Thursday, August 27, 2015

adventures in mothering

On Tuesday nights, Steve has class so I try to get the kids to bed a bit earlier than usual so I can have time to clean up and still watch my shows that have been collecting on my DVR all week. But sometimes, you can't follow a schedule.
I saw a hot air balloon out the front window, so we went outside to watch it. The boys chased it down the street. It was so close, you could see the flame and the sillouettes of the three people inside. All the neighborhood kids were out, speculating where it would land.
Yesterday was my day off, so we went on an adventure. When I first moved to Omaha, I lived downtown so it always holds a special place with me. We had a picnic in the Heartland of America Park, hit up the Old Market, and walked the Pedestrian bridge that crosses the Missouri River over into Iowa.
As soon as we crossed the state line, I told Brandon he was in Iowa now. "But I don't like Iowa!" he cried.
If you have runners, like I do, I highly suggest bridges. On bridges I know they won't (can't) escape me. These two run everywhere. "Race ya!" is a popular phrase. I will enroll them in some organized running clubs as soon as I can. Saucony sells kid shoes now, so we're golden.
As a mom of two, I am constantly torn between two places. This picture sums up my motherhood pretty well. And you can see their personalities at the moment: Holden is defiant and Brandon is whiny. Oy vey.
Kids in a candy shop
Holden got ahold of Brandon's sucker and took it everywhere with him. Even when it became covered in dirt, that didn't deter Holden.
 
Such a hipster, already at age three. 
I still debate returning to work full-time, but then I realize I wouldn't be able to have adventures with them any day we choose.

Monday, August 24, 2015

mothering the hard way

For my mom -- 
who always reads the dedications.
She is thorough in everything she does,
including especially parenting. 

Although I don't think parenting is for everyone, perhaps everyone should be a parent so they can fully appreciate their own parents. I had no clue all the work and sacrifices that go into parenting until raising children of my own. And I still have no clue what goes on in the later years, I only have a tiny piece of the picture right now, but the piece I have shows me it is a relentless job with little thanks and a lot of crying (both them and me). 

So here's where I give a massive shout out to my own mom, who raised not just me, but also my three siblings. Not only that, she homeschooled us which meant doing the work most parents do just for five years (before sending the kids to school) for twenty. And not only did she raise us and homeschool us, she did it the hard way (which I call the right way). She held us accountable to complete our school and chores and she disciplined us when we were disobedient. We were not spoiled nor did we throw temper tantrums. Mom was the boss and we respected her position. We were polite, respectful children with good work ethic who turned into those kinds of adults. 

Mom told me yesterday she envied those moms who would walk their daughters to school holding hands - they moms who are their daughters' best friends. But I told her not to beat herself up about that. I told her daughters make all sorts of friends, but they only have one mother. It is the job of the mother to raise up the child to become a responsible, well-adjusted adult. Yes, that usually means you will not be best friends. But you will have your daughter's respect and one day, many many years later, after she has children of her own, she will thank you for being what she needed. 

Mothers know what children need, and children know only what they want. Of course I'd like for my children to like me, but it is more important to me that they turn into fantastic young men. I will be the bad guy when I need to be. I will withhold toys and discipline them and make them eat their dinner and do their chores. And I won't be popular in those moments. But my hope is that one day they are the kind of adults I want to hang out with because they are the kind of adults my siblings and I turned into. 

Thanks mom. You are my inspiration. But you can keep the hand holding between you and dad. It's not a big loss - my hands are sweaty anyway.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

sisters and brothers

On Sunday, two preteen girls came into the coffee shop and each ordered a drink, plus a muffin to share. The older girl slid a twenty across the counter to me and I counted her change. I brought their drinks out to them: they were seated in comfy chairs. They sat and sipped their drinks, while chatting and sharing the muffin. About an hour later, they left.

"I'm so curious about them," I said to the other barista. I have never seen kids unaccompanied by their parents in before, and these girls had the mannerisms of two thirty-year-olds, not two kids. The way they sipped their drinks and casually chatted in a coffee shop could have been me and my sister. "They're sisters," the other barista told me. "They live right down the street. Sometimes I see them pulling weeds in their front yard. Their parents pay them to do chores and then they come here and spend the money they earned."

I smiled when she told me that. I thought it was so sweet that these sisters work alongside each other, then wash up and come down to the coffee shop together. There is something so special about the sibling bond. It truly is unlike anything else. This week, Steve's brother is moving away - far away: to Hawaii. For the past ten years, I have seen Steve and his brother as best friends who love to golf and watch football and go out for drinks together. They have inside jokes and can finish each other's sentences. They have not only known each other forever, but also been raised by the same parents, in the same house. They are allies and confidants with more history and memories than any other friend will ever have.

I think about my own boys, and how one day that will be them. I think about how they are already wrestling and taking baths together and learning life at the same time, in different ways. One day they will joke about how mom could never find the keys, or how dad always waited a couple days too long to mow the grass, or how they used to dance together to "Move It Move It" after dinner. They will meet other friends and maybe even move away from each other, but no one else will other compare. Because friends will come and go and will love you conditionally, but a sibling is an ally for life.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

healthy balance

I have been absent from my writing for too long, letting this blog collect dust and keeping words in my head, all the while meaning to put them instead in a secure home: on paper. I am still getting my bearings, learning what I can manage while working early mornings and going to bed when my kids do. So far, it's not much, but I must find a way to be productive despite my schedule.

My manager, describing me, said: "she hasn't worked for awhile," which, albeit true, felt like it meant I was damaged in some way, like it would take me some time to adjust to working again. Instead, I've found the opposite to be true. I fall into work like an old habit: setting my alarm, following a task list and being a part of a company come natural to me. But then, when I get home, finding a rhythm is my challenge.

I notice I have loosened up quite as a working mother of two, rather than as one. Finally, three years later, I take everyone's advice and "nap when they nap." I don't stress out about cleaning the dishes incessantly or even practicing yoga while they nap. In other words, I have become more lazy as I have become more tired. But I prefer the term "laid back."

But without a rhythm, the house is a mess, my back aches from a lack of yoga, my waistline grows from neglecting cardio. My words jumble inside my head because I don't write, my muscles are sore from not taking baths. I have a library book I have been working on for weeks, nowhere near finished. I am usually so in tune with my health, and now I ignore it's nagging voices to make my schedule work.

So taking a year and a half off of work does make a difference, it seems. It might not be hard to return to work, but it is hard to give up all I had before - the freedom of time. I never even thought I had time then, until I lost it now. Of course, I have gained, too, but it is in ways I didn't concern myself with much before. Finding a healthy balance in all things really must be the key to life. I'm on a quest to find it. After this nap, of course.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

kids books we're into lately

I haven't talked up the kids books that we love in awhile. Here are some of the newest obsessions around here.

  
This is the first book Brandon "read." And of course by that I mean he remembers what I've read to him, memorizes it, and then repeats it back to me, word for word, correctly turning the pages as he goes along. If you heard him read it, you would love this book too. It is a quick read and silly and so much fun.
Bring your patience for Morris, it's 63 pages. But I remember loving it as a kid, as does Steve, as does Brandon. You cheer for Morris - somehow he learned all he needs to know in one day of school. If only we could all do that. And if only all we had to do in life was count our pennies and exchange them for gumdrops.
 
Another book I loved as a kid. Brandon loves knowing this about books, and then saying, "hey, you liked this when you were a kid! And I liked it when I was a kid, too!" The Golly sisters have a couple books - they are funny and fun. These are those very short chapter books like the Fox books, but of course we always read the whole thing because it's quick. The chapter about the sisters in the storm always makes me smile.
Not all the books we read are from back in the day. Some are newish. And although sometimes I think I'm too unique to read some of the really mainstream stuff (hello vampire books and Harry Potter), I also know that sometimes what is popular is popular for a damn good reason. This original Fancy Nancy book made me smile in the first two pages - Nancy's plain room and then it after she fancified it. She introduces kids to new vocabulary words by calling them fancy versions of plain words. Nancy is the fun kid version of Sheryl Sandberg.
 
Let's talk about Holden for a minute. He reads books, too. Mainly he grunts and points at things and babbles what he must think are the words for pictures. But onomatopoeia never fails him. This book is pure onomatopoeia and pure delight - he shrieks and laughs when dad and I attempt the airplane sounds. And in praise of the board book format for a second - Holden destroys books with pages so this is perfect in every way.
We used to read this all the time when Brandon was Holden's age and it is so cute to see Brandon read it now, recognizing the letters and telling me what they stand for. And you really can't go wrong with these boys and trains.
This is the first book that we got from the library that I had to go and buy. Brandon had a crying fit when I returned it so I drove straight to a consignment store and bought it. We love Syd Hoff since he writes about anthropomorphized animals (duh! Always a hit with kids!) and has a great picture to words ratio. Why is that so tough for authors and illustrators to get that right? Syd Hoff has it down to a science and never disappoints.
This is one of those repetitive books like "Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly" but somehow, this one doesn't annoy me. Jack is the kid who lives in this building who caused all the ruckus beneath him. This book is fifty years old and still delighting little ones.
We love all these Numeroff "If you Give a..." books, but it all started with this one. And my school teacher friend told me that they have plush toys of the pig, moose, mouse and dog at Kohls, so we now own all of those. The mouse came to our library once and I thought Brandon would be excited about it, like spotting a celebrity, but instead he was petrified of a giant mouse in overalls. Thinking about it now, I get it. That is super bizarre.
This one just started this week. Dad told Brandon this was his favorite book when he was a kid so now, of course, it's Brandon's too (Brandon often says dad is his hero). Although I don't love the word to pictures ratio, it keeps Brandon's attention and he loves Poky. I found him a plush Poky online since I love to buy my kids stuff and encouraging reading is my jam.

There are so many other books that Brandon reads that I don't particularly enjoy (Caillou is too whiny, Froggy is a bit disrespectful for my taste, Maisy is generic and dear Lord! When will "Circle Square Moose" go away?) There are books I've tried to get Brandon into that he's not digging. But these ten books are kid and mother approved. We would love your suggestions too!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Cheers!

I've been away from this blog for awhile, but for a good reason. I have a job again. No, it's not the kind of job you're thinking. I'm not back in the HR world - firing people, stressing out and being yelled at (because HR is always being yelled at). I haven't put the boys back in daycare (I just can't - Holden would be punching kids, Brandon would be getting punched). Instead, I found a part-time job that works with my very inflexible schedule. Every day I get to reset and don't take work home with me. I get to drink my favorite coffee drinks for free. Because I work at my favorite coffee shop.

It is great to be out of the house, talking to people over the age of three again. It's nice to have something that is mine, because everything else is shared. And did I mention free coffee? There's free coffee. Which I need, because I'm waking up at 4:30. I work early in the morning so I can be home in time for Steve to go to work.

I am always giving shout outs to moms who take good care of their kids because that is no joke. And I give shout outs to moms who work and take care of their kids, because that is hard work. And now, let me give the loudest shout out to moms who take care of their kids and work non-traditional hours because that is insane.

I am glad to be working, to be making even a little money to pay for my new car and to save up for next year's tenth anniversary trip. I'm glad to be meeting people, having conversations, feeling useful. I'm glad for this reason to make sure I shower as often as I should.

It sounds like nothing - working 10-15 hours a week, but those 10-15 hours were taken directly out of my account. These are my sleep hours or my After The Kids are Asleep glory hours that I have lost in order to work. I would love to stay awake after the kids go to sleep and read and write, but I physically can't. My eyes are closing while I read Brandon his stories. My speech is slowing, my body is shutting down around 9 each night.

Mad props, other moms who do crazy shit like this. I applaud you. And I ask, should we make a support group for each other so we don't lose it completely? (I know we're all halfway there already).  I'd organize something, but I don't think we have any time to meet up. Maybe in a few years, after the kids are in school and we've pulled all our hair out and started talking to walls we can meet up for drinks. I'll pick up the tab with my puny check. OK, I better start saving now. We're going to need a few rounds.

Friday, July 31, 2015

I'm gonna miss this

Tonight as I put Brandon to bed, I couldn't stop looking at his head - how big it got. Then I noticed how long his legs have become, and how well he enunciates his words now. He was once this little baby I cradled and rocked to sleep each night, not all that long ago. Now he sometimes seems about as advanced as I am, blooming early to my very late.

Then I peeked in on Holden, curled up in his crib atop a nest of blankets the way he likes it. Technically still my baby, but not really even. Every day he says a new word and surprises me (today he strung two together: "thank you"). Every day he needs me a little less, leaning towards his brother and in as much leaning away from me.

Then I came downstairs and turned on iTunes radio while I washed the dishes. The first song to come on was Trace Adkins' "You're Gonna Miss This," a song that was popular while I was in college but had never struck a chord with me. Until now.

She was staring out that window, of that SUV
Complaining, saying I can't wait to turn 18
She said I'll make my own money, and I'll make my own rules
Mamma put the car in park out there in front of the school
Then she kissed her head and said I was just like you


You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast
These Are Some Good Times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this


Before she knows it she's a brand new bride
In a one-bedroom apartment, and her daddy stops by
He tells her It's a nice place
She says It'll do for now
Starts talking about babies and buying a house
Daddy shakes his head and says Baby, just slow down


You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast
These Are Some Good Times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this

 

Five years later there's a plumber workin' on the water heater
Dog's barkin', phone's ringin'
One kid's cryin', one kid's screamin'
She keeps apologizin'
He says They don't bother me.
I've got 2 babies of my own.
One's 36, one's 23.
Huh, it's hard to believe, but ...


You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast
These Are Some Good Times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this
You're gonna miss this
Yeah, you're gonna miss this 


I was that girl in high school. I was that wife. I am that mom.  I thought of all the times I've complained about how much work my kids are, how I never get time to myself, how they make me crazy (although that might be regardless of them...shhh). I am going to miss it all one day. And if I don't stop and realize it, I will also miss out on it while it's happening.

Maya Angelou wrote that when her son was eight, she felt like she was going crazy. When she relayed this to someone in search of help, he told her to write down her blessings.
I said, "Wilkie, I don't want to talk about that, I'm telling you I'm going crazy."
...I followed Wilkie's orders and when I reached the last line on the first page of the yellow pad, the agent of madness was routed. 
...The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas. The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising. Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow. 
 Today I am blessed. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

a decade later

I am totally obsessed with Maya Angelou right now, and perhaps it is not coincidence that I started reading Letter to My Daughter on today of all days, Gracie's tenth birthday.

I learned to love my son without wanting to possess him, Maya writes about the child she raised (she has no biological daughter). It made me pause and think about my biological daughter - how so much of my missing her is because I do not possess her - I do not live with her and get to see her every day. She is not mine.

Reading this made me pause to think of how children are not our own. Children grow up in a home with a family, but they are never our's, rather they are in our care. They grow into adults themselves with their own ideals and thoughts and interests. They leave the nest soon and take off on their own and although they return to our homes now and then, they make a home for themselves. I want that, of course, for Gracie. I want her to grow into a strong, independent adult capable of doing all that she wishes on her own, and she will get there soon, despite the fact that I never possessed her.

What is more important than possessing Gracie is loving her. The more love she receives, the more she will give. She will make people feel special if people make her feel special. She will give what she gets and get what she gives. I think my biggest fear is that she will grow up to think she was abandoned or unwanted, that her mother pawned her off because she wasn't loved. I know her parents won't tell her that, I just fear that all adopted children think that, which hopefully isn't true.

There are plenty of reasons children are placed up for adoption, but in our case, a lack of love was not it. What I wanted for Gracie was a home and two parents and stability that I couldn't offer her. Kids often blame themselves for situations completely out of their control, and I never want Gracie to blame herself for being adopted, or to treat adoption like some sort of handicap. Hopefully she will see the love from all sides, now having felt the warmth of a stable home and two parents - what I didn't have to give her ten years ago.

I remember that day so clearly, a decade ago. I remember the nurse asking me if I wanted to hold her, and I wanted to, but I didn't know if I was strong enough. I held her anyway. 

My letter to my daughter is this:
You are loved more than you know. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to: Treat people with respect; Give selflessly; Love unconditionally; Forgive readily; Don't compare yourself to others, but rather against the best you are capable of; Follow your dreams. Did I mention you are loved more than you know? You are. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

throwback phone

A month ago, I decided I would save us $20/month by getting rid of my phone's data plan. I am either at home or on a field trip with the boys at nearly all times, so is there really any need for me to have a data plan? No, of course not. It is a luxury, not a necessity. So, we got rid of it. That in itself wouldn't be so bad - not having the internet on my phone. But the problem was you can't have an iPhone and not have a data plan, so I had to downgrade back to my old flip phone.

It has only been two years since I've had a smart phone. I was the last person under the age of 50 to convert to it, I swear. People at my work used to make fun of my phone, laughing at what a throwback it was. At first, I didn't see the need for the smart phone and didn't really like it. But then, I got used to it. And now I can't adjust back to a flip phone.

Having a flip phone means no saved text message conversations. Each text message comes in one at a time, so you have to scroll through old ones to see what you were talking about. And the phone only stores 100 messages which have to be manually deleted. I deleted a text about child care and found myself struggling to come up with a replacement in a pinch. I don't receive group text messages, which are quite a few of my texts.

And have you tried texting on a number pad instead of a keyboard? It's ridiculous. No auto correct?! How did we live? The pictures people send me are tiny with no way to zoom in or email them to myself. I don't have maps to get me places. I can't use my Crane Coffee app or Retail Me Not for coupons unless I have the foresight to take a picture of them before and use the picture on my old iPhone. And have I mentioned no emojis? No emojis!!! Basically, it blows.

It's only been two years since I got my iPhone, but it feels like I just took a decade's step back by returning to my flip phone. I can't do it. I told Steve to reactivate my data plan. $20/month is a small price to pay for feeling like a normal part of society. Get ready for a shit ton of texts from me full of emojis, because that's how much I've missed them. :) See? It's just not the same.

Monday, July 27, 2015

new car smell

I got a new car last week. My bedpost notches with cars are few: my beloved Saturn, then I drove the Mazda we traded it in for, and recently Steve's Hyundai Accent. But I have always wanted a black SUV. I knew once I was a mom to multiple kids, I would be an SUV mom. It was meant to be.

So we talked about it then researched cars incessantly (which consisted of Steve actually researching cars, and me pointing out SUVs on the road that I thought looked nice). We whittled our options down to our top few choices, Steve emailed the dealership probably twenty times about our first choice.

We weren't going to make the same mistake we did last time - showing up at the dealership without knowing much, trading in our car for pennies. So this time, I cleaned out the Hyundai, got it washed, took pictures, posted an ad on Craigslist. The first person to check it out wanted it, so on Tuesday night in the Bag N Save parking lot, we consolidated ourselves to a one-car family.

Wednesday afternoon we dropped the kids off at Grandma's & Grandpa's and headed out to buy ourselves a car. The plan was to buy one that day, so I wouldn't be confined to our house and places I could walk to with the stroller. We went to the dealership of our first choice, met with the salesperson Steve had been emailing. She didn't remember much, but Steve had a mountain of paperwork printed out and gave her the stock numbers of the cars we were interested in.

Steve test drove the car while I fiddled with the air conditioning and opened the glove compartment. You can tell I'm a real car enthusiast. I'm sure I was real intimidating to the salesperson in the back. Was the A/C blowing hard enough to my standards? Was the glove compartment deep enough? Oh, she'd find out. I'd relay all the information to her with furrowed brow, making sure she knocked off a couple hundred bucks because I don't play no games.

We went inside, sat down and tried to make a deal. But it didn't feel right. This was the first car I had seen, and certainly I was missing some information. Perhaps if I had prepared the way Steve had, I would have felt better about it. So we went to three other dealerships. I drove across town, then across the bridge into Iowa. Steve was obviously miffed, but every good husband knows to let the wife have her day now and again. I realized that no car looked as good as that first one, nor was any nearly as good of a deal.

So back we went to the place we started, tails between our legs. In the car, Steve and I discussed using this to our advantage, acting like real heavy hitters once we got inside, rather than apologetic morons. Steve did better than I did. I was just a moron - obviously I had given it away during the test drive. She did sweeten the deal ever so slightly, probably just to be rid of us. We signed away and the black SUV I've been dreaming of for years became our's.

I have never driven a car I loved until now and let me say, we're just a few days in and I have found a whole new joy in driving. Every day we go somewhere, just so I can be behind the wheel again, smelling the new car smell, smiling at the strong blast of A/C on a hot summer day. Brandon loves it too, saying it's so shiny and instructing me and Holden not to eat in this car, because we don't want it to get icky yucky like our last car was. I'm proud of his pride of ownership. I'm joy riding all over town. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

what makes me happy

It has taken me a year and a half, but I have finally finished my Favorite Things wall. OK, maybe not finished, but mostly filled up (I will squeeze more things in there if I can). Don't play semantics with me, I know these aren't all things, but some are activities, one is a weather condition and one is a place. Whatever; maybe I should have named this wall "what makes me happy." Here they are, a dozen of those things in no particular order:


  • Weeping Willows (all trees really, but those in particular)
  • Donuts and a blended coffee
  • Washington 
  • Old typewriters 
  • My NYC snow globe
  • Handwritten letters
  • Taking baths
  • Globes
  • Reading books
  • The rain
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Yoga

I have sent messages to Etsy shop owners asking for customizations, made a few trips to Michael's, and even had an artist make the donut & coffee and the puzzle pieces paintings just for me. Maybe next I will make Steve a wall of his favorite things. That would include a football, a highball glass full of ice and whiskey, a guitar or headphones, a full DVD stack next to a TV, a newspaper. Brandon's would be instruments and animals, books and a pool. Holden's would be balls and cookies with milk. He is a more athletic Santa, basically.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

three days later

I know I just blogged about Gracie. But bear with me. I had more emotions to sort through and air out and writing is the best way I know how.  Although I get letters and pictures, and although she sent me a package and talked to me on the phone, nothing compares with seeing her in person. I haven't seen her for about six years. Her and I have both changed so much since then and seeing her as a tall blonde girl that is nearing an adolescent who will become a woman is a lot to process.

It's amazing it took ten years to think of Gracie not as a kid, but rather as a future adult. Nona and I talked about how we both remember ten. I remember feeling embarrassed and ashamed by other kids my age. I remember what I read and how I felt. I remember some of my journal entries and my outrage when family members read them. When I was ten, we got a dog I loved unconditionally. When I was ten, I cared about what I wore (although that didn't make my wardrobe less pathetic).

I gave Gracie a journal, remembering that it was about age ten that I began writing as a hobby. I told her that in writing, you're able to preserve the moment the way you felt it at the time. If you don't write it down, you never feel it the same way, with the same intensity. In time we forget details and emotions and see past events through this hazy film created by the many years we've lived since then.

Before I even made it home from seeing Gracie, I nearly reached for my phone out of impulse, to call Steve and tell him I wanted to have another baby. But deep down, I knew that wasn't it. Humans seem to have this need to always replace a loss as a defense from feeling a void. Recovering alcoholics turn to cigarettes, recovering smokers turn to caffeine, recovering over-eaters turn to exercise.

Whenever Steve and I do discuss having more children, he says, "when does it end? If you want three then you'll want four and then five," and I laugh it off as preposterous, but I understand what he means. He means that I am chasing a cure for my emptiness, a cure that doesn't exist. I am looking to replace something that is irreplaceable.

Sometimes I wonder if I continue to feel my loss so intensely because I have written about it and preserved those thoughts. My emotions crop up again, clones of previous ones I actually remember because of my preserving. But I do not regret my preserving, even the pain. I let myself feel fully. On Monday, after the boys were finally asleep, I drove to Dairy Queen, and in my first moment of solitude, I wept. I had waited the day out, got through all my mom duties, but at last I let myself feel completely because I'm afraid of what would happen if I didn't.

There. That is what I had to say. That is what was in me these last couple days, inching out of my mind slowly, unraveling a thought at a time in no sequential order. I have sat here at the computer for the last hour and forced myself to write what I'm feeling, and in so, I have felt. I don't know whether it heals me or reopens the wound or does neither, but in feeling it, I have allowed myself to be.

I would have done this same thing at age ten, and here I am at thirty-two, not so changed from myself as time has tried. I think about Gracie becoming an adult and think of who she already is and that makes me smile, knowing she will be a strong woman because she is already a strong girl. We find ourselves through aging, or we find our way back after losing ourselves. When I was pregnant with Gracie, I was lost, but throughout this past decade, I have found myself again. A little damaged, yes, but still decent enough, I hope.

Monday, July 20, 2015

full morning

Gracie and her family are road tripping and happen to be in Nebraska, so we met up this morning.  Before we left the house, Brandon said, "let's go to the park to see my half-sister." And we did.
Brandon loved Gracie. He followed her around, talking endlessly. He talked about Wild Kratts (he likes Chris, she likes Martin), he sang her the Slippery Fish song he learned at the library. He told her which animals he saw yesterday at the zoo. She was so patient and attentive with him. There was a moment when they grabbed hands, Gracie helping Brandon down the stairs that I thought my heart would explode out of my chest.

We took a picture, looking like just two moms at the park with their kids. But we're not just that. We are both moms because of each other, helping each other reach that stage, one sooner and one later. Her start date was expedited, mine was postponed. In Nona I see the patience and fortitude that I think every mom would love to have. She models good parenthood by being a good person. I remember the day I met her, marveling at her selflessness. I saw in her a person who was ready to be a mom, and someone who we be a damn good one. It was many years later that I became a mom myself.
After awhile we got into our cars and drove away. When we veered off in different directions, I began to cry. It is the feeling of loss that chokes me up, and you feel loss so much more deeply after being filled up. And then, from the backseat, Brandon said, "I miss Gracie," as if reading my mind. "I do too," I told him, sad yet also thankful that for a morning, we were both full.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Liberation Burger

Before Steve and I were someone's parents, we went out to eat a lot. We really love dining out - the service, the foods that we don't have the gumption to make ourselves, drinks, and leaving and doing whatever we wanted next - rather than the dishes. Although our hobbies are entirely different, we came together in a mutual enjoyment of eating out. It was our jam. We would read menus online before going out to eat, deciding days ahead of time what we'd eat, or sometimes "seeing what we're in the mood for" and deciding that day (oh the spontaneity!)

But then, Brandon was born. I remember the first couple days home from the hospital, not wanting homemade dinners, but rather for someone to pick me up some To Go food. We were confined to our home those first few weeks, and cabin fever set in - it was the newness of diverging from our routine that bothered me more than my lack of mobility and change.

Of course, we tried to go out to eat in our new role as a family, but found it so much more difficult than it had been as a couple (massive understatement. I would expound, but I've done that already last time we ate out together).

As time goes on, occasionally Steve and I check in with each other:
"Do you think maybe we could--"
"No way. Not yet. With Holden?!?"
"But he's older now..."
"Do you remember when we took Brandon out to eat at the age Holden is now?"
"Oh yeah...that was a nightmare. Never mind then."

But tonight, we bit the bullet. We discussed our kid-friendly options and settled on Red Robin because of their swiftness, distractions from waiting, and balloons. And because a greasy burger always sounds good. And then we braced ourselves for what we had gotten ourselves into.

But despite our skepticism, our children behaved. I didn't once have to walk Holden around the restaurant, like I did with Brandon at that age. Holden never screamed and threw only 10% of his food on the floor. Brandon was loud, but it was enthusiasm rather than frustration. Somehow, although those emotions register at the same decibel, the happy one is permissible. Probably because emotions are contagious and I allow my kids to spread joy, but not anger.

Could it really be that we have reached that stage where our family is able to do normal things? We are beyond rushing home for bottles and I have become comfortable changing Holden's diaper in public restrooms and our car (Holden, however, is not). Shamefully, I've even taught Brandon to pee on our tire when we're outdoors or out garage saleing.

I don't know how we could possibly discuss having any more kids once we acclimate ourselves to this new kind of freedom. Although of course it's nothing like the freedom we once had as a couple, it is liberating after years of being recluses because of a baby. We are a family and we are acting like a couple. That is true liberation.

Is freedom anything else than the right to live as we wish? Nothing else.
~ Epictetus