Predictable, and Nice.

Not every thing, but some things, have settled into a temporary routine around here, a life-season, and it is so nice. I’m not always a proponent for slowing down or enjoying the status quo, but for right now? Right now is wonderful.

Here are some things that I’ve come to count on:

Jesse Michael is a hard worker who kicks ass and wins at life. Example #246: After a 12 hour shift, he came home and learned how to replace our broken, leaking garbage disposal. My husband is infinitely (even) more attractive because he is so handy. So man. Such brawn. He works to help me raise a hygienic kid with manners and brains. He has the best ideas, like driving out to see dinosaur bones at the museum and then getting Ted’s Hotdogs. His gardening skills are the real deal. He also acquiesced to my request that he wear short-shorts, shave his prized Irish facial hair, and attend a Halloween party under the alias of Paulie Bleeker. He stole the show.

Weekly coupon cutting and meal planning and grocery shopping. Organic food co-ops and “What do you do with watercress?”. Post-its in cook books, Pinterest fails, a lot of Google-ing simple kitchen tasks that a moron could figure out, oven burns and a near loss of a digit to the food processor. Subjecting my boys to some risky taste tests. Poor Carter. After quinoa and eggplant and fish tacos and cabbage rolls, he had a catharsis over lunchtime nachos. “Thank you, Mom. Thank you so much for making something with CHEESE.”

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My body weirding me out, mostly in a good way. (Morning Pep Talk: Pregnancy is awesome, Heather Lynne. Look at your body, being a BAMF, making a baby.) I feel guilty when I hear myself complaining. This is temporary, and really the most beautiful thing, and Baby J is going to be the best.  PS — It’s a boy for sure.

Babies. Babies everywhere. All the lady-friends joke/complain that their Facebook feeds are overflowing with pregnancy announcements. Yep. Welcome to our late 20’s. But I feel like my present experience is rather elevated. Currently, my list of knocked-up friends is at an all time high, yes. But Baby J will also be the last of four same-age cousins:

Miles: July 30

Genevieve: August 28

Jolie: October 6

There really aren’t words to describe what this phase of life feels like, with your family growing, growing and so many happy moments.

…And Carter Patrick and all that is CP right now. Home school in the morning. Big Block Sing Song. Extra long baths until he’s pruny. #StayWeirdCarter. Gymnastics and cousins and play dates and trying to keep up. “Hey, I love you” and “Hey, Babe”. Cuds and snugs and games and puzzles and backseat singing. So handsome and so smart and so kind and so loving and so three-almost-four. So excited to be a big brother. So much energy and then out like a snoring light. All blue eyes and impish smirks and belly laughs. The best part of every day.

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Not everything is predictable. Apparently my uterus is a disco; Baby J’s movements are erratic and fierce. Jesse Michael’s work schedule is haywire. He’s gone a lot, and we miss him, and we’re proud of him. One week’s schedule of work and school and sleep is never the same as the next. There are ankle-biters. There are ankle-biters everywhere, and they are the loudest kind of loud. I really, really miss my caffeine addiction. But this little phase of life, I’m going to remember it as one of the best.

Just fine.

Carter is the reassuring type. Today, while making handprint art with paint on his second day of preschool, he told the hesitant 3-foot tall girl in front of him, “Don’t worry. It’s fun. You’ll be ok.”

In the car, he asked me what I’d be packing in for his daily snack — for the rest of the year.

“Carrots?”

“That will be fine.”

“Grapes?”

“Yep. That would also be fine. Just fine.”

“How about popcorn?”

“That’d be great.”

We keep going like this for a while (until he notes the absence of a personal favorite, peanut-butter-anything — and then we have an in-depth conversation about allergies). Olives, cheese sticks, graham crackers, apples and raisins check out. Celery not so much.

At the restaurant with Grammie, he dumps his crayons out of the cup and lines them up. The occasional gentleman, he lets Grams choose first. “Which color would you like?” She chooses blue. “Exxss…exxs…excellent choice.”

It’s dawning on me just how much of an only-child Carter Patrick has grown to be; he’s a mini-adult. I think about this, pretty much every day, and I alternate between worry and excitement. The flutters and kicks in my disproportional abdomen are hearty reminders that the Carter-only days are numbered. That’s a great thing, and a big change thing, all on its own.

So, preschool. The winds of fate put CP in The Owl Classroom, which you know just tickles me hot pink. Carter’s first days have been piece-of-cake, he’s-got-this, you-can-go-now-Mom easy. It’s heartbreaking.

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Backpack, snack box, and water bottle in tow, Bird took his first week by storm. Two years til kindergarten. It’ll be fine, right? Just fine.

Revival

This blog has become a terrible life-tracker. Whenever something amazing is happening, I’ve been opting out of posting and just letting myself get wrapped up in the moments. I don’t regret that, but the gap up in here is a bit disarming. Plus, there’s been a hefty load of amazing lately, and I’d like to log a piece of it. You know. For posterity.

So, tonight I’m going to pick up my blog and breathe some air into it, and see if maybe I can keep it up. I apologize for the lack of theme or even explicit message in this post. There’s not a lot of poetry in backlogging.

Carter Patrick and I got married to Jesse Michael back in March. We’d decided that spending nights apart was just not an option anymore for us, you see. And, simple as that, my ring finger got gloriously heavier. My mom’s ring tone for me changed to “Jesse’s Girl”. My last name changed (probably need to get on that blog URL as well). But life (mostly) stayed the same as it had been for months: happy-hearted and busily in love, quiet and simple and beautiful.

A month later, I decided to take a break from teaching and do something else. This probably deserves a posting of its own. It wasn’t a lighthearted decision.

There are a few things in life that I’ve never tried, because I innately know there’s no way I’d be good at them (or that I would find them particularly fulfilling, which I suppose is more important). These things include driving a stick, participating in the shot put, and pursuing a career in finances.

There are many things that I’ve tried in my life that I wasn’t at all good at: calculus, piano-playing, sewing, filing my own taxes, being on time.

There are several things in life that I’ve tried, and at the time managed to convince myself I was good at: ballet, speaking French, softball, singing, braiding other people’s hair, being a hipster.

There are three things that I’m confident I’m actually good at: being Carter’s mom, writing, and teaching.

I’m a damn good teacher. Maybe because I love my subject area, but probably because I care about the emotional development of my students just as much as I care about their academic progress. More than once, I’ve been compared to Miss Honey from Matilda. The first day of school is still one of my favorite days of the year. I can write a mean essay, and I can show you (or your 16-year old son) how to write one, too. I loved that every day was different, and that if I didn’t like something, I could throw it out the window and do something different. I loved that I could be “in charge” of 25 (just kidding, more like 39) teenagers, and yet the spotlight was on them. I loved that every moment was a tiny bit of kismet, a funny slice of happenstance: never again would the same group of people have a reason to gather together, mixed by a glitchy computer system and by counselors and by circumstance, and try to learn and grow up together.

But I decided to take a break. For reasons that so many people know by heart, I opted out of next year, knowing that I needed to step away before I burnt out in the ugliest manner possible. I started applying for jobs (that I never thought I’d get). I updated my LinkedIn (teachers don’t really have this mysterious necessity of the normal world). I purchased new interview clothes.

A month after that, I started planning a “Hey, We Got Married, Let’s Party” party. I planned on mostly two happenings: drinking a lot of alcohol (I think I spent $150 in the liquor section of Costco; it was both embarrassing and incredibly badass) and a lot of really attractive people showing up.

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Half of that set of dreams came true. Many devastatingly handsome people attended. But I declined on the drinking.

Because, you know, I found out that I’m pregnant. 14 weeks today, actually.

If we’re the kind of friends that talk and text and what not, you should know that it’s not you; it’s me. No, really. It’s me. I’m sorry I’ve lacked in response or follow-through or general human social skills. If it makes you feel better, I’ve probably been in a dark room somewhere, puking or stacked with ice packs to kill mean, fiery headaches — or having some completely terrifying nightmare, in which a washing machine may or may not be chasing me down a street. With Carter, pregnancy from the start was a lot of sunshine and rainbows and happy naps. This babe is one firecracker of a fetus. And I’m excited. And, for the record, it’s a boy. I mean, we don’t know, but I think so. I think so a lot.

So then I recalculated my steps, and now I’m in the middle of summer, figuring out what it’s going to be like staying at home with a couple of kids for a minute. And it’s exciting, and terrifying, and fortunate — all for a bucketful of reasons each.

Which brings us to the current moment. Nearing midnight on a Sunday night, favorite novel by my left, Mr. Sparks editing photos to my right, the best three-year old Mowgli snoozing in bed with a stuffed Mickey Mouse tucked under his arm and a ceiling lit up with the solar system.

Current moments are rad and adventurous.

Everyone is pregnant — all the Lange ladies, my sister-in-law, and a gaggle of friends. Imagine the birthday parties! And, you know, all the other cool stuff too, I guess.

Carter Patrick is starting preschool in just a couple of weeks. He has a backpack and a lunchbox and new school shoes, and he practices “class” in his room daily. He’s also starting gymnastics classes. His summer highlights have probably been Vacation Bible School, learning how to fish with Dad, utilizing his bunk beds for his first sleepover (with his bff Miley, of course), swimming, eating a lot of pancakes, and weaseling his way into taking naps in bed with Mom, who can’t decline an invitation for “cuds and snugs”. He’s tall and handsome and messy and loud and sweet and loving — and he’s growing up really, really fast, and I’d like that to stop.

Jesse and I took a weekend trip to see my uncle get hitched, and that was amazing. San Francisco? Feasts of crab and lobster and chowder? Wedding on a boat, sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge? It couldn’t be missed. Watching these two join their lives together made my heart soar. You know when you can just tell two people love each other, more than anything else matters? Yup.

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The Master’s classes still beat on. Got about nine more months of that fun. Coursework is legitimately interesting, but it’s still homework.

And that’s probably a good ending note for tonight. Pretty straight up, but in terms of getting up to speed, that’ll do.

Fall 2013

Once, in a fit of new-mom exasperation, I posted what I thought was a decent list of reasons having a kid wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies. The list consisted of items like diaper blowouts, household clutter, how I needed to brush up on my organic produce know-how, and my frustration over not being able to remember the right lyrics to lullabies.

I’d like to go back two or so years in time and laugh at myself. “Oh. Just you wait,” I’d say, while tossing back a shot of whiskey and laughing maniacally.

Ok, maybe without the whiskey.

I belong to the exclusive purgatory reserved for moms of two-year old boys. My sanity, it ebbs and flows. Today was not a good day. He peed all over me this afternoon. Then he threw a tantrum or seven. Then he busted his lip open during one of the aforementioned tantrums. Then he called me “annoying” (he has quite the vocabulary for 36 inches). The countdown to bedtime started around 3pm.

I’m writing this out because 99% of me believes that my temporary inability to cope is normal/relatable, and I’m also writing this down because these thoughts make me feel incredibly guilty. Ineffective. Inadequate. Insufficient.

I know “mom guilt” is a thing. But I’ve always been a sucker for making myself feel guilty for what is way out of my control, and that, my friends, is what is annoying. Not sure I can change it. There’s no way to experience everything I want to experience and accomplish everything I want to accomplish without accepting the constant state of being stretched too thin. But I’m not going to lie to myself and pretend that this constant state of being — the boat that all of us simultaneously chose and were forced into — is always smooth sailing.

That off my chest, life is overwhelming and wonderful, as per the norm. Carter’s a super neat kid — precocious, funny, lovey, and mine. He’s always doing something to remind me how cool he is. Like driving his Lego motorcycle across the floor humming and muttering about how he’s “goin’ to tha bookstore”. Real danger seeker. Or trying to convince me he has a fever in his belly. Or telling me, “Oh, Mom! You look soooo handsome.” Or getting his boogie on to my new Carole King vinyl. The earth? He feels it move. Under his feet. 

It’s fall. I love fall.

Carter dressed up like a duck commander for Halloween, and it was a hit. I bought him the ugliest boots for his costume, and now he wants to wear them everywhere. Figures. He loved trick-or-treating, so much. He really got the gig down this year. I was so proud of his “trick-or-treat” volume and the frequency of his “thank you’s”. It’s the small things, guys.

November means my birthday, and it was stellar. I know the best people, the kind that wake you up with awesome cards and coffee, deliver presents and flowers and baked goods to school, throw you lunch-time parties, cook and eat favorite dinners with you, replace your college pots-and-pans, surprise you with pretty girly gifts, and point out the new record player in your house before you fall asleep. Don’t know how I deserve to have as many fabulous people in my life, but I’ve got them, and I definitely felt special, so I’ll take it.

These kids, they’re getting big. Pumpkin patches and birthday parties and zoos. Big and busy. There’s an established chain-of-command. Mi bosses Carter. Carter dictates LuLu. LuLu tells Seany what’s up. Emery watches sometimes, but mostly sleeps.

Last year, this year. Different hair, same shirt.

School (the one I work at) is great. Lots of changes on campus make it a bit hectic, but I work with awesome people, my students are phenomenal, and my early drive to work includes mountains, the sunrise, and hot air balloons. All 9th graders (Core and Honors) this year, some NHS co-sponsoring with a best friend, AIMS tutoring, library tutoring, Adopt-a-Kid project — it’s full.

School (the master’s program) is online and occasionally brutal. I’m thankful to be learning new skills. Lucky that I’m rather resourceful. Desperate for more hours in the night. A bit intimidated by the road ahead of me there. Excited to be back in school (you know what I mean).

No matter the age, I’m still an old lady by choice. It’s 10pm on a Saturday night, and I’m in my pjs, torn between watching Lifetime and listening to Elton John in between laundry cycles, grading papers, and snacking on toast with peach jam. Most nights, it’s a similar scene. The highlights of this weekend included trying out my mom’s new juicer, hanging out at the farmer’s market, and getting some early Christmas shopping done.

Awake and Around (One for when you’re older, Carter Patrick)

Dear Carter,

There’s time to spare, little one.

I’ve spent a lot of time (understatement of the century) during your early years plagued by worry and fear and anxiety. But anticipating life’s interruptions is no way to live, Bird. I hope, if you’re reading this as an adult, I’ve at least taught you that by now.

Anxiety isn’t viscous; it’s runny. It dries sticky and leaves a stain. It leaked in slowly near the end of 2011, then came in frequent floods in 2012, and has finally tapered off. You saved my life, Carter. You are my constant joy. That’s not to be taken lightly, by the way, considering that at the moment, you are two-and-three-quarter-years old and a full time, exhausting job.

Just after you had turned one and we were living with Uncle Patrick and a soon-to-be pregnant Aunt Meg, you decided that sleeping wasn’t your thing. You were a howler, and it took me a few jabs in the darkness of new-and-single-motherhood to figure out what would calm you down. But we nailed it: walking down the street, back and forth, with you in my arms. Mind you, it was winter, and we surely looked ridiculous pacing up and down Quail Track in our pajamas and bare feet (we’ve never been the type for shoes). We stared up at the moon. It was one of the first words you knew back then. I’d sing to you every song your Great Grandma Pat had sang to me growing up. I can’t sing very well, but you’ve never minded, and I’m thankful for that. I thought life was rough then, but you were weight in my arms, real and full, and those nights were our nights. We shoveled a lot of stars back then, but I’d never trade.

Tonight, I started hanging pictures on our wall here. You helped pick out the frames. We’re starting the overhaul on your room this week: a robot chair, models of the solar system and the lunar phases, bunk beds (raddest three-year old ever, you are). Matter of fact, we’ve both got new beds now. We put up Halloween decorations. Me and you, we’re a home, Bird.

I fought harder than I’d ever fought the day you were born, and I’ve fought ever since. I still dream about your last ultrasound — the one that showed you, eyes big and open and wide, blinking into the camera, in juxtaposition to shots of my failing kidneys and liver. I was calm because you were fine, until the nurse told me that if I didn’t make it, you wouldn’t. So the choice was made: I was going to have to stick around. And then there was the bit about having no pain medication, no numbing the six hours of active pushing. So I was going to be awake. And that’s sort of how our story has gone so far.

I’m not anxious anymore. You never were. You knew we had this in the bag. But you’re an old soul, and I’m not, so I’ll keep taking my tips from you, if that’s ok. I don’t know what changed this past week, but the weather cooled down, I took a deep breath, and strength filled up every bit of my lungs, and I knew that I’m a force to be reckoned with. The catalyst is obvious. I’ve got you, and you made sure I stuck around and stayed awake.

You and me, we never apologize for keeping our eyes big with wonder. You’re curious, and I’m naive, and we can’t help but trust the world, no matter how many times we end up barefoot and singing.

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Here.

We Are Hard on Each Other
by Margaret Atwood

i

We are hard on each other
and call it honesty,
choosing our jagged truths
with care and aiming them across
the neutral table.

The things we say are
true; it is our crooked
aims, our choices
turn them criminal.

ii

Of course your lies
are more amusing:
you make them new each time.

Your truths, painful and boring
repeat themselves over & over
perhaps because you own
so few of them

iii

A truth should exist,
it should not be used
like this. If I love you

is that a fact or a weapon?

iv

Does the body lie
moving like this, are these
touches, hair, wet
soft marble my tongue runs over
lies you are telling me?

Your body is not a word,
it does not lie or
speak truth either.

It is only
here or not here.