Thursday, November 29, 2012

Silver and Gold

I am certain the hardest part of having two little babes is having two little babes. Children before the age of being able to make their own breakfast are time-consuming and require one on one attention. When you have two under the age of three, that one on one attention becomes a rarity that might happen if one babe takes a particularly long nap, or if husband decides to take one babe on a date. Usually, my attention is split among Pursy, laundry, dinner prep, bed making, Target runs, Knox, coffee making, diaper washing, blog writing, oatmeal making, and maybe a swipe of eye shadow if the planets align.

Taking care of Knox is not particularly difficult. Usually if I have him in my line of vision, I don't worry too much. He is curious and active but still slow enough that I can get to him before he pulls the tablecloth off the table, or before he tumbles backwards down a flight of stairs. He eats what I make him, wears what I put on him, plays with what I give him, and complains only when his diaper needs changed or he wants me to hold him. He sleeps thought the night now, and nurses in the morning and evening.

Purslane on the other hand is a gorgeous, intelligent, precocious little ball of sin. Even when I am looking right at her, she jumps on, touches, says and messes with things she has been forbidden to. By the end of the day, I am so weary of correcting and instructing her that I find myself saying things like "Pursy, if you pull the records off the shelf one more time, I will leave you on a street corner". To which she replied yesterday, "Which one, Mama?" Empty threat fail.

It goes without saying that I love my children. Being home with them is life-giving and a blessing not every Mama has the luxury of taking. I love that I get to read them all the good books first and spend hours playing dominos. I love that I am the one teaching them life lessons and modeling preferable behavior- along with seeking to make things right when I have reacted in anger or frustration. But that is alright- I don't beat myself up about that because apologizing is a crucial life skill as well. Mama is certainly not perfect.

But one thing that I have found more challenging than having two babes in this season of life is making friends and maintaining relationships from our previous cities and pre-child life. I have friends from Colorado and Louisiana that I could talk to every day if we had the time, and not grow weary of hearing about their lives. Friends from nursing school and DC that are in the same season of life that I am- Mom, part-time nurse, wife, etc- that I know could teach me so much about how to juggle everything with grace and determination. Friends from our time in State College that I don't talk to for months at a time, and a year ago couldn't have imagined going 2 days without talking about something (anything!) on the phone. I see things on FB or Christmas cards that make me realize that some of my best friends don't know me anymore- because we don't have 3 hours on a Tuesday afternoon to sit and chat over coffee and a fruit tart (I miss you Elle!).

I have beautiful friends in so many places, and I became weary of beginning every phone call or email with "It has been so long!" that I stopped apologizing and just tried to put myself completely into every conversation- even if it was only 5 minutes while they were driving somewhere or I was nursing Knox to sleep. It's hard though. Pictures of parties, kids I haven't even laid eyes on, birthdays- life passing while these friendships fade a little in the background. It isn't anyone's fault, really. I am in the demographic where we are either growing professionally, making and raising babes, going back to graduate school, or moving and settling in new places. Very few friendships survive the test of the 20 and 30-something years. We just don't need the parade of friends around us like we did in college.

But the ones that survive are gold- like the poem "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other, gold". You know those friendships by the comfortable ease in which conversations begin after months, or even years of not talking regularly about daily life. These friendships for me that happened pre-Pursy and Knox are the ones that already know my story and so we can get right to the big stuff. They already know the background and have stuck around long enough that I don't worry about them discovering anything about me that would make them give up. These friendships are rich and complex and precious.

The new friends are silver- bright, shiny things that make me stop and turn around to look again. Conversations, even the staccato ones that happen in between helping a child with a bite of pancake or changing a dirty diaper, are new and exciting and there is always the unspoken question of whether or not you will want to hang out with me again. These friendships are like first dates- I put all my best qualities on display and hope for the best.

But then if that first date becomes a regular play date, or a girls night out with beer, or a family dinner date- then that façade of having it all together falls away and what is left is the real me. Sometimes a hot mess who swears too much, sometimes cheese sticks and frozen waffles for dinner, and sometimes well-rested and confident- with a vintage necklace and interesting opinions about feminism in the 21st century (why is the height of progressive liberation going to strip clubs??) I don't really care about organic food or child development theories. I approach life with an open hand and sometimes that is a blessing for my family and other times it just means we are late to church.

It won't be long before this season of having two small babes is past and I won't need to cram my life story into a 15 minute walk around the park. But the friendships I am making now don't seem to mind... and the babes are happy, so let's take another turn around the park and hear about you. If you drink beer and don't criticize your husband, I will probably love you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It Happened One Night...

I know I have told the story of how Grant and I met before, but last night when I was looking out the hospital window at 2am, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia for the nights when Grant and I would sneak away to some back hallway at Denver Children's Hospital to make out or just lose ourselves in the giddy amazement that the other person existed.

We fell in love on the night shift.

In the beginning, it was just running into each other in the cafeteria at midnight or sharing an elevator on our way to our separate apartments in the morning. We chatted, talked about our patients and said goodbye. I had a boyfriend, after all.

Then the boyfriend hit the road and we started dating for real. The stolen moments became sweeter and more deliberate. Grant never wore scrubs to work, and I remember loving his look of khakis, polo shirt, stethoscope and beard. I also remember signing up for extra shifts on his unit and looking for his weird last name on the schedule- Martsolf.

We broke up for a few months due to some handsy behavior on a camping trip and some unresolved emotional commitment issues.  I remember those months just dreading going into work because instead of looking for Grant, I was avoiding him. And it felt wrong, but at the same time I didn't know how to let myself fall in love with him.

Back together, and 6 weeks later I was showing off my vintage ring to my fellow nurses and co-workers. We got engaged by a campfire on May 9th. For seven months we hiked, camped, I went to school and we worked the night shift. On nights our shifts didn't line up, I would bring dinner in to him at 1am. I became friends with security guard because he always had to let me in to the locked hospital doors, and he would tease me about being so in love I couldn't sleep.

Nights we worked together, we would have dinner between 1 and 2- usually a cheese and pickle sandwich on rye bread for me (vegetarian for 13 years) and turkey on white for Grant. The sandwich bar was the only consistently good thing at the cafeteria during the night shift. We would sit alone at a table in the back of the room and fill every second of our 30 minute break with laughing and kissing. We didn't care who watched- we were in love.

In the morning after work, one of our favorite things to do was to swing by McDonalds for Egg McMuffins. It felt naughty to my organic vegetarian self. Then if I didn't have class, we would go to Grant's apartment and sleep off the night cuddling in his bed. I had roommates, and no one would believe we weren't having sex. :)

That last year in Colorado is impossible to remember without the long nights at the hospital. So last night when I was leaning against the cold window looking at the lights of the city, I thought about how far we have come from the crazy kids making out in the stairwell of Denver Childrens. Grant was at home, sleeping in our bed, with our two children sleeping just down the hall. And I thought, no woman was ever so lucky. To fall in love on the night shift.

Monday, November 26, 2012


I feel like it is far enough out from the election that I can write my political post. I like to keep things friendly on this blog, but it is also my place to externally process my own thoughts.

I am a Pro-Life, Socially Progressive, Fiscally Liberal, Morally Conservative Independent. For those of you who actually work in politics or spend your free time reading and keeping yourself educated on political things, please don't pick apart my words into their exact meaning. I am a self-admitted political apathetic, but I care strongly about issues that politics affect and when I have space in my life to catch up on the present political climate, I have every intention of exercising my rights as a citizen. My terms may not reflect the present definitions and as Grant will tell you, I like to make up words or assign new meanings to previously defined concepts. This drives him crazy.  But if you can handle it, I will explain what I mean and defend my choice of presidential candidates. This election, I found time to decide on the presidential candidate that made the most sense for the issues I feel most strongly about, and that was about it. I apologize to you, state and local candidates.

Pro-Life. I believe strongly in the sanctity of human life- all of it, and at all times. It perplexed me that Mitt Romney claimed to be pro-life, except in cases of rape and incest. You either are against ending an unborn life or you aren't. Romney's view seems just as pro-choice as Obama's. Thus, as someone who is Pro-Life, I do not agree with either candidates stance on the issue. I believe that once a child is conceived (egg and sperm meet and begin to form new cells) that life has begun. From a biological perspective, I cannot find one point in the continuum of fetal development where you could say that before that point it wasn't a child and after that point, it was. Before neural tube development? Before heartbeat? Any place you would try and put a pre-life label puts you in a tricky position of explaining why we should preserve and protect humans with deficiencies outside the womb. Babies born with mental retardation? Adults with heart failure who would die without LVADs or pacemakers?

Regardless of how that child was conceived, whether it was planned or not, whether it was even wanted or not, it is a child. And I believe that all life should be protected because it is sacred, thus I am pro-life. However, I didn't believe this was a one issue election- and even if I did, I wouldn't have been able to vote for either candidate.

And then there are the other pro-life/ pro-choice political platforms of war and the death penalty. I do not understand how someone can be pro-life and pro-death penalty. You either believe in the sanctity of life or you don't. And I think if you do, you cannot be pro-death penalty. The war issue is trickier and cannot be reduced down simply to whether you would be okay killing another human in times of war or not. I know many great men and women in the military and I have always wanted to ask directly how they feel about this issue. Unfortunately, I don't know how to ask the question and assure pure curiosity as my motive. If you have thought through this issue more than I have, I would love to hear your thoughts to help me hash out my own. I also understand that as someone who has never served in the military, the very fact that I can ask these questions is a luxury that I have because of the courage of those who have protected my freedoms.

Socially progressive. I believe that as a developed country with a democratic government, the very least that we can expect from our elected leaders is to enact laws that protect every citizen. The poor and disadvantaged should be cared for, and no citizen should have to go without health care or basic civil benefits.

Fiscally liberal. I believe the only way to ensure access to basic civil rights for everyone is to tax those who make more. I understand this would require sacrifice on the part of the wealthy, but the only way society can maintain it's equilibrium is for those who have much to give to those who have little. That seems more American to me then the idea that you worked for your money and shouldn't have to give it away unless you want to. I am not talking about equality, before you accuse me of being a socialist, but I cannot think of any other way to provide basic human rights to the disadvantaged then for the money to come from those who have more. The government can't float the entire social loan. Do I recognize that this means I will inherit less from my in-laws who have been incredibly financially blessed and fiscally responsible their entire lives? Unfortunately I do... :)

Morally conservative. I am a Christian woman who believes that objective truth exists in the universe. Before any political law is the Law of God, and I must follow that Law to the best of my understanding. This means that there is a right and wrong and I have a responsibility to live that truth out. It means when there is an opportunity to love another person, I do that. When there is an opportunity to protect human rights, I do that. When there is an opportunity to take care of the proverbial orphan and widow, I do that. I believe that God will take care of the nuances and judge the way He deems right at the end of time.

I feel like I voted my beliefs to the best of my ability and for the man who lined up with the issues that meant the most to me in this election. I don't expect everyone to agree with me, and my own opinion has changed over time as I talked and listened to the opinions of others. But I do believe that nothing shows the current division of the church more clearly than the political season. I wish Facebook had the same privacy curtain as the voting booth- then maybe the non-Christian world wouldn't have been so exposed to the harsh opinions of Christians on election day. I don't think the grace of God prevailed. But we can try again in 4 years...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving my Sweet Ones

Grant, I cannot imagine life without you. You are truly everything I wanted in a best friend and partner to go through life with. I love you so much more then I did the day I promised to respect and cherish you, and am confident that we will be able to handle anything life throws at us as long as we are together. You make me feel safe and brave. Our babes are so lucky to have you for a Dad and they will realize it more and more as they grow. Thank you for all the choices you make on a daily basis to remind Purslane, Knox and I that we are your world. You are not perfect, but you are the best man I have ever known.

Purslane, thank you for making me a Mama. Your determined spirit and crazy smile make every day with you something to look forward to. You are a fantastic little human being, and I love our times on the couch reading books or playing dominos. I cannot wait to see where life takes you, and am so grateful for every step I get to take with you along the way. You make me want to live better and with more grace. I am so proud of you.

Knox-man, my sweet mushroom of love. From the moment you were born, you were a cuddly opposite of your tornado sister. It has been harder for me to watch you learn to walk because you have been content to sit in my lap and need me for so long. But once you took your first steps and realized how cool the world was, you have been unstoppable. Your kisses turn my worst day around, and I adore you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Perfume Genius

Grant is the Master of Ceremonies in our home. He is the one who crafts the soundtrack for Tuesday night family dinner, makes my weekly Spotify playlists, makes us aware of new artists and albums, finds babysitting when Tallest Man on Earth plays at the New Hazlett Theatre, and in general makes sure we are not the family who falls down the rabbit hole of bad music.

Last week we were reading the Paste ABC's of Indie music to Pursy before bed and without being prompted, she (very casually) mentioned that Bruce was also known as "the Boss". She is so ready for Preschool... who needs to know their letters and numbers when you know Bruce Springsteen's nickname??? Fortunately for her college applications, she also knows her letters and numbers but whatever..

It has been a little while since I wrote a blog post. Our computer gave up the ghost and it took us a little while to decide that we aren't the family who would fully appreciate the new Intel Windows 8 computer/tablet with 34786GMT's of memory and a USB that makes French toast. So much to the dismay of the commission funded employee at Staples, we chose an HP that is a step up from a typewriter. As we were literally pulling out our debit card to pay for it, he said "You know that watching HD videos on YouTube is going to be impossible with this computer". When Grant paused to come up with the perfect smart alek response, he took the silence to mean that maybe he had found the problem. We just didn't know what we really needed. "YouTube is a website where you can watch videos uploaded from TV and individuals and with this computer the HD function will keep any videos longer then 3 minutes buffering constantly!"

As we were walking out of the store, Grant looked at me and said, "Do I look like I don't know what YouTube is??"

If I were not a halfway decent wife, I would have taken advantage of his vulnerability. But I put my arm around him and assured him that his knowledge of YouTube is one of my favorite qualities.

I intended to write a book review of the two books I have been reading this month- Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman and Vagina by Naomi Wolfe. For a woman who has been reading magazine articles and street signs for the past 2 years, I impressed myself by not only checking out two books from the library but also reading them. And with the help of a fabulous babysitter and an even more wonderful husband, I have been getting away for hours at a time to sit in a quiet corner of a café to read.

My next post will be my thoughts on these books and seeking recommendations for my next literary foray. Today I feel whimsical and a little annoyed- Pursy decided not to nap and wants me to watch Brave with her. I put my foot down about the nap boycott for 2 hours and have grown weary of listening to her rearrange her furniture in her bedroom upstairs. Plus, she wandered into our bedroom this morning with a green river coming out of her nose, climbed into bed with us and said "(sigh) I am having a rough time today". We all have those days, my sweet sick little girl.

Here is my latest favorite picture of Knox. Waking up on Mama's chest.

And Purslane Claire... bein' Purslane

Friday, November 9, 2012

Behind Every Strong Man...

President Obama for four more years. I was happy- my guy won. And as I turned off my Facebook feed because it was killing my buzz, I thought about all the reasons why I voted for him. I had made this list in my head weeks ago but just wanted to make sure I had made the right decision.

One reason why I voted for Obama is Michelle. Michelle Obama doesn't present herself as perfect or together- just an educated and joyful woman who loves her children and her husband. She also doesn't strike me as the kind of woman who would let Barack get away with much if he was going off course.

Watching YouTube videos of election night, I found another reason I am glad I voted for Obama.This video made me think that President Obama truly believes in his heart that women are important- more then just their reproductive rights. When an 11 year old girl can pull on her Dad's sleeve and give him advice that he listens to- whether he is the President or not- that girl just learned that her voice is important and she is valuable.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

To a Boy I Never Met

Sunday at 1145, a 2 year old boy named Maddock fell into an African painted dog exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo and was mauled to death by 11 wild dogs within minutes.

This is the kind of story that makes every mother of young children go wake up their babes and hug them as tight as they can. I did.

And I cried for hours, trying desperately to erase the images flashing through my mind of Purslane being the 2 year old. Because a week ago, we were at the exact same spot looking at those wild dogs. The Pittsburgh Zoo is less then a mile from our house and we are members. It is the easiest day trip for me and both babes- a nice walk, Pursy begging the whole time to go see the lions and then running away laughing and squealing when they so much as yawn or roll over. We love the zoo. And last week, I actually pulled Pursy off of the railing around the Elephant exhibit after she got so excited her little feet just moved up the fence. Two year olds are so fast.

As the story unfolded, it turns out that Maddock's mother picked him up and stood him on the top of the railing that overlooked the dog enclosure. And unless she is mentally unstable, she probably had an arm around his waist while she helped him up or had every intention of settling him on the railing while she stood behind him and held tight. Maybe he loved dogs and was begging her to see them without the wood and mesh of the railing in his way. And I cannot image making the decision she did to place her two year old on top of a railing overlooking wild dogs; but for her, I'm sure losing hold on her son was an unthinkable result. A split second decision that changed everything.

Maddock's mother and father are both in WIPC (the Psych hospital in Pittsburgh) being sedated and medicated to prevent shock. I cannot image any drugs being strong enough. My heart breaks for them and the images that will never leave their minds.

And I want to be angry at his mother. I want to scream at her that she has no business being a mother if she thought that placing her precious son in that position was okay. But as mothers we don't always think. Sometimes we want so badly to see our children happy that we forget that our primary job is to protect them. So I have been praying for Maddock's family. For his parents who have to wake up every morning and go to bed every night.

And for Maddock- maybe we passed you one day at the zoo, looking at the animals wide eyed behind your little baby glasses. I believe Jesus takes little people like you and keeps them close.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Oh, And if I Ever Wonder Why I Love You..

There is a song lyric by the band Bombadil that goes: "Oh, and if I ever wonder why I love you, just open up one bright brown eye and I will surely find, that the way I feel inside will sure remind me who it is that makes the butterflies within my stomach twist and turn and dive..." (one of the reasons I love this band is their fantastically twisty lyrics)

This morning I turned on my computer and remembered why I love Grant. Because he takes the time to change my wallpaper to this:

Yes, that is Burt Reynolds on a bearskin rug. Wearing nothing but a smug grin and a lot of confidence.

And just thinking about Grant carefully selecting this picture from the dozens I'm sure he looked at to find the perfect one for my computer made those butterflies start twisting and diving...

Love you Grant. Only you would know that my love language is mustaches on a bearskin rug.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Happy Hallovember

Because of Tropical Storm Sandy, the city of Pittsburgh moved Halloween until the Saturday after the 31st...  creating a November holiday. As my clever friend Keith said, this year we celebrated Hallovember. We love our East Liberty neighborhood but decided to take the babes trick or treating in the neighborhood next door- Point Breeze. It just so happens that we KNOW people in Point Breeze, so we invited ourselves for dinner and to join them for the festivities.

It was fantastic. Pursy was a little shy at first, but she had rehearsed her lines with Grant and at the first house walked a little timidly to the front door. Once she saw the basket of candy in the friendly woman's hands, she quickly blurted out "HappyHalloweenTrickorTreatI'mFoofaThankYou!". After she was rewarded with her first DumDum, she thought it surely could not get any better then this and sat down on the sidewalk to open her candy and enjoy the evening. Grant and I both had to urge her that there was actually MORE candy to be had if she would just continue her walk and knock on more doors. She is a bit of a letter of the law kind of girl, and at one house walked directly in front of the couple sitting in lawn chairs with candy to the front door and knocked. She didn't want to make any mistakes and miss out on tasty loot.

It was so fun to meet neighbors and watch our little girl run ahead of us so independently. She wanted to be Foofa from Yo Gabba Gabba and I actually found a great deal of joy in watching her look so girly in pink fleece and flowers. She is petite but a bit of a bruiser, and her costume was so sweet and little girlish. Knox lasted about 4 houses before our Train Conductor called it quits- Grant headed back to the house to sit on the porch with Jim and pass out candy.

The hours before Trick or Treating were filled with gymnastics, leaf piles, hard cider and Little Boy breath on chilly windows. Grant and I watched in amazement while the little people we made played together in a big pile of gorgeous yellow leaves. I am a sucker for a babe in a hat...

Happy Hallovember from the Martsolfs!