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.

Claire Danes

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.

Parents are No Match for the Potty

Thirteen days ago we got a letter from Yogi’s pre-school. The letter, with references to the American Association of Pediatrics, informed us that the 3’s program is structured around the expectation that most children are potty-trained by the age of three. Wha????? In keeping with this expectation, there are no diaper changing stations in these classrooms and only underwear and Pull-Ups are allowed. Umm….what?! In my admittedly limited investigation into the schools’ potty rules (why continue to ask questions when you get an answer that works?) I had heard that they were happy to work with you and that there were no hard and fast rules about potty training. This letter didn’t make it sound like that.

Enter……. PANIC!!!!!

School starts at the end of August. August! Our pre-letter potty strategy was of the wait and see variety. Around the time Yogi turned two we got little seats for our toilets, checked out Everybody Poops at the library and started talking potty. We cheered on our friends who sit on the potty at school and invited the little dude to flush during our (almost always) communal bathroom visits. He selected his own big boy underwear a few months back and we frequently discuss how cool it will be when he’s ready for them. There is very rare potty sitting when he’s in the mood before tub, but prior to the letter nothing had ever come of any of that. We were waiting for him to be ready. Whatever that even is.

Then we got the letter. My initial response was “Ack!!! We haven’t prepared him and now he’s going to be in a situation that he’s not ready for and he will be damaged!!”. Because that’s a given, right? If a person has traumatic potty training experiences they’re pretty much doomed for serious psychological trauma, no? This is precisely why we were adopting this “give him the information he needs and be ready to step in and support his efforts when he’s ready” strategy. But now, we have a matter of weeks. What if he doesn’t show any more potty interest before school starts? So, we decided to intervene.

There were stickers and tiny Matchbox cars and a frog potty and Pull-Ups and many, many books. We spent a week sitting fruitlessly on the potty every few hours. There was a sticker for each sit and a brand new car!!! (I felt like Oprah) for the handful of times that there was actual peeing and plans for a potty party involving a family trip for ice cream and the selection of whatever truck or car his little heart desired when the big moment arrived. We never got to the party.Why? Well, Yogi declared war on the potty and by extension, the two of us.

He was cool with the whole thing for the first few days. I guess it was something different and the boy loves little more than a good book. So, he tolerated it. That’s the most accurate way to characterize it. He went through the motions right up until the moment when he decided he was D.O.N.E. Trips to the potty became increasingly conflict-addled and the very tone of the day plummeted. By day five, every interaction was a fight. Even our non-potty moments were tense. One morning Yogi ran around the house at top speed shouting, “NO potty! NO cars! NO ice cream! NO stickers! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!”. This shouting went on in a loop until I was finally able to soothe him after I’m pretty sure he just wore himself out.

So, what do you with that? After feeling overwhelmed by frustration and fear and frank anger, we decided to let it go. We told Yogi that we would try the potty again when he was ready and we let it go. This was a battle we were not going to win, at least not without aid of tools like shame and humiliation, so we had only to let it go.  The plan for now is to carry on in the way of our pre-letter selves until it seems like the right time to try again. This may mean that he starts school without much potty proficiency. In that case, we’ll send him in a Pull-Up and pick him up at noon instead of 2 o clock. I’m confident that he could make four hours, but any longer would be a real risk. It’s not an attractive option, but it looks like the best one at the moment and thankfully (gross understatement) we can do it.

Perhaps something magical will happen on August 15th when he turns three. Maybe it will happen even before then. Like everything else with this parenting gig I have absolutely no idea. I’m just going to be ready and (patiently – yeah right!) waiting.

Here & There

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I can’t explain why this is my favorite picture of the moment, but it is.

Why should I write only when I have thoughtfully crafted things to say? Rubbish! Down with coherence and up with rambling!

JOYFUL THINGS

  • This summer we’ve started taking family showers (we have a good size one with a door) and I’m in love. It’s immensely practical as all four of us have to get a shower in before bed (the boys and I spend much of our day outside and my wife usually takes the boys outside to play after dinner which involves lots of yucky bug spray) and doing the boys together and each of us separately takes some time. It also allows the boys to splash and throw water and be as messy as they please bc it’s a shower, the water stays right where it belongs. As the Monk has gotten more exuberant, bathing was becoming a real splash fest and as much as I wanted to be cool with it, it was driving me crazy. Now we just haul all of our cups and bottles and ducks in with us and everyone is happy. Happy and cute.
  • My wife and I are running off to New York to get married next month!!! Yahoo!!! The boys will be staying with Muzzie and Grandpa and we are going to make this thing as official as it’s possible to be.
  • After not participating in National Novel Writing Month for two years, I’m dipping my toes in with Camp NaNoWriMo this month. Camp is more laid back, with the opportunity to write whatever you want (screenplay, poetry collection, not just a novel) using however many words you want (50K is not your only option). So…. I set the bar low (25K) and so far I’m right on track. I’m playing with my own stories and learning that memoir is a really interesting form.
  • I’m playing in the kitchen again! At least one person at this house (can you guess who?) LOVES to eat and I’m remembering how satisfying it is to cook for someone who actually eats food. Yes, Yogi. This one is on you. I’m hoping that the Monk’s eagerness to try anything and everything will rub off on his brother. Probably wishful thinking

NOT EVEN REMOTELY JOYFUL THINGS

  • The potty. That’s all I’m saying for now. More later.
  • Night weaning with the Monk. There are no words.
  • I am without a good book and have been for weeks now. I’ve started and abandoned probably fifteen books in as many days. I’ve got some interesting non-fiction going, but I’m dying for story. I need a world to get lost in. Anyone have ideas?? I’d be happy to reciprocate.

Brother Love

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These boys are wild about each other.

All of this wild love is new. The Monk had been the prime irritant of Yogi’s life and then….. the little dude started walking. Now he can be chased and made to laugh hysterically and taught endlessly entertaining tricks.

Yogi’s first question upon waking (whether from nap or nighttime) is always, “Where’s Monkey?”. If by some miracle the answer is “In his crib”, Yogi must call on all of his small powers of restraint to allow his brother a touch more sleep. The world just isn’t as much fun without a sidekick.

What kinds of tricks has he learned? Well, he loves to walk his newly changed diaper to the diaper pail for drop off and give an exuberant high-five when his mission is complete. Just this morning he walked the thing all the way up the stairs. He also likes to shake his head like a crazy person upon Yogi’s hysterical giggling command. This happens most frequently at the dinner table and in the bathtub. As his age would suggest, he waves like he invented the gesture and believes himself to be the Master of Peek-a-Boo. There is no one more skilled.

Mostly I’m just in love with them. Brother love is the best.

High on Love

What a week, huh? By the time the Supreme Court finally decided to make their rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 I was a disaster. I had been optimistic on Monday, but as the week progressed I was sliding downhill. When I woke up on Wednesday morning I was sure we were in for disappointment. But I was WRONG!!!! Hooray! What fabulous, fabulous news. And if you haven’t watched Rachel Maddow’s show from the night of the ruling, you must. Not only is she just lovely and geek chic, but her thoughts on where all of this is headed are very encouraging.

So, I’m totally high on love. In spite of the fact that I live in one of those states that is sure to be among the last in the march towards marriage equality, I’m not sure I could be more excited. I feel strongly that my wife and I were married on the day we said “I do” in front of all of our people during our not at all legal wedding, but all of this excitement is getting to me. I’ve been daydreaming about leaving the boys with grandparents and sharing a romantic weekend with my wife in which we do things like sleep in, eat leisurely meals, kiss as much as possible and get married.

And then there are those boys. I’m so excited for them too. It feels impossibly good to know that the world really is changing and maybe this having two Moms thing will be a smidge easier than I sometimes fear.

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Yogi got behind the wheel for the first time last weekend. The man was born to drive. Isn’t it great to have friends with cool toys?!

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The Monk walks everywhere.

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Just a little naked fun in our neighbors backyard. Oh and Goldfish. Always Goldfish.

The Good Stuff

I love a quirk. Learning of these intimate little oddities is the best way I know to connect with people. Quirks are the good stuff. To that end, I’m realizing that I need to capture them somewhere and this strikes me as the perfect spot.

Here’s a glimpse into our odd little world at newly 1 and almost 3.

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“All of we are blue birds”. This one is about to kill us. I’m working to keep perspective and realize that years from now we will remember this with fondness, but at three weeks in it’s not easy. Yogi has decided that we are a family of blue birds. Among other things, this means that we are not to refer to one another as anything other than “bluebird”. No Mama, no Mommy, no big or little brother. We are “just bluebirds”. This makes clarity in conversation damn near impossible. We’ve become quite adept at pointing when it is possible to do so and referencing “that other bluebird” when it’s not. Also, we all sleep in nests.

The Monk has uttered his first (I guess it counts) word:, “Uh-oh”. Long time readers may remember that this was also Yogi’s first word. I admit to some concern that “uh-oh” is the first clear statement that either of our boys ever made, but putting their mental health aside it sure does sound adorable.

Yogi likes the ladies. I never imagined that this kind of thing would be so evident so young, but at least in this moment, Yogi has very clear interests. It started a few weeks ago at bedtime. Between reading stories and singing songs, we always talk about our day. On playgroup days, Yogi likes to name each kid and talk about something funny they did. Out of nowhere Yogi looks up at me from under his eyelashes and shyly says “Let’s talk about the Moms”. Um, excuse me….what?!! In the moments that followed I learned that the boy knows the name of every Mom (if I could name the kid, he could name the Mom) and that he likes Meredith. This is the way he put it. “I like Meredith. Let’s invite her over all by herself.” Oh.My.

Monkey would like to take the stairs thank.you.very.much. I never dreamed that I would allow my barely one year old to charge up our notoriously dangerous stairs solo, but the man cannot be stopped. Thankfully he shows no interest in going down, but he is fully committed to going up. Not once has he faltered or stumbled. The very moment that the gate is opened, he’s headed up at great speed. He can be in another room. I swear he must feel it in his bones.

Mama appreciates a jock*. After shoving exercise underneath the list since Monkey’s birth, I’m back at it. I’m not running and I’m not yogi-ing. If you can believe it, I’m doing circuit training. Wha?!!! Owing quite a lot to my certainty that osteoporosis is in my future, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how much I would benefit from weight training. All those bones and muscles so nice and strong. It’s a lovely idea. Unfortunately, the reality has never quite lived up to the fantasy… until now. As in so many things it’s taken a butch little lesbian with some junk in her trunk to get me on board. I’m talking about Jillian Michaels. Yes, she’s entirely too bossy and she flirts in a painfully awkward way with her….(what do you call them?) back-up dancers on the video, but I can swing 20 minutes a day and I appreciate the eye candy. I turned the corner in my Jillian interest after learning that she’s married to a very kind looking yoga instructor and has two kids almost the exact ages of ours. This girl needs back story.

 

*This is something I learned about myself only after meeting my wife. I’ve never had any occasion to interact with sporty people before her, so I had no idea.

Big Day Around Here

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Today this little dude turned 1. The Monk has been with us for an entire year. Hard to believe. I have so much more to say about this little person, but no time to say it. A picture for now.

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Today was also the last day of school for this little dude. His last day in the 2’s. Next year I’ll be taking a big 3 year old to school. My oh my.

To celebrate this red letter Thursday, Mommy made strawberry pancakes for dinner. The boys stood side by side in the tower and helped. Yum!

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say

In my childhood this phrase was so frequently used that my parents never even said the last six words aloud. Who needed to? Everybody knew the drill. If you weren’t smiling and brimming with good cheer than you could just take your  sorry sad sack self somewhere else. No room for that here.

Long before Yogi came along I knew that wasn’t the tone I wanted to set for my own family. Unfortunately there is a huge distance between knowing what you don’t want to do and understanding the how of doing something different. I didn’t enter parenthood entirely ignorant of how to handle myself with others, I had managed to pick up a few lessons from close relationships and therapy, but I still had almost 20 years of day in, day out training in the art of being Just Fine, Thank You. This is high, high art in my family.

Being Just Fine, Thank You centers on always being pleasant with others and admitting sadness or vulnerability to no one. You handle those kinds of things on your own. Clearly this is a ridiculous altar to kneel at, but those early voices are impossible to un-hear.

Enter Yogi.

All the book reading in the world could not have prepared me for the emotional wild west of toddlerhood. I thought I knew what to expect. I had read that all of this* was entirely normal. And then it became my life. Spending every waking moment with a two-year old is like a crash course in Freudian personality theory. Well, it’s an excellent characterization of one part of the theory at least. It’s all Id, all the time. Of course this is all as it should be, but when you have a gut level belief (despite years of dismantling) that it’s not really OK to be mad (or sad or disappointed or unhappy, you get the idea) than that little Id on two legs is a bomb in the middle of your world.

Much of the last few months has been devoted to learning from the fallout. Yogi is always willing to offer a teachable moment and maddening as those moments may be, that’s a blessing because I’ve got a lot to learn.

I’ve managed to gather a handful of tools so far and with the hope that you might also find them useful I’ll be writing about them in the weeks to come.

 

* This takes many forms. One moment it could be desperate hysterical tears coupled with wild on-the-floor writhing. The very next it might be sudden unexplained and high-volume chanting of “No Mama! No Mama! Nooooooo Mama!”. Or there is always my personal favorite, crumpling in whiny misery on the floor after being offered a cookie. Explain that….

Washington de Sea

As of this morning we are blissfully home from vacation.

I’m nearing three years as a Mama and I think it’s safe to say that traveling with small children isn’t my thing. Although saying it out loud reveals me as the bore of a homebody that I actually am, I didn’t find travel all that exciting before kids. It’s not that I’m opposed to new things or different ideas or unfamiliar ways of being, it’s just that I much prefer to read about those things. Preferably while wearing loungewear and tucked in a cozy chair.

Travel, particularly to big cities, involves all sorts of things that get me discombobulated. Things like hordes of people and huge, unfamiliar roads and bathtubs and bed linens that I have not personally cleaned. I imagine that this is part of the charm of travel for the well-adjusted, but these charms are lost on me.

Travel with small children is just harrowing. There is no more honest way to characterize the experience. The wide lens offers nothing but chaos and disorder. Most of this chaos springs from:

  • The aftermath of nap deprivation – Watching your lovely toddler throw every snack he can get his hands on out of the cold case at Starbucks while shouting “No Mommy! No Mommy!” at the top of his voice. All we wanted was a little coffee….
  • The yuck of unfamiliar places – Monkey crawling through the airport at brake-neck speed, pausing only long enough to grab the nastiest morsels from the floor and shove them into his mouth.
  • The continuing yuck – Bathing two boys in a tub that is either very old or quite dirty or perhaps both. These baths always seem to take place about 10 minutes too late (they seemed so normal until we got in the tub)
  • The We’re Not at our House and We Are NOT Tired!!! bedtime drama
  • The impossibility of a relaxing dinner out when your youngest is committed to the removal of the tablecloth and your oldest believes that each new slice of pizza/bread/whatever requires its own plate
  • The truth – Dirt and sticks are more compelling than any experience that adults can plan and prepare and pay for

But… nestled within all of that crazy there are moments. Much too fleeting and often sparse, they are always there. Always. My work is in noticing them. Focusing my attention on their little glimmering lights.

  • After many overly enunciated descriptions of our travel plans, Yogi continues to be enthusiastic about our travel in Washington de Sea.
  • Earnest Monkey pushing a strollered and giggling Yogi around the airport security area. The boy isn’t walking, but he sure is pushing with gusto.
  •  The boys meeting their only living great-grandparent. Man was she smitten.
  • Yogi chasing me through the terminal chanting “Let’s go little Mama! Let’s go little Mama!”
  • The joy of Monkey’s first carousel ride. He grabbed the pole and hung on with the biggest, brightest smile. No fear for the little Monk.
  • Crammed into a tiny corner of the Metro, Yogi whispers “This is my family.”