A Constructed Life

And then there was just me

You guys. I am alone in my house for the first time in…so long that I can’t even remember the last time I was alone in my house. I get 2.5 hours to frantically cram in as much productivity as possible before I pick Crosby up from his preschool. He could’ve cared less that I was dropping him off.

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He was up, dressed and had his backpack on as soon as I said the words, “You get to go to school today!” He responded with, “All by myself. No Mommy!” I think seeing his big sister go off to school on her own every morning has been very helpful. He feels like a big boy now that he gets to do the same.

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This is where I left him. Engrossed in trucks and cars. He has a morning of gentle structure, fun crafts, loads of activities and having to listen to other people besides me.

My kids, while still young, are growing up. It makes me get all wistful about babies and closing that chapter of my life. While I would love to experience pregnancy and infancy again, I would lose my mind trying to survive another toddler and wrangle three kids.

And as a little update, Addy’s loving school. She’s exhausted and overwhelmed though, which means total hysteria is always about 3 seconds and the slightest incident away for her. I’ve never seen such epic meltdowns. But this is a huge transition for her, so I get it.

I’m so proud of them. So excited to see them gaining independence, confidence and innumerable lights going off in their heads. But there’s sadness as they wander off on their own with new people acting as leaders and counselors and new experiencing shaping them that I don’t get to witness. I used to know (and control) their daily activities. Now I just hope to hear a little bit of what went on in Addy’s world for the 7 hours that she was gone. As a stay-at-home-mom, I immersed myself in my kids. This is a hard, yet welcomed, separation from each other. We were all ready.

 


And then there were two

Facebook’s been flooded with adorable pictures of kids smiling sweetly before dashing out the door to their first day of school. I wish I could show you one of those pictures. But instead, I have this photo…IMG_5713
…of Addy’s teacher basically having to drag her into the building.

Or this photo…
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…when Addy, who refused to let me take posed pictures of her, arrived at school and her smile turned to an “Oh-crap-I-have-to-go-in-there” look of fear.

She tried really really hard to prevent herself from entering the front doors, clutching me, refusing to put her back pack on, digging her feet into the ground, etc…but she went in. I stayed dry-eyed, only because I was so distracted by getting her to put one foot in front of the other and move. Crosby, on the other hand, was a mess, crying as he watched his sister being hauled away against her will. It was heart wrenching.

But she came out smiling, as I knew she would.

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The second day was almost as bad. Addy was exhausted and I couldn’t get her up. I literally got her dressed and physically moved her to a different room without her waking up.
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There were lots of tears, but only because by the time we got to school, she was finally alert enough to realize what I had dressed her in and she didn’t like it.

However, the third day’s a charm, because this morning went smoothly. She was still super tired, but she lined up with her classmates with only minimal hesitation and didn’t look back at me once.

We miss her. It seems like such a long time that she’s gone. But, it is so much less stressful when there’s only one child to care for and keep happy. No fighting or persuading one to do what the other wants. I even got to sit down and read a magazine for 5 minutes while Crosby played by himself. And look! I am updating my blog! Crosby starts preschool for 4 hours/week soon. Life will feel so luxurious!


Everyone Knows the Princess Shoes are the Best

Who could these adorable, sweet little feet – complete with pink nail polish – belong to?

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This guy.

I thought it was only appropriate that a sea of women’s lingerie filled the space behind him at Target when I took this picture. Crosby has long admired lovely girl’s shoes – they’re so sparkly and pink and frilly and so unlike his plain ol’ gray or blue velcro boy shoes.

Crosby has been following his big sister’s lead all 2.5 years of his life, and that includes wanting to wear my shoes and jewelry, have his nails painted and try out the pretty shoes at the store. Whatever she does, he wants to do. Addy will be starting kindergarten this year and will be at school all day. I will miss her terribly, as will Crosby…

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…but I’m also looking forward to this little boy finding out who he is without her. This will be my first time as a stay-at-home-mom without Addy along for the ride. I guess I’ll be doing some learning, too.


July: Two Thumbs Up in Goddamnit! You Will Have Fun Whether You Like It Or Not

I thought our summer was jam-packed – Water park! Yay! Camping trip! Hooray! Family cabin! Yippee! And when all that was done, I realized it was only July 7th and I had a lot of summer days to fill, zero plans and two little kids to entertain. Crap.

My first plan for fun was actually doing some of the 10 zillion DIY kids’ activities I’ve found on Pinterest. Like making roads in the house with painters tape. It provided on-and-off entertainment for about 4 days and one gigantic sticky blue tape ball when it was done.

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We also made Cloud Dough and Foam Dough, which, in my case, were way more mess-creating than fun-creating and totally anti-climactic.

Next up – horses! Awesome, amazing, beautiful Clydesdale horses that belong to my Uncle Bob, better known as UB around these parts. Addy and Crosby had the opportunity to up close to them, pet the them and feed them snacks. Crosby loved it and Addy, in her typically Addy way, would not touch them or feed them, just observe them. I am always surprised by what she finds fearful – 30′ water slide = no problem, horses = no way. I think they were just a bit too big for her comfort level.

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So then we tried…ponies! And these she was totally ok with. Maybe it was realizing she’d missed a chance to touch a horse or that these looked like large puppies in comparison to the grandness of UB’s clydesdales, but she insisted on taking a ride.

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Next up? Trains! Crosby is cuckoo-bananas for trains and has his very own language on the subject. Bumpy choo choo? Train tracks. Upa-down? Railroad crossing. He flips out whenever we go near them. So he got to ride on a very hip, antique electric train that was so pretty I could’ve lived in it.

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And there was ice cream, which made it complete perfection.

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And how ’bout the county fair! Who does not love a good, local county fair where ridiculously overpriced sugar and rides appear every 2 feet? We went with our old neighbors, Katie and Lydia, who have been the greatest regular summertime companions to us. We went all out, buying the kids wristbands for unlimited rides because like I said, goddamnit! We are going to have fun! And they did. Crosby was in heaven, jumping into every bouncing car and cutesy railroad train he could find. Addy rode her first roller coaster and every crazy fast, spinning, zig-zagging ride she was tall enough for.

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We’ve also made a point to visit every park in the city limits, eat copious amounts of ice cream, go for daily bike rides and play with whoever is available on any given day, as well as complete rec dept. gymnastics. All in all, the summer’s been grand so far. Down to the last 4 weeks. Gotta make ’em good.


How to do everything in 3 months

Have 4-year-old daughter complete pre-kindergarten. Check. IMG_4788

Cheer on Joey as he finished his first half marathon and gratefully say goodbye to his 3-hour Saturday morning training runs. IMG_4815

Hit up a water park and make sure children don’t drown. Check. IMG_4844 IMG_4862 IMG_4865Both kids loved it, but this isn’t Crosby’s year for the water. Addy fearlessly zipped down slides 10 times bigger than those seen here.

 

Attempt to enjoy a 3-night family camping trip that came complete with ginormous raccoons and hardly any sleeping. Make it an annual tradition. Check.

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Off to the family cabin to cram 6 adults and 4 kids, ages 4 and under, into a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house. Opt to borrow a pop up camper for my brood instead and have a blast. Check.

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Strawberries and insane amounts of strawberry jam. Check. (I did not take the awesome photos. I took the kinda crappy ones.)

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And there has been so much more. It’s been an awesome, bursting-with-fun kind of summer so far.  So glad it’s not over yet!

 


Life jackets are the new black.

Summer has finally shown itself, and I’ve been going through all our summer-related gear to make sure we’re prepared for any and all warm-weather fun. On our list already is a water park, camping and trips to the family cabin.

First up is the water park. Since the kids are little, they’re required to wear life jackets, even in the little kid section of the park where the water is only 2 feet deep. So I busted out Addy’s toddler life jacket and the baby life jacket we had to see if they still fit.

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This is Addy’s new “Smile! You’re in a picture!” face. I love how Crosby is looking at her, all “This chick is coo-coo bananas.” And indeed she is, but we love her for it. Turns out the life jackets didn’t fit. I passed Addy’s on to Crosby and picked her up a new one at Target, my home away from home.

And they have not taken their life jackets off since.

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They wear them prancing around the yard.

 

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I told them to do The Life Jacket Dance and apparently this is what that looks like.

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According to Addy, they’re “the best” for when one is building with Legos. It looks like the life jacket is eating her head in this picture.

It reminds me of what she looked like on her very first boat ride, in her very first life jacket.

Awesome, isn’t it? One of my all-time favorite photos.

Yes. Nothing says summer like the life jacket.

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And see what I mean about Addy’s new picture face? I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of this look.

 


Mothers’ Days

At my parents’ farm with my family.

Moms and dads guiding, leading, following, protecting little ones wherever exploration took them.

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Sisters, uncles, grandma and grandpas filling in, lending a hand, an arm, a tickle, a cautionary “no” as needed.

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It reminded me of why I like group playdates – kids running and laughing and playing and everyone’s a parent to everyone’s child, pushing toddlers in swings, tying shoe laces, dispensing snacks, shielding from harm whether it’s their kid, their friend’s kid or a stranger’s kid. The moms are just mom and the kids are just kids and it doesn’t matter who belong to who because we’re all just there, being and enjoying.

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And then it reminds me that there are so many big people in our little kids’ worlds to help supplement and support the role of a mother.

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They say it takes a village and the village exists in so many expected and unexpected ways, from central figures in your life to periphery, never-shall-we-meet-again players. Like the cashier at Target, who sees you wrangling your kids into coats and carts and the sweat forming on your barely-holding-it-together face, and she smiles at you and says, “I had five like that. And so many days like that. You’re doing a great job.” And in those moments, when people reach out to you or your kids and connect for the good of your weary mother’s soul, those are the moments when it’s Mother’s Day. Not at the brunch buffet or inside the greeting card, but in the real life moments when someone, whether friend, family or stranger-turned-instant-sanity-saver, offers recognition, assistance, appreciation, comfort or solidarity, when I feel the village looking after me and my babies and wishing us well and safe passage as we stumble and soar.

Thank you to everyone who helps me be a mother. I am a better and happier mom person because of you.

My posts about Mother’s Day are some of my most favorite. If you want more, go herehere, and here.


I miss…

 

Impromptu playdates on porches and sidewalks with neighbors that are like family.
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The hodgepodge scenery of a neighborhood built around factories and farms.
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This big old house that we worked so hard on and housed so many fantastic memories.
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Walking in the front door to this.
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Quiet parks surrounded by farm fields.
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The five-minute drive to my parents’ farm (via actual car, not battery-powered motorcycle).
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Short walks to the nearby “waterfall” (aka dam)…
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…and ice cream shop.

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Children darting in lush green grass we grew ourselves.
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I don’t regret our choice to move. We’ve gained so many great experiences and friends in our new neighborhood. But sometimes I really miss the place I had come to know so well and its conveniences and charms.


On making decisions

In my last post, my stomach was twisted in knots over the possibility of buying a great house for my family. It was big, needed tons of work and barely fit our budget. We thought and thought, had 2 million conversations about it and searched for every dollar we could get our hands on. Still, determining if we should buy the house seemed like a decision we just couldn’t get clarity on.

I took all of your advice, listening to Uncle Bob and taking time to wait for the answer to land in our laps. I took my father’s words to heart, agreeing that just because we’re equipped to update the house doesn’t mean we should. The solid advice Kelly shared, from her parents, rang in my mind – Live within your means. And then I read the following words from Martha Beck in my latest copy of Oprah magazine:

“When considering whether to say yes or no, you must choose the response that feels like freedom.” 

And the answer became crystal clear. When I thought about saying yes to the house, I felt excited, but also terrified and incredibly anxious. When I thought about saying no to the house, all of that washed away and I felt at ease.

So there was the decision. We said no to the house, and I feel good about it. And so we’re back to the trenches of house hunting. Updates to come. Thanks for helping me navigate through the last potential candidate!

 


SOS! We’re in love with a money pit!

Any time I try too hard, it never works out. I’ve learned this over and over again – when I overthink writing and lose the heart of it, when I overexert myself in sports and fall short of the finish line (literally, and on my face. True story from 7th grade track), when I get overenthusiastic in conversations and look like a cartoon character. In other words, when I try too hard, I always end up missing the point.

And I am again trying too hard. This time in search of a new home, and just like with writing when I over-focus and over-agonize rather than just let it flow, I am losing the heart behind our quest for a new house, getting tangled in the “we need it, must find it, must fit this price and this picture and these wants,” and now I cannot find my compass – that voice I always trust to steer me in the right direction, to clam me down and remind me that the universe will handle it, no matter how hard I fight to find it, it will come when it’s meant to.

We’ve been looking for a new house for almost a year and only one has gotten under our skin. It’s priced at the top of our budget and is accompanied by crazy high taxes and the ugliest carpet, tile and wallpaper imaginable. Every inch of its 3,300 square feet (Much bigger than we ever planned on owning), needs work. See for yourself.

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Do you see what I mean? Clearly Mrs. Brady decorated this place. Too bad it doesn’t come with an Alice to help me clean all that space or watch my kids while I spend the next decade slowly updating it.

While my brain and our bank account says, “You’re an idiot,” everything else in me wants to buy this house. I go to bed thinking about gleefully tearing out carpeting and peeling off wallpaper and my family having all the space and yard they’ll ever need. This house needs tons of work, but it’s less work than our old house, which required gutting almost every room to the studs and tearing down walls and erecting new ones. That’s the things with this place – it needs a lot of work, but we are totally capable of doing it.

We’ve spent days analyzing our finances and spending to make sure we can afford this place, reviewing our spending habits from the last year, creating spreadsheets, etc (By the way, it was eye-opening to see how much cash we’ve dropped on groceries and eating out). We’ve determined that buying this house means living on a budget that would be really tight for the first 7 months and then relax back to a more comfortable amount. But vacations would take months and months and months of saving, big projects will require a loan…until I go back to work (probably in another 2 years). We can definitely handle this house and it’s remodeling demands with two salaries (assuming I can get hired somewhere besides Target or Starbucks). But until then…do I want to live for a few years mildly stressed out about paying for things and pulling back on our retirement and college savings?

Is this big, ugly, alluring house worth it? You tell me. Advice needed.