Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Archie at 9 months

I was scared to have a boy.  I don't get boys.  Boys like dirt and dinosaurs and kill things with sticks. They run and scream and use kitchen utensils as weapons.  They're loud, and I know first hand that when they hit those years, they can be just as moody as the person to them.

I was scared to have a boy.

But then Archie came along, and I got boys a little more.  He was my boy, after all, a little piece of me now squirming around in the outside world, a piece that had my husband's eyes and a semblance of my dad's smile.

Him wiggling (now practically walking) around for these past 9 months has brought a pure and innocent joy (and many sleepless nights) into our lives.  That word, joy, first comes to mind when describing A.  I call him a little joyful tornado.  When he smiles, it consumes his entire face, and if he's feeling particularly happy, the smile will be so big and wide that he squints his eyes and then shakes his whole body as if he was going to get up and dance.  He does live up to the stereotype of being loud, that's for sure.  I'm not sure I've ever heard a more ear-piercing scream than I have from that kid.  He's either going to be a) the next Steven Tyler or b) a voice actor for horror films.  We'll see.

He eats everything, literally.  If we had a dog they would exchange loot from their travels around the floors.  Dust, crumbs, a piece of paper, caps, whatever he finds on the floor, he tastes.  The bright side to this is he's a good eater.  Grown up food, Gerber food, if you hand it to him, he'll eat it (even if it looks like he doesn't like it).

He bangs, he's rough, and rips the kitchen towels off the stove.  One of my favorite boyish things he does is he'll sometimes bite down on his pacifier real hard and then yank it out of his mouth as if it's a challenge.  It looks ridiculous, but hilarious.  His laugh is hearty and all boy and often yells at us while pointing his finger.

He's a cuddler, loves watching cars and being outside, and loves loves his big sister and little stuffed bear, Thad.

Being a parent to Archie feels like being a parent for the first time all over again.  He couldn't be more opposite of Ella.  Ella's already taken on the role of protective big sister and goes around shutting doors so he won't fall down stairs and picking up things so he won't choke.

I was scared to have a boy, but unnecessarily so, 'cause this boy has lit up our lives.  Him looking up at his big sister or me or his daddy with that contagious, joyful smile melts any fear or uncertainty I might have had away.

Photo cred: Francis and Louise 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Families suck

These past couple weeks have been mentally hard as a wife and mom.  And, ironically, it has nothing to do with what's been going on in my home, but rather, what's been going on outside my home. Recently, I've gotten various pieces of saddening news.  News that has to do with families and hurt and brokenness.  And then, just last night, as I sat there on the front porch blowing bubbles with my laughing little girl, I heard from across the street:

"Don't start your shit with me!" F*** this, F*** that.

There have been, of course, a slew of reasons as to why the birth rate has declined, why people are waiting longer to get married, why fewer people are opting out of the decision to get married and start a family -- student loans, inconvenience, instability, the whole I'm a feminist thing.

But I think there is another factor that comes into question that has gotten little to no attention, and that's families suck.

Have you looked around?  At all?

Parents are constantly yelling at each other, that's if they're even still together, kids do anything to get out of family holidays, parents smacking their kids, calling them "little shits" in public.  Kids trash talking their parents, parents complaining about their kids, years long adult sibling rivalries that make kindergarten look like wasted time.  And that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the total discouragement families get while out and about -- the stare downs on planes and in pews, people "warning" you of all the *shit* you're in store for.  The list goes on and on and...on.

I'm sorry, but...who wants that?  I am someone who decided to get married and have a family, and I don't want that.  I used to not want to get married and have a family for the very reasons mentioned above.  Good examples and role models were all too rare for me to take that risk of ending up like all the other families who go their separate ways when the kids go to college or when Grandma dies.

If I hadn't met the man who I saw I could raise the type of family I wanted to have with, I would have run the other way from having a family, too.

I often not-so-jokingly say that I want my family to be like the Kardashians when we're older. Inevitably, the person reacts with a "noooo.."  Sure, that clan is crazy, but they're crazy together. Sibling loyalty is unshakable, they catch a Wednesday afternoon lunch together, visit their mom, and the mom is there.  If you haven't done any of these things with your family in the last month, then nothin' out of you.

I get it, okay?  I'm not naive.  I'm a member of the had-to-grow-up fast group myself due to my own situation.  People are broken and families take the biggest hit when our brokenness strikes.  Yeah, parenting is exhausting, calming an irate toddler is exhausting, we're tired, we say things, we hit financial hard times, we blame, we compare, we get bored.  But we're adults, so we are more than capable of trying, making an effort, forgiving, taking pause before lashing out, being kind, apologizing.

I like to think about my family in the big picture sense.  Ideally, I'd like 5 kids, not because I particularly enjoy pregnancy (I'd have to grow a deep love for dry heaving) but because I think 5 kids is a good support system for each of them to have.  I also, since having Ella, have thought about what I'd like my family dynamic to be and then have implemented personal habits to strive to be a better example for my kids.  Even though my kids are under 3, I work freaking hard to raise a family who will like each other when they're 32.  And, as a 26-year-old with 2 young kids, I'm not sure I could be more discouraged.  I look around and there are, thankfully, a hand full of families I'm blessed to know and strive to emulate.  But, generally, while carrying out my day-to-day stopping at the grocery store or out for a walk, I consistently see families who look miserable to be with each other.

Since I'm back in the business world, I think in marketing terms on the daily, so I'll say the branding of families is in the midst of a true crisis and it has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton or some policy or the schools we send our kids to or the diet we put them on, and has everything to do with.. was the dad a man enough to hold his little girl's hand in public?  And did the spouses hold hands in front of their kids?  Did mom and dad put each other first?  Were phones put away at dinner?  Did the parents give money to the man begging on the street corner while their kids watched?  Did the parents uplift other people in front of their kids?  Were the parents humble enough to say I'm sorry to their children when they lashed out or did something wrong?  Did mom and dad talk with their kids or at them?

We have to step it up.  There are little pockets of hope, but on a grand scale, we're failing.  What we do as parents matters so much more than we realize.  Our actions have either positive or negative ripple effects.  And we need to not only realize that but to care about it.

Go home and don't just tell your family you love them, but show them.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Farewell, Summer

<<Insert big sigh>>

You had a rough start, Summer.  Neither Tim nor I had any idea how you were going to turn out.  As of May 20th this was the tone going into the month of June:

If I'm being honest (as my brother-in-law would say, "this is a safe circle, right?), I was slowly slipping into despair.  I was fighting it, really, I was.  A hard and strict workout schedule was my main weapon of choice, I was doing everything my doctor was telling me to do, we were still trying to actively move.  No matter what I tried, though, I felt like I was losing the battle.  The past three years had taken its toll and collectively, Tim and I were fractured from the intensity of so much life hitting us at once on our lone island.

Going into Summer we had no move out East in our foreseeable future, no jobs lined up, no budget to make it happen, no concrete place to rent, no babysitter for our children.  Soon after, prompted by a quite literal mental breakdown, I emptied my soul and threw myself into the arms of St. Joseph through a novena.  If, at the end of the novena, something worked out, great.  If not, I made the choice that I'd find peace knowing we were simply not yet meant to move.*  Within three days of finishing our novena, all the pieces of our moving puzzle were complete - jobs for both of us, a place to rent, a moving budget, our top babysitter of choice to watch our kids.  Our unforeseen future was, far off in the distance, but now clear.

Since this was an answer to a prayer, I knew something was coming.  Something meaning, I knew this was going to take a great deal of work and patience on our part.  This move was put into our lives to teach us something and we were going to have to learn the lesson whether we liked it or not.

And I was right, (but it's okay; I braced for impact).

We took a U-Haul and 2 babies across the country, we installed a floor and lived and worked in an unfinished space for an entire month, we straight up ran out of money, Archie entered his worst phase of teething right when we arrived, I started working 3 days after we entered the Eastern Time Zone.  It wasn't easy.  And I don't remember a lot of the details of the past weeks, we've been moving too fast.

But we're here.  And, to continue with my candidness, I feel a little uncomfortable and undeserving of all the help we've received since being here.  It's been overwhelming in the best sort of way.  My West Coast chapter was brought into my life for many reasons; some of the best, most life-altering moments happened in that part of the country.  But what I've taken away is perspective.  The last time I lived in Michigan, I used to get worked up over the pettiest things and I took for granted the people around me.  Now?  Yes, I have my days (I always will) but I put my best into my job and love hard on the people around me.  There's no reason not to - it's a blessing to work and have loved ones.

I'm not yet 30 (for some reason, I feel like you have to be 30 in order to say this sort of thing) but, the more I go through life, the more I learn to enjoy it - the good and the bad.  I've said it a thousand times, our last chapter was difficult, but I worked to make the most of it and to enjoy the present moment.  And I'm proud of myself for that.

But I'm ever happy for this next chapter - the one that includes budgets for date nights, fall wardrobes, and bigger birthday parties.  So as much as I love Summer, I'm eager for the sunset to fall on these months.  Our boxes have been unpacked, we've found our routine, and I'm eager to start planning for the close of the year - the cider mill trips, the Black Friday shopping, the visit to Santa Clause.

Farewell, Summer.  You brought me scenes of a Wyoming sunset and the hills of Idaho.  You taught me patience and brought me to a place I've been dreaming of for a while now.  You're one for the books, no doubt, but it's time to say "goodbye", get out our boots and watch your colors change.