Monday, January 23, 2012

It Is Time...

When I was a Sophomore in college, I rented a room with my friend Natasha in an old farmhouse about 5 miles from campus. My room was itty bitty and came with pink gingham walls and pink carpet. I was in my minimalist phase and was so happy with my surroundings forcing me to keep my worldly possessions to a, well... minimum. My first night there, I realized that I had been sharing my old roommate's alarm clock and no longer had anything to help me get up for class in the morning. I called Natasha who was at Wal-Mart buying things for her room (which was much bigger than mine because she wasn't as good of a person as I was, evidenced by all the space she needed for all her STUFF) and asked her to pick up an alarm clock for me. She came back with the sweetest olive green alarm clock and that night was our first night together.

That alarm clock has been on my bedside ever since. She lived at that farmhouse, both of my apartments in Denver, both of our apartments in New Orleans, both of our apartments in DC, both of our houses in Pennsylvania, and still bravely lit up the time and alarmed at the proper time at our home here in Pittsburgh. For the last month. Yesterday, she alarmed three random times during the day while the switch was still at "off"- I think because she was afraid of not alarming at all and letting me sleep through something important.

She has watched while people cycled through my bed (Grant, then Purslane and now Knox), she survived Hurricane Katrina, has been dropped on the floor multiple times by curious babes, has been plugged into knob and tube wiring sockets (which I'm sure is scary for an electrical item), has been cursed at, smacked around and admired by her single owner. She has put in her time. (pun intended)

And now it is time to let her go into eternal sleep. No alarms set, no time to display. And even though she is only a cheap Wal-Mart alarm clock, there aren't many material things that stick around for that long. Upgrading can be fun- I certainly didn't look back when we left our orange Chevy cobalt at the dealership and drove away in our family friendly (and admittedly yuppie) station wagon. I stretched out my legs and looked in the rear view mirror at Purslane who was now able to ride facing forward in her carseat. But this clock has been loyal- and replacing loyal things gives a twinge. Even if it is a cheap alarm clock.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Joe Paterno

I am not a Penn State student, not an alumni nor do I even live in Happy Valley any longer. I never met the man, attended only two PSU football games and was out on maternity leave when he was in the hospital having his knees replaced. I know what I have read and heard about Joe Paterno and my son was born in a beautiful wing of Mount Nittany Medical Center named for Joe and his wife,Sue. I know that he was respected by thousands of Penn State students and until a few months ago, the country. I know that he was loyal to his wife, his team, his town and the game of football.  I don't know exactly what happened during the "Sandusky years" and how much JoePa is at fault.

And here's the thing- nobody does except Mr Sandusky himself and my guess is, he will take it to the grave.

This is not a political blog, so I will keep my opinions to myself about how I would have handled things if I were in charge. But I will say what I know- which is that no amount of hiring, firing, sensationalizing news media, protests, or hateful facebook status updates can make right what was done wrong to those boys. So let's put our energy into making sure something like this never happens again on our watch. The legal part is out of our hands, so let Sandusky pay for his crimes however the court sees fit. I doubt even the most hateful of us wants to imagine what inmates think of a pedophile in the cell next door.

For today, Joe Paterno died at age 85 of cancer. And if he would have retired last season like he talked about, the country would have joined Happy Valley in mourning a legend. Put aside your confidence that you would have done everything differently if you were Paterno, Spanier, McQueary, etc and let the people who actually knew Joe Paterno the man mourn his death.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Things I Never Thought I'd Say...

"If there is poop anywhere in that bathroom except in the toilet, I am going to be really upset..."

"Grant, of course you can have a night out with the guys- just take Pursy with you."

"Purslane, I am so happy that you love your brother so much, but please don't put your pillow OVER his face- next to him is just fine.."

"Pursy, do you ever say "no" to Mama?" (this is what is called a double bind- no right answer)

"Grant, is my muffin top super obvious in this dress or just subtly obvious?"

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Sister from Another Mister

Yesterday was a particularly difficult day with both babes. Purslane still isn't sleeping at night- in her bed, our bed, the floor or otherwise- and Knox is refusing to take a bottle, which is stressful for me getting ready to go back to work in 2 weeks. So because both of them were grumpy, demanding and exhausting, Grant and I decided yesterday would be all about them- honestly I think because both of us needed to remember why we had children in the first place. We lazied around the house in the early morning then took the babes to breakfast at Pamela's- blueberry pancakes, strawberries, milk- Pursy's favorite foodstuffs. Knox sat in his car seat and charmed everyone with smiles and his big blue eyes. We were a picturesque family once again.

We went from breakfast to the Children's Museum where Pursy ran her fool self ragged playing in the water games, corkscrew slides, laser pens, gravity room... we basically just followed her around for 2 hours while she PLAYED. It was heavenly. Knox sat very happily in the Baby Bjorn and napped intermittently. We took crazy pictures in the photo booth, Grant slid down every slide that she didn't want to go down alone, and we laughed and laughed. On the drive home, both babes fell asleep and Grant and I held hands in the front seat talking about how we couldn't image our life without these two sweet kids.

An hour later, a very sleepy Purslane who woke up while Grant was carrying her in from the car is wrapped around my leg like a spider monkey while I try to keep her away from the couch where Grant is feeding a very pissed off Knox who is protesting being fed with such a midevil torture device like a bottle. Peaceful household has dissolved into chaos and anarchy once again. I grab Pursy and put her in the car for some Mama/daughter time so Grant can feed Knox. We go to the first place we come to where I can legally strap Pursy into something- Trader Joe's. And I put aside my dignity and become the host of our private PBS Kids show called "Pursy goes to Trader Joe's". I put bananas on my head, cheese down my shirt, hide behind a stack of Marinara sauce, and sing the ABC's in an Australian/Jamaican hybrid accent. Pursy rewards my antics by throwing a shit fit of epic proportion.

I don't know what the Trader Joe's is like in your neighborhood, but mine is hipster central- single 20-30 year olds who are there buying ingredients to make sprouted wheat pasta dishes and chevre/plum spring rolls. Not to listen to an almost 2 year old lose her mind. In other words- everyone is staring at me. Or at least that's what it feels like. As I am standing in line at the register cursing the girl in front of me for buying so much damn cheese, I hear it- another tantrum in progress. I look behind me and a couple is doing their best to keep their little guy in the cart while he is screaming and throwing elbows. At that moment, the Mom and I lock eyes over the cacophony of our children's voices and smile at each other. We get it- and I may never see her again but in that moment she was my best friend and gave me all the confidence and support I needed to turn back to Pursy and start over. To look at her sweet face streaked with tears and feel sympathy for a tired little babe who just wants to go to bed. I hugged her and let her know I wasn't upset with her- I became her safe place instead of a tense Mama who just wanted her to be quiet.

So take every opportunity to support your sisters out there- you never know when your smile can get them through a tough day. Because every Mama has tough days- and with a toddler you can't hide them- they make sure of that.

Friday, January 13, 2012

My Dark Place

Here is where I am right now. It seems like every time I pick up the phone, read an email or meet someone for coffee I find that individual is experiencing a raw tragedy. Not the removed "my neighbor's grandmother has heart failure" that you do pray for because it is a shitty way to end your life, but these things my friends are going through are close to home and intensely painful. And I can't help but say it- UNFAIR.

I know as a good Christian and a Presbyterian that I am supposed to use these opportunities to give and receive grace, but I am struggling to find a silver lining or anything good at all in these situations. And I am angry. And fearful, because if these things can happen to my best friend they can happen to me. If someone's child can be kidnapped and murdered- so can mine. If someone's husband can contract bacterial meningitis and be fighting for his life- so can mine. If someone's daughter can be bravely gaining ground on a life-threatening condition and then have a stroke and be going home on hospice- so can mine. If someone's home can catch on fire and they have seconds only to grab their children and lose everything else- so can mine. These are dark and unimaginable life circumstances- and while I pray for these individuals (all of whom are in my life) I grab my own children and husband and never want to let them out of my sight- as if somehow my fragile arms can protect them.

And so in my own head I am screaming- where is God? And I admit to Him, because I do not think He is afraid of hearing it, that I would rather have my children safe and sound than experience His grace in a powerful way. And then my old sin of fear strangles me with the idea that my questioning His goodness means that He will need to teach me a lesson. And I wonder if tragedy did strike our family, would I still love Him and call Him Father?

Again, I am using this blog to put my real thoughts into the void. Pray for me. Pray for the people I mentioned who are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. I know in my head that these things are not the result of God looking the other way, but the result of sin in the world. And I know in my head that God grieves more then I do watching His human children suffer. I know that. In my head. But my arms never want to know the emptiness of losing a child and I never want the other side of my bed to be empty from the loss of Grant. This is my dark place.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The New Downward Dog: My Yoga Journey

I became familiar with yoga my Junior year of college. I was an Anthropology major at the University of Colorado and probably the only individual in my field who wasn't doing, teaching or studying yoga. One of the perks of the student center was free yoga classes on Thursday mornings in the "sunrise room"- a beautiful glassed in room on the roof of the building. I started waking up at 5AM, jumping on the light rail with my yoga mat and chai tea and was in starting pose as the sun's rays began illuminating the Rocky Mountains. It was idyllic.

Once I grew out of my beginner's class, I took Vinyasa Yoga through the Colorado Art Academy. There I realized there were levels of yoga that could truly make good on their promises- I left class limber, peaceful and happier with humankind.

Fast forward three years and I am in nursing school. Yoga is part of my Integrative Medicine class, where we are learning about complimentary medicine and how to help our patients heal through things like homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture and massage. My yoga time has now become clinical and practical.

Two more years and my enormous pregnant belly is making warrior pose very difficult. I know that a calm and flexible body would be an ally during childbirth, so I ignore how ridiculous I look in the cobra pose and continue on. Usually either severe shortness of breath or a strong sensation to pee my pants cut my yoga time short, but God as my witness I was on that mat 3-4 times/week. And both my babes were born in under 4 hours, drug free and natural. Not enough data for conclusive evidence but if I were you and pregnant, I would break out those yoga pants you live in now anyway and do some stretching.

Which brings my yoga journey to yesterday morning. It is grey and rainy, Purslane and Knox are both crabby and a dead car battery and no morning coffee has me wanting to join them in their fussing. I see the day stretching out in front of me like that cave in NeverEnding Story, and I make a decision. Coffee table pushed aside, yoga pants on and mat out. The next 45 minutes are spent doing downward dog over smiley baby boy, trying to lift legs with 24 pounds of resistance hanging on, and giggling through the final relaxation pose. Yoga as endurance sport. And I missed the sunrise room for a minute, but this yoga class was pretty great.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Traditions Die Hard...

My new favorite things to do on a regular basis:

1. Dinner parties. This is not a new favorite thing for me, but with a fantastic open dining area where I can be making dinner while chatting with guests sitting on bar stools at the island, it has changed the dinner party from a fragmented "prep/chat/eat" time to a boisterous, welcoming event from the moment guests walk through the door. Then there is the 5 burner gas stove... is saying it gets me all hot and bothered too punny?

2. Afternoon coffee. My friend Kierstin talked about this one day and I have to admit, I knocked it. And then I tried it. It is luxurious and a little indulgent. I put Pursy down for a nap, cozy up with little man who is always up for nursing (a boob guy, just like his old man) and a mug of coffee. Five minutes later, sleeping baby and relaxed Mama. Even if I was up most of the night with angsty 20 month old who doesn't like to sleep, there are still boxes not yet unpacked and my high efficiency washer is making noises that sound like the Millenium Falcon going into hyperdrive, if I can get to that hour of peace I will be alright. (nerdy Star Wars reference to be appreciated by my brothers)

3. Trader Joe's. TJ's. Foodie Mecca. Home of the inexpensive block of Chevre that we can take down in one sitting. I accept that driving up to this place in my Subaru with my reusable grocery bags and Baby Bjorn makes me a commercial for the yuppie Mom. I, like my friend Shelley who carries out the same ritual at Whole Foods 2 blocks away, like real natural food.

4. Baths. We have one in our master bathroom. Bubbles,candles and Barry Manilow...

5. Hot Dog Mondays. Our new tradition is a weekly hot dog night. Yesterday we had an Indian theme with Tiki Masala chili (made with turkey- we are trying to be authentic with our meat tube accompaniments), potato samosas and cucumber yogurt salad. Next week is Belgian- beer cheese sauce, pom frites and garlic aioli. I believe my vegetarian days are officially behind me.

6. ABC's with Purslane.That girl is wicked smart and can recognize the entire alphabet, now just working on them in order. We sing them in the morning, in the car, in the grocery store- usually at the top of our lungs and with a funny accent. I love being a Mama.


Two-handed Banana/Swiffer disaster in action.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

How I Have Missed This...

I didn't realize how cathartic this little blog was for me until we had three weeks without internet. My life seems full right now of stuff- big and small- that would make great fodder for a blog post and alas, no blog access. I have missed it so much that I should share my present surroundings and let you judge me yourself for spending this particular moment with you rather then where it is obvious I should be..

On Wednesday Grant and I celebrated 8 years of marriage. to each other. On our actual anniversary, we talked one of our cousins into babysitting Pursy while we went out for dinner with the breastfeeding babe- who at this point is still pretty unobtrusive on dates. We first went to this great bar/restaurant in our neighborhood called Kelly's- only to be kicked out by baby hating hipsters who probably hate love and marriage too. We ended up at another restaurant in our hood called BRGR. We joked with the people at the table next to us that we were there to ruin their dinner by making them look at our delicious, sleeping babe. We toasted our accomplishment with good beer, fried pickles and local, grass-fed burgers. Happy Anniversary to us, Grant Martsolf. We are fantastic.

Back to present moment. Every year for our anniversary, Grant takes us somewhere. Before babes we took trips to New Orleans, Baltimore, New York... the last two years with tiny breastfeeding babes we go closer to home but still go far enough that we feel like we are "away". This year as we are new to Pittsburgh and don't feel like locals yet, we got away to the North Side of the city. We had dinner at NACL- or "Salt of the Earth"- then came to the Priory for the night. The Priory is a converted convent now operating as a luxury hotel. The rooms are tiny and luxurious, and instead of going out, we sat in the cozy dark wood hotel bar sipping sazeracs talking about life past and present. We didn't fulfill my long running fantasy of sex in an elevator (too many logistics and the elevator was really small) but we celebrated 8 years in style.

This morning, Grant is enjoying sleeping past 6AM with no kids in the bed, and I am enjoying a quiet room with no one to nurse or feed oatmeal to- and blogging. I wish all of you could have been kept abreast of our life the past 3 weeks- including our Christmas coat tree tree, Purslane's adventures in (and out) of her "big girl bed", moving into our new East Liberty neighborhood, and the general parade of crazy that is our life but as always, here is a picture montage to fill in the beautiful beautiful gaps. Happy New Year to all and here's to all the goodness and madness that 2012 will bring!!

I think Knox is going to fit right in to this crazy family..
 Mommy and Pursy
 Mommy and Pursy playing around in the Teal Parade bathroom...


 Christmas cookie decorating...

 Big Girl Bed!!
 This little kid habit always kills me...
 This is the most public-sharing appropriate picture of a photo series I called "naked benching" at Papa and Ba's house...
 "No Pursy, babies only drink milk.. and the occasional sugar cookie..."
 Our house on Christmas Eve- boxes everywhere, Lion King on the computer and our family together again.
 Martsolf Christmas morning. In all fairness, Pursy is only 10 pounds bigger then Knox. He is quite a heavy babe to hold in your lap...
 Knox surrounded by "the ladies"..
 Oh to be a kid on Christmas...
 Wha???...
 For some reason, Pursy hates sleeping in her big girl bed for nap time... so she falls asleep out of pure exhaustion on the floor. Tom (sock monkey) and Pooh often find themselves in compromising positions...
I think my kids are going to be friends...
 New Years Eve and the men are smoking meat and drinking beer...
 Michelin Man baby...
 Feeding "self" is tricky when the fork is longer then the arm...
 My beautiful girl.
 And handsome little man.