House Remodel Update

There is none. We’ve come to a stand still trying to make heads or tails of the process, not sure why this is so complicated. I drive through my neighborhood and see house after house with additions going up. How’d they all figure this out. But, here we are, waiting for the bank to figure things out and call us. 😕 And I’m finding in this process a couple days means a couple weeks. And, I fear we’re losing our momentum.

Birthdays Aren’t Just for Kids

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Where is it written that we need to stop enjoying and celebrating our birthday once we’re adults? I was on a path towards doing just that, when I met Peg. Many years ago Peg and I worked together at The Land of Nod. She’s one of the sweetest and most fun people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. And, she flippin’ loves her birthday. Which translates into everyone around her also looking forward to her birthday. We once threw her a surprise party, and I’ve literally never seen someone be more gracious and enjoy a party in their honor more.

With this inspiration, I made a conscious decision to ditch the idea that birthdays are just for kids. Yes, I’m getting older, but that doesn’t really bother me. It’s not really about age. It’s about stopping and celebrating my life with the people I love, and what could be bad about that? Also, I’m an over-accommodater….to the point of annoyance, I’m sure. And, on my birthday I ditch my need to say “I don’t care, what do you want to do” and instead just say what I want. Add to that the fact that Februarys in Chicago basically suck. So, it’s something to look forward to in the dregs of winter.

So, it’s my birthday. I’m excited about it. And I don’t feel bad saying so! And, neither should you on your birthday! You’ve lived your crazy life, you’ve earned a day of celebration. Now, I’m off to eat all the Italian food, drink all the wine and soak up all the love my friends and family are sending my way.

 

I’m Going to be a Terrible Mother-in-Law

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There’s so much about the world I didn’t fully understand before becoming a mom….like why the sales of storage items increase dramatically in January. All it took was walking into my living room on my first December 26th as a new mom to figure that one out. And, I definitely had no understanding of the relationship between a mother and her son.

I’m absolutely positive that my son, Nathan, is completely perfect, even in his imperfections. I flat out adore him. I’m not exaggerating here. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a total slob, has been known to roll his eyes at me (😤) and convincing him to take a shower is a constant challenge. But, he’s the sweetest boy. He’s so sensitive, a total worrier. He’s super intense, ultra competitive and really hard on himself. All traits that make me want to protect him even more. From the day he was born, I’ve lived in constant awe of him.

I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d be disappointed in him, which isn’t always the greatest thing, since it forces my husband into the role of bad cop more often than is fair. Not my intention, but I swear I can’t help myself. Some people might say he has me wrapped around his finger, but it’s nothing as conniving as that makes it out to be. I think it’s just a mutual admiration born out of him being my first child, me being an overprotective mom, and our personalities just fitting together in certain way that’s pretty much void of conflict.

All that said, I totally get where this evil mother-in-law persona comes from. It’s not evil at all, it’s just about a mom that can find no fault in her child, and therefore in any conflict the fault must lie with the child’s partner. And, who can live up to that? I’m certainly far from being a perfect daughter-in-law and wife, myself. And thankfully my mother-in-law’s absolutely wonderful.

I’m hoping since I’m aware I’m on the path towards monster-in-law status at a point when Nathan’s still only 8 years old, I can maybe change that path. Or at least train myself to be diplomatic enough to keep my mouth shut. I’ve got time. But, in the meantime, cut your mother-in-law a little slack, that’s her baby you’re married to.

Speaking Up for My Kids When I Struggle to Speak Up for Myself

First, there’s something you should know about me, I don’t like pineapple in my food. I’ll eat it on its own, but don’t like it mixed with anything, even a banana split. The idea makes me cringe. So, that in mind…I remember eating dinner at Chili’s once with my family, it was probably 18 years ago. I don’t recall exactly what I ordered, but it was probably their battered chicken fingers with a side of their yummy mashed potatoes and gravy. The whole meal was turning into a bit of a cluster, I can’t remember exactly why, but it was all a bit tense and the food was taking what seemed like forever. When the food finally arrived, the waiter set a plate in front of me that wasn’t at all the fried goodness I was expecting. Instead it was some sort of Hawaiian-inspired chicken dish with huge chunks of pineapple 😩in a sauce covering a piece of chicken. I think there may have also been ham involved (ham is the one other food I really can’t stomach). So, what did I do? I ate it. Or more accurately, I ate a few bites, pushed the food around on the plate a bit and went home hungry, while assuring my family that it was fine, I was fine, please don’t say anything.

What on earth is this compulsion to not draw attention to myself that’s so strong that I would eat something I clearly didn’t order and I definitely despise…and not only that, am paying for!? This is just one example of probably tens of thousands where I’ve chosen to not speak up on my own behalf. I’m not talking about big, huge, earth shattering things, but little moments in life where I choose to just grin and bear it because I’m not willing to say something. I’m not sure what I think would happen if I did. Probably there wouldn’t be some massive scene, but rather the other party would accommodate and we’d all move forward. Even though logically, I know it’s ridiculous, I still, can’t do it.

There have been experiences in my life that have taught me to make myself heard a bit more, but none more than parenthood. As a parent its my job to be the voice for my kids. When they were babies and couldn’t speak, I had to raise my hand in the doctor’s offices and ask the questions, or more accurately question the answers I was being given. When they attended daycare and there were issues with other kids or concerns with teachers, I had to step into the directors office and demand an explanation. When we found out Lottie had severe food allergies, I had to setup a meeting with the day care providers to train them all in the use of epi pens and the warning signs of a potentially life-threatening reaction, even though they looked at me sympathetically like I was clearly some sort of overreacting lunatic. These are big, huge, earth shattering things. And, if it’s hard for me to send back a meal that disgusts me that I didn’t even order, this is 100 times harder.

But, I have no instinct in life stronger than the one to protect my kids. My inability to protect them from everything in the world often keeps me up at night. But, this, this I can do. So I do it. I make the calls, I have the conversations. I draw attention to myself, risk being viewed as “the crazy mom who overreacts.” Because, at the end of the day, my number one responsibility to my kiddos is to keep them safe and be their voice. I’ve come to realize, in these moments I could care less what people think about me, if what I’m doing keeps my kids safe, that’s what matters.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have to go over what I’m going to say a thousand times in my head before I say it, and replay it a thousand times after. But that pit in my stomach is nothing compared to the weight off my shoulders when I know I’ve overcome my own craziness to be the mom they deserve. If I was served that pineapple and ham chicken today, I’d probably still eat it. But my kids, as long as I’m their voice, they won’t be grinning and bearing any injustice, pineapple or otherwise.

I Come By It Honestly

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I’m a compulsive maker and a hoarder of craft supplies and craft scraps. And, as it turns out, I have everyone to blame but myself. More specifically, I have my Grandma, my Aunt and my Mom to thank for my unending need to create and hoard all the things.

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Let me back up. My Grandma C grew up in a small rural town in Wisconsin, her family one of the first to live in said town. She’s a twin, and one of over a dozen kids in her family. They grew their own food and made their own clothes. They were makers long before being a maker was a thing. I’m not exaggerating when I say they made everything, I have a throw rug that my great grandma crocheted from plastic shopping bags. Nothing was wasted, nothing was purchased. Everything could be reused and reimagined into something else. It wasn’t a hobby, it was a way of life.

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When my grandparents married they lived in a small trailer on the property before moving to a little house across the road, where she and my Grandpa still live today. Between the two of them, they can make ANYTHING! My Grandpa is an incredible carpenter. I drove home from their house last weekend with a dozen wren and bluejay houses in my trunk. At the age of 83, he still feels the need to build and create items for those around him.

My Grandma worked in a garment factory for many years. She can sew anything. Her work is beyond meticulous, you wouldn’t believe the quilts she creates are handmade. Last weekend, she told me about the 10 pairs of pants she’d altered the day before for a neighbor. I don’t think a person in their town is without something at their house made by either my Grandma or Grandpa.

When we were kids, my Grandpa converted the small deck off their second floor into a sewing room for my Grandma. It’s a modest space, probably not more than 9 x 9′ in size. But, it’s her happy place for sure. She’s packed every inch of the space with supplies. The items that come out of that room are beyond incredible, crafted with so much love and care. In many of the drawers are small bits of scrap fabric. She might make a quilt today that has a bit of fabric from an outfit she made me when I was a little girl, or that even has scraps of fabric that belonged to my Great Grandma. She never throws anything away, and everything finds a new life in a new creation at some point.

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I don’t specifically remember learning how to sew or crochet. In some ways, it was like learning to talk. It was just happening around me and at some point I knew how to do it. My Grandma, my Aunts, my Mom were always making things. And we were right there, watching them, absorbing it all. They were never just sitting down, there was always a project in hand. The need to make and create is definitely in my bones.

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Until recently I never gave much thought to it. It didn’t occur to me that other people may not have been exposed to such creativity in their families. I didn’t even really think of it as creativity, it was just something that we did. Looking back, I realize that at the age of 10 my favorite place to hang out was Michael’s Craft store. I would make homemade gifts and sell things in local craft shows. I was always crafting something. I’m still, always crafting something.

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And, I’ve definitely followed in my Grandma’s footsteps when it comes to saving my scraps. I saved ever bit of yarn from my first year of weaving, and at the end of the year made a giant wall hanging from all the tiny bits. Kind of a timeline of my first year in weaving. I’ve made baby quilts from old swatches that were going to be thrown away at work. I have bins full of fabric scraps, sorted by color, that I tap into when the need arises.

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I’m so grateful to have spent my life surrounded by these incredible women, and hope to carry on the maker tradition they’ve passed onto me. Lottie’s already well on her way to full maker/hoarder status.

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I’m a Terrible Friend

I don’t remember birthdays. I forget anniversaries, even though I was in the wedding. I go weeks, even months without calling, texting, emailing. And I expect nothing more in return from my friends. They have kids, jobs, husbands, errands, etc. Commitments, tons of commitments. And I don’t want our friendship to be another “commitment” they need to worry about. It’s here for them when they need it.

I have the most incredible friends. I’d walk through fire for them and know they’d do the same for me. We go months without talking or seeing one another and immediately pick up right where we left off. I have friends in other states, that I’m lucky to see once a year. But those visits aren’t about guilt over not making the time, instead they’re about enjoying each other when we can, and giving support and encouragement when it’s needed (over cocktails and good food, of course).

When Nathan went to his first day of 3rd grade, I tearfully realized that on my first day of 3rd grade, I’d met two girls who would ultimately become my lifelong friends. I still remember what I was wearing (an aqua jump suit and coordinating moon shaped earrings). It was my first day at a new school, and I was so nervous. Little did I know that on that day, at that school, my life would change. I’d meet two people that would make my life better, richer, happier, easier for years to come.

We’ve celebrated together on our best days and cried together on our worst days. We’re far more than friends, we’re family. Family is always there, unconditionally. We support each other in ways no one else can, with no guilt or judgement, just love and understanding. I’m a shitty friend, but I think I make pretty good family.

My Childhood Home

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When most people talk about their childhood home or town they’re referring to where they lived with their parents and siblings. But for me, when I think about a place that I can go back to, that hasn’t changed, that feels, well, like home, I think about my grandparents’ house. My whole life, we always went home to a small town in Wisconsin where my parents both grew up, and where two of my grandparents still live.

Every summer, my brother, sister and I would spend several weeks with my grandparents, living as country kids. We fished, caught frogs, swam in the local swimming hole, built forts, climbed trees, fell out of trees, caught grasshoppers, dug up night crawlers, got eaten alive by mosquitos. Spent literally every waking minute outside exploring and playing. For about 2 weeks our cousins would come stay, too, and that was heaven. We’d hike up the bluff in the middle of town, catch snakes. Walk to the gas station (that’s the only business they had aside from a bar or two), and buy choco tacos and popsicles. It was insanely hot, and beyond humid, but we didn’t care. It was awesome.

My dad’s childhood house was sold and torn down several years back, when my Grandma moved out to live with family. A Dollar General now stands in its place 😢.

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Looking at that store on a recent visit, I realized I don’t really have photos of the old house. I have millions of vivid memories, but no photographs. Funny how in a world where things are perhaps over documented, huge swaths of our lives exist only in our memories.

So, I went to my other Grandparents house, camera in hand, and took pics of all the little moments that haven’t changed in my 37 years. They’ve stood the same in this little house, in this little town, quietly providing a constant in my life. A place to go home to.

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Seriously?! The Bathroom?

Let’s file this under things I just need to say out loud. As someone who struggled with getting pregnant, I just have to ask, why the bathroom?

Why month after month did I have to get the heart breaking, demoralizing, terrible, awful, horrible news that I yet again wasn’t pregnant, in the gosh darn f***ing bathroom? Alone in a bathroom. No matter how much support I received from my husband, my family, my friends, it was always came down to me and the damn toilet finding out together that it didn’t work. Again. The least bad times I was at least in the sanctity of my own bathroom at home with my familiar, yet not at all comforting toilet. But, at least my husband’s comforting arms were just a tearful walk away. But there were times, many times, at work, at target, at the grocery store, at other people’s homes, where it was just me in a strange bathroom, my heart breaking again. Sucking it up to face the public, and dreading the moment when I’d have to break Craig’s heart again with the news. ‘Cause it’s not bad enough you find out in the bathroom, you have to be the messenger, too.

It sucks. If you’ve lived it, I’m sorry. If you’re living it, I wish I could make it better, but it sucks. All I can say is I’m sorry.

I’m Not Doing a Voice

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My daughter Lottie has an awesome imagination. She can play make believe for hours on end. I love listening to the elaborate scenarios she creates. But, I have to be VERY careful not to interrupt for fear she might ask me to join in.

The thing is, I suck at make believe. I’ll craft with her endlessly, or help her decorate her dollhouse, dress her dolls, fix their hair. She can play with glitter and glue to her heart’s content, and I’ll join in the mess every time. But, making up a pretend persona and, god help me, doing a fake voice, the thought makes me cringe.

Add to that the fact that every scenario has an elaborate set of rules that I’m not privy to. I’ll pass, thanks. I’m pretty sure Lottie would prefer I was good at make believe, but I’m also sure this isn’t the least of my short-comings she’ll forgive in her life.

Will You Be My Friend?

Is it just me, or is making friends as an adult a super awkward process? If not for my husband and kids, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t stand a chance.

I’m a total introvert, and I’ve never been very good at, or frankly, very interested in seeking out new friends. I’m pretty sure I suffer from resting bitch face when in public. I remember being at a bar in college and a guy saying something along the lines of, “What’s the matter? You look like you don’t want anyone to talk to you.” To which I said, “you’re very perceptive” and walked away. I’m guessing he never used that line again. Honestly, it’s a miracle I ever met anyone.

I don’t think I’m an asshole, at least not all the time, I just am absolutely no good at small talk. It makes me so uncomfortable. My knowledge of current events, music, etc. leaves a lot to be desired. And my “comedic” timing isn’t generally on the mark. I’m much better at deep meaningful conversations that last into the wee hours. And, it’s hard to have those in the stands of a little league game, or when you run into a neighbor while you grab the paper. I think that’s why this adult friends thing has been hard.

Thankfully I married an extrovert. And, he knows everyone. Literally remembers ever name, is great at small talk, the hilarious life of the party. I feel like between him and the kids, I’m at least thrust into situations where I have no choice but to try to work past the acquaintance phase into being friends. We’ve met some awesome people, and been able to build a really great community.

I’m glad Craig and the kids have afforded me the opportunity to really get to know some new people. But, I still get sick to my stomach about the social events that involve more than one or two other couples, or, worse yet, the ones Craig and the kids aren’t invited to, the women-only events. I still can’t bring myself to walk into a room full of women I don’t know and socialize. I need my buffer (Craig) and my exit strategy (the kids).

And, when that fails, I’ve decided to go with blunt honesty in social situations, “I’m totally antisocial, I drink a lot and I curse like a sailor. So, there’s that.” I figure it’ll all come out at some point, and I’m too old for the wooing phase. So, wanna do this or not?