Three Day Weekend

My birthday tends to fall on Labor Day Weekend every year.  (My younger sister’s lands on Memorial Day weekend -together, our birthdays bookend the summer).  Back in the old school days, I was always the very youngest in the class.  My birthday literally was the cutoff day – if I’d been born a day later, I would have been the high school class of 1997.  How strange to think about.

I got some money and gift cards to Ann Taylor this year – which I know because I cheated and opened my birthday cards early, because the Ann Taylor half price sale also tends to fall on Labor Day weekend every year.  I’ve really wanted some nice t-shirts and shells that have sleeves, so my suits don’t need dry-cleaned as often.  (I also need suits, but most all of the on-sale suits were white or capris or skinny leg pants, so I didn’t get any suits this time.)  If I waited til Monday most of the mid-range sizes would be gone, and you’d only find XXS or XXL.  So I cheated.  Happy early birthday to me!  Bought a bunch of $8 shirts and a couple of $22 dresses, and one splurge jacket that looks sort of Jackie-O ish and was $75 even half price.  It’s part of a suit but the pants and skirt were sold out, but it will work with a lot of what I already own and I caaaaan’t waaaaait to try it on.  The risk is it’s all final sale and can’t be returned if it doesn’t fit, so I hope I’m still a Medium shirt, size 10 jacket, size 12 pants/skirt/dress at Ann Taylor or I’m gonna be selling some stuff on e-bay.  (PS in the reviews, every single person is like – “this runs big – I’m usually a size 0 so I had to get size 00 for this to fit!”  OR “I’m 5’7″ and a size 2-Tall and this was really flattering.”  I’m going to have to get in there and review some stuff and be like “Hello, I am 5’6″ and 160 lbs and I’ve had three babies and I’m a size 12, and here’s how this stuff fits just in case you are not a delicate bird of a human.  Which if you are, good for you, you’re beautiful – and if you’re not, good for you, you’re beautiful too, but don’t buy this dress because it’ll make you look faaaaaat.”  PPS My dad always says – “the dress doesn’t make you look fat.  Your fat makes you look fat.”  Which never fails to make me chuckle.

So, thirty six is upon me.  I keep gingerly poking at my subconscious, checking in to see “does this freak you out?  Being closer to forty than thirty?”  And my subconscious is like – NOPE!  THIS DECADE IS PRETTY MUCH THE BEST.  CARRY ON.

And it’s true.  I’ve had a few friends turn thirty recently, and in the face of their existential angst over flipping to a new decade I’ve been that annoying person shouting (figuratively, via facebook comments, mostly) No!  Thirties are way better than twenties!  It’s true, and I’ve only slowly begun realizing why.  Mostly, it’s because I expend way less energy worrying about being sexy and skinny and attractive.  It’s only recently that I realized how much of my subconscious was devoted to feeling guilty for not being pretty per the American ideal (i.e. slender, toned but not too bulky, bouncy hair, slim face, staying perpetually young, sculpted legs, tan but not too tan, blah blah blah).  I carried a lot of guilt about having a flobby belly and thighs that touch (even at 125 pounds, which is what I weighed 10 years ago, I had a little belly and some cellulite).  Like, a lot – more than I realized.  In many ways, a huge amount of my resources were going towards chasing some ideal that I was never going to catch, anyway.  And now, I 90% don’t care.  A little bit of me will always care, because I’m marinating in these terrible body-image messages just like everybody else – but 90% of me has decided that I’ve got better things to do than think about how my body looks.  (Like, for example, worry a lot about how it feels, because my lower back is seriously collapsing – one of the few downsides to leaving behind my twenties.)

Another thing I like about my thirties is along the same lines, though broader.  I guess you could say my gaze has turned outward.  It used to be all about self improvement, living a better life through better organizing/eating/wardrobe/exercising/mindfulness.  I thought that happiness and inner peace would come to me if I could get my house designed perfectly, pick just the right color pillow shams, hit on the perfect number of pieces in my wardrobe to assure a fresh and professional look that’s classic and not too trendy, spend just the right amount of time in meditation balanced against the perfect amount of time out being social among impeccably dressed friends.  Eat the perfect balance of protein and roughage.  Drink eight 8 oz glasses of water every day, cut out coffee and alcohol, lay off all processed foods and eat only whole and organic.  It’s just so much to keep track of . . .  I’m finding more peace, at thirty six, from being a good friend, being a good steward of the earth and my resources, being a good parent and spouse, being a good citizen.  Service to others is a higher calling than service to self.  All those things that used to consume me are now still a part of my consciousness, but relegated to the tiny sliver of my time that they deserve.

And finally, self-forgiveness.  Kelle Hampton wrote recently about the identity crisis of containing multitudes, and her post resonated with me.  I can simultaneously reject the impossible standards put on women’s bodies, and also really crow when I look skinny in a pair of great jeans.  I can carry in my one pair of hands both abstract but real grief at the horrible things happening in the world, and also fizzy joy over the fact that Parks and Rec season 6 is coming to Netflix in just a few weeks.  Glennon Melton at Momastery has also in a lot of ways released me to do good things, because she has given permission to do tiny acts of good.  At 36, I’ve accepted that I don’t have to feed all the hungry people in the world.  It’s ok to give what you have.  With these zillions of children and my demanding job, I don’t have a lot to give – but we do what we can.

So.  My navel-gazing birthday post, in all its glory.  I know the best writing contains few – ideally, zero – references to I or me.  By that measure, this is the worst thing I’ve written all year.  But that’s ok.  I contain multitudes.  Sometimes the multitudes = good writer and good steward of her gifts, and sometimes it just feels like blowing some birthday dollars on some cute clothes from Ann Taylor and then blurting an unedited stream of consciousness on her blog.

I’ll leave you with a few more cute kid stories, because if we’re being self-indulgent already we might as well just go the whole hog.

Last night, Liam asked his father to pick him up close to the over-the-door basketball hoop in their room so he could do a “slam dump” (he said it “swam dump,” of course, which made it even sillier).

Friday, Jack told me “sometimes when my teacher puts on soft music and we’re quiet, I put my head down and I think about you and I get a little sad because I miss you.”

Craiggers, 7  months old yesterday, is my little soul mate.  When I come home he stares and then wriggles with overwhelming joy, almost in disbelief that I actually came back and he gets to be with me again.  He is the reason my back is collapsing in on itself like a dying star, but I don’t mind.

Happy days, these days.  35 was good, 36 will be better.  Happy birthday to me!

Posted in Navel Gazing (and I Don't Mean Oranges) | 2 Comments

From the Mouths of Babes

I cannot even keep up with constant stream of ridiculously funny things that Liam is saying lately.  I find all of this so charming – a large part of it is the perky, bee-boppin’ delivery.  He strides with confidence through this world, even though sometimes it means he hugs a total stranger or injures himself with his enthusiasm and lack of fear (case in point, a couple of days ago he lost two fingernails at school because he was riding his bike with abandon, and that somehow landed him in urgent care.  Shudder.)  We worry about our second child a bit more than the other two, because he is so fearless.  But his fearlessness also makes him delightful in a lot of ways – open, funny, confident, and always very, very verbal.

I’ve started emailing myself when he says something hilarious, so I can remember.  Here are a few of our recent conversations.

In the car on the way home from school:

L: God?
* * * * several seconds go by * * * *
L: Go-od!
* * * * more time passes * * * *
L: HEY! GOD!
Me: What are you hollering about, Liam?
L: Shhh, Mom.  I’m waiting for God to answer.
Me: That’s not how it works, dude.
L: SHHHHHHHHHHH be quiet.
* * * * a little later once he finally accepted that no booming voice from the sky was going to say “Yes, Liam” * * *
L: Why doesn’t God answer me?
Me: He’s busy.
L: Yeah, but he’s everywhere.  There’s God in the sky, and God in the trees, and God in the rocks, and God in the grass . . . no wait, no God in the grass.  But God everywhere else, so why isn’t he talking to me?
Me: Really?  No God in the grass?
L: Because we step on grass, mom.  Duh.

At the pool:

L: Dad!  Don’t take me out to the steep end!

At night before bed:

The Prof: Have you got everything for bed Liam?  Milk, pjs, puppy?
L: Milk, Check!  Pjs, Check!  Puppy, Not Check!

And his greatest trick (I think he learned this from his father – when you think you might be in “trouble,” start throwing out the compliments!):

Me (mad at him for whatever reason): Liam, you’re about to go in time out.  Stop doing [insert whatever he is doing].
L (sidling up to me with a wounded dog look): Mom, I just can’t be good because I love you soooooooo much, because you are soooooooo beautiful, and your hair looks great.

Posted in Liam | 6 Comments

Challenge Complete

I explain to the boys what we are going to do, and Jack says “Ah.  So when we dump water on your head, then the sick people will laugh, and the sickness will come out of their mouths and they will be better?  Is that it?”  When I explain that no, but it will make them feel better, they will like knowing that people care about them, and also we will give them some money so that doctors can make them better, then Jack literally scratches his head and then says, matter-of-factly, “Well, we better give ‘em some food to eat, too.”

 

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Ice Buckets For Josie, Colette, Quinn, Lachlan, Calhoun, and Michael Brown

The Professor and I enjoyed a bottle of really good Malbec last night.  This morning I enjoyed the presence of my children by my bedside at 5:45.  One of those terms “enjoyed” is being used sarcastically, by the way.

I was challenged yesterday in the ice bucket challenge, and I’m like . . . . mehhhhh.  OK.  I’ll do it but I’m not going to nominate anybody because while I am totally down with this social media movement and its awesome effect on awareness and dollars for the terrible disease ALS, I’m also aware that it’s kind of had its day.  But I’m going to be a good sport and do it, and the hubs and I will donate to the ALS Association.  We will also donate to Cystinosis Research Foundation in honor of my buddy Josie, to the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation in honor of a sweet little girl named Colette and in memory of her twin brother, Quinn, and to the BBB-accredited charity, the St. Louis area foodbank in memory of Michael Brown, and in hopes that our donation helps to feed hungry people in Ferguson.

While I’m linking to causes, I’ll link to the be the match bone marrow registry, in hopes that some of you may join.  My friend Mary has 20 month old twin boys.  She let us know a month ago that one of the twins has a very rare leukemia known as JMML – and yesterday confirmed that the boys are identical twins, meaning there is a close to 100% chance that the other will also develop the disease imminently.  They are looking for a donor match on the bone marrow registry – one has not been found yet, so Mary’s held one very successful donor drive in her son’s honor, and friends are working on hosting another.  There is no hope for the boys’ recovery without a bone marrow transplant, so finding a donor match is imperative.  Ya’ll can order a kit online and send in a swab to be tested, and place yourself on the registry – preggos can register, just let them know you’re preg and they will set your registry to go live 6 months after your due date.  Consider it?  Lachlan and his twin Calhoun are little blond haired Irish kids, so they need a Caucasian donor – but any of you out there who are of non-Caucasian descent, and especially any of my mixed-race lovelies, please consider signing up.  There are way more white folks on that registry than any other race, and race matters in the bone marrow matching game.

It’s been a tough news cycle lately, both personally and in the wider world.  My only choice in the face of such pain and fear is positive, affirmative action.  So I’ll have my boys dump cups of ice water on my head (I am not going to be one of those Ice Bucket FAILS where a giant heavy cooler of water is dropped on my head from on-high, giving me a concussion or a broken limb), and I guess I’ll post a video (oh Lord, aren’t we all so sick of those videos), and I’ll pay some money to some things, and focus on the positive.  We have more power to do good than we know.

Posted in Dear Friends, Everyday Adventures | Leave a comment

Robin Fly

I grabbed the Economist out of the mail today and flipped quickly to the obituary, like I usually do, and wondered who would be the subject next week, next month.  Who is alive right now who will not be when I next pull the Economist out of the mailbox?  Like I usually do.

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Craig is curled and heavy my arms.   I was rocking him in the glider in my bedroom, pinning his flailing arms and legs, shoving a pacifier in his squawking mouth, squeezing him into submission until his immature nervous system finally stopped firing out random signals and let his heaving bucking limbs relax.  So now he is relaxed.  I run my thumb across his forehead, smoothing.  His sleeping mouth sucks at the paci.  His sleeping hand clutches at my shirt.  Tucked in.

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Robin Williams committed suicide today.  Since everything is a circle that all winds back around to my children, I think about depression and addiction and a mind that goes so quickly, the chattering streaming monologue, and how relieved I was to hear that Mr. Williams’s mother Laurie preceded him in death.  I think also about how little the public will care when I die.  It will not be like the way we all collectively gasped at the loss of Mr. Williams, and Mr. Hoffman before him.  And I wonder which I’d want for my children.  A plodding, quiet, uneventful life of contentment, or the mad loneliness that seems inevitably to accompany the mad artistic gift – beloved by the world and yet walled off from it.

People on facebook are talking about sadness, but I know depression isn’t sadness, but blankness.  Depression is absence.  Addictive substances are hole-fillers, putting something where there is nothing, and almost always the Nothing swallows up the Something and then the gravitational pull of the twin diseases cannot be escaped, even by a mind running so manically, frantically as his.  Outrun.

A couple of days ago we were disciplining our oldest for getting in the baby’s face and trying too roughly to make him laugh, again and again and again, too too many times.  And at first he was defiant as we lectured, but eventually he broke and his face split open and in a vale of tears he wailed “But I just love him so much, I just love his smiles, he’s so little and cute and I just want to make him smile.”  And I loved my oldest boy so keenly in that second, I almost couldn’t bear it, so my face split open and through a vale of tears I wailed “I think the same thing about yoooooouuuuu.”

I’m not sure what these things have to do with one another, except that I think there is a fine line between a vale of bittersweet tears and a set of blank dry eyes . . . between feeling keenly the pain of the human condition and feeling nothing in the face of it.  We humans, each standing inevitably alone.  We reach and reach for each other, grasp each others’ hands sometimes and sometimes not quite making contact but always reaching toward each other, except sometimes a loved one stops reaching and your hands claw through empty air and you want your arms to grow long enough to cover your wingspan and the loved one’s, too, but you can’t.  Your reach goes as far as it goes, and no farther, and if they won’t reach back . . . you feel sadness and they feel blankness and though to outsiders those emotions probably look the same the distinction between the two is vital, literally.  So maybe the difference between sadness and blankness is all in the reach.

His manic, crazy, genius mind.  I read an article recently that said there is some scientific theory, some potential actual physical proof that human consciousness continues beyond the death of the body, into some plane of existence we cannot comprehend.  I hope that if it’s true, the heavy blankness is left behind, leaving only the lightness and energy that we all loved him for.  I imagine him, lighter now, lifting like a helium balloon, like a bubble, like a bird with air under its wings. Up up up and out of sight, and his family below, arms outstretched, a vale of tears, reaching.  I just love him so much, I just want to make him smile.  He made us all smile, he dimmed the pain of the human condition for millions.  Blessings be on his immortal soul, now and forever amen.

Posted in Navel Gazing (and I Don't Mean Oranges) | 3 Comments