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.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
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.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
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.
Posted by holly at 2:13 PM
Monday, July 27, 2015
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.
Posted by holly at 1:11 PM
Saturday, July 25, 2015
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
- Old typewriters
- My NYC snow globe
- Handwritten letters
- Taking baths
- Reading books
- The rain
- Jigsaw puzzles
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
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
Sunday, July 19, 2015
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.
Posted by holly at 12:46 AM
Monday, July 13, 2015
We tried staying cool outside with popsicles and the kiddie pool, but sometimes, only air conditioning will do the trick.
Posted by holly at 8:07 PM
Friday, July 10, 2015
At the park today, Brandon took off his socks and shoes when he saw the other kids were running around barefoot. As usual, he immediately pointed out his painted toenails, saying, "look at my pretty toes! They're red!" Until today, he never received any push back on that. He is a three-year-old boy, and he spends a majority of his time with his mama. He wants to be like me, and when he saw me painting my toes he asked if he could have painted toes, too. Who am I to deny him being like his mom? I mean, I'm awesome, he will be too!
But the boy he said that to today didn't think it was awesome or cute or funny. This boy is a macho type boy - barefoot, tan from so much time outside, and (get this) not wearing a shirt. Neither was his older brother or his dad, and his dad would periodically start doing chin-ups on the playground bars, so you see who he's idolizing and it's a far cry from the painted toes type. "But you're a boy," Macho Boy protested. Brandon, always the corrector, never the correctee, replied, "no, I'm not a boy, I'm a Big Boy." I grinned at that. It didn't even phase him that Macho Boy said he shouldn't have painted toes because he's a boy. He just took the last word, ultra-confident and confusing the hell outta Macho Boy. My boy.
Today's exchange did remind me that one day soon, Brandon will be surrounded by people other than me. People that might not smile and nod when he lets his freak flag fly, the way I do. I have noticed that since I've stayed home, Brandon has really come into his own, flourished even (if I am to pat myself on the back, and I am). He is realizing who he is, what he likes. He says what he feels, reacts outwardly to every emotion. He talks back and is bossy. Basically, he is me, but with softer edges (or maybe that's just the childhood halo still on his head). I can dig it, but I'm not so sure about everyone without Mom Goggles.
Peer pressure gets a pretty bad rap for obvious reasons, but I do believe there is some good in it. It is because of peer pressure that you learn to stand up for yourself. Your morals are defined as your friends try to push you outside of them. Peer pressure more quickly illuminates who you are by showing you all these other people you aren't. Peer pressure teaches you to see things from a point of view besides your own, and hopefully, in that you become considerate, respectful, and kind to others. Other people show you this little world of yourself isn't reality, and push you outside of it, off the diving board, into the deep end.
But that bad rap part of peer pressure scares the hell out of a mom. It can all go so wrong, instead of so idyllic. If your kid isn't stubborn or doesn't have a strong moral compass, if your kid aims to please and is always the follower, if your kid wants to be popular and liked (and let's face it, who doesn't?) peer pressure can take them somewhere they never would have gone within the safe confines of their family. Are kids being themselves in front of their family or in front of their friends? Friends push you to find yourself beyond the version that was already defined for you inside your family.
I thought about how just two years from now, Brandon will enter Kindergarten. I will walk him up the front steps of his elementary school, wearing his Thomas backpack, if he hasn't outgrown it yet or learned it's uncool. There he will spend every day with thirty other kids his age, some of whom are going to tell him he shouldn't have his toenails painted or that his backpack is lame or that he's a momma's boy. This comfortable, accepting little bubble he has lived in will burst wide open and he'll be there, amongst all these other fish, suddenly just a little one in a big pond.
I know these days are coming soon, and he will grow up and become responsible as we all do, and in that his edges will harden. One day he will realize that all of these personality traits we share aren't as cute on an adult, and he will have to either push against them or strongly, stubbornly wear them with pride. "Stay little," I whisper into his hair as he sleeps tonight. Parents always say that, knowing full well that isn't possible. What we mean, when we say that, is stay optimistic, continue to love unconditionally, accept without judgments, and hell yes, let your freak flag fly!
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
I've got a lot of things I do each day, but I try to just seamlessly integrate them into my day, rather than put the on a checklist and pay too much attention to them. Here they are, the ones I enjoy at least (I'm not including basic clean up and diapers, obviously).
- Drink coffee. I've tried to quit it to no avail, so I've come to grips that it's a part of my daily routine.
- Get fresh air. It doesn't have to be hours worth, even 30 minutes will do the trick. Whether I'm taking the kids to the park or on a walk, or going for a run, I believe in the serene power of the outdoors. One day, when we move to Washington, I will take my kids on mountain hikes and to the beach and I hope they will fall in love with the outdoors too.
- Sweat. Or bend. I like to do yoga, run, or walk each day. Endorphins and all that, you know.
- Listen to music. It just puts me in a better mood. I never realized the power of music until I married Steve. Steve always has music on, he has a playlist for everything. I turn on kids music for the boys and I swear it improves their vocabulary.
- Make my own food. I'm not talking about homemade bread or noodles from scratch (although I would like to start that, too someday), but at least a crockpot meal and blending my own smoothie, making pancakes (not the frozen kind); that sort of thing. I have found more joy in food when I am the one preparing it.
- Read. I don't read nearly as much as I'd like to, but every day, I read a bit. Not nearly enough. One day, when these kids are in school and Steve lets me still stay home (OK, I'm working on that one; it's not confirmed), I will read for hours uninterrupted with my coffee on the end table and it will be glorious.
- Write. Same as above. But I try to journal or blog or work on my novel or poetry when I'm not distracted by cleaning the house and watching TV and working out.
- Buy something. I know, this is terrible, but I swear I really do buy something every day. It's not
usuallyalways for me: my retail therapy is so advanced that it doesn't need to be for me to excite me. I buy the boys a lot of toys and clothes and books. I buy sporadic gifts. And I am always buying from GAP.
- Have a meaningful conversation with Steve. That means not relaying information about what we got in the mail, what is broken around the house, or what's for dinner. It's checking in with each other, seeing where we're at, be there to be vented to or vice versa. Everyone wants to be listened to.
- Read to my boys. Every night I read books to these little guys. I have a policy of "Never Say No" when a child asks to be read to. Well, except when you've already read ten books and Brandon is just pushing off bedtime. Then, I'm the boss, kid.
Posted by holly at 12:22 PM
Sunday, July 5, 2015
Posted by holly at 12:18 PM
Friday, July 3, 2015
When I think of home as a place, I think of course to my parents' house. Not the way it is now, with a monochromatic living room and rooms full of stuff rather than people; I think of it the way it was when my brothers, sister and I were children. Back then, it was full of artifacts with a little more pep and life in them. The bookshelf now full of dusty, rarely read books used to house our toys. "Put a toy away after you're done playing with it," mom would instruct us to no avail.
I think of Chad's room, with his Coke collection on the shelves, his 90s-style Biederlack blanket with burgundy, hunter green, and navy blue geometric shapes folded neatly at the foot of his bed. I think of his tiny closet which one day was stuffed with many varieties of polo shirts in popular brands as he became a clotheshorse. I think of Joel's room - the 101 Dalmations comforter, which later turned into a baseball one. I think of the room Amber and I shared - the yellow floral wallpaper before we peeled it off in pieces. I think of our matching beds and bedspreads. Then we each moved into our own rooms and I got new furniture, and she held onto what we had shared.
I remember our backyard, as it was, not for what it is now. Now, it is stripped - the trees have been removed, our garden boxes are gone. The trampoline remains, but it has no cover, no blue padded edges. It once entertained us for hours as we created our own games, dance routines and Trampoline Olympic events. We used to have this tree that dropped orange berries that we speculated were poisonous but never knew for sure. When we would swing, we would grab for them, see how many berries we could fetch. There was a bar that dad would do pull-ups on between two trees. There was a hammock between two others.
We had a playhouse dad built for us that Amber and I would play in, making macaroni and cheese by crushing dandelions into Tupperware bowls. We had a two-story deck which we would ride our bikes on, that Joel one day would jump off of onto the trampoline. The lower level had a hot tub without a heater that we spent summers in. We would make whirpools, have dunking contests, sing silly songs and endlessly flip on and off the bubbles. The deck is gone now - "too much maintenance." It seems that everything becomes too much as we grow older, no one ever considering what is too little.
I lived in that house from the time most of my memories started until I left for college. That place holds all of my childhood memories in its bones, our shrieking voices in its walls. Every time I go back, I think of how it was, and try to remember it that way, when we kids were a part of it, rather than visitors. Although the place is the same, its details have changed with the people in it. It makes me realize that home is not a place. Sure, there is a place where you feel at home, but it isn't the place that makes it home, it's the people, the memories, the happenings. The place is just the backdrop.
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
My kids don't socialize enough. I take them on many field trips, but even still, their main interactions are with each other in our home, where social etiquette does not reign supreme. The best way they learn to play well with others is when their friends come over to play.
I told him yes, and in school he can learn to read and write and do arithmetic.
"And I can eat," he added. "I'll just open my lunchbox."
Kids. They grow up so fast, these days falling into each other like dominoes.
Posted by holly at 11:55 PM
Sunday, June 28, 2015
The talk of having another child pretty much dissipated around here. That is, until Holden started walking, and running and being an all out boy, rather than a baby. Don't get me wrong - I don't love babies. I mean, I love my own babies, but only because I know they will outgrow babyhood and turn into toddlers, then kids, then adolescents, then adults. Babies themselves are only great in the fact that they can't talk back and because they fit into the crook of your arm. I don't miss bottles or unpredictable sleeping patterns, and I certainly don't miss pregnancy or labor.
But Holden outgrowing all of that makes our family feel so permanent as it is. Two boys has always been what Steve and I said we wanted, but with an asterisk: *possibly one girl. I am trying to find peace in one of the two options we have from here.
Option 1: No more babies. Family stays as is. No girl.
Pros: No more pregnancy, labor, losing baby weight. No more late night feedings, buying new clothes, holding onto all this baby crap we already have. This will mean all the sooner we can start going out to eat again, going on family vacations, having more disposable income. No minivan. No paying for her wedding. No periods, pregnancy scares, boyfriends to chase off. No Sophia the First or Junie B. Jones. Boys share a room. I remain the queen of this castle.
No periods, pregnancy scares, boyfriends to chase off. No Sophia the First or Junie B. Jones. Boys share a room.The more I think of all the things I'm missing by not having a girl, the more I think I miss those things (which I've never had to begin with). I mean, c'mon, which of these boys is going to drink too much wine with me and thank me for being such a good mom after becoming a parent? (OK, Brandon).
Option 2: Try for one more baby. We get what we get*
*possibly one girl
Pros: It will be hella cute, of course, boy or girl; we make some pretty beautiful children. Holden could be a big brother too. I've already got names picked out. New adventures!
*If a girl: Steve could walk her down the aisle one day and I could get some gaudy mother-of-the-bride dress. I could pass this recipe book I'm making down to her, and possibly some other heirlooms she won't want. The boys will better understand female hormones and not just think their mother is bat shit crazy. Maybe she would fill this hole for me, at least a little.
Cons: (Obviously see pros to "no more babies"). I am overwhelmed often already with just the two (sidebar conversation would have to occur re: Am I strong enough?). Really? And just when I was starting to get a tad more free time. I'm no spring chicken.
*If a girl: She would either borrow my clothes or crucify them. Uncharted territory - would we be able to instill in her enough self-worth and confidence to gracefully leap all that petty and jealous bullshit an adolescent girl goes through? Would she be secure enough to be disliked when it meant doing what was right? It sure seems like girls have to be a lot stronger psychologically than boys.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
As it stands now, neither one feels right: expanding our family, or saying no to the possibility. So here I remain, in Future Child Limbo, until either we decide, or time itself tells us we no longer have a choice. And then sometimes I forget about pros and cons and wonder if I missing something I actually want or if I'm missing something I've already lost.