jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

In the Thick of It (I Remember)


A friend’s birthday party at which I met some other mothers who I do not remember meeting.

It’s happened again. I met a perfectly wonderful potential new mama-friend and right after I say, “It’s been so great to meet you.Where have you been my whole life?” she replies, “Oh, we met before. We were at the playground that day? In the summer?”

I can’t help myself from replying, “Uh. Nope. Don’t think so.”

To which she kindly replies,  “And also, our kids were in that gymnastics class at the Y together? Your daughter always wore the striped leggings? Your son had those ankle braces but you were so excited by his progress?”

With my face turning red, “Um. Sounds familiar? But-” to which she continues, “And then your Mom came to town one week and she told me all about her dog Feather and your father’s sickness and how your brother had just passed away…”

And now I’m just trying to end this transaction. “Right! Totally! You were…”

“I’m a teacher at blah, blah elementary school? I was in an almost fatal car accident right before the first time I met you so I couldn’t really walk? You remember.”

But the honest part of me just can’t give it up. “Nope. I don’t think so.”

Tim says it’s because I don’t listen. I’m so busy doing my shtick (“And THEN I walked outside and Reid’s arm was in the roof of the garage and she was hanging there by the handle! HAHAHAHAHAH!”) To which I say, touche, Tim. But where are all your new girlfriends? Exactly. So, zip it.

Because I really think it’s called being in the Zone, the Mama Zone. I’ve got an eye on the kid about to push my kid off the slide and I’m watching the random kid trying to steal their bikes and someone smells like poop and I think I just heard Jasper say gun, stupid and hate in the same sentence and is that Mica walking out of the woods with his wee penis in his hand? Wait, did we have a doctor’s appointment today? Plus I’m trying to hold a conversation.


Dizzy at the playground.

Tim took Jasper to one of his soccer games and spent the hour with a friend of mine who had just had her fourth child. Tim came home somewhat numb from the whole experience.

“Jen. She was in the thick of it,” he pours on the exasperated, exhausted voice. “I mean, her eyes didn’t look focused and these kids were hanging all over her and she could hardly make a sentence. She’s just like you now. She used to be so smart.” (For the record, these conversations are an amalgamation of multiple conversations, but with the same basic results, so if you see yourself in this, I may be totally exaggerating. Honest.)

But there is something to be said about this stage of motherhood. I call it the chrysalis stage, because it’s in-between being a nimble caterpillar eating the world UP and a lovely butterfly fluttering beautifully to their high school graduations in Anthropologie bedazzlement (a girl can dream.) But it’s an inverse chrysalis now. Everything is on the outside and nothing is in. There is no one home, I am literally a walking yard sale, no secrets kept, no order to the memories I shove into my psyche like photographs jammed into the junk drawer in the kitchen that never closes all the way.

My brain is a mess. My mental scrapbook looks worse than my desk (and I currently have to hold my keyboard on my lap because there’s no room on the actual desk, no room in fact to jam my legs under the desk.)


Party blur.

But, as with that kitchen junk drawer, I’m here to say it’s in there. We Mamas are still here. Every conversation was important, every kind word bolstered me, bolsters us, during these days in the trenches, especially with the Mama-friends and gal-pals. Our connections matter.

So to the woman who tried to get me to remember her while we stood in the parking lot of the farm stand that day, I do remember you. We were standing under the slide at Pirate Park the first time we met when you told me about the car accident and that you teach. I remember. It was important. The sun was shining, I’d been feeling sad, and I don’t remember how exactly, but I remember we connected. You made me feel like someone with whom people could connect. Even though I was in the thick of it, I remember.


On a walk with friends. This we will remember.


6 comments on “In the Thick of It (I Remember)

  1. dvb415
    October 26, 2013

    Inverse chrysalis….amazing.

    Jen, I love your writing. You are so talented.

    Keep moving the pen and keep sharing with us.

    Thank you.

    • jgroeber
      October 27, 2013

      Thank you for reading! Hearing from people makes me want to write more. It’s good to have a place to share. 🙂

  2. Kim
    October 27, 2013

    Yes! This post made me feel so normal! I can never remember anyone’s name…..or for that matter, I couldn’t even remember the word ‘yo-yo’ today. My daughter had been playing with one today and I couldn’t even remember what it was called. Thank you for making me feel ok! Love reading the world through your eyes, seriously feeling validated and normal right now! 🙂

    • jgroeber
      October 27, 2013

      Thank you, Kim! You’re such an uber-Mama, I will absorb your compliment with an extra smile. I’m telling you, they say your brain shrinks approximately 7% with each pregnancy. And I think they mean that the brain rebounds after pregnancy… but these days I have my doubts. And if so, 4 x 7 is what, 30%? My brain has shrunk 30%?! Or maybe it’s 32%? Hmm… Ha!

  3. Judi
    October 28, 2013

    I remember the “walking yard sale” period. As if my brain was cruising along like the cruise control in your car when, without warning, some lower ordered priority suddenly jumps to the head of the line obliterating any sense of direction or plan making me brake unexpectedly. I have learned to embrace this as I think less creative people don’t have this experience. It never occurs to us that we can’t do something so we do EVERYTHING….sometimes all at once! And your brain has not shrunk! It’s just caught up in a kid-storm without an umbrella. This too shall pass.

    • jgroeber
      October 31, 2013

      You nailed it, Judi. It’s the constant jumping track that is dizzying. When Tim reminds me that I talked about writing a book someday I remind him that I write blog stuff waiting in the pick-up line because 10 minutes of sustained silence waiting for the car line to move with everyone asleep in the back is the most I get in a day. Hence the woodcuts. You can start and stop and start and stop and leave it sitting right there on your counter! And yet, on most days I don’t want to rush it along. This too will pass all too quickly, I know.

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This entry was posted on October 26, 2013 by in Memory, Surviving Motherhood, The Children, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .

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