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dinka @ souzek.com
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Evolution of a mother

Overheard at this house...

Me: Come here. Come HERE. HERE. No, OVER HERE. OVER HERE. No, not yet, quite....COME. HERE.
(As seen here: No one says it like Bill C.)

***

Me: Look at me. Look at me. LOOK. LOOK AT MAMA. LOOK AT MAMA's FACE! No, not there, UP, UP HERE. LOOK AT MAMA!!! Where is my face???

***

Me: You will not call me, you will not bang on the door, you will not stomp up the stairs. You will be quiet.
Kid: But...
Me: NO. You will not call me and will not come in here. Unless there is fire or someone is bleeding, you will not come get me!

***

Me (at different times of the day): Ivan, stop stealing candy! Nikola, stop eating the dog food! Digby, stop eating the baby's poop!

Posted at 12:02 PM on March 20, 2009 | Comments (2)

Updates

I've finally figured out how to capture movies from the video camera onto the computer. We've had this new camera for over a year now... I guess I'll be happy we figured it out at all. I uploaded short movies to all the kids' pages:

Veronika
Ivan
Nikola

There is also a short 9-month-update on Nikola.

Oh, and Lincoln just posted recordings of the kids singing Christmas songs.

Posted at 01:30 PM on February 15, 2009 | Comments (3)

Domestic Monastery

In the morning I get up first. It's always too early in my mind, but actually I'm always about 15 minutes behind. I turn on the computer to soothe me into the day with emails and news. I never feel soothed. After I take my shower I feel better but I'm still not really ready. I wake the reluctant kids and suddenly it's mayhem and everything moves too fast. My level of crankiness soars as I'm trying to get the kids dressed and ready to go downstairs to have breakfast. The bus pick-up is always looming. The more I try to be patient and sunny the closer I feel to a meltdown. Veronika is always in her own world, needs to be told everything twice. I usually end up dressing her, because the alternative is to start yelling. I don't want to yell. I guess she will just need a maid when she's in college. Ivan is more present but he is two: I want dis shuh-wt, not dis pants, no dis socks... etc. Only the baby doesn't complain about getting dressed. Once we are downstairs and they are sitting down and eating I relax a little. Fifteen minutes later I start another round of herding to get Veronika (and Ivan, he has to come along) dressed to go to the bus stop. By the time I'm back I'm beat. It's been almost two hours.

I turn on the TV for Ivan and put the baby down. I go upstairs to make a list. This is my favorite time of the day. It's relatively quiet. It's short. It's the only time of the day where I feel somewhat in control and am firmly anchored in the illusion that everything will go well. After that the onslaught of physical labor, organizational demands (bills! phone calls! appointments!), conflict resolution (but I had it first!) and oh-how-much-do-I-hate-it meal preparation reduces me to a mere survivor at the end of the day.

This is not news, I know. It's just what I do, what tons of people do. It looks like nothing much. It's a lot of work but it doesn't look all that significant. It doesn't even feel significant to me, because it's so repetitive, whatever is done is undone the next day. True, what you have to show for at the end are your grown children, hopefully good people, hopefully successful etc, and it may seem that that would make a difference in the infinite string of tiny repetitive moments... but not really. It is the ultimate goal of course, but its effect and shine dissipate when you find yourself at the beginning of yet another day, facing these little people who expect everything from you, seeing all the tasks in front of you, knowing that most likely you will not talk to any other adults while you do them and knowing that nobody will have seen what you did and how much self-control it took.

I think the loneliness is the worst. We depend so much on who we are to someone else. While it's wonderful to be a mother, I can't turn into this role permanently. But it's so hard when 99% of your day it is who you have to be. At the end of the day it messes with my head. I shrivel up mentally. I am cranky, dissatisfied, drained. In those moments when I feel I can't do this... I can't empty the dishwasher anymore. I can't clean up these crayons. I can't go and find out who hit who... I summon up all my strength, all my awareness. This is today and this is me and these are my children and all I have is now and I will give up this minute and do what has to be done out of love, which I don't feel right now, at all. Sometimes this doesn't involve much doing, but just surrendering. This process ends up being my big daily drama, my inner fight, my scrambling to stay the course, to remind myself what I believe life is about and that in the end God will not ask me what I did but how much I loved.

So I know that it's the "how" that makes the difference, not the "what", but I always feel like I'm just now realizing it and only just attempting to put it into practice. This is not the kind of job that makes you feel accomplished on a daily or even yearly basis. It's not a job, where you check off a list or which you could summarize to give to a potential employer... "Made about 300 dinners a year, improved taste by 34.5% over the course of 8 years, accomplished keeping everyone alive and not hungry in the process; Implemented new disciplinary measures, made children unhappy short term, long term results are as of yet unknown, will provide update in 13-15 years..." Most of what I do is invisible, it is not quantifiable, it can't be measured. Only I know what it took. I can't even really describe it or "tell" someone. This loneliness is the hardest. It's not just not having someone around, it's the nature of the job: seemingly simple tasks on the outside, incredible spiritual demands on the inside. And I fail so spectacularly at both. Those are the moments where I wish I could just run away. I can't turn myself into a cleaning and nurturing machine (one solution) nor am I capable of turning washing dishes into loving joyful worship like a monk (other solution). Instead I send angry emails to my husband and eat chocolate.

My biggest accomplishments are not big finished projects, but more things that need to be described in clunky sentences like: "Today I did not yell at Ivan when he spilled his juice twice." "I took the kids to the park on foot, which was good exercise (also for the dog) and saved gas and also I didn't really want to go, but I did it anyway." or "I went to sleep on time because I didn't read my Time magazine even though I wanted to, but it made a difference because I wasn't as cranky and it made the kids be in a better mood." These things are a big deal. They are also not really explainable. This is the enormous challenge of my daily life, making myself available, making conscious choices, fighting my anger and frustration. On the outside it just looks like a bunch of housework and babysitting. But in reality it's my shot at making a difference in the world and creating a meaningful life for myself. And sometimes when I'm having feelings of futility and invisibility I think of my friends, of the other mothers who do the same things and feel just the same and I make myself one with them for a moment, because I do see them and I know it's not for nothing.

Posted at 09:30 PM on October 27, 2008 | Comments (10)

Of course.

(File under: daily tiny catastrophes & major miracles*)

It is late morning. The older kids are watching TV, the little one is sleeping (finally). Nature calls and you realize it's an opportune moment to disappear in your bathroom for a while. Of course as soon as you are in the middle of things, the phone rings in the adjacent room, in which - of course - the baby is sleeping (after about 45 minutes of nursing, rocking and nudging). You rush out to grab the phone (note to self: must remember to bring phone to bathroom at all times!) and of course it's a wrong-number-call. You have the usual conversation ("What number did you call? Ah. Yes, it's not SEVEN something something, it's FOUR something something") in your bathroom with your pants down. You hang up and relieved try to resume operations when of course the younger child barges in (love that!) holding his crotch: "Pee pee, mama!" You undress him and have him pee right there in your bathroom, because of course you can't risk walking him back to his bathroom while the baby is still sleeping . You send him out with a threatening admonition to BE QUIET and NOT TALK because the BABY IS SLEEPING. You close the bathroom door confident that you will now finally finish what you started, when of course you hear a loud conversation taking place outside the door. You open the door and of course there is the older child naked from the waist down asking for new underwear ("What happened to your other underwear?" Silence. "Did you pee yourself?!" Nods.) and of course she is all out of clean underwear because of course you have failed to fold the last pile of laundry in time because yesterday when you were trying to do it someone of course came/called/screamed/fell/peed/woke up and...


* baby did not wake up!

Posted at 10:03 AM on August 06, 2008 | Comments (4)

Hello blog, I miss you and I love you and please don't give up on me! You are so pretty and your hair smells delicious! Can we still be friends?

So, how can one have three children? It's not that hard, really. You have the first one and then the second and then the third. I'm not just being funny, having three kids is nothing like you would imagine it would be when you still have only one. (I will disregard the fact for a second that there are triplets in this world.) For one, having multiple children does not mean the workload of one is equally multiplied. Every subsequent child is probably about 30-50% more work. I realize this still adds up to like, a LOT of work, but still, it partially explains why it is possible to have more than one. The other factor is the experience and skillset as well as sheer determination of the mother. Basically what I'm trying to say is that I'm a much better mother than I was 5 years ago and... thank God for that! Whenever I thought of more children when I had Veronika my mind shut down because the visions of more work (when? how?!) were too scary, yet the idea of one child only was not appealing and thus: conflicting messages = mental collapse, replace malfunction with complete self-delusion and proceed with plan of having more kids regardless.

You grow with the challenge bla bla...yet it's true. With time you get faster, you get more organized, more intuitive and above all, you surrender more. The shape of your pre-child life is almost forgotten, you don't remember all the things that you are missing so well anymore and you know that the more you hang on to an idea of how things should be the more unhappy you will be and therefore slowly you let go and get with the program. Well, it's what I'd like to believe anyway.

Interestingly I hardly ever miss a shower and I put make-up on more frequently than when I just had Veronika. This is where the sheer determination comes in. It's been so many years of internal conflict between what the kids need and what I need that some things have emerged from fuzzy ideas into crystal-clear facts: "Must take shower, comb hair and get dressed properly every day." This looks funny when I type it because.. well, DUH.. and then EWWW, because who doesn't do that? My fellow home-confined-parents (where does "stay-at-home" come from anyway? I seriously dislike that term.) will probably confirm that there were plenty of times they didn't do any of the above, because there was no time or it was simply too much work. Besides the imperative of starting the day like a civilized human being I also have accepted "Must have decent amount of time to relax at the end of the day" as equally essential to my survival.

I will admit I occasionally fail to comply with the above mentioned requirements, lots of times not because I didn't try hard enough, but because someone else simply was better at complying with their own requirements. Mostly though, I win. (Here's a quick advice to new mothers: You MUST win. This is the core of my parental knowledge. Yeah. Don't look at me like that.) And so my day starts with goal #1 (shower, comb, dress) and goal #2 (make sure to relax 14 hours from now). In order to manage goal #2 I need a list, or lists to be fair. Even though items are regularly checked off there is never a completed list, only the date changes, but the list lives on. That's ok though, as long as the list retires to her chamber between 8 and 9 pm and I can start sitting. The funny thing is, I still prefer this insanity to my fairly confused self from 5 years ago when everything was so painfully new and I had no idea if at the end of it I would resemble my previous self at all. I still get bitter, oh I don't think I will ever be strong enough to avoid that, but I can see (and feel) much better now that I will most certainly not be dead inside when the kids grow up.

One more thing. Some people have claimed that three kids is like having two kids, so not much more work. Wrong. Maybe they meant once the kids are a little older. I can imagine that... but two little kids + infant = ... a lot more work! I never think it's possible and it always is. Who knew I could work even harder? Yay for me. Then again add an infant to any kind of life-scenario and it will result in a lot more work. Like, two donkeys + infant = a lot more work. Can you imagine?!

Posted at 04:41 PM on July 24, 2008 | Comments (3)