stream of consciousness

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.

Signs of Life

Saturday morning I begged Brooklyn to eat her yogurt faster, resigned myself to braiding her hair (“Anna braids, mommy”) at the breakfast table, and packed snacks in the monkey backpack while sucking down iced coffee. Tyson and I hustled everyone into the car, buckled a crying Nolan into his carseat (“But I want to get in the car from the other door!”) and left at 7:52 to make the six-minute drive to the ballpark so the twins could play the first game of the day.

Their games are usually on Wednesdays, but this Saturday was Player Appreciation Day so every team had a game. It felt like a parenting level-up to be up and out of the house for an 8:15 ball game on a Saturday. Saturday morning sports definitely seem like big-kid territory. Except our kids are still small enough they chased balls around the field (three or four of them after the same one) and practiced holding their back elbows up when it was their turn to bat. I chatted with a grandma behind me in the stands (“I’m so jealous you have twins!”) and she told me stories from when her kids were young; how happy she was to see so many kids out playing ball in our town.

Later I took my volunteer shift in the concession stand. I collected crumpled dollar bills from dirty fingers and heard a whispered order from a girl whose curly head barely reached the counter. I passed out Big League Chew to boys with freckles across their faces who weren’t much older than Caden and Brooklyn. I mixed slushies and wrapped hot dogs in foil and fished ice cream Snickers bars from the freezer.

After my shift ended we made our way to the “big” field so the kids could line up to be announced for Player Appreciation Day. I looked at all the kids gathered on the field, noted that the t-ball kids were just versions of the teenage little leaguers in miniature. The coaches each called their own players names and gave out high-fives as they ran across home plate.

Caden, Brooklyn, and Nolan sat and ate candy afterwards in the shade of a tree: their reward for a long morning (and consolation prize for being given some warmed-over root beer floats). I looked around and wondered how many of our memories might take place here at this very ballpark over the next decade or so. Boys and girls ran around in their MLB logo-ed jerseys, backpacks slung over shoulders, chasing each other with water bottles and tennis balls and freezees.

And I was saddened by the thought that Rachel Held Evans will never get to see her children run the bases in oversized batting helmets and brightly-colored jerseys on a bright, blue, cloudless summer day.

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Her funeral took place later that day. I hoped to get home from the ballpark in time to watch the livestream online.

We did make it home with a few minutes to spare. The twins threw batting helmets and gloves on the floor of the mud room and raced off to the backyard while I went upstairs to my room, to watch a funeral on my computer, which seemed like a strange thing to do on a beautiful Saturday afternoon but there we were through the miracle of technology.

I couldn’t sit still. I was fidgety, the computer was too hot to set on my legs comfortably. I set it down to paint my nails (“Orchid-ing Aside”). I briefly wondered if this was this an appropriate thing to do while watching a real, live, actual funeral. I knew Rachel would forgive any heresy in my actions.

The sun streamed in through the wood blinds in my room. I kind of hate them; they’re always dusty, though they look nice if you don’t peer too closely. The light is almost always perfect in our master bedroom, no matter the time of day. I thought of what a perfect day it was and yet somewhere in Chattanooga a husband was having one of the absolute worst days of his life. (Along with two small children, too small to even know it was supposed to be one of the worst days of their lives.)

I answered a quick email and deleted a few others. I noted the Post-it note on my laptop that’s been reminding me for a month that I need to find a nightstand for Caden and Brooklyn’s room. My mind wandered to thoughts of what to make for dinner and things I needed from the store. I put the clothes away that somehow always end up in a pile on the floor in front of the dresser.

I sat and folded Nolan’s laundry as I listened to Sarah Bessey tear up while she gave the most beautiful reading of Mary Magdalene and the disciples arriving at Jesus’ tomb. I smoothed out plaid shorts and wondered why half of Caden’s underwear ended up in Nolan’s laundry basket while Nadia Bolz-Weber trembled in her patterned glasses and salt-and-pepper curls. She spoke of the male disciples who looked in the tomb only to see a pile of folded laundry inside, where Mary Magdalene saw angels.

The doorbell rang and I ran downstairs to find a neighbor girl looking for the kids to play. I chatted with her and her dad for a minute as she told me about her own softball game that morning, how she saw Caden and Brooklyn on the field. I also discovered a package I had ordered on the steps. New sandals (brown with thick straps and a heel); brought them upstairs to try on (keepers).

I mentally planned my outfit for church the next day (to incorporate the new sandals, of course) while adding my own silent “amen”s to Nadia Bolz-Weber’s benediction blessing the preschoolers who cut in line at communion and the closeted and those who can’t fall apart because they needed to keep it together for everyone else.

As the funeral ended (“It is well, it is well with my soul”) I fielded a phone call from my mom. We talked about the progress on the playset my dad is building for the kids. We talked about future plans, weighed the pros and cons of dates and timing. We said good-bye.

The livestream ended and I clicked the tab closed, somewhat hesitantly, as though putting death aside were a thing that could be done so easily.

And I went back out to rejoin my own bright, living world.

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