Month 35

Dear Violet,

In one month, you’ll be three years old. I’m so surprised as I type that, because it doesn’t seem like that can be real. The other day I was looking at you and I had the weirdest moment where I couldn’t understand how you are my daughter, and I’m your mother. It all just seemed too impossible to have you, a person who didn’t exist three years ago, right there in front of me, throwing a tantrum because I was trying to finish dinner and wouldn’t let you climb on top of my head.

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You’re a really good tantrum thrower, and you feel it’s necessary to release your venom on us at least once or twice a day. You have the scariest scream I’ve ever heard, like you’re having your fingernails ripped off one by one, and you have an angry dance. Your Daddy and I are completely bemused when you start one of these. They can go on for 20 minutes, which sadly is almost the full length of our dinnertime these days, and we have no clue what to do for you. You just need to get it out I guess, because once you do, you’re back to yourself, smiling and chatting with us over salad. It’s actually kind of creepy, how fast you turn back into yourself, like nothing was wrong to begin with. We’ve started calling you “Dr. Jekyll” and welcoming you back into reality when one of your tantrums is over. You grin and say “I gueth I wath thleepy and hungwy.”

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I spell it that way because I am over the moon for your lithp. I know one day you’ll be able to say your “s” sounds, but for now just keep rockin’ the “th” loud and proud, Baby Girl. When you talk, it’s the best part of my day. You tell stories about your day and you open your eyes all wide, shake your bangs out of your eyes, and use a lot of “THO MUCH”es and “WEALLY, WEALLY”s. Hearing you tell a tale is like listening to myself at your age, I’m sure of it. The exaggeration is strong in us, Boo Boo. The best is when you tell a story and add a little half chuckle to the end, complete with bang shake. It’s like, “And then my fend (friend) LO-ITH (Lois) and my fend FANK-LIND (Franklin) did the pebble work with me (chuckle). It wath WEALLY fun.”

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You pretty much love everyone. You call everyone your “fend,” even if you just met that person. “That girl ith my BETHT FEND,” you told me one day after encountering a girl who was also washing her hands in the bathroom and not saying a single word to her. You also call Daddy, Brother, and me your fend. “My fend Daddy ith putting thome gath in the car?” “Where ith my fend Noah?” You truly love your “fends,” and you are so happy to see them. You ask for your friends by name, and if I let you know we are going to play with one or more of them your whole face lights up. “Yaaaaay! I LOVE my fend Baby Jamth (James)!”

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You play so well with friends, but you also play well by yourself these days, which is a huge change from before you were in preschool. You used to require me to entertain you constantly, but now I hardly ever worry about you. You’re usually in front of our bookshelf or on the couch with a pile of books, which you “read” out loud to yourself, or you’re playing in your play kitchen or with one (or several) of your babies (Big Baby, Tiny Baby, Baby Doll, and Rosie). Your brother presents nearly your only challenge as you play or read contentedly, because he doesn’t understand why you wouldn’t rather be paying full attention to him. He goes over and steals a baby or turns the page on your book or draws a line on your artwork, and you scream at him with such rage that I’m just waiting for him to melt into a puddle of hot lava.

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Of course, that’s just what he wants you to do, because any attention you’re giving him is good, even if that attention is you destroying him, Jedi mind trick style. The two of you can drive me up the wall with your fights (aka him annoying you, you letting him know how annoyed you are), but I know how lucky I have it at the end of the day. There’s no one you look up to and love more than Brother, and there’s no one he will defend faster than you. A while ago, we went to an indoor playground with some friends, and I was struck at the way you two were inseparable, even amongst your dearest playmates. You followed Noah around and when you wandered off he found you, and the two of you just hung out together. It was magic. Now, if we’re out and I see one of you but not the other, all I have to do is ask where your sibling is and you both always know, almost telepathically, where to find each other. I’m grateful that even with all your fighting, you and Noah have finally learned to play well together. If we don’t see you for half an hour on a Saturday morning, I’m not worried. You’re probably just playing “family,” a game you both invented where you are one of several pairs: two moms who are going out for coffee with your babies, a mom and a dad going out to a restaurant with your babies, he’s a dad and you’re his kid, he’s a dad and you’re his kid who’s sick and apparently you two are Native Americans because he has to go out foraging for wild game with his bow and arrow.

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At almost three, you’re still doing scary and dangerous things just like you were at not-quite-one. You still have no regard for things being too old for you. Today I had to monitor you cutting a block of cheese with a sharp knife because you took it when I wasn’t looking and I was terrified to try and take it away from you for two reasons: a) obviously I didn’t want to accidentally cut you, and b) did I mention your tantrums?? This past weekend you climbed with two five-year-old boys (one was your brother of course) up a 20-foot treehouse, then climbed the safety rail once up there and grinned over the top of it, a SNEEZE away from falling to your doom. You nearly gave your Daddy a heart attack, you should know. When he yells at you it’s because he loves you, just sayin’.

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You love Frozen, like almost all kids your age, but you also love My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Annie, the Lego Movie, Big Hero Six, and pretty much every single other movie you’ve ever seen. Nothing brings you the same level of joy as me announcing to you that we’re going to watch a movie together. You also love taking walks and sometimes insist upon them in the evening, but you nearly always give up halfway home and stand in front of Daddy’s and my legs and whine at us “I wanna hold you!” Please see paragraph two for a description of how you will react if we refuse. You hate being woken up from naps, but when we let you sleep as long as you want you’re awake till 10pm. You still want to be rocked to sleep, which is maddening. You love to eat, are pretty good at trying new foods, and are generally excited when we sit down together for a meal.

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In fact, your excitement is one of my favorite things about you, Baby Girl. You’re oh so dramatic and when you’re angry you’re not afraid to let everyone around you feel your wrath. But when you’re happy, it’s so pure, so light, so contagious. Your brother is so much like your dad, hardly getting excited for anything, even a giant stack of presents under the tree on Christmas morning. But you are so much like me, and together we will stand firm against those two Eeyores in the house! A few weeks ago, we went to the Chattanooga Aquarium for the day. You ran past us to your brother, who was standing apprehensively by the tank, watching jellyfish, and I overheard this guy behind us laugh to his girlfriend “That little girl is like ‘This is the best day ever!!’ and that little boy is like ‘Is this…cool?'” Your daddy and I laughed about that for a long time because we couldn’t believe a complete stranger summed up your two personalities in one sentence. You’re excited about friends we’re going to see, excited about what we’re having for dinner, excited about what activity we’re off to. You’re excited when it’s a school day, excited when it’s not. Your enthusiasm is like a breath of fresh air, and it’s always worth a laugh to see you open your mouth wide with joy, raise your eyebrows till they disappear into your hairline, and positively quiver with joy because I tell you we’re going to meet Daddy for lunch (“At a wanch-wit!?!?”).

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This afternoon, as I was rocking you to sleep, you hugged me a few times, and giggled, and I relished snuggling with you and giving you a thousand kisses. Your personality is huge, unstoppable, and I can’t wait to see where it takes you.

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I love you THO much.

Love,

Mommy

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A public service announcement

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Attention Introverts.

I have seen a lot about you on social media lately. I know someone wrote a book about you guys and there are cute cartoons to help the rest of the world understand just how unique and special you are. There are currently two of you living in my family, so believe me when I say that even though I am an extrovert, I’m quite familiar with the nuances of introversion, and having fully studied up on introversion as a personality type, I appreciate you all more than you realize.

However, I have a bone to pick with some of you. Eye contact, smiling, and occasionally even saying “hello” are social norms that exist for a reason. Like I tell my five-year-old son, this is the bare minimum involved in maintaining relationships with other human beings. If you don’t want to make idle chit-chat, I remind him, you don’t have to. But you must say hello, you must say please and thank you, and you must say goodbye. It’s funny to me that I’m trying to hammer this into my child, who doesn’t even understand why relationships are important at all at his delicate age, yet I encounter grown-ups who have trouble remembering these simple social rules.*

As an extrovert, I am excited to see you. I will enthusiastically greet you, quite probably with a hug. I am not trying to enter your bubble, but simply to let you know how truly glad I am to be in your presence. Please accept my warm smile and genuine “hi, how are you?” as a compliment; I have trouble hiding my feelings and I honestly wouldn’t smile or hug you if I wasn’t pleased to see you. (I would, however, still make eye contact and say hello, would say please and thank you if the phrases were appropriate to the situation, and would say goodbye, because that’s how one lives in basic harmony with other humans.)

As an introvert, you may think I come on too strong. I gesticulate when I speak. A lot. I like to tell stories, and I like to make you laugh. My promise to you is, I have toned it down like whoa for your benefit. Do you know, when I was a kid, sometimes I’d see a teacher out grocery shopping and I would walk to the next aisle without saying anything just to jump up and down. It didn’t matter if I liked or loathed the teacher in question. The fact of their existence crossing paths with my own existence was that exciting to me. I haven’t changed. A dear friend flew in to visit a couple of years ago, and I had to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other to keep from running and jumping on top of his head when I saw him walking towards me. This dear friend wouldn’t have minded or been surprised if I had not controlled that particular impulse, having known me for quite some time, but I have trained myself to calm the fuck down when greeting friends, and when talking to people in general. (Of course, when I’ve had a few drinks, and my inhibitions are down, you may see a chink of the crazy that goes on inside my head. Many times people have mistaken me for being plastered when I wasn’t drunk at all… I was just uninhibited enough to be more myself. And that me was scary to them. I’ve had a lot of offers to be driven home after a single glass of wine, is what I’m trying to say. But I’m not shit-faced, y’all. I’M JUST HAPPY TO BE AROUND YOU.)

So do me this one favor, introverts. Pay me the same courtesy. If I can tone it down, you can dial it up JUST A LITTLE BIT. I would be taking your face in my hands all through dinner because of how elated I am to look into your eyes and have a conversation with you if I weren’t conscious of your feelings. I don’t do that, because you’d be freaked out and leave, obviously. I get you. It’s how I feel when you stare at your shoes instead of my face, when you shrug off my hug, when you don’t ask how my day was or answer about your own. When I smile and wave from across the room, please do not look away. Please smile back, and wave. I promise not to take that as invitation to fling myself on you and jabber in your ear all night with boring small talk.

What I’m trying to say is… We can do this, Introverts. Together, with all the respective dialing up and toning down, we can live in harmony. I’m grateful to you for your time. Please go recharge your batteries by being by yourself and reading a book or taking a walk alone, soaking up a lot of you time, and I’ll see you sooner than you hope, but not as soon as I’d like.

*Disclaimer: I am in no way blurring the lines between lack of social normative behavior and introversion. I employ the use of exaggeration for effect. Most of my introverted friends are lovely, outgoing people. I write this because… well… I love you. Now please love me.

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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