Sentimental Set

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I’m not an overly sentimental person. My family describes me as a purger and if something doesn’t serve a purpose or have a designated place it is swiftly and efficiently removed from the house—donated, pitched, passed along.

But there are odd items that seem to have a sentimental hold over me. Objects that anchor the family and act as a touchpoint. Our former kitchen table and chairs was one of these.

After it was gone I tried to find a picture of it, but I couldn’t locate one.

I could find lots of photographs that it appeared in, but none where it was the focus. This piece of furniture that three generations of families had gathered around. The chairs that were reglued, and reglued, and reglued. The sixth chair that was broken during a too-rowdy weekend. The chair that he draped a damp towel over the back of and its telling water marks. This table and chair set that bared nearly fifty years of stains and scars, each carrying with it its own story.

When I was growing up it was our eat-in kitchen table. The formal dining room set was reserved for things like Christmas and Easter, so this table was where we ate our family dinners most nights of the week.

Morning coffee and art projects. Macaroni and cheese and homework.

Place setting over the years ranged from paper plates, to my mom’s everyday Poppies on Blue pattern, to my grandmother’s china.

Candles blown out and prayers said. Weekday spaghetti dinners and grilled chicken on summer Sundays after church.

Just a piece of furniture? Or a constant? Something we could return to. Something that is there for us to gather around to celebrate the good and try to make sense of the bad.

It traveled with Levi and I from Columbus, Ohio, to St. Louis, Missouri, to Brentwood, Missouri, to Springfield, Illinois, to Aberdeen, South Dakota, and back to Ohio again.

Finally, we didn’t believe the chairs could take anymore glue. They wobbled and creaked with a simple slide in and slide out.

We needed a new set. Something sturdy. Something that we can hopefully have around for another three generations.

“Give it to someone who needs it,” my grandma and mom both said.

I did not go with Levi on the farewell drop-off to our local Goodwill. Yes, it is just a piece of furniture. An inanimate object. But it was ours. My grandparents, my parents, and then mine and Levi’s. It is where decades of birthday parties and family meals occurred. Where bewildering math problems and seemingly unsolvable life problems both found solutions. It was just an object, but it was so much more. It was the foundation that nourished generations of life and living.

 

All sisters eat dessert under the kitchen table right?
All sisters eat dessert under the kitchen table, right? Sharing laughs and dessert with my sister under the kitchen table.

 

 

*a version of this post originally appeared on former site, These Paths. 

Under the Top Knot

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Top knot, yoga pants, no make-up.

This is the unequivocal stay-at-home / work-from-home mom uniform. Instead of “Dress-down Friday” there is Wildcard Weekday where at least once a week you rock the pajamas you slept in the night before. No judging.

Before we moved to Hudson I would be in client offices 1-2 days a week and also squeeze in work at home. I set my hours and we had a nanny come to the house to watch the kids. As ideal as this situation was, it was still hard to walk out the door on mornings when the kids were crying for me.

Despite the tough mornings, I loved the work I was doing and valued the time where I still got to live the “business” side of myself.

Creative brainstorming sessions, client pitches, campaign development and execution. I loved the challenge of it all and I loved to see ideas take shape and make an impact.

When we moved to Hudson my work dynamic shifted to 100% remote.

Sounds awesome, right?

While it has it perks, I went through an adjustment period transitioning to being at home full-time. Other than eight weeks after Laine was born, I had never been home with both kids around-the-clock.

Creative brainstorming sessions suddenly became compiling lists of ways I could entertain both kids for 12 hours on inclement weather days (living in Ohio keeps this eternally relevant). Client pitches are now elaborate schemes to get the kids to eat one good meal a day.

Caring for my kids all day isn’t new to me—I was doing everything I am now before we moved. But before, when I had a buffer of being able to step into the business role one or two days a week, it all seemed more manageable.

There is a sense of perpetuity with staying at home with kids full-time that can be downright overwhelming.

There is no definitive start and end–at least in the infant and toddler stage we’ve been living the last three years.

From where I’m standing–in my leggings with unintentional and non-fashionable holes–these new parent years are filled with huge and invaluable moments with your kids that make your heart want to burst with love—but at the same time this period can also feel like endless days of singing nursery songs, microwaving chicken nuggets, and wearing yesterday’s clothes.

When you are at home full-time It is so easy to get buried in the caring for the tiny humans and feel like you’ve lost sight of the person you once were.

One pretty sure-fire remedy? Haircut and style.

I got a haircut this weekend and it was amazing.

You get to sit in a chair and not get up for an entire hour. 60 minutes without having to get something for someone. That in-and-of-itself is worth double the going-rate for a haircut.

More importantly, I got a glimpse of myself with my hair done, make-up on, and sporting real clothes. I got to feel like the person I once was.

When I got home the kids were thrilled to see me and it wasn’t even hour later that I had my hair tied back and they were climbing all over me again. Their joy to have me home with them is something special. And I know the window where this is possible is small.

It will be back to yoga pants and chicken nuggets this week, but this weekend I got the reminder that under the top knot I’m still the same person I once was. And an even better reminder that I wouldn’t trade anything to be the person I now get to be everyday—Mom.

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Tiny Toes

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You toddle over to me and reach your arms up. You don’t want anything in particular. Just to be held by me. To be near me.

I pick you up and plop you on my lap and when I look down I see your little feet resting against my legs.

Dimpled toes, arches still forming, ten extra-long digits just like my own. 

I trace my fingers through your wisps of baby hair and wonder where these feet will take you one day. What will you see and who will you meet? What thresholds will you cross, mountains will you climb, dreams will you chase? 

One day I will send you off into the world and you will stand on your own two feet. But, today? Today, I get to hold these tiny toes in my lap. 

When your kid needs surgery

 

img_2927.jpegOn Monday Laine is having surgery for an epigastric hernia repair.

I noticed a bump above her belly button after her bath in early December and it hadn’t been there the night before.

She had also been having a few bouts each day where she would arch her back and cry like she was in pain, so when this bump popped up I was pretty worried.

After I got her to bed I did what every good millennial parent does—consulted Dr. Google–and read that based on the bump’s location and when it appeared, it was likely an epigastric hernia and would need surgery to be resolved.

We got her into the pediatrician the next day and the provider said it was an umbilical hernia and that it would go away on its own. I delicately pushed back—”Really? That’s reassuring because I was doing a little research last night and from what I read I thought it was an epigastric hernia and those require surgery.”

She brought in another doctor to take a look.

“That’s definitely not an umbilical hernia but it is a ventral hernia. We’ll refer you on to surgery.”

We saw a pediatric surgeon near where we live and he and his resident both confirmed it was an epigastric hernia but told Levi and I it could go away on its own. This was contrary to what Levi and I had read, but he was a surgeon—a specialist—standing right in front of us, so it was easy to nod along.

I left relieved and Levi left frustrated. Back to Dr. Google we went and we found countless children’s hospital websites stating epigastric hernias do not go away on their own and need surgery for repair.

We headed down to Nationwide Children’s for a second opinion and the surgeon confirmed it was an epigastric hernia and needed surgery to be resolved. Our experience at Nationwide Children’s was night-and-day from our prior consult. This surgeon sat down in the exam room and talked with me. He listened intently and even drew a sketch on the exam table paper of Laine’s abdominal muscles, the location of her hernia, the size of the incision for the surgery, and explained all pros and cons and steps involved. I can comfortably say I have confidence in this surgeon and his plan.

We scheduled the surgery and up until this point I’ve blocked out the thought of it, but as we get closer and closer, I’ve become more stressed and more anxious.

A week after Garrett turned two he had surgery to have tubes put in his ears, so within a nine-month period both of our kids will have had general anesthesia and a surgical procedure.

I keep telling myself that these are manageable issues and the severity is minor—that this isn’t open heart surgery or brain surgery or an organ transplant or something that takes hours and is life-threatening. And we recognize how extremely fortunate we are and are grateful for it.

But when it comes down to it, there is still a stranger taking your baby out of your arms and walking away with them down a fluorescent-lit hallway. Your child is still put on an operating table in a room full of masked strangers and given general anesthesia.

Levi and I know that Garrett getting tubes is one of the best decisions we’ve made as parents. He spent 18 months with frequent ear infection and persistent fluid and as soon as he got the tubes he spent six months free of ear infections and his vocabulary took off.

So, with all the doctors we’ve seen, research we’ve done, and knowledge we’ve gained, I’m telling myself that it is better for Laine to have the hernia repaired now, before it gets larger and would require a bigger incision, more stitches, and potentially even mesh to repair.

And all of this is one of the trickier parts of parenthood. The weighing of the pros and cons and being the ones to ultimately decide what to do for these tiny people who are unable to know or decide for themselves. And at the end of the day, all we can do is try our best to figure out the situation, push back, get the second opinion, and advocate for our kids.

 

No Resolutions

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Last December I was six weeks postpartum and had a one-year-old who was on his seventh ear infection and I thought it would be a good idea to attempt a Whole 30 in January.

A year later, the only reason I can fathom I’d even entertain this idea–let alone be fully invested in it–is the lethal combination of postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation I was experiencing at the time.

There are good times and bad times to implement extreme changes in diet. For me, having a six-week-old and a one-year-old was not a good time. And I can honestly say I’m not foreseeing a good time—ever—to elect to restrict my diet to that degree.

I made it sixteen days into Whole 30 when I called Levi bawling and told him to bring home Bob Evan’s chicken noodle soup, mashed potatoes, and a bottle of wine.

God bless him.

We’ve reached that time of the year again when people are writing their lists of resolutions and picking their word for the year and I can honestly say I’m so over it.

No resolutions for me in 2019.

Ironically enough, my decision to do so is somewhat related to my Whole 30 attempt. I went to the library last December to pick up a Whole 30 cook book (sweet potato and avocado that, Melissa Hartwig. No royalty money from me) and while I was there I saw a flyer for a writing contest.

I typed up an essay in between bottle feedings and diaper changes and sent it in.

While I only made it through 16 days of Whole 30, I was a finalist in the writing contest and received some prize money. Dave Barry read my essay (he won a Pulitzer Prize so you could say he’s kind of a big deal) and I attended the conference affiliated with the contest and met some inspiring writers.

It’s great to have goals and to work towards something. But, it’s often the things that happen when we’re in pursuit of other ventures that impact us the most.

So, in 2019 I will continue to strive towards things that are important to me, but I’m not intentionally chasing a lifestyle change and I’m not going to measure my success on the completion of a list of objective topics. I’m simply going to live, be open to what’s ahead, and embrace opportunities as they come.