Friday, May 22, 2015

Summer = Iced Coffee!

I don't care what the weather says.  If preschool is out, summer has started, and that means iced coffee!!!  As the unofficial spokesperson for Aeropress, I recommend this method:

Instant gratification!  Just add half-and-half and a bendy straw.  :)

If you don't have an Aeropress, try this low-tech cold brew version.  Or just come over.   I'll hook you up.  We might have to wear mittens and earmuffs while we drink our iced coffee, but it will be worth it.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

First Few Weeks

Dear Julia,

I'm glad we got to chat a few nights ago.  Not that "nighttime" means much to you right now.  I've been thinking about you ever since, and remembering what those first few days were like when Ronan was as brand new as Toby is now.  Kudos to you for being able to operate a phone and form coherent sentences.  You even punctuated!  That's a sign of life, Sister, and survival is the prize these first few weeks.  A+.

I was dying to tell you more then, but I didn't want to sound like I have all the answers.  I don't have nearly enough.  And I didn't want to minimize what you're going through by telling you it will all be okay, and it only lasts a little while.  That stuff is true, but here's something else that's true: the first few weeks after bringing home a new baby are kind of devastating.  Yes, there's enormous love and wonder: there's a new person in the world, and he's perfect, and you made him!  But there's also a lot of icky feelings: fear, helplessness, feelings of failure, loneliness, desperation, distance from your partner, hatred of the people who are trying to help you, and a conviction that you might actually die if you don't get some sleep.  If you're feeling those things, I'm really sorry.  But I want you to know: you're not doing anything wrong.  The icky feelings are part of the huge transformation that is brand-new motherhood, and I don't know any new mom who hasn't felt them. 

When the icky feelings threaten to take over, remember this: what you are feeling is your self being stretched, fortified, tested.  An astounding metamorphosis is taking place inside you and through it, you are being equipped for motherhood.  No change that grand could ever be comfortable.

It will get easier, but not because it gets less difficult.  It will get easier because you will rise to the challenge.  Slowly, you will become stronger, more confident, and (someday) more thoroughly rested.  The ringing of the doorbell won't send you into a panic, and you will wear real pants and make a thousand decisions a day (like spears or slices?) without even blinking.   Toby will start to feel like a natural extension of you, and you will know the meaning of each of his tiny cries, and maybe you'll struggle to remember what your life was like before him.  You will look back on this time and the icky feelings will have faded; you'll remember the sweet parts with heart-piercing clarity.  In the meantime, give yourself plenty of grace.  Toby's birthday was the birthday of your mom-self, and both are brand new, vulnerable, learning, and in need of great care. 

Also, snacks.  And a bit of sun.

If you didn't live in freaking Texas, I would swing by to leave cookies on your doorstep and take out the trash.  No doorbell, I promise.

Love you, Sister,  Hang in there.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Writing With Children

I checked out Bird by Bird from the library a few weeks ago.  At first I felt really embarrassed about reading it.  I kept expecting the librarian to look at me, and then at the title, and then back at me and chortle, “Ha!  That’s rich.”  Busted!  I’m no great writer, though I do enjoy it and I would like to become better.  Nevertheless, holding Bird by Bird, l felt unqualified, fraudulent, like I was caught reading the 1997 Dodge Ram Repair Manual and nodding knowingly.  “Oh yes, the transfer case input shaft.  Mmm hmm.”  But I convinced myself to bring it home and give it a go.  Just in case.  And the librarian, bless her heart, said nothing.

It’s the kind of book you read slowly.  Nibble, digest.  Nibble some more. (Not at all like the 1997 Dodge Ram Repair Manual, in case you’re wondering.  I'll pass on those seconds.) Anne Lamott is so wise and funny, if you inhale the book you’re bound to miss something important.  Unfortunately, I got an overdue notice from the library yesterday for Bird by Bird, so now I’m attempting to jam the whole thing down my throat before noon today so I don’t have to pay the late fine.

Reading such fantastic advice about writing compels me to write, of course, which would be lovely except for two small—actually they’re growing quite large now—details: Ronan and Merrin.  The former keeps bouncing across the couch to tell me about his latest imaginary hunting trip, the details of which are garbled by his mouthful of peanut butter toast.  The latter has a cold, and it’s turned him into a grouchy, restless barnacle.  Having children is like scoring the jackpot in terms of writing material; there’s joy and anguish, sacrifice, triumph, despair!  But all that material just gets tossed around in my head like so much loose cargo.  The jostling, the interruptions, the crowding of my person keeps toppling my half-formed ideas.
(Which is not to say I don’t love it when they crowd my person.  I just can’t think straight when they do.)
If I do manage to string together a coherent idea, I have a silent celebration-quickly-turned-funeral for my own wit because suddenly Ronan is half an inch from my face asking me, “Where could a BEAR be, Mama?” and in trying to come up with an answer I lose my own thought altogether.  I quit fighting.  Instead, I am Matilda shooting lazerbeams of unused intellectual energy out my eye balls as I read Fancy Nancy: At the Museum aloud for the third time this morning while I hold Ronan’s hand to stop him picking his nose.
I wonder, when the boys are older and the house is quieter and there isn’t a Merrin in my lap probing my ears and offering his face up for kisses, when I could actually sit down and write, if I will have anything left to say.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Diaper Bag, Um, Bags

You guys.  I can't remember the last time I saw the diaper bag.  I'm not even sure where it is.  We've been packing and repacking so much in the last few weeks that we've just kept a giant stash of diaper and wipes it the pickup and skipped the bag altogether.  But we keep ending up places without the stuff we need (namely, extra outfits for Merrin and snacks for hollow-legged Ronan).  Time to put on pants and get reorganized.

Okay, maybe not the pants.  Let's not get carried away here.

I stumbled across this post the other day and I'm convinced it's pure genius.
These are just cheap cosmetic bags from the dollar store, each labeled with what it should contain. I love the advice to keep a bag in there for mom, especially the bit about the scarf!  The bags are clear so you can see which one you need without digging and also see what you're missing from each bag, like a checklist for refills.  Awesome, right?  I'm spending my Friday morning rounding up a stack of zipper bags (not clear, sadly, but free!) and getting my sort on.  As soon as I find the diaper bag...
The irony of me posting anything about keeping organized is that while I ignore my children to write these posts they are tearing the house down around me.  The cushions are off the couch and there's a trail of crumbs through the living room to the bedroom where's they're playing hide-and-go-seek behind the lowest clothes bar.  :)  Just wanted to keep my advice in perspective.

PS:  If you're in the market, I just ordered a stack of these bags for a baby shower gift.  The reviews suggest they are sturdier, longer-lasting bags than the dollar store jobs.  A fun not-so-transparent bag like this one would be great for mom business.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

This Day Needs Cookies

Who am I kidding?  Every day needs cookies.  I'm not much for baking but I looooove me some cookies, and these are my fave.  No-bake, 10 minutes, kid "help" friendly, and relatively nutritious. 

Just trust me.


Thank You for Knowing

Thank you all for your texts, calls and comments recently.  It's been both humbling and uplifting to receive so much support.  Your advice has been wonderfully wise, and I've read it all again and again and been so grateful for your thoughts.  What I appreciate the most, though, is just knowing that you know.  Somehow, it makes the heavy stuff so much easier to bear. 

Jill sent me this video a few days ago, and it sums up perfectly why it matters to us that other people know when we are hurting.  Thank you for sitting quietly in the dark with me.

PS:  These empathy cards for serious illness are beautiful.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Quite the Conversationalist

Ronan has always been quite the conversationalist, but in the past few months he's become quite the chatterbox.  He corners the neighbors when they pull in and grills them about their day, and he stops everyone we pass in the supermarket to ask them their name and what they're doing.  He's also observing more and questioning things that he hears, like songs on the radio ("Is this Hozier?") and complicated movie plots ("What's happening?  Are those means guys?")  He also tells whopper hunting stories about shooting an elk and the elk died right into the back of his pickup and then he drove home (Ronan has never been elk hunting).  Here are a few of my favorite recent conversations with him:

We were in Target this weekend, and I was trying to pick out some hairspray.  Ronan wanted to touch some of the bottles, and he knocked down a row of them with the sleeve of his coat.  He tried to stand them back up, but every time he righted a few of them he knocked more down with his sleeve, and he was getting so frustrated. 

"Hey, buddy.  It's okay.  I'll help you fix them.  Stay calm."

He burst out, "I'm just SO SO PISSED at these!"


A few weeks ago, Scott and  Ronan were showering up for bed while I was washing the dishes.  I could hear them talking and giggling.  Ronan said, "Papa, do you have a huuuuuge penis?" 

Scott chuckled.  "Why, yes, Son.  Yes I do." 

Ronan paused for a while, then, "Well, where is it?"


"Hi Uncle Ryan!" Ronan exclaimed as Ryan walked into our kitchen one day.
"Hi Uncle Ronan!"  
"I'm not a uncle," Ronan said, obviously confused.
"I know.  But it's weird when you call me Uncle Ryan.  I don't feel like an uncle."
"Oh," Ronan said, nodding knowingly.  "Because you feel like a lady?"


Yesterday, Scott gave Merrin a haircut in the bathroom.  As he was buzzing off all that fuzzy hair he realized the cut would be shorter than he meant it to be, and he laughed and said, "Oops!  I'm shaving Merrin bald!" 

Ronan came running from the kitchen.  "You're shaving Merrin's balls?  I wanna see!"


As I was walking to bed in the dark last night I heard a tiny voice from Ronan's bed.  "Mama?  I love you as fast as I ever could run."  Melted my heart!