This Moment – June

My calendar tells me that today is Fathers Day, so in the kind of translation that becomes second nature to queer families of any/every stripe, it’s Mama’s Day at my house. Although I’m getting extra love and attention all weekend, our official celebration was last night. The four of us struck out on our bikes (bike trailer for the boys) and made our leisurely turtle-spotting, fish-watching, bunny-finding way to our favorite family restaurant. Much guacamole and green salsa and black beans were consumed before our ice cream nightcap. We rode home with smiles and full bellies. The boys even managed to handle the close confines of the bike trailer peacefully, which may have been the very best part.

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When they see the camera they either make goofy faces or look the other direction. I prefer the latter.

Although it’s been more than a month now, I have yet to fully grasp that somehow….. this happened.

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Our baby is two. He’s forward-facing and sentence making and clearing his own place at the table. It’s lovely and crushing all at once.

Last Friday night was a first that my wife and I have been anticipating since before we were even pregnant. We had our first family movie night!!! A movie and popcorn on the couch night. After a startling (or maybe not) amount of consideration on our part, we finally decided to go out with Toy Story. It seemed like such a sweet movie. During the 91 minutes that I spent holding a trembling (I do not exaggerate) Yogi and assuring him that Woody would find his way back to Andy, I learned that suspense is an acquired taste. I also learned that Monkey will cut you for some popcorn and that Yogi believes that he would rather watch Charlie Brown and have chocolate-covered strawberries for snack next time. We’re learning as we go around here, that’s for sure.

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This picture was taken before the heart-stopping action really ratcheted up.

The boys and I have a new summer obsession. Watermelon smoothies. There is NOTHING better.

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If you’d like to make one, it’s super easy. The most labor intensive part is dealing with the watermelon, but it’s so very worth it. I buy a watermelon every weekend and cut it up in the backyard. Just me, a huge knife and a few freezer bags. If you initially cut your watermelon into fourths, you can do the rest of your cutting any way you like. Big pieces, little pieces, totally messy – the blender cares not at all. Cram all of it into a few freezer bags and pop it in your freezer. Done.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 banana (frozen)
  • Lots of watermelon (frozen)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add the milk, ice and banana to your blender and mix until smooth.
  2. While blending, begin dropping in your watermelon.
  3. Add watermelon until it looks yummy to you. I would guess I use almost 2 cups.

Our other summer favorite is the garden. Thanks to Yogi and my wife we have so many delicious things growing just outside our door. There is tons of basil (pesto!!!!!), mint (smoothies and infused water), cilantro (all sorts of things, we’re loving it on salad), cucumbers (straight up – yum!), carrots, and beets (smoothies and our beloved beet burgers).

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The boys basking in the glow of a very satisfying beet pulling.

We’re making our way into summer and finding it quite sweet, in spite of the bug spray and sunscreen.

The Love List – May 2014

 

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Strawberries!! Oh how we love strawberries. Mostly we eat them straight up but if you’ve never had a grilled peanut butter and strawberry sandwich, you must. Our Farmers Market opens in early May and strawberries kick off the season. This year we were there bright and early to choose the yummiest pints and the four of us settled down by the bluegrass band and got started. Many, many strawberries were eaten. Just yesterday we decided to take a family trip to a nearby farm and pick our own. What a blast everyone had and look at our haul!

Hug & Fall. If you’re not familiar with this game, I’m not sure where you’ve been. The boys are all about it. It’s very simple and very cute. First you bear hug your brother as big and wide as you possibly can and then you pull him to the floor so that you collapse in a giggling, wrestling heap. As soon as you catch your breath, you jump to your feet and begin again.

Almost 4. Something wonderful is afoot with Yogi and I think we can credit his emerging four-ness. His dramatic edges are smoothing a bit and he’s growing into himself with increasing confidence and independence. It’s lovely really. He’s truly a joy to be around most of the time. This is something that only months ago I never dreamed I’d say. Ever.

Golden Wellness

Golden Wellness Smoothie. This is my smoothie of the moment. You know what makes it golden? Turmeric. I wasn’t so sure about the turmeric at first, but it’s grown on me. It’s so good. Here’s the recipe.

1 large orange, frozen
1 cup almond milk
1 banana, frozen
1/2 tsp maple or agave syrup (optional)
1 tsp turmeric
a few pinches of cinnamon
a pinch of cayenne

Directions: Blend from low to high until smooth and frosty. A high-speed blender is needed to obtain a smooth blend with the fibrous orange. Adjust flavor: Add in more turmeric for a brighter yellow blend. Add in more banana, maple or agave syrup if you want things sweeter. If you do not have a high-speed blender, you can substitute the whole orange with 1/3 cup orange juice and a handful or ice – but the texture will be thinned.

Our Garden. We have a lovely garden and I have one person to thank. My rockstar wife. Well, and Yogi helps too. He can water a garden like nobody’s business. Here’s what’s coming up at our house: spinach, kale, chocolate mint, cilantro (so delicious), cucumbers, beets, and carrots. Yum, yum, yum!

Boy Bonding. After months and months of being fairly certain that the boys were NEVER going to do anything but fight, the tide has turned.They are talking to each other!!! Working things out themselves. It is a miracle to behold. There is still plenty of fighting of course, but now there’s also working together and communal problem solving. It’s pretty awesome actually.

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Homeland. Finally we have a show again. It has been a LONG time. My wife and I just don’t have the same taste in TV shows. We have truly shared the love for only two shows: Six Feet Under and Twin Peaks. So, it’s thrilling that we’re both into this one. It’s a great mix of our interests: the CIA/political intrigue/suspense (her) and mental illness/relationship drama/Claire Danes (me). Nothing better than snuggling together on the couch after boy bedtime.

Keep Trying

Have you noticed how hard it can be to see your children? To really, truly see them? To look beyond who you want them to be and who you’re afraid they just might (in spite of your best efforts and intentions) turn into. Who they remind you of and the crazy that all of that reminding triggers. And of course there’s all the noise that comes with just using your own eyes, clouded as they are with your particular history. Is it even possible? Sometimes I’m not so sure. There’s just so much that gets in the way, that distorts and disfigures.

Yogi hasn’t been in the world a full four years yet and the ideas I have about who he already is could fill many, many notebooks. The weight of that struck me yesterday at the playground. I was venting with another Mom, outlining (in florid detail) the overwhelming evidence that my children have been brought into this world primarily so that I might suffer. I was going on and on, becoming consumed by my own story when I felt her palm on my shoulder. “I don’t see your boys that way at all.” Simple words, but they stopped me. Gave me pause.

The part of me that was relishing my own victimhood was shouting, Sure, we spend quite a bit of time together, but you don’t know what these guys are like at bath time/bedtime/4am, but I was doing my best not to hear. Listening to all of that wasn’t doing me a bit of good, so I decided instead to try to see what she saw. She shared her impressions and I resisted the urge to correct and amend and refute. The boys that she described were so lovely that I wanted to gather them up immediately and cover them in kisses. And so I did. After the morning we had had I think I surprised them, but they welcomed the change.

The day wasn’t all roses after that, but it was better. Smoother and more hopeful. When the (inevitable) fighting began and I felt that ugly story churning up, I shifted back to the kindness of the morning. Reminded myself to try to see differently. To keep trying.

The Long Path

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My wife and I used to spend our Sunday afternoons at the wine bar. Tucked into one of the corner couches, wine glasses in hand we talked for hours. Dreaming and imagining and creating a life built entirely with words. Our family was conceived on those afternoons. The “us” that we  would eventually become originated right there. Together we looked forward into the world of marriage and careers and children, imagining how we might craft a life that felt like our own. It was a deeply precious time.

I’ve been thinking about those afternoons a lot lately. Preoccupied you might say. Nostalgic for the days when this life was nothing more than a beautiful idea. When the whole thing could fade seamlessly into the background when the check came. Because it’s hard to think these days. There is not a lot of space for contemplative dreaming. Life with young children is hardly a life of the mind. It is perhaps the furthest thing from it. It is a life of the now, the right this moment. And as much as I know that this too is a gift, on most days I don’t really understand it. The gift of it I mean.

As impossible as it seems, our actual life is even richer and fuller than our theoretical one. The reality is so much more than we could ever have imagined. Of course the more is where the trouble gets in. The distance between the theoretical and the actual is entirely a matter of amplitude. More joy, more anxiety, more beauty, more exhaustion. More, more, more. All of it is just so very much to manage, to hold. And there of course is a piece of the lesson. Life isn’t a thing to be managed. Grasping only tightens everything up. Less holding, more opening. That’s what is called for.

Unfortunately there is quite a bit of distance between knowing a thing and knowing it. That long path between the head and the heart. That’s where I spend my time these days. Creeping always towards the safety of the mind while this lovely, impossible family tugs me into the wild fray of the heart. I can think of no better way to spend my days, but I can imagine plenty that might be less chaotic. Luckily this life offers little space for imagining.

Now we spend Sunday afternoons in parks or alongside train tables. We pour milk and wipe bottoms with the sounds of little boy laughter and hysterical wailing alternating in our ears. There is precious little space for words, but I’m beginning to discover a space that exists outside of that. Finally. A space of doing and being, together. It’s not the safe, tidy space that we once shared. It’s more than that. During those moments when I have the grace to open up and let all of it in, it’s almost more than I can bear. My wife disentangles our youngest son from our oldest while explaining (again) that in this family we respect someone when they tell us “no” and I catch her eye. Just for a moment. She is weary with the conflict and the nearness to bedtime, but when our eyes meet she has a smile. Just for me.

The Will to Wear Pants

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There are days when I simply lack the will to wear pants. When my old, faded jeans are a mountain that I cannot climb. I’ve come to understand that this is an oddly reliable indicator of how things are going with the boys. During easy stretches at home, my jeans are just jeans but when one or (more typically) both boys are in some flavor of challenging transition even casual wear threatens my equilibrium. How can I so much as glimpse peace when I’m expected to do things like button and zipper my own clothes? This is another (of the many) reasons that my re-entry into the working world is sure to be entertaining.

During these stretches I rely on pants with elastic waistbands and wicking fabric. Clothing that in a previous life I wore to do things like running and yoga. Life is different now. I’ve found that these very same pants are the perfect companions for chasing boundary-pushers around parks and preparing meals with 30 lb, giggling weights attached to each leg. The small measure of comfort they offer is a balm. You take what you can get.

I’ve been off the real pants train for more than a week now. If history is any indication I expect that I’ll be buttoning my own pants fairly soon. These things wax and wane. I’m looking forward to the wane. For now the Monk is committed to keeping me in comfortable clothing. The little dude is stretching his wings and it’s a raucous affair. He is two in a way that is wholly different from the way Yogi was two. So all the things I thought I knew are irrelevant and useless and beside the point. And while it is technically true that he won’t actually be two for another two weeks, I assure you that this is purely a technicality. The Monk is TWO and denim is too much for me.

Patience Eludes Me

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I’ve never had much talent for patience. Having children has brought this into blindingly sharp focus. I have some hope that patience can be built, in the way of muscle, but I don’t have much in the way of personal results to stand as evidence. The worst part of my patience problem is that I spend every last bit of what I’ve got on the boys. And…. I have a three year old and an almost two year old. So, yeah. There’s not going to be a surplus. Ever.

Where does that leave everyone else I encounter? In trouble. That’s where. I’m the worst on myself, although my wife runs a close second. It’s awful really.

The last two weeks have been an adventure. We’ve had some high-highs and some low-lows. Mostly highs really. Nana and Pops came to visit, followed by a quick trip from Grandpa and then our oldest, bestest friends came to town with their two girls. We have zoo-d and blown bubbles and kicked balls in the yard and had many of those (much needed) “you really get me” kinds of conversations. All of that has been lovely and affirming and just in time. Unfortunately an extremely disgusting stomach bug has been woven through every last bit of the good stuff. This means that there has also been oh.so.much vomit and laundry and scrubbing and pedialyte and applesauce and anticipatory nausea and even more actual nausea. Of the 11 people who have been in my house recently, only 4 have been spared.

I’m sharing all of this because it struck me that a more well-adjusted person might allow themselves a moment to recover. I am clearly not that person. All I could do yesterday was maniacally clean my house and berate myself for the too-much-mimosa-and-monkey-bread state I found myself in after a neighborhood egg hunt. That and a looping question related to how a person could have a stomach bug and not lose weight?  It’s obvious to me that a little self-gentleness is in order, but I can’t seem to find it. At least not for myself. It’s ridiculous really and I’m getting too old for this.

I do however have new glasses! Rose colored glasses. I probably need to put those on!

This Moment

Thanks for your sharing in the excitement of my last post! I really enjoyed the comments. However, there are things going on around here that have nothing to do with the third baby question. Here are a few of those things:

Dinosaurs. As part of Yogi’s ever-growing fascination with power (how it works, who’s got it, how he can get some) he’s got dinosaurs on the brain. Every library book is a dinosaur story (a really great one is Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct (Mo Willems)) and most of his imaginary play features growling, crushing houses with his huge feet and telling everyone that he is a dinosaur who eats other dinosaurs. His favorite? T-Rex.

Sesame Street. This winter we started having some family TV time after dinner and the boys fell in love with Sesame Street. Now that we have more daylight and can get outside we’re trying to remind them of how fabulous the post-dinner family walk used to be. It’s a work in progress. Bert and Ernie’s Great Adventure, Super Grover 2.0 and Elmo’s World are hard to resist.

Repetition. Every word that anyone says is guaranteed to be repeated by the Monk. Not only will he repeat your words, but that repetition will echo. His little voice might be the sweetest sound I have ever heard, but there is such a thing as too much sweetness.

Yogi’s New Closet. He’s been choosing between two shirts every day since he was old enough to point, but until recently we called the shots on all the rest of his clothes. A while back it occurred to me that giving him a little more say might smooth out some of our getting-ready friction, so we rearranged his closet. Now everything is within his reach. He can choose shirts, pants, and socks. At night he picks out his pi’s. He looks a little eccentric much of the time, but he takes pride in his selections.

Evolving Values. I’ve been flirting with veganism for years. It’s the cheese that really stands in my way. I would miss fish and ice cream, but I could handle it. But cheese? Man would I miss cheese. And then last week I read this. I’m a long time Zen Habits reader and I’ve certainly read his ideas about living vegan before, but this piece really connected with me. The flirting continues.

Baffling Boys. The sibling dynamic is incomprehensible. I don’t think I will ever understand it. At 4:28 they can be shrieking and using every ounce of their strength to crush one another and then suddenly it’s 4:29 and they are belly laughing. I wasn’t aware that such radical mood shifts were possible outside of psychiatric facilities. Or maybe…… never mind. ;)

Another Big Boy Bed?! Grandpa has made it and brought it to our house, but I am NOT ready to set the Monk free. He, of course, feels differently. He spends much of his time trying to dismantle the crib himself. I guess we should be glad that we don’t have climbers, but climbing out of a crib might be safer than shaking the bars and jumping with such force that the whole thing crumbles beneath you. Ugh. We’ve got to do it soon.

All Heart

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There is a canyon as deep as it is wide that separates the land of two children from the dizzying expanse of three or more. A family with one or two children is lovely and mostly manageable and can be contained at almost any table and within any vehicle. When you start adding more than that, words like lovely and manageable take on a different kind of meaning. In every conversation I’ve had with parents of larger families (and there have been many bc if I see you with three or more kids I’m talking to you, full stop) the third child is the tipping point. The game changer. Once you’re outnumbered, adding a few more players to their team matters little. You have a big family.

And that is where I have been for the entirety of the year thus far. Wandering around blindly within that divide. Trying to see my family  more clearly. Grappling with the question of whether we are a family or a BIG family. While my wife has been certain of her desire to live in the land of the big family I’ve not been so sure. This has been an interesting experience for us, this being on separate pages. We’ve been united in our feeling that we’ve got another one in us, however in a (for me) unsettling role switch, my wife has been able to leap right into “Let’s do it!” while I’ve been paralyzed in “But how?”. I’m not talking here of the mechanics of baby-making, but rather the daily concerns of maintaining some level of sanity (how much is enough really?) and fostering a sense of safety and well-being for everyone under our roof. Most of the time I just can’t see it. These are challenging goals in our current configuration as a foursome, so what could that possibly look like should we become five?

We don’t know. We have absolutely no idea.

Of course we don’t.

We didn’t know when we had Yogi and we still didn’t really know when we had the Monk. We’ve been entirely clueless about the whole thing because there IS no way to know. I can’t say that I approve of this particular law of the universe but that matters not at all. It is just true. This family business isn’t rational. It’s all heart.

I can wander around forever and I’m never going to figure it out, so I’ve decided to stop wandering. (See, there are certain decisions that can be made rationally!) I’m finally sitting down. Snuggling in right beside my wife who has been waiting here for me, knowing I would find my way eventually. We’re going to do it. As it happens, our family is a big one.

He Keeps Sneaking Up on Me

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My boys are growing up. This is alternately heart-breaking and the best news ever. Somehow our little Monkey is almost two. Two?! He was just born. The whole walking, running, talking fact of his little boy-ness is frequently more than I can take. While all of Yogi’s changes have been similarly world-shifting, they’ve also been more anticipated. When he took his first steps it was a moment we had been waiting for. His babbling and eventual talking felt the same way. There was a sense that this thing that we had been imagining was actually happening now and oh, the excitement! No so with the Monk.

When he started walking, my first thought was “Wait a second! What are you doing?! Babies don’t walk!?”. The same shock accompanied his first everything. It’s strange how deeply I have not seen any of it coming. Of course none of that matters to the Monk. He has had his own thing going from the beginning and  I’m certain he relishes each surprise.

At not-quite two he wants to do everything “self!”. He drinks out of a top-less cup, clears his place at the table,  throws away all of his own trash and pours a (mostly) responsible capful of bubble bath in the tub each night. He also wipes and diapers his baby with great care, runs almost as fast as his brother, gives huge, wide-armed bear hugs, and eats no fewer than two apples each day.

I’ve never meet a more gentle soul. Lucky is what we are.

Seasons Change

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This is happening outside my window. Every glance at those petals melts a bit more of the quiet chill of winter and for that I am oh so grateful. The last season has been a long one. The cold and the darkness have been the too-perfect companions for my (obsessive?) ruminations. My quiet inwardness. Perfect for holding me in that space, not at all perfect for forcing me out.

Happily, seasons change. Even more happily, this new season is spring. Everywhere I look something lovely is in bloom. Walking to the park with the boys this afternoon I had to acknowledge that our neighborhood is in the throes of a beauty riot. It’s fairly impossible to remain unmoved in a situation like this. So, I’m not. I’m moving. I’m making my way out of my head and back out into the world.

Thanks for putting up with my long silences. I’ve missed you.