It Gets Easier. No Really.

There’s a universal set of lies that mothers of adult children tell mothers of small children.

1. Enjoy every second – I sure did!
2. You’ll blink and they’ll be graduating high school!
3. Oh honey, keep your chin up – because it only gets harder.

I’ve spent the last nine and a half years of my life attempting to ignore and not explode over these completely not encouraging statements, and also debunking them for other young mothers who have that horrified, exhausted, overspent look in their eyes.

Like my dear friend Not-Crazy-Renee had Tuesday afternoon.

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First of all, no one enjoys every second of motherhood. There’s a lot of crap we have to deal with – more literal crap than figurative, but plenty of both. We should enjoy the beautiful moments, for sure – but the concept of “enjoying every second” only breeds guilt and shame and a sense of being less-than in comparison to these mothers who have wet-wiped away the many crappy memories of their younger days.

Second. I don’t care what they say. When you’re in the midst of mothering young children, it is NOT a blink. Maybe it feels like it afterward, but it does not, in ANY WAY, feel like it in the middle – no matter how delightful your particular children are. Ali is a great example – she’s really been an unusually easy and great kid since about 9 months old. She didn’t even have terrible twos, y’all. But even still, when Chris sent me this Timehop the other day, it felt like at least a century ago – certainly not a blink.

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But those first two statements have been plainly not true to me for nearly my entire parenting career. (I even remember how NON-BLINK the first six weeks of Ali’s life felt. I kept blinking. The seconds of her constant screaming kept crawling along. BLINK BLINK BLINK.)

The third lie, however, has been my newest revelation of how lie-ey of a lie it actually is. And that’s what we’re here to discuss today.

“It only gets harder.”

No, no it doesn’t.

I don’t know how many people I’ve had tell me this over the years – so many that I don’t remember any particular individuals – they all blur together into a continuous loop of it-only-gets-harder-honeys. And maybe teenagehood totally gets harder – it probably does. I’m not there yet. But I am here to attest – and to share the agreement of many of my friends who are in the same stage as myself – that it does NOT only get harder.

My kids are 9 1/2 and 5 1/2. And my life is infinitely easier and more delightful than when I had a newborn. In fact, I’m at a pretty dang easy stage of parenting. I don’t have to wipe any butts, carry any pumpkin seats, comfort any inconsolable babies, pack a diaper bag, wake up in the middle of the night to impart life-giving sustenance to anyone, or teach (over and over) the idea of what “no” means.

(Okay maybe the no thing is still being taught over and over. But the rest are solid.)

I remember when Ali was born. It was a horrifying shock to our systems – one of those OHMYGOSH I WILL NEVER HAVE MY LIFE BACK EVER AGAIN shocks. Newborns, especially first newborns, are all-encompassing. They take your sleep, your calories, your arms, your every waking moment, and your sanity. They cry inconsolably. They cannot tell you what’s wrong. And they give nothing in exchange – other than their tiny cuteness, which is NOT ENOUGH, I tell you.

(At least for the first one. It made up for a lot on the second one.)

I felt pretty panicky in those first few months, thinking I would never feel like “just me” again. But I quickly learned, and was able to remember and therefore make Noah’s infanthood easier, that you progressively get your freedoms and your sense of self back.

Renee did indeed come over Tuesday afternoon, and the chaos of her life reminded me how very much of my life I have back. I gave her a giant cup of iced coffee, sent my children to entertain two out of three of her children, and tried to encourage her that she is in Ground Zero of Parenthood – this is The Hardest It Gets (at least up to 9 1/2 years old, where my assumed expertise ends.) Those baby/toddler days are draining, and are definitely harder than the days I’m experiencing now. I even texted her (desperately attempting to be non-braggy) an example at 10am the next morning:

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Here are a list of things that I can do now, that I would have never dreamed of doing when I had an infant, or a 1, 2, or 3 year old.

– I can take a nap – with my kids at home – and they are perfectly able to entertain themselves.
– I can sleep in – because they can read clocks and know they’re not allowed to come into my room until 8 (and 8:30 on Saturdays.)
– Ali really likes making a little money on the side, she she voluntarily brings me breakfast in bed about once a week (an entrepreneurial delight that I reward with 50 cents.)
– I can say “I’m going out on the porch to read a book”, and they say “Okay!” – and I – get this – GO OUT ON THE PORCH AND READ A BOOK.
– My kids and I can go on adventures – hiking, exploring, having fun – without having to worry about naptimes or diapers or feedings or even constant whininess (sometimes.)

Here are a list of things that my kids do for themselves that seemed like a foreign and exotic fantasy when I had a newborn or a toddler:

– They get dressed. Brush their own teeth. Get themselves in the car and buckle their own seatbelts.
– They clean their rooms with minimal help.
– They know how much iPad time they’re allowed a day (1 hour during the summer) and how many TV shows they’re allowed to watch (2 shows each) and which TV shows they’re allowed to watch, and they access said allowed events without my help.
– They fix their own breakfasts and lunches most of the time.

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…………..and that’s as far as I got writing this post before I put it down for the day and got back to life.

…..Later that night, I discovered that in an effort to make money that morning, my daughter, while I was still in bed basking in my #ItGetsEasier lifestyle, had unloaded a dirty dishwasher. And I discovered it at 10:30pm that night. Which also meant that the bowl of #ItGetsEasier cereal she’d brought me that morning….yeah I don’t want to think about it.

…..And on that same night, my son, of whom I do not have to wipe his butt anymore because #ItGetsEasier, solidly clogged up the kid’s toilet with a massive dump – so much so that neither that night nor the next morning could my husband unclog said toilet.

So yes.

It does get easier.

You do get your self back.

But parenthood is a lifetime purchase.

And they’ll find a way to make you pay interest.

Disclaimer: Before you hate, I love my children. I love to spend time with them. I love being a Mommy. This post is only meant to encourage the fellow mothers in the trenches of what is a quadruple-overtime-required job – is it worth it? Yes. Is it seriously mind-blowingly hard sometimes? Yes. That is all.

How PokemonGo Will Make Your Momming Better.

As I purposefully shy away from trends and adamantly avoid hopping on bandwagons, I was ripe to avoid PokemonGo completely.

But I saw potential. Potential for entertained kids and interesting hikes.

I mean, I’m pretty dang good at making hikes interesting. Sometimes we even find abandoned boobs! But despite how AMAZING I am, and despite the fact that they (almost) always enjoy it, my kids still whine and groan every time I say we’re going on a hike or a walk.

Sure it’s July in Alabama and 456 degrees outside. But still. Exercise makes Mommy feel better, kids. Get on board.

So. PokemonGo.

I downloaded the free app Monday morning. Noah was already downstairs but Ali had yet to emerge from her room. I told Noah, “Oh look! There’s a Pokemon in our front yard! Let’s go out and catch it.”

We ran outside and sure enough, there on my phone screen, we could see the front yard and a Pokemon sitting in it.

I hadn’t read any directions or helpful posts about how to catch Pokemon yet, so we failed miserably on our first hunt. Noah lost interest and wandered away to complain about breakfast options, and I sat down to read a Wiki.

OOOOHH….you swipe quickly with your finger. I can do this.

So I gathered Noah again and we went outside and caught ourselves a Pokemon.

After breakfast, I told the kids.

“We’re going on a Pokemon Hunt. Get your shoes on.”

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Noah was thrilled, but Ali was skeptical. Usually my less whiny child, she had a problem with everything on this stroll. It was hot. It smelled bad outside. Where were the Pokemon? How long would this walk take?

Until.

We found our first Pokemon.

And she was the one who caught it.

Then it became the best walk we’d ever taken.

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There were none on our street, but Not-Crazy-Renee’s street was teeming with them.

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In fact, they seemed congregated around her house – perhaps they were attracted to her snake.

We came, we caught, and Noah even wore a couple Pokemon.

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And it really was the most delightful neighborhood walk we’d ever taken.

Ali, Now PokemonGo’s biggest fan, began naming all the places she wanted to go hunt.

I bet Oak Mountain has 223 Pokemon! Oh! And Aldridge Gardens! There are plenty of places to look there. And Pop and Gramamma’s house. We could find all kinds of Pokemon in their woods!

We decided on Gramamma’s house. It would be a family service, after all, to help her with her Pokemon Infestation.

So we drove out and took Gramamma on a hike, teaching her about the game as we traversed.

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See, you keep the app on your home screen, and it knows where you are, and you can click on the bottom right corner to see how close you’re getting to a Pokemon, and then when one shows up, you see it on the screen in the real world, and you’ve got to throw the ball at it to capture it.

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We found the ever-frightening Zubat,

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Ali slapped a Nidoran,

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Gramamma got viciously attacked by the butt end of a Slowpoke,

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And Shadow went after,

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And then carried away, a Charmander.

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We even checked the bridge – just to make sure it wasn’t covered in the monsters, you know.

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While on the hike, we found real, live, actual cool things as well, thereby making it totally educational.

Colorful spiders,

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Mushrooms,

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And the ever-charismatic Lady of the Corn.

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Anyone want to steal a veggie or two from her?

In total, we found another dozen or so at my parent’s house, therefore saving their property from the perils of loose Pokemon.

On the way home, we saw a PokeSpot and a PokeGym on the map, so we pulled off to get special rewards.

And, in the process, discovered the Alabama Veteran’s War Memorial.

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And our PokemonGo experience became even more educational.

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We talked about all the names and what they meant…

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And why no, we could not take any of the flags. Geez kids.

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And of course, when Chris got home, the first thing the kids wanted to do was go on a walk – to teach him how to play.

And so. In our first day’s journey of Pokemon catching, we:

– Hiked/walked a total of 5 miles four different places without a SINGLE KID COMPLAINT (at least after the first Pokemon was bagged.)

– Made it to Level 6 and joined Team Valor.

– Saw all kinds of actual nature (including a rabbit, too fast to be pictured.)

– Visited and learned about the Alabama War Memorial.

– Caught 53 Pokemon on my phone – I don’t know how many Chris caught.

– Took turns catching said Pokemon and cheered ridiculously loudly for each other when a successful catch was made.

– Ran my phone battery down four times. External chargers are a nice asset for heavy Pokemon hunting.

– Only tripped while staring at the phone screen a couple times. Each.

– And one fantastic diary entry was created via Ali, an entry that should be able to help if you’re still unsure how to play.

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Well, you get the picture.

You’re welcome, Moms of the world. Your summer just got exceedingly better.

Love,

Rachel

Alabama, The Hunger Games Arena.

For the first time in my life, it has recently been pointed out to me that Alabama is an unsafe place to live. And also for the second time in my life, less than a month later.

I really had no idea. I was in denial. It’s so beautiful…It has to be perfect! All places have these things…right??

The first time it was pointed out, it was by a brand new Alabama resident who grabbed my arm and said with a horrified voice, “Someone told me there were VENOMOUS SNAKES here. That’s not true, is it??”

“Well yeah, sure. We mostly have Copperheads and Rattlesnakes and Cottonmouths, all of which I’ve seen in the last year. There are some others too, I think. But it’s not a big deal.”

She gasped in horror and said, “THEN DOES THAT MEAN THAT THE SCORPIONS ARE TRUE, TOO??”

“Sure, I mean, I’ve seen two in my life, but yeah – we have scorpions.”

I was confused. Didn’t all of America have the same basic set of “Nature to Avoid”?

I moved on. Until I wrote my boob/Cottonmouth post a couple of weeks ago and one of my blog readers came ALL UNDONE.

(Bethany. You know you did.)

She went on and on about how in her state, they don’t deal with wildlife, and this is just BIZARRE, and how is it that everyone in the Horror-Filled State of Alabama doesn’t band together to fight against the treachery of our nature??

Again. I was stumped. I don’t find my state treacherous. I’ve lived here all my life and have never thought any of it was unusual.

But then I began making a list.

We have venomous snakes and spiders (some even like to bite the nether regions of toddlers.) Mosquitoes. Horse flies and the angry Yellow Fly down south. Chiggers (okay they’re the worst.) Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac, plants that regularly tried to ruin my summers as an awkward middle schooler. Lots of fire ants. The dreaded Cow Ant. Bees. Wasps. Hornets. Yellowjackets. Dirt Daubers. Ticks. Snapping Turtles. Flying cockroaches. Stinging Ladybugs. Poisonous Caterpillars that send the strongest of grandmothers to the ER. Bats that cause confusion and delay. Tornadoes. Hurricanes down south. Triple digit heat. Alligators down south but slowly encroaching north. Coyotes. Armadillos that can do a NUMBER to a car tire if you hit one.

(I actually have no factual evidence regarding that last statement but their armor does seem intense.)

Alabama even had a bear run out in front of a car recently, totaling the car and killing the bear.

(My kids were fascinated by this story and said “ARE THERE PICTURES??” I responded with “Y’all don’t need to see a picture of a dead bear.” Ali’s face clouded over with disappointment and said, “Oh. So there’s not a picture of the bear actually getting whacked by the car?”)

(Clearly they’re as deranged as their mother.)

But I digress. After I made The Alabama Danger List, it did seem like a lot.

Maybe Bethany was right.

Maybe Alabama was The Hunger Games.

And maybe, just maybe, I was Katniss. I mean I do hike around with a giant (camera) backpack and a side braid, all the while with sweat dripping off of me from the inhumane heat.

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And aside from the occasional tick and regular mosquito bite, I do a good job of winding my way through the perils of my surroundings, despite my constant outdoorsiness.

(Okay but I did suffer an impressive allergic reaction while I was in Mexico – to a wasp sting that I had received the week before near home. I thought surely I had contracted the Zika Virus. But nope. Just the results of Alabama Wildlife following me out of the country.)

But overall, I am a pretty DANG GOOD Tribute.

However. As soon as I began making this list of vile dangers that I so expertly avoid, The Gamemakers at the Capitol felt it best to throw me a few unexpected challenges.

First there was runch on Thursday with my friend Tanya. We run, then we get a smoothie. It’s what we do.

IMG_8127(I promise I eat way more lunch later. And so does Tanya.)

On last week’s particular run, we each ordered the Strawberry-Peach Smoothie from our favorite local smoothie maker. And then, two hours later, were both simultaneously and violently overcome with food poisoning.

Oh, the gut pain. It reached all the way up to my boobs. And lasted. And lasted. And lasted.

Clearly we must have been slipped Nightlock in our smoothies. It’s the only explanation.

But I am an AMAZING Tribute. And I recovered. Just in time to go away, out into nature, for my annual small group girl’s retreat.

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We left 30 out of 32 of our children at home with the daddies. So of course, it seemed only right that on Saturday, I should lead a hike on a trail I had never taken. There would be no whining! No “I need to potty”s! No “I’m tooo hooooooot”s!!

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The State Park office warned us that it would be treacherous, but we knew we could handle it. And handle it we did.

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We climbed that boulderous trail with grace and Woman Power, all while having deep and completely unladylike conversations.

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We. Were. Amazing.

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After our hike, three of us wanted to go on a trail run. We took the trail that the State Park rep had suggested as the “better choice” for running.

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It was lovely, but not easy. The trail was not smooth, and had generous amounts of curves and hills and roots and branches and boulders and low trees.

A mile into our run and just a few minutes after telling my friends about Tanya’s very true blog post that runners can’t just become trail runners because trail running is freaking hard, an angry root caught my shoe, tore a hole through it, curled its tentacles around the inside of my shoe, and turned me into an involuntary missile.

I propelled forward, nearly caught myself, but then a boulder said nope.

I flailed forward again, this time headed straight for a broken face against three more boulders who were itching for a human sacrifice, but I threw out my left hand just in time.

I saved face, but not elbow.

I landed, in a wash of pain, knowing I had just ended our delightful trail run with some sort of wretched injury.

And then I began to pass out.

Nurse friend Lydia took my dropping pulse and made me sit, then tried to lift my feet up over my head as I screamed at her as to why she thought this was a good idea.

She’s a pretty DANG GOOD Tribute as well, because she crafted me a sling out of the long-sleeved(?!?!) shirt she had been wearing around her waist to cover the backside of her leggings-as-pants. I might’ve thought her modesty was silly, but I did appreciate the sling. So tip: always have a modest friend in the Arena with you.

I stood up again, then went right back to passing out.

After a minute of sitting, I decided. it was only a mile back. I could power through this.

I stood up again, began to walk, and Lydia decided from my paling face that she’d leave me with Ashley to go “get help.” I wasn’t sure what that meant but didn’t care because I was passing out again. I reasoned that the only way through this was through it and kept walking, and I am here to testify – that is sound medical decision making. The passing out faded, and I slowly made the mile trek back, trying desperately to ignore the pain of every wiggle in my arm.

The hurt began fading as we marched on, taking orange then red then blue then boardwalk trails, carefully retracing our steps.

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As we approached the last trail, Lydia met us with water, an apple, a blood pressure cuff, more of our friends, and a state park official, who was pleasantly surprised that I’d done the hard work of removing myself from a mile of woods without his help.

He filed an “incident report”, taking my name and address and driver’s license number, while I nervously asked if I was getting banned from state parks and begged him not to prohibit trail running because half my friends would hate me. He told me to go to the ER and I nodded promisingly.

He left, and Lydia asked, “What’s the plan?”

I said, “Let’s go back to the house and chill.”

After all, it’s just an arm. There are way worse things to be without. It is my left arm and I’m left-handed, but still. Just an arm.

(I did get a phone consult from my Miracle Max Physical Therapist and a text consult from our shared Pediatrician, and they agreed that I’d probably live without an ER visit.)

(I did indeed live but also totally got stuck in my sports bra for about 20 minutes, but because I’m a DANG GOOD TRIBUTE, I fought that sports bra and I WON.)

We came home on Sunday, so I made a stop by Urgent Care. Turns out, my elbow, although swollen and oddly shaped, was not broken. But my index finger, which I didn’t even realize was hurt until hours after the fall, was indeed broken.

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(Luckily I typed most of this post the night before. Broken fingers are WAY easier to type with than metal splints.)

(Apparently my high threshold for pain is detrimental to my health.)

But I can now add two new treacheries to the long list of Alabama Hunger Games Hazards.

Venomous snakes and spiders. Mosquitoes. Horse flies and Yellow Flies. Chiggers. Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac. Lots of fire ants. The dreaded Cow Ant. Bees. Wasps. Hornets. Yellowjackets. Dirt Daubers. Ticks. Snapping Turtles. Flying cockroaches. Stinging Ladybugs. Poisonous Caterpillars. Bats. Tornadoes. Hurricanes. Alligators. Coyotes. Armadillos. Post-Running Smoothies. And Shoe-Trapping Roots.

How many of these things do you have in your area? Surely we all equally live in The Hunger Games. Right?