Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties Goes on Vacation

You know those families who take vacations all the time?  The ones who, despite crazy hectic lives and unpredictable children are always off doing something fun? Since having kids, I have harbored a secret jealousy of these brave people. I see their Facebook posts of their smiling toddlers exploring a new place and think, 'I wish I was a cool mom, like that.'

Earlier this year (probably during the polar vortex) I told L that it was time to start taking vacations.  At least once a year.  Sure, we've gone on trips since the kids have been born, but we still have PTSD from a couple of those.  I'm talking pack-up-the-family-with-the-intent-to-make-memories kind of vacation. Anna is three and a half, and Aaron is two.  It's time.

A couple years ago we met another couple here, J and J.  Well, L met J first. The way I tell the story when people ask how we met is by saying that they fell in love, because it's mostly true.  L liked J so much that I was actually nervous to meet his wife because I wanted so much to like her (and her me) the same way our husbands liked each other.  Well, we did.  And we now have combined our last names and are looking at building a compound so we can live together for always.

J and J suggested we all go to a place called Grandview Lodge, which apparently every single person in the Midwest has heard of and gone to before, except L and me.  We rented a huge cabin, had most meals included, and went on all kinds of adventures.  (This is GLAMping, people.  This woman in her thirties doesn't camp.)  Here are a few highlights:

(Our first of many chaotic meals.)

(Our first of many ice cream cones.)

(The captain and his first mates.)

(Had to stop and take a picture of this on our bike ride on the Paul Bunyan trail.  All those signs point to people's cabins.  So Minnesota.)

(Aaron's first s'more)

(Turtle races in downtown Nisswa.)

(Yes, we had shirts made for the trip. Deal.)

(We had a babysitter one night and went out for a nice dinner.  We shut the place down and may or may not have sung along to Richard Marx, Toto, and most of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack that was playing over the speakers.  Good, good times.)

The looks on my kids' faces in this last photo pretty much sums up how we all felt about leaving. A wonderful week with wonderful people, and we are so very grateful for all of it.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties Slows Down.

For awhile now, Anna has had a bit of a stutter.  At first it seemed like no big deal, and all of my parenting books confirmed it for me:  lots of kids stutter, and most grow out of it.  But then it wasn't going away, and then it started to get noticeably worse, and long story short, a few weeks ago we took her for a speech therapy evaluation.

I like to think I have a bit of an advantage in parenting since I was a teacher.  Sure, the first few years are crazy-town, but after that I can deal with schedule, discipline, and that oh-so-delicate balance of tough and love.  I've done it many, many times.  How could my child be different?

The evaluation itself was good.  The therapist saw a bit of what we saw, but didn't seem terribly concerned.  We are to watch it and be patient, both with Anna and with the 'disfluency' (as it is now known).  Okay, we both said.  Phew.

At the end of the evaluation, however, the teacher in me came out.  'Be patient', sure, but what else could I do? Surely there was a workbook out there, or a book I could read, or some sort of work I could do with her at home?

'The best thing you can do,' the therapist said, 'is to slow down yourself.'

'What, you mean my speech?'

'Yes, your speech.  And everything else.  Just slow down.'


I believe parenting-- like teaching-- is unique in that it places a big, glaring spotlight on your strengths and weaknesses as a human being.  I have lots of strengths in my life.  Lots!

Slowing down is not one of them.

In the weeks since that appointment, the advice to slow down has been at the forefront of my brain.  Slow down, yet our schedule is packed every single day, and hurry up get in the door before the flies get in, and could you please walk a little faster because I've already lost your brother, and oh, I'd love to talk to you about butterflies right now but we have to go. Go. GO!

As is is now August, and summer is... gulp... almost over, I have three to-dos.  (To-do lists being one of my strengths, mind you.)

1.  Eat pretzel curds at the State Fair
2.  Experience a real-life Dirty Dancing Vacation (more on that later)
3.  And slow down and enjoy these precious moments.  For Anna, and also for me.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties on Fifty Years

My in-laws have been married fifty years this year, so we celebrated this weekend.  Before I go into a post about it, I think we need to break that first sentence down.

These people got married in 1964:


In talking about how to celebrate this milestone, I saw a common theme among my married friends and family:  Making it to fifty years of marriage is downright incredible.  Marriage is hard, hard work.  I mean, don't get me wrong.  My ALMOST SIX years have been nothing but magical walks on the beach...

Magic, I tell you. 

But fifty?  FIFTY? That takes some serious commitment, people.

The evening was marked with speeches and toasts, all from friends and family both distant and not-so-distant, but everyone touched on that aspect of marriage.  The ups.  The downs.  The decisions that need to be made along the way to stick it out, stay in love, hold hands and make it through.  I can't speak for everyone there, but it was certainly a lesson in perspective for me.

Oh, and the dancing:

And serenading (amaze):

And catching up with family and friends:

And feeling the sense of community that comes from fifty years. In my very brief toast, I said that Ye Ye and Nie Nie's fifty years have been a blessing to all of us, and I meant it.  I know as a fact that they still, after all this time, snuggle up on the couch with popcorn and whatever Michigan game is on TV. A woman in her thirties might get caught up in life goals, money, the long list of 'wants' in her life, but I can't imagine anything better than that.

So happy anniversary to my wonderful in-laws.  May you have fifty more years of happiness, and may that happiness be punctuated by many Michigan wins.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties and the Lonely Boy at the Zoo

Last month, Anna and I went to the zoo. We were supposed to see butterflies, but unfortunately that exhibit wasn't open yet.  So we saw penguins instead.

Then we grabbed some lunch-- a slice of pizza to share.  It was a great morning, actually. I don't ever take my girl time with Anna for granted.

There were school groups everywhere, as is often the case at the zoo.  But as we were leaving, I noticed a boy sitting by himself at a table, obviously friend-less and very alone.

(Full disclosure:  In seven years teaching, I never figured out how to deal with the emotions I feel regarding the excluded kids.  It got so bad that there was a while there when I would avoid leaving my classroom at lunch for fear of seeing a kid like this one, sitting alone in the hallway, waiting for the bell to ring so their humiliation could end.  It kills me.  KILLS me.)

So we walked by him and I gave him a weak smile, then Anna and I proceeded to the aquarium so we could see a couple more things:

But I could not get this kid out of my head.  I know I was only seeing him for a tiny second of his life, and maybe his life is totally happy otherwise, but this second was just so painful that it brought tears to my eyes.

So that night, Anna and I said our prayers.  Our prayers consist of two things:  Things we thank God for and things to ask God for (hey, I'm a work in progress here).  Anna always thanks God for "Uncle Chris" and her "Cousin Uncle Patrick".  We usually pray for Grandma, Ye Ye and Nie Nie, and all of our friends.  

But this night, I said, "Let's say a prayer for the lonely boy at the zoo.  That he finds a friend."

Anna agreed, and that was that.  But then the next night, after a fabulous day at the art fair, when we said our prayers....

... her first words were, "We have to pray for the lonely boy at the zoo."

I smiled, of course, and said yes.  And then the next night, and every night since then.

Finally a couple weeks ago she had an epiphany. "Momma? The lonely boy needs a friend."

I said, "Yes, Bubbie, the lonely boy does need a friend."

She thought about it for a second. "How about I be his friend?"

A woman in her thirties who is a mom has many proud moments.  My day is filled with proud moments.  But I can't think of anything that makes me more proud than my sweet Anna's enormous heart.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties, the Second

Dear Mister Buddy,

Tomorrow is your birthday.  Again.  Two.  As in, years old:

Mimsydotes.  She captured you perfectly.  P.S. you faceplanted about thirty seconds after this photo was taken.  

Let's talk about you, shall we Mister?  Things you love:




Your favorite two people in the world:

Nie Nie.  There are no words describe your love for Nie Nie.

And Anna.  Happiness, for you, is playing with your sister:

See that look on your face in that last picture?  Joy. That is you.  You are all joy, all energy, all the time.  

Of course, all that energy has a downside.  I am constantly in running shoes so I can keep up with you.  You did not get Anna's compliant nature, so when you want something you are GOING TO GET THAT SOMETHING.  And when you don't want something, say, oh I don't know, 


Well, let's just say I pity the person you fall in love with someday, the one who's going to have to say no to these giant brown eyes:

Seriously.  It's a challenge.

It wouldn't be your birthday if I didn't get a little sentimental, but I'm really going to try this year.  When I wake up tomorrow morning and remember where we were last year at this time...

And then just one short year before that...

When I remember the fullness in my heart knowing just how blessed we were...

I'm going to hold it together.  Really, I am.  On the outside.

But on the inside... well you know.  Because we're so lucky, and you're growing up so fast, and seeing you become the boy you are brings me so much happiness that sometimes I'm fairly sure I might burst with it all.

So happy birthday to my sweet boy, my sleepless wonder, my picky eater, my butterfly chaser and big, wet kiss giver.  My days with you are as crazy as they are wonderful.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties Gives Props

When I was seventeen, one of my very best friends had a baby.

Circa 1994... maybe 93? Before baby, but not long before.  

Actually, 'one of my very best friends' is probably an inaccurate statement.  L has been more of a sister to me than a friend, especially considering we've known each other since we were about this old:

Younger, even.  My pictures of that time are scarce.  

I cannot remember a time in my life L was not a part of.  Sacraments, vacations, parties, weddings.... Lots and lots and lots of good times.

I have approximately 70,000 pictures of us dancing over the years.  I WISH these pictures were more scarce.

And lots of not-so-good times.  I think I said at her wedding that I could truly say we had been through it all together (which is funny, because we've been through so much since that wedding day).  It's cliche, but in L's case, it's true.  L has been by my side THROUGH IT ALL.  

This is how we used to dress in high school.  Legit.

So yes.  Back to the baby she had at seventeen.  

I remember the day that she called me to tell me.  'I'm going to be a Mom,' she said.  THOSE were her words. And I was a kid at the time, pretty sure I knew everything and unable to grasp the gravity of what she'd just told me.

'Dude,' I probably said.  'Woah.'

That night, I told my mom.  She was devastated.  I think she cried all night long.  I remember thinking, 'Geez, it's not that big of a deal, is it?'

Because I was a baby myself.  And didn't know the first thing about anything.

So back to the baby she had:

I have about a trillion baby pics of D, but they are all at my Mom's house.  Grr, technology!

You know how the word 'amazing' is totally overused now?  And it's really irritating because it's kind of lost its meaning?

Well, in D's, case, it truly applies.  I mean, truly.  This kid is and always has been amazing. This week he graduated high school with countless honors and scholarships.  He's off to college to study Bible and Political Science.

Let that sink in for a second.  Bible.  And Political Science.

This was the week I moved to China.  L helped arrange the surprise goodbye party.  Lots of crying.

D deserves his own post.  Proud seems like such a stupid word.  I'm beyond proud.  BEYOND.  This week I sent him a text saying as much, and this was his response:

Thank you so much.  I wouldn't be here without your help to my mom when I was young and throughout high school for me.  

Which of course made me cry.  Because I didn't do much of anything, and yet there he was, on HIS big day, acknowledging me.  

That is what I mean by amazing.

So I've been reflecting on this all year.  How far D has come, how much has happened in the eighteen years since that phone call.  

'I'm going to be a Mom.'

We had no idea.  

See how we're kinda laughing here?  That's because L is on her knees in this pic.  My friends are tall.

Because I honestly did not understand-- truly understand-- all that L endured and triumphed over until I had children of my own.  

I remember calling L at one point when Anna looked a lot like this:

I was crying because that's what new moms do all the time, and I asked her, 'Why didn't you tell me it was going to be this hard?'

And she said, 'Aw, honey...

'Because I didn't want to ruin it for you.'

So as much as this week is about D, and all he has accomplished, and all he's about to accomplish, I had to pause today and give L the props I failed to give her all these years.  Her story could have been so different.  So could D's.  So could mine, so could any woman in her thirties, I guess.  But what set L apart then, and continues to, is her unwavering strength and conviction.  It's no accident that D is the young man he is-- he has a incredible mom who made countless sacrifices for him and loves him unconditionally.

These guys are both pretty lucky to have this lady in their lives:
Loving K and L in the background... sorry guys.

And I'm beyond lucky to have her as an inspiration and friend.