Good News!

It’s been too long since I’ve written. Life seems to be going 1000 miles an hour lately and there never seems to be enough time in the day. It’s not bad busy. It’s actually pretty exciting. I’ve been trying new recipes, making kits and lots of soap, and trying to make my house look less like a tornado hit it. Also work is picking up and The Twins are back in daycare. So much has happened since I last wrote that I thought it would be fun to fill you guys in on the best parts. Who doesn’t enjoy good news right?

1) The Twins have healthy hips! I haven’t talked about it much here, but shortly after they came home from the hospital The Twins were diagnosed with hip dysplasia and placed in Palvik harnesses. They were in their harnesses 27/7 for 7 weeks to force their hip joints to develop properly. It was a long and exhausting journey for all of us but it’s nothing compared to what some other families go through. We were fortunate that their problems were minor and that our Pediatrician caught it early. Now we go back once a year for X-rays to make sure that everything is still developing as it should. On our last visit, their Orthopedic still had some concerns but wanted to wait and see. It makes me nauseous and anxious every time we go but this time was even harder because it had been a while since our last visit. He’s super happy with the results though and we don’t have to go back for another year. Hip Hip Hooray!

They did such an amazing job!

2) The Hubs started a YouTube channel and his first video is hilarious. We’ve toyed around with the idea of having a podcast in the past. He tried Twitch once as well but it didn’t feel like the right fit. Back before YouTube he and his buddies made goofy videos all of the time so it seemed like a natural move. His channel is called Donny Duct Tape. He calls himself a “high tech redneck” haha! He’s not wrong either. He plans on making videos of him fixing things and trying new things. For his first video he and his friends did a hot wings challenge. I got to help by asking them questions while their mouths were on fire. It was awesome and a lot of fun. He did a great job of editing it as well. You can check it out here.

3) My soap business has really taken off. Thanks to social media, I’ve sold soaps in four different states. It’s so awesome! I’ve developed some signature lines and still really enjoy experimenting. I’ve got some paperwork to do to make my business 100% legit but I’m excited to do it. I’m so happy that what started out as a quarantine project has turned into a business that I can be proud of. I couldn’t have done even this much without my family’s support. My parents have let me make messes in their kitchens, sniffed everything, and listened to me freak out about keeping up with demand. My in laws have kept the kids so I could deliver soaps. The Hubs and the kids have sniffed, sampled, and helped me package my soaps. I love that my business gets to be a family affair.

My Pride soap smells awesome and is gorgeous! For each bar sold we donate $2 to The Trevor Project.

4) Our garden is finally feeding us! So, up until now, the tomatoes have been a bit of a shit show but they finally produced for us! The okra has had two great harvests (lots of pickling and frying going on). I’ve gotten tons of basil that I’ve been using to infuse alcohol (thanks for the basil plant Mom!). Our peppers started turning red this week. I have three cantaloupes on the vine that we can’t wait to eat. I pull beans out almost every day. The garden itself looks rough because we didn’t put the proper weed barriers in place and I haven’t been able to keep up with the crazy things growing in it. We know what to do next time though. I’m 100% planting okra, beans, cantaloupe, and a tomato or two again. Zucchini can go take a hike. I’m pretty proud of us. Our last attempt at growing things involved corn on an apartment balcony and it ended badly.

I boozed the basil and fried the okra. I’ll probably pickle the beans.
Future pasta sauce!

I hope that you are all doing well and that you can find things in your life to celebrate. I’m so glad that I get to share joyful news with all of you I’d love to see what’s making your life happy right now in the comments below.

Sausage and Mustard Green Soup

I found some awesome mustard greens at the farmer’s market the other day and bought them on impulse. It was a great idea until I realized that I had no idea what to do with them. After realizing I didn’t have the ingredients for a traditional batch of greens, I found a great recipe online and combined it with another soup recipe that I like that uses spinach. Thus this tasty Sausage and Mustard Green soup was born. I made it last night with pasta but you can also make it with gnocchi instead. Both are tasty but the gnocchi makes for better leftovers. It’s super easy and the whole family loved it.

Sausage and Mustard Green Soup:

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups chopped mustard greens
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onion
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 2 ribs celery chopped
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 10 cups beef broth
  • 1/3 cup amber lager of your choice
  • 2 lbs beef sausage
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • One package mini gnocchi or 2 cups ditalini pasta (gnocchi does better if you plan to have leftovers. The pasta soaks up the liquid and gets mushy if left overnight)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Sauté onion, celery, and garlic in olive oil with pinch of salt over medium heat until fragrant
  1. Add sliced sausage and sauté till fat from the sausage coats the bottom of the pan and onions and celery are clear
  1. Add in greens and stir until wilted and vibrant green
  1. Deglaze pan with beer
  1. Add beef broth, 1tsp salt, crushed red pepper, smoked paprika, and cumin
  1. Bring to a rolling boil
  1. Once soup has begun a rolling boil stir in green onion and noodles or gnocchi
  1. If using gnocchi, continue boiling until gnocchi are tender and float to the top, occasionally stirring to prevent them from sticking
  1. If using noodles, continue boiling until noodles are tender, occasionally stirring to prevent them from sticking
  1. Serve hot with a sprinkle of Parmesan on top

Self Quarantine Day 76: The Final Quarantine Log

Our quarantine has come to a close. While social distancing is still the norm and we’re not going all over the place, work is ramping back up and the Twins go back to daycare today. I’m more upset about it than I thought I’d be. There are so many unknowns still but I know that I’m going to miss time with my babies. This strange and unexpected time with them has been so hard and yet so rewarding.

As a working Mom I feel like I miss out alot on their lives. Since daycare closed they’ve been with me almost every day. We’ve taken walks, explored the yard, yelled, cried, blown bubbles, colored, destroyed the house, peepeed in the potty, snuggled, and some so much more together. I’ve learned more about who I am as a parent. I’ve been blessed to see them grow as individuals and as a pair. I’m going to miss them climbing on me during my meetings. Going 8 hours without a thousand random hugs and “I love you Mommy”s is going to be so hard. This part of quarantine has been the best blessing despite the many many times where I’ve cried and wanted to pull my hair out.

I’m excited for them to have the opportunity to play all day without having to hear “Please be quiet! Mommy is trying to work.” I’m glad that I can go back to just being Mom when I’m with them and not Museum Manager/Mom when we’re together. I’m excited to be returning to more normalcy. I’m happy to be going back to work because I find fulfillment in my career AND in motherhood.

I know that we’re all going to cry when I drop them off. I know that I’m going to check the clock a thousand times to see if I can go and get them. I can’t wait for their squeal of excitement when I pick them up this afternoon and the huge hug and kiss that I know will come with it. Right now though, I’m going to pick them up and hold them while they’re sleeping. I’m going to kiss their sleeping foreheads and hold my not so tiny babies for just a minute more before our time together goes away.

Self Quarantine Day 69: All Quiet on the Western Front

In an age of digital and audiobooks, some books are still worthy of holding in your hands. These books are worth taking the time to underline your favorite passages. They are worth your tears. They are worth sharing with others. These are the books that find a way to change your perspective on life or even change your life altogether. That’s a lot for a book to live up to but I’ve been fortunate to read a few. I had the pleasure of adding another such book to my life changers list recently.

When I picked up a copy of Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on The Western Front, I didn’t expect for it to become such a meaningful story for me. I thought a novel about WWI would be an interesting change of pace. As an added bonus, it wasn’t expensive because it’s a classic in paperback. Woohoo! The front cover touts it as “The greatest war novel of all time.” That seemed lofty to me but I figured if it was still selling after this long then maybe there was a grain of truth to it. I get it now.

The beauty of All Quiet on The Western Front is that, despite the novel’s age, it’s insight into the life of a soldier in combat is still relevant. It’s original copyright is listed as 1928 and it was written by a German veteran of the First World War. Wars are no longer fought in trenches. Tanks aren’t new anymore. Warfare looks dramatically different now. Yet the feelings that Remarque describes in the novel are often echoed by modern combat veterans.

It is important here to distinguish them as combat veterans. Veterans who have participated in battles firsthand. Some of Remarque’s commentary about military life will likely ring true for most veterans. That being said, for me, the most impactful writing about his experience in combat. As my husband and many other combat veterans like to say, “war is hell but actual combat is a motherfucker.” It impacts people in ways that are hard for those who have not been there to comprehend.

Throughout our relationship and before, my Husband has struggled with PTSD. We’re fortunate that he doesn’t have many of the symptoms of PTSD that people think of when they hear the diagnosis. He’s not violent. He doesn’t often have nightmares or flashbacks. He, like many other combat veterans, mostly deals with insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Many veterans find it difficult to explain their feelings and often feel alone or ashamed of their journey. We’ve been blessed that he found friends who have overcome their past trauma that are here to support him and that he had the courage to seek out professional help.

As we’ve grown together I’ve done my best to learn how to support him in his journey. It’s still not easy for him to talk about or explain though. I’m a feelings person and a words person to boot. I find relief in self expression through verbal discourse or writing. The Hubs doesn’t. This makes it harder for me to understand his journey because when he’s having his worst days he has zero desire to talk about it. I say often that I can’t help if I don’t know what’s going on. I’ll admit that sometimes it even makes it hard for me to be sympathetic or helpful when he’s having a rough day.

So where does All Quiet on the Western Front fit in? For us, it opened the door to deeper understanding and communication. I stopped reading time and time again to share sentence, a passage, or to recount the events of an entire chapter. Each time he confirmed that his feelings around his life both before and after combat were much the same as those expressed in the book. The more I read the more I understood about my Husband. The more I understood about the damage that combat can do to the most mundane and seemingly ordinary things. A few times I put the book down because it hurt to think that the man I love struggles with these same thoughts and emotions.

There is an ever present theme in the book about not being able to fit back into a world that was once yours. So many veterans struggle with this same experience. Your life is chugging along like normal and then you go to war and when you return to normal life it’s no longer your normal and you struggle to adjust. The things that once excited you or made you happy seem distant and foreign. You’ve become so conditioned to a constant state of alertness even in down time that although you have departed from the war, it’s left you with the parting gift of this alertness that refuses to leave. Some veterans can’t ever readjust and unfortunately war kills them long after the shots no longer ring out.

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It is a time to reflect on those who have lost their lives in battle. I always think of the men that fought alongside my Husband and all of my other Veteran family and friends. Having read All Quiet on the Western Front, this year the day seems even more impactful. I encourage anyone who has a loved one who struggles with battle induced PTSD to take some time to read this novel. It’s not an easy read. Sometimes reading it was so hard as I saw the parallels between my Husband’s life and the novel’s character. It was worth it though. I’ll share with you with one of my favorite lines from the novel:

“We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces.”

Mount Soledad Veteran’s Memorial, San Diego CA

Self Quarantine Day 68: Be Brave

It’s been too long since I’ve blogged but I’ve had a lot on my mind and my plate. I wanted to share some of my current journey with you though. I am a firm believer that all life has value and a greater place in the divine plan. That “The Universe”, God, quantum physics, whatever you call your chosen version of a higher power, will send us signs if we only open ourselves to them. I do not believe in coincidence. So in December of 2019, when I began seeing signs of change to come in my life, I kept my eyes and heart open.

The Universe has sent me and my little family sign after sign that the time has come to be brave. In December as we opened our Christmas gifts I began to see a theme. We’d chosen books for the big kids that we’re all about men and women who changed the world. People who were brave and fought for their goals and beliefs. For Crazy Eyes we chose “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls.” For The Boy we picked out “Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different: True Tales of Boys Who Changed the World Without Killing Dragons.” (Both are pretty awesome and I highly recommend them. The kids are even sharing what they learn with each other.) For my husband I selected, “Rhett and Link’s Book of Mythicality: A Field Guide to Curiosity, Creativity, and Tomfoolery.” Sensing the theme yet? Without even truly thinking about it, I was seeking out stories of real people who faced their fears. When I opened my gifts, I stepped back for a second, looked up at Sassy God and said, “okay, I see you. I’m listening.”

My gifts included multiple Frida Khalo references from a few different people and not one but TWO separate books about being brave. One is a wonderful book titled “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Start Living an Awesome Life.” If that’s not an obvious sign I don’t know what is. (Shout out to my lovely friend for seeing it and thinking of me. She not only shares her crayons with me, she’s also always there to cheer me on.) Okay, fine, we all got lots of reading material. So what? Well, for me at least, the opportunities to Be Brave began rolling in.

In January the Hubs and I traveled to California for the first time. I tried new foods, met family that I’d heard about for my whole life, and visited Mount Soledad where I got to see my Pawpaw’s memorial placard. It was life changing. You can read all about that here. The Twins also started Daycare and I took on new responsibilities at work. All things that scared me to varying degrees but had to be faced head on. In February my chances to be brave were smaller but nevertheless calls to action. The Twins turned two so that was scary enough. Haha!

Then March came. On Friday, March 13 life as I knew it came to a screeching halt. Suddenly I couldn’t go into the office. I began working from home while caring for The Twins and sometimes the big kids too. No more stopping by the store on the way home. Things had to be thought about and planned. Bills had to be delayed and money set aside just in case.

By that time the whole world was facing real fears daily. We were all being forced to Be Brave. Since then it’s been lesson after lesson in trying new things. I started gardening even though historically I’m only good at killing plants. Not a big step in bravery but it made me nervous so I sucked it up and did it anyway. I had to start truly asking people for help because I was getting overwhelmed with work and childcare.

I even started my own business making and selling soaps. My colleague laughed when I told him that I’d started a new business during quarantine. He said only I would get bored during a pandemic and start a new business. When my boss asked me why I decided to do this now if all times my answer came quickly. When The Universe presents you with an opportunity to do something you love you seize it. You see the call to Be Brave and you take it. In a short while I’ll be selling online and have my legal business filing taken care of. Just writing that makes my heart race a little. It’s taken off way faster than I thought it would and it’s been a little overwhelming. It makes me really happy though and spreads joy to others along the way. I could never have done it without taking a risk.

When I think about what’s happened so far this year and what the future holds it’s hard not to let the fear paralyze me. Thanks to all those signs and reminders though I’m continuing to do my best to Be Brave. I’m keeping my heart and mind open to what The Universe is telling me. I’m fighting the self doubt and anxiety that creeps in. I try to remind myself that I’ve overcome many things in life and that it’s my job to continue doing so.

We’re all having to be brave right now, but we can do this. Keep your eyes, heart, and mind open. You are amazing, and I have faith in you.

Self Quarantine Day 59: My Pawpaw

I woke up yesterday with a heaviness in my heart. It didn’t take long to realize that it was the four year anniversary of the last time I saw my Pawpaw. It is a memory that’s like a Polaroid. Crystal clear in spots but fuzzy round the edges. He was tired and weak but happy. We’d all been up late the night before celebrating his and my Meme’s 50 year wedding anniversary and The Hubs has proposed right there in front of everyone. It truly was the perfect night. The next morning we had breakfast together complete with leftover cake.

I snapped a picture of him dozing right before I left. Something told me that it would be the last chance I had to do it. Part of me hates the picture and part of me cherishes it. I hate it because for my whole life I was blessed with seeing him healthy. In the picture his cheeks are sunken. He radiates exhaustion. Who wouldn’t be exhausted after what he’d been through though? He’d endured years of treatment for Mesothelioma, a heart attack and triple bypass surgery, and then the final diagnosis of stage four pancreatic cancer. He fought the whole time. In the picture, he’s peacefully snoring as always. He’s tucked in under a beautiful quilt made by the loving hands of his family. I love that he’s under that quilt. It meant so much to him.

My last picture of him.

In the 25 years that I was blessed to have my Pawpaw around I racked up thousands of memories. We were so close. My Mom and Dad tell stories about us living with him and my Meme when I was an infant. He’d come into my room from working the night shift and “accidentally” wake me so he could spend time with me. I’d curl my chubby fingers into his beard or chest hair and yank it. We’d sit together in his favorite spot on the couch and watch TV. When we moved out we lived in a house right around the corner. I spent so many nights at his house. It was my second home. We’d watch Antiques Road Show and This Old House. I loved Antiques Road Show but This Old House was the worst. When you stayed there you always knew that an early morning wake up call was in the cards. He’d come in and holler, “Come on, get up! Let’s go get some breakfast!” I still eat at his favorite spot sometimes and I bring my kids too.

Visiting him in the hospital right after his Mesothelioma diagnosis.

During weekends and summers we’d get into all sorts of trouble. Some days were trips to the store that took all day. My Meme taught me early on to always keep a book with me because you never knew when you’d have to just give up and go sit in the car to wait for him. He’d talk to anyone and was curious about everything. A trip to Lowe’s lasted hours. Trips to our local Hobby Store went on for eternity. God forbid he’d run into someone he knew or someone who was working on a project that interested him. Lord love him, that man could talk and he always seemed to be working on another project.

On one of our many camping trips.

As the grandchild that lived the closest I went on a lot of the camping trips too. Sometimes we even got to take the RV to see my cousins. Those trips were great because we all loved playing together and seeing one another. As we got a little older and they moved closer he started taking us fishing. I hated fishing but I loved being on the boat and eating Vienna Sausages on Saltine crackers. I loved being with him. I’d bring my book and start reading after about 30 minutes of fishing. He loved being outdoors and went fishing almost every day after he retired.

My high school graduation.

He taught me so much about nature and the environment. Not in a hippy dippy way, I’m pretty sure that’s impossible for a grizzled old Marine to do, but he taught me about nature and how all life is related. I loved to help him clean the fish we’d caught. He’d point out all of the insides and tell me what they were. He directed my very first dissections and the biology lessons that I remember most clearly. I can still clean a fish although it’s been years. He also taught me how to fry the fish perfectly. That part, I fortunately remember.

He was fishing, I was posing! Haha!

He had the most wonderful and mischievous sense of humor. He picked on anyone and everyone but it was always good natured. The man could read people. I never remember him making people uncomfortable with his playfulness. His eyes always twinkled when he was up to no good. My daughter has inherited that and it makes my heart swell when I see it. He loved to tell stories. I’ll have to share some on here one day. Stories of people he knew, things he’d seen and done. I loved them all. I never got tired of hearing them. It never even mattered to me that so many were “fish tales” embellished for the telling and made perfect over the years. My Husband is the same way and it’s one of the things I love most about him.

His smile was the best in the world.

He was no saint. Lord knows he had his flaws. I inherited some of his temper and his love of the F word. As his grandkids, we got to grow up with his softer side. The years had taught him patience and made him more gentle. He was still loud, but I’ve often felt like that was a combination of his time in The Corps and the hearing loss that he denied having. For all his faults though, the people who loved him loved him deeply and without pause.

Teaching me how to shoot.

Pawpaw inspired such loyalty in other people because he was such a loyal person. He’d do whatever needed doing to help a friend. He didn’t care what you looked like or where you were from. As long as you were “good people” as he’d say, he was there for you. I remember him cutting the grass at the little neighborhood church across the street from his house. The man only went to church when frog marched there for funerals and weddings but he freely did this act because he knew they needed it. He’d stop to help people who’s boat ran out of gas, take a look at your car if it sounded funny (he spent many years as a mechanic), and even give you a place to stay if you were a friend in need. As an adopted child himself, he knew that family meant more than blood and raised us all that way. I was 7 or 8 before I realized that my older cousins were adopted. It never mattered to him. He loved each of us as we were and regardless of bloodline. He was ours and we were his. I’m thankful for this teaching because I know it makes me a better Bonus Mom.

All of the grandkids after his funeral. Our family has grown so much since then!

As he got older he loved to have all of us come visit at once. He’d convince everyone to come up for a weekend. We’d all pack into his house and then once we were all settled and being loud and crazy he’d go out fishing. My Meme used to fuss at him but I think I understand it better now. He loved having us all there under one roof. He hoarded us like dragons hoard their treasure. Once we were all there and safe he went happily about his business, a King surveying the spoils of his domain. We drove him nuts when we all got together but he seemed happy just knowing that we were all there under one roof.

My college graduation. He was so proud.

I know that the family he helped to build was one of his proudest achievements. He loved each and every one of us with every fiber of his being. He celebrated our achievements great and small. I know that wherever he is now he’s still proud of us. In my head I can still see his smile and hear him say “Oh wow! That’s great baby!” when I do something that I think would make him proud. It breaks my heart knowing that he never got a chance to meet any of my babies. He would have loved them so much.

He’s there in the white hat, surrounded by so many of the people that he loved.

I miss him every single day. I’d give anything to go back to that last “I love you” and hold him tighter for just a little bit longer. I know we all would. I’m sure he’s out in the great beyond, fishing and happy knowing that we’re all still here.

His memorial placard on Mt. Soledad in San Diego California

**Edit 5.18.2020: For anyone who is interested in learning more about my Pawpaw, you can read his Bio from Mt. Soledad here. Thank you to everyone for your kind words and support! Pawpaw has very much made his presence felt to our family in the last couple of days. Little reminders from him everywhere.

Love, Mom and Dad

At the start of my senior year in high school my class went on a retreat. Parents were asked to write letters to their kids. We were surprised with them and allowed to read them in the quiet after meditation and prayer. Some people had one letter. Others had many. I had two. Two very different, very impactful letters. One letter was from Mom and the other was from Dad. Over a decade of more life changes than I can even remember, I still find comfort and strength in them. I keep them safe and tucked away but occasionally, when desire strikes or when I’m feeling down, I take them out and read them again.

One of my favorite parts of these letters is that, without consulting one another, they both wrote “Snooty Booty” somewhere on the envelope. It’s a name my brother gave me when I was being a typical grouchy asshole teenager on a road trip we took once. They still call me that on occasion. I remember reading Mom’s letter first and seeing “Snooty Booty” on the front and laughing. By the time I got to Dad’s letter I was an absolute emotional mess and when I saw “Snootie Bootie” written on the inside of the envelope I laughed like a deranged lunatic. Not exactly something to be encouraged in a quiet room full of people but it was worth it.

I’ve always loved that my parents each wrote me a letter, even before they divorced. They separated not long after my graduation. I think if they’d written together it would have been strange to read now. When I saw the two envelopes I expected them to be similar. Ar first thought maybe they both had written out of a feeling of obligation. I was wrong thankfully. They both put a lot of thought into their writing. The letters sum up who they are as individuals, as parents, and our respective relationships so well.

In my Mom’s letter, she talks about watching me grow up. Over five pages of beautifully written script, she writes of love in ways that only a mother can. She talks about watching me grow. Remembers my chubby baby face and knobby kneed preteen awkwardness. She jokes about me knowing how to make her nervous as I prepared for college and had more boys coming around. (Woo buddy! I definitely didn’t take it any easier on her after that either. Sorry Mom!) Now that I’m a Mom myself, one line in particular really stands out as I read it, “I hold moments of you like snapshots in my head.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen my children smile or laugh or even cry when I’ve said to myself, “Ah! This is one to hold on to! Keep this memory close and don’t let it go!” I guess I get that from her. She writes about moving into the next phase of life and says that she’ll always be here for me as “Mom” but also as a friend. I’m glad she was right. She really is my best friend.

Dad’s letter is different. I always laugh when I read the lines, “I thought about getting all sappy and waxing nostalgic about you growing up. Not for me. I figured your Mom would do enough if that.” Like I said, the letters reflect who they are. Dad instead focuses on the future. He encourages me to take chances, to fly as high and as far as I can. He says to face challenges head on and to never stop dreaming. He tells me to be true to myself. Dad reminds me that some of the most rewarding experiences are some of the most difficult to go through. As he closes his letter he says, “I’ve encouraged you to fly but understand you can always come home.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed to “come home” to my parents even if it’s just a short phone call. I pray that my children feel like they can come home when the time comes for them to leave the nest.

For me, one of the beautiful parts of these letters is that they are still relevant to me all these years later. My life has changed so dramatically since I was 17. I am not the same person I was, although the person I am now was starting to take shape then. My parents aren’t the same people they were then either. Our family has expanded exponentially. Yet the messages of love and encouragement still resonate. I believe that it’s because a parent’s love is undying and unyielding. It weathers all storms.

As parents we struggle sometimes with fears that we’re not enough. We worry that we’re screwing up our kids. We worry about a thousand things that, in hindsight, are often unimportant. I have to remind myself often that what matters most is that we love our children deeply and without reservation. That we encourage them and tell them how proud we are of them and give them a safe place to return to. Not a safe place as in a home necessarily, but by being available to them. Over the years my parents have provided me with home by their phone calls and hugs and so much more. I can only hope that when the time comes for my babies to fly I’ll be able to hold onto all the snapshots I have in my mind of their lives and be there for them when they need to come home.

You’re A Good Mom

Motherhood is weird. It doesn’t look like what I thought it would most of the time. I didn’t expect perfection of my children. I’m too much of a free range parent for that. I knew they’d be a little weird and sometimes look a mess. I knew my house would be a wreck because I’m just not a person who’s good at keeping all of their ducks in a row. What I didn’t expect was the toll that becoming a Mother would take on my mental health. For God knows what reason I thought that I’d be Super Mom. Not in the “Pinterest your entire Birthday party” way, but in the “always calm and loving way.” I was so wrong.

I fail time and time again. These kids get under my skin in ways I thought no human could. I never knew that I could be completely broken down by someone that relied on me for survival. I had no clue. They magically know how to push every button. They are constant reminders that patience and understanding are things that I need to work on.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of believing that you have to be perfect. I don’t remember my Mom losing her mind because I had a great childhood and the bad days don’t seem to be memorable. She assures me often that she wasn’t perfect and that we drove her insane. Movies and Books make motherhood seem like either pure bliss or hellish torture. Why doesn’t anyone seem to talk about the middle? The parts where you don’t like your kids even though you’d die for them. So here are some truths that I wish I knew before I had kids. Things I still have to be reminded of frequently.

There will be times when you question your sanity. Times when you wonder why the hell having children sounded like a good idea. Where you feel like if you are touched one more time or hear one more whine your head may literally burst right off on your shoulders. You’re still a good Mom.

There will be times that you’ll say things or do things out of anger or frustration that you immediately. Just take a deep breath. Calm down, hug your baby, apologize, and move on. As long as no one is hurt you’re okay. You’re still a good Mom.

There will be times when you are so exhausted that you absolutely resent your children for it. You want to snap and tell them to leave you alone and sleep in their own damn beds. Do your best to enjoy the snuggles. It’s okay to be grouchy though. You’re still a good Mom.

There will be times when walking away and taking a break from them while someone else handles their crazy feels like you’re failing or giving up. That’s okay. That’s what needs to be done for you and your kids to survive in that moment. You may need to do it several times in one day. You’re still a good Mom.

There may be times when you hate your Mom body. When you wish you’d been able to keep it the way it was. When you mourn for the sexy body you had. You’ll tell your kids to love their bodies while guiltily thinking about how much you dislike yours. You’re still a good Mom.

Sometimes you will start a project with them and things will be awesome then they’ll suddenly go completely off the rails. They may have complete meat downs. They may ignore every single instruction. You may get mad. You may get discouraged. You may feel like you’ve failed. You haven’t. Try to find a way to make it fun. If you can’t find a way to make it fun, don’t worry. You’re still a good Mom.

There will be times when your child walks out of the house wearing some crazy shit and you won’t realize it until it’s too late. (Like his sister’s pants or his pants on backwards or pants that don’t fit. Sensing a tend?) You’ll worry about people judging you and thinking that you neglect your children. You’re not neglecting them. You’re trying to teach them how to take care of themselves so that they can be productive, free thinking adults. Screw the haters. You’re a good Mom.

There will be times when your children eat peanut butter for dinner instead of that fancy nutritious meal that you spent precious time cooking and planning. They will tell you to your face that it is gross. You’ll want to sell them to the nearest gypsy, yell at them for hurting your feelings, and cry all at the same time. Don’t sell your kids, try not to yell, and cry if you need to. You’re still a good Mom.

There may be times when you cry in the morning because you’ve had to drop them off at the daycare and later that same evening wish they were back at daycare. Then later, once they’re asleep, you’ll cry again and wish they were snuggling with you. That’s okay. Kids know how to endear themselves while driving us insane. You’re still a good Mom.

There will be times when all you want is to take a bath without interruption. Lots of times. You will want it considerably more times than it happens. There will be times when you yell and scream and they’ll still stay. Then you’ll feel bad because you yelled. You’re still a good Mom.

Bonus Moms, there may be times when your child cries for their Mom when they are scared and not you. There may be times when they without malice or rudeness remind you that you aren’t their real Mom. That’s okay. It hurts and it’s difficult but remember that they are just kids. Kids who love their Mom and are sometimes painfully honest. They’ll come around. You’re still a good Mom.

At the end of the day if you can honestly say that you kept your kids alive, fed, and loved then you did your job. Motherhood is the world’s hardest job but you can do it. You were made for it. You are the prefect Mother for your child even if that looks a bit insane some days. The days are long but the years are short Momma. You’re a good Mom.

The Evil Twin

When you have little kids, people seem to think it’s okay to ask weird personal questions about them and you. Things they wouldn’t ask about older children. “Do they sleep through the night?” “Did you nurse them?” “Are they picky eaters?” Not terrible questions, just strange things that people seem to ask in an effort to make conversation.

When you have twins, people take it to a whole other level. “Are they identical or fraternal?” This one doesn’t bother me because it’s not super invasive. “Are they natural or IVF?” What the hell does natural even mean?! They are babies not aliens. All babies are natural regardless of how they were hatched. “Were you trying for twins?” In case you were wondering, you can hope for twins but trying for twins isn’t really a thing. If it’s gonna happen it will happen. “Who’s older?” They were literally born on the same day! What does it matter?

People ask all sorts of things but the question that I hate the most honestly shocks me every time I hear it.

“Which one is the evil twin?”

Sorry what? Evil twin? EVIL TWIN?!

First of all, they are two so the real answer is both. (Kidding!) This isn’t a fairytale or soap opera people! They aren’t two halves of a single person. They are two individual people. Would you approach a mother with two singletons and say “which one is the evil one?” NOPE! That’s crazy. Why? Because it’s not okay to ask people if their kids are evil even if they are twins.

My kids are kids. Neither is evil. Neither is good all of the time. They take turns being wild and crazy and chatty and snuggly and loving. They are perfectly themselves. They are not hero and villain. One isn’t plotting the destruction of the world while the other strives for peace. And if one day one happens to be nicer than the other it won’t be because her sister is mean or evil. It will be because that’s the path she’s chosen for herself.

Self Quarantine Day 44: Ya-Ya!

I believe that eventually everyone finds their tribe. I was blessed to be born into mine. I’m a Ya-Ya. We stole the name without shame from The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. If you hate reading, then watch the movie. Do both. Anyway, in the fictional world the Ya-Ya’s are a group of lifelong friends. A tribe of Steel Magnolias each with their own struggles and strengths. They have grown together and love each other more fiercely than those bound by blood. They are sassy and free spirited and Southern as hell. As such, the name only seemed fitting for our crew.

The Ya-Ya’s and some
of our men hit the town.

There are five of us. It began with my Mother, and when I got married grew to include me. I’ve written briefly about them before but thought that now was as good a time as any to tell you more about these wonderful, strong women. Obviously, you already know about me, so I’ll start with Mom. As always, I’ll be using their nicknames so please don’t think they actually have strange names. We’re from the South but we aren’t that bad.

Mom:

She’s the woman that started it all. Mom has a strong personality that has the ability to pull people into her orbit with its charisma and hold them there with the strength of its love. If anyone in the world was destined to have lifelong friends it’s Mom. She’s overcome a lot in her life, including having me at 18. Some people would be embarrassed about that but to me it’s always been something to be proud of. My Mom beat all of the odds and did it with style. She graduated from high school and college, is an amazing teacher, a wonderful mother, and a fantastic wife. When the world says, “you can’t” she flips it the bird and finds a way. While all of the Ya-Ya’s are creative, Mom is the most diverse in her creativity. She once had a side hustle where she made pajama sets out of t-shirts that she painted and boxers that she sewed ruffles to. She can paint, draw, sew, quilt, cook, bake (literally everything), scrapbook, and out-Pinterest anything that Pinterest has to offer. She is beautiful and has the most amazing energy. I am, of course, biased because she’s my Mom but she’s my favorite Ya-Ya.

Mom with two of the next generation of Ya-Yas.

Chelle-Chelle

This woman will forever be my loud and rowdy Ya-Ya. I grew up in awe of her strength both physically and mentally. Physically, she is in better shape than the rest of us combined and can out lift most men. Mentally, she’s tough too. She takes whatever life throws at her and fights to get what she wants. She doesn’t let setbacks defeat her. She’s fought for her place in her career in athletics and earned it. Chelle can drink with the boys and dress like a lady. She has the loudest, most amazing laugh that bubbles out of her and makes people stop and stare when we’re all together. When I was little she once stuck a suction cup toy to her forehead to try and make me laugh. She’s the one you want in your corner when you need a pep talk and to remember how bad ass you are. She’s also 100% the person most likely to get into trouble with you because she’s always up for an adventure. She volunteers as a medic at veteran fundraisers and is currently working at her local hospital to help with the pandemic since sports are on hold. When we go out, she and my Mom are the ultimate dance team. The rest of us try to keep up and usually end up crapping out before they’ve even broken a sweat. It’s no surprise though, when you know that they’ve know each other since 1st or 2nd grade. She and Mom met and the Ya-Ya’s were born.

Chelle-Chelle and my Brother.

La-La:

Not long after Chelle-Chelle and Mom met, Mom met Lala. She’s wicked smart and a smart ass to boot. She’s incredibly tough and resilient but has a soft mushy interior and sometimes cries when reading my blog. (Stop gushing you baby, your paragraph just started!) She’s the life of every party. She makes the drinks that make you grow hair on your chest and feel like you’ve been hit by a truck the next morning. She’s also one of the first people I call in an emergency and has been for my entire life. It’s great to have a Doctor on your side. From terrible diarrhea, to friends in the hospital, to early labor, and my kid splitting her chin open, she is consulted in every medical situation. I trust her medical judgement literally with my life. I remember being blown away when I was a kid because she was a Doctor. A girl Doctor! Proof that I could do anything! Growing up she helped to introduce me to new foods (there’s a whole story about green ravioli that I’ll share some day), new music, new movies and tv shows, and the theater. She also blessed me with the honor of being her son’s godmother. Her kids kick ass and she most definitely plays a large part in their badassery.

La-La and her best buddy Crazy Eyes.

Nee-Nee

Several years later, Nee-Nee met Mom and through her met the other Ya-Ya’s. Of all of us, she is the most quiet and the most kind. Her super power is love and patience. I’ve never met someone more caring and loving than her. While I may have been the one to give her the name Nee-Nee, there are so many of us who have her to thank for helping to raise us and give us so many awesome childhood memories. She was the one who took me to Sesame Street Live and to Disney. (She even went with me last year when I brought The Twins to Sesame Street Live.) She loves to tell people about all the times I’ve nearly killed her while she rode in my car and the one time I threw a book out of her car window and it hit a police car. (See what I mean? Infinite patience!) She is a teacher and it is her natural gift. She knows how to make every child feel special and important. She loves teaching little ones and now teaches students who have dyslexia and she kicks ass at it. She is there for the people she loves no matter what time it is or what they need. As the years have passed she’s gotten sassier and found her confidence. It’s been so awesome to see. She even agreed to getting a matching tattoo with us once we figure out a design.

Neenee and I with the Twins.

I know the exact moment when I became a Ya-Ya. The moment I went from just being everyone’s baby to being one of the crew. In the middle of my wedding reception, we all managed to find ourselves together on the dance floor. They circled around me and in that moment it was only us. Those women who’d raised me and supported me and held me up for my entire life welcomed me into their circle. They surrounded me with love and strength and beauty. Being a Ya-Ya is a badge I wear with honor. I love each and every one of them and the bond that we share.

Ya-Ya’s on the prowl.

We are there for each other through all moments of life. We have held each other’s hair back, dried each other’s tears, and done some ridiculous shit together. Hell, some of us have even been in the delivery room together. We have toasted to the ones we’ve lost, swapped stories about our loves, and shared many many meals. At our last outing a woman approached our table and told us how jealous she was of us. She wished she had a group of friends like us. (We invited her to stay but her date didn’t look to happy about it.) As for me, we’ll they’re the women who helped raise me and my best friends. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Ya-Ya’s take Meme out to party!
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