September 7, 2016

Dinner For Three


Now that there is a chill in the morning air and the back-to-school buzz is upon us, let's rewind to Roo's third birthday, way back in early August, shall we? I'm certainly not winning any awards for conscientious documentation this year, but I'll just keep on plugging along.

As has become our tradition, we celebrated our sweet and sassy girl with a simple family meal. I have a hunch that this will be the last 'low key' birthday for our social butterfly, with preschool on the horizon, she is already making out imaginary guest lists for next year (and Smith and I are anxiously scouting out hiding spots... party?! oh dear ;)


Roo requested a pink strawberry princess cake, and I went as girly as I could muster. Smith thoughtfully illustrated a special birthday card, highlighting his sister's underwater adventures with a crew of animals and dinosaurs. James worked his burrito magic, which has become a true household favorite (and life saver) in this summer of morning sickness.

Roo could not have been more delighted by every single effort. She loved her cake, her card, her meal, and especially her tidy pile of presents. A child who is happiest when she is the center of attention, but also surprisingly full of gratitude, she really does make throwing a celebration in her honor a complete pleasure. 


To our big girl, our baby Roo... you are so brave, full of spirit, and have such a joy for life. You sing your way through all the mundane tasks of the day, and you make our world brighter, bolder, happier, louder, and just a whole lot more fun. Thank you for sharing another wild, willful, and wonderful year with us. We all love you so very much.

*dinners for two and one

August 8, 2016

Baby #3 and Our Lost Summer


Hello there! Is anyone still reading? It's been a long break, and the reason is... that I am pregnant! We are expecting our third child this winter, and it's a welcome and exciting surprise for our little (maybe not so little?) family. I've all but sworn off social media for the last few months, mostly because I have been very sick. It feels just like those early months of pregnancy with Roo, I am grateful and happy of course... but it's also fairly miserable. In the last week, I can finally look at screens again without losing my lunch. I still don't feel great, but it's an improvement.

Owing to my constant state of illness (think of the worst hangover you've ever had, and it just never leaves, for months!), our summer has been very slow. We started off with grand ambitions and did a big road trip out to Chicago to visit my cousin/ best friend and her children on their farm. James drove out with us and we stopped a bunch along the way, had the best veggie burger ever in Cleveland (who knew?), and really loved being on the road as a family. The kids had such fun playing with their cousins and feeding the horses. The whole start to the trip, and summer, was really perfection. The plan was that James would fly back a few days later to return to work, and I would stay on and enjoy some quality family time before making the drive back with the kids solo. It's a big drive, but I was confident I could pull it off. The day James left Chicago is the same day that my 'morning' sickness struck. Cut to me, white knuckling a 16 hour drive, with the kids screaming in the back, and a bottomless bag of saltines permanently glued to my lap. It was rough... and after that I just haven't been up for a whole lot of adventure.

So we've had a lot of days at home, playing in our dry brown excuse for a yard, going for walks to the park, watching nature documentaries, eating cereal and fruit and chocolate pudding. I have accomplished almost nothing, aside from growing a baby, which I often remind myself is quite the accomplishment. James has done lots and lots of laundry and dishes, he still only knows how to cook burritos and pancakes... so we've eaten boatloads of both. Slowly I am starting to find my sea legs and some energy. Hopefully good health will return in time for our annual camping trip next week! 

The kids are both excited for the new baby. They talk to her and suggest names like Cheetah and Peach. It's very sweet. Oh and it's a girl! I'm officially old, so we got to find out way earlier than in the past via blood test. We have so much to look forward to, as soon as this sickness passes. Any day now!

June 14, 2016

Feeding Myself


I've always felt at peace in my relationship with my body and food. So many of the women in my life struggle with their body image and count calories (what's a calorie?!), but gratefully I just never thought about any of that. My weight has often fluctuated, around ten pounds up or down, but I was never unhappy or self conscious when I was on the heavier side of that curve. I have always eaten exactly what I like, never dieted, and if I wasn't swimsuit-ready, so be it.

These last couple of years have really turned all of my assumptions about my body image upside down. At some point, shortly after Roo was born, I started gaining weight. Likely it was a combination of tipping to the second half of my thirties, serious sleep deprivation, working more, and lacking time to cook and eat well. For a long time, I tried to shrug off the added pounds. I'd always been very kind to myself about extra weight, and so I just ignored it. 

Now, somehow, inexplicably, I am weighing in with the same numbers that I registered full term with both of my pregnancies. It's nuts. My body often doesn't even feel like my own, and it's hard to understand how it really happened. Suddenly I am self conscious, and I do have body image issues, and it definitely doesn't feel good.

Despite all the extra exercise that I've peppered into my routine, the pounds are not melting away. I am coming to the painful reality that if I want to change my body, I will have to be more thoughtful in what I eat. This might seem like a minor issue, but meddling with my food tops the list of things I swore would never come to pass. Begrudgingly, I have looked into all the diets and their coordinating hashtags, but I have to say there is something really off-putting to me about any routine that has a group of enthusiastic followers. I'm not good at being part of a team, and I don't like being limited by any rules, even if they're by my own construction.

I know that approaching food reform as restriction won't work for me, I love food and I'm not interested in eliminating any of my favorite groups. So my current attempt at dieting is more about rewarding myself, by preparing my own meals with love. The best and freshest ingredients from the garden or market, selected and arranged on the plate with care, eaten while seated and without distraction, mindful in enjoying each bite... definitely not easy with two demanding children in tow, but I'm finding it is possible. And it certainly beats skipping pasta (though likely less effective!).

Indulgence rather than deprivation, I will let you know how it goes! 


Lunch in June: hard boiled eggs with sea salt / strawberries with basil, parmesan, and balsamic vinegar / radishes with salted french butter

June 12, 2016

The End of The Beginning


Smith's last day of preschool was just like every other, a routine that has rarely deviated in the past three years; he made sure to pack Foxy in his backpack, he climbed the stairs, hesitantly watching to make certain Roo and I were following, he switched his shoes and I walked him to the bathroom, we headed into his classroom to answer the 'question of the day', I watched until he finished his drawing, helped him choose an activity, then a final kiss and hug before I left. There was no special celebration or graduation ceremony, the school believes those events can be too stressful for some children... a policy that might make me roll my eyes if I didn't have the kid that cries when people sing him 'happy birthday'. The whole morning felt so unexceptional that I had to keep reminding myself a chapter was ending.

I have had this feeling about so many milestones in parenting; crawling, walking, eating, talking, weaning, going to school, making friends, moving through fears and patterns... I always anticipate these transitions far in advance, I struggle to visualize a new reality that seems impossible and cling to the current state with premeditated nostalgia. I cry and grieve a threshold that hasn't even come to pass, and then suddenly, I find myself moving through to the other side with shockingly little sentimentality. I deeply want to acknowledge this big shift and be present, to feel all the feelings, but instead it's just life marching forward. Just another day, different from the last. 

smith's first day of 4-day preschool / september 2015

smith's last day of preschool, ever /  june 2016


Okay, on second thought, maybe I will cry. And on that note, the poem Smith's classmates wrote about him (Smith = W).

The important thing about W is that he is our friend.
He knows a lot about dinosaurs.
He likes to play in the block room.
He likes to run down the hill.
He likes the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
He likes to build tall towers.
He's friends with James and Henry.
He's good at coloring.
He's friends with me.
He likes to build.
He knows a lot about architecture.
He likes to play in the loft.
He knows a lot about animals.
He likes playing with sticks.
He really likes funny stories.
He's silly.
But the important thing about W is that he is our friend.

I do still wish all school could be like preschool. Next stop, Kindergarten!

June 9, 2016

Tall Buildings

morning blooms tall buildings post-planting picnic sunday's rain mid-morning snack mini-tall buildings mowing efforts from where i rinse dishes the daily dress debate

Fads sweep through our house like violent storms, some lasting only a week or two, others persisting for years. Trains, sea creatures, dinosaurs, bugs... Smith might flip-flop to a fault when it comes to picking out a shirt or a snack food, but the kid can definitely commit to a topic, and he digs in deep. We all can't help but become pseudo experts on each one of his passions as they dominate our breakfast, lunch, and dinner conversations. Roo spits out complex dinosaur names that have strangers calling her 'genius', and I'm still seeking purpose for the arsenal of train facts that I memorized during those 'train years' (roughly 2-4).

This last month has been all about tall buildings, skyscrapers, the taller the better... and James is beside himself, he is just so thrilled with Smith's newest crush. As parents, we try our best not to push our interests on the kids (try!), so bedtime chats over the finer points of the Burj Khalifa, One World Trade, and the Kingdom Tower, James honestly looks as though he has won the lottery every time, he's glowing!

Personally, I could do without the constant soundtrack of overzealous block towers crashing to the ground during nap/ quiet time, but it is delightful to see Smith's genuine interest and skill in studying and constructing buildings. A chip off the old block... at least until that next fad blows in (sorry James!).

June 3, 2016

Hardened


My dad is sick. Four words I could have probably strung together at birth. If I am honest, he was always sick. Deeply gifted and deeply troubled; a photographer with a brilliant eye, a lighting director on blockbuster films, and a man who made art out of everything he touched, for better and for worse.

He was handsome and talented and charismatic, a personality that everyone just wanted to be around... until they didn't. He'd show up at grade school pick-ups in leather pants and a white t-shirt with cigarettes rolled in the sleeve, nodding me onto the back of a roaring motorcycle, and earning equal parts raised eyebrows and swoons from teachers and parents. He would buy me elaborate presents on his own birthday, and always repeated that if any kid ever really messed with me, he'd beat the shit out of them... I just had to say the word.

There were the years before rehab; cabin walls covered in photographs, meals cooked over an open fire, summer morning stops at the 711- to pick up a buttered bagel and a Yoo-hoo for me to tote to camp. There were the years of optimism following rehab; loft walls covered in photographs, money rolling in from big movie gigs, one then two then three more babies in as many years. And then, there were the years that connect those memories to today; the reality that mental illness, and not merely addiction, haunted this man; studio walls covered in photographs, watercolor postcards with hundreds of stamps and fragments of narratives bearing my address, broken relationships- personal and professional... blocked phone numbers, forced distance.

For over a decade, I have been convinced that I've made peace with my relationship with my father. He was so mired in the past, obsessed with wrong-doings from his own father, all the injustices of his own life... That isn't me. I won't allow that to be me. I am strong, I am willful, I am mindful, I am responsible, and I will cherry pick memories that serve me, and cast aside those that defeat me.

I will remember all the trips to fine museums, the ballet, tiny art galleries, punk rock shows, and dive bars. I will remember when he'd buy shoes for homeless guys on the street, give them his cell number, and in a few cases, a fresh start in life. I will remember how he wept seeing my drawing of Frida Kahlo, how he told me that I'd never be poor with talent like that, and how truly he believed in me. I'll remember his generosity, how his gifts for my children, whom he never really met, have always been numerous and flawless... right down to the box that arrived a month ago from Mexico; superhero wrestling capes for Smith, colorful embroidered dresses for Roo, perfectly fitting for each.

A couple weeks ago, I noticed a few missed calls from Minnesota, no message, no answer when I phoned the number back. Then came the news from my aunt, my dad wasn't well. He'd been in a geriatric psych ward, and now in the ICU. Maybe it was the trip to Mexico, maybe the shift in seasons, likely a mental break that was years in the making, maybe he'll pull out of it, maybe he won't. And just like that, the thick skin that I have spent 38 years hardening, feels riddled with holes. I don't know what to hope for, I don't know what the best end to this story would look like. I only know that this is a piece of my life that I was resolved would never again cause me pain, and it hurts like hell. No matter how tough I try to be, no matter how tightly I try to hold my shit together and make this life beautiful and easy for my children, the fear and pain and joy and beauty of my own history can never be escaped. I'm working to cope with that, and working to realize that it's probably for the best. I'm working...

May 30, 2016

Community Garden Love


Smith has this little stuffed fox, 'super foxy' or just 'foxy' for short. He carries him everywhere and also sometimes accidentally leaves him behind to spend the night abandoned in a playground or grocery store... still we somehow always track him down (so far, knock on wood!). I think about how many toys and stuffed creatures I have carefully chosen for the kids over the years, some hand made with loving care and hefty price tags, and yet it's this synthetic Ikea fox, thoughtlessly added to the cart in an effort to buy me some extra shopping time, that has won his heart. I never would I have guessed that we would be retracing our steps and making late night phone calls to track down that $2 mass produced toy, but Smith loves him, and so now we all do too. It's funny the things that wind up being critical to finding personal joy.

Our community garden is a bit like that fox for me. Six years ago, when we first scored our plot, it was just a way to bide my time and get my fingers dirty until I could move back to the country. I never imagined that 400 square feet of sun soaked earth would play such a big role in our family's warm weather rituals. James was initially ambivalent about our plot, and these days he is often the one dragging us all there, weeding and watering at the end of long work days. The kids have grown up with our garden as a major feature of their lives, and despite our move last summer, this patch of land, connected to a community and not a set of house keys, has remained a constant for them both.

When we were looking to buy a house, several friends made comments assuming we'd give up our garden, because we would want to start one in our own yard, or it would be too far away. But we actually made proximity to the garden a key factor in our buying process, and we are definitely keeping our plot! 

True, it does require more effort to pack up the kids and drive just to do a little gardening. I am sure that if I could swing open my back door and poke around, everything would be better maintained. But it is so worth the added work. It's wonderful to walk around and chat with other gardeners, sharing tips and seeds. I love that we were able to stay close to the city, and all of the culture and excitement it has to offer, choosing a small and shady lot without sacrificing sun loving veggies in the process. Best of all, our garden happens to be nestled in a nature preserve, which means our non-country-kids get to kick off their shoes, run through fields chasing butterflies, toss stones into streams, and generally experience much of the freedom my country-kid childhood afforded me. 

I love you community garden, you have given our family so much more than we can possibly return. Never outgrow us, and we promise that we'll never outgrow you.