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When We Were Young

When We Were Young.

The day started out just as any Tuesday morning does: I’m running late getting the kids in the car, my son is sitting on the floor with his shoes staring at the ceiling making faces in an attempt to see just how much I’m bluffing on the “you will go to school with no shoes” threats I make every Tuesday morning. My daughter is looking at me suspiciously from her car seat, having not been to school since the prior Thursday, that long four day weekend that she has every week always catches up to her and she’s trying to remember if she likes school or not. When we are finally all set, I back out of the driveway as Adele’s newest song fills the car. “When we were young”, she croons, and I think to myself, how old could she have been? Didn’t she title her album 25 after her age? How young is young, 15? What do 15 year olds know about anything in this song? On and on it went as we drove to school, but as it would happen, it’s January and January is nothing if not a time for reflection. Fifteen, what was I doing at fifteen? Instantly, I flashed to last night’s episode of The Good Wife, which also had a reflection vibe. Long story short, the main character, Alicia, found out that a message was hidden from her, a message that would have given her a choice, would have provided a fork in the road. Instead, it was hidden so she would not have that opportunity; hidden so that she would have to stay small and not stretch herself to her full potential.  All she had left was to wonder what could have been. Deep. Very deep. This is all a bit much for 8:15 A.M. when I’m already late for school drop-off. “Let’s come back to this sometime later when my mind can give this a full once over”, I think. But I notice that something is trying to get my attention.
I decided that I would take myself to the movies while all the kids were in school because:
1.) I just survived an activity-packed winter break, and
2.) Let’s face it, when else will I get a chance to go to a movie that’s not rated G OR about the mob on a date night.
I chose Joy. Spoiler Alert for anyone who still has yet to see Joy, but it’s a period piece set back in the era when I was young. Can you feel the serendipity flowing? There is a scene where Joy is reading her daughter a book about an insect who burrows for exactly 17 years and then re-emerges. It’s not quite clear what happens when it emerges, but Joy isn’t feeling the book about a 17 year reclusive bug. Until she dreamed she was the bug per se; she remembered herself and how she had given up on a piece of herself exactly 17 years ago. After her 17 year hiatus from living the life she was destined to live, she reemerges and claims what was rightfully hers. She was the reclusive insect, and now she’s a badass bitch. Enough Said.
Now, I don’t know about you, but of course I did the math to see what I was doing exactly 17 years ago and wouldn’t you know it, that was the year that I graduated from high school. Serendipity. flowing. Now maybe Hollywood isn’t exploiting my need to reflect in January, or the fact that I’m looking out over a whole new year wanting it to be the year everything falls into place…just like in the movies. Wait isn’t that a line from Adele’s song this morning? No. Focus. This is a higher power at work here, and it’s got something to say. Flashing back again to The Good Wife, the episode ends with the evil secret-keeper telling a campaign manager that she dropped the ball because she failed to see how Alicia was really the star of the show this entire time. That she was never really the background, the prop behind her husband, like the campaign manager believed, as Alicia’s husband believed, heck, even as Alicia believed.  But the bonafide star who has been hidden…doubting…waiting…(and quite possibly, it was for 17 years. Now that would be tooooo spooky, but you get where this is going). Reclusive insect.  Badass bitch.
So what is this all to say? All this Reflection. Waiting. Emerging. Serendipity. I think we all know. On a side-note, I had just been reunited with a NorthFace vest that truly had been lying dormant for the past 17 years (hidden in my sister’s closet, no less). It was the vest I wore for my senior pictures in 1999, and as fate would have it, I wore it to the movie that day. Badass bitch. 2016, let’s do this.

There’s a new sheriff in town.

The mommy wars. If you’re a mom, you know what they are. If you’re a mommy-to-be, you’re slowly biding your time, getting all your ducks in a row, because you know, they’ve got you in their crosshairs. Quite possibly, you won’t even go a full 12 hours before being judged by another mom. The nurse checking on you late at night merely makes a comment about the baby being in the nursery, but you notice it. The judgement. The comment. The intent. It’s slight, but you notice it.  You grit your teeth, now defensive. What else will you have to defend today?  Seconds ago you were merely sitting in your hospital bed, gathering the strength needed just to walk to the sink to brush your teeth. But now? Now you’re at war. And so it goes. You loathe the mommy haters, but you catch yourself making completely innocent sounding comments from time to time that are interlaced with guilt-inducing code. You want the upper hand, lest you be judged. It’s all a game of chess, and you playground position your pawns and rooks juuuuust so. Because once you take your eyes off the board, actually spend time enjoying your child? Try to duck out of the playground minefield for just a moment? Check. Mate. Mother ducker. Game over.

And so it goes. You know the game. Detest the game. Unwillingly have become a player from time to time. The topic has become a national talking point. Ad campaigns are wielding to bringing back the sisterhood. Let’s put down our weapons and pick up our babies. Yes! You like it. You want that. You vow to do better. But then? You realize that there’s always been a phantom player, playing on the white spaces and taking you out before you even knew he was there.

The STAHDAD.  The carpool dad. The gym dad. Lunchtime visit dad. He’s always there at just the right moment to point out exactly what is going on that shouldn’t be. That you should be all over.  He knows because he would be all over it. He wants to be all over it. Instead, he’s all over you. But it’s not subtle, he doesn’t know the rules of the game. It’s blatant. Scolding. It’s a piercing disdainful stare at church when your toddler toddles too far ahead. It’s a rousing lecture at the farm when your four year old too tightly holds a chicken before you even have a chance to intervene.  It’s a digusted head shake when your kids don’t want to share with each other within his earshot.  It’s mommy wars times ten. It’s mommy wars plus a drone strike.  You didn’t know you were being watched. And Boom. There it is. You’re rendered without a witty comeback. Your Arsenal is empty of retorts.  Your brain is almost wiped completely clean because you’re not defending your parenting choices.  It’s not your choices that are being challenged here. He doesn’t care if you breast or bottle. Work outside or inside the home.  Team sports over chess team.  iPad or Uno.  What he is challenging, this stranger here, is that you are even capable of being a parent. Of knowing what to do. Of handling it. Of knowing your own kids. Because this stranger has summed you up, and decided in all of 15 seconds. And you. Aren’t. It.  And his endgame is to make sure that you know, that you. aren’t. it.

What a tangled web we have woven. We, women, demanding job equality, pay equality, the right to vote. Our audacity to ask for reproductive rights. To ASK for reproductive rights. Because of all that we have asked for, worked for and demanded, the role of father has been redefined in our modern day culture. And we find ourselves squarely at the table with the men in our culturally gender specific role of mothering. However, are we starting to lose our place at this table too?

In the mommy war crusade, the endgame isn’t to cut another mother down. It’s to justify your own choices. To steady yourself in your mind, that the decisions that keep you up at night are the right ones. The sisterhood has always been underlying because I understand this is at the heart of the snide comment you made about my non-glass bottle.  And in turn, you understand why I loudly discuss our healthy snack that was perfectly packed at the USDA-approved temperature when I see you pull out those goldfish (hello, bunnies!).  I’m not making you second guess your identity, just your goldfish. But these dads, they don’t fight fair. While moms will swoon over a hands-on dad, that same dad will dismiss your entirety with a head shake at the sound of a two year old sounding, well, two.  Hands-on dads are the business. Hands-on dads make the world go round. But let’s not forget that there’s no such language for hands-on moms.  Moms. Just. Are.  So back off Sheriff. I got this. And if I don’t, I promise I will ask. Us women, we’ve had practice. So, you can police your precinct and I will warden mine. But I won’t so easily hand over the keys to the city. And you won’t so easily pull up a chair at this table and become judge, jury and executioner.  You have as much of a right to shame me as a parent as you do to my right to become one (or not) in the first place.  And by the way, welcome to the mommy wars. Sisters (and the non-shaming dads of the world), unite.

The meaning of dinner

When I ask myself the question, what does cooking mean to me?, I am instantly transported back to the memory of my very first Carribean cruise.  It was 10 years ago; I was engaged, but it had been almost one year with neither my then fiancé  or myself intent on setting a date or making concrete plans.  There was a serious point of contention that stopped us just short of jumping the broom or being carried over the threshold: cooking. Who was responsible for it and why?  We had vastly differing opinions. I was brought up in a progressive, liberal-minded Portland, Oregon home. We listened to the “Free To Be” record as much as we listened to Sharon, Lois and Bram.  It was engrained in me since kindergarten that: nobody likes housework, but if it has to be done, you do it together. That’s what my parents did; that’s what my married hometown friends did. That’s what I knew to be right, fair and true. However, the many married women on the carnival cruise ship that I found myself on in 2005 (including my mother-in-law and aunt-in-law) disagreed with my approach.

Cooking, I was told, was my job. Why on earth would I even consider it didn’t fall under my jurisdiction?  In fact, it was one of the many responsibilities that I not just took on, but took over when I chose to become a wife.  I’m still not sure how it happened, but the conversation took on a life of its own. Strangers were weighing in, ganging up on me, persuading me that this is the norm and that they were saving me a lot of bitter and tumultuous years if I would just hear them out. I remember an elderly cruiser telling me that she resented all the years she spent in the kitchen, but that I would have to swallow my pride and pick up a cookbook. I could, however, draw the line at not cooking the meats that I didn’t eat– she smirked the last bit of advice. Almost a plotted revenge tactic that she once used to dull her resentment.

Thinking back on that day now, I am as internally divided now as I was then. I love food. I care what I eat. I want it to be delicious. Satisfying. Healthy. I care what others eat. It wasn’t that I hated cooking; I hated that it became my job just because I was someone’s wife. It seemed so 1950’s foreign to me.  And the advice panelists from the cruise ship ended up to all be right: this was a major point of contention, and possibly a reason we weren’t married for another two and a half years.  I vacillated between trying to become the next Martha Stewart to all but picketing the kitchen and putting locks on the pantry in protest. And then came the kids.

It wasn’t until my third son was born and we took–wait for it– a cruise through the Mediterranean that a true relationship with food began. I fell in love with the Italian culture and how food plays such an integral part of daily life. We spent mere hours in Monaco and I can remember every step I took like it was yesterday.  We sat in a cafe on the beach, and a lonely, dark gym sat behind us. Virtually empty, all the action was in this cafe and on the beach. Life was going on. Not preparations for life goals.  Not the harried, overtired, stressed, productivity above all else energy I was used to being American. A carefree ease flowed through the Provençal lavender-scented air. Food is for friends, family, living. Why did I relegate it to a political stance?  Isn’t it so much more?  Why not embrace that food is something I have always loved, and spend real time trying to love to cook. Not to please a husband who thinks it’s my duty as a wife. Not to cave to societal pressure. Not even to micromanage every bite that goes into my kid’s mouths. But to look at each of those seeming obligations and see them at their core the way the Italians and French do; as an integral part of being a family, having friends and living a loving life.

My political stance hasn’t changed.  I still don’t think cooking is a woman’s job.  But my perspective has changed abundantly.  No, it isn’t my job as a wife and a mom to cook for my family, but we all have to eat.  If I choose not to cook, which I did for many years, then someone else is feeding my family, myself.  Those become lost opportunities to share the life-giving messiness that cooking truly is.  Instead of an obligation, I have come to consider it a privilege to have a family to cook for; friends to invite to dinner.  And a life, albeit sometimes harried, productivity-centered and stressed, that is mine worth living.  And relishing in the privilege that it is just to have it.

 

Wild & Fancy Free Baby Shower

Moss covered picture frames
Moss covered picture frames – photo credit  Wayne Howell

I am fresh off my baby shower weekend and excited to share event details!  The theme for the party was Wild and Fancy Free and we tied in elements of the bohemian lifestyle to create a free-spirited good time.

The Theme

While some understood the theme right away, others needed a bit of an explanation, which I am more than happy to chat on and on about.  My husband and I will be first time parents and we hope to raise our child with a zest for life, free to follow their dreams, free to imagine, free to break rules (well, some of them) and free to be who they are.  This is our hope and we will do our best to encourage and promote these ideals.  So, here’s to raising baby, wild and fancy free!

Details, Details 

After deciding on the theme, I wanted to make sure the party decor matched and would be carried throughout, from invitations to thank you cards.  I truly believe when hosting a party, the details are what truly transform a party into a remembered event.  Start small and expand out. The first order of business was selecting theme colors. I went with gold, mint, white and soft pink.  I decided that a majority of the decor would be DIY, which not only saved money, but brought in elements of individuality and creativity. I immediately purchased (mostly from the dollar store) mason jars, picture frames, glass bottles,  tiny vases, acrylic paint, dried moss, burlap ribbon, stencils and gold glitter spray paint and went to work.  Using a hot glue gun I covered the entire pictures frames with the moss and then printed colorful and fun pictures with sayings like, “be brave little one” or “wild and free” to put inside. I painted the mason jars and glass bottles all white and then added stencil designs with mint paint and covered the tiny vases with burlap ribbon and moss. The day of the event I purchased mini succulent plants for the decor, but also small gifts for guests to take home, along with tons of fresh wild flowers and greenery for the vases and mason jars.

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Party Activities 

Always one to shy away from the traditional, I decided that there would be no games or opening of gifts during the shower. Instead I wanted some fun activities that guests could participate in –  if they wanted – no pressure here, we are fancy free!  I hired a henna tattoo artist to give guests tattoos of their choice. This was a big hit and my only mistake with this was not booking her for longer, as many guests did not get tattoos because she had to leave for another engagement.  I also bought white cotton bibs, fabric paint and stencils for guests to design and decorate  for baby.  We hung a line for the bibs to dry on, which also served as part of the decor as the party raged on.

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Eats and Drinks 

I was lucky to have an amazing friend cook up a real meal for our guests! Since our shower did not start until 4pm, we decided to give our guests something hearty.  We ate BBQ chicken, rice and beans, macaroni and cheese,  salad, Hawaiian bread with spinach and cheese dip, and sliced fruits.  The food was delicious and the chef received many, many compliments.  For dessert we had a beautiful cupcake tower with mint, gold, white and pink rose cupcakes. I set this up at the all white candy station with all kinds of pretty candies and another amazing friend made white chocolate covered Oreo’s, and white chocolate covered fudge drops for take home treats. Guests could help themselves to cupcakes and candy whenever they wanted. No waiting for cake to be cut around here!  And of course, in my book, no party is complete without some serious libations. Even though I couldn’t partake in the alcohol, I was happy to give the option to our guests.  We also had great non-alcoholic options too.

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In the End 

In the end, some showers are big, some are small, some are in backyards and some in fancy restaurants, but the most important thing is that they feel like YOU. My event turned out just as I  wanted because I didn’t compromise or let outside opinions influence my decisions. I wanted our loved ones to gather to eat, drink and enjoy. Just a day to celebrate all of us and show love to baby.

XOXO,

Vanessa

 

Wednesday Warrior

We decided to have our mom, Andrea, yet often referred to as “mummu”(Finnish for grandma), guest blog on Wednesdays. She’s pretty much the coolest at everything. Her job is cool (she works for arguably the best soccer team in the country), her life is cool (she hiked through streams and rivers on purpose for her 63rd birthday, and then went out for morroccan food eating sans chairs or silverware; this is just a typical day in the life no less!) and the grands thinks she’s the coolest grandma ever (she thinks they need BB guns and they agree).

We missed her post yesterday, but here she is catching us up on what Mummu does next:

9.2.15

It came in a text. The offer stated, “We have an opening for a blogger on Wednesdays. You must be the mother of the two best bloggers in the world and must have taught them everything they know to apply for this position.” That’s me! I’m the mother of the best two bloggers in the world! My only problem would be that second qualification. Not sure how I was going to get around that one for I have learned more from my children than I have ever taught them. Maybe the person with the job offer wouldn’t catch on that my children could not teach me what I have learned from them; what I have learned from my children ends up to be what I have learned about myself through them. Looking back, I had a lot to learn and they were great teachers.

So, if I get this gig, I’ll be the Wednesday Blogger. I’m sure you’ve heard us old timers say, “If only I knew then what I know now…,” well, this blog is from a mummu’s (gramma’s) perspective. I hope I can shed the light of experience on your busy days in Wednesday’s to come.

I have two daughters, one on the west coast Amanda, with four of the cutest kids you’ll ever meet and one on the east coast, Vanessa, who is expecting her first baby in November. Amanda is amazing. Three boys (8,6, 4) and one girl (2) to keep track of, between making organic lunches to driving them to school and back, laundry, dogs, decorating a new home, after school sports and don’t forget “I’m hungry” it’s dinnertime, Amanda makes it all look so easy. Haven’t you observed those out-of-control moms yelling at their kids in the grocery store, or cringed at the words these moms choose to use on their kids—and then realize what issues these little people are going to have as adults? They all need to take a lesson from Amanda. I don’t know how she does it, but she calmly explains why dropping your baby sister nose first onto the kitchen floor is not ok, not to mention that her modeling career has been dashed before her first birthday. Or simply stops ordering grilled cheese sandwiches at the drive through after the car care guy tells her the kid who sits in the car seat on the right had about two dozen grilled cheese sandwiches crammed under his seat. She watches out of the corner of her eye her baby crawling around the room enjoying the freedom—not knowing that she is really under her mama’s eagle eye should any precarious moments happen.

When my children were little there were the mother’s that hollered at their kids as well. Went on and on about the trouble they always caused. I’d always say, “My children are perfect!” Something I’m sure that they wanted to hear, hoping instead for a little misery-loves-company grumbling from me. But, it was true. My children were perfect.—they were perfect to me no matter what. Watching my daughter interact with her kids I’d say it’s still true. She does things her way, it may look easy to others, but that’s because she’s perfect.

And I’m sure Vanessa will be too.