birthday girl


My son was so easy as a baby. He slept through the night at 8 weeks when I went back to work. As a toddler he was active and always on the move....but a first born pleaser. He ate broccoli and would play alone with Legos for hours. (He still will).  I was sure that Shaun and I were pros at parenting. Our kid was happy, easy going and so freaking cute that we figured we should bless this planet with another set of our genes.

We could not have been more wrong. Not about blessing this planet with our genes or making the most adorbs babies around....just about being the world's best parents.  (The fact that I occasionally had to borrow diapers and wipes from complete strangers...because I couldn't be counted on to remember things like a diaper bag should have been my first clue.)

My first shot at actually giving birth was not exactly fun.  Lots of labor. Lots of pushing. Lots of blood. An epidural that only seemed to take effect on one side of my body. And eventually an emergency c-section, 17 staples across my lower abdomen and ice packs in places I shouldn't mention.
Tess on the other hand was going to be easy.
She was scheduled. I had a time to show up at the hospital. I shaved my legs and painted my toenails. I arranged for someone to watch my older child and a bag packed and ready to go. Completed my pre-op and I had even planned ahead and bought Halloween costumes and taken care of my lesson plans six weeks in advance. In other words, my mom of the year speech was already written.

And anyone who thinks that anything about a cesarian is easy is lying. Or crazy. Or has the last name Dugger.  Someone cuts your abdomen open and pulls out an actual human being, and then staples you back together. WHILE YOU ARE AWAKE.  (I could write pages on this topic...but most of it is just examples of how childbirth is a beautiful and wonderful thing that strips you of all of your dignity and makes the fact that you will not pee alone for the next five years feel like no major breach of privacy).

Let's just say that the scheduled c-section wasn't the cakewalk I had imagined. I am pretty sure that my doctor thanked me for getting my tubes tied so she would never have to do it again.
After they pull the baby out there is this moment where you hear your baby cry for the first time. You have no feeling from the waist down, but it still feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest.  You can't see past the blue sheet hanging in front of you but you know the baby is out. And you are just waiting for that initial cry. One that tells you she is ok. It is never immediate, there is a few seconds where they suck all the yuck out of their mouths and that baby has to realize it isn't swimming in amniotic fluid anymore and that they have these little things called lungs. I remember that few second delay feeling like an entire year had passed before my 8 lb 2 ounce little girl started to wail.
And she pretty much didn't stop wailing for years.

YEARS.

Even those experienced hospital nursery nurses brought her back to me because they couldn't get her to stop crying.  All. Night. Long.  Finally after about the 7th middle of the night attempt to soothe and feed her one sweet nurse suggested that maybe I give her a bottle. And I am sure that she did this at the risk of every La Leche member having the both of us tarred and feathered. Anything to take that crying sweet child back to nursery so I could sleep. Until exactly 57 minutes later when another nurse brought her back. Again.
I just kept hitting my morphine button.

I spent my first few months as a mom of two sick, tired, and googling cures for colicky babies.

In every way that Owen was easy, Tess was hard.
She didn't sleep. She refused to let ANYONE other than me hold her. She insisted on being held. ALL the time. She decided to refuse a bottle the week I went back to work. We spent years with ear infections and went through every antibiotic known to man before finally getting tubes. And a teensy bit more sleep. As a toddler (and an almost 6 year old) she would eat nothing but McDonalds chicken nuggets, cheetos and fruit snacks. It is no wonder she needed a root canal at the age of four.  She can be so sweet and caring and compassionate….but also stubborn as hell.
She never stops talking and I think that she has a vocabulary that will one day serve her well on the SATs….until I say one short little word and she looks at me like she does not comprehend.
that word of course is, “No.”

As a baby we carted Owen everywhere with us. Determined to be the kind of parents who didn’t let a baby get in the way of our social lives. (We were so naive!). We carted that carrier to restaurants and friend’s house and he slept quietly in his car seat. Our first outing with Tess was to a posh sushi place with another couple…and Tess screamed through dinner. I hid with her in the bathroom praying for the love of all things holy that she would eat and be quiet and since it was only a one-seater that no one else needed to use the restroom.  Our waitress brought us the name and phone number of a babysitter.  Speaking of babysitters, more than one told us that they weren’t sure about coming back until Tess was older (read, doesn’t scream at the top of her lungs for hours at a time). These days…Tess wins over the sitters and spends most of the time taking selfies on their phone.

On the soccer field she is a scoring machine. If there is music playing (and sometimes even when there isn’t) she is dancing. Like no one is watching. Except for the fact that she will yell, “hey watch this”.  However, the girl will cry like you are torturing puppies if you ask her to go to soccer practice or a dance class.
She says she doesn’t need to practice.
In other words. She doesn’t want to be told what to do.
Lord, where does she get this from. Surely her daddy.

I jest,  because this girl is 98% me. From her freckles to her defiance.
The 2% of Shaun comes out in some blonde hair and an affinity for Star Wars that I just do not share.  
Have you seen that Subaru commercial where the dad gives his daughter the keys? He is talking to a 16 year old but looking at a toddler. And sometimes that is exactly how I feel.  (good luck watching it without crying). Tess turns six tomorrow, but sometimes I look at her and see that baby that made me lose so much sleep but love so much. The curl of her little fingers around mine. Sometimes I see the six year old that she is gap toothed, strong willed with an infectious laugh that I can't get enough of. And sometimes I see the teenager that she will become. (which scares the bejesus out of me). And sometimes I look at her and see the most scary thing of all.
Myself.

When my son was born over 9 years ago he gave me the gift of motherhood. I learned exactly what it meant when Rob Bell said that “being a parent is what happens when your heart leaves your body and walks around outside you”.  I wasn’t sure my heart could ever love any more than it did right in that moment.
Almost exactly six years ago, my daughter taught me that your heart grows and stretches and that it indeed could. And does.
That being a parent isn’t so much about what you do right but loving as big as you can and getting by on as little sleep as possible.

When he was little, Owen was easy, quiet, independent and kind.
Tess is loud, clingy, difficult and stubborn….but still so easy to love.

happy birthday my girl.



decades

I teach high school. Which means that sometimes I am stuck in this never ending loop of homecomings, report cards, pep rallies and prom kings.
Names, music and fashions change, but year after year so much is the same.

One of the dress up days last week was college day, I played country music on Western day, a lot of Madonna and Micheal Jackson on 80s day….so on college day I figured I should play music I listened to in college.
All day I spent a lot of time thinking about who I was in college.
And frustrated that so much of me was exactly the same. Give or take 25 lbs.
The same issues I had in my twenties is the exact same baggage I carry around today.
I am too much.
I have boundary issues.
I am oh so easily distracted.
I hate limits and budgets and rules.
I suck at driving.
I like cute boys and beer and things that are not always good for me.
I play my music too loud.
I talk too loud.
I still wear pajama pants and flip flops every chance I get.  Even in public.
If I am wearing actual pants...chances are good that they are not clean.
I can not be trusted with a credit card.
I lose my keys at least once a day.

I could keep going with this list of the comical, yet negative self-talk that filled my head for a good portion of the day while Dave Matthews and Sarah McLaughlin sang on my computer.
I was not proud of this lack of progress in my life. I mean, I thought I would have a few more things figured out by the time I made it this far. Or at least used my iron or vacuum cleaner a little more regularly.

And then I had to go and read this.


Oh…how I love Don Miller.
And the truth is I loved the old Don too. (the whole post is here.)
Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What rocked my world.

And in some ways I have a love/hate relationship with the old me.
The 10 year ago me is older than the college me….but it made me think about who she was.

I always tell people that 26 is the perfect age.
Not so broke. Not so new professionally, but still free to be young and stupid.
The only thing I had to think about when I wanted to go on a last minute weekend trip was who would keep my dog.
I had a house.
The same house I have now.
I had 5-6 great friends.
They are still some of my favorite friends.
A cute husband who I could count on.
The same one who did all the laundry and cooked dinner yesterday.
And he is still cute.
Some things are worth keeping.
For decades. Or forevers.

Many days I envy that 26 year old.
Especially the one that shouldn’t be on cholesterol medicine, anti-seizure meds and has trouble staying awake past 10 o’clock.
But you couldn’t pay me to go back. I might still be able to recognize the 26 year old me….but the changes have not just been bigger pant sizes, booster seats and better health insurance.

I have grown comfortable with questions and doubts and laying it all on the table.
I do lots of things that I am afraid of that a decade ago I wouldn't have dreamed of.  I’ve even kind of grown a little fond of that nervous petrified feeling.  I am teensy bit better at discerning when to hold on and when to let go.
I can cook things I couldn’t even pronounce a decade ago.
I can change a diaper, pack a lunch in less than a minute and have managed to figure out the pick up line. Two entire human beings have grown inside me and I have managed to somehow keep them alive for the better part of this decade.
I even occasionally think before I speak. (clearly there is still some room for improvement here).

My issues are still my issues.
On most days my socks still don’t match.
I still make a mean mix tape.
And talk to people that I talked to a decade ago. And I’m so glad for it.
Heck, some of my t-shirts are even more than 10 years old.

But there is a lot of new too.
My passport has a few more stamps. 
My contact list, my resume and my driving record have all gotten longer. My hair has changed shades at least a dozen times. 
And my heart has stretched and broken and been put back together more times than I can count.
I haven’t arrived.
I haven’t figured it out.
And I hope to God that I won’t be able to say that I have in another ten years.
Or hundred years.
I never want to get there. 
I just want to go.
And I’m not so sure that I even want to forget where I have been. Even the really hard ugly parts that I am not so proud of. I want to be different. But not so different that you can't recognize me. Some of my best parts are pieces I picked up when I was 16. And 26. And a month ago.
Growth doesn’t necessarily mean we become someone else.
It doesn’t mean we figure it out or arrive.
It just means we are heading somewhere.
Maybe it is knowing what to keep, what to loosen my grip on and what to keep struggling with.

Maybe in the next decade I will master the vacuum.

(for the record...I still have that sweater....and those people...and plan on keeping all three around as long as possible.)