A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Currents and Tides

This is a painful post to write. I’d been holding off and hoping that the context of the terrible would be cloaked in good news…but it will never be good news. This will not be a footnote for things turning to something I desperately wish; such is life.

Important details I’m leaving out, but I can speak of sufficient pieces for this to hold some weight for others. I blather on abstractly about the challenge of things, especially in the last year. Some I’ve disclosed, other things I don’t. They are important for me and my life, but I’ve found that this blog is a practice in narrow compartmentalization. This just one more compartment that will sting for…maybe forever…maybe it will pass. I’m too weary to think beyond this moment until the next moment arrives. Eventually the day ends and I pass into a new series of moments and things happening around me that I try to appreciate. I’m intermittently successful, even if the high is short-lived.

It’s funny; I had been so ambivalent about having children, and now from my very core I curse my cowardice. If I’d been more purposed with starting the childbearing process, I’d be able to have a third. I regret that most during most of the passing moments. I try to remind myself that an earlier start would be a different Little Man and Warrior Queen…or maybe neither at all, but it’s not much consolation. I hope some day it is.

But, it’s more cruel feeling than that. We weren’t supposed to expand the family beyond what we have, at least that’s been the official stance. I just lost another pregnancy…another pregnancy I was never supposed to have, and there is some inkling that there were several more before that. I’d kept it hidden, and mostly suppressed it for the duration for various reasons. It’s been a horrible six months of uncertainty; plagued with timelines before heavy bleeding begins…again. The slow emergence of devastation as the quantity increases. I’m middle-aged. It’s to be expected. If we were trying for another, then it would be a brief grief. I’m well practiced at such things…I lost four babies before my pregnancy with Warrior Queen. The hurt of the loss significantly lessened with the baby as it should be growing and on the way.

That won’t be the case this time. I’m certain of it, and I’m left feeling this emptiness and gnawing incomplete thoughts of my family. I hope some day it leaves, but it isn’t so simple. Some women never shake it; or if they do, it’s decades later. It’s hard to explain the phenomenon. It isn’t that I’m unhappy about what I have; something just feels missing.

Walking Little Man to class, and subsequently retrieving him at the end of his school day has been mostly heartbreaking for me…SO many pregnant women…SO many babies…SO many families of three. It’s something I won’t have, but I’m not allowed to ignore it until the information resides in the back of my mind collecting cobwebs and dust. Even the ultrasound tech was in the sunset of her pregnancy. I couldn’t stop staring at her belly as she tried to comfort me sobbing from information I already knew. At another time it would have been amusing, her thick Russian accent and facial expressions hinted at a kind of conversation foreign to her. But, she did a good job; I’m appreciative of her…the doctor didn’t bother to meet with me. I’m bitter about it for no reason because I’m simply bitter.

Right now the pain is oppressive if I think about it…I can’t stop thinking about it. At the moment my time with my kids has a lingering loss of the addition I hoped would work…this time.

The finality has been unfolding this week, but I’ve been consumed for months, five or six maybe? I’ve lost track…maybe more? I’ve become increasingly weary from this process. I’m sleeping, but I wake-up tired…from this, and everything else going on that I’m not mentioning. I’ve been stumbling over and having trouble retrieving words, and doing more than the bare necessities the past few weeks as I’ve pushed myself to take life action.

I’d been realizing what a lousy friend I’ve been the last year. I was confronted with it again yesterday. A friend just had a baby…I didn’t know she was pregnant. I had been so good at keeping up with my various connections over the years, but I’ve let so many lapse in the last one. I’m barely seeing or talking to people; keeping my world small.

The past month my calls to Congress and various other entities have lapsed significantly. I manage once a week maybe? So many important things I need to be present for, but I can’t bring myself to because getting through at this moment requires so much.

My main coping skill, exercise, has dropped significantly too. Happily not entirely, but my legs are heavy and I’m tired…so I rest instead. When I don’t have the motivation, I’ve learned to take the signal seriously.

Last week was the final class at the prison. It was a good class, tough group to reach. Midway through I learned this was a group of men who mostly struggle to complete programs. My attendance was phenomenal; perfect or one absence for the duration. There are no longer as many people in my life who get that bit of data, so it’s that much more sadness. But, it’s old sadness; I’m used to its weight so that I hardly notice anymore. I started a new group this week; it’s a good group. The first class had been dodgy for me with my other runs, but this time I think I got it right…If they show next week, I’ll know for sure. I mention this because I left feeling a high I needed, and the float persisted on the ride home. No real thoughts flooding my mind; I simply felt good. For once in my life I didn’t overthink it. It faded when I entered my house; a slow seep before I’m back to that nagging sadness. But, it can’t be so bad because I’m writing even if the content isn’t so cheery. Once again I didn’t make my calls, but maybe I’ll get something else done.

My doctor went over the various tests; everything is normal and nothing is wrong. At the end she paused; in kindness said she’s concerned. I don’t look good. I know what she means. I don’t know that I’ve seen friends for a while, especially in the last few weeks when things have been so horrible.

This doesn’t need a label, nor will this feeling be forever. I’ve encountered my fair share of bad things, some surpassing this batch of terrible. At some point things will be better…eventually. But, right now it’s not.

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Life as Pictures: a day or two…or three in an ordinary life

Has it really been so long since I’ve managed this form of post? I like to mix it up, but here I was thinking it’s been endless publications of this same format…Oh, how I’ve been mistaken!

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Remarkable the way times change… When Little Man was born, I’d religiously experience a Saturday lonesome outing. It was miraculous! These days such frequency ebbs and flows…mostly ebbs at the moment. My go-to had always been to attend my Weight Watchers meeting before jetting off to the expansive mall down the street…sometimes some errands that would be easier to accomplish sans cherubs. I never used to be a mallrat, but sometimes it’s pleasant to be around a crowd of people. Staying home can be lonely and isolating, and while not perfect, sometimes it is a comfort to just meander with other meandering people. I’ve also turned into a weird kind of chatterbox. I have no qualms with talking to random people. Interestingly, no one places me as some crazy person intruding on their solitude. It’s a rare thing to be unable to bring forth a chuckle from a stranger that happens to be loitering within close proximity to me. Lately, however, I discovered an exceptionally pleasant diversion. I go to a frequent weekly meal haunt, but without my children. It’s rather luxurious. I eat lunch on my terms…without heartburn. I had been buying a three pack of the above cookies, but I must lament that they are no longer as tasty as they used to be. That discovery was a bit traumatic for me. But, I’ll sit down…read a book that’s been in progress for years. I read quite a bit during the week, but my diversions are among the collection residing in my tablet. I actually like this book a great deal, but it’s usually a disaster to pull it out in the house. So, it remains a sporadic treat for the time being.

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I’ve mentioned my fiberware. This is no longer the current progress update of my second ever afghan composed of the yarn stash I couldn’t bear to toss. I crochet about a row or so daily. I’m about three or four colors further as I post this.

The newly minted two-year-old Warrior Queen has tantrums about getting dressed most of the time. I’ve found a loophole that works about eighty percent of the time; imperfect, but I’ll take it. Getting a sharp kick to the throat on a regular basis is tiresome even under the best of circumstances. It’s a simple intervention, really. I allow her to choose her ensemble. I appreciate the way she throws items together, as I am one for clashing patterns and askew color combinations in my wardrobe…aside from my penchant for unnecessarily endless varieties of black dresses… My fierce girl loves pink, as well as cars and trucks, so stereotypes be damned! She also adores hats, and has excellent taste. It’s a challenging time of year. Her current clothing is too small for the most part, particularly the shirts that are currently reminiscent of 1980s belly shirts. The weather hasn’t been consistently nice enough to transition to the appropriate garb, but at least she’s little, so no one thinks twice that she looks ridiculous. Besides, with outfit pairings such as this, she would naturally be forgiven for an ill fitting wardrobe. My girl can rock the penguins combined with pants I affectionately term “Bubbe’s sofa.”

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I’ve mentioned my resistance to going outside. On a pleasant day I’m usually fine once I’m in the throws of the outdoors, but I consistently find excuses to remain inside…It’s probably why I need to consume almost the maximum dosage of vitamin D in supplement form. Warrior Queen and I had just dropped off Mr. Man for his morning at preschool. I’d committed to taking her immediately to a park or outside on our front lawn. It was supposed to be a beautiful sunny day, and I’m trying to commit to spending more time with the kids outdoors (spoiler alert: I still suck at it pretty profoundly). Warrior Queen decided that she didn’t want to make an appearance at one of our local playgrounds. Rather, she preferred to run with reckless abandon on the preschool’s property. I followed her as she climbed the various stairs, subsequently running down the ramps. I even chased her, soaking in her delightful giggles.

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The rare moment Warrior Queen sat. It was a fleeting instant. I think she just wanted to try it out to see if it was for her…It wasn’t.

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Fantastic hat, right?

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Warrior Queen also loves bows…all of them. I strategically place the remaining three on the other side of her head, and by “strategically” I mean I land them wherever they will stick on a moving target that squeals a somewhat garbled, “More bows!” It likely doesn’t help that I’m usually laughing as I lumber over whatever death and destruction my kids plot from their toy carnage haphazardly strewn everywhere we told them not to. And, for whatever reason all I can think from my fierce girl’s request for hair adornment is, “More cowbell!”

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We went to some kind of local festival with a llama theme; I assume in memory of Anna Dewdney. It was exceptionally well organized affair and a beautiful day. This particular game was pin the tail on the llama…I think. Mr. Man didn’t really move past the desire to wear the mask. The game efforts themselves were unremarkable, but at one point he pulled the mask up briefly to give me an air kiss before returning the mask to the above rightful place.

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After spending an exorbitant amount of time trying to convince Little Man to visit the alpacas, this was pretty much the only view to behold…

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This is mid tantrum…I opened the door. It’s sad I don’t have a video of one of her exhibitions, as they are impressive with their gusto. They have an incredible fortitude and limber quality to them. Certainly she’s loud and has a proclivity for ample tears on demand, but the flailing is a sight to behold. She literally pounds the ground with her fists and kicks her feet as one would expect any trite child caricature. Additionally, she kind of rocks her body in a spastic back and forth motion; occasionally looking up at me to ensure she has my attention. Inevitably she notices that I’m essentially laughing at her or I casually ask her if she’s done. That usually doesn’t go well, so she perseveres. Her tantrums amuse me because they just keep going…until they don’t. Often I won’t give into her demand, so she changes her demand mid stream…only she’s too upset to really communicate it…Consequently she’ll keep crying and screaming. At some point I figure it out from what I can only assume is divine intervention. It’s usually something reasonable and fine. I fulfill her request, and then it’s over like the episode never happened. She does her awesome toddler prance-trot off to play or whatever all smiles and sweetness, wiping the hair from her face…sometimes asking for a tissue. More times than not these days the act of asking for and receiving said tissue is enough to end the tantrum.

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This kind of dress is not my bag, but I saw it for cheap, and simply knew my feisty girl would love it. She watched me as I removed the tags and pushed it into the hamper for a first washing. Warrior Queen rooted it out, and demanded she wear it that very moment. How could I deny her such a request?

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Watermelon might be my girl’s favorite food among a long list of other favorites. Perhaps this one is more reliably eaten than others? This was day #2 of the pale pink ballerina dress. She woke-up requesting it. The dress was fairly soiled from a mere several hours of play the day before, but there was absolutely no amount of convincing that could be managed. I suppose the look on her face wearing it for the second day in a row is enough to assuage the dreaded Mom Guilt. Not than anyone could tell from her wardrobe selection for the day, but it’s eighty degrees outside. For the life of me I couldn’t even convince her to shrug off her sweater. I purchased it because it was three dollars, and I needed a bigger sweater for her just in case. I had no notion she would become so passionate about it. Maybe because it’s colorful and subtly shimmers? The pants sparkle too…and her shoes are multicolored hearts…The girl likes to make a statement!

The memories feel like they fly by, and I don’t have enough documentation of their every wonder. The knowledge of forgotten morsels break my heart; I want to remember all of those perfect times. More-seasoned-than-I parents offer an almost universal nugget of unsolicited advice, that I should enjoy every moment. I think that’s complete bullshit. Every moment is not worth enjoying…but so many are. I deeply wish to forget some of my parenting encounters, but others I want to stretch so I can savor them for an eternity. And, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Forms of Love

I feel like this will be a rushed post…partly because I’m overdue. I’d been hoping for ten day increments, but it seems like two weeks is more realistic these days, and even that’s a stretch sometimes. I’ve had to scale back the effort with my posts or else I’d never publish anything. I’d always focused on my content as a priority, and the pictures and hyperlinks were more a gold standard of excessive effort I’ve chased. It seems I’m mostly returning to strictly content, which makes me a bit sad…maybe a bit like I’m failing in some respect. But, that’s my shtick. I’m sure I’m overreacting as a singular force to create weakness where they don’t exist. At least I’m funny…to myself. BUT, I can say after three years of at least a minimum low grade struggle that things are looking up in important ways, like there is some movement out of a rutted cycle. I’m afraid to think it, but can’t stop myself from a deep core hope.

Warrior Queen is two now, and Mr. Man is four. Little Man’s development isn’t quite so awe inducing these days. He’s a gregarious soul, and these days he “feeds me” rain clouds, sunshine, and tornadoes. It all originated from a nothing mall outing…just like so many of the others. A vacant rectangular folding table draped in black cloth and a single chair, my son and I pretending that he is a vendor while Warrior Queen gallops around as she does best. My huge, shoddy pantomimes with strangers eyeing me strangely…unless they have small children of their own. In the latter case, they laugh. Mr. Man sells me televisions and cookies and chocolate…enormous televisions that I almost break a hip pretending to carry. My son is delighted; my daughter spinning around only pausing briefly to smile at me with her open mouth, full teeth baring lips. I’m not sure how it transformed, but suddenly there was a joke about weather. The next moment I’m swallowing storms with thunder rumbling in my belly that he pretended to hear, and lightening out of my mouth in excitable sparks. The sunshine dries it up, so that I don’t burst from all the rain consuming my insides. The tornado manifested so that I could sweep him up into my arms, squeezing him tightly and spinning him around. As of this morning the rain was no longer appealing. He wanted endless funneled winds of me hoisting him from the back of the sofa, and Warrior Queen stopped her dancing to ask for tornadoes of her own.

The past year has been shifting collections of savoring what I can, and imposed self-care at every opportunity. Some of it leaving a combined bitter taste and elation. Through all of this there have been “the grandpas.” Another mall memory. It’s a collection of elderly veterans who mall walk at approximately the same time every morning. They are quite passionate about my children, and one gentleman is quite passionate about my rack. He’s polite enough, but I assume holds a strong preference for well endowed women…which I am. He rarely misses an opportunity to hover his eyes on my chest. The leader of the group prompts me to warm smiles. I doubt he’s ever heard anything any of us has said, but I remember a cool morning sometime after the presidential election and subsequent inauguration aftermath. Since that time, it’s been uncomfortable. MPOTUS is a horrible, hateful man; and he holds the nation’s highest office. As a minority, albeit hidden beneath a White surface, I worry…always. I haven’t had to worry like this since I was a youth. It’s reasonable to say I didn’t miss this feeling. It’s an oppressive weight that I’m not really safe; that it’s obvious I don’t belong. It was a harsh reminder of where I grew up and never returned. Perhaps not as terrible as the reality of so many others, but it was terrible for me. But, one morning I hear this man yelling to his friends in heated discussion I only half caught, “I DON’T CARE; YOU DON’T VOTE FOR A WHITE NATIONALIST!” His voice boomed in the mostly empty food court. Since that day I’ve sought to visit him and his friends…a silent appreciation for his existence. He’ll probably never know the impact of his words; I doubt he remembers. To him it was a nothing conversation with his friends, unremarkable in the course of outings with peers. But, I remember, and I likely always will. And, now Little Man specifically requests to see “the grandpas.”

Seeing the interactions between all of these beings generated another idea. When things are hard, I lean into something that allows me to step away from myself. I also look for ways to consume my kids in some kind of activity, preferably for free. Sometime this month my kids and I will be volunteering at an assisted living. Mr. Man likes to talk to anyone anytime about anything. I’m not sure what Warrior Queen will do…probably stare down everyone around her from her small state and say, “thank you,” although she’s been more chatty to strangers as of late. Originally I just planned to bring the kids to visit seniors, but I think it’s morphed into me reading something from our collection of books each week. That’s an added bonus. I love reading children’s books to an audience. It never occurred to me that it would be an elderly population. I had resigned myself to the thought that I would wait to volunteer as a reader in a school classroom when the kids were older. I enjoy when hopes materialize before I planned.

I’m stunned by the passage of time as a whole. I wouldn’t say things have passed in a blink, rather in such a short span the kids can do so much, particularly Warrior Queen. A few months ago she snuggled me in certain way before bedtime. For a bit she no longer wanted snuggles, opting to spin herself dizzy and fall to the ground. Her language continues to develop. She returned to her nightly snuggle with me in a rocking chair, but now she wants me to cradle her so she can look me in the eye. She’s always appreciated my singing more or less…it comes in waves. These days she requests songs that she can sing along to…sort of. She’s on key, but doesn’t really know the words. The words she knows often mispronounced. But, that smile of hers, and the look of adoration on her face. I hope I always remember it.

The routine before nap time is a bit different. Little Man insists on singing his sister two lullabies that inevitably turn to three or four. On cue he walks himself back to his own room, waiting relatively patiently for his own tuck-in. Warrior Queen turns in my lap quietly so that her cheek will press directly to the skin on my chest. She stretches her arms around my shoulders, clutching whatever shirt I’m wearing while we rock. Eventually she’ll utter, “I sleepy,” and it’s in the crib she goes. Oddly it often coincides with when I begin to hear Little Man shouts, “Mommy, tuck me in!” He’s half asleep when I reach his closet door, the small inner room that houses his mattress. He enjoyed his toddler bed for a week, and since that brief excitement over the transformation of his crib, has opted for his very own man cave. He always asks for an extra, “hug, kiss, snuggle, squeeze, and smooch.” I almost always acquiesce. He knows it’s my downfall.

Warrior Queen knows my passion for snuggles as well. These days if I’m still, she insists on laying with me or sitting on me. Often resting her head somewhere on my person…cheek to cheek…my thigh. Sometimes she sits on me as I’m laying on the sofa, otherwise ignoring me entirely. Periodically she’ll look back to me saying, “snuggle,” which I oblige. Her snuggle routine is for hugs and tickling kisses on her cheek and neck. She has a delightful laugh, and the only consistent way I bring it forth is from the speckling of light kisses to her sensitive skin.

Both of my children are older. I hope they will always be this loving. I hope the elderly we visit will feel their warmth as I do. The world has a shortness of uninhibited love sometimes, and I wonder why. It’s the first profound thing I noticed about my children…love. As humans we seem to be distinctly born with the intense capacity for it, yet it fades. So strange that something that saturates babies washes away in seemingly easy fragility. Maybe because it hurts so intensely even when it’s good. I think the pinnacle of my hope for my children and their lives is that I raise them to persevere through the hurt because nothing else feels quite like home.

Milestones

My children will have their first sitter this week…twice actually. My parents have watched them without either me or my husband present, but never a stranger. It isn’t about some kind of grand plan or trust concerns. I’ve simply never gathered my shit to have people available for things like a rogue date night or something. I’ve felt the constraint from time to time. My husband and I agreed that I wouldn’t pay childcare to volunteer. It would be one thing if I needed the break for self-preservation, but I’ve largely been fine. It simply didn’t make sense to pay money so I could work for free…It’s irrationally and depressingly expensive.

Since a bit before my pregnancy began with Little Man four years and some change ago, I haven’t received many paychecks. It doesn’t bother me as much now as it used to, but I remember the first consulting-like contract I achieved…a few months of a check, and it felt indescribably good. It was meager, but adequately supported my tea and chocolate habit…the unnecessary cheap sweater.

I couldn’t admit it for years, but the reality is that the entirety of any income I’d earn would be consumed by childcare costs…if I’m lucky. My earnings would likely not be sufficient even if I managed a leadership position. The only exception is if I squared a first level manager job in a state agency, but that’s the equivalent of happening upon a baby purple unicorn shitting cookies in my family room while discovering that no version of Law & Order is running on any television channel. I’m lucky my life is comfortable. My husband makes a good living, even if the situation isn’t perfect. We are smart with our expenses, always planning for this, that, or the other thing. But, I can’t deny my socioeconomic privilege.

I worried for at least a couple of years about resume gaps and what my future held for me as a person. My employment passion is a tricky beast, and I met with endless dead ends as I explored ways to be engaged in any kind of worky-like thing. It was heartbreaking for a long time knowing that I couldn’t attend meetings or venture to whatever location to volunteer. Most events are not on weekends or evenings.

Warrior Queen is just about two, and Little Man is just about four; I’m on the cusp of earning my second paycheck since a bit before my pregnancy with Little Man. It isn’t much, but just enough to cover the four or five hours of childcare I’ll require weekly. It’s an unexpected thing that is the product of me sending out nets of interest as I make contacts…keeping my ears open for information.

The past three years I’ve gradually found my way back to corrections in a context I didn’t know to envision. I live in a big government state, so there seems to be endless programs with the support of countless nonprofit and university work. I’d known this, but I didn’t know it. There’s been so much to learn, and so much to do. Up until now all of my efforts have been voluntary, but it’s been cool to see what I’ve managed…a lowly stay-at-home mom with a couple of young kids…the successes and inroads I’ve attained from behind a computer screen and the scattered phone calls.

Last summer I finally mustered my shit and returned to teaching a class; I’d missed teaching…missed doing a lot of things, really. I’m not unhappy, but so much of my life is resigning myself to change that I might not necessarily want. It isn’t a complaint, but it’s a challenge to love who I used to be, and have to let go of that identity completely without knowing if anything comparable will take its place. I’ve learned to trust the process more these days. I’m genuinely a better person than the one I released to my history. But, I couldn’t have known that at the time.

It began as a lucky stumble to a local nonprofit providing rehabilitative programming for some of our correctional facilities. When I joined, so did new agency leadership. I appreciate uncountable things about this director, but mostly I value feeling important. My work with this agency ebbs and flows as there is purpose for me, but periodically I’m asked for an opinion about various odds-and-ends. That holds meaning. It isn’t often I’m asked about anything outside of parenting anymore. It’s a small thing, but I’ll buzz for a few days after.

The ebbs with the agency made me anxious. My interests and their needs are not always compatible, but there is a consistent place for me at this point, which I appreciate. Over the past few years I’ve managed contacts of my own through the tasks I’ve taken with the agency. Now I’ll periodically help corrections administrators directly with their programming needs that would otherwise be pushed off indefinitely for lack of time and resources. When there is no explicit assignment in the works, I interface with enough people that my own projects make their way into the system. It’s hard to explain in such vague terms, especially for people unfamiliar with these systems; but all of this is quite a feat.

This semester I started teaching my first college level class. It’s mostly online, and certainly not a traditional class for this level and university prestige. I offered my availability so that I could teach in a prison beyond the summer. The parameters of this particular class is bringing some university students into the prison with me. The college kids (When did they become kids?) have been completing reading and writing assignments in the context of criminal justice issues while the incarcerated population will be experiencing the creative writing class I designed and taught last summer. The college group will be participating too, but their vantage point is to understand the humanity of incarcerated populations. The prison group will learn tools for self-expression.

This week we’ll finally manage the facility orientation, and my children’s first sitter. If all goes according to plan, the first creative writing class will begin at the end of the week. At some point I will receive a paycheck. All of this surreal. It’s a mix of fear and inadequacy…confidence it will work, and a vague question if I will have this opportunity again. I try not to think about it; to get ahead of myself. I suppose parenting has prepared me well for this venture.

Rules for a Happy Marriage

I usually don’t think to mention my husband much as part of this blog. I suppose the reasons are a bit sprawling. Part is that I don’t have permission to tell his story…or stories. This process is about me and my journey through parenthood and finding a balance. This is also a piece of why I provide my children some semblance of privacy…nothing identifying. I want to be authentic, but also preserve their future desires of what is shared publicly as best I can…while meeting my needs through this forum. Hopefully when they are older, I will learn that I was successful…that they aren’t horrified by this particular memory preservation.

I have various complexities to my existence, but probably nothing all that foreign to tremendous swaths of people. But, in the same vein I strive to protect information that might hurt people I love should they choose to read these posts. It’s part of why this blog wasn’t started until Little Man was almost a year old. I wondered how I could note my life while leaving expansive aspects out of my public identity. Interestingly it’s significantly easier than I thought.

I have a good, happy marriage; not a perfect one. That’s the point, and the inspiration for this post as I happened upon various how-tos of marriage in my social media feeds of late. It’s an interesting thing because all these unknowns are experts, yet there is no way they can really offer proof of their happy union…or that their mold would work for me…or anyone else for that matter. I don’t think that it’s only unhappily married people who yearn for advice; I suspect happy people do as well. I wonder if they find themselves questioning if their relationship is the correct kind of happy, but maybe I’m more neurotic in this arena than most. I also wonder what happy really is anyway. What are the expectations going in? How would one manage to operationalize, or define “happy” in a context that held meaning equally for every reader? Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe it’s all just fluff to distract individuals from the piles of laundry and littering of dirty dishes.

I think my imperfectly happy marriage has its fundamental base in our imperfections. I’d always known my husband loved me because of my quirks, not despite. And, that was a pretty important thing, as my quirks are complicated. I’m pretty lousy in relationships, at least historically. It’s been fairly recent that I realized to what exact extent. I married in my mid twenties, so it isn’t as though I was all that seasoned in relationships. But, as a middle-aged woman with ample time at reflection at this point, it’s rung true in my world, at least, that we accept relationships as we are willing and able.

I’ve always had this presentation to the world that my husband has never seen, and I don’t think understands. I get my appeal to men; I’ve always had a type. My husband is not that kind of man, and he’s never seen me for what everyone else has. He only knows me for my weaker points, accepts and loves me unconditionally for them; almost seeing them as my strengths. I could never imagine finding anyone else to share my life with. Even in my mid twenties when I didn’t really understand it, I must have known…and clawed myself on, desperate to keep him. I think all we really understood about each other at the time is that it was always so easy to just be together…doing nothing. There are times even now…almost fifteen years later when the television is simply off, and we chat about nothing important.

It isn’t always easy, but the us has been. When things became trying, as they periodically do, it’s been a conscious choice for me to grow towards him. Often I reflect that it feels easier sometimes to drift away…into my own mind…the busy day-to-day hustle…the endless demands of nothing cataclysmic or grand, just the infinite minutiae of decisions that comprise life. So, it’s been daily, ongoing, active choices to grow toward him. I reflect often my history of turning away, and I wonder what it is that had always struck me from the beginning that my relationship with my now husband would be so different. I can point to small known instances early on, but they seemed so random…not something to necessarily build a life on. But, I feel that he’s always simply understood me, and now with such a shared life we have, we’ve reached that delightful point in a union of telling a joke the other was thinking in that very instant. Those moments have to be my favorite times among a long list of other favorites.

Often what I read is the mandatory “date night” all couples with children should have. Little Man is about four now…It would be generous to claim my husband and I have managed five of those throughout the entire span of his existence. From time to time when we have familial visitors, we are on the receiving end of pressure to take such an outing. It’s a complicated reason as to why an evening out together hasn’t occurred. I generally don’t worry the lack until it’s brought to my attention, and then it’s simply awkward; probably because the complications of discussing why we can’t get our acts together to arrange it. We’ve always been a united front…mostly. We’ve never coordinated between the two of us what to say, yet there always seems to be a similar response between the two of us. Regardless I’m often surprised when the issue is strewn before me, though I shouldn’t be…It’s a pretty consistent issue broached. Usually I’m left questioning if we are as happily married as I’d always assumed…surely if we are not properly positioning a date night, then is there something defunct in my interpretation of my life…my husband…my marriage?

The answer is an easy one. No. There is nothing wrong with our us. I’ve come to understand that a date night is nothing more than finding time to remember that we are a pair in this meandering whirled life. My husband and I go almost an entire evening barely speaking from when he enters our homestead in the evening until the day resolves. But, simultaneously we have stolen minutes of connections…of laughter…always laughter even when things are hard, or we try to. It’s an interesting thing because when things are hardest, we become closer. Over time, especially in the last year or so, we linger at dinner a little longer. The kids are finished eating…scampering off to destroy something neither of us want to think about. Perhaps my almost two-year-old fierce girl arrives for moments, but mostly my husband and I just sit. Sometimes the conversation is serious, sometimes it’s silly, sometimes we are simply quiet before it’s time to usher to another phase in the evening.

We have other stolen moments as well. They are in the form of brief exchanges on the endless go. It’s the barely uttered joke or comment. It’s the acknowledgment of appreciation or tushie grab, or some random annoying prank we play that would make life lacking without. More times than not these days we have a brief time in the evenings together watching television in bed as the final event to our chaos. The kids go to sleep entirely too late regardless of what the day told; my husband and I unable to form any meaningful dialogue as we lie buried under the covers. But, before we finally are able to drift to sleep there is intense laughter. I find myself crying at times, subsequently finding it hard to settle no matter how sleepy I had been moments prior. My husband will be annoyed that I’m shaking the bed, but he really isn’t. Sometimes when things are most trying it’s helpful to know that his other half can experience joy, and he is the cause of it.

Life as Pictures: colorful heart in winter

Something about this time of year is inherently dreary. But, winter has a beauty in its perpetually damp and icy death. It’s been a blurred confusion for a bit; suddenly I’ve caught a partial breath, and we are at the doorstep of spring…or at least the end of the driveway. I find March the worst of the months, as it always feels like it should be progressing quicker than it ever does. It’s a weird chilled season this year; the past two or three winter drudges had us slammed with snow well into an established false sense of security approaching February. Even with the trilogy of storms the past couple of weeks, things melt quickly this time of year as the world presses on.

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I feel an initial obligation to remove the color from some of these scenes. Isn’t that a prerequisite for attempts to pass something off as artistic? But, it’s winter; this picture from the heart of February. It’s so easy to forget that the sun shines when the air crumbles around from the heaviness. I know this these images so well. We attend the same library music class, and this is the library’s very own enclosed sunken patio. In the spring it’s sprouting with a complex collection of life and hiding book character cut-outs. I’ve always been one for textures, so while my children do their thing I survey the debris and think about nothing worth remembering.

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The almost four-year-old Little Man is a sorter, committed to arranging things…anything. He will spend endless time organizing meticulously rambling about some kind of story that makes little sense to me. Periodically he’ll communicate whatever jargon he’s created, only requiring me to nod and smile. He has this verbal crutch that I hope never vanishes, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. Unexpectedly within his conversational story chatter, he will flow into a deliberately pronounced and unaffectively uttered, “He he,” or similar notation of amusement before he flows into the remaining portions of his story.

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The almost two-year-old Warrior Queen idolizes her brother in between the times when she dramatically attempts to get him into trouble. She’s a slick one. It’s hard to say what she’s envisioning during these kinds of above musings. Sometimes it’s an attempt to be an asshole by wrecking something her brother built and loves. Sometimes she wants to take part in something her brother created…adding her piece to be closer to him. In this case she’s moments from adding a stone of her own. It’s something of an interesting note about my son. For all of his care and deliberations to have things just so, he’s never particularly disturbed when something he’s spent a good deal of time on is altered or destroyed entirely. He’s not a particularly anxious kid. It’s almost as though the monument is not as important as the process. Sometimes he rebuilds, sometimes not. Sometimes he sits aside and watches the enjoyment on his little sister’s face as she stomps around in a chaotic blur of destruction. When her task is complete, he’ll rise and begin some other activity. At times it’s reading or “building pipes.” On other occasions it’s destroying our sofa by flinging pillows throughout the room despite my consistent ardent pleas for him to desist.

 

I suppose winter is one more span of time, but my life consists of minutia after minutia that I could easily forget before moving onto the next bit of nothing. Little Man notices everything; remembers everything. If I assert that an event will happen at a designated time and say nothing more, Mr. Man will note the task the very second it comes to pass. I suspect Warrior Queen is similar. She often stares, taking everything in. Her speech is developing as it should, unlike her brother’s at a similar age. Some day her thoughts will become clearer. But, until that day her brother will fill any silence with blustering cacophony of sound.

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My son loves color, I guess. We’ve been frequenting the same eating establishment of late because the cost of food in comparable to anywhere else I’d take them, and the eating area was designed to entertain children. I’ve even managed a solid five minutes of conversation with friends before someone darts off to look at cakes or something. Perhaps it lowers the credibility of my disposition, but looking at food is a bit like porn to me. And, don’t get me started on cakes! When my son was old enough and capable of stringing complex sentences together, he began to rattle off a favored statement of mine in grocery stores, “Let’s go visit the cakes!” Fortunately, my son likes studying all kinds of things, the above flowers have become a preoccupation for him. Every week, sometimes more, he has to stop and examine them, asking me for my favorite assortment. Sadly the last visit had some of the arrangements looking a bit sorry. But, it’s still the rare bright color in winter…even if somewhat artificial in its design.

 

I mentioned Little Man’s structures and garages. Warrior Queen enjoys the same towers. Sometimes I can tell she misses her brother when he is at school for those two mornings a week, as she will inquire for me to build similar structures that my son presses on infinite building loops. Otherwise her default is to stack balanced blocks, holding her breath with wide eyes and smiling open mouth as she places bricks almost beyond her reach. I hope to hold the delight stretched across her face when the tower doesn’t topple, to keep that memory during moments I’m trying to escape.

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Sometimes they work together. Mr. Man expands out while Warrior Queen builds up. Often they hand each other parts, and my fierce sprite of a girl is quick to utter a garbled, “Thank you,” even when she offered the gift.

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Aside from the portion housing books, my husband and I have virtually abandoned replacing toys on the shelves; opting for the stylish cardboard boxes we’ve managed to bring home from a grocery store. I suspect we are perpetuating this catastrophe because the kids can’t find anything, but by the end of the day I’m too tired to care. In the random box it goes! And, sure enough come morning, Little Man dumps out each and every box for no other purpose than for shits and giggles. Warrior Queen, however, enters the room on an explicit recovery mission for an envisioned car or truck originally gifted to her brother that he only cares about when he sees she wants it. My feisty girl has her process. She retrieves and jams on a blue fishing cap so that it obstructs most of her vision. Then she hunts for and drapes each and every haphazardly beaded necklace her brother made in school before he can notice the theft. Finally, she adorns her small, expressive hands with my bright, fuzzy socks. The remaining morning routine she spends clutching a chosen stuffed animal or car. I watch with great care so I can note her preferred toy for the day. It will be the best chance I have changing her diaper without a foot to my throat.

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Returning to a relatively warm winter day on a desolate, mostly colorless patio, Warrior Queen only has eyes for her brother…attempting to see the world how he sees it. Most of the time his goal is to preserve the world for her as he believes it should be.

Naturally Nurtured to…Greatness?

I often consider the pulls of nature and nurture…mostly because I receive a certain thrill from contrary responses to the most mundane of topics. It’s a funny thing because I loathe debating, but there exists an even more passionate dislike of arguing. The mere whisper of confrontation leaves the same sour taste as the residual vapors that refuse to depart hours after opening our diaper bin.

Stomperdad was kind enough to publish a piece of mine on his site. I hope you will visit him to read beyond the above tease. You can find it here.

Crafting Shit My Kids Won’t Want

I was unexpectedly out of work shortly before becoming pregnant with Little Man. I don’t think I gave much thought to my offspring inheriting quaint knitted objects prior to that time, but I was assaulted with multiple fronts of anxiety and a steady stream of anger; seemed like the perfect time to spend my woefully empty days with types of projects I enjoy.

At the time it took an extreme amount of effort to consume time, and I’d frequently become hopeless with what was in store for me without a professional occupation. No matter the antidiscrimination clause, employers don’t hire obviously pregnant women. That wasn’t the entire story, but the short of it is that I was in the midst of a tremendous avalanche of unknowns…I’ve never liked unknowns…even with chocolate. Those assortment boxes often end up housing some of those grotesque Harry Potter flavors, and who needs that kind of horrible in their lives?

I’ve been a knitter since childhood, but it didn’t really take until ten years ago. I make all kinds of things, but I especially enjoy color work and fancy stitches…toys are fun to make as well because they don’t require any particular process with the end strings. I can just leave them floating in the toy innards.

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(I’m a HUGE fan of the granny square, and also a lover of colorwork and interesting stitches. I, however, do not enjoy seaming in the ends that are buried rather poorly underneath the above pieces. They look pretty nifty though; I vow one day to create a full sized afghan using this motif…when my children won’t impale themselves or destroy my projects. Fun fact: I was working on these beauties after my water broke with Little Man. it was three in the morning. I was told to call at nine…no chance I could have returned to sleep.)

For years I’d wanted to learn crochet. I tried to self-learn through the internet, much as I had expanded my knitting repertoire. No dice. But, unemployment had a benefit in at least one realm. I took a crochet class through a community program of some kind. It’s been a blessing since.

But, here’s the thing with knitting and crochet…at least for me. I often need some person of inspiration to whom I can bequeath a random article of kitsch said person will subsequently misplace or give to their cat…never to be seen again. The alternative is my husband bitching about what I plan to do with whatever project I’ve just completed.

Enter, birthing a child.

I made all kinds of things while I was pregnant with Little Man: a whole slew of various sized socks, a selection of toys, and a sweater attempt that faded into obscurity shortly after it began. I didn’t have any grand ideas about any of these yarned trinkets. I just needed some kind of vague search term for Pinterest.

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(These baby socks don’t have pairs. I made uncountable numbers of these bad boys in all shapes and sizes…my children wore exactly zero of them. They simply didn’t fit quite right with no stretch to speak of. I get whatever yarn is cheap, which means the selection is limited in these kinds of sizes. Plus, I like bright, bold colors which apparently is unconscionable in baby yarns.)

After my son was born, some of the articles were a bust, but some of them still surface from obscurity from random time to time, particularly the owl rattle I created as my first non stitch sampler crochet project. At this time the owl is in its vacation home…somewhere with the secrecy of Camp David. But, even at three-and-a-half my son becomes quite protective over it when it decides it will blow in to town. Warrior Queen feels equal passion for “Otto” the Owl, and there have been some scary brawls over it. I wonder if this dynamic is where Oz writers formed their most compelling fight scenes.

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(The owl rattle “Otto” was a favorite of both children when they were babies, and was my first real crochet project. The giraffe “Gerard” was my second. When he began understanding that the blanket I had been making would go to his sister, Little Man started taking an interest in the giraffe stating it was because I made it for him. He hardly touches it, sitting pristine on his shelf, but he would definitely know if it were missing. The mice were trinkets of my unemployment. All of these toys are variations of the original patterns…I usually tweak them in some respect just for the hell of it.)

But, here’s the thing that is not so novel for those of us crafters for our cherubs. After the first, it becomes a substantial ordeal finding the time and motivation to make these same efforts. Like in all things through my parenting journey, I had to be flexible and alter my expectations and plans to ensure that my daughter would also be a beneficiary for the thought behind what these tasks represent.

The first barrier is that my kids are almost exactly two years apart. Knitting, in general, is a bad scene with a toddler who is into everything, especially if it could maim or kill him, milling around. First there are the needles…I use double pointed ones for my favorite projects…EXTRA bad news, and don’t get me started on the cable needles. Baby things often use small needles, so not only would I have multiple sharps biding time to inflict death and destruction, but this shit has a tendency to disappear…until only the toddler discovers it. Finding these things tend to be the Excalibur for small, barely walking children. Then there are the directions that would be ripped and otherwise desecrated on the regular. Lastly, it would be inevitable that something would happen, and I’d drop stitches, make a mistake, or have a needles pulled through by a demon spawn committed to fucking with me. And, who really has three years of time trying to return a knitting project to the correct working order?

By default Warrior Queen would benefit from my latest knowledge fund in the crochet world. But, some of the rubs are the same. While having a single less scary hook, and one stitch with which to contend, I can’t have directions laying about. I’d never considered making an afghan before…mostly because I’ve never had the attention span to stick to such a large, time consuming project; but the decision was a stroke of brilliance.

From the beginning the plan was a full-sized blanket. I didn’t trust myself to diligently work on this thing, and how annoying would it be to finish a baby blanket for my daughter in time for her to attend high school?

In the end it was a dream project I never expected. I finished it a month or two after Warrior Queen was born…I could have completed it sooner, but became unmotivated in the last month of my pregnancy despite only having a row or two left. I have to say, though, it’s a beautiful blanket. I used my yarn stash that my husband spent years urging me to toss. The afghan is so large that its striped glory ate one entire bin of languishing yarn. I chose an easy stitch too, and I faithfully carried the growing blanket to whatever activity that allowed me to sit for a swath of time while he played independently.

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(This is the bulk of the finished product…not too shabby, right?)

As the blanket grew, it attracted a child following. Certainly my son was passionate about it…he still is when it’s out. The colors are bright and the textures interesting. Until I seamed in the loose strands with a thin border, Mr. Man enjoyed pulling on them. I have such fond memories of my son burrowing into the stitching as I worked quietly. When it was long enough, he’d wrap himself in its stripes; looking up at me and giggling or uttering something I didn’t understand. Warrior Queen’s afghan attracted the attention of scores of other random kids…it’s just that kind of blanket. One day I’ll give it to my daughter…one day soon. I’m making a second at the moment with the remaining bin of yarn, and if her reaction to the work in progress is any indication, she will love my stitched gift to her.

Little Man has always known the blanket was for his sister, and since she’s been born, the giraffe I made him has been revered. He doesn’t do anything with it…no snuggles or playdates. But, he once told me that he loves it because I made it for him, and it’s his. So, maybe these kinds of gifts are really just crap reserved for hoarders, but maybe even when they are smallest the thought counts.

Life as Pictures…more miscellaneous and good tidings

Life is good…it’s been a long time since I could say that without pause. It feels carefree almost…well, as carefree as herding preschooler and toddler cats anyway. Per my usual state, things are BUSY…good busy.

What began as a general email of interest to a director I recently helped, turned into something unexpected. Assuming he achieves the last minute required enrollment, I’ll be paid to teach my writing class for the spring semester. I finished my first ever college syllabus a week ago; I pray I didn’t embarrass myself with it. Much of the class will be the same incarcerated clientele I taught over the summer in our maximum, but I’ll also have a few college “teaching assistants” along for the ride. It’s a new experience for me…like so many other new experiences I’ve had over the past couple years. My general policy these days is to open myself up to whatever floats my way because I can’t know where things will lead. When I originally emailed this director, I assumed I wouldn’t hear back until long after I forgot I sent the message…one never knows.

From a personal fulfillment perspective the class was gravy. I’d already committed to writing a couple more programs on behalf of the Department of Corrections. I’d completed my sizable piece of the reentry program that will be implemented system wide…pretty jazzed about that. The new programs will be interesting as well, each in a unique way. Like everything else, I’ve listened for possibilities, and take the plunge even if I’m uncomfortable. It’s all been a pretty groovy result for the most part…more than I would have expected. It’s an odd balance though. I’ll be paid to teach, but the rest I commit to as a volunteer. Without a check my time is squirreled within minute spasms throughout my day. But, all my seemingly infinitesimal exertions yield a good amount of task completions. It usually takes my forming of periodic accomplishment lists to realize the magnitude of the mountains I’ve moved in relatively short amounts of time.

And, of course there are my full-time responsibilities hefted upon countless overtime. But, these days the kids are funny. All sorts of things that are hilarious to me and possibly people who know them. Likely a snore to strangers, but I’ll give it a whirl. Little Man is all about his nether regions and various excrement or fluids these days. We’ve been talking about how urine and poop come to be…the process of energy for the body. My son likes to remind me at random times, “Pee pee comes from my peanuts. There’s a hole.” The other day he told a friend of mine, “Stinkers come from a tushie. You tell her Mommy,” as he sweeps his hand in a gesture for me to carry on the conversation.

Little Man finds new and innovative ways to assert himself almost daily. My husband telling him to hang-up the phone, “I can’t. I have to make a call.” All kinds of funny things.

Warrior Queen is her enduring feisty self. I took the kids to a cafe within one of our grocery stores. It’s a brand spankin’ new building. We hadn’t been yet, and I was delighted at the care that came to the eating space. Not only were there toys, but good ones to boot! The area was clean, and the sustenance surprisingly tasty as well, even if it isn’t quite worth the cost. My fierce girl enjoyed her cookie, roaming around to stand and stare at other patrons. She wouldn’t smile or say anything, just look at random fellow diners for an uncomfortable amount of time. She’s cute and small, so all of them smiled at her as she continued to unblinkingly perpetuate her stare-down. Periodically, she would determine someone was worth a wave of greeting.

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I feel like this is the modern day Sisyphus…my futile attempt to maintain a consistent store of bananas. I’ll buy a mass of them, and within a day they are gone. I don’t even know how something like that happens, and part of me wonders if this is part of the inspiration for the republic thrown around these days. One would think the running state of my household is supporting the big pharma of laxatives, but that is SO not the case. If my kids can claim no other skill in this life, they can take pride in their prolific propensity for pooping. Eventually I’ll rue the day that I didn’t act on some kind of partnership with a local farm.

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This image represents the most twitchingly horrific part of shopping, and I betcha anyone reading this who is a parent will immediately understand why before they lapse into a fit worthy among some of the more damaging epileptic seizures. It’s on purpose, and I will forever hold a grudge for this industry. Maybe the jerky gets the preschooler or toddler side-eye, but mark my words they are well versed in whatever garbage toy or latest brand of candy housed within easy reach. And, the lighter’s a nice touch…one of these days my son will burn this shit to the ground while I’m trying to locate my wallet within the black hole that is my purse containing a smaller version of a Walmart.

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I took this picture a day or two after we confirmed the suspicion that bats set-up residence in our attic…along with a family of mice and flying squirrel as it turns out. I remember happening upon this display and wondering what were the odds of us housing this specific brand of winged critter.

 

So, as I write these absurd odds-and-ends with no real sequence or purpose, it occurs to me that a post such as this captures the essence of my life more than any other: randomly without purpose most of the time, yet I find myself laughing throughout.

 

Life as Pictures…miscellaneous edition

 

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I’m a haphazard tower builder. Mr. Man has his ideals for structures, and fortunately they are relatively compatible with my general building capability. My husband has these complicated, remarkable pursuits. I just stack shit on top of the other, and hope it stands…at least for a few moments before they crumble into child oblivion. Little Man’s latest designs are building the above “garages with houses” while Warrior Queen contributes by randomly piling whatever bricks are in front of her. Big brother watches his little sister’s efforts to add to his pride without batting an eye; I kinda love that about him. And, how can I forget him carefully placing the remaining bricks filed tightly together on the end to “keep the chickens from entering the garden?” I can’t really blame him. Chickens are horribly scary creatures. In the event of an apocalypse, those sketchy bastards will be leading the charge with the cockroaches and politicians.

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I enjoy cooking, but I reserve special treats for when my husband is out of town. It isn’t all that dramatic when he is gone, but I miss him. If I have the wherewithal to plan, I try to find certain things that I can look forward to…something special…usually food related, but not always. These mini quiche muffins are on my fairly lengthy list of favorites, but I hardly am able to indulge because the children pilfer them whenever there is a whiff of the container in the open.

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Easiest pumpkin muffin recipe ever. I’m not a baker, so adding a can of pumpkin to a box of spice or carrot cake mix is about all I can handle…

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The carnage of a mandatory home day…the poor bastards didn’t stand a chance. The children were merciless, and I’m still a little traumatized.

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Happy place…happy place…My children swinging from the chandeliers shrieking their battle cries as they hurl their wincingly pliable bodies onto the sofa cushions that littered the entirety of any exposed flooring. BUT, I have my stash, so bedlam be damned, and you can bet your ass I’m not sharing! I’ll laugh maniacally in their faces as I enjoy every morsel…Okay, maybe not in their faces…I’ll cower in the bathroom like all normal and rational people to avoid the conflict.

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It isn’t always about the chocolate stash when I’m teetering on the edge of losing whatever minuscule cool I’ve managed to retain since having children. I’m also growing my second afghan in painful contributions using the yarn stash my husband spent years nagging me to toss. The first afghan will soon go to Warrior Queen, and it is quite lovely. I’m not sure where this one is headed.

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We aren’t remotely religious, but the menorah candle lighting was the most successful aspect of our Hanukkah festivities this year. I want to always remember Mr. Man launching himself out of his nap to tend to the candles.

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If I’m honest, these latka beauties are my favorite part of the holiday which are a healthier version of the original…because potatoes…

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This sweater doesn’t have anything to do with anything other than it simply exists. Nothing pleases me more than to live in a time and place where seven-year-olds in a country across the planet work to create this number that I would never think of wearing, but I’m sure someone could pull it off who is significantly more fun than I. In the meantime, I’ll be in the bathroom progressively nibbling the chocolate stash I’ve cultivated over the past couple of weeks.

 

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