Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Three Marches

 Holden - Today

Just like that, a year has gone by. Today as I danced with Holden, I tried to cement his squeals of delight in my mind so I will remember them when he is twelve and I am 43. I concentrated hard while also trying not to cry. I can't say that 2026 sounds all that far off to me.

Brandon - March 2013

I thought about the years ahead of us. Brandon starts kindergarten in 2017. That means he is already halfway through his non-school years. He will graduate high school in 2030 - 29 years after I did. Holden in 2032 - 31 years after me. I remember the hospital band I wore when each of my sons were born. I remember looking at the one I wore in 2012 and thinking, "wow, I'm 29." And then with Holden, when I was in my thirties, that was really a dose of reality.

March 1984

I remember so much about my childhood and adolescence and early adulthood and have always thought of myself as one of the young generation. But I'm not. There are generations after me and kids I used to babysit are getting married and having kids and this year my daughter is turning ten. Both as a kid and as an adult, time slips by us: a day here compounded with the day after and the day after. And pretty soon you're looking at old photos thinking, shit, that was that long ago? It goes quickly, this life we're given. So damn quickly.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Early riser and the injured

Brandon is the earliest riser in this house. Every morning, he is up around 6 a.m. I try to cajole him into going back to bed - I read to him, lay in bed with him. Nothing works. He is up that early. So since brother is, so is Holden. He is forever trying to be big like his brother.

These two could spin around on the desk chair for hours if I would indulge them.
Brandon hurts Holden from time to time. He doesn't understand that one day soon Holden will be just as big and strong as him and will very likely come up to him and whap him a few times for all the injuries he sustained before he could defend himself.
Their first year together is coming to a close. This next one should be full of more scheming, playing together, and yes, fighting too I suppose.

Friday, February 27, 2015

infinite love

I didn't know how well I would do at parenting more than one kid, in all honesty. I will never forget being at the hospital, about to deliver Holden, and crying that I wasn't with Brandon. He is my first son, the child who made me a mother, the first baby I could call my own. Him and I forged through his babyhood together - new territory for each of us. He fell asleep in my arms each night, exhausted from all the adventures of the day. I fell in love with every single thing about him - his temperament, his smiling eyes, his willpower. How could I ever love a child that fiercely again?

And at first, maybe it was harder with Holden: none of the territory being new, just the same but different in a way that annoyed me for being unexpected. I thought he would be a duplicate of Brandon - a doppelgänger, just two years younger. He would be baby Brandon - a time capsule that arrived two years later than the original. When he wasn't, I was miffed that I was starting over from scratch - that my previous experience was of little to no value. I loved him, certainly, but found myself looking forward to each milestone of what comes next, rather than enjoying the stage he was currently in.

Ah, second children truly are unique. I am a second child. I am married to a second child. I understand their feelings of inadequacy, of less love, of being one in a list, rather than the start of it. They seem to find their own way, apart from the people around them - a way to stick out amongst a crowd. They find what they are passionate about it and pursue it to distinguish themselves. They seem less emotional, but every second child I know is actually extremely emotional, just inwardly more so than outwardly.

As time has marched on and my second son has turned from a baby to a tiny boy, I am falling madly in love with him the way I did with Brandon, but also so very differently. I remember as kids we would ask our parents which one of us was their favorite (didn't all kids do that?) and they would each say they loved us all equally. I thought that was bull shit as a ten-year-old because to me everything was black-and-white, yes or no. And although yes, I realize there are personalities a person tends to gravitate towards because they have so much in common or because they perfectly balance out what is lacking in the other, that doesn't make a love stronger or greater, just different because their relationship is so relatable or opposite.

Holden is so opposite of Brandon in every imaginable way, and although at first I thought to love equally they would have to be the same, I have learned that what I love so much about them is their differences. I smile at Brandon's caution: his carefulness and deliberation. And then I laugh at Holden's wild abandon. I praise Brandon's newest verbal accomplishment and Holden's kinesthetic one. I watch them learn the same things, but in their own ways. I wonder at how teachers can teach a roomful of kids the same way when I have only two kids and they both learn so differently.

I have found in the past year that you will love each of your children fully for who they are, which is first and foremost, your children. They are a tiny sliver of us that actually makes up so much of who we become. We marvel at what we see of ourselves in them, rarely realizing what small part of them has become a great part of us. They change us for the better, turn us joyful like children again, and teach us that love is infinite.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

11 months old and an old teddy

 Just one more month until this baby turns a year old!
Hold on, I just dropped something. 
 This teddy bear was mine when I was little. I love to see it getting love again.
Alone yet together. The best way to be, in my opinion.
I can see him as a 19-year-old in this picture. He is a handsome ladies' man. He might pick at the acoustic guitar a little to impress them.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Filled emptiness

Last night, we tried going out to dinner with both of our kids. I can count on my fingers how many times this has happened because it takes a pretty rare blend of gumption and optimism from both Steve and me to attempt this feat. Our children are kids, after all, and the beautifully irritating thing about children is that you just don't know what they're going to do. At first, it was decent. I won't say delightful, but about as close to that as you can get with two children under three.

But by the end of the meal, "delightful" was the last word I would use to describe the experience. Both Steve and I looked at a couple dining without children, envied their uninterrupted conversation, their eye contact, their quickly-consumed cocktails. "You don't know how good you have it!" I wanted to tell them. I wanted to warn them against procreating. "I don't know why everyone thinks having kids is the key to happiness," I grumbled on the ride home. '"The rest of the world will procreate, you don't need to - save yourself," I'll tell the next person I know who gets married,' I said.

And I went to bed still feeling that way. I pitied in my loss of everything that was once so important to me, giving absolutely no thought to everything I've gained by becoming a parent.

And then this afternoon, I watched the baby and the toddler play together, Brandon explaining things to Holden the way he does. I looked around the toy room that a few years ago sat empty except for the rare occasion when I did a puzzle on the table. I thought of the rooms that now belong to our children that used to be Guest Room #2 and an empty room with a folding chair and an unused desk. I realized that in having children you lose solitude and serenity. That is very certain. There is no quiet peace, to be sure. Not ever, if they are awake. But you gain a joyful noise. No, it's not always joyful, to be sure, but noise is the opposite of silence - it means exuberance and jubilation, or sometimes chaos and destruction. Sometimes it means anger, sometimes it means happiness. But it is something.

Silence is peaceful, but it is also empty.
Noise is loud, but it is also fulfilling.

Noise means you're doing something. And parenting is a pretty damn big job you are doing. All I would be doing if I didn't have kids is living the same as I was, without much change from one day, one week, one month, one year to the next. And yes, I will have that again, when my children have outgrown me. But for now, they haven't. And I am exuberant that they have filled this once-too-big house with just the right amount of noise and chaos. That they have filled boring old black-and-white me with some color and glitter. These are the best days of my life. One day I will look back on these days with only fond memories - time having dwarfed the stress and magnified the joy.

One day, I will sit at a restaurant sans kids and look over at a young couple struggling to keep their infant in a high chair and their toddler at the table. I will take a sip of my cocktail and smile that they get that color and glitter in their lives. Loud? Oh yes. But just like when you're always around noise you crave silence, I'm sure I will learn that when you live in silence you crave noise. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

'Round here

 Brandon is potty-trained! At home, during the day, that is. So no, not really, but I am counting it. It is a beautiful thing to only change one child's diapers. I'm wondering how soon I can start Holden. Could we finish out 2015 without diapers, for example? I think I'll try with him around 18 months.

You'll notice the difference in Brandon's hair in these two pictures (the one below is from last week). It took me most of Saturday morning to give him a haircut because he refuses to let the electric clippers anywhere near his head and he has quite a bit of hair. 
These two becoming friends is the sweetest thing.
Holden is getting a teeny bit less screechy and sleeping a bit better. These must be the better days ahead that people were telling me about! Thankfully. I have been waiting!

Friday, February 13, 2015


People used to tell me they had to work harder than I did to do equally well in school. I thought if you just put in the same effort, the outcome would be the same. Studying and memorizing, reading and comprehending - what's not to get? I thought. But the truth is, I didn't put in that much effort. School really did come easy for me (disclaimer: I never took a tough course and majored in English, so don't think for a second that I'm some sort of genius).

I didn't understand that our brains and emotions are wired differently and we excel in different areas as a result. Too bad the area I excel in is pretty pointless in the real world, right? I can memorize a lot of stuff or remember capitals, but now I'm an adult and am quickly finding out there are many other ways people are wired that could be much more beneficial for me. I am now realizing that what comes easy to some people comes harder for me.

Like parenting, for example. There are these women that are born to be mothers. Everyone knows it about them: they are nurturing and selfless and domesticated and patient. They took care of their younger siblings and liked playing with dolls. They usually get married young and start procreating immediately after marriage. They might even puree their own baby food and have casseroles ready in the freezer. They map out meals for the week and laugh about the missing socks while folding the laundry.

Then there are people like me who don't fit any of that criteria. We waited five years after marriage to get pregnant. And while some people think those five years might have prepared us for children, all it really did was push me further into my selfishness. I grew accustomed to being able to sleep in every weekend, having plenty of time to myself. I basked in solitude and spent time doing as I pleased. I found a job niche rather than working towards domesticity.

And besides those five years, there are qualities I have that I have always had that don't pair well with motherhood. For example, I am impatient. Very impatient. I actually get agitated when people don't respond to me immediately. Another thing: I hate loud, screechy noises. I shut down when people yell or raise their voices. And I am quick-tempered. I know about that advice to take a moment before reacting, but I don't do that (see impatient earlier in this paragraph). When I feel something, I immediately respond to that, whether good or bad. None of these are desirable traits in a parent. I know that. So when I say parenting comes harder for me than it does for some other people, I know why. I have analyzed this, journaled about it in my quest to become a better parent.

There are parts of parenting that I excel at: like taking them places and buying them things and photographing and logging their childhood. I love to read to them and receive their hugs and kisses and dance together and do puzzles and play in the backyard and go on walks to the park. But some of the other parts (ie: the bulk of parenting) isn't my niche. Like what some people just see as buckling a squirming kid into a car seat is cheek-biting frustration to me. Or the boys' constant crying and shrieking at each other in the car. There are women who could take all that in stride, turn it into some sort of game even, laugh while watching her kids in the rearview mirror. Me? I am proud that I didn't curse profanities in a fit of rage. That is my big feat.

But I'll be damned if I'm just going to accept my shortcomings and give up on becoming a better person. My boys deserve the best mom there is, and although I'm not that in the traditional sense by any means, I will do my best to be a pretty damn good one all the same. And yes, that takes a bit more work for me than it does for some other people. But hey, I guess all that work I skipped during my school years is coming back around. I am a 31-year-old with homework. Literal homework, this time.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

devilish grinner and the artist

Here are a couple pictures from January:
Holden is pulling himself up on furniture, falling, and hitting his head whenever possible. 
But his devilish grin is so cute and I can't help but squeeze him tightly and whisper to him that he's my sweet little baby. Sweet nothings, to be sure, because "sweet" doesn't describe him in the slightest.
Brandon loves to paint now. He paints basically every day. 
They are completely opposite in every way, these two. They keep me guessing every day, proving that you can't possibly have parenting all figured out. At least, that's what I tell myself to feel better about my own shortcomings.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Not ready yet

On Friday I had a phone interview. I wasn't really expecting a full-fledged thirty minute conversation about my past work experience and those cliché behavioral interview questions. I just knew it was a part-time work-from-home recruiting position. I was just planning to hear if the logistics would work for me, I wasn't really prepared to explain how great I would be for them.

It was comical how terrible I was. I pride myself on acing interviews, as if that is some sort of skill: knowing what people want to hear and saying it with nicely prepared answers that are concise and the slightest bit witty, even. But not on Friday. Not only was I unprepared, I also just didn't have any skin in the game. This is the first time I've interviewed without either wanting or needing the job.

I was nervous and kept stalling for time so I could think of examples. All the examples I used seemed so long ago that I couldn't recall any precise details, as if I haven't worked in a decade, when it's actually been less than a year. I was all the things a recruiter hates: I rambled, I spoke negatively about a past employer (still bitter, apparently), my answers sounded like I was bullshitting her (and yes, I'll admit, I was. I was too flustered to be genuine).

After it was over, I felt like I needed to do yoga for a second time that day because my back was all tense, my palms were sweating, and I just felt anxious. Not because I was pissed I botched it (I didn't care about that), but because having to act a certain way to please someone else makes me anxious. I realized on Friday that I am not ready to again morph into that second person you have to be to work a professional job. I am not ready to lie to people and to give a shit about someone's payroll deductions or to kiss the ass of some VP who I know is a dipshit. I am not ready to console some whiny lady or to answer applicant calls. I am too comfortable being myself to be that person.

It took me a full day to tell Steve and I had done a phone interview. We were out at a nice dinner on Saturday and I said to him, "I have to tell you something," in a low and mysterious tone. He looked alarmed, and rightfully so as that phrase usually  means pregnancy, an STD, or a dalliance. When I regaled him with the phone interview experience, he looked relieved and then said to me, "you're not ready yet." He's right. I'm not. And truthfully, I don't know if I'll ever be ready for that again. It's been nice living without that weight on my shoulders.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bookend child

Maybe our family sizes are predetermined. Maybe everyone is supposed to stop having kids after a certain number and you can tell when that is by when your "Bookend Child" arrives.

A Bookend Child is a child who is rowdy and rambunctious and hard to handle and already has the characteristics of a youngest child even before you've decided he will be your youngest child. Some kids make you want to have more kids. Not the bookend child. Your talk of "trying again" will cease sometime in his babyhood because even the thought of going through this again will exhaust you.

Holden is my bookend child. Before he was born, Steve always said he would like "two, maybe three" kids. I wanted three, maybe four. Actually, I wanted four. I am a product of a four-child family and I thought the sibling love was pretty awesome. But then came Holden.

Here we call him "nutball" or "menace" or "maniac" as our terms of endearment because he loves to destroy and terrorize. He keeps me on my toes. I actually break out into a full sweat when I change his diaper because he thrashes and flips over so much I get stressed out. He can find a way to hit his head even with my undivided attention. I can not always save him from himself. Steve asked me if I caught any of the Superbowl and I replied, "are you kidding me? I'm just trying to keep Holden alive for another day."

All that being said, I am grateful for my Bookend Child. He was my dose of reality that four kids just isn't right for me. I don't always know what is best and I can't always plan out my life in advance. I will work with what I get and ammend future plans from there. Life is a pretty constant road of ammending earlier plans, I've noticed.

The only thing that is constant is change.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Harper Lee's other book

I got some great news via text today:

If you want to click on that link, here it is. Otherwise, I will paraphrase for you. The writer of one of the great classic American books, Harper Lee, wrote another book prior to To Kill a Mockingbird. Sixty years later, it is being published! She actually wrote this one prior to To Kill a Mockingbird and the publisher urged her to instead focus on the flashbacks to Scout's childhood which is how we got To Kill a Mockingbird.
Harper Lee didn't realize that her first book had survived. Her lawyer found the manuscript and her publisher agreed to release the book this July without any making any revisions. Harper Lee has stayed pretty under the radar since the 60's (thus, some of us didn't even know she is still alive). As a book lover, and a Harper Lee fan (yes, if Steve and I had a daughter, "Harper" would get thrown into the name hat), I am pretty ecstatic. I will be reading this on July 14th.

P.S. I love that I have a friend who loves books and the English language as much as I do and uses "posthumously" in a text.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Be still

Today was peaceful. Steve had the day off work. We didn't go anywhere. We cleaned our house and made meals and I did yoga and ran. I read a lot of books to Brandon, he painted, and Holden got into everything. It was so nice. So beautiful. Nice to have a quiet day. Nice to slow down amidst so much hurrying.

You can get lost in the music for hours, honey,
You can get lost in a room.
We can play music for hours and hours
But the sun'll still be coming up soon

The world's just spinning
A little too fast
If things don't slow down soon we might not last.
So just for the moment, let's be still.

You can get lost in the music for hours, honey,
You can get lost in a room.
We can play music for hours and hours
But the sun'll still be coming up soon.

The world's not forgiving
Of everyone's fears.
The days turn into months, the months turn into years.
So just for the moment, let's be still

There tearing down
So we can rebuild
And all this time
Is just circles in my mind

So just for a moment,
Just one moment,
Just for a moment let's be still

The world's just spinning
A little too fast
If things don't slow down soon we might not last.
The world's not forgiving
Of everyone's fears.
The days turn into months the months turn into years.
So just for a moment, let's be still.

~ "Let's Be Still" by the Head and the Heart

Friday, January 30, 2015

If You Give Your Son a Brother

Brandon and I have been reading a lot of Laura Numeroff books. You know, the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series. After finishing, we make up our own versions. Brandon especially likes talking about his upcoming birthday party after If You Give a Pig a Party. He always wants cupcakes, balloons, and lots of presents, while I lament about invitations, decorating, and cleaning up. After he fell asleep last night, I started thinking about my own version of the book series based on the past year. Here it is:

If You Give Your Son a Brother...

You're going to have to start trying to get pregnant. That will mean circled ovulation dates, charted periods, and scheduled sex. 

Once you're pregnant, you'll remember everything you hated about being pregnant. The cankles, the acne, the heartburn, the irrational mood swings. You'll forget some other things: working out, eating reasonable meals, your feet. 

You will wish you weren't pregnant anymore for months and months, and then one day, your water will break and you will wish the baby could stay in a little longer. You will go into labor and curse and scream for thinking having another baby was a good idea. 

But then you will hold your baby on your chest and you will remember that it was. Some parts are good. Really good. 

But then breast feeding won't be smooth and you'll remember what you were cursing about. You will force your husband to go buy a breast pump which he will feel uncomfortable about, but he will do because it means twenty minutes of peace and quiet.

While your husband is out, your baby will wrap his little finger around your pinky and you'll forget what you were whining about. 

And then you won't get to sleep in any more, or sleep more than a few hours here and there at all. You will look at your older son who is skeptical and jealous of the baby with your weary eyes and try to explain that this brother is a good thing, while trying to convince yourself it is. 

You will read him a book about being a big brother over and over and that book will start to soothe the both of you once you realize that there are better days ahead. 

And the sleeping will get a little better and the older son will adjust to the little one's presence, and before you know it, it won't be so bad. 

But then the teething will start and the screaming will follow and your older son will say, "just stop screaming Holden Paul!" and you will laugh in agreement. 

And eventually the screaming will subside and the two will play and wrestle and roughhouse and you'll smile that there is this other person now that also thinks your oldest son is the best thing in the world. 

And chances are, 

when you start thinking like that, 

you'll think of giving your younger son

a little brother.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Playdate Material

Brandon and I might have met a Playdate Material kid at the park today (yes, read that like the kid version of "marriage material"). We go to the park a lot, and not just the park, but also to the children's mueseum, the zoo, and other places where kids and moms are often loitering about. And never once have we met a kid that Brandon took an immediate liking to. He usually acts aloof: playing alone or with me, but not with them. He has a slight air of superiority, if I'm being honest, and I might have given that to him with my constant praise of him - telling him how he is so smart and handsome and funny.

But today was different. Brandon must have sensed something in the other kid that he could relate to. It started with the kid coughing while climbing the ladder. Brandon looked down the ladder and said, "are you OK?" showing his sweet nature with his concern for a complete stranger.  His mom called over to her kid to cover his mouth, and said his name, Sawyer. I perked up immediately. A few minutes later, I was at the swings with Holden and she brought Sawyer over to the next swing. I don't usually chat up complete strangers, but I couldn't resist asking if he was named after Tom Sawyer, thinking we might have children with literary names in common.

And then, for a half hour or so, I chatted with this woman about her job, her son, her daycare (same one Brandon used to go to, actually). She was fascinating and had a good energy about her - not snobby or overbearing or frantic like so many moms are. Brandon and Sawyer chased each other around the sand while we talked. Holden, who usually cries and screeches and screams,
remained calm in my arms, like he knew this was important: me having another mom to relate with, Brandon having a friend who isn't an infant.

We went home as the sun was setting, and I felt a bit like a man who just met a woman at a bar. I didn't want to be forward and ask for her number and make it awkward, but I certainly wanted us to run into each other again. I asked her if they'd be coming back to the park, and told her we'd be by a lot when the weather was nice again. I hope she wasn't leading me on. I don't want to become some crazy mom driving by the park hoping for a sighting of the only kid and mom combo my kid and I have ever been able to stand. That seems a bit desperate. But if that's what it takes, I'm not saying I'm above it. Good mom-kid combos are hard to come by. Usually at least one of them sucks.