Returned

The kids and I have just returned from a trip that was supposed to be a long weekend in northern Michigan but instead morphed into several days thanks to (1.) confusion over the kind of coolant to add to my car and, honestly, confusion over whether or not my car even REQUIRED coolant (it did not, as it turned out, $200 later) and (2.) unpredictable winter weather. We had a wonderful time – my mom and I took the kids ice skating for the first time, which was treacherous but ultimately rewarding, and our whole family went sledding.  We visited partly to break up the monotony of an extended business trip Sam is currently taking, and we returned to Toledo grateful to be in our own home while a little saddened by the lack of snow. Winter has very little point, in my book, if there isn’t any snow.

While we were there, one of my parents’ friends passed away. She had been exceedingly ill and it wasn’t unexpected, but it was sad nonetheless. My father particularly doesn’t handle this kind of news well since so often the people passing away are his age or, often, younger.

“It seems like we are losing people right and left,” he said, his head in his hands. I don’t really know how to act in these circumstances because he is correct – he is losing friends right and left. I generally don’t say much and give him room to just be, eventually joining him to watch Jeopardy or a college basketball game. At seventy-three, my dad is as passionate about the things he loves as he ever was – great novels, hunting, gardening, fishing – but he is slowing down at a remarkable rate, almost to the point of concern. I spoke with my mom a little bit about it and she agreed he sleeps more and moves less than he used to, and sometimes she is worried, but I am actually equally aware of the changes in her. She tells the same stories over and over again and seems exceedingly quick to anger. Ten, or even five years ago, I would have pushed both of them about these changes -pointing out to my dad that Bernie Sanders is older than he is and look, he’s running for President! Or I would have gently guided my mom toward a neurological exam. What I’ve learned over the years, though, is that they need me to remain their daughter much more than they need me to be their doctor, and until I notice something really troubling – so dramatically out of character that I need to talk about it with my brother – I am going to let them be.

Our relocation to Toledo means I now only live half a day’s distance from them, and this has been a huge gift. I can be present in a way I haven’t been for over a decade.

On the whole, I’m feeling increasingly positive about things. My eyes have completely healed from their freak allergic reaction to my contact lenses, and while I will never be able to wear contacts for 12 + hours a day like I was so stupidly doing, by summer I should be able to wear them for outdoor activities, wrestling with Duncan and driving. I will never take my sight for granted again. I have organized my resume, updated my linked in account, and have embarked on an exciting writing project with my brother – more on that coming very soon! I *think* I’ve also found a way to tackle a book I’ve been hoping to write, and my goal this month is to submit one of my poems to a literary journal.

The move from Pittsburgh rocked me to my core, no doubt. Having two such small children made it worse, I think – their needs had to continuously come before my own. But here we are, nearly at the end of the first month of a new year, and a sense of normalcy is emerging. I can’t say it hurts that Duncan is days away from  turning two years old. The other morning he walked up to me with some request or another and I looked at him and said “You can get that yourself. Once my babies turn two, I get to start reading the paper again.” He looked up at me with those big brown eyes of his, flashed his dimples in the way that slays me every time, and went and had his sister do his bidding instead.

And so it goes.

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resuscitation

I’m trying something new on the blogging front. It has been fairly difficult trying to fit in blogging – or any of my creative work – into our new lives, mainly because caring for the kids takes up so much time and when I’m not with them I’m doing things like trying to locate Duncan’s birth certificate or convince Ohio to give me a driver’s license. For half a second I contemplated ending this blog – many of my writing ideas aren’t for this space anymore – but I’ve been doing this too long, enjoy reading other blogs too much, and still believe in it as a relevant form of communication to quit. So instead of waiting to blog until I have a specific topic in mind, I’m going to try a technique one of my favorite bloggers ( and set a side a certain period of time a few times a week to write in this space. My goal is to start writing three times a week, for a half hour at a time. I will probably be a lot more about my daily life, responses to news, searching for work, parenting and writing

But, before I start that! To get used to blogging and participating in the blogging community again, I am going to participate in #AMONTHOFFAVES, hosted by Tanya Price at Girlxoxo.com, Traveling with T and Estella’s Revenge. It just looks like such a fun way to return to blogging, engage in the community and meet some new bloggers. December should be fun.

In the meantime, if you live in the United States, have a terrific Thanksgiving holiday and, if you celebrate Christmas, a prayerful beginning of Advent. I look forward to talking a lot more in December and the coming year.

traveling

The problem with going so long between posts is, of course, that I run the risk of only ever publishing updates – longish recaps of where we were and where we are, completely disregarding the books I’ve read, the thoughts I’ve had, how the kids are, etc. I haven’t been posting as often as I had hoped partly because we’ve had a lot of family obligations that have kept me in northern Michigan, and whenever I am in Toledo I’m dealing with physicals for the kids or the DMV or car insurance companies. Since moving, I haven’t really made any friends or been much of a social partner for Sam – I’ve allowed myself a few months cushion to embrace my inner introvert mostly because I believe once I start accepting invitations and meeting people my social life is going to snowball. So I’ve stayed home most nights while Sam works rigorous hours, watching The Voice, reading novels and just generally enjoying my own company.

I arrived home from my last trip yesterday, however, recognizing it was time for this period of quiet to end. I’ve been present for Sam in a lot of ways – most importantly, of course, by caring almost full-time for our children so he can establish himself in his new job. I pay our bills and keep the house moderately clean – I secured a rental house for the winter and have handled all the communication with our realtors back in Pittsburgh. I haven’t, however, joined him during any of his evenings out and I haven’t made any attempts to establish friends or community here in Toledo, and it’s definitely time for that to change, for my children as well as for Sam. And for myself as well, of course.

My main goal is to establish work for myself that can be done around Sam’s schedule. I can’t keep the same kind of hours I did before and while I remain extremely interested in promoting women’s health issues, I am not interested in pursuing another corporate job to do so. I have a thousand different writing projects in mind, and I think I could potentially make a good living between balancing freelance PR work, community college teaching, and writing. Sometimes I feel a little bit like a failure since I won’t be returning to a corporate office job but I don’t want to so I’m not sure why I feel that way. What I would like is to earn enough of a living by the time Duncan enters kindergarten that I could support us if anything happened to Sam. In that way, my job in Pittsburgh was a comfort to me and while that security isn’t everything, it’s something, and it’s important to me.

I hope this is the last “catch-up” post that I write – that I am able now to dive into subject matter now and talk about working, writing, parenting, reading, fashion, maybe (hopefully) teaching and a few minor lifestyle items. I think it’s safe to say this won’t be turning solely into a parenting blog now that I stay at home – not once have I been motivated to capture perfectly-lit photos of my children in order to post them on this blog and share something insightful and/or meaningful. My children are brutes – delightful brutes, but brutes – and staying at home is alternately hella hard and absolutely wonderful. So for now I sign off with hope, that I will be here again soon, writing about the Wolitzer novel I’m reading. Thanks for sticking around – eventually it will be worth your while.

We are all so close together now

As it turns out, moving is no joke, but you probably already knew that. The last month has been out of control – within the last four weeks I ended my job with the hospital system I worked with for over eight years, packed the marginal amount of stuff I could manage in addition to the children and our dog, and joined Sam in a two-bedroom apartment in Toledo, Ohio. Our dog promptly grew critically ill from a wicked virus he picked up at the kennel where we boarded him – twice I drove to the emergency veterinary hospital prepared to put him down – more on that whole story later. It took a little over a week for Skylar to heal, and as soon as I brought him home Evangeline and I immediately departed for Colorado for a week to celebrate my brother’s wedding. The trip turned out to be a much-needed buffer between our relocation and actually living in Toledo, and I fell madly in love with Colorado. It is my experience that like people, you can’t have too many places to love. If we are lucky, life is long and wide and you don’t know where it will take you.

The apartment we moved into is the opposite of the house we left behind – one floor of modernity that has benefits and drawbacks. Benefits include an incredible easiness to clean – I feel like a housekeeper extraordinaire! There is storage here so I can put things away. For every nook I clean, there isn’t a cranny leaking century-old coal dust onto the floor. If Duncan races into another room my heart rate remains the same because there are no stairs for him to topple down (he long ago figured out the secret to baby gates) and the amenities of living in a complex designed mostly for doctors and lawyers and such to wait out relocation can’t be beat – a large pool that Evangeline prefers I refer to as azul and parks for kids, a park for the dog. But it’s small, and after our entire family life spent a house with many cavernous rooms, we are all getting to know one another a lot better. Duncan and Evangeline are sharing a room, which they enjoy but is a little trying for me. Evangeline is a hard sleeper but Duncan likes to wake up in the middle of the night and chatter – no problem when he was in his own room in his own bed but a habit my daughter finds trying, understandably so. They are working it out. On the occasions when Sam’s snoring grows too much for me to bear, or if I’m racked with insomnia, there aren’t the two extra rooms for me to escape to with my pillow and book, just the living room couch which is comfortable but not the same. And this situation is fine for me, but Evangeline was the one who alerted me to the fact that if one of them gets sick, there isn’t the “extra” room for them to sleep in with me, which I am sure I’ll miss mid-winter.

Truthfully, though, while part of my heart broke off and shattered the day I left my church and my friends behind in Pittsburgh, I don’t miss living in a city. The first time I took the kids out for ice cream and we sat on park benches looking at trees instead of concrete I knew we had made the right decision. Don’t get me wrong – Pittsburgh is a wonderful city, and a great one to raise a family – there was so much I loved and will continue to love about it, but I wasn’t born and raised there and I feel much more peaceful returning to the Great Lakes region. I’ll return to Pittsburgh a couple of times a year to visit my friends and their families and stock up on homemade pasta and prosciutto – Pittsburgh will always have a huge part of my heart, but Michigan IS my heart and to be so near again? Well, I’m home.

I have so much I want to talk about! My transition (for a while, anyway) to a stay at home mom and how I totally underestimated the snack preparation involved in staying at home, and rededicating myself to a reading, writing and teaching kind of life (what even WAS that corporate detour? Okay, not really – I loved my job for a long time and have a lot to say about it, actually) and the limbo living between Pittsburgh and Ohio, but there is time to discuss all of this. I mainly wanted to say hello, revive my blog posting and start putting my fingers to keys again. I am going to finally get with the times and probably create a Facebook page for this blog, but in the meantime you can reach me through this blog or on twitter at CPMcCrimmon or on Instagram at bookgirl1977.

working with and learning from those infamous millenials

Even though I worked for three years after college before returning to graduate school, I consider my career really beginning when I was 26 or so, after graduate school when I took a position as a science writer with a cancer hospital in Michigan. For the last seven and a half years I’ve worked in public relations for a different hospital, and truthfully I really couldn’t pinpoint when I first began hearing the term “Millenial” with any regularity. All I know is that for a while I was early in my career and now I’m smack-dab in the middle of my life, career included, and at some point the tale end of the Gen X generation to which I was born stopped being troublesome and irksome and instead became rattled by the Millenials joining the work force. To be fair, not that many joined – thanks to a rotten economy and people who hung onto their jobs much, much longer than they intended (my senior year in college I decided to postpone applying to graduate school to become a professor but all the profs i worked with encouraged me to, eventually, pursue my Ph.D. – loads of us will be retiring, they said. Lots of jobs opening up, they said. I am forever grateful I ignored them in this one instance!) but the ones that did join us in the working world? Whoa, Nelly.

I am trying to avoid saying something trite like there is a fundamental difference between people who grew up with smart technology and those of us who did not but, truly, there is a fundamental difference between people who grew up with smart technology and those of us who did not! I realize, of course, that every generation feels this way – my dad often marvels at how much change his parents witnessed – everything from the early days of the automobile to television to landing a man on the moon – imagine! There is nothing spectacular happening here, nothing that generations of workers haven’t discussed to the nth degree – I spend a goodly portion of my days convincing people with archaic views of PR that a press release isn’t really their best strategy in getting their message across, for instance. But the way Millenials think and approach the world is very different than how I grew up and how I started working and it’s taken some adjustment on my part to realize just how creative, engaged and valuable these younger workers can be.

I mean, it was a little disconcerting at first. For so long my colleagues and I were considered the younger employees – the workers who needed guidance and mentoring. I was incredibly fortunate that my first supervisor was a woman in her early thirties with impeccable professionalism combined with a very realistic approach to working in the 21st century – her father was quite ill while we worked together but she managed to attend every single one of his radiation treatments while still striving and achieving at work. She taught me two fundamental principles that I still think about every day: when working with the doctors and researchers who require our skills, our answer to their requests in always yes. Even if it’s really no, once we return as a team, we will evaluate and work so that they feel they are getting yes from us, even when they aren’t necessarily. Secondly, she always encouraged me to check with myself and make sure I felt I was doing the right thing, all of the time. This hasn’t always had the best consequences…in some ways it’s meant that I’ve worked during my vacation time because news doesn’t really conform to weekends or time off, because it was the right thing to do, or so I felt. When I worked with her I was encouraged to lead projects, take chances and rely on my creativity, and because of her I realized I could balance my own creative work while thriving in the workplace. When I moved jobs, I found myself working with people with more old-fashioned approaches to how a young woman operates in a corporate environment, and it was really tough. For the first time, I found myself not trusting my own judgment, and my value was based less on my creativity and much more on what kind of output I could achieve for the hospital.

And do you know what? This wasn’t a bad thing. I learned how to cooperate with more than one generation, and to adapt my working style to those I was working with. As it turns out, I’m not always right and my instincts aren’t always perfect. My current job is at the kind of place where you earn your seat at the table, and the experience has been invaluable.

That’s sort of how I work – I go along with the work culture I find myself in, generally agreeable and assuming the company knows best, basically. This is mostly because my life goals don’t necessarily align with climbing a corporate ladder but also because it’s my nature – I’m not tremendously assertive but I’m also not passive aggressive.

The biggest shock for me working with Millenials, then – these new shiny younger workers without the original good fortune to graduate into a Clinton economy – was their assertiveness. I don’t know if it’s because they’ve had to fight so hard to get jobs or if it’s a result of the helicopter parenting that came into vogue in the late nineties, but most of the younger women and men I work with don’t give up on their ideas easily, and don’t often defer if they feel passionate about something. I think originally this came across as brash, and, for someone like me, difficult to adjust to after years of listening, learning, respecting my elders and etcetera. For a while my colleagues and I even jokingly referred to the new, younger employees as millenemies, mainly because of the frequency with which they disagreed with us.

The other thing I really had to adjust to is how incorporated work and life are for them. I *thought* my life and my work were pretty interchangeable, what with working in the evenings but never having to worry about taking time off for a dentist appointment, but the younger men and women who work in my office now approach all of this with a mind-boggling flexibility, thinking nothing of taking the morning for a long bike ride but staying up incredibly late to finish a report. I tend to do my best with at least some routine in place that provides something resembling my own time, but Millenials don’t think this way. At all. And it is sort of amazing and visionary and shockingly effective, at least when it comes to work.

In the field of public relations, they are also devastatingly creative. We’ve recently hired a couple of women who are thirty years old, and even though there are only seven years of age between us, their ideas about how to promote medical news and research are completely different than mine. They make sure the work the rest of us do is easily accessible on mobile devices, for one instance. For another, they often dismiss pitching the New York Times in lieu of Reddit or the Huffington Post. They understand how people consume news today – which is less and less with CNN and more often on mobile devices.

Millenials, and the issues they face, remain frequently in the news. Burdened with student loan debt for educations that haven’t fulfilled their promises, often living with their parents and delaying marriage and kids – it hasn’t been an easy beginning for them. It’s a little strange, after being one of the youngest people in the office for so long, to adjust to younger colleagues and admit they have a handle on some of the more innovative and creative approaches to do our job, but hopefully I will continue to learn from them and vice-versa.

a note to all my mama friends

One late spring evening a couple of months ago, I met my friend, let’s call her Anne, for dinner at one of our favorite spots in Pittsburgh. Privately, I often think of Anne as my beautiful friend, not only because she’s physically gorgeous and not only because she cultivates a beautiful life, but because she has the biggest heart of nearly anyone I know – she is a beautiful person inside and out. After I had my daughter she was the first friend I spent time with outside of the house because she was willing to join me for breakfast in between my marathon nursing sessions. She is also one of the few friends I’ve really gotten a tad wild with in my thirties – a bus driver once threatening to abandon us miles from our homes because we were laughing too loudly after too many glasses of wine at dinner. Because she is so physically attractive and because she has financial resources a lot of people don’t, I know a handful of people whose jealousy has overridden their better selves, and they have failed to get to know her the way I have. The fact is I didn’t beginthinking of her as my beautiful friend – it is what she became to me over the many years we’ve spent time together.

So one late spring evening a couple of months ago, when the sun still dared to shine in Pittsburgh, I met my friend Anne for dinner at one of our favorite spots. I had squeezed a workout in as I am likely to do whenever Sam is home with the kids and our dinner plans don’t start until seven, and I was still squeezing chlorine from the pool out of my ponytail as I sat next to Anne at the bar. I leaned in to hug her and almost started to launch into some thought or idea I had had since last we met when she held up her hand.

“Before we get to all of that I just want to tell you – I’m fine now, totally fine – but I wanted you to know I had a miscarriage. I had a miscarriage, and I’m fine.”

I sat there, silenced. Stunned. How many times had I canceled our plans to meet, awash and overwhelmed as I was with my small children? Multiple times. I had canceled on my beautiful friend multiple times, for Evangeline’s earache, an unexpected business trip of Sam’s and who knows what other reasons. How long had she been waiting to tell me this? I felt horrified by my own actions (the earache had been treated easily with children’s Motrin, and I have a hardy list of qualified, wonderful babysitters) while terribly sad for Anne.

One late spring evening a couple of months ago, when the sun still dared to shine in Pittsburgh, I met my friend Anne for dinner at one of our favorite spots and she told me she had had a miscarriage and all I could think of was actions I hadn’t taken. Fortunately I retained the smallest amount of common sense and good will and didn’t start to apologize for my own inadequacies – instead, I listened to her. Her pregnancy had been ectopic, and dangerous. She was on the other side of it physically, but barely processing it emotionally, and we talked around and about it for a couple of hours. A few weeks later I came across a list of the top ten things to never say to someone who had a miscarriage (among them – miscarriages are so common! You just need to try again right away! and it happened for a reason. I had said at least half of the trite, unhelpful phrases to her and because we have a friendship like we do, I frantically texted her apologizing for the error, brought to light by the Huffington Post or Reddit or similar outfit.

I can’t remember exactly what she texted back, but it was along the lines of girl, please.

I have a lot of mama friends, all with varying availability and willingness to hang out in person. Those that work traditional office hours are generally the most willing to meet for lunch or even an evening out because they have systems in place to provide some flexibility, while my stay at home mama friends struggle sometimes because routine childcare isn’t a part of their life. With some of these women, our relationship is mainly conducted via text chains (and, I need to take a moment here to say I have a whole post coming about these text chains!), while others are conducted regularly and in person, over hectic brunches while we try and talk over our respective brood’s din. It doesn’t really matter – the support is there, never much farther away than the tips of my fingers. But my friends without kids? Well, I guess I understand why one of the chief complaints of those who don’t have children is that those who do tend to disappear. It’s so easy to continuously prioritize your young family over your valuable friendships – the needs of children are so immediate and physical. But that doesn’t mean the needs of your friends aren’t important – and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be a good friend anymore, either. There are things happening with your friends – job loss (or new jobs to be celebrated) and aging parents and difficulty with spouses and to miss out on that is to miss out on their lives, and that is terrible.

One late spring evening a couple of months ago, when the sun still dared to shine in Pittsburgh, I met my friend Anne for dinner at one of our favorite spots. I almost canceled because who knows why but I didn’t, and that one small act of showing up has changed the way I approach my friendships. I show up, not just when it’s easy or convenient or affordable for me and my kids – no, I show up, sometimes with a spit-up stain on my dress I didn’t notice before or the echoes of my daughter’s temper tantrum, thrown solely because I was leaving her with her other parent, in my ears, and I be the person my friends deserve. The thing of it is – life is only going to grow more complex, with bigger and deeper issues to tackle – and I want to do it with friends like Anne by my side every step of the way.

My children almost did me in this weekend. Sam has been traveling for work quite a bit, and they chose his most recent trip to show off their least lovely selves. This time last spring Duncan was still a newborn, so when Sam traveled Evangeline and I passed the time eating Lo Mein and encouraging Duncan to complete his tummy time on the baby gym. This year, Duncan wants to do everything his big sister does while at the same time keeping me in his line of vision at all times. His desire to take over Evangeline’s dollhouse, her art projects, her “cozy corner” with stuffed animals and books, and tear them to pieces, is traumatic for her, which I recognize. Just as she is beginning to create imaginary worlds that require a sustained attention span and all of her creativity, along comes Hurricane Duncan, intent on playing with his sister on his terms. It helps matters none whatsoever when I ask Evangeline if there is anything – anything at all – that she would consider playing her brother and she answers a resounding NO.

I miss our Lo Mein nights.

The more mobile and verbal Duncan grows, the more attention Evangeline demands. If Duncan decides to show off a new word, rolling ball or dog off his tongue as though they have always been there, or tries to put on his own socks, and Sam and I respond with anything approaching normal parent glee, Evangeline insists on showing off a new dance move or suddenly having a complete meltdown over the fact that the ice in her cup turned to water. With two parents available, it is easy enough to triage these demands, but I’ve been on my own with the kids a lot recently and I find myself resorting to a ridiculous kind of pleading, above what Evangeline is probably emotionally ready to handle.

“Sweetie, look. I know it’s hard to have a little brother – and you are being SO GREAT – but I really need us to all play something together. I’m his mama too and I have to keep him safe,” or “Evangeline! Honey, please. I am doing my best here, but I can’t do everything at once. Do you understand what that means? It means I can’t get you a snack and change Duncan’s diaper in the exact same moment.”

All of this has left me a little emotionally raw, which is probably why I could be found on Sunday slamming my home phone (yes, I still have a home phone -necessary for our alarm system) down repeatedly after a conversation with my parents, who are spending the month in Florida, where they discussed how much my brother and his fiancee were looking forward to their week in Mexico. Because of course they are – of course they are. They work incredibly hard and deserve a vacation but on the other hand – God, I would kill for a vacation, with the kids or without. Sun, sand, surf, boat drinks? I honestly grow teary-eyed at the thought.

I was prepared for a lot when I decided to have kids. Intellectually, I understood the sleep deprivation that it would entail. Financially, I knew that having two children on top of our graduate degrees certainly wouldn’t put us ahead financially for several years. I didn’t over-intellectualize parenting – I just knew I wanted to have kids and figured almost everything else would work itself out. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the possibility that Sam and I, out of all of our siblings, would be the only ones to have children. Across the board, his sisters and my brother have ended up living child-free lifestyles. It’s something I never considered, and while I never had my children under the assumption that others would follow suit, I also didn’t imagine my children growing up cousin-less. I am very close with my second cousins, and one of them has two daughters around Evangeline and Duncan’s age, so my children will develop similar kinds of relationships – that isn’t the problem. What I have noticed, though, is that in our families having children isn’t the norm, and because it’s not, my children are seen and t, reated more as commodities than the tiny little people they are becoming. Growing up, I had just enough cousins to make sure none of us were considered overly-special – there were always some grandkids to have around at Christmas and Thanksgiving – always a play or hockey game or spelling bee to attend. With Evangeline and Duncan, as the only two grandchildren born to the same couple, grandparents begin scheduling holiday visits with us months in advance, and try and reserve our limited vacation time before we even have time to consider what we would like to do. We receive emails about Christmas in July, about our summer vacation plans in January. What are you doing for the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving? Because Sam and I don’t tend to make travel plans terribly far in advance, we often spend what vacation we do have with family which, don’t get me wrong, is mostly great. Frankly we don’t have the funds for elaborate vacations and since we live quite far from family, establishing these relationships is important. But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard, sometimes, to watch our siblings vacation in Vienna, Paris, Mexico, Jamaica – to hear about their impeccable homes, dinners beginning at 9 p.m., and lazy Saturday mornings.

So much has been written about about the difficulties of parenting recently that it’s practically a blogging trend – a backlash, I think, to the Pinterest-perfect, overly optimistic blogs that were more marketing material for cleaning products and Oreos than anything else. So many writers and bloggers were stuffing how great parenting was down our throats that it was refreshing to hear moms write about spit-up covered clothes, sleepless nights, controlled but simmering rage over potty-training (or maybe that’s just me). But I also hoped, when I have my own kids, that I would have something else to say – something more interesting than sanitized joy, more interesting than the difficulty.

It’s hard. Raising young children is hard, but my hard and your hard are probably vastly different. I am equipped with an equilibrium designed to handle meltdowns in grocery stores, yogurt-covered hugs and the 2 a.m. call for water. I am less equipped, however, to manage familial politics and other people’s baggage that they bring to children – no matter how many times I remind myself to be kind and soft and open, I close up in the face of what I perceive as demands on my children when logically I know these demands come from a place of great love. And I am barely equipped at all to handle the hundred heartbreaks my children experience on a daily basis – Evangeline’s devastation when I have to pay attention to her brother instead of her, Duncan’s disappointment when Evangeline’s needs come momentarily first. And I have to work hard, to keep jealousy at bay when it feels like everyone else in the world is vacationing in exotic lands while I scrape spaghetti sauce out of my hair and revisit our budget again.

It’s taken me all week to write this post. Certainly, I write around the corners and edges of my life, so blog posts are never hammered out all at once, but it never takes me an entire week, either. At various times I thought about deleting it – the first paragraph in no way really connects with the ending, and overall it seemed more negative than I usually feel. I am apparently, so generally cheerful that Evangeline grows distraught whenever I am firm or corrective with her – “Put on your happy face! Your normal face!” she yells. “You aren’t my mommy with that face!” But if I didn’t teach her that standing on her brother was wrong, as is pulling the dog’s tail until he yelps, I’d create a little psychopath, and I know she needs the boundaries and rules I set.

But, true to my nature, I’d like to end on this note: this morning, five days after the weekend I thought would kill me, Duncan brought me one of his sister’s Clifford books. They both settled on my lap and we read the entire book without anyone fussing or trying to tear the book apart (I’m looking at you, D-man). The early morning sun brightened Evangeline’s already yellow room and it was a perfect three minutes. It wasn’t a vacation in the Bahamas, but it was enough to soften my heart and open myself to the weekend ahead – a weekend full of possibility, where I may not step on a stray Lego, or end up begging my children for improved behavior instead of guiding it appropriately, where the dishes might end up in the dishwasher instead of under the couch and where I wear my happy face, my normal face, the whole damn time.