David is the absolute best at gift-giving! Seriously, he just nails it every.single.time. His system seems so reckless though. Sometimes, it is the night before the big event and there is still no present purchased for his person and yet by morning light, he stands there with a perfectly wrapped and insanely thoughtful, spot-on, "he must know my soul," kind of gift. I am convinced he is the real St. Nicholas.
On the other hand, I am conclusively the worst. All year long, I keep a list of on-going gift ideas. Little conversations happen often in which the people I am close to might say something like, "Wouldn't that be a nice gift?" or "I would love this one day." And I eagerly write down their revelation and feel super confident heading into the holiday season that I have hit a home run this time. BUT nope. What I am learning is that people change their minds and shift their desires and that little things they might have mentioned about a month ago in a moment is totally out of their minds by their birthday so when they unwrap the curated piece there is confusion. It isn't that they flat out don't want it, but they are like "oh....yea!" LOL.
I need to figure out my new system. But last year, David did it again. His gift not only hit on Christmas but continues to give me joy: Pottery Classes. It has been almost a full 365 days since this journey into the world of pottery and making started and I continue to be so grateful to David for taking a risk in opening that door for me. But even more than that initial day, he continues to support me and my fantasy of opening my own studio space and one day sharing classes and studio space with a little co-op of clients and crafting men and women. So in order to give back to my man, I have one gift I know is the ultimate ultimate. It is going to take a little time to save for it, but it must be done. Because like my pottery it will be the gift that keeps on giving in his life.
So I am hoping that in 2019, I can use the sales from my pottery world to help save for this for him. I am planning some really cool new items for the pottery shop and I hope you feel like coming to the page and checking out this endeavor. My goal for this endeavor for David is Father's Day. So that will be a lot of clay and hopefully a lot of craft fairs and a lot of sharing on the world wide webbery, because to get the full value of joy you must have someone to share it with!
Happy birthday to the very best person I know, David! While the chaos of holiday season can sometimes conceal this very important day, there is no hiding how amazing you are and how much we love you. Thank you for being my constant, my best friend, and my partner in everything.
At certain points, it felt like the universe did not want our thanksgiving travels to go down. Some of the occurrences were very small and easily dismissible except when added to the other crazy events surrounding them, then the signs were clear! This trip was disrupting some homeostasis. It all started like every Thanksgiving break with the insane end of the Fall Term. In 7 days time, teachers are tasked with wrapping up course content and student work, grading any remaining products, writing finals, grading said finals, lesson planning for the new term of brand new courses with brand new students, writing comments which is approximately 150 words per students, proof-reading colleague comments, uploading grades, and any other loose ends that inevitability have to be tied. It is a bananas timeline and you can feel the faculty stress levels boil over. But this frenzy is sadly "normal." I was ready to "tackle" this in order to squeeze into a break with my family. The other pieces though only more deeply complicated this already wacky time. Henry broke is leg. To be exact, he broke the femur growth plate and ended up in a cast from his toes to his hip. He refused to walk on it for quite some time, and then found moving even short distances both frustrating and exhausting with his heavy green "hulk leg" cast. Over a few days, he adjusted but the concern was: How will he navigate the epic trip which includes flights, Disney, and the beach? Then David burned his arm, because our oven never properly cooks anything and we had a suspicion that it was not rising to the appropriate temperature, David was on a mission. To catch our sneaky oven in the act of under-warming, David bought a thermometer to hang from a rack. But, he forgot that racks get hot and burned a giant letter I in to forearm leaving him with a bad-ass wound and a tender limb. When driving home from work the next day, I pulled over to a random urgent care because I was tired of being so tired and started to think it wasn't just the lack of work-life balance anymore. Alas, it was walking pneumonia. With three days left to our departure, we were a mess. I could not breathe or keep my eyes open, David was trying to manage the house, grading was piling up, and Henry was incapacitated. Then my sister-in-law called to say she had a horrible eye problem and we all held our breath! If her issue did not adjust in the next 24 hours she would need to be hospitalized and our trip should then just be called off because the universe was starting to laugh at us little too hard.
In the morning light, Jessie was convinced her eye was improving so we packed our suitcases only to be hit by winter storm Avery! Six inches of snow fell and we braced for flight delays and indeed landed in Orlando at midnight. Waiting for over an hour on the jetway, our stroller had gone missing. My reaction to this "not so terrible occurrence" was to lose my freaking mind. Everything suddenly hinged on whether or not we had that stroller to navigate this epic trip with our son with a femur cast. The children were melting down to epic proportions because it was almost 1AM and we were waiting for over an hour and they were so exhausted and tired and frustrated and I was about one second away from throwing a tantrum right on that carpet next to them. When we finally boarded the Mickey Bus to bring us and our chaos to the hotel, the charming driver turned on her Disney princess voice at 2:30AM and declared, "Good Morning and welcome to the magical Disney bus!" and I nearly lost my head from the intensity of my rolling eyes. We got off the Magical Express and left behind our sweatshirts on the bus because losing something other than our minds was needed and we crashed in our beds to only wake up at 7AM exactly 4 hours later. But, all of the other members of our travel team slept in, and David and I just started to laugh the kind of laughs of unstable people, because all of this happened and we were in literal shambles and everyone was crying and we were about to start our first day at the Happiest Place on Earth.
We did pull it together and we did have a great time, but Smith also did puke to add one last moment of chaos to the journey, but overall these were the parts of the trip that social media usually glosses over but the parts of the trip that were so real, and so ridiculous that we inevitably had to go from there!
Checking out of the grocery store way back in 2012, I vividly remember a magazine cover. The image immediately drew my attention. A little child sat in a mom's work briefcase looking up longingly with big, brown eyes. The bold black title that hung over head took my breathe away, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All." My response was shock. Yes, the work-life balance routine is hard. But, I thought I had it all. In 2012, I felt alive in my feminism, my career, my marriage, my community, and balked at that article. I didn't even read it, because it did not resonate with me and my life.
But I never forgot that magazine cover. It weirdly haunted me.
Two years later, I became a mom. It continues to be the most amazing, rewarding, and enriching life experience that I have the privilege to share in with David. Our hearts grew when we added a second little boy 20 months later. But, then that article made total and utter sense! It haunted me all those years because I knew the message rang true. Raising a little human(s) is demanding. Not only because they have needs that their caregiver must provide, but also because ,as a parent, I had needs too. I wanted to be with these little creations. Sitting on the floor and cuddling them and playing with them was so important to David and me. They change so quickly that it is hard to leave them because my world shifted inward towards them. As they become more independent and interesting the desire to experience the world alongside of them continues to deepen. These three relationships are primary in my life because of biological and emotional connection. At the same the time, the house needs up-keep. Food needs to be bought, made, stored, cleaned-up as does the laundry, and so many other household "chores." When do you do these? In front of them cutting down on your time together to enjoy each other? When they go to sleep cutting down your time to rest and restart? It is a balancing act to do all the necessary tasks while also giving your love and attention to them. The layering of these two demands is heavy. Then add full-time work. This layer removes you from your primary loves for 8+ hours every Monday through Friday. Now your time together as a family is cut significantly during the week and the house piece of life gets squeezed into these odd pockets of time. Late nights folding laundry at 11PM means waking up groggy trying to be engaged in morning play at 5AM but also who is going to make breakfast? The weekends follow a similar balancing routine. With teaching, I bring home work nightly. This adds to the time crunch. Family, house, work compete incessantly in my mind for the limited hours of the day. Then friends and fun become even harder to shift forward in the long-wait line.
A friend shared this comic with me a little while back and it reminded me of that article in the Atlantic. It visualizes so beautifully and precisely the inner turmoil of trying to have it all, do it all, and be all things to all the relationships you want to engage in and feel obligated, at times, to maintain despite knowing that unless you stop time you will fail at some or all of this often. Motherhood is the most humbling experience of my life because it forces me everyday to be give of myself as completely as I can to my family, work, and other relationships, to be efficient, to fail, and to try again at the same balancing game every day.
So why am I writing about this now? None of this new or likely different from the stories of other working moms. Obviously, women and moms, in particular, face this dilemma. But, for me, the transition from life as a "stay at home mom" in the summers always brings back into focus the intense shift of the school year. From having the time to focus on family, friends, travel, and interests and enough time to get the basic maintenance of the house in order, to being back to the grind of the school year and the game of work-life balance is such a hard transition for me. The craziness of it all because normal and lived and by June my "trying to make it all work" muscles are pretty good at it. But then the 12 weeks off, reminds me of that article in the Atlantic and I just wish there was another way....
I promise a real post tonight!! I finally feel ready to write after taking a little time off to finish school and transition into summer mode.
At the beginning of December, I was feeling pretty discouraged by an on-going, persistent roadblock in my health. Waves of dizziness and vertigo hit with unrelenting regularity. It was a little scary to feel so out of control and out of sorts and to not know what the trigger was or when it would hit next. Sometimes in class, I would stagger out of the room and get to the bathroom as quickly as possible to avoid being sick in front of my students or fainting. Deep breathing became my best strategy for calming down in the midst of an episode. And I went to my doctor for a variety of tests that all left me with no conclusions as to the cause. What makes it so unnerving is that it was both predictable and unpredictable, and definitely connected in some way to my emotional state or hormonal state. It would increase intensity at certain points in the month and disappear at others following somewhat of a pattern. So in order to combat this mysterious situation, I turned to some some dietary changes and creating new healthy, mindful habits. Now you know the origin of my resolutions to be healthy and happy from earlier. Since the autumnal holiday of Thanksgiving, I have really felt and noticed that if I eat crap, I feel like crap. With reducing my dairy intake and switching my morning milk in my coffee to almond milk, plus taking a probiotic, my belly gut feels so much better! I thought the dairy switch would be hard but actually because I feel so much better skipping out on the cow's milk, it has been easy to side step and embrace the overall better vibes and energy I have gotten in exchange. With this extra energy, I have had the courage and stamina to cook more often and authentically from scratch which has in general made me feel happier in the kitchen and excited because as the kiddos are getting older they are getting SO into helping in the kitchen. More vegetables, fruits, and goodness is making all of us slim down on those extra pounds we were carrying about. So with the extra energy and the slimmed down 5lbs, it has also been easier to get into a consistent workout plan with lots of slow flowing yoga and some strength training. I am feeling stronger and this positive momentum always has me feeling like I can keep it up and going. So things are feeling good right now. I still got a dizzy spell about a week ago but just one and that is SUCH AN IMPROVEMENT that I could cry in gladness over the dramatic change I am feeling from some positive dietary changes and activity choices.
The other piece that is probably helping me feel overall healthy and lighter is letting go. A part of me has wondered if some of my nauseous feelings and lightheadedness were related to my deep-seated desire to have more children which is in direct confrontation with David's reproductive choices. While I was telling myself I was making progress because I was stifling it down better, I had a sneaking suspicious that perhaps some of these symptoms were psychosomatic. Was I acting pregnant because I wanted to be pregnant? During break, I tried to reflect on this a bit and figure out ways to shift my perspective from "woe is me" to a viewpoint of choice and empowerment. A friend from high school reached out to share a bit about gender sadness she was experiencing and how she connected to some of my previous sharings on the topic. It felt very humbling in the moment to realize that I am not alone and it gave me a feeling of stability within the whirlwind of emotions I have carried about me since David's procedure. After that conversation, I thought to myself, "hmmmm if some of my longings for another child stem from gender sadness, and if I am not alone in these feelings, perhaps there are other moms out there who have written about gender sadness in missing out on having a boy?" There must be a mom out there with a gaggle of girls who has expressed a tinge of sadness of what it would have been like to have had access to the part of her heart that wants to love a son. I googled and googled and googled and asked David to google for this and we found.....nothing. At first I was like, wow no one is sad about only having daughters and then I thought, what the heck! Why aren't women sad about missing out on the love of a son? My sons' love is AMAZING! It is playful, messy, and intense, it is sweet and and gentle. It is boyish and not gendered, it is one of the most beautiful bonds I have ever experienced. My perspective has dramatically shifted. I don't need a daughter in my life to live fantasies of dress shopping and superficial nonsense that I have been holding desperately too like some deranged Disney villain longing to live our her princess fantasy. And instead I was reminded that sometimes when I need a miracle I look into my sons' eyes and realize I have already created two.
Maybe its causation or correlations but healing my tummy and healing my heart was a lot of healing this past month, and I definitely am feeling the changes.
I am 32 years old. My 20s were something awesome. I lived with besties, met my David, found my job, married, and made some amazing memories with family and friends. But my 20s were also riddled with a lot of insecurities. For the first time in my life, I was no longer a student. I had to figure out what would my life be as an "adult?" I questioned everything, felt lost, confused, and self-absorbed. I cared A LOT about what others thought of me, I didn't want to let anyone down, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be everything to everyone. But, it was a great decade. Growing up never stops and I learned a lot of life, love, loss and laughter. In my short dip into my 30s, I can see that this decade too will be great. David and I have so much to be grateful for: each other, our two boys, our jobs, family, friends, our home, and so much love. Looking in the mirror this morning getting ready for work I thought to myself, "wow, could you have imagined all this when you graduated from High School?" And no. This far exceeds those projections and predictions I was consumed with in my teens.
This living business has exceeded my expectations because I finally feel settled. Instead of that need to race off to the next big life step or feeling pressure to take that next big life step, these years of being in my 30s feel like I can exist, stretch, observe, create, and give myself a break. I credit all of these shifts to David and Henry, and Owen to my parents and sibling (& sibling-in-laws), nieces, and nephews, and to my nearest and dearest friends. Because of these people and these relationships, I feel loved and want to give love, I feel grateful and want to demonstrate gratitude, and I feel blessed and want to explore and pause. I am really looking forward to this weekend, not only as a celebration of my own motherhood journey, but as a celebration of all the amazing strong men and women in my life who journey and partner with me on the daily.
How can it possibly be that in 30 days our baby is one year old!! This will sound cliche but truly this year was the longest shortest year with Owen joining us as the fourth and final member to the clan. This month will be filled with many joyful tears as we mark the milestone. So much growth and development has occurred and I am both nostalgic for my tiny baby and excited for all that our little toddler-to-be is able to do now and will continue to be able to do into this next year! For starters, this month, at 30 inches in length, Owen abandoned his baby infant carseat carrier and transitioned into the toddler carseat. I would like to say that this solved our fussy transporter's issues around car travel but, alas, he remains underwhelmed by travel. Perhaps he will be similar to Henry and change his mind about the car once he is able to turn around and face forward in his seat.
Project smile is at a standstill. Everyday we are convinced that the next set of two bottom teeth and the two front teeth will erupt from the gums, and everyday we are left waiting. He clearing is teething as they inch closer and closer to the surface. We can see them! But, they remain submerged. But, the two-teethed boy is not deterred in his eating. He continues to prefer solid foods to puree and relishes in sausage, kale, spinach, pasta, fish, olives, berries, and cries out to try anything and everything he sees us eating. You truly cannot snack in front of Owen without offering him a bite. He refuses to let a single mealtime experience or opportunity pass him by. In order to convey this, Owen squawks at us, opens his mouth as wide as it physically can go, and reaches out with open hands to grab hold of that morsel. He has started to make the sound for "more" and taps his fingers together to sign to us that he wants more, more, more food!
You might call us crazy, but it also seems like he can say "ball." This is perfect considering his favorite toy is a ball. He will crawl his way over to a bag of balls or a kick ball, grab ahold of it and start smiling from ear to ear. He cannot contain his delight and squeals with glee as he taps and bops and hits the balls between his hands or onto the floor and says something like "baa laa" while playing. His other go to toys these days are: a dump truck full of balls, shaker eggs, a book that plays the song Old MacDonald, and a xylophone. His grabs the little kid table in the playroom and reaches for his mallet and then you begin to hear the sound of the musician at work. This is the most hysterical thing to the maestro who turns about smiling and laughing and waits for his applause. Music and dancing are definitely the preferred activities for Mr. Owen.
As with every month, there were many celebrations to enjoy from Owen's first Valentine's day to singing happy birthday and FaceTiming with family around the country as they commemorated their own years. Owen tumbled at Jack's birthday part and played in little gyms throughout the suburbs of Boston as both a way to explore and learn and as an attempt to avoid these last frigid days of old man winter. But whether we are home or out exploring, Owen is in a very clingy phase where he prefers to be snuggled and carried about. When he is ready to get down, he twists out of your arms and let's you know that this place or this thing is very exciting and he has got to go! Like when it is time for a diaper change he much prefers to be doing anything else, so I am left sweating while I try to wiggle him into his new attire before he scampers off naked. No matter how wiggly he gets though, he is the king of the hug and cuddle. He nestles his little head into my neck and just quietly lays against my cheek while he pats my back and I think, okay let's stay like this forever or for at least the next 30 years.
David won the bet! For the past two months, we have been patiently waiting to see when Owen would take his first shaky steps. The deadline was March 11 for David's victory and on March 8th, Owen let go of the coffee table and took four caution and independent steps to me. And with that David won himself a pack of Dr. Pepper! Congratulations, David. With Owen even more mobile we are preparing ourselves for the inevitable fights between the boys. We have had a glimpse of what is to come. Henry will be playing at the coffee table when Owen sidles up and grabs a hold of whatever had been capturing Henry's attention and just like that chaos breaks out and they each dig their little nails into the coveted toy and cry out! Yet when it is time to read stories they easily give up their difference and sit down together to follow along with the tale of Make Way for Little Ducklings or Where is Baby's Bellybutton? In those moments, I know that they will be friends and siblings, allies and rivals, but forever family and there to encourage and protect and love one another. And, that David and I are there to help them figure out those complexities.
As the month closed out, Owen had an ear infection (his first), but after a round of antibiotics he gifted up with multiple nights of major sleep! Owen went down to bed at 6:30PM and woke for the day at 5:30AM and I did a dance of joy throughout the house. I will absolutely miss our nighttime cuddles and nursing sessions when I would wrap his little Tintin curl around my figure and pet his cheek and smile and marvel, but I am also really excited to be getting more consistent and regular sleep through the night...especially since his naps can be unpredictable (sometimes two hours sometimes 20 minutes). But no matter the "hard" times of this first year getting to know our Owen, it will always be a wonderful year because our son joined us, we loved him, we watched him grow and change and develop and share his personality, we heard him say "ma ma" and "da da," and are so grateful to continue to be able to do this thing with him and for him. Much love Owen in this final month before we celebrate your very first birthday!
I made a massive pot of lentil curry soup over the weekend and today I want to give that Melissa hug because leftovers!
Tonight David has some late meetings which means I have most of the evening shift alone with the kiddos and the last thing I want to attempt during the post-work-bedtime-hustle is cooking dinner. Plating it will be hard enough but I am so happy to have it ready and waiting once we get home tonight. And it was quick to make and delicious. Owen was crazy for it and Henry was too. David asked where is the meat?
Saute a diced potato, a diced sweet potato, a diced onion, tablespoon of curry powder, salt, and pepper. Add in a cup of green lentils and 5 cups of broth. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20-25 minutes. Add in some Kale and serve! It cannot get much easier than that.
If I am being totally honest, I promised myself that by this time in my post-baby journey, I would be active, running, eating only the healthiest foods on earth, and gearing up to run a half-marathon in February. The struggle though is REAL. Aside from a sporadic barre class, a random jog, or a few trots around the first floor chasing after Henry, I have not met my goals or expectations AT ALL. Life has gotten in the way of life, and I find myself delighted when the kiddos go to bed at 7PM and slip into my pajamas, glide under the covers, turn to David and say good night before 8PM. At the same time, who am I? This early bird, exhausted husk life isn't ideal. I miss reading books before bed, cooking meals greater than what I slap together from pre-cooked parts, and I miss feeling energized by my workout routine. The part that I miss the most is the "routine." Once the wheels are turning it is hard to slow them down, but I just can't seem to get those wheels turning!
Okay so how do I get moving, literally? In the past, it has been very motivating to put it out there. To share my goal and then to feel accountable to it in this big scary world of sharing. Here it goes:
- Prepare meals that will nourish my family and give our bodies the good stuff
- Workout 3 times a week
- Run that 1/2 marathon in February come hell or high water!
Maybe if I set these before the trend of New Years Resolutions, I will be more invested by the time that season rolls around.
"The Real Virtue of Setting Goals is Not Recognition or Reward, It's the Person we Become by Finding the Discipline and Courage." May this mantra keep me going!