Thursday, September 15, 2016

Thankful Thursday

When I used to religiously sit here and write I would dedicate my Thursdays to being thankful.  It's been a damn long time since I've done that.  Probably because for the past year I have mostly felt anger and sorrow - but that cloud is finally lifting, as I was repeatedly assured it would. 
So, while Brenna is plugged into possibly the worst cartoon ever (I mean really, why would My Little Ponies turn into humans and why would they have a rock band?) I am going to sit in the cat's sunbeam and have my coffee and be a little thankful.

This Thursday I am thankful for:

  • My husband.  He was traveling the first part of this week and I am so thankful he is back in town; even if he is going away for two more days this weekend.  We've been married 12 years so obviously we've totally got this whole marriage thing perfected (please read that with a sarcastic tone).  To be fair there are plenty of days that we want to kill each other or we stand on each other's very last nerve, but when push comes to shove he's always the first person in my corner.  He encourages and challenges me.  He is the captain of my cheer squad.  He gives our daughters unconditional love, sometimes it's tough love, but it's always unconditional. 

  • My minions.  My minis.  My little ladies.  My god they drive me to brink of mental breakdown but they also show me the promise of tomorrow.  They show me endless love and open adoration.  They remind me that life continues and that time doesn't stand still.  They overflow and sometime break my heart, but they also keep it beating.  I am thankful for their curiosity, their wonder for the world, their kindness and gentleness and energy.  I am even thankful for the exhaustion and the frustration I feel because of them.  They are my soul.

  • My messy, hilarious extended family.  You know who you are - you who brighten my day with a simple text or a kind note.  You who curse like longshoremen but love fiercely.  You who push me to try harder and be better.  You who think I am a better person than I really am.  You who reach out on dark days and bright days and consistently make me laugh.  When I think about my village you, all of you, are thought of.

  • My mother and my mother in law.  My god, these women never say no.   They always say yes.  They always show up.  Talk about crutches, I am not sure what I would two with out this pair!  For taking my kids overnight so I can run; or for a few hours so I can have dinner with an actual adult conversation.  For cleaning my stovetop or making sure my bathrooms have extra rolls of toilet paper.  For being so loving to my goofy daughters, but also always willing to show them tough love when necessary.  For being wise, and kind, and generous, and so very present in our lives.  I could not be more thankful.

  • My ridiculous band of friends.  My home team. The ones who call for no reason and send the most inappropriate texts.  The ones who push me to think harder, try harder, be better.  Those people who see my comfort zone and forcefully shove me out of it.  Those friends that refill my wine glass and push me out the door for a run.  Those people who can read my mood from hundreds of miles of way and put up with my constant complaining.  The friends who sit on the back patio for cocktails or stand on the driveway with coffee and listen just to listen.  Without my home team I'd be lost.

  • Finally getting my What's App to synch up with my dear friend who lives such a drastically different life than me, across the world, but still somehow remains a touchstone. 

  • Finding fresh smoked cheddar and wine infused goat cheese in my refrigerator.  If that doesn't say someone loves me and totally gets me than nothing does.

  • Getting a text, just now, suggesting a playdate for Brenna so I can go log a five mile training run (yes, I am doing another half marathon, no it won't be pretty, but that's a rant for another time). 
With that offer looming, off I must go and try to be thankful that this aging, achy body will carry me through the miles ahead.

Thursday, September 8, 2016


I can be, and this probably comes as shock to absolutely no one, a bit competitive. 

I like to win.  I sincerely enjoy beating you - whether at a game of Scrabble or by a hundredth of a second in a race.  Simply put, winning feels good.  Really good.  Even though quite often I don't win when I think I should (in the only marathon I ever ran my friend and training partner beat me somehow by one second, I still contest the results).

In the years right after college there were many lazy, before kids and real life, Sundays that I would spend playing Trivial Pursuit and drinking mimosas with my people.  We would laugh and play and be amazed at our ability to know things after so my delicious bubbly cocktails.  We would order in food and often not even leave the house (unless we ran out of champagne).
More often than not at some point during our game my competitive streak would start to show - if the answer to a question was plural and you forgot the "s" or, god forbid, the answer was possessive (Thomas Jefferson's) and you didn't answer in the possessive tense (Thomas Jefferson) there was no way I was giving you credit for your answer.  If we were playing Scrabble and I was losing badly I would claim there was an earthquake and shake the board to disrupt the tiles (yes, I was, at the time, well over the age of five).

Seriously, I was super fun to play with, or so I thought.  At some point, and don't remember when (although I am sure my friends can clearly recall), I realized I was not so fun to play with. 
I was annoying and ridiculous. 
So, over the years I have blunted my competitive edge.  I try to enjoy the game and the people and the time spent together, not just the end result of having been victorious. 

But it still simmers beneath the surface.  It still bubbles up when I am losing badly, or at the sidelines of one of the girls' sporting events, and I try actively to push it down.

This trait, however, I have unfortunately passed along to my kids.  Not in sports, they don't care if they win or lose (much to my dismay) but in game playing :

Headbandz, Beat the Parents, Memory, Go Fish, Fairy Queen, Sequence... I hear all sorts of trash talking from my nine and four year old.  Addison loves to gloat rather emphatically when winning and Brenna has informed all of us that it's "no fun unless you win".  Apparently, without even trying I managed to pass along one of my many flaws.
Eh, I guess it's just one of the many things I am bound to wrong over the next decades of parenting....

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Reboot for School

Fourth grade started almost a week ago, and just now we are starting to feel "in the swing" of things.  The first few days of getting back to school are always rougher than I anticipate.  The mornings are so early, the afternoons are still so hot, and the evenings are far too short.

The transition to fourth grade has not been an exception.  There have been more raised voices than necessary and enough rolling of the eyes to drive me insane.
  However, last night, the first night of significant homework things went oddly smooth.  Vocabulary was studied.  State capitals were quizzed.  An essay was written.  There was still time to play with friends and we sat down to eat dinner, all four of us together, at a normal time.  Quite the A+ day in my book!

So this morning, as I sat in silence after the bus left, sipping my coffee, organizing our calendar I began to think about what I can do to make more days look like yesterday.  My first instinct is to make a chore chart, positive behavior plan, incentive plan to keep us on track.  Then I remember how poor I am at follow through.  How charts and plans are adhered to for a maybe two weeks before I forget to add a sticker or a smiley face and next thing I know we are all just back to the normal chaos that typically makes up our lives.

I reluctantly spent the majority of day yesterday decluttering Addison's room.  Picking up and throwing away countless scraps of paper, pieces of wrappers, discarded and half finished craft projects.  I put earrings where they belong.  I reshelved books.  I emptied buckets of accumulated clutter.  I hung up clothes and dusted furniture and vacuumed the floor.
And then I went into Brenna's room and started the process all over again.
And then I went into my room and started the process all over yet again.
Turns out, we all were a total mess.

There was something about Addison coming home to a clean organized space that helped her plow through homework without complaint.  I think the simple act of having things organized in her space gave her the chance to sit down comfortably and focus on her homework.   The decluttering of her room helped to declutter her brain (sounds familiar).
Without a doubt part of the reason our daily lives feel chaotic and unsettled is that we are drowning in our own stuff.  Our scraps and pieces that for some reason we hang on to and clutter our lives up with.  So, it turns out that instead of starting a chore chart or behavior intervention plan for my kids, I need to implement one for myself.

Just as desperately as I, at times, need to declutter my thoughts , I equally need to declutter my life.  To simplify systems, clean out cabinets, reduce the daily crap.   Yes, I have had this thought before.  Once I even made a half hearted attempt at putting myself on a cleaning schedule (much like everything else, that lasted about two weeks).  Yes, our house stays decently clean, but now we need to focus on the clutter and disorganization and the endless stuff. 
Decide what we need and use.  Donate what we don't.  Understand that we have more than our share and half of what we have we hardly use.

So instead of focusing on what my kids need to do this year to make school successful I am going to focus on what I need to do.  Perhaps just by creating a cleaner, decluttered space for our family I will also create a space for more comfortable learning and maybe even a little less raised voices and rolled eyes.

Now here's to hoping that this inspiration lasts past two weeks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


So.   Hi there.

It's me.  I am still around.  I just haven't been around, er, here exactly.

When I sat down to this bright white screen I was shocked to see how long it had been since I had sat here, in this space that at one point in time kept my swirling brain calm. 

It's been over 300 days since I've sat to write about my beautifully infuriating girls.   Over 300 days since I've griped about housework, laundry or gardening.  Over 300 days since I've complained about my aging aching body trying to stay in shape. 
Over 300 days since I could think clearly, because 374 days ago I lost my Dad and inexplicably lost my balance for over a year.  I lost my voice, my focus, my humor.

There is no way to recover the days and moments I lost, forgot to share and record.   There is no way recount each hilarious thing Brenna said; each insightful thing Addison said; each act of gentle kindness I got from the people on my home team.

I never anticipated my grief to pull me down in the way it did. 
I didn't anticipate not caring about my responsibilities and others' needs and getting the grocery shopping done. 
I didn't know that there would be so many days, more often than not, that I would want to remain safely ensconced in bed, under my blankets, head buried in the pillows.  
I didn't know that I would cry when hearing certain songs.  Or that I would pick up the phone as often as I did to call a number that no longer worked to hear a voice that would never pick up.

I didn't realize, 374 days ago, that I would stop taking care of myself.  That I would blindly fake it through most of parenting; that I would let go of the wheel and demand that someone else take over, whether it be my steadfast husband, my girls' amazing grandmothers, or my generous friends. 
I didn't know that it would take so very long to start to feel on solid ground.

I have allowed myself to wallow in some very sad, very angry, very bitter places over the past year.  And I have demanded that no one help me carry my burden of grief because I thought I was just fine and didn't need any help from you thank you very much.  I could carry this boulder of brokenness on my own.

Except I couldn't.
I couldn't carry it. 
It exhausted me and angered me and made me someone that I am not very interested in being.  And, also, even though I thought I was doing it alone there were so many people who propped me up without ever telling me.

And for that I am deeply and eternally grateful.  To each of you - my thanks.

I'd like to think that I am now making the choice to be present again.
To notice what is happening around me and caring about it. 
To let go of petty grudges and stop keeping score. 
To see the wonderments that are my resilient little ladies. 
To celebrate the silent strength of my husband, the generosity of my family, the cheering section populated by amazing friends. 

I know that the past year hasn't been my finest.  And I know that my Dad would say it's time to shake it off....And so I am.

He is still in my daily thoughts.  I still miss talking to him and arguing and laughing
and sharing a bottle of wine with him.  But he would want me revel in my life - to live it fully, with laughter and joy and determination.

Today is our last day of summer, as the new school year starts so does the new me

I promise to be present and productive and patient.

At the very least I owe it to these people, my people.

And I promise to show up here once in awhile to let you know how it's all going.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Preschooler and a 3rd grader

I am slowly getting my world back in balance after the end of the summer -- I am not sure it will be as balanced as it once was, but for now my approach is to fake it until I make it.  As the fog lifts, I am reminded that we have done quite a bit of living and growing the past months.

Addison started third grade at the end of August - Yes!  Third grade!  She, of course, was excited to get back to school, get back her gaggle of friends, get back to freshly sharpened pencils and brand new crayons.  This year, she switches classes for Language Arts and has the world's biggest binder that organizes all her work.  Unsurprisingly, Addison continues to love school - I get daily reports of who did what in class, who she sat with at lunch, and what amazing, witty, hilarious things her teachers' say, as they are the most amazing people in the eyes of my little third grader. 
Third grade, in addition to switching classes, has more homework, has introduced the recorder to our home (if I hear Hot Cross Buns one more time I may cry), and is keeping Addison, and me, crazy busy.   Addie just wrapped her soccer season (we saw great improvement this season, she even scored a goal) in time to start two days a week practice for volleyball.  The sports are squeezed in along side of Girl Scouts, dance, and scootering around the neighborhood with Maggie, Harrison and Nicholas.  It seems Addison rarely has a moment to sit down these days -- but when she does I often find her curled up with her nose in a book, which makes me smile every time.

And then there is Miss B, who leaves me three times a week for three hours at time to become a super smart three year old.  In September Brenna started at preschool, which she may love even more than sweet treats.  Each day when I pick her up I am told all about school, about her teacher, about all her little friends.  She proudly sits at the table with her homework tracing each letter and then writing them on her own in her clunky printing.   After three weeks at school, she demanded to know when they were going to do math, because "that's my favorite, Mom".  She's already gone on two field trips, has had the Sharing bag, and has taken Bailey the stuffed bear home to go on adventures with her.
When she isn't at school we spend time running errands, doing puzzles, heading to the zoo, and still sneaking in a few naps.  Brenna also started both soccer and ballet this year.  In one weekend she got her first pair of cleats and her first pair of ballet slippers -- I am pretty sure it was the very best weekend of her life. 

We play soccer in the back yard and Brenna dribbles and runs and kicks hard.  When we go to soccer practice and games, Brenna stands still, puts her hands in her pockets and avoids the ball like the plague.   But she looks dang cute doing it.  Ballet is thirty minutes a week and she loves every second of it - the twirling, the pointed toes, the tutus.
These days we have one activity or another every night of the week and often on Saturdays.  I spend a lot of time in my car, pulling in and out of my driveway, dropping off and picking up.  I know that as busy as we feel, we have barely begun to experience the chaos raising well rounded kiddos.  But for now, it is more than enough.

It has been lovely to sit here, on a rainy Tuesday, and be in a warm familiar place -- I hope to sit here more often.  Until then, errands and laundry call....

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


I have mulled sentences and paragraphs and chapters over and over again in my restless brain. Words and phrases that capture what this last month has been, how it has changed me, transformed me, damaged me. 
A month ago my father was alive.
Two days before that he was still hoping for a miracle pass, a hail Mary, that would buy him the time he hadn't accepted he was losing.

I have lost family members.  I have lost friends.  I have lost adored pets.  I have a degree in social work and I am at my best when I am managing a crisis - it turns out, however, that there is no way to manage your own crisis, bandage your own soul, particularly when  faced with saying goodbye to a parent too soon.

This last month has been a tornado of emotions - anger, hatred, deep sorrow, inappropriate laugh-out-loud humor.  I have been asked over and over by people who love me and support me and hold me up  "Are you okay?" and then answer has never once been yes.  

Except that I am totally okay until I am totally not.  

I have found my grief to be like a rain soaked woolen sweater with fussy brass buttons - suffocating, uncomfortable, smothering - hard to take off and discard.  There are days, or more appropriately, moments where I am just perfectly okay.   
I am living my normal hectic life that I live; picking up after my house of mess makers, doing the daily things that somehow endlessly fill my hours - errands, homework, practices, play dates, and occasionally home cooked meals.  I am just tooling along living my life, wearing some flimsy armor, and then suddenly I am fiddling with those soaking wet brass buttons, not knowing whether I am trying to shrug off or on my grief soaked sweater.

My dad was a complicatedly simple man. While he rarely knew how to say it, and he often struggled to show it, all he wanted was for his family to be happy and feel loved.  For years he was an enigma to me, an unknowable shadow, an off color superhero.  For years after that we lived raw emotions around each other, with words said that couldn't be unsaid and hard moments that I would never trade, as they eventually became our solid foundation.  A foundation of patience and forgiveness.  We learned to be in each others' corners, to pat each other on the back, to tell each other that no matter what each of us were facing we had someone to unconditionally back us up -- with love, with honesty, and more often than not, with a good glass of red wine.

I have no doubt that I will miss him everyday, even though never in my life did I see him everyday. 

Already, in the past month, I have picked up the phone to tell him about Addison's first day of third grade; about Brenna not looking back as she walked into her first day of preschool.  I have wanted to tell him of wines Andy and I have tasted, and how my garden exploded this year.  I have wanted to bitch to him about my damn half marathon training and invite him down for the weekend for a grilled steak and an evening on the patio.  I have found myself longing to sit in his presence - even if we were only watching the damn History Channel together.

I often find myself lost in sweet little memories.  It's the simple memories of everyday life that I am finding the most comforting.  
I think of the eggs he cooked in the apartment he had in Pittsfield - they had far too much pepper and I  loudly complained, but he convinced me to eat them. As an adult I found his eggs and his BLTs to be heavenly.
I remember the day he told me Kevin was born, making  my place as his baby girl secure.  
I think of our breakfast in Roger's Park my second week at Loyola when he told me he would give me space to find my way in Chicago, but that he would never be far.  I remember how we laughed at the voicemail I left on his work phone because I had successfully figured out how to change the bulb in my complicated Ikea desk lamp.
I remember the numerous dinner and lunch dates we had throughout all the years we shared in Chicago - the Christmas lunches at the Walnut Room; just the two of us and an enormous perfectly decorated tree.
I can't help but think of the way he looked at me when I graduated from college and graduate school, pride and joy and love and hope all mingled into one sheepish smile.
I think of how he showed up at my bedside when I was mugged and wouldn't leave until I fell asleep.
I remember when I told him that I was moving in with Andy because it made good financial sense, the logic I thought he'd respect; he got silent and told me that money is never more important than love.
And I smile at the memory of the parties he threw, including my friends and family and his neighbors, and the ridiculously embellished stories he told while he grilled and sipped a gin and tonic.

I think of how he forgot to let go of my hand when we met Andy at the end of aisle, and how in his last days he told me how proud he was of my marriage.

I remember his ridiculous love of his granddaughters - his slices of pumpkin pie.  They had him wrapped around their pinkie fingers, and he loved all of it.  
I think of our condo in Chicago, where he would stop almost weekly to share coffee or breakfast with me and Addison and pick up whatever she repeatedly dropped.

I remember holding his hand last summer, in the hospital, telling him it wasn't time to give up.  I think of dancing with him cheek to cheek on my wedding night and marveling at what an elegant dancer he was.  
I remember that at one point, not so very long ago, he was strong, and driven, and fully alive.
I cannot help but think about the last time I saw his eyes - he opened them to take in one last look at his first born granddaughter, simultaneously taking my breath away.

I will forever remember him squeezing my hand and my older brother's hand at the same time.  I will forever remember the moment his soul moved on.  I will forever be changed by being by his side - through our tough beginning, through our laugh-filled middle, and through his peaceful, heartbreaking end.

I know that my life will slowly go back to its everyday mundaness.  I just assuredly know, that once in awhile I will feel alone, adrift, upended.  As my grief ebbs, I know I will see my dad beyond the dreams I have of him sipping wine.  I will see him in my brother's mannerisms, in the shape of my hands, in my daughters' silliness.  I will think of him in the heat of August, over a glass of French Rose, while Andy prepares a perfect steak on the grill.  

And in time I will smile, even though I am pretty sure my heart will forever be bruised.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Three. Again.

Seriously, three, I have not missed your ass.  I have survived you before, and darn it, I will survive you again.

No, seriously, I will.

In my sweet, rose tinted memory I hardly remember Addison at three, until I force myself to.  As sweet as she was, that child was not perfect - as evidenced by this rant, and this one, okay and this one too.  I have some how scrubbed my memory and only recall her holding my hand, and snuggling, and holy sweet Jesus, sleeping through the night.

You often hear that people have a second (and third and fourth and ...) child because they have forgotten about the pain of childbirth or those early, exhausting sleepless days and weeks.  Hmmm.  I counter that argument.  People have a second child because A) they have yet to experience the thrill ride that is a three year old or B) they are too damn tired to remember what a ridiculous roller coaster three was.

Looks can be deceiving
Miss Brenna is loved and adored.  Her chocolate eyes are gorgeous, her hugs are delicious, her laughter is infectious.  But, I shit you not, her attitude (Brennatude?) is insufferable.  It is slowly stripping away my humanity.

She wants what she wants.  Not what you offer. 
Not the Minnie Mouse cup, the Anna cup.
Not the blue plate, the pink plate (Pink is my favorrrite color.  Then orange.  NOT blue, MOM. Not BLUE).
I want grapes.  NO STRAWBERRIES!  No grapes!!  Why can't I have the orange I (didn't) ask for?

For over a year we have been going to the YMCA a couple times a week (not that you'd know by my waistline, thank you very much Mr. Wine) and now suddenly she is turning on the tears as I turn to leave.  Those poor women who work childcare - I give her a squeeze and run off to work out, because if  I didn't things would get ugly around here (ahem, uglier).

Nap time is a fight.  It's bribery and coaxing and raised voices and tears.  I often lose.  And my god, sweet Brenna, forget nap time, what the hell has happened to just  plain old sleeping through the night. She is potty trained (god forbid she pees on Anna, or Elsa, or Olaf) and rarely does she have an accident, but yet her itty, bitty, minuscule butt is in my room on average three nights a week.   On Saturday she just wanted to check in at 3:34 a.m.; on Sunday she fell out of bed around 4 a.m.; last night the flashlight I didn't know she had woke her up at 11:26 p.m. and an excruciating, imaginary pain in her pinkie toe sent her into our room around 2 a.m.

SERIOUSLY.  I haven't slept a full night since we were in California wine country last year.  And let's be honest, I drank a shitton of wine, so that was less sleeping and more just gently passing out.

Dinner time is hell.  Breakfast is painful.  Weirdly, lunch is generally okay, but only because I always make Miss B's plate into a happy face.  I've tried that at other meals and she just scowls at me.  She wants what she wants, which apparently is only to have her plate smile at her during lunch.

 A ton of the time she is a lovebug, a fair chunk of the time I am sure she is plotting a coup.  She gets mad about socks.  About designs on her shirts (Anna and Elsa and Princess Sofia should never be silk screened anywhere but perfectly centered on her tiny belly).  She wants to wear gloves, but they piss her off.  She loves mittens, as long as they don't have teddy bears on them.  She gets down right belligerent when  we don't refer to her as Elsa or Anna or Violet, after she has explicitly explained that that is who she is...until she changes her mind 48 seconds later.

She wants to got potty all by herself, but she gets mad when it's time to wipe.  She likes her hands to be clean, but she hates soap.  She is specific about her PJs, her horrendously mismatched outfits and which seasonally inappropriate shoes she wants to wear.

She thinks her sister is her lackey and that she is the overlord of some 1920s mobster organization.  Brenna effectively bullies a seven year old on a daily basis.  Okay let's be honest, she often bullies a 37 and 38 year old as well.  On occasion, she sucks a grandmother into her underworld, too, and, seriously, that's just not nice.

But I know, with my infinite and profound wisdom, that I will survive this.  One day I will wake up and Miss B. will no longer be three.    Knowing my luck, by the time I have regained my sanity she will thirteen and her sister will be seventeen.    And I will deeply mourn these days.