breakfast, lunch, dinner

Yesterday was a cold, drizzly day so we stayed inside in pajamas for most of the day, reading, playing, sleeping, watching movies, and (most importantly) cooking and eating.

Breakfast: Uncured bacon, scrambled eggs, scratch biscuits

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Lunch: Spinach salad with cranberries, walnuts, bleu cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette

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Dinner: Slow-cooker whole chicken with lemon and herbs, oven roasted vegetables, and a baguette. (Dessert was a sweet potato pound cake with a brown butter spiced glaze. Not pictured because we were too busy moaning and slapping our knees.)

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Over dinner, we asked each other who we would invite as a dinner guest if we could choose anyone at all, imaginary, real, dead, or alive. Noah chose his friend Owen, and Violet chose James, our friends’ baby, or “Bebe Jeemth” as she calls him. Lance chose Winston Churchill. I chose Margot, head chef and owner of two of my favorite restaurants in Nashville, as I’ve been unable to get over this meal I had there last week wherein my eyes welled up with tears with each delicious course. (If you’re wondering, as I was, Noah would serve bread and cake at his dinner party, and Violet would serve “mac-and-cheethe.”)

Brrr… Stay warm and eat well this week, y’all! Creamy soups and pot pies, anyone?

it happens sometimes.

That morning started out like all other mornings; I woke up, for better or worse, on my own side of the bed, five-year-old feet wedged uncompromisingly in the small of my back and two-year-old full body scrambling to climb onto my head, her diaper reeking of stale pee. A swift mental kick in my own ass for pressing snooze too many times on my phone and therefore being awoken with the immediate and urgent pressure to take care of people before so much as taking a morning piss was nothing new or unusual.

At breakfast I labored to fully open my eyes, gulping hot coffee like it could be my salvation, and before I had finished the cup my husband made his usual somewhat panicked dash out the door. I’m luckier than most and I never take this for granted (or at least mostly never); Lance helps with breakfast nearly every morning, helps get the kids ready for the day, feeds the pets, takes out last night’s garbage. Yet he always leaves too soon, and I’m never ready to face the day alone. That morning I found myself wrapped around my cup of coffee, ignoring screams and crashes from the other room, just breathing the steam, hoping for more caffeine to enter my bloodstream through the vapor.

I couldn’t get the kids motivated to get out of the house. “Park? Mall? Library?” I tried. “No!” they yelled simultaneously to each suggestion, as they ran by me, naked for some reason, in pursuit of the bedraggled cat. Their giggles felt like knives in my ears; the unchained chaos threatened to suffocate me. “Let’s make Christmas cookies!” I hollered at them as they thumped around upstairs, laughing hysterically. “I’m getting the cookie cutters out! Come down!”

Thus began attempt after attempt to tame their madness, thwarted by every scream, every demand, every mess. I didn’t know where my bad mood was coming from; things that normally didn’t bother me were grating on my nerves like a broken recording of fingernails on a chalkboard. I felt like a drowning person, too exhausted even to yell at them, but too frustrated to give up and sit down with a book or something. They weren’t doing anything wrong, either, they were just being kids. But I couldn’t take their kid-ness that day. I made them get dressed, very much against their wills, but it was too late to go anywhere before lunch and they were whining so mercilessly. I drove by the library to drop off some books, but we didn’t go in, and on a whim I took them out for pizza.

It was cold and gray, and the bell tinkled as we came in, echoing in the empty restaurant. After a brief but fierce fight with both my kids about their need to use the restroom and wash their hands, we sat down and the waiter came over, obviously having picked the short straw for attending to this nutso table. It was 11:30am. I ordered wine.

I looked across the booth at my children. Still slightly giggly but no longer roughhousing, excited about pizza, playing with cold dough from the kitchen, they were every single thing to me. All it took to regroup was a second to just be still and look at them. And all they know is what they have. They don’t know that someone else might have it better or worse than they do. They don’t know there are children whose parents abuse and neglect, children who are hungry, children who have never stepped foot inside a warm pizza cafe on a cold afternoon.They don’t know that there are mothers at the table next to us, or down the block, or across the world who aren’t having a day of struggle, a day when their children’s every breath feels like a burden to be dealt with. They didn’t know that their own mother was having that day. Those four deep brown eyes weren’t the least bit judgmental, and I was filled with regret at the way I’d treated them all morning. “I’m sorry I’m so grumpy today,” I sighed. “I love you guys.” I got silence from the toddler, and a snarky nonsensical comment from the five-year-old, but it didn’t matter. For the moment I was standing on dry ground, my head clear, my chest light.

By evening I was grumpy again. I had to take the kids with me to the grocery store after naps, and they were full of pent-up energy from days and days of cold drizzle and playing indoors. The aisles at the supermarket were wide open spaces, inviting my children to run free, be feral. Other people, grocery carts, stand-alone racks were mere obstacles in their eyes, and I followed them around apologizing and cleaning up the damage they left in their wake. I was crying by the time we left. It wasn’t that my kids were behaving any differently than they ever did, or doing anything particularly dangerous or upsetting. They were being annoying, sure, but they’re five and two. That’s like, their job, and they do it well. Annoyances don’t typically bring me to tears, anymore than daily frustrations typically make me feel like I’m standing in sinking sand, anymore than I typically order a glass of wine when it’s just the kids and me for lunch.

Someone called my name from across the parking lot, and I turned to see a dear friend’s cheerful smile. It was enough to undo me entirely, and I hugged her tightly like she was a life raft, hearing myself confess to her that I was having a rough day, that I was being mean to my kids, that I must have been about to start my period, that I didn’t even know what was wrong. She gave me another hug and we parted with reassurances that it happens to all of us.

It felt good. I needed to see a real person, another mother, someone who could remind me that I wasn’t some sort of lonely parental island. I sat in my car with the heater on, gulping the warm oxygen, my two confused loves waiting patiently in their car seats for their crazy mother to move them to the next adventure or chore. “I’m okay,” I whispered to myself. “I’m going to be okay.”

For the most part things calmed down that evening. My two-year-old read books to herself and her brother built something tall with wings out of his Legos. And my bad mood had lifted. Maybe their chaos was in my head all day, and I just needed peace to be at peace. Maybe I needed to exercise my extroversion, see a few friends, have a few adult conversations. Maybe all I needed was to take a large bite out of the chocolate bar that resides for just such occasions in the corner of my pantry. Maybe.

Dinnertime and bath time and bedtime passed uneventfully, just as the rest of the day had really, and if they fought us about brushing their teeth or getting into their pajamas or about what book to read, as they do every night, I don’t remember. The days are filled with good moments and bad alike, boring moments and thrilling ones, memorable moments and forgettable ones.

I tucked my children in bed while their dad read to them, taking the time to kiss their soft cheeks and stroke their fine hair and feel their tiny, chubby hands around my neck and tell them how much I love them. They’re everything to me, every single thing, I thought for the second time as I closed my eyes and breathed in their baby shampoo. And I fuck it up sometimes. I miss the beauty in the midst of the ugly and the hard. I don’t mean to; it just happens. Maybe these days are reminders of what it should not be, and tomorrow it will be better, and their chaos will be funny and normal again. It has to be. I have to make it. Because tomorrow morning will always dawn brighter and earlier than I expect, and there will be feet wedged firmly in the small of my back, and there will be a soggy diapered toddler crawling on top of my head, and there will be coffee and a husband dashing out the door, and I will look at my precious children, my beautiful wonders, my gifts to the world, and they will always be everything to me.

Every single damn thing.

Month 60

Dear Noah,

This month you turned five years old, and I couldn’t be happier that you’re no longer four. In a way I wonder where the time has gone, of course, but mostly I am thrilled beyond belief that you’re older. Four was by and large the most difficult age we’ve encountered in your short life, so having it behind us can only mean good things (please prove me right there, Lovey). Onward and upward! “Do five year olds pick on their sisters?” I asked you yesterday. I think I can keep reminding you about the expectations of five for at least another month, and I intend to. You’re super happy to be five, also, of course. Last week we were getting ready to go to a friend’s birthday party, and you asked how old she was. When I told you she was turning five, you wiped furiously at your eyes, trying to keep the tears from flowing. “Well,” you said, “that’s not really fair but I guess I’ll give it a try.” I’m not sure what you were giving a try… but you were super pissed she got to be five before you. This is why I think I can play the “you’re five SHAPE UP” card for awhile!

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This month we started homeschooling a little bit, because your behavior had deteriorated so drastically at preschool and I had to pull you out. It’s been mostly good, and a little bad, and a little scary for me. I worry I won’t be able to do it, and you’ll be behind. I worry I’m throwing away my own freedom, my passions. I worry I will lose my patience with you when you refuse to do your workbook page (which you only have to do two days a week, so come right on now) or play ONE SINGLE MEASURE OF THIS SONG ON THE PIANO. You could do what I’m asking you to do in about 20 seconds, but you opt for painfully stretching it out, flailing about, whining whining whining. But when you are focused, and you don’t complain, I see how great it can be and how you’ll thrive. You pick things up very quickly, you learn so much just from reading, and you enjoy the one-on-one time with me, and I enjoy it with you, too.

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You’ve given me ulcers over the last year because you are still learning to keep your hands to yourself and not react with physical violence whenever something doesn’t go your way. You’re just a rough guy, Bubbs. The problem your dad and I have discovered is that you love playing rough with your friends, regardless of how they feel about said rough play. If they hit or shove you, you get excited (and sometimes angry) and play or wrestle even harder with them, and then they scream and cry and run to their parents, so you get in trouble and have to apologize and the play date ends because you’re not allowed to hurt friends. Then later, we notice scratches and bruises on you and when we get the full story we realize your friends were dishing it out but totally unable to take it, whereas you DO take it as much as (if not more than) you give it. It makes me feel so sad and angry because I know you think I don’t care if you’re hurt as long as you’re not doing the hurting, but that’s not the case at all. I wish I could instill this in you my love: violence is never the answer. And that’s a two-way street! You may not hurt anyone, but NO ONE better hurt my baby, either! In fact, as angry as it makes me when you hurt playmates, it’s only a fraction of the rage I feel when I see that you’ve been hurt BY a playmate.

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Anyway (as I knock on wood), we’ve started seeing a light at the end of the Fight Club tunnel. You have stopped being as rough this month, finally. I had coffee with a friend the other day while you and Violet and her kids all played, and I noticed at some point that there had been no screams, no crying, no blood, and we’d been there for over an hour. I realized I felt relaxed, and that I was actually able to pay attention to my friend without keeping one ear constantly tuned into the sounds of desolation that typically accompany you. I attribute this, honestly, to taking you out of preschool.

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Of course I didn’t think of it until long after, but it makes sense that if you spend your days with two-year-olds you’ll act like a two-year-old. You’ve been spending much more time with kids your own age and older lately, since you’re doing the rock climbing class at Climb Nashville, and you started science class with the homeschool group, and I’ve noticed you definitely pick up on others’ behaviors. You’ve started becoming more the kid I remember: the man trapped inside a boy’s body. You love all things rescue, still, and you’re way into ropes and carabiners and hooks and climbing gear… anything that can supposedly aid in your passion for climbing things, or at least that can aid in your mountain rescue guy costume.

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Over the last several months you’ve gone from saying “I hate you” to “you don’t love me” to “you don’t love me so I don’t love you,” to asking “DO you love me!?” but luckily it seems you’re almost out of that phase. If you make me furious about something and I yell, you sometimes revert back to it, but for the most part you’ve stopped torturing me in that particular way. You’re more affectionate than ever, telling me you love me all the time and giving me lots of hugs and kisses throughout the day, especially when you’re happy about something, like the prospect of dessert. (Just like yours truly in that way, Bubbs.)

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You’re as affectionate as ever with your sister in particular, which as always is a double-edged sword. It’s sweet, but you choose poor timing to show her how you feel. She gets SO annoyed with you for kissing/hugging/squeezing/tackling her, and really who can blame her for that? But when she’s not screaming at you, the two of you have finally started playing so well together. I have to be your sole source of entertainment less and less these days, which is HEAVENLY. You two can get lost in long sessions of play at home, running up and down the stairs, chasing the cat, chasing each other, playing “family,” squealing with laughter all the time. And your sister is crazy about you just like you are about her. Even though you two can be maddening when you fight, nothing is more special and wonderful than when you run over to check on her when she cries, or when she rubs your back when you’ve gotten hurt and gently tells you that it’s going to be ok. Knowing you two will always have each other gives me such peace and comfort.

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As challenging as you are lately, Love Bug, you also bring such joy into our lives. You can easily be as goofy and silly as you are serious, as fun as you are a heap of complaints, as enthusiastic as you are bored, as confident as you are insecure, as reasonable as you are obstinate, as empathic and sweet as you are insensitive.

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I love you, Bubba, with all your mood swings and craziness. Here’s to the best year of your life so far.

Love,

Mommy

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A letter to myself reminding myself of how I got my shit together

Dear 40-Year-Old Megan,

Hello, dear. I hope you’re having a great year, feeling sexy and energetic and are super patient with your kids, and I hope there are high speed trains wherever you live so you don’t have to drive anywhere anymore. Actually, screw that. I hope that in 2023 you can microwave yourself to other countries and back in under 30 seconds, and that you’re reading this from a French café on a rainy afternoon.

You most likely won’t remember this day, the day that you’re writing this letter to yourself in November 2014. It’s sunny and brisk outside, and you’re sitting at your dining room table while Violet naps and Noah watches Curious George from the living room. (A few weeks ago he was terrified of Curious George, so this is progress.) You haven’t gotten out of your pj’s today, because Violet has a fever so you weren’t able to go anywhere anyway, but it’s been quite a productive day because you reorganized the pantry and started digging the site for the sandbox you’re building.

You went a little nuts with the homemakership today, hanging prints that have just been sitting around, vacuuming, doing lots of laundry, scrubbing the kitchen sink. You’ve actually been really freaking spastic, if you want to know the truth. There are half finished projects lying all around right now that you started this morning, and the vacuum is still plugged in here in the dining room.

There’s a reason for all this sudden sporadic behavior. It all started one night a few weeks ago, when you couldn’t sleep. You lay awake staring into the darkness, nudging, then shoving, then forcibly rolling Lance right over because his snores sound like a damn circular saw, of which I’m sure 40-year-old-you is even more painfully aware than I. Your thoughts, as you know, tend to turn all dark and sad when you spend too much time inside your own head, and you can go quickly from content to maniacally depressed in a matter of minutes. The weather is turning colder, and you’re steadily entering that weird place of happy sadness you get when stores put out their twinkly-lit Christmas trees and you realize there are only four weeks left until Thanksgiving. The cold air fills you with hope and nostalgia, but as you breathe it in it squeezes your lungs with the awareness that what you want it to be it can never be. It will never be. You are bombarded with reminders that this is a season for family. Thus begins the holiday season for you: a sickening spiral into a sadness that threatens to drown you, culminating in a bizarrely severe instinct to change everything about yourself come New Year’s.

Another year has come and gone, another year’s worth of time to try and reconcile with your family. Yet here you are, wide-eyed at midnight, panic about your lack of an easy, festive familial holiday rising up in your throat like bile. On the night in question, you couldn’t tear your thoughts away from the brokenness between you and your family. You wondered, not for the first time, if it maybe really is your fault after all. If everyone around you seems crazy, aren’t you maybe the actual crazy person? And why has your family rejected you yet seems to get along with each other just fine? It’s bullshit, and you are fucking sick of it here in 2014. You made up your mind that night that you’re 31 FOR FUCK’S SAKE. You have kids of your own! Enough is enough. You fell asleep with the promise to yourself that you’d reach out to certain members of your family the very next day and make peace, and you did, by God. Not that it did any good, Megs. You sorta knew it wouldn’t, but at least you tried. If you’re still feeling shitty about all this (which, how could you feel shitty right now? Look around, Dummy. YOU’RE IN FRANCE.), just remember that you tried. And that’s all you can do, and I hope 40-Year-Old-You has learned to let go that death-grip on control better than Present-You. Ask the waiter to bring you a glass of wine already.

Despite the dead air you heard when you reached out that day, something jolted in you. Laying awake that night and promising yourself you’d try, then taking charge of your situation felt oddly… good! I mean you didn’t feel good, but you felt right. You felt a kind of weight off your shoulders. It jumpstarted a kind of all-encompassing New Year’s Resolution, only instead of happening at New Year’s, it happened at the end of October.

NOVEMBER NEW LIFE RESOLUTION: Get your shit together. One resolution, a myriad of applicable occasions! Here’s a list of things you are going to start doing.

1. Buy some real clothes. You love Goodwill in 2014, and that’s fine, but your current wardrobe consists of the following: 70% thrift store finds, 10% freebies from friends, 8% clothes you’ve had since college that are threadbare, 2% clothes you bought at Banana Republic before Violet was born and therefore do not fit your oddly shaped body in the slightest. I hope you’re laughing and not cringing as you read this. I hope you’re wondering why it took you so long to put your ass in a pair of jeans that actually fit. (You know what else would thank you? Your waist. Imagine either a) not having to pull your pants up every fourth step or b) not wanting to unbutton them every time you eat lunch. It’d be a beautiful thing.) I hope you’re rolling your eyes at how dumb I am, and not glancing down at your by now 20-year-old St. Jude Pirates sweatshirt.

2. Consider under-eye brightener and concealer. You’re getting old. Accept it and stop groaning at those dark pouchy bags every time you look in the mirror. It’s time to shop for age-related makeup. Quit crying. Related: consider dying your hair.

3. Just put some lotion beside the kitchen sink. You would seriously rather your hands crack and bleed than just walk ten steps into the bathroom for some lotion. Take the hell care of your hands! They hurt! Only you can make the pain stop and it’s SO EASY. It’s ridiculous!

4. Buy a good bra. Quit complaining about your boobs sagging down to your thighs and invest in a decent bra. No, not from Target. Get sized for crying out loud. It may seem like there’s no such thing as an adult training bra that also puts your boobs back on your chest, but you’ll never know till you get out there to a bra store and ask for help. Swallow the pride. Shell out the dough. Shhh, your heart is palpitating as you think about it, but this is part of the process of getting your shit together. Start slowly… you only need one bra right away. If you get that, you never know what’ll happen! Maybe you’ll have up to… I dunno… like three by the time you read this letter. (But I don’t want to get ahead of myself.)

5. Answer your emails. Seriously, Megs. People are waiting for you to do stuff. Why do you let things pile up the way you do? Unanswered emails don’t go away. Neither does dirty laundry.

6. Do some laundry!

7. Save money. You’re lucky, 40-Year-Old-You. You’ve saved money by now and your kids may actually get to go to college. But 31-year-old-you is like, “I could go to Marché for brunch?” NO. QUIT IT. Invest in a bra. Invest in some jeans that fit. Maybe a sweater. Then put the rest in savings. Your priorities are SHIT.

8. Help people. Your friend just returned from a trip selflessly administering medicine to people in the Dominican Republic. What the heck are you doing to make the world a better place? You aren’t using your talents for other people at all, and you’re really pretty self-centered, as evidenced by, oh, I dunno, this very letter that you’re writing to yourself this very minute. You know how you are. You’re worried you’re not good at anything that could actually benefit society, but maybe you just have to think smaller. Cook a meal for a friend. Call a friend just to ask about her day. Donate to good causes. Achieve these small goals first, then you can work on writing that play that you’ve surely written by now, Future Self. Maybe you’ve written a bunch of plays. Maybe you’ve raised awareness about systematic racism and the dangers of ultra-conservatism and the tragedy of homeless people in a country where there are so many abandoned houses and the hypocrisy of those who boast advocacy for the rights of the unborn yet adamantly oppose social programming that could actually help those children once they ARE born, and the government has altered its stance on gun control thanks to you and your Nobel Peace Prize-winning plays. Give yourself a high-five!

9. Be patient with your kids. Quit yelling. You’re working on not yelling, on being patient in 2014, and most of the time you’re proud of your efforts, but still. Every day you put the kids to bed and you look at them for one second and your heart is instantly in a vice. You think, “God. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for not being a better mother to you today. Tomorrow I will be better. I will be less frustrated, I will be more understanding, I will stop nagging, I will foster your imagination, I will make time to play.” And every day you think that, you realize you failed again today to be the mother that they need. And that keeps you awake at night, too. 40-Year-Old-You is me, so I know you’re crying out of your Google contacts right now (or whatever Google invented to make you phase out and look insane in 2023), because you’re not remembering how tough things are in 2014. You’re remembering all the sweet times, and how Violet can’t say her “s”s or her “r”s and how Noah still wakes you up every morning with a big kiss on the lips, and how they both curl up in your lap to read stories, and how they both want your attention every second of every day. Now that you’re 40 and Noah is 13 and Violet is 11 and that precious time is already over, I know you’re wondering how you ever could have yelled or been impatient with them. You’re wondering how you ever could have thought they were so hard at 4 and 2, because you’ve seen them as pre-teens and now they’re entering teenager-hood and you’re wanting to reach back in time through my computer to slap me as hard as you can. You have these moments now. Hold on to your babies. Don’t lose your patience with them. They’re learning. And so are you.

I know you so well. I just pictured you paying for your glass glasses bottle of wine (with your fingerprint or something) and heading home because now the only thing you want to do is hug your kids and tell them you love them. I know you’re anxious to do that, so I’ll wrap up here. Suffice it to say, for your 40-year-old sake, I’ma get my shit together. Smile at yourself in the mirror, because when you were 31, you were trying your hardest.

How does one end a letter to oneself? “Love” seems a bit egotistical. “Sincerely” seems a bit formal. After all, you’re writing this to yourself. “With regards”? That doesn’t even SOUND like you. Oh well.

Peace,

31-Year-Old-You

Our conversation over breakfast took a redneck turn towards the end…

Noah: When I grow up I’m going to ask a bird if I can borrow its wings. But that’s a really scary question to ask a bird.

Me: Why is it scary?

Noah: Because the bird would have to go to the doctor’s office and get its wings cut off!

Me: Yikes, that sounds painful. What would you say if someone asked to borrow your arms?

Noah: I would say ‘NO MA’AM.’

Me: I bet a bird would also say ‘no ma’am.’

Noah: Well, a bird only knows how to tweet. Maybe when I get big I will know how to understand more tweets.

Me: True.

Noah: So I’ll just say ‘tweet tweet’ and that will mean, ‘can I borrow your wings?’

Me: And if a bird is all ‘tweet, tweet-tweet’ and that means ‘no ma’am,’ then how will you fly?

Noah: I guess I need some kind of propeller. But how can that work? I can’t put a propeller inside my head!

Me: What about a hat with a propeller on it?

Noah: Then the hat would just fly away!

Me: What if it has a chin strap, like your helmet? Could we attach a propeller to your helmet?

Noah: [stares off into space]

Me: Actually I guess that wouldn’t work. I mean, how would you steer?

Noah: Yeah, I need a seat with controllers all around me so I can steer.

Me: So, maybe you need an airplane. Maybe when you grow up you can be an airplane pilot!

Noah: No, I don’t want to fly so many people. I just want to fly by myself.

Me: Well, they make tiny airplanes if you want to fly solo. Or you could fly a helicopter. Hey, that would be perfect, since you want to be a mountain rescue paramedic!

Noah: I don’t want to FLY to the mountains. I want to CLIMB the mountain.

Me: Maybe you need to fly to the mountain in your helicopter, then you climb down the mountain to where the person is hurt? That would be like both your favorite things combined.

Noah: I have more favorite things than that! I like diving, and…. fighting alligators.

Me: Fighting alligators!?

Noah: Yeah! I would dive down below the alligator and wrestle with him.

Me: Why would you wrestle an alligator?

Noah: Because alligators are dangerous.

Me: Well, they’re not dangerous if you leave them alone…

Noah: …………….. I think I’ll say to the bird ‘tweet tweet tweet’ which means, ‘please??’

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Five things, just because.

Because it’s a windy, rainy Monday (which I love) and I’m sitting here with a homemade espresso while Violet naps and Noah watches Thomas the Stupid Train and it’s so damn peaceful and cozy I don’t even know what to do with it all. Because my kitchen is actually clean. Because I’m putting off other chores like laundry and dinner prep and balancing my budget. Because it’s been a month since I saw you last, Reader. And I miss you.

1. I’ve been a terrible mother lately. Noah still hasn’t learned not to experiment by hitting Violet with some toy or smacking her or yanking on her clothes or tackling her the second I walk out of the room, and I still haven’t learned not to LOSE MY SHIT WITH HIM when he does. Violet, meanwhile, has learned something: scream-crying is the fastest way to get me to lose my shit with her brother, which is apparently like, way fun. The other day her arm was bleeding and when I asked her what had happened she immediately said “Noah did it.” I looked closer and realized it was a mosquito bite that she had scratched, but I asked her to describe what Noah supposedly had done. “Noah HIT me,” she said, her eyes wide. “Really?” I asked. “Show me how he hit you to make you bleed.” She balled up a fist and pounded on her bloody arm. “Wow, so he gave you some knucks and it made you bleed?” She stuck out her lower lip, looked me square in the eyes, and nodded. “Are you sure it’s not a mosquito bite that you were scratching?” She looked at the spot again, then back up at me. “Yeth, it’th a mothquito bite.”

Uh-huh.

She knows how to get my attention, is what I’m saying. And so does Noah. I understand that he wants attention, even negative attention, and giving him that negative attention is exactly what I shouldn’t do. This is the problem. Ignoring him being insane would work in a world where he wasn’t putting my other child at risk, but our reality is that I HAVE to act. And I don’t know how to act without (over)emoting or (over)reacting by assuming he’s going to grow up to be a bully/sociopath/wife beater/serial killer/in the NFL/etc. So that’s why I’ve been a terrible mother lately. Like, terrible.

2. I’m feeling pretty lonely. A lot of Noah’s friends are in school full-time now, so those day time play dates with which I had grown accustomed  are now a thing of the past. Not only that, but many of my friends have gone back to work either part or full time, which means I rarely see any adults during the day. I feel like the desperate, clingy friend who is always trying to organize something, and who usually ends up just doing things alone with the kids regardless. What does a friendship look like when it was built on similar life phases, like having young children and trying to find a way to entertain them all day, and then those phases change or end? Worst of all, all this time alone has made me worry about something else, too…

3. I’m planning on homeschooling, and I’m really excited about many aspects of it, but I’m beginning to see what it will look like, and that it will look differently than the first few years of Noah’s life, and that it will look differently than I’ve been imagining. It will look like a whole lot of the three of us. It’s going to be challenging for me, but I can handle it. The question is, is that going to be fulfilling for my kids? Will they get enough social interaction with afternoon playgroups and morning classes that only happen a few times a week? Is it ok to take it slow and have days at home without seeing anyone else? I don’t want my kids to be lonely, and my own loneliness is causing me to question my decision to seek alternate education. Is it worth being able to take them to the zoo any time they want to go, or take whatever class they want to take, or learn to read or spell or do math at their own pace, if they have to do all of those things alone?

Also, Noah’s stubbornness has taken on a life of its own. It has its own personality: one of a deranged, rabid animal. He’s taking piano lessons, and every time we sit down to practice you would think I was asking him to sit still and pull out his own teeth one by one. Every stroke of a key is an expression of his distaste. “STUPID!” “OLD!” “PIANO!” I am torn between my intense belief that both of my children should learn to play a musical instrument and yes, sometimes they have to be pushed to do so, and my intense belief that kids should be autonomous and have as much control in their own lives as possible. Plus, I fear that pushing him into anything will result in his ultimate hatred of whatever that thing is. As I am trying to decide where I stand I keep pushing him to practice, play the song just once more, but I am starting to hate it as much as he apparently does, because it’s 20 minutes of whining and complaining for three minutes of play. And I see so clearly how this is going to be my life starting next year… sitting down to do math work, doing an art project, learning to read… it makes me numb with dread.

4. I’m lookin’ old, y’all. I just finished a show a few weeks ago, and (per usual) I was in there with a whole lotta 20-somethings. I don’t usually feel old until I’m around 20-year-olds. One kid actually CALLED ME OLD. I mean, I learned not to say shit like that when I was real little, but I guess some people do not know their manners. (I know quite a few books in the children’s section of the library that could help with that. I know these books because I have children who have read them. Because I am old.) Anyway, maybe because I was around very young people, or maybe I have truly aged over the last several months, but lately I look ancient when I catch my reflection in the mirror. Puffy, baggy eyes, wiry gray hairs, frown lines, crow’s feet… and I really just look tired. I don’t FEEL tired, but I look it. I have always been derisive of Botox and face lifts, but I’m starting to understand why people do it. If I could just pin my cheeks back up where they belong, that’s all I really want. They just don’t look right melting off my face. It’s hard to watch my body begin its slow decline into saggy middle-agedness, and I’m a bit depressed about it. I can put on makeup, I can dress nicely, I can do my hair, I can look my absolute best, but I will still look my age, and I’m not used to “looking my age” being a negative thing yet.

5. Noah and I are about to bake the shit out of some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and I will feel better about all of this crap for the afternoon. Then Lance will come home, and we will cook dinner and drink wine and laugh and listen to music. And the kids will be pains in the ass and amusingly adorable, alternating with alarming velocity. And we will shout at them to cut it out then gather them up for a cuddle and a tickle, alternating with alarming velocity. And we will read books with full bellies and they will fall asleep and Lance and I will drink more wine and watch TV and then go to bed all tired from a full day and then I’ll wake up again tomorrow and this list will be there waiting for me.

Month 28

Dear Violet,

You are finally almost “two half,” which is how old you’ve been saying you are since before you were even two. Ironically you just started telling me you’re four “yike Noah,” so I guess you’ve skipped three altogether. You are very certain of who you are, and unlike your brother, you are very proud of your name. “I’m not Silly Goose, I’m Violet!” you say, precociously. Only you lisp and you can’t really say your V’s or L’s (depending on where they fall in the word, for some reason), so it sounds like “I’m not Thilly Gooth. I’m Die-yet!” That’s of course so adorable that we all laugh, even Noah, and you LOVE when you can make us laugh. You repeat the last thing you said, grinning around at all of us, to try to rekindle the humorous magic. It’s also very important to you that we all understand you are not tiny, you are not a baby, you are not small. You are big.

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It’s crazy how true this is. You seem so much older than not quite two-and-a-half. You’re already using the potty all the time during the day and Daddy said you woke up from a nap with dry underwear the other day, so you’re almost ready to start wearing underwear at night, too. You of course have always been my big helper in the kitchen. You pull your little stool right over when I start to cook, exclaiming “I wan help you, Mommy!” You’re always ready to stir and pour. You’re also always ready to eat “one chocick chip?” You know my lingo so well by now, and you parrot me eerily perfectly. “How bout just one?” “Maybe later?” “How bout next week?” You ask questions like this all the time, when I say “no” the first time around.

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Listening to your not-yet-perfect language is like death by cute around here, Boo-Boo. Daddy and I routinely spend entire meals poking and squeezing each other under the table just to have some cute release. You can’t say your F’s yet, so we hear a lot of “goldchish” and “I will chush!” (as in, the toilet). You think tiny things are better, so you tell us you want “the tine-tiny fork” or “a tiny pancake!” You want to eat “mee-anas” (bananas) and you don’t want to be “kish”ed (squished) but you love “keezeth” (squeezes).

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Sometimes we can’t understand you, but your brother’s got your back. He is your best interpreter, hands down. We’re all like “What? Wait, WHAT?” and he hollers “she wants you to help her put on her shoes (“chewth”)!” from the other room. When you aren’t trying to kill him, your brother remains your favorite person on the planet. You look for him if he’s not around, you always make sure he gets whatever snack or drink you get, and you are sad and concerned when he is upset. You hug and kiss him constantly, and some of my favorite moments are when I overhear the two of you reading together or talking to each other. He tries to tell you the ways of the world (“You can’t wear the pink shirt ALL THE TIME, Violet. Mom has to wash it sometimes. That’s just the way life works.”) and you seem to listen to him better than you can to us (“Ok, Noah.”). You want to do EVERYTHING he is doing, and neither he nor we nor the apocalypse can stop you. He has a truck? You want that truck. Not ANY truck, THAT truck. We have had to physically remove you from the room several times this month, Buddy, because you are so STUBBORN that you can’t be distracted for one second just to listen.

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Unfortunately you have also learned some bad things from your brother. A few days ago I asked if you wanted to go to the playground and you said “YAY!! PAYGOUND!” Then I said “Ugh, it’s too hot to go to the playground. Let’s go to the pool.” And you said “YAY!! POOL!! I HATE the paygound.” You “hate” a lot of things, from “that book” to “sleeping” to “spinach” to some of your very good friends who you actually love. In other words, you have no idea what the word hate means. But you also say “I YUV you, Mommy. I yuv you too much.” And you probably don’t know what that means either, but it still makes me melt into a puddle.

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It makes it easier to deal with the epic meltdowns you’ve had lately. It’s all because you’re so fiercely independent at the moment, of course, but you are driving us all crazy, just to let you know. You get mad at Noah about something, then you come over to me crying “Noath not being niiiith!” and you want me to hold you. Always. And it’s usually when I’m in the middle of doing something that requires two hands: chopping raw chicken, carrying folded laundry, pooping. (Okay, that last one doesn’t require two hands, which I sadly know because you’ve let yourself in and crawled up onto my lap despite my protests.) If I don’t pick you up right away, and LORD GOD if I walk away, you completely come apart. You’ve used the “open mouth trapped in a silent scream, ending in a wall-of-noise-wail that shatters windows” so often that we can see it coming now, and we all quickly flee to find cover. The worst is that all that crying makes your nose run, and you HHHHHAAATTTEE it when your nose runs. “MY NOTHE WUNNING!!” is a war cry that strikes terror in the hearts of those who hold you dearest, Baby Girl. A runny nose means double (at least) the length of the meltdown in question. It’s been challenging, but I’ve learned the best thing for you is just to get it out of your system. You’re like the baby on the Incredibles, who turns into a scary red monster and then bursts into flames, but then is smiley and happy and giggly again within a literal second of getting all those bad emotions out. Don’t mind the destruction you leave within a mile radius of yourself, Lovey. Just do what you need to do. (Helpful hint: I know you’re not old enough to understand sarcasm yet. That is what it sounds like.)

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Every morning I wake up to your sweet face, because every night you crawl into bed with your Daddy and me sometime around 2am. You’re always cheerful in the morning, pulling books over and quietly reading to yourself while Daddy and I ignore our alarm clocks. When Noah wakes up you say “Hi, Noah!” like you’re surprised to see him, and then you remember that “I’m hung-ee, Mommy. I want chocick milk!” We just stopped nursing in the morning, which was our last nursing session, so you’ve decided chocolate milk is an acceptable substitution. Mommy thought you would have a hard time weaning, but after a few times of “How about some water instead?” you were happy to sit quietly with your books in our big bed until we all got up and went down to breakfast together. It’s been a happy transition for both of us, Boo. It was time. You are such a big girl, and Mommy was ready to let you be that big girl full time.

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Well, that’s almost true, anyway. I’m happy we’re not nursing anymore, but when I see pictures of you as a tiny (“tine-tiny”) bebe, it does make me a little sad. You’re not that bebe anymore. You’ll be starting school for the first time next week, and I’m simultaneously excited, nervous, and heartbroken. How could you be old enough to start school already? We were just walking around the neighborhood nursing in the Ergo, weren’t we? Now you’re speaking to me in complete sentences and wearing your own baby Ergo and asking to hold our friends’ babies.

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Why does your growing up make me so aware of the swift passage of time, Boo? More so than your brother, more so than the changing seasons. Is it because you’re my daughter, or because you’re my baby? Is it because you more than Noah have pushed for independence, yet stuck to me like glue ever since you were in my tummy for way too long? Seeing your personality and expressions emerge as you grow, and communicating with you have been some of the most rewarding things in my life, yet they bring me such heart pangs when I see how quickly the moments come and go. Something about you in particular makes Mommy very sappy, Boo-Boo. I apologize in advance for the embarrassment this will no doubt cause you in middle school and high school, but I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse from here on out.

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I can’t help it. I love you tooooo much.

Love,

Mommy

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