Thursday, June 28, 2012

Keepin' It Real-io

In case no one but my friend Kyle Stedman recognizes the number of dialect shout-outs there are in that title- in other words, for the rest of you who have not obtained a PhD in rhetoric- there are three.

I have mentioned several times my favorite blogger, Monica Bielanko. She writes for several blogs as well as her personal one and her husband Serge now contributes several places as well. My girl crush started when I was pregnant with Knox and desperate to read something besides Mommy blogs. I found The Girl Who. And have been wildly in love with every blog post since. And now that I have officially met Monica (ask Rachel Cotter and Andrew Sharp who witnessed the downfall of my pride and the giddy aftermath), I feel comfortable saying that she and I are best friend separated by geography, frequent correspondence and an actual friendship.

One of my favorite features of my best friend is her raw honesty. Frequently littered with profanity, her writing is sent out into the world only by someone who has nothing to lose. She loves her man, loves her kids and loves her dog. She even loves the small town in Pennsylvania that we moved from 6 months ago because we were yearning for the big city. I will never forget when I was reading a post about her moving to central PA and realized that I recognized landmarks she was referencing. I followed her trail to a little Local Food restaurant called Elk Creek Cafe and met her over the sounds of Serge performing with his band, Marah. She pulled me onto the dance floor, and the aforementioned downfall of my pride quickly followed. Did I mention I was 9 months pregnant?

Anyway, Serge writes frequently about being/becoming a Dad/Husband/Rock Star and this post was darkly close to home. Yet another example of why I love Monica and by association, Serge. They have been married the same amount of time as us, have two babes same gender order and age as ours, and are not afraid to put their struggles on the front page for people like Grant and I who keep our darkest secrets to ourselves. And they help us. I am thankful for our best friends, who probably have no idea that we talk about them so often. Or even that we exist.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Forever Young

I have listened to Dylan's song "Forever Young" hundreds of times. I have shout sung the lyrics many times with the windows down while driving across the country and most recently, during the opening credits of the new TV show I watch On Demand- Parenthood. Does anyone else watch this show? Besides being the only thing I have ever liked watching Dax Shepherd in, the characters are interesting and twisty and wear fantastic clothes. They are raw and honest and deal with each other in a real way- a way that is enviably honest.

"Forever Young"

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young. 
My babies. Purslane and Knox. May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong. There is so much I want for you in life, but these things are pretty high up there. I see so much determination and stubbornness in both of you. And these things will be some of your greatest gifts to the world if your Dad and I can do it right and teach you how to wield these weapons safely. Because you will either use them to run over people not as strong as you, or you will use them to lift people up and not be afraid that they will become bigger. When you know who you are and stand upright, you bless those around you. 

And every night when your Dad and I pray over you, we pray that your friends will feel loved by Jesus because they were loved by you. And now I will add that I want you to grow up righteous and grow up to be true. And that you have a strong foundation and your heart always be joyful... and that you love this song as much as I do. Because there is so much goodness in that song. And Dylan is a rock god.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Where Did She Go?

9.5 days out of 10 I feel incredibly lucky to be a stay at home Mama. To be the one person who knows my babes better then anyone. Even their very involved Dad has to ask me sometimes what Pursy is saying or what it means when Knox arches his back when you pick him up. I love my babes and love being a Mama, so let's just get that out of the way and talk about the next level of staying at home. The complete and total life change and the denial of everything I thought defined me.

I met a sweet girl at church last week who asked me right off the bat a very intriguing question- "what do you do?". I used to dread this query- usually making a joke about working a highly stressful full time job with employees who didn't let you go to the bathroom alone. When asked by one of my many female acquaintances working on a PhD, I tend to say "I chose to stay home with my babes while they were little"- usually with a little bit of sass and making it very clear that it was MY choice and challenging them to tell me it wasn't the most important job in the world. Truly, I only remember one conversation between Grant and I where he asked me if I was certain I wanted to quit my job as a nurse and be the stay at home parent. We had a small window to sign up for day care, and he wanted to make sure we didn't make any decisions we would regret. He was fine with me staying home and he was fine with me working, and so the choice was truly all mine. And I knew what I wanted. I loved working full time as a nurse but knew that my time with little babes was short and as we had the luxury to be able to make the decision based on things other then finances, I chose to stay home.

So here I am. Staying home. My alarm clock is an awake baby looking either for a boob or a cup of juicewater, depending on which one wakes up first. My uniform is jeans in the winter and a skirt in the summer. My Starbucks is a plastic shatterproof french press, lovingly given to me by dear friends who heard the pain in my voice when I wrote about my old press shattering on the floor. My lunch break is a salad bar from the fridge usually thrown together and eaten over two cranky babes who are getting close to nap time. My afternoon meeting is with the couch for an hour or two holding a sleeping Knox because if I do not hold him, I spend those two hours going back and forth up to his crib rocking him back to sleep so he doesn't wake up Pursy. My Happy Hour is a beer on the back porch with Grant when he gets home. All the time inbetween is spent changing diapers, going for walks, the Children's Museum, nursing, puzzles, finger painting, Yo Gabba Gabba, books, time outs and laundry. All the things that come with parenting young babes.

And I have found ways to be myself and do what I want while engaging in these activities that have nothing to do with me. I cloth diaper my babes, we read classic children's books and put together wooden Melissa and Doug puzzles, I feed them real, natural foods with lots of variety and color, we spend lots of time outside usually without shoes, and in general I get to choose things that fit with my preferences. I do not feel like motherhood took over and left me with disorganized bits that I try to fit into the shape of my single and even married self. But then there are those parts of myself that I couldn't make work in this time of my life if I pushed and pulled and negotiated as hard as I can.

Clothes: I miss being able to walk into any store and find something I like. When your main requirement for any outfit is being able to get to your breasts quickly, options are not abundant. I love clothes and especially vintage or consignment things that do not have regular sizes or washable fabrics.

Movies: I love movies, and cannot remember the last time I watched one from beginning to end. If we watch a movie at home, I am asleep halfway through. And the theater means babysitting, money, a free evening and all the other planets aligning.

Coffee Shops: My favorite afternoons used to be a book and a cup of coffee. The luxury of putting your feet up on the stool next to you and watching people walk by the window.

Dinner: A full dinner. Eaten from beginning to end without getting up and down 27 times to grab a bib, a napkin, a cup of juice, a banana. Having a conversation across the table without speaking over happy yelling and "Mama- I all done!". Preparing dishes like the recipe says, with the full amount of curry powder or red pepper flakes. Having hours in the kitchen to prepare gourmet dishes, prepping obscure vegetables and stirring constantly some fragile sauce or roux. Of course with a glass of wine.

Browsing: Anything, really. The New Releases shelf the library, the nail polish display at Target, the build your own 6 pack room at D's, the purses at Goodwill, the fresh pastas at the Public Market. Just taking my time and touching, looking, reading...

Getting Ready: Spending however long it takes to get the look I want. Whether it's makeup or hair or clothes- trying on things, experimenting, new products- just taking time to play around and maybe find something new that actually works. A friend of mine showed up at a recent dinner party with a fantastic hair style that I admired openly. She said she found it on Pinterest and watched the tutorial on YouTube and it was now super easy to pull off. She lost me at finding it on Pinterest. I have never been to the site and still have no idea how it works. I still have the pipe dream that if I just had enough time and the right haircut, I could be mistaken for Zooey. The bangs are growing out now though, so I am that much further away. No time to blow them out in the morning. Bobby pins are easier.

So some days I really do have to look hard in the mirror to see that girl I thought I knew. But I really don't have time for mirror-gazing either... which is why I usually end up doing my eyebrows in the car on the way to church. But one thing I will not give up, will always find time for- whether I have to spend $40 at the salon or whether I have to lock the bathroom door and keep screaming babes and attention needing husband outside- I will always have pretty painted toes. When the apocalypse hits and my body is found buried in the rubble of my bombed out house, they will identify me by my beautiful feet.

Sometimes We Wear Masks

Monday, June 18, 2012

Grrr... So Frustrating

I have started three blog posts now with titles rotating around the idea of "A Good Dad", "Happy Father's Day" and "Tattooed Dad". I have gotten several paragraphs in and realized that my eloquent verbage was just verbage without any real content. What I really wanted to say in regards to yesterday's holiday was this.

My babies are lucky sons of guns to have the Dad they do.

I remember the first time I laid in bed and listened on the baby monitor to Grant apologizing to four month old Pursy for losing his patience with her in the middle of the night when she was screaming. And I remember thinking that everything crazy was going to be okay, as long as I could go through life and parenting with this man. He gets it so right most of the time, and the times he doesn't- he apologizes and asks forgiveness. Even from a tiny babe. And that makes him gold and us lucky to have him.

In other news, we spent Saturday in the Strip District- Pittsburgh's answer to "what should we do today?". We met up with some friends and walked around the open air fruit and vegetable markets, Penzey's Spice store and Wholey's- every ex vegetarian's nightmare. At one point, surrounded by open lockers of beef, pork, chicken, fish and all their sundry bits, I looked at my friend Emily and said "I am afraid". I grabbed what I hoped was an acceptable cut of steak and ran for the checkout. After we procured our weekly foodstuffs, Johnny took us to a Peruvian restaurant, where we sat outside and shared an entire chicken, beans and rice, and some green sauce that we all agreed was way too hot.. while we poured it over everything we put in our mouths.

Home and naps- for everyone. Then we walked down the street to our first Pittsburgh neighborhood block party. Pursy drew with chalk and played with bubbles. Grant and I ate hamburgers and drank beer and Knox charmed the lovely British woman who lives on our block. We have fantastic neighbors. Then back home to put babes to bed and sit on our back porch with friends and wine.

Not a bad way to spend a weekend- celebrating Dads and community. I have to say I am pretty fond of both.

My Dada is Number One!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Decision to Let Go

This morning is one more blurry morning in what seems like a forever string of mornings stretching backward and forward as far as the half-open, sleepy eye can see. I feel like I have been sleeping like this forever- 1 or 2 hour stretches interrupted by the beginning whimper of a waking babe, and I desperately hope something will happen to take them back the other way. Back towards sleeping. Pixie dust? A gentle rock from the bouncy seat Knox sleeps in? The bottle of Benedryl I keep in the diaper bag for the emergency moment when we discover one of the babes is allergic to some food item and we are in the middle of nowhere?

It has been a cyclical pattern for the past 3 months. Pursy will start doing great- putting herself to sleep, motivated by the penny we drop into her piggy bank every time we check on her and she is in her big girl bed. Then Knox will start to sleep shorter intervals- waking up at midnight, 1:30, 2:45- you get the idea. For whatever reason, whether she hears him during the night or whether she is awakened by a nightmare where the world is suddenly out of green juice, Pursy starts appearing at the side of our bed several times a night. Then we are alternating whose turn it is to get out of bed and either rock Knox back to sleep or put Pursy back in her bed tucked in with Poohblanket, Tom and Kathleen (sock monkey couple not very loosely named after Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan). Eventually Knox ends up in bed with us, nursing happily and sleeping soundly. And Grant and I try to fall asleep and forget that the sunrise is coming.

Add to this Carnie act of bearded ladies and little people riding turkeys, a two year old who is being gently potty trained. In other words, we are just trying to introduce things and keep it fun. But she has discovered that for whatever reason that Mommy and Daddy always let her get out of bed to sit on the potty. So at 3AM, I am sitting on the floor of her bathroom while she happily sits on her Sesame Street potty seat and chatters away at me about why Burt is yellow and Elmo has goggles on. Meanwhile I am calculating how much damage would be done to her confidence in me and to my bathroom floor if I just fell asleep and let her wipe herself, put a diaper back on and go back to bed.

So you get the point- I'm tired. Blah, blah, blabbity blah, right? My kids are healthy, happy and somehow forgive me for the days we stay at home all day while the sun is shining outside and the park is right down the street. But I have a hard time forgiving myself. I should be stronger then this... I should be able to get myself together and head out for a morning at the amazing Children's Museum we have a membership to. As much as I have read about mothers of multiple young babes, I should be patting myself on the back for my daily shower. Instead I look at mothers around me with shaved legs and invisible post baby bellies and clothes that were not purchased at Target for their sensibility or ability to have yogurt and baby puke washed out without leaving a mark. And I feel like I am missing something. Some seminar I was supposed to take where the secret of being a Mom who has time to get her eyebrows waxed and read Hemingway novels was shared.

But today, I decided to let it go. No, Grant, this doesn't mean I will start wearing my pajama pants to CVS to pick up chocolate milk and Nutter Butters for lunch. Today I decided that I will prioritize what are the most important things to me, and do those. So here is my Top Five for June 14th, 2012. It may change halfway through the day, and I hold onto the right to do that.

1. Take Shower and Shave Legs (all the way up- not just to an inch above where my skirt falls)
2. Make sweet potatoes for Knox so he has some solid foods to eat besides bananas and puffs
3. Listen to new Jack White album (for the first time) and The Welcome Wagon album (again)
4. It is beautiful outside. Take Pursy to park.
5. I am single parenting since Grant is away at a conference. Make sure I leave enough time for dinner, bath time, reading time and snuggle time before bed time so we aren't rushed and I can enjoy all the shenanigans.

As DJ Lance Rock, and now Pursy says- "Let's do it".

Boys and Trucks

Pursy cleaning up 

The babes watching the Public Service men trimming a sycamore outside our house.

Sibling Affection

Dancin with Daddy

I knew this day would come and I LOVE it

Snuggly Post Bath Babe

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Toast to Joe

Pursy has shortened the name of our favorite grocery store to just "Joe's" as if her two year old self is so busy she simply cannot be bothered with the full name. Way too cumbersome and she has better things to do. She does love going to Joe's, and their genius strategy of having rolls of colorful, often scratch and sniff stickers at the registers has saved at least this Mama a toddler meltdown in the juice aisle. If I know what I am making for dinners for the week and can do a shopping trip quickly, I can convince her: not to scream, not to climb out of the cart, not to grab the pear at the base of the pear pyramid thus covering us in locally grown fruit, and not to beg repeatedly for cheese crackers by frequently reminding her that there are stickers at the end of our adventure.

The employees at Trader Joe's, while a little too camp-counselory for my low threshold of cheeriness at 8AM, are super helpful and have without question replaced items I decide I don't want and items Pursy has decided she DOES want that I didn't see her put in the cart. They have pushed my cart to the car while I am carrying two babes, bagged my groceries while we both pretend that Purslane is not howling for the gummy bears she saw go into the bag and they have smiled nicely at Pursy while she excitedly goes into great detail about how she obtains said gummies.. in other words, her bathroom routine. Never have words come out so clearly then "I POOP POTTY AND MOMMY WIPES MY 'GINA THEN PURSY GET TWO GUMMIES!!!".

But by far my favorite Mama thing about Trader Joes is how easy it is to buy food. If I want peanut butter, I have two options: crunchy or creamy. I don't need to compare 27 different brands boasting different reasons why I should choose them: trans fat free, low fat, bonus 3 oz, low sodium, super crunchy, kid favorite, etc. I can grab one jar off the shelf while keeping the cart in motion because I know the Trader Joe's brand will be natural and be made out of peanuts. I have mentioned this in previous blog posts but my philosophy of feeding my family is pretty simple.

I want us to eat food.

Real food, made out of things that are real. I don't care about sugar or gluten or dairy. I just want to eat food. I feed my child juice, chocolate, milk, white rice, cereal- all things that have fallen out of fashion for parents who care that our food industry pollutes these things with additives, food dyes, sucralose, hormones and other crazy things that kids should not be eating on a regular basis. But at Joe's, these things are made out of real things- grains, cocoa, fruit and vegetables, etc. So I can grab them off the shelf and not read labels. And so I can do an entire week grocery shopping for four people in about 45 minutes.

Cheers to you, Trader Joe's. From Mamas everywhere who are lucky enough to have you down the street. You have made it easier to feed our families nutritious food and pacify our toddlers with stickers that smell like bananas and coffee.

Friday, June 8, 2012

More Conversations with a Two Year Old

Me: Pursy, do you want blackberries and yogurt?
P: Yeah! But no blackbewwies.
Me; What? I thought you wanted blackberries?
P: Yes.
Me: You DO want blackberries?
P: Yes.
Me: Okay, let me put them in the bowl with the yogurt and
Me: What? You just said you wanted blackberries! Now you don't want them?
P: No.
Me: No you don't want them or no you do want them? (quickly realize I have lost her with this question) So just yogurt?
P: No! Blackbewwies too!
Me: Okaay, I am missing something here. Do you want yogurt?
P: Yes.
Me: Do you want blackberries?
P: Yes.
Me: Do you want yogurt and blackberries?
P: No.
Me: Aaahhhaaa.

Seconds later, my two year old is happily eating yogurt in a bowl and blackberries on a plate. Who said there is no such thing as world peace?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Rocking Pursy to sleep before her nap. She is playing with my necklace which has a tree of life with she and Knox's names and birthdates on it. Fabulous Etsy find and Mother's Day gift this year.

Pursy: What is that?
Me: It's a necklace.
Pursy: What is that?
Me: It's a tree and around it is your and Knox's names.
Pursy: What is that?
Me: It's for Mommy because you are my children.
Pursy: Oh, that is a great idea, Mama.
Me: .....

Where did she learn that?