You may not have heard, but today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day. I first heard about it via The Conscious Kid, which is an Instagram handle worth following if you’re interested in raising anti-racist and race-conscious children. Continue reading
I turned 40 last week, and I feel really good about it. I still vividly remember when my mom threw my dad an epic 40th birthday party, and someone brought my sister and I to the club she’d rented out for the surprise party so that we could be there to surprise him too. It feels odd to have that vivid memory and to have arrived here personally, because I still feel young in so many ways, but by now I’ve learned that you never feel nearly as much like an adult as younger people might perceive you to be. Continue reading
Jonah started kindergarten last Wednesday. It’s a milestone I’ve been actively dreading for months now, and subconsciously dreading ever since his first weeks on earth. I have to admit that, to no one’s surprise but mine, it’s been a beautifully positive experience so far. Continue reading
This past Sunday evening we attended the baptism of our six-month-old twin nieces. The parents had the ceremony (is ceremony even the right word? Suddenly I have no idea) at their home, outside on the deck in the early evening summer light. They live in a beautiful wooded place so the backdrop really was quite lovely, and while the hour and the day and the drive made it a bit inconvenient for us, I could see why they may have chosen evening over the alternatives.
It was a couple of hours in the car each way for us, and since the kids are all strapped into their car seats on road trips we have a bit more freedom than usual to listen to music or podcasts or just to talk to one another with limited interruption. Especially on the way home, we spent a lot of time talking about baptism: what it means, why people do it, upon what criteria godparents are chosen, and also about rituals and traditions in general but particularly in relation to raising children.
I don’t come from a terribly religious family. My sister and I weren’t baptized, although we did attend church semi-regularly in spurts growing up (or at least that’s the way I remember it). I actually think well of that church, enough that when K wanted to attend this past Christmas Eve, we went there. Kristin grew up in an Evangelical Lutheran family, so she’s much more familiar with the nature and reasons behind all of the rituals and traditions than I am. We don’t attend church now, and I think that I can speak for both of us when I say that we’re spiritual but not religious. Personally, my sense of spirituality is much more tied to nature and beauty and gratitude than it is to anything related to the Bible or any other text. We didn’t choose to baptize our children (and in fact, I don’t remember it ever coming up in conversation) and I have no doubts whatsoever about that choice, although I respect the choices of those who do.
I like rituals and traditions. I like the weight of them, the significance of marking something meaningful to you and your family. I like the history associated with generations before us having gone through the same motions and recited similar sentiments in a shared belief in something. But I’ve never been able to make much sense of the idea of signing your children up for something that they haven’t chosen and aren’t old enough to consent to. That said, I’m sure you could point out dozens of hypocritical things that I am OK with that are somehow similar (piercing a toddler’s ears, for example). But I suppose what’s confusing to me about baptism is that, in my mind, real faith is about what you deeply believe in, often despite challenges to those beliefs. If you’ve been in the world and really lived, and heard all of the different perspectives and opinions and you still believe, that’s faith to me. But signing a baby up for something, it doesn’t feel like it means very much in the grand scheme of faith.
That said, I do understand what it means to be a parent and to want the very best future for your children, and to have hopes and dreams for them and to try to do what you hope will set them on the path for a happy, fulfilling life. I’m sure that for many people who baptize their babies, that’s what they have in mind. I also know plenty of people who have done it because, “that’s just what you do” and/or because it was important to grandparents, and I can see that too. It would water the whole thing down for me, but OK. It doesn’t do any harm.
On the way to the baptism, we listened to an episode of a parenting podcast about multicultural families and how they pass traditions and elements of identity down to their children. We also listened to an episode of On Being with poet Marie Howe, that addressed “the ways family and religion shape our lives.” Perhaps surprisingly, both of these were chosen somewhat at random. We weren’t looking for things that tied into our plans for the day. But both of these pieces, along with an article I found when Googling Howe as we drove, led our conversation about baptism in interesting directions. That article in particular made Kristin and I miss our NY tribe desperately.
So many rituals for babies have to do with who they are and who their parents hope that they will become. It makes sense; we know so little about them when they’re born, so it’s not as if anyone could stand up and give the sort of storytelling speeches we give at weddings or memorial services. At that stage of life everything is about hope and potential. We’ve been to one Jewish naming ceremony, not a bris, but just a naming ceremony months after the child was born, and it was lovely. I recall K and I talking about how much we enjoyed it, this coming together of people to celebrate the life of a little boy. It wasn’t an especially religious ceremony, but it felt like community and celebration of both his place in the world and the significance of his existence in his parents’ lives. In the podcast, one of the mothers talks about this ceremony and how it’s kind of the only option for Jewish girls, since a bris is only for boys, but that a bris is meaningful because (if done by the book) everyone comes together within seven days of a birth to welcome the baby and celebrate. We didn’t circumcise our boys, so that’s also not a thing that we believe in especially, but the idea of your tribe coming together from all over to celebrate the enormity of having a child, showing up to meet that baby and say “welcome,” it makes me wish that there was a tradition like that for everyone, regardless of faith. Not that you can’t make something up, and a friend of ours has recommended this book (which I borrowed at one time, but haven’t read), but I’m not sure that making up your own ceremony and inviting friends from around the world would work in quite the same way. If there wasn’t a tradition already in place that we show up to these things, no matter what, would people show up?
When Kristin and I reflect on our wedding, we often talk about one of the most powerful elements being this idea that everyone in attendance is there in support of this life-altering choice you’ve made. And one way or another, their presence is their way of saying “I commit to supporting you in this life together.” There’s often some acknowledgement in the ceremony that the couple will need that support, because marriage is hard sometimes. Having a child is such a transformative experience, so fraught with challenge and uncertainty and fear and sometimes loneliness. It seems like a gigantic miss to me that we don’t have a ritual in place, all faith identities aside, that does something similar when a child is born or adopted. When I imagine what it might have been like to have people we love from around the world show up to meet our babies and welcome them and to commit to supporting us through the challenges of raising children, it’s such a wonderful vision. That’s a ritual that I would carry out without question (well, except for the part about essentially planning a wedding immediately after having a baby, on very little sleep, not having showered for days…that doesn’t sound quite as idyllic).
I feel like we need it though; we as a culture, I mean. A ritual that acknowledges the challenge and transformation that parenthood brings, where we all show up for our people and say, “I’m here and I’ll be here when you need me (for you and your child), and you can do this because you have all of us in your corner.” Becoming parents feels every bit as powerful as getting married, doesn’t it?
Did you baptize your children (or will you), or carry out another ritual for them? Why did you choose what you did?
We’ve known for roughly a month or so that Jonah needed dental surgery, and it’s been a source of anxiety for me every since it was scheduled. Way back in July last year, I took an afternoon off and brought Jonah into the city with me to visit my office and do a few fun things down in lower Manhattan, just the two of us. My co-workers are amazing and lots of them love when kids visit; he was goofing around with a beloved colleague of mine (they were rolling hula hoops and running after them – that’s the kind of office I have) and ended up falling and banging his teeth on the tile floor. He screamed and cried like I’ve never heard him scream, but there was no blood and no visible damage so I did my best to calm him down and, when I couldn’t, we ultimately left. We were two weeks from moving to Michigan, and he’d literally just been to the dentist, so we didn’t take him back for x-rays. I should also mention that he’s what pediatric dentists seem to refer to as “noncompliant.” He usually won’t open his mouth, he bites dentists, and up until yesterday had never had a cleaning as a result (not for lack of trying). About two weeks after the fall, literally the day we set out to drive from NY to MI, we noticed that one of his front teeth was turning grey.
Once we were back in Michigan, Kristin drove two hours to try to get him x-rays from a dentist who knew her father (we didn’t have local insurance at the time and he’d offered to do it for free). Predictably, Jonah was noncompliant and the x-rays didn’t happen. A couple of months later, Kristin took him to a local pediatric dentist recommended by my parents. Once again, the x-rays didn’t happen. When the gums above that tooth suddenly started to look like there might be a more serious problem, I took him back to the same local pediatric dentist and by some miracle of bravery on Jonah’s part, we got the x-rays. As it turned out, the root above the grey tooth was completely gone and it needed to be removed, but the tooth next to it was also broken above the gum line and also needed to come out. We don’t even know when that injury happened, but it may have been the previous day when he bashed it on a classmate’s head while in a bouncy house.
The dentist said that they both needed to come out, for fear of infection and damage to the adult teeth behind them. We discussed a couple of options and ultimately decided that, given his proclivity for noncompliance at the dentist, he needed to be under anesthesia. We also really didn’t want to put him through the experience of having teeth extracted while awake since he’s already terrified of the dentist. We’ve had a lot of anxiety about the whole thing because, despite the low risk, anesthesia can be dangerous. They also gave us a ton of warning about how he had to be in perfect health or it wouldn’t be safe, and he had to have a pre-surgery physical to prove that he was healthy enough to endure the procedures. We all really wanted to get this over with, and getting on the hospital schedule takes some notice so the thought of having to cancel due to illness was awful.
We’ve been doing our best to keep Jonah healthy, and then naturally on Monday of surgery week the twins came down with pink eye. Then on Tuesday he returned home from school complaining of a terrible earache (so severe he couldn’t sleep that night) but thankfully my cousin and his wife are amazing chiropractors who live blocks away and they let us come over and get Jonah adjusted (in the morning the pain was gone!), and then on Thursday night, the night before surgery at 9:15 a.m., Vivienne came down with the worst stomach bug she’s ever had. She threw up all night long, roughly a dozen times. Neither Kristin nor I slept much at all, I slept in Jonah’s bed just to keep an eye on him so that we would know if he seemed unwell, and Kristin slept with Vivi and caught puke in a bowl all night long. In the morning, there was no way that Kristin and I could both accompany Jonah to the outpatient surgery center because someone had to stay with Vivi, so I dropped Jude at school and took Jonah on my own.
The windowless waiting room gave me the creeps and felt more like a methadone clinic than an outpatient surgery center, but ultimately I have to hand it to the staff; they were lovely and compassionate and took good care of Jonah. When we went back for the pre-surgery prep, they already had Paw Patrol playing on a portable DVD player. Somewhat surprisingly he seemed to have no fear whatsoever leading up to this. We’d told him very clearly that they needed to remove his two front teeth, and every time we brought it up he’d say “OK” or “Yeah I know” and seemed totally comfortable with the idea. I think a big part of it has to do with a lack of knowledge about surgery or tooth extraction. We’d told him that he would be asleep when they did it, and that I’d be there when he woke up. We went through all of the pre-surgery stuff and the only upsetting moment for him was when he had to take an oral medication to make him sleepy and calm so that he would be OK going back and being put under. He fought us on it, but once it started to kick in he asked me sleepily if we could go camping sometime. It was kind of sweet and totally unrelated to anything on the show that was playing, so who knows where that came from. I told him that we could.
When the dentist came in to talk to me, he went over the plans for the day. We’d already discussed that he would get a full set of x-rays (they only got his front teeth the last time), a cleaning, and that they would fix any cavities that were present, in addition to the extractions. What I didn’t know until that moment was that the plan to fix cavities in molars was to put crowns on. Crowns for baby teeth are stainless steel and pre-made, so presumably less expensive than the gold and porcelain variety, but still. I was shocked, but didn’t really have enough time to debate the issue or do any research or even consult K on the matter. I just hoped that his teeth would be in good shape and it would be a non-issue. I should have known better; I have terrible teeth, and a lot of dental health is based on predisposition and bacteria passed from the mother.
A nurse carried him back and he didn’t object at all, and I didn’t cry until he was out of sight. I’d been determined to be a rock for him so as not to pass along my own fear, and I feel like I succeeded. I got to the waiting room and called K and we both cried, and I promised to keep her posted. At some point they sent a nurse out to tell me that he went under the anesthesia just fine, really well actually, and that he did have cavities that they would be fixing. She didn’t know how many off hand, she’d just been sent to give me that message, so I didn’t have any idea what we were looking at. At some point during his procedure, a different dentist came out to talk to parents sitting behind me. They were engrossed in The Price Is Right, and when their dentist told them that their son had received six crowns and two fillings they seemed completely unfazed. I, on the other hand, was horrified, and immediately texted K. She replied with “Eek! Hopefully it’s not so bad for J. Praying.” I was honestly more shocked at their comfort with the news than with the results of their kid’s treatment.
When the dentist came out to tell me that Jonah was finished, by some miracle he decided to take me into a room to talk to me. I don’t know if that’s because he expected a poor reaction or if that’s just his approach, but I’m incredibly thankful. He told me that Jonah ended up with crowns on all of his molars: eight crowns. His cavities weren’t severe, but they were between the molars (his entire chewing surface was in great shape) and they prefer to crown them to prevent future decay (and to avoid having to put Jonah through this again). I immediately burst into tears. I felt like a horrible parent for not flossing his teeth regularly (I’m learning that few parents do, but whatever), and I was incredibly concerned about how Jonah might feel about his very obviously stainless steel teeth. What if his peers made fun of him? Would everyone think that he had terrible hygiene and was a total freak? I let the dentist know that I was really disappointed that he hadn’t given us more than ten minutes notice that this might be the plan for cavities. I cried and cried and did my best to focus on the post-surgery instructions, but it was clear that my reaction had totally thrown the dentist for a loop and he felt terrible. He told me that he felt like he’d failed me. I confessed that my feelings weren’t really about him exactly; I felt like a terrible parent for letting this happen to Jonah (and for passing along my predisposition for bad teeth), and I worried about how it would affect him socially. Honestly if we’d had time to research it we might have consented to it anyway, but not being given that choice was really upsetting.
I knew that I needed to pull myself together before seeing him, so I did my best (but I went to call K and began crying again), and then in a moment a nurse came out to tell me that he was awake. This is the other part that I was entirely unprepared for. I could hear him yelling before I saw him. He was thrashing and yelling but couldn’t really hold his head up, and there was blood running from the corner of his mouth. I went to him and picked him up and held him on my lap, but he fought me and kept yelling “I want to go home!” They offered him a popsicle and he refused, demanding to go home. He then tried to rip out his IV and continued to fight me, but I knew that I couldn’t set him down or he would hurt himself. When we finally got out of there I carried him to the car and I drove home telling him how brave he’d been. He seemed angry and disoriented, and I was completely overwhelmed by how much he seemed to be suffering. We offered him soft foods, water, and TV but he refused it all and just wanted to lie down. I lay down with him and reminded myself to just meet his needs and to try not to overthink it all.
He slept for a long time, and when he woke up he seemed to have transformed back into himself a bit. He was still clearly unwell, but he was now interested in eating and watching his favorite show.
Vivienne was still in a terrible state (and still is a day later) and was limp and whimpering all day long, needing to be worn or carried, so she needed someone’s attention at all times. Kristin was exhausted from the lack of sleep the night before, but wanted to do everything she could to care for Jonah since she felt awful for not having been with us that morning. I was actually glad to see her get in a short nap when they both collapsed from exhaustion.
Poor Jude definitely got the short end of the attention stick. With all of our attention on Vivienne and Jonah for two straight days, he’s pretty much been fending for himself. At least he did get some screen time out of the deal.
I was actually amazed by how “himself” Jonah was by the end of the first day, and even more so the second day. He may be on soft foods for a little bit longer (he wouldn’t object if that never ended – he would live on chocolate pudding), but he seems to be bouncing right back. I have yet to get a picture of his new smile, but I think that I can love it as much as his previous one. He’s still my lovebug.
When we moved back to Michigan, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to take my job with me and transition to working from home full-time. It was a huge part of why we were able to move in the first place, and it was the tipping point that led us to fully commit to Kalamazoo. Kristin actually secured a job during the week that we came to search for a house, which was quicker than we’d expected her to find one, but being able to bring my NY job with us was a big deal. Because I work from home, and K has to leave for work no later than 7:00 a.m. (and because our day care doesn’t open till 7:30) I handle the entire morning routine with the kids. Lately it’s been a struggle for me to keep my cool and still get everyone out the door at a reasonable hour. I always start off with good intentions of doing zero yelling and creating a peaceful start to the day that sends the kids off to preschool feeling loved and supported. One of the main problems is that my definition of a peaceful morning involves a slow, unscheduled breakfast (we’re big breakfast eaters in this house) and one of the key ingredients to getting kids out the door on time (or so I hear) is lots of rigidity: rules about what happens in what order, lots of pre-planning and prep the night before, charts with pictures and stickers to indicate the order of things, kitchen timers etc. None of that jives with my idea of a peaceful morning, so I know that I’m really the problem here. My attitude probably encourages them to drag their feet and follow their whims.
Here’s how the morning usually plays out: Kristin wakes me up at about 6:45 before she leaves for work. Sometimes one or both of the twins are awake, lately no one is (probably because of the “spring forward” that happened recently). I head for the kitchen and start cooking breakfast (this is probably another mistake); I insist on making them a hot breakfast every morning. Normally that’s pancakes (one mashed banana, two scrambled eggs, a splash of milk, a tablespoon or so of ground flax seed, a tablespoon or so of shredded coconut, and a sprinkle of cinnamon) or sometimes French toast or oatmeal. They also eat enough raisin bread to keep the industry afloat. Everyone wakes up on their own shortly thereafter (usually) and comes to the counter to eat. I recently tried to switch to the rule “you must get dressed before eating” but then I forgot and we all went back to breakfast in pjs. They take forever to eat and take a lot of breaks to play with toys, and I spend a lot of time saying, “Are you done with breakfast? You need to get dressed.” It’s usually between breakfast and getting dressed that I begin making threats and eventually start to yell because we’re late again. Eventually I wrestle everyone into clothes, change the twins’ diapers, and get myself dressed in something semi-presentable, sans shower. I shout for everyone to move to the mud room for shoes and coats, that whole exercise takes awhile because it’s winter and we have to find all of the things (I know that I should find all of it and lay it out the night before, and sometimes I do but sometimes I just don’t feel like it). I let them out the door and they all wander into the driveway looking for neighborhood cats and I nag them to get into the car. Buckling three carseats really deserves its own step in the process, and just as I’m about to back out of the driveway the song requests usually start pouring in from the back. Sometimes I’m a grouch and tell them no, we’re too late for me to fiddle with Spotify, but most of the time I pull up the playlist of their faves and let them each make a request.
By the time I drop them all off at school (which isn’t quick, but again that’s probably on me – I like to talk to teachers to keep tabs on what’s going on), I’m racing home to jump in the shower and start work by 9:00, which is always a stretch. Working from home is such a weird, weird thing. One of my colleagues asked me early on if I now have tons of time back that I lost on a 1.25 hour (each way) commute in New York. I told her that honestly? I have less, at least if we’re talking about time for me. In New York that 1.25 hours each way allowed me to read, listen to podcasts or music, or even sleep on the train. After my workday I knew that I had that length of time to decompress before walking in the door and having to be “on” as mom. Working from home, I rush straight from dropping them all off into whatever work project is pressing in the morning, and then when Kristin heads out to pick them up around 5:00 I’m rushing to complete as much work as I can in my last hour before the kids burst in and need my undivided attention. That doesn’t mean that I would trade it, a big part of the reason why we moved was to lose our commutes and be able to give that time back to our family, and I do love that we have more of our evenings together.
I remember chatting with another mom of three in the months after the twins were born. She had twin boys Jonah’s age (we were in the same birthing class), and her daughter was born around the same time as the twins. I asked her how things were going with three under three and she said that most days they were in a routine, but if someone got sick the wheels were off the bus. I know exactly what she means. This winter seems to have been a particularly rough one for illness, and K and I have had to do some juggling to figure out who could stay home with a sick kid most easily, depending on the day and week. Because I have more PTO days available and more flexibility in taking them, most of the time that’s me (although she’s more than fair about staying home whenever it’s necessary).
This week has felt like one of those “wheels are off the bus” weeks. On Monday, K left for work before the kids were up and when I woke Jude up I noticed that one of his eyes was pretty crusty. We’d received an email from preschool last week saying that pink eye was going around at school, so I’d known it was a possibility but hadn’t given it a ton of thought. I knew right away that he should stay home, and figured I’d take Vivi and Jonah and then run Jude to urgent care before heading back home to start my work day. Despite some evidence to the contrary I still expect that with only one sick kid I should be able to get work done more or less as usual. By the time we got to preschool and I went to unbuckle V from her car seat it was clear that she too had crusty eyes. I told her that she had to stay with me and she was mad as hell (they love school). When her teacher came out to take a quick peek and give me instructions, V wouldn’t even look at either of us. I dropped Jonah with his teacher and headed across town to urgent care with the twins. At this point I still thought that maybe I could just wrap this up quickly and get in a full work day. I let my boss know what I was up to and she gave me the go-ahead (fortunately I also work for a very flexible and very family-friendly organization). Urgent care wasn’t busy at all, but things like this still take way more time than I ever anticipate. Every person there was entirely charmed by Jude and Vivi (it’s actually kind of fun because at pediatric offices kids are no big thing, but when you go to urgent care they’re the favorite patients of the day). They noticed one of those coat hooks that has a rounded top and two curved hooks and excitedly showed me the “octofish,” and Vivi pointed to the light they use to examine eyes and ears and said “that robot check my ears” (we’re really into robots around here lately).
Despite my stress over my day being derailed, I tried hard to stay in the moment and really notice the cute stuff and the way that everyone else appreciated their presence. I knew that I was lucky to be with them, but it was also tough not to think about work. Because I have the privilege of working from home unsupervised, I feel a huge responsibility to demonstrate my reliability and punctuality and to deliver results in noticeable ways. I know that being a mom has a huge impact on the guilt factor as well; I never want my colleagues to assume that because I have children (and because they get sick and things come up unexpectedly) I may deliver less than others or not show up the way that I’m expected to. Being a mom who also works from home (with colleagues who, by and large, do not work from home) is a tremendous blessing but also a consistent source of guilt and anxiety.
With their prescriptions in hand (pink-eye confirmed – fortunately Vivi loves “raindrops” and asks for them regularly, the boys have to be pinned down for eyedrops) I headed out to fill them. Vivi started asking for mac and cheese, so I decided to fill the prescription at the grocery store on the way. I dropped it at the pharmacy and was told that it would take 20 or 30 minutes, so, wearing Vivi and pushing Jude in the cart, I went after the shopping list that Kristin left with me that morning (she’d fully intended to do the shopping on her way home from work, but since I had 20 minutes to kill anyway…). Once I was back at the pharmacy and the prescription still wasn’t ready, I thought a lot about how much easier this must all feel if you’re a stay-at-home mom. That’s probably an incorrect and unfair assessment, and I’m sure an actual SAHM would have lots to say on the matter – dealing with sick kids isn’t easy for anyone, but knowing that I was supposed to be at work and wondering what my boss and my colleagues might think of this situation just made the whole thing harder. I imagined what it might be like to know that all day long I was supposed to be with the kids, meeting their needs, shopping for dinner groceries etc. How much more in-the-moment might I be?
By the time I got home it was almost noon. The twins needed lunch and a nap and I knew that the chance of me getting more than two hours of work done was absurd at best. I let my boss know that I was logging the whole day as a sick day and apologized for the chaos. What made the whole thing worse was that the following day, Jonah had an appointment with a new pediatrician for a pre-surgery physical because on Friday he’s having his top two front teeth pulled under anesthesia. The Tuesday appointment was another one that I’d hoped would be in-and-out, but instead it took 90 minutes, and Friday I knew I’d be missing at least a half-day if not a full-day of work for the dental surgery. I’m compulsively honest about this stuff, so I made sure to get a few hours of work in while the twins napped on Monday to make up for the time I might miss on Tuesday, and entered Friday into our HR system well in advance, but this week has still been psychologically overwhelming as I’ve felt pulled in two opposing directions. The fact that I could potentially fly under the radar while all of this goes on in the background somehow feels even worse than just not showing up at the office in an obvious way.
Add all of this to the fact that dealing with medical professionals has a tendency to completely undo me as it is (another post for another time) and I’ve been unraveling a little bit this week. Send us good thoughts as we head into dental surgery tomorrow morning.
We had Kristin’s family over today to celebrate Jude & Vivienne’s birthday. While birthdays have never been my creative thing (probably because of the same space issues that made me dislike hosting in general in NY) Kristin wanted to bring Vivi’s current favorite book into the celebration. Stick Man is actually a Christmas book, so it’s funny that they’re SO into it right now, but two-year-olds; we listened to Christmas carols on the way to preschool almost till February, so it is what it is.
No story to tell here, just a lovely afternoon with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. But I have plenty of photos.
Kristin doesn’t remember to read this blog very often, but when she does she’s generally very complimentary about it and thanks me for taking the time to document our lives. This past Sunday we finally hung a bunch of family photos on the wall of the living room, and she was visibly disappointed that I’m not in any of them. Admittedly I chose the photos that we had printed, and she told me in advance that she wanted to make sure that I was in at least one of them, but I honestly could not find a decent photo of me and any of the kids that fit with the rest of the photos. I’m sort of bummed about it too, but to be honest I also take great pride in being our documentarian and have been loving the creative challenge of trying to take great pictures of our family. I have a long ways to go, but the process is really very gratifying.
At some point in recent weeks when Kristin sat down to catch up on multiple blog posts that she’d missed, she read the one about my birthday and commented aloud that I seem to be really diving into my goals. She may have commented before getting past the first one, but it was still nice to reflect for a moment and think that she might be right.
While I haven’t done a single thing to increase my level of exercise, and I feel like my demonstration of calm and patience for the kids varies wildly from day to day, I do think that I’ve made some genuine progress on goals one and two: engaging my creative side on a regular basis, and making more social plans with friends.
For starters, I finished knitting the scarf that I started making for Jonah roughly three years ago! It was fun to finish because it was the first time that I looked up the right way to weave in ends (and I had a lot of them since changed yarns many times). I also had to take out a row right at the end, because I’d forgotten to leave enough yarn to bind off, and removing stitches is something I’ve never understood how to do. I pulled out a knitting book and went to work, and sure enough I made it happen. While I used to give up easily when encountering things that felt frustrating, being a parent has given me a newfound sense of persistence in large part because I’m constantly reminding the kids that “we can do hard things” and we’ve been actively working on helping Jonah be less afraid of making mistakes and be more willing to try things he might not succeed at the first time. I find that creative endeavors are way more fun when I’m not so afraid of doing it poorly.
In addition to the knitting, I did Valentine crafts with the kids, painted simple Valentines for everyone, I’ve baked and decorated cookies a few times, and while I don’t write blog posts often enough to keep anyone’s interest for very long I’m still doing it somewhat regularly and taking the camera out a lot more often. I still need to take some active steps to improve my photos (besides practice, that is) but it’s only March 1st so I’m pretty confident that I can get there before the year is over.
I’m enjoying creative activities so much that lately I’m itching to start something new. I probably would have begun a new knitting project, but I wasn’t able to get my hands on the yarn I wanted (I really love this stuff and want to make everything with it), and then couldn’t really decide on a project and got distracted by life. While I was in New York, K took the kids to a friend’s house for dinner one night and Jonah was introduced to a show he’d never seen before. I think it’s an Amazon original show, called Annedroids, and it’s actually kind of cute. It’s about a girl who builds these incredible android robots in a junkyard, and the two neighborhood kids who discover it all and become friends with her. There’s lots of science and hypotheses and teamwork; it’s a show I’m happy to let him watch. I told K tonight that I really want to do robots for Halloween this year, and her only response was “You exhaust me.” Yeah, I can be a little over the top when it comes to planning ahead, but I think this time it’s simply because I’m craving a creative project.
In regard to social plans we haven’t done much inviting over, but we did have that one small get-together with a couple of neighbors after the block party, and we’ve been to the homes of others on a few occasions. Being in New York for four days was wonderful in many respects because it filled up my tank, so to speak, with lots of amazing conversations and quality time with people I’ve missed. But I also came home feeling like I needed to switch off for awhile, since being on and engaged in conversation from 9 a.m. till 11 p.m. for four days straight really wears me out. I’m doing some introvert recharging and hoping to get back into making some social plans in the coming weeks.
As I’d anticipated, leaving K and the kids behind was really tough. I think that staying busy helped, however, and in retrospect I think that it was quite valuable for all of us. I needed to see for myself that Jonah could handle it, K got some incredible bonding time with him, and while she didn’t have anything to prove as far as I was concerned, she absolutely demonstrated her willingness and ability to go above and beyond what was necessary to keep the wheels turning. Every day she seemed to schedule something extra to add some fun and variation to their time without me, she made sure to have exclusive play time with Jonah every night after the twins went to sleep and before she put him to bed, she took everyone out for pizza and ice cream, she took them to friends’ houses. I think that she made the time about as wonderful as she could have, and I’m eternally grateful. And our friends who covered mornings for us? They were amazing, as I should have expected. Jonah’s teacher told me that he seemed quite proud to show them around his school and teach them the drop-off routine. I’m probably headed back to New York at the end of May and the first week of August, but I’m feeling better about it now that we’ve all been through the experience.
Now that I’m reflecting on it, I suppose figuring out that piece of the working-remotely puzzle probably should have been on my list of goals for the year, since it was obviously going to come up eventually. This arrangement is teaching us all to be more adaptable, and I’m relieved to be over the anxiety-ridden “first trip.” Hopefully we’ll all grow in ways we hadn’t even expected. Now to find a project that will keep me from starting Halloween costumes in March…
A few weeks ago, a story came out on our neighborhood Facebook group about a black family a number of blocks up experiencing some pretty intense race-based harassment by a neighbor on their block. Another neighbor on the street called it out and a number of people expressed their support for the family that was being targeted (and also noted that this woman is apparently notorious throughout the area for calling the police on all sorts of perceived violations and instances of “blight”). At any rate, it was decided that there ought to be some sort of show of support for the family, so a block party was planned…in February…in Michigan. I have to admit that while I offered to bring chili (it was a chili cook-off and BBQ) I had some real concerns about the temperatures and how this would all shake out. By some miracle (or more likely as a result of climate change) it was 60 degrees and sunny all weekend, and the block party went off without a hitch.
This entire weekend felt like a preview of what spring and summer are going to feel like in this neighborhood, and I have to say that it was spectacular.
The block party was a number of blocks from our actual block, so we didn’t expect to know much of anyone, but we ended up running into two families from preschool and being introduced to a few others, and having a really wonderful time chatting with people. The kids ran around in the sun with a bunch of other kids, and I just felt good about where we live. We’d already invited one family over for an after-party, and we ended up inviting another family we’d only just met (another preschool family). As K and I put out cheese and veggies and wine glasses in anticipation of everyone’s arrival, we talked about how fortunate we feel to be here, how proud we are of our home, and how good it feels to share it with friends. In New York I hated hosting, but I’m realizing now that those feelings were very closely tied to our space. Sure, I still get stressed out about cleaning and prep, but even that feels easier now that we have places to put things. We had a really lovely evening and I’m excited to do it a lot more often.
Since I’m still an introvert no matter how much I’m learning to enjoy hosting, after six plus hours of socializing I need a day to decompress, so today we planned to get out into nature on our own. K proposed the farm at the Nature Center, and the kids were really excited about it. Unfortunately we drove out there only to find that it didn’t open for an hour and a half, and that the farm portion was actually closed for the season (oh right, it is still February after all). We headed to a playground instead, and then came home for lunch and decided to spend the remainder of the afternoon just playing in the yard. Over the past couple of days everyone has been outdoors, so we’ve spent some time talking to three neighbors we’re very familiar with, as well as meeting another family we’d never met before, a couple who struck us right away as fun and down-to-earth and who apparently have five girls between the ages of 6-19.
This probably sounds like over-the-top gratitude, but I’m so thankful to have a driveway and a big front yard, and to know that we’ll spend time out there and we’ll run into our neighbors and that they’re wonderful. I experienced so many “I love our life here” moments this weekend. And I now feel much more confident that yes, we’re going to make friends and build a community, even if it’s going to take us a little while to do it.
I’m going to New York solo on Tuesday night for four nights and about three and a half days, and while it was partly my choice (a good friend and colleague is moving on professionally, she lives in Los Angeles and will be working out there now so this is my last chance to cross paths with her in NYC) my feelings about the trip are all over the place. I’ve missed my work friends tremendously and I’m looking forward to seeing them, not to mention my good friend-friends up in Westchester (I’m spending Friday night up there) but this weekend I’ve really begun to panic about how it’s going to feel to be away from these guys. I’ve never left the kids for this long. We left Jonah for two nights when K was pregnant, but that’s it. I was in the grocery store this evening and I was already thinking about how excited I’ll be to come home. I’m really afraid of how lonely it’s going to feel when I get off the plane by myself late at night, tired and hungry and missing my family, standing in a taxi line and just wanting to cry. I know that I shouldn’t put that expectation out into the universe, but I’m really feeling sad about it.
Some good family friends of ours have agreed to come over at the crack of dawn Wednesday through Friday to get the kids fed and dressed and driven to school because K can’t do it with her work schedule and our preschool’s hours. I feel guilty about having them do it and worried that Jonah will have a meltdown over missing me or something in his morning routine not being quite right. K has been so supportive and really wants me to have a great time, so I’m really trying to look forward to it. We’ll see.
Despite Jonah insisting that we all get up and keep him company while he ate banana bread at 6:30 this morning (that’s what I get for baking banana bread before going to bed last night) which started the day off with a bit of a power struggle (I was determined to stay in bed and ignore him, which didn’t go over well), it actually turned out to be a lovely lazy Saturday morning. By 8:15 I noticed actual sunshine streaming in through the mud room windows, and that glow stuck around to make the living room magical for awhile. Sunshine in Michigan in February feels like a tremendous blessing, so I’ll take every sparkle and make the most of it. Kristin was the one pointing out that I ought to grab the camera while Vivi rocked in the rocker, and I’m glad that I did.
We laid low till around noon when we bundled everyone up in snow pants, made some grilled cheese for the road, and drove out to South Haven for a winter fest. We saw lots of interesting ice sculptures (no photos, sorry – the crowds were bananas) made some s’mores, and stopped by North Beach to see what it’s like in February. Jonah had been freezing and begging to go home, but by the time he’d been in the car for 10 minutes and saw the playground equipment on the beach he begged to get out again. Why not?
I have no idea what Jude’s pointing at there, since he obviously can’t see out from under that hat. It was SO COLD, but the kids did not want to stop swinging. Oh Michigan.