Monday, April 04, 2016

30 Second Book Reviews: 2016 so far!

With the addition of kid responsibilities and all that time consuming parenting stuff on top of work, marriage, a social life, some hobby art classes, and the occasional Netflix binge watch, I'm reading less, but I'm still reading. Granted, half of these were audio-books that I listened to on my work commute, but those still count. So here's what I've read so far in 2016, you might find a gem or two for yourself, or at least a weird new way to fold and honor your underwear:

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo - I loved certain parts of this book and they've really changed the way I organize my drawers, folding socks, underwear and T-shirts differently, and keep certain household areas tidier. But honestly, I'm not unpacking my purse every night so that my purse can rest. I'm not thanking my house when I walk into my home, or god forbid, getting rid of books I own that I haven't read yet. That's just crazy talk. And no one who really cooks or has kids is going to have completely clean, empty kitchen counters. That's just nuts. But otherwise, totally useful and aspirational.

Solsbury Hill by Susan Wyler- I have to admit, with the addition of the kid, my energy for reading is limited, so I'm not reading as much heavy dark stuff as I used to. It's a phase I'm certain. But this was just the exact right book at the right time. Perfectly light, but well written, minimal conflict, windswept moors, likable characters and a lovely happy ending. Might have loathed it in a different mood, but got swept up in its romance. And it's got a bit of a story line based on Wuthering Heights but less silly and angsty if you ask me. You might like it. I did.

Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton - I adore Brandon's blog and Facebook posts. Joe and Xavier bought me this for Christmas and I've probably read it all the way through three times. Lovely photography and it lays out in each story the wide range of human thought and experience in a thoughtful and approachable way. I'll read it again next month I bet.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty - Fluff, pure and simple. But charming, scandalous Australian fluff, I enjoyed this audio-book and had some fun guessing at what might happen next. Read it at the beach or in your dentist's waiting room, because fluff is necessary sometimes.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates - After a group of fluffy, fun novels to open the year, I read my first serious book and was glad I did.  Poetic, disturbing, thought provoking and sad. I respect his gorgeous lyrical writing style and his challenging, repetitive reveal of the ongoing pain of being the back upon which the "white American" dream has been built, but I feel like this book must be read along with others with some kind of vision to improve the world rather than the bleak unchangeable world view Coates himself shares. Maybe this is my blurry hope as a "white" woman who has some belief in our ability to create a better more equitable world, but without some kind of hope to change it, why bother?

Parenting the Hurt Child: Helping Adoptive Families Heal and Grow by by Gregory C. Keck, Regina M. Kupecky, Jim Petersen - This book is a life line for families parenting children who have had complex beginnings in foster care or adoptive settings, it's been hugely helpful for Joe and I, and I've recommended it when our families have needed more insight about our kiddo's experiences, reactions, behaviors and background. I'll read it again in a month or two, I'm sure.

True Evil by Greg Iles - I love a good serial killer mystery and this hit it out of the park. Multiple killers, FBI agents, plotting adulterous spouses, you've got it all. A fun, frightening mystery with one of the deadliest, creepiest killers I've read in a novel in a long time.

The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child by Alan E. Kazdin - Another strong parenting guide, but this one, while useful, doesn't quite work in our situation. Though I highly recommend reading it to better understand kids and their thought processes and the flawed way many of us use discipline vs. punishment.

Silver Bay by Jojo Moyes- Thank god the acting in the audio-book was so good, otherwise I would have fallen asleep while driving and listening to the too long and boring first half of this book. The second half was great and while all the conflicts were tied up in an improbable bow at the end, I was so taken with the characters, setting and story that I didn't care. Push through the first half and the pay off is a joy. Plus whales and dolphins, lots of whales and dolphins. Just make sure you're caffeinated.

The Golem of Hollywood by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman - Started strong and lost me about half way through. Another murder mystery, and usually I can handle and enjoy a little supernatural thrown in for good measure, but this one jumped back and forth between two different storylines so abruptly that it was jarring and unpleasant. Eh. Weird. Disjointed and the ending felt rather slapdash.

The Delirium Series by Lauren Oliver - Ok, here's where I admit that I'm kind of embarrassed that I even read these books, and I kind of liked them. I love youth fiction, or young adult books now and then, but these just aren't very good and yet I found myself reading them, all three of them. I liked the second one probably best of all, but the ending was a disappointment. Now I don't know whether to recommend the series or not. If you like dystopian authoritarian teen romance, this might work for you, and while I thought plot device 100+ years into the future love is now viewed as a disease, and treated with a "cure" that sounds shockingly like a lobotomy, I kept wanting more history and world setting. Why did love get diagnosed as a disease? What tragedy befell the nation to prompt this response? What's happening outside of the US? I wanted more, even just to the Hunger Games level. And Oliver never delivered. And then that ending, all loose ends. So I don't know what to tell you, I don't need the "cure" to deal with any kind of love for these books, just a mild, friendly like.

Next up, in an effort to get my own butt in gear and start exercising and eating better, I've picked up Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project, and I'm hoping to create some new healthier habits, now that I finally feel like I've come out of the fog of that first year of parenting, which for me came along with weight gain like I was actually pregnant! So I'd like to feel better, and hope some advice from Ms. Happy herself can help. Now what are you reading, friends? What should I add to my library hold list?

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Snowy Yoda Easter

I think Easter is a perfectly lovely holiday. I was raised Methodist, and when forced to fill out a demographic form I will still default to checking "Methodist" for my religion, but our family are not regular church goers at this point in our lives. Some of my favorite church memories growing up involved Easter. Dressing up, getting new shoes, candy, kids in pastels running like mad in pursuit of ALL THE EGGS, but one of my favorite memories was flowering the Easter cross. 
A massive wooden cross hung at the front of our church sanctuary, all dark wood in a dark brick 1980's Methodist church. We had stained glass windows, but everything seemed dark in there until Easter. On Easter, that dark serious cross turned into a massive flower cross when a large wooden frame filled with small holes was placed over it. Then before the first service, all of the Sunday school students and teachers filled each hole with a fresh flower. The narthex smelled amazing when filled with those hundreds and hundreds of lilies, tulips, carnations and roses. Once all of the holes were filled with flowers, several of the men would lift the frame, carry it into the sanctuary, and carefully hang it over the wooden cross. It was such a joyous moment, filled with the sensory power of color and fragrance as hundreds of springtime flowers filled the sanctuary, reminding us all of why we were sitting there dressed in our Easter best, filling the pews. That's the kind of Easter I enjoy now. A celebration of spring time and renewal and time spent with loved ones. So we had our own version of that this year, plus some snow.
Xavier's got the Easter bunny all figured out, so we still hid some eggs and gathered his favorite treats in a basket, but it was more mellow excitement than last year. 10 years old don't always want you to see how excited they are and a little bit of cynicism starts to sneak in. But even in the snow, he ventured out in pursuit of the eggs and had a great time, ever present Easter ring pop firmly in place. I told him that all day  I could imagine what he looked like as a baby, since that ring pop looked like a pacifier shoved in his mouth.  He was unamused. After the eggs were retrieved, candy consumption had dwindled, and Joe and I had consumed some massive quantities of coffee after our 5:45am wake up, we lounged around in our pjs, the weather making us less inclined to get out of the house until our family dinner plans later.
So the boys watched some TV, played a little tablet, I did some drawing, talked to Grandma Becky on the phone, until we all got a little bored and Xavier asked if we could cook something fancy for lunch. Instead of fancy lunch, we decided we'd finally try out our Star Wars cookie cutters.  
I mixed up our go to 3 in 1 Sugar Cookie recipe, got the dough chilling in the fridge, and made my very first Royal Icing. Wow, that's so easy with a Kitchen Aid mixer. It almost felt like cheating, it took so little effort. And once the icing was all bagged up and ready, we waited for our dough to chill out and watched the classic Easter movie, The Wolverine. Ok, maybe it's not an Easter classic, but doesn't Wolverine fit in with that whole rebirth, rejuvenation theme? I kid. 

Once our dough was chilled, we rolled it out and started cutting. Now I want to be real with you here. These photos are adorable. My kid's focused attention, the fun with knives and cutters. The peeking into the oven to see if the cookies are done. Oh so cute. And I love baking. But. But baking with a ten year old, a stubborn, challenging, deeply independent 10 year old, is hard and messy and sometimes frustrating. It's not bad, but it's not easy. So much wrangling and instructions ignored, and eventually I just leaned in and let him do his own thing. Because they're just cookies, right? So he set himself up with a little jelly bean cutting station, and got to decorating, because the Star Wars cutters were "kind of boring and needed to be more fun." And who doesn't think Darth Vader looks even more menacing with red jelly bean eyes? So I'm teaching the kid some actual baking/cooking skill and he's teaching me to be less of a control freak in the kitchen, ok, in the world at large. 

Cookies baked, we could get down to the fun part: the decorating! We each took a turn with the icing bags, and we came out with some gorgeous Storm Troopers, some wise green Yodas, a jelly beaned set of Darth Vaders, some abstract stars, and crunchy delicious Boba Fetts too. It really was fun. And no 10 year old can be cynical when Mom lets you pipe green frosting directly into your own mouth at the end! 

So cookies baked we headed off to my dad and step-mom's house for family dinner complete with uncle and cousins and homemade biscuits, all the necessities of a happy Easter. It was a really nice day. 

The thing I'm figuring out with having kids at the holidays is that expectations need to be managed. Ours and his. I need to be less controlling about the plan of the day, I need to anticipate that the non-routine weekend filled with less sleep, more sugar, more people, and more stress, will almost certainly guarantee some kind of kid melt down, and that's ok. I need to just be ok with hanging out with my family without some kind of Pinterest fantasy of what the day will hold. Sure, I wanted a lovely family portrait on Easter. We all looked nice and showered and happy, and of course my kid stuck a blueberry ring pop in his mouth moments before photo time. But who cares? This is what he looks like. This captures his personality and ours better than some pleasant holiday portrait. So I'm working on embracing that part and caring less about how straight my Storm Trooper frosting is. So Happy Easter to you! Embrace the crooked Storm Trooper in all of us!

Monday, March 07, 2016

15 Months In

I've been a mom for a total of about fifteen months now. It simultaneously feels like fifteen years and fifteen minutes. I love it. I love it every single day. Oh, there are moments, almost every single day, where I think: "well, this sucks" or "why did I pick this battle?" or "How are my bones actually tired?" or "Did I really just say 'asshole' in front of my kid again? Yep. I did." or "Really, more laundry?" or "I'm wiping pee off the floor again." or "What in the hell are we having for dinner?" or "I really, really wish I could sit here and read my own book instead of reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid:The Long Haul." or "Is it bedtime yet? What? It's only 7??" or "Is it really that bad if he had a bag of Doritos for breakfast once this week? Ok, twice? Nah." And I think of all of the other parents out there doing their own version of what Joe and I are doing, and I feel like we're probably in some pretty excellent company.

I went back recently and read some writing I had done just a couple of months after Xavier joined our family, and man, I've gained some confidence in myself as a mom since then. I want to hug that early 2015 version of myself and tell her to just hang on. It was somehow both natural and shocking to suddenly love and care for this kid. And I was thrown for a total loop, for a few months. My identity and confidence were tossed around. My fear and anxiety hit new impressive levels. I wanted to cry, and then throw up, and then hug everyone in a twenty foot vicinity, all within just a few minutes time, and then shout to the roof tops about how wonderful and terrifying it all was. It was like a kid tsunami had hit my shores. I felt displaced and raw and new and scared and ready for it, all at once.

And then we settled in. We did. Just being together. Time. The beautiful simple sedimentary layers of bedtime stories, and long hugs, tickling on the couch, and teeth brushing and road trips, and school drop offs and inside jokes, and lunch boxes packed, and dancing around the living room, and tablet negotiations, and all those layers made us into a family. We settled in. Throw in some helpful professionals, and excellent family support, and here we are, figuring it all out just fine. I don't mean to gloss over the hard parts. They exist. They probably exist in all families, and they have a particular challenge when you add older kids to a family, but I think we're all doing really well, like shockingly "you've earned a gold star" well, especially Xavier. Most importantly Xavier. When people give me a compliment about it, I'm starting to actually be able to just say "Thanks!" and not laugh and give fifteen examples of how I've screwed up as recently as this morning. That's progress, right?

But we've tapped into our resources too. We see a family therapist. She is the earth mother, funny, wise, expert realist that we need. I've seen my own therapist, who can look at my face and somehow know exactly what I'm about to say, she is a gold star human too. And we've had great teachers and doctors, and friends and neighbors, and lots and lots of family who love Xavier and want to spend time with him one on one, so Joe and I can have the chance to "drink wine and kiss and watch R rated movies" at least once or twice a month too. (Xavier's description of what date night must be like without him.) And suddenly there is no doubt we are a family, and that Mom title has started to feel like mine.

Over these fast and frenzied fifteen months I've realized, good lord, this is the best title. Being a mom is a blast. Every day is more fun in some ways than my days were before. Not the kind of ways like I had before with free, open, luxurious stretches of time, but it has highlighted and brought more to my life than I even knew to want. So much. So much laughter in our house and car and everywhere, every single day. And yes, so much pain and joy and drama. Usually that brief, fleeting drama, Jesus, ten year old kids are dramatic, or at least ours is. But the emotions, good and bad, are just thrilling. Not adrenaline pumping like a good chase scene in a movie or a first kiss, but thrilling like seeing a whale burst out of the ocean where there was only flat gray water seconds before, or thrilling like catching a glimpse of leaves that have gone from green to fire engine red over a weekend. You know these things are going to happen, they just do, but they still thrill. To watch my child develop new skills or get excited about something new, or to get stronger, taller, more stable. It's thrilling to watch my kid get more and more comfortable with our families. To watch him develop relationships, to come out of his shell, to finally get our sarcasm (not appreciate it, certainly, but get it and mimic it disturbingly well), to open up, to start to settle in somewhere, to realize he's never leaving, ever, ever. He's taller and stronger, and he really needs some new pants. There's more of him there, and that is the best feeling. Because we helped make sure that would happen. We're all settling into our roles. And my cheery brand of positive realism has found its best role. I forget so much of the negative stuff so fast, and that works here. It works well.

 It took awhile for it not to feel like I was pretending to be a mom. Like someone wasn't going to pull me aside and ask me trivia questions about my child to prove I was his mom. "No, seriously, I promise, he's mine!" I get brief flashes of that feeling sometimes when people I don't know well ask me if I have kids. "Oh, I do, I really do have kids", but I still have this odd feeling when I answer, because the full story is so different from your typical family. And yet it's really not. It's so so different and so so the same. Just as all families are the same and different.

Anyway, since things feel a bit more settled, I feel ready to start writing more again. I'm back! I have no shame about writing mostly about kid stuff, I'm trying to compile some kind of history of our little not-typical family, so I've been jotting down notes and impressions and glimpses of my feelings/our experiences into a word document over the last months, saving emails and funny kid Facebook posts, so I don't lose it all in the chaos of the day to day. There's so much I want to write about and keep and remember about these first years and all the next years too. So I'm writing some, some for just us and some to share. Because families need their stories, especially new families. We need our stories. Kids need to know who they are and where they've come from, and Xavier has a nine year history that we weren't a part of, but that we can help him learn to understand.  He also deserves to get to hear about how our new family came together and to let us reflect back to him the ways we've seen him grow and change. The silly dances and songs he makes up, the friends he has now, the things he loves to do, the snuggles with the dog, he has parents to watch and remember and tell him how much he's changed over the ten years we get to have him, before he heads off on his own. Ok, eight years or so before he heads off on his own. But ten years just scares me less. So let's stick with ten. And if I write about our family and share it here with friends and family, I feel like it helps fill in that gap of nine years when we didn't have him in our lives yet, we've got all of those years to make up for when uncles and aunts and grandparents and cousins would have bonded and connected with him and us as a family, so if I can help our loved ones feel like they know him better here, then it feels like that nine year gap gets a little smaller.  All that is to say that I'm planning to write a little more. About parenting, but also back to our trips and lives and cooking and things that amuse me, and also as a way to force Joe to cough up his photos, so I can put them to good use. It's a little like coming out of a new parenting fog, ready to join the world fully again. So here we are, we're a family. I'm a mom, and a bunch of other things too obviously, and I feel like I'm fully back again.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Take a Trip Into My Brain This Very Minute

Things that are currently taking up too much of my mental energy with wasted worrying:

am i ever going to catch up at work
my child's lack of vegetable consumption
whether the elastic in this expensive bra will last if I wash it in the washing machine instead of by hand
how much i can write about my child and this parenting experience without revealing too much, but this gig is hard and hilarious and i want to share without hurting the kid
my weight and my seeming inability to actually do anything about it except stress and my top button is digging into my belly button today and i ate the discarded toppings from the kid's pizza last night followed by seven Cheezits he spilled on the ottoman
my dog needs his teeth brushed
is there an actual Harvard Review or Lifehacker article that would make me more efficient with time management at work or would that just waste more of my time and i'd procrastinate reading it anyway
will i actually pass my huge expensive job enhancing CFRE test in two weeks
why do i feel guilty about taking a date night with my husband
my sandal is broken but i love it, so now do i repair or toss it
the tiny elderly lady who normally does any alterations for me isn't answering her phone. did she retire? is she in the hospital? did she die? will i ever know?

is there such a thing as a balanced life
when will i ever have free time again
why can't i just enjoy how clingy and cuddly my child is right now instead of feeling smothered
will my patience level ever increase
does anyone ever feel good at parenting, or feel like they're good at it for more than fifteen minutes at a time
should we get the kid a math tutor
why can't i manage to meal plan and prep for the week on Sunday afternoons
dying alone in a urine smelling nursing home
dying alone from sheer frustration while wiping up my ten year old's urine again
dying alone from the smelly force of my ten year old's well aimed farts
moving, will we? when? can we afford to? what about schools? what about kansas vs missouri? what about how the kid will transition? he has requested a bigger backyard and no trains too close and an upstairs, and what about how poorly funded our public schools are and the lack of diversity in other districts?
Man, I feel better already.

So what's running through your head today?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Nine Monumental Little Weeks

We've known and loved Xavier for just about nine weeks now.

Our lives are now filled with karate classes, PTA meetings, homework, bedtime routines, play dates, screen time negotiations, constant reminders to stop laying your chin on the bowl when you eat your cereal, keeping track of glasses and Spider-man socks and small gloves, reminders to lift the toilet seat and stop wiping your toothpaste face on your sleeve again, hugs, bedtime prayers, reading out loud every night, movie nights snuggled on the couch with blankets and popcorn and a tiny body tucked up into my side, Transformer tooth brushes, all the Legos and Super Heroes that can be packed into a small ranch house, and all of the questions about the world and potential disasters and whether people on TV are alive or dead right now, and what's the difference between acting and just real life, and why are there different states and countries, and what would happen if and and and and....
This kid is a carnivore. Polished off a whole half slab of ribs by himself. I think we have a KC BBQ lover on our hands. #latergram

Xavier can be confounding and lovable and needy and handsome and sweet and challenging and ours, he is so totally ours.

Red Bridge Skating Party!! Watching my two favorite guys, they are in their element.

In just nine weeks he's visited 7 states, after having spent his first nine years in just Texas. And he seems to like traveling and seeing new places, at least from the comfort of the car with a fully charged tablet close at hand, and the candy of his choice at the next gas station stop.

He is constantly asking questions. At least when he's awake.

He is growing taller and more solid everyday, and the idea that when we look into his little face it will one day be 17 years old and covered in stubble still seems impossible, and yet it will happen so so soon I can hardly catch my breath. He can live at home and go to college still, right?

If I smile will you leave me alone so I can play Subway Surfers?

He has embraced being a part of our family so quickly. Quicker than we dreamed was possible. He is already Xavier Sands on every homework assignment. He loves being our son, at least until it's time to bring in groceries. Then he loses all interest in being in this family.  "Why does this family make me help all the time? Why do I always have to carry stuff?"

He told me he didn't like this one because he looked too serious. I said it went well with the fancy hat and tie.

Simple things, like attending X's Valentine's school party, are so fun. Introducing ourselves as X's parents, watching his face light up when we walk in the room, leading games for all the kids, helping him address his cards to his friends. We are constantly amazed by how little things make us feel so happy. Mundane is still there, but we're still in that early stage where all of the new parenting things feel fresh and sweet. Except homework, homework sucks and poor Joe gets the brunt of it so far.

Sometimes we are the parents who love him and hug him and tickle him and let him watch his own Netflix and his absolute favorite people, and sometimes we are the most terrible, mean parents in the entire world. Both of these emotions could occur in a five minute time span.

He loved playing with his cousins in Madison this last weekend and wanted to know if they would be his cousins even when he had his own wife and kids. I teared up when I got to say "yes, honey, forever" and explained that even when he got married and had a spouse and kids of his own, they will always be cousins. Always.

X and J, battling, Star Wars style.

This weekend was a wonderful chance for Joe's immediate family to all be together for the first time with X. We all celebrated Joe's 40th birthday, and Xavier was surrounded by his grandparents, uncles and aunt and cousins. We loved hearing X and his cousins laugh and run through the house, or watch him sharing a gummy worm with his little cousin Tierney, without being prompted. Just a gummy worm, but it shows who he is inside.

This guy is loving the Fantastic Mr. Fox. So so glad. Cuss Yeah!

He was tired on Monday night after a long weekend and five hours in the car. His veneer of good behavior started to slip, and he began to turn into the little wild mongoose that all small children seem to be underneath when they get tired.  Of course he started to melt down at the restaurant we stopped at for dinner. Lesson learned. Drive thru only at the end of a trip, unless you want to lose your cool at a dessert buffet when your child burps in your face five times in quick succession and refuses to say excuse me or sorry. Drive thru was invented for this very reason, people. Though the truck drivers seemed very entertained by our argument next to the homemade cherry cobbler.

Watching him play with his cousins' kitten or any animal makes us feel confident he has a sweet, kind, soft heart under the sass. And no, kid, we aren't getting a kitten anytime soon.

This is all easier and harder than we ever imagined. Loving him, easiest thing we've ever done. Not yelling, totally the hardest. He missed the bus this morning because he simply refused to walk out to the stop when I asked him to. Instead he wanted to have a little conversation. He just sat down in his coat and back pack and started asking me a bunch of silly questions. I keep forgetting that I'm learning how to do this parenting thing too, and I keep beating myself up when things don't go well. But this stuff is hard. This parenting. And I need to always give us more lead time when we're going back to school after a long break. He stalls. And I need to build more time in so the stall doesn't leave me yelling and furious, and leave him standing there wide eyed while I yell. Since I don't yell often I think he realized it was a serious issue. He quickly wanted to know how mad my boss was going to be when I was late to work after dropping him off. "Will you be in trouble or trouble trouble?" So hopefully that won't happen again any time soon. Plus lesson learned, build in more time to wait at the school bus stop. Also some mild yelling won't break him, but it does make me feel terrible. I'm pretty sure he'd forgotten after three minutes.

Watching a documentary about honey badgers and reading comic books to his Mr. Badger.

I was beating myself up for yelling at Xavier this morning and was telling one of my best friends, and fellow mom, about the situation and she nailed what some of being a parent has felt like for us so far. "Being a parent is always painted as something super rewarding and fun and wonderful. And it's all of those things. But it's also full of unwilling compromises, disagreements, constant pull and take, gritty work, sighs and tongue biting." I would add tiny wins, lots of serious side eye, and some mild alcohol consumption when needed, For us parents, not for Xavier.

Evening piggy back ride. I love these two dudes so much it makes my stomach hurt. #latergram

We have zero regrets about adopting Xavier. None. Our lives, and Xavier's, were completely turned upside down just nine weeks ago. Completely. And it's been the very best thing we've every chosen to do. It's amazing how quickly we all are adapting. It's not perfect. Nothing and no one is. But it's starting to feel natural and easier, at least a little bit every week. Somehow we have so little memory of the time before we had him. Oh, we remember the freedom and the weekends to ourselves and we loved those years, but the day to day, it seems like it's always been like this, or at least it was always supposed to be like this.

I miss some of our old freedom and the time we had for each other and ourselves, but I wouldn't trade that for the heart swell I feel when checking on my child while he sleeps, or the way his tight spontaneous hugs seem to force tears to my eyes, or the quiet times reading together when I kiss the top of his head and smell his slightly coconut scented black hair, or the tickle fights or the times when we see his dimple pop out from his wide natural smile. It's not worth the trade. Nothing would be.

"Sophisticated Stripes": #stylemefeb Just being all fancy, sitting here on the couch, barefoot, watching my kid play Minecraft. I live for these quiet moments.

I think it's so easy to get swept up in the little stuff, the basic needs of all of our every days, that until I have a quiet moment, like in the car on the drive home from Madison, I forget the momentousness of what we've done. For Xavier, for us, for our families. I forget because it's a huge, important thing we've done bringing this little boy into our family. And it's also the easiest most natural thing, because people become parents every single day. And so have we. In many many ways, we are not different. And in some important ones, we are very different. And I'm trying my best to stop and remind myself that we are doing our best, and so is Xavier, and that's all anyone can expect of us.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Identity Crisis, Scratch that, I Mean Epic Change

I'm having an identity crisis. Except crisis sounds so dramatic. And my crisis is much more about laundry, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and buying school supplies, and getting big hugs from small arms when I leave in the morning. And it's not a crisis. It's just an enormous shift in every single thing I do, think and feel. See? No crisis. Just change. Because of this little face.

I'm a mom now. And it feels weird still to type that and say it out loud. And it also feels totally normal. And I can't quite wrap my head around all of it yet. I'm sure I'll get there. It's only been a little over three weeks since we met Xavier and he joined our family. But I'm still figuring out who I am now. I haven't had this kind of change in my life in years. Maybe never. Maybe there isn't a bigger change than becoming someone's parent, especially the instant parent of a nine year old. Job changes are big, moving, deaths, illness. All big. Marriage is a huge change. I became Joe's wife, but that didn't feel drastically different than living together or dating. Just more fun, more permanent, more stable, more arguments about dirty dishes, and new words to get used to. Saying "my husband" was so fun those first years, and it's still one of my favorite phrases. But the mom role, it feels different. Bigger. Earthquake level big. I'm responsible for this other small person, completely.

And I feel different. I'm unsure about myself a bit more than I used to be. I'm generally a pretty confident person. I adore my husband. I thoroughly loved our independent life before kids. I like my work so much and so much of my identity comes from the job I go to everyday. I love my hobbies and passions. But it feels different now. And I cannot say exactly what it is. I can't find the right words to describe it, it just is different. It's not just the second guessing myself about whether I'm parenting Xavier well, I'm doing my very best and I'm still constantly second guessing, but it's something deeper in my core than that.

I feel unsettled. I feel unmoored a bit. And yet it's not a bad feeling, just antsy. I feel floaty and outside of myself more often now. Looking in and wondering about how different my life and my priorities, and my sense of myself as a woman have all been adjusted so abruptly. And I think about our son all the time. And I worry more. I'm scared more. So much more. I feel judged more and nervous about other people's opinions more. My heart feels exposed. And bigger. Swelled up with pride and worry and need. There's so much more now.

And my emotions are right on the surface all of the time when I think about him, especially when I'm not with him. But when I'm with him, somehow I feel totally grounded. Totally certain this is where I'm supposed to be, and who I'm supposed to be taking care of every day. He has no idea, but while he's in taking his evening shower, I love turning off his overhead bedroom light, turning on the paper star night light that hangs over his bed, layering the blankets he likes to sleep under, turning down the sheets, and waiting to tuck him into this safe, warm, cozy space when he comes barreling out of the bathroom, still wet, still wild, and totally not sleepy yet. I like folding his little jeans and putting away his laundry. I love figuring out what music he likes and throwing it onto our Xavier playlist on Spotify. I love helping him figure out what he wants for dinner or lunch, because we don't know all the foods he likes yet. Or just snuggling on the couch when our movie night choice gets a little scary. Or watching Xavier and his dad work on Legos for an hour. This all feels right to me. It doesn't feel weird at all. I want to hug and kiss this boy all day long, or at least in the five minute increments he'll allow in the early morning and late at night.

But when I think about how epic the change is to our lives or when I'm back to doing the normal work things or social things or just life things I've always done, they don't feel the same. I'm off kilter. I'm sure that feeling will slowly go away, but it will never feel like it did before. I'll never be the same person I was before. I grieve that a little.

I guess this makes me one of those "mommy bloggers" now.  But that term can be derisive and demeaning so often, and this is important to me. I need an outlet to write and talk about the change, because it makes me feel less alone in it. Because it's weird, isn't it? Becoming a parent? It's the strangest feeling. The best feeling, and one of those experiences that you can't describe to someone else who isn't a parent yet. I used to feel slightly condescended to when my very kind and wonderful friends talked about their own experiences of becoming parents. They didn't intend to be condescending, they were just stating the facts.  Phrases like "you'll understand when you have kids" can sound flippant and patronizing. But damn it, if it isn't true. I'll try my best to not be flippant or patronizing to my friends who don't have kids, just as mine did to me. Because a life with kids or a life without kids, one isn't a superior choice or a better life over the other. Both ways can be amazing and beautiful and hard and exciting if you do it right. So I'll get there. I'm figuring it out as we go. And goodness, if being a mom isn't the best trip I've ever signed up for.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Things I've learned after being a mom for two whole weeks:

My nine year old son is adorable and reserved, and some days just watching him sleep is enough to make me cry.

We need more cups with lids.  

I feel like I've known him forever and he absolutely belongs in our family.

And then I'll suddenly be reminded of how much of his day to day life up until now we know very little about. We know the big stuff, but the little stuff we don't. Like what movies has he seen? What was his favorite toy as a toddler?

Not all kids see the beauty in taking apart Legos after they've already been put together.

He is an expert eye roller, button pusher, negotiator and video game trash talker. Like most nine year olds.

He and our Scottie dog Mac were instant best friends.

He has such a generous and kind heart, plus the sass and blatant disregard for what we are asking him to do at any given moment.

I've colored and drawn more in the last few days than in years. I've loved it as much as he has.

My level of exhaustion is something I only vaguely remember from pulling a couple of all nighters in college, only minus the three hour nap the next day, and make that several all nighters in a row. And he's not even a newborn.

Boys burp and fart with abandon and find each of these activities as funny as I find David Sedaris.

The constant alertness and wariness and watching him and making sure he's safe and clean and being smart and not eating his egg drop soup like an angry wombat is something that you just don't completely get until you're a parent. You think you do, you don't.

Christmas is so much louder, earlier, gigglier, and more magical than before. Seeing my kid's face light up talking about Santa was the best. But I did miss a little napping and reading this year.

Sharing our kid with our extended family has been such a joy. Watching Xavier click with his uncles and cousins and hug his three grandmas, high five his two grandpas, it made me smile wide every time. Ok, I cried some too. I'm a wuss.
The love I have for him is intense and overwhelming sometimes, and then it's often immediately followed by simmering frustration or unbridled bafflement. But the love itself never goes anywhere. It's there, helping you tamp down the desire to scream "Stop being such an asshole!" at your long eyelashed, dimpled kiddo smiling with mischievous glee.

I want so much for him in his life. And thinking farther ahead than just a few weeks or months is more than I can handle right now.

Watching my husband be a dad is the best. He's firm and gentle and so warm with him. It makes me love him more than I can say. And believe me, I already had a serious thing for the guy.

Our family is so new. So fragile, and yet I think it is built with three stubborn, strong, bright, independent, and most of all, loving people. 

And this kid is the toughest, most amazing little person. I feel like our biggest job as parents is going to be helping him shed the behaviors that have been important to his survival in the past, but will get in the way of his happy future. And I think the three of us can do it together. With the loving support and encouragement of our family and friends. I feel like we're all going to need pretty sturdy helmets for the ride ahead. But what an exciting long ride it's going to be! I'm so glad he's ours. And I'm so proud to be Xavier's mom.