Friday, August 28, 2015

stubborn youth

Today I strapped the boys into the jogging stroller and set out on a quest to make them nap. I ran by a high school where the girls track team was running laps. I ran on the sidewalk parallel to their track, thinking to myself, "we're not all that different." Sure, they all had long ponytails to my short mom bob. They had young, agile bodies whose biggest complaint is whatever they last ate. They were probably thinking about the boys they liked and worrying if they looked good. I was just trying to make it up the hill, aware that I looked terrible and not ashamed in the slightest.

Somewhere in my comparisons I realized we aren't as alike as I'd like to think. I realized that I have more in common with their moms than I do with them. Although I remember that age like it was yesterday, it was far from yesterday. It was half my lifetime ago. Here I am now, closer to forty than twenty. I often feel like I'm a young woman like these other ones, but I'm not. Although there is only a decade between 22 and 32, there might as well be four decades. In these ten years we mature exponentially as we lose our selfishness and spontaneity and settle into responsibility.

The people I work with are all twenty-two or younger. I do the work of a much younger person, but with a little more decorum than I would have done it ten years ago. One calls me their counselor, not because I'm wise, presumably, but rather because I'm old. To them, I might as well be ancient. The customers seem to appreciate me, though, seeing in me a familiar soul. We share some knowledge that the young have yet to learn, some perspectives they have not yet seen.

Having more in common with the senior citizens who spend their mornings in the lobby than I do with my fellow baristas should make me feel old; but even though my body is aging and time keeps marching on, there is something inside of me still reminiscent of my younger self. I am not always rational or balanced or mature. I am often impulsive and emotional and maybe even delusional.

Perhaps I feel young because I still have dreams like the young do. I haven't found a career I love or come to terms with the fact that what I've done is all I will do from here on out. I have so many ambitions and plans that I refuse to let go of.  I have not settled enough yet to let go of what I want. I will keep working until I make it there. And once I make it there, I'll keep working until I get to what I want then. One thing I never let go was my stubbornness, which means I still have the tenacity and ambitions of a much less weathered girl. I don't think I'll ever outgrow it.

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.