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.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties Says Sorry

A while back, I did something really stupid.  I would not like to go into details because I'm still horribly embarrassed.  But let's just say I didn't mean to, I absolutely didn't mean to, but I did and it was so dumb.

When I realized the colossal nature of my stupidity, it sat swirling in my belly for four days.  Four days of palms to the forehead, sleeplessness, and some pretty self-depricating inner dialogue.  I went through a whole gamut of emotions about it:

Clearly this person knew I didn't mean to....
I must be blowing this out of proportion, right?
I mean, I wouldn't be terribly mad if someone did that to me... would I?

A woman in her thirties goes through these emotions all the time, but in this case I couldn't do what I'm conditioned(?) to do when I screw up, which is just sweep it under the rug and let it go. It nagged at me, brought tears to my eyes.  I couldn't believe what an ass I'd made of myself.

Right around 3:30am on the fifth day, I had an epiphany.  I remembered an absolutely life-changing TED Talk I'd heard awhile back, on the power of vulnerability.  How we live in a society where we never admit wrong doing because we're terrified of being perceived as weak.  How you cannot have true, healthy relationships until you own up to your mistakes.

I didn't have to let it fester.  I could do something about it.  I could apologize.

So I did.  I wrote a long note to the person and didn't mince words. I owned it. 'I feel like such an a-hole,' I said at least twice.  'I didn't mean to.'  'I'm so, so sorry.'

I hovered over the 'send' button for awhile. What if there was no response? What if this only made it worse? But I had to send it.  I couldn't take another minute of doing nothing.

Within thirty minutes, I got a response. 'I'm so glad you said something... didn't even realize it had happened... never would think you would intend to... no worries at all.'

And ah.... BREATH!

In the last few days, I've thought about it a lot.  The stupid thing I did doesn't go away (unfortunately-- facepalm!) but now when I think of it I remember that gracious response.  How my relationship with this person is now more 'real' because I-- and then we-- were honest.

And how now, when I tell my kids to apologize to one another, it's not just another rote activity.  It's something I've modeled, even when it was hard.

A woman in her thirties makes mistakes.  (I mean, sooooometimes...)  But a happy woman in her thirties apologizes when she does.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Stay-at-Home Woman in her Thirties' Ten Commandments

I've had a lot of conversations recently about the good, the bad, and the ugly of stay-at-home parenthood. It's gotten me thinking a lot about my own career, the sacrifices I've made and the joys I've had since making the decision to stay home with my kids.  So for this post, I thought I'd share a few things I've learned in the last three and a half years of 'staying home'-- my ten commandments, woman in her thirties style.

1.  Thou shalt choose it.

We do not live in 'a woman's place is in the home'-ville anymore, thank goodness, and there are about a billion factors that come into play when a person decides to stay home with their kids.  Think about them carefully.  Money, time, family support, stress and sanity.... just to name a few.  You're choosing a path in life, and as with any path, choose carefully.

2.  Thou shalt value it.

If you or your partner see staying home with the kids as wasteful of either time or money, then it will not work.  Period. Being home with the kids is not an extended vacation (unless, of course, your money tree in your backyard pays for your au pair...).  If you-- especially you-- don't see your time at home as valuable, then welcome to Resentful Parenthood.

3.  Thou shalt shower every day.

For people reading this who see me every day, this might come as a shock-- I do shower every day.  (Notice I did not say put on makeup every day, or brush your hair every day.)  This, I think is where working parents must get annoyed with the stay-at-home ones-- 'Gee, showering is on your list of things to do?  I have to do that AND get to work every day.'  Yup, I hear that.  But I think when a parent stays home there is a temptation to just let certain things slide... particularly morning things, things for 'you'.  Not showering (i.e. not taking care of your basic needs) starts messing with your head quickly, and in a big way.

4.  Thou shalt take care of your health.

I'm a big fan of yoga, (as I've said a gajillion times), mentally, physically, and spiritually.  But as much as I believe that if everyone practiced yoga once a week that the world would be less full of a-holes, I know that yoga isn't for everyone.  That's fine.  All I'm saying is that if you don't make your own physical activity a routine, prepare yourself for a one-way ticket to Cooky-town.

5. Thou shalt not see your partner as your boss.

Umm, obviously, right?  But I'm not talking about in a bossing-you-around kind of way.  In a career, your boss 'owns' helping you along your career path.  They provide you with praise and compensation (COMPENSATION!)  They are paid to make you see and understand your worth.  That's a tall order to put on your partner.  Sure, they should make you feel appreciated.  But what I've found is that stay-at-home parenthood means you are essentially your own boss-- responsible for your own path and happiness along it.

6.  Thou shalt nix the negativity.

I've found there to be two types of stay-at-home parent-- the positive kind and the negative kind.  (Actually, this goes with all people, am I right?)  But when you stay home, make play dates and get to know other parents, you'll see that their energy is going to feed right into yours.  And your kids'.  Don't hang out with parents who are downers.

7.  Thou shalt take your personal development seriously.

This one I am the most passionate about. Maintain your certifications.  Read books and blogs about your career (the one you put on hold, or the one you hope to have one day).  Keep updated on the news and things happening outside the bubble of your home.  Obviously, this is good for you.  But it's also good for your kids to see you valuing your career and future, too.

8.  Thou shalt not gauge your success on Pinterest or mommyblogs.

Don't get me wrong-- I love Pinterest.  I use it often to find a rainy-day activity for quiet time.  But keep in mind that blogs are just snippets of people's lives, the snippets they want you to see.  Don't compare yourself to the happy mom and kid making their own play-doh in their kitchen (and PS, making your own play doh sucks, if you ask me.)

9.  Thou shalt ask for help.

I used to be terrible at this. I figured that since I was staying home, it was my job to keep the family running, 24x7, no matter what. Severe sleep deprivation, an ever-traveling husband, and a super-scary pregnancy made me realize that when I need help, I have to ask.  And guess what?  People will help. Accept help, and pay it forward.

10.  Thou shalt be you first.

I had a conversation awhile back when a friend told me that she had lost her identity since becoming a stay at home mom.  She said it with a laugh, like it was funny.  IT WAS NOT FUNNY.  Being a parent doesn't mean sacrificing your identity or your dreams.  But more than that, a woman in her thirties leads by example-- your kids need to see you prioritizing yourself and doing the things that matter to you.  So they will, too.

(Ah, the glamorous life I lead.)

I won't lie-- I miss my career all the time.  I miss having people come to me for help, I miss having adults to talk to about curriculum, and I definitely miss the security 'my own' paycheck provided.  That said, I will never regret staying home with my kids.  That's life, isn't it?  A woman in her thirties chooses her place in it, and chooses happy.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties On Thirty Six

Oh... hey there.

About the blog lately...

In five and a half years blogging at this site, this is the longest I've gone between posts.  I've got two good excuses:

But the truth is life has gotten the better of me lately.  And then I woke up Monday morning and thought to myself, 'Gee, I wonder what day it is...'

Which is when I realized it is my birthday this week, and time keeps on slippin, slippin...

Ten years ago today I was turning twenty-six, and was in a new relationship with this guy:

(My first trip to Fenway Park... who are these babies?)

Life was just about to get all kinds of crazy.  So since it's my birthday, and Mother's Day, and this is the time of year when a woman in her thirties waxes nostalgic, here are a few things I've learned in the last ten years between twenty-six and thirty-six:

1.  What's the worst thing that could happen?

It is insane to think that the girl in the picture above had never lived outside of California.  In two years, I would have a one-way ticket to Beijing and one Chinese phrase in my repertoire ('My Chinese is not good.') I would be laying in my new bed in a new city, surrounded by this:

(Ignore the shattered glass-- that was when our window cracked for no apparent reason...)

And thinking to myself, 'Oh my god.  What have I done?  I'm not strong enough for this.'  And L responded by saying, 'What's the worst thing that could happen? You hate it here and we move home. But you have to give it a chance.'

So simple. I look back on that time and know how much it changed me, for the braver.

2.  Money comes. Money goes.  It matters less than I realized.

The girl in the picture up there was about to quit her high-paying hi-tech job for a non-paying teaching gig while she amassed soul-crushing debt to get her teaching license.  Many people thought I was crazy, including myself.

But I look on it now and know that teaching is the career I was meant for.  I have never once regretted my decision to go into education.

My 10th graders and me in Chendu.

3.  Health is not just physical.

The girl in the picture colors her hair. Right before I moved to China I said to my hairdresser, 'Just color it as close to my natural color as you can.'  For $80, she did.  I left there realizing that I'd just completely wasted my money, and vowed not to color my hair again until I went gray.  So far, so good.

That said, I love a good pedicure.  I spend more on a gym membership than most people. These things make me feel good about myself, so I do them and I don't apologize for it.

Because... and here's the yoga hippie in me coming out... it's all connected.  Physical, mental, spiritual health.  It took a miscarriage, a normal pregnancy, and a super scary pregnancy for me to figure that out, but I'm so glad I have.

4.  Being a mom is the greatest gift in the world.  The greatest.

In the last ten years, I've traveled a lot.  I've been to some great places, gotten some great massages, and eaten some fancy meals.  There was a time, particularly while living overseas, that I would sleep in until 10:00 every Saturday morning, because I could.

These were good times.

(L and me in Indonesia.  Amazing country, amazing trip.  And look how well-rested I am!)

And then there was my wedding, the 'happiest day of a girl's life'.  I'm not going to lie-- it was a pretty awesome day:

But nothing-- NOTHING-- could have prepared me for what was in store.




There has been no greater joy in my life than becoming a parent, and seeing the world through my children's eyes.  There's no way I could have known it, that life was just going to keep getting better.

So enjoy that beer and nachos, twenty-six year old me.  You're going to change, so is L, but that's  okay.  When you wake up in 2014, when someone asks you how old you are and you say, 'Gulp... thirty-six', you are going to be the happiest you've ever been.  You are one lucky girl.