Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Woman in her Thirties Listens

Dear Anna,

This week you are six years old. Six! Ready to count 'em?

1.

2. 

3. 

4. 

5.

6. 


Six. Whole. Years. 

You now 'get' the world in a way that's rather astonishing to me, so instead of taking this post as an opportunity to tell you how great you are, (and believe me, YOU ARE), I'm going to get a little serious here. To do anything else at this point in time is silly, and when you look back on November, 2016 someday, you'll know exactly what I mean. 

*Warning: political thoughts forthcoming. Don't read if you don't want to. But if you don't want to, maybe that's precisely why you should. 

Anna, you have seen me pretty downcast this week. There have been many, many tears. I can only hope that you will read this one day, long after the forthcoming President's term(s) are over, and can tell me that I was overreacting, that all is well and fine. 

It doesn't feel that way now.  It feels the opposite of that. 

Someday, I will tell you how I see politics. I want to come up with the right combination of words, because words are of the utmost importance to me. My talk to you will involve a genuine belief that when we all do better, we all do better. That our wonderful country is flawed in many ways, and we cannot ignore them or pretend they don't bother us so therefore they don't exist. I will tell you that you are no better than the person next to you, and don't you forget it. I will tell you that when you cast a vote (indeed, when you make a purchase, when you post on social media, when you do pretty much anything in this world), you are making a values statement. You are saying, very clearly, what matters to you. 

Remember how I talked about how words are important to me? Guess what's more important. Values. And talking about values means nothing when you can't put your money/vote/actions behind it. 

I wish I could say I saw the results of this election coming. I didn't. I was shocked to my core, and remain so. I actually made a bet with your beloved Ye-Ye that Hillary would win, and I had already spent my $200. Ye-Ye was right again. Such is life, as your grandma would say. 

But more stinging than the loss of cash is the loss of identity. Because part of the sadness I'm coming to terms with this week is that I am, in my own way, to blame. I assumed Hillary was a shoo-in. I surrounded myself with people who shared my views or were too afraid of my contention to tell me theirs. I allowed the media to keep me totally hosed-- Donald Trump is a reality show clown, a joke. But he was not a joke. He was many things, but he was not that. He is the next President of the United States of America.

I did not listen. 

The fact of the matter is, some of the kindest, hardest working, most wonderful people I know voted for Donald Trump. You know them, too. The only thing that has made me feel remotely better over the last week is to listen to them, if they're willing to talk. I'm reading thoughtful articles from the other side, I'm more vigorously challenging the media (the media!). I'm silencing my own self-righteous echo chamber. There is reason to be frustrated with this current administration. There is reason to distrust Hillary Clinton. For some people, this election result is positive.

And yet, because you are now a big girl and need to hear this, it is devastating to me. Utterly and completely. Such is life.

Being a parent changes everything. You'll see someday, if you choose to have children. You see the world through their eyes. You'll consider their formative years, you'll judge your future decisions based on their interpretations of them. I'm scared for you, my sweet girl. More than that, I'm worried for the friends you're making in school who might not live as privileged a life as we do.

So my wish for you on your sixth birthday is that you will turn into a better listener than I have been. I wish that you will keep an open mind and heart, even when it's hard. This is very difficult for me now. Maybe it will be easy for you. 

I have hope it will be. I will never forget coming to your room in tears on the Wednesday after the election, and telling you that Hillary Clinton did not win. Your response was, 'Will she be okay?'. This is you, Anna. Always looking out for others. I assure, you, my lovely six year old, that Hillary Clinton will be fine. I can only wish that you will continue to be on the lookout and advocate for the ones who aren't. 

I love you,
Mom

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Working Woman in her Thirties

Well, it's been about seven months since I started working, and in the (very few) times I've blogged since then I've been saying I should really write about what it's been like going back to work. I'd say the fact that I haven't blogged with any regularity since then should answer that question.

As we say in our home, it's been Cuckoo Town.


But good Cuckoo Town. Here's what I've learned in the last few months, and the list grows daily.

1. My favorite word is NO.

Want to volunteer for such-and-such? No. Want to bake brownies for the blah-blah-blah? No. Want to have a play date, then go to another play date, then schedule one more play date after that? No. No. No. I was actually fairly good at saying no before going back to work, but now that I'm working I think I say no 20-25 times per day. And that doesn't include saying no to my children. No is my favorite word. NO. NO. Say it, and be empowered.



2. Working is awesome.

I have it easy. First off, I work at my own schedule. I don't have to be in an office at any particular time. Second, I was able to stay home with my kids during the YEARS of no sleep. Working would have been far less awesome during that difficult time. But now that the kids have school, now that we are all doing our own thing, going back to work has reminded me that I'm really valuable to this planet aside from birthing and caring for children. For me, that has been wonderful, and important, and made me feel more like the me I used to be, except better, because kids make everything better.


3. Everyone is going to judge you. That's what people do.

I'm well aware that people think I'm crazy (WHY would you go back to work when you don't have to?) or maybe a little selfish (because of all the no's...) or maybe a little insane (why wouldn't you just teach part time instead of starting a new career?). There are answers to all of those questions, but to be honest, this woman in her thirties doesn't have time to make anyone else feel comfortable with MY decisions. So, as my wonderful mother would say, 'if you don't like it, you can shove it'.

4. Something's gotta give.

I would never pretend that juggling our schedules, particularly given the fact that L is gone SO STUPID MUCH, is a cake-walk. It's hard. For me, the 'thing' that gives most is food. It's not that I was some gourmet chef before going back to work, but I definitely put more thought into food than I do now. And that's a bummer for me. I'm working on fixing it. In the meantime, have I mentioned the wonderful raviolis at Trader Joes?

5. Mom support is pretty much everything. 

There is a special place in heaven for the people who invented grocery delivery service. For the friends who see you're frantic and don't offer judgement but rather offer to take your kids for an hour. (I LOVE YOU, FRIENDS!) For the makers of those Usborne Sticker books that keep my children occupied. For my bosses who are also women and moms and understand that having the ability to be home and meet the bus stop cannot be quantified in dollars.

And of course, for my kids and my husband. Because since I've gone back to work, I have valued my time with them so much more. It makes my heart happy to hear them say, 'Mommy is going to work today', because it also means that they will appreciate our pre-sleep-book-snuggle time in a different way now, like I do. Which is to say our time is so precious-- theirs and mine-- and when we are together, we reap the benefits of all the ways we've grown in our time apart.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A Woman in her Thirties' Current Obsessions

Remember when I used to be really good about blogging weekly? Sigh.

There is so much to catch up on. Anna started kindergarten. Aaron started preschool. Fall is here and it's gorgeous, L's travel is BANANAS, and all is well and good. There's just so much to say that I don't know where to begin, so instead I'll share some of my current obsessions so I can look back on this time fondly someday and remember this crazy crazy time of life.

1. Ages four and five.


You know what's great about my kids right now? Everything. Time can freeze now.


2. Hamilton.



There is nothing I am more obsessed with right now than this soundtrack. I read somewhere that Lin Manuel Miranda is being compared to Shakespeare. SHAKESPEARE. And you know what-- THAT IS A LEGIT COMPARISON. This soundtrack gets better and more brilliant the more times I listen to it, and I WILL SEE THIS SHOW SOMETIME IN THE NEXT YEAR SO HELP ME GOD.


3. Podcasts



I don't think I would be able to maintain sanity throughout this election cycle if it weren't for this podcast. Fascinating and powerful and proof that it's always been kinda nuts when it comes to electing Presidents, so take heart, all ye of 2016.


4.  Love Warrior



I don't know how to say this without sounding really dumb, but I don't follow a lot of mom blogs.  (But, don't YOU have a mom blog?) I know, I know. I normally would have passed on this book, but I heard Glennon Doyle Melton on a Podcast (see? Obsessed.) and liked what she had to say. Then I got this book, and it is blowing my mind in all different pieces and directions. I need all of my girlfriends to read it and talk about it and cry about it and reflect on it with me.

What am I missing? And, who's coming to Hamilton with me?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Woman in Her Thirties at the First Day of Kindergarten

Dear Anna,

Usually I keep the letters for your birthday, but on such a momentous occasion as your first day of Kindergarten, I'm making an exception. Please note that I am keeping the schmaltz at bay, which is exceedingly difficult for me.  I'm doing my best with this post to give some advice to you as your mother, as a former teacher, and as a woman in her thirties who thinks she has learned a thing or two. I am not foolish enough to think that you will take my advice below (kids never do, amiright?). But hey, it's August of 2016, and things are so totally wonky in this world right now that it's proof stranger things have happened.




1. Understand how lucky you are. 

I could go on and on and ooooooonnnnn about this, but I think this little tidbit of advice speaks for itself. In a world where MANY kids don't have enough food to eat at home, where education isn't a priority, where resources can be scarce or non-existent, YOU HIT THE SCHOOL JACKPOT, and don't you forget it.



2. Choose your friends carefully. 

What makes Kindergarten so difficult for me to wrap my brain around is that you will soon be making your own friends, outside my influence. And those friends will influence you. You have an enormously kind and loving heart, and in many ways this is a disadvantage to you. Spend time with people who love, support, and encourage you as you are. Exactly as you are.




3. Remember you aren't special. 

Anna, it physically pains me to write that. Because to me, to your dad, to your grandparents, you are EVERYTHING. You are a magical bunny that dances on rainbows. But you are a person in a world full of people, none of whom you are better than. Someday, after extensive therapy, you will realize I am right. Bad things happen in a world where one person feels superior to another, and these are things you will see with your own eyes. In the meantime, remember that when you see a kid different than you in any way, when you pass the custodian in the hall, when you succeed where others don't, you are no more deserving of respect or appreciation than anyone else. So give it freely, to everyone.


4. It is okay to fail. In fact, it's preferred.

You are not going to be good at everything, and yet the reality is that people are defined by their successes. You, in school, will see that on a magnified scale. (Testing, gifted programs, tutoring, oh my!) What you don't see is that you will learn far less from your successes than you will your failures. It will suck to fail. Yes, it will suck some serious suckage. But you will grow from those failures, and that growth is something to be proud of.



5. Be positive. Almost always. 

In case you haven't figured this out yet, school is going to be a major part of your life for a majorly long time. The way I see it, you have two choices: grump about it, or see it as an opportunity. In kindergarten, being positive it going to be fairly easy. But that is going to get harder as the years go on. Your yogi-mom knows one thing for sure: the energy you put out into the universe is very much in your control (one of the only things that is!). So be positive, and spread the positivity, even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard.


6. Your world is limitless. 

This is less a piece of advice and more a mantra I want you to keep with you on your first day of school, all the way to your last. Each teacher you have, each class you take, each project you put your full effort into, will open a door to a possibility in your life. You will not walk through every door, of course. But keeping in mind how lucky you are, how privileged you are, and choose each possibility with equal parts caution, confidence, and responsibility.

You are so ready for this. Despite my reticence to let you go, I too am ready for this. We are in this together, even when we're not. I'm so proud of you, my perfect little rainbow-bunny. The world needs what you are about to learn to give.

Love,
Mom

Friday, July 29, 2016

A Woman in Her Thirties Takes her Lumps

****IMPORTANT NOTE BEFORE READING THIS POST! Everything is fine, I am 100% okay, and nothing to worry about!****


This past Sunday morning, I felt a lump in my breast. This was weird for two reasons:

A) I almost never give myself self-exams, despite the fact that my OB is always harping on me to do so because I have lumpy breasts (more on this later).

B) I wasn't actually looking for a lump-- I was worried about a spot on my skin (because my dermatologist hates me for my 'sun history', as she puts it). The spot was nothing, BTW.

But there it was, definitely a lump.

I am not new to this. In fact, I had a needle biopsy done in my early twenties because of a lump that has since gone away. It was then that I learned of my lumpy breasts, but as all twenty-somethings do, I mostly disregarded the issue and went back to my Bud Light.  

Good(ish) times.

Normally, I wouldn't be worried about finding a lump because of my... well, lumpiness. But this one felt different. Hard, like a pea. And I have to admit I had about an hour of panic on Sunday morning.  

What if?

I know from my complicated pregnancy with Aaron to never-- never-- google medical symptoms or conditions. So I called my OB on Monday morning so she could take a look. 

By a miracle of the patron saint of mammograms (Saint Agnes?), my OB had an opening that afternoon. This is a woman who books A YEAR out for appointments, so it was literally amazing that I was able to get in to see her. I also know my OB veeeery well. Let's just say we both have PTSD caused my my pregnancy and birth with Aaron. 

Man, does this kid ever owe me. 

She was the one who wanted me on hospital bed rest at 28 weeks, the one who wanted a scheduled C-Section, the one who was far more conservative than my perinatologist. 

If anyone was going to take a lump seriously, it was her.

After going through some pictures of the kids and talking about the support system that is SO lacking for new mothers in our society, she took a feel of my boobs. And sure enough, she felt the lump.

Actually, she felt two. 

'I'm not worried,' she said. But if there's one thing I've learned from my pregnancies, when a doctor isn't worried about you they move slowly. Their priority list is constantly shifting and moving, and to be low on your doctor's priority list is a GREAT thing. But she sent me downstairs to imaging right away, and 15 minutes later I was having my first mammogram and (boob) ultrasound.

I sent a couple 'no-big-deal' texts-- one to L, who of course was worried, and one to J, who had my kids and needed to know I might be late. But other than that, I needed to be quiet and zen-like at that point. I focused on the Kim-Kanye-Taylor feud (they all suck, if you ask me) that was highlighted on the cover of people magazine while I waited for everything to be set up. 

I had heard mammograms weren't all that fun, but wow. I was not prepared for the squishing, smashing, and breath-holding that happened in that room. However, the technician was wonderful and the doctor who gave me the ultrasound was fantastic, and within 40 minutes I was told that the lumps were, indeed, just that. 

This week has been crazy. So many activities, so busy, so many things going on. But there is nothing like a lump in your boob to make you stop, take notice, and breathe with gratitude for your health.  



Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Woman in her Thirties' Summer, So Far

Good lord, this summer is flying by. Good LAWD!

Instead of trying to re-cap everything I'm going to dump some pictures here, say some stuff, and call myself caught up on my blog.


This is a picture of my mom and Anna, at my mom's 75th birthday in June. Of course it was wonderful to go home, but I'd like you to take note of my mother's face in this picture. See that glare? That's what I had to put up with all week as we planned this party for her. My mom is... how do I put this... ANTI-party. But shoot, 75 is a big birthday, and quite frankly we all agreed it was very selfish of her not to want to celebrate it in a semi-big way.

We had 8:00 Mass offered for her, then we went out to brunch, where she gave the sweetest impromptu speech in the world that revolved around the life and death of Prince. By the end of the day, she decided not to be mad at me anymore for making her celebrate her birthday.

We also got our first family picture (minus L) in about 25 years. Aaron was super cooperative...


Summer has been awesome. You might remember from last year when I rated all the activities I'd done in terms of how crazy they each made me. Well, I really took that to heart and have been super careful about not over scheduling the kids. Mornings are for camps, afternoons are for play. Fridays are for field trips somewhere fun. We've had our hard days, but for the most part it's been a good balance.  

I taught two sessions of a creative writing workshop at the community center in June and July, and those were great. I kept telling people I kind of felt bad getting paid to do such fun stuff with great kids. But I did notice that my teacher timing-- something I always prided myself on-- was a little rusty, as was my pop-culture knowledge (I had a student explain the whole Pokemon Go thing to me). 

But the best part was that the kids were in camp in the same building as me, and we got to have lunch in my classroom afterwards. They loved writing on the whiteboard and getting to meet some students. The Best.

Work has been so awesome, and that is another post. Let's just say that I didn't realize how much I needed to go back to work until I went back to work.

We drove to the Milwaukee area last weekend to visit some cousins of L's. I am ashamed to admit that was my first time-- ever-- to cross the border into Wisconsin. But the drive was lovely, the cheese was plentiful, and I always feel so energized by a great road trip.


I was super excited about my 'garden' this year, but the truth of the matter is I'm terrible at gardening. However, I'd like to point out that this little green baseball-sized melon below is a cantaloupe that is ACTUALLY growing. So there. 

Despite this lighthearted post, I have to admit that I'm very much caught up in the cesspool of craziness that is happening in our country right now. It's overwhelming and scary to know that my little babies are growing into this reality. A woman in her thirties needs to know where she stands on things and why she stands there, and this summer has also been a time of reflection, arguments, and frustrations that I take very seriously. I don't know what to say other than I look at this picture I took a couple weeks ago and get sad.


And worried. Not just for the ways I can't protect my children from the realities of life, but also for the ways in which I can. 

I think my mother, now 75, would argue that it wasn't always this way. That times have changed so drastically; that she has never seen the world in such chaos. I remember my recent US history don't know if I believe that. What I do know is that I'd like this summer-- Anna and Aaron's understanding of it-- to last forever. 

But since that can't be, I'll continue to break out my phone and capture some small, worthwhile summer-moments, and appreciate them through their eyes.






Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Woman in Her Thirties Turns Four

Dear Mr. Bud,

Today you are four years old. FOUR!

1.

2. 


3. 

4.

(Yes, he is wearing a Larry Dallas from Three's Company shirt. That's a story for another time.)

Let's start this year's birthday letter with sharks. Your love of them, most specifically. In case you're reading this far into the future and you have forgotten what I'm talking about, let this picture remind you:


See that blue shark? He's your everything. People have asked me many times why you love that plastic shark so much, and I have no answer. All I can say is that over a year ago you found that as part of a water toy set that has long since been discontinued, and you haven't let it go since. No, I don't have a backup. That's it. The one and only Sharky. 

Sharky has, of course, lead to an intense love of aquatic life. I bought at year pass to the aquarium at Mega, and if we ever want to make you happy we simply take you there.


Because you are my second child, you are doomed to suffer the eternal fate of being compared to your sister. I'm sorry about that, but the sooner you just accept that as a fact of life, the better. You are the Yin to your sister's Yang, and that makes me so happy. Where she struggles to take risks, you encourage her. Where you struggle to sit still and pay attention, she is there. But while many people have been quick to characterize you as 'all boy' (ugh, how I hate that term...), I see the sides of you that aren't so easily defined. You are a risk taker in many ways, but cautious in others. You are often not interested in pleasing other people until you are, and your sensitive and caring nature shines through. 

What I'm saying is, as your mother, I see how multi-faceted you are. And I love every piece of what makes you the smart, kind, and adventuresome little person you are.


I'm going to skip the sentimentality in this post, though I have to tell you, it's hard. Anna's birthday is different-- we joke about my long labor, my struggles breastfeeding, my lack of sleep. But with you, your birthday is a time of serious reflection. You are a reminder every day of how fortunate we are to be together; the precariousness of life. 


Some people hit the lottery, some people get lucky by ways of talent or riches or opportunity. But you, Mister, have been the luckiest, most wonderful thing to have happened to me, and to our family. Our lives are better because of all you are, and all you represent.

Love,
Mom