Singing For Me

I used to sing more.

When I lived in Northern California, before marriage and kids, I worked one day a week at a counseling agency where my commute was about 35 minutes each way, give or take.

Each Wednesday, after a leisurely morning of sleeping in, exercising, showering, eating, and catching up on stuff, I’d drive to work to see several evening clients.  I plugged in my ipod and chose from one of my many playlists.

And I’d sing.  I’d sing very loudly and with passion.  I’d try to hold the long notes and I remember the first time I successfully held that one note in that one Sara Bareilles song as long as she did.  There were a few times I sang so loud that I remember thinking I should scale it back or I wouldn’t have working vocal chords during my upcoming therapy sessions.

I’m actually a decent singer.  A little better than average, I’d say.  I was one of those kids who idolized the musical theater geeks but never had the ladyballs to join up, even for the backstage stuff.  I was in a dinky choir in middle school once.  I couldn’t read music (and still can’t) and didn’t know how to sing the harmony unless I heard someone sing it first.

Lately, with sadness, I’ve realized that I don’t sing very much anymore.

I don’t have a commute anymore.  When I’m in the car I’m rarely alone.  And when I’m “alone” at home, one or both of the kids are sleeping, so I can’t let loose there either.

Don’t get me wrong – I sing to my kids (when they let me).  But it’s not the same as singing for me.  Singing the songs that I want to sing, in the way I want to sing them.

There’s been a few times when I’ve been folding laundry upstairs and everyone else was downstairs and I put some music on my phone to sing to.  It felt nice.  More than nice, even.  When I’m out running (a loose term for what I actually do) I often can’t help myself and start singing half the lyrics, between gasps of breath and probably loudly and off-key since I can’t hear myself through my earphones.  I’ve forgotten how stress-relieving singing is for me.  It works my lungs, my diaphragm.  It makes my eyes water and my sinuses plug up with emotion (read: snot).  It calms me, makes me feel alive.

I was reminded of this because I’m reading a book: Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.  In it, she has a chapter that mentions the importance of music, dancing, and singing in what she calls wholehearted living.  I want to be wholehearted.  I want to feel more carefree.  I want to carve out times and places where I can express myself in this way, like I used to.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite songs to sing to.


NaBloPoMo Day 2

Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming a Mama

Now that I’ve been a mama for over a year now (!!), I know all the things practically nothing about parenting.

One thing I do know is that I can’t win.  You win, baby boy.  But please don’t read this until after you’re done being a teenager, because I never said that and you can’t prove that I did.

Here are a few other things I’ve learned in the past year, because sometimes I find something that works for me and those make for good days.

1. Nothing could’ve prepared me for the harsh realities of having a child.  Nothing.

There isn’t any advice anyone could’ve given me and there isn’t any book I could’ve read that would’ve made me feel prepared.  I think I intuitively knew this already, which is why I didn’t read any books.  I just went to doctors appointments and read how big my fetus was (and what piece of fruit he was being compared to…ooh, a grapefruit!) on my pregnancy app.

Yeah, I got some advice and I went to my birthing classes and those things prepared me to a point.  But I knew then, and it’s been confirmed many times over in the past year, that there isn’t anything out there that can fully prepare me for such a profound life change.  I knew I’d just have to wing it, and that’s cool.

2. Never underestimate the power of song.

I sing a lot normally, and I sang a lot while I was pregnant.  I sing in the shower, in the car, while doing the dishes.  So, my wee babe heard a lot of my voice singing Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift and Sara Bareilles.  During the past year, when Dylan has been freaking out over diaper changes or having his face wiped clean, we’ve found that he will dramatically calm down if we sing.  It doesn’t matter what song, and it doesn’t have to be me, either – my husband sings to him and Dylan pays attention.

The hardest part for me has been to remember to sing – especially when we’re having such a hard time that I am close to tears myself – and then to figure out what to sing, which leads me to the next thing I learned.

3. I can make a song out of anything or adapt any song to fit my needs.  Seriously.

I sang Katy Perry’s Firework as a lullaby and Dylan loved it.  I changed the lyrics of Madonna’s Express Yourself to go: “you’ve got to make him express your milk, hey hey hey hey!”  We’ve sung the classics to death – some favorites are the Wheels on the Bus (Brian added the vital missing verse that goes: “the drifters on the bus go stab, stab, stab…all day long!”), You Are My Sunshine, Black Socks, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Bingo (where we sing: “there was a family had a boy and Dylan was his name-o!”), etc.

But the best skill I’ve discovered is my ability to make a song out of any stimuli in front of me.  The best example is Crotch Food (the term we use for food that lands in Dylan’s crotch during the course of a meal).  I don’t think I’ve ever sung it the same way twice, so it’s the song that keeps on giving.

4. Formula makes a great substitute for coffee creamer.

It’s chock full of DHA – what every new-mom-brain needs!  It’s iron fortified!  I was out of milk and/or cream!  Need I say more?!

5. My mama bear instincts are fierce.

I’ve gradually learned how to advocate for myself, and now those skills just naturally spilled over onto my son, covering him with gooey, fierce, sticky mom love.  I’ve learned that if you threaten my ability to do my job as a mom, or judge me or undermine my authority as the mom that I will do whatever it takes to get Dylan and I out of that situation.  Because rawr.

6. The most challenging part of having a kid has been making sure caring for him doesn’t get in the way of my relationship with my husband.

This has been huge.  We’ve had to figure out how to divvy up household tasks and childcare, and it’s very easy to feel like the tasks aren’t equal or fair, even when we’re both working hard to keep our household running.  We have less time to connect and more stress and it’s been very hard not to build resentments and feel unsupported.

I’ve had to remind myself that my husband and I are on the same team.  We made Dylan together, we’re raising him together, we’re a family together, and we’re on the same team.

7. I’m still trying to figure out who I am now.

It’s like I am going through adolescence all over again.  I’ve been through several major life changes in the past two years – getting married, getting pregnant, moving out of state, transitioned from working outside the home to inside the home, and I’ve been home with my kid for the past year.  It’s been disorienting, depressing, isolating, challenging.  I’m having to make new friends, which is hard for me.  I’m having to get used to my new body and grieve my pre-baby one.  I’ve been grieving most of my old life, honestly.  It’s been so weird and surreal to embrace my new identity as a “mom,” and I’m still not used to it.

8. Dr. Seuss books make me feel stupid.

Seriously, you try and pronounce all them non-words in Oh Say Can You Say? on little sleep.

9. I need to keep trusting my intuition.

He’s my kid and I’ve been with him every day of his life.  I know this little guy pretty damn well.  I also trust my judgement a lot.  I need to keep reminding myself that I am good at caring for my little man, that mistakes are ok, and that at the end of the day we’re both going to be just fine.

10. Keep finding the humor in the small things.  The ridiculous things.

We laugh when Dylan farts.  He laughs at his own farts.  Farts are funny, you guys.  We just bought these new knock-off Cherrios for Dylan and some of them are brown and wrinkled and look like buttholes.  It’s hilarious!  It looks like my kid is eating buttholes!  And those are only a few examples; I could go on.