your son wear his big sister's old (and pink) Dora the Explorer t-shirt, ask yourself:

What would the Jolie-Pitts do?

Dear Parents Magazine {Formula is not an F word}

A few weeks back, I wrote a post on this blog about growing out of Parents magazine. And it's true, I'm at the point in my parenting life where I'm more confident and more interested in reading about anti-aging creams than "Ten ways to get your toddler to try broccoli". That said, I'll be receiving copies in the mail for another year, so why not read them on my lunch break. That is exactly what I was doing when I came across an article about breast feeding.

If you have read this blog for any length of time, then you know that breast feeding is a hot button issue for me. I wasn't able to breast feed either child, and today, I'm okay with that. I should say, today I'm finally okay with that, because for years I was a wreck about it. Not being able to breast feed my oldest daughter completely sidelined me. It set in motion a full year of self loathing and a loss of confidence I hadn't seen since middle school. Fast forward to a much better place in my life as a mother, and know that every time I see an article or blog post referencing breast feeding I stop to read. Just to make sure all points of view are represented. Sadly, in last months Parents Magazine, this was not the case.

I do have to point out that the article was very informative. It was also very encouraging. It was a cheerleaders point of view of breastfeeding and how to make it one of the most successful things you will do as a mother. Fine. Fantastic even. I realize that there are more mothers who can breast feed than mothers who can't. LeLeche League was mentioned. Doulas and Lactation Specialists were mentioned. All the things you would want in an article to help you become a breast feeder were written in the article. And I know that eight years ago, first time pregnant Megan would have read the article three times, used a high lighter and post it notes, and then read it all over again. This article was perfect for a woman who had never had a baby before, because it was written with a perfect world in mind.

Which is unfortunate because nothing about motherhood happens in a perfect world.

While there was no mention of what happens when you have inverted nipples (anyone else?), there were plenty of tips on what to do when your milk supply is dwindling. Also plenty of tips to get your baby to latch. And lots of mention of nipple confusion. Which eight years ago was my biggest fear, not whether my baby had ten fingers and ten toes, but whether she would suffer from nipple confusion. Which I can now admit and reflect, is all sorts of bat shit crazy.

I wanted to scream and yell that this article was doing a huge disservice to mothers everywhere. This was setting many moms out there for utter failure because their experience is not going to be black and white, like an article in a magazine or a chapter in a book. I wanted a side bar or a little highlighted box to mention things like formula and bottle feeding. I wanted there to be a note that said that it is understood that even with the best of efforts, breast feeding may not be part of your mothering story. I wanted someone to say, "Look, even if you do all of this and none of it works, giving your kid a bottle will not make you a bad mother. It will not make you a failure. It will not make you unworthy". I wanted just one line to say, "It's your choice. And your choice is always the right choice". I just wanted it to have one encouraging word for someone who will be at a crossroads with a screaming baby, sore nipples, and a can of formula.

But no one said that, so I'm saying it here. To quote someone in a Redbook years ago, "Formula is not an F word". Nipple confusion isn't the worst thing that will ever happen to your child, and it certainly won't kill them. The "latch" may never happen. Your milk may dry up in a week. Your kid might be allergic to everything you eat, and cutting out cheese may not be what you want to do. So the hell what? Formula is not the enemy. Motherhood isn't perfect and breast feeding isn't either. Maybe you can and you just don't want to. Maybe you do it for a few months and it's killing you. Maybe, we should all collectively wise up and just let you decide what is best. That's good too.

My only fear is that somewhere there is a first time mother reading last months article, finding comfort in the facts and the tips on how to properly breast feed. Possibly she is taking notes and writing a birth plan. My hope is that it all goes swimmingly for her. I hope that her journey is as picture perfect as the article. I hope that she finds the latching process with ease. That she has an over abundance of milk, and never has to use a bottle. I hope that it's everything that she planned and everything she wanted.

And I pray that if it all goes to shit, she has a best friend like mine that will lay down the law and exclaim,

"If Jesus didn't want you to bottle feed, he wouldn't have invented 
formula or the Walmarts to buy it in".

Currently {life recap}

I'm wearing some of my spring wardrobe. I know, I know, half the country is under a frozen tundra, but not here. Fresno has had some beautiful days, and so it's time to lighten the mood with some pastels.

I'm saying goodbye and missing my best friend. She moved, if you hadn't heard, to Montana of all places. But I'm genuinely happy for her, and I can't wait to visit her new home. It's just weird that when I call her, she's in a different time zone. She also sent me a text today with a new phone number, that has a different area code. One day soon, this will all seem so incredibly normal.

I'm making Gluten Free doughnuts from a Gluten Free cake mix. Yes, from a cake mix. My daughter loved them so much next time we are going to try a chocolate cake mix. I have to mention that the flip side of these doughnuts look a little ugly, but I'm pretty sure frosting will take care of that. Check out the recipe, here, and don't worry about any modifications because a GF cake mix is a few ounces lighter than a regular cake mix. I just followed the directions to the letter, and they came out just fine. Caitlin approved with some nutella on top.

I'm finishing Amy Poehler's book, Yes Please. It was everything I expected it to be and more. Amy is amazing, and I want to grow up to be just like her. I'm pretty sure if we met in real life we would be best friends. Also there is an amazing chapter in her book written by Seth Myers that will make you cry like a baby. Her thoughts on motherhood and career are on point. Should you read this book? Uh, Yes. Please.

I'm watching television on my favorite night of the week. Shonda Rhimes is a genius. Grey's, Scandal, and now How To Get Away with Murder? This is a quote from the legendary Cicely Tyson! I mean watching a living legend, who looks like some one's great grandma deliver a line about some one's "V"? Amazing, just amazing!

I'm crossing this book off my "To Read" list. I finally started and finished Pride and Prejudice. And wouldn't you know it, I LOVED IT! Which is to say, that I at one point stopped reading, closed the book, and asked myself, WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG? I mean Mr. Darcy, I dare say, what a man to fall in love with. I get it now. I totally get it and it has inspired me to read other period novels that I have never read. I'm not afraid of the language anymore. After two years of this book being on my "New Year's Resolution" list, it feels so damn good to cross it off.

What's new with you? What are you doing, currently?