Fat Fridays: Week 7 Crying Babies, Stress, No Autopilot Eating

Today my kids had an unexpected day off from school. We decided that the best thing to do on a wonderfully warm February day with nothing scheduled, was to go visit Grandma and Grandpa, about an hour away. I took the six youngest with me and we had a wonderful day playing outside, helping Grandpa with projects, doing crafts with Grandma, just relaxing. Finally, the kids started getting tired and fussy. I checked the time, almost 7 pm. Time to load everyone up and head home. My plan was to leave at seven and that would get us home at bedtime so the kids could just go straight to bed. It was dark and I was driving on poorly lit, country roads. I hate night driving. I can see, but I feel tense the entire time, sitting up straight in my seat, gripping the steering wheel. I put on a Disney Music Station and had it blasting in the car, trying to drown out any whining and fussing and also make it clear to the kids that we were going to sit and listen to music instead of trying to talk to mom or get into fights with siblings or start a loud obnoxious game. I turned down the volume just long enough to remind the kids that Mom didn’t like driving at night and she needed to concentrate on driving and please don’t try to talk to mom.

Well, the two year old was sitting in his car seat right behind my seat. He got into the car crying and then proceeded to cry for the entire trip. All seventy-five minutes of it. I asked my older kids to try and figure out what he wanted/needed. All they were able to establish was what he didn’t want. He didn’t want a bottle of juice. He didn’t want a water bottle. He didn’t want his toy fire truck. He didn’t want his brother’s pillow. And he didn’t want anyone to talk to him. In desperation I finally bent my arm behind my chair and offered him my hand to hold. He held my hand for a couple minutes, taming his crying down to a whimper, and then he would suddenly push my hand away and start kicking at my seat and start up crying even more. Meanwhile, I am trying to drive carefully at the speed limit, straining to see the road in the dark, trying to not get blinded by the headlights of oncoming cars. Music is blasting and the other kids are singing along gustily. And the baby keeps crying. I put my hand back again and he holds it for a couple minutes and then pushes it away. We then proceeded to repeat this process for thirty minutes. To say that I was stressed would be a bit of an understatement.

As we were getting closer to home I started thinking about what I was going to do when I got home. The first step would of course be to hand the crying baby to my husband. Tag, you’re it. And then I thought. Toast. Some nice hot toast with melted butter and maybe a bit of jam. That sounds really good. That sounds really soothing. That sounds heavenly. And then I stopped. I realized what I was doing. I was majorly stressed and so I was now fantasizing about what yummy food would help me feel better. This was not good. I wasn’t hungry. It was past supper time, heading towards bedtime, I didn’t need any food. Really, a much better way to handle this stress would be to get home and immediately step on my elliptical machine and walk off the stress instead. Of course, I am a mom of many children and it was coming up on bedtime. Fitting in a workout right away was not going to happen. So what could I do?

We finally got home whereupon the baby instantly stopped crying. Of course. I handed him over to my husband and went about the business of emptying the car and getting everyone headed off to bed. Then my little girls wanted me to sit with them while they went to sleep, they were afraid of the dark. Then after they finally went to sleep the nine year old needed a bit of one-on-one time and then finally everyone was where they were supposed to be and I could finally check out. It was almost 10 pm. Too late to make toast. And I thought about what had just happened. I had been stressed and reacted in my normal, habitual way: think of what food will help me feel better, make plans to eat it as soon as possible. And then I had stepped back from the habitual thought process and recognized what I was doing. Instead of it being a non-thought-out process, it became something that I was thinking about and analyzing. And when I recognized what I was doing, I was able to put off the food until I finally didn’t want it anymore. Because really, my old me would have told my kids to go to bed, made toast, quickly ate it, and then run upstairs to sit with the girls.

This is my takeaway. I need to continue to make Thinking about Why I am Eating, a priority. When I realize that I am eating for reasons other than hunger, I am able to take steps to stop. If I go about in a haze and just eat on autopilot I’m never going to get anywhere. So, that’s my goal for this week, no autopilot eating. Think about what I’m doing. And then hope I can make good decisions.

P.S. Clean Jeans Test this morning told me that my jeans are definitely getting a bit looser!

Finding Peace, It’s a Daily Thing

In the past week or so I have been fighting the sensation that I am just keeping about 2 feet ahead of an avalanche. Like I’m scurrying around moving as fast as I can, but I just can’t keep up and something catastrophic is going to happen as soon as I slip too far behind. People have asked me how I’m doing and I answer, “staying about 2 feet ahead of the avalanche” and everyone nods and says, “Oh yeah, I know all about that”. So apparently, this isn’t a feeling that is particular to just me. So, in typical me-fashion, I have been trying to figure out what this feeling is all about.

First of all, I feel guilty just to be feeling this way. I don’t feel like I have any right to this feeling. I don’t work a high-pressure job. I am not the sole breadwinner of the family. I don’t have any deadlines pressing on me. As I was trying to figure this out I questioned myself. What’s the worst that’s going to happen if I don’t accomplish all my tasks today? Ok, the house will be a mess, we might end up eating Little Caesar’s Pizza if I don’t cook supper. The kids might get some points knocked off of their behavior charts if I don’t keep their homework folder up-to-date. So what? None of that is really a big deal. Why do I feel so much pressure to keep up?

Have I been hanging on to unrealistic expectations for my life? Trying to keep my house in order has been a big part of it. I have 10 children (ok, 1 is at college now, but she still pops in regularly). I am in a constant quest to keep the laundry caught up, keep the trash taken out, keep the fridge full of food, and keep the dishes washed. And of course the impossible task of keeping the house clean when there is a toddler walking right behind me, undoing everything I do. (My latest cleaning spree had me cleaning one room, going to the next room, and by the time the next room was clean, the toddler had managed to destroy the first room…ack.) Again though, it’s housework, it’s not brain surgery, working as an EMT, or some other high-stakes job. So, apparently, high or low pressure jobs have nothing to do with this feeling. So, what is it?

Peace. Or rather, Lack of Peace. I think that is what is missing. When I am at peace I can roll with the punches, take each toddler disaster as it comes, orchestrate 12 people’s schedules without even blinking an eye. I’ve lost my peace somewhere along the way. As I write this I find my pulse racing, anxiety settling onto my shoulders. How did I get myself into this state? A week ago life was great and I was swimming in contentment. Why does peace seem so fleeting? Like trying to hold on to a cloud.

(time lapse)

So, I walked away from this puzzle and have been thinking more. Went to church. Spent time in worship and hearing God’s word. Felt my peace slowly returning. I think I’ve come to some conclusions. I have always struggled with “never-ending” chores. By this I mean things like washing dishes or doing laundry. You wash the dishes, the kitchen is clean and beautiful, you walk away and 3 hours later, the kitchen sink is full of dishes again. It never ends. The dishes always need to be washed. Same with laundry. You know, I’m 40 years old and I still do this. I wash all the laundry (and for a family of 12, that’s a lot of laundry) finally get it all folded and put away (never happens all in the same day) and then I feel this feeling of accomplishment. Hurray! I did it! I successfully did all the laundry. And then I promptly forget about laundry for several days because in my mind, I did the deed, I finished the task, I shouldn’t have to think about it again, right? And then halfway through the week I look up and there’s a giant pile of laundry again, and I experience this shock, like, What the Heck, I already did this! Now, if I was a disciplined, logical person, I would just wash one load of laundry every day, fold it, put it away, and I would never have an overwhelming pile of laundry to deal with.  I guess Peace is kind of like that. Jesus gives us peace. Spending time with him gives us peace, reading his word, spending time in worship, it all gives us peace. But I tend to get into this mode of, Ok, I just got a great dose of Jesus, I’m feeling peace and contentment and I’m ready to conquer the world with Love. And then I go about my daily business and kind of put Jesus on the back burner. Like, Ok, I did that, check. But having peace is a daily endeavor. It’s a daily seeking of God’s presence. I know how to do that. I know how to focus on him, even on busy days. I just forget that it’s necessary. And then suddenly I’m bogged down with a lack a peace and it’s like me staring at the pile of laundry, like, Where did you come from? Well, if I had invested in seeking out God every day, I probably wouldn’t be in this state.

When I was a kid I listened to a children’s musical called Music Machine. It was fun, had a bunch of songs about the fruit of the spirit. My favorite song was the one about Peace. I don’t remember all the words, but I do remember the last phrase of the chorus,

Peace, peace, I think I understand. Peace, peace, is holding Jesus’ hand.

Today when we were driving home from church my toddler was crying in his car seat. He was tired, needed a nap, had just spent the whole morning away from his mama, playing in the nursery. He just wanted me. I finally put my hand back and he held my hand the rest of the way home. He stopped crying and settled down. As I held his hand, I thought about the song from Music Machine and peace. This is what I need in my life right now. Just to focus on holding Jesus’ hand. Get his perspective on life again. Bask in his presence. And remember that I need this daily.

peacepic