Thursday, February 28, 2013

And We Have a Three Year Old

Three years ago today, we met this sweet blue eyed little baby boy.

Who has grown into this sweet blue eyed little,  excuse me, big boy.

OMG, isn't he adorable?  

So before I get all mushy, I just wanna shout this:  We survived the 'terrible two's! And to all of you who told me, "Just wait until..... just wait until.... just wait until.... the terrible two's", guess what?  The two's were awesome!  Amazing!  Wonderful!  If his 'threes' are half as good as his 'twos', we are in for a fabulous year!   (Now why, on the other hand, didn't anyone warn me about the 'terrible two months'?)

Three years.  Three.  A three-year-old.  3T.  (Actually, he wears mostly 4T)  In some ways, it is unbelievable that these words are describing my little 7 pound baby.  But mostly, it's very believable.  When I think back on all the things that have happened in three years, the projects we've done, the places we've gone, the people we've met, the games we've played, the adventures we've taken... it's hard to believe it's only been three years.  My friends, we are busy people here in Spahnville.  We pack shit in.  We keep things hoppin'.  Until we need to lay low.  And we're good at doing that too.  Actually, we (the parental unit) are excellent relaxers (and we're trying to teach this to our child).

Most of this busyness is to keep this lady from going crazy, but it also forces me to constantly interact, to sit up and take notice of pretty much everything that is happening to Charlie.   I think I've mentioned before that I'm not crazy about the words, "Where did my baby go?" and "They grow up too fast!" and "I wish they'd stay little forever!"  In many ways, I feel that stating that their growth is happening too fast implies that I'm not around enough to witness it, which is simply not true.  I'm lucky enough to be with him for eight hours in the afternoon, which gives me the opportunity to witness his fine motor skills developing, or hear his vocabulary growing.  On any given day, I know which toy is the current favorite and what his newest "trick" is.   We've become 'buddies', which is pretty cool.  I think we actually really like each other and enjoy hanging together.  This is not to say we didn't like each other before, it's just nice that our activities are not just me watching him, or vice versa, and I don't have to necessarily entertain him-- his imagination is strong and vivid enough to entertain both of us quite well.   I honestly love watching him grow up and it excites me, not saddens me, when he accomplishes milestones and moves further away from baby and closer to grown up.  I love his personality; he's inquisitive and dramatic and has depth-- if a three year old can have depth.  He's thoughtful-- meaning, he really ponders things and thinks about so many details.  He's caring and empathetic beyond his years.  His heart is good, and I can't wait to see who he becomes and what he does with it in the future.

But for right now, here's a glimpse of Charlie today:

* Loves the color orange.  "It's my color"

* Has some crazy sensory issues:  #1.  Tactically Defensive (cannot handle clothes basically touching him.  Trying to get dressed in snow gear is usually a disaster) #2.  Optically Sensitive (I made up this diagnosis.  It means he hates bright lights and the sun.) #3.  Olfactorory Sensitive (I made up this diagnosis too but it means that he always notices the slightest smell.  "I smell some-tin.")

* Is cool with taking baths (finally!)

* Likes to "swim" in the bathtub and will even blow bubbles lately.

* Would eat sweets for every meal if possible, and his mood is directly related to his sugar intake-- it makes him super grouchy.  So, no sugary snacks during the week.  I'm so mean.  (But we're all happy!)

* Is athletic. Sort of.  Loves basketball, golf, soccer, and hockey.  We practice these a lot in the basement.

* Loves to be outside, but doesn't seem to be crazy about winter.

* Refuses to wear a winter coat in the car.

* Loves running around in his undies on the weekends.

* Is mastering the skill of jumping off the steps/ chairs/ couches, and is quite proud of this.

* Enjoys a good cup of coffee.  Especially his mothers White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks.

* Is obsessed. obsessed. with trains.

* Is a totally bookworm and can read for hours.  In fact, he uses reading to calm down when he has a giant tantrum.

* Loves Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  And Dora.  And Thomas.  And probably a zillion other tv shows I don't even know about.

* Doesn't like to eat meat balls, but will eat "hot dogs shaped like meat balls".  These have become named, "hot balls" in our house.  Yeah, let's just leave it at that.

* Is always willing to help me out in the kitchen.

* Insists on having milk and water at supper.

* Is the worlds best (and tightest) hugger.

* Has an amazing vocabulary and loves creating big stories with his toys.

* Wears his heart on his sleeve, what you see is what you get.

As his parents, I know we are crazy about what we see and what we get.  I love watching this little guy grow and change right before my eyes.  I can't say that the past 365 days have passed in the blink of an eye (no, we have a billion digital photos to prove the opposite), but they've gone quickly and have been filled with many emotions.  And honestly, they have made me so excited to see what's in store in the next 365 days.  Happy birthday little buddy.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Writing Prompt #5: Your Siblings

Side by Side:
This hazel eyed, thick lashed, brunette, with the long delicate fingers (and equally long and pretty fingernails), has been by my side for the majority of my journey here on Earth.  All but four years, actually.  She has literally grown up next to me.  Being the only children in our family, we never knew what it was like to compete for another sibling's attention, and we never had another sibling to run to when the other one wasn't being nice.  Nobody in our family had to experience being the "middle child" or was ever left out of a sibling outing; we were all we had.  In many ways, this fact left a lasting impact on our relationship.  We know we're here for each other.  We know there is nobody else to take the other's place.  She is the only person who understands what it was like to be raised in our family and the only person who can truly commiserate and celebrate the things our family has been through together.

In many ways, we're so similar-- being almost exactly the same height and having such similar physical voices and mannerisms-- you can tell we're hinged the same and share common DNA.  But if you look closer, you'll find that although we're nearly the same height, she's a smidge taller than me and her legs are miles longer than mine.  (It is honestly true that her hip bones come up to my navel, so we have decided that I have a really long torso with short legs and she has a really short torso with long legs.) Compared to me, her hair is a bit darker, her eyes are a bit larger, and her feet are almost a size smaller.

As children, we were good playmates.  We spent countless hours playing together at home and in the neighborhood.  We loved drawing and creating art projects, playing 'school' or 'house', or spending hours upon hours with our "Little People" or Barbie dolls.  These toys created giant messes in our house, and our father was sometimes a bit impatient with our inability to pick up the disaster we created.  In those circumstances, I can't imagine not having an ally to share the blame with me.

Now, as adults, we still are good playmates-- we craft, we scrapbook, we both love reading, and we can shop for hours--with each other.  (I have a hard time shopping with other people but love love love shopping with Sister.)  These shared interests have led to evenings spent scrapbooking, endless book recommendations, and annual shopping trips (in our quieter, pre-kid lives).  Unlike me, however, she's an excellent baker, isn't thrilled with athletic competitions like marathons and triathlons, and probably wouldn't consider herself a dog lover (although she insists she loved Maddy).  Our professional lives are both in education-- though she deals with students about fifteen years older mine.  She's also a fairly new mama, with Miss N just approaching her second birthday this June.  Having little ones so close in age has been fun for us-- even if our two cherubs seem to have completely different personalities and therefore provide much different challenges for their mothers.

Sister and her family recently moved back to our state, which makes me happy.  They never were really that far away, but 90 minutes seems days closer than 4 1/2 hours.  Although they aren't really "settled" yet, I'm guessing they'll at least stay in the state for awhile, which hopefully means that C and Miss N will be able to grow up with each other.  And as they grow up, I'm hoping Sister and I have a bit more time to do those things we really enjoy doing together-- those things that tend to get placed on hold while lives are crazy with little ones.

Someday, our free time will return (maybe?).  For now, we keep up with each other by talking almost daily-- sometimes for a quick minute and sometimes for hours.  We're at liberty with each other-- sometimes a little to much-- for siblings seem to have a free pass, silent permission to ask or say what nobody else could get away with.  Of course, this is assuming their best interests are kept in mind.  I can't imagine my life without my little sister, probably because I've never had to.  She knows me, really knows me, perhaps better than anyone else.  She knows the person I was, and who I have become.  (Sometimes, I think it's hard for us siblings to realize that we really have grown, changed, and matured since our childhood days together.)  She knows where we've been and that wherever we go, we'll hopefully always be there together.  

(Thought I should include some pictures)

We were pretty awesome, right? :) 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Writing Prompt #4: Your Parents

Aw, aren't they cute?

This is a hard prompt for me.  Not because I don't have anything to write, but quite the opposite.  I have so much I could write that I'm having trouble organizing my thoughts.  What do you say about the two people who are not only responsible for giving you life, but then provided a great life for you?  Where do you begin when describing two of the people that you thought owed you everything only to learn that they were the people to whom you owe the most?  How do you describe two people who molded you into the person you are today? I'm not really sure... but let's start at the very beginning.  (a very good place to start)  

These two lovebirds are high school sweethearts.  I'd love to get my hands on a copy of their yearbook photos but haven't had any luck yet.  (Sister and Aunties, can you help me out with this?)  I promise to update this post when/if I find myself in possession of such gems.  The two of them were born and raised in my hometown, and 'knew of' each other while growing up.

As I write this, I realize that I don't actually know many specifics of "their story".  How many of us know our parents' stories?  (Perhaps something to work on?) My dad is always quick to point out how nerdy he was compared to my sweet and cute mother when they were in high school.  He loves to downplay his strengths and always fails to mention the fact that he's pretty darn intelligent, was a good basketball player and golfer, and also had some great hair that complimented the late 60's/ early 70's era.  (I have got to find a picture.)  And honestly, I've never really heard my mom say much about high school other than mentioning how short the skirts really were in the late 60's.

After they graduated from high school, they both set off for college.  However, they didn't attend the same colleges, so they do have some entertaining stories of hitch-hiking their way across the state to see each other and keep their romance alive.  (Sorry, I just added that last part.  Ew.) Anyway, regardless of their high school and collegiate history, they ended up marrying in June of 1973 and have been together ever since.  Yep, you did the math correctly-- that's 40 years this coming summer.

Their story is not mine to share, and I know that it has had moments of serenity and moments of turbulence.  But they've weathered forty years together, and raised a family of two (fairly functional) daughters, two rabbits, four cats, and numerous toads, frogs, snails, etc. (as most parents probably do at some point).  Since they are really the only two who can recount their story, I can only share what I know of them and especially what I've learned from them.

I'm lucky enough to say that I spent my entire childhood in the presence of both my parents.  This is such a rarity anymore, for so many reasons, and I always feel grateful for the childhood that was provided by my parents.  Our family was by no means rich, but I grew up feeling safe and secure.  My sister and I were well provided for, but within limits that we knew about.  We were taught about the value of patience, saving money, and differentiating between needs and wants.  We were taught about the importance of education, regardless of your age.  I remember attending Montessori School when I was Charlie's age and I can recall my parents furthering their college degrees as adults.  We were surrounded by books, books, and more books.

I remember our family being active yet recreational when I was growing up.  My parents were involved in the YMCA, playing rec basketball and attending work out classes.  (I know, that comes as a shock to many reading this.)  They encouraged Sister and I to do the same-- and we both participated in Y sponsored activities like swimming lessons and gymnastics and dance.  Believe it or not, we even were involved in some sporty things like softball and middle school volleyball and basketball.  They encouraged us to participate in music and dramatics-- both things that Sister and I actively enjoyed throughout high school.  On school nights, they washed dishes together-- Mom washing and Dad drying.  We were not allowed in the kitchen, for this was their time to talk and our ears were not welcome.  They regularly looked over our homework and checked our backpacks for "important" things.  They both helped us study for tests and quizzes-- Dad taking on Social Studies and Math, while Mom was always responsible for Reading, English, and Science.  On the weekends, we often went on outings as a family.  Sometimes this meant picking apples at an orchard miles away, or just hiking through a local nature preserve on the east side of town.  They were involved and invested in our lives, though not to the point of helicoptering over us or rescuing us from our own mistakes.  They didn't attend every single class activity or lesson or extra curricular event, but we knew they cared and supported us and would attend when they could.  

Of course, as a kid, I didn't agree with every decision they made.  And even now, I look back on some of their parenting choices and decisions and feel that I would have made different ones.  But throughout it all, I do know that the choices they made were in the best interest of Sister and me.

While my parents and I have never had that 'best friend' relationship, I do think that we have a tight bond and we do enjoy each other's company.  As you might expect, this really started happening more after I graduated from college-- right around the time when it dawned on me that my parents are actually people-- not just my parents.  They have real feelings, trials and tribulations, hobbies and interests just like me.  Man, was that an epiphany!

I'm proud of my parents for who they are and who they continue to be.  They are educated, professionals, and active in their community.  They have many interests and hobbies (reading, golfing, exercising, going to movies, playing the violin, gardening) and they commit to many civc duties (city council, volunteering, active church members, school board).  They are some of the only parents I know who train for half marathons and triathlons and think a little 20 mile bike ride around Lake Okoboji is something normal to do on any given summer day.  They've mentioned before that all this activity helps keep them young-- and helps them keep up with the little ones in their lives.

Right now, it's these little ones who are clearly a priority in their lives.  The role of grandparents is  something they both highly anticipated and looked forward to.  Judging by the way they interact with C and Miss N, they couldn't be happier as grandparents-- and they are great at playing that role.  (I must point out that things do change though.  Things like bedtimes and schedules and healthy food...things that were so important to these people as parents are now so trivial to them as grandparents.)  

Just like their views on kids and health food, our relationship has changed with time.  I'll never agree with 100% of what my parents say and do, and I'm pretty sure the same holds true for them.  I'll never fully understand why they made the parenting decisions the way they did, but I know that they always tried their best.  When it comes to parenting, I look at my parents' example constantly.  There are so many things I want to duplicate when it comes to raising my own child, and of course, there are things I want to do differently.  This is the beauty of generations.  I have no doubt that Charlie will someday be thinking something similar if he choses to have children.  And if that day comes, I hope that he knows that his daddy and I are doing our best, making the decisions we hope are best for him at the moment-- just like his grandparents did for his mama.

Sharpening the Saw

"There are things you do because they feel right & they make no sense & they may make no money & it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other & to eat each other's cooking & say it was good." --Brian Andreas

You may remember that one of my goals for 2013 is to do more for myself.  Even though January was not the greatest month for us here in Spahnville, I've managed to keep busy doing things that I really enjoy.  I've scrapbooked a lot, I've done some more knitting (thanks to those of you baby producers who keep my fingers busy!), I've done a lot of reading, I've done some writing, and I've done some thinking about creative things to do with Charlie.  And while I've enjoyed doing these things, I've had this nagging thought in the back of my mind that keeps asking me why I keep wasting my time with this stuff.  It's not making me any money and some of the things (like the hats) aren't even for me to keep. Shouldn't I be pouring my energy into something more productive?  Something more lucrative? Shouldn't I be doing more for our family?

I supposed I could be spending what has become my "creative time" doing things like organizing or cleaning, but I don't feel any better when that is accomplished.  And something about that creative outlet seems to keep me balanced.  When I ran across the above quote, I instantly felt like it explained my current feelings.  Maybe hanging out with my family and doing crafts is okay.  Maybe taking care of myself right now is what I need to be doing.  It's no secret that I enjoy being outdoorsy and artsy and crafty, but perhaps a little more unknown is how much I love writing and have always had a secret desire to become "a writer".  In a way, this blog has become such a great outlet for my ramblings.  It's a place for me to write, and also a place for others to keep an eye on Spahnville-- however entertaining or tedious that may be.  Although several people know that I enjoy writing, I've only admitted to two friends that I'm actually interested in "doing it". But honestly, I don't even really know what that means.

When I was a child, I thought my love for writing meant that I was going to be an author.  (Aside from a veterinarian)  I dreamt about living in Vermont (or was it Maine?) in a log cabin with three Golden Retrievers (who were apparently going to serve as my muses?) As I grew older, I continued to keep this dream deeply hidden but very still very much alive.  Although it was intriguing, creative writing turned into something that always seemed unlikely, too far-fetched, and never seemed possible.

For these and other reasons, I ended up choosing a different career path, and it has been one that I enjoy very much.  But as I just mentioned, the idea of writing is never far from my mind.  Everything I do, every situation I'm in, every funny experience I have, every little quote from Charlie becomes something that I think, "This would be great in a book!". When I see crazy people at Wal-Mart or meet an interesting person while standing in a line, I think about the character they could become in a book.  When I stop and think about it,  I'm constantly thinking of writing.  My head is a never-ending banter of sentences I could string together in a story.  Sometimes, I string these thoughts together in a blog post, but that's about it.  

And lately, I've wanted more than just my blog.  I've wanted to write something. The problem, is that I don't really know what to write or even how to write.  I don't have a story.  I don't have any ideas.  I don't have a voice.  Or do I?  People have commented on my writing, but honestly, it's something in which I have very little confidence.  In fact, just writing and publishing this post, admitting that I love the act of writing is a little daunting to me.  But I feel like it's time for me to move, time to quit saying "someday", and perhaps actually try to do it.

And isn't it funny how the Universe works?  How it just seems to steer you onto the path you need to be at this moment.... even though the path may be windy and longer and more scenic than you would like?  Lately, I have had so many "writer things" fall into my lap.  There have been articles in magazines, news stories on TV, mail flyers, and conversations that all focus on becoming a better writer.  So finally, rather than ignoring these little "nudges" from the Universe, I decided to follow them.  I found an online creative writing class offered by a local community college with a class description that sounded perfect:

If you've always wanted to write but have no idea where to start, this course will demystify the process for you. You'll get a taste of the writing life, improve your writing skills, and develop new ways to stretch your creative muscles. 

This exciting, hands-on course for the creative writing novice is filled with challenging exercises, expert advice, and plenty of direct support and encouragement. As you work your way through the lessons, you'll develop your own short, creative fiction or nonfiction piece. 

Our emphasis in this course is on developing your skills through practice, so you’ll spend more time writing than reading. You'll master important concepts by completing enjoyable writing exercises and assignments, and you'll discover a variety of strategies and techniques the pros use to develop characters, create a compelling point of view, build interest through dialogue, and add meaning to your stories.

It just so happens that the course started yesterday.  (Again, thank you Universe)  So, I plopped down the $99.00 fee and am now enrolled in an online Creative Writing class. The online part means that it's entirely conducted through email and website discussion boards.  There is no class time, there is nothing to watch or technologically hook up.  There is no requirement for special internet browsers or plug ins.  It's just a web page with the lessons, assignments, and class discussions online.  This means I can participate from the comfort of my own home at nap time, after suppertime, or even bedtime.  I get to stay in my comfy's and don't need to move from my couch.  Throughout the class, I'm hoping to figure out what I could write about, get lots of practice, receive some feedback, and maybe gain a little confidence.

Our class is very diverse; composed of people ages 18-72, from every possible background and occupation, with interests in every possible writing genre.   We have total anonymity online-- and are encouraged to read the writing of others' and provide feedback as the course continues.  This, in itself, terrifies me.  I don't mind people reading my blog, but the thought of people reading my..... writing... scares me to death.

What if everything I write is stupid?  What if it's the dumbest idea ever? What if it's super cliche?  What if that, in turn, means everyone thinks I'm stupid and dumb and cliche?  These are my very real fears but I'm going to go ahead and jump into this.  Writing is something I love to do and want to become better at-- I need to "sharpen the saw" so to speak.  It feels right, it makes no sense, and will probably not make any money.  But perhaps that is why I'm here.  And hopefully, in 6 weeks I'll be able to say that I learned something, improved a bit, and had a little fun in the process.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Movie Night

Clean, bathed kid: Check

Sleeping bags: Check

Pillows:  Check

Stuffed Animals:  Check

Popcorn:  Check

Movie:  Check

Last Saturday night, Mason was out of town so Charlie & I decided to have a movie night.  We picked up Finding Nemo from the library and eagerly waited all day to watch it that night.  We even read books about fish and ate goldfish crackers in anticipation for the big event.

I've only seen Finding Nemo once, and that was years ago when Mase and I rented it and watched it in our living room.  My terrible memory fails me sometimes, and I only remember the movie being happy and cute.  Like this:

And it starts off that way.....

Until the very first scene.  Remember?  Why Nemo's dad is a single father in the first place?

Well, I had forgotten this major part of the movie.  So two seconds after I finished explaining to Charlie that fish lay many many eggs, I had to explain to him that the big fish ate them all up.  I conveniently skipped the part about the fish eating the mommy.  That detail was not missed by Charlie, however.  He looked up at me with huge eyes and said, "Did the big fish eat the mommy too?" 

.....Um......  I paused.  What do I do?  What are you supposed to do in these situations?  Lie? Tell him the mommy is just missing?  Try to shelter him forever? Or tell him that yes, the big fish ate the mommy.  I took a gamble.  I went with the second option.  

"Yes, the big fish ate the mommy fish" 

Big. Mistake.  

Cue full on lip quivering and tears.  (Did you read the facebook post about the animal cruelty commercial? I should have known.  I should have known.) 

"But why!?" He sobbed.  "Why the big fish have to eat the mommy fish?" 

I tried to explain the aquatic food chain in it's most simple form, but all he heard was that the mommy fish got eaten, which continued to make him really sad.  And then he launched into reasons why we should shoot the big fish.  (Little boys' fascination with guns and shooting things is another blog post.) 

Eventually, however, he recovered from the devastation of losing the mommy fish and started enjoying the adventures of Marlin and Nemo and Dori. Until scenes like this: 

And this:

And this:

And let's not forget this: 

So obviously, we didn't sit in our separate sleeping bags.  We spent the majority of the movie cuddled up together, which really was fine with me.  And I finally had the brilliant idea to fast forward through the scary parts, which saved both of us from some tears.  C was a little worried when the two little fish were stung by jellyfish, but I assured him that they were just resting to feel better.  When they awoke on the backs of giant sea turtles, C started to really enjoy the movie.  We loved the turtle scenes and the fish tank scenes and the "bird with the big mouth" scenes.  And when Nemo and his father were finally reunited, all was well.  Until this: 

The part where they happily swim away at fish school to explore the ocean.  And the daddy is left pondering what life is without taking risks.  I thought all was well, a successful movie night accomplished, when I felt a little hand in mine and looked down at a silently crying 2 year old.  

"Honey, what's wrong?" I asked.  "The fish are all happy!  They are at fish school.  Now the daddy is going to swim around the ocean and then go home to his sea anemone." 

"But the daddy will be lonely.  Because the mommy fish got eaten."  

Sigh. I thought we had gotten past the fist scene.  But maybe not.  I decided it was time to lie.  I told him that the mommy fish had probably not gotten eaten and that she was swimming around somewhere in the ocean and now the daddy was going on an adventure to find her too.  Although he was a little hesitant to buy my story, I think he clung onto it just to feel better.  And by the next day, our movie night (and the popcorn) was all he could talk about.  I think it was a total success.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Writing Prompt #3: First Love v. True Love

The prompt is supposed to be: First Love.

First Love: Nope.  Not even going there.  But here's a list of words that describe my "first love" without too many of the details:

Young, exciting, starry-eyed, naieve, intelligent, worrisome, dramatic, poetic, thrilling, adventurous, risky, stupid, heartbreaking, emotional, nauseating.  The whole things seems so cliche now; me a lil' freshman in high school falling for a so much more mature senior.  Both of us pretty intelligent, band and drama kids, teacher kids, "good kids" to the rest of the world.  But we were so young, thinking we were so mature-- which, apparently is normal for teenagers.  (This, combined with my other teenage experiences, is what terrifies me about parenting a teenager some day.)  Our "relationship" lasted an insanely long time for high school relationships-- almost two full years (I think).  But fortunately, years and distance separated us and eventually ended something that was 100% not meant to be.

So I'm changing the prompt to: True Love

And this is where I talk about my husband.  Most of you know him, but sometimes people are surprised by our story. So here it is.

I had moved to Tinytown in the summer of 2002, after finding an elementary counseling job.  I lived in a three-plex across the street from the school.  My little apartment was actually pretty nice-- 2 bedrooms, full bathroom, kitchen, living room, full (unfinished) basement, and detached garage.  All for the bargain price of $350 a month.  The outer back door to my apartment was shared with the apartment next to me, so you had to walk in the same door and then choose the apartment on the right (mine) or that on the left.  The one on the left sat empty for the majority of the first year I lived there.

Then, in March of 2003, as I sat on my living room floor and prepared for my Thesis project, I heard movement in the apartment next door.  I had come to enjoy having the place to myself, and was a little apprehensive about having a neighbor so close with only our paper-thin walls separating us.  Although judging by the Jimmy Buffet and Billy Joel I heard seeping through the walls, I had an inkling that maybe my neighbor wasn't so bad.

I never saw him move in, but I started to see him leave for work in the morning and come home in the evenings.  He was elusive; his little silver Mitsubishi with Dubuque county plates only appearing in the garage every so often.  I noticed another vehicle, presumably belonging to a cute girl, gracing the parking lot on a few weekends.   At the time, I was also "kind of" in a relationship.  You know how relationships taper off-- when the 'on again/off again' syndrome really seems to set in.  So I was.. curious.

As is often the case in Tinytown, word spread quickly about this new bachelor in town.  (Word had spread quickly about me when I moved to town eight months earlier) I learned that he had come to start the new lumberyard in our town.  I learned that he was single. I learned that he was moving from Decorah, where he had previously worked.  I even learned his approximate age.  All from people in town.  All before really seeing him up close.

And then one day, I saw him up close.  Fate brought him coming in through our back door as I was heading out.  Or maybe he was going down the stairs as I was coming up.  Something like that.  We accidentally met in the little entryway and exchanged hellos and smiles.  (My first thought: "Wow.  You have amazingly straight white teeth.")  I asked him his name.  He told me. I said hello.  I did not tell him my name.  I left the building.  (I know, and I teach kids how to have social skills?)

I don't remember much about the next few weeks.  I'm sure he stalked me.  He claims the opposite.  Whatever, I guess it really doesn't matter.  (Just for the record, he stalked me.) The weather warmed up and we happened to bump into each other more often.  We smiled.  We chatted.  I was becoming more curious.  I was much more "off again" with my relationship.  The little blue car that visited him was not around as much.  One evening, he dropped the news that he was moving out of the apartment..... and into a house about a mile away.  We ended up going for a walk to see the house.  We ended up drinking Coors Light on the steps outside our apartments after the walk. We talked about my hometown, Spencer. We talked about his hometown, Dubuque. We talked about being Catholics.  We talked about his Jimmy Buffet and Billy Joel and my Indigo Girls and Natalie Merchant.  We talking about how both of us want to get a Labrador puppy as soon as we're home owners.  We talked about how math using the alphabet instead of numbers is stupid (which quite possibly sealed the deal on my falling for him).  Although he had only lived next door for a few weeks, and we had just begun talking to each other, I had come to kind of enjoy his presence.  After that night, I remember feeling a little sad about this  fleeting friendship, surely being over now that he was moving down the road.

The following weekend, I attended the wedding of my college roommate.  My college besties were all in attendance and I was eager to talk about the new reason behind my glowing and spunky energy that comes with new love.  But.... my "off again" relationship was there too, as he was sort of a part of the college groupies.  It was weird and awkward-- gently breaking the news to him that we're really off-again, this time for real.  This time because of something that might be very real.

As I drove home the next morning, I noticed that I had a message on my phone from a 563 number.  563=Dubuque!  I half listened/ half laughed to the message that he had left me-- obviously extremely late the night before, in the drunken company of one of his best friends.  The message has become somewhat of a joke now, as he had forgotten to hang up, which allowed me to hear eight minutes of drunken camaraderie with his buddy, singing off-key and laughing about nothing in particular.  When I returned home to my little apartment, the garage next door was noticeably vacant and so was his apartment.  I thought about this new friendship and wondered if we'd be able to bump into each other now that he had moved.  I was probably just starting to think about what I could possibly need to pick up at the lumberyard when I opened the door into my apartment, and found this:

He had slipped his business card under my door before moving that huge and scary mile down the road.  He had written a little note on the back:

I carried this business card around in my purse for years.  One day, I realized that if my purse was ever lost or stolen, this single business card would be the thing I would miss the most.  So now it's tucked away in a safe spot, not carried in my purse. 
Minutes after arriving home, my phone rang.  It was him.  Asking if I wanted to have dinner with him.  Like a date (yes, he really said that).  So two days later, on May 5 2003, he took me out for dinner at Applebees.  (This has become another joke in our relationship because we never eat there, and cannot figure out why we chose Applebees of all places, especially on Cinco de Mayo)  I remember exactly where we sat, I remember that he drank Coors Light and I drank a Corona in celebration of the holiday.  We talked and laughed through dinner and then he brought me home.  He walked me inside and I'm pretty sure he hung out for awhile, watching tv and visiting.  When it was time to leave, we stopped in the kitchen as I opened the door to the hallway.  He leaned down and kissed/squished/smashed my face/bumped/ me.  It was quick and bad and uber-disappointing.  It was not the kiss I had been preparing for in my mind, and he had to feel the same way about it.  He made a swift exit and pulled the kitchen door behind him.

I was left standing in my kitchen, wondering what the H had just happened.  Here was this guy, attractive to me in so many ways, fun and funny, smart and cute, not to mention his perfect beautiful smile and yet.... he was either a just terrible kisser or there really was no physical chemistry between us.  I think I was dumbfounded.  I literally stood frozen in my tiny kitchen when there was a knock on my door.

---Cue the dramatic and romantic musical score for the background--

I opened the door, only to find him standing there.  He must have sensed my confusion because he (honestly, this next part really happened) pushed the door aside and pulled me back into my kitchen.  He said something to the effect of, "I couldn't leave without doing that over." And then, he leaned down and kissed me.  Like, reeeeaaaallly kissed me.  You know the kind, where your head gets a little dizzy and you're not sure where your eyeballs are in relation to your knees-- that kind of kiss.  And then, just as dramatically, he exited my kitchen.  But not without promising to call me the next day.

And folks, that was basically it.  He called.  I called back.  You pretty much know the rest of the story.
Our very first photo, taken on the front steps of "our" apartments.  
I'm not lying when I say that not a day goes by without me feeling grateful for having met and married my husband.  (Although yes, I have moments of definitely taking him for granted, and yes he drove me crazy this one time.)  But I totally believe that he is my match.  He has always been someone that I am totally, completely, comfortable with-- even in those early stages of our relationship.  I honestly can't really explain it, how it just feels so natural and right and real.  It feels like I have known him for my entire life and yet our relationship still sometimes feels surreal and new.  He's sweet, caring, considerate, and intelligent.  He's serious.  He's goofy.  He thinks he has dance moves.  He's athletic.  He's a hard worker, he's athletic, he knows his trivia.  He's a professional. He's a good tipper.  He's a gift-giver and hand-holder and hugger (to me).  He's happy, sometimes too happy (for me).  He's a handyman-- with abilities to fix anything, even my low spirits--sometimes.  He's funny, he's an introverted-extravert, and an expert on everything.  He's a fantastic daddy.  He's an outstanding husband.  And I'm so lucky he's mine.  He's totally my true love.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Puddle Jumper

Just when it seems like we'll never be able to handle one more dreary, colorless, grey sky....

Nature delivers.

Yesterday, the sun came out.  We had a heat wave.  It-was-awesome.  But we had Kindermusik so we didn't get to really spend time outside.  I was worried we had missed our moment of sunshine for the month.

But today, the sun came out again!!  And when the sun comes out, the temperature rises.  And when the temperature rises, the snow melts!  And when the snow melts, puddles form!!  And when puddles form, little kids find them!

Charlie & I pulled on our rubber boots and headed out for a "puddle walk", with the specific intention to find (and jump in) as many puddles as we possibly could.  It was a total success.  We only had to reach the bottom of our driveway to find a huge puddle-- it must be instinct for kids to know what to do when they come to the splashing/ jumping part, for that is what he did with zero prompting from his mom.

Then, he wanted to find a muddy puddle.  So we searched for mud.  It didn't take long to find a muddy spot on the vacant lot close to our house.

Charlie jumped right in!

He swiveled his hips and squished into the mud.  It was SO fun!

....Until it wasn't.  Fresh mud + rubber boots = STUCK.
Charlie panicked and looked up at me and said, "Mommy! I'm stuck!  I can't move! I'm in the mud! I'm stuck in the mud!"  I felt a belly laugh bubble up inside me because of the innocence of the whole thing.  And he really was stuck.   Fortunately, his mother came to the rescue and was able to save him from the sticky mud.

Then we came to this "huuuuuge" puddle.  So C had to go through it a few times.

And then a few more....

Then we found this perfect "splashy" puddle.  So we splashed.  And splashed.  And splashed some more.  

And about halfway through our walk, C looks up at me and says, "I hafta go poopy!"  Of course.  So we hustled over to Daddy's work, C did his business, and then found the dum-dums hidden under the cash register.  And because suckers trump everything, he was way more interested in rotting his teeth than splashing in more puddles.

So we leisurely walked home, hand in hand, sucker in mouth.  Charlie hummed a made up song the entire way home.  The sun shone, the snow melted, the birds sang, my two year old hummed.  I realized: spring really IS going to happen!  (Someday)

Days like today are ones I wish I could bottle.  I know my happiness is partly due to just seeing the sun after so many consecutive days of snow and fog and clouds.  And I'm always happier when I can spend a few minutes outside.  But more than anything, I love the feeling I get when I'm truly and honestly enjoying my mommy-hood.  I am loving Charlie's current age.  It allows me to see the world in a whole new light.  Everything is fresh and new and exciting.  Everything is a wonder.  Everything is a puzzle that Charlie wants to solve (and I'm supposed to have the answers).  He's so inquisitive and thoughtful about everything.  On our walk, we talked about why there are so many puddles-- where they came from, and where they'll go.  We noticed bubbles flowing under the melting ice in the gutters and talked about what bubbles are and where they came from and where they are going.  We saw a neighbor's cat-- whom was a kitten last summer but was now fully grown and we talked about how everything grows, just like babies and big boys.  Today's walk is one of the activities I fantasized about before having children, and mistakenly thought that the majority of minutes spent parenting would be filled with enriching and rewarding moments like this one.

Of course, I've realized that cannot possibly be the case.  Daily life is often a grind.  The laundry doesn't stop, the bathrooms still need to be cleaned, beds changed, dishwasher emptied, bills paid,  errands run, not to mention all the "extras" that pop up like birthday parties, meetings, play dates, "enrichment" activities, and family outings.  These things, combined with my unpredictable  moods and those of my child, make everything a possibility but not a guarantee.  I want to provide Charlie with so much, because that is the kind of mom I think I am-- or the one I think I should be.  But I finally realized that everything doesn't have to be enriching or picturesque to be rewarding.  A lot comes from just being.  It's more than okay to just hang out at home, or walk around the block, or run errands.   And honestly, that daily grind makes the days when we do splash in puddles or make an amazing seasonal craft that much more rewarding.  But regardless of whether or not it's a daily grind day or an amazing enriching activity day, I'm trying to remember to see the moment through Charlie's eyes, to remember how fresh and new and exciting this world is, and in return, I'm given my moment of reward.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Prompt #2: Blog Name

Writing Prompt #2: Meaning Behind Your Blog Name

Phlox: My favorite springtime flower.  Just wish they bloomed longer!
I think the blog name is kind of self explanatory but here's the meaning behind it.

I'd love to be able to say that I have a green thumb, but I can't honestly do that.  However, I love gardening and every spring I find myself obsessed with what I can do in our yard.  And someday, when I don't have tiny tots, I'm going to actually spend productive time in the garden. I love flowers and nature and the whole process of growing things.  And almost everywhere you travel on Earth, you'll find things growing.

I love those Nat Geo shows about desert conditions-- where you would think nothing could survive yet there are animal tracks and sparse plants sprinkled throughout the desert.  This reminds me that wherever we are, things tend to grow naturally.  This doesn't mean that the growth comes easily, quickly, or without challenges, but it does happen.

So back to the blog name.  I never would have considered myself a small town person.  I love all the things cities have to offer:  diversity, culture, entertainment, food, athletics, shopping, etc.  If I had chosen anywhere to live, I believe I would have chosen a larger city-- Chicago comes to mind because of it's proximity to family and it's size.  It's big but not gigantic.  It has the bustle of a city with the smiles of midwesterners.  It has museums and bike trails and the Chicago Cubs.  It has a giant lake.  It sounds perfect.

But, as is often the case, I went where there was work.  In my case, it was a teeny tiny town-- population less thank 2,000.  I promised myself I'd only live there for a year, maybe two and then get the H out of Dodge.  Small town life, two stop light towns were not for me.

But, as is also often the case, my plan and that of the Universe weren't exactly the same.  See, there was this cute guy who had also just moved to town, and happened to live next door to me.  And the second time he kissed me, I knew that my plans were screwed (that story is a whole other blog post).  I was staying in this tiny town.  Indefinitely.

However, it turned out that small town life wasn't so bad.  In fact, I kind of found myself liking the small town and what it has to offer.  I love it's quiet parks and the familiar faces you see everywhere.  I love the wide open spaces and fresh air.  I love the absence of traffic and the presence of the small town "hand-on-the-steering-wheel-wave".  I love the fact that as soon as night falls, I can step outside our patio door and see millions of stars.  When I first moved here, I missed certain conveniences  that are found in bigger towns (and sometimes still do).  It can still be frustrating to be 30 minutes away from a Target, but on the flip side, being 30 minutes away from a Starbucks has probably saved me a small fortune.   Although living in a small, rural town can be inconvenient and take some adjusting,  I realized that like many things, my experience here was all dependent on my attitude.  I could either moan and complain about life in a teeny tiny town with nothing to offer me, or I could suck it up, acknowledge that I'm here for awhile, and that things are pretty darn good.  In some ways, I feel like I kind of got planted here-- maybe accidentally on purpose.  And now that I'm planted, I need to bloom-whatever that means.  And ta-da! The blog name!  Basically, "Wherever you are, do your best." or  "Do your best with what you're given."  or for all you Project Runway fans out there, "Make it work". 

That "just one year" time frame has come and gone....actually it's now been ten years that I've lived here.  It's become our home.  Not sure if it's our "forever home" or not, but we've definitely 'made it work' and it's working out pretty well.    

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dear Maddy,

It's been one month since we said goodbye to our 4-legged girl, the little black pup that stole our hearts on a farm in Independence, IA.

Seriously, how could this face not melt your heart? 
Our house is so quiet, even with a rambunctious two year old running around.  But slowly, over the past few weeks, we've accepted the quiet changes around here.  It's funny because I still find myself thinking I heard her shake her collar or trot down the hall.  And more than a few times, I've sadly mistaken the black pillow sham heaped on our bed for a lazy sleeping black dog.  We've tucked away all of her things, Mason did that right away thankfully.  We vacuumed less and less dog hair-- something I never thought would make me sad.  But I still can't bring myself to vacuum off our comforter-- another thing I'd never hear myself say.

Charlie & I stepped outside and took a walk without Maddy, which surprised me at how difficult that was.  We've walked without her before, but the times were few and far between, usually happening after she had already been walked.   Tears fell as I turned every corner on that walk-- for absent was the familiar tug on my right side, signaling which way we were headed on that particular day.  The weather hasn't really allowed us to venture outside much since losing her, and I know that walking will always be something that reminds me of my four-legged exercise partner.

Aside from that, each day has gotten a little easier.  But when I sit down and really think about Maddy, I'm still a little overwhelmed with emotion.   Lately, I've really been thinking about the souls whom I've been lucky enough to love, and what I've learned from them, regardless of the duration of our relationship.  Although it's probably a little weird, I feel like I learned a few things from our sweet girl.  Since I never took the time to thank her (and she never had the long term memory to remember even if I had), I'm taking the time to write it now.

My dear Maddy,

First of all, did you know that your real name, the name on all of your paperwork, is Karma?  As in, Good Karma, for having found what felt like the perfect fit for what was to be our family.  And also as in the first three letters of my name combined with the first two letters of Mason's.  Talk about perfect fit, right? We ended up calling you Maddy because we both love Madison, Wisconsin and talked about how great it would be to raise a family there.  And here we are in Grundy Center......

Anyway, when I became a dog owner in the spring of 2003, I had no idea what was in store for me.  I had a feeling that I'd become forever attached to you, and hoped that we'd have the picturesque relationships of dog & owner that can be found in the pages of an LLBean catalog.  And honey, you did not disappoint.  In fact, not only did I become attached to you, but my heart became forever intertwined with your sweet soul.  Love is a messy thing my dear.  Even when it comes to loving dogs.  Maybe perhaps, especially when it comes to loving dogs.  For the love between people seems to be fleeting, conditional, always fluctuating, always dependent upon circumstances and moods and seasons.  But the love between a person and a dog seems constant.  It's never-wavering, it's unconditional, and constant-- even when the person involved is going through tough circumstances, grouchy moods, or dark seasons-- at least one soul (that of the dog) remains bright eyed and loving.  And that, my good girl, was totally you.

Since I had never owned a dog before, I knew that I'd learn a lot from you-- this tiny puppy, who clung to my forearms whenever I picked you up (that, in addition to your calm presence--ha, you tricked us!-- is what actually made us pick you out of the litter).  But rather than just teaching me about duties involved in owning a dog, and the art of picking up poop in a Target sack, you Maddy, taught me so much more.  You taught me how to care for another being.  You taught me how much joy can be found out there in the simplest things.  And more than anything, you taught me how to love in a way I never really knew existed.  I will never forget the love you gave me so unconditionally. I will always remember the special relationship that the two of us had, for you were my first true dog love-- and I will forever hold you in an incredibly special place deep within my heart.  

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn these life lessons.  If I could treat people half as kindly as you treated others, I might win a Noble Peace prize.  If we people could just treat others the way you Labradors do, we may not lead the technology race, but we would definitely be leaps and bounds ahead in the love/forgiveness/compassion department.  Among millions of other things, here are a few of the lessons I learned from you:

* Everyone should spend some time outside every single day.

* Yelling accomplishes little.  And the soul being yelled at probably won't change because of the yelling.

* Don't spend too much money on nice undies...they might suddenly go missing.

* Everyone deserves a welcome home party upon returning home.  Even if it's only been a five minute absence.

One of her last evenings as my sous chef, underfoot in the kitchen. 
* There's not much better than watching a dog run off leash, exploring smells & sounds, on a crisp spring or autumn day.

* No matter how hard you clean, sweep, mop, dust, or vacuum, dog hair will still end up in the refrigerator.

* The dog hair that ends up in the refrigerator and may end up in your food doesn't taste that bad.

* No electric blanket can heat up the bed like a 75lb dog.

* Take time for naps.

* Persevere. This might be the time they tell you "yes".

* Don't be afraid to get dirty.  Really dirty.

* You can learn a lot from a person by smelling them.

* One man's crumbs are one dog's delicacy.

* Do what makes you happy.  Even if others look at you like you're crazy.

* If the overwhelming urge to love someone strikes, just go for it.

* Greet everyone with a friendly sniff.  A smile would work too.

* Always acknowledge the people in a room you pass through.

* Little things, like a quick scratch behind the ears, (or smile, or wink) can make someone's moment.

* Forgive.  Forget.  Move on.  Keep loving.

* The weather is always good enough for a walk.  Always.
My last walk with these two together. 
To non-dog-people, the following probably sounds crazy, but we will never forget you--our first "baby"
~Love, Mama

Love at first sight.  I"ve never noticed the fence rails in the background of this picture before-- must have been taken before we even pulled out of the lane.  She sat on my lap the whole way home, snuggling, probably scared to death about who these strange people were, taking her away from her mama.   I promised her I'd love her and take good care of her, just like I promised her almost ten years later on that cold January evening, when we both knew the end was in sight.  And hopefully, she knew that we did our best, and couldn't have asked for a better companion with whom to spend ten beautiful years.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Writing Prompt #1: Introduce

My cousin has been doing writing prompts on her blog and I love them.  Last year, I attempted this task, but the moderator would only post the prompt randomly which didn't work for me.  So, I'm going to attempt this again, perhaps not daily, but hopefully very frequently.  I apologize in advance if you're bored to tears through all this!

Prompt: Current Photo, Introduce, 15 interesting facts

Oh jeepers.  Current photo?  How 'bout this:

  This seems a bit silly since the five people who read this blog know me but if I had to introduce myself in a 30 second elevator ride, I'd say something like this.  I'm your basic midwestern 30- something wife and mom.  I'm the most average of average people, but yet I think I'm high on the fun side (many others might disagree).  My life is currently absorbed with kissing boo-boos (see above photo), playing trains, and watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  Professionally, I feel like I have the "best of both worlds" as I am an Elementary School Counselor from 8:00-12:00 each day, and "Mommy" for all the other hours.  I enjoy my job but I'm pretty sure I'm still not sure what I want to do when I grow up.  When I find myself with free time, I love to read, knit, scrapbook, and make crafty stuff.  When the weather is actually nice, you'll find me outdoors-- on a walk, bike ride, or in the pool. At the end of the day, you'll find me holed up in our house, totally settled in for the night.

15 Interesting Facts:
  Again, I'm guessing that anyone who reads this knows these already.  But here goes.  (I'm going to rack my brain for something interesting.....yikes)

1. I enjoy triathlons and secretly hope to someday complete a 1/2 Ironman
2. I love roller coasters.  The tea-cups make me sick.
3. As a kid, I thought I'd someday become a veterinarian.  But then I fainted the three times I tried to do an observation for a 4-H project.
4.  As a high schooler, I thought I'd become a Marine Biologist and work at Sea World.  Then I took Chemistry.
5.  I have gone sky-diving.  A-maze-ing.
6.  I have gone spelunking in the longest cave in North America (Mammoth Cave).  They measured us before we went because some of the holes we had to crawl through were pretty small.
7.  I'm a reader.  Usually, I'm in the middle of 3 or 4 books.  Right now it's 4.
8.  I got my first cavity at age 20.  Totally traumatized me.
9.  I once was given a speeding ticket, only to have the officer call me on my home phone later that night and tell me that I was so polite and calm and friendly that he was voiding the ticket.  (no, I did not get a date out of that)
10.  I don't consider myself to be athletic but I really wish I was.
11.  I've been to five countries. (USA, Spain, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico, and technically Switzerland but only for a night)
12.   I'd love to learn how to saddle a horse.
13.  Mason and I think we could win "The Amazing Race".
14.  I've only skied in Colorado.  The first time I ever was on skis, I ended up on a Black run.  It took me almost two hours to get down the hill but I survived.  Barely.  After that, I sat in the chalet and drank for the rest of the day while my friends skied.
15.  My favorite summer job was that of camp counselor during the summers of '98 and '99.  One summer I stayed at camp as a cabin counselor and the following year I co-led 12 day hiking and rafting trips.  Amazing friends, good tan, great memories.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Little Me Time...

Tonight my hubby is out of town for work.  This is a rarity, thank goodness, and he's fully aware that I'm not okay with him ever taking a job that requires him to be away overnight.  There are a few reasons why:

1.  Our floors creak and I freak myself out by thinking about random people sneaking inside our house and having something "Today Show" terrible-worthy happening to us.

2.  I usually make supper and he usually does the dishes.  When he's gone... well, I'm supposed to do both.

3.  By 5:15 (about the time he comes home most nights), I'm ready for a little tiny kid-break.  He usually takes C downstairs (or outside when it's actually nice out) and plays while I get supper going and sometimes sneak a quick peek at a magazine or book.  When he's gone... no respite for mama. :(

4.  I do the majority of "the bedtime routine", which I admit that I love.  But when I walk out of C's room, I'm done.  A switch turns off in my brain and I mentally can't deal with him if he's crying for me or asking for a zillion drinks or lying about having to go to the bathroom.  This is M's shift and he's amazing at it-- calm, repetitive, calm, repetitive, etc.

5.  When it's time for bed, he warms up my ice cube feet in the crook in the back of his knees.  When he's gone.... cold feet for me all night. :(

But since these nights are pretty few and far between, I know I can handle them.  Tonight C & I had a great evening.  We played downstairs, made spaghetti for supper, listened to the radio & had our own version of a dance party, hit a balloon back and forth with foam carpet square thingys, Skyped with Sister and Miss N (holy cuteness), C took an amazingly long soak in the tub, we read books, and I exited his room after saying goodnight to the sound of complete silence.

I changed into my jammies (okay, you're right-- I totally did this the second I got home from work), washed my face, brushed my teeth, and realized that I have the house to myself.  The laundry is for once pretty much caught up (the ironing is another story), the dishwasher is empty, the toys are picked up, and our bed is actually cleared off.

So.... now what?

I turned on the radio, plopped myself down in "my" chair, and just sat.  I have some knitting to organize, a new book to start, some webpages I need to browse for work units, and some emails to return but I just sat and hung out with myself.  And you know what?  It was pretty freaking awesome.

The Parkersburg lite FM radio station is one of the few that comes in without static on our living room receiver.  Sometimes, it's a bit annoying with all the 80's ballads and high school sport coverage, but tonight, I couldn't have asked for better company.  I listened to a little Whitney Houston, Wilson Phillips, Richard Marx, Roxette, Janet Jackson, Eddy Money, Mike & the Mechanics, Extreme, and Michael Bolton (just to name a few).   I grew up with these artists and just sat and reminisced about my childhood.  Funny how songs take you back, isn't it? Every song prompted a memory and I found myself just lost in my thoughts, totally reliving things that happened decades ago.

And when I finally drifted back to present time, it dawned on me how completely relaxed and peaceful I felt.  (I never feel this way after surfing the net all night, rushing around tidying the house, or forever trying to catch up on the laundry)  Aside from the radio, all technology was unplugged and aside from my sweet snoozing toddler in the next room, I was totally alone.  I wasn't distracted by a thing, and while I had things to do, I allowed myself to let just sitting and reflecting be one of them tonight.

I have always considered myself to be an extrovert, with incredibly strong introvert tendencies.  And as the years have gone by, I've noticed that I've become increasingly more introverted, which is not a bad thing.  There was a time when I'd consider extroverts to be somehow superior to introverts, after all, they are the "people-people".  But I've realized that introverts also enjoy the company of others, maybe in just smaller doses or different settings.  I'm still a "people-person", but I'm so much better at being alone with myself too.  I realize that one personality type is not better than the other-- they simply are different.  And both can probably learn a bit from the other.  For me, having time to reflect and ponder a bit has become something I really enjoy and draw energy from.  And maybe, in addition to learning from others, when we actually allow ourselves to just sit and be with ourselves, we might actually learn something from... and about ourselves too.

My usual "me time"-- the 18 minute drive to school in the morning. February sunrises like this one make it totally worth it.  (I promise I was not actually "driving" when I shot this! 

Monday, February 4, 2013

It's a Bust

On Saturday morning, C & I headed to Waverly to get his three year photos taken.  It was a series of mistakes all around.  In all, it was a bust.  You think I'd learn.  You'd think I'd learn.  

Mistake #1: I had high hopes
Knowing that C has a tough time transitioning, and having a bit of professional experience in this area, I've been talking to him about getting his pictures taken for the past week.  Hyped it up, actually. Gave him the specifics-- but apparently not enough.  I prepped him-- telling him that we were going to a store where a lady would take his pictures.  If he smiled (we practiced smiling because he never smiles for the camera) and was a big boy (remember, this is debatable right now) then the two of us would go out for hot chocolate and a cupcake.  It was going to be so fun!! It was going to be a date! (And the problem was that I believed this.  Do you remember why I think our past vacations have been fun?  Because I'm expecting them to be tons of work and not tons of fun.  Apparently I thrive on pessimism.)

We arrived at the studio, only to have Charlie cling to me like a scared little mouse.  He hid behind me.  (I've always been a little annoyed by clingy behavior, so once again, the Universe laughs at me and gives me a clingy kid.) He wouldn't let go of me.  He whined, "Mommy!  Mommy!"  Not only was I annoyed, I was a little embarrassed.  Isn't this a reflection on me?  My parenting?  His inability to let go of me and have me sit two feet away?

Mistake #2:  I had no back up plan
  Seriously, note to self: Always have a back up plan.  Always. Have I not learned a thing? Why hadn't I prepared for this?  Why hadn't I arrived 30 minutes earlier?  Why hadn't I let him explore a bit?  When things stalled (can something stall if it never starts?), why didn't I just plan to have her take photos of both of us?  Why hadn't I prepared myself to just prepare for the worst and be happy with whatever came of it?  Why hadn't I just been able to soak it all up? Someday, this will incident will just be a happy memory! (Oh Mason, remember the time I drove all the way to Waverly to have Charlie's photos taken and he clung to me and cried the whole time!?  ...(chuckle) He just hated getting his pictures taken, poor thing! Oh, what a sweetie.  He was just such a cute and sensitive little boy.)   Afterall, according to the rest of the world, "they grow up too fast!"

Because here's why.  I DO soak it up. I soak and soak and soak.  Quite frankly, I feel saturated.  I'm so present in the moment that I think you could squeeze me and I might drip out a tantrum, or half eaten popsicle, or crusty unknown substance.  I know I'll miss the hugs and the attention and sticky little hands, but honestly, at that moment in time, I couldn't help but think of how glorious it sounded to have a middle schooler who wouldn't want to be in the same room with me.

Mistake #3:  I un-intentionally brought this on myself.
Our appointment was at 8:30 in a town 45 minutes away.  That meant another quick and busy morning.  (In my defense, we were supposed to have Kindergym after the photos and on paper, it looked like it would work out perfectly.) I know it takes C a long time to warm up, yet I didn't plan enough time for him to do this.  I know C hates having his picture taken, yet I scheduled a whole (expensive) activity doing the thing he hates.  I know C is more likely to refuse something the more I insist upon it, yet I kept insisting he sit on his own-- out of my lap.  I know I get frustrated easily when he acts like a baby, yet I didn't cope well with it (Again.  Are you noticing a pattern in my behavior?), and I'm a little embarrassed about it all.

I called Mason on the way home and cried.  (I'm blaming it on my hormones being off-kilter)  He laughed and told me that we just won't get pictures of him until he's in school.  No biggie.  That only made me cry more.  Why can't our kid be normal!?  Oh wait, this.... the above.... it IS normal.

There are soooooo many things about C that I think are out of this world amazing.  He comes up with more profound thoughts than kids twice his age.  He identifies and expresses so many feelings, and with so much honesty-- sometimes admitting that he is feeling two things.  (I have second grade students who don't get that concept.)  He's eager to learn and is incredibly interested in the alphabet and numbers right now.  He can identify half of the alphabet and can get lost in books for hours.  When we lie in bed and read books, snuggling and telling stories, I have this rush of love and everything seems right as rain.  It's how I imagine other moms feeling about their cherubs all the time.  It's how I thought I would feel about my child all the time... before I knew the rigors of parenthood.

But those million other things about my sweet little guy just drive me nuts.  He has suddenly started ignoring everything we say.  He's gone from super obediant and very helpful to defiant and avoidant.  While he used to cry if he was hurt or really scared, now he cries over everything.  And I ....mean.... everything. He refuses to eat anything with nutritional value and then cries at night because his tummy is growling.  He hates having his clothes changed, he only wants me to get him out of the bathtub, he hates his seatbelt actually touching him.  The list goes on.  And on. It's maddening.

But more than the irritants, I love him like crazy.  He's an amazing little boy that I'm lucky enough to call my son.  I seem to have the patience of Job at school, when I'm confronted with the most challenging of behaviors, yet I have the quickest fuse at home-- with tiny irritants.  I don't get this.  Is it because somewhere subconsciously I know that while I won't walk away from the kid who needs me at school, I always can? As in, I know they're not coming home with me.  I know it won't last forever.  Or is it that I'm so concerned about how C's behavior is reflecting upon me and my parenting flaws?  Or is it simply that I just care so much, have so much invested, want everything to be perfect when it comes to my kid?

I'm guessing it's a combination of everything.  I'm getting better at forgiving myself for being real.  For being an emotional person and largely acting upon those emotions. I'm starting to realize that many of my strengths actually come from this same thing that makes me struggle.  (Now isn't that a clever design, eh Universe?) And slowly, one grown up tantrum at a time, I'm realizing that while I probably didn't just traumatize my child, I probably can change one little thing for the better next time.  First... let's start with making a back up plan.

In case you missed it, here is the only shot that we got of C.  It's so cute, I would have loved to see what she could have done with just an ounce of cooperation from the model!