Changing and Rearranging

Happy September everyone! This time of year always reminds me of my one of my favorite blogs that I wrote a few years back:

“Autumn, the responsible daughter, gives us an extra hour of sleep. She paints the mountains in beautiful colors. She brings cool breezes that are a relief after summer’s temper tantrums and we revel in slipping on coats and curling up with blankets and hot drinks.

Then summer stomps it’s feet and refuses to stay in bed like a good child and it gets hot again and we all sweat for a week or two, determinedly drinking our pumpkin spice lattes because it’s supposed to be fall, darn it.”

We’re currently in one of those hot spells here in Atlanta, even though all natural urges say to consume hot drinks and wear cosy warm clothing. It’s also back to school time, and that ignites a fire in me to be organized, create a schedule for myself, and learn something new.

(Sidenote: when I said this to my husband, he chuckled and said that back to school time made him want to teach something. I think this difference is an excellent portrayal of our relationship and perhaps why we get along so well).

So in addition to our third grade homeschool year (!!!!) I decided it was time for me to get back to the books as well–or perhaps more accurately, the notebook and keyboard. So I dusted off the blog, gave it a new name to reflect life right now, and here we are. I’m excited to start writing about our life again, and excited to work on the novels and stories that got put on the back burner while we were preparing for and welcoming baby into our world.

(The baby who is, somehow, almost 10 months old. Man did that happen fast!)

When back to school season rolls around, do you get the urge to teach or to learn? Or just cut class altogether and go to the mall?

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I Really Should be Writing This Down

Today I went to the annual spring event at JC’s co-op. He is 7 now, on the very cusp of 8, and attends the drop-off program. This means several things. One is that he makes friends that I do not know well. I hear their names and stories about them each week. It also means we left behind friends that haven’t aged out of the parent-led sessions, where JC and I spent several years getting to know older and younger kids and I spent hours each week with their parents. They became my friends, and a few became my close friends.

Then I got pregnant, JC graduated into the drop-off program, and the time I got to spend with even the closest of those friends became minimal. In fact, the last time I saw most of these parents was last year’s spring festival, right after I’d announced my pregnancy and was sporting just the smallest of protruding belly bumps.

That bump, that little possibility of a person, is now a wriggling, jovial, roly-poly baby boy, desperate to keep up with his big brother even at 5 months old.

It was delightful to show him off to people who followed my pregnancy through Facebook and Instagram and stories from my eldest, who has apparently kept his co-op appraised of all things happening in our world.

Today I had people approach me and say, “are you JC’s mom?” And when I accepted that moniker, bracing myself for whatever was about to come next (because, let’s be honest: it could be anything from “your son just sang every word of ‘The Devil went down to Georgia’ for us!” to “JC told us all about how you went into pre-term labor at your baby shower and threw up just as the guests were sitting down to eat!”, both of which I heard today), I inevitably heard this:

How is it with 2 boys with such an age difference?

Well, I’ll tell you: it’s…fast.

Somehow I managed to go from barely pregnant to having a semi-mobile baby and an exuberant 2nd grader in a year that felt like it happened in a week. The breakneck speed at which my life seems to be going by is both gratifying and terrible. My days pass in a blur and I look up at dinner time and think, where did the time go?!

This is a stark difference to how those early days of first-time motherhood passed. When JC was small, I had not yet met my tribe. I had no other children, and some days, no reason to leave my house. I could spent hours contemplating his baby toes, his belly button, and I remember the late afternoons would stretch on for days while I waited for my husband to come home from work. With no older sibling to attend to and email and social media still a thing of the future (when JC was born I had a flip phone with a grainy camera and had no idea what life with unlimited talk, text and data would be like), life was slower. Now our days start early and I look up after both boys are in bed and realize all I’ve eaten all day is leftover Easter candy and an entire bag of mini carrots. JC has activities, there are math lessons and writing practices to be done, friends who make sure I don’t slip into introverted isolation, and family to share the moments with.

And yet, there is still time.

There is still time to marvel at the wonders of a growing baby: his unique and joyful personality, his chubby thighs, his infectious grin that showed itself at a mere 10 days old. There is still time for a snuggle and a story with JC, who despite his status as a big kid will still jump at the chance for coveted Mom or Dad lap time. There’s time to enjoy the connection my two sons have despite the age difference, then to wonder at the fact that I have sons. That I’ve been entrusted with the care of two fantastic and frustrating creatures. There is still time to think, man, I should be writing this down.

But just because there’s time to think it doesn’t mean there’s actually time to do it. There’s also no time to do laundry, meal plan, train for the marathon I want to run, or do much of anything outside the immediate requirements of motherhood. Some things, of course, must be done. Laundry, for example, or else the baby may be put to bed in an oversized “Someone in Colorado loves me and bought me this T-shirt” shirt and a pair of baby sweat pants (that may or may not have happened today). And, after visiting with so many old friends this morning and being reminded of the swift passage of days, there must be time made for writing, both for my love of it and for the record-keeping of the boyhood details I’ll forget one day as my kids get older. Which is why after I put the baby down after his 1:00 AM snack I picked up my pen to write.

I’ve got plans for this blog: a new name, a new layout, and a list of topics I want to write about motherhood and all it encompasses. But life happens while you’re busy making plans, so tonight as my family sleeps I jumped in with both feet. Because life is fast…and I really should be writing this down.

A special thanks to my readers who are still out there! I’m looking forward to reconnecting with you all. 💙

Holiday Photos and Other Realities

My social media feeds have been filled with photos of my friend’s adorable children, dressed in their holiday finest, sitting on Santa’s knee or posed, pink-cheeked and smiley, at a Christmas tree farm. Being the modern Mommy that I am, I also take a round of holiday photos early in the season–both for practical purposes (like sending them out in Christmas cards) and for assurances (how long will that adorable white sweater with the silver reindeer on it survive while on a 5 year old boy?). And I did get my one perfect picture: JC in front of the holiday model trains at our city’s botanical gardens, smiling happily. It’s the photo that most people will see, and the one that will most likely end up in our holiday memory book.

 

the perfect photo: how sweet (and edited!) it is

 
It is one photo out of 300 that I took that morning. The other 299 are him flying around the trains, making train noises at the top of his lungs, or with his face in a weird contortion because he never stops talking.

  
 Oh, and there are about 75 of him being an At-At Walker. Because, you know, Star Wars.

 

Yoga? Nope. At-At walker.

 
I really love my one perfect picture. But you know what? I kind of love the other ones more. Because they show my son as he is all the time–full of words and thoughts and movements. Perhaps those are the ones I should be showing to the world: the true images of my boy at this stage in his life.

Because, honestly, I’d love to see the outtakes of some of these perfect holiday photos I see online. I’d love to see the hundreds of shots it took to get the sweet shot. Except for your kid terrified and screaming on Santa’s lap. I despise those pictures and kinda judge you as a parent for making your kid cry.

Looking at all my photos this morning made me think of all the other holiday realities that aren’t always as perfect as they seem: getting the lights strung on your house (and falling off the ladder and cursing the very existence of outdoor illumination); having a big holiday meal (and remembering why you don’t spend time with these people year round and feeling sick from all the decadent food); and hunting for that perfect gift at the mall (while standing in line for 45 minutes while the cashier flicks her light on and off and calls out “price check at counter 7!”). I realize that paints a pretty bleak picture of the holidays. However,  you have to look past the realities and peel back the imperfect to get to what really matters:

Like spending a whole, beautiful morning outdoors with a happy kid and my mom and being lucky enough to capture every stinking moment of it.

Like seeing your kid’s face light up when you light your outdoor lights for the first time (I guarantee they aren’t going to point out the imperfections!).

Like the joy of eating your father’s pie at Thanksgiving–after all, no one makes it like him. The pleasure of catching up with people who have known you since before you can remember, and being surrounded by your own personal brand of crazy. We all have it, you might as well embrace it.

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There’s one in every family

As for standing in line at the mall…well, there isn’t much I can help with there. I suggest internet shopping, and then using the time you’ll save to make hot chocolate, find your favorite crazy relative and make some imperfect memories.

What is your favorite not-so-perfect holiday memory?

 

 

The Halfway Point

The year is half over. The year is half over. 

Apparently, I blinked and missed it. I was in Target today and the school supplies are out. My heart broke a little bit.

In January I made a list of ways 2015 was going to be the best year ever: goals, hopes, dreams. I thought now would be a good time to check in on them…before, you know, fall arrives.

Lets start with things I’ve accomplished from my list:

  • I’m going to publish a book this year. The Goldens will come out this fall and I just know (wink wink) that you’re all going to want to read it.
  • I read Judy Blume’s new book. Stay tuned for a review next week.
  • I have watched Friends and Gilmore Girls on Netflix. I’m not sure how this really accomplishes anything, but it makes me happy.

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  • I have survived the giant changes that have happened in my world, and I am the most change averse person on the planet. I am proud to say I only had to put myself in time out a minimal amount.

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  • I’m going to call my healthy living blog, Girl Seeking Healthy, an accomplishment…even thought I took a hiatus from it while we moved. I’m back to blogging there, so check it out!
  • Two of my best friends have moved closer to me–my very oldest friend to my very own city, and my college roommate to North Carolina. Still a bit of a drive for us to visit, but much closer than Long Island where she was finishing up a medical fellowship. And–added bonus–my BFF who lives in Denver just got engaged. Good things happening all around in the girlfriend department.
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Close by! In my city! Engaged!

  • My husband and I celebrated 10 years together this year. For better or worse, I’m glad I’m trekking through life with him.

And the things left on the list:

  • I still haven’t had that family portrait taken.
  • My “to read” list is still reaching epic proportions.
  • I haven’t been to the new reptile house at Zoo Atlanta. For shame, city girl!
  • I have not learned how to speak Italian or make my own pasta. Do you think it counts if I watch The Sopranos while eating pasta from that nice man at the farmer’s market?
  • We have not managed any weekend getaways. We did get a family vacation in May, though, so I’m not complaining.
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    Vacation! Does this count as a family portrait?!?

  • I have not doing a single crafty Pinterest project. And yet, I keep pinning…

So there we have it. I think I’m making pretty good progress but I still have a lot to do.

How are your goals coming so far for 2015?

Famous Last Words

This is my Dad.

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He’s been gone seven years today. Seven years since he lost his battle with multiple sclerosis. It was a long and ugly battle, and he fought hard. He fought harder than I thought a person possibly could, through a myriad of issues: a stroke. The loss of his limbs and hands. Blindness. It was his heart–the biggest part of him–that finally gave out on a beautiful May morning in 2008.

But I don’t want to think about that right now. I spend most of the spring thinking about it. Most people cheer when the winter doldrums are over. But the spring is my saddest time. As the months warm I start reliving the last months, weeks, and days I had with my Dad.. And I get overwhelmed by it all. Sometimes the fact that I will never see my father again crushes me, so that I have to stop and remind myself to breath.

I always try to do something special to remember my father on this day. But as I thought about what I wanted to do on this anniversary, I didn’t find myself uplifted by the thought. I just felt sad. And so I decided that today, in his honor, I would give myself a break and just not think about it. At least, not think about the sadness–today, I’m going to go remember before the sadness.

And, if you’d like to listen, I’d like to tell you about him.

He liked to hear himself talk. He talked a lot–with his voice and his hands. He smiled all the way up to his eyes.

He loved the Miami Dolphins. He liked the Falcons, too, unless they were playing Miami. On those days we would all dress in our Miami finest–I even had Miami Dolphin high-top sneakers. I was one stylin’ pre-teen.

He would pull me out of school randomly, and the secretary at the front desk would ask what the reason was.

“I want to spend time with my daughter,” he would tell her. And then he’d take me fishing. Or to get french fries. Or we’d just drive.

The summer I was 19, he, my mom and I went drove to Boston in my little Rav-4 with a puppy I’d bought on a whim three days before. We went to York Beach, Maine and visited the Lighthouse and he and my mom ate seafood that had been caught that morning.

His favorite Christmas movie was Miracle on 34th Street…followed closely by National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I still watch it every year and crack up. It confuses my husband, because it’s not typically the kind of humor I enjoy. But every time I watch it, I can hear my Dad laughing so hard he couldn’t talk.

After my parents dropped me off at college, he came back and had lunch with me three times that week. I went to school just under two hours away.

When no one asked me to the homecoming dance my first year of high school, he bought me a corsage.

He always got me a card on Valentine’s Day.

When I was little, I made him a coupon for “one Daddy/Daughter day, place and time to be picked by him”. He kept it almost 20 years and threatened to cash it on my wedding day. He did not. I found it in his wallet after he died.

He and my mom came to every single performance and show I ever put on. This includes the entire run of my first theater production in college and every marching band show for two years.

When I had written something he liked, he’d put a copy of it on the fridge with a big A+ written on it.

Of course, he wasn’t perfect. But who is? Heaven knows I’m not a perfect person or parent. But I do the best I know how–and I know he did, too. And in my eyes, that makes him perfect.

Just a few days ago, while my Husband and I were watching reruns of “How I Met Your Mother”, we came across an episode where one of the characters loses his father and then discovers he has a voicemail from him he hasn’t listened to. And it made all the characters think about their last conversations with their loved ones and the words they would have to remember them by if something were to happen.

I know I said I wanted to remember the happy today, the before. But if you really want to know who my Dad was, you need to know his famous last words.

I remember the last time I saw him quite clearly. It was, ironically, at the funeral of a father of a girl I had grown up with. We had all been close to the man and it was quite sobering. My Dad waved at me from the car window as I drove away. I’m sure I spoke with him on the phone before he died a week and a half later. But that was the last time I saw him.

I don’t remember exactly how either of those conversations went, that last one in person or on the phone. But I know the last thing he said to me. It was the last thing he always said to me.

I love you.

There was not a time in my life he let me out of his sight without telling me he loved me. No matter how mad he got, no matter how much yelling was involved. You never know when it’s going to be the last time, he used to tell me. Always say I love you. Perhaps this is a fatalist view of the world. Maybe thinking like that makes it hard to live in the moment.

But then it was the last time. And the last words were I love you.

And so even though I don’t remember, I know.

And that’s my Dad.

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What I’m Working on: December Edition

This fall, I had one singular writing goal: complete a novel during NaNoWriMo. All of my writing energy went into getting a rough draft done—and when you only have about an hour a day to yourself, that is no small feat. But I did it! You all know what comes after a rough draft, though: the painful, tear-producing process of editing. I plan to edit through the end of the month, and then pass it on to a handful of kind souls who have offered to read it for me. Once I get some feedback, I’ll begin the task of starting to shop it around. I’ve only made it this far in the process once before, so I’m both excited and terrified. Here is the description I listed on my NaNoWriMo page:

When David Graff wakes up dead, he’s surprised to find he’s not in heaven…yet. Before  he can make his way through those proverbial pearly gates and greet the ones that went before him, he must say goodbye to those he left behind. With only a mutt called Barney to guide him, David visits family and friends to wrap up loose ends and leave them one last happy memory–while learning a thing or two about himself along the way. 

So that’s my month when it comes to writing. It’s a light load, but it is the holidays, and JC and I will be busy little critters preparing for the big day. As a 4-year-old, he has really wrapped his head around Christmas this year, and I’m excited to introduce some of my favorite holiday things to him. Our holiday bucket list:

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I’m trying not to plan too much, because I want to see what he falls in love with and what he wants to do. We also take our annual family vacation during the holiday season, and this year we’re road tripping to St.Louis, Chicago and Cincinnati. It’s our first real “non-Disney” vacation.

For home school this month, I’m focusing on what I call discovery boxes. We follow Project Based Homeschooling, which means that JC learns through creating and doing what he is naturally curious about. When I want to guide him toward new things or introduce a new theme, I use the discovery boxes. I’ll be giving lots of details on these soon, so make sure you check back!

Christmas: Reality vs. Fantasy

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Sometimes the most imperfect moment becomes your favorite one.

 

I spent a good deal of my life in search of the perfect holiday.

I could see it all in my head: the big happy family, the perfectly decorated tree, presents beautifully wrapped underneath…and then the oven catches on fire because I forgot to set the timer for the marvelous holiday cookies I’m baking and the fantasy bubble pops.

I’ve realized the perfect holiday doesn’t exist. Because perfect isn’t perfect: perfect is embracing the reality and making it your own. My imperfect perfect holiday resolutions:

  • I will give up on the big family dinner. As an only child, I always daydreamed about the big family holiday experience. When I married into a big family, I was thrilled. Then my first (and last) big family Christmas dinner included Grandma flinging spaghetti at the wall to see if it was done because she forgot to set the timer, my new husband lurking at the door, ready to dart at the first available moment, and my mother in law asking me to take the family picture of her “real kids”. Note: She must have decided she liked me, because the year after I was allowed to be in the picture.
  • Because of the afore-mentioned crazy big family holiday, I will make a point to spend time with people who are important to me individually, and catch up with people I don’t get to see a lot.
  • I will let go of the dream of a pottery barn inspired front door and porch…mainly because I live in an apartment and have no porch. Maybe next year.
  • I will embrace the cookie my kid wants to make, and accept that decorating gingerbread man cookies and cookies shaped like trees are not as fun as decorating cookies shaped like trains and footballs every color of the rainbow.
  • I will not kill myself designing the perfect Christmas card. I will choose a photo that represents my son as himself, and not a posed shot. Instead of wasting time agonizing over the card, I will spend more time writing notes to people I don’t get to see often.

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  • I will continue to emphasize to JC that Christmas is less about gifts and more about spending time with the people you love. I will also try to drive home the idea that when you choose a gift, you pick something the intended recipient will enjoy…and not something you like. That being said, if he chooses a Lego fire truck for me, I will love it all the same.
  • I will let go of some of the traditions of my childhood. Things change, people move away, families become different creatures than they were when you were a kid. I will pick one or two traditions that are the most important and carry on with them, but I will focus on creating new traditions with my family now.
  • I will become realistic about snow and bad weather. The sweet image of my son romping around in the snow with ruddy cheeks wearing an adorable snow suit was never given much weight, because we live in the south, where it snows once every three or four years and absolutely stops the city. Last year when we got four or five inches, most people were too busy being trapped in their cars for 24 hours on the interstate to enjoy it. When I took my son out to play in it, he was not in coordinated Lands End snow gear—he was in layers of sweatpants and a raincoat with plastic baggies on his feet under his rain boots. Did he care? Not a bit.

(On a side note, after reading this list back over, I’m pretty sure Pinterest may be responsible for most of my holiday fantasies).

The holidays are supposed to be fun. The most wonderful time of the year, remember? So this is the year I’m going to take back the happy feelings and leave all the stress, obligation and expectations behind. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be outside in my four layers, eating the delicious gingerbread football cookie covered in purple icing.

How do you handle expectations at the holidays?