Today was the last day of school for my kiddos. I have been excited all week, and today, downright giddy. You’d think it was me that had gone to school for the last 180 some-odd days, me that had learned all the things, and me that had done all that homework and all those projects! (I think I actually deserve a lot of recognition for my role in the homework and projects!) But I’m pretty certain I’m more excited about this being the beginning of summer than the kids are.

This goes beyond not having to pack lunches every day, not having to wake grumpy children and go through that blasted morning routine, and not having to deal with the seemingly never-ending afternoon homework saga. This is about all the time I’m going to get to spend with all my people for the next couple of months.

Don’t fret; I haven’t lost my grasp on reality. I know that by July, I’ll be a bit overwhelmed by all the togetherness with all the people. If we’re being real, I’m pretty sure that the straight-through drive to Nashville in a couple days may take care of that for me. But we’ve got tons of summer adventures to have together, and I can’t wait! As much as I’ve been kicking myself this week for trying to wrap up a school year, cook a full menu, and depart on a big road trip all at once, I’m actually excited that I don’t have to wait around for the fun to begin.

But as for the school year, I couldn’t be more proud of my three bigs. We are so grateful to be a part of such a wonderful school, and couldn’t be more excited about how far they’ve come this year.

There wasn’t an awards assembly at Great Hearts, but if there had been, I’m pretty sure these awards would have been given to the Dow children.

Most Improved at Taking Care of His Own Shit

This guy is amazing. He’s grown up so much this year, and has really grown into the ability to take care of his business like a fourth grader. He’s independent, kind and thoughtful, and always my most sensitive kid. He’s learned so much, and has not only surpassed his mommy in math capabilities, but also started getting into some pretty thick novels and learned to expand on his writing abilities. He’s a great artist and singer, and will bring much excitement to this family as we look forward to cheering him on in Cross Country next year!

Kid I Have to Worry About Least/Biggest Case of May-itis Ever

This guy is awesome. He’s even-keeled, social, smart, and rolls with the punches. He (usually) comes home and gets right to work on his homework, doesn’t need much help from me to do it, and handles himself very well in the classroom. I marvel at how well he’s able to write and what he’s able to read for just finishing up first grade. He’s a great school buddy to have, and an even better big brother. He also happened to decide that after being such a high achiever all year, that mid-April would be a great time to shut it down and save energy for next year.

Most Ginormous Transformation Ever

This girl had us all worried last summer. She started the school year in August not knowing all her letters, not being able to reliably count to 10, and not even grasping the difference between a letter and a number. I know. Nine and a half months later, she is doing actual math, reading actual books with actual words, and writing words, sometimes on her own. She has exploded into a maturing, determined little lady from that tantrum-having toddler. Her teacher for sure deserves a big award for this, too. I’ve definitely showered that precious lady with gifts all year long!

Best Carpool Napper Ever

If you think it’s easy to hold off on your nap until 3:00 PM every day, you’re kidding yourself. And if you think sleeping through a drive home with 5 excited kids who just got out of school isn’t a substantial gift, you’re completely out of your mind. This girl accomplished both on a regular basis. Plus, she only asked me 37 or 38 times every day where Luke was. And where Colt was. And then where Lilah was. And then where Daddy was. I know she’s beyond thrilled to have all her favorite people home for the summer.

Keep On Truckin’ Award

This guy survived his first year as Athletic Director, and did it with gusto. He also did it while working a part time job as sous chef for his never-bossy wife, dealing with everything that comes along with a busy family of six, and experiencing personal hardship in losing his father to cancer last week. He has carried quite a load on his shoulders this year, and nobody deserves a relaxing summer of finishing a master bathroom more than this guy. Too bad there’s nothing fun in that shaved ice…

This is their first and last day of school side-by-side. I’m taking something out of my cousin’s playbook and using the house and door as a reference for their growth. (Don’t use the length of the boys’ pants- they definitely got those mixed up this morning.) I think Lilah wins that award, too. Happy Summer, Y’all!

I used to sit back and laugh from behind my big teacher desk in my big classroom full of tangible May-itis and wonder how on Earth any stay-at-home-mom could possible think for one minute that she could be tired of the school year. After all, didn’t they just sit at home in their yoga pants drinking coffee and watching soap operas all day?

But here we are. It’s May, and we’re all suffering together. Working moms, stay-at-home-moms, work-from-home-moms, and teacher moms are all crawling, limping, and being dragged toward the finish line that is Summertime.

Summertime will be hell by July, but here in May, it is but an oasis of sleeping late, not having to pack lunches, no school projects, no papers needing to be signed, no teacher conferences needing to be scheduled, and the ease of getting out of any fool’s summer birthday party with, “Ooh, sorry, we’ll be out of town.” There are no concerts, end of unit celebrations, luncheons, or time-sensitive obligations of any kind. In the summertime, all we have to do is keep them alive. And, as we all know, that’s easy-peasy.

Our calendars all look the same, whether you have one kid or ten. It’s all anyone’s been talking about for weeks. We’re all struggling just to stay afloat, and all experiencing our own little fails in the process.

All I can say is, hang on y’all. And to make you feel a little bit better, here are a few signs you might be stricken with May-itis, and a few reminders that you’re not alone.

  • The kids’ reading logs are 50% accurate, 50% complete fabrications of books I think they’ve read in the past or will most likely read at some point in the very near future.
  • “A science project? During Fiesta? Why, God, Why?!”
  • I don’t even attend the school, but I have the countdown until summer going on my calendar.
  • “Wait- you mean you ALL have science projects?!”
  • School lunches this month consist of saltine crackers, American cheese (not the good kind), peanut butter crackers, and chips. Fresh fruit and a regular bread supply was out back in March.
  • The homework routine has gotten scarily efficient. We all just wanna be done.
  • The morning routine starts 15 minutes earlier now since everyone’s enthusiasm about school has them moving like sloths. This includes the daddy.
  • Cold cereal = breakfast. Every. Damn. Day.
  • Daily book bags get turned in on a weekly basis at best.
  • I’m pretty much RSVP’ing “no” to every birthday party invitation for the month of May that comes our way. Because I just. can’t. do. one. more.
  • The kids’ shoes are literally coming apart and getting pretty snug. Like, blister snug. But this mama is not buying new shoes in May.
  • The dog ate several library books, and I don’t even care. September mom would be freaking out, but May mom could give two shits.
  • There is something on the calendar every night from the last week in April until the end of May.
  • I drafted this blog about May-itis on the 3rd and didn’t get around to publishing it until the 26th.

We’re a couple full days and a couple half days away from the end. Throw on your flip flops, grab an extra coffee, and just hold on for the ride. We got this.

Those of you that know me well are probably already laughing hysterically at the title. I don’t do cleanses. I represent the complete antithesis of cleanses. I worry often about vegetarians. I fear the worst for vegans. And I cringe anytime I hear about someone eliminating entire food groups from their diets for whatever reason.

It’s no secret I love food, but I think I may even have some kind of deeply rooted food issues. Not the kind that make me obsess over how little to eat so I’ll be skinny; the kind that have me planning out all the details of my next meal and how to perfectly execute it before I’ve even finished the previous one. I can be completely stuffed from dinner, but I just can’t go without my very specific bowl of cereal later that night in bed. The way I fear running out of food or ever being hungry would make you think I grew up in a third-world country where this was a genuine concern.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. I overtrained beyond burnout for the marathon I ran last December, and am entrenched in a pretty major anti-running campaign right now. To be precise, the campaign has been going on for about 6 months now- since December. As I’ve continued to eat like I’m running 40 miles a week, you can imagine I’ve got a bit of a problem on my hands.

I wasn’t too worried about the initial softness, but now that I’m having to put away several pairs of pants, and staring down the barrel of a summer pool membership, I’m aware of the fact that something needs to happen. With the May calendar looking like it is, and a summer full of travel and no routine whatsoever, now is not the time for me to pick up an aggressive Crossfit habit, nor am I willing to start penciling in 30 miles a week worth of runs. So I’ve decided on a cleanse.

People do these all the time, sometimes for weeks on end! I should be able to survive seven days, right? I am completely and utterly petrified. In preparation, I’m eating like a death-row inmate- only the largest portions of the most unhealthy meals will do. I’ll chalk this up to my food-hoarding tendencies. I’ll be limited to mostly smoothies, a few salads, and two “meals” (which I would consider more of a healthy snack) to bookend the week. I’ll write a bit about each day for your enjoyment.

Day 1:

Smoothie for breakfast, salad for lunch, detox meal for dinner.

Y’all. These smoothies are not like the ones I used to get from Smoothie King. There is kale. A lot. and you can taste it. A lot.

Scott and I purposely extended our work day in the kitchen, just to stay busy, in hopes we might forget that we were starving to death.

I did all I could to slowly savor my dinner of a kid-sized portion of salmon, kale with no dressing, and cauliflower. I made it last 9 minutes.

Day 2:

I lay in bed last night, waiting to fall asleep, thinking of all the people who go to bed hungry all over the world each night, not by their own choosing. A very real concern, to be sure, but probably a little dramatic for someone on day 1 of her detox diet.

We’re pretty hungry today. Scott texted me from his father’s nursing home this morning: “It’s bad when you’re jealous of my dad’s food.” Yup.

This morning’s smoothie is a lot less, um, chewable, than yesterday’s, but dang, it’s green.

There have been some highs today (where my hunger becomes kind of like a numbness and I think to myself, “I’ve got this day 2 in the bag”) and some very low low’s (where I bargain and plead with myself, try to convince myself this is doing more harm than good, and start Googling 3-day detox plans).

In my preparation for this week, I rid our refrigerators of temptations, and didn’t prepare any extra menu food for us, but I kinda forgot about the kids. That meant I had raid the freezer and watch them eat White Castle cheeseburgers and french fries in front of my face….ever….sooooo….slooooowly. Jerks.

It seems I’m pretty much tethered to my house, as that gallon of water I am to drink every day means I pee about every eight minutes. It reminded me a whole lot of a drug study I did in college for a diuretic. But I managed to get out for a run this evening. When I got home, I took off my shirt and expected to see a chiseled 8-pack after all the vegetables and starvation, but it wasn’t there. I haven’t decided yet if that was motivating or deflating.

The good news is, it’s almost dinnertime, and I get to have another bowl of greens. Mmm, filling.

Oh, I almost forgot today’s highlight. It was when my darling husband announced he had already lost 5 pounds. He’s on my list.

Day 3:

What if something terrible happens to me and my last meal is liquefied vegetables?

Is this fair to my kids? I’m not sure this experience is making me a better person.

I pondered these things as I lay awake in bed last night for 180 painfully hungry minutes. Then, two and a half hours later, I woke up to pee, and started the process over again.

At 4:38 AM, I ate a grilled cheese sandwich, and I don’t even care. Then, this morning, I made this.

That’s coffee with real creamer, not that crappy coconut stuff that’s been tainting my coffee for the last two days.

I’m tapping out! It’s probably a miracle I lasted this long. I don’t do hungry. And the thing is, I don’t think I should. The crazy lady who created this cleanse talked about not being able to finish her salads in one sitting, so I think maybe we’re not cut out for the same diet. I lost 2.5 pounds, but I’m sure they’ll all be back by the end of the day. Scott’s all excited about his clean colon, and doesn’t feel hungry once he’s had his salad. I don’t get full from salads. I don’t even really like salads, unless they’re very small and sitting next to a steak or giant bowl of pasta.

As I ran last night, I realized that, while I may not have a very good relationship with running right now, I would much rather feel the pain of pushing through workouts for a few hours a week than the pain of hunger for most of a 24-hour day. Besides, when the, um, output is as green as the input, I think that’s a sign that I’m all cleansed.

Ok, the title is kinda dumb. I know I’m a mom because I watched all those little people come flying out of my lady parts. Duh.

And I also know this post is late, so I’ll refer you to bullet point #4.

But inspired by a friend’s semi-recent interactive Facebook post, here are some thoughts on what makes you and me feel like we’re 100% in the trenches, front-line momming it.

  • In your car’s console are: a pull up, a diaper, a package of wipes, a totally melted emergency granola bar, napkins from a variety of drive-thrus, and the items necessary to wrap a birthday gift while en route to the party.
  • Your standards for how often people (including yourself) really need a bath have drastically changed.
  • The following topics are now completely appropriate dinner conversation topics: poop, farts, sharts, soft poop, medium poop, hard poop, animal poop, and pretty much any other form of poop you can imagine. Oh, and these topics are hilarious.
  • You have the sudden realization that you can’t even remember the last time you were on time or early for something. Anything.
  • It takes six hours and seventeen reheats in the microwave to finish one cup of coffee.
  • That moment when you show up to work, with make up on and everything, and someone points out that you have spit up all over the back of your shirt.
  • Later that day, you’re lactating all through the front of that same shirt.
  • Your shirt is regularly on backwards, wrong side-out, or dirty before you even put it on.
  • Your car is cleaned out on a very regular basis, and still resembles a trash compactor.
  • You know better than to expect text responses from any of your other mom friends between the hours of 3:00 and 8:00. Thirty.
  • You have the short term memory of a fly.
  • You take ten times longer to accomplish any task because you’re only able to work on the task in thirty second increments between everyone else’s outbursts and needs.
  • You start drinking more often than you did in your twenties.
  • You can remember the date, time, and birth weight and length of all of your children, but you rarely get their names right on the first try.
  • Mother’s Day has gone from a Hallmark holiday where you get your mom a card and maybe a gift certificate for something to a national freaking holiday that MUST. BE. OBSERVED.
  • You may weigh the same as you did on your wedding day, but you couldn’t fit yourself into that dress if your life depended on it.
  • Instead of the implications of boring and blah, the word “leftovers” now means a full reprieve from one of the day’s most arduous tasks.
  • You know better than to leave a stick of butter out on the counter. (Rookie mistake!)
  • Puke, blood, and other people’s poop doesn’t even bother you anymore.
  • You often fantasize about the glory days, back when you only had one insomniac newborn to deal with, but everyone brought you dinner and applauded when you put real clothes on and made it to the grocery store.
  • You are so tired, but even the lightest of little footsteps through the house at night can wake up from a dead sleep in an instant. (And you’re able to determine from the speed of those footsteps whether or not you should grab a mop on the way to the bathroom.)
  • You are eternally grateful for the gift of these crazy, hilarious little people in your life, and wouldn’t have it any other way!

I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all busy. Busy, busy, busy. You’re no one if you’re not busy. It’s something our culture has learned to pride itself on, and learned to use as an excuse when we fail.

“I’m just so busy.”

“I totally would, but I’m too busy.”

“I’m a super hot mess because of all the busy-ness.”

But lately, an eruption of counterculture is happening. The blogs about the danger of being too busy are popping up. What are we teaching our kids? We’re on the phone all the time being 100% available to everyone but our children and ourselves. We’re skipping the opportunity for a family day in the park because there are too many things that need doing elsewhere. We’re teaching our kids to be busy by adding extra-curriculars, play dates, and birthday parties to their already full calendar of school and homework. The to-do list exceeds the number of hours in a day, so we are overstimulating and multi-tasking from sun-up to sun-down and we don’t know how to stop it.

I’m hearing the warnings loud and clear. I don’t want to be too busy for my kids. That’s the whole reason I quit my teaching job- to stay home with the kids! And now I find myself, at times, resenting them for being needy because I can’t be as productive at the other things on my list as I want to be. It cuts me deeply to hear my son say, “you usually don’t look at me when I’m talking because you’re too busy.” Burn. The thing is- I don’t want to be productive at those things. I want to take them to the park. I want to go for a walk around the neighborhood. I want to be able to do the basic things that need doing for my household without having to schedule them sometime between dinner and bathtime. But I can’t. Because Sundays and Mondays I’m squeezing most of a work week into two days. And Tuesdays there’s laundry and cleaning and contract work and carpool and church meetings. And Wednesdays… you get the drift.

I’m looking at my calendar for the next few weeks and taking a big gulp. There are science fairs, and Spring concerts, and sports banquets, and birthday parties. There are graduations, and graduation parties, and four hundred thousand end-of-year activities at the school that require my presence, some sort of craft, and a covered dish. For some reason, my sister and I thought it would be a great idea to schedule our big summer road trip to start about ten seconds after school lets out for the kids. And while I will never look a gift horse in the mouth and complain about the amount of contract work I have coming in, it’s definitely sucking up every spare second I have. Oh, and toddlerdom.

The summer is coming, and will be a huge break for all of us, right? I’m not so sure. The house needs painted. The bathroom needs finishing. And we are committed to showing these kids a good time after a hard year’s worth of work in school before starting all over again in August.

How do we stop it? Prioritize, they say. Eliminate the things you don’t need in your life, they say. But don’t forget to serve! Serving others is what we should do! Self-sacrifice is the greatest demonstration of love!

I want to be the room mommy. I want to be there for their parties instead of hearing, “Why is so-and-so’s mommy always there but you’re not?” I want to bring the cupcakes and be among the ones whose contribution to the teacher appreciation luncheon helps to reward these amazing people in a tiny way for the huge gift they give to our children every day. And let’s face it. I can never say no to a tiny baby kitty who needs a foster home (and round the clock bottle feedings).

The opportunities to do these things are gifts. They are blessings that I didn’t get to experience when I worked out of the home. (I’ve stopped saying, “when I worked full time”, as that is no longer in the past tense!) But where do we draw the line between gratitude and serving others, and running our own wells dry?

I’m pretty sure I have some people at my church pretty annoyed with me right now because I only half-way did some things last week. My intentions are always good. I mean well, I really do. But sometimes I have so many different balls in the air that I lose track and one of those balls gets dropped. It’s not because that thing or that person wasn’t important to me. It’s because I have gone from being a super-organized, OCD person, who is always early, to a scatterbrained, hot-mess mama, who is coming in hot at the tail-end of the carpool line in her rolling trash can.

If you’re looking for the solution at the end of the story, you’re reading the wrong blog. I don’t have the answer. I don’t know which things to cut and which things to keep doing, and so in the meantime, I’ll keep trying to do them all, most of them inadequately. I suppose I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

But I do know this. I am very fortunate to be busy doing the things I want to be doing, rather than the things someone else is making me do. I am busy, and tired, and the wheels are coming off this ever-aging bus. But I am my own boss, and I have a roof over my head (no thanks to you, Bexar County Appraisal District), and under that roof live six happy, healthy people who know how to work hard and play hard. I suppose I couldn’t ask for more.

  • You find confetti in the lint trap of the dryer.
  • The kids are sticky and sweaty, and have new stuff stuck to the sticky layer.
  • All financial decisions are made based on Fiesta currency: “Do you really need a haircut this week? That’s our entry fee into NIOSA!” or, “I’ll trade you a medal for a beer!”
  • Self-respecting people walk around wearing hats the size of smart cars made of beer boxes, some wired for electricity, and they are revered like gods.
  • Red spots on the baby’s foot are not a symptom of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, but rather confetti stains from cascarones.
  • 1 turkey leg + 4 kids = dinner. (Ok, maybe two turkey legs.)
  • The kids have finally given up re-hiding Easter eggs for each other in lieu of playing “parade”.
  • Any rules about homework, bedtime, and remotely balanced dinners are thrown out the window. (Seriously, teachers- you’re killing me with these poorly-timed science projects!)
  • Weekday hangovers happen. More than once.
  • You’re texting your neighbors all week for shoe boxes for the seventeen shoe box floats you, I mean, your kids have to make.
  • Confetti in the brisket biscuit. Sadness.
  • “Mr. Pinata” is a very real phenomenon, and multiple people reference him as though it’s commonplace to see a grown man walking around dressed in tissue paper.
  • You rue the day you made an 8:00 AM dental appointment for the morning after NIOSA.
  • Your clothes are stained with turkey leg drippings, jalapeno juice from your chicken-on-a-stick, other people’s beer, and confetti die.
  • Confetti in your margarita, and then, your mouth.
  • It is totally socially acceptable to pick up the jalapeno you dropped in the street, dunk it in your beer for a quick rinse, and carry on eating it.
  • There will be NO getting on a scale this week. And probably not next week, either.
  • Everybody’s rolling into the office around nine…thirty. Or if you’re a certain coach, maybe taking a quick, mid-morning office siesta.
  • It’s only Thursday, and you’re just. so. tired. But we will Fiesta on!
  • niosa

I received a comment recently on a picture I posted of the kids that was pretty much the ultimate compliment to a mom: “You’re giving these kids a great childhood!” While these words made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, thinking of the great memories we get to create with our children, I realized that, just as much, they are giving me a great adulthood.

I love to make light of some of the daily struggles that come along with mothering this brood. It isn’t easy, to be sure. There is always so much to clean, so much to cook, and there are socks EVERYWHERE. All the time. And despite my best efforts, I always feel shame whenever anyone enters my house.

There is so much to keep up with, in the form of homework, activities, play dates, and what is actually going on in each of their own worlds. While my biggest plight in life may not be the fact that the kids at recess tried to move me to the other soccer team that loses all the time, it is of the utmost importance to a 7 year-old boy, and needs to be acknowledged and discussed (preferably, before we’ve even buckled our seat belts and pulled out of the carpool line).

And there are actual struggles: we play full-time referees to sibling rivalries and fights (the hate mail campaign continues around here between my two middles, who, not so long ago, acted only as a duo), there are challenges they may not always want to face in school (apparently fourth grade is the year when it’s decided that going to school kinda sucks), and simply (not simply) trying to teach them to be decent human beings. There are plenty of nights where Scott and I sit up late, dwelling on how to solve a problem with one or more of our kids, or venting about what an exhaustive day of endless conflict and chaos it was.

But, man, do we have fun! I say all the time how I don’t even remember what it was like when it was just Scott and I. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with brain cells killed off by the last decade’s lack of sleep, bottles of bourbon, and utter confusion (not in that order), but I think it’s probably also because that time was a bit unremarkable for us. I don’t mean that to sound like a jab against our newlywed lives, because it’s not. But being experienced-wed with a houseful of people seems to bring a lot more excitement and adventure into our previously mundane lives, which mostly revolved around take-out and exciting trips to Blockbuster.

It’s expensive. I’ve been buying diapers for 9 out of the last 10 years. Tens of thousands of dollars have gone to day cares and then private school. The Costco trips have evolved to requiring a separate credit card. Now there are extra-curricular activities and summer camps to try to work into the budget as we can (and plenty of things we have to say “no” to, because we can’t). We will never get ahead, and it won’t have anything to do with fancy cars or lavish vacations.

Not to mention, we’re getting older by the minute. That winter beard of Scott’s is getting to be more salt than pepper, and I’m about to graduate to high-waisted, knee length walking shorts for the summers.

But our everyday interactions are more entertaining than most TV sitcoms. The stuff they say throws me into hysterics on a daily basis! The adorable interactions they can occasionally have with one another would melt even the hardest of hearts. And every once in awhile, usually when they really don’t want to go to bed, they come snuggle up in bed with me and profess their undying love and appreciation to me. And then they ask for a snack.

I truly hope we are giving them a good childhood, and that they’ll remember the camping trips and scooter rides around the neighborhood over the times when Mommy yells. I hope the movie nights on the couch with popcorn overshadow the days when we both have to work, and have to leave them to their own devices all day. Because I know that thirty or forty years from now, when I think back to my “adulthood”, I’ll feel pretty grateful to these crazy little people for making it a new adventure every day!