I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Temper Tantrum Par Excellence

This past Monday morning I had the mother of all temper tantrums. In Australian slang terms, I lost the plot spectacularly. I'm not talking the type of tantrum where you stamp your foot and yell until you get what you want. I'm talking about the kind of tantrum where you call your husband in big fat gulping hysterical tears and you tell him things like, "I've completely fucked this entire thing up, I've ruined people's lives, and I just don't know what to DDDDOOOOOOOO!!" and then you start saying a whole lot of the-world-is-ending stuff. While I'm a hugely emotive person (when I love you, you REALLY know it, and when I hate you, it's best to move out of the country entirely) but I am not one for tantrums of this sort. I'm much more of the "Houston, we have a problem!" pronouncement followed by a whole lot of PLANS and ACTION to make stuff happen. None of this resting on my laurels business, nope. Not for me, the 'sit and complain and do nothing' concept.

I'm not going to talk about what brought on the tantrum. Instead I'm going to talk about how stupid it was to have a tantrum in the first place - but how utterly necessary it was, too. Stupid to have it because even in the throes of it, I realised it was pointless, indulgent, and frankly a waste of my time. Stupid because I KNOW I'm a 'fixer,' and I knew I'd be able to figure it all out eventually - and if I couldn't, I certainly know a lot of clever people who might be able to help. Stupid because I'm not an attractive crier - and that day I was wearing an entirely cute outfit which would be utterly ruined by puffy eyes.  Sure, the ONE day I'm not wearing jeans and a t-shirt and THAT is the day I decide to look like shit, all runny nose and red eyes? Not a good look.

So if having this tantrum was stupid - why was it so necessary, and why am I in fact GLAD I had it in the first place? It was necessary because it reminded me - and I think sometimes I forget - that I am in fact, human. I make stupid decisions. I miscalculate things. I forget to plan, or plan poorly. While I would not say that I'm someone who thinks she is "all that AND a cupcake"...I certainly like to think I have it together, for the most part. I like to think that I do in fact have my business, my triplets and my wasitline under control all at the same time. To be reminded that maybe, just maybe it isn't always wine and roses - well, that was a useful (albeit painful) thing. It was uncomfortable. It was unpleasant. I really DID believe (and somewhere in the back of my mind lives the niggling bit of self-doubt, doesn't it?) that I'd royally messed things up and that all that I hold dear was coming crashing down. The idea of failure for me is ... almost unthinkable...and so to even be entertaining the thought, well, let me tell you. I really wished in that moment that I was a drinker.

That same day I'd planned to have lunch with a friend of mine, who in addition to being a friend is a fantastic mentor who does not allow pity parties or wallowing. She'll love you to death, hug you, pat you on the back - but she'll never say, "It will all be okay," because the fact is, she has NO idea if it will be and she's not inclined to bullshit you. When I finally finished crying to DH, he told me to pull myself together, wash my face, and go to lunch - and in the absence of any other plan, that's exactly what I did.

When she came to the door, she didn't look her usual self - she looked well and healthy, but something was off.  Turns out she'd recently heard about the unexpected passing of a good friend's husband - and as I'd rung the doorbell, she was on the phone to her friend.

I'm pretty sure that was the Universe smacking me in the head and saying, "Stop your crying. NOW." It seems like every time I want to wallow in self-pity, flagellate myself for doing something dumb, or in general engage in a bunch of "woe is me" thinking...it smacks me and reminds me that I'm not the centre of the Universe, and whatever it is I'm dealing with isn't a patch on what everyone else has going on. This does not mean my problems are any less important or any less real than they were an hour ago - they did not get magically erased, I don't magically feel any better about them, and I've still got to face the music in coming up with a way to turn the situation around. It just serves as a reminder to re-evaluate my own situation.

Lunch with my friend, while tinged with a bit of sadness, was the BEST possible antidote to the mother of all tantrums. I left her home feeling a hell of a lot better, filled with a resolve to deal with things rather than cry over things, and in fact a feeling of gratitude that I'd had my tantrum in the first place. Tantrums, I've decided, are nature's way of telling us to take stock. Nature's way of telling us we're just human, and that sometimes we will screw up and then feel like shit about it. Tantrums are also nature's way of giving us a means to let go of the bad stuff and make room for the good stuff - and while I'm sincerely hoping my next one is very, very far away (or maybe won't happen at all), I'm quite grateful for the one I had this week.

Besides which, I've discovered that a cute pink outfit and pink eyes do, in fact, look kinda okay together.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Just Calm The Fuck Down Part Two

This past weekend I went to an "Introduction to Meditation" course. A number of people in my life are meditators, and I've been reading for some time about the benefits of regular meditation practice, so I was pretty keen to give it a try.  Those who have read this blog for a while know that meditation was also recommended to me by the neuro guy, whose official diagnosis was that I was suffering from DTMSS: Doing Too Much Shit Syndrome and that the only cure is to Calm The Fuck Down. I was also keen to find out of I could "Ommmm" with the best of them, and to find out if I was even capable of sitting cross-legged for any length of time. I'm pretty sure the last time I sat cross-legged anywhere I was about 5 years old and even then I was probably complaining about my aching hips.

The good news is, I'm really good at "Ommm"-ing off key but there is no need to do it. The even BETTER news is, meditation does not require actually sitting on the floor unless you really, really want to or you are some sort of over-achieving hippie sort.

3 hours (and okay, some sleeping....sorry, meditating) later, and while I'm no expert, I certainly understand a bit more about what's involved. The basic principle is pretty easy to understand: Calm Body = Calm Mind = Calm Body = Calm Mind. In other words, if your mind is calm then your body can be too, and vice versa. Of course it's getting the mind or body to calm the fuck down which is the hard part. If your mind is all worked up, your body probably is too - so if you can relax your body, your mind will follow and vice versa.

The instructor went through a number of techniques - some physical, some mental - to basically calm one or another of those, or rather really just to 'free' one of those. Some of the physical meditations actually had the end result of making me feel much more alert - not in any distress, and not specifically calm - just more awake I suppose. It was fascinating stuff, really - the way I felt after trying one technique versus another one was very different. I found myself really quite surprised at the entire thing and I enjoyed it. Best of all was discovering that there is no need to actually turn off the endless chatter in your head because guess what? That's actually impossible to do. You can't turn it off even if you WANT to, not matter how hard you try - it's just not possible to have an entirely empty mind (although I can think of some people who certainly try to very hard to disprove this.) I have to say that he managed to shatter pretty much all of the pre-conceived notions I had about meditation, including the bit about the Ommmm and the sitting cross-legged bit.

The night of the course I decided to give meditating a go right before bed. I've not been sleeping very well these past few weeks (and meditation can apparently help with that) so I thought I'd put to use some of the techniques I learned. It was harder than it was in class, especially as there was no gorgeous hottie with a mellifluous voice to lead me straight into the arms of Morpheus, but I still managed to have a good ol' try at it. It's going to take some practice, and a heck of a lot more focus, and some real commitment to it, but I'm interested to see where this might lead (to sleep, I'm hoping.)  I was proud of myself for going along to the course in the first place, and for really remaining open minded about it. I can absolutely see (even just in that one short introduction to it) that it would have very obvious benefits for someone as highly strung as I am.

Now of course I just need to convince myself that there are no prizes for being the Bestest Ever Meditation Student, so there is no need to go all over-achiever on this one and suddenly start finding myself a guru and attending workshops while wearing hemp shirts and growing dreadlocks. I also need to resist the urge to book in to see the physio so I'm actually ABLE to sit cross-legged on the floor. I'm not sure if I'm capable of that though.


Or rather,


Monday, July 23, 2012

Mother Pie

When I was a teenager (last week perhaps) I read a novel where the main character talks about her "Mother Pie" - basically an amalgamation of people who in various ways take on the role of her mother. Included in the character's Mother Pie are her actual mother but also a whole host of other people - various friends of hers, friends of her parents, older siblings, cousins, etc. In her case they were all females who influenced or nurtured her in some way - from people who imparted their wisdom to people who would cook for her when she needed a helping hand.  The basic premise is that each of us has a Mother Pie, the group of people who collectively mother us in all the various ways we need mothering.

This isn't to say your own mother isn't doing her job or doing a good job at it, it's just recognizing that for most of us, our parenting doesn't always come entirely from our parents. I suppose it's really just another way of expressing the whole "it takes a village" concept. Certainly that's something I've seen unfold in my own house, where it seems like it takes an entire metropolis to raise triplets. It's certainly something DH and I could not have managed on our own.

This week I've been thinking a lot about my Mom, and that led me to thoughts about my own Mother Pie and who it's comprised of.  For me it's not all made up of wonderful women (although there are plenty), it's made up of all the various people who guide me through my life - so that includes a couple of 'menfolk' as well. When you really stop and think about it, there are just so MANY people who influence our growth, who inspire us and nurture us. I'd even venture to say there may be people in your Mother Pie who you've never (and may never) meet - in my case I can think of a few people who I've either met online or whose blogs I read who I think would get a slice of the pie, too.   What gives them inclusion into this group is their influence - what they've taught me, what they represent, which of their qualities give me strength or inspire me to become a better version of what I am. I don't need to meet them in real life for them to have an impact. They'll never know - unless I tell them - that they are part of my Mother Pie.

I have a ridiculously awesome inner circle of hugely amazing people from whom I draw an enormous amount of knowledge and comfort. I have one seriously kick-ass Mother Pie. Do you?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Tough Questions

In the last couple of weeks I've spent a bit of one-on-one time with my youngest daughter (youngest by 30 seconds...).  I tend to ask her about school or dance or just life in general - which normally she tolerates pretty well. She is however a pre-teen, so a bunch of my recent queries have been met with an eye roll and a "Mum, seriously! Boooo-ring!" I promptly told her that if she could come up with something more interesting to talk about, I'd gladly answer. Apple doesn't fall far from the tree, so with her usual flair for the dramatic and stubborn streak, now every time we are on our own she comes up with conversation starters for us. None of them are easy to answer, all of them force me to think hard, and ultimately she's right - what she asks is WAY more interesting than, "So, how's your math homework coming along?"

The challenge for me as a parent is to answer her with honesty, give the question the true consideration it deserves, but keep the answer child appropriate. Plus she's both impatient and demanding, so I often get about a 1 minute leeway before her asking me something and then her wanting to know my reply.

Some of her recent questions have been -

- If money were no object, what ONE thing would you do which would benefit ONLY you? (and then she asked the same question, but the benefits were to our family, then Australia, then the World.) The catch here was that it could only be ONE thing, and it had to actually be reasonably achievable.

- If you could change any TWO things about your current life (your appearance, your room, your whatever - no limits) what would you change?

- What one thing do you think you do really well? What one thing do you WISH you did really well?

- If you weren't doing what you're doing (for a living), what would you do?

...and so on and so forth, she seems to have an endless supply of moral/financial/social conundrums for me to solve. She's been asking some really tough questions (that first one in particular is not easy to answer!) The silver lining in all of this is that, in answering her, I get to share what my true values are. The ensuing discussion (because she always wants to prove she can answer these better than I can) brings up some great conversation, and also gives me the opportunity to teach her stuff which otherwise might not come up as easily. I think being able to talk to your kids openly and honestly is a great gift - and I hope it means that when she does bloom into full-fledged teenager-hood, she still feels able to come to me with her issues.

I'm guessing that DH feels the same way about this, which is why a little while ago I overheard a snippet of conversation between him and the girls which went something like this: "If you're stupid enough to get pregnant when you're 16, I sincerely hope that you come to Mum and I to help you out with the situation. Oh, don't worry, we'll be MAD AS HELL at you, but we'll also work together to deal with it. Actually, this applies to any situation, not just getting pregnant. But don't get pregnant, okay?"

To which DD2 replied, "OH MY GOD. As if! DAAADD! Seriously!"

Well, glad we got that issue cleared up. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lies About Parenthood #588

Parenthood Lie: Playdates are fun opportunities for your children to socialise with other children their age while giving you a break from entertaining them.

Parenthood Truth: Playdates suck, other people's kids suck, and playdates are boring and annoying. They're boring because your kids are not available for you to play with, so you have to do grown up shit like laundry and dishes. Playdates also require you to run interference and play referee when things don't go as planned, have enough patience and food to feed yet another mouth (why are other people's children hungry the MINUTE they cross my threshold? And why are said kids so damn picky? Just scrape the mold off, damn you!). All of that, and for those couple of hours you need to pretend like you're June-freakin'-Cleaver so the kid does not go home and tell their Mum that you fed them 2 minute noodles topped with sugar-laden cereal right before you encouraged them to go out and play with cars on a busy road.

Playdates are a miserable way to spend an afternoon. They're awful but nobody tells you that because they're so damn relieved to get rid of their kids for a couple of hours, it's in their best interest to perpetuate the lie. Now aren't you glad I'm here to clear up any confusion? Playdates are parents' way of torturing other parents. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

On Families

This afternoon I had lunch with a girlfriend and we got to talking about families. For various reasons I started to talk about my immediate family (the one I grew up in, not the one I'm raising), and how some days I am in total disbelief about what has happened to it over the last 3 years.

My family has imploded. Spectacularly. 

Here's the background story:

I grew up in a very close family - my parents, my siblings and I used to spend ridiculous amounts of time together. I very clearly remember my Mom sitting me down (around the time I was 13 or so) and having a heart to heart with me about how I needed to go out and make more friends, because I couldn't just spend all my time hanging out with my parents. She then tried to force me to make more friends, by insisting I join a quasi-militaristic youth group, but that's a story for another day (guess what? I lasted about 3 sessions before I staged a quasi-militaristic revolt and refused to go back to that ridiculous endeavor.) The fact is, I LIKED my parents and I wanted to hang out with them, plus I've always been a bit of a homebody so I felt no real need to have some sort of all-hours social life. My siblings were much the same, and so as a result we grew up in a pretty tightly-knit family. We traveled together heaps (my Dad had a thing about road trips), we hung out together, we had dinner together pretty much every single night of the week and in general we lived in one another's pockets. 

That being said, I've always been fiercely independent - did my own thing when, how, and as I wanted to. It irritated my sister no end that the same rules which applied to her never applied to me, but then I think that's always true for second children - parents relax after they manage to keep the first one alive for a reasonable amount of time. There is a big age gap between my sibs (my sis is 7 years older, my brother 5 years younger) and so each of us got to live a fairly independent-ish existence (except my sister, who had that whole eldest child/responsibility thing). Me, I always did things differently to my sibs - frankly, while I never went out partying and carrying on, I was one seriously massive pain in the ass. Stubborn, head strong, opinionated - whatever verbs you want to attach to it, I've always done my own thing and forged my own path. It's mostly a good trait. 

No matter how independent I was then or am now, I always knew I had the safety net of my family to go back to. I always knew that no matter how far away I lived, there was always an invisible thread connecting me to them. Several threads, actually. My entire life could go to hell in a hand basket at any given moment but I always had the protection of a family to go back to. My family was like a warm security blanket you tucked in the back of the cupboard - not always in front of you every single moment of your life, but always there waiting for you when you needed or wanted it. 

Someone pulled the blanket out of my closet. 

That someone was my Dad. 

Three years ago in August, my Dad passed away unexpectedly.  What I don't think I appreciated then (and really am only starting to appreciate now) is how he was the linchpin of our family. Now that he's gone, the family is, too. Which is a little funny because I'd never have predicted that outcome, but seeing the immense impact his loss has had on us, it almost seems a foregone conclusion. The long and short of it is, two of the remaining four of us have gone off the rails entirely.  My sister and I are holding it ("it" - meaning our sanity) together as best we can, working as a team to salvage what there is left of this family. I believed (and on some level, still harbour hope) that losing my Dad would draw us all closer together still. 

Instead it exploded us apart.

In the three years since my Dad passed away, I've lost my brother, and now I'm losing my Mom, too. (To be clear we are all still alive. I use the word "lost" metaphorically.) Lately I find myself feeling extremely sad about all of this - and today, in chatting to my girlfriend, I worked out why that is. I'm in mourning. Mourning for the family that was, for the brother I've lost, for the Mom I'm losing, and for the family which so much defined my life and my identity. In dying, my Dad took the security blanket out of my cupboard and I am not happy about that AT ALL. By the way, this is also the man who broke me of the habit of drinking out of baby bottles by sitting me in front of a trash compactor, throwing all my bottles in there, and turning it on (true story.) I'm not sure which of those incidents I am more inclined to forgive - but bets are, it'll be the bottles.

In chatting to my girlfriend, I expressed one of my most terrifying thoughts - that the family I'm raising could also, someday, be so easily broken apart. Because here's the thing - DH and I are raising a family not dissimilar to the one I grew up in, in so far as we are all very tightly knit, we spend an inordinate amount of time together, we're all homebodies, and I can imagine someday soon I might feel I need to convince my kids to find friends other than each other and their parents.  I would even go so far as to say that DH and I are cultivating a close family unit - he and I are so enmeshed that of course our kids are an extension of that. 

That this family could be so easily destroyed makes me feel ...just...awful. 

While I would not say that I'm actively worrying about this happening - I will say that the very idea that it's even possible scares the hell out of me. We're working SO hard to create this amazing family, and yet all it would take is one seemingly random act and it could all just fall apart.  It was my girlfriend who pointed out to me that my Dad really was the anchoring point for my other family members (not as much for me, thanks to that independence thing). She pointed out that once the anchor was lost, of course those connected to it would be set adrift. She also pointed out that in the family I'm raising, there is no single anchoring point. DH and I share the parenting responsibilities, and we each have different sets of skills we bring to the family as a whole. Neither of us is totally dependent on the other - or if we are, it goes in both directions. So, she concluded, the chances of that kind of thing happening are pretty slim to none. We're different to our parents, it's a different world now, DH and I certainly have a very different relationship to the one my parents had, and there is no real reason to believe that just because it happened in that case, it would happen in this case.

I'm not convinced - mostly because I never, ever would have even thought this outcome was even possible. That I'd be looking back a few years and see a happy, connected family - and now be left with just my sister and I, holding onto one another for dear life...well, no. Not even for one single solitary second. Make no mistake, my sister is amazing, and I'm grateful as hell that it's her I've got to hold on to - but, NO WAY did I ever think it would come to this.

I want my blanket back. Not my Dad. I'm well past that. I just want the blanket which was my FAMILY back again. 

I keep wanting to open the cupboard door and just check if it somehow magically reappeared, even though I know it hasn't. 

I guess the invisible threads are still there. 


My default mood setting is programmed to 'happy' and I find it quite uncomfortable to be grumpy for any extended period of time. The past six or so weeks, my happy-o-meter has been sorely tested. I'm very grumpy. Not in the "look at you, you've got a face like thunder," sort of grumpy, but in the, "please don't talk to me while I am under my doona, hibernating in my bed." sort of way - except that I never actually want to get out from under my doona in the first place.  When I DO venture out into the real world, I'm okay - going to the gym, going to work, feeding my family and in general being the very capable woman everyone has grown to love. I'm going about my day, capably doing all sorts of things, it's just that while I'm DOING all of those things, my head is under my doona, and I'm finding it a little hard to breathe under there. 

In no particular order, things which have made me grumpy these past few weeks:

- Business. Hard to believe but the cake business is seasonal (even for birthdays, people just don't have events as often in winter, which sucks for you winter babies out there), and while I know that, I failed to plan for it adequately. This which left me feeling annoyed and irritated and a little bit, "please would the damn sun shine on this business SOON," even though I know everything will be fine and winter eventually ends. However, when business is quieter or less chaotic than normal, this leaves me with 'free' time in which to dwell on both it and other things which are irritating me.

- Weather. It's been a very hard winter here in Melbourne, far colder than I've ever experienced here. Reminds me a lot of the winters I spent in Denver, actually, where its so cold it hurts your chest just to breathe in, and you're wearing so many layers you are a distant relation to the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. I'm generally cold anyway, so to feel like my bones have ice water in them makes me...well, a little less than friendly. I just wanted ask the sky, "Please would the damn sun shine on this fair city of ours SOON?"

- Family. My Mom is not doing too well at the moment, a situation which has been going on for a number of months. I'm saddened by it, frustrated by it, and I really just want her to start on the road to getting a bit better. Please, would the damn sun shine on my Mom soon? because I'm not really sure how much more of it she, and our family as a whole, can take.

- Friends. I've got some friends going through some pretty tough life moments (I've blogged about this before). I can't help it, I'm a bleeding heart - and so I feel sad for them, and I have no idea how to help.While their situations are all about them and not at all about me, I feel it. I can't help it. I want the sun to shine on my friends as well.

- Money. OMG, don't get me started, but suffice to say if the sun shone on my money tree right about now, I'd be feeling a little calmer.

The above things plus some other random bits (hello, winter kilos, how I hate thee) have conspired to make emzee a very grumpy girl. Not that most people can tell, but *I* can tell and it had started to really annoy me. Because, you know, not bad enough I'm in a shit mood but berating myself ABOUT being in a shit mood is a good idea, right?

I decided that it was in fact the lack of sunshine - both literal AND figurative - which was, while not causing the situation, not exactly helpful to the situation. So I went about finding myself some sunshine. I started to walk to work most days of the week (not difficult. It's a 6 minute walk.)  Those few minutes in the morning and few in the afternoon are giving me sunshine in the literal sense (although that would be arctic sunshine, it's still Vitamin D) and sunshine in the figurative sense in so far as I just like to be out and about, and those few minutes are mine to think about ..well, nothing at all. For 12 minutes every day, my mind is quiet. Well, quiet-ER.

I forced myself out of the house even when I didn't want to go. I had some adventures with the kids. I had dinner out with my DH, movies with a friend - etc. NONE of which I wanted to do, ALL of which I needed to do. I signed up for a course I've been meaning to do for a while. I finally worked out the secret combination of shirts/jumpers/socks which keep me, while not warm, certainly not feeling like the Ice Queen. I rediscovered the joy which is an enormous mug of milky tea. I watched entire seasons of Glee with my DH, both of us grinning like idiots at the screen and then at each other (it's very very difficult to be grumpy while you are perving on either Britney S. Pierce or Puckerman.)

Basically I treated my horrid mood like a project which needed managing, and this week I've finally felt like the sun is shining once again. Not much has changed with the things which are upsetting me. I just realised (again) that when you can do nothing about the situation, then you've got to something about how you DEAL with the situation. My horrible mood is because I was powerless over those situations - but I'm certainly not powerless over ME, am I?  I'm not going to lie, I didn't  mind the hibernation all that much. I think I needed it on some level (and frankly, it's WARM in my bed and warmth=happiness for me.) However now that I've come out of the cave and into the sunshine, I'm far less grumpy and far happier within myself...which for all of you (especially you, my IBFF) should mean I'll be back to blogging. I've missed it.