Book Review: Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe

Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe: On a Mission to Save Sanity, One Mom at a Time, by Jenny Lee Sulpizio. Leafwood Publishers, 2013. 224 pages.

What it is: A how-to book of organizational- and self-care tips for moms.

Who should read it: Any mom could benefit from reading this book (COAWWW). Even the most organized, OCD, multi-mom could pick up a tip or two. New moms and moms who struggle with putting the daily pieces of motherhood together in an orderly fashion will especially benefit from this book. If you don’t fall into that category, check out COAWWW anyway, and make it a regular baby shower gift for new moms.

What I thought:

I have a favorite book I read the first (and second and third and fourth) time I was pregnant: The Baby Book, by Dr. William Sears. I have kept this book within arms reach for the last 19 years—when a baby/toddler question comes up, I flip open this great tome of a baby manual and search the table of contents. Nine times out of ten, I find what I’m looking for, and then some. The Baby Book has become the definitive, go-to book on parenting infants and toddlers in our home.

While reading Sulpizio’s book, I thought repeatedly that COAWWW should be “That Book” for new moms and moms who struggle with putting life, parenting, and self all together in a way that will save them from going over the deep end of mommy madness.

Moms who are born naturals at organization and keeping it (mostly) together won’t benefit as much from COAWWW as other moms will, but even the OCD mamas could learn a thing or two. Vomit, fashion, diapering, praying, couponing, meal planning, how to get to church on time…  Sulpizio covers all the necessary bases and then some, and does it all in a casual, easy-to-read tone.

While reading the first couple of chapters of COAWWW, I thought, “this is a good, fun book, but it isn’t for me. I’ve got all this stuff down after almost two decades of parenting!” But the more I read, the more I realized Sulpizo has true household-CEO wisdom to offer. She doesn’t preach, or tell you how to parent, or diagnose your issues or your kids’ issues, but instead offers bite-sized tips on keeping “it” all together in an organized way so you can feel more relaxed and have a life outside of toilet cleaning. And as moms we need those tips! We even need someone to tell us our ’80s hairdo is out of date and that it’s time to hit the salon. Sulpizio does that too, but with a smile so that we know she isn’t picking on us.

We can’t fight the big battles of parenting if we don’t have the basics under control, and this includes keeping our pantries stocked, meals cooked, budgets balanced, and personal hygiene emergencies at a minimum. Sulpizio’s book tells us how to better do all these things, and then gently reminds us that none of it really matters. What matters is loving our family, taking care of ourselves, and remembering that no matter how many times we don our Wonder Woman underoos and cape, God is the one who’s really in control.

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Why We Cancelled Mother’s Day

Now that Mother’s Day has come and gone, my household can finally celebrate it.

(The official) Mother’s Day dawned bright and early in our house and quickly became a mad scramble to get 6 people out the door for brunch. Mad scramble + emotional overload (see below) caused me to have a migraine. Migraine + necessity of being present at my own brunch caused me to take slightly more migraine medicine than normal, which worked just a teensy bit too well: Andy asked me at one point if he should wear jeans or pants; I believe my response was “shorts.” So the baby and I stayed home while everyone else went to brunch.

I think this alone suffices to explain why we decided not to celebrate, so I will leave out the parts about tetherball injuries, last-minute school projects, tantruming 3-year-olds, missing church, and arguments over the perfect family photo. But really, this is all pretty normal stuff. I think the real reason that Mother’s Day weekend was a bust was the even heavier than normal emotional load that came with it this year.

On Friday I wrote a piece about my son, Jeremy. I wasn’t sure if I would actually post it or not, but I knew I had to write it. As my husband wisely said, “writing it is at least 50% of the importance.” But then I decided, after much prayer, to actually post what I had written. The outpouring of love and support in response was phenomenal. With this outpouring, my entire world shifted: it became larger, better, less lonely than it was before. This is a good thing, of course, but sometimes even good emotions can be… exhausting.

But time moves on, emotional tides recede, and mothers must be celebrated. So, this Sunday, we will try a redo. I expect presents, quiet time, and coffee. These things will, of course, have to be sandwiched between tuxedo shopping for prom and getting six people out the door for church, but I am so, so excited to do those things in a world with less sadness, less pain, and much, much more love.

2013.5 Mother's Day Take 2

2013.5 Mother's Day

My lovely babies and I just couldn’t get it quite right. But they are still cute. : )

My Son Jeremy

For seventeen years, I have been haunted by the seemingly innocent question, “How many kids do you have?”

I used to say two. Then I said one. Now I say three.

The math gets confusing.

Over the last few days, I’ve read a lot of articles about why Mother’s Day is terrible. Articles written by infertile women. Single women. Women who have miscarried time and time again. I understand. Sometimes the happiest of celebrations, the most innocuous of questions, the most common of conversation fillers can be… torture.

Cruel in the extreme.

Take-it-home-and-cry-in-the-shower painful.

Those of us who bear the pain write about it
or not.

Talk about it
or not.

But we always, always think it, feel it, live it.

My first child, a boy, was born in 1994. His name was Jeremy. When he was 7 ½ months old, he died of SIDS.

Five months later, I became pregnant with my second child, Collin. When my belly began to show during that pregnancy, the questions started.

In the beginning of the long years since, I answered honestly… “I have two children; my first son died.”

That was a tough line for others to hear, especially those like grocery baggers and sales clerks. What were they to do with that big, fat, ugly sentence? In what part of the mind does one put that for processing, and where does the conversation go from there?

Friends. Pregnant women. People who told me I was too young to be Collin’s mom. Conversations flagged. Women cried. Others became embarrassed at their gaffe.

So I lied.

At first I didn’t always lie. Just mostly. Let the dust settle a little on a friendship then dropped the bomb. Resolved to never bring out the truth for those with whom interactions were limited to an exchange of goods or services. It was a “need-to-know” kind of thing.

And then the sometimes lie became an always lie, even with my close mama friends.

Why bring it up? Why deal with the awkwardness, the “I’m so sorry-s?” The fear that clutched their throats for their little ones, or even worse: the questions. Questions borne of living in a society overrun with talk shows and tabloids and gossipmongers.

So. Not. Worth it.

Except that it is.

Over the last few years, since becoming pregnant a third and a fourth time, it has become worth it. Each time I’m asked “how many?” Or, “Is this your first (or second or third) child,” I die a little bit inside. I feel the lie eat away at me. I feel my son in Heaven wonder if I’m not his mama after all.

But I am. I breastfed, co-slept, sling-wore, and mourned, am still mourning, my child who would be 18 now.

I AM HIS MAMA.

I just want that to be…. known. I don’t need to discuss it. I don’t even want to discuss it. But when another mom is referencing her children, I want to be able to make my own reference. To Jeremy. To say, “Oh yes! I remember dealing with that after Jeremy was born,” and have it be okay.

My now-six-month-old son is the last child I will have. And in the time since that fully hit me, I have become fixated on the number that flashes on my mommy resume: 3. 3. 3. Mom of three.

No.

And so over the last year, I have opened up a bit more. One online profile for me says “mom of four.” Another says of “mom of three.” At least one blog post references Jeremy. I’ve been opening the door a little more each day, and today I’m going all the way.

Why? Because of the stirrings and conviction in my heart. Each day I think about it more and more and MORE and some days it’s all I think about. And now with Mother’s Day on Sunday, and the inundation of articles on how infertile women, single women, and women who have miscarried time and time again suffer through Mother’s Day, I felt the time was right to share my story as they have shared theirs.

I may never post this. It would make things awkward. It would open up questions. It would make my friends feel pressured to say the right thing. Question if they should introduce me to a new mama friend as a mother of three or a mother of four. Honestly, I don’t know how they, or even I, should handle that last question.

But I am, and always will be, a mother of four. To not say so ignores so much, I don’t know if I can continue with it any longer. But to say so seems…. attention seeking. Dramatic. But I can’t pick and choose anymore. It’s either/or not neither/nor.

If this ends up on the internet, I guess I’ll have my answer.

Jeremy.  May 13, 1995

Jeremy.
May 13, 1995
October 10, 1994–May 22, 1995

Poor, Pitiful Me

I am not a kind person.

Okay, so really I am. Almost all of the time.

But when I’m not, I can’t even stand to be in the same room with me.

For example:

This morning I got upset with or in front of every person in my house, except for the baby, and he was still asleep when I left so I’m not sure that he counts.

The set-up:

My three-year-old had her first singing “performance” this morning. She and the other cutie-patootie Pink Lambs were singing their memory verses. Rachel missed it last time (because the baby was sick), and I didn’t want her to miss it this time. And last week the class leader very, very specifically said to “be on time,” because the late kids would miss out.

So I:

nagged my mom to hurry up and get ready despite the fact she gave every indication of being on time;

got into a very heated upstairs/downstairs text exchange with one very affronted teen over car logistics borne of being a 5-car family with a 2-car driveway;

ignored the fact that my husband had been up all night with a fussy baby and snapped at him for his incoherent-to-me mumblings when I had to wake him to move one of the aforementioned cars;

looked for emotional support from my mom for the crap I have to put up with, which she responded to by reminding me of how snarky I’d been as a teen. So. Not. Helpful.

So then I got snappy with my mom while my simply-excited-to-sing daughter sat in the back seat hanging on my every ugly word.

I slumped in my straight-backed chair feeling very sorry for myself. Why was everyone so grumpy and hard to deal with when I’m always Little Miss Sunshine? Why do they push me to such frustration? It just wasn’t fair.

The icing on the cake was finding out, after getting there on time, that the program had changed: the kids were scheduled to sing at 10:40, not 9:15. I slumped lower in my chair.

I felt like a big old idiot for my ugliness and rushing. Don’t I always say things work out how they’re supposed to so we should just go with the flow? Aren’t I even a little smug when others are freaking out and I stay calm? Why did I have to (re)learn the lesson that it’s always, always in the mama meltdowns that I end up being WRONG? It just wasn’t fair.

I tried to listen to the guest speaker, a missionary who was giving a talk on her AIDS orphanage in India, complete with heart-wrenching photos. My mom nudged me and said, “now THEY have problems.” I knew she was right. Knew I should be more thankful, but still I felt icky.

Icky and discouraged, and like the heavy task of trying to be a relaxed, easy-going mama for my household was on my shoulders and I was just too weak to hold it.

Then we went into our last lesson of the year: the passion of Christ. When the large group reconvened, the leader said something along the lines of:

“…. and the women went to the tomb. Filthy, weary, discouraged women…”

(I may have misheard the “filthy” part, but that’s what I wrote down in my handy-dandy notebook so I’m sticking to it.)

“Filthy, weary, discouraged women.” And oh, we are! (Well, maybe not filthy.) Every smiling woman I know is weary and discouraged somewhere, somehow, some way. When the weight gets too great, we stop smiling and start shouting. Or even if it the weight isn’t too great (read: me stressing over being on time and ending up being 1.5 hours early, and really is being on time worth alienating 5/6 of my household?), we shout anyway. And then we cry, most likely in the shower since that’s the only place we’re ever alone. And if these other women are anything like me, they tell themselves they will be nicer. They will not snap and then feel guilty. They will be the light bearers for their homes.

And we should be. But it’s a mixed bag: we should forgive ourselves for our infrequent breakdowns (thanks, o-friend-of-mine for donning your priestess robe and waving your arms and reminding me we all fall short). But…. maybe we (read: I) should be a bit more relaxed. A bit more trusting in how things will play out. Sort of like those other weary and discouraged women.

And this is where I tie it all back, nice and neat, to those women who got the surprise of their lives just when they were at the lowest of low and thought all hope was lost. But honestly, I just don’t think my little bitty issues can be analogous to something so awesome. But I can tell you that’s what I was thinking.

Anyway, the singing was great.

(Sorry about the weirdo scribbles. I don't feel comfortable showing other people's cutie-patooties.)

(Sorry about the weirdo scribbles. I don’t feel comfortable showing other people’s cutie-patooties.)