mom life

Life Lately

Like many of you, my heart has been with the detention centers at the border. As more and more reporting came out late last week and over the weekend, I couldn’t tear my mind away from it.

Which means that as I washed off a face mask and shaved my legs in the shower, I thought how immigrants to my own country weren’t even provided with soap. And when I started my period on Sunday I thought of all the teenage girls who would get their periods, maybe for the very first time, in an overcrowded detention center. I have little hope these girls are being provided with pads or tampons if they’re not even being given toothbrushes. I pray for a kind female border guard or older teenage girl to help them through. And as I threw away a head of lettuce, a pint of blueberries, and two containers of leftovers that went bad before we could eat them, I thought how these kids are saying they’re not being fed enough, they’re still hungry, that they can’t go out to play because it takes all their energy just to survive another day.

These are kids who are in America. In 2019. I’m tired of being told these people are a threat to us when clearly we are a threat to them.

Sit with that a moment. And then read this Instagram post, and this article, and this one, too. And let it crush you as you imagine your children in such a place and let it make you physically sick to your stomach. Then read them again.

Part of me wants to rush down there and scoop up as many of those children as I can and bring them back home. Obviously that’s not practical or feasible in any way shape or form. It seems like so little, yet if you can, please consider donating to Together Rising. They are working with people on the ground to reunite families, give these children proper medical care, and to get them out of there as fast as they can.

Also contact your representatives. Let them know we’re watching. Because there’s no such thing as other people’s children. And if we’re a country that truly values children, this is not the kind of country we want to be.

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Horrific story adjacent: One thing I’ve been doing to combat mindlessly scrolling through social media is to stop whenever I see something awful, something that hits me to my core. Things like the reports of the treatment of children at the border, a post from a friend about infant loss, etc. When it makes me stop and think, when it makes my heart hurt, I stop what I’m doing and put my phone down. I may click into the article if it’s a news report, but then I put it away. I sit with those feelings and really force myself to think about what I’ve just read.

It can be hard sometimes. Who wants to sit with those shitty feelings? But it feels more honest than to continue to scroll. To continue through photos of happy families on vacation and ads for clothes I don’t need but am tempted to click on, anyway.

Honestly, it felt more shitty when I kept scrolling and tried to shove those feelings down. It’s helped. It’s something.

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In an abrupt shift, because that seems to be how my brain works these days, these two spent the better part of the weekend riding around on two wheels.

One push from me, and a little bit of convincing, was all it took. Those balance bikes are miracle-workers for sure. Teaching them to ride on two wheels, something I thought we could do to kill time - maybe take up the better part of an afternoon - took all of ten minutes. And that included the time it took to take the training wheels off.

“That wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be!” Brooklyn said after her inaugural ride down the sidewalk.

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The food websites have been bringing it lately with their collections of food writing. First was Bon Apetit with their “Welcome to Red Sauce America” essays. (I read it over a period of a week…and had a mad craving for some chicken piccata the whole time. Which has yet to be fulfilled.) Then, less lengthy but no less fun, Taste talked all things 90’s in “The 90’s Issue”. While all the pieces are worth a read, I’m calling out “The Bizarre History of Buca di Beppo” and “The 1990s Boom of California’s Mexican Supermarkets” as my personal favorites. (I also have to give a shout out to a favorite spot in Madison as well as a favorite here.)

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Food adjacent: please read this op-ed from the New York Times: “Smash the Wellness Industry”.

I had paid a lot of money to see a dietitian once before, in New York. When I told her that I loved food, that I’d always had a big appetite, she had nodded sympathetically, as if I had a tough road ahead of me. “The thing is,” she said with a grimace, “you’re a small person and you don’t need a lot of food.”

The new dietitian had a different take. “What a gift,” she said, appreciatively, “to love food. It’s one of the greatest pleasures in life. Can you think of your appetite as a gift?” It took me a moment to wrap my head around such a radical suggestion. Then I began to cry.

It’s. So. Good.

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I made a big batch of homemade freezees a few weeks ago using these. They work great, though the zip-close doesn’t work very well. While they’re not reusable like I was hoping, at least the kids are eating pureed fruit instead of high-fructose corn syrup.

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I promise it’s simple: pulse up some fruit along with just a little orange juice or lemonade in a food processor, add sugar if needed (I used less than a tablespoon with each batch, otherwise they were pretty tart), pour, and freeze. My next step is to just freeze lemonade for some Italian ice-style freezees. So far we’ve made:

  • strawberry (strawberries with orange juice)

  • mixed berry (strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries with lemonade)

  • cantaloupe (cantaloupe with a few strawberries and orange juice)

  • strawberry-banana smoothie (strawberries, a banana, and yogurt instead of juice) (my favorite!)

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I’ve been living in these shorts and these shirts. I bought two pairs of the shorts (dark cinnabar and palm tree - recommend sizing down) and three of the shirts (fit is pretty true-to-size, or size up for a looser fit). They go perfectly together. I wear the shirt tucked in (and consequently feel like a throwback to the early ‘90’s), with a light cardigan thrown over the top for the cooler days (which we’ve had way too many of lately). It’s my summer uniform.

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I’m scared to write this for fear of jinxing myself, but we seem to have entered an era where the kids enjoy playing with each other. Several times recently I’ve discovered them scattered: the twins playing LEGOs together in their room while Nolan flips through books or builds with Duplos in his, Brooklyn and Nolan playing “baby” while Caden plays with (you guessed it) LEGOs on his own. To be fair, Caden and Brooklyn have been able to play well together for years now, it’s the fact that Nolan has been that’s the true miracle.

It’s a nice break. Just this time last year I felt I couldn’t leave the room for fear Nolan would trash the house looking for the remote, sneak into the pantry to steal snacks, or climb on the counter to sneak actual spoonfuls of sugar.

Even outside I’ve been able to pull up a chair and sit - truly get lost in a book - while they play together in the driveway. They’re still riding their bikes and scooters and that old cozy coupe we got for free from a garage sale around the roads they create on the driveway with chalk. But it’s the very first time I don’t fear Nolan dashing into the street. The past couple years it was a game - I always felt there was about a 50/50 chance he would dash into the street for fun. And now he just…doesn’t.

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I wrote this last summer, and it seems relevant again now:

This is what I've been waiting for.

…A moment prior to this realization, guilt had found me. It crept in during the break in the action and began to berate me for not doing more. To write more, volunteer more, accomplish more. Maybe I should even go back to work. Guilt admonished me for the streaks on the kitchen floor and the fruit snacks they ate in the car and for being "just" a stay-at-home mom. Surely, at the very least, I should have cleaner floors.

In the next breath I realized this is what I've been dreaming of. This little break where no one at all needs me. The past four years have been intense. Twin infants and that whole three under three business and the sleep deprivation and the making of all the food and everything else. Of course even a little wiggle room feels like a lot. A pause, a moment to take a breath; it's been seemingly impossible these past few years. Which means my type-A personality kicked in to cue the guilt. Because surely only lazy people sit around their backyards at 3:30 pm on a Thursday with their sparkling water and their sandals and their colorful lawn chairs.

Soon enough a fight will break out or they'll see a bug or rush over all at once to demand freeze pops. Soon enough my backyard will be empty as they grow older and more independent. So I take this afternoon as a blessing. Just me and my sandals, a book in my lap, three small bodies in swimsuits, a blow-up pool, sunshine, and my sparkling water. With a lime.

This is exactly what I've been waiting for.

He’s still exhausting with all that energy, his penchant for anything as long as it’s a little bit life-threatening. But we might be getting there. Instead of holding my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop during any momentary lull, I’ve been taking deeper breaths, able to recharge and relax just a little bit more into just exactly what I’ve been waiting for.

Sometimes, Everything Goes Just Fine

The articles blur together as I scroll through social media. (Reminder to self: just stop it already.) You know the ones I’m talking about:

“Preschool Changed My Kid...For the Worse”

“10 Reasons You Should Never Put Sunscreen on Your Child” and it’s companion, “10 Reasons You Should Bathe Your Child in Sunscreen”

“I Totally Regret _____ About My Parenting”

“Why Sleep Training (or not Sleep Training) Your Baby Makes You a Monster”

Okay, I’m paraphrasing here. But you get the picture. These articles are everywhere. They’re scary and overwhelmingly negative. When I see them, I cringe, roll my eyes, and (usually) avoid the clickbait.

But I wonder how this content gets out as I think of all the new moms out there, seeing this garbage as they scroll sleepily through their phones at 1:15 am. (And again at 3...and at 5:45…) Where’s all the positivity?

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One of my first solo outings with the twins was a moms’ event at my church. I rolled in with the double-stroller loaded down with two infant carseats holding my three-month-olds and hardly had time to wonder if I knew anyone else before another mom greeted me.

“Twins?” She asked, with a sweet smile. “Are they boys or girls?”

“One of each,” I told her.

“I have boy-girl twins, too!” she told me. “They’re three now.” We were quickly joined by another mom who had twin girls a month older than mine. We chatted all things twins: newborns, pregnancies, labor and delivery.  Despite the fact that a multiples pregnancy automatically puts you in the high-risk category, I was surprised to discover that each of our pregnancies and birth experiences had been fairly routine.

“This is crazy,” I remember saying, “I feel like all I was told throughout my pregnancy was how risky multiples are and here we all had pretty good experiences.”

“That’s because that’s all you hear!” the mom with three-year-old twins exclaimed, “Nobody talks about the normal stories. They only tell you the scary ones!”

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Read the rest of this piece over on the Twin Cities Moms Blog.

 

Ordinary Hard

I pulled my phone out of my pocket to check the time during open gym last Friday. 10:45. How could we possibly still have 30 minutes left before we had to leave to pick up the twins from preschool? My three-year old and I had arrived to open gym later than usual (because we had to make a Target run, obviously) and to have 30 whole more minutes just didn’t seem possible.

I looked at my phone again fifteen minutes later. Except it wasn’t fifteen minutes later. It had only been two. I looked at the clock on the wall, convinced my (*ahem* brand new) phone had stopped working, and resisted the urge to throw my (still new) phone to the floor. I resigned myself to twenty-eight more long minutes of chasing around my energetic boy.

This was also the second Friday of the week. I mean, it obviously wasn’t, but it sure felt that way. I had been convinced all day on Wednesday that it was actually Friday. Every time I remembered it was really only Wednesday it felt like a fresh insult all over again. How dare you, Wednesday? Why did we still have two more entire days until it was Friday?

You might ask what was up with last week. I’m asking myself the same thing. There were no blizzards, storms, or other inclement weather. No one was sick. Our car didn’t break down and the washing machine and dishwasher were both fully functioning. In fact, last week, it was pretty nice out. We played outside at a few different parks. The sun was shining. My preschoolers had only one day of school instead of their normal three, but that really didn’t seem to throw a wrench in our plans all that much.

It was a pretty normal week. A week of being hard in all the ordinary ways.

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Read the rest over on the Twin Cities Moms Blog.

Life Lately

It’s officially spring. Spring feels like the new year to me. The bright sun (out past 5 pm!), melting snow, birds chirping. Forget all that “new year new you” stuff on January 1st. That’s the deepest, darkest part of the middle of winter, for crying out loud. Forget adding workouts or salads to the routine. The only thing I’m ready to do come January 1 is sleep a little more (because it’s dark all the time), bulk up with more creamy soups and all the carbs (I mean, fresh, local produce is basically nonexistant so clearly this is what the good Lord intended), and increase my caffeine intake (because I tried to sleep more but then remembered at 6 am that I still have children). No, whoever invented the calendar made a real mistake; January doesn’t feel like the new year at all. But spring sure does.

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Tyson gave me a 10-class pass to a new yoga studio just down the road from us. For Christmas. And “new yoga studio” meaning well over a year old. Every time I drive by I think, “I really need to check that place out.” I’ve started to make use of it just this past week, killing myself in barre class and powering through vinyasas. It feels good. It’s still sunny in the early evening and the threat of walking from a 92-degree yoga class into temperatures literally 100 degrees colder outside has passed. I’ve been continuing at home; for the past five days I’ve either done a class or some Yoga with Adriene in the living room. That’s damn near a record for me.

I’m emerging from my winter hibernation. And it feels good. Also sore. But mostly good.

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I noticed Caden made friends with another boy at basketball practice the other night. “Friends” meaning I saw Caden suddenly walk over to him and start retrieving his ball everytime he shot and missed the basket (which was...every time). Caden would run after the ball and dribble it back to him; he must’ve done it a couple dozen times.

I wondered at this show of kindness, and asked him about it on the way home, “Why did you start playing with that boy and getting his ball for him?”

“Oh,” Caden answered, matter-of-fact, “I noticed that he wasn’t very good at catching the ball or dribbling. So I made a deal with him that I would get it and give it back to him so he could shoot again.”

Well then. Not exactly selfless but maybe he’s onto something?

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The other morning they spent time playing together at the table after breakfast. Brooklyn painted with a set of watercolors while the boys put PJ Masks puzzles together. We don’t have many slow mornings, we’re usually either off to preschool, a playdate, the library, or the store. And often when we do, I regret it around 9:30, which is about the time we all seem ready to kill each other. But this time, it was nice. It’s often been nice, lately. I think they’re learning how to play with each other a bit more and feel the need to kill each other a little less. It made me think of just how few lazy mornings we’ll have next year.

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Which reminds me: these arrived in the mail the other day. Come mid-April, we will have not one but two kindergarteners officially registered for the 2019-20 school year. What in the actual world.

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Reading this piece on the beauty and hardship and life-giving that is women’s work.

Also this beautiful essay about mom anger. And not the “I told my kids to stop touching each other and spoke harsher than I should have” kind of anger that many (Christian) pieces talk about and make the rest of us feel bad. This is the real stuff.

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Cooking these egg roll bowls. I up the spices and serve topped with wonton strips and sweet Thai chili sauce for some egg roll realness. I keep meaning to add chopped water chestnuts but can never seem to remember. (Bonus: the leftovers are quick and easy for lunch!)

I’m also back on the iced coffee train. As soon as that temperature kept climbing above freezing I took this bad boy out. It will now remain in permanent residence in our refrigerator until about September. Or maybe October.

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We’ve officially entered the dramatic hyperbole stage as Brooklyn has begun to drawl, “Oh. my. gosh” and “Are you serious?” Also heard her exclaim, “I think I’m in heaven!” (over a piece of generously buttered popcorn) and “How embarrassing” (out of context, but points for trying). And those were just the ones I heard over the weekend!

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I’ve been obsessed with this fabric shaver. Yes, a de-fuzzer. Hello, life in my 30s.

There’s an old cardigan I love: the fit is perfect, the weight is just right, and the color goes with everything. Except it was covered with those annoying little fuzz balls. It looked sloppy. I wondered if I needed to give it up, find a new cardigan to adore.

Then I researched and purchased sweater shavers. One pass with the defuzzer and my cardigan was like new again. I’ve been using it on everything from sweaters to t-shirts to leggings (seriously saved a favorite and expensive pair of mine from Athleta).

It’s been especially worthwhile because I gave up buying things for Lent. Or at least, buying non-essential things. I’ve been trying to think of how to phrase this exactly. I couldn’t just give up online shopping because that’s how I order my groceries. Also, one crazy trip to Target could completely blow the intent of that fast. So I gave up buying things I just don’t need. No new clothes, nail polish, $6 lattes, etc. My foundation is about to run dry, so I’ll purchase a fresh one sometime in the next couple of weeks: it’s an essential I use just about every day. But eye shadow? Yeah. I have enough. I still order coffee if I go to a coffee shop to write (the way I see it, that’s just me paying my dues to be able to use their space). But no runs through the Caribou drive-thru just because. Clothes and accessories? Nope.

(Though ask me if I panic-ordered my way through a couple of web sites the Monday and Tuesday before Lent began. The answer to that is YES.)

(Also I completely forgot and bought a shirt when we went to see Michelle Obama on her book tour a couple weeks ago. We walked in, saw the merchandise tables, and my mom said, “I think we should all get matching shirts!” That was all it took for me to say, “Yes obviously!” and I proudly handed over my $35. Forgot about my fast literally until I walked into the house that night. Wore my shirt proudly the next day anyway.)

I’ve been keeping a list in my phone of things that keep running through my head, things that really would be nice for the new season. A pair of Birkenstocks. New sunglasses because mine have been through two seasons and sit kind of crooked. A new tumbler for smoothies or all that iced coffee I’m drinking since I recently dropped mine and shattered half the lid. (It still works for now...kinda.)

This is as much about checking myself before making impulse purchases as it is about saving myself time. I’ve begun to realize how often I would scroll through the Madewell website just to see what was new or on sale, how many shops I follow on Instagram, the number of times I would waste 10 minutes on a retail site with no intent of ever buying.

Anyway, all that to say, my de-fuzzer has come in especially handy at refreshing some of my “old” clothes and helping them look new again. $10 well spent. Even if you’re in the middle of a “don’t buy things” fast.

Winter in My Body

As we drove back north after a family visit to Iowa, I couldn’t help but notice the quiet beauty of the landscape, mostly flat fields and farmland. The trees, their leaves long lost, reminded me of the sticks my children poked into our own sandbox. I admired the bold, dark forms against the clouded sky. The fields were blanketed with snow now, beautiful in their neutral simplicity. It was a striking palette, all white, slate blue, dark brown.

This is not a time of year typically associated with beauty. Nobody cheers for February’s arrival. The buds of spring, fall leaves, and even the first snow are all greeted joyfully, but February is something to be endured. Living in the Midwest, no one really wants it to snow anymore, but winter isn’t truly over yet either. It’s a sort of no-man’s-land between winter and spring.

I enjoyed it, though, during our drive. Maybe it was because we had the first real glimpse of sun in a run of too many cloudy days, maybe it was because all the kids were napping, or maybe it was because neutrals are the “in” colors right now, but the scenery felt soothing and peaceful.

I realized on this drive that while late winter often does feel like something to be endured, I also felt that way just because it’s what I’d always been told. Once I appreciated it on its own, for its own sort of beauty, my perspective shifted.

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I’ve been grappling with my body these days. We’re not exactly friends. You wouldn’t know it from looking at me: from the outside I appear trim and healthy. I’m blessed with good genes or a good metabolism or both. My shirt size hasn’t changed since middle school (though I’m shopping at different stores now, I promise) and it’s hard to find pants to fit my petite 5-foot almost-2-inch frame. People are routinely surprised my body has carried and borne three children, especially a set of twins. While those numbers on the scale haven’t shifted much, that’s about all that has stayed the same. This body ain’t what it used to be.

Read the rest about my views on this late winter season and my body over on Kindred Mom.