January Fever & Mental Leaps

Apparently there hasn’t been much news from us in the last couple of weeks. We’ve had so much illness over the past six weeks or so that we really haven’t had a lot of activity that would be of interest to anyone but us. We’ve spent most of our weekends cooped up at home, with the exception of a couple of dinner invitations to the homes of friends which have been a welcome change of pace.

It goes without saying that America is quickly becoming something out of a dystopian nightmare and that the last week and a half have been pretty rough on the psyche. We learned at the tail end of last week that Jonah been somewhat depressed all week long at school. His teacher told me that he’d been sitting in his cubby feeling sad, refusing to talk to or play with anyone despite multiple invitations from good friends. This isn’t all that uncommon on Mondays, when I think he’s struggling a bit with the transition from a weekend with us, but it went on all week last week. Obviously Jonah isn’t really aware of what’s going on politically, but he’s highly perceptive and susceptible to taking on our emotions. K has been particularly apocalyptic recently, and hasn’t been terribly careful about keeping it from the kids. And let’s be honest: there’s a lot to feel apocalyptic about. There’s a poem that I saw shared on Instagram just after the election that I think about often, “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith. We’ve been trying to bring Jonah into issues that we think it’s important for him to know about: being kind to everyone, embracing difference etc. but I don’t want to scare him either.

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While we weren’t about to make the trip to DC with the kids, we were thrilled when a local women’s march emerged in Kalamazoo just five days before the event. We took both strollers and did the 3.5 miles as a family. The weather was amazing (mid 50s and sunny for most of the walk!) which was a welcome change from the constant gloom we’ve been having lately. The kids were amazing (then again the bar was low – they were in strollers with snacks) and it was incredibly empowering to see over 1,000 local people come together in support of progressive causes. It renewed my faith in Kalamazoo, and it was heartening to run into a number of people we knew.

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When Jonah was a baby, I had an app on my phone that helped parents to track these “mental leaps” that babies supposedly go through during different phases of their development. I can’t recall the name of the app, but I remember it introducing a variety of concepts that babies would supposedly begin to grasp during these big periods of transition. This past weekend, Kristin and I were talking about how Jonah seems to be making a leap of his own lately (all depression of last week aside). Suddenly, rather than throwing a tantrum at the slightest disappointment, he’s saying things to me like “That’s OK, I don’t mind it when I can’t have something that I want” or beginning his requests with “When you’re done with what you’re doing, could I please have…”

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All of a sudden he seems more patient, more tolerant, more able to cope with disappointment. Kristin remarked that it’s amazing what a few months of stability can do for a child, but I also wonder if it’s because we’ve been making more of an effort to ignore the bad and praise the good. Back in November we took him to a counselor a couple of times because of some behavioral concerns, and while we did a terrible job of following through on much of our homework and reading, we did get the gist of her philosophy which was just that: ignore bad behavior whenever possible (unless someone is being hurt or something is being destroyed) and praise positive choices and behaviors at every opportunity. We haven’t been super consistent, but we’ve been making an effort and I feel like there’s been a dramatic change.

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Jude is definitely doing more talking, lots of singing, and continues to be pretty happy-go-lucky. We have noticed a bit of a tilt towards two-year-old behavior lately, however. He rarely digs in his heels when reprimanded or intercepted, but lately he’ll respond by tossing something he’s holding just to register his displeasure with our command. We hear the words “no way!” more often than we used to. His bravery and spunk are showing up in their own unique ways. While he may find sledding to be terrifying, he was the only one of the three who wanted to pet the leopard gecko and the chickens at our friends’ house on Friday night.

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Vivienne continues to be a source of endless amusement. She dances and sings all the time, she has strong clothing preferences already (the boys really don’t care much at all, with the exception of Jonah preferring leggings to jeans) and will pick things out to wear and even tell me no if I pick out an item she doesn’t care for. She loves to play pretend and seems to think it’s both wonderful and hilarious when we play along. Her newest phrase is “be right back” which sounds more like “be back!” and is usually accompanied by an index finger shake. She’ll say this when she’s asking us if we want coffee, before she runs off to the toy kitchen to get it.

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Both she and Jude sing parts of the ABC song, and it usually goes something like “A, B, C, D….LMNOP!” with a few other letters scattered in at random intervals. Today Jude wore a shirt with writing on it and when Vivi saw it, she pointed to the letters and began singing the song. I love that they’re learning so much and becoming so interested in new things. Both Vivi and Jude are really into books lately, and they’re especially fond of the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems. They both love to interact with the books by pretending to pluck things from the pages and eat them, or knocking on a picture of a door and saying “knock knock” and then they laugh at their own silliness. They are also beginning to memorize words and phrases from their favorites and will recite things as we read. Another big favorite of Vivi’s is this Pip and Posy book that was given to us by good friends in the UK, and I think that Vivi pretty much has it memorized.

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The view at thirty eight

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I turned 38 yesterday, and I have to say that I’m feeling pretty good about it. While a part of me is aware that I’m quickly approaching forty and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the anxiety we’re socialized to feel about that number, an even bigger part me of went to bed the night before my birthday and reflected on my life right now: the view at 38, and quickly realized that I have everything I ever could have hoped to have at this point in my life. I think that a lot of the anxiety we feel at milestone birthdays is related to the question of whether we’ve done “enough” by this point. By no means do I feel like I am everything that I want to be, nor have I done everything I might like to do, but I truly feel like this life that I’m so fortunate to have is everything to me, and I’m so happy with that.

Some days it still feels unimaginably lucky that these three wonderful tiny people are ours and we’re theirs, that we have a house and a yard, that we’re near my parents and our kids will get to spend so much more time with them than ever before, that the kids love their school, and that K and I have good jobs that allow us to provide what our family needs.

I also feel so much more comfortable and familiar with myself in this phase of my life. I’ve talked with friends before about identifying an age that just feels like the age you’re sort of meant to be. I was kind of a strange little kid and was never comfortable around teenagers, not even when I was one, I was happy to say goodbye to my 20s when I turned 30, and I kind of feel like my 30s are just where I make sense. I might even go so far as to say my upper 30s (and who knows, maybe the 40s will feel just right too). This phase of life makes sense to me, and I feel at home in my skin. I also feel a lot more inspired to be creative (within reason) and have pushed past a lot of “I have to be perfect or I’m not trying it” in recent years.

I’m not big on new year’s resolutions, but since I have a January birthday it often feels like the right time to take some time to think about what I want in my life in the next year. A few things come to mind. I want to:

  1. Continue to do things that allow me to engage my creative side, even when that means doing things imperfectly and pushing through a fear of failure. That includes keeping up this blog, making things with the kids, continuing the Halloween costume tradition, putting the time and energy into learning more about my camera and improving my photography, and maybe even finishing that scarf I began knitting for Jonah roughly three years ago.
  2. Push us (K included) to invite more people over, make social plans more often, talk to people more, spend time building and deepening friendships locally.
  3. Start getting some exercise again, in the name of self-care and better health and wellbeing. I haven’t figured out the “how” of this one yet.
  4. Yell less, model calm and patience for the kids, and play with them more often.

Having kids has dramatically altered the way that I make wishes. They’re so rarely for myself anymore, but here’s to a year of health and happiness.

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On being “new to town” forever, or How long can introverts go without making new friends?

 

The other day I made an appointment for a haircut at a salon I’ve never been to. I’ve had my hair cut twice since moving to Kalamazoo, both times at the same place but by two different stylists. K and I are still trying to find a place that feels like “the one” after years of really good NYC haircuts on the Lower East Side. I started thinking about the kind of smalltalk that I make with stylists while I’m getting my hair cut, and started reflecting on how things like that have gone since we moved back. My brief “about me” is always centered around the fact that we just moved back to town: what neighborhood we’re in, why we moved, the time we spent in NY. Follow up questions are usually related: what we did about jobs when we moved back, how we feel about being back etc. I suddenly realized that at some point (probably before too terribly long) I won’t be able to lean on “we’re new here” as my go-to introduction. We won’t be new anymore, we’ll be established, or at least that’s how I would imagine it’s supposed to go. That doesn’t mean that we won’t still have a few things to sort out (that list is long: nobody has a dentist, we just found the kids a pediatrician…) but it won’t make sense at some point to talk about how we just moved here.

If there’s one element of feeling fully settled that I think we may find ourselves falling behind on for awhile it’s making friends and building a new community here. I’m firmly in camp introvert, even though people who don’t know me well sometimes find that surprising. That doesn’t mean that I don’t need people or care about deep relationships, but it does mean (in my case, anyway) that I’m terrible about taking advantage of (or creating, for that matter) opportunities to meet new people and potentially build new relationships. One of the things that I miss most from our life in New York, besides our good friends there (which I’ll get to in a bit) is my open-concept office. When I sat in a closed cubicle I rarely got up to wander over and chat with someone, because that required some sort of awkward conversation starter. Once we remodeled and went to an open office, all of these opportunities to overhear and jump into a conversation that intrigued me suddenly appeared and I found myself socializing way more than I ever had before. I love organic opportunities to get into a conversation that might be wonderful, but I’m terrible at finding them and downright averse to setting up a scheduled opportunity to talk with a new person. Now that I work from home full-time, I almost never talk to anyone about non-work-related topics besides my family. I have zero opportunities to meet and talk to people. An extrovert would do something about that, but I seem to be digging in my heels.

At this stage in my life, with young kids as both a time suck and a convenient excuse to decline things I don’t care about, I’m just not sure what my community and friendship needs even are. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have them, I’m certain that I do, I’m just confused about it lately. In New York we had really wonderful friends. Some of our friendships shifted over the 13 years that we were there, some people came and went, but we met lots of people we truly enjoyed and by the time we left we were especially close with a small handful of other families with young children. Spending time with those friends was so effortless because we knew each other so well, we could be fully ourselves, they knew about our flaws and loved us anyway. And as Kristin pointed out the other day, those bonds were built up in part through the sharing of some pretty significant life milestones.

This transition is going to seem unrelated, but stay with me.

The other day I told Kristin about a blog post that had resonated with me by a blogger I really enjoy. When I shared it we weren’t talking about community or friendships at all, we were actually talking about the end of the holidays and what a downer that can be for me (which was more or less the focus of the post). The TLDR, if you don’t feel like clicking away right now, is that the end of really special things are generally a total downer for the writer, but she’s trying to focus more on the mantra “there is more” to remind herself that yes, there is more joy to be experienced, there’s more beauty to be found, there’s more magic with her family and her friends and that it isn’t limited to Christmas and vacations. I really enjoyed her post and felt it was a good reminder.

On that same car trip (K and I were headed out of town for a wedding, so we had some uninterrupted conversation time) I asked K her thoughts about a conversation that popped up on our FB mom group the other day. The conversation was about the concept of Friday night meatballs, a trend I’ve been hearing about for awhile now where someone decides to host a group of people for a casual, inexpensive dinner party on a very regular basis with a rotating cast of guests, with the purpose of seeing more people and making those connections a priority. A good friend back in New York mentioned that she and her best friend’s family have been doing crappy dinner parties for awhile now and are really enjoying it, which is another spin on the theme. Here’s another good piece on why making dinner with good friends a priority is important to your sanity and wellbeing. This topic came up in our mom group and so many people jumped in to say what a wonderful idea it was and that they wanted to start hosting these gatherings immediately. I read the thread with interest but never commented because, honestly? I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy it. I’d probably enjoy attending something like that occasionally, if I knew the people super well and liked their other friends, but hosting? Historically I’ve hated hosting; it stresses me out and I often end up in tears from the pressure I put on myself to make it work, and I have such social anxiety that I annex myself in the kitchen with tasks to avoid having to mingle. Kristin and I both agreed that we also hate the obligation of a recurring commitment. We could both imagine having a few friends over for casual meals from time to time when we’re in the mood (and in fact Kristin just said the other day that we ought to buy more bar stools so that we can have parties, which surprised me), but the basis for a lot of these meatball/crappy dinners is that you do it on a recurring basis no matter what because it matters. We don’t even meal plan on a weekly basis because we want to have the ability to change our minds depending on how we feel.

So if Friday night meatballs aren’t our thing, how to make friends? How to build any sort of real community here when we don’t have the “new to town” excuse any longer? Kristin brought our conversation back to the blog post I shared earlier about the mantra “there is more.” She suggested that because our friendships in New York were forged through the sharing of some significant life milestones (prenatal yoga and breastfeeding classes together as we prepared to become parents, experiencing the accidental home birth of a friend’s second child, leaving our two-year-old in the care of two wonderful families while our twins were born, visiting each other at the hospital and sharing tears over unwanted c-sections), that maybe there isn’t more. That sounds bleak, and maybe K was just playing devil’s advocate or maybe she was feeling particularly anti-social in that moment, but she raised the question “what if we can’t expect to make friends like that ever again if we are done having babies and those milestones that forged such strong bonds are over?” I think that there will be plenty of other firsts in our lives, but I agree that bringing children into the world is pretty incomparable to most other things two families can experience together; sharing some big life changes probably does expedite the relationship building process. We’ve actually met a family or two via the kids’ school and have enjoyed them thoroughly, but we’re getting in our own way of deepening those relationships or continuing to find new ones because we aren’t making much of an effort.

I love having deep relationships with old friends, I love the way you can just pick up wherever no matter how much time has passed and no one is offended by the passing of that time or the lack of phone calls. I love having a history with someone that erases all need for explanations, but at this stage of my life I kind of can’t be bothered to create new relationships like that. I need them to happen naturally and our lives are not terribly conducive to that. Without having given it much thought (up till now) I may have been hoping that after being here awhile it would just happen organically, but I’m realizing now that might not be the case. We may need to push ourselves a bit.

The Kids at Christmas, 2016

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I mentioned in my last post that I was getting our Christmas cards ready to send out. They’re out in the world, and while I’ve definitely been doing some writing in recent months, I haven’t written an actual Christmas letter in quite awhile. I always love receiving them, but for some reason I haven’t been writing or sending them. One of the things that everyone seems to do in the Christmas letter is to give an update on everyone in the family and it made me wonder what I would write about each of our children right now. When I started this blog, I hoped to do a better job of recording who the kids were and what they were up to at different moments in time. But I’ve been so busy documenting our move and the house that I haven’t said very much about who they are. So here we go, a brief snapshot.

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Jonah just turned four on Thanksgiving. Despite all of the times that I expect too much of him and he acts his age, refuses to listen, is stubborn and defiant, I still feel like he’s growing up far too quickly. He’s so tall, and the day he turned four he told us repeatedly that he’s bigger and stronger and insisted on doing things like carrying his birthday cake from the car to Grandma Sue & Grandpa Pat’s house, “because I’m four now and I’m strong.” He loves books and loves being read to. His teacher told me that in one of the first weeks of school, she was reading a story and almost all of the other kids were talking or doing other things and he said to her with surprise, “I’m the only one listening!”. He loves to build things, loves trucks and machines and seeing how things work, and still loves digging in the sand (it’s consistently his favorite part of his day). He’s doing great with the potty now, and really only has accidents at school after nap when he’s been sleeping a very long time.  He doesn’t show much interest in art or in learning to write (one of the downfalls of a Montessori-based school is that he can choose never to do these things if he wants). He likes music, but mostly just in the car and at home, and seems to be lukewarm about music class at school (an administrator told me that he’s mentioned that he feels his music class is for babies – he’s with the 2 & 3 year olds and most of his friends are in the 4s group). He has two very good friends at school, boys he plays with daily, and it feels to us like he’s found his tribe. We’re having them over next weekend to celebrate his birthday and we’re excited to get to know them better.

If I’m being completely honest, he’s wonderful but also super challenging. Most of the time we feel like asking him to do almost anything is a battle. He’s the most strong-willed person I know, and things go from zero to totally explosive in just a few seconds. He’s super smart (they recently gave him a test at school because of a study the school is participating in, and his “age equivalency” the average age of other test takers who scored like he did, ranged from 5.7 to 6.9 depending on subject), but has a lot of trouble with self-regulation and not getting ridiculously upset if he doesn’t get his way. If someone does something he doesn’t like or even just misunderstands him, he loses it. He’s super grouchy in the mornings, often refuses to acknowledge or greet anyone. He’s basically a teenager in a four-year-old’s body.

That said, he can be so charming and so sweet; he has incredible empathy. If I’m upset for some reason (stress, frustration, who knows…) and I’m crying, he’ll always come over to me and say “It’s OK Mama D, I’ll take care of you” and pet my head and hug me with absolute sincerity. Last night he refused to stop playing with a box of fragile Christmas ornaments and dropped it, and it sounded as if some things had broken. I was very upset and he laughed at me, which was WAY more upsetting than the fact that he’d dropped them. I basically told him that it was monstrous to laugh at someone when they’re sad or upset because you’ve hurt them or upset them, and walked away from him. He sat on a stool across the room from me while I ignored him, and about a minute later, on his own, he said “I’m sorry Mama D. Can I give you a hug?” I was blown away by his awareness and his desire to make amends. Usually we have to force him to tell people that he’s sorry. He’s still a cuddle bug, loves to sit in my lap and needs to have me cuddle him to sleep at night.

I worry a lot that we’re making all kinds of mistakes with him. Children absorb everything; they learn so much from what we say and do and I often feel that we choose the wrong battles, we yell way too much, and his explosiveness is probably directly correlated with our explosiveness. Despite the fact that I know better intellectually, I really take his disrespect personally and let it get to me. I have a lot of work to do and really want to be a better mama. I know that so much of what we see in him comes from what we model for him.

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Vivienne and Jude are 22 months now, and are at a pretty adorable age. While we’re seeing the beginning of the terrible twos in certain moments (they both say “no way!” when we ask them to do things because they’ve learned it from Jonah), this stage of development seems impossibly charming and cute compared to their threenager big brother. That said, I have to acknowledge that I love Jonah’s independence these days. It’s amazing to know that (in most cases) if I want to bring him along for some errand I’m running, he’ll be fine and trustworthy and will make the errand more enjoyable because he’s good company. I can leave him alone to play for ages and not worry about him. There’s less risk that he’ll do something outrageously dangerous or destructive. The twins are still in that toddler phase when you just don’t know what’s going to happen, and if things get quiet you know to worry. When the three of them are alone together they can be trouble, but I love that they love one another and enjoy playing together enough to get into trouble. Jonah loves making them laugh, which can lead to him making bad decisions and modeling bad behavior for them, so that’s less amusing. They think that he is everything, which is really sweet to see.

Vivienne is super sassy. Teachers at school adore the twins, but in particular we get lots of funny stories about Vivi because of her sass. She loves shoes and hats, insists on putting on her boots first thing in the morning, and loves to wear sunglasses. She’s absurdly independent and wants to go up and down stairs without help, won’t let us help her to put on her boots (the other morning when I tried to help her, she put her hand on my chest and said firmly, “No Mama D”). She wants to put her own coat on just like Jonah (flipping it over her head). She has so little hair, but she loves it when the teachers put it in a tiny ponytail. She loves books, loves being read to, and feels a great sense of injustice if Jonah is getting a book before bed but she isn’t. She insists on joining in. She also loves playing pretend – she loves baby dolls, loves the toy kitchen at school (we’re getting one for Christmas now that we finally have the space), will offer people pretend food and tell me when her baby is napping. She’s also fiercely determined to do things even when challenged. She’s spent many an hour at school outdoors trying to ride a trike on which her feet do not reach the pedals, but the teachers tell me she is undeterred and just keeps trying. Unlike Jonah she LOVES art! For some reason she says something that sounds like “lellow” (rhymes with yellow) when she wants to color, and color she does. She will go through page after page of blank paper. She used to do big dramatic scribbles, mostly in a circular motion, carefully choosing just a few colors that all seemed to work beautifully together on each page. But recently they taught her to spell her name at school. If you ask her to spell it, she’ll shout “V-I-V-I”. What’s funny is that Jude also says that when you ask how to spell his name. Once she learned that, her artwork turned to attempts to write her name. She does tiny scribbles now, like handwriting, over and over again and will sometimes quietly say “v-i-v-i” as she draws/writes. Despite her independence she can also be clingy – when tired she wants to be held all the time, and sometimes even when she isn’t tired. She’s affectionate and gives wonderful hugs and kisses, and loves to bury her head into my neck. She LOVES music. As soon as we get into the car she shouts “I want songs!” and usually requests one. It’s often Baa Baa Black Sheep or the Muppets Mahna Mahna. She sings along to most of the songs on the Raffi album we listen to in the car. And if she doesn’t like the song we’re playing she objects loudly and continuously until it’s been changed. She’s such a firecracker, such a huge personality, and she’s super fun and super amusing to have around. She does have quite a temper, and is probably just as strong-willed as Jonah, but at this point her small size and huge personality make it cute enough that even when she’s furious we often look at each other and giggle. I know that’s terrible and that we probably need to reign things in now before she’s 12 and it’s uncontrollable, but for now I’m enjoying her spark.

Jude is so easy going, so laid back, and just so happy-go-lucky. He’s sensitive, cries easily when knocked over (for example), but never seems to get very angry. Every once in awhile when he’s thwarted we can see the two-year-old approaching, but for the most part he’s either just happy or briefly sad. He’s the one of the three who is that stereotypical toddler who is always touching or getting into things that he shouldn’t: dirty things, dangerous things, electrical things, anything with buttons or switches, whatever it may be. He is always interested and always where he shouldn’t be. He likes a lot of the things Jonah likes: cars, blocks, playing in the dirt, but he’s also much more into playing pretend than Jonah ever was. He likes baby dolls (less than Vivi, but enough) and the toy kitchen at school. He loves slides, bouncy things, and ride-on toys. He and Vivi both love climbing on things (they have a climber at school) but Vivi has always been the more advanced climber (he’s also heavier and generally less nimble). He’s a total cuddle bug, loves to be held and cuddled all the time and has his two fingers in his mouth most of the time. He likes books now (he didn’t when he was younger) and will ask for them, but mostly likes the ones with things that move/flaps that open, and will often wander away mid-book if it’s one without. He doesn’t show much interest in art, but loves to sing and listen to music and will dance easily. He and Vivi both love animals – they love to spot them from our windows or when we’re out and about, and Jude will say “meow meow” or “woof woof” in the cutest voice. He has such an adorable giggle and is a super easy crowd. It seems like he’s smiling about 97% of the time. Both Jude and Vivi love to play games with people – the sort of thing where a pattern of you-do-this then I-do-that repeats itself over and over and they can predict what will happen and just laugh and laugh. Oh, and if Jude is playing with something and it’s time for bed he’ll often object, until I say “say night night to the balloon (for example)” and suddenly he’s fine and saying “bye bye balloon!”

I feel badly that Jude’s paragraph is so short compared to our other two, but the truth is that he’s the least complicated of the three. I knew it would shake out that way before I wrote a single word about any of them. They’re so unique and interesting and fun in combination with one another. I’m excited to see how they continue to grow, how their interests evolve, and who they all become. I also wish that they would all slow down a little. Last night I tucked in sleeping Jonah before I went to bed and marveled at how big he looks, especially in bed. There’s something about seeing them completely still that accentuates their growth for me. I need them to stay little for awhile longer, it all just moves too quickly.

*all photos in this post by http://jesmilephotography.com/

 

 

Snowy, lazy Saturday mornings

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Last weekend would have been our first weekend in the house, but because we had to go to Detroit for K’s parents’ 40th anniversary, and because we decided to drop by the downtown Holiday Parade first (underwhelming – I think that NYC has ruined parades for us), we haven’t really had a weekend at home yet. When I say a weekend at home, I mean a weekend in which we have nowhere to be at any specific time, and we can wake up and stay in PJs and just be present.

Last night I sealed and stamped our Christmas cards (I’m getting them out early this year because our change of address is on them) and as I sat at the counter it occurred to me that I’d normally listen to Christmas music while completing this task, but I wasn’t in the mood for it yet. I was excited to get the cards out, but the time didn’t feel quite right for holiday tunes. Then this morning happened. Last night was a night of musical beds (although I slept through most of it, apparently, which I feel somewhat guilty about). I woke up with Jonah in our bed and Kristin mysteriously absent. When he noticed the sliver of outside visible below the shades, he gasped. “Mama D! Look what I see! Snow!” The kids have spent a lot of time at the windows today, and I’ve been smiling so much. Immediately I felt like putting up Christmas lights, and Jingle Bell Rock is playing as I type (before that it was the Ghostbusters theme, because Jonah, and families are about compromise). Jonah has been sweet to the twins today, even going to get them both step stools so that they could see out the living room window with him.

I love this house so much. I just keep walking around with this sense of wonder and amazement that we get to live here, and how perfect it is for us. A night or two ago Kristin said “I’m so glad we didn’t get the Treehaven house” (the house we put an offer in on before this one, and lost). For ages I’ve heard friends make similar comments, that all of the houses they lost were clearly not the right ones, and I’ve always assumed it was revisionist history. Now though, I think that I finally understand. It really does feel like this house is so much better for us than any of the others we considered.

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We have some truly wonderful neighbors here too. Our next door neighbor just came by with her 11-year-old niece (who brought books for the kids and played with them so lovingly), and our neighbor across the street saw Kristin’s car parked on the street one night after 11 p.m. and wrote a long note to public safety explaining our mistake and asking that we please be excused from any ticket (we didn’t get one!).

I can’t wait to get our Christmas tree and to put up lights on our bushes outside. That’s the kind of thing I’ve dreamed of doing for so long. Here’s to many more sleepy weekend mornings in this house, the house that Jonah announced that he wants to live in forever.

First week of school wrap up, design decisions, and wet messy fun

The kids wrapped up their first week at the new center last Friday. I’m feeling good about it but the twins are having a very rough time adjusting, at least at drop off. Jude has been inconsolable before Kristin leaves for work in the morning if he’s anywhere but in her arms, and they’re both a mess when I leave them in their classroom. It tears my heart out to see them go through it, but I know that I have to make space for all of the transitions they’ve been going through and recognize that it’s probably a normal part of this process. The teachers swear that they have a good time once they settle in. For the most part Jonah seems to love it. He had a rough time at drop off on Friday, but I blame myself for lingering a bit too long. He’s told me that he loves his teacher and seems to really enjoy all that he does there.

Of course following the first week at a new school, two out of three of them are sick and had to stay home today. And of course that happened on a day when I had one of the most important meetings I’ve had in many months. Thank god my mom was willing to forego the work she’d intended to do today and stayed home with them while I hid out in other rooms to make phone calls. While I presented to our senior leadership team via Skype I was terrified that one of the kids would burst into the room screaming at any moment, but my mom is a miracle worker and I honestly didn’t hear a peep.

It was also Kristin’s birthday today, and my mom ended up making her cupcakes (sorry mom! I really was going to do that and I owe you big time) and picking up Chinese take out for dinner when cooking just didn’t come together in time. K took Jonah to his first swimming lesson a the Y tonight (which they bailed on halfway through, partly because he didn’t feel good and partly because he can’t stand to follow directions – apparently he told the teacher “But I already know how to swim!” Lies, but I can absolutely hear him saying it). We hope to take some sort of family weekend trip soon as a belated birthday celebration, but planning it is still firmly in the to-do column. We’re open to suggestions within a few hours drive.

On Saturday I went down to a local paint store (“a real paint store” as my dad says, as opposed to Lowe’s I guess) to sit down with a design consultant and get some help thinking through our color palette for the house. I’m SO glad that I did. We already had one color that I’m in love with, which we plan to use on a single wall in our great room, but we were really struggling to pull everything else together. I sat with a super cool woman named Sally who had the most amazing glasses (she tells me she’s had them since the ’70s) and she suggested a handful of colors that should work far better than the neutrals we’d picked out. Tomorrow I’m supposed to meet our potential flooring guy at the house so that he can measure and give us his two cents (and a quote, of course), so I’m curious to hear what he has to see about both these paint swatches and a couple of flooring ideas that we have.

On Saturday afternoon we took the kids up to Lansing to a science museum called Impression 5. I remember going there once or twice as a kid, and the kids seemed to enjoy it. We’re so accustomed to being at our museum fairly often that I keep thinking we really ought to buy a membership somewhere, but so far it’s been tough to decide. Every time we go to a new one we ask Jonah which was his favorite and it’s always the most recent one (of course). This one had a particularly fun room for ages 0-4 with a tiny water table play area that the twins loved, and some pretty cool catapults and pneumatic rocket type things.

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On Sunday we checked out the Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival with high hopes for some family fun, but we only made it about as far as a craft fair full of gems like this one before we knew that this was not our scene, and we packed everyone up in the car. It was definitely a Michigan culture shock moment, of which we’ve had many.

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We headed for the Kalamazoo Nature Center instead, which is where Jonah wanted to go all along (we really ought to listen to him on these matters). I hadn’t been in a million years and barely remembered anything besides the historic farmhouse that I always wanted to play in, but the kids LOVE it. They have this really wonderful “playground” that isn’t a playground in any typical sense, but it’s almost better because it just gives them space to explore the natural world and get dirty. Kristin commented later that she loves seeing them with dirt under their fingernails; that’s kind of why we moved, after all. The big attraction at the playground is a big water tower with lots of faucets that can be turned on, creating an instant puddle/river to splash and play in. Jude was totally enthralled. To our surprise, Vivi wasn’t into it and didn’t seem to want to get dirty, but the boys were all about it. Vivi was more into playing with gravel and sticks.

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That look is exactly how she felt about the water.

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This guy, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough. If you can’t tell, he is soaked. He’s basically sitting in a river, and it didn’t occur to us to bring a change of clothes. Check out that smile under his cap as he throws handfuls of sand into the water.

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And that tongue sticking out as he tries to balance? I can hardly stand it.

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We then headed across the street to the small farm that’s also a part of the Nature Center. It had just closed when we arrived, but they let us poke around for a bit anyway.

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Notice Vivi in that picture?

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Too bad I was too busy taking pictures to notice she’d fallen off and was hanging by her pants. There’s no good clean fun like playing on dangerous farm equipment. #goodparenting

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It’s honestly a miracle that she hasn’t been bitten by a wild animal yet. She is fearless and almost lost a finger to a rooster twice on this visit.

I’m sure we’ll be spending a lot of time here, and I’m looking forward to all of the dirty adventures to come. There’s a festival at the farmstead in a couple of weeks and I’ll be curious to see if the kids are as into the old farm house as I was.

Ten years + ten weeks

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So young

Today is our tenth wedding anniversary (add six or so years to that to get the full total). K gave me the most beautiful cards this morning (we rarely give anniversary gifts, and this year we agreed that since we’re buying each other a house and lots of other things to go inside of it, we could skip the recommended tin items). Naturally we both wrote a bit about the journey in our cards, but K took the time to reflect on the fact that we are back in the city where we met, and the city in which we were married. I had to remind myself that we’ve never lived in Michigan during the time that we’ve been married – we lived in New York the whole time, even though we were married here. This is our first anniversary living in the place where our journey began.

K also reminded me that despite how awful things have been feeling these past few weeks, and all of the moments in which I’ve found myself saying “I don’t want to live here – I want to go back.” We have to believe that this is where we are supposed to be right now. It doesn’t feel that way, but I need to try to believe it.

My dad has been urging me to call Roberta and push her for a closing date on the house, since we foolishly signed a purchase agreement that said something along the lines of “early October.” He said that it’s because he wants to make sure that we’re able to book painters and flooring contractors immediately upon closing, but I’m fairly certain that the real reason is because he wants us out of his house as quickly as possible. I can’t say that I blame him – we want to be out of here too, but it still makes for an unpleasant living situation when you’re aware that your hosts wish that you weren’t there. So I called Roberta and she said that we can tentatively close on the 10th of October, and get painters in by the 13th. My dad then reminded us that since we’re putting in wood floors, the wood will have to sit in the space for two weeks before it can be installed. That pushes our move date back significantly later than we’d hoped, and we found ourselves feeling so despondent about the next ten+ weeks that we actually discussed breaking our contract and buying a different house. We came to our senses pretty quickly when we realized that most closings happen no sooner than 30 days out, and that we wouldn’t likely get in THAT much earlier, particularly since we didn’t have another house in mind.

Ever since we signed the contract I’ve had my sights set on Halloween in our new neighborhood: I pictured us trick-or-treating there and could imagine sitting on the front stoop handing out candy to neighborhood kids, meeting new neighbors as we go. But it’s starting to look like that’s an ambitious target date. I’m super bummed at the prospect of ten more weeks of living out of suitcases in someone else’s space. All of our coats and warm clothes are packed away in boxes in the garage of our future home, and I probably allowed that to happen because of my wishful thinking that we’d be in well before we needed them. Still, I recognize that ten more weeks in the context of ten years of marriage should be small potatoes, and that the next ten years in that house (god willing, because we never want to move again) will be worth it.

Kids with trucks

Nothing terribly story-worthy has happened this week. On Friday evening, Kristin and the kids were already downtown at the library when I was wrapping up work, so I met them and we strolled around for a bit and talked about how Kalamazoo really seems to have gotten more interesting over the years and seems to be moving in a good direction. Then today we spent a brief chunk of the day at the mall and the cognitive dissonance was almost more than I could handle. I was both hating that this might be our new reality, but also well aware that we chose this so…

Anyway, here are a few pictures from the last couple of days of the kids with trucks. Jonah was the lucky recipient of a hand-me-down John Deere Gator (those battery powered plastic trucks for toddlers) and he saw it for the first time last night and was awfully excited about it. Most of the time was spent with my parents trying to keep him from driving off of a cliff while looking anywhere but in the direction he was driving.

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I’m pretty sure that he was either saying or thinking “but I’m a good driver!” We heard that a lot.

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He actually wants to stop and dump the cargo bed even more than he wants to drive it.

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It was a rainy morning, and about a million degrees out, so we were stuck indoors and spent some time upstairs playing with Papa Doc’s old trucks. Jonah has loved them for quite some time, but now the twins are old enough to be into it too. Jonah calls this “playing beans” because of the dry beans standing in for dirt/gravel.

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Have I mentioned how much the twins love the pets? Pets are such a novelty for them. They often get down on their bellies to try to win the dogs and cat over, but it’s usually futile.

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Change and grief

At work a number of months ago, I attended this really wonderful training called Change Builders (I can’t find a website for it, otherwise I’d share it). Working from an organizational perspective, it addressed the tough realities of what happens within an organization when significant change occurs, moving through the stages of what was, what is, and what will be. There was a great deal of focus on what a mess “what is” is pretty much always going to be, no matter how well executed the change might be. The trainer talked about how the stages of grief are very real when any sort of major change is occurring, and the importance of allowing people to find healthy ways to cope with those feelings rather than trying to squash them or avoid them.

I have no idea where my workbook from that training went during the move, but I wish that I could find it because I’m struggling.

I know that we’re only six days in, but we definitely aren’t in love with Kalamazoo yet. I’ve been having lots of fears about this being the wrong decision and wondering if we’ll be happy here. Living in this weird in-between place with my parents is really tough, because we aren’t in our space, we’re on top of each other, and I think that we all feel a little bit trapped (my parents included). That said, the idea of making social plans and having to execute on them absolutely exhausts me right now. Everything about the “what is” is so overwhelming to me that I cannot even imagine trying to have a conversation with another person that isn’t wholly transactional.

Little things make me want to explode, and naturally I’m blaming them on Kalamazoo. Like the fact that in two days, as many random men have tried to come up and talk to me downtown. I blew today’s guy off successfully, but yesterday I had to sit and listen to roughly 10 minutes of this weirdo’s blathering about vagrants and his father and the Gilmores, and then was furious at myself for not telling him off when he noted that I was married but continued to go on and on about: “Oh are you a model? You’re so beautiful, you know guys, we can’t help it.” Jackass. And naturally I’m thinking about the fact that no dude ever, in any recent years in New York, bothered me on the street in any way.

Kristin is frustrated and grouchy about how her summer is unfolding, we both desperately need a true vacation (even though that isn’t a thing when you have kids) and we can’t find time to fit one in because work is busy for me right now and all of my vacation days are going to either the move or to her new teacher orientation in a couple of weeks when I have to stay home with the kids because day care doesn’t have room for them yet. No one is getting along, and I think that everyone would rather just retreat to their respective corners than have to deal with another human right now.

The kids honestly seem fine and unphased by all of this change, but the adults are pretty unhappy and I’m not sure how to fix it. I think that both K and I need someone else to pick us up and give us a hug and reassure us, and neither of us has anything left to give. We are both way past empty on empathy right now.

I got an email late this afternoon from the children’s museum in Connecticut that we love so much, and I almost started to cry when I read that there are both dinosaur and astronomy exhibits coming up in the next few months. I’m frustrated with our new day care (which the kids haven’t even started yet) because they’re unavailable two critical weeks this month when we need them, they’ve raised the prices significantly since we signed up, and I just don’t know that we made the right choice. I miss Gladys so much it makes me cry. I just miss what we had so much right now.