I Dreamed Dreams. HELP ME.

April 1, 2014 in Beth, Funny by Beth Woolsey

I dreamed the other night that Greg grew very tall – perhaps 6’4″ or 6’6″ or something – which, obviously, enraged me. 

It was one in a series of vivid dreams I’ve been having lately. Because… I don’t know why. Perimenopause? My chemical imbalance? Blue Moon beer? A change in barometric pressure? Bad theology? The proliferation of British television programmes? Sleep, finding a new way to mock me besides the usual withholding of quality time together? What causes these things, anyway? And, more importantly, what do they mean?

‘Cause geez. These dreams are weird. And I wake up feeling feelings. Which makes it difficult to, you know, continue to function like person capable of maintaining the illusion she’s not crazy.

“You seem mad, Beth. Are you mad? Why are you mad? Are you mad at me?”

“Yes, Greg. I’m mad. At you. Because you were tall, you jackass.” 

I dreamt the other night that I made sandwiches with Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman.

They were beautiful, color-rich sandwiches with precisely stacked layers of veggies and thin, accordion piles of deli meat. They were assembled according to blueprints provided by Ree, but with a whimsy that made them look casual, hospitable and endearingly haphazard. 

We had to make 74 sandwiches, but, to get to the barn where the sandwich assembly was taking place, we had to trek a mile through the pasture, and my boots kept getting lodged in deep mud, suctioned such that every attempt to dislodge them made enthusiastic farting sounds. 

And then I cut the sandwiches wrong, so we had to start over.

I thought we were supposed to cut the sandwiches like this.

photo (85)

Obviously, that’s a napkin and not a sandwich. Who has time to make real sandwiches?? Not me. 

But then Ree explained we needed 2/3 sandwiches. As in, we had to cut out a triangle approximately 1/3 the size of the sandwich, leaving 2/3 in tact. This was, she assured me gently, the correct way to cut a sandwich.

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And even though she was nice about it, I was embarrassed. I mean, I’m a 40 year old mother of 5, and I don’t know how to cut a sandwich. I woke up sad.

I dreamed two friends moved to Arizona, so we had to move, too, but I didn’t know how to blend Northwest dark woods with Southwest patterns. I kept sobbing and saying that, if Ellen DeGeneres can make modern art and a love of nature work in her office, surely I could find a way to bring the western regions together. I woke up panicked and sweaty.

And the night after I posted that piece about being a Christian and an LGBTQ ally, I dreamt I wore a neon green hulu skirt, my grandmother’s pearls, and a waist-length Ariel the Mermaid wig to a speaking engagement, at which I discovered I had a pitcher of margaritas and a debilitating case of laryngitis.

Someone help me.

I need an interpreter.

What do these dreams MEAN?

If you tell me, I will send you a sandwich. Like, not a real sandwich, but definitely a napkin cut like a sandwich. Or a postcard with dotted “cut here” lines so you can practice sandwich cutting. SERIOUSLY. I’m on a Need to Know here, folks. 

Help me.

On the Importance of Using Our Words

December 3, 2013 in Beth, Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

“OK, boys. We need to have a chat.”

I sat my twin 1st graders down last night before bedtime for a serious heart-to-heart.

“I know you like to sleep with me,” I said, “and that’s fine. You know, when we all get to SLEEP. Because, to be clear, that’s my number one main goal at night. To SLEEP as much as possible…”

And that’s as far as I got before the first interrupter interrupted. Which was RAD because I got out, like, three times more words than I usually do before the interruptions begin.

“Wait, Mom, wait,” Cai said, hand raised in the full stop position. “Wait. I thought your number one main goal is to keep us safe.”

“Well, yes,” I said. “That goes without saying. But my POINT is…”

“But Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. I think you should say it because it’s important to use your words, Mom. Like how would you like it if I say sorry without saying sorry? Because I try that sometimes and that is not OK with you.” Cai looked at me with his I’ve Just Made a Seriously Awesome Point Face. 

“OK. Fine. My number one main goal is to keep you safe AND to get as much sleep as possible, but last night…”

And Cael started to cry.

“Cael, honey, you’re not in trouble.” 

“I KNOW.”

“Then why are you crying?”

“Because I thought your number one main goal was to LOVE US.”

Oh, geez. Knife to the gut, man.

“Yes, of COURSE, baby. My number one main goal is to love you. ALWAYS. AND…”

“Well, you should’ve said that with saying, too, Mom.”

Pfffffttt.

“OK. Sorry.”

“Good thing she said that with saying,” Cai mumbled disgruntledly, and he grabbed his brother’s hand in a show of support while they made Significant Eye Contact. The same kind of Significant Eye Contact I expect them to make when they sit me down someday to tell me I’m going to the home. 

“AS I was saying,” I said, “my number one main goal, in addition to loving you and keeping you safe, which goes with saying…”

“Thank you.”

“…is to get as much sleep at night as possible. But when you’ve crawled in bed with me lately, you’re both sleeping AND kicking which isn’t really working for me.”

“We’re kicking?”

“Yes. Kicking.”

IMG_0939Cai and Cael looked at each other incredulously. “Did you know we were kicking?” “No. Did you?” “No.” 

“Mom, are you sure?”

“Um, yes. I’m sure.”

“Hm,” said Cael skeptically, “It’s just… we sleep together every night, Mom. So if we were kicking, probably we would’ve noticed.”

“Yeah, well, you’re going to have to trust me on this one. You’re kicking. And not just putting your feet on me like you’ve been doing since you were two. I mean you’re picking your legs up in the air and flopping them down on me. HARD. And repeatedly. Giant kicking motions, gentlemen.”

They started giggling which turned quickly to guffawing.

“I’m not saying we do that, Mom,” Cael replied, “but if we did, you have to admit it’s pretty funny.”

“No, Cael. No, it’s not. Also, it’s really happening, so we have to come up with a better solution like you guys staying in YOUR bed or sleeping on my floor. Or me sleeping in your bed after you get in mine. I don’t even care. I. JUST. WANT. SOME. SLEEP.” 

“Don’t panic, Mom.” Still Cael. “We can fix this if we work together. But not with your ideas. No offense, but your ideas aren’t very good because we like to sleep with you.” Cai nodded his agreement, the punk.

“OK. I’m all ears.”

“Mom! I’ve got it!” yelled Cael. “A plastic box with air holes, Mom! We just put you in one of those in your bed and then you get protected from us kicking!”

“So… you’re saying you want to put me away in a human sized box at night.”

“YES!” 

“Like a coffin.”

“YES! Except more like a bug container ’cause AIR HOLES, Mom. AIR HOLES.”

Cai approved. “Cael, you are a GENIUS. And I’m not just saying that. You really are.” 

“See, Mom? This is why things need to go with saying. So we can work out our problems with words. I think we’ve all learned a very important lesson about that today.” 

Yep. I know I feel better.

:/

Holding Hands in the Dark

October 7, 2013 in BEGIN READING WITH THESE FAVORITES, Beth, But Seriously, Family by Beth Woolsey

Tracy was my best friend in elementary school, and, though her motives remain unclear, I suspect she chose me as a friend because she was kind, compassionate, and knew I needed her. 

And because she lived across the street so I was hard to avoid.

Not that she ever made me feel like she was avoiding me. On the contrary, she always made me feel welcome and wanted and loved.

And she cleaned my room for me a lot. 

And she let me eat all the ramen noodles while she drank the broth. 

And she didn’t blame me when our hamster, Fluffy, for whom we shared joint custody after combining our allowances to purchase him, died from choking on a piece of his plastic cage while in my care.

Best friends forever, man. 

But Tracy was popular, and I was not. She had that uncanny and apparently inborn ability to know what to wear, how to entice people to pick her for teams, and how to make dozens of friends, so I regularly watched her on the playground and wondered what I had to give to our friendship.

Until nighttime.

During overnights, Tracy became terribly homesick, and so we usually slept in the living room where we could see her house out the picture window, kitty corner from mine. And then we’d hold hands while we fell asleep.

The thing about the dark is it can be overwhelming. And sometimes, we just need friends who will sit with us in it.

This weekend, our cousin, a 1st grader like my twin boys, stayed over. He’s tried to stay at our house before, sometimes even successfully, but he never likes it here after dark, when the chaos is finally tamped down to a quiet smolder and all the distractions are gone, so he usually asks to go back home, a few houses down the street.

This weekend, though, his parents were away so home wasn’t an option and he was stuck with us. And he did GREAT sleeping in the big puppy pile with the other 1st graders on the floor of our bedroom with their stuffed pets and pillows and blankets and elbows and knees crammed in each other’s faces.

Yep.

He did GREAT, except for 3:00-5:00am when he woke up and it was dark except for the dim glow of the bathroom light which, let’s be honest, is never enough. He didn’t fuss or cry or moan or whine, though. He just said, in a small, snuffly voice, “Is it morning yet?”

And I said, “No. I’m sorry. It’s the middle of the night.”

And he said, “Oh,” but like it broke his heart that he hadn’t made it through the dark yet.

So I said, “Want to come up here beside me?”

And he said, “Yes.”

And I said, “OK.”

So he crawled up into my bed and laid his head on the pillow beside mine, and I said, “Do you want to hold hands?”

And he whispered a barely audible “yeah” while his cousins snored on the ground.

We spent the next two hours snuggled up in the dark, holding hands and waiting. Eventually, he fell asleep and so did I, and the sun rose sometime after we stopped watching.

I didn’t expect easy nights with this kid. Just like I don’t expect easy nights with mine. Nights are too tempting to bad dreams and wet beds and bloody noses and getting sick. Besides, nights are too full of the dark to be easy for any of us.

But I didn’t expect the blessings of hard nights, either. The blessing of having someone there so you can ask if it’s morning yet. The blessing of earning trust by offering a hand. The blessing of keeping the vigil for the morning together. The blessing of knowing the light is coming, even though we always seem to fall asleep on our watch.

As much as we all want easy nights – to never have to be awake to fight the dark or ourselves – we don’t get to have as many as we’d like. And so my greatest wish for us is that we’d find a hand to hold in our darknesses. To know the Light is coming. And that we’re not alone while we wait.

……….

40DaysofGraceLogo

You can see all of the 40 Days of Grace posts
here on the Five Kids blog and here on Facebook.

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How do you get through times like this?

April 29, 2013 in Adoption, But Seriously, Family by Beth Woolsey

I’m trying to write this morning, because I have important follow-up work to do charting your booger rules and stuff, but Greg’s home and he keeps making breathing sounds and clickity clackity click clack typing sounds and allergy season sounds, and, unbeknownst to Greg, it’s all been very distracting. Now it’s after noon and he’s in the kitchen making toast buttering sounds like scritch scritch scritch and cupboard closing sounds and foot walking sounds and sandwich eating sounds and, well, you see how far I’ve come on the booger charts.

Living with family is hard, mostly because family is made up of people and people are cobbled together from wishes and dreams and noisy things and silent spaces and hard bits and broken pieces and beauty and dirt and pain. It’s all a terrible mess.

Sometimes I think it’s the most stunning thing in the world that I’m tasked with the care of others when I can barely manage myself. I mean, here I am, inside my body, and I know what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling and all about my own needs. You know, in theory. And yet I find myself still somehow needy. And then there are more people around me. More people with more needs which are not my own, many of which require sussing and masterful sleuthing and decoding and then, eventually, commitment and resources and selfless engagement to properly meet them.

Some days I feel empowered. I can do this. I will do this. And I will rock it hard, baby.

Other days? Oomph.

I was walking out of a room last night after a long, good day at a kid event and my purse strap caught on the door. Just like that, arms overflowing with stuff, trying to get the car to get to the home to get to my bed to get to some sleep — trying to put one foot in front of the other and make rest happen by sheer force of will –I was caught. Pulled back. Stuck fast. And I had to walk backwards for a while because that was the way toward freedom.

Not Evan wrote me last night. Do you remember our friend, Not Evan? From On Accidentally Having 5 Kids and an Open Call for Joy? He’s the guy who, along with his partner, is adopting five foster kids, and he wrote:

I worry that I sometimes feel like we’re running a breakfast-eating, getting-dressed, do-your-homework factory rather than a family. And I don’t want to let the worry consume me to the point where I can’t see the joy.  

We wrote back and said, “word, man” and offered up pieces of joy and honesty and camaraderie like gifts.

Well, folks, good news! Five kiddos have been cleared for adoption from our foster care system, and Not Evan and partner are just paperwork away from becoming a family in the official, on-the-dotted-line sense.

CONGRATULATIONS!

And, HOORAY!

And, WOW!

Right?

Yes, of course, right.

And, since we’re honest here, can we all just hyperventilate a little?? Let’s call it togetherness.

Five kids, you guys, and only two parents. All of whom come with bottomless needs. Which is panic-worthy, just the same as any number of kids and any number of parents. Because, you know, all of us are made from the stuff of humans. Which, to repeat, is a terrible mess. A beautiful, terrible, horrible, glorious mess.

Right?

Yes, of course, right.

Not Evan writes:

Now, I understand how fortunate we are for this journey and hope that you understand we feel truly lucky.  However, with the ‘real’-ness of it all sinking in, we are finding ourselves nervous.

Simply put, after ten months of parenting five kids, We. Are. Exhausted. I feel like the optimism I had and the calm that came when I was parenting (even in the difficult moments) are gone… and that the periodic weekend away, sleeping in, and routines that we fall back on are not enough to ‘refill my tank.’

I worry that I’m not prepared for the long haul.  I worry that my exhaustion and frustration are just the tip of a very large iceberg. In the really bad moments, I worry that we shouldn’t go through with it. And then I look at the kids, their smiling faces and (mostly) good attitudes in the face of all they’ve been through and I think, “how could we not give them a forever place?!”

So I am exposed and hoping no one judges too harshly but maybe you can tell me how you got through a difficult time like this one?

“I worry that I’m not prepared for the long haul.  I worry that my exhaustion and frustration are just the tip of a very large iceberg.” You know what? Me, too, Not Evan. Me, too. In my darkest hours, even still, me, too.

Of course, I have a lot of answers to your question. Answers of how I get through the difficult times. Answers like coffee. And Jesus (who — free advice, Jesus — should market that whole “rest for the weary” thing better). And friends. And medication. And exercise. And time.

But that’s the funny thing about answers. My answers may not be your answers, and I think there’s much to be said for community, which I like to call Come, Unity, like we’re all beckoning unity closer by participating in it.

So, friends, I’m lobbing Not Evan’s question your way, knowing we’ve all wandered in this exhausted space of the unknown.

When uncertainty whispers in your ear, when hard and good times take up equal space in your home, what do you do? How do you get through times like this one?

……….

You Don’t Have to Choose a Parenting Method to be a Great Parent

April 18, 2013 in BEGIN READING WITH THESE FAVORITES, Beth, But Seriously, Family, Twins by Beth Woolsey

I walked the floor with a baby on each shoulder gently bounce, bounce, bouncing them, my back burning, hoping to ease my twins to sleep. They must’ve been just a few weeks old, our fourth and fifth kids, recently out of the neonatal intensive care unit, all of us recovering from their premature birth as I tried to learn two new little ones. What worked. What didn’t. How to navigate a whole new life. Again.

One of the boys, Cael, my snuffler and snuggler and warm-skin lover, conked right out, comforted by the mama sounds and mama smells and chaos all around us.

The other twin, though? Oy. Cai didn’t settle. And so for him, I continued to pace. Was he colicky? Gassy? Burpy? Sick? Over-stimulated? Hungry? Bored? I didn’t know.

He cried and cried, and I walked and walked, and I didn’t know.

My mom-in-law was over, and she offered to help. “Can I take him for a bit?” Judy asked. “Give you a break?”

Sometimes I dream of being a grandmother. All the wonderful parts of childrearing with as many breaks as I need, full nights of sleep, less constant anxiety and barely any vomit at all. Other times, I think it must be a special kind of hell, this Grand Parenting, where I’ll have to ask permission to take the baby who owns a piece of my soul.

Judy asked for Cai. To give me a break. And I didn’t want to let her have him because I wanted to do it myself. All my byselfTo be the comforter. The soother. But my back was on fire, and I recognized Grandma’s need was the same as my own. So I let her have him, although my heart was grudging.

I assumed she would walk him. Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth as I had done. Or, perhaps, she’d think she could sit with him in the rocking chair and she’d learn — quickly — that he cried harder when sitting. Instead, she laid him on his back on the couch and sat down next to him.

I thought, “You have got to be kidding me. I’ve been walking this child for hours. For days. And you’re going to take him and just lay him downThat’s not gonna work. That’s ridiculous. That’s

He was asleep.

Out. Arms askew. Blissful on the couch next to his grandmother. He twitched and then settled as if to say thank God you all finally quit touching me. 

That wasn’t the first time my kids were going to send my parenting method packing, laughing in the face of my One Right Way.

As for the twins, it turns out I’m parenting opposites:

Safety and DANGER.

IMG_4783-001

Night Owl and MORNING GUY.

Vegetables and SUGAR.

“Hold Me” and “LEAVE ME ALONE!”

Are your twins identical, Beth? Um, NO. Not to mention my other three children, all of whom think they’re entitled to their own individual preferences and needs.

Sheesh.

When my oldest was a baby, we subscribed to the cry-it-out method of bedtime because it was the Right Way to Raise a Child. The Only Way, really. The Godly Way, for sure. I didn’t know there were other options, and, when I got wind of them, I was pretty sure they were Wrong because I had read a book.

I hated sleep training. It went against every grain in my gut if guts have grains. It went against my gut grain, is what I’m saying. My baby girl cried for me, and I sat outside her room and cried, too. And it didn’t occur to me for years — literal years — that both of us miserable indicated it was time to consider a change. I just thought… I don’t know… that miserable was part of it.

And then we had three children, and we made some adjustments. Night terrors and attachment issues and bloody noses and vomit and wet beds and sheer desperation will do that to you. We started sleeping on kids’ bedroom floors. Upright in chairs. With kids in our bed. And I use “sleeping” in the loosest possible sense of the word.

In the end, Greg and I settled on One Right Sleeping Strategy for our family, just not on the same one. Greg is an ongoing proponent of Make the Kids Sleep in Their Own Rooms THAT’S WHY THEY HAVE THEM, and also, THIS IS MY BED, GET OUT. And I wholeheartedly buy the But Someday I Want to Remember I Had Their Legs in My Bladder and Elbows in My Eyes and Hot Breath in My Hair and ONE DAY MY BABIES ARE GOING TO LEAVE ME method.

It works out well between us.

And, actually, it does. Because Greg and I agree easily on one thing: we’re never going to sleep again and the method we use to get to “Hey, look! More midnight laundry!” doesn’t much matter. Because, of course, the word “sleep” in “sleep method” is meant to be figurative, which the manuals decline to mention. No matter what method you choose to help your kids sleep? It’s unlikely to net YOU any at all.

Who knew, right? Well, not me when I was a new mama, that’s for sure. I thought sleep training or attachment parenting or whatever, if done right, if done the way it’s prescribed, was supposed to result in sleep for us all. Or well adjusted children. Or well adjusted parents.

WRONG.

I mean, eventually it does, right? Parenting takes time, after all. But, in general, WRONG.

Which brings me to the entire point of this post, and it’s this:

Dear New Mama,
Did you know?
You don’t have to choose.

Parenting. It’s just so… whew!… devastating and triumphant. And that learning curve is WOW! Learning your child and yourself and your partner and your method and your madness and your magic all at once? WOW. And doing it again with each subsequent child? Double WOW.

Then along come the people. ALL THE PEOPLE. Who tell you what to do. And that there’s just One Right Way. The gurus. The books. Facebook. The grocery-store advisers. And they all talk in snapshots, with stationary bits of information, instead of telling you the more complex truth: There are Lots of Right Ways. Loads and loads. And this parenting picture is never at a standstill. Never ever. It moves, friends. It’s a moving picture. A talkie. In color. And surround sound. And high definition. On the BIGGEST screen of all. Your life.

And so, New Mama,
Did you know?
You don’t have to choose.

Not a sleep method. Not a feeding method. Not a potty or a pee or a poop method. Not a once-and-for-all, ’til-death-do-us-part method. You don’t have to choose.

But, wait.

What?

What is this, “you don’t have to choose?” 

That’s what I’m saying, friend. That’s what I mean. These parenting methods? The ones by the experts and from mama friends and the church and the schools and the doctors and the neighbors and the lady at the park who’s a specialist?

You don’t have to choose.

You don’t have to choose for once and for all. You don’t have to subscribe for forever. You don’t have to buy into this or to that. You don’t have to believe like in ice cream or world peace.

You can if you want to. You can choose, of course. But, new mama, you don’t have to choose.

You can try different things. It’s okay to try them. The sleep training and the all-night bladder-kicking. The cloth diapering and the ruin-the-earthing. The breast feeding and the bottle feeding. It’s okay to move in the picture.

If something’s not working, you can ditch it. Pitch it. Without ruining your baby or yourself or your mind. If something’s not working, you can do something else. You can, if you want. You can.

You can, and I know. I know ’cause I did. Or didn’t. Or don’t. Or, rather, it’s truer to say that I won’t. Not anymore. Now I just do what works. For right now. In this time. For this kid. In this space. For this night. For this meal. For this minute, what’s right.

Here’s the truth I’ve learned after five. And the twins at the end drove it home. All children are different. And all parents, too. With our needs and our wants and our whims. “Rock me!” “Hold me!” “Leave me alone!” So I try. And I move. And I breathe and I bend. And, in the end…

In the end, I’m happier and much better off when I’m me. Wild and free. And picking and choosing. And making mistakes. And making thing better. And making things best.

And my kids? Most important of all, my kids are better off, too. When I choose what works for us all, not a rule.

……….

Oh, mamas and daddies, what do you think? What’s your story of methods and peace? And how do you choose when to bend?

xoxo,
B

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Daylight Saving Time Kicks Butt

March 8, 2013 in Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

Daylight Saving Time kicks butt.

And whose butt does it kick?

OUR butts, parents.

DSTKicksButt

Our butts.

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I originally posted this on Facebook.

In case you don’t hang out with us there, here’s other stuff that happened recently on the Five Kids Facebook page:

  1. Mockery is, too, a love language.
  2. Boogers
  3. We detangle things. Like hair. And life.

People are nice over there. You’re always welcome to join us.

………

So. Daylight Saving Time. Are you a fan or a foe? I’ve traditionally been a foe, but I’m working on my attitude. (I just rolled my eyes when I typed that. What can I say? It’s a work in progress.)

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Sleeping. In Surround Sound.

January 28, 2013 in Adoption, Beth, Family, Funny, Twins by Beth Woolsey

I made you something the other night while I was busy not sleeping. I not-sleep a lot because my children regularly and expertly outmaneuver my Ambien prescription and my 50 pairs of earplugs. Frankly, I think Ambien and Earplugs should just admit defeat and quit embarrassing themselves, but they went to a Tony Robbins workshop one time and they insist they can achieve their personal dreams. I don’t have the heart to destroy them so we bumble along together, trying.

Here’s an audio file for you about sleep. It’s like a lullaby only better. For best results, listen to it at night when it’s dark and quiet. And with the volume all the way up.

Sleeping. In Surround Sound. a lullaby for your listening pleasure by Five Kids Is A Lot Of Kids "Sleeping. In Surround Sound."

 

P.S. I was not kidding about the earplugs.

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They’re a nightstand fixture along with a half-read vampire novel, three candy wrappers, a pre-chewed piece of gum (not mine), a book about dinosaur record breakers, and a sock. Why? What’s on your nightstand?

P.P.S. We sleep trained our first child, by which I mean she neither slept nor was trained and she and I cried a lot. Then we slept with our next kids through adoption adjustment and night terrors, by which I mean we not-slept on the floor of their rooms, lost our poo with great consistency, and almost fled screaming to Mexico. Then we gave up with our twins and now our room is a free-for-all which means a lot of pointy limbs in my ribs and bladder and often waving good night to Greg over a sea of mouth breathers. We still don’t sleep but at least we don’t sleep to the sound of not-crying. Do what works for you and your kids is what I’m saying. Or what doesn’t work not as bad as the other stuff. Or ignore me. I haven’t slept in 14 years. I have no idea what I’m talking about.

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