Wednesday, August 04, 2010


I write about family all the time on this blog. With good reason. Because they, minus the couple of eccentric crazies (you know who you are), are pretty fantastic. And because of the blended family dynamic, steps and such, Joe and I have a larger family than we would otherwise. I like this.  It means we have family scattered from St. Maarten to Cape Cod to Houston to Illinois to Madison and beyond. It makes the world seem smaller when you have family all over. And who cares how you're related when you all get along so well?

This summer we have had several crazy busy, entertaining weeks, packed with lots of family and friends. From our multiple Omaha visits, which I documented here and here, to trips to see my brother in Florida, now the family comes to us! The last two weeks have been packed with step-cousins, an aunt and uncle and more cousins.  It's been like a vacation in Kansas City, with work everyday but still, something great planned nearly every night. Which means eating out nearly every night, which means starting the South Beach diet next week, but that's another blog post. Back to family.

Our first visitors were Maranda and Isabell, my stepmother's nieces from a small town in Illinois. Maranda and Isabell are the bee's knees. They came for a week long visit with my dad and Kristy, to the big Kansas City, on their first trip away from their parents. I think they had an excellent time.

Maranda photo by Joe
 Miss Maranda by Joe Sands

Maranda is thirteen. Tall and lanky with curly dark red hair, freckles and porcelain skin, she has a sly sense of humor, a serious, responsible attitude and she's an intense jewelry maker.

Old cousin photo by Maranda
Photo by Maranda

Isabell photo by Joe
 Miss Isabell by Joe Sands

Isabell is a wild one, all ten year old drama and giggles. She loves to talk and shop for clothes and kick my ass in Wii bowling. My parents took them to the water park, the art museum, shopping, to the movies, out to dinner and we got to hang out with them a few nights, too. They toured my office and then spent the evening at our house, helping water plants, playing fetch with Mac, making jewelry, kicking a little butt on the Wii, and just talking.

Goofy Joe photo by Maranda

Aunt Kristy photo by Isabell
 Photos by Isabell

Most of our friends and family have children under the age of five, so it was an eye opening treat to hang out with older kids. I love younger kids, don't get me wrong. But older kids you can have a complete conversation with, older kids get my jokes and don't need so much hands on care. The dinners and lunches and general hanging out was just easy. And I think that easier part reassured me that I definitely want to be parent soon.

It's the silly little things that kind of confirmed that for me this week and last. We went out to dinner on Tuesday night with the girls and my dad. We ate mediocre Mexican food and joked about the huge cowhide hanging on the wall.  The girls had salads. Isabell was very specific that she wanted a salad that really looked like a salad (I think she meant iceberg lettuce.)  And then we went back to our house to make a little jewelry. Because what 10 or 13 year old doesn't want to make some jewelry for themselves? So around ten o'clock it was time for Maranda and Isabell to head home. But what's missing? Maranda's purse. Tragedy! We scoped out the house, the car, any place we could think of that that purse might be hiding. No luck. Maranda is getting progressively more worried. Her face is starting to melt. Tears are right on the edge. Her purse had her cell phone, two cameras, including Aunt Kristy's, and her medication. AAAH! I vividly remember that sense of panic when I was ten or eleven and I lost my purse, the twenty or so times that it seemed to happen. (I wasn't allowed to carry a purse again until high school, seriously.)  But we kept it calm. As Maranda and Joe ran around the house looking again, I called up the restaurant, and of course they had the purse and offered to keep the restaurant open so that Dad could swing by and pick it up. Thank God. Maranda kept her cool and the world continued to spin. It felt really good to be able to solve the problem and help that girl. It was a tiny thing.  An easy thing. But satisfying. 

Not a stripper pole

Last Wednesday night, Joe's Aunt Julie, Uncle Gavin and their daughter Kelsey came down from Omaha for a Kansas City visit. Just a quick Worlds of Fun, Plaza shopping two day whirlwind, with a couple of senior picture photo shoots thrown in for Kelsey. Julie and Gavin and Kel stayed at our house too, so we got to see them all quite a bit over three days. Julie and Gavin are a wonderful couple. Funny and down to earth, Gavin is one of the hardest working people I've ever met. And the man doesn't complain, ever. Julie is warm and kind and teaches special education, so she has the patience of a saint. They have three great daughters. Their youngest is Kelsey. She's seventeen and beautiful. Remind me to never be photographed next to her again. It made me feel wrinkly and sweaty.

God, she makes me feel old.

Fishy face
Kel is smart and confident. She wants to be a teacher, and because she has a huge heart, she'll make a superb one at that. And though she's got her wild streak, I'm pretty sure she's going to turn out pretty great. While she was here she borrowed my jewelry, dug around in my make up bag and just generally took up a lot of space. But instead of finding that irritating as I usually might, I found it endearing. I love Kelsey. I was happy to share my eye makeup remover with the kid. I was thrilled that she thought my jewelry was cool enough to wear for her senior picture photo shoots with Joe.  And we had so much fun running around on the Plaza, Joe taking photos, while I adjusted her hair or made her laugh, or chatted up the friendly homeless guys who called her a supermodel. Again, these older kids are convincing me that I want one.

The Supermodel

And just to wrap up two weeks filled with all these good, sweet, cool kids, we get the annual visit from our other set of step-cousins, the famous Logan and Mason. Logan and Mason have been visiting their Aunt Kristy, and my dad for years. They come almost every summer and we've got our routines down. Movies, dinners, miniature golf, lots of movie quote referencing, mockery and teasing, more video game ass kicking (we used to kick their asses, but after one summer of that, they practiced for a year and we haven't beat them since) and again, all of us just hanging out. Last night we went to dinner down on the Plaza, wandered around the Apple Store and Urban Outfitters, and then went to see Dinner for Schmucks. Movies are funnier when you watch them with Logan and Mason. I don't exactly know why, but it's a fact.  Plus they are both hams (and so is Joe,) case in point:

Cannons for the Win

Cannons for the Win

Tonight we all went to Joe's and my favorite Mexican restaurant, Guadalajara Cafe, per Logan and Mason's request. We took them there last summer, mostly because the owner will take control of your evening, ordering for everyone, all the while lecturing you about proper Latin flavors and ingredients. Plus the food is delicious. I love the fact that the boys remembered that experience from last summer and requested that we return. I love those boys. If I have sons I want them to turn out just like Logan and Mason.

So Kelsey, Logan, Mason, Maranda, and Isabell helped me get closer to solving this question:  Do we really want to have kids and shake up this good thing we've got going on?

And the answer is yes. This being around kids all the time brings up the occasional discussion in our house.  When we spend time with our friends' children and with our nephews and young cousins we always love it. It's the chaotic, bodily fluid filled, funny, sweet, cuddly frenzy of young kids. But then coming home to our clean, quiet house, coming home to our free time to pursue our passions and hobbies, our business ventures and our art, or just laze around, the kid reality becomes a little less urgent. I know we both want to have kids, but hanging out with older kids this week, I realized that they are fun. Not that little kids and babies can't be fun, but older kids are just such a nice change of pace. And lack of butt wiping makes that whole thing a lot more enjoyable in my book.

I think there have been three main reasons that we haven't been 100% certain on the kid front:

1.  We have been married for almost nine delightful child free years. We are selfish. Oh, and we over-think everything.
2.  Having kids changes every aspect of your life, and is really expensive. Particularly if you wait until you are of advanced maternal age and might need outside assistance.
 3. Our friends are incredibly honest about how hard parenting can be and we don't get to hear all the good stuff nearly often enough.

So I task you with helping me, parental units. I want to know more about the good stuff, and the bad if you must, of being a parent. Please post whatever you want to share, whatever might help us get a clearer picture of what one of those little people brings to your life. And I'm not naive enough to think that your story would be exactly what our experience might be like, everyone is different, I get that.

And to my non-parent people, why did you decide not to have kids? Do you regret it? Or was it just something that happened? Oh, and don't feel too much pressure, I'm pretty sure we want one, but I'm just using this as a good excuse to pimp you for your stories.  I'm dying to hear some of your good stuff. So.....your turn, go!


Dana said...

We were married 11 years before we had Ava and she rocked our world, in both good and bad ways. Kids are expensive, willful, and exhausting. Becoming a parent was the scariest, most wonderful thing I have ever done. And I normally don't give advice like this, but knowing you and Joe, I think I can say it in this case: Do it. It's the biggest adventure you will ever have. You will be amazing parents.

bethany actually said...

Before I share my parental dirt, let me say this: Of course whether or not to have kids is an intensely personal decision, and I firmly believe that anyone who doesn't want kids should NOT have them. That said, and knowing and loving you and Joe as I do, I think you will be some of the best parents any kid could ask for, and that your kids will probably be some of the coolest, smartest, kindest, most fun people to ever walk the planet. :-)

Being a parent is hard, yes. But I think you guys have been around your cousins and nephews (and honorary nieces and nephews) enough that you KNOW about all the hard stuff. You're prepared for it. You probably don't get to hear about the good stuff nearly often enough. So...

The things like poop explosions and middle-of-the-night vomiting and the constant worrying about your child's safety aren't really a big deal. For some reason, when it's your kid you're dealing with, those things pale in comparison to the good stuff. It's a little embarrassing and totally liberating how PROUD a grown adult can be about a baby's smile or love of smushed peas or ability to do a thumbs-up.

Having kids teaches you how to be selfless, how to put another person's well-being and happiness above your own. And that can only be a good thing in this world, and for our own personal growth, right? Just today I had a pregnancy-hormone-driven RAGE-filled temper explosion that got directed at Annalie and made her cry for ten minutes. It SUCKED and made me feel AWFUL and I never ever want to feel like that again, or make another person feel like that again. But when it was over and Annalie came snuffling out of her room, she ran at me and wrapped her arms around me in such a big hug and whispered, "I'm sorry, mama. I know you're having a bad day," and my heart broke in two in a really fantastic way. It's cheesy but the love you feel for your kids really isn't like anything else in the world. It's like love to the power of awesome. If it could only be bottles and sprayed over the entire Middle East we'd probably have a lot fewer suicide bombings.

Also, kids say hilarious things on a regular basis, which is always great for entertainment.

On an episode of Frasier once he told Roz that the great thing about being a parent, the thing you don't know till you have kids, is that you don't just love your kids. You fall in love with them, too. And it's so true. :-)

(Note that this is probably the corniest you will ever hear me get. I'm done now.)

bethany actually said...

Wow, that was a REALLY LONG comment. Sorry!

Snowfairy said...

In 2005 Dan and I had been together for 9 years and we had a fabulous life. Good jobs, house, in that year we'd been snowboarding in France, travelled to Rome, New York, loads of concerts, festivals and then I got pregnant and it didn't stop it just changed. We still go out and go places it's just at a different pace with a different focus.
Life is harder now though but the fun is sharing and observing the experience of life with someone else.

Katrina said...

For me- the best part of parenting is the whole teaching them stuff and well as them teaching me stuff. Must be the teacher in me talking! :) But its true. I love it when they figure stuff out from rolling to learning letters. I love seeing things through their eyes. Being able to play all those silly kids games you haven't done since you were a kid. My boys crack me up on a daily basis. For me the baby stage was the hardest thing I have ever done. With that said each year just gets better and better! And for the record I think you and Joe will make fantastic parents!!

Shannon M. said...

Everything about it can be overwhelming. But every day I am overwhelmed by love for these little creatures. I honestly never knew I could feel this way about something. It just blows me away sometimes. You and Joe have a relationship that Michael and I have always admired. That, along with solid help from family and friends, can make all the difference when getting through those rough child-rearing times. As much as I complain about my little ones, I won't remember the whining in a few years. I'll remember their laughter as they chase each other around the dining room table.

bethany actually said...

I was thinking about this today and I realized I didn't even hit the part about older kids. I LOVE older kids. I remember when I was a camp counselor being really nervous about my first cabin full of young teenagers. Would I be able to control them? Would they be too cool for me? Would they laugh at and ignore everything I said!? Of course that turned out to be my FAVORITE age to work with. Later in college I was a middle-school tutor for four years, and I loved that too. Teenagers can be a PITA, sure, but so can toddlers and preschoolers! But teenagers are so awesome with their enthusiasm and "grown-up" problems. I look forward to Annalie's (and Baby G's) teen years with excitement.

bethany actually said...

Uh, some of my comment got cut out there...that should read, "But teenagers are so awesome with their enthusiasm and energy and fresh outlook on 'grown-up' problems."


kassie lou said...

Ladies, as usual, your comments are wise and thoughtful. I feel both flattered and reassured that such excellent parents think that Joe and I might give it a decent go. Thank you so much for giving me the low down, with extra emphasis on the good stuff. This whole thread of comments has made me smile all day.

Bethany, woman! I think you wrote a blog post on here, you should take these comments and post them on your blog, they are that good. "Love to the power of awesome." Perfect. If that isn't convincing I don't know what would be?

Kristendom said...

Hmm...maybe my "mom from hell" post wasn't quite so well-timed yesterday :-). Obviously, I am always honest about the hard stuff. And I appreciate that you listen to me and continue to encourage me. Some of the cool things - hearing my kid talk with his ridiculous vocabulary, seeing him write his name without prompting - even if it is on the mousepad at the library, the relationships I've built with other people because of our kids, buying them awesome clothes that say their mom is out of your league and then seeing people's faces when they wear them, seeing them cry and knowing you can fix it, seeing all the ridiculous faces you make on someone else, art projects, and thinking about the person he could become - to name a few.

Jeff Muhlecke said...

Alma and I were married for 8 years before having Isabel. We are glad we had our fun, childless, selfish time. But, were ready by the time she came along. Kids are all the negative things you've heard (expensive, time-consuming, etc). That is far surpassed by the good, which can be hard to put into words, especially on the spot. But, here it goes:

• the look of pure success they get when figuring something out we take as simple

• listening to them develop into their own person

• having a "slave" to help clean the house

• knowing you have a back-up retirement plan in 40 years (or at least a place to crash until death)

• but most importantly, and the hardest to put into words, is all the cute and unpredictable things they do and say that just come out of left field

Bekah said...

Glad you told Bethany to write a post about this - it was awesome and I linked over from her blog. I feel like I know you because the Actually's talk about fun times with you often and post so many pictures on their blog - hope we get to meet someday! I really enjoyed reading everyone else's comments, too. So here are my comments on your excellent topic:

I feel like having kids has allowed me to understand much better how God feels about me and how well He knows me and this world and has my best interests at heart now that I have this overwhelming love for my children and have to say "no" to them sometimes to protect them.

Having kids also gives me an excuse to do fun kid things I might have otherwise forgotten about in my adult years - sledding, watching Mr. Rogers, playfully chasing, skating, rereading Charlotte's Web and swinging on a sunny afternoon.

It's also really cool having someone (my kids are all under 10 - so I realize this won't always be the case) who is fascinated by your hobbies and everything you do and wants to learn them and join you. You have a chance to teach them your perspective on life before the rest of the world.

Thanks for the pleasant reminder!

kassie lou said...

Jeff and Bekah, thank you for the thoughtful and insightful comments. Those are some of the exact reasons I want to have kids soon. Sometimes I just need to be reminded!

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